The Sideshow

Archive for January 2007

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Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Open windows

Good catch by Scorpio: "The White House has a new pastry chef. He's the author of Desserts for Dummies."

If John Edwards wanted to do something to make me dial up my trust-o-meter another notch, it would be to hire Amanda Marcotte to run his blog.

The White House press corps likes him, so when he turned out to be one of the bad guys at the bottom of a scandal, there was a whole lot of "nothing to see here" suddenly going on. I guess he gives good chatter at a cocktail party, because that's what it takes to get them to overlook the fact that David Addington Is A Seriously Evil Man.

Der Spiegel interviewed the former chief of the CIA's Europe division, Tyler Drumheller, who said: "Let me give you a general thought: From the perspective of the White House, it was smart to blur the lines about what was acceptable and what was not in the war on terrorism. It meant that whenever someone was overzealous in some dark interrogation cell, President (George W.) Bush and his entourage could blame someone else. The rendition teams are drawn from paramilitary officers who are brave and colorful. They are the men who went into Baghdad before the bombs and into Afghanistan before the army. If they didn't do paramilitary actions for a living, they would probably be robbing banks. Perhaps the Bush Administration deliberately created a gray area on renditions." (Thanks to Chris for the tip.)

Trench News will be trying to keep up with labor news with round-ups and such, to try to fill in the empty space left by Jordan Barab's departure from the blogosphere.

Um, you all realize that you can watch C-SPAN for free on the net, right? Even when I was on dial-up, I still managed to watch it when I wanted to (well, most of the time). I see people writing, "We don't get C-SPAN," so I guess there are still people who don't know this.

15:48 BST

2000 time-slip

I was just having a walk down Memory Lane with Bob Somerby. In 2000, I was reading most of my US news in The International Herald Tribune on paper (with a bit of Usenet thrown in), and in those days it was still a combined NYT/WaPo project, so I was becoming increasingly aware that I was seeing articles by women who seemed to have a nasty streak and say stupid, vapid things. It was Norman Solomon's column, which I was receiving by e-mail (nowadays he has a regular column at FAIR - this is a good one, by the way), that alerted me to the this:

Last Sunday, the ABC television program "This Week" deigned to air a discussion with a real-live progressive activist, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. Journalist Cokie Roberts voiced befuddlement: "It's gotten to the point where any time there are global meetings, world leaders meeting, we have a sense that the protesters are going to be there, and there's not much sense of exactly what you're protesting." The interview only lasted a couple of minutes.
That was when I started to tumble that an especially low-IQ version of news analysis had made massive inroads on the air - and not just on Rush Limbaugh's show or "religious" radio. I was interested in the fact that a woman who had no idea what reporting was had somehow managed to get a seat at the pundit-interviewer table. I wondered how good she had to look to get there.

It was also through Norman's column that I eventually found my way to Consortium News, Media Whores Online, The Daily Howler, and Bartcop (where I originally ran into Atrios and Moose & Squirrel). But by that time, the Selection had already happened.

It was a combination of Katherine Seelye, Maureen Dowd, and Ceci Connolly that caused me to coin the term "The Spite Girls" to refer to what seemed to be the source of some of the worst reporting of the campaign. I'm not sure which one finally triggered it. But since I hadn't found Bob Somerby earlier, I never saw this article taking particular interest in Connolly's pro-active smearing of Gore. It's worth going back over for a lesson in how they do it - never missing a chance to slant the news to create or reinforce the smears. It's a real pity that back in 2000 these people weren't being barraged with faxes and phone calls demanding a cessation of this nonsense. (And, by the way, if Gore was so boring, how come people stuck around for four hours to talk to him?)

14:44 BST


Glenn Greenwald has a hot story: Republicans insist that Congress has the authority to curtail presidential war-making, demand immediate withdrawal. Oh, wait, that all happened back in October. Of 1993. Meanwhile, in real time, "Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee began laying the constitutional groundwork today for an effort to block President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq and place new limits on the conduct of the war there, perhaps forcing a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq." Booman Tribune (via) reminds us to call members of the Senate committee to tell them to support Feingold's efforts. And even Arlen Specter is telling Bush he is not the Decider. (via)

At The American Prospect, Ezra seems to be running a bit of forum on universal healthcare. There are a lot of good points in it, but I think these posts still display a tolerance for health insurance companies. Progressives really need to hammer home the point that Americans are already paying more in taxes for healthcare than people in England or Canada or France do, before it even comes to insurance and paying for your own individual medical care. There is no good reason for this. Commercial health insurance is a bad reason. Get rid of it.

01:54 BST

Hand over the chocolate and no one gets hurt

Digby has a piece on the story that's had me in an inarticulate rage all day, "Why Don't We Just Crown Him King," about Bush's latest government-killing directive. If you thought Brownie did a heckuva job, just imagine every single agency being run by political appointees who are free to overrule any standard of professionalism, and probably will - if they're Republicans. (Oh, and I thought it was obvious Hillary was talking about the Republicans and the noise machine.)

You know, it's amazing how everybody picks on Joshua Sparling. I can't help wondering if he's making it all up.

Lieberman thinks that expecting him to live up to his obligations - and promises - is playing gotcha.

Barrack Obama introduces The Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007 plan "to redeploy all combat troops out of Iraq by March 31, 2008." Greg Sargent calls it "a very big gamble by Obama."

101 Cookbooks (via).

00:20 BST

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Stuff I saw

Thomas Nephew has an update on the Smithfield immigration raid that reveals suspicious evidence that the company called the immigration service in to help them out in a labor dispute. Cheap-labor conservatives strike again. (And Natasha has a little example of Republican values, too - Katrina edition.)

Bob Somerby reminds us that it isn't enough to just tell jokes about the spin - you need to explain it so everyone reading gets the issues. (Of course, I need that reminder, too, but it's sometimes hard to find the time.) Nevertheless, I think Alice is right when she says that Somerby is required reading for Democrats. Yes, I know sometimes his style can grate, and occasionally he gets hung up on strange points, but by and large he's teaching important lessons, and all of his articles are about how the spin gets unleashed, and why we need to stop it. On this particular spin-point - the alleged "unelectability" of virtually any Democratic candidate for the nomination - it really is about time that every Democrat should counter it by pointing out that the Republicans have no one who is electable, and more importantly, no one who should be elected.

It's worth reading Ezra and Matt on The CEO President. It's really a pity that while the press was dutifully reporting in 2000 that Bush had all that business experience, they didn't mention that the experience was of ruining businesses. One point: Bush is a product of our Ivy League business schools, which don't really teach how to run a business well, but rather how to get in, make your money, and then get out in three years before you get held to account. Bush is so dumb he forgot that last part. (Also: What's Killing GM? And via Ezra, more praise for Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas' actual moderate Democratic governor.

"Before this is over the truth must be told." But only when it doesn't really matter.

What your kids are learning from cereal boxes: "Mars is the closest planet to the sun, but it's not the hottest -- Venus is!."

16:55 BST

Run straight down

Best news of the day was Al Franken's announcement that he's leaving Air America and will be replaced in his slot by Thom Hartmann in mid-February. Al gets some good guests, and he's a nice guy and all, but he also has regulars like Howard Fineman, and he wastes too much time being "funny" and leaving very little time for interesting guests to actually say anything. Hartmann, on the other hand, is one of the very best, and he deserves the spotlight - and listeners deserve to get three hours of him every day. Oh, yeah, Mark Green's brother is apparently buying AAR, too.

Cliff Schecter and Robert Greenwald have put together a whole new website just to introduce people to The Real McCain, a flip-flopping creep who was against everything before he was for it and then against it again, or vice versa. Maya found a story about it in the LAT.

Just think, if Hillary Clinton becomes president, we can have another four years of Broder and Klein waving their mysterious, petty enmity toward the Clintons in our faces. Not that I expect them to be fair to any Democrat, but with Hillary I expect I'd prefer to be criticizing her myself, and I really hated eight years of any complaints about Bill Clinton's policies being completely drowned out, and instead being forced to defend him against all those lies and mindless attacks. Gosh, maybe they can get someone to investigate Vince Foster's death five more times. Greg and Matt have it right.

In spite of the fact that racism is dead, you still make more money if you're lighter. Hmph.

The wingnut version of "sanity".

The Rude Pundit: "Has anyone come up with a compelling, legitimate reason as to why terrorists, insurgents, and vaguely-defined enemies should dictate how the United States acts and reacts in the Iraq War? 'Cause, like, now that the word "embolden" has become such a big goddamn part of the talking point vocabulary of war hawks and Lieber-men, it sure seems like we're all supposed to worry what the "enemy" will feel if we don't act the way they think we should act."

RIP Father Drinan - Used to be that the left had all the good priests, you know. And they got lots of ink, too.

01:47 BST

Monday, 29 January 2007

Talking about it

Has anyone seen aerial photos of the weekend's demo at the Capitol? I'm hearing reports of a truly huge demonstration that filled more areas than usual, despite the purportedly low turnout I'm reading about in the press.

Kevin Drum says there's an article in The New York Times, "Feeding Frenzy for a Big Story, Even if It's False", about how the "Obama went to school at a madrassa" story went from a still-unknown source via Insight to the mainstream media. I haven't seen anything but the part Kevin quoted - which, he says, tells the whole story - because for some reason I can't get into the NYT this morning. (Is it just me?) But a commenter in the ensuing thread notes that that paragraph appears at the bottom of a two-page story, and that the story includes a photograph of teachers at the school, some of whom are not only female, but wearing what right-wing Muslims consider "immodest" dress. Wahabists do not even believe women should be educated, let alone teach. The All Spin Zone quotes a different paragraph, with the surprising news that Fox, which carried the story, has rules that they claim were violated by the commentators who carried the story. This apparently happens a lot at Fox, but no one ever gets fired for it. Gun Toting Liberal has fun with the story. (via) But if you want to read a real story on the story, Robert Parry has it covered at Consortium News.

Via TPM, I see that Bush is in competition with Reagan for Most Unworkable Sci-Fi Policy (except that, since Bush never actually does this stuff, I suppose it's not as nuts as actually spending money on SDI): Blot out the Sun to deal with global warming. Jesus wept.

An article in the LAT suggests that America has overreacted to 9/11. Of course, that's obvious, but perhaps it helps to put it into perspective: "IMAGINE THAT on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism." I think the title of the piece is rather unfortunate, though.

I am shocked that a fine reporter like Murray Waas would use the word "irregardless" on his blog. But read his rebuttal of Huckabee anyway.

16:10 BST

In the air on and on the web

"Cliff May was invited by CNN to comment on [Saturday's] anti-war demonstrators." And he proceeded to deliver falsehoods, of course. What are these people doing on TV?

Nicole Bell is relieved that Congress is investigating credit card companies' predatory lending, and The Agonist goes into detail about the evils of usury.

Steve Soto has a question: "how many of you would sit on your hands and refrain from supporting another candidate if you thought there was the slightest chance that Gore might suddenly enter the race in late 2007?" In the comments, Davis X. Machina says, "In the Catholic tradition of moral theology, restitution for theft demands the restoration of the thing stolen, and not a substitute, to the person from whom it was stolen, not a surrogate." That, too: Re-Elect Gore. And I'm convinced that he will run if he knows we have his back. John at Blogenlust, is on board.

Paul Krugman with no pay-wall in The New York Review of Books, "Who Was Milton Friedman?" And how did he ruin our economy? (via) And Big Tent Democrat is Channeled by Krugman on what Obama could learn from FDR.

About that strange new FISA "ruling" - It would be irresponsible not to speculate that somebody might be blackmailing a judge.

I am Ursula K. LeGuin. (Thanks to Dominic for the tip.)

Norah Jones singing "Cold, Cold Heart" for Jools, and "I've Got To See You Again" for New Orleans.

I'm completely charmed by the idea of wearing serotonin earrings. (via)

12:19 BST

News notes

Here's MahaBarb writing about the demonstrations over the weekend. I don't actually care whether she's right or wrong about the value of demonstrating, although I do think it's important that people who already agree with you know that there are a lot of other people who feel the same way. But I do want to remind you that phone calls do matter to legislators; one person phoning in means a great deal more than any petition, no matter how many names are on it. Handwritten letters used to be best, but with all the security and fear going on these days, it just creates more problems. Faxes, however, work fairly well. But phoning could be your best way to register your feelings. And right now it would be a great idea if lots of people were calling their legislators [Senate, House] and saying that a majority of Americans want Bush stopped, and they want him held to account. A majority say they believe he should be impeached if he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors - and he has. And they don't want him escalating in Iraq or attacking Iran, and he's made it clear that he will do whatever he wants unless he is stopped. And there appears to be only one way to stop him.

Best medical system in the world: At first this just looks like a scary story about what it's like to be uninsured, but when you realize that only two gastroenterologists in the whole of West Palm Beach are willing to treat emergencies, you have to conclude that even those with good insurance had better not get sick.

Jeralyn says: "The U.S. Sentencing Commission is calling for public response (pdf) to various guidelines, including those for crack and powder cocaine offenses." You can also rate some sentencing injustices for Doug Berman at the Sentencing Law and Policy blog.

Well, it seems to be true - Deborah Howell, returning to a national story that appeared on the front page, wrote a straightforward piece about the complaints regarding the article by John Solomon and Lois Romano about the sale of John Edwards' house that is worthy of - dare I say it? - a real ombudsman.

Swopa has joined the gang at FDL to post on the Libby trial, and Jeralyn says she will be doing some of the trail blogging this week, too.

00:22 BST

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Media crit

For a while now, I've been vaguely irritated by the way two of my favorite organization sites, Think Progress and Media Matters for America, have a tendency to quote everything at least twice.

Here, for example, is Think Progress, quoting Sam Brownback responding to the Bush-echo from Joe Lieberman that an anti-escalation resolution from Congress would "embolden" the insurgents by pointing out that the insurgents are already emboldened and they don't need a resolution to embolden them. And then they produce the transcript in which Brownback said it.

Media Matters does this even more - in this example, we have an "analyst" on Hardball quoted as wondering whether Hillary Clinton is "too New York, too elitist, too cold, if you will, to really talk the language of the Intermountain West", and then is quoted as saying that...etc. In both cases, video is also included.

But I've come to the conclusion that, as redundant as it all seems to someone like me, it's a good thing they do that. Because someone needs to teach the media that there is a lot to be said for articles in which the things between quotation marks are actual quotes, and that they should reflect what the person quoted actually said, and also that headlines should reflect what the article is about. This is much better than what we so often find in the corporate media these days, such as articles that misquote and mislead and have headlines that have nothing to do with the content.


Dean Baker wonders what the NYT is doing telling readers that, "that new economic research shows that most workers might be oversaving for retirement even as 'corporate pension plans and Social Security can no longer be relied on to ease most Americans through their retirement years.'" And also whether they have editors on weekends. Baker says: "Social Security and retirement income are big issues. The NYT should make the effort to treat them seriously." Quite right. (Also: What's with reporters not bothering to look for disinterested experts and instead only quoting one guy who has a horse in the race?)

You know, I had heard that Michelle Malkin actually went to Iraq and came back saying that her mind had not been changed at all and AP are still a bunch of liars, and I'd wondered how she did that. Now I know.

Liberal blogger accountability - Atrios admits his prediction that Russert would not ask Huckabee about Wayne Dumond was wrong. (The question is: Would Russert have asked the question if Atrios hadn't made a big deal out of it in the first place?)

17:27 BST

Assorted stuff

Simone Perele Katerina half cup braBra of the Week

Ogged at Unfogged delivers well-deserved kudos to Matt Yglesias for taking on Martin Peretz (and others) who are quick to make false charges of antisemitism. (Also: George Bush Is Evil.)

Maru has some good snow pics, and also alerts us that President Clinton is asking Disney why they are allowing Fox to violate their copyright and show Path to 9/11 with the original edited libels restored.

Knee Jerks - Jon Swift on Joe Klein and other pundits whose knees jerk whenever they find they have to agree with liberals who are right "for the wrong reasons". Via Lance Mannion, in "The day my high school declared war on Iraq", on why it matters when Howard Fineman writes stupid articles comparing presidential candidates to high school girls in poodle skirts. (The terrible thing about it is that there was one presidential candidate who should have been compared to a school boy who didn't know what he was doing, and that was George Walker Bush, who doesn't appear to have matured from the temper-tantrum stage. But back then, Howard Fineman chose to praise Bush's multiple costume changes while painting his opponent, Al Gore, as some kind of disordered personality because he changed his suit.)

"If elections are defective, our entire system is at risk." Christine Jennings' challenge to the official tally in her Congressional race in Florida got a new lease on life this week when the district appeals court dismissed a motion to deny her appeal. More and more people are convinced that something was wrong with machine that refused to accept votes for Jennings.

Last night Atrios made Fred Hiatt his Wanker of the Day for publishing a whiny fanzine article by Dinesh D'Souza complaining that people say mean things about him that are true. I wish people would understand that enjoying a life of affluence doesn't make you an American patriot. Appreciating that America's liberal culture and its liberal style of government are what make it possible to achieve a reasonably comfortable life would help. But these are the things that the Osama bin Ladens and Ayatollah Khomeinis and Richard Bruce Cheneys and George Walker Bushes hate about America, which is why the latter have been trying to get rid of them - with your help, Dinesh.

Mark Schmitt at Tapped asks, "But can we please, please banish from discourse the idea that people who earn much more money do so because they work so much harder?" Yes, please. Anyone who believes it has no idea how hard other people work and how much they get paid for it. CEOs do not work harder than coal miners or nurses, for example. People go to college to get good jobs, which are called "good jobs" not just because they pay better (they don't, always), but because they are good jobs - less physically demanding, less dangerous, less demoralizing, less gruelling, and frequently far more emotionally rewarding. Working in a lab is not as demanding as working in a diner. College professors are treated better by their employers than are hotel maids and fry-cooks. If people were really paid by how hard their jobs are to actually do, day in and day out, even the unemployed would be paid better than big corporate CEOs.

DFHs protest the occupation.

Sometimes you just want to smack medical professionals who treat their clients like mushrooms. Sometimes you want to kiss the ones who don't.

Appallingly simple guide to the insurgency

"The Bunny explained why Canada didn't really need a big army."

What Does 200 Calories Look Like? and other food news.

15:02 BST

Get it while you can

Let's hear it for dead trees! This post particularly amused me because I remember Jim's original post on this subject and believe I linked to it at the time. Certainly, it's a point I wish more people would make more often. But it's funny, anyway. Read it, and then follow the links to more serious discussion by Gary Wills and Glenn Greenwald of the pathology exposed by the insistence that George Walker Bush is "our" commander in chief.

At TGW, egalia has a little round-up on the Libby trial and all that "loyalty" just going down the drain. And MoDo says it's "shocking" when Dick Durbin calls Dick Cheney "delusional", because "Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn't begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man."

Jeez, just how stupid do you have to be?

Here's a little message from A. Greg Reynolds, posting to the HuffPo Contagious Festival.

Teacher faces 40 years for porn in classroom, blames adware - From the available details, it looks like no one in their right mind should have been willing to convict this woman. The school, on the other hand, had allowed their Internet filters to expire, leaving all computers vulnerable. And the teacher had already complained to the vice principal about the pop-up problem, and nothing was done. Sounds like someone was cheaping out on system upkeep. (via)

Note to Brad: The Financial Times is much better for true things about the world than is The Economist.

Grauniad alert: "Class is a major theme: Dorothy Parker's insistence on seeing herself as a "working girl", rather than a Wasp..." I wonder if it had anything to do with that Jewish thing.

Hilzoy does the APOD thing, and links to some nice ones I'd missed when they originally appeared. (I do love that site.) Thanks to Wayne Pearce (of) for the tip.

01:46 BST

Saturday, 27 January 2007

All the news in bits

Commenter scylla* alerts me that this week's "Media Matters" column from Jamison Foser contrasts the phony story about Al Gore growing up in a "swanky hotel" (and the entire campaign of lies) with the claim that Barrack Obama attended a madrassa - or, rather, contrasts the speed with which the two different sets of lies from the right-wing were debunked in the media. Not that Chris Matthews is any better today than he was then - but you are, what with your writing letters to them when they lie. Like I say, you gotta do that every single time.

Digby on Cheney's kingdom - I can't think of a way to shorthand this, but go read it. Also, Bush the mad dad

I'm feeling like Huckabee really is one of the more likely contenders for the anti-Democratic Party's nomination, so I'm glad to see Atrios reminding people about Wayne Dumond. This is a bit more serious than Willie Horton, because Huckabee got him out on purpose.

The American Federation of Teachers has issued a report debunking Horowitz (and Lynn Cheney) on academic bias.

Get well soon, Molly. I love that woman. (And Happy Birthday, Keith.)

21:08 BST

Take a walk on the wild side

Canadian PM to Apologize to Arar, Canada will pay Arar $8 million plus legal fees to settle his case against them. And Canada's commission on the Arar rendition "has recommended that the RCMP withhold information from countries with 'questionable human rights records'" - by which they mean the United States of America. Think of that. (Glenn Greenwald has more.)

Seth Farber has interviewed Stephen Grey, author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program, at The Talking Dog.

Maxine Waters Throws Down: "The progressive caucus, the netroots, and leaders like Maxine Waters can together be a potent force against a pro-war Hillary Clinton. Edwards is positioned well on Iraq (though he's insane when it comes to Iran), and Obama could move to the right place. The one who can't move is Hillary Clinton, in bed with the DLC's 'let's pretend Iraq doesn't exist' mode of politics."

Fact-esque: "Lt. Ehren Watada refuses to serve in Iraq. You probably know his story. His trial begins on February 5. According to his lawyer, who was interviewed along with Watada today on Fresh Air, the judicial decisions leading up to the court martial have ensured that what will happen on the 5th will be a disciplinary hearing instead of any search for justice." (Also: "A Senator Married to a Defense Contractor? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?")

You know what? I think when the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation gives their First Amendment Leadership Award to Roger Ailes (the bad one), they have reached the point of officially becoming a crackpot organization.

Newsfare: "Anyone who happens to have missed this diary really ought to go over there and take a look. According to the diarist ("trifecta"), Bush and Cheney are starting to be viewed as the lunatic twins locked up in the back bedroom of the White House. Well everyone pretty much knew that, right? But now the bare facts are going public."

Don't say "Republican." Say "anti-Democratic"!

Reviewed: A Date With John Waters.

14:47 BST

Leftover links

Jane is out! - and blogging.

Why Al Gore should run, in Rolling Stone (via). There's a lot of that going around.

C&L has video of Ted Kennedy's floor speech. Also, quotes from Paul Begala's slam of Cheney (video promised). Oh, and I understand that listening to the Doors either will make me gay or means I'm already gay, I'm not sure which. (And Bowie, and the Stones, and the Velvet Underground. Wow, I am so gay!)

The insurgents have always been exhausted.

Steny Hoyer is not helpful. Look, just impeach Bush and Cheney, will you? It's the only way left to stop them.

Bill Scher listens to Obama and Edwards on Iran and is worried that they could be headed in the wrong direction.

Have some Alaska blogging, complete with neat photographs.

Watching the defectives:
Even at this late date, Scalia, Kennedy, and O'Connor are still trying to rationalize Bush v. Gore - with lies.

The only good thing I can say for Mark Steyn is that he doesn't hide his contempt for ordinary people who work for a living.

02:20 BST

Friday, 26 January 2007

Blog stuff

Here's a timely follow-up to Matt Stoller's discussion of support for bloggers - a $2,000 scholarship for college students who are political bloggers. Submissions are due by February 4th, and voting will close on the 12th - enter now!

Is blogging turning Joe Klein into an honest man? No one can be sure, but this post suggests he is capable of discussing a serious issue without reaching for the reflexive smear-the-liberals stick. One to watch. (via)

I will be bummed out if Cernig quits blogging - he does some smart analysis as well as finding good links, and it would be a shame to lose him.

And, on a related note, I want to thank Jordan Barab for his valuable work since he started Confined Space, and express my regret that he won't be doing it anymore. But I hope someone will be inspired to pick up the torch, and in the meantime, I wish you luck in your latest endeavors, Jordan.

18:12 BST

Ted Kennedy asks why Republicans hate America

Bob Geiger has a reminder that real Democrats can stand up any time:

Kennedy to Republicans: "What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"

"What is the price, we ask the other side? What is the price that you want from these working men and women? What cost? How much more do we have to give to the private sector and to business? How many billion dollars more, are you asking, are you requiring?

"When does the greed stop, we ask the other side? That's the question and that's the issue."
"Do you have such disdain for hard-working Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? Why don't you just hold your amendments until other pieces of legislation? Why this volume of amendments on just the issue to try and raise the minimum wage? What is it about it that drives you Republicans crazy? What is it? Something. Something! What is the price that the workers have to pay to get an increase? What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?"

Now those are some good questions. Go read the whole thing.

15:54 BST

Hazy shade of winter

This is about right. Right now we're hearing the same reasons to stay in Iraq that we used to hear about Vietnam when we'd already been in there for twenty years. We didn't stay in long enough for them then, and there's no reason to think that two decades will be long enough for them this time, either.

Good news and bad news: Maryland is considering switching from Diebold's paperless machines to someone else's optical-scan machines. The good news is that what optical-scan scans is a paper ballot, which can be re-counted. The bad news is that recounts are generally only called for in very close elections - which means you are unlikely to know if the optical scanning actually reported the true ballot count unless you have a really close election. Some of the most suspicious counts in Florida's 2000 election and throughout America in 2004 were done on optical scan, and you're in Fantasy land if you think those ballots were ever reviewed, despite the disparity between the exit polls and the reported machine counts.

Natasha on another SOTU lie, about how well we're doing against Al Qaeda.

Nasty reminders: "Debt - The American Way" and "Foreclosures Jump, but 'Analysts' say: Don't Worry, Be Happy".

Matt Stoller returns us to the question of why progressives don't have the support structures that the right-wing has for its activists, and it looks like the answer here is the same one we are faced with when it comes to financing campaigns: The money will have to come from us. And I hope you'll take him seriously when he encourages you to be part of the fundraising to support people who've put themselves on the line - like Lane Hudson, who lost his job when his blog Stop Sex Predators pushed the Mark Foley story in the national discourse. As Matt says, "Lane put his name out there, risked his career, lost his job, and arguably delivered us Congress. He deserves to be able to pay his rent at the very least." Blogpac is there to help support other local bloggers who fight the good fight, as well. Help out if you can. (via)

"Mildred Koss, Metamorphic Harlot"

11:38 BST

Stupid school-boy crush

Look, folks, I admit Hagel made a nice, impassioned plea to quit throwing lives down the drain, and it was truly a good thing, but let's not get carried away, huh?

This guy is not a Democrat and he is not like a Democrat. He is also someone who actually had the opportunity to stop Bush before and did nothing.

Nice talk isn't worth much - remember Arlen Specter and John McCain's nice talk about how bad torture is? And how they seem to have forgotten that just when it came time to vote? Remember Joe Lieberman suddenly being for bringing the troops home just before - and only just before - the election? Remember all the people who have talked the talk and most decidedly failed to walk the walk?

You know who was a Republican with integrity? Jim Jeffords. Any Republican in the Senate who had integrity was free to join him. They didn't. End of story.

Chuck Hagel, who just voted for a measure to eliminate the minimum wage, is not our guy. Hagel is a guy who both made his money and got elected on some voting machines he invested in. He made a good speech. So what? Talk is cheap.

You want a Senator who talks butch on the boy king's military misadventures? You already have a Democrat, and his name is Jim Webb. You want someone who stood up against the invasion when it mattered - before it started? You already have someone like that - his name is Al Gore.

Now quit getting all giddy because some Republican says something that happens to be true. They've done that before. And then they let you down. So cut it out.

02:22 BST

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Items of interest

Travelgate Firings vs. Legalgate Firings - I actually do remember "Travelgate", but I'll let blink at DKos tell it: "The sitting Travel Office director had pled guilty to embezzlement charges and was on his way to serving a jail sentence. The investigation into him began under George H. W. Bush. Someone on the Clinton team decided that they needed to clean house. They did. They were within their rights to do so. Hillary Clinton was never charged with wrong-doing. Kenneth Starr eventually cleared the whole Clinton team. Despite the fact that the whole Travelgate scandal amounted to nothing, those firings were the news, night after night and front page after front page. The screaming, the wailing, the rending of garments, the tearing of hair ..." Sure. The press corps' own ox was being gored - the travel office crew had been getting them cheap deals at their employers' expense. Now, compare that to the "nothing to see here" attitude over the firing of US attorneys who might actually be part of holding legislators accountable. Via Carpe Datum.

I didn't contribute to the Blogging for Choice project this year (I used to do pregnancy counselling - I'm allowed time off), but MahaBarb did, and so did Digby, and they both have warnings you should read. Maha also adds to the discussion of Health Care and Poison Pills.

Natasha has a good look at the discourse on Iran, and it should be pretty clear to all by now that all the scary stuff we're hearing is lies, and that it's just that Bush wants to attack Iran, just like he wanted to attack Iraq, with even less justification and even more to lose.

Forget America, is Journalism Ready for a Black President? (via)

End legalized usury in student loans. And, wow, a whole Alphonse Mucha series I didn't even know about it: The Slav Epic. (via)

17:23 BST

A few things

I looked at a few articles in the WaPo about it but they didn't use the word "filibuster" - though filibustering is just what the Republicans are doing to the minimum wage bill. (Wouldn't it be funny if they turned it into an actual debate?)

In light of Obama's announcement (and, apparently, by popular request), John Rogers has re-posted "The Crazification Factor" (from October 2005). He's also recommending Cory Doctorow's Overclocked, and on the way links to a 2002 article by TimO'Reilly that it's worth reading again, "Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution".

Man, I always knew there was something wrong with Frank Miller. (And, just for the record, the consequences of failing in Iraq were always enormous, and that was obvious in 2002, so why the hell did you dickheads do it?)

I gotta admit, that was a helluva performance by Hagel. It's certainly nice to hear someone point out that those kids we're sending over there "are not beans" and we shouldn't put them "in that grinder" without knowing what we're doing. I was particularly astonished (in a good way) by the "tell that to the Palestinians" line. (Also: Tom Schaller on Colbert, talking about his book, Whistling Past Dixie.)


14:39 BST

Ideal for salads and other dishes

While we were busy interpreting the chicken chimp's speech, the wingers were jumping on Jim Webb's response for the Democrats. Jim Henley Mona has an appropriate riposte to the brave member of the 101st Keyboarders who called Webb "treasonous and cowardly".

Steve Soto has some interesting links up, including one to a revelation from Chuck Hagel that the administration's original version of the Iraq resolution would have authorized them to attack any country in the Middle-East, not just Iraq. So much for UN resolutions. Also, there's a new poll showing that Iranians don't like Osama or terrorists at all.

Digby congratulates Al Gore on his two Oscar nominations, and provides a link to video with Melissa Etheridge singing the song.

Why would jihadis have to attack the US when Bush is doing their work for them?

Convicted of rigging vote recount in Ohio in 2004 - and I love their names, too: "Maiden and Dreamer were accused of secretly reviewing pre-selected ballots before the recount in Cuyahoga County to avoid a more costly, time-consuming hand count of all votes."

Elton went after Dinesh D'Souza., too (and don't miss the comments). And who is this guy?

Candy at war in the Battle of Helms Deep, (via)

01:15 BST

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Parsing the speech

The best laugh line in Bush's speech was probably the one where he says that something must be done about the evil of earmarks. If he had said it a few years ago - maybe even a year ago - you might have thought, "Wow, he's actually saying something true about something that should be stopped - something the Republicans have been doing that has been incredibly wasteful and destructive!" But he didn't say it four years ago, or two years ago, or even two months ago; he said it after the new Democratic Congress had just passed new laws to stop it.

Thanks to Charles (of) for alerting me in comments to Greg Palast's translation of Bush's speech, which is worth reading in full for the analysis of Bush's tell and also for the snark. But there's the serious, too:

Most pundits concentrated on Iraq and wacky health insurance stuff. But that's just bubbles and blather. The real agenda is in the small stuff. The little razors in the policy apple, the nasty little pieces of policy shrapnel that whiz by between the appearances of the Presidential tongue.

First, there was the announcement the regime will, "give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers." In case you missed that one, the President is talking about creating a federal citizen profile database.

There's a problem with that idea. It's against the law. The law in question is the United States Constitution. The Founding Fathers thought the government had no right to keep track on a citizen unless there is evidence they have committed, or planned to commit, a crime.

But the Founding Fathers didn't imagine there were millions and billions of dollars to be made by private contractors ready to perform this KGB operation for the Department of Homeland Security, tracking each and every one of us to keep tabs on our "status."

These work databases will tie into "voter verification" databases required by the Help America Vote Act. And these will tie to the databases on citizenship and so on.

Will Big Brother abuse these snoop lists? The biggest purveyor of such hit lists is Choice Point, Inc. - those characters who, before the 2000 election, helped Jeb Bush purge innocent voters as "felons" from Florida voter rolls. Will they abuse the new super-lists? Does Dick Cheney shoot in the woods?

Not to mention his clever plan for jacking up the price of oil, too. (Lots of people - though not Palast - have been talking today about the way Bush couldn't even make himself read all of the syllables in the word "Democratic", as well. But we already knew that Bush is a very nasty little man who is lying when he says criticism doesn't bother him, just like he's lying most other times.)

But as the man says, the pundits did focus on the awful health plan, most notably Ruth Marcus in the WaPo, who was able to notice that the plan is full of downsides, but not before sneering at Democrats for having noticed it first. Kevin Drum thinks this is because "Republicans have trained us so thoroughly to view everything as part of their long-running war on taxes that this is apparently the only way pundits are now able to see things." But I think it's because sneering at Democrats is considered necessary at The Washington Post to immunize a writer before actually criticizing a Bush policy.

Paul Krugman pointed out before the speech* that the effect of the tax plan would be to offer nothing to those who need help while producing new tax breaks for wealthier people - and more taxes on working people who have employer-provided health insurance. (Media Matters provides quotes from Krugman's article in this piece, which notes that Brit Hume is using Bush's term for good employer-paid health plans, "Gold-plated policies".) And Max Sawicky also points out that Bush's suggestion that people with good insurance policies are necessarily high-earners is wrong, and therefore, "A tax on expensive plans is not necessarily progressive."

But the larger argument we're really looking at here is one between people who don't expect to need real health insurance and those who actually do need it and know they need it. Bush is the kind of guy who figures he's too rich to need it. Some people may be too young to realize that they will need it some day. The rest of us need to pool our buying power so that all of us are insured. If we do that, we won't have to put our medical expenses on our credit cards and end up losing the house. If we don't lose the house, we won't be sufficiently desperate, and that's what the right-wing really objects to. Understand that, and you know who your real enemy is.

19:20 BST

Yesterday's news

My goodness, yesterday was an exciting news day. If you weren't following the Plamegate Fitzmas party at FDL (here, here, here, here - with video reporting by our hosts - and here), Atrios has digested it a bit from other sources, and it seems fairly clear that Libby is rolling over on Dick and Karl while complaining about being the sacrificial lamb. Libby is, of course, no lamb, but we all knew Cheney and Rove had everything to do with this from the start.

Atrios also posted the text of Bush's State of the Union address in time for me to read it and go to bed without having to be awake during the actual speech. It's fairly long, for Bush, but no less nonsensical than usual. Consensus in Blogtopia* so far is that Bush's performance wasn't as bad as usual (no drooling or scared-rabbit faces, apparently), but the corporate media drones seem to be pretty upset about how lame and dishonest it all was, as if it's some kind of surprise.

The speech had been presaged with rumors that Bush would be presenting an exciting new healthcare plan, and I would have thought anyone who'd been awake for the last six years would have known better than to expect anything but a disgusting new method of ripping off anyone who isn't already in clover. I was surprised to learn that Ezra was actually willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, but at least as soon as he learned something about the plan he bravely stood up and said, "I Was Wrong." This is, as usual, another plan to make things worse instead of better.

The real thing to pay attention to about last night's speech is the Democratic response, from Jim Webb. Hey, he even mentioned the robber-barons.

13:02 BST

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

A bunch of stuff

Argh, just when you thought it might be safe to like Edwards, he starts talking about Iran. (Jeez, man, didn't you learn from Iraq?) (via)

Daniel Drezner on why he was wrong on Iraq; includes apology to Al Gore. (via)

Christy and emptywheel have been doing Libby live-blogging at Firedoglake - starts here. Meanwhile, it looks like some of our soldiers are dying from secrecy, too.

Thers seemed to have the same reaction I did to seeing the term "centrist" misused (as usual) to refer to the position that only a minority hold. It's normally pretty aggravating, but right now, everyone knows that most people want out of Iraq. The "centrist" scam only works when no one knows what the alternative position really is.

Scott Lemieux did a three-part (1, 2, 3) series yesterday on the 1973 Supreme Court decision, called "Roe was Right".

A few days ago, Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown said that Party politics played role in Katrina response. And the rest of us said: "Y'think?"

Thanks to Joe (of) for sending the link to another fashion triumph: the dissolvable dress.

Frank Luntz gives friendly advice to Democrats. Needless to say, he did not say that Dems should stand up for principle and fight for the Constitution or American people's rights and freedoms.

Have you ever had a browse through Steve Kangas' Liberal FAQ? I've always liked the "Myths" section, myself. Kangas, by the way died mysteriously in Richard Mellon Scaife's office.

23:50 BST

Community picnic

Charles has a reminder of how Sun Myung Moon spreads lies about Democratic candidates, including the latest on how Barrack Obama supposedly having attended a Muslim madrassah. Also, some family values.

The main argument the right-wingers have against Roe v. Wade is that privacy is not an enumerated right. That case is in itself pretty flimsy, in view of the fact that "privacy" is a pretty good word for what the Bill of Rights describes. But it shouldn't matter, since the 9th Amendment says you can't assume the people don't have certain rights merely because they are not enumerated. However, I think we can all stop pretending that the anti-Roe types actually care about their argument on any Constitutional grounds, since now they are really coming out of the closet about trying to get rid of specifically enumerated rights.

I was listening to Sam Seder earlier and he challenged his listeners to phone in and offer one example of something good Bush had accomplished during his tenure. It occurs to me now that there is one thing - he managed to Destroy John McCain's aspirations.

In comments, Chris Quinones says, "Hillary is also eviscerating the public campaign financing system. Another reason to feel very nervous." And Dick Durata says about Edwards, "I'm not happy that he will be addressing this little group via satellite."

Madison Guy reads Krugman and Herbert and says: "Take your pick: In George Bush's world, Americans have too much health insurance. In Bob Herbert's world, they don't have enough. Which sounds like the world you live in?"

In comments, Dwight Meredith joins in with his own archival work from October 3rd, 2002, "Disarmament vs. Regime Change", and points us to what Ted Barlow said on August 28, 2002. And I found another of my own, which reminds me of how careful I used to be about not upsetting my friends who were still crazy after 9/11 by constantly repeating that we didn't need to use war force to fight terrorism at all. Maybe I should have said it more often and more forcefully. Some people are still trying.

18:26 BST

Stalking the wild web

I still don't think any power on earth could make me vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary. I didn't think so yesterday, or last week, or last year. But it has nothing to do with "electability", which is (as Chris says), a really stupid thing to spend any real time talking about. But just in case anyone forgot, Hillary didn't just keep her own counsel after voting for the Iraq resolution, she was a cheerleader for the whole "with us or against us" game from the gitgo, and saying things she must have known weren't true from the Senate floor, and singing along with John McCain about how great things were going in Iraq (last throes etc.). Which, to me, is cowardice. And I don't like that sort of thing. Yeah, I'll vote for the Democrat in the general election - because you pretty much have to. Meanwhile, I'm watching Edwards, who I think really does look like he has been going through a transformational process, even though I still don't trust him yet. (I rather like his wife, though.) (Via A Tiny Revolution.)

Did you miss "Lockheed Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" in Playboy? Just another pretty piece of the puzzle of how we ended up in Iraq: "Still, there is another way to view Jackson's activities. As The New York Times put it in a 1997 article, "at night Bruce Jackson is president of the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, giving intimate dinners for senators and foreign officials. By day, he is director of strategic planning for Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world's biggest weapons maker.""

In Harper's, Jeff Sharlet's "Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history" is a scary look at how these fringe loonies have been taking over American institutions while re-writing America's past. And at Alternet, Sarah Posner talks about the antisemitic Zionists who have been pushing our Middle-East policies. (via)

Jane Smiley: "The longer Bush is in office, the more his psychology becomes clear. He's not a well-meaning doofus; he's a madman." (via)

I just can't decide which one is cooler, the picture of The Magnificent Tail of Comet McNaught or the one of The Sombrero Galaxy in Infrared.

No plan.

Vote to impeach.

15:20 BST

What they say

So, John McCain is just making crap up, too. (via)

Glenn Greenwald makes an interesting point about the weird kind of nepotism among the right-wing "intellectual" crew. Perhaps something to bear in mind when thinking about supporting someone who is related to someone who did it first.

At least one member of Congress believes Democratic media reform bill may prevent possible 'fascist' takeover of US media: "Media reform is the most important issue confronting our democratic republic and the people of our country," Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said at the Free Press National Media Reform Conference held in Memphis, Tennessee last weekend. "This is a critical moment in history that may determine the future of our country - maybe forever." The Media Ownership Reform Act (MORA) would break up media monopolies and restore the Fairness Doctrine. Republicans blocked the measure last year.

Steve Clemons has A Question for Bill Richardson about his rumored behavior towards women (which doesn't sound good), and also thinks Richardson is sucking the air out for what might be better Hispanic candidates waiting in the wings.

Lately it seems like every day was "the deadliest day for US forces in Iraq. (Remember, the first four years in Vietnam did not produce this many casualties.)

If you think the liberal blogosphere has been (justly) scathing of Dinesh D'Souza, wait 'til you see what Alan Wolfe has to say about him in the NYT Sunday Book Review. Just for a start, he calls the article "None (but Me) Dare Call It Treason" - and he makes a good case. Because while most of us noticed D'Souza's America-hating sympathy for Muslim fanatics' distaste for American (liberal) culture, Wolfe noted that D'Souza sounds damn near admiring of that nice, "quiet, well-mannered, thoughtful, eloquent and deeply religious person" named Osama bin Laden. Yes, there's no question about it : Alan Wolfe is shrill. (via)

And speaking of that, the Shirllblog itself says that, believe it or not, even Deborah Howell is shrill in her critique of a disingenuous front-page WaPo story that by its very nature implied that John Edwards had been involved in some kind of graft and corruption because he sold his house to someone the unions didn't like. (Personally, I didn't think she was all that shrill, but she did seem to have had the same complaint about the article that many readers did - you assume that because it's on the front page, it is exposing some kind of graft, and when you read the article, you learn that there isn't any.)

Tom Tomorrow joined our little exercise of looking back at what they said about the invasion before it happened, and finds in his archives that he said much the same thing I said, and that, "one of the first responses I got was from a reader countering that 'the burden must always be on those who oppose war to explain why it is not necessary.'"

00:03 BST

Monday, 22 January 2007

In Blogtopia
(Yes! Skippy invented that word!)

And So It Goes picks up my points about the uselessness of "a paper trail" strip for verifying the vote, and adds that it's a little too useful for violating the secrecy of your ballot. And more on how privatized ID cards are another danger to your privacy.

Bill Scher points out that yesterday's WaPo article makes absolutely clear that Iraq is by no means a sovereign nation: "In other words, the head of supposedly sovereign state says he doesn't want more foreign troops in his country. Yet the foreign power overrules and does it anyway. That is not supporting democracy and regional stability. That is perpetuating occupation and breeding regional resentment."

Fred Clark was inspired by my post on the subject to go back through his archives to look at what he had written about the stupidity of invading Iraq at the time, and discovers that not only was he right, but so was a much more prominent figure who was no dirty hippy.

At TalkLeft, TChris wonders when conservatives lost their faith in guilty verdicts after right-wingers call for pardons for Border Patrol agents who shot an unarmed man who was running away, destroyed evidence, covered up a crime scene, and filed false reports. The wingers are upset that officials are being prosecuted for "doing their job"; they seem to have forgotten that it is not the job of agents of the United States government or any state or municipality to shoot people who are engaged in a minor infraction of the law no more serious than a parking ticket. And I missed Jeralyn's story last week about the LA raids: "The DEA busted 11 medical marijuana clubs in Los Angeles yesterday, without telling local authorities of their plan until 30 minutes beforehand. [...] The feds refuse to recognize the state law, and say the clubs made so much money there had to be a front for "high-tech drug dealing." This is pot we're talking about, that goes to those whom it medically helps. For some of these patients, being without it is a form of torture." Also, Big Tent Democrat discusses the failure of people like Ed Kilgore to comprehend the real relationship between "Clintonism" and the Netroots.

Share the Truth - If, like me, you can't afford to buy every DVD you want, you might want to tell these folks how they can send you An Inconvenient Truth for free. Via Biomes Blog, which also tells me that people are living on Tatooine.

Some nice Fort Tilden Photoblogging at Multi-Medium, here and here.

(Note to There's no "L" in "Sideshow".)

14:59 BST


Pentagon Counsel: New Rules Convict Detainees 'Based On Nothing But A Coerced Confession' - but, "At a Pentagon briefing, Dan Dell'Orto, deputy to the Defense Department's top counsel, said the new rules will 'afford all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.'" Um, not really....

Lately, it's true, I can never get too much of people ragging on D'Souza, but I'd hardly call it "uncontrolled fury". Why is it these people have such a vocabulary problem?

Cernig has a little round-up of the handbagging our political leaders are giving us, complete with the neo-Thatcherite trimmings.

Via Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money, I see Roy Edroso has another fine post up, going after Prof. Instahack for his moronic attack on the commie pinko liberals for thinking that pharmaceutical companies should make responsible disclosure that allows reasonable bargaining (and helps keep prices within reason). And that they should be doing things that contribute to people's health, by the way. Reynolds failed to mention that Big Pharma is refusing to proceed on a promising cancer drug because they can't patent it and therefore won't be able to stiff consumers for it. I especially want to recommend the comment thread at Roy's place, which is really entertaining. (I'm with Roy; it wouldn't surprise me at all to know that Glenn is on the take. He can't possibly be stupid enough to believe some of the moronic stuff he posts.)

Maru found a terrific picture of Comet McNaught, along with news that Dick Morris is trying to sharpen his knives to be the official swift-boater of the Clinton campaign, if only someone will give him the money.

Charles Dodgson suggests perhaps the Dems in Congress aren't really treating the threat of Bush trying to pull the same stunt with Iran that he did with Iraq with sufficient seriousness; in comments, Nell thinks things aren't as bad as they look. I think I'm with Charles, though - they still look pretty bad to me.

Natasha reminds us that the real power in Iran is not in Ahmadinejad's hands, but in Khamenei's - and anyway, Ahmadinejad just isn't as popular as he used to be.

Some of you may have noticed that the wingers are already trying to frighten us with the specter of the rise of new Caliphate. I think this is all really wishful thinking on the part of a handful of loonies, only a few of whom are Islamist - the rest being the very same wingers who keep warning us about it, who are still hungering for the Cold War days when they had one Big Bad to aim all the hate at and use as a fear-demon. And anyway, as John says: "What I really don't get is how a Caliphate is supposed to be big and scary in a way that, say, a nuclear-armed Pakistan, Iran, or possibly Saudi Arabia isn't."

02:54 BST

Getting the news

I'm listening to Mike Papantonio* interview John Nichols about this article on the Fourth Estate, and at the same time I stumble on this item from Alice Marshall at GOTV about how the Republicans in Richmond won't accept a rules change that would have required votes in committee to be recorded. What this means is that legislators can kill legislation before it reaches the floor without any accountability for their votes. The change failed on a party-line vote. That's known because someone was physically present to watch the proceedings and report what actually happened - or it wouldn't have been on the record and no one would likely be able to find out.

I.F. Stone, you will recall, used to go down to read the Congressional Record every day, and pored over public documents for his stories. He also refused to talk to politicians and operatives off the record - I.F. Stone's Weekly was not a gossip column. It was, though most Americans never heard of it, one of the most important publications in the news business. But we know that we don't have I.F. Stone anymore, and for the most part he has been replaced by Matt Drudge, whose Drudge Report is the homepage of more members of the Washington press corps than any other site.

In addition, national newspapers are cutting their reportorial staff to the bone, which means there isn't always someone in the room when legislation is being debated and passed. If you're looking at the U.S. Congress, you might be able to see what's happening on C-SPAN - you should - but even C-SPAN makes some interesting omissions.

Alice suggests that in the case of Richmond - and that can be extended to any other public body - the answer to this problem is local bloggers. I have to concur with that evaluation. If the commercial press isn't doing it's job, that leaves the job to the rest of us. That's going to be tough for people who don't make a living from doing the work, but someone has to be watching those people, and if it's not the people who are paid to do it, it's got to be those who aren't.

So far, the liberal blogosphere has been great for finding political analysis of the quality you expect, but don't get, from the op-ed pages. We have some reporters, but far too few. We need more.

(While you're at The Nation, you might want to read this article, too.)

01:03 BST

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Vote note

Adam Cohen has an article behind the pay wall at the NYT which supposedly reports "The Good News (Really) About Voting Machines", noting that two years ago election officials were claiming it just wasn't possible to have a voter-verified "paper trail" (on paper tape) for the machines, but now a number of states have passed laws making it a reality.

As usual, though, the real point here is missed - even knowing that there is a paper trail doesn't tell me that the votes were counted accurately and the results reported honestly. Maybe I'm even given a secure receipt - that doesn't tell me what information the machine actually recorded.

And even if my receipt does accurately report my recorded vote, I have no evidence that the vote totals reported later will reflect how all of us actually voted. Because no human being ever confirms the information recorded on the paper tape in a public and transparent way.

The only paper trail you need is a paper ballot, and the way you confirm what's on the ballot is to have human beings count the ballots, in public, on the night. Even this method leaves room for error and cheating, but it doesn't have anywhere near the potential for significant errors and cheating on the broad scale that the machines supply.

(Of course, the other thing you really need is not to have Republicans claiming that the machines are more accurate and reliable than humans. No one actually believes this. You think you do? OK, next time you put paper money in a machine and it kicks the bill out because it can't read it, you just send that money to me. You were going to throw it out, right?)

The idea of paper receipts relies on the fact that you will be going back to look at "the paper trail" - in a recount. Thing is, in most races you don't have recounts, so no one ever sees your ballot or receipt to verify it. But if the ballots have been counted by hand to begin with, you stand a much stronger chance of having had an accurate count in the first place, and you have human eyes looking at ballots to determine the will of the voter.

21:14 BST

It must be Sunday

Passionata Java half cup bra

Bra of the Week

So much for the weekly frivolous cheesecake. But you can Light a candle for Jane Hamsher, who is described as "doing well" and entertaining an elite crew of visitors, attendants, dancing boys, etc. OK, not quite - she's still in ICU and understandably not terribly comfortable. But good people are on hand, and there don't appear to be any problems. I'm sure you all join me in wishing her the best and a speedy recovery.

Hm, the ads for the IHT say that if you subscribe to the paper edition you can get NYT Select for "free", but does that mean it's just in your paper, or what? I can't find any way on their site to punch in your name and code to have free access to the Select articles.

Jay Rockefeller said he thinks the campaign against terrorism is "still a mystery" to Bush. He also says he doesn't think Bush really does all that reading. I guess that qualifies in the "slow but accurate" category. Jay, where have you been? Pelosi got some good licks in, too, but of course if it's good, the other side leaps up pretty quickly to attack, and they did. But Pelosi is right, and no one thinks Bush is doing what he's doing because he thinks it's best for the US or for Iraq. It's like he went out of his way to pick the worst choice. And since he knows that no one else agrees with it, he's moving as fast as he can to make it a fait accompli.

Newspaper revenue growth is weakening some more, although McClatchy (formerly Knight-Ridder) seems to be doing OK. You have to wonder if Knight-Ridder's superior performance as a news organization has anything to do with the fact that McClatchy isn't hurting the way the others are.

Here it is, from the Google cache, the disappeared Dick Morris article claiming Obama didn't vote for something he voted for. So, was it just pulled without comment when lots of people pointed out that it was bollocks?

Mark Fiore with The King of Opposite Land, and Bob Geiger with the Saturday cartoons, including a new animation by Walt Handelsman on the Iraq Surge.

Nicole found video of the Mamas and the Papas doing "Monday, Monday" on TV.

Saw something else pretty in the window of a sari shop and took a photo. I also got a pretty box among the holiday loot. Dig the catch.

15:04 BST


Maybe I'm wrong, but I heard Marc Maron say he's going to be doing a show (I think on HBO) with Ana Marie Cox, and I couldn't help thinking I heard the sound of a train wreck about to happen.

Anthony Ioven learns that Massachusetts' mandatory health care already has problems, and that Bush is really just a little boy.

Good Nonsense looks at the Dems' successful 100 Hours thing, but since it took them well under 100 hours, I think they should immediately get to work on overturning The McCain Pro-torture and Incumbent Protection Enabling Act. And how come there was nothing about Katrina in the 100 Hour promise?

The Heretik updates me with the link to the full version of The Secret Government.

Some nice photoblogging at parvum opus, and the NYT obit for Buchwald, complete with a little video from Art, both via the always entertaining Biomes Blog. (Oh, and you really must see these. And Miniscule is good, too. And Crummy Church Signs. And...)

00:24 BST

Saturday, 20 January 2007


BarbinMD at DKos: Lieberman Says He Will Filibuster With Republicans against the Senate resolution opposing the escalation of troops in Iraq. Creep. Made #42 in The BEAST 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2006.

Atrios alerts us that Hillary's in.

Texas Democrats take Republican Governor Perry to the woodshed - say his redistricting plan ended up screwing the whole state.

15:53 BST

News and stuff

Damn, I was going to link to Dick Morris' article in The Hill in which he lies about how Obama voted against a bill that he voted for, but it appears to be gone now.

America-hating polls: When you ask, "Do you want Bush's plan to succeed?" the only correct answer is, "What plan?" Is it the plan to escalate the war? The plan to run out the clock? The plan to attack Iran? I mean, which plan, exactly? Because he sure doesn't have a plan to bring peace and freedom and democracy to Iraq (or anywhere else).

Progressive Gold has moved. I liked Bush's explanation of Iraq, and I also found a link to Roy Edroso's Shorter Christopher Hitchens: "Bloody hell, Bush bollocksed the war! But I still prefer his dick to Clinton's. Glug, glug, glug, glug, glug."

Tristero quotes Krugman on two more dangerous years of Bush.

WaPo reporter pretends it's news that John Edwards sold his home to people that some unions don't like, suggests there is something untoward about it solely for this reason. (The unions don't appear to care.) They're workin' hard, friends, but they just can't find any real skeletons in Edwards' closets, apparently.

Friend of Al? Wear your heart on your shoulder.

Glen at A Brooklyn Bridge played follow the links and discovered a link to a chilling 1987 piece by Bill Moyers explaining our history with enemies both foreign and domestic: "The Secret Government".

All the leaves are brown.... With the death of Denny Doherty at 66, only Michelle Phillips survives from the original Mamas and the Papas.

12:12 BST

Leftover links

At Daily Kos, mcjoan has a clear reaction to watching the Torturer General duck and weave in front of the Senate, not to mention his apparent ignorance of the Constitution: Impeach Gonzales. Can't argue with that, really. Keninny wasn't impressed with Gonzales, either.

That BBC article on how Iran has been trying to make peace with us, but as usual, Cheney said they could just bugger off.

Howie Klein reminds us that people voted for Democrats to get someone in who would stop Bush, not just have non-binding resolutions. He has the links; you make the calls.

Cliff Schecter isn't at all surprised that when it comes to ethics, Mitch McConnell is on the other side.

Will Bunch has a good rant on the discover that Rich Little is not only the pair of safe hands that the White House Correspondents Association has put entertainment into for this years dinner, but that he's been told that his show must not upset George Walker Bush. Yes, that's right, the press really is most concerned with not afflicting the comfortable.

Fred Clark caught Bush doing... what do you call that? Oh, right, lying.

Uncommon Sense alerts us that the Serius/XM merger isn't likely.

In the NYT, Operating Costs Are Imperiling Disaster Fund: "The federal governments biggest program to help people rebuild after natural disasters is on the verge of running out of operating money because of budgeting problems at the agency that runs it, the Small Business Administration."

Okay, how am I going to be able to see The Song of Ice and Fire TV series without having to subscribe to HBO?

01:10 BST

Friday, 19 January 2007

A bit of catch-up

Thanks to Scorpio (who is moving to a new address) for dropping a link in comments to a chart showing the Top US Marginal Income Tax Rates, 1913--2003. I spent quite a bit of time looking at this thing, remembering who was President or what events had occurred that might have been responsible for the changes, and so on. And I was absolutely shocked at where the top marginal rate started (right column) in 1988-1990, although on further reflection the whole period from 1987-1993 is pretty stunning. But, come on, $29,750? These creatures really do have contempt for working people.

While we're all hoping that Jane Hamsher is about to have perfect health forever, Digby brings our attention to this evidence that we can't really trust the drug companies to use all that money we let them have to help cure disease or anything like that. (Meanwhile, Christy reports that Jane is up and walking around.)

Bashing Dirty Hippies and Getting Played: A Case Study in Six Chapters - David Roberts explains how marginalizing the left hurts every issue that liberals and Democrats say they support. (Don't worry, the chapters are short.)

Vietnam 2.0: "Having a President that enjoys starting wars, but doesn't have the energy and focus to finish them, puts us in a dangerous position. Once we hit Iran and Syria, we'll have to wait two years for another President, that may or may not be able to resolve these conflicts. A lot can happen in two years."

Madison Guy on Peak oil, and with an appreciation of Art Buchwald, with a link to Buchwald's Christmastime interview.

Thanks to Alaskan Librarian , charybedlamite, Lance Mannion, Armchair Generalist, and especially Jonathan Schwarz (with thanks for the correction), and indeed Jonathan Schwarz, and anyone I didn't notice yet, for your excellent taste. And Bryan, for keeping up. [Update: And Simbaud, who is back!]

20:10 BST

Oil scum

Oh, sure, different people had different reasons for wanting to invade Iraq, and I'm sure electoral considerations had a lot to do with Karl Rove's desire to give George a war. And I'm sure that George Bush really did want to get back at the guy who he thinks tried to kill his daddy, and show the world how tough he was. And I'm quite certain that the aristocrats wanted to be able to use a war to concentrate more power - all power, really - in the hands of the executive.

But I still don't think it would have happened without the people who had something else in mind. For example, look what Lambert found:

As we all know, Henry Kissinger has, "Jeff Gannon" style, been discreetly slipping into the Bush Bunker White House to give Inerrant Boy advice. So, it's interesting that Henry the K just published an Op-Ed in the United Arab Emirates Khaleej Times Online, and not in Pravda on the Potomac or Izvestia on the Hudson. (Readers? I'm Googling on this article, and can't find it anywhere else.) I imagine that's because Kissinger imagines that, when he makes a case for continuous war without end, the autocrats of the oil states in the Gulf are a more appropriate audience than the people who do the dying, the voting, and the paying: The American people. After all, Our Henry's an Aristocrat like the rest of the Beltway Wienie Chompers.
And Henry spells it out:
But under present conditions, withdrawal is not an option. American forces are indispensable. They are in Iraq not as a favour to its government or as a reward for its conduct. They are there as an expression of the American national interest to prevent the Iranian combination of imperialism and fundamentalist ideology from dominating a region on which the energy supplies of the industrial democracies depend.
There you go.

[Update: Just saw it in the paper copy of the IHT.]

17:54 BST

Yesterday's banner news

Yesterday there was "news" that the administration was going to start submitting to the FISA court, only it turned out that they weren't, really - they were just planning to give the FISA court a brand-new authority to tell them they could do anything they want from this day forward without having to ask again.

And then there were the hearings, in which Gonzales did a lot of curious dancing. Glenn Greenwald actually watched it all. He saw Orrin Hatch (R-Taliban) give a lot of high-sounding lip-service to the vital nature of "this Grave and Epic War on Terrorism" which is the most important thing ever, and then spent the rest of his time "demanding that Gonzales and the Justice Department devote much more of its resources and attention -- including FBI agents, other law-enforcement resources and a new task force -- to enforcing anti-obscenity laws against people in the U.S. who produce pornography, particularly those who sell it over the Internet, and urged that whole new laws be created to criminalize Internet pornography." Russ Feingold was on fire demanding an answer to who the "some people" were who advocated no wiretaps on terrorists, and apparently, the answer is, "I wasn't referring to Democrats." Feingold rightly points out that the public might have taken that inference given that it was a point they were pounding throughout the election campaign. In fact, Bush specifically accused the Democrats of opposing eavesdropping on terrorists. (But, note to Russ: I've never seen anyone, even on DU, let alone The Smirking Chimp, oppose wiretapping of terrorists.) I highly recommend you read Glenn's informative (and sometimes hilarious) run-down.

And, of course, C&L has a clip of Pat Leahy grilling Torquemada about the curious fact that the US "repatriated" a Canadian citizen not to Canada, where he lives, but to Syria, where he doesn't live:

We knew damn well if he went to Canada he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held and he'd be investigated. We also knew damn well if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured. And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.
Gonzales said he'd get back to him on that - same answer he gave to pretty much any truly germane question.

My God, these are terrible people.

15:30 BST

Some things I saw

I went out and got blown around by the wind and vaguely sprayed with that rain that is barely there. It was ... invigorating.

Bill Scher says it looks like Bush is deliberately undermining meaningful peace talks in the Middle East.

Lieberman threatens Democrats who don't support Bush. Is this guy the crassest political manipulator, or what?

Thers reads Richard Cohen (and is sorry). He learns that even seeing tunnels in Vietnam did not get across to Cohen an essential fact about the Vietnamese: They were fighting in and for their own country. (Also: Is Ana Marie Cox just amazingly shallow - as we always knew - or is she actually stupid?)

How the media responded to pre-invasion criticisms of preemptive war. (Jeez, even Nyhan noticed.)

Death is terrible.

03:50 BST

Thursday, 18 January 2007

News and notes

Art - I noticed quickly in 1981 that something very, very strange had happened to my Washington Post: With two exceptions, there was virtually nothing in the newspaper making an even remotely honest assessment of the frightening and absurd Reagan administration. Those two exceptions were the editorial cartoon, and the other was the humor column by Art Buchwald. For the first time ever, I started reading his column routinely, because even a suggestion of criticisms of the administration was such a rare treat. I was never the enormous fan of Buchwald that my mother was (and she was pretty apolitical), but for that contribution to the discourse, I remember him fondly. So thanks, Art - for that, and for refusing to go glumly into that good night.

Banshee or doesn't she? "A completely innocent Photoshop tutorial, honest," in response to wingnut harpy Debbie Schlussel's threat to sue Taylor Marsh for using her picture to illustrate an article in the HuffPo.

Selective Enforcement - Phoenix Woman explains the IOKIYAR* rule on national security and other legal issues, and the right-wing mania on Sandy Berger.

US Comptroller: Taxes Must DOUBLE To Pay Bush's Budget. And Stephen Colbert's highly gratifying interview with America-hating Borg "intellectual" Dinesh D'Souza.

You know, I completely forgot to mention the completely unknown person who gave all of those reasons for not invading Iraq, and yet somehow slipped below Jon Chait's radar. (And, sure, you complain when I don't write very much, but I write the longest original piece I've done in ages, and do any of you link to it? You do not. Never mind - but please enjoy the ensuing comment thread, where our resident right-wing troll attempts to defend the fantasy that we have done a Fine and Noble Thing in Iraq. And do feel free to help enlighten him.)

15:25 BST


Kevin still seems to be looking for an argument for or against preemptive war. I think. So I wrote this comment:

I don't understand the question. If Saddam really had WMD, it would have been worse.

Isn't that why we never went to war with the USSR?

War is a stupid way to prevent war. A good way would be not to piss people off enough that they want to attack you.

Thomas Nephew muses on the information that "Unmarried women voted for Kerry by a 25-point margin (62 to 37 percent), while married women voted for President Bush by an 11-point margin (55 percent to 44 percent)." I instantly find myself wondering what result you'd get if you looked at women who describe themselves as happily married.

"The Invisible Hand of Theory v. The Chopped-Off Hand of Reality" and "I'll say it again - electronic voting is the story of the century so far" at Fact-esque.

Wolves - "Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From Saddam Hussein."

Faith of our fathers - or, when religion was a force that could be used for good.

Flat-earth Republicanism - Brownback should really have 'em lining up to vote for him after making a flat tax a part of his presidential campaign.

Your Talking Dog has interviewed H. Candace Gorman, who is representing two North Africans being held at Guantanamo.

Bush to US College Students: Drop Dead!

Never say good-bye. (And other non-surprises.)

The Top Ten Astronomy Images of 2006 (via)

I admit to having an immediate strong, positive reaction upon seeing this (from Maru).

There is absolutely no reason I can think of for you to vote for me over all of these other people, but then, there is no reason why you shouldn't. We're all good.

03:34 BST

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

BBC Four tonight

At 10:30 PM:

Tonight's Storyville looks at the role played by anti-war bloggers in the Connecticut Senatorial primary race of the 2006 mid-term elections.
(From Radio Times.)

18:35 BST

Why did anyone support the invasion of Iraq?

OK, Ezra and Kevin and everyone are still talking about Jonathan Chait's dopey article in which he again babbles about how the people who were right about the war were right for the wrong reasons, and that's why we should still listen to all the people who were wrong (for, I guess, the right reasons).

Chait imagines that those of us who opposed the invasion never gave the right reasons. This is an incredibly stupid thing to say, not least for the fact that he doesn't appear to have been paying attention to enough of the people who opposed the invasion to know what reasons we gave. Even Kevin can no longer remember who said what, and to a great extent neither can I.

My first reaction to the sudden emergency of Iraq WMD panic was that there was no reason for it. Any reasonably sane person over the age of 15 knows that war is dangerous, expensive, and terrible. You know that it kills lots and lots of people, leaves many others damaged, and makes new enemies with new grudges. It is profoundly destabilizing and carries with it the threat of wider, more devastating unrest. So you don't do it unless you absolutely have to.

In the run up to the invasion of Iraq, no one provided a credible justification for the war. It was obvious that we did not have to invade Iraq. This is the overriding fact: Invading a nation without cause (you can call it "preemptive", but that just means you don't have cause) is breathtakingly immoral and equally stupid and you do not do it.

In the particular case, starting a war in Iraq was even more breathtakingly stupid than if it had happened during some sublimely peaceful moment that didn't happen to be while our success in Afghanistan was unconfirmed and by no means assured. We had already started a war, and had shown no signs of having accomplished the things that needed to be done if we were to be successful in Afghanistan. To start a new war at such a time was so obviously insane that it was simply incredible that anyone would suggest it.

There was also the fact that we were supposedly opposing religious extremists, and Iraq didn't fit into that category. Whatever else was wrong with Iraq, it was secular, and entirely unsympathetic to Al Qaeda. Moreover, removing Saddam from power risked setting off sectarian unrest that stood a very high chance of eliminating secular government in the country. It was a bad time to create new theocratic Muslim states, and there was also a high likelihood that a lot of sectarian blood-letting would follow. And that unrest could spread, too. Iraq was best left alone.

Anyone who suggested that we should invade Iraq because women weren't as free there as they are in the west (and, hard as it is to believe, there were a lot of right-wingers actually saying this), was simply being crazy - or, at least, that's the charitable interpretation. The very fact that right-wingers were saying this was another clue that they were grasping and lying. They didn't care about the condition of women to begin with, and they certainly weren't about to invade a country because the women weren't quite as free as they could be. If they were, why would they choose Iraq, when women were freer there than they were in any other Muslim country in the region? The right-wing war hawks were plainly attempting to con feminist sympathizers into thinking this was some sort of rescue operation that would make everything better. The only problem is that their criticisms of Saddam - all of them - came a bit too late, since we had all made them first. And because we had been making them for so long, we knew that (a) Iraq was nowhere near as bad for women as the surrounding countries, and (b) it was right-wingers, not us, who had been defending Saddam from our criticisms for all the decades preceding the first Gulf war. The obvious fact was that invading Iraq was likely to make things worse for women there. And it did.

A sane person starts from the position of not making war. The question of why not support starting a war should never even be raised - the reasons not to are always obvious.

So we waited to hear the credible justification for making the war, and it never came. It never came.

Look, the WMD claims never made any sense from the start. Saddam had already expressed a willingness to comply with weapons inspections, as long as they were by genuine weapons inspectors and not by CIA agents slipped in to spy on things that were none of their business. Clinton decided to pull the inspectors out and bomb Iraq instead, destroying the hidden weapons. By 2003, even his bio-chemical weapons stocks, if they still existed, could pose no threat, since they were well past their shelf-life. And Saddam was clearly contained, anyway.

And when you hear a national leader claim that a country that has never tested a nuclear device and has no delivery systems for one is capable of launching a nuclear attack on you in forty-five minutes, you know you are being lied to, dammit.

The humanitarian angle was, frankly, laughable. Saddam was vile, but certainly no more vile than a half-dozen other dictators we were on friendly terms with and were showing no signs of rattling sabers at. If we wanted to rescue a people, there were more urgent choices outside of Iraq.

Meanwhile, the chance of killing and maiming thousands of Iraqis was considerably greater than the chance of turning Iraq into a democratic oasis. And that was true even if the Bush-Cheney administration was not the one that was running things.

But then you add the fact that it was the Bush-Cheney administration that would be running things, and you could, from that moment on, write off any possible imaginings of things turning out well. Bush had a history. Cheney had a history. Rumsfeld had a history. Bush couldn't campaign for the presidency without causing international incidents when he opened his mouth. His months in the White House prior to 9/11 had been marked by one diplomatic nightmare after another, all stemming from his own incompetence and contempt for other leaders, other nations, and other peoples. His performance inside the United States had not shown a respect for democracy, either. By word and deed, Bush had already established himself as an unbeliever in the very principles of a democratic republic; he was not going to bring one to Iraq.

You didn't have to be a particularly deep thinker to work these things out - they were already being demonstrated in Afghanistan. The fact is that war is hard in the best of times, and the one thing our own history had told us would work - a Marshall plan - had been dismissed in Afghanistan. There was certainly no indication that such a thing was being planned for Iraq. There was no reason to believe any of these good things would be done.

Yes, we'd all like to be Superman, able to fly into countries and create freedom and justice for all. If I wake up tomorrow morning and discover I have become God, believe me, everyone will be hearing from me. But no number of weapons, and no army of whatever size, can compensate for the fact that human beings are not God and we can't just make everyone behave the way we want them to. Ask any parent how easy it is to ride herd on even a small number of charges; it's just not that easy.

Nevertheless, our Congress passed the Iraq resolution, which permitted Bush to use force if Saddam refused entry of the weapons inspectors into Iraq, or failed to cooperate with them. Fortunately, the use of force became moot, because Saddam did fully cooperate with the weapons inspectors, who found that Clinton had already destroyed Saddam's weapons. That should have been the end of the story.

Only it wasn't. We heard a lot of crazy talk then, and after all these many months of seeing that we were right and the Iraq hawks were wrong, we are still hearing crazy talk. And we still even have people talking about why we can't start the pull-out just yet. Just more enabling of the guy who wants to do what he wants and not take responsibility for it. But I think The Poor Man has it right: "At this point, what you are fighting for, primarily, is George W. Bush's self-esteem."

So, everything we all warned of (and we did all warn of it) has happened, only even worse than we expected. So the only question besides, "How do we get out?" that people like Jon Chait should be concerned with is: Why did you support the invasion?

I mean, c'mon - knowing what we knew then, how could anyone support it?

14:34 BST

Underneath the headlines

TPM Muckraker: "It was an obscure provision in the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act, and it didn't take them very long to use it. The president signed it into law in March of last year -- by June, they were already moving to replace unwanted prosecutors." TPM has found seven dismissed prosecutors; Feinstein had a few words to say about it all in the Senate - she particularly didn't like the fact that replacements are being appointed without Senate approval.

Although Feinstein's power can be used for good, we also have Biden and Feinstein doing DRM on your ass - well, you knew if it involved those two, it had to be bad. They're not alone, of course - co-conspirators are Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Jim Macdonald has received another Wingnut Spam pushing the idea that the illegal immigrants are all stealing your social security money - you can tell, because every single working person who appears to be Hispanic can be presumed to be not only an illegal immigrant, but making more money (buying brand names!) than you are.

How to identify a nice Muslim.

The phrase that defines George Bush. (Also: Yes, Letterman's interview with Peter O'Toole was better than Jon Stewart's. And I still miss that shining moment when Dick Cavette had the best talk show on television. Oh, and great design.)

Greg Sargent's The Horse's Mouth has moved (from here) to here.

David Gregory asked Tony Snow, "What's An Appropriate Way To Dissent?" - and Snow apparently couldn't think of one.

Breathtaking Baldfaced Lie of the Week

02:30 BST

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

This and that

This is disappointing: N.H. Republicans settle phone-jamming lawsuit for a lousy $135,000. Who offered them a settlement? They should have had to explain themselves in court. Of course, since now no one will hear the evidence, they are running around claiming that it's a real shame no one will now know that it was just "a few unauthorized individuals and not that of the Republican Party." Yeah, right, nothing to do with their demonstrated direct relationship with the office of the Chair of the Republican Party. (via)

I guess they call this "meritocracy" - "the CEO of Home Depot (Or, as commenter cory calls it, Home Despot - heh) received a benefits package worth over $200 million after basically screwing up the company."

Ezra Klein agrees with Max that the netroots aren't "the left": "In essence, we're on the leftmost edge of the mainstream consensus on most, though not all, issues..." (But Ezra, how much of the mainstream consensus thinks "free trade" - as opposed to fair trade - is good? And you need to define "the free market" to be able to say it is mainstream to think it's good; an unregulated free market, surely, is a disaster, and I'm not sure you could get most people to support it.)

This is kind of cool - a temporary tattoo that is actually a temporary tattoo: "The scientists are also designing polymer shells that biodegrade on their own, without a laser's nudge, over a matter of months, says Edith Mathiowitz of Brown University, who engineered Freedom-2's beads." (via)

20:12 BST

Useful reading

Dean Baker:

  • Post Explains the Obstacle to Improving Medicare Drug Bill - "Anyone who thought that the reason we are paying so much for drugs under Medicare Part D is that it's difficult to design better policies should read the front page article in today's Post. The article explains that the Democratic leadership backed away from the most obvious steps, like having Medicare offer its own drug plan, because they were worried that the pharmaceutical industry owned too many of its members to get such legislation passed. Therefore, they are trying the back door routes, which provide a far less direct challenge to the pharmaceutical industry."
  • Post Pushes Drug Industry Line, Again: "But, the Washington Post's editorial position on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry is hard to ignore. Its lead editorial "The Wrong Prescription" gives yet another dose of misinformation intended to protect high industry profits. In contrasting the current Medicare system with the Veterans Administration it tells readers that "fully 3,000 of the 4,300 medicines covered by Medicare are unavailable under the veterans' program." This assertion is misleading in three ways."
  • USA Today Pushes the Clinton-Bush Trade Agenda: "USA Today pulled out all the stops in a news story today that argued the case for Clinton-Bush trade policies. The article begins by decrying the fact that 'globalization' is losing support around the world and that countries are embracing 'long-discredited economic strategies.'"

Lieberman has the Dems by the cojones - Barbara O'Brien, guesting at Alternet: " As long as he caucuses with the Dems, they keep their one-seat Senate majority. And to keep him happy, Joe gets to be chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. But his increasing coziness with the Republicans and the Bush Administration must have some Dems wondering if Joe's so-called loyalty is worth it."

When the WaPo covers the lackluster response to Bush from the troops, Paul Kiel says: "Despite its incompetence and failures, there was one thing that the administration was always good at: the staged event. But, in a sign of how far their fortunes have sunk, they can't even do that right any more."

Bush & Cheney Are What Impeachment Was Designed For : "And the process of impeachment all by itself might exercise some of the restraint that nothing else has managed to do. Not only that, but it's the right thing to do. And there's a huge power in doing the right thing. And, hell, if we're headed for a Constitutional crisis anyway -- and, one way (implicitly) or another (explicitly), that IS where we're headed -- I'd like to have it while Justice Stevens is still on the bench. (And, BTW, this is what happens when you ignore the Constitution. SCOTUS ignored the Constitution and ordered Florida to stop counting votes -- sticking America with the man who was voted down. Turns out that the Founders were right: it's better to let Americans select their leaders. Not SCOTUS, not Diebold, Americans.)"

Good lines:

Monkeyfister says he has a cure for upper respiratory goo that actually works: green tea made with lots of turmeric and ground or fresh ginger, and honey to taste. And drink a lot of it. I probably should try that.

14:07 BST

The bounty of the Internet

"Every time a bell rings, a religious extremist tells a lie" - More on that teacher who teaches religious lunacy in public school and then lies about it.

Thom (of) tips me off in comments to a post at DKos that says the NYT has a dog in the KSFO fight. And Charles points to another history lesson.

Over at DKos, by the way, dengre has a useful post explaining the interesting bit of Republican Kabuki over the minimum wage in US territories, which backfired magnificently on them. And about time someone brought law to the Marianas. Via Phoenix Woman.

I already posted in the subject, but I guess I was too vague, because more than one person has sent me a link from somewhere about it: Joe Lieberman betrays Louisiana - Mysteriously, although he promised during his campaign to demand answers about Katrina, he now says he's not interested in the investigation so he won't be asking for those documents and such after all. I guess it's only Democrats who care about that, and we don't like him.

How Klein with "Blue America: More On Congressional Targeting-- And What's Up With The DCCC?," and The Shoe Fits And Hillary Clinton Took It Off And Threw It At John Edwards; She Missed." (For the record, I don't know if withholding funds can work, seeing as how Bush-Cheney just takes for granted that they can steal or borrow any money they want and spend it on anything they want. They've already managed to get Congress to vote them "emergency" money in addition to the billions of dollars that were appropriated but we don't even know where they are. They never say where it's coming from.)

Please impeach this creature. Just leaves me breathless. "In Bremer's account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States."

What a relief! Athenae, Holden, Tena, and Scout have finally redesigned their site, and now their First Draft loads a lot more quickly. I can't tell you how I have longed for this. Go over there now and read Athenae's current thoughts on Obamamania, and see Scout's photos with a tale of the two cities that will be Bush's Legacy.

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786); written by Thomas Jefferson and passed with the help of James Madison - and still on the books.

Fed-Ex refuses to ship words. (via)

03:22 BST

Monday, 15 January 2007

Your digital world

It's okay with me if they want to use libertoonian language to stop the FCC from requiring broadcast flag acceptance in new hardware, but let's be honest, here: This is not about nanny state government agencies passing regulations to curtail misbehavior on the part of industry, it's about the FCC being used by one industry to control another, for its own advantage and to the detriment of the public. But hey, if Sununu can derail this particular bit of flim-flammery, it's nice to know his powers can finally be used for good. Let's hope it works. (Love the spin, though.) (via)

At least Bush thinks someone is entitled to privacy, even if he's probably only thinking of board executives. He probably just didn't realize that bymaking illegal "accessing customer accounts through the Internet" without authorization, he was also protecting reporters and even unimportant people like the rest of us. (via)

Meanwhile, Privately, Hollywood admits DRM isn't about piracy - It's about controlling how you can use your content once you've paid for it, and trying to make you pay for it even more. They don't even like it that you can lend someone else a CD. They don't even like it that you can play your CD as many times as you want without giving them more money. They know perfectly well they aren't losing any real money to "piracy" - they just walk into Congress and lie about what's going on, because they see money to be made in creating false scarcity of this resource. (Have I mentioned lately that you should support musicians who let you listen for free to their music on their websites, or download it for free, and just have a tip jar? Give them money, and go and see them live when you can, because that pays the real piper and not just the big, ugly monkey.) (via).

23:46 BST

The passive voice should be avoided

TPM Cafe has Excerpts From Edwards' Scheduled Antiwar Speech at the historic Riverside Church. Edwards' site has video of the whole speech here. There seems to be a lot of push-back from a member of Hillary Clinton's circle; the speech was already being characterized in some parts of the press as a challenge to Clinton, since it took place "on her turf". (Note to operatives: The Riverside Church may be in New York, but its place in civil rights history belongs to all of us.)

The New York Times has a story on The saga of Spocko and his efforts to discourage advertising for KSFO's hate speech. (via) More at C&L, which alerts us that it goes back farther than we knew.

Steve Brust re-posted his piece on Conspiracy Theories at his LJ page, where there are comments. My own position is, of course, that if the Republicans dismiss something as "conspiracy theory", I figure it's something they're doing and they're about to get caught.

Professor Cole explains what the press is for. (Thanks to Dave Wilford for the tip.)

20:45 BST

Leftover links

Lincolnesque - Slacktivist on how to be a great president. Unfortunately, you just don't get to look so macho if you're such a terrific president that you actually prevent wars.

"A presidency of Cliff Notes" - Keith Olbermann's special comment on Bush's "new" policy: "Most importantly, perhaps, Mr. Bush, the plan fails because it still depends on your credibility."

Republican smacks Lieberman - I have a lot of problems with Hagel, going right back to how he won his seat in the first place, but he sure got this one right.

Dissing Carter - even liberals do it. Look, the elites really hated Carter's famous speech, and though Americans actually liked it and for a few days his poll numbers jumped as a result of it, the right-wing got to work and after that it became "the malaise speech", even though it did not contain that word. I wish the rest of us had paid more attention to it at the time.

Is CBS toying with a return to legitimate TV News? They appear to be going through a few motions, but I just don't think their corporate masters will allow it.

John Adams and Charles "Cully" Stimson - Jeralyn says defending soldiers from the other side was a matter of pride with Adams, and offering good legal counsel to all is the pride of the American system. (Also, it appears the WaPo actually managed to get this one right.)

Anti-science idiots in bad weather.

In the true spirit of Pajamas Media, Jon Swift announces, "Breaking News: Michael Ledeen Is Dead ." (via) Wolcott plays, too.

You still have a week to get your nominations in for the Koufax Awards. Please, if you have a few spare bucks, give generously to help keep our hosts out of the poorhouse while they run this bandwidth-intensive public service. And then go and read the various nominations threads for links to lots of great blogs, many of which you have never heard of. (I don't have time to read them all, either, so please feel free to let me know if you found one there you were particularly delighted to learn about.)

15:15 BST

Alert: Bipartisan bastardy

Dean Baker warns of stealth Social Security scum:

A small item in the Washington Post last week reports that the Senate budget committee is apparently planning to set up a panel to operate in secret to devise a plan for restructuring Social Security. According to the short piece, the intention is to produce a "bipartisan" plan which will then be put up for a vote by congress.

If the media is doing its job, it will out these secret Social Security planners. This is not a matter of national security. We are supposed to have a democracy. Any plans for restructuring the country's most important social program should be aired fully in public.

Of course, public discussion poses a real problem for those who want to cut benefits, since most people do not support that move. But, them's the breaks. Responsible media report on issues that are of concern to the public, they do not assist conspiracies against the public.

At MaxSpeak, You Listen!, Barkley says, "Kill this baby in its crib!"

He doesn't seem to have picked up on it, yet, but this looks like a job for Josh Marshall. Meanwhile, I do urge you to call your own reps [Senate, House] immediately and demand to know if they have any part of this outrage and what they plan to do about it.

12:21 BST

Notable stuff

Matt Stoller on The Progressive Half a Loaf Problem with healthcare half-measures, and Ezra Klein taking issue.

American Stranger says that New York Magazine has a good profile on Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem), "Chairman of the Money".

If this isn't losing, what is?

Xymphora asks, "Is the United States a military dictatorship?"

The real Pelosi culture, from Sara at The Next Hurrah.

Does anyone listen to Cheney's opinion anymore? I mean, for any reason other than to find out what he's telling Bush? (And Bush, of course, was already revising the story again by Friday, and now he's said straight up that Congress doesn't matter.)

Jamison Foser's weekly "Media Matters" column lays out the questions the press should be asking the war hawks, and points out that the real bipartisan, mainstream position is opposition to "the Bush-McCain-Lieberman escalation". (And, in light of Lieberman's flip-flop on investigating the failures in Katrina, some questions regarding Mary Landrieu's support, too, and whether he discussed his turnabout with her.) (via)

02:45 BST

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Drink in the sun shining all around you

Good news and bad news from Sara Robinson, who says Jim Webb has introduced legislation to fully restore the GI Bill - the one my father had. But the bad news is that under an administration that has encouraged harassment of female members of the military, those benefits may not be available to women who just don't want to put up with being sexually molested just to stay in the armed services.

Via Dr. Atrios, another anti-American Pentagon operation is to add defense lawyers for detainees to the list of people you should hate and harass. They will be happy to grant your FOIA requests for their names in record time. (The recommended boycott of firms that do pro bono work for detainees, however, is going to be tough for Scooter Libby.)

"CIA Leak Probe: Inside The Grand Jury" - Murray Waas explains it all, and why Cheney is guilty, guilty, guilty!

Dept. of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Mary at The Left Coaster reports that Carol Lam, the Federal Prosecutor who had successfully prosecuted Duke Cunningham and was still on the path to uncover the dealings of Brent Wilkes with his connections to Dusty Foggo and the CIA, has been asked to resign, apparently because she thought that was important to do. Mary also updates us on the good, the bad, and the ugly media news.

The neocons like to call themselves Vulcans, but Representative David Wu says they don't base their decisions on logic as Vulcans would, and there are Klingons in the White House. But they aren't even real Klingons, because they've never fought a battle.

Tony Blair tried real hard to stop the hanging. Well, at least he didn't stop some other people from trying to stop the hanging - and afterwards, he said the hanging was wrong, but only after a lot of people asked why he hadn't said anything about it.

Have a listen to Angie Palmer.

16:30 BST

It's just the wasted years so close behind

Panache Romany underwired balconette braBra of the Week

Apropos of which, Derryl Murphy wonders if I noticed the significant link at Radar to "In Loving Mammary: Tracking 100 years of breast obsession" by Susan Seligson. I didn't, so thanks.

Lindsay Beyerstein has picked up on a fascinating example of just how shiftless and blinkered our corporate masters have become, and how little adherence they have any longer to even the most obvious rules of doing business. It's a simple thing: A credit card company notices that a lot of money is shifting to something to do with "sock yarn", and since it's a bunch of women who claim to knit, they figure this can't possibly be real, so they retroactively cancel credit processing for them - not just refusing further credit processing, but returning funds to the last several hundred customers. They do this without doing any research whatsoever into the group, the product, or the business. If you don't yet fathom just how big a balls-up this is, let Teresa Nielsen Hayden explain, as she does so well.

Jill and Dover Bitch are pretty grumpy abut Rod Dreher's epiphany - and who can blame them? "Is there any chance America's conservatives will stop soiling themselves over the Sixties?" asks DB. And as Jill points out, it was pretty obvious that Bush was Bush, from the very beginning. The sudden realization that Bush is Bush even though Jimmy Carter didn't free the hostages, and even though protest demonstrations are noisy, and even though hot chicks in the '60s wouldn't date you, is ... well, it's not much of an insight, really. Ron Beasley was on this well before the rest of us, and links to Dreher's own blogpost about it, noting that Dreher refers directly to how crazy anti-war protesters seemed to him, and suggesting that such protests "not only don't shorten wars but make them go on longer. I still believe that was the case in Vietnam. The majority of people look at the protesters and not the war, just like Mr Dreher." I think it is true that if anti-war protests look more like a circus than like serious business, this does influence some people to oppose the protesters rather than the war. But I don't think all anti-war protest has this effect. And let's not forget that both McGovern and Nixon said they would end the war. (Let's also not forget that Ronald Reagan himself publicly stated that the hostage-takers would get a better deal from him than from Carter, thus undermining Carter's efforts to free them. So all these years conservatives have been hating Carter for something caused by Reagan during his presidential campaign, when he established for all to see that he was willing, in a civilian capacity, to work against America for his own political ends.)

"They went to church every Sunday. They just seemed like a very happy, normal couple"

Comet McNaught over Krakow, (and while I was there I found this neat picture of "NGC 602 and Beyond"). One from Epsom Downs (wider view with Venus on the left), street level in NW Surrey, and mostly North America. Looks to have a more impressive tail than Hale-Bopp - but at least I got to see Hale-Bopp myself.

13:18 BST

Blind spot

Letter to the International Herald Tribune from a G. Thomas of London, January 5th, on Religious fundamentalists:

I found Richard Bernstein's article "Atheists throw down the gauntlet on faith," (Letter from America, Jan. 2)* entertaining, but I can't agree with his statement: "The two movements are almost entirely dissimilar, of course, with Christian fundamentalism engaging in no violence or threats."

I presume Bernstein does not live near a women's health clinic or other establishments that offer guidance on the option of terminating pregnancies. For the last couple of decades, clinics in the United States have been fired upon, rammed by automobiles and fire-bombed. Staff at clinics have been badgered, threatened, assaulted, spat upon, in many cases shot and in some cases killed. And the terrorists (no other word is suitable) who have carried out these actions, I believe, all identified themselves as fundamentalist Christians doing God's work.

I also noted the cute way that Bernstein lumped "believers in alien space abductions" and "disbelievers in God" together in the same sentence.

What a shame there is no one writing about real terrorism in America so that journalists could read about it.

00:47 BST

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Slow dawning

This audio essay by Rod Dreher of National review is only about 3½ minutes long, but you really should listen to it. Glenn Greenwald has transcribed some of it:

On 9/11, Dreher's first thought was : "Thank God we have a Republican in the White House." The rest of his essay:
As President Bush marched the country to war with Iraq, even some voices on the Right warned that this was a fool's errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.

But almost four years later, I see that I was the fool.


On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

Go read the rest, and what Glenn has to say about it. (And Maha and her commenters, too.)

Dreher is now questioning all of his assumptions as a conservative, but he still has more to learn: He thinks he is seeing Vietnam all over again, only run from start-to-finish by a conservative Republican. He's not. Vietnam was a terrible and tragic mistake, but it never held the potential to be the disaster we are dealing with now. If we get out of Iraq soon, the closest thing to a silver lining in this dark cloud will be that not as many Americans have been killed yet. But the damage to our country and to the world is far greater than ever could have resulted from Vietnam.

19:34 BST

Buncha links

Attaturk slipped a link in at Eschaton to a good article at Radar on pundits getting rich by being wrong, and the fact that those who saw the train wreck coming have variously been ignored, smeared, used for target practice by Peter Beinart, and even fired. I recommend the whole thing. (I may have mentioned this before, but I disagree with Bob Somerby's evaluation of the press corps' motivation for being so crap. I see Dick Durata agrees.)

Over at his own place, Attaturk notes that CNN mischaracterized Gerald Ford's opinion of Jimmy Carter in a headline, and also says that, having heard so often about what "must" happen in light of current reality, only to see it not happen, he is not optimistic that this time will be different.

Note to self: Listen to Chris Hedges interview from NPR last June.

I'm probably not going to listen to it, but I'm interested in the fact that it's out there - Dave Slusher says someone did a mash-up of his podcast "Why I Don't Believe in God", with Lenny Bruce.

Purely by coincidence, a post that also happens to be called "Why I Don't Believe in God" by Skadhi generates the comment from her proud parent, PZ Myers, that she might just replace Dawkins. PZ is even prouder when he sees how the kid and her readers handle the creationist trolls in the comments.

Lots and lots of people have sent me links to stories on Resetting the Doomsday Clock.

Thanks to D. Potter for alerting me to yet another painfully apt Ann Telnaes cartoon.

Need a job in Pleasantville, New York? Seriously - Hartwell & Cramer are seeing an editorial assistant.

17:09 BST

Open windows

Managing Escalation: Negroponte and Bush's New Iraq Team - Dahr Jamail says this all looks too familiar, and one could be forgiven for suspecting that fomenting sectarian violence in Iraq was all part of the plan. (via)

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson submitted her report to Congress this week, and she had suggestions for how to make things easier and fairer to taxpayers. She must really mean it - one of her suggestions is to get rid of privatized debt collection.

"How Not to Give the People What they Want" - eRobin looks at Robert Reich's statement on Medicare Part D, and Mike Leavitt's article in the WaPo opposing the Democratic plan to allow negotiation of drug prices, and finds the first inadequate and the second hysterical. Personally, I can say with confidence that the Secretary of Health and Human Services is either a moron or a liar, or perhaps even both.

Bill Scher: "That reckless, destabilizing strategy will remain in place, unless Bush's fear is realized, and America definitively forces a change in course."

How to read what the actual laws say, via this extremely link-rich post from Twistedchick.

Media War escalates toward victory - Kevin Hayden thinks we just might be winning it.

Did I mention that Ted Kennedy did a blog post the other day saying that escalation is not Bush's decision to make? He wants you to sign the petition supporting his legislation.

The Land of the Free, up close.

Lieberman was for investigating Katrina fiasco before he was against it.

Elton is back! And so is Molly Ivins, and she has a plan, because it's up to you and me, kids.

Nicole has a new Animusic video I haven't seen before and it's rather nice, though of course my favorite is still Pipe Dream.

But for the real thing, dig this, sugah.

13:30 BST

Stuck in the tubes

OK, who's the wiseguy who put me on the conservative mailing list that gets me mail from Richard Viguerie?

Dear Conservative Leader,

As you may know, Section 220 of S1, the lobby reform bill, would effectively silence many grassroots organizations by subjecting them to onerous registration and reporting requirements which actually exceed what is required of the big lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

Now, Senators Robert Bennett (R-UT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have co-sponsored Amendment 20 to S 1, which would remove Section 220 from the bill.

I liked this part: "I've created a website,, to help citizens fight efforts to silence us."

Warmongering as the measure of serious statecraft - Lance Mannion knows it's Joe Klein, but...

Kevin Drum comes down on the side of supporting the healthcare compromise plan offered by Arnold. I disagree, not just for the reasons he mentions, but because I want a plan that will really work, and I don't trust anyone to fix it all later. (Think "NAFTA".)

We've been seeing the ads for The Trial of Tony Blair on TV a lot, but I don't know if we'll watch it. On the one hand, a fine actor in the lead role. On the other hand, I don't think I can handle thinking about Tony Blair for that long. And anyway, it's no joking matter and what I want is to really see these guys removed forcibly from their current famous addresses and put on trial. It's too bad they demolished that other famous address where they could have lived out the rest of their lives.

Here's a local story on that Media Reform conference Dr. Atrios has been at.

Speaker Pelosi's page for the 100 Hours Schedule & Status (complete with little videos of the vote).

Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security will be investigating insurance companies' improper denial of claims for Katrina.

Photos of Comet McNaught taken by locals around Britain.

Language note: It's not a "Hail Mary". A Hail Mary has a chance of actually working. This is more like an own-goal.

03:30 BST

Tea and empathy

I see Digby is addressing a familiar problem:

I think this is one of the defining aspects of conservatism. They have a stunted sense of empathy and an undeveloped ability to understand abstract concepts. It makes them unable to fashion any solutions to common problems, which they blame on "poor character" because they cannot visualize themselves ever being in a vulnerable or unlucky position through no fault of their own. Until it happens to them or someone they know, in which case they never question their philosophy as a whole but merely apply a special exemption to whichever particular problem or risk to which they have personally been exposed.

Empathy is not some altruistic concept. In fact, it's quite selfish and designed to make humans better able to survive. It allows a person to walk in another's shoes so that they might have an inkling of what it would be like if that person's experience became their own. It is necessary to understand how to head off problems that you might someday have to confront and it is certainly necessary to fully understand other necessary concepts such as justice, fairness and love.

Eric Alterman is shrill in "The madness of President George". He also says: "It's been a week since the AP was vindicated in its battle with warbloggers who for weeks accused the global news agency of manufacturing a "fake" and "bogus" source in Iraq. Yet one week later, Howard Kurtz has yet to address the media controversy in the pages of The Washington Post. Safe to say that if the story had turned out differently -- if the bloggers caught the AP making stuff up -- the only question would have been whether Kurtz's AP story ran above or below the fold on the front page of the Post." Oh, and Charles Pierce hisself says the magic word - and is absolutely right, of course. Let's do it.

Fred Clark is up to the part in Left Behind where you meet the Antichrist, and he's Troy Donahue in a suit. Or something.

The other day it occurred to me, for no reason I can recall, that the little finger-cymbals belly dancers use are called zils, and that the most famous maker of cymbals in the world is Zildjian ("ian" being the standard suffix in Armenian surnames, meaning "son of"), and I wondered if there was a direct relationship between these two facts. There is . (Thanks for remembering, Dominic.)

01:38 BST

Friday, 12 January 2007

Chock full o' links

Jeff Schalles sent me a link to "A Perfect Storm":

Last night, George Bush said "The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people." Then he said, "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."

I agree with both statements...
For the rest of our lives and beyond, 'Bush' will become a one word appellation for stupidity, arrogance, predation, radicalism and national suicide, just as 'Benedict Arnold' comes down to us today, even after two centuries, as a euphemism for treason.

Hilzoy is doing a series on torture, here and here.

Atrios linked last night to Eric Alterman's Nation article, "Iraq and the Sin of Good Judgment", about how the pundits who got it all wrong continue to punish everyone who got it right, even though they know now that everyone else was right. (Now they keep complaining about how or why we were right, which they have fantasized out of their own tiny minds.) And then Lambert said, "And speaking of the sin of good judgment..., Pravda on the Potomac's demoted Froomkin."

Bush lifts Alaska drilling ban. I almost didn't notice, with all the many, many other nasty things he's been up to.

Loren Coleman says, "23 Skidoo: Goodbye Robert Anton Wilson."

Nixon's Cambodia address

So I got home last night and tuned into AAR and heard Rachel snickering about how the Dems decided to hold their convention in Denver but they can't use as their website address because it's already taken by hahaha sci-fi fans. Hmph.

Can't-Do America can't inspect cargo at ports. Or so the Republican'ts tell us.

I always like it when an article reveals with its very first line that the author is a complete dickhead. (It isn't helped, of course, by the fact that the "Manifesto From the Left" he refers to is not, in fact, a manifesto from any kind of left, and the other left he's talking about is composed entirely of George Galloway, as far as I can tell.)

MadKane does another limerick using my favorite word.

22:16 BST

Why they fight

The other day, Glenn Greenwald did a post about the insights of right-wing loonies and their useful idiots on the Greatest Of All Wars To End All Wars and the escalation that includes a rather astonishing quote from Michael Ledeen:

Note that an increase in embeds doesn't necessarily require an increase in overall troop strength. We've got lots of soldiers sitting on megabases all over Iraq. They should be out and about, some of them embedded, others just moving around, tracking the terrorists, hunting them down. I don't know how many guys and gals are sitting in air-conditioned quarters and drinking designer coffee, but it's a substantial number. Enough of that.
Yeah, it's a bleedin' holiday, innit? Glenn quotes one of his commenters, Gator90:
Mike Ledeen is right, the real problem in Iraq is our lazy-ass, latte-drinking soldiers. The homefront keyboarders are pulling THEIR weight, tirelessly typing away and selflessly braving the relentless rhetorical onslaughts of the reality-based, only to be let down again and again by the so-called "soldiers" who don't want to do their part. Why aren't those pussy soldiers out there killing more Iraqis, dammit?

Every so often, a right-winger pauses between shouts of "support the troops" just long enough to reveal their true, deep contempt for American soldiers. To most civilian righties, our troops are nothing more than political pawns, photo-op props, and above all, working-class cannon fodder. That's why most righties are genuinely puzzled by the "chickenhawk" accusation, and why they're so comfortable embracing an aristocratic draft-dodger like Bush. The best people don't fight; that's what poor people ... a fungible, renewable resource ... are for.

That's how you know Al Gore and John Kerry weren't good enough to be president - they'd actually put on the uniform and gone to a real war zone. Only unpeople do that.

And there will be enough unpeople for all the missions once Bush's economic policies really do their stuff.

What could be more despicable than these people who claim to "support the troops" when in fact they only support the mission and do not care one little bit what happens to the troops themselves? They've created an entire economic program of immiserating the people so that they will have no choice but to enlist to fight in these crazy wars.

And because they enlisted, and it's a volunteer military, it's all okay! That's what they signed up for, right?

(Of course, we're supposed to overlook the fact that the National Guard didn't actually sign up for this, and that their intention was to protect their own communities at home from things like flood and forest fire, not go haring off to foreign lands to fight for no known reason. Just like we're supposed to ignore the fact that our ability to protect our actual country has been radically weakened by sending so many of our first-responders somewhere that makes them unavailable to respond to real threats to us. Who cares? They weren't protecting anyone important, right?)

You want to fight evil? Fine, do it, fight these horrible, murderous, people, because I can't think of anything more evil than what they are doing right now.

13:40 BST

Thursday, 11 January 2007

"We have become the company we keep"

I was listening earlier to Sam Seder interviewing Chris Hedges and they mentioned the fact that Bush didn't end his speech with "God Bless America." Instead, he said this:

"We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty will guide us through these trying hours. Thank you and good night."
Sam's take is that Bush doesn't like America anymore (since we've obviously rejected him, and he knows it), so it's just him and God, now. But Hedges warns that the rightist movement is turning America's armed forces into its own private militia.

You may remember a few years ago when Hedges gave a graduation speech that got him booed off the stage and caused a media stir, with these words:

I want to speak to you today about war and empire.

Killing, or at least the worst of it, is over in Iraq. Although blood will continue to spill -- theirs and ours -- be prepared for this. For we are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige, power, and security. But this will come later as our empire expands and in all this we become pariahs, tyrants to others weaker than ourselves. Isolation always impairs judgment and we are very isolated now.

We have forfeited the good will, the empathy the world felt for us after 9-11. We have folded in on ourselves, we have severely weakened the delicate international coalitions and alliances that are vital in maintaining and promoting peace and we are part now of a dubious troika in the war against terror with Vladimir Putin and Ariel Sharon, two leaders who do not shrink in Palestine or Chechnya from carrying out acts of gratuitous and senseless acts of violence. We have become the company we keep.

Fortunately, I do not keep company with Bush, but Joe Lieberman does. But Bush has managed now to divide both the Republicans and the DLC. (It all sounds so familiar.)

Meanwhile, orders had to have come from the top to raid Iran's consulate in Kurdistan. Did I say it sounded familiar? Not just to me. Welcome to Cambodia: "Reading the transcript of President Bush's speech last night, I was struck by how much it sounded like the reasons Richard Nixon gave the nation in 1970 for sending troops into Cambodia; it was a last-ditch effort to win the war in Vietnam by invading a neutral country and widening the war." (via)

Tom Schaller: "When they win, Republicans remind us that "elections have consequences." Bush has an obvious motive to ignore this edict now, but Democrats do not. They need to spend less time worrying about 2008 and remember the results of 2006, which have consequences not only for Bush but for them, too. Opposing escalation is not just the right thing to do, it's a political winner in a country where Bush's war approval rating hovers around 25%. Democrats ought to start trusting their own judgments and show some guts."

I guess it's too late for that. But it's still not too late to impeach.

17:18 BST

People are talking

It's amazing, really. I don't listen to the speech, I don't participate in the drinking games, I go to bed a little early just to be sure I don't have to even hear anything about it (I even drink an extra glass of water before I crash), and yet somehow, whenever Bush gives one of these stupid speeches, just knowing he's going to do it seems to cause me to wake up feeling like I have a hangover.

Of course, it's all there the next morning. Olbermann set it up with a little Look Backward at Bush's Credibility, and when it was all over even Brit Hume couldn't find anything good to say. And Hindraker? Sadly, No! - though Hugh Hewitt probably had his cheerleading pre-written, and Michael Ledeen is salivating at his inference that Bush just declared war on Iran and Syria. It's enough to drive ya to drink. There really is only one course to take.


Watertiger follows-up from Dinesh D'Souza's claim that, "The cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11." (Watertiger is responsible for 9/11! Me too!) I would like to explain to Dinesh D'Sousa, but he's an idiot. But, just to recap: Osama bin Laden demanded that the US get out of Saudi Arabia. We didn't. We got hit. Bush then pulled our troops out of Saudi Arabia. You can try to work out what that all means. I think if it was cultural "leftism" they were after, they would have flown into Big Ben's tower, instead. I mean, in this city, women walk around in summer wearing what looks like lingerie - and that's just the respectable types.

MahaBarb writes a letter explaining why "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." (And she also has the video of Ted Kennedy's Iraq speech.) And speaking of Maha, did I ever recommend her "A (Pretty) Short History of Wingnutism"? I meant to - it's really worth reading.

Actually, I should have worked harder to direct you to that Kevin Drum post comparing Noam Chomsky with Bill Kristol - for the really good comment thread that follows it.

Ian Welsh explains how Bush has lost another front in the War on Terror by Backing Losers, again. (via)

Remember those protesters last year who "moderate" Senator Olympia Snowe called the cops on? They went to jail.

John Gorenfeld thinks Sam Harris has some mighty strange beliefs for an atheist.

Ari Fleischer, on Air Force One, with the phone.

12:57 BST

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Links before dinner

Digby on the moral hazard party. I've been bitching for years about how when the Republicans are deranged with anger (for no apparent reason), that's good, but we're supposed to whisper when the country is being run into the ground by mass murderers.

Terry Jones (in the actual Guardian, rather than the Observer... Hm), They have made a killing: Of course, there's another thing that George Bush could have done with the money: he could have given every Iraqi $18,700. I imagine that would have reduced the threat of international terrorism somewhat. Call me old-fashioned, but I can't help thinking that giving someone $18,700 brings them round to your side more quickly than bombing the hell out of them. They could certainly buy a lot of lavatory paper with it.

I think Observer has a good point when he says it sends a good message to the world that Americans can elect a Muslim to Congress. This might seem like an obvious point, but we need to make those obvious points, these days. Especially while we are also sending out this message.

Clutch those pearls, honey. (Jeez, Bartcop always calls 'em "the pink tutu Democrats", but I didn't realize Rahm Emannuel really was one!)

Dammit, Bérubé spends the week doing a bunch of really interesting posts and then announces that he's quitting blogging.

Jack Hitt on This American Life talking about how he organized tenants in New York in the '80s.

Note to Kevin: No, it is not correct, in any way. Are you out of your mind? (On the other hand, you're right about withdrawing critical troops from Afghanistan to deploy to Iraq. Where's the outrage?)

Is the Christian Right Biblical?

17:39 BST

They arrest criminals, don't they?

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney Makes the Case for Impeachment:

As some people learned from the minimal and abusive media coverage, on December 8, 2006, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney introduced Articles of Impeachment against President George W. Bush, making him the 10th president of the United States to face such action. Of course, McKinney was on her way out of office and thus more willing to challenge the Democratic Party leadership by upholding basic Constitutional principles.

Fewer people are aware that Congresswoman McKinney on December 27, 2006, entered into the Congressional Record (pages E2253 - 2255) extended remarks on impeachment that merit our close attention. Why would she do such a thing on her way out the door with no chance of reintroducing her bill in the new Congress? For one thing, she clearly would agree with the response Congressman John Conyers gave to Lewis Lapham when asked what he thought the point was of publishing a lengthy report laying out evidence of Bush's impeachable offenses. Conyers' response was: "to take away the excuse that we didn't know."

Of course, everybody does know, but you'd never guess from what the blitherati have to say about it that Bush really, really has committed numerous high crimes against the entire country, not to mention the various individuals who have lost everything (sometimes even being tortured to death) not merely on his watch but with his explicit approval. You can't really argue with the particulars of McKinney's indictment - and even Bush doesn't try.

So what's going on? Why is there even any conversation left to have about this? The fact that right-wingers who hate the Constitution want to pretend that presidents are not constrained by law (as long as they are Republicans) doesn't mean the rest of us have to.

We are in a Constitutional crisis: We have the country being run by men who refuse to obey the law. The big buzz in the media is about whether Congress can influence George Walker Bush into obeying the law.

Just imagine a crime show on TV where the cops and prosecutors hang around in hallways going, "Well, we've got this guy running around killing people, and he's left all this evidence all over the place, and he's even bragged about how he's doing it, and he says he's planning to keep doing even more of it, and we just can't seem to convince him to stop doing it so much. We don't know what to do." And someone says, "We've even got people suggesting we should arrest him." And the rest of them say, "Oh, that's crazy, he hasn't done anything that bad. And think of the trouble it would cause."

Someone please impeach this guy before he attacks Iran. It doesn't matter if he pardons anyone - his crimes are already on the record.

13:35 BST

Things to read

Geov Parrish: "So this is what a dictatorship feels like. Tens of millions of Americans deliver an absolutely unequivocal message on November 7: Get our troops out of Iraq. And the Generalissimo, who cares more about his Daddy issues than he does about respecting democracy (in the U.S. or anywhere else), responds by ordering an escalation, purging the military command of anyone who disagrees, and illegally executing the guy who (supposedly) tried to kill Daddy. On a Muslim religious holiday. While onlookers chanted the name of the cleric whose U.S.-sponsored death squads have helped tear Iraq apart. I'm going to be sick."

If the bombing of the Golden Mosque in February was responsible for the huge surge in Iraqi deaths, why didn't the surge happen in February or March? Um, what was it that happened in July? (And is it about the oil, or is that just gravy?)

Paul Craig Roberts: "Bush is like Hitler. He blames defeats on his military commanders, not on his own insane policy. Like Hitler, he protects himself from reality with delusion. In his last hours, Hitler was ordering non-existent German armies to drive the Russians from Berlin." (Man, that comes from a guy who used to work for Reagan, too.)

What it means to have a Democratic majority in Congress is that some loonies can forget appointment to the federal appeals court: "In a concession to the Senate's new Democratic majority, President Bush won't rename four controversial federal appeals court nominees whose confirmations were blocked last year, Republican officials said Tuesday. William Haynes, William G. Myers III and Michael Wallace all asked to have their appointments withdrawn, these officials said. Judge Terrence Boyle was informed of the White House's decision, according to an ally."

Bob Somerby went to town on David Brooks' stupid article about The Incredibly Rich Nancy Pelosi, even though she grew up in a Baltimore row house in Little Italy. He seems to have lost his patience - he didn't used to use profanity. Not that I mind; it's just that it's a noticeable change.

02:28 BST

Look, read

The 2006 Koufax Awards nominations are now open.

1,000 people in San Francisco spell out the message (story and video). (via)

He resigned from Blair's cabinet in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. And the message on Robin Cook's headstone: "I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of Parliament to decide on war."

Michelle Goldberg interview with Chris Hedges on the religious right: "Does this mean that this is Nazi Germany? No. Does this mean that this is Mussolini's Italy? No. Does this mean that this is a deeply anti-democratic movement that would like to impose a totalitarian system? Yes." (via)

Joe Vecchio discusses the electoral college and whether we should get rid of it.

Figures, the brightest comet in decades is visible from earth right now, but all I see is cloud cover.

00:06 BST

Tuesday, 09 January 2007

Surge protection

I forget where I got the link to Tim Dickinson's response to Lieberman asking "What's the worst that could happen?" as a result of the escalation. He makes the obvious point, but here are a couple of comments beneath it that interested me:

Responding to another commenter, brendan writes:

"John McCain has an 18 year old son who recently joined the Marines. If the surge means that Jimmy McCain was going to have to die would it be worth it to follow Bush's plan?"

Yes, because the only way Republicans learn is when it affects them personally. That's because they are sociopaths, and lack empathy. Arlen Specter is pro medical marijuana, for example, because he has cancer. George Will is against nearly all social programs except those that help the retarded, because his son is nonfunctional. Krauthammer is pro-stem cell research because hes in a wheelchair from a spinal injury. Walter Jones, aka Mr. Freedom Fries, went to one too many military funerals, and hence dropped his support for the war. Trent Lott isn't so much for capping insurance claims anymore, now that he lost his house to Katrina. And so on and so on, ad nauseam.

It is only when they are affected that the GOP acts humanely and sanely. So by all means, lets send Jimmy McCain off to war. Lets send him to Baghdad or Anbar or Fallujah, with the same body armor (ie NONE) the rest of our troops get.

From pbg:
The thing nobody asks these people is: if it works, what then? Will we have succeeded in our objectives so we can go home? Are these 20,000 troops being sent in there so we can go - or so we can stay?
Good question.

Atrios may be joking about this, and BranfordBoy treats it as mere speculation, but it's just possible that being named Wanker of the Day for letting Lieberman get away with lying about his positions yesterday is what made Brian Lockhart redeem himself today. Who knows, maybe Lockhart reads Eschaton? Or maybe someone sent him a polite letter? But I bet there's a relationship, somewhere.

20:08 BST

Tell them

Joshua Micah Marshall:

But one thing is clear. And that is that official Washington -- or a lot of it -- doesn't get that democracy matters. The constitution gives the president great power and latitude in the exercise of his war powers. But not exclusive power. The president is not a king. Anybody who knows anything about the US constitution knows that it was designed specifically so that the president's need to get the Congress to finance his wars would be an effective break on the vast power he holds as commander-in-chief.
Read the rest, then send it to your reps and the media.

12:01 BST

On the Infobahn

First, Do Less Harm - PK on the need to end the Medicare Middleman Multiplication Act of 2003.

From FDL, "Leahy Introduces War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007" - just as he promised. This is a couple of days old, but it's important and should be noted and supported.

At Taegan Goddard's Political Wire, Chuck Schumer says that of the 12 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2008, only Tom Harkin (D-IA) has not committed yet to running again.

Josh marshal: "When the president goes before the people on Wednesday, he is basically saying, trust me. It's never really possible to know what the future will bring, especially for most of us who may have gut level instincts about military strategy but little detailed operational knowledge. But given the track record and the fact that few people outside the White House seem to think this is a good idea, what possible basis is there to put any trust in Bush's latest gambit?" (By the way, Josh is , again, if you're looking for work.) Josh also mentions that McClatchy's Baghdad bureau has set up a blog. That ought to be more worthwhile than the ones the rest of the corporate media are doing, but we shall see.

Also at TPM, Paul Kiel says: "Significant update on Florida's 13th District, where a Republican has been seated in the House despite clear evidence that voters would have elected the Democrat if not for voting problems. It's been an open question how involved Democrats in Congress would get in the dispute. That question has been answered: very."

Steve Clemons says Woodward spent all that time around the administration but never figured out who was running the show.

The cons are now routinely blaming the generals, not Bush, for Bush's Iraq failures.

Arianna says McCain has reached "Dick Cheney levels of disconnect."

01:10 BST

Monday, 08 January 2007

I was here

Great stuff at or via Crooks and Liars:

  • I wonder if the right-wing bloggers are getting a hint of how hard it is to do hard news after their little embarrassment in "scooping" the "MSM" on the somewhat exaggerated news of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's death.
  • NRA members not so fond of Bush: "The Bush administration has placed more emphasis on oil and gas than access rights for hunters," said Ronald L. Schmeits, second vice president of the NRA, a member of its board of directors and a bank president in Raton, N.M."
  • "Conscientious Rejector?" - Interview with First Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer in the U.S. to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq, now facing up to six years in prison for that refusal.
  • Nick Turse at TomDispatch, Pentagon to Global Cities -- Drop Dead: Cities are obviously on the Pentagon's hit list - today, it's Baghdad; tomorrow 2015 or 2025, if military planners are right, it could be Accra, Bogotá, Dhaka, Karachi, Kinshasa, Lagos, Mogadishu or even a perennial favorite, Port au Prince. Regardless of the exact locale, Pentagon strategists looking into the DARPA crystal ball of the future have determined that urban slums will be a crucial battleground, and slum-dwellers a crucial enemy.
  • the lamest of lame ducks.

23:19 BST

Bits of news

Chris Bowers says Positive Favorables Trend For Leading Dems - While McCain's and Giuliani's favorables are dropping and their unfavorables are jumping (more or less doubling), Clinton and Edwards are polling a lot better these days. But Matt Stoller warns that Obama is weakening on the very important matter of the escalation.

Tony Blair not only helped lie us into an illegal and immoral war, but when some people told the truth about it all, he destroyed a couple of careers at the BBC and even managed to pressure a British WMD specialist into killing himself over it. And now Jonathan Schwarz alerts us that Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett says they knew the 45-minute claim was dubious, but no one thought it was important. Some days I just want to smack these people. (Well, every time I have to think about them, really.) Why are these people still in government?

Another poll.

18:37 BST

Hot reads

"The Wicker Men Under Siege" may be the most fun post ever on the incredible sexism and general macho stupidity of the whole enterprise (although, really, placidyl is the wrong drug). Via Jim Henley, where I also found this interesting post about how Iraqi Sunnis perceive the Shiite-dominated government as traitors working for foreigners.

Robert Farley wonders what the hell Lord Saletan is up to now with his rubbish about how the political fight over animal cloning is, "a lot like the fight over human cloning, except that the roles are reversed." I suddenly realized that, aside from Lithwick, I mostly only ever read anything in Slate because someone has done a post on what a jerk Saletan is.

The LAT had a piece yesterday that basically says Bill Gates' philanthropy is essentially based on counterproductive financing with investments in companies that hurt the very people that the foundation is meant to help. Via Progressive Gold. (Also: Administration tries to draft characters from zombie movie.)

When I first saw a post about this, I thought it was just a gag. But I heard the woman who's doing it on the radio, and there really is a Little Mosque on the Prairie.

15:16 BST

Later than I think

This week in Jesusland

Julia relays news that Kevin Hayden is going offline and wonders if anyone wants to take over The American Street, the group blog he's been running for a while now. I second Julia's praise for Kevin's work, and if you're a blogger who is reasonably energetic, decent quality, and not entirely satisfied with what you can put into and get out of doing a solo blog, this might be a good idea for you. Check that out. (Also, it's not too late to give Julia a prezzie.)

Proof that government programs can work - but it's just a wishy-washy liberal program that saves lives.

How come we didn't hear any screaming when the Dems appointed loony copyright extremist Howard "Hollywood" Berman to chair the House IP committee? (Also, I still can't work out whether we will have beachfront property or be under water from this map, but it doesn't look good.) Via Epicycle.

Terry McAuliffe has a kiss and tell book in which he says Kerry's 2004 campaign strategy of not going after Bush at the convention was a disaster for the campaign - and he also says Kerry agrees with him.

Spocko is back online.

The U.S. blockade of Cuba reaches Norway - but Norwegians are really pissed off about it. (via)

katha Pollitt's New Year's Resolutions - I particularly liked #3, but #2 is well-taken. Via The Truffle.

04:04 BST

Sunday, 07 January 2007

"Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever"

Tobias Jones is oppressed by atheist coming to his door uninvited every couple of weeks, probably interrupting something important (like getting him out of the bathroom), to preach secularism to him. On Sundays, he can't turn on his television without seeing anti-religious programming like Earth and Earth. He turns on his radio and hears Secular Stairs. And on drama shows, people always start their meals by intoning, "In this great and creatorless universe, where so much beauty has come to be out of the chance interactions of the basic properties of matter, it seems so important that we love one another.* And when a character dies, why doesn't anyone ever say, "She's with God, now," or "It's God's will," or something like that? When someone makes a miraculous recovery, why is there never a suggestion that prayer or the Lord's intervention could be responsible? No one ever says, "Thank God," do they? It's just, "Thank fate," or, "Thank a random universe." I mean, religious people would never be so in your face, would they? (What a twerp.) (via)

I see Brad DeLong was no more impressed with David Brooks than I was, and he has photographs to demonstrate that Nancy Pelosi was never part of George Bush's plutocracy. (Thanks to Linkmeister (of) for the tip.)

And I believe I have D. Potter to thank for the link to the BBC article on Senator Bernie! "The government should make sure people who work 40 hours a week do not live in poverty," he says, adding for good measure: "I disagree with Bush and other right-wing extremists about this."

Paperwight decodes Debbie Schlussel's anti-American insanity.

Right-winger accidentally hacks own site, blames Democrats.

Tony Blair brings in efficiency experts to spend £7.4 million to annoy people and "save" money. (via)

Really great analogies. (I think my favorite was, "The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.")

NTodd has snow pictures.

22:34 BST

Because the Republicans just want to help you out

I was just reading Paperwight's post about how the current fright-wing thing is whining about how rich Barack Obama is, and then I picked up Friday's IHT and found a piece of rubbish by famed cabbage David Brooks (NYT Select, so I had to type it myself), called "A Snit in First Class", that pressed the Storyline™ even further:

I have a dream, my friends. I have a dream that we are approaching the day when a ranch-owning millionaire Republican like President George W. Bush will make peace with a vineyard-owning millionaire Democrat like Nancy Pelosi.

I have a dream that Pelosi, who was chauffeured to school as a child and who, with her investor husband, owns minority shares in the Auberge du Soleil resort hotel and the Corde Valle Golf Club, will look over her famous strand of South Sea Tahitian pearls and forge bonds of understanding with the zillionaire corporate barons in the opposing party.

So now we know, Pelosi is that other word that rhymes with "witch", and as if that weren't enough, she did not rise to the Speakership solely on the basis of the fact that she's a nice lady with a talent for politics itself, oh, no:
Some people believe that Pelosi is an airhead, but that is wrong. Some people believe she is a radical San Francisco liberal, but that, too, is wrong. The main fact to know about Pelosi is that she is a creature of the modern fundraising system. Some politicians rise because they run political machines. Some rise because they are great communicators. Pelosi has risen because she is a master of the thousand-dollar-a-plate fundraising circuit.
My God! She fundraises! And she's good at it, apparently! She must be exactly the same as Tom DeLay!

Then after more about how Pelosi sucks up to people with lots of money, my favorite bit:

It is no wonder The Los Angeles Times calls her a "rabid Democrat" or that Time magazine calls her "hyper-partisan."
Well, actually, it is, since being able to raise funds doesn't actually make you partisan, it just means you can raise funds. But no one has ever raised funds like Bush and the Republicans, or with as nearly a single-minded purposes as the permanent rulership of the Republican Party (or, in Bush's case, the electoral success of George Walker Bush).

See, it's easy for them, since the media has decided there is no such thing as being "partisan" for Republicans. For Democrats, merely standing up for anything other than agreeing with Republicans is "hyper-partisan".

But, just so you know, this is the latest scalpel in the RNC political operation's push to tell you that the Democrats are not like you.

16:40 BST

Sunday brunch

Fantasie Cally underwired braBra of the Week

Who would you rather have spying on you: the government, or an organization funded by very rich private individuals (who happen to run big corporations)? And when I say "spying", I mean infrared cameras and all. If you live in Jackson, Mississippi, you can have a privately-funded helicopter looking right into your own home, watching your every step wherever you go, apparently unrestrained by laws that would prevent the police from doing the same thing. Don't you just love libertarian utopia? But wait - the city has agreed to foot some of the bill. It's a private-public partnership, so very Third Way.

So, how do you feel about the theory that the execution of Saddam was deliberately designed to escalate violence in the Middle-East?

I'm actually not terribly surprised when Anne Kornblut writes stupid things about how Democrats should worry about being accused of "cut and run" and thus being perceived that way by the larger public. There is groupthink in Washington and as long as the Republicans keep pushing their memes, these people at the NYT and the WaPo are going to keep swallowing that stuff and pouring more for their readers. But I really, really wish the Guardian and the BBC would keep their reporters out of DC so they wouldn't start imbibing the same crap.

Tons of links, as always, at Progressive Blog Digest, where the question is asked, "How bad are Bush's policies when Nancy Pelosi and Oliver North are both opposed to them?"

I suspect outsourcing.

Chevy Chase gives Gerald Ford the last laugh

11:35 BST

Saturday, 06 January 2007

News, analysis, announcements

Iraq claims another AP photojournalist: "Ahmed Hadi Naji, 28, was the fourth AP staffer to die violently in the Iraq war and the second AP employee killed in less than a month."

Digby on Governing By Tantrums makes me think it's completely in character for Bush to respond to being rebuked in the elections by nuking Iran - and I'm worried that no one is going to try to stop him, because too many people still just don't get it.

In Glenn Greenwald's eleventy-millionth update of his post on The "credibility" of the right-wing blogosphere, he dropped a link to Tom Tomorrow's "The threat to journalism", which I may have linked at the time, but I'm happy to direct your attention to it again.

Bill Scher says that Democrats still need to learn to push the vision: "Without a vision that explains where Democrats want to take our country, conservatives will be able to distort the underlying motivation behind Democratic proposals, and promising ideas to tackle big problems will never get debated on their merits." Meanwhile, Bill has interviews with Rep. Brad Miller (NC), Rep. Jason Altmire (PA), Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY), DNC Chair Howard Dean, and Senator Barney Frank (MA).

Looking for Boston's Progressive Talk? If you want to help restore progressive talk radio to Boston, join up with these people.

Woman's Bra Saves Her From Bullet. (Thanks to Lambert for the tip.)

16:46 BST


Merry Christmas.

Jay Dixit has a piece in Psychology Today on The Ideological Animal that says liberals and conservatives are just different: "Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics. And that's just a start."

Chicago Dyke went to AIE to see Lieberman talk bollocks. "The Surge is on," she says. Randi Rhodes suggests on the air that it could really be part of the build-up for Iran, but if you add up her links, you have to wonder whether Bush is really planning to nuke our troops: "On the White House shake up front, why is Bush putting a Navy man who runs Pacific Command in charge of two ground wars in the Middle East? Gee, might it have something to do with 2nd carrier group heading to Iran? Or is it North Korea? Who knows what they're up to given that Bush is afraid to talk to them. FLASHBACK: Cheney orders the Pentagon to draft a nuclear option for Iran to be used if there is another attack on the US.regardless of Iran's involvement. ... And don't forget that John "Death Squad" Negroponte is now going to the State Department."

What "Do more" means.

Another warblogger "discovery" debunked. (via)

Norbizness continues the exposé of The Left.

Cenk Uygur tells Paula Zahn that, "Our real enemy isn't Islam, because if it is we have a real problem. That is a billion people we have to fight. Our real enemy are the fundamentalists, the extremists." And we appear to have a new Democrat in Congress who doesn't know that a president is not her Commander-in-Chief. Oh, dear, someone had better tell Rahm Emannuel to keep that woman off the air. [Update: Charles says in comments, "A diplomatically-worded nastygram will wing its way toward the Honorable Ms. Boyda (FAX #202-225-7986) this very e'en."]

Dominic* sent me this pretty cursor toy.

03:19 BST

Friday, 05 January 2007

Some links

I've been out (I'll post a link if I like the results), but here's some stuff to check out:

Jack Anderson's Ghost 1, FBI 0: "The FBI had tried to trick the widow of fearsome investigative reporter Jack Anderson into letting them steal his files and notes that he'd accumulated over a long career -- something that the late Anderson would have opposed tooth and nail. Fortunately, after a long legal battle, the FBI has given up its attempt to silence Anderson posthumously."

Thanks to Charles for reminding me of this Molly Ivins article about the sweet, bipartisan Republicans who never "mispronounced" the names of Democrats before, and for the link of the "Highlights of the swearing in of Nancy Pelosi as the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives, EVAH!"

FDL: What "I Listen to the Generals" Means

Really, it's shameful that The Village Voice has stopped carrying This Modern World in its paper edition. If you live in New York, you might want to sign the petition. (Also, nice choice of illo.)

19:50 BST

On my hobbyhorses

Lambert caught the fact that when the NYT's Christopher Drew "covered" the story of the voting machine tester that was "temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests," it didn't bother to mention that the company, Ciber, Inc., is a Republican Party contributor.

Robert Legault called my attention* to the fact that the travelling professional blind-spot, Matt Bai, wrote the obituary for exit-pollster Warren Mitofsky. As I've mentioned about 500 times before, Bai can stare straight at evidence that every single indicator confirmed that John Kerry won the 2004 election and still be unwilling to entertain the possibility that perhaps the exit polls were not wrong after all. Of course, it was Republicans who invented the meme that "exit polls aren't worth much," and Bai dutifully repeats it rather than face reality. It's what he does.

When I posted the story of how right-wing bloggers were out of their minds with bloodlust over an AP story they claimed was false because only one reporter had this scoop and no one could find his source, my resident right-wing commenter, Tom Harrister, euphorically took this as proof that the "the left" gets our news from "the enemy. Well, now, thanks no doubt to the diligent efforts of right-wingers, the source has been found - and, having been exposed, is facing arrest for talking to the media. That's a win-win for fright-wingers, of course - if Jamil was never found, they could keep pretending that the reporter just fabricated him and his testimony; but now that he's been found, he can stand as an example of what happens to people who make the mistake of trying to get the real news out to the public. (via)

Blogger Spocko wrote to advertisers to tell them just "what kind of sheet-headed eliminationist crrrap they were sponsoring." No number of complaints to ABC/Disney could move them to discourage their talk hosts from that kind of eliminationism, but when big advertisers started to pull their ads, Spocko got a Cease & Desist order. Story here; you can help. (Also: Other images that Obama could be confused with. And here.)

03:47 BST

Thursday, 04 January 2007

Quick links

Media myths and falsehoods to look out for as Dems launch "100 Hours" plan. (Also: The Cabbage says you loved the Nixon pardon.)

Make them Accountable Media report, includes news that, "The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is making public all studies and reports from the past several years relating to media ownership. The move, made without fanfare, comes months after the agency faced criticism from Capitol Hill for failing to release the studies."

Digby can pronounce Democratic. Echnidne can pronounce Democratic. It's the civil thing to do.

Let's Face It, There is No Government in Iraq.

Top Ten Workplace Safety Stories of 2006

Being Christopher Hitchens

Live-action bra ad of the year (Thanks to Joe (of) for the tip.)

23:09 BST

I read some news today

Ah'm the Dictator:

President Bush has quietly claimed sweeping new powers to open Americans' mail without a judge's warrant, the Daily News has learned.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

"U.S. Bars Lab From Testing Electronic Voting":
A laboratory that has tested most of the nation's electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.
All via Think Progress, where I also saw the one about a right-wing radio host who has announced that: "ANY MEMBER OF CONGRESS WHO INTRODUCES, CO-SPONSORS OR VOTES IN FAVOR OF ANY SUCH AMNESTY WILL BE DECLARED A DOMESTIC ENEMY AND WILL BE CONSIDERED A LEGITIMATE TARGET FOR ASSASSINATION." And another rich moment from the White House.

Chimp as always - he's decided the Democrats should be more bipartisan. (But, note to Four Legs Good: The jig is up, but the gig, unfortunately, won't expire for two years unless someone gets off the dime and fires him.)

I see via Attaturk that George F. Will has already produced the other extreme of the bargaining process in calling for elimination of the minimum wage. As with most neocons, he hallucinates that the conditions that prevailed for thousands of years (and made the New Deal the obvious solution) suddenly evaporated once Reagan took office, and from then on it made perfect sense to just let pirates run wild. Come on, Democrats, fire back! Demand a $10 minimum wage with automatic annual cost-of-living raises!

"Berlin's Mayor: Gay, Not Flaming" - In some countries, political leaders (a) are gay and (b) actually do something useful in the face of real danger.

A little new year's message, and thanks to Ahistoricality for the reminder.

14:48 BST

Gimme shelter

Thers did a knockout Wanker of the Day last night. It's one of those subjects that leaves me speechless a lot of the time, the way the wingers think they can simultaneously be claiming to rise to defend the rights of the poor benighted Iraqi people while not just shooting and bombing them but loudly advocating wiping them all out. The real White Man's Burden is, apparently, making sure you smash up a civilization over and over and over so you can keep calling them uncivilized. Yeah, I said "civilization" - they had one back when the cavefish who now lord it over them were still painting their faces blue and all that, but it's just amazing what you can do to a people when you spend a hundred years destabilizing them all the time. Then you can proudly call them "sand niggers" while you literally (literally) call them "the enemy" - and treat them like an enemy - while still claiming you are there to save them. War is peace, freedom is slavery, Bush is president.

I couldn't be arsed to respond to the piece on education and health in the NYT, but Echidne discusses some of my objections.

Non-surprise of the year so far: Gale Norton will join oil giant Royal Dutch Shell - which means she'll just be working for one oil company rather than all of them, as she has been doing as Secretary of the Interior.

And since no one else would agree to work with Condi, Negroponte is taking the job as her deputy, which means he's already out of the spy business again,

Teresa thinks it's just a lie that Bush was asleep when Saddam was lynched. I'm not so sure - it's hard to tell whether Bush realized how much of a cock-up he'd made of it all. (And, from the Sidelights: That Was Diem, This Is Now - and rather a nice honor Max has bestowed on Josh.)

Wolcott on the giant game of poker Bush has been playing: "Once Bush's bluff is called, he'll fold, because he's got nothing." But McCain apparently thinks we're still going to win, because of the tried and true strategy of praying for it.

Meanwhile, don't forget to "watch what we do."

What is past is prologue. This, too.

How come CNN never confuses "Bush" with "Tush"? Or "Flush"? Or "Mush"? [Update: Or, as Dan reminds us in comments, "Lush"?] Just askin'. (No, I don't believe it's an accident. Who has been fired?) Just askin'. (No, I don't believe it's an accident. Who has been fired?)

13:35 BST

Wednesday, 03 January 2007

Snapshot of a future

I've already forgotten the train of thought that made me think of this a few minutes ago, but I vaguely remembered how we were all remarking on a particular omission from George Walker Bush's first State of the Union message. The unprecedented nature of that omission was instructive, because for all the contempt conservatives have shown for democracy, they'd never before declined even to pay it lip-service; Bush was already opening up a significant new front in the war against America.

I looked for a reference in my own posts and immediately found a link - alas, I can no longer direct you to the original at the late lamented Media Whores Online - but, fortunately, I quoted from it, here:

Dubya barely made it through a sentence without stumbling. That's what happens to someone who is reading a script and has no idea what he's really saying. He read the speech like the kid with the broken leg in "Election." There were numerous awkward pauses after he'd complete a sentence, when he would wait for applause.. and wait.. and wait.. until finally the squirming audience had no choice but to comply, uncomfortably. What he must have thought would be his best "line" - the now hackneyed "Let's Roll" - fell flat and was met with a forced and tepid reaction.

But enough about Dubya's obvious shortcomings in style and presentation and literacy. The substance of the speech was just as lacking.

Dubya hit most of the points predicted in the MWO Viewer's Guide. "Let my greedy buddies destroy pristine lands in their search for oil." "Let my greedy buddies have multi-million dollar handouts so they can better 'stimulate' my next campaign," and so on.

And other than one mumbling reference to an "unelected few," in Iran, Dubya did not utter the dreaded "d" word: democracy. This was noticeable, because there were occasions when it should have been said, but seemed conspicuously omitted. Why? Could it be that Dubya and his speechwriters shy away from the subject, knowing they have no moral authority with which to promote democratic ideals either in this country or to the rest of the world?

And this is the man who they told us would bring democracy to Iraq. Is it any wonder that we didn't believe it?

22:18 BST

Linky goodness

Thanks to eRobin (of) for directing my attention to a useful link to a post by thereisnospoon at DKos from last May called "Why the Right-Wing Gets It--and Why Dems Don't" discussing the Overton Window and why completely nutty conservative ideas have been able to make such inroads into the public discourse while mainstream ideas are actually squeezed out. It's pretty much the same thing that happens with the bargaining strategy - one side is "centrist" while the other side is crazy-out-of-your-mind-deranged, until the latter overtakes the former as the "sensible" "center". By silencing their left margin altogether, the Democratic Party has allowed the lunatic fringe on the right-wing to take power. If you doubt the wisdom of that analysis, please bear in mind that the left flank that Roosevelt was co-opting when he created the (liberal) New Deal were actual communists. They were genuine, actual left-wingers, and they are virtually non-existent these days. The result is that the fake "centrists" make it sound like radical left craziness to say that you should get an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

I fully concur with Digby on what is the Most Overlooked '06 Highlight. We like Froomkin because he is good, not because he is liberal. Trying to "balance" him with Ben Domenech wasn't balancing liberal with conservative, it was balancing Good with Bad.

As I was saying earlier, the Republicans - especially George Walker Bush - like to screw up good bills by adding poison pills, and that's what they've been doing with the minimum wage. Their current suggestion, tax cuts for "small" businesses, is not quite as poisonous as the estate tax they tried to shoehorn in last time around, but as Jared Bernstein points out, it's still a bad trade.

Pat writes a letter to Pat Robertson.

We all cried when we read her in college, and now, too. Goodbye, Tillie Olsen, and thank you. (This, too.)

World Can't Wait has a little something for you.

20:51 BST

Unburnt offerings

I seem to have lost my festive spirit prematurely, possibly not helped by the unrelenting low, grey clouds outside my window, not to mention the whole lynching thing. But I did like this nice happy new year message from Driftglass (via). And it's good to have Keith Olbermann's first Special Comment of the year, on Sacrifice.

Safire's Satire's Office Pool. (I think the right answer to #3 is that bin Laden has been living at the Naval Observatory for the last five or six years, and he'll never be caught.)

Jon Carroll is happy to have Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco values infusing the atmosphere in Washington, but he isn't ready to celebrate. MahaBarb knows why: "New Orleans: What a Difference a Year Didn't Make."

Keith Ellison using Thomas Jefferson's Koran at swearing-in. You gotta admit, that's playing it cool.

WaPo readers not pleased at the Post when they suggest that it's up to the Democrats to do all the "bipartisanship".

Debsweb: "If you think this is disrespectful, wait until Carter or Clinton dies. If clearing brush is more important to Bush than showing respect to a Republican President who privately disagreed with him about Iraq, I can hardly wait for the infantile reaction to a Democratic President's death. And justification. Absolutely shameful, but unfortunately in keeping with their prior behavior. Interesting how Bush could rush back to Washington to sign a hastily passed bill in an effort to "save" a brain dead woman. Priorities, priorities."

Is the NYT about to chicken out of having an ombudsman? Probably not, but Bill Keller doesn't seem to like Byron Calame, much. I don't think I do, either, after he made a big stink about one error in a Jack Hitt story, despite so many more he hasn't called. (I didn't realize his nickname was "Barney". Ick. But there's some strange writing going on in that article.)

Richard Cohen actually had a decent impulse in yesterday's WaPo - and I use the word "decent" fluently. It's a call for the decent treatment of a young woman named Monica Lewinsky, who deserves better than she has been receiving from the press. (I'm not sure he's actually admitting that impeaching Clinton was itself a scandal, but that would be nice, too.) The trouble is, it's no sure-footed apology, and is kind of sexist, and he leaves out some important words, like: "I'm sorry I was part of what was done to her."

Still no word from Tony.

16:32 BST


Digby warns that the Stepford Press is going all-out to tell each other how important it is that Nancy Pelosi rein in the partisanship in Washington. Every time a pundit says something like this, a little bell should go off in your head that says, "I must ask this person immediately how Pelosi is supposed to stop the Republicans from being so viciously partisan."

It wouldn't hurt to start reminding people that "what is partisan" and "what is good for the country" are two different issues, and it is the latter that matters. If the Republicans oppose programs that are good for the country, the Democrats have no choice but to appear "partisan" - because this isn't about being a Democrat, it's about being an American.

So when the Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage to $8.00 an hour, that's partisan - and supporting a raise in the minimum wage is not. When the Republicans want to sneak giveaways to businesses into bills, they are being partisan. When Republicans oppose making it easier for Americans to buy prescription drugs at lower prices, that's partisan. When Republicans turned the Medicare drug benefit into a giveaway for pharmaceutical houses, that was partisan, and if they oppose Democrats' attempts to amend the benefit bill to lower costs, that will be partisan, too.

Most Americans now realize that Bush and Cheney lied and broke the law so they could invade Iraq, and it is increasingly obvious that war profiteering and ideological insanity have put America in serious trouble, both economically and diplomatically. Americans want the administration to be held to account for this - there is majority support for investigations and even for impeachment if investigations prove what is already evident. To oppose thorough investigations and possible impeachment hearings is partisan.

Paul Waldman warns the Democrats not to wimp out when the media tries to put them on the defensive with all this phony talk about "partisanship" - it's up to the Republicans to show they can be bipartisan if they think that's so important. For the rest of us, our rights, or economic security, and the good opinion of mankind to keep us safe from international hatred are what really matters to the health of the United States and its people.

Movement conservatism has been making war on Democrats and on America for more than three decades, and they have been effective in making the media accept this as a rational idea. Democrats need to fight back against that meme, and if Republicans don't like it, they are being partisan. No one should be afraid to say so.

You can love America or you can love the conservative movement, but you can't love both - so as long as Republicans want to tie themselves to neocon economics and theocratic rule, they are being anti-American, and partisan.

Don't forget to tell them every time.

13:01 BST

They don't like him, either

Via Angry Bear, I see that Military Times has done a new poll, and the article about it is called "Down on the war"

The American military - once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war - has grown increasingly pessimistic about chances for victory.

For the first time, more troops disapprove of the presidents handling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war, ac cording to the 2006 Military Times Poll.

When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war - in 2004 - 83 percent of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50 percent.

Only 35 percent of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved. The presidents approval rating among the military is only slightly higher than for the population as a whole. In 2004, when his popularity peaked, 63 percent of the military approved of Bush's handling of the war. While approval of the presidents war leadership has slumped, his overall approval remains high among the military.

Just as telling, in this years poll only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003. That closely reflects the beliefs of the general population today - 45 percent agreed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll

01:30 BST

Tuesday, 02 January 2007

"Don't forget to floss!"

I'm not going to complain about my webhost, which is usually pretty good, but they've been having "issues" with FTP today, so timestamps may be a bit inaccurate, assuming I manage to post at all. They've given me a worakaround that, I hope, will workaround things.

Atrios declared AP Wankers of the Day before hopping a plane and leaving the kiddies to play. (I haven't posted there because I'm grumpy today and watched "Band Candy" to make myself feel better. Always did love episodes with my favorite character, The Mayor.) Anyway, AP actually had the audacity to wonder why Americans are so upset about 3,000 dead American troops. They just can't figure out why we seemed to handle it okay in World War II, but not now. Gee, perspective, anyone?

Anyway, the rest of the gang have posted some good stuff - I was particularly interested to learn that the US is not enough like Ethiopia.

Digby on When Time Stood Still: I've noticed something interesting among the family rightwingers lately: they have simply disappeared Bush and the Republican congress from their minds. It's the weirdest thing. You talk politics with them and they are already going on about how the Democrats are ruining the country with their big spending and high taxes. You ask about Bush and they look at you blankly and start talking about the Clintons. They are fully back in minority victimhood mode without missing a beat. And there is a sense of gleeful excitement about the whole thing --- "heh, heh, I just hope I live long enough to see what that horrible woman is going to do to this country." Jeez, I wish I could have felt that way about Bush, but I would have died happy if I'd never lived to see what he did to this country.

Brilliant at Breakfast has a pretty good Brilliant 20 of 2006 list. (Thanks to Wayne (of) for the tip.)

Caro has posted the clip of Mark Riley's interview with Brent Budowsky.

What's important to the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court? The feeling that federal judges are underpaid. I'd be happy to settle for their salary, but he's calling this - with the sense of proportion for which we have come to know conservative judges - a "constitutional crisis".

Michael Bérubé pays reverent tribute to Gerald Ford.

Decline and fall of the American empire ... and The world is not waiting for US leadership anymore.

Drum Major Institute for Public Policy.

21:39 BST


John M. Burt wonders if there is another solution to our problems beside impeachment. He calls it "The Ford Solution" - that is, Cheney resigns, Bush appoints another VP, and then Bush resigns. It's a good plan, except for the fact that it it's hard to imagine it happening - and anyway, who would Bush appoint that anyone could trust?

It does, however, remind me of a little experiment that the late lamented Unlearned Hand did three years ago, asking, "what would YOU do in Bush's place?" My contribution to the discussion was remarkably similar, and also answered the question of who Bush could appoint that anyone would believe wasn't just more of the same. (Jim Henley then accused me of self-parody, so I fleshed-out my reasoning here.)

But that was then. George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney have in the succeeding three years committed so many crimes, and done such grievous harm to our nation and the world, that I believe they both need to be tried for every single thing they have been accused of and (since the most egregious of them have been done in public and there is no question of guilt - they've even bragged about doing some of them), punished to the fullest extent the law allows. Both at home and abroad. It would go a long way to beginning the hard work of restoring our reputation as a trustworthy nation - and as a free country.

The original Ford solution is what brought us to where we are now - we can't do that again.

15:54 BST

When you're at the bazaar

Murder by spreadsheet: Matt Stoller says we already have Universal Health Care Run by Psychotics, thanks to some very nasty campaigning by the insurance companies and the failure of Democrats to learn that when you go to the table to bargain, you start with your ideal figure and try not to get bargained too far down (or up, as the case may be). What you don't do is try to preemptively compromise with the other side in the hope that they will see that you're reasonable and not try to bargain you down even further. That's what Clinton did, and it didn't work out well for us.

There's lots of good discussion on this subject today, with Scott Lemieux providing the breakdown of just what the governments of the US, France, and Canada spend on healthcare, and Echidne going into more detail on why commercially-insured medicine is so expensive, and dispensing with the choice issue handily. (I'd like to add here that I was astonished when I visited home and discovered how little choice my parents had in terms of who their doctor was - they had pretty decent coverage, but their HMO pretty much told them who they were going to see. Even here in the socialist hell-hole of England, I have more freedom to choose a doctor than that, whether privately or on the NHS.) Brilliant at Breakfast quotes Krugman and also says more about why the current model doesn't work. Dean Baker discusses how badly the media has usually handled the subject of universal healthcare, and frankly, I think he's too kind to them - my experience is that they are even worse than he indicates (as I said in a comment.) And Jane Hamsher runs with Matt's theme, in "Generation of Thugs".

David Sirota also spends some time addressing the theme of the Democrats' bad bargaining strategies in this article reviewing an old but apparently quite useful book by, of all people, David Franke and Richard Viguerie - the playbook by which the right-wing managed to con America into allowing crazy people to run the country. Rather than healthcare, though, he gives a good example of how bad bargaining is already undercutting the fight for another important progressive goal:

Consider the minimum wage - progressive labor unions and think tanks were fully prepared to push for $8 an hour, but they backed off because, as the Economic Policy Institutes Ross Eisenbrey told the New York Times, "Our friends on Capitol Hill said our statement would be heard as criticizing the would be perceived as raining on the parade."

Put another way, Democratic politicians couldn't muster the intelligence (guts?) to appreciate the value of having an outside progressive movement setting the boundaries of the debate at $8 so that, when it comes time to compromise, the final number can be set at $7.25. Instead, they cry like little infants over potentially hurt feelings, and idiotically suggest that it is more advantageous to start negotiating at $7.25 - thus creating the very real possibility that the "compromise" will be much lower.

I wouldn't underestimate the value of having a few people on the fringes making even more "extreme" arguments - say, for a $9 minimum wage, or for NHS-style (rather than single-payer) healthcare - to make the more moderate goal ($7.25, or single-payer) seem, well, like the low, moderate, compromise. Ask for more than you expect to get.

After all, who was it who made it possible to finally say in public that the administration hadn't leveled with us about why we invaded Iraq? It was Cindy Sheehan, constantly making a scene about asking why her son had to die. And now, it turns out that even Fox news has inadvertently admitted that being against the war is now mainstream, just because they wanted to paint her as irrelevant. Perhaps she is, now, but if so, she made herself irrelevant by making her point.

She didn't do that with what the talking heads called "reasonable" behavior, which was essentially shutting up and not demanding what she wanted. She'll never get the answer she demanded from Bush, but she made people think about that question, and it changed a lot of thinking about the entire enterprise.

And I'd also like to see the Democrats keep this all in mind when they start doing oversight and addressing treatment of detainees (both links via Cursor), because this is territory where they really shouldn't be bargaining at all, but should go not for the brass ring, but for the gold - a (figurative) take-no-prisoners approach. By now we should be hearing at least a few of them saying, "We have to ask whether any of the bills pushed by the Bush administration should ever have passed, and voiding them all is absolutely on the table." (And while Nancy Pelosi isn't in a good position to be talking about impeaching Bush and Cheney, everyone else should be encouraged to do so.) Ask for more than you expect to get.

04:18 BST

Monday, 01 January 2007

Cream off the top

For those who wonder why a certain Prime Minister hasn't had anything to say about the hanging of Saddam, Tony Hendra has the answer. The post, in its entirety:

Former American Puppet Executed By Current American Puppets

Take heed, Tony Blair.

A couple of good ones between the open threads at Eschaton:
  • a link to Glenn Greenwald pointing out that Saddam's execution was illegal by even Iraqi standards, but they've learned from the Bush administration that if want to break the law, you just do it.
  • a link to Ezra Klein discussing an article in the NYT's Business section that points out that single-payer (and the NHS) give you much more bang for your buck than the US healthcare system and still cost less (at about half the price). Atrios also notes that even before you pay your healthcare-related bills, the United States government has already spent more of your tax money on healthcare than countries with universal healthcare do. Think about that for a moment: You are already paying more than enough for free-at-source healthcare, except that you have to pay for it again through insurance premiums and the additional costs that come if you actually need to use it. (Atrios also points to Krugman's article on the subject in the NYT*, but I can't find a free link for it online and my weekend newspaper didn't arrive this week, so I haven't seen it.)

Brad DeLong finds a little retrospective look at Gerry Ford's WIN buttons (as some of you may not remember, that stood for "Whip Inflation Now") at Econbrowser: "And, despite the clever arguments that Dave brings up in the WIN button's favor, I think one great disservice of that campaign was to cultivate the misperception that inflation is somehow the responsibility of ordinary U.S. citizens. In my view, maintaining the purchasing power of a dollar is instead exclusively the responsibility of the people who control how many dollars get printed..."

This Modern World, Young conservatives join the war effort.

20:56 BST

Open windows

"The Bill of Wrongs" - Dahlia Lithwick on "The 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006":

Whenever the courts push back against the administration's unsupportable constitutional ideas - ideas about "inherent powers" and a "unitary executive" or the silliness of the Geneva Conventions or the limitless sweep of presidential powers during wartime - the Bush response is to repeat the same chorus louder: Every detainee is the worst of the worst; every action taken is legal, necessary, and secret. No mistakes, no apologies. No nuance, no regrets. This legal and intellectual intractability can create the illusion that we are standing on the same constitutional ground we stood upon in 2001, even as that ground is sliding away under our feet.
Oh, look, David Broder admits that an important issue is over his head, but doesn't seem to realize that it doesn't take a genius to work out why H-1B work visas shouldn't be handed out like confetti to foreigners to do jobs that were being done mere moments ago by Americans. Or: "Employers claim they can't find Americans to do these jobs, and I'm not prepared to believe that the Americans who were doing those jobs were actually willing to do those jobs, because that would be inconsistent with my "bipartisan" position of trying to agree with conservatives and corporations no matter what crap they talk." Also: "I can't acknowledge that Karl Rove did anything wrong."

My apologies for having failed to include a link to Chicago Dyke's fine and furious rant over the killing of Saddam and other entertainments of "the culture of life".

Thanks for the birthday bra, Lambert!

Digby nominates John Amato for Blogger of the Year - because he earned it.

Thoughts of an Average Woman on the Blogging Documentary

Toys suitable for young conservatives, Draw your way to the flag (a time-waster), the very short Underwear quiz, Ten Reasons Why You Should Never Accept a Diamond Ring from Anyone, Under Any Circumstances, Even If They Really Want to Give You One, and many other things, at Biomes Blog.

Celebrity Atheist List

17:24 BST

In The Washington Post

I see Deborah Howell did a year-end wrap-up for her first year as the WaPo's fake ombudsperson. Here's all she had to say about her ghastly attempt to help spread RNC spin about the Republican corruption scandals:

My most harrowing experience this year was making a mistake last January in a column about the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The error won't be repeated here, but the backlash was obscene and stunning. Mercifully it went away fairly quickly. Journalists hate to make mistakes; I've never known one made deliberately.
The question is, does she regard the mistake as having believed RNC lies, as having spread RNC lies, or merely as having been caught spreading RNC lies? She's still never shown any sign that she understands - or cares about - what she did wrong.

On Christmas Eve, the WaPo ran a stupid article jeering about Monica Lewinsky's recent graduation from the London School of Economics with a Master of Science degree. I'm pleased to see that readers didn't like it, and let them know it.

It's not all bad - that is, there are good things and bad things about this article that discusses the difficulty of judging a Senator's position based on the bare fact of a "yes" or "no" vote - and how easy it is for the opposition to mischaracterize such a vote. It's an issue that should get more air when memes like "he was for it before he was against it" start to circulate. And it's probably even a good thing that the headline - "Clinton-Obama Differences Clear In Senate Votes" - though misleading, is "sexy" enough that it might pique people's interest. ("Oh, good, an article that might tell me the difference between these two people!") In truth, the article doesn't really give you much information about the real differences between the two candidates, or tell you if there is much of substance between them at all. If candidate A votes for a bill because it's important in their state, and candidate B doesn't support the measure until it becomes important specifically for their state, all that tells you is that you've got two candidates whose motivations for votes are rooted more in state politics than in what's best for the nation as a whole - and that's not a real difference. If candidate A supports the measure even though it is not important for their state but is important for sucking up to Iowa in a prospective presidential run, then you have to ask whether candidate A is really interested in the issue, the needs of the nation, or even bringing home some bacon for their state, and is just trying to promote his own career. But then, you don't actually know why candidate A supported the measure - maybe he does think it's necessary for the country, after all. So if you were looking for information about whether you'd prefer to vote for Clinton or Obama, you're not in luck, here. For that, you'd need an article that explored their guiding principles and how well they've demonstrated that they know what the significance of each vote will be for supporting those principles, and how they make the decision to support or oppose a bill that might further those principles a little or might be just co-opting them. And I don't think we're likely to see an article like that, least of all in The Washington Post.

After all, like presidenting, reportering is hard.

14:08 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, January 2007

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