The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, August 31, 2007

Holiday Outt

There are a ton of things to write about today. A ton. And it's always nice to see a flood of bad news for the GOP. We probably won't see the satisfaction of watching any of the top dogs go to trial for their crimes, but it's starting to look like the 'historical judgment' Bush clings to like a security blanket made of 10% Dacron, 90% Moron, is starting to unravel. So start the holiday weekend with a smile on your face.

Today's top WaPo headlines (via Salon):

Va. Senator Warner Will Not Seek a Sixth Term: Retirement is unwelcome news for Republicans who hope to take control of the Senate next year.

Fed Hopes to Avoid Bailout: Bernanke indicates central bank will take action if the economy as a whole seems to be suffering.

Snow Leaving White House: Press secretary will leave his job on Sept. 14 and be replaced by his deputy, Dana Perino.

Senator Craig Urged to Resign: GOP leaders seek to contain fallout following Idaho lawmaker's arrest in an airport restroom.

Gonzales Testimony Investigated: Justice Dept. probes whether departing attorney general gave false testimony to Congress.

Fred Thompson, a Front-Runner? Former senator's advisers have no illusions about the difficulties they face with a late entry.

And the expanding DOJ investigation:

The questionnaire [sent to hundreds of DOJ interviewees] reveals several key, new bits of information about the hiring process portion of the IG-OPR probe:

• The investigation has gone well beyond just Monica Goodling, the former counsel to Gonzales who admitted in congressional testimony in May that she frequently "crossed the line" in her hiring decisions by using political criteria for jobs that were not intended to be political by their nature. The internal investigators, who have the power to recommend criminal investigations, had previously acknowledged they were examining Goodling's hiring practices, but this document shows that former Gonzales chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson and two other Justice aides are under inquiry.

• Investigators are not limiting their interviews to people who sought out non-political jobs; instead, they are also asking questions of candidates for senior political appointments.

• In one brief question, the IG-OPR questionnaire asks whether any White House officials sat in on the interviews with senior Justice Officials.

• The investigators are particularly focused on whether Goodling and other Justice officials were using personal political questions when making hiring decisions. Investigators want to know if interviewees were asked:

- to name "your favorite president, legislator, public figure, or Supreme Court justice"
- "what kind of conservative you were (law and order; social; fiscal)"
- what was "your position on the war on terror"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today's weather: National Review blanketed by dense smug

Pitfalls of Conservatism #302: Smarm Coming from an acknowledged master of the topic at hand, strategic deployment of dismissive arrogance can engender a grudging respect in those present, or prevent unnecessary debate with the genuinely less-informed. A considerably less productive use of smarm is to highlight one's own record of ignorance and/or stupidity in a haughty attempt to denigrate another.

Over at The Corner, Mark Steyn, in the midst of making some easy jokes about the Larry Craig news, writes:

In 2002, after George Michael released his anti-Bush/anti-Blair video, I wrote for the Telegraph in London a satirical column on his political views set in the context of his men's room arrest. George didn't care for it and, asked about this cruel mockery on some BBC show or other, responded petulantly: "What's he saying? That just because you've been arrested in a public toilet nobody should take your views on foreign policy seriously?"

Er, well, let's just say that it doesn't help.

You know what helps even less than a men's room arrest when it comes to having your foreign policy views taken seriously? When your foreign policy views are as spectacularly wrong as Steyn's. As Geoffrey Wheatcroft helpfully pointed out in the Guardian last year:

Apart from predicting that George Bush would win the 2000 presidential election in a landslide, Steyn said at regular intervals that Osama bin Laden "will remain dead". Weeks after the invasion of Iraq he assured his readers that there would be "no widespread resentment at or resistance of the western military presence"; in December 2003 he wrote that "another six weeks of insurgency sounds about right, after which it will peter out"; and the following March he insisted that: "I don't think it's possible for anyone who looks at Iraq honestly to see it as anything other than a success story."

And those eagles? Made in China.

Karl Rove gets a good-natured ribbing as he prepares to leave the White House:

White House pranksters wrapped Rove's Jaguar in plastic wrap on the private driveway next to the West Wing.

Rove's car is easily recognizable because of its "I love Barack Obama'' bumper sticker and the twin stuffed-animal eagles on the trunk.

Oh, and there's a stuffed-animal elephant on the hood.

Ahhh, a little light-hearted fun. That's nice. But, cynical guy that I am, something else in the article stood out. Jaguar? Jaguar. Why would a dedicated patriot, booster of the American economy, and top-level government official be driving an imported sports car to his White House job every day?

(Thanks to Mil Apodos for the link.)

Uh, could I just have decent medical care instead?

One of Karl Rove's more (in)famous soundbites was in response to the response to the attacks of 9/11: Republicans sent bombs, while Democrats would've sent Leo Buscaglia. (I'm paraphrasing.)

One of the many maddening things about the Iraq war (it has nothing to do with 9/11, chickenhawk 'warriors,' mistreated and underequipped troops, profiteering, the whole incompetence thing) is the right wing's astounding capacity to define patriotic support for our servicemen and women as a box of cookies and some complimentary propaganda. Because in Bizarroworld, liberals raising a stink about the scandalous conditions at Walter Reed are traitors, and wingers who cover it up are patriots.

The pro-war group Move America Forward is launching a "Fight for Victory Tour" this weekend. The Fight for Victory Tour doesn't involve any actual fighting, mind you; it's just a group of war supporters driving in a caravan across this great land of ours, with "27 pro-troop rallies" along the way and a "Giant Pro-Troop Rally" in Washington Sept. 15.

You can help out by sending $30 to the group to buy a "Wounded Warrior Care Package" for its members to deliver to injured soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

What does $30 buy for a wounded warrior? Some "premium 'House of Jerky' beef jerky, deluxe shortbread cookies imprinted with the insignias of the various branches of the U.S. military, an assortment of candy bars, 'Heck if It Were Easy France Could Do It!' camouflaged handkerchiefs, puzzle books, and flag pins." Oh, right, and a personal note from you, saying just how much you care.

I shudder to think how much money that could be going to assisting wounded veterans and their families will instead go to this crap.

Here's a $30 idea: send a box of homemade cookies yourself and donate $25 to a fund for wounded veterans' ongoing medical care.

Here's a $30 question: Are any of these companies donating the goodies in the 'care package,' or is profiting from war not just for Hallliburton any more? The site provides no photos(!), and no information regarding the source or quantity(!) of the contents other than what you saw above. Just send in your $30 and trust us-- that anti-French hankie is of the highest quality.

George W Bush is burning Faramir alive!

Hearing Bush's creepy proclamations of our commitment to prevent a "nuclear holocaust" in the unstable Middle East made my flesh crawl. Not just because we've already been through this 'phantom nukes' scenario once and it hasn't worked out too well (although the report on the surge is expected to be grim even with revision, BushCo is already planning to ask for another $197 billion, which would bring the cost to some $660 billion), but it marked the first time I've heard an American president sound like a flat-out lunatic.

It was the moment I became officially convinced that it isn't all cynical act-- he actually believes that he's a brilliant and put-upon martyr destined to work God's will, if not actually bring about the salvation of... somebody. While it's happened many, many times in history, most(?) of us still can't understand how killing tens of thousands of innocent people, spending vast amounts of money, and denying people freedom in the name of protecting it is supposed to be a good thing for anybody.

There have been comparisons of the Bush administration with the decadence and madness of Rome's worst emperors for years, and while we've seen enough avarice, caprice, and hubris for ten administrations, the simpleton running things now has added another terrible element that's brought down societies again and again: zealotry.

A better comparison than ancient Rome might be the much more recent, and just as senseless, Tai Ping Rebellion: with Bush as a hopefully-not-as-dangerous Hong Xiuquan.

Larry Craig: "It's society!"

In spite of some four decades of stories about the Idaho senator's homosexual shenanigans, he's found it convenient to trot out one of the most venerable and predictable of right-wing excuses. Actually, two of them. The persecuted, wealthy, white male Christian in a position of power, and the liberal media witch-hunt. He's pretty much done for, though. Fellow wingers have thrown him under the bus, and the whole story is tailor-made for off-color punchlines around the water cooler. Speaking of which, Vigil Auntie sent me a Toles comic that should be more absurd than it is, given the senator's actual excuses.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Does Levar Burton know about this?

Not the sort of thing you normally think about, but interesting. I imagine neither party has much to be proud of in this department, but Fearless Leader has once again demonstrated that no matter how shameful any predecessor might have performed, he can outdo them.

Presidential libraries. When did they start? Why did they become an American equivalent of pharaonic tombs? I'm curious. But if they were ever about largesse and civic-mindedness, these days they sound like a legal form of graft.

And the most ironically named library in history isn't going to be constructed on the cheap. Who's footing the massive bill? Not anyone by the name of Bush, but plenty of people who'd like to receive a favor or two....

Early reports suggest that George W. Bush plans to raise roughly $500 million for his presidential library, which will likely be based at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and possibly include a public-policy institute. According to The New York Daily News, "Bush loyalists have already identified wealthy heiresses, Arab nations, and captains of industry as mega' donors." It's a strange wrinkle in the law: The president can raise half a billion dollars--even while he's still in office--without any obligation to disclose any of it.

It'd be nice if donations were anonymous. Then the place would look the way it ought to--a single-occupant room with a crescent moon cut-out on the door.

Five! Five gay Republican homophobes! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!

I haven't actually been counting, but from Ted Haggard to Mark Foley to Bob Allen it's been a tough time for anti-gay, GOP crusaders. I admit it-- I actually feel kinda sorry for them. But that's probably because I'm not a complete horse's ass.

News has just come out that the 62-year-old Republican senator [Larry Craig] from Idaho -- you know, the socially conservative supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment whose 2005 voting record got 96 out of 100 points from the American Conservative Union -- was arrested on June 11 for trying to initiate "lewd" contact with a male undercover police officer in an airport bathroom. . .

[Lengthy description of alleged exchange of 'signals' used in this sort of situation.]

Apparently, when questioned, Craig claimed to have been innocently waiting outside the stall. But what about the foot touching? He has a "wide stance" when going to the bathroom. And the hand waving? He was reaching for a piece of errant toilet tissue. Who cares that the police report specifically states that there was no paper on the floor, or that his hand was palm up? Or that on Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct? As of Monday, Craig said he committed no wrongdoing and that he regrets his guilty plea.

Not quite as bad as those ubiquitous emergency room stories of people who happened to fall, while naked, onto a blunt object. But still pretty feeble. Maybe being a 62 year-old gay man in Idaho is punishment enough.

UPDATE: More. Much more. Craig has a long history of this sort of thing. Going back to the freakin' sixties! And he was Romney's campaign co-chair in Idaho. Is this the fifth or the sixth state-level campaign official that's resigned on the GOP side? See it all here. Couldn't these shitheads at least skip the marriage and children thing? If denial and self-hatred is your thing, that's sad. If wrecking other people's lives over it is your thing, you can go to hell.

Wikipedia is always a fun place to go when a scandal is breaking. They've got all sorts of stuff on Craig's history of homophobia and his countless denials of being gay. Wasn't there a character like this in the Kids In the Hall movie?

In 1995, Craig formed a barbershop quartet called The Singing Senators with Senators Trent Lott, John Ashcroft, and James Jeffords.

In 1982, Craig went on network news to deny rumors involving cocaine and sex with male congressional pages.

In October 2006, gay activist blogger Mike Rogers published allegations on his blog that Craig was homosexual; Craig called the allegation "completely ridiculous."

Like I said, both sites have many, many more accounts of such allegations. Weird, weird stuff.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What's Allawi's WQ?

Yep, I missed some big stories in the last four days. Uncooperative Internet connection, which is really getting tiresome at this point.

So newshounds are already totally on top of this, but I couldn't resist bringing it up for the sheer "WHA!?!? Quotient" of the whole thing. And yes, I just made that up. But I'll probably re-use it.

Christina Davidson at IraqSlogger, who broke the story that influential GOP lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers are promoting Iraqi parliamentarian Ayad Allawi to be the new prime minister, has another scoop. On Monday, BGR president Robert Blackwill -- President Bush's former Iraq coordinator at the White House -- signed a contract with Allawi worth $300,000 over six months to provide "strategic counsel" for the would-be-premier "before the US Government, Congress, media and others."

You might remember Allawi as BushCo's (initial) hand-picked choice for the job of Iraq's prime minister. That didn't work out too well because he was an international fugitive, embezzler, suspected double agent, and generally reviled by everyone outside neo-con circles.

He's a known criminal, he stole hundreds of millions of dollars from us, and he's in the running for reinstatement. That puts Allawi's WQ in a pretty high percentile.

UPDATE: More. Much more. Craig has a long history of this sort of thing. And he was Romney's campaign co-chair in Idaho. Is this the fifth or the sixth state-level campaign official that's resigned on the GOP side? See it all here.

Veni. Vidi. Koo-koo, koo-koo.

Okay, this is strange. For a couple of months, my mp3 player has included 'lectures on tape' in addition to music. Because why not spend the daily commute learning about the atmosphere of Neptune or Ptolemaic Egypt, right?

Anyway, I've been listening to a series on the late Roman Republic and their conquest of pretty much everything. Most recently, Julius Caesar's war against the Gauls and its relation to the civil war brewing back in Italy. It's interesting to note that the civil unrest was in no small part due to the disenfranchisement of Rome's middle class-- veterans were finding themselves increasingly unable to make a living after finishing service, and the wealthiest families were snapping up vast amounts of their property at bargain prices. Reformers were attempting to level the playing field a bit to avert a civil war and maintain the republic, but the wealthy few unsurprisingly used their wealth and influence to portray the reformers as would-be dictators and treasonous enemies of the people. In other words, using cheap demagoguery to appeal to the middle class even as they took them for every denarius.

Digby has turned up another fellow who's been thinking about the late Republic as well. Only it's a neo-con. And he's a big picture kinda guy-- not really interested in the greed and corruption that precipitated the war, but really awed by the resultant dictatorship.

Caesar pacified Gaul by mass slaughter; he then used his successful army to crush all political opposition at home and establish himself as permanent ruler of ancient Rome. This brilliant action not only ended the personal threat to Caesar, but ended the civil chaos that was threatening anarchy in ancient Rome – thus marking the start of the ancient Roman Empire that gave peace and prosperity to the known world.

If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege [sic] while terrifying American enemies.

The date is this thoughtful meditation on foreign policy? August, 2007. It's difficult to decide whether this article is founded more on ignorance or madness. That first paragraph-- a mere two sentences-- manages to get wrong just about everything it mentions.

And as far as mental health, check this out:

The inadequacy of Democracy, rule by the majority, is undeniable – for it demands adopting ideas because they are popular, rather than because they are wise. . .

By elevating popular fancy over truth, Democracy is clearly an enemy of not just truth, but duty and justice, which makes it the worst form of government. President Bush must overcome not just the situation in Iraq, but democratic government.

The nice thing about democracy? It tends to prevent a lone, delusional jackass from nuking a few million Iraqi civilians, killing countless others in many nations through radiation poisoning, and initiating a third world war that would kill tens of millions more-- for not posing a threat to us. When world leaders decide it's time for an arbitrary nuclear genocide, you generally want them to run it by a few people first.

Gonzo the Hero

There's something eerie about being able to immediately guess what rationale the latest criminal in the GOP will use to explain a resignation-- or simply rationalize immoral conduct. Or maybe I'm giving myself too much credit. After all, the line on Gonzo really hasn't changed in months. He's the real victim here. All the guy wants to do is arrest some pedophiles, and the Democrats won't let him. He's doing it for the children, people!

The best part? Gonzo maintained the classic BushCo 'foolish consistency' right up to the end:

As recently as Sunday afternoon, Mr. Gonzales was denying through his press spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse, that he intended to leave.

Mr. Roehrkasse said Sunday afternoon that he had telephoned Mr. Gonzales about the reports circulating in Washington that a resignation was imminent, “and he said it wasn’t true, so I don’t know what more I can say.”

White House spokesmen also insisted on Sunday that they did not believe that Mr. Gonzales was planning to resign. Aides to senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said over the weekend that they had received no suggestion from the administration that Mr. Gonzales intended to resign.

This is after submitting his resignation on Friday.

UPDATE: Too much credit? I deserve no credit for anticipating the "partisan disgrace" line that would greet Gonzo's resignation. From Salon:

Texas Sen. John Cornyn is on CNN now, declaring today a "sad day" that has come about because of the "hyperpartisan atmosphere of Washington, D.C." By our account, the "sad day" came on Feb. 3, 2005, when the Senate confirmed Gonzales by a vote of 60 to 36, with six Democrats joining Republicans in giving the president the attorney general whom he wanted.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rocket Sled to Nowheresville

I was all set to write a post yesterday the minute I caught the reports of Fearless Leader' "1960's hippies caused 9/11" speech. Then technical difficulties struck. And now I'm too far behind the curve to get all worked up about how the neo-fascists are still pathologically obsessed with Vietnam, Richard Nixon's lawbreaking, and chickenshit Haight-Ashbury types. Sure, it's every bit as frightening and insane as it was yesterday. Yes, the implication is that tens of thousands have been killed because wingers want to avenge a perceived humiliation from thirty years ago.

But instead of beating my head against that particular wall, I thought I'd highlight some of the wit and wisdom of those enlightened souls who understand the maxim "hegemony means never having to say you were wrong."

From the "they're still willing to admit that?" site Blogs for Bush:

It is said - endlessly - on the left that "Bush Lied, People Died!". [sic] Of course, those of us who live in the real world understand that in President Bush we have a nearly uniquely honest President - so honest that it has cost him dear in terms of political power and support.

In the real world, he's the most scrupulously honest political figure in American history.

From the inappropriately titled Macsmind, which should probably be called Macsparanoiddelusion:

Democrats - especially progressives hate facts [sic], but the fact of the matter is that a fact doesn’t need belief to be a fact. Speaking of facts - remember that the spread of Communism [sic] was irrefutably abated by the involvement of America in Vietnam. It did however spread [sic] to Asia after our withdrawl. [sic] In fact it’s [sic] widespread in Asia, or does Marshall really know that Asia isn’t just a defunked [sic] rock group. Of course the left will never cop to the fact that they bear the burden and political consequence of Vietnam, but the fact remains that history needs no verification.

Aside from the fact that this is literally incoherent ("history needs no verification"?!? ).... okay, it's just incoherent.

Instead of Liberty Pundit (which admittedly has a pitiful charm) maybe the site should be called 'Smarmy Nimrod.'

Why don’t we consider what would have happened if we hadn’t gone into Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11. [sic] Don’t you think that quite a few radical Islamists [sic] would have joined the jihaad [sic] after seeing us attacked and doing nothing about it? After all, bin Laden hit us numerous times before that, and we did nothing…yet his organization grew, didn’t it? Why do you think that is? Hmm?

I have yet to hear anyone argue that invading Afghanistan was a terrible mistake, but there are those of us who've noticed that we're completely pissing away the headway we actually made there. Oh, and six years after 9/11, you might have noticed that-- Hmmmmmm?-- the one thing we've completely failed to do is un-grow that organization thousands of lives and half a trillion dollars after taking swift and decisive action in a totally unrelated country.

Yet another reactionary blog I've never heard of reminds us that no matter what this administration fails to accomplish, it's always a good time to write earnest (and absolutely, definitely not gay) posts about a man's penis.

Remember last year when former President Bill Clinton, the most famous liar in all of human history, indignantly wagged his finger at Chris Wallace and claimed he did everything he could to kill Osama bin Laden? Well, as I said at the time, Bill Clinton wagging his finger is a tell that he's lying - you can bank on it - and Mike Issikoff has caught Clinton with his pants down once again (so to speak).

'Everything I need to know about foreign policy I learned watching the World Series of Poker.' Shrewd. Insightful. Retarded.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Free Speech: Enemy of Democracy

Hoo boy. Time for another disturbing trip to those lists of traits that make up a fascist regime...

A White House manual that came to light recently gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of "deterring potential protestors" from President Bush's public appearances around the country.

Among other things, any event must be open only to those with tickets tightly controlled by organizers. Those entering must be screened in case they are hiding secret signs. Any anti-Bush demonstrators who manage to get in anyway should be shouted down by "rally squads" stationed in strategic locations. And if that does not work, they should be thrown out. . .

The techniques described have become familiar over the 6 1/2 years of Bush's presidency, but the manual makes it clear how organized the anti-protest policy really is. . .

"These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators," it says. "The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

Advance teams are advised not to worry if protesters are not visible to the president or cameras: "If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and that they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has the potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect."

The article is a must-read. I'm amazed at my capacity to still be amazed at the GOP's capacity to crap on the Constitution in such a matter-of-fact way. Not to mention the capacity of conservatives to regard all of this as no big deal. Just like gagging scientists, discrediting intellectuals, linking criticism with treason, bogus national security emergencies, manipulating elections, stoking racial antagonism, conflating government with business & religion, et al. And they just... don't... care.

It also gives the lie to the commonplace "overzealous staffer" defense. We continue to see BushCo claim that they have no knowledge of what's happening beneath their very noses and insist that they're shocked by each new scandal and determined to get to the bottom of it-- only to have evidence emerge that they were not only aware of it, but orchestrated it.

All right, I can't resist. I have to cite Karl Popper's list again. As terrifying as it is, it reads like the GOP's "to-do" list of the last ten years.

1. Nationalism; the concept of a chosen nation destined for world domination. (The neo-con platform.)

2. The state's identity as fundamentally unlike other states-- emphasis on differences, and why they must be maintained to preserve the state. (The twin menaces of Arabs and Mexicans.)

3. Exemption from moral obligation; "historical success" as the sole judgment. The ends justify the means, up to and including propaganda and lies. (Headline today? Bush: History to Prove Iraq War Worth It)

4. War as a moral imperative. War is not only inevitable, but sometimes a desirable way to strengthen the state. Military superiority is evidence of state superiority. (The hot new thing? Wars of choice.)

5. "The creative role of the Great Man," what Hegel called the "World Historical Personality," and Popper describes as the religion of glory. The "Great Man" despises public opinion in his desire to achieve something great-- indecision or moral obligations only spoil his chances of success. (We tend to demand that our candidates be saints. The GOP just pins the saint label to turds like Bush and Giuliani.)

6. The ideal of a heroic life. Life is not about rationality or reason, but action. The more sweeping and dramatic the action, the better one has lived. (Shoot first-- ask questions never.)

But who would YOU believe? An adulterous, lying egomaniac or a horde of "New York liberals"?

I'm going to give the National Review Online contributors some credit here by suggesting that they're smart enough to realize their comments are disingenuous. Which doesn't say much for what they think of their readers, but that's their business.

I made a brief remark yesterday about Giuliani's adoption of the "tragedy pimp" ploy that so many Republicans have staked their campaigns on since 9/11. To wit, this recent statement:

"I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers ... I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

Naturally, this turned out to be a complete falsehood. When media outlets revealed that he had actually clocked more hours with the New York Yankees than at ground zero, three (three!) NRO contributors decided they couldn't contain their outrage. At the scoundrels who exposed Giuliani's shamelessness and dishonesty, of course.

Strike One: Jim Geraghty kicked it off this morning by getting his facts wrong, while accusing us of getting our facts wrong. That's never good. Geraghty claimed the mayor of 9/11 only took one round-trip plane ride to Arizona for the last two 2001 World Series games, but as Koppelman documented, newspapers reported at the time that Giuliani actually flew back and forth twice to attend games six and seven. In an updated post, Geraghty concedes we did the math right, but insists we were wrong to include travel time to Arizona, since the numbers wouldn't have looked as bad if the World Series had been in, say, Philadelphia or even at Shea Stadium.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to factor in the mayor's travel time and observe that he spent almost as much time on airplanes to get to Yankees games (22 hours, by our calculations) as he did at ground zero.

Strike Two: Next Jonah Goldberg linked to Geraghty and called our piece a "cheap shot." Goldberg, typically, misses the point, insisting "no New Yorker -- as far as I am aware -- begrudged the mayor of New York going to the World Series when the Yankees were playing." We don't think people begrudged Giuliani the solace of a Yankees game. But they do begrudge his bragging[.]

Strike Three: Finally, Greg Pollowitz quotes a column by the New York Times' Dave Anderson hailing Giuliani for attending Yankees games in the dark days after 9/11. But nobody's quarrelling with his going to Yankees games, guys. The point is that once again, Giuliani wrapped himself in the heroism of 9/11 first responders, many of whom criticize his leadership before and after 9/11, and once again it backfired. Besides, it's not as if Giuliani was making a special effort to show up at Yankees games after 9/11 to help restore civic morale; the guy is a maniac Yankees fan with four World Series rings (and there's some question about how he acquired them) who tried never to miss a post-season game, global crisis or no global crisis. It wasn't some selfless display of moral leadership.

Normally that would mean the NRO is out of there. But they keep crying foul and calling a do-over.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Reactionary Journalism 101-- Final Exam Today!

All right, class, the final consists of one problem. Here goes, for all the marbles.

Edit the following headline to make it appropriate for publication in a conservative venue (print or online):

Democratic Politician: "I'd love to see more child pornography arrests."

You have until the end of this post to complete the exam. Good luck!

Technical difficulties kept me from posting yesterday (it's been happening off and on for a month or so now), but hopefully that will be over with soon. The reactionary press never sleeps, however, and Salon's War Room posted a couple of the latest examples of Clinton abuse-- and a few other bystanders for good measure-- that could only be made possible through the miracle of reality distortion.

The Drudge Report: Did Michelle Obama "slam" Hillary Clinton? That's the question Matt Drudge is asking in large type right now. The problem for Drudge and others hoping that they've got another Elizabeth Edwards situation on their hands? The answer is pretty obviously no.

In a story in the Chicago Sun-Times today, Barack Obama's wife is quoted as saying, "If you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House."

The Sun-Times says the line "could be interpreted as a swipe at the Clintons," but that's only if you ignore the fact that Michelle Obama is clearly talking about her own family life, not anyone else's.

The Washington Times: The Washington Times checks in this morning with a headline that reads, "Democrats See 'Results' in Iraq." The story bundles Levin's comments with similar ones Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin made recently and with a speech New York Sen. Hillary Clinton made before the Veterans of Foreign Wars Monday. In the speech, Clinton said: "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working." How the Washington Times uses that sentence: "'It's working,' Mrs. Clinton said of the troop surge."

Crayons down, everyone. The correct answer is this: Democrat Pol Would 'Love To See More Child Pornography.' Note that failure to replace the word democratic with the improper Democrat is considered a violation of ideological purity and is in itself grounds for a failing grade. If your answer was incorrect, please see me during my office hours to present your argument for the case that you are actually the only sane respondent, the only correct respondent, and/or the only individual worthy of full credit by merit of your genetic superiority, parents' wealth and status, or ability to warp reality in the minds of yourself and gullible interlocutors.

Irrationality, Politics, and Quest for Fire

This article by TNR's John Judis was pretty fascinating. It ties in with all the debate, introspection, and hypothesizing that's been taking place since the closing years of the Clinton White House-- and in no small part serves as the fuel for the engine of the progressive blogs. It's the "what's the Matter With Kansas" issue, and why it is that so-called red staters (among others) keep voting for Republicans whose policies are having a very significant and very negative impact on their lives.

If a few scholars studying "political psychology" are to be believed, it's all about death. One sterling example is elections and 9/11. Remember way back in 2002 (And 2004. And 2006. And last week...) when the GOP was chanting 'nine-eleven' like a mantra? And winning elections even as they spent billions making the country less safe and promoting extremism in the Middle East? How the White House cynically trotted out bogus "plots" and yellow terrorism alerts every time GOP poll numbers dropped? Saddam's imaginary relationship with al Qaeda and the equally fanciful mushroom cloud?

In their experiments, Solomon, Greenberg, and Pyszczynski make a good case that mortality reminders from September 11 enhanced Bush's popularity through November 2004. But, on the basis of their research, it is possible to draw even broader conclusions about U.S. politics after September 11. Mortality reminders not only enhanced the appeal of Bush's political style but also deepened and broadened the appeal of the conservative social positions that Republicans had been running on.

For instance, because worldview defense increases hostility toward other races, religions, nations, and political systems, it helps explain the rage toward France and Germany that erupted prior to the Iraq war, as well as the recent spike in hostility toward illegal immigrants. Also central to worldview defense is the protection of tradition against social experimentation, of community values against individual prerogatives--as was evident in the Tucson experiment with the judges--and of religious dictates against secular norms. For many conservatives, this means opposition to abortion and gay marriage. . .

[I]f Solomon, Greenberg, and Pyszczynski are right, it would have been very difficult for any politician--not just the stolid Kerry--to overcome Bush's built-in advantage from being the nation's leader at a time when many voters feared another attack. In 2004, Bush, as the commander-in-chief, still had the unconscious on his side. And that advantage may have proven insuperable.

Just a very small taste of a truly interesting article. Although it boils down to pretty commonsensical ideas, it's definitely a good read.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Disgraced Campaign Aide Watch?

Frankly, I think the piece in an Austin newspaper mocking Bush for dressing like Walker, Texas Ranger while visiting the Barbie Ranch is funnier than stories of campaign staffer's gone wild.* But now that we're up to three(?) high-level campaign staffers stepping down because of legal trouble, I'd say it's a "notable trend."

Kristian Forland, the [Bill Richardson] campaign's eastern Nevada field director, is being sought by Los Angeles County authorities for failure to appear on four counts of writing bad checks. Forland also was arrested twice, once last year and again last month, in his home of Elko, Nev., on a similar bad check charge out of Las Vegas.

In both arrests, Forland posted bail and was released. It's not clear from court records if the case was resolved.

*Not so funny was the speed and efficiency with which White House Spokesmonkey Dana Perino made a statement to the effect that the president was offended. Does this mean that Condi Rice would've snapped into action right away if she'd been spotted buying pumps at Pay Less in the wake of Katrina?

If ya can't cheat 'em, ruin 'em.

Although it won't come as any surprise that the recent uncovering of partisans tampering with Wikipedia found Fox News to be a frequent manipulator of the truth, the result is pretty funny.

A lengthy post at the Daily Kos has a bunch of the changes. A favorite of mine from Brit Hume's page:

Before Fox News: MSNBC's Keith Olbermann claimed that Hume and FOX News committed "premeditated, historical fraud" in distorting FDR (; on Olberman's show, James Roosevelt, Jr., said that Hume's "outrageous distortion" of FDR "calls for a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation" ( Al Franken shared such sentiment, calling for Brit Hume's immediate resignation

After Fox News: MSNBC's Keith Olbermann claimed that Hume and FOX News committed "premeditated, historical fraud" in distorting FDR (; on Olberman's show, one of the lowest rated programs on cable news, James Roosevelt, Jr., said that Hume's "outrageous distortion" of FDR "calls for a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation" . However, Mr. Olbermann has on more than one occasion tried to stir up controversy in hopes of attaining some of the popularity enjoyed by the targets of his attacks. In this instance, it is Mr. Hume who anchors the highest rated political program on cable television.

Subtle, guys. It's a wonder you were caught.

The really funny part is that-- a mere three days after the story broke-- Crooks & Liars has posted a video with a Fox News host presenting a special story about the online encyclopedia's credibility.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How about an ice-cold draft?

A message from the Edwards campaign today included the following:

Stop the Draft Before It Starts

Last week, Bush's War Czar, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, said that "it certainly makes sense to consider" reinstating the draft.

Even though the Pentagon is now denying it, the fact that a draft is even being talked about reveals the true danger of the administration's breathtaking failures in Iraq and around the world.

We need to change course.

My first thought when I saw this was "Are you kidding me?!?" This administration will never, ever permit a draft. There's no draft, the entire war has been charged to the national credit card (It's like it's free!), and 70% of the nation is against it. If parents were suddenly ordered to ship their kids to the Middle East-- or presented with $3000-per-family-member bills to pay for the war so far-- the war would end immediately.

Ironically, conscription would probably be a great thing for American democracy right now. If people were actually asked to sacrifice regardless of race, class, religion or political party, we'd still be ready for a World War II, but we'd be much less likely to experience senseless tragedies like Iraq. Because presumably even arrogant, imbecilic pocket tyrants prefer their children alive. Just imagine what it would be like if the Cheneys, Bushes, Ashcrofts and Limbaughs of the world had the same chance as everyone else of being dropped in the jungle (or sand) with a rifle as anyone else.

Giuliani super-sizes the insanity

I wrote yesterday that Rudy Giuliani's team of "foreign policy experts" consisted largely of people who think we're making all the right moves in Iraq and Afghanistan-- the only thing that would make it better would be opening a third front in the war that's been already become the most effective recruiting tool any terrorist could dream up.

Insane? Yes, very. Stupid? Oh my, yes. Delusional? That's what my (all-female) squad of invisible (but totally hot) Martian commandos tells me.

But that wasn't enough. Rudy had to go and document his own pitiful descent into "If it weren't for all the damn peaceniks we'd be winning in Vietnam-- I mean Iraq" reactionary, 60s-throwback nonsense. It demonstrates that he may well rival Bush in the ignorance and devastation he would bring to the United States. After all, Rudy supports everything Bush has done. He just wants more of the same. A lot more.

The Prospect did a nice job of culling some choice bits of stupidity from the larger piece:

*The very first sentence: "We are all members of the 9/11 generation." [Just so you realize straight out that the entire piece will be devoid of critical thought.]

*The phrase "Terrorists War on Us" is now capitalized. [Get it? War on U-S. I can almost smell the focus group. Ugh. Mold. Is that Soviet propaganda I'm smelling?]

*Dumb statements like: "And the era of cost-free anti-Americanism must end." [If this means anything more sophisticated than 'pay tribute or suffer,' I can't imagine what it is.]

*Grand new ideas like: "Companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Levi's helped win the Cold War by entering the Soviet market. Cultural events, such as Van Cliburn's concerts in the Soviet Union and Mstislav Rostropovich's in the United States, also hastened change. Today, we need a similar type of exchange with the Muslim countries." [It's certainly doing wonders in China these days.]

*Oh, and we totally had Vietnam: "America must remember one of the lessons of the Vietnam War. Then, as now, we fought a war with the wrong strategy for several years. And then, as now, we corrected course and began to show real progress. Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire, and not only in Vietnam: numerous deaths in places such as the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America. The consequences of abandoning Iraq would be worse." [Can somebody please tell me why Republicans are still playing out Vietnam fantasies thirty years after the fact?!? And in spite of their complete unwillingness to actually serve there?]

And there... on the car door... was a SOMBRERO!

I first saw this story on Monday, and now that others are contributing their own interesting takes on it the time has come to officially make it a post.

The story is a strange one, but one that appealed to me right away given my penchant for writing about right-wing e-mail forwards that seek to exploit societal fears and paranoia.

When completed, the highway will run from Mexico City to Toronto, slicing through the heartland like a dagger sunk into a heifer at the loins and pulled clean to the throat. It will be four football fields wide, an expansive gully of concrete, noise and exhaust, swelled with cars, trucks, trains and pipelines carrying water, wires and God knows what else. Through towns large and small it will run, plowing under family farms, subdevelopments, acres of wilderness. Equipped with high-tech electronic customs monitors, freight from China, offloaded into nonunionized Mexican ports, will travel north, crossing the border with nary a speed bump, bound for Kansas City, where the cheap goods manufactured in booming Far East factories will embark on the final leg of their journey into the nation's Wal-Marts.

And this NAFTA Superhighway, as it is called, is just the beginning, the first stage of a long, silent coup aimed at supplanting the sovereign United States with a multinational North American Union.

This is completely new to me. I wouldn't expect to know it 'just because I'm from Missouri,' but it sounds like it's a pretty widespread "meme." Especially given that it's absolutely preposterous. At the same time, it's a GOP bonanza. Their bottom line uber alles economic policies have birthed and nurtured a working-class hostility toward immigrants, particularly Latinos, and they're more than happy to pretend that they'll be the ones tough enough to kick some immigrant ass. It's absolutely brilliant propaganda, fomenting political extremism in the very people that same extremism is exploiting and reducing to serfdom.

In his essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," Richard Hofstadter famously sketched the contours of the American tradition of folk conspiracy--a tradition that has, at different times, seen its enemy in Masons, Jesuits, immigrants, Jews and Eastern bankers. There's certainly a strong continuity between that tradition and the populist/nationalist ire that drives the NAFTA highway myth. Hofstadter's original essay was motivated in part by the activities of the John Birch Society, which today is one of the leading purveyors of the highway myth.

Highly recommended. Actually, more of a must-read.

He loves the heat. We'll just have to suffer.

Even though we've seen this "president vacations while hundreds die in agony" story many times, Tim Grieve manages to make it as excruciating as ever.

What happened Tuesday in Crawford, Texas: "What the president loves to do when he's at his ranch is to spend time outdoors," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. "And I know today that they were maybe going to do some trail building, some bike-trail building that they do out there, so that they can then mountain bike. And I wouldn't be surprised if the president got in some fishing, as well as some time with his wife, Laura, Mrs. Bush, and maybe other family and friends ... And I would expect that [later in the week] there would be some brush cutting to do, although it is 107 degrees, so I don't know how many people are going to be able to stand it. The president, obviously, likes the heat, so maybe everyone else is just going to have to suffer through it."

What happened Tuesday in Iraq: Four suicide bombers drove trucks into Qahataniya, a town 75 miles west of Mosul, and blew themselves up almost simultaneously. The Associated Press reports that at least 200 people were killed and 300 more people were wounded.

UPDATE: The latest report puts the number of people killed in the attacks at "at least 250." For suicide bombers, the public square must be the equivalent of having your own fully-stocked lake of yummy perch.

Fox News comedy show dies of exposure. To the public.

I remember the entertaining days when the show had just been announced. Liberal bloggers gleefully anticipated what would undoubtedly be towering ineptitude. Reactionary bloggers gleefully anticipated a show that would finally demonstrate the comedic chops of right-wing ideologues and finally lay to rest the notion that political extremism, racism, and homophobia generally might not be the most fertile soil for brilliant satire. As for the show, its fate was sealed the moment someone had the idea. "Does this look like the Daily Show but incorporate right-wing politics into every line?" Amazingly, that turned out to be a less helpful guideline than "Is any of this funny?"

The only question was whether it would be merely awful-- in which case wingers would convince themselves that it was actually brilliant-- or so stupefyingly moronic that even the most dyed-in-the-wool righties shuddered at the thought of sitting through an episode.

Fortunately, it was the latter. So we're at least spared the "victim of liberal Hollywood" narrative.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

NOT about that guy who resigned!

I'm really just not going to get into it. If the playing field were as level as Republicans like to pretend, he'd be tried for his crimes and consigned to the trash heap of history. Instead, he'll spend his days as a highly-paid insider, lionized as some sort of martyr in spite of the fact that he built a career entirely on winning elections by dirty tricks and lies.

Avarice, Incompetence, Lies: how the GOP hopefuls stack up

I said recently that no field of Republican presidential candidates scares me across the board quite like this bunch of turds.

Unfettered, Remorseless Greed: A report from this morning suggests that Mitt Romney leads the field. In addition to being worth "as much as $247 million," (more than every other presidential candidates combined) an LA Times article suggests that he got it the old-fashioned way: exploitation. Unlike our current 'MBA president,' however, Mitt is much more than just a non-failure in the business world. He's a dick.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney [recently] divested from companies doing business in Iran, but he still holds stock in an oil company that does business in Sudan -- where the government is accused of sponsoring genocide -- his financial disclosure report filed Monday shows.

Mitt Romney: will sell holdings in brutal, totalitarian regimes-- but only if it will cost him votes.

I solemnly swear that experience will teach me nothing: There could be a good reason Rudy Giuliani bailed out of the Iraq Study Group in favor of motivational speaking. Besides his eagerness to pimp his 9/11 prominence into big sacks of money, I mean. His team of foreign policy 'experts' are considered more hawkish and more ideological in their neoconservatism than Bush's. In other words, careful consideration and pragmatic solutions are the last thing he cares about.

Earlier this month, Giuliani named Podhoretz a senior adviser on his foreign-policy team. (“Yep. It’s official,” the Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote. “The bombing begins in five minutes.”) The addition of Podhoretz to the team was a dramatic political gesture by Giuliani, coming at a moment when the neoconservative agenda has been broadly discredited, and blamed for a misbegotten war. Podhoretz is so untempered a neocon that he makes Paul Wolfowitz, Bush’s former Deputy Defense Secretary, and a key architect of the Iraq invasion, seem almost a moderate realist.

Podhoretz joins, among others on the foreign-policy team, the conservative Middle East scholar Martin Kramer and Charles Hill, a Hoover fellow and one of the instructors in the Grand Strategy seminar at Yale. It is Hill’s thesis that the Islamic terrorists (“Islamofascists,” in Podhoretz’s term) are at war with the international system that has ordered the world since the Treaty of Westphalia, in 1648.

Hooray! Four more years of the delusional idiocy that's brought us failure in Iraq and failure in Afghanistan-- but not in bringing al Qaeda to justice.

The 'Man of the People' Award: This is given to the candidate most effective at duping Americans into thinking that he's a middle-class, down-home kinda guy. It'd be too easy to give it to everyone, if appropriate. There's Mitt with his calculating "win in Massachusetts then trash it across the nation" strategy. Rudy, who made a fortune trading on his "I'm a hero of 9/11" status-- in spite of the fact that he has earned the eternal enmity of those who actually performed heroic acts in the aftermath.

The award really should go to Fred Thompson, for a number of reasons. The fact that the closest he's gotten to military service is wearing a uniform in B-movies (a la 'The Gipper' and 'The Governator'). There's his recent self-comparison to George Washington in not running for another term-- so that he could be a Beltway prostitute. There's his history of being chauffered to campaign events, only to drive the last half-mile or so in a pickup planted nearby.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Did somebody resign or something?

It wasn't easy to find stories today that didn't involve some guy in the administration I've never heard of leaving office. Grover something, I think.

But I'm pleased to post a Hillary Clinton bit that's encouraging. I've been nervous about her tendency to repeat the mistakes of Gore and Kerry by hiding from liberal positions and otherwise hedging her electoral bets. But in this clip, Hillary made me proud-- confronted with a winger who's mastered the not-so-fine art of sophistry, she gives him a solid smackdown. She refers to his smarmy "universal health care is a commie plot" as a string of misrepresentations and tired right-wing propaganda. And explains why, though she doesn't have much time. Stay tuned for her closer-- it's a good one.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bizarroworld's Mayor

In the presidential race, Giuliani has already used several elections' worth of "I'm the hero of 9/11." But, shameless and cynical though it may be, it's now the official strategy of the GOP.

Speaking to reporters in Cincinnati, Giuliani said: "I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. ... I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

New Yorkers have been getting angrier and angrier about this for the last six years, and have no problem pointing out that his whole 9/11 schtick is a pantsload.

Michael Palladino, head of the Detectives Endowment Association, the union of NYPD detectives, told the Associated Press that the mayor's record can't compare to those who spent 12 months sifting through toxic debris for evidence and human remains.

And we're only going to see more articles like this one as the primaries draw closer.

'I think the thing that distinguishes me on terrorism is, I have more experience dealing with it.' This pillar of the Giuliani campaign—asserted by pundits as often as it is by the man himself—is based on the idea that Rudy uniquely understands the terror threat because of his background as a prosecutor and as New York's mayor. In a July appearance at a Maryland synagogue, Giuliani sketched out his counterterrorism biography, a resume that happens to be rooted in falsehood.

"As United States Attorney, I investigated the Leon Klinghoffer murder by Yasir Arafat," he told the Jewish audience, referring to the infamous 1985 slaying of a wheelchair-bound, 69-year-old New York businessman aboard the Achille Lauro, an Italian ship hijacked off the coast of Egypt by Palestinian extremists. "It's honestly the reason why I knew so much about Arafat," says Giuliani. "I knew, in detail, the Americans he murdered. I went over their cases."

On the contrary, Victoria Toensing, the deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department in Washington who filed a criminal complaint in the Lauro investigation, says that no one in Giuliani's office "was involved at all." Jay Fischer, the Klinghoffer family attorney who spearheaded a 12-year lawsuit against the PLO, says he "never had any contact" with Giuliani or his office.

And that's only the opening volley. Recommended.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

How oily was my Republican

Here's some fine comedy for you courtesy of Fred Thompson's cringe-inducing conflation of himself with George Washington. Read the whole thing. Have a laugh. And try to forget that the latest bold proposal from BushCo is to cut corporate taxes.

Thompson's bio: "In the tradition of President George Washington, a leader Thompson had admired growing up, he walked away from an easy reelection victory to seek new challenges. He joined the American Enterprise Institute as a visiting scholar, traveled the country as speaker and served on a Wall Street advisory board."

Wow. Just like Washington, Thompson is a career soldier known for his insistence on relinquishing public office forever lest the temptation of power prove too strong. No, that can't be it. Maybe just like Thompson, Washington worked at right-wing propaganda mills and collected fat paychecks for attending the occasional board meeting. Hmmm... time to turn to the experts.

George Washington: Distinguished himself during the French and Indian War at the Battle of the Monongahela, riding back and forth across the battlefield rallying his troops, having two horses shot out from under him and yet maintaining his composure under fire.

Fred Thompson: Never served in the military, but did play "Stockman" in "Aces: Iron Eagle III."

George Washington: Signed the Bill of Rights, personally led troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, formed the first cabinet, appointed the first Supreme Court, defined the office of the presidency.

Fred Thompson: Aided John McCain in eviscerating the First Amendment, led a fruitless investigation of President Clinton's foreign campaign finance connections, dated.

George Washington: Retired to Mount Vernon after completing his second term as president, dedicated himself to farming, and left behind a Farewell Address regarded as a pillar of American political thought.

Fred Thompson: Retired after one-and-one-third terms in the Senate, became DA on popular crime drama, lobbied.

After all, Fred, we call them the Founding Fathers, not the Founding Douchebags.

This Day in History: Nixon resigns, Bush denies reality

Every few months I take a look at what the GOP has done to this country in the last decade and find myself lowering my standards for acceptable politics more and more. First I became wistful about Bush pere. Then Reagan started sounding good. Now this:

Though then-President Nixon had endured two years of mounting political embarrassments, the court-ordered release of the "smoking gun tape" about the burglaries in August 1974 brought with it the prospect of certain impeachment for Nixon, and he resigned only four days later on August 9. He is the only U.S. president to have resigned from office.

Don't you just miss the wisdom and integrity of Richard Nixon? No matter what unpleasant or criminal things these Republican presidents did, they at least had enough character that there was a point at which they were willing to admit error and correct a policy gone wrong. Not always, of course, but sometimes.

The Boy King? He marked this special day the way he marks every other: by justifying the most corrupt, inept, fiscally irresponsible, corporate-controlled, law-breaking, globally reviled, anti-science, jingoistic government this nation has had the dire misfortune to witness with those two special words: nine and eleven.

"There have been a lot of questions about your commitment to accountability," the reporter said. "I wonder if you can give the American people some clear examples of how you've held people accountable during your presidency."

The president couldn't, or at least he didn't.

"Lewis Libby was held accountable," Bush said. "He was declared guilty by a jury. He paid a high price for it. Al Gonzales -- implicit in your question is that Al Gonzales did something wrong. I haven't seen Congress say he's done anything wrong. As a matter of fact, I believe we're watching a political exercise. I mean, this is a man who has testified. He sent thousands of, you know, papers up there. There's no proof of wrong. Why would I hold somebody accountable who's done nothing wrong?". . .

The reporter tried again. "Given the decision to commute the sentence of Libby, given the performance of Iraqi leaders, is it fair for people to ask questions about your commitment to accountability?"

Bush didn't answer, again.

"I would hope people would say that I am deliberate in my decision making, I think about all aspects of the decisions I make, and I'm a fair person," he said. "And back to Iraq, it's no question they haven't made as much progress as I would have hoped. But I also recognize how difficult the task is. And I repeat to you -- the fundamental question is: Does it matter whether or not there is a self-governing entity that's an ally in the war on terror in Iraq? Does it matter? Does it matter to, you know, a guy living in Crawford, Texas? Does it matter to your children? As you know, from these press conferences, I have come to the conclusion that it does matter. And it does matter because enemies that would like to do harm to the American people would be emboldened by failure ...

"It matters if the United States does not believe in the universality of freedom. It matters to the security of people here at home if we don't work to change the conditions that caused 19 kids to be lured onto airplanes to come and murder our citizens."

This would immediately be recognized as an inept non sequitur were Bush an oily ambulance-chaser instead of the POTUS. Why is the nation-- and especially the press-- still treating it like "politics as usual" after six years of abject failure?

Dial M for-- hello? Hello!?!

If you haven't seen the comedy The President's Analyst, it's worth watching. It's funny, if dated. That is, its paranoia regarding government spying and the control giant corporations have over our lives was dated a decade ago. Also if you haven't seen the movie, I'm about to spoil the ending. After desperately trying to escape the clutches of not only the KGB and other foreign spy agencies, but America's own intelligence community, the protagonist finds that he can't escape the ultimate menace: the phone company.

Anyone who was at Sunday's Pearl Jam show closing the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago would have seen the band in a political mood. Eddie Vedder invited an injured Iraq war soldier up to the stage and called on the audience to work for peace in the Middle East. And in the middle of a performance of "Daughter," Vedder sang "George Bush, leave this world alone" and "George Bush find yourself another home" to the tune of "Another Brick in the Wall."

But if you were at home listening to the show on the Webcast being provided by AT&T, you would have missed those lines. As the band writes on its site, the Web transmission cut out the protest lines. AT&T says its monitor did so by mistake -- what a strangely precise and politically convenient mistake!

The band says the company's actions highlight the need for action on "network neutrality" -- the fight for regulations prohibiting broadband firms from making decisions about what content is and is not allowed on their networks. AT&T is currently fighting network neutrality, helping the NSA spy on Americans, and developing a way for Hollywood to police the Internet.

With links. Check it out.

Mitt lets his freak flag fly. Again.

When Mormon Mitt Romney explained that his all-time favorite book was by Scientology Brother Number One, it got a fair amount of press. Not only for that strange provenance, but because it's an awful, awful book that was turned into a notoriously awful movie a few years ago.

Now he's talked about his admiration for the political philosophy of a former professor of his, and the National Review(!) finds the whole thing a bit troubling:

[W. Cleon] Skousen had written a book entitled The Naked Communist?, which even for 1958 is so irrational in its paranoia that it would have made Whittaker Chambers blush. According to Skousen, The Manchurian Candidate was a documentary -- he earnestly believed Communists sought to create "a regimented breed of Pavlovian men whose minds could be triggered into immediate action by signals from their masters."

Skousen was active with the John Birch Society throughout the 1960s, even going so far as to write another book titled The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society, accusing those that criticized Birchers as promoting Communism. Lest anyone forget, notable critics of the John Birch Society in the 1960s included one William F. Buckley Jr. Skousen even managed to record this gem -- a spoken word album about the dangers of LSD for the John Birch Society's record label. (Forget acid -- simply knowing that the John Birch Society had a record label is pretty mind-blowing in and of itself.)

I doubt Romney is a real John Birch kinda guy, but aside from the sheer wackiness of his personal preferences-- and these are the things he openly discusses in public-- he seems to have an inordinate fondness for egomaniacal extremists. Egomaniacal 'visionaries' if you're feeling charitable.

Honestly, I can't remember another presidential election where every Republican hopeful was not just unappealing, but outright scary.

BONUS QUOTE: Mitt is also sounding strangely like the much-reviled former Senator from the Cackle Factory Rick "Spreading" Santorum.

Way back in January 2006, Santorum was pleading with his fellow Americans to serve their country-- by volunteering to put a Santorum bumper sticker on their Freedom Mobiles.

For his part, pro-war Romney states that his sons are by no means shirking their duty as patriots:

"The good news is, we have a volunteer Army and that's the way we're going to keep it. My sons are adults. They've chosen not to serve in the military in active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. ... And one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Everything he touches... turns to caca.

Apologies to Ian Fleming's franchise there, but it seemed appropriate. Once again proving the Daily Show's assertion that this administration is incapable of doing anything that is unironic, a Salon columnist posted this today:

The market for baby-brain DVDs -- titles like "Baby Einstein," "Brainy Baby" and others that make up what's been called the Baby Genius Edutainment Complex -- is huge: striving parents spend hundreds of millions every year on videos that are marketed as giving tots a leg up in the IQ wars that are sure to dominate tomorrow's robot-led wasteland. And hey, why shouldn't parents believe the promise that these DVDs are HGH for the mind? After all, even President Bush recommends them, going so far as to honor Baby Einstein founder Julie Aigner-Clark at a State of the Union address.

But new research shows that Baby Einstein might better be named Baby Paul Shore. Babies who watch the videos are less verbally proficient than those who do not; researchers found that for every hour that an infant between 8 to 16 months old spends watching a brain DVD, he understands, on average, 6 to 8 fewer words than a kid who didn't do Einstein.

In other news, the president has recently taken a shine to classic automobiles, and is reportedly snapping up Corvairs and Pintos for his personal collection. Get 'em while they're hot!

Note: multiply by 1,000 for accurate weapon count

Also, in the interest of accuracy, Oliphant really should have portrayed each individual holding a large round sack with a dollar sign on it.

To reiterate my point from yesterday, and hopefully highlight the stupefying lack of outrage over the latest act of utter incompetence brought to you by small-government conservatism:

Thanks to Vigil-Auntie for the find. Seriously. The GOP is arguing that we go to war with Iran for possibly aiding Iraqi insurgents in spite of the fact that the GOP-controlled American government has armed and funded them. And they just... don't... care.

Navy Smurf, Cowboy Smurf, CEO Smurf, NASCAR Smurf, etc.

I've talked before about the dismal results that occur when ideologues try to be funny. I've mentioned the amusingly homoerotic, borderline obsessive tone of right-wing fetishization of its heroes. I've even given a nod to hilarious attempts by wingers to co-opt pop music. Now there's an extremely funny article about reactionary art criticism in the Prospect.

Take, for example, 300. Did you think its opening-weekend success was due to its dazzling comic-book violence and histrionics? Not so, says Victor Davis Hanson of National Review, who explained that its financial triumph really represented a national reaction to the moral degeneracy of our time. . . . He cited "the Iranian hostage taking" of British sailors at the time of the film's release as another factor in its financial victory. One wonders why he did not make the same claim for the following weekend's box-office champ: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Great, so a schlocky comic book movie most notable for its homoeroticism and fetishizing of the male body is a conservative wet dream. Why am I completely unsurprised? As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees, in every object, only the traits which favor that theory." Or maybe the desperation to see the world as one wishes it were is more like the stereotypical doormat girlfriend, insisting to her friends that she just knows it'll be different this time, and she can change him.

Then there's the flipside. Along with this insistence that great art is, by definition, driven by right-wing ideology is the paradoxical claim that great art is non-controversial, non-thought provoking, and a sort of... opiate for the masses?

National Review's Larry Kudlow broke serious ground with with his 2004 encomium to "Conservative Art." "Conservative art," in Kudlow's mind, traces back to "the post-Civil War period, when we became the premiere global economic power. There was no income tax... Religious virtues governed our culture. Unbelievably good literature and art were produced." In contrast with "the negative pessimistic crap that too often passes for art in blue states like New York," Kudlow argues that Con Art produces "beautiful, calm, pleasant pictures. Stuff you can enjoy looking at, which is what I think art should be."

Why do I keep bringing this stuff up? Like I said before, it generally makes for fun reading. But I also wish I could understand what sort of person can actually adopt, as a serious view of culture, the same stance taken by the most notorious and repressive regimes of the last century. Of course, one of the motivations behind state-approved art has been a very un-American belief that the public needs to be told what to consume by anointed heads of state for the good of the country. These criticisms are pure, unadulterated intellectual noodling even as they tacitly acknowledge the importance of providing purely non-intellectual art to the masses. But I don't call them neo-fascists for nothing.

By the way, I found myself largely unable to name renowned authors and painters from the "post-Civil War period" and the openly imperialistic Golden Age Kudlow claims it was. For his part, Kudlow doesn't provide a single example (his article, fittingly enough, is a commercial for his wife's artwork, which apparently emulates these unnamed 19th century greats). I thought of Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce, both of whom I love, but who were far too satirical and iconoclastic to be called 'conservative artists.' There's Frederic Remington, who I'm sure conservatives would love to claim was 'one of them,' but he's more 20th century. Same with N.C. Wyeth. Most other 19th century Americans who come to mind were pre-Civil War. Anyone have any suggestions for a list of great American artists and authors, 1865-1900?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

40% of Americans unable to handle serious medical problem

Most people know by now that some 40 million Americans have no health insurance whatsoever. Consumer Reports takes a look at the rest of the iceberg:

A new Consumer Reports study identifies the “underinsured” -- accounting for 24% of the U.S. population -- living with skeletal health insurance that barely covers their medical needs and leaves them unprepared to pay for major medical expenses. . . .

When added to the population of “uninsured” -- approximately 16% of the population -- a total of 40% of Americans ages 18-64 have, at best, inadequate access to health care. The report, published in the September issue, also finds that most employers are struggling to keep up while the insurance behemoths prosper from the misery. . . .

In the survey, the median household income of respondents who were “underinsured” was $58,950, well above the U.S. median. Twenty-two percent live in households making more than $100,000. Still, many of the “underinsured” don’t have the resources to keep up with the rising costs of deductibles and co-pays, so much so that 43% reported that they postponed going to the doctor because they couldn’t afford it.

A must-read article, and one more feat of Social Darwinism brought to you by the GOP. But at least they're protecting us from the commies, right? One executive paycheck at a time.

UPDATE: Another headline in today's news will convince even more people that I'm a Marxist. Which is sad, because I'd be quite happy with people adopting a less Friedman-esque approach to economics, i.e. admitting that laissez faire capitalism, just like Marxism, is imperfect.

U.S. hospitals are increasingly shutting down their burn centers in a trend experts say could leave the nation unable to handle widespread burn casualties from a fiery terrorist attack or other major disaster. . . .

Experts say burn centers are expensive to maintain and often lose money because they are staffed with highly specialized surgeons and nurses and stocked with sophisticated equipment designed to ease patients' excruciating pain, fend off deadly complications and promote healing.

While the numbers cited indicate only a 5% drop in the last three years, which probably doesn't constitute a national crisis, it certainly doesn't speak well of the health care available to Americans that one in five states has severely limited or no capacity to handle burn victims.

Now back to our regularly scheduled disasters.

I'm back, after an unintentional and protracted absence. It was a mix of things-- connectivity issues, personal stuff, etc. And I can't escape the feeling that whenever I fall behind the news, there are some doozies waiting for me when I get back to it.

One of the biggest was the horrific bridge collapse in Minnesota-- the latest in several years worth of stories about America's infrastructure decaying over the last few decades (the most terrible being the defunding of New Orleans' levees by Bush and the GOP). Since there have now been a number of stories about this "time to pay the piper" reality of decades' worth of Republican tax cuts combined with Republican spending deficits, I'll let it lie for the moment. Although I'd sure love to see the ghost of Eisenhower appear before the nation. Of course, there's his prescient warning about the military industrial complex. But Eisenhower did a pretty bang-up job on infrastructure as well, particularly the nation's highways. Today's GOP? The collapse of health care, national infrastructure, diplomatic relations, the middle class... oh, but executives are paid about 500 times what the average worker earns. A new record!

Second, the Democrats' collective cave-in on FISA. It's truly disheartening to see how many are still caught up in the Beltway's DLC 'conventional wisdom' that Dems have to emulate the neo-fascists to get ahead. It's tough watching them utterly fail to learn one of the most basic lessons of the last decade: no matter what you do, the GOP will attack you mercilessly. So why not just do the right thing instead of giving them more ammo? These are pretty fundamental constitutional issues, after all. However, in an astonishing twist, many national papers are actually arguing that Democrats were 'strongarmed' into passing the legislation and had little time for consideration.

On to Iraq, where things are still terrible even though "catapulting the propaganda" here at home seems to be having an effect. There's been an increase in the number of Americans who think the 'surge' is having a positive effect, but it's hard to imagine why. There was the breathtaking re-emergence (I think I've even written about it in the past) of the story of missing firearms in Iraq. Not only has some $9 billion in US currency vanished there, but close to 200,000 submachine guns intended for the Iraqi police force have also disappeared. So, while the neo-fascists try to whip up support for a war with Iran by making dubious claims that they're arming the insurgents, the Republican leadership has managed to misplace hundreds of thousands of weapons and billions of dollars. Oops, I guess. Did I mention that Baghdad's residents have less electricity than at any point during the war?

Afghanistan keeps getting worse, too. The Taliban still holds 21 Korean hostages and recently launched a frontal assault on a small American base. In Bizarroworld, that is of course an indication of how powerless and desperate they are. Personally, I'd prefer such indicators as the Taliban losing ground instead of capturing it, and not launching rocket attacks. But what do I know? In spite of massive spending, BushCo and their congressional enablers have also failed (sound familiar?) to prevent the country from producing records amounts of opium poppies. That's bad enough, but a documentarian in the country has found that American troops-- who have to endure that hellish mix of tedium and anything-could-happen anxiety-- are one of the emerging markets for heroin.

Big stories all, and none of them good. But the GOP continues to provide gallows humor by the truckload, which appears to be the best we can hope for:

National Review: "Unlike badass Republicans, war critics would never serve their country."
Although the last thing we need is more evidence that the GOP is still obsessed with hippie peaceniks forty years after the fact, they are entirely serious.

GOP State Rep.: "I may be a racist, but it's not like I'm some sort of pansy!"
I'm generally the type to urge caution when people immediately argue that homophobes are invariably gay themselves. I'm sure it's a satisfying feeling for gays and lesbians, as it is for anyone to see hypocrisy laid bare, but I dislike absolutism and really dislike seeing one stereotype demolished only to be replaced by another. That said, the Republican party is making things very difficult for me these days.

State Rep. Bob Allen told police he was just playing along when a undercover officer suggested in a public restroom that the legislator give him oral sex and $20 because he was intimidated, according to a taped statement and other documents released Thursday. . . .

"I certainly wasn't there to have sex with anybody and certainly wasn't there to exchange money for it," said Allen, R-Merritt Island, who was arrested on charges of soliciting prostitution.

"This was a pretty stocky black guy, and there was nothing but other black guys around in the park," Allen, who is white, told police in a taped statement after his arrest. Allen said he feared he "was about to be a statistic" and would have said anything just to get away.

Yes, he's been described by a Florida gay rights group as "the worst of the worst" for their cause. And yes, the victims of family values hypocrisy are once again family-- in this case, his wife and child.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

WSJ on Murdoch's takeover: "[Your] Ignorance is [Our] Strength."

I always thought it was a pity that the excellent reporting in the Wall Street Journal had to be marred by an op-ed page as gleefully reactionary as Rush Limbaugh. You hate to see extremism given the imprimatur of respectability by association.

Fortunately, that's all about to change. Unfortunately, the change takes place in Bizarroworld.

Today's Wall Street Journal features a long letter from publisher L. Gordon Crovitz reassuring readers about Rupert Murdoch's impending takeover of the newspaper. It isn't very reassuring. Crovitz's two main arguments are that Murdoch promised not to interfere with the newspaper's editorial integrity, and that "it would be bad business" for him to do so, since the Journal's most valuable commodity is its integrity. The problem, of course, is that Murdoch always makes promises like this when he buys newspapers, and he always breaks them.

More worrisome still, Crovitz goes on at length about the importance of accurate financial journalism. But he ignores the Journal's great tradition of independent political reporting. If you want to learn about business lobbying or the details of a tax bill, there's no better source. The commitment of the Journal's newswriters to fair political reporting routinely infuriates the rabid partisans of the editorial page. . . .

Crovitz also argues,

Also, some of the criticism of News Corp. has suggested that honest journalism cannot be done with an owner whose political views are often considered to be conservative. This reflects a bias of its own that I hope readers of all political views will reject.

Take that, strawman! [A pretty slick bit of linguistic prestidigitation, though. Pure BushCo, complete with "stop the oppression of rich white men" demagoguery.]

Meanwhile, the editorial page, which has been throwing itself into Murdoch's arms ever since his plans became public, predictably has a gloating editorial:

[R]eaders also shouldn't misinterpret the "editorial independence" agreement between Mr. Murdoch and the Bancrofts. This isn't intended to be some heat shield protecting Journal editors from their new owner. We know enough about capitalism to know that there is no separating ownership and control.

Uhhhh, that's a complete contradiction of Crovitz' pseudo-assurances, right? And sure enough, we liberal Commie types know so little about capitalism that we think ideological agit-prop posing as objective journalism is a bad thing for a democracy.

Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like... usury.

Still, the GOP has actually accomplished quite a bit over the last few decades. Most astonishingly, perhaps, is their success in replacing Christianity with social Darwinism. Nice irony, not so great in practice.

From "Usury Law, Payday Loans, and Statutory Slight of Hand: An Empirical Analysis of American Credit Pricing Limits," by Christopher L. Peterson, a law professor at the University of Florida:

In virtually every measurable way usury law has become much more lax since 1965. In 1965 every state in the union had a usury limit on consumer loans. Today nine states have completely deregulated interest rates within their borders. In 1965 banks were bound to comply with all state usury laws. Today banks are free to charge whatever interest rate they choose within the loose and changing tolerances chosen by banking regulators for their safety and soundness guidelines. In 1965 no state had law either explicitly or implicitly authorizing prices with an annual percentage rate of over 300 percent. Today, at least 36 states have law allowing lenders to charge over 300 percent. In 1965 usury laws were drafted with sufficient rigidity that 45 states held actual allowed annual percentage rates to 60 percent or under. In 2007 the number of states accomplishing this has fallen to only seven.

Other fun facts:

*"The best available nationwide estimate suggests that the average payday loan borrower repays $793.00 for a $325.00 loan."
*"Between 2000 and 2004 alone, the number of payday lender locations more than doubled from 10,000 to 22,000." . . .

Peterson's conclusion:

"Every state that has legalized triple digit APR consumer loans to the working poor uses a small, misleading number in their legal text to do so. This suggests that political leaders understand what many traditional neo-liberal economists apparently do not. In the real world how a value is described can be much more important than the value itself. Many state legislatures use small, innocuous numbers in usury law because they are attempting to minimize the public and media outcry over their decision to legalize triple digit interest rate loans."

Just for fun, imagine the outcry if a big New York bank tried to charge triple digit interest rates on a loan to a private equity player like Blackstone or KKR. After the smoke cleared from the wreckage on Wall Street, someone might do something crazy, like pass a law making the unconscionable illegal.

As a liberal, of course, I'm supposed to be the godless destroyer of civilization. For that reason, I'll leave you with a favorite Charles Darwin quote of mine:

Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of those my brethren, so ye have done it unto me."