Saturday, April 26, 2003

Dumb and Dumber  

I usually don't link directly to rightwing sites for a variety of reasons, but this column from John Derbyshire is so blitheringly stupid and ungrammatical that is worth making an exception.

After working himself into a froth over Them (i.e., me), he begins to advance the remarkable proposition that an ignorant leader is better than an informed one, finishing up with
"Invited to choose between a president who is (a) a patriotic family man of character and ability who believes the universe was created on a Friday afternoon in 4,004 B.C. with all biological species instantly represented, or (b) an amoral hedonist and philanderer who “loathes the military” but who believes in the evolution of species via natural selection across hundreds of millions of years, which would I choose? Are you kidding?"
Before going on, I invite you to read the excerpt again and ponder its multiple layers of sheer imbecility. Permit me to point out just one:

Bush the Younger never ran, and will never run, against Clinton.

Great Doonesbury Strip  

Go now.

FBI Source Katrina Leung Funnelled Chinese Money to Bush 2000 Campaign  

It looks like there is a chance Katrina Leung could become rather important.To summarize what the scandal is really about:

An FBI agent was helping to transfer money from the Chinese government to Republican political campaigns, including Bush. It is alleged she was a double agent, something that the FBI claimed to have known since 1991, although she was only arrested a few weeks ago.
Sens. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called Friday for a Senate inquiry into the latest FBI espionage scandal as the implications of the penetration of the bureau by an alleged Chinese spy spread to the 1996 presidential election campaign finance investigation, United Press International has learned...

Senate investigators in 1996 suspected Leung as being a conduit for secret Chinese government payments to the Republicans, but the committee, headed by former Tennessee Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, dropped the inquiry before a report could be written...

At the same time Smith was supervising Leung, he was also the agent the FBI assigned to one of the key prosecutions of another aspect of the 1996 probe, the secret Chinese payments to the President Bill Clinton/Vice President Al Gore campaign. Smith was assigned to debrief Johnny Chung, who was secretly cooperating with the FBI and admitted feeding $400,000 to the Democratic campaigns.

Some Senate investigators suspect that Leung was the Republican opposite number to Chung. She is a major contributor to GOP candidates, including, indirectly through political action groups, the 2000 campaign of President George W. Bush.
But there's one major difference between Leung and Chung. Leung was on the FBI payroll when she was funneling money from the Chinese to the Republicans.
[To aid in their investigation into the Democratic fundraising allegations] congressional investigators relied on the guidance of FBI agents and "were confident in what we were told by the FBI Director Louis Freeh."
The mention of Freeh is extremely significant, implying that he may have deliberately misled investigator. Freeh hated Clinton with a passion, to the point of turning in his pass to access to the White House. (Incidentally, Freeh also has Opus Dei associations and attends the same church as Scalia, Santorum, Clarence Thomas, and convicted FBI spy Robert Hanssen,)
Senior FBI officials had known as early as 1991 that Leung was a double agent...

Though her 1995 and 1996 contributions have not been detailed, the American Reporter reviewed campaign records that showed she has given thousands of dollars to Republican candidates including, indirectly through political action groups, to President George W. Bush's 2000 campaign.
This is getting very, very stinky.

via Atrios

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has some more details regarding Leung's personal donations to Republicans. This does not include services in kind, such as help with fundraisers and parties at her house, which she is known to have done. The list is also probably not complete.
Over the past twenty years, the FBI (or rather, American taxpayers ) paid Leung $1.7 million in fees and expenses. She spent her money on a lavish house in tony San Marino and spread the wealth generously to Republican officeholders and candidates.
In 2002, she donated $2,000 to the conservative American Success Political Action Committee; $850 to the California Republican Party/Team California; $1,000 to the David Dreier for Congress Committee; and $600 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. In addition, she donated $10,000 to former Los Angeles mayor (and nominal Republican) Richard Riordan's primary election campaign for governor. After GOP candidate Bill Simon beat Riordan in the March primary, Leung donated $4,200 to Simon and another $5,000 to the unsuccessful Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Bruce McPherson, plus $850 more to the state GOP.

Afghanistan: Remember?  

Last week, I was with some friends who scoffed -yes, scoffed, it's rare to actually experience scoffing, as we are all too, too polite these days, so I cherish their friendship - anyway, the friends scoffed at me when I opined that the situation in Afghanistan was little better, if any, than it was under the Taliban. I think they should read this.
In a very real sense, the war here has not ended — as shown by an attack today that killed two American soldiers and by a planned visit on Sunday from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Nearly every day, there are killings, explosions, shootings and targeted attacks on foreign aid workers, Afghan officials, and American forces, as well as continuing feuding between warlords in the regions....

Fixing the Kabul-Kandahar road, one of the main arteries of the country, has been a priority of the Karzai government. It is part of the American-led $180 million plan to repair main roads and provide hundreds of jobs. Yet now, in the second year of reconstruction, there is no sign of any work being done all along this 300 miles of ruts and holes...

"I don't feel comfortable watching us start on another war when this remains unfinished," one soldier at Bagram said recently, insisting on anonymity. "It would have been better if we could have moved into [reconstruction] before they started in Iraq."

Friday, April 25, 2003

Is Gingrich Really An Idiot?  

Thanks to The Horse, we learn that in Lisbon a top US State department official called Gingrich an "idiot". Hmmm...Is that really accurate?


1. A foolish or stupid person.
2. A person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below three years and generally being unable to learn connected speech or guard against common dangers.
Sounds awfully close to the right word, if you ask me, but the part about not being able to learn connected speech, that sounds more like the fellow who asked, "Is our children learning?"

Let's try


1. A stupid person; a dolt.
2. Psychology. A person of mild mental retardation having a mental age of from 7 to 12 years and generally having communication and social skills enabling some degree of academic or vocational education.
Y'know, I think that's more like the Newt we've come to know, actually. Didn't he teach something resembling history at some point?

Yes, I'd say he's a moron, definitely. I'll have to write the State Department and correct them.

A Very Serious Admission  

I am a little freaked out as I finish the polishing and formatting here. I hope that I'm simply a little overwrought at the end of a bad week. But this is very scary, I think. Atrios linked to the article excerpted below in which the Administration starts to come clean on the question: Why did Bush go to war in Iraq? Simply to teach a lesson, according to this article from abc news.

There's a term that describes the action of a nation that deliberately invades another nation when it knows it was not a threat, had no capability of being a threat, and could not possibly be a threat. I think we all know what the term is. And the Bush administration has just admitted that that was what they did in Iraq. This is an extremely serious admission.

Let's go through the article.

Privately, Bush administration officials admitted they emphasized the alleged wmd threat primarily to get legal authorization (which, of course, they never actually got, as 1441 was deliberately left ambiguous as to "serious consequences").
"We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."
No? You weren't lying? But you are coming perilously close to admitting that you knew that the wmd's were destroyed before the invasion. That's called lying:
Officials now say they may not find hundreds of tons of mustard and nerve agents and maybe not thousands of liters of anthrax and other toxins. But U.S. forces will find some, they say. On Thursday, President Bush raised the possibility for the first time that any such Iraqi weapons were destroyed before or during the war.
So the weapons were destroyed before the war, maybe? If so, there's the end of your legal justification. The question is: When did Bush learn they were destroyed? We will never know, for if he knew before the invasion that the weapons were not there, then...Better not say it. I am getting a little creeped out.

Let's go on.
If weapons of mass destruction were not the primary reason for war, what was? Here's the answer officials and advisers gave ABCNEWS.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed everything, including the Bush administration's thinking about the Middle East — and not just Saddam Hussein.
What did September 11, 2001 have to do with Saddam Hussein and Iraq? Not a blessed thing. I'll be repeating this every once in a while because the propaganda is so thick in this article you can cut it. Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the September 11 attacks. It would have made just as much sense to attack Canada. Don't think so? Canada had nothing whatsoever to do with the September 11 attacks and Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the September 11 attacks.
The Bush administration felt that a new start was needed in the Middle East and that Iraq was the place to show that it is democracy — not terrorism — that offers hope.
No. No no. No way. A country is not a laboratory. And we all know the reasons why democracy is very unlikely to happen in Iraq soon. Just yesterday, a general said it was a 25 year timetable.
Beyond that, the Bush administration decided it must flex muscle to show it would fight terrorism, not just here at home and not just in Afghanistan against the Taliban, but in the Middle East, where it was thriving.
Omigod. It's thriving in Chechnya, too. It's thriving in our own Southwest and on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border where there is far more evidence of a connection with an attack on the US. Remember, while Elohim City may have connections to McVeigh and the OKC bombing, Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the September 11 attacks.

And it gets even worse. It's not even because Saddam was so evil or he was causing untold sufferings to his people.
[Iraq was] a prime location, in the heart of the Middle East, between Syria and Iran, two countries the United States wanted to send a message to.

That message: If you collaborate with terrorists, you do so at your own peril.
How could it possibly send such a message? For everyone in the world but the American public knows that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the September 11 attacks.

And if what we read above was so, the Administration admits it was merely because Iraq was in the wrong place, the "heart" of the Middle East.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey said on Nightline this week that although he believed Saddam was a serious threat and had dangerous weapons, going to war to prove a point was wrong.

"I don't think you should go to war to set examples or send messages," Woolsey said
Yes, indeed.

If that was the prime reason, to set an example, it means the war justification had nothing to do with preemption. The administration has all but confirmed it. The war was, as many of us have said all along, a naked exercise of overwhelming power. That is all it was about.

But wait. It gets worse.
But what if Sept. 11 had never happened? Would the United States have gone to war with Iraq? Administration officials and others say no, at least not now.

The Bush administration could probably have lived with the threat of Saddam and might have gone after him eventually if, for example, the Iraqi leader had become more aggressive in pursuing a nuclear program or in sponsoring terrorism.

But again, Sept. 11 changed all that.
No Sept 11? No war. Get it? Since they are again spouting raw propaganda, let's say it again! Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with the September 11 attacks and again, the administration is admitting there was no justification for invading the country.
One official said that in the end, history and the American people will judge the United States not by whether U.S. officials find canisters of poison gas or vials of some biological agent.

History will judge the United States, the official said, by whether this war marked the beginning of the end for the terrorists who hate America.
Omigod. No. No. If there were no weapons, and they knew it, there was not even a hint of moral justification for invading Iraq. History will judge this harshly. As for the beginning of the end of terrorism? How could they possibly think that a naked display of immoral force against a Muslim country for no reason except to display that force could possibly reduce terrorism?

This war could very well lead to the opposite. The end of the beginning. Of an all out hyper-war between the United States and a 1 billion strong, religiously motivated multi-national people.

Bush not only did something that could be construed as utterly illegal, as if that wasn't bad enough. He fell right into Osama's trap.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one who found this article profoundly disturbing. Here's Kos and he's as furious as I. There are many, many others who noticed its importance.

Santorum's the Dog. Scalia's the Man.  

D’oh! as the kiddies say. Now I get it. This is not about Santorum. This is about Scalia. Some kind of message is being sent and Santorum's just the barker. The question is: what on earth is the message?

Let’s brieflly refresh one’s memory of the latest hoo-hah about the Texas sodomy statute. During the oral arguments before the Supreme Court, Paul Smith, lawyer for the two lovers caught in flagrante delicto says during the argument, "It's conceded by the state of Texas that married couples can't be regulated in their private sexual decisions.” But Scalia responds, "They may have conceded it, but I haven't."

In other words, Scalia is saying he has the right to step across the bedroom door of a married couple and tell them what kind of physical intimacy they have the right to enjoy.

While it is easy for even the most left-brained of minds to start boggling out of control, let’s keep our cool and recognize that this is precisely what Santorum asserts when he objects (don’t you just love this one?) to the “right to privacy lifestyle.” In fact, Santorum’s remarks are, as Ionesco famously puts it, identically similar to Scalia’s. Go ahead, read ‘em both!

The one substantial difference is Santorum’s “man on dog” comparison which, he is prepared to admit, is somewhat worse than same sex sex, but gay sex is still a way station on the lubricious ramp down to all sorts of fascinating eternal torments which needn’t concern us here at present. Since Senator Rick does not strike me as either a particularly bright or imaginative bulb while Scalia - a stupid but wily intellect - strikes me as having a marked propensity for all kinds of perverted thoughts, I wonder if this idea didn’t originally come from the Black-Robed One himself during some idle conversation after mass or during joint family dinners with their 15 children (Scalia 9, Santorum 6, plus a tragic stillborn). Clearly they know each other via their shared Catholicism and their ties to the ultra-creepy, ultra right-wing Opus Dei freaks who have a tremendous affinity for fascist ideology.*

I do think Scalia is behind this nonsense: Santorum knew exactly what he was doing in creating such a stink, as he’s a very careful lad. But what does it mean?

*Santorum’s ties to Opus Dei here. One Scalia tie to Opus Dei (via church proximity to Robert Hansenn, the FBI spy) via this New York Times premium article. Another Scalia tie to Opus Dei, through a former law clerk, now a college professor here. Scalia has been rumored to be a member, as well as his wife and his priest brother. I was able to find no mainstream source to support their membership, however, through basic Googling.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

I Can't Believe It. I Can Still Be Shocked.  

Thank you, Mr. Horse and his correspondents for calling attention to this atrocity:
Hey MWO gang,

We were watching CNN fn which is CNN international news on our cable system.

At about 8PM tonight 4/21 Candy Crowley did a story on the fundraising efforts of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls. When she named them she said pretty soon we'll need a deck to keep them straight and THEY WERE SHOWN AS A DECK OF CARDS as in the Saddam and Cronies deck.

John Kerry gets reamed for saying "regime change" but our most respected news agency (ha) and their respectable commentator (ha) portrays the men seeking the highest office in the land as part of a terrorist network.

What a whore. She gets our nomination.


Leslie Anderson
Jacob Crabtree

Neiwert on Rush  

David Neiwert, who's made his life's work to call attention to the right wing's machinations, takes off the gloves and pummels into the dirt a recent Rush Limbaugh essay (I will not link to him: you can get to it at David's site if you must),

Go and read the whole thing: it's short and absolutely brilliant.

Crying Wolf: WMD MIA  

Ok, let's get this straight to fend off a possilbe full court press by the Bushites if they are ever found. Before our latest stupidity in March, I was highly skeptical that there were any WMD's in Iraq. But I did not rule it out.

I had attended a seminar over Christmas which was paneled by important people in and out of the government. I stood up asked people like Dick Thornburgh, where is the proof? Just show us the evidence and the tenor of the debate immediately changes.

A pro-war congressman, a nice guy, directed to me to the armed services committee website and some testimony. I made a point of asking him to write it down for follow up and I did look at the site. Of the four or five reports that I read (I can dig around and find the research if anyone's interested), there was only one that moved beyond simply asserting that there are WMD's in Iraq, thus obliging us to take only their good faith it was so. This one report named names, identified places, and labeled the weapons. That the rest would be offered as evidence was, frankly, insulting to the American public.

I concluded after some more research that the nuclear evidence was likely bogus: there simply was no public evidence. Regarding chemo and bio, I concluded that I did not have enough training to evaluate what was mentioned in the one detailed report.

The real issue was, and is, whether the old weapons that were certainly there have deteriorated and whether new ones have been manufactured. It was clear that the Bush administration was not interested in having this discussion. That made me very, very suspicious.

Also brought up at this Christmas seminar was the rumor, then floating around, that some wmd may have been moved into Syria. Yes, as long ago as December, 2002 this idea was floated. The panelists were cagey, refusing point blank to confirm or deny.

It sounded at the time to me like a rather artless attempt to cya in case nothing got discovered by Hans Blix.

While it could be true, it still sounds that way. The absence of evidence to date of wmd's in Iraq, and Syria's denials, does not mean that they won't be found. But the Bush administration, which has lied and lied and lied, simply cannot be trusted. They are crying wolf.

There just may be a wolf this time. Who can possibly say given what's in the public domain? But whatever ultimately is or is not found does not alter the fundamental truth that the Bush government lies, hides, covers up, and dissembles at every possible opportunity.

In other words, if WMD's are found, that is no reason to believe anything else the Bushites say. And of course, if nothing is found, there is no reason to believe anything else the Bushites say.

The only thing to believe is direct, hard, verifiable, verified and public proof of any and all of this government's increasingly baroque claims.

More on Delgaudio  

Joe Conason gives us some more info about Mr. Delgaudio's friends, which include, as one would expect, sanctimonious ministers, GOP operatives and the like, including direct market maven Richard Viguerie.

It's truly a pity, isn't it? If it weren't for Bill Clinton, who set such a bad example for the nation, Delgaudio would never have strayed.

Hypocrisy's Too Kind a Word  

Fund-raiser for GOP pleads guilty in case of child pornography
Link via Atrios.

To say the least, this guy is one despicable character. He is the co-author of China Doll - Clinton, Gore and the Selling of the U.S. Presidency and here is his bio from Amazon:
Richard A. Delgaudio, the U.S. Intelligence Council's chairman, is president of the National Security Center and the Legal Affairs Council. A prolific writer, he is the author of the best selling "Peril in Panama" and the forthcoming book, "Still a Just Cause". Richard has presented testimony to Congress on the threat of Communist Chinese interests in the Panama Canal to U.S. national security.
In addition, he funded Oliver North's defense campaign. He participated in fundraisers for a cop who beat Rodney King, which used Ed Meese as a draw. That's right. The same Ed Meese who was Reagan's AG and a prime member of the lunatic right wing religious group called The Fellowship which is currently housing 6 members of Congress.

What did he do? He took dirty pix of a 16 year old girl, including pictures of him having sex with her. A similar case against him was thrown out because evidence was illegally collected.

This is one of those stories that would be hilariously ironic - the hypocrisy of it all, etc - until you realize that real people have been really hurt. Let's leave the victims alone and focus on the pedophile.

What is the "U.S. Intelligence Council?" A quick google does not reveal a website. But the group was part of CPAC (Conservative Politcal Action conference) and an online review of one of their pubs says "Don't be fooled into thinking the U. S. Intelligence Council is a government agency. I'd call them a conservative think tank, but I don't want to cast aspersions on conservatives, nor am I terribly sure much thought goes into their output. " Delgaudio was the chairman.

What is the "National Security Center?" A lunatic right group obsessed with proving that "Red China" has taken over the Panama Canal. Their website has been reduced to a google cache. None of the links that I tried work. Delgaudio was president.

What is the "Legal Affairs Council?" Their cached website says they raised funds for Casper Weinberger, Clair George, Elliott Abrams, Lyn Nofziger and, of course, Oliver North. Delgaudio was president.

Apparently, the image available via google is being overwhelmed. But don't worry. This guy's mug will appear here.

It would be extremely interesting, if someone wants to take the trouble, to trace his social network. He has a lot of very influential friends in the current administration. Elliott Abrams, for one, works in the White House.

The Case of Isabella V.  

Via Sean-Paul Kelley at The Agonist, I learned of Isabella V.'s blog. I can't claim too many skills in this world, but I do know great writing when I read it., Without a doubt, Isabella V. is the most eloquent writer I've encountered in the blogosphere. Her writing would stand out anywhere; eventually, whatever happens and whomever she is, we'll be reading her work in the finest aboveground magazines. And she'll be writing terrific books.

The tale she weaves is so unbelievable that I, for one, am inclined to believe it. Isabella is a wealthy young woman - twenties, maybe early thirties - from a highly distinguished American family. If I understand it correctly, she was being forced, for financial reasons, into a marriage that she didn't want. Things came to a head. She systematically emptied her bank accounts and in March fled the US, travelling under a variety of assumed identities. She is being aided by some very intelligent friends and advisers, who have taught her the dark arts of Linux, blogging, and even pgp. Her blog is her account of her travels.

There are the usual questions about a story like this. It's just too reminiscent of The Talented Mr. Ripley, of The Fugitive, even early Hitchcock, to accept without a huge grain of salt. Bloggers as well as the mainstream press are still divided as to whether Salam Pax, the author of Where is Raed ? was real or an elaborate hoax. But there is a verifiable story that is similar to hers, of a talented and famous young heiress involved in a lawsuit with her parents, that served as the inspiration for Isabella V.'s flight. Or, if you prefer, her novel in the form of a blog.

Regardless, her blog is filled with wonderfully envisioned set pieces. Here's a brief sample of something she tossed off while sitting on a plane, a bit edited by me.
A week after Darcy Hall died my mother burst in on me while I was practicing my little shower ritual. Darcy Hall, my classmate, was in the princess set- long blonde hair she was always brushing with this transparent red, plastic handled brush, a rotating collection of accessories- and I suppose that made her somewhat inconsequential to me except perhaps as a curiosity. That is until one fall evening, just before midnigh, Chad Kiley's silver BMW slipped off the road and slammed broadside into a tree. Even in a BMW there isn't room enough for both an ancient oak and a high school freshman and the resulting conflict killed Darcy but, in typical traffic accident irony, left Chad completely untouched except for a strange wound on his forehead that defied biokinetic explanation. When it finally healed and scarred over it looked very much like a small white arrow anchored just above his right eyebrow and pointing diagonally down directly to Chad's left pupil as if to say "Use this next time, idiot," whenever Chad looked at himself in the bathroom mirror in the morning or perhaps as a warning to anyone else who might catch his eye. Fate has an amusingly brutal sense of humor- unless you are the butt of her jokes.
Now, it's true that any writer who spends enough time writing and rewriting a scene like this can come up with something as grotesquely funny and controlled. But this was a first draft (I took out one clause about fog and mist that seemed too melodramatic for my taste). How can I be sure? Here's Isabella in her comments responding to someone who has just posted a snide, cliched remark about lawyers:
The professional advisors (including- perhaps even particularly- lawyers) I have encountered since flight have been the most helpful, understanding and sage people I have ever met. I know that calling them "lawyers" tends to classify them into a non-human species and suggests that we should limit our encounters with them to those where plexiglass separates us, but painting the profession with the broad brush that you do is to do a disservice.

As for me, I wish I could claim to have some larger purpose, some societal impact in mind. I do not. Right now I'm scared out of my wits...
Only a naturally talented writer can improvise sentences and, more importantly, rhythms like this. You can teach the grammar and absorb the "high art" style Isabella practices, but the knack of conceiving of a witty rhetorical "melody", and filling it in with no conscious thought - that can't be taught.

Now, it's possible that the whole thing, including the comments, is all an incredibly elaborate hoax, either by a professional writer who wrote the whole thing up, polished it, and is now posting it in short bursts, with a few au courant details for versimilitude. It even crossed my mind that the entire website might be some internet pr stunt to pre-hype a movie, the way Blair Witch Project was hyped by a mysterious website.But I doubt it.

Whomever is doing this either has imagination and skill or she has some major life problems similar to the ones she discusses. AND skill.

Woof Woof!  

Originally from Atrios, who really seems to read the entire internet everyday, this link tells us that Santorum believes that JFK was not Catholic, but George W. Bush is. Oh, but that's not all. This was done at a meeting of Opus Dei in Rome.

As mentioned on Atrios' comment board, I'm all in favor of every kind of sex being legal. With one exception.

Sex between Republicans must be banned immediately. Especially heterosexual sex between Republicans, because that could lead to more Republicans.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003


So Senator Santorum has been making a fool of himself. I suppose I should say something about his remarks. It's incumbent upon all of left blogistan to confront him, take the issue of sexual rights firmly in hand and, uh, grapple with them manfully.

It is quite clear that the Senator believes it is the government's right to regulate people's sex lives. And I know just the person to do it!

Senator Santorum says he has, and I'm quoting directly here, "a problem with homosexual acts. "I can't imagine what that problem could be. After all, it's not rocket science. But I'm sure if he carefully follows the directions in this book and just relaxes, all will be fine.

Senator Santorum has problems with "the right to privacy lifestyle." Here's just the group to put a kibosh on that bigtime.

To the best of my knowledge, Senator Santorum is the most prominent member of any administration in history to bring up the truly dangerous and ever spreading phenomenom of man-on-dog sex. Good for him! When there's a principle involved you won't find Senator Santorum barking up the wrong tree.

But ultimately, he understands the right to privacy as a states rights thing and the Supreme Court shouldn't limit states. Just the way they didn't back in Bush v. Gore.

Has it come to this? That anyone would take such moronic comments seriously? But go around the web and read the sober, reasoned discussions about banning this and allowing that and the Bible sez this but it doesn't say that.

No. Uh, uh. I no go there.

Twenty-Five Years...  

is how long it will take for Iraq to stabilize. I wonder why they didn't tell us that beforehand?

Let's make that 25 year figure a little bit more concrete. That means that the mess created by the March '03 adventure will clear itself up when my 6 year-old daughter is thirty-one. No wonder everyone's in a state of shock these days.
As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country.

* * *

As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.

Whoa! Let's stop right there. The Bush administration's "study" of the Shiites was Chalabi? A convicted embezzler who's been out of Iraq since 1956? Now, who would have guessed?
The administration hopes the U.S.-led war in Iraq will lead to a crescent of democracies in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, the Israeli-occupied territories and Saudi Arabia. But it could just as easily spark a renewed fervor for Islamic rule in the crescent, officials said.

"This is a 25-year project," one three-star general officer said.
Who would have guessed going in? Who would have guessed they'd use boxcutters in a suicide plane hijacking? It's beyond anyone's ability to foresee, of course. Of course.
Chalabi's influence, particularly with senior policymakers at the Pentagon, helped play down the prospects for trouble, some officials said. "They really did believe he is a Shiite leader," although he had been out of the country for 45 years, a U.S. official said. "They thought, 'We're set, we've got a Shiite -- check the box here.' "
They couldn't be that stupid, that ignorant you say?

Trust me, they are. And we ain't seen nothing yet.

Krugman At The New School  

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Krugman's talk last night at the New School here in New York.

Krugman, in person, has anti-charisma. He's got piercing eyes that dart out from an oval face that's smeared with an unkempt beard. He stoops a little and speaks in soft but very high tenor. And like most people who live in this area, he talks quickly. No, he's not shrill. He is very confident.

He talked mostly about the lies of the Bush administration but limited his remarks to economic policy. He also noted the profound income gap between the highest 1% of the nation and everyone else. The concentration is extraordinary and grown at a faster rate in this country than anywhere else. He did not many reasons to explain it, nor did he know how to stop it.

He left us with a question. The administration has been thoroughly dishonest in reporting how the tax cuts will affect the average person. He wonders how they get away with it. How can they dare say things that are utterly wrong and not get challenged. He says that the media is uprepared for this kind of tactic which always assumes a basic honesty from political parties that is not being practiced now by Bush. He hopes to alert us so that they will treat what Bush says more skeptically.

In other words Krugman seems to be saying, "Why aren't there more Paul Krugman's today?"

It is a very good question, that no one last night came close to answering, least of all Krugman himself.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Republican Senator With Kinky Sex On His Mind  

Cnn has the skinny on Senator Santorum's nasty remarks:In an interview with The Associated Press, Santorum criticized homosexuality while discussing a pending Supreme Court case over a Texas sodomy law.

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, said in the interview, published Monday.
As one examines these remarks and combines them with John Ashcroft's refusal to stand by a statue of Justice and of a judicial nominee who, when attorney general of Alabama tried to get vibrators banned, one wonders, not for the first time:

Where on earth do they find these people???


Today, he takes on Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, and mocks the latest Bush talking point: 1.4 million jobs. To which the only correct response is... golly.
Of course, there's no reason to take that number seriously. Basically, the job-creation estimate came from the same place where Joseph McCarthy learned that there were 57 card-carrying Communists in the State Department. Still, let's pretend that the Bush administration really thinks that its $726 billion tax-cut plan will create 1.4 million jobs. At what price would those jobs be created?

By price I don't just mean the budget cost; I also mean the cost of sacrificing other potential pro-employment policies on the altar of tax cuts. Once you take those sacrifices into account, it becomes clear that the Bush plan is actually a job-destroying package...

the United States is in effect about to run a W.P.A. program in reverse. That is, as a nation we're about to reduce spending on basic needs like education, health care and infrastructure by at least $100 billion, maybe more. And these spending cuts — the result of the fiscal crisis of the states — amount to a job destruction program bigger than any likely positive effects of the Bush tax cut.

Until recently it has been hard to get people excited about the states' worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. For about two years state governments were able to use fancy financial footwork to put off the full effects, and the public probably regarded warnings about looming catastrophe as exaggerated. But now, as Timothy Egan reported yesterday in The New York Times, states are "withdrawing health care for the poor and mentally ill. They are also dismissing state troopers, closing parks and schools, dropping bus routes, eliminating college scholarships and slashing a host of other services." Not to mention unscrewing every third light bulb in Missouri government offices. (Honest.)
Last night, while going to sleep, I had a vision of the future of America, a country stripped of all vestiges of secular culture, its art museums emptied, its natural history museums closed. The country ignored the weak, leaving them to die, while all citizens, from 18 through 65, wore para-military uniforms, worked all day on "defense" issues, and spent the evening in prayer, which included services about once a week to pray that the president continues to find strength to do a good job.

I woke up with a start, feverish.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Jesus Plus Nothing  

Jeff Sharlet's near-legendary article in Harpers, about the bizarre cult that includes Ed Meese and other Republican luminaries, including current members of Congress is finally available online. Go thou and read it. Very creepy, especially when the leaders begin rapping about the ways Hitler improved on Christ's ministry. Not to be missed.

Talk Left Summarizes Katrina Leung  

Combining the earlier mentioned Atrios article with links on Leung's Republican connections from a "highly-regarded" reader (eh, me, but I dunno how highly regarded I am) in this post. Hopefully, sooner or later the sclm will take notice of this angle.

Iraq: WTF Should Bush Do Now?  

In a post today, Tapped accuses the antiwar folks of agreeing, for once, with the far right:
[Rumors that US may withdraw hastily before establishing democracy in Iraq] will no doubt please those of the erstwhile anti-war protestors who, in recent days, have begun drawing up new posters and signs: not "No War in Iraq," but "U.S. Out of Iraq Now." Who would have thought that a large swath of the anti-war left would find common cause with an element of the pro-war right?
First of all, I really think that liberal bashing is done far better by conservatives, who have had many years of experience.

As for Iraq, what should we do now? I think it is obvious, but it won't happen. The first truly practical step is that Bush must be forced to resign, along with the entire Republican executive branch.

I know, be serious. But seriously, nothing good can hope to come to Iraq until Bush is gone from politics, and everyone around the world knows it. So the question really is, what should a rational US government do now in regards to Iraq?

That's easy. First, turn the whole mess over to the UN to craft an international solution. At the same time, internationalize an Iraq peacekeeping force immediately and yes, Tapped, get the US out of there immediately.

Now what would an international solution look like? I have absolutely no idea: this is such an awful disaster that I'm sure it has experts stumped, let alone ignorant bloggers. What is equally certain is that the geographically challenged Bush administration also has no idea.

There are no good solutions. There aren't even any bad solutions. There are only terrible solutions to post-invasion Iraq and catastrophically terrible solutions. We can be assured that the Bushites will choose the latter, so it is up to the UN to determine the best of the former.

Cynicism Patrol  

I'm very glad to see that Alterman is as skeptical as I am of the latest story about what happened to Iraq's WMD, namely that they were destroyed just before Bush invaded. How amazing! Could it be true? Well, technically yes. Is it likely to be true? Hahahahahahahahaha!

UPDATE: The Daily Howler talks about this and makes the important point that we honestly don't know whether Saddam had wmd, so let's not set ourselves up for a fall. Otoh, the story above is ridiculous.

New York Should Do The Same  

Tom Tomorrow refers us to this article in the Washington Post about a town in California that has made compliance with the Patriot Act illegal. Damn good idea.

Atrios on Katrina Leung  

Atrios writing in NY Press has summarized the Katrina Leung story in a fashion similar to mine, but does not draw a hint of conclusions about FBI involvement in Clinton smear campaigns, which I do. He also adds one troubling speculation: she, and James J. Smith, her handler and reputed lover, may have been news sources.
The truth is that Leung is a well-known Republican party activist and fundraiser. If any Gore-related investigations were compromised by her involvement with former FBI agent Smith, it is likely that any disinformation she provided was designed to hurt, and not to help, him.

* * *

...any reporters who may have used either of them as a source may consider whether that slanted their coverage and they should make an effort to correct the public record where appropriate. Columnist Robert Novak admitted that convicted spy Robert Hanssen was a primary source for some information he had used and other journalists should follow this example and provide an accurate accounting of their contacts where appropriate.
I certainly hope that the mainstream media eventually picks up on the real scandal in the story: the relationship between the campaign finance investigations of Democrats during the Clinton years and the FBI's possible involvement in Republican campaign financing at the same time.

Syria's Next? No Way!!  

It's Canada!

Iraq Goes the Way of Afghanistan  

Josh Marshall alerts us to this Washington Post article which signals a possible change of heart at the top of the Bush administration regarding committment to the rebuilding of Iraq.
"America has made and kept this kind of commitment before in the peace that followed a world war," Bush said. "After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies. We left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom."

But the occupation of Germany lasted four years, and the occupation of Japan lasted seven. And the United States still maintains more than 110,000 troops in those two countries. Defense Department officials and some key White House officials now worry that the State Department's 360-day reconstruction goals would take far longer than a year and could sink the military into an open-ended deployment that would stretch on for years, if not decades.

So the debate continues over how many of those goals the United States can afford. Setting the bar low, a senior administration official said last week, "The president's goal is to leave Iraq on the road to prosperity and security and democracy -- or at least give them a fighting chance of it."

* * *

A study by the Council on Foreign Relations concluded that the United States would need to keep 75,000 troops in Iraq to maintain enough stability for reconstruction and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. That figure is the minimum proposed by the Congressional Budget Office, based on peacekeeping experiences in Bosnia and Kosovo.

"This is going to be a very tricky course that we are on," said James R. Schlesinger, a former defense secretary and co-author of the study. " . . . Many people who have the right vision about what should be accomplished do not, as of now, recognize how much of a commitment in time as well as money this is going to require."

Iraq experts warned that the administration could not count on Iraqi oil to foot the bill.

* * *

One senior defense official questioned whether 75,000 troops would be needed even in the near future, saying the U.S. military force that deposed Hussein's government was not much larger. [HUH? I thought there were 250,000 or 300,000 troops there.]

* * *

...where the United States has committed troops and assistance over long periods -- Germany, Japan and Korea -- the efforts have been spectacularly successful. Where administrations have rushed out after military engagements, such as in Haiti and Somalia, the results have been dismal. Afghanistan, where the administration has resisted pressure to expand peacekeeping beyond the capital, is shaping up to be a failure as well, many experts say.

"We've done these things quickly, and we've done them well," Dobbins said, "but we've never done them quickly and well."
I recall, back in December, I was lucky enough to attend a retreat where some of the policy makers on Iraq were in attendance and they presented a truly marvelous seminar. Among other things, we, the audience, hounded them on the rebuilding of the country and got only two answers that weren't evasions.

In a voice that could only be described as dripping with contempt for us fools, a congressman said, "Please, please, this is too obvious to bear scrutiny. Don't you think that people have studied these issues for years? Don't you realize that long treatises have been written about reconstruction?" The audience laughed at his tone and also perhaps at its own naivete. Afterwards, I realized that we should have responded that the question is being asked because everyone in Washington is behaving as if they are unaware of these earlier studies.

The other issue addressed directly was how to pay for the reconstruction. The same congressman, after repeated requests, responded that the plan was to have Iraq pay for its reconstruction from oil revenues. There was a moment of silence. I was stunned. It was such a breathtakingly stupid idea, I truly lost my breath. I suspect the rest of the audience may have felt something along the same continuum. But since I was not hep to the condition of the Iraqi oil industry, there was no way to question this at the time.

I came away from the panel delighted for the opportunity to hear these folks and learned a lot about them as personalities. And I came away from the panel profoundly worried. They clearly had no interest in thinking through the long term consequences.

Unfortunately, those of us who thought so back then were not wrong.

Perle And Woolsey Leave Planet Earth To Losers  

Via Liberal Oasis comes proof positive that neo-conservatives are merely ex-hippies who took too much LSD during a formative period and had their reality-testing permanently impaired:
Perle said on FTN [Face the Nation]:

…If we want, as I believe we must, democratic rule in Iraq, then we will have to accept the consequences of freely chosen leaders by the Iraqis…

…they are unlikely to choose another source of oppression, which the theocracies, unfortunately, of the Muslim world are, in fact…

…given a choice, the Iraqis, after a quarter of a century of brutal oppression, will opt for freedom, for pluralism, for something that represents the interests of all Iraqis, not just one group.

Woolsey, a Lieberman donor by the way, told us on NBC’s Meet The Press not to worry about those crazy fundamentalists getting in the way:

Those [Shiite clerics] who say [radical] things…tend to be the ones who are allied with the mullahs in Tehran, who are theocrats and terrorists…

But that is not the history of most of the Shia tradition…The Shiites have quite frequently, normally, kept the mosque separate from the state.

So we need to work with the Shia majority in Iraq and help them bring about a state where everyone can live in freedom and democracy…

Kissinger On The CBC  

According to a friend up in Canada, Kissinger was a little surprised this morning during an interview at an unexpected question:
[Kissinger] was being interviewed this morning on CBC radio and the discussion was about the alliance, the UN, Nato, etc., and the subject of the international criminal court came up. The woman conducting the interview asked him if he might be eligible to be tried for war crimes. He seemed stunned and said "what?" She repeated the question. He answered a different question and then walked out on the rest of the interview.
Honestly, some people take these things a little more personally than they should. It's not an unreasonable question, after all.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Sunday Times Editorial/Op-Ed Round-Up  

Here's one of those editorials from The New York Times that would have been useful 2 years ago when it wasn't so obvious. Weren't they paying attention back then?
Conservatives once viewed deficits as the height of bad fiscal policy. Now, they embrace them. There is no danger that a government swimming in red ink will come up with new programs to protect the environment, to extend health care for the poor or provide affordable housing to the homeless. No matter how much the president says he wants to improve education, the deficit is an all-purpose excuse to avoid helping public school districts overcome crippling cuts imposed by local governments that are teetering on insolvency.

* * *

The nation learned shortly after Mr. Bush's inauguration that he was not going to govern from the center, as many had assumed given the election results. Instead, he has permitted his far-right base to take over vast swaths of domestic policy making. What the public has not noticed is how far that effort has already succeeded.
Oh? I certainly have. Everyone I know has. Don't project the cluelessness of your editorial board onto an apparently far cannier public.
The president makes a good political general. One of his canniest strategies has been to raise the bar so high that even the smallest of compromises seems like moderation...Somehow, a budget with $350 billion in tax cuts — at a time of war and enormous government deficits — has come to be seen as a great victory for the president's opponents. With defeats like this, Mr. Bush never needs to win.
Meanwhile, MoDo continues to redeem herself for her head-in-her-crotch punditry during the Clinton years.
The Pentagon, a k a the International Trust for Historic Preservation, has once more shown the world its deep cultural sensitivity.

* * *

When Muslim groups complained that the Pentagon was "endorsing" his attacks on Islam, Mr. Graham asked for a photo op with Muslim Pentagon employees. They declined.

Muslims suspicious that America is on a crusade against Islam were inflamed to learn that Mr. Graham is taking his missionary act to Iraq. They are still scorched by his remarks to NBC News after 9/11: "It wasn't Methodists flying into those buildings, and it wasn't Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith."

He wrote in his last book that Christianity and Islam were "as different as lightness and darkness," and recently told the Sunday Times of London, "The true God is the God of the Bible, not the Koran."

* * *

Treating Operation Iraqi Freedom as a lucky break for Jesus, Mr. Graham told the religious Web site Beliefnet: "We are there to reach out to love them and to save them, and as a Christian I do this in the name of Jesus Christ."

* * *

Back here, the neo-cons and war planners were too busy gloating to worry about the ambient sound of civilizations clashing.

* * *

Instead of hectoring those who expressed any doubt about the difficulty of occupying Iraq, the conservatives should worry about their own self-parody: pandering to the base by blessing evangelical Christians who want to proselytize Muslims; protecting their interests by backing a shady expat puppet; pleasing their contributors by pre-emptively awarding rebuilding contracts to Halliburton and Bechtel; and swaggering like Goths as Iraq's cultural heritage goes up in flames.
And once again, I fail to understand why Thomas Friedman has a job [UPDATE: btw, I'm not alone. The Daily Kos thinks Friedman insane.]. Read this carefully. A few weeks ago, he was talking about lemonade and lemons. Now, he's talking about bubbles.
The stock market bubble we're all too familiar with. When it burst three years ago, millions of people all over the world were made more sober investors. The second bubble was the corporate governance bubble — a buildup of ethical lapses by management that burst with Enron and Arthur Andersen, producing a revolution in boardroom practices.

But there was a third bubble that had built up over the 1990's — the terrorism bubble. It started with the suicide bombings against U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, was followed by attacks on the U.S. Embassies in East Africa and on the U.S.S. Cole, then ballooned with the rise of Palestinian suicide terrorism in Israel and finally peaked with Al Qaeda's attack of 9/11.

Like the stock market and corporate bubbles, the terrorism bubble was the product of a kind of temporary insanity, in which basic norms were ignored and excessive behavior was justified by new theories. In the case of the terrorism bubble, we were told that suicide bombing was the work of desperate people who had no other way to get America's or Israel's attention.
This is total nonsense. There was no ethics bubble and nothing resembling a revolution in boardroom practices. If there was, Halliburton and Bechtel would not be the beneficiary of juicy Iraqi contracts.

As for the terrorism bubble, let's completely forget that the first two are specifically American bubbles and his parallel rhetorical structure breaks down with the expansion to international bubbles. Let's focus on this: who says the terrorism bubble has been popped? If anything, I see nothing but the opportunity for more, not less, terrorism, and more screw justifications. Terrorism was not temporary insanity; it is, alas, an insanity all too familiar not only to the middle east and south asia but also to right wing militias here and other international groups as in Chechnya.

As for bubbles, how about the war bubble? There is no reason to assume that that one's been popped. Just the opposite.
Yes, this Iraq war was about Saddam. For George Bush and Tony Blair, though, I think it was about something larger, but unstated. They were implicitly saying: "This terrorism bubble has come to threaten open societies and all they value. So, we're going to use Iraq — because we can — to demonstrate to you that we'll come right into the heart of your world to burst this bubble.
Tom, please, fact check what you write. There is still no public evidence that Saddam was in any way involved with terrorism against the US. As for the locus of terrorism, there is obviously no "heart". The Saudis fund it and Bush doesn't dare touch them. The implementation is now scattered around the world, in Eastern Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Yemen, the Phillipines, Indonesia, and so on.

Friedman is right about one thing. The US has overreacted and/or behaved incompetently regarding terrorism. I suspect that, among other things, that while they are certainly very dangerous, their capabilities are being exaggerated. What I've read both in The Age of Sacred Terror and in a recent Foreign Policy article tends to confirm this.

Letter From Senator Chuck Schumer Regarding Estrada  

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to the nomination
of Miguel Estrada to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. I
share your concerns.

As you may know, I voted against Miguel Estrada when the Senate Judiciary
Committee reviewed his record. I was particularly troubled by Mr.
Estrada's repeated refusal to provide any insight into his views on the
law or the Constitution. I believe that judicial nominees who aspire to
interpret the Constitution on the Federal bench should embrace and fully
participate in the entire process, including review by the Senate. Any
American interviewing for a job is expected to fully answer the questions
posed to them so that their potential employer can get to know them. If
the person interviewing does not answer the questions, they will not be
hired. The same idea applies to the judicial nomination process–a nominee
is expected to fully respond to questions asked by their interviewers–the
Senate Judiciary Committee.

I am disturbed by nominees who seek lifetime appointments to powerful
posts, yet deliberately evade legitimate questions asked of them by
Senators. The Senate has an obligation to the Constitution and the
American people to take the 'advice and consent' clause seriously. That
means insisting that we get answers to appropriate questions. We cannot
disregard our Constitutional duties and reflexively confirm nominees who
thwart the process by refusing to answer even the most basic questions
about their views on settled Supreme Court law. Senate confirmation
should be more than a mere rubberstamp.

I assure you that I will continue to work diligently to review
Mr. Estrada's nomination and judge his judicial capabilities by my three
standards: excellence, moderation, and diversity. By excellence, I mean
legal excellence–they should be among the best the bar has to offer.
Moderation means that there should be balance on the bench and that,
ideally judges should not be too far left or too far right. Finally,
diversity should be properly accounted for in the nomination process.

James J. Smith and Katrina Leung: More Info  

In todya'sWashington Post, there's more information about the Katrina Leung case, especially her handler and presumed lover, James J. Smith.

As usual the article focuses on the sex and misses the truly scandalous points: that both Smith and Leung were directly involved with attempts to link Clinton and Gore with inappropriate/illegal Chinese influence and money, but also that Smith was one of the chief interrogators in the Chi Com voting "scandal", another Clinton-era Republican-led investigation that went nowhere but tainted Clinton's reputation.

To its credit, the article does mention Johnny Chung, mentions the Republican connection, but buries all this halfway through and beyond a long article.

It should be front and center.

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