Saturday, November 29, 2003

The Economist On Bush's Thanksgiving Medicare Turkey  

Like the hapless Mr. Memory in Hitchcock's 39 Steps , The Economist often feels compelled to blurt out the truth when it sees it even when it's not in its own best interests. Nevertheless, this article, which eviscerates the Medicare bill is exceptionally critical of Bush for them, even if they prefaced it with many paragraphs of praise for his political skill:
[T]urkeys, no less than slimmer poultry, eventually come home to roost. The full economic disaster of this one will probably not be apparent until after next year's election, since most of it will not come into effect until 2006. But people may begin to do the numbers before then. Whenever they do, it could be painful. For this hotchpotch of compromises provides neither a sensible drug benefit nor any real reform of the Medicare programme.

From the old folks' perspective, the bill does not mean (as many believe) that Uncle Sam will now pick up the tab for all their prescriptions. The $400 billion that the bill promises is only a fraction of the amount that America's old will spend on drugs over the next decade. Besides, not all that money will go towards pill-buying. More than $100 billion will go on subsidies to employers, doctors and private providers of health plans.

Retired people will have to pay a premium of around $35 a month. The coverage will kick in only after grandma has spent $250, and even then there will be a 25% co-payment, up to a total drug cost of $2,250. Between $2,250 and $3,600 there is no coverage. Only after grandma's bills top $3,600 does the government step in again. This “doughnut” benefit (with a large hole in the middle) could well be enormously unpopular. Although poorer old people (whose premiums will be subsidised) and those with exorbitant drug bills will be better off, not everyone will.

In fact, some old people may be worse off, especially if their former employers use this Medicare expansion as an excuse to stop providing them with drug coverage. The Medicare bill envisages spending over $80 billion to bribe these firms not to do that. But the Congressional Budget Office ( CBO ) reckons that 2.7m retired people may lose their employer-provided drug coverage despite the subsidies. As Steve Moore of the Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group that opposes the bill, puts it, the Medicare issue could become a “hand grenade that explodes in the Republicans' lap”...

The Economist On Bush'  

More On Metaphysics and Matt  

Kevin Drum also talks about Matt's post on the war and aftermath . It enabled me to refine and compress my original arguments into more manageable form.

Even if Bush was Roosevelt and Franks was Eisenhower, it wouldn't have gone much better. Well...actually, there would have been one major difference.

They would have known better than to have approved an invasion of Iraq in the first place.

The incompetence was not the handling of the aftermath, but the entire screwy scheme.

Given that Bush chose the absolute worst possible course to address the problem of Iraq - namely, preemptive, all-but-unilateral war - why should it surprise anyone that they didn't plan for the "aftermath"?

After all, the same folks who said it would be a cakewalk are the same people who said war was a good idea in the first place.

Everyone's for peace, freedom, and liberty for the Iraqis. But no one who is even halfway familiar with the history of democracy and military interventions had any illusions that Iraq would be anything other than a quagmire after an invasion. See, for example, here.

The basic premise upon which the neocons sold their case - that democracy can be coerced via American military invasion and occupation of a country of which the invaders are quite ignorant - is contradicted not only by commonsense but by the evidence of failed past attempts as well.

That liberal hawks bought/buy the notion that Iraq could turn out differently is, well, very disconcerting.

Digby has also taken the trouble to collect some old posts and comments. He is, as always, spot on.

Bush 2004 Is Revved Up  

Time to get going, folks
Bush's campaign Web site already has signed up 6 million supporters, 10 times the number that Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has, and the Bush operation is in the middle of an unprecedented drive to register 3 million new Republican voters. The campaign has set county vote targets in some states and has begun training thousands of volunteers who will recruit an army of door-to-door canvassers for the final days of the election next November.

The entire project, which includes complementary efforts by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican parties, is designed to tip the balance in a dozen-and-a-half states that both sides believe will determine the winner in 2004.

"I've never seen grass roots like this," said a veteran GOP operative in one of the battleground states. ...
And let's check on some details of what they are doing:
In Ohio, for example, more than 70 elected officials and volunteer workers dial into a conference call every other Wednesday at 7 p.m. to report on their efforts to recruit leaders and voters, and to hear updates from Bush's campaign headquarters in Arlington. Roll is called, which initially surprised participants used to less regimented political operations.
And there's this:
The Bush campaign not only has started early, but also has set deadlines for developing its organization. In Ohio, there is a Dec. 1 deadline for recruiting county chairmen in the state's 88 counties. In Florida, the first three of a dozen planned training sessions have been held, and two campaign staffers are working out of an office in Tallahassee; county offices -- complete with plenty of lines for phone banks -- are scheduled to open shortly after Jan. 1.

In Iowa, the campaign's state chairman, David M. Roederer, said volunteers have been identified in all 99 counties, and they are working to expand their rosters down to the precinct level.
And person to person contacts:
Thus, the Bush team is trying to build an army of millions of volunteers to go door-to-door next year to talk to potential voters. Officials have concluded that old-fashioned literature drops should be replaced by in-person contact with voters whenever possible, and they are trying to change old habits among veteran GOP workers in the states.
And voter registration is key:
The Bush campaign is focused now on building its state organizations, while the national committee is working on a variety of organizing efforts, including voter registration. Registration is important because, at a time when Bush enjoys about 90 percent support from self-identified Republicans, GOP officials believe there is no surer way of producing votes than getting more people registered with the party. The party is registering voters at NASCAR events and naturalization ceremonies, on college campuses and in targeted precincts.

The RNC has set state-by-state goals for registering voters, based on a formula that attempts to determine Bush's maximum potential vote percentage, all with an eye toward turning states that he narrowly lost or won in 2000 into winners next year. ..

Republicans are using several techniques to reach and register voters. In New Hampshire, new homebuyers receive a postcard from the state GOP welcoming them to their neighborhood, explaining the party's historic opposition to higher taxes and urging them to register as Republicans. Party officials follow up with phone calls, often from volunteers in the same community, and next spring will begin going door to door.

In Arkansas, RNC officials recently hosted a breakfast for nearly 100 ministers, outlining ways they can assist parishioners in registering. Party officials plan to follow up by identifying volunteer coordinators in the churches to oversee those efforts.

In Illinois, Republicans have hired field operatives who will concentrate their efforts -- by telephone and sometimes face-to-face -- to identify and register likely GOP voters. ..

In Oregon, which Bush lost to Al Gore by about 7,000 votes in 2000, the national committee's goal is to register 45,000 GOP voters by next year, enough to provide a cushion in a close election.
Questions, anyone?

seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Metaphysics, Deux Ex Machina, And Matt Yglesias  

UPDATE: This post is critical of Matt Yglesias' reasoning about the Iraq war. I don't mean to rag on Matt personally. He's a smart, bright, and articulate fellow, but the premises upon which he evaluated the Iraq situation pre-war were fundamentally wrong. Likewise, his current thinking about it is, I believe, mistaken.

It's not that the idea was good but the people who implemented it incompetent. It's that the people who thought up the idea to invade Iraq were incompetent as well. And they truly didn't realize that the idea they seized upon, to invade Iraq, was a terrible one.

It's not surprising that incompetent people would believe in a stupid idea. What's utterly shocking is that competent people in the political establishment and the media never expressed serious doubts about it all until it was far too late to stop them.

We begin with some very good news. George Packer's brilliant article in last week's New Yorker, "War After The War," is now available onlne. It has an excellent history of the catastrophic failure of George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and many others to anticipate and plan for the postwar situation in Iraq.

Now, some good news and bad news, which provide the reason for the enigmatic title of this post.

Good news: The Packer article, and similar ones from Sy Hersh and others, have started to shake up the so-called liberal hawks. In the blogosphere, Matt Yglesias writes candidly, and well, about what surely is going through the minds of many more politically connected liberal hawks now that Bush's lack of planning for an aftermath has been thoroughly exposed:
I think it's fair to say that Howard Dean, and many other liberals-but-not-pacifists, who opposed the war allowed their detestation for the Bush administration to blind them to the merits of the arguments in favor of the war. At the same time, those of us who were more open to military action appear to have allowed our appreciation for the merits of the pro-war arguments to blind us to the utterly despicable nature of the Bush administration.

To put this another way, during the pre-war era I took it for granted that the administration understood that creating a mess in Iraq would not serve their political interests. Therefore, I reasoned, they wouldn't be so eager to do this unless they had a good plan for avoiding the mess. I was never so naive as to believe the promises of democracy, but creating something that was neither a mess, nor Saddam Hussein, would still be an improvement. That's what I thought. I was wrong.
Indeed, Matt was completely wrong.

But even with his admission that he misjudged the Bush administration's competence in planning for an aftermath. he is still completely wrong. And that's the bad news.

Matt and the others who were "in favor of war" still don't understand that there never were "merits" to the pro-war position. They still don't realize that it wasn't "detestation for the Bush administration" that fueled our opposition to the war but rather the simple fact that of all the ways to approach the complicated problems in Iraq, the worst possible one was a preemptive unilateral invasion.

Consider Matt's belief that "creating something that was neither a mess, nor Saddam Hussein, would still be an improvement."

Implicitly Matt assumes that Iraq was a tabula rasa upon which the US could, without any deep knowledge of the situation beforehand, create, within a few months, a viable political structure radically different to the one that had prevailed for decades.

That assumption is wrong. It is wrong to assume that the US has the right to create such a structure, and wrong to assume that the US can create such a structure. It is also wrong -wildly, dangerously wrong for everyone - to assume that oppressed, dirt poor societies can turn on a dime and implement a government more sophisticated than a Pol Pot-style poli-cide.

But that's not all. Hidden in Matt's statement is an assumption that is even more fundamentally wrong. Matt assumes that an objective "improvement" is possible to impose - deus ex machina - in a situation as complex as an entire country's politics and social structure. Apparently, he never asked himself, "an improvement for whom?" If he had, he would have realized that even if he believed it was an improvement for some vaguely defined group like "the Iraqi people," he had conveniently ignored the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who were involved with the Baathist party or -since they are a minority - simply non-Baathist Sunnis in Iraq. For them, an invasion would not necessarily be an improvement at all. Likewise, for the victims of the war - not only the dead and the wounded but their relatives and extended social networks - an invasion would be, at best, a mixed blessing.

Finally, Matt apparently never asked himself whether an invasion of Iraq would be an improvement for the United States (let alone, the rest of the world). If he had, he would quickly have dismissed it out of hand. There was, and is, is no pre-war connection between Saddam, 9/11, and al Qaeda yet made public; no one seriously believed or believes now that Saddam had the means to deploy wmd's on the US; and there is no conceivable way that the destruction of Iraq's goverment could lead to an improvement in the security of the United States territory or its interests unless one truly believed the neo-con reverse domino fairy tale, a belief even he admits he never shared.

In short, Matt's mistake is a metaphysical one. He believes that out there somewhere is something called "improvement," something akin to a substance, something that can be objectively measured. It is then up to him and other decent people to discover what that improvement is and implement it.

But there is no such thing or, at best, there are rarely such a thing as objective "improvement." Even something as monumentally great as the collapse of Soviet communism with a minimum of violence led serious people to speculate that the world's problems had been exacerbated by the chaos it would surely cause in the near future, a speculation that, if you lived in Yugoslavia, was all too tragically accurate.

However, the consequences of political actions are not a simplistic exercise in hydraulics -i.e. what improves for some does not necessarily get worse for others. The notion of "improvement" simply doesn't begin to describe the political reality of a situation as complex as the invasion and occupation of a country given, at least, the current world which is so interdependent and volatile.

Nor is it useful as a shorthand. Matt's use of the concept once again points to a basic problem with political discourse in the United States. Part of the problem has to do with the reification of ideas like "improvement" or "good." Part of the problem has to do with the genuinely unhealthy doctrine of America's "manifest destiny," which has warped US relationships with the rest of the world -and its own problems- for over 150 years. And part of of the problem has to do with the fact that most criticisms of both reification and manifest destiny are based upon a misconstrual of postmodernism as the notion that "everything is relative" or that words like "improvement" are totally meaningless.

Matt's small little clause highlights a monumental problem, a fundamental intellectual crisis as the old paradigms, dating all the way back to Plato, no longer describe the awesomely complex problems of an interconnected world, a world far larger and intertwined than any classical philosopher could possibly imagine.

UPDATE: In a second post, Matt apologizes if he offended any people opposed to the war. Well, he certainly didn't offend me, but he missed the point, and still misses the point.

He writes: "If there were an administration around that could have pulled this off in a reasonably effective manner, I think it would be an excellent thing to do." Not in the real world, Matthew.

Even Roosevelt couldn't have pulled it off. Why? Because Roosevelt would know better than to bother trying.

Matt also writes himself into a fallacious excluded middle when he states, "Insofar as I've learned a real lesson from all this, it's that the well-known propensity of the American electorate to pick candidates based on their assessment of their personal qualities rather than scrutinizing their views on the issues has more merit than I (or, I think, most political observers) usually give it credit for. Being dishonest, immoral, and detached from reality isn't part of the essence of being a conservative or generally hawkish, but it is part of the essence of Bushism, and it clearly taints everything the president associates himself with."

In fact, ideas and personality interact.

In Bush's case, from the moment he started pussyfooting around during the campaign to the debates where he focused on zingers instead of confronting the issues, Matt should have been deeply troubled. When he announced that Scalia was his favorite judge and Christ his favorite philosopher, Matt should have become very concerned. After the Florida election, that concern could only have been replaced by alarm. And after Bush's irresponsible neglect of bin Laden and 9/11, anything Bush might do and say needed to be examined with an extremely skeptical eye.

And that eye should have looked at Bush's embrace of the screwiest, most extreme ideas available to conservatives and realized that Bush was an impulsive, frightened man who was intellectually incapable of understanding the consequences of his actions.

Another point about what Matthew says here.

Yes, being dishonest, immoral and detached from reality is part of Bushism, but the essence of Bushism includes conservatism of the sort that esteems the "just lies" of Leo Strauss, that insists on dragging religion into secular politcs and that privileges aristocratic background over merit. (See this book for a good sense of how Bushism developed out of old Texas values.)

Conservatism without Bushism is certainly possible (for example, in Powell's or Lieberman's politics), but conservatism is an essential part of Bushism. Bushism exacerbates the flaws by taking conservatism to extremes, but Bushism is impossible without an American conservative mindset.

UPDATE: With a rare extended post, Atrios weighs in, with a great quote describing General Schwarzkopf's opinion of Dick Cheney.

Atrios, too, puts some credence behind the humanitarian reason to invade, ie, that to do so would save lives. I disagree. The choice was never between doing nothing about Iraq or invading. There were many alternatives to invasion that were far safer and sensible. There may be reasons to support a miltary invasion of a sovereign state for humanitarian reasons but -and this is said with sadness for Saddam's thousands upon thousands of victims - Iraq was never presented primarily as a humanitarian rescue mission, nor was Saddam in imminent danger of committing genocide.

Invasion for humanitarian reasons is an acknowledgement of a profound international failure when everything, but everything else has been done to prevent the slaughter of innocents and yet the slaughter continues. That was not the situation in Iraq.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Thanksgiving News  

By now, everyone knows that our tax dollars were spent on a sequel to Mission Accomplished. But I do need to note two news reports:

1. Another troop died in Iraq in an attack.

2. A top level Iraqi prisoner died in custody. Here's that story:
A former Iraqi general died while under interrogation, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, an air defense general captured Oct. 5 in a raid near the Syrian border, was being questioned Wednesday while in American custody in Qaim near the Syrian border when lost consciousness after complaining he didn't feel well, the military said in a statement.

He was pronounced dead by a U.S. military physician. The cause of death is under investigation, the military said. The statement did not give his age.

Mowhoush, a major general in the Republican Guard's air defense branch, was captured in a raid in Qaim. A U.S. military spokeswoman said at the time that Mowhoush was believed to have been financing attacks on U.S. forces.
So much for any pretense that Bush will obey international law.

via TalkLeft

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Be Your Own Credit Card  

Yeah, But Built-In GPS Would Be Very Nice
An under-the-skin implant that makes credit card payments via radio signals is attracting widespread criticism from technologists, privacy lobbyists and security experts.

Advanced Digital Solutions in Palm Beach, Florida, announced a plan to turn its rice-grain-sized Verichips into a method of payment at ID World 2003 in Paris, France recently. The company's previous proposal to implant GPS systems inside people also prompted scepticism.

But ADS claims its Veripay system, which is based on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, would end the problems of identity theft and make it impossible to lose your credit card.

The injectable chip could also one day store PC and cellphone log-ins, medical information, and wireless car and building entry codes, says ADS's Matthew Cossolotto, who is already "chipped up" with the device.

However, Veripay's opponents say that it has technological limitations, would compromise the wearer's privacy and could be less - not more - secure than a conventional credit card.

A RFID tag is a device that emits a unique identity number when queried by a radio frequency "reader". The signal from the reader both activates and powers the tag. The tags are becoming increasingly popular, particularly with big companies managing their stock.

Thirty Mexican patients were implanted with RFID chips in July 2003, to allow instant access to their medical records and "sub-dermal" tags have been used to track pets and livestock for over 10 years.
I'm sure Mexican patients are delighted to be be lumped with pets and livestock.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Shut Up And Smile  

First, Democrats are not allowed to ask questions.

Now, Reporters are not allowed to ask questions.

This on top of lawyers not being allowed to question clients. And Congress not allowed to question Cheney on his energy meetings. Or anyone about September 11. And so on.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Taliban Recruitment In Pakistan  

They are operating quite openly, it seems:
The Pakistan government's claims apart, independent politicians in Balochistan province said that it would be simply impossible for the Taliban to operate freely on Pakistani soil unless they had some guarantees from the powers-that-be. Says Haji Sardar Lashkari, a former provincial minister in Balochistan: "How is it possible for senior Taliban leaders and the likes of Mullah Dadullah and other most-wanted Taliban remnants to come to Pakistan quite often, convince students at the religious schools openly or even to attend social gatherings like weddings, without the knowledge of the ISI and other secret agencies?"

Lashkari said that without finances, the Taliban couldn't fight. "It is quite obvious that there is someone who is not only financing them, but also encouraging them to fight, but I cannot say whether these agencies are operating on their own or have the blessings of [President] General [Pervez] Musharraf."

Indeed, on a visit to the border areas and Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, one witnesses hundreds of Taliban in their unique black robes, black turbans and long beards. They reside in mosques, madrassas and in nearby villages or refugee camps, seemingly with the full support of the ruling provincial party and militant groups. In many of the mosques in the surrounding satellite town of Pashtunabad or Nawakili, the clergy openly incite people through mosque loudspeakers and ask them to sign up for jihad.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Quotation of the Day  

"A state that declines to be linked either to a religion or an ideology is the work of centuries, not of a decision by the United Nations or by some imperial authority about to withdraw voluntarily or under compulsion."

Raymond Aron

Admirer Of Hitler Lurches To The Right  

The loathsome piece of human waste California has the misfortune to call Governor is trying to balance the state budget by cutting services for the poor and the weak:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected today to propose $3.8 billion in budget cuts over the next 19 months, including reductions in services to the poor and disabled, as well as in higher education programs.

The cuts, intended to help close a budget shortfall of at least $17 billion through mid-2005, would end art therapy for the developmentally disabled, scale back food stamp eligibility, reduce fees to doctors who treat Medi-Cal patients and eliminate recruitment programs at public universities. A draft was obtained by The Times. ..

"This is not a centrist, bipartisan view of the world," said Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles). "This is a radical right view of the world. And if Gov. Schwarzenegger wants to position himself in the direction of saying he wants bipartisanship, this is not a step in that direction." ...

The cuts affecting the developmentally disabled drew immediate criticism. Schwarzenegger's proposal would save $282 million by eliminating music, art, camping and other nonmedical therapy programs for the roughly 626,000 Californians who have mental or physical impairments that make it difficult to learn, speak or care for themselves. Another cut involves suspending the Lanterman Act, which guarantees myriad services for the developmentally disabled.

Issues involving the developmentally disabled have long been supported by Schwarzenegger, in part because his mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, helped found the Special Olympics program for the mentally retarded.

Another reduction would save $385 million by cutting cleaning, transportation and other in-home services that the state provides to the elderly, blind and disabled to help keep them out of nursing homes. Advocates for the poor say it would result in 74,200 people losing their care...

[Additional highlits from the services and budget cuts:]

Saving $630 million by repealing a new law to allow a family to get food stamps even if it owns a car valued at more than $4,650.

•  Effectively borrowing $475 million from local governments and paying it back by mid-2007. The money would be carved out of the payments Schwarzenegger promised to make to cities and counties in lieu of the car tax money they had been receiving.

•  Moving $800 million — some of it temporarily, some of it permanently — from the transportation budget to help pay down the deficit.

•  Saving $376 million by cutting financial assistance for foster children when they make a transition into educational or training programs.

•  Saving $19 million by suspending tax breaks for people who agree to permanently preserve their land.

Bravo, David Neiwert  

Dave publishes an eloquent post on his political evolution away from conservatism. It's long but utterly compelling and gripping. Please read it all.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Whistling In The Gloom?  

I had some more thoughts about General Franks' bizarre remarks.

I guess I should take the possibility of a second, and far more catastrophic WMD attack a lot more seriously than I do (A second attack? you ask. What was the first? Don't tell me you forgot the anthrax attacks. I haven't). And yes it's probably true that one of the 4 planes on 9/11 was intended to knock out the Capitol Building. But I can't take it that seriously and here's why.

During Clinton, our intelligence services were totally incompetent and run by fools. Nevertheless, the millenium plot was averted. During the first nine months of Bush, the intelligence services remained incompetent, but because Bush was obsessing over Star Wars redux, they were also asleep at the switch. They stopped paying attention to al Qaeda and neglected to connect the dots until my town was attacked and about 3,000 of my neighbors killed.

Today, the intelligence agencies are still totally incompetent, and they're run by the same morons who were snoozing in 2001. But at least they're paying attention again. And that means that any major al Qaeda attacks stand a very good chance of getting thwarted. (It's only a matter of time, however, before major US cities start experiencing car bombs and the like.)

Furthermore, in the unlikely event that another wmd attack is actually successful*, neither the attack itself nor the aftermath will unfold in such fashion that will make the scrapping of the Constitution inevitable. Instead, it will happen in a way unimaginable, in a place unimaginable, with consequences unimaginable.

History is not predetermined and will not unfold the way generals think it will when they ruminate in their armchairs enjoying their brandies and cigars.

*I realize that most people think large-scale wmd attacks by terrorists are inevitable. I am not so certain that it is, given the present level of expertise. I am not alone in thinking this:
The black market WMD supply “is a threat that should not be ignored, but it is not a major threat,” said Ilan Mizrahi, former deputy director of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service.

He said further that there are no significant signs of governments providing terrorists with chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapon materials.

“There is no hard evidence to suggest that states supply WMD to terrorist organizations,” he said.

Of all terrorist groups, al-Qaeda poses the greatest WMD threat, Mizrahi said.

That group already has the know-how and production capability to manufacture chemical and biological weapons from materials obtained within a targeted country, he said, and while interested in nuclear or radiological weapons, al-Qaeda would have difficulty acquiring, handling and smuggling them.
Of course, with the Bush administration doing almost everything conceivable to radicalize more Islamists and get them angry at the US, al Qaeda may acquire the needed expertise, but this would take a more highly intelligent and educated membership than those at present.

Krugman Takes On Brooks  

Before I attained satori via the simple expedient of never, ever, reading a David Brooks column, I had the misfortune to encounter one where he takes on liberals for being "uncivil." Today, his fellow columnist, Dr. Paul Krugman,responds:
I'm all for good manners, but this isn't a dinner party. The opposing sides in our national debate are far apart on fundamental issues, from fiscal and environmental policies to national security and civil liberties. It's the duty of pundits and politicians to make those differences clear, not to play them down for fear that someone will be offended.
Yes, indeed.

Franks Being Frank  

Matthew Yglesias thinks Juan Cole hits the panic button over General Franks' remarks that the US would move towards a military-style government in the wake of a WMD attack on the west.

Matthew has it totally backwards. It's Franks who hit the panic button.

Think about it. An American general - not, mind you, a Baathist stooge, or a North Korean loony tune, but an American general - believes that a military dictatorship is the inevitable future for his country.

That's right: an officer in the American military (albeit retired) has so little love or respect for his land that he believes that its founding principles and its present form of government are a mere historical anomaly, a pathetic indulgence before the country got serious about protecting itself.

In any event, of all the reasons for Franks' nutty remarks, I certainly hope it was because he hit the panic button. Because otherwise, the list of reasons for why a general in the United States military would say such things becomes remarkably short. And among the reasons must be the one Jeanne d'Arc points to: "It sounds like he's trying to get us comfortable with the possibility."

Matthew also writes that a military dictatorship "would probably be the correct thing to do" in the event of a large-scale nuclear strike on the Washington, DC area.

Matthew's kidding, of course. The correct thing to do is run for the hills.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Scratch Dean And You Find A Moderate. Good.  

TalkLeft refers to a Question Dean Blog, which seems to be taking the position that Dean is not really that liberal. There are links to this article by Robert kagan which points to the reasons why Dean is not McGovern redux.

Good. if these are the kinds of questions being asked about Dean, it will be difficult for Bush/Rove to cast Dean, if he becomes the nominee, as the reincarnation of Lenin.

In an article immediately after the September 11, 2001, Dean spoke publicly about re-examining civil liberties in light of the attacks. As Jeralyn notes, if you take the trouble to read the entire article, not the quotes that can be pulled out of context, Dean is not advocating an assault on civil liberties, but a discussion of what those liberties are, and what issues may be useful to address in light of the attacks.

Again, that is not the opinion of a liberal of a moderate, talking in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack ever in the US. That is certainly not my opinion; I completely disagreed with those who took Dean's position back then, and still do. 9/11 would not have been prevented by anything he believes should be re-examined.

And that's the point. Dean is not McGovern. He is no liberal or progressive. He is not Wellstone. Aside from his positions on a few social issues, he is a moderate.

The reason he has generated so much support is that when no one else in the Democratic Party was willing to do so, he spoke out, and loudly, against the war and against Bushism. It is precisely his moderate political positions that highlights exactly how far to the right Bush and his administration are trying to take this country (and to a great extent, succeeding).

Is Dean The One? I don't know. Regardless, Dean and the following he generated by being willing to speak up against the right wing must become a permanent fixture of the Democrats' strategy for attracting voters and winning elections. The right simply cannot be ignored, as many other Democrats wish to do. They must be confronted. And regardless as to whether Dean wins or loses the nomination, or -should he become the candidate- the election, the Democrats have no choice but fight the right or the Democratic Party will be replaced, and sooner rather than later.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Sunday, November 23, 2003

Daschle To Bush: Your Ad Is "Repulsive"  

With the television advertising wars gaining steam in the presidential campaign, the Senate Democratic leader angrily called today on Republicans to withdraw an advertisement that Democrats say depicts them unfairly as undercutting the fight against terrorism.

The Democrat, Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, denounced the advertisement as "repulsive and outrageous."

His comments, made on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," drew attention to what could be one of the most contentious campaign themes in the 2004 presidential contest: the question of which party has a better response to terrorist threats to the United States and its interests abroad.

The advertisement, sponsored by the Republican National Committee, shows President Bush delivering his State of the Union address in January. As he speaks, such phrases as "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists" flash across the screen.

The ad urges viewers to call members of Congress and ask them to "support the president's policy of pre-emptive defense."

Mr. Daschle condemned the ad with a vehemence that appeared to surprise the host of the program, Tim Russert. "It's wrong. It's erroneous, and I think that they ought to pull the ad," Mr. Daschle said.

"We all want to defeat terrorism," he said. But "to chastise and to question the patriotism of those who are in opposition to some of the president's plans, I think, is wrong."
Keep it up, Tom!

Brady Kiesling For Profiles In Courage Award  

The JFK Library sponsors an award for politicians of conscience called The Profile in Courage Award. Today in the Times, they requested that nominations be sent to them via email at I sent them the following letter.

If you agree, or have another nominee, please email them today. It only takes a few minutes.

* * * * *

To Whom It May Concern,

I would like to nominate John Brady Kiesling for the Profiles In Courage Award. Mr. Kiesling was a US diplomat stationed in Greece. He resigned in late February, 2003 from the foreign service rather than continue to promote a foreign policy that he passionately believed was not in the best interest of the United States. His letter to Colin Powell is one of the great masterpieces in the American literature of dissent (I've reproduced it below my signature).

Other important American officials have voiced opposition to the war, but Kiesling was one of the first and one of the bravest. He did not wait for an opportune career moment but spoke out when the drums of war were at their loudest. He sacrificed his distinguished 20 year long career and a pension in order to do so. He eloquently articulated for many Americans some of the most serious objections to the Iraq war at a time when our leaders, elected or otherwise, were branding dissenters as unpatriotic, or worse.

You state that "Ordinarily, the award will be made to living Americans who are or were elected officials." However, these are not ordinary times and Brady Kiesling's courage and integrity are so extraordinary that I believe he deserves your Award. Mr. Kiesling is one of the great spokesmen of conscience in our time. We are a greater country because of his principled and prescient opposition to the war.



U.S. Diplomat John Brady Kiesling
Letter of Resignation, to:
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

     ATHENS | Thursday 27 February 2003

     Dear Mr. Secretary:

     I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.

     It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

     The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.

     The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?

     We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S. interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests. Have we indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming military power is not the answer to terrorism? After the shambles of post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will be a brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we lead.

     We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into complete solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior officials. Has “oderint dum metuant” really become our motto?

     I urge you to listen to America’s friends around the world. Even here in Greece, purported hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and closer friends than the American newspaper reader can possibly imagine. Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry. And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the planet?

     Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America’s ability to defend its interests.

     I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share.


     John Brady Kiesling

Three More US Soldiers Dead  

Attackers slit the throats of two American soldiers who were waiting in traffic in this northern Iraqi city on Sunday, witnesses said. Another soldier was killed in a roadside bombing north of Baghdad.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


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