Saturday, June 07, 2003

Iraq, Disneyland For The Greedy?

Jeanne at BODY AND SOUL asks the question in an excellent discussion of what's really going on with the ECONOMY OF IRAQ, based on a NYTimes article, and an incendiary Nation tour de force by Naomi Klein, which should not be missed. Klein was on top of this back in April.

On April 6, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz spelled it out: There will be no role for the United Nations in setting up an interim government in Iraq. The US-run regime will last at least six months, "probably...longer than that."

And by the time the Iraqi people have a say in choosing a government, the key economic decisions about their country's future will have been made by their occupiers.

How's that for predicting?

And don't miss the piece Jeanne wishes she'd written, or her take on the maybe new Judith Miller. Oh, do yourself a favor and read everything she has currently posted.

Media Not Liberal

Says O´Reilly. Who are we to argue?

Destroying the Heathen

Tactless quote of the day (or a couple days ago) courtesy of Roger Ailes.


I´ll admit to knowing next to nothing about Myanmar, and somehow I don´t think it´s going to top the list of President Short Attention Span´s concerns, but OxBlog tells us what´s going on right now.

As I See It

by the farmer:

Jim Lobe writes:
With US President George W Bush on his first tour of major world capitals since the war in Iraq, his handlers are predictably depicting his stature as something akin to William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar “bestrid[ing] the world like a Colossus”.
- from: "A Threadbare Emperor Tours The World".

Good god! I can work with that.
Our exalted crotch swollen Colossus traipsing about the planet like some Shakespearean sovereign. But without all that fancy talk and all them funny soundin' big sentences and without, as far as I know, the wife with all the crazy bad dreams. In any case, it's all too much to ask for. What with summer stock season nearly in bloom. Thank you Jim Lobe.

There's much more can read Lobe's entire report here And/

That given. I am now pleased to present my own mini production depicting the seven stages in the life our Colossus mountebank, George W. Bush. 7 Scenes in a Final Act.

I call it:
As I See It; an unjoyous tragicomedy bastardization.
With profound apologies to William Shakespeare. Who I seriously doubt gives a hot-god damn at this point, about apologies or lack of apologies, profound or not, or bastardizations, or any of this one way or another. And who can blame him.

Ok...places everyone, lights down, curtains up, on with the show, break a leg, or whatever it is they say. Ssssshhhh. Listen.

All the worlds a political stage.
And all the pundits and pol-ops merely players:
They have their exit strategies and their entrance requirements;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the child.
Mewling fluke of privileged charms.
And then the winsome schoolboy, with his skull and bones.
And vacant wellborn face, sleeping at Yale
Oblivious to intellect. And then the rover
Lies to burnish, stuporous, doleful, pallid
Clade to the listless eyebrow. Then a soldier
Full of warrior tropes, and played like a card.
Missing from duty, yet suddenly wreathed in laurels.
Seeking the bubble reputation
Levin for the canon's grouse. And then the injustice.
In sound and folly with crafted shapen lines
With guise and smear and suits of formal cut,
Fond of slantwise maws and tortured nuances
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts.
Into the lean and codpieced brigadier dragoon,
With spectaculars on cue and press on board
His boastful pose well played, a world too tried
For his cranks crunk; and his slow tangled tongue
Turning again toward churlish quibbles, quips
And siren songs resound. Last scene of all,
That ends this shortchange retrogress misery
Is no second curtain, and mere oblivion for a fool.


"Unchecked excess is the condition of the tyrant; it has been the cause of the premature fall of prosperous thrones and the lives of many kings." - William Shakespeare, "Macbeth"

[NOTE: show closes November 2004]

The sun's not yellow, it's chicken

About those color coded alerts:

WASHINGTON (AP) - When Portland Ore., receptionist Colette Belusko was asked to name the current level of the nation's five-color terror alert system, she guessed correctly and flapped her arms in an imitation of a distressed bird.

"Right now, we're at yellow for chicken," said Belusko, 52. "It's chicken because that's how silly these alerts are."

Not that the terror alert system could possibly be a cheap ploy to make us think the administration is on the case, when actually it doesn't want to spend any money on the problem at all, having given the money away in the tax cuts. No. Of course not. Inconceivable. Never happen. Not a chance. Absolutely out of the question. [repeat]

Sex, lies, and weapons of mass destruction

Can't resist quoting the ever-superb Daily Howler:

In the past few weeks, for example, President Bush, a well-known man, has emitted some real Grade A groaners:

  • He said the cut in the dividends tax was designed to help out the elderly.

  • He said that phase-ins appear in his tax cuts because the Congress put them there.

  • Those rosy projections (from the Council of Economic Advisers)? He pretended they weren’t his projections.

  • Bush has said he’s cutting taxes in order to increase federal revenue.

Groan! And those are just on the budget side. Last week, Bush actually went on Polish TV and said we’ve found the WMDs! But pundits like [Chris] Matthews are paid not to notice. It’s clear that, for Matthews, it’s only the sex. All other howlers are permitted.

If Bush lies, the Clenis™ made him do it!

Equivocation on the trailers

Some actual reportage from The Newpaper of Record (not!) here:

American and British intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence are disputing claims that the mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making deadly germs. In interviews over the last week, they said the mobile units were more likely intended for other purposes and charged that the evaluation process had been damaged by a rush to judgment. ...

In effect, early conclusions by agents on the ground that the trailers were indeed mobile units to produce germs for weapons have since been challenged.

"I have no great confidence that it's a fermenter," a senior analyst with long experience in unconventional arms said of a tank for multiplying seed germs into lethal swarms. The government's public report, he added, "was a rushed job and looks political." This analyst had not seen the trailers himself, but reviewed evidence from them.

The skeptical experts said the mobile plants lacked gear for steam sterilization, normally a prerequisite for any kind of biological production, peaceful or otherwise. Its lack of availability between production runs would threaten to let in germ contaminants, resulting in failed weapons.

Second, if this shortcoming were somehow circumvented, each unit would still produce only a relatively small amount of germ-laden liquid, which would have to undergo further processing at some other factory unit to make it concentrated and prepare it for use as a weapon.

Finally, they said, the trailers have no easy way for technicians to remove germ fluids from the processing tank.

Senior intelligence officials in Washington rebutted the skeptics, saying, for instance, that the Iraqis might have obtained the needed steam for sterilization from a separate supply truck.

The skeptics noted further that the mobile plants had a means of easily extracting gas. Iraqi scientists have said the trailers were used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons. While the white paper dismisses that as a cover story, some analysts see the Iraqi explanation as potentially credible.

A senior administration official conceded that "some analysts give the hydrogen claim more credence." But he asserted that the majority still linked the Iraqi trailers to germ weapons.

The depth of dissent is hard to gauge. Even if it turns out to be a minority view, which seems likely, the skepticism is significant given the image of consensus that Washington has projected and the political reliance the administration has come to place on the mobile units. At the recent summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President Bush cited the trailers as evidence of illegal Iraqi arms. ...

One skeptic questioned the practicality of some of the conjectural steps the Iraqis are envisioned as having taken to adapt the trailers to the job of making deadly germs.

"It's not built and designed as a standard fermenter," he said of the central tank. "Certainly, if you modify it enough you could use it. But that's true of any tin can."

We can all be reassured because our Dear Leader is "on the look" and will "reveal the truth." But then again, I thought we got the Congress to authorize the war because the truth had already been revealed?

(Sorry for the length, but detail counts!)

Friday, June 06, 2003

Arithmetic of betrayal

The Shrill One runs the numbers once again:

Of course, the big betrayal was George W. Bush's decision to push this tax cut in the first place. There is no longer any doubt that the man who ran as a moderate in the 2000 election is actually a radical who wants to undo much of the Great Society and the New Deal.

Look at it this way: as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, this latest tax cut reduces federal revenue as a share of G.D.P. to its lowest level since 1959. That is, federal taxes are now back to what they were in an era when Medicare and Medicaid didn't exist, and Social Security was still a minor expense. How can we maintain these programs, which have become essential to scores of millions of Americans, at today's tax rates? We can't.

Which brings us back to Senator Miller, and all those politicians and pundits who still imagine that there is room for compromise, that they can find some bipartisan middle ground. Mr. Norquist was recently quoted in The Denver Post with the answer to that: "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape."

You'd think even the most craven of Beltway Dems would know this by now.

"A nasty slip on Iraqi oil"

Here is how The Guardian's Reader's Editor sums up the "sea of oil" controversy:

The ["sea of oil"] story should not have run. In view of the significance of the statements attributed to Mr Wolfowitz, rigorous checking should have taken place. The hazard of translating remarks from German back into the English in which they were originally made should have been apparent.

It concluded a week in which the Guardian apologised to the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, for locating him at a meeting he did not attend. It has not been the best of weeks.

I too should have seen the German sourcing and been more wary. But once the horse was out of the barn, I decided to adjust the post as the story developed rather than kill it entirely. Many thanks to the helpful posters on the thread, one of whom said I was "smarter than this." Well, perhaps, but not in this case. My bad.

More Fanatic Leftists

Molly Ivens begs to differ with Josh Marshall

Naw, not really, but much merriment ensues. For doubters, a sampler:

Got that? If you ask, "Where are the weapons of mass destruction?" -- a fairly obvious question at this point -- you are the problem.

That's good, but not as good as The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. This week's "Weapons of Mass Distortion" editorial is a masterpiece. In this version, those who ask the WMD question are attempting "to damage the credibility of Mr. Blair, President Bush and other war supporters."

"But who's trying to deceive whom here?" thunders the Journal. "That Saddam had biological or chemical weapons was a probability that everyone assumed to be true, even those who were against the war."

So there! And why did everyone assume it? Either because we were lied to or because there was a massive intelligence failure

"Fanatics on the Left" Watch

Heard yesterday, June 5th, on the floor of the US Senate:

The fundamental question that is nagging at many is this: How reliable were the claims of this President and key members of his Administration that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction posed a clear and imminent threat to the United States, such a grave threat that immediate war was the only recourse?

Lawmakers, who were assured before the war that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, and many of whom voted to give this Administration a sweeping grant of authority to wage war based upon those assurances, have been placed in the uncomfortable position of wondering if they were misled. The media is ratcheting up the demand for answers: Could it be that the intelligence was wrong, or could it be that the facts were manipulated? These are very serious and grave questions, and they require immediate answers. We cannot - - and must not - - brush such questions aside. We owe the people of this country an answer. Every member of this body ought to be demanding answers.


What amazes me is that the President himself is not clamoring for an investigation. It is his integrity that is on the line. It is his truthfulness that is being questioned. It is his leadership that has come under scrutiny. And yet he has raised no question, expressed no curiosity about the strange turn of events in Iraq, expressed no anger at the possibility that he might have been misled. How is it that the President, who was so adamant about the dangers of WMD, has expressed no concern over the where-abouts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Indeed, instead of leading the charge to uncover the discrepancy between what we were told before the war and what we have found - or failed to find - since the war, the White House is circling the wagons and scoffing at the notion that anyone in the Administration exaggerated the threat from Iraq.


Who are the American people to believe? What are we to think? Even though I opposed the war against Iraq because I believe that the doctrine of preemption is a flawed and dangerous instrument of foreign policy, I did believe that Saddam Hussein possessed some chemical and biological weapons capability. But I did not believe that he presented an imminent threat to the United States - as indeed he did not.

Such weapons may eventually turn up. But my greater fear is that the belligerent stance of the United States may have convinced Saddam Hussein to sell or disperse his weapons to dark forces outside of Iraq. Shouldn't this Administration be equally alarmed if they really believed that Saddam had such dangerous capabilities?

Saddam Hussein is missing. Osama bin Laden is missing. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are missing. And the President's mild claims that we are "on the look" do not comfort me. There ought to be an army of UN inspectors combing the countryside in Iraq or searching for evidence of disbursement of these weapons right now. Why are we waiting? Is there fear of the unknown? Or fear of the truth?

Go read the whole thing.

Then compare and contrast how and what O'Reilly and Boot say, in the post below, about how and what war critics are saying with how and what Senator Byrd actually said.

Bush/Blair Lie? "Simply Inconceivable"

So Sayeth O'Reilly!

Unfortunately, the WMD situation is now been politicized. Fanatics on the left are screaming about lies and conspiracies. Fanatics on the right are yelling it doesn't matter if any deadly weapons are found in Iraq.

Both sides are wrong as usual. The truth is the WMD issue does matter, and President Bush needs to explain it. Talking Points believes the Iraq war was just, and the progress now being made between Israeli and the Palestinians would never have happened if Saddam Hussein was still in power. Just that alone makes the war worthwhile. We are not even mentioning the mass graves and other horrors of Saddam Hussein.

So, there is no question that America has done a good thing for the world. However, when the president of the United States tells the American people that U.S. intelligence has pinpointed deadly weapons and those weapons don't turn up, the President has an obligation to explain.


That being said, it is fair to all the hunt for the weapons to continue without these hysterical accusations of lies and deceit. People making those charges are being irresponsible and hurting the country. Let's face it, there is a good chance that deadly weapons are hidden in Iraq. It is beyond belief that both President Bush and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, would conspire to lie to the world about this issue. Simply inconceivable.

Max Boot, Olin Fellow at the Council on Foreign Policy agrees.(registration required, go ahead, register; it's free)

Neither man is that stupid, he assures us. "Why would they lie, knowing postwar weapons searches were inevitable?"

Boot uses the same approach as O'Reilly, though with more finesse and fewer typos.

Not able to forgive George W. Bush and Tony Blair for being right, the naysayers are now emphasizing what looks to be their strongest argument: the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction. The European press is in a frenzy about the "lies" that led to war. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is already suggesting this may be "the worst scandal in American political history."

Those who make this argument must think that the U.S. and British governments are not only deeply venal but also stupid. Their theory, essentially, is this: The president and prime minister deliberately lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify an invasion that they knew would show that no such weapons existed.

It is indeed puzzling that U.S. forces haven't found more evidence of WMD, but this hardly shows that Bush and Blair lied. It does show how imperfect our intelligence about Iraq was, which actually makes the case for preventive war that much stronger.

Many years ago, The pre-Murdock London Times ran one of its loonier contests; readers were asked to contribute the most unlikely headline of the twentieth century up to then. This is an approximation of the winner to the best of my memory's ability to reconstruct it: "Archduke Ferdinand Found Alive Running Rathskeller; WW I fought over mistake or hoax"

WW1 was far enough away in time for that imaginary headline to be funny.

One of the major reasons given by the most powerful military power on this planet for going to war is beginning to appear questionable.

Where's the outrage, you may have asked yourself? As ever, directed at anyone who's as much as noticed.

Matters of Emphasis (cont.)

From today's NYT on extending the child tax credit to the working poor:

But a Bush administration official said White House aides had concluded that there was political peril in being perceived as opposing a tax break for low-income working people, and that President Bush was likely to signal House Republicans soon that they should compromise with the Senate.

Yes, one could appreciate how, from a certain angle, opposing a tax break for low-income working people could be perceived as opposing a tax break for low-income working people. Delicate thing, public perception. Then there's the matter of not antagonizing your core constitutency in the process of managing this unseemly display of compassion:

Anticipating objections from the House, the bill approved by the Senate today added several more provisions favored by Republicans to the original relief for the minimum-wage families. The most significant would extend the full $1,000 child credit — increased from $600 in the new tax law — in 2010 to married couples making $110,000 to $150,000. Under current law, the credit begins to phase out for couples making $110,000.

The new provision would allow some couples earning up to $200,000 to receive a portion of the tax credit, depending on how many children they have.

Which I suppose puts an ironic twist on The Beatles "Taxman":
Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, 19 for me.

Lastly, there's this nugget:

Although almost every Senate Republican voted for the bill, some clearly were unhappy at having to do so under what they considered public pressure from liberal groups and Democrats. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi voted for the bill, but as he did so he stuck his tongue out, put his finger in his mouth and made a gagging sound, indicating his apparent distaste for the bill.

You know, if we'd only voted for Strom Thurmond, we wouldn't have all these problems.

[Thanks to David Ezer for the heads up on ol' Trent.]

European Lifestyle

The nice thing about Europe is that you can drink in the internet cafes.


Get Your Knock Knocks On!

Right here.

A Little Light Seeps Through

But only a very little in a very little read place. From Geneva Overholser in a live chat:

"Kansas City, Mo.: I noticed you worked for the Post as Ombudsman and the editorial board of the Times. I've read Gene Lyons and Joe Conason's work criticizing the Post and Times for their coverage of Whitewater. As a former newspaper reporter (and J-school grad -- KU) I found a lot to be concerned about their depiction of the Post and Times coverage. Were there any concerns voiced or reviewed at either paper on their points?

Geneva Overholser: Probably not enough concerns raised, but some. I felt that the Clinton scandal coverage at the Post went overboard, and said so -- and relayed various readers' opinions to that effect. To no overwhelming result."

Look, it wasn´t overboard, it was a direct link to Starr´s fax machine.

on Spite Girl Ceci:

Somewhere, USA: Wait a second, John Carroll gets all concerned about bias based on a story that questions legislation that requires physicians to give questionable medical advice and it shows the reporter is biased? Yet in 2000 the Post's Ceci Connolly altered quotes (Love Canal) and basically ran anti-Gore RNC press releases. But apparently this bias is off limit to discussion as in Post chats as no one will address it. Where's the real bias?

Geneva Overholser: I am an admirer and (I hope) a friend of Ceci, but I was unsettled by that reporting on Gore and hope the Post doesn't quash discussion of it. Nobody seems to be quashing it here.

Unsettled by it? She committed greater frauds than Jayson Blair.

Bigots at the DOJ

No gay pride allowed in Ashcroft´s DOJ!
WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department has barred a group of employees from holding their annual gay pride event at the department's headquarters, the first time such an event has been blocked by any federal agency, gay rights leaders said yesterday.

Justice Department officials told the group, called DOJ Pride, that they could not hold their annual event this month at the department's Great Hall because the White House had not formally recognized Gay Pride Month with a presidential proclamation, said Marina Colby, a Justice Department policy analyst who is president of the group, which represents several hundred gay and lesbian department employees.

"This sends a real chilling message to Justice Department employees who are gay and lesbian," said David Smith, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest gay advocacy group.

"This says, 'You're not welcome,' " Smith said. "It says that employees can celebrate Asian American heritage month, and Hispanic heritage month and so on, but you cannot."

Kinsley Accuses Pres of Welching on Contract

The Social Contract, that is. The one worked out and revised through-out most of the last century, stretching back to at least Teddy Roosevelt; you know, the one that made Capitalism safe for Democracy, and the other way around, too. That contract

....Democracy presumes and enshrines equality. Capitalism not only presumes but requires and produces inequality. How can you have a society based on equality and inequality at the same time? The classic answer is that democracy and capitalism should reign in their own separate "spheres" (philosopher Michael Walzer's term). As citizens, we are all equal. As players in the economy, we enjoy differing rewards depending on our efforts, talents, or luck.

But how do you prevent power in one from leeching into the other? In various ways, we try to police the border. Capitalism is protected from democracy, to some extent, by provisions of the Constitution that guard individuals against tyranny of the majority—for example, by forbidding the government to take your property without due process of law. Protecting democracy from capitalism is the noble intention, at least, of campaign finance laws that get enacted every couple of decades.

Separation of the spheres also depends on an unspoken deal, a nonaggression pact, between democracy's political majority and capitalism's affluent minority. The majority acknowledge that capitalism benefits all of us, even if some benefit a lot more than others. The majority also take comfort in the belief that everyone has at least a shot at scoring big. The affluent minority, meanwhile, acknowledge that their good fortune is at least in part the luck of the draw. They recognize that domestic tranquility, protection from foreign enemies, and other government functions are worth more to people with more at stake. And they retain a tiny yet prudent fear of what beast might be awakened if the fortunate folks get too greedy about protecting and enlarging their good fortune.

That was the deal. Under George W. Bush, though, the deal is breaking down. With Republicans in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, the winners of the economic sphere are ratting on their side of the bargain and colonizing the sphere next door.

The rest is just as good.

Some of you are too young to remember just how reluctant a liberal Michael Kinsley often seemed in the eighties. When as gentle and fair-minded a soul as Michael starts using words like "class war," and "the tyranny of the rich," it's made a lot more difficult for those self-consciouisly mild-mannered conservatives, like David Brooks, Christopher Caldwell, and David Frumm, who want to be seen as gentle and fair-minded but never hesitate to use "class warfare" to describe anyone who dares point out the rush of income into the hands of fewer and fewer, to get away with it.

"When Pigs Fly" Dept.

"I'd tell them to admit what they knew, what they didn't know, and to stop playing games with us."
--Former Reagan Administration official Lawrence Korb, on Adminstration evasiveness about their intelligence on Iraq's WMD capabilities.

"I'm the commander. See, I don't need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." -- Bush to Bob Woodward, in "Bush at War"

Congrats Lucky Duckies!

The unemployment rate is up to 6.1%! (more precisely it went from 5.99% to 6.14%) Congratulations to all who find themselves suddenly paying no federal income taxes! Well, except for the income taxes on your unemployment benefits...

Neal Pollack Can Save The Times

He has some suggestions, and if they´re not followed the Times is doomed.

2. The Times needs to fire all its columnists except for William Safire and replace them with: Ann Coulter, George Will, Dinesh D'Souza, William Bennett, William Kristol, a black guy who is not Bob Herbert, and the ghost of Michael Kelly.

3. Except for the black guy who is not Bob Herbert, the Times needs to fire all its black employees immediately. As I've said in this space before, black people need to start their own newspapers.

Notes from the farmer

Here´s a post from the farmer who hasn´t yet managed to get into blogger correctly for some reason...:

I'm Here. Like it or Not.
posted by, the farmer.

As most of you probably know by now, I'm one of several people who've been invited to guest-post at Eschaton while Atrios is away.

Essentially I've been handed, free and clear of any responsiblity to anyone but myself and my powerful anonymous overseer(s), an open stage to parade about upon - in the spotlight - in full kevlar jacket and shark-skin boot. Regurgitating spurious tales of mathematical impossibilities and of dire horrors skulking about in the gloaming. Cockatrice spawn, hatched from the eggs of serpents, coiled in wait around each twist and turn and wrinkle in the road map to imperium. Abominations and superstitions so awful that they can only be imagined. And thats why I'm here. To help excite those imaginings and superstitions while you all sit quietly transfixed by my simplistic gibberings and convoluted points of view on this and that and the other thing. Whichever direction my moral compass spins, you will spin with me. While I remain free to bother people pretty much willy nilly as I see fit. A codpieced cockerel in a gilded canary cage. And theres nothing you can do about it! Nothing! N!
othing at all....!

Hey..wait a friggin' minute here. Ooops, sorry. Thats was an excerpt from an early draft of a July fourth celebrations speech written for the Rove people by my aunt Karen.
Just forget it.

Lets just move on and get this over with.
I've also been provided a confidential 'eyes only' copy of the secret Atrios Tour of Undisclosed Vacation Locations itinerary. My early efforts to decipher the contents of this journey, on behalf of freedom of information loving peoples around the world, reveals that Atrios will be delivering, on Saturday June 3rd, the opening invocation for this years Annual Eastern PA Regional Gym Teachers Association Prayer Breakfast and Grass Court Medicine Ball Rolling Tourney in Skytop PA. Tucked nicely between the Promised Land to the north and Paradise Valley to the south. So drop in for the afternoon towel snapping workshop if you're in the area. Otherwise, thats all I know about the Tour at this late hour. Which sounds like a good enough gig as it is. Afterall, what more could one man with 350 steak knife sets and a barmy farm GOP offspring son by the same name - who I've chained to a steel floor ventilation grate in a small remote back area storage room for my own protection - need !
or want for. Not much I think. Not much at all. The man lives a charmed life.

So. Until I've had a chance to at least briefly familiarize myself with the complex geneological diagrams of Sid Blumenthal's family tree in the guest commentator user manual and sign off on the Buffy loyalty oath and screw around somewhat with the mysterious VLWC-HQ communications console with genuine stained oak veneer, padded elbow rests, voice activated spell checker and giant pulsating Clenis(tm) power crystals life support apparatus, I'll leave you all to ponder the following horrors and abominations and cockatrice spawn:

DINESH D'SOUZA: "I want to thank the people at Fox and Newscorp for inviting us to contribute a commentary to this excellent film. Far too often DVD commentaries exhibit a distinctly liberal bias."

ANN COULTER: "I agree. I think it's basically endemic of the hegemonic leftist control of all forms of media expression — burying conservative subtexts beneath a lot of lefty cuddling. Now, as the titles come up, perhaps we should talk a little bit about the first Alien movie. I see that film as evidencing the insidious effects of a creeping, dangerous worldview slowly infecting a small group of people, and then one by one destroying them. Not unlike, say, liberalism."

That sounds familiar. Anyway, Tbogg has more here
Follow the link through tbogg's post for the complete details.

And also check out 'DrFrankLives' new blog stinging-nettle
He has a good post on the latest banana oil pitch from that diseased babbit from Texas, Tom Delay. (update: so does tbogg)

Thats about it for me for the time bein'. Now if I can just figure out how to activate the VLWC high resolution liberal global positioning system tracking screen with wide area augmentation I'll be in business. All these switches and sliding levers and blinking pie tin gizmos. Its like an Ed Wood movie here. Jeebers. Lets see what --- this button does.

uh-oh.....I wonder if that door was supposed to lock like that?

The Crappy Editor is Dead! Long Live the Crappy Editor!

So, I pick up my copy of the obscenely priced Guardian international edition this morning to discover that MK Ultrahack and Crazy Andy will suddenly have very little to write about - the evil Raines has been destroyed.

I considered this good news, as Raines´s tenure as king of the editorial page won him no friends from the Democratic side of the aisle. We all remember when Howell self-righteously called on Hillary Clinton to prove her innocence. He, as with the rest of the NYT staff (other than Safire´s inventions) never could quite tell us exactly which Hillary needed to prove her innocence of - but the failure to ever articulate that never stopped their Snipe hunt againt the Clintons. One could count Raines´s criticisms of the Starr Chamber on one hand.

However, upon reading further I discovered Joe ¨don´t know nothing about nothing¨ Lelyveld will return. Now the paper will return to its glory days in the 90s, when under his control the journalistic missteps by the paper destroyed peoples´ lives and tied up a presidency in false scandal after false scandal. You know, stuff that matters. Jeff Gerth is still employed and the Spite Girls will be back retyping RNC oppo research as ¨political analysis¨ just in time for the presidential election.

Oh joy.

Along those lines, Gene Lyons´ column recommended below is indeed a must read.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

We're the New York Times and you're not!

Gene Lyons gives The Times some housecleaning tips:
In the end, my reporting held up. Badly-written Times dispatches filled with semi-facts and half-truths did not. Reporting a $200,000 real estate deal ain't brain surgery. Correct the errors, fill in the blanks, and Whitewater's "scandalous" aspects disappeared. But Times editors chose to help GOP partisans hogtie a president rather than write a correction. Had Lelyveld paid attention, he might have been spared the Wen Ho Lee fiasco, among others. Alas for years, the newspaper's unvarying response to outside criticism has been : "We're the New York Times and you're not."

Proving once and for all that Atrios is not Gene Lyons, since as we know Atrios is vacationing at an unknown location, while Gene Lyons is writing topical newspaper columns.

Log cabin syrup?

Richard Goldstein:

Under the Republicans, gays get the glad hand while phobes get the power

The most vivid proof is Bush's willingness to nominate men with anti-gay records to lifetime terms on the federal bench. Rick Santorum's wrath is nothing compared with the impact of these and other right-wing appointments. Bush's judicial agenda could pose the greatest threat to gay rights in a generation. ...

The same administration can shmooze homocons and nominate Bill Pryor to the 11th Circuit. As Alabama's attorney general, Pryor filed a brief in the current Supreme Court sodomy case warning that voiding these statutes opens the door to "activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia." Missionary Position Rick couldn't have said it better. ...

Stacking higher courts with right-wingers could have a devastating impact on gay-rights claims. As Arthur Leonard wrote in Gay City News, the Supreme Court hears "only a handful of major gay cases over the course of a decade, while courts of appeals are deciding dozens of cases affecting gay litigants every month." What's more, a Supreme Court vacancy may occur as soon as this summer. If Bush's record is any gauge, he won't disqualify a judge with a hostile record on gay rights.

For all its interest in Santorum, the press hasn't explored his ample anti-gay record. It shows that his beef goes far beyond homosex. Santorum played a central role in moving Bush's charitable-choice proposal. When asked about the provision allowing religious groups to discriminate against gay people while taking federal funds, Santorum said, "I will make that stand." Eventually he backed down, but only because the provision would have doomed the bill.

Every time the administration blows an air-kiss to a gay group, the religious right erupts, as it did after the Racicot meeting. Then some prominent Republican drops an anti-gay zinger. Santorum's bombshell may well have been a calculated attempt to deflect criticism from the right. But when you factor in Dick Armey's reference to his colleague from Massachusetts as "Barney Fag" and Trent Lott's comparison of homosexuals to kleptomaniacs, the pattern of contempt is clear.

Despite this dissing, the Republicans can tempt gay voters with an implicit promise: If you prove useful, we won't roll back your civil rights. Yet, by lending support to a party dominated by the religious right, gay voters help to assure that such a rollback will take place. It may not happen in Congress, but it will certainly occur in the courts. The next time a state passes a law voiding gay civil rights, it might not be overturned. But Bush will go on shaking hands with queer compadres.

Most gay voters know the difference between a smile and progress. That's why they are the third most loyal Democratic constituency, after blacks and Jews. Seventy- five percent of them voted for Al Gore in 2002. Still, Bush got about a million gay votes, and the Republicans hope to top this number by quietly courting gays in crucial states like Florida (where the GOP recently ran an openly gay candidate for the statehouse). The outing of Florida Republican Mark Foley, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, makes the party of Santorum seem even more simpatico.

Gays comprise 9 percent of voters in large cities. You'd think the Democrats would fight to retain this potent base. But there are signals of a new discretion on their part. Though Democrats have spoken out against Bush's anti-gay nominees, their protest has yet to reach the filibuster level. Then there's Hillary Clinton, who lay back on Santorum and has refused to say whether she would support General Clark's promotion. Her caution echoes a recent piece in the Democratic Leadership Council publication Blueprint arguing that the party must rectify its failure to attract swing voters, "especially middle-class white men." Read straight middle-class white men.

Filibusters and the Senate rules


Democrats argued that Republicans were slavishly following Bush's desire to rewrite Senate rules to free up his nominations of Estrada and Owen to federal appeals courts. They said the Senate has approved 127 of the 129 Bush nominees to the bench that the Senate has considered.

"Because it's not 100 percent, we are entertaining changing the rules," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "It's almost like a temper tantrum."

In a brief interview after the hearing, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he has not discussed with Frist whether he would resort to a ruling from the Senate chair to end nomination filibusters. Such a ruling would enrage Democrats.

"I'd rather not even entertain such an unthinkable act. I'd think nobody would ever allow something as radical and dramatic as that," he said.

Not that we have experienced anything else radical and dramatic with this administration.

Great Minds Think Alike Department

Aropos of Tresy's excellent outrage at yet another GOP attack on the middle class safety net, as Tapped points out, sometimes reluctant liberal, Michael Kinsley has some surprisingly tough thoughts on the social contract being shredded by all this President's men, and women.

Democracy presumes and enshrines equality. Capitalism not only presumes but requires and produces inequality. How can you have a society based on equality and inequality at the same time? The classic answer is that democracy and capitalism should reign in their own separate "spheres" (philosopher Michael Walzer's term). As citizens, we are all equal. As players in the economy, we enjoy differing rewards depending on our efforts, talents, or luck.

But how do you prevent power in one from leeching into the other? In various ways, we try to police the border. Capitalism is protected from democracy, to some extent, by provisions of the Constitution that guard individuals against tyranny of the majority—for example, by forbidding the government to take your property without due process of law. Protecting democracy from capitalism is the noble intention, at least, of campaign finance laws that get enacted every couple of decades.

Separation of the spheres also depends on an unspoken deal, a nonaggression pact, between democracy's political majority and capitalism's affluent minority. The majority acknowledge that capitalism benefits all of us, even if some benefit a lot more than others. The majority also take comfort in the belief that everyone has at least a shot at scoring big. The affluent minority, meanwhile, acknowledge that their good fortune is at least in part the luck of the draw. They recognize that domestic tranquility, protection from foreign enemies, and other government functions are worth more to people with more at stake. And they retain a tiny yet prudent fear of what beast might be awakened if the fortunate folks get too greedy about protecting and enlarging their good fortune.

That was the deal. Under George W. Bush, though, the deal is breaking down. With Republicans in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, the winners of the economic sphere are ratting on their side of the bargain and colonizing the sphere next door. Campaign contributions are only the crudest way power is transferred from the economic sphere to the political one. In addition, there are well-financed lobbying organizations, including some masquerading as research institutes. There is the inherent complexity and boredom of tax and regulatory issues, which repel people who don't have a major financial stake. There is the social milieu of the president and most members of Congress. They may not all come from the worlds of posh aristocracy or self-satisfied business success (Bush remarkably straddles both), but these are the worlds they are plunged into as they rise to congressional leadership. And, in the back of their minds, these are the worlds they may hope to find a place in when they lay down the weary burdens of power.

The recently enacted tax bill is such a shocking and brazen gift for the wealthy that it is hard to describe it in anything short of these cartoon-Marxist terms

Kinsley's conclusion:

So, under the American tax system as designed by the Bush administration and congressional Republicans, the most a person of vast wealth is expected to contribute to the commonweal from his or her last dollar of investment profits is the same 15 cents or so that a minimum-wage worker is expected to pay on his or her first dollar. This does not mean that we have a flat tax. We have a tax system of vast complexity, with wildly different tax burdens on different people. But we have a tax system that, on balance, knows who's in charge

There's something hopeful going on when as gentle a soul of Mike Kinsley can express this kind of outrage.

More Lucky Duckies

Unemployment continues to rise, incomes remain stagnant, public infrastructure in Washington State is crumbling thanks to anti-tax demagoguery. What is the GOP solution?

Shoot the wounded.

[L]et's ask a radical question: Why does the modern American employee need unemployment insurance at all? Since 1935, when this program was created, work and wealth have changed in America. Recessions are shallower, with a smaller proportion of Americans laid off. More kinds of jobs are available, and workers are better educated. Wages are up sharply, and the two-paycheck family has diversified the risk of layoff. The typical American family now has tens of thousands of dollars in net assets and several bank cards.

Unemployment insurance is not a program that mainly benefits the poor, because the truly poor don't earn enough to get much out of it. Millions of Americans face unemployment without any benefit at all, because they didn't work long enough to qualify for it. The interesting story is how successful they are without it. According to studies cited by consulting economist Bill Conerly in Portland, they get jobs in half the time — seven weeks versus 14.5 weeks — as people receiving unemployment checks.

I really hate it when some laid-off programmer lays around the house all day sending out resumes, rather than joining the ranks of the unskilled working poor working at McDonald's and mortgaging their houses, don't you?

If I live to be 200, I'll never understand why ordinary Americans vote for these people.


UPDATE: Corrected link, I hope.

The Harris Poll wants you
Policy makers, business leaders and the media rely on the Harris Poll to produce accurate, reliable information on topics as diverse as our participants. In fact, the Harris Poll has surveyed millions of people from more than 90 countries in the past 40 years.

Now we'd like to know what you think! Here's your invitation to participate in our convenient, new way to take the public pulse—the Harris Poll Online. Unlike old-fashioned surveys, the Harris Poll Online produces accurate, reliable information at Internet speed. As a member of the Harris Poll Online, you'll get to express your opinions when you wish, rather than when we wish

Loyal reader and would be Harris opinion leader, Hobson, reports that the poll results thus far are heavily skewed rightward.


Progressive think tank

Some reportage from The Times:

The goal of the new organization, which expects to operate with an annual budget of $10 million, is to develop "progressive" ideas — its backers avoid the word "liberal" — and aggressively push them onto the airwaves and into print.

The president of the organization, temporarily calling itself the American Majority Institute, is John Podesta, a chief of staff in the Clinton White House.

"We're focused on setting a direction for the country and critiquing the direction that the right wing is taking it in," Mr. Podesta said in an interview. "We want to take on the right rather than try to make this an argument about whether the Democratic Party should go left or center."

Great. Take on the right while not using the word "liberal." For goodness sake, why not just use the word liberal proudly? That would do more to take on the right than 100 white papers. Still, something is better than nothing.

Iraqi antiquities

Here are two good scholarly sites:

Rudolph, "'Christian' Identity," and Domestic Terrorism

Orcinus, cogent as ever.

It never Raines....

Howell gone. Lelyveld in. Gerth remains. Funny, life!

And than HaloScan goes down. Coincidence?

Vocabulary lesson

From Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: lie
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): lied; ly·ing /'lI-i[ng]/
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English lEogan; akin to Old High German liogan to lie, Old Church Slavonic lugati
Date: before 12th century
intransitive senses
1 : to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive
2 : to create a false or misleading impression
transitive senses : to bring about by telling lies
synonyms LIE, PREVARICATE, EQUIVOCATE, PALTER, FIB mean to tell an untruth. LIE is the blunt term, imputing dishonesty <lied about where he had been>. PREVARICATE softens the bluntness of LIE by implying quibbling or confusing the issue <during the hearings the witness did his best to prevaricate>. EQUIVOCATE implies using words having more than one sense so as to seem to say one thing but intend another <equivocated endlessly in an attempt to mislead her inquisitors>. PALTER implies making unreliable statements of fact or intention or insincere promises <a swindler paltering with his investors>. FIB applies to a telling of a trivial untruth <fibbed about the price of the new suit>.

Now, can anyone use one of these new words in a sentence?


The Leader speaks:

"We recently found two mobile biological weapons facilities which were capable of producing biological agents. This is the man who spent decades hiding tools of mass murder. He knew the inspectors were looking for them. You know better than me he's got a big country in which to hide them. We're on the look [sic]. We'll reveal the truth," the president said.

Bush's partner in the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is in the midst of a political uproar over accusations that he exaggerated the evidence. Last week, Bush asserted in an interview with Polish television that the United States had "found the weapons of mass destruction," which turned out to be a reference to the discovery of trailers that the CIA said were apparently used as mobile biological weapons labs. No biological agents have been identified on the trailers.

(Love the Self-Identified Christian resonance of "reveal the truth"!)

However, as WaPo columnist Richard Cohen recently rose from slumber to point out, the Congressional resolution that authorized the war was premised on the idea that the truth had already been revealed:

The resolution declares that "Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region." It says that Iraq "continues to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability." It says Iraq is "actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations." It says that based on those findings, the president was authorized to go to war. He did. You can look it up.

It's too soon to know if the Bush administration was lying, exaggerating or simply mistaken. But it is not too soon to say that the case it advanced concerning weapons of mass destruction was much more tenuous than the administration admitted. It somehow forgot to mention all the caveats, doubts and contrary evidence. As for the link with al Qaeda, that was just plain hogwash -- not that it was believed by anyone much in Congress. Just the American people.

Before the war, certainty about nuclear weapons. After the war, a couple of dubious trailers. Jeebus.

Alterman on Rose

Eric Alterman will be on Charlie Rose tonight squaring off against somene on the opposing team.

And, thanks to Lambert for posting the new jobless claims below - holy crap!

Welcome to the newly jobless


The Labor Department reported Thursday that new applications for unemployment insurance rose by a seasonally adjusted 16,000 to 442,000 for the work week ending May 31. The increase pushed claims to their highest level since the week ending April 26. ...

In another report, orders to U.S. factories fell 2.9 percent in April from March, marking the largest decline in 17 months, the Commerce Department said. The decrease was a lot deeper than the 1.8 percent drop economists were forecasting. ...

Last week's rise in jobless claims surprised economists, who were predicting they would fall to 421,000. However, some of last week's sharp increase in claims probably reflected seasonal adjustment difficulties related to the Memorial Day holiday, a Labor Department analyst said. ...

Even so, for 16 straight weeks new claims have been running above the 400,000 mark - a level associated with a largely stagnant job market, economists say. ...

The more stable, four-week moving average of new claims, which smooths out week-to-week fluctuations, rose last week by 3,000 to 430,500, the highest level in two weeks. ...

Karl Rove is probably scheduling a parachute drop by Bush into an unemployment office as soon as he gets back and has a little downtime in Crawford. "Message: I care!"

Dispatch from an Undisclosed Location

Hello all. No internet or news for 2 days and I´m totally lost. More later...

Man bites dog

Aquila CEO Apologizes to Shareholders

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Aquila Inc.'s chief executive apologized to shareholders at the energy company's annual meeting Wednesday for the firm's financial troubles.

[CEO Richard] Green said Wednesday he had heard "painful" and "downright gutwrenching" stories from Aquila's shareholders in the last few months, and if he were one of them, he would want an apology.

"So to each and every one of you, I apologize," he said.

How often does this happen? A tip of the lambert hat to CEO Green, even if this is a shameless attempt to boost his share price by inducing bloggers to place it in their bulging portfolios. Now, if others could be induced to follow his example...

CEO Cheney, step right up. Now, about that asbestos... CEO Bush? About Harken, the timeline, and those mysterious backers.... VP Thomas White? About those pensions ....

FWIW, ie nothing, I don't think the market will truly boom again until people are convinced the fraud and the fraudsters have been run out of it and the books aren't being cooked. Show trials of small fry like Martha Stewart won't do that -- how stupid do they think we are?

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Bill to require voting machines with a paper trail


At last a little traction for this idea, which should be wildly uncontroversial, in the mainstream. (It is posted here much too late, mea culpa.)

Winning hearts and minds

From The Pew Global Attitudes Project:

The speed of the war in Iraq and the prevailing belief that the Iraqi people are better off as a result have modestly improved the image of America. But in most countries, opinions of the U.S. are markedly lower than they were a year ago. The war has widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world, softened support for the war on terrorism, and significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era – the U.N. and the North Atlantic alliance. ...

In addition, the bottom has fallen out of support for America in most of the Muslim world. Negative views of the U.S. among Muslims, which had been largely limited to countries in the Middle East, have spread to Muslim populations in Indonesia and Nigeria. ...

Solid majorities in the Palestinian Authority, Indonesia and Jordan – and nearly half of those in Morocco and Pakistan – say they have at least some confidence in Osama bin Laden to "do the right thing regarding world affairs." Fully 71% of Palestinians say they have confidence in bin Laden in this regard.

Good news, bad news...

Can we learn from the Brits, please?

If we really want to run an empire, we can't trash and loot the antiquities. Lord Curzon
knew this:

Curzon insisted—as he had when he restored, exquisitely, the heavily damaged Taj Mahal and the town of Fatehpur Sikri—that the conservation of ancient and religious monuments was a sacred duty of whichever imperial power happened to be granted their temporary custody. “If there be any one who says to me there is no duty devolving upon a Christian government to preserve the monuments of a pagan art, or the sanctuaries of an alien faith, I cannot pause to argue with such a man.” Because Curzon understood the power of tradition as a living thing, which gave an ancient community identity, faith, and hope, he had, as a young writer, warned against the rush to cozen traditional societies into dye-stamp modernity. In our own haste to make the world more like us we could do worse than heed his caution:

We must remember that the ways of Orientals are not our ways, nor their thoughts our thoughts. Often when we think them backward and stupid, they think us meddlesome and absurd. The loom of time moves slowly with them, and they care not for high pressure and the roaring of the wheels. Our system may be good for us; but it is neither equally, not altogether good for them. Satan found it better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven; and the normal Asiatic would sooner be misgoverned by Asiatics than well governed by Europeans.

Then again, "Oriental" and "Asiatic" are no longer terms of art in the imperial trade, and we're not about being an empire. Are we?

In case you're counting on OT to pay the bills ....

The Family Time Flexibility Act (H.R. 1119) wants to allow workers to "choose" between comp time, and overtime. I've got a scenario like this in mind for the way such "choices" are going to get made:

WALMART: Maria, will you have a problem helping me out by working 16 hours tomorrow?

MARIA: No problem, Sir, you know I like to work hard!

WALMART: That's great, Maria. Now, just so I can put this into your employment record, would you like to put the extra 8 hours into our Loyal Team Member Time Bank, where we'll give you the 8 hours off some time in 2004, if you're still working for us, or would you like the 8 hours in the form of extra pay in your paycheck this week? I haven't asked Julia to help me out yet, but she's a Loyal Team Member...

MARIA: [Maria has a sick child and needs the money for prescription drugs, and needs the 8 hours to care for the child. But if she says No to the offer, and Julia says Yes, and takes the time, Maria knows that any manager with budget responsibilities would give Julia time later rather than Maria money now. Then again, if Maria says No too often, she might lose the job entirely.] I'll be a Loyal Team Member, Sir.

WALMART: Thanks, Maria. That's great.

And that's compassionate conservatism in action!

Whenever I hear one of these Republicans use the word "family" I put my hand on my wallet. ....

UPDATE: Bill pulled (temporarily).

"Because of the campaign of lies waged by the leaders of organizations like the AFL-CIO, private sector working mothers and fathers continue to be denied the right to choose paid time off with their families instead of overtime pay - a right that has been enjoyed and cherished by federal workers and other government employees for years," said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.

Right, like Maria from WalMart has civil service protection. How stupid do they think people are?

"Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil"

Here (The Guardian); [transcript].

Who knew?

COMMENT: The Guardian's snappy headline, "Iraq war was about oil," would reflect the (DOD) transcript more precisely if it had read: "Iraqi oil key factor in administration's strategic calculations, war planning, says Wolfowitz." But then, headlines that aren't snappy aren't headlines.

So, who knew?

Bonfire of the Vanities Reloaded

Martha Stewart indicted.
"The scandal surrounds Stewart’s sale of almost 4,000 shares of biotech drug maker ImClone Systems Inc. on Dec. 27, 2001 - the day before the government issued a disappointing report on ImClone, sending its stock price tumbling."


"One of Bush’s fishiest moves as a businessman who failed upward in the oil industry occurred in 1990, when Bush was on the board of directors and the audit committee of Dallas-based Harken Energy. Harken had bailed out Bush four years earlier by buying his own down-and-almost-out oil venture. In that deal Bush received a hefty dose of Harken shares. In June 1990, Bush dumped over 212,000 shares and bagged $848,000. He did so at a time when Harken was slipping but had hidden losses by selling a subsidiary, more or less, to itself in a deal the Securities and Exchange Commission later ruled a phony transaction. Moreover, Bush failed to disclose his stock sale right away, as the SEC required, and, instead, notified the SEC eight months after the federal deadline. "

Steal a little, and they put you in jail. Steal a lot, and they make you king.
- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, June 03, 2003


The only evidence we need to know that the administration is simply in CYA mode is the fact they don't seem very concerned about the "missing" WMD. If they really believed they existed, the hunt for them wouldn't be motivated by a desire to justify the war, it would be motivated by the very legitimate desire to make sure the deadly weapons were not in the hands of evil-doers. Since the administration isn't sounding the alarm along these lines, it's obvious they're unconcerned. They just want to find some scrap of something - a la the ridiculous mobile "labs" - to pacify the media and dupe the public.

If there were WMDs, and we can't find them, then we have problems.

The Cornier

By the Poor Man.

New Krugman Book

Krugman explains that his new book contains both columns and extensive new material.

You can buy it here.

While I'm Away...

I've enlisted the help of lambert strether, Leah A, the farmer, rea, and maybe one or two others to help keep the lemonade stand running. I'll be here, too, hopefully, but probably not too regularly at least for a few days.

New contact information - if you want to email the weblog, and all its participants, you should email If you want to email me personally, still works.

All messages are signed by the person who wrote them, so just check the bottom of the message to see who wrote it...

Remember the neediest!

At first, I thought this from Thomas Friedman was just a little light-hearted jab at winger MWs:

After the Iraq war debate, the question has grown into, "Why does everybody else hate us?"

I've sketched out my own answer, which I modestly call "A Brief Theory of Everything." I offer it here, even more briefly, in hopes that people will write in with comments or catcalls so I can continue to refine it, turn it into a quick book and pay my daughter's college tuition.

... Any ideas? Let's hear 'em:

Then again, maybe he's just being direct. (If I'm going to help Tom raise the bucks for his daughter's tuition, do I get a cut?)

Anyhow, I could throw a lot of ideas at Tom, starting with an administration that thinks a fine working definition of "soft power" is (self-identified Christian) fundamentalism.

"Mission Accomplished!" Oops, spoke too soon ...


The CIA has internal documents that make clear Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is alive and hiding in greater Baghdad, protected by an underground resistance network of tribesmen and former Baath officials, administration officials told United Press International.

"There is a resistance network and it is stronger than we originally thought," one administration source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Saddam is moving around inside Iraq and he's got a lot of support," another U.S. government official said.

He added: "A lot of what is being reported in the press as `looting' is in fact sabotage by Baath party stay-behind groups."

The underground Baath resistance is made up of former party officials who are funded with money looted from the Iraqi treasury, this source said.

"There is credible evidence that Saddam is still alive and being sheltered," said former CIA chief Vince Cannistraro.

Oh, glory be. Just another day in the Bush matrix. This one hasn't made the Times, WaPo -- or the Guardian, but it still seems worth watching.
Homeland security: Follow the money (what money?)

Wonder if columns like this will prompt a private donor to come forward and put in a system that would tell us that there wasn't an AQ container ticking away right now in Philly (or Miami, or New York, or Los Angeles, or Houston, or any other port city). Because there's a new meme (anyone know the transmitter?) in the air that "the government isn't supposed to help people" ....

The Bush administration has won a reputation for toughness by claiming sweeping surveillance authority and broad emergency powers to detain citizens and foreign nationals without judicial approval. But when money is needed, homeland counter-terrorism priorities repeatedly take a back seat to the president's tax-cutting agenda. ...

The White House has rebuffed efforts of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., and other congressional leaders to meet the needs of police, firefighters and other ''first responders''; in the current budget cycle, the administration opposes a $5-billion grant program crafted by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and attempted to eliminate $900 million in law-enforcement grants sought by House Republicans ....

Security for our ports is an urgent priority. The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 mandates extensive improvements but provides no money to meet the need, a deliberate omission repeated in Bush's 2003 budget. The 2002 maritime act also mandates vulnerability assessments at the nation's 55 largest ports, but at the current pace, slowed by lack of funds, the assessments won't be completed until 2009. ...

Efforts to upgrade facilities at the Centers for Disease Control lag badly. Though he often refers to the catastrophic dangers of bioterrorism, Bush has sought no increase in funding for the CDC. His 2003 budget actually cuts overall funding for the CDC and trims more than $10 million from its crucial Center for Infectious Diseases. The funding squeeze stymied CDC plans for an urgently needed emergency-operations center. The center was finally completed last month, only because a private donor contributed $4 million for the project.

Jeebus. House Republicans as beacons of sanity...

Monday, June 02, 2003

Shrill Shrill Shrill

I used to like Paul Krugman when he stuck to writing about economics, but now he's just so partisan:

It's long past time for this administration to be held accountable. Over the last two years we've become accustomed to the pattern. Each time the administration comes up with another whopper, partisan supporters — a group that includes a large segment of the news media — obediently insist that black is white and up is down. Meanwhile the "liberal" media report only that some people say that black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and playing down the extent of the lies.

If this same lack of accountability extends to matters of war and peace, we're in very deep trouble. The British seem to understand this: Max Hastings, the veteran war correspondent — who supported Britain's participation in the war — writes that "the prime minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks."

It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.

But here's the thought that should make those commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election" next year. In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted.

The Truth About Malpractice Caps

Well, lookie here...

Time Magazine's June 9, 2003, cover story, "The Doctor is Out," contains breaking news confirming what consumer advocates have been saying for years: caps on malpractice damage awards will not result in lower malpractice insurance premiums.

According to Time ("A Chastened Insurer"), a study to be published this week by Weiss Ratings, an independent insurance-rating agency in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, found that between 1991 and 2002, states with caps on noneconomic damage awards saw median doctors malpractice insurance premiums rise 48 percent -- a greater increase than in states without caps. In states without caps, median premiums increased only 36 percent. Moreover, according to Weiss, "median 2002 premiums were about the same" whether or not a state capped damage awards.

Time reports, "Weiss found nine states with flat or declining premiums; two of them had caps, seven didn't. Weiss speculates that regulation of premium increases made the difference. In California, consumer groups argue that the state's tough oversight of the insurance industry, not its caps on damages, explains why rates have grown more slowly."

I'm sure it's rather simple. Insurance industry friendly states are also likely to have malpractice caps, with little regulatory enforcement or oversight. So, the caps themselves aren't important.

O'Reilly's Peabody

O'Reilly 8/30/99:

Carlos Salinas, Dallas: "Mr. O'Reilly, how dare you look down on the 'Cheaters' show with your smug smile? If I remember right, you used to do the same thing on 'A Current Affair'."

You are wrong, Mr. Salinas. I anchored a program called "Inside Edition," which has won a Peabody Award for investigative reporting, and did nothing remotely resembling "Cheaters," OK?

O'Reilly 3/2/2001

Al Franken, our pal, called me a liar because I misidentified a Polk Award as a Peabody Award. It was a simple mistake that, apparently, has Al in a tizzy.

O'Reilly 3/13/2001

O'REILLY: I'll give you an example. Guy says about me, couple of weeks ago, O'Reilly said he won a Peabody Award. Never said it. You can't find a transcript where I said it. You -- there is no one on earth you could bring in that would say I said it.

Robert Reno in "Newsday," a columnist, writes it in his column, calls me a liar, all right? And it's totally fabricated. That's attack journalism. It's dishonest, it's disgusting, and it hurts reputations.

WOLFF: It's also incorrect journalism, if it's wrong...

O'REILLY: It is wrong.

Half Moon Steve Gets Mugged

Steve Dunleavy gets mugged while passed out drunk at 3:15. Well, at least he wasn't raped and murdered. You may remember, old Steve was one of the primary transmitters of what he claimed was "Clinton's Biggest Crime." What was that, you may, ask? I mean, there were so many. The all powerful evil Clenis ™ was guilty of so many things. In Steve's world, Clinton's greatest crime was keeping in "innocent" rapist in jail because the "alleged" victim of said "alleged" rapist was distantly related to him.

The man's name was Wayne Dumond. I feel a little for Mr. Dumond - he was the victim of some unpleasant vigilante violence - the Village Voice sheds a few tears about him here.

Long after Clinton left office, at the urging of people like Dunleavy, Mike Huckabee paroled Dumond in 1999. As Murray Waas tells us:

Jay Cole, like Huckabee, is a Baptist minister, pastor for the Mission Fellowship Bible Church in Fayetteville and a close friend of the governor and his wife. On the ultra-conservative radio program he hosts, Cole has championed the cause of Wayne Dumond for more than a decade.

Cole has repeatedly claimed that Dumond's various travails are the result of Ashley Stevens' distant relationship to Bill Clinton.

The governor was also apparently relying on information he got from Steve Dunleavy, first as a correspondent for the tabloid television show "A Current Affair" and later as a columnist for the New York Post.

Much of what Dunleavy has written about the Dumond saga has been either unverified or is demonstrably untrue. Dunleavy has all but accused Ashley Stevens of having fabricated her rape, derisively referring to her in one column as a "so-called victim," and brusquely asserting in another, "That rape never happened."

The columnist wrote that Dumond was a "Vietnam veteran with no record" when in fact he did have a criminal record. He claimed there existed DNA evidence by "one of the most respected DNA experts in the country" to exonerate Dumond, even though there was no such evidence. He wrote that Bill Clinton had personally intervened to keep Dumond in prison, even though Clinton had recused himself in 1990 from any involvement in the case because of his distant relationship with Stevens.

"The problem with the governor is that he listens to Jay Cole and reads Steve Dunleavy and believes them ... without doing other substantative work," the state official said.

Had Huckabee examined in detail the parole board's files regarding Dumond, he would have known Dumond had compiled a lengthy criminal resume.

In 1972, Dumond was arrested in the beating death of a man in Oklahoma. Dumond was not charged in that case after agreeing to testify for the prosecution against two others. But he admitted on the witness stand that he was among those who struck the murder victim with a claw hammer.

In 1973, Dumond was arrested and placed on probation for five years for admitting in Oregon to molesting a teen-age girl in the parking lot of a shopping center.

Three years later, according to Arkansas State Police records, Dumond admitted to raping an Arkansas woman. (Dumond later repudiated the confession, saying he was coerced by police.) Dumond was never formally charged in that case; the woman, saying she feared for her life, did not press charges. (See sidebar.)

The meeting Huckabee had with Ashley Stevens and her family only made matters worse for the governor, energizing Stevens and her family to tell their story to anybody who would listen.

Huckabee " let us know that he was set on his course, which was to set Dumond free," Long said.

Ashley Stevens says she told the governor: "This is how close I was to Wayne Dumond. I will never forget his face. And now I don't want you ever to forget my face."

After being released, Wayne Dumond was arrested for the rape/murder of one girl and was suspected in a second similar case. I don't believe the case has gone to trial yet. Perhaps there is a very good reason why Mr. Dunleavy seems to drink himself into oblivion fairly regularly.
(thanks to Moose-n-squirrel for the reminder)

Media and the Left

Greg Beato has a nice essay returning to some things he's posted about before.

4 Soldiers Vanish Near Oil Terminal


LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy (news - web sites) said Monday two small boats carrying four U.S. soldiers and at least three civilians disappeared in northern Gulf waters on Sunday.

The Fifth Fleet said the two boats were heading toward the Shatt al-Arab waterway from Iraq Mina al-Bakr oil terminal when they vanished.

Let's hope they reappear.

Pollack on the FCC

He's 100% correct as always.

Essentially, with satellite-based programming, DVD's, the Internet,I-Pods, cell phones, and many other inventions that I don't know about, one could argue that people have access to too much information, from too many sources. That's what the FCC is trying to correct, and quickly. We are, after all, engaged in a war, a war on Terror, a just war without end, and this is no time for independently-owned media outlets to fall into the hands of people who might oppose the President and his policies. That's why I'm glad Michael Powell is in charge of the FCC. He's just the man to keep the rabble in line.

I believe it was my mentor at Oxbridge, Sir Francis Crapshoot, who said, "an excess of information, if controlled by a excess of providers, inevitably leads to public confusion, followed by free thought and free elections. This can never be healthy for a country fortunate enough to be led by a man sent by God to bring peace and prosperity to all corners of the earth willing to practice abstinence before marriage." I believe that says it all. Antiquated rules of media ownership just get in the way of our divine mission.

All hail Dear Leader.

The Next Step

As predicted, the FCC voted to remove a bunch of ownership limitations. I predict that there will be a flurry of newspaper/TV station mergers, though I also predict that after a couple of years they'll fall apart. I'm sure the word synergy will get thrown around a lot without anyone ever quite being able to define exactly what that synergy would be.

I'm far more worried about the straight television and radio ownership restrictions being eroded. One company owning 3 stations in one market? Sure will be grand when your local CBS/ABC/NBC affiliates are all owned by one company.

I never thought we could win this one because the FCC is only accountable to congress, and with the plethora of other issues on the table there was no way congress would be proactive on this one. There's some chance they'll be reactive, but not much. I hope some Dems make this an election issue in '04 - not because I necessarily think it'll win people votes but because it's an opportunity to popularize the issue.

Michael Powell has of course explicitly violated the mission of the FCC, which is to protect the public interest. He has been unable to articulate how this move would do anything about harm consumers. Even one of the CNN guys understood this point.

Another New Book

Former Enron advisor Paul Krugman has a new book coming out. Place your orders now! Make Donald Luskin hooowl!

You can also order a new book by former Enron advisor Peggy Noonan

The Economics of Crime

Economists perceive crime - at least, crimes such as theft - as the result of a simple cost/benefit analysis by the perpetrators. A potential criminal - and we're all potential criminals - simply weighs the expected benefit of a particular crime against its expected cost, and if the former is greater than the latter the crime will be committed. The expected benefits are of course the expected payoff from doing the crime - the value of the stuff you steal given the probability that you succeed. The expected costs are the costs of arrest, trial, and incarceration given the probability of all of those events.

So, when one goes about thinking how to reduce crime one can find ways to reduce the expected benefits or the increasing he expected costs. For the latter, this is done by increasing the probability of arrest (more cops or more power to those cops), and by increasing the probability of conviction and/or the length of incarceration. In other words, if you're more likely to get arrested, more likely to get convicted, and more likely to get a longer prison sentence then you're more likely to be deterred from committing the crime.

However, the cost of imprisonment isn't uniform across individuals. While there might be some rough baseline psychological cost of being locked up, approximately equivalent across the board, the cost is largely a function of our alternative opportunities. That is, if Ken Lay is locked up for 10 years he presumably gives up 10 years of travel, big homes, nice restaurants, and generally all the finer things in life. If Random Poor Criminal gets locked up for 10 years, he/she is sacrificing far less.

Now, none of this necessarily ignores ethics - the psychological costs of violating your own ethical code can be part of the costs of committing a crime - but the point is that even with identical ethics, the cost/benefit tradeoff can differ substantially across individuals. In particular, poorer individuals with less to lose will be more likely to commit crimes.

So, the bleeding heart liberal approach to all of this is to observe that one way to increase the expected cost of committing a crime - and to therefore increase deterrence - is to increase the legitimate economic opportunities and more generally improve the lifestyle of the poor. From society's point of view, this isn't simply an issue of niceness - incarcerating people is expensive, as is maintaining an expensive police force. Whether backed up by evidence or not (and I'll admit I'm not too up on this research generally ), the liberal perception is that a way to reduce crime is to improve the legal opportunities for advancement of poorer individuals by improving education, etc..

Talk Left alerts us to a study claiming that Chicago's crime problem is related to its lack of affordable housing. I can't comment on the quality of this study, but it obviously fits nicely into my bleeding heart liberal biases. Adequate and stable housing is a precondition for access to the economic system in this country (as is, increasingly, things like an email address). To the extent this kind of research holds up, we may find that using public money to improve the lot of the poor is a more efficient way to reduce crime than the standard deterrence - the potential for long prison sentences.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Letters! We Get Letters!

Man, the Washington Post is gonna get letters after this one...

The arrest of alleged Olympic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph may finally allow authorities to answer a question that has loomed since the beginning of the five-year hunt for him, but that has taken on deeper resonance since Sept. 11, 2001: Is he a "Christian terrorist"?

The question is not just whether Rudolph is a terrorist, or whether he considers himself a Christian. It is whether he planted bombs at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub to advance a religious ideology -- and how numerous, organized and violent others who share that ideology may be.

Federal investigators believe Rudolph has had a long association with the radical Christian Identity movement, which asserts that North European whites are the direct descendents of the lost tribes of Israel, God's chosen people. Some investigators also think he may have written letters that claimed responsibility for the nightclub and abortion clinic bombings on behalf of the Army of God, a violent offshoot of Christian Identity.

"We declare and will wage total war on the ungodly communist regime in New York and your legaslative bureaucratic lackey's in Washington. It is you who are responsible and preside over the murder of children and issue the policy of ungodly preversion thats destroying our people," one of the letters said, in childish penmanship riddled with errors.

"Based on what we know of Rudolph so far, and admittedly it's fragmentary, there seems to be a fairly high likelihood that he can legitimately be called a Christian terrorist," said Michael Barkun, a professor of political science at Syracuse University who has been a consultant to the FBI on Christian extremist groups.
Barkun said the anti-gay and antiabortion positions that may have motivated Rudolph's alleged bombings "are a rather subordinate theme" in Christian Identity. He noted, however, that members of Rudolph's extended family have said he viewed abortion not just as the taking of life, but as a threat to the white race.

"The notion that there are significant numbers of white mothers having abortions, and therefore the race is being endangered, is interesting, because racial genocide is a major theme in Christian Identity," Barkun said.

Rudolph's concern for abortion is, according to his sister, limited to concern for the abortion of white babies. Another thing to note is that the basic theological beliefs underlying Christian Identity were also used by some to justify Apartheid in South Africa. It's somewhat muddled, but Christian Anglo-Saxons are descended from Abel, Jews are descended from Cain, and "mud people" are descended from pre-Adamic beings, and thus not part of God's Chosen.

Hep C in Egypt

Jeebus this article is scary.

Egypt, with 12 to 15 percent of its population estimated to carry the virus's antibodies, hovers near the top of the global HCV chart. (In the United States the percentage is 1.8.) The El Sayeeds live in a region that lies at ground zero in the HCV crisis. Studies of villages in the Nile Delta show that about half of the residents older than 35 have the virus or have had it in the past.

We're Number One! We're Number One!

U S A ! U S A ! U S A !

We have the highest percentage of our population behind bars! Take that Iran! Screw YOU loser Russia! Poland and Tanzania are mere AMATEURS in this game!


(via the Agonist and reader de)

Dining with Autism

Just go read Dwight Meredith's post on eating out with his child. I do hope that when the time is right Dwight writes a book about his family's experiences.

Marshalling Revisionism (or maybe not)

Someone point out anywhere in this article where Josh Marshall tries to claim US attempts to "box in Saddam" , as he says here, would result in "blowback like al Qaida's attacks on the United States."

Jeebus, at least with the ex post justifications by the right wing hawks I know they're just making shit up.

UPDATE: Okay, okay, as Jim E. points out in comments he does say "All of that changed after September 11. Suddenly the prospect of Saddam slipping a dirty bomb to terrorists to blow up in, say, Milwaukee, didn't seem so far-fetched. It also became clear that our efforts to contain Saddam--sanctions that wound up hurting Iraqi civilians, U.S. troops on Saudi soil--were ideal recruitment tools for Osama bin Laden." So, my charge of revisionism is invalid and completely unfair. (I'll leave it up there to make myself look nice and bad).

But, still, this whole justification is silly. The idea that "boxing in" Saddam would cause blowback but invading and occupying the country would stop it is just ridiculous.

Maybe We Need Gitmo After All

I'd like to send these people there:

MURPHY, N.C., May 31 — Crystal Davis doesn't quite side with Eric Rudolph, but she sympathizes with him.

"He's a Christian and I'm a Christian and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion," said Mrs. Davis, 25, mother of four. "Those are our values. And I don't see what he did as a terrorist act."

Her feelings were echoed, person after person, in this sawmill and cow-pasture hamlet today, where the Appalachian foothills rise above town in every direction. Mr. Rudolph, who is accused of the 1996 Olympic bombing and attacks on abortion clinics, was arrested in Murphy this morning after a five-year manhunt. Federal authorities said that for years he had been living off the land around here, a conservative, woodsy corner of the rural South.

Some people in Murphy expressed a certain amount of respect for the wily survivalist. Others vented a disdain for the federal agents who promised a quick capture.

"We thought it was kind of funny when the feds rolled in here all arrogant," said William Hoyt, an unemployed crafter of birdhouses. "They kept saying they didn't need our help. It put a lot of people off. Nobody around here condones murder, but I think a lot of people weren't sure which side to be on."

As the search intensified over the years, locals cashed in by printing up T-shirts that said "Run, Rudolph, Run," and "Eric Rudolph — Hide and Seek Champion of the World." Many people here had an uneasy relationship with F.B.I. agents, who often said they suspected the local population was providing the fugitive with food and shelter.

"If he came to my door, I'd give him food," Mrs. Davis said. "That's just how we are with strangers."

Here is what Rudolph is accused of doing. This, apparently is some peoples' idea of good Christian works.

And, the Freepers chime in:

Amen brother. Anyone who works for an abortion clinic is morally guilty of murder. The Supreme Court has quietly been eroding the rule of law, especially that of the Constitution, for over 100 years. Eric Rudolf took the law into his own hands. Let's not forget that he was merely following the example of the federal courts.

Media Consolidation

Arthur Silber approvingly cites this Cato piece arguing that everything is just fine in the world of media. Here's what I wrote in his comments (slightly edited):

That's quite a silly piece, Arthur. Focusing on the diversity of "channels" ignores the uttery lack of diversity in ownership. It is true that with the arrival of cable there was a momentary proliferation in ownership and channels, but that has gone into sharp reverse, and there is increasing vertical integration of content producers, networks, and cable/satellite providers.

The consolidation of radio, combined with an increasing lack of any locally produced content in many markets is obviously of issue.

And, of course, the consolidation in newspaper ownership. There are two dailies in my city, both under the same ownership. Are two dailies better than one? Sure. Are two dailies under one ownership (with the same web site) by a national media company (knight ridder) better than one locally owned and operated one? No. While I can get a diversity of sources on the internet, most are from a small number of companies. And, this is only of value for national or international news - local news needs to be locally produced.

Media and news in particular is different than other things, due to the economies of scale in its production, the use of the public airwaves, the special constitutional status and protection of journalists, and the fact that a well-educated population is crucial for a well-functioning democracy. Pretending, as Cato does, that because we have 15 channels of HBO things are A-OK, is either naive or dishonest.