Saturday, April 24, 2004

Open Thread



Still there. DemFromCT has the update over at Kos's place.. The big news is that Dear Leader is going to make what could be the pivotal decision - whether to blow the hell out of Fallujah.

The Media

Jeanne from Body and Soul writes in:

I agree with 90% of what you said. Christians in this country have no cause to whine about being persecuted. I'm sick to death of Catholics calling every disagreement with them "Catholic bashing." (I lived in the deep South for awhile as a kid. Believe me, I know Catholic bashing, having been seriously bashed by fundies.) I'm as offended by religious posturing by liberal politicians as you are.

But there's a small but significant error in your post that I think it's important to correct. You say, "It's time for moderate and liberal Catholics to take a stand against their Church's assault on Democratic (and only Democratic) politicians who deviate from doctrine." I know this is hard to understand, because the media is so clueless about this, but there really is no "Church" assault on Democratic politicians. People like Nedra Pickler and Katherine Seeleye are trying to frame it that way, but it really isn't happening. Rather, a couple of very ambitious bishops, and a small group of conservative Catholics like Deal Hudson, are trying to force the American Church into sanctioning pro-choice politicians -- something they have very deliberately avoided doing.

What liberal Catholics need to do -- and are doing -- is not bash, or even confront, the Church, which is trying very hard to keep from being used for political purposes, but point out that the people who are doing this are not the Church, and have their own religious and political reasons for what they're doing. Andrew Greeley has made the point that the St. Louis archbishop who got his name in all the papers by saying he wouldn't give Kerry communion is "campaigning for cardinal" (trying to score points with the Vatican, which is far more conservative than the American Church). I made a similar point recently about the Nigerian cardinal who suggested the same thing. He's considered one of the prime candidates for pope, and is obviously campaigning for the office. The American press generally missed that rather important detail.

The Catholic bishops are doing everything in their power to avoid this issue, and a small number of conservatives are trying to force them to take a stand. They're currently working on guidelines for how to deal with Catholic politicians who oppose Church teachings, but everyone expects it to cover a lot more ground than just abortion, and not be useful for bashing one party or another. It was supposed to come out soon, but they've postponed it, probably because it was too likely to be exploited. The conservatives are trying to force their hand early, and on one issue only.

It isn't helpful when the left buys into the Pickler-Seelye story of the Church vs. the liberals. It isn't the Church that's wrong, it's the press's way of framing the story. As usual, Pickler and Seelye -- the prime drivers of this story -- don't know what the hell they're talking about.

I think this is mostly correct - this is more a media issue than a Church issue, though it is of course the latter as well. A couple American Bishops and the Vatican have stated that pro-Choice politicians shouldn't be allowed to receive communion. American Cardinals have been quiet -- this is much more about how the media is presenting the story. The horrible Kelly Wallace on CNN kept saying things like "John Kerry angered some Catholics..." Well, I'm sure he did, but a lot of Catholics are angry at the actions of the Bishops too.

If the media wants to report this story, they should be obligated to note that "pro-Choice politicians" includes more Catholics than John Kerry, and that there are quite a few prominent pro-Choice Republicans. But, they're completely corrupt and would never dare let us in on that little secret.

Monday morning we'll have a little fun calling around to the offices of various Republican pro-choice politicians and asking their people a) if they went to Church on Sunday and b) if they took communion. Clearly, the day to day activities and policy positions of prominent Catholic politicians from all parties must be scrutinized for any deviation from doctrine. The world must know if they have taken the sacraments improperly or not at all. Their confessions should be public information.

We should then examine their reproductive histories and marvel at their miraculous success using the Rhythm Method. Some of these politicians don't have many children. It's possible, I suppose, that they've either been very celibate even in marriage or just very lucky, but one suspects some possible deviation from Church teachings on the subject of contraception.

And, as this is my own fair and balanced news outlet we will only focus on Republican Catholics. Democrats will get a pass, as they should, because God wants Democrats to win no matter what their sins are.


Call CNN at 404-827-1500 and ask them why they aren't discussing other politicians who shouldn't be receiving communion according to the Vatican, such as Tom Ridge and George Pataki.

Then, you can ask them why they aren't mentioning the fact that the leaders of George Bush's Church opposed the war in Iraq.

...and read this post at Body and Soul which includes this bit by Amy Sullivan.

But this is not just a throw-away point. Does Bush deviate from the teachings of the United Methodist Church? Yes he does, on some crucial political issues. Has he been reprimanded by leaders in his denomination? Yes, particularly on the issue of war in Iraq. And if you want to make this a question of who's the better Christian, then it's fair to ask why President Bush doesn't go to church. You heard me – the man worships at Camp David and every so often wanders across Lafayette Park (although the park is pretty much impassable now what with all of the security construction going on) to attend services at St. John's Episcopal Church. But the man who has staked his domestic policy on the power of civil society and of good Christian individuals to change lives isn't an active member of a congregation – the very kind of organization in which he claims to have so much faith.

March for Women's Lives

Is today tomorrow. Obviously I'm not there I won't be there.. But now would be a good time to send a little cash to your favorite women's reproductive rights organizations.

One of my advertisers, Planned Parenthood, is a good choice though feel free to choose your favorite.

...official website here.


George Pataki and Rudolph Giuliani are pro-Choice Catholic politicians.


Roger is right - those on the political Right calling for Kerry's excommunication are religious frauds and charlatans. They care nothing for the beliefs they profess to have, they only care about achieving and obtaining power. It's disgusting.

Email Peter Robinson and ask him why he isn't calling for the excommunication of Pataki, Ridge, Giuliani, and Ahnuld, as he is for Kerry.

You can send him to this handy website which gives us Tom Ridge's voting record on abortion when he was in Congress.

Pennsylvania Primary

Jesse has a good post on the whole Specter/Toomey race. He makes an obvious point which has been largely overlooked -- a lot of conservatives really really want Toomey to win, even though George Bush wants Specter to win. As Jesse notes, if Specter loses it means that an endorsement by George W. Augustus Bush doesn't mean a damn thing.

But, anyway, Joe Hoeffel needs money!

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a pro-Choice Catholic Politician.


...Renato makes a good point:

In 1960, Republicans insinuated that a Catholic, Democratic candidate with the initials JFK, was unfit for the Presidency because he would do the Pope's bidding as President.

In 2004, Republicans (with the aid of the buttinsky Vatican) are insinuating that a Catholic, Democratic candidate with the initials JFK, is unfit for the Presidency because he won't do the Pope's bidding as President.

We've come a long way in 44 years, haven't we?


Last dance for Chalabi? At least someone is telling the Post that:

The United States and the top U.N. envoy to Iraq have decided to exclude the majority of the Iraqi politicians the U.S.-led coalition has relied on over the past year when they select an Iraqi government to assume power on June 30, U.S. and U.N. officials said yesterday.

The latest shift in policy comes as the U.S.-led coalition has to resolve some contentious and long-standing issues before the transfer takes place. Earlier this week, the coalition moved to allow former Baath Party members and military officers to return to government jobs.

At the top of the list of those likely to be jettisoned is Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite politician who for years was a favorite of the Pentagon and the office of Vice President Cheney, and who was once expected to assume a powerful role after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials acknowledged.

Chalabi has increasingly alienated the Bush administration, including President Bush, in recent months, U.S. officials said. He generated anger in Washington yesterday when he said a new U.S. plan to allow some former officials of Hussein's ruling Baath Party and military to return to office is the equivalent of returning Nazis to power in Germany after World War II.

Chalabi has headed the committee in charge of removing former Baathist officials. In a nationwide address yesterday designed to promote national reconciliation, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer said complaints that the program is "unevenly and unjustly" administered are "legitimate" and that the overall program has been "poorly implemented."

That criticism may curtail Chalabi's influence over the removal of former officials -- and his power over the employment and income prospects of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Washington is also seriously considering cutting off the $340,000 monthly stipend to Chalabi's party, the Iraqi National Congress, according to a senior administration official familiar with the discussions. This would be a major change, because the INC has received millions of dollars in U.S. aid over the past decade as the primary vehicle for supporting the Iraqi opposition.

Friday, April 23, 2004


I'll try to resist posting too much about this. But, I do want to say that as a member of one of the two major religious groups (agnostic/atheist and Muslims) about which it's generally acceptable to say all manner of horrible things I have little sympathy for the tender sensibilities of members of dominant religions. Give me a call when the President of the United States says about Christians what one said about atheists:

No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.

No one finds it particularly troubling when it's pointed out that an "out" atheist couldn't get elected dog catcher in most of this country, let alone to Congress. I'm actually not complaining really - I'm not trying to establish some sort of new victim group here. But, nonetheless, I'm a bit sick and tired of White Christian Males pretending that they're the persecuted ones.

In addition, I'm a bit fed up with people hand-wringing about anti-religious sentiment from "the Left." First of all, "the Left" which has any clout or power in this country is explicitly "pro-religion" to a degree which disturbs me. My retinas still burn with the image of the members of Congress on the steps of the Capitol screeching out "UNDER GOD" while performing the pledge of allegiance. Left-leaning people with strongly held religious views need to stop worrying about what some comedian says on some radio show and need to start worrying that the public faces of their religion are people who, if they had their way, would establish their own flavor of theocracy and revoke our right to worship as we please (or not at all).

I'm tired of liberalish Christians telling me it's my job to reach out to Christian moderates who feel that "the Left" is hostile to them. Screw that. It's time for liberalish Christians to tell their slightly more right-leaning brethren that those of us who fight to maintain the separation between Church and State do it to protect freedom of religion - not destroy it. It's time for moderate and liberal Catholics to take a stand against their Church's assault on Democratic (and only Democratic) politicians who deviate from doctrine.

I'm not hostile to religion. I'm hostile to those who cloak their hate in bigotry in religion. I'm hostile to those who want to impose their religion on me and everyone else. I'm hostile to those who have no understanding where their freedoms come from, and why they're important. I'm hostile to Christian Exceptionalists who believe that simply by being religious they're immune from all criticism.

...couple comments. Of course there are moderate and liberal Christians/Catholics who are fighting to save their religion from being taken over by less tolerant folk. But, currently there seems to be this general notion floating around that if only the "secular left" would be a bit nicer to people who are trying to put prayer in their schools and take control of their daughters' uterus then more people would vote for Democrats. As Jon Stewart would say.... WUUUUUH? See, for example, human scum Nick Kristof, who wants me to hug an Evangelical. Screw you Kristof - damn straight I'm intolerant of people who are intolerant. And, yes, I know that doesn't include all Christians or all Evangelical Christians (I don't think Kristof has yet to really understand what ECs are anyway), but sure as hell includes anyone tangentially associated with the Christian Right.

The issue is not religion - it's religion and politics. As long as religions aren't too coercive of their members, I'm happy for people to do what they want. But, once religion gets involved in politics I have no need to be tolerant or nice about it. I can be tolerant of your religion without being tolerant of your politics. That's the issue.

Pink Bits

Reader j writes in with an idea:

Wanted to run this past you. For the post June 30 situation, we need someone who has experience being a ceremonial figurehead, not commanding armed forces and not enacting new laws. Are you thinking of the same person I am? Um-hmm, the Queen of England. Think about it: Iraq gets an experienced figurehead, we prop up Tony Blair, and foist Iraq onto Britain as part of their empire.

God Save the Queen!

Open Thread


Tom Ridge

Tom Ridge is a pro-choice Catholic politician.


Viceroy Jerry

Paul Bremer had a few harsh words for the Bush administration back in 2001...

On February 26, 2001, the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation opened a three-day conference on the theme "Terrorism: Informing the Public" at Cantigny, the colonel's estate in Wheaton. Bremer, who gave the keynote speech, recalled his work on the National Commission on Terrorism.

"We concluded that the general terrorist threat is increasing," Bremer said, "particularly because of a change in the motives of terrorist groups. . . . We have seen a move from narrow political motivation to a broader ideological, religious, or apocalyptic motive for many terrorist groups -- groups that are not attacking because they are trying to find a broader audience, but are acting out of revenge or hatred, or simply out of an apocalyptic belief that the end of the world is near." The new terrorists, he said, weren't interested in killing just enough innocent people to get noticed. For them it was the more dead the better.

The Bush administration had been in power just about a month at this point, but Bremer had already seen enough to draw some conclusions about it. He told the many journalists invited to the Cantigny conference to hold the White House's feet to the fire: "It is the media's responsibility, and an important one, though very uncomfortable for people in government, to put a very strong spotlight on the government's policies and practices on terrorism, especially given the current disorganization of the federal government's fight against terrorism. In this area, the federal government is in complete disarray. There's been remarkably little attention to the major recommendation the Gilmore Commission made for a substantial reorganization of the government's approach to terrorism. Journalists shouldn't let politicians get away with that.

"The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?' That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it. Maybe the folks in the press ought to be pushing a little bit."

Bremer's remarks, somewhat abridged, survive in Terrorism: Informing the Public, the McCormick Tribune Foundation's book-length report on the conference. By the time it was published, in 2002, that window of opportunity had slammed shut.

...from the WaPo, 12/24/2000:

L. Paul Bremer, who succeeded Oakley as ambassador for counterterrorism and who recently chaired the National Commission on Terrorism, said Clarke and the Clinton administration have their resources "correctly focused on bin Laden."

But he faulted the administration for not making more of an issue of Iran's continuing sponsorship of terrorist groups throughout the Middle East.

Liberal Media

According to Drudge, Stern's ratings are way up since he turned against Bush.

I know I've started listening again.

$700 Million

David Sirota discusses the legal and important constitutional issues surrounding the $700 million the Bush administration illegally siphons off. He correctly argues that congress cannot abdicate its reponsibility to investigate this situation. Otherwise, future governments will feel unencumbered by pesky things like "the constitution" or "laws."

This story is astounding. What's more astounding is the fact that there is been no outrage from the op-ed pages or from the TV bobbleheads. Let me try and explain it to them very carefully.

After 9/11, we went to war in Afghanistan to punish those responsible as well as to remove support for the al Qaeda network more generally. We didn't put enough troops on the ground either finish the job of rounding up the terrorists or to rebuild and install a stable governmenment. The consequence of this is that Bin Laden and many other al Qaeda members were allowed to escape, and much of Afghanistan has reverted to their Taliban-era existence. We know now that part of the reason was that the Bush administration was diverting resources allocated to that purpose in order to attack a country which posed no threat to us or its neighbors. They stole money allocated to make us safer, and used it to make us less safe.

Shame on them. Shame on Republicans in Congress for not being outraged. Shame on our media for not being outraged.

This administration always says that everything after 9/11 changed. What changed is that they decided they could do anything they wanted to, in violation of law and Constitution, and the media wouldn't hold them accountable. So far, they've mostly been right.

Not a Chickenhawk

Former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman, who left behind a lucrative contract to sign up for the military, died in Afghanistan.

Kelley vs. Blair

I've made this point over and over and over again. But, let's remember that Howard Kurtz rushed home from his honeymoon so he could write about that nasty Negro at the New York Times and then mused that the Kelley story at USA Today really just wasn't interesting because... you know, Blair is black!

KURTZ: But isn't there also the question of race? I mean, there was a whole affirmative action debate about Jayson Blair?

LORCH: There could be, probably. I mean, its just been -- Jack Kelley has been swept under the rug. If I talk to people who aren't journalists, they haven't even heard about him.

KURTZ: Because it doesn't get much coverage on television.


KURTZ: It certainly got a lot of coverage...

LANE: No, I think you're right. The race angle gave it a little bit extra energy, that story.

Kelley's fabrications are widespread and important. They influenced public policy and inflamed racial and ethnic tensions. Blair mostly just sat at home, watched CNN, and then typed up copy with a few additional details which really weren't important.

Among the stories now disavowed by USA Today are Kelley's reports "that he found diaries alongside the corpses of Iraqi soldiers in 1991; traveled to a village in Somalia to interview an aid worker in 1992; discovered matches made from napalm that could burn through glass ashtrays in 1993; trekked into the mountains of Yugoslavia with the Kosovo Liberation Army in 1999; listened to a tape that captured the downing of a missionary flight over Peru in 2000; visited with Elian Gonzalez's father inside the father's house in Cuba in 2000; visited Osama bin Laden terrorist camps in Afghanistan in 2001; and spent time near the cave complexes of Tora Bora in 2001."

In addition, "there appears to be no basis for a 2002 Kelley story that said U.S. forces in Afghanistan found evidence linking two Chicago-based Islamic charities to al-Qaeda."

Our Press

How low they've sunk:

The Web site, the Memory Hole (, had filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year, seeking any pictures of coffins arriving from Iraq at the Dover base in Delaware, the destination for most of the bodies. The Pentagon yesterday labeled the Air Force Air Mobility Command's decision to grant the request a mistake, but news organizations quickly used a selection of the 361 images taken by Defense Department photographers.

The release of the photographs came one day after a contractor working for the Pentagon fired a woman who had taken photographs of coffins being loaded onto a transport plane in Kuwait. Her husband, a co-worker, was also fired after the pictures appeared in The Seattle Times on Sunday. The contractor, Maytag Aircraft, said the woman, Tami Silicio of Seattle, and her husband, David Landry, had "violated Department of Defense and company policies."

The firing underscored the strictness with which the Pentagon and the Bush administration have pursued a policy of forbidding news organizations to showing images of the homecomings of the war dead at military bases. They have argued that the policy was put in place during the first war in Iraq, and that it is simply an effort to protect the sensitivities of military families.

Executives at news organizations, many of whom have protested the policy, said last night that they had not known that the Defense Department itself was taking photographs of the coffins arriving home, a fact that came to light only when Russ Kick, the operator of The Memory Hole, filed his request.

"We were not aware at all that these photos were being taken," said Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times.

John Banner, the executive producer of ABC's "World News Tonight," said, "We did not file a F.O.I.A. request ourselves, because this was the first we had known that the military was shooting these pictures."

Uh, guys, maybe you could have asked?

Thursday, April 22, 2004



The mess in Iraq was created by officials who believed what they wanted to believe, and ignored awkward facts. It seems they have learned nothing.

Shocking Allegations

Neal Pollack interviews John O'Neill.


Cali says buh-bye to Diebold.

They Get Letters

America's third greatest patriot, General JC Christian, writes a letter.

1, 2, 3...

Strikes I'm out... going to see some baseball. Be back later.

As you may have noticed I've re-though my ad policy with candidates. I'll have more on that later...

Enjoy your day.

...damn, for a minute there it was like I was at a Rollerball match.

boo marlins.

The Taliban in America

This is unbelievable.

Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.

The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.

The bills now go the Senate, which also is controlled by Republicans.

The Conscientious Objector Policy Act would allow health care providers to assert their objection within 24 hours of when they receive notice of a patient or procedure with which they don't agree. However, it would prohibit emergency treatment to be refused.

If this law passes, I will personally help compile the wall of shame so we can frequently and loudly object to anyone who thinks they have the moral right to do this.

Cut Their Mics

David E. tells us why it's time to do away with unnamed sources.


Submitted in advance.

Speaking to a large gathering of newspaper editors, publishers and executives this afternoon, President Bush defended his policies on Iraq and the war on terror, saying "We're changing the world for the better."

Asked about an editorial in today's Washington Post noting that Sen. John Kerry now called for a stable Iraq but not necessarily a full democracy, Bush repeated his own view that democracy in that country "is necessary and it will change the world." He later added: "We're not gonna cut and run as long as I am in the Oval Office."

The whole issue of questions from the audience at the Associated Press annual luncheon was a running joke for the president during his talk. He opened his speech by saying, "I kind of like ducking questions," and said he would be "glad to duck any questions like my mother once told me to do" following his remarks.

In the end he only took three questions, from those submitted in advance by AP members, and read by Burl Osborne, the AP chairman. After replying to one question he apologized for "the long answer, but at least I answered it."


Hey all, sorry for the absence. Was on the road. More later... 150 emails to get through, many of which I'll miss so if you sent me anything particularly important, feel free to resend...

Morning Thread

Another open thread until Atrios has a chance to post.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Thread III

Tomasky coming up...

Open Thread II

Blogging from WLIB. Groucho Glasses on.

Open Thread

Chat Away.

From the NYT

Okrent writes in to repair the damage done by his overly snippy assistant:

Dear Atrios,

I recently learned that some readers wrote to this office concerning the protocols of White House press conferences. I cannot speak for other news organizations, but I can assure you categorically that the New York Times does not -- ever -- submit press conference questions in advance.

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Okrent
Public Editor

Daniel Okrent
Public Editor
N.B.: Any opinions expressed here, unless otherwise indicated, are solely my own

I've heard enough to believe that this is basically true across the board. But, perhaps the press should think about why reasonable people even entertain this notion.

Mo Money

I just want to add to the post below about the spending on the Iraq war. Assuming we're not just going to pull out (which, no matter what the merits of that idea isn't likely to happen before the next round of spending happens), as many of you have said it's absolutely vital for the Democrats to get out in front of this issue. They need to propose some supplemental spending before Bush pulls it out of his back pocket when it's "almost too late." If that happens, the Democrats will once again be beaten over the head with the "support the troops you America-haters" stick and end up swallowing yet another spending bill with few conditions and zero congressional oversight.

They need to get out in front on the spending and the strategy in a positive, constructive fashion. Or, this totally corrupt enterprise is just going to continue...

Remember, from Nightline 4/23/03:

Well, in terms of the American taxpayers contribution, I do, this is it for the US. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges, Britain, Germany, Norway, Japan, Canada, and Iraqi oil revenues, eventually in several years, when it's up and running and there's a new government that's been democratically elected, will finish the job with their own revenues. They're going to get in $20 billion a year in oil revenues. But the American part of this will be 1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.

That Liberal Media

Can you even comprehend a press that will put this on the air?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A man who served in the same Navy unit as Sen. John Kerry denounced on Tuesday charges the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made as an antiwar protester that he and other U.S. troops committed atrocities in Vietnam.

"I saw some war heroes ... John Kerry is not a war hero," said John O'Neill, a Houston lawyer who joined the Navy's Coastal Division 11 two months after the future senator left Vietnam. "He couldn't tie the shoes of some of the people in Coastal Division 11."

Bush Administration Immoral

According to a Republican Congressman:

But military officials, defense contractors and members of Congress say that worsening U.S. fortunes in Iraq have dramatically changed the equation and more money will be needed soon. This comes as lawmakers, returning from their spring break, voice unease about the mounting violence and what they say is the lack of a clearly enunciated strategy for victory.

The military already has identified unmet funding needs, including initiatives aimed at providing equipment and weapons for troops in Iraq. The Army has publicly identified nearly $6 billion in funding requests that did not make Bush's $402 billion defense budget for 2005, including $132 million for bolt-on vehicle armor; $879 million for combat helmets, silk-weight underwear, boots and other clothing; $21.5 million for M249 squad automatic weapons; and $27 million for ammunition magazines, night sights and ammo packs. Also unfunded: $956 million for repairing desert-damaged equipment and $102 million to replace equipment lost in combat.

The Marine Corps' unfunded budget requests include $40 million for body armor, lightweight helmets and other equipment for "Marines engaged in the global war on terrorism," Marine Corps documents state. The Marines are also seeking 1,800 squad automatic weapons and 5,400 M4 carbine rifles.

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, charged that the president is playing political games by postponing further funding requests until after the election, to try to avoid reopening debate on the war's cost and future.

Weldon described the administration's current defense budget request as "outrageous" and "immoral" and said that at least $10 billion is needed for Iraqi operations over the next five months.

"There needs to be a supplemental, whether it's a presidential election year or not," he said. "The support of our troops has to be the number one priority of this country. . . . Somebody's got to get serious about this."

My guess is they'll sit on this for awhile, and then suddenly suckerpunch the Democrats by putting a Bill out there and demanding that they pass it right away to "support the troops."

Wingnut Responsibility

World O'Crap perfectly sums up the standard wingnut response:

The logic here is flawless: Michelle maligned someone and is asked to apologize; other people have apparently campaigned on behalf of another Muslim arrested for aiding terrorists; so, Michelle will send the guy she maligned a "condolence card" only if the people who think she's done something wrong will apologize for what some other people did.

$700 Million

David Sirota explains the (il)legality of diverting $700 million.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

3 Hours of Heaven

I'll be helping out Sam Seder tomorrow night on the Majority Report on AAR from 8-11PM ET. Apparently, America's Greatest Patriot Janeane Garofalo has more important and more patriotic things to do tomorrow night. So, if you normally tune in for her you can make other plans tomorrow.


Here's the picture of John Negroponte posted on the CPA website.

[they cropped the photo - here's the one they had up earlier:]

Someone there has a sense of humor.
(thanks to reader g)

...just want to add that the more I stare at this the more I realize it is itself a magnificent work of art. Negroponte, looking somewhat sinister with a touch of glee, stands with Guernica in the background and a Fox microphone in the foreground.

Spoils of War

This Marketplace segment is just horrifying. They should all be locked up. It's worse than even I imagined.

They Get Letters

I'm actually having a hard time comprehending this. From reader t to the NYT Public Editor, an exchange:

t to the PE:

[t provides link to this story]

"For each press conference, the White House press secretary asks the reporters for their questions, selects six or seven of the questions to answer and those reporters are the only ones called upon toask their questions during the press conference."

Can you confirm or deny this practice? If it is true, do you feel that the press should inform the public that the press conferences are scripted? This would appear to be a betrayal of the public's trust.

PE's response:

I'm fairly certain that two reporters at the press conference asked unscripted questions

Arthur Bovino
Office of the Public Edtior

t writes back:

Thank you for your quick reply. Only two? Was the NYT reporter's question scripted?

From the PE:

I am uncertain if Ms. Bumiller's question was submitted to the president before-hand. Perhaps you might write to the president if you are unhappy with this system.

Arthur Bovino
Office of the Public Editor

Name and email headers clipped.

...oops. Reader t has a blog, and I obviously didn't need to clip the name out. Stupid me, didn't notice...

...Josh Marshall has a post up with denials from pals. Occasional commenter Wh Ho' (and from what I can glean genuine member of the press) has also denied it. My take is this -- I have no doubt that some of the journalists do not submit questions and do not believe the questions are submitted. However, that isn't the same thing as saying no journalists submit questions.

They Get Letters

To Romenesko:

From PETER MEYER: Subject: Woodward & Iraq. I was on the Senate elevator (doing a story about a Senator who I prefer not to name) on October 11, 2001, when Sen. Joseph Lieberman walked on, in serious conversation with another Senator. Before he saw me, as he and his colleage stepped on the elevator, Lieberman said, "The Administration is really banging the drums on Iraq."

This was one month after 9/11.

I told several journalist colleagues of the comment, but no one seemed to care. My guess is that plenty of journalists knew -- or
could have easily found out -- that Bush was beating the drums to get Iraq before the dust had settled at the WTC. It simply wasn't
news at the time -- even if, in retrospect, it seems newsworthy now.

But why everyone is so surprised now that Bush had Iraqi war plans drawn up says more about the "structural problems" in the media than about the current administration.....

And here's another question for 9/11 journos: What were two of the hijackers doing spending their last night on earth at the tony Charles Hotel, across the street from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard? [hint: see Nightline, 4/8/04].

Fuzzy Math

Uh, you know guys, my readers gave over $75K during that time period...

No respect.[/dangerfield]

...don't get upset about this stuff. I think it's funny. If I want a convention pass I can get one. And, while I know this more about recognition for the community than recognition of me, it really isn't important. John Kerry has better things to do than think about these things. Most of John Kerry's top people have better things to do than thing about these things. And, it's no secret that their online operation is a wee bit silly. It isn't to their credit, but it just isn't that important.

...perhaps a clerical error.

...from someone from the Kerry campaign:

Okay - we missed it. Atrios signed up and we did not include him until WAY TOO LATE (today, actually, when I got email from several angry bloggers and a few very polite emails from Atrios).

A heartfelt apology to all - our Marathon Madness contest began April 9 and continues through May 1. Atrios WILL be counted in this one - promise. If your past fundraising is any indication - you might just win this one (too)!

While we're here - thank you, Atrios, for understanding. Oh, last thing, we'll have to know your name to make sure we hold your convention
tickets, though! :-D

March Madness coordinator

Open Thread

Chat away...

Feels a Bit Drafty In Here

I have mixed feelings about the draft. Though, the farther away I get from prime draft age the less I actually like the idea. Those 18 year olds get younger every day, and while plenty of 18 year olds are serving and getting killed, there's a difference between those who choose to go and those who would be forced. Plenty of 18 year olds are just not equipped (nor 19 nor 30 for that matter). That's not the only reason, of course.

However, I definitely don't like the idea of what amounts to an emergency draft for a situation which frankly isn't an emergency. The reinstitution of mandatory conscription would fundamentally overhaul both our military and our society. Perhaps if the idiots in Congress and the Pentagon would increase pay and benefits, rather than funneling all that money into wonderful private security costing orders of magnitude more, we wouldn't have people like Chuck Hagel opining about the possible need for it.

Sad, But True

I think Josh Marshall's suggested, but discounted, analysis is actually on the mark.

A contrary reading of these polls might suggest that the president gains as national security and war issues become more salient, even if they are becoming more salient because of what seem to be objectively bad news about his policies.

This is the big challenge Kerry faces. Bad foreign policy news isn't enough - he's still going to need to upend the whole "war president tough on terra" nonsense.

Ex Cathedra

One of the problems with having a president who seems to believe he's carrying out God's work is that you can never quite tell when he's making a divinely inspired Ex Cathedra type proclamation or if he's providing a somewhat less authoritative theological edict. Perhaps this is something the White House press could ask Scott McClellan - maybe the transcripts could be labelled or something.

Anyway, yesterday in Hershey Bush apparently told us that some people, the evil Doers, have no soul. I don't know if he was truly denying the existence of their immortal souls, a generally accepted tenet of all Christian denominations as far as I know, or if he was just lamenting the lack of James Brown in their music collections. We really need to clear up the confusion here.


The WaPo actually comes out swinging (weakly) against Ashcroft:

And blaming her for the "wall" is absurd in any event. The memo by Ms. Gorelick that Mr. Ashcroft branded as the culprit is not even mentioned in the history of impaired information-sharing that Mr. Ashcroft's department gave to the special court that finally lifted the barriers after Sept. 11, 2001. That court described the wall's origin as "sometime in the 1980s -- the exact moment is shrouded in historical mist." A set of procedures promulgated in 1995 codified the policy of keeping intelligence and law enforcement separate and significantly fortified the wall. But as the Justice Department's brief itself acknowledged, prosecutors knew long before those procedures were announced that they were not to direct intelligence activities or to use intelligence surveillance to develop criminal cases. And the Bush administration explicitly maintained the 1995 procedures before the Sept. 11 attacks. The wall was no individual's fault but a product of years of department practice, judicial opinions and supervision of intelligence surveillance by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

In fact, Ms. Gorelick was an advocate of increased collaboration between spies and cops, not greater separation. She pushed to give the court power to authorize physical searches as well as electronic monitoring, and surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act more than doubled during the Clinton administration. The department was criticized by civil libertarians and others on the left and right alike -- us included -- for the changes that she advanced. Should she have done more? Neither the political climate nor the courts would have tolerated a dismantling of the wall, which was seen as an essential protection against the civil liberties abuses of the Watergate era. Even after Sept. 11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act -- a central purpose of which was to facilitate the sharing of information -- the FISA court unanimously reaffirmed key restrictions. It took high-level action by all three branches of government, including an unprecedented appeal to a special review court that had never previously convened, to finally clarify that the wall was a kind of legal myth that never had quite the force that both the department and the lower FISA court had imagined. Pretending that such a deep-seated institutional problem was Ms. Gorelick's single-handed creation should have been beneath the attorney general.

Toomey May Win

The PA primary is the next interesting race. Toomey is closing in on Specter fast in the polls. I don't know how they're determining "likely voters" here - there isn't much at stake for Republicans other than this primary and it's hard not to imagine that Toomey supporters will be more likely to show up than will Specter supporters.

On balance, I'm really not sure who I'd prefer be Joe Hoeffel's opposition. But, I'm pretty sure Specter has jumped the shark. His ad campaign has been pretty abysmal. Frankly, the guy has negative charisma and the more he's on TV the worse he comes across. And, if he wins, his primary ads will be great fodder for Hoeffel. They're all about trying to prove that Specter is a Real Republican... statements along the lines of "Rick Santorum supports me..."

Toomey's a wingnut, but he has the kindler gentler compassionate conservative demeanor, and he could actually be a tougher opponent despite his views.

But, either way, Joe Hoeffel needs money!

Fables of the Reconstruction

by Jason Vest.

...this is the "bombshell" referenced last night. I think this is much more substantial than people seem to think. It isn't a nice simple "gotcha" story that will resonate with the public, but it nonetheless tells us that even the true believers are shocked and horrified at the degree of corruption in the system we've set up and paid for.

Blood and Treasure

One of the rarely addressed questions by the war fans is how much is too much? Once upon a time the reason for the war was the inevitable "mushroom cloud" - and since that's sort of like the infinite cost, it would be worth almost any expense to stop it.

But, now that the justification has mostly been reduced to "saddam was a bad guy and we're liberating the people," I'm curious if any of the war fans have a limit? Is there any cost, financial or in lives at which point they'd decide it wasn't worth it? 1,000? 10,000? 50,000 soldiers? $400 billion, $750 billion, $1 trillion?

And, what about the tradeoff? If they knew we could sacrifice X soldiers to save $Y, or vice versa, how should we balance it?

The "moral seriousness" crowd rarely has trouble making (up) these kinds of cost benefit analyses in other situations. What about Iraq?

...and, yes, there are a couple of other related issues. First, as digamma notes, an important question is whether or not this was the best use of (so far) 700 lives and $200 billion. I think the answer to that is clearly no, and I can't comprehend that there's even an argument on the other side.

At this point, also, the 700 lives and $200 billion are a "sunk cost." So, we can't get them back. Even if we conclude that the whole operation was a mistake, that doesn't necessarily mean that therefore the correct response is to bug out. The question now is - how many more lives and how much more money before you'd decide it was a bad plan.

Of course, all of this requires some general notion about what "success" is... but, we haven't really defined that either.

Defending the Evil Doers

Today the Supreme Court is going to be hearing oral arguments about the Guantanamo defendants. The basic issue is, as I see it, does Bush have the right to lock people up without charges or representation indefinitely?

The basic answer, as I see it, should be rather simple. Sadly, the Supremos are only hearing the more narrow question - do US courts have jurisdiction over this case? But, even that should be a rather simple issue, once we reframe the question - "Does president Bush have the right to declare any piece of rock his personal playground outside of any kind of judicial oversight?"

The Center for Constitutional Rights will be arguing the case.

You can read all about Rasul v. Bush on their website here.

Condi Flashbacks

From Foreign Affairs, 2000:

"The lesson, too, is that if it is worth fighting for, you had better be prepared to win. Also, there must be a political game plan that will permit the withdrawal of our forces—something that is still completely absent in Kosovo."

"[The military] is not a civilian police force. It is not a political referee. And it is most certainly not designed to build a civilian society."

"Using the American armed forces as the world's "911" will degrade capabilities, bog soldiers down in peacekeeping roles, and fuel concern among other great powers that the United States has decided to enforce notions of "limited sovereignty" worldwide in the name of humanitarianism."

Look, for too long these people have swept this stuff aside by chanting "9/11 changed everything." No, 9/11 didn't change everything. What 9/11 did is prove that these people were wrong about absolutely everything. And, what Iraq has proven is they still haven't learned anything.

(thanks to g)

Good News for Daschle


RAPID CITY, S.D., April 19 -- When Tim Giago, a native of the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, decided to run for the Senate as an independent, he did more than shake up the state's tight, closely watched race between Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle and John Thune, a former Republican representative.

He made South Dakota's Indian Country the focal point of the campaign.
Daschle, who had the most to lose from Giago's run, now has the most to gain. After a meeting with Daschle on Saturday, Giago, a nationally syndicated columnist and advocate for Indian causes, said he is withdrawing and throwing his weight behind the Democrat.

(thanks to pm)

Monday, April 19, 2004


More Moonshit.

Coming Soon

From E&P:

NEW YORK In an unusual move for the organization, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) will release what it promises will be a bombshell article related to the Iraq conflict at 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday. It will be made available free of charge for publication on all AAN-member Web sites, as well as for print, and more than 60 members papers have expressed interest in using it, according to Executive Director Richard Karpel.

The 3,000-word story, embargoed until Tuesday but obtained by E&P today, is based on a "closely held" memo purportedly written by a U.S. government official detailed to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). It was provided to writer Jason Vest by "a Western intelligence official." The memo offers a candid assessment of Iraq's bleak future -- as a country trapped in corruption and dysfunction -- and portrays a CPA cut off from the Iraqi people after a "year's worth of serious errors."

The article is titled, "Fables of Reconstruction," with a subhed, "A Coalition memo reveals that even true believers see the seeds of civil war in the occupation of Iraq."

Karpel commented, "We have no question that the memo is authentic."

Very Slowly

You know, sometimes it just drives me crazy that the media is just incapable of explaining very simple concepts.

If Woodward's allegations about the Saudi Prince and oil prices are true, and given Scotty's non-denials today they clearly are, then the issue is not WOW BUSH STRUCK A DEAL TO LOWER OIL PRICES.

The deal is...


wee difference.

They Get Letters

To Romenesko:

From CESAR G. SORIANO, Baghdad bureau, USA Today: Wow. My heart sank when I saw Tami Silicio's photograph of the flag-draped coffins in the airplane in the Seattle Times. For those of us here in Iraq who cover the casualty reports on a daily basis, it's too easy to think of U.S. soldiers as simply statistics on a board game. Her powerful image also proves the stupidity of the DOD's rules against such photographs. Having said that, I just hope Ms. Silicio doesn't lose her job over this. I've seen how dirty the Pentagon can play, as an Army vet and as a journalist.

Suskind vs. WHPC

I know we've joked about this, but if Suskind's accusation is true this is incredible:

One of Suskind's most severe critiques of Bush was not only Bush's lack of press conferences but also his management of those conferences.

For each press conference, the White House press secretary asks the reporters for their questions, selects six or seven of the questions to answer and those reporters are the only ones called upon to ask their questions during the press conference, Suskind said.

This system makes it so that the president has answers already prepared for questions that he knows will be asked, Suskind said.

Fighting Back

From the campaign of Martin Frost:

Politician in trouble uses taxpayer funds to promote controversial
Washington lobbyist and partisan hatchet man
'Bipartisanship is another name for date rape,' [Grover Norquist, Pete
Sessions friend and supporter]

DALLAS, TX- After refusing to denounce the widely discredited hate ads
sponsored by a white supremacist group polluting North Texas airwaves in an
effort to bolster his troubled campaign, Pete Sessions has again used
questionable tactics to mislead voters and save his political hide. This
time, Sessions has used an expensive taxpayer-funded mailing to promote a
Washington DC special interest lobbyist who has become famous for his
ruthless partisanship, his ideological extremism and his controversial and
insensitive remarks.

The slick six-page colored mailing from Pete Sessions recently hit North
Texas mailboxes. At first glance it looks like any other political
advertising. However, at closer inspection this campaign style advertisement
is actually a taxpayer funded mailing sent under the cover of Pete Sessions'
Congressional office. That type mailing could typically cost as much as
$50,000 in taxpayer money. Even worse, the mailing prominently shows a
picture of controversial Washington lobbyist Grover Norquist posing with
Pete Sessions.

Grover Norquist is best known for trivializing the heinous crime of rape and
for comparing the Holocaust with taxes.

* "'We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals -
and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship,' said Grover
Norquist, a leading Republican strategist, who heads a group called
Americans for Tax Reform. 'Bipartisanship is another name for date rape,'
Norquist, a onetime adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said..."
[Denver Post May, 26 2003]

* "[George H.W.] Bush raised taxes, increased spending more
than even Jimmy Carter, added 20,000 new regulators to the public payroll,
and cut secret deals with House speaker Tom Foley and Senate majority leader
George Mitchell -- whom he called his "friends" after each date-rape."
[Grover Norquist, The American Spectator, February 1993]

* "Norquist compared the estate tax to the Holocaust. This
remark, so bizarre and tasteless that I felt it deserved checking, sent me
to the transcript of the show, where, sure enough, it was confirmed.
[Richard Cohen, Washington Post January 6, 2004]

"I am very concerned about the insensitive manner in which Pete Sessions
chooses to define himself. First Pete Sessions refuses to denounce a white
supremacist funded outside group running inaccurate and inflammatory ads on
his behalf. Now he is wasting taxpayer dollars mugging for the camera with a
man who routinely trivializes abuse towards women and belittles the
Holocaust," said Marc Stanley, Congressman Frost's campaign chair and local
Jewish leader. "Pete Sessions has a serious character problem and owes the
taxpayers of the 32nd Congressional district an apology and a refund."

Sally Garcia, a local Womens' advocate added, "The fact that Sessions would
proudly appear with a guy who said, 'Bipartisanship is another name for date
rape' just confirms in my mind that Pete either doesn't understand violent
crime against women and may not care. Clearly he doesn't understand that
trivializing rape is offensive and inexcusable to most women."

His campaign website is here.

After the Election

The Decembrist wonders what the reaction of Democrats and the Left generally will be after the election of John Kerry. Well, sadly, both among activists and within the halls of Congress, my guess is that it won't be pretty. As with Clinton, the "failed Kerry presidency" will start being talked about hours after the votes are counted.

But, I would hope that people would, as he says, recognize the limits of the power of the presidency to overcome public opinion and Congressional power when being dogged by a hostile media. Clinton had no media honeymoon (his coverage as a candidate was sometimes generous and sometimes miserable). Bush managed to extend the traditional (for Republicans) 100 day press honeymoon through early, at which point he got another extension.

I think the simple answer to the basic dilemma is that I would hope, generally, that people on our side - both rabble rousers like me and Dems in Congress - would give him a year.

Still, my bet is he won't even get an hour...

Negroponte on the Way




At a recent dinner party hosted by New York Times D.C. bureau chief Philip Taubman and his wife, Times reporter Felicity Barringer, and attended by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Maureen Dowd, Steven Weisman, and Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice was reportedly overheard saying, "As I was telling my husb—" and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, "As I was telling President Bush."

Yet Again


Years after President Bush set off alarm bells in the Muslim world by referring to his war against terrorism as a "crusade," the word that Arabs equate with Christian brutality has resurfaced in a Bush campaign fund-raising letter, officials acknowledged on Sunday.

The March 3 letter, which Bush-Cheney Campaign Chairman Marc Racicot sent to new campaign charter members in Florida, lauded the Republican president for "leading a global crusade against terrorism" while citing evidence of Bush's "strong, steady leadership during difficult times."

However, the word "crusade" recalls a historical trauma for the Muslim world, which was besieged by Christian crusaders from Europe during the Middle Ages.

But, sadly they're not morons. They just care more about exciting their direct mail base by casting this as a religious war than they do about minimizing terrorist acts at home or abroad or insurgent attacks against our soldiers. They're quite happy to put their name on an anti-American recruitment letter just to increase the re-election chances of George W. Bush. A few more dead soldiers is a small price to pay for a few more bucks in the Bush election fund.

...this is where wingnuts get all (fake) outraged that I would dare say such a thing. Well, Republicans are saying stuff like this about Democrats every day. They're running ads saying that Kerry doesn't support the troops and claiming that Kerry voted against the body armor that Bush has yet to provide for many of them.


Anyone with an IQ over about 60 could have told you that having the military contract out security operations would be a) hideously expensive and b) cause serious problems for the military. The companies can cut and run whenever they want. There's no code of conduct or military justice. Military personnel have an incentive to quit as soon as possible and go work for private companies, at a much higher cost to the military - and to you, the taxpayer.

Congress needs to seize control of this issue. Soon.

Still, the government recently advertised for a big new contract — up to $100 million to guard the Green Zone in Baghdad.

"The current and projected threat and recent history of attacks directed against coalition forces, and thinly stretched military force, requires a commercial security force that is dedicated to provide Force Protection security," the solicitation states.

Sunday, April 18, 2004



In the two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command conducted exercises simulating what the White House says was unimaginable at the time: hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets and cause mass casualties.
In a third scenario, the target was the Pentagon -- but that drill was not run after Defense officials said it was unrealistic, NORAD and Defense officials say.

NORAD, in a written statement, confirmed that such hijacking exercises occurred. It said the scenarios outlined were regional drills, not regularly scheduled continent-wide exercises.

"Numerous types of civilian and military aircraft were used as mock hijacked aircraft," the statement said. "These exercises tested track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination and operational security and communications security procedures."

A White House spokesman said Sunday that the Bush administration was not aware of the NORAD exercises. But the exercises using real aircraft show that at least one part of the government thought the possibility of such attacks, though unlikely, merited scrutiny.

This is all silly. There is something very odd about these people trying to make a distinction between "normal" hijackings and what happened. The security response would be the same, beforehand at least.


What Jesse says.

60 Minutes

Was out. What'd I miss?

Ashcroft Outrage

Jamie Gorelick responds to her critics today in the Washington Post.

Frankly, even in this media climate, I cannot believe that our whore media didn't respond with near-universal outrage and derision over Ashcroft's shameless display of partisan hackery when he appeared to testify. After spending his first 8 months in office paying absolutely no attention to terrorism - ranking it below covering up boobies as priority of his JD - Ashcroft had the nerve to try and ratfuck the committee by bringing up a memo from 1995 outlining a policy which his own JD ratified in the summer of 2001.

It's a complete embarassment that we have such an unprofessional partisan buffoon as our AG. It'd be funny if he wasn't so utterly unequipped to do what is a rather important job.

Brits to Leave if Asked By Local Shia Leader


...breaking. Spain pulling out.

Torture Wolf!



Julia says it best:

There's a certain poetic rightness about this. A reluctant Bush is forced, finally, by circumstance and on page one of the Washington Post, into a war he's been planning feverishly for a year on page A15.


Part of the newspeak of this war was to redefine "casualties" as soldiers who are killed, instead of its traditional definition of soldiers who have to be removed from the theater of combat due to death or injury. I don't have a problem with that, really. For military usage the traditional definition is useful, but for the rest of us it's probably just confusing.

However, to great degree we've been completely ignoring the number of wounded. This is wrong for two reasons. First, the obvious one, many of these peoples' injuries are quite severe and will transform their lives. That shouldn't be ignored.

But, second, from a military perspective, the number of wounded and not returned to duty is growing. In April, 464 soldiers were classified this way so far. Aside from concern for them personally, this means 464 fewer pairs of boots on the ground, or 464 replacements that need to be found.

It was quite disturbing to hear Rumsfeld refer to people (meaning the troops) as "fungible." I'll give him a pass on the callousness of that statement, and instead focus on the fact that he's just flat out wrong, and wrong in a way that our Secretary of Defense shouldn't be wrong.

In our modern military, and in the midst of a conflict, people are not fungible. There is a lot of specialized training. There are a lot of specialized tasks that not all soldiers are trained to do. In addition, there are the issues of unit cohesion and general morale. And, let's not forget experience.

Bringing in new people to handle this situation is going to be problematic for those and many other reasons. No longer will new troops believe, and behave as if, they are liberating an oppressed people. Instead, they will go in perceiving that they are going in to fight a guerilla war.