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:: Saturday, May 31, 2003 ::

Powell's UN Report

While the entire civilized world (those not blinded by jingoism) noted that virtually none of Powell's UN report stood up to scrutiny, this does make me feel better about the whole affair.

US News and World Report magazine said the first draft of the speech was prepared for Powell by Vice President Richard Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in late January.

According to the report, the draft contained such questionable material that Powell lost his temper, throwing several pages in the air and declaring, "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit."
. Why does that make me feel better? Well, it's nice to know that someone in the Administration feels that if you're going to lie to the American public, you've got to have some standards. It makes me proud that Colin Powell, at least, stood up to Dick Cheney and said "Dick, I'm not going to do this. The American public deserves at least marginally believable bullshit. I can do no less for my country than make sure the bullshit I use is, at least, slightly plausible"

It's nice to see honor and dignity restored to the White House. It hasn't been this honorable since 1975. (Link via Thinking it Through)
:: Morat 4:04 PM :: ::

Summers in Texas

Tom Spencer just made a post from Texas. First off, I'd like to welcome a fellow liberal to the Lone Star State. Had he made the pilgrimage next summer, I'd have been able to meet him. This summer, not so much. With my wife out of work for the summer, and taking a bunch of classes so she can teach this fall, money and time are tight.

Tom blogged about the 101 degree heat. Welcome to Texas for sure. Just be happy you're not in Houston. It's just as hot, but tends to be considerably more humid. Trust me, San Antonio and Austin tend to feel about 10 degrees cooler than Houston.

Enjoy your trip in Texas, and drink plenty of water. The heat can knock you flat if you're not used to it.

:: Morat 3:32 PM :: ::

:: Friday, May 30, 2003 ::

The Anti-Americanism of the Left

I lost an entire post on that topic. Oh well. Suffice it to say, I've been accused of being anti-American so much lately that I finally decided to sit down and figure out what, exactly, I'm doing that's so anti-American.

After much thought, I've realized it's the fact that I'm almost always disappointed in America's actions. Always critiquing anything we do. Always demanding it be done better, faster, more ethically.

And I was shocked to discover that some people thought this attitude was a bad thing.

Of course I'm constantly critiquing America. It's my country, and I hold it to the absolute highest standards. Believing that American can even approach such standards takes an inordinate amount of pride and belief in our own abilities. My criticism and disappointment are a function of believing that America is capable of being more, of being better than it currently is. Yet, to some people, that's a bad thing.

What I can't decide, however, is why they think it's a bad thing. Is it because they don't hold America to high standards? Or because they believe that American automatically achieves them?

The first is rather insulting, and the second...well, the second is the mindset of those who never had to pretend the Emperor had fine clothes. A hard to penetrate belief that their mental worlds always match reality. It's no surprise that they get defensive and angry when anyone dares to claim the Emperor is naked. After all, Emperor's wear fine clothes, and that guy is an Emperor, so obviously I'm a member of the raving lunatic Left if I'm claiming otherwise.

But don't worry about them. Whenever anyone points out the Emperor's nakedness, they'll go read Ann and Peggy's fawning description of how well chosen the Emperor's fine, fine clothes were....
:: Morat 2:53 PM :: ::

Black Box Voting

Here's a good summary of the events in Georgia last election. (Via Atrios) If you've got any interest or any worries (you should!) about electronic voting machines, go there.

And if your state is planning on using them, pester your representatives for a system that creates a paper trail.
:: Morat 9:05 AM :: ::

Relief for US troops

Daily Kos pointed this out. We actually expected other countries to send troops to help out with the occupation of Iraq.

I'm not sure why, since most of those who have troops to send were against invading. Or, of course, were countries we were insulting at the time (and still are).

To compound matters, most of the countries that tend send troops out for these sort of peacekeeping missions have already committed troops to cleaning up our last invasion. There are 5500 UN troops heading for Afghanistan, to supplement what UN forces are already there. Something like 1300 soldiers just shipped out to Congo, and the UN has peacekeeping troops stationed in a number of other spots around the world.

Does the Bush Administration live in the real world? Did they honestly expect the UN to pony up money and troops for a war that was fought without UN approval? By a country that spurned UN procedure, called the UN irrelevant, and insulted it's most powerful members?
:: Morat 8:44 AM :: ::

Bush and Bin Laden

I was thinking a bit more about this story, and why Wolfowitz's comments made me so angry. After re-reading this section, it became crystal clear.
Wolfowitz said another reason for the invasion had been "almost unnoticed but huge" -- namely that the ousting of Saddam would allow the United States to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, where their presence had long been a major al Qaeda grievance.

"Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door" to a more peaceful Middle East, Wolfowitz was quoted as saying.
...
The United States announced last month that it was ending military operations in Saudi Arabia, where they have long generated Arab resentment because of their proximity to Islam's holiest sites.

I was saying much the same thing, in the wake of 9/11. I wasn't alone. Quite a few people were talking about the root causes of Arabic terrorism against the US. In addition to Israel, what topped the list was our presence in Saudi Arabia. Not just our troops, but the support we gave the House of Saud, despite their habit of cracking down on democratic reform and their less than humanitarian practices towards dissidents.

I said that we should examine the reasons Al Qaeda targeted the US, and decide which (if any) should be addressed. Not because they made Al Qaeda angry but because the US has, in the past, done things it shouldn't. For daring to suggest things like that, I was labeled an appeaser, un-American, a Bin Laden or terrorist sympathizer and had my patriotism questioned.

For daring to suggest that we might look at our own actions, and ensure they are morally justified, for daring to imply that Al Qaeda's actions might not be solely insane religious mania, I was attacked, insulted, and threatened.

And now, twenty months later, Wolfowitz comes along and says the same thing. The very administration that lead the charge against the 'Blame America First' crowd believes the same thing those horrid ivory-tower lefties did.

Had you listened to us, almost two years ago, we could have saved you some effort. It took two wars, tens of thousands of innocents dead, several thousand mass arrests, the abridgment of the Bill of Rights, billions of dollars, the alienation of virtually all of our allies, and the angering of most of the Arab world before you could make a tiny baby-step towards admitting that we were right. That maybe, just maybe, our own actions are exacerbating terrorism. That maybe, just maybe, the US could do a few things it should probably do anyways to help calm people down.

Sadly, you did it too late. Had you left Saudi Arabia before angering the Arab world by invading Iraq, it might have helped. Chalk it up as one more failure on the foreign front.

:: Morat 8:23 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, May 29, 2003 ::

DPS Destruction and the Law

Josh Marshall blogged
After the initial squall over the manhunt for the Texas Democrats, state Representative Lon Burnam -- a member of the Law Enforcement Committee -- filed an open records request for documents relevant to the Department of Public Safety's manhunt. After hearing news reports that files were being destroyed even after the issuance of that request, he filed a motion for, and eventually received, a restraining order barring further document destruction. Burnam also subsequently filed a motion to depose four members of the DPS.


I bolded part of it. If that is true, if the DPS continued to destroy documents after the issuance of a request for the records, then the DPS is in a world of trouble.

First off, once the request has been made, the documents cannot be destroyed until the Open Records request has been processed. Open and shut. No grey areas, no complicated law. Criminally, anyone involved in the illegal destruction of the documents is in danger of up to three months in jail and a 4000 dollar fine. Politically, it's goodbye career to anyone whose hands were on it.

I'm not surprised Burnam thinks that the DPS is desperate to find out who talked. Willful and obviously illegal destruction of records has been a political death sentence since Nixon. If this was authorized or suggested outside the DPS itself, fingers will be pointed. I don't think many career DPS officials plan to lose their jobs for the political ambitions of Tom DeLay.
:: Morat 6:45 PM :: ::

What a lovely quote collection you have there, Mr. Billmon...

Here you go. These are only a few of them...
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney
August 26, 2002

We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.
George Bush
February 8, 2003

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.
George Bush
March 17, 2003

There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.
Gen. Tommy Franks
March 22, 2003

We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.
Donald Rumsfeld
March 30, 2003

There are people who in large measure have information that we need . . . so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country.
Donald Rumsfeld
April 25, 2003

I am confident that we will find evidence that makes it clear he had weapons of mass destruction.
Colin Powell
May 4, 2003

I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.
Donald Rumsfeld
May 4, 2003

I'm not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein -- because he had a weapons program.
George W. Bush
May 6, 2003

U.S. officials never expected that "we were going to open garages and find" weapons of mass destruction.
Condoleeza Rice
May 12, 2003

Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we're interrogating, I'm confident that we're going to find weapons of mass destruction.
Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
May 26, 2003

They may have had time to destroy them, and I don't know the answer.
Donald Rumsfeld
May 27, 2003

For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.
Paul Wolfowitz
May 28, 2003

Ship of fools indeed.
:: Morat 1:31 PM :: ::

Latest on the Killer D's

Talking Points Memo, the blogosphere's one-stop-shopping home for Killer D news, just updated with something new. From The Quorum Report:

"I will be able to reveal more in a couple of days but for now I have to protect my sources. What I can say is there has been a development that I would describe as significant."
Bailey said he would likely be able to reveal more Friday. At his press availability, Bailey disputed comments made yesterday by Gov. Perry¹s office that their involvement in the DPS search was negligible.

"My source in the DPS paints a very different picture," Bailey said. "I was told the DPS felt like they were puppets. That was their exact words. They felt they were being manipulated throughout."


:: Morat 12:29 PM :: ::

More on shifting reasons for war

With Wolfowitz's surprising candor in admitting
"For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on," Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in Vanity Fair magazine's July issue.
a few things become clear.

First, none of the reasons we were given for going to war was the "true reason". There wasn't one. There were a lot of people who wanted to invade Iraq for a lot of different reasons, but WMD's were the one that "everyone could agree on".

Of course they could all agree on it. Who wanted Saddam Hussein to have them? The problem, however, was the utter lack of a unifying reason. A real reason. The neocons wanted to invade Iraq to set up a permanent base that wasn't in Saudi Arabia. Why? So we wouldn't be beholden to another government (or rather, a government that wasn't our puppet) in terms of what we do with our forces and to remove one of the bases of Al Qaeda's anger at America. Other officials wanted to invade for humanitarian reasons, others because they honestly believed WMD were a real threat...reasons ranging all over the place.

But only one of them could be sold to the American public. Only one of them could be used to satisfy all the main factions. Weapons of Mass Destruction could be sold to a scared public. Could be sold to the other nations. Weapons of Mass Destruction were serious enough, dangerous enough, to sell a long occupation.

The problem? The threat wasn't there. And we knew. We ignored clear intelligence, we ignored cooperation, we ignored Blix's UN reports, because we had already decided to invade.

We lacked any clear moral authority in this invasion. We lacked any real reason to invade. We had no mandate, no justification of preemptive self-defense. We used WMDs, weapons we suspected didn't exist in real quantities, as a pretext. Where is the moral clarity there? Where's the moral vision?

Mark Bowden wrote
But when the President of the United States addresses the nation and the world, I expect the spinning to stop. He represents not just a party or a cause, but the American people. When President Bush argued that Hussein possessed stockpiles of illicit and deadly poisons, he was presumably doing so on the basis of intelligence briefings and evidence that the public could not see. He was asking us to trust him, to trust his office, to trust that he was acting legitimately in our self-defense. That's something very different from engaging in a bold policy of attempting to remake the Middle East, or undertaking a humanitarian mission to end oppression. Neither of these two justifications would have been likely to garner widespread public support. But national defense? That's an argument the President can always win.

Where Bush a Democrat, the articles of impeachment would already be written. Leading a country to war under false pretext is possibly the most egregious misuse of Presidential power possible. Where is the outrage?
:: Morat 11:10 AM :: ::

The economy: Far worse than you can believe

Several bloggers have already mentioned this article, but I'm going to mention it again. The Financial Times reports:
The Bush administration has shelved a report commissioned by the Treasury that shows the US currently faces a future of chronic federal budget deficits totaling at least $44,200bn in current US dollars.
...
But the Bush administration chose to keep the findings out of the annual budget report for fiscal year 2004, published in February, as the White House campaigned for a tax-cut package that critics claim will expand future deficits.

The study asserts that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts or a painful mix of both are unavoidable if the US is to meet benefit promises to future generations. It estimates that closing the gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 per cent across-the-board income tax increase.

This was suppressed so George Bush could sell his tax cut to the rich. A tax cut, I might add, that just had relief to poor families stripped out of it. Our economy is facing an economic cataclysm of nightmarish proportions, and our President's only response is to hide the data and cut taxes?

To every man and woman in American who parrots, with a straight face, the claim that Republicans are better for the economy, I demand you face up to this. Don't blame Clinton, don't blame the economy. That's immaterial. I want you to explain to me why a man who knew of a 44 trillion dollar shortfall felt it necessary to cut taxes on the rich. I want you to explain to me why this man has ignored the advice of experts, has refused to propose or support any expenditure or tax cut that could stimulate the economy, has refused to do anything but cut the taxes of the one group that needs more money the least.

I want you to explain to me how on earth it's proper economic stewardship to bury your own government's reports to get a cut passed that no one would have passed if they'd seen the report. I don't give a damn whose fault the recession was. I don't give a damn how tough or easy a job Bush or Clinton had.

All I want to know is how you can justify this? How can you justify more tax cuts on the rich, when we can't pay for the here and now? How can you justify more tax cuts for the rich, when states are going broke left and right? How can you justify more tax cuts for the rich when 400,000+ jobs are being lost a month? Do you think the rich need more money? I'm not rich, and I certainly don't need more money Not in the face of a crises like this.

Yeah, it'd be nice. So would a free trip to Disneyland. But I think some luxuries should be foregone in times like this, don't you?

I'll save you the time. There's no justification on earth for this. None whatsoever.
:: Morat 10:14 AM :: ::

Man Bites Dog Story: Tax Cuts

Here's an interesting little fact about the latest round of tax cuts:
A last-minute revision by House and Senate leaders in the tax bill that President Bush signed today will prevent millions of minimum-wage families from receiving the increased child credit that is in the measure, say Congressional officials and outside groups.


And what rationale was put forth for removing the increased tax credit for the poorest families?
House Republicans, who acknowledged the gap on the child credit, blamed the Senate for insisting on its $350 billion cap, saying the low-income families could have been covered had the Senate been more flexible.
...
A spokeswoman for Mr. Voinovich said the senator would have been happy to extend the child credits, but believed that the entire package should not pass $350 billion. The tax writers were free to reduce the dividend tax cut, noted the spokeswoman, Marcie Ridgway.


I'm not sure how much more blatant you can get. House Republicans just freely admitted that, when given the choice, they would cut taxes on the richest 1% over the poorest 1%. What next? Canceling Christmas?
:: Morat 10:00 AM :: ::

Bush appeased Bin Laden

I stumbled across this story at Daily Kos. There's an interesting quote from Wolfowitz in there.
Wolfowitz said another reason for the invasion had been "almost unnoticed but huge" -- namely that the ousting of Saddam would allow the United States to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, where their presence had long been a major al Qaeda grievance.

In the comments, smudog mentioned that, in fact, Bush had just appeased Bin Laden.

I felt that was worth repeating. A lot. In order to explain the lack of WMD, our primary reason for invading, we are now claiming that we started this war as a way to give Bin Laden what he wanted. Wait, it gets better! You see, Bin Laden hated Saddam Hussein almost as much as he hated our presence in Saudi Arabia. So we didn't just do what Bin Laden wanted...we knocked off one of his worst enemies.

Goodness, Bush doesn't look quite so macho. I'm pretty sure Wolfowitz's new explanation will be muzzled pretty damn quick. Bush appeases terrorists. I suppose Bush went AWOL in this war too.

:: Morat 9:06 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, May 28, 2003 ::

"The Clinton Warrior" by David Greenberg

A really good review of The Clinton Wars.
To be sure, many worldly-wise, professedly neutral Washington types will read this book as the self-serving defense of a wounded partisan. And there certainly are many places where Blumenthal does seem too charitable toward Clinton (for example, he faults Lani Guinier herself more than the president for the failure of her 1993 nomination as assistant attorney general for civil rights). But the central problems with our political culture that Blumenthal identifies and smartly analyzes remain with us--from the Right's win-at-all-costs methods to its religious wing's antipathy to the tolerance of diversity. Whatever their view of Blumenthal or the president he served, inside-the-Beltway skeptics should remember that for the most part, when it came to the motives and goals of the conservative movement, the Tim Russerts, Susan Schmidts, and so many other "neutral" reporters were wrong, and Sidney Blumenthal was right.


:: Morat 9:12 PM :: ::

Ashcroft's Latest Efforts

Via Atrios, we have this:
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft or his aides blocked investigators from probing U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor as part of a fraud case involving illegal loans by the bank Taylor chairs, defense attorneys say.

The accusations against Ashcroft came in a motion filed May 15 by attorneys W. Gene Sigmon and Forrest A. Ferrell, who represent Thomas W. Jones. Jones was convicted April 11 of supplying Blue Ridge Savings Bank with false information to obtain loans for Sylva car dealership owner Charles E. "Chig" Cagle, a Taylor political contributor and Republican activist.
.

Please tell me someone is going to look into this? Please? Democrats? Hello? Anyone?
:: Morat 2:53 PM :: ::

The GOP: Politics of cynicism and destruction

I thought I'd sum up some scattered thoughts on the GOP. I've been blogging about their recent power-grabs (Texas, Colorado), their odd focus on tax cuts despite the damage they're doing, Rove's obsessive use of 9/11, and the inherent contradictions between various aspects of the GOP base. Billmon has a few useful comments, and I think I've got enough for a coherent post here. Some of this is rehash of recent posts, but indulge me here.

The GOP acts like a homogeneous party. They have rigid ideological control and have successfully purged their elected ranks of most of those unwilling to toe the exact party line. Few moderates of any real position still hold national office, and are often demonized as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). The loss of Jim Jeffords, and the subsequent handover of the Senate to the Democrats for 2 years, notwithstanding.

The GOP itself, that is those who habitually vote Republican, consists of three main groups.
  • The Religious Right, who have a great deal of control over the party platform, and push a mixed agenda of lower taxes, increases of government regulation and interference in some social areas and less in others, as well as actively seeking to erode or destroy separation of Church and State. Overall, they seek a less powerful government except in a few key areas.
  • The libertarians, whose primary agenda is greater personal and economic freedom, and who push heavily for smaller government.
  • The fiscals, who vote Republican based upon the belief that Republicans are more able shepherds of the economy. They favor fewer government restrictions on business and smaller government in general.


Their common thread is a general emphasis on small and limited government, and lower taxes and fewer regulations on business and the economy. They are at odds over social policy, which is mostly set by the Religious Right, much of which is opposed by Libertarians and a number of the fiscals. The fact that the Religious Right is setting social policy (which is more important to them than fiscal policy) keeps them happy in the GOP fold. Libertarians and fiscals, on the other hand, rate small government and fiscal policy above social policy, and remain in the GOP despite frequently being at odds with GOP social ideology.

Flash forward to Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was hated and despised by the GOP, not so much because of who he was, but because he represented a true threat to the GOP. Bill Clinton was a fiscal centrist. He was not the stereotypical "tax and spend" Democrat. And this was a huge danger to the GOP.

libertarians have long been more at home with Democratic social policy than Republican social policy. Many straight fiscal voters were more comfortable with a moderate social policy, rather than the far-right social policy currently being pushed by the GOP. A fiscally centrist Democrat could potentially peel of large chunks of the GOP base, as well as appeal to the independents who tended to vote their pocketbook more than their social views.

So the GOP put together a large media apparatus designed solely to discredit Bill Clinton. They weren't taking any chances that Clinton's fiscal policy would sway GOP voters to his side. Their platform in 1994 was tailored to make them as appealing as possible on fiscal matters, and they spent the next six years bashing Clinton and trying to ensure he was not seen as a fiscal moderate.

Move forward to Bush. Now Bush has a problem. He barely won the last election. He needs all his base, and as many (if not more) independents. He is facing a stiff and angry resistance (from the Democratic base, if not their leadership) and his poll numbers are surprisingly low, despite the huge 9/11 peak.

His domestic policy is problematic. Socially, any programs he attempts to push through run the risk of alienating either the religious right or the libertarians. Fiscally, he's limited to cutting taxes and cutting spending. Those are the only two real options with wide party support. However, to cut spending by any real amount, he'd be forced to cut deeply into highly popular programs, losing needed independents. He can only cut taxes so far, unless he sells the resulting fiscal nightmare as a way to force cuts in popular programs. Bush has been placed in a very difficult position, because of the contradictory ideologies of his base and his need for large numbers of independent voters. He cannot implement the social programs and laws demanded by the Religious Right without alienating large numbers of voters. He cannot make the spending cuts demanded by libertarians without alienating large numbers of voters. He's left with tax cuts as the single way of pleasing all of his base.

And now we see that tax cuts are starting to alienate the independents, because of the resulting deficits. The 'wink-and-nod' stratagem of claiming it's a way to force deep cuts in popular programs isn't something being accepted by the public at large. They see only massive deficits, and large tax cuts with no drops in spending.

At this point, unable to get traction domestically, Bush has to turn to foreign affairs. 9/11 was, in ways, a godsend. It allowed Bush to wrap himself in the flag, and the military, in ways that would have been unsellable to the public otherwise. 9/11 and the War on Terror are the only foreign issues that Bush has popular support on.

Which means that all Bush can run on is 9/11 and tax cuts, and he can't brag about the tax cuts too much, because of the damage they're causing.

He's walking a tightrope caused by Clinton's shift of Democratic fiscal policy, and his tax cuts appear to be backfiring. Far from buying the "tax cuts now, spending cuts later" explanation, polls are showing rejections of further cuts in favor of balancing the budget and fixing Social Security.

All in all, Bush has found that many GOP pet policies simply aren't attractive to the needed independents, and that the "tax and spend" Democrats are looking better all the time.

Which leads us to the odd push by Rove and DeLay on redistricting, and the desperate feeling attempts to shove judges through the Senate now. Rove, obviously, is aware of the tightrope Bush is walking. I doubt he expects much from the President's coattails, should he win. Cutting taxes, always a GOP favorite, is backfiring, and a stagnant economy is multiplying the problem.

Bush has only 9/11 and the War on Terrorism to really run on. Cutting taxes has little traction, and only reminds how bad the economy has been. If the bloom comes off the 9/11 rose for any reason, whether overuse, time, or the results of various commissions, Bush's chances of reelection fall dramatically. If Al Qaeda continues to strike, Bush's chances fall dramatically.

All of this leads Republicans to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. At best, the 9/11 Hero and Victor in the War on Terrorism images find a lot of traction, and Bush sweeps in with wide coattails. At worst, Bush loses dramatically, and takes a lot of his allies with him.

It's why Bush needs an awful lot of money this cycle. It's why Rove is already gearing up to label any Democratic candidate as a "tax and spend liberal". It's why Rove and DeLay are trying to hammer as many judges in as possible, and to redraw districts to try to hold the House should things go badly.

Pundits may be proclaiming the death of the Democratic party, but some Republicans are acting like it's anything but a done deal.

UPDATE: Something occured to me. I'm sure it's obvious to many of you, but I just realized it. Part of the rush to appoint these extremist judges, perhaps the bulk of the reason, is payback to the Religious Right. If the GOP doesn't do something they can point to as helping to fufill the Religious Right's social agenda, it'll cause big problems. At best, it'll merely discourage the Religious Right, leading more of them to stay away from the polls. At worst, it'll prompt them to vote for third party candidates. Judicial appointments are probably the best bet for pacifying the Religious Right, without alienating the independents. Judicial appointments tend to be below the public's radar, and have a much lower profile than, say, poking at the Church/State wall or cutting away at abortion rights. Ironically, the very reason these appoinments appeal to the GOP enables the Democrats to filibuster them.
:: Morat 2:45 PM :: ::

Leave it to the British Press

To point out this tidbit (via The Left Coaster):
In the months before the Iraq war the Pentagon ignored repeated warnings that it would need a substantial military police force ready to deploy after the invasion to provide law and order in the postwar chaos, US government advisers and analysts said yesterday.
Some 4,000 US military police are now being deployed in Baghdad, but only after most Iraqi government services have been crippled by a wave of looting and arson.

The anarchy and crime in the Iraqi streets was predicted by several panels of former ambassadors, soldiers and peacekeeping experts, who advised the Pentagon and the White House while the invasion was being planned.


Another piece in the pattern. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that the real issue with the Bush Administration (other than the fact that every policy decision seems to be based solely on reelection) is that it's run almost entirely by people who simply refuse to accept anything other than their own wishful thinking.

Rumsfeld didn't want a difficult war. He didn't want real resistance. He didn't want a dirty occupation, he didn't want an expensive aftermath. So he ignored warnings, because they didn't fit the way he wanted things to be. He's not alone. Bush does it. Rove does it. Wolfowitz does it. Perle does it. Powell seems to be the only one left that realizes what he wants isn't always what is.

It's gotten so bad I can't separate spin, manipulation, outright lies, political maneuvering, and self-deception. I can't tell if Bush and Co are lying to me, to each other, or themselves. I don't think it even matters. Whether on matters fiscal or foreign, the current administration's utter disconnect from reality is dangerous.
:: Morat 12:15 PM :: ::

Painful Truths about Weapons of Mass Destruction


Well, it's been an interesting day for the WMD crowd. First, we learn that Rumsfeld has finally admitted the obvious, stating that it's possible Iraq destroyed it's weapons before the war.

Then, Counterspin pointed out that our best evidence of a WMD program were, according to Iraqi scientists who have no reason to lie (and quite a few to tell the truth, thanks to our generous reward system), used to make weather balloons.

Finally, Time reports that new intelligence from North Korea indicates that it might be able to make hundreds of nuclear weapons in the next few years.

Well, isn't this just a kick in the teeth? Let's flash forward into some instant analysis.

Rumsfeld says that Iraq, whom we invaded because they wouldn't destroy their weapons of mass destruction and would probably give some to terrorists or use them in terrorist assaults themselves, might have destroyed them before we invaded. Then, we find out that our best evidence they still had a program (all the other evidence we used to sell the war being wrong) apparently makes weather balloons. Now, it's possible those scientists might be lying. Can anyone explain why they would lie at this point?

Then we find out that North Korea, which is very broke and habitually sells weapons to anyone who can pay, is ramping up to make hundreds of nuclear bombs a year

And Bush is considered undefeatable on foreign policy? By his own public reasoning, the man just invaded the wrong damn country. This isn't like putting on the wrong tie, you know.

I'm not sure I can stress this enough: If Bush really wanted to end the threat of WMD proliferation, you'd think he'd invade the country with a public weapons program and a history of selling them. Instead, he invades another country that, by inspection before and after, destroyed any weapons it had prior to actually being invaded. Even better, the sheer manpower requirements of that invasion and occupation mean that the US military is incapable of any real deployment for several months to a year, by which point North Korea will have enough nukes to ensure no one invades them.

We alienated old allies and spent virtually all our credibility and goodwill, all in the last three years. What did we get? We get to occupy two countries full of people who hate us. We got Iran and North Korea to heavily ramp up their nuclear weapons program. And we've undoubtedly got Syria and probably several African nations saving up to buy some of North Korea's new export.

I can't think of anyone, past or present, who managed to screw up foreign policy so badly so quickly. Yet common wisdom is that Bush is "untouchable" on foreign policy? In what universe?
:: Morat 11:48 AM :: ::

Killer D's

According to Josh Marshall, a review of DPS tapes shows an interesting visitor: Jay Kimbrough. Kimbrough wears two hats in Texas government. In addition to being assistant AG, Kimbrough is also in charge of Texas' branch of Homeland Security. Our illustrious governor also made a few visits. Statements by Kimbrough aides, however, indicate that State Trooper Crais is being set up to take the fall.

The question is: Will he take one for the team? It's not just Texas law he has to worry about, it's federal law. What's the potential penalty for misuse of Homeland Security resources? Crais isn't a political operator. He's a state trooper.

Not that it matters, as this doesn't get Kimbrough off the hook. Assuming he's telling the truth, and Crais asked for the number, Kimbrough certainly knew why he wanted it. He was in the office coordinating the search for Texas lawmakers, talking with one of the men in charge. Kimbrough gave Crais the number with a clear understanding that Crais would use it for his search.

Kimbrough just admitted, through his aide, culpability. Add another one to Ridge's investigation.

:: Morat 9:07 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, May 27, 2003 ::

1000th visitor

I just got my 1000th visitor from Thinking It Through. Not bad for the first month I'm up and running. Thanks to everyone who came by, or linked to me.
:: Morat 2:03 PM :: ::

I have evolved again!

According to the Truth Laid Bear's ecosystem, I've finally gotten my wish: A spine. I'm a "Flippery Fish". Also, I should have my 1000th visitor at some point today. Thanks to everyone who has linked to me!
:: Morat 12:57 PM :: ::

Rules of Government

Also via TAPPED, I found this great editorial in the New York Times on how the dangers of recent Republican assaults on the rules of government. Adam Cohen writes:
The Texas power grab is part of a trend. Republicans, who now control all three branches of the federal government, are not just pushing through their political agenda. They are increasingly ignoring the rules of government to do it. While the Texas redistricting effort failed, Republicans succeeded in enacting an equally partisan redistricting plan in Colorado. And Republicans in the Senate — notably those involved in the highly charged issue of judicial confirmations — have been just as quick to throw out the rulebook.

These partisan attacks on the rules of government may be more harmful, and more destabilizing, than bad policies, like the $320 billion tax cut. Modern states, the German sociologist Max Weber wrote, derive their legitimacy from "rational authority," a system in which rules apply in equal and predictable ways, and even those who lead are reined in by limits on their power. When the rules of government are stripped away, people can begin to regard their government as illegitimate.

The Texas redistricting effort was part of a national Republican effort to shore up the party's 229-to-205 House majority going into the 2004 elections. The House majority leader, Tom DeLay, who traveled to Austin to supervise the effort personally, was blunt about his motives: "I'm the majority leader, and I want more seats."
...
In the judicial battles in the Senate, Republican leaders, frustrated that Democrats have rejected a handful of Bush nominees, have declared war on longstanding Senate rules. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has dispensed with procedures that allow senators to exercise their constitutional "advice and consent" function, in one case holding a single hearing for three controversial nominees, and he has stifled legitimate inquiry. When Senator Charles Schumer tried to ask one nominee about his legal beliefs, Senator Hatch snapped that he was asking "stupid questions."

The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, has declared that filibusters, which allow senators to block action with just 41 votes, should not be used to reject judicial nominations, despite a history of using them to do just that. Abe Fortas was prevented from becoming chief justice in 1968 by a Republican-backed filibuster. While Senator Frist pushes "filibuster reform," Senate Republicans are also talking about a "nuclear option," in which Vice President Dick Cheney would preside over the Senate and hand down a ruling that Rule 22, which permits filibusters, does not apply to judicial nominations.
...
Weber, in writing about rules, was concerned about what factors kept governments in power. That is not a concern in the United States — there is no uprising in the offing. But when Americans see their government flouting the rules, as they did during Watergate, they respond with cynicism.

In these hard times — with threats from abroad and a sour economy at home — our leaders should be bringing the nation together not by demonizing foreign countries, but by instilling greater faith in our own. They should be showing greater reverence for the rules of government, and looking for other ways — like tougher campaign finance laws — to assure Americans that their government operates evenhandedly.

How likely is that? The word in Texas is that Republicans may try their redistricting plan again. Senate Democrats are bracing for Senator Frist's "filibuster reform," or the "nuclear option."

And Mr. DeLay recently revealed how he felt about rules of general applicability. When he tried smoking a cigar in a restaurant on federal property, the manager told him it violated federal law. His response, according to The Washington Post, was, "I am the federal government."


Why are they doing this? They control Congress. They control the White House. Why, exactly, are they now trying to break the rules? I don't buy into any cheap generalizations like "Republicans are all power hungry ego-maniacs".

So why the rush to break the rules? Why isn't near-total control enough? I blogged earlier today that I feel Republicans aren't power-hungry, they're desperate. This sort of thing supports that view. Tom DeLay and Karl Rove wouldn't be forcing through unprecedented redistricting if they were optimistic about 2004 and 2008.

They're trying to gerrymander seats for Congress, considering destroying hundreds of years of Senate traditions to appoint judges to lifetime terms. They're acting for all the world as if power is slipping through their fingers. As if they don't expect another chance to imprint the country with their ideas for a long, long time.

I know what I see written on the wall about the Republican Party. What do you think Rove and DeLay see?
:: Morat 12:31 PM :: ::

Another broken promise

I've gotten to the point (and so has TAPPED) where whenever Bush promises something that sounds worthwhile, I skeptically wait until it's revealed he's doing the exact opposite. Sure enough, his State of the Union talk on AmeriCorps was just hot air.
The Bush Administration conceded this week that enrollment in AmeriCorps, the full-time national service program, will fall by 50 percent this year -- despite the president's promise last year to increase it by 50 percent. Additionally, Les Lenkowsky, Bush's choice to head the Corporation for National and Community Service, announced his intention to step down.
...
On May 21 the Corporation's board made official what PPI had predicted back in February: the combination of restrictions, caps, and cuts included in the 2003 appropriations bill signed by President Bush will result in a dramatic decline in the number of AmeriCorps members in the coming year. This is a major political embarrassment for the president, who made expansion of national service a central component of his "USA Freedom Corps" proposal in last year's State of the Union address.

I know what you Republicans are saying: It depends on what your definition of "increased" is.
:: Morat 12:18 PM :: ::

Paul Krugman -- Stating the Obvious

Krugman is in his usual shrill form:
"The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week's tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises.

But then maybe that's the point. The Financial Times suggests that "more extreme Republicans" actually want a fiscal train wreck: "Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door."
...
But the people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what's going on, but when will the public wake up?


That's the most honest, most pointed, and most correct assessment I've seen about the Bush administration and the current thrust of our policies. I may be liberal, and take an awfully dim view of conservatives some times, but even I realize that what's happening today, at least fiscally, isn't worthy of the label "conservative". The shrillest partisans aside, "conservative" doesn't mean stupid or crazy, it doesn't mean fanatic. It doesn't mean what George Bush and the GOP are doing to our nation and our economy.

The question is, when are conservatives going to stand up to it? When are all your Perot voters, all you balanced budget proponents, all you advocates of fiscal discipline going to stand up and be heard?


:: Morat 12:07 PM :: ::

Killer D's Update

Josh Marshall is, as usual, all over it. Tenacious man, isn't he? In addition to blogging about the missing hours, he's pretty sure he knows who Delay's front man was.
Mention of DeLay's staff would seem to be a reference to Jim Ellis, long-time DeLay aide and the head of DeLay's leadership PAC Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC). Ellis was the one running the redistricting operation for DeLay down in Texas.
...
Meanwhile, Bailey also told the Express-News "a Travis County grand jury investigating the destruction of records has apparently extended to some House members; Tom Ellis [sic], an aide to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; and perhaps DeLay himself."

:: Morat 11:48 AM :: ::

Color me shocked

Judith Miller, the Times reporter famous for filing stories about smoking guns that never materialized, got most of her information from Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress. In her defense, so did the US government, which is probably why we expected massive stockpiles and found....nothing.
:: Morat 11:42 AM :: ::

Bucking the Trend: Republicans falling

I'm going to buck the latest trend of proclaiming the death of the Democratic party, and join the rare few who think that it is not the Democrats dying, but the GOP.

Yes, it looks bad. Republicans control pretty much everything. George Bush merely has to wish, and it becomes law. Everywhere you look, you see powerful GOP figures ramming through heavily conservative agendas. You see it in Bush's tax cut (and the proclamations of more to come), in the newly muscular focus on Iran, in Tom Delay's redistricting attempt in Texas. However, appearances can be deceptive.

And in this case, they are. Republicans are pushing their power to the limits, and often beyond, to imprint their priorities in law and their judges in the judiciary. They've been pushing tax cuts, and spending hikes, and unpopular bills with no sign of concern about lack of popular support. And they don't have popular support. Bush is even eyeing Medicare.

Why are they doing this? Is it hubris? Are they drunk on power? Or are they desperate? Do they see this as their last great chance to get things done?

I think the latter. The modern GOP is comprised of three main groups: Religious conservatives, libertarians, and fiscal conservatives/moderates. All three, plus a good percentage of the moderate and independent voters, are required for the GOP to maintain power.

The problem is pretty simple: Those three blocs have vastly different agendas, ranging from unpopular to contradictory. The religious conservatives want a much more 'moralistic' government that restricts quite a few civil liberties in the name of morality. The libertarians want a more "hands off" government, both socially and economically. The fiscal conservatives (and moderates) merely want a balanced budget and inoffensive taxation rates. All of them tend to favor fewer business and environmental regulations, and there is a fairly wide agreement on foreign policy.

The problem is that there is no way to please all of these groups. Pleasing the religious conservatives means alienating the libertarians, many of the fiscal conservatives, and much of the independents, for instance. Yet all three of these groups are adamant about getting much of their agenda passed, and none of them are big on compromise. I'm sure that no one in the GOP forgets that Lott was considered a sellout for negotiating with Democrats.

The GOP holds together on fiscal policy. Everyone in the GOP likes tax cuts, and thinks that the government spends too much money on social programs. All of them have been looking forward to when, after decades, the GOP is in the position to change all of that.

And thus the problem that has to keep some Republicans up at night. There is no way to fix it. If funding for social services is cut by any real amount, independent voters will bolt. Social programs are important to, and enjoy wide support, among independents. Nor can the GOP enact many of the social mandates pushed by religious conservatives, lest they not only alienate the independents, but their own libertarians. Yet their own base is clamoring for the GOP to enact changes to social programs, and push social legislation, that would ensure that the GOP lose badly at the polls.

Even now, religious conservatives are angry that Bush hasn't pushed enough of their agenda, and are threatening to bolt and form their own party. Libertarians are unhappy with legislation like the Patriot Act. And fiscal conservatives and moderates are staring at a ballooning deficit and a tax-cut fetish that boggles the mind.

And the only conclusion I can come to is this: The GOP knows that, sooner or later, the inherent contradictions in it's own base will cause it to fragment. They're trying, desperately, to get as much done as possible before it happens.

Why do you think Clinton was so hated? Why Gore was such a threat? They were offering a new home for libertarians and fiscal conservatives. They were telling the public that you didn't have to chose between civil liberties and fiscal sanity. And that was a huge threat to the GOP, who had lost a large chunk of their base to Ross Perot. They knew exactly how many people were Republicans solely because they believed Democrats would spend the government into the ground. Anything that changed that belief had to be destroyed.

Bush pushes tax cuts, because tax cuts are about the only thing his party agrees on. Yet it's something of a one-trick pony, especially in times of recession. It's the only domestic point of agreement his party has.

The GOP knows they exist on borrowed time. They know their positions across the board are out of touch with public opinion. So they lie, and manipulate the press, and do whatever it takes to buy time. To give them a few more terms to enact their agenda. To sway public opinion. But their time is almost up, and the clock ticks faster when they're in power.

Perhaps the Christians will bolt, because Bush doesn't dare enact their agenda. Or the libertarians will bolt, because Bush has scaled back civil liberties too far. Or the fiscal conservatives will bolt, because better a Blue Dog democrat than the insanity Bush is pushing.

My prediction, for what it's worth: In the next two decades, the GOP will reform itself. The religious right will break (or be dumped) to form their own fringe party, and the GOP will realign itself with more centrist social policies. It will keep the libertarians, and pick up the Blue Dog democrats and many independents. The "center" of American politics will shift to the left, although still pretty far from Europe's.


:: Morat 11:35 AM :: ::

Latest News from Iraq

Browsing Daily Kos, I found a lot of depressing Iraq news. First, reports of guerilla attack on US troops that left two dead and several wounded. This wasn't a farmer with a rifle, but machine gun and RPG fire. Then there was a car bomb in Baghdad that killed another soldier, and according to the US Military, two more attacks elsewhere.

Welcome to the end of hostilities and the beginning of a long and increasingly painful occupation. It doesn't help, of course, that our actions aren't being seen as truly helpful, but as an imposition of our ideology. The Guardian reports:
The UN's most senior humanitarian official in Iraq warned yesterday that US attempts to rebuild the country were overly dominated by "ideology" and risked triggering a violent backlash
.

And, of course, our commitment to democracy really has to be questioned in light of stories like this one (from Through The Looking Glass):
The first attempt by U.S. officials to settle ethnic tensions through free elections in this deeply divided city fell victim to them instead, as Arab leaders condemned the process as unfair yesterday and threatened a walkout.
...
But even before voting began yesterday, U.S. soldiers arrested five Arab delegates and marched them in handcuffs through a hallway outside the auditorium where the election would be held. The men are being questioned about their alleged roles as high-ranking Baath Party officials during Saddam Hussein's regime. Prominent Baathists have been forbidden any role in a future Iraqi government.
...
Some noted that U.S. military leaders supplied a list of 12 independent candidates and asked the delegates to select six. One was Ali N. Salhi, a former Kurdish fighter who lives part-time in Washington, runs an organization called Iraq First that opposed Hussein, and has lobbied the Bush administration for a free Kurdish state.


All in all, it's the worst of the anti-war crowd's fears. Most of us didn't oppose the war out of pure pacifism, or out of any thought we might be defeated (although without the bribing of key officials, our victory would have cost more lives), but because we fully expected the Bush administration to screw up the aftermath.

And they have. Last I checked, there was no electricity and no water in Baghdad. Mosul is still almost a war zone. We had no plan for delivering aid, didn't bother to prevent the looting of key industries, had no plan for policing the region, for restoring services, for anything. Ethnic tensions are putting huge strains on the region, and we have no plan to deal with that either.

It was a delicate act to pull off, 'liberating' a country when most of the world -- and many of your own citizens -- suspected your motives. We failed. We worse than failed, we never even tried. Bush can make all the speeches he wants, but it boils down (especially to the Iraqis) to actions. And by our actions so far, we're doomed to fail.

Welcome to the Occupation.
:: Morat 10:53 AM :: ::

About time...

Dano is back up. Or something. Regardless, I haven't been able to do anything for several hours. Hopefully, I'll be able to work through a backlog of "I want to post on" articles.
:: Morat 10:26 AM :: ::

DPS in the news

Via Atrios I found this story from the Houston Chronicle:
Texas state police officials on Monday blamed a faulty duplication machine for a five-hour gap in a Capitol security tape that was given to a House committee investigating how authorities handled the Democratic walkout.

"I don't know if people are trying to run out the clock so we're not in town any more or if it's just incompetence. Either one is bothersome," said Rep. Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, chairman of the House General Investigating Committee.


And now I'm really angry. DPS says it's just a mistake, and they've already given over another copy of the tape without the gap. But it shows that, at the very least, DPS isn't taking this investigation very seriously. Given the they've already broken state law by destroying evidence, participated in the crudest and most blatant form of cover-up, you'd think they'd care enough not to look even more Nixonian by sending over tapes with big gaping holes.

Especially holes at exactly the time investigators wanted to see most. I certainly hope someone is suspicious enough to demand to see the original. While I'm perfectly willing to grant incompetence rather than malice, the timing (and the previous cover-up) demands skepticism.
:: Morat 10:24 AM :: ::

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