:: Skeptical Notion

A blog about politics, news, science and whatever else strikes my fancy. -- A member of the Reality-based Commmunity.
:: Welcome to Skeptical Notion :: bloghome | contact | Syndicate this site (XML RSS) | Skeptical Notion is proud to be an ePatriot. Donate to the DNC today!
Skeptical Notion Tip Jar
[::..Favorite Blogs..::]
Talking Points Memo
Daily Kos
Hit and Run
Political Animal
Thinking It Through
Counterspin Central
The Agonist
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Whiskey Bar
Shadow of the Hegemon
Angry Bear
Paul Krugman's Home Page
The Left Coaster
Byzantium Shores
Uncertain Principles
Planet Swank
The Notion
Fester's Place
Opinions You Should Have
Dispatches from the Culture Wars
The Panda's Thumb
Bob Harris
[::..Other Blogs..::]
American Leftist
[::..Fun Sites..::]
The Onion
The Brunching Shuttlecocks
Something Positive
Penny Arcade

:: Friday, June 27, 2003 ::

Bird versus Car

I got a call from my parents last night. They're most of the way through a month long vacation. They drove, as the goal fo the vacation was to "see the sights". The spent a week or so at Glacier Lake, and their route home runs through California, where they are now.

My father was eager to tell me of his day. Now, and bear this in mind, my father is a man of many stories. I'm not entirely sure how he survived his youth, or why strange things keep happening to him, but that's just my dad.

Anyways, they're driving through California. They've got the windows down, and are gawking at the scenery. They're moving along at a fair clip (65 or so) when all of sudden there's a loud thud, something strikes my father in the head, a cloud of feathers, and a dead bird on the floorboards.

As best my parents can tell, a bird hit the car. Perpendicularly. It struck the back edge of the open driver's side window and then bounced off my dad's head and landed at his feet.

My mother's reaction, I was told, was priceless.
:: Morat 12:01 PM :: ::

MoveOn.org Virtual Primary

The results are in. No one got 50% of the vote, but Dean came damn close, especially given the size of the field. Their exit polling (they hired a polling form to conduct a phone survey of participants) indicated that no one managed to spike the results. And, it appears that the only current candidates who would not get enthusiastic support from at least half of MoveOn's members are Graham, Lieberman, and Sharpton.

The top candidate was Dean with 43.87% of the vote, followed by Kuninich with 23.93% of the vote, and then Kerry with 15.73% of the vote. Everyone else was in single digits. Lieberman polled less than 2%, beating only Sharpton.
:: Morat 11:24 AM :: ::

Bush's Reaction on 9/11

The Memory Hole has found a video of George Bush on 9/11, sitting in a Florida classroom. (They got it from the school in question and are hoping to find the complete video taken that day). It's five minutes long, and it starts with Bush being informed by Andrew Card about the second plane striking the World Trade Center. That is, when it becomes crystal clear that this was deliberate, and not some horrible, horrible accident.

It shows George Bush reacting to the events. By sitting there for five damn minutes.

America is under attack, and the Commander and Chief is sitting motionless talking to kids.

People are burning to death, or jumping off the top floors of the WTC, and another plane is heading towards the Pentagon and he sits there doing nothing. For five damn minutes.

What the hell?

:: Morat 11:07 AM :: ::

One Party Rule

Krugman is good today.
A forthcoming article in The Washington Monthly shows that the foundations for one-party rule are being laid right now.

In "Welcome to the Machine," Nicholas Confessore draws together stories usually reported in isolation -- from the drive to privatize Medicare, to the pro-tax-cut fliers General Motors and Verizon recently included with the dividend checks mailed to shareholders, to the pro-war rallies organized by Clear Channel radio stations. As he points out, these are symptoms of the emergence of an unprecedented national political machine, one that is well on track to establishing one-party rule in America.

Mr. Confessore starts by describing the weekly meetings in which Senator Rick Santorum vets the hiring decisions of major lobbyists. These meetings are the culmination of Grover Norquist's "K Street Project," which places Republican activists in high-level corporate and industry lobbyist jobs -- and excludes Democrats. According to yesterday's Washington Post, a Republican National Committee official recently boasted that "33 of 36 top-level Washington positions he is monitoring went to Republicans."
And corporations themselves are also increasingly part of the party machine. They are rewarded with policies that increase their profits: deregulation, privatization of government services, elimination of environmental rules. In return, like G.M. and Verizon, they use their influence to support the ruling party's agenda.

As a result, campaign finance is only the tip of the iceberg. Next year, George W. Bush will spend two or three times as much money as his opponent; but he will also benefit hugely from the indirect support that corporate interests -- very much including media companies -- will provide for his political message.

Naturally, Republican politicians deny the existence of their burgeoning machine. "It never ceases to amaze me that people are so cynical they want to tie money to issues, money to bills, money to amendments," says Mr. DeLay. And Ari Fleischer says that "I think that the amount of money that candidates raise in our democracy is a reflection of the amount of support they have around the country." Enough said.
Whatever the reason, there's a strange disconnect between most political commentary and the reality of the 2004 election. As in 2000, pundits focus mainly on images -- John Kerry's furrowed brow, Mr. Bush in a flight suit -- or on supposed personality traits. But it's the nexus of money and patronage that may well make the election a foregone conclusion.
It's strange to think that about the only thing standing in Bush's way is his own stunning incompetence and the rigid ideology of his own party.

Had Bush bent his own ideology enough to slip in some truly stimulating economic moves, or to realize that Iraq wasn't going to be showers of roses and cheering crowds, Democrats might not have a chance at all.

Instead, his inability to acknowledge reality over ideology is slowly killing his chances of re-election.

And it's not just him. Compared to some of the Congressional Republicans, Bush is fond of compromise. He's finding it difficult to get House Republicans to pass even the few token gestures he's managed to make.

The GOP is a party controlled by rigid and uncompromising folk. Their problem is that these rigid and uncompromising folk have, in several places, contradictory ideologies. And the more power the GOP has, the more the gaping cracks in the Republican party become an issue.

Ironically enough, the very root of their success could become the reason for their failure.
:: Morat 10:39 AM :: ::

Once there were limits to my cynicism

And then I found myself reading this.
Up to 8 million U.S. workers could lose their right to overtime pay if Bush administration rules are put in place, according to a new study released Thursday. The new proposed rules would dramatically change who qualifies as a salaried worker, and which hourly wage earners are able to collect overtime.
Once I saw the lead, I started skimming for the quote I knew would be there. And I found it.
The Bush administration and business groups argue the changes are necessary to reflect a growing service sector in the economy, and to spur economic growth and hiring practices. Among the arguments is that by paying less overtime to more highly skilled workers, employers would have more money in their payroll to hire new employees and reduce the unemployment rolls.
Yep. That'll work. In Bizarro world.

This is a demand based recession, not a supply based on. The problem is, quite simply, that we're producing more "stuff" than we're wanting to buy. Give businesses more money, and they'll pocket it. They're not going to hire more workers or invest in infastructure. Why should they? Demand is well below their ability to supply.

Nope. This is just another giveaway to Big Business.

And the funny thing is, I'm starting to wonder if Bush has any real interest in ending this recession. I'm starting to wonder if it's not incompetence or rigid ideology that's preventing him from pursuing the right sort of fiscal policy. I'm starting to wonder if, in fact, Bush loves this recession because as long as it's going on, he can justify any tax cut, any giveaway to the wealthy or big business.

It's clear the recession, like terrorism, is just a really useful excuse. But I'm starting to wonder if he's actively trying to drag this recession out.

:: Morat 10:25 AM :: ::

Thomas and Right to Privacy

Atrios also notes that in his 1991 confirmation hearing (under oath, no less) Justice Thomas stated "My view is that there is a right to privacy in the Fourteenth Amendment.".

This is relevant because, in the recently decided Lawrence v. Texas, Thomas noted that he is unable to find a right to privacy in the Constitution.

I'd love to hear what changed his mind....after all, it's not like Thomas would have lied or exaggerated under oath..
:: Morat 9:59 AM :: ::

Privatized Hell

Atrios pointed out a great essay on privatization.
In colonial Philadelphia, firefighters were employed by private insurance companies which, of course, had financial incentives to minimize damage to their clients’ properties. Plaques with the insurance company’s insignia were placed on buildings, so that the fire fighters would know whether or not it was their “business” to put out the fires on the premises. (These plaques are often found today in antique shops). If the “wrong” plaque was on the building, well, that was just tough luck. Of course, with their attention confined to a single building, fire fighters were ill-disposed to prevent a spreading of the fire to adjacent “non-client” structures.

Occasionally, when the building’s insurance affiliation was in some doubt, competing fire companies would fight each other for the privilege of putting out the fire, resulting in more water aimed at fire fighters than at burning buildings.

Eventually, the absurdity and outright danger of this system led one prominent Philadelphia citizen to come up with the idea of a publicly funded and administered fire department.

His name was Benjamin Franklin: America’s first anti-free-enterprise commie pinko nut-case.
Privatization and free enterprise, constrained by popular government, are fine ideals, the applications of which have undoubtedly yielded great benefits to mankind. Moreover, government regulation can often be excessive and a damned nuisance to the private entrepreneur. Private enterprise should surely count for something. But not for everything. Adam Smith was right: “the invisible hand” of the market place can, without plan or intention, “promote ... the public interest.” But we put ourselves in great peril if we fail to acknowledge “the back of the invisible hand” – the tragedy of the commons – whereby the unregulated pursuit of self interest by the wealthy and powerful becomes parasitic upon, and eventually destroys, the well-ordered society of just laws, common consent, and an abundance of skilled and educated workers who produce and secure that wealth.

Both the radical anarchism of the Busheviks and the communism of Lenin and Stalin share the attribute of uncompromising dogmatism: in both cases, these are doctrines which are assumed, apart from experience and common sense, to apply to the real world, fully formed and fully ready to be imposed upon that reality. These are dogmas for which pragmatism and corrective feedback have no part. Both libertarianism and communism err in proposing extreme, simplistic and doctrinaire prescriptions for conditions that are necessarily complex: communism by condemning all property, and libertarians by condemning all public governmental functions, other than that of the “watchmen” (police and military) and the courts. (Cf. “Two Lessons from Russia” ).

:: Morat 9:56 AM :: ::

Supporting the Troops, GOP-style

This Daily Kos' post is a must-read for anyone with any involvement in the military. Not only does it document some of the more egregious abuses of the military by the Bush Administration, but points out that the military itself is starting to get unhappy about it.
This is a key editorial, in a publication read by a large number of Army personnel (I read it religiously while serving). It exposes the "support our troops" hypocrites as creatures worth less than dirt. They LIE to place our troops in harms way. Then they:

  • Refuse to double the $6,000 gratuity to the families of soldiers who die in harms way.
  • They roll back pay increases for troops in harms way.
  • They refuse to pass servicemember-friendly tax provisions, as the GOP's corporate masters get first dibs.
  • They provide meager basic increases for the lower ranks.
  • They cut the Pentagon's building budget (which pays for things such as barracks improvements, bowling alleys and other quality-of-life improvements at military bases, something that was really important to us soldiers), in order to make room for Bush's tax cuts.
In fact, Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee tried to restore $1 billion of the construction money, and proposed paying for it by trimming some of the recent tax cuts for those making more than $1 million. Get this: under Obey's proposal, instead of an $88,300 break, they would've gotten an $83,500 cut.

The Republicans killed the proposal. To Republicans in Congress, $4,800 for their richest benefactors was more important than improving the quality of life of our men and women in uniform.

And those bastards dare to wrap themselves in the flag?
Over the last year I've been called a lot of things. Unpatriotic, a traitor (thanks Ann!), and un-American to name a few. I've been accused of even more things, most often a failure to support our troops.

To those people, I have one thing to say: Screw you.

If your idea of supporting the troops is to send them off to fight an unnecessary war (and any war you have to lie to start is unnecessary), and after they performed brilliantly in spite of political interference, leaving them in a hostile country without rest and under constant guerilla attack, and then as a reward for all that work slashing their benefits.....then I certainly don't support the troops.

And I'm willing to bet they wish you'd stop supporting them to.
:: Morat 9:42 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, June 26, 2003 ::

Iraq Update

Daily Kos, in a news summary, reports that between three and five more American soldiers died in the past 24 hours, and that the constant sabotaging of the power and water grids is increasing the chances of a cholera outbreak.

But don't worry. It's all the work of a few Saddam loyalists, without any popular support, and it'll be over soon. It's just sheer luck that so many loyalists seem to move that freely and without notice in a country jam-packed with armed citizens who hate them....

:: Morat 1:55 PM :: ::

Federal Court Dismisses Appeal in Moussaoui Case

Another blow to Ashcroft.
A federal appeals court dealt a blow to the case against alleged Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui today, dismissing a government appeal of a ruling that granted him access to a key al Qaeda witness.

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals based its ruling on jurisdictional grounds, with a three-judge panel saying it is "compelled to conclude that we are without authority" to rule on the appeal because the lower-court ruling granting access is not a final one.

The ruling could have major implications for the continued prosecution of Moussaoui, a French citizen who is the only person charged in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Government officials have said they will likely move the case to a military tribunal if they lose the appeal, which could imperil future prosecutions of other terrorism suspects in the civilian court system.
Do you think the courts will ever notice that Ashcroft moves defendents to the "military tribunal system" the second that things like the "Constitution" and the "Bill of Rights" comes into play? This whole military tribunal thing reeks of a disregard for one of the most basic aspects of the American legal system: presumption of innocence. An accused terrorist is not a terrorist, just like an accused criminal is not a criminal. Yet Ashcroft insists on treating anyone he labels terrorist as tried and convicted. And if he can't actually get that conviction, he simply moves the defendent to a new jurisdiction, one where he's assured of a conviction.

Personally, if I was the Supreme Court, I'd be a little unhappy with the thought that the Executive Branch had set up it's own judicial system, where it sent people it wanted to convict, but couldn't under the Constitution, either because of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution or because of lack of evidence.

In fact, I'd probably be pretty damn alarmed. Since the Lawerence decision has granted me new optimism about the Supreme Court, I expect Ashcroft is due to take a sustained beating over the next year.

The Courts have a long history of initially granting an awful lot of leeway, and then cracking down on abuse. Starting with broad strokes, they gradually narrow the scope of their original decision based on the way it's abused. I'd imagine it's a pattern based on the limitations of their own powers.
:: Morat 12:30 PM :: ::

Happy Savage Day!

Yes today is Appropriate Mike Savage's Name for your own Purposes Day!

I'm glad to see the Supreme Court took advantage of this day to release their Lawrence decision.

And bloggers across the internet are happily mocking Mr. Savage. So join in! Use Michael Savage's name in vain!

:: Morat 12:06 PM :: ::

Another pitiful attempt

I noticed a few people wondering why this wasn't a bigger story.
Three U.S. officials told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that an Iraqi scientist who was part of what Saddam called his “nuclear mujahadeen” had led intelligence officials to a barrel in the back yard of his home in Baghdad, where they found plans for a gas centrifuge and components of a uranium enrichment system.

The Associated Press, citing a U.S. intelligence official, identified the scientist later as Mahdi Shukur Obeidi, who headed Iraq’s program to make centrifuges that would enrich uranium for nuclear weapons before the 1991 Gulf War. NBC’s sources said the plans dated back to the end of the Gulf War, when Saddam was already widely known to be seeking such weapons, and came as no great surprise
Two reasons.

First. i the simple fact that this stuff had been buried for over a decade.

That includes the four year period where no inspectors were present. If Saddam was, as Cheney remarked, attempting to build nuclear weapons, why on earth would he leave key components buried for 12 years? I don't think you'll see the White House pushing a discovery that threatens their own "imminent threat" justification for war.

As to the other part of the story (millions of more recent documents relating to current chemical and bio programs), well, you know about the boy who cried Wolf, right?
:: Morat 11:47 AM :: ::

The White House, Arrogance, and Medicare

When I read this on Atrios, I couldn't believe it. Nonetheless.....
The Bush administration's top Medicare accountant has calculated how millions of senior citizens would be affected by bringing private managed care into the program, but the administration won't release the information.

An earlier analysis suggested that a Republican plan to inject market forces into Medicare could increase premiums for those who stay in traditional programs by as much as 25 percent. If that's still the case, it could help Democrats who argue that the GOP plan is risky for those who want to stay in traditional Medicare, where they can pick any doctor, rather than move to a managed care plan.

The administration's Medicare chief threatened to fire his top actuary, Rick Foster, if Foster released his calculations to Capitol Hill Democrats who requested the analysis, officials said.

Medicare chief Tom Scully said in an interview Wednesday that Democrats had no right to request the information from Foster in the first place.

"They don't have the right on the Hill to call up my actuary and demand things," said Scully, chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "These people work for the executive branch, period."

Scully said he would release the analysis "if I feel like it."
These are the people we have running the country right now. Is it any surprise things are going badly?

Oh, and to answer Scully's charge: Yes, they do have the right, via a 1997 law.
:: Morat 11:01 AM :: ::

O Frabjous Day! Callooh! Callay!

The Supreme Court announced their decision on Lawrence v. Texas today, overturning Texas' Sodomy laws in a 6-3 vote. (I'll give you one guess which 3 dissented).
The Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay sex Thursday, ruling that the law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy.

The 6-3 ruling reverses course from a ruling 17 years ago that states could punish homosexuals for what such laws historically called deviant sex.

Laws forbidding homosexual sex, once universal, now are rare. Those on the books are rarely enforced but underpin other kinds of discrimination, lawyers for two Texas men had argued to the court.

The men "are entitled to respect for their private lives," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote.

"The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime," he said.
They didn't just strike down Texas' unequal application (in Texas, it's legal for heteros) but all remaining sodomy laws.

This is a huge decision. In one stroke of the pen, they reversed Bowers, decriminalizing sodomy, but more importantly, striking down any argument that homosexuality could be, in any sense, a crime. Even more important was the fact that Scalia, in his dissent, was entirely right about one thing. (Although his remark about "Taking sides in the culture wars" and "signing on to the so-called homosexual agenda" was remarkably stupid, even for Scalia.)

This throws open the door to gay marriage. Daily Kos helpfully quoted Scalia's reasoning, reasoning I agree with.
Today's opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is is no legitimate state interest for purposes of proscribing that conduct, and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), [w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring, what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising [t]he liberty protected by the Constitution? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case does not involve the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court.
He's absolutely right. This 6-3 decision (not even a close one!) pretty much dismantled any legal arguments for denying marriage to gays.

On a political level, this is going to catapult one of the GOP's biggest problems into the limelight. Anti-gay bigotry doesn't play well with moderates and independents, and in the light of this decision, Bush's base is going to be clamoring for Bush and the GOP to do something to fix it.

Bush managed to avoid choosing between his base and the moderates during the Santorum flap, but now his base is going to be clamoring for action and results.

Damn, this is just a good day all around, isn't it?
:: Morat 10:33 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, June 25, 2003 ::

More on lying our way to war

I was browsing Talking Points Memo and stumbled on an absolutely perfect analogy for the current WMD issue.
My own sense is that what the administration did was analogous to the actions of the cop who frames someone whom he's sure is guilty. They believed Saddam was dangerous, in many cases believed it deeply. And they believed he must be doing this stuff. But they didn't have a lot of evidence. So, well, they made it up. Either they hyped what they knew to the point of outright deception. Or they passed along information that they had to know or should have known was probably bogus. Again, it's like the cop who tries to put someone away on the say-so of an unreliable jailhouse snitch because he knows the guy's guilty anyway. After all, he doesn't know the snitch isn't telling the truth, right? So if the jury buys it, what's the problem? Mix in a touch of intellectual dishonesty and willingness to spin yourself and you see how this all works.
That's the crux of it, right there. On the other hand, it's possible it doesn't go far enough.

Rather than framing someone because you believe they're guilty, you're framing someone because their presence in jail is important to another goal of yours. That is, guilt and innocent are entirely superfluous. Bush wanted Saddam gone, not because Saddam was a bad man, or had WMDs, but because Bush wanted Iraq under our control.

Guilt or innocence, harmless or threatening, cooperative or stonewalling...none of it made a damn bit of difference. Bush started trying to invade Iraq on 9/11, and when one reason failed, he substituted another. And when he ran out, he started making them up. Bush's desire to invade Iraq predated 9/11 and the new 'doctrine of preemption". It predated Saddam's choices on weapons inspection. It certainly predated any evidence that Saddam was anything more than the minor irritant he had been since 1992.
:: Morat 3:09 PM :: ::


UggaBugga linked to an excellent essay on filibusters and the current Senate showdown. (Bolding Mine)
In effect, it would play out this way: At the time of yet another cloture vote on nominees Priscilla Owen or Miguel Estrada (or a future, unspecified third case) a Senator would raise a constitutional point of order, suggesting that a filibuster (extended debate requiring a supermajority vote to break it) against a nominee is unconstitutional. The chairman, probably the vice president, would agree. The issue would be brought to a vote. The Minority Leader would note that a constitutional issue is itself debatable in the Senate (and thus itself can be filibustered). The Parliamentarian, relying on precedent, would agree. The chairman would recognize a nondebatable motion to table, thereby overruling the Parliamentarian. If that scenario is gobbledygook to you, the basic point is that Republicans, without changing the rules, would bull through a motion over the objections of the Parliamentarian and the Democrats to force votes on judicial nominees. All hell would break loose, probably affecting all issues for the remainder of the Congress.
Remember that Rule XXII, the cloture rule that provides for an end to debate and a specified time for votes, does not raise the bar on passage of a bill or nomination from 50 to 60, or on a rules change from 50 to 67 or two-thirds of those present and voting. It lowers the bar from 100. There is no rule in the Senate--and there has not been one for nearly 200 years - that forces the previous question and an end to debate. Before Rule XXII was instituted in 1917, there was no way, if a single determined Senator took the floor and kept it, to force action on a bill or a nomination. The Senate operated under unlimited debate. It did so through the lifetimes of all the Framers. Not one objected to the way the Senate operated during this time as a violation of their constitutional intent.
Lost in the process of the past decades is this reality check: There is no rule against an old-fashioned filibuster. If Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and his colleagues are outraged against the Democrats' filibuster against two appeals court nominees, their first tough recourse is to bring the Senate to a halt and bring in the cots. This kind of filibuster would get immense media attention, the president would weigh in and it would change the nature of the debate. Senate Republicans have not even attempted the traditional approach. Why not? Either they do not want to discomfit themselves, they have higher legislative priorities that they do not want delayed or they fear that the public reaction will be, "Who cares?" But to even talk about the so-called "nuclear option" without using the weapons available to you is not appropriate.
The Senate is not the House and should not be. The Senate was designed by the Framers to be the cooling body, guarding against the tyranny of the majority and against the passions of the moment. It has operated for nearly all its existence by unanimous consent. To abolish the cloture rule and force action on nominations, under the theory that majorities should rule, means ultimately altering the fundamental character of the Senate.

The filibuster is basically a conservative instrument; it delays government action in order to overcome intense minority opposition and to build broader popular support. Do conservatives really think they will always be in charge, that impediments to government action will be to their detriment instead of to their advantage? Do constitutionalists really want to stretch the document beyond recognition for a short-term political gain, getting a few of their allies or buddies onto the bench? Listen to George Will (whose views have not changed to fit the times): "Democracy is trivialized when reduced to simple majoritarianism--government by adding machine. A mature, nuanced democracy makes provision for respecting not mere numbers but also intensity of feeling. And ask yourself: Is there anything the nation has ever wanted, broadly and deeply, that a filibuster prevented the government from giving?"
Read. Share. Pass on. Good history there too.
:: Morat 2:37 PM :: ::

Credibility Gap

Between this Christian Science Monitor article, and this Democratic website (link via Different Strings) , it appears that Bush's credibility problems are finally coming out into the open.

It's nice to see the Democrats, some of them at least, stirring from their torpor to point out these "inconsistencies".

On the other hand, I'm wondering where the media was in 1999, when George Bush was having credibility issues in his campaign. It was little things, really. Claiming credit for Texas' Patients Bill of Rights that he fought tooth and nail (and allowed to become law, without his signature, only because there were enough votes to override his veto), for instance.

Oh wait, I remember where the media was. They were off attacking Al Gore for claiming he inspired Love Story.

At least the media was consistent. They didn't bother checking either fact....
:: Morat 2:26 PM :: ::

Judith Miller

I like Billmon's thoughts on the matter.
: The more I think about this story, the more insane it sounds. It looks like Miller became the neocons' "woman on the ground" with Alpha Team. So a New York Times reporter ended up with her own direct line to the Pentagon, allowing her to countermand the orders of commanders in the field????
I tend to agree...it's an insane story, and you've got to wonder why a reporter was able to order around an entire Army unit. Especially a unit tasked with the (supposedly) critical job of finding and securing chemical and biological weapons.

I suppose it's also possible that the Pentagon is so desperate to escape blame that it's pinning it's failure to find WMDs on a reporter...

This has to be the weirdest story to come out of the Iraq war yet.
:: Morat 2:17 PM :: ::

Iraq Situation "Serious" and other obvious facts

I have to give Blair credit for stating the obvious. Iraq is a serious problem. Which is why us "anti-war radicals" wanted a serious debate over starting this war, not a soothing PR campaign built on lies and deception.
Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday said the security situation in Iraq was serious and may require more troops, as British forces reportedly gave town leaders 48 hours to surrender the gunmen who killed six British soldiers.
Yeah, that's going to fly. I'm sure Parliament wants nothing more than to send tens of thousands more British troops into a war none of them wanted in the first place.

Don't get me wrong. I totally agree. Policing Iraq requires another 50,000 to 100,000 soldiers minimum, a great deal of money, and most importantly, a UN-led effort to put the country back together. It's time to face the facts: The US and Britain will not be able to pacify Iraq on their own. Our motives aren't trusted by Iraqis, and nothing we say or do (short of handing over all power and leaving) can close that credibility gap.

I'm not sure the UN can do any better, but at least they wouldn't be handicapped by Bush and Blair's assorted sins and the ever-present suspicion of American imperialism, or Israeli influence.
In a violent 24-hour-period in Iraq, military officials report more than two dozen attacks on coalition forces, including a firefight at a military checkpoint that killed three Iraqis and left one U.S. soldier wounded. Several grenade attacks have also been reported
How long are they going to pretend this is the work of deposed Saddam loyalists? How long are they going to pretend that the Iraqi public doesn't sympathize with these guerrillas?

Iraq is a serious problem. But we've got no chance of fixing it until we're honest about what caused the problem. (Link via Thinking it Through)
:: Morat 1:55 PM :: ::

Tales of the Media: Judith Miller

There's a very interesting Washington Post piece (link via Atrios) about Judith Miller. Judith Miller, if you remember, was the New York Times reporter behind a wide variety of "smoking gun" claims. If you remember a stunning claim in the Times that validated Bush's claims about Iraq, whether it was Army units locating stockpiles of chemical weapons or verified links to Al Qaeda or nuclear programs, odds are Judith Miller wrote it. And odds are, you probably never heard anything about it again.

Judith was, quite simply, style over substance. Whether deliberately or not, she did more to promote Pentagon and White House spin on Iraq than any other reporter. A term I hesitate to use, as most reporters would attempt to verify the truthfulness of their sources, not (as Judith did) take the words of someone like Chalabi as gospel truth.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller played a highly unusual role in an Army unit assigned to search for dangerous Iraqi weapons, according to U.S. military officials, prompting criticism that the unit was turned into what one official called a "rogue operation."

More than a half-dozen military officers said that Miller acted as a middleman between the Army unit with which she was embedded and Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, on one occasion accompanying Army officers to Chalabi's headquarters, where they took custody of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law. She also sat in on the initial debriefing of the son-in-law, these sources say.

Since interrogating Iraqis was not the mission of the unit, these officials said, it became a "Judith Miller team," in the words of one officer close to the situation.

In April, Miller wrote a letter objecting to an Army commander's order to withdraw the unit, Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, from the field. She said this would be a "waste" of time and suggested that she would write about it unfavorably in the Times. After Miller took up the matter with a two-star general, the pullback order was dropped.
Miller's coverage of MET Alpha has drawn some critical press scrutiny for optimistic-sounding stories about the weapons hunt, generating headlines including "U.S. Analysts Link Iraq Labs to Germ Arms," "U.S. Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq" and "U.S.-Led Forces Occupy Baghdad Complex Filled With Chemical Agents." These potential discoveries did not bear fruit.
Whatever her qualities as a reporter, her relationship with and utter faith in Chalabi's words (virtually every erroneous piece she wrote came from him, apparently) has cost her significant credibility.

More than that, you'd think the times (still smarting after that last scandal) would want to ensure that one of their reporters hadn't gone off the deep end....

:: Morat 10:59 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 ::

I stand corrected.

I feel I must make a retraction. The blog Strategeric Thought has pointed out a flaw in one of my statements. I claimed that "no links between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have ever been shown.". (It's second post on 6/24).

Sadly, I was mistaken. As he points out, the links between the two have been well documented. As his two strongest examples, he picked out
  1. Papers found by the Telegraph in April. Come on, guys. Just because the other set of papers they found happened to be forgeries, let's cut them some slack. What are the odds that nasty Galloway mistake would be repeated with the other set of papers they fortuitously stumbled on?
  2. A link, based on an anonymous source quoted in a conservative Jewish paper, in which two companies might have linked Saddam's and Osama's business interests.
Well, in the face of strong evidence like that, what else can I do but retract? He considers the Telegraph's documents to be "earthshattering proof"...what more can I say?

Seriously, it's worth a read. The nice blogger extrapolates (from my DNC link!) that a party crack-up is possible, and implies that ever since we ran off the real liberals (who are off trashing Seattle at WTO conferences) we've been marching in enforced lockstep. Not that he's partisan.

Ironically, I live somewhere in the middle of the liberal field, and I'm not in any sense an "anti-war radical". Unless you mean specifically the Iraq war, fought at this point and in this exact way. You know, rushing to war without planning for the aftermath, antagonizing allies, lying to the American public and foreign nations alike, etc.

Ah, well...at least he didn't imply I was a pacifist. Still, anyone who thinks Lieberman is a "moderate Democrat" is truly out of touch with half of America. He's certainly more moderate than most Republicans, but he's nowhere near the middle of the Democratic party.

Still, it would have been nicer if he hadn't dodged the issue. After all, if you have to quote information uncovered months after the claim was made as "proof", then you've just admitted there wasn't any to begin with.....
:: Morat 7:51 PM :: ::

Senate Panel Votes to Limit Filibusters

And so it begins....
:: Morat 12:30 PM :: ::

Lies and Consequences

First, the lie:
There is no longer any serious doubt that Bush administration officials deceived us into war. The key question now is why so many influential people are in denial, unwilling to admit the obvious.

About the deception: Leaks from professional intelligence analysts, who are furious over the way their work was abused, have given us a far more complete picture of how America went to war. Thanks to reporting by my colleague Nicholas Kristof, other reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and a magisterial article by John Judis and Spencer Ackerman in The New Republic, we now know that top officials, including Mr. Bush, sought to convey an impression about the Iraqi threat that was not supported by actual intelligence reports.

In particular, there was never any evidence linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda; yet administration officials repeatedly suggested the existence of a link. Supposed evidence of an active Iraqi nuclear program was thoroughly debunked by the administration's own experts; yet administration officials continued to cite that evidence and warn of Iraq's nuclear threat.
Then the consequences:
Still no luck in my quest to help the administration find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But meanwhile, I'm getting the impression that America fought Saddam, and the Islamic fundamentalists won.

For a glimpse of the Islamic state that Iraq may be evolving into, consider the street execution of an infidel named Sabah Ghazali.

Under Saddam Hussein, Christians like Mr. Ghazali, 41, were allowed to sell alcohol and were protected from Muslim extremists. But lately extremists have been threatening to kill anyone selling alcohol. One day last month, two men walked over to Mr. Ghazali as he was unlocking his shop door and shot him in the head — the second liquor store owner they had killed that morning.

An iron curtain of fundamentalism risks falling over Iraq, with particularly grievous implications for girls and women. President Bush hopes that Iraq will turn into a shining model of democracy, and that could still happen. But for now it's the Shiite fundamentalists who are gaining ground.
We may just have to get used to the idea that we have been midwives to growing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq.
And we're supposed to despair because Bush is unbeatable? In what universe?

Our Presidentdeceivedd us into a war which killed thousands of civilians and almost a hundred American soldiers. That war led to an occupation that is killing an American soldier a day or more, and many more civilians. That occupation is leading to a guerilla resistance that will cost us more and more soldiers the longer we stay. And that resistance is mobilizing and empowering an Islamic theocracy, which is already moving to rid Iraq of the very freedoms we now claim to have invaded over.

The net result of our President's lies? An Iraqi public no more free than they were under Saddam. Dead American soldiers. Dead Iraqi citizens. Dead Iraqi soldiers. Billions of wasted dollars. The loss of American credibility. The loss of powerful and strong allies.

What did we get? One carrier landing. One "Mission Accomplished" banner. And one campaign theme.
:: Morat 12:29 PM :: ::

Fortunes of War

Britian lost six soldiers today, with another eight wounded. That's a pretty significant chunk of all British casualties in this war, and it couldn't come at a worse time for Blair.
:: Morat 12:18 PM :: ::

Whoring for Bush

Who's a good little administration whore? Who's a good little administration whore?
The Bush administration yesterday released a highly selective analysis of the cost to families of rolling back scheduled tax cuts, an early sign of the White House's plan to brand Democrats as tax raisers throughout their race for the presidential nomination.
Howard Dean, a Democratic presidential candidate and former Vermont governor, was confronted with the Treasury Department figures on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday. He said they do not account for increases in property taxes because of cuts in federal services and shortfalls in federal aid to education.
The research was prepared at the request of "Meet the Press," NBC and Bush officials said. The analysis does not include single people or lower-income couples, two groups that benefit little from Bush's cuts. Four of the examples involve married couples with one or two children making $40,000 to $75,000 a year, and the other two concern spouses who are both age 65.

Peter R. Orszag, a senior fellow in economics at the Brookings Institution, said the document "gives a misleading impression of the overall effect of the tax cuts." Just 27 million of the nation's roughly 140 million households consist of married couples with children, he said. Brookings figures show that under the most recent law, 81 percent of households would save $1,000 or less.

Nevertheless, Republican officials said the figures will be used as a weapon as Bush argues on the campaign trail that the tax cuts should be made permanent instead of ending over the next seven years, as they are scheduled to do.
Wow, that's a lot of information. Let's parse this out:

  1. The Bush Administration released a deliberately misleading report.

  2. They prepared the report for a member of the press.

  3. The member of the press used that report to attack Howard Dean.

  4. GOP officials acknowledge it's deceptive, but plan to use it anyways.

Summed up: The Bush Administration lied to the press, in order to gain partisan advantage. The person they lied to regurgitated that lie, without checking it, when interviewing the President's opponents. And now the Bush Administration acknowledges that they're being deceptive, but freely admit they're going to continue to repeat a discredited report anyways.

Remember when it used to piss off the press when you lied to them? I'm beginning to think Bush has pictures of every prominent media figure partying with Satan.
:: Morat 12:14 PM :: ::

Abuse of Power

Yet another reason to vote Democrat next year.
Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri has now been transferred from Justice Department custody to the custody of the United States Department of Defense. He will be held in a military brig indefinitely, without opportunity for trial, without the opportunity for counsel, without access to the outside world or even, necessarily, sunshine. He now has no rights. He now has no privileges. He is persona non grata.

Why is al-Marri persona non grata? Because the FBI screwed up the investigation. Because it became apparent that the Department of Justice could not convict him in a court of law where the United States Constitution applied. Because it became clear that this man was, if not innocent, not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
President Bush issued a one-page order yesterday declaring al-Marri an enemy combatant. In it, he says al-Marri's change in status was "necessary to prevent him from aiding al Qaeda in its efforts to attack the United States or its armed forces, other government personnel, or citizens."

This is a lie. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, Immigration & Naturalization Service and even the Environmental Protection Agency knew that al-Marri was a suspected al-Qaeda operative. His cover had been blown. As any CIA analyst will tell you, an agent is useless once his cover has been blown.

The worst case scenario with al-Marri would be that charges against him would be dismissed and that he would be released. At that point the FBI, CIA, NSA, INS and just about every other important Government acronym could shadow him at all times. He would never be allowed to be a threat to the United States because his cover had been blown.

But no. Bush feels that we must make a mockery of American justice and American due process by saying that it applies only to some people. Some are more equal than others, after all.
I can't think of a single act that guts the Constitution more thoroughly than this. I can't imagine how this act could even be Constitutional. With a single flick of his pen, Bush negated huge portions of the Bill of Rights.

Right to trial? Gone. Presumption of innocence? Gone. Right to an attorney? Gone.

Which rights are next? Free speech? Assembly? Press?
:: Morat 11:54 AM :: ::

Porn Filters and Libraries...

The Supreme Court upheld a law requiring libraries to install porn-filters, even if the filters block the occasional, legitimate, website.

I don't see this ruling lasting. For one thing, it appears our Supreme Court is entirely unaware of just how poor a job porn filters do. To begin with, they don't block porn. Oh, the obvious stuff most of the time. But anyone interested in getting it will find it, despite any filter you have in place.

Secondly, I don't think the Supreme Court was aware of exactly how many legitimate sites are filtered by porn software, or what criteria is commonly used to define objectionable content.

Some of the most popular porn blockers come from groups with some very interesting biases. Biases that make any filters they place on public library computers unconstitutional. The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (the best one-stop web-site for all things religious) has some details on the various biases and "interesting choices" made by filtering software.

Blocking access to Pagan or neo-pagan websites, for instance, isn't uncommon. And, in reverse, religiously-based websites advocating discrimination against gays have also (although not as often) been blocked. Either way, blocking access to religious websites of any sort represents yet another Constitutional issue the Court will have to review.

My guess is that the flaws in filtering software, both technical and subjective, will eventually force the Court to reverse. (Via Angry Bear)

:: Morat 11:44 AM :: ::

Ignorance or Deception? How about both!

In Slate's article Can Bush Be Both Ignorant and a Liar?, Timothy Noah comes to the conclusion that Bush is both.
In fact, it has yet to be proved that the two mobile labs were used (or even designed to be used) to build biological weapons. It isn't possible that Bush fails to grasp that. So, why did he say something so obviously untrue? Chatterbox posed the question to The Nation's David Corn, who has written extensively on the question of Bush's veracity. In Corn's view, the key to Bush's lies isn't necessarily that he doesn't know any better, but that he doesn't care. "He mischaracterizes situations to fit his pattern of thinking," Corn explained. "Does he believe he's lying? I don't know." But "he still should be held accountable, whether he made a mistake of this nature in good faith or in bad faith." Amen.
I think Noah misses the obvious conclusion here.

If Bush is a liar, he shouldn't be President. Republicans, especially those who snarled over Clinton's zipper like rabid dogs, don't have a moral leg to stand on here. Assuming, for the moment, that such clear hypocrisy isn't sufficient, the mere fact that our President lied his way into a war that is killing American soldiers daily should be.

But that's obvious. Which is why Bush supporters are painting him as "ignorant".

If anything, that makes things worse. If Bush is ignorant, than that means he has surrounded himself by liars. Liars he trusts implicitly. Furthermore, Bush shows no interest in firing or removing any of the men and women who lied to him. Which means, even more so, that Bush shouldn't be President.

It really doesn't matter if it was Bush lying to us, or Cheney and Rumsfeld lying to Bush. Our President has repeatedly shown no interest in ascertaining the truth, or punishing those who deceived him. No matter how you slice it, this adds up to an Administration that should be removed as quickly as humanely possible.
:: Morat 11:21 AM :: ::

MoveOn Primary

I just voted in MoveOn's online primary. It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out. Both short and long-term.

:: Morat 11:05 AM :: ::

More DeLay Corruption

The Houston Chronicle has a great piece about Westar and Tom DeLay. It turns out that our beloved Sugar Land Rep is hip-deep in it. Given he created the whole K-Street concept, it's not exactly surprising, is it?
When an executive of a Kansas energy company learned last year that his firm was about to make a $25,000 donation to a political committee associated with U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the executive sent a colleague an e-mail: "DeLay is from TX. What is our connection?"

The response came moments later: For Westar Energy Inc., the connection was part of a plan to get a "strong position at the table" on federal utility legislation that would benefit company executives -- legislation a company memo said could not pass without DeLay's help.

Personally, I feel for Westar. It's pretty sad when you not only have to bribe your Congressmen, you have to bribe someone else's as well. Don't you long for old-fashioned corruption?
For DeLay, the Westar donation to Texans for a Republican Majority was part of a $1.5 million campaign to help the GOP gain a majority in the Texas House of Representatives. DeLay's ultimate plan, still unfolding, is for that new Republican state House to draw Texas congressional districts that would solidify the GOP hold on the U.S. House.

At DeLay's urging, Gov. Rick Perry has called a June 30 special legislative session on congressional redistricting, a session that could cost Texas taxpayers as much as $1.7 million.

The Westar contribution was part of at least $433,000 that Texans for a Republican Majority raised from out-of-state corporations, lobbyists and federal contractors who stood to gain from friendly relations with the powerful majority leader.

"The donors' purpose was an interest in legislative issues in Congress. It was Tom DeLay who turned that money into a partisan tool in the Texas Legislature," said Craig McDonald of the advocacy group Texans for Public Justice.
For those of you not following the case, Westar released internal memos that showed, at least for Westar, that they were donating to DeLay and others as part of a quid pro quo to get input on relevant policy and to get favorable legislation passed.

Still, I have to leave you guys with the best quote of all.
"It never ceases to amaze me that people are so cynical they want to tie money to issues, money to bills, money to amendments," DeLay said.
Look in a mirror, Tom. You'll see the root cause of such cynicism.
:: Morat 11:02 AM :: ::

:: Monday, June 23, 2003 ::

Free-speech Zones

From the moment the Supreme Court created the "free speech zone", the government (local, state, and federal) abused it.

Under Bush, it's gone from bad to worse, with the creation of "free speech zones" (always for speech the President finds offensive. Like disagreement) well out of sight from the President or the media.

They might as well not exist. I remember Bush's inauguration, where protesters were kept well off the President's route. To anyone watching the procession on TV, you would have thought Bush had won cleanly, and not become President after an unprecedented court decision in one of the closest and most bitter elections in history.

This is just par for the course for the Bush administration.
BRETT BURSEY will be back in court again, fighting the forces of reaction, on June 24th. The veteran protester was arrested last October for trespassing at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport as he held a sign (“No War for Oil”) while waiting for George Bush to arrive
Shortly after his most recent arrest, the trespassing charge against Mr Bursey was also dropped. But in March the local US attorney, Strom Thurmond junior, suddenly brought federal charges against Mr Bursey under a little-known law that allows the Secret Service to restrict access to areas the president is visiting.

Mr Bursey's trial will take place in the new courthouse in Columbia, named after the now 100-year-old Strom Thurmond senior (who, as it happens, helped his son get his current job). If convicted, Mr Bursey, who is 54, faces six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. Yet a growing number of liberal sorts seem to think that the real issue is the intolerance of John Ashcroft's Justice Department—and, in particular, its intention to start using the rare Secret Service law to get rid of protesters.
It's past time for the Supreme Court to review "free speech zones". Whatever intentions the court had, whatever safeguards they felt were in place, it's become increasingly obvious that all they did was effectively gut the First Amendment.
:: Morat 12:19 PM :: ::

I was wondering...

I watched Dean's Iowa ad and had much the same response most people did. "What was with that "I approve of this ad" line?

It turns out to be pretty simple. That line, or one like it, is required under the McCain-Feingold law. Dean just happened to be the first (or one of the first) national candidates to run an ad under McCain-Feingold.

Not really worth the psychobabble it was subjected to, is it?
:: Morat 12:07 PM :: ::

Redistricting Blues

Off The Kuff has a must-read post for anyone following the Texas redistricting drama. Texas GOP, then:
Here are a few choice quotes from the July 6, 2001 issue of the Houston Chronicle, in the story that covered Perry's announcement that there would be no special session.

"Although I expect Texans will be disappointed with the inability to accomplish this task, I believe Texans would be even more disappointed if we expend considerable sums of taxpayer money to call a special session that has no promise of yielding a redistricting plan for Congress," [Governor] Perry wrote [in a letter sent on July 3 to Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff and House Speaker Pete Laney].

"Texans will likely be better served by impartial judges than by highly partisan Democratic legislators attempting to maintain political power," [State Republican Chair Sarah] Weddington said.

"Since it's the governor's opinion that a consensus cannot be reached in the legislative process, it's his prerogative not to call a special session," [House speaker Pete Laney] said. "However, his decision means the Legislature will not get the opportunity to debate a fair, equitable congressional plan that was approved by the House Redistricting Committee."
Talk about changing your tune!
:: Morat 11:00 AM :: ::

[::..Current Reading..::]
Recent Reading
Book Recommendations
[::..Wish List..::]
Skeptical Notion Wish List
[::..Book Posts..::]
Children's Fantasy
Fat Fantasy
Odds and Ends
Standalone Fantasy
[::..Everything Else..::]
Powered by Blogger Pro™ Listed on BlogShares Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com