Friday, March 31, 2006

Classic blunder

You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The art of having it both ways

As noted in an earlier post, plans for the country that Republican politicians claim Democrats don't have will surely ruin America if they get a chance to implement them. Republican pundits and Bush administration officials are so at ease talking out of both side of their mouths that we hardly notice anymore. Having "the right reasons" covers a multitude of sins in Republican Washington.

One moment they're playing down reports of Iraqi violence, arguing that the Iraqis are better off because they're free and -- in case you hadn't noticed -- their corpses have purple fingers.
"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things ... Stuff happens." -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
The next moment, they're explaining why Americans must accept being less free because
"... all the people who are worried about civil liberties, you don't have any when you're dead." -- Sen. Pat Roberts (KS)
One moment they tell us they want government out of people's lives. The next, they hold a special session of congress to inject the federal government into a family dispute over whether to remove life support from a brain-dead woman.

One moment they argue that government must come down hard on immigrants who come here illegally hoping to feed their families, and not reward illegal behavior through any kind of amnesty. See, criminals must face consequences.

The next moment they're brushing off the president's possible violations of the 4th Amendment and international law because he does it for "the right reasons."

Today it was more of the same. The Supreme Court heard Court heard arguments in a case challenging whether the president's executive authority allows him to conduct special military tribunals outside the United States for suspected foreign terrorists.

Justices Souter and Kennedy questioned Solicitor General Paul Clement, finding the administration -- you guessed it -- trying to have it both ways and contradicting itself.
"You say the president is operating under the rules of war recognized by Congress," said Souter, "but for purposes of claim to status and hence the procedural rights that go with that status, you're saying the laws of war don't apply. And I don't see how you can have it both ways."
That's because Souter doesn't get it. He doesn't understand "right-think."

UPDATE (Wed. 5:35 AM):

In Slate this morning, Dahlia Lithwick provides more detail:
One of the most dramatic moments in today's oral argument in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld comes when an uncharacteristically agitated Justice David Souter presses Solicitor General Paul Clement about whether Congress last December effectively stripped the Supreme Court of the right to hear habeas corpus claims from any of the hundreds of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. Clement says it's not necessary for Congress to have "consciously thought it was suspending the Writ." Perhaps the lawmakers just "stumbled on the suspension of the Writ," which would also be fine, Clement suggests.

Souter stops him, amazed. "The suspension of the Writ," the justice sputters, is the most "stupendously significant act" Congress can undertake. "Are you really saying Congress may validly suspend it inadvertently?" he asks. It's the morning's best example of the degree to which, for Souter as well as for Justice Stephen Breyer, today's argument is an agonizing exercise in Bush administration doublespeak. Clement's arguments are frequently drawn from the well of "because the president says so," or "because the president is the president," or "because it's wartime." They start to sound like Alberto Gonzales' testimony before Congress or the president's signing statements: legal analysis by assertion and justification by double standard. This war is like every other war except to the extent that it differs from those other wars. We follow the laws of war except to the extent that they do not apply to us. These prisoners have all the rights to which they are entitled by law, except to the extent that we have changed the law to limit their rights.

In other words, there is almost no question for which the government cannot find a circular answer.

Later Breyer will add: "You want to say that these are war crimes. But this is not a war. These are not war crimes. And this is not a war crimes tribunal. If the president can do this, he can set up a commission and go to Toledo and arrest an immigrant and try him." To which Clement's answer is the fail-safe: "This is a war."
At some point, it must begin to insult the collective intelligence of the court, these tautological arguments that end where they begin: The existing laws do not apply because this is a different kind of war. It's a different kind of war because the president says so. The president gets to say so because he is president.
I could argue a better argument before the Supreme Court.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Defeatism or coordination?

"There has always been an inherent contradiction in the Republican rap: Democrats have no plan for the country—and it will do irreparable damage if they have the chance to carry it out." -- Bruce Reed in Slate
Reed is the former Clinton domestic policy wonk working with Rep. Rahm Emanuel on "The Plan: Big Ideas for America," due out in August. (Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, reminds voters that the "Contract with America" wasn't released until mid-September of 1994.)

As Jonathan Alter reports in Newsweek:
The strategy for getting swing-district voters to fire their incumbents is already taking shape. Just as Harry Truman ran against the "Do-Nothing Congress," Democrats will run against the "Rubber-Stamp Congress," which pimped for K Street, took a dive on its critical oversight duties (particularly on Iraq) and helped the president bankrupt the country by shoveling money toward the rich. Emanuel won't say yet which votes supporting Bush he plans to wrap around the necks of incumbents. But look for gut-punch ads that highlight the incumbents' 90-plus percent backing for Bush on issues like cuts in college loans and veterans benefits, privatizing Social Security, selling out to Big Pharma on prescription drugs and halting stem-cell research. Republicans are now scurrying away from Bush, but it may be too late. They can't take those roll-call votes back.
But they won't be too upset if Democrats stay home from the polls or refuse to campaign because they're unhappy with the candidates or the party's old guard.

From Kos, regarding the Illinois-6 primary won by disabled vet, Tammy Duckworth:

This was a horribly low turnout election in a District that is becoming competitive for Democrats and yet no one in the Democratic Party from the organization to the grass roots appears to know where the hell the Democratic voters are in Illinois 6.

Exactly. And believe me, I like both Cegelis and Duckworth a lot. But this was not a good day for the district's Democrats.

And if we want to be really pessimistic, this may be further evidence of the lack of motivation amongst Democrats in general. I am truly sensing a national malaise that may very well cost us significant gains in November.
Amen. A Nation article by Eureka, CA-based Alexander Cockburn slams Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel and the national Democrats for not being hardball enough, for running from Sen. Russ Feingold's censure proposal, and for participating in the "Rubber Stamp" congress:
Even while I was speaking, the weekend news shows were detailing the latest campaign plan of the Congressional Democrats. It's called "Real Security." And no, "security" here doesn't mean a living wage, a pension, a health plan and no stop-loss order for your kid to stay in Iraq. It means guns and cops and lots of flag-wagging.

"Real Security" calls for Democrats to hinge the 2006 campaign on how the Republicans have failed us on the issue of national security. Harry Reid says Democrats should wrap themselves in the flag, have tanks as backdrop and then try to outflank the GOP from the right with demands for increased military funding, a better-fought war, tighter borders and ports run by white, American-born Christians, preferably free of radical organizers from the ILWU.

As reported in the Washington Times, Reid's strategy memo advises: "Ensure that you have the proper U.S. and state flags at the event, and consider finding someone to sing the national anthem and lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the event."
The column's gist is, Democrats are rebranding themselves as Republican lite. Cockburn is over-reacting and contributing to the malaise.

There's nothing wrong with taking back patriotism, which God's Own Party claims as its trademark. If Cockburn thinks reclaiming that is misguided and the wrong approach, maybe he should get out his art colony in Eureka and spend some time in red states where presidential elections have been won lately, where Howard Dean wants to start rebuilding a Democrat presence instead of abandoning them to the Republicans. We all saw how well a "coastal strategy" worked in 2004.

Look, it's going to take time, patience, and maybe a transfusion of new blood. Many Democrats are frustrated with the party's old guard politicians and their reluctance to jump on Russ Feingold's censure bandwagon, but like the Titanic (OW, that's an unfortunate analogy), the organization is slow to change direction.

E.J. Dionne put it this way:
... Democrats, unlike Republicans, have yet to develop a healthy relationship between activists willing to test and expand the conventional limits on political debate and the politicians who have to calculate what works in creating an electoral majority.

For two decades, Republicans have used their idealists, their ideologues and their loudmouths to push the boundaries of discussion to the right. In the best of all worlds, Feingold's strong stand would redefine what's "moderate" and make clear that those challenging the legality of the wiretapping are neither extreme nor soft on terrorism.

That would demand coordination, trust and, yes, calculation involving both the vote-counting politicians and the guardians of principle among the activists. Republicans have mastered this art. Democrats haven't.
Activists like Cockburn can bitch about the Democrats or be part of changing them.

Besides, those stodgy, calculating types know stuff newbies need to learn. It amazes me how savvy farther-left acquaintences believe themselves to be based on precious little campaign experience. Experience has its advantages.

One volunteer (for a federal candidate) told me how a fellow canvasser once handed her another group's literature to distribute too. Somebody more experienced saw it and, wide-eyed, ordered her to get it out of her hands "right now." She was in violation of an FEC reg that could have put her candidate in jeopardy.

I had a similar experience. At a campaign event I helped gather some contribution cash and -- not knowing any better -- went over to hand it to a friend (a federal employee). She threw up her hands, backed away and said, "I can't touch the money." I'm still not sure why.

The bottom line is, we need each other, and I don't see many critics offering anything better than self-righteousness. Activist friends are unhappy with the candidate-apparent in our House race and balk at volunteering, complaining that Democrats should run better candidates. They themselves just can't come up with any.

That could "very well cost us significant gains in November."

Friday, March 24, 2006

The self-rejuvenating conservative

The right's defense of itself and President Bush's lapses in conservative faith increasingly has taken on the tone of Florence King's "Southern Ladies and Gentlemen."

Not having a copy handy, I rely on these notes from
King introduced the term "self-rejuvenating virgin." The self-rejuvenating virgin could have sex with a man and still consider herself "pure" because certain types of sexual activity "didn't count." For instance, "it" didn't count because "I was drunk." Or "I kept both feet on the floor." Or "it happened in New York."
The president's fans must also be fans of Florence King. This president can have sex with an intern or break the law and still remain pure.

The last couple of days the liberal blogosphere has been busily deconstructing the Washington Post's choice of Ben Domenech of, the Republican blogger (and apparent serial plagiarist) hired by to write for its new "Red America" blog. His tenure has already ended. He just resigned.

Some of the comments posted about Domenech have been personal and nasty, and that does not reflect well on the left. In a "nasty posts" contest, both sides come out looking bad.

Playing defense as it has had to lately, conservative America has shown it will defend almost any behavior perpetrated in the cause, however it's defined. But faced with side-by-side passages Domenech "borrowed," even conservative bloggers could no longer defend him. And that makes this incident unusual. The facts actually broke through. Ordinarily, as others have observed, conservatism never fails. It cannot fail. It will not fail.

When an avowed conservative commits a crime, or worse breaks ranks with fellow conservatives, it doesn't count against conservatism. It merely outs the culprit as not a true conservative. As one of the sharper Freerepublic posters observed:
"the problem with this sort of approach is that you have dismiss the opinions of ever larger numbers of thoughtful conservative commentators; if they are elected they are RINOs, if unelected, 'who do they represent?', if current members of government they are said to be 'disloyal', if they have left government service they are attacked as 'traitors', and so on."
Thus, conservatives will soon dismiss Mr. Domenech as a closet liberal.


Rereading Michelle Malkin's piece on Domenech, there was this:
It is one thing to paraphrase basic facts from a wire story. But to filch the original thoughts and distinctly crafted phrases of a writer without crediting him/her--and doing so repeatedly--is unacceptable in our business.
As someone who has worked in daily journalism for 14 years, I have a lot of experience related to this horrible situation: I've had my work plagiarized by shameless word and idea thieves many times over the years. I've also been baselessly accused of plagiarism by some of the same leftists now attacking Ben.
Right. Spin, lying and distortion is just good advocacy journalism. But stooping to stealing others' property? Nothing makes "property rights" conservatives madder.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

All work and no play

No time to write today. Weekday blogging is tough when working 12-13 hr days. Plus, we are awaiting a new 1 gig laptop, hoping a new, fast machine will improve response time here.

This Win 98/64 meg dog won't blog!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

No time for the timid

There are a growing number of "new" Democrats activated by the 2004 election who are frustrated with an overly cautious "old guard" faction in the party. It is no time for the timid. Too many Dems in Washington are scurrying for cover over the Feingold censure resolution, worried that they'll be they smeared as "extreme" by the right wing noise machine.

I've got news for them. They'll be smeared whatever they do. They might as well get smeared for taking a stand that inspires people to think they might just have what it takes to lead the country out of the mess we're in. The silence that greeted Feingold points up the degree to which Democrats have become the party of defense (and not in a good way).

But the fractiousness within the party and the defensiveness of the party establishment with respect to new activists has left them largely paralyzed, even as the Republicans self destruct. The attitude, as Digby satirically pointed out, is Don't Make Trouble.
This president is in the low 30's. Most Americans hardly feel the good news in the economy because the benefits have been rigged to go to those who make more than $250,0000 a year. He's made a fetish out of abusing his power with a non-stop assault on the contitution, international law and civilized norms. He has asserted a principle of executive authority that says he does not have to abide by the law. And it's extreme to think this deserves a mild rebuke from the body that writes those laws in the first place?
The online community and "new" Democrats wonder, if not now, when?

It is no time for the timid.
General Patton didn't believe in defensive tactics, he believed in attacking. He often told his soldiers, "When in doubt, attack." ... Like a boxer, they understood that once you got your opponent on the ropes, you had to keep at him until he went down. You couldn't let up and give him a chance to rest.
Things are changing, albeit slowly. I remind people that here in North Carolina, 35 year-old Jerry Meek became the state party chair in 2005, winning as an insurgent candidate against the "establishment candidate" preferred by Gov. Mike Easley. Meek has become a road warrior who crisscrosses the state weekly in support of party building. He is friendly to progressives and savvy about party politics.

Some of the "old guard" are threatened. Some "new" Democrats are frustrated. And the local fractiousness is reflected on the national level. Somehow these factions need to figure out how to trust each other and start working to turn red states blue again.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

You think?

The AP has realized "Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches":
There are some really decent people," the president said earlier this year, "who believe that the federal government ought to be the decider of health care ... for all people."

Of course, hardly anyone in mainstream political debate has made such assertions.

When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.


A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.

"It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."
U.S. News & World Report will release a story tonight on another assault on the 4th Amendment (from Daily Kos):
Olbermann: (reading from a U.S. News & World Report press release) "Soon after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, lawyers in the White House and the Justice Department argued that the same legal authority that the same legal authority that allowed warrentless electronic surveillance inside the US, could also be used to justify physical searches of terror suspects homes & businesses without court approval."

Olbermann: Doesn't that send chills down your spine?

Turley: Well it does. It's horrific, because what that would constitute is to effectively remove the 4th Amendment from the U.S. Constitution and the fact that it was so quick as a suggestion shows the inclinations, unfortunately, of this administration. It treats the Constitution as some legal technicality instead of the thing were trying to fight to protect. Notably, the U.S. News & World Report story says the FBI officals, or some of them apparently, objected... [W]e're seeing a lot of people in the administration with the courage to say "Hold it, this is not what we're supposed to be about. If we're fighting a war, it's a war of self definition and if we start to take whole amendments out of the Constitution in the name of the war on terror-we have to wonder what's left at the end, except victory."
Sure, I love the smell of burning Constitution in the morning.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The politics of lying

A long time ago, in a high school far, far away I read a book on scams called "The Vulnerable Americans" by Curt Gentry (1966).

As best I recall, there was a chapter on a school bus service in Greensboro or High Point, NC that had a run of breakdowns in its fleet of new GM buses. Despite repeated complaints, the owner kept getting the runaround from the area rep, who claimed that no other customers had had similar problems (a lie). The breakdowns must have been caused by the service's drivers.

The money quote went something like this:
"He was lying to me. I knew he was lying to me. He knew I knew he was lying to me. But he lied anyway, not because he had anything to gain from the lies, but because it was company policy."
I thought about that when Scott McClellan reponded to Sen. Russ Feingold's call for censuring the president over warrantless wiretapping:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday that the move by Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin “has more to do with 2008 politics than anything else.” Feingold is usually mentioned in lists of potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

“I think it does raise the question, how do you fight and win the war on terrorism?” McClellan said. “And if Democrats want to argue that we shouldn't be listening to al-Qaeda communications, it's their right and we welcome the debate.”
Except no Democrats are arguing that. McClellan knows that. The White House knows that. So unless the straight-talking foes of moral relativism have redefined knowingly speaking falsehoods as "spin" or "advocacy," McClellan's characterization of Democrats would be a ... lie.

Company policy.

Note: post delayed on account of Blogger maintenance

UPDATE: Just picked up a copy of Gentry's book, and the story is not in there. I must have picked that story up elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Are the children still watching?

It is appalling to see the degree to which the national Democratic leadership has been cowed by Republican control of Congress. Sen. Russ Feingold’s proposal for a censure vote, premature or not, is a gutsy move by a maverick, but one that spotlights the Democrats' lack of coordination. It has sent Congressional Democrats running for cover.

And why? Whatever Democrats do, the GOP will spin it into a smear – once again. They are skilled at it. Democrats will come up bloody whatever they do. That itself is not necessarily a negative. They might as well take the beating and in the process show voters that they are ready to fight for something they believe in, win or lose.

Why did people cheer for Rocky Balboa? They cheered for the little guy with the heart to take on a big shot and fight the good fight.

Liberal blogs yesterday were filled with a mixture of determination and resignation. And those quick to abandon the stodgy Democrat leadership as useless simply reinforce what the country sees: Democrats cannot get their act together.

That’s where young blood comes in. Howard Dean tapped it once, and those folks are still active today, although frustrated with the slow pace of change. Democrats need to show some heart; they just need help rediscovering it. It's coming.

The country wants leaders that show some heart and soul, not empty posturing.

All the talk of censure reminded me of the passionate, handwringing justifications for impeachment our stalwart, rule-of-law Republican brethren presented in 1998 (December 18-19). Empty posturing and rank partisanship, or true conviction? In light of the Senate Intelligence Committee vote not to investigate domestic spying in violation of FISA, you decide.


The man in question clings to the trappings of his powerful office, and cloaks himself in its symbols and icons, but adheres to none of the principles of the men who served in it before him.

The question before us today is whether we, too, will turn away from our long heritage of the rule of law, the love of truth, and instead place our faith in the brutal role of power, the fickle winds of appetite and the manipulation of public opinion.

Mr. WATTS of Oklahoma.
Ask the children. The kid who lies does not last and they do not bicker over what is and what is not a lie. They know. So do I. So do the American people.

Time and again, we wanted the essence of truth and we got the edges of the truth. We hear, `Let's get on with the business of our country.' What business is more important than teaching our children right from wrong?

Americans all across the country every day, we all try very hard to live by the rules, principles and proverbs and we teach them to our children. What are they? It is called honesty: You tell the truth, be sincere, do not deceive, mislead or be devious or use trickery. Do not withhold information in relationships of trust. Do not cheat or lie to the detriment of others nor tolerate such practice. You honor your oath. Be loyal. Support and protect your family, your friends, your community and your country. Do not violate the law and ethical principles to win personal gain. Do not ask a friend to do something wrong. Judge all people on their merits. Do not abuse or demean people. Do not use, manipulate, exploit or take advantage of others for personal gain. Be responsible and accountable, think before you act, consider the consequences on all people by your actions.

Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas
The President has diminished his office in the eyes of the Nation, and more dangerously, in the eyes of the world.

The President is the chief law enforcement official of this country. If you lose respect for him, you lose respect for the law.

I would just say, again, to the American people, that this is not a choice about doing what is easy. This is a choice between what is right and what is wrong under our Constitution and the rule of law.

Let's be clear: the President lied to us. He pointed his finger at us, looked us in the eye and lied to us, over and over again.

We must make a stand and say--we are a nation of laws and no one is above the law.

Ignoring this president's lies and deceit would set a terrible precedent for the future -- for future presidents, for future people who testify in courts throughout this country, and to our nation's children. And I hear over and over again, we've got to do it for the children. And unfortunately, I believe for the children of this nation, this president has to be impeached.

How are we to answer our children when they ask us `If the President can lie and get away with it, why can't I?'

Mr. Speaker, most Americans are repelled by the President's actions. The toughest questions I have had to answer have come from parents who agonize over how to explain the President's behavior to their children. Every parent tries to teach their children the difference between right and wrong, to always tell the truth and, when they make mistakes, to take responsibility and face the consequences of their actions.

Mr. Speaker, just before the November 3 election my 5-year-old grandson, Jake, asked his mother if we were going to be electing a new President, and upon being told, no, we already have a President, Jake replied: No, we do not; he lied.

As my colleagues know, such principle from the mouths of babes. As sad as this is for our Nation, this action is necessary so that all of us can continue to not only uphold but teach those basic truths and basic right and wrong in our houses and, most assuredly, in this House.

Yes, to err is human, but to lie and deny and vilify; rather than that we need to confess and repair and repent.

Just remember, the children are watching.

I ask every Member of the House to consider the question I posed to my colleagues on the Committee on the Judiciary last week: What message are we sending to the youth of America if we abdicate our constitutional duty and condone perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power by the President of the United States?

I have two children at home, a daughter and a son. With the help of their teachers and their church, my wife and I have tried to teach them about honesty and integrity. We have tried to instill in them a belief that character does indeed matter. We have taught them to obey the law.

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues of the People's House, I wish to talk about the rule of law. …

Let us look back to Bunker Hill, to Concord and Lexington. Let us look across the river to Arlington Cemetery, where American heroes who gave their lives for the sake of the rule of law lie buried, and let us not betray their memory. Let us look to the future, to the children of today who are the presidents and members of Congress of the next century, and let us not crush their hope that they too will inherit a law-governed society.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

When in Rome, Georgia ...

Yesterday, Bob Burnett’s post on The Huffington Post was dead on in advocating a “values based strategy” for 2006 and beyond.

Many liberal activists still think only in terms of issues. Red state voters (including many Reagan Democrats in my district) do not. However disingenuous -- James Dobson complained that Republicans had better deliver this time, or else, immediately after the Nov. 2004 election -- Republican politicians know how to speak their language. Too often liberals are “ugly Americans” who won’t bother to learn the simplest phrases. (Does cultural sensitivity apply only to foreigners?) We can’t engage people whose language we won’t learn. If we won’t at least try to speak their language, they’ll continue to vote for people who will.

I remember distinctly one call I took during the 2004 congressional race. This red-state voter had seen our first TV ad, liked what he’d seen, and went to the web site to find our position on his pet issues. He didn’t find answers there, so he called in.

“I don’t care about jobs or health care or the economy,” he said. “I want to know where she stands on abortion and the gay lifestyle.” These wedge issues were topics we were advised to avoid. We wanted to run our race, not theirs.

This guy just wanted to be heard. We spoke for maybe fifteen minutes, but I wasn’t authorized to speak on unpublished positions for the candidate (who was out). This guy wanted to know that our candidate shared his values, or at least understood them. Clearly, he was looking for an excuse, any excuse not to vote for our Republican incumbent opponent. We need to give him one.

That doesn’t mean pandering, selling out or wearing religion on our sleeves. It means telling people -- boldly -- where you stand and why. It means learning to articulate our beliefs in language red staters (and Reagan Democrats) will understand and not be shy or uncomfortable about it.

Listen to Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Milwaukee talk about facing an American Legion hall audience and telling them bluntly why she doesn’t support a flag amendment. She may not have walked out with their votes, but she walked out with their respect. It's a place to start.

We don't win by shifting left or right. We win by getting broader.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Killers armed with Styrofoam

NPR's "This American Life" did interviews with a couple of former Guantanamo detainees who turned out to be average Joes just picked up at random or turned in by bounty hunters. One Gunatanamo "worst of the worst" had been to Ft. Lauderdale for Spring Break in 2000 ("Biker Week") and spoke of prisoners challenging Guantanamo prison guards to see who could turn a styrofoam cup inside out without breaking it.

The audio for "Habeas Schmaebeas" is posted online. The show cited this Seton Hall Univ report. It analyzes the docs recently released by the DOD on prisoners:

Eleven have sworn allegiance to al Qaida. Many are being held based on vaporware evidence. Others were sold for a bounty the US offered; the only evidence against them is they were turned over by a bounty hunter who took the cash and promptly disappeared. The one question not asked in the show was whether the detainees met anyone there that *they* thought was a terrorist. That would have immunized the reporter from the sure-everyone-in-prison-is-innocent dimissal.

One segment looked into an obscure British lord (a Puritan) who had come up with the offshore prison technique back in the 1600's to skirt habeas corpus. He was impeached. In this segment, the reporter goes with some expert to see Lord Clarendon’s grave in Westminster Cathedral. The expert had once shown an American tour group around the cathedral and one had spat on Darwin's grave and wanted to know why he was buried there.

God help us all.

If it’s Sunday, it must be Sarajevo

The LA Times this morning reports over 70 dead in Iraq on Sunday in a series of car bomb, rocket and mortar attacks. The worst violence was in Baghdad’s Sadr City.

The mortar attacks came as people rushed to help the injured. This was a common tactic in the Balkans during their “problems.” Maybe it’s just the death of Slobodan Milosevic that brings that to mind.

Off to my own road-warrioring…

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Free lunch, anyone?

I keep hearing conservative callers to Air America complain that liberals are not optimistic. I suppose that's because we're in the "reality-based community," unlike the president.

Bush in the WaPo last week, regarding his Oval Office rug:
"The interesting thing about this rug and why I like it in here is 'cause I told Laura one thing. I said, 'Look, I can't pick the colors and all that. But make it say 'optimistic person.' " ...

"It helps make this room an open and optimistic place," Bush tells viewers. ...

"If you walk in that Oval Office," Bush said in Sterling, "I think you're going to say, just like you know it, 'This guy's optimistic.' "
From an October 17, 2004, New York Times Magazine article, “Without a Doubt,” by Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
It dawns on me that while traditional conservatives (George Will types) like to portray themselves as hard-nosed realists (unlike those starry-eyed liberals), Bush conservatives want to have it both ways. They want to have their cake and eat it too. This may explain why they so easily talk out of both sides of their mouths.

You can have invasions that are cakewalks.
You can have tax cuts that pay for themselves.
You can have corporations treat employees better through competition than through regulation.
You can defend freedom though torture.
You can promote democracy through domestic spying.
You can insist that government does nothing right, prove it with Katrina, and still believe you can successfully nation-build overseas.
You can eat anything you want, not exercise, and lose weight fast.

You can do that when you create your own reality. Conservative "optimists" believe in the free lunch. Like Fox Mulder, they want to believe.

Like Bill McKibben's Harpers article, “The Christian Paradox,” last August that took issue with shopping mall spirituality, this brand of belief won't deal with hard issues of faith:
"How nice it would be if Jesus had declared that our income was ours to keep, instead of insisting that we had to share. How satisfying it would be if we were supposed to hate our enemies. Religious conservatives will always have a comparatively easy sell."
They want to believe in Santa Claus. They really get ticked off when you tell them he doesn't exist. And they will vote for the guy who says he does. Be Happy Happy Happy All the Time