Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A boy named who?

Watching the serial belligerence with which the Bush administration approaches Iraq, Iran and the rest of the world reminds me of an old song that teaches, "this world is rough, and if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough."

So you'd better grow up quick and grow up mean, so your fists get hard and your wits get keen.

What do we make of diplomacy with all the sophistication of "A Boy Named Sue"?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The mind abhors randomness

I just received an e-mail inviting me to a local screening of “America: Freedom to Fascism”, a documentary by director Aaron Russo (Trading Places, The Rose).

Based on the reviews, AFF appears to be another of those international conspiracy-hyping expos̩s popular among the disenfranchised of the far right, and Рpost-9/11 Рincreasingly popular on the far left.

International banks control the country through the Federal Reserve. There’s no law requiring you to pay taxes; you’ve been duped. THEY are tracking your every move. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Bilderbergers, the Illuminati, Skull and Bones, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations are somewhere in there too, I’m sure, as they have been for decades.

That the documentary has appeal on both the fringe left and the fringe right reinforces my contention that the further left and the further right one goes, the more alike people think. They don’t necessarily believe the same things, but they believe the same way: suspicious, paranoid, rigid, tribal and doctrinaire.

Humans once defined ourselves as the only tool-making animal, only to find out we were not. In fact, we are a pattern-seeking species. As infants we divine how the world works by experiment. Little Isaac Netwons, we make sense of the world by finding the hidden patterns behind everyday actions. And where there is no pattern, we’ll impose one. We see animals in cloud formations, faces in ink blots, God's wrath in a hurricane, and madonnas in building stains and cheese sandwiches. When a loved one dies tragically, we ask, “Why?” and assume there is a reason. There has to be.

Nature abhors a vacuum. The mind abhors randomness.

So especially when our world seems to be coming apart, we seek a pattern and a mind(s) behind the madness: the devil, liberals, fascists, communists, whoever. Anything but randomness and chaos.

Over a decade ago I wrote elsewhere:
People are desperate for something in which they can believe. Communities have disappeared, replaced by subdivisions and condominiums. Terrorism and human rights abuses are more visible than ever. Anything you eat, drink or breathe might produce cancer. Science has reduced life to a cold set of mechanistic principles, demythologizing the world and stripping life of the meaning our myths once conveyed. The world seems to be coming apart and we are powerless to stop it. Nothing feels right anymore.

Is it any wonder people need something, some way to get control in their lives, some way to overcome our sense of powerlessness and paranoia? … But in the absence of feeling that we can effect changes in our lives, we find solace in the notion that that power might exist somewhere else. It is as if we awakened to find ourselves locked in the trunk of a car careening down a mountain road. We desperately need to believe someone is behind the wheel. Even a diabolical someone is more comfort than no one at all.
Find them. Expose them. Depose them. Only then can you reclaim your freedom and put the world right. At least there's a chance.

Or so it goes.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Take the test

Kos posted today on a topic I've been bothered by since before Barack Obama-mania struck:
[H]e's the best orator in the field, but his stuff is strangely unsatisfying. It sounds great when you hear it, but an hour later, you wonder what the heck it was he was talking about.
Except it only takes two to five minutes, Kos.

Every time I've heard Barack Obama speak in interviews and speeches I think, damn he's good. Obama's got eloquence, poise and presence. His voice has warmth, the right timber, and punch when he needs it.

But try this test. Minutes after Obama has finished speaking, try to remember a thing he said. Like Mel Torme, he wraps you in a velvet fog, but once it dissipates, you're left with nothing solid, nothing pithy to hold onto and take home.

If Obama expects to go anywhere nationally, he's got to work on the art of the sound bite.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

First Amendment violation, my astroturf

[Updated below]

Groups lobbying for Christian right, "pro-family" and liberal causes have been up in arms over Senate bill S. 1, Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act), Section 220. This provision in the reform bill attempts to shine some light on astroturf groups paid to generate "fake grassroots" support for (or against) legislation through direct mail or e-mail "action alerts," etc. Think Jack Abramoff and Indian gaming.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, calls astroturfing misleading. "It makes it appear as if there is a mass movement in opposition or in support of a piece of legislation when that doesn't really exist. It's generated. It's to fool lawmakers."

One could argue that non-profits alerting like-minded voters to contact their representatives regarding issues is something else. Generally, astroturfing is paid for by industry groups. But lobbyists for grassroots, non-commercial causes feel targeted by Section 220 provisions they believe will require them to document their activities.

Beginning last spring, groups like Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Family Research Council and Citizens Against Government Waste joined American Family Voices (AFV), a nonprofit group led by Clinton administration veteran Mike Lux, in opposing the provision. (AFV was responsible for repeated anti-Republican incumbent robocalls in competitive congressional districts last fall. Democrats and Republicans alike wanted to know who was paying for them. AFV wasn't talking.)

True to form, these groups are trying to create some grassroots support for defeating it.

In Richard A. Viguerie's action alert at, the father of direct mail advocacy writes, "The Senate would make exercising your First Amendment rights a crime."

The American Family Association's action alert claims:
Senators favoring this bill are simply tired of hearing from you. That is the bottom line. They don’t want to hear from you. They don’t want you to be informed. They want to silence you. How? By simply keeping you from receiving information that AFA provides. (my emphasis)
Concerned Women for America complains the bill, "won't allow organizations such as Concerned Women for America (CWA) to correspond with the public on legislative issues."

None of which is true.

A press statement by OMB Watch counters:
It only requires some lobby firms, advertisers and lobbyists that exceed significant dollar thresholds to let the public know who they are representing. Nonprofits have been disclosing lobbying costs to the federal and state governments for decades without any restriction on what they can say or how often they can say it. This provision does not change that.
Concerned Women for America thinks otherwise, arguing:
That citizens are 'stimulated' to contact their representatives by so-called 'grassroots lobbying activities' is irrelevant. Newspaper editorials, op-eds, grassroots advertisements and e-mail alerts are all ways to influence people to contact their elected representatives on an issue. Just as it would be unconstitutional to monitor the press because of their influence over their readership, the First Amendment also protects the right of the people to 'petition the government for a redress of grievances.' To monitor motivation as to why a citizen would contact Members on an issue is attacking that First Amendment right.
But that's like saying it's a violation of the First Amendment to require the New York Times and FoxNews to have a business license, or to ask who funded the Swift Boat ads.

The "grassroots lobbying" provision was first proposed in 2005 by Sen. John McCain, who explained:
It requires greater disclosure of the activities of lobbyists, including for the first time, grassroots lobbying firms. … Lobbyists distorted the truth, not only with false messages, but also with fake messengers. I hope by having, for the first time, disclosure of grassroots activities and the financial interests behind misleading front groups, that such a fraud on Members and voters can be avoided.
OMB Watch has this analysis:
The legislation ... which is co-sponsored by the leading Democrat and Republican in the Senate, requires grassroots lobbying disclosure for those companies, organizations, and lobbyists already required to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and spending significant amounts of money on grassroots lobbying activities.

More specifically, the entity must first qualify to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (spend $24,500 semi-annually on direct lobbying activities, which the Democrats are proposing to change to $10,000 per quarter). If the entity qualifies for registration and spends $25,000 on grassroots lobbying activities, then will it be required to report on grassroots lobbying activities. Additionally, communications with less than 500 people or with any number of members are not considered grassroots lobbying communications, and, therefore, would not be counted in the calculation of grassroots lobbying expenditures. Special rules are proposed for large grassroots lobbying firms, that is, firms that spend or have revenue of $25,000 or more in a quarter.
Section 220 -- even if not constructed narrowly enough to target only astroturf firms (and if not, it should be amended, not repealed) -- would require revealing the source of the cash behind the "action alerts" and the canned spam that follows them. But nothing in the provision prohibits citizens spreading issue information/misinformation to your friends at church or sending prefab e-mails and faxes to your representatives.

According to The Hill, John McCain, "considered one of the most authoritative voices on ethics- and lobbying-related issues in the Senate," has revoked support for his own reform in an effort to court the Christian right. Which may mean Americans will lose our chance to get reform right.


The amendment to strike Section 220 passed by 55 to 43 at 8:21 p.m. John McCain voted to remove his own provision.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dr. Evil is no match for...

SPECTRE (R-PA). Oops, that's Specter, Arlen Specter (R-PA).

TPM reports that he's responsible for the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act provision that lets the White House replace federal prosecutors it doesn't like -- and without needing Senate confirmation.
How did it get there?

Former Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) slipped the language into the bill at the very last minute, according to one of the Republican managers of the bill.

A spokesperson for Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who led the House team working on the bill, said that the provision was inserted by Specter into the final draft of the bill. The language was apparently requested by the Justice Department. Specter's office didn't respond to numerous requests for comment.
What good is a lackey, if he won't "lack" on command?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Heckuva job, Georgie

Iraqi death toll exceeded 34,000 in '06, UN Says
The numbers reported by the United Nations were more than tenfold the number of American deaths for the entire war. As previous attempts to secure Baghdad have failed, tens of thousands of middle-class Iraqis have given up and fled the country. Those who remain are becoming increasingly radicalized as the violence draws them into a cycle of revenge.

The United Nations report said an average of 94 Iraqis died every day in 2006, with about half the deaths occurring in the capital. The majority died from gunshot wounds, in execution-style killings that are a common method for death squads, both Sunni and Shiite. The report registered the most lethal month as October, with deaths declining slightly in November and December.

US commander wants more troops against Taliban surge
KABUL (AFP) - The senior US commander in Afghanistan pressed for more troops to confront a major surge in Taliban attacks, notably out of Pakistan, as he briefed visiting US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

[snip] reason the Taliban has been able to mount its biggest offensive since their ouster in December 2001 is that they have been able to establish a command structure inside both Pakistan and AFghanistan ... a military official said Taliban leader Mullah Omar was believed to be operating from the Pakistani city of Quetta.

If it's a massacre, is this Saturday night?

The White House is purging federal attorneys. What's up?

TPM Muckraker reported this afternoon on seven who've left recently:
During a floor speech on the topic moments ago, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the White House has told her it was replacing from five to 10 Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys with its own interim appointees.
[h/t Atrios]

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mission of Burma Preempts Talking Heads

Missed the "talking heads" on the tube this a.m. Was in Atlanta last night to see Mission of Burma play.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

But for the Grace of God

Yesterday, Digby riffed on the passage in the House of the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, noting that Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) voted with the Democrats:
He did this because his wife died of breast cancer a few years ago after a long illness and he was personally exposed to the way the medical system works for average people when he would sit with his wife at the cancer center and listen to what the cancer patients said. Because his family was going through a medical crisis he understood why it was so stressful for people to be unable to afford prescriptions under such circumstances.

[Republicans] reflexively object to any government program until they are confronted personally with a situation that requires such intervention. They have no empathy for people in the abstract, always assuming that whomever is saying they are in need is a whining malcontent who could be just as healthy and self-sufficient as they are if they truly tried.


They have a stunted sense of empathy and an undeveloped ability to understand abstract concepts. It makes them unable to fashion any solutions to common problems, which they blame on "poor character" because they cannot visualize themselves ever being in a vulnerable or unlucky position through no fault of their own. Until it happens to them or someone they know, in which case they never question their philosophy as a whole but merely apply a special exemption to whichever particular problem or risk to which they have personally been exposed.
It is a theme echoed by Jacob Hacker in his book, The Great Risk Shift. Hacker expounds on how the right's "Personal Responsibility Crusade" has systematically cut the safety net from under middle-class Americans, exposing them to the highest levels of personal insecurity in decades.

That insecurity is wearing. A recent post on Daily Kos chronicles one middle-class family's encounter with capricious fate: "from HAVE to HAVE NOT in 24 hours". And while our stress levels climb, conservatives complain that silly, average Americans fail to notice and the mainstream media under-report the healthy, thriving, tax-cut driven Bush economy -- healthy, measured by GDP and other leading economic indicators.

The problem is, you can't eat GDP. You can't live in it. And you can't wear it.

Hacker describes the "ownership society" component of the Crusade as
"a highly coherent prescription that to the major changes in the economy and society that have promoted the widespread sense that we're on our own."
That sense, and the tendency on the right to promote that very idea as a conservative ideal, promted someone on the Net to dub it the "you're on your owenership society."

Psychologists Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril once argued that Americans are "operational liberals" and "philosophical conservatives," Hacker notes, adding,
They want to have their welfare state cake and eat their free-market capitalism, too. But why not? If we are to be encouraged to invest in new skills, strong families, new jobs, and everything else that makes upward mobility possible, we need a broader umbrella of basic insurance, not a more tattered and narrow one. Back in 2003, President Bush said it was the job of government to provide "the economic environment in which risk-takers and entrepreneurs create jobs." Apparently, he thinks the only folks taking economic risks are the well off and corporations, not everyday Americans.
But of course. As Molly Ivins observed (speaking of Ross Perot in 1992), in Texas folks believe "the purpose of gummint is to create a healthy bidness climate."

Conversely, the Personal Responsibility Crusade believes everyday persons should go it alone. Under the theory of "moral hazard," Hacker writes, the insurance industry posits that, "Protecting people against risks reduces the the care people exercise in avoiding those risks." Conservatives took this even further. Helping people breeds dependency and weakness, undercutting self-reliance. Better for their moral development to cut people loose to sink or swim.

Hacker drew my attention when in a radio interview recently he said (roughly), "The whole premise of the 'ownership society' is that if you throw a lead weight to a drowning man, he'll have more incentive to swim."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Study: Fifty-State Strategy contributed to midterm success

Thursday Chris Bowers at MyDD posted on a study by Harvard University's Elaine Kamarck indicating early success for Howard Dean's Fifty State Strategy. The study focused on "39 congressional districts where Dean had made an investment in organizing" (as opposed to states where the organizers worked at the state party headquarters for all U.S. House candidates). The North Carolina Democratic Party now has three organizers.
...those congressional districts where the DNC had paid organizers on the ground for over a year more than doubled the Democratic vote over what would have happened due to forces outside the control of the Party, such as the war in Iraq and the unpopularity of a Republican President. the absence of significant amounts of DCCC money, the presence of a DNC organizer in a congressional district puts the average Democratic increase in the vote significantly above what would be expected simply given the anti-Republican currents in the country in 2006. Districts that had less than $10,000 from the DCCC still exceeded the average national increase by nearly 3 percentage points. Districts that received between $10,000 and $100,000 exceeded the average national increase by nearly 4 percentage points. Not surprisingly, those districts that received between $100,000 and $200,000 in DCCC contributions exceeded the national average by over 8 percentage points.

These districts also exceeded the average increase for the districts with a DNC organizer. Obviously money matters. But what is interesting about this table is how much can be accomplished with organization. Since there were only two districts that were targeted by the 50 state strategy that received more than $200,000 I would not make too much of this finding. Keep in mind that it is often argued that there are diminishing returns to money in politics.

Appendix A. Outcome of Congressional District Races where DNC organizers had been working for over 16 months (NC table data below)

District__________Win/Loss____in Dem. % of Vote

North Carolina 8____Loss_______+6%
North Carolina 11____Win_______+11%
Larry Kissell's NC-8 race was a squeaker, as we well know. DCCC support may have spelled the difference between NC-8 and NC-11. DCCC chair Rep. Rahm Emanuel had personally recruited Heath Shuler for NC-11 and was hanging his hat on turning out Charlie Taylor. (One of his staff members came to run our Election Protection effort.)
Appendix B. Fifty State Strategy Congressional Districts by DCCC money spent. (DCCC spending figures from


North Carolina 8____$46,260
North Carolina 11____$108,560
I can't speak to the analytical methods, but anecdotally, the presence of organizers had a galvanizing effect and helped pull districts together. The branding campaign Mark Hufford helped craft gave Democrats renewed presence in the reddest parts of western NC, ticked off the GOP, and told voters, "We're here."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The United States of Arbusto

[Updated below]

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

-- The Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Over at Slate, John Dickerson's take on President Bush's latest last chance, throwing another 21,500 troops into Iraq:
Two months ago, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley wondered whether Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was clueless, incompetent, or devious. Now, Bush is betting the farm on him.


The president isn't just asking the American people to buy into a new military strategy for Baghdad; he's asking the country to embrace Iraqi leadership that, in the same speech, the president portrayed as so fragile it would collapse if U.S. troops pulled back.
"Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me," the president said last night. "Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States."

Like his presidency.
Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention. -- Molly Ivins

Per the New York Times, when asked by Congressional leaders on Wednesday why he thought his latest, greatest plan for Iraq stabilization would succeed where his earlier efforts failed, Bush replied: “Because it has to.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This may seem an inopportune moment

to ask, Dean Wormer...but do you think you could give us one more chance?

-- ROBERT HOOVER, President of Delta House (Animal House, 1978)

Another president who screwed up asks for one more chance.

And looked like he didn't even believe himself.

For the attention-span impaired, Keith Olbermann runs down the Commander-in-Chief's greatest chances.

President Bush is a man with a deeply held belief in do-overs -- for himself. See this Vanity Fair article from October 2000 (my highlights):
Even if he loses, his friends say, he doesn't lose. He'll just change the score, or change the rules, or make his opponent play until he can beat him. "If you were playing basketball and you were playing to 11 and he was down, you went to 15," says Hannah, now a Dallas insurance executive.


Another fast friend, Roland Betts, acknowledges that it is the same in tennis. In November 1992, Bush and Betts were in Santa Fe to host a dinner party, but they had just enough time for one set of doubles. The former Yale classmates were on opposite sides of the net. "There was only one problem—my side won the first set," recalls Betts. "O.K., then we're going two out of three," Bush decreed. Bush's side takes the next set. But Betts's side is winning the third set when it starts to snow. Hard, fat flakes. The catering truck pulls up. But Bush won't let anybody quit. "He's pissed. George runs his mouth constantly," says Betts indulgently. "He's making fun of your last shot, mocking you, needling you, goading you—he never shuts up!" They continued to play tennis through a driving snowstorm.

It is something of an in-joke with Bush's friends and family. "In reality we all know who won, but George wants to go further to see what happens," says an old family friend, venture capitalist and former MGM chairman Louis "Bo" Polk Jr. "George would say, ‘Play that one over,' or ‘I wasn't quite ready.' ...
Next, he'll be challenging a weary America to spend even more blood and treasure on a best "two out of three" (Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran) when he hasn't even won one yet.

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves

Irony is SO "liberal media."

Sean Hannity's innaugural "Enemy of the State" winner (YouTube here): Sean Penn, for being a bad actor who says mean things about Hannity (and the president) and makes "outlandish comments" (speaks his mind).

From Wikipedia:
An enemy of the state is a person accused of certain crimes against the state, such as treason. Falsely describing individuals in this way is often a manifestation of political repression. For example, an authoritarian regime may purport to maintain national security by describing social or political dissidents as "enemies of the state".
UP NEXT ON FOX: "Burned Book of the Week"

Talking Points Memo commenter Jim M asks: Did it occur to him to say "Enemy of Freedom" or "Danger to Our Liberties" or something more American-sounding?

(h/t Digby)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Do our troops get moral hazard pay?

Terry Jones has been writing commentary for the Guardian for a while now, and he's got a voice all his own:
Early this year the Bush administration is to ask Congress to approve an additional $100bn for the onerous task of making life intolerable for the Iraqis. This will bring the total spent on the White House's current obsession with war to almost $500bn - enough to have given every US citizen $1,600 each. I wonder which the voters would have gone for if given the choice: shall we (a) give every American $1,600 or (b) spend the money on bombing a country in the Middle East that doesn't use lavatory paper?

Of course, there's another thing that George Bush could have done with the money: he could have given every Iraqi $18,700. I imagine that would have reduced the threat of international terrorism somewhat. Call me old-fashioned, but I can't help thinking that giving someone $18,700 brings them round to your side more quickly than bombing the hell out of them. They could certainly buy a lot of lavatory paper with it.
I'm reminded of all the good my further-left friends dreamed of doing with the massive post-Cold War "peace dividend." Of course the peace dividend never existed. Our Cold War military was purchased largely with deficit dollars.

What my friends didn't understand is that we no longer believe in spending them on social programs, on helping people. That supposedly breeds dependency on government, which presents a "moral hazard." But as long as they're not our people, we've never been reluctant about spending deficit dollars in huge quantities for "bombing the hell out of them."

Monday, January 08, 2007

While the iron is hot

Campaign finance reform -- including some form of public funding of elections -- must not fall between the cracks if Democrats expect to live up to Americans' hopes for real change and retain their newfound leadership posts.

The money chase is one of the most corrupting influences on politicians, a universally hated "necessity" for politicians, and one that well-funded lobbying groups will be just as eager to exploit with Democrats as with the GOP.

NBC reported Friday that:
"... hours after changing House rules to reduce favors from lobbyists, it was back to business as usual in Washington.

Democrats threw a $1,000-a-person fundraising concert in Washington Thursday night, with Hollywood celebrities, big donors and those lobbyists writing checks to re-elect Democrats."
Last week David Sirota cited Roll Call:
" 'I am going to be embraced and hugged and kissed as long as I’m giving them a check' for their campaign, said one lobbyist."
Business as usual is what voters spoke out against on November 7. And that's not going to change unless Democrats insist upon changing it.

They would be wise to pay close attention to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) who proposed some of the toughest reforms in the nation in his recent State of the State address:
"Reform will not be complete if we simply address the supply of contributions. We must also address the demand. Full public financing must be the ultimate goal of our reform effort. By cutting off the demand for private money, we will cut off the special-interest influence that comes with it."
A few Democrats in 109th Congress proposed reforms that died in committee: Reps. David Obey and Barney Frank with `Let the People Decide Clean Campaign Act'; and Rep. John Tierney with the `Clean Money, Clean Elections Act'.

Maine and red-state Arizona have moved in that direction as well.

"Votes for Sale?" on PBS' Now program last October observed:
Pushing special interest money out of the election process may do more than clean things up. It could also open the door for a variety of people who care about democracy to run for office with realistic hopes of winning. Case in point: Arizona State Representative Doug Quelland, a conservative Republican who supports clean elections by his own example. With a background in public school teaching and running a handful of neighborhood businesses, including a lawnmower repair shop, Quelland captured voter interest door-to-door armed only with his passion and point of view. He's now running for his third term in the state legislature and still sports his trademark handlebar moustache. "I don't want to owe anybody anything. I don't want to have to have the special interests. I just want to do it and not beholden to anybody."
But as it now stands, the country is still way out ahead of its leaders. It's time our leaders caught up.

[big h/t] David Sirota

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Weekly News Quiz

First, too good not to quote, from Katha Pollitt's New Year's Resolutions at The Nation:
4. Don't think your lifestyle can save the world. I love slow food! I cook slow food! I shop at farmers' markets, I pay extra for organic, I am always buying cloth bags and forgetting to bring them to the supermarket. But the world will never be saved by highly educated, privileged people making different upscale consumer choices. If you have enough money to buy grass-fed beef or tofu prepared by Tibetan virgins, you have enough money to give more of it away to people who really need it and groups that can make real social change.
I never wanted to be a bobo anyway.

(h/t Daily Kos)

And now today's quiz.

Which of these MSM news stories from this past week is actually true?

A) Bush wants to open your mail without obtaining a warrant.

B) Bush wants all Britons to be scanned for FBI fingerprint database.

C) Bush wants to escalate the war in Iraq.

D) Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran.

Sorry, trick question. They're all false.

See, A is FALSE because opening your mail without a warrant is illegal, and the president would never do anything illegal; B) is FALSE because they already scan two fingers in England and all European Union nations, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and now just want to do all ten fingers; C is FALSE because the president calls it a "surge"; and D is FALSE because the Israelis have denied the traitorous MSM report.

Those who guessed it was a trick question get a Freeper decoder ring.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

You don't need to see his records

This isn't the public information you're looking for...
White House visitor records closed

WASHINGTON - The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House are not open to the public.


The five-page document dated May 17 declares that all entry and exit data on White House visitors belongs to the White House as presidential records rather than to the Secret Service as agency records. Therefore, the agreement states, the material is not subject to public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
You can go about your business.

Move along.

(h/t Crooks and Liars)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Not a moment too soon

Democrats take over both houses of Congress! And not a moment to soon.

Perhaps they'll be able to bring the dogs of war to heel.

From another of our sensible friends on the right, the ones who brought us the Iraq invasion in the first place (Dean Barnett at Hugh Hewitt's blog):
There is a deep undercurrent of savagery in the Iraqi culture that will not just inhibit the growth of a peaceful democracy there, but probably prohibit it.

The only answer, as it always has been, is to stamp out that savagery ferociously and totally. At the end of this war, Iraq must necessarily be composed of people who always wanted to live in peace and the one-time enemies of peace who have come to realize they have no other choice but to live in peace. How much killing will this take? That will depend on how many enemies of peace there are and how determined they are to live in a state of war. One thing's for certain - the more resolute we are, the less killing there will be.
Per Dean Barnett:

a) The Iraq occupation was a mistake.
b) "It should have been obvious ..."
c) Many Iraqis are savages with "little interest in living in a peaceful, tolerant society."
d) "The only answer" is to continue killing until morale improves.

(h/t Atrios)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Hard Corps

Yesterday, I looked at the not-so-fringe, "Kill ‘em all. Let Allah sort ‘em out." crowd. The kind that conservative talkers and columnists keep hopped up on righteous rage. But I gave only a couple of examples: bloggers, right-wing spam, and a columnist (plus others in the links).

But are their views picked up by, or a reflection of, people in the heartland? People you might know? They certainly have a faithful audience. You decide.

In the mid-90s I worked in an office (South Carolina) where dittohead designers listened to Rush Limbaugh at their desks every afternoon. And again the next morning.


The chief dittohead recorded Rush's show every afternoon and used a low-power FM transmitter to re-broadcast the previous day's show to fellow dittoheads around the building the next morning -- to prime their anger for the live show in the afternoon.

In 2005 I worked alongside two older Bush supporters I called the “Hard Corps.” Solid, ordinary, responsible, hard-working middle-class Americans. NewsMax and Federalist newsletter-reading, FoxNews watching, Bill O'Reilly fans and Ann Coulter groupies. Even other conservatives in the office rolled their eyes at these guys.

But colorful.

One was a crusty sixty-something from the mid-Atlantic, Catholic, a Korean War veteran and self-described “right wing fascist.” Several times a day he’d break the silence by muttering, “Off with their heads!”

He admires Franco’s Spain. Order. With Franco in charge, he said, unless you were a criminal or a homosexual or a communist, you had nothing to worry about.

He thinks Americans with concerns about the Patriot Act or NSA surveillance are traitors.

"So why do you keep your PIN number secret?" I asked.

“Like I said, unless you’re a criminal or a terrorist you got nothing to worry about.”

"How about surveillance for political dirty tricks?" I suggested.

"Only scumbag Democrats do that kind of thing."

I mentioned that Karl Rove was known for them. Once in race for the Alabama Supreme Court, he printed up nasty, anonymous flyers slamming his own client (who was behind in the race at the time). They rolled them up like newspapers. Then he had assistants borrow cars so they couldn’t be traced back to the campaign, and they flung them onto people’s walks in the middle of the night. The backlash was immediate and against their opponent, who of course got blamed for it. Karl’s client won.

“Where’d you read that?” he asked.


“The Atlanta paper?”

“Atlantic magazine,” I repeated.

“That’s published in New England isn’t it? You might as well be reading Pravda.”

When he heard that the ANWAR bill got blocked in the Senate, he said, “No more mister nice guy. You know, Uncle Joe (Stalin) wouldn’t stand for this crap. He knew how to take care of people like this.”

“Let me tell you something," he said to another guy. "You know what’s wrong with this country? Liberals are ruthless and conservatives have no balls.”

But he loves old movies, is a Star Wars fanatic, and has read all the Star Wars books.

"One thing I can't understand," he puzzled. "The Jedi have all this power, and yet they let the Empire walk all over them."

He avoids movies by liberal actor-activists (whom he despises). He came in just before Christmas humming and whistling the anti-war “Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon. (I couldn’t ruin it for him.)

After the Senate voted 90-9 that October to ban torture of prisoners in U.S. custody, he waved a blog article denouncing the bill. “Lawyers’ words!” he spat, and denounced civilian control of the military.

America has engaged in torture? Good.

Those who say we shouldn’t? Weak. Socialists.

And the innocent? What innocent?

He has a growing list of those who deserve to be shot. Kerry, Kennedy, Biden, anybody who stands in President Bush’s way.

“Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton. Communists, both of them.”

Then he calls his daughter and talks baby talk to his tiny grandson. “What a great kid!” he smiles upon hanging up.

His friend (from South Carolina; Baptist, I think) comes by and shares right-wing news flashes and articles that they talk about in hushed tones.

"These people" (Democrats/liberals), he says, have no principles, and they will stop at nothing to get their way and bring down this country.

Regarding Bill O'Reilly's war on Christmas, the ACLU, Target stores and “Happy Holidays,” etc., they were livid. “South Carolina” suggested that if decent, god-fearing people really care about this country, they should act. They’d be firebombing Target stores.

In his thick accent he decried the fact that when coworkers put up newspapers at the urinals, what do they put up? The sports page. The problem with this country, he says, is people (voters) are just too stupid to realize what is going on. Al Qaeda cells are in this country right now, he is convinced. More attacks are on the way.

“This is a war. We are in a holy war. And people in this country had better wake up. Mark my words, we are going to see blood in the streets.”

I wasn't sure if he meant a war against al Qaeda or Americans at war against each other.

Fortunately, at their age they are all bluster and no action. Only dangerous in a mob, a friend says.

Note to self: Avoid mobs.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Keep Hate Alive

I’m still trying to comprehend the kind of group psychosis (in certain quarters) behind the unblinking hatred of Muslims and the urge to slaughter them.

September 11 I understand. Osama I get (even if President Bush hasn’t). But not this.

Last year Kit Jarrell of Euphoric Reality suggested Iran be Turned Into Glass if the regime won’t abandon its nuclear ambitions (emphasis mine):

Bush needs to call the President of Iran and say very calmly:
“Currently there are aircraft on their way to you. They are fully loaded. They will be over your city, over your palace/home/cave/goat pen in approximately 24 hours. You have until they get there to make a statement agreeing to end your research.

If you do make this statement of intent, there will be a team of people from the countries you’ve pissed off that will come there and dismantle your research plants. If you give them any problems, you will learn what real problems are.

If you have not made a statement of intent to end all nuclear research by the time my aircraft get there, then I will unleash a rain of hell on your country like you have never seen. I will wipe out you, your family, your people, your buildings, and your research plants. In fact, when I’m done, your little piece of shit country will not even be inhabitable by humans. There will not be two of you left to breed. And just in case you think I’m kidding, take a look at your map. See that town right there? That one? Yeah. Well, in the time it took me to tell you this, that town ceased to exist. Oh, and by the way. Every single Iranian prisoner in our custody is now dead. We’ll drop off their bodies (from 30,000 feet) on our way through.”
For those who will tell me what a heartless bitch I am, I direct you to educate yourself as to what heartless is. It’s here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and let’s not forget here.

This is what they do without nukes. Can you really imagine what they’d do with them?
But, just who are “they,” our enemies? The first page shows Lebanese Shiites cutting themselves in a bloody religious ritual on Ashoura Day. Another shows victims of the Chechnyan school bombing by Sunni extremists. (al Qaeda Wahhabis are Sunni extremists.) There are two pages of Afghan victims of the Sunni Taliban and three pages of Iraqis with the corpses of burned American contractors in heavily Sunni Fallujah. Of the eight linked pages of disturbing photos, one solitary page is from Shiite Iran (beatings for violations of Sharia law). Gosh, what more justification does America need for slaughtering millions of Iranians?

Tough talk from bloggers such as Jarrell might be dismissed as coming from the "Kill ‘em all. Let Allah sort ‘em out." lunatic fringe. But that might suggest that these views are further from those of more widely circulated right-wing pundits with more readers and political influence. They're not.

In December, syndicated columnist Michael Reagan took issue with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for joining the “attacks” on the Bush administration during his Senate confirmation hearing. Reagan thought Gates disrespected the president by disagreeing with his claim that we are winning in Iraq. (To disagree now means to attack.)

On the conservative FrontPage web site and in my local newspaper Reagan wrote (emphasis mine):

[Gates] is a member of the Iraq Study Group and as such has signed on to their report. He comes from a group of people I know well. They think that they are the be-all and end-all, and the media fawn on them and feed their insatiable egos.

Their new way of dealing with Iraq is to figure out ways to leave. My way is more straightforward and simple: forget pandering to the Left’s pacifist instincts and just go ahead and kill the enemy, every single one of them.
A Christian patriot, Mr. Reagan will no doubt “take the gloves off” and make the process “straightforward and simple” for American troops by walking the streets of Baghdad, Ramadi and Fallujah with orange spray paint and – like New Orleans Ninth Ward homes marked for demolition – identify enemies for summary execution. If that’s too labor-intensive, perhaps he’d just light up whole neighborhoods with a laser and direct F-16s to flatten them.

While the ISG report offered recommendations for stabilizing Iraq, Reagan and others objected to the ISG's recommendations having "nothing to do with winning." The report speaks of "success" instead. Success is more about what becomes of Iraq. Winning is all about US.

Like Mark Steyn's hand-wringing over our lack of "civilizational confidence," Reagan warns of impending doom because appeasers fail to grasp the true seriousness of the Islamic threat.

Or is it the terrorist threat? Or does the distinction matter to them? It didn’t during the Iraq invasion. Iranians, Syrians, communists, Muslims, terrorists, Iraqis, leftists … what’s the difference? They all hate America and don’t think Right. Nuke 'em! (About one hour after swallowing some Civilizational Viagra ... chased with distilled water, rain water, or pure grain alcohol).

Because a Great Leader needs a Great Enemy.

“One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief,” Bush once told a biographer. Presidents from Eisenhower to George H.W. Bush faced the Red Menace armed with an arsenal of nuclear-tipped ICBMs. So if a handful of guys hiding out in caves in Pakistan don't quite measure up, Bush & Co. must paint them as bigger and badder, so now we’re fighting a battle of civilizations. (Maybe that will impress Dad.)

It’s them or US. And anything goes.

To keep the conservative faithful stoked – to keep hate alive – there’s FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh, the Michael Reagans, right-wing bloggers and others. But what I pay closest attention to is the conservative pass-it-on spam I receive.

My political spam collection runs ten-to-one conservative-to-liberal. The liberal stuff usually alerts readers to pending legislation and urges voters to write or call their congressman and senators, or send money. The right-wing spam is not designed to inform partisans -- 95% are either blatant lies or grossly misleading -- or to provoke them to action, but to keep them angry. That's all, just angry.

Gotta keep those white males on low boil until the next election.

Right-wing spam simply recommends that readers “pass it on,” to make everyone on their email list angry too. (And in the afterglow, enjoy some presidentially approved shopping?)

A fair number of my recent spams are about Islam. Not about al Qaeda, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, but the threat to America posed by the entire Muslim world:
Can a good Muslim be a good American?

USPS new stamp

This is WAR!

The War Is for Real!

It's the Demography, Stupid
The general thrust of terrorism-related right-wing spam is that those naive fools on the left and in the MSM, those not willing to wage total war against Islamofascism just “don’t get it.”

And that, presumably, is why the Iraq occupation – sorry, war – is not going well. It’s the liberals’ fault for disrespecting the Commander-in-Chief. It's the MSM’s fault for sending out “negative waves.” And you are to blame too, because you're not angry enough. It's not because the invasion of Iraq was ill-advised, ill-conceived, ill-managed and possibly ill-egal. No, if America is going to win, true patriots have to get angrier, angry enough to nuke millions and kill the enemy, every single one of them. "Pass this one on to all your friends."


Let’s suppose I did “get it.”

You’re angry? Fine.

Now I’m angry. Your friends are angry. We’re all angry. At liberals. At the media. At terrorists. At Iraqis. At Iranians. At all Muslims: Shiite, Sunni and Sufi.

Now what?

What do you want? What will satisfy you? Make you happy?

Are we not killing enough of them?

Are we not killing them fast enough?

Efficiently enough?

Brutally enough?

Now that you’ve gotten us all angry, what do you want to do? There are 1.4 billion Muslims worldwide. How much blood are you prepared to spill to WIN?

As good Christians and good Americans?