Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Where was this John Kerry in 2004?
Bottom line, these Republicans want to debate straw men because they’re afraid to debate real men. And this time it won’t work because we’re going to stay in their face with the truth and deny them even a sliver of light for their distortions. No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut and run policy in Afghanistan and a stand still and lose strategy in Iraq.”
It's a start.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Canaries in the coal mine

For a real taste of what ails the Republican party these days, look at the comments left on conservative, pro-war blogs, like John Cole's:
Hey, now. I’m as righteously angry as any misanthrope who posts on this Godforsaken website. But I’m not a Democrat yet, and I won’t be signing up as one any time soon.

I’m a Republican, whose parents knocked on doors for AuH2O in 1964; whose grandparents cast lonely votes for Willkie. I even voted for W in 2000.

Man, was that a mistake. Something has happened to my party, and a bitter rod of chastisement is well and truly overdue. So I have voted straight (D) for the first time in my life. (I live in Oregon and have already voted by mail.)

The biggest problems for me are the rise of the neocons, and the reliance of the GOP on the Old Confederacy to win elections. The Old Confederacy vote is why the anti-science stuff has such pull nowadays. The fact that it (used to) might rein in votes from Montana to Pennsylvania didn’t hurt.

Right now, I am white-hot with rage at the horrific course the GOP has charted for my Republic. Politically, I fall somewhere between Pat Buchanan and Russ Feingold.

And I’d lay you decent odds that a majority of John Cole’s commentariat is made up not of Leftists™, but of disaffected moderates and mainstream Republicans left in the cold by the wild-eyed neoConfederate wingnuts who control (for now, God willing) the GOP.
Democrats can capitalize on this fresh wave of disaffection by stressing fiscal discipline, evidence-based science, and governmental transparency.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday blog roundup

Legal Fiction: "If elections really can be decided on the basis of the drooling, second-grade-reading-level ads we’ve seen, then we’ve got serious problems."

Dan Drezner: "If Bush acknowledges that "stay the course" is no longer a statisfying status quo, he's acknowledging that the Republican position for the past few years has not worked out too well. If that's the case, then Republicans are forced to offer alternatives with benchmarks or timetables or whatever. The administration has had these plans before, but politically, it looks like the GOP is gravitating towards the Democratic position rather than vice versa."

Donkey Rising: "Even if he loses the TN Senate race by a small margin, he has accomplished something important in demonstrating that African American Democrats can be highly competitive in state-wide races in the south. The critical lesson for Dems is that there is a lot to be gained from putting more resources into developing Black candidates in the south."

Glenn Greenwald: "Once corporate-owned networks start selecting which politically-tinged ads are "too controversial" and which ones are not, it is inevitable that messages which please the political leadership which regulates those corporations will be allowed, while messages that displease those political leaders will be rejected. That is plainly what is happening."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rush to judgement

BigBlueSpoon makes a case for Rush Limbaugh. She might have a point:
“Limbaugh is that rare individual that is so repugnant, and so obviously opposed to the principles that are the essential traits of Peace Prize laureates, that in some very real sense he helps to drive humanity toward progress, almost like a socio-cultural vaccine derived from a virus representing the worst of our species.”
Limbaugh's latest chucklefest, making fun of Michael J. Fox's Parkinson disease, might be a hit with his knuckledragging dittoheads, but I doubt it's going over well with his sponsors.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Somebody didn't get the memo

Laura Bush, speaking to several hundred supporters today in Rochester, Minn.: "...the U.S. liberated Iraqis from Saddam Hussein, and they're now building a democracy."

Stop the presses: Bush blames the media

From President's Bush news conference:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. President George Bush said Wednesday that media reports from Iraq are distorting the actual situation in the country.

Bush told a White House news conference most of the country is relatively peaceful where farmers are farming, businessmen are doing business and the currency is stable. But by looking at news reports, he said, no one would know that.

Bush cited statements by U.S. Army Gen. George Casey, indicating that 90 percent of the violence in Iraq is occurring in five of the countries 18 provinces and within a 30-mile area of Baghdad.

"It's a brutal environment there, particularly what's on our TV screens," Bush said. "There's a lot of work to be done -- don't get me wrong. But there are people living relatively normal lives," Bush said.
I guess he has a point. After all, most of George W. Bush works well. The problem is confined to a relatively small area between his ears.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Now can we stop taking David Brooks seriously?

What is David Brooks trying to hide?

The New York Times columnist and everybody's favorite Sunday morning conservative recently wrote this about Andrew Sullivan's latest book:
"When a writer uses quotations from Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and the Left Behind series to capture the religious and political currents in modern America, then I know I can put that piece of writing down because the author either doesn't know what he is talking about or is arguing in bad faith."
Brooks was objecting to Sullivan's critique of modern day conservatism in The Conservative Soul, a book that Sullivan pushes with the zeal of an aluminum siding salesman. If Brooks truly believes that theocratic nut jobs haven't defined today's Republican party, then he is in as deep a denial about the GOP as Bush is in about Iraq. But it wasn't always that way. Here's what Brooks wrote about the religious right's influence on US political culture five years ago:
"We in the coastal metro Blue areas read more books and attend more plays than the people in the Red heartland. We're more sophisticated and cosmopolitan - just ask us about our alumni trips to China or Provence, or our interest in Buddhism. But don't ask us, please, what life in Red America is like. We don't know. We don't know who Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are, even though the novels they have co-written have sold about 40 million copies over the past few years. We don't know what James Dobson says on his radio program, which is listened to by millions."
So what's changed since 2001?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Water bored

Bill O'Reilly pulls his head out of President Bush's arse, sees the shadow of a lie, then asks a tough question:
O'REILLY: Now Brian Ross of ABC said — reported the CIA water boarded Mohammed. That is dunked him in water, tied him down and then that broke him. Is that true?

BUSH: We don't talk about techniques. And the reason we don't talk about techniques is because we don't want the enemy to be able to adjust. We're in a war.

O'REILLY: Is water boarding torture?

BUSH: I don't want to talk about techniques. And — but I do share the American people that we were within the law. And we don't torture. We — I've said all along to the American people we won't torture, but we need to be in a position where we can interrogate these people.

O'REILLY: But if the public doesn't know what torture is or is not, as defined by the Bush administration, how can the public make a decision on whether your policy is right or wrong?

BUSH: Well, one thing is that you can rest assured we're not going to talk about the techniques we use in a public forum. No matter how hard you try because I don't want the enemy to be able to adjust their tactics if we capture them on the battlefield.
I wish real journalists would ask this question. It will take more than one or two tries to get it right, and some in the public might get bored with the topic, but those are the same folks who need fresh porn every five minutes.

Nailing Bush on his "torture problem" will take some planning. So far, his big excuse not to answer is "We don't want to give our techniques away," as if the bad guys don't have access to the 10 million websites that have named waterboarding as the CIA's malaise du jour. So ask Bush what techniques the CIA won't use.
HERALDBLOG: Mr. President, we know you won't talk about the techniques the US Government will use to question terrorists, but can you at least tell us what techniques you won't use. For example, can al Qaeda suspects expect to have hot needles shoved under their fingernails?

BUSH: Our techniques are within the law. Hot needles? Haven't heard of that one (heh heh).

HERALDBLOG: How about being thrown into a pit full of spiders and snakes? Naked?

BUSH: Doesn't sound effective. Snakes eat spiders. Seen it on my ranch.

HERALDBLOG: Well let's talk about degrading treatment. Would you sanction forcing a detainee to wallow in a large hamper full of used sumo thongs, while listening to Muskrat Love by the Captain and Tenille?

BUSH: Saw a sumo match once. Ugly thing. No, I don't believe we would use that method, but I can't rule it out.
Hey, can't hurt. The Geneva Convention says nothing about degrading treatment of renegade Presidents, and even if it did, the word "degrading" is kind of hazy, doncha think?

The Eyes Have It

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Delusional), proves that Republicans really are stronger on defense issues than Democrats:
Embattled U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said America has avoided a second terrorist attack for five years because the "Eye of Mordor" has instead been drawn to Iraq.

Santorum used the analogy from one of his favorite books, J.R.R. Tolkien's 1950s fantasy classic, "Lord of the Rings," to put an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq into terms any school kid could easily understand.

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.

"It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S.," he continued. "You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."
Santorum also said that North Koreans are like the giant bugs in Starship Troopers, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is like the Wicked Witch of the West.

The good news is Santorum trails his Democratic opponent by 13 points.

Friday, October 13, 2006

From the Karl Rove school of good sportsmanship

Which sucks more, being disgraced Republican Congressman Mark Foley, or this guy?
UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A youth baseball coach convicted of trying to pay a child to bean an autistic teammate so he couldn't play was sentenced Thursday to one to six years in prison.

Mark R. Downs Jr., 29, was convicted by a jury in September of corruption of minors and criminal solicitation to commit simple assault.

Authorities said Downs offered to pay the 8-year-old player $25 to hit the 9-year-old mildly autistic teammate with a ball during warmups for a June 2005 playoff game.

The younger boy testified at trial that, on Downs' instructions, he purposely threw a ball that hit his teammate in the groin, then threw another ball that hit him in the ear. The 9-year-old was bruised on the ear.
(Insert getting-hit-by-balls-in -prison joke here).

Faith based surprise

So far, the only criticisms coming from the White House regarding the Johns Hopkins estimate of Iraqi war dead can be summed up as "That's a really big number, therefore it can't be true!" General Casey's criticism is only slightly more well-informed: "I haven't heard that number yet, so I doubt it is true."

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with skepticism, especially when a study comes along that challenges so many pre-existing beliefs. When confronted with the 650,000 deaths estimated by Johns Hopkins, our natural defense mechanisms tell us it can only be an outlier, a statiscal glitch on Satan's spreadsheet.

The best skepticism is informed skepticism. President Bush does not have the knowledge of statistics or sampling necessary to launch an informed criticism of the Johns Hopkins study. So he appeals to emotion, or the authority of those as scientifically ignorant as he. At yesterday's Rose Garden press Q&A, Bush harumphed something about faulty methodology, then followed with the customary regret that his elective war resulted in the deaths any innocent persons. From one so at war with science and fact-based decision making, Bush's explanation rings particularly hollow. Here's Billmon's take:
Well of course Bible Boy doesn't think it's credible. After all, what do Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet know about faith-based epidemiology? Nothing. They're just a bunch of doctors. Now if the study had been conducted by a committee of evangelical chiropractors from Oral Roberts University, that would be different.
The Johns Hopkins researchers used cluster sampling to arrive at a range of numbers, of which 650,000 is the median figure. Cluster sampling has been used for decades to sample large populations. If the methodology is wrong, then that would come as a shock to just about every insurance company on the planet, not to mention the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and the CIA. As usual, Majikthise does a great job of explaining a technical subject.

But don't wait for President Bush to hold forth anytime soon on cluster sampling, chi squares and regression to the mean. The Johns Hopkins study is just one more annoying little speed bump in the administration's road trip to glory. The only thing that will slow it down is a Democratic majority in the House and/or Senate.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stone cold journalist

I just came across this book review on Amazon.com, as a I contemplated spending $17.05 on Bob Woodward's latest book, State of Denial. The review is by Rita Hill, who has some great things to says about the 24-hour news industry:
If you have ever seen Waboutoodward in a televised interview, he writes with the same tone he speaks with. His writing style lends itself to communicating facts and ideas- but not much else. This book is not entertaining, there are no "Ann Coulter" moments. Nowhere is night skiing or steaks on the electric grill mentioned.

What it does do is outline a pattern of events vetted against multiple sources which outline the state of affairs in the White House, Iraq, and sometimes the international community. It does not so much criticise the administration directly, but rather reports events and lets the reader decide.

It is essentially a 500 page newspaper article which is not commentary, not partisan, and absolutely not the writing of a pundit.

Why read it?

Regardless of my opinions of the content of this book, it might be important for someone to point out why one would read a book by Woodward and give it any credence or weight.

Bob Woodward was one of the journalists involved in exposing Richard Nixon's transgressions as president. His partner in this was Carl Bernstein. They wrote for the Washington Post.

Their series of articles in the 1970's led to the indictment of 40 white house officials, and ultimately the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Why would I remind you of this?

There is far too much "opinion" reporting in the press these days because many news outlets report news 24 hours a day. To fill that time, the traditional back page editorial found in a traditional newspaper now is multiplied many times through debate and political speech as "entertainment". Entertainment isn't a good way to be informed.

Woodward will not entertain you.

That being the case- please avail yourself of his reporting. And alternatively, also read some of the other political authorship by the many pundits and commentators out there.

Then make up your own mind.

In a country where Ann Coulter will probably outsell Bob Woodward on a book to book basis, you owe it to yourself to be as informed as possible. That means reading viewpoints you do not agree with, and letting those viewpoints challenge your own.

Woodward is a stone cold journalist.
Not much I can add to that right now.

Upon this rock I stamp my tiny little feet

George W. Bush: A Life in Pictures

From The Onion, of course.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

License to shrill

I'm listening to President Bush's press conference right now. Yikes, the stakes certainly are high, as Dear Leader likes to say. We have an incompetent buffoon in the White House who looks like he's about to go into psychological meltdown.

This is not firm, steady leadership on display. It's the opposite. Bush reminds me of a criminal suspect in a cheesy film noir drama, squirming under a bright light while smug detectives ask tough questions. So he lies. He tells us the Democrats don't want to interrogate terrorists. He says he doesn't question his critics' patriotism. He says his critics will wait until another 9/11 to take action.

He said that if we don't succeed in Iraq, then the enemy is coming after us. He delivered the news like a bad punchline, with his trademark sweep of the hands. We have nothing to fear of absence of fear itself.

It's easy for a glibster like myself to say the real enemy was standing in the rose garden, but that misses the point of the danger our country, and the world, currently faces. No, Bush is not the enemy. But he is a huge part of the problem. There has always been war, always been bad guys who want to hurt us. We've dealt with external threats through a combination of diplomacy, hard and soft power, and foreign policy realism that tells us that we have to deal with the world as we find it. Bush has abandoned what has worked, imperfect as the old framework was, and replaced it with something far more distressing - an illusion of certainty. He tells us that American style Democracy can be planted in a Middle East country, like our flag on the Moon, and create a bulwark against terrorism. There is no good reason to believe this, and after 3 1/2 years of trying, it doesn't seem to be working.

The money quote “I am amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.” President Clueless at today's press conference. You can see the video at Think Progress.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Humor in the Military

Go read the Marine officer's letter home that's making the rounds of the generals' in-boxes, and finally into the pages of Time Magazine. It is sad, funny, outrageous and poignant, just like every war. Here's my fave quote:
Best Chuck Norris Moment — 13 May. Bad Guys arrived at the government center in a small town to kidnap the mayor, since they have a problem with any form of government that does not include regular beheadings and women wearing burqahs. There were seven of them. As they brought the mayor out to put him in a pick-up truck to take him off to be beheaded (on video, as usual), one of the Bad Guys put down his machine gun so that he could tie the mayor's hands. The mayor took the opportunity to pick up the machine gun and drill five of the Bad Guys. The other two ran away. One of the dead Bad Guys was on our top twenty wanted list. Like they say, you can't fight City Hall.
Update Kevin Drum reports that the Marine Corp officer is Col. Pete Devlin, the chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq.

Sunday morning rock and roll

John Lennon singing one of my favorite Beatles tunes, with back up from Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell. If that isn't enough, Lennon shares his sushi with Mick Jagger. And what's with all the raincoats?

Monday, October 02, 2006


I know us Dems are suppose to be all giddy over the lastest Republican scandal, in which the House leadership looked away while one of their own was e-spanking it with 16-year-old pages. But with the Schadenfreude so thick you can cut it with ein Taschemesser, it's easy to overlook the obvious: except for Foley's seat in Palm Beach, Batergate will not hurt Republicans. And until Denny Hastert oils up with Barney Frank on the House floor, there is no sex scandal that will hurt the GOP.

Why? Because too many Americans are convinced that Democrats are the party of pornography and abortion and sex education and homos. Republicans are the brave Christians who are fighting to protect us from the real predators among us: the elites who say that morality can't be legislated. If Foley was really text messaging lurid comments to teenage boys, it's only because liberals created a culture in while that type of thing can happen.

Yes, I am that cynical.

That didn't take long. James Dobson of Focus on the Family is blaming society for Rep. Foley (as opposed to the House leadership).