Saturday, June 5


Mother Jones has a fascinating series of articles about Bush operatives and the privatization of government functions:

Civil Servants as the Enemy:

Long before taking over the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld tried to run another agency by contract, with questionable results.

Contracts With America:

Never before have private companies done so much of the government's work, from homeland security to rebuilding Iraq. So who's making sure the public gets its money's worth? Why, contractors, of course.

Out of Sight

Federal contracting is as old as the Constitution. But we still haven’t figured out how to keep our private government accountable.


This Eric Alterman column in The Nation is a must-read for the Kerry campaign:

With his hypercautious position on Iraq--"measured," in the opinion of the New York Times--Kerry risks leaving many of those who rightly see the war as a catastrophe with nowhere to go to express their outrage. As with the election of 1968, an increasingly antiwar electorate is being offered only prowar choices for the presidency. It is just possible, therefore, that Nader may once again insure Bush's "victory" in the election, dooming the world to four more years of a neoconservative imperialism and rogue American militarism.

In 1968 our choices for president were Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey, Vice President under Lyndon Johnson, was inextricably linked to Johnson's Vietnam war policy and refused to recant. I remember being absolutely buffaloed by that decision, seeing that Johnson himself declined to run for reelection because his policies would clearly result in his defeat. Why did Humphrey think he would fare better? In Nixon's case, he said he had a "secret plan to end the war." Nobody really believed it, but what was our alternative? So we ended up with a creepy, paranoid president who didn't end the war either, or at least not until he had to run for re-election.

This nation simply cannot tolerate another four years of this ill-advised venture we call the "liberation of Iraq." I support John Kerry for reasons other than his badly defined stand on Iraq -- namely the economy, fairer taxation, the environment, healthcare, etc. Many of my progressive friends feel the same. But I like him best when he says right out that "these guys are a bunch of liars and crooks," and I think it's past time that he made it clear that they're also a bunch of incompetents who not only can't IMPLEMENT strategy, they can't FORMULATE it. If he agrees with the strategy but not the implementation, that gives them more credibility than they deserve -- and does damage to his own.

Friday, June 4

American Prospect Online - ViewWeb:

How do the Bushies deal with a company being investigated over Abu Ghraib? Easy: They give it another contract.

In a stunning move last week, the Bush administration announced it was awarding a new, multimillion-dollar contract to a private company currently being investigated for abuse at the now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

CACI International initially was paid $66 million for its work in Iraq, which included supplying the military with interrogators. (No one seemed especially concerned that the company had no actual experience in professional interrogations.) In return for this contract, the U.S. government received interrogators like Steven Stefanowicz, the CACI employee considered by Major General Antonio Taguba to be 'directly or indirectly responsible' for encouraging the horrific abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib. Today, the company is ensnared in five separate probes into misconduct, including an investigation by the General Services Administration, which would ban the company from receiving future government contracts.

Instead of punishing CACI, however, the White House turned a blind eye last week and rewarded the computer company with a brand-new $88 million contract to supply computer support for the Navy.


I tend never to take pleasure in another's misfortunes, even when it's someone I don't like. The exception to the rule is when a hypocrite attacks someone else for a failing or trait they themselves possess and then are exposed for it. A good example of this would be during the Clinton impeachment mess, when the Republican attack dogs had a hard time finding a Speaker when one after another prominent Republican Congressman was revealed to have had an extramarital affair or even an illegitimate child by a paramour. Another would be Rush Limbaugh, who excoriated over the years people with addiction problems only to confess to one himself (after he was caught). We can add Bill Bennett to the list. (Isn't it interesting that I can only think of Republicans as examples?)

So this new campaign to slime Kerry as nothing more than "one more rich, privileged Democrat with a fake sense of noblesse oblige" offends me to my core. A person's origins simply do not matter in the eternal scheme of things -- we should, and will, each be judged by our own personal actions and priorities. By that standard, it is Kerry who makes out like a bandit and Bush/Cheney who actually ARE the bandits.

But Democrats defend Kerry, and say Bush, with his man-of-the-people posturing, is the real fake.

"John Kerry has never suggested anything other than the fact that he comes from a privileged background," Cabrera said. "But he's also made it clear that that puts a certain responsibility on his shoulders. John Kerry had this background when he went to Vietnam and made the decision to run for public office. Most importantly, despite John Kerry's background, he has been focused on the needs of others."

Cabrera said not only are Bush and Cheney rich, but they've surrounded themselves with people who are almost all super wealthy.

If you want to play political video games, I suggest Republican Survivor instead. I love what they've done to Katharine Harris and Ann Coulter.


Via The Smirking Chimp: John Dean on Bush's hiring a lawyer re the Valerie Plame case --

Undoubtedly, those from the White House have been asked if they spoke with the president about the leak. It appears that one or more of them may indeed have done so.

If so - and if the person revealed the leaker's identity to the President, or if the President decided he preferred not to know the leaker's identity. -- then this fact could conflict with Bush's remarkably broad public statements on the issue. He has said that he did not know of "anybody in [his] administration who leaked classified information." He has also said that he wanted "to know the truth" about this leak.
If Bush is called before the grand jury, it is likely because Fitzgerald believes that he knows much more about this leak than he has stated publicly.
Suffice it to say that whatever the meaning of Bush's decision to talk with private counsel about the Valerie Plame leak, the matter has taken a more ominous turn with Bush's action. It has only become more portentous because now Dick Cheney has also hired a lawyer for himself, suggesting both men may have known more than they let on. Clearly, the investigation is heading toward a culmination of some sort. And it should be interesting.


This is a copy of an e-mail message I just sent to the Center for American Progress:

Heads up: I just heard Sean Hannity say on his radio show that John Podesta will be a guest on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Sean announced that he is going to challenge Podesta to come up with ANY false statement Sean has ever made.

Lest John be ambushed, I am encouraging all my fellow bloggers to join me in coming up with a list of Hannity-repeated or -created falsehoods.

Sean has an enormous audience, and this is a real opportunity to point out to those who aren't "singing in our choir" the multitude of misstatements and/or distortions of fact with which he pollutes the airwaves.


Motherlode of

John Podesta, you will remember, is a former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton and currently the President and CEO of the Center for American Progress.

Send your suggestions to



Thanks to BuzzFlash for the link.


Fascinating interview with 27-year CIA veteran Ray McGovern here.

Why do I say all this? I say all this because I am more frightened now than at any time over the last three and a half years, that this administration will resort to extra-legal methods to do something to ensure that there are four more years for George Bush. And Ashcroft’s statement last week, gratuitous statement, uncoordinated with the department of, CIA, with the Department of Homeland Security, his warning that there is bound to be a terrorist strike before the US elections. That can be viewed and this can be reasonably viewed as the opening salvo in the justification for doing, taking measures to ensure that whatever happens in November comes out so that four more years can be devoted to maybe changing that war crimes act or protecting at least these vulnerable people for four more years.


Mark Kleiman has the simple answer to the question everyone's asking: Why don't we arrest Chalabi -- that as a foreign national, he didn't break any of our laws.

So it was neither disloyal nor illegal for him to take information some American official gave him and use it as seemed best to him for the good of his country, his party, his sect, and himself. If he acted contrary to the interests or laws of Iraq, that's for the Iraqis to decide.

But it was illegal (though not, I'm sure, subjectively disloyal) for the American official, whoever he was, to share such a sensitive secret with a foreigner. And that's why it was illegal: foreigners aren't to be trusted with such secrets.

Similarly, if Chalabi did in fact help con the United States into liberating his country from a tyrant that's something he can legitimately brag about. (Though it was somewhat impolitic of him to do so as volubly as he did.) Deception is, after all, a legitimate tool of diplomacy. If Franklin deceived the court of Louis XVI into providing help to the American Revolution, would anyone call that misconduct on Franklin's part?

What seems to have happened here is that Chalabi remembered where his loyalties lay, while his neocon sponsors forgot. He conned them. Their bad, not his.

UPDATE: Fred Kaplan of Slate has a different take on the subject.


Oh that Rummy. What a fun guy! He just loves to make a point:

The United States will make fundamental changes in its troop presence on the Korean Peninsula as well as in Europe, where U.S. defenses have stood guard against threats that have disappeared or no longer require such a large force, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday.

"It's time to adjust those locations from static defense to a more agile and a more capable and a more 21st century posture," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld did not mention perhaps the most immediate change: the move of a 2nd Infantry division brigade this summer to Iraq from its traditional posts in South Korea. The Pentagon has not said whether that unit would return to South Korea.
Without tying his comments directly to South Korea, Rumsfeld appeared to be alluding to the anti-American protests that are staged periodically in Seoul when he said, "We want our forces where they're wanted, where it's hospitable."

Why of course, who can't see the logic in all this? Why spread our forces across three continents where they can be mobilized at a moment's notice when we can concentrate them in one country, Iraq? Heck, I imagine Rummy/Chain-gang/Shrublet have decided that war is just too "untidy and ugly and dangerous" -- if North Korea rears its nuclear head they'll probably just nuke the place. After all, it's easier to get forgiven than to get permission. And besides, everyone knows that all the real threats are from radical Islamic terrorists, and they're all in Arab countries. We need to have all our troops amassed in that region so we can get to Syria and Iran quickly when we decide to invade them.

And what's that trashtalk about wanting our forces "where they're wanted, where it's hospitable." IRAQ IS HOSPITABLE????? I don't notice any U.S. soldiers dying in South Korea -- oh wait, he's referring to protests, not to violent attacks. Doh! It's patently clear that our soldiers are under greater threats from protest signs in South Korea than from insurgents, terrorists and just plain angry Iraqis.

UPDATE: More about force adjustment here:

The Pentagon has proposed a plan to withdraw its two Army divisions from Germany and undertake an array of other changes in its European-based forces, in the most significant rearrangement of the American military around the world since the beginning of the cold war, according to American and allied officials.

Thursday, June 3


Okay, so George Tenet has resigned as CIA Director. Does anyone really believe it was for "personal reasons"? And will we ever know the answers to the following questions:

(1) Who outed Valerie Plame?
(2) Who fed Chalabi the information about our breaking the Iranian intelligence code?
(3) Who manufactured the "Niger/Uranium" document that was referenced in the 2003 State of the Union address?
(4) Where did George Tenet get the idea that the WMD intelligence was a "slam dunk" (as asserted by George Tenet)? Who encouraged him to think so since there were so many caveats contributed by intelligence professionals?
(5) Why did Tenet sit behind Colin Powell as he made his bogus presentation to the U.N., implying his complete support for evidence he knew to be compromised?

There are so many suspected (by me) criminals, or criminally accountable personnel, in the upper echelons of the Bush administration, it is hard to get excited about the exit of just one. George Tenet was, by most accounts, among the most loyal of Bush supporters.


Bush Finds Lawyer to Use if Called in Leak Case:

President Bush has met with a private lawyer whom he intends to hire to represent him if he is questioned as part of a grand jury investigation into the public disclosure of a C.I.A. undercover officer's identity, the White House said Wednesday.

Mr. Bush met recently with the Washington lawyer, Jim Sharp, to consult with him about the case, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said, confirming a report on "CBS Evening News."

Today Mr. Bush said he wanted to "know the truth" about what had happened, and if he needed the lawyer's advice, "I'll probably hire him." The president was speaking at a White House news briefing with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia.

Mr. McClellan said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that Mr. Bush had had discussions with Mr. Sharp, adding: "The president has stated on numerous occasions that he wants the White House to fully cooperate, and that would include himself. He wants the investigation to come to a successful conclusion."

Federal prosecutors are seeking to determine who disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, a C.I.A. officer, to the syndicated columnist Robert Novak for a column he wrote last summer. Disclosure of the identity of an undercover officer for the Central Intelligence Agency can be a federal crime.

It was unclear on Wednesday night why Mr. Bush waited until what appears to be the last stages of the investigation into the leak before he consulted with a lawyer. One administration official speculated that the president must have had some indication that investigators now want to question him.

Plame worked undercover, specializing in weapons of mass destruction, the most important issue of the "War on Terror." Her network is destroyed -- and who knows how many deaths have resulted as a result of the actions of Robert Novak and whoever tipped him off.

You know, I told friends the same day I read Novak's column "outing" former Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, that this might be the scandal that would finally expose George W. Bush to the world for what he is -- a political opportunist that cares very much about being re-Selected and doesn't much care how.

Mr. McClellan said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that Mr. Bush had had discussions with Mr. Sharp, adding: "The president has stated on numerous occasions that he wants the White House to fully cooperate, and that would include himself. He wants the investigation to come to a successful conclusion."

The pResident could have solved this mystery any time he wanted to, simply by demanding an answer. We know that the leak came from his own staff or that of Dick Cheney's. That tells me he already KNOWS the answer and needs an attorney to help him figure out how to evade the federal prosecutors' questions.

I'm so cynical about this man and his administration that I wouldn't put it past him to have actually ordered or approved the leak himself.

Tuesday, June 1


NewsMax reports:

Democratic senator - and certain presidential nominee - John F. Kerry gave the middle finger to a Vietnam veteran at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Memorial Day morning, has learned.

Ted Sampley, a former Green Beret who served two full tours in Vietnam, spotted Kerry and his Secret Service detail at about 9:00 a.m. Monday morning at the Wall. Sampley walked up to Kerry, extended his hand and said, "Senator, I am Ted Sampley, the head of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, and I am here to escort you away from the Wall because you do not belong here."

At that point a Secret Service officer told Sampley to back away from Kerry. Sampley moved about 6 feet away and opened his jacket to reveal a HANOI JOHN T-shirt.

Kerry then began talking to a group of schoolchildren. Sampley then showed the T-shirt to the children and said, "Kerry does not belong at the Wall because he betrayed the brave soldiers who fought in Vietnam."

Just then Kerry - in front of the school children, other visitors and Secret Service agents - brazenly 'flashed the bird' at Sampley and then yelled out to everyone, "Sampley is a felon!"

The article asserts that Kerry's "felon" remark referred to an incident where Sampley apparently physically assaulted an aide to John McCain. But Sampley is such a sleaze and conman, he could have been referring to any number of incidents, including multiple smear attacks on Kerry close friend John McCain, slander of Kerry's war record, and heartbreaking exploitation of families of MIAs.

Susan Katz Keating is author of Prisoners of Hope:  Exploiting the POW-MIA Myth in America. Ms. Keating, while she was a reporter for the Washington Times, was convinced that live American POWs remained in Vietnam.  As time went on and she became more and more acquainted with the issue, she discovered the facts of the charlatans who take advantage of MIA families and who flim-flam the public, as well as discovering that the US government could have done a better job of managing the issue. The attacks on John McCain can be traced largely to the work of one man, Ted Sampley, of Kinston, NC. Here is the chapter of her book that is about Sampley. An excerpt:

A former Green Beret with multiple Bronze Star awards from Vietnam, Sampley has the outward appearance of the stereotypical downtrodden veteran outfitted by the local Army surplus store. But he is in fact a savvy businessman who is forth- right about earning money off "the cause" and is a key figure in the MIA issue.

 Unlike his colleagues who uncover POW "evidence" and solicit funds to embark on rescue missions, Sampley specializes in media manipulation and public relations. He has been invaluable to the activists, who rely on him to fan the flames of existing MIA stories, either through phone calls to legitimate journalists or on the pages of his own newspaper broadsheet, U.S. Veteran News and Report. In addition to his work in support of fellow activists, Sampley specializes in orchestrating stunts that are dramatic and at times dangerous.

In 1986, for example, when Sampley was in Washington, D.C., attending one of his many POW functions, he set up a publicity stunt that could have killed or seriously injured someone. Shortly before 2 A.M., bar closing time, Sampley and a few confederates erected a barrier at the top of a freeway on-ramp that handles traffic coming from Capitol Hill. They coated the ramp with oil, so that unsuspecting motorists would slither wildly before crashing into the barrier. The cars' headlights would illuminate a sign on the barrier that read "Free the POWs."

The next day I learned about the on-ramp trap from Sampley, who called to announce what he had done. He was proud of his effort but disappointed that the trick had not come off. While Sampley and friends had watched from a nearby hiding place, police officers had found and dismantled the arrangement before any cars ran into it.

When I told Sampley he had risked people's lives with the stunt, he accused me of being a spoilsport. He also said he was dismayed at missing the chance for newspaper coverage. It was a rare lost opportunity. Over the next couple of years, Sampley would succeed in attracting considerable press coverage of antics designed for that specific purpose. His favorite trick was to chain himself and others — preferably attractive MIA daughters — to the gates of the White House and throw fake blood at police, onto the White House lawn, or at Secret Service agents.

On one occasion, Sampley placed bamboo cages containing live protestors on the front lawn of the house owned by Ronald Reagan's chief of staff Don Regan. The protestors were arrested. Another time, Sampley led a group to the home of former National Security Council head Frank Carlucci. In the midst of a major snowstorm, Sampley and his followers blocked Carlucci's driveway with 1,800 "care" packages addressed to POWs in Laos. On yet another occasion, Sampley orchestrated a "bounty hunt" for Ann Mills Griffiths and other leaders of the National League of Families. Hunters were challenged to hit their prey with cream pies, water balloons, and rotten tomatoes.

 In 1988 Sampley — who at the time had no personal stake in MIA issue — tried to turn one family's somber moment into a scandal that would help perpetuate the POW movement. Instead, Sampley's effort came across as a vulgar grab for center stage. The episode revolved around the case of a Navy pilot, Commander Edwin B. Tucker.

Tucker had been shot down over North Vietnam eleven years earlier. He was thought to have been captured and was listed as a POW. He was later listed as killed in action. His remains were returned to the United States and were buried with full military honors in 1988 at Arlington National Cemetery.

Shortly after the funeral, Sampley called a press conference in Norfolk, Virginia, where Tucker's former aircraft carrier is based. Sampley announced that Tucker's body had been on display for fifteen years inside a glass case in Vietnam. Sampley said Tucker's family had been forced to pledge secrecy on the matter before being allowed to receive the remains.

 In a scenario similar to the one he had created about Wetzel, Sampley said that Tucker had parachuted alive into a crowd of angry villagers, who had hacked at him with a hoe. "They carried him to a North Vietnamese hospital where he was put on an operating table and died," Sampley told reporters. The remains, along with Tucker's flight helmet, were then placed inside the glass case, Sampley said. "The Vietnamese public gawked at this display for fifteen years."

 Sampley said that both the U.S. and Vietnamese governments had told Tucker's son he could have the remains only if he swore to keep the facts of the case secret.

 It was an outrageous charge to make in a Navy town. Sampley had hoped to stir the anger of the tens of thousands of Navy families living in and around Norfolk. But the hoped-for public outcry did not take place, most likely because the dead pilot's son, Edwin B. Tucker, Jr., scoffed at Sampley's charge.

 "There was no coercion, none of that whatsoever," the son said. He emphasized that there was "no agreement, secret or otherwise. " He also questioned whether anyone would be foolish enough to place a body under glass and then allow it to decompose in public for fifteen years.

Over the next several years, Sampley continued to garner headlines with a variety of pranks and ill-founded press conferences.

In 1992 Sampley — now an official MIA family member through his marriage to the daughter of a man missing in Laos — finally organized a stunt that evolved into a national news story. He planned for a group of hecklers to disrupt President Bush's scheduled speech before the annual- National League of Families assembly. League officials thought Sampley might try something at the convention and told the Secret Service not to let him gate- crash. As expected, Sampley tried to get in to see the president's speech. When he refused to leave, Sampley was arrested and charged with trespassing.

But the hecklers were already in place. Even with Sampley absent, they performed as scheduled. When Bush began his talk, Sampley's people drowned him out, yelling, and "No more lies!" Bush asked the protestors to please let him finish. They yelled even louder. The exchange continued until Bush lost Ws cool and shouted, "Shut up and sit down!"

 The quote made national headlines. It was a triumphant moment for the activists, who used the episode to trumpet their claim that Bush had nothing but disrespect for the families. Sampley jumped to claim credit, threatening more such outbursts if the president did not order the immediate release of all government documents pertaining to MIAs.

 But if Sampley and his followers were pleased by the exchange, the National League of Families was highly embarrassed, and also very uneasy. The group's leaders were afraid that Bush would blame the entire organization for the disruption and that the episode might damage their relations with the government. The League took out newspaper ads apologizing to Bush.

While activists and family members were still abuzz over the confrontation, Sampley was already deep into his next project. It was his most scurrilous 2 to date, a sustained campaign to label Senator John McCain an undercover agent of the KGB.

Sampley, who years earlier had defended Bobby Garwood's actions as motivated by the need to survive, now accused McCain of being a weak-minded coward who had escaped death by collaborating with the enemy. Sampley claimed that McCain had first been compromised by the Vietnamese, then recruited by the Soviets.

 To those who know McCain and are familiar with his behavior in captivity, the charge is ludicrous. McCain resisted his captors to such a degree that he was isolated in a special prison for troublemakers. He repeatedly refused special favors, including early release, and emerged as a spiritual and religious leader for other prisoners. Nonetheless, Sampley was persistent enough in his claims that the press in McCain's home state of Arizona picked up on the KGB story.

Sampley's antagonism toward McCain stems from the senator's failure to live up to Sampley's idea of how a former POW should embrace the MIA cause. In Sampley's estimation, McCain's personal experience should have caused him to champion the search for live POWs, the way it had Red McDaniel. Instead, McCain focused on the more neutral search for "truth," as well as on the prosecution of charlatans who took money from MIA families.

 When McCain took the position that the United States should establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam in return for cooperation on the MIA issue, Sampley was outraged. He believed the United States should not have any dealings with its former enemy. Anyone who said otherwise — specifically, John McCain — was a traitor.

I have already heard right-wing radio talk show hosts and their callers railing against "Kerry's lack of character," speculating that because Kerry "can't take the heckling," he is unstable and unqualified for the office of the presidency. (See bold type above.) I tried to get through on the phone to correct the impression that Sampley is a stand-up Marine veteran, but failed. Hopefully someone in the major media will profile this dangerous, venal man.

Monday, May 31


Joe Klein isn't exactly one of my favorite columnists, but he has a good paragraph here.

The President has a far more difficult problem, and quite the opposite of Kerry's. He got us into this mess. He has continually explained the war in platitudes. His imprecise idealism is not only inappropriate now, but has become downright annoying. His five-point plan is built on the quicksand of Ambassador L. Paul Bremer's failed seven-point plan—and it bears little resemblance to the emerging realities on the ground. The truth is, we are in full-scale retreat, both politically and militarily. Bush believes that Iraq is the front line in the war on terrorism, but his Administration just declared a truce with the men he thinks of as terrorists and is now turning security over to local militias. Politically, we have tossed the ball to Lakhdar Brahimi and the U.N. But even Brahimi doesn't have much stroke. The real governing authority in Iraq appears to be the Grand Ayatullah Ali Husaini Sistani, who dictated the al-Sadr solution last week, and in effect vetoed the interim constitution the U.S. proposed and will, no doubt, have final say over Brahimi's new government. The President pretends that none of this is happening. Most Americans sense the President is just pretending, and they are impatiently waiting for someone to say something real.


Not Quite A Patrick Henry Moment For Us: From The Tampa Tribune: One year and more than 600 dead Americans and $200 billion ago, President Bush was doing his Hans Solo impersonation on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln claiming ``Mission Accomplished,'' although it wasn't clear whether he was referring to finagling the use of a piece of military hardware as a campaign prop, or the fact he didn't lose his lunch during the tailhook landing.

Then last week the president showed up in the funereal drabness of the U.S. Army War College before a collection of officers who looked about as excited to be there as Beetle Bailey pulling KP duty.

Now the date moves ever closer to a faux hand-over of sovereignty to leaders who will have as much authority over their country as Margaret Dumont held sway over Freedonia in ``Duck Soup.''

And once again President Bush took to the airwaves to justify why keeping 138,000 U.S. troops in a country where everybody hates us is a bully idea.

One question the president avoided, though, is when there is a knock on the door and the family of a soldier is told their a son, their daughter, their brother, their sister, their father, their mother died so that a ``modicum of freedom'' might exist in Iraq - is that a good enough reason for their sacrifice?

And maybe it is for a modicum presidency.


Does the GOP have a lock on God?:

"In fact, 1960 may prove a more interesting guide to 2004 than 2000, because this year (like 1960) an incredibly tight race will be decided by just a few voters in just a few states. White evangelical voters are now solidly Republican, but they're also concentrated in 'red' GOP states certain to vote for Bush. This year, the big key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida all have bigger Catholic than evangelical populations. And that could make this year's 'religious vote' a surprise.

In 1960, 81 percent of America's Roman Catholics voted for John F. Kennedy, a phenomenal partisan swing they've never repeated. That won't happen this year. But if only a few thousand more Catholics than usual opt in each of those swing states for a Catholic Democrat over a 'born-again' Republican, it could easily turn the vaunted power of the Religious Right upside down -- and set America on a new political course.

More and more religious Americans, I suspect, are being driven from their traditional church affiliation because of a perceived misalignment of theology/church doctrine and their political persuasions. In our family of formerly staunch Southern Baptists, for instance, my sister and her husband have fled to their local Methodist congregation because of the pain of hearing constant diatribes from the Baptist pulpit against homosexuals (their son died of AIDS). My husband and I left the Southern Baptists a decade ago because we go to church to receive Bible teaching and for the fellowship of our fellow Christians -- not for visits from Republican politicians and endorsements of their policies from the pulpit, and because we were labeled "suspicious left-wingers" for resisting pressure to politicize and publicize our twelve-year-old daughter's anti-abortion activities.

I doubt we are alone. While the GOP may think it has a "lock on God," many blogs indicate to me that there is something different going on today. The explosion of interest in Bible study has resulted in a tideswell of Christians better informed of the actual teachings of the Scriptures and less reliant upon the pronouncements of "religious leaders," Christians more confident in their ability to interpret God speaking to them directly and less inclined to accept a president who says he listens to God but seems more to be giving orders to Him.

For reference, I'll just include Easter Lemming and The Village Gate (formerly The Right Christians). Not to mention, of course, No More Apples.


Why Hawks Should Be Angry (

"It's the hawks in this town, the Zell Millers, who ought to be most distressed by this evidence and by the president's efforts to wish it away. Of all the missed opportunities since Baghdad fell, surely this is one of the most heartbreaking. Iraqi detainees might have been going home to their families and saying, as German POWs did so many decades ago, that these American soldiers are for real, that they treated us humanely -- that maybe they mean what they say about liberation, not occupation. Instead, the United States is reduced to pleading that it's not as bad as al Qaeda and obfuscating the reality that policies adopted in the White House helped lead to this breakdown of law and discipline.

Bush could have responded differently. He could have embraced the heroes such as Spec. Joseph Darby, who sounded the alarm; William J. Kimbro, the Navy dog handler who refused to sic his dogs on prisoners; Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who wrote an honest report. He could have apologized to the people of Iraq, appointed an investigator from outside the chain of command, pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions. Instead, he opted for a Nixonian strategy of damage containment, and a summer of piecemeal disclosure.

Who pays the price for the president's dishonesty? Soldiers such as Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli and his troops, who, as The Post's Scott Wilson reported last week, are out in Baghdad's slums, fighting insurgents one hour and fixing sewers the next. The prison scandal and the administration's failed response haven't doomed those efforts, but they've lengthened the odds. They've given aid and comfort to the enemy.



The Washington Post has an article subtitled Scholars Say Campaign Is Making History With Often-Misleading Attacks:

"The charges were all tough, serious -- and wrong, or at least highly misleading. Kerry did not question the war on terrorism, has proposed repealing tax cuts only for those earning more than $200,000, supports wiretaps, has not endorsed a 50-cent gasoline tax increase in 10 years, and continues to support the education changes, albeit with modifications.

Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising."
"The Bush campaign is faced with the hard, true fact that they have to keep their boot on his neck and define him on their terms," Reed said. That might risk alienating some moderate voters or depressing turnout, "but they don't have a choice," he said.

Well, of course he has no choice. Bush/Cheney '04 has no positive record of accomplishments in the public interest to trumpet, so they are reduced to fear-mongering, lies and deception. Their whole strategy appears to be "better the devil you know..."

A lot has been written in the past about the president's superb public relations management. I would counter with the fact that that was in the context of an extraordinarily supportive public after 9/11 (Bush didn't seem to be doing very well prior to that). The "grownups" at BushCo have indeed mastered some of the principles of good PR, such as "Never let someone else get your message out," "never mix messages," and "check the calendar before you schedule your big product launch," but seem never to have learned one of the first rules of public relations -- When in trouble, don't deny your mistake. Grovel a lot, and then grovel some more. The American people are extremely forgiving -- IF you admit your mistake and present a plan to reverse course, i.e. "pull your rabbit out of the hat." (Of course, there's a sort of statute of limitations attached -- you can't deny forever and then, after being 'convicted by public opinion,' admit you were lying all along and expect no consequences.) That last rule flies in the face of both Bush and Cheney's characters and must be driving their handlers crazy.

UPDATE: Link here for Kos's take on the article/subject.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall's comments here.

Sunday, May 30


Admiral (Ret.) Jeremiah Denton, who survived seven years and seven months as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, was on Wolf Blizter's Late Edition (Judy Woodruff substituting for Wolf) today and blasted negative comments about the war as demoralizing the troops. I wouldn't have recognized the old sailor -- the picture of him, gaunt and weak, arriving back in the U.S. after his repatriation, kissing the tarmac at the airport upon his return, is indelibly etched into my memory. When late in the program Judy asked him about his feelings about war criticism, he replied, "I didn't say anyone shouldn't criticize the war, I just think that former commanders [Zinni et al]who question it are disgraceful. The troops are tired of hearing 'we support the troops,' they want to hear that we support the cause for which they are prepared to die."

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


"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.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.


Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

--Alfred, Lord Tennyson

We can honor the sacrifice without honoring the cause.


By Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

John Kerry could not have chosen a better campaign theme.


William A. Whitlow, retired Marine Corps major general:

It is our patriotic duty to speak out when egregiously flawed policies and strategies needlessly cost American lives. It is time for the president to ask those responsible for the flawed Iraqi policy -- civilian and military -- to resign from public service. Absent such a change in the current administration, many of us will be forced to choose a presidential candidate whose domestic policies we may not like but who understands firsthand the effects of flawed policies and incompetent military strategies and who fully comprehends the price.

More here.


This morning on Meet The Press House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended her remarks on Bush's incompetence, saying they were made "for the troops" about an "absolutely unacceptable situation." Shorter version:

RUSSERT: What message does this send to the troops, that their Commander In Chief has "no judgment, no experience, no leadership"?

PELOSI: I have a responsibility to the troops. We salute our troops, they are precious, we owe them, we owe them a fair fight. Things are so unclear. In fact, the Department of Defense has commissioned a report to determine "Who is the adversary?" And the Commander In Chief is responsible.

RUSSERT: What do the resistance, Al Qaeda think when they hear your remarks?

PELOSI: That we are making an assessment of what we have put our troops into. Need change of leadership. Owe our troops more than a lack of preparation, lack of equipment, lack of knowledge. Look at Chalabi! Was it good judgment to have him on our payroll? Republicans should rethink their leadership.

RUSSERT: Are you suggesting Repubs should ask the president to resign?

PELOSI: There has to be some change in personnel. If the president doesn't want to make those changes, we';ll have to have a new president.

RUSSERT: (reads remarks by Tom DeLay saying she should apologize and that she's putting our troops in jeopardy)

PELOSI: I disagree. I made that statement with great courage because I'm worried about our troops on the ground in Iraq.

RUSSERT: Do you think Bush does anything well?

PELOSI: Of course. This isn't about personalities, it's about policy.

RUSSERT: Where does he show judgment, experience, etc.?

PELOSI: He's a nice person, true to his religious convictions. We have to get away from personalities. I like Bush. I gave him a year before speaking out.

RUSSERT: What would you do in Iraq today, right now?

PELOSI: Take an assessment of where we are, level with the American people and Congress as to what is actually happening. Hard to say what you would do. We need more troops, it would be better if they were not American. Have to go back to international community. Can't take no for an answer. Have to fully use diplomacy. Have to know what's happening to decide. What is going on? Chalabi a favorite one day, one day not. Brahimi the man one day, the next day not.

RUSSERT played tape of the part of Gore's speech when he called for resignations of Rumsfeld et al. Do you believe Rumsfeld and Rice should resign?

PELOSI: I called for the resignation of Rummy weeks ago. Rice/Bush ouster will wait on election. We can't wait seven months to get rid of Rumsfeld.

RUSSERT: What did you think of Gore's speech?

PELOSI: We all have our own style. I share his frustration. It's all about the POTUS. When I read in the Washington Times what Bush said about Iraq, "We'll have freedom in Iraq if we don't cut and run like we did in 1991," I knew he was dissing his father. Some nerve.

RUSSERT: Tim reads NYT article (Nagourney) stating that the candidates' Iraq policies are similar. Response?

PELOSI: That's because Bush is moving closer to Kerry's position.

RUSSERT: So what's your complaint?

PELOSI: It's a year too late.
Plus Iraq was a war of choice, a distraction from the War on Terra. We have to recommit our country to a rebirth of community.

RUSSERT: Win Without War called for a certain date for the withdrawal of our troops. Do you agree with that?

PELOSI: No I don't, because of the mess we've made in Iraq. We have to secure the country, we broke it we own it, it is now (wasn't before the war) a hotbed for terrorism. So we cannot leave at this time. "Stay the course" -- that's not a plan, that'a motto.

RUSSERT: Is a democratic Iraq possible?

PELOSI: Not sure, we have to leave a secure Iraq, then we'll see. If a secure Iraq chooses an Islamic theocracy, that's their business. We should have thought about this before.

PELOSI: We're going to be so proud of a Kerry presidency. It'll restore our national reputation and grow our economy at home and create jobs. One guarantee per show, and this is it: John Kerry will be president.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall expands on the topic:

It has now become close to a commonplace that John Kerry's policies differ little from President Bush's. Where is the difference, we hear, since both candidates are for an openness to greater troop deployment, a fuller role for the United Nations and the country's traditional allies, and dropping support for the exilic hucksters who helped scam the country in the first place.

This is a weak argument on several grounds. But the most glaring is that what we see now isn't the president's policy. It's the president's triage -- his team's ad hoc reaction to the collapse of his policy, the rapid, near-total, but still incomplete and uncoordinated abandonment of his policy.


David Broder has the skinny on the sleight-of-hand Bush Republicans have used in the new budget:


DURING HIS FIRST term as president of Russia, Vladimir Putin used his power, his popularity and his secret police connections to ensure that his political opposition would effectively cease to exist. In four years he managed to weaken the independent media, particularly the broadcast media; chip away at the fairness of the electoral process; and ensure that opposition parties no longer have any sway in the Russian parliament.

Sound like anyone we know?

Aides said Bush, who during the two leaders' first meeting in Slovenia in June said he had looked into Putin's soul and determined he could trust the Russian, yesterday told Putin: "You're the kind of guy I like to have in a foxhole with me."

Daniel Okrent improves--slightly-- on NY Times mea culpa

Link here.

Digby says it all.


Frank Rich reflects on the hypocrisy of some of our "moral leaders" in today's NY Times:

Some of our self-appointed moral leaders are defending the morally indefensible by annexing Abu Ghraib as another front in America's election-year culture war. Charles Colson, the Watergate felon turned celebrity preacher, told a group of pastors convened by the Family Research Council that the prison guards had been corrupted by "a steady diet of MTV and pornography." The Concerned Women for America site posted a screed by Robert Knight, of the Culture and Family Institute, calling the Abu Ghraib scandal the " `Perfect Storm' of American cultural depravity," in which porn, especially gay porn, gave soldiers "the idea to engage in sadomasochistic activity and to videotape it in voyeuristic fashion." (His chosen prophylactics to avert future Abu Ghraibs include abolishing sex education, outlawing same-sex marriage and banishing Howard Stern.) The vice president of the Heritage Foundation, Rebecca Hagelin, found a link between the prison scandal and how "our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13."

Some of these same characters also felt that the media shouldn't show the Abu Ghraib pictures too much or at all — as if the pictures were the problem rather than what they reveal. They are of an ideological piece with Jerry Falwell, who, a mere two days after 9/11, tried to shift the blame for al Qaeda's attack to the "pagans" and abortionists and gays and lesbians who have "tried to secularize America."

This time the point of these scolds' political strategy — and it is a political strategy, despite some of its adherents' quasireligiosity — is clear enough. It is not merely to demonize gays and the usual rogue's gallery of secularist bogeymen for any American ill but to clear the Bush administration of any culpability for Abu Ghraib, the disaster that may have destroyed its mission in Iraq. If porn or MTV or Howard Stern can be said to have induced a "few bad apples" in one prison to misbehave, then everyone else in the chain of command, from the commander-in-chief down, is off the hook. If the culture war can be cross-wired with the actual war, then the buck will stop not at the Pentagon or the White House but at the Paris Hilton video, or "Mean Girls," or maybe "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

The hypocrisy of those pushing this line knows few bounds. They choose to ignore the reality that the most popular images of sadomasochism in American pop culture this year have been those in "The Passion of the Christ," an R-rated "religious" movie that many Americans took their children to see, at times with clerical blessings. Mel Gibson's relentlessly violent, distinctly American take on Jesus' martyrdom is a more exact fit for what's been acted out in Abu Ghraib than the flouncings of any cheesy porn-video dominatrix...