Saturday, January 8


The Farmer at Corrente has an important post you must read. I won't excerpt it so you'll have to follow the link. It echoes so many of the things I've been talking about for the past year relative to the "Christian right" not being recognizable to the followers of Christ and the dangers the movement poses to our nation and world.


Women and Children First:

For many hard-working parents, Social Security's life and disability insurance is the only source of coverage for calamities outside their control. Only about half of private-sector workers have life insurance through their employers; for low-wage workers, private life insurance is a rarity and disability insurance is still rarer. If the government changes the way it calculates Social Security benefits, then millions of children would suffer when a parent dies without leaving them generous savings or life insurance.

It was only a decade ago that Congress enacted legislation to "end welfare as we know it." It would be a disaster if Congress were to reform Social Security in a way that would slowly swell the ranks of the poor and welfare-dependent with an army of "widows and orphans."

Boy, the wingers better check with their Christian right supporters. Or maybe not. Some of the latter hardly seem to be aware of the Scriptures, much less in touch with the Father (God, I mean, not George H.W. Bush). The Bible is teeming with references to widows and orphans. The context is always some kind of definition of pure religion, the priorities of God the Father, a sort of test of righteousness in His eyes.

For instance, "When thou hast made an end of tithing [voluntary taxation] all the tithes of thine increase [profits, income]...and hast given it to the Levite [interpreted as the priest, church or government], the stranger [foreigners in the land], the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled, Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them" (Deuteronomy 26:12-13); [interesting take on taxes, no? puts charity way up on the priority list]

"Learn to do well; seek judgment [shun evil], relieve the oppressed, judge [seek justice for] the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:17);

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27); "And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" (James 2:16) [i.e., "visit" means to provide sustenance]

Bible-thumpers who are eager to destroy the "social safety net" in order to promote "individual responsibility" should take a second look at The Word. When it comes to personal accountability, God is all for it -- we're all told we'll be held accountable for our actions and inactions. But while the wingers of Christianity are fixated on sexual sin, they're forgetting that the very definition of "sin" is disobedience to God. God's commandments to us regarding the needy are plain and simple: feed them, take care of them. We'll be judged by our obedience to that command. He really doesn't have anything to say about judging people who aren't great with finances, haven't the ability to earn big incomes or who just don't have the opportunities afforded to some lucky individuals.

Read Matthew 25: 31-46. It says it all. This is MY God, MY Christ. I don't recognize the Grover Norquist/James Dobson/George W. Bush version.

"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory;
And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal."

For the sake of clarity, I'm not suggesting anything other than that members of the Christian right who support Bush's economic policies and Social Security and income tax "reform" proposals should re-think their positions and principles in light of their purported God's own will as expressed in their avowedly holy text.


Bush Rejects Growing Pessimism on U.S. Foreign Policy:

Bush said in response to a question, "I think we're making great progress" in Iraq. He added, "And it's exciting times for the Iraqi people. And it's so exciting there are some who are trying to intimidate people from going to the polls."

Exciting? EXCITING????

Yeah, you can see the celebrations in the streets.


When it works, keep doing it. Fear works. "Greed works." That's all Bush knows, and all he needs to know.

Bush Paints His Goals As 'Crises' --
President Reprises A First-Term Tactic:

"This White House has made an art of creating crisis where a crisis does not exist," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Painting a grim picture of problems is as old as politics itself. But Democrats and some presidential scholars say there is a danger for Bush if he appears to stoke fears for political gain. The Bush administration was criticized throughout the campaign -- and before -- for its repeated prewar warnings of Saddam Hussein's deadly weapons cache, which turned out to be based on faulty intelligence and proved largely untrue. Democrats contend Bush also exaggerated the nation's economic problems to justify tax cuts, terrorist threats to convince the public of the need for restrictions on civil liberties, and John F. Kerry's record to win a second term.

"One of the key problems of this form of rhetorical leadership" is discerning the difference "between a genuine and manufactured crisis," said Jeffrey K. Tulis, author "The Rhetorical Presidency" and a government professor at the University of Texas. "People do respond to crisis -- if you think there is one, you tend to support the leader. The danger there is if it appears there is not one, you can have a credibility problem."


This Armstrong Williams thing is nothing more than payola (or plugola, as I heard one commentator say), and the Department of Education is as guilty under the law as Williams:

The disclosure about the arrangement coincides with a decision by the Government Accountability Office that the administration had violated a law against unauthorized federal propaganda by distributing television news segments that promoted drug enforcement policies without identifying their origin. More than 300 news programs reaching more than 22 million households broadcast the segments. The accountability office made a similar ruling in May about news segments promoting Medicare policies, and the Drug Enforcement Agency stopped distributing the segments then.

But this is no different, really, from the administration's paying for and distributing canned video news releases glorifying the Medicare prescription plan for seniors, which were disseminated across the country as part of regular local news programming and undisclosed to viewers as taxpayer-funded government propaganda:

The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, recently discovered that the Bush Administration, namely the Department of Health and Human Services, has been using "video news releases" that include actors posing as journalists reporting on the benefits of the new Medicare prescription plan. The GAO discovered them while investigating the use of federal money to pay for fliers and advertisements, which they ultimately found to be legal, despite "notable omissions and other weaknesses."

Federal law prohibits the use of federal money for "publicity or propaganda purposes" not authorized by Congress. In the past, the GAO has found that federal agencies violated this restriction by disseminating editorials and newspaper articles written by the government without identifying the source.

When, if ever, is somebody from the Bush administration going to go to jail for prima facie breaking the law of the land? Are we so overwhelmed by evidence of government malfeasance and criminal behavior in BushLand that we can't fix on one scandal before another breaks? Is BushCo so powerful that it can't be taken down? What are we, the new U.S.S.R.?

United States Stands Rocking.
United States Sans Rationality.
United States Stands for Repression.

You can do better, I know you can.


As I listened to various right-wing talk hosts echoing the refrain, "It's not REALLY torture," I couldn't help but think back to our Vietnam-era POW's and how they were treated by the Viet Cong and how we in America reacted to it. They were kept in tiny "tiger cages" that made it impossible to lie down and rest; at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisoners were handcuffed to the top bunk, making it impossible to lie down and rest. In Vietnam our POW's had water poured down their throats, or were submerged under water, until they thought they were drowning and sometimes lost consciousness; at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the same. In Vietnam our POW's were repeatedly beaten; in AG and Gitmo, the same. In Nam they were subjected to psychological torture, told their families had been or would be killed, that the U.S. had been nuked, humiliated, terrified by attack dogs, hooked up to wires and told they would be electrocuted, etc. In AG and Gitmo, the same. In Nam they were denied the right to pray, and their religion was mocked. In AG and Gitmo, the same. In Nam, some suffered retaliatory executions; in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, the same.

In Nam, the Hanoi government stated that it would treat captured American flyers humanely, but it would not accord them prisoner of war status as they were "pirates" engaged in unprovoked attacks on North Vietnam. Sound familiar, eerily like Bush policy?

In the USA we were appalled, outraged, and no-one questioned whether the treatments that fell short of execution amounted to torture. Where's the outrage now, as we stand on the verge of confirming the author of the memos justifying such behavior by American forces as the new top law enforcement officer of the land?

Picture this scenario: a young woman is kidnapped by a wacko who believes she is his abusive mother, held captive for weeks as he rapes her occasionally, systematically terrifies her with threats of death and disfigurement, burns her with cigarettes, leads her around, naked, by a dog collar in front of his friends. She is rescued and the newspapers are filled with accounts of her "torture." Nobody tries to justify it by saying, "But she MIGHT have BEEN his mother! He couldn't take that chance! He needed information from her that might have prevented other boys from being abused by their mothers! And after all, she didn't suffer pain equivalent to losing a body part or death!"

I don't think that's a terribly whimsical analogy. It is estimated that 80-90% of the detainees at Abu Ghraib have been innocents picked up wrongfully in a "sweep" and yet we continue to label our victims (and yes, that's what they are) as "terrorists" to justify doing to them whatever whenever we like. If FBI agents had treated TIMOTHY MCVEIGH, who we PROVED was a domestic terrorist and a mass murderer, similarly, you can bet American newspapers (and most citizens!) would have screamed their heads off. We're not the former Soviet Union -- we don't get intelligence that way.

We are, after all, supposed to be a nation ruled by law, not the jungle. You would expect our Attorney General to be a man of the law. In Gonzales' case, he's a man of corporate (Enron) law, which is another fish altogether. That's the kind of law where you find legal loopholes or justification for doing whatever the CEO wants to do. Gonzales has proved he's great in that role. LEAVE HIM TO IT and keep him far, far away from the Justice Department.

UPDATE: World O'Crap summarizes "Torture Day at The Corner." Ya see, it's not R-E-A-L-L-Y torture.


Joe Conason:

Genial and mild-mannered yet insistently evasive, Alberto Gonzales yesterday did what tainted presidential nominees often do when facing a turbulent confirmation: He denied, denied, denied what everyone knows is true -- and he forgot everything else that might be inconvenient to remember.
He is the kind of counselor that this president prizes most highly. He is the ultimate yes man.
The capacity to ignore unpleasant realities is fundamental to this role. During his seven hours of testimony, Gonzales repeatedly proved how adeptly he pretends to not see what everyone knows is there. Despite voluminous accounts of torture and even homicide inflicted on prisoners in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, he suggested that the entire problem is no more widespread or serious than a few poorly supervised soldiers on the "night shift" at Abu Ghraib. And he accepted no responsibility for what he had set in motion by undermining the application of the Geneva Conventions and traditional military observance of international law.

Perhaps the most eloquent rebuke to the Gonzales method came from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who once served in the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps. On this matter, Graham speaks like a true conservative, expressing the outrage felt by so many military officers at the disgrace inflicted on their institution by Bush, Gonzales and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The South Carolina senator warned that "when you start looking at torture statutes and you look at ways around the spirit of the law, you're losing the moral high ground." He added that "once you start down this road … it is very hard to come back. So I do believe we have lost our way, and my challenge to you as a leader of this nation is to help us find our way without giving up our obligation and right to fight our enemy."

The passive Gonzales has shown no sign of providing that kind of leadership, and he never will. He has done the opposite for his entire career, but no matter. The Judiciary Committee will vote to confirm him, as will the full Senate. And whatever laws, rights and traditions the president may wish to eviscerate in his second term, there will be an attorney general who can be depended upon to say yes.

Thursday, January 6


I'd like to say something about Bush's much-vaunted "moral clarity."

It's true. He really does have moral clarity. He's clear on morals because he only admits to a few:

(1) It's moral if you can get away with it.
(2) It's moral if someone you like does it.
(3) It's moral if no-one can do anything about it.
(4) It's moral if it makes money for the right people (i.e., straight, white rich people that agree with you, who obviously deserve it because God has already sealed their virtue by blessing them with wealth.) (Too bad those liberal Hollywood and techno freaks with megabucks get to ride along. Maybe we can figure some way out of that.)
(5) It's moral if you can get a lawyer to justify it.
(6) It's moral if your Bible-study pals don't call you to protest.
(7) It's moral if you're George W. Bush; then it's obviously ordained by God.

UPDATE: Whoa. Mahablog has posted on the same subject, and you should read the whole thing. She even agrees with me about Andrea Yates.


How nice. Democratic Veteran has posted The Rumsfeld Rag.


Josh Marshall on the leaked Social Security memos: (Read it all)

This entire debate is about ideology -- between people who believe in the benefits Social Security has brought America in the last three-quarters of a century and those who think it was a bad idea from the start. There is an honest debate to have on this point, a values debate. Only, the White House understands that the belief that Social Security was always a bad program isn't widely shared by Americans. So they have to wrap their effort in a package of lies, harnessing Americans' desire to save Social Security in their own effort to destroy it.

The Bush administration is all about destruction, not creation, unless it's creation of still more wealth for the already-rich.


Oh my. US support for Indonesia's army is compromising our tsunami relief effort. The Neocons have a hand in Aceh too.

It's bad enough to be Robin Hoods-in-reverse domestically, but BushCo adds laziness, divisiveness, self-righteousness, stupidity, ignorance, and meanness to the foreign policy equation as well. Sidney Blumenthal:

The war between the Indonesian military and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has raged for more than two decades. A ceasefire negotiated in 2002, with the involvement of former general Anthony Zinni as US representative, was brutally broken by the military in May 2003. The Indonesian military is a virtual state within a state and is unaccountable for its human rights violations and criminal activities. After its war of ethnic cleansing against East Timor concluded with independence following diplomatic intervention, the military was determined not to lose Banda Aceh.

In its war there, the military has mimicked the language of the war on terrorism and the Iraq war, calling its operation "shock and awe", targeting the population as terrorist supporters, and expelling all international observers, including the UN, from the region. Human Rights Watch documented extensive torture and abuse.

Bush administration policy has been conflicted, confused and negligent. The leading neoconservative at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence, has tried to overthrow US restrictions on aid to, and relations with, the Indonesian military. The neoconservative thrust is undeterred by the military's obstruction of the FBI investigation into the murder of two US businessmen in 2002, killings that appear to implicate the military. When the state department issued a human rights report on Indonesia's abysmal record, its spokesman replied: "The US government does not have the moral authority to assess or act as a judge of other countries, including Indonesia, on human rights, especially after the abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison."


It couldn't happen to a nastier guy.

Proof Tom DeLay is now politically radioactive? and What the rule reversal on Capitol Hill means for DeLay are both worth a read.


Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) endorses Howard Dean for DNC Chair.

The other leading candidates are former Congressman Martin Frost of Texas and former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana. I know Martin Frost fairly well and even campaigned for him until his seat disappeared in the Texas redistricting battle. He's a formidable campaigner and a fine man, a great Democrat with the talent, brains and convictions to lead the Party in the days ahead. Roemer, whom I like very well, is firmly anti-choice, which would either help him greatly in reaching outside the Party or seriously hamper his ability to lead from within. So why choose him when we have two other great candidates?

As I've said repeatedly, I favor Howard Dean to the max. The man has executive experience, passion and guts, and those are the most important characteristics the new DNC Chair needs. If not Dean, Frost is our man. But think Dean. Dean. Dean.


The Crime of November 2:

In breaking news, the team now has in its possession an official Franklin County Board of Election document entitled "Machine Assignments for General Election 2004" showing the serial numbers of 76 machines, all in Democrat-rich Columbus, that were blacked out and kept in the warehouse or on trucks during the election, while thousands of inner city voters stood in the rain. Conversely, none of the machines designated for Republican-dominated suburbs were blacked out on the list and held back. 
In our previous piece, we presented what we found to be ten of the largest vote-counting irregularities in the conduct of Ohio's election.  Embodied in those ten irregularities are more than enough votes to have shifted the Ohio tally from George W. Bush to John Kerry.

Senators Boxer and Feingold have indicated that they MIGHT join Rep. Conyers of Michigan in his protest against certifying Ohio electors for Bush. PLEASE, PUH-LEEZE, all you Democratic Senators, DON'T LEAVE OUR COURAGEOUS BLACK CONGRESSMEN AND WOMEN hanging again as in 2000!

Are the only politicians left with guts of the African-American variety? Perhaps their struggle for civil rights has toughened them up, unlike our largely-spineless Caucasian representatives.

UPDATE: Boxer has agreed!!!


About time! In this story about Tucker Carlson, the NYT, as it does so often these days, buried the lead. Evidently CNN has decided to stop trying to compete with FOX and MSNBC and return to what made it strong...reporting the news, not spinning it and hosting debates.

Mr. Klein said he wanted to move CNN away from what he called "head-butting debate shows," which have become the staple of much of all-news television in the prime-time hours, especially at the top-rated Fox News Channel.

"CNN is a different animal," Mr. Klein said. "We report the news. Fox talks about the news. They're very good at what they do and we're very good at what we do."

Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at "Crossfire" when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were "hurting America." (Emphasis mine)

Mr. Klein said last night, "I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise." He said he believed that especially after the terror attacks on 9/11, viewers are interested in information, not opinion.

"Crossfire" may be continued "in small doses" as part of the political coverage on CNN's other programs, Mr. Klein said.

Mr. Klein said he intended to keep CNN's highest-rated program, "Larry King Live," much as it is because Mr. King does not do "head-butting debate" but "personality-oriented television."

The rest of CNN's prime-time lineup will be moving toward reporting the day's events and not discussing them, he said.


The idea of the US president nominating and the Congress confirming Alberto Gonzales as the chief law enforcement officer of the land is so bizarre and un-American that it's just another great example of the alternate reality into which BushCo has plunged us:

The senators are likely to give full legitimacy to a path that the Bush administration set the country on more than three years ago, a path that has transformed the United States from a country that condemned torture and forbade its use to one that practices torture routinely. Through a process of redefinition largely overseen by Mr. Gonzales himself, a practice that was once a clear and abhorrent violation of the law has become in effect the law of the land.
But what we are unlikely to hear, given the balance of votes in the Senate, are many voices making the obvious argument that with this record, Mr. Gonzales is unfit to serve as attorney general. So let me make it: Mr. Gonzales is unfit because the slow river of litigation is certain to bring before the next attorney general a raft of torture cases that challenge the very policies that he personally helped devise and put into practice. He is unfit because, while the attorney general is charged with upholding the law, the documents show that as White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales, in the matter of torture, helped his client to concoct strategies to circumvent it. And he is unfit, finally, because he has rightly become the symbol of the United States' fateful departure from a body of settled international law and human rights practice for which the country claims to stand.

UPDATE: Just came across this great editorial, Public silent as rules of civil society are rewritten:

Gonzales wants to be the next attorney general, the nation's chief enforcer of the Constitution, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment" clearly enough. He wants his confirmation hearing to be a formality, not a showcase for contradictions.

He'll likely get his wish. Expect Gonzales to provide the paint, the committee to provide the brushes, and Thursday's hearing to be the inaugural whitewash of the second Bush administration.

The committee's membership, Republican or Democrat, has yet to raise much of a fuss about the administration's taste for gulag justice -- at Guantanamo Bay, at Abu Ghraib prison, at home through the USA Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security's thickening rulebook. The committee's members aren't about to fuss now, even though one of the chief architects of those gulag ways will be sitting in front of them for two hours.
Gonzales didn't write the torture memo as an exercise in possibilities, but as an affirmation of policies then ongoing. Last week the Justice Department posted a 17-page memo on its Web site professing to refute the Gonzales memo, and calling all torture unacceptable. Yet it also concludes that none of the interrogation methods approved by the Justice Department have amounted to torture. It's another word game, a whitewash to facilitate Gonzales' confirmation and make Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and lesser-known scandals seem like nothing more complicated, or less reasonable, than Taking Care of Business.


Woman's Convictions for Drowning Children Are Overturned.

Seems prosecution psychiatrist Park Dietz "gave false testimony" about consulting on a Law & Order episode concerning a mother who drowned her children and went free. Problem is, no such episode existed. (We used to call that "lying.")

I posted on this case a few weeks ago. Maybe now this seriously ill woman whose well-documented repeated, desperate attempts to get help before this tragedy occurred got no results, will now get a fair trial and end up not in jail for life but in a mental health facility, where she belongs.

Wednesday, January 5


Among the several meaningful discussions I had with family during the holidays, the one that stands out most is between me and my older, golden sister about the Republican Party and the gay issue. My sister and her ex-fighter-pilot-jock husband buried their oldest son several years ago. Mark was a gorgeous, sweet guy whom everyone loved and only the younger generation of our family (except for me and The Sage) came close to understanding. In his brief life he tried everything to fight his natural sexual orienttion, including living with girls (twice in his college years) only to discover that intentions just couldn't alter his essential self. Mark attempted suicide thrice in his late teens and early twenties because he wanted so badly to be "normal," but couldn't make it.

Mark finally, after the death of his second partner to AIDS, succumbed to the disease also (he'd been HIV positive for 12 years before being diagnosed with full-blown AIDS). His parents (my sister and brother-in-law) nursed him for more than a year before his death. As my sister and my three daughters and I one night in a girls-talk discussion agreed, Mark is an example of the contention that homosexuality is not a choice. There may be bisexuals who can find fulfillment with either sex, but for most of us romantic love and sexual fulfillment come in one gender package. Mark was like the rest of us average Americans -- patriotic (he was an ROTC officer in college), family-loving, success-oriented, and a CHRISTIAN. The church was no help to him -- it just told him he was a pervert in need of salvation, despite his childhood conversion, deep belief and trust in Jesus. His family, though loving, made it clear to him that he was considered a freak. Since his death his parents have been turned off by evangelical preachers and Republican spokespersons who condemn all gays as hedonists and self-lovers. You could never explain Mark by such labels. His parents switched churches from Southern Baptist to Methodist to escape such weekly condemnations of their beloved son, but still voted for Bush (enthusiastically!) in the presidential election. They admit that the Repug agenda against gays gives them pause, but after the pause they still go out and defend him.

Maybe the Mary Cheney issue backfired on gave Republicans like Dick Cheney and Alan Keyes, who virtually hid their gay chldren from public view, a "family tragedy" scenario that could be blamed on immoral Democrats for our amoral influence on American society. But do those people and parents like the Cheneys and Keyes really believe, like George W. Bush, that homosexuality is a "choice"?

Mark's parents don't.


Molly Ivins addresses "governmental ethics."

I just can't get with it. The U.S. government increasingly sounds like a third-world dictatorship. And we VOTED (not me!) for this? Voluntarily? I'm still thinking about whether or not I want to live the rest of my life in this world. Anyone have a suggestion for a retirement utopia?


Arab News has a reasonable, USA-friendly editorial about American adventurism:

The patina of overconfidence, overreach and override, defining its unilateralist action in Iraq, has not dulled the luster of the United States.

The buttes and mesas of its cultural expanse, its art, technology, music, fashion, cuisine, film, literature, and the ideological values that underwrote its birth (that “all men are created equal” and that they have inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” guaranteeing citizens, as it were, the privilege to party and have a good time) have insinuated themselves, by authority of imagination, into the lives of countless societies and individuals around the planet.

Not in recent years, though — not since an undermining, unilateralist puritanism began to nag at its character. The US has become, if you wish, a humorless neoconservative archetype: America the whiner, snarling at the heels of those nations that will not do what they are told, thus making the term “American power” around the world an equivalent for dead weight.

And what a dead weight the US has become in its adventurist foray into Iraq.

Almost two years after its military forces slouched into Iraqis’ lives, 2004 ended with everything going horribly awry for everyone, except for the insurgents — many of whom, by all accounts, a bunch of reactionary, often brutal kooks — for whom the year ended quite well. Nor does 2005 hold out much hope for a felicitous improvement in the situation, either for the coalition forces or for the Iraqi government, an interim body that has failed to develop popularity and legitimacy among ordinary Iraqis.


Every day things in Iraq are getting better.

RAQ’S rapidly swelling insurgency numbers 200,000 fighters and active supporters and outnumbers the United States-led coalition forces, the head of the country’s intelligence service said yesterday.

The number is far higher than the US military has so far admitted and paints a much grimmer picture of the challenge facing the Iraqi authorities and their British and American backers as elections loom in four weeks.


Another couple of abysmally long days of film editing, this time while suffering an abscessed tooth, thus no posts. Now I'm waiting for a call from the dentist (please hurry!), so let's see what I've missed.

Here's a simple but excellent argument against privatizing Social Security.

Amid the continuing, competing monologues about U.S. generosity/stinginess towards the tsuanami victimes, Nick Kristoff gets to the bottom line on U.S. aid to poor countries.

Here's a valuable legal discourse on the torture memos.

While I haven't had time (or felt well enough) to scope out the news as per my usual routine, I've still listened to talk radio on my way to and from the studio. This morning I was, as usual, appalled at Laura Ingraham. She's such an idiot on radio as opposed to her (slightly) more serious and thoughtful (though still wrong-headed to the extreme) TV appearances. On radio, Laura sounds like an adolescent, screaming (or should I say screeching?) laughter as she disses a Democrat or Liberal for the way they comb their hair, pronounce words, or pretend to be human. (Didn't you know that we're all terrorists, America-haters, "the elite" and/or liars and perverts?) This morning her crusade was the Alberto Gonzales confirmation. She doesn't spare a moment, she says, in her busy day and mind (?) caring about whether or not detainees are tortured or not -- anyone the US government suspects is a bad guy and terrorist and deserves whatever they get. Her big diatribe was reserved for Chris Matthews of Hardball for suggesting that Iraqi insurgents might be considered "soldiers" and thus subject to the Geneva Conventions. Chris, it must be noted, was trying to figure out who "non-military enemy combatants" are, and questioned, "Isn't it their country? (a reference to Iraqi insurgents)" According to Laura, anyone who opposes the U.S. in Iraq is a terrorist.

Yesterday, Darrell Ankarlo was up in arms about the refusal of an unnamed cable network to run promos for his parent, Dallas radio station KLIF, that featured Arab-looking men putting a sweet American suburban family in their crosshairs (the baby was the center of the target) while telling viewers, "There are people out there who want to kill you. Let's talk." Darrell's contention was that we're all at danger every moment from these Islamo-fascist maniacs and need to wake up to the threat, and whatever accomplishes that is good. The fact that our families are more threatened by drunk drivers, loss of health insurance, and a crisis in first-responder (cops, firefighters) funding escapes him. You see, his program has the most up-to-date and factual information about the situation in Iraq because HE HAS A SON FIGHTING WITH THE MARINES IN IRAQ, so it's essential to promote that show to Americans, no matter how it's done, so they get the "truth" from the man best in the know. (Darrell admits to, but seems ashamed of, his older son, who campaigned for John Kerry. I wonder if that son was a product of Darrell's first marriage to a "liberal" -- that would enable him to say, "It's all her fault.") Darrell, too, is a proponent of torture to extract incredibly important information from terrorists. The problem is, if they're so obviously terrorists, why can't the government prove it, or even get an indictment?

Don't get me started on Dennis Prager, who was advocating killing all trespassers and changes in the law to permit it. He rejoices, he said, "it makes my day" every time he hears about a housebreaker being killed by a homeowner. Democrats don't understand gun laws, he said, because they've got a cockeyed view of "violence vs. non-violence" as opposed to the good old conservative kill and ask questions later, otherwise known as "good versus evil."

The most discouraging note is the preponderance of callers indicating their distaste for aiding the victims in any way, since they are (1) mostly Muslim; (2) some Indonesian guy was caught on camera wearing a Bin Laden T-shirt, which proves that they're all our enemies anyway; and (3) we have our own problems in the USA. Wonder how the number (3) callers justify the hundreds of billions spent to "liberate Iraq" (as opposed to securing us against their nonexistent WMD's and connection to 9/11) when they too are Muslims and we weren't invited to destroy their nation in order to "save it."

I hurt so much physically I don't need the psychic hurt the media inflicts. What's happened to America?

Monday, January 3


Andrew Sullivan wants SOOOO much to believe, and the Repugs just won't let him:

BUSH AND MORAL VALUES: Here's a simple question: isn't it a matter of morals not to fiddle the books? The Bush administration has made some promising noises about reducing domestic spending in the last couple of months, but this news is not encouraging:

"To show that President Bush can fulfill his campaign promise to cut the deficit in half by 2009, White House officials are preparing a budget that will assume a significant jump in revenues and omit the cost of major initiatives like overhauling Social Security. To make Mr. Bush's goal easier to reach, administration officials have decided to measure their progress against a $521 billion deficit they predicted last February rather than last year's actual shortfall of $413 billion. By starting with the outdated projection, Mr. Bush can say he has already reduced the shortfall by about $100 billion and claim victory if the deficit falls to just $260 billion."

How can anyone take this administration's fiscal intentions seriously when it engages in this kind of flim-flam? We're now used to the fact that the administration doesn't count the war in its fiscal calculations (what's a few hundred billion when it's other people's money?), but that doesn't make it any the less preposterous. And the strong case for partly privatizing social security is undermined by the president's inability to concede that it will require serious short-term borrowing. All of this is as much a moral failure as an economic one, which is why I'm still befuddled by the anemic conservative outrage. Or is sex the only area in which Republicans care about morality?

He's befuddled? Haven't the Repugs made that clear? "Are we clear?" "Crystal."

Sunday, January 2


Riverbend has thoughts on New Year's and elections in Baghdad:

We sat watching celebrations from different parts of the world. Seeing the fireworks, lights, droves of laughing and singing people really emphasizes our current situation. It feels like we are kind of standing still while the world is passing us by. It really is difficult to believe that come April, two years will have passed on the war and occupation. On most days, an hour feels like ten and yet, at the same time, it becomes increasingly difficult to get a good sense of passing time. I guess that is because we measure time with development and since things seem to be deteriorating in many ways, it feels almost as if we're going backwards, not forwards.
There are several problems. The first is the fact that, technically, we don't know the candidates. We know the principal heads of the lists but we don't know who exactly will be running. It really is confusing. They aren't making the lists public because they are afraid the candidates will be assassinated.

Another problem is the selling of ballots. We're getting our ballots through the people who give out the food rations in the varying areas. The whole family is registered with this person(s) and the ages of the varying family members are known. Many, many, many people are not going to vote. Some of those people are selling their voting cards for up to $400. The word on the street is that these ballots are being bought by people coming in from Iran. They will purchase the ballots, make false IDs (which is ridiculously easy these days) and vote for SCIRI or Daawa candidates. Sunnis are receiving their ballots although they don't intend to vote, just so that they won't be sold.

Yet another issue is the fact that on all the voting cards, the gender of the voter, regardless of sex, is labeled "male". Now, call me insane, but I found this slightly disturbing. Why was that done? Was it some sort of a mistake? Why is the sex on the card anyway? What difference does it make? There are some theories about this. Some are saying that many of the more religiously inclined families won't want their womenfolk voting so it might be permissible for the head of the family to take the women's ID and her ballot and do the voting for her. Another theory is that this 'mistake' will make things easier for people making fake IDs to vote in place of females.

All of this has given the coming elections a sort of sinister cloak. There is too much mystery involved and too little transparency. It is more than a little bit worrisome.

American politicians seem to be very confident that Iraq is going to come out of these elections with a secular government. How is that going to happen when many Shia Iraqis are being driven to vote with various fatwas from Sistani and gang? Sistani and some others of Iranian inclination came out with fatwas claiming that non-voters will burn in the hottest fires of the underworld for an eternity if they don't vote (I'm wondering- was this a fatwa borrowed from right-wing Bushies during the American elections?). So someone fuelled with a scorching fatwa like that one- how will they vote? Secular? Yeah, right.

Just watched the most-boring-ever segment of MTP with Little Tim. Only livening moment: David Broder called James Dobson of Focus On The Family, "in the words of Colin Powell, a 'Rolodex Ranger' -- one of those guys you call when you want trouble stirred up."

Joe Lieberman on This Week told Steph that "everyone he talked to in Iraq" wants the U.S. military out EVENTUALLY, but not now. When our guys don't even dare to leave the safety of the Green Zone, approximately how many ordinary Iraqis do you suppose they're exposed to, that is, Iraqis not emplioyed by the U.S. in some fashion?

Lieberman also said it's no secret that he agrees with many of Bush's policies and that he could serve George Bush much better from the Democratic side of the Senate aisle, and that's why he won't take a job in the administration. Now that's REALLY a LOYAL "opposition."


A satisfying New Year's Day as far as bowl games go: Florida State 30, West Virginia 18, in the Gator Bowl; University of Texas 38, Michigan 37 in the Rose Bowl.

Go, 'Noles! Hook 'em, Horns!


Have these people always been on the Dark Side, or have they just developed a mob personality since they became part of the Bush administration?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is preparing plans for possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists, including hundreds whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

Citing intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials, the newspaper said the Pentagon and the CIA had asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for those it would not set free or turn over to courts at home or abroad.

As part of a solution, the Defense Department, which holds 500 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, plans to ask the U.S. Congress for $25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely to ever go through a military tribunal for lack of evidence, defense officials told the newspaper.