Saturday, December 31


You find the most interesting little tidbits when googling:

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”

And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the shit that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that “goddamned piece of paper” used to guarantee.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while still White House counsel, wrote that the “Constitution is an outdated document.”

Some attitude for a president of the United States, huh?

Other choice Bush quotes that reflect his imperial attitude:
"There oughta be limits to freedom."
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
"It's not a dictatorship in Washington, but I tried to make it one in that instance." -- Chilling way to describe his executive order making faith-based groups eligible for federal subsidies, New Orleans, Louisiana, Jan. 15, 2004
"I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." -- As quoted shortly following 9/11 in "Bush at War" by Bob Woodward, Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, 2002

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An excellent column by former Nixon counsel John Dean on the illegality and impeachability of Bush's NSA spy program.

I especially like this quote:

"Michael Ignatieff has written that 'it is the very nature of a democracy that it not only does, but should, fight with one hand tied behind its back. It is also in the nature of democracy that it prevails against its enemies precisely because it does.' Yoo persuaded the Bush administration to untie its hand and abandon the constraints of the rule of law. Perhaps that is why we are not prevailing."

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Oh, how I love James Wolcott.

I would note that conservatives reverence men and women who toil with their hands and technical knowhow, until of course they form a union and try to negotiate better working conditions and health benefits. Then they become blue-collar blackmailers who ought to consider themselves lucky their jobs haven't been outsourced--yet.


Bill Berkowitz.

An interesting question: Are the Bush administration scandals so profuse as to make it impossible for Americans to process them? Does their very proliferation nullify popular indignation and demands for accountability?

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Sinclair Lewis was prescient. From ePluribus Media (a must-read):

PICTURE THIS: A folksy, self-consciously plainspoken Southern politician rises to power during a period of profound unrest in America. The nation is facing one of the half-dozen or so of its worst existential crises to date, and the people, once sunny, confident, and striving, are now scared, angry, and disillusioned.

This politician, a ''Professional Common Man,'' executes his rise by relentlessly attacking the liberal media, fancy-talking intellectuals, shiftless progressives, pinkos, promiscuity, and welfare hangers-on, all the while clamoring for a return to traditional values, to love of country...

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Friday, December 30


Another Motherlode Whimsy (sung to the tune of the old hymn
This Is My Father's World):

This is George Bush's world --
I tremble at the thought
That Cheney rules while Dubya drools
And rants about terrorist plots.

This is George Bush's world
Where fear absolves his crimes;
It lets him lie, on the people spy --
It's all justified by the times!

This is George Bush's world,
9/11 changed it all.
Bush said invade, it's a new crusade,
And henceforth I'm above the law.

This is George Bush's world
And its wealth meant for the few.
To fund tax breaks for the well-heeled's sakes
Assistance to the poor he'll eschew.

This is George Bush's world,
It reflects his hopes and dreams
For power, greed, and a zealot's need
To dominate us all with his schemes.

This is the Bushies’ world,
But it’s only theirs on lease;
In three years’ time we can boot the slime,
Restore our nation’s honor and peace.


Learned today by listening to the Al Franken Show.

What was the Democratic Party symbol before the donkey?

Answer can be found in the comments.


Your "Christian" Republican House of Representatives in action.

HR 4437 ("Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act"), sponsored by the father of the REAL ID, James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, would not only make it a felony to live in the United States illegally, it would also make it a federal crime to offer services or assistance to illegal immigrants. In other words, churches, social workers, healthcare workers, and teachers could face up to five years in prison and the seizure of some of their assets for being good Samaritans.

In Leviticus 19:34, God says, "But the stranger among you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God." Proverbs 25:21 says, "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty give him water to drink." In the book of Isaiah, God says, "Thou shalt not oppress the stranger among you."

Can it be any clearer? To those who believe, God has commanded us to give succor and not mistreatment to the immigrant. Yet 203 Republicans and 36 Democrats voted to make it a federal crime to obey that command. Only 17 Republicans voted against the bill.

Yes, it's a good idea to restrict immigration by levying penalties upon companies that hire illegals, by strengthening border security, etc. Within the limits of our law enforcement resources, it's legitimate to return illegals to their country of origin. But while they're here, it is against God's command that we refuse them help when it is needed. To make felons of caring, obedient-to-God aid workers is despicable.

George Bush, of course, that paragon of Christian virtue, praised the legislation.

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The ACLU deconstructs the president's legal arguments in defense of his illegal spy program and suggests an answer to the question, "Why did he do it?" Read the whole thing for the legal details.

But, President Bush would sweep aside this entire body of democratically debated and painstakingly crafted restrictions on domestic surveillance by the executive branch with his extraordinary assertion that he can simply ignore this law because he is the Commander-in-Chief. In a December 17 radio address, for example, Bush asserted that the spying was "fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities." But his constitutional duty is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" (Article II, Section 3); the law here clearly establishes well-defined procedures for eavesdropping on U.S. persons, and the fact is, Bush ordered that those procedures not be followed.

Government eavesdropping on Americans is an extremely serious matter; the ability to intrude on the private realm is a tremendous power that can be used to monitor, embarass, control, disgrace, or ruin an individual. Because it is so invasive, the technology of wiretapping has been subject to carefully crafted statutory controls almost since it was invented. Ignoring those controls and wiretapping without a court order is a crime that carries a significant prison sentence (in fact, criminal violations of the wiretap statute were among the articles of impeachment that were drafted against President Nixon shortly before his resignation).

Clearly Illegal
Unfortunately, although the law in this matter is crystal clear, many Americans, faced with President Bush's bold assertions of "inherent" authority for these actions, will not know what to believe. There are only 5 points they need to understand:

Point #1: Electronic surveillance by the Government is strictly limited by the Constitution and Federal Law
Point #2: There are only three laws that permit the government to spy
Point #3: The Bush-NSA spying was not authorized by any of these laws
Point #4: Congress's post-9/11 use-of-force resolution does not legitimize the Bush-NSA spying
Point #5: The need for quick action does not justify an end-run around the courts
Given the extensive (indeed, excessive) surveillance powers that the government already possesses, the Administration's blatantly illegal use of warrantless surveillance raises an important question: why? One possibility, raised by the New York Times in a Dec. 24, 2005 story ("Spy Agency Minded Vast Data Trove, Officials Report"), is that the NSA is relying on assistance from several unnamed telecommunications companies to "trace and analyze large volumes of communications" and is "much larger than the White House has acknowledged."

This, as security expert Bruce Schneier has noted, suggests the Bush Administration has developed a "a whole new surveillance paradigm" - exploiting the NSA's well known capabilities to spy on individuals not one at a time, as FISA permits, but to run communications en masse through computers in the search for suspicious individuals or patterns. This "new paradigm" may well be connected to the NSA program sometimes known as "Echelon," which carries out just that kind of mass collection of communications (see This "wholesale" surveillance, as Schneier calls it, would constitute an illegal invasion of Americans' privacy on a scale that has never before been seen. (See Schneier, "NSA and Bush's Illegal Eavesdropping,"

According to the Times, several telecommunications companies provided the NSA with direct access to streams of communications over their networks. In other words, the NSA appears to have direct access to a large volume of Americans' communications - with not simply the assent, but the cooperation of the companies handling those communications.

We do not know from the report which companies are involved or precisely how or what the NSA can access. But this revelation raises questions about both the legal authority of the NSA to request and receive this data, and whether these companies may have violated either the Federal laws protecting these communications or their own stated privacy polices (which may, for example, provide that they will only turn over their customers' data with their consent or in response to a proper order).

Regardless of the scale of this spying, we are facing a historic moment: the President of the United States has claimed a sweeping wartime power to brush aside the clear limits on his power set by our Constitution and laws - a chilling assertion of presidential power that has not been seen since Richard Nixon.

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Rolling Stone takes on the pResident's "Victory Tour" and press secretary Scott McClellan.

Bush in person always strikes me as the kind of guy who would ask a woman for a hand job at the end of a first date. He has days where he looks like she said yes, and days where the answer was no.
The Council on Foreign Relations was good enough to pass out a list of the expected attendees at the speech. Here are some of the names that one could find in Bush's audience: Frank Finelli, the Carlyle Group; Adam Fromm, Office of Rep. Dennis Hastert; Robert W. Haines, Exxon Mobil Corp.; Paul W. Butler, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP; Robert Bremer, Lockheed Martin Corp.; Scott Sendek, Eli Lilly and Co.; James H. Lambright, Export-Import Bank of the United States.

The point is obvious; Bush's audience was like a guest list for a Monster's Ball of the military-industrial establishment. And even in this crowd full of corporate lawyers, investment bankers, weapons makers, ex-spooks and, for Christ's sake, lobbyists, the president of the United States couldn't cook up more than two tepid applause lines for his Iraq policy -- and one of those was because he was finishing up and, one guesses, freeing the audience to go call their brokers.
There's your strategy for victory in Iraq: F**k all of you -- we're sticking to our story.

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My favorite passage from Rosa Brooks' latest column:

Just last year, the Supreme Court tried to get him up to speed: "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president." But that's the Bush administration for you: all checks, no balances.

It works on so many levels, doesn't it? What a great campaign slogan that would make, even better than "all hat, no cattle."

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Just now watching for the first time in years the film documentary Woodstock, I wondered: where is the great organizing/protest music of this generation?

Thursday, December 29


I highly recommend this interview with Steven Spielberg about his new film Munich. I haven't seen the film yet, but the interview itself makes one think about the cycle of violence and retribution.

As Noam Chomsky said recently, "War is the ultimate failure of the human spirit." The end of the Spielberg story makes us want to believe that the human spirit could triumph, if only there were more apolitical venues for personal communication.

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Here's an interesting story I almost missed: NPR's analysis of what was, and wasn't, on the public's mind in 2005. It includes the top 10 public opinion trends for the year, the top headline stories that got a yawn instead of a yelp, and the news interest index:

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita led the list of this year's top news interest stories, claiming the very close attention of nearly three-in-four (73 percent) in October -- a considerably higher rating than was received by any news story in the past three years. ... Interest in the back-to-back storms not only matched the previous two-decade record for a natural disaster, the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, but came close to matching the attention accorded the 9/11 terrorist attacks (74 percent).
Following close behind Katrina and Rita were prices at the gasoline pump, with 71 percent of Americans tracking their progress very closely. A related story, the large profits reported by oil companies, drew intense interest among 37 percent of the public in November. While gas prices topped the news interest list in 2004, and took second place in 2003, in those years public interest peaked at only 64 percent and 53 percent, respectively. The condition of the U.S. economy was also of recurring intense interest, peaking at 35 percent at the year's end.

Apart from continuing attention to the situation in Iraq, only two foreign-based stories attracted high interest among the U.S. public; both were disaster-related. The dramatic aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, which occurred shortly before the start of the year, was followed very closely by 58 percent of the public in January. The terrorist bombings in London in July also drew substantial interest, with about half of the public (48 percent) tracking the story with great interest, on par with peak public interest in the situation in Iraq.

Iraq continued to draw the very close attention of upwards of 40 percent of the public throughout the year, although this level of attention to the war never matched its peak levels of 54 percent in October 2004 and 63 percent in May 2003.
President Bush's plan to introduce private accounts into the Social Security was very closely watched by 38 percent in March, as the president traveled the country to pitch his plan to the public, while his soon-to-start Medicare drug coverage plan elicited the close attention of one-in-four Americans. A quarter of the population also closely followed the death of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks, while about an equal number focused on the indictment of top White House aide I. Scooter Libby.

I find it highly interesting that Katrina and Rita rivaled 911 in news interest among the American public. I imagine that the interest in Rita was at least partly due to the public's desire to see if the president, and FEMA, would blow it again like they did in the aftermath of Katrina.

I suggest that this is an opportunity the Democrats mustn't squander -- the story of Bush administration incompetence. Over and over we should be beating the drum, "If you can't trust Bush to protect us from a natural disaster, how do you expect him to protect us from terrorism?"

Poppy Bush was perceived to be a very competent executive, but his political downfall was his perceived upper-class indifference to the interests of working families. In an interesting flip-flop, Dubya has very effectively used his Texas twang and folksy charm to project an image of a down-to-earth guy working families can relate to; but his ability to govern and dedication to doing so should be questionable to any reasonable mind. His ability is his vulnerability. List after list of the president's failures should be drawn up and publicized, including, but certainly not limited to:

- Failure to find bin Laden
- The very limited number of actual terrorists that have been caught and brought to justice
- His poor grades on the 9/11 Commission's scorecard
- What looks to be the loss of a major, and unique, American city, and a large portion of the gulf coast
- The stagnation of wages vs. record corporate profits
- Republican and corporate corruption
- A million more Americans living below the poverty line
- Record deficits and trade imbalances
- A weakened military
- An increase in terror attacks worldwide
- Budget cuts for programs benefiting the poor and middle class and tax cuts benefiting the uberwealthy

Another thing I'd love is to see juxtaposed a clip of Bush after Katrina talking about rebuilding Trent Lott's vacation home with clips of people in New Orleans living in tents in the streets, then a bit of footage of Bush talking earnestly about supporting our men and women in Iraq split with our troops scavenging for armor to protect themselves and their vehicles. "THAT'S Republican priorities for you," the voiceover would intone. "THAT'S Republican values in action."

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Wednesday, December 28


Bush may yet regret the decision to attack the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit for its decision in the Jose Padilla case. The opinion was written by Judge Michael Luttig, a darling of conservatives and one of their favorite candidates to ascend to the Supreme Court.

Judge Luttig, who has impeccable conservative credentials, has backed the DOJ in previous Padilla actions, and has decried "judicial activism" with the worst of them, questioned the government's motives in the Padilla case:

In its ruling last week, the 4th Circuit questioned the government's changing rationale for Padilla's detention since the September decision, because the criminal charges do not mention a dirty bomb plot or any attack inside the United States. The court said prosecutors had left the appearance that they were trying to avoid Supreme Court review of Padilla's case and suggested that Padilla might have been "held for these years, even if justifiably, by mistake."

The Justice Department, on behalf of Dubya, fired back:

The Justice Department brief said the 4th Circuit had mischaracterized the events of Padilla's incarceration and engaged in "an unwarranted attack on the exercise of Executive discretion." Prosecutors accused the court of going so far as to "usurp" Bush's authority as the nation's commander-in-chief and his government's "prosecutorial discretion."

A protege of Antonin Scalia (Luttig clerked for him) and Clarence Thomas, Luttig is considered a "staunch federalist" in their mode. That he should brave the administration's displeasure in such a manner and matter will surely raise questions about Fearless Leader's actions in some, more thoughtful, conservatives.

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The Texas state Court of Criminal Appeals has given Ronnie Earle and Tom DeLay's attorneys one week to submit arguments on DeLay's request for a quick settlement on charges against him.

DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Friday either to dismiss the charges against DeLay or order a lower court to try him immediately.

According to Bloomberg, DeLay lawyer Dick DeGuerin wrote in his motion, "Congressman DeLay's constituents, the citizens of the 22nd Congressional District, as well as the Republican delegation in the United States Congress are being deprived of the effective services of their elected representative as long as the charges remain unresolved."

I wouldn't be too worried about this since DeLay hasn't lost his Congressional seat and thus can't make the case that his "constitutents" and the "Republican delegation" to Congress have been "deprived of [his] services." But it's an all-Republican court, and that's always problematic.

Aces in our get-DeLay hole: Ronnie Earle and Jack Abramoff.

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Democrats should pay attention to this thoughtful interview with Noam Chomsky.

Democrats read the polls way more than I do, their leadership. They know what public opinion is. They could take a stand that's supported by public opinion instead of opposed to it. Then they could become an opposition party, and a majority party. But then they're going to have to change their position on just about everything.

Take, for example, take your pick, say for example health care. Probably the major domestic problem for people. A large majority of the population is in favor of a national health care system of some kind. And that's been true for a long time. But whenever that comes up -- it's occasionally mentioned in the press -- it's called "politically impossible," or "lacking political support," which is a way of saying that the insurance industry doesn't want it, the pharmaceutical corporations don't want it, and so on. Okay, so a large majority of the population wants it, but who cares about them? Well, Democrats are the same.
Same with global warming. They're not stupid. They know that they're increasing the threat of a serious catastrophe. But that's a generation or two away. Who cares? There's basically two principles that define the Bush administration policies: stuff the pockets of your rich friends with dollars, and increase your control over the world. Almost everything follows from that. If you happen to blow up the world, well, you know, it's somebody else's business. Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld said.
What gives me hope actually is public opinion. Public opinion in the United States is very well studied, we know a lot about it. It's rarely reported, but we know about it. And it turns out that, you know, I'm pretty much in the mainstream of public opinion on most issues. I'm not on some, not on gun control or creationism or something like that, but on most crucial issues, the ones we've been talking about, I find myself pretty much at the critical end, but within the spectrum of public opinion. I think that's a very hopeful sign. I think the United States ought to be an organizer's paradise.

Amen to much of this. If the Democratic Party doesn't begin to present itself as the party of the people and characterize, properly, the Republicans as the representatives of and panderers to corporate interests and the uberwealthy, we have no chance to capitalize on the mistakes and scandals of this administration. How can we be the opposition party when so many Democratic politicans are panting to be in the same pockets as the Rethugs?

And when Noam Chomsky finds himself in the mainstream of public opinion, it's time for Dems to pay more attention to the polls and campaign, legislate, and vote according to the will of the people.

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Mark Fiore's latest is priceless. "Protecting the spying on it."

Check it out.


John Nichols of The Nation nominates the most valuable progressives of 2005:

MVP -- Senate

The winner: Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold
Runners-up: California Democrat Barbara Boxer and Arizona Republican John McCain (I challenge the latter)

MVP -- House of Representatives

The winner: Michigan Democrat John Conyers
Runners-up: Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, and Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha

MVP -- Executive Branch

The winner (no runners-up!): Lawrence B. Wilkerson, the retired U.S. Army colonel who served as chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell until Powell exited the State Department in January, 2005

MVP -- Law Enforcement

The winner: Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle
Runner-up: Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald

MVP -- Citizen

The winner (no runner-up): Cindy Sheehan

MVP -- Watchdog

The winner: After Downing Street

It's a worthwhile read, reminding us who actually made a difference as opposed to who made headlines.



Chris Floyd tells it like it is:

For let's be clear about this: only the Establishment -- the institutional powers-that-be -- can break an outlaw president. Millions marched in the street against Nixon and the system; whole city quadrants went up in flames in those days; but none of this was decisive in the corridors of power. ... It was his insult to the institutions -- the Watergate break-in of Democratic headquarters, the subsequent cover-up and subversion of the legal system, the defiance of Congress -- that led to his downfall. He pushed too far, tried to grab too much -- and the Establishment pulled him short.

And it will have to be the Establishment that breaks Bush -- or he won't be broken. All the blogs in the world won't bring him down, no matter how much truth they tell, how much bloodsoaked Bushist dirt they expose.
That's why the spy scandal is so pivotal. Because it is a direct, open and unignorable challenge to the institutional life of the American Establishment. In it, the Bush Regime is saying to the various powers-that-be, especially in Congress and the courts, but also to centers of power and influence outside government: you no longer have any power. All real power is now in our gift. Your laws, your institutions, your traditions, the whole complex infrastructure of checks and balances that have sustained society are now essentially meaningless. As in ancient Rome, we will keep the old forms, but the life of the state has now passed into the hands of the autocrat and his court. His arbitrary will can override any law -- although of course, strong law will still be applied to his enemies, and to the riff-raff in the lower orders.

How will the Establishment deal with this direct challenge? The past few years give little grounds for hope: the Democrats spineless, conflicted, co-opted and corrupt; the Republicans slavish, bellicose, cruel and criminal; the media timorous, witless, corporate-controlled; big business absolutely rolling in gravy from the autocrat's larder; academia cowed, silenced, ignored, demonized; the military acquiescent in criminal aggression, top-heavy with time-servers currying autocratic favor. Only the courts provide some stray sparks of hope, although they too are now loaded with political sycophants, corporate bagmen and knuckle-dragging throwbacks produced by the Right's decades-long devolution of American jurisprudence. Prosecutors like Patrick Fitzgerald and Elliot Spitzer "keep hope alive," but their efforts will mean little in a system where lawlessness at the top has been countenanced by the rest of the Establishment. And in any case, the outcome of their work lies ultimately with the Supreme Court -- the same court that shredded the Constitution in awarding power to Bush in the first place, and which is now led by a Bushist apparatchik.

Still, you don't go through a constitutional crisis with the Establishment you want; you go through a constitutional crisis with the Establishment you have. And this sad, sick crew, ladies and gentlemen, is all we have. If they swallow the spy scandal, if they don't push back now -- and I mean really push back, not just make a lot of harrumphing noise or hold a few toothless hearings or get a couple of underlings offered up as ritual sacrifices to save the Leader -- then we will have well and truly and finally lost the Republic that Franklin, Jefferson and Madison gave us so long ago.

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I was up half the night with terrible stomach cramps and after finally falling asleep about seven this a.m. was awakened by the telephone at eight thirty. It was a telemarketer from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee asking for $110 or some other donation.

This is the fourth call I've received from a Democratic fundraiser since Christmas Eve, when I got my first call from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. I donated to the first, asked the next two to call me after the New Year, and told the DCCC I'd already donated to the DSCC, thought the fundraising efforts should be better coordinated so they didn't all hit the same people just when we've spent all our money on the holidays, didn't appreciate the call coming so early and try me when I'm in a better mood.

Really, though, am I wrong?

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What do the choices and priorities made in the Congressional budget (that was sneaked through just before Christmas) reveal about the character and morality of the Republican party?

See EJ Dionne and Xpatriated Texan for some answers.

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John McCain pandering again. He tells MTV audience that:

"Let the student decide." With those well-chosen words John McCain summed up his view on the teaching of "intelligent design" along with evolution in public schools.

Even — or perhaps especially — with controversial topics, Arizona's ubiquitous senior U.S. senator has an uncanny knack for saying things his audience wants to hear.
McCain probably wouldn't champion the same letting-students-decide approach for, say, homework or blowing off algebra. No matter. He came across as an entirely reasonable and rational father figure on MTV.

Make no mistake. The man-who-would-be-president is not the "maverick" the MSM likes to portray him. He's a man who embraced George W. Bush and campaigned for him vigorously in 2004. He's tied to Bush's policies. He bears his own share of responsibility for the mess this country is in. He's an opportunist, and not to be trusted.

UPDATE: Political Animal has more. A great read.


Hat tip to Demagogue.

Tuesday, December 27


Fascinating assessment of America's position in the world.

The unravelling of the Bush administration, which started immediately after the President's re-election, came as no surprise to those of us who found Mr Bush an absurdly implausible leader and were expecting open warfare to break out within the Republican Party's strange coalition of economic liberals, social conservatives and trigger-happy militarists. This early infighting in Washington is not necessarily bad news for the American Right or good news for the Democrats.

The various Republican factions have plenty of time to let off steam and settle on a plausible candidate by 2008. But the rapid decay of the Bush presidency could inspire a profound reassessment of America's global hegemony and role in the world.

After 9/11, and especially after the easy invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, America has been widely believed to dominate the world because of its unchallengeable military power. But this year's events in Iraq and Washington have shown this assessment to be simply wrong.

America's military power, at least in the hands of Mr Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has turned out to be, as in Vietnam, a paper tiger. Yet America is more globally dominant than ever before. The explanation lies in America's economic performance, which has been as successful and as skilfully managed this year as the military operations have been bungled.

The US has again had the fastest-growing advanced economy in the world. And this 20-year winning streak is bound to continue as long as Europe entrusts its economic management to institutions even more incompetent than the Pentagon under Mr Rumsfeld. In other words, the saying that "the business of America is business" has never been more true.

More than ever it is economic success and the associated strength of its higher education system that assures America's cultural dominance.

America owes its global hegemony to the "soft power" that European politicians boast about but are unable to harness, mainly because of Europe's incompetent economic management. Meanwhile, the "hard" military power beloved of braggart neoconservatives turns out to be largely an illusion -- and one that America cannot sustain on its own. This paradox is, to me, the most interesting lesson of 2005.

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Back in the old days, we used to believe — did we not? — that journalists should "tell it how it is." Read the great journalism of World War II and you'll see what I mean. The Ed Murrows and Richard Dimblebys, the Howard K. Smiths and Alan Moorheads didn't mince their words or change their descriptions or run mealy-mouthed from the truth because listeners or readers didn't want to know or preferred a different version.

So let's call a colony a colony, let's call occupation what it is, let's call a wall a wall. And maybe express the reality of war by showing that it represents not, primarily, victory or defeat, but the total failure of the human spirit.


So let me get this straight. President Dumbya led us into a war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 based in part on bogus information from Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi (and his discredited associates such as the notorious Curveball), who we paid millions of taxpayer dollars for the privilege. That same Chalabi was the buddy and source for many of Judith Miller's erroneous stories on Saddam Hussein's nonexistent WMD. Dumbya and Cheney intended to install their pal Chalabi as head of a new American-friendly Iraqi government, believing, as he told them, that we would be welcomed as saviors and liberators. They believed him because they thought he was the voice of non-Baathist Iraq. Yet in their own American-sponsored elections, he couldn't even muster enough votes among Iraqi EXILES (he got less than 1%), let alone the rest of Iraq, to win a single seat in the new parliament. And now, as a result, we face an Iraq that will probably more closely resemble Iran than any Western democracy, a country characterized by Islamic extremism and anti-American sentiment.

That's some good judgment, fellas.

Chalabi is regarded as both a master deal-maker and remarkable political survivor. The longtime exile and his associates played an influential role in the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein; U.S. authorities tapped Chalabi to lead a small Iraqi force in the U.S.-led invasion. But his reputation suffered from past financial scandals, and critics have charged he was always more popular with Americans than with Iraqis.

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Monday, December 26


Merry Christmas, y'all, and Happy Hanukkah from Dallas, Texas and Motherlode's clan.

Christmas Eve was spent wrapping presents (The Sage and offspring), cooking and baking (me), and in general merriment. After gorging on Chinese food we played board games (Cranium, mostly), enjoyed the way the Christmas lights reflected on the lake we live on, hung the Christmas stockings, and finally trooped off to bed. The group included me and dad, our two sons, our oldest daughter (single) and our two younger daughters and their mates and grandson Navarre.

I was first up on Christmas morning (had to get cooking!), but Navarre had his aunt Daisy up shortly afterwards. They roused Papa, Mama, Daddy, and the other aunts and uncles, and we set to discovering what goodies Santa and each other had stashed under the tree. One of the guys made French toast for all and we munched on that as we unwrapped gifts.

I was moved to tears when I unwrapped Daisy's presents -- she'd had two pictures of her dad and me from our wedding (actually, exiting the reception on our way to our honeymoon, so not in bridal clothes) blown up from 8x10s into 18x24s and beautifully framed, and she gave a like one to each of her siblings.

Daisy also gave a huge remote-control WWII army tank to Navarre (he's 3-1/2) that is so elaborate it fires play missiles and includes two U.S. soldiers and two German army soldiers (each side has an officer and an enlisted man) with guns that fire play bullets. Now that's a weird gift to be given in our household, since The Sage and I are practically pacifists and never let our kids play with war toys when they were growing up. But Daisy's boyfriend is in Iraq, so I suppose she's got fighting on the brain. Her lad called on Christmas Eve -- he said his truck had been blown up, one of his men had his arm blown off but the rest survived intact. He insists that his platoon is not allowed to return direct fire, and I find that strange.

After all the gifts were unwrapped I looked around and said to The Sage, "The thing to do now, obviously, is to move." The kids took turns picking up and playing with one another's new toys while I called on various ones to help me get dinner on the table.

I hugely enjoy holiday cooking and we sat down just after noon to a feast of roast turkey, dressing (two kinds -- one with no bacon drippings for our two Jewish daughters and their mates) and giblet gravy, cranberry salad, ham with red-eye gravy, deviled eggs, amazing asparagus, cream cheese corn, green bean casserole, baked pineapple, mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, yeast rolls and homemade honey butter. Dessert was pumpkin pie, Dutch apple pie, brownies, pecan pie squares, and fruitcake.

As you can imagine, after a meal like that and all the cleanup, we needed a nap. So we all crashed for a couple hours then regrouped to empty our stockings and snack on leftovers before our two youngest daughters' families took off for their homes to observe Hanukkah. The rest of us drove to the Gaylord Texan Resort to see a spectacular ice sculpture display, some of which you see here. The sculptures were created by Chinese artisans and the room was kept at 5 degrees (they dispensed parkas to all the ticketholders). The ice nativity scene made me want to kneel (I can't because of a busted knee) and refreshed us all spiritually. (The same busted knee kept me from enjoying the ice slide, but I was useful as picture-taker). It was so cold by the time we left that my fingers were stinging under my gloves. But it was a terrific way to end the day. The Gaylord folks had outdone themselves in decorations both inside and outside the resort. We picked up some hot chocolate and sang carols all the way home.

Today has been a time for rest, games, and just being together (with a little football thrown in). And, of course, leftovers. No politics -- I'll save that for another day.