Spencer Blog Archives 1-03

Spencer Blog Archives

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Get this, according to an, ugh, Fox News poll (via Polling Report), W's approval numbers have dropped since the State of the Union address on Tuesday. So, yes folks, it appears this is one of those rare times that the State of the Union address has absolutely and utterly failed.

Nice try, though, W.

Boy, things sure do turn around quickly in politics, don't they?

[Link via Interesting Times]

And now that Hans Blix is accusing W of lying about the contents of his report, the best part of W's speech is being taken apart bit by bit (or is that"lie by lie?") and exposed for the charade it was. Nightline really"opened it up like a peanut" just the other night.

The folks in this administration are supposed to be good at this stuff, right?

I guess not.

Boy, Glenn's going to get real grumpy now.

Posted by Tom at 8:23 p.m. CST


As we gear up for war we ignore rather major problems that exist in Afghanistan. Apparently Taliban and Al-Qaeda members (you remember Al-Qaeda, don't you?) used a car bomb to blow up a bridge, killing fifteen people.

It's at times like these I remember greasy Donald Rumsfeld telling us that"we're going to do for Iraq what we did for Afghanistan" back in August. Just exactly what have we done for Afghanistan really? Women are treated marginally better but the country is still on the precipice of chaos.

Speaking of Afghanistan, according to Ted Rall, American soldiers may have indeed participated in war crimes in Afghanistan during November of 2001.

Unfortunately I suspect that war crimes by Americans may become distressingly common in the next few months if we're going to follow the "Shock and Awe" battle plan described below.

Posted by Tom at 2:21 p.m. CST


Sean-Paul Kelley, who is pro-War, says some things about warbloggers and the coming IraqWar Part II that are quite appropriate in my opinion.

Here's just a bit of it to get you started:

I believe that the proposed invasion of Iraq is a necessary evil. I feel very reluctant about it in just about every aspect. The president and his cabinet have pushed for this war with a host of lies that reek like the Gulf Of Tonkin Incident. Their constantly shifting rationale and secrecy have brought me to the edge of opposing the war just on the basis of their methods. However, I am a serious student of International Relations and I try to be objective and look at the facts. I am not going to do that now. I have done it before. I do not want this war. No one should ever want war. Sometimes it is very sadly necessary.

What I do want to say is that all of you warbloggers out there are...

Click here for more.

Thank you Sean-Paul. It needed to be said.

[Link via Counterspin]

Posted by Tom at 12:31 p.m. CST


I just got finished reading this column by Geov Parrish about the SOTU address and the coming war with Iraq.

This part of it struck me right between the eyes:

But more important is the post-invasion example Washington can then hold up to the rest of the world, of what happens when a recalcitrant government, for any reason, displeases the Americans. What will happen? If only the attention lavished on Bush's speech had also accompanied, last week, the Pentagon's bloodless announcement of how it intended to begin the conquest of Iraq. The plan includes simultaneous ground invasions from north and south; Turkey reversed course and agreed this week -- amidst billions of dollars in American inducements -- to allow U.S. troops to use its military bases. It also includes a sudden decimation of Baghdad by raining down on its people, in two days, some 800 cruise missiles -- more than were used in the entire Gulf War. Harlan Ullman, the military strategist who apparently developed the plan, last week characterized the Baghdad assault thusly:"You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons of Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but minutes." It would be a firestorm, a Dresden with 60 years of new technology. It would be a war crime of quick and staggering proportions.

Such a plan, of course, makes a mockery of Donald Rumsfeld's ritual insistence that the Pentagon takes enormous care to avoid civilian casualties; the plan apparently is to kill a staggering percentage of Baghdad's civilian population in the first day alone.

And the name of the plan is"Shock and Awe." Ostensibly, the name refers to the demoralizing effect such an attack would have on Iraqis, an effect, presumably, similar to the instant (although already planned) surrender of Japan after the gratuitous bombing of Hiroshima and even more gratuitous bombing of Nagasaki. But those were, both military and diplomatically, demonstration attacks -- suggesting what could be done to the imperial rulers themselves and to Tokyo, a city far more valuable and populous than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

In Iraq, Baghdad is the capitol.

I'll admit to being shocked and skeptical of this. How did I miss this? (And that really is a good question, how did I?) I did a google search and quickly found this CBS News story from a week ago that said exactly the same thing.

Here's what the story had to say about the administration's response to being asked about"Shock and Awe":

Not everybody in the Bush Administration thinks Shock and Awe will work. One senior official called it a bunch of bull, but confirmed it is the concept on which the war plan is based.

Oh, so maybe we'll just send 400 cruise missiles in two days instead of 800? If W and the boys target civilians like this, this will be the most immoral thing done by an administration since similar strategic decisions by Nixon regarding the bombing of civilians during the Vietnam conflict. I guess, once again, I shouldn't be surprised. The same people are in charge this time. This is an administration of Nixon/Ford administration retreads after all.

Folks, this will be the type of behavior that would honestly call for war crimes charges. I've been upset because I expect this war will lead to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians being killed. I had no idea hundreds of thousands could be killed in just two days.

If W's administration does this, I'm afraid Helen Thomas will certainly be right -- and I'll have to change my assessment of W from a few days ago.

Any president who takes us into an unnecessary war and kills hundreds of thousands of civilians in a Hiroshima-style attack on a city would have to win by default the title of the"worst president in all of American history."

I just hope, for the world's sake, this truly isn't the battle plan.


Posted by Tom at 9:51 a.m. CST


With this story telling us about the anemic 0.7 percent growth rate in the economy during the fourth quarter, evidence is mounting that we're headed toward the dubya dip folks.

Given today's economic news, following the lead of Atrios and Kos, I'm going to post a link to this wonderful and prescient story from the January 18, 2001 edition the Onion.

I remember reading it at the time and laughing my ass off. I didn't realize then quite how true it would turn out to be, did I?

And, guys, I agree, this supposedly satiric story becomes more and more accurate every day.

Posted by Tom at 9:03 p.m. CST


Kos points us to this story that apparently demonstrates how W and the boys are already trying to dampen expectations for the"evidence" that Powell is going to unveil next week at the U.N.

They're warning us"that no one photo or piece of evidence will conclusively prove the administration's case" and that they'll be showing us a"pattern of behavior" rather than"pictures of warheads."

So, if you're expecting this administration to suddenly to make a good case for war, it's not going to happen.

Kos also points us to this blog entry that exposes the dishonest spin the administration is employing by saying they have the support of"eight European nations" for war with Iraq and thus are not acting unilaterally.

You see, there are still 39 nations that don't support the war currently:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Yugoslavia

Nice try guys. Fortunately, some of us are smart enough to realize when you're shamelessly spinning.

If you'll get a majority of these other 39 nations on board, then we can talk about"having European support" for our war with Iraq.

Posted by Tom at 4:02 p.m. CST


Boy, now Max Sawicky really lets Insty have it in this post about Glenn's"Icky shuffle" regarding anti-war protesters.

I'll give you just a taste so you'll go read the rest of it:

Meanwhile, the Prof and his followers indulge deficiencies, not to mention horrendous crimes, on the part of those they support. We could start and finish with the U.S. government itself, which strikes up alliances of convenience with awful regimes and individuals. Wot the hell, FDR was allied with Stalin.

The purism of IP and many others in re: ANSWER is wholly selective. In the case of Reynolds himself, it could not be more obvious that the basis for this selectivity is a determination to delegitimize anti-war sentiment. (On glennreynolds.com, he pretends to perform a neutral public service by providing a list of web sites pertaining to the war. Nearly all of them support the coming war.) Glenn Reynolds and others practice politics by the use of libel. Evidently they do not feel their arguments are good enough to carry the day. I don't blame them.

Today Mike Kinsley notes the same deficiency in no less than our President. Bush's moral condemnation of Saddam is 15 years too late and illogically narrow in focus. In other words, it is pure, hypocritical opportunism. Iraq is bad because it no longer deploys its badness in service to U.S. interests, as it did in the 1980s.

Newsflash: like all powerful nations from the beginning of time, the U.S. kills innocent people in pursuit of its national interest. Sometimes these interests are defensible, other times not. The 'Saddam-bad' discourse is just foreign policy baby-talk for the dull-witted. The same goes for the associate-with-ANSWER and you're"icky" nonsense.

Go read the rest of it. It really is quite good.

Glenn really is digging himself a deep hole, isn't he?

I think my comments a while back about how many liberal bloggers have decided Glenn's the blogosphere's equivalent of Bill O'Reilly which I know probably rankled some are looking more and more true by the minute.

Posted by Tom at 1:55 p.m. CST


Kevin Drum, in a post about Ari Fleischer, makes the following entertaining observation:

Now, I could have picked pretty much any day's briefing to make this point, but is Ari Fleischer the sorriest son of a bitch in this general vicinity of the Milky Way, or what? As near as I can tell, his job is to get up in front of the press corps every day and stay robotically calm while they rain down abuse on him. His boss never holds press conferences, everyone knows Ari's not going to tell them anything, and it's gotten to the point where reporters just sort of vent on him because there's nothing much more they can do. It's sort of like being manager of the complaint desk at Sears.

Now that, my friends, is what we call a great quip, eh?

Kevin's full of them, be sure to give his blog a frequent read!

Posted by Tom at 12:52 p.m. CST


Michael Kinsley has written a wonderful and withering column on Slate today about the SOTU speech. He argues that good words aren't enough, one needs logical consistency and intellectual honesty to make a solid moral argument.

Here's a bit of it:

And tell us again why we're about to invade Iraq but we're"working with the countries of the region" to pinion North Korea, which is further along the nuclear trail and can't even be bothered to lie about it. Bush's"axis of evil" coinage last year and recent flagrant North Korean nose-thumbing made it almost impossible for Bush to avoid addressing this logical conundrum. His solution was artful but mysterious:"Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula, and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq." He seems to be saying here that the United States should have invaded and conquered North Korea years ago. But as Bush sets it out, the"lesson" of Korea seems to be that if you don't go to war soon enough, you might have a problem years later that can be solved through regional discussions. That doesn't sound so terrible, frankly. Regional discussions can be grim, no doubt, but they're more fun than a war. So, what exactly is this lesson the Korean experience is supposed to offer?

There are actually plenty of differences between the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the one in the Middle East, and good reasons why you might decide to bring Iraq to a crisis and steer North Korea away from one. But all these reasons cut against the Manichean notion of an absolute war against an absolute evil called terrorism. Bush is getting terrific credit for the purity and determination of his views on this subject. But either his own views are dangerously simplistic or he is purposely, though eloquently, misleading the citizenry.

Proclaiming the case for war as the second half of a speech that devoted its first 30 minutes to tax cuts and tort reform also makes the call to arms seem morally unserious. Why are we talking about cars that run on hydrogen at all if the survival of civilization is at stake over the next few months? Bush declared that the best thing to do with government money is to give it back to the taxpayers, and then put on his" compassionate conservative" hat and proposed billions in government spending on the environment and on AIDS in Africa and on a program to train mentors for children of prisoners and on and on. The dollars don't exist to either give back or spend, of course, let alone both, so we'll be borrowing them if Bush has his way, a point he didn't dwell upon.

This orgiastic display of democracy's great weakness—a refusal to acknowledge that more of something means less of something else—undermined the moral seriousness of the call to arms and sacrifice that followed. Sneering at the folly of tax cuts spread over several years instead of right away, Bush failed to note that those gradual tax cuts were part of his own previous tax bill. Bragging that he would hold the increase in domestic discretionary spending to 4 percent a year, Bush probably didn't stop to wonder what that figure was under his tax-and-spend Democrat predecessor. Short answer: lower. These are venial sins in everyday politics, but Bush was striving for something higher. He had the right words for it. But words alone aren't enough.


[Link via Atrios]

Posted by Tom at 12:40 p.m. CST


It's not just Insty that's running the Joe McCarthy playbook by smearing anti-war protesters. The administration has joined in today. They leaked an intelligence document claiming that Iraqi spies are helping to organize anti-war demonstrations in this country.

Americans couldn't be against this war! They must be brainwashed by Iraqi spies!

Yeah! That's the ticket!

I think the administration has now, officially, gone off the deep end.

Posted by Tom at 12:20 p.m. CST


Get this:

The White House postponed a poetry symposium out of concerns it would be politicized after some poets said they wanted to protest military action against Iraq.

The symposium on the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman had been scheduled for Feb. 12. No future date has been announced for the event, to be held by first lady Laura Bush.

"While Mrs. Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum," Noelia Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the first lady, said Wednesday.

Just one more piece of evidence that freedom of speech doesn't really exist at this White House.

Numerous other examples come to mind immediately, don't they?

I'm off to class number two!

[Link via Counterspin]

Posted by Tom at 9:28 a.m. CST


I don't have time to do much more than post a couple of links. Insty still doesn't understand what the big deal is to smear people who oppose the war by trying the old Joe McCarthy"guilt by association" tactic. If you recall I blogged about this a couple of days ago.

Here's Glenn rather ugly response to Hesiod. (You know Glenn's getting defensive when he calls someone"stupid," right?) Hesiod's response is here. I think Hesiod's right about the psychology here.

If you ever wanted to know just how grumpy Glenn would get when the public turned on his boy W and IraqWar II, here it is.

I'd better run to my 8:00 a.m. class.

Posted by Tom at 7:57 a.m. CST


Here's an interesting story that quotes intelligence sources who say there is no demonstrable Saddam-Al Qaeda link and that there's a"low" possibility that Iraq would attack us with chemical or nuclear weapons -- unless provoked by an invasion of course.

President Bush invoked a grim and powerful image in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, asking Americans to imagine what would have happened if the Sept. 11 hijackers had been armed with poison gas or germs.

However, U.S. officials and private analysts said Bush's suggestion that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might give such weapons to terrorists - and the implication that the risk of American retaliation can no longer deter him - stretches the analysis of U.S. intelligence agencies to, and perhaps beyond, the limit.

W asserted in the SOTU address last night that Saddam's regime

"aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own."

According to these intelligence analysts he was lying, wasn't he?

Impressive, huh?

As I suggested yesterday, W's nose would probably grow numerous times during the address.

Look for more whoppers to come as this administration tries desperately to make a case for a war that Americans don't want.

Posted by Tom at 9:05 p.m. CST


This is an interesting story. It appears, according to Colin Powell, that we'd actually help to find Saddam"Satan" Hussein a safe haven if he'd step down.

Now this really is interesting because, of course, we keep hearing from W and the boys that Saddam is so awful that we should just kill him right now -- but if push comes to shove we'd actually help him find some cozy quarters somewhere else.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'd be happy with this too. However, isn't it just a little hypocritical to essentially condemn someone as the devil incarnate while at the same time signalling that we'd help him find asylum if he'd just step down?

Just an observation.

And speaking of hypocrisy, I also love that, if Saddam were to step down, we couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't be tried for war crimes.

Oh, you mean the war crimes he committed with our weapons and our tacit approval?

If we're going to try him for what he did to his people and Iranian soldiers in the 1980s, we might as well go ahead and put most of the foreign policy team of the Reagan and Bush I administrations on trial as well for aiding him and essentially making all of these horrible things possible.

They knew about all these things and didn't do a damn thing.

Posted by Tom at 4:30 p.m. CST


As W's approval numbers continue their freefall of 30 points or more in the last 15 months, it appears the folks at the Republican National Committee are getting a bit irritated about it. Take a look at this memo from RNC senior adviser Matthew Dowd.

Of course, Dowd's right that approval numbers don't necessarily indicate anything at this point for re-election prospects but there are also a large number of polls that show his boss's numbers at about 53%, not the 60% figure he uses. Dowd, not surprisingly, picks the poll with the highest poll numbers of all of them for W in his memo. That's called spin of course.

And I seriously doubt last night's address is going to bump them up much. I've heard from some folks that it appears it is only going to give him a couple of points of bump and that's it.

Posted by Tom at 4:23 p.m. CST


According to this ABC News poll, W's speech last night changed very few minds about his foreign or domestic policies. Those who supported his policies, approved of what he had to say. Those who didn't agree with his policies, didn't. If this speech was aimed at those on the fence with regard to war with Iraq as some journalists have said, it doesn't appear to have worked at all.

BTW, is it my imagination or is the headline for this article astonishing misleading?

Posted by Tom at 12:19 p.m. CST


Hmmm. Either somebody in the administration didn't get the"strategery" memo or the administration was trying to bury this story. Yesterday, the administration quietly announced that they're projecting a $300B deficit for the fiscal year 2003-2004. This will break the deficit record of $290B set by Poppy in 1992. Since W and the boys are quite adept at media manipulation, I suspect they released this little tidbit on the same day as the SOTU address so that it would go largely unnoticed.

I noticed it -- and so did MSNBC which put it on the front page of their website.

Many believe the administration's $300B deficit estimate is actually too low. Salomon Smith Barney thinks the deficit will reach $400B next year. Since the administration has generally lied about things like this all along, I'm willing to bet Salomon Smith Barney is right.

Republicans really are the party of fiscal irresponsibility, aren't they? Of course, the obvious point is that Gore and the Democrats were absolutely right in 2000 when they insisted W and the boys were lying about the impact of their tax cut. Now we're stuck with this idiotic tax plan from 2001 until the deficit reaches some horrible point that makes the folks in congress uncomfortable.

And given the dishonesty of this administration on everything, I don't expect anyone to admit the idiocy of this tax plan any time soon. I can't believe the audacity of trying to pass more tax cuts at the same time it becomes apparent that the last round of tax cuts have done nothing to stimulate the economy and have blasted an enormous deficit hole in the budget.

Posted by Tom at 10:08 a.m. CST


Wonderful column by Gene Lyons this morning about this moron who reviewed Susan McDougal's book for the New York Times. He also suggests it raises numerous questions about the Times itself. Here is the column in its entirety:

Moonbeams and Magnolias at the New York Times

Toward the end of her astonishing review of Susan McDougal's book"The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk" in the New York Times Book Review, Beverly Lowry condescends to give the author some advice. A novelist and professor of creative writing at George Mason University, Lowry thinks McDougal ought to have sought professional help writing her memoirs,"an editor or writer...who would have persuaded her all she had to do was tell the story straight."

This is big talk from a reviewer who couldn't even summarize the book's basic facts competently. According to Lowry, Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation" came up with pretty much of nothing, beyond a felony conviction for McDougal on charges of obstruction of justice and criminal contempt."

In reality, Starr's failure to convict Susan on precisely those charges provides the book's triumphant climactic scene. As Judge George Howard read the jury's"not guilty" verdict on the obstruction charge, McDougal writes,"a cheer went up in the courtroom...We had taken on the most powerful prosecutor in the country, an organization with an unlimited budget and incredible resources, and we had beaten them soundly. But as much as I enjoyed being a part of the victory, I was not naïve enough to believe that the verdict was about Susan McDougal. The entire trial was a referendum on Kenneth Starr, and we had succeeded in showing just how corrupt his investigation was."

A waspish reviewer might sneer that Susan's triumph over her tormentors has a cornball"Erin Brockovich" meets"The Pelican Brief" quality. It would be mean and stupid, but a defensible opinion. Lowry, however, seems completely oblivious that in the end, Susan McDougal did finally talk. She testified for several days in open court during the aforementioned trial. So did three of Starr's prosecutors. The jury believed Susan.

Here at Unsolicited Opinions, Inc., we too have reviewed a bunch of books over the years and have also taught writing to college students. At the expense of pedantry, we'd like to offer our esteemed colleague at George Mason this advice:"Yo, Beverly. Next time, read the damn book."

Assuming minimal competence, Lowry simply cannot have done so. She appears to have skimmed the opening chapters for information confirming her own loopy notions about"girl children from the Deep South"--she's the kind of Professional Southerner who peddles moonbeams to Yankees--then winged it. Her summary of what Whitewater was supposed to have been all about is filled with preposterous errors. Joe Conason exposes a half dozen howlers in Salon.com.

Part of Lowry's problem is simply bad writing. Check this out:"The future president was governor and the McDougals owned a bank and a savings and loan and were buying and selling land and, like a lot of other people they knew, making money hand over fist. Unquestionably, the Clintons took part in Whitewater and irrefutably they and the McDougals trampled on some rights and bent some rules along the way. But they were on a roll, life was good, Arkansas sheltered them, and nobody thought life would ever go any other way."

The syntax is murky, but if that's supposed to mean the Clintons made money on Whitewater, the fact is they irrefutably lost $43,000. As for trampling rights and bending rules, if Lowry's review were a sophomore's paper, I'd write"BE SPECIFIC" in the margin in big red letters. Which rules? What rights? Even the independent counsel's final report stipulates that the Clintons had no knowledge of Jim McDougal's monkey business, which didn't involve Whitewater anyway. The phrase"Arkansas sheltered them" would rate a big"EXPLAIN," because insofar as it means anything, it implies improprieties not in evidence.

True to the moonbeams and magnolias school of bad Southern writing, Lowry speculates that Susan must have been in love with Bill Clinton, a notion her book lampoons, portraying the former Chief Executive as a glib horn-dog who looks awful in jogging shorts. Lowry also questions if"we" can trust McDougal, given what she calls bizarre charges of"embezzlement of $150,000 brought by the orchestra conductor Zubin Mehta, and his wife, Nancy."

Unfortunately, Lowry neglects to mention that the California jury that acquitted Susan of embezzlement in the Mehta case held a press conference denouncing the prosecutor for accusing her without a shred of credible evidence. Several jurors then came to Little Rock to support her in her final showdown with Kenneth Starr. Once again, it's all in the book. To raise such issues without saying so isn't quite as reckless as falsely accusing somebody of two felonies, but it definitely comes under the heading of not"telling the story straight."

As for the New York Times, what is there left to say? The cover-up continues. Mention the Clintons or Whitewater, and the nation's single most influential book review metamorphoses into The Drudge Report. Have its editors no standards of professionalism and intellectual honesty whatsoever?

Great as always, eh?

I think the way the Times botched the Whitewater story was damn near criminal conduct on their part. Unfortunately, the Times and the Washington Post are about the best we've got these days -- and that's a pretty sad statement. There are times that I thank my lucky stars for Krugman, Milbank, Kessler, McGrory, Dionne, and Raspberry. At times they're the only things saving those two papers from being as mediocre as all the rest of them.

Posted by Tom at 9:04 a.m. CST


I didn't get to see the SOTU address tonight, I was teaching a night class -- tonight we talked about Reconstruction. Anyway, I've read some things about it already but I'm not sure I can give you much analysis or reaction until I learn more about it and actually read it.

The one thing that does appear clear is that I'm right that we're going to war as soon as the invasion force is in position (late February or early March). Nothing in the speech tonight changes that at all. All this stuff about"giving the inspectors more time" is just a stalling tactic while we get our forces in position.

Since we're about to go to war against Iraq again, I want you, once again, to review what happened in IraqWar Part I by going here, here, and here.

(For more about this last story, go here.)

Since I have gained such a large number of readers in the last few weeks, many of you may not have had the chance to read these important articles yet.

Go read them now.

You might as well know what's coming folks -- and what you're supporting if you support this war.

Despite what we're going to be told, it's not going to be a" clean war" folks. Thousands of civilians are going to die.

If that's okay with you, go on supporting the war. But at least now you've been educated about it and I've done my job.

Posted by Tom at 10:23 p.m. CST

HOW BAD IS IT? 01-28-03

Here's a breakdown from Missouri's Coordinating Board of Higher Education of how much the cuts in March would be for each Higher Education institution in the state if the state doesn't doesn't bond proceeds from the tobacco settlement.

I'll just state the obvious: these cuts would be absolutely devastating for my institution and all the others across the state. My institution doesn't have much in the way of reserves after last year.

I know securitization may not be a wonderful idea but it's better than no solution at all -- isn't it? Since, for some reason, a tax increase is out of the question, this seems like the only viable alternative.

Posted by Tom at 2:49 p.m. CST


Tim Lambert's update site is quite good today. He argues that this all won't go away (even if Insty, Jane Galt, Cramer, et. al want it to) because even if Lott did the survey his presentation of the data from it was at the very least questionable if not dishonest or downright fraudulent. As one of Tim's readers put it:

I think"question 3" from your last update -- significantly, the one he dodges -- is the key, because many of Lott's defenders seem to think you've shifted to a"different issue" now, when in fact it's very much the same issue. Glenn et. al. seem to believe that the only question about Lott's honesty is whether he told the truth about conducting a survey, when for a trained statistician, doing a slipshod survey with a meaningless sample size, then reporting the result without mentioning that any expert would consider the number sheer garbage, is dishonest. I mean, if he were citing some other survey, at least people could have checked the primary source and raised questions about how well it supported his claim. Here he was using the fact that his survey (which we'll assume for now really happened) was lost to hide the fact that it didn't back his statements -- something that would have been obvious to everyone with stats training if the data had been preserved.

Reynolds wants to claim that this is now merely about the accuracy of Lott's claims, and no longer about his honesty. But the kind of deceptive use of numbers we're talking about is clearly fraudulent for someone who knows better -- which an economist would. This, I think is a point you may want to stress, because it's clear from the non-controversial data we already have. Force 'em to explain why this kind of behavior doesn't count as academic fraud.

This scandal has always been about Lott's honesty in both conducting the alleged survey and, if he did, whether this alleged survey actually provided the results he said it did. Like I said earlier, somehow he's gotten a small sample size of 25 people and claiming that his results showed only 2% of them actually had to discharge the gun.

Again, 2% of 25 people is half a person. How is that possible? Don't come at me with the weighting issue either -- that sounds pretty suspicious as well -- and even makes me wonder if all this survey-driven scholarship isn't a load of you-know-what. That's one of the things I'm most happy about as a historian is that I don't have to conduct surveys for my research. I don't trust most surveys as far as I can throw them -- but that's a different issue for now.

I am also happy to see Mark Kleiman back me up about the absurd behavior of the Bellesiles bloodhounds:

So here's my plea to my gun-rights friends in academia. If you admit that John Lott lacks the basic honesty required for citizenship in the Republic of Science, that doesn't mean you have to give up your guns and join the Brady Campaign. You're perfectly free to believe in an individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment and oppose gun registration. So you ought to be willing to call this one on its merits.

The inclination to circle the wagons against a co-partisan under attack is a strong one. But Lott is now beyond reasonable defense. Those who were most vigorous in pursuing Bellesiles, and most contemptuous of those who kept defending Bellesiles as the evidence of his duplicity mounted, ought to be the first to say"Enough is enough, already."

Cut your losses, fellas.

Absolutely. But there's much more going on here I think. As I've said many times, these folks only went after Bellesiles tooth and nail because they disagreed with his thesis and now they believe Lott's flimsy alibi because they agree with his thesis. To admit that's what's going on would essentially destroy the"dishonest libruls supported Bellesiles" morality play that is so important for their particular worldview to work.

They won't dare admit that they're doing the same thing Bellesiles's supporters did because it threatens more than Lott. It calls into question their entire cartoonish view of academia itself.

And they wouldn't dare do that, would they?

Posted by Tom at 1:34 p.m. CST


Paul Krugman has an excellent column this morning about how W has already broken the promises he made in last year's address.

Here's some of it:

A lot depends on whether Mr. Bush is held accountable for the promises he made in his last State of the Union address.

For there was more to that speech than the axis of evil (a phrase, by the way, that has vanished from Mr. Bush's vocabulary, along with the name of that guy he promised to bring in dead or alive). He assured those who worried about red ink that"our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-lived." He offered comfort for those who remembered his father's"jobless recovery," which felt like a continuing recession:"When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs."

Fast-forward a year. We now know that the"small" budget deficit will rise above $300 billion, and stay there. Even the administration's own, ever-optimistic budget officials now concede that we face deficits as far as the eye can see. Meanwhile, payrolls continue to decline; since the working-age population keeps rising, it's becoming ever harder for ordinary Americans to get jobs, or keep them.

And there's a good chance things will get a lot worse: with markets sliding, consumers wilting, businesses fearful about the effects of war and oil prices rising, the pieces are in place for a full-blown double-dip recession. And the second dip would take us much further down than the first. So can Mr. Bush convince us that his latest tax cut is just the tonic the economy needs?


The administration's credibility problem is made worse by the high casualty rate among top economic officials, and the uninspiring quality of their replacements. Today is the first day of hearings for John Snow, the administration's choice for Treasury secretary. One official I spoke to was rueful:"I thought Paul O'Neill wasn't suited to being Treasury secretary; he'd have been better off running a railroad. Now they've picked a man who ran a railroad."

But that's not why he was chosen, according to CBS Market Watch:"He was picked because he's a lobbyist, a schmoozer, a master salesman" — and a member of no fewer than nine country clubs.

Still, nobody razzle-dazzles 'em like Mr. Bush. Tonight we'll see if he's good enough to make us forget last year's promises.

Actually, I suspect W will take a simpler strategy. He won't really even talk about the economy much at all. He'll dazzle us all by obfuscation. He'll try scare us all to death about what a threat Saddam is to us.

We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 12:15 p.m. CST


This story from MSNBC/Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler is quite frightening. It appears that W is about to start dribbling out intelligence to try and whip up support for the war because the U.N. report supplied the world with a mixed verdict. To have not shared this information with inspectors already is astonishingly dishonest, isn't it?

This article also reveals that the administration is essentially daring the U.N. Security Council to veto the resolution authorizing force against Iraq:

In a speech Sunday before an international gathering of business and foreign leaders in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell tried to address the growing doubts about the United States. “Trust is a crucial commodity,” he said, and he acknowledged that many at the session had questioned “whether America can be trusted to use its enormous political, economic and, above all, military power wisely and fairly.”

“I believe — no, I know with all of my heart — that the United States can,” Powell said. He cited numerous examples in history, in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kuwait and Europe after World War II, when he said the United States liberated a nation and then sought no special favors or domination in return.

Turning the tables around, Powell noted, “Today, not a single nation, not one, trusts Saddam and his regime.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, speaking last week before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, was also peppered with questions about trust, with one audience member noting that the United States had said “trust us” during the Vietnam War, and “it turned out to be untrustworthy.”

Wolfowitz replied: “I must say I sort of find it astonishing that the issue is whether you can trust the U.S. government. The real issue is, can you trust Saddam Hussein?”

Administration officials said that in the coming weeks they will begin to declassify certain intelligence about Iraqi behavior to build support for military action. James M. Lindsay, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the Bush administration can also exploit fears by some Security Council members that unilateral action would make the United Nations irrelevant.

“All permanent members know that if Washington carries through with its threat, it will be a deathblow to the Security Council,” Lindsay said. “Washington will give them a difficult choice: Do you want to save Saddam or save the Security Council?”

This is outrageous. So much for cooperation, eh? We're essentially threatening to destroy the U.N. if they don't support us. My goodness. These are the pros, right? This is about as amateurish and irresponsible a foreign policy as I've ever seen.

It is pretty ironic that Colin Powell mentions Afghanistan as a success, considering what's going on there today, isn't it? It's amazing how the war that's supposed to be over raises its ugly head once again at the wrong time for W, isn't it?

BTW, where's Osama?

Posted by Tom at 11:43 a.m. CST


I don't know how I missed this great piece by Michael Kinsley on how W was helped by Yale's Affirmative Action program for children of Yale alumni.

Here's a bit of it:

Opponents and supporters of affirmative action actually tend to agree that there is something bad, generally called quotas, and something good, generally called something like diversity. Their argument is about where you draw the line. Bush calls the Michigan 20-point bonus a quota, and his critics insist that it is not. But both sides are wrong. If your sole measure of the success of any arrangement is whether it increases the representation of certain minorities, then it doesn't really matter what procedure you use to achieve that result: some people are getting something desirable because of their race, and an equal number of people are not getting it for the same reason.

Of course a series of somebodies didn't get into Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School because their blood wasn't as blue as Bush's, and other somebodies didn't get a chance to own the Texas Rangers or to use the capital Bush borrowed to buy his share of the team because these somebodies were nobodies. Life is unfair. A legitimate criticism of affirmative action is that it politicizes life chances and focuses blame on race. If you get turned down by Yale to make room for a George W., you're not even aware of it. But if you get turned down by the University of Michigan, you're likely to blame affirmative action (if you're white), even though the numbers say you probably would have been turned down anyway.

So ask yourself: Would you rather have a gift of 20 points out of 150 to use at the college of your choice? Or would you rather have the more amorphous advantages President Bush has enjoyed at every stage of his life? If the answer to that isn't obvious to you, even 20 extra points are probably not enough to get you into the University of Michigan.


Posted by Tom at 11:09 a.m. CST


Atrios points us to this interesting story on Norman Schwarzkopf's views about IraqWar Part II. He's pretty skeptical about this one folks.

BTW, is it my imagination or does the last half of this story read as more or less an administration attack on Schwartzkopf? I can't help but suspect the administration led the reporter to these sources in the story.

Posted by Tom at 9:29 a.m. CST


After reading this story it appears that war with Iraq is now all but inevitable. For some reason, opposition be damned, this administration is going to get its war with Iraq and that's all there is to it.

This is one of those times when I can't help but wonder if there was any way that Saddam could have avoided this war. At this point I'm afraid to say the answer to that question is no. I didn't matter what he did this administration was going to war against him. I mean if we can jump on the report Hans Blix delivered today as a reason to go to war nearly anything will qualify."They're not being totally cooperative but we've found no evidence of WMD" is a reason for war? My goodness. I'm guessing nothing would forestall W's warmongering machine now. They've played fast and loose with the truth over the last few months. Look for W's nose to grow tomorrow night on several occasions.

I can't help but remember my very first (rather longish) post in August which was, of course, about the war. I don't think I was very far off at all -- maybe a bit off on the timing but that's about it. Very little has changed in my mind since then.

Here's what I had to say:

As a historian, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the Bush Administration's dogged pursuit of a war with Iraq. I'm trying to think of a time in our country's past when we have pursued what is, in the words of Maureen Dowd, a"war without provocation." Despite the fact that nearly every potential ally -- with the notable exception of the British, who are beginning to waver as well -- is against a war with Iraq, despite the fact that it appears this is a potential quagmire, we're going ahead anyway. The whole thing is baffling and out of character for the United States. The closest analogous historical situations are the Spanish-American War and the threatened 1993 invasion of Haiti which ultimately was not necessary (interestingly enough, the Republicans were the ones who were being"unpatriotic" back then, opposing it all the way, even threatening to withhold the money from the Federal budget for the invasion).

However, both of these analogies don't quite fit right. While there is ample precedent of the United States intervening militarily in other nation's affairs throughout the nation's history, there is no precedent for a large-scale attack on another nation without a clear provocation. I'm searching madly for a historical comparison I can draw and I'm coming up with blanks. Sure, I know we sent the Marines into several nations in Central and South America several times in the first two decades of the twentieth century for short periods but it's just not the same sort of thing. Any assistance from those in the historical community in identifying similar events in our nation's past would be greatly appreciated. This is a pretty practical concern for me: I'd like to be able to explain this developing situation to my students this fall.

Several things perplex me about this looming war. Amazingly, the Pentagon is clearly against this proposed invasion of Iraq. Over the past several weeks, they have leaked invasion plans several times to the press in an effort, it appears, to forestall the invasion. They also appear to be supportive of congressional hearings into the planning for the potential invasion. This is pretty bizarre. I can't think of a time when an administration actually had to browbeat the Pentagon into making war. They believe the invasion to be ill-conceived and, like currently in Afghanistan, there is no apparent exit strategy. However furious Rumsfeld and other administration hawks may be, they appear to be paying little attention to what these military leaders are saying. The folks in the Pentagon think this looks too much like a potential Vietnam-like situation. Therefore, frustrated that their concerns are being ignored by the administration, military leaders have begun to go directly to the press.

Also, many in the press have already begun to talk about the war as if it is unavoidable. A story by Andrea Mitchell that appeared on MSNBC's website over the weekend is typical. The upshot of her article is that we're just going to war with Iraq in the next few months and that's that.

However, there are some prominent Americans who are beginning to speak out against this seemingly inevitable war. One of the most surprising is Dick Armey, the soon-to-retire House majority leader. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana has also said he doesn't believe the administration has made a good case for a war with Iraq. The administration certainly has presented no evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the September 11th attacks. In fact, the religious zealots in Al-Quaeda hate Hussein's secular government and believe Saddam to be an infidel. Many experts in Middle Eastern affairs will tell you that Hussein and bin Laden are more like enemies than allies. While Saddam clearly supports Palestinian terrorists in Israel (even paying money to the families of suicide bombers), the same cannot be said about Al-Quaeda.

So, why the rush for war? Many in the press are already arguing that the real cause of this war may be domestic politics and a desire on the part of Bush the younger to finally rid the world of his father's nemesis. Some have even argued, as I have in an earlier column on HNN, that the real reason for the rush to begin an attack on Iraq may be simple domestic politics. As the congressional Republicans find themselves in real political trouble because of the economy in the mid-term elections, a war would provide them with possibly the only chance to maintain their hold on the House of Representatives. Given the attitude of the electorate, I think the Senate is long out of reach for Republicans.

I guess I'm cynical but I expect airstrikes in mid-October, just in time for the elections. These airstrikes will be followed by an invasion involving several hundred thousand soldiers next year that I just hope isn't the quagmire it could be. I'm hoping I'm wrong. One thing is for sure, if we invade Iraq we'll find out if Saddam has any weapons of mass destruction. If he's got them, he'll use them on our invasion force. I suspect that's the part that really frightens the folks in the Pentagon.

Current conservative estimates are that at least 1,000 Americans will lose their lives in such an invasion. And, even if Donald Rumsfeld believes we can do for Iraq what we did for Afghanistan (which actually hasn't improved life much for the average Afghani), the costs are likely to be considerable. I find the whole situation pretty frustrating as a historian. I can't find anything in the past that prepares me for what's coming and what this administration is likely to do. After receiving nary a positive word from our allies worldwide, most administrations would have given up on an invasion of Iraq long ago, but not this one.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of American history doesn't provide me with a guide as to what's going to happen next. Although it's tempting, at this point I won't argue that the Bush administration is behaving entirely irrationally but they're clearly not following any established historical precedent. As a historian, that is truly a bitter pill to swallow.

The only thing I'd take back now is in that last paragraph. After months of reading and discussing this potential war I do now think the administration is behaving quite irrationally. They're going to fight this unilateral war despite the fact that most Americans and most in the international community oppose it. This war also has the potential to be an utter disaster by destabilizing a region, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, putting our own servicemen at risk, and actually increasing our risk of terrorism at home and abroad for the forseeable future.

Saddam's neighbors don't even consider him a threat! Why the hell should we?

Nearly six months after I started writing this blog, I'm still perplexed by this administration's head-long drive for war in the face of what appears to me to be all reason. It very well may ultimately be W's undoing as a president. If he pursues a unilateral war that the majority of Americans oppose, it had better be short and successful -- and Iraq had better become stable soon after the war. It also could literally blow up in his face.

However, even if the war is short and successful, W can still relive his father's experience of twelve years ago of watching public support vanish in an astonishingly short amount of time. His poll numbers on the economy already mirror those of his father and the economy appears to be heading into a"dubya dip" as we speak. Part of me is tempted to say W is pursuing this war for domestic reasons -- to distract Americans from the bleak economic present but I'm not sure that's true. W seems to truly believe this war is necessary.

W is rolling the dice folks -- and he's gambling with the future of a volatile region of the world and with the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand this gamble.

But all indications are he's going to follow through with it.

And I'm still baffled as to why.

Posted by Tom at 9:18 p.m. CST


I just posted this to the Political State Report:

The budget crisis in Missouri is getting grave -- and I'm not sure the Republicans in the State House and Senate grasp quite how grave.

Here's a bit from this story in the Southeast Missourian (Southeast Missouri State University's newspaper) about what these cuts could mean to that institution:

The Missouri Legislature must authorize the use of tobacco settlement money before the end of February if the state is to avoid slashing education spending this spring, Gov. Bob Holden said Tuesday.

State colleges could face combined spending cuts of $90 million to $175 million, he said in his visit to Southeast Missouri State University. The governor also said that Missouri's public school districts could face cuts of $175 million to $260 million.

This may mean up to $8 million in budget cuts for Southeast, Holden told school officials during his visit.

Holden has urged lawmakers to authorize the sale of bonds to cover the $300 million shortfall in the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The bonds would be retired with money from Missouri's settlement with the tobacco industry. The state is slated to get $4.5 billion over 25 years from the settlement.

Both the state Senate and the state House overwhelmingly approved the use of tobacco money in the 2002 legislative session.

But Holden worries that the Legislature, now under GOP control in both chambers, might not give the final spending approval needed to issue the bonds.

Both state Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, and House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, have expressed concern about Holden's plan.

When asked about the tobacco bond issue Tuesday, House Majority Floor Leader Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said discussions are ongoing.

A decision on bonds should be made by February because making cuts in education any later would place an undue hardship on schools' budgeting choices, the governor said.

Holden said eight states already have issued bonds, and eight others are pursuing similar financing plans.

If the state budget ax falls, Southeast could lose $4 million to $8 million in state funding, school president Dr. Ken Dobbins said following a meeting with Holden.

Dobbins said the university wouldn't raise tuition this semester to make up such a shortfall.

"We will have to borrow the money," he said.

Holden delivered the budget warning first in a meeting at the university with Dobbins and Quentin Wilson, interim commission of higher education in Missouri, and later in the afternoon at a news conference at the University Center. About 50 university officials, students and reporters attended the news conference.

This would be devastating to Higher Ed in Missouri which has already taken the brunt of the cuts in the state. We're pricing even moderate income Missourians out of public higher ed at this point.

It's time for the Republicans in the legislature to do something besides talk. This tobacco bond thing doesn't seem like that crazy a solution to me. What's the big deal? Again, for some reason many Republicans in this state seem to think you can always cut more or that there's some sort of magical pot o' gold down in Jeff City that Bob Holden is hiding in his office.

We've reached the point where the state is cutting into the bone folks.

Where's the leadership?

Posted by Tom at 3:35 p.m. CST


I'll add my voice to that of Atrios and encourage you to be sure and participate in Wolf Blitzer's "Question of the Day" today.

I like the results so far.

It seems like a no-brainer to me.

Posted by Tom at 2:38 p.m. CST

JEFF COOPER IS... 01-27-03


I discovered this a couple of days ago and I feel bad that I didn't link to him until now. Be sure to go patronize Cooped Up.

I've got to go pretend I know something about the Constitution now. Back later.

Posted by Tom at 10:43 a.m. CST


Conservative columnist Steve Chapman really lets Bush have it in this column about the foolishness of W's foreign policy.

Here's a bit of it:

For the last year, the Bush administration has been striving to mobilize the world on Iraq, and it has finally succeeded. Everyone is coming together--against us.

The United States is finding out that being the world's only superpower--or"hyperpower," as we're known, pejoratively, in Europe--can be far less pleasant than we might have expected. Oscar Wilde once said of George Bernard Shaw that"he has no enemies, and none of his friends like him." That's the current plight of the U.S. We're powerful enough that no one wants to become our target, and powerful enough that no one wishes us too well.

President Bush has shown a knack for helping old rivals find common ground. The French and the Germans spent most of the last century killing each other, restraining each other, or eyeing each other warily, but in recent weeks they've stood shoulder to shoulder against Washington. The Russians and Chinese, who are normally about as brotherly as Cain and Abel, have joined forces to resist Bush's policies.

All of these countries, you may remember, were firmly on our side in the war on Al Qaeda. But thanks to his obsession with Iraq, Bush has managed to turn sympathy into resentment. Three of those four nations have vetoes on the UN Security Council, which they could use to prevent us from getting a resolution authorizing a march on Baghdad.

The administration, not content with the distance that has opened between us and these onetime allies, is working hard to widen the rift. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the carping from backwaters like Berlin and Paris:"You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe." Of course they were also a central component of the alliance that won the Cold War, but who remembers ancient history?


Now go read the rest of it.

Posted by Tom at 9:29 a.m. CST


Hesiod points us to this post by Insty in which, once again, Insty employs a classic McCarthyistic style of argumentation. He's pretty good at it.

Hesiod does a good job of taking"Objectively pro-Osama" Insty on:

Because anti-war protests were organized by an odious group ["A.N.S.W.E.R."] It, therefore, delegitimizes the thousands...no...tens of thousands, no...HUNDREDS of thousands of protestors who either A) couldn't give two figs about"A.N.S.W.E.R.," or B) have never heard of them.

This is like arguing that George W. Bush is a swindler because his brother Neil is one.

Dubyah may well be a swindler. But it's all his own doing. It has nothing to do with Neil's Silverado shenanigans.

Or, how about this one Glenn? If a"gun rights" protest march is sponsored and organized by a bunch of neo-confederate, racist, wackos, does that de-legitimize the substance of what the march is about?

I don't accuse you of condoning or participating in academic fraud, merely because the administration of your University does that in the context of protecting its football team.


Once again, whenever something flusters Insty he tends to return to the old tried and true Joe McCarthy playbook -- question your opponent's patriotism and/or toss something else out there for folks to chew on so they don't realize how weak your own arguments are (that last strategy is called obfuscation).

It's pretty pathetic actually. Glenn knows the anti-war people aren't all communist sympathizers but he's throwing that out so that people will talk more about that than the fact that the anti-war folks have some pretty good arguments and come from all across the political spectrum. As Hesiod said, it's an attempt at delegitimizing the opposition to the war.

It also seems a bit desperate, don't you think? I mean, Glenn's watching public support for his hero's policies vanish into thin air and it must bug him quite a bit -- that's certainly what it looks like from here.

Posted by Tom at 8:42 a.m. CST


Right on the edge between satire and truth -- that's where Andy Borowitz's humor resides:


US Prepared to Fight With or Without Reason, President Assures Nation

Amid growing calls for a good reason to go to war with Iraq, President Bush warned today that finding such a reason was “like a needle in a haystack” and could take months.

“There are those who would have us spend month upon month trying to find a good reason for this war,” the President said in his weekly radio address. “While it would be nice to have such a reason, we are fully prepared to go forward without one.”

The President’s words were echoed at the Pentagon today, where Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that it is “the duty of the Iraqis to give us a reason for this war, not the other way around.”

Mr. Wolfowitz cautioned that if the United States delays attacking Iraq until a persuasive reason for such a war can be found, “we’ll be looking at some really bad weather over there.”

Bush administration sources say that over the next few days the White House may start making its case to the American people that “the weather” is a good enough reason for waging war in Iraq.

“It’s not exactly the same thing as proving that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but we believe that most Americans will agree that bad weather is a good reason to attack another country,” one White House aide said.

As for the weather in Iraq, meteorological forecasts for February predict temperatures in the forties, partly cloudy skies, and a ninety-five percent chance of ten thousand bombing sorties a day.

It's about Super Bowl time folks.

Go Buccaneers!

Posted by Tom at 4:54 p.m. CST


You ought to go read Tim Lambert's Lott update website today. He's got quite a nice roundup of yesterday's events. Tim also points to this interesting post by Insty in which Insty tries, as is his strategy, to blame this all on people looking for payback for the Bellesiles affair. Tim wonders who these people are?

I suspect I'm one of the folks he's referring to. Insty is showing the usual courtesy he does to me of referring to me without letting his readers read what I actually have to say. I suspect he knows he is mischaracterizing my arguments but doesn't want his readers to be able to fact-check him. It's pretty darned dishonest.

As my readers will know, what I've been doing is pointing out the absolute hypocrisy of the gun rights folks -- especially the Bellesiles bloodhounds -- in trying to sweep this matter under the rug quickly by accepting Lott's flimsy alibi as the end of the matter. When the shoe's on the other foot, it appears they're just as bad as Bellesiles' supporters were in believing the lamest of excuses because they agree with Lott's thesis. They're doing the same thing and they don't want to admit it.

Of course, Insty is also employing one of his favorite tactics. When questions arise about something that make him a little uncomfortable, instead of looking deeper into the matter Insty simply lashes out at those who disagree with him by questioning their motives. Often, he then refuses to blog on the matter again. That's what happened with the Martha Burk thing if you'll recall. We'll see.

I don't know how many times I've seen this in the last six months so it's a familiar tactic to me. I don't get surprised when I see it anymore.

Posted by Tom at 12:40 p.m. CST


After reading about this David Gross guy who is Lott's alibi, I decided to do a bit of research on the internet. As is no surprise, I found him listed as one of the "hardcore members" of a group calling itself Minnesota Concealed Carry Reform Now.

That certainly makes him qualify, like most of the gun rights bloggers, as a"true believer" in Lott's thesis now, doesn't it? As an activist on this issue it's also likely he'd like nothing else than to help Lott out of a jam, wouldn't he? That raises some very important doubts about his credibility now, doesn't it?

I also found this interesting letter to the editor of a Minnesota newspaper during the Washington, D.C. sniper crisis.

Boy, you ought to try to wade through this thing, filled with aspersions about those"instant pundits" who"would deny the Second Amendment," and who"beat the drum for the elimination of the right to keep and bear arms. They dance on the graves of the innocent victims and glory in their spilled blood."

That sure sounds like a reasonable guy now, doesn't it? I'm sure he'd never say anything dishonest to support his own views of gun rights now, would he?

Now, just so know just what part of the gun"enthusiast" spectrum this guy comes from, I'll quote you the last couple of paragraphs of his letter here:

What is continuing to happen in the Washington, D.C. area has nothing to do with the type of firearm (we don't know what it is, at this point, as there are so many variants on this theme) or caliber of ammunition (presumably one of the most popular, but even THAT hasn't been completely determined, yet). What is happening is that someone, or some group, has decided to terrorize an area by randomly shooting innocent people going about their everyday affairs of life. I, personally, lean toward the theory that some Al Quaida operatives are using their training to inflict mass terror, without mass destruction, by methodically (that's the scary part) impairing the feeling of security of the individual.



Posted by Tom at 9:48 a.m. CST

HMMMMM... 01-25-03

There's an interesting story developing that I've learned about via Atrios and Interesting Times tonight.

In the last week it has come out in the media that Scott Ritter, former U.N. weapons inspector and vocal critic of W's drive for war against Iraq, was arrested in June 2001 on suspicion of attempting to set up a rendezvous with what he thought was a sixteen-year-old girl. Ultimately, the charges against Ritter were dropped and the records were sealed.

The timing is, of course, very suspicious. On the eve of a war against Iraq this has all the appearances of an attempt to silence or at least discredit one of the more effective critics of the administration. First of all, the records in this case were sealed and whoever leaked them to the press was quite simply breaking the law. They have also violated Ritter's civil rights as well.

Now, also suspiciously, U.S. attorneys William Pericak and Thomas Spina, Jr. have decided the government may pursue federal charges against Ritter based on what they have heard in the press about Ritter's alleged rendezvous attempt. Pericak and Spina have received a copy of Ritter's file in the New York case just today it appears.

Of course, the most curious thing of all is who the judge in Ritter's case in 2001 was -- his judge was a fellow named Thomas J. Spargo. Spargo is not exactly a household name but, if you recall from a couple of years back, he's a well-known Republican lawyer and activist who played a role in the mob demonstration that shut down the vote-counting in Miami during the recount battle of 2000. In fact, I recall it was quite controversial that he took part in this disgraceful demonstration since he was serving as a judge at the same time in New York. Anyway, Spargo is the judge who put the seal on Ritter's record in 2001 and, presumably, was in charge of making sure that none of this information was made public.

Folks, this really stinks, doesn't it?

This sounds like something Nixon's dirty tricks boys would do, doesn't it?

Oh yeah, that's right. The Nixon boys are in charge once again.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised then, should we?

Posted by Tom at 8:19 p.m. CST


In a wonderful post today, Digby apologizes for believing that story in Time magazine that said W had revived the practice of sending a wreath to be put on Jefferson Davis's grave. After all, the righty bloggers have insisted that lefty bloggers who posted on it (I didn't) owe W a personal apology.

As a gracious gesture, Digby apologizes. He then suggests that some other apologies should be coming soon:

Now, I realize that this will cause a bandwidth crisis that could presage the end of the Internet as we know it, but there can be no logical consistency in requiring me to apologize for a post that linked to a Time article (to which I merely appended"Karl Rove makes Lee Atwater look like an amateur") without also requiring that Republicans and the press apologize for 8 solid years of character assassination and smears against the Clinton administration. (And I would say that the Gores deserve a mea culpa too, for the lies perpetrated against them by the press and the GOP during campaign 2000.)

I do look forward to Rush Limbaugh and all of his imitators, the entire Barbizon School of Dyed Blond Former Prosecutors, the editorial board of the New York Times and the Washington Post, William Safire, Maureen Dowd and every other columnist, Lucianne Goldberg and her coven of hideous bitches, AND EVERY OTHER REPUBLICAN WHO SAID THAT CLINTON WAS A CRIMINAL, to now prostrate themselves at the feet of Bill and Hillary for the despicable, cruel and outrageous lies they spread from the years 1992 through the present.

If I've got to apologize publicly for posting one inaccurate article, the entire Republican establishment will be spending the rest of its natural life trying to find the time to eat and sleep in between confessions of guilt.

Better get started, Kids. I suggest that you begin with the false allegations of holding up Air Force One with a haircut, go on to the bogus accusations of influencing Beverly Bassett on Madison Guarantee (and ALL Whitewater related smears for that matter.) Don't forget Vince Foster's much investigated"murder," through Safire's"scoop" that Hillary was about to be indicted and just keep going until you hit Clinton's illegitimate love child and the phony White House trashing story.

Once you are through with all that, then come back for the next round of apologies to Al Gore for the series of lies told about him during the campaign. (And you might want to send a couple over to your fellow Republican, John McCain, too.)

After all that, then maybe we can be considered even. I have apologized for the harm I did to George W. Bush by repeating an inaccurate story.

The ball is in your court now, fellas.

Marvelous, eh?

And, of course, absolutely on target.

Update: Oops. I forgot the link. Digby's post is here. While we're talking about the failed Clinton witchhunts, I love Atrios's quip that Republicans spent $10M for each inch of Clinton's penis but only want to spend $3M finding out about 9/11. It certainly does lets you know where their priorities are, doesn't it?

Posted by Tom at 6:09 p.m. CST

MADNESS 01-25-03

My goodness. Dr. Strangelove, er, Donald Rumsfeld, who in addition to veterans just recently insulted the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has ordered military planners to draw up plans for tactical nuclear strikes in a war with Iraq.

Get this:

Military officials have been focusing their planning on the use of tactical nuclear arms in retaliation for a strike by the Iraqis with chemical or biological weapons, or to preempt one, Arkin says. His report, based on interviews and a review of official documents, appears in a column that will be published in The Times on Sunday.

Administration officials believe that in some circumstances, nuclear arms may offer the only way to destroy deeply buried targets that may contain unconventional weapons that could kill thousands.

Some officials have argued that the blast and radiation effects of such strikes would be limited.

But that is in dispute. Critics contend that a bunker-buster strike could involve a huge radiation release and dangerous blast damage. They also say that use of a nuclear weapon in such circumstances would encourage other nuclear-armed countries to consider using such weapons in more kinds of situations and would badly undermine the half-century effort to contain the spread of nuclear arms.


In the last year, Bush administration officials have repeatedly made clear that they want to be better prepared to consider the nuclear option against the threat of"weapons of mass destruction" in the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. The current planning, as reported by Arkin, offers a concrete example of their determination to follow through on this pledge.

Arkin also says that the Pentagon has changed the bureaucratic oversight of nuclear weapons so that they are no longer treated as a special category of arms but are grouped with conventional military options.

A White House spokesman declined to comment Friday on Arkin's report, except to say that"the United States reserves the right to defend itself and its allies by whatever means necessary."


In a policy statement issued only last month, the White House said the United States"will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force -- including through resort to all of our options -- to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States."

One year ago, the administration completed a classified Nuclear Posture Review that said nuclear weapons should be considered against targets able to withstand conventional attack; in retaliation for an attack with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons; or"in the event of surprising military developments." And it identified seven countries -- China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria -- as possible targets.

The same report called on the government to develop smaller nuclear weapons for possible use in some battlefield situations. Both the United States and Russia already have stockpiles of such tactical weapons, which are often small enough to be carried by one or two people yet can exceed the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in World War II.

So, let me get this straight. We're now essentially considering letting the nuclear genie out of the bottle once again against a nation that is no real threat to us in any way. The horrifying implications of this are just mind-boggling.

I think it's safe to say we've reached a very troubling and frightening time in this little IraqWar scenario, haven't we? As out of touch with reality as this administration often is, it is genuinely terrifying to remember that W has his incompetent finger on the button, isn't it?

I really wish I could tell you that W was smart enough to know this whole idea is sheer madness.

I can't.

Posted by Tom at 9:09 a.m. CST

IRAQ GETS A B 01-24-03

International support for Mr. Bush's war should virtually vanish in the wake of the announcement that the U.N. weapons inspectors are going to give Iraq a "B" grade on its compliance with the U.N. resolution.

As someone who gives grades all the time, a B isn't bad folks. Hans Blix describes their compliance as"quite satisfactory." That does sound like a B, doesn't it?

You'll notice in this story the administration is beginning to ponder putting the war off a bit to placate allies.

Look for another presidential temper tantrum (I still find that seal really funny, don't you?) either over the weekend or early next week. This one may be even uglier than the last one.

All of this should certainly make for an interesting State of the Union address next week. W's performance could ultimately put the nail in W's coffin on public support for IraqWar Part II.

As always, we'll see.

Posted by Tom at 8:46 p.m. CST


As a historian, I had this figured out right off the bat (that's why they pay me the, uh, small bucks) but it's still an extremely cool post over at Wampum.

Be sure to go take a look.

Posted by Tom at 4:22 p.m. CST


Although I may, at this point in time, disagree with Helen Thomas that W is "the worst president in all of American history," I certainly admire her ability to go toe-to-toe with Golem, er, uh, Ari Fleischer.

Take a look at this exchange from today:

Q Who in this country, beside the President and his courtiers, want to go to war with Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware of anybody here who wants to go to war with Iraq, Helen. But the President very much wants to protect the peace by making sure that Saddam Hussein cannot engage in war against us.

Q He's aware that there is widespread opposition to war in this country?

MR. FLEISCHER: Do you think that the majority of the Americans are opposed to war with Iraq, Helen?

Q I think so. What do you think?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think if you take a look at all the public surveys on this issue, there's a lot of Americans who believe that Saddam Hussein does, indeed, pose a threat. And they believe --

Q They'll give their brothers, their husbands, their children?

MR. FLEISCHER: -- and they believe that if the President, knowing what he knows, makes the determination that the best way to protect the American people from the risks that we have seen our nation is vulnerable to --

Q So he believes people want to go to war?

MR. FLEISCHER: -- is to disarm Saddam Hussein from having weapons of mass destruction, the President will make a case --

Q We have weapons of mass destruction. Eight other countries have them.

MR. FLEISCHER: And how many resolutions has the United Nations passed urging us to not have the weapons that we have that have successfully kept the peace for 50 years?

Q How many other nations have defied U.N. resolutions and gotten away with it?

MR. FLEISCHER: None like Saddam Hussein on a measure that has been this unequivocal, where the world has called on him --

Q I could give you chapter and verse otherwise.

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm aware that you try to.

And Ari quickly went on to another question without answering Helen Thomas's. Boy, he didn't want to deal with that question at all, did he?

I'm very glad we've got folks like Helen Thomas in the press corps. It's too bad there aren't more like her. Our press has more or less become this administration's stenographers so it's nice to see someone in the press actually do their job, isn't it?

Of course, I have the utmost respect for Thomas. I just think it's a little early to be making historical pronouncements on W's presidency.

As one of my colleagues in the department put it this morning:

"W's certainly got that potential. He's like that triple-A prospect who looks like he's going to make the Hall of Fame but you're going to have to wait to see. He certainly could be a Hall of Fame bad president and early indications are quite good but it's still just too early to tell."

Posted by Tom at 2:02 p.m. CST


Tim Lambert has yet another first-class roundup of today's developments in the developing Lott scandal.

Today's developments include a disgraceful whitewash from everyone's favorite neo-Confederate racist Robert Stacey McClain of the Moonie-owned Washington Times, and even a picture of Mary Rosh! You'll notice that some other folks have begun to note the hypocrisy of Insty with regard to the unequal treatment of the Lott and Bellesiles scandals.

I think it's safe to say that Insty is"objectively pro-Lott," eh?

Be sure to head on over for an update!

Update: Ted Barlow posts a challenge to Jane Galt, who has been practically breaking her arm patting herself on the back for her role in the John Lott affair.

Predictably, Jane falls into the gun rights true believers camp that has decided that Lott has been vindicated. Ted believes he can convince her otherwise. I wish him good luck.

Like Insty, Cramer, et. al, I'm sure Galt was just looking for an excuse to believe Lott because she agrees with him. She has that excuse now and I'm sure believes it's time to move on.

Posted by Tom at 12:41 p.m. CST


Andy Borowitz does it again:


France, Germany ‘Not Unreluctant to Not Join,’ President Says

After getting a less than enthusiastic response to his call for a “coalition of the willing” to disarm Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, President Bush modified his request today, asking France and Germany to join the U.S. in a “coalition of the not unwilling.”

“The United States of America, along with a coalition of the not unwilling, will send a clear message to Mr. Saddam Hussein: we are not unprepared to not accept your unwillingness to disarm,” Mr. Bush said.

In Germany, diplomats were muted in their response to the President’s statement, saying that it would take more time to interpret precisely what it meant.

But in Paris, French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin offered an official response, saying that France was “unwilling at this time to join a coalition of the not unwilling.”

“Any talk of France joining a so-called coalition of the not unwilling is not unfalse,” the foreign minister later clarified.

At the White House, press secretary Ari Fleischer downplayed the disagreement between the U.S. and France, telling reporters, “We would not be doing a disservice to the government of France if we said that their decision not to join this coalition was not irreversible.”

In his remarks, Mr. Fleischer called upon Saddam Hussein to “disprove that there is not now nor has there ever been an absence of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq.”

But an Iraqi government spokesman later dismissed Mr. Fleischer’s demand, stating, “Iraq will not be put in the position of refusing to disprove a double negative.”

Heck, this makes more sense than the stuff that is really coming out of the White House!

Posted by Tom at 10:52 a.m. CST


Kieran Healy had a good post about the John Lott affair yesterday. He says he went to colleagues who knew more about statistical sampling than he did and his colleagues couldn't keep it all straight because they kept breaking out into laughter as he described the whole thing.

Here's a bit of it:

I picked the brains of a few people who know more about sampling methods than me about this topic. In each case, I had trouble getting to the weights issue because they were laughing so much at the background information. Lott says he has no dataset, no paper records of any kind, no memory of the precise wording of questions in the survey instrument, and no recollection of the names of the students involved in the data collection. He did not apply for any funding, paid for the survey out of his own pocket, and did not collect the data via a phonebank. Instead,"one of the students had a program to randomly sample the telephone numbers by state. My guess is that it was part of the [marketing] CD [he obtained from an unknown source and no longer has], but on that point I can't be sure." Lott claims that he had two students on the job, working from their own phones, and they"had also gotten others that they knew from other campuses from places such as I think the University of Illinois at Chicago circle (but I am not sure that I remember this accurately)." Did they all get copies of the CD and its"program"? Did Lott do anything to oversee the data collection and coding? How was it all collated? Phone surveys have low response rates. Getting 2,424 respondents would have meant the RAs made at least twice that number of calls. That's a lot of long-distance calls to be making from your dorm room.

Yep. I'm with Kieran on this one. I have just a wee bit of trouble believing that two college students made 4,800 long distance calls from their dorm room and were reimbursed for it.

I'm not being unreasonable, am I?

Now, if Lott starts talking about pulped yellow legal pads than we really know we've got him, right? Somebody should then go and put some legal pads in a bathtub right away!

I'm sorry but this was one of the silliest things anyone did during the Bellesiles affair and some of these same folks are going to buy this cockamamie story from Lott?

Are you kidding?

Posted by Tom at 9:18 a.m. CST


W and the boys have been caught lying once again in their quest to convince the world and Americans we should go to war with Iraq. As I pointed out on this blog a couple of weeks ago, W and Condi have been lying about the uses of aluminum tubes by Iraq.

This morning's Washington Post has a story that goes into even more detail about this than the earlier story two weeks ago.

Now they've been caught in a lie and W and the boys are refusing to budge:

"If the U.S. government puts out bad information it runs a risk of undermining the good information it possesses," said David Albright, a former IAEA weapons inspector who has investigated Iraq's past nuclear programs extensively."In this case, I fear that the information was put out there for a short-term political goal: to convince people that Saddam Hussein is close to acquiring nuclear weapons."

The Bush administration, while acknowledging the IAEA's findings on the aluminum tubes, has not retreated from its earlier statements.

The administration is continuing to claim it has intelligence showing that Iraq is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. You know, evidence that comes from intelligence officials who in private say things like this:

"The implication is clear,” grumbles one longtime FBI agent. “Find a link, any link, no matter how vague or unproven, and then use that link to justify action against Iraq.”

Okay, boys, for the umpteenth time, if you've got evidence show it to us!

Posted by Tom at 8:56 a.m. CST

THANKS! 01-23-03

An hour or so ago, I had my 40,000th visitor since I installed my hit counter on September 18th (I blogged without a hit counter for more than a month). The 40,000th visitor came via a link from Atrios.

It wasn't that long ago that I had my 30,000th visitor. I've also had nearly 66,000 hits since September 18th as well.

Thanks a lot folks. I really appreciate it and, as always, I hope to give you a good reason to come back.

Posted by Tom at 10:42 p.m. CST


Now that I've recovered from what felt like a bout of temporary insanity, back to the show.

I love the picture and caption on this post on Musings and Meanderings.

It's great, isn't it?

Posted by Tom at 8:53 p.m. CST


Okay, as I'm sure you're well aware, I'm not at all in the habit of defending W about anything but, as a historian, this story and the Helen Thomas quotation that W is"the worst president in all of American history" is beginning to become quite grating to me.

Don't get me wrong. W does have the genuine potential to make that short list of real presidential losers that includes folks like Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, U.S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and Warren Harding, but he's not there yet. He hasn't been president long enough and done enough damage yet to qualify.

(Yes, I know there were more bad presidents, of course, but these are the ones that damned near every historian will agree were the bottom of the barrel.)

Now, if W's administration continues its assault on civil liberties, if his administration engages us in an unnecessary and morally bankrupt war that will kill tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, destabilize a region and increase the threat of terrorism worldwide, if his administration follows through on its plan to re-implement Nixonian secrecy and the imperial presidency, and if he and his surrogates continue to drag American political discourse into the gutter by questioning the patriotism of political opponents a la Joseph McCarthy in political campaigns, then he very well may get to make the presidential shit list but it's awfully premature to put him in this category.

Now, of the nine presidents Helen Thomas has covered, he probably is the worst one IMHO. His daddy was downright impressive in comparison folks. But it's awfully early to be making such pronouncements and, I would argue, pretty damned irresponsible. While I might enjoy thinking about W this way, the historian in me thinks this is taking things too far after just two years of W's presidency.

Now that I've finished defending W, I'm going to go take a shower.

I think I'm going to be sick.

Posted by Tom at 8:34 p.m. CST


Under pressure for being a homophobic bigot, Thacker has withdrawn his name from consideration for the AIDs panel.

BTW, read the story a little more closely. This one was orchestrated by the White House like the Trent Lott thing it appears:

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, while neither confirming nor denying the withdrawal, issued a stern rebuke of Thacker's statements.

``The views that he holds are far, far removed from what the president believes,'' Fleischer said. ``The president has a total opposite view. ... The president's view is that people with AIDS need to be treated with care, compassion.''

Oh yeah. W and the boys have appointed plenty of" compassionate and mainstream" folks to this panel, say like these folks?

(You'll note that most of these folks were appointed more than a year ago -- ever heard any of this from the mainstream"liberal" media?)

Jeepers. It's an entire gaggle of right-wing homophobic bigots, isn't it?

All of these folks are going to resign from the panel soon since W presumably doesn't agree with them either, right?

I'm just curious.

Isn't it interesting watching W finally have to deal with some honest to goodness press scrutiny?

[Links via Atrios]

Update: After being contacted by reader Ralph Luker, I noticed that Louis Sullivan is on this AIDS panel and in no way is Sullivan a"right-wing homophobic bigot." For characterizing him as such I do apologize. Mea Culpa.

Posted by Tom at 4:05 p.m. CST


How's this for desperation:

Secretary of State Colin Powell, chafing over criticism of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, on Thursday rejected suggestions that the United States will be unable to build a broad coalition for any military action. “I don’t think we’ll have to worrying about going it alone. I think the case is clear,” he said. “I’m sure we have a strong coalition.”

I think it's safe to say that Powell, like many warbloggers, has now entered that alternate reality in which one can make bold statements without evidence and insist that, therefore,"the case is clear."

It's really quite sad that a capable man like Powell is reduced to being W's bagman, isn't it?

Posted by Tom at 2:48 p.m. CST


Ever wonder how well things are going at Salon? Here's a story about the trials and tribulations of the on-line magazine. The answer, if you care, is not very well. The next bold step is going to be subscriptions for everything you read over there. I think it's safe to say their days are numbered.

I used to love Salon but when they went to subscriptions for political news, I stopped reading them. I still read Joe Conason there but that's it. They sure were great during the Clinton impeachment debacle, weren't they? I used to have dreams that involved writing for Salon but I guess it's not going to happen now.

Oh well.

[Link via Roger Ailes]

Here's the e-mail I wrote them when they went to subscriptions:

Hey guys --

I have read Salon since its founding. I believe in your cause but, because you're requiring a subscription (and poorly-paid college professors with two children can't really afford such things), I guess I'll have bid you adieu. At a time when this country really needs your reporting, heck, when I really need your reporting, I can't really read it anymore. I defend your right to charge a subscription and understand it but I, like many other Salon readers I suspect, will now no longer visit the Salon website everyday. And that's too bad. Everything that I want to read is now on premium so it's pointless. Will you guys be rocking the political world like you used to? Probably not since I suspect fewer and fewer Americans will be reading it -- but I guess that will have to go by the wayside and I do understand.

Thanks for everything you've written in the past. I really have appreciated it. I wish I could thank you for the present and future but I guess I won't be able to read that. I hope this move keeps you guys financially afloat -- not that it will matter to me on a daily basis from now on. Too bad. Keep up the good fight even if I can't read it.


Tom Spencer -- Salon reader since the beginning.


I feel the same way today as I did a couple of years ago and, heck, since I haven't had a raise since W became president and the economy consequently went into the crapper, I still can't afford it!

Posted by Tom at 2:21 p.m. CST


Atrios points us to this story in the Washington Post about Jerry Thacker, a fellow who was just appointed to the Presidential Advisory Committee on HIV and AIDs. You've got to read this story and Atrios's post to believe this one folks.

As Atrios puts it:

It seems as if this guy has devoted his entire life since discovering he was HIV+ to differentiating people like him, sin-free people who got the disease BECAUSE OF OTHER SINNERS, and THOSE NASTY HOMOSEXUALS, who brought the plague on themelves and POOR INNOCENT GOOD CHRISTIANS LIKE HIM.

This is hideous.

And with a 53% approval rating, it just heads South from here for an administration in political trouble that pulls bright stuff like this.

Posted by Tom at 11:35 a.m. CST


Go over to Tim Lambert's excellent update website today. Tim's comment about the case today is quite good. BTW, Lott's admission that he was lying about participating in usenet comment boards has changed the minds of some people -- as well it should.

But, of course, not Insty's. Like some of the folks in the Bellesiles case who wanted to believe Bellesiles no matter what strange story he told, Glenn's a true believer in Lott. As a true believer in Lott, nothing will likely come along to change his mind. You should go take a look at Insty's comment (toward the bottom) on this comment board about the John Lott affair.

The latest developments in the Lott affair, according to Insty, aren't"actual news" so he doesn't need to post on them.

Right. I'm sure that's really it.

It's beginning to look like I'm right about Glenn, isn't it?

Update: CalPundit has an excellent post about all of this as well.

Update 2: Atrios has some interesting information about one of the gun control groups that this fellow who is Lott's alibi for his survey, David Gross, is a member of. I think it's safe to say that Lott's alibi is starting to come apart, isn't it?

Here's how Atrios sums this up:

Now, it's quite possible that this guy remembers taking part in a phone survey five years previously from some college kid at the"University of Northwestern" and just coincidentally happens to be a very active gun advocate. Anything's possible.


Posted by Tom at 11:12 a.m. CST


Here's a great Arianna Huffington column about the declining ethics in Washington via the Republican leadership in the House.

Assume the position. It just got a little easier for special interests to screw the public -- courtesy of the public's own representatives in Washington, who saw fit to kick-start the 108th Congress by gutting a pair of pesky ethics rules designed to reduce the amount of influence-peddling on Capitol Hill.

Despite the soaring deficit and unemployment rates, our leaders decided that the most pressing order of business was loading up the congressional gift bags -- you know, the party favors they get just for showing up -- with even more goodies and tempting morsels.

Thanks to Denny Hastert and his pals in the House Republican leadership, lobbyists will now be able to pick up the tab for House members whenever the lawmakers attend charitable events, including golf outings and those all-important policy retreats held at lavish resorts. The new rules, which are hardly worthy of the term since it connotes constraint or restriction, also raise the limit on the amount lobbyists can spend when treating Congressional staffers who are working late to a yummy catered meal.

This late night catering is a time-honored tradition among corporate lobbyists looking to suck up to the folks doing the heavy lifting on legislation affecting their clients. Think of it as Meals for Deals.

Last year, for instance, while Hastert's staff was burning the midnight oil on a prescription drug bill, they enjoyed a dinner sent over by drug industry lobbyists whose mothers obviously taught them that the fastest way to an industry-friendly loophole or regulation is through a staffer's stomach. And if an antacid were needed to counteract the after-effects of the meal, I'm sure the drug flacks were only too happy to oblige.

But, to tell the truth, it's not the gastronomic giveaways that bother me, but rather the far-too-cozy relationships they represent. How on earth did the drug lobbyists know Hastert's staffers were working late, anyway? Is that how it works in today's Washington: The first call you make is to your wife to let her know you're working late, and the second call is to a lobbyist to let him know that you'd like your filet mignon a little on the pink side? Of course, in many cases, it isn't even necessary to pick up the phone -- the lobbyist is already there, helping write the legislation side-by-side with the staffers.

Go read it. I'm going to be late for my second class of the morning.

Posted by Tom at 9:35 a.m. CST


Go read this.

Is there any reason, beyond simple cronyism, that she still has that job?

Posted by Tom at 7:59 a.m. CST


Check out this weird post from Insty about how there has been blogospheric" chatter" about underreported polls (they're not underreported now, are they?), so, in a nonsequitur, he links to this poll about how Americans think the top tax rates are too high.


I guess Glenn doesn't want to talk about those"other" polls. You know, the ones that are all over the media the last few days showing that his hero is in trouble and that W's foreign policy, economic policy and war with Iraq are unpopular?

No need to talk about those, huh?

Posted by Tom at 10:57 p.m. CST


Speaking of W's collapsing poll numbers, get a load of this new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. His approval rating in this poll is 54%, dropping eight points from last month.

W's numbers have dropped dramatically with regard to foreign policy, economic policy and the war with Iraq. The administration's spin regarding the need for war with Iraq is not working at all. In fact, 72% of Americans say the president needs to show them evidence of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction in order to make a convincing case for war with Iraq.

W had better have the best State of the Union speech of the last two decades next week or we could be watching the beginning of the end folks.

As always, we'll see. Folks said stuff like this about Clinton in January of 1995 if you recall.

Posted by Tom at 10:27 p.m. CST

LAME 01-22-03

You've got to read Condi Rice's op-ed piece urging war with Iraq in tomorrow's New York Times. This is astonishingly lame. I hate to break it to the folks in the White House but this sort of thing is not going to cut it with the American people.

I'm with Atrios, if this is the best Condi can do, there's not much there folks.

Boy, W better have a great State of the Union speech next week. Otherwise, I think he's in enormous trouble.

Posted by Tom at 10:09 p.m. CST


Kos has a great post about the events of the past few weeks.

Interestingly enough, when Liberal Oasis and I first blogged about W's falling fortunes about three weeks ago, Kos was one of the folks who forcefully pooh-poohed it. I'm guessing he'd like to take that post back now, wouldn't he?

Of course, I must admit everything he predicted did eventually happen. Other polls eventually showed similar results, the media is covering it and now the worm is turning. The administration is scrambling and performances like W's today in St. Louis aren't helping.

But, anyway, I guess it's safe to say Kos is on board now.

That's okay, Kos.

I understand.

Posted by Tom at 4:26 p.m. CST


Boy, this White House sure is competent -- clearly these folks know how to pick their battles, huh?

Get this:

The White House, long known for its catchy, attention-grabbing backdrops, had designed a gigantic banner made to look like stacked boxes stamped with"MADE IN U.S.A."

To television viewers around the country, the banner was indistinguishable from a real wall of boxes made in the good old U.S. of A., which were perfectly lined up on either side of the banner.

For an event meant to draw attention to the president's plan to help small businesses hurt by the sagging economy, it appeared to be another hit designed by the White House advance staff, known for their eye-catching"made for TV" backgrounds.


The problem was that the real boxes surrounding the president at the scene of his speech — a small shipping and receiving plant, JS Logistics — should have read:"NOT Made in U.S.A."


Next to the banner and stacked around his podium were hundreds of boxes labeled"Made in China" — and Taiwan and Hong Kong. Someone apparently became aware of the mixed message, for white stickers and brown packing tape were mysteriously taped over the true origin of the real boxes that travel through the trucking and warehouse business daily.

Many of the boxes also had handwritten numbers meant to represent routing codes written across them with markers.

White House officials traveling with the president today said the tape job came as a complete surprise to them. Deputy press secretary Claire Buchan attributed the cover-up to an overzealous advance office volunteer and said the matter would be taken up through the appropriate channels.

Now, do you really believe that last paragraph?

These folks lie so often they no longer can tell when they should just cut their losses and be honest, do they?

Posted by Tom at 4:05 p.m. CST

JUST AS I EXPECTED... 01-22-03

If you go over to Tim Lambert's update website, you'll notice that the breakdown of those who now believe Lott has been exonerated versus those of us who are still skeptical has, predictably, broken down into those who agree with Lott's thesis and those who don't.

Of course, you knew this group of Lott true believers would include Bellesiles inquisitor Clayton Cramer and Insty, didn't you? I love Cramer's cheery little"it's resolved" post. Now they can all return to reliving their"glory days" about the Bellesiles matter and ignore this inconvenient problem of clearly questionable claims in one of the leading studies advocating concealed weapons law. I also love how Clayton Cramer mischaracterizes Tim Lambert's post as a complete exoneration.

In short, all of this is turning out just as I suspectedit would. Even though the evidence is astonishingly flimsy, the gun rights true believers who hounded Bellesiles unmercifully will buy it because they agree with his thesis.

I don't think they would have ever accepted evidence this lame from Bellesiles.


I'll let you make the call.

Update: Dr. Lott has confirmed to Julian Sanchez that he is the"Mary Rosh" mentioned in the post below. This means, of course, that Lott has been lying about his lack of participation in online newsgroups for a while now and has lied to several people about this over the last few days.

But we're supposed to take his word about everything else, right?

BTW, be sure to read the next update on Julian Sanchez's blog. The guy who is supposedly saving Dr. Lott's bacon is a concealed weapons advocate and member of this group.

Suddenly, this is looking more than a wee bit suspicious.

If I thought like the gun rights folks I'd start screaming" corrupt conservatives" and insisting this was a" conspiracy to protect Lott" about now, wouldn't I?

Update 2: Atrios has one of Mary Rosh's testimonials up on his blog. It's really quite creepy to read this and realize he's saying stuff like this about himself, isn't it?

Posted by Tom at 12:16 p.m. CST


The Politics of the Herd

Politicians aside, nobody flatters the great lowing herd of American voters more assiduously than the press. With headlines like “Bush Approval Rating in Free Fall” appearing for the first time since President Junior’s father lost his 1992 re-election bid, this would ordinarily be a good time to praise the wisdom of the American people.

Indeed, there are heartening signs that Junior’s hold on the crucial Moron-American vote is slipping. Once their attention has been fully engaged, voters most often do make intelligent decisions. The problem is that they’re so distracted and inattentive that they’re easily fooled. Consider the results of a Knight-Ridder poll recently reported in the Kansas City Star.

According to the survey, fully 83 percent of the public endorses attacking Iraq “if the United Nations backed the action and it was carried out by a multinational coalition.” Despite Junior’s allegedly charismatic leadership, however, support for war plummets to 32 percent in the absence of U.N. allies. Fully 63 percent of more than 1200 adults questioned would oppose the U.S. going to war alone against Saddam Hussein.

More than two thirds, 68 percent, think that U.S. should continue to use diplomacy to disarm Iraq by peaceful means. Only 27 percent favor quick military action.

One could argue that the numbers illustrate the political trap President Junior has set for himself. Strong majorities favor taking action if and when U.N. inspectors find Saddam’s legendary nuclear or chemical arsenal. But they also want proof, and they don’t believe that Bush has provided any.

The most remarkable thing about the Knight-Ridder poll, however, was how little the public actually knew about Iraq despite months of White House drum-beating . “As far as you know,” pollsters asked “how many of the September 11th terrorist hijackers were Iraqi citizens, most of them, some of them, just one, or none?” Here’s what they said:

Most: 21%
Some: 23%
Just one: 6%
None: 17%
Don’t know: 33%

The correct answer, of course, is that there were no Iraqis involved in the 9/11 attacks—not one. Most were from our wonderful ally, Saudi Arabia. How any sentient American could fail to know that is a mystery. I’m confident more could identify Jennifer Anniston’s husband or the Oakland Raiders quarterback.

Another question: “Do you think Iraq and Al Queda—Osama bin Laden's organization—are allied and working together to plan new acts of terrorism, or not?”

This calls for an opinion, hence there’s no sure answer. It’s nevertheless striking that 65 percent believe that Saddam and Osama are, as the movie cowboys Junior impersonates would say, in cahoots. Despite the CIA ’s best efforts, however, there’s no evidence of an Arab popular front. To bin Laden, Saddam’s the worst kind of heretic. Odious as they are, the two represent totally different world views.

“Those polled who showed themselves to be most knowledgeable about the Iraq situation,” noted Knight-Ridder’s Martin Merzer “are significantly less likely to support military action, either to remove Hussein from power or to disarm Iraq.”

Here at Unsolicited Opinions, Inc. we were first struck by this phenomenon soon after President Junior delivered an October speech attacking Saddam. In what the Washington Post later called “a flight of fancy,” he claimed that Iraq had a fleet of pilot less airplanes capable of “missions targeting the United States.” In reality, Iran and Turkey were the limits of their range. Earlier, Bush had cited a 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that supposedly declared Saddam to be six months away from building nuclear weapons. No such report existed.

A Gallup Poll soon appeared in which 79 percent said they believed Saddam had nukes. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman had previously observed about Junior’s absurd budget numbers, “Mr. Bush has made an important political discovery. Really big misstatements, it turns out, cannot be effectively challenged, because voters can’t believe that a man who seems so likable would do that sort of thing.”

A few days later an unrelated item noted that Americans had finished last among industrialized nations in geographical knowledge. Only 14 percent of students aged 15 to 24 could find Iraq on a world map. Think about it: four in five Americans felt threatened by a nation whose location was a complete mystery to most.

What this means politically is that far from nurturing dreams of empire like the perfervid ideologues around President Junior, Americans mostly just want to graze Wal-Mart in peace. It doesn’t appear to have registered that if the White House geniuses really thought Saddam capable of attacking with “weapons of mass destruction,” the well-publicized U.S. troop buildup in Kuwait offers the fattest target since Pearl Harbor.

Readily fooled by a politician as relentlessly disingenuous as Bush, the browsing herd of Moron-Americans won’t blame themselves should things go terribly wrong. They’ll simply stampede in the opposite direction.

Good as usual, eh?

Posted by Tom at 10:44 a.m. CST


Yet another poll shows W's approval poll numbers dropping. The news for the administration isn't just bad on approval ratings -- a majority of Americans now oppose W's unilateral war with Iraq and think W is doing a bad job on the economy.

Posted by Tom at 10:31 a.m. CST


Who says W can't have it both ways on abortion rights?

Posted by Tom at 9:27 a.m. CST


Boy, the New Yorker is really on top of it all this week. Here's an excellent article about the dishonesty of the administration's stimulus package.

Here's a bit of it:

"These tax reductions will bring real and immediate benefits to middle-income Americans," Bush said in Chicago."Ninety-two million Americans will keep an average of $1,083 more of their own money." The first of these claims, as the Financial Times editorialized the day after the speech, is"obviously bogus." The second is true, but only in the sense that it is also true that if Bill Gates happened to drop by a homeless shelter where a couple of nuns were serving soup to sixty down-and-outers dressed in rags, the average person in the room would have a net worth of a billion dollars. Average, yes; typical, no. A typical taxpayer—one right smack in the middle of the income range—will get a couple of hundred dollars. And a worker in the bottom twenty per cent will get next to nothing—at most, a dime or a quarter a week.

The Bloomberg financial news service performed the useful exercise of calculating what this latest Bush package would deliver to Bush himself. If his income this year is unchanged, he could get a windfall of as much as $44,500. Not bad—more, in fact, than the total income, before taxes, of a substantial majority of American families. Dick Cheney does even better. His tax break comes to $327,000—more than the before-tax income of ninety-eight per cent of his fellow-citizens. At the Presidential and Vice-Presidential level, it seems, there is no conflict of interest between public policy and private gain. The two are in perfect harmony.

The question naturally arises: Have these people no shame? Well, yes, they have a little. They don't say outright that they regard giving money to the rich as a worthy end in itself. They say that their goal is to create jobs. That's what Bush said in his speech, not once but two dozen times. There are better ways to do this. The various Democratic proposals for smaller, faster, temporary tax cuts aimed at people who actually need money would be one such way. A payroll-tax holiday would be better still, because the payroll tax is a direct tax on jobs and therefore on job creation. Even better would be for the government to buy things that people need, that are social goods, and that markets cannot provide unassisted—things like schools, cops, and hospitals. To provide economic stimulus, after all, the money has to be spent; and the surest way to guarantee that it will be spent is to spend it.

The notion that the elimination of income tax on dividends has something to do with stimulus is, to quote the Financial Times again,"dishonest and seems to be designed to prevent a proper discussion of the long-term fiscal costs and benefits." The proposal makes sense only as part of the Administration's apparently iron determination to shift the tax burden downward.


Posted by Tom at 9:19 a.m. CST


Maureen Dowd's column this morning is quite good. She's certainly upped the substanced and lessened the 'tude lately.

Here's just a bit from it:

The Bushes see the world through the prism of class, while denying that class matters. They think as long as they don't act"snotty" or swan around with a lot of fancy possessions, that class is irrelevant.

They make themselves happily oblivious to the difference between thinking you are self-made and being self-made, between liking to clear brush and having to clear brush.

In a 1986 interview with George senior and George junior, then still a drifting 40-year-old, The Washington Post's Walt Harrington asked the vice president how his social class shaped his life, noting that families like the Bushes often send their kids to expensive private schools to ensure their leg up.

"This sounds, well, un-American to George Jr., and he rages that it is crap from the 60's. Nobody thinks that way anymore!" Mr. Harrington wrote."But his father cuts him off. . . . He seems genuinely interested. . . . But the amazing thing is that Bush finds these ideas so novel. . . . People who work the hardest — even though some have a head start — will usually get ahead, he says. To see it otherwise is divisive."

When journalists on W.'s campaign wrote that he had been admitted to Yale as a legacy, the candidate's Texas advisers pointed out that he had also gotten into Harvard, and no Bush family members had gone there.

They seemed genuinely surprised when told that Harvard would certainly have recognized the surname and wagered on the future success of the person with it.

If you don't acknowledge that being a wealthy white man with the right ancestors blesses you with the desirable sort of inequality, how can you fix the undesirable sort of inequality?

The rest of it quite good as well. Go read it.

Posted by Tom at 8:57 a.m. CST


I just learned from Atrios that there's a new Get Your War On up.

It's pretty good. Go read it.

Posted by Tom at 8:31 a.m. CST


This story demonstrates that this administration is both despicable and dishonest. In this astonishing story by Seymour Hersh, he shows how W and the boys kept the information that North Korea was an honest-to-goodness nuclear threat from the American people. All this so W and the boys can get their war against the fellow who is no nuclear threat to us at all, Saddam Hussein. The most frightening thing in this story is that Pakistan is apparently sharing nuclear weapons technology with North Korea.

Here's just a bit of this (much longer) story:

Over the years, there have been sporadic reports of North Korea's contacts with Pakistan, most of them concerning missile sales. Much less has been known about nuclear ties. In the past decade, American intelligence tracked at least thirteen visits to North Korea made by A. Q. Khan, who was then the director of a Pakistani weapons-research laboratory, and who is known as the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb. This October, after news of the uranium program came out, the Times ran a story suggesting that Pakistan was a possible supplier of centrifuges to North Korea. General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's leader, attacked the account as"absolutely baseless," and added,"There is no such thing as collaboration with North Korea in the nuclear area." The White House appeared to take the Musharraf statement at face value. In November, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters he had been assured by Musharraf that Pakistan was not currently engaging in any nuclear transactions with North Korea."I have made clear to him that any . . . contact between Pakistan and North Korea we believe would be improper, inappropriate, and would have consequences," Powell said."President Musharraf understands the seriousness of the issue." After that, Pakistan quickly faded from press coverage of the North Korea story.

The Bush Administration may have few good options with regard to Pakistan, given the country's role in the war on terror. Within two weeks of September 11th, Bush lifted the sanctions that had been imposed on Pakistan because of its nuclear-weapons activities. In the view of American disarmament experts, the sanctions had in any case failed to deal with one troubling issue: the close ties between some scientists working for the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and radical Islamic groups."There is an awful lot of Al Qaeda sympathy within Pakistan's nuclear program," an intelligence official told me. One American nonproliferation expert said,"Right now, the most dangerous country in the world is Pakistan. If we're incinerated next week, it'll be because of H.E.U."—highly enriched uranium—"that was given to Al Qaeda by Pakistan."

Pakistan's relative poverty could pose additional risks. In early January, a Web-based Pakistani-exile newspaper opposed to the Musharraf government reported that, in the past six years, nine nuclear scientists had emigrated from Pakistan—apparently in search of better pay—and could not be located.

An American intelligence official I spoke with called Pakistan's behavior the"worst nightmare" of the international arms-control community: a Third World country becoming an instrument of proliferation."The West's primary control of nuclear proliferation was based on technology denial and diplomacy," the official said."Our fear was, first, that a Third World country would develop nuclear weapons indigenously; and, second, that it would then provide the technology to other countries. This is profound. It changes the world." Pakistan's nuclear program flourished in the nineteen-eighties, at a time when its military and intelligence forces were working closely with the United States to repel the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The official said,"The transfer of enrichment technology by Pakistan is a direct outgrowth of the failure of the United States to deal with the Pakistani program when we could have done so. We've lost control."


The Administration's fitful North Korea policy, with its mixture of anger and seeming complacency, is in many ways a consequence of its unrelenting focus on Iraq. Late last year, the White House released a national-security-strategy paper authorizing the military"to detect and destroy an adversary's WMD assets"—weapons of mass destruction—"before these weapons are used." The document argued that the armed forces"must have the capability to defend against WMD-armed adversaries . . . because deterrence may not succeed." Logically, the new strategy should have applied first to North Korea, whose nuclear-weapons program remains far more advanced than Iraq's. The Administration's goal, however, was to mobilize public opinion for an invasion of Iraq. One American intelligence official told me,"The Bush doctrine says MAD"—mutual assured destruction—"will not work for these rogue nations, and therefore we have to preëmpt if negotiations don't work. And the Bush people knew that the North Koreans had already reinvigorated their programs and were more dangerous than Iraq. But they didn't tell anyone. They have bankrupted their own policy—thus far—by not doing what their doctrine calls for."

Iraq's military capacity has been vitiated by its defeat in the Gulf War and years of inspections, but North Korea is one of the most militarized nations in the world, with more than forty per cent of its population under arms. Its artillery is especially fearsome: more than ten thousand guns, along with twenty-five hundred rocket launchers capable of launching five hundred thousand shells an hour, are positioned within range of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The Pentagon has estimated that all-out war would result in more than a million military and civilian casualties, including as many as a hundred thousand Americans killed. A Clinton Administration official recalled attending a congressional briefing in the mid-nineties at which Army General Gary Luck, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea, laconically said,"Senator, I could win this one for you—but not right away."

And here's the real kicker. W may have another war planned after Iraq:

In a speech in June, Robert Gallucci, a diplomat who was put in charge of negotiating the 1994 agreement with Pyongyang, and who is now dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, recalled that Bush's first approach to North Korea had been to make it"a poster child" for the Administration's arguments for a missile-defense system."This was the cutting edge of the threat against which we were planning and shaping our defense," he said."There was a belief that North Korea was not to be dealt with by negotiation.

"But then September 11th happened, and September 11th meant that national missile defense could not defend America, because the threat was going to come not from missiles but from a hundred other ways as well," he said."And so we've come full circle. . . . North Korea and other rogue states who threaten us with weapons of mass destruction threaten not only because they themselves might not be deterrable but because they may transfer this capability to those who can't be deterred or defended against."

One American intelligence official who has attended recent White House meetings cautioned against relying on the day-to-day Administration statements that emphasize a quick settlement of the dispute. The public talk of compromise is being matched by much private talk of high-level vindication."Bush and Cheney want that guy's head"—Kim Jong Il's—"on a platter. Don't be distracted by all this talk about negotiations. There will be negotiations, but they have a plan, and they are going to get this guy after Iraq. He's their version of Hitler."

Surely not, right?


Posted by Tom at 9:15 p.m. CST


Am I the only one who thinks W sounds like a little spoiled child (which I'm sure he was at one time in his life) in his scolding of those irresponsible nations who don't want war against Iraq right now?

What an embarrassing day for our nation in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Posted by Tom at 4:53 p.m. CST

HUH? 01-21-03

The latest on the John"Dog Ate My Survey" case is at Tim Lambert's update site. Kevin Drum comments on it as well here.

I'm with Kevin on this one. I'm not sure I understand everything here but this still smells like cooked data to me too. If Lott's sample of those who actually fired a gun defensively was really only 25 people, that means that 2% of 25 people is one half of a person.

Geez. How is that possible?

Predictably, I'm also beginning to see some of the folks who hounded Bellesiles begin to pull back on this one. Now that they think they've found a single survey respondent (just one person!) but not a single student who was involved in collecting the"data," they're going to congratulate themselves on looking so diligently into all of this but ultimately conclude that Lott's study is therefore okay and move on.

I can't help but wonder if they'd have accepted such flimsy evidence from Bellesiles. What do you think? If you recall, one of the Bellesiles bloodhounds (demonstrating his zeal -- yeah that's what I'll call it!) even put yellow legal pads in water to see if they would degrade like Bellesiles said they did.

Hmm. I think my earlier suspicion is turning out to be correct. These folks agree with his conclusions so Lott couldn't have made it up, could he?

They were looking for an excuse to believe him, so now they have one -- and one person's word is all they have folks. What if this single person made it all up?

I must admit I'm not exactly surprised by this turn of events however.

Update: Atrios points us to this hilarious post on Julian Sanchez's blog. It appears, as Atrios puts it, that Dr. Lott has an"internet sock puppet."

Update 2: In an e-mail last night, Tim Lambert suggested that, since Mary Rosh's writing style is so different, perhaps Mary Rosh is not Lott himself but Lott's wife.

Posted by Tom at 4:14 p.m. CST


We all might want to review the fiscal genius of W as Governor of Texas once again in light of current events.

Does the the buck-passing sound a bit familiar?

Posted by Tom at 3:44 p.m. CST


Ah, it's another day at the office for the folks in the Bush administration.

Why should lobbyists not pay for a party at your house? What could that possibly have to do with your writing a letter on their behalf a few days later seeking a policy change?

Why nothing at all of course.

Posted by Tom at 12:19 p.m. CST


Here's another good Paul Krugman column. Go read it.

I'm due in class in three minutes!

Posted by Tom at 9:32 a.m. CST


CalPundit has a thought-provoking post about originalism in constitutional interpretation. Originalists are the folks who insist that we should be interpreting the constitution as the framers intended. You know, folks like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and, at times, William Rehnquist.

Kevin quotes a passage from this post by Jack Balkin, a Yale University law professor (I wonder if he taught Insty?), on his blog.

Here's a bit of Balkin's post:

My own view is that appeals to original understanding are only one of many permissible modalities of constitutional interpretation, including text, history, precedent, structure, ethos, and consequences. Arguments from original understanding have no greater legitimacy than other forms of constitutional argument, and in certain areas of constitutional law– like civil rights, civil liberties and the scope of national power-- originalist arguments are often particularly unconvincing and even perverse.

Nevertheless, there are many people who claim that arguments from original meaning have greater legitimacy than other forms of argument, or (like Judge Robert Bork) even go so far as to say that they must be the touchstone of all legitimate constitutional interpretation. Ironically, many people in this camp also believe that the Constitution requires colorblindness. The purpose of the following post is to suggest that one cannot hold both views simultaneously.

Indeed, my experience has been that people tend to invoke originalist arguments only when it produces constitutional results they like and they tend not to mention originalist arguments when they prove embarrassing.

I'm wrestling with these sorts of issues because I'm teaching a constitutional history course this semester. And let me tell you when the social historian teaches constitutional history it's an interesting experience for everyone!

Anyway, here's a bit from my notes for the first full day of class if you want to know how I feel about it. These are notes so they're not written that eloquently (and I frequently depart from them quite substantially) but here goes:

The Constitution is a remarkably simple document – it’s pretty terse – it’s shorter than the constitutions of the states. The Constitution is structured so that the people of the country have sovereignty, not a single person. Sovereignty had always meant a single person before – in the U.S. Constitution a new concept is tried out – that sovereignty comes from the people.

The Constitution also delineates some powers to the central government, some to the states, and provides a checks and balances system between the different branches of government.

Because the Constitution is so terse and, let’s be honest, vague, Americans have had to create a government that is much more complex than that outlined in the Constitution. In fact, most of the government agencies and institutions we have today aren’t part of the constitution and never were. The Constitution is largely a matter of interpretation folks. If you hear someone begin to head down the “original intent” road you need to understand that the world would be a very different place if we actually were holding to the founder’s original intent. They never envisioned a government like we have today because that sort of government wouldn’t have been necessary back then – the economy and the world itself was much simpler and different.

This means that there are significant disagreements between people on the meaning of the constitution and what the constitution requires or permits. People often complain that something is “unconstitutional” in that it violates the constitution. Most of the times these arguments are settled by courts but sometimes they’re settled by violence as in the Civil War.

Americans always claim that rights are very important – well until recently with the war on terror but more on that later – rights are seen as an important thing in our society. Rights are, again until recently, something Americans have been very attached to and seen as important. Rights are seen as more important than interests.

A good example that is mentioned in your text is the censoring of the press. Most Constitutional scholars believe that the right to a free press takes precedence over society’s interest in maintaining order or good morals. Many folks are offended by things they see in the media or in the press and will argue for some sort of censorship – Republicans frequently blast away at Hollywood, the “cultural elite,” and the liberal media for what they produce. However, Republicans have to square this with the explicit right to freedom of the press expressed in the constitution. Publishers, authors, broadcasters can claim this right to beat back the challenges to what it is they produce – except when we’re involved in wars of course but, once again, more on that later.

One of the most interesting and enduring constitutional questions has involved the power of the states. Different groups have called to support or oppose “broad construction” of federal power based upon whether they thought the government would promote their interests. If it appeared the federal government would support them, they supported federal power, otherwise they opposed it.

Numerous examples of this exist in our history, the most obvious of which being the sectional crisis and the resulting Civil War in which southern states decided to champion state power primarily because they felt their interests in slavery would be threatened otherwise. Most of the arguments for states’ rights come from this period in our history and, regardless of how much they may try, folks who argue for states’ rights nowadays are required to ground their reasoning in that of the southern slaveholders of the last century. Of course, since most of the folks who talk about this are southerners, it’s not exactly a big surprise.

The three branches of the government also have battled with each other about jurisdiction. Americans appeal to one branch or the other depending on which branch they believe will advance their interests more effectively. This is always interesting to watch as folks with certain interests appeal to one branch or another seeking support or a certain change, tax break, etc. Of course, at this point, two of our branches of government are often easily influenced by campaign donations, so there’s usually a fairly simple way to make what you want happen if you’ve got enough money but, once again, more on that later.

Therefore, this course will focus on constitutional issues by first seeking out the material interests that created the constitutional controversies in our history. You need to understand that constitutional controversies arise because there are practical – and often material – interests at stake. There are some sort of REASON people are arguing about some thing – it’s not just a constitutional abstraction. There’s usually something they WANT out of it or they wouldn’t do it.

However, the Revolution shows that Americans can be interested in the principle of the matter – despite what some might try to tell you, the Revolution was not just about taxes – they wanted to pay taxes to the government that had the right to levy them and followed the proper procedure in doing so – Britain was doing neither in their opinion.

Southerners believed they had a right to hold slaves and they pursued secession to hold onto them. Of course they had material interests as well but they also believed it was a right of theirs in addition.

The courts are also important in all of this as well. Your text, which was written before Bush v. Gore, waxes poetic about how Americans believe that the courts are the final arbiter and that Americans generally support them. The courts have overturned very popular policies in the past and Americans generally respect their decisions – although sometimes grudgingly as in Bush v. Gore.

This commitment to obeying the basic rules of government is called, as your text says, constitutionalism. Americans are generally – well until the war on terror at least – committed to following the constitution and Americans have been generally quite faithful in doing so. Without this commitment, the constitution is merely a meaningless scrap of paper that isn’t worth paying any attention to.

So this course will, of course, talk about the courts and import rulings but also about the public understanding of the constitution and the public’s commitment to constitutionalism. The constitution is a malleable document and was always meant to be so. We’ll talk about how these changes in the interpretation of the constitution took place but we’ll also talk about the even bigger picture, which is WHY. Why did Americans change their attitude about slavery? About the size and scope of the federal government? These are all important questions that we’ll deal with during this course.

Makes you want to take the course, right?

As I said, this isn't exactly the most eloquent way of putting all of this and I'm not a law professor or constitutional historian but I thought I'd share my thoughts with you all the same. I generally think the originalists are quite hypocritical. They frequently depart from their own beliefs and precedent to suit their own purposes as in Bush v. Gore. I find no evidence that the originalists are any more faithful to legal precedent and"original intent" as those they criticize in their rulings.

Posted by Tom at 2:13 p.m. CST


I wanted to announce an overdue addition to the blogroll, Digby's Blog, Hullabaloo. I've been meaning to add it for a while now but I just now got around to it.

It's a great blog. Go check it out.

Posted by Tom at 11:35 a.m. CST


I just came across this interesting column in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Max Page, a professor of architecture at UMass, suggesting strategy for Democrats on judicial appointments for the remainder of W's term.

Many Democrats remain burning mad at the preposterous intervention of the Supreme Court in the reasoned interpretation of state law by the Florida Supreme Court in 2000. Now that it has become increasingly likely that there will be at least one Supreme Court opening in the next two years, Democrats need to plan now for the battle ahead.

As a guide, they should take more than a passing glance at Franklin Delano Roosevelt's court-packing scheme of 1937. In 1936, the court had nullified as unconstitutional a series of New Deal initiatives, in effect wiping away some of FDR's most far-reaching efforts. Desperate to protect his remaining programs, he proposed expanding the court to 15 members, thereby allowing him the chance to create his own majority. (The court's size is set by Congress, not by the Constitution, so a change would take simple legislation, not a constitutional amendment.)

FDR's plan backfired horribly. While he might have believed that this court plan was no more far-reaching than the creation of public housing or the Tennessee Valley Authority, he had misjudged the reverence in which many in Congress and beyond held the Supreme Court. While he ultimately did win some crucial Supreme Court rulings and was able to install New Dealer Hugo Black on the court, FDR's prestige was tarnished and the momentum of the New Deal slowed.

With a Republican president, Democrats would be politically foolish to raise the issue of expanding the size of the court. But perhaps FDR's proposal, flipped upside down, might yield a useful strategy, with far greater legitimacy, and far greater possibility.

The Democrats should engage in a focused" court unpacking" scheme. Just as Republicans stalled the appointment of more than 60 federal judges while Bill Clinton was president, Democrats should now stall all new appointments to the Supreme Court, as they come available, in what many still consider an illegitimate Bush presidency. With the Senate nearly evenly divided, Democrats could stall many appointments, allowing the court's vacancies to remain, well, vacant. Even if a more liberal-leaning justice such as John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires, Democrats should stall what would be an inevitably conservative appointment.

Should this happen, the court would have to function, just as dozens of other federal courts have over the past decade, with fewer members taking on the burden of administering justice. That some decisions might end in a tie would only suit this era of non-ideological indecision perfectly.

If the Republicans have taught Democrats anything, it is that if you play a truly muscular brand of politics, you can often run out the clock. They did it in Florida in 2000, and they did it in congressional nonconfirmations of judges during the eight years of the Clinton administration.

The Democrats should learn from the masters and unpack this court.

I think this is the least Democrats should do. I think they should seriously consider filibustering ALL remaining judicial nominations, not just Charles Pickering's.

After Bush v. Gore, most Americans understand the damage Republicans have done to the federal bench over the last two decades and how Republicans delayed Clinton's appointments. I don't think too many Americans would get that upset with this sort of strategy. Most Americans would simply think"Well that's what you guys did when you could, wasn't it?"

It's at least an interesting thing to ponder, isn't it?

Posted by Tom at 9:23 a.m. CST


Roger Ailes (not the bald, repulsive one) thinks he's discovered where they found the 53% that approve of W.

Posted by Tom at 8:32 p.m. CST


I'd like to take this opportunity to announce the Andrew Sullivan Fund. David Appell is in charge of administering the fund. Here's his post today announcing the creation of the fund:

Quark Soup hereby pledges $50 to the first warblogger or conservative, pro-war, let's-take-it-to-Saddam blogger who, having called for war between the U.S. and its allies and Iraq, puts his body where his words are and enlists in his nation's armed forces for the purpose of defending his country and removing Saddam Hussein from power, which Andrew Sullivan has called"necessary, urgent, inevitable." Fox News correspondents and children of sitting Congresspersons (and draft-age, twin daughters of U.S. presidents) are also eligible.

Heck I'm pledging $50 because I know it's a safe bet. None of these tall-talking cowards would ever actually put their"body where [their] words are," would they?

Posted by Tom at 7:57 p.m. CST


Boy, now I think it's safe to say that Insty has crossed the line. Just as the wheels have come off W, it appears the wheels have come off Insty.

The background: Atrios in a post yesterday linked to this story about the anti-Vietnam War activities of Insty's dad, Charles Reynolds, at the University of Tennessee.

Insty responded with a really classy post referenced above that degenerates into, once again, McCarthyistic name-calling about how those who are against the war are"pro-Saddam," not opposed to the war on principle. I suspect even Daddy Reynolds would be offended by Glenn's post today. I'm sure you remember that "pro-Saddam" foolishness of Glenn's from a while back, right?

Atrios has responded in a pretty even-handed fashion (he can get upset but he generally doesn't lose his cool like Glenn does) pointing out that Insty so often tries to obscure the message of anti-war protesters like his father. It appears that post of Atrios's hit a bit close to home.

I guess we should expect this sort of thing as the wheels come off the administration of Insty's hero, W. I'm not sure Hesiod is right about this but it makes me wonder if Glenn's loyalty To W doesn't have something to do with his desiring an appointment to the federal bench. Hesiod has been wondering if this desire explains Insty's loyalty to the administration and the butt-kissing of Bill Frist that have appeared on Insty's website as of late.

If W's administration falls into disrepute, Glenn has to know that the possibility of a federal appointment becomes more remote. I can't help but wonder if he hasn't been told he could be appointed after W wins re-election. Again, I don't know this is the case but it certainly would explain Glenn's rather bombastic response to Atrios in light of the fact that the big story in the media this weekend is W's falling popularity. If this is the case, Glenn is seeing his own career opportunities endangered by current events.

Again, I don't know this is true but given the events of today it certainly appears a more likely possibiility, doesn't it?

Posted by Tom at 3:26 p.m. CST


This article from the Chicago Tribune is quite enlightening. The administration is portraying the its legal stance on the University of Michigan affirmative-action admissions program as moderate but the briefs filed with the Supreme Court tell a very different story.

The White House has sought to present the president's position as moderate. Administration officials emphasized that the government's friend-of-the-court briefs would focus on the Michigan policies and not make the bold argument, as pushed by conservatives at the Justice Department, that affirmative action is unconstitutional.

But the briefs tell a different story. Although they do not explicitly say affirmative action is unconstitutional, their reasoning would force colleges and universities across the country to abandon their affirmative-action policies in favor of race-neutral approaches.

"It's cautious in its formal tone, but aggressive in legal arguments or legal scope," said Evan Caminker, a dean of the University of Michigan Law School."And it's aggressive in its legal implications."


Observers wondered Friday whether the administration, by jumping through political hoops to make a legal case, had outsmarted itself. By suggesting to the court that racial considerations are unconstitutional, but not confronting the matter head-on, the administration may displease conservatives, stay in hot water with liberals and potentially annoy the key Supreme Court justices who will decide the issue.


But a close reading of the briefs reveals that the administration believes colleges and universities cannot consider race, because they could achieve diversity in other ways. Sprinkled throughout both briefs are hints and clues--a sentence here, a footnote there--which support the point that such considerations would violate the Constitution.

For example, the administration takes issue with the University of Michigan's argument that diversity is a sufficiently compelling reason to justify its consideration of race. The law school's interest in diversity, the administration brief says," cannot, as a matter of law, justify racial discrimination in admissions in light of the ample race-neutral alternatives."

In some instances, the administration appeared to contradict itself. On the one hand, it said admissions committees should not look at an applicant's race; on the other, it suggested college administrators could consider race when devising their admissions policies in the first place.

In other words, although a college could not consider the race of a particular applicant when deciding whether to admit him, it could change its admissions policies to make them more friendly to minorities.

The briefs suggested that political considerations affected the administration's legal arguments. Unlike his legal team, Bush's political advisers sought a narrow approach to the case, which comes at a difficult time politically for the Republican Party and the president.

Bush has sought minority support for the GOP, but recently has had to deal with the fallout from remarks by former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) that were criticized as racially insensitive.

In short, W and the boys are saying one thing in public and something entirely different in their legal arguments before the Supreme Court. Just one more example of this administration's astonishing dishonesty with the American people.

It's not exactly surprising though. Since Nixon's folks are largely running this adminstration, it doesn't exactly surprise me that they would take such a Nixonian approach. If you recall Nixon once said"Watch what we do, not what we say."

Apparently these folks learned well from their former boss because Nixon's caveat applies to the present administration as well.

Posted by Tom at 10:03 a.m. CST


According to, ugh, the Drudge Report, the latest CNN/Time poll shows that W's public approval rating has dropped two points from the December poll to 53%. I'll bet Glenn and the warmongers won't touch this one with a ten foot poll.

If this is true (and the story appears genuine since it includes dates for the poll, margin of error and how many folks were polled), it is a major story.

If true, W's public support has now reached pre-9/11 levels folks.

The wheels have now, officially, come off W's seemingly"perfect" administration.

And now, perhaps, the media will begin doing its job. We'll see.

The media sharks should begin circling now.

[Link via Atrios]

Update:Here's confirmation from an actually reliable source. This comes via Bill, my partner in crime at Liberal Oasis. Thanks Bill!

I agree with Bill that it now appears that the media has decided -- based on W's plummeting approval rating -- that W is in trouble and that his"stimulus plan" is a flop. Bill will say more about this soon I'm sure.

It took the media long enough, didn't it?

If you recall, some of us were sounding the alarm on this about threeweeksago.

Posted by Tom at 3:37 p.m. CST


You really should go look at the picture Atrios posts on his blog comparing rallies of war opponents and war supporters.

They're having a little trouble garnering much support, aren't they?

Posted by Tom at 11:36 a.m. CST


Mark Morford has definitely got his mojo working! He laid into W as only he can in his column yesterday.

I'll give you just a brief snippet as a preview, so you'll go read the rest of it:

And here we are, once more tied to the rack of the cripplingly painful irony that is Dubya's National Sanctity of Life Day, in case you didn't know and in case you forgot to buy a card or something, and isn't it just the most adorable slap to your karmic consciousness you ever did hear?

Because there's Dubya himself, stammering on from a prepared script clearly written by someone else given all the polysyllabic words, all about cherishing life and protecting the unborn and isn't life just this great fuzzywarm glowing hunk of precious blah blah blah, ad nauseam, hey whoops gotta run folks time to massacre some Iraqis and decimate some forests, smirk.

What, too harsh? Hardly.

Look, just over there, it's Cheney and Rumsfeld, standing just offstage, snickering and shaking their heads at the absurdity of it all, at the hilarious PR, rubbing their hands together and conjuring more oozing war demons from deep within their bowels.

Both giddy with the knowledge that 100,000 more US troops have just been shipped to the Gulf to prepare to kill roughly 500,000 Iraqis and generate roughly 900,000 refugees, with millions more destitute and in need of aid (as estimated by the U.N.'s recent analysis of an Iraq attack called"Likely Humanitarian Scenarios"), the sanctity of whose life, apparently, don't matter in the slightest.

Dubya actually said it. He actually went so far as to pledge his administration's commitment to"build a culture that respects life," saying this with a straight face, no violent lightning bolt striking him dead on the spot, no gnarled filthy hell-beasts reaching with clawed fingers up from the ground and dragging him under, isn't that just the sweetest thing and don't you just feel the sentiment deep in your heart? Or perhaps your colon?

And that's just the beginning. You really should read the rest of it.

Posted by Tom at 10:47 a.m. CST


Max Sawicky, blogger extraordinaire and an actual ECONOMIST with the Economic Policy Institute says"we are either in the longest recession in history, or we are in a new recession now."


While you're there, be sure to read Max's lightbulb jokes soon to be housed in the Ted Barlow Cavalcade of Whimsy Lightbulb Variations Museum.

Posted by Tom at 10:39 a.m. CST


Hesiod just put this up on Counterspin.

You really should go take a look at the comparison of Bill Clinton and W on Media Whores Online (which I just added to the links on the right).

It's quite good.

I've thanked them in an e-mail but I wanted to say here that I am honored to be listed as one of their"unbiased dailies."

Posted by Tom at 9:54 a.m. CST


Sorry for the terrible pun but I couldn't resist. Be sure to head on over to Tim Lambert's update website for the latest in the John"The Dog Ate My Survey" Lott saga.

It's getting awfully interesting. The plot thickens -- and John Lott's nose is growing.

Posted by Tom at 9:37 a.m. CST


Skippy points us to this excellent table from Quiddity Quack at uggabugga laying out the timeline of W's shirking of his Air National Guard duties between 1968 and 1973.

In short, when it was W's time to fight a war he didn't volunteer to serve or protest the war, he just had Poppy find him a cushy assignment to duck the war -- and then he didn't even show up for that.

Just remember this when W orders men to die in Iraq in about six weeks.

Posted by Tom at 9:17 a.m. CST


Ah yes, here's yet another good column by Frank Rich boiling the events of the last couple of weeks down for the rest of us.

Here's a bit of it:

The White House has the bait-and-switch routine down to a science. As The Associated Press reported on Wednesday, Ari Fleischer just happened to announce that Mr. Bush would increase aid to Africa just before declaring the president's intention to intervene in the Michigan case — much as he had announced at the height of the Lott embarrassment that the president was looking forward to a trip to Africa. (That safari was quietly"rescheduled" to no fixed date when Mr. Lott stepped down three days later.) The Africa card is the Republicans' answer to the Democrats' race card, and once it had been played, the stage was set for Mr. Bush's"statement on affirmative action."

That statement contained so many sound bites lauding"diversity" — the word turned up as many as three times in a single breath — that the casual channel surfer might think the president was joining the Rainbow Coalition. Or forget that he presides over a party whose Congressional majority contains not a single black member, even in the House, where"diversity" could easily have been put into action, affirmative or otherwise, by recruiting a minority candidate for one of the many safe Republican districts.

The Bush rhetorical technique — of implying one thing while doing quite another — was first honed to perfection in the speech handing down the great stem-cell" compromise" of summer 2001. In his new and mostly worshipful memoir about Mr. Bush,"The Right Man," his former speechwriter David Frum describes the president's sleight-of-hand technique from the inside:"Because Bush summarized all points of view so sympathetically, he was able to win the support of his viewers for his own not at all middle-of-the-road position." What the speech did, in other words, was persuade inattentive listeners that the president was so sympathetic to scientific research and the ill that he couldn't possibly be throwing roadblocks in the way of potential cures for cancer, juvenile diabetes and Alzheimer's (as in fact he was).

It was only a few weeks after the stem-cell speech that 9/11 was upon us. Although that cataclysmic event is said to have changed George W. Bush as much as it supposedly changed so much else, it has not altered his brazen style. If anything, the midterm election has emboldened the White House to use fictional rhetoric to paper over harsher reality in almost every policy area it can.

Mr. Bush rolls out an economic plan that he says will help address joblessness, now at an eight-year high and growing, when in fact it's mainly a payday for those who collect dividend checks. Promising to speed the cleanup of corporate corruption, he accepts the resignation of Harvey Pitt, but two months-plus later Mr. Pitt is still on the job, working his will as the S.E.C. does some of its most crucial"reform" rule-making. Mr. Bush thumps as a hallmark of his education vision the No Child Left Behind Act, but his tight budget will leave states struggling to fulfill its alleged goals. Even Marvin Olasky, the Bush sycophant who wrote the book that inspired compassionate conservatism, said last month that while he awards the president an"A" for"setting the message" he gives him an"F" for his legislative follow-through.

But Mr. Olasky may not be the only one who is waking up to the ruse. The drop in Mr. Bush's poll numbers this week reminds us that anesthesia, no matter how well administered, eventually wears off. Affirmative action, judicial nominations, Enron and the rest are passionate issues for some, but war is a wake-up call for all. As the president keeps stamping his foot about Saddam Hussein, there is a dawning sensation that America is being held hostage by the administration idée fixe that is Iraq. It's a sword of Damocles hanging over our foreign policy, economy and national security alike.


Posted by Tom at 12:19 a.m. CST


Atrios points us to this excellent column by Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe.

Here's part of it:

AS EXPECTED, President Bush restored affirmative action programs for white people. ''Racial prejudice is a reality in America,'' Bush declared Wednesday in his landmark speech from the White House. ''It hurts many of our citizens.... America's long experience with the segregation we have put behind us, and the racial discrimination we still struggle to overcome requires a special effort to make real the promise of equal opportunity for all.''

Bush's effort is so special that this may very well be the first Martin Luther King. Jr. birthday during which the loudest celebrations come not from black churches and integrated downtown breakfasts but from the hallways of segregated suburbia to the romantic enclaves of the Confederacy. Finally for them, this is the day to shout ''We Have Overcome.'' This is the day that a lot of God's white people - Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - are holding hands and singing in the words of their new spiritual, ''Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last!''

A half-century ago the civil rights movement began in earnest when a black woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. Bush now says, through his actions, that the citizens most hurt by racial prejudice are white. He will throw the monumental weight of a White House brief behind white women who have sued all the way to Supreme Court to destroy the University of Michigan's affirmative action program.

In standing with the white women, Bush blasted Michigan's program, which awards bonus points to African-American, Native American, and some Latino students in order to account for historical disadvantages. Bush called it a ''quota system.'' He said: ''students are being selected or rejected primarily on the color of their skin. The motivation for such an admissions policy may be very good, but its result is discrimination, and that discrimination is wrong.''

Bush lied. Yes, Michigan gives bonus points. But the school has no quotas. The school, even with affirmative action, is not yet close to racial parity. The state's population is 14 percent African-American. The undergraduate college and the law school, the two targets of the lawsuit, are currently 8.4 percent and 6.7 percent African-American. The law school says that without affirmative action the percentage of African-Americans and Latinos would drop to 4 percent each.

At best, affirmative action was keeping Michigan, one of the nation's top public universities, from becoming lily white. Bush's claim that students of color are being selected ''primarily on the color of their skin'' is as divisive as the explosive 1990 Jesse Helms ad that said, ''You needed that job, and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota.'' By using the word ''primarily,'' Bush implies that illiterate applicants of color are trampling over white geniuses.

Lying is all Bush can do now that he has decided to make the White House the national headquarters of the NAACP - the National Association for the Advancement of Caucasian People. Contrary to his lofty words, this remains an America in need of remedial tools. Despite the progress that has been made, studies, particularly those from Harvard University's Civil Rights Project, are showing that public schools are resegregating back to the levels of 30 years ago.

Bush decries bonus points for black people, but in the two years of his presidency he has said nothing about bonus points for white people. Just this week The Wall Street Journal did a feature on ''legacy'' admissions to colleges, which disproportionately benefit the children of alumni. The acceptance rate of children of alumni - alumni who are assumed to be more likely to give money to colleges where their children are accepted - towers over other applicants. The rate of acceptance of ''legacies'' is twice as high as it is for other students at Penn, three times as high at Princeton, and four times as high at Harvard.

Great column, eh? I'm watching the Donahue replay on MSNBC as I'm typing this post. Isn't it shameful the way the administration is using Condi Rice as their cover on this one?

I actually feel sorry for Condi today. I would suspect she won't sleep well tonight. I'd be thoroughly embarrassed to be used like she was today.

BTW, she clearly doesn't agree with W and the boys on this one and they're spinning her comments to claim that she does.

How much more evidence do you need of the basic dishonesty of this administration?

Posted by Tom at 10:20 p.m. CST


Here's a good column about the Michigan Affirmative Action case written by an Ivy League legacy kid, Debra Pickett of the Sun-Times.

Here's a bit from it:

I've been counting and, so far, have come up with exactly one thing I have in common with President Bush: We both went to Ivy League schools, the same ones our fathers did. Which makes us beneficiaries of one of the coziest little affirmative action programs this fine country has to offer.

Bush stopped short of actually uttering the words"affirmative action" when he got us all talking about this Wednesday. Instead, he kept to the specifics of the University of Michigan admissions formulas that are the subject of a case now before the Supreme Court, calling them"divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the Constitution."

He didn't mention anything about the whole deal with Ivy League alumni kids.

Bush was a C student. His SAT score, 1206 out of a possible 1600, while above the national average, was well below average for Yale's class of 1968. He got in primarily because he was a"legacy," the son of an alumnus. This might sound divisive and unfair, especially if you are, let's say, a very smart kid whose parents didn't go to Yale, but it does square with the Constitution, because Yale, like the University of Pennsylvania, where I went to school, is a private institution.

The University of Michigan is a state school, publicly funded and, as far as the law is concerned, an"agency of the government." It doesn't have the kind of legal leeway the Ivy League schools do.

Michigan, which receives about 25,000 applications every year for its undergraduate classes of 5,000 students, devised a 150-point scale for ranking its applicants. Twenty points--about one-fifth of what it takes to get in--are given for applicants whose presence on campus would help the university meet its diversity goals. African-American and Hispanic students get the points, as do recruited athletes and those from poor families. And Michigan's law school sets aside a certain number of seats each year for African-American and Hispanic applicants.

When some Michigan state legislators heard about the university's admissions policies, they put out a call for white students who believed they'd been rejected because less-qualified African-American and Hispanic students were accepted instead. The Center for Individual Rights, a Washington legal foundation, came forward to underwrite a lawsuit. And plenty of pissed-off white kids stepped up to volunteer. Interestingly, they didn't seem to be pissed off about the football players and basketball players and impoverished kids. And, lucky for the president and me, they weren't at all upset about the legacy kids, who, under the Michigan system, get four extra points. It was the blacks and Hispanics who really got to them.

And, of course, it was the presence of race as a factor that gave them some legal ground to stand on. Because, while there are no laws against discriminating against people who don't have the good fortune to have parents who went to Yale, there are plenty of laws against discriminating on the basis of race. The Michigan plaintiffs say they were discriminated against because they are white.

Jennifer Gratz, a now-25-year-old white woman from Southgate, Mich., was among the first in line to sign on to the lawsuit. She told reporters that her reaction immediately after receiving her rejection letter in 1995 was,"Can we sue them?"

Though she was a B student with mediocre test scores, she was sure that some underqualified minority had taken her"spot" at Michigan. She says her life is now forever changed, that she's given up her dream of being a doctor and that she'll never know what kind of doors might have opened for her if she'd attended the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus, instead of the less-prestigious one in Dearborn, where she ended up.

This is a good column about a complicated issue. There are, I know, principled arguments against affirmative action. Of course, I would argue the administration is not making them and is essentially engaging in a more sophisticated form of race-baiting in this case. Taken in conjunction with the Pickering nomination, the administration has spent the last week or so working hard to convince racists in the South that the Trent Lott saga didn't really represent any sort of major change in the basic racial attitudes of the Republican Party.

However, I must say it's the story of this student that really grabbed my attention. Isn't this sort of belief in an"entitlement" to attend a prestigious state university just a wee bit offensive? Isn't it amazing that this woman would really believe that someone less deserving took her place and that not going to the University of Michigan caused her to"give up" her dream of being a doctor?

You and I know it really didn't. My guess is the hard work and studying required are what really caused her to give up on it -- probably after she started going to class at the Dearborn campus of the University of Michigan. However, that rejection letter from Ann Arbor gave her someone else to blame it on, those meanies at the University of Michigan.

I'm afraid to say this is the mindset of some college students today but fortunately not all of them. I see this more often than I'd like to admit.

Some students honestly believe that if they fail, it really must be someone else's fault -- usually the university's or the instructor's of course. It couldn't possibly be their own fault, could it? The fact they didn't crack the book or study until the night before the test or didn't come to class for a couple of weeks in a row couldn't possibly have anything to do with it now, could it?

It's often mediocre white students like these who are the most vocal in arguing against things like affirmative action not because they truly worry about fairness or anything but because these affirmative action programs provide them with a very convenient crutch upon which to lean while making excuses about their own failures. They seem to be saying that they didn't succeed because society had it in for them.

Someone else took my"spot."


Update: Looky here, an Insty sycophant has weighed in again about something on this blog. This time he's claiming that my argument helps to make his case about ending affirmative action. As usual, he couldn't be further from the truth.

Of course, I'd be willing to go along with him if he's willing to assure me that all college admission decisions are based entirely on merit and academic record alone (athletes too) and that his solution would also include the end of legacy admissions. Oh, wait, that's damn near impossible and the rich folks like the Bushes would never agree to it so it'll never happen. Of course, there is no statistical system that is perfect and doesn't involve an arbitrary human decision at some point so his argument is"pie in the sky," isn't it?

Assaults on affirmative action, I would argue, are primarily used by the demagogues on his side of the aisle to appeal to the racist segregationists in the South anyway so he'd better get off his high horse. There are no"high" principles being defended here by Republicans. This is the low road buddy and you might as well get yourself out of the mud while you still can.

Posted by Tom at 3:29 p.m. CST


E.J. Dionne's column this morning asks an important question: who will pay for W's runaway government spending?

Here's a snippet:

The administration is disguising its intentions by combining these large tax cuts for the wealthy with more modest breaks for people in the middle class, all the while running up the deficit. It is trying to push off the table the obvious option -- to give a break to the middle class without handing out huge sums to a very small number of very wealthy Americans.

It will and should be repeated over and over that under Bush's program, Vice President Cheney would get a tax cut of $327,000, according to calculations by Bloomberg News based on Cheney's 2001 tax return. In a time of war, is it really urgent to plunge the country ever deeper into debt to give Cheney and comparably placed taxpayers that much relief? The administration is placing the burden of helping the wealthy now on our children and grandchildren. This is not only unjust, it's nuts.

Gates and Collins, whose book focuses on the estate tax, ask the essential question: Isn't the estate tax a better tax than the alternatives?"Estate taxes compared with what?" they write."Wage taxation? Increased sales taxes? Consumption taxes? A return to nineteenth century tariffs?" Their questions apply just as well to the tax on dividends.

Ah, but wouldn't everyone pay less if government grew smaller? But this administration, with its war plans and other military expenditures, is making government bigger. Without big cuts in spending on items that Americans like -- Medicare and other health programs, Social Security, child care, aid to education and, let's not forget, domestic security -- the choice will be larger deficits or a heavier tax burden on middle-class and poor Americans.

And as state and local governments' revenue dries up while the federal government puts more burdens on them -- for example, homeland security costs and the price of complying with the new education law -- these governments either have to raise taxes, especially regressive sales taxes, or slash spending.

And I repeat, for emphasis, that in the 1990s taxes were raised on the rich at about this point in the recession and the economy responded by booming.

Why is any of this necessary in the first place? It sure as hell isn't going to provide any sort of stimulus.

It's simply dishonest.

And this, my friends, appears to be an amazingly dishonest administration.

I really don't think W and the boys are going to like what history has to say about them.

Posted by Tom at 1:50 p.m. CST


David Appell would like to announce the Sullivan Award, named in honor of Andrew Sullivan, for outstanding contributions in easy-chair warmongering.

Posted by Tom at 10:04 a.m. CST


CalPundit has a more tempered post than mine about the New York Times fluff piece on Insty that was written by a"journalist" (and I use that term loosely) who clearly has never read his blog.

Kevin notices this sentence:

In InstaPundit's early days, he hunted the Web for ideas. Now most are e-mailed to him; fellow bloggers know that a link from Mr. Reynolds guarantees a spike of hundreds of additional readers, if not thousands.

Kevin says:

This confirms something I've suspected for a while, and I think that overall it's probably a bad thing. There's nothing wrong with getting ideas from your readers — probably every blogger does this to some degree or another — but on a large scale it risks turning your site into an echo chamber of interest only to people who already agree with you. This is probably OK in the case of a site like Little Green Footballs, which is deliberately designed to be that way, but not so good for a site like InstaPundit that tries to cover a wider range of topics and appeal to a wider range of readers.

There's something else I'd say about this practice: it's incredibly and astonishingly lazy. Our good Mr. Instapundit now apparently doesn't even do his own research. It also helps explain why he gets the arguments of those he disagrees with so garbled at times. He accepts other people's word for the content of the articles and doesn't actually read them himself. If you recall, that's what I said was going on regarding the Martha Burk affair back in November. There have been numerous examples since as well.

Insty's blog? An echo chamber? No kidding?

Of course Kevin's right about this but it is sort of an apparent point nonetheless.

And, FYI, an Atrios link now brings about the same number of hits to your blog as an Insty link does, sometimes more. I don't know if that's a measure of the decline of Insty in the blogosphere (I do have it on good authority that his links don't bring the numbers to your blog they used to) or the increase in the readership and influence of Atrios.

I thought I'd offer that little tidbit up for your consumption.

Update: For more on just a few of the Insty controversies mentioned on this blog, go here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Look at that. I just did much more research than that New York Times reporter did.

Posted by Tom at 9:11 a.m. CST


Krugman's column is really good today. Krugman is at his best when he's skewering W's economic policy.

I'll give you a bit of it:

Picture a recovering alcoholic falling off the wagon. First he says he can handle a few drinks. Then, when his inebriation can't be denied, he insists it's only a temporary lapse. But eventually he turns mean."What's so great about being sober?" he growls, reaching for another bottle.

As a drunk is to alcohol, the Bush administration is to budget deficits.

During the 2000 campaign George W. Bush often pledged to maintain fiscal responsibility. Right up to the passage of the 2001 tax cut his people said they could cut taxes, pay for new programs like prescription drug coverage, and still pay off most of the federal government's debt.

As soon as the bill passed, those rosy budget projections fell apart. Then came Sept. 11."Lucky me, I hit the trifecta," declared Mr. Bush, claiming — falsely — to have said during the campaign that his budget promises didn't apply in the event of recession, war or national emergency. But until this week officials insisted the deficit was temporary.

Now the budget director, Mitch Daniels, has admitted the obvious: The federal government faces the prospect of large deficits as far as the eye can see. And sure enough, the drunk has turned mean. As the administration reaches for another bottle — another long-term tax cut for the affluent — its officials sullenly denounce the"fixation" on budget deficits, dismissing it as nonsensical"Rubinomics." (So much, by the way, for the war on terror as an excuse for deficits."What did you do in the war, daddy?" asks Ronald Brownstein in The Los Angeles Times."I got a big tax cut, and passed the bill on to you.")

The rest of it is just as good. Go give it a read.

Posted by Tom at 8:32 a.m. CST


Hesiod points us to the New York Timesstory that Insty was fretting about a couple of weeks ago. He definitely didn't have to worry about it being a hatchet job, that's for sure. I'm thinking of another phrase ending in"job" at the moment.

Get a load of this passage:

Some bloggers believe that Mr. Reynolds's frenetic pace occasionally causes him to bungle facts or to misrepresent the arguments of the people to whom he is linking.

"He presents opinions of people who agree with him as facts and distorts the positions of people who disagree with him," said Martin Wisse, who runs the Progressive Gold blog."In short, he poses as an objective journalist when he's not."

But Mr. Reynolds is often quick to admit at his site when he has gotten a story wrong. And he frequently links to people who are his ideological opposite.

Is this really our Insty he's describing? Since when has he done either of those things? Glenn willfully misrepresents the arguments of people he disagrees with and NEVER admits when he's wrong. He also VERY SELDOM links to people he disagrees with -- with the notable exception of Skippy every once in a while. He's gotten into a couple of dust-ups with me and has YET to provide a link to this blog even when he was disagreeing with me.

As most of my readers of just the past month or so know, numerous times on this blog I have presented substantive criticisms of Insty and exposed his tactics. I'm told by a couple of different people that my name was given to this"journalist" who wrote this astonishingly lightweight puff piece on Insty.

My phone didn't ring.

After reading this piece of fluff, I can't exactly say I'm surprised.

Posted by Tom at 8:59 p.m. CST

IT'S AWFULLY SAD... 01-16-03

Today, about mid-afternoon, my departmental colleagues and I found out some terrible news. One of our faculty colleagues in Agriculture, Alex Ching, had a massive heart attack while shoveling snow this morning and died. We were all shocked and saddened by the news.

After all there are only about 250 faculty here, so you know most of your faculty colleagues. This is also a small town (10,000 people), so you run into your colleagues everywhere and you know everyone it seems.

Alex was always a wonderful person to talk to and enthusiastic about his job as an agriculture professor. The joke around campus was that Alex could grow anything -- in a crack in the concrete if necessary. To say he had a green thumb was an understatement!

Although Alex was quite a bit older than I am (I would guess he was in his upper 50s), he had two children about my kids' age. His son is eight and his daughter is five. We carpooled with them a couple of years ago when his son and mine were going to preschool and pre-kindergarten together. I can't help but think about his wife (who is about my age) who has lost her husband and his children who have lost their father.

It's awfully sad.

I'm still having trouble believing it.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 p.m. CST


While I was home for lunch today, I was watching CNN's coverage of creepy John Negroponte's press conference about the U.N. inspectors finding emptychemical weapons warheads from the 1980s in Iraq.

Kyra Phillips asks David Ensor this question:

The question is, how big of a deal is this? Is this old junk left over from year's past, or is this a smoking gun and leading us one step closer to war?

You could see it on her face. What she really wanted to say was this:

"Is this leading us one step closer to higher ratings?"

I also love how the administration is playing this particular development down -- as well they should. But do you really think they would be this patient if the invasion force was in position?

If you recall, Poppy essentially made up something (remember the never-produced satellite photos showing Iraqi troops on the Saudi border?) to use as justification in 1991. (For more on this interesting little story, go here and here.)

I expect the administration to try to use something no larger than this as the reason for the invasion late next month or in early March.

As always, we'll see.

I still think IraqWar Part II might get put off until the election year for wagging the dog political purposes but, again, colleagues who are in the know say this puppy's been delayed a little bit but will be going off in about six weeks.

This post also appears on Stand Down.

Posted by Tom at 4:42 p.m. CST


Atrios points us to this hilarious story about the cartoonish conservatives over at David Horowitz's Front Page Magazine.

If you're a fan of this demagogue it might disappoint you a bit.

If you're not, it will just confirm what you already thought about the idiotic litmus tests required for folks who work with Horowitz.

Update: Whenever I think about David Horowitz I'm always reminded of this post by Josh Marshall that contains the perfect description of Horowitz:

But one of the best ways to judge someone's moral and intellectual seriousness -- perhaps also their moral and intellectual caliber, but at least their seriousness -- is to see who they pick as their enemies, who they choose to pick fights with. Someone like David Horowitz is a great example of the effectiveness of this method -- a sorry sort of guy, bubbling on churning rapids of cash, constantly casting about for some new lefty freak to mount a new crusade against, all mixed-up with aggrieved passion and outrage. The whole enterprise is about as grave and righteous as tricking retarded grade-schoolers out of their lunch money.

Posted by Tom at 1:31 p.m. CST


Derrick Jackson's column in the Boston Globe about the Republicans outrageous claims that Pickering is"being lynched" by his opponents is quite good.

By renominating Pickering, the Republicans have proven that out of a nation of 150 million white adults, they still find it hard to find white guys who synchronize their watches to the year 2003. The Republican senators who cry that Pickering's leniency is being unfairly used against him were the same senators who let John Ashcroft hang Ronnie White's nomination for a federal judgeship from the Senate's rafters in 1999. Ashcroft, now our attorney general despite his honorary degree from racist and homophobic Bob Jones University and his hero worship of Confederate leaders, grossly distorted and misstated the record of White, an African-American, as ''pro-criminal'' when White had actually upheld the death penalty on the Missouri Supreme Court about as much or even more than his colleagues.

Even though Ashcroft all but lied, Hatch found White ''very troubling'' and voted against him. Frist also voted against White. But for Pickering, who defanged existing hate laws for a cross-burner, Frist says he is ''eminently qualified.''

Frist is even starting to blame the Democrats for using race against Pickering. The use of race by the Republicans cannot be more ironic. It shows how brazen the Republicans are when they invoke such horrible images of Pickering's treatment when Pickering himself was soft on the very act that throughout our nation's history foreshadowed the lynching of hundreds, if not thousands, of African-Americans.


There are times I get really angry at Clarence Thomas for cheapening that word in his confirmation hearings. I can't believe that the Republicans are so astonishingly tone-deaf as to use this word to describe what's happening to Pickering."Lynching" is a term that should be used for real crimes folks, not the"political crime" of discussing the record of a questionable -- and morally repugnant -- nominee for a federal judiciary position.

With ridiculous statements like this coming from leading Republicans, do you really think the Republicans are officially over their little"race problem?"


Be honest.

Posted by Tom at 11:42 a.m. CST


Damn, this column by Richard Cohen about the North Korea mess could've been written by me. I think the press may finally be getting it.

I'll give you a bit from it:

The Bush administration is in disarray. This week, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said in Seoul that the United States was willing to offer the North some aid. Immediately, his remarks were repudiated in Washington by an anonymous administration official who said Kelly was"off the reservation." Now he's back on, but the poor man must be reeling.

But it is the Bush administration itself that is reeling. Its rhetoric and pronouncements are at odds with reality. It has been self-indulgent in its moralizing -- all that tripe about evil -- too pushy in its foreign policy and too eager to personalize matters of international relations. The administration's problem with North Korea is symptomatic of a larger one: It talks before it thinks.

Certainly, the Clinton administration's agreement with North Korea could have been improved. But Bush has not done that. He has left it a shambles -- with nothing to take its place. I am tempted to quote the late Mr. Stengel again. But the problem this time is not with the players -- it's with the manager.

As I've said here before many times, these folks are supposed to be good at this, right? I've seen absolutely no evidence of it so far. W and the boys don't just bumble in domestic policy, they're pretty lousy at foreign policy too.

I'm not even sure if calling it"amateur hour" does it justice myself.

Posted by Tom at 11:19 a.m. CST


Here's a good column by Mary McGrory.

I'll give you a bit of it:

For the first time since his phenomenal rise in the polls after 9/11, Bush's numbers have declined. Doubts have set in. The cocky, swaggering, Old West lingo was just right when the country was shaken to the roots by the slaughter at the twin towers. But in the North Korean non-crisis, attitude was not enough. Bush -- who apparently thought Kim Jong Il would be respectful of his November victory at the polls -- spun around in complete circles, vowing never to talk, never to negotiate, never to do what Clinton did. Then he had to get his information from the Democratic governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, Clinton's U.N. ambassador, who was sought out by two North Korean diplomats.

The country may have been cowering at the specter of a North Korean roadside stand where nuclear weapons would be sold to the world's madmen, but all Bush could manage was a petulant statement that he was"sick and tired" of Saddam Hussein.

The public, or at least those polled by Gallup, didn't think much of his economic medicine -- his"jobs and growth" plan to fatten fat cats. Democrats are calling it the"Leave No Millionaires Behind" program.

To demonstrate again its opinion of the worthlessness of Democratic senators, the White House canceled a promised North Korea briefing by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz -- it said it was short of briefers. Democratic leader Tom Daschle then announced that Bill Richardson would brief the Democrats. The White House said Armitage would be available after all.

Go read the rest of it. I've got to head off to my second class of the morning -- it starts in a couple of minutes.

Posted by Tom at 9:33 a.m. CST


I just saw this on Atrios's blog and I went and hunted up the White House transcript because I couldn't believe my eyes. Somebody in the press is doing their job. Holy Cow!

Anyway, here's an exchange between Terry Moran and Ari Fleischer from today's White House Press Briefing:

Q You said the President is against racial preferences because they're divisive. Is he against other preferences that colleges and universities routinely grant that people see as unfair? Like the one he got?

MR. FLEISCHER: I understand -- I understand all the interest and the specific questions dealing with the review of the University of Michigan case --

Q That is not what I'm asking.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- and the implications that come from whatever decision is made. I'm not going to go beyond --

Q I'm asking a question about fairness.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- I'm not going to go beyond where I've gone, because --

Q All right. Let me --

MR. FLEISCHER: -- be able to base it on reason and judge for yourself once you see what the President has concluded and why he's concluded it. And he'll share his thoughts.

Q But the general question about his feeling about fairness in America. When he was 18, he got into Yale University, which had and still has a policy of granting very special preferences to children of graduates, like him. Is that preference okay, to give him a leg up, but other preferences are not?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think you're going to have a good understanding of how the President approaches the issue of opportunity and diversity when the President shares his thoughts publicly -- which is going to be, as I indicated, in some short period of time.

I will take this opportunity to speak for W and the administration and answer Terry Moran's last question: Yes.

Posted by Tom at 9:56 p.m. CST

ON A ROLL... 01-15-03

Boy, Hesiod over at Counterspin is on a roll today. Be sure and go on over and read the many great posts he's written today.

My personal favorite is this imitation Insty post growing out of the lightbulb joke fest over at Ted Barlow's blog:

Q: How many Glenn Reynolds' does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL, OR JUST AN ONCOMING TRAIN? James Lileks says that Iraq's clandestine exploding lightbulb program (think"Burt Reynolds" and"The Longest Yard") is a threat to international peace and security because they could inject deadly toxins such as ricin into the bulbs, and potentially assasinate dissidents, OR other of Saddam's enemies.

I think this is just about right. And, the recent arrest of several islamic extremists in Britain does make one wonder. How many lightbulbs did they have?

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish reminds me that among the shipment of arms intended for the Palestinian authority intercepted last year, were several crates full of German-made lightbulbs. How many of the bulbs made their way to Al Qaeda terrorist cells via Hamas, and Saddam Hussein? And what does this mean for Gerhard Shroeder's culpability in the continuation of mideast violence and terrorism?

UPDATE: Jim Henley (the only one of my legion of critics that I regularly lilnk to) takes issue with my conclusions, arguing that

"[l]ightbulbs, are lightbulbs. Sure, in rare circumstances they can be used to cause injury or death. But, the normal, and overwhelmingly most common use for them is to provide adequate indoor lighting. I think you're reading way to much into this, as usual."

Good point Jim. Although, it has to be said...what does Saddam need with so many German lightbulbs? Look for my upcoming Tech Central Station column on the mechanics of turning the common household lightbulb into a weapon of terror.

Uncanny, isn't it?

I'm beginning to wonder if Hesiod isn't really Insty himself.

What do you think?

There is a lot of interesting stuff going on over there at Counterspin. Mosey on over and take a look for yourself.

P.S. Hesiod, you do understand I'm joking, right?

Posted by Tom at 4:55 p.m. CST

GRAPHS, ANYONE? 01-15-03

Yesterday, MyDD had a great post with all the graphs fit to print.

I'll just put one up here to whet your appetite:

Bush’s Job of Handling Foreign Affairs

He's got many more for your viewing pleasure.

The tide appears to be turning folks.

Posted by Tom at 2:24 p.m. CST


Here's this week's Gene Lyons column:

White House Unveils McDuck Initiative

Given the past two weeks, it's tempting to suspect that President Junior's free pass expired last New Year's Eve. The smoke and mirrors appear to have quit working. 2003 was supposed to usher in an era of GOP triumphalism. Instead, it's brought White House bungling on matters foreign and domestic, alarming even some of the administration's admirers in the Washington press. No wonder Junior's standing in opinion polls has begun to slip. Unfortunately, that probably means war.

First, North Korea. Bush took office expressing contempt for international treaties, then used 9/11 to vent the kind of whup ass threats against the blameless North Koreans normally limited to bad country songs. (Blameless in 9/11, that is.) If Junior had acted that belligerent back in his drinking days, he'd have no teeth left. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was recently heard boasting that the U.S. could whip North Korea with Iraq tied behind its back.

Then, as that country's cunning Stalinist regime called the White House's bluff and steadily raised the ante, reality intruded. Strategically unnecessary, a Korean war would involve catastrophic casualties win, lose or (like fifty years ago) draw. The crisis threatened to spark an East Asian arms race, with Japan and South Korea tempted to go nuclear, and China to add to its arsenal.

I heard a Republican diplomat on NPR opine that Korean dictator Kim Il Jong's timing was accidental. Please. My golden retriever Big Red knows that when the sound's cranked up on the stereo, it's a good time to raid the kitchen table.

Again dispatched to clean up a mess cocksure administration"hawks" had made, Colin Powell began by praising the 1994 treaty negotiated by Jimmy Carter."The previous administration I give great credit to for freezing that plutonium site," he told the Washington Post."Lots of nuclear weapons were not made because of the Agreed Framework and the work of President Clinton and his team."

JoshMarshall's TalkingPointsMemo.com website, far ahead of the big time Washington press on this story, predicted all along"that the Bush administration's awkward climb-down would end with their embracing a policy close to, if not identical to, that pursued by the Clinton administration: i.e., a mix of threats and offers of aid to induce the North Koreans to abandon their nuclear program."

Now that it's happened, Marshall reports that outgoing Clinton officials briefed their Bush counterparts TWO YEARS AGO that North Korea was fudging on treaty commitments. (Although not on the critical plutonium reactor.) Even while provoking a confrontation they were unprepared to handle, Junior's team kept it a secret."What possible rationale," Marshall asks," could there be for choosing this moment to blow the whistle? What other explanation beside incompetence?"

Then came the rollout of Junior's big Scrooge McDuck economic stimulus. Designed to raise the bullion level in the cartoon zillionaire's swimming pool a full two feet, the plan would also save Bush himself, Bloomberg News calculated, $43,805 on his 2001 tax return. Vice President Dick Cheney would net a cool $220,000.

Asked his plans for the windfall, Junior turned coy."My money is in a blind trust," he said."I don't know if I've got any dividends."

Sure he doesn't. As Joe Conason quipped regarding another GOP pol's blind trust," it's more likely Bush's fortune is merely wearing dark glasses. Vice-president Cheney declined to answer the question, but did give a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce arguing that deficit spending does no economic harm. The New York Times noted that his speech was uninterrupted by applause. Meanwhile, Sen. Blanche Lincoln estimates that 8% of Arkansans would benefit from eliminating taxes on stock dividends.

But it's the McDuck plan's effect on the budget that alarmed normally respectful pundits."Forget guns and butter," wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein"Bush is now offering bombs and caviar."

"So Now Bigger Is Better?" was the headline over Washington Post scribe David Broder's article detailing how, contrary to his campaign rhetoric, Bush has presided over huge spending increases--only a third of which can be attributed to the"war on terrorism." In an accompanying column, he quoted an anonymous veteran of previous GOP administrations calling the McDuck scheme maybe"the least defensible plan ever."

The public seems to agree. Both the CNN/USA TODAY and Ipsos/Reid polls show Junior's favorability ratings dropping five points in a single week to 58 percent, his lowest since 9/11. Support for the McDuck plan measured 25 percent.

Failures elsewhere, however, appear likely to make the White House even more determined to invade Iraq. Alas, Bush may have to go it alone. Thunderous majorities among our European allies oppose invading Iraq unless U.N. inspectors find Saddam's fabled weapons of mass destruction. But should he force the issue in the absence of that evidence, will Junior still be president when the troops come home?

Excellent as always, right?

Posted by Tom at 12:10 p.m. CST


Maureen Dowd's column is quite good today. I'm aware Dowd can be an acquired taste and she often is a bit shrill. I believe it was my HNN blogging colleague Jeff Pasley who described her as"all attitude and little substance." However, today's column actually has a fair amount of substance and analysis.

Here's just a bit of it:

George W. Bush designed his entire political career and presidency to make sure he would never face this moment.

The moment where he would pick up USA Today one morning midway through his term and read that his stratospheric approval numbers were dropping because more and more people think he is out of touch with average Americans.

For the first time since 9/11, Mr. Bush's ratings have slipped below 60 percent in a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll that reflects growing unease with his approach on the economy and taxes, domestic policy and international threats.

Craig Patterson, a 45-year-old ironworker in St. Louis worried about dwindling construction jobs, summed it up for USA Today:"I trust Bush with my daughter, but I trust Clinton with my job."

Mr. Bush and Karl Rove may be disproving Santayana: They have dedicated themselves to learning from the history of the first President Bush, and yet they seem doomed to repeat it anyway.

Bush Senior was fired by voters who thought he was aloof from their economic suffering, overly consumed with foreign affairs and insulated by an inner circle of rich white patricians. He did little to appease his conservative base and, after the '88 campaign, chafed at being positioned by strategists. In his re-election campaign he was reduced to pleading:"Message: I care."

W. and Mr. Rove tried to reverse the playbook, coddling their base and being hard-nosed on tactics. The strategist packaged the younger Bush as a leader who cared, even if his compassion never evolved from slogan to policy, even if his concern for those in need of stock dividend tax breaks trumped his concern for those in need of stem cell research.

So the pair, fresh from their midterm triumph, must be flabbergasted to hear the same sort of complaints that tripped up Poppy: a Bush favoring rich Republicans and tone-deaf to the alarms of ordinary Americans.

Good so far but her analysis on foreign policy is actually better:

It's equally hard to fathom the president's bipolar approach to nuclear threats. Yesterday he hurled new ultimatums at Saddam Hussein."I'm sick and tired of games and deception," he said, even as he responded to Kim Jong Il's games and deception with pleas and promises to send food and oil to Pyongyang. There are inspectors in Iraq who are not finding nuclear weapons, while inspectors have been kicked out of North Korea, which has admitted to a nuclear weapons program.

So what's the message here? If Saddam had already developed nukes, we'd send him a fruit basket? But since he hasn't, we'll send him Tomahawk missiles. We know Saddam's weak, but we're pretending he's strong so America can walk tall by whupping him.

North Korea used its own version of our pre-emptive strike doctrine to blackmail us, and make the administration's global swaggering look suspiciously selective.

And where in the name of Rummy is Osama?

I can't help but wonder if this dive in popularity isn't about to lead to some rather major changes for W and the boys. Maybe they can re-invent themselves in time to get re-elected. We'll see.

If you ever wanted to know if a conservative agenda is really that popular in the U.S., the last few months have given us an answer: No.

To review: this president, despite incredible popularity a year ago, has watched it all vanish as he pursued a relentless conservative domestic and foreign policy agenda. History has shown that Americans tend to like candidates who are in the middle of the political spectrum. Americans made the mistake of believing W's campaign commercials. They thought they were getting a moderate. They didn't.

That's why, before 9/11, W was on the way down in popularity. After the short-lived 9/11 spike and the midterm election in which only 40% of Americans voted (and the votes nationwide were split about even), the public has begun to pay attention to what W is doing once again. They don't like what they see. They see an administration that is pursuing an agenda that is centered around further enriching their political patrons through tax cuts, deficit-spending, and pursuing a bullying foreign policy.

Americans also, make no mistake, are not interested in W's unilateral war with Iraq either -- that's also dragging his approval numbers down. They believe a unilateral war is a mistake and the North Korea crisis has exposed the astonishing double-speak this administration is capable of in foreign policy.

Now, does this mean that W is doomed? Of course not. W can turn it around but he very well may have to re-invent himself. He very well may have to demonstrate that he cares -- because the polls are beginning to show that Americans believe, as Dowd argues, that W simply doesn't care.

His father couldn't pull it off. Perhaps W can.

And you and I know he won't mean it when he claims to be a moderate once again. I wish I could say that the American people won't fall for the snake oil salesmanship from W again but, the truth is, they probably will.

We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 8:42 a.m. CST


Indulge me a bit more. Now I'm going to talk weather. Here's the weather forecast for the next couple of days here:

Winter Storm Watch for Wednesday evening through Thursday morning...


Partly cloudy this evening...then becoming cloudy. Lows in the lower teens. North winds 5 to 10 mph.


Cloudy. A chance of snow in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 20s. Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 40 percent.

Wednesday Night

Snow...heavy at times. Total accumulation...4 to 7 inches. Lows in the mid teens. East winds 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 80 percent.


Cloudy. A chance of snow in the morning. Windy. Highs in the lower 20s. Chance of snow 40 percent.

My kids are jittering about wildly, excited about the possibility of snow. Here in Mizzurah we often have to cancel school for snow (primarily because this state does a very lousy job of snow removal). My kids are anticipating the ever-wonderful"snow day" for Thursday.

As always, we'll see.

I'll let you know if my wife and I survive.

Posted by Tom at 8:05 p.m. CST

EXCUSES! 01-14-03

Let me indulge myself and talk shop a bit. Glen Engel-Cox has a wonderful post about the excuses he's heard from his college students in his classes over the past few years. I'm not sure I'd have delivered this as part of my first day's activities but it's good as a blog entry nonetheless.

I've heard a variation on all of these over the last seven years of full-time teaching. I'll admit that I don't really have that many problems but they do happen every now and then. Back when I used to teach our freshman seminar orientation course I used to have a class the very first week that dealt with these issues in a similar fashion.

The truth of the matter is that part of college for students is learning that they're now responsible for their own work. If they don't do it, no one else will -- and no one's going to nag them about it.

It may actually be the most important lesson students learn in college -- and, unfortunately, some of them will have to fail your course (and possibly many others along the way) to learn it.

Posted by Tom at 7:54 p.m. CST


In an excellent post Dwight over at P.L.A. points out a rather obvious lie told to Newsweek by the White House regarding the support for the stimulus plan.

Apparently, the White House told Newsweek that there was"universal consensus" among the economic policy folks in the White House several weeks ago -- including support from then-Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill -- to back the dividend tax cuts in the stimulus plan.

Um. Judging from this story I think it's safe to say they're telling a fib.

Here's a statement from recently-fired Paul O'Neill:

In an interview Friday for the KD/PG Sunday Edition television show and in comments afterward, O'Neill said he saw minor value in eliminating taxes on corporate dividends as proposed by Bush but added,"I would not have done it."

As Dwight says, I don't think there's any way you could spin that as support, could you?

It is amazing how these guys will always try to argue that everyone in the White House agrees about *everything*, isn't it? Dissent is wrong and viewed as"disloyal" by W and the boys. That's just not a very healthy environment in which to make policy. This has led to an environment in which everyone in the White House kow-tows to Karl Rove. Predictably, Rove now makes most of the major domestic policy decisions in the White House.

This story also contains another very interesting item:

[O'Neill] also had said it was"not acceptable" that Bush had failed to file a timely disclosure of his 1990 sale of Harken Energy Corp. stock while a member of the company's board. Bush sold the stock shortly before the company announced $22 million in losses. When O'Neill was queried about the matter, he responded:"Did I ever do an untimely filing of Form F? No. Any other questions?"


You don't often hear a former Secretary of the Treasury suggest his former boss was involved in insider-trading, do you?

Sort of makes you wonder if there may have been another much more self-interested reason W fired O'Neill doesn't it?

To avoid an investigation, perhaps?

Posted by Tom at 3:12 p.m. CST


Tim Lambert's website is the place to go for updates on the Lott saga. It's a great website to keep up with the controversy. (If you want my first post on this, go here.)

You'll notice that yesterday -- surprise, surprise -- Tim discovers Insty making a false assertion in characterizing this Lott scandal as like the Jon Ellis affair.

(Skippy has a couple of nice posts about this here and here as well.)

Anyway, the latest update is that Lott is apparently changing his story yet again -- and this time he's changing it in a way that will be harder to verify than the earlier versions.

Folks this is looking very dishonest, isn't it?

But, according to many of the bloodhounds from the Bellesiles case, this couldn't be as bad as what Bellesiles did.


Of course not.


BTW, I wanted to make it clear that in no way in my earlier post did I mean to besmirch the honor of James Lindgren. Of all the actors in both of these scandals, he's one of a few whose behavior I believe is truly above reproach.

Now many of the other folks involved in the Bellesiles scandal (and you know who I'm talking about) had clear political axes to grind. Bellesiles said something they disagreed with -- and that was the main reason they went after him in the first place.

In contrast, these same folks have been painfully slow to go after Lott (the book's been out for five years for goodness sakes!) because, very clearly, they agreed with what he said. They had no desire to weaken his thesis because they agreed with it!

It would be nice if some of these folks would at least acknowledge that they're making the same sorts of arguments that Bellesile's supporters did because they agree with Lott's thesis. As human beings, we all do that. The honest folks at least can admit it.

But, no, they couldn't do that. To do so would mean acknowledging that some of Bellesiles's supporters perhaps weren't the dishonest academic toadies that they made them out to be.

And they simply can't bring themselves to do that. This story was supposed to be about the moral bankruptcy of the"libruls" in academia after all, right? To admit this means they're guilty of the same sins and it makes the entire" corrupt libruls" morality play collapse like a house of cards.

I would go further and suggest that this simplistic and rather biased reading of the Bellesiles affair may not be correct at all. As I've said here before (go here and here), perhaps the system worked as it was supposed to after all. It didn't happen immediately, nor should it. Now Bellesiles is out of a job and rightly so.

However, it is fascinating to watch these folks who want to happily relive the glory of the Bellesiles hunt on a daily basis (look at some of the comment boards here at HNN) while at the same time making the argument that the sins of their guy couldn't possibly be equivalent.

Surely they can see the hypocrisy of that, can't they?

Posted by Tom at 12:31 p.m. CST


This column from a Madison, Wisconsin newspaper is quite interesting. Here's a bit of it:

Kemal Karpat slumps back in a chair in his cramped fourth-floor office in the UW-Madison's Humanities Building.

He is, he admits, extremely worried - and more than a bit perturbed.

He believes President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are on some sort of wild and bizarre power trip. And should they succeed in plunging us into another war with Iraq, Karpat says, the long-term consequences for both the Mideast and the United States' reputation could be devastating.

"It scares me enormously," he says with a sigh.

That the 73-year-old Karpat feels so strongly about the situation should be of deep concern to all of us. Because he isn't just some bleary-eyed crackpot at your neighborhood bar. He's an esteemed professor of Middle East history at the University of Wisconsin and just authored a book on the Ottoman Empire,"The Politicization of Islam," that is receiving high praise.

Moreover, he's a longtime Republican who not only voted for George W. in the last election, but made a financial contribution to his campaign. And, as he notes, nobody's ever accused him of being a dove.


So, yes, Karpat says, he's scared what a war might bring.

"Not necessarily because of its military implications, because Iraq is not a match for the United States," he says. What scares him is that"we won't be the same United States anymore - the United States that we all knew, liked and admired."

"The greatness of this country and the fact that it's been appreciated for two centuries by mankind is because it's always been very hesitant to use its power. This has been a cardinal point."

By attacking Iraq, Karpat says, we risk violating"this extraordinarily beautiful principle that the U.S. represents." We will be perceived as"a sort of tiger, ready to pounce on anything."

"And this kind of America I don't want to see."

I could go for the obvious shot and say this guy was a fool voting for and supporting W, but this is quite an interesting perspective in a number of ways. While I think he gives the U.S. way too much credit for being"hesitant to use its power" in the past, I think his observation about the U.S. being perceiving as a"tiger" (I might say"bully" myself) is a good one.

Posted by Tom at 9:31 a.m. CST

IN OTHER NEWS... 01-13-03

The third major opinion poll now shows W's approval ratings have dipped into the 50s -- this time the USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll shows a five point drop to 58% in just the last week.

Compared with the results from other polls, there clearly is a downward trend in public approval for W. I guess that economic stimulus plan isn't turning out to be the"magic political bullet" they thought it would be, is it?

Another bold prediction: Insty won't blog about this one either.

In other bad news for W and the boys, it appears they'll need more soldiers for their war with Iraq than first thought.

Get a load of the results of this Time-Europe online poll! (You'll have to vote in the poll first to see the results.)

Boy, all this stuff isn't turning out like W and the boys wanted it to, is it?

Yep. History repeats itself once again. Like Poppy, W has now squandered his incredible approval ratings -- in about the same amount of time too.

It took a little over a year, didn't it?

Posted by Tom at 10:11 p.m. CST

THIS JUST IN... 01-13-03

Due to unforseen circumstances, the war with Iraq has been rescheduled for late February or early March.

And now back to your regularly-scheduled program,"Showdown with Iraq."

Posted by Tom at 6:55 p.m. CST


CalPundit had an interesting post about the intellectual paucity of Insty's warblogger worldview yesterday:

ANTI-EUROPEANISM....Glenn Reynolds, in his eternal campaign against European"fecklessness," says:

The real paradox is in the notion that Europe could"rival" the United States while still being almost entirely dependent on the United States militarily.

I think this sentence does a great job of capturing the heart of the warblogger world view: only the United States military can solve the world's problems. Europe has nothing — literally nothing — to add because they do not have a huge military machine capable of projecting power around the globe.

Is this truly the only value that they think is important? The ability to bomb other countries? Do they ever stop to think that Europe and the rest of the world might have other things to offer if we would just knock off the sniping and treat them as the friends and allies that they are?

Sadly, the answer to the first question is"yes" and the second question is"no."

For your average Joe conservative (and that's what Insty is I'm sorry to say folks), the only thing that makes a country or a culture is raw military or economic might. If you don't have that, you don't qualify for"rival" status. The whole world is composed of economies and militaries and very little else matters. For conservatives, the world is to be split between competing empires and we're the big kid on the block.

It's an awfully bleak and unappealing view of the world, isn't it?

Sounds an awful lot like the National Security Strategy, doesn't it?

You'd better get used to it.

Posted by Tom at 4:59 p.m. CST


Hesiod points us to this Washington Times story about the much-improved weapons the military has for IraqWar Part II. Hesiod notes that it's like"all this new equipment and gear magically dropped from the sky." You'll notice that the Clinton administration isn't mentioned in the article anywhere. After all, it's Clinton's administration who gave the approval to all of this stuff.

Why not? Oh yeah. That's right. Giving credit to Clinton would be against the righty journalists' code of ethics, wouldn't it?

What a group of hacks, eh? They're almost as lame as the folks who write for David Horowitz's little website.


Posted by Tom at 1:53 p.m. CST


Boy, now here's an interesting column by Matthew Engel of the Guardian that lays it to the American press corps. It's quite interesting.

Here's a bit of it -- pay particular attention at the end of this snippet:

And political courage is especially rare. reporters in Washington are kept in line by the standard threat: annoy us, and your stories dry up. In normal times this matters less, because there may be enough dissidents to produce alternative information. But the Bush White House's sophisticated news management has given them control. One official who has worked in administrations of both colours explained:"The Republicans regard themselves as patrician gatekeepers of the news. They say 'If you're really good, we'll give you information and if you're really, really good, we'll give you more information.' The Democrats thought; 'My God, there are all those reporters out there! We better talk to them!'"

In the face of this, only one White House reporter, Dana Milbank of the Post, regularly employs scepticism and irreverence in his coverage of the Bush administration- he is said to dodge the threats because he is regarded as an especially engaging character. It is more mysterious that only the tiniest handful of liberal commentators ever manage to irritate anyone in the government: there is Paul Krugman in the New York Times, Molly Ivins down in Texas and, after that, you have to scratch your head.

To some extent, journalists have felt obliged to tone down criticisms because of the sense of shared national purpose after September 11. Even that cannot explain how the papers cravenly ignored the Trent Lott story. Lott, the veteran senator from Mississippi, made his pro- segregation statement on a Thursday, in full earshot of the Washington press corps. The Times and Post both failed to mention it. Indeed, it was almost totally ignored until the following Tuesday, kept alive until then only by a handful of bloggers. If there is a Watergate scandal lurking in this administration, it is unlikely to be Woodward or his colleagues who will tell us about it. If it emerges, it will probably come out on the web. That is a devastating indictment of the state of American newspapers.


Now here's someone in the media in Britain saying that American bloggers are now better at getting to the truth than our establishment media these days. As someone who is ever skeptical of the power of blogging (I'm still not sure that the Trent Lott thing wasn't largely Karl Rove's doing), it is interesting to read someone in the media overseas say something like this.

Of course, I tend to agree with him about the quality of our media today but I'm still not sure the blogosphere is that powerful yet. Complicating matters further is the fact that the big daddy of the blogosphere is essentially in league with the folks Engel is talking about and, like the Washington Times shades his commentary and coverage to reflect that bias. Admittedly, his market share is declining but he's still quite influential.

Fortunately, there is now a growing group of lefty bloggers that are on a daily basis poking rather large holes in the administration's arguments and foreign policy as well as pointing out important events that go unnoticed by the press.

Of course, I don't know that we can yet influence the gomers who willfully pay so little attention they don't even know that there were no Iraqi 9/11 hijackers, but, like always, we'll see.

Posted by Tom at 12:38 p.m. CST


Here's a good column by Cragg Hines of the Houston Chronicle about the Pickering fiasco.

I'll give you a bit of it to whet your appetite:

TO celebrate the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, perhaps President Bush will invite Trent Lott and Charles W. Pickering Sr. over to the White House to watch some Amos 'n Andy tapes and share a slice of watermelon.

That would be no more an egregious affront to the memory of King than Bush's renominating Pickering, a U.S. district judge with at best an equivocal record on civil rights, to a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

By insisting on Pickering, one of whose principal qualifications is being a Mississippi crony of Lott, Bush erases any credit that he earned in helping to maneuver Lott out of the Senate Republican leadership following his Dixiecrat outburst. Pickering merits the fight that Senate Democrats say they will mount against his nomination, and Bush deserves the gale of protest stirred by the announcement last week that he will again send Pickering's name to Capitol Hill.

After a brief, hopeful moment, it seems that the Republicans' cynical Southern Strategy is alive and well. Amid meaningless happy-talk about inclusiveness, Bush would have Pickering sit on a court that hears appeals from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, states that still generate a large number of important cases about the depredations faced by minorities, especially African-Americans.

Happy Birthday, Martin. Some things haven't changed.


I said something to this effect a few days ago but I like validation.

Posted by Tom at 10:46 a.m. CST


I've tried to resist posting this joke since last night. But I can't any longer. I have to.

My apologies if it's in bad taste but it seems awfully apropo (and even more hilarious) given the administration's attempt to blame its failed North Korea policy on Clinton:

In related events, senior administration officials have announced that North Korea is now in possession of a three-stage version of Clinton's dick, with the ability to threaten every virgin on the west coast of the United States....

Isn't that good?

While we're on this topic, have you heard about this little exchange between Wolf Blitzer and Sandy Berger?:

BLITZER: I want to move on and talk about Iraq. But before I do, one final thought from you, Sandy Berger, on -- apparently there seems to be some increasing criticism of the Clinton administration, the deal that you helped negotiate in '93, '94, the first time this similar kind of crisis came up with North Korea, that you were suckered in, you got carried away and you should have never made these kinds of concessions to North Korea, that's why they're doing it again now.

BERGER: The fact is that there are 100 nuclear weapons that were not produced by North Korea as a result of that deal. What they got was a few million barrels of oil. It seems to me 100 nuclear weapons, a few million barrels of oil, that's not a bad deal.

And I must say, for some people in the administration, I'm beginning to think that blaming Clinton is a substitute for thinking.

The last part is dead on, don't you think?

[Both the Joke and link via Atrios]

Update: Josh Marshall has another excellent post about the North Korea mess. Here's the"money quote":

Some critics claim that what I have been arguing in these virtual pages is that the Bush administration simply shouldn't have called the North Koreans out on their uranium-enrichment program. This has never been my argument. What I am saying is, first, that the administration has spent the last two years pursuing a confused, provocative, and counterproductive policy which played a significant role in fomenting this crisis and, possibly, complicating a potential solution. Secondly, one has to question the timing of seeking a showdown over the North Koreans' uranium-enrichment program just as the US is girding itself for a major regional war on the other side of the globe. If we had just found out about it, then perhaps it's pressing enough to bring it up right now even though it complicates the Iraq situation and threatens to leave us awkwardly overextended. Perhaps. But if the administration had been sitting on the information for almost two years, what possible rationale could there be for choosing this moment to blow the whistle? What other explanation beside incompetence?

Incompetence you say?


Posted by Tom at 9:51 a.m. CST

ONCE UPON A TIME... 01-13-03

Once upon a time, a rich and powerful father gathered his four young sons and urged them to become rich and powerful, too. Take risks. Push yourselves. Influence others, he ordered in a bold voice.

Then he whispered,"And if you muck things up, a fairy godfather will always appear to make things better."

Now, as Paul Harvey says, the"rest of the story."

Posted by Tom at 9:32 a.m. CST


Boy, now this story is awfully interesting. So, after the"Gingrich Revolution" in 1994, Republicans passed all of these"reforms" that they believed would curb political corruption.

Guess what? Now that Republicans control both houses, one of their first orders of business was to take it all back:

WASHINGTON — One of the first things Republicans did in 1995 after they took control of the House was to adopt tighter ethics rules for House members, in response to what they saw as decades of Democratic arrogance and abuse.

On Tuesday, after the new House was sworn in, the Republicans passed their first piece of business for the 108th Congress: House rules that overturned some of their old reforms.

Critics quickly focused on the easing of restrictions on lobbyist-paid meals that are sent to Capitol Hill and on the loosening of limits on House member trips paid for by charities. But there were other long-sought changes, harder to understand and ridicule, which provide Republicans help in the tough budget negotiations ahead.

Critics were up in arms about the new pizza rule, so called because lobbyists can now deliver food and beverages, up to $50 per person, to members of Congress and their staffs.

"What we are talking about is Chinese food," said Jo Powers, the spokeswoman for David Dreier, the Republican representative from California who leads the rules committee."It's not like steaks are being delivered."

Another change allows charities to pick up the tab for travel and lodging for members to attend their events. Critics say this harks back to the days when House members cavorted with special interests on free trips to golf resorts. But, Ms. Powers said,"sometimes a member will be a big draw for charity.""If it will help the charity double their take, it's worth bringing them down," she added.

Democrats, who were on the losing side of a party-line vote on the new package, cried hypocrisy."Republicans were the ones agitating for these strict gift rules," Martin Frost, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, said in an interview."They've now put back the system of abuses they once complained about."

I mean, hell, how hypocritical can you be?

But here's the real kicker:

The biggest rule change, however, is something that Republicans have long wanted, but thought too controversial to adopt when they first took over the House in 1995.

The Ways and Means Committee, where every tax law originates, will now be required to use"dynamic scoring," which estimates the cost of a tax change by predicting its impact on economic growth, rather than just calculating how much revenue would be lost or gained. Currently, Congressional economists use"static scoring," which assumes that a tax cut of, say, $100 billion will reduce government revenues by the same amount.

For years the supply-side economists have insisted that tax cuts stimulate the economy, producing increased government revenue that partially offsets the original cuts. But to their dismay, their own director of the Congressional Budget Office, Dan L. Crippen, rejected dynamic scoring. His term recently ended, and he was not reappointed. Replacing him is Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin, the top economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, who conservatives say is a champion of dynamic scoring. Indeed, the council used dynamic scoring to predict that rather than costing $359 billion over the next five years, Mr. Bush's tax cut will reduce government revenues by only $166 billion.

So, supply-side fantasies will now be part of the budgeting process! Great! But be ready because the GAO numbers will now look even worse in comparison -- and the Republicans are actually setting themselves out for a hell of a fall when they predict one deficit and the reality is far worse.

Did these guys learn a damn thing from the failed fiscal policies of the 1980s?

I guess not.

Posted by Tom at 8:48 a.m. CST


According to our buds at Liberal Oasis, yet another major public opinion poll shows W's approval rating in the 50s. This time it's the Ipso-Reid/Cook Political Report poll, showing W's approval rating has dropped eight points to 58%.

(For more about the controversy over the first poll showing a drastic drop in W's popularity, go here and here.)

Boy, that November victory sure isn't doing a thing for W's popularity is it? I guess W really isn't as"popular" as we're being told by the media, is he?

W better hope that this unpopular war of his goes well or he's really in for it.

A prediction: Insty won't blog about this one at all.

Posted by Tom at 3:46 p.m. CST

THANKS! 01-12-03

A little while ago, I had my 30,000th visitor since I installed my hit counter on September 18th. This visitor came via a link from CalPundit. I've also had nearly 52,000 hits since September 18th as well.

It wasn't that long ago that I was celebrating my 20,000th visitor!

Thanks folks! I really do appreciate it.

As always, I hope to give you reasons to come back for more.

Posted by Tom at 2:46 p.m. CST


On a related note, a recent poll shows that Americans are not nearly as interested in military action against Iraq as our imperious leader. However, Americans would support war with U.N. support and if we follow the proper diplomatic procedure. Unfortunately, that's not what W and the boys are offering us, is it?

Some interesting data from this poll:

• Most Americans do not want to rush into war. Sixty-eight percent of the respondents said the United States should continue to work toward achieving its goals in Iraq without war. Only 27 percent favored quick military action.

• Still, more than 60 percent of those surveyed would support an eventual war if it were the only way to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or end the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

• Arguments against war are much less compelling than the arguments in favor of military action. In particular, the arguments that war with Iraq will hurt the economy, damage relations with our allies or divert attention and resources from the goal of tracking down those responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks do not carry much weight.

• Two-thirds of the respondents said they thought they had a good grasp of the issues surrounding the Iraqi crisis, but closer questioning revealed large gaps in that knowledge. For instance, half those surveyed said that one or more of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers were Iraqi citizens. In reality, none was.

• The informed public is considerably less hawkish about war with Iraq than the public as a whole. Those polled who showed themselves to be most knowledgeable about the Iraq situation are significantly less likely to support military action, either to remove Hussein from power or to disarm Iraq.

• Asked to rank the various threats facing the United States, more than twice as many respondents (49 percent) chose al-Qaida as the greatest peril as chose Iraq. A similar margin thought that dealing with al-Qaida should be the nation's top foreign policy priority.

You'll notice that half of the folks surveyed were such gomers they fell for the"Iraqi hijackers" question. In other words, about half of the folks in this country are so ill-informed that they will probably fall for whatever unfounded war propaganda W and the boys want to dish out.

How many of the aforementioned ill-informed gomers were Faux News Channel viewers or dittoheads?

A rather large number I'd suspect.

Posted by Tom at 1:53 p.m. CST


There is a terrifying story by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post this morning. This story tracks how W and the boys made the decision on Iraq without contacting anyone with any apparent expertise at all.

They also apparently don't give a damn that Middle East experts, the governments of most other countries, and even an overwhelming majority of the American people (two-thirds consistently) oppose a unilateral invasion without U.N. support (which is clearly how they're going to have to do it now).

I have believed in the past that the descriptions of W as governing like a"dictator" were out of bounds but, after reading this story, I'm not so sure they are any more.

Is this our government or not?

Apparently not.

Update: BTW, isn't it disgusting that this administration won't take responsibility for its own foreign policy mistakes? And, as we all know, the number of mistakes is mounting by the minute.

They make these decisions without much input from anyone who knows anything and then they won't own up to their own mistakes.

Anyway, W's supporters are now claiming that the current North Korea mess is Clinton's fault.

Folks, you've been in charge for two years.

You've got to quit this childish stuff.

Posted by Tom at 12:28 p.m. CST


Marie Gryphon at Extra Ordinary Ideas has an interesting post that raises significant questions about the purported evidence presented by Dr. John Lott, Jr., a leading advocate of concealed weapons laws, in his 1998 book More Guns, Less Crime. In fact, this guy's fabricating may be worse -- it's a crucial crux of the argument in the book.

Read this post and follow the links. You'll notice that James Lindgren is involved with this one too.

Lott is already saying things that sound as implausible or even more so than what Bellesiles said at the height of the controversy.

Where are Bellesiles' critics?

Surely they're ready to jump all over this one, right?

Where's the indignation? The rage? The gnashing of teeth?

Unless they're not interested in this because this guy's book supports what they already believe to be the case.

But we all know that couldn't be it, right?

[Link via CalPundit]

Update: This has suddenly become quite a story in the blogosphere. Insty blogged on it -- although he of course wants to make it clear that this isn't as bad as what Bellesiles did. Right. Of course not. Perish the thought. That sentiment doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you agree with his overall thesis, right? It can't threaten his overall argument since you agree with his overall argument, right?

Insty and others have been repeating Tim Lambert's comments on this (thanks for the link Tim):

Finally, I should comment on the overall significance of this question. Lott's 98% claim takes up just one sentence of his book. Whether or not it's true, it doesn't affect his main argument, which is about alleged benefits of concealed carry laws. I don't think any fuss would have been made if Lott hadn't repeated the claim numerous times on TV shows, on radio shows, and in opinion pieces. I have a list containing 48 examples. By suggesting to millions of people that all you have to do defend yourself is wave a gun around when all the evidence suggests that more serious action is often required, Lott could cause people to act in ways that could get them injured or killed.

Or unless Lott used this made-up data to help convince state legislators to adopt concealed carry laws, thus endangering the public's safety in those states.

Oops. That's already happened.

Never mind.

BTW, doesn't this paragraph sound an awful lot like the excuses made by Bellesiles and his supporters?

Has anyone else pointed this out?

Posted by Tom at 4:33 p.m. CST


Ah, you gotta love the pathological obsession some folks have with Bill Clinton. Have you heard about the "Counter Clinton Library?"

This is really quite entertaining in its foolishness. Here's just a bit of the story from ConWebWatch:

The Clinton-haters are looking more pathologically obsessed every day.

Because things have been too quiet on that front lately, apparently, and also as a way to justify everything they've done over past decade or so, plans have been announced for a monument to their hatred -- a"Counter Clinton Library" to be located in Little Rock, Ark., near the actual and under-construction Clinton presidential library.

A"word from the founders" on the web site of the"library" describes what the project is about -- a repository of nothing but negativity about the Clintons. They have a rationale, of course:"(T)he Clinton Presidential Center and Library – funded by you – the American taxpayer – and by multi-million dollar donations by rich foreigners including Red Chinese and Saudis – is a campaign vehicle to elect Hillary as the next Democratic President and to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House." (Italics theirs.)

The" counter library," the letter states,"will be devoted to setting the record straight about the Clintons’ White House years – and about Hillary’s certain campaign to become the next President of the United States. (Again, italics theirs. The letter is chock full of italics, boldface and capital letters.)

As things stand now, the"library" is somewhere between a joke and a rant, launching a week ago with an announcement on NewsMax and Sean Hannity's radio show. The main public face of the project is John LeBoutillier, a columnist at NewsMax, who has been making the rounds of conservative radio shows (and, of course, Fox News Channel's"Hannity and Colmes") plugging the thing.

And there's that"objective" Faux News Channel again helping this thing along. This whole thing is so kooky and ridiculous I don't even know what else to say about it.

This is one of those things that the toothless Clinton-hating crowd (you know, Faux News Channel's viewers) will think is clever but everyone else with much sophistication and intelligence in the Republican Party will view as quite an embarrassment.

Who knows, maybe even crazy Richard Mellon Scaife won't go for this one.

Don't count on it though.

This is just Scaife's speed and level of intellect I'm afraid.

Posted by Tom at 11:55 a.m. CST


Cheney, squinting from his time down in the dark hidey hole, comes out to chastise us once again. This time he's floating the absurd argument that if the administration's plan isn't approved, it could cause a double-dip recession.

Get this:

Stepping up pressure on the U.S. Congress to act swiftly, Vice President Dick Cheney said on Friday that failure to pass the administration's new tax cut plan"might well" trigger another economic downturn.

Cheney took on Democratic and Republican critics of the 10-year, $674 billion stimulus proposed by President Bush, insisting that without it federal budget deficits could surge by as much as $800 billion over the next 10 years.

"In the end, we must weigh the costs of the president's proposals against the cost of an economic slowdown that might well take place if the president's growth package is not enacted," Cheney told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

He dismissed assertions by some economists that a higher budget deficit would push up interest rates, and said cash-strapped states stood to benefit as faster growth boosted revenues to state coffers by an estimated $6 billion annually.

Actually, buddy, it'll be your fault for that. Your fraudulent economic plan provides no stimulus and, if we fall into a double-dip, it'll be your flaccid and incompetent economic policy that is largely to blame.

Dick certainly sounds just a wee bit panicky and desperate, doesn't he?

W and the boys have once again put the lipstick on the pig and tried to make us believe this plan -- consisting largely of table scraps left over from the tax cut orgy of a couple of years ago -- is the answer.

Like so many things, this administration uses circumstances to push the old tried-and-failed fiscally-irresponsible policies of the 1980s. Surely we're not going to fall for this line of bull again, are we? If anything, the 1990s raised significant questions about the causal link between tax cuts and a robust economy.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not necessarily saying we should raise taxes (although Clinton did and that worked pretty well, didn't it?) but certainly we've learned enough over the last ten years not to fall for this trickle-down supply-side stuff again, haven't we?

Posted by Tom at 10:40 a.m. CST


Sometimes a writer puts things so perfectly that you can't help but be compelled to post the link immediately. Mark Morford has done just that in his column about the impending IraqWar Part II yesterday. I just found out about it and I'm putting up the link right away.

I'll give you just a snippet of it because you really must read the whole thing:

So, let's boil it down: Why go to war with Iraq? Can't find Osama, is one reason. That looks bad. Really, really want to steal all that delicious oil for ShrubCo, is another. Saddam is clearly a very bad guy who kills his own people and snickers in America's general direction, is a third. But then again, so are at least a half-dozen other vile tyrants of the world. Volatile, nuke-ready North Korea? Let's open some talks. Feeble, oil-ready Iraq? Let's massacre. Hmm.

Perhaps you wonder why no one is asking any of these questions, making similar points.

Perhaps you wonder just where in the hell is the spineless major media in all this, as they watch the chicken-hawk Shrubster himself, between golf swings, announce how tens of thousands of American troops are being sent to the Gulf alongside an enormous billion-dollar military buildup and imminent gobs of heaping death raining down upon a paltry oppressed nation and coming up next on CNN, we interview that dumb guy from"Joe Millionaire." Perfect.

Perhaps you wonder where is the national TV coverage of all those huge anti-war protests, hundreds of thousands of people, all over the world, from Spain to Berlin to New York to San Francisco.

Perhaps you wonder where are all the"serious" journalists, the risk-taking news agencies pointing up the absurdity of it all, the imminent horror, the outrage. Could it be these news agencies are owned by major conservative corporations? Could it be they're all terrified of losing ratings, of saying something unpopular, of invoking Cheney's wrath, of losing advertiser dollars and that ever-precious, ever-dwindling dumbed-down audience? One guess.

And besides, who needs a reason for a massacre anymore? This is the age of the preemptive-strike, screw-you Bush regime. Who needs, for example, the Monroe Doctrine, that crusty old rag stating how America will go to war only as a last resort, as a defensive measure, and won't become embroiled in unwinnable foreign wars that are none of our business?

Go read the rest of it.

I mean it.


This post also appears on Stand Down.

[Link via Atrios]

Posted by Tom at 9:43 a.m. CST


Hesiod suggests that not only should Pickering appointment to the appeals court be rejected but that Pickering should be impeached and removed from the bench for apparent perjury in his confirmation hearings.

Hesiod asks:

Wasn't that the justification for impeaching President Clinton, after all?

Now, everybody, I'll try to sound like the overly pious and hypocritical adulterer and mistress-keeper Henry Hyde:

"This isn't about Mr. Pickering's Sheethead past. This is really about the rule of law...."

Why aren't Republicans all over Pickering about this, demanding his immediate resignation?



Wasn't that what impeachment was all about in 1998?

It wasn't?


Say it isn't so!

I'm so disillusioned.

Posted by Tom at 6:23 p.m. CST


I'll bring something I've been talking about over on the Political State Report to this blog.

The Missouri Kid has blogged about this as well.

Before I continue, go read my post over there. Go read it and the comment board as well.

To summarize, Republicans have now taken over the legislature in Missouri and are refusing to consider a tax raise to close the rather large $1B budget hole for next year.

To review, here's what I said on the comment board:

And this will have a major impact on the state Higher Ed system. Higher Ed (as well as everything else) will be cut unmercifully once again.

And rural Republican folks in Missouri will have the gall to complain and go on and on about the rising cost of college tuition for their kids.

These folks won't be bright enough to realize, of course, that it's their fault for that happening. They sent the folks to the legislature who won't fund Higher Ed adequately and won't make the necessary compromises.

They'll say, like so many of my Republican friends in town here do, that"the state can make that happen if they want it to." Like most Republicans, these folks have this strange idea that improved efficiency can make money appear out of thin air or something.

Sorry folks, the money isn't there and if you want quality services or a higher ed system you'll have to pay for it. And you will one way or the other -- whether through higher taxes or higher tuition.

Just please don't have the cojones to complain about it when it happens.

Of course, this development will just crowd out folks who can't afford to go to the universities but, hey, who gives a shit about them anyway?

I guess a lot of folks just don't understand the rather basic consequences of their voting actions, do they? I have a good friend who is an engineer and a very bright guy who really seems to believe that the state government has some sort of magical"pot 'o gold" in Jeff City that they can tap for whatever they want. I gave up long ago disabusing him of that notion. It's too engrained in his psyche. I suspect many Republican legislators are the same way.

However, I have to say this, that Republicans in the state legislature really had better get off their duffs this year because I think the folks in this state very well may hold them responsible for this budget crisis in a couple of years. They won't be able to demagogue this away like they have in the past. They're now in charge and therefore responsible.

It certainly will be interesting to watch to say the least.

Posted by Tom at 1:43 p.m. CST


There's a great column by E.J. Dionne about the right's assault on an impartial judiciary this morning.

Here's a bit of it:

Politically, the renominations were shrewd. By sending Pickering up again, Bush signaled to his Southern backers that he was willing to stand up for a Mississippian against Senate liberals, despite Lott's defenestration. And the energy the Pickering and Owen battles will soak up may allow other ideological nominees to slip through.

The real issue here involves not the personal characteristics of nominees -- there are plenty of smart conservatives on Bush's list -- but a political struggle to create an increasingly activist conservative bench."They realized that if they took over the one unelected part of the government, they could govern for a generation," says Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat.

A liberal fantasy? On the contrary, the ever-candid Clint Bolick, a former Reagan Justice Department official and conservative activist, told The Post this week that"everyone on the right agreed in 2000 that judicial nominations were the single most important reason to be for Bush." The worst-kept secret in Washington: Judicial appointments are the tribute Bush pays to his political base.

Moreover, conservatives are increasingly willing to use federal judicial power to achieve political ends. Forget Florida 2000 and consider a redistricting controversy in Mississippi last year. It involved none other than Rep. Charles W. Pickering Jr., a Republican who is Judge Pickering's son.

Mississippi lost a congressional seat after the 2000 Census, and Pickering's district was merged with that of Rep. Ronnie Shows, a Democrat. A state judge drew district lines favoring Shows. A federal three-judge panel, all Republican appointees, then drew a plan favoring Pickering. The judges said they would impose their plan if the Bush Justice Department did not quickly clear the state plan for civil rights purposes. By dragging its feet, the Justice Department sealed Shows's fate. The final blow came from none other than Justice Scalia -- a friend of the Pickering family who presided over the younger Pickering's first swearing-in as a congressman. Scalia ruled to allow the Republican judges to impose their map. Pickering beat Shows this fall.

I would go a bit further on the Pickering renomination. It sends an overt signal to racists in the South that the administration really didn't mean all that stuff in December. Just ignore it. The only purpose of all that was only to fool the suburban white folks.

But we all know how good the Republican Party is to their black supporters, don't we?

Posted by Tom at 12:50 p.m. CST


Meetings and lots of stuff today. I probably won't be blogging anymore this morning.

Today is the opening day faculty meeting for the semester.

Is it my imagination or do these things get a wee bit repetitive after a while?

Posted by Tom at 8:23 a.m. CST


It looks like a $350B deficit next year due to W's sterling fiscal stewardship.

How big a deficit is that?

Well it's a record -- it's a larger deficit than Poppy had in 1992!

Like father, like son, eh?

Spendthrift Republicans!

Posted by Tom at 8:20 a.m. CST


This Modern World is quite good this week. Be sure to give it a read!

And while we're talking about Tom Tomorrow, in one of his blog entries today he demonstrates how utterly vacuous and mean-spirited the"humor" (and I use that term loosely) of James Lileks can be.

I used to think I just didn't get the joke with Lileks. However, after I noticed what sort of people like him, I realized that I didn't want to get it and wasn't likely to -- and I can like some pretty mean-spirited stuff at times.

Posted by Tom at 9:02 p.m. CST


Boy, get this:

The distinction of being Time magazine's Person of the Year in 2002 fell to three persons who were unknowns in 2001: whistle-blowers Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom, Coleen Rowley of the FBI, and Sherron Watkins of Enron."Who are these women?" the introduction to their profiles asked."For starters, they aren't people looking to hog the limelight."

The same apparently can't be said of a more familiar figure who'd been a leading contender for a spot on the front of that issue: President George W. Bush.

According to four Time sources, the magazine had prepared a Person of the Year cover commemorating the partnership between Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. But it fell through after the White House balked at giving the magazine access for such a presentation. Bush aides reportedly preferred that their boss appear alone on the cover.


The White House wasn't about to let Time photographers frame up Bush and Cheney together in the Oval Office. According to several Time staffers, administration officials favored a solo session with Bush but resisted a package that would portray the presidency as a collaborative effort.

White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett confirms that the White House denied access after reviewing Time's"potential" package."We decided that the president would not be available for an interview," says Bartlett. However, Bartlett insists that the administration's policy of rotating press access—not jitters about the"partnership"—dictated the decision."We decided it was U.S. News & World Report's turn to have the president in their year-end interview," says Bartlett.

To get an image of the governing duo, Time commissioned an artist to paint a Bush-Cheney portrait at a cost of"several thousand dollars," says Kelly. In the past, many of the magazine's year-end headliners have been presented in artists' renderings, for extra gravitas. The whistle-blowers, by c"ntrast, appeared in a standard newsweekly portrait photo—as did Bush in 2000, when he earned the cover at the last minute as the president-elect.

Has anyone ever explained to W that there is no"I" in team?

[Link via Atrios]

Posted by Tom at 4:54 p.m. CST


Economic Stimulus Proposal Graph

[via Interesting Times]

Posted by Tom at 4:38 p.m. CST


Skippy [via Smirking Chimp] points us to this column by Alan Bisbort of the Hartford Advocate decrying the invisible nature of this rather major poll in our media.

Here's what he has to say about it:

As we enter this cold and frightening new year, we need to establish a baseline from which to work. That is, if we want to remain a sane and civilized people. We do want to remain a sane and civilized people, don't we? Right then, let's start with a few unassailably true items:1. George W. Bush has outworn his welcome in the eyes of all other nations, and he's beginning to wear it out at home, as well. Two columns ago, I cited the Pew Trust poll that indicates feelings for America have declined precipitously in the last two years in every global region, including among our erstwhile allies. Now, a Time/CNN poll -- the results of which the media, including Time and CNN, ignored or buried -- showed that Bush's approval rating has dropped from a high of 90 percent in late September 2001 to 55 percent by last week. In other words, he's lost 35 percent of his popularity in a little over one year. The same Time/CNN poll taken at two points in Bill Clinton's reign may help put this in perspective. On Dec. 9, 2000, the day he left the White House, Clinton's approval rating was 68 percent; on Feb. 12, 1999, the day after his impeachment vote, Clinton held a 73 percent rating. By contrast, and I repeat for emphasis, Bush's rating is currently at 55 percent.

Some lessons can be deduced from this. One, Bush's support is as soft as the ice cream at Dairy Queen. Two, the media has a knee-jerk aversion to reporting anything that sheds a negative light on this administration.

This poll is finally beginning to get a little more interest in the media as well it should.

I'll repeat, for emphasis, that you heard about this poll in the blogosphere first from Liberal Oasis and myself (go here and here).

We even forced his royal highness Instapundit eventually to blog about it!

Now that's the real achievement!

Posted by Tom at 4:23 p.m. CST

HUNG OUT TO DRY 01-09-03

Josh Marshall has an excellent post about how the administration has left the Republican hardliners out to dry in order to pursue the same policy the hated Clinton administration followed:

After the *$#% started to hit the fan on the Korean Peninsula a horde of eager conservative columnists rushed forward to applaud the Bush administration's unmasking of North Korean villainy and Clintonian appeasement.

Finally, a tough-minded policy had been established! Moral clarity. Resolve. Grit in the face of evil. All that good stuff.

Yes, yes, yes, the road ahead may be a difficult one and the price to be paid may be high, they said. And there might have to be, if not a long twilight struggle, then at least a serious all-nighter with some dismally poor lighting. But the weak-willed policy of the Clintonites had been revealed for all to see, a vindication of the 'axis of evil' slogan and all the rest.

Only now these worthies, having walked so far out on the plank, have to hear that sawing sound at their rear, as the Bush White House hangs them out to dry.

For everyone who has eyes to see, the Bush administration is now awkwardly climbing down from its 'negotiation equals appeasement' approach of the last two years and hoping that our allies like South Korea and Japan and our sometimes-allies like China and Russia will help us get the North Koreans back to the negotiating table and reverse the deterioration which has occurred in the last several months.

Having defended the Bush White House by contrasting it with the vile appeasement of the Clinton administration, they now have to watch their guys crawl their way back to embracing the path the previous administration favored.

As time goes by, it's becoming astonishingly apparent that W's foreign policy people simply aren't that good. Condi and Colin Powell are the only ones who have the slightest (and at times that's the most credit I can give them) idea of how to pursue a foreign policy -- and they make major mistakes as well.

I mean, heck, Colin Powell is making a fool of himself today with his statements about the weapons inspectors and the intelligence we're withholding from them. Powell's statement today certainly raises major questions about whether we're very serious about inspections to say the least. They're treating it like some sort of game.

And these are the folks who are leading us toward a war that will likely destabilize and entire region and put tens of thousands of Americans in harm's way unnecessarily.

I feel confident. Don't you?

Update: Atrios points out that Condi Rice has been proven dead wrong today that the aluminum tubes were evidence of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

Was it a lie?

Or just yet another example of incompetence?

Posted by Tom at 9:23 a.m. CST


You and I knew W didn't really mean it, didn't we? He doesn't give a damn about racial issues at all.

Why do I say this? Because W renominated Trent Lott's favorite racist buddy and federal judge, Charles W. Pickering, Sr., to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Who is Charles W. Pickering, Sr.?

Go here to find out.

This renomination was part of the deal that led to Trent Lott's stepping down as majority leader. In other words, the symbolic action of having Lott step down is more than outweighed by W's attempt to appoint a known racist -- and Lott's boy -- to a higher position on the federal bench.

Democrats insist that, contrary to their behavior the last several weeks, they'll have a backbone on this one.

We can only hope.

I'd prefer it if they'd oppose a heckuva lot more than Pickering's nomination as well.

Update:Here's a good New York Times editorial about this as well.

Posted by Tom at 8:48 a.m. CST

EVERYBODY... 01-08-03

Please be sure and welcome the Missouri Kid to the blogosphere!

I've added the Missouri Kid and Barney Gumble to the blogroll as well.

Be sure to go check out Barney as well!

Posted by Tom at 7:57 p.m. CST


Ted Rall hits the administration hard on what's going wrong in Afghanistan and what is likely to happen in Iraq in his Monday column. He paints a rather stark picture.

Here's some of it:

Under the Taliban, Afghans were subjected to brutal Islamist law. Women, banned from holding jobs, rarely ventured outside. Punishment was medieval--adulterers were stoned to death and thieves had their limbs amputated in the local soccer stadium. But if nothing else, these strictures eliminated the banditry and rape gangs that terrorized the nation before 1996.

Post-Taliban Afghanistan is essentially the Taliban Afghanistan minus law and order. Stonings continue and women remain under burqas, but now thugs and rapists roam the streets unchecked.

The New York Times reported Jan. 2 that in Kabul--the only place governed by Karzai--not a single house has thus far been built with international assistance. According to the U.N., 650,000 Kabuli refugees urged by the U.S. to return home to Afghanistan are now homeless. Millions of Afghans in outlying provinces are without shelter. Few have received food or housing. British troops were forced to dip into their own pockets to buy a generator to heat Kabul's Indira Gandhi hospital. If the U.S. has plans to rebuild Afghan roads, install a telephone system or otherwise create an viable infrastructure, it has yet to announce them.

The Afghan people have given up on democracy. After U.S. representatives bullied members of last summer's loya jirga into ditching King Zahir Shah, Karzai's role as an American puppet became evident. Few expect the promised 2004 elections to be held on schedule.

Bush didn't liberate Afghans. He didn't rebuild anything. He spread dictatorship, not democracy. And he didn't even try to catch Osama.

Bush's one accomplishment in Afghanistan, it turned out, was the one thing he promised that he would never do. On Dec. 26, Karzai met with the president of Turkmenistan and the foreign minister of Pakistan to work out the final details of the $3.2 billion Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline Bush's friends had sworn would never be built.

Deputy Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones says the U.S. supports the project, which I describe in detail in my new book Gas War: The Truth Behind the American Occupation of Afghanistan. Gas War makes the case that the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, not the"war on terrorism," was the impetus for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Bush fooled us once. You know the rest of the cliché.

Hmmm. This sounds a lot like my first column for HNN all those months ago, doesn't it?


If you're interested in a list of my pre-blog columns for HNN and links to them, go here.

Posted by Tom at 5:11 p.m. CST


It's an awfully busy day today. Blogging may be a bit light for the rest of the day as a result.

Lots of meetings and fun things like that.

We'll see.

Just FYI.

Posted by Tom at 11:54 a.m. CST

NOT A GOOD DICK 01-08-03

You've got to read this incredible piece in Washington Monthly by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo.

I'll give you just a small bit to pique your interest:

Week after week, one need only read the front page of The Washington Post to find similar Cheney lapses. Indeed, just a few days after Cheney hand-picked Snow, Newsweek magazine featured a glowing profile of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that began with an anecdote detailing her deft efforts to clean up another Cheney mess. In a July speech, the vice president had argued that weapons inspections in Iraq were useless and shouldn't even be tried. That speech nearly upended the administration's careful late-summer repositioning in favor of a new United Nations-backed inspections program. As the article explained, Rice--the relatively junior member of the president's inner circle of foreign policy advisers--had to take the vice president aside and walk him through how to repair the damage he'd done, with a new statement implicitly retracting his earlier gaffe. Such mistakes--on energy policy, homeland security, corporate reform--abound. Indeed, on almost any issue, it's usually a sure bet that if Cheney has lined up on one side, the opposite course will turn out to be the wiser.

Yet somehow, in Washington's collective mind, Cheney's numerous stumbles and missteps have not displaced the reputation he enjoys as a sober, reliable, skilled inside player. Even the Newsweek article, so eager to convey Rice's competence, seemed never to explicitly note the obvious subtext: Cheney's evident incompetence. If there were any justice or logic in this administration as to who should or shouldn't keep their job, there'd be another high-ranking official in line for one of those awkward conversations: Dick Cheney.


Consider the evidence. Last year, Cheney's White House energy task force produced an all-drilling-and-no-conservation plan that failed not just on policy grounds but as a political matter as well, saddling the administration with a year-long public relations headache after Cheney insisted on running his outfit with a near-Nixonian level of secrecy. (To this day, Cheney and his aides have refused to provide the names of most of those industry executives who"advised" him on the task force's recommendations, though a federal judge has now rejected the Government Accounting Office's effort to make them do so.) During the spring of 2001, rather than back congressional efforts to implement the findings of the Hart-Rudman commission that called for forceful action to combat terrorism (including the creation of a department of homeland security), Cheney opted to spearhead his own group--not because he disagreed with the commission's proposals, but to put the administration's stamp on whatever anti-terrorism reforms did get adopted. Cheney's security task force did nothing for four months, lurching into action only after terrorists actually attacked America on September 11. In the months that followed, Cheney was one of several key advisers arguing that the White House should keep Tom Ridge's Office of Homeland Security within the White House rather than upgrade it to a cabinet department and thus open it to congressional scrutiny. Cheney's obstinacy ensured that the administration's efforts were stuck in neutral for nearly eight months.

Cheney has not fared much better in the diplomatic arena. Last March, he went on a tour of Middle Eastern capitals to line up America's allies for our war against Saddam. He returned a week later with the Arabs lining up behind Saddam and against us--a major embarrassment for the White House. Much of the success of the administration's Iraq policy came only after it abandoned the strategy of unilateral action against Saddam, the strategy Cheney championed, to one of supporting a U.N. inspections regime--a necessary and successful course correction that Cheney resisted and almost halted. Indeed, broadly speaking, the evolution of White House Iraq policy might be described fairly as a slow process of overruling Dick Cheney.

And there's more. Remember those corporate scandals that came close to crippling Bush? Last summer, White House advisers were pondering whether to back the sort of tough corporate accountability measures that Democrats and the press were demanding. The president was scheduled to deliver a big speech on Wall Street in early July. His advisers were divided. Some argued that strong reforms were at the least a political necessity. But Cheney, along with National Economic Council chair Larry Lindsey, opposed the idea, arguing that new restrictions on corporations would further weaken the economy. The president took Cheney's advice, and gave a speech on Wall Street that recommended only mild and unspecific reforms."He mentioned a lot of things in the speech that the Securities and Exchange Commission already does," one non-plussed Wall Streeter told The Washington Post with a yawn. The day after the president's speech, the Dow shed 282 points, the biggest single-day drop since the post-terrorist tailspin of Sept. 20. Within days the president was backpedaling and supporting what Cheney had said he shouldn't. Lindsey got the boot later in the year. Cheney is still in the West Wing shaping economic policy.

Now go read the rest of it.


Posted by Tom at 11:49 a.m. CST


Guess who benefits handsomely from the dividend tax cut?

Why Bush and Cheney do of course!

But I'm sure that's not why they're doing this, right?

Posted by Tom at 9:36 a.m. CST


Glenn, our good Mr. Instapundit, shows his, well, er, um, he isn't very nice to Hesiod this evening -- demonstrating that he's getting increasingly testy and humorless as time goes by. Hesiod responds quite calmly considering the arrogance and condescension Glenn demonstrates in his post.

This post is astonishingly hypocritical coming from a guy who proved himself so utterly ignorant of the most basic political and social history of the country and region in which he lives just a short while ago.

Glenn does have a degree from one of those high-falutin' Ivy League schools, doesn't he?

Oh yeah.

That's right.

It's the same school that gave W a degree.

Never mind.

Posted by Tom at 11:21 p.m. CST


From the Borowitz Report:


At Annual Gathering in Geneva, 29 Richest Americans Give Plan Big Thumbs Up

President Bush’s newly unveiled economic stimulus package drew raves today from the wealthiest .0001% of Americans, who pronounced the plan “a total home run.”

“When we first heard about the plan, we were like, this is too good to be true,” said multibillionaire Thurston Howell IV, a spokesman for the richest .0001%. “But when our butlers read the plan aloud to us during the cocktail hour, we were incredibly stoked.”

The 29 plutocrats who make up the nation’s wealthiest .0001% were at their annual meeting at Mr. Howell’s villa in Geneva, Switzerland when news of the President’s plan was first released.

“Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were the first to hear about it, and then the news just kind of trickled down, if I may use a favorite phrase of ours,” Mr. Howell said.

Mr. Howell added that the elimination of all Federal taxes on dividends would provide much-needed relief to him and the other 28 wealthiest Americans, who have been “struggling to make ends meet on our dividends alone.”

“The President deserves credit for recognizing what the wealthiest .0001% have known for years,” Mr. Howell said. “It’s well-nigh impossible to maintain a dozen households around the world, stable after stable of racehorses and a fleet of private jets if your dividends are being taxed.”

Andy's hugging that thin line between satire and truth again, isn't he?

Posted by Tom at 8:13 p.m. CST


In other Insty-related news, be sure to enter the "Instacaption" contest over at The Truth Laid Bear.

If you didn't know about the upcoming apparently Insty-glorifying special, here's another post from the Truth Laid Bear about it.

I heard about this earlier today on another blog and, I could be wrong, but it very well may be pretty silly. From what I've seen, it appears to be just a wee bit cheesy -- in a hip sort of way of course. Lots of cool special effects though.

What I've seen reminds me of that old SexBytes show from a few years ago on HBO or something.

Posted by Tom at 7:03 p.m. CST


Here's this week's Gene Lyons column -- a whole day early!

High Plains Bungler

“He’s the Texas Ranger of the World, and wants everyone to know it. He’s the guy with the silver badge, issuing warnings to the cattlerustlers. He will cut deals when necessary — his history shows that — but, as a matter of inclination and strategy, he’s the toughest talker on his team.”

--Howard Fineman, Newsweek

Riding into town on his trusty golf cart, the Texas Ranger of the World allowed as how that bunch with the mustaches and black hats down at the Baghdad Saloon had best saddle up and clear out. Come sundown, Cowboy Dubya was fixin’ to come looking for evildoers.

Actually, Newsweek scribe Fineman’s pathetic hero-worship notwithstanding, it’s a cliché to mock President Junior’s drug store cowboy act. The role itself was already threadbare when Ronald Reagan played it. Besides, the average Clint Eastwood western is rich with nuance compared to the two-dimensional melodrama of Bush foreign policy. (In “Pale Rider,” the villain is a claim-jumping, strip-mining tycoon who’d be a GOP donor in 2003.) Melodramatic clashes between pure good and absolute evil are more apt to be found on the fantasy and science fiction shelf these days—films where the bad guys aren’t even human.

Which may be a clue about where Junior got his idea about how to deal with North Korea, the most dangerous member of his celebrated “axis of evil.” The White House can’t have imagined they were dealing with actual human beings. If so, they might have realized that U.S. policy toward that benighted land couldn’t have been better calculated to produce the crisis they have blundered into.

Some warned that Bush’s “axis of evil” metaphor was reductive and dangerous. Mostly they were shouted down by ideologues whose first response to the 9/11 catastrophe was to stifle dissent and promote orthodoxy. Defining your antagonists as evil may be politically advantageous and psychologically satisfying, but it can also make you stupid if it means blinding yourself to their point of view altogether.

One of Junior’s first acts as president was to publicly humiliate South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who visited Washington in March 2001 seeking an endorsement of his country’s “sunshine policy” of reconciliation with its communist neighbor. Instead, Bush sneeringly dismissed what he implied was a Clintonian fantasy—even though German reunification, following the implosion of an East German communist regime almost as dogmatic as North Korea’s, happened during his father’s presidency.

“One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty,” Orwell argued in 1941. “[A]s a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it.”

By all accounts, North Korea is a madhouse. Koreans north and south, however, feel themselves to be one people with a shared language, history and culture. On both sides of the DMZ, Bush’s disrespect was seen as a bitter insult, weakening our alliance with the democratic Republic of South Korea.

Next came the “axis of evil” speech, then Junior’s West Point address threatening “preemptive strikes.” Reading from a script, Bush declared that containment was “not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.”

The threat couldn’t have been clearer. According to Bob Woodward’s book Bush at War, Junior appeared to believe his own rhetoric: “’I loathe [North Korean dictator] Kim Jong Il!’ Bush shouted, waving his finger in the air. ‘I've got a visceral reaction to this guy, because he is starving his people ... It is visceral. Maybe it's my religion, maybe it's my—but I feel passionate about this.’”

Kim got the message. Exactly when North Korea began to experiment with enriched uranium weapons with Pakistan’s help isn’t clear. It was some time after 1998, giving Bush apologists a semi-plausible way to blame Bill Clinton. But it won’t wash. At worst, North Korea could make maybe two bombs some years hence by that method. The scary part is their re-starting a nuclear reactor shut down in 1994 and capable of making enough weapons-grade plutonium to start a production line within months.

Taking advantage of U.S. preoccupation with Iraq, the communists called Bush’s bluff. Unless he wants another Korean War, there’s not much he can do about it. So now the White House has taken to leaking word that North Korea’s inclusion in the “axis of evil” was merely speechwriter’s flourish, stuck in lest Junior appear to be threatening only Muslim states. If anything, that makes Bush look even more ridiculous.

“The lesson of North Korea for other Third World dictators,” Zbgniew Brzezinski told the Washington Post “is to go nuclear as rapidly as possible, and as secretly as possible, and then act crazy so as to deter us.”

They’ll call it something else, but the big-talking Texas Ranger of the World has little choice but to negotiate. The doctrine of preemption lasted, what, six months?

Posted by Tom at 4:49 p.m. CST


Hesiod at Counterspin points us to this wonderful tongue-lashing that Al Franken gave Bernie Goldberg on Donahue (which gets better ratings than Chris Matthews' Hardball by the way) last night:

The point here is, Bernie, you regurgitated a quote that you got from some right-wing media watch group. And you did not care to look at the context of it. Listen to how Tom Brokaw opened that evening news. If you’re talking about that there’s a left-wing bias, this is how Tom Brokaw opened the news that day from this thing that you’re quoting. “Good evening. Wednesday, August 21, 1991. This is a day for bold print in history to be remembered and savored as the day when the power of the people in the Soviet Union proved to be greater than the power of the gray and cold-blooded men who thought they could return that country to the darkness of state oppression.” Boy, it sounds like a real pro-communist bias on NBC, doesn’t it?

But you know what, Bernie? You didn’t even bother to find out what the context of John Chancellor-who, by the way, is dead, and couldn’t defend himself. You had no interest in finding out the context of what he was saying. And what he was saying was that, after six years of perestroika, in which communism was gone, that the people were-that the reason for these shortages was the transition away from communism. (CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN: Then you had the nerve to say about John Chancellor-you call his absurd observation that the problem in the old Soviet Union wasn’t communism, but shortages. The only thing absurd about this is your accusing John Chancellor of saying that.

I saw this last night. It was marvelous.

Next thing you know someone's going to point out that Ann Coulter's book is a pack of lies too!

What is this world coming to when self-respecting right-wing shills can't publish exactly what they want without being called on it?

Posted by Tom at 3:48 p.m. CST


Well, Insty finally condescended to address one of the many posts in the blogosphere about his declining numbers -- a story that started on Dave Appell's blog and, of course, here on this blog. You'll also notice that, as is his creepy custom, he links, of course, to one of his"pet blogs" instead of to either Dave or myself.

Insty sounds a bit testy which isn't exactly a surprise. After all, he can get a bit testy -- especially about bad news if you'll recall.

BTW, Dave Appell blogs an update today -- and it's now been eight weeks' worth of decline for Insty.

Just FYI.

Posted by Tom at 3:15 p.m. CST


Buzzflash has a link up to the following exchange between Ari Fleischer and Helen Thomas:

Q At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up.

MR. FLEISCHER: I refer specifically to a horrible terrorist attack on Tel Aviv that killed scores and wounded hundreds. And the President, as he said in his statement yesterday, deplores in the strongest terms the taking of those lives and the wounding of those people, innocents in Israel.

Q My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --

Q They're not attacking you.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- from a country --

Q Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?

MR. FLEISCHER: I guess you have forgotten about the Americans who were killed in the first Gulf War as a result of Saddam Hussein's aggression then.

Q Is this revenge, 11 years of revenge?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think you know very well that the President's position is that he wants to avert war, and that the President has asked the United Nations to go into Iraq to help with the purpose of averting war.

Q Would the President attack innocent Iraqi lives?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants to make certain that he can defend our country, defend our interests, defend the region, and make certain that American lives are not lost.

Q And he thinks they are a threat to us?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question that the President thinks that Iraq is a threat to the United States.

Q The Iraqi people?

MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraqi people are represented by their government. If there was regime change, the Iraqi --

Q So they will be vulnerable?

MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has not dispute with the people of Iraq. That's why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq --

Q That's a decision for them to make, isn't it? It's their country.

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.

Q I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- including us.

Well at least somebody in the press is paying attention. You'll notice it's the oldest member of the press corps, not one of the younger, much more subservient types.

And Helen Thomas's question is quite relevant given the fact that it will be innocent Iraqis that will be doing the vast majority of the dying in our upcoming war, as evidenced by numerous studies of Gulf War Part I noted in my post below.

Despite what some would have you believe, modern wars are in no way surgical and most of the casualties are innocent civilians. The warmongers, er, warbloggers should at least acknowledge that -- and so should the White House.

Posted by Tom at 10:02 a.m. CST


Another great column this morning is from E.J. Dionne. He talks about the Bush family strategy of attacking opponents for" class warfare" while doing it themselves.

Here's a bit of it:

Now, if I were in the president's position -- or in the position of the wealthy contributors who lavishly financed the campaigns of his political friends last year -- I wouldn't want anyone to talk about class either. God forbid we look at the details of exactly who benefits most from this administration's policies.

But it would be easier to respect this attack on class warfare if the president and his allies disavowed such belligerency themselves. Alas, they don't. They just play a different kind of class politics by demonizing those elites who are not on their approved list of corporate chiefs, oil millionaires, heirs to large fortunes and the like.

The president, for example, loves to bash the rich if they got that way by being trial lawyers.

Arguing for limits on medical malpractice awards in a North Carolina speech last July, Bush told the story of Jill and Chet Barnes of Las Vegas."Jill is a student teacher," Bush said,"and her husband is a fireman." Because Nevada had such high malpractice insurance rates, Jill, who was eight weeks pregnant at the time, was having trouble finding a doctor --"that's got to be really frightening to a young mom" -- and eventually got one by traveling an hour and a half to Arizona.

It didn't take long for Bush to describe the villain of the piece. He declared that"what we want is quality health care, not rich trial lawyers."

Yes, there's a lot to be said about the malpractice issue. And you felt bad for the young couple. But if setting up a teacher and a firefighter against"rich trial lawyers" is not class warfare, then Karl Marx is the current editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages.

Republican class warfare is not confined to trial lawyers. Almost daily, Republicans attack privileged groups:"the cultural elite,""the Hollywood elite,""the intellectual elite" and, of course,"the liberal elite."

Bush merged some of these categories in 1994 when he was running for governor of Texas. No slouch as a fundraiser himself, he chided Ann Richards, his opponent, for going to California to raise money from the"liberal elite." That same year, the president's brother Jeb, running for governor of Florida, defended his views by declaring:"These are mainstream ideas, ideas that matter, whether the intellectual elite in this state like them or not."

The Bush sons learned from a master. A lovely bit of class warfare was the former president Bush's assault on his 1988 Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, for representing the views of the"Harvard boutique." In 1992 Vice President Dan Quayle divided the world into"two cultures, the cultural elite and the rest of us." You know you're dealing with class warfare when an"elite" is set up against"the rest of us." George H.W. said he quite liked the speech.

Detect a pattern? Class warfare around cultural issues is wonderful. It distracts attention from the grubby details about how certain economic policies may benefit a rather small group of Americans who just happen to be the wealthiest Americans.

Oops, I committed class warfare again.

Years ago, Harold Lasswell, the great political scientist, suggested that one of the fundamental political questions is"Who gets what, when and how." It's a question we're not supposed to ask anymore.

Of course, like so many of the White House's arguments these days, this one about class warfare is entirely about distraction and obfuscation. Whether you buy the argument or not, you're arguing about this instead of noticing W's rich supporters just got yet another gift from their boy.

Posted by Tom at 9:49 a.m. CST


Paul Krugman, an actual economist unlike most of W's economic folks, has a great column this morning about W's irrelevant economic stimulus package.

Here's part of it:

And instead of helping the needy, the Bush plan is almost ludicrously tilted toward the very, very well off. If you have stocks in a 401(k), your dividends are already tax-sheltered; this proposal gives big breaks only to people who have lots of stock outside their retirement accounts. More than half the benefits would go to people making more than $200,000 per year, a quarter to people making more than $1 million per year. ("Class warfare!" shouted the claque.)

Even the administration's economists barely pretend that this proposal has anything to do with short-run stimulus. Instead they sell it as the answer to various other problems. (It slices! It dices! It purées!) Above all, it's supposed to end the evil of"double taxation."

Now lots of income faces double taxation, in the sense that the same dollar gets taxed more than once along the way. For example, most of us pay income and payroll taxes when we earn our salary, then pay sales taxes when we spend it. So why has it suddenly become urgent to ensure that dividends, in particular, never be taxed more than once?

That is, if they're taxed at all. In practice, the Bush plan would exempt a lot of income — rich people's income — from all taxes. Thanks to the efforts of lobbyists, today's corporate tax code has as many holes in it as a piece of Swiss cheese, and today's corporations take full advantage. Case in point: Between 1998 and 2001 CSX Corporation, the company run by the incoming Treasury secretary, John Snow, made $900 million in profits, but paid no net taxes — in fact, it received $164 million in rebates. This wasn't exceptional; the average tax rate on profits has fallen to a nearly 60-year low.

Anyway, even to debate the pros and cons of dividend taxation is to play the administration's game, which is to change the subject. Weren't we supposed to be talking about emergency economic stimulus?

No doubt the final version of the"stimulus" plan will contain a few genuine recession-fighting measures — a child credit here, an unemployment benefit there, a few crumbs for the states — for which the administration will expect immense gratitude. But the man in charge — that is, Karl Rove — is clearly betting that the economy will recover on its own, and intends to use the pretense of stimulus mainly as an opportunity to get more tax cuts for the rich.

Ideology aside, will these guys ever decide that their job includes solving problems, not just using them?

I especially like that last line. It summarizes this administration's approach to damn-near everything. This is a"stimulus plan" that consists almost entirely of table scraps from the tax cut orgy of a couple of years ago.

What I love is the smug way the White House says it expects"to get most of this." This is so fiscally irresponsible I'm not even sure where to begin. This isn't a stimulus package at all -- just yet another tax give-away to the rich folks who pay W's campaign bills.

Atrios had a good post about this yesterday as well.

Update: CalPundit has a great post on this too. You must go read the whole post but I'll go ahead and give you my favorite short snippet just to whet your appetite:

But the Republican party has become like some kind of mutant cyborg whose programming has become defective: the only words left in their vocabulary are"tax cuts" and they are simply going to keep repeating them over and over like a Hari Krishna chant regardless of whether they make any sense in current circumstances. It just boggles the mind.


Posted by Tom at 9:33 a.m. CST


My friend who sent me the link to the Beth Osborne Daponte paper that I blogged about here and here contacted me again. I told him at the time it was a good story that the press should be covering.

My friend clearly took my suggestion to heart. He convinced a buddy of his who's a reporter at the Philly Inquirer to write a story about it. If you want to read the story, which is quite good, go here.

Hey, score one for the good guys! The media actually covered this one! This one made it out of the blogosphere and into the newspaper!


Update: Buzzflash readers, be sure to follow the links to my earlier blog entries -- those posts will provide you with more information about this interesting story.

Thanks for the link Buzzflash!

Posted by Tom at 3:13 p.m. CST


Here's an excellent article by Robert Parry on the myth of the liberal media.

I'll give you a small bit of the much larger piece to whet your appetite:

The core of the conservative “liberal media” case is that surveys have shown that a majority of journalists vote Democratic in presidential elections. Therefore, conservatives argue that a pro-Democratic bias permeates the American news media. Conservatives then bolster this claim of liberal bias with anecdotes, such as the alleged inflections of Dan Rather’s voice on the CBS Evening News or the supposed overuse of the word “ultra-conservative” in news columns.

But other surveys on the views of individual journalists suggest a more complicated picture. Journalists generally regard themselves as centrists with more liberal views on social issues and more conservative ones on economic issues, when compared with the broader American public. For example, journalists might be more likely to favor abortion rights, while less likely to worry about cuts in Social Security and Medicare than other Americans.

But the larger fallacy of the “liberal media” argument is the idea that reporters and mid-level editors set the editorial agenda at their news organizations. In reality, most journalists have about as much say over what is presented by newspapers and TV news programs as factory workers and foremen have over what a factory manufactures.

That is not to say factory workers have no input in their company’s product: they can make suggestions and ensure the product is professionally built. But top executives have a much bigger say in what gets produced and how. The news business is essentially the same.

News organizations are hierarchical institutions often run by strong-willed men who insist that their editorial vision be dominant within their news companies. Some concessions are made to the broader professional standards of journalism, such as the principles of objectivity and fairness.

But media owners historically have enforced their political views and other preferences by installing senior editors whose careers depend on delivering a news product that fits with the owner’s prejudices. Mid-level editors and reporters who stray too far from the prescribed path can expect to be demoted or fired. Editorial employees intuitively understand the career risks of going beyond the boundaries.

These limitations were true a century ago when William Randolph Hearst famously studied every day’s paper from his publishing empire looking for signs of leftist attitudes among his staff. And it is still true in the days of Rupert Murdoch, Jack Welch and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The Republican and conservative bent of senior media management also is not limited to a few “name” publishers and executives. A survey conducted before Election 2000 by the industry magazine, Editor & Publisher, found a strong bias in favor of George W. Bush among top editorial decision-makers nationwide.

Newspaper editors and publishers favored Bush by a 2-to-1 margin, according to the survey of nearly 200 editors and publishers. Publishers, who are at the pinnacle of power within news organizations, were even more pro-Bush, favoring the then-Texas governor by a 3-to-1 margin, E&P reported. Gazing through the rose colors of their pro-Bush glasses, the news executives incorrectly predicted a Bush electoral landslide in November 2000.

Send this link on to your conservative friends! It'll send them into convulsive rage because Parry actually uses evidence and a knowledge of how the news media really works to rip this myth into shreds by the end of the article. It really is quite devastating.

If you can get one of your conservative buddies to actually read this thing (that's a big"if" I know), it really does take this myth apart bit by bit. I mean, heck, for most conservatives their entire worldview is based on this unfounded myth about the media.

The world begins to look a great deal differently when you realize that the news media is actually a conservative force today. In fact, it is our compliant media that is keeping W afloat despite the numerous examples of his incompetence that have come out since 9/11.

Anyway, this column is a good read and includes numerous links to other websites and articles.

I suggest you go read it.


Posted by Tom at 2:51 p.m. CST


Via Interesting Times and, ugh, the Drudge Report, we learn that David Frum (yes the same moron who came up with the phrase"Axis of Evil," bragged about it, and correspondingly got canned) has his own tell-all story coming out -- this one in book form.

In his book, The Right Man, Frum dishes some dirt on W and the boys. He even goes so far as to complain that"one seldom heard an unexpected thought in the Bush White House or met someone who possessed unusual knowledge" and that there was"a dearth of really high-powered brains" on the White House staff.

Chris at Interesting Times wonders aloud when we can expect an apology from Frum a la John DiIulio. I'm thinking that's what Frum will be doing on the Today show tomorrow morning. In fact, I suspect that's what he'll probably spend the entire appearance doing.

Posted by Tom at 2:17 p.m. CST


My goodness. Trent Lott, as a parting gift, has nominated John Lehman, the Navy's equivalent of Cardinal Law, to be a member of the 9/11 investigation commission. In doing so, Lott passed over the choice of the victims' families, former senator Warren Rudman.

Can you believe this one? Can anyone in their right mind believe Republicans want to get to the truth when they appoint a guy who is a known cover-up artist (he helped cover up three different scandals, one involving pedophilia) as one of the"truth-seekers" on the 9/11 commission?

I think Atrios puts it perfectly:

Let me just add this is a total outrage and a big extended middle finger to the victims of 9/11, their families, the country, truth, justice, the American way, and everything else one can think of.

Sigh. I really don't know what else to say.

How low can these guys go when they think no one is looking?

[Link via Atrios]

Posted by Tom at 1:55 p.m. CST


Here's a bit from a good Washington Post editorial about W's latest economic fiasco:

LET'S SEE IF we have this right. President Bush plans to propose a stimulus plan the centerpiece of which will have little or no stimulative effect. At a time when some people badly could use help, Mr. Bush's tax cut mostly will help those who need it least. And while the president is warning Congress to restrain its spending on basics such as education and aid to the poor, the tax cuts will further inflate his growing budget deficit. No wonder that Mr. Bush, even before officially unveiling the plan tomorrow, waved his magic" class warfare" amulet, seeking to obscure the obvious -- another tax cut for the rich -- by preemptively accusing his accusers.

The president's plan was still being formed over the weekend, but officials said it would likely include some repackaged aid to the states, which certainly would come in handy; a belated extension of unemployment benefits; and perhaps an acceleration of his previously approved reductions in income tax rates, also a boon mostly for the prosperous. But his big new idea is said to be an exemption from taxation of stock dividend income. The argument behind this, one that has been put forward for decades, is that such income is unfairly taxed twice: once when a corporation earns a profit, and then again when some of that profit is distributed to shareholders. There's an academic logic to this case, but then again economists can explain the pernicious effect on healthy economic activity of just about every kind of tax. The real question is whether, at this moment, the tax system should be changed in a way that further favors the rich over the poor and companies that distribute dividends over companies that don't, while costing the government tens of billions per year.

Once again, W and the boys are proving they're incapable of basic math or are too dishonest to admit they've done the math but don't give a damn. As I've said many times before, the Republicans are the party of fiscal irresponsibility billing itself as the party of fiscal responsibility. It's this party that gives you the deficits that the Democrats will then, dutifully, try to get rid of in a few years.

It is part of the conventional wisdom that Republicans are good at taking care of the"daddy issues" and Democrats are good at taking care of the"mommy issues." Well, folks, Daddy just went out and maxed out the family's credit cards and the family is about to have to start skimping on everything else just to make the credit card payments. Why the hell does anyone still believe that Republicans are any good at fiscal responsibility anymore?

It takes a special kind of cynical politician to propose giant tax cuts for the rich that will have little or not stimulative effect as the centerpiece of a"stimulus package." Then, when Democrats complain about it, he'll demagogue this and claim that Democrats aren't for"homeland economic security" or some other idiotic and dishonest ploy like that. And, folks, the media and, I'm sad to say, the American people, will more than likely fall for it.

But you didn't need to vote in the midterm election, did you?

It made no difference, right?

Posted by Tom at 9:47 a.m. CST


I've got yet another addition to the blogroll. This one is the Bloviator. Ross's specialty is health and public policy but he talks about lots of other things as well.

It's an interesting and good blog in spite of the fact that Voldemort, er, Glenn Reynolds also likes it.

You should go check out this post on Interesting Times today as well. You'll notice that the Big Dog's approval ratings actually fare quite well when compared with W's.

So, despite Republican and media spin, W is not viewed any more favorably by the public than Clinton was during impeachment -- and Clinton was under constant attack during that period!

Not that you could tell any of this from reading our so-called liberal media.

That's probably it from me today. I'm enjoying a quiet Sunday at home with the family too much to interrupt it with too much blogging.

I'll see you tomorrow.

Posted by Tom at 5:27 p.m. CST


I'd like to announce two new additions to my blogroll, Kieran Healy's blog and Interesting Times.

Both are excellent blogs that are quite deserving of your patronage.

Go take a look!

Posted by Tom at 4:53 p.m. CST


I don't know how I missed it until now, but Paul Krugman's column in the Times yesterday about North Korea is quite excellent.

Here's a bit of it:

So you might be tempted to conclude that the Bush administration is big on denouncing evildoers, but that it can be deterred from actually attacking countries it denounces if it expects them to put up a serious fight. What was it Teddy Roosevelt said? Talk trash but carry a small stick?

Your own experience seems to confirm that conclusion. Last summer you were caught enriching uranium, which violates the spirit of your 1994 agreement with the Clinton administration. But the Bush administration, though ready to invade Iraq at the slightest hint of a nuclear weapons program, tried to play down the story, and its response — cutting off shipments of fuel oil — was no more than a rap on the knuckles. In fact, even now the Bush administration hasn't done what its predecessor did in 1994: send troops to the region and prepare for a military confrontation.

So here's how it probably looks from Pyongyang:

The Bush administration says you're evil. It won't offer you aid, even if you cancel your nuclear program, because that would be rewarding evil. It won't even promise not to attack you, because it believes it has a mission to destroy evil regimes, whether or not they actually pose any threat to the U.S. But for all its belligerence, the Bush administration seems willing to confront only regimes that are militarily weak.

The incentives for North Korea are clear. There's no point in playing nice — it will bring neither aid nor security. It needn't worry about American efforts to isolate it economically — North Korea hardly has any trade except with China, and China isn't cooperating. The best self-preservation strategy for Mr. Kim is to be dangerous. So while America is busy with Iraq, the North Koreans should cook up some plutonium and build themselves some bombs.

Again: What game does the Bush administration think it's playing?

What game indeed.

Posted by Tom at 10:37 a.m. CST


Atrios points us to this article by Mark Crispin Miller that raises significant questions about the truthfulness of Poppy's administration regarding the bombing of what the Iraqi government claimed was a"baby milk factory" during the Gulf War.

Miller also mentions several issues from the Gulf War I've discussed on this blog as well. There's all sorts of niggling questions that remain from IraqWar Part I.

From the apparently nonexistent satellite photo showing Iraqi troops at the border of Saudi Arabia to the vastly underestimated number of civilian deaths, the folks in the first Bush administration appear to have consciously lied about many things during the Gulf War.

I suspect this is why W is hiding Poppy's papers from the public. I suspect the papers will expose several great big whoppers told by his father's administration during this war. The more we learn about this war, the more underhanded and creepy Bush I appears to be. If we ever get the"whole story," it may completely change the way historians view this war.

W and the boys know this and will work hard to keep this information from us.

We can't let them get away with it.

Posted by Tom at 10:07 p.m. CST


Daily Kos points us to this report in the Washingtonian (via Political Wire) that Orrin Hatch wants a job on the Supreme Court.

But there's more. W and the boys have decided to appoint the whitest black man in America and the least qualified Supreme Court nominee in recent memory, Clarence Thomas, as Chief Justice when Rehnquist retires.

According to this report, W believes this will prove to African-Americans that Republicans are still the party of Lincoln.


Kos wisecracks"Jesus. And people accuse the Dems of tokenism."

Surely this is all a joke, right?

BTW, while you're over at Kos, be sure to read this, it's quite humorous.

Posted by Tom at 8:01 p.m. CST


I wanted to take this opportunity to announce the new group blog, the Political State Report, moderated by Kos of the Daily Kos. Yours truly, along with Republican Adam Case (whom I must confess I know absolutely nothing about) are the political correspondents from Missouri. I've even already posted once!

Go check it out!

I just added it to the blogroll as well.

Posted by Tom at 4:18 p.m. CST


Science journalist David Appell of Quark Soup notes that Instapundit's numbers appear to be declining -- and have been for nearly two months.

Appell also links to a certain blogger of note's post about Insty and the CNN/Time poll as a potential reason why Insty's readership may be slipping.

It's certainly an interesting thing to ponder, isn't it?

Update: Boy, you ought to read the pathetic excuse-making by Insty fans here and here. His numbers have to be down because of the holidays, right? You can tell it bothers them to think that Insty's numbers are going down. Since my record day for hits was the day after Christmas, that shoots a rather large hole through that theory.

And, BTW, I didn't see any need to share that e-mail with everyone in the blogosphere. I didn't make it up. It was embarrassing for Glenn and he apologized for it. I saw no need to embarrass him further. In fact, I only mentioned it after he preceded to lecture me about e-mail etiquette just moments after sending me a blue e-mail. Otherwise I wouldn't have said a thing about it.

And isn't it interesting when right-wing bloggers who support W, accuse lefty bloggers of lying? We expose rather large whoppers by W and the boys every day right here on this blog. Ah, it's the right's preferred method of argumentation -- smearing and name-calling.

I can't say I'm surprised.

Update 2: Hesiod suggests that Insty's drop is due to"market fragmentation." Left-of-center types now have much more choices. As Hesiod says, Insty isn't"the only game in town" any more. I agree wholeheartedly. That's as plausible a theory as I've heard.

After all, as we all know, Atrios is a much better blogger.

Update 3: One of the sycophants has responded to my update.

Honestly, I don't know what's up with this decline and I don't really care. I think Hesiod's theory is much more plausible.

However, again, the point of my earlier post was not why this decline is taking place but the lengths to which Insty fans will go to explain this decline away. This guy's post is a perfect example.

Posted by Tom at 4:05 p.m. CST


What to do if the government's own employment numbers look bad -- and contradict the White House spin? Well, of course, you just eliminate the program that tells Americans how many folks have been laid off in mass layoffs each month!

If you'll notice in this article by David Lazarus that W is a chip off the old block. Poppy killed this program too when it contradicted his argument that the economy was recovering and he was being accused of economic incompetence during his re-election campaign in 1992.

But, of course, we all know W's folks are real pros on the economy. Don't we?

Posted by Tom at 3:44 p.m. CST


W's favorite reporter, Adam Clymer, has an interesting article about this administration's penchant for secrecy. Here's a small bit of it:

On March 23, 2001, Mr. Gonzales, the White House counsel, ordered the National Archives not to release to the public 68,000 pages of records from Ronald Reagan's presidency that scholars had requested and archivists had determined posed no threat to national security or personal privacy. Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the documents were to become available after Jan. 20, 2001, twelve years after Mr. Reagan left office. Mr. Reagan's administration was the first covered by the 1978 law.

The directive, which also covered the papers of Mr. Reagan's vice president and the president's father, George Bush, was to last 90 days. When Mr. Gonzales extended the sealing period for an additional 90 days, historians like Hugh Davis Graham of Vanderbilt University attacked the delays, saying they were designed to prevent embarrassment and would nullify the records law's presumption of public access to those documents.

On Nov. 1, 2001, President Bush issued an even more sweeping order under which former presidents and vice presidents like his father, or representatives designated by them or by their surviving families, could bar release of documents by claiming one of a variety of privileges:"military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, presidential communications, legal advice, legal work or the deliberative processes of the president and the president's advisers," according to the order.

Before the order, the Archivist of the United States could reject a former president's claim of privilege. Now he cannot.

The order was promptly attacked in court and on Capitol Hill. Scott L. Nelson of the Public Interest Litigation Group sued on behalf of historians and reporters, maintaining that the new order allowed unlimited delays in releasing documents and created new privileges to bar release.

House Republicans were among the order's sharpest critics. Representative Steve Horn of California called a hearing within a few days, and Representative Doug Ose, another Californian, said the order"undercuts the public's right to be fully informed about how its government operated in the past." The order, Mr. Horn said, improperly"gives the former and incumbent presidents veto power over the release of the records."

On Dec. 20, the White House sought to silence the complaints by announcing that nearly all the 68,000 pages of the Reagan records were being released. Legislation introduced to undo the order never made it to the House floor, where leaders had no interest in embarrassing the president. And a lawsuit challenging the order languishes in Federal District Court before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

Historians remain angry. Robert Dallek, a biographer of Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy, said,"This order of Bush, we feel it's a disgrace — what it means is if this policy applies, they can hold presidential documents close to the vest in perpetuity, the way Lincoln's papers were held by the family until 1947."

You'll notice that W, emboldened by his newfound (but now dissipated) post 9/11 popularity, issued an executive order keeping two administrations' worth of records from historians. This historian, in columns here at HNN, commented on this several months ago (pre-blog) here, here and here.

Folks, I would argue there is nothing good that comes from a government that feels it necessary to do everything behind such a veil of secrecy.

Why is such secrecy necessary? What constructive purpose does it truly serve?

Historians should be concerned -- but everybody else should be as well.

Posted by Tom at 11:57 p.m. CST


Thomas Oliphant has an excellent column about our ridiculous policy towards North Korea over the last six months or so. Here's a bit of it:

The administration indulged its ideological urges instead of our country's best interests last summer when irrefutable intelligence became available that North Korea was trying to enrich uranium to obtain bomb-grade material. The truth is that the efforts by Pyongyang did not come close to constituting a crisis. In fact, in creating a crisis where none existed, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threw away the one restraint on the country's nuclear weapons program that was working. Secretary of State Powell has now declared that there is no crisis, but in his judgment there never was one.

Over the weekend, the Iraq-fixated Bush White House really did contact journalists to try out the argument that Saddam Hussein is more dangerous than Kim Jong Il because Kim has never formally declared North Korea's status as a nuclear power, much less used the two weapons he is believed to possess. By contrast, it was noted that Iraq had already used chemical weapons on its own citizens and Iran's soldiers in the 1980s.

The second phase of the argument was that possessing the bomb gradually makes a country more predictable and stable than one that has never produced one. This point is not absurd, just not one the administration had previously been willing to make because it was unwilling to acknowledge how useful the 1994 deal proved to be.

This was the agreement that put North Korea's plutonium genie back in the bottle by putting under intrusive international inspection the reactor and its byproducts. In return, Pyongyang got aid in importing heavy fuel oil to generate electricity as well as assistance in building nuclear reactors that would not generate plutonium.

At the time, the country was warned not to try to build bombs by other means, namely uranium enrichment, and there was strong suspicion that it was seeking to. However, hard intelligence that a serious effort was underway was not developed until the last year or so, though the program was still in relative infancy.

By this time, Bush had already changed the hated Bill Clinton policy that might have led to normalization of relations and created an umbrella under which relations with South Korea improved significantly. First, the demands made on the North were escalated, Next, the South Korean government's ''sunshine policy'' with the North was subverted. Pyongyang was then declared part of the ''axis of evil,'' and finally an attempt was made to influence the South to elect a more anti-North government.

Facing all this, somebody in Pyongyang decided some more nuclear bombs and missiles for protection might be a good idea. We caught them at it and stopped the aid.

Now that Colin Powell has declared there is no crisis - basically because the United States has no military options short of a destructive war on the Korean Peninsula - he nonetheless raises still another intriguing policy challenge.

US policy opposes talking directly to the North now so as not to ''reward'' its outrageous behavior. On the other hand, Powell assures us that we are in fact communicating with the North through Asian intermediaries. Does this mean we are punishing Pyongyang or rewarding it?

The administration's pretending that North Korea is less of a threat and even"more stable" with nuclear weapons is nothing short of outrageous. If anything, the ridiculous double-standard shows the moral bankruptcy of this administration in foreign policy.

Did you ever think you'd hear a Republican administration full of ex-Reagan administration Cold War-hawks argue that diplomacy with a communist regime works and that a nuke-armed North Korea is"predictable and stable?" Surely these guys do listen to themselves every now and then, don't they?

The hypocrisy here is astonishing -- all because W and the boys are hot to trot for war against Iraq.

It's enough to make you wonder whether these guys believed any of that crazy bullshit they were spewing during the 1980s, doesn't it?

This post also appears on Stand Down.

Posted by Tom at 4:03 p.m. CST


Here's a nice moratorium for W's last year by Robert Kuttner. It's quite good. Here's a bit of it:

The administration has also proclaimed something close to a state of permanent warfare without asking anything of its citizens - other than to spy on neighbors. This is the first war in American history accompanied by a large tax cut. The slogan might as well be: Uncle Sam Wants You ... to go out and shop.

The latest news from Korea suggests administration incompetence of stunning proportions. Basically, the Clinton administration managed to contain North Korea as a nuclear threat with sticks and carrots - by warning of dire consequences while providing humanitarian economic aid and working closely with the South Koreans on their policy of constructive engagement with the North. The policy worked.

The Bush people discarded this approach as Clintonian and wimpy. North Korea responded by tossing out the arms inspectors and resuming their nuclear weapons program. Now the South Koreans and Japanese are furious at this bungling, and the Bush administration wants the public to believe, first, that North Korea is less of a menace than Iraq and, second, that it can fight two wars simultaneously if need be.

The administration is ever more isolated and alienated from its allies. If we do make war on Iraq, it will likely be over the objections of most of NATO and much of what remains of the friendly Middle East.

All of the these chickens will come home to roost in 2003. But the intriguing question is this: What if there were a failed administration and nobody noticed?

Bush got a free ride in 2002. Men like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld looked competent. They were tough-talking grown-ups, seasoned and tested in the worlds of government, business, and making war. They were the kind of people you wanted in a national crisis, and they usefully upstaged comic opera yokels like Ashcroft. Colin Powell, likewise, could paper over the foreign policy extremism and seem reassuring. Karl Rove could master political cross-dressing and simulate support for popular liberal social programs.

Despite all this artifice, at some point the public has to notice the threadbare economy, the assaults on privacy and liberty, the homeland insecurity, and the reckless foreign policy. At least you have to hope that it does and that we get through the year intact.

One looks guardedly forward to New Year's Day 2004.

I'm just afraid many innocent Americans will pay for W's"state of permanent political war" with their lives. Of course, as I've said many times, one will be too many.

Posted by Tom at 3:48 p.m. CST


In keeping with my custom, I'll reprint Gene Lyons' column in its entirety. Here goes:

The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk

Everybody remembers the slapstick scene at the end where Bill Clinton's pants fell down. But now that it's receeding into history, it'd be surprising to find one American in ten who can recall exactly what Kenneth Starr's ballyhooed Whitewater investigation was alleged to be all about. It simply defies credibility that the United States government frittered away $60 million and squandered the energies of upwards of 100 FBI agents for seven years investigating a failed $200,000 dirt road real estate project before admitting it found no credible evidence of wrongdoing by President Clinton or his wife Hillary.

According to Susan McDougal's engrossing, often funny new book, The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk, she did her best to warn Starr's investigators that they'd embarked on a fool's errand. She describes a March, 1995 meeting during which OIC prosecutors made it clear that all she needed to do to secure a grant of immunity was to drop a dime on the President. The problem was, she kept telling them, that"I didn't know of anything the Clintons had done that was even remotely illegal."

She remembers thinking"what a dumb system...there was no obvious way to prevent a guilty person from simply telling grandiose lies against another person-one who might well be innocent-in order to save his own skin."

Unfortunately, the whole system turns upon the competence and integrity of prosecutors, and the abstemious Mr. Starr turned out not to have any. It still drives her crazy that"despite abundant evidence to the contrary, [Starr] is almost always described as an honest man, indeed as a man of real integrity." She speculates that her pious antagonist got the benefit of the doubt from the press simply"because he was so quick to assure us over and over or his reputation for honesty. Whether comparing himself to Joe Friday or quoting scripture, Starr made sure to constantly talk about his integrity....[But] the simple truth is that Kenneth Starr had absolutely no compunctions about telling outright lies if they suited his purposes."

True to her generous nature, McDougal doesn't quite grasp how deeply the Washington press establishment had bought into the Whitewater delusion, nor how willing it was to abandon its own ethical standards in the quest to bring down a Democratic president. Shoot, she's still upset that lazy journalists bought into the premise that"Madison Guaranty [Savings & Loan] was a criminal enterprise," smearing many innocent, hardworking employees, although virtually all of the real crimes Starr's team found centered around their star witness, embezzler David Hale.

She ought to read Susan Schmidt and Michael Weisskopf's book Truth at Any Cost. They blame the entire state. In darkest Arkansas, see, Starr"was up against an infernal system...everything seemed geared to protect the former governor and his wife--from the local courts and prosecutor's offices to the federal judiciary." Infernal, no less, which my dictionary defines as"of or relating to hell."

Schmidt glorified Starr for the Washington Post; Weisskopf for Time. Having staked their careers on OIC leaks, their book is the journalistic equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome, in which hostages come to identify with their captors. But they did get one thing half right:"Exhibit A&" in their explanation of why Starr failed to bring indictments agains the Clinton" crime family," for example, is Susan McDougal."Clinton," the authors contend"would not ask her to break her silence. She never talked."

In reality, of course, Susan did testify for several days during her 1999 criminal contempt trial, and was cross-examined by OIC prosecutors more than a year before Truth at Any Cost was published. Her account of that trial, and the deep satisfaction it gave her to confront Starr's bully boy prosecutors in open court, as opposed to a grand jury room where prosecutors have virtually unlimited power, makes a satisfying conclusion to a deeply humane account of one woman's unlikely heroism.

But it was, indeed, McDougal¹s dignity and courage that brought Starr¹s operation to a standstill. She served 18 months in jail on a civil contempt citation imposed by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright because she refused to testify before a federal grand jury.

Starr’s attempt to add criminal contempt charges failed when the trial jury deadlocked in favor of acquittal and a mistrial was declared. The jury found her innocent of an obstruction of justice charge, apparently because she convinced jurors of what she¹d realized three years earlier when, after convicting her of crimes she insists they knew she hadn¹t committed, OIC prosecutors paraded her in chains before a national TV audience: They had never been interested in the truth, only in getting the Clintons.

Maybe exhibiting her like Hannibal Lecter wasn't the dumbest thing Starr ever did. He did so many dumb things. But in retrospect, the image of Susan McDougal in her simple checked skirt and black stockings, draped in shackles and shuffling off to prison with her chin held high, told millions of Americans all they needed to know about the prissy Torquemada who ordered it done.

I hope you enjoyed your weekly Gene Lyons fix. I know I did.

Posted by Tom at 12:05 a.m. CST

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