Spencer Blog Archives 10-02

Spencer Blog Archives

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I'm having an awfully busy day today. It's time for the second"blue book festival" of the year, my parents are coming to visit this weekend, my kids are going trick-or-treating tonight, you name it. Regardless, I feel compelled to comment on some recent events. Bear with me. This may take a bit of time.

I'm happy to report that, despite W's best efforts, the dog is refusing to be wagged regarding Iraq. This poll shows what many other public polls are showing, which is rapidly dropping public support for military action against Iraq. It's now barely a majority and if you ask Americans if they support action against Iraq without the support of allies (which is how we're going to have to do it folks), the support drops to a tad over one in four, only 27%.

While the" conventional wisdom" in Washington is that the Iraq war issue has saved the Republicans from defeat in the midterms,"running out the clock" on the election so to speak, I'm not really sure that's the case. In fact, what many in the press are just beginning to realize is that Iraq is not on most people's radar screens at the moment, the economy is. In fact, many reporters are suddenly reporting that Iraq has completely disappeared as a campaign issue over the last couple of weeks.

I suspect Karl Rove and the Republican political"braintrust" must be pretty dumbfounded right now -- and a little desperate. I suspect that's why we're hearing about Republican intimidation of voters in some states (such as South Dakota, Michigan, Arkansas, and my own state of Missouri) right now -- that's a sure sign of desperation. The histrionics (see below) of the Republican right-wing grief police also are a sign of desperation as well. They're seeking traction on anything -- and they're not getting it. In fact, I would suggest you read this story from the Daily Howler if you want to learn more about the machinations of the Republican grief police and how the media in Washington is just eating it up. I suspect the Republicans have realized the war isn't doing it for them and that it's too late to pretend they've done anything about the economy over the last few months. This is what desperation looks like my friends. Enjoy it.

I would also caution you to pay little or no attention to the beltway punditry with regard to the midterms. They have so badly botched the last two of them in 1998 and 1994 that you can't believe their predictions anymore. If the beltway pundits were right, Tom Foley never would've lost the speaker's seat in 1994 and Democrats would've just lost a few seats, but not their house majority, to Newt Gingrich and his"Contract on America." In 1998, these pundits also told us that Republicans were going to gain bigtime from American outrage over Clinton's sexual pecaddiloes. They didn't. In fact, the Republicans lost seats. Newtie, who was carrying on with his own 20ish girlfriend at the time, resigned just a few weeks later.

The beltway press doesn't really cover the news much anymore folks, they just repeat what the pundits tell them. It is best if you pay little attention to them. That's one of the reasons that the internet is so useful. You can hear about things outside the beltway and actually learn something rather than hear the same tired -- and often inaccurate -- beltway wisdom from the punditry repeated ad nauseum as"political analysis."

Most Americans, I'm happy to say, have apparently seen through the Iraq charade for what it is: merely an attempt to wag the dog. And the dog is refusing to be wagged. Most Americans know that the administration is really stretching the truth with regard to Iraq. Most Americans would love it if Saddam, a monster of our own creation, would disappear tomorrow. Who wouldn't? However, Americans know when they're being misled. They know that Iraq is not a" clear and present danger" that must be dealt with right now. They know that, if Saddam really were that big of a threat, W wouldn't be off campaigning for three weeks straight, he'd stay in Washington.

Americans also know that this war is an unnecessary one. Containment of Saddam has worked for the last ten years and will certainly work for a bit longer. Because of this, they know that action against Iraq will needlessly cost the lives of Americans. They also know that if Saddam does have weapons of mass destruction (and the administration still hasn't made a very good case for this yet), he'll certainly use them against us if we invade. Americans also know a war against Iraq will actually make all of us less safe from terrorism not more. It will actually increase the chances of terrorism against Americans here and worldwide. They also are aware that a war against Iraq will destabilize the region and might not lead to a more peaceful Iraq or Middle East for that matter.

In short, Americans know they're being sold a bill of goods and they're simply not buying it.

So, what this means is that the midterms may not play out the way the pundits are telling you. Of course, the biggest problem with all of this is that" conventional wisdom" often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if it's all people hear. And at this point it is all that we're hearing on the news. However, I think the people may surprise the punditry this time, just as they did in the midterms in 1994 and 1998. With the beltway punditry's recent track record, I've actually come to expect it. Hang in there folks. It could be interesting. Now don't get me wrong. I don't expect earth-shattering stuff but, at the very least, I do expect some upsets in gubernatorial races and I expect the Democrats to hold the senate.

Of course, we'll see in just a few days. Then we can all get back to political life as normal. Don't be surprised if the war rhetoric virtually disappears after next Tuesday -- and then you'll know this was really all about the midterms and little else.

I do want to remind you that I'm not a pundit and my opinion carries no more weight than the next guy. These are just my observations. We'll see if I'm right.

Update:Daily Kos has a good post on Get-Out-the-Vote efforts and their impact on election day which is another element that is often forgotten by the Washington media. This also provides me with more hope for election day as well.

Posted by Tom at 12:03 p.m. CST


Eleanor Clift has a good column today on how W gets away with lying so often -- more so than Clinton actually. But you and I knew that. Here's a bit of it:

Compared with taking the country to war based on a body of lies, Bush’s duplicity on domestic issues doesn’t seem as egregious, but the pattern is disturbing. On the budget, he has managed (or mismanaged) the biggest fiscal reversal in the country’s history. Part of the loss of revenue is the result of 9-11 and the recession, but Bush has totally abdicated his responsibility in steering the country out of the financial mess. His response is to gloss over the $300 billion loss from the balance sheet, pick a fight with Congress over a symbolic $13 billion appropriations bill and then claim he’s fiscally responsible. “They see the rhetoric obscuring the reality, and it angers them,” says Mann.

There is hardly an issue where Bush hasn’t pulled a fast one. The rules he announced with great fanfare this week to make it easier to move generic drugs onto the market were passed by the Senate in July. Bush opposed them then; now with polls showing voters think he hasn’t done enough on domestic issues, he’s flipped.

How does he get away with such crass duplicity? The media doesn’t want to disturb the story line. Gore was the prevaricator; Bush was intellectually challenged. So when Bush fiddles with the facts, the media doesn’t see malevolence. They see a man who’s not articulate, who doesn’t speak with lawyerly precision. And they can’t believe how believable he is.

What I love is the fact that when W lies, W's protectors in the media make excuses for him. We hear how he just misspoke or that he's too ignorant to know the truth or that he's not"detail-oriented" or that he's given to"flights of fancy." Folks, he's lying and he knows he's lying. He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but he knows when he's telling a whopper, believe me.

Posted by Tom at 3:38 p.m. CST


Huck's job approval numbers are plummeting according to the Arkansas Poll. They've dropped 20 points since last year to just under 50%. Sounds like an incumbent that's about to go down to me.

The television media is picking the Dumond story up. Here are stories by Kark-TV and KATV in Little Rock. (These links via the Daily Kos)

The Arkansas press is also slowly picking this story up. Here's a news story about it from the Donrey News Bureau in Little Rock about it.

Since the jerks at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette won't allow you access to their stories (sounds like a bunch of Republican editors to me), I haven't been able to find much else. I'm still hoping to find some quotations from Joe Quinn, Huckabee's spokesman, who has, according to my sources, been making a fool of himself the last couple of days. You know, I don't think Quinn has much of a future at this point. He was a TV journalist but now that he's proven himself to be little better than a shill, I'm expecting him to put his skills to work running for office soon.

I'm told that Quinn is calling this story simply partisan politics and uses that to deflect all questions about the story. In fact, Quinn even goes so far as to say that"The Governor is very comfortable that he did not unduly influence the board." Go read the story again. At the very least he"unduly influenced" the board. Also, the idea that this story isn't credible is a real load of mularkey, since it only cites four of the five parole board members, three of them on the record.

Also, I wanted to mention that Jeralyn at Talkleft has begun to look into the Wayne Dumond case as well.

I do want to make something clear though. By talking about this, in no way am I endorsing the castration of Wayne Dumond in Forrest City in 1985. That was awful and barbaric. My parents later lived there and heard all sorts of local legends on this.

This story is important because, like the Noelle Bush story, it exposes the hypocrisy of"law and order" Republicans like Jeb and Huck. These guys talk a big game but, when in power, make notable exceptions for their own family members and those whom they're sure have been framed by their political opponents -- despite, in this case, the fact that juries have already rendered their verdict in the matter.

Also, see this Atrios post for much more on the Dumond case as yet another of the ubiquitous and groundless"Clinton Scandals."

Posted by Tom at 1:10 p.m. CST

GET THIS 10-30-02

I'm with Atrios, I don't know what to make of this either:

As far as the nation knows, President Bush does not keep a Richard Nixon-style"enemies list." If he did, though, Gabe Hudson might well be on it.

Hudson's new collection of short stories,"Dear Mr. President" (Knopf, $19), has made him a favorite of book critics, fellow writers and lots of readers. But the book, it seems, has had the opposite effect on the commander in chief.

If Hudson is telling the truth - and there's no reason to think he isn't - Bush recently sent the young author a two-paragraph note, complete with his own review of"Dear Mr. President."

"I was in shock. Very surprised," Hudson said Tuesday."I didn't think it was real at first. I mean, who would? But once you hold the thing and read it, there's no doubt in your mind. I mean, nobody could fake the authority of that letter."

Bush's missive, however, was not fan mail.

"The letter began by thanking me for sending the book," Hudson said."Also, I'm from Austin, Texas, and the president touched on the fact that I was a fellow Texan, congratulating me on my book. But he was setting me up for the one-two punch. Because he called the book unpatriotic and ridiculous and just plain bad writing. Beyond that, I've been instructed not to talk about the contents of the letter for the time being."

Shouldn't W have better things to do with his time? I mean, we all know unca Dick is running the country but sending hate mail to people is awfully juvenile and thin-skinned, isn't it?

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


A story in the Boston Globe this morning raises serious questions about the seriousness of the SEC investigation into Bush's Harken stock sale. In fact, the company's own lawyers warned him that it could be considered insider trading. Here's a bit of the story:

One week before George W. Bush's now-famous sale of stock in Harken Energy Corp. in 1990, Harken was warned by its lawyers that Bush and other members of the troubled oil company's board faced possible insider trading risks if they unloaded their shares.

The warning from Harken's lawyers came in a legal memorandum whose existence has been little noted until now, despite the many years of scrutiny of the Bush transaction. The memo was not received by the Securities and Exchange Commission until the day after the agency decided not to bring insider-trading charges against Bush, documents show.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, does not say directly whether Bush would face legal problems if he sold his stock. But it does lay out the potential for insider-trading violations by Bush and other members of the Harken board, and its existence raises questions about how thoroughly the SEC investigated Bush's unloading of $848,000 of his Harken stake to a buyer whose name has not been made public.

The SEC cleared Bush after looking into whether he had insider knowledge of an upcoming quarterly loss at Harken. But the SEC investigation apparently never examined a key issue raised in the memo: whether Bush's insider knowledge of a plan to rescue the company from financial collapse by spinning off two troubled units was a factor in his decision to sell.

Let's see. Tens of millions spent investigating Whitewater but this doesn't deserve any attention or investigation? Nah. Of course not.

Update:Hesiod has a good post on this as well. BTW, Hesiod fingered the mystery buyer of Harken's stock a few months ago as well.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 a.m. CST


Boy, isn't it interesting how the right wingers are just apoplectic over the fact that Wellstone's funeral became a joyous, campaign-like event? I know it's sour grapes because they know their boy Coleman is done now but isn't it amazing that folks whose party cynically uses terrorism, war, and fear to build support get a little bent out of shape when someone laughs at a memorial service?

In fact, one of the more embarassing performances in the blogosphere has been Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit. Of course, I'll admit that the more I blog the less I read Glenn and the more amateurish and biased toward the right he seems. Glenn certainly wins the race for being prolific but that's about it. If you want quantity, go there. Quality...well, go somewhere else I've discovered.

Anyway, several bloggers have already taken off on this, most notably Leanleft, Atrios, and Hesiod at Counterspin. I won't add much more except to say that what you're seeing is Republicans beginning to see their hopes in the midterms for the Senate melt away -- and they're venting about it. All the rest is just a facade. They're beaten, they know it, and they're pissed about it.

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


I wanted to draw attention to the addition of the Daily Kos to the blogroll.

I also want to take this opportunity to welcome visitors today from The Daily Kos and Atrios as well. I hope you like what you see and come back for more.

Posted by Tom at 3:43 p.m. CST


For those of you that follow Arkansas politics (okay, I know that just made 99% of you yawn), this story is a political blockbuster. The Arkansas Times has now uncovered just how Mike Huckabee got convicted rapist Wayne Dumond paroled from prison in 1997. Dumond later allegedly committed a murder in Missouri in 2000. Huck has been trying to shift blame for the release ever since Dumond was arrested for the murder in 2001. Huck can shift blame no longer. Many folks in Arkansas had their suspicions but now the Times has confirmed that Huck was behind it.

This is big news in Arkansas folks -- and it may cost Huck his re-election. It was already VERY close. I can't help but think this will also affect Senator Tim Hutchinson's chances of re-election as well. Many Arkansans may desire to vote against both of these Republican hypocrites at the same time now.

Posted by Tom at 11:29 a.m. CST


Consumer confidence is not looking good -- sounds like a recession to me. Thanks W. Expect more"trifective" (and deflective) war talk soon. Eventually, though, the economy is going to catch up to W and the Republicans. It may on November 5th. We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 11:10 a.m. CST


One of the leading political hypocrites of our time, Newt Gingrich is leading the charge against Walter Mondale and -- surprise, surprise -- he is lying his ass off to do it.

Anyone else find it odious that Gingrich, the fellow who put the"h" in hypocrisy is smearing Mondale? I mean, for God's sake, he assaulted Clinton for his dalliances while at the same time this married"family values" conservative was carrying on with a 20ish staffer for years that was about the same age as Monica Lewinsky. I mean, Newtie, I'm sorry you've been disgraced and you're out of politics but don't get all righteous about anything. We all know you are a liar and a hypocrite. Most Americans are done with you -- for very good reason.

Newtie, you represent what is the worst about our entire political system, the spinning, bought-and-paid-for, money-grubbing, immoral, lying politician that wouldn't know the truth if it struck him upside the head. You shouldn't sully the reputation of Walter Mondale, a guy who's got more honor and integrity in his pinkie finger than you've got in your entire body.

Okay. I'm done.

Update:Josh Marshall has a good post on this as well.

Posted by Tom at 9:34 a.m. CST


Paul Krugman has a good column about Paul Wellstone this morning. Here's a bit of it:

Paul Wellstone took risks. He was, everyone acknowledges, a politician who truly voted his convictions, who supported what he thought was right, not what he thought would help him get re-elected. He took risky stands on many issues: agree or disagree, you have to admit that his vote against authorization for an Iraq war was a singularly brave act. Yet the most consistent theme in his record was economic — his courageous support for the interests of ordinary Americans against the growing power of our emerging plutocracy.

In our money-dominated politics, that's a dangerous position to take. When Mr. Wellstone first ran for the Senate, his opponent outspent him seven to one. According to one of his advisers, the success of that ramshackle campaign, run from a rickety green school bus,"made politics safe for populists again."

If only. Almost every politician in modern America pretends to be a populist; indeed, it's a general rule that the more slavishly a politician supports the interests of wealthy individuals and big corporations, the folksier his manner. But being a genuine populist, someone who really tries to stand up against what Mr. Wellstone called"Robin Hood in reverse" policies, isn't easy: you must face the power not just of money, but of sustained and shameless hypocrisy.

I wonder who he's talking about in the last paragraph? I can't tell. Have you got a guess? It's a good column. Go read it.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 a.m. CST


Andy Borowitz does it again:


Election May Determine Which Party Will Give Carte Blanche to President

As the days until the midterm elections dwindle, Democratic leaders fanned out across the country to remind the party faithful what is at stake: the right to rubber-stamp anything the President wants to do.

"Your votes have never been more important," Majority Leader Tom Daschle exhorted a Democratic rally in Springfield, Illinois today."Only you can decide whether Democrats continue to rubber-stamp the President's policies, or whether the Republicans get to do it."

With national polls showing Democrats and Republicans in a dead heat, control of the Senate's coveted rubber stamp is hanging in the balance, political observers say.

"The key question is, with so many grave threats facing the country right now, whom do the voters trust more with the Senate's rubber stamp?" says Dr. Irvin Koontz of the Brookings Institution.

Dr. Koontz points to a recent survey that asked likely voters the question,"Which party do you think is better equipped to approve all of the President's proposals, Democrats or Republicans?"

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed favored the Democrats, while another thirty-nine percent chose the Republicans as the party better qualified to let the President do whatever he wants to do.

But a wildcard may have emerged in this high-stakes political battle, as third-party standard-bearer Ralph Nader urged his supporters today to support the"spoiler or crackpot" candidate in every local race come Election Day.

"Voting for crackpot losers is the only way we can ensure that control of the Senate's rubber stamp falls into the wrong hands," Mr. Nader said.

As I've said before, good satire is often pretty close to the truth, eh? Although I would argue that the Democratic Senate is an important check on W, even if it isn't as vigilant as many of us would like it to be.

Posted by Tom at 7:52 a.m. CST


I've gotten a couple of e-mails asking about my Veiled Prophet book. I don't know that I can easily summarize the book in a couple of sentences, but here's a link to an interview with me by the St. Louis Riverfront Times a couple of years ago that gives you a fair sense of what the book is about.

If, after reading this story, you have any further questions, feel free to e-mail me.

Posted by Tom at 3:21 p.m. CST

"TRIFECTIVE" 10-28-02

Hesiod has a new phrase to add to the American lexicon:

PHRASEOLOGICAL UPDATE:"Trifective." A tragic confluence, or series of occurrences, that positively
[a]ffect one's flagging political standing.

Unfortunately, the trifective, while it has been great for W, has been terrible for the rest of us, huh?

Posted by Tom at 1:16 p.m. CST


Joe Conason's blog entry is good today. He believes he may have mispoken on Friday when he called Wellstone's politics"anachronistic." Here's a quote:

Whatever his flaws, Wellstone was considerably more progressive and forward-looking than the truly anachronistic elements in American politics – meaning those who prefer Fifties sex roles, closeted gays, creationism and prayer in the schoolhouse, an underclass with no social safety net, industries unfettered by environmental regulation, blacks and other minorities unprotected by civil rights laws, and a gunboat foreign policy that exalts weapons over human rights and diplomacy. It is the hard right that wants to return to the bad old days, though its backwardness is often dressed up as the latest Washington fad. Always standing in their way for the past decade was Wellstone, modern American and son of the Sixties, with a defiant smile on his face.

It's a good entry. Conason also talks about the smear campaign already under way against Fritz Mondale. Take a look.

Posted by Tom at 12:54 p.m. CST


Here's a good Molly Ivins column from Friday. I'll give you a quote from it:

Now that you are in practice on the Red Queen program, join us for the latest fiasco in corporate reform. In those dear, dead days of last summer, Bush appeared on Wall Street standing before a blue and white backdrop on which"Corporate Responsibility" and"A New Ethic" were printed over and over — in case we should miss the point of his speech. President W. was there in his incarnation as the Scourge of Corporate Misbehavior to read the riot act to corporate executives who do terrible things — like get insider loans, dump their stock when the company is tanking and do phony transactions to take heavy losses off the books.

For those us who had followed Bush's career at Harken Energy — Enron writ small — this was merely an average Red Queen morning. Hey, times change, the guy was the executive of an energy company bleeding money way back when, why shouldn't he get out while the getting was good? Now we have"a new ethic."

In that same speech, to show his zeal for going after corporate evil-doers, Bush asked for a nice round $100 million in additional funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Except the New Ethic didn't last very long. Didn't even survive the election, and I think Bush deserves credit on this point. Any posturing politician could have stuck with corporate reform until after the election was over; it takes cojones to drop the whole thing two weeks before the election. That, or someone who thinks the American people are deeply stupid.

W certainly has shown he no longer cares at all about corporate reform -- not that I think he ever really did in the first place. He was just posturing because he thought it would have a political payoff for him. Now that W thinks everyone is distracted by the war, he's decided to essentially scuttle these rather minor initiatives so he won't have to upset big-money donors to Republican campaign coffers after all.

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


Hesiod adequately expresses my thoughts on how the righty bloggers that are defending the Russian government's disastrous effort to end the hostage crisis in Moscow have lost their moral authority to lecture opponents of the war in Iraq. I can't believe how Glenn Reynolds tries to put a positive spin on what was clearly a disaster. It's interesting to watch the right cozy up to yet another authoritarian leader, huh? Now that the Russian leader isn't a communist, everything he does is okay because he's our guy. Frightening (and rather amoral) approach to foreign policy, eh? Welcome to Republican foreign policy folks. Get used to it.

Josh Marshall has an excellent post about the race for the Senate -- he's predicting the Democrats will hold it. I hope he's right. I've seen tape of Jean's tongue-lashing of Jim Talent for questioning her patriotism in a very nasty commercial he's running right now. This one moment may very well have turned this race around. We'll see. As I said earlier, it will all likely depend on turnout in KC and St. Louis.

In other news related to this campaign, Jim Talent's father died over the weekend. That's very sad news. My condolences to Jim Talent and his family.

Chuck Kuffner has an interesting analysis about hispanic voter turnout and its impact on the senate and gubernatorial races in Texas. He's wondering if the"experts" will be wrong about this one. We can only hope.

Oh this is tacky -- but it's worth every minute just to hear Ashcroft's rendition of"The Mighty Eagle Soars." I also enjoy the commentary that runs along with the song as well.

Oh heck, while I'm at it, watch this (also tacky) video about Republican chickenhawks too. It's awfully entertaining.

I will warn you though. These videos are just a tad partisan.

Posted by Tom at 9:24 a.m. CST


Paul Begala's letter to the editor in the Washington Post this morning is quite good. I'll quote it for you:

I know something about defending a president who's been caught lying. Let me tell my friend Ari Fleischer that he's only making things worse for President Bush. After The Post reported on Mr. Bush's many fabrications regarding Iraq and homeland security, Mr. Fleischer sent a letter to the editor in which he refers to President Clinton's false denial of an affair as a" crime that shook the nation" [Oct. 24].

The lawyer in me is compelled to point out that President Clinton has never been charged with nor convicted of a crime. The same cannot be said of President George W. Bush who, of course, was convicted of drunken driving many years ago. To his shame, in the 2000 campaign Mr. Bush falsely denied ever having been convicted of a crime.

The political veteran in me knows that lying about a long-past drunken driving conviction -- or an affair -- is understandable, if not excusable. What is not excusable is misleading the country -- repeatedly, as The Post and others have noted -- about going to war. There is something odd about a White House that thinks misleading people about sex is a crime, but misleading us about war is good public policy.



(Link via Atrios)

I believe Mr. Begala hits the nail on the head. I'll add nothing.

Posted by Tom at 8:58 a.m. CST


I know there are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around today about Senator Paul Wellstone's plane crash. Atrios (Eschaton) has an excellent post today about this sort of thing. I'll quote part of it:

Conspiracy theories are always directed against those in power (or those imagined to be in power occasionally). During the Clinton years, conspiracy theories ranging from Bill Clinton tied up LAX for two hours to get a hair cut to Hillary"The Lesbian" Clinton had her ex-lover Vince Foster killed to Bill Clinton ran a cocaine smuggling operation through Mena airport didn't just occupy the excitable partisans of the internet. In fact, they were a regular staple of mainstream newspapers media outlets - print, television, and radio. From the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to the New York Times front page to Inside Politics on CNN to, of course, the Rusty Limbaugh show, with an audience probably larger than the rest combined.

It wasn't just the media, either. I forget - how many separate congressional investigations of Vince Foster's death were there, complete with amateur ballistics tests by Congressman Dan dan the Watermelon Man?

So, when a few inhabitants of internet message boards get a bit suspicious about the death of a Democratic Senator, I don't want to hear generalizations about the paranoid left. I've been listening to the paranoid right and its conspiracy theories in mainstream media for years. Part of the reason those on the left are a bit paranoid now, aside from the fact The Other Side is in power now, is that the mainstream media has by and large failed to aggressively follow up on the many potential 'conspiracies' of this administration, as well as the very real conspiracies against the last one.

Besides, it was about one year ago that two prominent Democratic senators survived assasination attempts by someone who likely had access to the bioweapons program of our military. Still unsolved. Political assasinations - whether done by disgruntled 'lone gunmen' unconnected to the political power structure or done at the behest of those in power, directly or indirectly, are not of course impossible.

Am I saying I think Dick Cheney used his mind control powers to down Paul Wellstone's plane? Of course not. Probably the plane hit bad weather and crashed. Do I respect people who jump to conclude that the Bush administration is repsonsible for this? No. Do I condemn people who harbor a few cynical suspcions? Of course not. Nor should you.


Does anyone remember all the loony things the righties used to say about Clinton and how the press took off on these wild goose chases with abandon? Whitewater? Vince Foster? The Mena Conspiracy? It all seems so ridiculous now but there were Republicans who believed this stuff and reporters that chased after it. And after the tens of millions of dollars spent by Ken Starr and Richard Mellon Scaife and the millions of gallons of ink spilled, all they found was that Clinton lied about sex -- not about something job-related like W does several times per day right now. In my childhood home of Arkansas, it was obvious that you could tell those New York Times reporters anything, no matter how wild, and they'd believe it. Heck, just to provide one example, the Paula Jones thing was an obvious fabrication to those who know much about the facts of that day and were with Bill Clinton. Her story simply doesn't check out with the known facts at all.

What a change a few years makes. Heck, nowadays we can't get the media to fact-check the president's speeches, which are often filled with exaggerations, half-truths and, occasionally, outright lies. Strangely enough, the same Republicans that fed those conspiracy theories in the 1990s are conspicuously quiet about even the most obvious stuff regarding their guy right now. These Republicans told us back in the 1990s they were only interested in the truth, right?


Posted by Tom at 2:08 p.m. CST


The A.L. has posted a response to me. I have nothing to add. I didn't realize I was an elitist though. I don't think he and I communicate well I guess.

Here's a USA Today editorial about W's cooking the intelligence books.

It's looking like Mondale will replace Wellstone.

There was a protest against the war in Washington and San Francisco yesterday -- not that you probably knew anything about it.

Hey, if you can't help out your brother with your family's lucrative brand of crony capitalism, what kind of brother are you?

Mary McGrory writes a good column on W's part-time presidency this morning. There's supposed to be a war on soon but W isn't in Washington enough to play a role in it, is he? Come to think of it, I'm not sure that isn't a good thing.

Posted by Tom at 12:33 p.m. CST


It's my wife's birthday today. We're old. For the next week, we're both 34. Next week I'll turn the big 3-5. Anyway, I'll be busy with the festivities today.

However, there are a few things I should mention this morning.

I have yet to see anything that contradicts that W said the words in last night's post. If you look at the source news story from the Austin American-Statesman, it unambiguously attributes the quote to W. I'm quite happy to retract it if someone can show me a reliable source (not the frequently-heavily-doctored White House transcripts either) that attributes the quote to Jemin or that what W said was somehow different. I have yet to see one -- and I've looked quite a bit.

Update: I retract the quotation. I have just removed the offending post. Counterspin has been right on top of this today I discovered. I was one of scores of folks in the blogosphere that jumped on this quotation and the Austin-American Statesman was simply wrong. You can go here and watch the video of the statement to confirm the White House's account if you want. This administration so frequently doctors transcripts that you can't really trust them unless there's tape to back it up. There is in this case.

Update 2: For you skeptics out there (I've gotten a couple of e-mails already), the specific link you want from the C-Span website is here. I should've been more specific in my earlier update. Hey, I'm glad you want to check this out! I had to watch it myself too. Unlike many conservative Republicans who willfully misquote and distort the words of their opponents on a daily basis, I am interested in being entirely accurate in my quotations. There were so many examples of this during the 2000 presidential campaign I lost count. I mean, I'm not playing by Ann Coulter's rules for goodness sakes! I just don't play that way.

You ought to read this touching piece about Paul Wellstone by Peggy Noonan. Like Jeff Cooper, I'm generally no fan of hers, but this is a good column. (Link via Jeff Cooper)

As several departmental colleagues and I surmised yesterday, Minnesota Democrats will be choosing either Walter Mondale or Hubert H. Humphrey III. We'll see.

Here's a St. Paul newspaper story on Wellstone's career.

This is a good story about the decision to replace Wellstone, both in the short term and on the ballot. It is unclear whether Ventura will name a replacement for the remainder of Wellstone's term.

FYI, because of Wellstone's death, Republicans do not take over the Senate now. With his death, there are now 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and Jim Jeffords, who caucuses with the Democrats. Therefore, Democrats still control the Senate. Actually, if Jim Talent wins and Ventura names no replacement for Wellstone, Talent could be sworn in on November 6 and the Republicans would then control the Senate immediately. Missourians, remember to get out and vote! This one is important!

Frank Rich has another thought-provoking column this morning. This one deals with what scary lessons our terrorist enemies can take from the last three weeks in the D.C. area. He wonders if we're paying any attention to the lessons of the experience ourselves.

Posted by Tom at 11:18 a.m. CDT

A TRIBUTE 10-25-02

Here's a nice tribute to Paul Wellstone by Josh Marshall.

Here is local reaction to the tragedy in Minnesota.

Counterspin has updates about the story and is a good location to go for updates and reaction.

The comment board at Atrios' Eschaton is already filling with responses in memoriam. Feel free to go there of course.

I don't have anything else to add. It's awfully sad. I feel terrible about it.

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


Michael Bellesiles has resigned from the faculty at Emory. I don't have anything to add. I'm just glad it's over. As I said earlier, it appears the wheels of justice in the historical profession worked properly.

On a day like today this seems like an incredibly minor story. The system apparently works. It's time to move on -- and has been for months now.

Now, what do three-quarters of the folks on the discussion boards here at HNN have to talk about? I'm sure their lives will be utterly meaningless now. I've got a couple of folks in particular in mind.

Posted by Tom at 3:30 p.m. CDT


It seems profane to talk about this in the wake of the death of one of the greats of American liberalism, Paul Wellstone. However, I will go ahead and do it. It appears that Minnesota state law allows the governor (yes, Jesse Ventura) to appoint someone to fill out the remainder of Wellstone's term and the party can appoint a replacement candidate for the election. I have no idea who they would appoint but they apparently have that right. The wildcard at the moment is who would be appointed to fill the remainder of Wellstone's term. We'll see.

I feel awful to even talk about this but I felt compelled to do so. I've gotten some e-mail from readers who are wondering so I thought I'd say something.

Posted by Tom at 3:10 p.m. CDT

AWFUL 10-25-02

This is terrible.

Update: The shock hasn't warn off yet but I know that our thoughts are with Senator Wellstone's family and the families of all the others who were killed. His wife, one of his daughters, three staff members and two pilots were killed in the plane crash as well. I really don't want to think about the political ramifications of this yet. American liberalism has just lost one of its giants.

Posted by Tom at 12:55 p.m. CDT


You've got to watch this. It's hysterical -- not to mention terribly misleading. Of course, it is a GOP ad after all. BTW, a rather important question: do you think the GOP paid the rights to use the Superman theme for the ad? Do you? (This link via Counterspin.)

Update: While we're posting links to video, check out this ad for Bill McBride in Florida using Jeb's positive comments about McBride a couple of years ago against him. It's pretty effective.

Posted by Tom at 10:59 a.m. CDT


The Archpundit responds to my post on Missouri politics and posts his own take on the Talent-Carnahan race and voter turnout today. Here's a clip from it:

A great primer on Missouri Politics at Tom Spencer's blog. A couple things I'll add are Talent's strength is outstate, but he is softer there than Ashcroft or Bond. The only rationale I can figure out is he seems like a city boy. In many of the recent commercials it seems to me that he fits the stereotype of a city guy who doesn't relate to rural voters. Kinda geeky and wonky, he seems like suburban dad who reads to much. This doesn't mean he isn't the favorite in such places, but that the gut reaction to him is a bit weaker. I think the fishing story was a good example where he said he didn't like hunting, but he was a big fishing guy. Turns out he hasn't had a fishing license in a long time. No big deal there, except it fits the perception of him.

The other exception I'll point out is the St. Louis politician hatred outstate. While generally true at least two candidates overcame this: Danforth and Eagleton both pulled well from around the state. As party reallignment continues, I think we will continue to see those two as a part of the good old days.

Tom points out that urban turnout is key and he is right.

ArchPundit is a great blog for information on St. Louis and Missouri politics. Be sure to give it a look.

Posted by Tom at 10:36 a.m. CDT


Al Gore talked about media and society at Middle Tennessee State University Wednesday night. He has interesting things to say about how the 24-hour news cycle and never-ending search for ratings has led to something he calls"news plus." He still refuses to say whether he'll run in 2004.

Surprise. Surprise. W and the boys have known about North Korea's nuclear weapons program for a long time -- a lot longer than three weeks. How about for a year? Boy, these guys sure do keep things from us, don't they?

Lautenberg has surged ahead by 10 or so in New Jersey. Stick a fork in Forrester. He's done.

Surprisingly high early voter turn out in the town of my alma mater, San Antonio. This certainly appears to bode well.

It appears that Katherine Harris has been taking public speaking tips from W.

Don't forget the Halliburton lawsuit that is still active.

Here's an article about Ron Kirk, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Texas. He's an interesting guy.

Here's more evidence that the Republican"voter fraud" complaints are a load of mularkey. Of course, we knew that, didn't we?

Posted by Tom at 9:22 a.m. CDT


There's another good Paul Krugman article this morning about the Bush administration's frequent habit of telling whoppers. Here's a bit of it:

A few days ago The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote an article explaining that for George W. Bush,"facts are malleable." Documenting"dubious, if not wrong" statements on a variety of subjects, from Iraq's military capability to the federal budget, the White House correspondent declared that Mr. Bush's"rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy."

Also in the last few days, The Wall Street Journal reported that"senior officials have referred repeatedly to intelligence . . . that remains largely unverified." The C.I.A.'s former head of counterterrorism was blunter:"Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements." USA Today reports that"pressure has been building on the intelligence agencies to deliberately slant estimates to fit a political agenda."

Reading all these euphemisms, I was reminded of Monty Python's parrot: he's pushing up the daisies, his metabolic processes are history, he's joined the choir invisible. That is, he's dead. And the Bush administration lies a lot.

Let me hasten to say that I don't blame reporters for not quite putting it that way. Mr. Milbank is a brave man, and is paying the usual price for his courage: he is now the target of a White House smear campaign.

Read the rest of it. It's quite good.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 a.m. CDT

LOOK AT THIS! 10-24-02

Check this out -- Arkansas' insufferable Republican governor, Mike Huckabee, is now in the political fight of his life! Could it be? I know many happy people in Arkansas right now!

You know, these polls sure are tightening up all of a sudden! First Jeb and now Huck! Is this a good sign? We can all hope so.

For more on"his huffiness" the Huckster, read this Gene Lyons column.

Posted by Tom at 8:28 p.m. CDT


I wanted to take this opportunity to draw attention to an addition to the blogroll, Dave Johnson's blog Seeing the Forest (For the Trees).

It's another great blog. Be sure and take a look.

Posted by Tom at 3:51 p.m. CDT


Dahlia Lithwick of Slatereviews Kenneth Starr's book about the Rehnquist court, First Among Equals. She notes the linguistic gymnastics Starr engages in to ignore the Rehnquist court's conservative judicial activism and argues he's" channeling Anne Coulter" in spots. Here's a snippet from her concluding couple of paragraphs:

First Among Equals is still a worthwhile read. Starr is brainy and insightful, and his analysis of constitutional doctrine, from free speech to criminal rights, is trenchant and accessible. Where Starr goes off the rails, however, is in constructing his book as a defense brief that only succeeds in condemning this court as too powerful. His attempts to reduce complicated doctrines — free speech for religious messages is simply about “equality,” as is the court’s systematic dismantling of affirmative-action programs — are unlikely to fool readers into believing that the Rehnquist Court really is out to protect the little guy. What the reader is left with, then, is Starr’s ambivalent closing account of Bush v. Gore as an example of the court’s awesome powers used to a less than awesome purpose. It’s clear that Starr feels the justices probably blew it. The court, he says, “had usurped power and intruded into the province of both the states ... and the Congress.”

By revealing his anxiety, even if only in the final chapter, Starr highlights the problem with his defense of the court: It turns out that lawyerly methodology, personal ideology, and a willingness to stomp all over Congress and the states is really only appealing to Starr when it promotes ends he supports. Not surprisingly, the book closes with a picture of a too-powerful court able to make reckless decisions for political purposes.

In other words, the Warren Court repackaged for a new millennium.

Well now that's interesting. Starr and I agree about Bush v. Gore. I have noticed that no one really defends that ruling with a straight face anymore, do they?

Posted by Tom at 3:07 p.m. CDT


W is now using the government as a large political machine. Isn't this great? Boy, if Clinton did something like this I can only imagine the denunciations we'd be hearing by now. There should be no more complaints about Clinton's non-stop campaigning and polling. W is actually more worse in both categories folks. Not to mention the fact that W is taking a break from his threatened war to do all this -- which tells you just how serious a threat Saddam is, doesn't it?

The GOP is intimidating Democratic voters in Arkansas. I would just blow this whole thing off as Democratic griping except for the fact that my mother-in-law in Arkansas received a call from a GOP official the other day in which the guy said"We need you to watch the polls for us. You know those Democrats, they'll try to steal as many votes as they can." After an awkward silence, my mother-in-law at this point said,"You do know I'm a Democrat." At this point the guy just hung up the phone. Scary, huh? Yet another example of the dedication the GOP has to fairness and democracy, eh?

Richard Cohen has an interesting article about how W has been stretching the truth in making a case for war with Iraq. (I need to be sure and get that first name right. I've discovered that one of my grumpy righty readers believes it's a mortal sin if I get Cohen's first name wrong even if the link is provided. I'll try to be much more careful in the future as we all know that the Republic will collapse under the weight of such errors.)

Mary McGrory has an interesting story about absentee voting in Iowa. She notes that canvassers are finding in Iowa and Missouri that Saddam Hussein isn't on voters' radar screens. That doesn't sound good for the war party, does it?

Andy Borowitz is good again today. Today he spoofs CNN. Take a look.

Here's the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's endorsement of Jean Carnahan for Senate.

In one of those useless generic polls, USA Today now claims that more Americans support Democrats than Republicans in the mid-term elections. However, the news for W isn't good here. More Americans disapprove of W's handling of the economy than approve. It is voter disdain about the economy that will eventually take W down, probably next year some time. Once the war is over and the economy isn't improving, his support will drop like a rock.

In other Missouri political news today, Kit Bond is demagoguing away again about voter fraud in St. Louis. He and Talent were both so pleased they stopped people from voting two years ago. Congratulations for your bold stand against democracy Kit. I'm proud of you.

Posted by Tom at 1:10 p.m. CDT


I know many of you have requested that I say a bit about the U.S. Senate race between Jim Talent and Jean Carnahan. Despite what you've heard, this is an extremely close race. At this point, like all statewide races in Missouri, I think it will hinge on voter turnout in St. Louis and Kansas City. If you recall, as I said in your homework article, there is a profound rural-urban split in Missouri and this race is close because of it.

There are a number of dynamics at work here. For starters, Talent has the support of rural Missouri, which is extremely unlikely for a fellow from St. Louis. It used to be that all you had to do to defeat someone from St. Louis was to repeat that fact over and over and the candidate was done for because rural Missouri didn't vote for"one of them city slickers from St. Louis." That's why most governors come from rural Missouri or small towns. However, since Talent was supported so heavily by the NRA in 2000, most conservative rural Missourians think he must be the exception to the general rule. In fact, the NRA gave away bumper stickers that said"Ashcroft and Talent for Freedom" in 2000. I made a mistake at the local Sonic drive-in in the fall 2000 of wondering aloud"what in the world do those two guys have to do with freedom?" and the cold stare I got back from the farmer in the truck next to me was not pleasant. Apparently, rural Missourians have decided he's the first unobjectional St. Louisan in Missouri political history.

Now, let me provide you with a bit more detail. I'll tell you about the different cultural/political regions of the state. The southwestern third of Missouri, or as John Ashcroft and natives of the region call it, Missurah, is overwhelmingly Republican and has been since the Civil War. While the rest of Missouri was split on the confederacy, folks in the mountains in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas would have none of it. Folks in Missurah supported the Union and Republicanism then and still do today. Talent can count on support there. Unfortunately for him, there's just not a lot of votes there. Springfield is the only large city and the area is predominantly rural and sparsely populated. This area of the state is very conservative and was Ashcroft's home base. However, and this is important, folks in Missurah turn out to vote unlike their counterparts in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Central, Northwestern, and Southeastern Missouri are also predominantly rural. While some of the towns there, such as Columbia, St. Joseph, Kirksville, and my hometown of Maryville have good-sized Democratic constituencies, these areas are predominantly Republican in their political leanings. The towns will have Democratic office holders and will elect Democrats to the legislature and U.S. Congress. However, these towns are Democratic islands in the Republican sea of rural Missouri.

So, elections in Missouri often turn on urban turnout in St. Louis and Kansas City. After all, these two metropolitan areas have more than half the population of the state. As you might expect, these two cities lean heavily Democratic -- although there are significant pockets of suburban Republicanism in both metro areas. However, most urban voters in Missouri are Democratic and are even pro-gun control which proponents of the right-to-carry provision found much to their surprise three years ago. In 2000, Governor Bob Holden won a razor-thin electoral victory by piling up enormous margins in St. Louis and Kansas City to offset major losses in the rest of the state. Missourians do split their tickets in the urban areas though -- especially suburban voters. Clearly plenty of suburban Kansas City and St. Louis voters in 2000 voted for poor dead Mel Carnahan and living Bob Holden, yet also voted for George W. Bush at the same time. While their reasoning is baffling to me, there clearly were many Missourians that did this.

So, I can't exactly say anything profound here I guess. If Democrats in Kansas City and St. Louis show up in large numbers to vote, Carnahan will probably win or it will be extremely close. Of course, the voting bureaucracy in St. Louis is so bad that a large turnout can essentially crash the system, as happened in 2000 when many voters were turned away in the morning on election day. Democratic officials went to the courts and got a ruling that required the polls to stay open longer and Republicans, showing their true commitment to democracy, went to the courts to close the polls. In one of the low points of his career, Jim Talent came to the microphones during the election night of 2000 jubilant that"we stopped them from voting" in St. Louis. Ugh.

As for a good recent story on the race, I'd suggest the American Prospect story on Jim Talent that traces Talent's smooth ability to convince people that he's a moderate when he's really a hard-right conservative. Of course, that's what John Ashcroft tried in 2000 and it didn't work. Because Ashcroft had a record in the U.S. Senate, Missourians did know better and didn't fall for it. Talent will be working hard to deny his true political leanings -- and he's a smooth guy. He's the Missouri Republicans' version of Bill Clinton in many ways. After all, Missouri Republicans tend to be a rather ham-handed and uninspiring bunch, as evidenced by John Ashcroft and Kit Bond. Jack Danforth, of course, was a notable exception to the rule. I actually think Talent may tell lies better than even my childhood home's favorite son. At several points in the debate the other night Talent told rather large fibs about his record in the U.S. congress and apparently has no compunction about doing so to win this Senate seat.

As I said earlier, the Missouri constitution allows Talent to be sworn in on November 6th so if Talent wins, he'll become a senator the very next day. That way, if Republicans win control of congress, the tax cut and federal budget deficit binge can begin a couple of months early.

Posted by Tom at 11:55 a.m. CDT


I know most of you probably watched the news last night and this morning. If not, here's an MSNBC article about recent developments in the sniper case. I have to admit that the Al-Qaeda angle seems a bit convenient (and appears to be coming from folks who brought you the"dirty bomber" charade, folks around Ashcroft) but we'll see of course. As usual, for the latest updates, see Tim Dunlop's blog later today (he hasn't updated it yet this morning).

The promised Missouri politics primer is coming later this morning. I'd better run off to class for now.

Posted by Tom at 7:53 a.m. CDT


In a thoughful and reasonable post, Jeff Cooper has weighed in about the dust-up between the Armed Liberal and myself. I am fully in agreement with what he says and would agree that the post in question is not"my best work." As I said earlier, it's awfully sarcastic and caustic. I do want to quote a bit of Jeff's post and respond:

One comment on cheerleading: A.L. is right that the kind of partisan rhetoric he criticizes is unlikely to persuade. But I think it still has a place. Maybe A.L's and my perspectives on this are shaped by our surroundings. A.L. lives in California, where Democrats dominate the state government, and where one of the few good things that can be said of the incumbent governor is that he is marginally better than his bumbling opponent. Democrats in California are not embattled, for the most part, so it's easier to focus on their flaws (especially with someone like Gray Davis around). On the other hand, I live in a conservative area; although Indianapolis has a Democratic mayor and Indiana has a Democratic governor, political discourse here is dominated by Republicans. The town, county, and congressional district where I live is so dominated by the Republican Party that the Democrats usually don't even bother fielding candidates. Most of the political rhetoric I encounter around here consists of Republican cheerleading. So, frankly, sometimes I need a good dose of something like Atrios to help keep my spirits up.

This is a rather astute observation -- and now I have to tell you a bit more about myself I'm afraid. My political sensibilities over the last ten years have been shaped by spending four years in Indiana (both Bloomington and Indianapolis) and then six years here. In fact, in the months after finishing my doctorate, I taught courses at both Butler University and at Jeff's employer, Indiana University-Indianapolis. As Jeff says, Indiana is certainly a Republican stronghold and, while my little town is marginally pro-Democrat (making it the closest thing that passes for a Democratic island in the Republican sea that is rural Missouri), what I primarily hear is Republican cheerleading here as well. My local news station had four overtly pro-Jim Talent news stories just last night.

Therefore, I suspect my rather sharp-tongued observations at times are probably, whether consciously or subconsciously, designed to"keep my spirits up" as well. Thanks Jeff for the thoughtful post. I do appreciate it.

A Preview of Coming Attractions: Since a few bloggers have suggested I say more about the Talent-Carnahan race here in Missouri, I'll have a post about it tomorrow. In fact, tomorrow I'll offer you a Missouri political primer if you will. Your homework assignment is to read this piece I wrote for HNN about the NRA in Missouri in April of this year. That will prepare you for what I'll talk about tomorrow.

However, I will warn you that since I have two classes back-to-back starting at 8:00, said political lesson probably won't appear before about noon tomorrow.

Posted by Tom at 8:36 p.m. CDT

ODDS AND ENDS 10-23-02

Sounds like a recession to me. I sure hope not.

I hope there aren't any more of these coming in the next few days. That could be bad.

Maybe W read Howard Fineman's article this morning and felt compelled to finally make some extensive remarks on the sniper today. No, I suspect Karl Rove thinks his poll numbers might dip so he sent W out to say something. It is about time, don't you think? His silence has been noticed by many in the press over the last few days. He talks a good game about fighting terror but hasn't done much about this problem in his own backyard. W did say today that his administration has no plans to federalize the probe so, once again, he doesn't have much in the way of actions to back up his words.

I just hope maybe W will do something substantive about this. Unfortunately, this is following a familiar pattern. As we all know by now, W always provides lip service for issues like corporate accountability but often doesn't do much else. He talks about them a lot and then does next to nothing.

I enjoyed Molly Ivins' wisecrack the other day that you can watch the photo ops to get an indication of which major program W is going to cut next. Bush distracts the public with a photo op and then quietly takes the budget ax to that very program when he gets back home to the White House. In short, the photo op is merely a distraction folks. Pay no attention to it.

I just hope W plans to actually do something this time. We'll see. As we all know, actions do speak louder than words and this is an administration that has proved itself to be very long-winded indeed.

Posted by Tom at 4:20 p.m. CDT


Another good one from Andy Borowitz. Here's a bit from it:


Offered Free Shipping to North Korea

Under pressure from U.S. diplomats, Internet retailing giant Amazon.com admitted today that it sold nuclear missiles and other weapons of mass destruction in an effort to prop up its sagging bottom line.

While it had been widely known that Amazon had branched out into such non-book items as automobiles and patio furniture in recent years, the revelation that it was selling nuclear weapons still came as something of a shock.

The United States made the discovery about Amazon’s foray into international weapons dealing almost by accident, sources say.

A U.S. diplomat attempting to buy “Dance Upon The Air,” a book by best-selling author Nora Roberts, noticed under the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section the ominous phrase “Fissionable Nuclear Material.”

Clicking on that link, the official soon found an entire section of the Amazon site devoted to weapons of mass destruction, including a “Favorites” list authored by Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Andy and I corresponded by e-mail the other day. He's a nice guy. The rest of it is just as funny.

Posted by Tom at 3:36 p.m. CDT

OOPS 10-23-02

I'm sorry about the technical difficulties the last hour or so. I made an error in HTML code and it took Rick quite some time to find it. Thank you Rick! Of course, it's not like the problems here on this page at HNN are that bad -- and it was all my amateurish mistake on html. We've had a couple of problems here at HNN -- the most notable being on September 11th -- but nothing as bad as what's been going on at Blogspot lately or anything.

BTW, I also wanted to thank readers who have read my philosophical ramblings about blogging and have sent supportive e-mail messages over the last couple of days. I appreciate the fact that you enjoy the blog and I hope to keep you coming back for more.

Posted by Tom at 3:13 p.m. CDT


I wanted to draw attention to today's new additions to the blogroll. There are two today, ArchPundit and Counterspin. ArchPundit comes from a town that is near and dear to my heart (and my research), St. Louis. Did I ever mention that I have a chapter of a history of St. Louis already written? Probably not.

Anyway, both are great blogs. Be sure to check them out.

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


W even had business dealings with Enron while he was with Harken it is now revealed. I wonder what else is being hidden from us regarding W and Enron?

Here's more on how W and the boys are stalling a law that would require ballistic fingerprinting. Thanks W. I'm sure you only have our safety in mind, right? Or are the big wads of NRA cash muffling the screams of the victims in Washington right now?

Here's an interesting article by David Corn about the smearing of the CIA after it became obvious the folks there didn't share the administration's assessment of Iraq as a" clear and present danger."

Ashcroft's incompetence becomes even more obvious in the D.C.-area sniper investigation.

Here's an interesting column by Thomas J. Cottle that analyzes something I see everyday. The"two-finger" wave that drivers here do all the time. He calls it a"rite of respect" and argues that W and the boys stopped doing this long ago. It's an interesting column.

Bill McBride has pulled ahead in the polls in Florida. He should bounce further with his performance in the gubernatorial debate -- at least the part of it I saw on C-Span last night before I fell asleep.

I meant to post this link earlier but it appears Jim Talent may have violated Missouri campaign finance laws. Regardless, I still expect Talent to win. And, if Republicans have their way, he'll be sworn in on November 6th, possibly giving Republicans control of the Senate for the lame duck session. That way they can begin their tax cut and budget deficit binge a couple of months early.

Jeb and Columba finally decided to visit Noelle. It's about time, don't you think?

Posted by Tom at 10:18 a.m. CDT


Newsweek's Howard Fineman wants more from the president regarding the sniper attacks in Washington. He makes some interesting observations about how presidents are often aloof from Washington. Here's a bit of it:

My wife and I always felt that one of the blessings we could bestow upon our children was their status as native Washingtonians. We felt lucky to live here, and lucky to rear them in the beautiful, historic, culturally rich and inspiring capital. The al-Qaida crimes of Sept. 11, 2001, and the (still unsolved) anthrax attacks gave us pause, but not much: This was, perhaps, the price of living at the Ground Zero of global decision-making. But, for the first time, the suburban sniper makes me wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off elsewhere.

The need for a high-profile administration presence seems pretty clear. The sniper is crisscrossing a river and a jumble of jurisdictions- two states, a federal district, a half-dozen counties and cities — making unified command and control impossible. I hope I am proved wrong — the sooner the better — but it seems to me that none of the local police seems quite up to getting a handle on the whole thing. What’s needed is a comprehensive view; and only the feds, led by a demanding president and attentive attorney general, can provide it.

We'll see if Bush is up to it. W has been astonishing quiet about these terrible crimes that are being committed in his own backyard. He's too busy whipping up a war frenzy to worry about such mundane things as a serial sniper killing his fellow Washingtonians it appears.

Note: For my fellow bloggers who have asked, I'm trying writing my own permalinks. Remember, as Chuck Kuffner put it in an e-mail to me, I'm"rolling my own" so I have to figure it out for myself. Here goes. Please let me know if it works.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 a.m. CDT


Richard Cohen's article today is quite good. He argues that the administration's deception-by-omission on North Korea is evidence it is becoming"Enron on the Potomac."

Arianna Huffington has a nice column in which she decries the Bush administration's "War on Conservation."

Jeff Cooper and Josh Marshall try to unravel W's latest train-wreck-of-a-sentence pronouncement on Iraq.

Hesiod also weighs in today on W's"malleable" approach to the facts.

Paul Krugman has another column about how W and the boys don't give a damn about corporate reform anymore because they believe now people are too distracted by the Iraq war to care.


The American Prospect has an enlightening article on Jim Talent, the Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, that's worth a look. It recounts all sorts of troubling activities he's taken part in during the last couple of years. Here's a quote:

Talent's activities in 2001 were such a radical departure from his virtuous image that even his worst critics were astonished. The facts are, in essence, the following: Out of office for the first time in 16 years, Talent did three ethically dubious things in 2001 -- two of them brought him $320,000 in income, along with an undisclosed amount of pay for a key campaign staffer, and the third raised $100,000 through a state political committee, which employed another campaign staffer. Talent and both staffers are back this year, working together on his Senate campaign.

All of this has led some to conclude that Talent knew when he lost the governor's race in 2000 that he would run for the Senate this year, and so his benefactors stepped in to carry him financially while he prepared his campaign. If that is true, then it is a violation of campaign-finance laws, as the Missouri Democratic Party has formally alleged. It would also mean that Talent's benefactors would expect favors if he were to reach the Senate.

Trouble began in January 2001, the month that Talent left Congress, when Washington University in St. Louis named him to a two-year teaching position. Although this is hardly an unusual appointment, Talent's class load was low and his pay was high. Talent taught"Thinking Like a Congressman," a three-credit class in the spring, to about 20 students, and again as a two-credit class in the fall, this time to about 20 students. The university paid him $90,000 for those two classes. Former three-term U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton also taught two classes in 2000 at the same university and was paid $68,000.

Talent is a smooth guy who works hard to appear a moderate even though he is a hard right Republican. I expect him to defeat Jean Carnahan here in a couple of weeks. My local television station frequently shows three Senate campaign commercials in a row, two by Talent with one by Carnahan in between. I'll admit that I'm about tired of this campaign and will be glad when it's over.


Boy, now this story from the Washington Post comes astonishing close to saying what we all know: Bush lies. Here's a snippet:

President Bush, speaking to the nation this month about the need to challenge Saddam Hussein, warned that Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used"for missions targeting the United States."

Last month, asked if there were new and conclusive evidence of Hussein's nuclear weapons capabilities, Bush cited a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying the Iraqis were"six months away from developing a weapon." And last week, the president said objections by a labor union to having customs officials wear radiation detectors has the potential to delay the policy"for a long period of time."

All three assertions were powerful arguments for the actions Bush sought. And all three statements were dubious, if not wrong. Further information revealed that the aircraft lack the range to reach the United States; there was no such report by the IAEA; and the customs dispute over the detectors was resolved long ago.

You know it's reached the point of insanity when the media catches the president in lie after lie and says that for W"facts are malleable." But I'm sure they're just being fair, right? Give me a break.


Again, go and read the post by the Armed Liberal.

I'll wait.

No, really, I'll wait. Go read it.

Okay, you're back.

Now, other than the obvious"read one post, don't even read the linked stories, and react" problem that plagues his post, I found a number of interesting other issues that his post raises. His post certainly proves that you can clip part of a single post out of context and it can sound awful. Admittedly, he did pick an awfully sarcastic and caustic passage to pluck out and go to town on. Therefore, his post is not a great deal better than a rather juvenile fisking in which he accuses me of things that, if he had bothered to read more, aren't true. Of course, my readers who have been reading me for a while know that I've dealt with each of those issues in turn, but I'll take each part of it and respond.

First, with regard to the wisecrack about poll numbers, it is awfully clear that this Iraq thing was rolled out at the end of August to help Republicans in the midterms and W's poll numbers. If you recall, Card referred to this as a"marketing campaign" which is about as cynical a thing as is possible. This administration has shown itself shameless in how it uses the war on terror. I don't think W and the boys think much about the long-term implications of these policies at all, they just concern themselves with the short-term political gains. Eventually, I suspect this short-sightedness will catch up with them.

Second, if he had bothered to read the associated link, he would've seen that there are gun"enthusiasts" who are arguing this point. It was a sarcastic quip connected to an earlier post. He would've seen it if he had read more than one post but, alas, it doesn't appear he did.

As for the comment about Enron and California energy crisis, the administration tried to convince us a little over a year ago that it was California's fault and we have now discovered that Enron and other large energy companies"gamed" the state's power grid. Is"Kenny Boy" in jail yet? Of course not. Nuff said.

Finally, I can't help but wonder if he even read the piece about the Heritage Foundation at all. The administration is giving one of the Heritage Foundation's fellows access to Top Secret information so he can make the administration's case for war against Iraq. If that isn't questionable on a number of levels, I don't know what is. At the very least, the Heritage Foundation is acting as a shill for the administration and is not doing much original"thinking" on the issue of the war at least. BTW, conservative think-tanks generally try to make things fit the right's dogmatic templates and don't do much in the way of original thinking I would argue -- thus the reason for the"thinking" crack.

As for being even-handed, this desire on the part of the media has produced a press that has become a conduit for the administration's propaganda. If readers want to read their spin, read the press and listen to the pundits, if you want something else, read the blogs on the left in the blogosphere. I have, by the way, been quite critical of Democrats if he had bothered to read down a ways -- particularly about their spineless giving in to the administration on the Iraq war.

Of course, the weirdest part of the post is his argument that what I write in my blog will somehow impact his children's (and by extension my children's) future. Now this is a pretty bizarre statement. I know that I didn't discover the blogosphere until after the trauma of 9/11 had worn off and I don't have that much of an emotional investment in it. This means that I harbor no illusions about the blogosphere changing the world or the political system at all. In fact, this sort of belief seems awfully naive. When W begins to quote Instapundit or Tom Daschle begins to quote Ted Barlow, I'll change my mind. Until then, I would argue the blogosphere is only serving to reinforce people's opinions rather than change them. That's certainly the case in the warblogging echo chamber at the moment at least.

In fact, my experience has been that the only impact my blogging has on my kids is that it takes me away from them. Last night, I was pondering whether I should respond to A.L.'s post at home but instead I decided to read my kids bedtime stories and tuck them in to bed. I would argue my blogging has no impact on them at all other than to take me away from them at times. If one really wants to impact their children's lives for the better, I would suggest one turn the bloody computer off and do something with them. That will be much more meaningful to them than some post on a blog somewhere.

I do thank Ted Barlow for his supportive comments on his blog. I have just added Ted to the blogroll by the way. I think I agree with Jeff Cooper that bloggers often make a big mistake in taking themselves way too seriously -- and I'm as guilty as the next guy of doing that.

At times, I'm awfully conflicted about this blogging thing in general and the Armed Liberal's post has certainly gotten me thinking about it. Does blogging really mean that much? Does it really have much impact on the world? I'm not sure it really does. Sometimes I think I can read some of the more interesting and insightful commentary in blogs and I'm thankful for that. Other times, I think what's the use? Why am I doing this? Does it really add that much to my life or just take away from it? I have a fulfilling job and plenty of other things to keep me busy. If I were driving in from the suburbs to sit in a cubicle all day somewhere, I could see how blogging might provide more meaning to my life but I have a job that is intellectually stimulating and a family that I love so the blogging at times appears to get in the way of all these things.

You'll notice I'm not answering these questions. I'm just raising them. I think all bloggers should ponder these things. If you begin to believe that your blogging is going to change the world or American politics, you might be just a wee bit out of touch with reality. As I've said before, many bloggers apparently live too much in the blogosphere which causes them to often miss the forest for the trees. I think I know where Exhibit A of this blogospheric syndrome is right now. In my opinion of course.


Goodness! Boy did the Armed Liberal get upset at me yesterday. You might go over and take a look. I'm likely to respond at some point today. Other than the obvious things, like this is yet another example of the blogosphere's version of Short Attention Span Theatre (you read one post, don't even follow the links provided and then proceed to blast away), he does say some intriguing things that I'll need to respond to later. You're perfectly welcome to post something on his comment board if you like of course. I like the idea that this is all about the future of our children somehow. Like I said, there's plenty to respond to and I'll get around to it later. I have a couple of classes to teach first. I need to worry about the future of my undergraduates first I guess. We're starting the Gilded Age today, which seems awfully apropo given the present.


Michael Tomasky makes a few good points about the midterms while guest-blogging for Eric Alterman today. Here's a bit of it:

But whenever I hear the Washington media starting to agree on something, I reflexively begin to think that the exact opposite is true (remember when Bill Clinton was removed from office because the American people were so offended by his behavior? You see what I mean). So, three warnings to bear in mind as the elections approach:

1. Don’t trust the Washington media priests’ pronouncements about what “the people” think. The priests spend a lot more time talking to one another than they do talking to “the people,” so they basically have no idea what people think. You’ll recall that virtually every prediction out of Washington before the 1998 by-elections was that “the people” were going to punish the Democrats because Clinton had infuriated them by slipping out of the grasp of the morals police. Democrats won those elections, Newt Gingrich was forced from office, and Bill Clinton left the White House on his own schedule, with higher approval ratings than George W. Bush enjoys right now in many polls.

You can read the rest of it there. Again, he's one of many bloggers I've heard in the last few days beginning to question the major media's view of the upcoming election. The most interesting thing is that the media, ala Newt Gingrich, helps to create self-fulfilling prophecies through repeating this" conventional wisdom" ad nauseum.


William Raspberry's column today sums up my feelings about the Noelle Bush case precisely. Here's a bit of it:

Noelle Bush, the 25-year-old daughter of the governor of Florida and niece of the president of the United States, was already in a drug rehabilitation program when she was found with a one-gram rock of crack cocaine in her shoe.

The judge who sent her to rehab in the first place found her in contempt of court for the latest offense.

Contempt of court? At a time when America's prisons are bursting with drug offenders who are less well-connected? When crack abusers in particular are languishing under mandatory sentences? I say we ought to make an example of this young woman.

No, I don't mean she should be hauled off in irons to do hard time in some hellhole of a prison. (The judge did send her to jail for 10 days.) I think she should be -- well, sent back to rehab.

He closes the article by suggesting the system could work this way for everyone:

As he sees it, the young woman has a problem, and what makes sense is not to punish her but to find the right treatment for her sickness.

I wish the young woman's father and uncle could see it that way -- and not just for cases involving their own families.

I agree. I do find the double-standard for the wealthy and powerful to be pretty astonishing, although, I'm afraid to say, not unexpected.


Wired has a story this morning about bloggers and the D.C.-area sniper. There's not anything particularly profound in the story but it certainly shows that the blogosphere has arrived. The best blogs are posting news and halfway-informed speculation. Of course, the"facts and detail folks" who believe fisking is pure genius have insisted the sniper must be one of Saddam's henchmen or have often advanced other more far-fetched theories that generally serve, whether conscious or not, to bolster W's case for war with Iraq. I know many of these folks have been insisting that the sniper is of Middle Eastern descent since the shootings started.

I would suggest that if you are interested in this story, Tim Dunlop's blog is the best place to go for updates on the sniper. Tim lives in the D.C. area and is always posting the latest news. In fact, Tim's blog just posted a story about a missing French sniper that is quite interesting.


Andy Borowitz is funny again today. Of course, he's always funny.

W's approval numbers are coming down. It's time for some more war-mongering. But, wait, that's not working. How about war itself? Surely that'll work won't it? It might get a few folks killed but, hey, who gives a damn about that, right? (Don't you know Karl Rove has said something just like that to W recently?)

The sniper thing in the D.C.-area continues. Of course, we all know it's the gun control folks behind it all, right?

Even W's Justice Department can't ignore how Enron and the big energy companies were gaming the California electricity grid. I suspect they'll try though. As we all know, the public's watchdog was bought off two years ago by their buddies in the energy business. We'll see I guess. Don't hold your breath that"Kenny Boy" sees the inside of a jail any time soon.

Here is more proof that the Heritage foundation is just a mouthpiece for the White House's war effort. Of course, we already knew that, didn't we? Is there really such a thing as a" conservative think tank?" Thinking? Really?

Carl Hiaasen suggests we finish the job against Al-Qaeda first and only then should we worry about Iraq. After all, they've actually killed Americans within the last few weeks. He's getting no arguments from me.


If the GOP wins control of congress, they're planning on a tax cut (and correspondingly a budget deficit) binge starting in January. If this doesn't provide enough incentive to at least keep the Senate in Democratic hands, I don't know what would. Here's a snippet:

White House officials and Republicans on Capitol Hill are so optimistic about winning control of both chambers of Congress in next month's elections that they have begun mapping how they would use their new power, including the possibility of speeding up tax cuts that were to take effect gradually.

With the elections 16 days away and polls showing many crucial races too close to call, Republicans are drawing up plans that would aid a broad array of industries, after hammering business during the corporate responsibility debate touched off by this year's accounting scandals.

Business lobbyists said their wish lists include substantial nationwide limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases, plus a major overhaul of the tax code to reduce the burden on corporations. Both measures have been part of President Bush's agenda and would have a better chance of becoming law if the GOP retook control of the Senate and kept a House majority in the Nov. 5 elections.

Michael G. Franc, the Heritage Foundation's vice president of government relations, said the mood among business lobbyists and economic conservatives is"guarded optimism, bordering on giddiness." He said they are laying plans to take swift advantage if Republicans complete the triple crown of the White House, the House and the Senate."It's the domestic equivalent of planning for postwar Iraq," Franc said.

And our economy may bear an uncanny resemblance to postwar Iraq's if the GOP remains unchecked in the Senate. Fortunately, it doesn't appear that even in their wildest dreams they would be anywhere near having the 60 seats required to win cloture votes.

If you need evidence that all the" corporate responsibility" rhetoric by the administration and Republican congressional leaders this summer was merely empty words, this story should provide it for you. Are Republicans truly this bereft of economic ideas? I do keep waiting for W and the boys to tell me that tax cuts will cure the common cold. I'm sure some of the impressive doctors and"scientists" W and the boys have appointed to various governmental committees and advisory boards are working on that one as we speak.

ROVE'S WAY 10-19-02

There's a very interesting and enlightening article in the New York Times about the man who has his hand in W's back most of the time, Karl Rove. Have you ever noticed that when W talks, Rove's mouth moves?

This article also amply demonstrates that W's and Rove's decisions are actually more poll-driven than Clinton's ever were. Of course, we all knew that, didn't we? Rove even goes so far as to cite poll numbers as proof that the administration isn't beholden to corporate interests!


Paul Krugman, whom I can't accuse of hearing me say this to my students for the last seven years, argues in a New York Times Magazine article that we've entered a new Gilded Age. It's an interesting article that is likely to keep the righties fisking for days. That is fine with me because I won't have to hear their bizarre pronouncements on foreign policy for a while. However, I must say Krugman does make an egregious historical error towards the end. I suspect the error was first made by the person he quotes actually. Can you find it?

BTW, while I'm at it, let me ask the obvious historical question raised by this article: are we entering a New Gilded Age? I've thought this was the case for quite some time, starting in the early 1990s. I would argue that our politicians are as beholden to the rich today as they were in that supposedly much more corrupt era. I certainly think we've reached the point once again when representatives in the House and the Senate represent"interests" rather than their constituents as well. That's been rather obvious for a while now.


Arianna Huffington has a good column out today about how the average Joe is getting screwed by the economy right now -- not that the Republicans care or anything. It's war time after all!

E.J. Dionne has a good column about how the administration is doing the bidding of special interest groups like the religious right and the NRA who pour tons of money into Republican campaign coffers.

Nicholas Kristof's column this morning deals with how the administration is employing a"bait and switch" with regard to advocating democracy in Iraq. Every time you hear them repeat this falsehood, you should laugh. It simply isn't going to happen. In fact, we've already assured Saddam's neighbors, who don't have democracies either and don't want one next door, that it won't happen. Pretty reprehensible stuff, eh? Am I surprised? Of course not. W and the boys will say anything to get their war.

Jeb's been caught lobbying his brother's administration for his party's big donors again -- not that I'm surprised or anything.

Boy, Josh Marshall has certainly gotten the goods on the fake absentee ballot story in South Dakota. There is certainly lots of Republican skullduggery in this story. It's worth the time to read it. I assume people at the television station in question will lose their jobs over this. I should hope so. Very good work Josh!


Paul Krugman has another good column about the dishonesty of W's rhetoric on tax policy -- and how that dishonesty has now become part of W's rhetoric on everything else, Iraq included. Like most things conservatives believe, it doesn't involve the presentation of evidence or anything, it just involves repetition. Here's a bit of the column:

When Ronald Reagan cut taxes on rich people, he didn't deny that that was what he was doing. You could agree or disagree with the supply-side economic theory he used to justify his actions, but he didn't pretend that he was increasing the progressivity of the tax system.

The strategy used to sell the Bush tax cut was simply to deny the facts — and to lash out at anyone who tried to point them out. And it's a strategy that, having worked there, is now being applied across the board.

Michael Kinsley recently wrote that"The Bush campaign for war against Iraq has been insulting to American citizens, not just because it has been dishonest, but because it has been unserious. A lie is insulting; an obvious lie is doubly insulting." All I can say is, now he notices? It's been like that all along on economic policy.

You see, some folks must be under the impression that as long as something is repeated often enough, it will become true. That was how George W. Bush got to the top.

But, hey, we'll try diplomacy with North Korea. Even though they are supposedly a member of the"Axis of Evil" that, unlike Iraq, currently has nuclear weapons, they're not the threat that Hussein is. I believe that argument. Right. However, you're going to hear that repeated ad nauseum the next few days as a truism with, of course, very little evidence to back it up.


Another busy day is on tap for me. Here are a few good links before I dive back in:

Now who is it Dick Cheney works for? It apparently isn't us.

Am I the only one who wasn't shocked that North Korea was pursuing a nuclear weapons program?

BTW, the Bush's administration's shock about this yesterday was fake. If you'll notice, they've known about this for two weeks. This means they withheld this information from congress and the American people until after congress had passed Bush's war resolution which is about as cynical and manipulative as it gets. The administration knew this revelation might throw a wrench into their plan for war with Iraq so they waited until they had the resolution safely in their pocket and then, oops, it slipped out.

I can only imagine what we'd be hearing if Clinton had tried something like this. Of course, the Republicans didn't want war with Iraq when Clinton was in office, fearing it would give him a"victory" in foreign policy. Now that it's their guy, they can't send folks over to die in Iraq fast enough.

Joe Conason notes that Jeb had time for campaigning but not to provide support for his daughter in her court hearing in which she dodged a felony yesterday. Why is it the family values types are, on the surface at least, often the most callous parents? I don't know. I'm just asking. I would've been there.

In case you're curious, the Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats crushed Pitt State 29-7 before a Division II-record 26,695 fans at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City last night. It appears everyone got home safely last night. Northwest improves to 7-0 and is currently ranked 5th in Division II.

That's all for now. I'll post later to break the grading monotony.


More funny stuff from Andy Borowitz this morning. I'll quote just a little bit so you'll have to read the rest of this satirical report on his website:

While Mr. Bush's explanation of his apparent double standard seemed to play well to his supporters, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle called it the"lamest thing I've heard since Eminem did that duet with Elton John on the Emmys a couple years back."

"Let me get this straight," Senator Daschle said."We're attacking the country that doesn't have nuclear weapons, but we're using diplomacy with the country that has them? No disrespect, but sometimes I think this President is puffing on one big bodacious bong."

”Having said that,” Senator Daschle added, “I will support any and all resolutions the President might propose for dealing with Iraq, North Korea, or any other country he wants to do something to.”

Borowitz has actually captured W's foreign policy inconsistencies perfectly. Of course, I don't know about the bong thing -- probably not.


Our football team will play a game down at Arrowhead in Kansas City against Pitt State tonight. It's unusual to have a Division II game in such a large stadium. I've taught probably half of the guys in the football team so I know them and wish them good luck. Pitt State is the big rival and we've beaten them 5 of the last 6 years.

Since we're sending several thousand people southward more than 120 miles tonight, I worry about everyone getting back here in one piece. I hope everyone drives safely. I really don't want to lose a student tonight. I usually lose 1-2 per year to traffic accidents. It's always a terribly sad thing. I've got my fingers crossed.


As a short break from my grading, I'll post a few more links:

Here's a nice analysis by of W's foreign policy manifesto by Hendrick Hertzberg of the New Yorker.

I wonder how many average folks caught with crack in Florida get only ten days in jail? Don't get mad. I'm just curious.

Boy I'll bet Douglas Forrester (N.J. Republican U.S. Senate candidate) wishes he could've buried these old opinion columns in some obscure place like Bush did his DWI before the 2000 election.


This entertaining post on BusyBusyBusy is worth your time. It provides translations of W for those of us who don't have Bill Kristol's prescience.


Tons of papers to grade, classes to teach, etc., today. Here's a few quick links for the morning:

Judging from his comments in this interview, I think Anthony Zinni, W's special envoy to the Middle East, hasn't been paying much attention to the administration's propaganda lately. Here's the text of a recent speech by Zinni as well.

You want to stop Al-Qaeda? Maybe we should invade Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq.

The families of victims of 9/11 are not pleased with the White House. What, did you really think they were going to support the commission? There must be something they're hiding. I wonder what it is?

That's all for now. I'll post more later.


Andy Borowitz's satirical website has another hysterical story again today. Here it is:


Agency Would Assign Evil Rankings to Every Nation in World

President George W. Bush today proposed the establishment of a Department of Evil Measurement, a Cabinet-level agency that would rank every nation on earth according to how evil it is.

The DOEM would collate information gathered by the State Department, CIA and other arms of the government before tabulating a final evil ranking for each country, the President said.

Mr. Bush, who had been considering the idea of an evil-measurement agency for several months, made the decision recently when Iran, a member of the Axis of Evil, recently said that it would not shoot down American warplanes straying over its airspace – a move some in the Administration interpreted as meaning that Iran may not be so evil after all.

As a result of Iran’s announcement, President Bush said, Iran was being removed from the Axis of Evil and placed instead in the Axis of Not Quite So Evil As We Thought.

In order to make the public aware of the current standings of evil nations, the President said that there would be a weekly televised countdown of the Top Fifty Evil Countries hosted by Carson Daly of MTV’s “Total Request Live.”

The President added that the Department of Evil Measurement would take many factors into consideration when determining how evil a nation is, such as whether they have cooperated in the war on terrorism and whether they export billions of gallons of petroleum to the U.S.

Mr. Bush’s decision to rank every nation in the world by evil drew strong rebukes from countries around the world, except from Canada, which the U.S. rated as “too boring to be evil.”

I'm sorry if this doesn't seem hysterical to you -- but it did to me. I'm sure W has thought about releasing"Evil Rankings," wouldn't you imagine? Why don't we ask David Frum to be in charge of the DOEM?


I've been enjoying listening to the usual suspects complain about Carter's Nobel Peace Prize. Folks, the sour grapes are awfully ugly. Just because no one in their right mind would award such a prize to Reagan, Bush I or W doesn't mean you have to go ballistic over it. It doesn't take a thing away from the legacy of your warmongering presidents for Carter to win the prize -- not one thing at all. Obviously it stings a bit. That's why we're hearing all the bitching and moaning.

My favorite so far has been the piece by David Frum just republished here at HNN. Besides the fact that it's written by the genius who coined the properly derided"Axis of Evil" moniker, it's awfully bitter. Of course, I don't know what's sadder, the fact that he coined the"Axis of Evil" or the fact that he takes pride in it. Of course, his wife's bragging about it got him fired, so we do have to have a little pity for him I guess, but, since he landed one of those cushy thinktank jobs, actually, er, no we don't."The Axis of Evil" will likely be mentioned as a low point in presidential rhetoric here in a decade or so, alongside Ronny's ridiculous"Evil Empire" line all those years ago.

And then there's this bit of groveling foolishness from Michael Kelly of the Washington Post Writers Group. W for the Nobel? Are you kidding me? Showing their great commitment to world peace, W and the boys are avidly ignoring a growing crisis in Afghanistan right now to focus on Iraq. It appears Al-Qaeda is moving back into Afghanistan as we speak. While the move against Afghanistan last year was a good one (although W moved way too slowly and the use of the surrogate Northern Alliance was obviously a big mistake), eventually I suspect the entire house of cards is going to fall, if not this year, next year. Unless W and his crack foreign policy folks begin to put a little more effort into Afghanistan, we certainly won't be talking about the Afghanistan operation as adding to world peace anytime soon. We may even be talking about it as yet another failed Republican foreign policy initiative in the Middle East, right alongside such success stories as Beirut and Afghanistan Part I (the Reagan-Bush years).


Kevin Drum has an interesting post today about a story in the L.A. Times by Brian Lowry about how TV news feeds a climate of fear in America today. He has some useful things to say:

Brian Lowry has a good column in the LA Times today about a subject that doesn't get enough attention: the low-level culture of fear that pervades American life and the part that TV plays in this.

Unfortunately, Lowry picks a bad target to go after first: the sniper shootings in the Washington D.C. suburbs. This really is big news and I don't think it's surprising — or indefensible — that it's all over the local newscasts. What's more, even if the odds of being killed by a sniper are less than the odds of being killed by lightning (or not; see discussion here), only a city populated by Mr. Spock's blue-blooded brethren could keep from being frightened by the whole thing.

But Lowry then moves on to worthier topics: the absurd"shark scare" last year and the equally absurd kidnapping scare from this summer (abductions have actually decreased significantly over the past 20 years). And he puts the blame exactly where it belongs: on scare-mongering TV coverage that emphasizes the"This could happen to you" angle:

Strictly from a business standpoint, this is understandable. After all, what could be more horrifying to parents in the advertiser-friendly 25-to-54 age demographic, who are more likely to have young children, than the threat of someone snatching kids?....Academics refer to the cumulative effect of this numbing drumbeat as the"mean world syndrome," positing that heavy TV viewers see the world -- including their own community -- as being more violent and fearful than it really is.
Does this make a difference? You bet. My mother taught fourth grade for 30 years and once related to me the story of the day she found a group of children waiting outside school after class had let out. What were they doing there? It turned out the bus had left without them and they didn't want to walk home (less than mile away) because it was dangerous."You do look both ways before crossing streets?" my guile-less mother asked."Oh yes," they chorused. So what's the problem?"We might get kidnapped." This is not the kind of culture we should encourage. Of course we should all be careful, but we shouldn't encourage our kids — or ourselves — to feel terrorized by extraordinarily unlikely dangers lurking behind every bush. This applies to kidnapping scares, breathless"investigative reports" about child-molesting preschools, or Oprah telling us that contaminated hamburger is everywhere. It probably boosts ratings, but it also does a lot of long-term harm to American social mores.

At any rate, this is an important topic that deserves more exposure. It's also, I think, a fundamental difference between U.S. and European attitudes toward life that might explain some of the differences in our attitudes toward the world.

It also doesn't help when our leaders try to whip up the public's fear for political purposes or to get the war they've always wanted. It isn't just the news folks who do this, the politicians are pretty adept at this sort of thing as well. W and the boys are also benefitting from this fear-mongering and it's not a healthy thing for the body politic either.

BTW, W has apparently flip-flopped on the ballistic fingerprinting today. We'll see. I don't expect him to actually do anything about it (W has a real habit of saying he's for something and then working like mad behind the scenes to derail it), but his public comments show that he's realized it's a hot-button political issue in D.C. right now. W and Fleischer have looked like NRA shills the last few days, so they've got to at least pretend they're not for a little while -- until it's safe to quietly scuttle this baby before it becomes a reality of course.

A Weather Bulletin: We got ice pellets, snow, and rain here today. It's not cold enough to stick fortunately. Currently it's about 37 degrees outside and it's snowing again. Great. Just great. I love this kind of weather. Yuck.


Over the last two days, I've received a paper from every student I've got. That's what I'll be doing for the next few days. I'll still blog but if I'm not as prolific, I do hope you understand. I'll give you a couple of odds and ends before I dive into the pile.

It appears Rumsfeld's shtick is wearing thin on the folks at the Pentagon. Before 9/11 there were rumors he was going to be canned. It appears the top brass at the Pentagon would be quite happy to see that happen.

It appears that Jeb's got a race on his hands. I'm not sure McBride can do it but now more Floridians believe Jeb doesn't deserve a second term than do. That's not a good sign for Jeb.

W is sounding a bit desperate about the economy on the campaign trail. He's now trying to shift blame to Democrats. Nice try. You've been in charge long enough that won't fly anymore.

Into the pile I go. I'll probably post more as a diversion some time today.


There's a good column on the main Daily Brew website today. Here's a fair amount of it:

Once guns rights are on the table, the constitution starts to mean something to Bush because a cross section of the public willfully ignorant of the more egregious violations start to take notice of common sense suggestions, like registering guns.

More specifically, once you start talking about gun rights, an army of under-achieving white men in the south and west, (the heart of"Bush country"), who likely don't understand all their rights are already gone start getting extremely agitated because they think their guns somehow matter. These are the absolute core of Bush's base, and no Republican has a chance of getting elected anywhere in flyover without them. Hammered by the economic reality of the place of rural America in a global economy, they may have lost their good paying jobs, but like hell are they giving up their guns. The driver behind this mentality is the belief they might need them to"keep the federal government in line." These are the actual"rural values" Karl Rove and George Bush have to worry about. What is even more scary than the mentality of these yahoos bent on insurrection is the fact that the Bush administration has no choice but to gratify their paranoia.

Even as a demented sniper played a slow motion version of the tragedy at Columbine High School in the Nation's Capital yesterday, Bush was forced to express concern about the"privacy rights" of the trailer park set in the rural south and west. The same George Bush who decided that if he terms an American citizen an"enemy combatant," they no longer have the right to a trial, a lawyer, or even a phone call. For everything else, Bush is like the anti-Constitution. But once you start talking gun rights, he starts sounding like the ACLU.

Our cars are licensed. Our marriages are licensed. Our businesses are licensed. The government has full access to our financial records. Even our dogs are licensed. All of that is just fine, but somehow it becomes a constitutional crisis for the Bush administration if a skinhead with a swastika tattooed on his neck is asked to register an assault weapon. And America apparently can't do a damn thing about it.

As they say in Texas, yee-ha.

Come on now, tell us what you think! Don't hold back now.

But, hey, we all need our guns, right? We need them in case the government gets out of hand. After all, we all know how useful our handguns and rifles would be against the government's tanks, assault helicopters, and supersonic bombers, right?


You're not going to believe this. As W tries to scare Americans by talking about the Axis of Evil and Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, arms companies from the U.S. and the U.K. are openly selling weapons at an arms expo in Jordan to, among other terrorist-supporting powers, two members of the Axis, Iran and Iraq.

Now, hold on -- shouldn't this sort of activity be prohibited? Wouldn't you think? Either these countries are dangerous or they're not, right? Doesn't this seem just a wee bit two-faced? Given what W has said about these two countries, this certainly makes anything the Republicans accused Clinton's administration of regarding weapons sales and technology seem awfully minor in comparison, right? After all, according to W, these countries are evil, right? (These links and information come via Buzzflash. Thanks guys!)


The Onion, as usual, is producing good satire. Good satire, as we all know (and I said yesterday), is often uncomfortably close to the truth. Here's a snippet:


WASHINGTON, DC—Amid growing concerns about the faltering stock market and deepening recession, President Bush vowed to tackle the nation's economic woes head-on Tuesday, assuring the American people that he"will not rest" until Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

"Our nation's economy is struggling right now," said Bush, delivering the keynote address at the National Economic Forum."Our manufacturing base is weak, new home sales are down, and unemployment is up. Millions of our people are suffering. That is why I stand before you tonight and make this promise: Saddam Hussein will be stopped."

With the Dow regularly suffering triple-digit plunges and the Nasdaq hitting a six-year low of 1184.94 late last month, Bush used the speech as an opportunity to outline his plan for getting the economy back on track.

"We can no longer turn a blind eye to our tumbling stock market and the disintegration of the retirement package of the American worker," Bush said."That is why I have developed a 14-point plan for reviving America's economy. The first step is taking the biological and chemical weapons out of the hands of this madman. These sorts of weapons have no place in a peaceful world."

That really does sound like one of W's recent speeches, doesn't it?


E.J. Dionne, who normally writes insightful pieces about politics, falls down on the job today. He asks an obvious question: Are Moderate Republicans Obsolete? Yes.

According to the Daily Kos and Josh Marshall, the race between Chambliss and Cleland in Georgia is getting quite nasty.

After all the high-minded rhetoric in the midterms in 1994, the Republicans in congress have decided that fancy dinners paid for by lobbyists is okay after all. One needn't look much further than my home state's own Jim Talent as a moral exemplar. Talent, who is currently ahead in the Senate Race here in the state, was a proud member of the"lobster tails," a group of lawmakers who accepted thousands of dollars worth of free meals yearly from lobbyists. Of course, pork barrel spending has also exploded since the"Gingrich Revolution" in 1994 as well.

Hypocrisy, you say? Nah. To be hypocritical you had to actually mean it in the first place. We all knew they didn't mean a word of it, didn't we?


There's a good Krugman column today. I love the cultural reference to the movie in the headline. He argues that W and the boys are itching for a conventional fight in the war on terror -- which won't make anyone safer. Here's a snippet from it:

The bomb blast in Bali followed bad news from the world's second-most-populous Muslim country. Hard-line Islamic parties did unexpectedly well in Pakistan's election last week, and Pervez Musharraf's hold on power may be slipping. Do I need to point out that Pakistan is a lot bigger than Iraq, and already has nuclear weapons?

And that gets to my worries over the direction of U.S. policy. I don't think we could have done anything to prevent the blast in Bali — but the attack does suggest that our early military success in Afghanistan has done little to weaken terrorist capabilities. It's not clear whether the U.S. could have done anything to improve the situation in Pakistan, though it might have helped if we had done a better job in Afghanistan, both in pursuing our foes and in helping our friends; it might also have helped if the administration had made good on its promise to let Pakistan increase its textile exports to the U.S.

What's clear is that the biggest terrorist threat we face is that one or more big Muslim countries will be radicalized. And yet that's a threat hawks advising the administration don't seem to take seriously. The administration adviser Richard Perle, quoted by Josh Marshall in The Washington Monthly, brushes off concerns that an invasion of Iraq might undermine the stability of Middle Eastern regimes:"Mubarak is no great shakes. Surely we can do better. . . ."

Meanwhile, plans to invade Iraq proceed. The administration has offered many different explanations, some of them mutually contradictory, for its determination to occupy Baghdad. I think it's like the man who looks for his keys on the sidewalk, even though he dropped them in a nearby alley, because he can see better under the streetlight. These guys want to fight a conventional war; since Al Qaeda won't oblige, they'll attack someone else who will. And watching from the alley, the terrorists are pleased.

Krugman makes a valid point. Among other things, the war on Iraq will likely serve to radicalize Middle Eastern countries and distract us from the war on terror. It will make terrorism against U.S. interests more likely and lessen our chances of preventing it.


In this article, Patricia Axelrod, a weapons systems analyst, talks about her trip to Iraq in the months after the Gulf War and what she saw there. She estimates that easily more than 100,000 civilians were killed in the bombing associated with Operation Desert Storm in 1991. When W and the boys talk about a" clean war," keep these pictures in mind of" crispy critters." Axelrod suggests that both Saddam and our own government have been keeping this rather awful secret from us for ten years. This article isn't pleasant but, in light of the coming Gulf War II, it's important.


Bob Novak argues that Rumsfeld and his chickenhawk advisors may be in over their heads with regard to plans for war against Iraq. Here's a quote:

Now that Congress has droned through a week of largely desultory debate to authorize the use of force against Iraq, how will it be exercised? That is properly a military secret, unknown even to members of Congress. More questionable, it is also unknown to senior military officers.

If there is a precise plan for action to remove Saddam Hussein from power, general officers at the Pentagon tell members of Congress that they are in the dark. This may be another example of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld working with a small circle of both official and unofficial advisers, fostering concern among career officers that plans are not being sufficiently reviewed by military experts.

Hawkish civilians, in and out of the government, have been suggesting that Saddam's elite Republican Guard will throw up its arms in surrender. No serious person believes that. The question is whether an uprising of the persecuted Shia majority will be enough to overthrow the Baghdad regime without heavy application of U.S. force. If there is no effective revolt, the generals and their friends on Capitol Hill worry that the unknown plans may not call for sufficient U.S. forces.

When your lapdogs in the press think you're full of it, that's a bad sign indeed.


You've got to try the warbot. It's a hoot. It makes fun of how formulaic and unoriginal the warblogs are in their denunciations of liberals.

Here's one of the funnier war blog entries that I conjured up using the warbot:

Tom Spencer's vile perfidy

by R. Robot

There's no room in the camp of the screeching elite for our common sense war.

We must learn confident dreams.

Among the cynical Democrats, Tom Spencer defames people like President Bush with the usual irrelevance."Maybe we could get Afghanistan straightened out first," he said last week. Didn't anyone hear George W. Bush's pledge to listen to crusading? It must be obvious to anyone who can think that the charges against John Walker Lindh are true.

Hysterical pundits like Maureen Dowd and others apparently believe the best way to confront the Iraqi tyrant is to give him a big, sloppy kiss. We should invade the butcher of Baghdad's country, kill him and convert him to Episcopalianism. What Tom Spencer did to dither a war is the act of a wretched coward, and rationalizing that will not soon be forgotten by the American people.

I will warn you, however, that what comes out of the warbot will bear an uncomfortably strong resemblance to what is said on the comment boards here at HNN.


The satirical website the Borowitz Report is a scream this morning. Borowitz gives W the"Nobel War Prize." Here it is:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee honored President George W. Bush today by bestowing upon him the first-ever Nobel War Prize.

In Oslo, Nobel Committee chairman Gunnar Berge said that Mr. Bush was chosen for the award because “above all, in his words and deeds, President Bush has stood for the resolution of conflicts between nations and peoples through the use of massive and overwhelming force.”

At the White House, President Bush said that he was surprised to have received the Nobel War Prize and that he was “deeply honored and touched.”

He added that it would have been impossible to win the award without the help of Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle, whom the President thanked for “his tireless efforts to do absolutely nothing to hinder me.”

But even as the Oslo committee announced the first-ever prize, there was a firestorm of controversy in international circles, with some critics charging that President Bush was insufficiently bellicose to win the Nobel War Prize.

In particular, Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein expressed the view that he and not the President should have walked off with the coveted Norwegian accolade.

“I’ve been busting my hump to win the Nobel War Prize for the better part of twenty years, and he just scoops it up at the last minute?” a visibly miffed Saddam said to reporters in Baghdad. “Excuse me, but the whole thing reeks of politics.”

For his part, President Bush brushed off Saddam’s comments as “sour grapes,” and said he would use the $1 million dollar award to break ground on the Bush Center for Preemptive Armed Conflict in Houston, Texas.

Sometimes good satire can be a little too close to the truth, eh?


Many Iraqi dissidents are expressing dismay with W's plans for a post-war Iraq. Not that anyone in Washington is paying any attention to them.

David Broder's column is the usual beltway-oriented wisdom about how no one cares about the economy because of the impending war (Broder really should get out more). However, his final two paragraphs contain quite a dagger in them for W and the boys:

And there is one question my administration source did not blow away. If, as he says, the Bush team was well aware by Inauguration Day that the bottom was dropping out of the"bubble" economy, then why did it rely on those inflated budget surplus estimates to justify the long-term tax cuts that the president still defends?

"We were in line with the blue-chip [consensus] estimates," my White House instructor said. But did you believe them?"That," he said,"is a good question."

Boy, when David Broder can find a flaw that large in your argument about your fiscal policy, it's pretty weak. He is"Mr. Conventional Wisdom" after all.

Here's a good piece from Daniel Gross about Bush's lame economic team. I like the line about the Texas Rangers at the end.

Josh Marshall's Washington Monthly piece is quite good. Give it a read. Josh Marshall, of course, writes the excellent Talking Points Memo blog.

Here's a piece about that irritating tendency of W to mispronounce"nuclear."

As we get closer to war, the chickenhawks are getting a bit defensive.


Here's a another story (this one from the L.A. Times) on how W and the boys are pressuring the CIA to exaggerate Saddam's threat potential. Here's a snippet:

But intelligence sources say the pressure on CIA analysts has been unrelenting in recent months, much of it coming from Iraq hawks including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his top deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz.

CIA officials who brief Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz on Iraq routinely return to the agency with a long list of complaints and demands for new analysis or shifts in emphasis, sources said.

"There is a lot of unhappiness with the analysis," usually because it is seen as not hard-line enough, one intelligence official said.

Another government official said CIA briefers"are constantly sent back by the senior people at Defense and other places to get more, get more, get more to make their case." A senior Pentagon official rejected claims that Rumsfeld would improperly influence intelligence analysts and said they might be misinterpreting remarks meant to test their convictions."He's a guy who's constantly challenging assertions and assumptions," the official said.

But White House hawks have shown a tendency for stretching the case against Iraq. Wolfowitz and others have clung to claims that Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague, the Czech capital, last year even though the CIA has viewed the report with deep skepticism.

Rumsfeld's recent remark that the United States has"bulletproof" evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Hussein struck many in the intelligence community as an exaggerated assessment of the available evidence.

Great, huh? It certainly makes you happy that congress passed W's war resolution based on an exaggerated threat, doesn't it?

While we're talking about exaggerated threats, wagging the dog, etc., here's a nice piece by Les Payne for Newsday about W's Iraq fixation and domestic politics.

ICK 10-14-02

How anyone could read David Corn's piece about the fear in Washington and bore in on his advocacy of ballistic fingerprinting as the most important thing to comment on is astonishing. Some righties have singled this part of the article out as the most important thing to, er, blast away at, so to speak. It certainly shows a rather ghoulish lack of empathy, don't you think?

Of course, it's not exactly surprising from the righties out there. Whether you're talking about civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, gun crime victims, whatever, these guys have absolutely no empathy for anyone who doesn't agree with them. It's part of the righty way. I keep waiting for one of these guys to say that Corn and his daughter deserve to be targets because they're so wrong. It wouldn't be the first weird thing gun"enthusiasts" have said lately. It's no surprise that these smug jokers don't actually live in Washington, D.C. I have a suspicion if they did, they would at least have some sense of empathy -- I'd hope.

I don't know.

Maybe not.


Maureen Dowd's column this morning is entertaining although, as is often the case, there is nothing particularly profound in it. However, she ends the column by observing that the war with Iraq may be the only way that the two inept oilmen, W and Dick, could hit the first gusher of their lives. I particularly enjoy the little ditty (sung to the tune of the"Beverly Hillbillies") that she ends her column with today:

One day, the prez was shootin' at a dictator bein' rude, and up from the ground came a bubblin' crude. Oil, that is. Black gold. Baghdad tea.

But we all know this isn't about oil. No, of course not. It's about peace, winning the war on terror, and national security, right?



I wanted to take this belated opportunity to draw attention to recent additions to the blogroll: Charles Kuffner (an old college buddy of mine btw), Kevin Drum (aka CalPundit), Max Sawicky (aka MaxSpeak), MSNBC's Weblog Central, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Andrew Cline, and Eschaton. I encourage you to check these out. They're all great blogs.

Update: Another excellent addition is Tim Dunlop's blog, The Road to Surfdom. BTW, so far I'm not impressed with Weblog Central at all. I felt obligated to link to it since MSNBC has been so good to me so far. However, unless it improves, I may be taking it down shortly. It has been pretty disappointing so far.

ODDS AND ENDS 10-12-02

In a touching piece, David Corn explains why Saddam isn't at the top of his"to-worry-about" list but Al-Qaeda and the D.C.-area sniper are.

9/11 victims' families are incensed that the White House has blocked an inquiry. They, like all of us, wonder what the administration has to hide. I think the most telling quote is that the administration is beginning to worry that the commission's report could come out in the middle of W's re-election effort. Isn't that great? To hell with getting down to the truth because it might hamper W's re-election. That's reprehensible. I suspect the report will make it obvious that W and the boys blew off all the warnings and didn't do a damned thing until after 9/11. That might impact his re-election effort -- as well it should.

Another good Frank Rich column today. You should give it a read.

Yesterday it was announced that Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel folks used the occasion to blast W's foreign policy regarding Iraq, contrasting Carter's peaceful efforts with W's current hellbent effort for war with Iraq. I wish the point weren't so obvious. BTW, the Nobel committee's opinions are typical of how folks outside U.S. borders feel about W's policy on Iraq. W is turning us into an international laughingstock folks. You might as well face up to that now. It's only going to get worse.


E.J. Dionne's column about how the war issue is playing in the midterms suggests the dog is refusing to be wagged. Here's the obligatory quotation:

And while the New York Times/CBS News Poll this week found that Americans ranked terrorism ahead of the economy as a"priority for the nation," voters had a different view when it came to what they wanted their congressional candidates to discuss. Asked if they wanted to hear more about the war in Iraq or about the economy, 56 percent of Republicans picked the economy, as did 64 percent of independents and 83 percent of Democrats.

From such numbers Democrats have constructed a dream scenario: The relentless focus on war by Washington, the media and, especially, the president will steadily increase the electorate's frustration."The more Bush talks about Iraq, the more it seems that he's not paying attention to the economy," says Geoff Garin, a veteran Democratic pollster."This may end up falling under the law of unintended consequences, just as impeachment did in 1998."

In the 1998 elections, Republicans were certain they would be pushed to victory by a wave of protest voting against Bill Clinton. What happened was the opposite: Democrats went to the polls to oppose the impeachment effort, while many independents saw the impeachment talk as too partisan and unrelated to their concerns. Garin's conclusion:"What the voters said is, 'You're off topic.'"

This is an intriguing take on the situation -- comparing it to the impeachment idiocy before the midterms in 1998. I'm not sure it isn't wishful thinking on the part of Democrats but it's interesting nonetheless. This is another piece you ought to go read in its entirety.


Michael Kinsley's take on the administration's war effort is quite interesting. Here's a snippet:

The Bush campaign for war against Iraq has been insulting to American citizens, not just because it has been dishonest but because it has been unserious. A lie is insulting; an obvious lie is doubly insulting. Arguments that stumble into each other like drunks are not serious. Washington is abuzz with the"real reason" this or that subgroup of the administration wants this war.

A serious and respectful effort to rally the citizenry would offer the real reasons, would base the conclusion on the evidence rather than vice versa, would admit to the ambiguities and uncertainties, would be frank about the potential cost. A serious effort to take the nation into war would not hesitate to interrupt people while they're watching a sitcom.

But citizens ought to be more serious too. They tell pollsters they favor the Bush policy, then they say they favor conditions such as U.N. approval that are not part of the Bush policy. Many, in polls, seem to make a distinction between war, which they favor, and casualties, which they don't. Neither side in this argument has an open-and-shut case, and certainly agreeing with the president's case doesn't make you a fool. Agreeing with the president even though you didn't hear his case -- because he apparently didn't much care if you heard it -- is a different story.

I also think the administration may have taken the support of even your average college-educated conservative for granted. Many of my conservative friends haven't been convinced by the case yet either. W better hope this thing goes well. My unscientific survey of conservatives I know indicates the support for his Iraq policy isn't even that strong among people who normally support him.


Joe Conason's latest column on the impending Iraq war reflects my thoughts on it quite well. He discusses that charade that passed for a"debate" in congress last week. Here's the"money quote":

Yet the Lieberman-Warner colloquy achieved a higher level of reason than much of what passed for debate, with all the clichéd references to appeasement of the Axis."We have to do something!" cried one Republican lawmaker. Neville Chamberlain was repeatedly exhumed, as if someone were proposing to let Saddam take over parts of Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Now, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is a murderous tyrant who aspires to be dangerous, both to his neighbors and the United States. He must be curbed, and if that is impossible, he must be overthrown. But the justifications for immediate, unilateral action to bring him down are no more convincing today than the first few times they were repeated by the President.

It is still difficult to understand why Saddam’s brutalities against the Kurds and the Iranians, which occurred well over a decade ago and didn’t disturb the Reagan or Bush administrations then, should motivate an invasion of Iraq now. It is puzzling that Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, which the United States and its allies repulsed after the Bush administration did so little to discourage that aggression, should now justify pre-emptive war. It is disturbing that four years after the U.N. inspectors left Iraq, political preparations for war have so suddenly become the administration’s overriding imperative in the weeks leading up to a national election.

When the President’s father confronted the problem of driving Saddam’s army out of Kuwait, he waited until well after the midterm elections of 1990 to bring a war resolution to Congress, and his ambassador first obtained the relevant U.N. resolutions. That Bush White House made no sustained attempt to politicize the impending war, despite the prospect of Republican losses in that year’s midterm elections.

You really should read the rest of it. But, of course, I forget, I'm an"appeaser" for feeling this way. Right.


Paul Krugman's column this morning is quite good. He discusses how W and the boys killed corporate accounting reform last week. Here's a bit of the column:

The master stroke came last week. Even as evidence mounted that the wheels are coming off our so-called recovery, the conspirators carefully destroyed the credibility of July's corporate reforms. The Financial Times reports that it wasn't just Congressional Republicans and the accounting industry that blocked the appointment of John Biggs to head a crucial new accounting oversight board; the White House was" concerned at labor union backing for Mr. Biggs."

Now that the best candidate has been humiliated and betrayed, nobody of stature will take the post. That means corporate reform is dead in the water. And if the conspirators hold the House and regain the Senate, they can proceed with their wrecking program — driving the budget even deeper into long-term deficit, scaring small investors and blocking any actions that might pull the economy out of its deepening funk.

So those of us who thought W didn't mean it last July have been proven correct. W prattled on and on about corporate accounting reform but obviously didn't mean a word of it. I guess I'm supposed to be surprised but, of course, I'm not. So the corporately-owned Bush administration hasn't even waited until the midterms are over to show its true stripes. Just like with the 9/11 commission, since the media is thoroughly distracted by the war, I guess W and the boys no longer even see the need to pretend they care.

Have you heard W plans to spend two solid weeks campaigning right before the midterms in November? Wouldn't it be nice if W even pretended he was necessary at the White House once in a while? Of course, we all know he isn't. Dick is running the show.


Here's a good column by Nicholas Kristof about how Iraq went from one of Cheney's biggest business partners to public enemy number 1 in three short years. Here's a snip:

The fact is that neither Tim Johnson nor any lily-livered columnist ever bolstered Saddam's government the way Vice President Cheney did — perfectly legitimately — in 1998-99.

Before we prepare to go to war, we need to take a deep breath and make sure we are doing so to overcome a threat that is real and enduring, not one that we are conjuring in part out of our trauma of 9/11.

Old monsters like Libya, North Korea and Iran have proved — well, not ephemeral, but at least changeable, less terrifying today than they used to be. And the Iraqi threat, for which we're now prepared to sacrifice hundreds or thousands of American casualties, just a few years ago was simply another tinhorn dictatorship where C.E.O. Cheney was earning his bonus.

It's a good piece and worth a read.


W and his boys have stopped the independent inquiry into 9/11:

Hours after Congressional Republicans and Democrats announced that they had agreed on the terms of an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House raised fresh objections late today and held off on a final agreement.

If the disagreement is not resolved in the few days before the Congressional session ends, the commission, which some people said would be the government's most comprehensive look at the lessons of the attacks, could be postponed until next year. It is possible that the panel would not be created at all.

Again, I can't help but wonder what's up here. I guess now that everyone's talking about the war, there's no need for the White House to pretend they're interested in getting to the truth of 9/11 anymore, right? I still can't help but wonder if they're hiding something here.


The more I read righty blogs and examine their thought processes, the more I am struck by the intellectual dishonesty of righties in the blogosphere. I understand that some folks process information differently and that's fine. Some folks can disagree with me and have very good reasons for doing so. However, many righties are not analyzing things to learn more about it or for the sake of informed argument, these folks are actually involving themselves in what is an attempt to simply discredit the viewpoint of anyone they disagree with.

It's a sort of intellectual dishonesty at best and perhaps intellectual McCarthyism at worst. In fact, it's generally quite anti-intellectual and the opinions they ultimately offer are seldom any more informed than the most bloviating pundit on television. That's what's so funny about so many of them presenting themselves as such great"analysts" on the web. After a few opening pleasantries about a particular op-ed or news item in question, they ultimately devolve into arguing that administration critics are appeasers, communists, or worse. While the more naive (and therefore dangerous) of them will argue that op-ed pieces, news stories, liberal blogs, and anything else they disagree with are just"unobjective rhetoric" (whatever that means -- that shows they don't understand either word very well), many of them simply approach the whole process as a way to convince themselves to ignore fact-based opinions with which they don't agree, no matter how reasoned. In fact, usually the more protesting you hear about something from these folks, the more you realize that the writer has hit a nerve and may actually have a point. I usually read the pieces they criticize because they're often the most coherent and make the best arguments, that's why the righties are trying to discredit them instead of actually responding to the ideas advanced in them.

But, hey, welcome to the blogosphere, where the righties "fisk" things they don't agree with. This"fisking" process is a fascinating thing in which the righties miss the forest for the trees -- they spend their time harping on minute details and supposed flaws in logic while usually ignoring the larger (and often quite plausible) argument advanced by the writer. And, a lot of the time, they actually have the gall to call that"analysis." Amazingly enough, their supposedly"objective analysis" always supports their pre-conceived political notions. Imagine that. I'm sure that's just a coincidence, right?

More recently, I've enjoyed reading these"analysts" talk about how Democrats are abandoning the president on Iraq. Talk about missing the forest for the trees! These guys are spending so much time at their computer in this alternate reality universe constructed by the righty blogosphere that they miss a fact that is as plain as the nose on their face: the Democrats have supported the president's war resolution and, as of yesterday, it passed both houses of congress with bipartisan support. It's pretty hard to take these people very seriously who can't even recognize that very basic fact about Democrats in congress.

I've decided ultimately that there's no winning with folks like that. They'll never admit you've made a salient point. That's why I've given up on the comment boards below and I'm sorry about that. Feel free to e-mail me if you want an actual intellectual exchange but I'm not paying any more attention to the folks down there. It also takes up a lot of my time that I should be devoting to other things.

I've decided the last thing these folks are really interested in is an honest discussion. The righty blogosphere is just the internet's version of the Faux News Channel, a blogospheric echo chamber in which people who agree with each other just reinforce each other's positions. The right wing blogosphere is a perfect complement to the paucity of dissenting opinions at the Faux News Channel. Because of the right wing blogs, righties can thankfully read only opinions they agree with at work in the blogosphere and then, once home, turn on the Faux News and hear nary a word of opinion with which they disagree there either. I'm sure some of them play tapes of Rush or listen to right-wing talk radio on the way to and from work too. That way they can go a whole day without ever hearing an opinion with which they disagree. But they're doing"analysis" they'd say. Yeah. Right.

When I read an op-ed piece by Safire, George Will, Sowell, Krugman, Kristof, etc., I generally read the piece to see what their argument is and what evidence they base it on. I may disagree with it, I may think the evidence isn't very convincing and I may say that here. But I don't approach news articles and op-ed pieces in a conscious effort to discredit those who advance them. I may raise questions about evidence but I'm not going to go so far as to argue that these people are just intellectual cripples who can't make a salient point because they're blinded by ideology. I guess that's the most amazing thing about all of this. These righties are so self-unaware that they can't realize they often bear a strong resemblance to the descriptions they advance of folks they don't agree with -- but I'm not getting into that. I've said enough already. I'm sure I'm going to be bombarded with intellectual commentary in my e-mail box any second now.

Update:Kevin Drum also goes after"fisking" today by"fisking" the Gettysburg Address in his blog. Drum ultimately argues that those who participate in this process are

[c]hildish, petulant, ignorant, and willfully trying to miss the bigger point. Almost autistic in the certainty that their hyper-rationalism has dealt a devastating logical blow to their safely-out-of-sight opponent.



I know where I'd be going if I was in New York and Los Angeles this weekend. I'd be going to see Michael Moore's new film that has been getting loads of critical acclaim and has won several awards already,"Bowling for Columbine." It's supposed to be a wonderful film I'm told. Michael Moore has a website for the film that you might want to check out that has reviews, clips, the trailer, and much more. I'm just hoping it eventually comes close enough for me to only have to drive 120 miles or so to see it! If it does, I'm there!


Here's an editorial from the Washington Post about the connection between gun control and the D.C.-area sniper.

Gene Lyons' latest column from yesterday is up today. As usual, it's pretty good.

According to ABC News and Money magazine, consumer confidence has dropped incredibly in the last few weeks. Most people think the economy is in the dumper it appears. Hey, don't you think it's time to start talking about the war some more?


Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has written the sequel to his earlier excellent column on the U.S. seeking an empire. Here's a fairly long bit of it (but you should read all of both articles):

"The aspiration to benevolent hegemony might strike some as either hubristic or morally suspect," they acknowledge."But a hegemon is nothing more or less than a leader with preponderant influence and authority over all others in its domain."

Hmmm."Preponderant influence and authority over all others in its domain," with that domain being the entire world.

But not empire.

Kagan, Kristol and others have continued to press that point. The term is also used in"Present Dangers," a book published in 2000, edited by Kristol and Robert Kagan to which Donald Kagan contributed. In that book, they advocate military intervention,"even when we cannot prove that a narrowly construed 'vital interest' . . . is at stake," and argue that with its dominance, the United States can"set about making trouble for hostile and potentially hostile nations."

Other contributors included Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, now chief architects of our policy toward Iraq.

Within foreign policy circles, such talk was soon recognized for what it is. Walter McDougall, a conservative foreign policy analyst and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote a withering critique of the concept in 1997.

"Benevolent hegemony' is a contradiction in terms," McDougall warned."Such a self-conscious, self-righteous bid for global hegemony is bound to drive foreign rivals into open hostility to the U.S. and make our allies resentful and nervous."

"If you go abroad in search of monsters, you will inevitably find them even if you have to create them," McDougall wrote."You will then fight them, whether or not you need to, and you will either come home defeated, or else so bloodied that the American people will lose their tolerance for engagement altogether, or else so victorious and full of yourself that the rest of the world will hate you and fear that you'll name them the next monster."

Five years later, McDougall's warning seems about to come true.

Like the first article, this one is quite good. Give it a read.


At Harken, W was involved in just the same sort of accounting shenanigans he has since condemned at Enron. Ah, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? Here's a snippet from a Washington Poststory about it:

When President Bush served as a director of an energy company 12 years ago, he approved the creation of an off-balance-sheet partnership that reduced the company's debts and improved earnings in a transaction similar to those that led to the collapse of Enron Corp.

As a director of Harken Energy Corp. in 1990, Bush, who had sold his own oil business to Harken and was retained as a consultant, made the motion at a board meeting to negotiate the transfer of struggling Harken assets into a partnership with Harvard University's investment arm, Harvard Management Co. Inc., documents indicate

And here's the"money quote":

The partnership significantly improved Harken's fortunes. Its shares, which had fallen to $1.25 in late 1990 from an earlier high of $6, climbed to $8 in 1991. The stock improvement came as Harken's debt and interest expenses fell because of the partnership. Harvard benefited from the higher stock price by selling 1.6 million shares between September 1991 and October 1992, HarvardWatch said.

By December 1992, Harvard Management had bought all of Harken's interest in the partnership. Harvard sold the venture in 1993 to Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. for stock valued at $34.6 million, HarvardWatch said.

The partnership"bears striking resemblance to the partnerships Bush has condemned at Enron," HarvardWatch argued."It was controlled by and transparent only to Harken insiders, and likely was used to artificially brighten the company's business prospects."

Hmmmm. With stories like this floating around and the lousy economy, is it any wonder all the White House wants to talk about is war?


Your 401K is now a 201K: The market hit a big low today. The carnage has now reached $8.4 trillion and shows no sign of stopping. If you think W and the boys have an answer beyond more tax cuts for their rich buddies who don't need them, you're fooling yourself. Heck, they're even gutting the supposed reforms in accounting put into place just a few months ago now.

And speaking of fraudulent accounting reform, here's Molly Ivins' take on the accounting"reform" efforts of Harvey Pitt and the administration. Don't plan on any improvement on this rather important front for a while, the corporate powers-that-be have killed it. And, until you can trust the corporate numbers, stock prices are not likely to recover appreciably. Hey, you always wanted to work until you were 80, didn't you?

Here's a story about our" champion of democracy" in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. Unlike Saddam, Musharraf actually has nuclear weapons. He also seems much more likely to use them against one of his neighbors, India. But, as W said a few weeks ago,"he's tight with us in the war on terror," so that's okay.


Mark Danner, whose Massacre at El Mozote is a fine work of journalism about the complicity of the United States in supplying the murderous deathsquads in El Salvador and the Reagan administration's attempts to cover up for them, writes an eloquent op-ed in the New York Times about the dangers of the foreign policy changes sought by the Bush administration:

It is not only that Islamic radicalism may gain new life and new converts but that moderate regimes will be threatened and will respond harshly, leading them not toward democracy but away from it, and that, finally, the force to which the United States remains most vulnerable — terror — will once again visit our shores. And this time, terror may come not just from a reanimated Al Qaeda but from Hezbollah and other groups that heretofore saw the American threat as not quite so direct. To divide the world into good and evil, however effective that is as a means of building political support and however gratifying that may be to Americans who see their country as a" city on a hill," risks broadening a war that would be better kept narrowly defined.

Grand projects have not been treated kindly in the Middle East. The shah of Iran, America's policeman in the Gulf, was swept away by revolution; to confront the new radical threat from Tehran, the United States found an unlikely successor, a secular dictator in Baghdad named Saddam Hussein. Supplanting him now will likely be the easiest part of the mission; building a new order, engineering a workable politics in a land beset by sectarian struggles and by the trauma of three decades of brutal dictatorship, will be much harder, demanding persistence, steadfastness, quantities of treasure and perhaps of blood. President Bush, hammering away at the threat posed by nuclear weapons that do not now exist, has been reluctant to speak of these costs. Thus far, he has abdicated his responsibility to build the political support he will need to shape the Iraq, and the Middle East, that will follow Saddam Hussein.

For America, the great risk of this new crusade is that the political will might be lacking to carry it out — that the public, unprepared for the imperial ambitions about to play out in the Middle East, will quickly lose heart if the project comes to grief; that after the inevitable setbacks and perhaps after further attacks at home, the occupation will grow unpopular and that even those in the administration whose vision is not so ambitious will want to cut and run, leaving ruin once more in America's wake.

Baghdad is not Mogadishu. It will not be enough, as after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, to declare victory, sail over the horizon and invade Grenada. The risks of a failed intervention in Iraq are more grave: weakening regimes friendly to the United States, kindling a broader Middle East war, bringing terror to American cities. In this sense, Sept. 11 did change everything. The threats are closer now, more malignant; the world much smaller than the one John Quincy Adams knew. If America chooses in this dark season to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, it had better well destroy them — and show the will to leave something lasting in their place.

This is possibly the worst part of all the saber-rattling. After we defeat Saddam, I entirely expect us to cut and run and leave Iraq as we appear to be leaving Afghanistan, in ruins and in a more chaotic state than when we arrived. And, actually, that may be the best-case scenario. This planned war may ultimately be responsible for ushering in a new era of terrorism in the Middle East and in our own cities. It also may ignite a much larger war in the Middle East. These are things we all should be thinking about as we slouch toward war against Iraq.


Robert Scheer's column in the Los Angeles Times about the CIA report on Iraq is certainly interesting. He uses it to argue against the administration's claims of Iraq's WMD capability. Here's a bit of it:

In a speech intended to frighten the American people into supporting a war, the president Monday again trotted out his grim depiction of Saddam Hussein as a terrifying boogeyman haunting the world. However, a CIA report released late last week and designed to bolster Bush's case for preemptive invasion instead provided clear evidence that Iraq poses less of a threat to the world than at any other time in the past decade.

In its report, the CIA concludes that years of U.N. inspections combined with U.S. and British bombing of selected targets have left Iraq far weaker militarily than in the 1980s, when it was supported in its war against Iran by the United States.

The CIA report also concedes that the agency has no evidence that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons, although it lamely attempts to put the worst spin on that embarrassing fact:"Although Saddam probably does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them."

Of course, that is a statement about intent, not capability, and one that can be made about dozens of the world's nations, many of them run by dictators as brutal as Hussein.

None of the unstable nations already possessing deliverable nuclear weapons are targets of Bush's wrath. And in the case of the military dictatorship of Pakistan, which at some point is likely to use such weapons in a war with India, we have even eliminated the sanctions imposed as punishment for developing those nuclear arms.

Again, it does appear the administration seems to believe the"intent argument" or the"potentiality argument" is enough to convince Americans. If you read this blog yesterday, you know that I would argue that Americans haven't yet been convinced that unilateral action is warranted based on the evidence presented by W and the boys so far.


I appear to be gaining a conservative audience. Yet another conservative blog has discussed some of what I say here. Of course, I disagree with this guy but, hey, the more the merrier! I read quite a few conservative blogs myself. However, the appeasement/Hitler analogy is awfully weak in my opinion. It's a fairly thoughtful discussion of my point on Condi Rice's"knowledge" of immediate post-World War II history. (BTW, before I wrote this post I checked with a couple of my Europeanist colleagues who were experts in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union (one of whom is even an expert in military history of the era) and they said she was all wet too. My post grew out of these conversations with my colleagues.)

CIA Director George Tenet said yesterday what I've been saying here for a while which is that a war with Iraq will make Saddam more likely to act against us, not less. It actually endangers Americans. In the short term, it makes us less safe, not more. It's a rather obvious point but one that bears repeating during the administration's campaign for war with Iraq.

Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times points out some of the bizarre statements made by the Illinois National Rifle Association in its recent newsletter. He argues one should vote for Democrats in Illinois just based on the fact that they don't grovel for money from these rather unhinged folks.


Paul Krugman has another good column out today. He explains how the accounting regulation that appeared to be coming along has suddenly stopped now that everyone's talking about war with AlQaeda:

Last summer stocks were slumping, not just over fears about the economy but because of concerns that ordinary investors simply couldn't trust what corporations said. Stocks recovered, briefly, in part because the nation believed that reform was well in hand. Now stocks are slumping again, and the recovery is sputtering. What will happen when the public realizes that summer promises of reform weren't sincere?

What's amazing is that the enemies of reform felt free to take off their masks even before the election. One can only hope that the media report what's happening, and that voters, as they look at their shrunken 401(k)'s, remember the false promises of summer. Fool me once . . .

I suspect there's a rocky economic road ahead -- for all of us.

Here's a good analysis by William Sarletan at Slate of Bush's speech last night. Judging from the speech, it does appear that W is coming back from the brink on starting war with Iraq next week. But, Sarletan argues, he's still trying to see a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda that's not there and he should just be honest about it. He also should be honest and actually share the evidence of Saddam's WMD. I'd really like to see it. I suspect it doesn't exist but if he's got something, I really do think he should share it with us.

Here's another good analysis by the Washington Post's Dana Milbank.


I've been getting e-mails from my more conservative readers and on the comment board below about this piece in the Weekly Standard. It does appear to raise serious questions about a few questions in this one particular CBS News-New York Times poll.

However, even if one were to toss the New York Times poll, it doesn't explain the several other polls that show similar numbers. For example, here's a quote from the story on Bush's speech article by on Dana Milbank about the president's speech last night:

White House officials had grown concerned that public support for using force against Hussein has softened despite Bush’s growing support in Congress. A Gallup poll released yesterday found a bare majority of Americans — 53 percent — favored a ground invasion of Iraq, down from 61 percent in June and 74 percent last November. An ABC News poll, also released yesterday, found that 50 percent of Americans agreed with the proposition that diplomacy does not work with Iraq and the time for military action is near; 44 percent favored holding off on military action and pursuing diplomacy.

The fact that the White House is concerned tells you that there is some reality to these numbers. They also have their own pollsters who are clearly telling them similar things. There certainly appears to be a trend in several of these polls and White House pollsters are seeing the same thing. That was the reason for the timing of the W's speech last night it appears.

I also know that pollsters can manipulate wording to elicit certain responses. I had a hysterical call from a Republican pollster for my local state representative race just this weekend. The poll's questions were phrased in such a way that I clearly was supposed to answer in the way they wanted me to. Needless to say, I didn't bite. So I certainly can understand why many people are raising these sorts of questions about polls.

I also know that these polls can be inaccurate. After all, most of them showed that W was going to win the popular vote in the election in 2000 after all and, as we all know, he didn't.


While the administration tows the line on Iraq, some in the intelligence community are obviously not on board with Iraq-a-palooza. Here's a good quote from a Houston Chronicle story today:

While President Bush marshals congressional and international support for invading Iraq, a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war.

These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses -- including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network -- have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East.

They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary.

"Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews.

No one who was interviewed disagreed.

Amazing stuff, eh? Not that it surprises me at all. This rush to war has involved a lot of" cooking the books" already. We all knew the intelligence"evidence" that has been presented was pretty questionable anyway. I hope these guys aren't easy to find because I'm sure W and the boys will fire them immediately for disloyalty and question their patriotism.


In his response to my post, Mark Byron takes a typical righty approach to answering my criticism of his blog -- by ignoring my larger point and by doing just what he accuses me of doing -- taking a quote and"going to town on it." Here's the quote from his blog where he takes me to task:

Not Miss Congeniality, Miss Conception-I'll say one thing about a good Fisking, the reader gets to see the original piece and the reader is free to figure out whether the writer of the original piece is accurate or not. The other way of trashing a piece is taking a money quote and going to town on it. An even sneakier way of trashing is to distort the quote, by a loose paraphrase. Exhibit A from the"History News Network." Thomas M. Spencer, a professor from a slightly-less obscure school said that

I love it when he says that it's because liberals are overly emotional and conservatives pay attention to"facts and detail." Give me a break.

Unless he's pulling a quote from somewhere else in my history, here's what I actually said

Blogs pay attention to facts and attention to detail. Liberalism tends to be more emotionally based.

Note that I didn't say that liberals were overly emotional, just more so that conservatives. I'll posit that, on economics and the environment, they may tend to be more risk-averse than conseratives and thus tend to favor the protection of a welfare state. The guy who bases his"opinions on evidence rather than on raw feelings" just decided to go to the Bellesiles School of Research on this paraphrase.

So, let me get this straight. You said that liberals are"more emotionally based" but that I'm inaccurate to say that you are arguing liberals are"overly emotional." Are you kidding? I misread you?"More emotionally based" isn't"overly emotional?" What else could it be? What else would be the point of raising the distinction at all? You're trying to argue that liberals aren't"rational" but"emotional" and you know it. We're really arguing about semantics here. And you've just done what you accuse me of doing, taking a short quote and"going to town on it."

In fact, Byron's post is Exhibit A of dishonest righty blogger tactics, Byron does the most typical thing that most of these folks do -- focus on some little detail and try to use that to argue the entire argument therefore has no merit. I've seen a number of recent examples of this, one rather prominent one about a recent New York Times story is below on the comment board. Byron then conveniently ignores the remainder of my post in which I raise all sorts of what I'm sure are uncomfortable questions for him about how conservatives actually go on emotion more than liberals. I guess he isn't really that interested in"facts and detail" after all since he ignored my entire argument beyond the first paragraph of my original post.

Byron also continues, as he did in his first response to me Sunday, to launch off into an argument about how he really meant"risk-averse" not"overly emotional." Nice try. I got your meaning right the first time and all the obfuscation in the world isn't going to change that. It doesn't really upset me that much that you think that, just be honest, admit it, and move on. I just enjoyed playing with that idea and proving how full of you-know-what that contention was.

I must admit, though, I did enjoy the wisecrack that I'm from"a slightly less obscure school" -- that did make me laugh. It was a good touch of humor. However, Byron doesn't seem to be self-aware enough to realize that he is doing exactly what he accuses me of doing.


If you ever wanted to have the economic data to prove that Democrats manage the economy better than Republicans, Kevin Drum (aka CalPundit) has the data to back you up. Here's a snippet:
This is actually an old story, and Slate doesn't know the half of it: Democratic administrations, it turns out, manage virtually every facet of the economy better than Republicans. To demonstrate this, let's take a look at the three most important economic statistics for the postwar period 1948-2001:

GDP Growth (seasonally adjusted in chained 1996 dollars)

Unemployment Rate (BLS annual figures for civilian unemployment)

Inflation Rate (CPI-U Dec-Dec annual change)

We also need to pick a lag time. In the same way that a pitcher is responsible for runners left on base even after he's been replaced, presidents should be responsible for a few years of economic performance after they leave office.

Fine, but how many years? Three seems reasonable — which is how W gets off the hook for our current recession — and certainly no more than five, but in the end it turns out that the exact number doesn't really matter: Democrats do better no matter what time lag you choose.

He's got a really cool chart too of the data -- and he's right, the Democrats win on all three indicators no matter what time lag you choose. You ought to take a look at this! Now if only the folks in the media would take a look at it.

NEWSFLASH!!! 10-07-02

Newsflash! Here's a clip:

In a decision that could determine which party controls the Senate after next month’s elections, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a GOP challenge to an 11th-hour change of Democratic candidates in the New Jersey Senate race.

THE ONE-SENTENCE order rejecting the Republican challenge said that Justice David Souter, who has jurisdiction over the Third Circuit, in which New Jersey is located, had referred the matter to the full court, which decided not to intervene in the election dispute.

I'm pretty surprised. I really did expect them to be consistently inconsistent on states' rights and intervene. Of course, my understanding is the justices on the court realize how bad Bush v. Gore looked and how flimsy a decision it was, so they will be loath to step into something like that for a while -- which is good news for democracy. However, I have to say the Republicans had a much stronger case against the Democrats on the letter of the state elections law in New Jersey than any of the specious legal arguments they made concerning Florida election law in Bush v. Gore.

ODDS AND ENDS 10-07-02

It appears bin Laden is alive -- at least according to some intelligence analysts, both American and Afghani. To suggest otherwise is"wishful thinking" according to one Afghan intelligence officer.

Most New Jerseyites appear to be quite happy about the Senate Torricelli-Lautenberg"switcheroo" it appears. You'll notice that the Republicans did essentially the same thing just a short while back in the governor's race. If you want more about the hyprocrisy of New Jersey Republicans on this, go here.

This interesting article by John Judis from the American Prospect analyzing the latest polling data tells us what we already knew. The supporters of the Iraq war are largely"rural, white, male, southern Republicans without a college diploma." Ouch. Opponents of the invasion are essentially everyone else. I'm exaggerating of course but you ought to read this article. It's pretty eye-opening.


This latest CBS News-New York Times poll has a ton of bad news for W. It does sound like the dog is still refusing to be wagged. Americans want to wait and see on Iraq. They want inspectors to go in first. They also believe we should only act in concert with our allies. Other bad news: 70% of Americans say the economy is much more important to them than any other issue. In fact, 46% of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the economy. Therefore, we should expect a lot more war talk for the next six weeks because W and the boys have no economic wisdom to share with us.

Here's the New York Timesstory about the poll (via the Houston Chronicle. Here's a great snippet:

On a number of measures, the poll suggested that politicians in Washington were out of step with the concerns of Americans. Repeatedly, in questions and in follow-up interviews, respondents talked more about the economy than Baghdad, and expressed concern that leaders in Washington were not paying enough attention to the issues that mattered to them.

But the popular concern about the economy would seem to be an issue for Bush, who is two years away from his own re-election campaign. More than two-thirds said the president should be paying more attention to the economy than he is today.

"I hate to say this because I'm a Republican, but the economy was better when Clinton was in office," said Donna Doolittle, 42, a benefits coordinator who works at a hospital in Holiday, Fla."Maybe interest rates are low now, but health insurance is going up; there are layoffs."

Doolittle said she thought that Bush was trying to make the country"feel safe after what happened," but added:"We need to feel safe about the economy, too."

The Times/CBS News poll found that nearly half the respondents thought that Bush was more interested in protecting corporations than in protecting ordinary Americans.

So the Iraq-around-the-clock (or Iraq-a-palooza) strategy isn't working it appears. After writing that rather pessimistic blog entry earlier this morning, maybe there is some hope after all. Of course, the Democrats still need to provide an actual alternative vision and program -- and they show no signs of doing that so far.


Thomas Friedman had an excellent op-ed in the New York Times yesterday where he bemoaned the disappearing Democrats. For some reason, the Democrats have decided their low profile is the way to win the midterms -- and I think they're wrong. So does Friedman:

Where are the Democrats who are ready to argue forcefully that the future tax cuts that Mr. Bush pushed through are utterly reckless and need to be repealed — because they will erode the resources the government needs to remain a Great Power in this age of uncertainty? And they send a terrible signal to our kids, corporate leaders and the world: that all that matters is short-term, me-first gratification.

Where are the Democrats who would declare that the best way to enhance our security, make us better global citizens, reduce our dependence on Middle East oil and leave a better planet for our kids is a Manhattan Project to develop a renewable energy source, along with greater conservation? Mr. Bush has totally ignored the longing by young Americans to be drafted for such a grand project to strengthen America. And so, too, have the Democrats.

Where are the Democrats who would declare that confronting Saddam is legitimate, but it must not be done without real preparation of the U.S. public? Decapitating Saddam's regime will take weeks. Building Iraq into a more decent state, with a real civil society, will take years. But it is this latter project that is the most important — the one that really gets at the underlying threat from the Middle East, which is its failed states. But do we know how to do such nation re-building, and if we do, do Americans want to pay for it? We need to go in prepared for this task (which is unavoidable if we really intend to disarm Iraq) or stay out and rely instead on more aggressive containment, because halfhearted nation-building always ends badly and would surely weaken us. Why aren't the Democrats clarifying this?

At the moment, the Bush team is leading the nation much more by fear than by hope. The Democrats can only win, or only deserve to win, if they can offer a bold alternative. That would be a program for strengthening America based on hope not fear, substance not spin, a program that addresses the primary concern of Americans now: the future for the kids whose pictures they carry around in their wallets.

I, of course, agree with Friedman. If the Democrats don't counter the White House spin machine with a meaningful message and a concrete agenda, then they deserve to lose the midterms. If Republicans take control of both houses of congress, all of the things on W's wish list will become realities. We'll have much bigger tax cuts and much larger deficits. The economy might grow a little over the next couple of years -- maybe. We'll certainly get war against Iraq -- and perhaps against another couple of countries in the Middle East just for the sheer pleasure of it.

This is an important election. I know that Republicans are trying use the impending Iraq war in a reprehensible way, although I see promising signs in the news this morning that the dog is refusing to be wagged, outside the Beltway at least. However, if the Democrats can't gain seats during these painful economic times with a Republican administration in power that has no economic wisdom to offer us beyond the tired and failed fiscal policy of bigger tax cuts for the folks at the very top financially, then Democrats really should be ashamed of themselves. I know I am already ashamed of their timidity.


I just read this article on blogging that, as far as I'm concerned, really hits the mark. I then read this piece of so-called wisdom by Mark Byron, self-acclaimed right-winger, about why most bloggers are right-wingers. I love it when he says that it's because liberals are overly emotional and conservatives pay attention to"facts and detail." Give me a break.

While I hate to take issue with one of these rather self-righteous right-wing types, I would argue that the opposite is the case. As a liberal who tries to base my opinions on evidence rather than on raw feelings, I believe most conservatives in the blogosphere go much more on emotions and things they"feel" to be right rather than on any sort of evidence. You don't have to look at very many"war blogs" to come to this conclusion. I have always believed conservatives in general seldom worry that much about facts, consistency, evidence, etc. For example, why, in the face of all the evidence over the last twenty years that tax cuts don't help the economy at all and, more recently, that W's current economic plan based on tax cuts is a disaster, do they continue to support this failed fiscal approach to tax policy? Because they feel it to be the right course, that's why. I'm sorry to break it to you guys, but that's an emotional response, not an intellectual one.

In my experience, it is actually conservatives that work much more from emotion than liberals. Don't get me wrong, I can get pretty wound up and passionate about things but I don't make a large portion of my decisions based on emotion. I do actually seek evidence. That's why I'm so skeptical of this Iraq war. I haven't seen enough evidence to convince me yet that this is a necessary course of action. I do think Saddam is an awful dictator and I'd like nothing more than for him to vanish into thin air right now but I see no compelling evidence that this course of action is necessary. W and the boys have yet to convince me that Saddam is any more of a" clear and present danger" than he was before 9/11 when, strangely enough, W and the boys said absolutely nothing about him.

So -- why is it that these self-proclaimed"intellectuals" in the blogging community have already made their minds up that this war is a great idea despite the fact that there hasn't been much, if any, evidence presented by the administration? Well, because they're basing their views on emotions rather than intellect. They feel that this is the right course and the fact there's essentially no evidence to support the administration's claims isn't important to them. In fact, these supposed intellectuals who are so interested in"facts" often ignore major flaws in the administration's case. In fact, they often work extremely hard to ignore them. You notice none of these supposed intellectuals with"war blogs" have said much at all about the Washington Times article last weekend that W is making up his evidence regarding Saddam's nuclear capability? I wonder why that is?

Well I'm done for now. BTW, judging from past experience, I'm sure some of these cool, calm, intellectual types are even now preparing to send me hateful and profanity-filled e-mails concerning what I've written so far -- thus further proving my point.


Our warmongering president is shooting his mouth off again. Here's a snippet from W's speech today:

"We must not ignore reality. We must do everything we can to disarm this man before he hurts one single American," Bush told hundreds of flag-waving supporters, previewing a prime-time television speech next week in which he will explain to Americans and the U.S. Congress why he thinks the United States should be prepared to take military action.

"There's no negotiations; there's nothing to talk about. We don't want you to have weapons of mass destruction. You agreed to that, you said you would agree to that. Now you've got to show the world you don't have them. It's up to you, Mr. Hussein," he added.

He's telling us in all seriousness that war may be"unavoidable." I would argue that, once again, this cartoon view of reality appears to exist only in W's mind. There are plenty of folks in the world and in this country (according to recent polls, only 33% support a unilateral strike) who think differently. However, I'm afraid to say their opinions do not matter much to this administration.


Josh Marshall has another informative post on the New Jersey Senate ballot case:

The normally sensible Senator Bill Frist -- who walked the Republicans' appeal over to the Supreme Court today -- was ridiculous enough to charge that Democrats were trying to"steal an election they could not otherwise win."

(Where these gun-slingers for the rule of law were when Mitt Romney got a pass, and rightly so, on his Massachusetts residency requirement I just don't know.)

Republicans have developed a lot of know-how in the last couple years at stealing elections. But I must confess to a certain confusion about how one steals an election by fielding a candidate. The idea seems to be that for Doug Forrester, Frank Lautenberg is an unfairly strong candidate. And that Forrester is somehow damaged by Lautenberg's electability.

Giving it some thought, and considering the Supreme Court's decisions in Bush v. Gore, it even seems possible that this might be the basis of an equal protection claim for Forrester. Forrester entered the race with the reasonable expectation that he would only face a candidate either equally lame or more lame than him, but not less lame. It's almost an implied contract he has with the state's electorate, right? Putting a new candidate on the ballot now violates this insufferable chump's right to coast into office without facing an actual opponent.

The scary thing is I think that if the Republicans fail with the Supreme Court (and I'm pretty sure they won't), they might actually try that sort of equal protection argument. It's no more ludicrous than the equal protection argument advanced by them regarding the Florida recount in 2000. Marshall goes on to point out that, like me, he expects the Supremes to be consistent in their inconsistency on states' rights and intervene in the case.


Here's an interesting story by David Podvin about Bush's"accomplishments" of the last two years. He's a bit over the top but sometimes it's awfully entertaining to read things that are over the top.

If you want to read Senator Byrd's remarks from yesterday, try here.

I taped the Frontline on the life of counterterrorism expert John O'Neill last night. I plan on watching it over the weekend. This is the guy whose warnings Bush and Ashcroft ignored -- and we all now know at what cost. You should catch this if you can.

Ashcroft has announced that arrests have been made of several U.S. citizens and indicted them on charges of levying war against the U.S. I'm always suspicious of these things now because, as we've seen several times with these Ashcroft pronouncements already, they're often misleading and sometimes the government doesn't have much of a case but, hey, John got some great TV time! That's what I'm about to decide these things are all about anyway.


Bush will be addressing on Monday to help push his war resolution through the congress. I'm sure it will another one of Bush's Herculean struggles with the teleprompter. He always has this terrified"deer in the headlights" look on his face when he tries to read a speech from the teleprompter -- it's just simply not his thing.

Here's a quote from a CNN story about the address:

One U.S. official said the president won't reveal any"explosive" new evidence about the threat posed by what the administration has described as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and won't unveil any new U.S. policy, but will"urge the American people to make sure they are heard" as the country and the U.N. debate what to do about Saddam.

There won't be any new evidence because, of course, there isn't any. In fact, the administration has been caught just recently falsifying the evidence that they have presented.

What I enjoy the most is the administration's claim they will urge the American people to be heard in the"debate." This is utter bunk. If you'll notice from the opinion polls, the majority of Americans are not in favor of a unilateral action, yet that's what we're going to get.

And if anyone insulently speaks up against W's war (as McDermott and Bonior did last week), the administration and its congressional allies will question their patriotism. Therefore, an open debate is clearly not what they are advocating. The president's speech is likely to be composed of the usual collection of unproven allegations against Saddam. In other words, there is no reason to watch the speech because, like most of W's speeches, there won't be anything new in it.


Paul Krugman's column is quite interesting today. I don't like what he has to say. He argues that the economy may remain sluggish until 2004 or beyond. That really doesn't sound good for those of us at public universities. If Krugman's right, there's going to be two more years of painful cuts made by state legislatures to public universities. How long is it until only the affluent will be able to afford to attend state universities?

Nicholas Kristof's column today is quite good as well. After interviewing scores of average Iraqis, he argues that both Saddam and Bush are deluding themselves. The Iraqi people won't miss Saddam but they certainly won't embrace the U.S. invaders either.

Jerry Falwell is embarrassing us again today. I do enjoy it when war bloggers claim that they're"anti-idiotarians" ("idiotarian" is a phrase they apply to folks like Falwell and Pat Robertson) yet over the past few weeks as the debate over Iraq has heated up, I would argue these folks have made arguments that are just as flimsy and said things that are just as intolerant of folks who disagree with them about the necessity of the war in Iraq as the"idiotarians" frequently do.


Linda Greenhouse has a nice analysis of the New Jersey Senate ballot case in the New York Times today. Here's a snippet:
Another difference, of course, is that the New Jersey case does not arrive at the court on a clean slate. Although to much of the public, Bush v. Gore may seem a bad dream now faded in the mists of time, to the justices it remains vivid.

This is where psychology, rather than actual law, enters the equation. The court has essentially complete control over its docket. The new court term, which begins Monday, could well include major issues like campaign finance, affirmative action, and constitutional limits of the war on terrorism. To this volatile mix, does the court want to start the year off by adding Bush v. Gore the Sequel? On the other hand, can anyone who lived through Bush v. Gore the Original be confident of the answer?

Does anyone else think the Republicans are really risking a voter backlash in heavily Democratic New Jersey? If folks in New Jersey think that the Republicans are unfairly trying to curtail their choices on the ballot in November, isn't it possible they would vote for Torricelli (who would presumably still be on the ballot) just out of spite? I'm just thinking out loud here.


Josh Marshall sums up the New Jersey Senate ballot case quite well:

The money quote from the New Jersey Supreme Court ballot case came from Justice Peter G. Verniero, a former Chief Counsel, Chief of Staff and later Supreme Court appointee of former Governor Christie Whitman."Didn't Mr. Forrester call for Mr. Torricelli to withdraw?" he said in response to a protesting Republican attorney during oral arguments."Was he expecting to run unopposed?"

That about sums it up.

The Forrester campaign is now headed to the United States Supreme Court, the normal recourse of Republicans who can't win elections with majorities but aren't inclined to see that as the end of the story.

The hypocrisy on this one is hip-deep because, like in 2000, the Republicans are making yet another bogus legal argument. This time they are using overseas ballots as their excuse to get into federal court. For some reason, Republicans keep changing their view of the proper approach to counting overseas ballots. In 2000, Republicans in Florida put an incredible amount of pressure on county elections boards to count all overseas ballots regardless of whether they met the state's established deadline or not. Some journalists have even argued it was this rather astonishing approach to what would have otherwise been considered late (and therefore illegal) ballots that provided W with the margin necessary to be declared the victor by a few hundred votes in Florida during the recount battle.

Now, in 2002, Republicans are arguing that if ballots are reprinted overseas voters will be unable to return them by the November 5th election day deadline. Therefore, Republicans have switched sides and are now arguing that late overseas ballots will be considered illegal. To be consistent, shouldn't Republicans be arguing that these overseas ballots will be counted, even if they're a few days late? If overseas voters from Florida got a couple of weeks after the election (and even longer it appears in Republican-dominated counties) to get their ballots in, why can't overseas voters in New Jersey get the same courtesy? Why? Because it would help the Democrats, that's why. It's apparent that if the corrected ballot is sent to overseas voters from New Jersey, Lautenberg will probably pick up votes as voters change their votes from voting for Torricelli to voting for Lautenberg. Therefore, Republicans aren't very serious about this part of their argument, they're merely using it as a pretext to get the case to the Supreme Court so their cronies there can fix it for them.

Of course, what always amazes me is how Republicans demonstrate time after time that they don't really believe in states' rights. If a state court ruling goes against them, they quickly file in federal court seeking the federal court to tell the state court how it is supposed to interpret its own state laws. Republicans apparently only believe in states' rights when it suits their purposes. I'm not sure calling this hypocrisy even does it justice.


Gene Lyons has a good column today about the Washington Press corps. Here's a quote:
Two prominent Democrats had the temerity to criticize President Junior's handling of issues involving national security last week. Scarcely pausing to report the content of what Sen. Tom Daschle and former Vice President Al Gore actually SAID, the press went immediately to work assessing their motives. Reduced to a headline, here's the essence of it:"Politicians Seek Attention, Votes, Pundits Say."

Well, no kidding.Think how newspapers might read if they covered everything else with the reflexive cynicism our esteemed Washington press corps devotes to national politics:Vanity, Exhibitionism Dominate Miss America Pageant; Football Coaches Cheat to Win: Education, Character-Building Mostly Hype; Physicians Motivated by Greed, Study Shows;Perry County Shotgun Nuptials Announced.

Think I'm exaggerating? Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle took the Senate floor after the Washington Post reported that Bush had told a New Jersey Republican audience that he wasn't getting exactly the Homeland Security bill he wanted because Senate Democrats are not interested in the security of the American people.

It wasn't one of Bush's malapropisms. As Mark Crispin Miller has pointed out in his invaluable book The Bush Dyslexicon, Junior speaks quite clearly when he's belittling somebody. On TV, he gave every indication of being quite pleased with himself and meaning exactly what he said.

Visibly angry, Daschle, himself an Air Force veteran, demanded an apology."The Democratic-controlled Senate is...not interested in the security of the American people?" he asked."You tell Senator Inoue [D-Hawaii, who lost an arm fighting in Italy during WWII] he is not interested in the security of the American people. You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II they are not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous-outrageous."

As Daschle showed by citing a list of examples, including White House political director Karl Rove's infamous pledge to use the war on terrorism as a campaign issue, Junior and his surrogates had been edging ever closer to the line recently--hinting that any opposition to, or serious deliberation about, any administration plan involving national security indicated lack of patriotism. If he were't so resentful of French speakers, Junior's motto would be Louis XIV's"L'ETAT C'EST MOI." [I am the state.]

In short, Gene hits another homerun today. Now go read the rest of the column!


In an editorial, the Washington Post responded to Ashcroft's frightening speech of earlier this week that I referenced in an earlier post. The editorial makes many good points. Here it is:

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, in a sharp speech to a conference of U.S. attorneys, responded this week to those who have criticized him for showing inadequate respect for civil liberties since Sept. 11, 2001. The attorney general lamented that while"our actions are firmly rooted in the Constitution," they have"nevertheless . . . been met in some quarters with disdain and ridicule." He expressed dismay that secret detentions and"military detentions of unlawful enemy combatants" -- which is to say locking up American citizens without trial or access to lawyers -- might be controversial. And he made clear that criticism will not deter him:"History instructs us that caution and complacency are not defenses of freedom: caution and complacency are a capitulation before freedom's enemies -- the terrorists."

But caution and complacency are not the same, and it is disturbing to hear Mr. Ashcroft equate them. Complacency is a danger. Fighting terrorism has required changes in the organization of our society and may require more; some may be profound, and some may impinge on liberties that Americans have long taken for granted.

But caution in approaching such a diminution of liberty is a virtue. It reflects caution, not complacency, to ask that the Justice Department account honestly to Congress and, as much as possible, to the public about the changes it seeks. It reflects caution to hope that members of Congress deliberate seriously before changing the rules of surveillance and detention. It is not complacency to consider how effective those changes are likely to be relative to their impact on American liberty -- to seek, in other words, a balancing of risks and dangers without having to fear attack from the administration for allegedly endangering security.

Reluctance to swell the fundamental power of government and a desire to augment safety while minimally diminishing freedom -- these are cautious, conservative and sensible approaches. Mr. Ashcroft's disdain for such qualities is troubling. Zeal to fight the forces of evil can be recklessly deployed; it can misfire against the innocent; and it can, in doing so, cause dangerous threats to go undetected.

Mr. Ashcroft's own inspector general recently reported that the FBI still has failed to conduct"a comprehensive written assessment of the risk of the terrorist threat facing the United States." Yet Mr. Ashcroft in his speech confidently asserted that he has already"restructured" that agency, implying that the job of FBI reform is largely done. In that arena, complacency would be a great danger.

I don't have anything to add. This certainly conveys my opinion of Ashcroft's actions since 9/11.


Ellen Goodman writes a thoughtful column today in which she muses about how W has transformed his mission rather strikingly in the last few months. Here's a quote:

But it [the war in Afghanistan last year] was a just war, and the world was with us.

Then the evildoer Osama bin Laden morphed into Saddam Hussein. The enemy evolved from an international band of terrorists who attacked us into a nation that could, wants to, someday, maybe, attack us.

The moral argument also switched from self-defense to preemptive war to preventive war - which is difficult to separate from simple aggression. The universal principle has become a unilateral principle.

In his radio speech last Saturday, the president said flatly, ''We refuse to live in this future of fear.'' Without proof of an imminent threat, fear is now the justification for war. And if this president thinks his mission is eliminating a ''future of fear,'' where does that end?

In the switch from Osama to Saddam, from self-defense to ''prevention,'' ''our war'' is becoming ''his war.'' This is where I become wary of a son with a mission.

Listening, I hear a man who believes that he is finally facing the test passed by his elders: the test of war. And while I detest the pejorative ''chicken hawk,'' I can't help noting how many of the pro-warriors in the administration, those who believe that war is not hell but the solution, never fought in one.

Read the rest of it. As I said, Goodman is on target.

THE FIX IS IN 10-03-02

In a unanimous ruling, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that Frank Lautenberg can be on the ballot for New Jersey's Senate seat. Expect a federal court challenge by Republicans.

Isn't it funny how Republicans are committed to states' rights except, of course, when state courts issue rulings they don't agree with. Then it's time for the Big Brother Federal Government to step in and make the state do the right thing. Just a wee bit hypocritical, eh? And the fix is in with the"felonious five" in the Supreme Court. If they could write the opinion issued in Bush v. Gore, they can certainly do the Republicans' bidding here. Frank Askin, a law professor at Rutgers, however, disagrees with me:

Frank Askin, a constitutional law expert at the Rutgers-Newark School of Law, said he doubts the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case.

"I think this is a frivolous argument," Askin said."We're talking about an election, and that's strictly a matter of state law. I don't think the U.S. Supreme Court has any business getting involved, and I'll be surprised if they do."

Right, right. That's just what you law professors said about the Supreme Court in December of 2000. Surely, even law professors (who clearly should know better by now) don't expect consistency on states' rights from the"felonious five" do they? Get real.


W and his buddies have begun to tear down the wall between church and state. The perfect example is the administration's funding of a Pat Robertson program, Operation Blessing, to the tune of $500,000. Here's a snippet from an article about it in the Washington Post:

The"faith-based" measure has been criticized by both liberals, who warned of a breakdown of the separation between church and state, and conservatives, who were fearful that the integrity of religious groups could be undermined by direct financial ties to the government.

One of the program's severest critics, Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an advocacy group, charged that"Bush is so desperate to win support for his 'faith-based' initiative that he's willing to fund religious extremists." Lynn cited Robertson's comments on the 700 Club that sinful activities led to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Lynn also cited media reports, that"investigators with Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs wanted to prosecute Robertson in 1999 for making deceptive appeals about [Operation Blessing] but were overruled by the attorney general's office."

The founders are spinning in their graves.


Here's a quote from a speech by John Ashcroft today:

''Today, America confronts a war against liberty like no other that we have even seen,'' Ashcroft said. ''It is a chaotic conflict that endangers not just our soldiers abroad but imperils our citizens at home; an enemy that lives among us, turning our freedoms into a means of freedom's destruction.''

What is Ashcroft describing here? The actions of his own Justice Department? Ashcroft's words more aptly describe his actions and those of his DOJ since 9/11 than anything else. Ashcroft, never accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed, may have accidentally hit on some truth in this speech but, ironically, it was entirely unintentional.


You've got to read this from an article on CNN:

The Bush team was also busy making its case in private, because it is only behind closed doors that lawmakers and Bush aides feel it is safe to debate the implications of waging war against a country that has not first attacked the U.S. or its interests. As Rice briefed a group of House members last week, a Democrat challenged her argument for a pre-emptive strike. By that reasoning, he said, we should have invaded the Soviet Union in 1948 to keep them from getting nuclear weapons."In light of 50 years of bondage of Eastern Europe," Rice replied,"that was probably a reasonable thing to do."

I'm guessing that Rice didn't take many military history courses on her PhD? Does she realize what an astonishingly ignorant and ridiculous thing that is to say? World War III would've been preferable to the Cold War? Rice is supposed to be a Soviet expert, right? It certainly doesn't appear so after that statement. An invasion of the Soviet Union in 1948 would've been damn near suicidal. The Soviets' army at that point was probably unrivaled in the world.

This statement by Rice also begs a rather obvious question: do Condi, W, Dick and the boys even understand that people DIE in wars? Do they even care? It doesn't appear so. Foreign policy isn't all about geopolitical gamesmanship -- thousands can live and die from strategic"missteps" like wars. This isn't a game of Risk. She clearly doesn't grasp that at all. Boy, what a crack team Bush has behind his foreign policy, eh?


It appears the Bush war support resolution is being steamrolled through the congress as we speak. Gephardt, who envisions himself as the next Speaker of the House, thinks this war resolution is the way to get it I guess. Screw the U.N. Heck, screw the world! We're gonna give W his war whether it's a good idea or not. Heck, whether we've got any evidence or not! Here's the most interesting part in the whole story:

Shortly before Bush spoke, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., suggested that senators could quickly follow the House line. “I’m a realist,” said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Biden said he and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., still planned to offer an alternative that would put more emphasis on diplomacy and a role for the United Nations, but he conceded he could see little support for such an approach now.

That short quote tells you all you need to know, doesn't it? Diplomatic alternatives that involve the U.N. won't get any support. Isn't that what this was supposed to be about just a couple of weeks ago? In short, the unilateral warmongers appear to have won.

Both Democrats and Republicans see this as a way to win control of congress and don't seem to give a damn whether this war is a good idea or not. The administration clearly is, to use Howard Fineman's words,"wagging the war." I just hope not one American dies in this overtly political war. If one dies, it will be one too many. If someone would just show me some evidence, I might change my tune but I have seen absolutely none so far and the administration has been caught falsifying what little it has presented. Sigh. I'll stop now.


This article in Slate by Dahlia Lithwick is quite good. Hasn't it become extremely obvious to everyone that John Ashcroft lied through his teeth when he testified before the Senate in his confirmation hearings?

Hey, looky here! One of the Enron crooks may actually be indicted! I'll bet he can beat the rap. I'm sure W's buddy"Kenny Boy" won't even be charged.

Because of W's tax cuts and fiscal expertise, government agencies are struggling to just meet payrolls and provide basic services at the moment -- and it's likely this will only get worse before it gets better. Airport screeners and harbor patrols, vital to national security, may have to be cut back because of the budget problems. Thanks George! I hope that top 1% enjoys it! They can all go out now and buy that 4th Lexus they've always wanted! I'm so happy for them!

W is pretty upset that congress doesn't want to give him a blank check regarding the impending war on Iraq. W's now beginning to hack off Republicans like Richard Lugar. These folks in the White House do know what they're doing, right? If a resolution is passed that isn't tied to U.N. resolutions, we'll look really bad to the rest of the world. W and the boys understand that, right? You know the answer to those question don't you?

When David Broder begins to criticize your Iraq policy, you know you've even lost the support of the middle-of-the-road and largely subservient Washington press corps.

The Noelle Bush legal saga continues. It is amazing to hear the get-tough-on-drugs Jeb suddenly have sympathy for drug offenders in his public statements. Jeb, have you got any legal changes to anti-drug statutes you'd like to try out on us now? Why doesn't every drug offender in your state get the same treatment as Noelle does? I'd be quite happy if that were the case. Come on, show us some of that" compassionate conservatism!" I'm game!

WHO IS THIS GUY? 10-02-02

One of the leading chickenhawks, Richard Perle, is calling for the German president, Gerhard Schroeder, to resign, saying this is the best way to heal the split in U.S.-German relations. He also goes on to say that Schroeder's actions will cost it a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council for"a generation." Who is this guy? And when did he presume to speak for the American people? While Perle is careful to say this is his"private opinion," surely he knows as one of the more influential folks in this administration that it really won't appear to be his"private opinion." You know he's had conversations with folks in the White House in which this has been said. I've listened to Perle talk. He didn't come up with this one on his own. The remark about the Security Council is particularly telling.

BTW, you might want to note that Schroeder clearly won a recent election and, disagree with him or not, Schroeder is the duly-elected leader of the German people. No Supreme Court decision was required in Schroeder's case, so you could say Schroeder has a better case in arguing that he speaks for his people. I disagree with Perle on this. I would suggest the best way to heal this split would be by having our president and his administration employ a more rational foreign policy towards Iraq and the world in general rather than the unilateral warmongering that is passing for foreign policy at the moment -- but that, to use Perle's words, is just my private opinion.


I finished the blue books today. I'll be able to blog a bit more for a while. George Mason also had major problems with their webservers today. That stopped me from doing any more updates after my prior post. It could be worse -- Rick Shenkman and the folks at HNN were worried that we'd lose today's work and, since I hadn't made a back-up since yesterday, I was going to be cooked. I know, I know, I should have had a back up that was newer than two days old. I'll remember that from now on.

A couple of interesting items before I sign off for the evening:

It appears that Frank Lautenberg will be replacing Torricelli on the ballot in New Jersey. I don't know the legality of all of this and since 5 of the 7 justices on the state supreme court are Republicans, I'm not sure the Democrats will be successful. Of course, the Republicans always have their"ace in the hole" -- their cronies on the Supreme Court will rule in their favor no matter what the situation. The Gore v. Bush decision certainly showed that. The"felonious five" certainly have no principles at all it appears. They'll do anything they can to please W and the boys. They proved themselves to be, like most conservatives, hypocrites who only stick to their principles when it suits them.

Isn't W's overt rejection of the U.N.'s new inspection regime just a wee bit embarrassing? I understand their concerns but any positive development is, well, positive. It certainly makes us look ridiculous if we plan to"thwart" the inspection process. It makes us look like we don't give a damn what happens, we want war. Now, I know, I understand the point that Saddam is not really offering"unfettered access" and I understand that we should force him to do so but the saber rattling at this point looks awfully bad to other nations. If you wait and see how things develop won't that more than likely bring more nations over to our side? As it is, it looks like W wants war and will stop at nothing to get it. Which, I suspect, is not just how it looks but how it is.

Wasn't this embarrassing as well? Boy, now that's" changing the tone" in Washington, huh? Ari, buddy, this looks terrible to the rest of the world. Why don't you guys get a little perspective, will you?

Arianna Huffington has a nice column about how Bush is off the deep end on Iraq.

James Carroll's op-ed in the Boston Globe about how W's new defense strategy would lead to proliferation of nukes worldwide was quite interesting. I'll give you a snippet:

''We will not hesitate to act alone,'' Bush declares, promising to extend American sway by ''convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities.'' The United States has become a ludicrous self-contradiction: a dictator state dictating democracy. And how does Bush imagine others nations will respond?

It is certainly true that no power will compete with us for world dominance, but in the nuclear age total throw-weight is irrelevant. Other nations will inevitably respond to this unprecedented American swagger exactly by pursuing nuclear capability - if only to force Washington to treat them with respect.

Proliferation squared. With nuclear know-how dispersed and, especially, with Russian nuclear materials and capabilities headed to market, the only possible protection from eventual nuclear disaster is precisely the tissue of international agreement that the United States has just crushed and trashed, like used Kleenex.

Do you think W has even thought about this? Do you think he's capable of such thought?

That's all folks. I'll see you in the morning.


Now we learn that the substance seized in Turkey wasn't even Uranium. I'm sure the warmongers, er, war bloggers are pretty disappointed now.

How about $9B per month? That's how much war against Iraq is going to cost. A three-month war followed by a five-year occupation will cost about $272B. And Bush will make you and I pick up the tab while cutting taxes for the folks above us on the economic ladder.

Here's another story about how we helped to start Saddam's germ warfare program. Boy, doesn't Rumsfeld sound like a liar in his response to Senator Byrd? Considering that Rumsfeld was Saddam's best buddy in the 1980s, his response doesn't ring true at all, does it?

Only 33% of Brits support an invasion of Iraq. It certainly sounds like Blair is going to get turned out if he assists us, doesn't it?

Arthur Schlesinger's article on HNN this week is pretty interesting. He argues that pre-emptive war is inherently immoral. As you can imagine, the comment boards below it are already filled with post after post from the usual right-wing suspects blasting away and, as usual, creating much more heat than light -- but primarily creating a great deal of cacophonous noise instead. Of course, what else is new?

Paul Krugman has another column out this morning in which he worries about the U.S. following the failed economic path of Japan. He argues that it takes powerful political and economic leadership to turn an economy around after a bubble has burst. He worries though that W isn't providing us with that and that we could be heading for a"W-shaped" double-dip recession. Here's the most devastating comment he makes:

Of course, the worst thing of all would be if our leadership decides that economics is not its thing, if it simply tries to distract the public from rising unemployment and plunging stocks by going off and invading someone. But we don't have to worry about that, do we?

On that note, I'll quit for now. I'll post more later.


Ronald Brownstein writes a column bout how W is just a chip off the old block when it comes to the U.S. economy. Here's a snippet:

From 1989 through 1992, when the elder Bush held the presidency, the number of Americans in poverty increased by 6.5 million, according to Census Bureau figures. That was the largest increase in poverty under any president in the last 40 years.

The new census figures showed that the ranks of the poor increased by an additional 1.3 million during George W. Bush's first year in office. So, in five years combined under the Bushes, the number of Americans in poverty has swelled by 7.8 million.

By contrast, during Clinton's eight years, the number of Americans in poverty declined by 7.7 million.

The same trends held on the median income, the best measure of how much money the average family earns. Under the first President Bush, the median income fell by 4.9%, from nearly $40,000 in 1989 to less than $38,000 in 1992. Then, during Clinton's two terms, the median income increased 14.5%, to an all-time high of $43,162. That represented the largest, and most broadly shared, increase in living standards since the 1960s, according to Census figures.

Now the trend is pointing down again. The Census Bureau reported last week that in 2001 the median income fell 2.2%, meaning that President Bush has presided over the first significant decline in income for average families since ... 1991, when his father sat in the big chair.

I wonder how the numbers look for the folks at the top of the economic ladder? You know, the rich folks that W really wanted to help? I suspect they're doing just fine -- not that they are ever really hurting anyway.

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Orson Olson - 10/13/2002

"After what was a disastrous 1990s in the newspapper's history during which the Times embarassed itself daily with its scurrilous evidence-free reporting and blustering opinions on the often-imaginary improprieties of the Clinton administration, the Times is beginning to actually practice journalism once again in the 2000s." SURELY you jest--or else you have no fact checker yourself. The Times' retractions regarding its erroneous reports that Kissinger opposed Bush in August, and then that Krugman was wrong about Thomas White email months after others had acknowledged it--these are just the tip of the iceberg of mistaken (not to mention fantasized), reportage. Methinks you face no real dissent, sir. 'Tis a shame to waste such intellectual wattage in the dark. P.S. "Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball writes his last newspaper column and can't help but include a parting shot at the clueless Bush administration. I'll quote the relevant paragraph (the rest of it isn't as interesting): 'I hate this war that's coming in Iraq. I don't think we'll be proud of it. Oppose this war because it will create a millennium of hatred [Hmmm. !82 dead in Bali as I write--and you say the "Hatred" is yet to come? I'd say it's already here: note to Chris: 911 didn't hit San Fran--it happened on the right side of the map! Take another look there]and the suicidal terrorism that comes with it. You talk about Bush trying to avenge his father. What about the tens of millions of Arab sons who will want to finish a fight we start next spring in Baghdad?'" But Chris's regular guest Howard Fineman has repeatedly shown Chris's opinion of the Bushies to be WRONG. It's Chris that doesn't "get it," while Fineman repeated shows that the Left perrenially underestimates the Bushies, and Bush likes it that way! TALk about not studying your opponenet!--the Left prefers to talk to itself instead of winning!--like you. "The Bush administration is using Osama, the war on terror, and the impending war on Iraq to distract Americans from major domestic problems; domestic problems that would doom a president who didn't have a "war on terrorism" card to play. The worst part of all of this is that it has become so darned obvious. It's very clear that's what is going on." So, do you see any 110 story twin towers in NYC that I don't? Or what are you smoking? "I remember when people accused Clinton of wagging the dog for launching cruise missiles against bin Laden during the impeachment debacle. While I'm not sure that was the case at the time...." Clearly, sir, either you do not read the opposition, or else you do not understand what you read! (As for myself, I have little choice in avoiding establishment, i.e., the opposition's, opinion since I am a news junkie.) You ought to try it--expand your well shrunken horizons. You might find them engaged in problems you simply ignore or deny. But in sampling your blog, I suspect I waste my breath...preaching to the closed mind becomes me not.