Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Thursday, July 31, 2003  

Incidentally, Willie Nelson is all for Kucinich. Need I say more?

"I am endorsing Dennis Kucinich for President because he stands up for heartland Americans who are too often overlooked and unheard. He has done that his whole political career. Big corporations are well-represented in Washington, but Dennis Kucinich is a rare Congressman of conscience and bravery who fights for the unrepresented, much like the late Senator Paul Wellstone. Dennis champions individual privacy, safe food laws and family farmers. A Kucinich Administration will put the interests of America's family farmers, consumers and environment above the greed of industrial agribusiness.

I normally do not get too heavily involved in politics, but this is more about getting involved with America than with politics. I encourage people to learn more about Dennis Kucinich at his website and I will be doing all I can to raise his profile with voters. I plan to do concerts to benefit the campaign."

posted by Jeff | 10:12 PM |

But enough about Poindexter. Let's talk gay marriage--everyone else is. Yesterday the President came out against it, and today it's the Pope. Neither one gave much quarter. The President said he didn't think it was appropriate to judge another man--in God's eyes we're all sinners. Then he judged gays.

The Pope went a little further: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour ... but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity."

Now aside from the fact that the Pope is really in no position to issue much opinion at all on the nature of marriage or dating, there's that whole issue of the pedophilia, about which the Vatican has prevaricated. So the Pope's internal logic doesn't hold up much better than the President's. (You can obviously expect some satire on this in the next few days.)

When you think about it, the whole issue's pretty odd. I get that this is a religious issue, but unlike the interracial dating menace, homosexuality is not spreading. It's more than a little unlikely that a Republican legislator will be confronted with the grim specter of having his hetero son "go gay" once marriage is legal for all. In fact, the only possible downside from a Republican point of view is the chance that a gay couple may actually be a front for Mike getting poor Ahmed his citizenship before Ashcroft throws him in the pokey. But it seems an unlikely issue to have stirred such consternation.

But maybe I just fail to grasp the lurking danger. Anyone care to enlighten me?

posted by Jeff | 10:03 PM |


posted by Jeff | 9:36 PM |

Posting today will be a late afternoon affair, I'm guessing. But lest you feel your visit here was wasted, let me offer you this fine headline: "Justin Timberlake Joins Stones At Toronto Benefit, Gets Pelted With Garbage."

(It's not from the Onion.)

posted by Jeff | 9:08 AM |

Wednesday, July 30, 2003  

All that news from today hangs there, waiting for a good blogging, and yet I am about to delve into the esoteric and passe subject of Dick Cheney's quote off there on the right hand side of the site. Such is my inability to strike while the iron is hot.

But a reader posed an interesting question, one I thought warranted discussion, and so here we go. Alaska Jack wrote:

The front page of your website has a quote from Dick Cheney, saying: "We know (Saddam) has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons,and we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

This is, as far as I know, a completely accurate quote. On the other hand, it is perhaps the perfect example of how one can lie by telling only part of the truth.

Half the blogosphere -- and Dick Cheney's own office -- have pointed out many, many, many, many times that this was an on-air interview, not a written statement, and Cheney simply misspoke. In the context of the whole interview, he clearly mean to say "reconstituted nuclear weapons *program*." Indeed, he repeatedly refers to Hussein's *pursuit* of nuclear weapons, not his *possession* of them. As I say, this has been discussed to death, with one good example here.

So it would make sense to just drop this clearly misleading quote off your website, right? But not so fast, because it still leaves the difficult question of how you could *not have been aware of this issue*, despite the fact that it's been blogged ad nauseum.

I get the impression that you are someone who deals in good faith. I have no doubt that you're not intentionally trying to deceive your readers. But the alternative isn't exactly reassuring either."

First things first: I do aim for good faith. As readers of this blog know, my facts ain't always so hot, but they're faulty due to my softheadedness, not malice. Thanks to Jack are in order.

Having established that, let me say that I view the Cheney quote a little differently. If the Veep had just misspoken and the quote in question ran completely counter to his argument, it would definitely be bad faith to harp on it. I'd go farther: it would be deceptive and dishonest. But that whole speech was a snow job on an unsuspecting public; although the language was carefully constructed to adhere to a legal definition of not-lying, but the purpose of the speech was to give a false impression.

Let's look at what he said. He made arguments that: there was a link between Al-Qaeda and Iraq1; the IAEA was incompetent2; and that Iraq was dangerous, imminent threat3. The discussion was clearly intended to rally a country for war. What he told us and what we found were dramatically different; now we have evidence that the CIA had been trying to get the White House to stop this kind of talk for months.

The issue repeats itself with the "sixteen words." Bush argues that, well it turned out all right in the end, so what does it matter what I said about nukes? Well, it matters because, although we see that the whole argument was a sham, these are the only sixteen words we can demonstrate were false and misleading.

If the White House had made the pitch for war on good faith, then my parsing language would be silly. But they didn't. All bets are off.

1 "I have argued in the past, and would again, if we had been able to pre-empt the attacks of 9/11 would we have done it? And I think absolutely. I think the American people would have supported it. We have to be prepared now to take the kind of bold action that’s being contemplated with respect to Iraq in order to ensure that we don’t get hit with a devastating attack when the terrorists’ organization gets married up with a rogue state that’s willing to provide it with the kinds of deadly capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed and used over the years."

And later: "But the cost is far less than it will be if we get hit, for example, with a weapon that Saddam Hussein might provide to al-Qaeda, the cost to the United States of what happened on 9/11 with billions and billions of dollars and 3,000 lives."

And still later: "I look at President Bush and I see, for example, his setting a whole new standard about how we’re going to deal with terrorist-sponsoring states."

2 "And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past."

3"And we don’t have the option anymore of simply laying back and hoping that events in Iraq will not constitute a threat to the U.S. Clearly, 12 years after the Gulf War, we’re back in a situation where he does constitute a threat."

posted by Jeff | 3:37 PM |

All right, so apparently Bush said some shocking things in his press conference today, but that'll have to wait, because I don't even have time to read the report. I'm still on DARPA, a day late and a dollar short (well, several thousand actually). I'm a blogger, for Pete's sake. What do you want, the New York Times?

So DARPA. A big coup for our man Ron Wyden and a big blow for John Poindexter, who's probably going to get run out of town on a rail. All well and good, except that the proposal wasn't such a bad idea. (Actually, I don't know what the proposal actually was; I just know what I heard in the news. According to those reports, the FutureMAP plan was designed to be used by Middle East experts in the way that futures trading is conducted. They place "bets" on the likelihood of certain events happening--say Sharon getting whacked--and then a predictive model emerges.)

So let's examine what might be truly horrible about the plan. 1) It's impolite. 2) Well, there is no two--other than it being an unseemly program, it's not like the government would be sifting through your library records, reading your email, or plopping you in the pokey for three months on a "material witness" charge. But I suppose it is a bit unseemly. And by God, we're fighting terrorism, so whatever we do, make sure you don't offend anyone.

It may or may not have been a usable idea, but it's based on an economics model that so far I haven't heard anyone say was suspect. (Maybe Max knows.) You get people to predict what's going to happen, and you ensure they're using their best information because they put money on it. (In one story I heard on NPR this morning, someone--probably a DARPA hack--said it wouldn't actually be money-based, except maybe in terms of grant money. Whether that's true or just spin, I dunno.) Apparently the models have some statistical accuracy.

DARPA's a scary agency--don't get me wrong. But here we have George Bush gutting the judiciary and strong-arming Congress; we have the AG running roughshod over existing law and its practice; in Texas, Republicans are trying create a monarchy; John Poindexter's original vision for TIA was some kind of Orwellian interconnectivity of media, stopping, apparently, just short of the cameras in your living room; and we're worried about an economics modeling system because it's slightly impolite?

I think we oughta make every stinkin politician go through boot camp and put them on a one-month tour in Iraq and see how their vision of war, freedom, and the dangers of offending the 700 Club realign.

posted by Jeff | 11:36 AM |

Tuesday, July 29, 2003  

Via TAPPED, we get this link from the Federal Election Commission, which details all donations given to political candidates and PACs. A lot of info, but here are some stats to consider in light of earlier numbers I identified.

Number of individual contributions:

John Kerry: 11312
Howard Dean: 10640
John Edwards: 9642
Joe Lieberman: 7261
Dick Gephardt: 5878
Bob Graham: 2747
Dennis Kucinich: 1287
Carol Mosely Braun: 227
Al Sharpton: 135
George Bush 20,367

Bush has raised over $33 million from 20k donors. The Dems have raised just about twice that--$66.5 mil from 50k donors. The Bush base is out and giving already, and giving a lot of money.

And by the way, that FEC site is BIG fun. Punch in some of your local luminaries and see who they're giving to. Or even some of your national luminaries.

Martin Sheen: $2,000 two two legislative Dems.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: $1000 to a Shriver (Dem!) in Maryland.
Maria Shriver: $3000 to Shrivers and Kennedys.
Clint Eastwood: $1000 to Sam Farr (a Dem)

posted by Jeff | 2:03 PM |

I was always resistent to signing onto the Arianna Huffington bandwagon. Ah the prescience of paranoia:

It's not official yet, but she's off and running. That was the message at Arianna Huffington's home in posh Brentwood, Calif., on Sunday afternoon, where several dozen political activists and advisors gathered to hear the author and Salon columnist make her case for jumping into the race to recall California Gov. Gray Davis.

She's a wacky, wacky woman. And now--since we're running a Minute Man theme--it looks like the Democratic firing squad has formed a circle. Of course everyone hates Gray Davis. But piling on to this debacle will further sully the already-listing Cal Dems. And if Arianna runs, it may well be a pigpile.

Two things. 1) She could have run in the last cycle. True, she didn't have the juice she's got now, but she would have been a legitimate contender against the already-horribly-unpopular Governor, who seemed to be running against the only Californian less-liked than he. 2) Not waiting until the next election has the stink of desperation about it; she's striking while her iron is hot, and knows that this flaky format is a good opportunity for someone to steal an election.

But stealing elections is exactly what Dems should be standing against right now. Huffington has always seemed like an opportunist to me (remember way back in, oh 1999, when she was writing pretty damn conservative commentary?), and this does nothing to dissuade me of my fears.

(On the other hand, being from the smug state north of Cali, I can't help but be drawn to the spectacle. I think Arnie should definitely reconsider now.)

[An additional thought. I didn't mention that Huffington was thinking of running as an Independent, and this is relevant, sorta. She wishes to offer "progressive alternative." It is better that she runs as an independent, but I think doesn't obscure the opportunism of the move, nor the damage it could cause those progressives (particularly those not hiding behind the "independent" label) she claims to represent.]

posted by Jeff | 10:37 AM |

A few things on the Plame affair, which remains almost as esoteric and yet compelling as early discussions of the grassy knoll. Yesterday, Alterman picked up the story, but just obliquely. Meanwhile, a Google News search turns up a mere 22 references to the story, none more recent than last Wednesday. Bloggers, of course, are following it more closely. Technorati show 92 links to the story. But while it seems limited to only a few fringe bloggers, politicians, of all people, seem to still be interested. It seems Charles Schumer is demanding an investigation. (Oh for the days when investigations were conducted by journalists, not internet nuts and politicians.) I have no idea where this story's headed.

But speaking of nuts, Tom Maguire is looking to upgrade himself to junior Bernstein: of all the bloggers who've been following this, the Minute Man is the most consistent and persistent. I've alway sort of looked at Tom as my closest blog brother, which is odd, since we agree on about zip. But his approach is methodical and reasonable (not to mention amusing), and just a touch daffy--see today's installment of the Krugman Kronicals. Thus we travel parallel paths (or mirror images?).

We've also shadowed each other quite closely on the Ecosystem, rising at the same level, and then plateauing off mid-marsupial, where we were stationed for about the past month or so. But when he started covering l'affair du Plame, I had the sense he had the tail of a Lott-like story. Bloggers for the most part don't report news, but they can keep talking about it. And sometimes their talk leads to something. Well, Tom's no longer a lowly marsupial, having evolved up to large mammal.

Bloggers often wonder how to increase their links and readers. Tom's coverage is a great example of how you do it. Those kinds of stories don't happen every day, but there are a million or so political bloggers, and only one of us was following that story. After awhile, a lot of us got interested, and so we started tuning in to the source. Good work, Mr. Maguire. But remember, I knew you when you were just a wee possum...

posted by Jeff | 10:04 AM |

Monday, July 28, 2003  

The DLC is right about one thing: the Democrats need to get their foreign policy ducks in a row if they expect to win the Presidency. They may not win the election on foreign policy, but it's the one issue that could cause them to lose it. And, sad to say, but no matter how good a policy they develop, one year isn't enough time to supplant the neo-conservative strategy of the Bush administration. They can only hope to start turning that massive ship around and win enough votes in process to take the Oval Office.

Even if the Iraq situation degrades and even if a scandal about lying does emerge, there's nothing to suggest that Americans have any doubts about the President's overall approach. He floated pre-emption, and the only howls were from academics and the international community. He argued Iraq invasion, and despite all the lame reasons, all the faulty data, and the mixed results, the impetus for the move squared with Americans' based fears: violent Arabs are scary and we should strike them before they strike us.

So, what does a Democrat offer in lieu of a policy of aggressive hawkishness? This one's tough. When people are scared, they're even less inclined to be swayed by logic that involves complex relationships or long-term goals. People respond to quick, obvious gestures. So what's the answer?

A strong leader inspires confidence more than a strong military. I expect this is going to be a controversial position, but I have a pretty good example to offer: George W. Bush. He's a guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, never worked an honest day in his life, used family connections to avoid fighting in Vietnam, and yet people thought he was the ass-kicker. His opponent, an actual warrior, came off as effete. His father, also a war hero, was labeled a "wimp." And don't even get me started on Ronald Reagan. Look tough, they'll think you're tough.

International cooperation. If the Bush administration has a military achilles heel, this is it. Even people distantly connected with geopolitics intuitively sense that the war on terror is the war of cooperation. If we expect to stop unaffiliated fanatics from attacking us, Americans are going to have to go the cooperation route. But interestingly, Bush showed me something vital on this front: most countries desperately want to follow the US's lead. As long as its plans are not totally half-cocked, the US is in a position to create an enormously powerful international coalition over which it will have full leadership.

Get Americans involved. Americans have systematically been made victims since 9/11. They're scared by vague warnings about terrorist attacks, threats on their personal liberty, and bogeymen from abroad. Furthermore, Bush has done everything he can to conceal relevant facts about the international situation. (How often did we hear that Shia Muslims formed a majority in Iraq and that many of their leaders were in Iranian exile in the lead-up to the war?) When Roosevelt asked Americans to conserve fuel for the war, it had the additional benefit of giving them something to do. Ask them to do some of those things now. And create and promote arenas in which Americans can engage the global community (like a cultural Peace Corps).

Play the military card. Bush is no friend of the enlisted man. He's repeatedly shown that he's willing to risk his own troops to advance an ideological agenda. Worse, he cuts their wages and fails to consider their lives outside the military. And during the Iraq war, we saw how little support Bush had among military leaders, either. If a Democrat wants to get some traction, getting the support of the military is a great place to start.

These are a few top-of-my head thoughts, and I'm sure there are more and better ones. The Democrats absolutely need to have some strategy to counter the neo-conservative vision of foreign policy. If they don't, they've both misunderstood the nature of a liberal democracy as well as handing Bush all the ammo he'll need to shoot them dead in the election.

posted by Jeff | 12:40 PM |

Sunday, July 27, 2003  

The DLC's really starting to irritate me, and now they may actually accomplish what the Republicans haven't been able to--to divide the Dems as they enter the '04 election. The Post directed me to their newest assault.

The cover of their current issue of Blueprint (for failure) has the title "Bring him on!" looming in red over a picture of the President. But cripes, it's a mishmash of grapeshot (aimed at Dean, the Democratic frontrunner as much as the President), and lame pep talks for failed, half-assed policies.

Joe Lieberman is their man, and you can see a nice correlation between their "message" and his platform. For one, they're coming out with guns blazing:

We believe Americans once again face a grave threat to our security, and we will give top priority to mobilizing the nation's resources to meet and defeat our nation's enemies. We believe the most fundamental test of national leadership today is the willingness to stand up and fight for America.

National security is a HUGE issue--don't get me wrong. But there's not a word in that statement that couldn't have been written by Don Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney. Do the Democrats seriously want to run as neo-cons? And is that really the only policy they could come up with? If so, why not vote Bush? (Which will be the first, second, and last question Bush will ask any candidate with this message.)

We believe in expanding opportunity, not bureaucracy. We believe our elected leaders have a responsibility to spend every tax dollar as carefully as their own. Fiscal discipline is fundamental to sustained economic growth as well as responsible government. America cannot prosper if we don't live within our means.

Again, one might reasonably ask--where exactly does the DLC message deviate from the Republican? The document continues on with some nice language about helping everyone, not just the wealthy, but this seems disengenous: all the centrist Dems were in favor of the tax cuts; they didn't punish businesses who cheated shareholders; didn't look after those who were losing jobs. The DLC is funded by big money interests, and despite Clinton's popularity, no Democrat has ever been comfortable with their connection to big business.

But the worst part is the attack on Dean. And not only Dean, but his supporters. (Imagine a finger poking out from the middle of your monitor). You.

But the buzz largely missed what should be an alarming revelation for Democrats: The Internet may be giving angry, protest-oriented activists the rope they need to hang the party. The vaunted new medium for grassroots political organizing may in fact be contributing to the Iowafication of the nominating process, disproportionately magnifying the voices of the activist groups with the loudest, most combative, and populist voices.

They're not just pissed at Dean, they're pissed that the small voter has a voice--a voter they can't win over with pretty TV commercials. And pulling a page from the Bush playbook, they blame their opponents for their own bad behavior:

For instance, the defense forces fired angry emails at the Democratic Leadership Council's website after a political memo last May warning of the dangers of kowtowing to interest groups on the left.

Actually, the DLC is the only group to get nasty in the campaign. Deanies (I'm not one) rightly called them on it, and now the DLC calls the Deanies combative.

Meanwhile, in addition to its standard-fare official website,, the Dean campaign also maintains a weblog called that plays a curious role in keeping activist supporters emotionally invested and engaged in the campaign.

Good lord, noooooo! Supporters emotionally invested and involved in the campaign? That might make politics...relevant.

Oddly enough, the point of the article is that Dean's supporters are actually inconsequential--they're the freak fringe. I tell you, for a bunch of inconsequential freaks, they've sure got the DLC's attention.

In the last election, it was the DLC who complained so bitterly about the divisiveness of the Nader campaign. But it was exactly the short-sighted me-too-ism of the DLC that drove voters away from Gore. Like Mike Doonesbury said, Lieberman is the "safety Republican." People are excited by liberals because they have something to offer voters they can't get with Bush.

In 1985, when the Reagan Democrats were dictating who got elected, it made some sense to swing centrist. But in the age of a lying, war-mongering President, a McCarthy-like Attorney General, and the Supreme Court hanging in the balance, arguing that Democrats need to swing right is both idiocy and suicide.

So DLCers, you excoriated the Naderites in the last election; are you going to become them this time around?

posted by Jeff | 10:27 PM |

Against charges of a liberal media, one could offer this sentence:

And she [Condoleezza Rice] has made statements about U.S. intelligence on Iraq that have been contradicted by facts that later emerged.

That's one convoluted sentence. In an effort to remain "objective," the writers have had to slide into quasi-passive language just to avoid saying the impolite (impolitic?) truth. Something like "And she made false statements, later proven when the facts emerged," would have been a cleaner sentence. But the Post, presumably wishing not to offend the administration and FOG (friends of George, ie, the Post's advertizers), mangled the line to avoid controversy.

It's reasonable to ask what the purpose of "objectivity" in the media is when one has to work hard to write around the facts in a story.

posted by Jeff | 4:06 PM |

Saturday, July 26, 2003  

Edward Hoagland, writing in the August Harper's, has written a passage that captures how I felt when I first started this blog.

"But although dissent is a minority position, and most of us don't want to dispute with a more powerful constituency or to challenge an injustice that hasn't injured us, it is still an exercise, an impulse, that most of us indulge in, at least during our late years, for reasons of self-respect, and maybe in order to square ourselves with God. We all see outrages we gloss over--whether the price of glaucoma medicine to old people or the current mistreatment of Arab Americans.... But it's risky and consuming in a turbulent period like this, with even jail in the offing, and requires a pileup of atrocities to override our caution and numbness."

Actually, when I first started this blog it was the year 2000, and it wasn't a blog, it was a Microsoft Word file on which I documented the particularly egregious abuses of power as they happened, so that I wouldn't forget them. Maybe I was documenting them for myself, to ensure I was witness to enough of the atrocities to override my own caution and numbness. Hoagland (don't confuse him with Jim) captures the sense nicely, not only in this quote, but in the article. As always, I urge non-readers to check Harper's out; I regard it as the most indispensable reading in the dark days of the Bush II administration.

posted by Jeff | 5:07 PM |

Friday, July 25, 2003  

Anyone happening to stop by the site in the next hour and a half, I'd like to alert you to a project I've been working on. Some progressives and other bloggers in Portland have been working on a radio show that debuts in a half hour. It's a Portland signal, but of course, in the age of the internet, you can listen to it here. We may have some of the Kucinich visit to Portland, and we'll be talking about liberal media and having some fun. (I have a voice for blogging, so I helped write some of the material and won't be on the air.)

Go give it a listen if you have a chance.

[Time info: it runs from 9-10 am Pacific time, noon-1 Eastern.]

posted by Jeff | 8:38 AM |

Thursday, July 24, 2003  

Thanks to the eagle eye of the Mad Prophet, I now have to clean up a mess I made. Earlier this week, I was taking a look at the distribution of donations among Democratic fundraisers. The thing I found most surprising was Kerry's totals--45% raised in gifts of $200 or less. Except I was wrong. I inverted the two figures; thus, his base is a mere 13% of those under $200; 45% comes from the largest donors.

Whoops. I guess he's not a man of the people after all. (So nice of Atrios to link that post, and then I had to go and muck it up. Oy.)

So I guess my spidey sense might have been right after all. Kerry did have the stink of money on him. That leaves Dean and Kucinich as the populists. And Kucinich as the only progressive populist. At least the choice is back to being pretty clear.

posted by Jeff | 2:27 PM |

A little analysis on Bill Pryor. (For more on Pryor and the major Bush nominees, check out the dossier.)

He's yet another of the far-right, anti-abortion types that Bush continues to nominate. As I was working my way through The Authoritarian Specter, I was thinking about these kinds of nominees. Author Bob Altemeyer, a social psychologist in Canada, has spent 30 years studying a personality type he calls "right wing authoritarians." These are people who strongly adhere to a strict, hierarchical social order, submit to authority figures within that order, and aggressively attack those they perceive as threatening the order. In short, exactly the kinds of people Bush nominates. (I discussed the book earlier here and here.)

One of his significant findings is that right wing authoritarians (hereafter RWAs) have a strong tendency toward double standards in their thinking (not what you'd call a judicial virtue).

On the other hand, they showed relative leniency toward a millionaire industrialist convicted of defrauding the government. They went easy on a police chief who beat up an accused child molester, but were more punitive if told another prisoner had done the beating. Finally, they showed an even more striking double standard in sentencing an accountant and a "hippie panhandler" who got inot a fight. If the evidence showed the accountant started the fight, they favored leniency. But if the evidence showed the hippie had started the fight, they laid down the law. (AS, p. 23.)

He has a number of studies to support the evidence of RWAs applying double standards to support power structures. When Altemeyer dug around this tendency, he found that RWAs were far less able to think critically about contradictory ideas, or distinguish between poor or reliable evidence (see chapters 4 and 5). [Altemeyer has never found a correlation between IQ and right wing authoritarianism. The inability to identify as faulty evidence that doesn't support your own beliefs--creationism, say--is not an intellectual mistake, it's a cognitive or psychological one.]

In addition, RWAs are far more likely to be nationalistic, ethnocentric, rigidly religious, and opposed to equal treatment of individuals.

Now, what does all this have to do with Bill Pryor? In 1991, Altemeyer surveyed a number of legislators from Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wyoming and included three questions about abortion. The abortion question allowed him to divide the legislators into groups. "Forty-seven of the 145 participants with interpretable stands said they would shaprly cut back on the number of abortions being performed under Roe v. Wade." He then compared the means of those who wanted to roll back Roe against the others. This group had a mean score of 200.7 on the RWA scale, one of the highest means he'd ever seen for any group. In short, those legislators who wanted to roll back Roe were among the most authoritarian (Altemeyer uses the word "prefascist") he'd ever encountered.

Bill Pryor holds the same views as those 47. While there's no way to tell where he'd score on the RWA scale, it's enough to give me pause. We know that RWAs apply double standards and don't think critically about evidence that contradicts their own views. And we know that the desire to overturn Roe is linked to very high RWA scores (that is, people who are very strongly authoritarian, and therefore less likely to think critically and more likely to apply double standards).

Bush's single-item litmus test for judgeships is abortion, and he's found a good one: it seems like a great guide to finding people who will enforce the law in a way that benefits his own beliefs. But for those who do think critically about the law and don't wish to apply double standards (that is to say, those who have an abiding faith in democracy)--it is also a pretty good indicator.

Maybe Pryor's not an authoritarian; maybe he's just a nice Catholic boy after all. But based on the views he's already admitted to, his history, and the troubling allegations he lied about fundraising for the Republican Attorneys General Association, I'd rather not find out the hard way.

posted by Jeff | 9:14 AM |

Wednesday, July 23, 2003  

Liar's Club?

If you were a Republican--particularly a Republican who'd voted to impeach him for lying--how would you take Clinton's defense of the President on Larry King?

"I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying 'we probably shouldn't have said that."

"You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. I mean, you can't make as many calls as you have to make without messing up once in a while."

I think you'd have to call yourself "ambivilent."

posted by Jeff | 8:35 PM |

I really didn't expect this:

The House voted yesterday to block the Federal Communications Commission from imposing rules that would allow the nation's biggest broadcasting companies to buy more television stations, setting up a potential showdown with the White House.

A bipartisan coalition pushed through the measure by attaching it to an appropriations bill to fund the Commerce, State, Justice departments and several agencies, including the FCC. The spending bill was approved by a vote of 400 to 21, despite a veto threat from the Bush administration and objections from the Republican House leadership.

I am shocked by the huge majority of congresspeople who voted for it. Bush can rattle his sword about vetoes, but he won't if he's looking down the barrel of a defeat this size.

Every now and again you just have to scratch your head and say, "Huh. Who'da thunk?"

posted by Jeff | 8:30 PM |


"As my mother would have put it, 'when they were passing out moderation, you were hiding behind the door. I learned a very painful lesson on Friday. As members you deserve better judgment from me and you'll get it."

Rep. Bill Thomas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, choking back tears while sort of apologizing.

This in regard to the "poor judgment" he exercised when he called the cops on Democrats last Friday. (I really hope we aren't witnessing an emerging responsibility-dodging strategy: "and to the American people, let me just say I exercised poor judgment when I repeatedly mentioned that Iraq was a threat, when in fact, it merely represented an easy way for me to boost my approval rating...")

Though it was pretty striking (listen to his voice crack here), not everyone was impressed.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of a few members of her party not to stand in applause after Thomas spoke, told reporters that the record "does not bear" out a portion of the remarks he made. "So while I'm sympathetic to the generosity of spirit that it took for him to make those statements, and I respect the fact that he did that, it didn't mean that I had to stand up and cheer," she said.

That Pelosi wouldn't cut him slack shows how bad things have gotten. Looks like the Democrats have finally decided it's not good enough to suspend Democracy and then try to pretty things up (without accepting responsibility) later. Can't say I blame 'em.

posted by Jeff | 8:17 PM |

I guess it's finally time to delve into this Plame affair. Tom's been following this thing like a lazer, and he's got a very nice timeline up at Just One Minute. (Nice work, Tom--with this you may make large mammal.) I've printed out the relevant materials, and now I'm off to lunch to, ah, digest it.

[1:22 pm]
All right, I've perused the documents and think I've got it sorted out. The issue at hand is two-fold. First is the revelations by Joseph Wilson regarding the Iraq-Niger connection. In February of 2002, he traveled to Africa and discovered the uranium claim was bogus. No more necessary on that thread--you know where it ends up.

The second issue involves possible White House payback to Wilson for continuing to point out the CIA knew as early as a year before the State of the Union about the bogusness (bogiosity?) of the Niger claim. The payback was this: "administration officials" outed his wife, Valerie Plame, who was an undercover CIA agent. They did so in conversations with Robert Novak, which he revealed on July 14.

The big question on the second issue was whether the source of the outing was really the administration or other "government officials" (read: the CIA). This is significant because it's another link back to abuse of power and lying by the White House. (Tom also questions Krugman's interpretation of events, painting him as a low-down slanderer who can't quote an article without misreading half the meaning. If Bush is my windmill, Krugman is his.)

All of this is interesting, and may finally lead to some congressional investigations. It's subtle and obscure and hard to put together, though, so I don't know if it can be sustained as the kind of story that sells newspapers. (Not that it's been used to sell many newspapers yet, either. A Google News search turns up 14 lone mentions.)

posted by Jeff | 12:36 PM |

Somehow the US went from resisting the label “imperialists” to embracing it. After the war, I was preparing a treatise to demonstrate US imperialism, using historical examples, charts and statistics, and my usual winning logic. And then I started hearing administration types (supporters, “officials,” the vast right-wing media network) readily admitting it, even admitting that we probably couldn’t be world-conquerors forever, so we should capitalize on the opportunity now and really shake up the globe.


I mean, it’s a democracy, after all, and our principal interest shouldn’t necessarily be bending the world to our will. Imperialism and democracy seem binary opposites. But I guess there was some love of the old British Raj, which was sorta democratic, at least later on, and so maybe Americans are thinking we could pull our own “we brought trains and democracy to Injah” kind of thing. (Much more likely, and undiscussed, is the opposite: imperialism brings tyranny to America. But hey, what the hell, roll the dice. You might get lucky. You’ll only lose your self-determination and individual liberty on the way, and you might actually gain a few decades of world dominance on the way; seems like a great gamble to me.)

But I digress. Since everyone already agrees we have become imperialists and world-dominators, let me ask this, then: why would you want to be? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

First, the cons. No getting around it: you have to make some sacrifices. You have to spend boatloads of dough on the military. This cuts into money you might otherwise spend on things like health care, education, and food. So, while the US is currently second in per capita income, everything else looks bad: infant mortality, 34th; health care 37th, life expectancy, 33rd; literacy, 54th; debt, 1st. The US also has the highest rate of impoverished kids in the world.

Given the massive military machine it requires to roll through country after country (not to mention the additional support needed to defend the “homeland” against a world now pissed off that we’ve rolled through their countries--that’s globalization for ya!), we’re not likely to start spending on programs to benefit those without education, money, or health care.

Now, the pros. Let’s see, strokes our vanity. Also money, at least in the near term, and at least for the already-wealthy. And … well, that’s pretty much it. Everyone knows it’s a fleeting status, and we’ve already discussed the costs. So vanity is our main impetus.

All things considered, I'm not sure how excited I am by the prospect of 5 decades of empire.

posted by Jeff | 11:00 AM |

Tuesday, July 22, 2003  

So, why isn't John Kerry getting any run? He's liberal, he's smart, he's well-financed, and he seems pretty popular with the folks back in New England. I can't speak for everyone (well, I can, but it's poor form to admit it), but I know what I thought: he stinks of money. By which I mean, of course, that he seems like the usual politician-for-rent who's turned off so many progressives over the past 15 years. It all seemed confirmed last year when the Iraq resolution came around and Kerry wasn't willing to stand up to Bush and call a bad war a bad war.

But of all the candidates not named Kucinich, Kerry's the guy I've wondered most about. He is liberal. Put aside the issue with the war. He's great on the environment and social programs. His health care proposal actually seems fairly solid. He's good on civil rights , workers' rights, and education. So what's wrong?

Well, for me it's a credibility issue. My whole life I've watched politicians pull the bait-and-switch. This is the Gen X condition. We have developed this innate spidey sense that goes off whenever a guy like Kerry comes on the telly. In the hyper-commercialized world we grew up in, we became increasingly distrustful of people peddling idealism and progressivism for obviously self-interested goals.

In The Emerging Democratic Majority, authors Judis and Teixeira discuss how Gore lost the presidency. In polling done at the time of the election, they found "lack of trust" as the main reason people didn't vote for him. But while they attributed that to swing voters in the middle who watched his message swing wildly during the campaign, they failed to identify those of us liberals (and liberal non-voters, who weren't polled) who didn't trust Gore because of what appeared to be self-interested liberalism. We didn't know if he'd sell us down the river like Clinton.

But I just can't figure Kerry. I'd like someone with some more history with him to give me some insight, because the truth is, I'd like it if my spidey sense were wrong. I love Kucinich, and I'm gonna help try to give birth to a revolution. But on the off chance that doesn't work out, I like the idea that the front runner is the second-most liberal candidate in the race. (No, Deanies, your man's not the front runner yet, nor is he liberal. But I think he's all right. My spidey sense isn't acting up with the doc.) And, this news that he's got a broad base of support is heartening to me. I figure these come from his loyal supporters who presumably haven't gotten the old bait-and-switch from him.

Kerry? Maybe so.

posted by Jeff | 3:13 PM |

Sometimes you have to call out your own:

SACRAMENTO — In a meeting they thought was private but was actually broadcast around the Capitol on Monday, 11 Assembly Democrats debated prolonging California's budget crisis to further their political goals.

Members of the Democratic Study Group, a caucus that defines itself as progressive, were unaware that a microphone in Committee Room 127 was on as they discussed slowing progress in an attempt to increase pressure on Republicans to accept tax increases as part of a deal to resolve the state's $38-billion budget gap.

D'oh! This is inexcusable; what more can you say?

posted by Jeff | 11:06 AM |

NPR reported this morning that teen unemployment has risen to 20% (double that for black teens). It's a fairly innocuous finding, but it's one of those little signals that the Bush "recovery" isn't your recovery. The stock markets are up again, and company profits seem to finally be turning around. That's the good news, except that it pretty much only affects the bank accounts of the already-wealthy. The bad news is that there are two economies--those of the rich and those of the poor (or not-rich, as no one likes thinking of themselves as "poor")--and nobody at AOLTimeWarner is bothering to cover the economy of the not-rich.

For those struggling to get by, the teen unemployment figure is a far more telling statistic. Why are teens unemployed? Because adults are having to work at Micky Dee's to support the family (probably at night, after they've gotten off their first job). The stock market may improve, and company profits may be up, but after the brutal three-year slump, do you think companies are about to start taking on debt again? No way. That's why it'll be years before their health results in jobs.

Meanwhile, the Bush deficits will drive interest rates up--and with them mortgage and credit card rates. Rent will climb. Even for those people who still have jobs, effective incomes will drop in the sea of red ink. You'll still hear reports of the stock market's health, but it won't affect the majority of Americans--not for a long time, anyway.

Teen employment is like a canary in the economic coal mine. Hold your breath.

posted by Jeff | 9:19 AM |

Monday, July 21, 2003  

Oh, and just for fun:

George W. Bush: $35,109,600
Percent from donations under $200: 9%
Percent from donations above $2000: 69%

(As if that's a shocker.)

posted by Jeff | 8:38 PM |

The Washington Post reports today on the Democrats' financials. The totals are fairly well known, but what's interesting is a breakdown by donor amount. I'm not totally thrilled with the breakdown, which ranges from "under $200" to "$2000 or more." (I would have liked something along the lines of $50 and below to $50k and above.)

Still, the results are interesting.

First, totals:

John Kerry - $12,876,368
John Edwards - $11,936,277
Howard Dean - $10,240,306
Dick Gephardt - $9,750,802
Joe Lieberman - $8,151,575
Bob Graham - $3,136,326
Dennis Kucinich - $1,718,354
Carol Moseley Braun - $217,109
Al Sharpton - $159,615

Now, of the total, the percentage of gifts that are $200 and under:

Dennis Kucinich - 60%
Howard Dean - 53%
John Kerry - 45%* [13%]
Dick Gephardt - 42%
Carol Moseley Braun - 28%
Joe Lieberman - 9%
Bob Graham - 8%
John Edwards - 7%
Al Sharpton - 0%

Now, of the total, the percentage of gifts that are $2000 and over:

John Edwards - 50%
Joe Lieberman - 41%
Bob Graham - 41%
Carol Moseley Braun - 25%
Dick Gephardt - 13%
John Kerry - 13%* [45%]
Dennis Kucinich - 11%
Howard Dean - 9%

Of course Kucinich and Dean have gotten most of their money from low-rollers--that's to be expected. But how about Kerry? He's the number one fundraiser to this point, and he's still raising almost half his money from individuals giving less than $200. That's a broad base of support. (Compare the numbers to Kucinich's, who has a higher percentage, but who's raised so much less money in general; Kerry's gotten at least 30,000 individual small donations.) *

I've been lukewarm on Kerry for awhile, and I'll post soon on why. But I am impressed by these numbers; although he's not appealing to me, he is appealing to people like me. That could be good news for both small voters who've overlooked Kerry as well as Democrats, who may end up with him as the candidate.

I think it also shows weakness in Lieberman's, Edwards', and Gephardt's campaigns. If Lieberman doesn't get any traction soon, the Clinton high rollers will abandon him, and he obviously has no base. Ditto Edwards, who's been buoyed by trial lawyers. Gephardt shows some weakness, but he's not dead yet. Still, for the "labor candidate," there's more wealth and less sweat evident in his numbers than he'd like.
*[Correction (7/24). In the original post, I inverted Kerry's numbers. In fact, only 13% of his money has come from small donors and 45% from the largest. Thus, my analysis that he's a man of the people--now italicized--is hogwash. Thanks to the Mad Prophet for noticing this.]

posted by Jeff | 8:36 PM |

Report: Dennis Kucinich Visits Portland

Yesterday at 11am, Dennis met with supporters in a downtown office here in Portland. Kucinich's staffers had imagined a small gathering of volunteers (hence the office); they got 300 people. It was so crowded that after a half hour, Dennis had to go to a parking lot outside the building. He climbed up onto a metal pay box and continued to speak; it had a nice, old-school feel about it.

I've never heard Dennis speak. All my knowledge has come through his policy statements and articles/information about him. Based on all that material, I was prepared to support him. He seemed both progressive and reliable. But hearing him speak was quite another thing. He's really charismatic. He also seems even more credible (though that's the nature of charisma, admittedly).

I filmed much of his speech, and hope to have that available at some point in the future. He's the real deal. I'm sold.

I don't know if the man has any chance to win the Presidency. But as I was listening to him, I had a thought: revolutions occasionally happen. They arise when the circumstances for the unlikely ripen. By their very nature, they're unlikely--at the front end of revolutions, what they always look like are a bunch of idealists on doomed ventures. But in order for the circumstances for revolutions to happen, you've got to have people willing to give the unlikely a chance.

Watching Kucinich, I saw the doomed idealists. They're so doomed that Kos--a Democratic blogger, not Fox News--won't even consider his candidacy legitimate enough to comment on it. And yet I look at Kucinich's positions, and I think they're actually closer to what most Americans believe than the other Democratic candidates, and certainly the President's. So really, the big problem is that no one wants to stand with the doomed idealists.

Well friends, revolutions are always longshots. So the question is, do you want one?

posted by Jeff | 12:03 PM |

News this morning that an internal DOJ report found evidence of abuses as a result of the Patriot Act:

A report by internal investigators at the Justice Department has identified dozens of recent cases in which department employees have been accused of serious civil rights and civil liberties violations involving enforcement of the sweeping federal antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act.

The inspector general's report, which was presented to Congress last week and is awaiting public release, is likely to raise new concern among lawmakers about whether the Justice Department can police itself when its employees are accused of violating the rights of Muslim and Arab immigrants and others swept up in terrorism investigations under the 2001 law.

The report said that in the six-month period that ended on June 15, the inspector general's office had received 34 complaints of civil rights and civil liberties violations by department employees that it considered credible, including accusations that Muslim and Arab immigrants in federal detention centers had been beaten.

Who knows what effect this will have. John Ashcroft seems singularly unaffected by the perceptions of others (eg: he was so brittle in message that he lost an election to a dead man). He's an ideologue of the most extreme order, functioning not within the context of administering law, but as a missionary for his political views. He'll ignore this report, and it will require congress to get involved. Will they? Hard to say. If Democrats think it will make them look un-American or soft on terror to criticize the AG, they'll stay away. But if they think they can exploit it, they might actually do something.

I, of course, am not holding my breath.

posted by Jeff | 7:31 AM |

Saturday, July 19, 2003  

Well, here it is, 7:17 pm and I have really big news for Portlanders. Unfortunately, only three people are likely to read this in the next 15 hours, and so it will largely go unnoticed. Also unfortunately, I just got the news. Ah well, here it is:

Dennis Kucinich is comin' to town!

Portland Area Volunteer and Supporter meeting
11am-Noon Sunday July, 20
Oregon Pioneer Building
320 SW Stark, Room 202
Portland, Oregon

Sorry the news wasn't sooner--I'll tell you how it went.

posted by Jeff | 7:29 PM |

This is amazing stuff. In all ways.

The donnybrook began in the morning when the Ways and Means Committee met to consider legislation changing rules governing pensions and retirement savings plans. The bill, sponsored by Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., is a complex bill dealing with rules for pension funding and 401(k) savings plans.

Democrats were angered because they said the chairman's final version of the 91-page bill did not get delivered to their staffs until nearly midnight Thursday. They said they needed an opportunity to study the complex legislation before voting Friday morning.

When Thomas refused to delay the vote, Democrats forced a lengthy, line-by-line reading of the bill. Leaving Stark behind to block Republicans from obtaining unanimous consent to proceed, the Democrats left to discuss strategy in an library adjacent to the committee chamber.

It was then, they said, that Capitol police officers appeared, saying they were responding to a report of a disturbance. Staffers for the Democrats said the report had been filed by Thomas's office.

Outraged Democrats, believing that Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., had threatened to have them arrested, at one point turned for guidance to committee member John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who was arrested many times in the civil rights protests of the early 1960s.

"In another period, people would use the threat of arrest, accuse people of being disorderly, and that's what Chairman Thomas did," Lewis told his colleagues. "You haven't violated any laws, any rules. Just hold your heads high and keep the faith."

In the end, police left without making arrests.

| Source |

Lest you think the Democrats were sole victims, note this wrinkle in the day's activities:

A transcript of the committee meeting quoted Stark as belittling Thomas's intellect. Although the transcript does not show it, McInnis interjected, ''Shut up.'' The transcript then shows Stark saying: ''You think you are big enough to make me, you little wimp? Come on. Come over here and make me. I dare you, you little fruitcake.''

Stark said in an interview later that he regretted calling McInnis a ''fruitcake.'' But he also said the transcript missed his telling Thomas, ''You're behaving like a fascist.''

(Though it should be noted that Stark's a 71-year-old.)


posted by Jeff | 3:29 PM |

Regarding my previous post about the Bush domestic agenda, I just received an email that reminded me to be clear on my terms. My fifth point was "to enforce a Christian moral agenda." The writer pointed out that this is a fundamentalist Christian morality. I had completely neglected to qualify that. So often fundamentalist Christians are lumped with all other Christians. Leaving aside issues of theology, I think a major distinction between these groups exists politically, and I don't believe for a moment that non-fundamentalists wish to enforce their religious views as law.

A bad oversight, and my apologies to all--

posted by Jeff | 1:11 PM |

Friday, July 18, 2003  

Over on the Oregon blog, I was posting a response to a reader who said I was all wet in my definition of "neo-conservative." But that's not why I'm writing. While I was wandering way off point (the only virtue of which is that Holden Caulfield defends the practice), I happened to say something I think might actually be true. I thought I'd roll it out here and see what you big brained folk think.

I made the bold claim that every piece of legislation the President has proposed or avidly supported is motivated by one (or more) of five goals. These can, I spose, be stand-ins for neo-conservative national policy, but that's a different debate altogether (feel free to pursue it). They are:

1.) To strengthen corporate power relative to government oversight (or the reverse; weakening government to benefit corporations;

2.) To reallocate federal funds so that they go to the wealthy;

3) To strengthen the position of the executive branch relative to the judicial and legislative within the federal government;

4) To reduce individuals' rights as citizens;

5) To enforce a Christian moral agenda.*

(I wrote a parenthetical following this bold pronouncement, which I'll include here, because it still applies:

I'm tempted to say that it's limited to the first three; when I first wrote this, that's how I had structured it. Reducing individual rights and enforcing a Christian agenda may merely be fringe benefits to policies whose principal intent is one of the top three. But I'm waffling on that one.)

So there you have it, more analysis about the President. Enough of that movie business. All is right in the universe again: Emma has gone back to her earnest, President-watching ways.

[*Correction: as an astute reader noted, this shouldn't read "Christian moral agenda," but fundamentalist agenda.]

posted by Jeff | 8:14 PM |

And in fact, I am aware that I've been a bit single minded lately. Possibly this is the characteristic that has earned me my rep as "earnest" and "humorless." (Or maybe if I just dropped an F-bomb or two...)

So switching gears, rather violently, here's a couplathree movie reviews.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Something to do with the Black Pearl
I'll admit it: I like me the pirates. Sure, you've got your raping and pillaging, which is more of a Republican thing, but you've also got your devil-may-care flouting of authority, which is kind of Green. So it was with some enthusiasm that I attended a screening this past week.

If you put aside all your expectations--and I mean all--you'll have a good time. You'll have an even better time if you leave just after the last swordfight in the cave (don't worry, you'll know it when you see it), and avoid the following two Disney add-on endings, which have the effect of crushing the life out of you.

Before then, it's mostly a rollicking adventure in which the good pirates (call 'em the Greens) are trying to rescue various people from the bad pirates (call 'em the Neocons) whilst the British stand in is as chumps (Republicans or Dems as you like--they're kinda establishmentarian-but-not-so-bad types). Johnny Depp plays an off-kilter pirate who does a credible job of making you think he's alternately Atilla-the-Pirate and Robin Hood. And the shots of boats and sea are eye candy of the first order. A nice break from the exploding metal and asphalt of the usual summer blockbuster.

Terminator 3: the not quite yet Rise of the Machines
Speaking of exploding metal... I don't know what to say about T3. I love the franchise, even love Arnie as the Terminator (playing a robot is his speed), but I didn't love this movie. It was essentially an unnecessary set-up to T4, kind of an homage to the series without actually being a part of the series. Let's hope they get Cameron for the next one, cause this Mostow kid ain't cuttin it.

The only reason T3 was made was to revive the plot, which essentially ended after T2, when it appeared the world was saved. No world is ever safe while there are still profits to be made, however, and so we get this thing. I'll save you the trouble of seeing the movie by telling you what happens: no, the world isn't actually safe, and judgment day actually comes, despite what you were told in the last movie. There. Now wait for T4.

Charlie's Angels: Fully Throttling the Audience with Very Large Effects
In our final colon-ated movie (summer movies have come to this--they're all derivative of something, so they all have qualifiers in the titles; not a good sign), we have Charlie's Angels, about which I had only the lowest expectations. Sadly, it met them.

If you liked the first film (a funny lark), you will find all of the pieces in this one, but unfortunately, they're patched together to create an overstimulating Frankenstein's monster. It's action effect after action effect, salted liberally with comedy and incessent pop culture references. The problem is that they're all packed so tightly together in service of such a slim plot, that you feel both overwhelmed and yet strangely unfullfilled (like gorging on chocolate).

Here in Portland we have a thing called the Mission Theater--a brewpub that shows movies. I'm wondering if it might not be more tolerable there. Perhaps even more so if you got a running start with the beer.

All right, now back to our regularly-scheduled earnest commentary about the President.

posted by Jeff | 10:48 AM |

Yesterday a reporter asked the President, "Mr. President, others in your administration have said your words on Iraq and Africa did not belong in your State of the Union address. Will you take personal responsibility for those words?"

It was a pretty good question. Bush is all about personal responsibility (that's the heart of his "compassionate conservatism"--he's compassionate to the poor if they take the responsibility to go out and get stinking rich). In fact, you could make the argument that, given Bush's small experience and considerable lack of knowledge, people voted for Bush mainly because they thought he was a straight-shooter, buck-stops-here kinda guy. (Last August he lectured to Wisconsinites: "We're ushering in a period of personal responsibility. People are responsible for the decisions they make in life...") So what do you think his response was?

First, I take responsibility for putting our troops into action. And I made that decision because Saddam Hussein was a threat to our security and a threat to the security of other nations.

I take responsibility for making the decision, the tough decision, to put together a coalition to remove Saddam Hussein. Because the intelligence -- not only our intelligence, but the intelligence of this great country -- made a clear and compelling case that Saddam Hussein was a threat to security and peace.

I say that because he possessed chemical weapons and biological weapons. I strongly believe he was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. And I will remind the skeptics that in 1991, it became clear that Saddam Hussein was much closer to developing a nuclear weapon than anybody ever imagined. He was a threat. I take responsibility for dealing with that threat.

We are in a war against terror. And we will continue to fight that war against terror. We're after al Qaeda, as the Prime Minister accurately noted, and we're dismantling al Qaeda. The removal of Saddam Hussein is an integral part of winning the war against terror. A free Iraq will make it much less likely that we'll find violence in that immediate neighborhood. A free Iraq will make it more likely we'll get a Middle Eastern peace. A free Iraq will have incredible influence on the states that could potentially unleash terrorist activities on us. And, yeah, I take responsibility for making the decisions I made.

It's a remarkable response, steeped in the kind of misdirection, parsing, obfuscation, and (what appears to be outright) lying that has marked this President's administration. I highlighted a few of the statements I found particularly troublesome.

"I take responsibility for putting our troops into action." No kidding? I'm glad you cleared that up. But that's an answer to a question no one asked nor cares about, which is a classic Bush tactic. During the ramp up to the war, reporters would say, "Gee, looks to me like this is a country decimated by over a decade of international scrutiny, and after weeks of searching, Hans Blix has found not a single molecule of WMD. Why is Saddam Hussein, of all people, a threat?" And then Bush would talk about the oppressed Kurds.

"...a coalition to remove Saddam Hussein." Coalition? George, we were there when you failed so abjectly to put together a coalition that you couldn't even go back to the UN. Millions of people protested around the globe. It was six months ago.

Then the President made a series of remarkable claims, so far completely unsupported by the evidence:

"...because he possessed chemical weapons and biological weapons"

"...he was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program"

"The removal of Saddam Hussein is an integral part of winning the war against terror."

"A free Iraq will make it much less likely that we'll find violence in that immediate neighborhood."

"A free Iraq will have incredible influence on the states that could potentially unleash terrorist activities on us."

All of these are dubious at best, particularly the bold (the President is always bold, even when making bizarre and obviously false statements) comment about how the invasion will reduce violence in Iraq.

I wrote a couple days ago about how I felt the press has dropped the ball on holding the President accountable. Well, here's another example of a truckload of BS, delivered when someone asked him about the last load he delivered. I await eagerly the media's response to his responses.

posted by Jeff | 9:30 AM |

Thursday, July 17, 2003  

The Kucinich Community

Amid all this lying talk, I'd forgotten a bit about the task at hand. In service of that, I'm going to add a second blogroll linking Kucinich supporters. Although Dennis is definitely making some progress, he needs to overcome the Dean Team, and this means winning the internet. Here are the folks who are helping the cause. Let me know and I'll (delightedly) add yours.

Kucinich-only sites
Greens for Kucinich
Iowans for Kucinich
Kids for Kucinich
Kucinich for President (alternate blog)
Kucinich Meetup
Minnesota for Kucinich
Muslims for Kucinich (by our friend, Al-Muhajabah)
My Country is of We - Massachusetts for Kucinich
New Hampshire for Kucinich
Oklahoma Grassroots for Kucinich

Bloggers who support Kucinich
Alternate PatriotChillmost
Citizens Not Spectators
Franklyn Monk
Frog n Blog
Gaijin Daimyo Kurisu's Journal
David Grenier
Left is Right
Mad Prophet
One Good Move
John Pierce
Quintucket Blog
Red Onion
Rhino's Blog
Rocket Tony
Root Cellar
Times They Are a'Changin'

posted by Jeff | 2:28 PM |

John Ashcroft will be in Portland tomorrow.

[US Attorney General John] Ashcroft also plans to meet with the Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force and hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, Duckett said.

That's the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse at 1000 SW Third Avenue in downtown Portland. He's speaking at 11:30; probably wise to start gathering at 11.

Let's make it a peaceful, powerful statement of our patriotic support of civil liberties and the Constitution of the United States in the face of the Department of Justice's misguided agenda!

Police think that this late announcement means it won't be possible to rally a large-scale protest:

A Portland Police Bureau spokesman said officials learned about the visit Tuesday, so he was not certain whether activists would have time to plan a large protest.

"This is a very short notice event," said Sgt. Brian Schmautz. "To my knowledge, the public is just now learning of it. We are monitoring the situation, and we will be working with the federal government to provide the appropriate security and crowd control."

Wanna see what kind of crowd we can get? Bloggers, get your engines started! Let's see how fast and far we can the word out. We absolutely MUST have a strong presence there tomorrow. Mebbe I'll even print out the Ashcroft Dossier for distribution (anonymously, of course).

posted by Jeff | 10:58 AM |

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the US recession ended almost two years ago. Good news for the Prez amid a storm of bad, right? Not the way I see it.

Unemployment's at a nine-year high.

Deficits are at skyrocketing, hitting an all-time high in actual dollars, and slated to rise next year--even without considering the cost of occupation.

Despite Fed Chairman Greenspan's effort to keep the economy going, ultra-low interest rates have yielded only a 1.4% growth--causing some economists to fear deflation.

Due to deficits, the President has had to drain some of the social security surpluses, just as boomers are ready to start drawing on it (without dipping into social security, this year's deficit would be $614 billion).

The upshot? Despite the President's revisionist history about whose recession it was ("Two-and-a-half years ago, we inherited an economy in recession," he lied in June), the "recovery" is all George's. Which means the unemployment, the deficits, the sluggish growth, and raiding Social Security to pay for Iraq and tax cuts--all George's. Bush will never take responsiblity for this situation--rather, he'll deny it even exists at all, instead call it a booming economy and take credit for that. But this is one of those "reality fissures" when it will be hard to listen to White House spin (wait a few days, it'll come), then look at what's actually happening, and reconcile the two.

posted by Jeff | 10:11 AM |

Wednesday, July 16, 2003  

Even as this story about WMD explodes, a lot of us blogger types are wondering: where the hell were you in January? This story wasn't hiding; it didn't require excavation by an insider with a Deep Throat-like insider. We knew last October that this yellow cake business was bogus, and yet thousands of news agencies failed to criticize the White House when it repeated the claims over the next few months. And we knew in January--before the State of the Union--that the story about the aluminum rods was a scam. In fact, we've known that a whole hell of a lot of what the Administration tells us is either a direct lie or a statement clearly intended to deceive.

Yesterday, David Broder wrote about "Black Thursday"--the day the network news really came down hard on the President. And today (as I linked earlier) Kurtz detailed the media hubbub.

But again, I'm wondering, where the hell were you all six months ago, when the question about invading was just as weak, but you were lined up to support it? Isn't the nature of journalism supposed to be at least a little critical? To look into the claims by the President of the United States and weigh them against the evidence?

I'm afraid this is one of the starkest examples yet of "objectivity" drift. For three years, the papers seem to have had it in their heads that "balance" meant reporting what the President said and then possibly adding that Daschle didn't agree (on the rare occasions when he had spine enough to disagree). But objectivity isn't reporting what two sides of a partisan issue believe; it's looking at the issue itself against recognized norms of evidence (which excludes Ann Coulter bleating that liberals are criminals).

The President may well have called his pollution-promotion program "Clean Skies;" he may have kept a straight face when he said his federal revenue transfer to the wealthy was a "jobs package." But if the press wants to retain a shred of credibility, it needs to turn not to Tom Daschle (who for a lot of reasons isn't the arbiter of objective evidence), but to scientists and economists. Or hell, even a man on the street who isn't barking mad. Just about any of them could credibly have made a better case than the media.

Which gets to the question: what's the media's responsibility? If it's merely to report what the President and Speaker of the House say, well, let's go with C-Span and leave it at that. But if it's something more--if it's to take the policy positions of our leaders and weighand interpret them--then they're responsible for gross incompetence.

All the evidence for this scandal was there six months ago. If it's a scandal now, why wasn't it then? And if it's responsible to report it now--after we've killed a bunch of civilians and soldiers, and committed ourselves to a $50-billion-a-year quagmire--why wasn't it responsible to report it then? Folks in the media need to take a look at the ring in their nose and who has ahold of it and whether they like it. Let's all pray this is a wake up call for them to do just that. (If they could muster half the effort they exerted to investigate the crotches of Bill Clinton and Gary Condit to investigate whether the President's a liar, I'll consider it a major step forward.)

[Related to all of this is the conglomeration of media, the fairly recent corporate expectation that news divisions are there not to serve the public good but turn a profit, and the gutting of the public good by the FCC. On this front at least we have some good news today.]

posted by Jeff | 3:43 PM |

Having a busy morning; I'll blog this afternoon. In the meantime, some good stuff on the implosion of the White House:

Deficits are mushrooming like the accusations of Presidential lying. Up to half a trillion, and that doesn't include the cost of occupation.

Damn those scientists: missile defense won't work. (Prediction: Bush will call it "darn bad science.")

Walter Pincus continues to hammer the President on WMD, and is expanding his inquiry to show a coordinated effort by the administration to deceive. (Anyway that's one reading of his story.)

Conason's incredulous about the line, ""We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." (Though it may actually give the President cover. If he was unaware that inspectors went to Iraq before the war, it's pretty reasonable to assume he might not have known Niger's document was a fake. Of course, it would offer the Democrats some different ammunition.)

Finally, Bush is no longer in control of the news cycles. No--really?

(As an addendum to that last note, this: "Bush" and "impeachment" on Google News: 655 citations.)

posted by Jeff | 10:30 AM |

Tuesday, July 15, 2003  

Via The Watch , this:

Westminster is to hold a world-first tonight, when around 120 bloggers descend on parliament for a discussion on how politicians can best use the "blogosphere" to further policy and public interaction....

Mr Watson, the blogging Labour MP, sees the advent of the blog as a better way of engaging young people in politics, pointing out that while 500 of the great and the good may have turned out for Peter Mandelson's Progressive Governance conference at the weekend, the 120 bloggers who have turned up at little more than a week's notice for tonight's event will probably be younger and less party-political.

| more here |

Meanwhile, US Vice President Dick Cheney continues to huddle in an undisclosed bunker, tapping out weekly information on a telegraph.

(Incidentally, Natasha refered to me as an amateur doomsayer in the same post, which is about the closest anyone's gotten to capturing the essential nature of this blog.)

posted by Jeff | 10:00 AM |

Somehow I missed this. The Oregon Death with Dignity folk have a website called Back off John, containing some nice information about the AG's misdeeds.

It also has a petition I'd encourage you to sign that relates to the Death with Dignity law. It's fairly straightforward stuff--"Even though Oregon voters have TWICE voiced support for their Death with Dignity law, AND a U.S. District Court Judge has told you that you don't have the authority, you’re continuing your crusade." (You can also write your own letter.) So far they've gotten only about 6,500 signatures, which isn't nearly enough to count as pressure. No doubt when all of you reading this sign up, we'll have critical mass (or at least if you convince a 100,000 of your closest friends to also sign).

On behalf of the voters of Oregon, I appreciate it.

posted by Jeff | 9:15 AM |

Monday, July 14, 2003  

To step back a second from measuring Pinocchio Bush’s nose, I’ve been meaning to go back to an argument I made in September about why the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea. I’m just a random citizen, someone without even so much as a history or poly sci degree. Still, the whole affair seemed a doomed venture. Now that Bush is busy defending his lies by pointing to the "success" of the invasion, we can go back to the scorecard (one scorecard, anyway; mine).

Strategic Refutation
I wrote: "On the points Bush has provided, we can grant every single one without drawing the same conclusion that invasion is the best way to address them. Rather, one should assert that unilateral invasion would result in catastrophe." I then broke down the strategic argument into the Administration's assumptions, as follows:

Hussein can be killed
Here I was a bit overeager, perhaps. I wrote: "If he sneaks out the back door like bin Laden, many will regard the whole operation as a failure." Hussein got away, but it didn't matter. Although Baathists continue to kill Americans, there's little reason to believe Hussein's capture is significant in terms of American national safety.

Invading Iraq will stabilize the Middle East
I wrote: "In fact, there is almost no scenario one can imagine in which an invasion of Iraq does anything but further destabilize the region." Immediately after the war, the US threatened Syria, but has since backed away from the swagger. The Middle East was happy to see Saddam gone, but seems critical of Bush's handling of post-war Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran's building long-range missiles. Probably too early to tell yet, but I'm feeling like this was pretty good analysis.

Iraq, which Bush declares is in possession of WMD, will not use them during a US invasion
Brings up an interesting point, doesn't it? What if the Bushies suspected Saddam had some old, unusable WMD, but none that would seriously threaten troops? Invading would pose only conventional threat to soldiers, but the discovery of outdated WMD would justify the attack.

World opinion is irrelevant
I wrote: "While world opinion would not translate into any kind of overt action, it is clear that continued US “interventions” are dependent on soft support, at a minimum." Just today, New Delhi announced it would not help the US without UN intervention. Populations in other countries are incensed at the US. In his tour of Africa, Bush, who was there to hand out goodies, was greeted with suspicion. Thanks to Bush, we're the most feared nation on earth.

Legal Refutation
I wrote: "George W. Bush has very clearly made the argument that the US should move away from international cooperation and adopt a strategy of pre-emption and unilateralism. In order to do this, the Bush Administration has tried to create some kind of legal claim for its unilateralist agenda. It started by retrofitting its policy with a couple of minimum criteria. The context of 9/11 gave them the first: terrorism. What actions qualify as 'terrorism' are not defined; it seems that a simple US designation is adequate. Second, there must be the threat of harm--and this one is easy to meet because not just to the US or its citizens qualifies as a threat, but even 'our interests.' This is a wholly bogus extension of the premise of 'imminent attack,' which according to international law is a justification for pre-emptive strike."

I believe history will regard this as the most important consequence of invading Iraq, though it is the least important in America three months after the war. The argument of pre-emption was really always a game of wink-wink crapshoot. You assert terrorism and danger, and when you invade, you find enough to retro-warrant your fears. But on their very first outing, the Bushies have brilliantly demonstrated the flaw of this strategy. Iraq appears not to have been associated with terror and not to have been a threat. We're left with the specter of the country most associated with human rights and democracy engaging in what can only be described as a war crime. This won't hurt Bush, but it could severly damage America's standing in the world.

Moral Refutation
I wrote: "The very premise of invading Iraq is the threat it poses to innocents. History has shown that Americans aren’t in the business of ensuring the liberty of foreign citizens until the safety of its own are at risk. No, Bush wishes to attack Iraq to protect American lives. In prioritizing invasion above non-militaristic approaches, he’s made a clear distinction: American lives are more important than Iraqi lives. Most US citizens would agree with him, but the rub is that Americans aren’t at risk. For the Iraqis it’s damned by the hand of Hussein or damned by the hand of Bush--does anyone think they find Bush’s platitudes just compensation for their lives?"

It's very hard to evaluate the morality of war. But here's how I'd demonstrate the duplicity of American policy. Although Bush now characterizes the Iraq invasion as a success because of its humanitarian benefit, he ignores Liberia, Congo, Burma, and any number of other human rights catastrophes--catastrophes that dwarf the difficulty of Iraqis. There was never anything moral about this war, and the result reflects the confusion of the original intention to invade.

I wrote: "Sixty percent of Iraq is comprised of Shi’ites who have never held power in the country. Kurds comprise another 19%, and have, of course, never held power. The ruling Baath Party represents a Sunni minority of just 17% of the population. Hussein’s regime gained and maintains control through intense violence, which has left the country seething. If the warlords of Afghanistan are proving more difficult to manage than the American military predicted, how will the US or even the UN manage a post-Hussein Iraq? It is guaranteed to be a mess."

That sound you heard was a hammer hitting the nail on the head.

As this whole fiasco about Bush lying plays out, people are missing the very biggest picture regarding the invasion of Iraq: it was misguided from the start. It was based on extremely tenuous legality, confused foreign policy, and a gross misunderstanding of geopolitics and the Middle East. Bush will continue to try to narrow the focus of judgment (whether the British intelligence was good, for example). Instead, the press, other politicians, and citizens should use it as an opportunity to broaden the inquiry into the Bush White House. Bush has failed to serve the interests of American citizens, and lying is just part of it. He should be held accountable.

posted by Jeff | 3:48 PM |
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