In One Eye

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
 
Another country heard from:
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean gave a preview of his health care proposal in a speech to labor union leaders Wednesday, saying the American people have made clear the issue should be center stage ...

Dean's proposal calls for state governments to make more aggressive efforts to provide health care, including making everyone under the age of 25 eligible for Medicaid and giving prescription drug benefits to those over the age of 65.

He said the government should help small businesses buy health insurance for their employees between 25 and 65. The plan would place the burden of acute care for senior citizens on the federal government, making it easier for state governments to provide the rest.

His plan would also raise reimbursement rates to doctors and hospitals.
CalPundit can talk all he wants about homosexuality being a major issue in 2004, but economy-related issues like this one will, to use Dean's phrase, take center stage, I predict. It'll be interesting to see how the pro-big health provider, anti-trial lawyer Bushies approach this one, although latter day Harry and Louise ads might seem inevitable.


 
Here's a pretty rough summary of the current state of affairs in Iraq.


 
Tepid testimony.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Wednesday he remained hopeful the end of the Iraq war will result in stronger economic growth ... but also said that in light of rising federal budget deficits, he continued to believe that any further tax cuts need to be offset either with cuts in government spending or tax increases in other areas to keep the deficit from soaring.
Indices are flat right now.




 
The recording industry has tapped into two Internet file-swapping services and is flashing messages to music traders warning them they're breaking the law.

"COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT WARNING," the message reads. "When you break the law, you risk legal penalties. There is a simple way to avoid that risk: DON'T STEAL MUSIC."

At the same time, the industry is collecting the user names of people suspected of illegally offering copyright material with the file-sharing services Kazaa and Grokster, but it doesn't intend to pursue legal action, said Recording Industry Association of America President Cary Sherman.

Sherman, who announced the effort Tuesday, called it "educational."
Consider me educated.


 
Senate Democrats said yesterday they will block the judicial nomination of Priscilla R. Owen, marking the second time this year they have employed filibuster tactics to thwart President Bush's efforts to name conservatives to the federal bench. Democrats said Owen improperly inserted personal views into decisions while serving on the Texas Supreme Court.
The problem isn't so much that she "inserted personal views into decisions while serving on the Texas Supreme Court," but that she supported those who had assisted her in becoming a judge in the first place.

According to the Texans for Public Justice,
Texas is the largest of nine states in which voters still select Supreme Court justices through expensive, partisan elections. This controversial practice has undermined public confidence in the court’s rulings. More than half of the money that Texas justices raise comes from lawyers or litigants who have brought legal matters before the court. All of the Texas Supreme Court Justices are mired in these donor conflicts.

Justice Owen raised a total of $1,376,000 for her 1994 and 2000 Supreme Court campaigns. With the help of consultant Karl Rove, Owen raised more than $1 million of this money for a competitive 1994 race against a Democratic opponent. There is a disturbing correlation between Owen’s donors and the lawyers and litigants who have had legal matters in her court. The 2001 Texans for Public Justice report Pay to Play identified the employer and occupation of donors who gave a total of $926,516 to Owen’s 1994 campaign. Lawyers and litigants who were parties to petitions in Owen’s court between 1994 and 1998 provided 43 percent of this money that she raised. Lawyers and litigants who were parties to 60 percent of the 758 opinions that the court issued between January 1995 and October 2000 gave Owen $510,503 (37 percent of all her Texas Supreme Court money).
This is the way things are done in Texas. It's too typical of the Bushies to want it to be the way things are adjudicated on a federal level.




 
Another day, another ...
US troops today opened fire on Iraqi civilians for the second time this week as an angry crowd in Falluja protested over an earlier shooting ... Iraqi witnesses told an Associated Press reporter they saw or heard no shooting from among the protesters.

Protesters started throwing rocks and shoes at the compound and troops opened fire about at 10.30am (0730 BST), scattering the demonstrators. Some of the protesters then returned to pick up the wounded.
This situation is getting tougher and tougher especially when
President Bush will address the nation Thursday evening from deck of on an aircraft carrier to say that major combat in Iraq has ended, his spokesman said Wednesday.

But the president will neither declare victory in so many words, nor declare the war to be over, said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
He's not lying as long as the shooting goes on.




 
Arianna Huffington is not in my universe--indeed, I once wrote a letter to the Hartford Courant criticizing the appearance of the one column of hers the paper ever ran--but she seems like an interesting case. Evidently, she was once a Coulter-like moron who has become a radical. Indeed, her web site used to be called "overthrowthegov.com."

To be sure, in todays' LA Times, she sounds a lot like her fellow columnist, Robert Scheer. To wit:
Besides making one reach for the nearest airsickness bag, the American Airlines debacle highlights the growing disparity between the ways corporate America is preparing for the golden years of its executives and for its rank-and-file employees. In the lofty confines of American boardrooms, the sky is the limit ... In just a few years, the nest eggs of American workers have gone from sunny side up to seriously scrambled.
She still makes me extremely nervous (not least because of the John-Roger connection and the fact that she apparently "regularly retools herself"), but at least I won't ignore her byline any more. (That is, as long as she stays on this progressive pitch.)


 
From Dowd this morning:
"America is the empire that dare not speak its name," Niall Ferguson, the Oxford professor who wrote "Empire," told a crowd at the Council on Foreign Relations here on Monday. He believes that America is so invested in its "creation myth," breaking away from a wicked empire, that Americans will always be self-deceiving — and even self-defeating — imperialists.

"The great thing about the American empire is that so many Americans disbelieve in its existence," he said. "Ever since the annexation of Texas and invasion of the Philippines, the U.S. has systematically pursued an imperial policy.

"It's simply a suspension of disbelief by Americans. They think they're so different that when they have bases in foreign territories, it's not an empire. When they invade sovereign territory, it's not an empire."
It's good to know, though, that this attitude has a historical precedent.


 
Regarding our unctuous governor:
The latest Quinnipiac University Poll says only 1/3 of Connecticut voters surveyed give the Governor a favorable approval rating; more than half give an unfavorable rating.

Forty-six percent say Rowland is not honest and trustworthy, and more than half say he doesn't care about their needs and problems.
Not honest? Not trustworthy? Doesn't care? I'm shocked.



 
The system is still rigged.

Regarding the SEC "reforms":
There's nothing new here. This is a reform in the way "Thou Shall Not Steal" is a reform. While new specific regulations enforcing this long-held idea may be welcome, no one should be allowed to get away with saying they didn't know that rules already in place (even if by custom rather than law) were being routinely ignored.
Furthermore,
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and other state regulators rebuffed a Securities and Exchange Commission plan to give twice as much money to investors from the $1.4 billion Wall Street settlement.
So much for the guardians of the public's interest.


 
Regarding universal health care, Broder writes this morning:
[I]t is now certain that within weeks, every other Democratic hopeful will have to produce his own counterplan [to Gephardt's], and the pressure will rise on President Bush to address the lack of health insurance for 41 million Americans. A debate that has languished in Congress for nearly a decade will be joined ...
And it's about time.


Tuesday, April 29, 2003
 
Poor kid.
Ozzy Osbourne's 17-year-old son, Jack, is recovering in a California rehab clinic.

Jack, one of the stars of MTV's most popular ever show, 'The Osbournes' is currently in the Las Encinas clinic in Pasadena. Staff there have refused to say what he is being treated for.
"I need someone to show me the things in life that I can't find.
I can't see the things that make true happiness; I must be blind."


 
Bad news:
U.S. soldiers opened fire on Iraqis at a nighttime demonstration against the American presence here after people shot at them with automatic rifles, soldiers said Tuesday. The director of the local hospital said 13 people were killed and 75 wounded.

The demonstrators insisted they were unarmed.
OK. So it was in the dark and the soldiers heard gunfire. Maybe it was from the Iraqis.


 
Hundreds of disabled people are expected to converge on Capitol Hill on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to prevent the confirmation of a conservative judicial nominee who they portray as a threat to their rights.

A divided Senate on Monday debated the nomination of Jeffrey Sutton to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, and was expected to confirm the Ohio attorney on Tuesday on a largely party-line vote.
Given the recent court nominees, only one conclusion can be made: The Bushies are trying to alienate portions of the populace.


 
The Washington Post editorializes about the Bushies' reaction to the Santorum debacle:
Inclusive man? Sure, if by "inclusive" you mean that in the interview in question, Mr. Santorum included homosexuality along with bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery on the list of activities he believes "undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family."



 
From E.J. Dionne today:
Gephardt would offer voters a plain choice: They can have Bush's tax cuts or they can have secure health coverage. They can't have both. Yes, universal health insurance would cost a lot of money. But so would Bush's tax plan. If we're going to dedicate hundreds of billions of dollars to a cause, which cause should it be?
Any Democrat who attacks Gephardt for this is a fool. You hear that, Howard?

The idea has come better late than never. Universal health coverage should have been instituted ten years ago.


 
Scheer goes after the Bushies' invasion rationale today:
Forget truth. That is the message from our government and its apologists in the media who insist that the Iraq invasion is a great success story even though it was based on a lie.
This is exactly what's wrong with the "support our troops" rationale. Once the justification for the invasion turns out to be hollow, the only way left to defend the Iraqi occupation is that there are Americans there.


 
Sen. Charles Schumer yesterday denounced the Internal Revenue Service's plan to make working families prove their eligibility for a tax credit at the same time the agency scales back tax investigations of corporations and the wealthy. "It would be hard to write a more bizarre script," said Schumer.
This item has been around since last weekend. The IRS has already begun circling the wagons.


 
The system is still rigged.
In a bid to restore investor confidence, regulators are forcing some of Wall Street's largest brokerage firms to alter their research practices and to pay a $1.4 billion settlement.

The deal announced Monday with the 10 firms comes after more than a year of regulatory probes that found analysts misled investors with stock picks designed to win the firm company investment banking business.
This is just a slap on the wrist. It's already been shown that many of the companies fined will make up the fine in profits in less than a month. And so, investors will still feel that "Wall Street firms, in pursuit of investment banking fees, put the interests of their individual clients dead last."

Grubman and Blodget take the perp walk, but "Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America ... cautioned investors not to "rush to bestow renewed trust on Wall Street firms." Amen.

And why does SEC Chairman William Donaldson insist on wearing a little American flag in his lapel? It's yet another reason to distrust the whole setup as his doing so is too reminiscent of the whole Bush "if you're not with us you're against us" mindset.



Monday, April 28, 2003
 
In an editorial today, the Courant argues why its parent company, the Tribune Co. syndicate, should be allowed to own even more media outlets than it does even though it already owns "The Courant; WTIC, Channel 61; WTXX Channel 20; the Advocate weekly newspapers; the dailies in Stamford and Greenwich; ctnow.com; and ValuMail, a direct-mail business." And that's just in Connecticut.

As fewer media voices are heard, fewer ideas are presented. The Courant's editorial is disingenuous at best, and the idea behind it has already led to a serious diminution of the democratic ideal of free speech.
"The increasing concentration of the owners of media is the gravest danger to democracy today," said Dean Alger, author of the 1998 book Megamedia: How Giant Corporations Dominate Mass Media, Distort Competition, and Endanger Democracy...

In this debate over media ownership, "corporate free speech" or "freedom of the press" -- or whatever you want to call it -- has very little to do with the media's right to inform citizens. Instead, it's becoming synonymous with the right of one monolithic media corporation to dominate any given market.





 
How the mighty have fallen:
Henry Blodget, the former Merrill Lynch Internet analyst whose rosy stock picking made him a poster boy for bubble-era excess, reportedly will be fined $4 million by securities regulators and barred from Wall Street for life.
Kind of hate to see this. He really did make people some serious money in the late '90s.

News hasn't hurt NASDAQ, as it's up 1.7% as I write this.


 
This has been around for awhile, but here's the transcript of Rick Santorum's interview of earlier this month. As others have said, it's "actually much more damning than the snippet that's been widely reported."


 
The semiconductor industry's leading body on Monday cut its annual growth rate for the sector as sales figures for March showed a sharp slowdown.
So much for buying calls on the NASDAQ 100.


 
The New York Times states the bloody obvious this morning:
The Republicans controlling Congress return this week to anguish over how much more of a tax cut the nation's wealthiest citizens have coming. The leaders and President Bush would be wise to focus instead on the needs of the growing army of unemployed Americans. A total of 2.6 million private sector jobs have been lost across the past two years — a record for any modern presidency. Mr. Bush should be jawboning on behalf of benefits for the jobless as heartily as he now tours the land for still more relief for the affluent.

In lobbying for "at least" $550 billion more in tax reductions, Mr. Bush is deriding the few resistant Senate Republicans for holding out for no more than what he terms a "little bitty" package of $350 billion in cuts over the decade. This sounds like a debate over whether to let the rich eat cake or brioche. But $350 billion is the only option in play for opponents. Meanwhile, the president firmly angles to cram in his beloved dividend tax cut.



 
Why does this scenario not surprise me?

From the New York Post:
U.S. troops in northern Iraq found a 55-gallon barrel that tested positive for the deadly nerve agent sarin, officials said yesterday.
From a British news source:
Initial tests on chemical drums found north of Baghdad indicates one of them contains a mixture of nerve gas and mustard gas, claims a US Army officer.
Etc.

And now, of course, we find:
A military team has tentatively concluded that there are no chemical weapons at a site where American troops said they had found chemical agents and mobile labs ...

[I]n an interview tonight, Capt. Ryan Cutchin, the leader of Mobile Exploitation Team Bravo, or MET Bravo, said that after surveying the site, near the northern Iraqi town of Bayji, his team believed that the earlier reports were wrong.

"Our tests showed no positive hits at all," he said.
This is really getting tedious.


Sunday, April 27, 2003
 
What a stupid article.
The prevailing view in the Capitol is that a tax cut will become law, but even insiders say they have trouble imagining how it can be accomplished.
Huh? Well, will it or won't it?

After reading this article, it's impossible to know the size of the tax cut being talked about, or whether the bill will pass at all. More information would've appeared in this news space if an ad had been there.


 
Here's a funny situation.
The GOP's unusually late nominating convention -- it does not begin until Aug. 30 -- [could create a] problem. Bush is not scheduled to accept his party's nomination until Sept. 2, 2004. That falls after the deadline for certifying presidential candidates not only in Alabama, but also in California, the District of Columbia and West Virginia. There are bills in the Alabama legislature to move its deadline from Aug. 31 to Sept. 5. But if, for some reason, they don't pass, the president would be forced to run there as a write-in candidate.
Bummer.


 
Sunday morning Courant gadabout ...
State and campus police made more than 40 arrests from Friday night through Saturday night as University of Connecticut students and visitors threw fists, tossed beer bottles, bared breasts and tried to overturn cars during Spring Weekend.

The annual ritual, which started Thursday, gives students a last chance to unwind before finals. But, as in the past, most of the troublemakers were not UConn students, police said.
Hey, people will go where the party is. I know one person who did.
In a recent [California] poll, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman holds a slight lead over the field.
What are these people thinking?
Santorum may be no mere bigot. A harsher reading suggests he is something arguably worse: a crass opportunist, pandering to the fears and hatreds of his core constituency. He scores points in their eyes at a cost he apparently deems minimal - the ire of an objectified and marginalized minority whose votes he had little chance of winning and whose antipathy carries no political price.
Please tell me I have no relatives who voted for this slimeball.








Saturday, April 26, 2003
 
Some members of Congress support tax relief, but say my proposal is too big. Since they already agree that tax relief creates jobs ...
Whoa! How do we get from one position to the other? It doesn't necessarily follow that those embracing the idea of tax relief also hold the belief that a tax cut will create jobs.

Cripes, it's human nature to want tax relief, but that desire doesn't make us all supply-siders.


 
Father ... Yes son ... I want to kill you.
The parents of late Doors singer Jim Morrison filed a lawsuit against the members of the current reincarnation of the band in Los Angeles Wednesday.

They're alleging that keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger -- original Doors currently touring with former Cult singer Ian Astbury under the moniker "Doors 21st Century" -- have misappropriated the band's name and logo as well as Morrison's poetry and photos.
Never really thought much of this group. I realize that many in my generation--and, crazily, a number of younger people to the present day--thought Morrison was some kind of god. I always thought that the appeal was for his rebellious persona and not for his musical and/or poetical skills. (Full disclosure: I saw this group in Asbury Park, NJ, in the summer of 1968 in what was probably the worst concert I ever saw. The group did all of four songs and was off in less than 40 minutes.)

His poetry is banal at best ("And our love become a funeral pyre"?), and his voice, with the exceptions of "LA Woman" and "Roadhouse Blues," didn't have anywhere near the rock timbre of vocalists of the time (or after).

The truth of the matter is that Admiral and Mrs. Morrison should pay Manzarek, since it was his keyboard skills--and not Morrison's tedious exhibitionistic performances--that allowed the band to have any success.




 
More is better.

From President Unelected's radio address this morning:
Some members of Congress support tax relief, but say my proposal is too big. Since they already agree that tax relief creates jobs, it doesn't make sense to provide less tax relief and, therefore, create fewer jobs. I believe we should enact more tax relief, so that we can create more jobs, and more Americans can find work and provide for their families.
Huh? So why stop at $550 billion?

Krugman's math is still telling here: The President notes that "[w]ith a robust package of at least $550 billion in across-the-board tax relief, we will help create more than a million new jobs by the end of 2004." That's still half a million dollars for each job. There's gotta be an easier--and more economical way--to do this.


 
Just found out that the Circle Pharmacy has been bought out by CVS in a display of conglomerate thuggery. Circle Pharmacy will be no more as of Wednesday. No pharmacy will be going in the site; CVS just wants to get rid of competition in town.

On a local level, it'll make for an inconvenient situation for the denizens in this part of town. On a societal level, it's just one more example of the oligarchic nature of the modern American economy.


 
Over time, do we want to see the number of U.S. forces decline? You bet. Are we perfectly willing to put in any number of U.S. forces that are necessary to provide the kind of security in that country so that they can get on their way to humanitarian assistance and reconstruction and an interim authority? You bet we do. And we will. We'll put in what we need to.
Garry Trudeau had a strip the other day wherein he commented on Rummy's tendency to answer reporters' questions by actually asking questions of his own and then answering them. Did yesterday's news conference provide a few examples of this phenomenon? You bet it did.


Friday, April 25, 2003
 
First, they couldn't spend the night together, and now they won't spend any time there at all.

Perhaps the virus gods are trying to tell these sexagenarians something.


 
The Fleischer comments this afternoon regarding President Unelected's stand on Rick Santorum are ridiculous, of course, but to think that something like this could be a campaign issue is equally so.

It's certainly something that Blue State Liberals will and will continue to get upset about--and rightly so. However, it hurts me to say that I just don't think that the Red State booboisie are sympathetic enough to the issue of homosexuality to make this a damning issue for either Santorum or the President.



 
Army Secretary Thomas White resigned Friday.

The fact that he was with the Administration at all was a disgrace. He never should have gotten the job in the first place.


 
"Imagine Boston without the Red Sox ... What would these people talk about?"


 
In a ruling that could turn the tide on the online music piracy issue, a federal judge ruled Friday that two key file-share software makers were not liable for illegal exchanges of songs over the Internet.
Interesting, but this issue still has a very long way to go given yesterday's Verizon ruling.


 
Holy smokes!
"The president believes [Senator Santorum] is an inclusive man. And that's what he believes."



 
Molly Ivins askes the obvious question in her latest column: Are there any grown-ups in this administration?


 
Encouraging Americans to shed their excess weight could prevent some 90,000 cancer deaths a year, a study published Thursday found.
Another reason to eat less and exercise more.


 
President Unelected tips his hand:
While still in Ohio, Bush raised the possibility that any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were destroyed before or during the U.S.-led war, suggesting for the first time that coalition troops may come up empty in their search.

But in the interview with Brokaw, he said he still believes some of these weapons will be found but that "it's going to take time to find them." [Evidently a case of faith-based invasion rationale.]

He conceded that "there's going to be a lot of skepticism until people find ... a weapons of mass destruction program."
Golly. Ya think?

Also, from the article: "Of [French President Jacques] Chirac, who led the opposition at the United Nations to the war against Iraq, Bush said: "'I doubt he'll be coming to the ranch any time soon.'"

"Honey, cross the Chiracs off the Christmas card list, will ya?"


 
Just a little trouble with Blogger this morning ...

Krugman discusses the tax cut vis-à-vis health insurance today:
So why should tax cuts take priority over health care? I know the party line: tax cuts for high earners are the key to economic growth, and a rising tide lifts all boats. But there's not a shred of evidence supporting that claim. More than two decades after the supply-siders launched their tax-cut crusade, ordinary workers have yet to see a rising tide. The median real wage is only 7 percent higher now than it was in 1979, with all of that increase achieved after Bill Clinton raised taxes for the top bracket.


Thursday, April 24, 2003
 
Same old same old:
President Bush swooped Thursday into the home state of a fellow Republican who refuses to go along with his drive for more than a half-trillion dollars in new tax cuts, deriding supporters of a "little bitty tax relief package" ...

"It's important that Washington respond to some of the problems we face," Bush said on the shop floor of a ball-bearing factory in [Canton, Ohio]. "For the sake of our country, for the sake of the workers of America, Congress needs to pass this jobs growth package soon." [Note that it's no longer a tax cut.] ...

New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Bush won $1.3 billion in tax cuts two years ago, "and I haven't seen it stimulate much growth in the economy."

Ohio has lost nearly 168,000 jobs, or more than 3 percent of its work force, since Bush took office, House Democrats said, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data.


 
This is a joke, right?
U.S. pop superstar Madonna, one of music's richest performers, has attacked her fellow Americans for being obsessed with the "wrong values" such as getting rich and looking good.


 
Here's the link to Josh Marshall's comments on the "surprising" strength of clerically-based Shi'a groups in Iraq I referred to yesterday.


 
School shooting in Pennsylvania.
A heavily armed 14-year-old boy shot his school principal inside a crowded junior high cafeteria Thursday morning, then killed himself, authorities said.
It is April, after all.


 
Two more suspected cases of SARS have been identified in Connecticut.
Wonder what Roberston and Falwell will blame this virus on.


Wednesday, April 23, 2003
 
Gasoline prices are so volatile right now they're almost laughable. Passed a station today at 0645 where the price for regular was $1.679. Passed it again at 3:00 this afternoon and the price for regular was $1.599. That's a reduction of a penny per hour. Not a bad markdown. No stations east of the Connecticut River that I know of are charging more than $1.60 per gallon for regular.

One assumes that at least part of the reason for the reductions is that "[o]il from Iraq's southern fields began flowing through pipelines Wednesday for the first time since the war."

Now, as Bob Reich said on this evening's Marketplace, all that remains to be done is to figure out who owns all that black gold.


 
U.S. soldiers found $112 million in U.S. currency sealed inside seven dog kennels in a wealthy Baghdad neighborhood of mansions and rose gardens where top Baath Party and Republican Guard officials once lived, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
Kind of makes the Bakkers look like pikers, doesn't it?


 
Hmmm ...
The nation's largest transit agency concealed more than half a billion dollars from the public while it was arguing for a fare increase, the state comptroller charged in an audit Wednesday.
I knew a subway ride shouldn't cost $1.50.


 
Scientists have discovered that the pulp inside deciduous teeth is a treasure trove of fast-growing stem cells. Naturally-shed choppers could thus provide an easily accessible new source of these sought-after cells for clinical studies of stem-cell transplantation and tissue engineering.
Might this be the Bushies' end-around on the issue?


 
But he's so boring:
[Richard] Gephardt is hitching his Democratic presidential campaign to an ambitious universal medical coverage plan that would be paid for by eliminating most of President Bush's proposed income-tax reductions.
These are great ideas. Do they have an air of desperation about them?


 
Call me naive, but I just have trouble believing this:
The Pentagon has produced detailed plans to bomb North Korea's nuclear plant at Yongbyon if the Stalinist state goes ahead with reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods, an Australian report said.

Citing "well-informed sources close to US thinking", The Australian newspaper said the plan also included a US strike against North Korean heavy artillery in the hills above the border with South Korea.


 
Ill-mannered pupils, demoralized teachers, uninvolved parents and bureaucracy in public schools are greater worries for Americans than the standards and accountability that occupy policy makers, a new study says.


 
This is an extremely scary article:
As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country.
So how vulnerable do "coalition forces" become? How many ayatollahs now rear their theocratic heads? I trust this will be discussed more profoundly on other blogs. I'll be looking forward to seeing what Josh Marshall says about this.

UPDATE: Daily Kos has the best early gloss on this story.


 
Washington has rarely been adept, or candid, in fostering authentic democracy. Almost nowhere in half a century — from 1950s' CIA coups in Iran, Guatemala and Congo, among other places, to expeditions into the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere in the 1980s and 1990s — has regime change left a nation freer. Not even Germany and Japan. The CIA colluded with ex-Nazis in Bonn to fix the rule of a Cold War ally, and covert manipulation entrenched a corporate oligarchy in Tokyo. In the latest case in point, Afghanistan, politics have reverted to the old warlord feudalism. U.S. forces barely venture beyond bases still rocketed by Al Qaeda.




 
Interesting Supreme Court activity today.
Nike was sued in 1998 by a California activist who said he bought a pair of Nike running shoes based on company advertising that declared Nike promotes labor rights at its overseas factories.
Since Nike had, in fact, not improved working conditions, the activist accused the company of false advertising. The California Supreme Court agreed with the consumer. Nike has brought the case to the US Supreme Court.
[Nike], the world's largest manufacturer of athletic shoes, contends it must be free to explain itself to customers, potential customers or anyone else. "We all benefit when the widest possible range of voices can be heard on every issue of importance to the public," said Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who is representing Nike. "In the end, each of us has to decide where he or she thinks the truth can best be found." The case offers the high court another opportunity to define how the concept of free speech applies in the business world ... The Bush administration ... supports Nike on most points.
Lawrence Tribe, of course, was one of the unsuccessful lawyers who argued Al Gore's case before Little Antonin and the Supremes in the Fall (the word is used advisedly) of 2000.


 
Give me strength:
Dismissing previous statements that he is serving his final term, Gov. John G. Rowland said Tuesday that he is not ruling out seeking re-election in 2006 ... [This in spite of the fact that] Rowland's political poll ratings and credibility ... have taken heavy blows lately with the guilty plea of deputy chief of staff Lawrence Alibozek, who admitted accepting cash and gold in exchange for steering state contracts.
At least the Democrats seem to be on the same page in wanting to defeat the gov should it come to that.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003
 
Two more reasons to weep for the country:
While any opportunist can run the stars and stripes up the flagpole, it appears that at tax time, a number of American firms have been quietly pledging their allegiance to foreign flags of convenience.

Several dozen major U.S. corporations, including Ingersoll-Rand, Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) and Tyco International Ltd., have set up skeletal off shore headquarters in order to dodge U.S. taxes on their overseas revenues ...

But, through it all, the U.S. president continues to struggle to secure deeper tax breaks for the wealthiest American citizens. At first glance, this might seem perplexing in times of mounting deficits. But there is an underlying logic to the Bush plan. With a presidential election looming in 2004, the incumbent will soon be asking his wealthy backers to dig into their pockets in order to build up his campaign war-chest.

One occasionally forgets that the United States remains the only democracy in the world where political commentators debate without a trace of irony whether a candidate has amassed sufficient wealth to attain the highest elected office in the land.




 
Santorum, part 2 ...

Yet another Republican member of Congress has insulted an entire group of Americans.

God, I hope I have no relatives who voted for this moron.


 
Jack Bukowksi, an immunologist at the Brigham and Women's hospital, which is linked to the Harvard medical school, discovered the English breakfast route to health when he asked volunteers to take either five cups of black or fermented tea each day, or five cups of coffee.
Tea is what's getting all the emphasis on this story, although I see that coffee is ok too.

Now would decaf be all right?


 
Colin Powell is a traitor.

Well, Newt Gringrich thinks he is, anyway.

Hmmmm ... any other demagogues infamous for attacking generals? Let's see ...
General, you should be removed from any Command. Any man who has been given the honor of being promoted to General, and who says, `I will protect another general who protects Communists,' is not fit to wear that uniform, General."


 
I don't know if President Unelected's good words about Alan Greenspan is good news or not. However, Greenspan has gone on record as saying that the huge tax cut is not a particularly good idea. I wonder what Larry Kudlow will think of this?


 
I have a bad feeling about this.


 
I hope my Pennsylvania relatives didn't vote for this idiot.


 
Not a big fan of irony in print, and I'm way behind on noting this article, but this is still pretty amusing.


 
More of the same:
[W]hile Emperor Bush piled on the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric, his bespectacled vizier for defense presented a mad-hatter laundry list of Iraq's alleged weapons collection, as long and specific as it was phony and circumstantial.
This is the most vitriolic essay on the invasion I've seen in a while.


 
Regarding the occupation, etc.:
"You can't walk away from this thing," said Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator who is now president of the New School for Social Research in New York. "We're in it for the long haul. We're running two countries."

... And Kerrey, who supported the war, noted that the administration's domestic policies will leave it in a weak position to sustain such a commitment. "I do not believe you're going to be able to make the case for long if you're going to be cutting taxes and won't be able to provide a safety net for working people or for productive investments at home."





 
Newspapers in the Arab world reveal a deep sense of pessimism over the region's future as the new US administrator of Iraq, Jay Garner, takes over in Baghdad.
There's pessimism, and then there's despair. The newspapers quoted seem to evince the latter.


 
As if we didn't know.
American officials tried to discredit the work of inspectors in Iraq to further their own case for war, the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has charged.


 
Atrios doesn't seem to like Krugman, but at least the man can do his math. If the Bushies' $726 billion tax-cut plan will create 1.4 million jobs, then
why does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created? If it's all about jobs, wouldn't it be far cheaper just to have the government hire people? Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration put the unemployed to work doing all kinds of useful things; why not do something similar now?

The answer is that we can't have a modern version of the W.P.A. because, um . . . because tax cuts are essential to promote long-run economic growth. Yes, that must be it.



 
Wonder how much ink this will get:
A judge was kept in the dark about failures in a computer system created to help track royalty payments that were owed to American Indians, a court-appointed investigator reported Monday ...

"They wasted three months of a judge's time by putting on a false defense," said Dennis Gingold, attorney for a group of Indians suing the government. "It really is a disgusting finding."


Monday, April 21, 2003
 
I've gotta remember Smigus Dyngus. It's much better than referring to today as the terribly plebeian "Easter Monday."


 
Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, hosted the scaled-down version of [today's] annual [White House] Easter egg roll, which included about 12,000 parents and young children. The occasion normally draws a crowd of about 40,000, but because of security concerns this year's tickets were distributed through the Defense Department exclusively to military families.
Besides the fact that this setup sounds disquietingly like the recent Baseball Hall of Fame fiasco, this incident shows that even an Easter Egg Roll is affected by the national security bogeyman.


 
Rummy gets testy:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday angrily denied a newspaper report that U.S. military planners hope to gain access to Iraqi military for permanent stationing of American forces. The New York Times reported Monday that a long-term presence in Iraq would mirror the permanent stationing of American forces in Japan, Germany and South Korea after earlier wars. The story cited "senior defense officials."

"I wasn't asked, (Pentagon spokeswoman) Tori (Clarke) wasn't asked, (Gen. Peter) Pace wasn't asked, (Deputy Defense Secretary Paul) Wolfowitz wasn't asked," Rumsfeld told reporters at the daily Pentagon briefing, wondering aloud who else could be characterized as "senior."
OK. So now we know what the plan isn't.


 
This is really getting boring:
U.S. weapons experts in Iraq have discovered ingredients and equipment that can be used to make a chemical weapon, U.S. military officials confirmed Monday.
What do you suppose this'll turn out to be this time?


 
Now for some real news:
A 33-year-old man faces charges that he bit a police dog during a disturbance outside a downtown bar ...

"I don't think I bit the dog. I just got into a fight with him," Paul Russell of Syracuse told The Post-Standard of Syracuse in Monday's newspaper. "I don't really remember (what happened). I was pretty drunk."




 
This really makes no sense:
A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.
Why would Saddam do this surreptitiously and still allow the invasion to take place? Why didn't US intelligence know of this so the invasion could be called off since the reason for the invasion was no longer operative?



 
Iraq as the 51st state. This is from someone who's friendly to the Bushies:
The United States should not expect to create a functioning democracy in Iraq for at least five years, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.
Do US citizens have that much patience?


Sunday, April 20, 2003
 
Can't believe this is going to help promote ecumenism and peace in the Mideast:
Franklin Graham, the Christian evangelist who has branded Islam a "very wicked and evil" religion, was the honored speaker at the Pentagon's Good Friday service.

After Kenna West, a Christian singer, crooned, "There is one God and one faith," Mr. Graham told an auditorium of soldiers in camouflage, civilian staffers and his son, a West Point cadet: "There's no other way to God except through Christ. . . . Jesus Christ is alive because he is risen, and friends, he's coming back, and I believe he's coming back soon."
You almost hope that Jesus does come back soon just to shut up these morons.


 
A postscript to an irritating story:
The sad truth, however, is that Major League Baseball has never been an institution valuing freedom of speech, behavior or political expression. Petroskey is only the latest in a long line of baseball authoritarians.
I have a friend who doesn't follow baseball because George Will does. Her thinking is that if George Will thinks it's good, it must be suspect. (She doesn't even think of George Bush as a baseball person.) The latest episode from Cooperstown gives a certain amount of validity to that position.


 
Gadding about this morning's Courant ...

Kevin Rennie suggests, as I did on Friday, that, when it comes to following Connecticut's politicians, we follow the money.
... the Connecticut Republicans' federal account in 1999 was used to pay half of [the governor's] Amex bill - about $10,000 over 12 monthly payments. That's clear from the FEC records. The state account also shows expenditures for 1999 of about $10,000. In other words, it appears that $10,000 was spent from each of the accounts - federal and state - to pay the bill. Like the federal budget deficit, the bills are considerably higher than we first thought.
And on another, but related, issue:
As commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, Kristine Ragaglia, who declined to seek reappointment, earned a reputation for lunging for the tall grass at the first hint of criticism. Nothing was ever her fault. It surprised few when she responded to media questions about the alleged bid-rigging scheme by pointing fingers at others. Yes, she had serious concerns about the early involvement in the project by a Tomasso company but said nothing. Why was the normally loquacious Ragaglia silent?
What Mr. Rennie doesn't say is that Hartford is rife with rumors that our unctuous (and libidinous?) governor was having an affair with Ms. Regaglia when all of this was going on.

Regarding the destruction of the Iraqi museum:
... it is impossible to understand why nothing was done to prevent [the museum] from being looted. Initial reports suggest that pilfering of the museum lasted for 48 hours and was actually in progress at the very moment Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was deriding the press as "Henny-Pennys" for focusing on the looting.





Saturday, April 19, 2003
 
George Bush is the most dangerous president ever.
... by strategy, inclination and conviction, George W. Bush has been pursuing a reckless, even ridiculous, but always right-wing agenda -- shredding a global-security structure at a time requiring unprecedented international integration, shredding a domestic safety net at a time when the private sector provides radically less security than it did a generation ago. No American president has ever played quite so fast and loose with the well-being of the American people.
A magnificent, but extremely depressing, article.


 
I guess now everything's ok.
The president of the Baseball Hall of Fame issued an apology Friday, saying he was sorry he failed to call Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon before canceling a "Bull Durham" celebration because of the actors' anti-war stance.
Tim Robbins refers to it as a "non-apology apology." That assessment seems pretty accurate, since the statement admits only to a faux pas in etiquette, and not to the egregious error in civics it actually was.


 
How devious are these people?
After sharp criticism from its unions, American Airlines dropped a plan Friday to award bonuses to top executives if they stay at the embattled airline until 2005. The bonuses and a plan to shield some executive pension funds had caused an uproar among American employees, who earlier this week approved sharp cuts in their wages and benefits — savings the company said it needed to avoid bankruptcy.

The arrangement was revealed this week in a filing the company made with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing was submitted on the same day that unions for ground workers, pilots and flight attendants were voting to cut their wages and benefits by $1.8 billion.

''I cannot, in good conscience, ask any flight attendant to trust anything they are told by the company after this,'' John Ward, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said on Friday. ``Nor can I place any trust or confidence in what we've already been told about the state of the airline or its plans to keep us out of bankruptcy.''
Who can blame him?


 
Boy, ol' Giovanni Pablo really put people in a swivet with his latest encyclical, didn't he?
Reporting on the encyclical Thursday, London Times reporters Richard Owen and Tom Baldwin wrote, "The pope's 14th encyclical slams the door on the many Catholics and Protestants who currently take Communion together and represents a setback for Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury (head of the Anglican Church), who is a firm advocate of ecumenism."
Of course, US Catholic officials are falling all over themselves, trying to make the unreasonable reasonable:
The pope's Holy Week reminder that divorced Roman Catholics who remarry cannot receive Communion had many Inland [California]-area Catholics debating their relationship to their faith while celebrating their religion's biggest holiday.

Although Thursday's statement by Pope John Paul II reinforces existing Roman Catholic doctrine, a spokesman for the million-member Diocese of San Bernardino said the church's goal is still to welcome people regardless of their personal circumstance.
And:
"The pope is also deeply concerned about certain trends that obscure the traditional Catholic understanding of the Eucharist," [Bishop of Green Bay Robert] Banks said. "The pope's directness about these abuses -- and they do not occupy a major part of the encyclical [Note that he doesn't even refer to the larger, divorce-related element of the encyclical] -- come from a conviction that the Eucharist is at the heart of the Church. He is not being a nag."
Sounds like a Reaganesque-like damage control operation to me.

This whole thing would be even more hilarious if people didn't take it so seriously.



 
Re the odious tax cut:
With polls showing many voters skeptical of whether the country can afford a tax cut now, administration officials plan to emphasize what they contend are the job-creating effects of the plan. The refined sales pitch, adopted at a White House strategy session this week, is that more job creation is better than less. Instead of calling it a tax cut, the administration insists on calling it "the president's jobs and growth package." [This euphemism evidently helps to "promote First Amendment ideals."] ...

White House allies are being urged to pull out all the stops. Former Treasury secretary James A. Baker III wrote an opinion article in today's Wall Street Journal saying he once believed deficit reduction was more important than tax relief. "But I was wrong," he wrote. "That's why I often refer to myself on this issue as a 'reformed drunk.' The success of the tax-rate reductions we achieved during President [Ronald] Reagan's two terms in office in the 1980s sobered me up."
This latter statement is a joke, right? Besides the fact that Reagan's tax cuts didn't boost tax revenues or unleash the economy, more than 2 million jobs have been lost since the first round of post-2000 tax cuts. It certainly seems unlikely that additional tax cuts will have a beneficial effect in that regard.

Or, as Connecticut's esteemed former governor, Bill O'Neill is purported to have said, People don't want handouts! People want hand jobs!



 
This must be a national security issue also:
The Bush administration is siding with the recording industry in its court fight to force Internet providers to disclose the identities of people who are illegally trading songs over the Web ...

The Justice Department filing said the subpoena was legal and no First Amendment protection would be violated through disclosure of the name. The Justice Department brief contends that upholding copyright law itself would "promote First Amendment ideals."
God, does it make me nervous when the Bushies start talking about "First Amendment ideals."


 
This from this morning's Globe:
Put simply, the Bush administration envisages a world run by the United States, backed by as many states as will sign on to support it ...

Washington says that victory in Iraq was the first step in making a new Middle East and a new world order. There probably will be more resistance to both ambitions than it currently expects.



 
Here's a pretty good overview of the nonsense that passes for an executive branch these days:
By the time the war was two weeks old, the Bushies had stopped talking about weapons of mass destruction and had switched to talking about liberating the Iraqi people. They changed the whole premise for the war in mid-course, yet hardly anyone called them on it. And now, without so much as a drum of sarin gas or a container of anthrax having been found in Iraq, the Bushies are accusing Syria of trying to develop chemical weapons. If you can dupe most of the public and the press once, why not try it again?
I'm sensing a change of attitude in various pundits these days. Rather than point out the duplicitous danger of the Bushies, they're now wringing their hands over the apparent inability of the booboisie to perceive that danger. Krugman did it on Tuesday, and Ms. McCarthy joins the chorus in this morning's Courant.

Is Lincoln's famous contention that you can't fool all of the people all of the time being disproved?


 
Hey, if it's good enough for the Bushies, why can't private industry use national security as an excuse for selfish interests?
A New York utility, arguing that a new power line under Long Island Sound is vital to national security, may ask the Department of Homeland Security to allow the power line to be put into operation ...

The cable was installed last spring, but state environmental regulators say it cannot be used until it is buried at the required depth.
I've just gotta get in on this national security scam.


Friday, April 18, 2003
 
Watching the Sox ...

Does it make any sense for the Toronto Blue Jays to have little American flags sewn onto the sleeves of their warmup jackets?


 
One more time:
The United States Government should be "embarrassed" over the apparent failure to uncover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the main justification for going to war, retired intelligence officials said.

"It's going to be very embarrassing when it turns out they have nothing to declare," said former defence intelligence analyst Eugene Betit.
I'm reminded of the scene in Christa Wolf's Cassandra where Helen (the ostensible reason for the sufferings of the Trojan War) is finally displayed to the Trojans. Covered in a former day burqa, "she" is hustled inside the palace, leaving the Trojan citizens to wonder whether she exists or not and certainly leaving them wondering why their leaders have demanded they be involved in the siege in the first place.


 
The Republicans have no shame:
Two moderate Republican senators, Ohio’s George Voinovich and Maine’s Olympia Snowe, are under intense pressure to renege on their pledge to hold Bush’s tax cut at $350 billion. The conservative Club for Growth is running an ad in Ohio with a photo of Voinovich next to a French flag. The group’s press release calls Voinovich a “Franco Republican.” The same ad is slated for Maine with Snowe pictured alongside the French flag. A narrator equates the senators’ opposition to the full Bush tax cut with French opposition to the Iraq invasion.


 
Bob Reich channels Karl Rove in today's LA Times regarding President Unelected's 2004 strategy:
A Syrian war would continue to distract the public's attention from the lousy economy. The nation lost almost half a million jobs in February and March, but nobody paid attention. The war grabbed all the headlines.

Since our Iraq war strategy began, we also ducked bullets on your friend "Kenny Boy" Lay's Enron and Dick Cheney's Halliburton. We got away with replacing the whole economic team. And it looks like Congress will go along with a big chunk of your latest tax break even though it busts the budget and threatens the boomers' Social Security.

Hey, there's nothing like a war to take the public's mind off the economy. Keep it up and we'll sail through November 2004.


 
Executive privilege rears its ugly head again.
A government lawyer for Vice President Cheney received a scolding yesterday from a panel of federal appeals judges over the Bush administration's use of an unusual legal maneuver to avoid disclosing information about Cheney's energy policy task force ...

The spirited scene at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington was the latest development in a two-year effort by public-interest groups and Congress to obtain information such as who attended those meetings and for what purpose. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, recently dropped its effort after a federal judge threw out its lawsuit ...

Speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors last week, Cheney said "the debate has now been settled" by his victory over the GAO. "The court has ruled in favor of the administration that we did handle it in an appropriate way," he said.

Cheney said the matter would not have a "chilling" effect on government openness. "I think it restored some of the legitimate authority of the executive branch, the president and the vice president, to be able to conduct their business," he said.
There was a time when the executive branch's business was thought of perforce as the people's business. Perhaps that's too arcane a concept for the former Halliburton CEO.



 
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Thursday reported 73 percent of those polled are concerned the U.S. will get "bogged down in a long and costly" mission to maintain peace in Iraq.
This is what happens when you believe bozos who maintain that invading forces will be met with flowers on the outskirts of Baghdad.


 
CalPundit points out this position from a writer for the National Review as the latter attempts to exculpate the Bushies in the pillaging of Iraq.
....To describe the contents of the Iraqi National Museum as being “Iraq’s ancient heritage” is, therefore, to stretch a point. In fact, since everything we know of as civilization began in Mesopotamia back in that dim past four or five thousand years ago, it would be just as correct to refer to these treasures as comprising humanity’s ancient heritage. They belong to us all.
If that's the case, then all the more reason for the invading forces to attempt to protect the museum's contents.

The Bush apologists cannot have it both ways.


 
Another example of the disreputable folk our unctuous governor has surrounded himself with:
A legislative committee has called Gov. John G. Rowland's economic development czar, Arthur H. Diedrick, to answer questions about an unreported investment that his wife made in a private company shortly before it applied to Diedrick's agency for millions in state aid.
As became the mantra in another, more famous, investigation, "Follow the money."

Two other things are also worthy of note in this episode. First, this is another example of a public official making restitution of some kind only after he gets his hand caught in the cookie jar. Our unctuous governor did it, and now:
A Connecticut Development Authority spokesman has said Diedrick informed his staff in 2000 he would refrain from handling the Pinnacle matter because of his wife's investment. However, Diedrick did not report the investment on his mandatory annual financial statements to the State Ethics Commission for the years 2000 and 2001.

Last week, after The Courant asked questions about it, Diedrick wrote the ethics commission to "correct" those reports, blaming his wife for failing to disclose the stock.
This is the second noteworthy item: When all else fails, blame someone else. The gov has fired several people to deflect accusations directed against himself. And now Mr. Diedrick throws his wife to the wolves. Might ultimately help politically, but it's sure to strain the marriage a bit.


 
On this holy morning ...
The April 13th, 2001 edition of the Los Angeles Times contained an article entitled "Doubting the Story of the Exodus", by Teresa Watanabe. It summarized the current scholary consensus about whether or not the Exodus happened:

"After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true, archeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua's leadership. To the contrary, the prevailing view is that most of Joshua's fabled military campaigns never occurred ..."
BTW--the book mentioned in the article, The Bible Unearthed, is an excellent read and pretty much argues that much of the early portion of what's known as the Old Testament was a creation of King Josiah's spin doctors.


 
Don't know how the Christians do it. The same stuff year after year. Every Maundy Thursday service the same. Every Good Friday service the same. Neither uplifting, but both always tedious.

Of course, having the Pope refer to Protestant churches as "communities which arose in the West from the 16th century onwards and are separated from the Catholic Church" probably doesn't do a whole lot for the religion, either.

Why doesn't Giovanni Pablo just call all the Protestants cultists and be done with it?


Thursday, April 17, 2003
 
Yahoo! headlined this story "Bush Cultural Advisers Quit Over Iraq Museum Theft," which immediately made me think that, given his country bumpkin mien, there was no way President Unelected could possibly have any cultural advisers. I mean, talk about wasted tax dollars.

Upon further review, however, it turns out that two members of the President’s Advisory Committee on Cultural Property (a committee that the Bushies seem to have no interest in since this duo wasn't appointed by the current administration) have resigned as a result of the chaos in Iraq.
The resignation letter of panel chairman Martin Sullivan noted that while U.S. military “displayed extraordinary precision and restraint in deploying arms — and apparently in securing the Oil Ministry and oil fields — they have been nothing short of impotent in failing to attend to the protection of [Iraq’s] cultural heritage.”
I'm shocked—shocked!—that the Bushies would go out of their way to protect Iraq's oil fields while leaving the country's heritage to the mob.


 
There is such a thing as a justified war. If we can add a precept of the Constitution (that of providing for the common defense) to the Declaration of Independence's concepts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then Professor Zinn's essay (see previous post) makes a little more sense.

It's too easy to vilify the concept of war--as Professor Zinn nearly does. Rather, one can derogate the promoters of this (Iraqi) war. Because if ever there was an unnecessary war, the Iraqi invasion was and is it.


 
An excellent essay on patriotism from this morning's Courant:
When a government recklessly expends the lives of its young for crass motives of profit and power, always claiming that its motives are pure and moral ("Operation Just Cause" was the invasion of Panama and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" in the present instance), it is violating its promise to the country. It is the country that is primary - the people, the ideals of the sanctity of human life and the promotion of liberty. War is almost always a breaking of those promises. It does not enable the pursuit of happiness, but brings despair and grief.


 
One more scary essay:
[U]nless the voters and the press start paying attention, all the president's lies will have little political consequence -- except to certify that we have become something less than a democracy.



 
More news on nominated judges. From today's Times:
The White House has culled the legal profession to find nominees with aggressive conservative agendas. It is asking senators to approve, along with Judge Owen, Carolyn Kuhl, who was a strong supporter of maintaining the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, which discriminated against blacks; Jeffrey Sutton, a lawyer who has severely set back the rights of the disabled; and James Leon Holmes, who has compared abortion to the Holocaust.
It's really starting to get scary, isn't it?


 
Here's a pretty transparent attempt to allow more Texas Republicans to become national representatives.

It's no big deal, I suppose, since (if one is to believe Molly Ivins) Texas politics is as dirty as is possible. Still it points out a weakness in the entire American political system: As long as federal legislators are given the right to create Congressional districts after a census, all kinds of gerrymandering will take place.

What ultimately happens is that "Democratic" and "Republican" districts are established with no real hope of those districts changing their affiliation.

Besides the obvious effect of making many citizens perpetual members of a political minority (as long as they choose to live in the district), this system has at least two other deleterious effects.

First, it makes incumbents virtually impossible to dislodge. Second, it creates the kind of poltical log jam that we see too frequently: No consensus occurs; everything is politicized, and US citizens become cynical about the whole political process.

I don't know of a solution, but it seems intuitively counterproductive to have those people who are most affected by the formation of political districts create them.


Wednesday, April 16, 2003
 
Hey, this could be interesting:
The estranged wife of President George Bush's brother, Neil, plans to write a tell-all book about life within the first family.

In the midst of a divorce wrangle with her husband of 22 years, Sharon Bush travelled to New York recently to lunch with America's queen of celebrity biography, Kitty Kelley. The pair brainstormed ideas at a Manhattan restaurant and discussed Mrs Bush's debut as author.
Evidently, Mrs. Bush is going to show her cards and let people know where she stands.



 
Isn't it the Democrats who are notorious for their internecine squabbles? Well, there are plenty of Republicans mad at each other right now.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said the "secret" deal between Grassley and Snowe and Voinovich violated an earlier tax-cut compromise struck between the House and Senate ...

House Speaker Dennis Hastert also blasted Senate Republicans and insisted that he will hold Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who signed off on the deal, to his earlier compromise.


 
What is it about the Kansas City Royals that makes Chicago White Sox fans act so crazily?

How far are we away from installing some kind of divider (net? plexiglass?) to keep the fans off the field?


 
Rumsfeld as curator:
[Regarding the destruction of museum artifacts, the Secretary of Defense stated at a news conference yesteday,] "I suspect we'll find that a number of things were hidden prior to the conflict," observing that museum administrators would likely secure their collections in the face of a well-telegraphed conflict ... and likening the looting to a riot after a football game.
Perhaps the "hidden" artifacts will be found with the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

It's striking how "our troops" could guard the Oil Ministry, but left the defense of museums and libraries to their staffs.


Tuesday, April 15, 2003
 
Krugman today notes a phenomenon that I noted on Thursday: the inability of the booboisie to see the wool being pulled over their eyes by the Bushies.
The Republican leadership [believes] that if it wraps itself in the flag, and denounces critics as unpatriotic, it can get away with just about anything. And the scary thing is that this belief may be justified.

For the overwhelming political lesson of the last year is that war works — that is, it's an excellent cover for the Republican Party's domestic political agenda. In fact, war works in two ways. The public rallies around the flag, which means the President and his party; and the public's attention is diverted from other issues.

As long as the nation is at war, then, it will be hard to get the public to notice what the flagwavers are doing behind our backs. And it just so happens that the "Bush doctrine," which calls for preventive war against countries that may someday pose a threat, offers the possibility of a series of wars against nasty regimes with weak armies.

Someday the public will figure all this out. But it may be a very long wait.


 
I just despise Joe Lieberman.
Senator Joe Lieberman says the U.S. is now in a position to use aggressive diplomacy with Syria and other countries ... He says aggressive diplomacy means confronting countries with choices, and hoping they make the right ones.
Can anybody translate this one for me?

Actually, the term "aggressive diplomacy" is reminiscent of a better known mantra:

WAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.


 
Looks like our unctuous governor is trying to make an end around the State Ethics Commission.

The commission would like to investigate why the gov made a phone call (from a golf course, no less) to a small food company in Pennsylvania after being encouraged to do so by a company lobbyist.

You can't blame the governor for trying to deflect this. The fact that possible insider trading may also be involved in this makes this story potentially pretty sleazy.


Monday, April 14, 2003
 
Here we go again.

In his press briefing today, Ari Fleischer said everything except that the US is about to invade Syria.
Pressed by White House reporters earlier in the day on whether the administration was sending the message that it was threatening an invasion of Syria, Fleischer said, "People have to realize there are acceptable standards of behavior that world and certainly the free Iraqi people hope will be followed by its neighbors, including Syria, and part of that is not to harbor Iraqi leaders."
Meet the new invasion; just like the old invasion: Rummy talks of chemical weapons, threats to world peace, the same old line.

Don't make vacation plans for Damascus any time soon.


 
Finally getting up to speed on this Pryor business.

It's too easy to say that this is just another moronic judicial decision by the Bushies. This one is about as transparent as one can get since Alabama's Attorney General was the only attorney general (outside of Florida) to weigh in with an amicus brief for the US Supreme Court in the Bush v. Gore fiasco in 2000.

Guess whose side he took?


 
This is a bit of a relief:
With the country at war and facing budget deficits, six in 10 Americans say this is not the time for more tax cuts, an Associated Press poll finds.
At least some people seem to be getting it.


Saturday, April 12, 2003
 
Another very disturbing story regarding the looting:
Baghdad was bursting with anti-American feeling yesterday as residents saw their city being stripped by its own citizens. US forces rarely intervened and in some cases even waved treasure-laden men through checkpoints.

"Coalition forces are responsible. Where is the law?" said Safa Hussein Qasim, 44, a [Baghdad] jeweller. "This is the promise of the United States to Iraq? This is democracy in Baghdad?"
Of course, Rumsfeld has blamed the media for exaggerating the problem.

Two things:

First, in typical fashion, another Bushie blames the messenger for a problem the Administration has created.

Second, will this be another instance where the Bushies leave a messy situation they created (cf Afghanistan) without any attempt to ameliorate it?


 
This is a real shame:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The famed Iraq National Museum, home of extraordinary Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian collections and rare Islamic texts, sat empty Saturday — except for shattered glass display cases and cracked pottery bowls that littered the floor.

In an unchecked frenzy of cultural theft, looters who pillaged government buildings and businesses after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime also targeted the museum. Gone were irreplaceable archaeological treasures from the Cradle of Civilization.

Everything that could be carried out has disappeared from the museum — gold bowls and drinking cups, ritual masks worn in funerals, elaborately wrought headdresses, lyres studded with jewels — priceless craftsmanship from ancient Mesopotamia.
When will the Americans put an end to the looting?


 
Why did it take Toyota so long to realize that an anagram for Camry is "my car"?


 
Had the Masters on a few minutes ago until CBS took a break to remind us once again what a holy place Augusta National is. It's a golf course, for God's sake.

There sat the simpering Dick Enberg, American flag in his lapel.

Are we to understand that the Masters and Augusta National are embematic of all that's American? Enberg and CBS do realize, don't they, that the country club is segregated? They do realize that the reason they're talking in the first place is to fill commercial time that CBS couldn't sell because of the membership rules of the club, don't they?

Just sickening.

By the way, where's Hootie?


 
Regarding the Baseball Hall of Fame fiasco, according to the institution's president, Dale Petroskey: "What we were trying to do was take politics out of this. We didn't want people to espouse their views in a very public place, one way or another. The Hall isn't the place for that."

This from the same idiot who, when he disinvited Robbins and Sarandon, did so by saying,
"We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."
Sure no politics there.

Petroskey is like all the rest of the Bush morons. They talk a good game, but when push comes to shove, they want to play only by their own rules. Thus, Robbins and Sarandon can't espouse their views "in a very public place," but it's ok for the president of the Hall of Fame to do so.


 
Well, it's a start.
Senate GOP leaders agreed yesterday to block any tax cut that exceeds $350 billion, slashing President Bush's proposed tax reduction by more than half and dealing him a rare setback at the hand of fellow Republicans.


 
Chaos.

Will the "democratization" of Iraq be as unsuccessful?


Friday, April 11, 2003
 
My God, is this article funny.

As atrios says, "Can't they find any judges to nominate who AREN'T bigots and misogynists?"


 
"When will the Americans put an end to the looting?"
The moronic woman on Connecticut's most listened to AM radio station somehow thought this situation was funny this morning.


 
This is already a state record. Is it a national record?
Amity School District voters added to their state record Thursday night, overwhelmingly rejecting the Board of Education’s proposed budget for a 14th time.


Thursday, April 10, 2003
 
More thought police in action:
Baseball's Hall of Fame has canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of the film "Bull Durham" because of anti-war criticism by co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.

The shrine's president wrote to the couple:

"We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."
I'll never go to the Baseball Hall of Fame again.



 
The politicians just get more and more moronic. Evidently, we're going to get two separate budget bills--one from the House and one from the Senate.
Under the proposed deal, the House and Senate would pass a $2.2 trillion budget resolution by week's end calling for a $350 billion tax cut in the Senate and $626 billion in the House ... Never before has Congress passed a budget resolution with different tax numbers for the two chambers.
It's come to this. The national legislators back off of their Constitutional duty and refuse to pass legitimate articles of war. Now they violate another of their duties by not coming up with a viable budget.

What a pathetic performance.


 
Golly. Maybe the Bushies really can keep the booboisie's mind off the tanking economy with a protracted war.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld was already warning Syria today that it had ignored his past cautions against aiding the Iraqi leadership. He said it was too soon to say if the United States would take action against Syria, which after Iraq is considered high on the Administration's list of enemies.

"No one has thrown down the gauntlet," he insisted, sounding like a man who was preparing to do so.



Wednesday, April 09, 2003
 
On to Syria!
Citing ''scraps of intelligence'' at a Pentagon news conference, Secretary of State Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld accused Syria on Wednesday of giving haven to some members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime and assisting others to additional safe locations.
One assumes these "scraps of intelligence" are every bit as reliable as those that convinced the chickenhawks to insist that "weapons of mass destruction" existed in Iraq.


 
The US administration had feared ... chemical weapon attacks ... but the statue of Saddam Hussein fell in central Baghdad without the nightmare scenario coming true.
Now that the "coalition" forces have prevailed in their invasion of Iraq, one might ask, why did we do this in the first place? The official justification was to remove the seemingly ubiquitous "weapons of mass destruction." Now, however, it really seems as if no such things existed in Iraq. If they had, Hussein certainly would have used them by now.

Thus, when all is said and done, there was no reason for the invasion. Except, of course, to fulfill some puerile desires on the part of various Washington officials.


 
"All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith."
Jerry Falwell? Pat Robertson? Not even close. Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige.

Give me strength ...


 
Here's an example of the order the Bushies have brought to Iraq:
As U.S. forces moved through one neighborhood after another, crowds of Baghdad residents seized the chance to plunder military installations and government buildings, making off with computers, bookshelves, tables, even Iraqi jeeps.

Among the buildings plundered were Iraq's Olympic headquarters and traffic police headquarters.

On Palestine Street, where the Baath party as recently as a few weeks back held rallies and shows of force, gangs of youths and even middle-aged men looted the warehouses of the Trade Ministry, coming out with air conditioners, ceiling fans, refrigerators and TV sets.


Tuesday, April 08, 2003
 
From a Reuters story:
[Tony Blair], who has stood by Bush throughout the crisis, said the "new Iraq" that would emerge after the war, would be run by the Iraqi people not by Britain, the United States or the U.N.
You can almost hear Wolfowitz et al gasping in the background.


Monday, April 07, 2003
 
If the Bushies wanted to be divisive, they've gotten their wish.

"Gotta get down to it./Soldiers are cutting us down."


 
And in Mafia news ...
Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, the powerful mafia boss who authorities said feigned insanity for decades in an attempt to avoid prosecution, ended the ruse Monday by admitting he misled doctors evaluating him. Gigante, 75, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
Guy walked around the streets of New York in his bathrobe for a long time.



 
Not a big Bob Herbert fan, but this morning's column is striking.
There doesn't seem to be much awareness in the Bush administration of the terrible distress of the unemployed American worker. This is an ache that does not extend to the gilded towers of the very wealthy, which is where the administration has always focused its concern.

The White House response to the latest job loss figures is the same response it has had all along to bad economic news: more tax cuts are the cure.

Mr. Sampson, who described himself as coming from a "Republican background," said he feels the American worker has been abandoned. "While I'm not a big Bill Clinton fan," he said, "I liked what his labor secretary had to say. Robert Reich always talked about the work force as a national asset. It is. We should treat it that way."