Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Threat Our Leaders Ignore

A nation indisputably with true weapons of mass destruction..... A nation whose true leadership supports terrorists.... A weakened government and leadership....

And what do Our Leaders do? Encourage a bogus patina of democracy while the armed forces of the world's sole superpower remains bogged in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But the true threat to global security remains free to do what it wishes, even going into meltdown....

Wait to go, Bushies! Bush league indeed....

Why To Be Very, Very Scared Of The Huck


The rise of Mike Huckabee as a presidential candidate represents a seismic shift in the tactics, ideology and direction of the radical Christian right. Huckabee may stumble and falter in later primaries, but his right-wing Christian populism is here to stay. Huckabee represents a new and potent force in American politics, and the neocons and corporate elite, who once viewed the yahoos of the Christian right as the useful idiots, are now confronted with the fact that they themselves are the ones who have been taken for a ride. Members of the Christian right, recruited into the Republican Party and manipulated to vote against their own interests around the issues of abortion and family values, are in rebellion. They are taking the party into new, uncharted territory. And they presage, especially with looming economic turmoil, the rise of a mass movement that could demolish what is left of American democracy and set the stage for a Christian fascism.

The corporate establishment, whose plundering of the country created fertile ground for a radical, right-wing backlash, is sounding the alarm bells. It is scrambling to bolster Mitt Romney, who, like Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton, will continue to slash and burn on behalf of corporate profits. Columnist George Will called Huckabee’s populism “a comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs.” He wrote that Huckabee’s candidacy “broadly repudiates core Republican policies such as free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America’s corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity.” National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote that “like [Howard] Dean, his nomination would represent an act of suicide by his party.”

Huckabee spoke of this revolt on the “Today” show. “There’s a sense in which all these years the evangelicals have been treated very kindly by the Republican Party,” he said. “They wanted us to be a part of it. And then one day one of us actually runs and they say, ‘Oh, my gosh, now they’re serious.’ They [evangelicals] don’t want to just show up and vote, they actually would want to be a part of the discussion.”

George Bush is a happy stooge of his corporate handlers. He blithely enriches the oligarchy, defends a war that is the worst foreign policy blunder in American history and callously denies medical benefits to children. Huckabee is different. He has tapped into the rage and fury of the working class, dispossessed and abandoned by the mainstream Democrats and Republicans. And he refuses to make the ideology of the Christian right, with its dark contempt for democratic traditions and intolerance of nonbelievers, a handmaiden of the corporate establishment. This makes him a much more lethal and radical political force.

The Christian right is the most potent and dangerous mass movement in American history. It has been controlled and led, until now, by those who submit to the demands of the corporate state. But the grass roots are tired of being taken for rubes. They are tired of candidates, like Bush or Bill Clinton, who roll out the same clich├ęs about working men and women every four years and then spend their terms enriching their corporate backers. The majority of American citizens have spent the last two decades watching their government services and benefits vanish. They have seen their jobs go overseas and are watching as their communities crumble and their houses are foreclosed. It is their kids who are in Iraq and Afghanistan. The old guard in the Christian right, the Pat Robertsons, who used their pulpits to deliver the votes of naive followers to the corporatists, is a spent force. Huckabee’s Christian populism represents the maturation of the movement. It signals the rise of a truly radical, even revolutionary force in American politics, of which Huckabee may be one of the tamer and less frightening examples.

Hints of Huckabee’s bizarre worldview seep out now and then. Bob Vander Plaats, Huckabee’s Iowa campaign manager, for example, when asked about his candidate’s lack of foreign policy experience, told MSNBC: “Well, I think Gov. Huckabee has a lot of resources that he goes to on national security matters. Here’s a guy, a former pastor, who understands a theological nature of this war as we’re fighting a radical religion in Islam.”

Robert Novak noted that Huckabee held a fundraiser last week at the Houston home of Dr. Steven Hotze. As Novak wrote, Hotze is “a leader in the highly conservative Christian Reconstruction movement.”

Huckabee has close ties with the Christian Reconstructionist or Dominionist branch of the Christian right. The Dominionist movement, which seeks to cloak itself in the mantle of the Christian faith and American patriotism, is small in numbers but influential. It departs from traditional evangelicalism. It seeks to redefine traditional democratic and Christian terms and concepts to fit an ideology that calls on the radical church to take political power. It shares many prominent features with classical fascist movements, at least as such movements are defined by the scholar Robert O. Paxton, who sees fascism as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cultures of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

Dominionism, born out of Christian Reconstructionism, seeks to politicize faith. It has, like all fascist movements, a belief in magic along with leadership adoration and a strident call for moral and physical supremacy of a master race, in this case American Christians. It also has, like fascist movements, an ill-defined and shifting set of beliefs, some of which contradict each other. Paxton argues that the best way to understand authentic fascist movements, which he says exist in all societies, including democracies, is to focus not on what they say but on how they act, for, as he writes, some of the ideas that underlie fascist movements “remain unstated and implicit in fascist public language” and “many of them belong more to the realm of visceral feelings than to the realm of reasoned propositions.”

Dominionism teaches that American Christians have been mandated by God to make America a Christian state. A decades-long refusal by most American fundamentalists to engage in politics at all following the Scopes trial has been replaced by a call for Christian “dominion” over the nation and, eventually, over the Earth itself. Dominionism preaches that Jesus has called on Christians to actively build the kingdom of God on Earth. America becomes, in this militant Biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America’s Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan. Under Christian dominion, America will no longer be a sinful and fallen nation but one in which the Ten Commandments form the basis of our legal system, in which creationism and “Christian values” form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all. Labor unions, civil rights laws and public schools will be abolished. Women will be removed from the work force to stay at home, and all those deemed insufficiently Christian will be denied citizenship.

Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America and a self-described “Christocrat,” who attended the Texas fundraiser, has endorsed Huckabee. Scarborough, along with holding other bizarre stances, opposes the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine on grounds that it interferes with God’s punishment of sexual license. And Huckabee, who once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public and opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure, comes out of this frightening mold. He justified his call to quarantine those with AIDS because they could “pose a dangerous public health risk.”

"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague,” Huckabee wrote. “It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.”

Huckabee has publicly backed off from this extreme position, but he remains deeply hostile to gays. He has used wit and humor to deflect reporters from his radical views about marriage, abortion, damnation, biblical law, creationism and the holy war he believes we are fighting with Islam. But his stances represent a huge step, should they ever become policy, toward a theocratic state and the death of our open society. In the end, however, I do not blame Huckabee or the tens of millions of hapless Christians—40 percent of the Republican electorate—who hear his words and rejoice. I blame the corporate state, those who thought they could disempower and abuse the working class, rape the country, build a rapacious oligarchy and never pay a political price.
Link.

Another Greater Leader

Well, don't say we didn't warn you about Ron Paul's friends.

Here's American National Socialist Workers Party leader Bill White, coming out big for Paul on the far-right Vanguard News Network site on December 20:
Comrades:
I have kept quiet about the Ron Paul campaign for a while, because I didn't see any need to say anything that would cause any trouble. However, reading the latest release from his campaign spokesman, I am compelled to tell the truth about Ron Paul's extensive involvement in white nationalism.
Both Congressman Paul and his aides regularly meet with members of the Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review, and others at the Tara Thai restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, usually on Wednesdays. This is part of a dinner that was originally organized by Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis and Joe Sobran, and has since been mostly taken over by the Council of Conservative Citizens.
I have attended these dinners, seen Paul and his aides there, and been invited to his offices in Washington to discuss policy.
For his spokesman to call white racialism a "small ideology" and claim white activists are "wasting their money" trying to influence Paul is ridiculous. Paul is a white nationalist of the Stormfront type who has always kept his racial views and his views about world Judaism quiet because of his political position.
I don't know that it is necessarily good for Paul to "expose" this. However, he really is someone with extensive ties to white nationalism and for him to deny that in the belief he will be more respectable by denying it is outrageous -- and I hate seeing people in the press who denounce racialism merely because they think it is not fashionable.
Bill White, Commander
American National Socialist Workers Party
Obviously, this isn't what Paul's supporters want to hear. (The reactions from the VNN commentors ranged from "Some one ban this piece of shit for the no outing rule" to "I know alot of white supremacist involved in the Ron Paul campaign. I wish he would not shun away from his true supporters. I will stick with him till the ened but he shouldn't act like a typical politiician" to "This motherfucker needs a special bullet." Yes, the unique spelling is all their very own; follow the link above and read the threads for more holiday joy in this vein.) While White is hardly the most reliable reporter on any subject, his testament to Paul's racist credentials does tend to corroborate what Dave and I have been telling you all along: Paul's got longstanding connections to the looniest loonies on the loony right. You may not be able to hear the dog-whistle code in his speeches, but they sure as hell hear it loud and clear.

We've also been telling you that it's not just that Paul shows up for their events: he also takes their money. There's an old saying in politics that ya gotta dance with them what brung ya -- and guys like Bill White are the ones that brung Paul to Congress in the first place. On December 19, the day before White's helpful VNN endoresment, the AP caught Paul in mid-tango, this time with Stormfront.org founder Don Black:
Paul keeps donation from white supremacist
Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has received a $500 campaign donation from a white supremacist, and the Texas congressman doesn't plan to return it, an aide said Wednesday.
Don Black, of West Palm Beach, recently made the donation, according to campaign filings. He runs a Web site called Stormfront with the motto, "White Pride World Wide." The site welcomes postings to the "Stormfront White Nationalist Community."
"Dr. Paul stands for freedom, peace, prosperity and inalienable rights. If someone with small ideologies happens to contribute money to Ron, thinking he can influence Ron in any way, he's wasted his money," Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said. "Ron is going to take the money and try to spread the message of freedom."
"And that's $500 less that this guy has to do whatever it is that he does," Benton added.
Black said he supports Paul's stance on ending the war in Iraq, securing U.S. borders and his opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"We know that he's not a white nationalist. He says he isn't and we believe him, but on the issues, there's only one choice," Black said Wednesday. "We like his stand on tight borders and opposition to a police state," Black told The Palm Beach Post earlier.
On his Web site, Black says he has been involved in "the White patriot movement for 30 years."
Evidently, when it comes to Paul's status as a white nationalist, Mr. Black and Mr. White need to get their stories straight. But anyone on the left who continues to deny that Paul has maintained long, significant, and productive relationships with racists and anti-democratic "patriots" is, at this point, living in a denial zone worthy of Donald Rumsfeld.
Link.

More Or, Rather, Less On Bhutto

Police abandoned their security posts shortly before Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's assassination Thursday, according to a journalist present at the time, and unanswerable questions remain about the cause of her death, because an autopsy was never performed.
John Bolton shares his insights.

A Liar, A Greedy Pig

In western Virginia, far from the limelight, United States Attorney John L. Brownlee found himself on the telephone last year with a political and legal superstar, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

For years, Mr. Brownlee and his small team had been building a case that the maker of the painkiller OxyContin had misled the public when it claimed the drug was less prone to abuse than competing narcotics. The drug was believed to be a factor in hundreds of deaths involving its abuse.

Mr. Giuliani, celebrated for his stewardship of New York City after 9/11, soon told the prosecutors they were wrong.

In 2002, the drug maker, Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Conn., hired Mr. Giuliani and his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, to help stem the controversy about OxyContin. Among Mr. Giuliani’s missions was the job of convincing public officials that they could trust Purdue because they could trust him.

So it was no small success when, after the call, Mr. Brownlee did what many people might have done when confronted with such celebrity: He went out and bought a copy of Mr. Giuliani’s book, “Leadership.”

“I wanted to be prepared for my meetings with him,” Mr. Brownlee said in a recent interview.

Over the past few weeks, Mr. Giuliani’s consulting business has received increasing scrutiny, at times forcing him to defend his business as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination.

But his work for Purdue, the company’s first and longest-running client, provides a window into how he used his standing as an eminent lawyer, a Republican insider and a national celebrity to aid a controversial client and build a business fortune.

A former top federal prosecutor, Mr. Giuliani participated in two meetings between Purdue officials and the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the agency investigating the company. Giuliani Partners took on the job of monitoring security improvements at company facilities making OxyContin, an issue of concern to the D.E.A.

As a celebrity, Mr. Giuliani helped the company win several public relations battles, playing a role in an effort by Purdue to persuade an influential Pennsylvania congressman, Curt Weldon, not to blame it for OxyContin abuse.

Despite these efforts, Purdue suffered a crushing defeat in May at the hands of Mr. Brownlee when the company and three top executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

Mr. Giuliani, who declined to discuss his work for Purdue for this article, has refused to talk in detail about his firm’s clients. He has said that he is no longer involved in the day-to-day management of the firm, which still represents Purdue.

Giuliani Partners would not say how much Purdue had paid it, but one consultant to the drug maker estimated that Mr. Giuliani’s firm had, in some years, earned several million dollars from the account.

“Everything I did with Giuliani Partners has been totally legal, totally ethical,” Mr. Giuliani recently told The Associated Press. “There’s nothing for me to explain about it. We’ve acted honorably, decently.”

In the OxyContin case, Mr. Giuliani’s supporters suggest that as a cancer survivor himself, he was driven by a noble goal: to keep the company’s proven pain reliever available to the widest circle of sufferers.

“I understand the pain and distress that accompanies illness,” Mr. Giuliani said at the time. “I know that proper medications are necessary for people to treat their sickness and improve their quality of life.”

To drive OxyContin’s sales, Purdue, beginning in 1996, set in motion what D.E.A. officials described as perhaps the most aggressive promotional campaign for a high-powered narcotic ever undertaken. It promoted the drug not only to pain specialists, but to family doctors with little experience in treating serious pain or recognizing drug abuse.

As a result of the expanded access, critics charged, OxyContin wound up in the high schools and street corners of rural America where curious teenagers crushed the pill, defeating the time-release formula, and ended up addicts, or in some cases, dead.

Dennis Lee, the Virginia state prosecutor for Tazewell County, an area hard hit by OxyContin abuse, said he was stunned several years ago to learn that Mr. Giuliani was working for Purdue. He had a favorable impression of Mr. Giuliani, he said, and a poor opinion of the company, which he said had played down and dissembled about its drug’s problem.

“I was shocked,” Mr. Lee said, “that he would basically become a mouthpiece for Purdue.”
[more]

Our Leaders: Quote Of The Day

"The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits." -- Albert Einstein

Beloved Leader's Christmas

Top5:
The 12 Days of a Bush Administration Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

12> Twelve percent approval

11> Eleven ways to pronounce "Ahmadinejad"

10> Ten childrens learning

9> 9/11 milking

8> Eight items of note I recall having received, but the specific
nature of which I do not remember

7> Seven minutes a-reading "My Pet Goat"

6> Six shivs for Scooter

5> Five spin machines

4> Four Roves a-leaking

3> Three Freedom hens

2> Two plastered twins

1> And bin Laden still running free!

Workplace Warning!

A Fort Madison man who posted a "Dilbert" comic strip on an office bulletin board has lost his job for implying his bosses were a bunch of "drunken lemurs."
Whoa! Imagine what putting this up would do (or any entry at this blog!)?

Voice Of The Iraqis

The blog discussed below has been added to the links on the right.
When it comes to covering the war in Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers has always done things a bit differently. The third-largest newspaper company in the US, it owns thirty-one daily papers, including The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, The Kansas City Star, and The Charlotte Observer. (It became the owner of some of these papers after buying Knight Ridder newspapers in 2006.) McClatchy has a large bureau in Washington, but without a paper either in the capital or in New York, it operates outside the glare of the nation's political and media elite, and this has freed it to follow its own path.

***

From the start, the McClatchy bureau has made a special point of reporting on the lives of ordinary Iraqis and on the impact the war has had on them. To help it do so, it has relied heavily on its Iraqi staff. It currently has five Iraqi members—former teachers, doctors, and office managers who, joining the staff as translators and "fixers," have received on-the-job training as reporters. In this, McClatchy is not unique. As the danger to Western reporters in Iraq has mounted, US news organizations have turned to local reporters and stringers to help gather the news. (The work is even more dangerous for them than it is for Westerners; according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, of the 124 journalists who have been killed since the start of the Iraq war, 102 have been Iraqis.)

McClatchy, though, has gone a step further. About a year ago, it set up a blog exclusively for contributions from its Iraqi staff. "Inside Iraq," it's called, and several times a week the Iraqi staff members post on it about their experiences and impressions (the blog can be found at washingtonbureau.typepad.com/iraq). "It's an opportunity for Iraqis to talk directly to an American audience," says Leila Fadel, the current bureau chief, whose father is from Lebanon and whose mother is from Michigan, who grew up in Saudi Arabia, and who is all of twenty-six years old.

As such, the blog fills a major gap in the coverage. In a recent survey conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism of the Pew Research Center, US journalists in Iraq were asked to grade different aspects of reporting on the occupation. Their highest marks were given to the coverage of the military operations and experiences of US troops—fully 82 percent rated this as excellent or good. Their lowest marks went to the reporting on the lives of ordinary Iraqis; this was rated fair or poor by 62 percent. "There are too few reports that include Iraqi citizens—not Green Zone politicians but regular folks," one TV journalist said. "We need to hear their voices." "The coverage has been ethnocentric," a newspaper correspondent commented. "There is not enough attention to the plight of the Iraqis."

The abysmal security situation is no doubt partly to blame for this. Despite the improvements in safety in Baghdad in recent months, most of Iraq, including large parts of the capital, remains too dangerous for journalists to travel in without heavy protection. When you have to travel around town in armored cars, it's hard to interview the man on the street. But there seem to be other reasons for this neglect as well. As the Pew survey noted, American editors seem to have a "declining interest" in the Iraqi side of the story. The same is no doubt true for American readers. "There are so many stories about our troops," Leila Fadel told me. "That's what Americans want to read—stories about their brothers, husbands, and sisters." This has only increased with the surge. Politically active Americans seem mainly interested in one question—is it working? To find out, American journalists have embedded with US troops, gone out with them on patrol, interviewed lieutenants, captains, and colonels. It's a classic case of Washington setting the journalistic agenda. In the process, stories about the Iraqi people and how they see the surge, and the war in general, have been squeezed out.

"Inside Iraq" specializes in such stories. The entries on it are rarely edited, and the English is left intact. "You can hear the way they think and speak, untouched," Fadel says. The emphasis, she notes, is on telling personal stories rather than expressing political views. Even so, the blog is full of passion, irony, bitterness, and outrage, qualities that help get across the dark realities—and unfathomable costs—of the occupation with an immediacy that Americans are rarely exposed to. It's the occupation as seen through the eyes of the occupied.
[more]

Why Mitt Is No JFK

Garry Wills spells it out.

Lies About Bhutto

A little context first: Don't believe Pakistan is such a ripe area for democracy. And it has not really been one in decades; the military's been in control, whether overtly or covertly for decades. Civilian "leaders" "rule" with the military's consent. To you that's a democracy?

Anyway.

What's the first thing that was done after the assassination? The scene was cleaned -- hosed down -- before any investigation began. Of course, clean up would be the last thing on the agenda. It makes one think that the authorities were in on this. And of course, B and her party were a major threat to the Islamofascist terrorists the Paki military tacitly supports.

Anyway, video of the attack:



Link.

Sweet Home Alabama

Raw Story:
Alabama's Republican Governor Bob Riley may have attempted to conceal illegal corporate donations to his 2002 and 2006 campaigns by representing them in campaign finance reports as having come from individuals, according to an an investigation carried out by the Montgomery Independent.

Riley's campaigns have been under close scrutiny during the past several weeks, with questions being raised about his narrow victory over incumbent Don Siegelman in 2002, followed by Siegelman's prosecution on what many consider to be trumped-up charges when he proposed to run again in 2006.

An ongoing RAW STORY investigative series has explored the 2002 Alabama governor's election, in which Riley pulled ahead only when a last minute change in the tally switched several thousand votes in one county from Siegelman's column to Riley's and the state's Republican attorney general refused to allow a recount. Karl Rove is alleged to have been directly involved in that election, working together with longtime Alabama GOP operative William Canary.

The Montgonery Independent has now found that in 2006, the Riley campaign reported the use of airplanes owned by two corporations as if they were personal "in-kind" donations from the presidents of those corporations. It also listed the provision of an advertising billboard as a personal donation from the president of the ad agency. Together, these in-kind donations had a value of over $25,000, far beyond the $500 limit allowed for any one corporation in a single election cycle

Montgomery Independent publisher Bob Martin has called for further investigation of the matter, stating in an editorial, "The question which stands out front-and-center is whether or not the listing of individuals instead of the true corporate donors was intentional, as in to bypass the legal limits on corporate donations or was just a mistake in reporting."

Although still expressing willingness to give Riley a chance to clear himself, Martin is prepared to call for legal action if he does not. "This is a serious violation of the law on the part of the governor’s campaign if what we have uncovered cannot be refuted -- just as serious as the matters for which former Gov. Don Siegelman was convicted. The governor must come clean on this and correct his campaign reports. If he doesn’t either the state attorney general or the Montgomery district attorney should take action."
More here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Founded By Believers As A Christian Nation. Not

Ahh, we knew the wingnuts were lying on this one....
A bracing text for this Christmas week is the famous correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Their letters are a reminder that the Founders were men of the Enlightenment -- supreme rationalists who would have found the religiosity of much of our modern political life quite abhorrent.

It's not that these men didn't have religious beliefs: They were, to their deaths, passionate seekers of truth, metaphysical as well as physical. It's that their beliefs didn't fit into pious cubbyholes. Indeed, the deist Jefferson took a pair of scissors to the New Testament to create his "Jefferson Bible," or, formally, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," which cut out the parts he regarded as supernatural or misinterpreted by the Gospel writers.

It's useful to examine the musings of these American rationalists in this political season when religion has been a prominent topic. Politicians and commentators have suggested that for the Founders, the very idea of freedom was God-given -- or, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, that human beings are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Yet this famous passage begins with a distillation of the Enlightenment's celebration of human reason: "We hold these truths to be self-evident."

My Christmastime reading of the Adams-Jefferson letters was prompted by this year's most interesting political speech but one I also found troubling -- Mitt Romney's Dec. 6 speech on "Faith in America." It was a fine evocation of our twin heritage of religion and religious freedom, until he got to this ritual denunciation of the bogeymen known as secularists. "They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism."

Anyone who reads Adams and Jefferson -- or for that matter, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton or other voices of the American Enlightenment -- can make their own judgment about what the Founders would say about Romney's broadside against secularism. My guess is that their response would be something like: "That is bunkum, sir."

Many of the Founders liked to speak of the "God of Nature," notes Garrett Epps, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Oregon. Adams used this term in a June 20, 1815, letter to Jefferson: "The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by His own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?" Adams mistrusted priests and kings, but he was also skeptical of the revolutionary philosophers who had overthrown them in France. He spent his life looking for a middle ground.

Jefferson spoke in a May 5, 1817, letter of "true religion" as based on "moral precepts, innate in man," and the "sublime doctrine of philanthropism and deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth." He contrasted this true faith with "sectarian dogmas." If the sectarian version prevailed, warned Jefferson, then he might agree with Adams's speculation that "this would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it."

Before leaving these restless men and their ruminations on man and God in what one editor of the letters called "an epistolary duet," let us recall this caustic Nov. 4, 1816, missive from Adams: "We have now, it seems, a national Bible Society, to propagate King James's Bible through all nations. Would it not be better to apply these pious subscriptions to purify Christendom from the corruptions of Christianity than to propagate those corruptions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America?"

The Founders certainly believed in God, but for most of them, their faith was a deeply private matter, as Jefferson put it in a Jan. 11, 1817, letter, a subject "known to my God and myself alone." Indeed, they found loud, public displays of religiosity a profanation of this inner and spiritual practice of religion. Adams, the more conventionally "religious" of the two, insisted in a Sept. 14, 1813, letter that there is "but one being who can understand the universe, and that it is not only vain but wicked for insects to pretend to comprehend it."

One theme in this year's political campaign has been whether the United States will move from the faith-based policies the Bush administration has celebrated to a more rationalist and secular approach. In this debate, religious conservatives like to stress their connection to the Founders and to the republic's birth as "one nation under God." But a rereading of the Adams-Jefferson letters is a reminder that in this debate, the Founders -- as men of the Enlightenment -- would surely have sided with the party of Reason.
Link.

10 Myths About Iraq

10. Myth: The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

In a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll, Iraq and the economy were virtually tied among voters nationally, with nearly a quarter of voters in each case saying it was their number one issue. The economy had become more important to them than in previous months (in November only 14% said it was their most pressing concern), but Iraq still rivals it as an issue!
9. Myth: There have been steps toward religious and political reconciliation in Iraq in 2007. Fact: The government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has for the moment lost the support of the Sunni Arabs in parliament. The Sunnis in his cabinet have resigned. Even some Shiite parties have abandoned the government. Sunni Arabs, who are aware that under his government Sunnis have largely been ethnically cleansed from Baghdad, see al-Maliki as a sectarian politician uninterested in the welfare of Sunnis.

8. Myth: The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from 65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million during the US 'surge,' or more than 10 percent of the capital's population. Among the primary effects of the 'surge' has been to turn Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the capital.
7. Myth: Iran was supplying explosively formed projectiles (a deadly form of roadside bomb) to Salafi Jihadi (radical Sunni) guerrilla groups in Iraq. Fact: Iran has not been proved to have sent weapons to any Iraqi guerrillas at all. It certainly would not send weapons to those who have a raging hostility toward Shiites. (Iran may have supplied war materiel to its client, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (ISCI), which was then sold off from warehouses because of graft, going on the arms market and being bought by guerrillas and militiamen.

6. Myth: The US overthrow of the Baath regime and military occupation of Iraq has helped liberate Iraqi women. Fact: Iraqi women have suffered significant reversals of status, ability to circulate freely, and economic situation under the Bush administration.

5. Myth: Some progress has been made by the Iraqi government in meeting the "benchmarks" worked out with the Bush administration. Fact: in the words of Democratic Senator Carl Levin, "Those legislative benchmarks include approving a hydrocarbon law, approving a debaathification law, completing the work of a constitutional review committee, and holding provincial elections. Those commitments, made 1 1/2 years ago, which were to have been completed by January of 2007, have not yet been kept by the Iraqi political leaders despite the breathing space the surge has provided."

4. Myth: The Sunni Arab "Awakening Councils," who are on the US payroll, are reconciling with the Shiite government of PM Nuri al-Maliki even as they take on al-Qaeda remnants. Fact: In interviews with the Western press, Awakening Council tribesmen often speak of attacking the Shiites after they have polished off al-Qaeda. A major pollster working in Iraq observed,

' Most of the recent survey results he has seen about political reconciliation, Warshaw said, are "more about [Iraqis] reconciling with the United States within their own particular territory, like in Anbar. . . . But it doesn't say anything about how Sunni groups feel about Shiite groups in Baghdad." Warshaw added: "In Iraq, I just don't hear statements that come from any of the Sunni, Shiite or Kurdish groups that say 'We recognize that we need to share power with the others, that we can't truly dominate.' " ' '
The polling shows that "the Iraqi government has still made no significant progress toward its fundamental goal of national reconciliation."

3. Myth: The Iraqi north is relatively quiet and a site of economic growth. Fact: The subterranean battle among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs for control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province makes the Iraqi north a political mine field. Kurdistan now also hosts the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas that sneak over the border and kill Turkish troops. The north is so unstable that the Iraqi north is now undergoing regular bombing raids from Turkey.

2. Myth: Iraq has been "calm" in fall of 2007 and the Iraqi public, despite some grumbling, is not eager for the US to depart. Fact: in the past 6 weeks, there have been an average of 600 attacks a month, or 20 a day, which has held steady since the beginning of November. About 600 civilians are being killed in direct political violence per month, but that number excludes deaths of soldiers and police. Across the board, Iraqis believe that their conflicts are mainly caused by the US military presence and they are eager for it to end.

1. Myth: The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge."

Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops.
Link.

Our Allies, The Pakis, And The Case We Have Wrought

No need, never was a need for Pakistan to be a democracy. To the extent the powers that be there "wanted" it, it was solely in response to U.S. pressure. (Which why, in great part, it is unlikely to have any effect in the greater scheme of things... unless there is an unlikely revolution or complete overthrow of the true rulers.)

Always believed, and this is just proof of it, that democracy is just anathema for some cultures.

Hey, anybody want to bet Musharraf & Co. were not behind this? "Islamic terrorists"? The same ones the present regime were enabling?

Anyway, for those following things, a mess of links:

Trouble for Musharraf? The Times thinks so. (But it believed in WMDs.)

The Times also believes we (or Our Leaders) have a problem. Well, yes, and we're a problem, too.

An analysis.

Juan Cole opines here.

The candidates show their respective grasps of the issue:
I tried to resist sizing up how Benazir Bhutto's assassination would affect the presidential primary campaign for at least a day, but in the last couple of hours, my discipline started to fail. Partly it eroded watching Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee stammer shamefully as they figured out what to say.

Romney looked like a robot, blaming "violent jihadism," with no flicker of intelligence in his eyes about the complexities of the forces that likely conspired to kill Bhutto. (Or as "Hardball's" Chris Matthews put it today, it sounded like "blah blah blah.") Huckabee still seemed to think Pakistan was under martial law, though it was lifted by Musharraf two weeks ago. Thompson had to grope around for words to describe how "the more loony" al-Qaida elements were driven to murder a secular woman leader (while the less loony were sending money to her campaign? Explain, Fred.) And on the day a woman died for democracy, Thompson was quoted by the Boston Globe insisting there's no way a woman will be our next president. "This year, it's a man, and next year, it's going to be a man,'' said Thompson. "I can see no one else who's qualified to be president of the United States." (Please, Jeri, please, can't you tie him to the bed until 2009?)

For the sinking Giuliani, predictably, it was 9/11 all over again, time to "redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists' War on Us." Sen. John McCain was the only Republican who was the least bit convincing that he understands the real global forces at play.

Among the Democrats, it was hard not to notice that the last post on Salon before Bhutto's death was Walter Shapiro depicting Joe Biden as Cassandra, in part for his wisdom about Pakistan. Biden is probably too far behind to benefit much from this, but you never know. Hillary Clinton made several statements about Bhutto's assassination, and warmed up to her topic over time, finally discussing a trip she made to visit Bhutto in Pakistan in 1995, when her daughter Chelsea met Bhutto's children. On MSNBC'S "Hardball," Pat Buchanan described Clinton's Bhutto remarks as "statesmanlike," high praise coming from Buchanan, whom we don't expect to find a gender-neutral adjective. Even Chris Matthews, who's been brutal to Clinton in the last two months, praised her handling of the tragedy and labeled remarks by Barack Obama, who's appeared to be Matthews' chosen candidate of late, flat and uninspiring.

John Edwards, meanwhile, told reporters he'd spoken to Musharraf himself and urged him to keep moving toward democracy. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the United States should cut off aid unless Musharraf steps aside and lets a coalition of democratic forces in Pakistan take over, which seems a little divorced from reality. Sen. Chris Dodd apparently agrees with me, telling Keith Olbermann tonight, "I can't think of a worse scenario at this particular point." Although President Bush is pushing Musharraf to hold elections as scheduled Jan. 8, Dodd said elections should be postponed at least partly so Bhutto's party can pick a new candidate.

The day's worst reaction came from Obama strategist David Axelrod, who upstaged his candidate's big foreign policy speech with follow-up remarks that seemed to suggest Clinton bears some responsibility for Bhutto's killing. The assassination will "call into issue ... who's made the right judgments," Axelrod told reporters. "Obviously, one of the reasons that Pakistan is in the distress that it's in is because al-Qaida is resurgent, has become more powerful within that country, and that's a consequence of us taking the eye off the ball and making the wrong judgment in going into Iraq. That's a serious difference between these candidates, and I'm sure that people will take that into consideration ... [Clinton] was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit was one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaida, who may have been players in this event today, so that's a judgment she'll have to defend," Axelrod said. Actually, it's a judgment John Edwards, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd would all presumably also have to defend, since all of them joined Clinton to vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq in 2002.

Maybe Axelrod was the designated knee-capper here; maybe he was thrown off his game by the latest Iowa polls showing Clinton back on top (narrowly); either way, it seemed wrong to me. Of course, as Greg Sargent notes, Clinton surrogate Evan Bayh was also a little crass insisting Hillary is the only candidate tough enough to keep the GOP from depicting Democrats as weak in such times of global strife (but it should be noted, Bayh didn't single out any opponent, of either party, as even partially responsible for Bhutto's death.) We'll see how it all unfolds in the days to come.
Another opinion.

And another.

And another.

The word from Pakistan is here and here.

The Wall Street Journal wingnuts stick in their 2¢.

E-Voting

I'm losing count of the states in which it's being rejected (or they're trying to get rid of it)....

Arizona:
Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman issued an official recommendation to the state legislature yesterday endorsing the use of paper ballots rather than electronic voting machines for the 2008 presidential election. Coffman's concerns about the fallibilities of electronic voting come shortly after the completion of the state's voting machine recertification process, which he carried out under a court mandate.
[more]

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Huck: What Would Jesus Do? Why, Lie, Lie, Lie!

Mike Huckabee is overselling his record of cracking down on illegal aliens as governor, claiming he ordered his state police to arrest illegal aliens when in fact he never signed the agreement with federal authorities that would have allowed it.

Mr. Huckabee signed a bill that began the process, but he never followed through with signing an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to secure training for state police officers. Without it, they cannot enforce federal immigration law.

"This is a policy difference, but the facts are the facts — under Governor Huckabee's administration, there was never even any effort to begin negotiating with Homeland Security," said former state Rep. Jeremy Hutchinson, the Republican who sponsored the 2005 law.

Mr. Huckabee's campaign acknowledged he didn't follow through, but said it was lack of time, not lack of interest.

"The clock ran out. We're glad to hear Governor Beebe picked up the ball and is running with it," said Charmaine Yoest, a senior adviser to Mr. Huckabee.

Mr. Huckabee signed the law in March 2005, more than 20 months before he left office. In less than a year in office, his successor, Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has already begun negotiations with DHS.

Immigration-control groups say they fear Mr. Huckabee could repeat President Bush's track record on immigration, which they say amounted to tough talk but a failure to follow through.

"The devil is in the details, and Bush has shown a pattern of deception on immigration enforcement again and again and again, and the Huckster is right in line with that technique," said William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who said Mr. Huckabee is trying to fool the Republican primary electorate.

"He knows he's wrong on immigration; he can't win if he's wrong on immigration — therefore, lie," Mr. Gheen said.

He said he will be in Iowa in the run-up to the Jan. 3 caucuses to try to convince voters Mr. Huckabee can't be trusted.

Mr. Huckabee makes the enforcement claim on the immigration section of his Web site — one of only two times he talks about his record on the issue in Arkansas: "As governor, I ordered my state troopers to work with the Department of Homeland Security to arrest illegals and enforce federal immigration law."

Ironically, Mr. Huckabee calls for better federal-local police cooperation as part of his nine-point immigration plan released earlier this month: "Local authorities must be provided the tools, training and funding they need so local police can turn illegal immigrants over to the federal authorities."

Cooperation has become a hot issue for many states and localities, and polls show voters want police to be able to check the immigration status of those they arrest or pull over in traffic stops.

The only other former governor in the race, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, signed a cooperation agreement with Homeland Security officials in the waning days of his administration last year, but his Democratic successor rescinded it immediately.

In Arkansas, the law Mr. Huckabee signed called for his state police director to negotiate the agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — in this case, Steve Dozier, who Mr. Huckabee appointed after firing his predecessor.

Mr. Dozier did not return a call seeking comment for this article. He is now an executive with Arkansas-based Wal-Mart.

Mr. Hutchinson, the former Arkansas state lawmaker, who supports a rival of Mr. Huckabee's in the presidential race — former Sen. Fred Thompson — said that even though Mr. Huckabee signed his bill, "I don't think he supported the concept."

"My frustration with not pursuing it was we never even sought to determine what the federal government would give us and help pay for, and from my perspective, the only reason we shouldn't even initiate conversations is because as a policy reason we didn't want to do it," he said.

At a press conference last week called to answer charges about his Arkansas record, several state lawmakers who are supporting Mr. Huckabee said they remembered passing the bill, but couldn't say whether the governor ever followed through.

"I was in the state Senate as we pushed that bill through," said Sen. Gilbert Baker. "I believe that became law in the state of Arkansas. Now following on through that as far as agreements, I don't know the details there."

Still, those lawmakers said Mr. Huckabee did what he could. They said he was proactive in signing a bill to prevent illegal aliens from being able to obtain driver's licenses, though some state Republicans said that was a reversal from earlier in his administration when he wanted to allow licenses regardless of legal status.

"I sponsored it; it had his support," said former Rep. Doug Matayo. "He even sent some of the bureaucratic organizations to help work with me to make sure that it was right, well-written and something we could live with as a cost measure, too."
Link.

The World's Greatest Healthcare System -- Because We Have The World's Greatest Health Insurers

Nataline Sarkisyan, 17, died last week after suffering complications following a bone marrow transplant. Cigna had refused to cover a liver transplant the girl's doctors had requested, dubbing it "experimental," only to reconsider at the last minute when the girl's parents had already decided to take her off life support.

After taking a beating in the press and on the Web, the Philadelphia-based insurance giant distributed a letter to the press Monday defending their decision.

In a letter cowritten by Cigna President David Cardani and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Kang, the company said they doubted the efficacy of the transplant procedure in Sarkisyan's case.

"In this case, rather than going through our standard method of appeal, we went directly to not one, but two independent experts in the field who agreed that the procedure in question, given the patient's particular circumstances, would not have been an effective or appropriate treatment," they wrote, evaluating her case on "evidence-based guidelines published by independent physician and medical organizations, as well as expert scientific journals."

Sarkisyan's family say they will sue the insurer. They allege Cigna twice took her off the transplant list and "purposely" waited until she was near death to approve the transplant because the firm didn't want to bear the costs of the procedure or rehabilitation following the operation.
[more]

With Allies Like These, Yes, Who Needs Enemies?

Agents from MI6 entered secret talks with Taliban leaders despite Gordon Brown's pledge that Britain would not negotiate with terrorists, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Iran's defense minister said Wednesday that Russia is preparing to deliver powerful new air defense systems that would dramatically increase his nation's ability to repel an attack.

How The World Works

The mad dogs howl...
Raw Story:

When Hillary Clinton predicted on Saturday that if she is elected "the oil-producing countries will drop the price of oil," she meant it as a warning, not as a campaign promise.

Clinton pointed to what happened in the 1980's, when Ronald Reagan "dismantled" the steps towards energy independence taken by President Jimmy Carter after oil prices soared in the 1970's. "Because costs were low, people didn't care," Clinton said, but she cautioned that we can't afford to be fooled the same way again. "We've got to figure out how were going to not be the frog in the cold water anymore."

Now it seems that Clinton's attempted warning against complacency when it comes to our dependence on foreign oil may have been too subtle, because right-wing bloggers quickly twisted it into something very different.

"Hillary Clinton has ramped up the pandering and outright lies of her campaign by claiming that electing her to the presidency will instantly lower the price of oil," grumbled Big Dogs Weblog. "The Arabs are probably keeping the oil price high to help Democrats win the White House anyway. The Democrats have a history of being in bed with the terrorists and the Commies."

"Well unless she is in the pocket book of OPEC I don't really see how this is possible," wrote a blogger at Our Nation UnDivided. "Of course we did go to Iraq for oil as many people think, so maybe she will open up their reserves for our using. If that was the purpose for the war and all. Or maybe she is just hoping some naive or uneducated Americans will pick up on her lies and actually vote for her."

ThatPoliticalBlog raised even more sinister concerns, writing, "On the surface it looks like standard electioneering BS promises to the voters. Offer them anything that will win their votes is typical Democrat strategy. Nevertheless, what if this is some real insight into something much more menacing? ... Is it really that much of a stretch to imagine Hillary attempting to nationalize American oil?"

Our Wonderful Economy

Fox Bidness Journal:
A closely watched gauge of U.S. home prices shows they are falling sharply across most of the nation, as a deepening slump in the housing market threatens to damp consumer spending.

Home prices in 10 major metropolitan areas in October were down 6.7% from a year earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price indexes, released yesterday by credit-rating firm Standard & Poor's. That exceeded the previous record year-to-year decline of 6.3% in April 1991, when the economy was emerging from a recession. (See a PDF summary of the report.)

New statistics from the Census Bureau, meanwhile, indicate a slowdown in the number of Americans moving to states that led the housing boom, including Nevada, Florida and Arizona.

***

During the housing boom in the first half of this decade, fast-rising home prices made it easy for homeowners to take out home-equity loans or refinance their primary mortgages to extract some cash. That helped sustain consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity.

Economists now worry that falling home prices will prompt consumers to pull back on spending enough to slow growth or even tip the economy into recession. "Eventually what's happening in the housing market is going to catch up with us," says Patrick Newport, an economist at research-firm Global Insight Inc.
More here.

Mendicancy

Greenwald:
"When I talk to senior government officials on the phone, it's my own policy -- our conversations are confidential. If I want to use anything from that conversation, then I will ask permission" --
Tim Russert, under oath at the Lewis Libby trial, citing the textbook function of a government propagandist to explain his role as a "journalist."


"I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used. It's our best format," as it allows us to "control the message" --
Cheney media aide Cathie Martin, under oath at the Libby trial, making clear how well Russert fulfills his function.

* * * * *
"I am so uninterested in the Democrats wanting Karl Rove, because it is so bad for them. Because it shows business as usual, tit for tat, vengeance" --
Time Magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel, emphasizing how bored he is by efforts to uncover Karl Rove's role in the firing of U.S. attorneys.


"As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off" --
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, explaining why it's best if government wrongdoing, such as Lewis Libby's perjury, remains concealed.


"YAAWWN. That's my view of the Libby flap" --
Washington Post National Political Reporter Shailagh Murray, emphasizing how bored she is by the story of the President of the United States protecting one his top aides, a convicted felon, from prison.


"Breathless." "Hot rhetoric." "Whenever that big day comes, Dodd -- as the keeper of the 'hold' -- must return from the campaign trail to officially block debate on the bill. . . . -- time that Dodd, who is trailing badly in early primary polls, can scarcely afford" --
Washington Post National Political Reporter Shailagh Murray, emphasizing how bored she is by efforts to stand up to the President's lawbreaking, torture, abolition of habeas corpus, and warrantless surveillance.


"Some stories stay alive longer than others because they reveal a more serious vulnerability. In Iowa, planting questions calls into question your authenticity -- something Clinton struggles to demonstrate on the best of days, because she's just not a gal who wings it. This episode sort of reminds me of the John Kerry windsurfing photo. It's the sort of thing that can linger in the mind" --
Washington Post National Political Reporter Shailagh Murray, emphasizing the issues that really matter to her, the ones that "linger" in her mind.

* * * * *
"Does he have sex appeal? . . . Can you smell the English leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man's shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved? Do you smell that sort of, a little bit of cigar smoke?" --
Chris Matthews, fantasizing about the pleasing, manly body smells of Fred Thompson.


"There is a hierarchical, there is, dare I say it, male, there is an old-line quality to them that some voters, indeed a lot of voters, find reassuring. And this is something that the Democrats need to understand" --
Newsweek's Howard Fineman, admiring the calming masculinity of the GOP presidential candidates and warning Democrats to take heed.


"What's appealing about Rudy Giuliani is not the generous side, what's appealing about him is the tough cop side.
Right. You just wait until daddy gets home.
Yes, that part...
That Daddy.
... of the daddy. It's the tough cop side, so...
Yes. Yes" --
Chris Matthews and Howard Fineman, breathlessly sharing their excitement over the firmness of their Daddy, Rudy Giuliani.


He has "chiseled-out-of-granite features, a full, dark head of hair going a distinguished gray at the temples, and a barrel chest . . . . and has shoulders you could land a 737 on" --
Roger Simon, The Politico's chief political columnist, enthusiastically admiring numerous parts of Mitt Romney's body.


"The press here does a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general" --
Newsweek's Richard Wolffe, at the National Press Club, chatting with Tony Snow and Karl Rove's dancing partner, David Gregory, about how partisan and hateful bloggers are and how professional and "fantastic" our national press corps is.

* * * * *
"Well, John Edwards' campaign for president spent $400 on February 20, and another $400 on March 7, at a top Beverly Hills men's stylist, Torrenueva Hair Designs. . . . Only Edwards, however, has had the care he takes with his hair memorialized on YouTube" --
The Politico's Ben Smith, breaking wide open the modern press corps' Watergate, one of the most discussed political stories of 2007.


"John Edwards is suspending his campaign for President, and may drop out completely, because his wife has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that sickened her in 2004, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, an Edwards friend told The Politico" --
The Politico's Ben Smith, 53 minutes before Edwards announced that his wife had cancer and he would stay in the race.


"[The Politico's Ben] Smith also has a too-broad denial from Edwards [to a rumor that he is having an affair]: 'The story is false' . . . . Edwards' peculiar vulnerability should the allegation be believed is suggested by this Reuters lede"--
Slate's Mickey Kaus -- who, a month later, similarly amplified an equally sleazy whispering campaign about Hillary's rumored lesbian affair with a young Muslim aide -- proving conclusively that one can actually occupy a sewer level beneath the one where The Politico and Drudge reside.

* * * * *
"Unfortunately, Speaker Nancy Pelosi quashed the House Intelligence Committee's bipartisan effort and supported a Democratic bill that -- Limbaugh is salivating -- would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court, an institution founded to protect the rights of U.S. citizens only. In the lethal shorthand of political advertising, it would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans. That is well beyond stupid" --
Joe Klein of Time Magazine, acting as spokesman for GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra, smearing the Democrats with patently false statements.


"I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who's right" --
Joe Klein of Time Magazine, reciting the anthem of our modern press corps in explaining why he can't be bothered to correct the script Hoekstra fed him.

* * * * *
"It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case" --
Dean of the Washington Press Corps David Broder, February 16, 2007.

* * * * *
"Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian (sic) atomic scientists" --
Law Professor Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, advocating that the U.S. Government begin murdering Iranian scientists instead of attempting diplomacy.


"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged" --
Frank Gaffney in The Washington Times, using a fake Abraham Lincoln quote to argue that anti-war Senators should be punished as traitors.


"Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive" --
Mitt Romney, invoking the cowardly flagship of the modern GOP in arguing for limitless presidential powers and, with one short sentence, completely repudiating the core, founding American political value as most famously expressed by Patrick Henry.


"What the bill seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years" --
Sen. Arlen Specter on the Military Commissions Act, in a speech he delivered on the Senate floor almost immediately before voting in favor of that bill (that was actually from September, 2006, but I cheated and included it anyway because it's my all-time favorite political quote).

Today's Funny

So true....

Link. (Remember to click on the image to enlarge it.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism." -- George Washington

Mendicancy

One of Our Leaders' former Treasury secretaries opines or, rather, still spews lies and just plain crap (my comments are interspersed in italics):
The American economy is now threatened by two different but interrelated problems. The first is the declining value of housing, and the second is the seizing up of the credit markets. Together, they pose the risk of a serious economic downturn; some even predict recession.

Isn't a serious downturn a recession? Is there an observable difference?

***

What brought about the current situation? The accumulation in recent years of large pools of excess savings around the globe -- particularly in Asia and the Middle East -- drove interest rates down, making borrowing cheaper. As a result, the world went on a borrowing and buying binge. With cheap money in hand, asset values were bid up, especially for housing. And at the same time interest rates declined, savers began to search for ever higher yields.

Yeah, Goddam foreigners are all to blame. Not, oh, excess funds for speculating here in America, or lying, thieving, greedy lenders abusing ignorant borrowers. No. Foreigners with money. (Whose purchase of T-bills has, well, saved this country's ass financially and, in part, enabled Our Leaders' reckless spending.)

***

We see complementary adjustments in credit markets. Values for asset-backed debt instruments are going down, reflecting the declining prices of the collateral behind those instruments. Risk is being repriced to more realistic levels, spreads have widened and credit has become exceedingly tight.

Some of this is called for and overdue. However, I'm concerned that the pendulum has swung too far the other way, and that today even good credit risks are being frozen out. Credit markets simply are not working well, as evidenced by the widening spread between the London interbank offered rate and the fed-funds rate.

This is a scoop: this is the first I've heard of any significant freezing out of good credit risks. And why should there be? There's still loads of loose cash and rates have been kept reasonably low. Or, simply, what the fuck is this guy talking about?

***

Today, when considering possible responses, the first priority should be to avoid harm. The temptation to try to prop up the economy through dubious spending schemes must be avoided. And with the economy today so fragile, we must avoid increasing taxes for the foreseeable future by rolling back the 2001-2003 tax reductions, especially on the very lending and capital-formation processes that are still frozen. While monetary and fiscal policies are needed to reduce the fallout, they don't get at the root causes of the problem.

Never, ever, rollback a tax cut no matter how reckless, improper, harmful it may be because it is always good for the elite and that, not the well-being of our nation, is what matters.
And there's a lot more....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Scoop! Santa Fights Back!

Link.

Ho Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha



Holiday Greetings



Link.

More Of His Lies

Giuliani has been personally blamed for the deaths of firefighters on September 11, 2001, including by NYFD Deputy Fire Chief James Riches, whose son, also a firefighter, died at Ground Zero. Giuliani is not only accused of providing faulty equipment, but also of ending the search for survivors too early.
"I feel very bad about that," responds Giuliani. "I mean, I feel very bad about the whole situation."

"Myself," he continues, "and all the people that are involved in this have been very hurt by this, and it creates a lot of pain. It creates a lot of suffering. And, if they're angry at me, so be it. I did everything I could--I did everything I could think of doing in that situation to help.

"I think I made mostly the right decisions."

Says Giuliani about the radios in question: "Well, the radios that you're talking about weren't put online for three, four, five years after, so it would have been impossible for me to have those radios ready.

"It took the city two, three more years."

Responds Stephanopoulos, "But they had a malfunction in 1993."

As Think Progress points out, it wasn't impossible for firefighters to have working radios when entering the twin towers, had the no-bid contract with Motorola produced a product that worked properly after the 1993 malfunctions; the faulty replacements were decommissioned in March of 2001, leaving the firefighters using the same radios inside the World Trade Center in 2001 that they had in 1993.

One Think Progress commenter, identifying as "Comrade Rutherford," says that New York City might be continually equipping firefighters with radios that aren't suitable to begin with:
As a amatuer (sic) radio enthusiast I was flabbergasted to learn (back in the day) that the NYFD were on VHF, but the NYPD was on UHF. The higher frequenices (sic) of the police band at 460 MHz can get out of buildings better than VHF, making for more reliable communications from *inside buildings*. The fire dept was on 154 MHz for many, many years (are they still?). This frequency range has larger dead areas inside buidlings (sic) meaning that you have to carefully move around to get your radio into a hot spot to be able to communicate reliably. If you move at all, you lose the signal. Now imagine having to do that while the building is burning around you and the message you need to send is of life or death. Many other cities have long ago moved their emergency comm to 800 MHz, and digital radio is now here. But wasn’t it Giuliani that made a sweet-heart deal with Motorola for the Radios That Didn’t Work?
Link.

Mendicancy

I was going to take the time to parse this for you but it's not worth it. Just keep in mind that the writer is a mediocrity who has succeeded solely because of who his father was and his employer has no real sense of quality. (You know, if circulation holds, then it must be a good product (as opposed to a successful product).)

The Genius That Is Fred Thompson

The man in action. Maybe he got too used to being scripted on "Law & Order" and now, well, just can't think and speak.
Janice Easley's fury over illegal immigration boiled over Saturday as she confronted Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson at the Music Man Square museum.

She said she recalled a film about Mexicans who wanted to take over California and New Mexico. Calling illegal immigrants a taxpayer burden, she wondered whether Americans could march in the streets of Mexico and demand welfare. When Iowans call up the power company, she said, "everything is in Spanish; it's sickening."

"You are so, so right," Thompson responded. English should be the national language, he told the retiree, and immigrants bear some of the blame for the home-loan crisis. "A lot of them couldn't communicate with the people they were getting the mortgage from," he said.

***

In Mason City, he told the audience of several dozen that the 2008 election would come down to beating back attacks on conservative principles.

Those principles are "under assault from a left-wing, big-government, high-taxing, weak-on-national-defense Democratic Party that's just salivating now to get back the reins of power so that they can take us down the road of a welfare state, where the government turns out to be not much more than an agency to transfer money from one group of folks to another," he said.

***

"I've had the opportunity to travel around the world, meet with foreign leaders, both friends and enemies, in places like China and Russia and Afghanistan," he said. He named more places in a soft voice, his clip-on microphone broadcasting loud breaths as he paused after each one: "South America." "Chile." "Ecuador." "Panama." He finished by mentioning Russia a second time.
Link.

More:
Thompson's anti-immigrant rhetoric -- which apparently wasn't limited just to those people who enter the US illegally -- came as the former Tennessee senator and Law & Order star tried to breathe some life into his lackluster campaign. His attempt to come across as the "true conservative," came just days after the virulently anti-immigrant Tom Tancredo withdrew from the presidential race, and it marked a 180-degree switch from his attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters at a Spanish language debate less than three weeks earlier.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Public Service Announcement

As a prominent child psychologist and the father of two tween girls, I have grappled with the same problem that many parents are facing today: how to talk to your child about Jamie Lynn Spears. While this is an issue that every parent must navigate for him or herself, here are some questions that your child is likely to ask, followed by the correct answers.

How did Jamie Lynn Spears get pregnant?
According to her mom, Jamie Lynn was a good girl who always respected her curfew and girls like that usually don’t get pregnant. So the answer is, no one knows.

Could Kevin Federline have made Jamie Lynn Spears pregnant?
No. This is one of those rare instances when someone got pregnant and Kevin Federline was not involved.

Now that Jamie Lynn is pregnant, will Zoey, the character she plays on Nickelodeon, get pregnant, too?
No. Remember, Jamie Lynn is a real person and Zoey is just a made-up character. Plus, Nickelodeon is owned by an angry old man named Sumner Redstone who doesn’t let people get pregnant. So there is absolutely no way Zoey will get pregnant. Instead, Zoey will get cancelled.

Could Hannah Montana get pregnant?
I thought we already went through this. Hannah Montana isn’t a real person. She’s a character played by Miley Cyrus.

Okay, then could Miley Cyrus get pregnant?
No, because her dad’s always around and he creeps boys out.

Are the girls on Disney’s “High School Musical” pregnant?
No, the girls on Disney’s “High School Musical” are not pregnant. They have been too busy posing for naked pictures on the Internet to get pregnant.

If I pose for naked pictures on the Internet, will that keep me from getting pregnant?
It couldn’t hurt.
Link.

Thought For The Day

Link.

Woman Lives In An Open 24 Hours Wal-Mart For 72 Hours

Link.

Really, How Bad Is Waterboarding?

So much talk of waterboarding, so much controversy. But what is it really? How bad? I wanted to write the definitive thread on waterboarding, settle the issue. Torture, or not?

To determine the answer, I knew I had to try it. I looked at my two small children. Surely, in the interests of science?.....

But alas, my wife had objections.

Perhaps her?

Sadly, she is proficient in Ju Jitsu, and I am unlikely to waterboard her.

That leaves me.


***

Seriously, I determined to give this a try, see how bad it was: Settle the debate authoritatively. Torture, or not?

I figure I would be a good test subject. I am incredibly fit and training for a 100 mile endurance run. The main thing about such an event is ability to tolerate pain. I am good at this. I am trained.

I also have experience with free-diving from my college days. I once held my breath for 4 minutes and two seconds. Once, while training as a lifeguard I swam laps without breathing until I passed out, so that I could know my limits.

To determine whether waterboarding is an acceptable interrogation technique or torture I must research it an then undergo it myself. Once I have done this, Elucidator Diogenes Tomndeb and all the rest of those liberal scum (no offense intended) must accept my now accept my now expert opinion.

So, here's what I would do. First I would google waterboarding to understand the basic concepts than I would try it on myself. First, self inflicted and then, if necessary, inflicted by my wife.(she has no problem torturing me. We've been married almost 15 years.)

These are the results of my research and experience:

The goal of waterboarding is to simulate drowning without the actual drowning or inhalation into the lungs. In order to accomplish this the subject is forced to lie on an inclined plane with his head lower than his lungs and then water is dumped onto his/her face (always keeping the lungs above the "Water line.") This simulates drowning and causes a panic.

There are some advanced techniques that make this more extreme, but that's the basic concept.

Easy enough to duplicate. I have an inclined weight bench and a watering can. No problem. I lie on this and tilt the watercan to pour water on my mouth and nose. Water goes up my nose causing me to gag and choke and splutter, but after a try or two I'm able to suppress my reflex, relax breathe in shallowly and then expel rapidly (shooting out the water) and maintain my composure. This is not too bad. with my diving experience, you would never break me this way. I can't beleive those AL Zarqawi guys were such pussies.

Back to researching the advanced techniques:

The first of these is wet rag in mouth. I try it. Ok, I can handle this too. It makes it a little bit more difficult to maintain control. I didn't realize it, but the first time around I was selectively breathing through either mouth or nose, to help maintain control. The wet rag eliminates the mouth as an option. You have to really concentrate to maintain control, breathing very shallowly on the inhale and not allowing yourself to exhale until you have a good lungfull with which to expel the water in you nose throat and sinuses. Then, you have to inhale slowly but fast enough to pull in a lungful of air before your nose throat and sinuses fill up. Difficult, but doable with some self-control. I can see where this would get very unpleasant if you lost control, but still, not terrible, not torture, per se in my book. It wasn't as bad as my vasectomy or last root canal, and not nearly so bad as the last OP I read by Liberal.

Next up is saran wrap. The idea is that you wrap saran wrap around the mouth in several layers, and poke a hole in the mouth area, and then waterboard away. I didn't reall see how this was an improvement on the rag technique, and so far I would categorize waterboarding as simply unpleasant rather than torture, but I've come this far so I might as well go on.

Now, those of you who know me will know that I am both enamored of my own toughness and prone to hyperbole. The former, I feel that I am justifiably proud of. The latter may be a truth in many cases, but this is the simple fact:

It took me ten minutes to recover my senses once I tried this. I was shuddering in a corner, convinced I narrowly escaped killing myself.

Here's what happened:

The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vaccum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract.

It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.

I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You [b]know[b] you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.

There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye.

At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved.

I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger.

And I understood.

Waterboarding gets you to the point where you draw water up your respiratory tract triggering the drowning reflex. Once that happens, it's all over. No question.

Some may go easy without a rag, some may need a rag, some may need saran wrap.

Once you are there it's all over.

I didn't allow anybody else to try it on me. Inconceivable. I know I only got the barest taste of what it's about since I was in control, and not restrained and controlling the flow of water.

But there's no chance. No chance at all.

So, is it torture?

I'll put it this way. If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I'd take the fingers, no question.

It's horrible, terrible, inhuman torture. I can hardly imagine worse. I'd prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again. I'd give up anything, say anything, do anything.

The Spanish Inquisition knew this. It was one of their favorite methods.

It's torture. No question. Terrible terrible torture. To experience it and understand it and then do it to another human being is to leave the realm of sanity and humanity forever. No question in my mind.

Questions? Doubts?

P.S. Yes, I really did try it.

P.S.S. I understand that I took a shot or two at some other posters, but my hope is that this will be construed as humorous rather than genuinely insulting, and thus acceptable. If any offended parties take genuine issue, my sincere apologies, but I chose targets that I thought would appreciate rather than be offended.
Link.

The Huck's BFF Cannot Recognize Satire And Humor

Chuck Norris thinks this is libelous.

Generosity For Top Executives Of Failing Business

Circuit City tanks, execs get rewarded.

Why To Fear Mitt

Yeah, yeah, we all know that what pols on the campaign trail as they lie and pander their way to victory can't be taken as gospel.

But still....
1. Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?

Intelligence and surveillance have proven to be some of the most effective national security tools we have to protect our nation. Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive and the President should not hesitate to use every legal tool at his disposal to keep America safe.

2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

A President must always act in the best interests of the United States to protect us against a potential threat, including a nuclear Iran. Naturally, it is always preferable to seek agreement of all – leadership of our government as well as our friends around the world – where those circumstances are available.

3. Does the Constitution empower the president to disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops -- either by capping the number of troops that may be deployed to a particular country or by setting minimum home-stays between deployments? In other words, is that level of deployment management beyond the constitutional power of Congress to regulate?

The founders created a constitutional system in which the war power was divided between the President and Congress. A President must respect the constitutional design while at the same time remain faithful to commander-in-chief powers and obligations to keep this country safe.

4. Under what circumstances, if any, would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

I share the view of many past presidents that signing statements are an important presidential practice.

5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

All US citizens are entitled to due process, including at least some type of habeas corpus relief regardless whether they are designated unlawful enemy combatants or not.

6. Does executive privilege cover testimony or documents about decision-making within the executive branch not involving confidential advice communicated to the president himself?

Courts have recognized that there is a valid need for protecting communications among high government officials and those who advise and assist them. Before invoking the privilege, a President should carefully weigh, among other factors, the interest in disclosure and the interest in preserving the confidentiality of deliberations and advice in the Executive Branch. As an institutional matter, the President must also protect the prerogatives of his Office for future presidents.

7. If Congress defines a specific interrogation technique as prohibited under all circumstances, does the president's authority as commander in chief ever permit him to instruct his subordinates to employ that technique despite the statute?

A President should decline to reveal the method and duration of interrogation techniques to be used against high value terrorists who are likely to have counter-interrogation training. This discretion should extend to declining to provide an opinion as to whether Congress may validly limit his power as to the use of a particular technique, especially given Congress’s current plans to try to do exactly that.

8. Under what circumstances, if any, is the president, when operating overseas as commander-in-chief, free to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified?

The President must carry out all of his duties in a manner consistent with the rule of law, whether it is our Constitution or valid international agreements, so long as they do not impinge upon the President’s constitutional authority.

9. Do you agree or disagree with the statement made by former Attorney General Gonzales in January 2007 that nothing in the Constitution confers an affirmative right to habeas corpus, separate from any statutory habeas rights Congress might grant or take away?

The availability and limitation of habeas corpus is governed by current federal statutory law and the Suspension Clause of the US Constitution, Article I, § 9, cl. 2.

10. Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional? Anything you think is simply a bad idea?

The Bush Administration has kept the American people safe since 9/11. The Administration’s strong view on executive power may well have contributed to that fact.

11. Who are your campaign's advisers for legal issues?

The campaign receives legal advice from members of the Romney for President Advisory Committee on the Constitution and the Courts, which is comprised of some of our nation’s top constitutional scholars and legal experts.

12. Do you think it is important for all would-be presidents to answer questions like these before voters decide which one to entrust with the powers of the presidency? What would you say about any rival candidate who refuses to answer such questions?

These are important questions that each candidate for President should carefully consider with the benefit of advice from legal, diplomatic, and military experts.
Link.

And an analysis:
As for the Republicans:

Senator McCain denies that the President has the constitutional power to violate the torture act, or FISA, or treaties, but in response to the question about a statute limiting troop deployment, he states that "it's beyond Congress's authority to micromanage wars." (On the other hand, he states categorically (and mistakenly) that "I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law," so his views on this question remain a bit uncertain.) McCain also denies that the President has the constitutional power to unilaterally bomb Iran, absent an imminent threat. Surprisingly (and in my view unfortunately), McCain states that he would not issue any signing statements.

Ron Paul, true to his convictions, is libertarian across the board, which in this case means skeptical of executive power.

Romney? Let's put it this way: If you've liked Dick Cheney and David Addington, you're gonna love Mitt Romney.

Candidates Giuliani, Huckabee and Thompson refused to respond to the questionaire....
And Greenwald has his own analysis.