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saturday, october 11, 2003

Travels With Condi, George, and Dick
Let's catch up with what Condoleezza Rice has been up to in the past week.
As you may recall, last Monday Condi Rice was named head of an "Iraq Stabilization Group."

The creation of the group, according to several administration officials, grew out of Mr. Bush's frustration at the setbacks in Iraq and the absence of more visible progress in Afghanistan, at a moment when remnants of the Taliban appear to be newly active. It is the closest the White House has come to an admission that its plans for reconstruction in those countries have proved insufficient, and that it was unprepared for the guerrilla-style attacks that have become more frequent in Iraq. There have been more American deaths in Iraq since the end of active combat than during the six weeks it took to take control of the country. [David E. Sanger, "White House to Overhaul Iraq and Afghan Missions," The New York Times, October 6, 2003]

Since then I've come to realize why Condi is powerful and well paid and I am not. Because if I'd been named the head of something called the "Iraq Stabilization Group," I'd have packed up some overalls and walking shoes and headed off to Iraq. And I would have poked all over Iraq checking out for myself what needs to be stabilized. Condi did no such thing. After all, what are fax machines for?

To be fair, the Stabilization Group, with staff to be drawn by Condi from several Cabinet agencies, is not going to be doing any stabilizing itself. Instead, the group is "intended to remove a bottleneck in decision-making by identifying and resolving problems faced by the U.S.-led occupation. [Link]"

I'd just love to take a few cases of Old Rummy over to the soldiers and staff on the ground in Iraq -- and I don't mean Bremer's inner circle, either, but the hands-on people -- and once they are thoroughly lubricated, ask them what THEY think of the Iraq Stabilization Group and the big shots in Washington who will be identifying and resolving the problems they face. Hoo boy, I bet that would be a story!

In the meantime, last week's Washington power struggle between Condi and Rummy reminded me of the old Soviet Union. Every year on May Day the heads of the Soviet Communist Party would line up on a balcony to review the parade. Legend said that the men lined up in order of influence; whoever stood furthest from the Big Guy at the time -- Stalin, Khrushchov, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, or Gorbachev -- was lowest on the party totem pole. So every year the gray photos of fat gray men in fat gray overcoats were studied for clues of what was going on inside the Kremlin.

But today in Washington the tell-tale sign is who's been briefed on what. So when the Secretary of Defense is suddenly not copied on information that used to fall under his purview, you know he's just been moved to the end of the balcony.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense let it slip that he hadn't been briefed about Condi's new role.

In an interview with the Financial Times and three European news organisations, Mr Rumsfeld insisted that the new NSC role appeared to be no different from the policy-co-ordinating structure that had existed for more than a year.

He said he did not know why Ms Rice, Mr Bush's national security adviser, had felt it necessary to send a memorandum about the new organisation to cabinet officials or brief the New York Times about the move.

"That's what the NSC's charter is," Mr Rumsfeld said. "The only thing unusual about it is the attention. I kind of wish they'd just release the memorandum." [Peter Spiegel, "Rumsfeld Said Not Told of Postwar Shakeup," Financial Times/New York Times, October 7, 2003]

The next day, however, some reporters had a jolly time prodding Rummy a little more.

Rumsfeld said in an interview with the Financial Times and three European news organizations that he did not learn of the new Iraq Stabilization Group until he received a classified memo about it from national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on Thursday.

Rumsfeld was asked several times why the changes were necessary. "I think you have to ask Condi that question," he said, according to a transcript posted on the Web site of the Financial Times.

Pressed, he said: "I said I don't know. Isn't that clear? You don't understand English? I was not there for the backgrounding." [Mike Allen, "Iraq Shake-up Skipped Rumsfeld," The Washington Post, October 8, 2003]

The new Iraq flow chart wasn't the only party Rummy wasn't invited to. Wednesday the White House rolled out its new plan to make a silk purse out of Iraq -- a public relations blitz. Dissatisfied with the way conditions in Iraq are portrayed in news stories, the President sent Condi and Dick Cheney forth to make speeches and preach the gospel of success in Iraq. Rummy, once prized for his fun press conferences, was not asked to take part.

To show how serious the President is about Iraq, aides announced that in October all of Bush's Saturday radio addresses will be about Iraq. [Link] Wow, that should really shake things up!

But back to Condi and the Group. David Ignatius pointed out in Friday's Washington Post that, in fact, Rummy was right when he said that the Iraq Stabilization Group would be doing work that a National Security Adviser should be doing, anyway. Now Condi's going to be challenged to actually perform her job, while at the same time serving a public relations function for the administration. Can she do it? Hey, does a bear use flush toilets?

The PR campaign got off to a smashing start Thursday, when President Bush told National Guardsmen and Reservists in New Hampshire that Iraq is in shaping up nicely and "Americans are not the running kind." As the world's most powerful draft-dodger spoke, eight Iraqi policement were killed in a suicide attack, a Spanish diplomat was slain, U.S. convoys were attacked near Fallujah, and a soldier from the Fourth Infantry died of wounds received in a rocket propelled grenade attack.

Condi took the road show to Chicago and told her audience,

Right up until the end Saddam Hussein lied to the Security Council and let there be no mistake, right up to the end, Saddam Hussein continued to harbour ambitions to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction and to hide his illegal weapons activities. [Link]

Does this mean the Bushies went after Saddam Hussein for thought crimes?

But the real thrill of the week was the sight of Cheney -- mighty Cheney -- out in the open for all to see. And today he boldly showed himself to the Heritage Foundation and announced that Saddam Hussein's scientists had actually worked on designs for weapons. (He had to make this speech at the Heritage Foundation, because Heritage is the Ground Zero of Stupid. If you don't believe me, just spend some time reading their web site .)

I can't wait to watch what the Three Stooges will be up to this week!


Speaking of stupid -- I've become a follower of a columnist named J. Grant Swank who may be the most clueless man in America. While researching this article I stumbled across a new Swank piece on Condi Rice that is an absolute howler. It'll be given a Link of Honor on the Bush Barf-O-Rama! page. Click here.

Related Links

David Ignatius, "...And the Infighting," The Washington Post, October 10, 2003.

Jim Lobe, "Neo-con Fingerprints on Syria Raid," Asia Times, October 9, 2003

Maggie Mitchel Salem, "Condoleezza Rice Takes Charge," The Beiruit Daily Star, October 11, 2003

4:22 pm | link

Hot Links 7:43 am | link

friday, october 10, 2003

Will Faux News Sue National Public Radio?
I'm not predicting it, mind you, but I'm not ruling it out either.
NPR was on O'Reilly's shit list even before he lost it during the recent Terry Gross interview. Last year he complained that NPR was "shunning" him by ignoring his books. So he gets an interview on "Fresh Air," is a complete jerk, and hangs up on the ever polite and mild-mannered Terry Gross. There's no pleasing some people.
Jim Fiala of Wisconsin alerted me to Baby Bill's newest trantrum, which is to get NPR de-funded. Below is part of a Faux News transcript of Baby Bill whining about how he got beat up on the playground by Terry Gross (after he presented a bit of the interview out of context to show how mean Ms. Gross had been to him):

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (search), which funds NPR, gets a billion dollars a year in taxpayer money.  Why is the government allowing a far-left outfit  like NPR, which is obviously biased, to operate on taxpayer money?

Joining us now from Capitol Hill is Congressman Cliff Stearns, a  Republican from Florida who sits on a committee that oversees NPR.

You know, I just have one question for you, Congressman.  How much longer do I have to pay for this outfit which is so blatantly unfair, and uses it's power to, you know, advance left-wing and defamatory causes?  What do I have to pay for this?

REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA:  Well, I think you and the  American taxpayers don't have to pay for it much longer.  We have Discovery Channel, we have the American Movie Classics.  We have the Animal Planet.  We have the History Channel.  All of these stations do not get huge amounts of subsidy from the federal government.

So the question for taxpayers and the elected officials have to say why do we have to fund NPR, particularly in light of, for example, the interview you did. 


STEARNS:  You saw the whole...

O'REILLY:  I mean, we can send you the transcripts of the whole  interview.  How would you categorize it?

STEARNS:  Well, I think -- she calls it  "fresh air."  It's probably "biased air" in this case, because frankly, for her to say that the interview with you was a lot tougher than with Al Franken because it was his -- his book was a political satire was not fair because she should have been just as tough with him as she was with you.  [O'Reilly Factor, October 8, 2003, Fox News Transcript]

Never mind that Al Franken was charming and funny, while O'Reilly marched into the interview with a chip on his shoulder and a whole lotta 'tude.
But what you have to understand about O'Reilly is that he's driven by personality disorder more than by ideology (disclaimer: I am not a psychologist). This will, I trust, destroy him eventually, but in the meantime Faux News is stuck in the role of enabler of this very sick puppy.
If you've ever had to deal with a person who falls somewhere in the paranoid narcissistic disorder spectrum or, even worse, is a socialized psychopath, you know that these people can't let go of what they think are injustices aimed at them. They can't do it any more than you could persuade a wolf to let go of a steak. It doesn't matter how petty the "injustice" is; it doesn't matter if the "injustice" is a fantasy (which is often the case). These afflicted people have no sense of proportion and understand no limits or boundaries. 
And this puts Faux in a bad position, because they probably see O'Reilly as a major draw and they want to keep him happy. On the other hand, his pathologies make him a real hard guy to keep happy. So it'll be fun to see how far Faux goes to placate Baby Bill.
If you don't believe me about Baby Bill's pathology, check out this list of symptoms (just a few given below):
1. Emotional immaturity. Behavior is not age appropriate.

2. Self-centeredness. He comes first and foremost. Is insincere about real interest in other people.

3. Little if any remorse for mistakes.

10. Tendency to project his own shortcomings on to the world about him - frequent blaming. Never at fault.

17. Low stress tolerance with explosive behavior.

20. Ready rationalization - rarely at a loss for words - twists conversation to divorce himself from responsibility. When he  is trapped, he just keeps talking or changes the subject, or gets angry.

22. Chronic lying.

24. ‘ Chip on shoulder' attitude - cocky and arrogant.

42. Is very slow to forgive others. Hangs onto resentment.

53. Grandiose. Convinced that he knows more than other people and is correct and right in almost all he says and does.

54. Clueless as to how he comes across to others and to how he is viewed.Gets defensive when confronted with his behavior. Never his fault. May be apologetic and seem sincere but soon repeats offensive behavior without appearing to have learned from it.

63. Convincing. Successful at getting other people to believe in his perception of a problem. Is adamant that people side with him vs. Allow them to feel/believe differently.

65. Scorns everyone/everything that he disagrees with. Does not allow for differences to be respected. Scorns the responsible world.

69. He announces, not discusses. He tells, not asks.

75. Unilateral condition of, "I'm OK and justified so I don't need to hear your position or ideas"

81. Is usually through listening once he's made his arguments.

Sound like somebody we know?

11:41 am | link

Hot Links 7:02 am | link

thursday, october 9, 2003

Slouching Toward New Hampshire
I watched the debate. Quick impressions -- Howard Dean was stronger than in the last debate, Wesley Clark less strong. This is in large part because everyone, including the "narrator," Judy Woodruff, was piling on Clark this time instead of Dean.
Kerry was better than in past debates, although he had no where to go but up. Edwards and Gephardt put in solid performances as in past debates, but I still hope that Gephardt does not get the nomination.
Carol Mosley Braun contines to be wise and reasonable, and unfortunately she will continue to be ignored.
Lieberman -- blah blah blah; Kucinich -- still demagoging; Sharpton -- a bit off his game tonight.
See also comments over at Daily Kos -- we're in the same ball park on most candidates, although he is ignoring Mosley Braun.
While you're at Daily Kos -- there are some serious problems within the Clark organization that have come to light this week. I've been in touch with a friend inside the Clark organization, and apparently the Daily Kos writer has some inside info also. See these comments on personnel changes in the Clark campaign and especially this analysis of the blogosphere and political process.
In a nutshell, recently Clark's organization has been taken over by some old-style party hacks who directed the Gore campaign in 2000 and, incredibly, a old Gore guy named Chris Lehane who until Tuesday was helping Gray Davis lose California to the Gropernator. The word is that these guys have dissed the General's grassroots support and are preparing to run a circa-1990, Washington-based campaign. And if Clark doesn't get a clue something is wrong and clean house, I fear his candidacy is doomed.
It's a damn shame.
The General isn't really expecting to score in Iowa, since he got in so late. There was hope that he could be in the top three in New Hampshire - iffy. It may be the Clarkies are pinning their hopes on the big Southern primaries next spring, but he's got to do something to persuade donors to back him before that.
The Dean campaign, on the other hand, is writing the textbook on how to run a campaign in the 21st century. If I had to bet money on a winner right now, I'd put it on Dean. Although I have some preferences for Clark, Dean is a real impessive guy also. Maybe President Dean would make Clark his Secretary of State.
PBS "Frontline" tonight was about Bush's Iraq War, and I missed it, and the buzz is it was good. But it will be repeated on my local station on Monday, and eventually we'll be able to watch it on the web. This PBS page is about the program and will help you find out where to watch it in your viewing area.
11:37 pm | link

Stalking the Chicken
Mr. Jones provides a link to the Publisher's Weekly review of Bill "Candyass" O'Reilly, and here it is.
And, as Mr. Jones observes, it reads more like a book report than a book review. But you have to keep the source in mind. PW primarily is a venue for book publishers to advertise to book retailers. Nearly all of the ad space is purchased by publishers selling books, and PW editorial content is careful not to piss advertisers off. PW reviews are "forecasts" of which books are likely to sell well; the quality of a book is not really the issue, as long as whatever's wrong with it won't get in the way of sales. Thus, PW reviews are often kind to schlock books with big marketing campaigns behind them.
Michael Fallai writes that I was unfair to Terry Gross to say that she's as hard-hitting a whipped cream. On reflection, Mr. Fallai is right; I really wasn't being fair. Ms. Gross is not a lightweight. Her style is soft, but she asks thoughtfully probing questions that challenge her subjects to dig within themselves and provide thoughtful, introspective answers. That's why her program has been a regular feature of National Public Radio for several years.
However, Mr. Fallai writes,
... that O'Reilly interview was far from the toughest treatment I've heard her give to someone. If he thinks that was a rough, unfair interview then he's just a big crybaby (which he is) who thinks he's too good to be questioned or criticized. Of course he was reduced to, "You didn't treat me the way you treated Al! Not fair! Waaaah! Waaaah!"

Bill hates Al Franken Big Time. He hates him so much, Al Franken may yet be the death of O'Reilly, maybe an embolism from one of his rages. That's a good thing.
Absolutely! If O'Reilly doesn't have some kind of character and/or sociopathic disorder, I'm the Virgin Mary. Under enough pressure, he'll self-destruct.
Suzanne DeBolt of Florida agrees with me (great minds thinking alike):
The interview with Terry Gross of Fresh Air was the best example of psychopathology I've seen in a long time. The boy beaten by his father grows up to beat up on everyone else. Such bully-boy tactics are the stuff of middle school, not professional journalism. But then, O'Reilly isn't a professional journalist in the sense that Gross is a professional journalist. If he were, he'd realize she was sucking him in with the oldest technique in the book--let the interviewee hang himself on his own petard.
I do believe that Al Franken is positively gleeful after reading about the Gross [pun intended] O'Reilly interview. I've not seen such sophomoric melodramatics since the day O'Reilly verbally assaulted a man whose father was killed in the WTC on Sept. 11--a despicable display of faux patriotics topped off by malicious histrionics. Even worse than the browbeating of the poor man, O'Reilly threatened to physically assault him after the show--in front of his staff, who were forced to witness their bully-boy boss' meltdown, and subsequently had to offer solace to O'Reilly's poor victim--who's only failing was saying that he didn't agree with going to war in Iraq because of 9/11!  
Bill O'Reilly is an embarrassment even to Fox. Now, that's bad.
Too bad Faux won't be embarrassed enough to fire him until he totally breaks down on air. And I mean a mouth-foaming, head-spinning, howling at the moon breakdown. A mere temper trantrum won't do it. But it'll happen sooner or later. I'd say he's damn close to the edge now.
So be sure to write. Here are the email addresses:
Later tonight after the Democratic debate I'll probably post some first impressions, but unless something really outstanding happens I will want to wait until I can study a transcript to say very much. I'm sure I'll say something, though. 
7:26 pm | link

Your Email to Bill O'Reilly
Great response to my call to confront Bill O'Reilly!
First off, upstanding Citizen Don Call of Florida provides another email address for BO:
Don says he sends email to BO frequently, so this should be a righteous address.
Black Max, creator of Black Max's Excellent Timeline, shares this email he sent to BO:
Good God, O'Reilly, can you be more of a candyass? Worse, a whiny, sulking little bully boy who couldn't stand up to...Terry Gross?  Are you kidding?

Terry Gross is about as hard-hitting of an interviewer as Richard Simmons.  However, she is unfailingly polite and almost deferential to her guests.  Yet you, you little pissant of a pundit, had to throw a tantrum on her show and stomp off like a kindergarten child who's broken all of his toys and is mad that someone doesn't give him theirs.

So Terry Gross can't read if she disagrees with you?  You have a problem with her reading a People Magazine review of your show?  Then, after you stomped off, you bragged about how you enjoyed telling the woman off?

And you post an edited transcript of the interview on your site that is crafted to make you look better than you came off?

I hate this word, but it's the only word that adequately describes you.


Why don't you take on someone with some backbone?  Too gutless?  Too afraid that you can't take a dose of what you love to dish out?

Come on, candyass.  I'll do it myself, and I'm merely an average citizen with no national stature.  I'd love to see how you stand up to someone who'll give as good as he gets.  Maybe I can even give you a demonstration of how to keep your cool under fire.  You already know how to throw a tantrum like a toddler denied his pacifier, but you need some exposure to people who know how to comport themselves.  Unlike you, I won't act like a drunken barfly who thinks the other patrons are making fun of him.  I have some dignity and restraint, O'Reilly, but I also have enough guts to stand up to your bullying.

Additionally, I'm a knowledgeable liberal who thinks your little demigod, GW, ought to be charged with treason, impeached, tried in a court of law, and imprisoned for the rest of his natural life. Naturally you disagree.

Think you're up for it, candyass?  Just let me know by replying to this e-mail.

But you won't.  You're a candyass.  I'll leave you to searching down an elementary school full of kids you can intimidate.  Have fun, bullyboy.
That's beautiful, Max! It just about makes me cry, it's so good ... "little pissant of a pundit" ... "candyass"... I'm inspired!

Mark Hill of Milwaukee writes,

Hey Bill,
You're nothing but a big cry baby with a persecution complex.  I mean Jeez you can't even get through an interview with Terry Gross without spouting your paranoid delusions of how everyone is out to get you?
If anyone is out to smear you, you deserve every minute of it. 
You're a liar, a bully, and a psychotic who doesn't deserve to be on the air at all.
So now, Bill, I'm just a single American human.  I'm an easy target for you.  Give it your best shot.

That's the spirit, Mark -- Hey O'Reilly -- Bring it on! And David writes, 

Did you notice that Bellicose Bill didn't "walk out" of his interview until the last 5 minutes?

After I got through laughing at the sorry self serving S.O.B. I slowly realized that he didn't storm out of the studio at the midway point, or the beginning but only until the interview would have concluded anyhow....  

Either pretty shrewd, or something about People magazine really tics him off!

Another O'Reilly note: Yesteray in the aborted "Fresh Air" interview, O'Reilly praised the review of his book that ran in Publisher's Weekly. Apparently that's the only review of his book that he likes, so in O'Reilly World PW is the most prestigious source of book reviews around. But this is not true on Ann Coulter World (a nasty place I don't even like to visit so I can make fun of it). Ms. SkankyAnn wrote a column yesterday that snips at a PW interview with Al Franken. In Ann Coulter World, Publisher's Weekly is just another biased, liberal rag.

This is especially funny to me, because I have personal history with Publisher's Weekly. Once upon a time I was production manager for a companion magazine called Library Journal (remarkably, for the librarian industry) and worked in the same department of the same company as the PW staff. PW is a long-respected if somewhat stodgy and carefully noncontroversial weekly for the book publishing industry. It's respectable but not exactly prestigious. Dedicated to the sale and marketing of books--any books--PW has no political bias and no doubt ran lots of ads promoting Ann Coulter's book when it was released. 

One would need to get a print edition of the PW issue with O'Reilly's review to read it; it's not on the web. If anyone finds it, please let me know (note: many public libraries subscribe to PW). Thanks!


11:39 am | link

Hot Links 8:08 am | link

wednesday, october 8, 2003

You Won't BELIEVE This One, People!
If there was ever a time to hit O'Reilly, and hit him hard, this is it. Pussy O'Reilly can't even sit through a softball interview with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air" without blowing his stack, for pete's sake!
Bill O'Reilly stomped out of an interview with NPR's Terry Gross. I don't mean to put down Terry Gross; she's very good at what she does, but she's not a political commentator and is about as hard-hitting as whipped cream. But O'Reilly couldn't even get through one of Ms. Gross's softball interviews without throwing a temper tantrum. This man is very, very sick. Please go to link above and listen to it.
Some of O'Reilly's comments, along with calling Terry Gross a "smear merchant":
"Conversation got completely out of hand ... I knew that people were not going to be fair ...I enjoyed telling the woman off."
Oh, and he said that on his Fox News he's only told people to shut up "about five times in seven years." I suspect that is inaccurate, but I don't watch O'Reilly so I can't say. He also denied that he EVER claimed he won a Peabody Award.
I don't mean to be vulgar, but shit, O'Reilly, just how big a pussy are you? What a pathetic little wuss you are!
I'm asking everyone to email O'Reilly and tell him what a pathetic little pussy wuss he is for being afraid of Terry Gross, for pity's sake. The only email address I can find on O'Reilly is his Fox News address. And here it is:
You can also send comments to Fox News to alert them they are employing a very sick man at
Or you can call Fox News at 1-888-369-4762. 'Course, these are the same sick puppies who gave out Tucker Carlson's home phone number, so they know no shame. Don't give them personal information under any circumstances.

7:50 pm | link

The California Recall Election: A REAL Bourgeois Riot
I know y'all remember the bourgeois riot (so named by Paul Gigot) of Florida 2000, but just for the record -- the "rioters" in Florida were a pack of well-paid Republican shills who were bused to Miami to stop the counting of votes. The event may have been bourgeois, but it wasn't much of a riot.
My understanding is that, legally, a riot is an unlawful assembly that results in violence. Sociologists who study riots say that participants of riots, "anonymous and deindividualized and hypersensitive to any emergent definition of the situation, may find themselves engaging in acts of wanton destruction that they never envisioned nor intended [link]." The Miami bourgeois rioters, in contrast, knew exactly what they intended to do, and they did it.
I define riot as a raw, emotional, uncontrolled, destructive acting-out by a mob of angry people. But before we look at yesterday's California recall election riot, let's talk for a minute about riots in history; for example, Watts.
Background:  The modern Civil Rights movement, born of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the Montgomery Bus Boycotts (1956); nurtured by the Freedom Riders, surviving the murder of innocent children, triumphant in the great March on Washington in 1963 -- seemed in 1964 to have made a breakthrough. In 1964 Congress passed a Civil Right Act to protect voting and other civil rights that had been denied minority citizens for so very long.
Also, in 1963 the state of California passed the Rumford Act, also called the "fair housing act." The Rumford Act made racial discrimination in sales or rentals of housing against the law. But this was California, and in no time "concerned" white citizens had a voter initiative on the ballot, Proposition 14, to repeal the Rumford Act and circumvent fair housing provisions in federal law. Proposition 14 passed by a landslide vote in November, 1964. Proposition 14 eventually would be declared unconstitutional, but understandably minorities in California were very, very angry.
On August 11, 1965, a routine traffic stop triggered six days of rioting that left 34 dead, hundreds injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, and much of the property in the Los Angeles community of Watts destroyed. Two hundred businesses in Watts were ruined, and property damage was estimated at $200 million. A California state commission studied the riot and concluded it was not the work of thugs. Rather, many people in Watts, facing no end of joblessness, poor housing, bad schools, and no visible way out, just plain lost control and rioted.  As the sociologists say, they found themselves engaging in acts of wanton destruction that they never envisioned nor intended.
At the time I was an adolescent growing up in an all white Ozark Mountain town a world away from Watts, and I remember vividly how whites reacted. (And believe me, children, in those days on local radio stations and newspapers across America you could find expressions of racism that make our drug-addled pal Rush look liberal.) And the white folks clucked, how could Those People just burn down their own community like that? They just hurt themselves. This is proof we're better than they are! 
And here's the point: Tuesday the bourgeois voters of California reversed a legal election, tossing out a fair-to-average career politician in favor of an actor of questionable moral character with no experience, no plan, and no doubt little understanding of what California's real problems are.
And why? Because they were angry.
"Voter Anger Proved Fatal for Davis," says the Silicon Valley Mercury News. "A Win Built on Emotion Rather Than Substance," sniffs the Financial Times. "Voter Anger Percolates," says the Boston Globe. And don't miss "An Angry Paradise" in the Los Angeles Times.
And, you may ask, angry about what? They had to pay a car tax. The state has a budget decifict (the connection between a reluctance to pay taxes and shortage of revenue for the state seems beyond these people; too much sunshine, maybe). There's too much unemployment (as if the nation's problems aren't supposed to affect the Golden State). Whatever.
The recall election wasn't really about Gray Davis, any more than the 1964 Watts riots were about a traffic stop. The bourgeois citizens of California got themselves worked up into a frenzy of anger. And they burned a functioning if lackluster governor and put a steroid-pumped clown in his place.
In other words, California voters were too pissed to think about what they were doing. Deindividualized and hypersensitive to media and political manipulation, they engaged in an act of wanton destruction, and in doing so they hurt only themselves. I'd call that a bourgeois riot.
11:29 am | link

Hot Links, Morning After Edition 5:48 am | link

tuesday, october 7, 2003

The Other Problem State, Part II
As the polls close in California another political drama grinds on in Texas. Late-breaking news today suggests that maybe Texas Republicans have finally agreed on the details of a redistricting map.
As you no doubt know, this spring Texas Republicans decided to toss out a perfectly legal redistricting map and redraw 32 congressional boundaries to give Republicans a better advantage in next year's congressional elections. (Democrats now hold 17 of the 32 districts; Republicans have 15.)
But, as discussed here earlier today,  Texas Republicans are still fighting over the details of their redistricting map, and if they don't settle their differences by next week they will have to call a fourth special session to keep fighting. And Texas special sessions cost the taxpayers $1.7 million each
Remember when Republicans in the Texas Legislature were outraged their Democratic colleagues were hiding out in Oklahoma and New Mexico to avoid voting on a map? You'd think the Republicans would have used that time to agree on their map. Guess not. The House has one map, the Senate has another, and Republican leaders of both chambers have been unable (unwilling?) to compromise.

"This is the strangest thing I've ever seen in my 14 years in the Texas House," state Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, said Monday. "One would certainly think that the Republican leadership would have had an agreed-to map before we went into all of these special sessions. And here we are nearing the end of the third special session, and we still don't have an agreed-to map.

"I am getting e-mails by the bucket saying, 'What are you guys doing down there?' " [John Moritz, "Republican Infighting Has Lawmakers Anxious," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 7, 2003]

And to add injury to insult, it appears that because the new map was not filed yesterday, Texas will have to drop out of the Super Tuesday primaries next year. 'Course, Republicans know who their candidate will be, so who cares about primaries?
According to the San Antonio Express News, Texas state House speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) "is playing hardball to get an oil-and-gas-oriented congressional district centered in Midland, his hometown." However, state Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) says a Midland-based distinct would undercut west Texas agricultural interests.
So the past couple of days U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land) dashed about Austin playing "let's make a deal." Strangely, Texans don't seem to realize that intervention by a federal legislator in state legislation is, um, not normal.
"What matters to me is that Texans are properly represented," DeLay said. Right.
Anyway, this evening the news is that Senator Duncan blinked. And an old business crony of "President" George W. Bush, K. Michael Conaway, is preparing to run for the new Midland seat.
Meanwhile, Texas Democrats say the new map will be in violation of the Voting Rights Act and vow to fight on.  In a press release issued today, the Dems accuse the Pubs of pulling a "bait and switch" -- at the last minute, the Pubs switched earlier plans that would have left "minority opportunity" districts unchanged and substituted a  "new and very different final plan that ignores the legal record made on the House and Senate floor to dramatically alter minority districts," and reduce their number.
The Dems have been shoved to the sidelines throughout this process; their role in Texas government, according to the Republicans, is to shut up and rubber stamp what the GOP wants. Yet even though they've been rendered powerless in the current map fight, Tom Craddick's press secretary dissed the Dems as "troublemakers."
A Texas state senator, Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), says that when she asked a Republican colleague why the Republicans were behaving so badly to Democrats, he told her "If you are going to act like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans." (Senator Van de Putte cannot corroborate this story.)
On the other hand, this evening actor Alec Baldwin, in Austin for a Dem fundraiser, offered Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry a gift -- a box of dog biscuits.
"I wanted to give this to Tom DeLay's lap dog," Baldwin said.
8:41 pm | link

Nothin' But Blue Skies
Just got back from a walk. The sky today is a perfect, clear blue. Not even a wisp of a cloud. Ever since That Day I can't look up into a perfect blue sky without remembering another glorious blue sky that was clear and cloudless except for the smoke billowing up from lower Manhattan. Damn them.
Anyway, to change subjects suddenly, be sure to read "Why Bush Angers Liberals" by Michael Kinsley in this week's Time.
As suggested by DORAN "I'm not Doug" Williams, the Quorum Report's "Daily Buzz" section is a good source of up-to-date information on what's going on in Texas. According to Quorum Report, the GOP's redistricting plans will weaken the Latino vote in Texas. For example, one GOP map would have Texans in several heavily Hispanic border communities represented by someone 400 miles away in Austin.
Could there be a backlash? Let's hope.
2:49 pm | link

Our Other Problem State
Did you know that yesterday Tom DeLay personally intervened with the Texas legislature? The Hammer himself was shuttling between House and Senate offices, trying to cut a deal over the redistricting map.
This is not normal, people. Although I won't say it's never happened before, I personally can't think of a situation in which a federal legislator took such a hands-on role in the processes of a state legislature.
The next time a Texas conservative starts going on about "states' rights," smack him.
DeLay was in a stew because yesterday Texas missed a deadline. A new redistricting map is not filed, so Texas must choose to either stay with the old map or drop out of the March 2 "Super Tuesday" primaries.
Now, after all the sniping by Texas Republicans about the "Killer Ds" and Democrats hiding out in Oklahoma or wherever and not doing their jobs -- what they hell were the Republicans doing? The Pubs themselves are still fighting over how they want to redraw the map. Why didn't they settle that earlier?
Can we say "sheer incompetence"? I believe so.
Not only have Texans most likely been deprived of having a say in the Democratic nomination for President next year; the "special sessions" meant to gerrymander the state to Republican advantage cost Texans $4,664,000, according to the Texas Democratic Party.
Texas Democrats are a tad miffed, especially after the press secretary of the Texas House Speaker called Democrats "troublemakers."
One gets the sense that Texas Republicans find it awfully tiresome to have to deal with that other party, not to mention Texas citizens who don't agree with the GOP. I mean, what do they think Texas is? Some kind of republic? Jeez.
8:58 am | link

Hot Links 8:09 am | link

monday, october 6, 2003

And Then There Were Nine
Just announced: Senator Graham dropped out of the race.
10:01 pm | link

Do It for Your Country
Just for fun -- read this article by Marianne M. Jennings -- "Whiners in the Military Should Be Ashamed"-- then send Ms. Jenning an email and let her know what you think of what she wrote. Be creative! Be honest! The email address is
I emailed her already. Don't remember exactly what I said, but the word "idiot" figured prominently.
8:50 pm | link

Chairs. Titanic. Deck. Shuffle.
Today the NY Times tells us that the White House is reorganizing its management of Iraq. New management instruments include an "Iraq Stabilization Group" to be headed by Condi Rice.
I'm having one of those "should I laugh or cry?" moments. 
This effort will, of course, fail, because the White House itself is the problem.  Any workable solution to the Iraq quagmire involves getting control away from the White House asap.
Anyone who's ever worked in an office hive (also known as a "cube farm" in some parts) can see the classic symptoms of incompetent upper management, so delightfully illustrated in "Dilbert." The overpaid hothouse flowers at the top of the management heap have no clue how the work of the company actually gets done; therefore, they have no clue how to fix problems. But that doesn't stop them from trying.
You know you've got a pack of shitheads running a company when their idea of innovative management solutions amounts to redrawing flow charts. Once upon a time I worked (for five years) for a major corporation that was obsessed with flow charts. Unsatisfied with profits, at least twice a year upper management would send around carefully drawn charts with cute little arrows showing us the new plan for who would report to whom. They must have had a staff of people who did nothing else but flow charts.
In the meantime, those of us who actually created the products were still in the same dreary little cubes doing the same dreary little jobs, year after year, and most of us could see where we could tighten up cost and improve efficiency if only we'd been given the authority to make substantive changes. But we didn't have that authority, and the managers who did were very far removed from the actual work being performed. So in place of real innovation -- we got new flow charts. Oh, and every now and then they'd tweak the company logo, too.
When upper management got really nervous, they'd pry themselves out of the board rooms and actually walk about in the halls of the hive, although of course they wouldn't speak to anyone who didn't have an office with windows. I can't imagine what those little visits were supposed to accomplish, since no change ever came from them. The window office people, especially the corner window office people, would tap dance furiously to persuade the big shots that things were just swell. And no doubt the big shots would go back to corporate headquarters and say, yeah, I met with so-and-so, and they're doing a great job out there. And nothing changed.
I thought of those visits last month when Rummy toured Iraq and came home saying that everything in Iraq was just fine. Of course it was.

The creation of the group, according to several administration officials, grew out of Mr. Bush's frustration at the setbacks in Iraq and the absence of more visible progress in Afghanistan, at a moment when remnants of the Taliban appear to be newly active. It is the closest the White House has come to an admission that its plans for reconstruction in those countries have proved insufficient, and that it was unprepared for the guerrilla-style attacks that have become more frequent in Iraq. There have been more American deaths in Iraq since the end of active combat than during the six weeks it took to take control of the country.

"The president knows his legacy, and maybe his re-election, depends on getting this right," another administration official said. "This is as close as anyone will come to acknowledging that it's not working." [David E. Sanger, "White House to Overhaul Iraq and Afghan Missions," The New York Times, October 6, 2003]

Of course it's not working. And there were legions of us trying to tell the Bushies that it wouldn't work, going back to before the Iraq invasion. For example, I wrote this in September 2002:

The Bush Administration wants to invade Iraq, although it has not been able to prove that Saddam Hussein is connected to the September 11 attacks. At the same time, a number of news stories report that al Qaeda, although wounded, has not died but has gone underground and continues to be a threat. Most of its leaders, including Osama bin Laden, may still be alive. At the very least, the Bush Administration must tell us why we are to leave one job unfinished to begin another.

How in the world can the same flaming idiots who got us into this mess be expected to get us out of it? And Condi Rice can't do her job as National Security Adviser properly, so what's up with giving her another job? Isn't there anyone else the Bushies could call on?

Perhaps not, since anyone Bush would choose for this job would have to be someone who would, first and foremost, stick to the official story. And Condi's good at that, if nothing else.


9:15 am | link

Hot Links 8:10 am | link

sunday, october 5, 2003

The Sliming Continues
The latest slime in circulation about Wesley Clark is that he was a lobbyist for Henry Kissinger. The devil, you say? Here's the connection:
In 2000 General Clark became a "distinguished adviser" to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. The CSIS is one of those Washington think tanks that everyone who ever did anything in foreign policy belongs to; Madeleine Albright is a "distinguished alumna," for example. Former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Georgia) chairs the board of trustees. Henry Kissinger is also one of the trustees. Somehow, in slimer mind, this makes Clark a "lobbyist" for Henry Kissinger. How sick is that? Why isn't he a "lobbyist" for Sam Nunn? Sam Nunn is also a board member of Coca Cola; does this mean Wesley Clark is a stealth candidate for carbonated beverages?
Just had to rant for a minute. This stuff really upsets me.

11:58 pm | link

Freepers Are Idiots
The Freep found Joseph Wilson's official biography on the web, and are making much merriment over the fact that the official bio says that he is married to the former Valerie Plame and has two children.
Well, say the Freep, if keeping her identity was such a big deal, why was her name in the official biography?
Of course, the mouth breathers miss the point. The secret blown in the Novak column was not Plame's marriage to Joseph Wilson; the secret was that she was a CIA operative. And the bio doesn't mention that.
Anyway, the reason I was surfing for Wilson's bio is that Bush supporters allege that Wilson was unqualified for the assignment to investigate a Niger-Iraq uranium sale; therefore, his assignment must have been politically motivated.
Well, here's a section of Wilson's biography. Tell me he wasn't qualified:

Ambassador Wilson served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council from June 1997 until July 1998. In that capacity he was responsible for the coordination of U.S. policy to the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. ... He served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic and to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe from 1992 to 1995. From 1988 to 1991, Ambassador Wilson served in Baghdad, Iraq as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy. During “Desert Shield” he was the acting Ambassador and was responsible for the negotiations that resulted in the release of several hundred American hostages. He was the last official American to meet with Saddam Hussein before the launching of “Desert Storm.”

Ambassador Wilson was a member of the U.S. Diplomatic Service from 1976 until 1998. His early assignments included Niamey, Niger, 1976-1978; Lome, Togo, 1978-79; the State Department Bureau of African Affairs, 1979-1981; and Pretoria, South Africa, 1981-1982.

In 1982, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Mission in Bujumbura, Burundi. ... He was Deputy Chief of Mission in Brazzaville, Congo, 1986-88, prior to his assignment to Baghdad.

... He is a graduate of the Senior Seminar (1992), the most advanced International Affairs training offered by the U.S. Government. He speaks fluent French.

Ambassador Wilson holds the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, the University of California, Santa Barbara Distinguished Alumnus Award, and the American Foreign Service Association William R. Rivkin Award. ...

And this man was NOT QUALIFIED to investigate a sale of uranium between Iraq and Niger? On what planet?

Yet the freeps and dittoheads and neocons see nothing wrong with the blatantly political appointment of David Kay to investigate WMDs in Iraq. Of course not.


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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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