Two days after President Bush ordered NASA to redirect its resources
toward sending humans to the Moon and Mars, NASA announced the Hubble Space Telescope will be abandoned for lack of resources.
Is this the perfect metaphor for the Bush Administration, or what?
First off, the Man on Mars project would cost at least $750 billion, and you know Congress and the Bushies aren't going to fund it. They'll kick off a lot of media hoopla about their plans
to build a space station on the Moon from which to hop over to Mars, and they'll set up photo ops of President Bush with some
astronauts, but when the time comes to cough up the money to make it happen -- so long, Charley. Remember No Child Left Behind?
(Best quote this week comes from Paul Krugman: "Money-saving suggestion: let's cut directly to the scene where Mr. Bush dresses up as an astronaut, and skip the rest of
his expensive, pointless — but optimistic! — Moon-base program.")
Instead, they'll appropriate a billion or two to throw at Halliburton or some other aerospace companies that haven't gotten enough loot yet. And the aerospace guys will develop some plans and
maybe a little technology, and then recycle a cut of the money back to the Republican Party.
Meanwhile, the loss of Hubble is a terrible blow to science.
Dr. Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the University of California at Santa Cruz
who is also on the advisory committee, said, "I think this is a mistake," noting that the Hubble was still doing work at the
forefront of science.
Dr. Tod Lauer, of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories in Tucson, said, "This
is a pretty nasty turn of events, coming immediately on the heels of `W's' endorsement of space exploration."
There will be no more shuttle missions to Hubble to maintain it.
"Without any more visits, the telescope, the crown jewel of astronomy for 10 years, will probably die in orbit sometime in
2007, depending on when its batteries or gyroscopes fail for good" [Ibid.]
The service missions are dangerous and, at $500 million each, expensive.
But a mission planned for next year would have kept Hubble going to the end of the decade.
Instead, thanks to Bush, we'll lose Hubble and we'll throw a lot of money at
a Moon Space Station project that will never happen. But in the meantime the big shots at Halliburton will be living very,
Yesterday the web was all a-twitter over a transcript of Wesley Clark
testifying before Congress in the fall of 2002 that popped up on Drudge (which I do not, ever, link to). In the
transcript, the general agreed that Saddam had both WMD and links to Al Qaeda, and that he needed to be dealt with sooner
rather than later. It appears that the general had endorsed the war.
Clark's congressional testimony was further distorted Thursday by cyber-gossip
columnist Matt Drudge, who quoted selected portions of Clark's testimony and added sentences that don't appear in
the transcript on his Web site Thursday. Drudge didn't respond to an e-mail request for comment.
For example, Drudge quoted Clark on possible links between al-Qaida and Saddam
Hussein's regime. "I think there's no question that, even though we may not have the evidence as (fellow witness) Richard
(Perle) says, that there have been such contacts," Clark testified. "It's normal. It's natural. These are a lot of bad actors
in the same region together. They are going to bump into each other. They are going to exchange information."
But Drudge didn't include Clark's comment that: "As far as I know, I haven't
seen any substantial evidence linking Saddam's regime to the al-Qaida network, though such evidence may emerge. I'm saying
there hasn't been any substantiation of the linkage of the Iraqi regime to the events of 9/11 or the fact that they are giving
weapons of mass destruction capability to al-Qaida."
Ed Gillespie, Chairman of the Republican
National Committee, also tried to use Clark's testimony to prove that the general had supported the war. But, say reporters Hull and Brown,
The complete transcript of Clark's Sept. 26, 2002, testimony, however, reveals
that Clark didn't endorse Bush's policy during the congressional hearing, and that the Republican charge is based on selected
excerpts of his remarks.
Gillespie accurately quoted portions of Clark's testimony before the House Armed
Services Committee in which Clark said he believed that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical and biological weapons and was seeking
nuclear weapons. But the RNC chairman didn't mention that Clark also said America should work through the United Nations to
seek a diplomatic solution and go to war only as a last resort.
The same day Drudge has his 'world exclusive' with ridiculously distorted clips of Wes Clark's September 2002 congressional testimony on Iraq, RNC Chairman
Ed Gillespie is in Little Rock giving a speech about Clark and he's using the same testimony to riff on.
What a coincidence they were both using google on the same day with
the same idea, right? Amazing.
Joe Lieberman picked up the Drudge account of the testimony and used
it to bash Clark, as did a great many Deaniacs on the web. When will people learn that Drudge is not exactly an unimpeachable
Over at the New Republic the editors have been holding an online debate with themselves over their endorsement of Joe Lieberman. Mostly they
I actually pay for a subscription to New Republic, and I feel
like a chump. I am paying money to get the opinions of people who are utterly out of touch with political reality because
...? Beats me. They do run some good articles in most issues, but the editorial staff ought to be paying to read The
Mahablog. They would learn something.
The biggest flaw in the arguments of the pro-Lieberman faction is that they equate
support of the War in Iraq with being strong on national defense. These people are idiots. The War in Iraq has nothing whatsoever
to do with national defense, and if anything it has made our ability to defend ourselves weaker. But they're too thick to
You can read the ongoing debates for yourself on this page, or at least I think you can. It may be a subscriber-only page, but I don't think so.
One wonders what gets into Maureen Dowd sometimes. Or are there two Maureen Dowds?
She can be sharp and insightful in one column, and as clueless as a Faux News shill
in the next.
In 2000 she joined in the Press Whore Pile On of Al Gore, writing cattily about his
Earth Tone phase while George Bush's shady biography and implausible campaign promises went unscrutinized. Sunday the
Bad Maureen surfaced again, devoting an entire column to Wesley Clark's sweaters.
But today's column is beyond dumb. She criticizes Howard Dean's wife, Dr. Judith
Steinberg Dean, for being a real person and not a standard-issue Stepford Candidate Wife.
In worn jeans and old sneakers, the shy and retiring Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean looked
like a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled and unconcerned about not being at her husband's side
— the anti-Laura. You could easily imagine the din of Rush Limbaugh and Co. demonizing her as a counterculture fem-lib role
model for the blue states.
While Elizabeth Edwards gazes up at John from the front row of his events here, while
Jane Gephardt cheerfully endures her husband's "Dick and Jane" jokes, while Teresa Heinz Kerry jets around for "conversations"
with caucusgoers — yesterday she was at the Moo Moo Cafe in Keokuk at the southernmost tip of the state — Judith Steinberg
has shunned the role of helpmeet. [Maureen Dowd, "The Doctor Is Out," The New York Times, January 15, 2004]
The two doctors Dean raised two
children together. I strongly suspect Judith Steinberg Dean has done plenty of "helpmeeting" within the Dean home.
Refreshingly, the "bio" of Dr. Mrs. Dean on her husband's campaign web
site starts out,
Meet Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean, career woman. Busy balancing her own thriving medical
practice and raising her two children, she keeps up with what her husband does at work, but it is not her main priority. And
the fact that her husband is the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination isn't going to change
Judy Dean is a historical anomaly among political wives – the stand-by-your-man spouses
who drop their own careers at the first whiff of a presidential run and devote themselves solely to their husband's election.
She has instead opted to continue seeing patients who, as she put it in a recent fundraising letter, "want and need to see
a physician who knows them when they're ill." [Mary Lynn F. Jones]
You GO, girl!
To be fair, Dowd has a point when she says that, right now, Howard Dean could use
a loyal Stepford Wife on the stump to help deflect the truckloads of slime coming at him from all sides. But I think this
is just another illustration of how stupid the campaign process has become. How does being married to a life-size plastic
doll make a man a better President?
Conservatives hate First Ladies who show the least bit of independence. They
hated Eleanor Roosevelt because she had a brain and a great, compassionate heart. They hated Rosalind Carter because she sat
in on cabinet meetings and helped her husband make decisions. And, of course, in their minds Hillary Clinton still is the
Dark Queen Who Must Be Opposed.
So why would they object to a First Lady who just wants to be left alone to do her
job? There's no pleasing some people. (Of course, a First Lady Dr. Mrs. Dean probably would not be able to practice medicine
with a pack of Secret Service agents underfoot, but I'm talking about the principle of the thing.)
Get used to it, people. These days college-educated men tend to be married to college-educated
women, and college-educated women tend to have their own careers. The day WILL come -- maybe not 2004, but someday -- when
a man will become President whose wife will wish to continue her career, whatever it is, and not devote herself to holding
dinner parties and launching ships. And if not that, a woman will become President, and her husband will not know
a fish fork from a demitasse. A professional White House Host Staff could take over First Lady functions nicely.
It used to be -- a century or so ago -- that candidate's wives played no part
in campaigns, and First Ladies could opt out of public life if they chose. More recently, Bess Truman stayed in Missouri through
much of her husband's administration, probably for good reason. The nation survived.
"The doctors Dean seem to be in need of some tips on togetherness," Dowd
writes. Instead, the rest of us need to get a life. The Dean marriage, based on mutual respect and trust, looks just
fine to me. But has anyone seen Laura Bush lately? She's getting chubbier and frumpier, signs of unhappiness in any woman.
Who knows what silent despair hides behind the plastic smile?
Hot news this morning is that Carol Mosely Braun will drop out of the race today and endorse Howard Dean. Although Ambassador Mosely Braun was often derided as a "vanity
candidate," she's handled herself with style and class and a whole lotta smarts. I hope she has many years of public service
ahead of her.
Brad DeLong posted a bit of the Suskind Price of Loyalty book
under the headline "Worst Presidential-Level Economic Policy Meeting Ever." It's a first-hand account of a meeting with President
Bush and his economic "advisers," which somehow includes Karl Rove. You've got to read this. It is fascinating and horrible, in the way three-day-old road kill is fascinating and horrible. I agree with DeLong's comment:
One almost feels sorry for Bush. His Treasury Secretary thinks he cannot remember
whom the members of the Business Roundtable are. His advisers are all trying to manipulate him by inserting phrases they think
push hot buttons into their statements. People like Karl Rove talk way over his head about the number of years the
tax code allows businesses to take to amortize asset purchases. Josh Bolten and Glenn Hubbard allow him to misinterpret what
Hubbard's claim that a $200 billion deficit raises interest rates by only 0.03% means. One almost feels sorry for Bush.
But not quite. One feels sorry for the rest of us.
Someday even those of us who are determined to get George W. Bush out of
the White House may come to pity the man. He's a man who has never in his life been allowed to fail, so he has no clue how
limited he really is. And he is sealed off from the world in an impenetrable bubble, surrounded by manipulators and sycophants.
Fascinating and horrible.
Is it me, or is there an unusually high level of nastiness going on between the candidates'
camps? For example, some Dean-supporting web buddies, people with whom I have had a warm virtual relationship going back
several years, recently turned on me like a pack of rabid pit bulls.
And why would that be? I like Howard Dean, I think he'd make a good president, and
I often defend him against the unfair smears of the pundits and other candidates. But I am tainted because I
also like Wesley Clark. So, now I am brainwashed; I have been dazzled by the uniform. I am told President Clark
will declare martial law and start World War III as soon as he takes the oath of office (I've been brainwashed?).
Democrats who complain that the Republicans are a pack of intolerant, knee-jerk partisans
are turning into intolerant, knee-jerk partisans.
The Deaniacs are spinning their wheels over Clark's alleged inconsistencies on the
Iraq War. Juan Cole addresses this issue on his blog:
Edward Wyatt of the New York Times paints Gen. Wesley Clark as "inconsistent" for saying in October, 2002, that there
were links between al-Qaeda and Saddam's Iraq, but for later saying that there were no such links. Then he brings up the early
interview in which Clark said that he would have voted for the Iraq war resolution, but then later clarified that he thought
the war unjustified.
This sort of article annoys the hell out of me. It is again that black and white simplistic thinking
and demand for absolute consistency, which allows journalists to play "gotcha." I have been told by US government folks in
counter-intelligence that they think there were low-level exploratory contacts between al-Qaeda and Baath intelligence. This
allegation is plausible, and it is the sort of thing Clark was probably referring to in Oct. 2002.
And J. Peter Scoblic writes in The New Republic:
It's true that Clark's worldview appeared a little shaky 24 hours into his candidacy.
Asked on September 18, 2003, if he would have voted for the October 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the use of force
against Iraq, the ostensibly antiwar general equivocated: "At the time, I probably would have voted for it, but I think that's
too simple a question. ... I don't know if I would have or not." That quote, combined with subsequent claims that he would
never have voted for the resolution, led to a minor media frenzy, on which Clark's rivals were quick to capitalize. "He took
six different positions on whether going to war was the right idea," Joe Lieberman charged at one debate.
In truth, Clark's position was consistent, if poorly explained: He thought the threat
of force was necessary to bring Saddam Hussein into compliance with U.N. resolutions, but he disapproved of the Bush administration's
anemic diplomacy in late 2002 and early 2003. Had Clark been in Congress, he likely would have supported the alternative resolution sponsored by Joe Biden and Richard Lugar requiring the president to return to Congress before invading Iraq; following the failure of that alternative, he likely
would have voted for the resolution that eventually passed, as Biden and Lugar themselves did. In any case, Clark's stance
on the war resolution has less bearing on the fitness of his foreign policy than his stance on the war itself. And on this
Clark has been perfectly clear: "Saddam Hussein did pose a national security challenge. There is no dispute about that. He
was in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. If he didn't still have weapons of mass destruction, he was trying
to acquire them. He remained hostile to his neighbors. But it was clear then, and it is even clearer today, that Saddam Hussein
posed no imminent threat to the region or the world." In short, "We didn't have to do this operation. It was [an] elective
war." [J. Peter Scobic, "Credible Threat: The Case for Wesley Clark," The New Republic, January 13, 2004]
Also -- as a CNN military commentator, Wesley Clark made several statements in praise
of the military action in Iraq, which is a separate issue from the political decision to invade Iraq. A number of
people -- not just Deaniacs -- have taken these statements out of context and plastered them about the Web to "prove" Clark
supported Bush's decision to invade. It is inconceivable to simplistic, black-and-white thinkers that someone might disapprove
of the decision to invade but praise the way the invasion was carried out. Wesley Clark is not a simplistic, black-and-white
Neither is Howard Dean, for that matter. Dean has changed his position on many issues
over the years, and he's getting crucified for it. He's changed positions on Nafta, on Medicare, and on the Social Security
And Deaniacs who bristle with outrage because Wesley Clark was a paid consultant
for some defense contractors refuse to even discuss Governor Howard Dean's sweethearts deals with "captive" insurance companies.
But the fact is that many of us have changed positions on these issues. Nafta is
flawed, but generally the flaws evident after enactment were not the same flaws that were warned about before enactment
-- the "giant sucking sound" turned out to be more of a burp. And regarding Dean's former views on Medicare, I wrote
in the September 28 Mahablog:
The Gingrich-Dean connection? Gephardt alleges
that in 1995, Governor Dean supported a Republican measure to cut Medicare. What Governor Dean actually supported back then
was a plan to cut Medicare costs by making Medicare a managed care instead of a fee-for-service program; the money saved would have been used to
provide prescription drug benefits. So it appears Gephardt really is demagoging just a tad.
These days Dean is being savaged from all sides, Republican and Democrat, with the
press whores piling on. It is a truly painful thing to watch. Good Democratic candidates get picked to pieces, yet George W. Bush avoids scrutiny.
And then there are the Kucinichistas. Someday I will write a blog about
how I've come to truly, deeply, intensely dislike Dennis Kucinich. But it was his culties who originally turned me off. (Disclaimer:
Not everyone who likes Kucinich is a cultie; only people who think Dennis Kucinich walks on water are culties.)
Kucinichistas smear everybody. Dennis is the only candidate
who has consistently been against the Iraq War, they say. Even Howard Dean doesn't measure up. And Dennis is the only
candidate who wants to pull troops out of Iraq; all the other candidates support many years of occupation. And Dennis is the
only candidate who wants to give Iraq oil resources back to Iraqis. And Dennis is the only candidate who
is not a corporate whore. And Dennis is the only candidate who wears matching socks. Whatever. Thanks to the Kucinichistas,
Dennis is the only Democratic candidate who annoys the hell out of me. I can tolerate Al Sharpton and Joe Lieberman
better than Dennis Kucinich.
If Abraham Lincoln were running for President today, he'd never make it to the primaries.
He was ugly and awkward. He had an outrageous backwoods accent. Some media weenie would find out he had a history of depression,
and before long the CW would declare Lincoln to be psychologically unstable. The Left would turn on him because his wife's
family were slave owners. The Right would call him a "peacenik" because, as a Congressman, he had been opposed to the popular
Mexican War. And everybody would be smearing him because he had done legal work for Big Railroad -- by today's standards,
he was a corporate whore.
It is noteworthy, I think, that throughout last night's entire
program not one of the Nine Democratic Candidates was even mentioned (to my recollection). Janeanne Garofalo, the master of
ceremonies, stressed that Moveon is an organization for political education.
Musical entertainment was provided by Rufus Wainwright, Chuck D, and Moby. As a Boomer,
my reaction to most contemporary music is -- well, it's OK. But it's not Cream, is it? But I guess it helps to be close
enough to the speakers to make one's teeth vibrate, as I enjoyed the music a lot. I'm sure my kids were way impressed that
their old Ma is still groovey after all these years.
Oh, and there was another rapper named MCMC who looked a lot like Margaret Cho.
The actual Margaret Cho did stand-up ("Bush is nothing like Hitler -- although he
could be if he applied himself"), and awards presenters included Al Franken (who broke up the deaf-signing lady by intoning,
"I heard Al Franken make fun of deaf people backstage. Let's kill him.") and Michael Moore. It was a great evening. I hope
Moveon sells videos and DVDs to raise more money. If they do, you should buy one.
I am just back from the way awesome Bush in 30 Seconds award show. We had seats right in the center on the fifth row from the stage. The winning ad will be run on national television
the week of the State of the Union address, and there was talk of running an ad during the Super Bowl. I hope Moveon.org makes
enough money to run several ads, a lot -- the finalists were all good.
Tonight is the award presentation for the Moveon.org "Bush in 30 Seconds" ad. I'll be in the audience with my two adult (more or less) children. So click back late tonight or tomorrow morning for
reactions. If you can't wait, you can watch a live webcast on the "Bush in 30 Seconds" site.
Also, I hope you saw the 60 Minutes interview with Paul O'Neill. If you missed it,
read the transcript here. Today a lot of people will be talking about pre-September 11 plans to invade Iraq, including a Pentagon document, dated
March 5, 2001, titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts." The document, which was waved in front of
a 60 Minutes camera, included a map of potential areas for oil exploration. None of this was a big surprise, of course.
Among other questions Leslie Stahl didn't bother to ask because she was too intent
on looking intent for the camera: At one point, O'Neill said,
“Yes, well, in the last quarter the growth rate was 8.2 percent. It was terrific,”
says O’Neill. “I think the tax cut made a difference. But without the tax cut, we would have had 6 percent real growth, and
the prospect of dealing with transformation of Social Security and fundamentally fixing the tax system. And to me, those were
compelling competitors for, against more tax cuts.”
It would have been nice if a journalist had been around to push O'Neill
on the "6 percent real growth" figure. Is he saying that the 8.2 percent does not represent "real" growth?
"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.