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saturday, january 17, 2004

Bush Shoots the Moon at NASA
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."

The demise of the Hubble will leave astronomers with no foreseeable prospect of a telescope in space operating primarily at visible wavelengths. The announcement also precludes hopes that astronomers had of using the Hubble in tandem with the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launching in 2011 and which is being designed for infrared wavelengths, to study galaxies at the far reaches of time. [Dennis Overbye, "NASA Cancels Trip to Supply Hubble, Sealing Early Doom," The New York Times, January 17, 2004]

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, very well.


8:18 am | link

Hot Links 5:59 am | link

friday, january 16, 2004

Hot Links Plus
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.
But -- whoa, Nellie -- some actual journalists rode to the rescue. Dana Hull and Drew Brown of Knight Ridder newspapers revealed that the Drudge version of the transcript was distorted.

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.

Read more comments by Josh Marshall here.
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 source?
Over at the New Republic the editors have been holding an online debate with themselves over their endorsement of Joe Lieberman. Mostly they are losing.
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 see that.
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.

6:17 am | link

thursday, january 15, 2004

Exclusive Photos!
My daughter, Erin O'Brien, posted photos of the "Bush in 30 Seconds" awards show here.

3:58 pm | link

Down With Dowd
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 that.

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?

10:55 am | link

Hot Links Plus
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. 

See also Brad DeLong's take on Paul O'Neill. And a few Hot Links:

Karl Rove's Nightmare

Sidney Blumenthal on Paul O'Neill

Senator Kennedy on the Axis of War

Molly Ivins: Any Good Stuff in There?

Kenneth Pollack: Spies, Lies, and Weapons

Helen Thomas: O'Neill Rejects Price of Loyalty


6:21 am | link

wednesday, january 14, 2004

Hot Links 6:34 am | link

tuesday, january 13, 2004

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 thinker.
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 retirement age.
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.

"Gephardt doesn't differ much from Dean on Medicare, so he attacks the doctor for something he said about restraining the program's growth in 1995," wrote Howard Kurtz in today's Washington Post.

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. Disgusting.
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. 
Can't we all just get along?

9:33 pm | link

Hot Links Plus
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.
Now for some Hot Links.


6:18 am | link

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 makes enough money to run several ads, a lot -- the finalists were all good.


12:28 am | link

monday, january 12, 2004

You'll Love This
From today's New York Daily News --
He didn't free the slaves.

He didn't rid the world of Hitler.

He didn't even - like his father - preside over the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

Yet George W. Bush tells New Yorker writer Ken Auletta: "No President has ever done more for human rights than I have."

With stunners like that, no wonder he spends so little time with journalists.

In the same article, Andy Card says its not the job of the White House to provide reporters with facts. Way to go, Bushies.


3:34 pm | link

60 Minutes and 30 Seconds
Tonight is the award presentation for the "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?


6:31 am | link

sunday, january 11, 2004

Hot Links 11:10 am | link

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Good luck.


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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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