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saturday, march 13, 2004

Hot Links and Morning Musings
 
Spain is in shock, the BBC says. "Hundreds of people visited makeshift shrines at the railway stations affected by the attacks. Black ribbons were tied to cars, posted in windows and draped over flags on public buildings."
 
Yes, like New York after September 11. For several weeks the city was one big alter, with photos of the dead and flowers and ribbons and flags and votive candles as far as the eye can see. Grief made visible. 
 
I've held off commenting on the terrorist tragedy in Madrid. This is partly because of lack of time and partly because we don't know who was responsible and partly because I didn't have anything original to say. And also, perhaps, because this hits awfully close to home for me.
 
This is the way our lives our now. Since September 11, New Yorkers have lived with armed National Guard in major transportation hubs, such as Grand Central and Penn Station. It was startling at first, but now it's part of the scenery. 
 
However, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the state of New York says that "MTA subways, buses, and railroads move 2.4 billion New Yorkers a year." I calculate that on an average day MTA provides about 66,000 rides in a public transportation network that covers about 5,000 square miles. The MTA cannot conduct 66,000 body searches a day. The MTA cannot patrol 5,000 square miles to look for bombs.
 
The Bush Administration says it is stepping up security for commuter trains. I'll report if I notice any increased security.
 
New Yorkers, eyewitnesses to the terrorist attack of September 11, know all too well that a bomb could turn a train car or bus full of commuters into mangled meat in a can. And if you are in a tunnel or on a bridge, there's no way to escape. This is a reality we live with. But life goes on, and so does commuting.
 
But we don't forget.
 
It's a damn shame that, on September 11, we in the United States had Flightsuit Boy as a President instead of a real leader. A real leader would have united the world in a relentless hunt for al Qaeda. Instead, we got sidetracked into Iraq and squandered our good relations with the rest of the planet.
 
And now Madrid grieves. And if we find out the perpetrators were connected to al Qaeda, we can only wonder if having real leadership in the White House might have prevented this.
 
Some speculate that, should the Madrid bombing prove to be the work of al Qaeda, Europeans will want to close ranks with George W. Bush in the war on terror.  But it seems just as likely that Europeans will blame Bush for being the incompetent, smirking asshole that he is and hold him partly responsible. He blew it in Afghanistan; he didn't follow through when al Qaeda was on the ropes, and now they are building back. And his arrogance and blunders in Iraq have stirred the fires of jihad. 
 
And speaking of September 11 -- Donald Rumsfeld and others kept bleeping souvenirs of the September 11 attacks. Rummy's been keeping a piece of the airplane that flew into the Pentagon on his desk. A few days ago it was disclosed that a Tiffany globe paperweight taken from the World Trade Center site had been gracing an FBI desk in Minneapolis.  An FBI assistant director of terrorism had items collected and given to "dignitaries." And visiting FBI agents "cut World Trade Center security patches from the sleeves of shirt pieces found in the rubble." Unbelievable.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7:27 am | link

friday, march 12, 2004

Hot Links 5:42 am | link

thursday, march 11, 2004

Around the Blogosphere
 
Stuff you can't find in newspapers (these paragraphs are just teasers):

It seems fairly obvious by now that the Bush administration likes being lied to. It is even paying for the privilege of being screwed over. This is sort of reverse crooked. It is to crookedness as sado-masochism is to sex. But there are grounds for suspicion of out and out crookedness, too. Reuters reports (as will all the major newspapers today) that the Defense Intelligence Agency is paying Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress $340,000 per month for "intelligence." The INC is the organization that lied to the US until it was blue in the face, falsely claiming it knew for sure that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and weapons. It supplied single-source reports from defectors that were full of tale tales. [Juan Cole]

In the religion corner (we're talking metaphor here, remember), we have the pro-"trade" crowd. Here Trade is God: omnipotent, omniscient, beneficent. We reward Trade by shifting all federal dollars to the producers of wealth (if not goods), the theory being that with a modest investment we will get back vast multiples of dollars--money that will benefit us down to the last Wal-Mart associate. Putting federal dollars toward things like social services is folly--how can it ever multiply like Trade? Furthermore, workers are line items on the expense side of the spreadsheet. They are regarded as obstacles to Trade. Reward them not directly, but through the manifold benefits Trade will bestow later on, when we're all wealthy.

On the science side of things are a shadowy and dangerous cabal who appeal to logic. With their pointy, evil heads, they cast away the Faith of Trade and whisper Newton's heresy about actions and reactions. They argue that the economy is a massive Ponzi scheme that will eventually (some say soon!) implode. [Jeff Alworth, the american street]

MaxSpeak is struck by the vehemence of anti-critique directed at those who describe the lamentable job market. It's not just the Bushies and their legion of mental-munchkin bloggers, whose interest in the debate is transparent. Rather, it comes from the responsible, elite, ignorant middle of the spectrum of economic policy commentary. I'm talking about the editorialists and columnists (Robert Samuelson, David Ignatius, etc.) at the Washington Post, the New(t) Republic, and other would-be popularizers of the dismal science. [MaxSpeak]

8:27 pm | link

The Inquisition Continues
 
President Bush spoke the National Association of Evangelicals Convention in Colorado today and addressed those vital issues of most vital concern to this vital organization. According to the Associated Press, these most vital issues are:
  1. Outlawing abortion. The "partial birth" abortion ban Bush and a pack of other old white men signed into law in November was just a first step to making sure the women of America have no access to medically safe abortions.
  2. Restricting stem cell research, thereby prolonging the suffering of countless diseased people and putting scientific researchers in America at a terrible disadvantage.
  3. Preventing homosexual persons from getting married.

Yessirree, folks, this is "compassionate conservatism" at its finest.

Of course, at a time when Wall Street is on a slide, we're more than 3 million jobs in an unemployment hole, and our record trade deficit threatens to swamp the economy of the entire globe, not to mention the fact that the Middle East is increasingly unstable and our military is stretched too thin, and not to mention Haiti and North Korea and who knows what else ... you'd think the items listed above would not be priorities, even if you agreed with them.

Well, you'd think. Obviously, some people don't.

2:22 pm | link

Hot Links
 
Another example of Republican hypocrisy: The media whores are all a-twitter about the Democratic 527s and their anti-Bush ads, dubbed "the shadow campaign." Senator John McCain is threatening to go to the FEC to stop them.
 
It's understandable why Senator McCain would be angry. Bush supporters  used soft-money ads to scuttle his presidential nomination campaign in 2000. For example, just before the New York primary a Friend of Bush used an ad agency with ties to New York Governor Pataki (R) to run ads claiming McCain was opposed to breast cancer research (a lie). McCain lost New York by a whisker, which pretty much ended his campaign.
 
However, the FEC just ruled on 527s less than a month ago (nobody seems to remember that), and said they were OK, with some restrictions. And notice that the GOP didn't get worked up about 527s until they realized they gave Democrats a fighting chance in the ad campaign wars.
 
But speaking of unfair ads -- yesterday the General Accounting Office said that the Bush Administration's Medicare television ads misrepresented the facts about the recently passed "reforms" in medicare.

The fliers and advertisements do not violate restrictions on the use of federal money for "publicity or propaganda purposes," but they are flawed by "omissions and other weaknesses," said the legal opinion by Anthony H. Gamboa, general counsel of the accounting office.

For example, Mr. Gamboa said, the administration did not point out that beneficiaries might be charged up to $30 for drug discount cards that become available in June. Likewise, he said, the administration incorrectly suggested that the law set a premium of $35 a month for drug coverage, beginning in 2006. That amount, he said, is only an estimate and ignores the penalties that could be imposed on people who delay enrolling.

The administration plans to spend more than $22 million on the advertisements and brochures, which publicize drug benefits, new coverage for preventive health services and new insurance options. Medicare officials said the advertisements and fliers were a way to educate beneficiaries, as the law requires. [Tom Curry, MSNBC, March 8, 2004]

You've seen the television ads, I'm sure -- a man and a woman with warm, soothing voices explain all the Medicare goodies the Bush Administration is about to give to seniors. This is nothing but a Bush re-election campaign in disguise -- and your tax dollars are paying for it.
 
Warning: The Bad Maureen is back, with a remarkably stupid column even by Bad Maureen standards. It's about John Kerry and botox shots. Here's a link; don't say you weren't warned.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6:18 am | link

wednesday, march 10, 2004

Hot Links
 
We've had a major breakthrough in the effort to pry some answers out of President Bush regarding 9/11, according to the New York Times.  
 
No, he hasn't reconsidered his one-hour limit to his meeting to the 9/11 panel (although spokesperson Scott McClellan suggested Bush might let the meeting run longer). And he still hasn't agreed to meet with the full panel instead of just the two co-chairs. And the White House still refuses to allow Condi Rice to testify in public.
 
Yet the White House made a significant concession yesterday. Scott McClellan says that when Bush meets with the panel co-chairs, he will answer all of their questions.
 
Hot damn.
 
This concession made the front pages of both the New York Times and the Washington Post, and no doubt many other papers. 
 
I can remember when Lyndon Johnson routinely had televised press conferences in which he was grilled mercilessly about Vietnam. And now we have a president who ... well, never mind. It's too depressing to write about. 
 
Rights and privileges. For years most conservatives have fought campaign finance reform, claiming it was a limit on free speech.
 
How the worm has turned.
 
According to the New York Times, the Republicans are fighting to take away the free speech rights of citizens by shutting down the ad campaigns of groups like Moveon that run ads critical of President Bush. According to Republicans, it's OK for organizations like the misnamed Fund for Growth to run expensive ad campaigns slamming John Kerry (Fund for Growth, as I recall, also ran some nasty ads against Howard Dean in Iowa). But Moveon ads that criticize President Bush are in violation of campaign finance law. Of course.
 
Fat lot of good it does. Yesterday CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he frequently takes Vice President Dick Cheney aside and corrects his public misstatements of intelligence.
 
Dharmarama. According to a story in yesterday's Washington Post,
The South Korean daily, Chosun Ilbo, reports that Kerry is good friends with a Korean man named Kim Chang-sik. He is a Zen master and founder of a school of martial arts in the Boston area known as Shim Gum Do.

Kerry and Kim Chang-sik "exchange letters once a month to exchange views on Zen and spiritual discipline, and meet whenever the need arises," Chosun Ilbo reports.

According to sources associated with Shim Gum Do, Kerry is not a student of the practice, "but is known to have much interest in Eastern Zen and other forms of spiritual training. Although he's never visited Korea, he is reported to have said he would like to visit Buddhist holy spots in this country."

I hope Master Kim Chang-sik is invited to the inaguration.

Oops. A study by two sociologists finds that American teenagers who take virginity-until-marriage pledges have about the same rate of sexually transmitted diseases as those who don't. These guys also found that abstinence-only sex ed does nothing to reduce rates of unwanted pregnancy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6:39 am | link

tuesday, march 9, 2004

Hot Links
 
Have I ever told you how much I don't like Mickey Kaus? Not that I ever read Kausfiles much, but when I do I want to wash my eyes out with soap. Now he and Glenn Reynolds, whom I don't think all that much of either, are tag-teaming each other on the Kerry the Flip-Flopper meme.
 
The conceit is that Kerry is a waffler, a flip-flopper, an opportunist with no core. Of course, as Kos reminded us yesterday,
  • Bush is against campaign finance reform; then he's for it.
  • Bush is against a Homeland Security Department; then he's for it.
  • Bush is against a 9/11 commission; then he's for it.
  • Bush is against an Iraq WMD investigation; then he's for it.
  • Bush is against nation building; then he's for it.
  • Bush is against deficits; then he's for them.
  • Bush is for free trade; then he's for tariffs on steel; then he's against them again.
  • Bush is against the U.S. taking a role in the Israeli Palestinian conflict; then he pushes for a "road map" and a Palestinian State.
  • Bush is for states right to decide on gay marriage, then he is for changing the constitution.
  • Bush first says he'll provide money for first responders (fire, police, emergency), then he doesn't.
  • Bush first says that 'help is on the way' to the military ... then he cuts benefits
  • Bush-"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. Bush-"I don't know where he is. I have no idea and I really don't care.
  • Bush claims to be in favor of the environment and then secretly starts drilling on Padre Island.
  • Bush talks about helping education and increases mandates while cutting funding.
  • Bush first says the U.S. won't negotiate with North Korea. Now he will
  • Bush goes to Bob Jones University. Then say's he shouldn't have.
  • Bush said he would demand a U.N. Security Council vote on whether to sanction military action against Iraq. Later Bush announced he would not call for a vote
  • Bush said the "mission accomplished" banner was put up by the sailors.  Bush later admits it was his advance team.
  • Bush was for fingerprinting and photographing Mexicans who enter the US. Bush after meeting with Pres. Fox, he's against it.
  • This cannot be repeated often enough.
     
    In other news: Rest in peace, Spalding Gray.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    Marie Cocco: Bush Owes 9/11 Answers, Not Ads

    6:32 am | link

    monday, march 8, 2004

    Who's the Real Flipper?
     
    The Bushies are trying to smear John Kerry is a "flip flopper," but Kerry is a piker compared to Bush. Check out this Daily Kos item. Then plaster the record of Bush flip flops all over cyberspace. And send 'em to your local newspaper while you're at it.  
    11:01 am | link

    No End in Sight
     
    According to this New York Times story, increasing numbers of Afghan women are attempting to end their lives by setting themselves on fire. Their lives are that miserable.
    Officials at the commission said it was reasonable to estimate that Afghanistan had hundreds of such cases in a year.

    "It is not only in Herat; it is in all of Afghanistan," said Dr. Soraya Rahim, deputy minister of women's affairs, on her return from a government investigative trip to Herat.

    "It takes different forms in different provinces," she said in a telephone interview. "Some take tablets. Some cut their wrists. Some hang themselves. Some burn themselves.

    "But the reason is very important. The first reason is our very bad tradition of forced marriage. Girls think this is the only way, that there is no other way in life."

    Fat lot of good we did them, huh? Of course, the situation these women face was not caused by America but by age-old cultural attitudes toward women. Still, we'd like to think life is better for them after the routing of the Taliban. I guess not.

    See also this story in today's Guardian, which says that women in Iraq really are worse off because of the war.

    The Ba'ath regime's "faithfulness campaign", an act of terrorism against women that included the summary beheading of scores of those accused of prostitution, is just one example of its brutality against women.

    However, it is now almost a year after the war, which was supposed to bring "liberation" to Iraqis. Rather than an improvement in the quality of women's lives, what we have seen is widespread violence, and an escalation of violence against women.

    From the start of the occupation, rape, abduction, "honour" killings and domestic violence have became daily occurrences. The Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq (Owfi) has informally surveyed Baghdad, and now knows of 400 women who were raped in the city between April and August last year.

    A lack of security and proper policing have led to chaos and to growing rates of crime against women. Women can no longer go out alone to work, or attend schools or universities. An armed male relative has to guard a woman if she wants to leave the house.

    9:24 am | link

    Hot Links
     
    News Lizard Bob Novak worries about a protectionist wind felt throughout the land, especially in North Carolina:

    Republican politicians are chilled by a story making the rounds in the state's political circles. A delegation of North Carolina factory owners recently went to Washington to plead for relief from foreign competition. They returned complaining that the president's agents responded with the ''free trade'' mantra. Their verdict: They could no longer support Bush. North Carolina may be changing from a certain ''red'' state (carried by Bush with 56 percent in 2000) to a potential battleground with hopes for capturing Edwards' Senate seat diminishing. ...

    State Sen. Fred Smith, a rising new face in North Carolina Republican politics, told me the GOP will be saved here by conservative social values -- in particular, opposition to gay marriage. But many Republicans disagree as they ponder this question: Can a debate over homosexuals getting married in other states really trump China-bashing on jobs lost in North Carolina? [Bob Novak, "Protectionist Tilt Worries GOP," The Chicago Sun-Times, March 8, 2004]

    Novak's op ed suffers from several unsupported assumptions. For example, he believes there really is an economic recovery going on and that it's just a fluke that North Carolinians don't have more jobs. He also takes a black-and-white view of the free trade versus protectionism issue; one either embraces unrestricted free trade or wishes to hide behind a protective wall of tariffs. But the issue isn't that simple -- it can't be that simple. A middle way -- a nuanced way, even -- must be found, because the extremes are hurting us all.
     
    But it's good to see the GOP worried that their social issue red herrings may not distract voters from real issues this year. I hope that's true.
     
    Bob Herbert also looks at the job issue in today's New York Times.

    The Labor Department report [released Friday morning] was as grim as faces on a bread line. Despite all the president's promises, the economy added just 21,000 jobs last month. No jobs were added by the private sector. The 21,000 additional jobs were all government hires.

    The report also showed that job growth in December and January was worse than previously believed. The January tally was revised from 112,000 to 97,000. The December count dropped from 16,000 to a pathetic 8,000. ...

    The nation is in an employment crisis and the end is not in sight. The Bush administration has no plan, other than a continued ludicrous reliance on additional tax cuts. The White House continued to say on Friday that making the president's tax cuts permanent would be an important step toward solving the employment problem. [Bob Herbert, "The Unrecognizable Recovery," The New York Times, March 8, 2004]

    In other news. Capitol Hill Blues talks about how Bush shows the world what a regular guy he is. Recently he's gone to a NASCAR race and a cattle show to show off his regular guy-ness.

    Allan Lichtman, a political scientist at American University in Washington, said the events call attention to Bush as "both the macho guy and the regular guy."

    "Despite all the charges that his administration is a giveaway to the rich, this shows President Bush as in touch with the concerns and the lives of ordinary Americans in all the ways the patrician, distant, former hippie war protester John Kerry isn't," Lichtman said.

    An Associated Press poll taken last week showed Bush leading Kerry by almost 20 percent among white men.

    But does a regular guy take five personal chefs with him to visit Buckingham Palace? Just askin'.
     
    In other other news. This weekend U.S. Marines fired into a crowd of pro-Aristide supporters, killing five.  [On edit Sorry, got the facts wrong. I should read beyond first paragraphs before I write this stuff. It was Aristide supporters who fired into the crowd, according to this New York Times story.] This is a serious mess. Jeanne d'Arc of Body and Soul has done good blog work on this issue, and I recommend you go there.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

    6:12 am | link

    sunday, march 7, 2004

    Hot Links 7:15 am | link


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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

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    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."

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