The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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Homeland Insecurity
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Is It Too Late?
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The Killer Mothers
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saturday, november 20, 2004

Say Hi to Grandpa
Today's assignment is to compare and contrast two stories in today's Los Angeles Times:
A 13-million-year-old fossil of an ape, discovered in Spain, is from the last probable common ancestor of humans and great apes, Spanish researchers reported this week in the journal Science. [Link]
American high school seniors rank 16th among 21 industrialized nations when it comes to achievement in science, and you can bet a frozen mastodon that the leaders — Sweden, the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway — got there with a stronger curriculum and better-trained teachers, not with endless court fights over creationism. [Link]

Also in the Los Angeles Times:  "Textbook publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston agreed to the [Texas] education board's demand earlier this month that the publisher's middle-school textbooks for Texas define marriage as the 'lifelong union between a husband and wife.'"

I've done considerable time in the textbook publishing industry, so I can speak from experience.

Texas is an "adoption" state, meaning that any textbook used in the public schools there must be adopted by the state education board. Because Texas is a big market peopled by flaming wingnuts, for many years textbook publishers have been putting out special editions for Texas. Usually, the graphics and page layout in the Texas and national editions are identical, but the text is different.

Most of the time this is accomplished by means of a black plate change. When the printer is finished running the national pages and is ready to run the Texas pages, the black plate (which prints the text) is changed but the yellow, magenta, and cyan plates (which print the rest of the colors) remain the same.  Sometimes parts of the Texas editions are entirely different, graphics and all, but publishers try to stick to black plate changes because it's easier and cheaper. 

Texas isn't the only "adoption" state. In fact, there's been a trend toward more and more states demanding adoption. Ten years ago the only adoption states that really mattered were Texas and California. But in my most recent textbook gig there were special editions for Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and some other states as well. Plus, there was talk of creating editions specialized for some cities

As a rule, the differences in the texts are subtle and mostly involve adding innocuous state-specific content. But sometimes ideology does intrude. People on the state education boards are nearly always appointees of the state governor, and what the education boards do can reflect politically on the governor. So there's a tendency to give the voters what they want.

State boards tend to be weenies about evolution, at best, and hostile to it at worst. For this reason, publishers tend to tiptoe around evolution in the "national" editions of science textbooks. This means they limit discussion of evolution to very few pages so that the text doesn't have to be entirely re-written for the "hostile" states. But since understanding of evolution is the foundation of all study of all living things, this means textbooks do not support the proper teaching of biology anywhere in the U.S.

Even if the national editions are very good, changes in the state editions can result in a ghettoization of education. Some students aren't getting the same information as other students. And this ghettoization isn't just in science textbooks, as the example in the Los Angeles Times illustrates. After science, the teaching of history is probably the next biggest wingnut target, but there are state textbook editions for every discipline, including math and music.

This "adoption" nonsense also cranks up the cost of textbooks for everybody. Usually with any manufactured item, the more items are manufactured, the lower the per-unit cost. With books, most of the costs are incurred up front -- writing, editing, graphics, type composition. Even with printing, most of the costs are incurred up front, in the setup to print. Once the printer's setup is done and the plates are ready, the only addtional costs are in paper and ink, which are relatively cheap. With four-color printing (how most "full" color books are printed) it costs about as much to set up to print 1,000 books as it does to set up for 1 million books. If you've only got 1,000 books to sell, you've got to raise the price a lot to make a profit.

(Once upon a time I worked briefly for a fool who wanted to publish a four-color book, but he only wanted to print 500 copies. I got estimates from half the printers in North America but couldn't get the manufacturing cost under $600 per book, and that didn't include binding.) 

Back in the days that publishers printed hundreds of thousands of identical textbooks to sell throughout the country, textbook publishing enjoyed economies of scale. But if the print runs must be fractured into many state editions, the cost per book increases for everyone.

(Schools could save themselves enormous amounts of money if they'd settle for black-and-white textbooks, but who wants black-and-white textbooks? Especially in elementary school?)

There's one more wrinkle. New digital print technologies promise to lower costs for small print runs in the future. We aren't quite there yet, but I understand that soon it will be possible for printers to handle micro-print runs of a few hundred full-color books relatively cheaply. When that happens, will every bleeping school board in America demand customized textbooks?

10:22 am | link

friday, november 19, 2004

Why the New Republic Sucks
Michelle Cottle, a senior editor at The New Republic, is an idiot.
She had an op ed in Time recently in which she declared that the Dems lost the election because of John Kerry's personality.
Kerry's problem wasn't his policies; it was his personality. The guy was simply too cerebral, too equivocating and too out of touch with Middle America to wrest enough purple-state voters from even a seriously tarnished Bush. Sure, his Vietnam medals were pretty, but no Democrat who attended Swiss boarding school, hails from Massachusetts and raves about his love of French skiers had a snowball's chance of unseating good ole W.

So we ran an unlikable candidate, and we lost.

In the comments to yesterday's post, there was some scuffling on whether blue staters see red staters as idiots, and if red staters really are idiots. I guess Michele says they are. We have a "president" who got us into a hideous war by mistake, to be charitible. We have a "president" with the worst job growth record since Hoover's. We have a "president" who turned a budget surplus into a record budget deficit in record time. We have a "president" whose every "accomplishment" is pissed away for lack of follow up and funding. And we have an administration that is palpably corrupt from top to bottom.
And Kerry lost because he's from Massachusetts? Mr. and Ms. Red State sit around and say, the country's going to hell under Bush, but I can't vote for Kerry because he's from Massachusetts? Or because Karl Rove instructed the Noise Machine that passes for news media in this country to make a big deal out of French skiiers?
Ms. Cottle, it wouldn't have mattered who the Dems nominated. The brainless twits such as yourself who infest journalism in this country would have gone right along with Karl's script. And Karl's script would see to it the Dem candidate was tarnished somehow, whether by making him out to be a flip-flopper or a liar or one of those source-of-all-evil liberals. Never mind that Bush is a bigger flip flopper and a worse liar than any other living politician in America.
Never mind the Republican Noise Machine. Never mind the evangelical churches turned into arms of the Bush campaign. Never mind the fact that a majority of Bush supporters believe that WMDs were found in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda. Never mind that something is seriously wrong with news delivery in this country if so many people are so misinformed.
On to Ms. Cottle's next atrocity. I have an electronic subscription to TNR because, once in a while, it runs something really good I want to read.
boogeymen.jpgNot today. Today Ms. Cottle lectures us that Dems had better give up any hope of nominating Hillary Clinton in 2008, because she's got too much baggage. Like most vertebrates on the planet haven't already figured that out.
Get this:

Since Election Day, I have suffered through multiple discussions with giddy conservatives all but drooling over a Hillary run. They--like most liberals I know--all assume Senator Clinton is the horse to beat in 2008. But unlike discussions with liberals, my Hillary chats with conservatives typically begin with a variation on, Have your people gone completely insane? I'd like to take offense, but I can't, because nominating Hillary would be insanity. It's not that she's a bad gal. And she's surprised most of the Beltway crowd by turning out to be a relatively moderate, low-key, collegial, workhorse senator. Factoring in her high name recognition, her mythic status with the base, her ability to energize female voters, and, of course, her easy access to the greatest natural politician of our time, it's easy to see Hillary's appeal. Looked at rationally, she'd make a crackerjack presidential candidate.

(1) Righties are obsessed with Hillary, because righties by definition are people who are terrified of strong women because they have unresolved issues about their mothers. They are certain Hillary is behind every dark anti-Republican plot in America. When she's dead and buried they'll believe she's returned as a vampire. Sensible people recognize psychosis when they see it and ignore it. (2) Most liberals Cottle knows want Hillary to be nominated? Is there a Cottle Society for Lobotomized Liberals? I spend half my life online communicating with other liberals, and I know no one who wants Hillary nominated in 2008. I have never seen such an idea expressed anywhere in the Left Blogosphere. It's, like, completely off the radar.  (3) "Relatively moderate." Exactly. She's still playing by the old Clinton script that you have to win by moving right. That's why, outside the beltway, there is an utter lack of interest in nominating her in 2008.

So how come the Blogosphere is populated by intelligent, insightful people (not necessarily me) who write intelligent, insightful commentary without pay, and an airhead like Cottle is a senior editor for a national magazine?

The "stupid" bug has also bitten Fred Kaplan, who in the past has written some good stuff. But in typical leftie "it must be my fault" mode, Kaplan concludes that the reason so many red staters don't like Democrats (or liberals, or progressives, or whatever it is that is not liked in the red states) is that the Dems (et al.) don't like them. It's our fault that a rightie propaganda machine going back to Nixon ... nay, Joe McCarthy ...  has demonized liberals in the public mind lo these many years. It's our fault that mass media "pundits" get away with lying about Democratic candidates and frightening voters into the arms of corporate rapists.

I guess we should crawl, groveling, to the Right and beg its forgiveness for their abuse of us. If we are lucky, maybe they'll kick us and spit on us some more. It's what we deserve.

10:30 am | link

Step One
Thanks for everyone's comments and ideas in the last post. I think the first thing I should do is talk to someone with some experience with radio ads, production and sales. If anybody knows anybody, chase 'em over here. Or have them email me.
8:10 am | link

thursday, november 18, 2004

Radio Free Heartland
This post from Dr. Atrios gave me an idea:
Instead the administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations.

The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said. [Washington Post]
So I'm thinking, ohmygosh, this is ghastly. Millions of people could lose health insurance if this goes through. And then I think, at least I hope those Bush supporters who lose their health insurance realize they've got their own votes to thank.
And then I think, but they won't. Because no one will ever explain to them, simply and clearly, what happened. Most people, especially in rural and suburban America, get their news from radio and television (be sure to read David Neiwert's "Healing the Heartland" if you haven't already), and radio and television news is just a lot of noise at best and rightie propaganda at worst. (See also Digby on "undecided" voters and issues. Very discouraging.) 
A lot of people have kicked around the idea of setting up alternative radio networks in the "heartland," but that would take a lot of work and money and could fail to get an audience. 
But what if we bought ad spots on popular "heartland" radio station to explain issues?  No big production, just a voice (preferably with a "heartland" accent) reading something. I'd love to keep the spots very local. Let's say, hypothetically, that Congress is about to pass or just did pass the atrocity above. A 30-second ad on KGMY-AM in Springfield, Missouri, might say,
If you receive health insurance benefits from your employer, please pay attention to this ad. According to (expert), as many as x-million working Americans will lose their health benefits because of a law passed Tuesday by Congress. Effective (date), employers will no longer be able to take a business tax deduction for the cost of employee health benefits.
This measure was proposed by the Bush Administration. 7th District Congressman Roy Blunt voted in favor of this bill, as did Senators Bond and Talent of Missouri.
If you lose your health coverage in the next few months, please remember who is responsible. For more information, please visit
We wouldn't stop with this issue, of course. This is just an example. The point would be to take either an act of congress or an administration policy and just explain, briefly and simply, that X policy could have X effect. Have a nice day.
There would be a companion web site where issues discussed in the ads could be explained in more detail. I picked the name "Radio Free Heartland" because the domain names "radiofreeamerica" and "radiofreeusa," .com and .org, were taken. I now own, although I'll take suggestions for other names.
Be advised I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I know nothing about producing radio ads or buying radio time. I am casting this idea out into the ocean of political wisdom in hopes that the expertise will show up. I do have some money I could put into this to get it started, but not enough to pay anybody a salary. I'd also like to start small, in one little corner of the "heartland," and try to grow from there.
I also know very little about what kind of campaign finance or other laws I'd be running into, although this effort would not be associated with any campaign. Indeed, I think it's better run ads in between campaign season so the ads are not competing with campaign ads. Also, I certainly would not hesitate to name Democratic names when Democrats cast "bad" votes.
10:18 am | link

wednesday, november 17, 2004

Fried Rice
An Ode to Bush's Second Term
Second verse
Same as the first.
Just a little bit louder
And a little bit worse.
I was going to write a Condi Rice post today, but James Wolcott says everything there is to say about her. So just read Wolcott. (I especially like the part about Rice being a dictation machine on playback.)
If after Walcott you want more fried Rice, Liberal Oasis discusses the Constitution and the Cabinet, and the Democrats' lack of a coordinated response to Shrub's recent housecleaning.
Need more?
This WaPo article explains, in so many words, that Condi is an utterly incompetent National Security Adviser who promises to be an utterly incompetent Secretary of State.
In the Village Voice, James Ridgeway also discusses Condi's utter incompetence, along with the utter stupidity of the Bush Administration in general:
American foreign policy today has little to do with diplomacy, but rather is based on unilateral doctrine of telling the offending nation what we want it to do, and then if it balks, sending in gun boats to enforce our rule. It's succeeded in turning much of the world against America when we need all the support we can get. The dollar continues to lose value against the euro. Our trade deficit is higher than ever. Our debt is soaring. At a recent auction of treasury securities, foreigners who hold about half of the U.S. debt, refused to even bid on our bonds because they are so lousy.
Katrina vanden Heuvel says that although Condi may be incompetent, she might just be a liar.
Stirling Newberry has fun with graphics and links to Kristof getting shrill.
Here's a Knight Ridder report that says Europe is not looking forward to working with Condi as secretary of state. See also this Associated Press story that says the same thing.
Joe Conason writes of Rice, "no matter how wrong she may be, she is never in doubt." The Stepford Secretary of State.
And don't miss Dan Froomkin's most recent comments on The Purge.
10:44 am | link

tuesday, november 16, 2004

Messing Around
More serious stuff in the Blogosphere -- Stirling Newberry has been on a roll over at BOP News. Here is just some of his output over the past couple of days:  
Go, Stirling! Long may you blog.
Also at BOP News -- Shaula Evans's updated Election Theft Clearinghouse.
Via Suburban Guerrilla, this writer of this article claims to have anonymous White House sources. I try to be skeptical of information that conforms too neatly to my prejudices, but I did enjoy this bit:
True to form, Bush let the hog into the kitchen garden again. He put Porter Goss, a nasty, arrogant man, in as DCI with orders to “weed out” any and all CIA agents who have been leaking negative information about him. Goss, who has the intelligence and sensitivity of a pit bull, is doing what the Master told him to but with utterly disastrous  results. The CIA has very few really competent agents these days and most of them are going to resign, either singly or en masse. What is really worse is that many of them have made off with the most secret of reports proving that the CIA warned the Bush ninnies in plenty of time about the Iraq situation but Bush/Rove chose to ignore them. I have seen some of these papers and if the disaffected agents make good on their intentions of sending them off to the media, both domestic and foreign, Bush will be lynched by an enraged public and they will find some kind of a hoist to haul the bloated and thrashing body of Karl Rove up right beside him.
(I want to assure any Justice Department operatives who might be monitoring this site that I don't really want the President or Mr. Rove lynched. I'm sure the passage above is just a metaphor.)
Liberal Oasis documents Bush's war on the State Department. Chilling stuff. 
9:28 pm | link

Cross Roads
After writing the last post I've been reflecting on how we might proceed from here. Then I read David Neiwert's remarkable post on "Healing the Heartland." In brief (but do read the whole thing):
Rural and small town America has been fed a steady diet of right-wing talk radio for years.
What the dominance of right-wing propaganda in talk radio has meant has been a relentless campaign of hatred and demonization directed at liberals, one specifically geared toward a rural audience. And it has worked, largely because Democrats have blithely done little or nothing to counter it.

The radio talkers, Limbaugh and Savage especially, feed their audiences a steady diet of venom and bile. Liberals look down on people in farm country, they are told, constantly. They don't share your values. They have nothing but contempt for you. As far as they're concerned, you all can just go extinct.

It has to be understood that rural America is hurting, and has been for a couple of decades now. Visit any rural community now and it's palpable: The schools are run down, the roads are falling apart, the former downtowns have been gutted by the destruction of the local economies and their displacement by the new Wal-Mart economy.
Republican policies have cost the "heartland" dearly, but rightie propaganda has effectively deflected rage toward "liberal elitists." And Democrats have not penetrated through the noise machine to get an alternative message to the "heartland."
David then speaks of a "cycle of demonization."
One of the keys to this dynamic is that both sides have been portraying the conflict in terms of broad stereotypes of urban, suburban and rural dwellers. When the red-state ideologues view the political landscape, they see pockets of godless, atheistic crypto-socialists populating the blue urban centers. For blue-state ideologues, the results of the 2004 election are proof that rural America is populated largely with gun-toting, Bible-thumping moralists who condone bigotry.

It's clear that conservatives have neither the incentive nor the intention of breaking this cycle; after all, they have benefited from it. It is indeed entirely by their design. If liberals are interested in breaking the cycle, they're going to have to discard their stereotypes.
This is right, but difficult. Part of our Red State outreach problem is that we liberals can be a bit overbearing -- trust us; we know what's good for you. And you can't reach people you don't understand, and you can't understand them if you stereotype them. Cultivate respect as a habit of mind. Dave quotes James Aho:
... we should never forget that the enemy is a mysteriously paradoxical phenomenon. It has both a subjective and an objective face. While failing to acknowledge our own culpability in creating enemies puts us at risk of becoming executioners, being blind to the objective facticity of evil contains the danger of rendering us its victims. As Albert Camus said, our task as human beings is to be neither victims nor executioners. This requires the courage to renounce both the extreme of punctilious rectitude that perceives only those evils external to itself, and the extreme of romanticism that reduces evil to an internal and solely subjective event.
This is good, although I have some problems with notion of "an objective facticity of evil." I go on about the nature of evil here. For now, though, let's go on -- truly, we're not going to break through the demonization of liberals by demonizing our demonizers back. Although a big chunk of them are unreachable, there are people of the "heartland" who would listen to reason, if by chance they ever heard any.
In the last five paragraphs, David lays out a plan of communication: Focus on common ground and mutual concerns. Respect differences. Stand up to hatred, but don't get baited into hating back. Be open about liberal values, such as fairness and respect for working people.
This is excellent. But I'm sitting here a couple of rock throws from the Bronx. And I'm starting to feel like I'm in the midst of the characters in Life of Brian (was it the Judean People's Front or the People's Front of Judea?) who endlessly discuss positions and resolutions but never actually do anything.
Something else we need to be clear about is that there are many "heartlands." My native Ozark Mountain section of the heartland is very different, economically and culturally, from the northern Wisconsin heartland or the small town Arizona heartland. David's piece lingers for a while on farming and agribusiness, but the "heartland" isn't just farms. Another blogger points to the suburban strip mall heartland. Yeah, verily, there are countless "heartlanders" who don't know a heifer from a capon.
Last summer I emailed the Kerry campaign and asked how I could volunteer to do some field work in Missouri. I figured I'd be effective there, since I speak the local dialect and blend in pretty well as I'm related to a lot of 'em. No luck; the Kerry campaign didn't seem to have much of an organization in Missouri. I tried the Missouri Democratic Party web site and didn't find a link for volunteers. No wonder we lost.   
But it still seems to me that the best people to do "heartland" outreach would be those liberals with roots in "heartland" communities. I know I'm not the only one. And the next question is, what can we do to reach out? Especially if we've moved far away to Blue State Land?
1:00 pm | link

Bloody Monday Update
Just for fun, I dipped into the Right Blogosphere to see what the righties were saying about the Purge. Naturally, they approve. James Lileks's response is pretty standard:
The Administration is clearing the decks for the second term. Out with the old & tired,, in with new ideas, etc. How’s about the mainstream media does the same? Burn up half the deadwood, ease the ossified elements off the stage, bring in new writers and editors and announcers and producers. If they can do it at State, they could do it at CBS.

Yes, yes, I know. The State Department is just that. But CBS is the news.
No worries, Lileks. I'm sure the Bush appointees at FCC will be sure that the only reporters who are loyal to President Bush will be allowed to keep their jobs. But I wonder what "new ideas" he thinks the White House can think up, now that they've eliminated anyone who actually thinks?
Here's a terrifying glimpse into the darkness that is the faith-based reality brain: Condi v. Hillary, 2008.
This Glenn Reynolds post is alarming on several levels.
President Bush is obviously very comfortable with her [Condi] and with her judgment, and she's undoubtedly up to speed on events.  And they're used to working together in secrecy.  I'm reminded of this interesting bit from Bush's surprise trip to Baghdad last Thanksgiving:

Bush slipped away from his home without notice Wednesday evening with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, both of them disguised with baseball caps.  Bush told reporters that they looked like a "normal couple."  Bush then flew to Washington to pick up aides and a handful of reporters sworn to secrecy.

The white President and his black female National Security Advisor, looking like a "normal couple."  And, of course, they did.  There was a time, not so long ago, when not many people would have imagined those words coming unconsciously from the lips of a Republican President from the South.  (The Democratic Party still thinks we live in that time, which is one reason why it lost the election.)  As I said, Bush is comfortable with Rice, and that's an advantage.

I'm not sure what time Glenn thinks the Dems are still living in. Is he saying the Dem party is more racist than the Rep party? And what percentage of the African-American vote did Bush win on November 2? Did he hit double digits?
(A few months ago I was in a small restaurant in midtown Manhattan with a very racially mixed clientele. There was a TV at the bar. Condi's image came on the screen. Every African-American in the place booed.) 
Glenn also says the Purge is good because some new people "might bring in a new perspective." Not when the "new people" are the President's "old people" chosen on the basis of how slavishly they agree with Dubya's every fart, they won't. 
The best response, though, is the Rottweiller's. If the nice doggie's guest poster g. turner were deliberately writing irony, it would be brilliant irony. Unfortunately, he isn't.
The comments are priceless, too. Just be warned not to read any of this before breakfast or on a very full stomach. A stiff drink might help. But if you have a weak heart or high blood pressure, you might want to skip it altogether.
Meanwhile, the crew at Little Green Footballs (to which I'm not linking) is working overtime to justify a U.S. marine's shooting of a wounded and unarmed Iraqi prisoner in a mosque. 

I don’t know the full story yet, but the mujahideen are well-known for fighting until martyrdom, blowing themselves up, hiding weapons, and treachery, and I am extremely skeptical of this report. A quick Google lookup on Kevin Sites [the NBC correspondent who caught the shooting on film] reveals quite a bit of admiration at lefty sites for his past work, which causes my antennae to tingle.

In one short paragraph we go from blaming the prisoner for getting shot to blaming the report itself on "lefty" news media bias.   
I admit, part of me wants to just abandon the nation to these goons and let them run it into the ground. There are still a few misbegotten souls (i.e., Joe Lieberman) who think that somehow these people can be worked with. I suppose you can work with a rabid pit bull, also, but I'd advise against it.
9:02 am | link

monday, november 15, 2004

Bloody Monday
The purge is on. Dan Froomkin has a roundup of today's cabinet changes at WaPo. Departing officials are being replaced by White House aides, making the Bush Administration even more inbred than it was already. "... once the bloodletting is over," Froomkin writes, "the handful of White House officials closest to President Bush will emerge with an even tighter and more absolute grip on power than they had in the first term."
Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay at Knight Ridder write,

U.S. officials and foreign policy analysts said Monday that by agreeing to Powell's departure and approving a purge by new CIA chief Porter Goss, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney appear to be eliminating the few independent centers of power in the U.S. national security apparatus and cementing the system under their personal control.

Powell and his State Department team - quietly backed by the intelligence community - argued often for a foreign policy that was more inclusive of allies and that relied on diplomacy and coercion rather than on force to deal with adversaries.

They lost more battles than they won.

Powell, who friends said had hoped to stay on a little longer, is virtually certain to be replaced at the State Department by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is far closer personally to Bush.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a major architect of the Iraq war along with Bush and Cheney, appears to be staying for now, signaling that the White House believes its much-criticized Iraq policies are on the right track.

"Letting him go would be an admission of failure," said one senior administration official who, like others, requested anonymity because of the White House's distaste for dissent.

"Now," the official said, "they've got no one left to blame but themselves if things don't go right."

"We are seeing the consummation of the revolution," said Ivo Daalder, a scholar at the Washington-based Brookings Institution and author of a book on Bush's foreign policy.

"Anybody who thought that a `Bush 2' foreign policy would be a more moderate, multilateral, (John) Kerry-like foreign policy just doesn't understand this president, or this election," Daalder said.

Hold on to your butts.
Strobel and Landay also report on the continuing purge at the CIA.

Goss, a former Republican congressman from Florida, and a team of four aides he brought from the House Intelligence Committee, have begun a post-election purge of the Operations Directorate that's infuriated and alarmed current and former U.S. intelligence officials.

Many officials believe that the CIA, particularly the DO, as the Operations Directorate is known, is in dire need of reform. The agency was largely unable to penetrate either al-Qaida or Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime and critics charge that it's become too risk-averse and bureaucratic.

But, they said, the way Goss and his aides have proceeded has caused turmoil during heightened intelligence-gathering challenges. It smacks of partisanship and retaliation for the agency's production of analysis that doesn't support White House policy, they said. ...

"What Goss has done with his four minions is just appalling because it strikes at the heart of morale, which was not good to begin with," said Stanley Bedlington, a counterterrorism expert who spent 17 years at the CIA. "To upset the intelligence machine to the extent that it has been upset is the height of foolishness."

There is widespread agreement that the CIA , especially its operations side, needs an overhaul. But the purge is not designed to make the CIA a more effective intelligence agency. It's designed to make the CIA a more effective political tool for the Bushies. 
On every significant point of conflict between the Bush administration and the country's cadre of intelligence professionals, the Bush political appointees turned out to be wrong. Often very wrong, and with disastrous consequences. Sometimes the intel folks were wrong too; but when that was so, the appointees were always more wrong.

This is not argumentative or hyperbole or even up for much serious dispute.

And the upshot of all that we've seen, the result of all those struggles over the last three years is that the 'appointees' are purging the 'professionals'. Another way to put it is that the folks who were always wrong and often catastrophically wrong are rooting out the folks who were often right and sometimes somewhat wrong. The answer to politicized intelligence, it turns out, is a more thorough politicization of intelligence and the elimination of those who resisted political pressure.

Some have asked what Bush has against the CIA. Here is my guess: Less than a month ago there was talk of a CIA inspector general report on 9/11 that was said to be very damaging for the Bushies. Wayne Barrett writes in the Village Voice,

The day after the election, the Times reported that Bush's new CIA director, the politically programmed Porter Goss, was moving to undercut and alter an 800-page report by the supposedly independent CIA Inspector General. The IG was asked by Congress in 2002 to determine "whether and to what extent personnel at all levels should be held accountable" for any mistakes that might've contributed to the failure to stop the attacks. The report was finished in July but was never turned over to the intelligence committees that mandated it, and now Goss wants it whitewashed of names. Goss even spurned 9-11 family members who met with him in September to seek its release, as well as the Republican chair of the House committee. Of course, two other Iraq CIA studies—one in Congress and one by a new Bush commission—have also been mothballed.

Bush has to keep the CIA under control to cover his own butt. I only hope the officials who are leaving write big, fat books. 

9:38 pm | link

This Morning
I have a couple of new posts up at The American Street. This is probably the better of the two. The other is just below it.
The Battle of Fallujah seems to be over, until we find out it isn't. Discuss?
10:39 am | link

sunday, november 14, 2004

Updating yesterday's blog on the CIA, be sure to read this New York Newsday story. In a nutshell, Bush has ordered a purge.
10:14 pm | link

Holy Bleep
Via No More Mr. Nice Blog -- the good news is that Rummy might leave the Pentagon next year, and might take Doug Feith with him. The bad news -- word is Rummy's replacement could be -- Condi Rice.
All together now -- holy bleep.
This is from a New York Sun story, and I've never paid much attention to the Sun.  But it's a pro-Bush paper, and this story isn't too flattering to the Regime. Apparently Cheney and his flunkies want Rummy to stay, and Karl and his flunkies want Rummy to go. Fascinating.
Condi can't handle her job as National Security Adviser, so naturally she's the logical choice to be Secretary of Defense while the nation is at war. Replacing Condi as NSA -- Barney the Scottie.
OK, so I made that last part up. But I think Barney would be the perfect replacement for Condi. Every time the Administration screws up, he could bark and wag his tail on all the Sunday pundit shows. See? He could be as good an NSA as Condi!
8:42 pm | link

Zero Sum
Michael Kinsley writes in WaPo today that Republican complaints about "judicial activism" are "a habit left over from powerlessness."
It's not that they ever were truly powerless, of course. But, as Kinsley says, many of their delusions of powerlessness stem from the brief glory days of liberal ascendancy that began when Brown v. Board of Education cracked the firmament of Jim Crow. Ever since, Kinsley says,
... conservatives have complained about "activist" judges who allegedly impose their own liberal dictates on the country with no legal basis. Taking up this rallying cry is one way Republicans won the South. Even southern conservatives don't publicly complain about Brown anymore, of course. But denouncing activist judges is now Republican boilerplate.   
The Brown decision is more than 50 years old. Kinsley argues that the last truly liberal "activist" decision was Roe v. Wade in 1973. (I can't think of any big "liberal" court breakthroughs since then, either, not counting affirming decisions already made; if you can, please speak up.) Since then, he says, courts have swung to the right, meaning conservatives have been "empowered" now for far longer than they were "powerless."
But no matter. A belief in elitist, liberal judges running amok -- ripping Bibles from the hands of innocent children and babies from the wombs of their mothers, performing who knows what homosexual-satanic rites behind the closed mahogany doors of their chambers -- has been stamped deeply into rightie mythos along with the legendary liberal media, the "tax and spend" liberals, the "America-hating" liberals and the "soft on Communism/crime/terrorism" liberals.
And if you point out to a rightie that there haven't been any notably liberal "activist" decisions for more than thirty years, you'll be treated to the watertight reasoning the wingnuts always fall back on, namely "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Or a variation thereof. 
(And it is watertight. Can't argue with a hyena, can you?)
The radical right is poised to strike back at the System they believe has wronged them all these years, even though they've been the System most of all these years. The American judicial system is under heavy assault by fire-breathing reactionaries.
What the record shows is that in the broad area of civil liberties -- gay rights, abortion, affirmative action, establishment of religion -- Bush's record of judicial appointments is the most conservative of any modern president, according to an academic analysis of 70,000 district court opinions by Robert Carp of the University of Houston and other scholars.

Bush's judicial choices are more conservative than Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, Carp's analysis showed.

These judges are "extraordinarily conservative, the most conservative of any president I have data for," on civil liberties cases, Carp said. "There is a very, very significant difference, even from Reagan and Bush Sr. judges."  [Link]

And the righties will take no prisoners. They're trying to keep Republican Arlen Spector from chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee because he isn't ideologically pure. He supports abortion rights, for one thing. And seventeen years ago he opposed putting Robert Bork on the Supreme Court.
(Yes, the Right is still pissed off about Bork. And yes, these are the same people who told Democrats to "get over" Bush v. Gore. )
But let's press on. Poor Spector dared to say in public that the Senate was unlikely to confirm an anti-Roe v. Wade justice. A couple of days later he was back in public, pale and sweating, to announce that he hadn't really meant that Bush's judicial nominees wouldn't be rubber stamped by his committee. (Did Spector find the family dog hanged in the backyard with a note saying his grandchildren were next?)
None dare ask questions. In his first term, Bush made 259 nominations to federal district and appellate courts. Of those, 200 have been confirmed. Democrats have blocked only ten appellate court nominees and are thinking about blocking only six more.
And the righties quiver with outrage. How dare Senators actually use their constitutional authority to stand in the way of their ideological agenda? And in the rightie mind, the reason for Democrat obstructionism can only be getting revenge for the 60 judicial appointees blocked by Republicans during the Clinton Administration (which was OK because, you know, it was Clinton's appointees they were blocking).  The fact that the Bush nominees blocked are flaming nutjobs couldn't possibly be the real reason.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist warned the Dems they had better cooperate with the Bush agenda, or else the Republicans would change the same fillibuster rules they had used so well and so often themselves to block Clinton nominees.
Every now and then I still find Democrats who think we can somehow compromise with the Right. But I suspect by now it's finally sinking in that there is no compromising with these people. It's them or us. And they're in the fortifications with cannons, and we're out here in the wilderness with slingshots and a few old crossbows.
Solutions? I have none. It's going to be a nasty four years.
10:47 am | link

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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 FM

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

Terror Alert Level






"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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