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saturday, february 26, 2005

Keeping It Real
There's an excellent post up at Body and Soul that I'd like to contrast to a letter in today's Boston Globe.
Jeanne d'Arc at B&S points to the differences between those who talk the talk and those who walk the walk. She provides two examples. The first is a soldier returned from Iraq who decided he could not return --
Coming home gave me the clarity to see the line between military duty and moral obligation. I realized that I was part of a war that I believed was immoral and criminal, a war of aggression, a war of imperial domination. I realized that acting upon my principles became incompatible with my role in the military, and I decided that I could not return to Iraq.

By putting my weapon down, I chose to reassert myself as a human being. I have not deserted the military or been disloyal to the men and women of the military. I have not been disloyal to a country. I have only been loyal to my principles.
The other example is that of Catholic relief workers in Africa who deal with AIDS on a daily basis.  
On the frontlines, Catholic relief workers have emerged as an  authoritative voice. They have drawn the attention of their secular  counterparts for breaking ground in rural communities where the pandemic has  hit hardest.

... The condom ban, Lewis said, may be definitive in Rome, but it is an open  question on the ground. “In my experience, without naming names, many of  the grass-roots Catholic leadership do not pay attention to that side of church  teaching. They just don’t honor it. Condoms are available.”
There are those who live the ideals, hands-on and face-to-face, and know those ideals intimately. And there are those who talk about ideals without understanding, and who think they are paragons of morality when they are not.
For example, in today's Boston Globe, a Mr. Bruce Cantwell of Merrimack, New Hampshire, writes,

Conservatives want to help those in need as much as anyone else; they just think their ideas are better at helping. Welfare reform has done more to help people than any social program in the last 20 years. Free trade, free markets, and the spread of democracy are doing more to lift the third world out of poverty than foreign aid ever could. Low taxes and fewer restrictions on business create good jobs, the real key to fighting poverty.

Mr. Cantwell might be asked to explain the most recent census report on U.S. poverty:
The number of Americans living in poverty or lacking health insurance rose for the third straight year in 2003, the Census Bureau announced yesterday, reflecting a job market that failed to match otherwise strong economic growth.

Overall, the median household income remained stagnant at $43,318, while the national poverty rate rose to 12.5 percent -- 35.9 million people -- last year, from 12.1 percent in 2002. Hit hardest were women, who for the first time since 1999 saw their earnings decline, and children. By the end of 2003, 12.9 million children lived in poverty. [Ceci Connolly and Griff Witte, "Poverty Rate Up Third Year in a Row," The Washington Post, August 27, 2004]

But what about this headline from CNN? "Census Bureau: U.S. Poverty Rate Lowest in 20 Years; Median Income at Record High." Oh, wait, that's from September, 2000. Bill Clinton was President then. Never mind.
IMO it was Clinton's economy, not welfare reform, that got people into the workforce and out of poverty. And now that Clinton's economy is long gone, poverty is roaring back. How is welfare reform helping people stay out of poverty now? Clearly, it isn't.
"Low taxes and fewer restrictions on business" are not creating good jobs. They are creating McJobs. They are establishing Wal-Mart Nation. Earnings are declining, says the Census Bureau. And more and more Americans are without health insurance, meaning the real standard of living is declining faster than the earnings numbers indicate.
As expected, the number of people without health insurance grew last year, to 45 million -- an increase to 15.6 percent from 15.2 percent. White adults, primarily in the South, accounted for most of the increase. The proportion of people receiving health insurance through an employer fell to 60.4 percent, the lowest level in a decade, from 61.3 percent. [Connolly and Witte, ibid.]
Unfortunately, Mr. Cantwell isn't finished:

If liberals want to win the national debate, they need to stop saying, ''We care; you don't" and start persuading people that their ideas are better at helping than conservative ideas. In fact, they could start with the next big issue: Why is a monthly government Social Security check better than a personal retirement account that they own and can leave to their children when they die?

I submit that when one cares about something, one pays attention to it. This eliminates Mr. Cantwell. But let's continue ... the real question is, of course, why a monthly government Social Security check of a fixed amount is better than a crapshoot that anyone who understands the game says will likely result in lowered benefits,  and which will slap even heavier deficits on our already fragile economy, and which only wealthy retirees who don't need the Social Security income will be able to leave to their heirs, as explained here.   And if you want to be honest about it, it will still be a government program. Hmm, let's work on that, Mr. Cantwell.

However, Mr. Cantwell is probably right that it turns people off to be told they don't care, even when they clearly don't. But the real difference between us is that some of us are facing reality, and some of us aren't. 

We all know that we can argue with the Bruce Cantwells of the world until we turn purple, and show them the data, and provide hard proof that their cherished beliefs are all wrong, and you won't make a dent in them. Might as well argue with a fire hydrant.

The issue of real and fantasy idealism is apparent in our endless abortion debate. Now we've got the Attorney General of Kansas on a fishing expedition for the private medical records of women who have had abortions after 22 weeks' gestation. The purpose of this, he says, is to look for signs of lawbreaking. Doctors may be performing abortions too freely.

(Let's pretend this fellow were to obtain the private financial records of wealthy people just to look for signs these individuals were guilty of theft or fraud. I 'spect the righties would howl quite a bit.)

On the one hand, you have physicians and clinic staff who counsel and treat women with problem pregnancies every day, and who have some understanding and compassion for what they are going through. And on the other hand, you have ideologues who are certain abortion is just wrong and women who have abortions (none of whom they know personally) are lazy selfish sluts and physicians who perform them are worse. And you know these two groups looking at the same medical records will not see the same things.

I've long thought that the jerks who stand outside clinics screaming at patients and staff should be bound and gagged and forced to listen to what the patients and the staff have to say for an equal amount of time. You spend one hour screaming, you spend one hour listening. Not that any reality would sink through the screamers' thick skulls ...

Update: Easy to be hard, 'specially if you're clueless... Rightie blogger snorts at the idea that there may be honest disagreements over medical questions surrounding abortion. If physicians in Kansas want to avoid prosecution, they should just not perform abortions! See how simple everything is when you confuse women with vending machines?

This one's for you, Orrin:


Roe v. Wade permits states to ban post-viability abortion unless the life or health of the mother is at risk. That's we're talking about in Kansas -- post-viability abortions. Life or health of the mother. I doubt very much if any woman in Kansas can get a legal abortion in her eighth month just because she's having a bad hair day. 

10:14 am | link

friday, february 25, 2005

Profile in Courage
Speaking of Arlen Specter, you may remember that last November, shortly after the election, Senator Spector (R-Pa.) warned Bush that he shouldn't mistake his narrow win for a mandate [insert "Jeffy" joke here]. Specter, who was up for the job as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said that in that capacity he would oppose the appointment of anti-reproduction rights judges.  
Naturally, a frenzied mob of "values voters" called for Specter's head on a plate. Specter had to fight for the Senate Judiciary chairmanship by promising to give Bush appointees "quick committee hearings and early committee votes." Specter eventually received the unanimous endorsement of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Well, Arlen's pissed off the righties again. Dana Milbank wrote in today's Washington Post:
He said Bush should emulate an effort by Bill Clinton to compromise on judicial nominees, and he said Bush should balance "bring[ing] the country together" against "certain segments of the Republican Party" who disagree. "The Constitution does say that there should be advice from the Senate," he said.

And Specter questioned the effort to strip the minority Democrats of filibuster power -- a move known as the "nuclear option."

"If you were to flash ahead a hundred years from now, this controversy over judges . . . would not be a major matter in the life of the country," he said. "But minority rights are." ...

...Specter made no apologies for supporting a Democratic amendment to a recent bill restricting class-action lawsuits. On Social Security, he warned against "building up debt," as personal accounts would do. And he made clear that he is in no hurry to reconsider the appellate court nomination of William H. Pryor Jr. of Alabama, one of Bush's most controversial judicial choices.

Maura Reynolds writes in the Los Angeles Times:

[Specter] made it clear that on one of the Senate's key disputes — the fight over nominees to the federal bench — he is unwilling to embrace a controversial tactic being pushed by his party's conservative wing. ...

...Unbowed and combative, he vowed to cut his own swath through the tangle of issues on the committee's docket: confirming judges, enforcing court judgments against antiabortion protesters and creating a trust fund for asbestos victims.

On all those issues, Specter proposed what amounts to a radical idea in Washington these days: compromise.

In particular, he warned his Republican colleagues not to resort to the so-called "nuclear option" — a procedural move that would overturn precedent to deny Democrats the right to filibuster judicial nominees they oppose.

This takes guts. Jonathan Chait reminds us (also in today's LA Times) that the Bush White House has a way of making those who stand up to it offers they can't refuse. 

Enough apostate Bush loyalists have retracted their heretical views that certain recognizable tropes have emerged. First, the heretic's repudiation of his own deeds should obviously contradict his own principles. Take the first known example of the type, Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.). A former dentist, Norwood had grown infuriated at the callousness of health maintenance organizations and made a patient's bill of rights his crusade.

Bush sought to kill Norwood's bill by promoting a toothless, industry-friendly alternative. In the spring of 2001, Norwood blasted Bush's sham bill as worse than the status quo and vowed to "personally exhaust every effort to defeat" Bush's plan. Then Norwood was summoned to the White House. As one newspaper reported, he "emerged from the hourlong meeting looking haggard" and instantly announced his support for Bush's bill.

Another famous example is that of John DiIulio, the one-time Bush speechwriter who called the Bushies the "Mayberry Machiavellis." The White House intimidated DiIulio into issuing an apology.

Dana Milbank believes that Specter's frail health may give him some cover:

In recent years, the 75-year-old senator has survived a brain tumor, double-bypass surgery and, last year, a bitter primary fight for his seat. Now he is battling Hodgkins disease and the effects of chemotherapy....  it's hard to imagine his colleagues revoking his chairmanship while he's fighting cancer

Proving once again that freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. But the Bush White House and its jack-booted minions are not people who let a little common decency get in their way. I can imagine them getting fairly nasty. 

1:48 pm | link

Fix Bayonets!
I came across this comment from a link at Jesus' General (and congrats to the General for being a Koufax Award winner). Please read and act!
I live in PA. I emailed Arlen Specter, my only sane senate rep, and chairman of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary, imploring him to investigate the Gannon/Guckert scandal. I received an automated reply stating " me respond to your concerns in a more prompt and efficient manner..." and instructions.

Following his instructions, I called his Washington office, who transferred me to his Judiciary Committee office. The woman who answered the phone, asked me what my email was about and when I told her she said:

"I haven't heard anything about this."

After re-gaining my composure, I asked how that was possible. She said, "Well I watch the news all the time. There's nothing on Fox about it."

I suggested politely that this wasn't surprising. She put me on hold. When she came back she asked me to explain the story to her again.

After almost re-re-gaining my composure, I badly paraphrased the last week or so. She put me on hold again. This time, I prepared. When she came back, I made her listen as I read a 5-day-old story from the Washington Post, quoting Brian Williams' NBC report. She became a little annoyed and said "well, I watch CNN too and haven't seen anything about it."

I said "he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on his show. You know, The Anderson Cooper Show?"

She suggested I fax my email to the office and after legal looked it over, it might warrant a memo to the senator in about a week.

Great. Thanks.

Here's my suggestion. *Everyone* that has any info on the Gannon/Guckert story fax *all* of it to:

ATTN: Vianna

If they don't run out of fax paper, I'm going to be sorely disappointed in Ameriblog. Please, let's do this.
Go for it.
11:46 am | link

thursday, february 24, 2005



Can we agree that Hillary Clinton is not going to be the 2008 presidential nominee? I hope so.
In today's Liberal Oasis:

She is currently on trip with a few other Senators to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

On Sunday, while in Iraq, she was asked on CBS’ Face The Nation, “Do you think we're coming to a situation where we will have permanent bases in Iraq?”

Her response:

No, but I think that we should take this sort of one step at a time...

...We are going to be negotiating with the new Iraqi government. The Iraqi government could turn around any time and say, “We want you to leave.”

I don't see any indication of that, but it could happen.

The Iraqi government could say, “We want you to be here with a certain kind of footprint.”

But until the Iraqi government is stood up and operating, I think it's a little premature for us to be talking about what they and we may decide to do together.

On one hand, she’s not coming out in favor of permanent bases.

But on the other, she’s covering for Bush by saying we’re not already on that path, when we clearly are.

Most importantly, she doesn’t make a clear distinction between the parties on this fundamental issue, leaving open the possibility that she would support them.

(Arguably, one might be hesitant to be partisan while on foreign soil, but LiberalOasis isn’t expecting any clarifications when she gets home.)

No more of this shit. No. more. of. this. shit.
6:31 pm | link

Blame Bush for North Korea's Nukes, Part 4
Synopsis: The "Blame Bush" series, if you haven't seen it before, is an attempt to set the record straight regarding Clinton and Bush policies toward North Korea. Righties blame Clinton (and Jimmy Carter) for North Korea's recent production of nuclear weapons.  However, a closer look at the facts reveals that the Clinton-Carter Agreed Framework had succeeded in its primary goals, which were to stop North Korea from processing plutonium and to get IAEA inspectors re-admitted to North Korean nuclear facilities. Whether North Korea was engaged in processing uranium for weapons-grade material, as the Bush Administration claimed, is a matter of dispute. The Bush Administration actively undermined diplomatic efforts by South Korea, Japan, and other nations to reduce tensions between North Korea and the rest of the world. Believing a get-tough policy would bring the North Koreans to heel, in 2002 the White House used allegations of uranium processing as an excuse to break the Agreed Framework. Two years later, the North Koreans have not heeled, but claim to have produced several nuclear weapons. Parts 1-3 are on this page. Anyone who wants to argue that the North Koreans were building nuclear weapons behind President Clinton's back and Bush was right to break the Agreed Framework should read those parts first.
We ended 2002 with a pissed off Kim Jong Il, who ordered plutonium production to be resumed. The IAEA seals on nuclear facilities and materials, in place since 1994, were cut, and the IAEA inspectors were kicked out of North Korea.
According to this Arms Control Association timeline, in January 2003 North Korea announced its withdrawal from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and in February U.S. officials confirmed that North Korea had restarted the five-megawatt nuclear reactor that had been frozen by the Agreed Framework. North Korea was also making noises about restarting long-range missile testing.
As explained in Part 3, the Bush Administration's plan was to get tough with North Korea, using North Korea's economic problems as leverage. North Korea was short of food, short of fuel, short of about anything it might need to sustain itself.
However, there is one North Korean product that is a steady income generator -- weapons.
North Korea's arms bazaar soon may boast an enticing new product -- a nuclear bomb that U.S. officials fear could be available to the highest bidder.

With the communist nation's decision this month to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the pact aimed at curbing the spread of atomic weapons, U.S. defense officials and military analysts are worrying that North Korea might sell a nuclear bomb to a willing customer with a lot of cash.

They say North Korea, through its past arms sales, has shown a willingness to sell just about anything to anyone, and fear that potential customers for a nuclear bomb could include hostile countries or even groups such as al Qaeda.

"Look at what North Korea's doing with respect to the possible production of additional nuclear weapons," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a briefing. "Here's the world's biggest proliferator of ballistic missile technology. If it ends up with additional nuclear weapons, it might very well be in the business of proliferating them to other countries." [Will Dunham, "U.S. Worries North Korea Will Sell Nuclear Bombs," Reuters, January 19, 2003]

Note that one of North Korea's most popular products, a long-range missile called Taepo Dong-2, has a range of up to about 3,700 miles. A Taepo Dong-2 launched from North Korea could hit Alaska. has an archive of North Korean articles with more detail on North Korean arms sales.
It's not clear what results the Bush Administration expected from its get-tough policy, but three-way talks (U.S., China, North Korea) held in Beijing in April 2003 were inconclusive. North Korea wanted bilateral talks and a non-aggression pact with the U.S.; the U.S. would not comply. The Bush Administration wanted North Korea to drop nuclear weapons programs before agreeing to bilateral talks or anything else. North Korea would not comply.
The U.S. State Department proposed six-way talks in 2003. These have been on again and off again since. The BBC has a timeline of North Korean highlights from October 2002 to February 2005. It amounts to more than two years of "nyah nyah nyah, you stink."
Regarding bilateral versus multilateral talks, people whose opinion I respect say the multilateral approach is probably best. However, the talks appear to be accomplishing little. North Korea walked out on February 10 and announced it had a number of nuclear weapons. The walkout appears to have been triggered by a statement of Condi Rice -- she called North Korea an "outpost of tyranny," which it is, but they're sensitive about it -- and an allegation by a U.S. envoy that North Korea sold uranium hexaflouride to Libya in 2001.  Today's news says North Korea is still out of the talks and sulking.
The most important point here is that the world has very few options. The fault for this mess lies with both Washington and Pyongyang, two nuclear powers who refuse to act like grownups.
Gavan McCormack writes in today's Daily Mojo at Mother Jones:
Relations between the United States and North Korea, having edged right up to the brink of reconciliation and normalization in the last days of Bill Clinton's presidency, went into crisis with the advent of the Bush administration and have remained in a kind of eternal, roiling crisis ever since. ...

If North Korea seems more isolated than ever, however, the disarray among the other five partner countries is also plain, as are the deep, unresolved contradictions between Bush's Washington, already frustrated and limited in its policy options by its endless occupation and war in Iraq, and the Asian allies it would like to support its projected global order. The Japanese prime minister, the Bush administration's closest partner in Asia, has publicly pledged to normalize relations with Kim Jong Il's North Korea and has begged the President to meet one-on-one with Kim; China stated after the last round of talks in Beijing that American policy towards the North was the "main problem we are facing"; and South Korea's president believes North Korea is "not without cause" in its nuclear weapon program, encourages multifaceted cooperation across the well fortified Demilitarized Zone that still separates the two countries, and has invited President Bush to join him on a visit to the new joint South-North industrial development zone just north of the old Korean war dividing line that was once so impermeable.

The rest of this article is very much worth reading.
That concludes the series, which is archived here for future reference. I'll add to it if there are new significant developments. I hope this has been helpful. There's so much noise being generated by the righties and their media lapdogs it's hard to keep the stories straight.
2:08 pm | link

Bush Is Number One!
It's so heartwarming to read about the enthusiastic welcome our Mr. Bush has received from Europeans this week!
According to Deutsche Welle, just yesterday thousands of German citizens turned out to greet our president. And they expressed their feelings with many charming handmade signs, which said things like "Go [home] Bush!" and "Bush, Number One [terrorist]!"
Many others said that Bush must be stopped, which must mean they want him to stay longer.
Makes me want to cry.
Deustche Welle says no expense was spared to prepare for the festivities:
Up to and during Bush's visit, a force of 10,000 police officers staged one of the biggest postwar security operations in Germany. Frogmen searched the Rhine River for explosives, 1,300 manhole covers were welded shut and thousands of residents were displaced.

For Bush's eight-hour stay there was also a strict ban on air traffic within a 60-kilometer radius of Mainz, barges on the river were halted and motorways in the region closed. Factories, businesses and schools were shut.

Bush's visit contrasted with that of his father to Mainz in 1989 when large crowds cheered Bush senior for his calls for the Berlin Wall to be torn down. Other US presidents have also been given a hero's welcome in Germany.

"When John F. Kennedy came to Germany he drove through cheering crowds," Mark Reichelt, 20, a student, told Reuters. "Now Bush is here and will drive through empty streets."

Ooo, that last quote was a bit hostile. Do you think they hate us because of our freedoms? Do they misunderstand us? Or are they just jealous?
7:12 am | link

wednesday, february 23, 2005

Freedom's Just Another Word ...
I want to say a little more about Robert Kuttner's op ed in today's Boston Globe and compare it to this remarkably clueless dribble by Janet Daley in today's Telegraph.  
Kuttner says neocons have a pathological fear and loathing of Europe. "On the one hand, Old Europe is said to be a naive, force-averse, sclerotic society," Kuttner writes. "On the other hand, it is a growing threat."
Some on the right believe that the United States should explicitly oppose Europe's new effort to have a common foreign and defense policy, as antithetical to American interests, and want to actively contain Europe.

Others applaud Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's effort to divide the "new' Europe of former Soviet satellites from the "old" Europe of major states that have been our most steadfast allies except on Bush's dubious Iraq policy. (This divide-and-conquer tactic won't work. It's the new European nations that look most closely to Brussels rather than to Washington.) ...

And here's what really hurts:

Europe developed its own social institutions -- universal healthcare, generous retirement systems, free or subsidized child care for working parents, less commercialized and more robust elections, far less extremes of wealth and poverty, less militarism. And much of the world sees this as a more attractive model than the one the Bush administration is promoting. America, statistically, is slightly richer on average than western Europe, but more than 80 percent of western Europeans live better than their US counterparts because our wealth is so concentrated at the top. [emphasis added]

This is what the extremists in power in America don't want us peons to know. That's because the rich and powerful people at the top need our ignorance and our compliance to stay rich and powerful.

No wonder they're terrified of Europe.

Now, on to Janet Daley. She says that Europe has a pathological fear and loathing of America.

I have written before on this page that European hatred of the United States has a great deal to do with jealousy of American self-belief.

My understanding is that, before Bush, Europeans mostly found us Yanks to be at least tolerable. Since Bush became president they have a whole lot of reasons to dislike us that have nothing to do with jealousy.

Daley argues that Europe no longer values liberty. "[Europe] no longer has a belief in real democracy of the kind that Americans recognise - government of the people, by the people and for the people - at its heart," she writes.

The fact is, Americans don't believe in government of, by, and for the people any more. Ronald Reagan's“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem,” was the obituary of government of, by, and for the people. If government is not a solution, not a means for the people to better their lives, then it is no longer of, by, and for the people. It has been surrendered to corporations and special interests. Reagan's words were a signal to the people: Don't expect government to do anything for you. 

You'll like this part:

Better to make your cynical peace with the worst aspects of human nature than to pretend that free men will always choose good over evil. Much better to make a mutually profitable trade-off behind the scenes than to expose political decisions to the popular will.

On the same day these words appeared in the Telegraph, we read in the Washington Post (via Corrente):

Bush was originally scheduled to hold a town-hall meeting with regular German citizens today in Mainz. But when the German government couldn't guarantee friendly questions, that became a small, carefully-screened roundtable discussion with young Germans who have visited the U.S. on exchange programs.

And only part of it was even made public.

Somewhat ironically, according to the transcript of the public part, the first question was about free speech -- in Russia.

What did those Germans expect? Bush doesn't think he has to answer to anybody, not even American citizens, much less Germans. "Much better to make a mutually profitable trade-off behind the scenes than to expose political decisions to the popular will" could be the Bush family motto. We should have it translated into Latin and engrave it on a shield under a rampant blood-sucking vampire bat.

I could go on, but ... you get the drift.
7:10 pm | link

Bush in Continent
Whoever writes those headlines for The Daily Show is a genius.
El Shrubbo is in Europe on a fence-mending tour. "U.S. President George W. Bush's call for a 'new era of transatlantic unity' came coated in the conciliatory words Europeans wanted to hear," says the Toronto Star.
In fact, it's been a long time since Europeans showed so much enthusiasm for a visiting American president. Some folks in Brussels were so warmed up to Bush the cops used water cannons to cool them down.
Today, Bush lectured Europe that the world must "speak with one voice" (presumably his) to Iran. He said this even though, as Michael in New York at AMERICAblog noted, yesterday Bush was disagreeing with himself.
... "President Bush said Tuesday that concern about possible U.S. military action against Iran 'is simply ridiculous.'"

Wow, a strongly worded statement if ever there was one. But then Bush immediately added: "all options are on the table" in dealing with suspected Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. Uh, "all options" means exactly that -- everything up to invasion is possible, Mr. President, so if you say it's under consideration, and your staff has been beating the drums of war ever since the election (with Condi and Rummy and burst-of-sunshine Cheney all speaking about Iran in dire terms not heard since, oh, we got ready to invade Iraq), then why oh why is it "ridiculous" for Europe to be concerned?
Iran is not Iraq Bush told Europe. Well, that's progress. Awhile back he figured out that Sweden is not Switzerland. What's next, I wonder? An acknowledgment that Antarctica is not Antigua? It's those pesky first syllables that seem to confuse him.
As Robert Kuttner explains in today's Boston Globe, however, the dissenting voice on Iran is coming from American neocons.

Gerard Baker, writing in the current Weekly Standard, criticizes the administration's olive branch and warns that Europe is seeking to become a counterweight to the United States in world affairs. The real European goal, writes Baker, is to undermine NATO, America's greatest source of trans-Atlantic influence, and to initiate policies of its own that are less bellicose than Washington's.

A prime example is the joint German-British-French initiative on Iraq, which would offer economic incentives in exchange for Iran's agreement to dismantle nuclear weapons capabilities.

American conservatives have relentlessly disparaged the Iran initiative as naive or opportunistic.

In fact, the initiative is actually making some headway and may spare us a military confrontation. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who provided crucial cover for President Bush's effort to portray the Iraq invasion as the work of a broad coalition, is with the Germans and French this time.

The neocons, known for their congenital inability to learn from mistakes, for years badmouthed the 1994 Agreed Framework negotiated by Jimmy Carter with North Korea. They did so even though the framework successfully achieved its goals, which were (1) to stop North Korea from processing plutonium to make nuclear weapons, and (2) to get IAEA inspectors re-admitted to North Korea. Done, and done.
(Note: If you try to explain to righties that the Agreed Framework was a success, they'll be guffawing before you can finish the first sentence. The alleged failure of the Agreed Framework is part of their mythos. However, it didn't fail.) 
The neocons, and then the Bush Administration, were certain the Clinton-Carter approach to North Korea was naive, even if it worked. The way to deal with North Korea, the neocons said, was not to pay them with heating oil to not process plutonium. You just had to get tough.
But the rest of the world was not listening. In particular, Japan and South Korea were working hard to pry North Korea open to capitalist enterprises. This was bad from the neocons' perspective, even if it reduced tensions and made the world safer from Kim Jong Il. It was bad because if North Korea's economy improved it would be more difficult to get tough with them.
So, in October 2002, the Bushies created a phony crisis about North Korea's uranium processing. This not only kneecapped years of diplomatic effort; it also gave Bush an excuse to stop the oil shipments and the Republicans an issue to bash Democrats with on the eve of the 2002 elections. (Win/win!)
Then, Condi Rice made the rounds on the political bobblehead television shows and explained that the Bush Administration would use North Korea's poverty to make it behave.
North Korea's collapsed economy gives the United States and its allies the diplomatic leverage to convince the communist regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, [Condoleezza] Rice said.

"North Korea has been signaling and saying that it wants to break out of its economic isolation," Rice told CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer." "It has to break out of its economic isolation."  [Kelly Wallace, CNN, October 21, 2002

As you probably remember, in December 2002 the IAEA inspectors were pitched out of North Korea, and Kim Jong Il announced that plutonium processing would resume. And now, more than two years later, North Korea says it has lots of nuclear weapons ready to use on somebody, like maybe Oregon.
In neocon world, the Clinton/Carter approach was naive, because it wasn't tough. Whether it worked or not is irrelevant. On the other hand, the neocon/Bush approach is smart, because it is tough, even though it doesn't work. Got that? (Related reading.)
I bring this up because the neocons are pulling a North Korea on Iran. They are badmouthing European economic initiatives aimed at discouraging Iran from making nuclear weapons.
Iran is building a heavy-water nuclear reactor, meaning a reactor that provides a way to extract weapons-grade fuel. It's thought Iran is about four years away from having a working reactor. Recently, the IAEA said it was making good progress with nuclear inspections in Iran.
Now, it is true that Iran is not Iraq, although given the shifting political winds in Iraq, that could change someday. However, it's certain that Iran is not North Korea (Iran starts with an "I," for example). What worked in North Korea (the Agreed Framework) might not work in Iran. But I suspect that what didn't work in North Korea (getting tough) probably won't work in Iran, either.
Next: Iceland and Ireland--does Bush know the difference?
12:21 pm | link

While I Was Out
Yesterday, a day I call The Day I Was Offline Because My Video Card Died, I missed another round of the "Why Are There No Women Political Bloggers" flap, this time touched off by this Kevin Drum post. And followed up by this Kevin Drum post. And answered by this Sideshow post (thank you, Avedon) and this post by Chris Nolan on Politics from Left to Right. Among others.
So the answer is, bleep you, Kevin Drum.
Speaking of women bloggers, I see that Ellen Dana Nagler has a new blog, The Broad View. It's going on my blogroll right now.
8:31 am | link

tuesday, february 22, 2005

I'm baaaaack
Sorry for no posts today. My video card died. I was offline all day! Fortunately, I was able to borrow a notebook from my daughter, so now I'll be able to blog while Bob the Notebook is in the shop.
9:19 pm | link

monday, february 21, 2005

Once More Into the Breech?
After Lyndon Johnson destroyed Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election, my civics teacher told the class that, someday, Barry Goldwater would be respected as a leader of the Republicans again. I remember my classmated hooted at this. I mean, Goldwater had just lost the electoral vote, 486-52, and the popular vote, 61% to 38%. We figured this guy would lock himself in the bathroom for the rest of his life.
But, we now know, my civics teacher was right. Goldwater won back his Senate seat in 1968, the same year the disgraced Johnson chose not to run. He remained in the Senate until 1986. The Washington Post published Goldwater's obituary on May 30, 1998:
Mr. Goldwater carried only six states and 36 percent of the popular vote in 1964. After the election, most analysts and commentators concluded that the Republican Party was hopelessly divided, and that Mr. Goldwater and his conservative philosophy were all but politically dead.  
In fact, he had wrested control of the GOP from the Eastern liberal wing that had dominated it for years. By 1980, he was acknowledged as the founder of a conservative movement that had become a vital element in mainstream Republican thinking and a major ingredient in Reagan's political ascendancy. It was a 1964 speech delivered on behalf of Mr. Goldwater that brought Reagan to national prominence and helped launch his political career.

During his 1964 presidential campaign, Mr. Goldwater was attacked by Democrats and opponents within his own party as a demagogue and a leader of right-wing extremists and racists who was likely to lead the United States into nuclear war, eliminate civil rights progress and destroy such social welfare programs as Social Security.

But that perception mellowed with time. Mr. Goldwater returned to the Senate in 1969 and went on to serve three more terms. Long before his retirement, he had come to be regarded as the Grand Old Man of the Republican Party and one of the nation's most respected exponents of conservatism, which he sometimes defined as holding on to that which was tested and true and opposing change simply for the sake of change.

And, we now know that the GOP really has been taken over by right-wing extremists and racists who are working hard to lead the United States into nuclear war, eliminate civil rights progress and destroy such social welfare programs as Social Security. Although to give them credit, the Republicans do a pretty good job of hiding the racist part (from other Republicans). But that's not what I want to write about right now.

What I want to write about is this article from yesterday's Los Angeles Times.

He has neither gained weight nor grown a beard, headed to Europe nor exiled himself to some distant ivory tower.

Instead, Sen. John F. Kerry is back on Capitol Hill, working hard to fashion himself into something rare in American politics: a presidential also-ran who isn't an afterthought.

 Since losing in November, the Massachusetts Democrat has delivered a series of speeches on healthcare, electoral reform and military preparedness. He helped lead the unsuccessful opposition to Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's pick for secretary of State, and Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush's choice for attorney general.

I'm not sure when it became expected for the loser of a presidential contest to fade into the woodwork. Nixon, after all, lost to Kennedy in 1960 but won against Humphrey in 1968. Adlai Stevenson remained a leader of the Democrats after he lost to Eisenhower in 1952, and people still respected him after he lost to Eisenhower again in 1958. More recently, John McCain refused to evaporate after loosing the 2000 nomination to Bush. And there's nothing at all wrong with that.

Seems to me that a person good enough to be a serious contender for the White House must have a lot to contribute to public life even if he loses. We shouldn't just wad him up and toss him into the trash, especially after an election as close as last year's was.  

If John Kerry wants to step forward and become a force in the Senate to check the spreading power of the Bushies, good for him. He's still a Senator, after all. It's possible he's learned a lesson about political expediency. That vote for the Iraq War resolution in 2002 sure as heck came back to bite him. He must have some regrets about that, even if he won't admit to them publicly.

And it's possible that the campaign, which got his ass out of Washington DC for a while, taught him that there are a lot of us out here looking for a real alternative to Bushism, not just Bushism Lite.

I wrote last August, "We liberals and progressives and Democrats for the most part, I think, do not (yet) consider John Kerry to be our leader. He's more like the knight we've hired to go out and slay the dragon." It's possible the man sensed that and has decided to be the leader progressivism needs.

Of course, it's also possible he's just angling for the 2008 nomination and hasn't learned a thing. We'll see.

But there's a real vacuum of leadership in the liberal world right now. And this is a bigger vacuum that the "booklessness" alleged by the flaming twit Martin Peretz. Books, we got. Ideas, we got. National political leaders we can count on to be consistent champions for liberalism, however, are a rare commodity.

I believe if such a leader emerges in the next four years -- a real leader, not just an "I guess he'll do" hired gun -- that person will be the 2008 nominee. If John Kerry thinks he can be that leader and wants to go for it, fine by me. He's got to prove himself first, but maybe he can do it. Or maybe he'll just be a bigger force to contend with in the Senate, and there's nothing wrong with that.

But to all the righties hooting at John Kerry and how the party's over and he ought to go home -- remember Barry Goldwater.

11:08 am | link

sunday, february 20, 2005

Mary Jane
I was having a blog vacation, but after an exhaustive day of carpet shopping (all those President's Day sales were callin' me) I come home and flip on the TV and see a news promo about the "new Bush tapes."
So I googled. Apparently Bush is on tape admitting that he smoked marijuana a long time ago. Big yawn. For once we have a Bush scandal that will probably play bigger on establishment media than on the Left Blogosphere.
Portions of the tapes, recorded from 1998 to 2000 by author Doug Wead without Bush's knowledge, were aired on ABC News on Sunday and published by The New York Times. Their authenticity was verified by the media outlets but has not been independently checked by Reuters.

"I wouldn't answer the marijuana question. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried," Bush purportedly says on the tape.

He added: "But you got to understand, I want to be president. I want to lead. I want to set -- Do you want your little kid say, 'Hey, Daddy, President Bush tried marijuana, I think I will?"'

In the tape, Bush mocks former Vice President Al Gore -- who fought him for the presidency in 2000 -- for admitting he smoked marijuana.

That last sentence is the only part of this story I find remotely interesting. Jeez, what an asshole. No class at all. But we knew that.  
8:35 pm | link

Just Watch This 11:35 am | link

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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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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