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saturday, september 24, 2005

Recap: We Are the Majority
 
I must be doing something right with the protest posts. I've had nasty attack comments from both an International ANSWER cultie and a rightie blogger.
 
(Singing) "Stuck in the middle with you..."
 
Thank you to Linkmeister who dropped by with a link to MaxSpeak, who has better photos than I do and some good comments. He writes, 

The striking thing about the crowd was the diversity. No single picture could capture it. You had the usual suspects among left groups, but you also had lots of kids, college students, old folks, and families. Saw a guy with "Free Speech" and a picture of Howard Stern on his shirt, and "Freeskiers against Bush." I have no idea what those are. ...

The jingoists will try to make a big deal about the co-sponsorship of A.N.S.W.E.R. I've written about it before. It's a total non-issue. The crowd couldn't have cared less about sponsors, speakers, or sects. The focus was an incompetent president and an unjust war.

Max is less annoyed with A.N.S.W.E.R. than I am and thinks they do not reflect their parent organization, the Workers World Party. Maybe. I agree with what he says about the diversity and the fact that most of the crowd didn't give a rat's behind about the sponsors, speakers, and various publicity seekers.
 
We are the majority. The righties need to adjust. Their reaction to today's event is typical; they harp on the flakier elements among the organizers and sink into psychotic denial about how many attended. That's all they can do.
 
Here is a photograph of the only counter-protesters I saw. I count only eight in the photo, which by rightie logic means there were only eight counter-protesters there. In truth, I saw about 20 people in this group. There was suppose to be a big group of Freepers, Protest Weenies, and others by the Navy Memorial. But I don't believe the march route went by the Navy Memorial. I didn't see it, anyway.
 
There were people in the march all across the political spectrum, with the exception of the far Right. MNBC interviewed a couple who said they are Republicans who still support President Bush but think he is wrong about the war.
“President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let’s move on,” Rutherford said. His wife, Judy, 58, called the removal of Saddam Hussein “a noble mission” but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

“We found that there were none and yet we still stay there and innocent people are dying daily,” she said.

We are the majority.

This is not to say the day was perfect. I have some suggestions for future events:

1. No male under the age of 35 should be allowed to have a bullhorn. Dears, you are not nearly as clever as you think you are, and some of us would like our voices heard, too.  

2. There should be a syllable limit on the chants. I've long believed a good crowd chant should have no more than three syllables. (Examples: "Kick their ass!" "Bring them home!") You can get a little more complicated within reason, but I suggest an eight-syllable limit. Anything more complicated than that turns into mush.  

3. Please, march organizers, see to it that large numbers of people are not forced to stand in heat or cold for an hour or more waiting for a march to start. 

4. If there is to be a rally, get really good speakers. And don't let some 20-something man dominate the microphone. (See bullhorn rule, above.) You probably shouldn't have a 20-something woman dominate the microphone, either, but this is not something one sees often. 

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9:08 pm | link

More Photos
 
Protest organizers estimated a crowd of about 200,000 rallied at the Ellipse, then marched around the White House and along Pennsylvania Avenue. Police downgraded the count to about 150,000. The crowd thinned when a misty drizzle began before the afternoon concert on the Washington Monument grounds.
Organizers tend to highball; the police tend to lowball. This means the actual number was probably about 175,000. Not bad.
 
Whenever I've attended these large marches it is always the case that the crowd has to stand in place for up to an hour before the march actually gets going. Today was no exception. This photo shows the body jam:
 
waitingtostart2.jpg
 
We were fortunate it wasn't terribly hot today. The temperature only got up to the mid-70s, I believe. Otherwise a lot of people might have been in danger of heat exhaustion or heat stroke just waiting for the march to start.  
 
This was my favorite sign:
 
goodsign.jpg
 
Uncle Sam was a crowd favorite:
 
unclesam2.jpg
 
Cutest publicity stunt:
 
firstladybill.jpg
 
Late in the march, the crowd was able to spread out a bit more:
 
lateinthemarch.jpg
 
Be sure to see my prize photo of Cindy Sheehan and Jesse Jackson, below. 

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7:15 pm | link

Reuters Says MORE Than 100,000
WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - More than 100,000 protesters flooded Washington on Saturday to stage dual demonstrations against the U.S.-led war in Iraq and economic globalization, before coming together to demand that President George W. Bush bring troops home.
I'm not that impressed with the photo that accompanies the story, which shows the crowd on or near the Ellipse. As I said in an earlier post, a big chunk of the crowd never went near the Ellipse. The righties will get hold of this photo and argue that there are not 100,000 people there, ignoring the fact that this was only a portion of the people there to join the march. Oh, well.
 
Still, it's official. There were more than 29 people.
 
Update: Oh, jeez, the "only 29 people" guy is reporting that only 2,000 people showed up for the march today. What a maroon.
 
Update update: BradBlog has some good crowd photos (I do not; it's hard to take a photo of a crowd when you are IN the crowd). He also has links to videos of some of the speakers. I missed George Galloway; he must have spoken after most of us had cleared out to go to the march.

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5:58 pm | link

Exactly What Do These People Smoke?
 
I have no idea what Gateway Pundit saw on CSPAN, but it bore no resemblance to the rally and march I just attended. Ramsey Clark? Gloria la Riva? Muslim American Society and Freedom Foundation? None of these or anyone else the "Pundit" says he saw on CSPAN were at the morning rally at the Ellipse, unless they came on to speak after the crowd (me with them) left for the march. People pretty much cleared out of the Ellipse and headed for the parade route after Cindy Sheehan spoke. We came to march; not many were all that interested in the speakers (see previous post). 
 
The righties are going to lie and try to spin a myth that only a few thousand people showed up. Don't you believe it. It was a massive turnout. Tens of thousands, easily. When you left the Ellipse there was an ocean of people in the streets and on the Washington Monument grounds.

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5:30 pm | link

More Than 29 People
 
The demonstrations continue, but my bones told me it was time to stop. As soon as I'd walked the march route I hobbled back here to the hotel.
 
I took this picture of Cindy Sheehan and Jesse Jackson and some other people:
 
sheehanandjackson.jpg

Nice, huh? The big shots walked in the middle of the parade, probably because there was such a crush of people they couldn't get to the front.

I have no idea how many people were there, and I think it would be difficult to estimate because the demonstrators, being liberals, did not follow directions. The plan was to rally at the Ellipse next to the White House and then march from there. Only a small part of the crowd actually went to the Ellipse, however. Most seem to have just showed up and either stayed in groups scattered all over Capitol Hill, or else they just did impromptu unofficial marches as a warmup to the Big March. 

The Washington Post says "tens of thousands." Easily, yes.

It would have been nice to get everyone together for a mass photo, but that didn't happen. Too bad. It would have been impressive. As the parade was trying to start the protesters filled up such a large part of the parade route it was hard to move. We created our own gridlock.

On the plus side: Considerably less scatology in the signs and posters than was true of the Republican Convention protest march last year. Finally, most of the crowd has gotten over the names bush and dick. It was a peaceful group, respectful of the police along the route (some good-natured kidding going on with some of the cops, in fact). The overall vibe was very positive.

This Associated Press story is a pretty fair account of the march. I like the way it stresses diversity. This was a very disverse, and interesting group, and by my estimation mostly moderate-liberal as opposed to Marxist fringe, although of course there were some of the latter.

One of the Maha Laws of Protests: People who get bullhorns and make the most noise are the ones with the least to say. At one point at the Ellipse the really annoying young man dominating the microphone actually tried to start a "No blood for oil" chant. I considered charging the podium to break the microphone. The kid probably moves a lot faster than I can, though.

I want to add  a bullet point to Chris Bowers's "don't" list: Don't let people speak unless they are good speakers. And if you can get your hands on a good speaker, don't limit his time on the podium because you want to give equal time to the Assisstant Director of Union Organizers of Southern California for the Environment and Working People and Peace. (They had Jesse Jackson there, for pity's sake. He's a great speaker. Everyone else should have just shut up.)

I have more to say and a few more photos to post, but I think I'll get this up and then rest a bit. Later.

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3:35 pm | link

friday, september 23, 2005

I'm He-e-e-e-e-re
 
Is this obsessive, or what? Check-in time at my Washington hotel was at 3 pm and by 3:05 I'm cruising the hotel's complimentary high-speed internets. Whoohoo!
 
I see from Memeorandum that the righties are spinning faster than Hurricane Rita to persuade themselves (indeed, who else pays attention to them now?) that tomorrow's demonstrations don't mean anything.
 
See, for example, Glenn Reynolds's really desperate response to this Washington Post article. Smear, smear, smear. It's all they know how to do.
 
I noticed a long time ago that righties have a pathological need to believe they are the majority; that their views are majority views. Anyone who disagrees with them must be part of some luntatic fringe. It's the only explanation that makes sense to them. If one of them, in a moment of clarity, actually notices the majority of Americans don't see things the rightie way, he'll want to send out for a new majority. Remember when Bill Bennett whined that high approval ratings for Bill Clinton were symptoms of America's moral decay?
 
A few days ago Peter Daou posted an excellent essay examining the power and influence of the Right and Left blogospheres, looking especially at the triangle formed by netroots, Big Media and the political establishment. Note this part: 

With a well-developed echo chamber and superior top-down discipline, the right has a much easier time forming the triangle. Fox News, talk radio, Drudge, a well-trained and highly visible punditocracy, and a lily-livered press corps takes care of the media side of the triangle. Iron-clad party loyalty – with rare exceptions – and a willingness of Republican officials to jump on the Limbaugh-Hannity bandwagon du jour takes care of the party establishment side of the triangle. The rightwing netroots, therefore, is already working within the triangle on most issues. Their primary strategic aim is to prevent the left from forming its own triangle, as occurred with Katrina. It’s a defensive posture, with the goal being the preservation of the status quo. Which explains why the right is profoundly hostile to dissent and why the pretense to libertarianism is common: “independent thinkers” don’t like to be seen as defending the powers that be.

It's a defensive posture. That's important to remember. Of course, the best defense is a good offense, which is why they perpetually attack, attack, attack. But their principle motivation is fear--of chaos, of change, of loss of control.

So now they're working their butts off to marginalize the antiwar movement. Problem is, we're the majority. According to the most recent CNN/Gallup poll, 59 percent of Americans think sending troops to Iraq was a mistake. Only 39 percent still think it was not a mistake. Not even close.

Their strategy now is to paint antiwar leaders as wild-eyed radicals who are duping an innocent public into accepting evil liberal schemes like civil rights, decent wages for regular working folk, health care for all, environmental policies that protect the environment, and not invading other countries without a damn good reason. If they pull a Dick Nixon and make the crazy hippie antiwar left the issue instead of Iraq, they think, maybe they can neutralize our message.

Here's what I hope to see tomorrow--I want to see Americans of all ages and colors and from all over the country getting together, peacefully, not only looking like the majority but also acting like the majority. I want to see confidence and clarity, not anger and a lot of naughty words.

(After last year's big march in New York City I decided there needs to be a law against a president and veep whose names can be reduced to dick and bush. Please, people, give the scatology a rest. It's been done, and it wasn't all that clever the first time.)

Think positive thoughts. We can win.

Update: Great minds think alike--I wrote the post above before I read Dan Froomkin's new piece, "Can They Marginalize a Majority?"

In a move to preempt the antiwar protesters converging on Washington this weekend, President Bush yesterday put forth the following equation: Withdrawing from Iraq equals letting the terrorists win equals more 9/11s.

The White House's goal is to cast anybody who supports a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq as sadly delusional, reckless and not to be taken seriously.

But Bush may be in trouble here, because he's trying to marginalize a majority.

A recent Gallup Poll , for instance, found that 63 percent of Americans -- almost two out of three -- support the immediate partial or complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Fewer than one in three Americans support Bush's handling of the war.

Heh. But it's still an uphill fight for us:

The White House, so aware of the power of staying on message, can take some solace from the fact that the antiwar movement is deeply conflicted, lacks clear leadership, and is being kept at arm's length by many top Democrats.

Unfortunately true. But ...

And yet slowly but surely, at least one consistent theme is emerging from the silent majority. And it is a theme that has the potential to neutralize, if not upend, Bush's central message.

That theme: Staying doesn't make things better, it makes things worse.

That's good. That's brilliant. That's a statement we can all get behind tomorrow.

Be sure to read the rest of Froomkin's web column, especially the email from  J. Harley McIlrath of Grinnell, Iowa. You'll like it.

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3:55 pm | link

Have a Bloggy Day
 

I'm traveling to Washington, DC, today to be among the 29 other people demonstrating against the Iraq War and the Bush Administration in general. News coverage of tomorrow's demonstration is likely to be swallowed up by Rita coverage, but I will blog the event (with photos!) as best I can.

Captain Ed launched a pre-emptive smear of Saturday's demonstration. "Groups" gathering in Washington (I guess us unaffiliated demonstrators don't count) have "financial ties" to " leftist fundraisers like George Soros and Theresa Heinz Kerry." (Horrors!) And beyond that there are "Communist groups." The only "Communist group" taking part that I'm aware of is ANSWER, and frankly the smear of ANSWER Captain Ed came up with was lame. I've smeared ANSWER a lot better here on Mahablog; see, for example this and this. ANSWER has also been smeared much worse by Salon and David Corn, Todd Gitlin, and Michelle Goldberg. Jeez, Captain Ed, you're slipping.   

Today's assignment: Read Jonathan Chait. You'll like it.

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6:06 am | link

thursday, september 22, 2005

The Mother of All Traffic Jams
 

But ... but didn't right-wingers tell us that escaping a hurricane was easy if your elected officials weren't Democrats and you had a sense of personal responsibility and lived in an area where the average rate of melanin wasn't too high?

Could it be the righties were wrong?

From the Houston Chronicle:

Sixteen hours to San Antonio and Dallas. Eleven hours to Austin. With over a million people trying to flee vulnerable parts of the Houston area, Hurricane Rita will be a nightmare even if Galveston doesn't take a direct hit. .

Trying to leave Houston on I-10, Ella Corder drove 15 hours to go just 13 miles today. Noticing cars out of gas littering the freeway, she turned off her air-conditioner to save fuel, but the 52-year-old heart patient worried the heat and exhaustion were taking a toll on her. 

"All I want to do is go home," she said tearfully by cell phone. "Can't anyone get me out of here? "

Other evacuees' frustration turned into anger as the day wore on.

"This is the worst planning I've ever seen," said Julie Anderson, who covered just 45 miles in 12 hours after setting out from her home in the Houston suburb of LaPorte. "They say we've learned a lot from Hurricane Katrina. Well, you couldn't prove it by me."

One elderly woman caught in a traffic jam died, apparently a victim of the heat, the Chronicle says. Some people gave up and turned back; others wished they could. The Chronicle interviewed one man who decided to stay in his home because he couldn't find a hotel to go to. So many people jammed into the Greyhound Bus terminal that ticket sales were suspended.

MSNBC reported that "Acting Federal Emergency Management Agency director R. David Paulison expressed satisfaction with the evacuations at a news conference Thursday." The massive traffic jam, he said, indicated that people were following orders. Click here to see the mess at the Houston airport.

A fellow on CNN just said there's a 100-mile jam in one place. People are creeping along at 1 mile an hour.

Meanwhile, CNN is reporting that truckloads of FEMA ice needed in the Mississippi and Louisiana coast still are wandering about all over North America (except for Mississippi and Louisiana).

God bless America.

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7:28 pm | link

In Focus
 
I really wish I could link to today's Bob Herbert column, "Voters' Remorse on Bush." It's good. It's really good. I trust it will end up on the web somewhere in the next few hours, though, and I will link to it then.  In the meantime, DemFromCT has a snip of it.
 
Sydney Blumenthal's Salon piece, "From Gulf to Shining Gulf," is good too. If you don't subscribe to Salon, find it on Truthout. Blumenthal suggests that Bush's speechwriters are relying too much on copy-and-paste.
Even the words are the same. On Iraq, President Bush declared on Feb. 4, 2004, "We will do what it takes. We will not leave until the job is done." On post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction, on Sept. 15, he eerily echoed, "We will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes." It was reassuring for the nation to be told by the president in his televised address that he intends to "stay" in the United States and not cut and run. Perhaps a White House speechwriter hit the copy-and-paste function on his computer or the word "stay" simply popped into the president's mind as he contemplated the crisis, straying into improvisation.
Blumenthal goes on to explore parallels between post-invasion Iraq and the post-Katrina Gulf. 

    Behind the high-flown rhetoric of "freedom on the march," the Coalition Provisional Authority imposed conservative nostrums such as the flat tax and broke Iraqi labor unions. The CPA also served as a political clubhouse for right-wingers. It called upon the Heritage Foundation as a resource for youthful (and inexperienced) applicants. Now, the Iraqi government has issued an arrest warrant for its former defense minister for stealing $1 billion, and an additional $8 billion is said to be missing. On HBO's Bill Maher show last week, the comedian interviewed Dan Senor, the former CPA press secretary, and asked him where the money went. "We didn't have first-world accounting standards when we distributed that money," Senor explained. He did not mention who exactly was in charge of the finances: Michael Fleischer, the brother of Ari Fleischer, Bush's former press secretary.

    Like former CPA chief L. Paul Bremer, Karl Rove, Bush's senior political advisor and deputy chief of staff, who has been appointed as head of the hurricane reconstruction effort, has drawn on the Heritage Foundation for ideas. The conservative think tank's hastily slapped-together policy compendium for the occasion, "From Tragedy to Triumph," has become one of Rove's playbooks. Under the cover of Bush's sudden acknowledgment in Jackson Square that "poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination" and a sweeping promise to "rise above the legacy of inequality," the administration has promulgated a series of reactionary acts, from suspending affirmative action in granting contracts to cutting prevailing wages for construction to proposing to use federal funds for vouchers to enable Katrina evacuees to reenroll in parochial and private schools.

    Rove's appointment as reconstruction czar puts him in charge of distributing federal largess. The budget for reconstruction is estimated to run at about $1 billion a day, for a total of at least $200 billion. With that treasure chest, Rove directs a gigantic K Street project, combining lobbyists and the administration. Already, firms with intimate ties to the Republican Party, such as Halliburton and Bechtel, are major beneficiaries, as they have been in Iraq. And Joe Allbaugh, the former FEMA director, Bush's chief of staff as governor of Texas and his 2000 campaign manager, acts as the middle man in the Gulf states.

The Bush speechwriters also linked Katrina and 9/11. Yesterday Bush said,
You know, something we -- I've been thinking a lot about how America has responded, and it's clear to me that Americans value human life, and value every person as important. And that stands in stark contrast, by the way, to the terrorists we have to deal with. You see, we look at the destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break. They're the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war against these people. It's a war on terror. These are evil men who target the suffering. They killed 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001. And they've continued to kill. See, sometimes we forget about the evil deeds of these people. They've killed in Madrid, and Istanbul, and Baghdad, and Bali, and London, and Sharm el-Sheikh, and Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. Around the world they continue to kill.

Wow, that's ... inane.

They have a strategy. They want to achieve certain objectives. They want to break our will. They want the United States of America and other freedom-loving nations to retreat from the world. Why? Because they want safe haven. They want to topple government. Just think Taliban in Afghanistan. That's their vision. And we can't let them do that. We have a solemn duty as a United States government to protect the American people from harm. (Applause.)

However, that's not so solemn a duty as cutting taxes for the rich. Josh Marshall says House Republicans want to cut funding for the Center for Disease Control as part of their plan to pay for Katrina reconstruction without giving up Bush's tax cuts. "That's great thinking, seeing as though we don't need to worry about Avian Flu from South Asia or other contagious diseases any more," says Josh.
 
Come to think of it, we haven't had any really deadly, scarey epidemics in the U.S. lately, have we? People, get your flu shots this year.  
 
Over at WaPo, Dan Froomkin writes that the White House is focused on Hurricane Rita. It is so focused, in fact, that focused has become a favorite word.
Press Secretary Scott McClellan was repeatedly asked yesterday how the White House preparations for Rita differ from those for Katrina.

And McClellan's word of the day was: "Focus."

Here's the transcript of yesterday's briefing.

"One, the President is focused on making sure we have the strongest possible coordination with state and local governments in the path of Hurricane Rita," McClellan said.

"I just told you that the President is focused on making sure that we have the strongest possible coordination with state and local officials. . . .

"[I]n addition to coordination, communications is an area that we're very focused on in the preparation and response for Hurricane Rita. . . .

"[H]is focus is on making sure that we're doing the right thing for the American people."

McClellan also referred to the "lessons" of Katrina seven times.

Dear Scott: Next time, try concentrate, address, apply, bend, buckle down, dedicate, devote, or direct.
 
Other good stuff: At Crooks and Liars, Phil Donahue tears Bill O'Reilly a new one. And Digby explains the difference between 1930s-style fascists and the Bush Administration (the fascists had a coherent governing philosophy).

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1:43 pm | link

Bookmark This
 
There may be a few more than 29 people marching with Cindy this Saturday. If so, be sure to let this guy know about it.

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9:40 am | link

Porkers
 
Yesterday Glenn Reynolds's and N.Z. Bear's "Porkbuster" initiative was paid copious attention by MSNBC. The idea behind Porkbuster is to get bloggers to identify federal pork spending in their states and then get their senators and representatives in Washington to commit to cutting the pork.
 
This is a fine idea, but I wonder about the execution. Go to the "List of Pork" page to see what I mean. As of this morning, for example, the same bridge (between Gravina Island and  Ketchikan, Alaska), is listed twice. So is the  Knik Arm Bridge, which would link Anchorage with Port McKenzie and the remote Mat-Su Borough. The second mention of this bridge places it in Alabama. 
 
Some projects listed don't seem to me to be obvious examples of pork. For example, we see an appropriation for $250,000 for "wastewater infrastructure improvements" in Fayetteville, Arkansas. People need clean water, do they not? $250,000 is cheap compared to what it would cost to treat an outbreak of hepatitis A or, heaven forbid, cholera.
 
And, naturally, some trog has included the Violence Against Women Act.  "Since actual help for bona fide victims of domestic violence"--and who are these victims, pray tell? The trog does not say--"does not exist anywhere in these programs, why not start with one of the most damaging and money-wasting programs we have in the US? The only people this would negatively affect are those who benefit from VAWA now -- the people and agencies who run these clearly inefficient and counterproductive programs."
 
I'd like to earmark several billion dollars for a trog relocation program. We'll send the trogs to some nice Muslim country like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, but first we'll give them a sex change operation. Well, OK, there are probably laws against stuff like that. But I can fantasize, can't I?
 
I didn't get past the As on this list, but if I had more time for it, I'm sure it would make gripping reading.
 
Now, on to the Contact Status page. This page lists all Senators and Representatives, it says, and shows how much pork they've committed to cut. As of this morning, the only commitment listed is from Nancy Pelosi (D-California). Of course, more will be added eventually.
 
But will the wingers notice how much of the actual pork was proposed by people with (R) after their names (who, after all, have pretty much run Congress single-handedly since 2002)? And Atrios says,
The real test is what happens when they realize that the Republicans, who do indeed control the government, aren't going to give up a damn bit of their hard-earned pork. I'm sure the Clenis will make an appearance, somehow.

To put it another way, would YOU have the guts to get between Dennis Hastert and a bacon sandwich?

I thought not.
Heh.

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8:17 am | link

wednesday, september 21, 2005

Karl's Konundrum
 
 
"Why has President Bush placed Karl Rove atop the government's endeavors to rebuild the Gulf Coast?" Meyerson asks. "Rove knows as much about massive relief and reconstruction efforts as your pet schnauzer."
 
Then Meyerson answers his own question. The $200 billion relief and reconstruction effort will not, of course, focus on relief and reconstruction. It will focus on shuffling enormous amounts of money around to benefit Big Bleeping Corporations and the Republican Party. If a few pennies actually trickle down to benefit the poor victims of Katrina, that will be by accident. And, even more, it will be about twisting the relief effort into a screw-the-poor, benefit-the-rich monstrosity that Democrats will oppose. Then, in 2006, Dems can be bashed for obstructing relief and reconstruction.
 
Consider, writes Meyerson,
In the fall of 2002, as the legislation establishing the DHS was wending its way through Congress, Rove had a Rovean idea: Embed some extraneous, ideological criteria in the bill -- criteria that the Democrats would obviously oppose -- and then campaign against those Democrats for being soft on homeland security. Which is why one day the bill suddenly contained language mandating that the unionized federal employees at the agencies being merged into DHS would henceforth be non-union. Predictably, the Democrats squawked, and predictably, the Republicans took out after a southern Democratic senator up for reelection -- Georgia's Max Cleland, who'd lost an arm and both legs while fighting in Vietnam -- as indifferent to protecting our nation. Cleland was defeated.
Of course, the President has charged ahead with some choice executive orders, such as the suspension of Davis-Bacon Act, which mandates that employees on federally funded construction projects be paid the prevailing wage.
The thought that such mom-and-pop concerns as Halliburton and Bechtel would have to pay out that much money as they rebuild New Orleans's infrastructure was plainly anathema to our president, so he's freed them of that onerous requirement. Indeed, he's announced the creation of a vast Gulf Opportunity Zone, in which all the laissez-faire Republican brainstorms of the past quarter century that were supposed to end the cycles of poverty and dependency, and have accomplished nothing of the kind, have been repackaged yet again. Small businesses will be freed from tax burdens and regulations and maybe even wage requirements, and an entrepreneurial culture will burst forth.

Problem is, New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta have been designated enterprise zones for a decade now, and they're still just about the poorest places in the United States. Right-wingers have railed for 40 years now at the failures, real and imagined, of Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, but Johnson's policies, and those of Franklin Roosevelt before him, have been far more successful at reducing poverty than those that presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush promoted during their terms in office. Indeed, poverty has risen steadily during the current Bush's presidency, and median household income has declined for each of the past five years, though for the past three years the economy has been in recovery. Wage increases have become a historical curio, the federal minimum wage has not been raised for the past eight years, and now Bush has decreed that the men and women working on the levees -- not the executives or shareholders at Halliburton, mind you, just the folks doing the work -- will have to make do with less.

And you know a portion of Halliburton et al.'s bonanza will be donated back to the GOP in time for the 2006 campaign cycle. Win/win!
 
On the other hand, any program that promises "relief and reconstruction" for large numbers of poor urban blacks will not sit well with a whole lot of Bush's usual constituency. It may prove to be a less successful wedge issue than "homeland security" (which, as we have seen, was not really about homeland security).
 
Bush's proposed massive spending spree in the Gulf Coast is ripping apart his ruling party -- even as his stumbling response to a national disaster, his increasingly unpopular war and high gas prices are sending his poll numbers plummeting and emboldening the opposition party.

Shailagh Murray and Jim VandeHei write in The Washington Post: "Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill. . . .

"The pushback on Katrina aid . . . represents the loudest and most widespread dissent Bush has faced from his own party since it took full control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the president's approval numbers falling, there is growing concern among lawmakers that GOP margins in Congress could shrink next year, and even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that must accompany the rebuilding bonanza. . . ."

Many Republicans, Froomkin writes, are worried that Bush is becoming a political liability for the party. Heh. 

Billmon pointed to a major obstacle for Karl; namely, that the constituency he so easily bamboozled into thinking Max Cleland was "soft on terrorism" is less likely to embrace profligate spending to help poor black folks.

New Orleans also has emerged as the chief target of angst. "The question is do we really want to flood New Orleans with money," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.).

Kingston said he has detected a building hostility toward New Orleans among his constituents, based on reports that local officials mismanaged the crisis, along with federal dollars that had previously flowed the region's way. "What we are hearing from constituents is: 'Wait a minute, slow down on this,' " Kingston said. (emphasis added)

Washington Post
Katrina's Cost May Test GOP Harmony
September 21, 2005

Somehow I don't think it's the wrought iron balconies of the French Quarter or bars on Bourbon St. or the St. Charles Ave. streetcar or the above ground cemeteries or the Jax brewery that are generating all that "angst."

New Orleans seems to have become another synonym for those people.

Paul Krugman's column from Monday, which you can read on Truthout, explains why "race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need."  

Plus, I suspect many Americans--including many who pay little attention to politics--realize that Bush's War is dumping billions into Iraq, and now more billions are needed in the Gulf (and by next week, more of the Gulf)--are getting queasy about government spending. And Bush's insistence that we don't have to cut other spending or raise taxes isn't helping him recapture his Dear Leader aura. Bush is way out of step with the public on this point. Truly, it ain't 9/12 any more.

Thus, Karl may find he can't "Max Cleland" the Democrats on Katrina relief nearly as easily as he bamboozled voters on national security. This will be especially true if he's doing time in a federal prison by this time next year.
 
We can always hope.

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6:20 pm | link

Biblical Proportions
 
lilkatrinaspin.gif
[Update: Rita declared category 5 with 165 mph winds as of about 4:10 this afternoon.]
 
Rita has grown into a level 4 hurricane and is heading for Texas, the Associated Press reports. Galveston, parts of Houston and New Orleans are under mandatory evacuation orders. It's possible Rita could reach level 5, or it might not.
 
I'm sayin' if there's a plague of locusts next, I'm outtahere.
 
I can't predict weather, but I will predict that George W. Bush will get his sorry ass to the disaster site as soon as the winds die down and his staff can set up the klieg lights.
 
Sorry about the subscription wall, but I do feel an urge to quote today's Mo Dowd:

The president won't be happy until he dons a yellow slicker and actually takes the place of Anderson Cooper, violently blown about by Rita as he talks into a camera lens lashed with water, hanging onto a mailbox as he's hit by a flying pig in a squall, sucked up by a waterspout in the eye of the storm over the Dry Tortugas.

Then maybe he'll go back to the White House and do his job instead of running down to the Gulf Coast for silly disaster-ops every other day.

Bush was back in Mississippi and Louisiana yesterday, even though all evidence indicates nobody cares. He plans to leave Washington Friday to spend the weekend touring Alabama, Texas and Arkansas, effectively evacuating Washington to avoid Hurricane Cindy.  

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1:51 pm | link

Good Job
 
I want to express my appreciation for the work that went into "Feminists Say No to John Roberts" posted by Liza Sabater at CultureKitchen. This statement, a joint effort by a number of bloggers, makes the case that the Senate has a duty to reject judicial nominations who will impose right-wing ideology on all American citizens. In a nutshell,  
If Congress is to appoint conservative jurists, We The People demand they are mainstream conservatives that will uphold the Constitution as a common ground for all, not the playground of the few. It is the place of government to insure every single person in this country has an opportunity to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

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10:36 am | link

tuesday, september 20, 2005

Management, and Lack Thereof
 
Lots of leftie bloggers are linking to this American Spectator article. Looks like the rats are deserting. "Republicans on Capitol Hill and even some longtime Bush team members in various Cabinet level departments say this Administration is done for."
 
This is the part I thought most interesting:
Rumors are flying through various departments of longtime senior Bush loyalists looking to jump, but with few opportunities in the private sector to make the jump look like anything more than desperation. Almost daily, complaints from Cabinet level Departments come in to the White House about lack of communication coordination on even basic policy matters.

"What happened was that some of the best people who were working in the Administration during the first term, but who weren't necessarily Bush campaign members or weren't particularly close to the White House, jumped when they saw opportunities being filled by under-qualified but more politically connected people," says a current Administration senior staffer in a Cabinet department. "In this department we lost three quarters of the people who should have been encouraged to stay, and most of them left simply because they had received no indication they would be considered for better or different opportunities. And many of these folks would have stayed."
I've said this before, and I'll say it again--the Bushies can't manage their way out of a paper bag. Bushies are all marketing, not management; imagery, not substance. In fact, these guys are so out of touch with the realities of management I wonder if they understand that catchy slogans and photo ops are not the same thing as actually managing.
 
A few days ago David Ignatius wrote,
The management flaws that have been so obvious over the past week go to the heart of how President Bush runs the government.
 
 Early in his first term, it was popular to speak of how this Harvard Business School graduate was operating an "MBA Presidency." He insisted that everyone be on time to meetings; he wanted his aides to be properly dressed; he favored delegation of power, crisp meetings, early bedtimes. But these chief executive officer habits disguised a deeper reality: that Bush's management style was often haphazard and reactive. Like Isaiah Berlin's famous hedgehog, he came to focus on one big thing -- the war against terrorism -- and let many lesser things slide. Loyalty counted for more for this CEO than performance -- an attitude that is deadly in managing any enterprise.  
(But then Ignatius goes on to quote William Kristol-- "He is a strong president . . . but he has never really focused on the importance of good execution." That's like saying "He's a great batter, but I wish he'd hit the ball now and then.")
 
Before becoming governor of Texas, Bush's "business experience" consisted of running some start-up oil companies, fnanced with his daddy's friends' money, into the ground, and then getting bailed out because of his name and family connections. It appears he even beat an insider trading rap because his daddy was President of the United States at the time. He borrowed money and bought a 2 percent share of the Texas Rangers. Along with a whopping profit made mostly from unethical land appropriations, Bush's association with the Rangers gave him public visibility and helped make him a viable candidate for governor. But it has been widely reported that Bush was strictly a PR guy for the Rangers and was kept away from management.
 
Under the guidance of Karl Rove, Bush took on the aura of a leader. He knows how to go through the motions.  But he doesn't really understand, or appreciate, what a real leader, or manager, does. And if you look honestly at his background, you realize he has no experience actually working within a successful management structure to accomplish anything concrete (e.g., getting a product on the shelves). The only part of his job he seems to understand is the PR part.
 
And it's all coming apart. It's coming apart fast. The next few months are going to be interesting.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
The federal charges against David Safavian stem from his tenure as chief of staff of the General Services Administration, predating his arrival at the White House a year ago. But his arrest nonetheless draws renewed attention to the ongoing corruption and influence-peddling inquiry swirling around Abramoff, a lobbyist well known for his connections to conservative Republicans in the White House and Congress.
 
 And for a White House so desperate to build public confidence in its ability to respond to the Gulf Coast disaster, it doesn't exactly help that the man who up until Friday was overseeing contracting policy for the multi-billion dollar relief effort has now been charged with lying and obstructing a criminal investigation.
I don't have anything to add to the excellent blogging of others; see especially Josh Marshall (start here and read up) and Sam Rosenfeld at TAPPED.
 
What can one say but ... heh.

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4:32 pm | link

Why Are We Still Talking About This?
 
Louise Story writes in today's New York Times that about 60 percent of women students at top Ivy League colleges say that they expect to be stay-at-home moms at some point in their futures.

Much attention has been focused on career women who leave the work force to rear children. What seems to be changing is that while many women in college two or three decades ago expected to have full-time careers, their daughters, while still in college, say they have already decided to suspend or end their careers when they have children.

"At the height of the women's movement and shortly thereafter, women were much more firm in their expectation that they could somehow combine full-time work with child rearing," said Cynthia E. Russett, a professor of American history who has taught at Yale since 1967. "The women today are, in effect, turning realistic."

Via Daou Report I found a trog commenting on the Times article who implied that career women are "evolutionary dead enders" and who proclaimed that the ladies had learned from their mothers' mistakes. This, of course, rather ignores the fact that sixties feminism was very much a reaction to the mistakes of fifties Stepford-wifism.

But the larger issue no one wants to talk about is that raising children in a post-Industrial Age society is a problem with no good solution.

Once upon a time, before the Industrial Age, "working" was something one did either in or close to home with one's family at hand. Until relatively recently--less than a couple of centuries ago--most workers were farmers who worked their own land (or land they lived next to) or artisans whose shops were attached to their homes. People didn't have to leave their children to go "to work." In fact, the blacksmith or silversmith or shoemaker or whatever not only saw his children throughout the day, but probably taught them the trade and had them helping in the shop or farm as early as possible. Thus, children had a lot of day-to-day, one-on-one contact with their "working" fathers as well as their mothers.

But during the Industrial Age men (and more women the trogs want to admit to) went to work away from home and left children entirely in the company of mothers or other female relatives. By the end of the 19th century the notion that men went away to work and women stayed home to raise the kids was firmly entrenched as the "normal" family pattern, even though it was not that normal. By the mid-20th century the John Wayne mystique was informing American men that raising kids was entirely women's work. 

After World War II, Joseph Campbell noted that American men were losing touch with their masculinity because they grew up raised entirely by mothers and with little attention from distant, self-aborbed fathers. (There's a quote in the introduction of Hero With a Thousand Faces about this I would add here if I could find my copy.) The masculinity-deprived result are trogs (troglodytes; weenies who try to be Big Men by putting down women) and other allegedly male creatures with commitment phobia.

For whatever reason, the Greatest Generation embraced the stay-at-home June Cleaver mom model with religious ferver, which resulted in an entire generation of women lost from themselves. The ideal fifties woman was not just a stay-at-home mom. She was endlessly cheerful, selfless, comforting, unambitious, and simple. (Non-threatening, in other words, since our masculinity-challenged menfolk consider strong women to be threatening.) A woman with intellectual curiosity was neurotic; a misfit; not really feminine. A woman who had opinions that differed from her husband's was a nag. A woman with ambition was just plain bad.  

By 1962 the ideal woman, as invisioned by Steven Sondheim in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," was a bosomy concubine named Tintinabula who never spoke. (Note: The last time I mentioned Tintinabula, someone linked to the post and claimed that I said an ideal woman never speaks, which was way not the point. I'm just saying that was considered ideal in 1962.)

Anyway, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. As I wrote in the earlier Tintinabula post,

In Mystique, Friedan documented that post-World War II culture shoved women into a tightly confined role, to the point that by the 1960s American women had lost a sense of self-identity. "Normal" women, the "experts" insisted, had no desires other than to be wives and mothers; women who had interests or ambitions outside the home were branded as "neurotic." Women were intimidated into shutting up and withdrawing from public life and having lots of babies -- hence, the Baby Boom of 1946-1964. (Yes, the Baby Boom continued until the year after Friedan published Mystique.)
Sixties feminism was only peripherally about women working outside the home. It was, in fact, a revolt against June Cleaver. It was a generation of women standing up and saying, I am going to be who I am. As I heard Betty Friedan herself say in a lecture I attended, feminism never claimed that children were not an important part of women's lives; just that they aren't the only thing in women's lives.
 
So, it became socially acceptable for women to work outside the home. In fact, in recent decades the American economy has become increasingly dependent on the productivity of women, just as the famous American middle-class lifestyle has become dependent on two paychecks.
 
But now we run smack into the societal structure forced upon us by Industrial Age economies. "Work" other than homemaking itself is done outside the home, away from children. It was bad enough that children were being raised by one parent; now the other parent is away from home, too. And corporations who squeeze more and more productivity out of fewer and fewer employees ain't makin' it easier. If both parents are away from home nine or ten hours a day or more, and come home frazzled and exhausted, how are they able to pay quality attention to their children?
 
The flip side of the parenting problem is something I realized in the years I stayed home with my kids (ca. 1980-1986). Being locked up in a suburban home alone with a brood, and juggling child care and homemaking responsibilities, can be more stressful than most jobs. By the time I went back to work I was days away from needing to be chased down with a butterfly net. Through most of human history people lived in tribes or extended families, and child care responsibilities were shared. If mom needed to cook supper or wash clothes, there were aunts or sisters or other women around to walk the baby. Plus, there were other adult women around to talk to.
 
Some women thrive on being single-family-household moms, of course, but it drove me up a wall, and I suspect a lot of the dewy-eyed coeds of the New York Times article will run screaming back to their careers as soon as Junior is weaned.
 
At least we are getting away from the "having it all" myth, which said that women can have the high-power career and be excellent parents at the same time if they just tried hard enough. There may be a few high-energy types who manage it (the ones I've met made enough money to hire nannies), but most of us who have tried this end up leading lives of unquiet desperation. Instead of balancing, I felt I was perpetually compromising; stealing time and energy away from the demands of one role in order to deal with the other role. The best I can say about it is that the kids and I survived.
 
This takes us, of course, to the Mommy Madness phenomenon. I haven't gotten around to reading Judith Warner's book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, but I was taken with this interview of Warner in Salon. American mothers, she writes, are choking on a "cocktail of guilt and anxiety and resentment and regret."
 
And another facet of this problem is that we're still defining child-rearing as something women do. 
 
I'm not sure what the solution is, other than better social supports and more Real Men who carry their share of the load. Ultimately I wish we could re-think the whole nine-to-five employment thing.
 
And maybe we could round up the trogs and ship 'em to France.  I'd be happier.

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10:19 am | link

monday, september 19, 2005

The Tao of Hurricanes
Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water,
Yet nothing can better overcome the hard and strong,
For they can neither control nor do away with it.

The soft overcomes the hard,
The yielding overcomes the strong;
Every person knows this,
But no one can practice it.

Who attends to the people would control the land and grain;
Who attends to the state would control the whole world;
Truth is easily hidden by rhetoric.
 
When I saw the new poll numbers from CNN/USA Today/Gallup, I thought of the verse above.  

Just 41 percent of the 818 adults polled between Friday and Monday said they approved of Bush's handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while 57 percent disapproved.

And support for his management of the war in Iraq has dropped to 32 percent, with 67 percent telling pollsters they disapproved of how Bush is prosecuting the conflict.

The survey had a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Fifty-nine percent said they considered the 2003 invasion of Iraq a mistake. That figure is the highest recorded in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Only 39 percent said the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. Sixty-three percent said they wanted to see some or all U.S. troops withdrawn from that country.

Just 35 percent of those polled approved of Bush's handling of the economy, with 63 percent saying they disapproved.

Bush's overall job approval number was 40 percent, with 58 percent of those surveyed telling pollsters they disapproved of his performance in office. It is the second time his approval rating has hit that low a mark.

His personal qualities hit fresh lows: Only 49 percent called him a strong and decisive leader, down from 54 percent in July and 51 percent in August. Just 42 percent said he cares about people like themselves, and 47 percent called him honest and trustworthy.

By contrast, 51 percent did not consider him strong and decisive, 50 percent would not call him honest and 56 percent said he didn't care about people like them.

Looks like the floodwaters of Katrina washed away more than New Orleans. It did a job on the Bush Administration, too.

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7:47 pm | link

Why We Fight
 
[Breaking news--something happened at Union Square today involving Cindy Sheehan; an eyewitness says she was arrested. Updates as they become available. Update:  Newest information is that Sheehan was not arrested, but another person at the Union Square protest was arrested.]
 
Bob Geiger of Yellow Dog Democrat alerts us that we're about to (or already have) hit a dreadful milestone--1,900 dead U.S. troops in Iraq.
 
"It has become almost rote for us to say that the men and women we have lost died 'fighting for our freedom' or to 'keep us free,'" Bob writes. "The truth we dare not speak is that those assertions are a lie."
When you've worn the uniform, as I have, there's a bond that's never lost with those who have served in the past and those who are in the line of fire every day in Iraq. I want desperately for their sacrifice to be as worthwhile in reality as it is in their honorable and courageous intent. But it's simply not true.

The bipartisan 9/11 Commission and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee all formally came to the same fundamental conclusions on the subject. They determined that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on September 11, that they had no weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein had no links to Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. The official findings of our own government make it clear that we invaded another country for no reason.


I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every day when I hear the names of yet more Americans killed for nothing. They are dying in a country that did not attack us and that the indisputable proof now shows posed no threat whatsoever to the United States.

After you've read Bob's post go and read today's Altercation. Eric Alterman quotes a British colonel, Tim Collins, who wrote an essay about Iraq for the Observer. This is Col. Collins:

What I had not realized was that there was no real plan at the higher levels to replace anything, indeed a simplistic and unimaginative overreliance in some senior quarters on the power of destruction and crude military might.  We were to beat the Iraqis.  That simple.  Everything would come together after that.

The Iraqi army was defeated - it walked away from most fights - but was then dismissed without pay to join the ranks of the looters smashing the little infrastructure left, and to rail against their treatment.  The Baath party was left undisturbed.  The careful records it kept were destroyed with precision munitions by the coalition; the evidence erased, they were left with a free rein to agitate and organize the insurrection.  A vacuum was created in which the coalition floundered, the Iraqis suffered and terrorists thrived.

One cannot help but wonder what it was all about.  If it was part of the war on terror then history might notice that the invasion has arguably acted as the best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda ever: a sort of large-scale equivalent of the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972, which in its day filled the ranks of the IRA.  If it was an attempt to influence the price of oil, then the motorists who queued last week would hardly be convinced.  If freedom and a chance to live a dignified, stable life free from terror was the motive, then I can think of more than 170 families in Iraq last week who would have settled for what they had under Saddam.  UK military casualties reached 95 last week.  I nightly pray the total never reaches 100.

It is time for our leaders to explain what is going on.  It was as a battalion commander trying to explain to his men why they would embark on a war that I came to public notice.  The irony is that I made certain assumptions that my goodwill and altruistic motivations went to the top. Clearly I was naive.  This time it is the role of the leaders of nations to explain where we are going and why. I, for one, demand to know.

"It is time for our leaders to explain what is going on." Way past time, I say.

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4:56 pm | link

The Ranks of the Dead
 
Remember that long-ago, innocent time--2003, I think--in which General Thomas Franks famously snapped, "We don't do body counts"? Not entirely true, of course, as somehow numbers of bodies got released to the media from time to time, anyway. Today Ellen Knickmeyer writes in WaPo that the U.S. military is counting bodies even more these days.
Using enemy body counts as a benchmark, the U.S. military claimed gains against Abu Musab Zarqawi's foreign-led fighters last week even as they mounted their deadliest attacks on Iraq's capital.

But by many standards, including increasingly high death tolls in insurgent strikes, Zarqawi's group, al Qaeda in Iraq, could claim to be the side that's gaining after 2 1/2 years of war. August was the third-deadliest month of the war for U.S. troops.

For you younger folks: Body counts became controversial during the Vietnam War, as explained by Mark Benjamin in Salon--

If history offers any clue, counting dead insurgents is a misleading endeavor that can destroy trust in the Pentagon and ultimately lead to atrocities on the battlefield. During the Vietnam War, historians say, inflated body counts that sometimes included civilians shattered the Pentagon's credibility with the American people and undercut support for that war. Former soldiers from that era say that relying too much on body counts can drive soldiers in the field to commit atrocities in order to achieve a high number of kills -- though there is no indication that is happening in Iraq.

But Benjamin wrote that paragraph in June, and now it's September, and it seems the Pentagon is falling back into some old, bad habits. Knickmeyer writes,

After generally rejecting body counts as standards of success in the Iraq war, the U.S. military last week embraced them -- just as it did during the Vietnam War. As the carnage grew in Baghdad, U.S. officials produced charts showing the number of suspects killed or detained in offensives in the west.

The numbers can sound impressive. Last week, a military spokesman said, "the number of insurgents killed or captured in the northern city of Tall Afar was roughly equal to advance estimates of their strength." However--shades of Vietnam--it's not clear that all of the "insurgents" killed really were insurgents, or just civilians caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, writes Knickmeyer,

Since 2003, U.S. forces have detained 40,000 people, twice U.S. generals' highest public estimate of the number of fighters in the insurgency. On Saturday, the Iraqi government said it had released for lack of evidence more than 500 of the 757 suspects detained in ongoing operations in the northern city of Mosul.

Many of the men detained in Tall Afar last week were rounded up on the advice of local teenagers who had stepped forward as informants, at times for what American soldiers said they suspected amounted to no more than settling local scores.

"The question is, what does victory mean? It certainly isn't the number of people we kill or detain," Cordesman[*] said. The U.S. death and detention counts have "zero credibility," since U.S. forces provide little detail on those being killed and detained, he said.

(*Anthony Cordesman in an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.)

The usual Washington officials insist the insurgency is not growing, and of course the ever optimistic Dick the Dick pronounced it to be in its last throes ... when was that? Awhile back, I believe. They've been dragging out those throes.

And notice that, just like Vietnam, the biggest reason we're not winning is that, for whatever reason, the politicians in Washington refused to use the military assets (such as sufficient troops) required to actually do the job.

The focus on Katrina has taken attention away from Iraq. I hadn't heard (until I did a Google news search) that a Kurdish member of parliament was assassinated Saturday night, for example. Billmon catches us up:

The death toll over the past week in Iraq has been more than 250; over the past three weeks, more than a thousand, including the horrible crowd control disaster on the Tigris bridge two days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. That's a third of a 9/11 in less than a month. That flypaper for terrorists the hawks are always talking about is getting awfully clogged with the dead bodies of innocent civilians.

The latest carnage is part of an escalated campaign by Al-Zarqawi (or whoever is actually behind the communiques issued in his name) to upgrade the low-grade sectarian war already being fought in Iraq, probably in hopes of disrupting next month's constitutional referendum.

This is being accompanied by a massive show of insurgent force in Baghdad -- as a kind of propaganda-of-the-deed reponse to the futile U.S. sweep through Tal Afar last week. According to one of Juan Cole's contacts in Baghdad, the insurgents are getting their message across loud and clear:

Five neighborhoods (hay) in Baghdad are controlled by insurgents, and they are Amiraya, Ghazilya, Shurta, Yarmouk and Doura. It is very bad. My guys there report that cars have come into these neighborhoods and blocked off the streets. Masked gunmen with AKs and other weapons are roaming these areas, announcing that people should stay home. One of my drivers in Amiraya reports that his neighborhood is shut down totally, and even those who need food or provisions are warned not to go out.

The good news, such as it is, is that while the insurgents have been giving priority to the slaughter of innocent civilians, they've been killing fewer U.S. soldiers -- and fewer Iraqi soldiers as well, judging from recent casualty trends.

Be sure to read Billmon's entire post. It's very informative.

Related: Former President Bill Clinton was interviewed yesterday by his old staffer George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week. Naturally the righties are infuriated. They don't just disagree with what he said; they think that Clinton's very existance is an affront to civilization itself. If you've got the stomach for it, you can find links to their howls at Memeorandum. (Sample blog post title: "Bill Clinton is a no-class slime.")

And what did he do that was so terrible? He told the truth. He told the truth about Bush's tax cuts. He told the truth about Hurricane Katrina response. He told the truth about Iraq. I listened to the interview; Clinton spoke softly using non-inflammatory language. He just told the bleeping truth. And the righties can't stand it. Tbogg's got their number.

There's no point answering 'em. Anyone who still believes we're winning in Iraq, for example, is part of a steadily shrinking minority. Let 'em bay at the moon.

Update: See Jesse at Pandagon.

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9:05 am | link

sunday, september 18, 2005

Subscription Holes
 
Be sure to take advantage of the last day of free New York Times editorials, and read Frank Rich. A taste:
Mr. Bush didn't cough up his modified-limited mea culpa until he'd seen his whole administration flash before his eyes. His admission that some of the buck may stop with him (about a dime's worth, in Truman dollars) came two weeks after the levees burst and five years after he promised to usher in a new post-Clinton "culture of responsibility." It came only after the plan to heap all the blame on the indeed blameworthy local Democrats failed to lift Mr. Bush's own record-low poll numbers. It came only after America's highest-rated TV news anchor, Brian Williams, started talking about Katrina the way Walter Cronkite once did about Vietnam.
For reasons obscure even to me I subscribe to the print New York Times, so allegedly I will still have access to  the entire content of the web site.  In the futrure if any of the the Times's three great columnists--Rich, Krugman, Herbert--says something really good, I will quote it even if it's pointless to link it. And maybe BugMeNot will work.
 
I think the Times is making a mistake by walling off some of its most popular content. On the other hand, newspapers have to make money to pay the reporters and maintain news bureaus. I get most of my news content from newspapers, and I don't want to drive them out of business. I'm not sure what the solution is. 
 
Other good stuff to read--via Atrios, Fareed Zakaria gets shrill.
Today's Republicans believe in pork, but they don't believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional. Public spending is a cynical game of buying votes or campaign contributions, an utterly corrupt process run by lobbyists and special interests with no concern for the national interest. So we shovel out billions on "Homeland Security" to stave off nonexistent threats to Wisconsin, Wyoming and Montana while New York and Los Angeles remain unprotected. We mismanage crises with a crazy-quilt patchwork of federal, local and state authorities—and sing paeans to federalism to explain our incompetence. We denounce sensible leadership and pragmatism because they mean compromise and loss of ideological purity. Better to be right than to get Iraq right.
Whenever one of the Kool Kids gets a glimpse of the same reality us bloggers have been seeing lo these many years, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Well, let's go on ... In the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne makes the case for a "no" vote on Roberts.   

...the doubts about Roberts have nothing to do with his good heart. The issue is the power about to be put in his hands and into the hands of President Bush's next appointee -- power both will enjoy for life. The Senate and the public have a right to far more assurance about how Roberts would use that power than they have been given in these hearings. The Senate is under no obligation to give the president or Roberts the benefit of the doubt.

If senators simply vote "yes" on Roberts, they will be conceding to the executive branch huge power to control what information the public gets and doesn't get about nominees to life positions. The administration has stubbornly refused to release a share of Roberts's writings as deputy solicitor general. This is a dare to the Senate, and the administration is assuming it will wimp out. A "yes" on Roberts would be a craven abdication of power to the executive branch.

The irony is that I do not believe any Democrat would be punished by his constituents for voting no. I suspect Democratic voters in general either want the Roberts nomination to fail or else they don't really give a damn. But Democratic senators who vote yes on Roberts may find themselves with some 'splainin' to do.

See also Steve M. on Richard Brookhiser.

Update: The Liberal Avenger's got a good'n up, too.

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1:55 pm | link

Shameless Hussies
 
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Just when you thought the GOP couldn't get more shameless--Massimo Calabresi writes in Time that some are desperately searching for bodies in New Orleans--bodies of rich people, mind you--to prove that New Orleans is being hurt by the estate tax. 

"If legislative ambulance chasing looks like a desperate measure, for the backers of repealing the estate tax, these are desperate times. Just three weeks ago, their long-sought goal of repeal seemed within reach, but Katrina dashed their hopes when Republican leaders put off an expected vote. After hearing from [Alabama Senator Jeff] Sessions, [Harold] Apolinsky, an estate tax lawyer who says his firm includes three multi-billionaires among its clients, mobilized the American Family Business Institute, a Washington-based group devoted to estate tax repeal. They reached out to members along the Gulf Coast to hunt for the dead.

"It's been hard. Only a tiny percentage of people are affected by the estate tax—in 2001 only 534 Alabamans were subject to it. And for Hill backers of repeal, that's only part of the problem. Last year, the tax brought in $24.8 billion to the federal government. With Katrina's cost soaring, estate tax opponents need to find a way to make up the potential lost income. For now, getting repeal back on the agenda may depend on Apolinsky and his team of estate-sniffing sleuths, who are searching Internet obituaries among other places. Has he found any victims of both the hurricane and the estate tax? 'Not yet,' Apolinsky says. 'But I'm still looking.'"

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

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September 15, 2004, 90.1 FM.

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

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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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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