Spencer Blog Archives 11-02





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OFF TO PLANET HOUSTON 11-26-02

As my parting gift to you, I'll give you two links. The first one is a link to the results of a CBS News poll that shows W's re-elect numbers currently stand at only 32%. So, there is still hope my friends.

The second thing is this interesting piece about what was apparently a deal between Janet Rehnquist and Jeb to put off a potentially embarrassing audit of one of Florida's state pension funds until after the election. Conveniently timed, eh? I'm really beginning to suspect that Rehnquist's days in the administration are numbered and, if the stories about what she's doing in that office are true, they should be.

As many of you probably remember, I'm leaving for Houston in the morning at 4:30. It promises to be a long 900 miles each way with four of us. Thank goodness one of our friends loaned us a TV/VCR for the kids. I suspect that will make the day pass much faster.

I'll be staying with my grandmother who doesn't own a computer. My aunts and uncles own computers but I probably won't worry about it. Therefore, my good readers, this is more than likely the last thing I'll be able to post until Sunday or Monday. This is the first time I've taken such a long hiatus since I started this blog in August. I do promise you that I'll be back for sure on Monday morning.

Happy Thanksgiving and please, everyone, drive safely!

Posted by Tom at 8:35 p.m. CST

MEET ALBERTO GONZALES 11-26-02

Here's an interesting story from the Wall Street Journal about W's choice for the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice, his current White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales. BTW, if you think this administration has gone to far in limiting civil liberties, you can blame Mr. Gonzales for many of those decisions. Ashcroft enforces them but Gonzales appears to actually be behind them.

Wouldn't it be great to appoint the guy who clearly believes the constitution is just another piece of paper to the Supreme Court?

Sigh.

Posted by Tom at 3:58 p.m. CST

ACADEMIC FREEDOM UNDER ASSAULT
11-26-02

Many recent events in academia are bothering me lately. Here are a few of them:

All of these events taken together raise many important questions about academic freedom in this country today. The most frightening is the involvement of the vice president's wife in an amazingly bold and naked assault on the patriotism (and free speech) of professors nationwide. The report itself is rather shoddy and ridiculous but the intent is not hard to discern at all. There clearly are folks in this administration who wish that professors would parrot the administration's ideological line about the war on terror -- just as professors were forced to do during the McCarthy era.

The story of Berthold raises other more disturbing questions. Berthold made an admittedly senseless remark in class on 9/11. The worst part of it all is that Berthold's faculty colleagues apparently left him out to twist in the wind. His story is a genuine cautionary tale to those of us who often say things in class to provoke a response from our students. It certainly appears that academic freedom isn't alive and well at the University of New Mexico at present. Many of Berthold's faculty colleagues who disagreed with him about other issues used the occasion to presumably settle old scores with him. It is sad but understandable to hear that Berthold resigned rather than fight the good fight.

Both of these direct assaults on academic freedom are outrageous and should merit some sort of response. Unfortunately in the America of John Ashcroft and Poindexter's Orwellian spy machine, I'm pretty sure people would prefer to remain quiet about them and I understand that.

The case of KC Johnson raises the most troubling questions for me. Of course, the most obvious reason this case bothers me is that I'm up for tenure and promotion next year. I'm told by my colleagues that I have nothing to worry about but you can't ever help but worry about it. It appears that Johnson's denial of promotion and tenure had nothing to do with his research, teaching or service. He was a victim of department politics it appears. He frequently disagreed with his colleagues over campus issues, even opposing the hiring of a historian he believed to be unqualified. In denying his promotion and tenure, his colleagues pronounced him as being guilty of"uncollegiality."

Ron Radosh's column in defense of Johnson, also here on HNN, raises other interesting questions. The ultimate irony is Radosh speaking in defense of academic freedom. In his columns here at HNN, Radosh routinely denounces academics who disagreewithhim on anything as dangerous anti-American leftists who shouldn't be teaching in universities. It is therefore not hard to imagine Radosh would be quite comfortable at the head of the lynch mob that brought down Berthold if Radosh pronounced him a"dangerous leftist." To have him defend academic freedom is bizarre indeed.

Of course, Radosh's column is awfully illuminating but perhaps not in a way that he meant it to be. Radosh apparently found himself in a similar situation to Johnson's in the CUNY system many years ago. Radosh was denied promotion because an administrator didn't like his (at that time leftist) activism and outspokenness. Radosh was rightfully angry and pursued every option open to him, eventually winning promotion to full professor when the administration backed down in the face of his legal challenges. I had often wondered where Radosh's paranoid mindset about academia came from and this piece certainly explained that quite well. I understand it now at least.

However, all these years later Radosh has now become what he once despised, perhaps worse. Instead of quietly stabbing his enemies in the back like his old nemesis in the administration at Queensborough, Radosh now publicly smears anyone who disagrees with him as"anti-American" and obviously believes, as Cheney and the folks at the University of New Mexico, that academics should tow the ideological line regarding the war on terror.

While I frequently disagree with Radosh, I do believe strongly he has a right to say what he believes. Judging from his columns here at HNN, I have little doubt he would question my patriotism for some of the things I say on this blog. I do wish he would think a bit more about the things he says in his columns. Much of what Radosh says about academics today is uncomfortably similar to the smears perpetrated by McCarthyites against academics in the 1950s and 1960s. While Radosh may espouse academic freedom in his latest column, his words I suspect often have the opposite effect, even flying in the face of that noble goal.

It appears that the academy is under assault from those who want us to confirm the wisdom of W's warmongering foreign policy and blindly celebrate American achievements. In Ashcroft's America I'm not surprised by these developments but I can't help but be very alarmed.

Posted by Tom at 1:10 p.m. CST

SOUNDS LIKE THE FIX IS IN 11-26-02

Here's an interesting story about the judge in the Cheney case. It sounds like the fix is in to me. I mean, heck, he was on the ultimate conservative hypocrite Ken Starr's staff for goodness sakes. Here's a bit of it:

While the Bush administration decides how much privacy Americans should have, John Bates is about to decide how much privacy the Bush White House should have.

U.S. District Judge Bates is putting the final touches on his opinion regarding the White House request to shield the activities of Vice President Cheney's energy task force from the prying eyes of Congress. The ruling is expected to be released within days.

The 56-year-old Bates, after less than a year on the job, is surrounded by powerful crosscurrents as he prepares to rule in Walker v. Cheney, the first-of-a-kind lawsuit brought by Congress's General Accounting Office against the vice president.

Bates is an appointee of President Bush and has many friends in the administration, leading critics of the White House to assume that the fix is in for the Cheney lawsuit. Yet part of Bates's background also gives the GAO reason to hope. Five years ago, he led a fight to force the disclosure of information from a stubborn White House.

As a deputy to Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr in 1997, Bates was a key figure in a case called Office of the President v. Office of Independent Counsel. Bates tried fervently to get the release of White House documents, winning the case when the Supreme Court refused to reconsider an appellate court ruling in Starr's favor.

We'll see of course. If he rules in favor of Cheney, it will be quite obvious that he is yet another conservative hypocrite but that's true about most of the folks in the Federalist Society nowadays, isn't it? They were against big government when it was in the hands of the other party but now it's okay.

Posted by Tom at 9:19 a.m. CST

W'S CYNICAL FLIP-FLOP 11-26-02

Josh Marshall has a good post about how Democrats ought to set aside a little"quiet time":

Elected Democrats and Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill really need to set aside a little time this evening to share some quiet, reflective moments with their own idiocy. Today, to great fanfare, President Bush signed the new law which creates the Department of Homeland Security. He got all sorts of great photos and TV coverage preening for the cameras and so forth. And, yet, this was the Dems' idea. They thought there should be a Department of Homeland Security. They pushed for it. He resisted it. Then he changed his tune and clobbered them with it in the election. How did they let this happen? Time for some quiet time ...

There are few things quite as cynical as stealing an opponents' idea, having to flip-flop to do it to boot, and then cynically lying about your opponent being against his own idea for six weeks in order to win an election. I'm about to decide W and the boys have very few scruples at all. This last election certainly demonstrated as much.

Posted by Tom at 7:53 a.m. CST

IN THE POCKET OF THE SAUDIS
11-25-02

Boy, read this story regarding the bootlicking response of the administration to stories about the Saudis and terror this weekend. Scary stuff, eh? I mean, I know that W's Dad is essentially on the Saudis' payroll but come on!

Of course, my favorite part of the story is when John McCain talks about the Saudi government being"engaged in a Faustian bargain." I like someone who can make literary references like that. Do you think W would even know what McCain meant?

Posted by Tom at 7:55 p.m. CST

WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A HACK
11-25-02

Eric Alterman launches a broadside against George Will today. Here's part of Eric's post today:

Where there’s a Will, there’s a Stalinist. “Gore rewriting history but can’t change truth” is the headline on a George Will column, in which he writes: “When the election ended with George Bush 537 votes ahead, Gore initiated litigation that placed the U.S. Supreme Court in this dilemma.”

It’s hard to read the above without concluding that the man is anything but a deliberately dishonest hack. The Bush campaign initiated legal action in Florida, and it initiated the Supreme Court case that overturned Florida’s laws and a democratic election in a decision so transparently political the court had to insist that it not serve as precedent, lest it destroy the nation’s election laws and leave chaos in its wake. Rewriting history, while accusing others of rewriting history, is time-honored Stalinist tactic, and Will is obviously doing so with full knowledge. Of course, he is merely regurgitating the same tactic that infected so much of the coverage of the Florida fight at the time.

For instance, a day after James Banker complained of his opponents “endless challenges” and “unending legal wrangling” the Bush campaign filed the very first law suit over the election-designed to block any manual recounts, the opening salvo in the very “legal wrangling ” to which Baker alluded. The Washington Post’s headline on the story read, “Both Sides Increase Legal Wrangling As Florida Begins Slow Hand Recount.” But even with 1636 words at their disposal, David S. Broder and Peter Slevin never were able to pinpoint any legal action instigated by the Gore campaign.

Will's column is filled with all of the misleading and intellectually dishonest verbiage that was spewed by Republicans during the election recount battle. I'd forgotten what all of that ridiculous stuff sounded like. Will has kindly reminded me of it once again.

My favorite part is at the end when Will is trying to put lipstick on the pig once again in defending the infamous, indefensible, and anti-democratic Supreme Court ruling. Will sounds pretty ridiculous when he tries to defend it.

Republicans I suspect won't like what historians have to say about this one. I'm confident historians will place Bush v. Gore in its proper category if you know what I mean.

Of course, at least the column in question by Will actually has a discernible, if inherently dishonest, argument. Will's columns are frequently so poorly organized and ponderously written that they don't contain any sort of thesis or identifiable argument at all. Sometimes I wonder how this guy has kept his job over the years.

Admittedly, Will does take good dictation from Republican spinmeisters, so, er, oh, come to think of it, I guess I've just answered my own question. Never mind.

Posted by Tom at 4:18 p.m. CST

SOME MORE READ & DISCUSS 11-25-02

I'm trying madly to finish grading papers before the holiday so I'm a bit busy today. For the time being, I'll give you another reading list.

Read these stories:

  • A good piece by Bob Herbert about the shameful corporate protection provided for Eli Lilly in the Homeland Security Bill

  • This William Raspberry column about W's creation of a Big Brother government

  • This story from the KC Star about Poindexter's Orwellian Spy machine

  • This Joe Conason piece about Poindexter

  • This article about the legally questionable detainments of many by the Bush administration as"material witnesses"

  • This column about the frightening recent Federalist Society meeting -- scary stuff indeed.

Now, as always, discuss.

I hope to post more later today.

Posted by Tom at 11:25 a.m. CST

JUST ANOTHER SHEET OF PAPER 11-24-02

A couple of stories today that demonstrate that W and the boys regard the constitution as just another piece of paper:

The administration is arguing that citizens no longer have the right to remain silent after all.

Yet another editorial about Poindexter's Orwellian Spy Machine -- this one from the Boston Globe.

Where were stories like this the last several months? Before the election I mean? It's a bit late now guys. The horse is out of the barn now.

Posted by Tom at 12:24 p.m. CST

ARGUMENT BY MISREPRESENTATION 11-23-02

Today, Atrios points out how folks who criticize Paul Krugman usually misrepresent his point in order to criticize him. Krugman's latest column is a perfect example:

I should be used to this by now, but why is it that every time Paul Krugman writes a column people misrepresent his point and then proceed to criticize him based on that? Even TAPPED gets into the act.

Look - Krugman isn't attacking Republican nepotism because it is *necessarily* any worse than Democratic nepotism, he's attacking it because it's rather, um,"ironic" that the party of the meritocracy seems so interested in pursuing policies and appointments that amount to affirmative action for their families.

Bingo.

Posted by Tom at 5:51 p.m. CST

OUTRAGEOUS 11-23-02

This is outrageous. It appears the wife of Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States was giving financial assistance to the 9/11 hijackers. Read the story. What I love is that the administration tried to keep this hush-hush because it might threaten Saudi Arabia's support for our upcoming war with Iraq.

Now, just a damn minute folks. It appears this administration -- using its usual moral compass -- is willing to let people off who it appears were DIRECTLY responsible for 9/11 in exchange for support for the war in Iraq. How bizarre and amoral can you get folks?

If all of this is true, this reveals a great deal about this administration. The war on terror is just a convenient election ploy folks. When it comes to going after the real culprits, it appears they'll look the other way if it suits their purposes.

I wish I could say I was surprised but, sadly, I'm not.

Posted by Tom at 10:41 a.m. CST

NO BLACK HELICOPTERS -- YET 11-23-02

Ah, isn't life in W's America great?

The congress Scrooged 1,000,000 unemployed Americans yesterday.

I'm happy to report that some folks are beginning to wake up to Ashcroft's Orwellian Department of Justice. Some are beginning to speak out against it.

Nat Hentoff does so here.

Doug Thompson of Capitol Hill Blue does so in an entertaining rant here.

Speaking of police states and civil rights violations, get this story about the Transportation Security Administration's"No-Fly List."

At the same time, W and the boys are using the Census undercount to continue to concentrate power in the hands of Republicans through inaccurate congressional reapportionment.

But one should remember, W still hasn't fulfilled his most famous promise yet.

But, also remember, there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans!

You didn't need to vote in that midterm election, right?

Posted by Tom at 9:34 a.m. CST

THERE'S SOMETHING SPECIAL IN THE AIR
11-22-02

W, Dick Cheney and the oil companies, er, energy task force have got a great idea: let's make sure the air quality in every city in the nation is just like Houston!

Great.

Just great.

Posted by Tom at 8:08 p.m. CST

RICHARD MELLON SCAIFE'S, ER, LINDA TRIPP'S CHRISTMAS STORE 11-22-02

Our favorite person, Linda Tripp, will shortly be opening a Christmas store. I wonder who financed this little thing? I think I detect yet another Richard Mellon Scaife operation. How about you?

I mean, come on, we know she didn't get the funding because of her personal charm, don't we?

I'm off to help set up the birthday party.

Posted by Tom at 3:58 p.m. CST

THE ARMPIT OF THE WORLD AWAITS 11-22-02

I'm preparing myself mentally for what promises to be a very busy Thanksgiving week. I'll be leaving next Wednesday to drive to Houston (Pasadena to be more precise) to see my grandmother. I'll be driving back on Saturday. That's about 1800 miles folks. It promises to be a long one -- mainly because I'm going to a place that I often refer to as"the armpit of the world."

Now, don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to seeing my grandmother and relatives down there -- even if most of my relatives down there have completed the fascinating and baffling transition from Great Society liberals to G.O.P. conservatives over the last twenty years. I haven't seen them in two years. My grandmother hasn't seen my daughter since she was a baby. It will be great to see them.

However, I must say, that I absolutely detest Houston. I have since I was eight years old and old enough to have an opinion. I have no use for the place. It's dirty and awful. You spend hours in the car just to go to the grocery store. You can see the air. You can smell the air. You can smell the water. The water is often orange-colored. I always feel like a couple of days down there takes about six months off my life. It's like smoking three packs of Marlboros. Every time I go down there I can't help but start counting the hours until I leave because I don't like the place. I hate that but I can't help it. Heck, I even refuse to change planes in Houston!

So, unless Houston has changed, I'm expecting to have those feelings again. Chuck, my old college buddy and current Houstonian, has it changed any in the last two years? Is there anything you'd suggest that I do about my"Houston State of Mind?"

Please, buddy, tell me why I shouldn't be filled with foreboding. Please!

Posted by Tom at 3:47 p.m. CST

WHY DOES KRUGMAN DO IT? 11-22-02

I'm back for a short bit. I have to go help my wife get ready for the birthday party here in about half an hour so I'll do a bit of blogging before I leave.

Here's a good Washington Monthly piece by Nicholas Confessore about Paul Krugman. It turns out that, like the rest of us, Paul Krugman is scared to death by W as well.

Here's a short snippet from the much larger piece:

Krugman's primacy is based largely on his dominance of a particular intellectual niche. As major columnists go, he is almost alone in analyzing the most important story in politics in recent years--the seamless melding of corporate, class, and political party interests at which the Bush administration excels. Like most people, the Washington press, and especially pundits, were slow to grasp the magnitude of the shift. Krugman, whether puncturing the fuzzy math of Bush's tax cut or eviscerating the deceptive accounting behind Bush's Social Security plans or highlighting the corruption behind Dick Cheney's energy task force, has nearly always been the first mainstream writer to describe--and condemn--Bushonomics in plain English.

As an economist, of course, Krugman surely has an edge over most liberal pundits; his sterling academic reputation gives his critiques a punch that few Democratic politicians or liberal editorialists could hope for. But in truth, little that Krugman writes about has relied on his academic expertise. His columns aren't about trade theory or stochastic calculus, but about flagrant deceptions and fourth-grade arithmetic. What makes Krugman interesting, in short, is not just why he writes what he writes. It's why nobody else does.

Did that get you interested? Go read it!

(Link via Atrios)

Posted by Tom at 3:31 p.m. CST

READ AND DISCUSS 11-22-02

It's a busy day -- and my daughter's fourth birthday -- so I'll just give you a few links of interest for now.

Your assignment is to go read these stories:

  • Paul Krugman's column about the return of the American aristocracy

  • This Washington Post piece on potential changes in W's cabinet

  • This E.J. Dionne column about Bush's shortsighted politicization of domestic security -- I like the last sentence, it reminds me of W's hysterical"Fool me once" thing in Tennessee a few weeks back.

  • Another story about the special Christmas gift W and the boys are providing for the jobless

  • This rather pointed editorial about said Christmas gift

Discuss.

Posted by Tom at 9:49 a.m. CST

GEORGE'S SONG 11-22-02

A friend of mine sent this to me. You may have seen it but I think it's pretty amusing.

This is to be sung to the tune"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."

Here goes:

"George's Song"

If we cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets hurt your Mama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi
And the bank takes back your Audi
And the TV shows are bawdy,
Bomb Iraq.

If the corporate scandals growin', bomb Iraq.
And your ties to them are showin', bomb Iraq.
If the smoking gun ain't smokin'
We don't care, and we're not jokin'.
That Saddam will soon be croakin',
Bomb Iraq.

Even if we have no allies, bomb Iraq.
From the sand dunes to the valleys, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections;
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions,
Bomb Iraq.

While the globe is slowly warming, bomb Iraq.
Yay! the clouds of war are storming, bomb Iraq.
If the ozone hole is growing,
Some things we prefer not knowing.
(Though our ignorance is showing),
Bomb Iraq.

So here's one for dear old daddy, bomb Iraq,
From his favorite little laddy, bomb Iraq.
Saying no would look like treason.
It's the Hussein hunting season.
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

Posted by Tom at 8:39 a.m. CST

GREENSPAN: FROM GOO-GOO TO PARTISAN HACK 11-22-02

In this excellent piece at Slate by Daniel Gross, he traces Greenspan's transformation from deficit hawk to G.O.P. hack. This article is eerily reminiscent of an earlier post of mine on the subject. Is Gross reading this blog? I'm sure not but the parallels between the two are interesting.

Isn't it interesting how quickly the Republicans jettisoned their fiscal conservatism to become spendthrifts? It certainly tells you how truly committed they are to their economic principles, doesn't it?

Of course, the G.O.P.'s hypocritical actions remind us on a daily basis that there are very few things they are truly committed to -- beyond tax cut payoffs to their rich contributors of course.

There are many on Wall Street that are already saying openly that this administration has one of the weakest economic and fiscal policy teams of the last hundred years. It isn't just the Democrats who are drawing parallels between W and Herbert Hoover on economic policy.

Posted by Tom at 8:21 a.m. CST

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 11-21-02

To all of you unemployed out there: Here's an extra special Christmas present from W, Dick Cheney, Trent Lott, Tom Delay and the other caring and kind men and women in the G.O.P.

Posted by Tom at 7:21 p.m. CST

MISTAKEN IDENTITY 11-21-02

P.L.A. has a great (but long) post today. He discusses Gore's recent return to the public eye. He determines that, judging from the last couple of years, there is a candidate that has a problem telling the truth and is constantly reinventing himself.

And, contrary to what you may have read, it's not Al Gore.

Posted by Tom at 2:53 p.m. CST

IT GETS BETTER 11-21-02

The Instapundit / Burk / Tapped thing gets even better today.

I'm really beginning to wonder if Reynolds can fit his head through doors. He's posted a couple of updates in which he insists that, by gum, he's not going to admit he was wrong about anything! Also, as a further means of obfuscation, he accuses others of obfuscation. What do you call it when the fellow practicing obfuscation accuses others of obfuscation? Oh no, I've gone cross-eyed.

This is getting awfully entertaining though, watching Reynolds say anything imaginable to avoid admitting he did anything wrong. I keep waiting for him to explode into a fit of anger any minute now.

You'll also be happy to know that Reynolds announces, in his usual self-important way, that he's off to the (incredibly important) Yale Blog Conference though.

A bunch of righties and poor lonely Josh Marshall -- yeah, that's a representative blog conference! Atrios? Hesiod? Were their invitations lost in the mail?

Someone there be sure and ask him about Martha Burk, will you? I wonder if the distinguished bloggers at Yale will be treated to a full-blown temper tantrum.

Posted by Tom at 12:21 p.m. CST

THE COMMONWEALTH OF DEATH 11-21-02

Marie Cocco writes today about frightening Ashcroft's habit of using Virginia for its death penalty. Here's a brief snippet from it:

The citizens of the commonwealth of Virginia are Attorney General John Ashcroft's chosen people.

He chose them to decide the fate of Zacarias Moussaoui, the admitted al-Qaida member who awaits trial as the alleged"20th hijacker" of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Moussaoui first came under federal suspicion in Minnesota, where he was, in fact, detained at the time of the massacre. He could, most certainly, have been charged in New York, epicenter of the attack and home to a team of federal prosecutors with long experience in successfully prosecuting terrorists.

But Ashcroft wanted Moussaoui in Virginia.

That is where he also shipped the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh. Lindh committed no crime in Virginia, didn't live there or pass through on his journey from Northern California to Afghanistan.

But Ashcroft put Lindh in Virginia. He thought, at the time, that the Lindh case would end not in a plea bargain but in the death chamber.

I know many legal scholars who believe Ashcroft's shopping around for a" commonwealth of death" more to his liking is reprehensible, if not illegal or unconstitutional itself.

Posted by Tom at 11:44 a.m. CST

THANK YOU COLIN POWELL! 11-21-02

Mary McGrory's column this morning is quite interesting. Referring to Bob Woodward's forthcoming book, she credits Colin Powell with forestalling the war -- for a while. Here's a bit of it:

Powell apparently did not go into any of that. He didn't tell the president not to go to war; he told him how to go to war in a politically correct way. The president must, despite his disdain for international institutions, go to the United Nations, which his right-wing base loves to hate. It would be wonderful if Woodward could tell us that Powell tried to stop a war; but the secretary only tried to put it off for a couple of weeks and provide a fig leaf for the first American first-strike operation.

Bill Clinton, whose name is never mentioned without a sneer in the Oval Office, told us in October that his pal Tony Blair performed a similar office for George W. Bush. At a Labor Party conference in Blackpool, England, Clinton told the cheering crowd that their prime minister had relieved Bush of his chaps and his lariat as the president was prepared to gallop off to the brink of unilateral military action. Blair stood by beaming, his expression proclaiming that he was hearing words that were music to his ears.

There is, of course, the school of thought that believes that Bush's war talk is just that, and that his progress from"regime change" to"disarmament" underlines the authenticity of Bush's intermittent insistence that war is"not inevitable." War with Hussein was the thrilling, if unnerving, campaign weapon that brought Hussein to his knees and the voters to the polls.

The Weekly Standard, court circular of the Cakewalk Corps -- that circle of macho civilians, led by Richard Perle, who believe Baghdad would kiss the first tank it saw -- has been gleefully running stories about Democrats' failure to appreciate a lovely little war, and about Europe's generic spinelessness. But in the face of U.N. inspections, the editors write that the machinations of"senior State Department officials" they won't even name have eroded Bush's position"not terminally, but worryingly."

We'll know more later, obviously. Meanwhile, thanks to Woodward, we have learned anew that the secretary of state is a patient and humble man, not easily put off. He persevered until he got two uninterrupted hours with the president to persuade him to try diplomacy instead of bombs. And aren't we lucky that the commander in chief listened? Powell may not be the perfect peacenik, but he'll have to do until the real thing comes along.

Bully for Mr. Powell. I'm glad to hear he had the moxie to face down the chickenhawks -- for the time being of course.

This post also appears on Stand Down.

Posted by Tom at 11:36 a.m. CST

OH, THAT'S BETTER 11-21-02

The administration is assuring us that the surveillance system (Poindexter's Orwellian spy machine) will eventually be moved to the Justice Department.

So Ashcroft will be in charge of it instead of Poindexter.

That makes me feel SO much better.

Folks, I don't think we need to be on the lookout for unmarked black helicopters -- yet.

But stay tuned.

Update: I mentioned this agency to my two classes today. I just described the program and didn't say much else about it. It took about five seconds for my students to begin asking me why this isn't being viewed as a rather obvious violation of our civil rights.

I didn't have a good answer for them.

Update 2: Richard Cohen has a good column on this today as well.

Posted by Tom at 11:09 a.m. CST

READ AND DISCUSS 11-21-02

While I'm between classes for ten minutes, I wanted to point out three quick things you should go read this morning:

  • This account of the recent dust-up between Rush Limbaugh and Tom Daschle. Limbaugh responds in the usual ridiculous way.

  • This excellent piece about the threats to our civil liberties posed by a recent ruling by a secret intelligence court.

  • This story in the Washington Post about Gore's recent dead-on comments about Bush's dog-wagging for the elections.

Now, discuss.

Posted by Tom at 9:33 a.m. CST

POINDEXTER'S SPY MACHINE 11-21-02

Here's a story -- from Faux News no less -- containing the latest excuses for the convicted felon's Orwellian spy system. As one would expect from Faux, it's pretty (sym)pathetic.

We should all be very afraid folks. Big brother truly is watching. You'll notice, by the way, that they plan to monitor firearms purchases -- are the gun"enthusiasts" listening? Your little buddy W just betrayed you. He took your money first of course.

Posted by Tom at 7:55 a.m. CST

HE STILL DOESN'T GET IT 11-20-02

Glenn Reynolds still doesn't get it -- or is still being willfully opaque about the Martha Burk column.

If you haven't been following this, go here and here.

Of course, I'm afraid the real issue here is that Glenn is thin-skinned and has a big ego. He doesn't want to admit that he's either humorless, didn't get the joke the first time around, or didn't really read Burk's piece before posting about it. He also doesn't want to admit that he became part of yet another righty-blog campaign to ridiculously distort a liberal's argument.

I have had e-mail exchanges with several bloggers who are just fascinated by all of the obfuscational gymnastics he's employing to avoid admitting that he was wrong about the article's argument and that he took it the wrong way.

This is why, if you're a responsible blogger, you always go and read the original article first before posting anything about it -- no matter how reliable you believe your secondary source to be. As a historian, that's always a cardinal rule. The same should go for bloggers as well. Everything Reynolds is doing and saying is apparently to avoid admitting that he didn't read the article until after Kevin Drum (CalPundit) contacted him.

I'm also rapidly growing tired of the pathetic conservative"victimhood" argument that" conservatives couldn't do this."

Give me a break.

That argument's purpose, consciously or unconsciously, is to serve as a distraction.

Come on man, just admit you didn't read the article and took someone else's word for its contents and move on. It's not that hard to do.

We all make mistakes. I know I do.

Posted by Tom at 4:07 p.m. CST

WAR AS A POLITICAL WEAPON 11-20-02

Joe Conason has a good blog entry today about how Rove and conservatives are using the war for political ends primarily. That's why prominent conservative critics of the war get a free pass and liberal critics get branded unpatriotic.

Here's a bit of it:

Perhaps the most prominent conservative dissenter is Robert Novak, dark prince of the hard right, who voices serious misgivings about the war so many of his fellow conservatives are so eager to begin. On Monday, the"Crossfire" host told a group of students at Northwestern that he is worried by the prospect of a long and painful war."If we attack Iraq, hatred would continue," he said."If we don't, we are told [Saddam Hussein] will stockpile weapons. But I don't think Saddam is suicidal. I think he likes the good life." Hmm. Doesn’t Novak sound as if he blames the United States for arousing anger in the Arab world, and thinks we should just leave Saddam alone?

Yet he enjoys complete immunity, for a simple, cynical reason."War" is a political weapon that Republicans have been using against Democrats since Karl Rove openly declared this strategy last winter. Ideological enforcers like Horowitz are instruments of Rove's strategy, which succeeded brilliantly in the midterm election. Rove's aim is to destroy Democrats, not libertarians, whose support he will be seeking on domestic issues next year.

That's why Novak, Bandow and Cato -- usually allies rather than adversaries of the White House – get a free pass no matter what they say about foreign policy. And that's also why the"patriotic" bullies of the right will angrily assault any liberal or leftist who dares to say exactly the same things.

It's a good post. You should read it. I'm still waiting for the administration to suspiciously back off on the war effort -- so as to save it for the re-election campaign year in 2004. Again, my colleagues that follow these things say this war cranks up next year. We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 3:41 p.m. CST

SOME MORE INFANTILE FISKING 11-20-02

Jeff Cooper points us to yet another example of righty bloggers' juvenile fascination with "Fisking."

Jeff also points us to this wonderful post by CalPundit about it. I addressed this as well at about the same time in a longer post about the nature of the righty blogosphere. Kevin ultimately argues that Fiskers are

[c]hildish, petulant, ignorant, and willfully trying to miss the bigger point. Almost autistic in the certainty that their hyper-rationalism has dealt a devastating logical blow to their safely-out-of-sight opponent.
Indeed.

Posted by Tom at 3:11 p.m. CST

THE MYTH OF RUNAWAY GOVERNMENT
11-20-02

CalPundit has a great post on the myth of runaway government. Like other conservative myths, such as the liberal media, the imagined stimulative economic effects of tax cuts for the rich and the"soft on comun..., er, terrorism" Democrats, he finds this one has no basis in fact.

It makes me wonder: is there anything conservatives believe that really is true? I mean, once you strip off the shiny rhetorical veneer (via Faux News of course) that these guys put on things, there's usually very little else there factually.

Just an observation.

Posted by Tom at 1:01 p.m. CST

JOSH MARSHALL ON DAVID HOROWITZ
11-20-02

Sometimes someone says something so perfectly, you just have to post it and say nothing else. Here goes:

But one of the best ways to judge someone's moral and intellectual seriousness -- perhaps also their moral and intellectual caliber, but at least their seriousness -- is to see who they pick as their enemies, who they choose to pick fights with. Someone like David Horowitz is a great example of the effectiveness of this method -- a sorry sort of guy, bubbling on churning rapids of cash, constantly casting about for some new lefty freak to mount a new crusade against, all mixed-up with aggrieved passion and outrage. The whole enterprise is about as grave and righteous as tricking retarded grade-schoolers out of their lunch money.

Posted by Tom at 9:46 a.m. CST

W AND HARRY POTTER 11-20-02

Mark Kleiman has a post today about Harry Potter that's worth reading. I'll quote the most entertaining passage of it:

Having defended Harry from his attackers, it is also necessary to defend him from his defenders. Glenn Reynolds likens him to (yes, you guessed it) George W. Bush.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Harry, engaged in a contest he desperately wants to win, shares information he has been improperly given with a rival, to avoid gaining an unfair advantage. (Think the South Carolina primary.) When a judge gives Harry an unfairly high score, Harry protests. (Think Florida.) He intervenes to spare the life of the man whose betrayal led to the deaths of his parents. (Think of the governor who laughed as he told about refusing a condemned prisoner’s plea for mercy -- and then lied about having laughed -- and who never rejected a death warrant or took more than 15 minutes to decide to sign one.) He tries to give away the fortune he won fair and square to the parents of the rival who died trying for the prize. (Think Harken Energy.)

Yes, there’s a George W. Bush character in the Harry Potter books – a spoiled, self-indulgent rich kid with limited talent but an important father, who avoids hard work and personal danger, never misses a chance to kick a rival when he’s down or to make fun of the suffering of those he dislikes, and allies with a faction devoted to maintaining inherited privilege. Why, his last name even means"bad faith." How appropriate.

Now Mark, don't keep it in now, tell us how you really feel!

Posted by Tom at 9:33 a.m. CST

THE LESSONS OF MCCARTHYISM 11-20-02

Jeff Cooper has a great post on just what is wrong with giving the government too much surveillance power. Michael Finley also has a good post on this as well.

Both of these posts got me to thinking. I just taught about McCarthyism last week in my survey course and it was amazing -- and a bit disquieting -- the amount of plausible connections I could draw to the present. In 1952, Republicans used McCarthyist scare tactics to sweep to power despite the fact that there were no major economic problems at the time.

Now, W and the boys didn't have that sort of success with their smear tactics. And, make no mistake, there were McCarthyistic smears in this campaign. The commercials about Max Cleland alone deserve to go down in political infamy (and, knowing political historians, they will, don't worry). However, there's an important reason the Republicans couldn't ride the McCarthy approach to great success. The economy was too much on people's minds.

As one gets further away from the midterms, the historical perspective becomes clearer on them. One needs to remember that Republicans played a 2-1 money advantage and a $16M taxpayer-subsidized three-week-long presidential campaign to a very modest gain of a couple of Senate seats and six house seats. The economy was too big of an issue for any larger gains. I guess the most frightening thing to me is that these guys were willing to use such diabolical tactics merely to hang on to power. It is obvious that this raises certain basic ethical questions about the administration and Republicans in general but that's not my main point here.

Let's return to the historical parallel that started this post. Like their counterparts in the 1950s, Republicans today have also shown that, despite what they say about protecting America and securing freedom, they are not very serious about this at all. As in the 1950s, the policies they pursue actually threaten the freedom that you and I currently have instead of protecting it.

Republicans apparently haven't learned the most important historical lesson of the 1950s. While McCarthyism allowed Republicans to achieve certain political ends, the central historical lesson of the era is that the U.S. government actually curtailed freedom in the name of protecting it. The Bush administration's policies threaten to repeat that major mistake.

If the administration's policies continue to go down the path of curtailing the basic freedoms of Americans, W and the boys should be prepared for the rather harsh verdict of history that is surely to come.

And that's one thing I am certain about -- historians won't let this one get by them at all.

Posted by Tom at 8:48 a.m. CST

MORE ON THE FAUX NEWS CHANNEL 11-19-02

The New York Times today runs an amusing piece by Alessandra Stanley about the recently unearthed letter to W and the boys by Roger Ailes of the"fair and balanced" Faux News Channel. Here's a bit of it:

Ever since Mr. Ailes changed jobs from Republican strategist to news executive, he has demanded to be treated as an unbiased journalist, not a conservative spokesman. But the cable channel he controls has an undisguised ideological agenda, which has made his protestations a bit puzzling.

All along, the Fox motto"fair and balanced" was less a newsroom mantra than the kind of first-strike media strategy that worked so well for the Republican Party when Mr. Ailes was advising the first Bush administration. Mr. Ailes uses it as a bludgeon against his cable news rivals much the way he helped George Bush use Willie Horton to keep Gov. Michael S. Dukakis on the defensive in the 1988 presidential election.

By tirelessly insisting that all other cable or network news organizations are driven by a liberal bias, Mr. Ailes casts his own network as the centrist voice of reason. In some ways, his tactics worked: last year, CNN was so worried about its own image and defecting viewers that it tried to hire the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. Ailes said today that his memo, which was described by its recipient, the chief White House political adviser, Karl Rove, in a new book, was a personal cri de coeur about Sept. 11 and not strategy advice for President Bush. That would be a little like the Houston heart surgeon Michael DeBakey giving a second opinion to a colleague under pressure to operate and later calling it a routine thank you note.

Even the most doctrinaire Democrats would concede that there is room in the United States news media for a conservative cable news network. What galled even some right wingers was Mr. Ailes's refusal to accept the label. (Despite a political career that began with serving Richard M. Nixon, Mr. Ailes is so allergic to the label of former Republican strategist that he once urged a reporter for The New York Times who was seeking his views to exclude any mention of his work for Ronald Reagan or George Bush because it was"irrelevant.")

Fox News has a loyal base of viewers, mostly white, middle-class, Republican and religious, but as a scrappy, flamboyant latecomer it has also worked hard to increase its ratings.

Its coverage is aggressive, its commentary vivid, and on an average day, a Fox News broadcast is like a hyperbolic big city tabloid — always loud, sometimes amusing and sometimes amusingly shameless — a video version of The New York Post, its sibling in the conservative media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch. After mocking Fox when it started up in 1996, CNN and MSNBC are now scrambling behind it in the ratings.

Building on this post and my recent wisecracks about Faux News and the right-wing blogosphere, I refer you to an old post of mine from about six weeks ago on the subject. I know that I've gained a lot of readers since I wrote this post, so I'll send you to it for my views on this subject. Long-time readers are aware of my views but this post lays it out in much more detail for those new to the blog. While I'm at it, here's another post from almost two months ago about war blogs and"reasoned debate" as well.

On a related note, a perfect recent example of the right wing blogosphere's lunacy is this rocket scientist's war blog that lists me (although he's obviously not much of a detail guy because he gets the name of the blog wrong), as get this, an"enemy." High I.Q. stuff, right?

I do warn you though that after you read this blog you may feel the desire to take a shower. I know I did.

Posted by Tom at 9:41 p.m. CST

LIES, DECEPTIONS, AND IRAQWAR PART I
11-19-02

A good friend of mine who is a trained demographer, sent me an e-mail recommending this paper by a demographer, Beth Osborne Daponte, about death estimates in the Gulf War. It's pretty interesting. Suffice it to say that professional demographers believe we're being lied to by our government with regard to civilian deaths in IraqWar Part I as well.

Daponte, then working as a researcher at the Census Bureau in 1992, found herself in a world of hurt when her estimates were too high for the Department of Defense's liking:

March 6, 1992: The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Census Bureau demographer assigned to estimate the number of Iraqis killed during the Gulf War will be fired. Beth Osborne Daponte estimates that 86,000 men, 40,000 women and 32,000 children died at the hands of American-led coalition forces, during the domestic rebellions that followed and from postwar deprivation. After various protests, the Bureau rescinds the firing but rewrites the report, lowering the death toll and removing the data on women and children. The following month, the Pentagon published its three-volume official history of the war, but a draft chapter on casualties is deleted and there is no mention of Iraqi deaths. (The London Independent, April 23, 1992).

In short, Poppy's administration was very dishonest about civilian and military deaths in the first war.

Of course, this means we should all trust what we're being told about civilian deaths in Afghanistan now, right?

With W the sock puppet in charge, it's safe to say you can expect a heaping helping of lies and deceptions about Afghanistan and, when it begins, IraqWar Part II.

This administration lies about the little stuff, like whether the president consults polls before making important policy decisions. I can only imagine the whoppers they'll try to tell when faced with the unpleasant realities of a genuine war.

Update: Counterspin readers, be sure to read the other post (and follow the links) below to find out even more about this.

Posted by Tom at 3:50 p.m. CST

THE MIRAGE OF PRIVATIZATION 11-19-02

Paul Krugman has a good column today about the shell game being played by W and the boys regarding privatization.

Here's some of it:

After all, there's a lot of experience with privatization by governments at all levels — state, federal, and local; that record doesn't support extravagant claims about improved efficiency. Sometimes there are significant cost reductions, but all too often the promised savings turn out to be a mirage. In particular, it's common for private contractors to bid low to get the business, then push their prices up once the government work force has been disbanded. Projections of a 20 or 30 percent cost saving across the board are silly — and one suspects that the officials making those projections know that.

So what's this about?

First, it's about providing political cover. In the face of budget deficits as far as the eye can see, the administration — determined to expand, not reconsider the program of tax cuts it initially justified with projections of huge surpluses — must make a show of cutting spending. Yet what can it cut? The great bulk of public spending is either for essential services like defense and the justice system, or for middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare that the administration doesn't dare attack openly.

Privatizing federal jobs is a perfect answer to this dilemma. It's not a real answer — the pay of those threatened employees is only about 2 percent of the federal budget, so efficiency gains from privatization, even if they happen, will make almost no dent in overall spending. For a few years, however, talk of privatization will give the impression that the administration is doing something about the deficit.

But distracting the public from the reality of deficits is, we can be sure, just an incidental payoff. So, too, is the fact that privatization is a way to break one of the last remaining strongholds of union power. Karl Rove is after much bigger game.

A few months ago Mr. Rove compared his boss to Andrew Jackson. As some of us noted at the time, one of Jackson's key legacies was the"spoils system," under which federal jobs were reserved for political supporters. The federal civil service, with its careful protection of workers from political pressure, was created specifically to bring the spoils system to an end; but now the administration has found a way around those constraints.

We don't have to speculate about what will follow, because Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records,"his bold experiment has been a success — at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations."

Ah, sounds like Bush-style cronyism to me! And wouldn't it be great if W and the boys could treat all of the federal government as their very own political favor machine?

We really are returning to the Gilded Age, aren't we?

Well, I'll look on the bright side. Since that's my area of expertise, at least I'll know what's coming.

Posted by Tom at 11:38 a.m. CST

"PORKLAND" SECURITY BILL CLOSE TO PASSAGE 11-19-02

The amendment to strip the special interest provisions from the Homeland Security Bill (or as Hesiod calls it, the "Porkland Security Bill") has been defeated.

Did you know that protecting Republican benefactor Eli Lilly from lawsuits was an important matter of Homeland Security? I must confess that I didn't.

The Republicans in congress have been shamelessly passing out pork since 1994. What's a little more going to hurt, right? Did you know the Republican congresses have more than tripled the amount of money spent on pork barrel programs since they took over congress in 1994?

Restoring Honor and Dignity, right?

Posted by Tom at 11:30 a.m. CST

NOT MY COMMANDER 11-19-02

Bob Woodward's piece in the Post yesterday included this pearl of wisdom from W:

"I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

Gee, someone's just a wee bit full of himself, don't you think?

Posted by Tom at 11:13 a.m. CST

THE ART OF MODERN WAR 11-19-02

As we prepare to go to war again, it's a good idea to review the atrocities and apparent cover-up that happened in Gulf War Part I.

So, go read this and this.

Posted by Tom at 9:33 a.m. CST

POINDEXTER THE SNOOP 11-19-02

The New York Timesweighs in today on the wisdom of turning all of our personal information over to a convicted felon.

How much more creepy and Orwellian can this administration get, anyway?

Update: Check out this creepy logo for Poindexter's office. It looks pretty Orwellian, doesn't it? (Link via Jake Sexton)

Posted by Tom at 9:28 a.m. CST

BOB KNIGHT SUES IU 11-18-02

Once again, Bob Knight, until recently the basketball coach at my doctoral alma mater, is making a fool of himself. He's suing IU for $2M. How petty can you get? He, I believe, is still being paid by IU but he's decided to sue the university anyway. It's the"principle" of the thing I'm sure he'd say.

Now, I must confess, that I always had a grudging respect for Knight because he really does graduate his players. He believed that his players should get degrees and, if you stayed in Bob Knight's program, you generally got a degree at the end of your fourth year. Now, I know, these guys weren't taking the toughest class schedule (the basketball coaches always knew the easiest classes and filled them with basketball players), but he still graduated them if they stuck with the program. In the cesspool that is Division I basketball these days that is damn-near phenomenal. Knight also raised millions of dollars for the library every year as well. That part of Knight's Jekyl and Hyde personality was always his strong suit.

However, Knight always had his dark side as well. I watched part of a practice in the fall of 1992 (when IU was supposed to be one of the top teams in the nation) and I was shocked at the abusive manner that Knight had in practice. It was an hour of non-stop shouting and screaming. During my four years in Bloomington, Knight always appeared to bully his players and I didn't like that. I understood why young players didn't want any of that.

Like many IU alums I suspect, when IU fired Knight I was actually relieved. I didn't have to see him associated with my alma mater anymore and have to undergo the requisite needling that went along with it.

Strangely, my parents went to Texas Tech and have now begun to cheer for Knight's Tech squad. I keep telling them that it's only a matter of time before he goes ballistic there. And, with what appears to be another coddling university administration that is catering to Knight's every whim, the explosion is actually likely to come sooner rather than later. Of course, like a ticking time bomb, we all can't help but watch, fascinated, waiting for the inevitable.

For his players' sake, I really hope it doesn't happen.

Unfortunately, we all know it will, don't we?

Posted by Tom at 7:16 p.m. CST

HATEFUL PRESS CORPS SHARPENS KNIVES FOR AL GORE 11-18-02

The Daily Howler has a good column today about the press and Al Gore. Here's some of it:

HOW TO SPIN GORE (PART 1): On the Thursday before the election, Al Gore appeared with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend at a Maryland get-out-the-vote event. In the next day’s Washington Times, Bill Sammon limned Albert’s performance. “Mr. Gore played stand-up comedian and turnout booster to a mostly black audience of several hundred at Bowie State College,” Sammon said. According to Sammon, that audience “could not stop laughing during his speech.” Over at the Baltimore Sun, Stephanie Desmon told the same tale. Gore “may have a future in stand-up,” she wrote; “he sure got a lot of laughs.” Like Sammon, Desmon recorded a string of Gore’s jokes—the same jokes he used on last Friday’s Letterman. At Bowie, “a comedian was on hand to warm up the crowd, not that they needed it,” Desmon said.

For the record, that unneeded comic was “San Francisco democrat” Will Durst, whom we had driven to the event. Indeed, our entire staff was on hand with ol’ Will; for that reason, we can confirm the jocular nature of Gore’s remarks. Gore rattled a string of jokes about Election 2000—and the college kids somehow figured that out. But a group of Big Pundits, spinning large, were oddly unable to do so.

That’s right, kids. On the next evening’s Special Report, the stars had some Big Spin to sell. Tony Snow played tape of one of Gore’s jokes. The official Fox transcript records audience [LAUGHTER]. But how did the all-stars spin the veep’s mood? Gore’s “a bitter man,” they all said:

KONDRACKE (11/1/02): You know, what’s happened is that Al Gore announced that he was going to let it rip. And so anything he feels—and anything he says, he is going to come out, you know? And so—and obviously, what burns him still is Florida. He thinks he deserves the presidency, that people were disenfranchised, that he was robbed. And so—

SNOW: A bitter man.

JEFF BIRNBAUM: Yes.

Phew! It just doesn’t get any dumber. Gore is “a bitter man,” the shrinks said. According to Sammon, the audience “couldn’t stop laughing” at Gore. At Fox, they wiped the grin off his face.

Read the rest of the column. It's quite good. The Howler always has insightful commentary on our worthless corporate-owned media.

You'd better get ready folks. The nabobs of the Washington press corps are preparing to begin yet another round of character assassination of Al Gore. Their biased coverage of Gore (whom, I'll admit, I'm still not that wild about) helped to hand the election to W. Oh wait, come to think of it, it actually required the Supreme Court to hand the election to W. But, anyway, the hatred for Gore in the press corps is nearly as virulent as Tony Snow's and Kondracke's for Bill Clinton, so it promises to get ugly if Gore runs again for the presidency.

Posted by Tom at 4:42 p.m. CST

RIDICULOUS 11-18-02

Is this not a ridiculous post from you-know-who? I can't believe one would ever post something this ridiculous and needlessly inflammatory.

His blog is rapidly becoming bereft of anything meaningful, you know? What passes for intellectual commentary over there is pretty weak these days. I guess I should ask the obvious question now: was it ever very strong? Did I miss some"golden era" or something?

When I started this blogging thing I thought Reynolds was okay. I'm rapidly beginning to realize that I don't anymore.

Sorry, just venting out loud about the supposed brightest star of the blogosphere. As I blog more and more I find that I read him less and less.

And I'm guessing that's a good thing.

Posted by Tom at 3:31 p.m. CST

FURTHER PROOF OF THE FRAUDULENCE OF THE FAUX NEWS CHANNEL 11-18-02

From Bob Woodward's forthcoming book:

Roger E. Ailes, a media coach for Bush's father and now chairman of the Fox News Channel, sent a confidential communication to the White House in the weeks after the terrorist attacks. Rove took the Ailes communication to the president."His back-channel message: The American public would tolerate waiting and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible," Woodward wrote. He added that Ailes, who has angrily challenged reports that his news channel has a conservative bias, added a warning:"Support would dissipate if the public did not see Bush acting harshly."

This is from the guy who claims that he's running a"news network" where"we report, you decide." Gee, what more evidence do you need that Faux News is just a propaganda arm of the Bush White House than Ailes providing P.R. advice for W and the boys?

Not that I'm surprised at all of course.

And I'm sure you're not either.

(Link via Joe Conason's Journal and Atrios)

Update: David Frum, better known as the genius who came up with the childish moniker"Axis of Evil," is blasting away at Colin Powell as one of the major sources for Woodward's book, even going so far as suggesting that Powell resign.

I'm sure Powell will want to take career advice from a fired speechwriter who couldn't keep his mouth shut and thus lost his cushy position. Not to worry though, like W, Frum has failed upward. He's now got what I'm sure is an even cushier job at a right-wing thinktank.

Posted by Tom at 1:52 p.m. CST

DESPITE HIS AVOWALS, W CHEAPS OUT ON HOMELAND SECURITY 11-18-02

Jonathan Alter has a good article about W's lame budget for Homeland Security on MSNBC over the weekend.

I'll quote a bit of the article:

We already know that the administration is in no particular hurry on homeland security, especially if it can be exploited politically. In early 2001, a commission chaired by former Sens. Gary Hart and Warren Rudman issued a report calling for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security. It was largely ignored until after September 11, when Democrats and a few Republicans pushed for a new, Cabinet-level department, and the White House was adamantly opposed.

For nine months after September 11, Bush continued his opposition, before adopting the Hart-Rudman idea as his own. Then, this fall, the parties disagreed over how easy it should be to fire employees of the new department. I happened to think the GOP was right on this one, and the Democrats wrong for carrying the water of the government employees unions. But the fact remains that when Sen. John Breaux, a conservative Democrat, offered a reasonable compromise, the White House rejected it. Bush preferred to use the issue politically (to devastating effect in Georgia, where Sen. Max Cleland, who lost his re-election bid, was accused of delaying the department) rather than get the thing done. After delaying for months, he had the nerve to attack Democrats like Cleland for delaying. And it worked.

Since the election, the logjam has been broken and a new Department of Homeland Security will be in place soon. That’s good news. But the money to fund the programs of the new department is still hung up in continuing resolutions, and is too stingy to begin with. The blame for that — and for the overall slowness of our efforts to secure this country — rests mostly with President Bush.

If something terrible happens, remember, W's the one who's been dragging his heels on this. He spent months slowing it down actually, so he could use it as a political weapon in the midterm elections.

How cynical and full of shit is that?

Restoring Honor and Dignity.

Right.

Posted by Tom at 10:58 a.m. CST

WESLEY CLARK IN 2004? 11-18-02

This Time article about Wesley Clark's presidential aspirations is certainly quite interesting. I'll quote it here:

Are dyspeptic Democrats ready to turn to a military man for leadership? Retired four-star general Wesley Clark, who has been famously opaque about his party preference and political future, met privately last week in New York City with a group of high-rolling Democrats and told them he was seriously considering a run for the White House, sources tell TIME. Lunching with about 15 Democratic donors and fund raisers at the Park Avenue offices of venture capitalist Alan Patricof, a strong Gore backer in '00 who is neutral so far for '04, Clark laid out his credentials and his differences with George W. Bush. A Rhodes scholar who fought in Vietnam and served as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 1997 to 2000, Clark said the U.S. should finish routing al-Qaeda before taking on Iraq and criticized Bush for being too dismissive of nonwar options there. Commander of NATO's war in Kosovo in 1999, Clark, who juggled the interests of 19 member nations, also took issue with what he sees as Bush's go-it-alone style.

Clark, 57, is an investment banker in Little Rock, Ark., and a commentator for CNN. In an interview with TIME, he wouldn't discuss his plans or the lunch."I haven't made any decision to run, I haven't declared I'm a member of any political party, I haven't raised any money," he said, adding that he has been traveling the country, talking to groups about developing an American"global vision for the 21st century."

One question at the lunch was whether Clark has the stomach for the attacks his candidacy would draw from the military enemies he made during the Kosovo war, despite its success. Clark's book Waging Modern War was tough on many at the Pentagon, including then Defense Secretary William Cohen, who replaced Clark before his tour was up. Still, Clark might be an attractive new face for the Democrats."It's clear the public today doesn't think Democrats are as strong on national security as the G.O.P.," said a source who attended the lunch."He has the capacity to negate that argument."

I don't know what to think about this guy. I just present it for your perusal.

Posted by Tom at 10:10 a.m. CST

WORST CASE SCENARIO 11-18-02

Conservative columnist Steve Chapman has a good column today about what could go wrong in a war with Iraq. Here's a snippet:

Wouldn't it be nice to be rid of Saddam Hussein? That's how the Bush administration has managed to frame the debate over war with Iraq. In its cheerful scenario, there really won't be much of a fight: Our peerless military will crush all resistance, the Iraqi army will quickly disintegrate, the dictator will meet his just fate, and Iraq will enter the community of civilized nations under American tutelage.

The administration must be employing some of those executives from Enron and Arthur Andersen, who could double-book revenues while making costs disappear, yielding a sunny outlook in good times and bad. If things go according to plan, the war with Iraq will be short and almost painless. But there are other possibilities that have not been spelled out to the American people--who may wake up one day to horrors they never imagined.

The United Nations' push to get Iraq to admit weapons inspectors may have lulled Americans into thinking that war will be averted. But the Bush administration clearly expects that Hussein is merely stalling, and that sooner or later he will balk. And that will mean war.

So we ought to remember Murphy's Law and consider the potential pitfalls. Among them: A global recession brought on by a spike in oil prices. Bloody house-to-house fighting in the streets of Baghdad. A civil war among contending groups in Iraq after Hussein is gone. A long and difficult occupation in which American forces become the targets of indigenous rebels and Al Qaeda fighters. Unrest that brings radicals to power in oil-rich Saudi Arabia or nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Those are only the beginning. No one has paid much attention to the recent revelation that U.S. intelligence officials are convinced Iraq has stocks of smallpox germs. Once we invade, it would be no surprise to see outbreaks of the virus in American cities, unleashed by covert Iraqi operatives already hiding within our borders.

Thirty years ago, smallpox would hardly have been cause for concern, since virtually everyone had been vaccinated. But inoculations stopped in 1972, and many of those who once had immunity may have lost it. So the disease could rage across the country, sowing death and hysteria. Our only sure protection is to embark on mass inoculations beforehand--but that option carries the near-certainty of hundreds of deaths from the vaccine itself.

The list of things that could go wrong in a war with Iraq doesn't end there. Saddam Hussein is assumed to have large stores of chemical and biological weapons. Because he didn't use them in the 1991 Gulf War, Americans may assume he won't use them this time. But then, he refrained because he knew using weapons of mass destruction would bring instant annihilation. This time, knowing he is doomed regardless, he may as well unleash everything he has.

This is just part of the article. The rest of it is quite good. I agree with Chapman. When you're going to war, you should be prepared for the worst-case scenario, not the best-case scenario.

We really do owe it to ourselves to think about this potential war in such terms. Of course, the administration doesn't want us to do that. If we did, we might not be so gung-ho and might not do it. Don't expect the failed oil man to tell us much about the potential liabilities of this particular excursion for oil any time soon.

Posted by Tom at 9:36 a.m. CST

TURLEY ON ASHCROFT 11-18-02

Here's a good column by Jonathan Turley on the biggest threat to freedom in America today, John Ashcroft.

Here's a bit of it:

While giving up such prize defendants, however, Ashcroft recently made clear that no deal is final -- until execution. Consider the fate of accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui in a Virginia federal court. Although Ashcroft had previously moved Moussaoui from Minnesota to this ultraconservative court, the judge started behaving strangely: She was actually considering defense motions. In the Ashcroft Justice Department, such due process is viewed as coddling. Ashcroft is now reported to be thinking of taking back Moussaoui for a fast military tribunal.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema is not the only judge in Virginia to earn Ashcroft's ire. U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar refused to go along with Ashcroft's unilateral actions in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen accused of having terrorist connections. Doumar demanded proof other than Ashcroft's assertion that he has the power to declare any person an"enemy combatant" and thus entitled to no constitutional rights. Ashcroft refused. He reportedly now is putting Hamdi on a list for a tribunal as well.

A military tribunal is designed for quick convictions, little appeal and easy executions. It is the convenience store of junk justice: fast service, cheap products, no substantive value. It now seems that who is and who is not subject to summary tribunal justice is up to the shifting inclinations of Ashcroft, which sometimes appear as arbitrary as his choice of breakfast meat.

For example, John Walker Lindh was captured fighting in Afghanistan after being trained by Al Qaeda. Ashcroft let him have a real trial in a real court. Hamdi, also arrested in Afghanistan, has been denied access to counsel or the courts.

Then there is Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native arrested in May at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and accused of plotting to set off a"dirty bomb." Ashcroft has stripped him of all rights and denied him access to courts or counsel.

Most attorneys general would resist removing cases from the Justice Department and declaring the military to have a superior judiciary. But Ashcroft has become a walking contradiction, more general than attorney. Whereas his predecessors viewed the justice system as the very thing that defines us as a nation of laws, Ashcroft views justice as merely one means to an end.

As he prepares his list for summary judgment and execution, the American justice system will be the first to be dispatched.

I'm reminded of a discussion I had yesterday with my minister about the midterms. I told him that many at the university were quite happy a couple of years ago to vote for our then-State Representative for U.S. Congress because he was much less of a threat to our institution there. When the beady-eyed fellow won, many folks at the university were quite pleased.

After a brief pause, my minister looked at me and said"Yeah. That's what I used to think about John Ashcroft too."

Posted by Tom at 9:24 a.m. CST

GULF WARS 11-18-02

All right, I've been meaning to post a link to this for a few days now.

Enjoy.

While I'm at it, you ought to look at this too.

Posted by Tom at 8:50 a.m. CST

HOW WELL ARE WE DOING IN AFGHANISTAN? 11-17-02

As you can probably guess, the answer is not very well. How do we have the gall to suggest we're going to improve life for the people in Iraq when we've failed so dismally in Afghanistan?

Posted by Tom at 1:28 p.m. CST

W:"I FEEL SAFE LIVING HERE." 11-16-02

W, out of touch with the average Washington, D.C. person? Say it isn't so! Get this from The New Republic:

Take yesterday, when the president heaped praise on D.C. Mayor Tony Williams's law-enforcement record. One of the most stubborn problems the District faces is its chronic lack of adequate policing--especially in the overwhelmingly black and overwhelmingly poor neighborhoods of Southeast, where residents wait long stretches of time until the cops show up after calling 911, and where you can walk for blocks and blocks without noticing any police presence. But Williams has Bush's confidence nonetheless."Mr. Mayor, you're doing a great job for the city of Washington, D.C.," the president said yesterday at One Judiciary Square (in the northwest quadrant of the city)."I feel safe living here. And so does my family."

What? Of course you feel safe here, Mr. President--you're the most heavily guarded man in the country.

As if to underscore how oblivious Bush is to the needs of D.C. residents not under 24-hour armed guard, unidentified shooters on Southeast's Alabama Avenue promptly opened fire on a parked van, killing two women--one only 19 years old--and seriously wounding two men a few hours after Bush spoke. According to one resident who lives near the site of the slayings, the shots"sounded like a cannon." Then, barely half an hour later, in another part of Southeast five miles away, another teenager was shot in the head and died on the scene. And just minutes after that, police received a call about another gunshot victim whose body was lying near the Takoma metro stop. Police have no one in custody for any of these murders. And yet Bush says Williams's crime-fighting team is"making sure that this city is buttoned up." If this is what the president considers"buttoned up," we shudder to think how effective the Department of Homeland Security will be.

Don't we all feel safer with a guy like this in charge?

(Link via Counterspin)

Posted by Tom at 10:49 a.m. CST

Last Update: 10:10 a.m. CST

WESLEY CLARK IN 2004? 11-18-02

This Time article about Wesley Clark's presidential aspirations is certainly quite interesting. I'll quote it here:

Are dyspeptic Democrats ready to turn to a military man for leadership? Retired four-star general Wesley Clark, who has been famously opaque about his party preference and political future, met privately last week in New York City with a group of high-rolling Democrats and told them he was seriously considering a run for the White House, sources tell TIME. Lunching with about 15 Democratic donors and fund raisers at the Park Avenue offices of venture capitalist Alan Patricof, a strong Gore backer in '00 who is neutral so far for '04, Clark laid out his credentials and his differences with George W. Bush. A Rhodes scholar who fought in Vietnam and served as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 1997 to 2000, Clark said the U.S. should finish routing al-Qaeda before taking on Iraq and criticized Bush for being too dismissive of nonwar options there. Commander of NATO's war in Kosovo in 1999, Clark, who juggled the interests of 19 member nations, also took issue with what he sees as Bush's go-it-alone style.

Clark, 57, is an investment banker in Little Rock, Ark., and a commentator for CNN. In an interview with TIME, he wouldn't discuss his plans or the lunch."I haven't made any decision to run, I haven't declared I'm a member of any political party, I haven't raised any money," he said, adding that he has been traveling the country, talking to groups about developing an American"global vision for the 21st century."

One question at the lunch was whether Clark has the stomach for the attacks his candidacy would draw from the military enemies he made during the Kosovo war, despite its success. Clark's book Waging Modern War was tough on many at the Pentagon, including then Defense Secretary William Cohen, who replaced Clark before his tour was up. Still, Clark might be an attractive new face for the Democrats."It's clear the public today doesn't think Democrats are as strong on national security as the G.O.P.," said a source who attended the lunch."He has the capacity to negate that argument."

I don't know what to think about this guy. I just present it for your perusal.

Posted by Tom at 10:10 a.m. CST

WORST CASE SCENARIO 11-18-02

Conservative columnist Steve Chapman has a good column today about what could go wrong in a war with Iraq. Here's a snippet:

Wouldn't it be nice to be rid of Saddam Hussein? That's how the Bush administration has managed to frame the debate over war with Iraq. In its cheerful scenario, there really won't be much of a fight: Our peerless military will crush all resistance, the Iraqi army will quickly disintegrate, the dictator will meet his just fate, and Iraq will enter the community of civilized nations under American tutelage.

The administration must be employing some of those executives from Enron and Arthur Andersen, who could double-book revenues while making costs disappear, yielding a sunny outlook in good times and bad. If things go according to plan, the war with Iraq will be short and almost painless. But there are other possibilities that have not been spelled out to the American people--who may wake up one day to horrors they never imagined.

The United Nations' push to get Iraq to admit weapons inspectors may have lulled Americans into thinking that war will be averted. But the Bush administration clearly expects that Hussein is merely stalling, and that sooner or later he will balk. And that will mean war.

So we ought to remember Murphy's Law and consider the potential pitfalls. Among them: A global recession brought on by a spike in oil prices. Bloody house-to-house fighting in the streets of Baghdad. A civil war among contending groups in Iraq after Hussein is gone. A long and difficult occupation in which American forces become the targets of indigenous rebels and Al Qaeda fighters. Unrest that brings radicals to power in oil-rich Saudi Arabia or nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Those are only the beginning. No one has paid much attention to the recent revelation that U.S. intelligence officials are convinced Iraq has stocks of smallpox germs. Once we invade, it would be no surprise to see outbreaks of the virus in American cities, unleashed by covert Iraqi operatives already hiding within our borders.

Thirty years ago, smallpox would hardly have been cause for concern, since virtually everyone had been vaccinated. But inoculations stopped in 1972, and many of those who once had immunity may have lost it. So the disease could rage across the country, sowing death and hysteria. Our only sure protection is to embark on mass inoculations beforehand--but that option carries the near-certainty of hundreds of deaths from the vaccine itself.

The list of things that could go wrong in a war with Iraq doesn't end there. Saddam Hussein is assumed to have large stores of chemical and biological weapons. Because he didn't use them in the 1991 Gulf War, Americans may assume he won't use them this time. But then, he refrained because he knew using weapons of mass destruction would bring instant annihilation. This time, knowing he is doomed regardless, he may as well unleash everything he has.

This is just part of the article. The rest of it is quite good. I agree with Chapman. When you're going to war, you should be prepared for the worst-case scenario, not the best-case scenario.

We really do owe it to ourselves to think about this potential war in such terms. Of course, the administration doesn't want us to do that. If we did, we might not be so gung-ho and might not do it. Don't expect the failed oil man to tell us much about the potential liabilities of this particular excursion for oil any time soon.

Posted by Tom at 9:36 a.m. CST

TURLEY ON ASHCROFT 11-18-02

Here's a good column by Jonathan Turley on the biggest threat to freedom in America today, John Ashcroft.

Here's a bit of it:

While giving up such prize defendants, however, Ashcroft recently made clear that no deal is final -- until execution. Consider the fate of accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui in a Virginia federal court. Although Ashcroft had previously moved Moussaoui from Minnesota to this ultraconservative court, the judge started behaving strangely: She was actually considering defense motions. In the Ashcroft Justice Department, such due process is viewed as coddling. Ashcroft is now reported to be thinking of taking back Moussaoui for a fast military tribunal.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema is not the only judge in Virginia to earn Ashcroft's ire. U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar refused to go along with Ashcroft's unilateral actions in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen accused of having terrorist connections. Doumar demanded proof other than Ashcroft's assertion that he has the power to declare any person an"enemy combatant" and thus entitled to no constitutional rights. Ashcroft refused. He reportedly now is putting Hamdi on a list for a tribunal as well.

A military tribunal is designed for quick convictions, little appeal and easy executions. It is the convenience store of junk justice: fast service, cheap products, no substantive value. It now seems that who is and who is not subject to summary tribunal justice is up to the shifting inclinations of Ashcroft, which sometimes appear as arbitrary as his choice of breakfast meat.

For example, John Walker Lindh was captured fighting in Afghanistan after being trained by Al Qaeda. Ashcroft let him have a real trial in a real court. Hamdi, also arrested in Afghanistan, has been denied access to counsel or the courts.

Then there is Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native arrested in May at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and accused of plotting to set off a"dirty bomb." Ashcroft has stripped him of all rights and denied him access to courts or counsel.

Most attorneys general would resist removing cases from the Justice Department and declaring the military to have a superior judiciary. But Ashcroft has become a walking contradiction, more general than attorney. Whereas his predecessors viewed the justice system as the very thing that defines us as a nation of laws, Ashcroft views justice as merely one means to an end.

As he prepares his list for summary judgment and execution, the American justice system will be the first to be dispatched.

I'm reminded of a discussion I had yesterday with my minister about the midterms. I told him that many at the university were quite happy a couple of years ago to vote for our then-State Representative for U.S. Congress because he was much less of a threat to our institution there. When the beady-eyed fellow won, many folks at the university were quite pleased.

After a brief pause, my minister looked at me and said"Yeah. That's what I used to think about John Ashcroft too."

Posted by Tom at 9:24 a.m. CST

GULF WARS 11-18-02

All right, I've been meaning to post a link to this for a few days now.

Enjoy.

While I'm at it, you ought to look at this too.

Posted by Tom at 8:50 a.m. CST

HOW WELL ARE WE DOING IN AFGHANISTAN? 11-17-02

As you can probably guess, the answer is not very well. How do we have the gall to suggest we're going to improve life for the people in Iraq when we've failed so dismally in Afghanistan?

Posted by Tom at 1:28 p.m. CST

W:"I FEEL SAFE LIVING HERE." 11-16-02

W, out of touch with the average Washington, D.C. person? Say it isn't so! Get this from The New Republic:

Take yesterday, when the president heaped praise on D.C. Mayor Tony Williams's law-enforcement record. One of the most stubborn problems the District faces is its chronic lack of adequate policing--especially in the overwhelmingly black and overwhelmingly poor neighborhoods of Southeast, where residents wait long stretches of time until the cops show up after calling 911, and where you can walk for blocks and blocks without noticing any police presence. But Williams has Bush's confidence nonetheless."Mr. Mayor, you're doing a great job for the city of Washington, D.C.," the president said yesterday at One Judiciary Square (in the northwest quadrant of the city)."I feel safe living here. And so does my family."

What? Of course you feel safe here, Mr. President--you're the most heavily guarded man in the country.

As if to underscore how oblivious Bush is to the needs of D.C. residents not under 24-hour armed guard, unidentified shooters on Southeast's Alabama Avenue promptly opened fire on a parked van, killing two women--one only 19 years old--and seriously wounding two men a few hours after Bush spoke. According to one resident who lives near the site of the slayings, the shots"sounded like a cannon." Then, barely half an hour later, in another part of Southeast five miles away, another teenager was shot in the head and died on the scene. And just minutes after that, police received a call about another gunshot victim whose body was lying near the Takoma metro stop. Police have no one in custody for any of these murders. And yet Bush says Williams's crime-fighting team is"making sure that this city is buttoned up." If this is what the president considers"buttoned up," we shudder to think how effective the Department of Homeland Security will be.

Don't we all feel safer with a guy like this in charge?

(Link via Counterspin)

Posted by Tom at 10:49 a.m. CST

CUTTING'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR 'EM
11-16-02

Isn't it amazing the foolish lengths some evangelical ministers will go to get their name in the paper? For goodness sakes, it's not like Harry Potter is a threat to democratic American society like, perhaps, the Fox News Channel!

I especially like the part where the minister admits he wanted to burn the books but couldn't get the proper permits from the local government.

Score one for the wisdom of government folks! If you want to make a fool of yourself, that's fine, but we're not going to let you endanger public safety!

Don't you think, however, it would be a good idea if these guys were cutting with the stubby scissors?

(Link via Counterspin)

Update: P.L.A. weighs in about this as well. Here's a bit of it:

Reverend Taylor and Reverend Chambers are right about a couple of things. First, permitting kids to read Harry Potter books might influence the children. Secondly, the books do lead children to some very dangerous ideas.

Permitting kids to read Harry Potter books teaches kids that reading books is a wonderful experience. Kids that read and love Harry Potter books might even go on to read other books. Reading other books might lead children to all sorts of ideas that the Reverends Taylor and Chambers would abhor. It might even teach them to think for themselves. Thinking for themselves might lead those kids to conclude that Reverend Taylor, Reverend Chambers and their supporters are a group of narrow-minded busy bodies with nothing better to do than to try to limit what other people can read and think.

For Reverends Taylor and Chambers, nothing could be more dangerous than that.

Posted by Tom at 10:32 a.m. CST

THE LOWEST OF THE LOW 11-15-02

ABC's The Note blog has some interesting clips from Barbara Walters' interview with Al Gore which, surprise, surprise, won't be included in tonight's broadcast on ABC. These clips deal with the organized harassment campaign by the Republicans to lay siege to the Vice Presidential Residence during the recount battle. As I've come to expect from the Republicans, it's very despicable stuff. And some of these (presumably toothless) folks were supposedly affiliated with" church" groups as well.

I'm not surprised at all. As the recount battle, the first two years of W's regime, and the midterm election campaign have demonstrated, Republicans will say or do anything to get what they want -- morals, ethics, and fairness be damned.

(Link via Atrios)

Posted by Tom at 12:53 p.m. CST

ARMEY SAYS"THE WHITE HOUSE MADE ME DO IT" 11-15-02

This story in the Washington Post about the Homeland Security Bill is interesting.

Here's a bit of it:

Lawyers for parents of autistic children suing pharmaceutical companies over childhood vaccines charged yesterday that a new section in the homeland bill -- passed on Wednesday by the House and now before the Senate -- would keep the lawsuits out of state courts, ruling out huge judgments and lengthy litigation. Complaints, instead, would be channeled to a federal program set up 14 years ago to provide liability protection for vaccine manufacturers. The program, funded through a surcharge on vaccines, compensates persons injured by such vaccines, to a maximum of $250,000.

"The industry has seized the opportunity presented by a Republican House and Senate to immediately pass legislation to get the industry off the hook," said Dallas lawyer Andrew Waters."To me, it looks like payback for the fact that the industry spent millions bankrolling Republican campaigns."

GOP officials said the provisions are merely aimed at protecting companies working on life-saving products from being dragged into costly litigation by trial lawyers. Pharmaceutical companies were among the largest contributors to Republicans in this year's elections, while trial lawyers heavily backed Democrats.

In the past several years, some families have alleged a connection between their children's autism and vaccines using the preservative Thimerosal, which contains mercury. Medical studies have not proven a connection between Thimerosal and autism, but companies stopped using the preservative several years ago.

Eli Lilly, once the largest maker of Thimerosal, is a major target in a spate of lawsuits filed since 2000. The company stopped making the product in 1980 but continued to buy it from other manufacturers and to resell it for another decade.

Company spokesman Edward Sagebiel said Lilly was"surprised when the language was inserted" because it had not actively lobbied for it in recent months. But he said the company"believes it is a positive step to help assure that manufacturers are protected from lawsuits that are without merit or scientific evidence."

Richard Diamond, a spokesman for retiring House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.), said the provision was inserted because"it was something the White House wanted. It wasn't [Armey's] idea." But Diamond said the principle is good."We don't want companies to be steered away from the business of making things that can save lives," he said.

Ah, so the trail leads to the White House, huh? I still haven't heard anyone explain to me what the hell this has to do with national security.

[BTW, I still don't like the fascist-sounding moniker for the agency, the"Department of Homeland Security." I keep expecting someone to come out goose-stepping every time I hear that name. I guess the"Department of Fatherland Security" would've been worse, but not much IMHO.]

Posted by Tom at 10:25 a.m. CST

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON ON POLLSTERS 11-15-02

Arianna Huffington has a good column on the pollster armageddon of last Tuesday. Here's a bit of it:

In truth, the problem isn't with us, dear voters -- or even with you, dear nonvoters. The problem is with the pollsters' inability to account for an increasingly uncooperative public. Thanks to cell phones, answering machines, caller ID, a surfeit of polls, and a growing distaste for telephonic intrusions into our homes, it's getting harder and harder for pollsters to find Americans willing to answers their questions. Twenty years ago, polling response rates were over 60 percent; now they are closer to 30 percent -- and in some cases even lower. It's pretty tough to get an accurate reading of the public's opinion when the most frequent response you receive is a “click” followed by a dial tone.

So here we are in the middle of a vicious vortex. Pollsters conduct their increasingly inaccurate polls; the media then report the results as if Moses has just brought them down from the mountaintop; and our politicians tailor their messages to suit phantom voters. All the players involved in this charade understand they are acting on the flimsiest of pretenses -- it's just that relying on polls is so much easier than actually reporting or leading.

Even President Bush, who charged into office trumpeting his disdain for polls -- don't they all? -- has proven to be a chronic poll watcher and poll taker. In fact, this schizophrenic stance has actually become something of an in-joke at the White House: Bush brags about not looking at polls and everyone laughs, knowing the president doesn't have to look because Karl Rove has already whispered the results in his ear.

But allowing polling data to become a substitute for thinking has become a very wobbly crutch indeed. Just ask the Democrats who, after consulting their pollsters' tea leaves, decided not to take on the president on tax cuts or on invading Iraq. They were forced to pay for their slavish devotion to the numbers with their political lives. Pollsters, on the other hand, are allowed to tiptoe away from the carnage their handiwork has wrought and still keep their jobs.

I believe it's safe to say that Arianna is on target. Wouldn't you agree?

Posted by Tom at 9:55 a.m. CST

JANET REHNQUIST, MISMANAGEMENT, AND REPUBLICAN CRONYISM 11-15-02

If you want to learn more about the record of Janet Rehnquist as the head of the Inspector General's office at HHS, read the front page story from last week's The Federal Paper. (You need to have Adobe Acrobat to read the story.)

You know, this is just the sort of cronyism I'd expect from W and the boys. They complain about the costs of federal programs and then, a la Ronald Reagan, merrily go about crippling the offices that are in charge of ferreting out waste by appointing worthless stooges to head them.

Sigh.

But, remember, there's no difference between Republicans and Democrats!

Right.

Posted by Tom at 9:40 a.m. CST

ANYTHING WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
11-15-02

At the same time we're hearing from bin Laden again, the FBI issues an alert warning law enforcement officials nationwide of a potential"spectacular attack" by terrorists in the United States.

However, the administration has not raised our (admittedly silly) terrorist threat level above" code yellow."

What gives?

Surprisingly, Tom Daschle, for once, says something that every American is thinking:

“We can’t find bin Laden, we haven’t made real progress” in finding key elements of al-Qaida, said Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. “They continue to be as great a threat today as they were one and a half years ago. So by what measure can we claim to be successful so far?”

The response from White House spokesman Scott McClellan is -- get this -- that we are making "tremendous progress" in the war on terror.

Surely he's kidding, right?

The folks in the White House are too busy preparing to go to war against Saddam Hussein to worry about this pesky domestic terrorism thing right now it appears. In fact, if you read the article, federal officials are already warning law enforcement officials that we currently face a higher terror threat because of our current policy towards Iraq.

Now, let me ask this question once again: How is this Iraq policy and threatened war making us safer or going to make us safer? Why do I feel that we're under an increased threat, not a lesser one, because of our current bellicose stance against Iraq? I really do hope and pray that nothing happens but I can't help but worry that it will.

Am I the only one that feels this way? Surely not, right?

Posted by Tom at 9:05 a.m. CST

DEMS VS. REPS ON ECONOMY REDUX 11-15-02

If you want a rundown on the question of whether Democratic or Republican administrations are better for the economy, I encourage you to check out this page on the website eRiposte.

If you've been reading me for a while, you know I've been following this in the blogosphere and elsewhere and have had a few posts on it here.

However, it's all there in a convenient table for your viewing pleasure. You might check out the rest of the website too. It's quite interesting.

Posted by Tom at 8:28 a.m. CST

THE MACHINATIONS OF THE RIGHT-WING LIE MACHINE 11-14-02

If you've ever wondered how the right-wing lie machine works and what role the righty blogosphere plays in it, CalPundit has got a great example for you today. You've got to read this to believe it.

I can't say I'm surprised however.

Posted by Tom at 6:17 p.m. CST

LOVE, MONEY, AND AMERICAN HISTORY
11-14-02

I know many of you who are visiting today are coming as a result of Eric Alterman's link on his MSNBC blog. I really appreciate that Eric says he likes my blog.

However, he identifies me there as the HNN blogger and I wanted to point out that there are three of us. My other two HNN blogging colleagues are Jeff Pasley and Kenneth Heineman.

Jeff and I are both from Missouri and are both liberals. Ken teaches in Ohio and is a conservative. I suggest you check the other two guys out too. HNN is a great outfit. I hope you come back and visit us often.

In fact, I think Jeff's blog today has a particularly good entry on Republican fiscal policies and their impact on historical institutions. I'm going to take the liberty of quoting from it:

Love, Money, and American History

Conservatives often claim to be great lovers of history and loudly advocate the idea that students should know more American history in particular. The Vice President's wife has been particularly vocal on this topic, and in September, the President himself announced a series of initiatives to"improve students' knowledge of American history, increase their civic involvement, and deepen their love for our great country."

Lovely sentiments, but the real impact of conservative public policy on the study and teaching of American history is quite different. Bush and Cheney would never personally get up and say let's cut these damn history programs to ribbons, but that has been the impact of the successive federal, state, and local budget crises brought about by conservative (and largely Republican) irresponsibility and intransigence on subject on government revenues. Few executive officials at any level of government can even broach the subject of raising more money without ferocious attacks from the Republicans, even if the money would go to needed programs that the Republicans tout their support of to their constituents. It takes an exceptionally brave and selfless Democrat to counter-act this behavior, and in many places, the Democrats don't have the votes to do so anyway, with the end result of devastating cuts to government services that large swaths of the population use and support. Since they don't actually feed anybody (except their employees and their families), history-related programs often became major targets during these induced budget crises, with the absolutely shameful and devastating results.

One of the worst examples I have seen came to my attention this morning. In Virginia, of all places, one of most historically important and historically-minded states in the Union, the main state historical agency (and library agency), the Library of Virginia, has been dealt a 39% cut. This has meant not only layoffs and cutbacks in services to historians, but cuts in funding to local libraries, public outreach, and the apparently total"elimination of Educational Programs, including teacher workshops, tours for K through 12 students, and other activities that open the Library’s resources to a younger audience." If Bush, Cheney, and the Republicans really cared about American history, they would be working to reverse this kind of devastation, or trying to prevent it, by ensuring that the necessary funding is available. But as we know, shifting the tax burden onto the middle class and further enriching wealthy Republican interest groups take precedence in their politics over any public institution or common enterprise, including American history.

One might add that if the self-appointed history lovers who worked themselves into such a lather over Michael Bellesiles spent a tenth as much time and effort lobbying their favorite Republican politicians about the need to protect the institutions that make historical teaching and research possible, we might see some results. Those who feel that academic historians and library professionals are a pack of left-wing revisionists should also keep in mind that institutions like the Library of Virginia are just if not more vital to the amateur historians than they are to those of us who do this for a living. The LoV's Internet programs have been obliterated, too.

I agree entirely. In fact, I would pursue this further. It is also true that these short-sighted fiscal policies, often at the behest of Republicans, are responsible for heart-rending cuts in state appropriations to Higher Education nationwide over the past decade or more. Missouri's universities are no longer state-supported but state-assisted. State aid to my own institution has been cut dramatically over the last decade.

Don't get me wrong. I don't really know what the simple answer to all of this is. I'm just raising the issue. The easy thing to say is that the state should just raise taxes. However, with Missouri's Hancock Amendment, it's darn-near impossible for the state to raise taxes or, for that matter, even save money for a rainy day, so I don't foresee any positive developments for Higher Ed in this state over the next few years, just the unavoidable large tuition increases required to keep pace with the state's annual aid cuts.

As you can imagine, this becomes a rather vicious cycle. These tuition increases make it harder and harder for well-meaning students of modest means to have access to higher education. However, because the wealthy and well-heeled can still afford it, you won't hear too many complaints about this out of those folks who get most of their campaign funds from the wealthy and well-heeled.

This is a crisis that I'd like to say should be -- and will be -- addressed in my state in the next few years. However, I'm pretty sure that it won't be.

Sigh.

Posted by Tom at 3:47 p.m. CST

RICHARD COHEN ON THE RESURFACING OF BIN LADEN
11-14-02

Richard Cohen has a good column today on bin Laden's latest tape. Here's a bit of it:

Ever since the Pentagon blew the battle at Tora Bora last year and apparently allowed Osama bin Laden to slip the noose, the administration has been busy playing down his importance."We've tried hard not to personalize it," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said of bin Laden and his Taliban sidekick, Mohammad Omar."This is a lot more than bin Laden and Omar," she said.

Yes, it's about failure.

The decision to de-emphasize the hunt for the two, especially bin Laden, seems"linked" -- that all-purpose Washington word -- to the fact that the United States has been unable to find him, either"dead or alive," in George Bush's unforgettable phrase. Specifically, it seems that bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora, where, U.S. intelligence now believes, he was present. It was a spectacular fiasco.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set the administration's tone when he implied it didn't matter all that much if bin Laden was dead or alive since, in either case, his days as a master terrorist were surely over."Wherever he is, if he is, you can be certain he is having one dickens of a time operating his apparatus," Rumsfeld said.

The commander of U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan, Army Lt. Gen. Dan McNeil, struck a similar note. He said the really important target was al Qaeda itself -- not its leader."We don't have to find him, because we're going to shut down his terrorist apparatus," he said.

Now an audiotape purportedly from bin Laden has surfaced in the usual outlet for such things, the Arab satellite channel, al-Jazeera. Since the voice mentions such recent events as the bombing in Bali and the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan, the tape has to have been made fairly recently. And since the Bush administration cannot show that bin Laden is dead, he will continue to live -- whether in fact, tape or myth -- in the imagination and yearnings of his followers, larger than life because he cannot be proven dead.

The obvious attempt to play down bin Laden's importance has a whistling-past-the-graveyard quality to it. In the first place, the existence of the new tape is a form of nose-thumbing. It shows the world -- particularly the Islamic world -- that the United States is not as all powerful as some people might suppose. It may be able to pound Afghanistan into rubble and possibly do the same to Iraq, but it is far weaker when facing terrorism -- the ol' asymmetrical warfare business. This is a lesson Israel learns on almost a daily basis.

As I've said before, the administration runs a real danger of aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden in its warmongering focus on Iraq. This laser-like focus on Iraq could cause us to let our guard down to domestic terrorist threats. While Ashcroft crows almost daily about catching what may not even turn out to be genuine terrorists, I can't help but suspect that the real terrorists are still moving about unhindered.

Furthermore, I've recently heard there are concerns about terrorist strikes in Houston -- which is where I'm going for Thanksgiving to visit my grandmother. I can't help but worry about it.

You know, why can't we concern ourselves with bin Laden now? The call for IraqWar Part II seems so ill-timed and totally unnecessary. I really hope it doesn't lead to a number of disasters in the coming months.

I can't help but worry, however, that it will.

Posted by Tom at 3:17 p.m. CST

GREENSPAN -- A REPUBLICAN HACK? 11-14-02

If you know much about the early years of the Clinton administration, you know that Alan Greenspan held Clinton's feet to the fire on reducing the federal budget deficit. Greenspan even went so far as to threaten to leave interest rates too high (thus purposefully choking off economic growth) if the newly-elected president didn't reduce the deficit. Clinton, therefore, backed the tax increase in 1993 that reduced, and eventually eliminated, the federal budget deficit by 1998.

If you recall, Clinton ran for office promising a middle class tax cut that he gave up in order to pursue the small tax raise on folks who made more than $100,000 per year. Clinton gave up on his tax cut for the middle class in order to balance the budget. Consequently, Democrats paid for this politically in the Newt Gingrich-inspired"Contract On America" election in 1994. Some in the Clinton administration in 1994 blamed Greenspan for their midterm defeat and even wondered if he wasn't trying to assist the Republicans by playing this game of economic chicken with Clinton.

Now, with a Republican president in office, Greenspan can't say enough positive about W's policy of seeking tax cuts, even going so far as to argue yesterday that the cuts should be made permanent, so as not to"disappoint" investors. Now, just a damn minute, why the reversal of economic philosophies, Mr. Greenspan? How can Bush's tax cut for the very rich today be okay but Clinton's tax cut for the middle class in 1993 be"irresponsible?" Have you got an answer to that Mr. Greenspan?

I'm afraid to say folks that Alan Greenspan is nothing more than a Republican hack masquerading as a respectable Fed Chief. I'm sorry but I find this truly outrageous and the press's inability to remember such obvious and recent history absolutely scandalous.

Posted by Tom at 2:27 p.m. CST

UNLIKE POPPY, W APPARENTLY DOESN'T BELIEVE SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMICS IS A LAFFER 11-14-02

Ah, the Republicans have learned nothing over the last twenty years, doesn't it? They're still talking about supply-side economics as if it actually worked! Surely they know otherwise, don't they? Here's a bit of the article today by Dana Milbank in the Post:

President Bush took a ride on the Laffer Curve yesterday and espoused a tax-cut theory his father once derided as"Voodoo Economics."

After a meeting with his Cabinet, the president was asked about the federal budget deficit."Well, we have a deficit because tax revenues are down," he said."Make no mistake about it, the tax relief package that we passed -- that should be permanent, by the way -- has helped the economy, and that the deficit would have been bigger without the tax-relief package."

That is orthodox supply-side theory: the notion that tax cuts, by stimulating the economy, actually increase the government's tax revenue. Such thinking, popularized by Arthur Laffer and his Laffer Curve, was the ideological fuel for Ronald Reagan's tax cuts.

Most economists since then have reached a consensus that while tax cuts have an"economic effect" that partially offsets the lost revenue from tax cuts, the overall result is still lost revenue. That's the case for Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut from last year."I don't know anyone who has said that the makeup in revenue because of the economic effect is greater than the reduction, and I would concur with that," said Eric M. Engen, a former Federal Reserve economist with the American Enterprise Institute.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), in his last days as Senate Budget Committee chairman, labeled Bush's statement as"dream-world economics." Said Conrad:"I don't know where he learned his math, but he didn't learn them in North Dakota schools, because we learned that if you subtract money, you have a bigger deficit."

It really does appear these guys don't get one of the most basic economic lessons of the last twenty years: supply-side economics DOESN'T work. They've tried to put lipstick on the pig by calling it"dynamic scoring" and other such ridiculous stuff, but it's still voodoo economics folks. Go and read the rest of the article. It's quite good.

I think Dana Milbank is about the only one left in our subservient Washington press corps who will write articles that raise questions about the administration these days. Correspondingly, he's under vicious attack from the administration so I'm not sure how much longer he'll be writing these stories.

Posted by Tom at 2:06 p.m. CST

THE FOLKS AT FAUX NEWS STILL CAN'T GET OVER THE BLOWJOBS 11-14-02

If you ever wanted proof that the folks at the Faux News Channel still think about Clinton's pecadilloes, click here. It certainly confirms what I thought about the Clinton-obsessed folks over at Fox.

Posted by Tom at 1:13 p.m. CST

SAFIRE SAYS SOMETHING PROFOUND -- HOLY COW!
11-14-02

William Safire is concerned about the Homeland Security Bill as well. He thinks it's a bad idea to let disgraced admiral John Poindexter have all of your personal information. For once, I actually agree with the guy. Here's a bit of the column:

If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you:

Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as"a virtual, centralized grand database."

To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you — passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance — and you have the supersnoop's dream: a"Total Information Awareness" about every U.S. citizen.

This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the unprecedented power he seeks.

Remember Poindexter? Brilliant man, first in his class at the Naval Academy, later earned a doctorate in physics, rose to national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan. He had this brilliant idea of secretly selling missiles to Iran to pay ransom for hostages, and with the illicit proceeds to illegally support contras in Nicaragua.

A jury convicted Poindexter in 1990 on five felony counts of misleading Congress and making false statements, but an appeals court overturned the verdict because Congress had given him immunity for his testimony. He famously asserted,"The buck stops here," arguing that the White House staff, and not the president, was responsible for fateful decisions that might prove embarrassing.

This ring-knocking master of deceit is back again with a plan even more scandalous than Iran-contra. He heads the"Information Awareness Office" in the otherwise excellent Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which spawned the Internet and stealth aircraft technology. Poindexter is now realizing his 20-year dream: getting the"data-mining" power to snoop on every public and private act of every American.

So there's no real difference between Democrats and Republicans, eh?

Posted by Tom at 1:07 p.m. CST

IN THE NAME OF NATIONAL SECURITY
11-14-02

Boy, this is pretty bold and shameless. In one bill, the Republicans in the house screwed government workers, protected a major drug company from lawsuits over thimerosal that has caused autism in some children, and decided NOT to create an independent commission to investigate 9/11 (what are W and the boys hiding?).

All of this, of course, in the name of national security.

Gosh, what a group of shameless sheisters the House Republicans are, huh? Oh yeah, but there's no real difference between Republicans and Democrats, right?

Right.

Update: As I expected, Dwight Meredith at P.L.A. and other bloggers have weighed in on this issue today as well.

P.L.A. reminds us that during the campaign Bush accused Democrats of being more interested in"protecting special interests" than in the"security of the American people."

Therefore, P.L.A. has two questions:

First, what does preventing parents of autistic kids from suing drug companies that put poison in vaccines have to do with Homeland Security?

Secondly, who is more concerned with protecting special interests than with the security and safety of the American people?

Indeed.

Posted by Tom at 11:12 a.m. CST

W'S WAR ON CONDOMS 11-14-02

I can't believe this ridiculousness. W's HHS (yes, Janet Rehnquist's too) is waging a stealth war on condoms. Here's a bit from Marie Cocco's column on it today:

President George W. Bush has begun appointing critics of condoms to a presidential advisory panel on AIDS. They include social conservatives who question the international scientific consensus that condoms are highly effective in AIDS prevention. Instead, they emphasize failure rates from slippage, breakage and not using condoms every time.

"The only 100 percent effective way to avoid nonmarital pregnancy and STD infection is to avoid sexual activity outside a mutually faithful, lifelong relationship - marriage," says the Texas-based Medical Institute for Sexual Health. The group's founder, Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr., now sits on the presidential AIDS panel.

Asked in an interview if people who aren't monogamous should use condoms, McIlhaney said,"That's very simplistic and has been proven, so far, not to be very effective."

Government audits of AIDS activist groups began after protesters disrupted remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson at a conference in Barcelona. Conservatives in Congress now have called for expanding the audits to include such groups as the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a 38-year-old organization that assists schools and health departments with AIDS and sex-education programs. The conservatives say they are wary that government funds may improperly be used to lobby against the administration's favored abstinence-only programs on teen sex.

Holy Cow. How loony is that?

Posted by Tom at 9:33 a.m. CST

A CORRUPT REHNQUIST? SAY IT ISN'T SO!
11-13-02

Boy, you've got to get a load of this article from the Wall Street Journal about Chief Justice Rehnquist's daughter, Janet Rehnquist. Here's a bit of it:

Complaints about the performance of Inspector General Janet Rehnquist, daughter of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, have attracted attention from other inspectors general and from Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, soon to be the powerful Finance Committee's chairman.

The panel has asked the General Accounting Office to investigate why 19 nonpolitical employees in her office -- including five of six deputies -- have retired, quit or been transferred since Ms. Rehnquist took over 15 months ago. People familiar with the office say most left at her insistence or in dismay at the presidential appointee's volatile management style.

"They're cleaning out people that were doing their job of exposing things," Mr. Grassley says.

Staffers on Mr. Grassley's committee also are looking into Ms. Rehnquist's possession of an unloaded gun to see if she violated local laws or department rules. Ms. Rehnquist for a while kept the gun in her office -- with a target depicting a menacing assailant affixed to the wall -- until her staff persuaded her to instead practice aiming with a harmless laser gun.

Patrick McFarland, the Office of Personnel Management's inspector general and dean of the government's 57 inspectors general, has said privately that he would ask the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, the inspector generals' self-policing body, to look into Ms. Rehnquist's use of the gun, other federal employees say."My best and only answer is 'no comment' regarding the gun situation," says Mr. McFarland, appointed by the first President Bush in 1990. Of high turnover in her office, he adds:"For any political appointee to come in and eliminate people -- if that's true, it's absolutely improper."

Read the rest of it. I'm afraid to say she sounds as mad as a hatter to me. What would we be hearing if one of Clinton's appointees were doing stuff like this? I can only imagine.

This is obviously bad enough that W's lapdogs at the Journal feel compelled to comment on it -- so it's probably even worse than it appears.

(Link via Atrios)

Update: Janet Rehnquist may not only be a bit loony, she may be a bit crooked too. An inappropriate favor for Jeb? In this administration? I'm shocked. Say it isn't so! When the Republicans in congress are raising questions about Republican appointees, that's not a good sign. I think it's safe to say Ms. Rehnquist's days at HHS may be numbered.

Posted by Tom at 1:33 p.m. CST

INTRODUCING THE COMMONWEAL INSTITUTE 11-13-02

Seeing the Forest had a blog entry yesterday about the Commonweal Institute. This is a genuine liberal think-tank! Of course, the Heritage Foundation is currently running short on cash, so maybe the Commonweal Institute can take advantage of the momentary silence to get the views of liberals across.

Those of us who began to come of age politically and intellectually during the shameful era of the Richard Mellon-Scaife-funded"vast right-wing conspiracy" that was out to get Clinton one way or another, recognize that the media has largely been captured by the far right-wing and that these folks have the capability to highjack the media's focus and attention for months at a time.

Beginning with the impeachment debacle in 1998, the media, increasingly corporatized, is more interested in ratings than accuracy now. That has led to what I would call the" conservativization" of our media, with every"news" program now having an ample dose of right-wing punditry passing as analysis and, even at times, called"journalism." I'm about to decide the media may be hopelessly under the spell of these guys. I'm not sure it's possible to reform the media nowadays. We'll see.

Anyway, the Commonweal Institute apparently is trying to do something about this. I'll try to help in any way that I can.

Posted by Tom at 1:17 p.m. CST

TODAY'S LINKS AND SARCASM 11-13-02

Remember when W said we'd get Osama"dead or alive?" Well, he's apparently alive. Nice shooting Tex! Of course, W is too busy to pay attention to Osama, what with this IraqWar to start and everything.

Oh no! Iraq accepted the U.N. resolution! Now W and the boys will have to work hard finding"evidence" (and, as with most things in this administration, I use that term quite loosely) to go ahead with war anyway. I have faith in them that they can overcome this setback. They want this one too bad to let some little thing like this get in the way of a perfectly good war.

Hang on folks! Here come the legions of anti-intellectual and bought-and-paid-for right-wing federal judges! If the Democrats had any guts they'd fillibuster these guys but, as we all know, they don't.

I mean, heck, they've already put up the white flag on this and sold out their union supporters in the deal on the homeland security bill.

Gutless.

Absolutely gutless.

Now, why the hell was it I voted for these guys?

Posted by Tom at 12:48 p.m. CST

SORRY GUYS -- NO TIDAL WAVE 11-13-02

Daily Kos has a great post today quoting political analyst Charlie Cook. Cook argues, like most real political experts, in contrast to the brainless talking head pundits on the news networks, that this election in no way represented a tidal wave. Here's a bit of it:

Perhaps the most pertinent question in American politics today is: What did last Tuesday's midterm elections really mean? In my judgment, the 2002 midterm election is one of the most over-interpreted, or perhaps even misinterpreted, elections I have ever seen. I should add that my strong competitor and close friend Stu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report, feels very much the same.

We both have seen"wave" elections. In the 1974 Watergate midterm election, when Democrats gained 49 House and four Senate seats, that was a wave. In 1980, when former California Gov. Ronald Reagan led Republicans to a sweep, netting 12 Senate seats, control of the Senate for the first time since 1955 and 34 House seats, that was a wave. In 1982, when a recession hit and unemployment reached 10 percent just weeks before the midterm election, Democrats won 26 House seats, recaptured more than two-thirds of their losses in the previous election and came within 34,000 votes of capturing five Senate seats and retaking control of the Senate -- that was a smaller wave. In 1994, when Republicans took 52 House seats and control of the House for the first time in 40 years, along with eight Senate seats, that was a wave.

The common characteristic of these"wave" elections was that the winning party not only virtually won all of the races expected to be close, but they also pulled off upsets, impressive upsets. Some of their own incumbents, who had seemed destined to be defeated, actually survived, while long-shot challengers and open-seat candidates, facing enormous odds in very difficult districts, won or came very close as well.

That did not happen last Tuesday. Not one House seat in the country that had been rated leaning, likely or solidly Democratic in the Oct. 20, final post-election issue of the Cook Political Report went Republican. (For that matter, no leaning, likely or solidly Republican seat went Democratic, either.) Republicans simply won seven out of 11 of the toss-up races. Only one Senate seat that was leaning, likely or solidly Democratic in our final issue went Republican, and that was freshman Georgia Sen. Max Cleland's. We had moved his race to the toss-up column on our Web site and in speech handouts during the week before the election, as polls indicated that his challenger, GOP Rep. Saxby Chambliss, had begun to surge. We also had moved the Republican North Carolina open-seat race and freshman Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to toss-up status during that final full week.

In the 36 governors' races, there were two major upsets. Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, who had been rated a likely victor, lost to former state Sen. Sonny Perdue in Georgia. But a big Democratic upset happened in Oklahoma, where state Sen. Brad Henry upset former Rep. Steve Largent.

Sorry guys, last week was no tidal wave. But that won't stop Republicans from pretending this was a mandate to pursue extremist legislation and a war that is supported by a bare majority of Americans. Please, overreach guys. If the first few months of Bush's presidency -- when Republicans controlled all three branches of government -- are any indication, I fully expect them to do so.

On a related note, read this analysis of the midterms by Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic Policy and Research as well.

Posted by Tom at 8:25 a.m. CST

INTRODUCING P.L.A. 11-12-02

Everyone, please welcome P.L.A. to the blogroll. It is a great blog by Dwight Meredith. I encourage everyone to go read it.

It is entitled P.L.A. because it is a blog about Politics, Law, and Autism. If you'll read him a bit, the reasoning behind the title will become obvious. In fact, his most recent post at the moment should make the reasoning behind this title quite clear.

Enjoy!

I've been snowed today with work. I'll try to blog more tomorrow to make up for it.

Posted by Tom at 8:59 p.m. CST

GOP WINS, DOW HEADS SOUTH -- NOT A SURPRISE, EH? 11-12-02

Lots of more talk about the G.O.P. and its historically anemic (and often negative) impact on the economy. Daily Kos has a great post on this today.

This discussion is certainly beginning to gain critical mass in the blogosphere. If you recall, P.L.A. mentioned this yesterday and I linked to it.

However, for a bit of blogospheric historical perspective, CalPundit had the best post on this more than a month ago.

Sorry, G.O.P. You guys just don't manage an economy or a federal budget that well historically -- certainly not the last forty years anyway. I'm afraid this is one of those myths that exists despite all historical and economic evidence to the contrary.

Well, come to think of it, a rather large proportion of the things the Republicans claim are usually contradicted by the facts -- this is just one of the more glaring examples.

Update: Does this guy read blogs? Now Mark Hulbert at CBS Market Watch has raised this same question about the relationship between the stock market and Republicans.

Posted by Tom at 11:29 a.m. CST

W TRIES TO WEASEL OFF 11-12-02

Oh, isn't this interesting? W is trying to weasel off actually passing the conservative things he called for during the campaign. Ah, he's a hypocrite too! Great. Do you think anyone will remember this? Probably not.

Days after winning unchallenged control of the government, the Bush White House and the incoming Republican congressional leadership have scaled back their ambitious tax cut proposals and dampened expectations for an overhaul of Social Security.

So what was Trent Lott vowing in Churchillian tones? Homeland security legislation? An economic stimulus package?

Well, Lott wants those, too, but his vow was to pass a ban on what opponents of the procedure call"partial-birth" abortions. In an interview with American Family Radio the morning after the GOP midterm election triumph, Lott told the Christian radio network:"We will move the partial-birth abortion bill through. The House did it this year. Once again, Tom Daschle would not call it up. I will."

Such public pronouncements on the Hill worry Bush aides. It's not because the president objects to the policy – he had said he would sign a ban on the controversial procedure – but because he does not wish to be seen as a captive of his party's ideologues, as President Bill Clinton did when he moved quickly on gay rights in the military."I don't take cues from anybody," Bush said at last week's news conference.

On Thursday, the White House held a conference call with social conservatives and pleaded with them to be patient."They're saying the president's priorities are already known, but let's be prudent and not just aggravate the Democrats by putting it in their face," said Deal Hudson, the editor of Crisis Magazine and an ally of the White House."It may not be the first thing that this administration pushes because it's not this administration's style to get the controversial thing out there at the beginning."

Guys, either you want these things or you don't -- don't pretend to and then back off when you're in power. Come on, I want my loony right-wing legislation now!

I'm going to be bogged down in course prep today, so there may not be that much blogging today. We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 9:31 a.m. CST

DEMOCRATS VS. REPUBLICANS ON THE ECONOMY 11-11-02

P.L.A. takes Professor Instapundit to task in this post about Democrats versus Republicans on the economy. I think it's safe to say that P.L.A. has the goods. Read the post. Here's his conclusion:

Those facts make it difficult to argue that Republican Presidents have done a better job than Democratic Presidents in managing the economy. Indeed, if someone will suggest a measure of economic performance in which Republican Presidents have done better than Democratic Presidents, we will be happy to look into the issue. Surely there must be some measure of economic performance that favors the Republicans; however, we have been unable to locate it.
Like I said, he's really got him. So often Reynolds makes unfounded statements that don't check out. The rather large error of the post in question is not a particularly egregious one in the factually inaccurate world that is the righty blog universe but, I must say, it's a pretty typical one.

Posted by Tom at 6:58 p.m. CST

ANNOUNCING STAND DOWN 11-11-02

I wanted to take this opportunity to announce the new anti-IraqWar blog, Stand Down. This is a group blog written by lefties and righties who are against the looming war with Iraq. As you can probably guess by now, yours truly is one of the bloggers.

It's a good and diverse crew -- many of whom are much more informed and articulate than I am. You should give it a look.

I just added it to the blogroll as well

Posted by Tom at 10:50 a.m. CST

GENE LYONS LETS 'EM HAVE IT 11-11-02

Among other things, Gene Lyons fires back at the editorial staff at the Arkansas Republican er, Democrat-Gazette regarding his column on Tim Hutchingson's Trophy Wife. If you recall, Hutchinson went down big last week. Here are the two relevant paragraphs:

BACK WHEN I STARTED THIS GIG IN 1994, friends asked me what kind of rinky-dink outfit sought a columnist to represent a"liberal" views, then wrote editorials sneering at him for doing so. I answered that personal invective had a long history at the Democrat-Gazette; I'd have been naïve to expect anything else. Besides, I'd rarely lost a name-calling contest. I figured I could hold my own without too much strain. Take last week's boldly anonymous Democrat-Gazette editorial calling me"scuzzy" for questioning Randi Hutchinson's virtue. Excuse me, make that"Miss Randi." A gentlemen should always patronize a lady when engaging her in public controversy.

So Miss Randi gives a speech to a bunch of church ladies saying nobody should hold her husband's"personal life" against him, and I'm supposed to pretend she's talking about stamp collecting or model airplanes? Only Mr. Anonymous could fail to see how ridiculous he looks invoking tastefulness and decorum after spending a decade focused on Bill Clinton's zipper like a laser beam. Sen. Hutchinson and his editorial page chums went out crusading for a showdown on the" character" issue. Now they're shocked and horrified that they got one.

Give 'em hell Gene! Greenberg and the editorial thugs at the state's newspaper of record deserve it -- and not just because they won't put the paper online either. So much for the public's right to know. You have to pay a monthly subscription to even read the thing online! Okay, I'm done venting about this.

Posted by Tom at 10:21 a.m. CST

BEFORE THE DARK TIMES 11-11-02

Another piece building on these themes is a reader contribution by Maureen Farrell on the Buzzflash website that's worth a look. Here's a short snippet from the much larger piece:

Though we want to feel as if we're rooting for"uncomplicated good," we hold our noses each election and vote for more taxation without representation. When corporations are calling the shots, progressives are at a distinctive disadvantage, as veteran journalist Bill Moyers pointed more than a decade ago. And now, following the 2002 election, we can once again count upon Moyers to address our concerns. While self-proclaimed liberal Chris Matthews giddily hosts right-wing pundits like Bob Dornan heralding in"the beginning of the end of liberalism," Moyers chronicles the dark times we foresee. Confronting threats to the environment and to government transparency and to a woman's right to choose, he openly wonders how working people willingly voted against their own interests."If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what's coming," Moyers explained. Does that underscore why Chris Matthews delightedly characterized G. Gordon Liddy, Pat Buchanan and Dornan as"whooping it up" over what's ahead?

It would seem so. Because while the Regressive Right is often given a forum, the Progressive Left is not. When 20 antiwar congressmen recently held a press conference before the Iraq resolution vote, the media didn't cover it, as the congressmen were"out of the mainstream." We're not talking Noam Chomsky or Robert Fisk, here, we're discussing U.S congressmen. Nonetheless, Congressional Progressive Caucus chairman Dennis Kucinich was reelected with 74% of the vote, vice chairman Barbara Lee captured 81% in her district, Major Owens received 86%, Bernie Sanders, 65%, Peter DeFazio 64%, Nancy Pelosi 80% and Jesse Jackson, Jr. nabbed 86% of the vote. And remember Congressman Jim McDermott, who was demonized for visiting Baghdad and for (rightfully) saying Bush would mislead America in order to go to war? 74% of the voters in his district voted for him again. Needles to say, if McDermott had lost, you would have heard braying nationwide.

But none of this signals it's time to start singing"Power to the People" just yet. It's important to remember that the seismic shift that's occurred in parts of the country is very real. Democrat governor Roy Barnes, for example, lost his bid for reelection for having the gall to remove the Confederate symbol from Georgia's state flag, and though he lost three limbs serving in Vietnam, Max Cleland lost his bid after being attacked for a lack of patriotism, because he held out for an inclusion of worker's rights for Homeland Security employees. President Bush, Karl Rove and Ralph Reed orchestrated much of this -- and we can't help but wonder of Jesus Christ were elected to office, how quickly the Religious Right would be calling for His head.

Given this, it looks as if we're in for the fight of our lives. And we are going to have to rely on old mentors even more. For generations, enlightened writers have been, to paraphrase Obi Wan Kenobi, our"guardians of peace and justice." This was"before the dark times, before the Empire," mind you. But luckily, while some journalists are telling us to close our mouths and close our minds, as we face the darkest times in recent memory; we still have some old standbys to offer us light.

It's a well-thought-out and effective piece. It's worth a careful read.

Posted by Tom at 9:44 a.m. CST

BEHIND THE SMILE 11-11-02

There's a good column by Bob Herbert in the New York Times this morning about the true agenda of Republicans now that they have control of the government. Here's a bit of it:

One of the definitions of slick is"deftly executed; adroit." Synonyms include"sly, shrewd, slippery, wily." These words came to mind as I watched the Republican Party's remarkable off-year election triumph last week. Give credit where it's due. Bill Clinton at his most devious was never as sly or as cunning (or as politically effective) as the Republican Party has become.

I think of the G.O.P. as the costume party. It wears a sunny mask, which conceals a reality that is far more ideological, far more extreme, than most Americans realize.

Among the less meaningful questions being asked in Washington is whether the Republicans, having won control of the Senate and strengthened their hold on the House, will now go too far and outpace their mandate. My question is: Where have you been? In a nation that is divided almost 50-50 politically, the Republicans flew past their mandate a long time ago.

Driven by its right wing and aided immeasurably by George W. Bush's genial smile, the G.O.P. is putting in place profoundly conservative policies that will hamper progressive efforts for decades to come, no matter what happens in upcoming elections.

With the help of Democrats who should have known better, the Republicans have already enacted a huge and potentially hazardous round of tax cuts. In an environment in which budget deficits have returned and war appears to be imminent, common sense would seem to suggest that the government tread softly on tax cuts for the time being. But a key element of the G.O.P. agenda in the immediate aftermath of last week's stunning victories was a plan to make the current tax cuts permanent and enact a new package of cuts.

There is a method to the G.O.P.'s tax cut madness, beyond the obvious benefits to the very rich. Conservatives have long reasoned that the only way to destroy popular programs that actually help ordinary Americans (Social Security, Medicare and so on) is to starve the government of the money needed to pay for them.

The intensity of the conservative opposition to such programs can be startling. To Ronald Reagan, for example, Medicare was an affront to the very idea of America. The historian Robert Dallek noted that Mr. Reagan"saw Medicare as the advance wave of socialism, which would `invade every area of freedom in this country.'"

During a budget fight in the mid-90's, Newt Gingrich, apparently referring to the original fee-for-service version of Medicare, which had become cherished by the elderly, wisecracked:"We don't get rid of it in Round One because we don't think it's politically smart."

The way to cripple such programs without openly opposing them is to bleed the government of the money to pay for them. With the prospect of budget deficits stretching far into the future, and with the first wave of baby boomers already well into their 50's, the day of reckoning for Social Security and Medicare is not far off.

I know, like most people my age, I long ago wrote off Social Security and Medicare. I knew that these programs were in trouble because no one has the guts to fix the problems. And now, with W and the boys blasting a giant deficit hole in the federal budget that grows larger by the day, both of these programs may be gone inside twenty years.

Boy, you gotta love those Republicans, eh? As long as their corporate puppetmasters get their favors and their rich friends get their enormous tax cuts, they could care less about anything else domestically.

In the future, historians may mark this election as the beginning of the end for the social safety net in America. And, of course, the weird thing is that most Americans are attached to these programs but, because the Republicans hide their true nature behind the vapid smile of W, people don't realize that these cherished programs are genuinely under the gun now.

Posted by Tom at 9:08 a.m. CST

TOO OBSESSED WITH SADDAM 11-10-02

As Interpol tries to warn us that Al-Qaeda is planning major terrorist attacks, do you think anyone in Washington is listening?

If something happens, do you think W and the boys will stand up and admit that they were too obsessed with Saddam to pay attention to these rather dire warnings from Interpol?

Nah. I doubt it. W has never been held responsible for anything in his life. Why should we start doing so now?

(Link via Counterspin.)

Posted by Tom at 9:53 a.m. CST

W LIES, MEDIA SWALLOWS 11-09-02

All of a sudden, the media has discovered that Bush lies. Astonishing!

There's this story from MSNBC about W's incredibly disingenuous statements about the just-completed election.

There's this story in the Boston Globe about how Bush appears to be lying about the Harken stock sale.

And, finally, the penultimate slam job from Eric Alterman in The Nation. Of course, Alterman isn't one I'd accuse of just now discovering this -- he's been talking about it for a while now.

Holy Cow, did these guys not know this? W damn near lies about when the sun comes up folks. It's nice of you guys to discover this finally. Unfortunately, they're discovering this after W and Republicans have already taken control of all three branches of government.

They're just a wee bit late, huh?

Posted by Tom at 5:49 p.m. CST

TODAY'S LINKS AND SARCASM 11-08-02

Gee, William Webster (former member of the Veiled Prophet, by the way), the guy that W appointed to head the board that would oversee the accounting board was just as crooked as the worst in corporate America today it appears. I'm incredibly surprised. I'm shocked.

Paul Krugman has another good column today about what we should do now that we've been thrown into the political wilderness by the four out of ten unthinking American voters who voted Tuesday. He also takes aim at the"liberal media" myth. Boy, I still can't believe there's anyone left who thinks our corporately-owned, warmongering, profit-driven media is liberal. I guess it's the truly false myths that die the hardest. I'm sure there are still some folks that believe what Parson Weems had to say about Washington and the cherry tree. If you asked me, the"liberal media" myth is in the same category.

So much for the successful and glitch-free midterm election in Florida. Officials in Broward County found 103,000 votes yesterday. Yes, you read that right. 103,000! You know if there had been a close race in Florida that would've really screwed things up.

I mean, heck, having the votes of tens of thousands of Floridians go uncounted could've changed the outcome of an election! And you know if this major snafu would've threatened to reverse the outcome, I'm sure one party would've gone to the federal courts to try and keep those votes out of the total, arguing that they were invalid and that the voters who cast them were too stupid or, worse yet, had committed fraud or something. One party probably would've claimed they were harmed by the counting of these Floridians' votes.

Oh, wait, that happened already -- in 2000. Never mind. Been there. Done that.

No big deal, right?

Posted by Tom at 4:39 p.m. CST

IRAQWAR DRAWS CLOSER 11-08-02

Jeff Cooper has some thoughts on the approaching IraqWar today. With the passage of the U.N. Security Council resolution today, it has become much more likely. I will say that moving through the U.N. is the proper way to do this. It certainly beats invasion with the scorn of the world ringing in our ears. That may yet happen but this is a better course to follow.

Of course, this resolution could've been passed easily in July or August if the administrations had seen fit to do it. However, if you recall, there were vacations to take, elections to win, and dogs to wag, so it suspiciously took until right now.

BTW, there's a good column today by David Ignatius in the Washington Post about how the U.N. resolution puts Saddam in quite a pickle. If he gives in and allows inspections, he risks being overthrown, if he refuses inspections, we'll overthrow him. Unfortunately, some military leader might step up and assassinate him but, since we were such weenies about such things in the aftermath of the Gulf War Part I (allowing Saddam to murder those who rose up against him without so much as lifting a finger), no intelligent Iraqi military officer will put himself on the line at the moment.

All indications are this war takes place in February. I still think the administration will suspiciously put it off until the next election year in 2004 but many of my colleagues who follow military movements and such assure me this thing is going off next year. We'll see.

However, I will warn you that the world may not support this war like W and the boys think it will. It's one thing to support a vaguely-worded U.N. Security Council Resolution, it's entirely another to support a unilateral invasion.

Posted by Tom at 10:55 a.m. CST

W, SECRECY, AND HISTORY 11-08-02

W and the boys are at it again. They want to make sure that you and I can't check up on what they're doing. Here's an editorial from the Los Angeles Times about W's latest threat to the public's right to know what their own government is doing:

Chokehold on Knowledge

Since it's the threat of obscurantism we're hoping to thwart, let's be blunt: The Bush administration's plan to strip the Government Printing Office's authority is a threat to democracy.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels wants to transfer control of information management from the printing office to individual Cabinet agencies. That would spell the end of the current system, in place since the Jeffersonian era, which requires executive branch agencies to send their documents and reports to neutral librarians, who then make them available to the public both online and in 1,300 public reading rooms nationwide.

Daniels would replace that system with a more secretive one in which individual agencies would manage -- and possibly sanitize -- their own electronic databases.

Currently, a federal agency such as the Pentagon can't delete an embarrassing passage from a historical document without first going through the hassle of asking each reading room to obscure the passage with a black marker.

If Daniels gets his way, all an agency will have to do is call up the document in Microsoft Word and quietly hit Control X to delete the passage for eternity.

Daniels says he's only trying to save taxpayer money. Giving Cabinet-level agencies the ability to select printing services on the basis of"quality, cost and time of delivery," he wrote, could save up to $70 million a year. That's a dubious claim, however, because the printing office already sends nearly two-thirds of its work to the private contractor with the lowest bid.

As library experts have recently pointed out, privatization might or might not save money, but it certainly would diminish the public's access to information needed to make informed decisions.

As Barbara Quint, Information Today's usually dispassionate columnist, fumed in September, Daniel's current push"threatens to gut federal document dissemination -- and fast."

In his 1644 pamphlet"Areopagitica," the English poet John Milton (reacting to how the Catholic Church had arrested and silenced Galileo simply because the astronomer's views on the universe conflicted with its doctrines) warned that citizens who didn't know what their government was doing couldn't hold it accountable.

In the late 18th century the words of an American lawyer, Patrick Henry, helped persuade Congress to pass legislation protecting the public's right to know."The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure," Henry said,"when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."

In deciding whether to keep the library system that works to keep executive branch agencies honest, Congress has a choice: trust the upstarts in the Bush administration or heed the wisdom that has guided the country for more than two centuries.

Combined with W's desire to hide the energy task force documents from us and his executive order withholding presidential documents from Reagan's and his father's administrations from the public, it is clear this administration really does want to create an empowered imperial presidency and executive branch.

As we've seen on numerous occasions already, W and the boys apparently don't believe this same level of secrecy applies to Clinton's administration. The hypocrisy is hip-deep on this one folks. Interestingly enough, Clinton has said he sees no reason for the documents from his administration shouldn't be made public on schedule. What potentially embarrassing revelations are contained in those Reagan and Bush administration documents?

As a historian, I find this all quite frightening. All of these developments together show a desire on the part of W and the boys to be in charge of controlling the public's access to information about their own government. That way, an administration can carefully sanitize the historical record and make sure that their mistakes or misjudgements are never held up to historical scrutiny. This has major implications for history and, I would agree with the editorial writer, democracy itself.

I'm really not sure there's anything this administration won't do in the pursuit of power and secrecy. This should tell you all you need to know about the true character of these guys. They apparently don't believe themselves to be public officials at all. They're above us peons. They see no need to be accountable to us in any way. And, in their opinion, we sure as hell have no right to know just what it is they're doing.

Hey, they'd say, they're the leaders, we're the people. We are told to believe everything they tell us.

And, if they have their way, we'll never know if they were telling us the truth -- even decades from now.

I can't really oversell the historical implications of that, can I?

Posted by Tom at 9:22 a.m. CST

THE TALENT OF DECEPTION 11-07-02

There's a good editorial in the New York Times about the lessons the two parties should learn from the midterms. Here's quite a bit of it:

Both parties actually should be careful about the lessons they draw from the election. President Bush has a right to be a very happy man this week. It was his willingness to put his prestige on the line in three weeks of tireless, well-aimed campaigning that won the day for his party. Nevertheless, he would be mistaken to read too much into the results.

The president's personal popularity coupled with his party's savvy campaign strategy certainly could become the basis for a solid Republican majority in the future, but it is not there yet. On Tuesday the country continued to be split almost exactly down the middle. The Democrats' two most crippling losses occurred in Minnesota and Missouri, where the voting margins narrowed to practically nothing.

Obviously, a narrow win is better than a narrow loss, but Mr. Bush has a habit of interpreting even the tiniest margins of victory as mandates for sweeping change. The last time around he seized on an election in which he lost the popular vote as justification for pressing forward with a lopsided tax plan and other programs beloved by business interests and the conservative G.O.P. base. Now, having run to the center in order to win their critical races, the Republicans will be tempted to embark on an aggressively conservative agenda — saddling the country with right-wing judges for the next 30 years or resurrecting some of their more repellent energy strategies, like opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling.

The Democrats, for their part, don't seem to be having much problem taking their defeats seriously. The one thing the party had plenty of yesterday was self-criticism, although there didn't seem to be a large supply of people willing to take personal responsibility for the loss of control of the Senate and the increased Republican majority in the House. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority whip, said the Democrats had failed utterly to distinguish themselves from the opposition. Representative Martin Frost of Texas, who like Ms. Pelosi wants to be a candidate for the leader's job if Mr. Gephardt steps aside, was arguing that the election proved the country was moving to the right and that the Democrats needed to follow suit.

Democrats are certainly frustrated by Republicans' skill at co-opting the rhetorical center. But it doesn't take a genius to realize that a party that wants to run on the nation's economic problems needs to have a coherent economic strategy first. Instead of explaining to the public why they felt long-term tax cuts for the wealthy were a bad idea, most Democrats in tight races either dodged the issue or voted with the president.

Mr. Bush's political genius has always been in defining a narrow list of issues he supports and then sticking to his message. The Democrats could do the same thing, rallying behind their popular positions on the environment and Social Security. But they must also figure out whether they are a party that disapproves of huge long-term tax cuts for the wealthiest sliver of the American population. If they can't agree on that one, there will be good reason for the rest of the country to wonder what exactly they stand for.

There is a good point here about how evenly divided the nation still is and about how the Democratic Party needs to find a message.

However, I love it when they say that the Republicans"Co-opt[ed] the rhetorical center" in this election. Is that now what the press calls it when a candidate lies about his or her core beliefs just so they can get elected? It's lying folks. That's all it is and the American public fell for Bush's deception in 2000 and Americans fell for that same phony tactic again in the midterms on Tuesday.

Missouri voters certainly fell for it. Jim Talent has now got four years (if you recall, Talent is filling the last four years of Mel Carnahan's term) to take far right loony positions and then, presto, just in time for the election in 2006, he'll suddenly claim he's a moderate. I was genuinely offended when Talent said yesterday he'd be a Senator like the geniune judicious moderate, Jack Danforth. Once again, as in the irritatingly moderate rhetorical pap regurgitated by Talent during the campaign, he's lying to us. Please, just spare us the charade for a little while, will you?

We knew Jack Danforth -- and you're no Jack Danforth buddy. Like many of the Republican Senators elected Tuesday, you're just a right-winger in moderate's clothing who won a painfully close election by pretending to be something he's not. The Republicans have become adept at practicing this deception. If you'll excuse the terrible pun, they have developed quite a talent for it actually.

However, I suspect Talent will pile up quite a far-right-wing record and then try what will hopefully be a futile run back to the center a la John Ashcroft. Unfortunately for us, we've got four years to wait for that I'm afraid.

Sigh.

Posted by Tom at 11:39 a.m. CST

PITT-IFUL TIMING 11-07-02

Here's a New York Times editorial about Harvey Pitt's belated departure and the cynical timing of it. Here's a bit of it:

His stewardship of the S.E.C., the key regulator of the stock market and of publicly traded companies, was nothing short of disastrous. The White House played a role in this debacle. It allowed Mr. Pitt to stay on the job just when the country most desperately needed strong leadership to restore investor confidence. In addition, the timing of the resignation was totally cynical. Not until the polls closed was Mr. Bush prepared to concede that he had put the wrong man in the job.
Did anyone else think this was exceedingly cynical timing? This administration plays politics with things like this much more than the supposedly hyper-political Clinton administration ever did. The rest of the editorial is good as well. I have a suspicion we've got a recession coming. I certainly hope not and I expect the administration to hire yet another Wall Street lapdog to replace Pitt. We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 11:14 a.m. CST

W TO STOP BLAMING CONGRESS 11-07-02

From the Borowitz Report:

BUSH IN TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM TO STOP BLAMING CONGRESS

Will Be Tough Habit to Lick, President Acknowledges

With his party now in control of both the House and the Senate, President Bush revealed today that he had entered a twelve-step program to help him stop blaming Congress.

“I have a problem,” the President said in a White House briefing. “A big problem.”

The President said that blaming Congress would be “a tough habit to lick,” acknowledging that he had done it every day since being elected President, “sometimes even before breakfast.”

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said that the President first became aware of the seriousness of his problem the morning after Tuesday’s midterm elections, when he gave a speech excoriating Congress and daring them to pass his tax cut proposals.

An aide whispered in the President’s ear to remind him that Republicans were now in control of Congress, but the President persisted in attacking Congress nonetheless.

“When your own party is running Congress but you’re still ripping it a new one, that’s a big-time wake-up call,” said White House aide Karl Rove. “We all knew at that point that the President needed help.”

White House aides used an afternoon Cabinet meeting to stage a so-called “intervention” with the President, after which Mr. Bush voluntarily entered the twelve-step program to beat his Congress-blaming habit.

After just one day in the program, Mr. Bush said that he felt “great” and that he looked forward to finding other people besides Congress to blame things on.

In a speech to the National Chamber of Congress later in the day, Mr. Bush came out swinging, blaming the nation’s flagging economy on actress Winona Ryder, Princess Diana’s butler, and the winless New York Knicks.

Ah, good satire really gets to the truth, doesn't it?

Posted by Tom at 9:29 a.m. CST

COMING SOON: A $600 BILLION DEFICIT
11-06-02

As we all know, the Republican tax cut and federal deficit binge is going to happen soon. I watched this woman from the Family Research Council getting positively orgasmic over it just this afternoon on CNN. She really was moaning in pleasure about the prospect of it.

Of course, you and I will see absolutely none of this"tax relief." That's the beauty of this stuff for Republicans. All they have to do is convince the multitudes of unsophisticated rubes in the South and the Midwest that they'll get a tax cut and it's smooth-sailing at election time.

Anyway, in this well-reasoned Slate article by Daniel Gross, he argues the biggest casualty of last night's election is going to be any shot at a balanced federal budget for the next decade. Here's a bit of it:

The Democrats who controlled the Senate for most of the past two years embraced balanced budget politics—although they did it more from political expedience than principle. But those Democrats no longer run the Senate. Gone, too, are many of the Northeastern root-canal Republicans—like Warren Rudman—who could be relied upon to agitate for balanced budgets. With control of both houses of Congress and a 2004 re-election campaign that starts now, Republicans will have little incentive to control spending.

What's more, the government spends money in far bigger chunks now than it used to. The United States nearly broke even on the Gulf War. By contrast, we'll be picking up the tab for any military campaign against Iraq: $50 billion to $100 billion. The numbers bandied about for a prescription drug benefit are in the hundreds of billions. Among other worthy issues with bipartisan support, we'd need several hundred billion to fix the alternative minimum tax and a couple of trillion to"save" Social Security.

Even without such gigantic commitments, it's likely that the disconnect between government income and spending will grow. More and more, the federal government is coming to resemble one of those little oil companies the president was involved with in the private sector. Every year, revenues go down and expenses go up. Under Bush, government spending has risen at a 6.05 percent annual compound rate, while receipts have fallen at a 4.34 percent annual rate. If the trends of the past two years continue, the government would run a $590 billion deficit in 2004. On a percentage basis, we'd be back where we were at the end of Bush père's term. Disregard the administration's absurdly optimistic prediction that revenues will rise 9.5 percent and spending will rise just 6.3 percent in 2003. The continued phase-in of the backloaded tax cuts and the likely passage of new tax cuts mean revenues are likely to fall further.

Meanwhile, it's difficult to read the shift in congressional control as anything but a green light for tax avoidance. Buried amid the campaign talk yesterday was a New York Times article in which outgoing Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rossotti lamented that his agency is unequipped to deal with the growing army of wealthy and sophisticated tax cheats."Basically, demands and resources are going in the opposite direction," said Rossotti."This is systematically undermining one of the most important foundations of the American economy." What's more, the Bush administration had prohibited Rossotti from telling a congressional hearing that the IRS couldn't do its job with the funds it had.

Thanks W. Several generations (not just my generation but my kids and grandkids) will have to pay off your outrageous and unnecessary deficit-ballooning tax cuts to the rich. You can only imagine how much I appreciate it.

When are Americans going to wise up to this chicanery?

Posted by Tom at 4:40 p.m. CST

GOOD POST-MORTEM ON MYDD 11-06-02

MyDD has a good post-mortem analysis of the Great Democratic Debacle yesterday. Here's a snippet:

Democrats, when they see Republicans use patriotism or warmongering for political purposes react cynically, but it doesn't make them mad. You can bet your holy dollar, had Ronald Reagan died before the election, the Republican mantra of 'win one for the gipper' would have been out the mouth of every freeper. Republicans, when they see Democrats acting partisan at non-partisan events, become morally indignant, extremely agitated, caustic, and utterly activist.

In Minnesota, it turned a 5-10% Wellstone victory into a 2% Mondale loss, and it happened due to massive turnout, above Presidential levels in Minnesota; and a large enough swing in MO and GA to oust Carnahan and Cleland.

The Bush Bounce was a notable factor in these key races, without him, these Senate seats, and many of the House seats would have been won by Democrats. I didn't believe the Gallup polling when it came out, suggesting the swell in likely Republican voters a week before the election. Given the results, why deny the fact?

The hardcore activist among the Republican voters have been on fire to retake the trifecta under Bush's partisan rhetoric since the day Jeffords bolted, and the Wellstone memorial and Mondale appointment was the fuel that stoked the wider partisan fire of their multitudes, leading to a groundswell turnout in selected areas of the nation by Republicans.

The Republican voters want it more, and the public seems inclined to go along. Part of the problem with the Democratic Leadership not really standing against Bush over anything controversial, is that it mutes their claim that a Republican Trifecta would be extreme-- Democrats compromise with them, so how can it be that bad? The"show me" vote (or lack thereof) has spoken.

The rest of it is just as good. The Democrats had better start working on the vision thing. They don't have one at the moment.

Posted by Tom at 3:13 p.m. CST

JOE CONASON'S TAKE 11-06-02

Joe Conason sums up the midterms quite well. Here's a bit of it:

Whatever eventually happens in Louisiana, the Democrats have lost control of the Senate. The nation will return almost immediately to the Republican domination of the executive, legislative and judicial branches that existed before Vermont's Jim Jeffords turned independent last year. Now the Democratic voters who chose not to show up Tuesday are going to find out what their decision meant, in a country ruled by President Bush, Trent Lott and Tom DeLay. From drilling in Alaska to regressive taxation to unilateral war, the agenda of the corporate and religious right will shape our future.

In this historic election, Bush overcame his weaknesses as a statesman with his skills as a politician. While I dislike what he represents and what he does, I can't deny his determination and enterprise. Against a drifting, disorganized Democratic Party, he hustled the money, the issues and the voters. He saw the opportunity and embraced the risk, big time. He fully exploited the advantages of his office, including his ability as commander-in-chief to foment an atmosphere of war. In several contests he made an important difference, creating the conditions for his party's momentum. So the president's supporters will insist again, as they did in the wake of Sept. 11, that he has achieved the mandate that eluded him two years ago.

Unlike the debacle in 2000, the Democrats have no one but themselves to blame for this defeat. The Republicans had much more money, but they always do. Their schemes to intimidate voters were appalling, but didn't provide the margin of victory in places like Florida and Texas. The Green Party had a will to spoil, but lacked the capacity to make any real difference. Across the country, from California to New York, bland and compromised Democratic candidates were unable to motivate their own base, let alone attract the independents required to win close races. Only where the issues were predominantly local, as in the campaigns for governor, could the Democrats prevail consistently.

Read the rest of it. It's quite good.

Update: A couple of other good wrap-ups of the lessons from last night's midterm elections are on the Daily Kos and Lean Left.

Update 2:Jeff Cooper has a good rant about the midterms this morning as well.

Update 3:Here's another take on the midterm elections by Jeff Koopersmith of American Politics Journal that emphasizes the impact of the Faux News Channel and right-wing pundits on our political system and our supposedly"objective" media. It's worth reading.

Posted by Tom at 9:02 a.m. CST

THE (LACK OF) VISION THING 11-06-02

I've got an enormous stack of exams to plow through today, so blogging may be a bit light for a few hours.

Boy, those elections were something weren't they? I think it's safe to say that Democrats are failing to provide any sort of alternative vision to that of the Republicans. This isn't helped when they support most of W's policies -- including IraqWar -- anyway. I can understand why many Americans were having trouble deciding what difference it made in voting Democrat or Republican. On many important issues, there wasn't much of a difference lately anyway.

Furthermore, this apparently was an election in which Democrats simply could not convince Democrats to turnout to vote it appears. From all accounts in Missouri, a good number of Democrats in KC and St. Louis stayed home. I'm sure that's true elsewhere as well. Rural Missouri, however, turned out bigtime. I'm actually surprised the U.S. Senate race here was so agonizingly close. The ultimate margin was a bit more than 20,000 votes out of 1.9 million -- which is less than half the razor-thin margin Mel Carnahan had against Ashcroft in 2000. This was the ultimate negative campaign. The negative campaigns employed by both parties apparently energized the rabid right but didn't do much for Democratic voters. In fact, the negative tone of this campaign apparently convinced many Democrats to stay home. I guess it could've been worse. With the Republicans outspending Democrats 3-1, it's amazing that it was as even as close as it was I guess.

I also have to say to Republicans, be careful what you ask for because you might get it. The central strategy of this midterm campaign -- that Democrats are blocking the president's agenda -- will no longer work guys. You guys have control of the entire government. This now becomes YOUR war on terror, YOUR faltering economy, YOUR ballooning federal budget deficit, YOUR ineffective corporate responsibility policies and, most importantly, YOUR IraqWar. Major mistakes or setbacks in any of these areas and you can't blame Democrats in the Senate or Bill Clinton's penis anymore. It's all yours guys. Have at it.

Unfortunately, those of us who aren't responsible for putting these turkeys in power are just along for the ride. I just hope, for our sake, the Republicans actually have some success in these areas or it's going to be an awfully long two years until Americans can voice their opinions on this again.

Posted by Tom at 8:22 a.m. CST

NEVER MIND 11-05-02

Never mind my earlier words about the midterms. The dog has, I'm afraid to say, successfully been wagged. My congratulations to consigliere Rove on his brilliant and shameless use of IraqWar as a way to win the midterms. It clearly was a great marketing strategy. When the economy continues down the tubes and we have young men dying in Iraq in a few months, I hope the folks who voted Republican remember that they deserve everything that happens. I guess I should try to look on the bright side, now Republicans will be blamed for EVERYTHING that goes wrong the next couple of years. They can't blame the Democrats in the Senate for blocking the President's program. It's all yours guys. Enjoy it.

If you want updated numbers on the Missouri Senate race from the Missouri Secretary of State's office, go here. It's not looking good either -- but I'm sure you knew that.

Posted by Tom at 10:25 p.m. CST

THE LONG EVENING BEGINS 11-05-02

Believe it or not, I have a graduate class to teach tonight. If you're wanting political news, go to the blogs I'll be reading:

Daily Kos

MyDD

Counterspin (Hesiod)

Talking Points Memo

Atrios

All I've heard so far is that turnout is much higher than expected in Missouri and tends to be fairly high nationwide. It appears the Republican attempt to suppress turnout didn't work. We'll see. There is some exit poll data on some of the blogs above as well.

Posted by Tom at 6:29 p.m. CST

SO FAR SO GOOD IN MIAMI 11-05-02

Regardless of troubling reports in other parts of Florida, as Hesiod has already noted, things are going okay in Miami so far.

Here's the voter precinct status map if you're curious.

Posted by Tom at 11:58 a.m. CST

MORE MIDTERM MADNESS 11-05-02

Lots of interesting stories so far today -- not many of them good. As E.J. Dionne observed in his column yesterday, The Republicans appear to be doing anything to win the election.

Anyway, here goes for the news so far:

The first case of GOP voter intimidation is now in. I suspect it won't be the last.

There's more information about this Tennesee situation here.

In Baltimore, Republicans are trying to suppress voter turnout by passing out flyers like this one.

This sounds quite fishy, doesn't it?

Republicans have apparently laundered soft money in Florida. They've transferred it from one account to another and declared -- voila! -- that now it's hard money.

Finally, here's Josh Marshall's predictions for the Senate races.

That's all for now. I'll post more later. It's going to be a long night folks.

Update: Here's the election day weather report from MyDD. You'll notice that the weather is bad in the Panhandle, which could be a problem for Jeb.

Posted by Tom at 11:22 a.m. CST

QUICK HITS THE NIGHT BEFORE 11-04-02

Here's a good election day column by Paul Krugman.

As usual, keep tuned to the Daily Kos for updates on the elections and the latest polling data.

That's all for now.

Posted by Tom at 10:51 p.m. CST

REPUBLICANS DESPERATE IN ARKANSAS SENATE RACE 11-04-02

Atrios has a great post today that demonstrates how desperate Republicans are becoming in Arkansas where their man, Tim Hutchinson, is now down 10 to Mark Pryor.

Pathetic, eh?

You remember Tim Hutchingson don't you? Tim is the family values Republican who voted for the impeachment of Bill Clinton but then divorced his wife of more than 20 years to take up with his much younger (though clearly not a hottie) ex-staffer. (If you follow the link, you have to go down a bit to see the wedding photo.)

Here's a Gene Lyons column about"Tim's Trophy Wife" from last week.

Posted by Tom at 3:35 p.m. CST

TIM RUSSERT AND THAT IRRITATING CHALKBOARD 11-04-02

From the Borowitz Report today:

TIM RUSSERT PLANNING TO USE ANNOYING CHALKBOARD ON ELECTION NIGHT AGAIN, NBC EXECS FEAR

Newsman, Irritating Prop Have Been ‘Inseparable’ Since Election 2000

NBC newsman Tim Russert, who used a small, hand-held chalkboard to illustrate various Electoral College calculations on Election Night 2000, plans to use the annoying prop again this Tuesday night, network insiders worry.

“That chalkboard of Tim’s was cute at first,” one NBC news executive said today. “But ever since the 2000 election, Tim’s been carrying it around everywhere he goes. I mean, get over it.”

Other executives agreed, saying Mr. Russert and his chalkboard have been “inseparable” since the lame prop made its debut in 2000.

According to one news executive, Mr. Russert brings the chalkboard with him to NBC staff meetings and uses it to tally up how many good points he makes, as well as how many stupid remarks are made by others.

“He has one column on the chalkboard labeled 'GOOD,' and one labeled ‘STUPID,’ and he’s always making these little chalk marks when you’re trying to say something,” the executive said. “Tim and his little chalkboard have turned into one gigantic pain in the ass, and I’m not the only one who feels that way.”

In other election coverage news, the three major networks announced today that they have agreed to wait until the polls are closed before incorrectly predicting the winner of a tight congressional race.

“Once we have confirmation that the polls have closed, then and only then will we incorrectly announce that the loser won the race,” CBS anchor Dan Rather said.

I love it!

Posted by Tom at 3:12 p.m. CST

MIDTERM MADNESS 11-04-02

As usual, the Daily Kos and MyDD have the best coverage of the midterms. If you want to keep up with the latest political news, read those two blogs.

Daily Kos has a good post today about how he believes the Republicans are NOT going to have a big night. In fact, he expects the Democrats to do pretty well. Kos also posts all of Zogby's latest poll data as well. According to Zogby, things are looking up. He even has Jean Carnahan marginally ahead.

Is it legal to kick ticketholders out of political rallies, just because they're wearing the wrong buttons? Does the First Amendment even exist anymore? I know that political rallies are just scripted appearances for the party faithful now (and have been for quite some time), but isn't the"First Amendment Zone" thing extremely lame? Of course, with Ashcroft in charge of Justice the constitution doesn't mean much anymore, so I guess we should all get used to it, right?

Update: Regis T. Sabol of Intervention magazine writes a short article about a recent case in Pittsburgh concerning the"First Amendment Zones." The government lost the case in Pittsburgh by the way.

William Saletan in Slate writes about the Mondale campaign in Minnesota. Mondale's going to win big it appears.

As Greg Palast has already observed, the infamous voter purge is still in effect in Florida. Therefore, Jeb wants to get re-elected first. Only then will the government return the tens of thousands of Democratic voters to the voter rolls. Isn't there a legitimate voting rights issue here?

Once again, our news media is falling down on the job with regard to providing voters with coverage of the midterm elections. Of course, IraqWar and the sniper get better ratings, so who gives a damn, right? Who cares if the average voter barely has enough information to decide whom to vote for? That's not the media's fault, right? Right.

Update: 112,000 early voting ballots have been thrown out in San Antonio, Texas. There went Ron Kirk's chances. Cornyn wins. Why do I suspect Republican chicanery here?

BTW, you also really should check out The Election, a blog that keeps up the latest news about the midterm elections. There's some very interesting stuff there.

MyDD has also just been added to the blogroll.

Posted by Tom at 9:25 a.m. CST

MIKE FINLEY ON FRITZ 11-04-02

Minnesota blogger and writer Mike Finley, also the newest addition to the blogroll, has an excellent post this morning about why he's voting for Fritz. It's lengthy, so I'll just quote part of it:

It's really a negative vote. I am frightened by the current administration and am not ready to see them in control of all parts of government -- executive, legislative, judicial, and military.

They aren't that good, to have 360 degree power. I don't have faith that they will take the side of the environment against large corporations -- or against large corporations on any issue. We see already that they are reneging on their summertime campaign against Enron-type fraud.

Big money is this administration's great weakness. Because they are so beholden to the top tier of money-makers, I am never sure what they are sincere about economic matters, about energy issues, even about national security. There are so many threads connecting this administration's oil interests with the problems of the Middle East.

I don't know for sure if they would make a decision on our security based on their interests -- but I'm not willing to take chances, either. Let the administration earn our trust, with deeds, with consistency, and with the civilized basics of advise and consent.

There are people in this government that give me the creeps, and I do not want to empower them more than they are already empowered: Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Don Rumsfield, Condoleeza Rice, and Theodore Olson. These people are power-mongerers beyond the likes of previous office-holders.

There is a will-to-power ethic to these people that at their worst moments reminds me of fascism: any measure is justified by the outcome they desire. This attitude is why checks and balances exist.

I do not like the way the administration took power, over the wishes of the voters of the country and of Florida, and at the whim of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. This is a sticking point. Maybe they deserve to hold power. But they seized it with remarkable rapacity and indifference to the feelings of the majority of voters. They showed their character when they did this. It did not bode well.

Mike goes on to argue that Mondale will stand as a"bulwark against extremism." Mike helped to write part of Norm Coleman's biography, so it isn't like he hates Coleman either -- although he does have some critical things to say about Coleman as well.

Posted by Tom at 8:23 a.m. CST

JON STEWART ON THE MEDIA 11-03-02

I'm old today. I'm 35.

Anyway, Atrios has an interesting post about Jon Stewart's appearance on Howard Kurtz's CNN show. While also being hilarious, Stewart raised so many interesting issues in his appearance. Here's a bit of it pertaining to CNN vs. Faux News:

STEWART: No, honestly, I leave probably CNN on mostly all the time. Although the networks are not really meant to be watched all the time, which I realize now.

KURTZ: When did this come to you?

STEWART: As I was pulling my hair out... (LAUGHTER)... watching the same footage over and over again of nothing.

But I do keep CNN -- I mean, Fox, let's face facts, is a relatively cynical undertaking, to begin with.

KURTZ: Because?

STEWART: Well, it's basically, it's taken the AM radio mentality and labeled it fair and balanced just to upset you guys.

KURTZ: A lot of people watch.

STEWART: Of course, a lot of people watch. A lot of people watch wrestling. A lot of people watch -- you know, you could put on porn, and I think a lot of people would watch it.

But I think they call it fair and balanced just as kind of a dig. I mean, it's not. It's clearly meant to be more ideological and more opinion-based. They took the paradigm of AM radio. By the way, I enjoy what those guys do. I find it fun to watch. It's just not a news network.

< snip >

STEWART: But the thing about CNN is, you guys actually say you can depend on CNN. That's why I'm more upset with you than I am with them.

KURTZ: You hold CNN to a higher standard.

STEWART: Exactly. I expect that from them. From you guys, I'm upset -- what I don't understand is why you guys, with the talent and the credibility and the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) would want to take a page out of their playbook. Why wouldn't you want to take a page out of the more credible? Why wouldn't you go towards the other -- why would you go louder when you could go smarter?

< snip >

KURTZ: So you don't, you're not confusing yourself with a quote,"real journalist"?

STEWART: No. You guys are...

KURTZ: You're just making fun...

STEWART: You guys are confusing yourselves with real journalists.

KURTZ: Oh boy, you're loaded (UNINTELLIGIBLE) today.

STEWART: Instead of putting on shows like"CROSSFIRE" and"Gotcha" and"I'm Going To Kick Your Ass With Tucker Carlson" and"Let's Beat Up The Short Guy."

KURTZ: I'm glad you're at least watching so much CNN, Jon.

STEWART: I am watching it constantly. It's driving me insane. Make the ticker stop. You're in the middle of a damn sniper story, and all of a sudden underneath it, you know,"Liza Minnelli's first VH1 show to air."

Boy, there's a ton of interesting stuff just in that snippet. Read the entire transcript. Stewart raises all sorts of issues. In fact, Stewart makes it fairly apparent he could do Kurtz's job for him -- and be much better at it I might add.

However, what Stewart points out is how our media has changed since the advent of corporate control. Remember twenty years ago when you could watch the 5:30 network news and it was all about world affairs? Boy those days are long gone, aren't they? The network execs in charge of the news divisions today will only do what increases viewership, not what's responsible or ethical. Of course, you knew that, didn't you?

Posted by Tom at 10:17 a.m. CST

A WISH LIST 11-02-02

Bill Keller of the New York Times has a great wish list of incumbents it would be great to see defeated on Tuesday. Unfortunately, every one of them is safe. Here's a snippet:

Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas: If you administered truth serum to members of the House and asked whom they most blame for the fact that the place has become a snake pit, Republicans as well as Democrats would say Mr. DeLay, the former pest exterminator. He shakes down lobbyists, he bullies colleagues and, as perhaps the most powerful member on Capitol Hill, he seems to view his job not as enacting laws but as laying little bear traps for Democrats. Democrats, by Mr. DeLay's account, are never merely mistaken, they are unpatriotic or godless or tools of nefarious special interests. He is also the most ardent opponent of anything that would slow the slosh of cash through Congress. An obvious choice, and almost unanimous.

Here's another one:

Representative Tom Tancredo, Republican of Colorado: In August The Denver Post reported the story of a star high school student who was struggling to get college tuition because his family had entered the country illegally. The state's senior senator was moved to introduce a bill making the student a legal resident. Mr. Tancredo was moved to call the I.N.S. and demand that the family be deported. Mr. Tancredo has found his niche as the House leader of a caucus of immigrant-bashing nativists. He will tell you this is not bigotry, just aggressive law enforcement — though Mr. Tancredo opposed President Bush's effort to restore food stamps to legal immigrants on grounds it would encourage welfare-seekers to flood America. (There was also the little embarrassment of those illegal immigrants who remodeled the congressman's home.) This is one way you gain a foothold in Congress: Find an issue that plays to public fear and anger — ideally a cause that hurts only people who can't vote — then run to the front of the mob and wave a pitchfork. Mr. Tancredo started out as the champion of another angry cause, term limits. But like many members who campaign for government jobs by running against government, he can't bear the thought of leaving. He has told his constituents he will not honor his pledge to retire in 2004. Unless they decide otherwise.

There are some Democrats on this list as well. It's a good article -- go read it.

Posted by Tom at 11:12 a.m. CST

MISSOURI REPUBLICANS TRY THE SOFT SELL 11-01-02

Here's a good column from The New Republic about the reprehensible tactics of Missouri Republicans to suppress black turnout this year. Here's a little bit of a much larger piece:

The second prong of this year's GOP efforts to suppress the minority vote has been widespread allegations of voter fraud in minority communities. Such efforts go back decades. In 1986, the Republican National Committee (RNC) devised a"ballot security program" that was used in Louisiana, Indiana, and Missouri. It was designed, in the words of an RNC memo, to"keep the black vote down considerably."

This year GOP officials in Missouri have accused Clay, the state's most prominent black Democrat, and other St. Louis Democrats of stealing the 2000 Senate and gubernatorial elections. Republicans point to the Democrats' success in convincing Circuit Judge Evelyn Baker to keep the polls open past 7 p.m. on Election Day to accommodate those still standing outside St. Louis polling places waiting to vote. The polling places had been clogged by disputes over the qualifications of voters who had been unaccountably removed from the registration lists. An appeals court panel subsequently overturned Baker's order, but Missouri Republican Senator Christopher Bond declared two days later that the"evidence points to a major criminal enterprise" by the Democrats. Bond rejected the idea that any voters had been prevented from voting."Can you believe that anybody would say that a Democratic election board, appointed by a Democratic governor in a Democratic city dominated by Democrats, was trying to keep Democrats from voting?" he asked. Since then, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Jo Mannies, Missouri Republicans have"savaged" Clay's reputation over the fraud allegations.

St. Louis has had instances of voter fraud before, and what exactly happened on Election Night remains shrouded in controversy. What has been established, however, doesn't point to a Democratic conspiracy. Baker was a Republican appointee, and the Democrats on the city's election board protested her decision to keep the polls open."I think Sen. Bond needs to get a grip," Baker told the Riverfront Times after hearing his charges. Meanwhile, Clay's central contention--that several hundred registered voters were being prevented from voting by faulty lists--has been borne out. This August the Bush Justice Department agreed with Clay and the Democrats that"the Board of Elections improperly removed voters from the registration rolls by placing voters on inactive status without notice and then failing to maintain procedures on Election Day adequate to ensure that those voters could reactivate their registration status and vote without undue delay."

The Justice Department decision quieted discussion of the 2000 election, but Missouri Republicans have now begun to raise the specter of voter fraud in the coming election. They even attempted to create another logjam at the St. Louis polls in November. While a new Missouri law says that voters whose eligibility cannot"immediately" be established should be able to cast provisional ballots subject to later verification, Missouri Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt announced in October that if voters' names were not on the rolls, election judges would have to attempt to verify their registrations before they could cast provisional ballots. That was exactly what had caused the long lines in 2000. Facing a suit from Missouri Democrats, Blunt compromised, but Bond has continued to warn of imminent fraud. Last week he declared,"I get that funny smell sometimes around election time in St. Louis, and ... I'm getting a whiff of that smell."

Ah, Kit Bond. What a demagogue! Great stuff, huh? Republicans understand that if Democrats in St. Louis and KC turn out, they're in trouble. Again, my friends, this is what desperation looks like. Their strategy may work but it sure looks desperate to me.

Posted by Tom at 7:51 a.m. CST

KRUGMAN HITS ONE OUT OF THE YARD 11-01-02

There's a very good Krugman column this morning. He bounces off the Pitt debacle and uses it to make a generalization about W's administration. Here's a snippet of it:

Let's call it the Pitt Principle. The famous Peter Principle said that managers fail because they rise to their level of incompetence. The Pitt Principle tells us that sometimes incompetence is exactly what the people in charge want.

In this particular case, ordinary investors demanded a crackdown on corporate malfeasance — and Mr. Pitt pretended to comply. But this administration is run by and for people who have profited handsomely from their insider connections. (Remember Harken and Halliburton? And why won't the administration come clean about that energy task force?) So he picked someone with an impressive but irrelevant background, whom he could count on not to get the job done.

This principle explains a lot. For example, the Treasury secretary's job is to pursue sound fiscal and economic policies. So if you don't want that job done, you appoint a prominent manufacturing executive with little understanding either of federal budgets or of macroeconomics. He'll be just the man to preside over a lightning-fast transition from record budget surpluses to huge deficits. He'll even cheerily declare that"the latest indicators look good" just days before consumer confidence plunges to a nine-year low.

The attorney general's job is to uphold the Constitution and enforce the rule of law. So if you don't want that job done, you pick a former senator who doesn't have much respect either for the law or for the Constitution — particularly silly stuff about due process, separation of church and state, and all that. He'll be just the man to respond to a national crisis by imprisoning more than 1,000 people without charges, while catching not a single person who has committed an act of terrorism — not even the anthrax mailer.

The same principle can be applied at lower levels. Intelligence and defense experts should realistically assess threats to national security, and the consequences of U.S. military action. So if you don't want that job done, you place it in the hands of prominent neoconservative intellectuals, with no real-world experience. They can be counted on to perceive terrorist links where the C.I.A. says they don't exist, and to offer blithe assurances about fighting a war in a densely populated urban area when the military itself is very nervous.

But the most important application of the Pitt Principle comes at the top. The president's job is to unify the nation, and lead it through difficult times. If you don't want that job done, you appoint an affable fellow from a famous family who has led a charmed business and political life thanks to his insider advantage. He'll be the kind of guy who sees nothing wrong in seeking partisan advantage from a national crisis, even going so far as to declare that members of the other party don't care about the nation's security.

That way, a great surge of national unity and good feeling can be converted, in little more than a year, into a growing sense of dismay, with more and more Americans saying that the country is going in the wrong direction.

Ah, the Pitt Principle sounds like an excellent metaphor for this entire administration, doesn't it? I just hope the next two years isn't as disastrous as the first two. Of course, how could it be? Well, if W gets us involved in a bloody quagmire in Iraq, it certainly could get worse.

Posted by Tom at 7:33 a.m. CST


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