Spencer Blog Archives 12-02





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HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS! 12-31-02

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy New Year. That's it for me today. I've been on a reduced blogging schedule while I'm down here in Arkansas visiting with family. Since I'll be driving back home tomorrow, I won't be blogging again until January 2nd.

I really do hope, for all of our sakes, that next year will be a better year than this one. Unfortunately, it probably won't be -- an unnecessary war is on the horizon, the economy is really bad, and, with Republicans in charge, no help of any kind will be coming for those of us who don't donate millions of dollars toward the Republicans' political warchests.

You know, I had always wondered what it would look like if wealthy corporate interests controlled the government and got everything they wanted.

Well, I guess I know what it looks like now.

It's not pretty, is it?

Everyone take care and I'll see you again in a couple of days.

Posted by Tom at 4:54 p.m. CST

WHO'D HAVE THUNK IT? 12-31-02

Atrios points us to this article about the ties between the leadership of Sons of Confederate Veterans and overtly racist groups.

Apparently, most of the leadership in this neo-Confederate group are also members of many racist and segregationist groups as well.

Astonishing.

I just can't believe it.

Isn't it good that the Republicans got that one bad apple, Trent Lott, out of a leadership position?

Posted by Tom at 10:37 a.m. CST

W'S NOSE IS GROWING 12-30-02

On Saturday, in his last weekly radio address, W lied about when the recession started in a feeble attempt, yet again, to shuck responsibility for the recession.

On Sunday, Colin Powell claims that, contrary to Iraq, North Korea is "not a crisis."

Two days.

Two great big lies.

Honor and Dignity.

Right.

[Last link via Counterspin]

Posted by Tom at 8:10 p.m. CST

ARIANNA: 2002 IN HER REARVIEW MIRROR 12-30-02

Arianna Huffington has an excellent breakdown of the year's memorable -- but hopefully soon forgotten -- events.

Posted by Tom at 9:17 a.m. CST

NOW THAT GLENN ACKNOWLEDGES IT, I CAN SAFELY SAY THAT THE POLL EXISTS! 12-29-02

Holy cow! Liberal Oasis points us to this very belated post by Instapundit acknowledging the existence of the aforementioned poll showing Bush's public approval ratings have dropped. So, since Glenn now believes in its existence, we can all now rest assured that said poll does truly exist. I guess Glenn will respond after two days worth of brow-beating after all. I'm told that he largely delayed responding because he considered my e-mail to him rude and not properly deferential to his status as grand poo-bah of the blogosphere. I guess I should've offered to kiss his"best blogger in the universe" ring.

In the last few hours, several bloggers have contacted me to decry the dishonest and self-serving way in which Glenn refuses to acknowledge the two major players in this one, Liberal Oasis and myself. I do want to thank them here for their messages. However, it's not really that big of a deal.

My goodness! Glenn being dishonest and self-serving! Say it isn't so!

As someone who's been reading him for a while now, I'm afraid to say this sort of thing is just par for the course. He can be a pretty petty guy at times. (As human beings, we all can be but he seems to be setting new lows every few days now.) This is not the first time and it sure as hell won't be the last.

I am happy to say that many lefty bloggers are becoming aware of this rather disheartening side of Glenn's and many of them have decided that he is becoming the Bill O'Reilly of the blogosphere -- dishonestly presenting people's arguments and shouting down those he doesn't agree with -- or, when he's truly desperate, he'll even stoop to questioning their patriotism.

Of course Insty will continue to be surrounded by thousands of sycophants who continue to stroke his ego on a regular basis. He's built his readership to incredible levels. However, I'm told his analysis isn't what it once was and I'm happy to say more and more liberal bloggers are wising up and are not among the remaining sycophants -- and this is a good thing.

That's it for today folks. Remember, I'm down in Arkansas seeing family after all.

Update: Liberal Oasis, the true instigator of all of this despite Glenn's best efforts to ignore them, has an update on this -- noting that CNN is now playing fast and loose with its own poll data now -- referring to a a second poll now that shows better approval numbers. Confusingly, when discussing public approval for the president, they now mix the results of these two polls, using the data that looks best for W of course. Why did CNN take a new poll -- only two days after the first one? It certainly looks a bit suspicious. Were they trying to get better results to buck up our wartime president?

Skippy has also unearthed another interesting development regarding the"invisible cnn/time poll." It appears the folks at Time and CNN are still withholding the embarrassing poll numbers regarding W's approval rating from public circulation.

Interesting -- do you still think it's an innocent mistake now, Kos and MyDD?

Posted by Tom at 4:24 p.m. CST

THAT'S THE NEWS AND I AM... 12-27-02

Out of here! I've always wanted to say that. Can you tell I'm a Dennis Miller fan? Anyway, I'd better go make final preparations for the trip.

There will be no blogging tomorrow for sure. I might blog intermittently the next few days after that but we'll see.

Thanks again for reading!

Posted by Tom at 10:08 p.m. CST

TORTURE IS NEVER OKAY 12-27-02

Randy Paul of Beautiful Horizons sent me an e-mail asking for further comments on our current policy which is apparently to sanction torture of Al-Quaeda and Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Randy has blogged about this here, Meralynn at Talkleft has blogged about it here, Lisa English has here and Kevin Drum has here.

The Washington Post had an excellent editorial on this today. I'll quote you the last paragraph:

But there are certain things democracies don't do, even under duress, and torture is high on the list. Some of the alleged tactics, while aggressive, may be legitimate: deceptions, for example, or psychological pressure. Others -- bright lights and lengthy interrogations that interfere with sleep -- straddle the line between acceptable and unacceptable conduct. Without knowing more about what exactly is happening, it's hard to judge. But beating prisoners is entirely out of bounds. The critical first step is for the administration to clarify what tactics it is using and which are still off limits. If administration officials have decided that moderate physical pressure -- once an abuse -- is now to be the norm in terrorism cases, the American people ought to know and ought to be able to respond through their representatives and through individual and organizational voices. It shouldn't be the administration's unilateral call.

I see this pretty simply. It's just wrong. Certainly we're violating the Convention Against Torture that we've ratified. I don't understand the argument that we have to do these sorts of things. I don't understand how we can do these sorts of things and, as far as I'm concerned, an administration that sanctions these things is, I hate to say this, morally questionable if not inherently evil. This reminds me of Reagan's creepy backing of murderous regimes in Latin America during the 1980s -- except that we're now apparently doing the murdering (two folks at Guantanamo have died under suspicious circumstances) and torturing.

It was wrong to support regimes that did this in the 1980s and it's wrong now. If we're going to be providing an example for the rest of the world we simply don't do these things. We can't. If we do, we have no moral ground to stand on -- and we sure as hell can't be lecturing other countries about their human rights record. We become a nation that believes in"might makes right" rather than actual moral principles.

It's mighty curious that an administration that said it was going to bring"honor and dignity" to the White House is pursuing a policy like this. There's not a lot of honor in sanctioning this sort of behavior. In fact, I'd argue it's a sign that the folks in our government lack honor and any sort of respect for basic human dignity. We've become what we (rightly) despised.

Now I'm sure the righty warmongers, er, warbloggers will argue that I'm"pro-Osama" for saying such things but I really don't give a damn. This is moral principle and we shouldn't be engaging in this sort of behavior. To oppose a government policy that sanctions such behavior is actually the highest form of patriotism I'm aware of -- and sure as hell isn't wrong in any way.

If everything I'm reading about is true, it's a sad day for the country indeed.

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

THANKS! 12-27-02

I want to thank my readers. A little after 4:00 today, I had my 20,000th visitor via a link from Buzzflash.

I've also had more than 36,000 hits since I installed my hit counter on September 18th. It was only 23 days ago that I had my 10,000th visitor, so reader interest in this blog has definitely increased incredibly in just the last couple of weeks.

Today is a record day for both visitors and hits as well.

This isn't major league for the internet (certainly not Instapundit numbers) but I'm very happy with it just the same. I'm very glad so many of you read me every day.

I hope I give you reason to come back for more.

I do greatly appreciate it!

Posted by Tom at 5:11 p.m. CST

QUALIFICATIONS SMALIFICATIONS 12-27-02

You know, there apparently is no shortage of unqualified loons this administration can appoint to important government jobs. Get a load of thisguy!

[the last link via Atrios]

Posted by Tom at 3:16 p.m. CST

THE NEW MCCARTHYISM 12-27-02

Eric Foner and Glenda Gilmore, two big-wig historians, have an excellent column in the Los Angeles Times about Daniel Pipes, Lynne Cheney, and what I would call the New McCarthyism.

I won't quote any of it because you really must go read it.

I mean it.

Go read it.

Posted by Tom at 2:29 p.m. CST

KINSLEY ON RACE AND REPUBLICANS 12-27-02

Michael Kinsley has an excellent column in the Washington Post about politicians and race. Here are his two paragraphs on Bill Frist:

Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, who will be majority leader instead of Lott, is a Southern politician who avoided Lott's tragedy by having the courage to be born a decade later. By the time he entered politics in 1994, the correct answers on the great moral test of civil rights were obvious. Or, at least, what are perceived to be the correct answers haven't changed since then. Frist looks from afar like a decent, generous man with humanitarian instincts who doesn't always let decency, generosity and humanitarianism get in the way of his ambition. ("A humanitarian who doesn't let it get in the way" might be the definition of a" compassionate conservative.") He won his seat from an incumbent Democrat by using television commercials full of racial innuendo. Frist is undoubtedly a better person than his use of those commercials would suggest. Does that make them better or worse?

Frist's best-known achievements as a senator have been influencing President Bush's so-called compromise policy on stem cell research and leading the charge for a $500 million American contribution to international AIDS relief before amending that to $200 million. Both of these episodes can be seen as bona fide achievements made possible by pragmatic accommodation. Or they can be seen as an ambitious pol's sellout of his own principles. I wouldn't hazard a guess how history will see them. But if I were Frist, and for entirely pragmatic reasons, I would give the matter some thought. It would be a pity to get blindsided like his predecessor.

It's a good column. Go read it.

Posted by Tom at 2:09 p.m. CST

MORE ON THAT MYSTERIOUS POLL THAT GLENN DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT 12-27-02

I'm looking at the Time/CNN poll now. There wasn't much more to it than appeared on Liberal Oasis. There was one additional question:

Should the U.S. attack nations that harbor terrorists or have weapons of mass destruction even if these countries have not attacked the U.S. first?

Yes 43%

No 46%

Not sure 11%

Otherwise, the folks at Liberal Oasis have the rest of it.

Of course, we all knew W's approval numbers would eventually return to pre-9/11 levels because this administration is pursuing the same unpopular policies as it was before 9/11. You can only wag the dog with war for so long before people catch on to your game after all.

But I'm still curious why Time and CNN haven't got this poll up on their websites. While I'll agree with other bloggers who have said this poll doesn't mean much now, this is still something that Americans should hear about. Why haven't they?

Are the folks at Time and CNN worried about losing access if they begin to disseminate this poll? I mean, heck, Glenn Reynolds dropped the f-bomb when he heard about it and essentially called me and Liberal Oasis liars in an e-mail last night. I'm sure the folks at the White House will respond in a similar fashion. Sorry Glenn. It is true. I'm looking at it.

And isn't it humorous to see Glenn do his "Miss Manners" routine about proper e-mail etiquette within five minutes of sending me an e-mail with profanity in it. I mean, heck, I'm an adult but I wouldn't dream of sending an e-mail like that to someone. I get some pretty loony e-mail too from some of Glenn's supporters and I don't respond like that. And then he has the gall to fuss at me on his blog for what I sent him!

Just a wee bit hypocritical, huh?

Update: Skippy also has seen said poll and asks some important questions about the dearth of media coverage of this poll as well.

Update 2: Here's a page scan of the poll. Do you believe us now, Glenn?

Update 3: Mark Kleiman blogs about this here and Kos here.

Posted by Tom at 2:01 p.m. CST

A BAD BLACK MAYOR 12-27-02

Sam Heldman pokes yet more holes in the absurd argument that Bill Frist wasn't race-baiting when he brought up Marion Barry in his campaign in 1994:

And in a vast number of these conversations, in which I would sorely disappoint them with my honest belief that the Mayor was clean and that we had proven it, time and time again, the name of Marion Barry would be invoked -- at least there was Marion Barry, who gave temporary comfort to those looking for proof of the"incapable of self-government" theory. In those days in Alabama, and I would infer that the same was true in the state of Tennessee next door, Marion Barry was not a bad Mayor; he was a bad Black Mayor. There was a glee in white discussions of him that you simply won't find today in Alabama in a discussion of the white Mayor of Providence or the white Jim Traficant even if you can stir up a conversation about those guys. In the South in 1994 -- and to a large extent in the South today -- Marion Barry was joyfully exuberant code for"I told you so! Can't trust 'em! Whatchoo gonna say now, Mr. Liberal?" Anyone who tells you otherwise is either unfamiliar with the local dialect, or is trying to make excuses.

Exactly.

[Link via Atrios]

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

BLOGGING SCHEDULE 12-27-02

Blogging may be a bit light today. I'm getting ready for a trip down to see family in Arkansas. There certainly won't be any blogging tomorrow as I'm driving down tomorrow. Once I'm there, I still may not blog much. My parents do have a computer but I probably won't use it much. I'll be back home on January 1.

If I have time today, I may try to get my hands on that mysterious poll that CNN and Time won't put up on their websites.

Skippy notes that"there's no room for" the poll on the CNN website"since the front page is chock full of important stories like this."

Hey, who knew?

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

ECONOMY NOT LOOKING GOOD 12-27-02

Paul Krugman's column this morning examines the prospects for the economy:

First, the Fed has almost run out of room to cut interest rates. It has other tools at its disposal — but it will be reluctant to try exotic, untested policies unless the economy is clearly facing deflation. So don't expect Uncle Alan to bail us out anytime soon.

Then there are the dogs of war. Oil futures are already above $32 per barrel. Donald Rumsfeld assures us that we can fight two wars at once, but nobody seems to have thought about the state of oil markets if there is simultaneous turmoil in the Persian Gulf and Venezuela. Also, gold prices have been soaring; this doesn't affect the real economy, but it's an indicator of nervousness.

What about help from Washington? I'll talk about the administration's"stimulus" plans in another column, but one thing that's clear is that the apparent centerpiece — lower taxes on dividends — has nothing to do with stimulus. The administration clearly still believes that problems aren't challenges to be met, they're opportunities to push a pre-existing agenda.

Finally, there's the desperate plight of the states. New estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show that state governments are facing their worst fiscal crisis since the 1930's. Since Washington shows no interest in helping, states will be forced into desperate expedients. Taxes, mainly taxes that fall most heavily on the poor and the middle class, will go up. Spending on education and, especially, health care will be slashed, with the heaviest toll falling on struggling low-wage workers and their children. (Leave no child behind!)

Aside from the resulting suffering, the efforts of states to balance their budgets will be a significant drag on the economy, probably several times larger than the boost from the administration's so-called stimulus program.

Are there any possible sources of good news?

Yes, a few. A walkover victory in Iraq could lead to sharply lower oil prices. Technology marches on, so businesses could finally decide that it's time to replace aging equipment, even though they still have plenty of spare capacity. Inventories are low; someday businesses will restock, and in so doing give the economy a boost.

Are you enthused? I'm not. I hope I'm wrong, but this doesn't look like a happy new year.

It doesn't look good folks. The business press has been telling us it will get better for months now and it hasn't. Particularly troubling is Krugman's point about how the problems of the states will also drag the economy down.

And, since W and the boys just want to cut taxes for the rich, you and I won't be getting any help. In fact, it's beginning to appear W may pursue a reverse-Robin-Hood tax policy, raising taxes on us while at the same time lowering them for his rich buddies.

That's" compassionate conservatism" for you folks.

Posted by Tom at 10:06 a.m. CST

BOROWITZ: U.S. COULD LICK THE WORLD 12-26-02

Some more satire from the Borowitz Report:

RUMSFELD: U.S. COULD LICK ENTIRE WORLD WITH ONE HAND TIED BEHIND BACK

North Korea: Oh, Yeah?

In what some observers called his strongest rhetoric to date, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said at the Pentagon today that “the United States of America has the military capability to lick the entire world with one hand tied behind our back.”

The comment, in response to a question about whether or not the U.S. was prepared to fight wars in Iraq and North Korea simultaneously, struck some in the international community as going a bit further than necessary to answer the question at hand.

But Mr. Rumsfeld left little doubt that he considered his answer appropriate, adding, “Anyone who doesn’t like my answer can stick it where the sun don’t shine.”

Immediately following Mr. Rumsfeld’s press conference, Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared to be busy performing damage control, telling allies such as Great Britain and France that the United States did not actually intend to lick them any time soon.

Mr. Rumsfeld, however, came thundering back to the Pentagon podium later in the day, saying, “Hey, why are we letting France off the hook?"

The government of North Korea, who had remained ominously silent for most of the day, later issued a curt, two-word statement in response to Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarks: “Oh, yeah?”

Diplomatic experts interpreted North Korea’s statement to mean that the Pyongyang government was interested in entering into new talks with the U.S. on a broad range of issues.

A bit too close to the truth, eh?

Posted by Tom at 9:37 p.m. CST

W'S APPROVAL RATING PLUMMETS -- BUT NO ONE MENTIONS IT 12-26-02

Thanks to the folks at LiberalOasis, we now know that W's approval rating has taken a nosedive in the CNN/Time poll. It now stands at 55%. That's pretty low folks -- that's nearing his low before 9/11. The Republican midterm victory has apparently bothered the 60% of Americans who didn't vote all of a sudden.

Why haven't I heard about this? This looks really suspicious. Why doesn't this data exist on the CNN or Time website? Why withhold it from the public?

Liberal media my, well, you-know-what.

Update: In response to an e-mail about this, I just heard from several bloggers on this poll. Interestingly enough, Glenn Reynolds said that he doesn't"generally blog polls." Feel free to go to his blog and enter"poll" as a search term in his search engine. You'll discover that, contrary to his assertions, Glenn does blog polls when it suits his purposes.

Update 2: Glenn, without linking to this blog of course, suggests that I didn't send him the link to the story. Of course, I did, not once but twice but, apparently, he's unable to follow the links in his e-mails. I'll be nice and suggest that this is a technical problem.

Of course, I wouldn't dare send him an e-mail with an f-bomb profanity in it, would I? That would be extremely tacky, wouldn't it? I'll assume that our good Mr. Instapundit has been into the egg nog this evening and that he isn't quite himself.

I hope that's the case at least.

Update 3: Roger Ailes notes that some of the data from the poll has been noted on the CNN website here and on the comment boards of Atrios here.

Posted by Tom at 7:18 p.m. CST

YEAR-IN-REVIEW QUIZ 12-26-02

Be sure to take the year-in-review quiz over at Roger Ailes' blog.

I just added Roger to the blogroll by the way. Be sure to check his blog out. It's quite good.

Posted by Tom at 12:57 p.m. CST

A SIMPLE ANSWER 12-26-02

Here's a good article from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post about the president's domestic agenda. I'll give you a snippet from it:

Undoubtedly, congressional gridlock has made Bush's job more difficult. Still, the president demonstrated -- on everything from tax cuts to homeland security -- that Congress would bend to his will. And Bush, busy with economic and anti-terrorism policy, did not put much of his compassion agenda at the top of the legislative list.

"I've seen no push for legislation from the White House," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who sought Bush's help with national service legislation. After an early expression of support,"we never heard from them again," he said, adding that he would use parliamentary tactics to pass the bill.

Steve Goldsmith, who coordinated the Bush campaign's domestic policy agenda, listed six policy areas of compassionate conservatism in an April 2000 speech to the Hoover Institution. Of the six -- retirement accounts, home ownership, education, refundable health-care tax credits, prescription drug benefits for the elderly and support for religious charities -- only one has seen a true legislative victory.

...

In some areas where legislation has foundered, Bush has taken unilateral action, proceeding with an administrative restructuring of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and implementation of a Supreme Court decision broadening rights of the disabled.

In other areas, the White House backed away from some bold ideas. After sending signals that it would expand guest-worker programs that would allow more immigrants to earn legal status, for example, the administration quietly dropped the idea after the terrorist attacks.

Also, some legislation has not yet turned out as advertised. When Congress passed a measure pledging more funds for nursing training, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said,"the Bush administration has issued what I call a 'call to care.'" But the funds are not in the spending bills. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which lobbied for the legislation, said that for now,"it's all just rhetoric."

You know, this is a good article, and carefully-worded. After all, the Bushies have been trying to get Milbank fired for the last several months, claiming he's"biased" against them. However, I'm getting tired of reading articles like this. Why is it that W's domestic agenda went nowhere? I have a simple answer folks: he doesn't care. He never has cared about this stuff and he never will -- at least not like he cares about tax cuts for the rich and building up the military. This"domestic policy stuff" was what W used to convince Americans to vote for him and that he was compassionate.

This domestic stuff is just for show. It's just for election purposes. It was two years ago. Heck, whenever you've got Steve Goldsmith in charge of something, you know it's just for show. Goldsmith, mayor of Indianapolis while I lived there, is all about show but not much else. He's the classic stuffed shirt.

In the last two years we've seen just how compassionate W truly is -- and how truthful. How many domestic programs has the White House tried to quietly cut this year? The funding for the education bill, if the White House gets its way, will be cut by more than 20%.

The answer to this oft-asked question is simple folks. W just doesn't care. If Americans fall for that phony routine again in a couple of years, they deserve what they get.

Unfortunately, those of us who know it is a load of baloney (and knew it was two years ago) will be forced to go along for the ride.

Posted by Tom at 12:41 p.m. CST

"IF YOU DON'T VIOLATE SOMEONE'S HUMAN RIGHTS SOME OF THE TIME, YOU PROBABLY AREN'T DOING YOUR JOB"
12-26-02

Holy moly -- you've got to read this story about what we're doing to prisoners at Guantanamo. This administration sure is ethical, isn't it? Now we're systematically violating the human rights of prisoners.

According to one official who has been directly involved in rendering captives into foreign hands, the understanding is,"We don't kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them." Some countries are known to use mind-altering drugs such as sodium pentathol, said other officials involved in the process.

...

Free from the scrutiny of military lawyers steeped in the international laws of war, the CIA and its intelligence service allies have the leeway to exert physically and psychologically aggressive techniques, said national security officials and U.S. and European intelligence officers.

Although no direct evidence of mistreatment of prisoners in U.S. custody has come to light, the prisoners are denied access to lawyers or organizations, such as the Red Cross, that could independently assess their treatment. Even their names are secret.

This month, the U.S. military announced that it had begun a criminal investigation into the handling of two prisoners who died in U.S. custody at the Bagram base. A base spokesman said autopsies found one of the detainees died of a pulmonary embolism, the other of a heart attack.

Oh yeah. I'm sure that's how they died. Sure.

Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

We certainly can't lecture any other country about this stuff anymore, can we?

Posted by Tom at 10:18 a.m. CST

PATTY MURRAY'S POORLY-WRITTEN SPEECH -- AND HOW RIGHTY BLOGGERS ARE MAKING HAY ABOUT IT 12-26-02

I've been following the foolishness in the right-wing blogosphere about Patty Murray's speech from an amused distance for a few days. Like a lot of righties, Glenn Reynolds has been trying to bring thisupeverychancehegets over on his blog.

Glenn is also trying to make a bizarre"this is as bad as what Trent Lott said" argument as well. Of course, Glenn and others of his ilk are constantly arguing that those of us who are critical of the administration's war against Iraq are pro-Saddam" so you can't exactly expect them to not make hay in a dishonest fashion with a poorly-written speech by someone who, it appears, is a bit of a dim bulb.

(For more on the right's dishonest attempt to gin up the Patty Murray speech story, go here.)

The Washington Post had an editorial about this controversy on Tuesday. (This editorial also explains everything in more detail and much more honestly than the righty bloggers have, so you might want to give it a read.)

The editorial was pretty much on the mark:

THERE IS POLITICAL criticism, there is political attack, and then there is political political correctness: the massive overreaction to perfectly useful ideas that have been badly stated or misinterpreted. There is a danger, for instance, that people will become afraid to criticize any aspect of American foreign policy, lest they be branded"anti-American." That, at any rate, is the conclusion many will reach after reading of Sen. Patty Murray's experience.

Sen. Murray's (D-Wash.) crime, it seems, was to make an ill-worded and rather silly speech last week to a high school in Vancouver, Wash., that was then excerpted by the Columbian, a newspaper in Vancouver, Canada. In a normal week, the Columbian's Web site receives 60,000 to 70,000 visitors. The day following the paper's story about Sen. Murray's speech, it had 230,000 visitors. As the Web site put it,"There are top stories, and then there is Patty Murray." Other Web sites, Web logs and talk shows picked up the story, and by the weekend, the chairman of the Republican Party in Washington state had publicly questioned Sen. Murray's patriotism.

What did Patty Murray actually say? According to the Columbian, she said that Osama bin Laden has"been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. . . . How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"

Sen. Murray got a few things very wrong. Osama bin Laden spent a lot more money on terrorist training camps than on day-care centers; the senator appears to have confused him with the fundamentalist charities that have won so much support for the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas on the West Bank. Nor did she seem to have considered the possibility that the"bombing" of Afghanistan and Iraq might also, in the long term, be in the interest of the Afghans and the Iraqis.

Nevertheless, there is a deeper point that Sen. Murray, with extraordinary ineptitude, seemed to be trying to make -- a point that is worth preserving: At the very least, it ought to be possible to discuss America's image in the Islamic world, and the kinds of mistakes the United States has made there. For decades, American governments have spent remarkable amounts of money in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, relatively little of which is visible on the ground. Yet if successive American administrations had identified the United States more closely with good works in the Middle East and had tried more assiduously to explain American values, then American relations with the Islamic world might look different today.

Or they might not. Either way, this is a point worth debating, and no one should be called"unpatriotic" for bringing it up.

Absolutely. The righty bloggers know they're being dishonest -- but they don't really care. They're making hay. I guess it makes sense that a person who can brand any opponent of the Iraq War as"pro-Saddam" can sure as hell label Patty Murray as being"anti-American" for what she said -- and certainly knows that it is patently dishonest to do so.

But don't expect Glenn and the righty bloggers to fess up any time soon. It is the right's preferred style of argumentation -- long on innuendo and smear but lacking in nearly everything else.

Posted by Tom at 8:26 a.m. CST

DR. LAURA -- ANOTHER IN A LONG LINE OF CONSERVATIVE HYPOCRITES 12-26-02

Boy, now Bob Scheer really lays into Dr. Laura in his column. She deserves every bit of it.

Here's a bit of it:

Some family values. Your 77-year-old mother lies dead and decomposing for two months in a condominium not far from the radio complex where you sternly hector millions about how to live a moral life while attacking those who"deviate."

And you never bothered once to inquire how your own mom was doing? Maybe send a minion over to knock on the door once in a while? For two months, the mail piled up, the condo fees went unpaid, and you, successful syndicated radio advice guru"Dr. Laura" Schlessinger, never noticed these and other worrying signs that, as the police suggested, your mother may have been murdered?

Of course, when you finally found out, after the building manager called the police, you were"horrified by the tragic circumstances" of her death.

But was it really appropriate to add, self-servingly, that she"died as she chose to live, alone and isolated." You said,"My mother shut all her family out of her life over the years, though we made several futile attempts to stay connected."

Those are not kind words to speak of one's dead mother. Ties it all in a neat little bow, doesn't it? Italian-born Yolanda Schlessinger was"Sophia Loren-like," and you found her difficult. In a 1998 interview, you claim a childhood"that would curl your hair."

Welcome to reality: Good family values don't come easily. Problem is, you've made it sound as if they do. You are one of the leading conservative sloganeers who arrogantly claim a lock on the moral high ground while deriding those, such as homosexuals, who dare to"deviate" from your"norm." Using the title"doctor," earned in physiology rather than medicine or psychology, has lent a false credibility to your depictions of homosexuality as a"biological error," a"dysfunction" and a"deviancy" -- words that encourage hate crimes.

Worse, honoring and caring for one's parents is at the heart of your philosophy, as spelled out in your own presumptuous 1998 book,"The 10 Commandments: The Significance of God's Laws in Everyday Life." You wrote:"God's commandment of honoring parents is basically the message that parents are a conduit of God. Any profanity or harm to the parent is as if we've profaned God."

...

And finally, that the"Dr. Laura" show typifies the dangerous hypocrisy of those who build profitable and politically potent empires on the basis of claiming a monopoly on simplistic answers to complex problems. The guilt and shame they induce in those who might resist their nostrums is loathsome, made more so when they themselves so casually ignore them.

Indeed.

Posted by Tom at 7:42 a.m. CST

C-SPAN TO BROADCAST CLINTON COURSE 12-26-02

You know, I might tune in for this. Heck, it would be nice to remember happier days, wouldn't it?

It's at my wife's alma mater to boot.

Posted by Tom at 7:29 a.m. CST

FISCALLY IRRESPONSIBLE REPUBLICANISM 12-26-02

Ah, the big tax cut is driving the government further and further into debt. Wasn't that tax cut a great idea?

Here's a bit of yesterday's Washington Post story:

The Treasury Department yesterday asked Congress to raise the government's $6.4 trillion ceiling on the national debt, setting the stage for a major political conflict early in the 108th Congress.

With the government's budget deficit and the need to borrow rising sharply, Treasury has no choice but to seek a higher ceiling. But before that happens, some Bush administration officials expect opening salvos of the 2004 presidential campaign, including sharp criticism of the administration's economic policies, to be fired on Capitol Hill. The request to raise the debt ceiling provides critics an opportunity to question anew President Bush's tax cuts and his response to sluggish growth. That debate will play out on the floor of the House and Senate, as well as in the confirmation hearings for Treasury secretary-designate John W. Snow, expected to begin late next month.

In a carefully worded letter sent yesterday to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth W. Dam said that because of responses to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and"the economic slowdown which began in the summer of 2000," government debt will reach the $6.4 trillion limit in the latter part of February. By dating the slowdown to mid-2000, Dam tied it to the Clinton administration rather than to Bush; that argument has been part of the administration's defense of its handling of the economy.

Last spring, a similar request for an increase ran into strong opposition from some conservative Republicans and many Democrats, and its passage was delayed for several months. That delay forced the Treasury to resort to a variety of financial maneuvers -- some of which Republicans had decried as illegal when the Clinton administration used them in earlier years -- to allow the government to continue to pay its bills. Analysts said the same sort of delay is likely again this year, only with the budget in considerably worse shape that it was then.

Boy, there's so much Republican hypocrisy just in that four paragraphs I can't do justice to it. My favorite part is that this is Clinton's fault and that this ballooning deficit has nothing to do with W's tax cut. W and the boys sure are ushering in the"era of responsibility," aren't they? Isn't it embarrassing when an administration lies like that? Just a little more of that promised"honor and dignity" from the White House.

This is one of those times you realize what political courage Bill Clinton had. When he took over as president in 1993, he discovered that Bush I had been lying about the size of the federal budget deficit. When Clinton discovered this, he actually cancelled plans for a middle-class tax cut even though it had been an integral part of his campaign.

My goodness. Imagine that. A president that changes his economic plans when faced with adversity! Too bad we don't have anyone like that in charge right now. W and the boys are still partying like it's 1999 -- that's when they drew up the current economic plan to combat Steve Forbes in the primaries. They haven't changed a damn thing about their economic plan since then.

How about that timing of the request? Slick W, eh? Wait until everyone's off paying attention to the Christmas eve festivities and then send your formal request for a debt ceiling raise.

Awfully slick guys.

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

GENE LYONS,"LOTT'S WIFE" 12-26-02

Gene Lyons' column ran yesterday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Because the folks at the paper won't provide a link to it, here it is in its entirety:

Lott's Wife

The goals for this country are peace in the world. And the goals for this country are a compassionate American for every single citizen.That compassion is found in the hearts and souls of the American citizens.

--President George W. Bush, Dec. 19, 2002

Here at Unsolicited Opinions, Inc., we can think of no better way to send Seasons Greetings to our readers than to pass on the bewildering words of our commander-in-chief. As Mark Crispin Miller has noted in his book The Bush Dyslexicon, President Junior is never more inarticulate than when he's faking empathy. Intent upon making war with Iraq, Bush can barely utter a conventional Christmas peace message without swallowing his tongue.

Elsewhere, the Trent Lott episode had many Republicans faking shock and horror at suddenly unfashionable racial sentiments. Writing in the Washington Times, Little Rock's own Wesley Pruden offered a unique alibi."Mr. Lott said an exceedingly foolish and thoughtless thing" he wrote"perhaps because he was rattled by the roguish pass that Strom Thurmond had just made at his wife)."

As Dave Barry says, we are not making this up. A 100 year-old man supposedly hits on the lovely Mrs. Lott and the Senator's response is to wax nostalgic about" colored" drinking fountains and"separate but equal" schools? Wouldn't a real Southern Gentleman have challenged Thurmond to a duel?

Pruden also expressed consternation that the White House caved to what he characterized as Democratic race-baiters and the New York Times and Washington Post."Nothing," he wrote"makes these worthies feel better or braver than boxing with ghosts. Trent Lott, everybody's friend only a fortnight ago, makes aparticularly tempting target because he's not only a Southerner, but a Mississippian."

Lott too picked up on the theme."When you're from Mississippi and you're a conservative and you're a Christian," he told the Associated Press"there are a lot of people don't like that."

Quite illogically, given his insistence that"[n]obody deals in racial politics in the South any longer," Pruden warned that"if the Gooey Old Party is actually sincere in wanting to reach out and touch someone black, it should not only jettison the Southern strategy but perhaps jettison the South as well, and rebuild its fortunes in the Midwest and New England, where it first flourished. (Good luck.) The South could be left to drift back to its natural home in the Democratic Party."

Pruden warned that recent victories by Democrats Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana could be the wave of the future. The problem is that these victories preceeded the Lott episode. And that, we argued here last week, showed smarter and more conscientious Republicans the handwriting on the wall.

Did certain Yankees whose main contact with black people is watching NBA games on TV indulge in an anachronistic orgy of moral superiority? You bet. But it wasn't liberal Democrats who brought Lott down, it was conservatives. Absent White House leaks, the anti-Lott media frenzy wouldn't have lasted three days."Republicans may once have used race to polarize the electorate, especially in the South," the Wall Street Journal editorial page said Thursday."But that strategy long ago stopped being useful." On Friday, Lott resigned.

No wonder Lott feels betrayed.Conservative pundits who never said boo when the first President Bush benefited from the notorious Willie Horton ad back in 1988, nor when Junior himself beat a path to Bob Jones University, nor when he shamefully used a telephone whisper campaign to call attention to Sen. John McCain's"black child" (an adopted daughter from Bangladesh) during the 2000 South Carolina primary, nor even last month when the GOP made the Rebel flag a big issue in Georgia, suddenly waxed eloquent about Lott's wickedness.

What's going on? Count the electoral votes. There's no state Bush lost in 2000 he'd be sure of winning tomorrow. And every single one is outside the old Confederacy."We have just about maxed out with white men," a GOP strategist told the Washington Post."When you look into the future, all you see is smaller numbers and more and more Hispanics. Look at Texas. Unless we do something, in a decade or so it's going to go the way of California...We have to adapt to survive."

Meanwhile, the job of the Rush Limbaughs of this world is to confuse dumb white bigots by blaming Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Limbaugh spent last week smearing the memory of Albert Gore, Sr., one of a handful of Southern politicians who resisted racist demagoguery when it was physically dangerous. Also the late Sen. J. William Fulbright. If Fulbright's civil rights record was flawed, he was certainly no"rabid segregationist." He supported Truman against the Dixiecrats in 1948, for example. Nor has Clinton ever failed to make his disagreement with his mentor on those issues absolutely clear.

Now you've gotten your Gene Lyons for the week. Don't you feel better now?

Posted by Tom at 6:36 a.m. CST

MERRY CHRISTMAS FOLKS 12-24-02

That's it from me until December 26th folks. I'm going to enjoy Christmas eve and Christmas with my family and let the world go by for a little while at least.

I do hope everyone has a Merry Christmas. If you're wanting a blog to visit for the next couple of days, I know that Hesiod at Counterspin plans to keep on keeping on throughout the holidays. I can't speak for anyone else but I do know that Hesiod has said as much.

As far as the blogging schedule goes, I'll be back on December 26th and 27th and then blogging will be sporadic as I'll be traveling to my parents house in Arkansas (530 miles away) for a Christmas celebration down there. They have a computer but I'm not sure how much blogging I'll do there -- especially since it appears the HNN system is doing screwy things right now. We'll see.

Take care and everyone please drive carefully.

Posted by Tom at 12:56 p.m. CST

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES 12-24-02

Sorry about the weird stuff folks. We're having technical difficulties here at HNN. For some reason, my main blog file was corrupted in some way. After some painstaking work, it's fixed now.

That's why it's always a good idea to keep an up-to-date backup! If I had done that, I wouldn't have had to work through four days worth of posts with a fine-tooth comb looking for weird"\"s, would I?

Sorry about that. I still don't know what the heck happened. If anyone out there has a theory, let me know.

Posted by Tom at 12:46 p.m. CST

GOOD GUYS VERSUS BAD GUYS 12-24-02

Paul Krugman has an excellent column today about 2002: The Year Corporate Greed Went Unpunished -- thanks to W and the boys. Here's a bit of it:

This past year brought shocking revelations about how American institutions, from corporations to government agencies, really operate. But the whistle-blowers haven't been rewarded; Time makes it clear that Ms. Cooper and Ms. Rowley are personae non gratae in their organizations. And those on whom the whistle was blown have mostly gone unpunished. Last week one F.B.I. official singled out by Ms. Rowley — he blocked an investigation that might have averted Sept. 11 — received a special presidential award.

I'm a history buff, so the events of 2002 made me think of a historical parallel — the English peasant rebellion of 1381. The rebels very nearly took London, but were turned aside by King Richard II, who promised to end the oppression of the common people by the aristocracy. As soon as the danger had passed, however, he made it clear that promises to little people don't count."Villeins ye are, and villeins ye shall remain."

During the late spring and summer, amid corporate scandals and tales of F.B.I. ineptitude, Americans received many promises of reform. But once the political danger had passed, all those promises — even, incredibly, the promise that families of victims would get to choose one member of the Sept. 11 commission — became non-operational.
Villeins ye are . . .

This administration did get away with numerous creepy things this year, didn't it? I'm just astonished at the double-talking and double-dealing that this administration engages in.

I can tell you, W and the boys are going to be amazed at what historians say about them. The verdict of history may really surprise them.

Posted by Tom at 9:51 a.m. CST

REPUBLICANS AND RACE IN MISSISSIPPI 12-23-02

How about the view from Mississippi? Here's a nice column by Rheta Grimsley Johnson from the North Mississippi Daily Journal about Republicans and race in Mississippi.

I'll give you a snippet from it:

So did it come as any great surprise when Trent Lott said, in effect, that our nation would have been a better one if half the people in his home state were forever prevented from voting, drinking from public water fountains, using the library, sitting in the front of a Greyhound bus? When Trent, that poster boy for Oxford-cloth Republicans, in essence said that the South's long-ago resistance to integration - to change - was right?

No, it did not shock. Those who are shocked either are idiots or simply don't want the code broken. By code, I mean the verbal, political one Republicans have been using with impunity since Ronald Reagan rode the packed words to power.

Politicians don't talk like the George Wallace of my childhood, or at least the smart ones don't. They no longer cuss"outside agitators." They waggle a finger, instead, at the"ever-expanding federal bureaucracy."

They don't use racial epithets in 2002; they don't have to. They speak of"welfare cheats" or"welfare mothers" and get the same mileage.

The euphemistic pitch is so familiar, we don't even listen. The politicians speak of" conservatism" and" creeping socialism" and"traditional values" in articulating some vague manifesto for a party that has joined successfully the old silk-stocking Republicans, the rednecks and the fundamentalists.

It's not just a wild coincidence that the white voters of the South - once staunchly, unanimously Democrats - became Republicans when blacks were given the vote. Just like whites deserted the public schools after they were integrated; just like whites deserted the cities for the suburbs when blacks were guaranteed decent housing. The whites fled the Democratic Party when blacks joined.

So, no, the fact that Trent Lott slips up and uses real words doesn't shock me. What shocks me is that so many pretend that he is the only politician who feels the way he feels. To portray Trent Lott as some Lone Ranger of Racism with his loyal sidekick, Mississippi, is a joke.

Where's the outrage over the fact that Strom Thurmond - with a political past so abhorrent Trent Lott can't safely mention it - is in the U.S. Senate? Where's the outcry over that?

Where's the anger over decades of Republican courtship of any racist or fool who can swell the party's ranks and win elections?

It never was about economics, the way the politicians pretended. At least not in the South. It was about race, and the Republican Party was the party that made the right status quo noises.

Absolutely. However, the Republicans don't want you to remember that -- and they sure as hell don't want you to recognize how Republicans still use race.

Isn't it astonishing that most of the pundits and folks who are telling us that everything is fine now don't live in the South and, of course, aren't black.

Why do you suppose that is?

Posted by Tom at 9:18 p.m. CST

JOSH MARSHALL, MICKEY KAUS, AND BILL FRIST'S RACE-BAITING 12-23-02

Sometimes it's awfully entertaining to watch a lefty blogger slap a sloppy-on-his-details righty blogger around, you know?

Josh Marshall pointed out last Friday that Bill Frist, the now newly-elected savior of the southern gomer faction of the G.O.P., was guilty of using race-baiting tactics in his own election effort in 1994. In a not-so-subtle manner, Frist interjected race into his campaign by saying that his opponent, Jim Sasser, was guilty of

"sending Tennessee money to Washington, to Marion Barry ... While I've been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans' wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry."

Mickey Kaus, whose popularity as a blogger makes absolutely no sense to me (Of course, I'm not really sure he's that popular since Atrios said the other day that a link from Kaus only brought fifty hits to his blog), takes exception to this characterization and attempts to defend Frist:

Does Marshall know that in the early '90s Sasser was chair of the Senate subcommittee in charge of the District of Columbia -- at a time when Congress exercised considerable control over the District's budget (and when federal taxpayers picked up the tab for a large chunk of that budget)?

Marshall responds in devastating fashion:

To this I would say, yes, I know that. But does Mickey remember that Sharon Pratt Kelly won election as Mayor of Washington, D.C. in November 1990 and didn't leave office until early 1995 -- a couple months after Frist won election.

Kaus has responded and, as you might expect, it's pretty lame. It's hard to spin your way out of an obvious instance of race-baiting, you know? (Kaus's blog isn't really a blog since he doesn't really have separate posts and permalinks so you'll just have to go and find his response. It's currently at the top of the page.)

I'm sorry folks but race-baiting is race-baiting. Frist also helped fund numerous campaigns as Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee chair that used race overtly as well. Republicans will continue to use race to appeal to the gomers in the South folks. Frist's elevation won't change a thing as far as that's concerned.

However, as I've said a couple of times already, Republicans will pretend that it has.

No one should fall for that argument.

Posted by Tom at 5:04 p.m. CST

THE VEILED PROPHET SOLDIERS ON 12-23-02

Many thanks to ArchPundit for sending this my way. It's a write-up of this weekend's Veiled Prophet Ball in St. Louis. Believe it or not, this stuff still happens folks. It's pretty amazing in a lot of ways.

How much of Jim Talent's campaign funds came from folks in that room do you suppose?

Want to know more about the Veiled Prophet? I've mentioned it in passing here once before. If you want to learn a great deal more about it, you can read the interview with you-know-who by the Riverfront Times a couple of years ago here.

Please excuse the shameless self-promotion but, hey, I know it isn't something of groundshaking importance like a Tech Central column or anything, but it is an achievement I'm still quite proud of all the same.

Posted by Tom at 12:23 p.m. CST

THE OTHER TRENT LOTTS 12-23-02

Bob Herbert has an excellent column today about Republicans and its electoral addiction to race-baiting. Here's a bit of it:

The Trent Lott fiasco lifted the fig leaf and exposed the shameful behavior of the G.O.P. for all Americans to see. Suddenly there was a spotlight on the party's shortcomings. That's the reason party leaders were so anxious to toss the clownish senator from Mississippi into the drink. Mr. Lott had to go not because of any hurt to black people that his remarks and his leadership might have caused, but because of the potential harm to his party, which has made race-baiting a cornerstone of its electoral philosophy.

The G.O.P. could cleanse itself of the taint of racism, but it's not so inclined. For one thing, party leaders would have to admit that they have a problem in this area and take steps to remedy it across the board. Don't hold your breath. This is a party that will smile in the face of a Colin Powell while waving Confederate flags behind his back. Republicans are not turned off by the George Allens of the party. He's in the party mainstream.

The G.O.P. has spent more than 30 years demonizing Democrats for trying to help racial and ethnic minorities. It has spent more than 30 years stomping on the voting rights of blacks. And it has gone out of its way to pack the federal courts with judges who are hostile to the interests and the rights of minorities.

The party won't be rid of these sins and their consequences until its leaders acknowledge them, and take meaningful steps to do better. Many of the officials and operatives who threw Trent Lott overboard have voting records and campaign histories that are as bad as Senator Lott's, or worse. The real lessons of the Trent Lott experience are lost on them.

Mr. Lott may be gone as Senate Republican leader, but the G.O.P. is still hot for the racist vote. It's a vile addiction that's guaranteed to bring a great deal of additional grief — for the party, and for the rest of us.

Indeed.

Posted by Tom at 11:40 a.m. CST

WHY? 12-22-02

Get this from the Sunday Herald:

The United States edited out more than 8000 crucial pages of Iraq's 11,800-page dossier on weapons, before passing on a sanitised version to the 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations security council.

The full extent of Washington's complete control over who sees what in the crucial Iraqi dossier calls into question the allegations made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that 'omissions' in the document constituted a 'material breach' of the latest UN resolution on Iraq.

Last week, Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan accepted that it was 'unfortunate' that his organisation had allowed the US to take the only complete dossier and edit it. He admitted 'the approach and style were wrong' and Norway, a member of the security council, says it is being treated like a 'second-class country'.

Although Powell called the Iraqi dossier a 'catalogue of recycled information and flagrant omissions', the non-permanent members of the security council will have no way of testing the US claims for themselves. This will be crucial if the US and the UK go back to the security council seeking explicit authorisation for war on Iraq if breaches of resolution 1441 are confirmed when the weapons inspectors -- this weekend investigating 10 sites in Iraq, including an oil refinery south of Baghdad -- deliver their report to the UN next month.

A UN source in New York said: 'The questions being asked are valid. What did the US take out? And if weapons inspectors are supposed to be checking against the dossier's content, how can any future claim be verified. In effect the US is saying trust us, and there are many who just will not.'

Why did the Bush administration do this? What purpose does it serve? Isn't it just a wee bit suspicious? If we're for full disclosure and want the support of the U.N., why not pass on the full report? If it is a dishonest report, shouldn't it be made public? This makes many at the U.N. wonder just what was in that report -- and why the administration tampered with it.

To the international community, this just looks incredibly dishonest.

And, of course, I can't help but wonder WHY I haven't heard anything about this in our media.

Liberal media my hind foot.

This post also appears on Stand Down.

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

AS THE CONTROVERSY AROUND TIA GROWS LARGER, THE PROGRAM'S WEBSITE GETS SMALLER 12-22-02

It's interesting that, as controversy grows about the Total Information Awareness program, the administration takes more and more information off the program's website. They even took the wonderfully Orwellian logo down! If you want to see the deleted information, you can go here.

So, once again, when faced with public opposition to a program, the administration's response is to withhold more and more information about the program from the public. This administration frequently retreats into its Nixonian secrecy when questions arise about an unpopular program. They don't stop pursuing the program. They just stop talking about it.

It goes without saying that this is creepy and downright undemocratic. One can't help but wonder if W and the boys haven't created a" cone of silence" at the White House, a la"Get Smart."

Of course, come to think of it, the entire White House is a" cone of silence" -- except when the White House wants a few strategic leaks. This White House leaks like a sieve at times -- especially during the last few weeks when the White House, demonstrating that"honor and dignity" have been restored, backstabbed loyal administration supporters O'Neill, Lindsey, and Lott.

However, if someone starts asking important and relevant questions about a program that threatens civil liberties that is being headed by an Iran-Contra felon, the administration's" cone of silence" comes down mighty fast.

Posted by Tom at 1:40 p.m. CST

W SCREWS OUR SOLDIERS 12-22-02

Do you remember all the stuff W said about helping our soldiers get payraises, respecting them and appreciating their efforts and sacrifices, and all that? Well we all knew then it was just lipservice, didn't we? We knew W didn't really care that much, didn't we? It was just an empty promise to get votes, right? We knew the soldiers who voted for W were voting against their own interests, didn't we? If I remember correctly, Gore was planning to give them bigger raises than W and the boys eventually did.

Well, anyway, W and the boys are currently planning to pay for their tax cuts to the rich by cutting back on military pay raises starting in 2004. Anyone else believe it's truly outrageous that this administration is putting our soldiers in harm's way while cutting their pay?

The message this administration is sending to these soldiers is that the rich folks are at the front of the line -- even in front of our soldiers, many of whom may die in the next few months pursuing W's IraqWar Part II.

Shameful. Truly shameful.

Posted by Tom at 12:31 p.m. CST

AND WITH THAT... 12-21-02

I'm taking the rest of the day off. I have a full schedule planned. It's a good sports day for me -- a couple of alma maters are on the television.

At 11:00 my undergraduate alma mater, Trinity University, plays for the Division III football championship on ESPN2.

After that's over, I'm going to take my son to do his Christmas shopping.

Then, at 4:30, Missouri (where I got my M.A.) plays Illinois in basketball on ESPN. The annual Mizzou-Illinois game in St. Louis is always a great game.

If the Indiana-Kentucky basketball game were on television nationally, I'd be able to watch all three alma maters in one day but, alas, it isn't.

At 7:30, my lifelong favorite NFL team, the Cowboys, will get their head handed to them by the Eagles -- and I plan to watch every play of the debacle. Since the Cowboys are no longer any good, I seldom get to see them on television anymore.

I'll (probably) return tomorrow for a post or two. I'll see you then.

Posted by Tom at 10:37 a.m. CST

FRANK RICH ON REPUBLICANS AND RACE 12-21-02

Every other Saturday, it's always a treat to read what Frank Rich has to say in the New York Times. His column today is quite excellent. Rich echoes things I've said here -- but more eloquently of course -- about how Republicans still use race in their politics.

Here's a bit of it:

In its effort to portray Mr. Lott as a one-of-a-kind bad apple, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page said on Thursday:"Republicans may once have used race to polarize the electorate, especially in the South. But that strategy long ago stopped being useful." Tell that to George W. Bush, who beat John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary after what Newsweek called"a smear campaign" of leaflets, e-mails and telephone calls calling attention to the McCains'"black child" (an adopted daughter from Bangladesh). Or to Sonny Perdue, the new Republican governor of Georgia, elected in part by demagoguing the sanctity of the Confederate flag.

Long ago stopped being useful? Tell that to Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Bush, who appeared at Bob Jones University in 1999 and 2000."Of all universities in America," asked the commentator Fareed Zakaria on ABC last weekend,"why is it that Republicans have felt the need to make a pilgrimage to the one university that bans interracial dating?" Now that Mr. Lott is no longer the issue, will any of the conservatives who called for his decapitation answer that question?

The point here is not that these Republican leaders are racists, or that all (or most) Republicans are racist, or that all racists are Republicans."These are not normal Republican ideas," wrote the conservative author David Brooks, in a characteristically thoughtful piece about Mr. Lott in this week's Newsweek. And he's right. But there are still too many Republican politicians who believe they can pander to whatever racist voters are out there without being called on it. When they are, they cringe — not so much because they care about losing their few black votes but because they care about losing soccer moms who are offended by race-baiting."Elections are settled in the suburbs nowadays, 43 percent of the vote," said George Will in condemning Mr. Lott. It's that political reality, not any moral imperative, that mandated the majority leader's death sentence.

President Bush is no bigot, and as he likes to remind us, some of his best employees are Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. He is in favor of something called"affirmative access" — which has led to a grand total of zero black Republican Congressmen in the next Congress."Compassionate conservatism" seems less a program than a p.r. strategy to provide cover for the likes of a Lott or an Ashcroft.

Asked this week what the administration has done for black Americans, Ari Fleischer used the kind of examples we heard from Mr. Lott. He said that"the president looks forward to going to Africa" (how patronizing can you be?) and wants"to double funding for historically black colleges and universities" (weren't the Republicans for color-blind policies rather than a politically correct form of de facto segregation?). Mr. Fleischer also said that the president sees education as"the next civil rights movement." If so, Mr. Bush is not that movement's courageous leader; in his education bill, he dumped the tiny school voucher provision that Republican polls say many black families want.

Black voters are not fooled by such empty theatrics. For all the"diversity" at his convention and his rhetorical" compassion," Mr. Bush drew a third less of the black vote than his father and Bob Dole did. The White House's main concern now is that white voters be fooled. So Republicans are trying to create a moral equivalence between Democratic racial lapses and their own, hoping that Robert Byrd's long-renounced K.K.K. past and use of the word"nigger" will somehow blur their own recent record. Bill Frist is the ideal new Senate majority leader, because his own genuinely good works in Africa and" compassionate conservative" geniality will camouflage a voting pattern that, on any issue touching black Americans, is virtually the same as Mr. Lott's.

I almost feel sorry for Trent Lott. Despite all the hyperbole that preceded his demise, he is no Bull Connor or David Duke or even Jesse Helms. He's just the guy who had to die before anyone looked too closely at other, even more powerful politicians' sins.

You really should read the rest of it. I especially love his point that the goal of the White House and Republicans is to fool white voters.

Black folks know Republicans are full of it. Black folks that are old enough to remember know that the die-hard segregationists became Republicans in the 1950s and 1960s when Nixon began to overtly appeal to them as part of the"Silent Majority."

Posted by Tom at 9:56 a.m. CST

INSTY AND HISTORICAL IGNORANCE 12-20-02

Instapundit points us to this brilliant 20th Century History"quiz."

Can you find the historical error that invalidates two of these eight multiple-choice questions?

(BTW, this guy obviously has NO idea about Ike's racial attitudes -- he generally sympathized with southerners about racial issues, considered Brown v. Board an outrageous decision, and believed his biggest mistake as president was appointing Earl Warren to the Supreme Court.)

And what does this tell us about Insty's knowledge of basic American history?

This is the sort of stuff I cover in my 100-level survey class folks.

Heck, Glenn even lives in the South. He should know these things by now, right?

Important blogging tip: if you're writing a post that consists of a snarky little quiz, at least make sure you're right about the basic facts.

Update: Peter Salomon, the blogger in question, sent me an e-mail inquiring about the error. Here is the e-mail message I just sent him:

Mr. Salomon --

Okay, now that I've had my fun at your and Glenn's expense, I'll let you know about the rather egregious error in your quiz.

First of all, the"governor who stood in the schoolhouse door" was George Wallace of Alabama. That invalidates your question about the"governor of Arkansas that stood in the schoolhouse door."

Therefore, your later question referring to the"same governor" is invalid as well. It was a different governor, Orval Faubus in Arkansas that got into the face-off with the Eisenhower administration over the Central High School crisis.

However, Faubus never"stood in the door" at Central. In fact, when the federal soldiers arrived, Faubus wasn't even in the same state at the time.

Sincerely,

Tom

Honestly, I just enjoyed tweaking a couple of appparently smug conservative bloggers. I thought it was great fun myself!

We all make mistakes but, as my regular readers know, some people (read Glenn) have too big an ego to admit them!

Update 2: For a better (both relevant and historically accurate) quiz, go here

Posted by Tom at 8:31 p.m. CST

BALLENGER PROVES MY POINT 12-20-02

Boy, get this in the Charlotte Observer. Cass Ballenger, U.S. Representative from North Carolina, is certainly proving my point about how not a thing will change with regard to southern Republicans and race.

Here's a snippet from the article:

Yet he also said some of his constituents might empathize with Lott's remarks, and acknowledged that one black colleague so provoked him that"I must I admit I had segregationist feelings."

Asked if he believes Lott is a segregationist, Ballenger said,"I'd have a hard time saying he wasn't. ... Basically in some areas of the South, in Charlotte and everywhere else, there are people who get rubbed the wrong way (thinking) `We've got to bend over backwards; we've got to integrate' and things like that."

Ballenger, of Hickory, said he felt similar sentiments dealing with Rep. Cynthia McKinney, a Georgia Democrat known for her liberal politics and combative personality.

"If I had to listen to her, I probably would have developed a little bit of a segregationist feeling," he said."But I think everybody can look at my life and what I've done and say that's not true. ... I mean, she was such a bitch."

What a moron. Ballenger also appears to be on the track to being a part of the White House staff because he says something very Karl Rove-like at the end of the article:

"The news media has worked this thing over," said Ballenger."The Democrats aren't going to let it die, and I doubt the news media will let it die. What we need is to go to war somewhere, and then you'd have something else to write about."

There's that Rovian point about how it's the Democrats, rather than Rove and the White House, behind all of this. Ballenger has since tried to apologize for his comments but you know he meant it the first time.

And you also know just what sort of message he was trying to send to the toothless folks that are part of the"one-gallus proletariat" back in his district.

As I've said many times today, nothing is going to change with regards to southern Republicans and their use of race, but they'll sure pretend it has.

Posted by Tom at 3:54 p.m. CST

ERIC ALTERMAN REVIEWS BUSH AT WAR 12-20-02

In the latest issue of The American Prospect, Eric Alterman reviews Bob Woodward's love note to the administration. As is true of everything Alterman writes, it's quite clever.

Here's a bit of it:

It was 3 p.m. when the phone rang."Ring, ring, ring." It was the same sound it usually made, but this time with a difference. The nation was at war. And Bob Woodward had a new book out about it. So when the editor asked the reviewer to review the new Bob Woodward book about the war, the reviewer thought to himself:"I'm thinking to myself, 'No one is here but me to hear these thoughts and no one ever will. Still, they are brave thoughts, heroic thoughts. Too bad that no one will ever know of them. Well, no one but God. Well, God and perhaps a 'journalist' who, by common accord, has been granted a special, professional dispensation from all known rules of sourcing and attribution.'"

I can see why the big shots go along with this Woodwardesque"you are there" business. Who wouldn't? Let's say you are Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice or even George W. Bush. You receive a call from a man with the power -- granted by popular acclamation -- to let you give your own version of your own personal and professional history, unfettered by a single critical intervention, and call it"the truth." Of course you are always whining about"leaks," and your attorney general and secretary of defense have even claimed that those who commit them should be put in jail. Never mind that. There are leaks and there are leaks. These are the good kind.

...

The larger problem with Woodward is not so much whether he can be trusted in the narrow sense (I'm sure he has notes to back up what he reports). Rather, Woodward's problems lie in the epistemological realm. We read Woodward to understand what goes on in the inner circles of power, and we come away thinking we know. We do not. On the day I am writing this review, The Washington Post contains three disturbing stories about the war on the homepage of its Web site. The headlines read as follows:"Many Jailed in Terror War Held in Limbo Indefinitely,""Plan to Enlist Citizens as Spies Dead" and"Saudi Funds' Link to Hijackers Probed."

All of these stories reflect badly on the Bush administration, and one would never guess that any of them might be taking place by reading Bob Woodward's book. Indeed, John Ashcroft, who cannot, in polite conversation, be molded into the heroic action figure that so many of the Bushies enjoy here, barely makes the index. The Bush administration's assault on civil liberties is left undiscussed, along with its shameless efforts to exploit the 9-11 attacks to further its agenda and expand its political dominance. Nor is there much investigation of the most fundamental question: Just who was asleep at the switch?

Upon finishing Bush at War, I picked up a recent edition of The Amazing Spiderman, in which author J. Michael Straczynski, together with artists John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna, attempted to bring the tragedy of 9-11 alive through the characters of Peter Parker and company. I can't say I"believed" that comic. But I did find in it a voice filled with integrity and empathy that is entirely absent from the oh-so-serious comic-book version of Bush and company to which Bob Woodward has willingly lent his name.

On target, eh?

Posted by Tom at 2:08 p.m. CST

REPUBLICANS AND RACE 12-20-02

Josh Marshall has an excellent post about Republicans and race in the South. Here's a bit of it:

One needn't think that the Republican party itself is racist. I don't. (In any case, that's too big a word, too general a question.) What the Republican party does have is a history -- not by accident, but by design -- of playing to and benefiting from the votes of racist and crypto-racist constituencies in certain parts of the country -- particularly, though not exclusively, in the South. They built the Republican party in the South on the foundation of racial resentment and civil rights rejectionism. Since then they've built a whole house on top of it. But the foundation's still there.

To deny this is to deny the obvious. There's just been a prohibition on saying it. And a good deal of the Republican displeasure with Lott -- though mixed with a lot of genuine outrage at his retrograde views -- is tied to his having brought this all into the open.

And now, with Lott gone, Republicans will pretend they don't do this sort of thing anymore -- but they will of course.

Posted by Tom at 12:23 p.m. CST

INS ROUNDUP IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 12-20-02

Since I've been blogging from home this week, I haven't had as much blogging time as I usually do because I'm busily fixing lunches for kids, running to the store for ingredients for various Christmas recipes and such.

Well, anyway, I haven't had time to say anything about the rather astonishing story about the INS roundups of hundreds of muslim immigrants in southern California on Monday. Big media isn't saying much about the INS roundups. The Los Angeles Times is about the only media outlet that has had stories about it here and here. The Orange County Register has a story as well.

There's a great deal about this that is troubling with regard to civil liberties. My man Atrios has been following this pretty closely. His permalinks aren't currently working, so I'd suggest you go read his blog entries about it. eRiposte has a great deal on this as well. Talkleft has been following this too but all of a sudden several days' worth of blog entries at Talkleft have disappeared.

Regardless of whether the media outside of California pick it up, this is an important story. Apparently the administration, showing its usual respect for civil liberties, has decided that folks from"terrorist-supporting" countries should be rounded up. As if potential terrorists would happily report to the INS office, right? This is absurd and guarantees that Middle Eastern immigrants won't trust the INS again any time soon.

Posted by Tom at 11:51 a.m. CST

WHITE HOUSE WINS, LOTT OUT, FRIST IN 12-20-02

Karl Rove has successfully pushed Trent Lott out as majority leader. The White House is about to put its boy, Bill"Eli Lilly First" Frist, into the position.

Now Republicans can happily go about appealing to white racists in the South while pretending that everything's changed.

I can hear Senate Republicans right now:"Great idea Karl. That was a brilliant strategy. We can pretend we've all changed now and go about our business as usual. Thanks man."

Posted by Tom at 10:31 a.m. CST

LEFT HAND VERSUS RIGHT HAND 12-20-02

How bizarre. I'm with Eric Alterman who argues that this briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday is a sign that the administration"has lost its collective mind." Here's the"money" quote from the Washington Post article:

The officials, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said they have evidence that Hussein, if he believes his government is about to fall, will try to create a humanitarian crisis that could slow any U.S. invasion and foster international opposition to the war. They also warned that Hussein likely will attempt to release biological or chemical weapons as a last desperate act.

Now, folks, if all of this were true, these folks at the Pentagon are making a rather convincing argument against going to war with Iraq, isn't it? If Saddam is much more likely to use WMD on his own people and us this time around because his government is threatened, doesn't that make some of these folks in the Pentagon just a wee bit uncomfortable? Surely it does, right?

If this is all accurate and the briefing was approved by the administration, it raises a lot of questions about what the administration knows that it sees the need to prepare Americans for this worst-case scenario. What do they really know about this? Is this war really necessary if it is going to have such a high human cost?

If all of this is inaccurate (I won't say made up, that would be intemperate of me), it raises an entirely different set of questions. Why use these scare tactics? Did they really think this would increase public support for the war?

By the way, if you recall, we heard similar things way back in 1992 during IraqWar Part I when Saddam's WMD programs were considerably more advanced -- and none of it came to pass then either. Of course, again, Saddam knew his government wasn't threatened in 1992 so he didn't use his WMD. As they said in the briefing, Saddam has nothing to lose now so he'll use whatever he's got.

This rather surreal briefing works against the administration's interests in promoting this war as a"sure thing." It certainly won't increase public support for the war. If Americans think this thing could very well be a bloodbath, public support will drop even lower than it is now.

In fact, this whole episode makes me wonder if the administration and the Pentagon aren't on very good terms. This briefing had all the appearances of the folks in the Pentagon wanting to remind the folks in the White House of the rather major risks inherent in this war.

And if the folks in the White House need that sort of a reminder, we're all in trouble.

This post also appears on Stand Down.

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

THE G.O.P., PARTY OF FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY 12-19-02

Michael Kinsley has a wonderful column in Slate today about the several different levels of dishonesty by the Bush Administration and Republicans on deficits. Here's a bit of it:

How in the world did this happen? Once upon a time, federal government deficits were denounced by St. Ronald as a focus of evil barely less threatening than communism itself. Now that concern is mocked by a Republican White House as the nonsensical"fixation" of a previous Democratic administration. In recent weeks the term"Rubinomics" has spread through the press like a rash—promoted by people who apparently believe that the best way to discredit anything is to associate it with Bill Clinton. They are not deterred by the inconvenient fact that the economy did rather well under Clinton and Rubin—better than under either of the Bushes or Reagan himself. Even more astonishing is that the Republican propaganda machine is trying to stamp"Clinton" all over one of the cornerstones of Reaganism.

In fact the coming White House campaign for changes in the tax code is starting to look like a world-class weird combination of extreme frankness and extreme fantasy. For a quarter-century, Democrats have been saying that Republican tax cuts favor the rich, and Republicans have been indignantly denying it. Now, as Tim Noah has been reporting in Slate, prominent Republicans are saying: Heck yes, we're out to shift the tax burden from the very affluent to the middle class. White House CEA Chairman Hubbard is one of those who has declared openly that rich folks deserve a break and ordinary folks deserve to pay for it. In an administration where economic advisers are fired merely for wearing a bad tie while loyally mouthing the party line in perfect iambic pentameter, Hubbard is still in good odor. So this bolt of honesty is apparently intentional. It may be brilliant political jujitsu—conceding the opposition's most damning point leaves them with mouths agape and little to say—or it may be nuts. But at least it is honest.

There is an honest element in the new party line about deficits, too. At least the Republicans are no longer pretending that deficits, if they happen to occur, are detritus left behind by the previous administration like all those McDonald's wrappers behind the dresser in the Lincoln Bedroom. Instead, Republicans embrace the coming deficits as their own and pooh-pooh any desire for a balanced budget as some kind of liberal Democratic folly. This is breathtakingly dishonest on three levels.

Have I hooked you yet? It actually gets better from here. Go read it.

Posted by Tom at 7:31 p.m. CST

ONE STEP CLOSER TO WAR 12-19-02

Today, the United States declared Iraq in "material breach" of the U.N. Resolution.

The war trap has now been sprung. We all knew it was coming. At this point, the question is apparently whether W and the boys want to do it now or later. As I've mentioned here before, recent opinion polls show 70% or more of Americans believe that W hasn't made the case for war, so this war may get suspiciously shelved for a while. We'll see.

As someone who believes this war is a tragic mistake on numerous levels, any delay to me is a good idea. I know, I know, using the McCarthy era logic of the warmongers, er, warbloggers, I'm"pro-Saddam" since I'm not fully behind the administration. Of course, as usual, these subservient pawns of the administration are truly full of shit.

Every minute that passes without the bombs flying is a chance to convince someone in this administration that there's a better course. I'm hoping W and the boys are paying attention to public sentiment on this. Since this administration is apparently much more poll-driven than any in history, my guess is they are quite well aware of it. In fact, that's why we're not currently at war. If support for the war had held at the levels it was in June and July, we'd be in Iraq at this moment I suspect.

Of course, given recent events, it isn't outrageous to believe that this war talk was entirely for the midterm elections and that the administration will suddenly -- and suspiciously -- back off on its tough talk and perhaps save IraqWar Part II for the election year.

We'll see. However, today, predictably, we have come one step closer to war.

This post also appears on Stand Down.

Posted by Tom at 5:14 p.m. CST

THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN 12-19-02

This Buzzflash editorial really got me to thinking. Isn't there something astonishingly creepy about an administration that so openly lies about its own behavior? I mean, come on folks, Karl Rove is behind this Trent Lott controversy. That is what has kept this thing going. I'd like to think the blogosphere had a role in this but I'm becoming more positive every day it's more Karl Rove's doing.

Rove sees this as the perfect chance to put the administration's boy, Bill Frist, in charge of the Senate. It also is a way for Republicans to pretend they no longer send coded appeals to racists in the South. They can, they think,"innoculate" themselves against this charge by pushing radioactive Trent Lott over the edge.

It has become obvious that the White House, well you and I know that means Karl Rove, is behind all of this. W just read the line off the cue card last week but what I love is the media is aiding and abetting W, Rove, and the boys. They're repeating Rove's line that Democrats are behind this. In many ways I really wish that were true but it simply isn't. Daschle has been downright mealy-mouthed about it. The Big Dog is the only one who has really let the Republicans have it.

It's gotten so obvious the White House is behind this that Lott is even beginning to fuss openly about the White House's efforts to undermine him.

Now, folks, remember these were the guys who were going to bring"honor and dignity" to the White House. Let's review the last couple of"honorable" weeks, shall we? They've offered up several sacrificial lambs, not because they're changing policy direction or anything but for the simple sake of appearances. First, they dumped a couple of loyal economic policy guys, with W even stooping so low as to complain about how one of them was a lard ass -- as if that has anything to do with economic policy. Did these firings mean they're backing off on their reverse-Robin Hood tax policy? Well, of course not.

Now Rove and the boys have coordinated this attack campaign against Trent Lott, someone in their own party, for a similar political and symbolic gain. Does this campaign against Lott signal a real change by Republicans in policy toward African-Americans? Well, of course not, but it sure looks good, right? It certainly distracts people from the afore-mentioned reverse-Robin Hood tax policy and from the flaccid economy.

This administration does everything behind closed doors with Nixonian secrecy and has elevated lying and backstabbing to a high political art.

Boy, W, Rove, and the boys sure have restored"honor and dignity" to the White House, haven't they?

Posted by Tom at 1:04 p.m. CST

RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE BLOGROLL 12-19-02

I've added a lot of folks to the blogroll recently. I haven't introduced a lot of folks who've been on the blogroll for a while. They're all good blogs and you should give them a read.

New additions in the last few weeks include a conservative blogger, Gweilo Diaries, as well as liberal bloggers Body and Soul, Jake Sexton, Mark Kleiman, Musings and Meanderings, Nathan Newman, fellow Missourian Nitpicker, Rittenhouse Review, Two Tears in a Bucket, and Wampum.

If you've noticed, my blogroll was also recently alphabetized. Thanks Susan!

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

MCCAIN AND THE NEO-CONFEDERATES 12-19-02

Now it really gets interesting. John McCain even has ties to neo-Confederates! My man Atrios points us to last Wednesday's Daily Howler (read down to"The Mighty Quinn") in which Bob Somersby reveals that John McCain's campaign paid the publisher of the Southern Partisan, Richard Quinn, $20,000 per month as a consultant. Presumably, he was hired to help McCain's campaign refine their appeal to neo-Confederate bigots.

My goodness, if even John McCain's got some racist neo-Confederate skeletons in his closet, can you imagine what some of the rest of the major G.O.P. figures have in theirs?

Folks, Lott is the sacrificial lamb so Republicans can pretend they've solved their"race problem." Don't buy it for a second. They'll continue their coded appeals to racists in the South. If McCain does it, you can bet the rest of them do as well.

You ought to read the rest of the article. It's quite good. It is one of a series at the Howler focuses on the myth of the liberal media, both in 2000 and in the present. This particular installment focuses on how our supposed liberal media misleads us about the Republican Party and race, even going so far as to"airbrush out" McCain's"race man" in South Carolina.

Posted by Tom at 10:38 a.m. CST

THE BIG DOG TELLS IT LIKE IT IS 12-18-02

Boy, I guess it's safe to say that Bill Clinton isn't going to hold anything back:

Former President Clinton said Wednesday it is"pretty hypocritical" of Republicans to criticize incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott for stating publicly what he said the GOP does"on the back roads every day."

"How do they think they got a majority in the South anyway?" Clinton told CNN outside a business luncheon he was attending."I think what they are really upset about is that he made public their strategy."

He added:"They try to suppress black voting, they ran on the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina, and from top to bottom the Republicans supported it."

Clinton's comments were strongly refuted by a Republican spokesman, who called on the former president to" check his facts."

...

GOP spokesman cites minority outreach

Jim Dyke, press secretary for the Republican National Committee, disputed Clinton's characterization of the party's election gains.

"We worked hard to make sure that more people were registered to vote, more people went to the polls and more people voted for Republicans on Election Day. President Clinton should check his facts."

In Georgia, Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes was defeated by the GOP's Sonny Perdue, who promised voters a referendum on whether to return the Confederate emblem to a position of prominence on the state flag. In South Carolina, some political analysts have said Republican Mark Sanford's defeat of Gov. Jim Hodges could be attributed in part to Hodges' decision to remove the Confederate flag from atop the state capitol.

"I think the way the Republicans have treated Senator Lott is pretty hypocritical since right now their policy is, in my view, inimical to everything that this country stands for," Clinton said.

I want W to say"inimical" five times fast -- and define the word.

But anyway, how many Mr. Dyke, please do tell, of these voters who voted Republican in the South were black folks? Not that many I'd be willing to bet. For example, 9 out of 10 black folks in Mississippi voted against Trent Lott in his last election. I'm amazed that 1 out of 10 did vote for him myself.

Ah, that vaunted Republican minority outreach, say, like this?

Since when did a couple of black faces in a room full of white folks count as an African-American Republican Leadership Council anyway?

If this is the sort of thing Republicans are calling minority outreach, that's pretty pathetic.

Posted by Tom at 6:03 p.m. CST

GENE LYONS,"SOUTHERN PARTISANS" 12-18-02

Gene Lyons has an excellent column today about the Trent Lott affair. He echoes much of what I've said here over the past few days. Since the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette won't allow me to link to it online, here it is:

Does President Junior's repudiation of Sen. Trent Lott's clumsy nostalgia for racial segregation mean the end of the GOP's cynical"Southern Strategy?" It would be lovely to think so. It would also be romantic and unrealistic to imagine that Republicans mean to abandon completely the practice of sending encoded messages to bigots suggesting that the GOP is the White Man's Party.

The Lott episode suggests, however, that GOP doublespeak will have to become more subtle. The bamboozled Mississippi Senator got caught in a time warp. Maybe he hit the eggnog too hard at Strom Thurmond's birthday party. Bigotry has hardly vanished. But even in darkest Arkansas, you've got to go pretty deep into the backwoods to find a gathering where Lott's smugly patronizing views would be acceptable.

An act of historical imagination is required to understand how Gov. George Wallace could have won Arkansas' electoral votes in the 1968 presidential race. Colin Powell could win them today. The pronouncements of"Justice Jim" Johnson, Clinton-hater and former presiding genius of Arkansas' White Citizens Council, read like something from a museum exhibit. The" culture war" is over, and the bigots lost.

That said, it's also true, as Joseph Crespino recently wrote in the New York Times, that"[h]istorians can debate just how central Senator Lott's kind of doublespeak has been to Republican success in the South. They can also debate how central the South has been in the Republican Party's success nationally. But the fact that racial appeals have played a role in the success of the modern Republican Party is not under debate. It is irrefutable. As of today, it remains unacknowledged by the party as a whole."

Everything Lott said, he's said many times before. So have plenty of others since Richard Nixon got the nifty idea of capitalizing upon white resentment of the Civil Rights movement to win the South's electoral votes for the Republican party. The first recorded instance of Lott's saying the nation would have been better off had Strom Thurmond's segregationist"Dixiecrats" beaten President Truman in 1948 took place at a Ronald Reagan campaign rally.

Immediately after securing the 1980 Republican nomination, Reagan opened his campaign at a fair in Neshoba County, Mississippi, scene of the infamous 1964 murder of three civil rights workers--"outside agitators," people like Lott called them. Reagan's endorsement of"states rights" was all the more shameful, in my view, because privately he was almost certainly not a racist. He was motivated by sheer opportunism.

Lott's longtime affiliation with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a lineal descendant of the White Citizens Council, was given a thorough airing in the Washington Post in 1999. He was clearly lying then when he said he didn't know about its stridently segregationist views. His uncle was one of the CCC's grand poobahs. Back then, however, the vigilant Washington press was too preoccupied with Bill Clinton's sexual adventures to bother with anything so trivial as the Senate majority leader's buddying up to a bunch of segregationist sheetheads.

That said, I found myself feeling sorry for the poor fool listening to him beg forgiveness. For a Southern white man of a certain age--Lott's mother once wrote a liberal newspaper editor wishing him dead--dealing with these issues in public involves complicated feelings of anger, shame, sorrow, and resentment. Dr. King always counseled forgiveness, reaching out to the best in one's adversaries rather than humiliating them.

Forgiving and endorsing, however, aren't the same thing. It's understandable that when Lott reportedly sought public support from Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, he didn't get it. The florid condemnation of conservative pundits like Andrew Sullivan, however, who pronounced himself"still reeling from watching Trent Lott's bumptious, smug, self-congratulatory self-defense" strikes me as less than convincing. Where have these jokers been for, oh, the past 25 years or thereabouts?

Where were they when President Junior spoke at racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic Bob Jones University during the South Carolina primary? When he nominated as Attorney General John Ashcroft, who, like Lott, also has longstanding ties to the CCC and has given interviews to Southern Partisan magazine praising the patriotism and moral superiority of Jefferson Davis and other Confederate slaveholders?

Bush himself is clearly no racist, merely a cynic. It took Arkansas Republicans a quarter century after 1968 (Wallace won slightly more than a third of the vote) to grasp that overtly racist campaigns cannot win here. White House political guru Karl Rove is a quicker study. The Arkansas and Louisiana senate races made it clear that Democrats can successfully appeal to white voters across the region. There are fewer white bigots and more minority voters every year. Crudely expressed views like Lott's are killing the GOP everywhere else, and becoming an unacceptable anachronism in the South too. For Junior to be re-elected, Lott has to go.

Good column, eh?

Posted by Tom at 12:03 p.m. CST

IF LOTT GOES, SO SHOULD ASHCROFT 12-18-02

I'll add my voice to others who are demanding that if Lott's associations with white supremacist groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens are enough to call for his ouster, that Ashcroft should resign as well. After all, despite Ashcroft's impossible-to-believe recent denials, Ashcroft has a few demonstrable ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens as well.

Like Lott, Ashcroft also gave an infamous interview to the Southern Partisan in which he professed admiration for Jefferson Davis and other confederates. As governor, Ashcroft used the integration cases in St. Louis and Kansas City as a way to gain support from (I'll be careful)"folks of southern heritage" in rural southern Mizzurah.

Ashcroft also blocked a qualified black nominee to the federal bench from Missouri in the most shameless way possible -- apparently to shore up his support with, you guessed it, the same folks. In fact, if one must be honest, Ashcroft has actually done more overt race-baiting in the last ten years or so than Lott has.

Heck, if W and the boys are serious about disassociating themselves from race-baiting Confederate sympathizers, they should show they're truly serious by removing Ashcroft too.

That only makes sense, doesn't it?

Update: A few hours later, Hesiod at Counterspin makes a similar argument, although more forcefully as is his fashion. Here's quite a bit of it:

The self-congratulating bullshit eminating from Conservatives over this is nauseating.

Had Trent Lott never opened his mouth, they'd still be supporting him, and might mutter under their breath about his competence as Majority Leader, but they'd never openly call for his ouster.

We LIBERALS, and DEMOCRATS all KNEW the bastard was a neo-segregationist pug.

The fact that, finally, we could get the damn media to pay attention, and expose this bastard for what he truly is, was a nice change of pace from the normal,"screw the liberals and Democratic party's agenda" coverage by the media.

Don't believe the hype, ladies and gentlemen. Conservatives only want Lott gone so they can safely CONTINUE to race-bait, and wink and nod, and"nudge, nudge" the sizeable racist vote in the Republican party.

If they were truly serious about remaking the party...they'd dump assholes like John Ashcroft as well.

Until they start going after ALL the unreconstructed rednecks in their party...they are immoral, lying slugs, unworthy of respect.

Indeed.

Posted by Tom at 11:40 a.m. CST

FROM RACISM TO MEDICAL FRAUD 12-18-02

You really ought to read about Frist's family "business," HCA/Columbia Healthcare on Nathan Newman's blog. HCA has been required to pay billions in penalties for defrauding the Medicare system. If this is the sort of ethical (corporate) family background Frist came from, maybe Republicans need to keep looking.

We certainly won't see any meaningful healthcare reform while this favored son of the healthcare industry is majority leader, that's for sure. Of course, I'm not sure they're going to do any better with anyone else. Most Republican Senators are paid shills for one industry or another.

However, it tells you a lot about W's principles that he's willing to put this guy in the majority leader's chair.

BTW, here's a fascinating profile of Frist from the Boston Globe. I love the part where he admits to swindling animal shelters out of animals so he could do experiments on them. Isn't that great? That ought to tell you something about him as well.

Of course, I'm sure Frist won't be thinking about helping out the"family business" when he's working on health care legislation, right?

Posted by Tom at 10:56 a.m. CST

GHOSTS AND MISSISSIPPI 12-18-02

Maureen Dowd has an entertaining column today that's just a bit too close to the truth. In it, she has the ghost of Lee Atwater giving Karl Rove some advice. Here's part of it:

"Wow, man, you really got it goin'," Lee's ghost told his old protégé, his raspy drawl tinged with envy."The planets are lined up in your orbit. Bush's personal approval ratings are rockin'. You killed in the midterms. How'd it happen without me? You and me, the two boy geniuses of Southern politics. But you are more in the driver's seat of Junior's presidency than I ever was of the old man's. Everybody's waitin' to see what you'll do with my ol' buddy Trent.

"Poor Strom. I had some fun times when I was Strom's 16th — or was it 17th? — campaign manager for the Senate. I remember in '78 I put together a rally in Strom's race against Pug Ravenel. I stuck all the old, gnarly-lookin' white Klan types in the back, and put all the rosy, scrubbed schoolkids and their parents up front with flags near the TV cameras. You gotta keep the seggies on board, you just don't want 'em up front.

"Trent's soul train death dance ain't workin'. So many Democrats want him to stay, he has to go. What'd you guys call Trent in those newspaper leaks? A walking piñata? That piñata has gotta be smashed before Christmas. But be careful, man. The Bushes don't have much appetite for shoving somebody over the side, and they don't want to see our bloody handprints on the body.

"You are on the horns of a strategic dilemma, ol' man. You gotta bail out on Trent while giving the impression to our base in the South that you're not bailin'. You don't want to say anything that will get the seggies mad and you don't want to do anything that will remind the editorial writers about all the stuff you did for the seggies during the South Carolina primary: sending Junior to Bob Jones University; fuzzin' up Junior's position on the Confederate flag and attacking McCain's position as not supportive enough; having Junior cuddle up to Big Daddy Strom; winkin' when Republicans unrelated to the campaign — maybe even the same"unknown" parties who ran the Willie Horton ad in '88 — smeared McCain for having a black daughter.

"Lay in the weeds, Karl. Don't overreach on tellin' the Senate what to do. Get the Angel of Death, Dick Cheney, to get some senator to tell Trent to let loose. If you want Frist to replace him as majority leader, don't send Frist, cause they'll be rough on the messenger, too.

Dowd is sufficiently tough on W and Rove because they openly appealed to racists in South Carolina during the primaries. There's nothing here she's exaggerating at all. W and Trent have both used appeals to white racists fairly recently.

Posted by Tom at 10:22 a.m. CST

W, IT'S TIME FOR PLAN B 12-17-02

I'm happy to report that the vast majority of Americans agree with me, the administration has not made the case for war with Iraq. According to this poll by the Los Angeles Times, the number is now 72% don't believe W and the boys have made a convincing case.

I'm heartened by these numbers. Of course, W and the boys may have only wanted to wag the dog for the midterms with this issue and, now that they've taken control of the Senate (for the moment, depending on what Trent Lott does), they may have decided to conveniently put this on the back burner until a more convenient time politically like, say, the next election.

We'll see.

Posted by Tom at 5:13 p.m. CST

INSTY STEPS IN IT AGAIN 12-17-02

I'm with Hesiod, Insty has stepped in it yet again. He accepts Sullivan's perfectly ridiculous and cartoonish argument about the racial politics of the Democrats and proceeds to accept it as an accurate picture of the ENTIRE party.

I also agree with Hesiod that the Republicans' opposition to affirmative action has often had more to do with appealing to white racists in the South than anything else.

But, as we all know now, Trent is all for affirmative action, right?

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

LOTT IS TOO LIBERAL? 12-17-02

You're not going to believe this. According to some conservatives, Trent Lott is too liberal! You've got to be kidding me!

They want Don Nickles to be majority leader because he'll be a true conservative.

If the Republicans in the Senate inhabit that rather strange parallel universe, I guess I might support Bill "Eli Lilly" First", er, Frist!

Posted by Tom at 1:22 p.m. CST

FRIST IS THE WHITE HOUSE'S CHOICE 12-17-02

Here's an interesting article about the White House and the Trent Lott controversy.

I love it when W and the"Honor and Integrity" boys lie about what's going on in the White House:

A week after Lott's Dec. 5 remarks at a centennial celebration for Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), Bush rebuked the majority leader but authorized aides to say he should not resign. Lott would have to save himself without White House help, GOP officials explained at the time.

That is the only time Bush has personally spoken about the issue."Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country," Bush said.

A challenge materialized on Sunday with a call by Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) for a leadership vote. Nickles telephoned Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, about his plan on Saturday and Rove did not try to stop him, sources said. Officials close to the White House said they believe Rove's plan is for Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to use the opening provided by Nickles to win election as majority leader.

The officials pointed out that Frist, a heart-lung transplant surgeon, has made a specialty of health care issues, and the creation of a prescription drug benefit for Medicare patients is planned as one of the pillars of Bush's State of the Union address next month.

White House officials tried to discourage the impression that they were orchestrating Lott's downfall. Fleischer said the call by Nickles to Rove"was described to me as a notification call and nothing more."

Right. It was a"notification" call. Sure. You bet.

W and the boys are forcing Trent off the cliff so they can put their boy Frist, Mr. Pharmaceutical Industry, in his place. [Link via Counterspin] Of course, the best part of this story is the last part:

In yesterday's briefing, Fleischer was asked about Bush's lack of appearances before civil rights groups."I just dismiss the premise of the question," Fleischer said.

The White House is trying to have it both ways here. Force Trent out so they can get their own boy in there and pretend that it's because they have a commitment to civil rights. This was a perfectly legitimate question that Fleischer just blew off.

Of course, maybe W should plan some visits to some civil rights groups soon -- especially since W is apparently planning on raising taxes on the working poor, which (surprise, surprise) is disproportionately made up of black folks in this great land of equality. W and the boys might want to explain the fairness of that tax policy to the good folks in these groups.

Update: Hesiod has a great deal more about Mitch Daniels, Frist, and Eli Lilly. I mentioned Armey's comments here back in November as well.

Posted by Tom at 11:46 a.m. CST

BLOGGERS ARE HITTING THE BIG TIME 12-17-02

My goodness. All of a sudden, the media is discovering bloggers! Isn't that interesting? Admittedly, I'm pretty new to this gig but I do still think to myself,"What kept you guys?" Over the last few days Josh Marshall has recently hit it big and this morning so does our good buddy Atrios. Krugman mentions him in his column this morning. Atrios and Josh Marshall are also mentioned in this story here as well.

I must say as someone who is relatively new to this that I'm still not completely sold on the idea that blogging is going to change the world or the media yet. If you recall, I'm the one who said not that long ago during a dustup with a certain blogger that he seemed to take himself and the blogosphere far too seriously.

When I started this gig in August, the blogosphere seemed different than it is now. It appeared to be dominated by right-wing voices that constantly appeared on my comment boards and in my e-mail box trying, as right-wingers usually do, to shout me down and get me to quiet down. Some bloggers describe right-wing bloggers as having a relationship to lefty bloggers that is like that of an abusive spouse and his victim. The abuser slaps you around until you tow the line and do what he tells you. However, as time passed, I noticed that these guys decided, for whatever reason, to leave me alone. I guess when they discovered I wasn't going to change to tow the right-wing line, they gave up and decided to go harass someone else who might.

However ambivalent I was about the efficacy of the blogosphere, I must say the last couple of weeks have really made me think that it may -- at some point -- have an impact on big media. I hope Josh and Atrios will remember the rest of us small fish in the blogosphere now that they've hit the bigtime. I do want to congratulate them on their success. They really do deserve it. However, I must say that big media still doesn't recognize the power of the blogosphere. I don't know how many things I've watched on MSNBC about the development of the Trent Lott story that say nothing about the blogosphere so the folks in the big media don't understand it yet.

Blogging does have an interesting psychological effect on you. As I've discovered links to my articles posted on blogs and comment boards all across the internet and as my hits keep on steadily increasing it's an interesting thing to ponder one's words being cited by people far and wide. While I'm not perfect and, unlike some bloggers, will openly admit to making mistakes (we all do, don't we?), there is something satisfying and ego-boosting about having others like what you have to say.

This is especially interesting to ponder considering that, early on in my blogging, I was fussed at by righties and even some moderates for some of my bitingly sarcastic comments. Imagine my surprise when I now find that the sarcastic comments are becoming the most likely thing to lead to this blog being linked to on comment boards and even other blogs.

Early on, I actually worried about whether I was saying something too harshly. Now I just don't worry about it. Maybe it's just that I've realized that I just don't care what others think, this is my blog and I'll say whatever I damn-well please about anything I damn-well please. I do enjoy blogging and I enjoy having conversations on my blog and in e-mail with folks like Atrios, Hesiod, CalPundit, Skippy, and others.

Am I changing the world? Is the blogosphere changing the world?

The answer to both of those questions is"I don't know."

Do I enjoy it? Sure.

And I really hope that you do too.

Posted by Tom at 10:43 a.m. CST

WHITE HOUSE DECLARES WAR ON LOTT 12-16-02

Holy Cow! It appears that W and the boys have decided they've had enough of Trent Lott. Get these few paragraphs from this A.P. story:

The White House avoided comment Nickles' remarks as Bush's advisers said the president would not try to save Lott's job. Fleischer steadfastly declined to be drawn into any discussion of the potential leadership race among Senate Republicans."The White House isn't commenting on that," he said. But Fleischer condemned in sharpened tones the comments last week that landed Lott in trouble.

White House officials have told Republicans that Bush is willing to accept the consequences if Lott loses the majority leader position, quits the Senate and allows Mississippi's Democratic governor to replace him, GOP officials say.

Bush's political advisers say they were not impressed with Lott's explanations, including a news conference Friday, but they insist they're not getting involved in the Senate's internal debate over Lott's future. Still, Sen. Bill Frist, a potential candidate to replace Lott as majority leader, is a favorite of the White House.

Now this may be because they think Frist will be a more faithful puppet, because it looks bad but, either way, it appears the writing is on the wall for Trent Lott. It's safe to say at this point that Karl Rove's knife is sticking out of Lott's back. It's also now safe to say that the White House has been behind a great deal of this.

[Links via Counterspin]

Posted by Tom at 3:22 p.m. CST

"EQUAL JUSTICE" BY W'S JUDICIARY PUPPET BATES 12-16-02

Mary McGrory hits one out of the yard today. She points out the hypocrisy of Judge Bates in believing that public policy deliberations are none of our business but the contents of Hillary's underwear drawer and the dustballs under Chelsea's bed are. Here's a bit of it:

The president is able to obey the yuletide admonition to"let nothing you dismay" in all this because he got just what he wanted for Christmas last Monday from a federal judge he appointed. Judge John D. Bates, in a decision that Dick Cheney himself might have written, said that it was none of the public's business how public policy on energy was fashioned in secret sessions between Cheney and Enron bigwigs before they started going to jail.

The judge echoed words that Cheney used when refusing to turn over documents and information as requested in a suit brought by the General Accounting Office. Bates dismissed the suit -- and the public's right to know. Bates conceded that his decision"may seem overly protective of . . . the executive branch." It certainly does in the light of his honor's past.

When Bates was deputy to Kenneth Starr, Bill Clinton's official tormentor, he definitely did not regard the White House as inviolate. He treated it like the public's closet, to be entered at will and rifled for grist for the special prosecutor.

At one point he ordered the Clintons' personal quarters to be tossed in a shelf-by-shelf and drawer-by-drawer search for a box of Vincent Foster's -- which never did turn up. Bates gave then-special White House counsel Jane Sherburne a choice -- either the FBI or she must turn the Clintons' family quarters inside out. A seething Sherburne, with an assistant and usher Gary Walters in tow, started the search through the Clintons' belongings. All it turned up were dust balls under Chelsea's bed.

Bob Woodward's book"Shadow" provides a vivid picture.

Starr deputy Bates thought the Clintons' private life was fair game. But now he says the formulation of official policy is off-limits to the public.

Is that"equal justice under law," the motto of the Supreme Court?

Hardly. It's a gift for a secrecy-struck chief executive and a lump of coal for the rest of us.

The hypocrisy of Republicans like Bates is pretty astonishing, isn't it? But we all knew that the Starr and his deputies weren't really out to affirm"the rule of law," didn't we? It was all about partisan politics -- and now one of these creeps has been rewarded with a lifetime appointment and has acted as the White House's legal bagman in this rather important case.

But you don't need to vote, do you? It makes no difference, right?

Posted by Tom at 12:28 p.m. CST

LACKING SELF-AWARENESS 12-16-02

"Soft on Osama" Insty writes about parallels between the Trent Lott and Bellesiles affairs:

If he had issued Friday's apology (except perhaps for the self-justification and self-pity) a week earlier, the whole thing would have been over. But he didn't.

Everybody has a blind spot, or a tin ear, about something. When that happens, you hope that your friends will point it out. Bellesiles, instead, had a bunch of scholars who saw themselves as members of his team rally around.

Gee, isn't this the pot calling the kettle black? Insert Reynolds for Bellesiles and"righty bloggers" for"scholars" in the fifth sentence and he could be describing himself on several occasions just in the last few months.

How many different times, dear Instapundit readers, have you thought something just like this about Glenn Reynolds?

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

W AND THE BOYS PREPARE TO SCREW THE POOR 12-16-02

Now, this is amazing. If you ever wanted to know what bizarre policies would appear when the Republicans took over all branches of government, here's one of them. W and the boys plan further tax cuts for the rich and want to shift the tax burden onto the poor. All that stuff a few weeks ago in Krugman's column and in the Wall Street Journal is coming to pass -- as we all knew it would. This, by the way, has all the signs of an over-reach, doesn't it?

I'm reminded of that wonderful scene from Mel Brooks'"History of the World, Part I" in which the Roman Senate stands up and shouts in unison"F*ck the Poor!"

Here's a great quote from the article:

"The increasing reliance on taxing higher-income households and targeted social preferences at lower incomes stands in the way of moving to a simpler, flatter tax system," R. Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, warned at a tax forum at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday.

So, all of these poor, high-school-educated white southern men that live in trailer parks (you know, W's base) are going to be paying more taxes so the rich can live an easier life. Maybe you guys ought to rethink who you're voting for, you know? Your favorite politicians view you as parasites on the body economic. Just a tip.

Posted by Tom at 10:16 a.m. CST

AMBIVALENCE ABOUT GORE 12-15-02

I'm torn about the news that Gore won't run in 2004. I think about how he was, as Howard Dean put it,"poorly served by the process." (Isn't that an elegant way to avoid saying he was screwed by the"felonious five?") My first thought is that it's a shame because he so obviously won Florida and therefore the election in 2000 and deserves a chance to get political revenge. And the vast majority of these losers in disputed presidential elections in American history got their revenge, defeating their nemesis handily in the next election. Samuel Tilden being the notable (and only) exception of course.

I think Gore would have a fair chance too because now everyone knows that Bush was a liar in 2000 when he claimed he'd be a moderate and was a"reformer with results." The G.O.P. domestic agenda continues to be wildly unpopular with most Americans. Many Americans would also like to send W's dishonest (smear) campaign folks packing. I know I would.

And then a few minutes later my attitude changes. I think, well hell, I wasn't that enthusiastic about Gore in the first place. He ran a pitiful campaign and lost. Gore running again would just remind me of the incredible injustice of 2000 and I'd prefer not to revisit it. Besides, surely someone else can run a better campaign, wouldn't you think? In recent polls, less than a third of Americans say Bush deserves re-election at this point which is a pretty soft number. If the economy doesn't pick up (although it probably will), W could be in big trouble in 2004. I don't look for much in the way of achievements from W's administration in the next couple of years and I entirely expect Republicans to over-reach and do something ridiculous.

Again, I'm feeling torn about this. Of course the one thing I do know is that Al got screwed in 2000 and I can't help but still feel angry about it. And now Al has decided he won't give America a chance to right that wrong in 2004.

Part of me can't help but feel sad about that.

Posted by Tom at 7:26 p.m. CST

ATRIOS, MARSHALL, & THE LOTT STORY
12-15-02

I'm embarrassed. I haven't been giving Atrios his due. As a loyal Atrios reader, I still haven't given him credit for being the first to break the Trent Lott story in the blogosphere. I've been saying that Josh Marshall deserves the credit. (If you want a timetable of how this story developed in the blogosphere, go here.) In fact, I was downright shocked to discover that I even scooped Josh Marshall by half an hour on that first day in mentioning the story.

Of course, both Josh and Atrios did a great job with this story beyond that first day. And, of course, in no way do I deserve much credit. I simply got the story from Atrios. I will point out, as another lefty blogging colleague has, that the lefty bloggers deserve credit for keeping the outrage alive.

Heck, I even beat Insty by seven hours on this story folks. The righty bloggers were a bit slow on the draw on this story. They spent the next several days pretending to have been first however.

[Links via Skippy]

BTW, isn't it interesting that it appears that Don Nickles really wants Trent's job now. I wondered if that wasn't part of what was going on within the Republican Senate leadership.

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

W PRETENDS HE CARES 12-14-02

Get this. W is now insisting upon an extension of jobless benefits! He's pretending he cares about this. This is the perfect demonstration of his lacking leadership. Buddy, if you really gave a damn about this you'd have gotten the House of Representatives to pass the extension a few weeks ago. Now some Americans are going to go a few weeks without unemployment benefits because of the administration's extremely lackadaisical attitude toward this issue.

Of course, what's going on here is that W has discovered that it looks really bad to shut off unemployment benefits so now he's on the bandwagon. It is amazing how the folks in W's administration don't actually govern that well. Once the (smear) campaign's over, W's achievements usually end. The tax cut is all they've gotten that was actually their idea and what a winner that's turning out to be. Deficits as far as the eye can see, maybe even a $900B annual deficit before long. The other supposed achievements of this administration aren't their work at all. The education bill was Ted Kennedy's and the Homeland Security Bill was the Democrats' idea.

This has got to be the most under-achieving administration in quite some time. Clinton certainly had his problems but at least his folks weren't one-hit wonders, you know? What an uninspiring group of hacks. I can only imagine what would've happened to these guys if 9/11 hadn't pulled their political fat out of the fire.

Posted by Tom at 7:41 p.m. CST

CRUELLA AND THE GHOSTWRITERS 12-14-02

Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post has a scathing review of Katherine Harris' new book. Here's a bit of it:

I just got through reading Katherine Harris' new book, Center of the Storm, which is about a principled, philosophical independent woman who suffered greatly and found her fierce impartiality put to the test in the vicious world of national politics.

I thought the book was going to be about Harris.

Unfortunately, Harris isn't even at the center of her own book. After reading it, you get the feeling that her biggest contribution was prepping for the dust jacket photo.

I had been looking forward to reading Harris' book, especially after bumping into one of her old college classmates, who remembered Harris as the rich girl with the pet ferret.

There are no pet ferrets in this book. Nothing that tangible, nothing that smacks of anything beyond a ghostwriter's raid on a fortune cookie factory. There are only platitudes and continuous shock from Harris at those who would label her a political hack for her work as the Bush-friendly secretary of state in Florida during the recount of the presidential election two years ago.

...

Harris' book is a grand pour from an empty vessel, the product of a person who needs an army of handlers -- even in the alleged act of speaking her own mind. Readers have to slog their way to the"acknowledgements" at the end of the book to reconstruct this literary whodunit.

"I wish to recognize the contributions of George Grant, who first taught me how to analyze the various currents that my experience during the 2000 presidential election recount created in my life," she wrote.

OK, so there's the writer.

"He shared with me his historical research, resources, and writings, and the work of his associates and students..."

Students? Now, we're getting somewhere! All these mini-excursions into the lives of great people -- the filler that makes up the bulk of what we're led to believe are the great ideas marinating in Harris' learned mind -- are cut-and-paste student essays.

Nine students are credited with helping Grant.

It's amazing, really. Harris, in her bid to claim independence from political ideology during the recount, has chosen to let a bunch of right-wing ideologues fill her book.

There's even more wonderful sarcasm in this review, so give it a read.

Want to know more about the aforementioned ghostwriter, George Grant? Here's his webpage. And get this rather narcissistic bio page. Just a wee bit taken with himself, huh?

Gee, I wonder what rich guy's money is keeping this group afloat? You know it just astonishes me how these folks can just happily float along on other people's money while at the same time insisting on self-reliance for the rest of us.

Are you listening David Horowitz?

Posted by Tom at 9:13 a.m. CST

KISSINGER QUITS 12-13-02

You read that right. Kissinger has quit the 9/11 Commission. Joe Conason was right. Kissinger's big money clients and his private consulting firm came first for him.

Actually, I'm quite glad it worked out this way myself. Good riddance.

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

TRENT LOTT TO RESIGN? 12-13-02

Trent Lott has scheduled a press conference for 4:30 CST. The conventional wisdom is that Lott won't resign and that he'll force Senate Republicans to remove him from the post. If he doesn't resign, here's your choice Senate Republicans: you can either affirm your support for the"southern strategy" and view of race or you can fire Trent Lott. It's up to you. If you keep him, just realize this is now going to be used against you at every turn -- and rightly so.

Of course, even if they fire Trent Lott the sneaky two-faced approach of southern Republicans on race will continue but at least the most public symbol of the southern G.O.P.'s racial intolerance will be gone from the leadership.

Could it really be that Josh Marshall and the blogosphere could bring down the Senate Majority Leader? The blogosphere kept this going folks. I'm sure the mainstream press won't admit that however. I've been watching thirty minutes worth of discussion of this on MSNBC and I haven't heard Josh Marshall's name yet.

The toothless watchdog doesn't want to admit its toothlessness.

Update: John Podhoretz of the New York Post does give the blogosphere its due.

[Link via Atrios]

Update 2: Boy, now wasn't Lott's prepared statement an amazing collection of half-hearted and empty platitudes? If he really believed all those things he'd be pursuing an entirely different set of policies, right? He certainly wouldn't be pursuing enormous tax cuts for the rich so that there's no money for social programs that help the poor that's for sure.

Once he started taking questions the press conference degenerated into variations on the cliche"some of my best friends are black." He never answered that question about why he voted against the 1982 extention of Civil Rights Act, did he? He also finessed the question about why the press conference was in Mississippi. I also loved how he pretended to be incommunicado the last few days. Right. So that's how you explain hiding from the press, huh?

Why was the press conference in Mississippi? Well the answer to that one's obvious. Lott knew his home state's media would be much more gentle on him than the Washington press corps would be. I wonder if Lott's planning a Washington press conference any time soon? I sincerely doubt it. I loved how he pretended it was a national press conference.

I'll say it again. At their own peril, Republicans keep Lott as their majority leader. If I'm the Democrats, I start working on hard-hitting ads for 2004 featuring Lott's quotation immediately.

Posted by Tom at 2:20 p.m. CST

WANT TO HEAR THESE GUYS? 12-13-02

ArchPundit sends along something that might be of interest to my readers. He informs me that Trent's favorite racist neo-Conservative group, the Council of Conservative Citizens, has a weekly radio show, hosted by Gordon Baum on WGNU in St. Louis. The show is on tonight at 10:00 CST.

If you go to the page above, there's a live link. You can listen to these guys via the internet! I won't be able to listen (my connection at home isn't good enough) but you can do so if you'd like.

Just FYI.

Posted by Tom at 11:32 a.m. CST

GOOD COLUMN FROM W'S FAVORITE WRITER 12-13-02

Adam Clymer, W's favorite writer if you recall, has a good column today about the G.O.P.'s"southern strategy" today in the New York Times. Here's a bit of it:

The Southern Republican campaigns of the 60's and early 70's turned heavily on race. In the 1964 presidential campaign, Barry M. Goldwater's opposition to the civil rights act that year won him five Deep South states, and some House members were elected on his coattails. Race was a major factor in Bill Brock's successful Senate challenge in 1970 against Albert Gore Sr. in Tennessee. Mr. Brock has since said he regretted the tone of his campaign.

Merle Black, a professor of political science at Emory University, said,"Certainly in the Deep South, race was the driving issue for the Republicans."

Senator Jesse Helms's campaigns in North Carolina always had a racial component. But in recent years, Mr. Helms has been the exception. These days, said Prof. Charles S. Bullock III of the University of Georgia,"a statement opposing affirmative action is as close as they come now" to discussing race.

...

Turnout is the one area where Democrats argue that Republicans are still playing the race card. Donna Brazile, Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000, said today that Republican warnings about impending black voter fraud, usually a few days before an election, were plainly intended to suppress black turnout and to stimulate whites into thinking that they are threatened by illegal votes.

On occasion raising the race issue has been both embarrassing and successful. In the 1988 presidential race, George Bush was helped by a commercial that attacked Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts for the furlough of a murderer, Willie Horton, who then raped a woman. His aides insisted that the campaign had nothing to do with the advertisement and seemed chagrined.

In 1991, the emergence of a former Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, as a Republican candidate for governor in Louisiana embarrassed the party, which disavowed him while Democrats chortled.

President Bush himself, after losing the New Hampshire primary in 2000 to Senator John McCain of Arizona, reached out to Southern conservatives by going to Bob Jones University. But Mr. Bush who had been trying to style himself as a different kind of conservative, was unhappy to be challenged over the facts that the Christian college banned interracial dating and that its founder, Bob Jones, had made many anti-Catholic statements. In the end, Mr. Bush won the South Carolina primary, though the Catholic issue cost him Michigan.

It's a good article about the background of the Republican's"divide and conquer" racial strategies in the South.

Posted by Tom at 10:24 a.m. CST

TRENT LOTT, RACIST 12-13-02

CalPundit has an excellent post about the Trent Lott affair. He asks a very pertinent question:

So, what can we say about a man who — when the audience is right — has apparently used this line as often as Laurence Olivier has recited Hamlet's soliloquy? That he panders to racists?

Or that he is a racist?

If you recall, I made the point here a couple of days ago that Trent reminds me of many folks I grew up with in Arkansas who, how should I put it, had certain jokes and things they said in private with the"right audience."

Should someone like that really be the Senate Majority Leader?

Update:Here is Hesiod's comment on W's response to the Lott's comments. Look for the press to decide this weekend that enough has been said about this and call off the dogs. Hopefully Josh Marshall will keep the heat on.

Posted by Tom at 9:17 a.m. CST

KRUGMAN GIVES JOSH HIS PROPS 12-13-02

In an excellent column this morning, Krugman gives Josh Marshall credit for the information in his last column. If you recall, I surmised as much on Wednesday. Krugman also makes bigger points about the" coded messages" the Republican Party is sending these days.

The Republican Party's longstanding"Southern strategy" — which rests on appealing to the minority of voters who do share Mr. Lott's views — is no secret. But because the majority doesn't share those views, the party must present two faces to the nation. And therein lies the clue to Mr. Lott's role.

To win nationally, the leader of the party must pay tribute to the tolerance and open-mindedness of the nation at large. He must celebrate civil rights and sternly condemn the abuses of the past. And that's just what George W. Bush did yesterday, in rebuking Mr. Lott.

Yet at the same time the party must convey to a select group of target voters the message — nudge nudge, wink wink — that it actually doesn't mean any of that nonsense, that it's really on their side. How can it do that? By having men who manifestly don't share the open-mindedness of the nation at large in key, powerful positions. And that's why Mr. Bush's rebuke was not followed by a call for Mr. Lott to step down.

Of course, Mr. Lott isn't alone in that role. The Bush administration's judicial nominations have clearly been chosen to give a signal of support to those target Southern voters. A striking example has just emerged: We've learned that Mr. Lott supported the right of Bob Jones University to keep its tax-exempt status even while banning interracial dating; supporting his position was none other than Michael McConnell, a controversial figure recently confirmed as an appeals judge.

Notice, by the way, who really gets served in this charade. The open-minded majority gets ringing affirmations of its principles; but once the dust has settled, the people who agree with Mr. Lott get to keep him as majority leader, and get the judgeships too.

Still, pulling off a two-faced political strategy is tricky. What prevents reporters from explaining to the majority the coded messages that are being sent to the minority?

Good question; I wish I knew the answer. But what's remarkable in the Lott affair is how much he has gotten away with over the years. How many readers ever heard about the flap, several years ago, over Mr. Lott's association with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens? The scandal was actually worse than his remarks last week — but it just got buried. And without the indefatigable efforts of Mr. Marshall and a few other Internet writers, Mr. Lott's recent celebration of segregation would probably have been buried as well.

My guess is that the White House believes it has now done enough. Mr. Lott has received his slap on the wrist; now we can go back to business as usual.

Bear in mind that while Mr. Bush has finally denounced Mr. Lott's remarks, he and his party benefit from the strategy that allows the likes of Mr. Lott to hold so much power. Let's not forget, in particular, the blatant attempts to discourage minority voting in South Dakota, Louisiana, Maryland and elsewhere. It's about time for those of us in the press to pay attention, and let this great, tolerant nation know what's really going on.

I would tend to argue that the approach of the Republicans is not even as subtle as Krugman makes it out to be. Yes, the administration is two-faced and puts lipstick on the pig on a daily basis. However, at this point it should be obvious. Vote Republican, and you'd better realize you support Trent Lott and the neo-Confederates. If you don't like the"southern approach" to race, well, you really should know what to do by now, right?

BTW, while Instapundit tried to claim credit for this in an earlier post Wednesday, he did eventually credit Josh Marshall with it. Heck, this blog beat Instapundit on the Lott story by more than seven hours! Of course, like many, I learned about it from Atrios who got it from Josh.

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

BODIES? WHAT BODIES? 12-12-02

Boy, read this article about Gulf War Part I. Taken together with this disturbing piece about civilian deaths, it appears the Gulf War wasn't as clean and"surgical" a war as we've all been told. And the same stealthy and creepy crew is going to be in charge of Part II folks.

If you've been reading me a while you know I've posted a great deal on this issue in the past. Here's my most recent post on this.

[Link via Charles Kuffner.]

Posted by Tom at 2:54 p.m. CST

"PRO-OSAMA" INSTAPUNDIT RESPONDS
12-12-02

Glenn Reynolds has responded to the criticism raised by several bloggers and myself. Take a look and let me know what you think. On first glance, it appears to be more excuse-making and hole-digging from the Tennessee oracle but I'll read it more carefully and respond in more detail in the future. Does he ever admit he made a mistake?

He continues to insist that those of us who are against the war need to understand that we're just being"played for suckers" by Saddam. Glenn, you need to understand that, using that same logic, you're being"played for suckers" by Osama. He'd love for you to invade Iraq. He'd just love it. You guys need to realize that too of course.

Again, you can expect more from me in the future on this.

Update: Hesiod responds to Insty here.

He says something that I'd like to emphasize here as well. All this talk about"aiding and abetting Saddam" is yet another obfuscation by war proponents. Unable (or unwilling) to debate the war on its merits, conservatives are resorting to this rather lame argument as a substitution for a counterargument that rebuts the rather reasonable objections that war opponents have. Like Joe McCarthy and his minions, you try to distract everyone with this smear and try to get them to ignore the other guy's argument.

Do I believe Glenn is"Pro-Osama?" Of course not! However, I am just using the same logic he is to arrive at that conclusion.

BTW, have you noticed how Glenn won't quote or link to someone when they disagree with him? Why do you suppose that is? Do you not want your own readers to be able to see what the other guy said? Or are you worried that you mischaracterized the other guy's argument and you don't want to admit it? Or are you on some sort of"big blogger-small blogger" power trip?

I'm just curious.

Update 2: Ted Barlow has weighed in on this here and Eugene Volokh here. When two of Glenn's oldest blogging compatriots on both sides of the political spectrum suggest Glenn's stepped in it, that tells you something, doesn't it?

Posted by Tom at 1:44 p.m. CST

TRENT IS DIGGING THE HOLE DEEPER
12-12-02

Check out Josh Marshall's TalkingPointsMemo today. As news of his associations with racist and neo-Confederate groups have begun to come out, Trent has begun to lie about them.

I agree with Josh. Trent is digging a deeper hole with every passing minute.

Great work once again Josh. Keep it up!

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

CHENEY DEFIANT 12-12-02

This just in from the Borowitz Report:

CHENEY BARS G.A.O. INSPECTORS FROM VICE PRESIDENTIAL PALACES

‘They Will Find Nothing Here,’ Declares Defiant Veep

Vice President Dick Cheney thumbed his nose today at inspectors from the General Accounting Office who had hoped to gain access to his Vice Presidential Palaces, where documents related to the Bush administration’s energy task force are believed to be hidden.

Calling their demand to inspect his palaces a “gross indignity,” Mr. Cheney insisted nonetheless that even if they searched his many residences they would find no incriminating energy task force documents.

Mr. Cheney went on to accuse the G.A.O. of being “spies,” taunting them in a fist-pounding address to the nation.

“Let the G.A.O. and their spies search every square inch of the Vice Presidential Palaces,” a defiant Cheney bellowed. “They will find nothing here.”

But even if Mr. Cheney agreed to let the G.A.O. inspectors search his Vice Presidential Palaces, finding what they are looking for may be easier said than done, experts say.

The Palaces, often referred to in official White House communications as Mr. Cheney’s “secure undisclosed location,” are believed to be as many as one hundred in number and reportedly cover an area equal to forty-seven football fields.

Resplendent in marble and gold, Mr. Cheney’s Vice Presidential Palaces are ostensibly his official residences, used by the Vice President to entertain his many friends in the petroleum industry in an atmosphere of unrestrained opulence.

Despite claims by the G.A.O. that they wish to search the Palaces only to find energy task force documents, Mr. Cheney’s aides say that the G.A.O. demands are “a Trojan horse.”

“They don’t want Cheney’s documents,” one aide said. “They’re after his oil.”

Goodness. Sometimes it's hard to tell the truth from the satire, isn't it?

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

STROM IN HIS PRIME 12-12-02

Do you want to see Strom at his demagogic best? Go here.

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

"OBJECTIVELY" PRO-OSAMA 12-12-02

BTW, I'll echo the argument of my blogging colleagues that those who advocate war with Iraq are only playing into Osama bin Laden's hands. Waging war with Iraq will only make it easier for bin Laden to recruit and wage a war of terror on the United States.

Therefore, using Glenn's logic, those who advocate this war are"objectively" pro-Osama, right? Hey, I think we can even take it a step further. I think I'll say that these pro-war folks are"Soft on Osama!"

What great fun! Join in now! You too can play this little game of McCarthyistic argumentation!

This post also appears on Stand Down.

Posted by Tom at 8:49 a.m. CST

LIFE RETURNS TO NORMAL 12-12-02

Oh my. I always forget how crazy finals week can be. I've got all my tests graded and the grades entered. I'm blind but I'm done reading tests. Now I just need to use my handy-dandy spreadsheet to calculate grades this morning and fill out grade sheets.

Today is also my son's eighth birthday and tonight is the Christmas program at my kids' school. It's a wild time of year, made even more chaotic by the need to grade tons of papers.

Sigh.

Posted by Tom at 8:33 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE 1984 REPUBLICAN PLATFORM
12-11-02

Get this from Josh Marshall:

"I think that a lot of the fundamental principles that Jefferson Davis believed in are very important to people across the country, and they apply to the Republican Party ... After the War between the States, a lot of Southerners identified with the Democrat Party because of the radical Republicans we had at that time, particularly in the Senate. The South was wedded to that party for years and years and years. But we have seen the Republican Party become more conservative and more oriented toward the traditional family values, the religious values that we hold dear in the South. And the Democratic party is going in the other direction. As a result, more and more of The South's sons, Jefferson Davis' descendants, direct or indirect, are becoming involved with the Republican party. The platform we had in Dallas, the 1984 Republican platform, all the ideas we supported there - from tax policy, to foreign policy; from individual rights, to neighborhood security - are things that Jefferson Davis and his people believed in."

-- Trent Lott, Interview in [John Ashcroft's favorite] Southern Partisan magazine, IV, 1984.

Sort of sums up the changes in the Republican Party over the last forty years perfectly, don't you think?

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

JOE CONASON, TRENT LOTT, AND WHITE SUPREMACY
12-11-02

Joe Conason has an excellent blog entry today about the Trent Lott affair. If you've read The Hunting of the President, you know all this stuff but, if you haven't, you should give it a read.

As someone who grew up in Arkansas, I knew many people as late as the 1980s who were like the folks Joe is describing here. Many of these folks hated Clinton because they thought he'd betrayed the Southern political tradition which, in their opinion, was the defense of white supremacy.

Lott and many southern politicians like him remind me of some folks I knew growing up who tried to hide their racism in public because it wasn't okay but gloried in telling"nigger jokes" once they believed they were in"safe" company. I'm happy to report that some of these folks I knew have since changed -- but some haven't.

If you couldn't tell, for some of us it's not a very pleasant trip down memory lane.

I'd like to stop thinking about it now.

Posted by Tom at 3:15 p.m. CST

TRENT LOTT DEFENDS RACIAL SEGREGATION
-- IN 1983! 12-11-02

Josh Marshall has got the scoop again. Trent Lott filed an amicus brief supporting Bob Jones in its suit against the Federal Government in 1983. Bob Jones was claiming at the time that it should still receive funds despite the fact that it practiced racial discrimination. Josh even has a link to the brief. I think Lott's time as Majority Leader may be up folks.

For Democrats, it would be better politically for Lott to stay in his job but he's beginning to appear more like damaged goods with every passing minute.

Posted by Tom at 2:52 p.m. CST

HMMMMM... 12-11-02

Somebody in this administration's been shredding evidence again. Was it you, Janet Rehnquist?

Where are all those folks who believed that every little delay in locating documents in Clinton's administration was evidence of a cover-up now? Clinton's administration was a virtual open book compared to the Nixonian secrecy practiced by W and the boys. With the assistance of their cronies in the courts, it's likely to stay that way.

As I've said before, if W and the boys have their way, we'll only learn what really happened in this administration 50 years from now. That's about the earliest we could expect the documents from this administration to be pried from the cold, dead hands of the Chief Archivist of W's Presidential Library.

Posted by Tom at 2:14 p.m. CST

TRENT LOTT, REPEAT OFFENDER 12-11-02

Here's more on the remark that may ultimately cost Trent Lott his job. However, W says he has full confidence in Trent Lott.

W was saying the same thing about Paul O'Neill until about a week ago, wasn't he?

Keep up the good work Chuck and Josh!

Posted by Tom at 9:45 a.m. CST

THE MCCARTHYISTIC STYLE OF ARGUMENTATION 12-11-02

The more I think about it, I should say a bit more about this dustup between Reynolds and the folks in the blogosphere who are against the IraqWar Part II. I suspect Glenn will just try to say nothing more about it and let it die -- like his approach to the whole embarrassing Martha Burk affair a while back.

Anyway, what I'm trying to argue is that Reynolds is employing a classic McCarthyistic style of argumentation. If you can't (or don't want to) rebut the other side's arguments, you suggest, a la John Ashcroft, that critics of your favored policy are"aiding the enemy" or are"objectively" (to use Glenn's words) on Saddam's side.

After all, you don't want to even lend credence to the other side's argument, so you just smear the other side with these sorts of snide suggestions and questions about their patriotism.

In short, it's a classic conservative attempt at obfuscation -- and something Glenn is really good at if you recall. I keep waiting for him to resurrect that pathetic" conservative victimhood" argument any moment now.

I'll be grading exams today, so blogging may be a bit light.

Update: P.L.A. weighs in about the controversy here, TAPPED does so here and CalPundit does so here.

Posted by Tom at 8:37 a.m. CST

SURELY HE'S NOT SAYING WHAT I THINK HE'S SAYING -- IS HE? 12-10-02

Counterspin points us to this post by Glenn Reynolds. (You know, the blogger who won't link to this blog because he doesn't agree with me -- he apparently screens blogs like Rush screens calls.)

But, anyway, surely Glenn Reynolds isn't suggesting that the folks who are against the war are"Pro-Saddam" is he? Surely not. He's smarter than that isn't he? I'm with Hesiod on that one. If he means it that way, that sounds a bit McCarthyistic, doesn't it? That's about the lowest sort of argument around, isn't it?

Like most Americans who are against the war, I'd love to see Saddam disappear tomorrow. I'm against the war because it will be horrible for the Iraqi people, put our soldiers unnecessarily in danger, inflame the Middle East, and will make us less safe, not more.

Glenn why don't you go try to get that argument past my conservative colleagues over at Stand Down? Go ahead. Try it.

If Glenn really meant it that way, then Hesiod's right:"There is no sewer" the pro-war folks"will not slime through to win their argument."

This post also appears on Stand Down.

Update: Jim Henley registers his objections to this post as well.

Update 2: Like Trent Lott, Glenn understands people are upset but, of course, he didn't do anything wrong. We just must have taken his comments the wrong way of course. Right.

Posted by Tom at 8:51 p.m. CST

AH, FINALS 12-10-02

It's finals week. In fact, I'm sitting here watching 180 kids take a final at this very moment. I'll continue to blog but I won't be quite as prolific the next couple of days.

After all, I've got tests to grade!

It's that time of the semester -- the time for the big push to the end.

Sigh.

Posted by Tom at 7:22 p.m. CST

DRAWING BLOOD 12-10-02

Ah, how interesting -- the folks at the American Prowler (the online version of the American Spectator) feel compelled to attack Josh Marshall.

Josh, they appear to be a bit worried about you over there. Whenever the folks at the Spectator are openly condescending towards someone that means they're worried. Joe Conason drew blood on numerous occasions during the impeachment debacle and they know it. To be mentioned in the same breath as Conason by folks over at the Spectator is quite a good thing in my book.

Kudos to you Josh.

Keep up the good fight.

Posted by Tom at 5:20 p.m. CST

MILBANK ON THE DIIULIO AFFAIR 12-10-02

Here's a good article today by Dana Milbank about the DiIulio affair. You've got like an article that begins with these two quotes one after the other:

My criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. I sincerely apologize and I am deeply remorseful."

-- Former Bush White House official John DiIulio last week after calling Bush political aides"Mayberry Machiavellis."

"I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my remarks may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat such a slander at any time in the future."

-- John Cleese, while being dangled from a window by Kevin Kline in the 1988 film"A Fish Called Wanda."

Holy Cow! Someone in the press has a sense of humor!

Of course, if you'll notice the third quote he presents is a forced confession from the Stalin-era Soviet Union.

Hmmm. What do you think the point of that is?

Posted by Tom at 3:59 p.m. CST

TED BARLOW IS... 12-10-02

BACK!

Hurray!

Welcome back Ted!

Posted by Tom at 3:29 p.m. CST

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS...
A BOMBED-OUT DOLLHOUSE! 12-10-02

Boy, get this! Can you believe this?

Toy manufacturers are now producing bombed-out warzone dollhouses for kids. I guess they're getting us all prepared for the coming IraqWar Part II, eh?

Just in case you don't believe me, here it is on the J.C. Penney website.

Great, huh?

Posted by Tom at 2:26 p.m. CST

WEEK IN REVIEW 12-10-02

Be sure to check out CalPundit Week in ReviewTM!

Posted by Tom at 12:59 p.m. CST

THERE'S A NEO-CONFEDERATE AT THE WASHINGTON TIMES 12-10-02

Speaking of the Republicans as the party of Neo-Confederates, Atrios posts today about a fascinating story by Michelangelo Signorile about one of the folks on the staff, Robert Stacy McCain, over at the Washington Times.

Racism? A southern conservative? No. Say it isn't so!

And this guy's an editor at the Moonie-owned Washington Times! I'm shocked!

Atrios even links us to a post by McCain in which he agrees with Gordon Baum, CEO of the Council of Conservative Citizens, when he says"God bless Trent Lott."

Posted by Tom at 11:50 a.m. CST

LANDRIEU, LOTT, DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS 12-10-02

There is a lot of interesting commentary and analysis out there today. I'll highlight some of it here:

  • This E.J. Dionne column about Landrieu's victory in Louisiana

  • This John Nichols column from The Nation about Landrieu's victory in Louisiana

  • This editorial from the Washington Post about the alternative visions of Landrieu and Lott

After reading these articles, it is interesting to ponder how the G.O.P. has become essentially a neo-confederate party over the last twenty years. Nixon's"southern strategy" has eventually led to the capture of the G.O.P. by southern ideologues, folks who believe like Trent Lott that things were better before desegregation.

When I talk informally with my midwestern students about politics, many of them get pretty upset when I suggest to them that by voting Republican they're supporting the southern viewpoint on race and society. In fact, some of them get pretty bent out of shape about it. They claim the G.O.P. isn't just a southern neo-confederate party.

In response to this assertion, I always challenge them to name a single prominent midwestern leader that truly shapes the party's outlook and ideology. Of course, in this part of the world they always tell me that John Ashcroft is just such a person. I then tell them about his glowing remarks about the confederacy that have appeared in numerous neo-confederate magazines over the last ten years.

It really does crush them. You should see their long faces -- and it also really drives my point home. If you support Republicans these days, you are supporting folks like Trent Lott who believe, to use the words of the Washington Post, that"America would have been better off if a rabid segregationist had won the presidency in 1948."

To be honest with themselves, northern Republicans really need to come to grips with that. I know it's easier to bury your head in the sand. It's easier to pretend that the G.O.P. is a"big tent." However, it's not anymore folks -- and you need to realize that.

Posted by Tom at 11:06 a.m. CST

"ALL THESE PROBLEMS" 12-10-02

Paul Krugman has an excellent column this morning about the Trent Lott imbroglio. Here's a bit of it:

A man from Mars — or from Europe — might expect Mississippi voters to favor progressive taxation and generous social programs. After all, the state benefits immensely from the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson: it doesn't pay a lot of federal taxes because it has the lowest per-capita income in the nation, and it does receive a lot of aid. Unlike, say, New Jersey, which pays far more into the U.S. Treasury than it gets in return, Mississippi is a major net recipient of federal funds.

But Mississippi is, in fact, the home of Trent Lott — a leader of a party determined to roll back as much as it can of the Great Society, perhaps even the New Deal. Why do Mississippi and its neighbors support politicians whose economic policies seemingly run counter to their interests?

Do I really need to answer that?

Fifty years ago the politics of race in America weren't at all disguised. Jim Crow laws both impoverished and disenfranchised Southern blacks; Southern whites voted for politicians who promised to keep things that way. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act ended overt discrimination. Yet race remains a major factor in our politics.

Indeed, this year efforts to suppress nonwhite votes were remarkably blatant. There were those leaflets distributed in black areas of Maryland, telling people they couldn't vote unless they paid back rent; there was the fuss over alleged ballot fraud in South Dakota, clearly aimed at suppressing Native American votes. Topping it off was last Saturday's election in Louisiana, in which the Republican Party hired black youths to hold signs urging their neighbors not to vote for Mary Landrieu.

Still, nobody now misses the days of overt racial discrimination. Or do they?

Last week, at Strom Thurmond's 100th-birthday party, Mr. Lott recalled Mr. Thurmond's 1948 race for the presidency."I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

What, exactly, did Mr. Lott mean by"all these problems"? Mr. Thurmond ran a one-issue campaign:"We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race," declared his platform.

The rest of it is just as good. I wonder when Krugman will start crediting the bloggers he's been reading? He has apparently been reading Josh Marshall.

Update: Josh Marshall has got the latest on Trent's rather lame apology and the frightening reaction from a couple of lonely black guys in the sea of white faces over at the African-American Republican Leadership Council. You really should get a load of this group's website!

Posted by Tom at 9:51 a.m. CST

OH YEAH -- HE MEANT IT 12-09-02

If you want to see Trent Lott's remarks in favor of segregation the other day, here's a link to them. The infamous remark is about 32 minutes and 45 seconds into the clip.

Don't pay any attention to people who tell you it was meant as a joke. He meant it folks. He read the speech and says this particular passage quite forcefully. His tone even becomes a bit harsh when he delivers the line.

You'll also notice the stunning silence in the room after he drops the bomb.

[This link via CalPundit]

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

THE FIX WAS IN 12-09-02

As I said in an earlier post, the fix was in on the GAO-Cheney Task Force lawsuit. The handpicked Bush-appointed judge just dismissed the case.

Sorry folks but, according to the right-wing Republican federal judiciary, you and I don't have a right to know what our government is doing anymore.

But you didn't need to vote in the midterm election, did you?

Posted by Tom at 2:29 p.m. CST

WHAT KEPT YOU? 12-09-02

It's nice to see the folks at Tapped have finally decided"something is very, very wrong" with our media these days. I'll just second Atrios and say,"Welcome aboard." What kept you?

Hey guys, I know that my blog apparently doesn't contain enough"added-value" or"smart analysis" for you but surely you guys thought there was something wrong before now, didn't you? I would suggest you read this blog a little more often and I think you'll find there's plenty of analysis here of just these sorts of media isues. Just a suggestion.

My goodness. Something wrong? Really? How Joe Obvious can you get?

Posted by Tom at 12:49 p.m. CST

BECAUSE HE CAN 12-09-02

There's a great column by David Greenberg in the Washington Post this morning about the recycling of the disgraced by the administration. Here's a bit of it:

Poindexter and Abrams, like Nixon and Kissinger, harbored a contempt for Congress, for the opposition party and for the public, all of whom they considered short-sighted and ignorant, meddlesome and soft. These groups not only didn't have to approve of what was going on, it was decided; they didn't even have to know.

If you can't see any immorality and illegality at work here, then you might downplay these scandals as mere politics -- as some Bush aides seem inclined to do. Abrams, for one, wrote a book chalking up his criminal conviction to"political differences." Queried about Abrams, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer called Iran-contra -- in what was, technically, an accurate description --"a matter of the past." Watergate isn't whisked away so easily, but it should be remembered that in the summer of 1974, Karl Rove, then head of the College Republicans, was among the active minority fighting Nixon's impeachment -- circulating literature that painted the constitutional crisis as nothing more than a political witch hunt. Few dare voice that view today, but one wonders how many former foot soldiers, deep down, still believe it.

Still, you might ask, if the Bush team can't grasp the wrongdoing its recent appointees committed, doesn't it at least grasp the political sensitivities? On the contrary. Ever since the Florida recount fight, the Bush governance strategy has been to assert that they're in the right and to brook no intimations otherwise.

All along, the Bush team has understood that images can be self-fulfilling -- and that the best way to shore up a shaky position is to act as if your legitimacy isn't in doubt. If your decisions are assailed, hang tough, grit your teeth, shrug off the questioners and brazen it out. That attitude has been particularly marked in the waging of the war on terrorism, where the administration's fetish for secrecy and disdain for Congress are eerily reminiscent of -- guess who? -- John Poindexter and Henry Kissinger.

The attempt to rehabilitate the party's scandal-scarred lions must be seen in the context of this governing strategy. If you try something controversial and get away with it, it makes you stronger. The recent appointments -- and the refusal to even acknowledge the legitimate outcry they have occasioned -- are a deliberate demonstration of power, a flaunting of contempt for opposition and dissent, in the expectation that such a show will likely deter, not spur, critics.

Why has Bush appointed Kissinger, Poindexter and Abrams? It's like the old riddle: because he can.

You really should read the rest of it.

Posted by Tom at 10:56 a.m. CST

"LIVE FROM BAGHDAD," PETER ARNETT, AND THE DECLINE OF THE MEDIA 12-09-02

I waited with anticipation for the HBO movie"Live From Baghdad" all last week. My enthusiasm took a big hit when, as I mentioned in a blog entry on Friday, I heard the movie would be perpetuating one of the more heinous Gulf War hoaxes. However, I still had hopes the movie would be okay.

Well, I’m afraid to say I didn’t particularly care for it. It seemed to be a bit too selective in its coverage. It jumped from one event to the other abruptly, sometimes skipping weeks’ worth of events in the process. As a historian, that bothered me. I suspect the book the movie is based on was much more comprehensive in its coverage. It’s too bad we couldn’t have skipped such unimportant scenes like the buying of a liquor stash for the crew in favor of more important material. Of course, ultimately, there's nothing groundbreaking and new in this movie at all. I was hoping there would be something new and there wasn't.

What really began to get to me was the constant repeating of the mantra, “we shouldn’t be the story” by several of the main characters. I guess what bothered me was the rather obvious hypocrisy of that claim. Of course they wanted to be the story. If you recall, these guys relished being part of the story that night the Gulf War began. Bernard Shaw, John Holliman and Peter Arnett ate it up. They enjoyed it. I’m sure the rest of the folks on the crew did too. To claim otherwise is ridiculous.

This movie reminded me of how the press has gone into such a meteoric decline since 1991. With the corporatization of our media, news coverage is now all about making a profit and international news budgets have been cut dramatically. For example, CNN used to be the place for good international news. It really isn’t anymore. Like most of the copycat cable news networks, CNN now focuses primarily on U.S. news.

And, since the takeover of news networks by corporate types, the name of the game is now increased profits (and therefore high ratings) rather than quality news coverage. When IraqWar Part II starts I’m not sure CNN will even be able to cover it like they covered Part I – and I’m not sure they even want to do so anymore. The same is true of the network news media as well.

Frighteningly, in a quest for higher ratings, CNN and MSNBC are even consciously trying to become more like the Faux News Channel. This is a mistake. The folks at CNN and MSNBC need to understand that the folks who watch Faux are watching it for its obvious ideological bias -- because it’s not CNN and doesn’t aspire to be a serious news organization. It’s just part of the right-wing spin machine folks and that’s why Faux viewers like it. Faux viewers believe CNN and MSNBC are part of the (giggle) liberal media and simply aren’t going to watch CNN and MSNBC anyway. The idea that CNN and MSNBC can sway viewers away from Faux by imitating Faux is a strategy that is destined to go nowhere.

The most irritating development of the last ten years has been how, as the corporate types took over the cable news networks and the network news divisions, the news media, reflecting the political beliefs of these corporate types, has increasingly become largely part of (to use Josh Marshall's words) the right-wing agitprop machine. As the Daily Howler chronicles on a regular basis, the news media now openly advances the G.O.P. party line these days.

A perfect example is what’s been going on the last few days with Trent Lott. Severalotherbloggers have posted on this including the big boy who, for some reason, is still afraid to link to me. (Of course, you and I both know that Instapundit doesn't like to link to people he disagrees with. If you recall, I am usually mentioned as an"other blogger" rather than by name -- even if it is a common courtesy to link to bloggers when you're talking about them.)

Anyway, as Josh Marshall has so ably pointed out over the last few days, “liberal CNN” interviewed Lott on Friday, the day after he made a statement that was obviously pro-segregation. Instead of asking him about this rather important story, Jonathan Karl lobbed softballs at him, including asking him about the latest jewel of the G.O.P. propaganda effort, the John Kerry haircut story.

This point about the decline of the media was driven home further when I watched National Geographic Explorer last night. They ran a story by Peter Arnett about Iraq. It was an excellent and thorough report about Saddam and the Iraqi people. It detailed the outrages of Saddam and chronicled how our policies have also strengthened his hand. I was watching it in amazement. So that's what's it gotten to these days -- the mainstream media doesn't do this sort of thing anymore. I've got to watch Explorer to get this stuff!

I have always found Arnett to be a good journalist who really does try to get the story right. I know, I know, he was fired by CNN in disgrace over the Operation Tailwind story that has since been (apparently) debunked. However, reporting the views of both sides (whether it's domestic politics or foreign affairs) is something that is sadly missing in today's media. During the Gulf War, Arnett was one of the few journalists who stayed in Baghdad and reported on the war from there. I know Poppy and the Bush I administration hated him for that. Arnett's reports showed what the war was doing to the Iraqi people -- and it wasn't what the administration wanted to hear. If you're wanting to argue that this is a " clean war" you want none of that. Arnett reminded the American people of just how dirty a" clean war" can be. When Arnett misstepped with the Tailwind story, Republicans in Washington happily blasted away at him for it. They viewed him as a collaborator who had ruined their" clean war." They finally could get back at him.

As we head pell-mell toward war, we really need reporting like Arnett's to keep the administration honest. We need a media that isn't just a conduit for the administration's propaganda machine. I, like most Americans, think Saddam is an evil, murderous, lying sack of shit. However, interviews with Saddam are part of accurate news coverage folks. In fact, interviews with Saddam allow the world to see just what a brazen liar he is.

I guess part of what bothered me most about “Live From Baghdad” is that it reminded me of the days not so long ago when the folks in the media really were trying to cover an Iraq story effectively and accurately. Over the last ten years, our media has taken a rather obvious swing to the right in an attempt to appease conservatives and these new network executives. Of course in 1991 the folks at CNN were self- aggrandizing and loved being the story themselves but at least they were trying to cover the story as accurately as possible. You've got to give them credit for that.

Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same is true of the media nowadays. Hell, our media these days won't even ask Trent Lott the tough questions."Live From Baghdad" reminded me that the people's watchdog is now toothless -- and that's a very dangerous thing folks.

Very dangerous indeed.

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

LAZY SUNDAY 12-08-02

I haven't felt like doing much today folks. Here's something from Andy Borowitz:

O’NEILL FIRED OVER ‘IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID’ REMARK

‘Don’t Call Me Stupid,’ Bush Shot Back

A clearer picture of the events leading up to Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill’s forced resignation was revealed today, as White House aides said that Mr. O’Neill was undone by unintentionally calling the President “stupid” in a meeting last week.

The heated exchange occurred at the White House late Thursday night, aides said, when Mr. O’Neill urged the President to focus more on the economy, telling Mr. Bush, “Remember, it’s the economy, stupid.”

Mr. Bush’s face reportedly reddened with rage after Mr. O’Neill made his remark.

“I know it’s the economy,” the President replied, “and don’t call me ‘stupid.’”

Mr. O’Neill quickly defended his “it’s the economy, stupid” remark as a figure of speech, but the President “would have none of it,” aides said.

“I know when someone’s called me stupid, and you just called me stupid,” Mr. Bush said. “Well if I’m stupid, you’re a dickwad. How do you like them apples?”

Mr. O’Neill, realizing that he had walked into a rhetorical minefield, quickly attempted to mend fences with the President.

“When I said ‘it’s the economy, stupid,’ I just meant that the economy is something you should focus more on,” Mr. O’Neill said.

“Who are you calling a moron?” a furious Mr. Bush demanded, leaping from his chair.

“It’s ‘whom,’” corrected Lawrence B. Lindsey, director of the National Economic Council, who was also present at the meeting.

Moments after Mr. Lindsey’s “whom” remark, the President called him a “smart-ass” and abruptly demanded his resignation as well.

“If there’s one thing the President hates more than being called stupid, it’s being corrected on that whole who-whom thing,” one aide said.

Now you can't say I didn't do anything today, can you?

I'm working on a post that will be a review of"Live From Baghdad" but I'll worry about that tomorrow.

See you tomorrow folks!

Posted by Tom at 6:09 p.m. CST

PEARL HARBOR DAY, 2002 12-07-02

Frank Rich has an excellent column this morning about the impending IraqWar Part II. You really should read it. I'll just give you the first few paragraphs to whet your appetite:

History will eventually tell us whether Pearl Harbor Day 2002 is the gateway to a war as necessary as World War II or to a tragedy of unintended consequences redolent of World War I. But for this moment, farce has the edge: A savage dictator is delivering a"full" accounting of his weapons arsenal that only a fool would take for fact, and a president of the United States is pretending (not very hard) to indulge this U.N. rigmarole while he calls up more reserves for the confrontation he seeks. The rest of us are but pawns in a great game that only Joseph Heller could have devised.

The game comes with an ever-growing cast of peculiar players. In Iraq, there's a team of inspectors out of"H.M.S. Pinafore," charged with a mission that is probably impossible and whose results will soon be disregarded by the relevant parties anyway. In Washington, there's an unintentionally comic spokesman for our ally Saudi Arabia who on Tuesday declared that his country was the victim of unwarranted American intolerance bordering on"hate."

Whassup with that? It couldn't be that Americans have noticed that his government's official religion, the extremist Wahhabi sect of Islam, is the hate-filled creed that nurtured Osama bin Laden in the first place, or that Saudi Arabia has been Al Qaeda's"most important source of funds," as a task force of the Council on Foreign Relations reported in October. Or that the Saudi minister of the interior, Prince Nayef, maintained as recently as last week that the 15 Saudi hijackers of 9/11 were dupes in a Zionist plot.

The strangest player of all, predictably, is Henry Kissinger, whose first act as chairman of the"independent" commission to investigate 9/11 was to initiate a cover-up, fully backed by the White House, of the identities of the clients of Kissinger Associates, his consulting firm. Mr. Kissinger consistently sees the confidentiality of this list as a higher priority than service to his country. When the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations a decade ago investigated the B.C.C.I. affair — a scandal that itself figures in the tangled history of Saudi/Al Qaeda money laundering — Kissinger Associates resisted the subpoena by threatening litigation"through an extensive appellate process to the Supreme Court." (The quote is from the committee's December 1992 report on its investigation.) The Senate retreated. The only list that may be as tightly guarded is that of the oil executives who met with Dick Cheney's energy task force — a secret that Mr. Cheney may yet defend all the way to the Supreme Court.

Might these lists overlap? Might some of the names be dear American business cronies of the Saudis? Do any of them have a vested interest in post-Saddam Iraq? It's stonewalled questions like these that make some of us nervous about the expanded war to come. We know Saddam Hussein is a thug and we want him gone. But the administration has never stuck to a single story in arguing the case for urgent pre-emptive action now. Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda — or maybe he wasn't. He has nuclear weapons — or maybe he won't have them until some years from now. Our goal is regime change — or disarmament — or both. Our post-Saddam endgame is — what? Something is missing from this picture, and meanwhile Al Qaeda is very much at war with us and, in a new development, the Israelis. You wonder if the Bush administration thinks we're as gullible as the Saudis do.

It's in this context that Bob Woodward's latest best seller,"Bush at War," could not be more timely. If journalism is the rough draft of history, the journalism in this book is the rough draft of the 9/11 report that Mr. Kissinger's commission will someday write. The administration cooperated with Mr. Woodward. The president himself was"quite open" — about what he wanted to talk about, at least.

Now, go read the rest of it. It's quite good. Rich has this ability to put so many different things together. He's also quite hard on Bob Woodward -- for good reason. His latest love letter to the administration isn't exactly responsible journalism.

Posted by Tom at 11:53 a.m. CST

IMPRESSIVE 12-06-02

Get this from ABC's The Note:

Here is what Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, said yesterday at Senator Strom Thurmond's birthday party, according to ABCNEWS' O'Keefe."I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't of had all these problems over all these years, either."

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Trent Lott,"unreconstructed" southerner.

[Link via Atrios]

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

MORE ON THE LIBERAL MEDIA CANARD
12-06-02

E.J. Dionne has a good column on how the media has drifted steadily to the right. It's a good column.

Here is a good and detailed report about the obvious bias at the Faux News Network from FAIR.

I still can't believe some still believe in the myth of the liberal media.

Posted by Tom at 10:44 a.m. CST

DOES HBO PERPETUATE THE INCUBATOR HOAX? 12-06-02

Here's a story about how HBO's new movie"Live from Baghdad" appears to be perpetuating the infamous Gulf War hoax about Kuwaiti babies being removed from incubators.

Here's a bit of the story:

The fraudulent story of Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators during the occupation of Kuwait in 1990 is depicted as if it were true in “Live from Baghdad," the HBO film premiering on the cable network this Saturday that purports to tell the story behind CNN’s coverage of the Gulf War. HBO and CNN are both owned by the AOL Time Warner media conglomerate.

In the months before the Gulf War began, media uncritically repeated the claim that Iraqi soldiers were removing Kuwaiti babies from incubators. The story was launched by the testimony of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990. Eventually, as repeated in the media by the first President Bush and countless others, it blossomed into a tale involving over 300 Kuwaiti babies.

What was not reported at the time was the fact that the public relations company Hill & Knowlton was partly behind the effort, and the girl who testified was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington. Subsequent investigations, including one by Amnesty International, found no evidence for the claims (ABC World News Tonight, 3/15/91).

In the film, the story is turned upside down, portrayed as a deft public relations move by the Iraqi government, who grant CNN access to Kuwait in a calculated attempt to discredit the rumors that their soldiers were pulling babies from incubators. CNN reporters are ushered to a hospital in Kuwait, where a doctor, under obvious pressure from Iraqi soldiers, tells the reporters that no babies had been pulled from the incubators.

The CNN team does not believe the obviously nervous doctor is telling the truth, and the Iraqi officials pick up on this, promptly cutting the interview short. The scene ends with the doctor being led away by Iraqi officials. Moments later, the CNN crew listens to a BBC report on the radio that suggests that CNN had debunked the story of Iraqi soldiers killing Kuwaiti babies, and CNN’s reporters are upset that they've been used by the Iraqi officials.

"Live from Baghdad" is a dramatization, not a documentary, but it is being presented by HBO as a"behind-the-scenes true story" of the Gulf War and is being released at a crucial political moment. HBO's version of history never makes clear that the incubator story was fraudulent, and in fact had been managed by an American PR firm, not Iraq. Curiously, however, the truth seems to have been clear to Robert Wiener, the former CNN producer who co-wrote “Live from Baghdad.” As he explained to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (11/21/02), “that story turned out to be false because those accusations were made by the daughter of the Kuwaiti minister of information and were never proven.”

Unfortunately, HBO viewers won’t know that when they see the film.

The webpage also includes an e-mail address for HBO if you want to give them some feedback. As someone who watches a lot of programming from the HBO networks I am disappointed to hear that HBO is apparently recycling one of the most infamous hoaxes of the Gulf War.

I've been looking forward to watching this movie all week. What a bummer. I'll still watch it but at least now I'm prepared for what is apparently an outrageously inaccurate moment in the film.

Posted by Tom at 10:24 a.m. CST

IT'S ABOUT TIME! 12-06-02

Thank goodness! The administration finally sacked two of the most incompetent folks on its economic policy team, Paul O'Neill and Larry Lindsey. It's about time.

On Wall Street this administration already has a reputation for having the least competent economic team since Hoover, so I think it's about time to clean house.

Unfortunately, I doubt they'll replace them with anyone better but we can always hope. Of course, they'll appoint no one who really believes in sound fiscal policy so things are likely to get worse before they get better with regards to the federal budget.

I'm afraid that no one in this thin-skinned administration is ever going to admit the tax cut was an enormous fiscal policy mistake. Some estimates are that the annual federal budget deficit could be $900B within just a few years.

Posted by Tom at 9:52 a.m. CST

KISSINGER HANDS IN REPORT 12-06-02

More hilarity from the Borowitz Report:

KISSINGER HANDS IN REPORT SEVEN MONTHS EARLY

Critics Question Former Secretary of State's Thoroughness

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger raised eyebrows in Washington today by handing in his independent commission's report on 9-11 a full seven months early.

"I suppose I could have sat on it longer for appearance's sake, but I proofread it at Kinko's last night and decided it was good to go," Mr. Kissinger said.

Critics of Mr. Kissinger's appointment to head the independent commission expressed concern that the report, which Mr. Kissinger reportedly took between four and five hours to write, could not possibly be thorough enough.

And their fears that Mr. Kissinger's would fail to probe the Bush administration's handling of 9-11 seemed validated by the fact that the words"Bush" and"administration" do not appear anywhere in the 712-page document.

Instead, there are lengthy digressive anecdotes about Mr. Kissinger's illustrious career, including a twelve-page gossipy account of his relationship with seventies glamour girl Jill St. John.

"While the revelations about Mr. Kissinger and Ms. St. John are indubitably entertaining, it's hard to see how they pertain to the assignment this independent commission was given," one critic of the report said.

On Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she would ask Mr. Kissinger to appear before the House to answer questions about the report, parts of which appear to have been copied from the best-selling memoir by NBA star Charles Barkley.

But in a statement released today, Mr. Kissinger said that such an appearance was unnecessary:"I don't know what the House's questions will be, but I submitted written answers to them two weeks ago."

Good stuff, eh?

Posted by Tom at 9:30 a.m. CST

EVIDENCE, PLEASE? 12-05-02

Get this:

The White House said today it possesses solid evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, and rejected Baghdad's denials, saying they have no credibility.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer declined to say what that evidence is, but said the United States will provide intelligence to weapons inspectors.

"The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it," Fleischer said."The Iraqi government has proved time and time again to deceive, to mislead and to lie."

For goodness sakes W, if you've got evidence, show it to us! What is the point of not doing so at this point? If you've got it, show it.

Or is it like that January 1991 satellite photo that Poppy's administration claimed showed Iraqi troops massing on the border with Saudi Arabia? You guys NEVER produced that photo.

The time for unsubstantiated claims and innuendo is over.

After all, this is war you're talking about.

Show us the evidence NOW.

[This post also appears on Stand Down.]

Posted by Tom at 2:31 p.m. CST

AH, THAT PATRIOT ACT 12-05-02

This story is pretty troubling. I'll just post it here.

PHOTOGRAPHER ARRESTED FOR TAKING PICTURES OF VICE PRESIDENT'S HOTEL

An amateur photographer named Mike Maginnis was arrested on Tuesday in his home city of Denver - for simply taking pictures of buildings in an area where Vice President Cheney was residing. Maginnis told his story on Wednesday's edition of Off The Hook.

[The show begins about seven minutes into the broadcast. The interview begins about twelve minutes into the broadcast. I'm still listening to this. This guy sounds quite legit.]

Maginnis's morning commute took him past the Adams Mark Hotel on Court Place. Maginnis, who says he always carried his camera wherever he went, snapped about 30 pictures of the hotel and the surrounding area - which included Denver police, Army rangers, and rooftop snipers. Maginnis, who works in information technology, frequently photographs such subjects as corporate buildings and communications equipment.

The following is Maginnis's account of what transpired:

As he was putting his camera away, Maginnis found himself confronted by a Denver police officer who demanded that he hand over his film and camera. When he refused to give up his Nikon F2, the officer pushed him to the ground and arrested him.

After being brought to the District 1 police station on Decatur Street, Maginnis was made to wait alone in an interrogation room. Two hours later, a Secret Service agent arrived, who identified himself as Special Agent"Willse."

The agent told Maginnis that his"suspicious activities" made him a threat to national security, and that he would be charged as a terrorist under the USA-PATRIOT act. The Secret Service agent tried to make Maginnis admit that he was taking the photographs to analyze weaknesses in the Vice President's security entourage and" cause terror and mayhem."

When Maginnis refused to admit to being any sort of terrorist, the Secret Service agent called him a"raghead collaborator" and a"dirty pinko faggot."

After approximately an hour of interrogation, Maginnis was allowed to make a telephone call. Rather than contacting a lawyer, he called the Denver Post and asked for the news desk. This was immediately overheard by the desk sergeant, who hung up the phone and placed Maginnis in a holding cell.

Three hours later, Maginnis was finally released, but with no explanation. He received no copy of an arrest report, and no receipt for his confiscated possessions. He was told that he would probably not get his camera back, as it was being held as evidence.

Maginnis's lawyer contacted the Denver Police Department for an explanation of the day's events, but the police denied ever having Maginnis - or anyone matching his description - in custody. At press time, the Denver PD's Press Information Office did not return telephone messages left by 2600.

The new police powers introduced by the USA-PATRIOT act, in the name of fighting terrorism, have been frightening in their apparent potential for abuse. Mike Maginnis's experience on Tuesday is a poignant example of how this abuse is beginning to occur. It suggests that a wide range of activities which might be considered"suspicious" could be suddenly labeled a prelude to terrorism, and be grounds for arrest.

We will continue to post updates to this story as we learn them.

I really do hope this story isn't true. If so, Big Brother is here folks. We have now successfully curtailed freedom in the name of protecting it. Joe McCarthy would be proud.

Where are all of those guys who a few years ago were warning us about the dangers of granting the federal government too much power?

Oh yeah. That's right.

They're now the ones in charge.

Posted by Tom at 11:43 a.m. CST

DIIULIO AFFAIR CONTINUES 12-05-02

Joe Conason has more thoughts about the DiIulio affair today. Here's a bit of it:

But Mr. DiIulio did more than speak candidly with Mr. Suskind over a period of months. In late October, after mulling over their conversations, he sat down and wrote a seven-page, nearly 3,000-word letter that began with the words"For/On the Record." (Its full text can be found at www.Esquire.com.) The devastating remarks and anecdotes faithfully quoted from that letter in the Suskind article were not ill-considered quips delivered on a barstool. They were the written recollections and reflections of a widely published and quite conservative academic.

Nor is Mr. Suskind a writer"with a notorious reputation"—as Robert Novak quickly said in attempting to discredit him—unless the 1995 Pulitzer Prize he won for feature writing at The Wall Street Journal lent him a certain notoriety for skill, accuracy and polished prose. For all its negative aspects, his portrait of the Bush White House is nuanced and painstakingly fair. He quotes Mr. DiIulio at length on the finer qualities of George W. Bush. And he opens with a charming sketch of Mr. Rove putting up Christmas decorations with a group of children at the home of a former Clinton aide.

Consider for a moment how the national press corps would have treated such a story from within the Clinton White House in December 1994. They habitually gave far more attention and credibility to material of far less substance during the eight years of that administration. And there is no way that Mike McCurry or Joe Lockhart would have been able to shut down questioning about an article like Mr. Suskind’s as curtly as Mr. Fleischer did.

Then consider, after reading the Esquire article, which will soon appear on newsstands, what the press apparently cannot report (and probably doesn’t know) about the inner machinations of the Bush White House. The new occupants have changed the tone, indeed: It’s either happy talk or dead silence.

It is amazing how our stenographer press corps is letting this rather astonishing glimpse of"the man behind the curtain" go without asking questions about it. I can only imagine what we'd be hearing if Clinton were president and a similar Mayberry Machiavelli were making policy.

Of course, speculation still continues about why DiIulio recanted. Some argue it may just be Rove's doing. Here's a passage from Suskind's article about Rove's approach to those whom he disagrees with:

Eventually I met with Rove. I arrived at his office a few minutes early, just in time to witness the Rove treatment, which, like LBJ's famous browbeating style, is becoming legend but is seldom reported…. I squeezed into a chair near the open door to Rove's modest chamber, my back against his doorframe.

Inside, Rove was talking to an aide about some political stratagem in some state that had gone awry and a political operative who had displeased him. I paid it no mind and reviewed a jotted list of questions I hoped to ask. But after a moment, it was like ignoring a tornado flinging parked cars."We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him [emphasis in original text]."

Isn't it great to know this even-tempered and reasonable guy is essentially running the White House?

Posted by Tom at 11:16 a.m. CST

MOYERS SETS O'REILLY STRAIGHT 12-04-02

Buzzflash has a guest commentary from Bill Moyers today. Moyers is trying to undo the damage that Faux News' favorite demagogue has done in a recent broadcast and column. Once again, we see that O'Reilly has showed his commitment to Faux News-style accuracy by being wrong about nearly every purported"fact" he presents. You should read this.

However, I'll just quote Moyers' closing paragraph here:

As I say, Mr. O'Reilly could have ascertained all of this with just a little homework, but the facts would have cramped his style and the truth seems hardly his intent. He is not even original as a prevaricator. Most of his column is lifted from the work of another David Brock wannabe, Stephen Hayes, who poured out his spleen on me some months ago in that other bastion of Rupert Murdoch's journalistic ethics, The Weekly Standard. Although I refuted the lies and errors in that tirade, Mr. O'Reilly recycles Mr. Hayes' lies but not my refutation. And what's more, Mr. O'Reilly ignores what's on the record. The dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Tom Goldstein, and the publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, David Laventhol, wrote The Weekly Standard to debunk"Stephen Hayes' ludicrous attempt to link the Columbia Journalism Review's praise of Bill Moyers to a grant from the Schumann Foundation." Employing his usual journalistic standards, Mr. O'Reilly never mentioned the letter.

What to make of this?

I report. You decide.

Ouch.

Posted by Tom at 4:50 p.m. CST

THANKS! 12-04-02

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you, my readers, for the patronage of this blog. Just a few minutes ago, I had my 10,000th counted visitor to this blog -- through a link from Atrios. Also, I have had nearly 21,000 hits since I installed my hit counter on September 18th. Believe it or not, I blogged for more than a month (August 12-September 18) without a hit counter!

Anyway, I'm aware that these are not incredible numbers in the enormous realm that is the internet but I think they're respectable.

Once again, I do appreciate it greatly folks!

I hope you continue to like what you read here and keep coming back for more!

Posted by Tom at 3:38 p.m. CST

THE STORMCLOUDS OF WAR ARE GATHERING 12-04-02

Isn't it becoming apparent that we're going to war -- and soon? Day after day, W keeps saying that he's not pleased with the inspections and insisting that Iraq is not being forthcoming enough. This week he began to put more pressure on the U.N. for more weapons inspectors and"aggressive inspections." His statements are contradicting what Kofi Annan and even his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, are saying about these inspections at the same time.

I fully expect W to move the war machine up a gear beginning on Sunday when, according to the U.N. resolution, Iraq has to catalog its weapons of mass destruction. W and the boys will probably declare Iraq in violation of the resolution at that time. I'm trying to decide whether W will start actively moving military forces into place starting next week or if he'll seek U.N. cover first. If he moves without the U.N. we're going to lose the support of the world on this entirely. I suspect only Britain will stand with us -- and it very well may cost Tony Blair his job. BTW, one of the things that the press is not telling us, either willfully or through sheer incompetence, is that the support of Turkey and Saudi Arabia is contingent upon us working through the U.N. If W tries to go it alone, neither country will support us.

However, whether unilateral or not, it does appear that war is coming folks -- and there's not much anyone can do about it. That's becoming increasingly obvious with every public statement coming from the White House.

I'm thoroughly embarrassed by the conduct of our government in pursuing this thoroughly unnecessary war. As I've said numerous times, a war with Iraq will actually increase the chance of terrorism again Americans abroad, inflame the Middle East, and put thousands of Americans in harm's way for no good reason.

This post also appears on Stand Down.

Posted by Tom at 1:49 p.m. CST

GENE LYONS ON GORE, DASCHLE, AND LIMBAUGH 12-04-02

Here's Gene Lyons' latest column:

Fighting Your Own Battles

If Democrats want a realistic chance of returning to power, they'll have to confront the entrenched power of the right-wing media and its cowering acolytes among the Washington press. Tom Daschle and Al Gore tried recently, with groaningly predictable results. What both episodes demonstrate is that polite, reasoned discourse won't cut it.

First came Daschle, who complained about the"shrill tone" of conservative talk radio."What happens when Rush Limbaugh attacks those of us in public life is that people aren't just content to listen. People want to act because they get emotional," he said"and the threats to those of us in public life go up dramatically, against us and against our families, and it's very disconcerting."

Needless to say, Limbaugh had a field day mocking the South Dakotan. So did Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz."Has Tom Daschle lost a couple of screws?" Kurtz wondered. Had he actually listened to Rush lately?"He's so mainstream that those right-wingers Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert had him on their Election Night coverage."

In reality, it's Kurtz who's uninformed. The media activists at Spinsanity.org, however, have got the blowhard's number. A draft avoider himself, Limbaugh calls Daschle, an Air Force veteran,"Hanoi Tom." He's repeatedly accused him of an"attempt to sabotage the war on terrorism" for political advantage.

"In essence," Limbaugh has said"Daschle has chosen to align himself with the axis of evil." He's even done an extended riff on the soft-spoken Senator's likeness to Satan. So how hard is it to imagine a particularly soft-headed fan--of whom there are legions--deciding it was his duty to kill off so wicked a traitor? Somebody, after all, mailed anthrax to Daschle's office.

Confronted with his own words, Limbaugh invariably claims he's an entertainer who shouldn't be taken literally. A seventh grader would see through the"just kidding" excuse, but timid Washington pundits pretend to buy it. Kurtz's fawning interview with Limbaugh on CNN's"Reliable Sources" had to be seen to be believed. Miss America gets tougher treatment. Kurtz would be ashamed to go so easy on a politician.

Why? Because Daschle had a legitimate gripe, but he did a poor job of articulating it. Besides, while there's nothing a politician can do to harm a"mainstream" pundit--a term connoting both rank and conformity--having the whole screaming horde of amateur and professional ditto heads attacking your"left-wing bias" can create real career problems. It's safest to go with the flow.

Al Gore put it this way in an interview with the New York Observer:"The media is kind of weird these days on politics, and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party. Fox News Network, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh--there's a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media...Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this fifth column in their ranks-that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what's objective as stated by the news media as a whole."

"Something will start at the Republican National Committee, inside the building," Gore continued"and it will explode the next day on the right-wing talk-show network and on Fox News and in the newspapers that play this game, The Washington Times and the others. And then they'll create a little echo chamber, and pretty soon they'll start baiting the mainstream media for allegedly ignoring the story...[P]retty soon the mainstream media goes out and disingenuously takes a so-called objective sampling, and lo and behold, these RNC talking points are woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist."

Gore pointedly avoided saying so, but he could have been talking about his own presidential campaign. It's hard for even sympathetic readers to grasp how much the 2000 election turned upon RNC propaganda like the absurd, yet endlessly repeated lie that Gore claimed he"invented the internet." (Today's dailyhowler.com details the whole sordid story.)

On cue, the Post's Kurtz jumped in with a"vast right wing conspiracy" joke," and speculated that Gore was simply bitter. Right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer, a former psychiatrist, shamefully declared that he was on"the edge of looniness" and" could use a little help." Overnight, Gore's weirdness became the party line.

Thoughtful interviews, see, won't cut it. Winning this battle will require open confrontation. Limbaugh couldn't stand up to Al Gore for ten minutes in public debate, nor to Sen. John Kerry or any experienced Democrat of substance. Neither could most of the TV talking heads. Unless they want to end up looking as ineffectual as Daschle did last week, they'd better learn to fight their own fights.

Pretty good sum-up to the events of the last week or so, eh?

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

BRODER IS PEEVED 12-04-02

My goodness, when folks like David Broder (Mr."Conventional Wisdom") take shots like this at the administration, maybe some folks in the media are beginning to pay some attention to what's going on. Here's a bit of his column:

Oddly enough, the same president who says, with a straight face, that a $1 billion federal pay raise would"interfere with . . . the war on terrorism" insists the tax cut can go forward as if the budget were still in surplus and al Qaeda had never struck. The mixed message to federal workers -- words of praise followed by a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings -- comes as administration officials and private foundations are trying to persuade thousands of talented young people to take up government careers and replace those who are slated for retirement.

Much the same thing is happening in the armed services. Recruitment has not become easier since 9/11 -- another great difference from Pearl Harbor. The draft is long gone, and what was once a military reflective of the whole society is now made up largely of those with backgrounds that narrow their prospects and reduce their options. As my friend, columnist Mark Shields, pointed out recently, when Congress authorized the use of force in Iraq, not a single member of the House and only one senator had a son or daughter serving in the enlisted ranks of the armed services. And only three House members have children who are officers.

More than 130,000 reservists have been activated -- taken from their civilian jobs and their families -- since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Some of them are in their second year of service, because no one is available to replace them. Thousands more will be called up if we fight Iraq. Almost everywhere you look, the element of shared sacrifice that should be expected in a nation at war is missing. A few people are being asked to give up a lot -- measured in time or money -- while others are being indulged in ways no one can claim are fair.

So spare me, please, the comparisons to Pearl Harbor.

Perhaps Broder's coming around. I don't know. He fails to mention that this administration also stood idly by while the congress screwed over the unemployed as well but, hey, a guy's got to start somewhere I guess.

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

PAYOLA IS BACK 12-04-02

Get a load of this. The Bush administration clearly tried to keep this little secret to themselves. I wonder who leaked this memo to the press? With this administration's Nixonian penchant for secrecy, I keep wondering when W is going to bring back the"plumbers." I mean, heck, he's brought most of the Iran-Contra gang back now. Why not the"plumbers?"

Anyway, when my salary is frozen because my state must keep a balanced budget, it really offends me that the folks in the Bush administration who are supposed to be committed to"fiscal conservatism" are quietly figuring out ways to spend more borrowed money on payola to reward their political appointees for their loyalty.

Considering that this administration used its cabinet and sub-cabinet level political appointees in unprecedented ways in the recent midterm campaign, it now means they're going to be paid with tax money as a reward for their political activities. Great. Just great.

I understand why my salary is frozen. It makes perfect sense to me. However, you'll notice W and the boys don't want to let that little budget deficit get in the way of paying back their buddies for all their"hard work." What a great commitment they have to fiscal conservatism, eh?

What do you really think we'd be hearing from DeLay and Lott if Clinton had instituted a policy change like this? You know it would be the end of the world as we know it. Faux News would be blasting away non-stop.

Posted by Tom at 9:35 a.m. CST

MEA CULPA 12-04-02

Ooops. Mea Culpa. As a fellow blogger pointed out last night, I mischaracterized Abrams as a" convicted felon." He is not a felon, he pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to congress. It was a simple mistake and I do apologize. Right there in quoted material is the word"misdemeanor." Pretty sloppy stuff I must admit. I was headed off to class and sort of dashed that post off folks.

I missed all of this last night. I just learned about it right now. I taught a night class last night and was too tired after it ended at 9:00 to even check e-mail. Fortunately, Rick Shenkman, my editor here at HNN, quickly changed the wording of the post to remove the inaccurate characterization.

Skippy and Instapundit have posted about this as well. I notice that Glenn Reynolds yet again avoids linking directly to this blog. I wonder why? I think I'm sensing some right-wing" cocooning" going on here, eh?

Of course, I think what really set the righties off was not this error but the rather accurate characterization of the moral character of the administration. Just imagine what we'd be hearing if Clinton had appointed someone who'd been convicted of lying to congress to a post in the White House! DeLay and Lott would be frothing at the mouth.

Again, I apologize for the error. I make them. In no way am I perfect folks!

Update: Mark Kleiman posted about this last night as well. At the end of his post, he sums this whole thing up perfectly:

In any case, you'll have to admit that it's more pleasant to argue about the proper use of terms than it is to worry about having a President with a penchant for appointing persons-who-have-committed-actions-forbidden-by-criminal-law (musn't say" criminals") to important national security posts.

In short, what you're seeing is yet another attempt by righty bloggers to distract readers from the real issue. It's much more convenient for these moral scolds to argue about this than the moral character of this president and his administration.

Posted by Tom at 8:52 a.m. CST

ALL IS FORGIVEN FOR YET ANOTHER OF THE IRAN-CONTRA GANG 12-03-02

Yet another of the Iran-Contra gang returns to a prominent post in this administration -- this time in the White House. Here's a bit of the story:

Iran-contra figure Elliott Abrams, who has served in the White House for more than a year, has been promoted to a key post among President Bush's national security aides.

Abrams was appointed to lead the National Security Council's office for Near East and North African affairs. The senior director job oversees Arab-Israeli relations and U.S. efforts to promote peace in the troubled region.

His appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, was announced yesterday by Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.

Meanwhile, U.S. special Afghan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will take on the Iraq portfolio titled"special envoy and ambassador at large for free Iraqis," the White House said.

Abrams has headed the NSC's office for democracy, human rights and international operations since June 2001.

An assistant secretary of state for Latin America during the Reagan administration, Abrams was a fierce advocate of military support for Nicaraguan rebels, known as contras, despite Congress's ban on military aid to the anti-government guerrillas.

He pleaded guilty in 1991 to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress. Abrams received a Christmas Eve pardon from President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Shameless? Sleazy? Of course -- but what do you expect from these guys? This clearly is an ethically-challenged administration. Clinton's administration is beginning to look squeaky-clean in comparison. Clinton didn't appoint convicts to prominent jobs in the White House.

Hey, who gives a damn if these people lied to congress and the American people? W and the boys do it all the time, right? I mean, I heard W just today claim that Saddam is demonstrably linked to Al-Quaeda. He has absolutely no evidence of that but he said it anyway. I mean, hell, what's a little white lie, right? That's clearly okay. I'm sure that's how they view Abrams' championing of the bloodthirsty goon-like Contras in the 1980s despite the fact that congress had forbidden it.

Yeah, W and the boys certainly have restored"Honor and Dignity to the White House," eh?

I don't ever want to hear a complaint about Clinton's ethics again.

Sigh.

Posted by Tom at 6:30 p.m. CST

LUCKY DUCKIES 12-03-02

Paul Krugman has a great column today about the attempts by the right to raise taxes on poor folks. I blogged on this a while back (I think I was bouncing off a E.J. Dionne column or something).

However, it's at the end of the column where Krugman says something quite profound I believe:

What do we learn from this catalog of cruelties? We learn that" compassionate conservatism" and"leave no child behind" were empty slogans — but while this may have come as a surprise to the faith-based John J. DiIulio, some of us thought it was obvious all along. More important, we learn how relentless and extremist today's conservative movement really is.

Some people — moderate Republicans who aren't ready to admit what has happened to their party, and Democrats who think their party can appease the right by making its own promises of smaller government — still don't get it. They imagine that at some point the right will decide that it has gotten what it wants.

But the right's ambitions have no limits, and nothing moderates can offer will appease it. Eventually the public, which actually benefits from most of the programs the right is determined to abolish, will figure that out. But how fast voters figure it out depends a lot on whether moderate politicians clearly articulate the issues, or try to escape detection by sounding like conservatives.

Amen.

Posted by Tom at 2:16 p.m. CST

MAUREEN DOWD ON KISSINGER 12-03-02

I know I'm a couple of days late on this, but here's Maureen Dowd's take on the Kissinger appointment. I'll give you a bit of it:

Mr. Bush, after all, worked very hard to suppress any investigation of 9/11. He had to cave to the victims' families, who were hellbent to hear what the president learned in his August 2001 briefing about Al Qaeda plans, and what wires were crossed at the C.I.A., F.B.I. and I.N.S.

Now Mr. Bush can let the commission proceed, secure in the knowledge that Mr. Kissinger has never shed light on a single dark corner, or failed to flatter a boss, in his entire celebrated career. (He was one of Mr. Bush's patient tutors in foreign policy during the campaign.)

If you want to get to the bottom of something, you don't appoint Henry Kissinger. If you want to keep others from getting to the bottom of something, you appoint Henry Kissinger.

Mr. Bush learned about the diplomat's black belt in the black arts long ago, when he made a patsy of Bush père. As the ambassador to the U.N. in 1971, Bush 41 was accused of aggressively making the case for Taiwan and against Beijing, even as Mr. Kissinger, the national security adviser, was secretly traveling to Beijing and undercutting Taiwan.

Afterward, Mr. Kissinger told George H. W. Bush he was"disappointed" that Beijing had gotten Taiwan's seat in the U.N."Given the fact that we were saying one thing in New York and doing another in Washington," Mr. Bush drily observed,"that outcome was inevitable."

There's a lot more -- and it's pretty good.

Posted by Tom at 12:16 p.m. CST

LOSING THE FAITH 12-03-02

The more I think about this situation with John DiIulio, I think I've figured out what is going on. I know the folks at Buzzflash are talking about how W and the boys must have threatened to cut federal funding to the University of Pennsylvania or something more sinister. I think a much simpler thing is going on here.

After all, DiIulio's second statement that disowned his earlier remarks (which, of course, are on the record and contained in a memo he had sent Ron Suskind that is available on the web) was issued by the administration at the University of Pennsylvania and could've been written by Fleischer himself.

BTW, this isn't the first time the Bush administration has tried to discredit Ron Suskind this year. Just last June, Fleischer and others weaseled around trying to smear Suskind for lying when he'd actually gotten the quotations in a story absolutely correct. In fact, Card's fears from last June were actually dead on. The dark prince Karl Rove has taken over the administration just as Card feared. The administration's and the G.O.P.'s sleazy approach to the campaign in the midterm elections (questioning the patriotism of their opponents) certainly proves his influence.

But I digress -- back to the DiIulio situation. My guess is that folks in the Bush Administration told the administrators at Penn U that if they wanted any student intern experiences in the executive branch or for Republican legislators in congress, they'd better get DiIulio to recant. That sort of pressure will make an administration react. If an administration fears that DiIulio's statements are going to lead to their students being blackballed, they'd put pressure on him to recant. They might even write the statement and get DiIulio to sign it. I suspect that is the game being played here. It's not fair and it's certainly not in any way recognizing DiIulio's right to free speech, but that's what I think is going on.

What makes DiIulio's statements disowning his remarks even more bizarre is that he's on the record making them -- even writing this editorial that ran Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He clearly believes these things but is being pressured to retract them.

I feel sorry for the guy. He tried to tell us what was really going on in this administration and is now being treated in the shabbiest way possible by his former pals. I'm sure it's been pretty disillusioning for him.

But, hey, welcome to W's administration. This is the sort of malevolence that exists behind that smile folks.

Changing the tone in Washington.

Right.

Posted by Tom at 11:35 a.m. CST

WHAT DOES W HAVE ON DIIULIO? 12-02-02

Joe Conason blogs today about the rather surprising DiIulio story in Esquire. He argues that Ari Fleischer, strange apology from DiIulio today notwithstanding, may have trouble knocking this down. You see, there's this pesky matter of a seven-page on-the-record letter from DiIulio to Ron Suskind that most of the quotations in the story are drawn from.

Do you want to see the letter? Go here.

Ari, I'm afraid you can't get away with lying about this like you do so many other things. Nice try though.

It really does makes you wonder what in the world they've got on DiIulio, doesn't it?

Posted by Tom at 7:56 p.m. CST

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH 12-02-02

Here's an excellent analysis from this week's Public Opinion Watch of polls and voter turnout in the midterm election by Ruy Teixeira of the Century Foundation.

I'll quote a bit of it:

But if we just looked at base mobilization and turnout, we would be leaving out a very important factor that also drove Democratic losses on Nov. 5: the Democrats' inability to carry Democratic-leaning suburban or mixed suburban-urban counties by the margins they had previously been enjoying. These counties, generally close-in and frequently at the heart of the technologically advanced postindustrial areas that represent the nation's future, have been giving a larger and larger share of their vote to Democratic candidates over time. But in 2002 the Democrats generally did not do as well as before in these counties, due to Republican success in picking off swing voters.

For example, in affluent, high-tech St. Louis county (which doesn't include St. Louis city) in Missouri, Jean Carnahan's margin over Jim Talent was only three points, down from the eight points her late husband carried the county by in 2000. That alone cost her 16,000 votes and, combined with reduced margins of victory in nearby Jefferson county, in the Jackson county suburbs outside Kansas City and in Boone county around the university town of Columbia, was easily enough to cost her the election.

Similarly, in Hennepin and Ramsay counties in Minnesota around Minneapolis-St. Paul, the birthplace of Honeywell, 3M and other high-tech companies, Walter Mondale's margins over Jim Coleman were substantially less than both Mark Dayton's over Rod Grams in 2000 (11 and 10 points less, respectively) or Paul Wellstone's in his 1996 race. If Mondale has simply run as well as either one of these Democratic candidates had previously done in Hennepin and Ramsay counties, he would have defeated Norm Coleman by about 10,000 votes.

That's two Democratic senators down right there. It's clear that relatively poor performance in Democratic-leaning suburbs was a key reason that the Democrats lost the Senate in 2002 and had, overall, such a dismal showing. This suggests that, while the Democrats need to improve base mobilization, as discussed earlier, they cannot afford to neglect the task of reaching swing voters in the suburbs.

But who were these swing voters? The short answer is: We don't really know. The post-election telephone polls are just too small to break down suburban voters by subgroup to isolate the voters that really moved in this election. However, some reasonable guesses can be made.

One is that these voters were white. A second is that many of these voters were married, since it appears that Democratic support among single voters remained about the same. A third is that these married white swing voters included women (perhaps especially women homemakers) as well as men, since there appears to have been a slight diminution in Democratic support among women and this is the likeliest source of such diminution.

So: whites, especially white married men and women, especially women who do not work outside the home. The GOP may have done particularly well among these voters in this election and these voters may have been responsible for much of the apparent increase in Republican-leaning turnout in this election. That certainly worked well for the GOP in an election where minority and generally pro-Democratic turnout seems not to have kept up.

But what of the longer haul? As Matthew Dowd, polling director at the Republican National Committee points out in the Balz article, if minorites and whites vote as they did in the 2000 election in 2004, the Democrats would win by 3 million votes, simply because minorities are a growing proportion of voters, while whites are declining. Thus, in a situation where Democrats are able to match Republican mobilization efforts -- and the betting here is that Democrats will make sure that happens in the future -- Republicans will be forced to generate an ever-larger share of the dwindling white vote just to be competitive. But their core consituencies, even among whites, are also shrinking constituencies -- white in rural areas; married white men; married white women, especially those who don't work outside the home; and so on.

You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Right now, the GOP is crying crocodile tears about their lack of diversity and their reliance on shrinking demographics. But the mathematics of coaxing ever more votes from an ever smaller share of the population may eventually make them shed real tears.

It's a much better analysis of the elections than you'll find in any of the major media folks, so you owe it to yourself to give it a read.

Posted by Tom at 4:03 p.m. CST

LUCIANNE'S FOLKS ARE IN THE HOUSE!
12-02-02

Last week I was apparently discovered by the readers at Lucianne Goldberg’s website, Lucianne.com. A conservative college student from Omaha of all places mentioned my blog on the website, suggesting what I have to say here is, predictably, sheer lunacy. Boy, he needs to get out more, doesn’t he? This, of course, led me to look over Lucianne’s website. If you peruse it, the comment boards are filled with what you’d expect. According to her readers, all Democrats are the devil and W is a saint. What you read there is awfully predictable. No dissenting voices are heard there.

Correspondingly, I watched my webcounter in amazement last Tuesday as hundreds of conservative readers, undoubtably folks who are part of Rush’s dittoheads and the Faux News Network’s hordes, obediently stopped by my blog for a visit. It was just a wee bit unsettling. I couldn’t help but remember how a fellow writer here at HNN told me how some of his conservative critics hacked his computer on a number of occasions, even destroying a hard drive once. Furthermore, I was worried something was going to explode any minute as these folks came into contact with my contrary opinions.

But nothing strange happened. They obviously just perused part of the blog and moved on. Of course, I’d like to think one of those folks learned a little something from reading what I say here. Sure. Right. I really doubt it. But I can always hope, can’t I? I’m sure they just realized this kid needs to watch a little less Faux News and read something other than warblogs.

I suspect these folks just shouted something like “Goddamned Communist!” at their computer screens and went back to the safe environs of Lucianne.com, swearing never to return. Instapundit may prattle on about how liberal blogs “cocoon” but no group cocoons more effectively than conservatives –- and websites like Lucianne.com provide a perfect place for that cocooning to happen. For more of my opinions on this, go here.

When it was all over last Tuesday night, I took a shower. After that experience, I needed one.

Posted by Tom at 3:26 p.m. CST

TAX CUTS AND EFFICIENCY -- BUT NOT FOR ME! 12-02-02

I enjoyed my thanksgiving in W and Poppy's favorite city, Houston. It hasn't changed much. As I was on the bridge over the Houston Ship Channel heading into Pasadena my wife wisecracked that it was like we were being pulled into the Death Star. The view from the bridge certainly looks like that scene from Star Wars.

My relatives, who know that I don't agree with them at all politically, carefully avoided discussing politics for the most part -- which I appreciated. However, there was one moment when a few glasses of wine caused a moment of weakness, that one of my uncles did say something political. This uncle, who has worked for NASA since the 1960s, was complaining about what budget cuts had done to NASA the last few years -- especially the last couple of years. He complained that NASA should be getting more money to support building more launch vehicles. Of course, being the smart-aleck I am, I said"Well but that money has now been appropriated for tax cuts for the rich. Sorry about that."

Does anyone else find it bizarre that someone who works for NASA -- or the federal government for that matter -- votes Republican? How could you do that? I mean, come on, the Republicans are going to cut NASA to the bone because, honestly, NASA is a pretty superfluous program in the greater scheme of things. They're also going to cut the budgets of most federal departments. For example, Bush just recently made sure that Federal Employees only got a 3.1 percent raise for next year -- and he saved a whole $1B by making sure it wasn't the 4.1 percent raise the employees were hoping for. $1B! That's probably 1/200 of the cost of the coming war with Iraq! What a budget hawk this guy is! Of course, 3.1 percent sounds pretty good to me. My salary is frozen this year because of my state's budget problems. And it likely will be frozen for the next couple of years.

As we all know, it's much more important for W and the boys to give their rich supporters big tax cuts than fund federal programs adequately. My uncle has apparently been blissfully unaware of this rather basic contradiction in his belief system for the last 15 years or so. He supports people who consistently work against his own interests.

Also, don't you think that the people who vote Republican should be the ones who volunteer to give up their jobs in any round of government layoffs? In fact, as a sign of their commitment to their principles, shouldn't these folks voluntarily resign in order to make sure that the government remains leaner, meaner, and more efficient? Come on guys -- where are your principles? Show me your dedication!

I am, of course, not serious here. I would never suggest that my uncle do such a thing. I just find it astonishing that my uncle can complain about these cuts. If you vote Republican, for goodness sake don't complain about state or federal budget cuts! You enabled that. You're responsible for that so just live with it. The sad part, of course, is that as an employee of a state university and a Democrat, I have to live with it too -- and I didn't do anything to deserve it like he did.

I just wish he'd spare me the irritation of listening to his complaints.

Posted by Tom at 10:31 a.m. CST

THE REIGN OF THE MAYBERRY MACHIAVELLIS 12-02-02

Boy, it appears that one former member of the Bush Administration, John DiIulio, is just a wee bit disillusioned.

He argues that what you see in the White House today is the"reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

Here's a bit of it:

In an interview with Esquire magazine, Mr. DiIulio said:"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

"Mayberry Machiavellis" is Mr. DiIulio's term for the political staff and most particularly Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief adviser. He describes Mr. Rove as"enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political-adviser post near the Oval Office."

Mr. DiIulio says the religious right and libertarians trust Mr. Rove"to keep Bush 43 from behaving like Bush 41 and moving too far to the center or inching at all center-left."

As a result, Mr. DiIulio says, the administration has accomplished almost nothing domestically except Mr. Bush's tax cut and an education bill, which Mr. DiIulio describes as"really a Ted Kennedy bill."

"There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded nonpartisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism," he says. What there is, he says, is"on-the-fly policy-making by speechmaking."

Ouch.

I don't think Mr. DiIulio should be expecting a Christmas card from W this year.

Update: Boy, W and the boys certainly got DiIulio to recant fast, didn't they? Can you imagine the threats they used?

Posted by Tom at 9:23 a.m. CST

GET YOUR WAR ON AND TWO TEARS IN A BUCKET 12-02-02

I'd like to take this opportunity to point you to the some hysterical comics from the "Get Your War On" website. I'm adding"Get Your War On" to the links on the right as well.

Also, an addition to the blogroll: Two Tears in a Bucket. Be sure to take a look at both of these sites. You'll be glad you did.

Posted by Tom at 9:12 a.m. CST

MICROSOFT BUYS MASSACHUSETTS 12-02-02

Some more good satire from Andy Borowitz!

MICROSOFT BUYS MASSACHUSETTS

Software Giant Eliminates Final Obstacle to Antitrust Settlement

Software giant Microsoft bought the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts today, thus removing the last remaining obstacle to its antitrust settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

In a statement released today at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, company co-founders William Gates and Steven Ballmer confirmed that they had purchased Massachusetts “lock, stock and barrel” for $17.2 billion, which is believed to be the state’s break-up value.

“We are looking forward to integrating Massachusetts into our operations and making this historic state a vibrant part of the Microsoft family,” the statement read, adding that the state will now be known as “Microchusetts.”

In Massachusetts, Microsoft is purchasing a state with a storied past, beginning with its role as one of the original thirteen colonies of what was eventually to become the United States of America.

But it is also buying the only state that had appealed the Justice Department’s landmark antitrust settlement with Microsoft, an appeal that is likely to be dropped now.

Former Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, who was personally given his walking papers by Mr. Ballmer late Saturday night, cautioned that Microsoft’s acquisition of Massachusetts “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

But while some legal experts believe that the acquisition of a major U.S. state may create new antitrust woes for the software giant, Gates and Ballmer hope to appease Justice Department lawyers by spinning off the Boston Red Sox, a franchise in which the Microsoft co-founders are said to have “no interest” in retaining.

Across the state today, citizens seemed to be taking Massachusetts’ evolution from a U.S. state to a division of Microsoft in stride.

“We’ll probably have better dental,” one Massachusetts resident said.

Posted by Tom at 8:51 a.m. CST

WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A HACK PART DEUX
12-02-02

Like Eric Alterman and myself, Josh Marshall also got in some good licks on George Will last week. I just found his comments last night or I would've posted them at that time.

I've often thought George Will must be a great inspiration to those who want to believe that even if you lack insight, honesty, or wit you might still succeed as long as you dress like you have all three. Eric Alterman comments here about the breathless dishonesty of Will's column on"Gore's Revisionism." I'd repeat the points Eric makes. But I'd just be repeating. So take a look at what he has to say. This Sunday, Will had Mitch Bainwol, Executive Director of Republican Senate campaign committee, walk him through the various reasons why Republican Senate candidates are just going to keep on winning pretty much forever. If you haven't read it yet definitely read Nick Confessore's new piece on why Paul Krugman is as important as he is: he's the only columnist with a big megaphone who consistently and intelligently resists the crutch of false objectivity and discusses the manifest dishonesty and recklessness of White House fiscal policy. Will's columns are the perfect contrast and counterpoint: backrubs to power, reassurance to the comfortable, satisfaction to the self-satisfied.

Indeed.

Posted by Tom at 8:36 a.m. CST

I'M BACK 12-01-02

I'm back from my visit to Houston. Did you miss me?

I do hope everyone had a good thanksgiving holiday. I did. I'll probably tell you more about my adventures in W-land tomorrow. I'm still trying to get used to the clean air here.

I probably won't blog much today. I'm still recovering from the 900 mile drive yesterday.

I will, however, point you to a couple of smart-alecky posts by Atrios regarding the Kissinger appointment here and here. Oh yeah, and look at this collection of comments here.

There you go. Now you can't say I didn't do anything today.

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


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Debt Consolidation - 11/13/2003

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