Monday, May 31, 2004

"Because I Fail, Therefore I Am"

If Josh Marshall doesn't have the best take-down of El Presidente's newest rationale for voting him into a second term ... "Vote For Me, Since I Can Best Manage My Failures!"

More Cracks in the N.C. Republican Party

Catching up on news from late last week ... another big resignation from the Republican Party State Executive Committee over the ouster of Robert Morgan. Harold Brubaker, the only Republican in the state House of Representatives to lead that body in the 20th century, resigned from the state executive committee to protest the treatment of close ally Morgan.

The only thing not showing stress marks on the Republican right was Liddy Dole's fearless power helmet of hair. She showed up at the battleship North Carolina in Wilmington on Tuesday May 25th for what was supposed to be a major address on Iraq and found in attendance only three battleship memorial board members, a spouse, and a couple of reporters. But according to the N & O, she bravely performed a 30-minute harangue in the 92-degree heat to a sea of empty chairs, showing how even the lowliest junior senator from North Carolina can "stay the (stupid) course!"

Kerry's Southern Exposure

All the recent happy talk about Kerry's improving poll numbers in the South (for example, over the weekend, the DNC announced that Virginia is now considered "in play") has not swayed us from our perception that the South is officially a Republican sump, and this morning John Wagner, the News & Observer's man in Washington, has an interesting article about Kerry's problem winning ANY Southern state.

They assured us that Kerry would do so much better with Southern voters than Howard Dean, another blunt New Englander to be sure but a man with a perceptible soul (and Southerners generally honor perceptible soul).

Guess we'll have to rely on the PR possibilities of something Southerners also REALLY appreciate, the enormous penis that Kerry is rumored to possess (what? you don't read Wonkette?).

Afghanistan Ain't Going So Well

It's getting to be a semi-regular event ... when the Prince of Darkness Robert Novak writes a column critical of George W. Bush.

Check out his latest, titled "U.S. Is Lost in Afghanistan," the product of some conversations with military guys on the front in that "forgotten war." (And thanks to P.L. for the link.) The best Novak can say for those poor soldiers is that they're depressed over their leadership and the general situation. Their general doesn't have a clue. It seems increasingly unlikely "if not impossible" that Osama will be captured. And the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai reeks of corruption, propped up by American force.

Just ordinary by-products of El Presidente's Iraqi-centric obsession.

But just wait for the scandal involving members of the U.S. military trafficking in poppy dust. Bound to happen eventually.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

"Wanna Pet My Gun?"

Comes out now on the Time magazine site that El Presidente has been presented the pistol that Saddam had on him when he was captured, as a personal memento, and that he keeps it in the personal study where Bill Clinton used to do the dirty with Monica, and that he lets people touch it, and that "He really liked showing it off," says a recent visitor to the White House who has seen the gun. "He was really proud of it."

Enough there for theorists of sexual inadequacy and political posturing, we wager. One president gets off with interns; the other gets off on invasions. And NOW his gun is bigger than yours!

Iraq War "a Large Problem," According to Bush's Dad

Drudge has up today a story that George H.W. Bush told Time magazine's Hugh Sidey that "the war in Iraq is a large problem. There's a lot of what Jimmy Carter called 'malaise' around."

But the man who had never seen a grocery scanner and didn't know the cost of a gallon of milk nor how ordinary Americans were getting by back in 1992, also told Sidey that "the country is doing pretty darn well," which just goes to show you that when you've never had a clue, you're not likely to get one just because Fate decides to take pity on you.

Democrat Prospects Improving in N.C.?

Any more of this rosy outlook for Democrats stuff, and our teeth are going to start rotting on their stalks ... but Rob Christensen with the Raleigh News & Observer is out today with a piece saying that Democratic prospects haven't looked better in this state since 1976, and he hits the obvious high points ... that the Democrats DIDN'T nominate Howard Dean (and don't get us started on THAT!), that Mike Easley is polling wa-a-a-ay ahead of any of the Republican challengers for the governorship, that Erskine Bowles is polling well ahead of Dick Burr for the Senate seat, and that the Republicans seem much more absorbed right now with purging their dangerous moderates than with attacking the Democrats, and that the Republican candidates for governor, senate, and, yes, 5th District Congressperson will have expended their psyches and their bank accounts ripping into one another during the primary.

We don't necessarily believe any of it, but it's nice to read anyway.

Democrats' Changes in the House Improving

Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan analyst of Congressional races, is acknowledging that the picture has brightened for Democrats' taking U.S. House seats this year, though he's not quite ready to say they have a shot at taking CONTROL (they'd need to win 12 seats to throw the Hastert/DeLay bunch out). (Read the New York Times story here.)

But what are we to make of other polling which seems to show that the American public is generically more disposed this year to vote for Democrats than for Republicans?

And aren't the 30 open seats this time (including the one here in the 5th N.C. district) something of an advantage for Dems?

Also the Dems seem poised to win another special congressional election in North Dakota next Tuesday, a MOST Republican state under normal circumstances. (The Dems already won a special election in Kentucky back during the winter, in a district previously held by a Republican.)

It just may be that people are getting a little weary of Republican rule, Republican smugness, Republican arrogance, Republican moral superiority coupled with Republican moral culpability. And just maybe, if donkeys actually do start flying, even Virginia Foxx will have a race on her hands this fall, that is, after she beats Ed Broyhill in the inevitable primary run-off for the Republican nomination.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Bush's Poll Numbers Down, Threat Level Up

Anyone else notice the Pavlovian connection? Bush's poll numbers sink, Attorney General Ashcroft rises to announce new, imminent terror threat levels. What a coinky-dink!

Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a news conference yesterday that intelligence reports and public statements by people associated with Al Qaeda suggested that the terrorist group was "almost ready to attack the United States" and harbored a "specific intention to hit the United States hard."

What to do, what to do?? Trust in George W. to save us, is what.

Mr. Ashcroft said, "We believe the public, like all of us, needs a reminder." Oh. Got it!

Appeals Court Chastises Ashcroft

Back in 1994 the voters of Oregon passed a ballot initiative to establish the first ever legal assisted suicide law in the nation. The Oregon law allows adults with incurable diseases who are likely to die in six months to obtain lethal drugs from their doctors. The doctors may prescribe but not administer the drugs, and they are granted immunity from liability.

In 1997, while he was still just a senator from Missouri, John Ashcroft wrote then Attorney General Janet Reno requesting she declare that physician-assisted suicide involving doctors violated federal law. She declined, saying that individual states should be allowed to regulate their own doctors. When Mr. Ashcroft became attorney general in 2001, he reversed Ms. Reno's position and issued a directive saying that doctors who prescribe lethal drugs to patients under the Oregon law could face federal sanctions and prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act.

A challenge to Ashcroft's directive was brought in 2001 by a doctor, a pharmacist, several terminally ill patients, and the State of Oregon. Yesterday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the case and said in effect that Ashcroft is apparently for limited federal powers except when he's AGAINST limited federal powers, like in this case, where he thinks he should be able to tell everyone what's morally right because he's a sanctified born-again.

The majority of judges on the Ninth Circuit used unusually pointed language to rebuke Ashcroft, saying he had overstepped his authority in trying to block enforcement of Oregon's Death With Dignity Act.

"The attorney general's unilateral attempt to regulate general medical practices historically entrusted to state lawmakers," Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote for the majority, "interferes with the democratic debate about physician-assisted suicide and far exceeds the scope of his authority under federal law." (New York Times coverage here.)

The case was simply about who gets to decide, and the court ruled that it ain't Mr. Ashcroft (who's also been angling, you might know it! to get his hands around every uterus in the land too).

Judge Tallman, who wrote the majority opinion for the Ninth Circuit, is considered one of the conservatives on that court, which might have some impact on whether Ashcroft decides to appeal to The Supremes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A Bush in a Barrel, Going Over Niagara

Drudge is headlining right now for shock value the text of Al Gore's latest speech, saying Bush is a scumbag and Rush Limbaugh an even bigger one, but the speech actually bears close reading, especially this passage where Gore grapples with the meaning of Abu Ghraib:


There is good and evil in every person. And what makes the United States special in the history of nations is our commitment to the rule of law and our carefully constructed system of checks and balances. Our natural distrust of concentrated power and our devotion to openness and democracy are what have led us as a people to consistently choose good over evil in our collective aspirations more than the people of any other nation.

Our founders were insightful students of human nature. They feared the abuse of power because they understood that every human being has not only "better angels" in his nature, but also an innate vulnerability to temptation -- especially the temptation to abuse power over others.

Our founders understood full well that a system of checks and balances is needed in our constitution because every human being lives with an internal system of checks and balances that cannot be relied upon to produce virtue if they are allowed to attain an unhealthy degree of power over their fellow citizens.

Listen then to the balance of internal impulses described by specialist Charles Graner when confronted by one of his colleagues, Specialist Joseph M. Darby, who later became a courageous whistleblower [Darby was the first soldier at Abu Ghraib who alerted his superiors about the abuse]. When Darby asked [Graner] to explain his actions documented in the photos, Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the Corrections Officer says, 'I love to make a grown man piss on himself.' "

What happened at the prison, it is now clear, was not the result of random acts by "a few bad apples," it was the natural consequence of the Bush Administration policy that has dismantled those wise constraints and has made war on America's checks and balances....

Private Lynndie England [charged by the military in the Abu Ghraib scandal] did not make the decision that the United States would not observe the Geneva Convention. Specialist Charles Graner [also charged] was not the one who approved a policy of establishing an American Gulag of dark rooms with naked prisoners to be "stressed" and even -- we must use the word -- tortured to force them to say things that legal procedures might not induce them to say.

These policies were designed and insisted upon by the Bush White House. Indeed, the President's own legal counsel advised him specifically on the subject. His secretary of defense and his assistants pushed these cruel departures from historic American standards over the objections of the uniformed military, just as the Judge Advocates General within the Defense Department were so upset and opposed that they took the unprecedented step of seeking help from a private lawyer in this city who specializes in human rights and said to him, "There is a calculated effort to create an atmosphere of legal ambiguity where the mistreatment of prisoners is concerned." ...

The president episodically poses as a healer and "uniter." If the president really has any desire to play that role, then I call upon him to condemn Rush Limbaugh -- perhaps his strongest political supporter -- who said that the torture in Abu Ghraib was a "brilliant maneuver" and that the photos were "good old American pornography," and that the actions portrayed were simply those of "people having a good time and needing to blow off steam."


Gore's summation on this current White House bunch: "the incompetent and willful members of this Bush/Cheney Administration." The man knows a hawk from a handsaw!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The Bush Poll Numbers Continue to Slide

Can't make myself watch El Presidente on TV last night tell us that all is well in Iraq, that everything's on track, that he's got a plan, so I have to gather my impressions as best I can, and I gather it was less than a home run, and according to the gasbags on "Cross Fire" and elsewhere, including most especially the right-wing gasbags, if President Bush didn't hit a home run, he might as well have not taken his turn at bat. Something like that.

Meanwhile, another prominent Republican member of the N.C. State House resigned from the state Republican executive committee to protest the treatment of Robert Morgan. (Some witches elect to leave the village before the mob can get to them.)

Ruy Teixeira has a steady stream of worsening poll numbers on Bush's performance to cluck over, and he may yet make a believer out of us. Teixeira discusses new numbers from the Annenberg Election Survey showing that fully 50 percent of all respondents disapprove of the president's handling of the war on terrorism, which has heretofore been his strong suit. The so-called "internals" from this particular poll are even worse for Bush in that independents, young voters, and Hispanics -- some of the notorious swing voters -- give him much more negative marks for handling the war on terror. The war in Iraq? Bush is doing much worse there, with 75 percent of Hispanics, for example, saying it was not worth going to war. Seventy-five percent negative among a voting bloc that Karl Rove had planned to split with the Democrats!

Into this tasty cake dough Teixeira blends a new CBS poll that shows that 65 percent of respondents think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Teixeira quotes from the CBS analysis: "The last time the percentage that said the country was on the wrong track was as high as it is now was back in November 1994. Then, Republicans swept into control of both houses of Congress for the first time in decades."

We want to believe but are wary. As this kind of evidence continues to mount up -- and as the witch hunt against moderates in the North Carolina Republican Party claims more casualties -- we may find it impossible NOT to develop a sunny attitude toward our prospects in this coming election, from the local bozo county commissioner level up through state government and on to Washington!

Monday, May 24, 2004

Republicans Burn Their Witch

At their state convention this past weekend, Republicans did what they do best ... boiled one of their own in oil. They stripped State House Co-Speaker Robert Morgan of his position on the state executive committee and banned him from statewide leadership for five years. In throwing out Morgan, they opened the rift in the party between moderates and conservatives even wider. Several members of the executive committee resigned to protest the ouster of Morgan.

But at least freedom of speech was honored, right? Well, actually, no:

"Morgan backers were angered that the Republican Executive Committee allowed no debate. 'It's not democratic at all,' said Betty Wilson of Asheboro, who also resigned from the committee in protest. 'No freedom of speech. I bet you 75 percent of the people who voted for this thing don't even know the man. He is a very gentle, genuine person.' "

The Republican mullahs are not content with just getting Morgan out of the party. They're also targeting his allies in the state house of representatives, principally five fellow Republicans who helped him form a coalition with the Democrats for the co-speakership in 2003. They're all marked for extinction. Their families' throats will be slit, their farm animals slaughtered, and their arable land sown with salt.

"Failure Is Now the Only Option"

No less a right-wing hawk than the aristocratic Arnaud de Borchgrave published an essay in last Wednesday's Washington Times which admitted that Bush's Iraqi War is now a full-fledged disaster. From "failure is not an option," de Borchgrave says, we've arrived at "failure is now the only option."

He points out that although the Iraqi "insurgents," whoever that turns out to be, have not won a single battle (and will likely NEVER win a battle with the superior American forces), they are nonetheless winning the war ... an irony that should not be lost on anyone who paid attention to what went down in Vietnam.

De Borchgrave includes a damaging vignette from the recent daily life of Douglas Feith, who is Rumsfeld's Number 3 guy in the Department of Defense. Feith was speaking "before a group of young political science graduates when one of them asked him, 'How would you define success in Iraq?' Silence followed as Mr. Feith shifted from foot to foot. He finally looked at his watch and said, 'Well, that was the last question.' He then left without answering it. Even Mr. Feith's aides were perplexed."

Feith is one of the more notorious neocons in Rumsfeld's Pentagon and is reportedly the bright bulb who suggested to Bush that WMDs ought to be touted as the chief reason for invading Iraq. He also carried the philosophical banner for denying the Geneva Conventions to "terrorists" grabbed in Afghanistan, a policy that then got exported to the Iraqi theater with unforeseen consequences. Feith is reported to be widely hated by the people who have to work with him (and witness the anecdote recounted above by fellow hawk de Borchgrave). We love the quote from General Tommy Franks, relayed in Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack." The plain-spoken Franks called Feith "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."

And that's who's been running "policy" at the Bush Pentagon.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The War Against Wal-Mart

All my anti-Wal-Mart organizers out there ... you might want to know about this labor-union organizing in Michigan against the Dark Lord. (Thanks to Stumpy for passing this to me.)

We see only Wal-Mart defeats these days, from that special election the corporation tried to rig up in California, to Winston-Salem's recent rejection of a third "Super-Center" in their fair city, to Boone's dissing back after Christmas.

How long can Wal-Mart afford to let these uppity little towns get away with saying no to their inherent right to take over the Known Universe?

The Republicans NOT on Bush's Christmas List

Four Republican Senators said they couldn't vote for higher Bush budget deficits this past week and came in for severe involuntary modeling for Right Wing voodoo dolls. They are John McCain of Arizona, Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. McCain in particular this past week got routinely trashed by name and in public by Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom "Cockroach" DeLay.

Please remember that the two women senators from Maine also refused to vote for Bill Clinton's conviction on the impeachment charges brought by the House, back when all that was going on. So Olmypia and Susan are definitely now on Jerry Falwell's prayer/hit list, you bet!

But "Mr. McCain scathingly attacked the 'fat cats' who were not willing to make sacrifices while fighting a war," which makes give-'em-hell McCain such an attractive object of fantasy among some Democrats, as a V.P. nominee to run with Kerry.

"I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility," Senator McCain said on Thursday. "Apparently, those days are long gone for some of those in our party."

The guys NOT charged for Abu Ghraib

While seven hapless "hillbillies" take the rap for Abu Ghraib, it is now becoming clear that the guys in charge at that prison had learned their techniques from Afghanistan, the earlier battleground where, so far, little hue & cry has gone up about the torture of prisoners.

From Friday's New York Times: "The interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison was run by a military intelligence unit that had served in Afghanistan and that had taken to Iraq the aggressive rules and procedures it had developed for the Afghan conflict, according to documents and testimony."

And a new North Carolina name surfaces in all this sordidness: "Some members of the unit, part of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C., have already been quietly punished in connection with the abuse of an Iraqi woman at the prison, according to documents recently released by the Army. In August 2003, the officer in charge of the unit, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, an experienced Army interrogator, posted her own list of 'interrogation rules of engagement,' which were inconsistent with those later issued for Iraq by the top American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, according to Congressional officials."

It's the "quietly punished" part of that passage that gets our attention.

But the only people actually charged with crimes so far in the abuse have been members of the 372nd Military Police Company, from Cumberland, Maryland, including recruits from nearby West Virginia like Lynndie England, who served as guards in the cellblock.

Interesting factoid: the cellblock where the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion (the guys from Afghanistan) did their interrogating was a different cellblock from where the photos of the 372nd Military Police Company were made. So... did the 519th, like, go slumming?

The term "harsh measures" seems so ... euphemistic, in light of this: "In a closed briefing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, a senior Army lawyer acknowledged that the [prisoner interrogation] process might have left unclear to some officers the degree to which harsh measures, including sensory and sleep deprivation, were permissible."

And, oh yeah! "In Afghanistan, military officials said, American forces use harsher tactics for interrogations than in Iraq." So, they go DOWN the toilet in Kabal, not just INTO it, right?

And now this bit of woefully underreported news: "A report by The Denver Post in April -- based on Army records and published in April, before the broader Abu Ghraib scandal became known -- disclosed that three soldiers from the 519th Battalion had been fined and demoted in a closed proceeding stemming from the abuse of an Iraqi woman at Abu Ghraib."

"Fined and demoted," when probably they deserved, like, boiling in Wesson oil?

This is what we're catching up on. Spend a couple of days planting the vegetable garden, because the signs are right, and this is the crap you read about our esteemed Bush-War, when you finally stumble back to the computer from the tomato patch. Why did we ever come back in from the tomato patch?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Bush Administration Broke the Law with Medicare Propaganda

The General Accounting Office has ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services broke the law in spending taxpayer money on propaganda in support of the new and so-called Medicare drug-benefit law.

The propaganda was disguised as independent "news" reports on videotape broadcast by at least 40 television stations in 33 markets. (This blatant example of Christ-like behavior was written about in an earlier posting to this site.)

The New York Times story on this implies that there's actually no penalty for breaking this particular law, but Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey says he's drafting legislation that would require the Bush campaign to reimburse the Medicare trust fund for the cost of the videos.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Edwards Factor

Oh please! The Raleigh News & Observer is chattering about a new poll showing North Carolina "in play" if John Kerry chooses John Edwards as his running mate:

"The Mason-Dixon poll, conducted for WRAL-TV and other news organizations, shows President Bush leading Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democratic nominee, by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin, with 3 percent for Ralph Nader and 8 percent undecided. But if Kerry should name Edwards as his vice presidential running mate, Bush's lead narrows to 46 to 45 percent -- a statistical dead heat -- with 2 percent for Nader and 7 percent undecided."

Some polls are just not even worth the effort of a guffaw, since Edwards was heavily favored to lose his senate seat before he announced his presidential bid. But we note with bitterness and resentment the crucial two percent clinging to the capsized Ralph Nader in that fake scenario.

Now if Kerry's running mate were John McCain ... that would be a jackass of a different color!

Speaking of jackasses, Nader is meeting with John Kerry this very day to discuss "certain common policies." The national Reform Party (which ought to change its name to the National Bipolar Disorder Party) endorsed Nader last week, a move that gives him access to the ballot in at least seven states, including the battlegrounds of Florida and Michigan.

"The relationship between the two camps [Kerry & Nader] is delicate, with some fearing heavy pressure to exit could stiffen Nader to stay in the race."

Wonkette would make something dirty out of that "heavy pressure could stiffen Nader," and the truth is that our political metaphors really are a cover for deep psycho-sexual anxiety. Just witness the queer fear in the North Carolina Republican Party!

If a Gay Republican Falls in the Forest...

Ed Farthing, a Republican, a retired Hickory lawyer and executive director for development for Equality North Carolina, a gay and lesbian advocacy group, got dissed big-time by the North Carolina Republican Party when he sent in his $75 for a table at the state party convention this weekend, where he intended to set up a display for Log Cabin Republicans. He wanted to organize a North Carolina chapter of the gay Republican club. The chair of the state Republican Party, Ferrell Blount of Pitt County, took one whiff and returned the check with a curt note saying that the Party of God couldn't very well allow -- ick! -- open gays at a convention where there was going to be fire 'n' brimstone about the abomination of homosexuality from the pulpit. (Closeted gays, however, will be there in great profusion, some of them loudly denouncing gay marriage from the microphone.) (Raleigh News & Observer article here.)

"I reviewed what the Log Cabin national Web site was advocating and promoting, and in my opinion," Blount said, "it is diametrically opposed to the values of the North Carolina Republican Party." That is to say, gay Republicans are advocating equality, personal freedom, human dignity, and an unwillingness to use hate and fear as a political wedge, all of which the North Carolina Republican Party is diametrically opposed to.

"As state party chairman," Blount said, "I support the definition of marriage as being a union sanctioned by God between a man and a woman. That is what the Republican Party talks about in its platform and will talk about this weekend."

Ah, sanctioned by God! And so many rich white Republican males can thank God that He also recognizes when the old bag He initially sanctioned has outlasted her charm and allows for a second and maybe even a third trophy wife, also sanctioned by God. Why, without the sanctioning of God, Blount alleges, we couldn't do half the crap we do!

The gay retired lawyer from Hickory meanwhile is burnt: "It appears to be you must be a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant and married for the Republican Party to pay any attention to you. I think that is a good 1950s voter profile."

No word on whether the lawyer will go forward with trying to organize a chapter of Log Cabin Republicans in North Carolina. He could probably get all three gay Republicans in the state together in a closet, which is exactly where Chairman Blount obviously wants to keep them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

In Memoriam ... Tony Randall

The death of Tony Randall makes us think of Watauga County, in a round-about way.

It happens that the recent anti-gay flare-up over at Watauga High School has a distant connection to Tony Randall. The connection goes through the Rev. Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association.

The American Family Association is the rabidly anti-gay org that is supposedly funding a WHS student's lawsuit against the Watauga County school system for suspending him over an anti-gay T-shirt he wore to school. (Story in the Watauga Democrat here.)

The Rev. Don Wildmon from Tupelo, Mississippi, started his career of censorship and suppression against TV shows he didn't like. He once organized a boycott against "Mighty Mouse" because, he alleged, the caped rodent was symbolically snorting cocaine in one episode.

The Rev. Wildmon has gradually moved his hysterics from TV to the "gay menace," managing to land on Tony Randall for a brief moment in 1981 when Randall was chosen to star in "Love Sidney," a TV sitcom featuring a closeted gay character. (The details of Wildmon's TV censorship binge can be found here, and dozens of other places.)

Randall did not suffer fools gladly and dismissed Wildmon as "that ignorant, cynical, Bible-thumping ass in Mississippi."

Who has now brought his road-show to Watauga County, evidently.

Cheney & Powell Together But Separate in W-S

Both Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell were in Winston-Salem yesterday, dancing the Bush minuet, but neither ever occupied the same space at the same time. Just as well, since spitting at each other would have been so undignified.

Powell, whose carefully sculpted misinformation delivered to the United Nations did so much to bring about the Iraqi War, was all high-minded at graduation ceremonies at Wake Forest University: "The world will see that we are still a nation with a moral code that defines out national character," said Powell. Can the man deliver a straight line or what!

Meanwhile, Cheney was over in the gym at Salem College helping raise $200,000 for senate candidate Dick Burr (doesn't that name just make you want to scratch furiously?) The event cost $250 per person or $1,000 per couple, if you wanted the keepsake of an 8 x 10 glossy of you and the little wifey posing with the V.P.

No word in the press coverage that any of the well-coiffed posers complained of the faint whiff of desperation that lingered around Cheney: "According to the Elon University Poll conducted April 26-29, 49.6 percent of North Carolinians strongly approve or approve of the job Bush is doing. That's down from 55.2 percent in February." Gosh, if under 50 percent of North Carolinians approve of Bush's job performance, that means ... naw! Forget it! Electing Jesse Helms to approximately 32 terms in the U.S. Senate meant that North Carolinians never give up on a loser!

Foreign Policy by Divine Right

Interesting piece in The Observer of London by William Pfaff (thanks to Stumpy for the link) which opens a needed window into how America is currently viewed in parts (at least) of "old Europe."

Pfaff takes on the prevailing assumptions of the neoconservatives -- that it is our Right, likely ordained by God (who luckily speaks the same dialect of English that we do), to impose our "democratic" paradigms on the rest of the world but particularly on the Middle East, where floating on that vast ocean of oil has obviously discombolulated the populace, who apparently and inconveniently also hear the voice of God.

Pfaff's explanation for American shock over 9/11 is surprising but rings true, despite how much one might initially want to reject it: "In 2001, the main reason the New York and Washington attacks produced so traumatic an effect in the US was that they defied the notion of America as the morally righteous fulfilment of history. Americans were abruptly made to see themselves as victims of what they interpreted as the hate and envy of people who obstinately refused to acknowledge (as George Bush angrily complained) 'how good we are'."

That seems right. We remember walking around in that daze of destruction on September 12th, 13th, 14th ... wondering aloud why they hate us so much (since we're obviously the good guys). Well, with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, we've proven that, haven't we?

Purely understandable, the European alarm over American arrogance. We are the only super-power in the world, and the world damn well better pay attention to that! Or we'll break something, and it won't be merely wind.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 Scores Standing Ovation at Cannes

Drudge is headlining this on his site, and so far we can't find any press coverage that backs it up:

"20 mins standing ovation for FAHRENHEIT 9-11, yelling, screaming, cheering... 'This is the longest stading ovation in the history of the festival! Unbelievable!' declared Cannes stalwart Thierry Fremaux. Moore, raising fist, unable to speak over crowd, vows to fight... Controversial scene in film shows wounded American GI in Iraq talking about how Democrats must win election... Movie shows video of U.S. soldiers laughing as they place hoods over Iraqi detainees, with one of them grabbing a prisoner's genitals through a blanket..."

As Drudge would say ... "developing" ...

Saving America, One Gay County at a Time

You wouldn't think you'd have to resort to paying people in Caldwell County to vote Republican (there's what? three registered Democrats in that entire county?), but then we read the coverage about the three Caldwell County Republican party activists who were convicted of doing precisely that in the 2002 general elections. This paragraph contains the encoded explanation for why:

"Prosecution witnesses testified that they were paid $25 to vote for Caldwell County Sheriff Gary Clark or a straight Republican ticket. They also were paid $10 to register to vote." (News & Observer story here.)

It's that "straight Republican ticket" proviso that tips us off that the gay menace was running rampant at the foot of our mountains in 2002. With the "homosexual agenda" that close to Boone, and costing $25 a vote, we're in much worse shape than we thought.

You go, straight Republican vote-buyers!

Sunday, May 16, 2004

How the "Good Guys" Act

Newsweek has obtained a confidential memo written by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to President Bush, in which Bush's lawyer agrees that the Geneva Conventions should not apply to persons captured in the ever-widening "war on terror." Gonzales wrote:

"As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

Quaint ... prohibitions against physical abuse, yadda yadda yadda. Even if we accept the premise behind Gonzales' opinion, which government office exactly is certifying that everyone grabbed up in the Middle East is a "terrorist"? And not a cab driver who made a wrong turn?

People like Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who is already famous for being outraged "over the outrage" about Abu Ghraib, will logically argue that people who brought down the Twin Towers don't deserve rights. That is logical. It was logical when the Roman Empire brutally suppressed those Goths, not to mention the sect of Christians which arose in the same part of the world where we're so hated today ... where the Romans were hated in their day too, and with good reason.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said, "When you are the good guys, you've got to act like the good guys."

But we're awfully busy right now acting like the Roman Empire, stomping on everybody who gets in our way.

Sy Hersh Spills More Beans

Woke up this Sunday morning to the sound of New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh being interviewed on NPR about his newest article on Rumsfeld in the edition of the magazine to be published tomorrow. Turned on the TV to find Hersh on Face the Nation and CNN Late Edition, and where he wasn't on camera, he was being talked about. Russert read a portion of his article, "The Gray Zone," to Colin Powell on Meet the Press.

(BTW, we see all sorts of things on live TV, but this morning's Meet the Press gave new meaning to "press manipulation," when Powell's press aide Emily Miller shoved the camera off her boss during Russert's last question to the general. "I don't think that's appropriate," Russert said. Although the segment was taped, NBC ran it unedited, and it was a spooky little lesson in what the world will be like when the Rovians finally do control all media.)

Hersh lays the blame for the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal not on the seven soldiers so far being court martialed but on a general atmosphere of anything goes traced back to Donald Rumsfeld's frustration with the CIA and his desire to get control of clandestine information-gathering himself. Rumsfeld and his chief Pentagon aide for "intelligence" Stephen Cambone set up their own super-secret black ops group expressly tasked with getting information out of suspected Al Qaeda types, which in this crazy world might be any odd Arab on any odd street corner in the world. This group, known by various code names including "Copper Green," has license to go anywhere, snatch anyone, and do "whatever's necessary" to extract information.

This super-secret group got involved in the Abu Ghraib prison situation on Rumsfeld's direct orders, according to Hersh. Rumsfeld was increasingly angry about the "insurgency" (which is a Latin word meaning approximately "war still being waged even after the president declared it was over") and in particular the success of "insurgent" Iraqis in blowing up all sorts of people including many American soldiers.

Some of Rumsfeld's black op guys were certainly hanging out in Abu Ghraib. "The commandos were to operate in Iraq as they had in Afghanistan. The male prisoners could be treated roughly, and exposed to sexual humiliation." Some of the Army reservists detailed at Abu Ghraib as prison guards came under the leadership of these special ops guys. Hersh's main source for all of this, "a former intelligence officer," told him, "So here are fundamentally good soldiers -- military-intelligence guys -- being told that no rules apply, and, as far as they're concerned, this is a covert operation, and it's to be kept within Defense Department channels." The military-police prison guards, the former official said, included "recycled hillbillies from Cumberland, Maryland. How are these guys from Cumberland going to know anything? The Army Reserve doesn't know what it's doing."

They're the soldiers, naturally, whose butts are now in the crack over all of this, being eagerly fingered by Rush Limbaugh and other Republican gasbags as the small band of aberrant soldiers who dreamed up all this stuff on their own. Including sad, sad little Lyndie England.

Rumsfeld's special ops guys, many of whom appeared and disappeared mysteriously in civilian clothes with fictitious names, were alarming enough to the CIA operatives also present at Abu Ghraib that the CIA pulled its people out of the prison rather than be associated with them. (And how bad must you be when the CIA doesn't want to keep company?)

Hersh's informant believes that much of the sexual humiliation in the prison was "posed" in order to extort cooperation from prisoners once they were released from jail.

Another key point in Hersh's long article: Rumsfeld's contempt for the Geneva Conventions "led a group of senior military legal officers from the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps to pay two surprise visits within five months to Scott Horton, who was then chairman of the New York City Bar Association's Committee on International Human Rights. 'They wanted us to challenge the Bush Administration about its standards for detentions and interrogation,' Horton told me. 'They were urging us to get involved and speak in a very loud voice. It came pretty much out of the blue. The message was that conditions are ripe for abuse, and it's going to occur.' "

Hersh's source for all this, his anonymous former intelligence officer, wants to make a keen distinction: the Rumsfeld/Cambone special interrogation force was a noted success in Afghanistan and in the world-wide war on Al Qaeda. But in a conventional war zone, like Iraq, they were out of place and dangerous to the over-all goals of the war on terror, partly because their techniques got picked up, emulated and amplified by a bunch of "hillbilly" soldiers ("kids") who did stupid things and had no supervision.

And if these stupid kids get railroaded to cover Rumsfeld & Cambone's secrets ... then this truly has been a lesson in democracy for the whole world. That is, the powerful can get away with it; the foot soldiers can't.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Kerry Leading in Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, & Oregon

Yes, you read that correctly ... Kerry ahead of Bush in (gasp!) FLORIDA and OHIO!!!

Ruy Teixeira has posted a discussion of new polls in those four states. An Ohio ARG poll shows Kerry ahead of Bush by seven points among likely voters, an almost unbelieveable development in that particular state. The Florida poll puts Kerry up by only three points in that state, which is basically the margin of error and nothing to get all that het up over. The Wisconsin poll shows Kerry ahead of Bush by nine points, and the Oregon poll gives Kerry the edge with four points.

But what I find most encouraging is the growing surge among independent voters breaking toward Kerry in these particular states. In Florida, especially (according to Teixeira), Kerry is leading Bush a whopping 31 points among independents. In Wisconsin and Oregon, respectively, Kerry leads Bush 13 and 15 percentage points among independents.

Wise heads have been reasoning all along that this election will be decided by unaffiliated, independent voters.

We want to feel hopeful, but we also don't like becoming chumps, which this sort of early polling has a tendency to turn us all into. Does anyone remember, for example, how Harvey Gantt was polling against Jesse Helms in 1990? Gantt was supposed to win that race comfortably. But people have a way of lying to pollsters, sometimes to cover their own embarrassment about who they're planning to vote for. There's bound to be a significant "Bush embarrassment factor" in some of these early polls, just as there was a pro-Helms chagrin in 1990. It's painful sometimes to own up to one's secrets.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The New Holy War

First, it was Vatican officials suggesting that American Catholic politicians who don't toe doctrinal lines on abortion should be denied access to Holy Communion. Doing bad things to rebellious politicians, or merely deleting them from Grace, is one thing. Now the Bishop of Colorado Springs is upping the ante, saying that any Catholic who even votes for such a candidate should be turned back from the altar. In fact, the Bishop's "pastoral letter" was even broader than that, "saying that American Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who defy church teaching by supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research." (New York Times coverage here.)

So if Nancy Reagan were a Catholic and because she is currently advocating for stem-cell research, she would be thrust into the outer dark, where there is weeping, wailing, and the gnashing of teeth? Reckon so. In other words, we seem to have arrived at a place and time where the Eucharist will be used as a political weapon, at least in Colorado Springs, by a hierarchy that knows a thing or two about adult priests forcing sex on altar boys and then covering it up for decades.

And if this bishop's pronouncement isn't grounds for opening an investigation of this rich church's tax exemption status, what would constitute grounds for that?

Bush's Poll Numbers

New polls by Gallup and the Pew bunch show consistent findings, that Bush's approval among the electorate is at its historically lowest point of his term in office (New York Times report here). What's worth noting is that Pew surveyed 1,800 adults, a large sampling (considerably larger than Gallup uses) which generally guarantees greater accuracy, and Pew's results show the lowest approval for El Presidente, with only 33 percent of the respondents saying they were satisfied with the way things were going in the country and 61 percent saying they were dissatisfied.

Both Gallup and Pew, moreover, now show that a majority of Americans do not think the Iraq War is worth what it's costing (presumably what it's costing not just in dollars but in psychic erosion not to mention human lives).

I checked in with my polling guru Ruy Teixeira, who hasn't yet commented on these two newest Gallup and Pew reports but who does have an analysis up of a recent CBS poll showing approval of the Iraq War dropping below 40 percent. Teixeira, who tends to get awfully carried away by Bush's negative poll numbers, says, "Could Bush's ratings on Iraq get any worse? Based on the way things are going, I would have to say that's a very strong possibility."

Yeah, but the failure of Kerry's numbers to improve as Bush's numbers sink is not only puzzling but also troubling. Bad as people are feeling about this president's doctrine of preemption currently, they may end up voting for him anyway if the Democrat doesn't offer something clearly better. So far, Kerry has managed to achieve that. Though there's still time.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

A King Can Talk Back to an Archbishop

New York Republican Congressman Peter King has blasted the Vatican over Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo's comment that the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal is a worse disaster for America than 9-11 (see "The Archbishop Disposes" two items down in this thread.) And, as Congressman King reads this site every day, he made the same point we did about the Vatican's hypocrisy: "If there's anyone in the world who has no right to speak on sexual abuse, it's the Vatican,” said Rep. King, an anti-abortion Republican. "This is the height of hypocrisy .... Whatever the United States has done to prisoners in Iraq is nothing compared to what priests and nuns did to Catholic kids for decades while the Catholic hierarchy covered it up. Think of the thousands of kids in the U.S. and Ireland who were abused by priests and nuns -- you wonder where the Vatican's moral compass is."

Wonkette would probably say that moral compass is being used for other porpoises. Not us. We're much too dignified for that sort of cheap shot.

And, yes, it was and is both the height and the depth of hypocrisy.

The Fracturing of Republican Support for Bush's War

We look forward to Bill Kristol's visit with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show tonight. He's a bright guy, a realist about this president, even though he's also a neoconservative hawk (redundant?) who has beat the drum for the U.S. to really "get tough" with the Arabs, maybe especially Saudi Arabia (about whom George W. has heretofore been a limp noodle).

Kristol is quoted in today's New York Times talking about the fracturing of Bush's support since the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal broke. He describes the different divergent groups this way: "There are [the] unapologetic hawks," a category he puts himself in; "we are critical of the president for failures of execution but still think it is winnable. There are loyalists, who stick to the Republican talking point that it is going well. There are supporters of the war who now have second thoughts, and there is a category of conservatives who are saying 'be tough, but then get out.' "

The Times story goes on to detail some of the other influential Republican voices that have begun to be heard doubting this president's execution of this war: "It was a measure of the troubles Mr. Bush is running into within his own party that Senator Pete V. Domenici, a New Mexico Republican who usually sides with the administration, expressed his frustration to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday that he could find no clear vision in the administration's Iraq strategy .... The unease among conservatives has also been given voice in recent days by a number of influential commentators. George F. Will wrote in The Washington Post on Tuesday of a series of 'failures' by the administration for which no one was held accountable, including post-war planning that was 'botched.' On Monday, the syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak wrote that there was a clear consensus among Republicans in Congress, Republican fund-raisers, contributors and others he had canvassed that Mr. Rumsfeld had to resign."

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Archbishop Disposes

The Vatican Foreign Minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, speaking from the highest perches of the Catholic Church, which knows a thing or two about inspiring world-wide hatred, has delivered himself of the opinion that the images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib constitute a bigger disaster for this country than 9-11.

"The torture? A more serious blow to the United States than Sept. 11. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves," Lajolo was quoted as saying in La Repubblica.

Lajolo said that "intelligent people in Arab countries understand that in a democracy such episodes are not hidden and are punished ... Still the vast mass of people -- under the influence of Arab media -- cannot but feel aversion and hate for the West growing inside themselves."

Fear of the "Patriot Act" Has Spread to Republicans

The Hill is reporting that an uprising among libertarian-minded Republican lawmakers in Washington has derailed (temporarily, at least) the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, despite hard lobbying by El Presidente and his minions who have been trying to get the law both extended and enlarged prior to its scheduled "sun-set" in 2005.

"As a result of this opposition, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was forced last week to cancel panel consideration of legislation that would have given law-enforcement officials more tools to pursue suspected terrorists .... Among other powers, the legislation would have given law-enforcement officials the power to compel compliance with administrative subpoenas, one of the most controversial elements of the Patriot Act that a sizeable group of Republicans on the Hill are trying to abolish. Administrative subpoenas may be issued by law-
enforcement agencies without the approval of a court."

In addition to this little rebellion among The Faithful, there are also Republican-introduced bills in both the House and the Senate that explicitly seek to end certain controversial features of the USA Patriot Act. Apparently Republican lawmakers are a good deal more alert to uprisings against provisions of the law all across the broad expanse of the country ... where dozens and dozens of municipal governments, for example, have passed resolutions deploring the unconstitutional power grab that the Patriot Act granted El Presidente and his Attorney General John Ashcroft.

One of the Republicans co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate to eliminate controversial features of the Patriot Act is Arlen Specter, who, if he wins reelection in Pennsylvania and if the Republicans retain control of the Senate, is in line to take over the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to The Hill, "If Specter gets the gavel, it would be more difficult for the administration to reauthorize the Patriot Act without significant changes."

Kerry Blows Kisses at McCain

John Kerry has named fellow Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) as a top candidate for Defense Secretary in his administration, making the point, we guess, that a mentally unstable former POW (the Bush campaign's characterization of McCain during the South Carolina primary in 2000) could do a better job than Rumsfeld has in the conduct of the Iraq War.

Also high on Kerry's list of potential Pentagon chiefs was Sen. John Warner of Virginia, another Republican.

Sen. George Allen, another Virginia Republican, responded incredulously when told of Kerry's comments about McCain. "Kerry said that?" Allen said with a grin. "It's a political gambit."

No! Really?

The Pettiness of Gov. Easley

Recall an earlier posting here about the dust-up in Raleigh between the Easley administration and fellow Democrat and State Auditor Ralph Campbell.

The Gov has struck back at Campbell, recommending in his budget proposal that Campbell's department be cut by 2.2 percent, the biggest percentage cut of any state agency. The cut amounts to $228,000.

Nice going, Mike! Send the auditor to Abu Ghraib for a little softening up!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Is Bush a Moron?

Jacob Weisberg posted an intensely interesting essay in Slate magazine last Friday in which he explores the intelligence of George W. Bush. His conclusion: El Presidente ain't stupid, but because of who his father was, George Junior essentially adopted stupidity -- that is, a general lack of thoughtfulness about the ramifications of his actions -- as a form of rebellion.

His father was an honor student at Andover Academy and Phi Beta Kappa at Yale. George Junior became in response a C student who liked to brag about not reading books.

"Some are born stupid, and some achieve their stupidity."

"The most obvious expression of Bush's choice of ignorance is that, at the age of 57, he knows nothing about policy or history .... Consider the testimony of several who know him well:

Richard Perle, foreign policy adviser: "The first time I met Bush 43 -- two things became clear. One, he didn't know very much. The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much."

David Frum, former speechwriter: "Bush had a poor memory for facts and figures .... Fire a question at him about the specifics of his administration's policies, and he often appeared uncertain. Nobody would ever enroll him in a quiz show."

Laura Bush, spouse: "George is not an overly introspective person. He has good instincts, and he goes with them. He doesn't need to evaluate and reevaluate a decision. He doesn't try to overthink. He likes action."

Paul O'Neill, former treasury secretary: "The only way I can describe it is that, well, the President is like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection."

"A second, more damning aspect of Bush's mind-set is that he doesn't want to know anything in detail, however important .... Closely related to this aggressive ignorance is a third feature of Bush's mentality: laziness .... The president can't tolerate debate about issues. Offered an option, he makes up his mind quickly and never reconsiders .... By leaping to conclusions based on what he 'believes,' Bush avoids contemplating even the most obvious basic contradictions: between his policy of tax cuts and reducing the deficit; between his call for a humble foreign policy based on alliances and his unilateral assertion of American power; between his support for in-vitro fertilization (which destroys embryos) and his opposition to fetal stem-cell research (because it destroys embryos)."

Har-har-hardee-har-har, America! The yolk's on you!

Love Him, Love Him Not

Yesterday the Prince of Darkness, a.k.a. Bob Novak, who also happens still to be a pretty good "beat" reporter, wrote a column in which he declared Donald Rumsfeld to be "toast":

"Last week, I talked to Republican members of Congress, GOP fund-raisers and contributors, defense consultants and even one senior official of a coalition partner. The clear consensus was that Rumsfeld had to go. 'There must be a neck cut,' said the foreign official, 'and there is only one neck of choice.' Rumsfeld is paying the price for the way he has run the Department of Defense for more than three years, but the price is also being paid by George W. Bush. From the first months of the Bush administration, I have heard complaints by old military hands that the new secretary's arrogance and insularity were creating a dysfunctional Pentagon."

And this:

"In 2001, a few months after Rumsfeld was brought back [by George W.] for a second hitch at the Pentagon, an old friend of his gave me a disturbing report. A former senior government official who was now a defense industry consultant, he told me Rumsfeld was a disaster waiting to happen. Rumsfeld, insulated by his inner circle, was at war against the uniformed military, the civilian bureaucracy, and both houses of Congress. This same former official last week told me the Iraqi prisoners fiasco was the inevitable outgrowth of Rumsfeld's management style. 'If it had not happened with this,' he told me, 'there would have been a different disaster.' "

Novak hinted that Bush's dilemma will be relieving Rumsfeld of the Pentagon job without also simultaneously admitting that his Iraq war is a failure of massive proportions. Novak thinks that maybe Rumsfeld will be moved laterally into some other cabinet post, like the CIA.

If anything like that is about to happen, you couldn't tell it yesterday (about the same time people were reading Novak's column), when El Presidente crossed the Potomac to visit Rumsfeld in Castle Pentagon and smooch his broad, bureaucratic butt with what the New York Times characterized as "a robust show of support." And just to prove he was serious, he took the real president with him, Dick Cheney.

"In his show of support, Mr. Bush sought to quash speculation that he would seek Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation. By arraying other senior aides around him as he made the statement -- including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- he sought to create a tableau of a national security team that, however fractured it has been over Iraq, was now united in its determination to deal with the repercussions of the abuse cases, quell the insurgency in Iraq and transfer governance to the Iraqis."

Yeah, class photo ... of all the dickheads in Kappa Kappa American Empire.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Mr. Congeniality

Elizabeth Bumiller in this morning's New York Times does a backgrounder on the curious relationship between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and El Presidente's father, George H.W. Bush.

I did not remember, for example, that in 1988, when George Senior was Reagan's vice president and preparing for his own run for president, Donald Rumsfeld himself announced his candidacy. "There's a certain amount of disrespect when Rumsfeld decides to run for president in '88 with a sitting vice president," said James Mann, the author of "Rise of the Vulcans," a history of the current president's war cabinet.

"A certain amount of disrespect" pretty much sums up Rumsfeld. What Bumiller finds especially interesting is the further evidence of George Junior's total independence from his father, in the very selection of Rumsfeld in the first place to be Defense Secretary. George Junior has already said that the only father he consulted about invading Iraq was his heavenly father, who told him it was the Right Thing To Do.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Flushing a "Feminist"

Republican candidate Vernon Robinson, who's running for the 5th District Congressional seat being vacated by Richard Burr, along with approximately 311 others INCLUDING Queen of the May Virginia Foxx, is evidently raising most of his big campaign bucks out of state, and now we've seen how.

Get a load of this stuff from Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, which went out as a "Dear Fellow Conservative" e-mail to (we presume) thousands if not millions of the like-minded (thanks to Stumpy for sharing this). Following Tancredo's pitch for Robinson (he's a black Jesse Helms, fer chrissakes!), there's a very lengthy letter from Robinson himself who takes pains to characterize the two perceived front-runners in the race, Virginia Foxx and Ed Broyhill. Here's his graph on Foxx:

"One of them, a state senator, is a self-avowed 'feminist' who got her introduction into politics by lobbying in support of Teddy Kennedy's radical, so-called, 'Equal Rights Amendment.' As a state legislator she has voted for higher taxes and fees in excess of a hundred times. She also voted for special rights for homosexuals, but later claimed it was a mistaken vote because she had never actually bothered to read the bill she voted for (isn't that just as bad?)."

On Ed Broyhill: "The other millionaire who could beat me may be even worse than her [Foxx], and he's actually the stronger of the two in the polls right now. What frightens me about him is that he has already publicly spoken out against my firm position in favor of immigration reform, using all of that 'immigrants are people too' rhetoric that tries to lay a guilt trip on any American who supports any limits at all on immigration to this country. It makes you wonder how many illegal aliens he has employed over the years working for his various companies, and whether the prospect of cheap labor is at the heart of all of his immigrant worship. Listening to this man you get the feeling he wants to put up a Statue of Liberty every fifty feet on our Mexican border. I wish we'd put up a fence instead."

The Robinson rhetoric on immigrants is what got Tancredo to send him a thousand dollars and begin campaigning for him. The extensive network of Christian Right moneybags is also funding him. It's just a shame he isn't more effective, even though he's demonstrated an admirable Republican willingness to do & say ANYTHING about his opponents. He induced a couple of people to call for an investigation into Virginia's commingling of campaign funds between her state senate and U.S. House campaigns. He put out a fake letter calling attention to another of his rivals, Nathan Tabor, and his arrest record (not to mention his young trophy wife). He installed a granite monument to the Ten Commandments on the city hall grounds in Winston-Salem on a national holiday, only to see it promptly removed by the city the very next day. He just can't seem to get any traction. And it's a shame. A crying shame.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Our Unholy Holy War

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo posts this very crucial reminder of some of the people other than Rumsfeld who may bear responsibility for what's gone on at Abu Ghraib:

...In many of the articles on this emerging Iraqi prisoners story, it has been claimed that some of the key instigators or enablers of bad acts were military intelligence officers.

Now, who's the head of military intelligence? 'Head' is too vague. There's no such post per se. But what comes pretty close is the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.

And who's that? Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin.

Remember him? He's the one who got in trouble last year for describing his battle with a Muslim Somali warlord by saying "I knew that my God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol," saying President Bush was chosen by God, and generally that the war on terror is an apocalyptic struggle between Christianity and Satan.

Last fall, after Boykin's efforts to channel Charlemagne or perhaps Urban II became known, he asked Don Rumsfeld to initiate an 'investigation' into whether his comments "violated any Pentagon rules or procedures" whatever that might mean. Just this week it was reported that the 'investigation' still continues; and Boykin has not been disciplined in any way.

In any case, I doubt very much that all this mess we've gotten ourselves into is attributable to this one man. But at what point in this scandal does someone ask whether some of this might have some connection to the fact that the guy running military intelligence believes the war on terror is a literal holy war pitting Christian America against Satan and his Muslim minions? ...


Cass Ballenger, in whose U.S. House district Watauga County has sometimes been and who is not running for reelection this year, shows up as the most accomplished traveler on the public's dime among N.C. congress-people. The Raleigh News & Observer is reporting that Ballenger took three taxpayer-funded overseas trips spanning 28 days in 2003, according to a tally by Roll Call Report Syndicate.

Foreign travel is supposed to improve one's character, if not one's behavior. So much for that adage!

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Dick Burr Pursues an Itch

Dick Burr wants to make English the official language of the U.S. but doesn't want to go so far as the Constitutional Amendment being called for by fellow North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, unless, that is, the "goal" -- whatever that might covertly be -- can't be achieved with anything less than a Constitutional Amendment, in which event Burr would have to support the Constitutional Amendment route. All this set forth today in a Raleigh News & Observer article.

So THIS is what the North Carolina Republican Party meant about "reaching out" to the Hispanic community!

"Peter Siavelis, a political science professor at Wake Forest University, said the measures hurt immigrants and do more to divide the country than to unite it."

And for this high-mindedness, we should make Dick Burr our newest U.S. Senator?

Donald Rumsfeld, Bush Scapegoat

The NY Times is reporting this morning that "administration officials" are spilling the beans that El Presidente has "chastised" Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the Oval Office about Rumsfeld's failure to inform his boss about the Iraqi prison abuse photographs. Get a load of this sentence in the Times' 2nd paragraph: "The disclosures by the White House officials, under authorization from Mr. Bush, were an extraordinary display of finger-pointing in an administration led by a man who puts a high premium on order and loyalty."

El Presidente HIMSELF wants this story out, about taking Rumsfeld to the woodshed. Is this just more evidence of how damaged the Rovians perceive themselves to be over this scandal? Or is it another purely political move by a president who never absorbed the Truman truth that the buck is supposed to stop with him? Push Rumsfeld out of the nest and let the wolves have 'im?

"The disclosure of the dressing-down of the combative Mr. Rumsfeld was the first time that Mr. Bush has allowed his displeasure with a senior member of his administration to be made public. It also exposed the fault lines in Mr. Bush's inner circle that have deepened with the violence and political chaos in American-occupied Iraq."

If Rumsfeld has an ounce of the personal integrity he's groomed the press to believe he has, he'll resign. And start writing Chapter 1 of his own tell-all book.

Rumsfeld is due to appear before an aroused Senate Armed Forces committee tomorrow. "No member of the Senate had any clue," said Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "This is entirely unacceptable. I think it's a total washout as far as communications, and it has to be rectified."

According to Reuters, "Aides to both Republican and Democratic senators predicted a fiery hearing, as many senators are irate that Rumsfeld did not inform them of an Army report outlining egregious abuses of Iraqis held by U.S. forces at a prison near Baghdad."

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The most interesting thing about the Disney Company's refusal to let its Miramax subsidiary distribute the new Michael Moore film, "Fahrenheit 911," is Disney's open fear of retaliation against its Florida empire by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's smarter, younger brother. According to the NY Times, "Mr. [Michael D.] Eisner [Disney's chief executive] expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor."

Wonder how the guv feels about being so publicly fingered as little more than a vindictive thug with the power to punish corporations which cross "The Family." Or how Eisner feels being outed as such a craven little weenie.

Of course, what this will end up doing is making Michael Moore's Bush-bashing film all the more famous for the censorship being exerted against it, so that when it DOES get distributed, which it inevitably will, though probably not by Miramax, more people will flock to see it ... the unintended consequences of censorship in a putatively FREE society.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Psychoanalyzing George W.

Since "psychologizing" about the people closest and dearest to us can often lead to broken crockery and separate vacations, it's much safer to psychoanalyze complete strangers, and it's in that sporting spirit that we report to you some MUST reading on George W. in the most recent Village Voice.

If for no other reason but to discover THIS singular factoid ... that at the University of Chicago Divinity School, Professor Bruce Lincoln currently teaches a class called "The Theology of George W. Bush." Bizarre, yes, but revealing. The "theology" that is, which started, apparently, when the young, alcoholic wastrel threw himself before the altar of God and cleaned himself up in the mid 1980s. According to Rick Perlstein, the first book of the Bible the future president immersed himself in was the New Testament's Acts of the Apostles, which Professor Lincoln points out is all about "missionizing, evangelizing, spreading the faith. It's not end-of-the-world stuff. It's expansionist -- it's religious imperialism, if you will. And I think that remains his primary orientation."

Plus the Bush family folklore itself suggests that George W. feels that God Himself chose him to the president. (I heard callers talking about this yesterday morning on C-SPAN, and had to locate this article!) When you're anointed by God, it gives you a certain assurance that you're doing the right thing (which his opponents read as smug arrogance and his supporters read as the Divine Light, so you can see where disagreement on this central point might ultimately lead us to the holy war that Pastor Pat Robertson so devoutly prays for). God may have chosen the man, but it may take an army of Christian crusaders stoning abortionists and "secularists" in the street to really institute the Kingdom of God on earth. (And apparently it was the hand of God working through the heavily made up Katherine Harris that intervened in Florida in 2000 to disenfrancise black ballots.)

But we digress.

Of course we know it from any random listening to 30 minutes of calls on C-SPAN on any given morning that a portion of the U.S. populace is deeply invested in this president on the basis of his supposedly being "a good moral man and a Christian." Their faith is both blinding and invigorating. They'll simultaneously follow him (Him) through the fiery furnace and welcome the cleansing of those flames. They'll make bold to decry the infidels in their midst, who are bound to Satan and wish for the destruction of all that is good and holy (the United States) ... that is to say, Democrats. Beware, O Evil-Doers, wherever you are! Doubt not, Christian brethren, that the Kingdom of God is at hand!

And doubting not is precisely where we find our president these days. Which is the mystery that sets off Rick Perlstein on a search for answers in this article ... why the president is so preternaturally calm as his policies and decisions whirl out of control in Iraq. Perlstein describes a Christian website,, "through which 2.8 million members receive daily instructions on how to coordinate prayer for the president. I don't know about you, but if I had 2.8 million people advertising the fact that they were praying for my well-being every day -- and, to boot, if I actually believed that prayer worked -- I'd feel pretty damned relaxed, too."

And there's no discussion possible under these conditions, and where there is no discusion -- only blind faith -- there's no democracy either.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The Foxx Signs

And we had thought Virginia Foxx was outraged by all these political signs in the 5th District Congressional race going up all over creation waaaaay too early.

She complained about it last winter in print. Tabor and Robinson, especially, two of her competitors in that race, had their signs up back last Halloween (wasn't it?).

County Commissioner David Blust carried water for Virginia, inducing the Watauga County Commission to pass a new ordinance limiting political signs to 60 days out from an election. Only the Commissioners choked in the clinch and decided not to enforce the new ordinance until January of 2005.

Now, our math is notoriously shaky (the legacy of having a fine string of high school coaches as math teachers), but I DO believe that Virginia's primary election is more than 60 days away, on July 20th, yet I've now clapped my eyes on her large double exes in this county.

The County Commission talked about sending letters to politicians who "violate the spirit" of the new ordinance, so I'm sure that Mr. Blust will soon be penning his Dear Virginia letter ... "Your signs are in violation of the new ordinance!" Don't hold your breath. Hypocrisy is only hypocrisy when it's practiced by people we DON'T like.

Opposition to Bush Gets Sharper

Last night on "The Daily Show" Janeane Garofalo said she was now of the opinion that "a vote for Bush is a character flaw."

And editorial cartoonist Ted Rall had the effrontery of taking on the recent death of former N.F.L. pro footballer Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, making the bitter point in a four-panel editorial cartoon that a multimillionaire who enlisted in Bush's War because he believed the lies and the propaganda is more accurately an idiot or a sap than a hero. (Rall's highly controversial cartoon can be viewed here.)

Matt Drudge linked to the cartoon yesterday on the MS-NBC site, which brought in a deluge of nasty e-mails from Drudge's devoted right-wing readers, which led to MS-NBC removing the cartoon from their page.

Editor & Publisher interviewed Nall about the e-mail he was getting: "A few were positive, but most were vicious. As Rall opened each e-mail for the first time, he quoted briefly from each one. 'You make me sick'; 'lies and distortions'; 'move to France'; 'I pity you'; 'disgusting'; 'sad and pathetic'; 'f--- you, you coward bastard'; 'I will s--t on your grave'; 'horrendous'; 'rot in hell'; 'freak'; 'I hope you're killed by an Arab terrorist attack'; 'people died to publish the b.s. you do.' "

(To be honest, reminds us a little of the late Deaniacs going after Maureen O'Dowd at the NY Times back around, oh, the New Hampshire primary.)

It wasn't so much Nall's casting of aspersions on a dead soldier. It's that he was a dead $3 million football player. Mess with anything, but don't mess with our sports heroes!

And Worser

General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bob Schieffer on Sunday's "Face the Nation" that he had not yet seen the so-called "Taguba Report" on prisoner abuse in Iraqi prisons. The report was still working its way up through channels, the General said.

Yet, two weeks prior to the airing of photos on "60 Minutes II" showing the prisoner abuse, General Myers was actively (and successfully) lobbying CBS to delay its broadcast: "Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes II received an appeal from the Defense Department, and eventually from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to delay this broadcast -- given the danger and tension on the ground in Iraq. 60 Minutes II decided to honor that request, while pressing for the Defense Department to add its perspective to the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison. This week, with the photos beginning to circulate elsewhere, and with other journalists [specifically Seymour Hersh] about to publish their versions of the story, the Defense Department agreed to cooperate in our report." (Quotation from the CBS 60 Minutes II official site.)

Pretty nimble footwork by a general who says he hasn't seen what the Army's investigation turned up. Call it anticipatory damage control or remarkable precognition.

From The Guardian in England, the news surfaced on Saturday that two American private contractors are now deeply implicated in the brutality: "According to military officials, the investigation will also encompass the role of private contractors in military prisons, after a military investigation found that two such firms, CACI International Inc and The Titan Corporation, played a central role in interrogation of prisoners and translation."

A story in the LA Times on Saturday deepened the suspicion, at least, that the private contractors may have had more of a hand in this mess: "A lawyer for one of the accused soldiers -- and some members of their families -- said CACI employees had encouraged military police to abuse prisoners to 'soften them up' for questioning. That allegation has not been confirmed by Army officials. 'The company has received no indication from the Army that any CACI employee was involved in any alleged improper conduct with Iraqi prisoners,' said a statement from CACI, which has about 7,600 employees worldwide."

CACI, incidentally, is headquartered in Arlington, Va., and supposedly does "intelligence" for the Army. "Intelligence" work evidently includes routine interrogations: "At Abu Ghraib [prison], CACI conducted interrogations and a second U.S. company, San Diego-based Titan Corp., provided interpreters, industry and military sources said."

Before with private contractors, we had only garden-variety problems: bribery, cost overruns, and corruption. Now we've got prisoner abuse. This is what privatization gets you. Among other things.

A lengthy report on all this was published yesterday in Forbes (here).

Monday, May 03, 2004

Acting President Cheney To Be IN W-S Soon

V.P. Dick "You'll Not See My Lips Moving" Cheney is currently scheduled to be in Winston-Salem on May 17th to raise money for Dick Burr. Molly Ivins might have a good line about two Dicks coming together in North Carolina, but not us. Never us.

State Republican In-Fighting

Interesting article in today's Raleigh News & Observer about the fratricidal blood-letting that's been going on in the Republican Party and which is likely to continue at least through the July 20th Republican primary.

The lightning rod is co-speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives Richard Morgan, R-Moore. Morgan, together with about 15 "moderate" Republican allies in the House, worked with the Democrats after the elections of 2002 to set up a co-speakership, with Morgan as the top Republican sharing power with Democrat co-speaker Jim Black of Mecklenburg County. The House was evenly split between the two parties. Nothing was going to happen without some sort of a deal, and that was the deal.

The rest of the House Republicans, led by Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, have treated Morgan like a leper, and he's returned the compliment, putting his own loyalists into key committee positions (RINOs, they're called ... "Republicans in Name Only") and shoving the conservative Daughtry crowd to the back benches. According to the N&O, the feud between Morgan and Daughtry is particularly bitter because its roots go back maybe ten years.

The conservatives have introduced resolutions trying to get Morgan thrown off the state Republican executive committee. But more entertainingly, they're running conservative Republican challengers to Morgan's Republican lieutenants, and the showdown will come July 20th in the primary. Morgan himself is facing a primary challenger:

"Morgan has been criticized in his local paper by GOP enemies and has a well-connected primary opponent. Peggy Crutchfield, the challenger, has said she wasn't asked by Morgan's enemies to run. She has criticized Morgan for failing to 'behave like a Republican' in Raleigh."

Hmmmm ... "failing to behave like a Republican" ... in a world full of really good straight lines, you don't get 'em much juicier than that!

Morgan's campaign committee has raised more than $600,000 and apparently intends to help out those Republican allies who are facing Republican jihadists who evidently know exactly how Republicans are supposed to behave ... Rule No. 1: Greet Your Enemies With a Blow Torch.

We won't get into all the other Daughtry-inspired Republican primary challengers. You can read those details for yourself.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

It Gets Worse

But first the good news: The AP is reporting that American hostage and Halliburton employee Thomas Hamill, kidnapped three weeks ago in an insurgent attack on his convoy, was found by U.S. forces Sunday south of Tikrit after he apparently escaped from his captors. Pure old pluck and luck. Make this guy a general! His family & friends in Macon, Mississippi, are jumping up and down with joy.

Now, the bad: ace investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who broke the My Lai massacre story back in the Vietnam heyday, has gotten his hands on a secret Army report which documents in sickening detail that the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, especially at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison where the now famous photos were made of American G.I.s making party favors out of Iraqi prisoners, was much more widespread than the recent photos suggest, and winked at -- i.e., encouraged -- by certain "intelligence officers" who might have learned their techniques from Saddam's own brutal secret police.

You can read Hersh's lengthy New Yorker article about all of this here.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Weak Excuses for Appalling Behavior

Now that photos of American soldiers abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners have been beamed all over the Arab world, to warm their hearts about American "liberators," the Army itself appears to be trying to explain the behavior away as a lack of "in-depth training."

Here's from the AP story: "The six U.S. soldiers facing courts-martial in connection with mistreatment of detainees at an Iraqi prison did not receive in-depth training on the Geneva Conventions, which govern the handling of captives, a military spokeswoman said Friday."

So, are you telling us that stripping prisoners naked and making them pose in sexually suggestive piles of flesh, while being jeered at by men and women guards, is something that your normal, ordinary American soldier just wouldn't necessarily associate as wrong, dammit, without "in-depth training in the Geneva Conventions"???

Bad, bad behavior leads to worse, worse propaganda against the U.S., and it will only get more damaging the more Bush's Army is seen to be trying to excuse this.

California Decertifies Diebold Voting Machines

Kevin Shelley, the California secretary of state, announced yesterday that he is decertifying outright 14,000 Diebold brand voting machines for the November elections and putting another 28,000 of the touch-screen devices into "conditional" decertification until problems of security and reliability are addressed. (New York Times story here.)

"Mr. Shelley said that he was recommending that the state's attorney general look into possible civil and criminal charges against Diebold because of what he called 'fraudulent actions by Diebold.' In an interview, Mr. Shelley said that 'their performance, their behavior, is despicable,' and that 'if that's the kind of deceitful behavior they're going to engage in, they can't do business in California."

What deceitful behavior? you may well ask. "A report issued by Mr. Shelley's office on April 20 accused the company of breaking state election law by installing uncertified software on machines in four counties. It said that Diebold installed systems that were not tested at the federal level or certified at the state level, and that Diebold lied to state officials about the machines."

On the "Super Tuesday" primary back in March, thousands of San Diego voters were turned away from polling places when Diebold equipment malfunctioned.

If you're offered a touch-screen machine to vote on come November 2nd, or even prior to November 2nd in "early voting," our advice is to politely ask for a paper ballot and to stick to your guns, unless your friendly local voting officials can prove to you that the touch-screen machine also produces a paper record of your vote.