Monday, January 31, 2005

Obermann Kicks Dobson in the Shins

Several posts back down this string, we wrote about Rev. James Dobson's targeting of newsmen for allegedly "mocking" his stand against gay-enabler SpongeBob SquarePants. That list of newsmen contained MSNBC anchor Keith Obermann, who writes here about the e-mail generated by the Focus on the Family jihad against him and smacks down the inaccuracies of Dobson & Company. Obermann, thank gawd, ain't afraid of standing up to the bullying of the American mullahs.

Evangelical Scandals

We've made no secret of our disdain for the hypocrisy of "Christians" who preach at all the rest of us to make ourselves as holy as they want us to believe they are (to which we respond, "If we're going to hell, we'll go at our own pace and not yours").

It's a brave "Christian" who can point out the hypocrisies of fellow "believers," and one such brave soul is Ronald Sider, who has written about "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience" in Christianity Today. It's a long essay, but here's the gist:

"The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. 'Gallup and Barna,' laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, 'hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.' Divorce is more common among 'born-again' Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers."

The GOP's Push to Privatize Social Security

The WashPost's Mike Allen got his hands on the Republican's 104-page playbook titled "Saving Social Security," which Karl Rove & Co. handed out this weekend at the big Republican Congressional retreat at the Green Brier resort. Allen's article on it in this morning's paper is worth reading.

"NewSpeak" is the order of the day: "The blueprint urges lawmakers to promote the 'personalization' of Social Security, suggesting ownership and control, rather than 'privatization,' which 'connotes the total corporate takeover of Social Security.' "

"The Republican's book, with a golden nest egg on the cover, urges the GOP to 'talk in simple language,' 'keep the numbers small,' 'avoid percentages; your audience will try to calculate them in their head' and 'acknowledge risks,' because listeners 'know they can lose their investments.' "

We're waiting for Madame Virginia Foxx, 25 percent of whose constituents are on Social Security, to begin speaking glowingly of "personalization," but in simple language, keeping the numbers small, avoiding percentages, and acknowledging risks. That is, after she's finished dealing with western North Carolina's greatest threat ... illegal aliens with drivers licenses.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Watauga GOP Continues War on ASU Students

The Watauga Republican Party just won't let it go ... their resentment against ASU students' voting in elections here. They apparently still cling to the mistaken notion that they were swept out of the County Commission because of massive voting by ASU students. A cursory glance at election returns might disabuse them of their mythology.

But some defeated Republican candidates for County Commission are reportedly circulating a petition calling on the Watauga County Board of Elections to deny students the right to vote, except for the office of president every four years.

Aside from the smallish constitutional issue of denying a specific class of people the right to the full ballot, and aside from the practical "mechanical" problem that local boards of election cannot unilaterally declare a certain class of voters ineligible to cast ballots, what are the Republicans hoping to gain? (And have they thought this through? What about the sons and daughters of Watauga residents who also happen to be students at ASU? Would they too be disenfrancised, by virtue of being enrolled at the University, or would the Watauga GOP recommend an exemption for native-born students? O the bookkeeping on THAT ought to be easy!)

Let's say this petition drive gets a thousand signatures. No, let's be wildly optimistic and forecast 3,000 signatures for denying the right to vote to ASU students. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the prejudices against full citizenship for students is deep and even wide in Watauga County. What will the Republican Party reap for exposing and encouraging that prejudice with this petition drive?

Well, for one thing, they're bound to incite even greater student turn-out in future elections. And whereas the student vote in the County Commission races in 2004 was actually not all that high (as opposed to the students who went in and voted for a few of the top races and left the bottom of the ballot unchecked) and was in fact divided between Republican and Democrat candidates, we can pretty much guarantee that there'll be a strong swing among students against the Republicans in future local elections. And why not? Nothing motivates students like the notion that a bunch of adults don't approve of them.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Cherie Berry Goes Down For You

The N.C. Labor Commissioner, Republican Cherie Berry, has decided to slap her mug in every elevator in the state. It's her department that inspects elevators and certifies them, so her signature is a familiar fixture. Now her face will be too.

It certainly makes us calmer, coming down from the penthouse, to see a coifed trophy dame staring at us from above the control panel. We'll remember to bring our Sharpie!

Democrats Cancel Party Chair Vote

We're going to assume that it really was the current winter storm that caused Democratic state party chair Barbara Allen to cancel today's meeting of the state executive committee in Raleigh, which was scheduled to elect a new state chair. We're going to assume it was winter weather and not the big heads' queasy acknowledgement that Gov. Easley was going to lose the vote. They've rescheduled for Feb. 19th. By then, we'll know who's going in as chair of the Democratic National Committee. That vote is scheduled for Feb. 12th. Howard Dean is said to be leading, just as Jerry Meek is said to be leading in the state race. Progressives everywhere are restless.

You can read the Raleigh News & Observer's article on the state shakeup in today's edition here. It so clearly carries a subliminal headline, "Easley Loses Control of State Party."

Friday, January 28, 2005

Mullah Dobson Declares a Jihad

Rev. James Dobson, who says he's fed up about the furor over SpongeBob SquarePants, has issued a press release calling on the Faithful to write letters to five journalists he's fingered for having mocked him and his views.

Rev. Dobson says he never said that SpongeBob SquarePants was himself gay. He said, instead, that SpongeBob SquarePants had been turned into a tool for the "gay agenda" of spreading "diversity and unity."

"Diversity and unity" ... BAD ... and not in a good way.

Especially BAD ... and not in a good way ... "a tolerance pledge" promoted by the We Are Family foundation, which reads in part, "I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own."

We're so glad the Mullah cleared that up, 'cause for a minute there, he seemed sort of ... we don't know ... hateful.

And we'll get right to work on our letters of stern reprimand to the following (quoting verbatim from Rev. Dobson's website, except for the typos, which we've silently corrected):

* New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who sarcastically wrote Dr. Dobson had done "the country a service by reminding us to watch out for the dark side of lovable but malleable sponges."

* Today show anchor Matt Lauer, who suggested that "Focus has made a mistake and really doesn't want to apologize for it."

* columnist Michael Ventre, who called Christians "creepy, rigid, arrogant, cruel, know-it-all, pompous, obnoxious and treacherous -- better known by the acronym CRACKPOT." He added: "They are giving Jesus Christ a bad name."

* Crossfire host James Carville, who said: "How stupid am I? I thought these [tolerance and diversity] were actual virtues."

* MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, who said: "If the folks at Focus on the Family are right, it could make you, your children or maybe your furniture gay. Or tolerant."

The Filthy Rich

The natural waters that bubble out of the Appalachian earth at the world-famous and now moth-eaten Greenbrier Inn in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia have been known for their restorative powers since before the Civil War. Wealthy Southern planters used to go there to soak away the red dirt from their slave-stomping feet. And today the entire Republican House and Senate is up there on "retreat," eating fatty foods and guzzling wine and sitting up to their haunches in the rich body odor of their own power.

Sitting with them in the steam room is El Presidente, who's doing more than his share of sweating, and it's not just from the steam baths.

No, El Presidente is trying to deal with an increasingly independent bunch of Republican lawmakers, who don't necessarily any longer see a reason to risk their own sorry hides to give Mr. Bush what he wants ... like privatizing Social Security, like an easing of immigration laws.

According to Mike Allen's analysis in today's WashPost, "It's the 'no interest like self-interest' rule, and it's every man for himself," said an aide to a Senate Republican committee chairman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to maintain good relations with the White House. "He's discovering the fine line between having a mandate and being a lame duck."

El Presidente has even sicced Karl Rove on them. Mike Allen wrote, "White House senior adviser Karl Rove worked the crowd [at the Green Brier] and gave the first of several presentations, devoting most of his introductory remarks to Social Security. Rove, discussing the issue at the request of congressional leaders, said that taking it on is important and will be popular."

Hasn't been popular so far, even with the Bush Bureau of Information Retrieval decreeing that the word "privatization" is now inoperative, along with the term "private account." It's "1984" "NewSpeak" all over again, and Rove has decreed that the language for the undermining of Social Security will henceforth be "personal accounts."

Call it what you will. People, maybe, aren't quite as stupid as the White House seems to think. Nor prone to hold their breaths while the rich and powerful go to a West Virginia mountain spa to cleanse themselves of their filth.

Shoo, Fly

An article in this morning's Charlotte Observer is entitled "Easley's pick no shoo-in for party chairmanship; Raleigh lawyer faces tough opponent, dissatisfied activists" (thanks to Hayes for the heads-up).

"Party observers expect a close race" between Gov. Easley's hand-picked candidate, lawyer/lobbyist Ed Turlington, and current 1st vice chair and semi-professional maverick Jerry Meek. That's what the Charlotte Observer says ... "a close race," but Jerry Meek is telling people he has over 300 votes on the state's executive committee, more than enough to win.

The Guv is marshalling all the big heads he can find to attend the meeting tomorrow in Raleigh, including ex-Guv Jim Hunt. The big heads are going to stand up there and lecture the members of the executive committee about doing the right thing, i.e., what the Guv wants them to do. That might have worked in the past. This year, not so much.

The big heads had best not try to pull any shenanigans in the vote. Manipulating the process to get Easley's desired outcome would have disastrous effects. What has been an incipient rebellion would likely blossom into full-scale and open revolt.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Brave Thirteen

These are the 13 senators who thought we could do better than put a liar in as the new Secretary of State:

Akaka of Hawaii
Bayh of Indiana (that one's a surprise)
Boxer of California (that one's not)
Byrd of West Virginia
Dayton of Minnesota
Durbin of Illinois
Harkin of Iowa
Jeffords of Vermont
Kennedy of Massachusetts
Kerry of Massachusetts
Lautenberg of New Jersey
Levin of Michigan
Reed of Rhode Island

They need to be thanked for taking a courageous stand against the continued warping of the truth by this administration. There are 32 other Democratic senators who deserve a good scolding. But even with that lot siding for Ms Rice, she had the most no votes of any Secretary of State since the 1920s.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Homosexual Under Every Rock

Back in the Dark Ages when I was in high school in West Texas, the John Birch Society was unearthing Communists just ... EVERYWHERE, to good effect, because Hollywood complied at the time with the witch-hunt and started a list of writers and actors who could be done without, and school systems managed to find teachers who were just a little bit soft, and lots of books got disappeared. I had to go out of my way, for example, to get hold of Voltaire's "Candide," since it mocked the notion that this is the best of all possible worlds and taught disrespect for authority. The Red Menace would go to great lengths to make us doubt, to shatter our faith in Republican smugness. The Commies were so sly. They had somehow induced Voltaire in the 18th Century to help corrupt our minds. 'Course he was French, so what do you expect?

Now it's the Queer Menace. And the "homosexual agenda," perhaps even more adept than the dreaded Commies of yesteryear, appears to be targeting the soft underbelly of American cartoons. First, there was Tinky Wink, or Winky Tink (or whatever the hell his name is), the nasty little buggering Telly-Tubby with the purple purse. Then came SpongeBob SquarePants (and thank Gawd for James Dobson, for having the courage to raise a hue & cry). And now ... a bunny named Buster, or rather the sugar-mapleing farm animals that Buster visits in Vermont, which includes, according to the new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, at least two lesbian couples intent on teaching the little Bunny Buster damned toleration of same-sex shenanigans. But what do you expect? These are PBS cartoons!

Margaret Spellings took over the Education department from Ron Paige, whose most famous act was payola of a quarter million dollars to corrupt a columnist. Just this a.m., El Presidente in a rare press conference said Armstrong Williams was wrong to take the money and Ron Paige was wrong to give it. And he said he had ordered a stop to it. (Don't look now, Mr. President, but this morning's news contains yet another example.)

He apparently thinks it's fine, however, for his education department leader to decry cartoon bunnies who make nice with little lesbo critters, one of whom was NOT voiced by Mary Cheney.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

SpongeBob SquarePants Okay With These Christians

For the record, the United Church of Christ has issued a proclamation that the cartoon sponge, lately accused of being a flaming queer by Mullah James Dobson, is "unequivocally" welcome by the UCC. The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, made the announcement (and the photo of Rev. Thomas holding a confab with SpongeBob in his church office here is priceless).

Rev. Thomas said the UCC also welcomes Barney, Big Bird, Tinky-Winky, Clifford the Big Red Dog or, for that matter, "any who have experienced the Christian message as a harsh word of judgment rather than Jesus' offering of grace." All those cartoon characters have been fingered by the mullahs as a little on the "pink" side, especially Tinky-Winky, whom Jerry Falwell "outed" several years ago. (Tinky-Winky subsequently went into a deep depression, reportedly attempted suicide after being fired off "The Tele-Tubbies," spent several years doing weather reports in the Keokuk, Iowa, TV market, and is said to be finishing up an autobiography titled, "The Things He Said About Me Aren't True. And So What If It Is?")

You'll recall, of course, that it was the UCC that produced a 30-second TV commercial to underscore the denomination's belief that Jesus didn't turn anyone away. That commercial was turned down by CBS and other broadcasters as "too controversial."

Police State

A Denver cop threatened to arrest a woman because of a derogatory bumpersticker targeting El Presidente. The cop took her license plate number, told her to remove the bumpersticker, told her never come back to "that area" again, and told her if she didn't remove the bumpersticker he would come to her home and arrest her.

The confrontation happened after the woman was confronted in a shopping center by a man who told her it was illegal to express such opinions against our president. The man subsequently flagged down the cop, who evidently agreed that negative opinions expressed publicly about Glorious Leader are not to be tolerated.

When's the last time you read "1984"?

They Laughed at the Poor

We missed this in all the coverage of the Second Inaugural until just this second, but it's worth twice its weight in symbolic import. Comedian and impressionist Rich Little (remember him? Republicans can't get A-list celebrities, so they settle for has-beens) entertained at one of the balls:

"Little said he missed and adored the late President Ronald Reagan and 'I wish he was here tonight, but as a matter of fact he is,' and he proceeded to impersonate Reagan, saying, 'You know, somebody asked me, "Do you think the war on poverty is over?" I said, "Yes, the poor lost." ' The crowd went wild."

That would be "the crowd" of furred up and bejeweled Republican donors who make us so proud as a nation for our "moral values."

Which of These Things Is Not Like the Other?

1. We believe it was the Los Angeles Times that broke this story: "Pentagon documents released today disclosed a series of alleged abuses of Iraqi detainees at a little-known converted palace used as a prison north of Baghdad, including the sodomy of a handicapped man and the death of his brother, whose body was tossed atop his imprisoned sister. Up to 90 alleged cases of mistreatment of detainees at the Ademeyah palace were among dozens of incidents described in hundreds of pages of Pentagon documents obtained in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The documents released today also include investigative reports that indicate possible involvement in abuses by secret Pentagon counterterrorism units."

2. The Philadelphia Enquirer reports, "The Bush administration will ask Congress for about $80 billion in new funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, administration and congressional officials said yesterday. The package, which administration budget officials were expected to present as early as today, would be in addition to $25 billion approved for fiscal 2005."

3. El Presidente, who didn't want to be seen with those people, nevertheless phoned in his message to the Right to Life Rally a block from his home yesterday: "President Bush told thousands of antiabortion marchers yesterday that his administration is making progress toward fostering a 'culture of life' by enacting measures that limit abortion and stem cell research while expanding the legal definition of life."

Ah yes! The "culture of life."

On the incessant, ironic preaching in American culture, Fareed Zakaria related this conversation in Newsweek:

"I often argue with an Indian businessman friend of mine that America is unfairly singled out for scrutiny abroad. 'Why didn't anyone criticize the French or Chinese for their meager response to the tsunami?' I asked him recently. His response was simple. 'America positions itself as the moral arbiter of the world, it pronounces on the virtues of all other regimes, it tells the rest of the world whether they are good or evil,' he said. 'No one else does that. America singles itself out. And so the gap between what it says and what it does is blindingly obvious -- and for most of us, extremely annoying.' That gap just grew a lot bigger."

In the meantime, perhaps those born-again zealots are beginning to get a clue that El Presidente is using them like cheap 'hos. Last night on The Daily Show, right-wing direct-mail guru Richard Vigurie told Jon Stewart that he was sick and tired of so-called "conservative" presidents who don't deign to show up at the annual Right to Life tribal stomp on the Ellipse. And this a.m., the NYTimes headlines this story: "A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage."

Meanwhile, according to this a.m.'s WashPost, Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate have drawn up their top ten wish list for legislation they intend to push this session. A ban on gay marriage did NOT make the list.

Monday, January 24, 2005

'Hubris Is Deadly'

So said Republican Mark Sanford of South Carolina in this a.m.'s NYTimes. He was speaking about over-reaching, as in this present administration. Sanford should know a thing or two about overweening arrogance, having served with Newt in the infamous 1994 Republican take-over of Congress. "How'd that work out for you, Newt?"

"Hubris." El Presidente will have to reach for his old Webster's, since he was laying out of class hung-over on the day they discussed it at Yale. The root meaning of "hubris" was a compound meaning "outrage" and the violence that can come from outrage. From there it came to mean the arrogance that practices overbearing power alongside power's handmaiden, violence. Characters in Greek tragedy often exhibited "hubris." That is, they consistently made the mistake of thinking they were above the gods in power. Aldous Huxley wrote, "The Greeks knew very well that hubris against the essentially divine order of Nature would be followed by its appropriate nemesis."

Where's my Webster's? "Nemesis": comes from the name of the Greek goddess for retributive justice or vengeance (don't ever mess with a goddess!). The root wood for nemesis in Greek is the verb meaning "to allot," to pay back one's just desserts. The most garden-variety use of "nemesis" in English means "an unavoidable result."

In Texas, they would say over the smoking ruins of some wheeler-dealer, "he got too big for his boots." The crash was an unavoidable result. Hubris meets nemesis.

Let's outline our current national drama. Act One: the rage of George W. Bush. Set off by 9/11, fanned by a patriotic furor which insists the USA is always right, fueled by born-again self-righteousness against all who oppose the "godly" ... that makes a sufficiently large enough bonfire of the vanities.

Act Two: getting "bigger than God." Well, certainly as big. Evidently in daily contact with the Heavenly Throne. So in synch with the Divine Will, in fact, that Jehovah appears to be doing W's bidding rather than the other way around.

Act Three: overbearing power blossoming out of anger, strutting in very big boots on a world stage. Preemptive warfare.

Then comes Act Four, nemesis. Retributive justice, one's just desserts. We're tempted to think in terms of Mother Nature as the offended goddess who'll have revenge on this administration, considering the hubris of this bunch toward the stewardship of our natural resources. Or the world community, perhaps. How long will they allow the USA to stomp all over their druthers while sucking up the lion's share of the wealth? Or a storm in the economy. But any of these possible nemeses will wreck us all in bringing down their target, so we shudder at the prospect and dread Act Four.

According to the article in this morning's NYTimes, Bush's nemesis could well come in the form of a smiling ally, a fellow Republican, say, in government, whose grip on reality is firmer than his tendency toward grandiosity. Chuck Hagel, perhaps. "Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who is talking about running for president, said on 'This Week With George Stephanopoulos' on ABC that he did not believe the White House had a strategy to extricate the United States from Iraq." Bush's nemesis could well be an erstwhile friend who decides to speak the truth about him.

Or maybe a miracle will transpire, Howard Dean will become head of the DNC, and Democrats will rise as the Republican nemesis. Nah! While we believe in tragedy, we don't bank on fantasy.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Eternal Verities

It's reassuring in some pre-modern way that the 84-year-old head of the Catholic Church can still work up righteous indignation over the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS. It's positively medieval and therefore warms the hearts of dungeon-masters the world over: "The Church opposes condoms in all except the rarest of circumstances because they are a form of contraception. It says promoting the use of condoms to fight the spread of AIDS fosters what it sees as immoral and hedonistic lifestyles and behavior that will only contribute to its spread."

But when preventing disease and death interferes with lip service to "life," whaddya gonna do?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Jon Stewart, Watch Your Back

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell plans to step down from the job he's held for four years. That's the rumor this a.m.

The man who brought us record fines against broadcasting, topping $7.7 million in 2004, and ushered in a new culture of censorship. Under Powell's leadership, some TV stations were afraid to show "Saving Private Ryan" on Memorial Day, lest someone object.

The irony is that Michael Powell is probably, as things go today in the reign of King George, the "moderate." What follows him into the chairmanship of the F.C.C.? It won't be a moderate, if El Presidente adheres to the pattern he's already set for second-term appointments. It'll be a good buddy who'll do what he's told.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Common Sense for the Day

"...the noisy minority [of 'born-again Christians'] ... wants to reduce the power and the glory of their religion to a set of knee-jerk issues. Christianity, in this dehydrated version, means you're anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and anti-stem cell research. Just add vindictiveness. As for what you believe and how you conduct your life, those are metaphysical matters we don't bother with anymore, right? Such a constricting, totalitarian view is as repugnant to Christian teaching ('Judge not, lest ye be judged') as it is to constitutional law. Why should abortion be such a pivotal issue for Christians? If the answer is, 'because it's murder,' then why would a Christian vote for the party that legalizes assault weapons and campaigns for the death penalty? It's intriguing that 'faith' tends to choose issues that rile people's emotions, rather than those that awaken their beliefs. One could theorize, for instance, that the anti-abortion movement is merely a capitalist plot: The more unwanted children get born, the more uneducated low-wage workers are available, and the less you need to pay them."

--Michael Feingold, in The Village Voice

Rev. Dobson's Case of Queer Fear

We swear we're not making this up. But James Dobson has taken on children's cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants as a stalking horse for the "gay agenda" (shades of Jerry Falwell declaring a jihad against Winky Tink for having a purple purse).

Mullah Dobson launched the attack at a black-tie dinner for his Congressional toadies in Washington on Tuesday night. Dobson said that SpongeBob's creators had "enlisted him in a 'pro-homosexual video,' in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a 'tolerance pledge' that includes tolerance for differences of 'sexual identity.' "

If there's one thing Mullah Dobson won't tolerate, it's tolerance.

The fact that Dobson has apparently confused one web site with another hardly matters, especially not to him. The Grand Inquisitor must have his fresh meat.

Another Wacko Poll

Where do they find all those manic depressives?

Headlined on the front page of this morning's NYTimes is a new poll showing:

70 percent think El Presidente will succeed in "changing Social Security"

43 percent expect most forms of abortion to be illegal by the time Mr. Bush finishes his second term, but 71 percent support some forms of legal abortion

"Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they were generally optimistic on the eve of Mr. Bush's swearing-in about the next four years, but clear majorities disapproved of Mr. Bush's management of the economy and the war in Iraq"

"Nearly two-thirds said a second Bush term would leave the country with a larger deficit, while 47 percent said that a second Bush term would divide Americans"

"A majority of those surveyed said that they did not expect any improvement in health care, education, or in reducing the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly by January 2009"

"Just under 80 percent, including a majority of those who said they voted for Mr. Bush in November, said it would not be possible to overhaul Social Security, cut taxes, and finance the war in Iraq without increasing the budget deficit, despite Mr. Bush's promises to the contrary"

56 percent said the country has gone off on the wrong track

"50 percent said it was a 'bad idea' to permit workers to divert part of their payroll taxes into the stock market, as Mr. Bush is expected to propose. That number leaps to 70 percent when the question includes the possibility that future guaranteed benefits would be reduced by as much as one-third"

53 percent of Americans think the war in Iraq will not have been worth the loss of American life if unconventional weapons are never found

75 percent said Mr. Bush had no clear plan for getting out of Iraq

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Jesse Helms Makes Like Howler Monkey

At almost precisely the same moment that I see the item in Liz Smith's gossip column today in the New York Post, that Bill Clinton is angling for Kofi Annan's job at the United Nations, I get a four-page letter from Jesse Helms, United States Senator (Ret.), marked "Confidential ... Personal Attention ... Reply Requested" that finally, on page 2, gets around to the subject that -- gasp! -- "Bill Clinton is actively seeking to head one of the most well-financed and influential world bodies ever created by man"!!!!

The United Nations, incidentally and also according to ex-Senator Helms, is "socialist-dominated," so why Senator Helms wouldn't want a big-business suck-up like Bill Clinton in charge of it I can't say.

Sen. Helms SAYS the purpose of his letter is to get me to sign a petition (enclosed) addressed to President George Bush imploring him "to IGNORE the pleas from the liberal media to support Bill Clinton's quest," which is a low enough threshold for a petition to reach: "Dear Pres. Bush: Please ignore the liberal press!" Pres. Bush to Helms' toadies: "Done, good buddies!"

Since George Bush doesn't appoint the Secretary General of the United Nations, what particular good does this petition do? Oh, silly us. It really isn't the petition we're supposed to sign so much as it's the $1,000 personal check, which is also (incidentally) requested, to support the Jesse Helms Center Foundation, a 501(c)(3) educational foundation, which would appear to have just violated its IRS tax-exemption status by sending out such a politically charged fund-raising letter.

N.C. State Bar Investigates Itself

Yeah, we're holding our breath on this one!

The North Carolina State Bar licenses lawyers to practice in the state, and it's also supposedly in charge of maintaining the ethics of that practice.

We have some experience with the process of complaining to the State Bar about the ethics and practice of a lawyer, and we actually won an official letter of reprimand against the lawyer we complained about ... unusual in itself, since the Bar is notoriously reluctant to take action against its own members. They have to have done something really really bad to get even a slap on the wrist.

In the 1998 trial of Alan Gell for murder, David Hoke and Debra Graves, former prosecutors for the Attorney General's office, deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence that they were obliged by law to turn over to the defense. The withholding of that evidence led to the conviction of Gell, who spent nine years in jail, much of that time on death row. When the withheld evidence finally came to light, Gell was given a new trial in 2002 and was acquitted and freed.

Last September, lawyers Hoke and Graves were themselves investigated and "tried" by the State Bar for the railroading of Gell. For wrongfully and illegally withholding exculpatory evidence that caused an innocent man to spend nine years of his life behind bars, Hoke & Graves were ... yes, "reprimanded." Bottomline: "Hoke and Graves, you're free to go right on lawyering in this state" (though not necessarily for the Attorney General).

Lawyers, bless their hearts! Even some of that tribe couldn't swallow the Hoke/Graves whitewashing, so yesterday in Raleigh a special investigation of lawyers (the State Bar) by lawyers (members of the State Bar) got under way to look at what happened in the Hoke/Graves "prosecution." According to the N&O, "The special committee will examine two questions: Was there any bias or corruption or undue influence in the prosecution of Hoke and Graves? Was the State Bar's prosecution of Hoke and Graves within the range of acceptable lawyering?"

Sometimes lawyers themselves not only write the lawyer jokes, they are the lawyer jokes. Morals, ethics, and the simple letter of the law? No. "The range of acceptable lawyering" is everything!

The "investigation" is supposed to conclude in six months. We will not, as we said earlier, be holding our breath.

We Hold This Torture To Be Self-Evident

Ms. Rice could not bring herself to answer direct questions from Senator Chris Dodd at her confirmation hearing yesterday, about whether she personally thought "water-boarding" and other forms of prisoner torture was right or wrong.

Today, the news on the front page of the NYTimes, is Alberto Gonzales's additional 200 pages of "clarification" about the administration's position on torture (remember his repeated, "Senator, I'll have to get back to you on that." This document is his "getting back to you on that"). So here's the Gonzales "signal" to all the world:

Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and other nonmilitary personnel fall outside the bounds of a 2002 directive issued by President Bush that pledged the humane treatment of prisoners in American custody. Also, a separate Congressional ban on cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment had "a limited reach" and did not apply in all cases to "aliens overseas."

And because they are not us, evidently, their torture does not rise to the level of "morality" so hypocritically promoted by all us American "Christians" as our overriding "value."

I have lived to see my great nation publicly admit, via leaked official documents and non-denial denials of public officials, that it is following the course of the Roman Empire in the exercise of inhumanity for the sake of "protecting" its own power.

I am ashamed. And can take no action against my own government, and the interests that run it, beyond the puny protest of not spending one damn dime tomorrow. It might be more in keeping with the "Christian spirit" we will be re-inaugurating about noon if I celebrated by pulling the live legs off a fly.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Wacko Public

A new WashPost/ABC News poll finds only 45 percent of those interviewed said they preferred that the country go in the direction that Bush wants to lead it. There's your "mandate" for you. Not that El Presidente gives a good goddamn.

Irrationally, also this: "But the public also wants cooperation from the Democrats. At a time when Democratic leaders are preparing to challenge many of Bush's major initiatives, nearly seven in 10 Americans agree that Bush's victory means that congressional Democrats should compromise with him -- even if it means compromising on their party's principles."

For which WE don't give a good goddamn.

Yeah, compromise our principles ... there's the recipe for a cake that won't rise.

Fewer than half the people want to go where El Presidente is leading us, but 70 percent want the Dems to go along peacefully. Is this country having a nervous breakdown, or what?

Queer-Baiter To Be Bush's Top Domestic Advisor

We've mentioned this guy before -- Claude Allen -- who's moving into the White House as Bush's John D. Ehrlichman -- but there's a fairly lengthy profile on him in this morning's News & Observer.

Don't know which is worse, that he once said Gov. Jim Hunt was hanging out with "queers" or that he subsequently lied about who he meant by that remark.

The Puppet Master

Interesting lengthy article in this a.m.'s NYTimes on the Commander-in-Chief Dick Cheney, that he's manipulating now El Presidente's domestic agenda as carefully as he manipulated the doctrine of foreign preemption. He's got his sights set on privatizing Social Security even more rapidly than Congressional conservatives have proposed.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Bartram Got It Right

We're prepping for a trip to Philadelphia in the spring which will include a pilgrimage to the house and garden of America's first great botanist, John Bartram, who collected hundreds of new American flowering species and shipped plants, seeds, and root stocks to wealthy English gardeners over the course of several decades in the 18th century. His son William Bartram followed in his father's footsteps -- discovered one of our favorite flowering natives, the oak-leaf hydrangea, in North Georgia -- and died in his father's garden in 1823. We expect to commune there with his ghost in the same garden in April.

Father John Bartram (1699-1777) was a Quaker who got thrown out of fellowship with the church because he had a low opinion of preachers who dictated right behavior to their fellow believers, plus he said he doubted the divinity of Christ. At least, they tried to throw him out of the church. After the Quaker meeting voted to expel John, he continued to attend church regularly, sitting in his pew as though nothing had happened. You've got to admire that kind of stubborn, independent belief.

We've been reading a wonderful book by Thomas Slaughter about these pioneering American characters, "The Natures of John and William Bartram." Slaughter quotes old John, who said there were three types of Americans:

1. "The first class are those whose thought and study is entirely upon getting and laying up large estates, and any other attainment that doesn't turn immediately upon that hinge, they think is not worth their notice."

2. The children (primarily) of the 1st class, who spend what their parents amass as rapidly as they can, "in luxury."

3. Everybody else, obliged by "necessity" to "hard labour ... for a moderate and happy maintenance of their family."

Early America was effectively run by the 1st class, primarily for the benefit of the 2nd class, on the backs of the 3rd. Not much has changed since Bartram's day.

But at least we can celebrate the occasional working-class maverick who refused to be thrown out of fellowship with God and who recognized the unity and beauty of all God's creation. And we get to pay tribute to this American original in a blue state, to boot!

Big Dogs Line Up for Turlington

No surprise, this, that big hitters on the Council of State have endorsed Gov. Easley's pick for state Democratic Party head. Sending out a letter on behalf of Raleigh attorney (and big business lobbyist) Ed Turlington last week were Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Agriculture Commissioner Britt Cobb, state Treasurer Richard Moore, Attorney General Roy Cooper, and Tricia Willoughby, the interim superintendent of public instruction.

Big deal. The Guv himself might want to recall that four years ago virtually the entire power elite of the state Democratic Party lined up behind the candidacy of Dennis Wicker for the office Easley now holds. We didn't follow the advice of the power brokers then -- though perhaps we SHOULD have -- and we're not falling into line now either. There's just something off-putting being told by the big heads in Raleigh who we need to have leading us out here in the backwoods.

ADDENDUM: Another article in the N&O says Easley has repented his cold indifference to the workings of the Democratic Party and that he's backing Ed Turlington as state party chair because, Easley told the AP, Turlington "has credentials and credibility with the national party. He would probably be the most respected chair in the country, and he could start us moving in that direction: fielding candidates who can win a race in a lot of the red states." We'd heard that Easley might actually harbor presidential ambitions, and this article seems to confirm that.

In other words, we're all supposed to swallow this Turlington fellow because the Guv has ambitions. Thanks but no thanks. I got better things I can do with my time.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

All Mullahs Sound Alike

Rev. Jerry Falwell (with Rev. Pat Robertson vigorously concurring), two days after 9/11: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say: you helped this happen."

Sheik Saleh Ibn Fawzan Al-Fawzan, a leading Saudi religious authority, blamed the South-Asian tsunami on "homosexuality," "fornicators," "sexual perversions," and other sins and sinners in a declaration on Saudi Arabia's al-Majd TV December 31.

Tehran by Tuesday?

Seymour Hersh, the investigative reporter who blew the lid off Abu Ghraib, has a new report out in The New Yorker which says El Presidente is conducting secret military operations inside Iran, looking for underground nuclear installations. Make of that what thou wilt.

"We Don't Need Any Stinkin' Accountability"

El Presidente says there will be no accountability, not while he's running the joint: "President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath. 'We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections,' Bush said in an interview" (you can see the full extent of his hubris here).

May we borrow that impeccable logic, Mr. President? Let's see: Bill Clinton in his victory over Bob Dole in 1996 ... that was his "accountability moment," right? People knew he screwed around and reelected him anyway. But these Republicans lay the law down differently for everyone else. Like good Pharisees.

But the same interview produced this small gem for the Rev. James Dobson and the other mullahs: "For the first time, Bush said he will not press senators to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the top priority for many social conservative groups." There'll be no accountability there, either. Social conservatives got pandered to through the campaign, with the illusion that El Presidente was going to press for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Oops. Sorry. These things happen when you sell your religion out to a political machine.

Moscow on the Potomac

The recent trend under El Presidente to turn all the mechanisms of government into a propaganda machine to prop up the ruling junta continues apace. We posted a link to this story yesterday, how the Social Security administration is being used to propagandize for El Presidente's scheme to end the dependency of old people on Social Security. The NYTimes is out this a.m. with more here: "Over the objections of many of its own employees, the Social Security Administration is gearing up for a major effort to publicize the financial problems of Social Security and to convince the public that private accounts are needed as part of any solution."

As Daniel Schorr pointed out yesterday morning on NPR, Washington in 2005 is coming to resemble the Moscow of 1960, with "newspapers" like Pravda propagandizing for the sake of the ruling junta. Nobody believed the "news" in Pravda in those days, just as we have ceased to believe the "facts" put out by the Bush administration.

How do you define lying? "...Social Security officials .... question the accuracy of recent statements...."

How do you define damned official government propaganda? "Trust fund dollars should not be used to promote a political agenda," said Dana C. Duggins, a vice president of the Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees.

George Will said on ABC this morning that El Presidente is really fighting his new holy war against "the culture of dependency" in America, that he wants his legacy to be the ending of our dependence on the government. Our dependency is evil and needs to be stopped. However, the dependency of big drug companies on several billion $$ in government hand-outs in the Medicare prescription drug plan is yummy. The dependency of Halliburton on no-bid contracts in Iraq is also good. It's OUR dependency that is offensive to the godly, and so we will have to be weaned off it, even if it means that the godly have to tell a few lies to get the job done.

The Commissars felt the same high-minded self-justification in old Moscow.
WATCHING RAHM EMANUEL on Russert this a.m. was enough to make me turn the TV to the wall. Emanuel is newly elected by his fellow U.S. House Democrats to a leadership position, Congressional Campaign Committee chair, which means that Rahm is in charge of getting more Democrats elected to the House in 2006.

O brother. We need to keep these compromised politicians out of the limelight, and we're not talking about Emanuel's staff days in the White House with Bill Clinton. We're talking about his support for the Iraqi War, which did for Emanuel on Russert's show approximately what it did for Kerry in the presidential election. Iraq rendered Emanuel inarticulate, incoherent, and a frank embarrassment to his fellow party members.

At least, WE were embarrassed. Go find the transcript for yourself. We have no desire to link ANYONE to that stumbling 15 minutes of maladroit fame.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Bush Is Gonna Get All Moral on Old People

Uh oh. El Presidente sez in his weekly radio address, he sez, "Saving Social Security is an economic challenge. But it is also a profound moral obligation."

The last time he raised the "moral" red flag, we had to go to war to rid Iraq of some WMDs it didn't have.

Now we're gonna rid old people of a Social Security crisis they also don't have. (The most conservative assessments of Social Security say it's fully solvent until at least 2018.) But according to El Presidente, the system's broken, eek! there's a crisis, we've got to do something NOW ... like move legislation forward that will "privatize" the system, i.e., guarantee the ultimate demise of the ultimate "socialistic" Democratic program.

But, then, we're doing torture as national policy now, so what the hey?

ADDENDUM: Read about the Bush administration's secret plan to use Social Security money to help propagandize against it here. (Thanks to Alice)

Laura Bush to Nation: "Shut Up and Party!"

It's foxhole time at the White House, when during the same week El Presidente admits a mistake ("shouldn't have said 'bring 'em on!' ") and then sends out The Missus to justify spending $40 mil on the inaugural.

According to Laura, that kind of frivolousness is positively heroic: "'s ... good for Washington's economy, for people to come in from around the country, for the hotels to be full, and the restaurants to be full, and the caterers to be busy. I think that's important." Apparently, rich Republicans tip the servants whilst stuffing themselves on the fruits of democracy.

After making her hubby look better for four long years, hubby is now making her look not so good as the Grand Duchess of Excess. Hang out with this guy long enough, your brain goes spongy.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Department of Undecided Elections

Let's review:

1. Carteret County's notorious touch-screen voting device swallows more than 4,400 votes, putting in doubt who would have won the contest for Secretary of Agriculture. Republican Steve Troxler is ahead of incumbent Agriculture Secretary, Democrat Britt Cobb, by fewer than 2,300 votes in the statewide tally.

2. State Board of Elections' first fix of this problem: let the 4,400 lost Carteret voters re-vote, ALONG WITH (and here it got bizarre) about 10,000 Carteret voters who didn't even try to vote on November 2nd. This solution gets challenged in court and gets thrown out by an irritated superior court judge.

3. State Board of Elections' second fix: on a straight partyline vote, 3 Democrats to 2 Republicans, the SBOE voted in December that a state-wide revote of the Cobb-Troxler race was the only legal way to fix the problem.

4. Yesterday, another dyspeptic superior court judge threw out Fix No. 2, since state law says it takes at least four votes on the SBOE to order a new election.

5. Next step? Fix No. 3? Perhaps a spitting contest. Republican Troxler has already started, declaring loudly that the SBOE should just go ahead and declare him the winner and be done with it, BORG-like: "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." For his part, Britt Cobb wants the state legislature to decide who won. Britt's mama didn't raise no fools: the state legislature is now firmly in the hands of Democrats, not that they can all be counted on in a spitting contest.

How long before "The Daily Show" has Rob Corddry in Raleigh reporting "live" on the North Carolina Department of Agriculture election flap?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Meek-Turlington Face-Off

Yesterday's "Independent Weekly" offers further insight into the Jerry Meek/Ed Turlington contest for Democratic Party state chair, including more detail into who exactly Ed Turlington lobbies for as a paid shill and his vow "to continue representing clients in the General Assembly and before state administrative agencies" if he's elected to the top state post on January 29th. Turlington's clients in the last legislative sessions included Jefferson-Pilot, the insurance company, and statewide associations of broadcasters, convenience stories and electronics firms. But our favorite client, by far, is the Carolina Asphalt Paving Association. Ed Turlington represents the paving lobby, the odor of which is not entirely due to the product they push.

You can get sick from both asphalt fumes and from the business-as-usual top-down continued strangulation of democracy to suit the Guv.
THE PHARISEES AT THE TABLE. Statistics in this morning's WashPost: "At least 88 companies and trade associations, along with 39 top executives -- all with huge stakes in administration policies -- have already donated $18 million toward a $40 million goal for the country's 55th inaugural celebration."

Among the most ecstatic givers ... the nuclear power industry, since El Presidente says he "wants to lower barriers to building nuclear power plants." Which came first, the money or the desire to please?

We'll be celebrating the Inaugural ourselves in a different way, hole up with "Don't Spend a Damn Dime Day." So long as the Bourbon doesn't run out.
INCREASING REPORTS OF 'CHRISTIAN' EXPLOITATION OF TSUNAMI. WashPost has an article in today's edition of a "Christian" outfit out of Forest, Va., that recently snatched 300 Indonesian orphans out of Aceh province to raise as "Christians." The article concludes with a single paragraph referencing Samaritan's Purse out of Boone, N.C.: "It sparked international controversy by openly mixing evangelization with its relief work after Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq last year." Adding that Franklin Graham is denying any such lack of "mutuality" this time in Indonesia.

"Mutuality" is a term being bandied about these days in describing the respect -- or lack of same -- being shown by "missioners" like Samaritan's Purse in an exploitable "mission field" (think harvest-ready grain there for the taking). This blog by United Church of Christ seminarian Chuck Currie criticizes Franklin Graham for lacking any sense of mutuality.

But hey! God sends you the blessing of a major disaster, and whaddya gonna do? Say no to reaping the proceeds?
FOAM-AT-THE-MOUTH TV was all over this last night -- Sen. Edward Kennedy's speech yesterday before the National Press Club -- and CommonDreams has obliged us all by publishing the text of the speech here.

Among the other things Sen. Kennedy said were these:

On a supposed "mandate" for El Presidente in the last election: "I categorically reject the deceptive and dangerous claim that the outcome last November was somehow a sweeping, or a modest, or even a miniature mandate for reactionary measures like privatizing Social Security, redistributing the tax burden in the wrong direction, or packing the federal courts with reactionary judges."

On the Bush administration's hostility toward environmentalism: "We should stop the non-scientific, pseudo-scientific, and anti-scientific nonsense emanating from the right-wing, and start demanding immediate action to reduce global warming, and prevent the catastrophic climate change that may be on our horizon now."

On "saving" Social Security: "The biggest threat to Social Security today is not the retirement of the baby boomers. It's George Bush and the Republican Party."

On abortion rights: " this land that cherishes individual rights and liberties, a woman has the constitutional right to make her own reproductive decisions, and I support that right wholeheartedly. As the Supreme Court has recognized, reproductive decisions are among the most personal and private decisions a woman ever makes, and neither Congress nor the White House should be making those reproductive decisions for her."
DAVID ORR, a distinguished professor at Oberlin College in Ohio, was in Boone about a year ago for a stirring speech at First Baptist Church, on the future of environmentalism and the politicizing of ecology under George W. Bush.

Orr has a new essay up on the Web, "The Imminent Demise of the Republican Party," which you're invited to take a look at.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Turlington's Connections

Ed Turlington, Gov. Mike Easley's handpicked successor to be chair of the N.C. Democratic Party, is "currently a registered lobbyist at the General Assembly, representing a variety of business groups." According to Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch, "Turlington has not announced any plans to discontinue his lobbying if he is elected chair of the Democratic Party, but he should .... The person who runs the Democratic Party raises money and makes decisions about how that money will be spent, and which legislators' campaigns will get it. That could make it difficult for members of the General Assembly to vote against the interests of Turlington's lobbying clients. Legislative campaigns now require massive amounts of money, and Turlington is in a position to deliver a lot of it."

This kind of cozy backscratching among wealth and privilege is what MAKES US CRAZY.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Squashing Republican Dissent in the U.S. House

Wonder how Madame Virginia Foxx feels about the purge of dissenters that went on this week in the Republican caucus of the U.S. House? Madame Foxx has never made her fame as a team player. She was never one to react well to male autocracy, and yet she's gone off to make her nest in the Valhalla of male autocracy, and this week the Republican male grandees of the House moved to purge anyone not toeing the party line. The message, according to this insightful article today by the WashPost's Mike Allen, is that dissent will not be tolerated.

Dennis Hastert is dumping Joel Hefley as chair of the Ethics Committee, after ramming through a new rule which practically guarantees there'll be no more ethics investigations of anyone.

Dennis Hastert dumped Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) as chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, because he was insufficiently stingy with money. Hell, they not only took away Smith's chairmanship; they kicked him off the committee entirely. (Last heard from on Friday, Smith was trying to put a brave face on his new committee assignment, "Committee In Charge of Sitting By the Door.")

Republicans have made it harder for Democrats to offer amendments to bills, far harder to have imput on conference committees.

Mike Allen writes, "Democrats and some Republicans, troubled by the moves, cite parallels between today's Republicans and the Democrats who lost their 40-year hold on the House in 1994 after Gingrich and other conservatives campaigned against them as autocratic and corrupt, and gained 52 seats. 'It took Democrats 40 years to get as arrogant as we have become in 10,' one Republican leadership aide said."

Speaking of arrogance (and getting back to Madame Foxx), how in the world is the madame going to get along in that atmosphere? Or, more to the point, how are those ole boys going to get along with the likes of her?

Could be interesting.

Things We Wouldn't Realize Without "The Capitol Gang"

Watched "The Capitol Gang" on CNN last evening without paper & pencil at hand but found the transcript, so we can quote these guys directly:

1. KATE O'BEIRNE: "You know what I'm impressed by? The Democrats' willingness to run the risk of running under a banner of prisoner rights for terrorists. This is why they're now backing off .... I don't think they are willing to stake their political futures on fighting for Khalid Shayk Muhammed's right to commissary -- the mastermind of 9/11 -- commissary privileges, a sports uniform, musical instruments .... Torture? No. Stress techniques? Yes."

The conservatives, post Abu Ghraib, base their parsing of the word "torture" on whether the prisoner under "stress" is subject to the Geneva Conventions. They've been claiming all week (RE: Alberto Gonzales) that most of the prisoners the bleeding-heart liberals are concerned about aren't covered by the Geneva Conventions, which seems to mean to these folks that you can torture some of the people most of the time. But it clears the air considerably to have Kate O'Beirne say that Democrats "run the risk" of being labeled pussies for caring about such things. Stress techniques ... yes!

2. BOB NOVAK: "You should never speak ill of the dead, but I have to tell you, I'm going to tell you a secret .... Bob Matsui was a big source of mine, a secret source of mine, and the Bob Matsui I talked to was not the Bob Matsui on CAPITAL GANG. He told me a lot. He was always accurate. He never exaggerated. He told me some things he probably shouldn't, but guys like Bob Matsui, rest in peace, Bob, because you made my life easier and better."

Made my skin crawl to hear Novak talking about the recently deceased congressman with such smirking familiarity and such condescension: "Yes, Bob Matsui was my bitch, and I made him say 'Daddy!' "

This is another reason why Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" calls Novak a scumbag.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Baptists of Note

1. John A. Cosgrove, Chesapeake, Virginia, Republican representing the 78th Dist. in the Virginia House of Delegates, proud member of Great Bridge Baptist Church in Chesapeake ... Brother John has introduced HB1677 in the Virginia House of Delegates, entitled "Report of fetal death by mother; penalty." which "Provides that when a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the proper law-enforcement agency within 12 hours of the delivery." So, get up off your whining little asses, you women who miscarry, and report that miscarriage, just in case the State of Virginia and the Christian Right can make a case for any unpermitted usage of your reproductive system!

2. Edgar Ray Killen, Philadelphia, Mississippi, known locally as "Preacher" and pastor of a small congregation, who beat a federal conspiracy rap more than 40 years ago when a lone holdout juror said she couldn't convict a preacher ... for the brutal murder of three civil rights activists in 1964. Brother Edgar Ray has been indicted by the state of Mississippi for orchestrating the murders. In a 1999 interview with The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., Brother Edgar Ray said he believed that the Bible taught that separation of the races was holy and applauded the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Governing via Manufactured "Crises"

El Presidente, who got his current reputation dealing with the 9/11 crisis, has been convinced that "crisis management" is the way to go in getting what he wants in his second term. What he wants in his second term is (a) the dismantling of Social Security, at least a start on that worthy demolition; (b) a thoroughly right-wing judiciary; and (c) a cessation of citizens' rights to sue for damages. Read this.

a. "Warning of the need for urgent action on his Social Security plan, Bush says the 'crisis is now' for a system even the most pessimistic observers say will take in more in taxes than it pays out in benefits well into the next decade." Republicans have hated Social Security since FDR got it enacted in the 1930s. (Jesse Helms used to have well publicized wet dreams about phasing it out.) El Presidente's handlers think they've found a wedge for finally destroying it: generate envy among 20-year-olds. "Look at what you're being made to pay for that you'll never live long enough to enjoy!" they taunt. Maybe that'll work. Maybe that'll work because there are "Republican lite" Democratic senators willing to throw away Social Security out of fear for their own sorry hides.

b. President Bush accuses Senate Democrats of creating a "vacancy crisis" in the federal judiciary by blocking 10 of his 229 judicial nominees, "although confirmation of Bush nominees exceeds, in most cases, the first-term records of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan."

c. Currently, El Presidente is on a campaign-style round of speeches calling for "tort reform," a.k.a., limiting a patient's right to sue for large damages. Bush used the word "crisis" four times on Thursday in a speech in Collinsville, Ill., "where he blamed lawsuits for depriving Americans, especially those in rural areas, of quality physicians to deliver babies and save lives." It would never occur to this little man to blame the big insurance companies for driving up the costs of malpractice insurance for their own bottom-lines. Here's a fact: "In 2002, the last year for which complete figures are available, malpractice costs amounted to less than 2 percent of health care costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office."

When you hear this president talk crisis, better reach for your wallet. And keep the Constitution close.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Profiles in Self Righteousness

Madame Virginia Foxx is quoted in today's Watauga Democrat: "The Democrats make things political. We [Republicans?] talk about getting things done. The President invited Democrats to the White House when we met Monday and reached out to them to work together for the good of the country. The Republicans talk constantly about working together on issues and haven't been critical of Democrats at all."

What (parallel?) universe is she living in?

"If you do as we say, you're 'working together for the good of the country.' If you object, you're 'making things political.' "

Got it?

First We Count the Money & Then We Do Our Commentary

USA Today spilled this particular pot of high-priced beans yesterday: Armstrong Williams, nationally prominent conservative black opinionator, admits he accepted $240,000 from the Bush administration's Education Department to promote "No Child Left Behind" on his radio and TV show, "The Right Side."

The same people in the Education Dept. were behind fake news casts in support of the Medicare prescription drug bill a year ago, for which they got slapped by the Government Accountability Office, which called the fake news pieces an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars. "Illegal," incidentally, because Congress has prohibited propaganda or any sort of lobbying for programs funded by the government.

For his part, Armstrong Williams was blithely unconcerned when confronted, justifying the acceptance of cash-for-positive-spin because he was already in favor of No Child Left Behind. Convenient, then, ain't it, that being "for" something can earn you big bucks from the Big Bucks Administration?

Let's call it what it is: corruption.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bush Sends New Message on "Kinder, Gentler"

President Bush has nominated Claude A. Allen, controversial conservative who was one of the first black aides to North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, as the president's new domestic-policy adviser.

Allen was previously turned away by Senate Democrats from becoming a judge on the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Curiously, El Presidente did not renominate HIM to the federal bench, like he did those others. Instead, Allen gets a White House job.

During his 2003 confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee for that failed judgeship, Allen was asked about remarks he made to a North Carolina newspaper during Helms' 1984 re-election campaign. In that interview, he accused Helms' Democratic challenger, then-Gov. James Hunt, of having links to "radical feminists" and "queers." In the 2003 hearings, Allen said he did not intend to slur gays. Instead, he said, he was trying to describe "odd" people involved with the Hunt campaign.

Well, granted, they WERE odd people -- given the rampant baby-eating and all -- and thank Gawd! Vernon Robinson will now have someone to talk to when he needs to call the White House.

Gonzales Summary

1. This administration, post9/11, winked at (at least) or ordered (at most) torture, as an instrument of (divine) retribution on "evil-doers" who murdered over 3,000 of our citizens. The president's lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, a very pleasant person, actively participated behind closed doors to discover a right accruing to the president (as protector of the land) to allow the torture of prisoners. (Hairs were split later about whether a prisoner of war was different from Al Qaeda, but you can spit in the ocean and make more waves than that with me.)

2. Abu Graib dawned.

3. The only people to pay for Abu Graib (so far) are "grunts." Their higher-ups claim repeatedly that Abu Graib is "isolated," performed by "rogues" and "hillbillies."

4. The subsequent Bush administration public disavowal of torture never quite rises to accountability, and though more Abu Graibs have been uncovered, the president was reelected anyway.

5. The president appoints Alberto Gonzales as his new Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. Someone smart in that White House knew that Gonzales's activity, weasling on torture, might be a problem. "Cruel and unusual punishment" is explicitly barred by our Constitution, and Congress has passed statutes that bar torture in war.

6. The Bush administration's public backpedaling becomes fierce enough to raise a breeze. In fact, the parsing of Gonzales' words by spokesmen for the administration -- which wouldn't have been necessary without the leaking of secrets -- proves how deeply into this shit they were (and don't we know by now that the parsing of words is an admission of guilt?).

Gonzales on TV ... okay, it's difficult to see this perfectly nice guy, this light-weight (let's face it), as the author of any grand legal weasling on torture. It's easier to see him as patsy (and the commentator you love to hate, Chris Matthews, was on this theme last night, maximizing the report from yesterday that it was actually Dick Cheney's in-house lawyer who came up with the legal reasoning behind at least one of those notorious torture memos).

Seeing Gonzales deal with hard questions, you can see that the nice-guy thing is both his best quality (hell! maybe he'll free himself of bad influences and actually rise to the office he's going to be confirmed for) and his worst quality. How can you watch him dancing around the hard questions, being unresponsive, even resorting to the lamely classic "I don't recall, Senator" and think that he'll ever get over being popular with, being in the fraternity of George Bush. He can't. He's not strong enough.

And this is not good.

(If you're looking for mid-day summaries of what's happened during the confirmation today, here's one newsy write-up with lots of quotes. There’ll be many more.)
A book review in Salon has made me very thoughtful this morning about the current intersection of religion and politics and about my own philosophical journey. (Thanks to Stumpy for passing this on.) In a review posted two days ago in Salon, Elizabeth Castelli reviewed the new book by Jim Wallis, famous "moderate" evangelical editor of Sojourners -- "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It." Castelli praises Wallis for reaffirming that "the moral" in our political culture should include a good deal more than posturing on abortion and homosexuality, but she also castigates Wallis for practicing an exclusionary habit of mind that associates "religion" with Christianity alone.

Wallis is an evangelical Christian who holds high the goal of social and political justice. Though I've never met him, I know him like a brother. I was in college with several Jim Wallises and was in fact a Jim Wallis myself, participating in "missions" to the poorest of the poor in West Texas, the Mexican families who did stoop labor for big (and little) farmers. I went on those missions ostensibly as an evangelizing Christian, believing at some level that accepting Jesus Christ as personal savior would somehow cure their poverty and the injustice that was inherent in their lives (accepting Christ for them, in our baby Baptist eyes, meant one thing: renouncing Catholicism, which was tantamount in our world to devil worship).

But something else animated my own resolve to make life better for Mexican "braceros." I grew up only a half-step ahead of them socially, mainly because (and only because) I was "white." I understood in my gut the social calculus of rich and poor, and the gorge could rise like a tsunami in me at the sight of injustice. I saw prejudice close up on the school yard. I heard it around me every day. I came to hate upper-class smugness and to despise "race" privilege. My God was not the God of institutional injustice, and He sustained me.

Now around me and on every side I hear the "Christian" voices proclaim that God has not only ordained the United States of America but this particular regime now running it, that everything this president does must be right because God has chosen him and because he is a "moral" man. I hear the Rev. Pat Robertson, not at all unrepresentative of the beefeaters in the ministry very comfortable in the company of power and privilege, saying that God has told him that He is going to help the Republicans lower taxes on the rich and "reform" social security. I hear callers on C-SPAN both denying the injustices of war and then applauding them, denying torture ever took place and then applauding the strong Christian warriorhood that isn't afraid to do "what has to be done" to keep God's kingdom on earth the bright and shining city on a hill.

And as I write this, Alberto Gonzales is on TV trying his best to blow back the swirling cesspool that has formed an eddy around this super-Christian in the Oval Office. Whatever faults Jim Wallis may have as an evangelical critic of this evangelical president, I'm glad he's come out with this book. More true Christian voices need to be raised against the rich pharisees who have highjacked our public policy, who threaten to highjack our Constitution.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Rev. Pat Robertson, Pipeline to God

On the January 3rd edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's "The 700 Club," Rev. Pat Robertson, host and Christian Coalition of America founder, made predictions for the New Year based on what he said God told him during a recent prayer retreat:

1. Robertson said that God said, "I will remove judges from the Supreme Court quickly, and their successors will refuse to sanction the attacks on religious faith." Can we just drop the other show, already? When is God gonna do something about people who attack sanctimonious hypocrites?

2. Robertson also said that he "heard it from the Lord" that President Bush will have Social Security and tax reform passed and that Muslims will turn to Jesus Christ. We would guess that having heard this revelation by now, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is hole up in a mosque writing out his voluntary commitment papers. The Jews are gonna be so-o-o-o jealous! Otherwise, it's just very sobering to find out that Jehovah takes such a strong interest in keeping the rich sleek and in jerking the social safety net out from under all those deadbeat old people.

3. "And I think the American stock market is going to surge upward, if I heard from the Lord. Again, ladies and gentlemen, don't go and buy stock on my recommendation, but that's what I feel in my heart. The Lord was saying it's going to be a super good year." And the Lord said to the rich Pharisee, "Sell all that thou hast and buy Wal-Mart."

4. "Well, the Lord has some very encouraging news for George Bush .... What I heard is that Bush is now positioned to have victory after victory and that his second term is going to be one of triumph, which is pretty strong stuff .... He'll have Social Security reform passed. He'll have tax reform passed. He'll have conservative judges on the courts. And that basically he is positioned for a series of dramatic victories which I hope will hearten him and his advisers. They don't have to be timid in this matter because the wind is blowing at his back, and he can move forward boldly and get results." Basically, God has a hard-on for George W. Bush but has to stay in the closet because, you know, He hates fags.

Tim Roemer, the Kind of Democrat That Republicans Love

Josh Marshall has up a new post about former congressman Tim Roemer, judged by some to be a leading contender to grab the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee away from Howard Dean. Marshall notes that both Democratic minority leaders, Reid in the Senate and Pelosi in the House, "improbably" support Roemer. Why? Marshall wants to know, considering that Roemer:

1. Favors privatization of Social Security.

2. Opposes abortion.

3. Voted against the Clinton budget of 1993, the budget that passed by just a single vote.

4. Voted for the Bush budget of 2001 and was one of only nine House Democrats to vote to make the Bush tax cuts permanent in 2002.

Marshall then writes:

"As I've said many times before, with a very few exceptions, we shouldn't view a politician's entire career through the prism of a single vote. But those two votes are awfully significant. They frame the mammoth fiscal challenges the country faces today. And they are at the root of the Democratic party's current claim to be the party of growth, equity, fiscal responsibility and economic stewardship. To me at least, that's a very important part of what the Democratic party stands for today.

"When Democrats claim credit, as they rightly do again and again, for bringing the country from perpetual deficits to surpluses in the 1990s, a major part of what they're talking about has to be the 1993 budget bill. When they denounce the Republicans as the party of deficits, fiscal recklessness and enemies of Social Security, in an equal measure, they're talking about President Bush's 2001 bill.

"Yet both of those arguments, by definition, are one's Roemer simply cannot make because he was on the other side of the issue both times. At best he would be a mockery whenever he debated Republicans on anything to do with fiscal policy since he consistently voted with them and not his own party. And no doubt they'd point that out...."

With Democratic party chairmanships to be filled soon, from the local county level on up through the state and the national leadership, we're apprehensive about people like Roemer. We would have to rethink our own commitment to a party that seems intent on going "red." Why not just make Newt Gingrinch chair of the DNC? We hear he's between jobs. And shares Roemer's policy positions.

The Tortuous Mr. Gonzales

The Senate confirmation hearings for Mr. Alberto R. Gonzales, White House Counsel, nominated by El Presidente to be Attorney General, are set for tomorrow before the Judiciary Committee (on C-SPAN starting at 10 a.m.).

We get somewhat lost in all the memoranda that flew in and out of the Bush White House during the last two years on the issue of torture, so forgive us while we sort this out (helped a great deal by a news account published this a.m. in the NYTimes, featuring leaked information out of the Justice Department):

1. In a memorandum, dated January 2002, Mr. Gonzales advised President Bush that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to fighters captured in Afghanistan. The next month the White House decided that the Geneva Conventions would be applied to Taliban captives but not to detainees linked to Al Qaeda. That memorandum concluded that interrogators had great leeway to question detainees using "coercive techniques" that they could assert were not torture. Never addressed: how do you tell Taliban from Al Qaeda?

2. Mr. Gonzales, on behalf of the White House, intervened directly with the Department of Justice, requesting a memorandum on torture (and it's pretty clear he was nudging the lawyers over there to give him what he wanted ... a virtual blank check for his boss to do whatever needed to be done to get information out of captives). According to the NYTimes, "Mr. Gonzales's request ... was somewhat unusual ... because he went directly to lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel, bypassing the office of the deputy attorney general, which is often notified of politically delicate requests for legal opinions made by executive-branch agencies, including the White House." In other words, Gonzales found some lawyers to do this dirty work for him, while giving their bosses plausible deniability. The lawyers Gonzales found were primarily Jay S. Bybee, then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and the notorious John Yoo, now on the law faculty at the University of Calif.-Berkeley. Mr. Bybee and Mr. Yoo indulged Mr. Gonzales's wildest fantasies. They produced the much-debated Justice Department memorandum of Aug. 1, 2002, which limited the definition of torture as treatment causing pain associated with death or organ failure and said that Mr. Bush could circumvent domestic and international prohibitions against torture in the name of national security. Mr. Gonzales has spoken of this memorandum as a "response to questions," without saying that most of the questions were his and that he had carefully picked the lawyers who would do the answering. The NYTimes's unidentified source said that Mr. Gonzales was very good at eliciting the answers he wanted.

3. The Justice Department formally rescinded the August Bybee/Yoo memorandum just last week, quietly posting the revision without announcement on its web site on December 30th. The new memorandum issued a legal opinion saying that torture should be more broadly defined and that there was no need to say that President Bush had the authority to sanction torture because "he has said unequivocally that it is not permitted." The revision stated that "torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms." It rejected the language in the earlier Bybee/Yoo memorandum, which said that only physical pain "of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure" constituted torture punishable by law. The timing of this new revision is interesting, and Justice Department officials told the NYTimes that Mr. Gonzales was involved in its preparation.

So ... Need a quicker summary? Here 'tis:

El Presidente feels he needs to torture people in the name of spreading democracy. His lawyer, Mr. Gonzales, manufactures (or induces Justice Dept. flunkies to manufacture) a "legal" opinion that it's just fine for El Presidente to torture certain undesirables because -- hey! -- it isn't actually torture anyway. But -- oops! -- Mr. Gonzales gets nominated to head the Justice Dept. (nice irony, that!), so the Justice Dept. once again obliges its masters and puts out a new memorandum which tries to pull Mr. Gonzales' walnuts out of the cracker.

Tell us again about the most moral presidency of all times.

UPDATE: Here's another account of Mr. Gonzales, also based on unnamed sources, which suggests that Gonzales was actually just a patsy for Dick Cheney's lawyer, David S. Addington. Here's the key passage: "...another official familiar with the administration's legal policymaking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because such deliberations are supposed to be confidential, said that Gonzales often acquiesced in policymaking by others. This might not be the best quality for an official nominated to be attorney general, the nation's top law enforcement job, the administration official said."

Of course, acquiesence to El Presidente is what has kept Gonzales at Bush's side for almost a decade.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Foxx Votes to Weaken Ethics in the U.S. House

In her first ever votes as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Madame Foxx voted to weaken the rules governing the ethics of House members. She's made us so-o-o-o proud!

Though the Republican leadership deep-sixed notorious new rules that would have allowed Tom DeLay to continue as Majority Leader if & when he's indicted of crimes, they slipped in another change that cripples ethics investigations in a substantive way, virtually guaranteeing that in this partisan atmosphere, no serious charges against any member will ever go anywhere. In short: The new rules provide that the ethics committee will take no action on a complaint against a member unless the chairman and ranking minority member, or a majority of the committee, find within 45 days that an investigation is merited. Previously a complaint automatically went to an investigative committee if no action was taken within 45 days.

Though Joel Hefley had said earlier he would oppose the rules change, we were watching C-SPAN this afternoon when he spoke in the floor debate in favor. Oh he criticized the weakening of the ethics rules in his speech, trying to have it both ways, but said he'd vote yea and hope to get the rules changed later. The votes on the new bill were all largely straight party-line (one Democrat, apparently, voting with the Republicans).

If you want to ask Madame Foxx directly why she voted to weaken ethics rules, you'll find her snail-mail address here. She can NOT be contacted yet via e-mail through her web site, though we assume that's an omission that will be rectified in due time.

Libertarians Reaching Leftward?

Lew Rockwell, whose libertarian blog is one of our regular watering holes, is urging fellow libertarians to stop reaching out to the Republican Right and reach Left instead. Why? Because the so-called "conservative majority" in the U.S. is tending fascist:

"If you follow hate-filled sites such as Free Republic, you know that the populist right in this country has been advocating nuclear holocaust and mass bloodshed for more than a year now. The militarism and nationalism dwarfs anything I saw at any point during the Cold War. It celebrates the shedding of blood, and exhibits a maniacal love of the state. The new ideology of the red-state bourgeoisie seems to actually believe that the U.S. is God marching on earth -- not just godlike, but really serving as a proxy for God himself. Along with this goes a kind of worship of the presidency, and a celebration of all things public sector, including egregious law like the Patriot Act, egregious bureaucracies like the Department of Homeland Security, and egregious centrally imposed regimentation like the No Child Left Behind Act. It longs for the state to throw its weight behind institutions like the two-parent heterosexual family, the Christian charity, the homogeneous community of native-born patriots."

My own libertarian streak would welcome common-cause with libertarians of Lew Rockwell's intellectual rigor.

Republicans Jettison "DeLay Rule"

They only just changed the rule in November, to save House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's delicate hide, saying that, if indicted, he didn't have to step down from his leadership post. Well, last night, feeling some intense pressure from fair-minded members of their own party, the Republican Caucus in the U.S. House reversed itself and reinstated the old rule (though they couldn't quite resist weakening ethics investigations in another way, making it a simple matter to kill an investigation in the event of a tied vote in the Ethics Committee ... an easy call, since the Ethics Committee is deliberately set up with an equal number of Republican and Democratic members, so tied votes are not only likely ... they're expected).

Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) said last night after his caucus reversed the "DeLay Rule," "I feel like we have just taken a shower." We hope nobody dropped the soap. That many announced homophobes has GOT to include a fair number of suppressed yearners.

Howie Kurtz in the WashPost observed, "If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of a horde of House GOPers beating a hasty retreat."

Andrew Sullivan, who we hear knows a thing or two about group showers, wrote, "Here's a sign that the Republican leadership on the Hill know that hubris is a real danger. DeLay is ruthless. But he's not dumb. The Republicans know that their public support is tenuous; that their increased numbers were primarily a function of gerrymandering. Bending ethics rules for their own purposes was never going to fly."

O tempores! O moral superiority!

UPDATE: Congressman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), the beleaguered chair of the House Ethics Committee, is quoted in this a.m.'s NYTimes saying he will publicly oppose changes to the ethics rules, if they come to the House floor. "This is not the way to effect meaningful reform," Hefley said, referring to the fact that Democrats had not been consulted. "Ethics reform must be bipartisan, and this package is not bipartisan." What does Hefley have to lose, since his own leadership have made it very clear they were planning to dump him off the ethics panel anyway? Hefley does not intend to go quietly, evidently.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Whitman Book

Drudge is on the Christie Todd Whitman book, saying its timing (coming out at inauguration time) will insure maximum press, and quoting passages leaked from someone at the WashPost:

Whitman charges on Page 3 that Bush's three-percentage-point margin in the popular vote is the lowest of any incumbent president ever to win reelection. "The numbers show that while the president certainly did energize his political base, the red state/blue state map changed barely at all, suggesting that he had missed an opportunity to significantly broaden his support in the most populous areas of the country. The Karl Rove strategy to focus so rigorously on the narrow conservative base won the day, but we must ask at what price to governing and at what risk to the future of the party." Whitman details her many scars and frustrations in dealing with what she calls the "antiregulatory lobbyists and extreme antigovernment ideologues" that she suggests hold too much sway over the Republican party.

First Shot Is Fired in Battle for Chair of N.C. Dems

Jim Long, the popular state Insurance Commissioner, has opened the first howling hole in Mike Easley's ability to dictate the next chair of the state's Democratic Party. Long has written a letter to the 570 members of the state's Executive Committee advocating for Jerry Meek as the next chair. Long's reasons for picking Meek focus on rejuvenating the party from the precinct level up, which he thinks Meek will emphasize, vs. the "national connections" that Easley's pick Ed Turlington has.

Jim Long is exactly right.

Women Discriminated Against in State Government

A new study conducted by the North Carolina Office of State Personnel has found huge inequities in hiring and salaries paid for state work. This a.m.'s Raleigh News & Observer reports that "men hold 75 percent of jobs in the top 15 paygrades in government. Women hold 72 percent of jobs in the bottom 10 grades. Even women in management or professional positions often make less than men. And women are often paid less than men for jobs that require more training and education, the report states."

With the $1 billion crater opening in the 2005 state budget, don't expect the state legislature to do anything about pay for those bottom 10 grades.

Gonzales to Face Tough Questions

The Senate confirmation hearings of Alberto Gonzales, nominated by El Presidente to fill the sanctified shoes of John Ashcroft as Attorney General, might be worth staying home from work to watch on C-SPAN. The hearings are set to begin this Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Gonzales is sure to be asked about infamous memos he wrote justifying the torture of prisoners -- one in particular opined that the President of the United States could do anything he wanted to in his role as protector. In another memorandum, he wrote to the president saying the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the conflict in Afghanistan. He described the conventions as "quaint." Watch Gonzales deny that he ever wrote (i.e., meant) any such thing. He'll say his language has been misinterpreted, probably for partisan political reasons.

Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, who served as the Navy's judge advocate general from 1997 to 2000 before he retired, is joining several other military legal experts, all former generals or admirals, in releasing a letter today asserting that Mr. Gonzales's legal judgments should disqualify him for the post of attorney general. The NYTimes published excerpts of that letter this a.m., but there's more on it here. The letter says Mr. Gonzales's actions "fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts, and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world."

Conventional wisdom in D.C. has it that Bush will nominate Gonzales to the Supreme Court the minute there's a vacancy.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Christie Whitman Blasts "Far Right" Republicans

The Associated Press got its hands on an advance copy of former Bush cabinet member Christine Todd Whitman's new book, and apparently she's decided not to go gentle into that good night. Her title alone speaks volumes: "It's My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America." It's a "moderate" Republican's jeremiad, evidently: "A clear and present danger Republicans face today is that the party will now move so far to the right that it ends up alienating centrist voters and marginalizing itself," Whitman writes in the book.

The AP report says, "Whitman, who served as Environmental Protection Agency administrator for President Bush from 2001 until May 2003, also says in the book that she was often at odds with the White House on issues such as setting caps on air pollutants, controls on power plant emissions and the debate over global warming. Her tenure was marred by conservatives who felt she was too moderate."

Whitman and other Republican "moderates" like her -- bless their hearts -- have their work cut out for them, if they plan to exert their moderation on a party that seems now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American mullahs. Or vice versa. Either way, from the county-level to the national, the people in charge don't seem disposed to listen to anyone less extreme.