Sid's Fishbowl
A proud member of the reality-based community (aquatic division)
Monday, February 28, 2005


The insurgency in Iraq is not likely to be put down in a year or even two since history shows such uprisings can last a decade or more, the United States' top military commander said on Friday.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said that in the past century, insurgencies around the world have lasted anywhere from seven to 12 years, making a quick fix to the problem in Iraq unlikely.

That’s in addition to the mind-boggling, budget-busting deficits that will live on for years after Bush is safely back at the “ranch” in Waco Crawford, “clearing brush.”

Hey, this Scott Bateman guy’s good! Go read more.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Cosmic Iguana exposes the latest attack on veterans by the Bush Administration:

Republican majorities on the House and Senate veterans' affairs committees have voted to impose an enrollment fee of at least $230 a year on 2.4 million veterans - one of every three now eligible for Veterans Affairs Administration health care.

Those targeted are in priority categories 7 and 8, meaning they are neither poor nor suffering from service-connected disabilities. Half of the 2.4 million used the VA health system last year.

The Bush administration proposed the enrollment fee to hold down costs. The VA committees rejected another Bush proposal to raise co-payments on VA-filled prescriptions for these same priority 7 and 8 veterans...

Huh. Sure sounds like a tax increase to me!

Who knew that the AARP headquarters is actually a pineapple under the sea?


Billmon has the entire breathtaking ad campaign.

Oliver Willis explains in details so clear, even Jeff Jarvis should be able to understand it.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The folks at News Hounds watch Bill O’Reilly interview David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK and former member of the House of Representatives from Louisiana.

Guess which one comes across as “rude, unprofessional, angry, and ignorant”? (Hint: David Duke was the “rational, intelligent, and tolerant” one.)


Friday, February 25, 2005

It’s really, really hard to compete with this.

This is my best effort:


Thursday, February 24, 2005

A nice remembrance of Hunter Thompson by John Nichols in The Nation:

In 1970, fresh from covering the assassinations, police riots and related disappointments of the 1968 presidential campaign, Thompson waded into the fight himself as a "pro-hippie, anti-development" candidate for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, which included the ski town of Aspen. Thompson wanted to win in order to save what was still a rural, live-and-let-live county from the influx of Hollywood stars, corporate hoteliers and the rest of the elite entourage that would make it the nation's premier ski resort. But he also wanted to teach a lesson about politics that would have meaning far beyond Colorado.

Thompson ran on what he and his backers dubbed the "Freak Power" ticket, declaring in an advertisement in the Aspen Times that, "(In) 1970 Amerika a lot of people are beginning to understand that to be a freak is an honorable way to go. This is the real point: that we are not really freaks at all - not in the literal sense -- but the twisted realities of the world we are trying to live in have somehow combined to make us feel like freaks. We argue, we protest, we petition -- but nothing changes. So now, with the rest of the nation erupting in a firestorm of bombings and political killings, a handful of "freaks" are running a final, perhaps atavistic experiment with the idea of forcing change by voting..."

At a time when many of his contemporaries were disappearing into a drug haze, or shouting silly "Smash-the-State" slogans, Thompson was exploring a more radical prospect. He wanted to combine "Woodstock vibrations, New Left activism, and basic Jeffersonian Democracy with strong echoes of the Boston Tea Party ethic" into what the writer-candidate referred to as "a blueprint for stomping the (conservative Vice President Spiro) Agnew mentality by its own rules -- with the vote, instead of the bomb; by seizing the power machinery and using it, instead of merely destroying it."

I keep thinking we’ve somehow traveled back to 1970 and, oddly, it comforts me. I must go listen to some Grateful Dead now and see if I can track down some reefer.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

They even lie about the number of dead and wounded in Iraq:

I started to notice something several months ago. The local papers would interview the mother of someone killed or wounded in Iraq, and more often than not, there'd be a bitter aside: "Of course, for some reason, he's not included in the official totals."

Go read the rest. It’ll send chills down your spine. Mass graves of U.S. soldiers? God help us if this is true, and it actually sounds like this might be too appallingly true.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

There’s a sleazy comparison paper from USA Next entitled AARP Against Taxpayers. It includes this whopper:

Non-profit grassroots associations should be funded by voluntary supporters—not by forcing taxpayers to pay for their activism.

USA Next is funded solely through voluntary contributions of independent individuals, groups, businesses, families and friends. AARP has taken an average of nearly $60 million each year from taxpayers.

Interesting. And a case study in the art of how to lie by leaving out relevant facts. A Washington Monthly piece from last April includes this tidbit on USA Next:

Then there's the benignly-named United Seniors Association (USA), which serves as a soft-money slush fund for a single GOP-friendly industry: pharmaceuticals. USA claims a nationwide network of more than one million activists, but, just like Progress for America, listed zero income from membership dues in its most recent available tax return. USA does, however, have plenty of money on its hands. During the 2002 elections, with an "unrestricted educational grant" from the drug industry burning a hole in its pocket, the group spent roughly $14 million--the lion's share of its budget--on ads defending Republican members of Congress for their votes on a Medicare prescription-drug bill.

By contrast, page 5 pf the AARP audited financial statement shows that in 2003 the organization took in $210 million in membership dues and made another $377 million through royalties and service provider management activities (including its share of member benefit programs like auto and home insurance) and advertising in its publications.

So, let’s review:

  • AARP gets around 10% of its income from federal grants and more than 80% through direct or indirect payments from its members.
  • USA Next gets no income from individuals and virtually all of its money from corporate contributions, the largest chunk of which are from big pharmaceutical companies.

Who do you trust?

(Full disclosure: I am an under-50 member of AARP and have both auto and home insurance through affiliated programs. I was unhappy when the organization supported the Medicare prescription drug bill but apart from that lapse I generally think AARP does a good job of advocating for things that are good for society.)

PS: Don't miss two additional fact-filled recent posts on USA Next - here and here.

Oliver Willis is wondering why his hate mail spiked today. It turns out, he says, “The loons at Free Republic have noticed our Hume campaign.”

Free advice, Oliver. Send an abusive, obscenity-filled e-mail to everyone who writes you with a complaint, regardless of how reasonable it is. Then apologize to one person and everything will be OK. Trust me, this works. The #1 blog in America did it, so it must be OK.

The lesson the Swift Boat Vets taught us all is to fight back early and hard. Now that they’ve morphed into the Not-So-Swift Seniors for Slime, aka USA Next, it’s time for action. This group has pulled its gay-bashing hate ad (first revealed by Josh Marshall) and is now offering a “FREE SPECIAL REPORT – 14 Facts the AARP Don’t Want You to Know!” That ad is running on the American Spectator site (I refuse to link to them). When you click through the ad, you just go to the USA Next home page, with nary a special report to be found. Hmmm.

But if you click around a bit you can find this option (powered by’s eConstituent software) to send a letter to your representative. It’s all under the heading Stop Government Funding of AARP and it is a giant lie:

Recipients: This letter will be sent out to Flexible Target representatives.

Instructions: Below is the body of the letter selected. First please create your letter, second enter your contact information, then click "Continue"

Dear (contact name will be automatically filled in here):

I'm outraged to learn that last year the federal government gave almost $1 billion in grants to the AARP since 1988 ($57 million in 2001!), and that this goes on year after year. As a Senior citizen, I'm asking you to use your influence to stop using my tax dollars, via government grants, to fund one of the most liberal, big-government, special-interest groups in America - an organization that supports programs resulting in higher taxes, more bureaucrat-run health care for me and my fellow Seniors, and no reform of our faltering Social Security system.

I will be following this issue closely to see what action you and your fellow members of Congress take to stop this immoral partisan giveaway.

Thank you for your help!

I’ve highlighted the key sentence in this letter in red. I’ll give my entire Social Security check for the current month (total value, $0.00) to anyone who can explain what this means. According to the semi-literate copywriter, last year the federal government gave a billion in grants since 1988, and this goes on year after year. Hmmm. According to the AARP audited annual report, the United States Department of Labor gave approximately $77 million in grants to the AARP Foundation last year. If USA Next is right about the $1 billion since 1988, that averages out to about $65 million a year, which is in the same ballpark. For the record, that’s roughly 10% of AARP’s annual budget.

I believe USA Next is deliberately trying to create the impression that the AARP gets a billion dollars a year from the federal government and uses that money for lobbying, even though the truth is that the amounts are a tiny fraction of a billion dollars and the funds are spent on legitimate programs.

Where do those federal grant dollars go? USA Next doesn’t tell its readers, so I will. On page 15 of the aforementioned 2003 annual report, the AARP auditors note:

AARP administers grants received from federal agencies and private organizations, The two largest grant programs are discussed below:

  • Senior Community Service Employment Program provides temporary, subsidized employment for persons 55 and older whose income is at or below 125% of the Federal poverty level. The Department of Labor, under the authority of the Older Americans Act of 1965, has renewed this program annually since 1969. The current commitment expires in June 2004.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly provides volunteer assistance for federal income tax preparation to low– and moderate-income older persons throughout the country. In the 2003 and 2002 tax seasons, approximately 1,900,000 and 1,700,000 older persons were assisted. The current commitment expires in September 2004.

Included in grant revenues from sponsoring agencies are amounts paid to entrollees, facility costs, office expenses, and certain indirect costs charged at predetermined rates. Final indirect cost rates through 2001 have been approved by the Department of Labor.

Federal and other program grant expenses are also funded from nonfederal contributions, including contributions from AARP. In 2003 and 2002, AARP shared in federally sponsored program expenses in the amounts $22,652,000 and $18,515,000, respectively.

Now, this all sounds like a pretty worthwhile expenditure of funds to me, and AARP is kicking in its own dollars as well. I find the implications in the USA Next campaign reprehensible. Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes Rush, Sean, Bill, and the rest to start spreading the “billions for the AARP” lies?

Question: Is there a progressive organization that has an automated letter-writing tool that is similar to what USA Next/Votenet is using? If so, I would like to see an option to send a letter to lawmakers exposing the USA Next fraud for what it is and supporting these worthwhile programs.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker won his fifth George Polk Award for his accounts of prisoner abuse in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, making him the most-honored individual in the history of the awards. Reporters from The New York Times took three of the 2004 awards, and The Associated Press was a double winner.

Hersh won the magazine reporting prize for his Abu Ghraib stories 35 years after winning the Polk award for coverage of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

This is the same award Bill O’Reilly is so proud of. Wonder if he’ll mention this on his show?

Here’s the graphic from an ad already running on some right-wing Web sites. So the AARP wants to kill soldiers and promote gay marriage, just as the Swift Boat liars wounded John Kerry’s campaign last year. Lovely. And of course, they’re at arm’s length from the White House while still working in lockstep with them.


The ad leads to the Web site of USA Next. Don’t click unless you have a strong stomach.

Today’s New York Times has some details on these folks:

The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush's plan.


To help set USA Next's strategy, the group has hired Chris LaCivita, an enthusiastic former marine who advised Swift Vets and P.O.W.'s for Truth, formerly known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, on its media campaign and helped write its potent commercials. He earned more than $30,000 for his work, campaign finance filings show.

Officials said the group is also seeking to hire Rick Reed, a partner at Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, a firm that was hired by Swift Vets and was paid more than $276,000 to do media production, records show.

For public relations, USA Next has turned to Creative Response Concepts, a Virginia firm that represented both Swift Vets - the company was paid more than $165,000 - and Regnery Publishing, the publisher of "Unfit for Command," a book about Senator John Kerry's military service whose co-author was John E. O'Neill, one of the primary leaders of Swift Vets.

The strategy? Divide and conquer:

Mr. Jarvis said the group's goal is to peel off one million members from AARP, by presenting itself as a conservative, free-market alternative. He says USA Next surveys show that more than 37 percent of AARP members call themselves Republicans.

"We are going to take them on in hand-to-hand combat," said Mr. Jarvis, who is biting in his remarks about AARP, calling the group "stodgy, overweight, bureaucratic and out of touch."

And who’s paying for it all? Why, I’m very glad you asked.

The group spent years primarily working with direct mail before changing to a model that emphasized the use of heavy television and radio advertising to get its message across, fueled by millions of dollars from wealthy donors, trade associations and companies that share its views.

Mr. Jarvis said donors have included food, nutrition, energy and pharmaceutical companies, which have given money to support various advertising campaigns.

In previous years, and often during elections, the money was used to saturate the airwaves with advertisements. In 2002, for example, the group relied partly on money from the pharmaceutical industry to spend roughly $9 million on television commercials and mailings supporting Republican prescription drug legislation and the lawmakers who backed it.

The group spent more money than any other interest group on House races that year, according to a study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project, and drew charges from Democrats that it was a stealth campaign by the pharmaceutical industry to support House Republicans. The group denied the allegations. Critics contended that the group was a front for corporate special interests. In a 2002 report, Public Citizen's Congress Watch denounced it, calling its leadership "hired guns."

Art Linkletter is their spokesperson. Right-wing scum do the darnedest things!

Compare and contrast:

Opponents of 'Clear Skies' Bill Examined

The chairman of a Senate committee that oversees environmental issues has directed two national organizations that oppose President Bush's major clean-air initiative to turn over their financial and tax records to the Senate.

Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who heads the Environment and Public Works Committee, asked for the documents 10 days after a representative of the two groups criticized Bush's "Clear Skies" proposal before a Senate subcommittee. Inhofe is the leading sponsor of the administration bill, which is deadlocked in his panel.

The executive director of the two organizations, which represent state and local air pollution control agencies and officials, charged that the request was an attempt to intimidate critics of the measure.

Democratic senators on Inhofe's committee also were dismayed by his action, but declined to say so publicly because they were in the midst of sensitive negotiations with the chairman on the legislation, staffers said.

The committee's majority staff director, Andrew Wheeler, said the request for the groups' documents did not stem from their criticism of the legislation. He said the panel wanted to determine whether the groups represented only regulators' views or whether they also were subsidized by outside interests, including environmentalists or foundations.

Bush Administration Energy Task Force - Background

In early 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney presided over a task force charged with setting a new national energy policy. For months high-ranking Bush administration officials met in secret with lobbyists and executives from utility companies and the oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy industries. In May 2001 the task force released its recommendations: more subsidies to polluting industries, more reliance on oil, more nuclear power. Despite NRDC's repeated requests for information, the Bush administration refused to disclose the names of industry participants in the task force or what they discussed with Bush policymakers.

In April 2001 NRDC filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for access to the task force's records; the Bush administration refused to comply. NRDC filed suit, and a federal judge ordered the administration to turn over the documents. On March 25, 2002, nearly a year after first requesting them, NRDC received roughly 10,000 pages relating to the task force from the Department of Energy. Subsequently the department provided another 3,500 pages, but withheld more than 16,000 others.

Too many secrets.

Inhofe, by the way, is a certified wacko. See this and this and this for more details.

The latest Harris Poll:

…almost six in 10 (59%) adults now favor bringing most troops home in the next year and 39 percent favor keeping a large number of troops in Iraq until there is a stable government there. In November, less than half (47%) favored bringing troops home and half (50%) favored keeping troops in Iraq.

That might be good news, except for this part, which is really, really depressing:

More surprising perhaps are the large numbers (albeit not majorities) who believe the following claims not made by the president and which virtually no experts believe to be true:

  • 47 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 (up six percentage points from November).
  • 44 percent actually believe that several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis (up significantly from 37% in November).
  • 36 percent believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded (down slightly from 38% in November).

Another interesting finding is that only 46 percent believe that Saddam Hussein was prevented from developing weapons of mass destruction by the U.N. weapons inspectors, a fact which most reports now support.

Proof positive that the American people are simply not paying attention. In a year, how many American’s will believe that Iran had something to do with 9/11?

Mark Schmitt reads Powerline, Time Magazine’s Blog of the Year, and finds this doozy:

Henry Kissinger observed that the Carter administration had managed the extraordinary feat of having achieved, at one and the same time, "the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War."

Of course, that speech was made at the 1980 Republican convention that nominated Ronald Reagan to run against Jimmy Carter. And I would imagine that even in his most partisan moments Dr. K would have a hard time saying the same thing today, given the stellar record of GWB, who has managed to alienate allies, adversaries and neutral parties alike.

I hold my nose and visit Powerline occasionally just to see what the grand poobahs from the opposite side of the blogosphere are up to. Apparently they’re a bunch of potty-mouths with poor impulse control.

They’re also capable of craptacular analysis like this bit from yesterday:

The so-called [Iraq] insurgency has long consisted of two main elements, the al Qaeda-linked terrorists, most of whom are not Iraqis, and Baathist Sunnis whose objectives are more narrowly political. It sounds as though some of the latter group, at least, are ready to throw in the towel. Their violence had two main strategic objectives: first, to prevent President Bush from being re-elected; second, to prevent the Iraqi election from going forward. Both failed. If they give up, the terrorists will be isolated and can much more easily be defeated.

Part of me wants to think this is just satire of a highly elevated type. I mean, to assume that the number-one reason why an indigenous force has taken up arms against an occupying army is to battle the brave Republican party and its fearless standard-bearer is just, well, silly. By that logic, the Vietnam War should have ended when Ho Chi Minh successfully convinced Lyndon Johnson to withdraw from the 1968 Presidential race. The people have won!

What a bunch of maroons.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Political Wire has word of a new survey:

"Americans want Democrats to stand up to Bush," the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reports. "Fully 60%, including one-fourth of Republicans, say Democrats in Congress should make sure Bush and his party 'don't go too far.' Just 34% want Democrats to 'work in a bipartisan way' to help pass the president's priorities."

Now read Digby’s take, which is pitch-perfect:

We all know that the Republicans have spent may years damning our party for being weak, traitorous and cowardly. This seems like a very good opportunity to begin to turn that around. People want the Democrats to obstruct the excesses of the GOP --- even a quarter of the GOP itself.

Perhaps the best way to put this is simply to say it exactly as the question is worded. "We are keeping the Republicans from going too far." There's a certain common sense ring to that that I think a lot of people understand instinctively. This may be the key to why the public hasn't rallied around the social security privatization phase out plan. They can feel that the Republicans are just going too far.

Exactly. Americans respect those who stand up to bullies. They scorn those who try to compromise on principles that shouldn’t be compromised. Hear that, Joe Lieberman?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

David Brooks has always been a moron and a partisan hack, but today’s column is staggeringly, breathtakingly bad:

In the past months we have learned that the prescription drug benefit passed last year is not going to cost $400 billion over 10 years. The projections now, over a slightly different period, are that it's going to cost over $700 billion. And these cost estimates are coming before the program is even operating. They are only going to go up.

That means we're going to be spending the next few months bleeding over budget restraints that might produce savings in the millions, while the new prescription drug benefit will produce spending in the billions.

That means that as we spend the next year trying to get a grip on one entitlement, Social Security, we'll be launching a new one that is also unsustainable.

Over the next few months we will be watching a government that may be millions-wise, but trillions-foolish. We will be watching a government that sometimes seems to have lost all perspective - like a lunatic who tries to dry himself with a hand towel while standing in a torrential downpour.

And much of this new spending will go to people who have insurance to pay for their drugs.

Oh, David, you were thisclose to actually understanding the nature of the problem. First of all, Social Security is not an “entitlement.” With a few exceptions, the program is a self-funding insurance mechanism. Every year, the Social Security Administration sends me a statement that tells me how much I’ve paid in over my lifetime. It’s a lot of money. In fact, I’ve been overpaying for the past 22 years so that the system could build up a surplus that could be used to pay for me and other people my age, including David Brooks, when we retire. We’re, um, entitled to get the benefits we were promised in exchange for those contributions we made to the system.

Now, back to the Medicare drug benefit. David seems to think this is a conspiracy by the powerful AARP lobby to pick the pockets of the public. He even says so explicitly:

We may as well be blunt about the driving force behind all this. The living and well organized are taking money from the weak and the unborn. Over the past decades we have seen a gigantic transfer of wealth from struggling young families and the next generation to members of the AARP. In 1990, 29 percent of federal spending went to seniors; by 2015 roughly half of all government spending will go to those over 65. This prescription drug measure is just part of that great redistribution.

No, David, you miserable tool of your Heritage Foundation masters, that’s not it. If you’d really like to be blunt about it, the driving force behind all this is the powerful pharmaceutical industry, which makes massive contributions to the political establishment and is skimming massive amounts of money off this program. Unconscionable amounts, really. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, a Republican and an MD and certainly no liberal, wrote this when the bill was passed:

The new Medicare drug plan enriches pharmaceutical companies, fleeces taxpayers, and forces millions of older Americans to accept inferior drug coverage ú while doing nothing to address the real reasons prescription drugs cost so much.

Nothing from the government is free, of course, and prescription drugs will be no exception. The perception that seniors will be able to flash a Medicare card at the pharmacy and walk out without paying anything is completely false. In fact, many seniors will end up paying more out-of-pocket under the Medicare scheme than they do now with their private plans. The Medicare drug benefit requires monthly premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, just as private plans do. It also has gaps in coverage that no sensible person would accept if offered by a private insurer. Like all government programs, the Medicare drug entitlement will be shabby, degrading, and inferior to the private sector.

The vast majority of older Americans already have private prescription drug coverage that they don’t want changed, and this 78% of seniors may well lose their good private coverage altogether. In fact, the government’s own Congressional Budget Office estimates that at least one-third of all private companies will dump their retirees into the Medicare system as a result of the new bill. Big corporations love the Medicare drug plan, because they want to shift the responsibility for providing drug benefits to their retirees onto taxpayers. Dozens of major companies shamelessly advertised in the Washington Times and elsewhere in support of the Medicare bill for this very simple reason. Their pension plans are dangerously underfunded, so naturally they use their lobbying influence to promote a Medicare drug system. In this sense the Medicare bill is a taxpayer-funded corporate bailout for hundreds of American companies.

Those greedy old people are ripping off the American taxpayer? Not exactly. They’re getting screwed by this program. And David Brooks wants to see the system changed so those of us in the next generation will get screwed even worse. Thanks.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Over at Nick Lewis’s Blog, I found this powerful essay from Jesuit priest John Dear. Pharisee Nation:

We have become a culture of Pharisees. Instead of practicing an authentic spirituality of compassion, nonviolence, love and peace, we as a collective people have become self-righteous, arrogant, powerful, murderous hypocrites who dominate and kill others in the name of God. The Pharisees supported the brutal Roman rulers and soldiers, and lived off the comforts of the empire by running an elaborate banking system which charged an exorbitant fee for ordinary people just to worship God in the Temple. Since they taught that God was present only in the Temple, they were able to control the entire population. If anyone opposed their power or violated their law, the Pharisees could kill them on the spot, even in the holy sanctuary.

Most North American Christians are now becoming more and more like these hypocritical Pharisees. We side with the rulers, the bankers, and the corporate millionaires and billionaires. We run the Pentagon, bless the bombing raids, support executions, make nuclear weapons and seek global domination for America as if that was what the nonviolent Jesus wants. And we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us.

We have become a mean, vicious people, what the bible calls “stiff-necked people.” And we do it all with the mistaken belief that we have the blessing of God.

In the past, empires persecuted religious groups and threatened them into passivity and silence. Now these so-called Christians run the American empire, and teach a subtle spirituality of empire to back up their power in the name of God. This spirituality of empire insists that violence saves us, might makes right, war is justified, bombing raids are blessed, nuclear weapons offer the only true security from terrorism, and the good news is not love for our enemies, but the elimination of them. The empire is working hard these days to tell the nation--and the churches--what is moral and immoral, sinful and holy. It denounces certain personal behavior as immoral, in order to distract us from the blatant immorality and mortal sin of the U.S. bombing raids which have left 100,000 Iraqis dead, or our ongoing development of thousands of weapons of mass destruction. Our Pharisee rulers would have us believe that our wars and our weapons are holy and blessed by God.

In the old days, the early Christians had big words for such behavior, such lies. They were called “blasphemous, idolatrous, heretical, hypocritical and sinful.” Such words and actions were denounced as the betrayal, denial and execution of Jesus all over again in the world’s poor. But the empire needs the church to bless and support its wars, or at least to remain passive and silent. As we Christians go along with the Bush administration and the American empire, we betray Jesus, renounce his teachings, and create a “Church of Christ without Christ,“ as Flannery O’Connor foresaw.

I was never a good Christian, though I tried to believe when I was younger. I was always questioning the tenets of the faith, and I suspect I drove at least one Jesuit priest nuts with my questions. Anyway, this essay made perfect sense and I don’t feel the need for any follow-up. Just a hearty “amen.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

From Lambert at Corrente:

"Jeff" vs. Monica All-Star Celebrity Death Cage Match

 "Jeff Gannon"Monica
White House passYesYes
Republican "Paid Policy Advocate"YesNo
Contact with President PublicPrivate
Used real nameNoYes
Softball questionsYesProbably
Funded by Texas RepublicansYesNo
Access to classified documentsYesNo
$27,000 owed in back taxesYesNo
Professional escortYesNo
Wore thongNot yet knownYes
Wall-to-wall media coverageNoYes
Length of time family's privacy invadedOne dayTwo years
It's not the sex, it's the lyingNot yet knownOh, please
President's PartyRepublicanDemocratic

We’ll need about two years of nonstop coverage to get even.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Questions surface on [Jeff Gannon’s] relationship with White House staff:

RAW STORY has been told that the White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan visited a gay bar in Austin, Texas, on March 19, 1995. The date was placed exactly as a local memorial service was held on the same day.

The source, who would only comment on condition of anonymity, reserved comment on whether McClellan was actually gay, but said he was frequently seen at gay clubs. Another source also confirmed this account.

“He was often seen in gay clubs in Austin, Texas and was comfortable being there,” the Texan said. “He’s been seen in places that normal people who are looking for heterosexual relationships are not seen alone.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Full disclosure: I actually visited a gay bar in September 1986. Of course, I only did so because I was looking to score some drugs.

David Neiwert at Orcinus found this comment over at Digby's blog:

Since the November elections, I feel like the woman whose husband refused to listen when she told him not to sell the family cow for magic beans. She's still forced to consider his welfare, but it's neurochemically impossible to be more angry. And she can see that, irresponsible as he was to do it, as soon as it dawns on him that he's been rooked, he won't repent or apologize -- he'll blame her.


Draft Jonah Goldberg!

The Poor Man refuses to actually post any content in his RSS feed, so you have to visit his spiffy new Web site to read brilliant stuff like this:

CORRECTION: Hacktacular White House reporter Jeff Gannon is not, in fact, a man-pimp, as we had previously reported. He is actually a self-pimping e-he-whore. (Link not safe for work, or dinner.) The Editors apologize to Mr. Gannon for the error.

Everyone is still missing the point of the story. The story is not, as
nitwits like Howie Kurtz maintain, that people are being mean to someone just because he's conservative. The story is not that Gannon is a hypocrite for promoting an anti-gay agenda. The story is not even that the White House gave such access to a reporter for a dummy news service operating under an assumed name, and may have used him to expose Valerie Plame. This is not the story.

The story is that God exists.

Think about it: what are the chances that a media whore like Gannon would turn out to be an actual whore? It's impossible. It boggles the mind how infinitely unlikely this is. It's like if you found someone pirating CDs, and it turns out he actually had a peg leg and a parrot on his shoulder and sailed around the Caribbean saying "arrrrrr!" and plundering booty. You wouldn't believe it. But there it is: impossible, but true. Impossible truths are miracles, and only God can work miracles. Ergo, God exists. Q.E.D.

The rest of the story is that God prefers his metaphors about as subtle as a David Byrne art concept or, equivalently, getting clocked on the head with a cinderblock. Yeah, "whore". It's a "big suit", David. We get it already. I think brainless plankton on Neptune get the symbolism here. Jesus.

My mind has a whole lot more boggling to do before I can think clearly again.

Click the damn links if you’re not at work. This story is Elmer Gantry brought into the 21st Century and put on HBO with full frontal nudity in the White House press room. I can’t wait to see what happens in next week’s episode!

Oh, and if anyone out there is a PhotoShop whiz and can put Jeff Gannon in a blue dress… Well, I’m just sayin’…

Friday, February 11, 2005 does an excellent profile of Sinclair Broadcast Group:

In the firmament of right-wing media outlets, Sinclair stands somewhere to the right of Fox News. Its archconservative politics may not be served up with Fox's raw-meat bite, but what Sinclair lacks in flash, it makes up for in unabashed cheerleading for the Bush administration. It sent a team to Iraq to report "good news" about the war and forced each of its sixty-two stations to broadcast a pledge of support for Bush. Last April, it refused to air a Nightline special listing the name of every American soldier killed in Iraq, and it gave national exposure to Stolen Honor, a documentary attacking John Kerry, just weeks before the election. And each night, Sinclair requires all of its stations to air an editorial segment called "The Point," in which company vice president Mark Hyman rails against the "angry left" and "clueless academia," dismisses peace activists as "wack jobs," calls the French "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" and supports a host of right-wing initiatives, from a national sales tax to privatizing Medicare.

Because Sinclair broadcasts mostly in out-of-the-way markets, beyond the glare of the national media, no one much noticed until recently. But within the company, current and former employees have long known that there is a fine line between ideology and coercion. Jon Leiberman, once Sinclair's Washington bureau chief, says Smith and other executives were intent on airing "propaganda meant to sway the election." An ex-producer says he was ordered not to report "any bad news out of Iraq -- no dead servicemen, no reports on how much we're spending, nothing." And a producer Sinclair sent to Iraq to report on the war calls the resulting coverage "pro-Bush."

The president of the company insists, “There are two companies doing truly balanced news today: Sinclair and Fox.”

Good lord. Of course, given the company’s consistent performance as Rove-ian propaganda machines last year, none of this should be surprising. (See here, here, here, and here for details.)

Poll Shows Drop in Bush's Job Approval:

Adults were evenly divided on Bush's job performance in January, but now 54 percent disapprove and 45 percent approve. The number who think the country is headed down the wrong track increased from 51 percent to 58 percent in the past month.

Yes, yes. That post-November hangover is ugly, isn’t it?

My favorite part of the story was this quote:

Many in the public are not getting the full Iraq story, said Republican William Reid of Columbus, Ohio.

Reid watches for newscasts that he says "tell the real story about the good things that are happening over there, about soldiers helping kids and giving them food."

Anyone want to be bet that Mr. Reid watches Fox News religiously?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Thanks to the folks at News Hounds for documenting Bill Maher’s appearance on Hannity & Colmes:

[Maher is] obviously committed to changing the atmosphere of his show [and] said that he wanted more conservatives in his audience. [Maher] doesn't blame conservatives for avoiding his live audience because they feel unwelcome but he wants his conservative guests to feel supported when they appear.

Well, scratch that one off the Tivo’s Season Pass list. I had a hard enough time watching Real Time already, but if he’s going to bring the food-fight mentality into the audience, then who needs it?

Bill, if you want conservatives to feel less unwelcome, get rid of the audience completely. Mixing up the audience so that liberals and conservatives alike get hooted down just makes the din from the audience louder. It doesn’t elevate the discourse.

They got rid of Crossfire for a reason.

Molly Ivins nails the problem with private accounts:

If you aren't smart enough to figure out what's wrong with President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security, then you won't be able to run one of the accounts-formerly-known-as-private, either.

Heh. Indeed.

If you want to be inspired and get your socks rocked off at the same time, go see Steve Earle. The man puts Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young in a blender, turns it to 11, and the results are just mind-blowing. And don’t miss opening act and co-vocalist Alisson Moorer, who can belt it out.

The tour is snaking its way up the West Coast of the United States now, and then snakes all the way across Canada, from Vancouver to Halifax before dipping back into the Northeast. Your faithful correspondent is planning to be in New York City March 18 and is oh-so-seriously considering taking in the performance at the Bowery Ballroom that night.

Set your Tivo for the Late Late Show on CBS this Friday, February 11 to see a preview. (I sincerely hope that Tori Spelling gets 5 minutes and Steve gets the rest of the show!)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

He’s straying off message. In a town meeting just a few days ago, George W. Bush said the forbidden words “private accounts.” Three times. Imagine that.

Billmon has the details.

Tom Tomorrow:

This should go without saying, but Fox invites liberals on for the same reason that the Harlem Globetrotters used to play the Washington Generals: you look pretty silly out there out the court by yourself.

Juan Cole continues his public disassembly of the Speak and Spell toy also known as Jonah Goldberg:

Goldberg is just a dime a dozen pundit. Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure generally that rightwing views come to predominate even among people who are harmed by such policies. One of their jobs is to marginalize progressives by smearing them as unreliable.

The thing that really annoyed me about Goldberg's sniping was it reminded me of how our country got into this mess in Iraq. It was because a lot of ignorant but very powerful and visible people told the American people things that were not true. In some instances I believe that they lied. In other instances, they were simply too ignorant of the facts to know when an argument put forward about, say, Iraq, was ridiculous. For instance, it was constantly said that Iraqis were "secular." This allegation ignored four decades of radical Shiite organizing and revolutionary activity by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the al-Dawa Party, and others, as well as the influence on Iraqis of the Khomeini revolution and of the 1991 Saddam crackdown on Shiites. They were never contradicted when they said this on television, though.


The corporate media failed the United States in 2002-2003. The US government failed the American people in 2002-2003. That empty, and often empty-headed punditry, which Jon Stewart destroyed so skilfully, played a big role in dragooning the American people into a wasteful and destructive elective war that threatens to warp American society and very possibly to end the free Republic we have managed to maintain for over 200 years.

This sort of stuff needs to be said out loud much more often.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

This year, Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fell on the same day.

It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a hideous little creature of marginal intelligence for prognostication.

The other involves a groundhog.

Crooked Timber: Discovering Steve Earle

One of the things I look forward to in my weekly schedule is driving my youngest son to his piano lesson because this co-incides with Bob Harris Country on BBC Radio 2. I’d long have said that the one genre of music I just couldn’t listen to is country. But Bob Harris has always been one of my favourite DJs and I’ve just been sucked in by what is one of the best music programmes on the BBC, to the point where I’ve bought 5 Steve Earle cds in the last month. No doubt everyone else has been listening to Earle for years, but for me he’s a new discovery, a songwriter who managed to summon up a whole world in a few minutes. I confess to listening to the unbelievably poignant “Billy Austin” from his live Just an American Boy several times in a row.

I don’t think the tour is crossing the pond anytime soon, sadly.

Professor Juan Cole lays the smackdown on one of the higher-profile idiots at NRO’s Corner:

If Jonah Goldberg had asserted that he could fly to Mars in his pyjamas and come back in a single day, it would not have been a more fantastic allegation than the one he made about Iraq being a danger to the United States because of the nuclear issue. He made that allegation over and over again to millions of viewers on national television programs, to viewers who trusted his judgment because CNN and others purveyed him to them.

Jonah Goldberg is a fearmonger, a warmonger, and a demagogue. And besides, he was just plain wrong about one of the more important foreign policy issues to face the United States in the past half-century. It is shameful that he dares show his face in public, much less continuing to pontificate about his profound knowledge of just what Iraq is like and what needs to be done about Iraq and the significance of events in Iraq.

Goldberg criticizes me for saying that the 1997 presidential election in Iran was more democratic than the Jan. 30, 2005 election in Iraq.…

The reason Mr. Goldberg is alarmed that I pointed this obvious fact out is that he wants to kill thousands of Iranians and thousands of US troops in a war of aggression on Iran. If the American public knows that there is a lively struggle between hardliners and conservatives in Iran, and that an American intervention there would be a huge disaster and would forestall the natural evolution of Iran away from Khomeinism, then they might not support Mr. Goldberg's monstrous warmongering.

That is why he attacked me.

So let me propose to him that we debate Middle East issues, anywhere, any time, he and I.

Otherwise he should please shut up and go back to selling Linda Tripp tapes on Ebay.

I’d pay money to see that.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Bob Herbert’s latest column bewails Our Battered Constitution:

In one hearing that led up to Monday's decision [that the Bush administration cannot be allowed to defy the Constitution and an order of the Supreme Court in its treatment of the hundreds of prisoners it is holding at Guantánamo Bay, Judge, Joyce Hens Green] attempted to see how broadly the government viewed its power to hold detainees. Administration lawyers told her, in response to a hypothetical question, that they believed the president would even have the right to lock up "a little old lady from Switzerland" for the duration of the war on terror if she had written checks to a charity that she believed helped orphans, but that actually was a front for Al Qaeda.

Well, I imagine the new A.G. will fit right in with this crew.

(Thanks to Digby for the pointer.)

Thursday, February 03, 2005



The Mahablog examines the true meaning of conservatism and its inability to actually deal with complicated concepts like “freedom”:

All of American history can be understood as a struggle between a liberal view, in which the Constitution remains living, active and vital, and a conservative view, in which it is preserved in a glass case to be admired but kept as dead as possible. Especially the Bill of Rights part.

Put another way, American history has been a struggle between liberalism, which wants to fully realize and actualize the civil liberties protected in the Bill of Rights, and conservatism, which stands in the way.


If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would kick George W. Bush’s ass.

(Thanks to BlogBites for the pointer.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Will Durst is a funny guy.

We’ll be away from the TV tonight, doggone it.

MSNBC reports:

At a panel discussion in San Diego Tuesday, a top Marine general tells an audience that, among other things, it is "fun to shoot some people."

The comment, made by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, came in reference to fighting insurgents in Iraq. He went on to say, "Actually, its a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. I like brawling."

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for 5 years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

What a fucking moron. If there’s any justice (a big if, I concede), this guy’s stripes will be ripped off his uniform and he’ll be peeling potatoes in the Gitmo mess hall by tomorrow morning.

As notes, this is the same douchebag who refused to apologize for the U.S. military’s attack on a wedding party last year.

PS: If Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Reynolds, and Andrew Sullivan refuse to condemn this guy immediately, they’re douchebags too.

Update: Giblets comments:

A marine commandant defended Mattis saying he “intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war.” Which is so true. And the unfortunate, harsh reality of war is that it’s a kick-ass video game with awesome graphics! Civilians are extra points.

And Billmon finds the uncanny similarities between Mattis and a certain Col. Kurtz:

Col: Kurtz (on tape): We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig, cow after cow, village after village, army after army. And they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? They lie. They lie and we have to be merciful for those who lie. Those nabobs. I hate them. How I hate them . . . (tape ends)

Gen. Corman: Walt Kurtz was one of the most outstanding officers this country has ever produced. He was brilliant and outstanding in every way. And he was a good man, too. A humanitarian man, a man of wit, of humor. He joined the Special Forces. But after that his ideas, his methods, became . . . unsound.

You see Willard, in this war, things get confused out there: power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. Out there with these natives it must be a temptation to be god. Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has a breaking point. You and I have. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane.

Willard: Yes sir, very much so sir. Obviously insane.

Apocalypse Now

"I can play hardball as well as anybody. That's what I did, cut people's hearts out."

-- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), a former heart surgeon, quoted by the New York Times

(Via Political Wire)