Sid's Fishbowl
A proud member of the reality-based community (aquatic division)
Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Denver Post reports:
More than 30 Iraq and Persian Gulf War veterans have entered congressional races across the country as Democrats, hoping to capitalize on their military experience to topple the incumbent Republican majority.


"Do we understand military and foreign affairs? You bet," Fawcett said. "Most of us have been to the point where you get a direct dose of military and foreign affairs, mostly in the category of small-caliber weapons. But we understand that that is just one aspect of national policy."

On Dec. 20, Fawcett and Winter joined 35 Democratic veterans running for Congress at a strategy session in Washington, D.C.

The veterans voted on a name for their emerging caucuslike campaign coalition: Veterans for a Secure America. They also agreed that their military backgrounds should be promoted as credentials for leadership across the full spectrum of public policy, said Fawcett, an Air Force veteran of the 1991 Gulf War who has taught at the Air Force Academy and now works as a consultant to Northern Command in Colorado Springs.

The group will reconvene in Washington in February to respond to President Bush's State of the Union address in a news conference on the steps of the Capitol, Winter said. An attorney and the former president of the grassroots liberal organizing group Be The Change, Winter spent 10 peacetime years in the Marine Corps and the Navy.
And the Republican response?
Republicans are confident they can maintain their traditional strength among voters focused on the military and veterans' issues, said Carl Forti of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, which recruits Republican candidates across the country.

"People may not like the war, but they still believe that Republicans will do a better job of protecting them than Democrats," Forti said. "And if Democrats want to try to make an issue of the war and security, especially Democrats who have a voting record - they have an abysmal voting record on defense spending."


"These are Democrats who happen to be military veterans who are running for Congress," he said of Veterans for Security. "It's one résumé item. Just because you are a military guy doesn't make you a congressman."
Yes, forget all that pesky heroism and, you know, actual service in the military. These guys don't know how to spend money, and Republicans do.

Shameless, they are.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

In the course of a characteristically excellent essay on the woefulness of modern journalism, Digby quotes this revealing tidbit from Post National Editor Michael Abramowitz:
Obviously the armed services draw from a range of demographic, income and ethnic groups. The Pentagon's own numbers indicate that that the military is drawing disproportionally from rural and southern communities, and from families with slightly lower incomes than the population in general. The numbers also show a close correlation between the unemployment rate and recruiting.
Oh really? The inversion of the yield curve this week is widely viewed as an indicator of a slowing economy. And isn't a tight job market and a depressed economy just the prescription for pumping up enlistment rates?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Yellow Dog Democrat Bob Geiger perfectly captured my ambivalence about Hillary Clinton:
The demarcation between Democratic and Republican values has seldom been so clear and it manifests itself in many ways, including the divide over the Iraq war, tax breaks for the rich coupled with massive cuts in social programs, a soaring budget deficit and the culture of corruption and criminal, treasonous conduct on the part of the GOP. I don't recall a time when the need for Democrats to stand up and yell loudly was more apparent than it is now.

Can you imagine the sheer weight Senator Hillary Clinton could add to the national dialog if she were to raise her voice and get good and mad along with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, Barbara Boxer and John Conyers? And yet she stays silent, tucked away in a comfy little centrist cocoon that keeps her safe from Republican salvos (for now) but does absolutely nothing to fight the battles that need fighting in our country.

This is an act of pure ideological and political cowardice.

What makes it even worse – and I now don my cynical, political-operative hat – is that rising up and taking a stand against Team Bush is relatively risk-free from a political point of view. The Bush administration is under a dark cloud, the president's poll numbers remain lower than a snake's belly and he's bordering on impeachment proceedings. Republicans in Congress are swamped in controversy and support for the Iraq war drops almost weekly.

How much courage does it require to take these people on? It's a slam dunk when viewed through the prism of political strategy. Senator Clinton should be seizing the microphone and, if she showed such courage and emerged as the primary burr under the saddle of George W. Bush, she would lock up the Democratic presidential nomination by the end of 2006.

But instead, she remains silent and, despite the power and attention she could command, lets other Democrats carry the load in fighting the good fight.

I will vote for her in November but, until she starts acting more like a leader and less like political wallpaper, she will remain a disappointment and, even worse in our time of national distress, wholly irrelevant.
I will of course campaign for Hillary Clinton if she's the Democratic nominee for President in 2008. She's better than any Republican out there, by miles. But I will also work very hard to help nominate a better Democrat.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Yes, Barron's magazine, owned by the Wall Street Journal, thinks the President and the Attorney General should be investigated and perhaps impeached. The editorial is locked up behind the Wall Street Journal's subscribers-only wall, but I'm sure they won't mind if I reprint it here:
Unwarranted Executive Power
The pursuit of terrorism does not authorize the president to make up new laws

Unnatural Disaster

AS THE YEAR WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, we picked up our New York Times and learned that the Bush administration has been fighting terrorism by intercepting communications in America without warrants. It was worrisome on its face, but in justifying their actions, officials have made a bad situation much worse: Administration lawyers and the president himself have tortured the Constitution and extracted a suspension of the separation of powers.

It was not a shock to learn that shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct intercepts of international phone calls to and from the United States. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to gather the foreign communications of people in the U.S. -- without a warrant if quick action is important. But the law requires that, within 72 hours, investigators must go to a special secret court for a retroactive warrant.

The USA Patriot Act permits some exceptions to its general rules about warrants for wiretaps and searches, including a 15-day exception for searches in time of war. And there may be a controlling legal authority in the Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution that authorized the president to go after terrorists and use all necessary and appropriate force. It was not a declaration of war in a constitutional sense, but it may have been close enough for government work.

Certainly, there was an emergency need after the Sept. 11 attacks to sweep up as much information as possible about the chances of another terrorist attack. But a 72-hour emergency or a 15-day emergency doesn't last four years.

In that time, Congress has extensively debated the rules on wiretaps and other forms of domestic surveillance. Administration officials have spent many hours before many committees urging lawmakers to provide them with great latitude. Congress acted, and the president signed.

Now the president and his lawyers are claiming that they have greater latitude. They say that neither the USA Patriot Act nor the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act actually sets the real boundary. The administration is saying the president has unlimited authority to order wiretaps in the pursuit of foreign terrorists, and that the Congress has no power to overrule him.

"We also believe the president has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as commander-in-chief, to engage in this kind of activity," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The Department of Justice made a similar assertion as far back as 2002, saying in a legal brief: "The Constitution vests in the president inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that Constitutional authority." Gonzales last week declined to declassify relevant legal reviews made by the Department of Justice.

Perhaps they were researched in a Star Chamber? Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. President Bush is stretching the power of commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy by indicating that he can order the military and its agencies, such as the National Security Agency, to do whatever furthers the defense of the country from terrorists, regardless of whether actual force is involved.

Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.

Some ancillary responsibility, however, must be attached to those members of the House and Senate who were informed, inadequately, about the wiretapping and did nothing to regulate it. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, told Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 that he was "unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities." But the senator was so respectful of the administration's injunction of secrecy that he wrote it out in longhand rather than give it to someone to type. Only last week, after the cat was out of the bag, did he do what he should have done in 2003 -- make his misgivings public and demand more information.

Published reports quote sources saying that 14 members of Congress were notified of the wiretapping. If some had misgivings, apparently they were scared of being called names, as the president did last week when he said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Wrong. If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.

Editorial Page Editor THOMAS G. DONLAN receives e-mail at
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and all that!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Josh Marshall asks a good question:
When was the last time there was a major terror alert? They were something like a regular occurence for the eighteen months or so before the 2004 election. And through 2004 the administration pushed the line that al Qaida was aiming to disrupt the elections themselves. But as near I can tell there hasn't been a single one since election day.

Through 2004, of course, critics of the administration routinely questioned whether the frequency and timing of the various terror alerts were not all or in part for political effect.

How do we explain what appears to be a night and day difference between the year prior to November 2004 and the year since in terms of terror alerts and scares?
One would almost think that Al Qaeda was running a political consultancy and doesn't really get busy until an election campaign is in full swing.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Wall Street Journal lays down the smackdown on the bogus Groseclose-Milyo "media bias" study:
The Wall Street Journal's news coverage is relentlessly neutral. Of that, we are confident.

By contrast, the research technique used in this study hardly inspires confidence. In fact, it is logically suspect and simply baffling in some of its details.

First, its measure of media bias consists entirely of counting the number of mentions of, or quotes from, various think tanks that the researchers determine to be "liberal" or “conservative." By this logic, a mention of Al Qaeda in a story suggests the newspaper endorses its views, which is obviously not the case. And if a think tank is explicitly labeled “liberal” or “conservative” within a story to provide context to readers, that example doesn’t count at all. The researchers simply threw out such mentions.

Second, the universe of think tanks and policy groups in the study hardly covers the universe of institutions with which Wall Street Journal reporters come into contact. What are we to make of the validity of a list of important policy groups that doesn’t include, say, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the AFL-CIO or the Concord Coalition, but that does include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals? Moreover, the ranking the study gives to some of the groups on the list is simply bizarre. How seriously are we to take a system that ranks the American Civil Liberties Union slightly to the right of center, and that ranks the RAND Corp. as more liberal than Amnesty International? Indeed, the more frequently a media outlet quotes the ACLU in this study, the more conservative its alleged bias.

Third, the reader of this report has to travel all the way Table III on page 57 to discover that the researchers’ "study" of the content of The Wall Street Journal covers exactly FOUR MONTHS in 2002, while the period examined for CBS News covers more than 12 years, and National Public Radio’s content is examined for more than 11 years. This huge analytical flaw results in an assessment based on comparative citings during vastly differing time periods, when the relative newsworthiness of various institutions could vary widely. Thus, Time magazine is “studied” for about two years, while U.S. News and World Report is examined for eight years. Indeed, the periods of time covered for the Journal, the Washington Post and the Washington Times are so brief that as to suggest that they were simply thrown into the mix as an afterthought. Yet the researchers provide those findings the same weight as all the others, without bothering to explain that in any meaningful way to the study’s readers.

Suffice it to say that “research” of this variety would be unlikely to warrant a mention at all in any Wall Street Journal story.
Media Matters has an extended debunking as well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

FAIR reminds us of their excellent observations on an earlier version of the UCLA study purporting to show liberal media bias:
The report used a peculiar Rube Goldberg–like method to calculate media bias from think tank citations: Taking the Americans for Democratic Action ratings of congressional voting records as its yardstick, it assumed that media outlets have ideologies similar to those of members of Congress who cited the same think tanks that the media outlets did.

This approach is based on the problematic notion that politicians cite the think tanks that they most agree with rather than the ones whose citation will be the most politically effective—a problem the researchers acknowledge when they attempt to explain away some curious anomalies that their method produces. (The National Rifle Association comes out as a centrist group; the Rand Corporation turns out to be left-leaning.)

If the authors truly wanted to rank media outlets on the ADA scale, the simpler method would be to look at the ADA ratings of congressmembers quoted by those news outlets. One suspects that the authors avoided this obvious approach because the results would have been less to their liking: Studies in Extra! have repeatedly found various media outlets quote Republicans more often than Democrats, by ratios ranging from 3 to 2 on NPR (5–6/04) to 3 to 1 on nightly network news (5–6/02) to a startling 5 to 1 on Fox News’ Special Report (7–8/04). Fox News, according to Groseclose and Milyo’s method, is a “centrist” news outlet.
Heh. Indeed.

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest:
A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.
Oh, and Drudge is a lying sack of shit, too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Donors Underwrite DeLay's Deluxe Lifestyle: "DeLay's various organizations spent at least $1 million over the last six years on hotels, restaurants, golf resorts and corporate jet flights for their boss and his associates."

DeLay is living a lifestyle that matches those of corporate executives like, oh, Ken Lay. I don't think this will go over well with the working folks back in Texas.

More lies.

The bogus UCLA study that purports to prove the existence of liberal media bias is the new darling of the wingnutosphere. Unfortunately, anyone who knows a little bit about statistics can take the same data and jump to some ironic conclusions.

I plugged the author's raw data into a state-of-the-art spreadsheet and crunched a few of the numbers myself. Surprise! According to the tautology methodology in this paper, the United States Congress has a pronounced liberal tilt! (This explains why Tom DeLay and Bill Frist are always so pissed off. Mere numeric majorities aren't enough, apparently.)

Here's how I determined that startling fact.

I started with Table I from the original paper (available in PDF format here). This table lists "the 50 most-cited think tanks and policy groups by the media." For each entry, the table conveniently lists the average score of the legislators who cite the group, the number of citations by legislators, and the number of citations by media outlets.

Using that data, it was simple to construct a formula that multiplied the "liberalness" score for each of the 50 groups by the number of times that group was cited by a member of Congress. I then computed the total of all the references and divided by the number of references.

Shockingly, this calculation resulted in an average citation score of 52.3. On the authors' scale, 50.1 is defined as the centrist position, which means that according to their data, the United States Congress is 2.2% more liberal than the American population. By contrast, performing this arithmetic for the media mentions results in a score of 54.7, making the American news media only 2.4% more liberal than Congress as a whole.

I attended UCLA, where I studied political science and statistics. (This was a few years before Professor Groseclose arrived.) Based on the garbage data in the professor's paper, I'm prepared to argue that the conclusion I list here is perfectly consistent with the other ludicrous conclusions in this paper, such as the shocker that Matt Drudge is slightly more liberal than the average American and that Brit Hume really is fair and balanced.

Of course, one could argue that this look at the data proves that the so-called academics who wrote this paper started from a biased point of view, and that their research should be filed under GIGO. The House of Representatives has been controlled by Republicans for more than a decade now, and the Senate was closely divided until 2002, when it tipped strongly to a Republican majority. So any collection of data that starts with the assumption that Congress is more liberal than the average American must, by definition, be highly suspicious.

Why, you might even think that the authors had actually taken large sums of money from right-wing think tanks!

We're obviously doing a fabulous job of training Iraqi forces. This bizarre observation was buried in an AP story about Big Dick's visit to Iraq:
U.S. forces guarded Cheney with weapons at the ready while Iraqi soldiers, who had no weapons, held their arms out as if they were carrying imaginary guns.
Now, why wouldn't we want Iraqi soldiers to have weapons in the vicinity of the Veep? Hmmm?

(via J-Walk Blog)

Bush speech, April 20, 2004:
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
(Via Atrios)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Our media is broken. For years, far-right-wing foundations with large budgets have been funding ostensibly independent academics and pundits to produce work that appears on its face to be legitimate but is actually intended to promote a radical conservative agenda. This dishonest research sneaks into the mainstream media with depressing regularity. (For details, pick up a copy of David Brock's excellent book, The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy.)

Today's example comes courtesy of the normally astute Lost Remote blog, which uncritically reprinted this press release from UCLA's Office of Media Relations. It's one of the slickest pieces of right-wing propaganda to come down the pike in years, as I'll explain shortly:

Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist
While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

"I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican," said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study's lead author. "But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are."

"Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left," said co‑author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

The results appear in the latest issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which will become available in mid-December.

Too bad that most news organizations that innocently pick up this story will be unaware of its author's extraordinary biases.

The methodology of the paper is bizarre to say the least. The paper (you can read it for yourself in PDF format here) tries to measure liberal or conservative leanings of a news organization by measuring how many times they quote organizations that are deemed liberal or conservative. To create that correlation, the authors count the number of times an organization is quoted approvingly by members of Congress. They then take the ADA rating ("liberalness") score of those members of Congress, assign those scores to the groups in question, and conclude that the more often a news organization quotes a group the more it must approve of that group.

So, if Ted Kennedy (the most liberal member of the Senate according to the ADA) approvingly cites the NAACP and the New York Times regularly quotes the NAACP, then the New York Times is as liberal as Ted Kennedy.

I could spend hours debunking this flawed technique. But let's not get bogged down in details. This is a classic "guilt by association" technique. Reporters are punished, in this paper, for reporting the ideas and statements of activist organizations, many of which are actually in the news. So let's try the same technique on Professor Groseclose. According to the professor's curriculum vita, he's received the following "honors and fellowships":

  • Hoover National Fellow
  • Olin Faculty Fellow
  • Lambe Fellow, Institute for Humane Studies
  • Dissertation Fellow, Center for the Study of Public Choice, George Mason University

Hmmm. Olin Faculty Fellow? That's funded by the (now-defunct) John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.
The New York-based John M. Olin Foundation, which grew out of a family manufacturing business (chemical and munitions), funds right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Hoover Institute of War, Revolution and Peace. It also gives large sums of money to promote conservative programs in the country's most prestigious colleges and universities. [emphasis added]
Lambe fellow? That one's funded by the Koch brothers:
David and Charles Koch own virtually all of Koch Industries, an oil, natural gas, and land management firm and the second largest privately owned company in America. The brothers have a strong interest in libertarian theory; the three family foundations operated by the Kochs (the Charles G. Koch, David H. Koch and Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundations) made possible the libertarian Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy ($6.5 million and $4.8 million contributed between 1986 and 1990, respectively).
Oh, and the Kochs are behind that outfit at George Mason as well:
[T]he Kochs share with these foundations the conviction that the advancement of their philosophy is contingent upon investment in academia. In addition to their interest in influencing current public policy, they channel funds into fellowships, grants and scholarships to conservative university programs such as the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University to develop future proponents of their cause. Said John Blundell, former president of the institute (which received $2 million from Koch between 1986 and 1990, and is also supported by the Bradley and Olin foundations), the Institute "looks for good young people who are going to become academics and journalists and writers and novelists and clergymen and other dealers in ideas, who have shown some interest in the ideas that interest us." [emphasis added]
The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace is another far-right group, as can be seen by the fact that Newt Gingrich, Dinesh D'Souza, and Thomas Sowell are prominently affiliated with it.

Professor Groseclose has been accepting grants exclusively from far-right foundations for more than a decade. His work is backed by organizations that are also backing the most extreme-right organizations on his list (the number in parens represents the paper's ADA rating of each group, on a scale of 1 to 100, where lower is more conservative: the Cato Institute (36.3), the Heritage Foundation (20.0), American Enterprise Institute (36.6), the Manhattan Institute (32.0).

Using the same "guilt by association" techniques that the professor uses in his paper, I conclude that he is far from unbiased. In fact, taking the average ADA score of the four groups in the previous paragraphs, which are all supported by the same foundations that have funded the professor in his research, results in a score that ranks the professor as more conservative than any of the news outfits in his rankings. More than the Drudge Report, more than Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, more even than the Washington Times.

Co-author Jeffrey Milyo was a Salvatori fellow for the ultra-right-wing (by their paper's own numbers!) Heritage Foundation. He and Groseclose wrote their first article together in 1996 for the far-right scandal sheet The American Spectator.

Like I said, breathtaking.

Update: I've got more analysis of this bogus research here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Free Speech: Use It or Lose It

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Polar bears are so cute the Coca-Cola Company adopted them as their spokes-animals. Now comes this literally chilling report from the Wall Street Journal:
It may be the latest evidence of global warming: Polar bears are drowning.

Scientists for the first time have documented multiple deaths of polar bears off Alaska, where they likely drowned after swimming long distances in the ocean amid the melting of the Arctic ice shelf. The bears spend most of their time hunting and raising their young on ice floes.

In a quarter-century of aerial surveys of the Alaskan coastline before 2004, researchers from the U.S. Minerals Management Service said they typically spotted a lone polar bear swimming in the ocean far from ice about once every two years. Polar-bear drownings were so rare that they have never been documented in the surveys.

But in September 2004, when the polar ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of the northern coast of Alaska, researchers counted 10 polar bears swimming as far as 60 miles offshore. Polar bears can swim long distances but have evolved to mainly swim between sheets of ice, scientists say.

The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. "Extrapolation of survey data suggests that on the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds," the researchers say in a report set to be released today.

While the government researchers won't speculate on why a climate change is taking place in the Arctic, environmentalists unconnected to the survey say U.S. policies emphasizing oil and gas development are exacerbating global warming, which is accelerating the melting of the ice. "For anyone who has wondered how global warming and reduced sea ice will affect polar bears, the answer is simple -- they die," said Richard Steiner, a marine-biology professor at the University of Alaska.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This is a new low:
The RNC's new Web video "Retreat and Defeat" starts with a flat-screen TV playing clips from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Sen. Barbara Boxer, and Sen. John Kerry. As they speak, a white flag waves over their faces while ominous music moans. Dean says the war in Iraq can't be won; Boxer says withdrawal should start after the Iraqi election; and Kerry says U.S. soldiers shouldn't be "terrorizing kids and children, you know, women." Then the camera pans back, and we learn that we've been watching these clips over the shoulder of a U.S. soldier dressed in desert camouflage, his service rifle strapped to his back. Candy canes hang on the wall just above the screen, which flashes the message: "Our soldiers are watching and our enemies are too."

The video conveys the impression that somewhere in Iraq, a soldier is having his mission and Christmas tarnished by weak-willed Democrats.
Those bastard Democrats. How dare they!

Oh. Wait. Go look at the pictures for yourself.Slate continues:
Here is a frame from the ad and the actual picture of the soldier, taken two years ago. As shown below, the soldier was really watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

No shit.

The only quibble I have with Slate's piece is the reflexive "Both parties use them" mantra they insert before getting into the details. It's a form of inoculation against charges of bias, but the inadvertent effect is to imply that there are equally bad examples that Democrats have produced and they just happened to pick on this one by Republicans. The faux balancing act feeds the notion that all politics, from both sides of the aisle, consists of lies, distortions, and cynical manipulation of the public.

They inadvertently get to the real point a little later, burying the lead in this graf:
What neither party has done—until now—is inject the idea that the other party is undermining our troops overseas. The RNC is pimping a mute and unnamed soldier not just to defend the Iraq war but to imply that Democrats are white-handkerchief-waving cowards who want the United States to lose.
Neither party has done this until now? Sorry, but the Republicans have been playing the "all opposition is treason" card for a long time now. This is another in a long line of examples. The implication that the Democrats have done the same thing, only different, and that this is just a chess game where the Republicans are just taking one little step past their equally sleazy opposition is bullshit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Norbizness has the transcript of the interview as it occurred in a parallel universe. Sample answer:
People are constantly wondering about the decision-making process and who's up and who's down. No wait, that's Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown. You know, like in the war in Iraq, not everything has gone the way we had hoped. Please don't repeat that.

And I hope when it's all said and done, people will say that George Bush knew how to make a decision and to stick by it. Really bad, wrong, disingenuous, flawed, destructive, damaging-in-the-long-term decisions. You know, not let the polls or the focus groups determine the course of history, but rather made-up, post-hoc, ass-covering rationales. I'll tell you one thing I firmly believe in: I really like oyster crackers in my chili.
That other universe sounds a bit more enjoyable than the reality we're all forced to share now.

Monday, December 12, 2005

As Atrios so rightly points out, John Harris is a Seventh Degree Black Belt wanker.

But go follow the link anyway and read the comments as Mr. Harris gets totally deconstructed. It's satisfying, in a Buckaroo Banzai kind of way.

And if the Washington Post tries to "balance" Dan Froomkin's column with s a conservative blogger, as the WaPo ombudsman suggests is in the plans, you will hear me screaming all the way from New Mexico.

I just about spewed my eggnog when I read this little bit from the oh-so-reliable Newsmax:
And while Giuliani himself says he won't make a decision till 2007, some of his aides say they're not sure he even wants to enter the race.

Referring to the scrutiny that forced his former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, to withdraw his nomination for Homeland Security Czar, one Giuliani insider tells Newsday: "Does he really want to go through that, too? My gut tells me he's not going to run."
Bernie Kerik is a fucking crook. The (probably unintentional) implication of this item is that Saint Rudy has so many skeletons in his closet that he would be completely insane to subject himself to the scrutiny of a national campaign. Because they would find out that he's a crook too.

Ezra is right. This bit from The Onion represents the pinnacle of the it's-funny-because-it's-true genre:
More Americans Falling For 'Get Rich Slowly Over A Lifetime Of Hard Work' Schemes

OMAHA, NE—A report released Monday by the Omaha-based public-interest group Aurora indicates that increasing numbers of Americans are being defrauded by schemes that offer financial reward for a lifetime of hard work. "People don't realize that long-term savings and loyalty to one company don't pan out," said Sylvia Girouard, the study's author. Girouard added that steady employment which claims to offer long-term financial gain in the form of a pension plan is nothing more than an elaborate Ponzi scheme.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

If anyone wants to buy me this t-shirt (size L) for the holidays, I won't complain. Lots of other good designs there too.

The text reads:
1. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
Sounds about right.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

This is yet another example of why Think Progress is one of the best resources on the Internet:
On Wednesday, Sen. Joe Lieberman argued that anyone who questions President Bush’s credibility while the country is at war puts the nation in danger. Lieberman, 12/7/05:
It’s time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.
But when he was running for President, Lieberman directly questioned Bush’s credibility on the war. In fact, he argued that doing so was an essential part of our democracy. Lieberman, 7/28/03:
In our democracy, a president does not rule, he governs. He remains always answerable to us, the people. And right now, the president’s conduct of our foreign policy is giving the country too many reasons to question his leadership. It’s not just about 16 words in a speech, it is about distorting intelligence and diminishing credibility. It’s not about searching for scapegoats; it’s about seeing, as President Kennedy did after the Bay of Pigs, that presidents stand tall when they willingly accept responsibility for mistakes made while they are in charge. [Press Conference with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) Re: War in Iraq, 7/28
When he was running for President, Lieberman questioned Bush’s credibility on the war because that’s what he needed to do to get votes. Now, after his campaign flopped, he is attacking people who question Bush’s credibility on the war because that’s what he needs to do to get attention.

For Lieberman, this is about political opportunism, not principle.
No fluff, no ego posts. Just really solid information that you mostly won't find anywhere else. Bookmark this one.

Yes, you'll be traveling to visit the family this holiday season (take that, Bill O'Reilly). And when you do, you will no doubt have to put up with Uncle Bubba and your brother-in-law Earl, who are among the dead-enders still supporting the Worst President Ever, George W. Bush. How do you get through to these people, especially after several cups of grog-enhanced eggnog? You could start with Bob Geiger's excellent list of Questions For Those Still Approving of Bush:
1. Do you understand that no tangible, truthful reason has ever been given for the invasion of Iraq and that the 9/11 Commission Report – which is the de facto, official findings of our government – says there was no reason whatsoever for this war?

2. Have you ever heard of the Downing Street Memos? Would it interest you to know that these official notes, from the British Prime Minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, show that the Bush administration was dead-set on war with Iraq and twisting intelligence to fit that goal?

"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," reported the secret memo, later published in the Sunday Times of London. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC [National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

You can go here to learn more.

3. When you look at the picture of even one military man or woman killed in Iraq and imagine the pain their family must feel, can you multiply that by 2,134 and believe that was a worthwhile down payment on removing Saddam Hussein from power? Before you answer, are you aware that Iraq had nothing to do with any attacks on our country and that it has been proven that Saddam Hussein had no capability at all to harm our people?

See the 9/11 Commission Report for more information.

4. Do you approve of how ineffective the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been rendered since 2000 and the deadly results in our inability to protect our own people in disasters -- even those for which we have plenty of warning? Were you surprised to find out that the campaign contributor President Bush appointed to be the recently-disgraced head of FEMA had no experience at all in disaster management?

5. Do you have health insurance? Are you aware that almost 46 million Americans have no medical insurance and that the Bush administration thinks this works just fine? Most of us parents have seen our young children suffer with a common ear infection. Imagine watching your child in that pain and how you would feel being powerless to get antibiotics to ease your child's suffering. Are you comfortable with children in America living in situations like that – and worse?

6. Is your family better off and more stable socially, medically and economically now than when Bill Clinton was president? Even assuming you are not an economist, how do you compare the 22.7 million jobs created by President Clinton's administration with a net loss of jobs -- a 4.6 percent decrease in total employment -- since Bush took office?

7. Did the photos of prisoner abuse released from Abu Ghraib – the worst are in litigation and still to come – make you proud of our country?

8. Do you ever lie awake at night and question how the world went from a mentality of "we are all Americans today" on September 12, 2001 to almost universally despising our country now? To what do you attribute this?

9. Do you understand that scientists have almost universally agreed that a Category 1 hurricane doesn't become a Category 5 overnight without the impact of significant global warming? Did you know that Team Bush doesn't believe in the concept?

10. Do you believe it is good for your family and the future of your children that President Bush took the biggest federal budget surplus in U.S. history – amassed during the Clinton years – and turned it into the largest deficit ever in just his first term? What is your view of public policy that continues to give massive tax cuts to the richest Americans while doing nothing about our health-care crisis and, at the same time, cutting safety-net programs for children, the elderly, disabled Americans and Veterans?

11. Do you have a "support the troops" sticker on your car? How does this square with the fact that the Bush administration has cut Veterans benefits repeatedly and that the Republican Congress has on many occasions voted down Democrat-sponsored measures that would have provided physical and mental health-care funds for returning Iraq-war Vets?

12. Have you heard the name Valerie Plame in the news and just not understood why? Did you know that she's the covert CIA officer outed by the Bush administration as retaliation against her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, who exposed a major lie used by the administration take us to war in Iraq?

13. Did you know that the 44 Democrats in the U.S. Senate represent well over 50 percent of the country's population and yet Republicans have voted down almost 90 percent of legislation sponsored by Democrats in 2005?

14. The federal minimum wage has stayed below the poverty level -- $5.15 per hour –for almost a decade, creating a situation where a hard-working American, working 50-60 hours a week, still lives at or below the poverty line. Does that sound right to you? Are you aware that Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy brought minimum wage increases to the Senate floor twice in 2005 and they were shot down each time by the Republican majority?

15. Are you okay with the culture of corruption in the GOP that has the vice president's chief of staff indicted for perjury, Tom DeLay up on money-laundering charges and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist being investigated for insider trading – and that this may only be the tip of the iceberg?
Happy Holidays!

Mike Wallace interviewed by The Boston Globe:
Q. President George W. Bush has declined to be interviewed by you. What would you ask him if you had the chance?

A. What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?
Wingnut inoculation: Wallace also says Dan Rather should have resigned: "When everybody who helps you put together a piece like that gets fired, don't you think it ought to cross your mind?"

(Via Atrios.)

Approximately Perfect beat me to the punchline:

We didn't forget Poland
Poland was the heart of the CIA's secret detention network in Europe until recently, an analyst of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch organization was quoted as telling a Polish newspaper.
He said "Meh." I say "Feh."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Let us stipulate that Jon Stewart is the best thing that has happened to television news since Edward R. Murrow.

Still. We must observe (and by "we" I mean Mr. and Mrs. Fish) that Jon Stewart's hair has entered a dimension formerly occupied only by fuel cells from cold fusion reactors.

Watch. Tell me you don't see his hair defying gravity in a way that is positively Heinleinian in its unnatural upside-down-ness.

Yes, this observation is shallow and inconsequential. But still. Jon, the hairspray. The stylist. The unnerving lack of gravity.

Dude, relax.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I didn't realize the Bush administration actually had a plan in Iraq, but apparently this is it:
Step 1: Give speeches.
Step 2:
Step 3: VICTORY!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Via Political Wire:
"I'm a red-state governor, who failed at a couple of businesses, and I liked to party too much in college, and I recently got in a well-publicized bike accident. He's a guy named George who's done nothing more than live off his dad's legacy. Together we wouldn't just get elected president -- together, we already are the president."

-- Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), quoted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, joking about running for president with Sen. George Allen (R-VA) as his running mate.
Heh. Indeed.

Andrew Tobias finds these details in yesterday's news:
The 9/11 Commission, headed by former Republican New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, graded the government’s progress on the 41 recommendations in its initial report – including 5 F’s, 12 D’s, 9 C’s, and 2 incompletes.
Lessee now, if my math is correct, that's a GPA of 1.15. Considerably worse than the 2.35 GPA W earned at Yale.

Someone's in serious danger of flunking out.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Thw Worst President Ever cements his legacy:
The U.S. is at great risk for more terrorist attacks because Congress and the White House have failed to enact several strong security measures, members of the former Sept. 11 commission said Sunday.

"It's not a priority for the government right now," said the former chairman, Thomas Kean, ahead of the group's release of a report Monday assessing how well its recommendations have been followed.

"More than four years after 9/11 ... people are not paying attention," the former Republican governor of New Jersey said. "God help us if we have another attack."

Added Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic vice chairman of the commission: "We believe that another attack will occur. It's not a question of if. We are not as well-prepared as we should be."

The five Republicans and five Democrats on the commission, whose recommendations are now promoted through a privately funded group known as the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, conclude that the government deserves "more Fs than As" in responding to their 41 suggested changes.
Incompetence is the most likely explanation. As Steve Gilliard noted the other day:
When people say what would happen if there was a second terrorist attack, my reply is simple: we had one on August 30, it destroyed New Orleans, and Bush failed.

Nothing in the past three months has changed my opinion. Congress doesn't want to pay for this, and they have to. Although it may take a new Congress to do so.
It really is important to get new leadership. Soon.

(Via Arthur Silber)

Freedom is on the march. The Associated Press reports:
Iraq's former interim prime minister complained Sunday that human rights abuses by some in the new government are as bad now as they were under Saddam Hussein.

Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite Muslim, told the London newspaper The Observer that fellow Shiites are responsible for death squads and secret torture centers and said brutality by elements of Iraqi security forces rivals that of Saddam's secret police.

"People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same thing," the newspaper quoted Allawi as saying.
The guy doing the complaining is the country's hand-picked candidate for President in the upcoming Iraqi elections. Is there no end to the mess in Iraq? And to make matters worse, Bush doesn't seem to care. According to Seymour Hersh's bone-chilling account in last week's New Yorker, Bush is serenely confident that in 20 years the world will look back on this episode and see how right he was.