Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Best Debates Happen in the Blogosphere. A must read letter. 

Steve Gilliard is my favorite blogger. I hope he forgives me for reposting his entire letter to letter to another great blogger, Kevin Drum, who writes at Calpundit. Not surprisingly, the best debates in America are occurring in the blogoshpere and so here is a great letter that every American should read.

I don’t think Steve even visits my blog, so my guess is reposting it won’t be big deal. If you do happen to visit it Steve, accept my apologies and my praise.


You read me, you've read Kos. Where were we wrong? We said in February and March what would happen and to our utter astonishment, that is exactly what happened.

Well, we haven't had the civil war yet, but what we have had is total disorder and a widespread resistance.

Was there anything beyond your personal belief in the power of democracy that indicated that Bush could or would be able to pull this off? Did you think the French, Canadians, Germans and Russians were acting out of personal pique? Or were their objections substanially and fundamentally correct and sound. That there would be consequences to the removal of Saddam.

Unfortunately, it is completely ridiculous to think Bush could have any success in rebuilding Iraq, at least in the half-assed way we did it. With no support from the UN, an unreasonable reliance on exiles, many of whom had not been in Iraq for decades, and a refusal to understand that internal leadership always has primacy in the change of government, we are embarking on a massive policy of inevitable failure.

Even if that wasn't obvious, the cool reception given to us by Sistani should have been the hint things were not all gravy and rice.

From the day the INC and Marines pulled down Saddam's statue, the whole rotten policy should have been exposed. There has not been a day, not one, since March, where US troops have not engaged in a combat action.

Then, disbanding the Iraqi Army, for some vague political goal of deBaathistation, has helped fuel the Iraqi resitance to the point they're firing Strelas at anything that flies.

Anyone who supported this war, should, in my opinion, be ashamed to have done so. The evidence of Bush's lies and false assumptions weren't there in March, they were there in December. Tony Cordesman pointed them out in a CSIS paper. He said, clearly, with no stutter or mistep, that the most important part of the war would come after the Iraqi Army disappeared.

And that is where the failure came. As far as I know Cordesman is no liberal, and a former Army officer. Not one to pander to the NPR crowd. Yet, so many people fell for the Bush lie, a lie we all knew was a lie (drone bombers, handing nukes to Al Qaeda) that they feel the need to justify this by claiming we were deceived.

Although I thought Saddam had retained some rump chemical capability, the fact it wasn't found in the forward depots pretty much ended that idea. But it was clear then that much of what he had was destroyed in 1998. Ritter said so, Blix said so, El Baradai said so, Ikeus said so. This wasn't a secret.

Only Bush and the PNAC crowd felt that he was a threat and much of that was hoked up intel from Chalabi and their own biases and cherry picking.

So exactly what reason was there to support this war? None which I can see that bore out. And before you whip out the bloody dead Shia, we're the ones who encouraged them to revolt in 1991 and then watched them get slaughtered by the Iraqi Army, all in the name of realpolitik stability.

Bush lied. He was not misled or confused. He lied and thousands of people died behind those lies.
-so said Steve at 10:07:16 AM

read this everyday

Older Americans Speak Out, Realizing They Were Hoodwinked. 

It’s no wonder why the Republicans pushed through this Medicare package without plenty of debate. They wanted their industry cronies and backers to get their money before people realized they were hoodwinked. It’s too late for a lot of Americans who are living in the bonus round and wonder why they have been sold out. My guess is that this bill will turn out a lot like the invasion of Iraq, nothing more than a bait and switch bill that pretends to be about one thing and ends up being about something entirely other- let's pretend to cover older Americans when what it's really about is taking this entitlement out of the hands of the government and putting it into the hands of industrialists.

Have an excerpt and a link.

The drug benefit has often been described as the biggest expansion of Medicare since its creation in 1965. Some people here, especially those who have been struggling to pay for prescription drugs, applauded the change. But Ernest D. DeBlasis, 73, echoed the view of many when he said the new coverage "amounts to peanuts." …..

….."It's not going to help me," said Mr. DeBlasis, who spends half the year here and half in Marlboro, N.J., where he was an architect. "Let's hope Congress revises this thing before it takes effect in 2006." ….

…..In separate interviews, several Medicare beneficiaries questioned the priorities of officials in Washington.

"If they can send $87 billion to Iraq and Afghanistan this year, I think they could do a little better for our citizens, especially senior citizens who are on fixed incomes," said Tony J. Forzese, 71, a small-business man from Massachusetts who has had a condominium here for 20 years.

Floridians say they cannot understand why many drugs cost less in Canada and Mexico, and they are annoyed that Congress decided not to legalize imports.

"My brother goes to Mexico every four to six months," Ms. Angelotti said. "He picks up all the medications he needs. Going to Mexico, you get a better deal than the new drug benefit will provide."

Mr. Anasis said: "I don't understand why the U.S. government does not do the same thing Canada does for its citizens — buy wholesale from drug companies and get a 50 percent discount. I'm an American citizen. I want to buy here in my own country rather than from Canada." …..

Growing Discontent With Medicare Bill

Saturday, November 29, 2003

GOP pulled no punches in struggle for Medicare bill  

Hard as it is to believe, I am publishing Robert Novack's entire article about how the AARP bill was passed.


November 27, 2003


During 14 years in the Michigan Legislature and 11 years in Congress, Rep. Nick Smith had never experienced anything like it. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, in the wee hours last Saturday morning, pressed him to vote for the Medicare bill. But Smith refused. Then things got personal.

Smith, self term-limited, is leaving Congress. His lawyer son Brad is one of five Republicans seeking to replace him from a GOP district in Michigan's southern tier. On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.

The bill providing prescription drug benefits under Medicare would have been easily defeated by Republicans save for the most efficient party whip operation in congressional history. Although President Bush had to be awakened to collect the last two votes, Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Majority Whip Roy Blunt made it that close. ''DeLay the Hammer'' on Saturday morning was hammering fellow conservatives.

Last Friday night, Rep. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania hosted a dinner at the Hunan restaurant on Capitol Hill for 30 Republicans opposed to the bill. They agreed on a scaled-down plan devised by Toomey and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana. It would cover only seniors without private prescription drug insurance, while retaining the bill's authorization of private health savings accounts. First, they had to defeat their president and their congressional leadership.

They almost did. There were only 210 yes votes after an hour (long past the usual time for House roll calls), against 224 no's. A weary George W. Bush, just returned from Europe, was awakened at 4 a.m. to make personal calls to House members.

Republicans voting against the bill were told they were endangering their political futures. Major contributors warned Rep. Jim DeMint they would cut off funding for his Senate race in South Carolina. A Missouri state legislator called Rep. Todd Akin to threaten a primary challenge against him.

Intense pressure, including a call from the president, was put on freshman Rep. Tom Feeney. As speaker of the Florida House, he was a stalwart for Bush in his state's 2000 vote recount. He is the Class of 2002's contact with the House leadership, marking him as a future party leader. But now, in those early morning hours, Feeney was told a ''no'' vote would delay his ascent into leadership by three years -- maybe more.

Feeney held firm against the bill. So did DeMint and Akin. And so did Nick Smith. A steadfast party regular, he has pioneered private Social Security accounts. But he could not swallow the unfunded liabilities in this Medicare bill. The 69-year-old former dairy farmer this week was still reeling from the threat to his son. ''It was absolutely too personal,'' he told me. Over the telephone from Michigan on Saturday, Brad Smith urged his father to vote his conscience.

However, the leadership was picking off Republican dissenters, including eight of 13 House members who signed a Sept. 17 letter authored by Toomey pledging to support only a Medicare bill very different from the measure on the floor Saturday. That raised the Republican total to 216, still two votes short.

The president took to the phone, but at least two Republicans turned him down. Finally, Bush talked Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona (a ninth defector from the Toomey letter) and Butch Otter of Idaho -- into voting ''yes.'' They were warned that if this measure failed, the much more liberal Democratic bill would be brought up and passed.

The conservative Club for Growth's Steve Moore, writing to the organization's directors and founders, said defeat of the Medicare bill ''would have been a shot across the bow at the Republican establishment that conservatives are sick of the spending splurge that is going on inside Washington these last few years.''

Hammering the conservatives to prevent that may have been only a short-term triumph.

Not everyone is happy with the new AARP bill 

From the Boston Globe, an interesting article about the growing backlash. Have an excerpt and a link.

Many fear the Republican-backed bill approved by Congress on Tuesday will harm senior citizens and say the AARP, the nation's most influential retiree lobby, with 35 million members, sold them out.

If signed by President George W. Bush as expected, the new law would set up a limited program of competition between traditional Medicare and private plans, beginning in 2010.

Activists are worried that could lead to the privatization of Medicare, placing the elderly in the hands of insurance companies more concerned about profits than quality medical care.

AARP policy director John Rother said the new plan is not perfect, and the organization will continue to try to improve it.

The group's chief executive said between 10,000 and 15,000 members have quit because of the bill.

AARP members quitting

Cooked Intelligence 

David Ignatius in the Washington Post shows that Douglas Fieth’s memo linking Saddam Hussein is not only patently political, it’s patently false. It's nothing more than Rovian dirty politics.

Have and excerpt and a link.

Bush administration hard-liners have a dangerous habit of selectively using intelligence to support the policy conclusions they favor. The latest example of that tendentious approach comes in the leaked Pentagon memo on alleged operational links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that was summarized last week by the Weekly Standard.

To understand why the memo sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith was misleading, a little background is necessary.

The claim that Hussein's intelligence service had contacts with al Qaeda isn't new, and by itself it doesn't prove much. In the murky world of espionage, operatives are constantly checking out potential friends and adversaries; it would be surprising, in fact, if the Iraqis and Osama bin Laden's men hadn't met. CIA Director George Tenet summarized these feelers in an October 2002 letter to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He noted that contacts between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda dated back to the early 1990s and had included discussions about giving al Qaeda operatives sanctuary in Iraq or helping them acquire chemical weapons…

… Don't get me wrong. I respect the Weekly Standard's reporter, Stephen Hayes, and I think he had a good scoop (although I think he may have buried the lead). No, my complaint is with Feith, who produced an intelligence memo that to me had a clear political agenda, despite his claims to the contrary. The case that Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were working together against America is not "closed," as the Weekly Standard would have it. The CIA, which collected most of the raw intelligence Feith cites, remains unconvinced, and for good reason. The case is thin, and contradicted by high-level Iraqi sources. Advocates for U.S. policy in Iraq should understand that it weakens their credibility, rather than strengthening it, when they seem to be cooking intelligence to serve President Bush's political interests.

cooked intelligence

Friday, November 28, 2003

Dear Bloviating Racist Junkie, 

Hi Rush, hope you had a great Thanksgiving and hope you didn't jones too badly or have to drive through a parking lot for your fix. In any case, I just wanted to remind you that Donovan McNabb, the Black Quarterback who feel is over-rated is now on top of his division. Eagles are 8 and 3.

Something to keep in mind while we all gorge ourselves. 

Many in America still go without

Nation wide, experts point to a very merry economy the Christmas. It may be, according to most economic indicators, the rosiest pre-holiday outlook in the last few years.

Even so, for the third year in a row, the number of hungry Americans has been rising. The government now says 35 million Americans don't know where their next meal is going to come from, and that number includes 13 million children.

Why Are The News Media Downplaying THIS News?  

I realize this isn’t as exciting as a report about Bush’s “surprise” visit to Iraq. But to the family of this man, it’s probably a lot more relevant.

Another Dead American Soldier

From Central Command:

November 28, 2003
Release Number: 03-11-35C



MOSUL, Iraq -- A 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) soldier was killed just after 11 a.m. today in Mosul during a mortar attack on the division headquarters here.

The name and unit of the soldier involved in the incident are being withheld pending next of kin notification.

The incident is under investigation.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

The difference between Bush and Clinton 

Hat Tip to Steve Soto a la Daily Kos.

The short term memory of the American media is brought to light when we see that Bill Clinton didn't have to sneak into Kosovo after we won that war. In fact, he did such a good job of winning that war that it wa sreally no big deal for him to go.

Read on:

But while the media slavishly covers [Bush's brief Baghdad trip] for maximum White House benefit, they conveniently forget that Clinton visited another war zone on Thanksgiving only four years ago, and he was able to travel into a war zone only five months after the US-arranged coalition secured the liberation of Kosovo. My how quickly they forget. The big difference was that Clinton was warmly received by a large contingent of troops in Kosovo, but more importantly was also warmly received by the natives prior to the event, who thanked him for their liberation.
Bush was unable to visit with the locals today, for obvious security reasons, and instead had to settle for a staged event in front of 600 troops that gave (from the look of the NBC video) a relatively subdued response.

Much Ado About Abso-fucking-lutely- Nothing! 

Ooooooh. Bush went to Iraq. OK.... now he's been to TWO other countries. So what? I mean So what?

Does that make this war just?

Why did he have to sneak in? Because it's more unstable than the Lira.

Why? Because he loves the troops? If he loved the troops he wouldn't have cut combat pay and veteran benefits.

He did for another photo op.

He sneaked in so insurgents couldn't plan a round of explosives like they did when he visited Britain.

Blogger Talking Dog put it perfectly:

As we see federal funding cut for environmental cleanup, for health care, for education, even for services for our troops serving in Bush Administration wars of aggression, and as the President is merrily pushing a reform to the American labor laws which will screw millions of American workers out of overtime pay, its good to see that there is plenty of time to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on strategic holiday photo-ops.

Happy Thanksgiving 

Great article about another group that settled America and helped it to become what it is:

The unpilgrims

There was another group of settlers at the start of things. You might call them the un-Pilgrims, for they lack the neat mythic qualities that won the Plymouth residents their plum role in the national epic. Rather, the Dutch colony of New Netherland — which had as its capital New Amsterdam, precursor to New York City — has a ragged historical profile, which suits it because it was a jumble of ethnicities and had an excess of pirates and prostitutes. But its mixed nature is precisely the point. These forgotten pioneers forged America's first melting pot, making this holiday a particularly appropriate moment to recognize their achievement.

The contribution of these settlers has been overlooked because of that truest of truisms: history is written by the winners. The two great European rivals of the 17th century, the English and Dutch, each planted colonies in America. In time, the English engulfed the Dutch colony, which, we have been told, didn't exist long enough to leave an imprint. But that's not so. Dutch records — now being translated after centuries of neglect — reveal a thriving, complex society growing up alongside the English colonies. In fact, "Dutch" is something of a misnomer. The colony was Dutch, but more than half its residents were not. Then again, "Dutch" is very much the point. It wasn't accidental that Swedes, Germans, Jews and others flocked to this colony, for the Dutch Republic of the 17th century was itself built on a policy of tolerance that made it the melting pot of Europe.

The birth of tolerance in the Low Countries changed history. It made Holland the center of publishing, where Galileo and Hobbes printed their books free of censorship. The Dutch provided haven to exiled English royalty and peasants from across Europe who fled war and repression. It's often forgotten that the English Pilgrims, before taking a flyer on America, went to Holland in their search for religious freedom. They found it and then left for the same reason: they feared that amid the diversity of Holland their children would stray, and so opted to carve out an isolationist settlement in the New World.

In one of history's most overlooked chains of influence, this same Dutch tolerance that made the Netherlands the intellectual center of early modern Europe also helped fashion the city of hip-hop and sushi, Korean delis and Arab newsstands. But the influence of New Netherland doesn't end at the shores of Manhattan — or at Breuckelen, or even the tip of "Lange Eylandt." The colony ranged across the Middle Atlantic region, covering parts of five future states. After the English takeover, its residents stayed and simply continued about their lives.

This is the region that historians now see as the birthplace of religious pluralism in America: as the origin of the melting pot. Consider some of the cultural odds and ends that came to us from the forgotten Dutch colony. Santa Claus — Sinterklaas — was a saint whose annual arrival was first celebrated in New Amsterdam. Americans eat "cookies" rather than "biscuits" because the Dutch colonists gave their children koeckjes, literally "little cakes," and so gave rise to an Americanism. Such things are unimportant in themselves; collectively, though, they reveal that America's first mixed society never really went away, but is woven into the nation's DNA.

Wow. It's about time. 

Political Correctness has turned its crunching jaws of sensitivity on tech terminology. If this is so inexcusable, why has it taken, what, 25 years for somebody to say anything?

"Master" and "Slave" Settings For Hard Drives Deemed Offensive and Unacceptable

Glad to see that in this world of terrorism, uncertainty, and rapidly resurgent anti-Semitism, we can still find such important things to raise a stink about.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Any news?... 

on the "investigation" into who leaked Valerie Plame to the press?

I Stand Corrected 

Trajan has set me straight on the economic news. 360,000 jobless claims is indeed good news. From his comment section:

Jobless claims are simply the number of unemployment claims filed in the last week.

As to how many are being created - well the Bureau of Labor Statistics' payroll and household surveys are our standards of measure. The payroll survey provides the net job gain or loss over the month. The household survey is where the unemployment rate is garnered.

Good News....I guess. 

Only 360,000 people filed jobless claims last month. I wish this givernment would just stop spinning things and tell the truth. When a third of a million Americans are out of work in a month and that's considered good news, something is wrong.

We need to create jobs. Like during the Clinton Administration. We need to create millions of jobs.

Don't get me wrong. If this is improvement, then fine. But saying only 360,000 Americans are newly out of work this last month when we expected more out of work is like saying "I am going to continue to beat you, but not as hard as I have been."

Unemployment is not good for anyone. Let's stop celebrating....and gloating until there are millions of jobs in the plus column.

Early Gloating. 

Republicans need to to be careful -about gloating already. I have already read an article in the Washington Times about how the Democrats have no more issues. Let's look at the claims and dissect them.

HealthCare. The passage of the worst Trojan Horse Medicare Bill is said to have grabbed Medicare out of the hands of the Democrats and they can't use it against Bush in the upcoming election.

That's true if you listen to news outlets that only speak in the most general sound bytes possible. You can say "This President expanded Medicare fourther than it has been expanded since the 50s."

You can also say that it doesn't require free market enterprise to operate, because it allows drug companies to charge whatever they want with no incentives or pressure whatsoever to lower their costs.

You can also say it actually adds a tax burden on the taxpayers and makes Medicare more profitable to the biggest contributors to the Bush campaign: Pharmaceuticals and Insurance Companies.

You can also say that it will allow health insurance companies to cherry pick who they choose to insure- which puts us right where we are right now- tens of millions of insured and uninsurable people and richer insurance companies.

You can also say insurance companies who lost their asses in the stock market boom have helped pass a pork barrel legislation that is far more about share price and stockholder dividends than it is about the customer: say an 85 year old woman who needs heart medication.

You can also say what Tom Daschle said: it will take Senators their entire careers to fix the flaws in this bill. My dad used to say "Measure twice cut once" This bill could have ben fixed from the outset..but no...

You could also say it is spending spree the likes of which makes the Tax and Spend Democrats look frugal.

You could also say it adds to the biggest debt this country has EVER held.

You could also say that it was a back room deal with Novellli and a forced vote that typifies dirty Republican politics. I mean, let's not let people discuss- let's scare them into saying we control the congress and you can accept this or it will never be passed.

Now the White House is gloating --that attacks have decreased over the last few weeks because US forces have been fighting back.

You can also say there are no WMDs which the entire war was predicated on.

You can also say that this occupation is illegal because it A) conflates 9/11 and Iraq which HAD nothing to do with each other and B) we attacked a country that did not attack us.

You could also say the occupation is a failure and that Iraq is still 70% unemployed, running out of money and the reconstruction has put billions into the pockets of the people who are now running the occupation and in fact called for the invasion. (Conflict of interest).

You can also say the death rate of Americans is about 2 men a day and 9 wounded and that so far upwards of 10,000 combat troops have been medevaced out of the theatre- that amouns to about an entire division.

You can also say our Army is spending money in Iraq while our government is cutting entitlement programs to veterans.

You could also say that $160 billion is being spent to paint schools in Iraq while schools in St. Louis are closing and in other cities in the US as many as 60 kids are crowding into one classroom with underpaid teachers.

I could go on. But Republicans should stop gloating- it doesn't look good, and with a failed occupation and a Medicare that only Republicans like, the war in Iraq and the war at home is not over.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Where Art Thou Trajan? 

I’m sure those of you who read this humble blog have been curious as to where I have been. Why have I not been posting? Did I simply succumb to the agitation and frustration of the endless circular arguments, the endless rants against Fox News, Ann Coulter, et cetera, that I have never held as paragons of truth?

In a word, no.

Quite simply, I have been dedicating my free time to pursuing my dream – writing a novel. It is a dream that has been continually backburnered for years, occasionally pulled out and dusted off, but never properly tackled. About once a year I would get fired up about an idea, and for a week or so dive in and begin the necessary research before simply exhausting myself.

In mid-October, I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and it just hit me. The book is basically for anybody looking to embark on a venture – writing a novel or a symphony, painting, sculpting, running, dieting, even starting a business. While the book is full of advice we’ve all heard before, Pressfield’s writing style brought it home, and literally fired my soul in a way few other books have. It convinced me, then and there, to drop all the excuses and start writing again.

For now, I don’t care if what I’m putting onto paper ever gets published. Writing it is enough; being able to look back when I’m sixty five without the regret of never having followed my dream.

I’ve been stealing whatever time I have to write. Lunch breaks. Late nights, after my wife has gone to sleep. When possible, I take whole weekend afternoons. So far it goes well – I’m truly realizing that putting work into writing is like sewing a field. The effort pays itself off.

The downside, of course, is that my other hobbies have fallen by the wayside. Offroading, or working on my vehicle. This blog.

I still actively read everything Maccabee posts, and still keep current on events, but my posting will likely continue to be of a limited nature as the novel progresses.


Hope and Fear 

So the economy looks to be rebounding. That’s great, with more capital expenditures and more factories spending on new equipment. It is till needs new job creation before it’s a true recovery.

linked text

The economy roared ahead at an astounding 8.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the fastest pace in nearly two decades and a much stronger performance than previously thought. It raises hope that a long spell of lackluster business activity is finally over. ….For out-of-work Americans, though, it probably doesn't feel like much of an economic recovery. Only recently has the battered labor market shown signs of improving. In October, the unemployment rate improved fractionally, to 6 percent, as the economy added jobs for the third straight month.

Steady improvements in job creation and in capital investment are crucial ingredients for the economic recovery to be self sustaining, economists say.

The Economy - Good News Abounds 

Well, encouraging reports about the U.S. economy continue to surge in.

Take, for example, this morning’s report of the REVISED THIRD QUARTER GDP RISING 8.2%, well above the initial 7.2%, and soaring even above the revision estimates of about 7.7%.

Or have a look at THIS STORY, which states that business economists are forecasting 4.5% GDP growth in 2004, the highest since 1984. The also see unemployment declining by a whopping 2% over the next year as the economic expansion solidifies.

There’s also the hot-off-the-presses report on Consumer Confidence, which jumped from 81.7 last month to 91.7, blowing by the estimate of 85.

When the stocks rebounded in March, it was derided as a bubble. When retail sales, the housing industry, and GDP growth backed up the evidence for a surging recovery, they were balked at. When third quarter GDP was announced as the highest since the 80’s, the mantra was still “where are the jobs?”. When October’s employment reports came out in early November, and showed gains in payrolls, and substantial gains, over the past three months, it was still called “one report”.

So what now? Now that the economic recovery is very much in place? It is by no means a perfect recovery, I’ll cede, but a recovery it is. Business and consumer spending are up. Companies are beginning to restock inventories. Overall, hiring is happening.

I know. Since all the classic arguments seems to have been eradicated by consistent data, it is now time to jump, swords drawn and teeth bared, at the specter of the budget deficit.

Don’t Question My Patriotism. 

It was Barbara Ehrenreich who said that “..patriotism is too often the last refuge of scoundrels.”

Never has this been more true than now when Bushco aired a TV spot that questions the patriotism of half the country that suspects this war in Iraq was concocted. Indeed, the spot says that people have attacked the President for attacking the terrorists.

No wingnuts, people have attacked the President because he did not attack the terrorists. He conflated 9/11 and Iraq and some Americans are stupid enough to believe it, the same ones that are pissed that after Pearl Harbor we didn’t bomb the Chinese.

This morning Paul Krugman, scholar and economist reminds the right wing that uncivil discussion about the direction of the country have to be applied to both sides of the argument.

A few excerpts and a link:

linked text

Smart conservatives admit that their own side was a bit rude during the Clinton years. But now, they say, they've learned better, and it's those angry liberals who have a problem. The reality, however, is that they can only convince themselves that liberals have an anger problem by applying a double standard.

When Ann Coulter expresses regret that Timothy McVeigh didn't blow up The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal laughs it off as "tongue-in-cheek agitprop." But when Al Franken writes about lies and lying liars in a funny, but carefully researched book, he's degrading the discourse…….And even aside from the double standard, how important is civility? I'm all for good manners, but this isn't a dinner party. The opposing sides in our national debate are far apart on fundamental issues, from fiscal and environmental policies to national security and civil liberties. It's the duty of pundits and politicians to make those differences clear, not to play them down for fear that someone will be offended.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Under Fire, Bush Agrees To Meet Soldier's Families ..but shhhhhhh..it's private. 

OK, he did it PRIVATELY because news Karl Rove might disapprove of what damage enws cameras might wreak upon his stumbling around in front of soldiers families who he doesn't want to face.

I tell you, this is shameful. Shameful.

Here's an excerpt

The face-to-face meeting at Fort Carson with 98 bereaved family members lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes, and came just hours after the president signed a record $401.3 billion defense bill.
It was Bush's second meeting in less than a week with families of soldiers killed in action. The rising death toll has become a political liability for the Republican president, who is running for reelection next year.
Some of Bush's rivals have criticized him for not attending any funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, and barring television coverage of the return home of flag-draped coffins.
"While I appreciate President Bush's visit, it's too little, too late," retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a Democratic candidate for president, said in a statement.
The mother of a soldier from Fort Carson who died in the downing of a Chinook helicopter near Falluja has lashed out at Bush for not acknowledging her loss when he visited her home state of South Carolina.
But Bush has not faced as vocal criticism from grieving families at home as he has in Britain, where he met with relatives last week. Parents and widows of slain British soldiers have been some of the war's most potent critics.

Please vote him out of office.

Not that anyone is keeping count... 

...but Bush has attended 35 fund raisers and 0 funerals of our fallen soldiers.

Why I Believe The Republicans Are Afraid Of Dean. 

In my neighborhood, someone has gone to the trouble of putting a little DEAN sticky under the word STOP on each stop sign. Each one is about 12 feet up in the air.

Why would someone go to THAT much trouble over a candidate that his own party says is unelectable?

Because Howard Dean IS electable.

I am a Howard Dean Democrat.

Ann Coulter not only hates America, she also hates Jews. 

The queen bitch caterwauler who hates what America stands for and hates that Americans have the right to disagree with her shows that she is not only a fascist but an anti-semite.

Goes to prove, you can still have a nice set of gams and still be the ugliest thing in the room.

Hat tip to atrios

“In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats' other big idea – too nuanced for a bumper sticker – is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There's Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew – along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering."

Sunday, November 23, 2003

What Hath Bush Wrought? 

You can tell things are great over there in Iraq. Two GIs’ throats were cut yesterday, and the right wing persists in insisting that the war is just and even that it has something to do with terrorism.

GIs throats slit

To prove things are going so well, now, just like in the n60s, the FBI is spying on people who- OPPOSE THE WAR AND PROTEST IT! How DARE those Americans oppose this war? The FBI is spying on protesters just like it spied on Black civil rights workers who once dared petition for the right to vote and sit on the front of the bus.

FBI spies on Americans

Who’s laughing at all this? My guess it’s Saddam Hussein and Donald Rumsfeld. Saddam because he appears to be winning the insurgency and Rumsfeld because Condi Rice is now in charge of the "Iraq Stabilization Group". We should cut our losses and hand it over to the Europeans.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Bush Family Values ( or, is that MY baby?) 

Yes, I am enjoying the suffering of the Bush family that wants to take marriage away from Gays, but keep divorce and paternity tests for "Christians". We’re all hoping it really is Neil Bush’s baby.

Have an excerpt and a link. Hat tip Houston Chronicle.

linked text

Sharon Bush has asked a state district court judge to order her ex-husband -- President Bush's brother Neil Bush -- to submit to a blood test to settle a paternity question at the heart of a defamation lawsuit against her.

The request, filed Monday, asks that the judge order Neil Bush and Robert Andrews to submit blood tests to determine the paternity of Andrews' 2-year-old son.

Sharon Bush contends she needs the tests to defend herself against a $850,000 defamation lawsuit filed against her by Andrews. Andrews' suit contends Bush defamed him when she suggested in conversations with reporters, friends and restaurant employees that his son may have been fathered by Neil Bush.

Iraq I Commander Backs Dean. 

Tony McPeak, former Chief of the Air Force during the first Gulf War blasts Bush and his handling of Iraq II. Wow. Pretty soon only Faux News will be behind Bushco.

linked text

McPeak, who headed the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, criticized the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq before the invasion in March. He also said he has become disenchanted with the president's economic policies.

"I don't think the younger Bush has put a foot right since he entered the White House," said McPeak, who changed his registration from Republican to independent in April.

When it comes to Iraq, "we couldn't have sat around a kitchen table and designed a policy that was stupider," McPeak said. He argued that there was no evidence of a connection between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, "absolutely zero evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and the planning of the formation of the coalition (to support the war in Iraq) was very clumsily done."

Now THIS Is Funny! 

Republicans Fear Democratic Money?

This is pretty hard to believe given that Bush can refuse to stop over and visit the grave of a fallen soldier he sent into battle while he is collecting checks worth millions. You decide. Have an excerpt and a link.

Democratic Funds?

Republicans fear left-leaning advocacy groups will raise up to $420 million in unregulated contributions, the kind of soft money that the 2002 McCain-Feingold law prevents the parties themselves from collecting.

While Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie questioned the legality of pledges from wealthy donors like George Soros and Peter Lewis who advocate the defeat of President Bush, Republican groups will use those high numbers to galvanize their own soft money base.

Who Are The Real Winners In The Medicare Bill And The Energy Bill? 

The Medicare Bill and the Energy Bill, both examples of Congressional pork will benefit guess who-you bet- Bush’s biggest backers.

Have an excerpt and a link.

linked text

The energy and Medicare bills were drafted with the cooperation of representatives from dozens of industries. Power and energy company officials; railroad CEOs; pharmaceutical, hospital association and insurance company executives; and the lobbyists who represent them are among those who have supported the bills and whose companies would benefit from their passage.

The Medicare bill was scheduled to be acted upon by the House late last night. If passed, it will go to the Senate. The first comprehensive revision of energy policy in more than a decade passed the House this week, but in the Senate, the measure ran into a roadblock yesterday when opponents stopped it from coming to a vote. Sponsors promised to make further efforts to get the 60 votes to break the filibuster.

The energy bill provides industry tax breaks worth $23.5 billion over 10 years aimed at increasing domestic oil and gas production, and $5.4 billion in subsidies and loan guarantees. The bill also grants legal protections to gas producers using the additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), whose manufacturers face a wave of lawsuits, and it repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), a mainstay of consumer protection that limits mergers of utilities.

Molly Ivins is Dead On, as usual.  

The unsinkable, unstoppable and absolutely right Molly Ivins calls the Bush White House corruption for what it is, and suggests a few ways to solve the problem.

Have an excerpt and a link.

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I believe the ways to stop corporate rip-offs and harm caused to the public by greed is government regulation and suing the bastards. But let's suppose for a moment here that we try The Wall Street Journal's preferred methods for fixing all this -- transparency, accountability and responsibility. And let us apply these methods to the Bush administration, which proudly bills itself as the CEO administration. It is certainly an administration of CEOs. After the unspeakable Harvey Pitt was forced to resign as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bush brought in Bill Donaldson as corporate watchdog, the CEO of a huge Wall Street firm, Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, currently under investigation by the SEC for fraud. Ooops.

Transparency: We started with Dick Cheney's secret energy task force, then Bush decided neither his father's presidential papers nor Reagan's could be made public, then we got the PATRIOT Act, and everything went to hell. We couldn't find out who had been "detained" when, where, why or for how long, with no lawyers and no family notification. And of course, secret phone taps, wiretaps, sweeps, etc., all on "suspicion."

Accountability: What does it take to get fired by this administration? Outing a CIA agent for petty political revenge? Completely contravening administration policy with jackass statements about Islam, like Gen. Boykin, while you're the head of a sensitive Pentagon department on the subject? Obviously, you can get fired for standing up for the environment -- or at least not lying down quickly enough for those who are busy trashing it. RIP, Christine Todd Whitman. And for standing up and saying something populist, like the IRS should quit going after working poor people and try nailing a few rich tax cheats, as former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill did.

Responsibility: Have you ever heard this administration admit it has made a mistake? It won't even take responsibility for dumb stuff like the "Mission Accomplished" sign, much less admit it had no idea what it was doing in Iraq after Saddam fell. Even now, administration folks keep trying to wiggle out of their own ... I don't know whether it was lies or misinformation -- there was no nuclear weapons program, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and there were no ties between Saddam and Osama bin Laden. But there they come again, with some leaked list of questionable intelligence trying to prove what isn't true.

Christian Science Monitor Remarks on the Bush Iraq II fuckup. 

Have an excerpt and a link.

linked text

Analysis of a Gallup Poll of Iraqis finds that fewer than 10 percent of
them believe that the US invaded to help Iraqis, and even fewer believe
that the US objective was to establish a true democracy in their land.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer got hold of a highly classified
CIA report warning that an increasing number of Iraqis believe that the
insurgents can defeat the American-led forces, and that the majority
Shiite Muslim population might join the Sunnis to achieve that
objective. This assessment reportedly was signed by the CIA station
chief in Baghdad and Paul Bremer, leader of the Coalition Provisional
Authority in Iraq.

The picture of chaos was advanced by the sudden summoning of Mr. Bremer
to Washington for urgent consultations. He was sent back to Baghdad
with instructions to speed up the transfer of power from the CPA to the
Iraqi Governing Council (the US- selected body that Iraqis regard as
dishonest dupes, according to surveys).

Beginning a visit to Asia, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a
chief architect of the go-it-alone invasion of Iraq, was pleading for
help: "We'd like assistance. We'd like troop assistance, we'd like
humanitarian assistance, we'd like financial assistance."

Read that: Help! We want some other countries to send their troops in
here to die. (Thank you, Italy, by the way. Thank you, Britain.) We
want some other countries to help pay for the monumental cost of this.
(But we'll decide who gets the reconstruction contracts.)

Don’t Think It’s Right to be Gay? Congratulations, You’re a Bigot. 

About 8% of every adult population will show signs of diabetes. Doesn’t that make you think that diabetes is a common, human problem and not some disgusting freak of nature? No. One in 100 people has schizophrenia. Does that mean we should deny them the right to get a job or to get married? No. Would it make sense to vilify people who according to the color of their skin? No, we’ve already been through this. Then why go after gay people and try to take their rights away? About 9-12% of every human population is gay. That would lead me to believe that God put gay people on Earth, and if you’re Christian and believe God sent his only son, Jesus, to teach us to Love They Neighbor, then you have little or no choice to love tolerate gay people.

The right wing wants you to believe that being gay is a choice. This is the most wrong minded abjectly stupid proposition I have ever heard. Any human being knows their sexual preferences for the opposite sex, same sex or both sexes are innate and deniable only to their own detriment. A straight man can allow five gay men to give him a make-over and re-decorate his apartment and teach him manners. But a man who is hard wired to be straight can no more choose some other sexual preference than a man with a three digit IQ could choose to be a Republican.

The right wing is doing a full court press against gay people and it will become an election year issue in this next election where Americans, millions who are without job and millions more who are without health insurance will have their government bring to them one issue that under no circumstances hurts anyone. Right Wing pundits say that gay marriage would hurt marriage. It’s something I simple don’t understand. How can what someone else does, two consenting adults in the privacy of their own home harm you in any way? If I buy a diesel car does that hurt gasoline cars? If I root for the Braves does that hurt the century long tradition of rooting for the Yankees? If I eat meat, does that hurt the century’s long tradition of vegetarianism?

No, of course not.

Homosexuality is guaranteed under the provisions of Life Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness. The former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall reasoned that to dictate what a man can read or watch or see or choose to do in the privacy of his own home is in complete contradiction to the very principles of freedom. For some reason, the right wing doesn’t have enough to worry or lie about. They have to choose a topic that basically ground them as the party of exclusion and take peoples rights away based on their sexual preference.

Next, gay people will be wearing arm bands.

I offer this to you. No one owns marriage. And nothing a private couple chooses to do hurts anything anyone else chooses to do (unless that couple is detonating a thermonuclear weapon).

This is country we have created with right wing talk radio, Faux News and schools that teach nothing.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Who really gives a shit about Micheal Jackson? 

Micheal Jackson. Laci Peterson. Gary Condit. John Benet Ramsey.

Name four people whose tragedy really affects no one. I will bet you that Faux News has devoted over 1000 hours of programming on just these people in the past three years. While they are the worst of the worst in rag journalism, they are not the only purveyors of this junk TV. And like easily duped children, we find ourselves watching these profoundly unimportant melodramas unfold on a daily basis.

Well, maybe you. Not me. Frankly, when there are 8 to 10 million unemployed Americans, when there are upwards of 50 million Americans without health insurance, when there are men dying in Iraq in a war predicated on falsehoods and exaggerations, when our civil liberties are being deconstructed every single day, when ten children a day are hit by gunfire, I could care less about Micheal Jackson.

What bothers me the most is not that we watch it ( I mean you basically eat what is put in front of you ), it’s that these stories are offered up by “journalists”. I asked this question in a post about four months ago, challenging whether a news channel even has the right to cherry pick homicides and missing persons and carry on about them when the talking heads are not privy to the evidence, the testimony and suffer no consequences if they are wrong. I remember Nancy Grace, the bitter bitch queen of Court TV caterwauling about how guilty John Ramsey was in the death of his beauty queen daughter. Guess what? Turns out that the investigation has turned in a new direction: that an intruder indeed may have killed the girl, and the Boulder Police Department has stopped pursuing the Ramseys. Will Grace ever be held to a crucible of journalism standards for being wrong? No. Will she ever apologize for convicting innocent people on TV? No. Will the poor Ramsey parents ever be compensated for the suffering dished out by “news” channels?


It’s time we turn to other news media and turn off this shit that is fed to us as important and timely. It’s time our own news media actually deliver up news to us. Micheal Jackson should never edge out the deaths of nameless, faceless celebrity less soldiers dying across the world. Laci Peterson is one of tens of thousands of homicides that occur in America every year. Her life and the suffering of her family is no deeper than the suffering of the families of other victims.

We need real journalism again in America. We could all benefit from fewer politicos like Sean Hannitys and Bill O Reillys and more Walter Cronkites, David Brinkleys, and Chet Huntleys. And if you don’t know those names, then too bad for you.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Justice in Illinois 

Unlike the rest of this rightwing country, Illinois lawmakers have taken the injustice out of death penalty trials. I am still opposed to the death penalty but I applaud this effort which is the best in the nation, as far as I am concerned.

The Republican Governor was outvoted 115-0.

From Salon
Illinois lawmakers revamp capital punishment

Nov. 19, 2003 | SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) --

After four years of tumult that stirred a national debate on the death penalty, Illinois lawmakers Wednesday overhauled the state's capital punishment system to reduce the risk of an innocent person being executed.

The state House, in a 115-0 vote, approved a series of changes to a death penalty system that led to the wrongful conviction of at least 17 men.

The action, an override of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto, makes the measure law immediately.

Lawmakers said they will also press for legislation that would banish police officers who lie in murder investigations.

The law follows years of heated debate over the issue, starting with the release from death row of three men in quick succession who were exonerated or found to be wrongly convicted.

In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan suspended all executions and called on a group of experts to study the issue. The new law incorporates most of those recommendations. Before leaving office last year, Ryan cleared out Illinois' death row, commuting the sentences of 167 prisoners to life in prison.

Under the new law:

-- Judges will be able to rule out the death penalty in cases that rest largely on a single eyewitness or police informant.

-- The Illinois Supreme Court will be able to overturn a death sentence if it finds it ‘‘fundamentally unjust," even if there are no procedural flaws or other reasons to nullify it.

-- Execution of the mentally retarded is not allowed. The change brings the state into line with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

Also, the new also makes it easier for condemned people to clear their names with newly discovered evidence and guarantees they will be able to see prosecution evidence that favors them -- including some previously off-limits documents.

Limbaugh's Money Laundering. Me laughing out loud. 

It's only because he spent years talking about righteous he was and demonized OTHER junkies.

Limbaugh Denies Laundering Money

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Nov. 19, 2003

(Photo: CBS/AP)

"I was not laundering money. I was withdrawing money for crying out loud."
Rush Limbaugh

(AP) Authorities are investigating whether Rush Limbaugh illegally funneled money to buy prescription painkillers, a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity said Wednesday.

In his third day back on the air after rehab, Limbaugh responded with a blanket denial of the allegations first reported Tuesday by ABC News.

"I was not laundering money. I was withdrawing money for crying out loud," Limbaugh said in his three-hour broadcast.

Limbaugh was absent from his show for five weeks after announcing he was entering a drug rehabilitation program because of his addiction to prescription painkillers. But he told listeners he could tell them little about the allegations.

"I know where the story comes from, I know who's behind it, and I know what the purpose of the story is, and I'll be able to tell you at some point," he said.

Law enforcement sources in Palm Beach County, where Limbaugh owns a $24 million oceanfront mansion, previously confirmed that a criminal investigation into a prescription drug ring involved the conservative radio commentator. His former maid, Wilma Cline, reported supplying him with OxyContin and other painkillers.

Authorities learned two years ago during an investigation of U.S. Trust bank in New York that Limbaugh withdrew cash 30 to 40 times from his account at amounts just under the $10,000 bank reporting requirement, ABC News reported Tuesday. A bank employee was reported to have delivered some cash to Limbaugh.

Limbaugh told listeners the report was misleading and said that he had the bank bring cash to him at his New York office "maybe four times, if that many." Otherwise, he said he obtained cash from a bank in Florida, where he was living.

"When I went to get cash, I took a check to the bank. I went to the bank officer. I said, `Here's my check,' and they gave me the cash. There were witnesses to this," he said.

Limbaugh's lawyer, Roy Black, did not return a phone call for comment Wednesday.

It can be a federal crime to structure financial transactions below the $10,000 limit to avoid the reporting requirement.

Limbaugh said he started taking painkillers "some years ago" after a doctor prescribed them following spinal surgery. Limbaugh said he became hooked taking the pills for chronic post-surgical pain.

Limbaugh's drug admission came less than two weeks after he quit as an ESPN pro football commentator. He'd received criticism for saying on the sports network's "Sunday NFL Countdown" that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

Limbaugh reported two years ago that he had lost most of his hearing because of an autoimmune inner-ear disease, but some medical experts have said abusing opiate-based painkillers like OxyContin can lead to profound hearing loss.

Limbaugh had surgery to implant an electronic device to restore his hearing.

In the past, Limbaugh has decried drug use and abuse on his show, mocking then-President Clinton for saying he had not inhaled when he tried marijuana and often making the case that drug crimes deserve punishment.

By Jill Barton
©MMIII, The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Racism and Stupidity 

From the Boston Globe- proof that racists are stupid.

Bias taxes brain, research finds
Dartmouth scientists look at effects of racism
By Gareth Cook, Globe Staff, 11/17/2003

To the litany of arguments against prejudice, scientists are now adding a new one: Racism can make you stupid.


That is the message of an unusual and striking new series of experiments conducted at Dartmouth College, with the help of brain-imaging equipment and a crew of undergraduate volunteers.

According to the findings, the more biased people are, the more their brain power is taxed by contact with someone of another race, as they struggle not to say or do anything offensive. The effect is so strong, the team found, that even a five-minute conversation with a black person left some of the white subjects unable to perform well on a test of cognitive ability.

"Just having a prejudice makes you stupider," said John Gabrieli, a professor of psychology at Stanford University who was not involved in the research. "It is really interesting."

Researchers cannot yet predict how racial bias as measured in the lab will translate into overt racist attitudes or actions. But the new brain-imaging work, reported in today's edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, represents the most detailed look yet at the way racial biases function in the brain.

The work also paints a dispiriting portrait of the state of the nation's race relations, the lead researcher said, even among the well-educated, well-meaning Dartmouth undergraduates whom the scientists studied.

"I think people are getting caught in this trap where they are trying not to do the wrong thing, rather than trying to act natural," said Jennifer A. Richeson, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College. "Somehow we have to get past this awkward phase."

Richeson and her colleagues began by recruiting a group of white Dartmouth undergraduates and asked them to perform an "Implicit Association Test," a test that is widely used to measure unconscious racial bias. The subject is given a screen and two buttons. First, the subject is asked to push the button on the left if the word that appears on the screen is a positive word, like beauty, or a common first name for a white person, such as Nancy. Otherwise, they are instructed to push the button on the right.

After a session, the test is changed slightly, and the names given are those more common for a black person, such as Tyrone. The greater the difference between the reaction times in the two sessions, the more the person has trouble associating black names with positive concepts.

Next the team had each of the students speak briefly with a black experimenter and then perform a test of cognitive ability called the Stroop test. They showed that the higher a bias score the student had in the IAT test, the worse they did on the Stroop test after speaking with the black experimenter.

To uncover what was behind this effect, the team used a functional magnetic resonance imager, which is able to peer inside the brain and measure the level of activity in different areas.

Each student was then shown a series of photographs, some of white males and some of black males. The more biased a student was, the more the team saw a certain area of their brain activate, an area associated with "executive control," conscious efforts to direct thinking. This, Richeson said, is a sign the brain is struggling not to think inappropriate thoughts.

Based on the findings, the team suggested that when a biased person interacts with someone of another race, even briefly, it exhausts the part of the brain in charge of executive control, leaving it temporarily unable to perform as well on the Stroop test and, presumably, other tasks.

The report is the first time that researchers have shown a connection between racial bias and the parts of the brain responsible for higher functions, according to several neuroscientists who were not involved in the research.

It is part of a nascent movement to study the neurological basis of social phenomena, in particular racism. One study, by Elizabeth A. Phelps at New York University, found that biased people are more likely to have greater activity in their amygdala, a portion of the brain associated with negative emotions like fear, when shown the picture of a black person they don't know.

Another, conducted by Stanford's Gabrieli and other scientists, showed that the brains of white people process white and black faces differently from the moment they see them.

Gareth Cook can be reached at cook@globe.com.

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Self-love platitudes just keep on coming  

From the Chicago Sun Times

November 19, 2003


The liberal media have been conspiring to keep this whole thing silent, but details are emerging from that touchy-feely "Enlightenment and Empowerment" conference held last weekend in Hollywood.

Among the participants: Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Anthony Robbins, more than two dozen Democratic elected officials, Michael Moore, two of the three Dixie Chicks and the cast of "The West Wing." (Paris Hilton reportedly sent a videotaped message of support.)

The transcripts of the rally read like a blueprint for the self-centered, sappy, liberal mind-set.

Winfrey: "[A] number of things that I want to share with you will just come out in the normal course of conversation and executing broadcast excellence flawlessly, as I am known for and still habitually capable of doing."

Sen. Clinton: "I came to realize ... how much I love all of you, how much I appreciate all of you, and how much this ... means to me. ... You ought to see the mail I've gotten. ... The volume is beyond my ability to describe. You wouldn't believe it, and if I told you how much it is, people would think, 'Hype.' But it's so voluminous, it's so amazingly supportive that it's ... just gratifying."

Martin Sheen: "I put myself first. [I don't] mean to be rudely selfish. It just means I can't depend on other people to make me happy. I have to do that myself."

Robbins: "I have to do what's best for me if I'm to succeed at this. I can no longer anticipate what I think people want and try to give that to them. I can no longer live my life trying to make people happy. I can no longer turn over the power of my feelings to anybody else, which is what I have done a lot of my life."

Good Lord. Can I get an amen?

You've been Punk'd -- sort of

So there wasn't really a liberal self-love conference. In fact, all of those quotes were uttered by El Rushbo himself, Rush Limbaugh, after a five-week stay in rehab.

Speaking in his weirdly deliberate, bombastic style, Limbaugh greeted his legions of fans with a rambling monologue filled with recovery-speak that veered dangerously close to an old Stuart Smalley bit on "Saturday Night Live." (Notorious liberal Al Franken's character had a mantra: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.")

Imagine if some liberal politician or celebrity had returned from a rehab stint with statements like, "I have thought that I had to be this way or that way in order to be liked or appreciated or understood -- and in the process I denied myself who I was and I denied the other people I was talking to and relating with who I really am, and that isn't good." Would the reaction from Limbaugh and his dittoheads be compassionate understanding, or howls of derision? Would they applaud the bravery of a man publicly admitting his weakness, or would they have said: "Boo hoo hoo, rich and famous millionaire boy, stop feeling sorry for yourself!"

The more things change ...

I imagine the dittoheads were starting to get nervous as their hero talked about being "reborn at age 50" -- but as soon as Limbaugh started referencing the news, his fans undoubtedly were reassured.

"So I see that Ted Kennedy called a bunch of highly respected minorities 'Neanderthals,' " said El Rushbo. "The fact that Ted Kennedy is still in the Senate and hasn't been forced to resign means that nothing's changed."

That's true. Because what really happened is that Kennedy was referring to President Bush's judicial nominees, including a woman and some minorities, when he said, "What has not ended is the resolution and the determination of the members of the United States Senate to continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this president of the United States for any court ..."

Even someone with half his brain tied behind his back would understand that lifelong civil rights champion Ted Kennedy wasn't making a racial slur, but was invoking the common use of "Neanderthal" to describe old-fashioned, outdated thinking. Nice to see that Limbaugh hasn't lost his touch for massaging quotes for his own best interests!

(Note: If you're truly offended by Kennedy's remarks, better get after conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, who mocked Hillary Clinton's "Neanderthal tolerance" in an interview last summer.)

In Monday's New York Times, conservative icon and former slot machine addict William Bennett applauded Limbaugh for coming clean, so to speak.

"He was manly," said Bennett. "He was straightforward."

Well. After the National Enquirer outed him, that is.

Of course, the hardcore dittoheads will stand by their man, even as he contradicts himself. On Monday, Limbaugh admitted he avoided talking about drug abuse for much of the last eight years because of his own problem -- but he also told his audience: "I've not been phony here. I've not been artificial on the program. I was all of that elsewhere." Huh?

Continued good luck to Rush with his recovery process -- and to his listeners, who will have to come to terms with a fallen hero bursting with contradictions.

E-mail: rroeper@suntimes.com


By Oonagh Blackman

TONY Blair has attacked President Bush's Republicans for faking "compassionate" politics like Michael Howard's hardline Tories.

The Prime Minister branded George Bush's portrayal of Republicans as caring conservatives as a hollow "illusion".

The revelation is highly embarrassing as it comes at the start of Mr Bush's state visit to Britain. It was in a a meeting with Labour's ruling National Executive Committee that the PM launched a savage attack on the Republican's style of politics.

He compared it to the Tories' attempt to re-fashion themselves as "compassionate conservatives" to shrug off their hardline right-wing image.

A secret record of the last NEC meeting showed Mr Blair saying: "Michael Howard's soft centrist language was an illusion, like the US Republicans' compassionate conservatism."

At the meeting Mr Blair faced criticism from within Labour ranks about the visit and was accused of "endorsing" Mr Bush's re-election.

One NEC member said: "Blair is privately attacking Bush for being a nasty right-winger. But in public he's his best mate. He can't have it both ways and it is creating real divisions in the party."

Polls show Americans not buying Fox News messages. 

Most Americans don’t believe that a new democratic government will ever be formed in Iraq. Most Americans also believe that we are no safer from terrorism after the invasion. Most Americans feel we had no plan for getting out once we got in.

Most Americans, after all, are smart enough to Fox News talking points sales job with a grain of salt.

Have an excerpt and a link.

linked text

A slim majority in the poll taken Friday-Sunday, 53%, does not accept Bush's premise that U.S. action in Iraq will encourage political and economic reform in other countries in the Middle East; 42% say it will. But most of those polled, 55%, say Muslim countries in the Middle East can become democracies. Also, 56% say the United States has a responsibility to help other countries remove dictators and become democracies. The margin of error for the last two questions was +/--5 percentage points. For the other questions, it was +/--3 points.

The poll, taken as attacks on U.S. troops increased and the White House accelerated its plan for Iraq sovereignty, finds that most Americans expect the country to fall into chaos and civil war when U.S. troops leave.

Even if troops stay three years, more than eight in 10 expect U.S. military casualties to continue at the same rate or higher.

Should We Invade Equatorial Guinea? 

I mean why not? The dictator at the top is a monster. He represses his people. He hates freedom and democracy. Best of all? He is on oil. Doesn't this sound like something we have heard a million times on Faux News?

Teodoro Obiang might seem an unlikely candidate for warmer relations with Washington, except for one thing — his tiny West African country's got a tremendous amount of oil.
With America looking increasingly for alternatives to oil from the Middle East, West Africa — and dictators like Obiang — aren't looking so bad.
To the dismay of human rights activists, Washington reopened its embassy on the tropical country's island capital of Malabo last month after an eight-year shutdown.
Although no U.S. ambassador is serving in Malabo, Obiang's critics say reopening of the embassy gives tacit approval to a repressive regime that lets little of the country's newfound oil wealth trickle down to its 500,000 people, who are among the poorest on Earth.

linked text

Brilliant take on crime. 

From CBS Columnist Deic Meyer

The Predator Class

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2003


The stock market boom of the 1990s, the proliferation of 401(k) plans and the mass use of mutual funds so greatly increased the number of Americans who own equities that a new demographic term was born: the investor class.

The emerging accounts of thievery in the world of mutual funds confirm, for me at least, something I have suspected since the go-go 1980s -- the existence of an economic predator class.

I believe there is now a professional, well-trained elite, supported by large institutions, that is adept and willing to use corrupt practices to accumulate wealth. Despite assurances from game-theorists and anthropologists that the criminal cadre in the species remains a constant percentage over time, I believe today's mainstream, sanitized, and institutionally sanctioned financial crime rackets are being run by a new breed of crook. There have always been scandals and crooks in the history of American money, but our predator class is a distinct creation of the late 20th century.

I believe there is no way the counter-class made up of regulators, watchdogs and do-gooders and hack columnists can match wits with the predator class. Today's piles of money are so huge, great fortunes can be amassed by swiping the tiniest of slices in the wiliest of ways long before picked pockets are discovered.

I also believe that my darling baby-boom generation and our successors in gens x and y, reared in raised consciousness, righteousness and me-first, are probably to blame.

The docket of this still running corporate crime spree has grown far too long to be dismissed as either a passing fluke, a few bad eggs or as regularly scheduled financial event. It is a more permanent condition of commercial culture. And it is barely scorned.

It is partly, of course, simple Wall Street and boardroom greed, a cousin to the greed and gargantuan rewards in entertainment and sports. It is partly the degradation of professional standards, of the concept of the fiduciary, akin to the same market-driven devolution in divergent fields such as medical care, Hollywood, publishing and, yes, journalism.

My guess is that financial historians will start the clock in this epoch with the big merger scandals of the 1980's -- Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken and scads of lesser cads. Next came the long running, now forgotten, S&L scandals. Then a lull (maybe), punctuated by the pretty picture of the tech boom. That delusional portrait was been redrawn when we learned of the rigged IPO's, insider trading, completely corrupt "analysis" practices at the Wall Street giants and old-fashioned flimflam.

Coveting the vast instant riches of the techno-boomers and baby billionaires was way more than many titans of less glamorous industries could bear and in virtually all companies executive salaries soared beyond all proportions of the post-war era. And in many of those executive suites, greed morphed into felony -- Tyco, Enron, Rite-Aid, Adelphia, Global Crossing, WorldCom, ImClone, Lucent, KMart, MicroStrategy, Qwest Communications. And then scandals at the supposed auditors, like Arthur Andersen, insulted the injury.

As the market turned down, the corporate crime spree didn't wane as some theorists said it should. Hot stocks, IPO's, M&A were no longer where the Willy Suttons with MBAs, Turnbull & Asser shirts and Patek Philipe watches saw the money. They saw it in those huge piles of money accumulated by working people for savings and retirement -- corporate pension funds, public pension funds, 401(k)'s and mutual funds. Who would notice a few mil or bil siphoned off in arcane late-trading deals? They'll never know what hit them.

So, pension funds were raided, an entirely legal scandal. And now we're learning about the mutual fund grifting rampage that may affect Main Street as much as prior fiascos: Putnam, Alger Management, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Strong Capital Management, PBHG Funds, Bank One Corp., Alliance Capital, Janus Capital Group are some of the implicated names.

So now we'll be told that the market, smarter than any deliberately organized system, will correct this. After all, who would invest in a known corrupt game? No one, so the market will make fix it. Plus, the regulators are on the case.

This time, I don't buy it. The predator class will not be exterminated by cease and desist orders, Senate hearings, independent boards of directors and the invisible hand. It's a culture. And essentially, it's our culture.

Dick Meyer , the Editorial Director of CBSNews.com, has covered politics and government in Washington for 20 years and has won the Investigative Reporters and Editors, Alfred I. Dupont, and Society of Professional Journalists awards for investigative journalism.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

No proof of a connection between Saddam and 9/11 

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The CIA's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found no evidence that former president Saddam Hussein tried to transfer chemical or biological technology or weapons to terrorists, according to a military and intelligence expert.

Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, provided new details about the weapons search and Iraqi insurgency in a report released Friday. It was based on briefings over the past two weeks in Iraq from David Kay, the CIA representative who is directing the search for unconventional weapons in Iraq; L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator there; and military officials.

"No evidence of any Iraqi effort to transfer weapons of mass destruction or weapons to terrorists," Cordesman wrote of Kay's briefing. "Only possibility was Saddam's Fedayeen [his son's irregular terrorist force] and talk only."

Monday, November 17, 2003

The Future of Iraq?  

Here’s what happens when you cut and run vs. stay the course.

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Last week the resurgent Taliban began striking into the cities and against heavily armed coalition troops. Their efforts were once limited to hit-and-run attacks on far-flung government outposts or aid projects and the assassination of moderate clerics. But in the past eight days they have attacked a column of armoured vehicles near the Pakistani border, killing a Romanian soldier, and detonated a series of bombs in Kandahar city itself and in Qalat, capital of Zabul province. The Taliban's leaders are also refusing to surrender a Turkish engineer who was kidnapped two weeks ago while working on the key road from Kabul to Kandahar. Instead, they issued threats to kidnap Western journalists.

The Taliban are expanding fast. The deputy governor of Zabul admits most of his province is now controlled by the militia. Most of Oruzgan province and around half of Kandahar province is now beyond government authority.

Even in supposedly loyal areas there are many loyal to Mullah Omar. In the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, Sher Ahmed Hakiya, the local chief, said: 'Many here were with the Taliban. Now they have all given me written pledges of their allegiance, so I am confident that there will be no problem.' Few are so optimistic.

The number of the new Taliban is unclear. A US-led operation in September, which claimed 300 'kills', seems to have had little impact. Some estimate that several thousand fighters have been mobilised in the Taliban-controlled areas.

But who are they? Are they supported by local people or by elements in neighbouring states? And how can President Hamid Karzai's fragile government rectify a situation which analysts agree is deteriorating fast?

The new Taliban can be split into four groups. There is the senior leadership who escaped the war of 2001 and are now largely based in Pakistan. Then there are the 'fighting' commanders inside Afghanistan. They too have often been involved with the Taliban for years. One of the most senior such men is the former Taliban Interior Minister, Abdul Razzaq, 35, who is operating in the hills visible on the horizon to the north of Sangesar.

The third category are Taliban 'fellow travellers', armed tribal bands led by those with their own reason for opposing the new central government. Significantly, an appeal issued last week by Mullah Omar was directed at warlords who have yet to side with either the Taliban or the government. The fourth and most numerous category comprises young foot-soldiers such as Abdullah, whom The Observer interviewed in prison in Kandahar.

Poll finds Bush's job approval at 50% 

Why is this no shock?

By Richard Benedetto, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — President Bush's job approval rating is sagging, and in several other categories he is at or near the lowest point of his presidency, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds. (Related link: Poll results)

"Right now, it is anybody's ball game, but if I were betting, I would still bet on Bush," said one political anaylst.

By Charles Dharapak, AP

As the war in Iraq drags on, the country is nearly split over the president's leadership: 50% approve of the job he is doing, and 47% disapprove.

That equals the lowest approval and highest disapproval of his presidency, which occurred in late September, when the post-combat phase of the Iraq operation took a turn for the worse.

"In the coming election, Bush will be challenged on his Iraq polices and have to defend the effectiveness of the actions he's taken," says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "Right now, it's very dicey."

A drop in approval by women was a key factor. A month ago, 53% of women approved of the overall job Bush was doing. Now, 44% approve. Support by men fell from 60% to 56%.

Independents, the voters who can swing close elections, are becoming more critical, too. Bush's approval in that group is down to 42% from 49% a month ago.

Registered voters who say they will vote for Bush's re-election, 44% of those polled, are about equal to the 43% who say they won't. One in eight are undecided.

"Right now, it is anybody's ball game, but if I were betting, I would still bet on Bush. There is still a long way to go," says Stephen Wayne, a political scientist at Georgetown University in Washington.

Wayne says the advantages of incumbency and Bush's record-setting fundraising give him an edge.

But the poll shows other weaknesses.

Nearly six in 10 say Bush is not in touch with the problems of ordinary Americans. They're split on whether he "cares about the needs of people like you" — his 49% score on that question is the lowest since he took office. Fewer than half are confident that Bush can get the economy moving.

Keeping a president's job approval above 50% is critical in any White House. Every president who averaged 50% or better in the year of his re-election contest won a second term. Every president whose average fell below 50% during that year lost.

Better economic news in October helped boost Bush's ratings a bit then, but increased violence in Iraq this month has pushed the economy out of the headlines and raised further questions about the effectiveness of Bush's policies.

On more personal attributes, although Americans are not as admiring of Bush as they were in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks or right after U.S. tanks rolled into Baghdad, his ratings are still solid.

Regardless of how they rate his job performance, nearly seven in 10 like him as a person. Nearly six in 10 say he is honest and trustworthy; two-thirds rate him a strong and decisive leader.

Karlyn Bowman, a polling analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington, says presidents with political troubles get "the benefit of the doubt" from voters who like them personally. "The presidency is a performance-based office," she says. "But in elections, strong personal characteristics are bound to help in some way. I would say the president is weakened, but not yet weak."

Plan B 

OK. The Bush Administration will now reverse course and allow someone else to handle this mess we’ve created. I mean, come on, there's an election coming up. That’s Plan B. Except that, as usual, no one in the White House will admit it. But the American public isn't stupid. Well, except the ones who bought this whole thing.

The United States accepts that to avoid humiliating failure in Iraq it needs to bring its forces quickly under international control and speed the handover of power, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, has said. Decisions along these lines will be made in the "coming days", Mr Solana told The Independent .

The comments, signalling a major policy shift by the US, precede President George Bush's state visit this week to London, during which he and Tony Blair will discuss an exit strategy for forces in Iraq….

…Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, arrives in Brussels tonight for talks with EU ministers, which he will combine with a meeting with the retiring Nato secretary general, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Diplomats say that Mr Powell is expected to "test the water" about the involvement of the transatlantic alliance in Iraq. The litany of setbacks, growing US casualties and the recent killing of 18 Italian servicemen has brought intense domestic and international pressure on the Bush administration to give the occupying force more legitimacy.

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Problems with Medicare Bill 

This is why many in Congress have doubts about the pending Medicare reform. While it will help many, it will will leave out a huge portion in the middle-right where my Mom falls.

Published: November 14, 2003

Have a link and an excerpt:

Paul Krugman

This proposal goes under the name of "premium support." Medicare would no longer cover whatever medical costs an individual faced; instead, retirees would receive a lump sum to buy private insurance. (Those who opted to remain with the traditional system would have to pay extra premiums.) The ostensible rationale for this change is the claim that private insurers can provide better, cheaper medical care.

But many studies predict that private insurers would cherry-pick the best (healthiest) prospects, leaving traditional Medicare with retirees who are likely to have high medical costs. These higher costs would then be reflected in the extra payments required to stay in traditional fee-for-service coverage. The effect would be to put health care out of reach for many older Americans. As a 2002 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation judiciously put it, "Difficulties in adjusting for beneficiary health status . . . could make the traditional Medicare FFS program unaffordable to a large portion of beneficiaries."

What's going on? Why, bait and switch, of course. Few politicians want to be seen opposing a bill that finally provides retirees with prescription drug coverage. That makes a prescription drug bill a perfect vehicle for smuggling in provisions that sound as if they have something to do with improving Medicare, yet are actually designed to undermine it.

Faced with adamant opposition from Democrats who understand exactly what's going on, like Senator Edward Kennedy, the Republicans are reported to have retreated a bit. The consequences of the crunch planned for 2011 will apparently be less drastic, and premium support will be introduced as an experiment — albeit one involving millions of people — rather than all at once. But this bill is still a Trojan horse.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Why I Am A Democrat. 

This cuts to the core of it. When America wants to invade another country with the best Army nand the best weapons available, that’s no problem. When America wants to send men to the Moon, that’s no problem. When America wants to have a Federal Screener in every airport and shipping dock, there’s plenty of money and willpower..

But when children need medicine, or to be educated…ell holy jesus…we have to let the free market determine that.

Did you know that we now have laser weapons? Yes, it’s true, the US has laser weapons that cost us billions to produce. If we can do this for our people , then why can’t we insure our people? Isn’t the health of each individual the whole point of having a military? Why shouldn’t health coverage be part of that too?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for having the best military. It’s just not the end of what I want for my tax dollars.

DALLAS — The last time Kevin Thornton had health insurance was three years ago, which was not much of a problem until he began having trouble swallowing.

"I broke down earlier this year and went in and talked to a doctor about it," said Mr. Thornton, who lives in Sherman, about 60 miles north of Dallas.

A barium X-ray cost him $130, and the radiologist another $70, expenses he charged to his credit cards. The doctor ordered other tests that Mr. Thornton simply could not afford.

"I was supposed to go back after the X-ray results came, but I decided just to live with it for a while," he said. "I may just be a walking time bomb."

Mr. Thornton, 41, left a stable job with good health coverage in 1998 for a higher salary at a dot-com company that went bust a few months later. Since then, he has worked on contract for various companies, including one that provided insurance until the project ended in 2000. "I failed to keep up the payments that would have been required to maintain my coverage," he said. "It was just too much money."

Mr. Thornton is one of more than 43 million people in the United States who lack health insurance, and their numbers are rapidly increasing because of ever soaring cost and job losses. Many states, including Texas, are also cutting back on subsidies for health care, further increasing the number of people with no coverage.

The majority of the uninsured are neither poor by official standards nor unemployed. They are accountants like Mr. Thornton, employees of small businesses, civil servants, single working mothers and those working part time or on contract.

"Now it's hitting people who look like you and me, dress like you and me, drive nice cars and live in nice houses but can't afford $1,000 a month for health insurance for their families," said R. King Hillier, director of legislative relations for Harris County, which includes Houston.

43 million Americans uninsured

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Defense Department slaps down bullshit Iraq/AlQuaeda Connection 

DoD Statement on News Reports of al-Qaida and Iraq Connections

November 15, 2003

News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate.

A letter was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 27, 2003 from Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in response to follow-up questions from his July 10 testimony. One of the questions posed by the committee asked the Department to provide the reports from the Intelligence Community to which he referred in his testimony before the Committee. These reports dealt with the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida.

The letter to the committee included a classified annex containing a list and description of the requested reports, so that the Committee could obtain the reports from the relevant members of the Intelligence Community.

The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the NSA, or, in one case, the DIA. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission of the Intelligence Community. The selection of the documents was made by DOD to respond to the Committee’s question. The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions.

Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.



Boy oh Boy, Brits Bash Bush 

From the UK’s Independent, a blistering article about Bush’s upcoming visit. The Brits are so angry that he may draw as many as one million protesters. Have an excerpt and a link:

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But even if Bush, whose contact with the news is so assiduously filtered by his courtiers, gains little idea of the turmoil around him, his countrymen back home assuredly will. The treacherous French and spineless Germans are one thing. But in Iraq - as in most other things, the average American assumes - the British are our friends. Imagine the shock, then, when they see surging crowds, burning flags and (unless police step into ban it) a giant effigy of the Great Leader being toppled, à la Saddam, in Trafalgar Square.

It is not only Bush the Chicken-hawk warmonger and promoter-in-chief of the great illusion about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction who they will be denouncing. It is also Bush the ignorant, self-righteous Christian warrior, Bush the smirking executioner and Bush the believer in one law for America and another for everyone else. And, of course, Bush the "Toxic Texan", an image made flesh by the "ghost ships" bearing down on Hartlepool, whose US-produced contaminants will find a last resting place on Britain's unpolluted isle.

No man is ever quite as extreme as his caricature. But Bush comes closer than most, and not only Britons cannot abide him. In his own country, too, he is perhaps an even more polarising Presi- dent than Bill Clinton. Conservatives abhorred Clinton; but for the liberal half of an equally divided country Bush embodies everything to hate about the right. And the President's great betrayal only makes them angrier.

This, after all, was a President elected after the closest election in history - a President, indeed, who, but for the archaism of the electoral college, would have lost to Al Gore, who clearly defeated him in the popular vote. At first Bush made conciliatory noises, but his "compassionate conservatism" soon became a hollow joke. His administration is the most radical of modern times. It has rammed through huge tax cuts, and run up the biggest deficits in US history in the name of supply-side ideology. By tilting those cuts towards the very rich, he has widened the disparities of US society.

Plus Ça Change, Plus Ça la Meme Chose. 

A great article from the Independent calls up the Iraq-is-Vietnam comparisons.
Have an excerpt and a link:

a must read

Parallels with Vietnam are asserting themselves again and again in Iraq. They start with the justification for committing American troops to battle. In both cases, politicians lied to persuade Congress and the public to go along. In 1964, the year Lyndon Johnson officially upgraded the US military role from advisory to combat, the secretaries of state and defence accused North Vietnam of attacking the USS Maddox .

Defence Secretary Robert McNamara, in a bravura performance emulated by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the UN last February, announced: "While on routine patrol in international waters, the US destroyer Maddox underwent an unprovoked attack." The only phrase corresponding to reality was that the Maddox was a destroyer. Otherwise, the routine patrol was in fact an attack on North Vietnam's shore installations. The international waters were really North Vietnam's. And the unprovoked attack was not only provoked, it did not take place at all.

The Johnson administration's deception, like George Bush's over Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, worked. Johnson won passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, allowing him to take "all necessary measures". Bush passed his war resolution after telling Congress that Saddam was threatening the US. The Bush administration's dance around facts to achieve the invasion of Iraq made Johnson's chicanery look amateur.

Tonkin was shown to be a lie when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The lies over Iraq were exposed almost as soon as the US erected barriers in Baghdad to protect itself from the people it had liberated. No one found the nuclear programme, the Niger uranium or the elusive connection to al-Qa'ida. From the beginning in Iraq, as in Vietnam, the credibility gap lay wide open…. The last exit strategy in Vietnam was Vietnamisation, training South Vietnamese soldiers to fight South Vietnamese guerrillas. Now the word is Iraqisation and amounts to the same thing. In Vietnam, the US created a state apparatus that was corrupt and a local army that did not want to fight. Both collapsed when America pulled out. In Iraq, the Bush administration promises a different outcome - despite pursuing the same goals with the same methods.

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