Saturday, July 10, 2004

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Pro-Family Wing Pushed into Closet
for Prime-Time GOP Convention Slots

Sini at Jusiper caught the domestic agenda wingnuts having a little hissy fit over who gets top billing at the Republican National Convention next month.

When the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) ran a full page ad in Roll Call newspaper which features pictures of Schwarzenegger, McCain, Pataki, and Giuliani and asks, "Want to get a prime time spot at the Republican National Convention?" and answers: "Oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment," the Family Research Council (FRC) must have felt that, not only was the GOP shoving them into the closet for the convention, but now the HRC was rubbing their noses in it. Thus, this statement on the FRC website:
Judging by the current list of invited speakers, the GOP must be planning to carry the HRC and Planned Parenthood vote, all the while ignoring those who support traditional marriage and pro-life views - the very constituency that makes up the heart and soul of the Republican Party (emphasis added).

The party seems poised to keep some of its most articulate spokesmen such as Senators Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum and Representatives Henry Hyde and Mike Pence and other leaders on life and family issues behind the scenes. By keeping them on the sidelines they have missed a chance to emphasize the real heart of the party and the sharp contrast between the Republican Party and Democratic Party. By treating the vast majority of the GOP faithful like "fly over" country, the convention organizers douse the enthusiasm of pro-family voters - meanwhile they may show up to vote, they may not bring two or three friends along with them to the polls. Note to Republican Party organizers: Find a primetime spot for a speaker who the pro-family community knows and trusts and who will speak to the issues that have driven so many voters to pull the lever for the GOP in the past.
I'm not the first one to notice that the GOP is a little embarrassed about its heart and soul, and consequently is not giving somebody like Rick (man on dog) Santorum the spotlight during any prime-time media moments at the convention. But it's kind of fun to watch folks like the FRC come to the realization that they are not only taken for granted by the party they so love, they are, in fact, the crazy uncle who must be kept in the cellar when company comes over. Or maybe in the closet is a more apt metaphor.

UPDATE -- Credit where credit is due: Kevin Drum wrote about this a couple of days ago. I wanted to link to his comments when I wrote this post this morning, but his site was down, so I had to wait unitl it came back up again. Here is the link.


Friday, July 09, 2004

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Dean Blasts Nader in Debate

According to Saturday's WaPo (registration required):
The former Vermont governor has pledged to support Kerry and made good on the promise, savaging Nader as the debate got underway. "Ralph, I think you are being disingenuous about your candidacy this year," he began, and listed examples showing that Nader is drawing money and support from groups with agendas the consumer advocate repudiates. In Oregon and Michigan, groups loyal to Bush have organized efforts to get Nader on the ballot, in the expectation that his presence will hurt Kerry. Access to the ballots and the presidential debates are Nader's most daunting challenges -- and his principal goals.

Indiana and Oklahoma are already lost to Nader. Last week, his campaign received a setback in Arizona, and Nader accused Democrats of dirty tricks to keep him off the ballot.

Dean said Nader had benefited from support from the conservative Oregon Family Council. "This campaign of yours is hardly pure," Dean said. He added, "The way to change the country is not to get in bed with right-wing, anti-gay groups."
It's good to see Dean getting back into the fight. Since there is some overlap between Dean and Nader supporters, calling Nader on his hypocracy is one of the best things that Dean can do for the Democratic ticket right now.

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A Bright Shining Lie

Good analysis by Josh Marshall of the just released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the Iraq intelligence failure (see also Senate Set to Slam CIA: providing cover for White House below).
There is no bright line separating the administration's hyping of the threat and manipulation of the evidence and the CIA's own misreading of the evidence and its institutional decision to service the president's needs.

The aim of the administration's defenders -- Senator Roberts, et al. -- is to draw such a bright line (I'm tempted to say 'forge' but let's say 'draw'), thus suggesting the reasoning that because the CIA is guilty, that the White House must be innocent. But that's not true. It is itself yet another deception. They're both guilty -- only of different things.

The CIA is guilty: of aiding and abetting.

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Army to Recruit Airmen & Sailors
to meet impending personnel crisis

In an effort to stave off an impending personnel crisis brought on by the Bush administration's ongoing misadventure in Iraq, the Army will attempt to recruit service members who are separating from the Nave and Air Force. According to the New York Times (registration required)
In what some military experts see as another sign of how the Army's commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan have strained it, the service for the first time will soon begin aggressively recruiting thousands of sailors and airmen who are otherwise scheduled to leave the Navy and Air Force because of cutbacks.

Under a new program called Operation Blue to Green, the Army plans to offer bonuses of up to $10,000, in some cases, and four weeks of extra training to airmen and sailors willing to trade in their dress-blue uniforms for Army green fatigues. The Army is especially interested in men and women who have jobs that are readily transferable to Army positions, like mechanics and logisticians.


On Capitol Hill, senior House and Senate leaders, including Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, endorse the plan. Representative John M. McHugh, a New York Republican who heads the House Armed Services total force subcommittee, said the concept kept valuable service members in the armed forces, although in a different branch.

"Is it wise to just let those folks go with those kind of skills just because they are caught up in downsizing?" Mr. McHugh said in a telephone interview. "This is common sense."

But some military personnel experts said the move was yet another last resort by the Army to fill its ranks. In recent weeks, the Army has said it will call up 5,600 members of the Individual Ready Reserve, former soldiers who have left the Army and not joined the Reserves. The Pentagon has extended the tours of thousands of soldiers bound for Iraq or Afghanistan who had been scheduled to retire or leave the service. And, for the first time, the military deploying combat troops to Iraq from South Korea.

"It's further evidence of the strain the Army is undergoing," said Richard I. Stark Jr., a retired Army colonel who is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There is a short-term manpower crunch in the Department of Defense, especially in the Army."
I think the Army is underestimating the re-training this initiative will require. I mean this not only in terms of the technical specialties involved (doing maintenance on an F-14 does not have a lot of similarities to doing maintenance on an M-1 Tank), but also in terms of the differing modes of leadership between the services. The leadership issue is important because these will be junior and mid-level Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs).

In order to lead troops, they have to know something about how the Army works. During my years working in joint (multi-service) environments, I found that there were significant differences in how each of the services operated. This is the kind of learning that is instilled over time, working on a variety of missions. It isn't something that a sailor or airman is going to pick up in a 4-week orientation course.

So while the Blue to Green idea may have some merit, I believe it also has inherent challenges that the Pentagon has not fully considered.

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Great Quote

From Athenae (sitting in for Atrios) on "Why the Homosexual Movement Has Won"
You stand in front of a crowd of celebrating couples, some with children, some who have been together their entire lives and bothered no one, some who sang the Star Spangled Banner on the steps of the Boston courthouse, and the only thing you could say in repsonse is that those people were damned to hell? If you really wanted to suit up and do battle against gay marriage, you had to realize you were putting on a pretty ugly uniform.

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Return of the Jedi

Billmon's back -- with thoughts on blogging. And the Blogosphere is better off because of it.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

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The Real Mr. Flip-Flop
is none other than Flight Suit Boy

Thanks to The Side Show for this link to the Center for the American Progress which has catalogued no less than 25 direction changes by the Flip-Flopper-in-Chief. Good material for a letter to the editor of your local rag. The truth will set us free, and it makes the wing-nuts crazy.

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Nader and the Republicans:
This time in Michigan

In a follow-up to our previous posts about Nader giving up on Arizona after his petition campaign was linked to a prominent Republican and an anti-imigration initative there, Josh Marshall picked up on a story about Republicans working to get Nader on the ballot in Michigan.
Michigan Republicans are helping gather signatures to place independent Ralph Nader on the presidential ballot in the battleground state, irritating Democrats who accuse the GOP of trying to pull votes away from candidate John Kerry.

"It's another example of state Republicans willing to try every unethical trick in the book to hold power," Democratic Executive Chairman Mark Brewer said Thursday. "This clearly shows that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote to re-elect George Bush. The Republicans know that, and that's why they are desperate to have Nader on the Michigan ballot."

Greg McNeilly of the state Republican Party said the GOP is doing nothing wrong and hopes Nader will draw votes from the Democratic candidate. Republicans will make sure Nader has more than the 30,000 valid signatures he needs by July 15 to qualify for the Michigan ballot, McNeilly said.

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The July Surprise:
Politics above all else

Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and Avedon Carol are all noting The New Republic article about U.S. pressure on the Pakistani government to either kill or capture an Al Qaida high value target (HVT) prior to the November election. The article quotes a Pakistani official who says that the White House would really like to be able to make the announcement (of such a kill or capture of a HVT) on July 26, 27 or 28 -- the first 3 days of the Democratic National Convention.

Publius at Legal Fiction nails this for exactly what it is: a continuation of the Bush administration pattern that puts politics above all else.
First, in anticipation of Scott McClellan's responses, let me make it clear that I am NOT objecting to hunting down Osama or any other "high value" al Qaeda targets. There's nothing wrong with the Bush administration's attempts to get them. They should be trying to get them. That's not the issue. The issue is the requested timing of the arrests. And what's significant about the timing is that it symbolizes (perfectly) the central, most fundamental flaw with the Bush regime -- the willingness to put politics above absolutely EVERYTHING. This really wouldn't be such a big issue if it weren't part of a much larger pattern of behavior that has happened again and again.
All the bloggers mentioned above have noted that the July dates come from a single source, and should therefore be treated with at least a little skepticism. That said, a good analyst knows a pattern when he or she sees one. The pattern of the Bush administration, as Legal Fiction points out, is difficult to ignore. Sue-prize, Sue-prize.


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

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It's Kerry/Edwards Thursday
Support the Dream Team

Donate here. You know why.

And while I'm at it, 2 thoughts on the Republican attacks this week on the choice of John Edwards.

(1) They don't like him because he was a trial lawyer. George W. Bush was turned down when he applied to the University of Texas Law School.

(2) They say he doesn't have enough experience to step into the role of President. Then why in the world did they support Bush in 2000?

Give generously. Thanks.

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GOP Going to the Dogs

B. L. Ochman's dog is getting fundraising mail from Flight Suit Boy. Is this an indication of how desperate they've become, or just another sign of widespread incompetence. You decide.

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The Unequal Rights Amendment:
Vote may mark the Outing Season

With a vote on the the Unequal Rights Amendment likely in the Senate this month, Natalie Davis looks at the possibility of outing those in Congress who vote against their own.
So, as you might expect, the fight over this most controversial bill will be brutal. And one of the weapons in the arsenal of those desperately demanding equality for all is pretty controversial itself. That's right: Outing may be making a comeback.

Personally, I am no fan of outing. A person's sexual orientation is that person's own business. Being gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a bad thing; to me, it is something worthy of the same celebration as heterosexuality -- but every individual should have the right, if they choose, to protect their privacy and hide in the closet. While I recommend being out and open, I can't pass judgment on someone who opts to remain silent so as not to lose his or her job, home, and/or family. Even in 2004, being out carries huge risks for many people.

But there are times when outing becomes a duty. When a secretly queer person in a public position does harm to GLBT people (which, I believe, does harm to all humankind) for his or her own benefit, that person's hypocrisy needs to be unmasked and made visible for the world to see.
This should generate a lot of discussion both within and without the GLBT community. Natalie views at least one senator as being especially vulnerable. Read the rest of her post.

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Florida. Again!

Via Susan at Suburban Guerilla, this report from the Orlando Sentinel:
Secretary of State Glenda Hood sought Tuesday to ease concerns that thousands of voters identified as "potential felons" could be barred from voting this year, but she conceded there are unexplained glitches in a list that is drawing legal fire from civil-rights groups.

Advocates fear the state is again conducting a flawed purge of voters, as it did before Florida's contested presidential election in 2000. Recent newspaper checks have found thousands of names apparently listed by mistake among the potential felons.
Maybe we should just give Florida back to Spain and save ourselves a lot of trouble.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

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T-Shirts, Get Your T-Shirts,
and fine undergarments, too

Plenty of fine political summer wear available in Left Blogistan this week. First, check out the outstanding new design at Orcinus (with tasty quotes from both the dear leader and the vice dear leader). Then wander over and visit with Jesus' General for some 1984-ish patriotic designs. You'll just feel safer wearing a t-shirt with big brother on it.

If you're inclined toward more feminine attire, be sure to check out Axis or Eve (thanks again to Avedon for the link). The perfect panties for those who believe that political honesty should precede intimacy. Buy some for somebody you love.

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an ugly kind of war

Like the French soldiers of the late eighteenth century, we saw ourselves as the champions of "a cause the was destined to triumph." So, when we marched into the rice paddies on that damp March afternoon, we carried, along with our packs and rifles, the implicit convictions that the Viet Cong would be quickly beaten and that we were doing something altogether noble and good. We kept the packs and rifles; the convictions, we lost.

The discovery that the men we had scorned as peasant guerillas were, in fact, a lethal, determined enemy and the casualty lists that lengthened each week with nothing to show for the blood being spilled broke our early confidence. By autumn, what had begun as an adventurous expedition had turned into an exhausting, indecisive war of attrition in which we fought for no cause other than our own survival.

Writing about this kind of warfare is not a simple task. Repeatedly, I have found myself wishing that I had been the veteran of a conventional war, with dramatic campaigns and historic battles for subject matter instead of monotonous succession of ambushes and fire-fights. But there were no Normandies or Gettysburgs for us, no epic clashes that decide the fates of armies or nations. The war was mostly a matter of enduring weeks of expectant waiting and, at random intervals, of conducting vicious manhunts through jungles and swamps where snipers harassed us constantly and booby traps cut us down one by one.

-- Philip Caputo from A Rumor of War cover
Kevin Drum has a good post about the difficulty the U.S. is having fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq.
I've read over and over from military analysts of various sorts that we could have won in Vietnam. The basic principles of counterinsurgency are well known, they say, and we were beginning to apply them successfully when Nixon made the decision to pull out. If he had stayed the course, we could have won.

Maybe. But if those principles are so well known, why do we never seem to learn them? Instead, three decades after Vietnam, I keep reading stuff like this:
U.S. jets dropped six bombs Monday on a residence believed to be a safehouse used by terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the U.S. military said. At least 10 people and possibly as many as 15 were killed, witnesses and doctors said.

Four 500-pound bombs and two 1,000-pound bombs were dropped in an operation designed to underscore the resolve of coalition and Iraqi forces....
This just scares the shit out of me. My greatest fear in Iraq is that it turns into the West Bank writ large, an endless, slow motion slaughter that demonstrates undoubted resolve but sucks the soul out of both sides in the process.
I couldn't agree more. There are two fundamental problems. One is certainly the mindset of those in the White House and Pentagon about how the war should be fought. The only thing likely to alter that is regime change in the U.S., hopefully this year.

The second problem is that, for the most part, the heavy (armor, i.e. tank) forces that make up the bulk of American units are not only ill-suited for the counterinsurgency mission, they don't train for it.

The U.S. Army has two large unit combat training facilities. The National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California, is where the armor and mechanized units train to fight a big Russian-style opponent in large force-on-force engagements. The Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk, Louisiana is where light infantry and special forces units train to conduct counterinsurgency operations.

For the most part, the invasion force the U.S. sent into Iraq was composed of armor and mech units. They don't train for counterinsurgency. Consequently it doesn't matter how much doctrine and institutional memory the U.S. Army has concerning counterinsurgency. Soldiers, teams, and units only gain proficiency at those tasks upon which they train.

Score another one for those bright civilians at the Pentagon who thought they knew everything there was to know about fighting a war in Iraq, and for a president who, as an Air National Guard officer (before he stopped showing up altogether), indicated that he did not want to serve in that ugly little war overseas.

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Kerry Adds Edwards to Ticket

John Kerry made the best (and smartest) choice by choosing John Edwards as his running mate. According to the AP,
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry selected former rival John Edwards to be his running mate, telling supporters he couldn't wait to see the freshman North Carolina senator going "toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney."
Apparently Kerry isn't afraid of having a running mate who might shine a little brighter in his public personae. Good for him. I think Edwards is the best possible choice for this race. It will be good to watch him campaigning again.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the New York Post has just blown whatever credibility it had for coming up with the hot scoop.


Monday, July 05, 2004

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Senate Set to Slam CIA:
providing cover for White House

A story in Tuesday's New York Times (registration required) says the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is about to isssue a report slamming former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet and other CIA officials for failing to tell the president that Iraq had mothballed its weapons programs.

This follows on the heals of a similar report from the House Intelligence Committee (see House Chair Slams CIA, Wants Director's Job). As I noted then, this appears to be part of the White House plan for dealing with any blowback in the wake of George Tenet's (some are saying forced) resignation, by discrediting Tenet and blasting the Agency.

This isn't to say that George (It's a Slam Dunk!) Tenet doesn't deserve some blame for the Iraqi fiasco. But as the Times aritlce points out,
While the Senate panel has concluded that C.I.A. analysts and other intelligence officials overstated the case that Iraq had illicit weapons, the committee has not found any evidence that the analysts changed their reports as a result of political pressure from the White House, according to officials familiar with the report.
This, despite numerous reports from within the intelligence community that analysts were pressured by the vice-president and his stooges at the Pentagon to conform to the party line regarding Iraq's weapons programs. As Joe Klein noted in a recent issue of Time,
The spooks seem to believe that outgoing CIA Director George Tenet was strong-armed by Cheney and Rumsfeld into overassessing Iraq's WMD capacity.
Given that the President, Vice-President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Deputry Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and numerous other officials kept repeating it over and over again as the primary justification for why America had to invade and occupy Iraq, it stands to reason that with, you know, an election coming up in a few months, Bush/Cheney Inc. desperately need to blame somebody for their chronic stupidity.

Might as well kick the boys (and girls) at the CIA, I guess. At least the ones that haven't already had their covers blown.

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Kerry's VP Choice:
Pick Edwards for the Bounce

I'm in agreement with That Colored Fella that John Edwards would give the biggest boost to the Kerry Campaign when the choice is announced later this week.

TCF is willing to take bets, and thinks Edwards would diminish Dick Cheney's job security. Should be fun to watch.

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"They'll spend the rest of their lives in detention."

Via The Sideshow, King of Zembla, and Corrente, we link to the transcript of an extensive interview with BG Janis Karpinski who commanded the 800th MP Brigade in Iraq.

While Karpinski maintains that she is not revealing any information that is not already been made public, her perspecitve on events surrounding the Abu Ghraib Prison abuses is quite revealing.
One of the members of the team was a JAG officer, a lawyer from down there (Guantanamo). And I said to her — she was a lieutenant colonel, I believe — and I said to her, "You know, we're having problems with releasing some of these prisoners. What are you doing?" And she said, "Oh, we're not releasing anybody." And I said, "What's going to be the end state?" And she said, "Most of these prisoners will never leave Guantanamo Bay. They'll spend the rest of their lives in detention." (emphaisis added) And I said, "How do they get visits from home?" She said, "These are terrorists, ma'am. They're not entitled to visitors from home."

I was stunned. I thought, we'll never get out of Iraq at this rate.
It's a long interview. I'm going to have to take some time to really go through it. More later.


Sunday, July 04, 2004

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How to Spot a Terrorist:
Do your part for Homeland Security

David Neiwert, who is at the head of the class with his work on domestic terrorism and hate crimes, picked up on what he calls a disturbing report on the Department of Homeland Security's Highway Watch program that was in a recent issue of Time.
The truckers, who haul hazardous material across 48 states, explained how easy it is to spot "Islamics" on the road: just look for their turbans. Quite a few of them are truck drivers, says William Westfall of Van Buren, Ark. "I'll be honest. They know they're not welcome at truck stops. There's still a lot of animosity toward Islamics." Eddie Dean of Fort Smith, Ark., also has little doubt about his ability to identify Muslims: "You can tell where they're from. You can hear their accents. They're not real clean people."

That kind of prejudice is hard to undo, but it's a shame Beatty's slide show did not mention that in the U.S., it's almost always Sikhs who wear turbans, not Muslims. Last year a Sikh truck driver who was wearing a turban was shot twice while standing near his tractor trailer in Phoenix, Ariz. He survived the attack, which police are investigating as a hate crime.
In fact, this was the second shooting of a Sikh in Arizona. The first case was just days after 9-11. The victim, who ran a gas station and convenience market in Mesa, Arizona, died of his gun shot wounds. In both cases it is believed that the perpetrators assumed that their victims were Muslims of Middle Eastern origins, instead of Sikhs from India.

Michael Moore thinks we went about the profiling process all wrong following 9-11. Avedon Carol at The Side Show provides this reframing from Moore (quoted from Dude, Where's My Country?):

I've always thought it was interesting that the mass murder of September 11 was allegedly committed by a multi-millionaire. We always say it was committed by a "terrorist" or by an Islamic fundamentalist or an "Arab," but we never define Osama by his rightful title: multi-millionaire. Why have we never read a headline saying, "3,000 Killed by Multi-Millionaire"? It would be a correct headline, would it not? No part of it is untrue - Osama bin Laden has assets totaling at least $30 million; he is a multi-millionaire. So why isn't that the way we see this person, as a rich fuck who kills people? Why didn't that become the reason for profiling potential terrorists? Instead of rounding up suspicious Arabs, why don't we say, "Oh my God, a multi-millionaire killed 3,000 people! Round up the multi-millionaires! Throw them all in jail! No charges! No trials! Deport the millionaires!"
Of course, a nice, hefty contribution to the president's re-election campaign can make all this go away faster than you can say "Saudi Ambassador..."

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Never Let the Facts Get in the Way

Kevin Drum has a good piece on the Conservative bent to mistrust research, science, and for that matter, experience. In the Bush administration this has played out to a pathological extreme, repeatedly with disastrous consequences.
Conservative distrust of liberal social science -- sometimes justified -- has metastasized in the past few decades into a distrust of any fact-based research program that reaches non-favored conclusions. Thus the distrust of the CIA when it initially resisted neocon beliefs about Saddam's WMD and the contempt for Arabists and State Department experts who warned that occupying Iraq required real planning and real knowledge.

The disaster this has caused is obvious and immediate. Less immediate, but no less disastrous, is the administration's refusal to acknowledge the CBO's economic projections or the scientific establishment's consensus on global warming. In this administration, if the facts don't fit their agenda, all the worse for the facts.
I would add that this distrust of research is exacerbateded by a president who doesn't read, has no apparent intellectual curiosity, and is not interested in hearing the sort of facts that, in previous administrations, have been part of a genuine debate leading to policy development.

As several of those who have left this administration and spoken out have noted, the Bush administration doesn't do policy -- it does ideology and politics. In fact, the only research that interests this administration is that which might allow them to hold power for another four years. And that is truly sad -- and dangerous.


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