Saturday, July 17, 2004

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Under the Banner of Heaven:
A Story of Violent Faith
Pie, part of the excellent team that is sitting in for Atrios, posted a request for book recommendations.  Since I threw one up on their comments page, I thought I might as well mention it here, too.  It's the best book I've read in a while.
Jon Krakauer, author of Eiger Dreams, Into Thin Air, and Into the Wild, heads off in another direction, exploring the case of a double murder in a community of Mormon Fundamentalists.  Along the way he examines the history of violence within both the LDS faith, and the many Fundamentalist splinter groups who still practice polygamy as mandated by the doctrine of their faith.
Krakauer also brings to light the somewhat fuzzy line between religious fundamentalism and mental illness.  What is truly amazing is that Under the Banner of Heaven is a real page turner.  It is absolutely fascinating.  I couldn't put it down.  It is the most compelling work of non-fiction I have read in years.
So if you still need a suggestion for some summer reading, you now have mine.

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Where's the Mainstream Media Outrage?
Allawi shoots 6 Iraqi detainees in the head
Thanks to Orcinus and Holden (who is flogging it here, here, and here), this story is starting to get some notice, though not by any major American news organizations.
According to a report by Paul McGeough in the Saturday edition of the Sidney Morning Herold:
Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".
Allawi's office is denying the witnesses' accounts, and says that Dr. Allawi never visited the police station.

If the accounts by the witnesses are true, it would indicate the the U.S. is making great strides in bringing democratic institutions and the rule of law to the middle east. Mission Accomplished!


Friday, July 16, 2004

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Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum
can't tell caca from Shinola
Both Angry Bear and Brad DeLong picked up on Senator Santorum's somewhat interesting comment prior to the Senate vote on the Unequal Rights Amendment.
"I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance," he said shortly before the vote. "Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"
I think Senator Santorum is a seriously delusional individual.  Both Brad and Angry Bear put the two issues side by side.  You decide (I'd post the photos the way they have, but I haven't gotten the new Blogger images thing figured out yet -- see the post below for my lame excuse).

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Rain Storm Health Update
If this is what getting old is going to be like, I'm moving to Oregon.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I've been struck down by some nasty bug.  The good news is that it's not Strep, the bad news is that it hurts just as bad.  It also comes with lots of chills and sweats at no extra charge.  It hurts so much to swallow that I haven't eaten anything but meds for the past 48 hours.  And early this morning I hurled my first round of meds (my tummy never did care for ibuprofen all that much anyway -- especially those uncoated 800 mg horse pills I've got).  Tylenal 3 makes the day bearable (God Bless Canada), but at the rate I'm tossing them down, I'm likely to have a serious codeine jones when this is over.  And of course, I'm not sleeping well, which frequently leaves me nodding out while staring at the computer screen.  But at least so far, there are no key board indentations in my forehead.
So that's my excuse for the thin blogging the last few days.  Don't know when this is going to be over, but I hope it's soon.  Besides not eating, I'm not drinking much water either.  So I'm probably facing the risk of dehydration (not a good thing when you're taking large doses of ibuprofen, I understand -- sort of tough on the old kidneys).  If any of you are qualified to hang IV bags and insert needles, please stop by.  A nice steady drip of saline solution with 2 shots of antibiotic and 3 shots of morphine ought to do the trick.  Mix in a little mocha and I'll be good to go.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

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Bush, Torture, and Fraternity Pranks

At Suburban Guerrilla, Susan picked up on the upcoming Rolling Stone interview with Doonesbury creator Gary Trudeau. He was at Yale in the late 1960s, and so was George W. Bush.
Trudeau said he penned his very first cartoon to illustrate an article in the Yale Daily News on Bush and allegations that his fraternity, DKE, had hazed incoming pledges by branding them with an iron.

The article in the campus paper prompted The New York Times to interview Bush, who was a senior that year. Trudeau recalled that Bush told the Times "it was just a coat hanger, and ... it didn't hurt any more than a cigarette burn."

"It does put one in mind of what his views on torture might be today," Trudeau said.

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It's Kerry/Edwards Thursday
Support the Dream Team

Give generously. Do it because you love America. Here's the link.



Wednesday, July 14, 2004

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Where's the WiFi?

First, let me say that I've been struck down by some nasty bacterial invasion, feeling like crap, and not blogging much today. Unfortunately, antibiotics take time to do their magic, and codeine won't fix everything.

Next, my sincere thanks to all of you who have contributed to help cover my expenses at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. I am truly touched by your generosity, and the kind things you have said about this blog. Anyone who meant to throw in some spare change, but hasn't gotten around to it yet, the window is still open. See the shameless plea in the column to the left.

I've been struggling trying to figure out the best way to blog from the convention. I had been told by one party official a few weeks ago that there would be a WiFi section on the convention floor dedicated to bloggers. I figured that such an arrangement would come in handy not only for blogging, but for filing articles for my local daily. Now I'm beginning to have my doubts that the big blogging at the convention innovation is going to work.

While trying to get more information today, I came across this on 601am:
There will be no WiFi on the convention floor -- NONE. RNC, DNC and Verizon officials have told me that broadcast television RF signals interfere with WiFi. Verizon is the official telecom provider for both events. One staffer told me that the HotSpots at public telephone booths outside the arenas will be active. Some good that'll do. If you want internet access, Verizon is charging $575 + $285 wire pull fee for an ethernet drop in the press gallery.
And judging from this letter from the DNC, some if not all bloggers won't even have access to the convention floor.

I'm sure that there will be lots of lessons learned from this. Hopefully these issues will be all worked out by the 2008 convention.

In the mean time, I am going to be on the convention floor. Then I'll be filing from nearby hot spots, or perhaps my hotel room.

More on the logistics of convention blogging as it gets closer. Thanks again for everyone for your generosity. Now I'm going to take some more drugs and try to heal up.

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How Bad Would it Have to Get?
Thoughts on Canceling the Election

Matt Yglesias is trying to stay level-headed on the issue of whether the Bush administration would actually try to steal an election by canceling it.
At any rate, I'm sympathetic to the view that there should be a process which can be invoked under any sort of circumstances that might arise. In the aftermath of an attack would it really be a good idea to delay an election? I don't know. My gut says "no." But the day after an attack isn't the best time for the congress to start figuring out how such a thing would be done, were it to be done. Vesting Tom Ridge with discretionary power over this seems like a terrible idea but there's probably a better solution we can come up with.
Barbara at Mahablog thinks that Matt is cutting the Bushies way too much slack.
Have we learned nothing? The vast right-wing conspiracy has nearly succeeded in its quest for unlimited power. And the reason it has nearly succeeded is that those who would oppose it try to stay level-headed.


We must always treat the Bush Regime as a revolutionary power, and we must assume that all of its policies are about power -- keeping and increasing the scope of its power; paying off the complicit; maintaining opacity.
Both reference the election of 1864 which took place as the nation was deep into the Civil War. That reminded me of something I wrote back in February called The Politics of Fear: Placing the threat of terrorism in historical perspective. Here is part of that post:
Since this is a Fair and Balanced weblog, I will quote ultra-conservative commentator, former Nixon speech writer and occasional presidential candidate Pat Buchanan today.

In the March 1, 2004 issue The American Conservative, Buchanan reviews An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror by Richard Perle and David Frum. This is a review well worth reading.

This book is something of a neocon manifesto. Perle who has been called a neocon guru, resigned recently from the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, apparently not wanting his extremist views to taint President Bush during an election year.

Perle paints a picture of Islamic extremism, which will, if not destroyed, threaten our very survival as a nation. Buchanan sees this for what it is, over-the-top sensationalism.

As Buchanan points out,
In the worst of terror attacks, we lost 3,000 people. Horrific. But at Antietam Creek, we lost 7,000 in a day's battle in a nation that was one-ninth as populous. Three thousand men and boys perished every week for 200 weeks of that Civil War. We Americans did not curl up and die. We did not come all this way because we are made of sugar candy.
Put in that perspective, I have to think that making plans to cancel or even postpone the election falls into territory somewhere between unwise and outrageous. Even in the darkest hour of our nation's history, in the midst of a terrible war right here at home when America's very survival hung in the balance, elections took place and democracy and the republic survived.

The bottom line is that there are just not enough terrorists to stop an event that takes place in every neighborhood in every city, town, and rural community in America.

Should we be vigilant? Always. Should we cancel an election? Never!


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

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They'll Have to Cheat to Win:
Electoral numbers bad for Bush

Sini at Jusiper does an electoral numbers crunch on the latest polling data from the states, and thinks that Bush, Cheney Inc. is in big trouble.
Here are my guesses as to which battleground states would go to whom if the election were held today:

Kerry: WA, OR, NM, IA, MN, IA, WI, MI, PA, FL, NH

Bush: WV, AR, CO, AZ, TN, NC, LA, VA, OH, MO, NV

The states I am unsure of on that list are (in order, beginning with the least certain), OH, NV, IA, AR, AZ, CO, MO, WV, FL.

If we give Bush and Kerry their base (the states not in the battleground list), we begin with Kerry 197, Bush 133.

If we throw in the battleground states that seem safe to adjudicate, (WA, OR, MI, WI, MN, NM to Kerry and TN, VA, LA and NC to Bush) we go to Kerry 257, Bush 181. Iowa has gone Democratic in every election since 1988, so if we give that to Kerry, he's up to 264. One more of the remaining states (WV or NV) would make the election a tie; any of the others would win it.

If the election were right now, I would give FL and OH to Kerry and the rest (AZ, CO, NV, AR, WV, MO) to Bush, for a 311 to 227 Democratic victory.
While we can quibble about individual states, I think Sini's analysis is pretty sound, and there are folks in the Bush camp who come up with similar numbers.

This raises the question of what the administration is likely to do when faced with the reality that the voters are going to kick them the hell out of office in November. Given the high percentage of senior administration officials who believe that only the Republicans are qualified to protect the republic from the ravages of international terrorism (coupled with the less deluded but more cynical types who only seek to hold on to power, no matter how they have to do it), one has to at least take notice of the discussions about canceling the election in the case of some catastrophic event (see, for instance, Digby, Atrios, and Newsweek.

I don't generally think of myself as hanging with the tinfoil hat crowd. But given the track record of the Bush administration, there is no reason to believe that, given the chance, they won't do the wrong thing. When have they ever not?

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Good for a Laugh

Vietnam Veterans for Bush. Thanks to Avedon for the link.

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Wincing is Not Enough:
DeLong says fire them all

Brad DeLong takes a look at Michael Isikoff's The Dots Never Existed and thinks we need some genuine outrage, not just a little wincing.

Isikoff actually does a pretty good job of partially dissecting how the administration deluded itself and the American people over the supposed Iraqi threat of weapons of mass destruction:
The more he read, the more uneasy he became. In early February 2003 Colin Powell was putting the finishing touches on his speech to the United Nations spelling out the case for war in Iraq. Across the Potomac River, a Pentagon intelligence analyst going over the facts in the speech was alarmed at how shaky that case was. Powell's presentation relied heavily on the claims of one especially dubious Iraqi defector, dubbed "Curve Ball" inside the intel community. A self-proclaimed chemical engineer who was the brother of a top aide to Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmad Chalabi, Curve Ball had told the German intelligence service that Iraq had a fleet of seven mobile labs used to manufacture deadly biological weapons. But nobody inside the U.S. government had ever actually spoken to the informant—except the Pentagon analyst, who concluded the man was an alcoholic and utterly useless as a source. He recalled that Curve Ball had shown up for their only meeting nursing a "terrible hangover."

After reading Powell's speech, the analyst decided he had to speak up, according to a devastating report from the Senate intelligence committee, released last week, on intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war. He wrote an urgent e-mail to a top CIA official warning that there were even questions about whether Curve Ball "was who he said he was." Could Powell really rely on such an informant as the "backbone" for the U.S. government's claims that Iraq had a continuing biological-weapons program? The CIA official quickly responded: "Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say," he wrote. "The Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about."
Where DeLong takes issue with Isikoff is the next line from the article.
The saga of Curve Ball is just one of many wince-inducing moments to be found in the 500-page Senate report, which lays out how the U.S. intelligence community utterly failed to accurately assess the state of Saddam Hussein's programs for weapons of mass destruction—and how White House and Pentagon officials, intent on taking the country to war, unquestioningly embraced the flawed conclusions.
To which DeLong responds:
I wince when I hear George W. Bush try to pronounce "nuclear" or "Abu Ghraib."

When a Deputy to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency--or somebody at that level--refuses to do his job, saying that he is not going to provide intelligence to the Secretary of State because the Secretary of State is uninterested in whether what he is about to say to the United Nations is true or not, it is not appropriate to "wince." It is appropriate to be outraged. It is appropriate to demand the immediate firing of the Secretary of State and National Security Adviser who have created the climate in which intelligence is not wanted, to immediately fire the CIA Director who has failed to push back strongly enough by saying that his agency will provide intelligence whether the NSC principals wish to hear it or not, to fire the Director's Deputy who serves as the heavy squashing the reports of the only person who knows what he is talking about.

And to impeach the man who chooses and retains such servants to run the security policy of the United States of America.
I love it when a smart guy like DeLong gets fired up. I agree whole-heartedly. Regime change begins at home.


Monday, July 12, 2004

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Get Your War On

Thanks to Avedon Carol for finding a comic I can relate to (and yes, I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Tango Sierra. It's Monday morning). Be sure and read all the way to the bottom, including the Pay Pal pitch.

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We Let Drunkards Marry
and lots of other sinners, too

Legal Fiction takes a close look at the biblical basis for the Unequal Rights Amendment, and finds it wanting:
Let's assume for now that the Bible does classify homosexuality (in the modern sense of the word) as a sin. Where does it say that this particular sin disqualifies you from marriage? For example, here's a couple of verses commonly cited by anti-gay marriage advocates:
1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 - Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Timothy 1:9-10 - [T]he law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons . . . .
Let's see here. We let fornicators marry. We let idolaters marry. We let adulterers marry. We let the effeminate marry. We let thieves marry. We let those who covet marry. We let drunkards marry (I can attest to this one personally). We let extortioners marry. We let murderers marry. We let whoremongers marry. We let liars marry.

So, I'm not exactly sure how these verses support the gay marriage ban. The Bible defines the sins, but it doesn't speculate about what implications those sins should have on 21st-century civil law. In other words, just because something may be a "sin," that isn't anywhere close to a justification for denying marital rights (and adoption rights, and custodial rights, and visitation rights, and inheritance rights, and hospital visitation rights, and on and on and on).
Good to see some logic inserted into this debate. Not that logic ever has much sway in an emotional debate, but I'm glad to see it, just the same. Read the whole post.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

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Bush's Disappearing Base

Holden, part of the team sitting in for Atrios, linked to this article from the San Francisco Chronicle about traditional conservatives deserting Bush over his handling of the war in Iraq.
But nearly 150 conservatives listened in silence recently as a veteran of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations ticked off a litany of missteps in Iraq by the Bush White House.

"This war is not going well," said Stefan Halper, a deputy assistant secretary of state under President Reagan.

"It's costing us a lot of money, isolating us from our allies and friends," said Halper, who gave $1,000 to George W. Bush's campaign and more than $83,000 to other GOP causes in 2000. "This is not the cakewalk the neoconservatives predicted. We were not greeted with flowers in the streets."

Conservatives, the backbone of Bush's political base, are increasingly uneasy about the Iraq conflict and the steady drumbeat of violence in postwar Iraq, Halper and some of his fellow Republicans say. The conservatives' anxiety was fueled by the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal and has not abated with the transfer of political power to the interim Iraqi government.

Some Republicans fear angry conservatives will stay home in November, undercutting Bush's re-election bid.
Certainly the Bush campaign denies that this is even a possibility. Polling data isn't showing a major rift among conservatives. But I keep hearing anecdotal evidence, especially among older veterans. The Chronicle article quotes this one:
Jack Walters, 59, a self-described "classical conservative" from Columbia, Mo., said he hadn't decided which candidate to vote for.

"Having been through Vietnam, I thought no, never again," Walters said. "But here comes the same thing again, and I'm old enough to recognize the lame reasons given for going into Iraq, and they made me ill."
I don't think Mr. Walters is alone. I'll give an example. There's a guy I know, a friend of a friend. Let's call him Rob. Like me, he is an Army veteran. He was a young infantry officer in Viet Nam. He's a life-long Republican with a successful law practice. His wife, also a Republican, is a federal magistrate.

Rob and his wife are disgusted with the Bush administration. Rob can't believe how badly Bush has bungled the U.S. involvement in Iraq. His wife, who is pro-choice, can't even get considered for appointment to a higher judgeship as long is Bush is in office.

I don't know if either of them can bring themselves to vote for the Kerry/Edwards ticket in November. But they both swear that there is no way in hell they will vote for George W. Bush again. They are part of a growing group of Republicans who won't get fooled again.

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If a Clinic is Bombed,
but the crime is domestic,
we don't call it terrorism

Very strange. Via The Sideshow to Body and Soul to Boston.com we learn that, if a crime that would otherwise be considered terrorism does not have an international component, it is not considered terrorism under federal law.
A man who was accused of plotting to firebomb abortion clinics, churches, and gay bars was sentenced yesterday to five years in federal prison.

Stephen John Jordi, 36, pleaded guilty in February to a single charge of attempted arson of an abortion clinic.

Prosecutors had asked Judge James Cohn to sentence Jordi under a federal terrorism law and sought seven to 10 years. Cohn refused, saying federal sentencing rules require that plots have an international component to be considered terrorism.

"This crime was strictly domestic and in no way transcended national boundaries," Cohn said.
So the next time some American citizen conspires with a bunch of other American citizens to blow up a big federal building in say, Oklahoma City, killing lots of innocent civilians in order to make a political statement, I guess that isn't terrorism either. Very strange.

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More on the GOP's
Crazy Uncle in the Closet

Yesterday I noted that the Family Research Council is having a bit of a hissy fit because the prime-time speakers at the Republican National Convention will all be (gasp!) moderates (or what passes for a moderate in the GOP -- doesn't a moderate who supports Bush's re-election sound like an oxymoron? Maybe it's the result of some kind of cult-like brainwashing), while keeping the radical right of domestic agendas out of the public spot light during the prime-time media events -- sort of like a crazy uncle you keep in the cellar (or closet) when company comes over.

Anyway, right on cue, The General is providing some names and faces to those crazy uncles in the GOP. Here's a little taste from the Republicans' Southern Auxiliary:
The queer civil rights movement picked a good time to push for marital equality with normal people. The 50th anniverary [sic] of Brown v. Topeka is this year. Now that blacks have used their "rights" to pillage and wreck the institutions built by whites, queers will invade the sanctity of marriage and home to destroy the family.
Nice folks, eh? Glad they're not going to be at the Democratic convention. And I wish the Republicans the best of luck trying to keep them in the closet during theirs.

Of course, it is an election year. As Susan at Suburban Guerilla points out,
When your numbers are this tight, you can't turn your back on that all-important KKK vote.
Maybe by snubbing the NAACP Convention in Philly, Karl Rove has Flight Suit Boy focussed on his political base after all.

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Bush/Cheney, Inc.
Those insidious Washington insiders

Amy Sullivan has some insightful thoughts on Bush/Cheney'04 campaign pitch that tries to pose Bush and Cheney as outsiders trying to reform the evil politics of Washington.
Between Bush and Cheney, we have one guy whose dad used to be director of the CIA, Ambassador to the United Nations, and, oh yeah, President and another who has served in four different administrations as well as Congress. Washington doesn't represent your values? Well, whose fault is that? Republicans control the House, the Senate, the White House, and, arguably, the Supreme Court. Tired of special interests? Take a look at K Street, where a staggering number of lobbying groups are seeded with Republicans hand-picked by Tom DeLay for their posts.
Amy has some great advice for for the DNC, just in case they would like to run a little TV ad to play this issure for all it's worth.
Democrats should embrace their powerlessness and flaunt the fact that they are not in control. I'm picturing a very simple ad: A photo of the Capitol Dome, flag waving in the breeze, with the words "Owned and Operated by the Republican Party" stamped underneath. Simple, to the point, voter education.
I'd add maybe one more line: Bought and paid for by Enron and Halliburton.


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