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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Case Against George W. Bush 

Franklin Foer has Part I in this week's New Republic. If there's a subscription firewall, email me and I'll email you the article.
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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

York on F-9/11 

The reaction to this movie on the National Review has been hilarious.

Byron York makes some sort of attempt a point here. Apparently, the success of the movie is not real, because MoveOn has been trying to get its members to go see it.

The evidence for this is pretty solid:
Last week, MoveOn set a goal of persuading 100,000 members to take the pledge to see Fahrenheit 9/11 as early as possible. In fact, according to MoveOn, 116,649 MoveOn members signed up. While that number seems like a relatively small part of the movie's total audience, [MoveOn's Eli] Pariser says MoveOn's influence is far larger than the official number suggests. "When I went to Waterville, Maine and asked how many people from MoveOn were there, probably three-quarters of the people there said yes," Pariser told Variety on Monday.
I mean, when the actual numbers tell us that MoveOn couldn't have contributed that much to the total, but a show of hands in one theatre in Maine suggests differently... well, I'm convinced.

I wonder if we should think of The Passion's success as similarly tainted, given that every evangelical church in the country was likely telling its members they would go to hell if they didn't see it.
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Great Name for Web Site 

www.johnkerryisadouchebagbutimvotingforhimanyway.com

It's the third site that comes up on a Google search for John Kerry. I just started reading it - but it's pretty funny and captures my feelings well. Probably the best URL ever, though.
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Fahrenheit 9/11 Problem #1: The First 10 Minutes 

I did not like the first ten minutes of the movie. Moore rehashes the 2000 Florida debacle, which seems intended to reminds us throughout the movie that the legitimacy of Bush's Presidency is in question. Moore blames, at least through innuendo, many people for Bush's 2000 "victory": Katherine Harris, James Baker, Al Gore himself (for not breaking Senate rules during the certification process), the entire U.S. Senate, Jeb Bush, George H.W. Bush, every conservative on the Supreme Court, Foxnews and more!

This all may be true; but there is a much more simple way to determine why it is that Bush was elected President in 2000. Let's look at the final, certified popular vote totals from Florida in 2000:

Bush: 2,912,790

Gore: 2,912,253

Nader: 97,488.

Now, I'm no expert in political analysis, but is there another possible reason - one not mentioned in Fahrenheit 9/11 - that Bush was somehow able to win in Florida? Could some other person in some small way have helped to change the outcome of the race?

Of course, we know Michael Moore himself is in no way to blame. He has just produced a documentary that argues, in essence, that George W. Bush is the worst man in the world. In fact, (and I'm surprised I haven't seen conservatives harping on this), he explicitly compares Bush to Osama Bin Laden. Therefore, we can assume that when he offered commentary on the 2000 Election, he encouraged voters in Florida to do what it took to defeat Bush. Oh, wait.

From a 2000 interview with Michael Moore:
Number one, Bush is not going to win. I truly believe that, because the people of this country are not that stupid. He's behind 52 to 38 (percent) right now and every week he goes lower and lower. He's going to continue to sink like a stone...

Secondly, Gore doesn't own these people. He has to earn their vote, and I personally believe that a vote for Gore is a vote for Bush. It might be a kinder, gentler version of it, but still it's a vote for one of the two people running who are sponsored by big business...

George W. Bush is not going to appoint justices who would overturn Roe vs. Wade. He hasn't done it in Texas, and that's the only track record we have to look at. He's appointed moderate justices who have upheld Texas abortion laws. He's not a right-wing ideologue, he's a politician, and he'll do whatever he has to do to get elected. He reads the poll numbers, and two-thirds of the American public is pro-choice. It is part of our American culture, it will never go away.
I guess my point is that it's easy enough to blame the Court, Foxnews and the like, but the simple fact is that the Republicans controlled Congress and the Supreme court and the election, literally, came down to around 100 votes. The Democrats weren't going to win. And the reason the election was this close was because people like Michael Moore and Guthrie were telling other people that there was no difference between Bush and Gore; that the only way to take our country back was to vote for Ralph Nader, consequences be damned. Of course, only one of those two people had a popular web site at the time. Only one of them was a respected figure in the progressive community. Only one of them likely had the ability to convince a few hundred people in Florida to vote for Ralph Nader.

Of course, Moore spends half of his movie arguing that the war in Iraq is an immoral sin. That's why I suspect that he will lend his support to the Presidential candidate who opposed the war. Oh, wait, no such candidate exists. Maybe he was right the first time...
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Fahrenheit 9/11 

I saw it last night - by myself at the 11:00 showing at the Oak Street theatre. That was sort of depressing. I liked it more than I thought I would, and will have some comments on it throughout the week. (That should bring up our "refresh" count.)

Let me just say now that you should really go see this movie.
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An actual post about politics 

Via atrios, I'm suffering from severe cognitive dissonance when Jesse Helms, (warning: shrillness ahead) one of the most dispicable people to serve in the Senate, makes sense:
"I would not have voted for [President Bush's] tax cut, based on what I know. . . . There is no doubt that the people at the top who need a tax break the least will get the most benefit. . . . Too often presidents do things that don't end up helping the people they should be helping, and their staffs won't tell them their actions stink on ice."

-- Former senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), in a recent interview with Business North Carolina magazine.
Huh.
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Monday, June 28, 2004

Concert Hangover 

I'm not sure if his post will make sense because (1) I'm not sure my point makes sense; and (2) if it does, I'm not sure I can write it clearly and concisely. Because neither (1) nor (2) has deterred me in the past, it shall not here.

One of the problems with going to a truly extraordinary concert (and I consider the one I went to yesterday--see below--to qualify) is that you feel empty, in a way, afterwards. The beauty and magic that comes with seeing the concert fades, and want that feeling back. And you come home, put on the CDs, and try to recreate the mood, the feeling, the elation. You cannot. This is impossible, especially if you're listening alone. For, part of the high that can come with seeing live music is knowing that what you're experiencing is being experienced by everyone else in the concert hall. So, if you listen to the music with your friends who you went to the show with, you can approach the idea I'm talking about. But, alone, listening to the studio version of the songs you heard, you cannot even approximate the feeling. You can derive some satisfaction and solace by listening, but you cannot approach the elated sense of being you had 24 hours earlier when you saw Stephin Merritt pretend to take a gun out of his coat while singing "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure." So, you listen and pretend you're somewhere else.
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More on F9/11 

Arab/Muslim expert Juan Cole has some worthwhile things to say about weakest parts of the Michael Moore film:
Fahrenheit 9/11

I saw Michael Moore's new film in Ann Arbor at the midnight show last Thursday, thinking I might say something about it over the weekend. But social commitments of a pleasant sort kept me away from the keyboard, and I don't know when I will get to posting extended comments.

The film is inspired polemic, and I enjoyed it (if that is the word--the second half was painful). It has some serious flaws of argumentation. I thought the best parts were where Moore just let the footage speak for itself.

It struck me during the second half how seldom one sees in mainstream US media any extended interviews with Iraqis who vehemently oppose the US occupation. Since these are probably by now a solid majority, according to polls, it is odd that we never hear from that point of view. There is an undertone of patriotism or even nationalism to national American news that is peculiar if one looks at the industrialized democracies in Europe, e.g.

The film has an affecting scene of a woman screaming that her innocent, civilian relatives had been killed, and calling down curses on the US (yikhrib buyuthum, may God demolish their houses). Given the thousands of Iraqis killed in the past 14 months, there must be a lot of persons who feel that way. Moore is the only one showing them to us, to my knowledge.

I thought the point that Bush spent a lot of time away from Washington in his first 8 months in office was well made, and dovetails with the revelations of former anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke about Bush's unconcern with the terrorism threat. The way in which the Iraq war was a manipulated get-up job was also graphically and well portrayed. Likewise the cynical use of the "war on terror" to erode Americans' basic civil liberties is appropriately presented in canny and strident tones (James Madison would have been strident about this, too).

The interview with Michigan congressman John Conyers in which Conyers reveals that no one in Congress was allowed to read the Patriot Act before voting on it was breathtaking. I recently sat next to Conyers on a plane, and he explained to me that the final version of the bill, which had been very extensively changed, was delivered the night before the vote. He said it wasn't strange for a few minor changes to be made at such a late stage, but that it was his impression that virtually a new bill was dropped on the hapless Congress at the last moment. It is huge, and would have been impossible to read all the way through with attention under those circumstances.

The Patriot Act is so radical a departure from the American Civil Liberties tradition that if its most radical provisions are made permanent, as Bush desires, I think it would be legitimate to date from 2001 the Second American Republic. It is a much impoverished republic compared to the first, and ominously intertwined with Imperial themes. If Moore makes anyone angry about anything, I hope it is this.

I thought the bit connecting Bush to the Saudis was full of illogic. Wealthy people in the oil business are going to have relations with the Saudis, who at their best rates can produce 11 million of the 76 million barrels of oil pumped daily in the world. The Saudis can also get along with pumping 7 million barrels a day, so they are a pivotal swing producer and can affect the price deeply.

Another viewer asked me if it were true that the Saudis own 7% of the US economy, which was the impression the person brought away from the film. I'm not sure that is what Moore asserted, but it in any case cannot possibly be true. I think he said they had invested $700 billion in the US. Actually, total Saudi investments worldwide are about $700 bn., with about 60% in the US, or $420 bn. It is a nice chunk of change (and helps keep the US economy from collapsing from unwise US policies like running $500 bn. deficits--but note that one year of Bush deficits equals the whole value of all Saudi investment!). But even just the goods and services produced every year in the US amount to about $11 trillion. Moore seems to have started out by claiming that the Saudi investment equals 7% of the New York Stock Exchange. But NYSE investments amount to $15 trillion. My back of the envelope calculation is that Saudi investments are actually about 2.8 percent of that. Then Moore truncated that to "7% of the US economy." But the latter is not what he really meant to say. To get that, you'd have to know how much all existing property in the US is worth, and figure the proportion of it represented by $420 bn. The Saudis don't own more than a tiny proportion of the privately held wealth in the US. They are not even the major foreign investor in the US-- The British, Dutch, and Japanese top them.

Moreover, if it is true that the Saudis have so much invested in this country, then it makes no sense for wealthy Saudi entrepreneurs and governing figures to wish the US harm. Can you imagine the bath Saudi investments took here after 9/11? The Saudi royals and the Bin Ladens lounging about in places like Orlando, who were airlifted out lest they be massacred after the attacks, didn't know anything about the apocalyptic plots hatched in dusty Qandahar, and if they had they would have blown the whistle on them with the US so as to avoid losing everything they had.

The Saudi bashing in the Moore film makes no sense. It is true that some of the hijackers were Saudis, but that is only because Bin Laden hand-picked some Saudi muscle at the last minute to help the brains of the operation, who were Egyptians, Lebanese, Yemenis, etc. Bin Laden did that deliberately, in hopes of souring US/Saudi relations so that he could the better overthrow the Saudi government.

The implication one often hears from Democrats that the US should have invaded Saudi Arabia and Pakistan after the Afghan war rather than Iraq is just another kind of warmongering and illogical. There is no evidence that either the Saudi or the Pakistani government was complicit in 9/11.

The story Moore tells about the Turkmenistan gas pipeline project through Afghanistan and Pakistan also makes no sense. First, why would it be bad for the Turkmenistanis to be able to export their natural gas? What is wicked about all that? It is true that some forces wanted the pipeline so badly that they even were willing to deal with the Taliban, but this was before Bin Laden started serious operations against the US from Afghan soil, beginning in 1998 with the East Africa embassy bombings.

In any case, if Bush had been supporting the Taliban, why did he then overthrow them? If it was because they turned out not to be a Mussolini type of government that made the trains run on time, but rather to be supporters of international terrorism, then wasn't it logical for Bush to turn against them? The mid-90s temptation to support the Taliban, who seemed to be bringing order to Afghanistan (albeit the order of the mass grave) was bipartisan. Moore says Afghan president Karzai had been involved in the earlier pipeline plan, and now is president. I still cannot understand why the pipeline is evil. Afghanistans would collect $2 bn. a year on tolls, and the Turkmen would be lifted out of poverty, and Pakistan and India might have a new reason to cooperate rather than fighting. I personally wish it could be built immediately. It doesn't explain the US Afghan war (one thing cannot explain both the temptation to coddle the Taliban and the determination to get rid of them). The US only intervened to overthrow the Taliban reluctantly, and because it was the only way to get at al-Qaeda, which needed to be rooted out.

So, I think the second half the the film, on Bush's Iraq policy, has virtues. He turns out to have been prescient about how fictitious the reasons for the war were. But some of the innuendo about the Saudis and Afghans just seems an attempt to damn by association, and seem to me to be based on faulty logic and innacurate assertions.
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Magnetic Fields/Andrew Bird 

So, yesterday I went to the Magnetic Fields concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music. They were awesome. It's amazing how great a songwriter Stephin Merrit is.

Opening the show was a guy named Andrew Bird. His show was like nothing I'd ever seen before. It was truly mind-blowing, in the sense that I couldn't get my head around what he had just done. It was pretty avant-garde, to say the least. He would play something on violin, then loop it around and around in real time, using some device he operated with his feet. And he would keep looping tracks on top of each other, and eventually play guitar or sing over all the tracks. The idea that someone could do that, and keep time to it perfectly, was a little disconcerting. I think if you click on his website, you can see a video feed of one of his performances. I suggest you check it out if you're in the mood for something interesting and new.
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Saturday, June 26, 2004

Daily Show 

Two must-see clips can be found here. Watch them. Laugh...and cry.
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Fahrenheit 9/11--Go See It! 

I played hooky yesterday afternoon and went to see "Fahrentheit 9/11." You need to see it--now! It wasn't perfect, and I'd argue with some of it, but overall a tremendously effective film. It was most effective at:

1. Reminding us how uniquely unqualified George W. Bush is for the Presidency of the United States.

2. Reminding us that the soldiers in our Armed Forces are just kids trying to do their best, being forced into some impossible situations, many of whom come back physically and mentally altered for the worst, and there's nothing we can do about it.

The parts about oil and the military-industrial complex were interesting, and his argument is clearly partly true, but that could have been fleshed out and qualified a bit more.

After it was over, my legs were weak leaving the theater. A profound film on many levels. Go see it.
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Friday, June 25, 2004

Ryan Out 

Apparently the AP is reporting it. Don't have a link yet.
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How an Adult Takes Responsibility 

I've long said that the two greatest moral failings of the Clinton Administration(s) were the continuing escalation of the drug war and the failure to intervene in Rwanda. Here's President Clinton in a Salon interview:
In your book, you describe the American and allied failure to intervene in Rwanda in 1994 as one of your worst errors. How did you reach that decision to do nothing while the genocide was going on there?

That's one of the most regrettable things about it. It's not like we had a decision. I don't know that we ever had a high-level meeting on it. At that time I think the whole foreign policy apparatus, including me, was geared to getting into Bosnia as quickly as possible. We knew we were going to have a problem in Haiti. We were still reeling from what had happened in Somalia. And I think even though there were a lot of indications that Rwanda was going to be quite bad, I'm not sure anybody focused on the fact that 10 percent of a country, 700,000 or 800,000 people, could be killed in 90 days with machetes ...

If we'd moved right away, we might have been able to save a couple of hundred thousand people. They still could have killed a lot of people before we could have deployed in acceptable numbers there. [Later] we went into the camps and we kept a lot of people alive, both safe from violence and also rehydrating kids ... We saved tens of thousands of lives, but we could have saved a couple of hundred thousand more if we'd moved more quickly. We hadn't really developed a clear doctrine of when we would go in and when we wouldn't. There was a lot of sentiment against such intervention in the Congress. And the worst thing about it was that we didn't have a meeting with an options paper where we said yes, no, or maybe. We didn't even do that. And before we knew it, they were lying dead.

It was inexcusable. We didn't even seriously consider it, and I feel terrible about it. It's very interesting though: the only people who have never excoriated me for it are the Rwandans. When I went there and apologized to them, their response was, "You're the only person that ever even said you were sorry. There were other people who could have helped us, too."
It was inexcusable, and I'm glad he realizes that. He admits not only that he was wrong, but pathetically wrong.
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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Moore Ads Banned? 

Per Kos, the FCC may ban television ads for Michael Moore's film.

This is probably fair, and is exactly what liberal deserve for supporting stupid campaign finance laws.

Still, is this really a smart move, politically, for Bush to allow this? I think not.
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The Smoking Gun, Indeed! 

From the Smoking Gun, this is unbelievable.

A choice excerpt from the complaint:
Judge Thompson violated these Canons by his repeated use of a device known as a penis pump during non-jury and jury trials in his courtroom and in the presence of court employees while serving in his capacity as a district judge.

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Blumenthal 

Read
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Bush/AIDS 

Sully has a post on this today, which I think is for the most part right on. Bush's record is actually good on AIDS - but when he gives a speech on AIDS and talks about AIDS in the United States, he doesn't mention the one group most affected: gay men. Then, he argues that AIDS can be prevented with his ABC approach - abstain, be faithful in marriage and (much to Bush's credit) when appropriate use condoms.

Fine. So why does Bush oppose marriage rights for the one group most affected by AIDS in this country?

(This is exactly the point Sullivan makes - I really added nothing to the blogosphere with this post.)

GOLDBERG ADDENDUM: I wrote this in the comments, but it was really too long for that, so I'm putting it here:

ABC is basically a prevention method used in Africa and other nations where AIDS is a heterosexual epidemic. In the U.S., where it did threaten to become a heterosexual epidemic, it did not (for whatever reason). However, new subcultures, like the (predominately African-American male) subculture of the "DL") still mean that it HIV could yet become a widespread heterosexual problem here.

As for the homosexual AIDS crisis in America, I believe (but am not sure), that transmission rates dropped greatly in the 1990s, but have either leveled off or are back on the uptick. ABC is clearly not a wise prophylactic prescription for the U.S. gay community, as the "A" and the "B" aren't really options. The key is (and this word is lame but I'll use it anyway) awareness that the crisis has not gone away, condom use, and requiring prospective partners to be tested before any intercourse.

As a worldwide problem, however, AIDS in America is not a big deal, and most efforts should be made towards Sub-Saharan Africa and certain parts of Asia/Indian subcontinent. This is especially true for pharmaceutical assistance, esp. drugs like AZT that can dramatically reduce mother-child transmission, which is a HUGE problem in Africa. Other public/private/NGO partnerships are needed to get drugs to the third world. AIDS in America just pales in comparison to these problems.

UPDATE: EDITed, thanks to Goldberg's cousin, to change effected to affected.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

John Judis is Making Sense (VP edition) 

I haven't posted on the Veep search, mainly because I don't care about it. See Digby here and Atrios here, who both articulate the reasons why I don't care. But I did just read this on Talkingpointsmemo, where TNR's John Judis is guest-blogging, and it makes sense to me:
Speculation is rife about whom John Kerry will choose as his running mate. Newsweek reports that Kerry "is engrossed in the final shortlist of veep picks. Kerry sources say the choice is narrowing to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, and that the candidate remains personally uncomfortable with Sen. John Edwards." I have no idea whether this report is accurate, but if it is, the Democrats are in trouble.

There are different criteria Kerry and the Democratic convention delegates should use in choosing a running mate, but they should not include whether the candidate is "personally comfortable" with whomever he chooses. If John F. Kennedy had used this criterion in 1960, Richard Nixon would have won the election. If Ronald Reagan had used it in 1980 and chosen his friend Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt rather than his leading challenger George Bush, Reagan might have lost that election. Gore did use this criterion in 2000, and it's one reason why he lost. In the final tally, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman didn't bring Gore a single electoral college vote. Kerry has to choose a running mate who, above all, will help him win states in the Midwest and South that he may not be able to win on his own.

Among those prospects currently being discussed, there are only two who are sufficiently battle-tested and who could help Kerry where he may not be able to help himself. These are Edwards and Gephardt. In the primary, Edwards showed a Clintonesque ability to appeal to both of the constituencies with whom Kerry is going to have trouble--the white working class voters who used to be described as "Reagan Democrats" and the independent upscale suburbanites who have been trending Democratic, but are leery of the party's leftwing. Edwards could help Kerry be competitive in Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Ohio. (In a Mason-Dixon poll last month pairing Bush and Cheney against Kerry and Edwards in North Carolina, Bush was only ahead by 46 to 45 percent.) He could force the Bush campaign to expend resources in regions it would have liked to take for granted. Gephardt might help Kerry with white working class voters in Missouri, Iowa, and Ohio. But Gephardt's appeal may be more limited than Edwards'. Gephardt is very popular among labor leaders, but, as this year's primary made clear, not necessarily among the rank and file or among non-union workers. He would also reinforce Kerry's image as a Washington insider, making him less attractive to upscale suburbanites.

There is another reason to hope that Kerry puts aside his "comfort level" and picks Edwards. In 2004, 19 Democratic Senate seats are being contested, compared to only 15 Republican ones; and five of the nineteen are in Southern states where Democrats are retiring. Republicans could conceivably win all these seats. If they won even three of them, Democrats would have an almost impossible task of winning back the Senate in 2004, and would face an uphill challenge in 2006 when more Democratic than Republican seats are again up for grabs. Democrats have an interest in fielding a presidential ticket that has credibility, if not popularity, in the South. With Edwards as the vice presidential candidate, the Democrats could put forward a Southern face. If Kerry picks another Northern liberal like himself, Democratic candidates in the Carolinas, Florida, Louisiana and Georgia will be put on the defensive and forced to dissociate themselves from the national ticket. My advice to Kerry: forget chumminess, choose Edwards.


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No More Jack!? 

I thought that Jack! would get through this, and that maybe it wouldn't even prove all that damaging, but this is not a good sign. Via Kos, we get this report from the Capitol Fax:
EXTRA! RYAN FUNDRAISER CANCELED A fundraiser for Jack Ryan sponsored by US House Speaker Denny Hastert has been canceled, several sources confirmed today.
As Kos says:
That can mean one of two things -- Hastert is distancing himself from Ryan, or Ryan is preparing to exit stage left.

Chances are it's the latter. We may not have Ryan to kick around much longer.
Seeing as I didn't post my prediction that Ryan would stay in, I probably should pretend that I never even made such a prediction. However, that would not be keeping with the G&G pledge to restore honor and dignity to the blogosphere.

UPDATE: Someone commented on Kos that Ryan has a press conference scheduled for 7:00 this evening. We shall wait and see...
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Jack! 

The General weighs in. I was just going to link to it, because it's pretty vulgar and tasteless, but it's too funny not reprint in full
Dear Sen. Allen,

On the surface, the Jack Ryan scandal looks like a simple case of a man taking his wife to sex clubs and then pressuring her to have sex with him while everyone else watches, but I think there is more to this story.

Ryan is a very bright guy. He saw the lavender menace infiltrating the centers of power in our country. He knew that the day was coming soon when there would be a great political battle fought between the forces of heterosexuality and homosexuality.

Ryan wanted to fight in that battle as a Senator. Given the direction society was heading, he worked quickly to establish his heterosexual bona fides. That's why he pressured his wife to have sex with him in front of an audience.

I wish other Senate candidates should do the same. That way, we could ensure that we're not electing Senators with dual loyalties as we consider the Homosexual Discrimination Constitutional Amendment.

As the Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, you can make this happen by funding 30 second spots featuring Republican Senatorial candidates having sex with women. Now, thirty seconds may seem like a long time to be having sex, but you could put two Senators in each spot and then use the remaining time to discuss budget policy.

I can almost see the ads now. Arlen Specter squealing like Ben Shapiro at an Ayn Rand convention as his little soldier traces the path of Oswald's magic bullet, Sam Brownback, still and silent, lying atop his wife, reverently waiting for our Lord and Savior to command the Senatorial seed to implant itself, and in a future election cycle, Trent Lott, huffing, puffing, and groaning while his man-wig dances on his head to a jackrabbit-on-crack rhythm.

Maybe you can even get Ken Starr to do the play-by-play.

Please give it some thought and don't hesitate to give me a ring if you need any help.

Heterosexually yours,

Gen. JC Christian, patriot
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Sunstein 

...is guest blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy this week. Check it out.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

More on Fahrenheit 9/11 (sort of) 

Listening to the Indians/White Sox game, and in the kind of non sequitor you only find with seasoned baseball announcers, one of the guys (either John Rooney or Ed Farmer, I guess) says, "You know what movie I want to see? That Fahrenheit 9/11. It's by that guy Michael Moore, I think." Then the other guy says something like, "Wasn't there another movie with the same name, or 'Fahrenheit something-or-other'?" "Uh, I don't know." "Yeah, it had to do with the temperature books burn or something." "Huh." Then, ten minutes later, they agree that there was a "Ray Bradbury movie" named "Fahrenheit 451."

I thought that DJ and The Hawk were the renaissance men of Chicago sports announcing, but it looks like they have company.
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Why I Like Joe Biden 

People sometimes ask me why I like Joe Biden so much. Here's Biden in Rolling Stone's really good "roundtable" on Iraq (Wes Clark, Rand Beers, Zinni, Biden, et. al. et al):
Surely the Abu Ghraib prison scandal didn't help. Should Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or other Bush officials resign?

...

Biden: I was in the Oval Office the other day, and the president asked me what I would do about resignations. I said, "Look, Mr. President, would I keep Rumsfeld? Absolutely not." And I turned to Vice President Cheney, who was there, and I said, "Mr. Vice President, I wouldn't keep you if it weren't constitutionally required." I turned back to the president and said, "Mr. President, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are bright guys, really patriotic, but they've been dead wrong on every major piece of advice they've given you. That's why I'd get rid of them, Mr. President -- not just Abu Ghraib." They said nothing. Just sat like big old bullfrogs on a log and looked at me.
There's no independent confirmation that this happened, so, if Bush or Cheney dispute this, then maybe I'll have to retract, but this is very cool that he said that. Frankly, I'm surprised Bush would ask.

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Monday, June 21, 2004

After 9/11, Americans were yearning...for Spiderman 

Via Slate's "In Other Magazines", I found this passage from a Newsweek article:
Much has been made of the fact that "Spider-Man" was the first post-9/11 blockbuster, and the conventional wisdom is that the film was a phenomenon because America needed heroes again. But maybe it's something more. To the rest of the world, the superhero symbol of the United States is Superman—broad shouldered, unconflicted, virtually indestructible. For decades, we've preferred to see ourselves that way, too. Spider-Man is none of those things. He's burdened by self-doubt. He wants to do the right thing, but isn't always sure what that is. He's constantly forced to choose between helping others and helping himself. He looks tough, but he's easily injured. In America after September 11, Superman was who we wanted to be. Spider-Man was who we were.
The author, Sean Smith, should be embarrassed.
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Connecticut Blogging 

Seeing as he was my governor for four years, I figure I should note that John Rowland is resigning from office. I was supremely uninteresting in Connecticut politics while I went to school there, so I don't remember anything noteworthy about him except for the very, very, very, very stupid idea to build a stadium near Hartford to house the Patriots.
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Blogger Stuff 

Today I noticed that we had over double our average hits for yesterday. I find this a little strange, because I don't think either of us posted anything yesterday, and the free version of a sitemeter I have won't tell me where the hits from yesterday came from (I can only find the previous 20 referrals specifically). It's doubly weird that these hits came on a Sunday, because that's, by far, our lowesttraffic day of the week. Anyway, the mystery will not be solved, it seems.

Sorry I don't have anything real to post. The Indians are opening a 4-game set with the White Sox today, though, and this gives the Tribe a chance to show whether they're contenders or pretenders. I'll be there tonight and maybe tomorrow night.
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Howler 

Read it today. I ask once again, how can you even argue that the New York Times has a liberal bias, let alone accept it as the gospel truth as so many do?
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Friday, June 18, 2004

More at The Corner (this is really bad) 

Lest you think I was exaggerating, or perhaps misreading the last post: here's a Cornerite who clearly and explicitly blames Democrats and the New York Times for the latest atrocity. I post it because this is the type of post The Corner sometimes takes down.
MEMO TO DEMOCRATS, THE NEW YORK TIMES, & CO. [Andy McCarthy]
Every time you parade the Abu Ghraib photos, every time you parrot the patently ridiculous pretension by these repulsive murderers that decapitations are motivated by what those photos depict -- rather than by a belief system that exudes hatred and murder -- you are guaranteeing that there will be more Daniel Pearls, Nick Bergs and, now, Paul Johnsons. You are telling these monsters that they get a free ride: They get to kill, which they would do anyway, and they get to have you tell the world that the proximate cause of the killing is the U.S. government rather than militant Islam. Scorecard: al Qaeda - win, win; America: lose, lose; Americans: die, die.

There are two possible story lines here: choice (a) Paul Johnson was viciously beheaded today, becoming just the latest of thousands of victims slaughtered by a menace that cannot be managed, need not be culturally understood, and must be totally eradicated; or choice (b) Paul Johnson died today; an Arabic website, upon first breaking the news, explained that his death was retaliation for the scandalous abuse of Iraqi prisoners by occupying U.S. forces in Baghdad, where the Bush administration is alleged to have employed harsh interrogation tactics -- in violation of the Geneva Conventions -- in order to press for intelligence about weapons of mass destruction which have yet to be found.

Anybody have the slightest doubt which choice we'll be reading and seeing?
What can I say in response to this? What sort of person would write this - blaming fellow Americans for the worst sort of atrocity? Why would any sane person claim that our enemy doesn't have to be understood?

I truly think and hope and pray that this is not the typical response of conservatives - to blame coverage of the US-Iraqi torture scandal - and Democrats in general - for this outrage. (Of course, the actual torturers remains blameless.) But outside of Andrew Sullivan I have seen little conservative outrage over the torture scandal; I have seen plenty of outrage over the outrage. Can someone point me to some? (This is a serious question - just because I haven't seen it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.) Or do most supporters of Bush's foreign policy in general agree that we (Democrats, I guess) are over reacting - even if you don't take it to the insane level that Mr. McCarthy does? Is there an instinct in Bush supporters to blame the left for this? I don't know.

I just think it's sad that our discourse has fallen to the point where a semi-respectable publication is offering up the opinion that a horrific beheading by insane religious radicals is the fault of Democrats and the left. This is really an awful, hurtful and offensive thing to say.
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The Corner 

The response from the Corner.
My reaction isn't particuarly special or unique, is it? How could it be? I am livid and repulsed again--photos are circulating again of an American beheaded, his detached head is resting on his body. I am reminded again, in this terrible way that every American is at war right now. George Bush didn't make that choice. The bad guys did. And they will keep killing us. Second guessing the liberation of Iraq isn't going to save American lives, only resolve, clarity, courage, and sacrifice will.
I actually didn't need a reminder that we are at war with Al Qaeda - I can still remember the time that they flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. What this has to with the war in Iraq, I'm not sure. Katherine Lopez's first reaction to this horrible picture is to immediately defend the war in Iraq and attack the war's opponents. Well guess what? This wasn't their fault. It wasn't anyone's fault, except the "people" who did this.

(Also, second guessing the liberation of Iraq would save American lives if the critics were correct, this war has nothing or little to do with the war on terrorism, and getting us to leave as soon as possible and avoid engaging in a similar war would refocus the military's efforts on the war on terror.)
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Horrible Pictures 

The pictures of the latest American hostage to be beheaded are on Drudge. I won't link to them, but I suppose we should look at them, since we should know the level of insanity and evil that exists in the mind of Al Qeada. I might post more on this later, but I'm just sort of sick right now.
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The Simpsons 

Question: Is it worth it for me, who Tivo's three episodes a day, and knows virtually all them by heart, to buy the new 4th Season DVDs that just came out. In fact, I could by the 3rd and 4th Seasons together on Amazon for only $70. Is that just silly, or a wise investment in my, and my possible future family's, future?
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Rant About Al Gore and Internet (Democrats have to do this every few months or so) 

Jesus Fucking Christ. I don't know why I let this get me so fucking mad every time I think about it - BUT AL GORE CREATED THE FUCKING INTERNET. In fact, he probably deserves a monument or something in his honor, as the man who made the transfer of massive amounts of information accessible to people around the world. When he said that he "took the initiative in creating the internet," the press should have said, "holy shit, he's right. Governor Bush, have you done anything in your life that demonstrated such amazing wisdom and foresight, anything at all that compares to Al Gore's making the internet a possibility?" (Possible answer - he was smart enough to destroy his National Guard records in the 1970s.)

Fuck people. Fuck the press. Fuck myself for believing during 2000 that Al Gore said he invented the internet. Fuck Republicans for distorting a quote about a man to the point where they are simply lying - but most of all fuck the press and the Democrats who let them get away with it. While were at it, fuck Al Gore for not stepping up as soon as this scandal broke, and not demanding that the press acknowledge the role he played in creating the internet. And fuck the stupid Electoral College system for keeping Gore out of the White House.

This rant was inspired by this Daily Howler, especially this part from a James Brosnan article (which the Howler has rehashed over and over again - but which fucking idiots still don't seem to understand):
BROSNAN: In 1973, Kahn and Vinton Cerf, a Stanford researcher, sketched out a design for the Internet. Cerf would later design the Internet protocol TCP (Transmission Control Program).
Gore, who chaired the Senate Commerce science subcommittee, passed the legislation that created five super-computer centers in 1986. That in turn led to National Science Foundation grant money to link the centers to other universities through NSFNET.

Doug Van Howeling, who ran NSFNET and who now heads the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, said Gore tracked the advances. "He would invite a leading scientist and just spend a good part of the day talking to him," said Van Howeling.

In 1990, Gore made speeches about taking the Internet beyond scientific research [i.e., to make it what it is now].

"If we had the information superhighways we need, a schoolchild could plug into the Library of Congress every afternoon and explore a universe of knowledge jumping from one subject to another, according to the curiosity of the moment," said Gore. [This was a novel idea at the time.]

In 1991, Gore helped pass legislation to create a high-speed National Research and Education Network, but it took two other developments to make the Internet what it is today...


Is this so hard to understand? Maybe we should put Al Gore on the dime - he basically changed the whole world, and the whole way we interact with information.
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iPod Update 

So, I got everything working, such that all my songs were successfully transferred from my computer to the iPod, and I even set up all my playlists and everything. However, I can't use the iTunes store, for some reason. When I click on "buy music" and try to set up an account, it prompts me to insert my Microsoft Office 2000 CD-ROM. I don't have that CD, and I don't understand why it's necessary to download music. Anyone know anything about this?

btw, this is when it would be helpful if people actually read this site, as the probability of getting an answer approaches one as the readership approaches infinity. As our readership is, shall we say, something less than infinity, the probability of someone helping me with this issue is significantly less than one.
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More on Sully 

Now, talking about Andrew Sullivan is usually Guthrie's gig, but seeing as he never posts, and I haven't in a day or so, I'm going to post on good ole' Sully. Here's a post from yesterday. I'm going to post the whole thing, and bold the last sentence:
OVER AT LUCIANNE: Here are some of the sentiments expressed by posters today on Lucianne Goldberg's site. She is, in case you didn't know, Jonah Goldberg's mother, and monitors the site:
This must be a gay thing, something they discuss at the local bathhouse.

Yeah, I used to read Sullivan's blog on a daily basis, until, I don't know, maybe mid-winter last year. He was going wobbly on just about everything, so I removed him from my bookmarks, and haven't thought about it since--simply don't miss his commentary. I suspect his webstats show a major falloff in readership.

I don't say good-bye, I say good riddance. Kudos to Kathryn Lopez for outing the traitor early on.

Long ago when Andrew Sullivan was in vogue and a rising star in ''conservative'' circles, I said that we should not be giving him bandwidth nor touting him as a leader in conservative ranks. That opinion seems reasonable now, but it was not a popular opinion back then. Then again, I am one of those who think that homosexuality is not just immoral, but should also be illegal again. Not a popular opinion today either.

Sullivan said plainly at The Advocate but not on his own blog, that Bush’s positions on homosexuality are a deal-breaker for him (Sullivan). I still want to know why Andrew Sullivan thinks the Boy Scouts ought to allow homosexual scoutmasters. Boy Scouts range in age from 11–18. Even accepting that homosexuality & pederasty can sometimes be distinguished, still where, Andrew, is the bright line between them? You know, Andrew, that there is no such bright line.

If you pay attention to Andrew Sullivan, you have too much time to waste. Nobody, even an obstensive conservative like Sullivan, should take pride in being a pervert.

Look. He's a fag, a limey and he lives in P-Town. To me, that's three strikes and you're out.

When Andrew gets on a gay issue, his progesterone starts kicking in and he rants like a vindictive woman. "Hell hath no fury like a She-man scorned"

It is a sad thing to see the enemy win. I mean, I really feel for the guy. He knows right from wrong, thus his desire to be a conservative. But he's had to surrender it and become anti-American, anti-Bush, anti-good, because of his deadly addiction to homosexuality. Over the months you could see him spiraling (many poster call it wobbling), losing to ground to the seductive, pleasurable evil consuming his soul. I grieve for this loss. He is now dead to us, and has thrown in with the enemy, rather than face down the incredibly difficult, painful choice of giving up homosexuality and joining the ranks of normals.

Some voices from the conservative movement. And people wonder why gay conservatives have a hard time feeling at home there.
My question? Who, besides Sully, wonders why gay conservatives have a hard time feeling at home in American Movement Conservatism? No one, that's who. We all know why, and it's for the exact reasons displayed in this post. Where's the big mystery? Now, we can debate whether bigots have hijacked conservatism or if it's really their natural home, but that's not what Sully's talking about. I don't hear too many people say, "I don't understand why my gay friend X doesn't like the GOP" because it's so damn clear to anyone with even minimal sensory functions.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

iPOD vs. Windows 

So, I got an iPod today, but there's a problem. iTunes, the program you need to run, only works on Windows 2000 or Windows XP, not Windows 98 like my POS computer has. So I bought the XP upgrade, but it doesn't want to work. So I'm pissed off.

Btw, it sucks that this crappy post have has the honor of being our 500th post ever at G&G.
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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 

From the--get this!--Fox News review:
The crowd that gave Michael Moore's controversial "Fahrenheit 9/11" documentary a standing ovation last night at the Ziegfeld Theatre premiere certainly didn't have to be encouraged at all to show their appreciation. From liberal radio host and writer Al Franken to actor/director Tim Robbins, Moore was in his element.

But once "F9/11" gets to audiences beyond screenings, it won't be dependent on celebrities for approbation. It turns out to be a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail.

As much as some might try to marginalize this film as a screed against President George Bush, "F9/11" — as we saw last night — is a tribute to patriotism, to the American sense of duty, and at the same time a indictment of stupidity and avarice.

...

Now, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that this movie has been the cause of a lot of trouble. Miramax and Disney have gone to war over it, and "The Passion of the Christ" seems like "Mary Poppins" in retrospect. Before anyone's even seen it, there have been partisan debates over which way Moore may have spun this or that to get a desired effect.

But, really, in the end, not seeing "F9/11" would be like allowing your First Amendment rights to be abrogated, no matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat.

The film does Bush no favors, that's for sure, but it also finds an unexpectedly poignant and universal groove in the story of Lila Lipscombe, a Flint, Mich., mother who sends her kids into the Army for the opportunities it can provide — just like the commercials say — and lives to regret it.

Lipscombe's story is so powerful, and so completely Middle American, that I think it will take Moore's critics by surprise. She will certainly move to tears everyone who encounters her.

"F9/11" isn't perfect, and of course, there are leaps of logic sometimes. One set piece is about African-American congressmen and women voting against the war with Iraq and wondering why there are no senators to support them.

Indeed, those absent senators include John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy, among others, which Moore does not elaborate upon. At no point are liberals or Democrats taken to task for not speaking out against the war, and I would have liked to have seen that.

On the other hand, there are more than enough moments that seemed to resonate with the huge Ziegfeld audience.

The most indelible is President Bush's reaction to hearing on the morning of September 11, 2001, that the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

Bush was reading to a grade-school class in Florida at that moment. Instead of jumping up and leaving, he instead sat in front of the class, with an unfortunate look of confusion, for nearly 11 minutes.

Moore obtained the footage from a teacher at the school who videotaped the morning program. There Bush sits, with no access to his advisers, while New York is being viciously attacked. I guarantee you that no one who sees this film forgets this episode.

More than even "The Passion of the Christ," "F9/11" is going to be a "see it for yourself" movie when it hits theaters on June 25. It simply cannot be missed, and I predict it will be a huge moneymaker.
I'm seeing it on the 25th. Anyone up for a half-day at work?
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Andrew Sullivan 

BTW, Sully's been great on the torture issue - see his blog generally.

I'm on a pro-Sullivan kick lately. I really feel bad for the guy - he genuinely believes in the conservative ideals of low taxes and small government, and is very supportive of the war in Iraq and Bush's approach to the war on terror. He doesn't approve of the fact that the only party that supports these ideals also uses and inflames bigotry against homosexuals in order to maintain its power. I think he spends a lot of time blinding himself to this fact - or desperately trying to convince himself that this really isn't a big deal. That's why so many of his posts are absurd. But I find his honesty about that conflict enlightening - I would imagine that any decent human being who shares his conservative ideals must have similar feelings.

Will any Republican have the courage to launch a campaign against that wing of their party? Some may say this would be cutting off your nose to spite your face (or something like that); I would compare it to cutting off your gangrene infested hand to stop the infection form poisoning the entire body. But that's just me.

UPDATE: God, I watch Foxnews too much. Do you see the stupid error in what I just wrote? I equate the Iraq war and "Bush's approach to the war on terror," and possibly insinuate that they should be analyzed together. But, in fact, they are not the same. Bush's approach to the war on terror is exactly what any President - Republican or Democrat - would have done. His war in Iraq was something else.

My point really was that Sullivan, obviously, believes the war in Iraq. And he does think it's part of the war on terror. But that doesn't mean that we should analyze them together, because it's just not.
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Monday, June 14, 2004

A Reader Responds 

Reader JW writes, in response to this post, the following:
For whatever it's worth, [Goldberg], the attitude in this post is why I rarely read this blog anymore. Not because you're making fun of my "hero" (since I can guess that I'm included among the "law school ass kissers"), but because you seem to enjoy taking backhanded personal swipes at people with whom you disagree -- Goldsmith, conservative students, the Fed. Society, whomever. If it were a play, every stage direction would read: [Sneering.] You're no more objective or respectful than the people you ridicule...and thus no more persuasive. Like Sunstein says, you end up talking only to your allies, who inevitably offer, "Yeah, you're right."
Well, in a very strong sense, JW is right--blogs are pretty much the very definition of "preaching to the choir." What I post here is basically just what I'm thinking about (in "real time" as it were), and, while I think that a lot of what I link to is persuasive, I'm not going to claim that what I write is persuasive--it's not really meant to be.

Now, my comment on "law school ass-kissers" really was snide, and shouldn't have been included. A classic ad hominem, and one that came from an emotional state of mind (and, as someone just pointed out to me, not true). Also, I don't know what role Goldsmith really played in writing the memo, but the Financial Times article seems to suggest that he was instrumental (which does not contradict, too greatly, his scholarship, inasmuch as I'm familiar with it).

So, I guess the only part of the comment I take issue with is whether my criticism of Goldsmith is impertinent. I don't think it is. In truth, it makes me sick to my stomach that someone affiliated with the law school would write such a memo--not simply James Inhofe, "more outraged at the outrage" torturer apologists, but a true roadmap about how to get away with a systematic program of torture based on an authoritarian view of executive power. Any final judgments should be withheld until we know more about how this memo was written, who wrote it, and why, but, based on the Financial Times article (and the Yoo op-ed that Froomkin discussed), I feel like some preliminary judgments are not unwarranted. I'd like to give Goldsmith (and the other writers) the benefit of the doubt, but I'm having a hard time doing that. It really does make me upset to think about people whom I respected (if only by virtue of their position and reputation) sitting around and discussing how best to make torture, rape, and the abuse of children "legal" under the U.S. Constitution and laws. This is a very emotional issue for me, and has been since the first pictures on 60 Minutes II.

Then again, here's an alternative view, from another reader:
I'm personally just not enraged by [Goldsmith's] involvement - I had no expectations from him - I'm much more concerned about the simple fact of the matter. I also am incredulous that - yet again - the government outright lied about the scope of this, stupidly thinking it wouldn't get out. If I were Durbin, Leahy, or any senator with any self-respect, I'd haul in Ashcroft and others and crack some heads - maybe even throw some contempt of congress charges out there and open up an investigation. The White House has treated the public and Congress with outright disrespect and they need to be slapped.
This is true. But I think the worst type of "ivory tower" charge can be leveled at those who gave this legal advice.

ADDENDUM: Also, I don't think I make fun of "conservative students," at least with any frequency worth mentioning.
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Baseball Bloggin' 

The Indians scored 14 runs today without hitting a home run. They had a 6-run inning and a 7-run inning. Jake Westbrook had a 102-pitch, 4-hit, complete game shutout. Nice.
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Oh God... 

...the Howler is good today. I've only read half of it, yet am so confident of its brilliance that I am linking to it now.
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Jack! W. Reagan 

Jack! has put two pictures of Ronald W. Reagan up on his campaign home page. One is of the Gipper in full Hollywood headshot mode, the other is he and Nancy staring deep into each other.

These, of course, are both below a picture of Jack! himself around a bunch of black kids because, you know, he's a different kind of Republican.

Classy move, Jack!
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Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Battle of Ohio 

It should be noted (and is being noted right now as I type this--actually, the act of my typing is the act of it being noted) that the Indians swept the Reds this weekend with three come-from-behind victories.
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The Obama/Ryan Debates? 

As far as I know, these types of "challenges" are NEVER, EVER accepted. If there's a counter-example, I would love to know it. In any event, a letter from Barack Obama to Jack!
June 13, 2004


Mr. Jack Ryan
118 N. Clinton St., Suite 305
Chicago, IL 60661

Dear Jack:


A century and a half ago, two Senate candidates from Illinois set an admirable standard for campaigning with a series of debates that captivated the attention of the entire nation.

While America today may not be facing the kind of fundamental issues that dominated the Lincoln-Douglas debates, we do face many great challenges, and how we meet them will define our future.

To do these issues justice, we owe the people of Illinois more than glib TV ads and rehearsed sound-bites. We owe them a serious, thoughtful discussion about where we would lead as their United States Senator.

That is why I am proposing a series of six debates across our state, including four outside the Chicago media market, so that voters throughout Illinois will have the chance to see and hear us offer our competing ideas and visions for the future.

I suggest that at least three of these debates be limited to major subject areas, such as jobs and the economy; health care and education; and foreign policy and our approaches to the threat of terrorism. By doing so, we will guarantee a fuller discussion of these important issues, and give voters a real sense about where we each stand.

Moreover, I suggest that we make these debates as constructive as possible by embracing an open format, which will allow us each the latitude to address these important issues in depth and engage in true dialogue. We should also incorporate a Town Hall format for some or all of these debates, so that citizens have the opportunity to ask questions.

Finally, I propose that we begin these debates as early as possible with two in August, one in September, and three in October -- rather than cramming them all into the final weeks of the campaign. This will give the people of Illinois more time to fully consider their choices.

I hope you will accept this proposal and that representatives from our campaigns can meet in the very near future to work out the details.

In an era when Americans are rightfully skeptical about the quality of our politics, let us set an example Illinoisans can be proud of and give them the kind of campaign they deserve.

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,
Barack Obama
Jack! would need a lot (and I mean a LOT) of prep to do this.

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More on the JAG Corps 

"It's you and me against the infinite resources of the American government."
-Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift to his Gitmo-detained client.

This article is in today's New York Times Magazine about Commander Swift and his attempt to put more transparency and due process into the military tribunals set up after 9/11.
An optimist by nature, Swift was inclined to believe that the post-9/11 military-tribunal process would be fair. But over the course of the spring last year, as the Defense Department continued to define the workings of the military tribunals, his hopefulness began to fade. He learned that under the emerging system, his client, should he be assigned one, would not necessarily be able to see the evidence against him. Hearsay would be permitted, and there would be no appeals process beyond a four-member review panel handpicked by the secretary of defense. What is more, the Defense Department (in effect, the prosecution) was not only defining the crimes worthy of trial by military tribunal but also doing so only after hundreds of suspects were already in custody and had been repeatedly interrogated. In theory, crimes could be retrofitted to suit the testimony of prisoners.

"It was like a Monty Python movie," Swift says. "The government had this wonderful suit of armor, a lance and a sword. And I had been given a sharp stick."
Quite an interesting article, and again shows the JAG Corps valiantly fullfilling their duty to this country.

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The Armed Wing of the Republican Party 

Billmon has a thought-provoking post on the culture of the armed forces in this country. This post explains why he often called the military the "armed wing of the Republican Party." And it goes way beyond Gen. Boykin (in fact, it seems to not really affect the generals much at all). It's a pretty long post, but worth reading. It's inspiration is an article in the Lacrosse (Wisconsin) Tribune concerning a Colonel who went to a GOP rally in full uniform and took some of his troops with him--a big no-no in the military, but these days, who knows if this guy will be disciplined. A retired JAG officer says that this Colonel needs to be removed from his command immediately.

Anyway, what Billmon doesn't talk about, but what I think is worth exploring, is why this behavior is (seemingly) rampant in the career mid-level officer corps, but doesn't seem to exist in ranks of the Generals (I think there's a term for all the generals, writ large, but I don't know it--anyone who does, please let me know). Plus, this type of behavior also doesn't seem to be very prevalent in retired generals, either. See, e.g., Clark, Zinni, even Colin Powell to a point.

Billmon seems a bit hysterical, almost, but I'm not so sure he shouldn't be. It also should be noted, as Billmon mentions, that the JAG corps seem to be fighting a particularly fierce rearguard action against this politicization of the military, which is a good sign.
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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Blessed Are Those 

Republican Jesus weighs in on the torture memos.

UPDATE: Fafblog has more on Memos and Motorcyles. It's pretty darn clever.
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Friday, June 11, 2004

More on the Torture Memos 

So, Professor Yoo defends embarrasses himself in the LA Times today.

University of Miami law professor Michael Froomkin analyzes the arguments here.

Yoo writes:
Physical and mental abuse is clearly illegal. But would limiting a captured terrorist to six hours’ sleep, isolating him, interrogating him for several hours or requiring him to do physical labor constitute “severe physical or mental pain or suffering”? Federal law commands that Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives not be tortured, and the president has ordered that they be treated humanely, but the U.S. is not required to treat captured terrorists as if they were guests at a hotel or suspects held at an American police station.
Froomkin:
Another disingenuous move. Neither six hours sleep nor “several hours” of interrogation are illegal acts. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about scaring people with dogs, about contests to see how many detainees could be so terrified they peed on themselves. We’re talking about 16 hours of continuous interrogation, and suicide attempts. We’re talking about telling people they were about to be killed. We’re talking about simulating telephone conversations in which detainees were told their families were being held on the other end of the line and would be harmed if the detainee didn’t talk. We’re talking about not jjust threatening but abusing kids to make parents talk. We’re talking about raping women and children of both sexes. We’re talking about atrocities.

Treating “captured terrorists as if they were guests at a hotel”? The word “offensive” is really too mild for this sort of argumentation.
Read the whole Froomkin post--it's very good.
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Howler 

Read today's Daily Howler. Maybe Sommerby's best work! Read it, read it now! Why are you still reading this? Click the damn link!

The first part is about Reagan, and as I said, demands to be read. But the last part is about the coverage of when Kerry went to the coffin. As Guth just told me, how can anyone read this and still claim the New York Times is biased towards Democrats?
From the annals of polite Big Pol conduct
PERFECT GENTLEMEN: You’ll recall John Kerry’s surly behavior when he “paid his respects” to Reagan (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/9/04). Let’s face it–character counts in a possible president. Luckily, the New York Times’ fearless scribe, David Halbfinger, was willing to report what he did:
HALBFINGER (5/9/04): Mr. Kerry, who came to Los Angeles to see his daughter Alexandra, 30, graduate from the American Film Institute on Wednesday, briefly paid his respects to Mr. Reagan at the presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., Tuesday afternoon. Momentarily cutting through a cordon of mourners, he saluted Mr. Reagan’s coffin with his hand over his heart, bowed his head, crossed himself, saluted again and left–all in the space of a minute.
Good God! But then, it’s just like a Massachusetts liberal to engage in such fake, phony conduct. Halbfinger was shocked when Kerry refused to spend ten hours standing in line with the proles. And he wasn’t afraid to tell his readers about the “war hero’s” troubling conduct.

This morning, we finally see the sequel. Yesterday, President Bush and other Big Pols also paid their respects to Reagan. They certainly could have jumped the line too. But in Bush’s case, we saw real character! Here’s how Sheryl Gay Stolberg describes his visit in this morning’s Times:
STOLBERG (5/11/04): President Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, made a quick visit on Thursday evening, surprising some of the everyday people who were already in the Rotunda. They approached the coffin silently and bowed their heads. Then Mr. Bush put his hands on the flag, smoothing it, before he led Mrs. Bush away.
Clearly, the Bushes didn’t cut into line–or Stolberg, like Halbfinger, would have said so. Impressively, Bill Frist and Mikhail Gorbachev stood in line for ten hours too:
STOLBERG: Earlier in the day, Senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, escorted the new interim president of Iraq, Sheik Ghazi Ajil al-Yawar, who bowed his head and put his right hand across his chest. Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet president, lingered by the coffin and placed a hand on it.
Stolberg’s failure to describe any “rooting” tells us it just didn’t happen. But don’t take Stolberg’s word for this. Thom Shanker also describes Gorbachev’s visit this morning. He didn’t see Gorby cut in line either:
SHANKER: His solemn duties for the day came first, and Mikhail S. Gorbachev bowed his head before the coffin of Ronald Reagan in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday and stopped at Blair House to pay a condolence call on Nancy Reagan. Only then did he pause and let the memories come flooding back.
Readers of the New York Times got an invaluable lesson this week. Bush and Frist were perfect gentlemen–but thanks to the work of David Halbfinger, Times subscribers learned about the character problems of a liberal line-jumper. Four years ago, Katharine “Kit” Seelye played the same role, endlessly alerting her paper’s readers to the troubling conduct of Candidate Gore. When Gore wouldn’t tell lies, she just made her lies up. This week, Times readers saw their clowning paper continue its valuable work.
This is really infuriating, isn't it?
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Tribe v. Reds 

I wonder what Cleveland fans will throw on the field this time.

Go Reds.

"You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati."

Sam Wyche, in a still very underrated moment in NFL history.
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Thursday, June 10, 2004

U of C connection to torture memos 

I've been wanting to post about how it was very likely that two law professors closely associated with the University of Chicago Law School were involved in drafting these hideous and odious torture memos. I wasn't sure what to write, especially considering it could come very close to libel. But reader and fellow UC Law grad CB sent me an article from that pinko rag the Financial Times. Jack Goldsmith, hero to law school ass kissers since he came to U of C, was a tenured prof and a so-called "rising star" in conservative legal communities (societies) before he went to work for the government in 2002. I think he was in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department, but he may have been at the DOD. I'm not sure. Goldsmith is now professor of law at UVA. John Yoo is a Federalist Society hero and was a visiting prof at UC this past year. According to the article he's now at Berkeley. Excerpt:
Government lawyers have traditionally kept their clients - the president and top officials - out of trouble. Critics say the Bush administration has turned that on its head.

"It's the lawyers pushing the envelope, trying to eliminate restrictions rather than asserting them," says Tom Malinowski, a former lawyer for the National Security Council who works for Human Rights Watch.

Several current and former administration lawyers, including Jack Goldsmith, the head of the Justice Department's office of legal counsel and a former Pentagon special counsel, and John Yoo, a former deputy in the division, argued before entering the administration that international law could not constrain executive action.

Mr Yoo, now a professor at Berkeley, dismisses criticisms about the ethics of those who drew up the document as "groundless and without merit. It's clear what the memo does. It explains what the law is." It "tries to figure out what lines are drawn by different treaties and statutes", noting that Congress "set a very high definition on what torture is".

Mr Yoo denies the report was intended to free the hands of policymakers. "It's an abstract analysis of the meaning of a treaty and a statute." Critics are "confusing the difference between law and moral choice".

Mr Goldsmith did not return a phone call.

...

The most contentious claim is that the president's authority as commander-in-chief during wartime overrides congressional prohibitions on torture. "The idea that these laws can't be enforced against the executive branch just doesn't make any sense," says Gregory Maggs, a George Washington University law professor who advised the administration on the creation of the Guantánamo military tribunals.

Many legal experts wonder how such questions about torture came to be asked, even in the face of the terrorist threat. "These lawyers and officials seem oblivious to the first question that any law-of-war expert must ask: 'Would we tolerate such treatment of US prisoners?' " says David Scheffer, a former US ambassador for war crimes. "If the answer is no, then the subject is closed."
As CB said in the email to me accompanying this article: Coming late to class? WRONG!!! Torture? Not such a big deal.**

**Goldsmith was notorious for just losing his shit if you showed up even one second late. If he couldn't handle the hardship of that, I wonder how he'd fair in a beatdown that caused a U.S. soldier permanent brain damage.
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Analogy of the Day 

Billmon wins today's edition with this gem:

Rove has much bigger problems than being called an idiot by a GOP consultant, which is really like being called smelly by a wart hog with a bowel control problem.
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The Boss is still the Boss 

And don't you forget it!

Via Alterman
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Jimmy C. Rehab 

We all know (and all too well) what Ronnie Rehab looks like (I first experienced it in John Lewis Gaddis' Kenneth Branaugh's "The Cold War" class as an undergrad). But you rarely see any Carter Rehab. I've always been a bit interesting in his presidency, mainly because I know less about it than any administration since Harding (or maybe even Coolidge). I do know that, regardless of what they think of him as a person, many, many people agree with the CW that states that the Carter administration was a failure (See Kevin Drum, my parents, etc.). So, it's nice to see Iraq and Middle East expert Juan Cole defend Carter:
There is, by the way, a throwaway line in Richter's piece from a Neocon lamenting that Bush may come to be seen as the worst president since Carter. That is ridiculous. Jimmy Carter was a far better president than W. can ever hope to be. Carter made peace between Israel and Egypt. He resolved the Panama Canal issue to everyone's satisfaction, and we've never heard any more about it because there haven't been subsequent problems. He avoided a potentially disastrous US attempt to prevent or roll back the Islamic Revolution in Iran. He used the foreign aid carrot to begin the process of pushing the Latin American military regimes to democratize (a process that has been wildly successful). He raised human rights as a foreign policy issue. Carter is a quick study and a bright engineer. He was president at a time of post-Vietnam and post-Watergate doldrums, at a time when Iran and Afghanistan spun out of control, at a time of high petroleum prices, continued stagflation, and high inflation. I am not entirely sure what he could have done about any of these problems, most of which were beyond his control (and most of which remained beyond the control of his successors).

Reagan did not overturn Khomeini, rather he sold him arms. Although Reagan got the Soviets out of Afghanistan, he did it at the cost of creating a radical Islamist international and destabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan--i.e. Afghanistan continued to spin out of control, with fateful consequences. The price of petroleum declined from $40 a barrel in 1980 to less than $10 a barrel in 1986, helping Reagan quite a lot, but it had nothing to do with any policy pursued by Reagan. (Europe cut its energy consumption by a third after the 1970s oil shock, and OPEC has a tendency to overproduce over time). After Carter retired, he spent his time building houses for disadvantaged people. He also was key to the elimination of a painful and debilitating parasite in Africa, improving the lives of millions. The vilification of Carter and the hero worship of W. is a sign of how morally warped the American Right really is. Carter's political and economic environment made it impossible for him to be a great president, but he was a damn sight better than W. any day of the week.
Now, I have no idea if he's right, and I certainly think that maybe we could have done better in Iran if our CIA had any idea what was going on there, but this sounds reasonable to me.

UPDATE: Looking at this post, it looks like the title refers to a person with first name "Jimmy"; middle initial, "C."; and last name "Rehab." It shouldn't be read that way.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Masochism at the University of Chicago Law School 

An email sent to graduating students:
-----Original Message-----
From: XXXXXXXXXXXX [mailto:XXXXXXXXX@uchicago.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 5:39 PM
To: XXXXXX@uchicago.edu; XXXXXX@law.uchicago.edu
Subject: Take a piece of the Law School with you on Friday!

As you probably know, the moment Graduation Day comes to an end this Friday, the Classroom Wing portion on the Law School renovations will kick into high gear.

Part of this project includes replacing the chairs that you have sat in over the past three years. We have decided to offer one to any member of the Class of 2004 who pledges to make a gift of any amount to the alumni Law School Annual Fund over the next year. They may not be the most comfortable chairs ever made, but this is a wonderful opportunity to take a piece of the Law School with you.

All you will have to do is stop by the Classroom Wing during the Graduation Reception on Friday afternoon and pick out your chair. Unfortunately, due to the very tight construction schedule, you MUST take your chair with you that day. We cannot help with storage or shipping.

If you have any questions, please contact Tim Brennan in the Development Office at XXXXXXX@uchicago.edu or (773) 702-XXXX.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX
The University of Chicago
The Law School
1111 East 60th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637
Phone (773) 702-XXXX Fax (773) 702-XXXX
Email XXXXXX@uchicago.edu
www.law.uchicago.edu
This sounds to me like the school is trying to subcontract its construction removal costs to its students without paying them. In any event, what a stupid fucking idea. Thanks to graduating student nrm for the tip.
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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Plot Against America 

Publisher's description of the latest Philip Roth novel (to be released in the fall):
When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Not only had Lindbergh, in a nationwide radio address, publicly blamed the Jews for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but upon taking office as the thirty-third president of the United States, he negotiated a cordial “understanding” with Adolf Hitler, whose conquest of Europe and virulent anti-Semitic policies he appeared to accept without difficulty. What then followed in America is the historical setting for this startling new book by Pulitzer Prize–winner Philip Roth, who recounts what it was like for his Newark family — and for a million such families all over the country — during the menacing years of the Lindbergh presidency, when American citizens who happened to be Jews had every reason to expect the worst.
Doesn't really sound like the typical Roth novel, but there's no reason to think that his talent has diminished in recent years.
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The Other Stupid Goldberg (Me) 

At lunch today I somehow managed to inhale a few flakes of crushed red pepper (you know, the stuff you put on pizza). It was no fun at all, and only added to the perspiration problem inherent in 90 degree days.
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The Stupid Goldberg 

After a few days of arguing that Reagan was the most popular President, Jonah Goldberg now has a rambling and incoherent response to the cold, hard fact that Clinton was more popular. On one hand, Goldberg argues, Reagan's unpopularity is proof that he was a bold leader. On the other hand, Reagan was more popular than Clinton. My favorite point:
Third, the fact that Clinton's numbers were so high is a testament to the fact that Clinton desired to be popular more than he desired to be effective.
In other words, if something is true about Reagan, it is because was everything good and wonderful in the world. Clinton, however, was a godless commie bastard.

UPDATE: Pandagon, unsuprisingly, does a much better job at what I have attempted to do.
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Monday, June 07, 2004

Stupid Stories from when I was in Law School. 

The New York Times has an article about "Lawyer to the (Washington) Stars" Robert Barnett of Williams & Connelly. Barnett went to the University of Chicago Law School and was on campus last fall during our "100 years of ideas and whatever" celebration.

I was in Legal Profession when Mr. Barnett walked in to say hello to his old classmate Barry Alberts, a practitioner at Schiff who taught the class. Professor Alberts introduces him, explains briefly how Bartnett was some big-shot who helped politicians do book deals and all that, and then tried to resume teaching the class about legal ethics. Barnett, however, interrupted Alberts. The exchange, more or less, was as follows:

Alberts: Ok, so Bob, I'd love it for you to stay a few minutes here in class. Now, where were we. Legal ethics, blah blah blah

Barnett: Oh, no, I'd rather not talk. I'll just sit here and watch you teach.

Alberts: [continues teaching, and at no time implies that he'd like Barnett to speak to the class]

Barnett: No, no, well, if you insist I'll say a few words.

And then Bob Barnett took up ten minutes explaining how he knew both President Clinton and Hillary and Karen Hughes. It was very, very odd.

And then, after class, a classmate and I were explaining the whole weird scene to a certain professor rumored to moonlight as a bouncer at some of Chicago's finest clubs. The prof said, "Barnett? I'm surprised his head fit in the doorway."
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RR 

Of course, conservatives are using the death of a beloved President to attack Bill Clinton. I wish I had time to post all of the absurd garbage being written right now - such as the oft repeated statement that when he left office Reagan was the most popular President ever. This is true, unless you look at every statistic used to measure a President's popularity and compare it with Bill Clinton when he left office, in which case Bill Clinton could be argued to be the most popular President when he left office.

Also, Bill O'Reilly has a column honoring our former President which, appropriately, begins with a stirring tribute to the heroism of Bill O'Reilly.
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Notes from Memphis, Tennessee 

I was in Memphis over the weekend, and have a few thoughts:
1. Attempting to avoid the Tishomingo Blues, we went to the Grand Casino in Tunica, and I have to say it was much, much nicer than I expected. Much closer to Vegas than Gary, Indiana. Still didn't win any money, though.

2. Memphis has this bar names "Raiford's" that sells beer by the 40oz. The atmosphere was, hmm, what you'd expect at such a place, I guess. It was interesting.

3. The National Civil Rights Museum, attached to and part of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, is a place everyone should go to. I felt that it did a wonderful job and showcasing the movement, and in doing so it left me to contemplate the players and motivations involved. The initial impression one might get is to realize how King, James Meredith, the Freedom Riders, etc., really demonstrate the very best that American history and the American experience have to offer. However, you also get a sense of how bad the worst that America has to offer can be. Lester Maddox, Bull Connor, Strom Thurmond, etc. (and not everyone was Southerners, it should be noted), really represent the very worst of American society. After Brown, and certainly by the Senate debated surrounding the 1964 Act, it was clear to everyone what side history would end up on. Nevertheless, the conservative Southern Senators, Southern governors, and others (including many Northerners), simply didn't care to be on the wrong side of morality and history and remained ardent, hate-filled segregationists. And that's really what I took away from the museum. Not a sense of optimism in what the leaders of the Civil Rights movement accomplished, but a sense of pessimism in what those who opposed progress felt and though and did during that time.

In any event, the good guys did win, so I really should be happier.
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Friday, June 04, 2004

Bush Kept His Word 

Sully writes:
WRONG AGAIN: Here's Clinton's apparently subtle description of George W. Bush: "If you go back and read what (Bush) said in the campaign, he's just doing what he'd said he'd do. You've got to give him credit for that." Huh? Isn't it the most remarkable fact about this president that he will be remembered primarily as a radical interventionist in foreign policy, while he campaigned in favor of moderate, realist isolationism? And wasn't he supposed to be a "uniter, not a divider," reaching out to the socially moderate center? Yet he has governed domestically as a member of the hard-core Christian right and polarized the country more deeply than even under Clinton. Sorry, Bill. Try another back-handed compliment.
I'm not so sure about this. Yes, Bush campaigned against nation building, and has now engaged in it, but as Sullivan himself endlessly points out, September 11 changed everything. As for social issues, why in God's name did any of us (including myself) think that Bush was not going to govern from the Christian right? He asked for their vote. He announced that he would appoint the judges they like. He announced that he was, in fact, a born again Christian. His party has many members who are openly hostile to gays and lesbians - and he said nothing to renounce them. We were supposed to ignore all this, because he said he was a "uniter, not a divider"? Wrong. He did exactly what he said he would. His rhetoric was softer; in fact, many of us took cues from his rhetoric and believed that he would break his promises to his base. But he kept his word - and, as Bill Clinton points out, that's the problem.
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Bob Herbert on Obama 

In today's New York Times.
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Exciting Moments in Electronic Document Review--Part 1 of a New Series 

Email thread I'm reviewing for...who knows:
Emailer1: [describes new business direction company is going]

Emailer2: So what?

Emailer1: So this is the business that takes [us] into the 21st century...bitch...
That probably made my day.
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Thursday, June 03, 2004

George Tenet Speculation 

Juan Cole speculates on why Tenet finally resigned:
[The Plame] leak aimed at punishing her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, for having gone public about his mission to Niger in spring of 2002, in which he disproved the story that Iraq tried to buy yellowcake uranium from that country. Despite Wilson's report to the CIA, requested by VP Dick Cheney, and against Tenet's strong advice, Bush put the allegation into his 2003 State of the Union address.

Tenet should have resigned when Bush insisted on trumpeting an Iraqi nuclear weapons program at a time when Tenet was denying there was any such thing. (Tenet did think Iraq had chemical and biological programs, about which he was wrong). The nuclear claim helped convince the country to go to war. It was false. Tenet knew it was false. He told Bush that. Bush either knew it was false and said it anyway, or he disbelieved Tenet. Either thing should have produced Tenet's resignation.

That Bush retained counsel suggests that he intends to continue to cover for the slime who outed Plame, thereby endangering the lives of dozens of key contacts in the Third World who had been seen hanging out with her over the years when she had a cover as an energy consultant. Bush can produce the perpetrator if he wants, but has decided not to.

So Tenet should resign over that.

Then, someone leaked to Ahmad Chalabi sensitive details of the CIA's cryptography operations against Iran. The leaker is probably a neocon with Defense Department links. Bush could also produce this person if he wanted to. He has not.

So Tenet should resign over Bush's shocking disregard for national security.
There are really three reasons here: (1) Bush's disregard for national security in not trying to get to the bottom of the Plame leak; (2) Bush's insistence on pushing Saddam's nonexistent nuclear program as a causus belli; and (3) Bush's disregard for national security in not being more outspoken on the Chalabi front.

But none of these really would explain why Tenet resigned today, as opposed to last year. Yes, the Chalabi thing is new, but that's an Army/DOD/NSA thing (the codebreaking, that is) than a CIA thing, right? Anyway, Cole is right that Tenet should have resigned for all three of those reasons, but I'm not convinced any one of them is the real reason.
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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Chalabi=Alger Hiss? 

Sidle on up to the Whisky Bar and read Billmon's comparison.
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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Read This 

Read this post on Talkingpointsmemo, and read the Post article it links to.

I know many of our readers, a literate bunch, have already read this article (from last Sunday). Some haven't. Remember, when you read it, that this is not an opinion piece - it is a news story/news analysis. And, remember, as The Daily Howler points out, that it is still full of lies about Al Gore and Democrats in general. Yet, despite all of this, the point of the article is clear: the Bush campaign is running more negative, untruthful ads than any campaign in history.

Congratulations, Republicans. You must be really proud of him. I am glad that you brought a sense of decency and honor back to the White House after Clinton sullied it with his blow jobs. It would really be awful if the world looked at our leader as a liar; if the President taught our children that at certain times it was OK to lie. That would be really terrible.
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Due Process 

It should be noted that none of these accusations, if true, is a good argument in favor of denying an American citizen his or her due process rights.

UPDATE: Digby (surprise) has more:
I have finally come around to the administration's way of thinking on this unlawful combatant thing. Here we have an American who was trained to blow up apartment buildings and maybe set off dirty bombs, but the only way we could get the information that he was trained to blow up apartment buildings and maybe set off dirty bombs was by denying him his right to counsel and holding him until he confessed to those potential crimes --- which means we can't use that "confession" in court. We simply could not take even the smallest chance that an apartment or dirty bomber might not tell all by allowing him due process. Surely, everyone can understand that.

That whole fifth amerndment thing was only put there because back in the olden days we had kings who would falsely imprison people for political reasons. Needless to say, that could never happen now. Great americans like John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney would never take advantage of the American people's fears by saying that they have captured a dangerous terrorist soldier who was trying to kill them unless it were true. And they do not make mistakes about things like that. They are good people. There is no reason to fear the misuse of government power against its citizens so let's take that off the table right now.
As they say, read the whole thing.
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