Friday, April 30, 2004

When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

If you want to know the origin of this post's title, read the comments in this March 21st Ivy Bush post. Then go here to learn that, once again, Marvin is at the vanguard of revealing Truth, sometimes to the dismay of his readers. Marvin was on the story here, here, and here too. Check out the datelines.

Oh, and about the wife beating? I'm sure the pictures are part of Ahmed Chalabi's latest disinformation campaign to bite the hand that he slyly duped into invading his country for his political gain. The pictures can't be real, can they? I mean just look at them. They've clearly been doctored. Why should we believe the liberals that peddle this crap to impugn Potentate President Bush?


I've said before (back when we didn't know it would be John Kerry) that that the eventual Democratic nominee should try to provoke Bush at every opportunity. Bush supporters believe that Bush is "likeable." My belief has always been that underneath that frat boy patina lurks a deportment that would not wear well with the public once revealed.

Digby offers Kerry an excellent suggestion to goad Bush. I really believe that if Bush is pushed far enough you'll see him snarl like a crazy, rabid dog. It won't be a pretty sight.

Some other suggestions for provoking the rabid dog response are to give Bush a taste of his own medicine. In 2000 he (and his right-wing media lackeys) got a lot of mileage out of Gore's alleged lies about trivial matters (Internet, Love Story, fuzzy math, etc.). Bush has got a long list of his own peccadillos, including this recently revealed tidbit about his supposed athleticism. And let's not forget the AWOL brouhaha or the trifecta lie. If Gore's minor blemishes reflected poorly on his character (the charge the Bushies made in 2000) then by the same standard Bush is already disqualified for serving as president.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Wingnut Powell - The Least Possible Evil

Marvin is correct when he writes "no one occupying the sane political center, should shed tears when and if Colin Powell vacates Foggy Bottom."

It is certainly true that Powell has lost whatever respect he might have had (and deserved) when he signed on with the Mayberry Machiavellians.

And yet, will we look back fondly on the days of Powell's failed tenure after we've endured a few years of State Department mismanagement at the hands of Jerry Bremer or Condi Rice? Condoleezza Rice -- Madame Secretary? Perish the thought.

Bloggin & Scrappin

What can I say? It was an NPR kind of day.

On the way home from work this story on the resurgent scrapping craze got me thinking about the similarities between blogging and scrap booking.

Both my wife and my mom busily work to arrange photographic memories that neatly, concisely, and wonderfully record the events of our families' lives. They can spend hours to compose a few pages. But the results are spectacular. They choose just the right combination of pictures to preserve a birthday, vacation, or an endearing moment.

Blogging, in a way, is similar. I can spend hours surfing around reading events of the day. When I finally find a little snippet that catches my eye my little posts are snapshots of my thinking at a particular moment in time. My posts are decidedly less familial than the scrap books my wife and mom create. But, they do, in a way, document public and political events that make some sort of impression.

One main difference, of course, is that in 20 years no one will be perusing old blog entries to see what I was nattering on about back in 2004. But thankfully, in 20 years, we'll have my wife's and my mom's handiwork to help us fondly remember the memories we're creating today.

Too Many Commas

Bob Edwards confesses a sin that my wife may find unforgivable. In an interview with Lynn Truss, the author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Edwards admits that he is a sucker for an extra comma. Luckily for Edwards, Truss absolves him of his habit.

I've been reading and hearing a lot about the book which has topped the best-seller lists in England. It appears to be a pithy little tome that mixes gentle admonitions with a bit of grammatical didacticism. Seems like a book that Aimee and I would both enjoy when we can find the time.

On a side note, I've often wondered how NPR edits their stories. Listening to the extended interview provides a glimpse into how the recording is modified for the on-air program.

When Does Impeachment Start?

David Sirota provides details on Bush's illegal diversion of $700 million to fund war in Iraq.

Recall that Senate Democrats were in the majority during the time in question. That may provide some clue as to why Bush violated the law in failing to notify Congress. Then again, his administration lied to a Congress run by his own party regarding the cost of the Medicare bill. So perhaps it's true that the Bush adminstration is run by congenital liars as opposed to people who only lie to their political opponents.

Rodney King Political Togetherness Moment

Back in the day, Rodney King famously asked "Can't we all just get along?" That same question can apply to the political wrangling that permeates America (and this blog). Unfortunately, on most things, such a go-along get-along attitude simply is impossible due to the horrible wrong-headedness of the controlling authority that dominates Washington and the mainstream media.

But, there is one thing that we all -- Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Liberals, Conservatives, and Fascists alike -- ought to be able to agree upon: Starship's "We Built This City" is a horrible song. And it deserves to top Blender magazine's list of the 50 Worst Songs Ever. I find that I'm also able to agree with nearly all of the top 10. I bet that regardless of what you think about Dubya (or this blog), you too will agree that at least a few songs on this list could benefit from a Constitutional amendment prohibiting their ever being played on the radio again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Bush's Historical Blueprint

From Bob Woodward we learn that Bush is simultaneously not concerned about history's judgement while he fancies himself the creator of a blueprint for waging war.
Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."

The president told Woodward he was cooperating on his book because he wanted the story of how the United States had gone to war in Iraq to be told. He said it would be a blueprint of historical significance that "will enable other leaders, if they feel like they have to go to war, to spare innocent citizens and their lives."

"But the news of this, in my judgment," Bush added, "the big news out of this isn't how George W. makes decisions. To me the big news is America has changed how you fight and win war, and therefore makes it easier to keep the peace in the long run. And that's the historical significance of this book, as far as I'm concerned."
Not surprisingly, I think Bush is wrong. I think the news IS how George W. makes decisions. It is important, I think, that George W. is unfamiliar with a little document called The Constitution of the United States of America.
In the summer of 2002, Bush approved $700 million worth of "preparatory tasks" in the Persian Gulf region such as upgrading airfields, bases, fuel pipelines and munitions storage depots to accommodate a massive U.S. troop deployment. The Bush administration funded the projects from a supplemental appropriations bill for the war in Afghanistan and old appropriations, keeping Congress unaware of the reprogramming of money and the eventual cost.

After the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the resumption of weapons inspections in Iraq, Bush became increasingly impatient with their effectiveness and the role of chief weapons inspector Hans Blix. Shortly after New Year's 2003, he told Rice at his Texas ranch: "We're not winning. Time is not on our side here. Probably going to have to, we're going to have to go to war."
So let me see if I've got this straight. The blueprint that Bush advocates for future leaders is this: Without informing either the people of a democratic nation or their elected representatives, secretly spend large sums of money and make preparations for a war that has not been approved by the constitutionally designated body authorized to make such decisions. Later, once the Congress has provided authorization to use military force after the failure of diplomacy, let impatience drive the decision to commit the nation to war.

Lying. Deceit. Impatience. It may be a good thing that Bush will be dead when history's verdict is rendered.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Bill Saletan posits that Bush doesn't have a learning disability as much as he has a reality disability.
...Bush's notion of credibility turns out to be dangerously unhinged. The only words and deeds that have to match are his. No correspondence to reality is required. Bush can say today what he said yesterday, and do today what he promised yesterday, even if nothing he believes about the rest of the world is true.

Outside Bush's head, his statements keep crashing into reality...

Inside Bush's head, however, all is peaceful.
Saletan skillfully deconstructs a number of Bush's responses -- it would be inaccurate to call them "answers" -- to last night's questions.

The inescapable conclusion Saletan offers is that Bush is "impervious to evidence." Events swirl, the world changes, new realities are formed. But through it all our hapless, happy-go-lucky "leader" trots out time tested platitudes and stock phrases. Whether his banal remarks provide insight into the past or light the way forward really doesn't matter. As long as there is an appearance of constancy the great leader theory will persist.

In this, significant portions of the American electorate remain impervious to evidence.


Oh God, please no.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Salisbury Whore

Liddy Dole gives Bush the political equivalent of a Lewinsky:
Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) said she thought Bush "showed he was a leader in every sense of the word," and said he "outlined and justified a bold and ambitious plan to combat terror around the world."
Does anyone know what speech she was listening to? And with the kind of action she's giving George, will Bob still need his Viagra prescription?

He's Still Breathing

I'm no fan of Bush. However, I think he did himself some good tonight.

I listened to his press event on the radio so I'm not sure how it came across to the viewing public. The first 10 minutes were definitely horrible. Halting, tentative speech -- I could hardly believe he was reading from a prepared text. But at some point before he started taking questions he seemed to find a little rhythm. (I'm being generous here. Bush finding his rhythm is still a pretty bad speech, objectively speaking. But for him, he started doing OK at that point.)

His answers to questions were maddeningly unsubstantive and un-newsworthy. He really didn't have anything new to say. But, he did reiterate (and reiterate, and reiterate...) a message that has been woefully absent from the administration. Namely his commitment to "stay the course" in Iraq. To the extent this is true it is a good thing. Americans and the world need to hear the important message that we will see the job through.

The problem, of course, is that George Bush always sounds good (in terms of what he says not, obviously, how he says it). The question is whether his actions will live up to his words. On this, I'm not confident.

To the average viewer, however, Bush's relentless hammering of his rehearsed talking points was probably enough to staunch the political bleeding of the last few weeks. This speech, unlike his SOTU, should be good for a few points in the right direction.

I also think some of the rabid partisans commenting at Atrios and Political Animal are somewhat delusional in thinking that Bush imploded during his speech. There were definitely some big-time bobbles but most people know Bush is a horrible orator. And, unfortunately, I'm not even sure people are disturbed by his obvious inability to grasp even the simplest facts or details. It seems to me that he did himself some good precisely because he didn't implode. The expectations for this guy are so low that he really wins simply by showing up and not forgetting to breathe.

Monday, April 12, 2004


Since I read the PDB on Saturday I've been trying to put my finger on just why it's taken 2 1/2 years to declassify this seemingly innocuous document. I've read and re-read it trying to surmise what issues of national security are compromised by its release. I've examined the 11 short paragraph for the important "sources and methods" that must be protected at all costs (Joe Wilson's wife notwithstanding).

I realized this morning why I was having such trouble. I was seeking to understand the Bush administration's action (or inaction in this case) by assuming they value honesty, procedural integrity and the security of the American people above their callow electoral concerns.

With an adjusted perspective, viewing this document as the Bushies view it, it's much easier to see why it's taken such tremendous pressure to drag this document into the light. This document was hidden away out of shame.

In the damage assessments that followed 9-11 (the White House political damage assessments, not the important assessments) the Bushies concluded that they hadn't paid enough attention to the signs. The political operatives immediately recognized that Dick, Condi, Don, Andy, and especially George didn't do enough -- didn't lead. The lack of action and leadership becomes more starkly apparent in light of the warnings of the Clarkes, Beers, Bergers, and others.

Attuned to the looming political disaster should anyone recognize Bush's failure to lead, the political operatives took the obvious action. They buried the evidence and changed the facts. Thus, the PDB disappeared and Bush was positioned as a strong leader.

Whether or not the Bush administration could have prevented 9-11 is not the point. The issue is whether the best possible effort was put forth in light of the obviously heightened threat level. The former is debatable. The latter really is not.

Josh Marshall nails it.
The CIA didn't need to deliver him a turnkey solution to rolling up the terrorist plot wrapped in a bow. The question is whether, when faced with a dire warning and given a few clear hints as to where and when, the president exerted some leadership and got everyone focused on the problem.

This is precisely where the "George Bush as leader" theory breaks down. The man -- this leader blessed with preternatural clarity of purpose -- failed in the simplest of tasks. Lacking "actionable intelligence" he pronounced himself "satisfied" with inadequate information in the face of an obvious and imminent threat. His satisfaction bred complacency. And complacency was the root cause for Bush's continuing lack of actionable intelligence.

Their failure to take action is perhaps forgiveable. Bush's failure to lead and the claims of masterful leadership in a time of tragedy, however, are unforgivable. Their obvious shame demonstrates that they recognize this too.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

President's Daily Spoon Feeding

Regarding today's release of the August 6, 2001 PDB, Kevin Drum wonders
what kind of questions Bush asked when the PDB was presented to him and what kind of actions he authorized. Maybe the commission will ask about that when he and Dick meet with them.
Honestly, I think we already know the answer to Kevin's question.
I went in with a long list of things to talk about, and I thought to engage on and as the book says, I was surprised that it turned out me talking, and the president just listening … As I recall, it was mostly a monologue.

Paul O'Neil
The Price of Loyalty
January 2004

Friday, April 09, 2004

Is There Anybody Out There?

HATTIESBURG, Miss - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a speech to an empty auditorium on Thursday. A standing room only crowd was expected for the justice's remarks in the 4,300 seat Grandholm Pavilion. However, minutes before his speech was to begin Federal Marshals cleared the auditorium after Scalia unexpectedly requested that his remarks not be recorded. The Marshals were forced to act when it dawned on them that everyone in attendance had brought their brains, one of the most advanced recording devices ever created.

The Marshals briefly considered removing Scalia from the auditorium as well. Scalia was allowed to remain once the Marshals determined that the justice had not entered the pavilion with a functioning recording device.

Responding to a related incident, Nehemiah Flowers, the U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Mississippi had this to say:
"The justice informed us he did not want any recordings of his speech and remarks and when we discovered that one, or possibly two, reporters were in fact recording, [Deputy Marshal Melanie Rube] took action," Flowers told The Associated Press.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Contractor Contretemps

Via Atrios we get a link to this letter from an American contractor working in Iraq. Very disheartening.

Fried Rice

This Salon article on Rice's incompetence in the face of the Mid East peace process is well worth the free day pass commercial. It concludes this way:
The story of the Middle East debacle, like that of the pre-9/11 terrorism fiasco, reveals the inner workings of Bush's White House: The president, aggressive and manipulated, ignorant of his own policies and their consequences, negligent; the secretary of state, prideful, a man of misplaced gratitude, constantly in retreat; the vice president as Richelieu, secretive, conniving, at the head of a neoconservative cabal, the power behind the throne; the national security advisor, seemingly open and even vulnerable, posing as the honest broker, but deceitful and derelict, an underhanded lightweight.
Via Kevin Drum

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Questions, Questions, Questions

Brad DeLong has a series of questions the 9-11 Commission should ask Condi Rice during her testimony under oath tomorrow.

Via TPM Peter Bergen proposes other questions well worth asking.

To these questions I would add this one:

Dr. Rice, on September 11, 2001 you were scheduled to deliver a public speech in which you were expected to assert that the real security threat to America was the possibility of a ballistic missile attack. Given that this speech was intended to be delivered in a public forum why does the White House refuse to release the text?

Condi's "World of Yesterday"

Condi Rice will deign to speak to the 9-11 Commission tomorrow. Since she may be, at this very moment, studying up in preparation for her testimony, it might behoove us to have a little review of our own.

A front page New York Times piece from the 2000 campaign provides some glimpses into characteristics relevant to an understanding of the National Security Advisor's frame of reference prior to 9/11.

Ms. Rice herself admits that there are vast swaths of the world that are new to her. "I've been pressed to understand parts of the world that have not been part of my scope," she said. "I'm really a Europeanist."

I have nothing against Europeanists. But I tend to think that when it comes to matters of national security and the coordination of policy, a self-described Europeanist might have been better suited to be head of the NSC while America was still immersed in the Cold War.

Of course, Rice is intelligent and certainly might have been expected to expand her brief beyond her European expertise. However, there is little indication, aside from the admonition of the outgoing Clinton national security apparatus, that she had any impetus to focus on security concerns outside the traditional sphere of Republican concern (i.e. missile defense, China, rogue states). And given the ABC (Anything But Clinton) directive of the newly ensconced Bush administration, is there any reason to believe that she heeded the warnings of Sandy Berger and Richard Clarke? Here again the NYT seems to have pegged the mindset of the incoming administration:

Ms. Rice and Mr. Bush seem to share a similar view of the world. It is a balance-of-power, realist Republican approach that is generally short on details and might be summed up like this: strengthen America's military, scale back military commitments abroad and focus on the big powers.

"Focus on the big powers." We'll come back to that. But first, it's worth noting the criticality of Rice's position within the Bush administration. A National Security Advisor is always important, to be sure. But

Ms. Rice's role is all the more critical because Mr. Bush doesn't like to read briefing books on the nuts-and-bolts of national security, and his lack of experience in foreign affairs has raised questions about his preparedness for the White House.

Let's remember at this point that Rice has admitted to not having read portions of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that formed the basis of the argument for war with Iraq. This seems an especially egregious oversight given that it concerned policy and intelligence in an area outside her admitted area of expertise. Doesn't one typically study more when confronted with an issue with which one is less familiar?

Maybe not. Perhaps her failure to read the NIE or to heed the advice of her predecessor stems from her preference for "winging it."

"Condi's entire life has been a high wire act," said Coit Blacker, a fellow professor at Stanford, a former Russia specialist on the Clinton administration's National Security Council and a close friend of Ms. Rice. "She can stand up in front of a crowd and wing it. I have been with her any number of times when she's about to give a speech and she writes it on the back of an envelope on the drive over. It springs from deep confidence but also a tendency to engage in death-defying acts."

So here we have a supremely self-confident "Europeanist" with a penchant for "winging it" ostensibly in charge of the coordination, direction, and articulation of America's national security policy. Was she "winging it" on the Niger yellowcake issue leading up to last year's State of the Union? In that episode it is almost undeniable that she either made public claims she knew to be false or she was asleep at the wheel in her important role of intelligence gathering and oversight.

Again, I don't dislike people who like to play daredevil any more than I dislike Europeanists. But I'd prefer that public servants undertake recklessly bold maneuvers on their own time.

I also appreciate it when people have enough of a sense of themselves to admit their own limitations. Rice strikes me as too cocksure to be such a person.

Of course, Afghanistan is also not Ms. Rice's primary area of expertise. Asked in an interview to support her assertion in her recent article in Foreign Affairs that Iran is trying to spread "fundamentalist Islam" beyond its borders, she replied, "Iran has been the state hub for technology and money and lots of other goodies to radical fundamentalist groups, some will say as far-reaching as the Taliban."

When reminded that Iran was a bitter enemy of the Taliban and that the two countries had almost gone to war in late 1998, she replied, "They were sending stuff to the region that fell into the hands of bad players in Afghanistan and Pakistan." She did not identify "the bad players." (In a subsequent conversation, she said that of course she knew that Iran and the Taliban were enemies).

I can just image Rice showing up for work at the White House 6 months after this interview. One of her new underlings tells her that she really needs to be focusing on this al Qaeda thing. Is that related to that Taliban thing I recall from the campaign, she wonders? Oh, al Qaeda? They must be some of those "bad players." Yeah, yeah, we'll get to that...

It is not at all difficult to believe that Rice (and the man she tutored) would be less than whole-heartedly interested in topics outside her (their) bailiwick.

It is plainly obvious, however, how interested they were in what Josh Marshall calls their "fundamentally flawed conception of the threats facing the United States."

Transnational terrorist groups were almost off the radar. The real near-term threats were rogue states which could hit the US with WMD-bearing ICBMs -- longer-term the threat was China. And thus the centerpiece of our new national security strategy -- and the target of the biggest funding -- would be national missile defense.

Now in a front page piece in Thursday's Washington Post we learn that on September 11th, 2001 Condi Rice was scheduled to deliver a major foreign policy address on missile defense as the centerpiece of a new strategy to combat "the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday."

How rich is the irony of a Europeanist slated to deliver a speech on missile defense -- missile defense -- on the day our country is brutally attacked by human piloted missiles? "World of yesterday" indeed.

Colorado Senate Race Gets Sex Appeal

Coors TwinsAccording to the Rocky Mountain News
Brewery giant Pete Coors will enter Colorado's U.S. Senate race today, according to Gov. Bill Owens. The candidacy potentially gives Republicans a well-known and well-financed candidate to challenge Ken Salazar, the Democratic attorney general.
Hey, not only is he well-financed and well-known, but he's sure to capture the family values vote when he runs those "twins" ads. I wonder if I'll be able to distinguish between his Senate ads and commercials during a FOX NFL broadcast.

"Mission is Far From Accomplished"

George Will endorses John Kerry:
Since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been told that they are at war. They have not been told what sacrifices, material and emotional, they must make to sustain multiple regime changes and nation-building projects. Telling such truths is part of the job description of a war president.

"Let Me Count the Ways"

Why, you ask, must George W. Bush be removed? Dan Conley summarizes 14 reasons.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Troubles on the Home Front

Colorado State Rep. Mark Larson sums up the Colorado legislature's rebuke of Marilyn Musgrave. "The Constitution gives freedoms, it doesn't take them away." And Larson's a Republican! "I'd like nothing more than to send a message to Congresswoman Musgrave that her own state doesn't support her effort," Larson said. Well good for him. The Constitution ought not be trifled with. Certainly not for the express purpose of enshrining discrimination.

Via TalkLeft

Hugs, Hair and Pretty Faces

From the Department of Strange comes Dubya's penchant for just strange behavior. Wonkette has done a good job of cataloging Bush's obsession with men's faces. Well, the "beautiful" ones at least. It's one thing to repeatedly mentioning men's "pretty" faces. But it's downright odd that Bush would comment on Brit Hume's decidedly un-pretty face. In the middle of an nationally televised interview.

Now comes this. Claiming that he's not able to help himself (there's that personal responsibility again) he insults a woman in the audience of one of his town hall meetings.
With that, Bush moved quickly to end the session. He turned to Bob Watson, superintendent of the El Dorado Public Schools who had opened the meeting by inadvertently insulting Bush.

"Governor excuse me, President," Watson said.

Bush muttered, "How quickly they forget."

When Watson offered to shake Bush's hand, the president shot back: "Just don't hug me."

Dream Team Desperately Needs a Coach

When George W. Bush assumed the presidency we were treated to a spate of commentary that lauded the "first MBA president." George Bush, we were told, would run the ship of state as a CEO would run a company; with efficiency, delegation and a focus on results. Foreign policy, so the story went, was one key area in which Bush's leadership would help to guide the all-star "Dream Team" of foreign policy luminaries he had assembled. Bush's clear vision and strong leadership capabilities more than prepared him to make the tough calls and keep his policies from foundering.

The New York Times, on the day after Bush's inauguration, offered precient words of warning:

Given the mix of strong personalities and potentially competing policies in the new administration, Mr. Bush may have to deal with more friction than he expects...The overlapping professional and personal ties could produce an unusually harmonious team. The presidency of Mr. Bush's father, which included the the Persian Gulf war victory engineered by Mr. Cheney and General Powell, was a model of cooperation. Yet, the gravitational pull of their departments may put General Powell and Mr. Rumsfeld at odds on some issues.
Fast forward three years to an ill-conceived and poorly planned Iraqi adventure. Media reports of the past few days paint a picture of an Iraqi situation devloving ever closer to chaos. The official US response to the situation seems, at present, ineffective and unclear.

Juan Cole, keying off of statements made by Senators Biden and Lugar, speculates as to the cause of the muddle.

"There might be a power stuggle between the office of Vice President Dick Cheney and Colin Powell's State Department over Iraq policy...The reason for this gridlock is an internal power struggle within the Bush administration, which has paralyzed decision-making."

I find this "power struggle" theory very compelling for the simple reason that I've never bought into the fiction of George W. Bush as a strong leader. He is surrounded by people -- this Dream Team -- who, with the exception of Condoleezza Rice, have proven themselves very adroit in holding and exercising power. Out of his league among these bureaucratic heavyweights it is very easy for me to see Bush ceding too much control and justifying it as delegation. Whether he intentionally or unintentionally lost the control Bush is now unable to regain it and bring order to the situation.

The NYT noted on the day after the inauguration that "only Mr. Bush has the authority to end arguments and to make the decisions." Unfortunately it appears he either doesn't understand this simple truth or he lacks the requisite leadership capabilities to make and enforce the tough decisions that desperately need to be made.

Like Father Not Like Son

Brad DeLong notes how tidy it is to view Dubya in contrast to his father's presidency:

George H.W. Bush had three main accomplishments as president to his credit: the first big steps to eliminate the Reagan budget deficits (through the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act, tax increases, and discretionary spending caps), strong support for open-society reformers rather than authoritarians in Russia, and the construction of a broad U.S.-led coalition to enforce international law.

George W. Bush has revived Reagan's deficits, strongly supported Putin's shift back toward a much more authoritarian politics in Russia, and broken George H.W. Bush's coalition into shards.

It's hard for me at least not to see George W. Bush's actions as, at some level, a message to his father: "See Dad? See? I've broken everything you built!"

Obviously, ensuring that they're both one-termers helps in preserving the balance inherent in this analysis.

Imbecilic Leadership In Action

Leadership in action:
I look forward to sharing information with them. Let me just be very clear about this: Had we had the information that was necessary to stop an attack, I'd have stopped the attack. And I'm convinced any other government would have, too. I mean, make no mistake about it; if we'd had known that the enemy was going to fly airplanes into our buildings, we'd have done everything in our power to stop it. And what is important for them to hear, not only is that, but that when I realized that the stakes had changed, that this country immediately went on war footing, and we went to war against al Qaeda. It took me very little time to make up my mind, once I determined al Qaeda to do it, to say, we're going to go get them. And we have, and we're going to keep after them until they're brought to justice and America is secure.
Nice of Dubya to acknowledge the obvious: That any other president would have done exactly what he did. And I'm glad that he would have taken action to stop the murder of 3,000 people if someone had only sent him a postcard letting him know what was about to go down.

But why can't he comprehend that the issue is his administration's failure to take prudent action in light of the increasingly shrill warnings during the summer of 2001?

And why can't he comprehend the even larger issue of his failure to take seriously his own rhetoric about hunting down and disabling al Qaeda?

And why can't he comprehend that his monumental failure of launching an ill-conceived war against a phantom threat has done nothing except make America less safe.

Not only is George W. Bush the personification of imbecilic leadership in action, but he is a genuine threat to the continued safety of America.

You Knew This Was Coming

Don't be surprised when the White House refuses to release the report of the 9-11 Commission.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Attention Toddlers

The April issue of the journal Pediatrics has bad news for TV toddlers: You're being "rewired."

The story is covered today in multiple media outlets. I originally heard the story on NPR. I also read it on But the irony of linking to a TV site for a story about the evils of television was too much for me so I'm linking to The Washington Post version of the story instead:

Very young children who watch television face an increased risk of attention deficit problems by school age, a study has found, suggesting that TV might overstimulate and permanently "rewire" the developing brain.

The Washington Post article goes on to quote a researcher who says that "unrealistically fast-paced images typical of most TV programming may alter normal brain development."

These findings are not startling. In fact, one might wonder why it has taken so long to establish such conclusions. The content of most television shows is objectively bad (from both taste and value standpoints). Unanswered in the news accounts (but perhaps answered in the study) are the following questions.
  • Do the findings apply only (or predominantly) to commercial programming?
  • What role do commercials play (as distinct from the program itself)?
  • Do "slow-paced" moving images engender the same effects?
  • How are the effects of movie watching different from that of TV watching?
  • Are home movies similarly detrimental?

I presume that "unrealistically fast-paced images" must refer to the quantity of edits that are typical of modern moving picture content, regardless of medium. If my supposition is correct, I wonder how much different a daily 2 hour Disney flick is from a daily dose of PBS Kids. And how different are either of those from the same quantity of normal network fare?

These are important questions to me and my toddlers. In our household we firmly believe, as Aimee is fond of saying, that "TV is the Devil." As a result we watch very little television. (For me, even less lately. With the dual distractions of blog reading and LSAT studying, my personal TV time since November is probably less than an hour a week.)

And yet, despite our best efforts, the TV does get clicked on for the kids -- Jonathan, really -- more often than I would like. He probably gets a Disney movie or a taped Nickelodeon show (Blues Clues, Little Bear, etc.) or an infusion of PBS Kids three or four times a week. It's very easy to rationalize even this minimal television viewing. As in: It's only a few hours a week...It's PBS (or taped) and therefore no commercials...It's "educational"...Just one program while I finish up this thing I've been working on...He's not feeling well today...It's too hot/cold outside.

I'll have to keep in mind those tiny little dendrites being "rewired" by The Devil the next time I try to use one of these rationalizations to make me feel better about clicking the On switch.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Strike While the Iron is Not Yet Cold

Colorado Luis gives a Rocky Mountain perspective to the overheating housing market. The Washington Monthly article he links to, while long, is a scary read for anyone considering selling their home in the next few years. As someone in that category, I'm inclined to put out the "For Sale" sign sooner rather than later. It seems reasonable to think that the excrement won't slam into the rotating cooling device until after the election. But who knows. It may already be too late. "For Sale" signs in my neck of the woods already have a much longer lifespan than they did just last year.

Texas Hillbillies

Via TalkLeft:
TEXAS HILLBILLIES (sung to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies)

Come and listen to my story 'bout a boy name Bush.
His IQ was zero and his head was up his tush.
He drank like a fish while he drove all about.
But it didn't really matter 'cuz his daddy bailed him out.
DUI, that is. Criminal record. Cover-up.

Well, the first thing you know little Georgie goes to Yale.
He can't spell his name but they never let him fail.
He spends all his time hangin' out with student folk.
And that's when he learns how to snort a line of coke.
Blow, that is. White gold. Nose candy.

The next thing you know there's a war in Vietnam.
Kin folks say, "George, stay at home with Mom."
Let the common people go to get maimed and scarred.
We'll buy you a spot in the Texas Air Guard.
Cushy, that is. Country clubs. Nose candy.

Twenty years later George gets a little bored.
He trades in the booze, says that Jesus is his Lord.
He says, "Now the White House is where I oughta be."
So he calls his daddy's friends and they call the GOP.
Gun owners, that is. Falwell. Jesse Helms.

Come November 7, the elections runnin' late.
Kin folks say, "Jeb, give the boy your state!"
"Don't let those colored folks get into the polls."
So they put up barricades so they couldn't punch their holes.
Chads, that is. Duval County. Miami-Dade.

Before the votes are counted five Supremes step on in.
They tell all the voters "Hey, we want George to win."
"Stop counting votes!" is their solemn invocation.
And that's how George finally goes and gets his coronation.
Rigged, that is. Illegitimate. No moral authority.

Y'all come back to vote now. Ya hear

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Half Full or Half Empty?

Kevin Drum, a glass half full kind of guy, seems to find solace in the possible expansion of the Valerie Plame investigation. The New York Times story he references points to the investigation of "possible discrepancies" in the documentary evidence and the testimony of some White House officials.

Given the quality and quantity of lies by administration flacks on matters of policy and character assassination I am not surprised at all that investigators suspect that some may have lied. I only hope that the investigation has the courage of its convictions.

Being a glass half empty person, I'm concerned with the last four grafs:

Mr. Fitzgerald, who has been in charge of the case for three months, has said he is nearing completion of the inquiry, the lawyers said. Some of them have suggested that he may be facing a problem if he declines to prosecute.

Prosecutors almost never make public the details of cases in which they investigate, but bring no charges. Federal law bars prosecutors from disclosing information obtained through a grand jury, the legal vehicle Mr. Fitzgerald has used to conduct his inquiry.

But in this case, being investigated in the heat of a closely fought presidential election, Democrats have been watching carefully for any sign that the prosecutor has favored the administration. Should Mr. Fitzgerald bring the case to a close with no indictments and no public explanation of his decision not to prosecute, he would almost certainly be subject to intense criticism from Democrats.

Several lawyers said Mr. Fitzgerald could ask a judge to allow him to issue a report. Or, they said, he could seek to employ a rarely used provision of the Justice Department's guidelines for prosecutors allowing grand juries to issue reports. But those sections of the prosecutor's manual appear to relate to public officials in organized crime cases.

In other words, he's not just investigating the leak anymore, he's considering options for how to end the investigation with a whimper, not a bang.

Do You Know Your District?

Caliper's Political Maptitude

For the budding political consultant with an extra grand to spare, I direct your attention to the wonderful world of political GIS software. Via a story in Newsweek I came upon a piece of software called Political Maptitude.

With the software and targeted data for your state, district or precinct(conveniently sold by Caliper) you can "Understand Your Constituency, Add Voters to Your Maps, Map Events and Supporters, Map Yard Signs, and Design Efficient Neighborhood Walks." Everything a precinct captain needs to improve his GOTV efforts.


Johnny was in his 5th grade class when the teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living. As they went around the room, all of the typical answers came up: doctor, lawyer, policeman, salesman.When the teacher got to Johnny, the room turned quiet. Finally, the teacher said, "So, Johnny, please tell us what your father does for a living." Johnny took a deep breath and said, "My father's an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret. He takes off all his clothes in front of other men." The teacher was stunned by this development and hurriedly set the other children to work on some coloring. She took Johnny aside and asked, "Is that really true about your father?" "No," said Johnny, "My Dad works for the Bush administration, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids."

Thanks to bevushka for the laugh.

Peeps and Peanuts

Personally, I find both of these food items disgusting. But, since I know that at least two regular readers of this blog would be interested, I'm obligated to pass this along.

The Best Army Money Can Buy

The Ivy Bush today takes note of misleading news reports on the "civilian" casualties in Iraq yesterday. Although they have been variously described as "contractors" Juan Cole suspects that
Although we are calling them security, the four American civilians killed were very likely ex-US military, most probably from special operations units like the Navy Seals. The special ops units have been losing men to the private security firms, who pay between $100,000 a year and $200,000 a year, rather more than do the US armed services. And, it seems to me likely that the people in Fallujah knew that they had hold of US military men.
I first learned of the "outsourcing" of military operations via some stories I heard on NPR last year. You can catch up on the stories here, here, and here. Each of the stories references Peter Singer's book Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. I haven't read it but I'd like to.

I remember sitting on the front porch with wyvern and discussing the privatizing of America's military capabilities. I was surprised to learn that America has quietly outsourced different elements national security elements for many years. Seems to me there are some valid reasons for outsourcing some functions that support our fighting forces. Putting "a layer between political bosses and events on the ground" and preserving appearances are not among those reasons.