Friday, July 01, 2005

Getting Borked

I see via CapitolBuzz that Bork was on TV cricizing the retiring O'Connor, presumably for the relative nonconservatism of her opinions.

Does it strike anyone as even remotely possible that Bush might actually nominate Bork himself to replace O'Connor?

It would be in keeping with the "up yours" nomination style the administration has employed for the UN, SEC and lower courts already, would continue the trend of rescuscitating the careers of conservative heroes/criminals from the Reagan era (think Negroponte, Poindexter) and would naturally give Republicans the opportunity to avenge one of their most bitter defeats from the eighties. And not coincidentally, the Dobson-Perkins-Santorum wing of the party would love it.

I wouldn't put it past them.

Um, No

Pat Buchanan via Suzie Madrack:

What persuades me we are headed for a crisis is that, within the presidents speech, lies a contradiction. He calls the war in Iraq vital to the future security of our country, i.e., defeat would be life threatening for America.

But if victory is vital to this country, how can Bush ever entrust the outcome of this war to Iraqis?

If victory is vital, how can he rule out more troops?

If victory is vital, how can he even rule out a draft?

Has Bush thought this through?

Arrogant This

On my way into work this morning, I passed a Moonie Times newstand, whose top headline, above the fold, blared this:

U.S. Demands Iran Answers

I wondered whether this was a reference to the nuclear controversy the administration and its shoeshine boys in the press are trying to stoke, or whether it had something to do with allegations that the newly elected Iranian president was one of the American hostage takers in 1979.

I know there are international treaties relating to nuclear weapons that would make an accusation under the former more credible. But if it was the latter, it seemed to me a supremely arrogant approach for anyone in the American diplomatic or political sphere to take. What makes anyone in our government think that they're entitled to "demand" that Iran or anyone else answer whatever questions they have? Are we running the world? Does the rest of the world answer to us, and only to us?

Then I saw a variation of that headline again on Yahoo! and went over to the Moonie Times webpage to read the context.

And how about that. Apparently the Moonie Times headline this morning was about the newly elected Iranian president's "background". So we're "demanding" the Iranians answer this? And to what end? Does our government expect the Iranians to offer his head up on a platter if indeed he was one of the participants in 1979?

But Time magazine's most favorite blog and Peggy Noonan still think that Democrats are the arrogant party in town (via Tbogg).

I guess Hindrocket doesn't remember this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Here Comes The Blame

Uh oh.

Two Republican Senators weigh in on the cause of the army's declining recruitment:

Families are discouraging young men and women from enlisting "because of all the negative media that's out there," Sen. James Inhofe (news, bio, voting record), an Oklahoma Republican, said at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Inhofe also said that other senators' criticism of the war contributed to the propaganda of U.S. enemies. He did not name the senators.

Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker urged members of Congress to use "your considerable influence to explain to the American people and to those that are influencers out there how important it is for our young people to serve this nation at a time like this."

The Army on Wednesday said it was 14 percent, or about 7,800 recruits, behind its year-to-date recruitment target even though it exceeded its monthly target in June [um, see post below]. With extended deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruiting also is down for the National Guard and the Reserves.

"With the deluge of negative news that we get daily, it's just amazing to me that anybody would want to sign up," said Sen. Pat Roberts (news, bio, voting record), a Kansas Republican.

But if Fox News is supposedly the most watched cable TV news network, than how can the media and the news be said to be "negative"?

Tom DeLay says we need to increase the minimum wage

"It's not a pay raise," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "It's an adjustment so that they're not losing their purchasing power."

What? What do you mean he's talking about a Congressional pay raise? Oh. Well, never mind.

Guess It Couldn't Have Happened to a Better Newspaper

Seattle's Post-Intelligencer may be biting the dust.

That would be the Post-Intelligencer that ran this column from a Focus on the Family rep:

The ongoing controversy surrounding Focus on the Family's upcoming "Love Won Out" conference on Saturday [held in Seattle] reveals the hypocrisy of liberals who call for tolerance and unquestioned acceptance of diversity yet attempt to stifle all opposing views to their politically correct, pro-gay agenda. As a result, another liberal mantra -- the freedom to choose -- is denied to those seeking to walk out of unwanted homosexuality.

Apparently, in today's America, you can still Be Who You Want to Be -- so long as it isn't "ex-gay."

Thanks to Here's What's Left for the link.

Oceania Meets its Quota

Good news, comrades! The Ministry of Plenty has just reported that this month's production of pig iron has exceeded its regular quota!

In other news, the ministry also reported that the ration of chocolate would be raised to 2 grams per month.

Update: Damn the Internets!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I can't say I'm angry that the president again evoked the events of 9-11 as a justification for supporting his war policies in Iraq. Or that he casually linked the war on Iraq with the perpetrators of Sept 11.

No, I think this appeal is about done. The president and his party have gotten about all the mileage out of that connection as has been possible.

I do, however, believe the war in Iraq will continue to be public topic number one when the 2006 elections roll around and probably even for the 2008 presidential election. The question is, which Democrats, if any, are poised to capitalize on the current quagmire? Or to at least address the problem in a reasonably competent manner?

I know there are lots of good reasons for not setting an arbitrary withdrawal date, and a lot of highly qualified people making those arguments. But if the best Democrats can do is the best that the bush administration could do last night, which is to say, spout the conventional rhetoric about the need to defeat terrorism, invoke the honor and courage of the military, and to pledge our committment to making Iraq a free, democratic and pluralistic society, then I don't know that they will succeed in reshaping the contours of American politics.

The most important issue I believe a Democratic candidate could address is the likely failure of trying to fight an unconventional war using conventional military means. The administration has at times offered remarks that have blurred the lines between conventional and nonconventional tactics and strategies. In the days after 9-11 the president acknowledged that the war against terrorism was not going to be like other wars, given the allusiveness of the enemy. At the same time, he made bellicose threats against nations supposedly harboring terrorists and threatened on them the might of the American military machine if they did not cooperate with us in routing out members of Al qaeda.

Democratic candidates could begin a newer and I believe more authentic critique of the president's policies by drawing attention to this distinction, with the state of affairs in Iraq (and Afghanist) being a symbol of the problems involved with conventional military force.

Karl Rove made a point of criticizing liberals' perceived preference for prosecuting terrorists as criminals rather than wanting to bludgeon them with smart bombs. But certainly returning to a treatment of the problem of terrorism as an international law and justice problem would both be in tune with instruments the administration has itself used, as well a more accurate reaction to the nature of the problem the country faces.

At the same time, Democratic candidates could carefully argue that part of the portfolio of options in responding to terrorism is that of re-examining our interventionist and exploitive policies in the middle east. Simply put, acknowledge that our actions have not always been altruistic and that there are valid reasons much of the region has been unhappy with our government (but not necessarily with us as people). Granted, there would be a violent and vile reaction to such an argument by the lunatic fringe, but I believe the time has passed where the American public can continue to be denied the truth of the context of our world environment and what will be necessary to establish greater security or at least be confronted by a more objective discussion of the role our own policies have had in shaping current events.

At the same time, it is well past time when Democrats should be afraid of jingoistic appeals by conservatives and threats by opponents of what consequences will result if Democrats dare to sound as if they are "blaming America." If America is at least partly at fault in causing our own problems, then the responsible, if not necessarily politically popular, thing to do would be to confront that responsibility. It might even win Democrats some respect for a change. And it would be much better policy.

The president's bizarre speech

I didn't watch it, but I did hear snippets of it on Democracy Now!. I was especially intrigued by this strange line:

The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent.

I guess the president really isn't connected to all those "values voters" after all.

exhibit 1

exhibit 2

exhibit 3

exhibit 4

exhibit 5

exhibit 6

exhibit 7

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why the War Supporters Who are Eligible to Enlist but don't are Hypocrites

Wash Monthly links to a piece by Hitchens that basically says that the fact that war supporters and their kids don't enlist is no big deal since, after all, we support police officers, fireman, and social workers but don't necessarily feel inclined to join any of those occupations.

No, wait, I got this one.

This comparison is just bupkis.

The situations are not analogous because (a) there is a well documented and urgent shortage of enlistees to serve as cannon fodder in Iraq; there is not an equivalently well documented and urgent shortage of police, firepersons, or social workers here (and if there were, there is the question of how willing the public would be to fund them, which is to say, not very much).

and (b) I don't know of anyone, or any organization that is going around saying that if you don't support the police, the firepersons, or social workers, that you are unAmerican and traitorous. In contrast, this is exactly what is being alleged of those that don't "support the war".

And I don't know of anyone that is going around saying that if you don't like governor (insert name of republican or democratic officeholder) or if you are unhappy with the high level of (insert description of social ill) than you are against and are in fact inflicting harm upon that state's police, firepersons, social workers and teacher's unions (oops, forgot this last group is group non grata in conservative circles).

But this is exactly what conservatives like Rove and Hitchens are alleging about liberals. They are saying that people that oppose the president or his war policies are hurting the war effort while simultaneously claiming that they themselves are exempt from criticism and that so long as they slap a Support Our Troops magnet on their SUV then they are in the clear while liberals who insist on criticizing the administration and the media that carries its water and shines its shoes are not.

So, yes, chickenhawks, especially of the young, College Republican variety, are hypocrites. If they claim the right to criticize liberal opposition to the war or the president, but don't act in direct support of the policies they favor than they are hypocrites and don't deserve a proper hearing in the court of public opinion. Put up or shut up.

Thus endeth the lesson for today.

Urban Legend

I don't think I could let the ten commandments rulings pass without commenting on that most ubiquitous of mindless statements from the lunatic fringe:

They take prayer out of schools, they take the Ten Commandments down and they wonder whats wrong with our society. Its just wrong, said Joe Kidd, who was working at a fireworks stand in Whitley City [KY].

This is just a very silly statement. It's anti-pluralist, it's anti-individual, and it's absolutely devoid of any understanding of history, human nature or society.

And it serves as your basic boilerplate for every condemnation of pluralism, modernity, and human rights that has been advanced by conservatives over the last century and a half.

"They [let women work outside the home, let women, blacks and factory workers vote, don't require church attendance, disbanded the committee to promote virtue and punish vice, let people protest against their government, put an end to public flogging and executions, ended slavery, ended segregation], and they wonder what's wrong with our society."

So it's a totally dopey thing to say. Yet it's pretty typical of what you hear in and around many fundie churches. And that should really make you "wonder what's wrong with our society."

What the Fuss?!

So yesterday, the SCOTUS released its conclusions on two cases related to the placing of the ten commandments (one from Kentucky, and the other from TX) in monument form in or near public buildings or on public property.

I'm not going to get all into the specifics of how the cases were decided and why certain groups were displeased with the outcomes.

But I do think it's an opportune time to discuss just what exactly it is about the ten commandments that has everybody, particularly the fundies, so upset and implacable. Just how meaningful are these edicts from ~3,000 BCE?

The first commandment is "thou shall have no other gods before me". It's not clear how this would get translated into public policy. Let's continue.

The second commandment is "thou shall not bow down to any graven images". Not sure how this would get applied either but it makes me wonder about the whole pledge of allegiance thing.

The third commandment is "thou shall not take the name of the lord thy god in vain". This has commonly been interpreted as meaning thou shall not swear or use the name of god as a curse word. Do the fundies want a prohibition against all curse words or just against those that include god's name in them?

The fourth commandment is "remember the sabbath day to keep it holy". Do the fundies want to enforce a day of worship? If so, which one? The commandment specifies that the seventh day is the sabbath, but most christians worship on sunday.

The fifth commandment is "honor thy father and thy mother". Sounds good. But how do we do that? What if our parents are bad or don't like god?

The sixth commandment is "thou shall not steal". This seems pretty straight forward.

The seventh commandment is "thou shall not commit adultery". This seems pretty marriage specific. I take it then that homosexuality, masturbation, and pornography are outside the domain of this law. Do the fundies want more penalties against divorce?

The eighth commandment is "thou shall not kill". See response to number six.

The ninth commandment is "thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor". Usually interpreted as thou shall not lie. Most people don't like lying so this seems like a good one.

The tenth commandment is "thou shall not covet thy neighbor's [property]". Sounds like a thought crime to me. Unenforceable.

So outside of numbers six and eight, I don't see much here that can be applied to today's society. But numbers six and eight also don't strike me as terribly original. Most societies, with or without a judeochristian heritage think stealing and murder are bad things.

So what is it that the fundies think they're contributing to the debate and the ordering of society by having the commandments erected everywhere for all to see?

There they go again

Maybe you've had this experience, too; you read something on one of the blogs you regularly frequent, or on a blog to which that blog has linked, but you neglect to save it or link to it right away, and then when you think about it again and want to post something about it, you don't remember where you saw it.

Anyway, I recall reading a somewhat counterintuitive analysis a week or two ago of the infamous "pro-war" rallies orchestrated by Clear Channel and other self annointed "patriotic" media sultans and other conservative big money funders.

The analysis was that the rallies were not actually pro-war, or pro-military, or even pro-American. Rather, they were anti-American. They were anti-American in that their targets, the subjects the rallies set forth as the "enemy" were in fact, other Americans. Politically incorrect Americans that were perceived as not supporting the administration's push for "preventative war" to rout out possessors of WMD, etc, or else there would be another 9-11, blah blah blah. According to this perspective, which I share, the real enemies for conservatives and the administration are other Americans. Us. (and it is perhaps not so surprising that this conservative, anti-Americans angle has a religious twist, too).

Now, this is not necessarily a new finding, as the books spit out by the conservative publishing houses, talk show warriors, and the rhetoric on Fox News have been painting "liberals" with the brush of "treason" ever since Bush the younger entered the WH. And if we really tried hard enough, we could probably find some features of this attack in any one of the president's re-election speeches delivered somewhere in middle America last year.

But we hadn't really heard anything like this from the administration itself, at least so bluntly and coldly, and off the campaign trail, as was delivered by Karl Rove last week, accusing "liberals" of wanting harm to come to the "troops" and that liberalism as a philosophy and as a group of adherents, is inherently traitorous.

But as the war in Iraq has helped bring down the president's approval ratings, the administration/conservative establishment's need to find an internal enemy is hitting the big time.

Now the Wall Street Journal has an editorial up about how the failure of the war* in Iraq is our fault. Not the fault of the administration. Not the fault of the soldiers in the field (see Andrew Basevich's WashPost column today for an unusual but needed take on this last point). It's the liberal's fault. The WSJ's stupidity on this is as glaring as if we were to decide that the reason the NY Yankees (or pick your team) are losing is because the fans are too negative.

All of this is to suggest that the administration's failure in the Iraq war will soon be, and is even now being turned against its perceived opponents, the "unsupportive" and "un-American" elements in America.

For more on this, and I'm not sure how I missed this the first time through, here is another insightful analysis by the Whiskey Bar's Billlmon of the direction that the post-Iraq-war debacle is likely going to take:

But what Friedmans comment really drove home for me is how perilous the postwar political environment is likely to be for the remnants of American liberalism, and for the anti imperialist left in particular.

This may seem counterintuitive, since the national greatness conservatives and their Friedmanesque collaborators have just taken such a spectacular geostrategic belly flop. But if you look back at Americas post Vietnam experience, you may see my point. After a brief period of 70s soul searching, a rare example of American glasnost, the silent majority quickly repressed all doubt and buried the memory of defeat under the jingoism and cheap patriotism of Rambo Ron Reagan. The antiwar left had been right about Vietnam, practically as well as morally, (Ben Stein can bite me) and was punished for it.

It may have been inevitable. Great powers rarely accept military defeat gracefully, especially when the loss isnt total enough to compel acceptance. The Soviet defeat in Afghanistan may have been one of the rare exceptions where a lost war actually resulted in positive political change for the loser, positive at least when compared to the decaying Stalinist system it destroyed. But even there it was a close run thing.

In most cases, though, national humiliation tends to begat national denial and rage, and a hunt for someone or something to blame. As Robert Paxton observes about a certain central European country in his book The Anatomy of Fascism:

Germans had been shaken to their roots by defeat in 1918. The emotional impact was all the more severe because German leaders had been trumpeting victory until a few weeks before. So unbelievable a calamity was easily blamed on traitors.

Having led America to a thoroughly humiliating defeat in Iraq, the neocons and their Texas proteges will soon have an urgent need for scapegoats of their own. So will the journalistic and foreign policy elites who rushed to join Shrubs march of folly like the children of Hamlin following the pied piper. So will the Israel lobby. So will the pro-war Democrats.

The best scapegoat, of course, is one that is both blameless and weak. Blameless, because it relieves the truly guilty parties of the need to decide who among them must take the fall. Weak, because the guilty themselves have been weakened by defeat, and even a modest defense might enable a truly blameless set of scapegoats to convince the country of their innocence.

The antiwar left would seem to fit the bill quite nicely. It has little money, no power, few friends among the pundit class, and has largely been shunned by the leaders of the supposed opposition party, with the exception of Dr. Dean, and even he knows enough to keep his distance.

Unlike the antiwar libertarians, the antiwar left is not useful to the administration on other issues, like Social Security privatization. And, since the antiwar movement has been effectively blacked out in the media and is rarely visible in the streets, it certainly cant be rationally blamed for failure in Iraq, which means it almost certainly will be blamed, and not just by Tom Friedman.

Maybe tonight's "special" speech on Iraq by the president will continue the trend.

*The "failure" of the war in Iraq here is understood as its negative effect for the administration. Determining failure or success in this or any war is a more complex undertaking that involves a broader understanding of the war mission's range of objectives, both internal and external, both domestic and foreign.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Ain't Life a B*&^%?!

Gee Whiz. What's a conservative media outlet to do? It stacks the decks in favor of the Republican administration and congress and still can't come up with a unified response to last week's Karl Rove remarks?

While we're on this subject again, will all the liberals and Democrats responding to Rove's remarks with their up-with-nationalism, yeah-but-we-supported-the-war-in-afghanistan crap, please shut the hell up. You're hurting America.

Democrats don't need any more me-too-ism on the "war on terra". There may have once been a time when questioning the administration's war policies--in afghanistan as well as in iraq--was risky business. But not anymore. The president's poll numbers stink. Even his poll numbers on terrorism and foreign policy are down. Now is not the time to retreat to gingoistic, tough guy talk when the supposed tough guy is looking pretty feeble.

Now where was I? Oh, yes, Rove. Like Bilmon suggested last week, I think Rove's outburst of bile to a NY group of conservatives may actually be an encouraging sign for progressives.

First, it demonstrates that an administration barely six months into its second term is already coming apart at the seems. It shows that even with the media and congress on its side, it still thinks its base is shaky. And that since Rove's speech didn't show any signs of wanting to make friends or influence people, it sounds an awful lot like they've given up on any significant policy measures until at least after the 2006 elections.

Second, Democrats could use the opportunity Rove provided for re-evaluating our response to the events of 9-11. Despite all the rhetoric from conservatives that liberals supposedly just wanted to blame America for the attacks, there has been precious little attention given in the media or in our nation's response policies to just what extent our historical involvement in the middle east contributed to the attacks on the towers and pentagon.

It isn't wrong to blame America if in fact, America deserves some blame. I doubt the public wants to hear that message, but until it does, further Iraq's may be more likely to happen.

However, despite the range and volume of their critique of the administration's war policies, Democrats have not clearly stated an alternative. Now would be a good time to start doing so.

What would such an alternative set of policies look like?

Tune in next time and Bulworth will lay out some starting principles.