Friday, December 31, 2004


Iraq: which way is the arrow pointing?
The U.S. military suffered at least 348 deaths in Iraq over the final four months of the year, more than in any other similar period since the invasion in March 2003.

The number of wounded surpassed 10,000, with more than a quarter injured in the last four months as direct combat, roadside bombs and suicide attacks escalated. When President Bush (news - web sites) declared May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over, the number wounded stood at just 542.

The number of attacks on U.S. and allied troops grew from an estimated 1,400 attacks in September to 1,600 in October and 1,950 in November. A year earlier, the attacks numbered 649 in September, 896 in October and 864 in November.

The platform of the United Iraqi Alliance
[Juan Cole] I'm not sure most Americans realize that the biggest and most important party coalition in Iraq, which will almost certainly form the next government, has explicitly stated in its platform that it wants a specific timetable announced for withdrawal of US troops from the country.

Flood victims: a lost chance to remake U.S. image with the Muslims of the South Pacific (if that was a priority, I suppose)

But a chance to stick a thumb in the eye of the U.N. – now THAT’S a priority

Could warnings have helped reduce the death toll?
The Washington Post reports that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, based in Vienna, surely would have picked up the earthquake "but it had no chance to alert governments in the region because its offices were closed for the holidays." In fact, the network doesn't even possess a communication system capable of channeling early warning signals to the region.

Giving Jeb a leg up for 2008?

Working Americans: “average” ain’t what it used to be

Clarence Thomas: a mistake that never stops coming back to remind us,0,69310.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Alberto Gonzales: our next chance to make an irreparable error (and once he has the legitimacy of Justice, he’ll be tougher to block for the Supreme Court)

On the eve of the Gonzales hearings, Bush Co. releases a new definition of “torture,” trying to undo the damage caused by AG’s earlier memos

On further review: those much-touted Defense Dept cuts don’t amount to much

In Washington State, the election outcome is certified. Repubs still asking for a re-vote,1,4816627.story?coll=la-headlines-nation
Angry Republicans essentially had this response: certification, schmertification. . . Gregoire's opponent, former State Sen. Dino Rossi, vowed to continue to contest the outcome, and he and his supporters stepped up calls for an extraordinary solution: a new vote. . . The confusing and downright wacky nature of the race was highlighted Thursday when the candidates held dueling public events within a half-hour of each other. . . Rossi went first, producing parents holding a photograph of their son stationed in Fallouja, who they said received a ballot so late that he threw it out, thinking it would not be counted. Democrats disputed the assertion, but Rossi said it was evidence of an election so "muddied" and botched that a new vote was needed. . . "I wouldn't want to take office with this cloud overhead. I would want a revote," said Rossi, 45, who last month had called on Gregoire to concede when what he called the "more accurate" machine recount had put him ahead by 42 votes.


Why the GOP won in 04 (it wasn’t because they had more money, but because they spent it smarter)

More on the “cultural values” debate (thanks to Josh Marshall for the link)

Rep Harold Ford (D- TN) clarifies his stand on Social Security

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Thursday, December 30, 2004


The structural deficit built into Bush’s economic plans

Social Security outperforms the stock market

AARP announces plans to oppose Bush privatization plan. This is very big news, of course. It appears that they learned from getting lied to and used on the Medicare Bill. Or, as we say down in Texas, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on. . . don’t get fooled again”

(Other major groups lining up against it too)

How current attrition rates spell doom for the Bush war effort

One third of all victims of the tsunami were children ( So why is it that “Good Morning America” could only find a random sample of four white European children to profile? (thanks to Atrios for the link)

How to help

And just to show that anything can be spun for partisan purposes, this conservative site claims that left blogs were more oblivious to the catastrophe than right blogs were (thanks to Crooked Timber for this link)
Still I have to wonder. . . We are continually told how much more liberals care about their fellow man than conservatives, yet 60,000 people are presumed dead and many of the liberals hardly mention it. . .

A serious question: Why didn’t seismic observation posts around the Pacific do more to notify regional governments about the (inevitable) tsunamis? And where there were warnings, why weren’t they heeded?
As early as Saturday, instruments at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, registered signs that a "significant earthquake had occurred off the west coast of northern Sumatra," it admitted in a statement. On Tuesday, Charles McCreery, director of the center, told the Los Angeles Times, "We don't have contacts in our address book for anybody in that part of the world."

[NB: I want to know is, did they warn Diego Garcia but not other places?]
According to today’s The Asian Wall Street Journal, a seismologist in Canberra, Australia, recognized the tsunami threat, but says he was warned against sending out an alert as to the likely impact to the Indian Ocean nations, because an Australian official reminded him of ‘international diplomatic protocol.’. . . In West Sumatra, Indonesia, a local seismologist’s equipment went off so loudly Sunday morning that he thought workmen had begun repairs in an adjoining garage. He spent an hour trying to contact local authorities - and found no one in their offices. . . While Thai officials continued to insist the impact on tourism was never a factor in whether or not to issue a tsunami warning, one of the unnamed sources of the Bangkok paper disagreed. The individual, whom The Nation reported attended Sunday’s conference, was quoted as saying, "The very important factor in making the decision was that it's high (tourist) season and hotel rooms were nearly 100 percent full. If we issued a warning, which would have led to evacuation, (and if nothing happened), what would happen then?… We could go under, if (the tsunami) didn't come."

In the interests of fairness, I sniped at the Bushies yesterday for gratuitously snarking at Clinton in explaining why Bush didn’t come out sooner with expressions of sympathy and concern for the dead and missing from the tsunamis. It turns out that their snarkiness only came AFTER what they perceived as a Clinton snipe at them over not doing enough to help (this on top of the stinginess accusation had them a mite testy). Still, you know what? It did get Bush out on the podium fast enough
Clinton's comments -- and the widely allegation by a U.N. official that Western countries were being "stingy" with disaster relief funds -- may have led the White House to take a more empathetic tack. At a meeting with the press, Bush announced that he'd made calls to the leaders of the worst-hit countries, and assured them that the United States' relief effort "is only the beginning of our help.". . . "This has been a terrible disaster," the President went on to say. "I mean, it's just beyond our comprehension to think about how many lives have been lost. I know that our fellow citizens are particularly troubled to learn that many of the deaths were young children, and we grieve for their families, their moms and dads who are just, you know, heartsick during this -- during these times."

Unfortunately, for the “actions speak louder than words” gang, his actions aren’t even matching his words
Bush is an MBA, so he knows very well the difference between absolute numbers and per capita ones. Let's see, Australia offered US $27 million in aid for victims of the tsunami. Australia's population is about 20 million. Its gross domestic product is about $500 billion per year. Surely anyone can see that Australia's $27 million is far more per person than Bush's $35 million. Australia's works out to $1.35 per person. The US contribution as it now stands is about 9 cents per person. So, yes, the US is giving more in absolute terms. But on a per person basis, it is being far more stingy so far. And Australians are less wealthy than Americans, making on average US $25,000 per year per person, whereas Americans make $38,000 per year per person. So even if Australians and Americans were both giving $1.35 per person, the Australians would be making the bigger sacrifice. But they aren't both giving $1.35; the Bush administration is so far giving an American contribution of nine cents a person.
The American aid figure for the current disaster is now $35 million, and we applaud Mr. Bush's turnaround. But $35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid. According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent. . . Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster relief and said the United States "has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world." But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe. . . Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver. Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar.


A lost opportunity to change our image in the Muslim world

Impatience grows in the region

Conservative heads explode (again) – thanks to Kos and Atrios for these links
[John Podhoeretz] “Support for the war inside the military stands at 60 percent, 25 percent higher than the latest Gallup measurement of the American people as a whole.”

[NB: Opposition to the war inside the military stands at 40%!]

“Job satisfaction in the military, the poll found, is a breathtaking 87 percent, and only a quarter of those polled say they want out.”

[NB: 25% of those in the military want out!]

“But what is not heartening is this sobering fact: We can locate the decline in support for the war effort almost entirely inside the Democratic Party.”

[NB: Tell that to McCain, Hagel, Kristol, Buchanan. . . ]

“This is not only a partisan divide. It's a cultural divide. As the year 2004 ends, the rank and file of the Democratic Party has turned decisively and profoundly against the military effort in Iraq. And there is reason to believe it won't be long before they turn on the military as well. . . Throughout the year, Democratic politicians have been trying to split the difference with the military — saying they support the troops while opposing the war. But that kind of sophistry won't stand.”

[NB: But of course this is precisely the issue. The two are not equivalent.]

“Democratic Party bottom-feeders. . . have already long since started spewing their bile at our soldiers, sailors and Marines.”

[NB: Name one.]
On the Thursday before Christmas, Al Neuharth, former Gannett bigwig and founder of USA Today, suggested in his weekly column for that newspaper that the U.S. should start bringing home our troops from Iraq “sooner rather than later.”. . . This hardly seemed like a radical, traitorous notion. For one thing, it appeared in an opinion column, and surely, in our country, every American has a right to his or her opinion? Secondly, it came at a time when, according to the latest Gallup poll, a majority of American believe it was a mistake to invade Iraq in the first place, and feel the war is not going well for us.

Just to give you an idea of what's out there, in the zeitgeist, here are a few [of the responses]. Sadly, they represent dozens of others in the same vein. . . One should keep in mind that Neuharth, besides his professional accomplishments, served his country in World War II as an infantryman in France, Germany and the Phillippines, and won a Bronze Star.

George Wyman: “Mr. Neuharth is simply UnAmerican.”

Jeffrey A. Norris: “Cowards and traitors like Al Neuharth want all the comforts they know and enjoy, without a sacrifice to buy it.”

Frank Butash, West Hartford, CT.: “Apparently it's easier to run with jackals than to stand up for your country when it needs support.”

Kenneth Genest: “They had two of these in World War 2. One was called Tokyo Rose and the other Axis Sally. Their job was to discourage the American soldiers. I see they have one now at USA Today.”

Dan Clawson, Fresno, CA.: "A disgrace to the men and women who serve. USA Today supporting the terrorist cause."

Jerry Martin, San Francisco, CA.: “Yet another self-defeating fool with a large bank account shoots himself in the foot. Their dissent equals treason.”

T. Conway: “What side did Mr. Neuharth fight for in WW II?”

Joe McBride, Fort Dodge, Iowa: “Mr. Neuharth, thanks to you and your ignorance the terrorists are probably booking their flights to the U.S. now!”

Craig Wood, Waianae, Hawaii: “Today's press undermines our troops and supports our enemies.”

Duggan Flanakin, Austin, Texas: “Neuharth should be tried for treason.“

Mel Gibbs: “The Patriot Act will put both of you (Neuharth and Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this.”

Forgetting Fallujah,0,1542155.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Bush: armored vehicles won’t arrive until mid-summer

Navy SEALS sue AP over publishing torture photos

The myth of “democratic revolution” in the Middle East

Police state watch: expanding the definition of “terrorism” to prosecute other crimes

Lobbying costs increase almost 40%, break the BILLION dollar mark

GOP wants to make ethics inquiries harder to initiate (hmmm. . . . why would they do that?)

In North Carolina, e-voting machine “loses” 4500 votes (WITH NO PAPER RECORDS), necessitating a statewide re-vote.

Losing governor candidate in Washington State wants a re-vote too

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


70,000 dead and no end in sight. Meanwhile, back in Crawford, the President is clearin’ brush and doin’ other manly things. Can’t be bothered to make a public appearance and statement of condolence. Doesn’t he realize that the rest of the world thinks he doesn’t care about them? Or in fact. . . doesn’t. . . he. . . care. . . what. . .they. . .think?
Q Trent, I'm not questioning his -- the actual question is whether the people of Asia and those who are suffering from all of this, whether there would be any benefit from seeing and hearing from him directly. . .

MR. DUFFY: The President is continuing to think about the Inauguration and the State of the Union speech; he's clearing some brush this morning; I think he has some friends coming in either today or tomorrow that he enjoys hosting; he's doing some biking and exercising as he normally does, taking walks with the First Lady; and thinking about what he wants to accomplish in the second term.

Clearing brush: Reagan did it, therefore it is good (plus, it’s “hard work”)

A gratuitous slap at Clinton (of all things)
Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling. Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' ". . . Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's view of his appropriate role.

[NB: And why, exactly, does it have to be either/or? But this does show one thing, which is that drawing distinctions with Clinton wherever possible remains a passionate obsession with these people]


Damage control (no, not the damage caused by the tsunamis)

Increasing the amount of US aid brings it roughly in line with what Bush’s inauguration will cost (not including security, which will be paid for by: you and me). This extravagance is starting to raise a stink – despite its cynically chosen “celebrate the military” theme, people are starting to ask whether an opulent self-congratulatory pig fest is really the best message in the midst of war (I am hearing things like “How many protective vests can be bought for $40 million, how many vehicles armored, etc?”). This could not go down well – especially in the shadows of this awful natural disaster

Mark your calendars: Gonzales confirmation hearings set for January 5

[NB: And I’ll start the first “Alberto Gonzales Drinking Game”: take a sip every time he says “The advice I give the President must be kept confidential.” You’ll be plastered by lunch time]

Cheating our troops

Mental health care

Financial security;ei=5090&%2338;partner=rssuserland

Most Americans now think the war was a mistake

Pat Buchanan adds to the chorus of disaffected conservatives
Writing in his syndicated column this week, Pat Buchanan asked President Bush to tell the American public the “Unvarnished Truth” about the current situation in Iraq. For starters, Buchanan would like the President to tell us why we are really there. Referring to “One of the greatest bait-and switches in the history of warfare," Buchanan again reminds us of the now-discredited reasons Bush and his neocon advisers at the Pentagon used as a pretext to war with Iraq: WMDs, ties to 9/11 and al-Qaida. Since the initial invasion, we have suffered over 1,300 servicemen and women killed, over 10,000 wounded, and enormous setbacks to our prestige and national reputation as a result of prisoner abuse scandals. Our risk of suffering another terrorist attack is greater than ever. . . Buchanan has been critical of the Iraqi incursion for some time. But he uses some of his strongest language yet in urging Bush to abandon his neocon advisors and lose the spin control. And he's not alone. In the past week, several of our nation’s top military and civilian security officials have come out repeatedly against both the decision to invade Iraq and the Pentagon’s handling of the occupation. Even stalwart Bush supporter William Kristol has admonished Defense Secretary Rumsfeld for both his poor war planning and his handling of post-war Iraq. Rumsfeld’s exchange in Kuwait recently with the National Guard soldier over the continuing lack of armor for military vehicles seemed to even put some the last Republican diehards over the edge.

Iraq: civil war already

“Not all Muslim fundamentalists are the same”

Iraq: another Vietnam (really!)

The Bush game plan on Social Security
The Globe gets it: "The run-up to President Bush's plan to deal with Social Security is looking a lot like the run-up to his plan to deal with Saddam Hussein." Read the rest.

The Bush game plan on more tax cuts

The revolving door
[NYT] The connections and expertise gained from government service are so valued by industry that the temptation to stick around Washington and collect a big paycheck can be overwhelming. Some appointees come to view government service as an investment, counting on the eventual payoff.

Chair of House Ethics Committee who made the mistake of thinking his committee is supposed to DEFEND ETHICS, being booted out
The aides said a likely replacement is Rep. Lamar S. Smith, one of DeLay's fellow Texans, who held the job from 1999 to 2001. Smith wrote a check this year to DeLay's defense fund. . . Republicans are bracing for the possibility that DeLay, who is the chamber's second-ranking Republican and holds enormous sway over lawmakers, could be indicted by a Texas grand jury conducting a campaign finance investigation that the party contends is politically motivated. . . The effort by DeLay and his allies to preserve his leadership post, even if he faces criminal charges, is one of the most sensitive issues facing Republicans as the new Congress begins. If Hefley is replaced by Smith, it is another signal by House leaders that they will stand by DeLay. "It certainly seems they're circling the wagons," said a GOP staff member who declined to be identified.

[NB: This is an unbelievable outrage: putting a Texas crony who donated to DeLay's "defense fund" in charge of investigating him. If the Dems can't manage to make this a front-page scandal, they need to go back to Politics 101]

Democrats not backing down in filibuster fight

The DNC chair contest: viewed from the inside, and from the outside

The ambiguous politics of Social Security (for some Democrats)

“Talking about abortion”

More heads roll at the CIA,1,5697315.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

CACI, implicated in prisoner abuse and torture, still bellying up to the trough

In Ohio (thanks to Megan Boler for some of these links)

Recount complete,1,4778706.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

Kerry gets busy
This afternoon, an attorney representing the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign filed two important motions to preserve and augment evidence of alleged election fraud in the November election. . . The purpose of the motions is twofold: A) To preserve all ballots and voting machines pertaining to the Yost matter for investigation and analysis; and B) To make available for sworn deposition testimony a technician for Triad Systems, the company that produced and maintained many of the voting machines used in the Ohio election. The technician has been accused of tampering with the recount process in Hocking County, Ohio, though other counties are believed to have also been involved. Any officers of Triad Systems who have information pertaining to said tampering are likewise subject to subpoena for sworn deposition testimony.

News media, the institutions supposedly most responsible for open access to information and public accountability, deny access to election exit polling data

In Washington State, GOP refuses to give up: and this is good, because it deprives them of any excuse for complaining about further challenges in Ohio

Know your enemy
Grover [Norquist’s] dream is that the conservative revolution runs for another 12 years. “If we do our job right over the next four years, weakening the institutions of the left, reducing the cost of government, reforming the government so that it becomes less intrusive in such a way that we deserve and win the presidency in 2008, that would give us another eight years," he said.

[NB: This raises an important part of the Norquist/Rove strategy – permanently weakening or dismantling the remaining institutional sources of political opposition to the right-wing agenda. Unions? Fighting for their life. News media? Don’t make me laugh. Teachers’ organizations? Struggling in the face of standardized testing, accountability, and “choice” proposals to retain some level of professional independence. Higher education? That’s next. . . ]

Bonus item: The war on academic freedom (thanks to Tom Callister for some of these links)
In case you haven't noticed, we're at war. I'm not referring to the war on terrorism. I'm referring to the no-holds-barred, scorched-earth war that extremist right-wing Republicans are waging to transform every aspect of our society so that it conforms to their ideology. In higher education, they've got academic freedom in their sights.
At the University of North Carolina, three incoming freshmen sue over a reading assignment they say offends their Christian beliefs. . . In Colorado and Indiana, a national conservative group publicizes student allegations of left-wing bias by professors. Faculty get hate mail and are pictured in mock "wanted" posters; at least one college says a teacher received a death threat. . . And at Columbia University in New York, a documentary film alleging that teachers intimidate students who support Israel draws the attention of administrators. . . The three episodes differ in important ways, but all touch on an issue of growing prominence on college campuses. . . Traditionally, clashes over academic freedom have pitted politicians or administrators against instructors who wanted to express their opinions and teach as they saw fit. But increasingly, it is students who are invoking academic freedom, claiming biased professors are violating their right to a classroom free from indoctrination

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Let me start by saying briefly that I’m not ignoring the horrible earthquake and tsunami story: this morning 25,000 dead and counting. It is a catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale. But aside from Bush offering token expressions of concern and assistance from the comfort of his Crawford ranch vacation (, it is outside the scope of my concerns here. On with the show. . .

Given an Inspector General’s duties to investigate fraud and misconduct, this has been a tough post in any Bush department – and over the first term, the holders of these posts have had to endure various indignities, ranging from being hidden, to being ignored, to being emasculated, to being fired for doing their job properly. You can write an entire history of the Bush administration around the misperformance or abuse of their IG’s. The latest story: the Homeland Security IG
Clark Kent Ervin, who served as the department's inspector general until earlier this month, said in an interview last week that airport security isn't tight enough and that little has been done to safeguard other forms of mass transit. Ervin said ports remain vulnerable to terrorists trying to smuggle weapons into the country. He added that immigration and customs investigators are hampered in their efforts to track down illegal immigrants because they often lack gas money for their cars. . . "There are still all these security gaps in the country that have yet to be closed," Ervin said. Meanwhile, he added, Homeland Security officials have wasted millions of dollars because of "chaotic and disorganized" accounting practices, lavish spending on social occasions and employee bonuses and a failure to require competitive bidding for some projects. . . Asked what's wrong with the department, he said, "It's difficult to figure out where to start.”. . . Ervin lost his job this month in mysterious fashion. Appointed by President Bush in December 2003 when Congress was out of session, Ervin was never confirmed by the Senate. Nor was he renominated by the White House this month when his "recess appointment" — which lasted until the congressional session ended — expired Dec. 8. . . A key senator won't say why. Elissa Davidson, spokeswoman for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wouldn't comment on why Chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine, never held confirmation hearings for Ervin. "The decision not to renominate Clark Kent Ervin was purely a White House decision," she said.

Background on Ervin

Other IG misadventures






Bush approval drops under 50% (can we vote again, please?),1,7019609.story?coll=la-headlines-nation
"The question is, what happened to the honeymoon?" asked Frank Newport, editor of the Gallup survey.

The travesty to come in Iraq

Largest Sunni party withdraws from the election

Bush Co. appeals to Sunnis not to boycott (yeah, that’ll work)

Voter registration lower than expected

Widespread fraud likely
[Financial Times] "The resulting process will be open to fraud in areas where the interim government is strong and to violence and intimidation where it is weak."

More on the 20% solution
The good news is that the Bush administration is recognizing, sotto voce, that the Iraqi political process faces a potentially fatal crisis of illegitimacy from the Sunni 20 percent of the population. The bad news is that it's proposing solutions, also sotto voce, that will aggravate that illegitimacy--namely, tampering with the vote in next month's election. . . This under-the-radar proposal has already been denounced by the head of Iraq's independent electoral commission as illegal. Which is hardly surprising: Most publics aren't too keen on having foreign powers swing their elections.

Bush proposal already rejected by Iraq Electoral Commission (that’s the problem with that damn “sovereignty” business – they keep doing what you don’t want them to do)

Leading groups call for theocracy

Meanwhile, Bush Co. whistles in the dark
The Bush administration called again today for wide participation in the Iraqi elections of Jan. 30, and it expressed cautious optimism that security would be strong enough to assure valid results. . . "We want as broad a participation as possible," said Trent Duffy, the deputy White House spokesman. . .

[NB: Something tells me that whatever results occur will be deemed “valid” – how about you?]

Question: what do Osama Bin Laden, Vladimir Putin, and George Bush have in common? (All guilty of over-reaching in trying to stage manage the outcome of another country’s elections.)

Mark Kleiman makes the case that Bush is BAD for national security

The future of Al Qaeda

CIA resisting ACLU FOIA suit for information on prisoner abuse, torture
"CIA . . . asserts that it is not able to confirm or deny whether it has any records relating to its purported involvement in these specific activities related to the treatment, death, or rendition of detainees in US custody because to do so would tend to reveal classified information and intelligence sources and methods that are protected from disclosure," the agency said in a court filing Oct. 15.

If giving people the chance to enhance retirement earnings were the point of Social Security “reform” (and not the actual purpose, which is to find a sugar-coated way to cut benefits) – the govt could easily establish a universal 401K style plan

Another problem with “Social Insecurity”: living too long

Bush’s death penalty record as governor of Texas: worse than you remember (and still very revealing of his “character”). But the real story here is Alberto Gonzales (thanks to Alan Wallach for the link)
George W. Bush during his six years as governor of Texas presided over 152 executions, more than any other governor in the recent history of the United States. Bush has said: "I take every death penalty case seriously and review each case carefully. . . Each case is major because each case is life or death." In his A Charge to Keep (1999), he wrote, "For every death penalty case, [legal counsel] brief[s] me thoroughly, reviews the arguments made by the prosecution and the defense, raises any doubts or problems or questions." Bush called this a "fail-safe" method for ensuring "due process" and certainty of guilt. . . He might have succeeded in bequeathing to history this image of himself as a scrupulously fair-minded governor if the journalist Alan Berlow had not used the Public Information Act to gain access to fifty-seven confidential death penalty memos that Bush's legal counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, whom President Bush has recently nominated to be attorney general of the United States, presented to him, usually on the very day of execution. The reports Gonzales presented could not be more cursory. . .

“Gay marriage” – keeping the issue alive

In Ohio: focus turns to Blackwell, and he can’t stand the light (NOW we’re getting somewhere. . . )

Blackwell attempts to block order requiring him to give deposition
[Michael Froomkin] Is there any way to understand this sort of tactic as anything other than an attempt to prevent an honest recount?

Blackwell implicated directly in voter suppression

Other officials dodging subpoenas too

Conyers condemns “cheat sheets”

GOP wants to review 900,000 voting records in Washington State!,1,1182160.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

“Politics is war by other means” – something the GOP understands,1,296906.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

The battle to come over filibusters, and what’s at stake
[Arianna Huffington] One small problem: That's not the way the Founding Fathers designed things. They had these funny notions about three separate but equal branches of government, free and open debate, and the value of checks and balances to ward off the overreaching for power by those in the majority. They built an entire system of government to counteract the abuse that inevitably goes with overreaching. . . Yet that is precisely what the plan to do away with judicial filibusters is: an out-and-out power grab by the president and his Congressional accomplices. An underhanded scheme to kneecap the Constitution and take away the only weapon vanquished Democrats are left with to defend against Bush's "ten-gallon-hat" juggernaut. . . It would be impossible to overstate the importance of this battle. It is nothing less than a fight for the soul of our democracy -- for what kind of country we want to live in.

The routine business of GOP corruption

Latest fights over the DNC chair

In defense of corporal punishment (as opposed to imprisonment). A strange argument, but then, can we really call our prison system more humane?

Was United flight #93 (the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9-11) shot down?

Popular action alert: Spoiling Bush’s inauguration party

Bonus item: California secedes! (thanks to A.G. Rud for the link)

Extra bonus item: Conservatives’ heads explode!

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Monday, December 27, 2004


Bush Co. finally works its way around to the view of Juan Cole and others on a “quota system” for Sunnis in the new Iraqi govt – but this is just minimizing damage from an electoral process that marginalized Sunnis in the first place, and may not even succeed at that
[Juan Cole] This sort of quota is regrettable, but it is the only solution to the crisis. It should not form a precedent, but rather should be done as an emergency measure just this once. Once the parliament meets to craft a constitution, it is important that it create an upper house that somehow over-represents the Sunni Arabs and Kurds, so as to prevent a tyranny of the Shiite majority.
[Kevin Drum] It's the same story over and over and over again, isn't it? By the time the Bushies finally figure something out, it's too late to do anything about it. At this point, if they let the Shiites win all the seats it's a disaster, but if they arbitrarily take away some of their seats and award them to the Sunnis instead, that's a disaster too. . . A year ago there were plenty of good proposals that could have avoided the worst of this fiasco. The best of them made use of geographical precincts, like an American congressional election. Under a system like that, there would have been plenty of predominantly Sunni precincts that would have elected Sunni representatives regardless of whether or not turnout was low. It wouldn't have been perfect, but it almost certainly would have been better than the kludge we're ending up with. . . Watching these guys in action is truly a remarkable thing.

[Shinseki was right:,1,4614303.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions]

And they are STILL talking about suspending or delaying voting in certain parts of the country (thanks to Best of the Blogs for this link),5744,11790950%255E1702,00.html

Failure and denial,1,3824409.column?coll=la-headlines-nation
[Ron Brownstein] Bush's presidency marks the first time the U.S. has significantly cut taxes while at war. Since the federal budget is already in deficit, that means we are effectively passing the bill for this war onto our children through an increased national debt. . . The war's political consequences are unfolding in a comparable spirit of buck passing. Wars always surprise their planners. But even setting aside the debate over whether the threat from Saddam Hussein merited the invasion of Iraq, it's clear this war has been complicated by an unusual concentration of mistakes and misjudgments. . . The weapons of mass destruction that provided the central justification for the invasion have never been found, and by the best calculation of the CIA, no longer existed. Foreign countries the Bush administration assumed would fall into line after the U.S. moved against Iraq instead refused to provide meaningful help. And after a brilliant campaign against the conventional Iraqi military, the Pentagon has appeared to be blindsided by the persistence and ferocity of the unconventional resistance that followed the fall of Baghdad. . . In June 2003, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed the Iraqi insurgency as mere "pockets of dead-enders." Eighteen months later, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens are still dying in large numbers at the hands of those "dead-enders." And the failure to fully plan for the insurgency is still being felt in what many experts consider shortages of combat troops and appropriate supplies (such as armored vehicles). . . Yet the only senior administration official who faced any consequences over the Iraq war has been the most prominent skeptic, outgoing Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who was politely but firmly shown the door after Bush's reelection. . . Bush this month awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to three architects of the war: former CIA Director George J. Tenet, retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks and L. Paul Bremer III, the former top civilian administrator in Iraq. . . Bush promoted Condoleezza Rice, his national security advisor, to replace Powell. And the president has unwaveringly defended Rumsfeld, even amid calls from Republicans and conservative activists for his resignation.

Bob Herbert: Master of Outrage
[Bob Herbert] The world is not a video game, although it must seem like it at times to the hubristic, hermetically sealed powerbrokers in Washington who manipulate the forces that affect the lives of so many millions of people in every region of the planet. That kind of power calls for humility, not arrogance, and should be wielded wisely, not thoughtlessly and impulsively. . . This latest overreach by Mr. Rumsfeld is a sign that the administration, like a hardheaded adolescent, has learned little or nothing from the tragic consequences of its wrongheaded policies.

Even conservatives are losing faith
[American Conservative] As alarming as the neoconservatism of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Danielle Pletka, and John Bolton is, more alarming is the spirit that has spread in its wake--a kind of neoconservativism without a graduate degree. . . You see it on certain blogs and hear it in the rants of some of the most widely listened to right-wing talk-radio hosts. If the Arabs don't want to be democratic, we should nuke them. We have no choice but to nuke them for our own safety. It's a vulgarized neoconservatism --no one from the American Enterprise Institute speaks like this (in public). But this talk is around in the heartland and growing, and it is wind in the sails of the new administration.

More on the jet used to ferry prisoners to countries who outsource torture for us
As the outlines of the rendition system have been revealed, criticism of the practice has grown. Human rights groups are working on legal challenges to renditions, said Morton Sklar, executive director of the World Organization for Human Rights USA, because one of their purposes is to transfer captives to countries that use harsh interrogation methods outlawed in the United States. That, he said, is prohibited by the U.N. Convention on Torture.

Where they are being sent, and what happens to them there (thanks to Talk Left for the link)

Rumsfeld’s change of heart (uh-huh, right, tell us another one)

And for the daily dose of heavy irony, a message for The Donald from a Joint Chiefs of Staff document entitled “Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States” (thanks to Christopher Wren for the link)
“Moral courage is also essential in military operations. This includes the willingness to stand up for what one believes to be right even if that stand is unpopular or contrary to conventional wisdom. Other aspects of moral courage involve risk taking and tenacity: making bold decisions in the face of uncertainty, accepting full responsibility for the outcome, and holding to the chosen course despite challenges or difficulties. Competence is an essential foundation for moral courage. Competence separates the professional from the foolhardy. Military power must be wielded in an unimpeachable moral fashion, with respect for human rights and adherence to the Geneva Conventions. This morality should not be a matter of legality, but of conscience. Moral behavior is essential for gaining and maintaining the positive worldwide reputation of American fighting men and women as well as the confidence and support of the American people, a basic source of American military strength.”

The A.Q. Khan network, which Bush keeps flagging as a success of U.S. policy against “nuc-u-lar” proliferation. . . isn’t

[Laura Rozen] In many experts' opinion, Pakistan and its nuclear program and ties to Islamist extremists pose a greater immediate threat to US national security than Iran and its nuclear program. But you hear the Bush administration say almost nothing about this ally of convenience. That behind the scenes the Bush administration hasn't insisted on debriefing Khan shows how unserious these officials are about countering nuclear proliferation or letting nuclear weapons get into the hands of terrorists. Short sighted doesn't begin to describe the inadequacy of the Bush administration's approach, which appears to be 90% ideology and public relations and 10% substance.

Here’s how bad it’s gotten: corporate execs are more thoughtful and concerned about the public welfare than the govt agencies supposed to oversee them,1,5557120.story?coll=la-sunday-commentary
I'm a drug company executive who has spent 20 years marketing pharmaceuticals. And I'm troubled. I'm most troubled by the fact that we stick it to the people who can afford it the least.

Michael Kinsley, as he does well, dismantles the Social Security proposal with words of one syllable
My argument, as condensed as possible, defines success as bringing in more money than the current system does. More money is necessary either to reduce the gap between projected benefits and revenue or to make retirees better off. Supporters variously promise both of these benefits. . . More money can come from only two places: increased economic growth and other people. Increased growth can come only from higher private investment or smarter private investment. . . Privatization would deflect some money from the Social Security trust fund into private investment, but the government would have to borrow an equal amount to replace it. As for investment decisions, the only change caused by privatization would be a new role for millions of small, naive investors. There is no credible theory that this would improve the overall wisdom of capital investment decisions.


Still not convinced that the Bush proposal is a shell game? Max Speaks (thanks to Brad DeLong for the link)

More advice for Harold Ford (D-TN)
Look, this is our issue. This is one we should be confident about winning -- perhaps not the legislative battle, but the '06 election. Democrats shouldn't be running scared from this, they should be salivating at the prospect of being handed a gift on a silver platter. They just need to be a bit smart.

Ohio updates (thanks to Megan Boler for some of these links)
[Bush tallies set as “default” option on machines]
[An incredible litany of crimes and screw-ups to suppress votes]
[Vote machine “technician” caught on video]
[If we had a Karl Rove. . . ]
[Kerry to get aggressive in Ohio (finally)?]

Bonus item: 2004 not a banner year for media performance (thanks to Doug Kellner for the link)

***If you enjoy PBD and believe in what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Sunday, December 26, 2004


A few questions about the new Bush proposal on Iraq, guaranteeing government spots to the Sunni minority: (1) If it’s such a good idea for Iraq, why not adopt the same policy here (thanks to Joyce Atkinson for that insight); (2) will it decrease or increase frictions in that country, given that the Sunnis are generally boycotting the elections; (3) in what ways is this compatible with the much-proclaimed achievement of “democracy”; and (4) if we granted “full sovereignty” to Iraq months ago, what are we doing trying to dictate the shape of their government? (OK, I know the answer to the last question);ei=5090&%2338;partner=rssuserland


Could it be that Bush Co. is preparing to use the Mosul attack as an excuse for invading Syria?

Rumsfeld, Bush, et al. persist in thinking this is just a matter of “will” and persistence. But their failures – THEIR failures – set this operation on the wrong course from the very beginning. And there are good reasons to doubt that it isn’t recoverable now, no matter what they do


Rumsfeld lets something slip
"When it looks bleak, when one worries about how it's going to come out, when one reads and hears the naysayers and the doubters who say it can't be done, and that we're in a quagmire here," Rumsfeld said, "the fact is there have always been people throughout every conflict in the history of the world who said it couldn't be done."

[NB: It looks bleak, huh?]

Powell told Bush Co. more troops were needed in Iraq (but did they listen?)

Biggest budget supplemental ever: $80 billion. Still paying and paying for the war that was supposed to pay for itself

What is the progressive stance on Iraq today: pull out immediately, or stay and help with real reconstruction? A mini-debate

The generally awful coverage of Iraq in the major media, and what to do about it (thanks to Juan Cole for the link)

New allegations of detainee torture, abuse

Internal Air Force critic of Bush detainee policies shown the door

“Dissent is Not Disloyal” – sad that the argument still needs to be made, but apparently it does,1,556390.story?coll=chi-newsopinioncommentary-hed

How the world views Bush

The total failure of Bush policy in Venezuela, a potential major oil partner: having done all that they could to unseat duly elected (leftist) President Chavez, and failing, they now have to sit back and watch China move in

The DECLINE of democracy around the world

Bush 101: Never pass up an opportunity to polarize, when you could accommodate
This didn't take long. President Bush has resubmitted 20 rejected extremists for federal judgeships. Among them: Alabama Attorney General William Pryor; Priscilla Owen; Richard Allen Griffin, David W. McKeague; Henry Saad; Janice Rogers Brown and William G. Myers III.

[NB: and a fine list of candidates it is]
Democrats said they were unhappy with the renominations, as did Republican Sen. Arlen Specter. "It has been my hope that we might be able to approach this whole issue with some cooler perspective," he told the NYT. "I would have preferred to have some time in the 109th Congress to improve the climate to avoid judicial gridlock and future filibusters." As the NYT highlights, among the nominees is Pentagon Counsel William Haynes IV, who helped pen some of the torture memos.


Anti-abortion groups expecting payback,1,7961223.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

Bush’s Brutal Budget,1,3773771.story?coll=la-headlines-frontpage

“The Education President”: already underfunded programs to get even bigger cuts – and watch what happens to NCLB, the jewel in his crown of education reform

The Republican Party: a pattern of unprecedented corruption

Starting ‘em young: Breeding the next generation of lying, thieving, scum

The Roemer candidacy for DNC chair: what it portends (once again, Anybody But Dean)

More on the Dems’ internal debate over abortion policies

The fight to come over Social Security
[WSJ] The president has yet to lay out specific ideas for changing the entitlement program; he and his aides are focused first on selling the idea of change. "For a while, I think it's important for me to continue to work with members of both parties to explain the problem," he said in a Monday news conference.

[Josh Marshall] This would suggest that we're now in the lying and fear-mongering phase of the campaign, which would be followed of course by a later phase in which a specific policy remedy is brought forward, nominally meant to address the fake problem.

For my Tennessee friends, defending Social Security vs. the chance to take Frist’s seat

Is this a workable trope for the future: The REAL Pro-family Party?

Looking ahead: the next fight over reapportionment

A consensus emerges on Ohio voting: a travesty (the question remains, what to do about it?)

The fight goes on (thanks to Megan Boler for some of these links)
Claiming Ohio's 2004 election results were more troubling than
Florida's four years ago, the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Thursday said
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry called it quits too soon.

***If you enjoy PBD and believe in what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, December 24, 2004


“Happy Holidays” everyone – and I mean that in the most secular humanist, nonsectarian way possible. PBD will take off Christmas Day and return on December 26

In honor of the season let’s start off with something lighter for a change: Molly Ivins’ holiday greetings

As my friend Jim Levin says, who knew that “Happy Holidays” would ever become a political statement? Here is the first intelligent thing I have read on the issue
The "holiday season" is that period from Thanksgiving until New Years. If we count Thanksgiving, which we should given the ever-lengthening advertising campaign which seems to define the season, that includes 3 federal holidays, one of which falls on December 25. Now, some people may like wishing others a "Merry Christmas" over a 40 or so day period which encompasses the "holiday season," and good for them, but I personally like wishing people a "Merry Christmas" on or about the actual day.


You see, Jim, it’s all the fault of the Jews. . .

This will be fun: on or about April 1 (no joke), the Social Security Trustees will have to report on the solvency of the fund – and because the economic numbers will be better than the low-ball estimates that drive Bush’s “crisis” rhetoric, they will have to announce that the date of “insolvency” needs to be pushed even further back into the future

Or, not:

A social security primer: there IS a trust fund

Or you can Google “there is no trust fund” and find numerous deceptive sites like this one

The real sources of Bush’s fiscal mess (it ain’t Social Security)

More trouble for Bush
[David Corn] Recent events have once again proved the truism that it's easy to run for office, it's hard to govern – especially when you're an arrogant fellow pursuing bad policies. For George W. Bush, knocking off John Kerry was a swagger on the beach compared to dealing with the real stuff. All Bush had to do was lie about Kerry, deride him, make promises he can't keep, talk tough, and mount an under-the-radar effort to motivate millions of fundamentalist Christian voters who (for some reason) obsess over gay marriage. That's nada compared to, say, winning the war in Iraq. . . Once the election dust settled, the Bush gang looked like country-bumpkin first-termers.

[NB: With apologies to all you country-bumpkins out there!]

Iraq: the depth of our difficulties there is beginning to become apparent to more and more people. Things are getting WORSE, not BETTER
[Evelyn Keyes] [I]f the Democrats can’t see the opportunity in providing a clear alternative to the Bush Administration’s burgeoning disaster in Iraq now, then when?. . . At the risk of dropping to the level of cynicism that imbues the actions of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, the Dems at this moment could be basking in the breezes blowing from the ill wind in Baghdad. Those siroccos instead seem to be felt more by the “so-called moderate” Republicans, McCain, Hagel, etc. Where is Kerry? Where is our new leader in the Senate, Harry-what’s-his-name? Where is Mrs. Clinton? So what if they voted for the war resolution, does anyone in this country remember that? Why should they care?


Even Bush supporters are already starting to have doubts

“We will be welcomed as liberators”

STILL fighting in Fallujah (when will the dimwits who like prematurely “declaring victory” realize that this is not the way counterinsurgency fights work?)
On Thursday, U.S. Marines fought with insurgents in Fallujah as warplanes and tanks bombarded guerrilla positions in the heaviest fighting there in weeks. . . At least three Marines were killed in combat in Fallujah on Thursday, underlining the tenuous security situation as the United States and its Iraqi allies try to bring quiet before national elections Jan. 30.

Our real intelligence crisis (and how Bush has made it worse)

Looking forward: the Gonzales confirmation hearings

In Washington State, a reward for persistence
Democrat Christine Gregoire finished 130 votes ahead in the roller-coaster Washington governor's race after results of a hand recount including disputed ballots were released Thursday by King County. . . But Chris Vance, the GOP state chairman, had already vowed: "This battle is not over. . . We believe Dino Rossi is the legitimate governor-elect of the state of Washington," Vance said in a statement. "We will continue fighting to protect his election.". . . Vance said the GOP would ask Reed, a fellow Republican, to delay final certification "until we know every legitimate vote has been counted."

[NB: Funny, that’s not what they were saying a week ago]

Bush, Man of the Year (a contrary view)

Bonus items: Media Matters’ Top Ten Outrageous Statements of the Year
• Rush Limbaugh on the Abu Ghraib photos: "I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?"
• Ann Coulter: "[Senator John] Kerry will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry."
• Tony Blankley called philanthropist George Soros "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust."
• Michael Savage: "When you hear 'human rights,' think gays. ... [T]hink only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son."
• Oliver North: "Every terrorist out there is hoping John Kerry is the next president of the United States."
• Pat Robertson on gays and lesbians: "[S]elf-absorbed hedonists ... that want to impose their particular sexuality on the rest of America."
• Pat Buchanan: "[H]omosexuality is an affliction, like alcoholism."
• Bill O'Reilly to Jewish caller: "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."
• Bill Cunningham (Clear Channel radio host who appeared as a guest on The Sean Hannity Show): The election is over because "Elizabeth Edwards has now sung."
• Jerry Falwell: "And we're going to invite PETA [to "wild game night"] as our special guest, P-E-T-A -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We want you to come, we're going to give you a top seat there, so you can sit there and suffer. This is one of my special groups, another one's the ACLU, another is the NOW -- the National Order of Witches [sic]. We've got -- I've got a lot of special groups."

[NB: Now, someone will say “why are all these right-wingers – isn’t this a sign of more liberal media bias?” And the answer is, you couldn’t find ten similar statements by liberal commentators – they don’t talk this way. Ten Mistakes, sure, Ten Cheap Shots, sure: but you don’t find people from the left being given authorized media podiums (media podia?) from which to spew this kind of hateful venom]

Bill O’Reilly gets his own Top Ten list

Coal in the stocking for Fox News. . .

. . . and for “The Point”

***If you enjoy PBD and believe in what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***