Monday, February 28, 2005


The Democrats are winning the Social Security fight in a big way right now, and all they have to do to win decisively is refuse to pull the Repubs out of the mess they’ve created for themselves. Despite his promises to offer up a plan, Bush won’t be the first to make a concrete proposal that includes either benefit cuts or payroll tax increases (and no workable proposal is possible without them). Congressional Republicans won’t move first without Democratic cover, and they aren’t getting that. And no one wants to talk honestly about what this will cost in a budget already exploding in red ink despite all of Bush’s phony accounting numbers
[Matt Yglesias] Josh Marshall hints that some dastardly Democrat is contemplating a deal with Lindsey Graham wherein "current payroll tax revenues are left in place for now and private accounts are funded in whole or in part from new payroll tax revenues generated by raising or even lifting the payroll tax cap." This is a moderately bad idea on policy terms, and a simply terrible political idea.

Most crucially, the House Republican leadership has already ruled it out. Thus, the only possible effect of brokering a compromise of this sort with moderate Senate Republicans would be to create a conference committee in which whatever concessions the GOP makes to turncoat Democrats will be purged from the bill. Then, having already conceded the high ground on the need to "do something" and on the point that the "something" ought to involve private accounts, turncoat Democrats will be forced to argue that the only problem with the conference report on the phase-out is that it doesn't raise taxes. This will, at best, transform a political winner for the Democrats into a political loser and, at worst, lead to the passage of a bad phase-out bill.

Democrats are winning this fight, and should accept nothing less than surrender. Once the GOP has given up on phasing out the plan, we can either start a serious conversation about finding a balanced approach to Social Security reform, or else move on to addressing more pressing fiscal issues. Until then, trying to compromise with a party that knows no procedural or ethical restraints on its conduct and that's led by a president who's apparently hell-bent on destroying Social Security is a losing deal.
No Mercy, No Retreat, No Surrender
[Matt Yglesias] Republican legislators are stuck between the hard place of their donor base and the rock of public opinion. As the Post article details, they're looking for a face-saving compromise, an "exit strategy," and some bipartisan cover. It would be absurd for Democrats to offer this to them. The party's goal should be to smash the stuck members. Once, in Maine, I went to a big lobster cook on the rocky coast where you had to break the shells by putting the cooked crustacean down on the rocks, then picking up a smaller rock and slamming it into the lobster. Bam! Bam! That's how it should be.
[David Johnson] You know a television show is on its last legs when it adds a cute child actor in a last ditch attempt at ratings. It happened to "The Brady Bunch." It happened to "All in the Family." It happened to "Different Strokes," "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties.". . . And now it's happening to President Bush's travelling road show for Social Security reform (or, as Josh Marshall likes to call it, "Bamboozlepalooza"). . .

Postscript: Tbogg reminds us that Dennis Prager once claimed that the "politicization of children" was a symptom of the liberal disease. . .
[Matt Yglesias] When I argue that Democrats shouldn't compromise on the question of Social Security privatization, keep in mind that what I mean is that "Democrats shouldn't compromise on the question of Social Security privatization." If and when Republicans, having been beaten into a bloody pulp, decide to surrender on the question of Social Security privatization, there are three other issues in the neighborhood of Social Security privatization that it would be excellent to find compromises on.


Talk about “smokin’ em out” – after the Republican “it’s a crisis” ploy failed, after the “we’re just trying to save it” ploy failed, after the “it won’t cost any money and everyone’s benefits will go up” ploy failed, after the “why won’t the Democrats spell out their alternative first” ploy failed, they have been reduced now to the necessity of admitting what they were really about all along: eliminating Social Security
[Kevin Drum] It's true that some conservatives believe that creating a country of stockholders will also create a country full of people dedicated to corporate growth, and therefore a country that's more sympathetic to the goals of the Republican party. But I think that misses the forest for the trees.

The truth is simpler, although it's not something that any savvy conservative will admit these days: they just don't like Social Security and they want to get rid of it. They didn't like it in the 30s when FDR first proposed it; they didn't like it in the 50s when Eisenhower made his peace with it; they didn't like it in the 60s when they nominated Barry Goldwater for president; and they didn't like it in the 80s when David Stockman briefly tried a frontal attack on benefits but then retreated to a strategic hope that rising payroll taxes would eventually inspire a workers revolt against the whole system. (It didn't work.)
Phase-out "hits a wall" in Texas, reports the Houston Chronicle. Rep. DeLay says he's "very disappointed" that only a third of GOP reps. held meetings in their districts last week.
Brennon Morioka, Hawaii GOP chairman: "I think Social Security as it is has served its purpose."
"Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Friday that Social Security should be phased out rather than saved."

[NB: Perfect! Now let’s have a debate about the true Bush/GOP agenda, and make the 2006 elections a referendum on that proposal]

How badly is the USA Next attack on AARP backfiring? Very, very badly,1,4741916.column
[Ron Brownstein] As synonyms for the word "vile," my thesaurus offers some of the following: offensive, objectionable, odious, repulsive, repellent, repugnant, revolting, disgusting, sickening, loathsome, foul, nasty, contemptible, despicable and noxious. . . Any of those words would aptly describe the advertising attack launched last week against AARP, the largest advocacy group for seniors, by the conservative interest group USA Next. But there's one word that unfortunately can't be applied: surprising.
[Howard Fineman] A well-funded conservative group called USA Next posted a Web page with two pictures: a camouflage-clad American GI with an X painted on him; two men in tuxedos kissing, with a checkmark on them. The caption: "The REAL AARP Agenda." The ad was justified, the group argued, because the Ohio branch of AARP had opposed an anti-gay-marriage referendum in the state. (The national body has taken no position on that or other cultural issues.). . . White House insiders insist that the attack wasn't their idea. . . Next up: an attack on what Jarvis sees as AARP's "support" for gun control.
AARP prepares to punch back on Social Security

Biden pummels Santorum: “a minor masterpiece of counter-bamboozlism”

Full text:

Okay, maybe it’s time to change the subject: how about that glorious victory for freedom and democracy in Iraq?
[Atrios] Okay, have we had enough distance between now and the Iraqi elections that the patriotically correct police won't freak out if I suggest that the violence in Iraq isn't exacty getting any better?
The Christian Science Monitor points out that the American idea of making Iraqis in parliament come up with a 2/3s majority to form a government may create permanent gridlock. The religious Shiites, who have 54 % of the seats in parliament, must now find a way to compromise with the Kurds.

[NB: Thought experiment time -- what would it do to the US political system to require that legislation needed a 2/3 majority to pass each house of Congress?]


Oooh, ouch. Okay, how about Bush’s good pal “Pooty-poot,” a good man in his soul, Bush tells us
Russia agreed today to provide fuel for an Iranian nuclear reactor and sought to assure a wary world that tough safeguards would prevent any diversion of the fuel to build weapons. . . It came only three days after President Bush, who has sharply denounced the Iranian program, expressed his trust in President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and joined with him in saying that Iran should not have nuclear weapons.

John McCain suggests a different approach:

Okay, not so good. How about Bush’s stance on gays?
[Athenae] At least President Bush is now on tape saying he won't "kick gays." He leaves that to surrogates. It's gay people and teenagers being denied potentially life-saving sex education who ultimately are the real victims of the larger agenda of the decency crusaders, which is not to clean up show business, a doomed mission, but to realize the more attainable goal of enlisting the government to marginalize and punish those who don't adhere to their "moral values."

Ecch. Well, at least everyone can agree that NCLB is a great success, right?
[Texas!] Gov. Rick Perry, one of the most stalwart backers of President Bush's No Child Left Behind education policy, said Sunday that he nevertheless backs the Texas education commissioner's challenge to the federal law over standardized testing of special-education students. . . Texas exempted nearly 10 times the desired number of students from regular standardized testing, even after its request for a waiver to do so was denied by the U.S. Department of Education, which is led by former Houstonian Margaret Spellings.

More Bush (Philosophy) 101
Before the dawning of the age of George Walker Bush, I had always thought the notion that objective truth does not exist was the premise of a silly parlor game invented by wacky French philosophers to amuse a small group of tenured, Volvo-driving, American-Express-card revolutionaries at America’s finer land-grant institutions. . .

[NB: Hey! I don’t drive a Volvo!]

From bondage to spiritual faith.
From spiritual faith to great courage.
From great courage to liberty.
From liberty to abundance.
From abundance to selfishness.
From selfishness to complacency.
From complacency to apathy.
From apathy to dependence.
From dependency back again to bondage.

-- Alexander Tyler, professor at the University of Edinburgh, 1750

Women who blog

What you DIDN’T see at the Oscars
Robin Williams....censored tonight at the Oscars. ABC has refused to let him sing a cartoon ditty that made fun of Rev. James Dobson and his SpongeBob SquarePants criticism. Then it refused his proposed changes. . .

Overnight, Mr. Shaiman and his partner, Scott Wittman, dashed off a mock exposé of the dark underbelly of cartoonland for Mr. Williams to deliver, over a gospel-music groove, as if he were a full-throated preacher inveighing against other newly-discovered sinners in the nation's midst:

"Pinocchio's had his nose done! Sleeping Beauty is popping pills!/ The Three Little Pigs ain't kosher! Betty Boop works Beverly Hills!". . . "Fred Flintstone is dyslexic, Jessica Rabbit is really a man, Olive Oyl is really anorexic, and Casper is in the Ku Klux Klan!". . . "Chip 'n Dale are both strippers," "Bugs Bunny's a sexaholic," and "Josie and the Pussycats dance on laps.". . . "The Road Runner's hooked on speed" and "Pocahontas is addicted to craps."

Bonus item: Ann Coulter gets so unspeakably filthy that even her own syndicate rewrites her stuff

Double bonus: more filth. Read, laugh, shake your head

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Sunday, February 27, 2005


Right now, the Democrats are winning on Social Security, leading for 06

Not only is Bush not backing off S.S. -- he wants to accelerate the process (be our guest, George)
"We need to act now to fix Social Security permanently," he said Saturday in a radio address aimed at Congress.

Meanwhile, all around the country, GOP officials are getting an earful from their local constituents (if they dare to meet with them at all) – a cross section of the many examples listed recently by Josh Marshall
Rep. John Mica (R) of Florida phones in to the Associate Editor of The St. Augustine Record from his phase-out bunker.

Mica, who is holding no meetings on Social Security this week or apparently even in his district this week, tells Margo Pope that "the details are sketchy," and he'll wait for more before taking a position. As for private accounts, said Mica from his undisclosed location, "I am concerned about making any investments (of Social Security) funds in speculative funds."

Apparently he was even more concerned two years ago when he responded to an AARP questionnaire by pledging: "I do not support replacing any part of the current Social Security system with individual accounts.”

Mica's district has the 12th highest numbers of retirees of any in the country and he wouldn't even show his face in his district last week.
In a townhall meeting on Social Security in Beverly Shores this week, Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana got a question many members have been getting this week. . .
Rep. Capito (R) of West Virginia feels the heat in the district on Social Security, says she'll urge fellow Republicans to "be really cautious about what we do."
Rep. Tom Davis (R) of Virginia -- he of the dry powder -- apparently got an earful at his townhall meeting in Fairfax today. . .
President Bush is still in the opening phase of a campaign to sell the public and Congress on his ambitious plans for Social Security, but some Republicans on Capitol Hill have decided it is not too early to begin pondering an exit strategy. . .
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa tells the Times, in so many words, that unless the president can pull off a major turnaround in public opinion on this issue, it's over. He goes on to say: "I think 90 percent of the lifting is with the president. That process is starting, but it's starting very slow because too many Republicans and Democrats - how would you say it? - don't have the confidence that this issue is ever going to come up."

Thanks to David Meyer, a list of the corporate sponsors and other front organizations lining up to kill Social Security

And an update on O’Neill/USA Next ties:

More Bush 101: it’s not the product, it’s the ad campaign

Keep it up George: this is a REALLY great idea (using a nine-year-old spokesman for his Social Security plan)
[NYT] Progress for America, which spent almost $45 million backing Mr. Bush last year, plans to lay out $20 million on Social Security this year. It has spent $1 million on television commercials and is working to send experts around the country. Among them are Thomas Saving, a trustee of the Social Security Trust Fund; Rosario Marin, a former United States treasurer; and one really, really young Republican. Noah will not be eligible to collect Social Security for nearly 60 years.

Noah will travel to a handful of states ahead of visits by the president and will go on radio programs, answer trivia questions and say a few words about Social Security. Though he is obviously not an expert (and not really a lobbyist, either), officials say the effort is a lighthearted way to underline Mr. Bush's message. . . "What I want to tell people about Social Security is to not be afraid of the new plan," Noah said. "It may be a change, but it's a good change."

The trip was a brainchild of Stuart Roy, a former aide to Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas. . . Mr. Roy knew Noah because the boy lives in suburban Houston, part of Mr. DeLay's district, and the House majority leader has met him. "We'll have Noah there as the face of Social Security reform," Mr. Roy said. "It's about the next generation."

And while we’re all focused on Social Security, as my colleague Jan Pieterse points out, let’s not forget about the other horrible domestic policies Bush is sneaking through: class action suit restrictions (aka “tort reform”); bankruptcy limits (if you’re a poor shlub and not a big corporation); and MEDICAID cuts
For all the talk about Social Security, we haven't heard much about the other entitlement on the Bush chopping block -- Medicaid. The plan here is, in many ways, the very apotheosis of the Bush method of governance. Medicare and Medicaid are very different programs, but they both face rising costs for basically the same reason -- the development of new health care technologies leads spending on health care to go up. Medicare is hard to cut thanks to the fact that it's beneficiaries (middle class old people) are politically powerful. Medicaid, whose beneficiaries are poor, is easier to take the ax to.

Governors revolt:

What the Shiites are telling us, and what they are telling their own countrymen

In Iraq, as in Afghanistan, we publicly condemn warlords and regional militias, while secretly encouraging them when their tribal conflicts reinforce our policy aims (i.e., the insurgents we like versus the insurgents we don’t like)


Chalabi - never quit, never concede
[Ahmed] Chalabi, who appeared at the news conference with [United Iraqi Alliance nominee for prime minister Ibrahim] Jafari, said he had ended his candidacy "for the unity of the alliance."

--Los Angeles Times, February 23

Frustrated and worried, 30 supporters of Ahmad Chalabi met yesterday at the home of their candidate for prime minister and formed a caucus that may vote against the United Iraqi Alliance which just nominated Ibrahim Jafari for prime minister, on key issues such as the drafting of the constitution. . . One of the organizers of the meeting, UIA delegate Mudhar Shawkat, told The New York Sun yesterday that he expects to pry at least 50 total legislators from the 140-person UIA slate for his caucus. He said yesterday that he expected the new group to nominate its own secretariat and meet weekly inside the new 275-person transitional Assembly to discuss legislative strategy distinct from the dictates of the UIA slate. Mr. Chalabi could not be reached for comment.

--New York Sun, February 24

Another entry in the “stories you won’t see in U.S. newspapers” dept: Why Colin Powell was forced out (thanks to Juan Cole for the link)

CIA in trouble: waning power and autonomy, handy scapegoats for Bush failures


Practical ethics. Thoughtful AND funny reflections on how progressives should handle GannonGate: is it anti-gay to “out” him for prostitution and pornography?
An absolute non-issue with the American print and TV media is the control by very powerful gays of the top policy levels of the White House. Growingly pointed comments inside the Beltway social clubs, homes and watering places about Karl Rove’s “good friend” ‘Jeff Gannon’ are being very thoroughly ignored by the mainline press.

There are two reasons for this crashing silence. One is the fact that a large number of powerful and wealthy Republicans are gay and do not want their wives and children to discover that. . . Karl Rove was seen by one of my people entering a private homosexual orgy at a five-star Washington hotel over the Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL) weekend last year. . . Karl used to hang out at JR’s, which is on 17th between P&S, before he became so well-known. This is a “respectable” gay bar for discreet people who do not wear mesh panties, high-heeled pumps and wear terrible wigs. How many people know about these activities? In Washington, a hell of a lot of the prominent. But very few of them dare to open their mouths because of their own small problems. . .

When I get back a report I loaned to someone, I will be happy to discuss the background and current activities of Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican Party. . . and others. Many others. And there are letters, too, and confidential reports. And more people to discuss with you and your readers.

[NB: This is a tough issue. I’m all for “outing” hypocrisy and networks of cronyism, gay or otherwise. GannonGate per se is all fair game, as far as I’m concerned. But there is a meanness and sensationalism to these kinds of (anonymous) reports that is a bit too gleeful – and of course, also casts doubt on their credibility. Still, as Susan Madrak points out, there is a serious dimension to this that could, and should, be investigated – but the “serious” press is scared to death to do so.]

Boxer, Clinton press election reform

Still fighting in Ohio:

Fascinating: conservative commentary on how whacked-out the CPAC conference was

Sunday talk show line-ups

Bonus item: Bush quotes Camus (oh, this is rich)

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Saturday, February 26, 2005


Why the assault against AARP could still work
[Paul Krugman] But before the anti-privatization forces assume that winning the rational arguments is enough, they need to read [What’s the Matter With Kansas?]

The message of Mr. Frank's book is that the right has been able to win elections, despite the fact that its economic policies hurt workers, by portraying itself as the defender of mainstream values against a malevolent cultural elite. The right "mobilizes voters with explosive social issues, summoning public outrage. . . which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends."

In Mr. Frank's view, this is a confidence trick: politicians like Mr. Santorum trumpet their defense of traditional values, but their true loyalty is to elitist economic policies. "Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. . . Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization." But it keeps working.

And this week we saw Mr. Frank's thesis acted out so crudely that it was as if someone had deliberately staged it. The right wants to dismantle Social Security, a successful program that is a pillar of stability for working Americans. AARP stands in the way. So without a moment's hesitation, the usual suspects declared that this organization of staid seniors is actually an anti-soldier, pro-gay-marriage leftist front. . .

So it doesn't matter that Social Security is a pro-family program that was created by and for America's greatest generation - and that it is especially crucial in poor but conservative states like Alabama and Arkansas, where it's the only thing keeping a majority of seniors above the poverty line. Right-wingers will still find ways to claim that anyone who opposes privatization supports terrorists and hates family values.

Their first attack may have missed the mark, but it's the shape of smears to come.

USA Next a “junk mail and spam operation”

Fox News signs up as their publicist wing

New developments on the focus group ads, claiming to be from the Social Security Administration to market-test pro-privatization propaganda. If it IS someone from SSA, that’s illegal. If it’s someone POSING as being from SSA, that’s illegal too. Which is it?

Outrage #1: SSA Trustee signs on to become advisor and spokesman for pro-privatization group

Outrage #2: Deputy Social Security Commissioner too

“Bait and switch” -- Bush’s betrayal of red-state voters

After several months of relatively civil debate over President Bush's proposal to restructure Social Security, the gloves are coming off. . .

Double ugh
Meanwhile, a Jewish Republican group greeted [Dean's] election with an ad campaign that depicted him as a supporter of terrorism.

The full-page ads placed by the Republican Jewish Coalition in the Washington newspaper Roll Call and in Jewish weeklies around the country featured a picture of Hamas members in costumes resembling suicide bombers. Above the photo, referring to a long-recanted 2003 quote by Dean, was the statement: "DNC Chairman Howard Dean says, 'It's not our place to take sides.'"

Beneath the photograph, the ad features critical quotes from Democrats, including Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. At the time, Dean explained that he meant to say the United States needed a president who would be seen as an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . .
[Ann Coulter] "Press passes can't be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president."

I wonder what would happen if a writer, say me, were to refer in a Vanity Fair column to "that old Jew Norman Podhoretz" or, naughtier still, "that old Jewess Lucianne Goldberg."

Why the media doesn’t want to talk about GannonGate
"It's stunning to me that there are questions about the independent press being undermined and the mainstream press doesn't seem that interested in it," says Joe Lockhart. . .


The conspicuous silence of the Christian Right on the Gannon affair (thanks to Doug Kellner for the link)

Others on the Right are talking about it, but their dishonesty and hypocrisy are pretty tough to swallow

Digby waxes eloquent on the tribal divide in American society, and how the culture of Right Resentment leaves no quarter for compromise or acceptance of other points of view

Bush proves a pushover for “Pooty-Poot”
[James Wolcott] [O]y is it embarrassing watching him act like Andy of Mayberry with world leaders, praising Putin as an honest "fella," sorta inviting Chirac to visit the Crawford ranch since he's always "lookin' for a good cowboy," and referring to the members of the press as "a nice bunch of folks." It's wonder he didn't send in Aunt Bea to present the Russian premier with homemade chicken pot pie. Bush was less gauche and aggressive this trip, yet more of a sagebrush rube, playacting the part as if he thought it had made him a beloved character at home. The most interesting aspect of the press conference was how unamused and uncharmed Putin looked as Bush did his John Denver thank-God-I'm-a-country-boy shtick. He refused to play along. Unfortunately, the questions from the reporters present were so rambling and shambling that they didn't penetrate Bush's strawman act and throw him off script. Reporters seem to have forgotten how to ask brief, pointed questions that elude easy deflection; they talk out the clock. If the American reporters had anything other than rubber-tipped arrows in their armory, they would ask the president where this administration gets off lecturing other countries about human rights abuses and rollbacks of civil liberties when it's flying suspects to other countries to be tortured, abusing prisoners in Guantanamo, and running its own far-flung gulag archipelago. Lecturing Putin is an exercise in hubris when American liberty itself is under such rapid assault and decay.


Bush on democratic values
It was an amazing moment: After the introductory comments, Andrey Kolesnikov, a correspondent for the Russian business newspaper Kommersant, got up and said -- albeit not so succinctly, and not in English -- Hey, no wonder you guys see eye to eye! You're both authoritarians. This prompted Bush to launch into a possibly unprecedented defense of himself as a democratic leader. He did it by describing his view of the country. . . [read on]

Lindsey Graham, everybody’s favorite Republican, speaks truth in Iraq
"The Iraqi people are more empowered but the security situation is worse," he said. "We had a lot less freedom to move around. In many ways in terms of security it is not better off than [sic] all.". . . [more]

Serious business: Marine suicides up nearly one third last year. Man, how awful do things have to get for these tough guys to start packing it in?

Halliburton’s $10 million “bonus” (no kidding). . .
Bonuses are awarded based on, among other factors, how efficient and responsive the company is to requests from the Army, she said.

. . . and $1.5 billion in new contracts

Is the CIA turning into the all-purpose scapegoat for broader Bush policies? Does Goss care?
CIA officials are increasingly fretful about being saddled with this secret prison network at a time of intense pressure from lawyers and human-rights activists. The CIA's anxiety only deepened last week when President Bush named John Negroponte, his ambassador to Iraq, as the country's first director of national intelligence. Negroponte, a demanding career diplomat, will take over the coveted president's daily brief, or PDB, from Goss. Bush sought to reassure the CIA that it would still be welcome in the Oval Office. But Bush also signaled that Negroponte would preside over a major shift in power in intelligence gathering. "John and I will work to determine how much exposure the CIA will have to the Oval Office," the president told reporters.

While it battles for influence in Washington, the agency is also fighting a rear-guard action against critics at home and abroad. Some CIA officials fear the White House is now exposing them to legal peril. New Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, under pressure while he awaited his confirmation hearings late last year, repudiated a controversial August 2002 memo that CIA officials carefully solicited from the Justice Department for legal authorization on renditions and the agency's treatment of Qaeda prisoners. Today the CIA has dozens of detainees it doesn't know how to dispose of without legal procedures. "Where's the off button?" says one retired CIA official. "They asked the White House for direction on how to dispose of these detainees back when they asked for [interrogation] guidance. The answer was, 'We'll worry about that later.'

Sistani blesses Jaafari

New ethics charges against Tom DeLay (is there ever a tipping point?)

Mitt Romney polishes up his talking points for 2008
“Today, same-sex couples are marrying under the law in Massachusetts. Some are actually having children born to them. It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has the right to have a mother and a father.”

New law defines bloggers as “representative[s] of the news media.” (I can’t figure out if this acknowledges our influence, or subjects us to new legal restraints)

Bonus item: Condi’s boots – fashion reviews of Rice’s outfits in Europe

***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.***

Friday, February 25, 2005


Tracking Rumsfeld’s pathetic lies about what he does and doesn’t know (thanks to Juan Cole for the link)
Rummy Dropped from the Loop?
What Didn't He See and When Didn't He See It?
By Nick Turse

The Frank Luntz playbook is full of things the GOP DOESN’T want people to know about: here’s a list so we can remind them (thanks to Kos for the link)

The Social Security battle: this is going to get real ugly before it’s over

Snow job
"If you are 20 or 30, the system cannot deliver those benefits, it can't afford them. In other words, it can't deliver on the promise."
Snow said there are also economic benefits to the proposed changes. Businesses would not have to compete with the government to borrow money that might be needed to cover a Social Security deficit, there will be an infusion of investments to fund business expansion and job creation and payroll taxes wouldn't be raised.

[NB: This is what Harry Frankfurt means when he says, Bullsh-t is worse than lies: and]

Why the Democrats only have to maintain a united front to give Bush one of his most humiliating defeats (and what price they will pay if they don’t). A little reminder of what “responsible bipartisanship” has gotten them in the past

More on tracing the roots, funding of “USA Next”

Arlen Specter still making trouble for the Bush judicial steamroller,1,1539825.story

Probe of torture, prisoner abuse doesn’t include the guy who developed the new interrogation policies and “migrated” them from Gitmo to Iraq

In Iraq, chaos reigns (though you wouldn’t know it from the lack of press coverage) – and now Allawi (no doubt with US encouragement) threatens to tear the new govt apart
Nobody fronts a surge in attacks in Iraq, where about 30 people were killed yesterday, including about a dozen by a suicide car bomb at a police station in Tikrit. . . Two GIs were killed in separate attacks. Just south of Baghdad, a bomb went off outside a local Shiite party HQ killing five, and bomb in the key northern city of Kirkuk killed two. Also, gunmen in Baghdad opened fire on a bakery, killing another two.

Yesterday's Christian Science Monitor included a dispatch from one reporter traveling with Marines near Fallujah saying the police forces of most towns in the area appear to be "completely compromised by the insurgents.". . . Today's CSM says many of the town councils created post-invasion "no longer exist." The paper profiled one council member last year; he's since been assassinated.

After the European trip, everyone is talking about Bush’s newfound “flexibility” on Iran. Don’t buy it. He may like to talk about “listening” and “shared goals,” but his only view of internationalism remains “you join us” not “we’ll join you”
Despite what Hadley says, the president is still resolutely opposed to actual American participation in the negotiations for reasons that, once again, he won't explain publicly. Nevertheless, "The Europeans say one reason is Mr. Bush's staunch opposition to rewarding what he considers bad behavior by having the world's superpower at the same negotiating table with a nation he sees as a rogue," which would seem to indicate that the Hadley Plan is not, in fact, going to be adopted. When asked at a press conference whether incentives would work, Bush "sidestepped the question." On Tuesday he did say that "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous," but then he added that "all options are on the table." Yesterday he further muddied the waters by offering: "yesterday I was asked about the U.S. position, and I said all options are on the table. That's part of our position. But I also reminded people that diplomacy is just beginning. Iran is not Iraq."

Last but by no means least, Bumiller reports that Bush doesn't seem to understand what the Non-Proliferation Treaty says. This is too bad, because what he seems to think it says is probably what it should say, and it would be a big step forward in combatting nuclear proliferation if the United States could try and lead a global coalition to revise it. It would also be nice to think that as the president of the United States tries to sort out a dispute within his own administration that may or may not lead the country into war, he would be paying pretty close attention to the relevant issues, but we're used to his odd management style by now.

A June attack after all?

How the rest of the world views the dollar (thanks to Jan Pieterse for the link)

Christopher Hitchens takes a serious look at the evidence of vote fraud in Ohio (thanks to Jessica Wilson for the link)

The Swifties re-emerge: now arguing that John Kerry and other Democrats have actively assisted Iran in developing nuclear weapons (and preparing for a Senate challenge to Kerry in 08)

Connecting the dots: a fascinating exercise in creative speculation concerning Gannon, Rathergate, Plame and Karl Rove (thanks to Mathew Gross for the link)

The redistricting wars: next up, Georgia (when will the Dems start getting aggressive on this? – they control some state legislatures too)

Good sense on educational policy: but is there any chance Bush will heed it?
The task force makes four key recommendations:

(1) Remove obstacles that stifle state innovations;

(2) Fully fund NCLB and provide states with the financial flexibility they need to meet its goals;

(3) Remove the "one-size fits all method" for measuring student performance and replace it with "more sophisticated and accurate systems" that measure the growth of individual students; and

(4) Recognize that some schools have it harder than others, and that there are differences between schools in rural, urban and suburban areas.

The Bush administration is not amused. Ray Simon, Bush's assistant secretary for education, told USA Today that the report "could be interpreted as wanting to reverse the progress we've made." He said that kids "must be challenged to reach their full potential, not told to settle for someone else's lowered expectations. No Child Left Behind is bringing new hope and new opportunity to families throughout America, and we will not reverse course."

States' rights? What states' rights? For the Bush White House, Washington knows best. . .

Texas gets racial profiling backwards
A study commissioned by minority advocacy groups released Thursday found that police throughout Texas stop and search black and Latino drivers at higher rates than whites but that officers are more likely to find drugs, guns and other contraband on whites.

You know, that “disciplined, well-organized” Bush team looks like a bunch of unruly kindergarteners sometimes

More efforts to tap into abortion clinic records

Wead and Weed: why is the big story the release of the tape recordings and not what’s on them: Bush’s admission that he did marijuana, and probably cocaine, but refused to admit it when asked?

The Right’s ongoing effort to eliminate or colonize every source of independent, critical thought continues: higher education is the latest battleground (thanks to Graham Larkin, Matthew Davidson, and A.G. Rud for the links)

Quote of the day (thanks to Salon for the link),5744,11989861%5E25377,00.html
[Outgoing Deputy Sect’y of State Richard Armitage] "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."

Bonus items: who knows where that hand has been?

***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, February 24, 2005


The Koufax award winners have been announced, and it’s an incredible lineup of winners. PBD did not win its category, but I want to thank all of you who voted for this blog and helped it reach the finals in its first year of existence. It’s a strange thing to be in a category like this (Most Deserving of Wider Recognition) and to want to do well, while realizing that there are so many good blogs out there who are also deserving of wider recognition. Several of the nominees in this category are among my own favorite blogs – so how could I really wish to do better than they did? Anyway, congratulations to all!

What a prince. So Bush schedules a “meet der people” session in Germany during his visit, but when his handlers find out they can’t script and control it as they are used to, they just go ahead and cancel it

More on W’s winning ways
Amid the smiles, the backslapping and cheerful joint statements coming out of President Bush's European trip, some troubling international fault lines are also coming into focus:

• Some Europeans are clearly suspicious that Bush is already gearing up to attack Iran. And when Bush passionately denied that yesterday -- but then immediately said he couldn't rule anything out, either -- the audience at the European Union's headquarters literally laughed out loud.

• In an overt show of teeth, Bush expressed "deep concern" over Europe's plan to lift the arms embargo against China, warning that any action that could threaten Taiwan might enrage the U.S. Congress.

• And Bush meets tomorrow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who by some accounts is prepared to respond to any further criticism of his rollback of democratic institutions by raising his own concerns about American torture of Iraqi prisoners -- and Bush's own contested 2000 election.
America's Iran policy may be failing, but the president wants to make clear that it's not his fault:

"The reason we're having these discussions is because they were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium," Mr. Bush said in the southern city of Mainz on the banks of the Rhine. "They're the party that needs to be held into account, not us."

Well, yes, and crimes are caused by criminals, not ineffective police chiefs, but we still try to hire effective ones, don't we? Obviously, if Tehran would just agree to stop trying to build nuclear weapons all on its own, that would solve the problem. But wishing is hardly a policy. It's not clear whether the Bush administration's apparently principled objection to finding negotiated solutions to anything is pushing in the direction of letting Iran go nuclear (see also, North Korea) or of pushing us into a disastrous military confrontation (see also, Iraq), but this kind of finger-pointing helps no one.

Begin as you plan to continue. USA Next, Bush’s proxy in the AARP-bashing contest, brand themselves as liars right out of the gate. The good news is, they seem to be extremely bad liars
CHARLIE JARVIS, CHAIRMAN, USA NEXT: We receive our funds from our base of 1.5 million individuals. Also we aggressively go after the support of very strong pro-free market businesses, business groups, associations, we're pretty aggressive about looking for free market supporters.

. . . But is it true? A May 2004 article in The Washington Monthly says that though

USA claims a nationwide network of more than one million activists ... [it] listed zero income from membership dues in its most recent available tax return

After some blustering [from Jarvis] about how AARP is the "largest left liberal lobbying organization on the planet" and "we are going after them very aggressively," Judy Woodruff asked why the ad had suddenly disappeared:

WOODRUFF: Charlie Jarvis, is USA Next going to run this ad some more? Why did you only have it up for one day?

JARVIS: We were testing to see whether left liberal groups would overreact. And they did. The hypothesis was that they would focus on one single tiny image on one Web site.

WOODRUFF: And it worked.

JARVIS: It worked. By the end of yesterday, to show you how crazy the left liberal groups are and that they have a death wish on Social Security, they literally were having people call television stations all over the country to pull the ad that didn't exist. Remarkable.

You betcha, Charlie! You were just testing to see if us lefties would overreact. How sneaky of you.

Trying (badly) to cover-up the USA Next/GOP nexus. If it’s any reassurance, this group is off to an entirely feckless beginning – they sound like a bunch of complete goofuses, though admittedly goofuses with an awful lot of money to spend

Part of the Bush plan, leaving full Social Security benefits in place for current recipients, is clearly intended to buy off their opposition. The Bush gang is relying on the assumption that old folks think like they do: “hey, screw the other guy if you want, just as long as you leave me alone.” Guess what – they don’t
In part, I think, that's because America's retired and near-retired people aren't nearly the jerks that Republicans think they are. Nobody understands the value of Social Security -- not just for themselves, but for everyone -- better than the people who are actually retired, and many senior citizens seem to care about the well-being of future generations.


Here’s another way Social Security can become Bush’s downfall: using SSA personnel and resources to promote partisan policies. Now originally, this was justified as part of SSA’s responsibilities to “educate” recipients about the program (though they were only “educating” in one direction). But actually, it’s even worse than that. Tell me if this sounds like “education” to you
The Social Security Administration Communications Division is organizing a series of focus groups to solicit feedback from the public on preliminary marketing/communications materials, particularly those related to the privatization or partial privatization of Social Security.

[NB: Now education is one thing – but doesn’t this sound a lot more like SELLING?]

[NB: Update -- after being disclosed, the ad has now been pulled:]

Oh, and by the way, it happens to be illegal
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint against the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the District Court for the District of Columbia for failing to produce documents pursuant to Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA). CREW had asked SSA to produce any records relating to contracts SSA may have entered into with any public relations firms.

NCLB gets trashed by bipartisan report (admittedly, this is my domain, but why Bush’s utter failure in educational reform isn’t as big a national scandal as his failure in Medicare reform, etc., is yet another example of how our rhetorical commitment to educational quality and equality doesn’t really match our actual level of effort and interest)
A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers that studied the effectiveness of President Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative assailed it today as a flawed, convoluted and unconstitutional education reform effort that had usurped state and local control of public schools. . . It found that the law undermined other school improvement efforts already under way in many states, and it said that the law's accountability system, which punishes schools whose students fail to improve steadily on standardized tests, relied on the wrong indicators.

Yet another chapter in this administration’s continual willingness to distort and rewrite history when it inconveniently conflicts with their agenda
At the National Security Council's request, the White House excised a full chapter on Iraq's economy from last week's Economic Report of the President, reasoning in part that the "feel good" tone of the writing would ring hollow against the backdrop of continuing violence, according to White House officials.

The decision to delete an entire chapter from the Council of Economic Advisers' annual report was highly unusual. Council members -- recruited from the top ranks of economic academia -- have long prided themselves on independence and intellectual integrity, and the Economic Report of the President is the council's primary showcase. . . "This is extraordinary," said William A. Niskanen, a CEA member in the Reagan White House and the chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute. "The council has been unfortunately weakened."

Outgoing CEA Chairman N. Gregory Mankiw declined to comment.

Think Progress is producing a series of choice snippets from the 160-page Frank Luntz strategy document prepared for the GOP. Here is just a sampler
President Bush likes to credit his massive tax cuts for the mega-rich for turning around the economy. According to Luntz, it’s time to cut it out. In his playbook, he writes, “Don’t assert that the tax cuts caused the economic recovery…we have never found a Republican who has effectively made the case for strong economic growth as a result of the tax cut. It has been tried and tried and tried and it just doesn’t sound credible.”


Dems get aggressive in calling for a GannonGate investigation
White House press secretary Scott McClellan originally told reporters that Guckert was properly allowed into press briefings because he worked for an outlet that "published regularly." But that's when the questions were about Talon. More recently McClellan offered up a new rationale. Asked by Editor and Publisher magazine how the decision was made to allow a GOPUSA correspondent in, McClellan said, "The staff assistant went to verify that the news organization existed.". . . That, apparently, was the lone criterion the press office used when Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon) approached it in February 2003 seeking a pass for White House briefings. . .

This is not how the White House press office has traditionally worked. "When I was there we didn't let political operatives in. It was completely contrary to what the press room should be used for," says Joe Lockhart, who served as White House press secretary to President Clinton during his second term. Asked what would have happened if a reporter from a clearly partisan operation, say "Democrats Today," had requested a White House press pass, Lockhart said that if the chief of the Democratic National Committee were attending an event at the White House, then perhaps the Democrats Today reporter might be allowed in for that one day. "But to be admitted as a reporter and sit in a chair and act like a reporter" for months on end the way Guckert did? "No," said Lockhart, "that's not within the realm of what [is] proper."

Giving new meaning to the term “wh-re”
Trolling for a date: James Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon) is angling for an invite to the gala White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in April, saying his recent notoriety qualifies him as a great guest. "There is still time," he told Editor & Publisher this week. "There is always someone there trying to make news. Maybe this year it is going to be me." He also revealed that he's trying to line up paid speaking gigs, telling the trade mag: "There are people who are definitely interested in some of my behind-the-scenes work in the press room."

Yes, this is the same guy who, after being linked to gay escort sites a couple of weeks ago, posted on "In consideration of the welfare of me and my family I have decided to return to private life."

Can’t stand the light: “Talon News” disappears

Sibel Edmonds: like many other sites, we’ve wondered for months why this story hasn’t taken root as a bigger national issue than it has. Well now some cracks are starting to open up. . .

The fight for PM in Iraq isn’t over yet
Maneuvering over the makeup of the new Iraqi government intensified today after the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, confirmed that he would form a coalition to challenge the victorious Shiite alliance and the doctor it has selected as its candidate to become Iraq's prime minister.

If the Daily Telegraph is right that Iyad Allawi hopes to form a government without either the Kurdish Alliance or the United Iraqi Alliance, then this whole bid of his for the prime minister post is a stalking horse for some other purpose. The UIA and the Kurds between them have 78 percent of the seats in parliament! And Allawi would need 66 percent to form a government. He says he will work with small parties, but aside from the Sunni Iraqiyun with 5 seats and the Communists with 2, most of the rest are Shiite and have already formed a coalition with the UIA. Allawi's only hope is to detach delegates from the United Iraqi Alliance in such numbers as to put into question that list's ability to dominate parliament. Even then he has no chance of becoming prime minister. He almost certainly is simply angling for a cabinet position, and using the threat of creating disunity in the UIA ranks by seducing some of its members as leverage.

Did the US jimmy the vote totals?
Al-Hayat has a long interview with an "informed Iraqi source" who is close to US officials in Iraq. He maintains that the US officials there were astounded that the United Iraqi Alliance did so well, and that they felt helpless and resigned as the process unfolded. He says that they are now asking privately if the US shed so much blood and treasure in Iraq to help fundamentalist Shiite allies of Iran take over Baghdad.

Al-Hayat also today repeats the allegation that the US or the electoral commission somehow cheated the United Iraqi Alliance of an absolute majority in parliament. (Note that this argument completely contradicts the interview they did, which speaks of US helplessness before the results.) The argument that the Iraqi elections were fixed is, however, implausible. It is sometimes alleged that the Shiites should have done better than they did, given the Sunni Arab absence. But when the smoke cleared, the UIA did have a majority in parliament, so the allegation makes no sense.

Correction on the weeping Hakim photo
The caption on Feb. 14 for a picture by Reuters with the continuation of an article about the Iraqi elections misstated the reason Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite cleric, was weeping. He was participating in a mourning ritual as part of Ashura, a holy Shiite festival - not reacting to results showing that his political alliance had won a slim majority of seats. A second caption for a Reuters photo misstated the reason a Shiite was shown flagellating himself in a Baghdad procession. He was taking part in the same mourning ritual, not celebrating the election outcome.

Pentagon (surprise, surprise) seeks new powers to send Special Ops forces secretly into other countries
The Post fronts word that the Pentagon has been pushing permission to send commandos into countries without giving U.S. ambassadors a heads up. That would break with long-standing tradition, and the State Department and CIA are both fighting the plan. Recently departed Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he ordered an aide to move against the proposal: "I gave [him] instructions to dismount, kill the horses and fight on foot—this is not going to happen." The Post says (deep down) that the battle has been smoldering for two years and "reignited" last month when Secretary of State Rice came on board. Rice apparently hasn't offered her opinion yet.


News from Mars
A US marine, captured on film killing a wounded Iraqi at point blank range during November's assault on Fallujah, will not be formally charged due to lack of evidence.

Bush’s America: the emergence of a military-theocratic coalition (thanks to Kos for the link). Churches used for military recruitment

[NB: For God and country:]

Wead plans to give tapes of recorded conversations back to Bush
Howard Fineman thinks the no-longer-secret tapes show a secret side of President Bush. "Far more revealing are the glimpses into the combative, even arrogant heart of Bush’s character -- and that of the Bush Clan. . . "

But Howard Kurtz says the tapes actually make Bush look good, "in the sense that there's very little separation between the Bush we hear in private, unaware that his pal has the recorder going, and the George W. Bush we have come to know in public."

[NB: Both are right]

Howard Kurtz’s unreliable moral compass

Howard Kurtz:
I'm not a fan of secretly recording conversations with a friend and then releasing them to the world.


Kurtz speaking of Linda Tripp's secret telephone recordings of Monica Lewinsky:
"I would have listened to those tapes in a heartbeat," Howard Kurtz, The Washington Post's media critic, told me months later.

GOP, shameless as always, comes up with a new line of argument to nullify the governor’s race in Washington state: suggesting with no basis of evidence that too many felons voted for the Democratic victor

Watch it, Buster! Yet another voice of independence, PBS, gets bullied and colonized by conservative voices (and the brainless Tucker Carlson continues his inexplicable rise to ubiquity)

Fox News, enemies of “political correctness,” are not beyond rewriting even other press reports to coincide with their in-house linguistic code

Bonus item: now that torture is a legal tool of policy, maybe we can find new ways to make it work for us

***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.***

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


PBD breaks real news. You all know that in October of last year a court ruling barred Rumsfeld and the Defense Dept from continuing to inoculate soldiers with anthrax vaccine without informed consent
A 1999 executive order by then President Bill Clinton required "informed consent" before administering the vaccine
The upshot of the court's ruling on October 27, 2004, is that the anthrax vaccination program violated federal law from 1998 forward, at a minimum. Any order to submit to anthrax vaccination during the entire existence of the program was illegal. . . The soldiers that DoD discharged for refusing to take the shots are entitled to back pay and allowances from the date they were removed. . .

[NB: Someone working in a deployment readiness clinic told me that after this ruling the military continued routinely administering the shots: THEY JUST WEREN’T TELLING THE SOLDIERS WHAT THEY WERE]

Chalabi out, Jaafari in as PM,0,2966698.story
Jafari, who lived in London until 2003, has talked plenty about respecting all groups in Iraq. And as the LAT notes, he was also behind a "move last year to make Islamic law Iraq's legal basis for dealing with issues such as marriage, divorce and inheritance.". . . The NYT sees the Jafari pick as setting the stage for a "potentially polarizing battle." Secularists, such as the Kurds and the still-in-the-game Iyad Allawi are "intent on sharply curtailing Jafari's powers or blocking him and his clerical-backed coalition." The other papers don't see a big showdown. The LAT notes that Allawi's "own party members give him virtually no chance" of taking on Jafari. . . USAT paints a more complex picture of Jafari. It cites one expert who said that for all the talk about his party's buddy-buddy relationship with Iran, Jafari actually left Iran for London in 1989 in order to be "less dominated by Iranian views."
Though the Dawa party has long advocated a religious government, Jafari insisted it did "not aim to establish an Islamic state to apply the Islamic sharia," or law. Instead, it would establish a government "respecting human rights and applying justice and respecting the rights of women."
Nic Robertson at CNN is saying that Jaafari was seen as a more unifying figure. You could interpret that statement in a lot of ways, but it is certainly true that Jaafari has a rhetoric of inclusion that stretches even to the people of Fallujah, whereas Chalabi wanted to punish all the Sunni Arabs who had had anything to do with the Baath Party (a lot of them).
I take it that Hilary is laying out a Democratic Party strategy for the 2008 elections, which may well argue that Bush lost Iraq to Iran through his incompetence. The argument probably implies that Jaafari as a Muslim fundamentalist is not only close to Iran but will pursue policies and legislation that hurt women. . . These points are not without some validity. But maybe Baghdad just after the elections wasn't the best time and place for her to criticize positive feelings toward Iran on the part of Shiite politicians (which, I have pointed out, is sort of like criticizing the Irish for feeling positively about the Vatican). Jaafari is an Iraqi patriot and he has a right to be offended at the idea that he might be a puppet for Tehran. Still, it does seem inevitable that some canny Democrat will figure out that the US public has severe doubts about the Iraq adventure, and find a way to parlay that into political advantage.
It turns out that the other members of the United Iraqi Alliance prevailed on Ahmad Chalabi to drop his bid to become candidate for prime minister. It is not clear if Jaafari, the winner, promised him anything in return for stepping down. AP suggests he might be a deputy prime minister for security and economic affairs. I'd say, keep that man away from money and security. . .

Charles Clover of the Financial Times, who has done some excellent reporting from Iraq, points to a cloud on the horizon. He says that Jaafari is committed to a vigorous de-baathification program, despite his commitment to reaching out to Sunni Arabs, and that the prospective prime minister may not understand the contradiction in his stances.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the essence of Chalabi's approach was to make inflated claims of support in hopes of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, so it's no surprise that he backed down in at the end. The question, as I raised yesterday, is what ransom his erstwhile Shiite allies had to pay to get him to stop holding their government-building effort hostage. . . If the rest of the United Iraqi Alliance's leadership is smart, whatever deal they've made with Chalabi, they'll renege on it as soon as the choice of a prime minister is final. As long as he holds a post of any influence whatsoever, Chalabi will spend all of his time maneuvering for more -- and forcing the UIA to waste much of its time trying to contain the damage.

How the U.S. press coverage STILL bends over backwards to be solicitous toward Chalabi

Iraqi election results: not good for women

More fraud and corruption in Iraq: not only did the CPA badly mishandle U.S. funds, they also plundered Iraqi oil revenues that belonged to the Iraqi people (thanks to David for the link)
Ginger Cruz, one of the US government auditors charged with monitoring coalition finances, told the BBC that in one instance $1.4 billion—which weighed 14 tons and was shrink-wrapped into bricks of $100 bills—was flown by helicopter from Baghdad to Erbil in the last days of the CPA’s rule. The money was then driven to the Central Bank where it was deposited without any receipt being issued.

Bush tries hard to make nice in Europe – even goes out of his way to praise their “french fries” (which is only slightly less dumb than making an issue by calling them “freedom fries” in the first place)

I’ll bet this had ‘em rolling in the aisles in Brussels
"We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power, and the rule of law."

[NB: Everywhere but in the United States!]

Unfortunately, the strain of being civil just was too much for Bush, and he couldn’t let the day pass without sticking his thumb in their eye (again)
Not quite halfway through his European tour, President Bush was asked this morning: Is there anything to his visit beyond a charm offensive? What will make the second-term Bush presidency less dictating and unilateralist than the first? . . . Bush's answer, in short: Nothing. It's Europe that needs to get over the Iraq issue and move on. . . Here's how he put it:

"The major issue that irritated a lot of Europeans was Iraq. I understand that. I can figure it out. And the key now is to put that behind us, and to focus on helping the new democracy succeed."

But Bush himself isn't exactly putting Iraq behind him. He's still trying to justify it.

Meanwhile, the European leaders were polite to Bush; but behind the scenes. . .

As for the European people, what they think about Bush was pretty evident

Bush’s deficit spending puts the entire economy at risk: Bank of Korea pulls out of dollar, switches to Euro – a few more reports out of Asia like this and we really are screwed
The dollar fell sharply in the foreign-exchange markets today after the Bank of Korea disclosed plans to step up its purchases of securities denominated in other currencies. . . The steep decline highlighted the continued weakness of the dollar, which stabilized early this year after hitting a record low of $1.3666 against the euro on Dec. 30 and raised the possibility that the American currency could fall further at any time.
The fact that quite a few central banks intend to perhaps slowly increase the proportion of other currencies in their pile of reserves isn't necessarily that big of a deal. At the very least we're probably beginning a period in which an advantage that the US has held for quite some time begins to unravel. Our position as the world's reserve currency gives us a little bonus. . . But, the fact is that China and Japan in particular have a real interest in propping up the dollar and treasury prices. A slow move a way from dollar dominance in central bank reserves on the whole isn't such a big deal -- but a decision by China and Japan to stop digging would be.

Bush’s big Saudi blind spot
President Bush earlier this month dispatched top White House official Frances Fragos Townsend to head an official U.S. delegation attending an "anti-terrorism" conference in Saudi Arabia -- a conference that aired vile anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist canards. Saudi Cleric Aed Al-Qarni noted at the conference that "The first to kill and use terrorism in the world were the Jews". . . According to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, President Bush spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah on February 14th and "complimented the Crown Prince on last week's successful counter-terrorism conference in Saudi Arabia.". . .

Throughout and surrounding the conference, various Saudi clerics noted that "Jews and the Christians are Allah's enemies," and that Jihad -- including attacks by insurgents in Iraq -- is appropriate. In a poem read before Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan, it was noted that Osama bin Laden "was sent by the Jews."

A new code: when Bush says “having said that,” everything up to that point has been a lie
And finally, this notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table.

[NB: so, which is it - “ridiculous,” or “still an option”? I think we know the answer. It's both!]
Asked about reports of putting women closer to land combat, the president said: "There's no change of policy as far as I'm concerned. No women in combat. Having said that, let me explain. . .”

The Blink President

“Torture by Proxy”
Is the CIA running a "ghost" prison system in foreign countries?

Rape investigations in Iraq

Pentagon to launch its own “news and information” cable channel

Lieberman still playing fast and loose on Social Security

Look, it’s very simple: (1) No decent Social Security proposal can come out of this process, given the stance of the House GOP; (2) Therefore, any attempt to forge a “compromise” simply gives life to Bush’s dishonest and wrongheaded initiative; (3) The thing to do is to let the GOP twist in their own hypocrisy until they either admit their true agenda and put forth a proposal to gut Social Security, then hammer them for it, or watch them concede defeat in the face of their own manufactured “crisis.” This is leverage the Dems must use for 2006. GOP AARP-bashing makes it even easier.

Well, the Republicans, at least, understand what this issue is all about
"Hey-hey, ho-ho, Social Security has got to go"

Bill Bennett gets involved in AARP-bashing (man, are there any of these guys who DON’T have nationally syndicated radio shows now?)

USA-Next, the GOP front organization assigned with trashing AARP, doesn’t even pretend to keep its funding and leadership separate from party hacks (of course, the Swifties didn’t either, and it never seemed to cost THEM)

Those "gay-lovin' soldier hatin' AARP" ads get pulled (gee, you think their sponsors had second thoughts?) The key is, not to let them erase the memory

Bush’s antipathy to scientific evidence (when it doesn’t confirm his prejudices)

What is really behind the malpractice insurance “crisis”

Democratic strategies

Playing the redistricting card

The Philosophy Gap

An overeliance on 527’s?

Democratic ambivalence about their “grass roots”

Meanwhile, the GOP knows its message, and sticks to it
“The whole mainstream of the party is engaged in an effort that is a betrayal of America, what they care about is not winning the war on terror...I don't think they care about the danger to us as Americans or the danger to people in other countries. They care about power.”

[NB: Hint – this is the GOP talking about the Democrats. When is the last time you heard someone in the mainstream say anything like this about the Republicans?]

Internal GOP strategy document (no I haven’t read it yet – but stay tuned for upcoming analyses)

Remember Hinderaker’s “apology” yesterday for his profane and hate-filled screed? Well, on closer review it wasn’t much of an apology – as is typical for the “Responsibility Society” crowd, when they screw up it always seems to be someone else’s fault

Does the Right have no rhetorical boundaries at all? Will they ever be held to what they actually dare to say out loud?
Is there enough going on to make you nervous yet? The Vice President of the United States was the keynote speaker at a conference where other speakers called for "a new McCarthyism" to bring "terror" to intellectuals, saying "let's oppress them [liberals]," and "the entire Harvard faculty" are "traitors." A Congressman said, "America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd," ? Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq."

Meanwhile, right-wing commentators talk about killing American journalists, their premier blogs talk about former president Carter as being on the side of the enemy and leftists have "seamlessly taken up the cause of Islamic fascism". I have provided only a few examples. . . [M]ore and more people are becoming concerned that the Right's rhetoric is growing ever more violent and totalitarian. . . [read on]

The Rovean anticonstitutionalist agenda (long, and very frightening) – thanks to Jessica Wilson for the link

Blogging and “outlaw journalism” (thanks to Susan over at Suburban Guerrilla for the link)
Bloggers are not some new creation, but the newest set of the barbarians at the gates. They are the people who don't trust the system and it's artifacts. It is to writing, what rap is to music, the coming of democracy to a trade. What Thompson and his peers did in the 60's and 70's, we do today. But free of the constraints of editors and publishers and the need to hustle up work.

Women and blogging

Ever since the “serious” national media told the blogosphere to “step aside, young ‘un, we’ll take over investigating the Guckert scandal now,” we have heard NOTHING about it. It’s just been swallowed up: local papers, on the other hand, are keeping it alive

60 Minutes continues to pay the price for its Bush National Guard story: now Bill Burkett, the source of the forged memos, threatens to sue (though, again, it doesn’t seem that he should want to be forced to testify under oath about it)

Will there ever be an investigation into how Burkett got those documents, and whether they might have originated in a GOP “sting” operation?

Unfortunately, the argument about vote fraud in 2004 will never be settled

Bonus item: Don’t say you haven’t been warned (thanks to Best of the Blogs for the link)

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