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Political Books






Religious Books -- Not Fundamentalist!

The Fundamentalist Xtians should not be allowed to hijack the language of Christianity. They are at least as much heretics to Christianity as the Arians and Gnostics of early Christian days.




Biblical inerrancy is not possible.


The books both above and below show the limitations of language and the impossibility of Biblical Inerrancy.

How can language be misused? Using General Semantics, this book was Written to explain Nazi propaganda and still used as a textbook


Books - Popular Math, Post Enlightenment & Science

This book explains why the above books on Christian Fundamentalism are politically important in America today.


Modern Society measures risk & predicts possible futures. The book below is a higly readable history of insurance, statistics and modern financial instruments.

Compare this to religion, in which it is presumed that the perfect society was known in the past and all that is necessary to do is to return to that perfect society.


Fascinating, highly readable and fun book on modern mathematics and its limitations. If you are interested in ideas, this is your book!

This is a collection of Hofstader's Scientific American articles. Again, a very fascinationg and highly readable book, requiring no mathematical background. (Buy it used - it is one of the books that will keep disappearing.)

Older, very fascinating book on mathematical ideas. Did you know there are three kinds of infinity?


Tuesday, October 31, 2006
MSNBC discusses the Katherine Harris Senate campaign
MSNBC has an interesting reveiw of the current status of the Katherine Harris campaign to unseat current Democrat Ben Nelson.

I have a lot of comments I could make, but I won't. I have followed this campaign becuase it interested me. Let's just say it still does.

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posted by Richard @ 5:25 PM   0 comments
Confronting Anti-American Grievances
Zbigniew Brzezinski has written a very good article that focuses on what causes terrorism. Steve Clemons (and I) strongly recommend that anyone concerned with the threat of terrorism should go read it.
posted by Richard @ 11:38 AM   0 comments
Monday, October 30, 2006
Is this where America really is?
OK. Up front, I will admit that I am stealing this totally from Billmon. It is too damned important to ignore, and none of it can really be removed and leave the sense of what he wrote.
The 51% Solution

Ronald Brownstein, the LA Times political columnist, provides a window into the essential cluelessness of the centrist pundit, as he tries to figure out why the Rovian brain trust is sending Shrub out on partisan search and destroy missions at a time when so many GOP candidates are plaintively asking the voters: "Can't we all just get along?"

Bush is moving in the opposite direction. As he often does when he's under political pressure, he's accentuating the disagreements between the parties and presenting the differences in the starkest possible terms . . . Bush now routinely labels Democrats "the party of cut-and-run." At a recent Republican fundraiser, Bush went much further. "The Democrat Party . . . has evolved from one that was confident in its capacity to help deal with the problems of the world to one that . . . has an approach of doubt and defeat," he declared.

As Brownstein notes, this isn'st exactly the normal rhetoric of a wartime leader trying to unify his people. From this, the pundit glumly concludes:

Even if Bush succeeds, such a result still will measure how much he has retreated from his hopes of building a broad majority coalition.

This is Broderism (i.e. the willful denial of reality) reduced to the point of absurdity. There is nothing in the record of the past six years that suggests building a broad majority coalition has ever been the objective of the Rovian political project. Just the opposite, in fact. The
goal has always been to create a narrow, but solid, majority -- a dependable 51% or 52% -- that would leave the GOP machine in firm control but reduce the need for the kind of moderate compromises required to hold a broad coalition together. Thus the overwhelming emphasis on keeping the conservative base energized and motivated, no matter what. As long as the base is on board, the extra 12 or 15 percentage points needed to reach a majority can always be picked up one way or another -- without having to cut too many non-conservatives a slice of the pie. Or so the theory holds.

It's really just a redneck variation on the old Leninist strategy for a party dictatorship -- if the GOP machine can control a majority of conservatives, and conservatives can control a majority of Republicans, then Republicans should be able to control (barely) a majority of the voters, and thus the country.

In a true one-party state, like the old Soviet Union, this process can be taken to its ultimate conclusion, i.e. totalitarian rule. But in even a nominally democratic society, there are risks in trying to broaden the pyramid's base too widely. At some point, the chain of control -- a majority of a majority of a majority -- can break down.

The fact that Brownstein can's see this (or won't admit it), even after the events of the past six years, is par for the course. One of the machine's most valuable resources -- a kind of built-in cloaking device -- is the tendency of the corporate media to take political propaganda at face value. It's all part of that "trust" and "social capital" that Sebastian Mallaby finds so precious. (Club him again, Duncan.)

Or, to quote Keyser Söze: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

However, while Rovian goal (permanent GOP rule) and strategy have remained fixed, the tactics have changed considerably over the course of Shrub's presidency, and particularly after 9/11. In his dismay and disappointment, Brownstein is harking back to Bush 1.0 -- the uniter, not a divider, who promised to work as well with the Democrats in Washington as he claimed to have done in Austin. (Seems like decades ago, doesn't it?)

But the uniter-not-a-divider riff was a purely tactical response to the Clinton impeachment and the backlash it triggered -- a political tide that might have swamped Shrub's 2000 presidential aspirations if he and Rove hadn't put some daylight between themselves and the Holy Inquisitors of the Republican Congress. And if Bush had won a comfortable victory, I'm sure the ploy would have been abandoned as soon he took the oath. But the Florida dispute, and the effect it had on Shrub's numbers, made it necessary to continue the charade through the first few months of his presidency. Thus the early, token gestures towards bipartisanship on the No Child Left Behind Act and Bush's "faith based initiative," even though both efforts were designed primarily with partisan political purposes in mind -- to peel away slivers of Democratic support in minority communities in the first instance, and to help build the Christian conservative patronage network in the second.

What might have happened if 9/11 had not happened is an interesting hypothetical. After successfully negotiating with (read: peeling the shirt off) the "moderates" and passing Bush's first round of tax cuts in the spring of 2001, the administration then began to act as if it saw the way clear to move hard right -- that is, until Jim Jeffords's defection swung the Senate to the Dems and temporarily brought the whole project to a crashing halt.

And then, of course, everything changed.

Or rather, nothing changed -- except that the Rovians were handed a political windfall of the highest order. If Brownstein is just now noticing the use of partisan attack rhetoric to try to score electoral points in the middle of a war, then I guess he must have sleep walked through the 2002 mid-term elections. If there is one, single, overriding reason why I despise Karl Rove and his masters, it's because of the way they expropriated 9/11 and the social solidarity it created and used them for the basest, sleaziest partisan ends. Likewise the invasion of Iraq -- back in the giddy days of "Mission Accomplished." There is no greater proof of the moral bankruptcy of the Republican machine and the Rovian style of politics.

But the irony is that 9/11 also thrust upon the Rovians what they had deliberately not sought at the polls: a broad, sweeping majority. If they had adapted accordingly, and revised their fundamental strategy (or at least done a better job of camouflaging it) we'd probably be a hell of lot closer to the GOP equivalent of the thousand year Reich (well, twenty years, anyway). But the 51% solution -- the vision of a country run for the greater glory of the campus Republicans of the 1970s -- won out.

This was probably inevitable: The Rovian world view is both deeply pessimistic and infinitely cynical (which is one of the reasons why I feel I understand it so well). The working assumption seems to be that the partisan divide between Republican and Democrat -- or more accurately, between conservative and non-conservative -- is too deep to fill and too wide to bridge. That being the case, 51% is the best either side can hope for, as well as the most politically effective and efficient majority. In other words, the best of all possible worlds.

There is a double irony to that, because in pursuit of their 51% majority the Rovians have repeatedly felt compelled to betray their own conservative base -- digging into the pork barrel with both hands, passing the biggest boost in entitlement spending since Social Security was COLAized, cozying up to the gambling industry, etc. All so they can attract that 10 to 15 percentage point sliver of uncommitted voters, while giving nothing but the finger to Democrats and Democratic leaners, even though many of the latter were ripe for the picking in the wake of 9/11.

So now they have the worst of all worlds -- a Democratic base ready to walk over burning coals to vote against them, a broad mass of centrist ex-supporters who feel badly used and abused, and and a conservative base that is disillusioned and disgusted with the cynical compromises required by the 51% strategy.

Is it any wonder Shrub is cranking up the hateful, divisive rhetoric in a last, desperate attempt to make the old 9/11 magic work one more time? Fear literally is the only thing they have -- plus the bully pulpit and the money to spread that fear across the airwaves. But this certainly isn't the negation of Rove's original political hopes, it's a last-ditch defense of them.

Maybe it will work and maybe it won't. But the important lesson (one the Ronald Brownsteins of the world will never, ever mention in print) is what Rove's 51% strategy says about the America's future. Because if Turd Blossom is right (and he may well be) then this isn't really one country any more. It's a battlefield divided between two bitterly hostile partisan armies, with an indeterminate number of undecided or uncommitted voters -- "the civilians" -- left stranded out in no man's land.

Karl's OK with this, conceptually. He may be losing this particular battle, but those are just the fortunes of war. They'll be other opportunities to counterattack. Karl's troops are also OK with this -- they don't really see their political enemies as their fellow citizens any more, if they ever did. As one former White House speech writer puts it:

Friends, neighbors, and countrymen of the Left: I hate your lying guts

I guess I'm OK with it, too. After all, I hate them just as deeply as they hate me, if not more so. I also don't see much of a future in the plutocratic fraud that goes by the name of "democracy" in this country, nor do I expect the hollow men of the punditburo to suddenly wake up one day and see reality, no matter how patiently and politely they're asked to open their fucking eyes.

So why bother pretending to be polite? Why not turn politics into the verbal equivalent of mud wrestling.

But while Karl may be OK with this, and the pod people of the authoritarian right may be OK with this, and I may be OK with it, I don't think the indeterminate number of uncommitted voters who are stranded out there between the partisan lines are OK with it. They seem to want something more than a 51% solution, and they don't seem to understand why they can't have it.

Who's going to tell them?
Posted by billmon at 03:30 PM
Is this where we really are? Are we in a religious war between the American evangelists and the modernists, with a large group in the middle who don't know really which side to choose?

Dear God, I hope not. Go back and read the history of England between about 1500 and 1700. We don't need that war all over again. There isn't that much disagreement between us modernista and the religous evangelists for it to be worth killing or imprisoning each other. But that is where this is headed.
posted by Richard @ 5:56 PM   0 comments
Sunday, October 29, 2006
A comment on the Michael J. Fox advertisement
I very much agree with Digby . Limbaugh's utterly disgusting personal attack on Michael J. Fox is an entirely self-serving political attack on someone who dares to disagree with the conventional wisdom of the (very sick) Republican Party and who has presented a highly effective advertisement in support of stem-cell research. Limbaugh and his minions from Hell cannot support their idiotic position on stem-cell research, so instead of presenting argument on the merits or demerits of the policy, they make personal attacks on Michael J. Fox because he actually had the temerity to inflict a tiny bit of the truth of what his Parkinson's Disease has done to him - and does to him every day.

Remember, the twitching, bobbing and weaving that Michael J. Fox demonstrated in his advertisement is mostly side-effects of the medication he takes to control his Parkinson's. Without that medication, his face freezes up and he is totally unable to speak at all. He takes the medication because the side effects, bad as they seem to us, are the best he can hope for. The "uncontrolled" Parkinson's disease is even worse.

Digby also makes the point that Michael J. Fox does not have to work to support stem-cell research as he does. He could simply go home and stay out of the sight of healthy people and not inflict the appearance of his infliction on those with weak stomachs like Limbaugh. But he doesn't do that. He is using his celebrity status and the personal appearance of his tragedy to fight for stem-cell research in the hope that others with the same affliction might someday be able to live more normal lives.

So he exposes himself to the attacks of the hateful Republican conservative "Know-nothings" like Limbaugh in order to give some hope to others with Parkinson's.

I am proud to watch him perform his acts of courage - the acts of going public and fighting for what he believes.

I have spent a lot of my life in the military, and there have been some real actus of heroism that I remember daily. One was the story in "Blackhawk Down" of the two young Ranger Sergeants in a helicopter hovering over the downed Chopper in Mogadishu as the humdreds of militia types were attacking the few Americans on the ground. The two sergeants directed the Chopper pilot to put then down in the middle of the fight because they were needed there. Neither survived, and they probably had little doubt that would be what would happen, but they went anyway.

A second event, less well known, is when a lot of troops at Fort Benning [The Infantry School] were out running one morning. Some idiot with a rifle got up in a patch of woods and started shooting the unarmed soldiers in the sweat clothes. He was up there with a rifle, no one else was armed, so everyone started running for cover. All except one senior Captain. The Captain ran towards to sniper. The story made the civilian news because the Captain was one of those killed before the sniper was taken down, but I have always hoped that I could be capable of such an act of courage.

It is a tradition that long-time soldiers hear gunfire and run towards the guns, not away. This is the kind of courage Michael J. Fox is displaying. His set of circumstances is rather unique. He has his celebrity status and is well-known, his Parkinson's Disease makes him a personal example, and his act of courage allows the rest of us a glimpse of what kind of life people with Parkinson's live.

We should all recognize the great courage he is showing us. As much as seeing what the Parkinson's disease has done to Michael J. Fox, his great act of courage for letting us see him and showing the human cost of blocking stem-cell research is an honor to watch. I like him as an actor, but this battle he has entered has earned from me as much respect as any of the examples above of soldiers in battle who ran towards the sound of the guns.

Digby provided a description of the story inthis comment.
posted by Richard @ 4:02 PM   1 comments
Conservatives losing now - so what happens next year?
Digby has a clear explantation of what to expect next January.
The Republicans have fielded five presidents since 1968 and only one of them can be considered politically successful. One out of five. The rest have crashed and burned each time on incompetence, corruption or some combination of the two. I think it's fair to say that neither the modern Republican party or the conservative movement is capable of governance.
So what happens next is that the current leaders who will have failed -- that is, not won an election. Iraq and Katrina are not failures to conservatives, since government can't do anything anyway. Only losing elections is a failure to a conservative or Republican, and since Conservatism is perfect, those who lose do so because they are not conservative enough.
Democrats believe in government and they want to make it work. Republicans see government purely as a means to exert power. Unfortunately, they are not very good at that because in the modern world sheer, dumb might is no longer possible. The best they can do is loot the treasury and leave the rest of their mess to be cleaned up by the Democrats.

What they really excel at is politics. Governance just hangs them up. And don't think for a moment that they will be chagrined or ashamed and crawl off into a hole to lick their wounds. Being defeated liberates them to do what they are really good at --- destroying the opposition and pushing their agenda with sophisticated, scorched earth political rhetoric. It's not natural for them to be on the defense and they don't like it. They are going back to their natural state --- victimhood and the aggressive attack.

Get ready. The Democrats will not only have to govern, but they will have to fix all the problems they've created while fighting them every step of the way. They're not going away. And they will pull out every stop to win every election, not because they necessarily want to govern but because that's how you keep score. For a long, long time they've been able to get their way whether they win or lose and they see no reason to doubt that will continue. And unless we put a stop to this they might be right.
Conservatives are natural outsiders. They have no measure for success as outsiders except winning elections.

There is no Katrina rescue for an outsider to fail. It is the insiders, those who run the government, who have such tasks of governance by which success and failure can be measured.

So House Republicans will move back to their natural position as the minority party. Perhaps this is true for the Senate Republicans. They will then set up screams and attacks on Democrats that make those against Clinton seem mild, because they will resent being replaced.

It's not going to be pretty.
posted by Richard @ 8:46 AM   0 comments
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Republicans are desperate! They have only racism and lies left to campaign with!
TPM Election Central debunks the Republican claim that the ads they are using in Tennessee against Harold Ford are not racist.

Corker is such innate slime himself that he must depend on the Republican southern racist base to try to beat Harold Ford to become Senator from Tennessee.
posted by Richard @ 8:37 PM   0 comments
How many congressional Republicans are under federal investigation -- so far?
Go look at TPM Muckraker. Somehow it seemed like more. But as far as I can tell, there have NEVER been this many Democrats in Congress under investigation at any time.
posted by Richard @ 8:33 PM   0 comments
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
ABC's Docu-drama-lie was a ratings flop
I must admit that I was curious how well the so-called docudrama "The Path to 9/11" did. As near as I can tell, viewers of the Sunay night part I preferred to watch football per Broadcasting & Cable .

Unfortunately I have not been able to confirm the report from the moderate voice about the ratings on Part II from Monday night, September 11, 2006. I have no reason to doubt them, however. Apparently more people were interested in a rerun of CSI: Miami than were interested in the ABC offering which was interrupted by George W. Bush for a short piece of his propaganda.

Frankly, I am surprised that the show got such poor ratings on the fifth anniversery of September 11. Delighted, but surprised.

The management of ABC may be as conservative is the ultra-conservative Walt Disney, but their professional success is measured on Wall Street by Nielsen ratings and the resulting advertisement revenues.
posted by Richard @ 2:33 PM   0 comments
Boing Boing reports Katherine Harris is number one - dumbest Congress-critter in office today.
Boing Boing reports that Rep. Katherine Harris (R.-FL) has been awarded First Prize in the Dumbest Congresscritters countdown.

I have had no doubt of it, which is why I have followed her campaign this year to replace Sen. Ben Nelson (D-FL). It has been a year-long exercise of finding out the answer to the question "She did WHAT this time?"


For previous articles on Katherine HarrisOK, Ok, so who were the other nine Congress-critters on the list, and why? As you might guess, I consider K. Harris to be in a class by herself. No one else can compete for number ONE!

But here is the full list of all ten from Radar with reasons. This is fun reading if you can just ignore that these people are a central part of the American government!

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posted by Richard @ 12:14 PM   0 comments
Overhead costs eating up as much as half Iraq reconstruction money
The costs of reconstruction in Iraq are extremely high, effectively completed projects rare. Problems run from poorly written contracts, poor planning, ineffective or no oversight, all on top of flat stupid things like letting a contract out, sending the company and its people to Iraq, then paying them to sit for nine months before they can start work on the project.

This is from NY Times Oct 25, 2006:
In Iraq, where construction materials are scarce and contractors must provide security for work sites and housing for Western employees, officials have said they expect the overhead to be at least 10 percent, but the contractors and American officials have grudgingly conceded that the true costs have turned out to be higher.

But even the high of 55 percent could be an underestimate, Mr. Mitchell said, because the government often did not begin tracking overhead costs for months after the companies mobilized. He added that because of the haphazard way in which the government tracked the costs, it was not possible to say how well the figures reflected overhead charges in the entire program.
The attempt to get things done seem to consist of government planners saying we need something done, getting the money from Congress, issuing a no-bid contract for the work and then shoveling the money out to the contractor. After that, there is no effective supervision, inspection or evaluation.

This is not the way to run a railroad government project. But how would the Libertarian-infested Republicans know that?
posted by Richard @ 11:43 AM   0 comments
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Why have Constitutional checks and balances not restrained Bush/Cheney?
Since Septerber 11 we have been watching Geroge W. Bush act as though he is not restricted by the rule of law or the Constitution. He acts as though nothing matters except his decisions. When the public or the media does not accept what he decides and does they attempt to question him, and he takes this querelous tone and begins to lecture as though he had thought it all through, decided, and nothing else needed to be done. The only reason people question him (he seems to think) is that they don't understant what he does. If they did they wouldn't bother him. That's why his hectoring lectures at his rare press conferences seem so strained, as though he was trying to explain the simplist ideas to people to stupid to catch on.

But what is really happening is that the U.S. Constitution with its system of checks and balances has failed. Bush has no concept of the checks and balances or what the rule of law means, and does not bother with such nicesities. This is the first time in American history such a thing has happened.

I think I know why.

Compare the current U.S. Constitutional system to the British Mother of Parliaments. The essential body in any democracy is the Parliament. The Executive must always be responsible to the Parliament. If the Executive becomes independent of the Parliament/Legislture the Executive Department will take control of the Parliament or restructure government so that the parliament becomes unnecessary. This eliminats effective democracy.

In a Presidential system, this Executive independence from the parliament has come about as a result of party control of both the parliament and the executive at the same time. Then the President retains all control of the Party. The Legislature ceases to perform effective oversight and passes any budget the OMB presents them. Control of what passes the Congress rests with the Congressional leadership, and the party members are bought off with a combination of campaign contributions and bribes so that they keep quiet. If they cause trouble, then they lose the campaign controbutions and pork for their districts or States that keep them reelected.

I am not a historian of the British Parliament, but I would bet that there were many times that the executive (the King/Queen) dominated Parliament much as the current American President is doing Congress. The only protection from that was for the Parliament majority to take control of the Executive, and place the two sets of powers into the same hands. That is the Prime Minister. This results in all power and legitimacy being placed with a single individual who, at the same time, takes all responsibility.

Our Presidential system attempts to place the sources of power into different hands in both the Presidential and Congressional branches, with Congress demanding accountability from the executive and voting for all revenue. But the party system is a way of going outside the government and having the same people actually control and direct those in the Executive and Congressional branches. It's only effective when the same party controls both branches, and when there is an effective parliamentary control by one party in each house of Congress. Parliamentary control occurs when all power to act is in the hands of the leatership and there is strong discipline over the members. This latter became possible in the House when Newt Gingrich eliminated Seniority as the only route to power as House Chairmen. The Senate followed suit shortly after the Republicans took it in 2000.

It seems to me that the U.S. Constitution and its Presidential system only works as long as effective power is diffused and spread out to a number of people with independent sources of legitimacy and incumbency in the executive and the legislative branches. The opposition party needs to have control of at least one branch of Congress to avoid a Presidential Monarchy.

Three things that previously prevented a single party from gaining the monarchical power the Republicans currently attribute to the President were (First) seniority as the sole route to committee chairmanship (eliminated by Gingrich) and (Second) the need for each Senator and Congressman to get elected on his/her own from their own state or district (eliminated by DeLay's K-Street Project and the Supreme Court’s decision that money in politics is the same as speech, so cannot be money cannot be controlled by legislation.) The third was the tradition of the independence of the institution of the Congress from the Executive Branch. This was eliminated when the Republican Party took control of all three branches.

A possible fourth element has been the geographical dispersion of the American electorate, but this has been politically eliminated by the spread of the Mass media, in the form of TV advertising and the national consolidation of the media into a few relatively easily controllable corporations.

This probably isn't all of it, but I think that we have been witnessing the failure of the U.S. Constitutional system of checks and balances. The problem here needs to be somehow fixed by a patch of some sort. It has been an amazingly good system for over two centuries, so it should not be replaced. - Just patched to prevent future takeovers of the current kind.
posted by Richard @ 10:58 PM   0 comments
And the difference between Lieberman and Nixon is -- What?
The way-back machine has found the source that is being used by Joe Lieberman to write his speeches. Go watch this.
posted by Richard @ 4:59 PM   0 comments
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The fantasy of a conservative return to the glory days of the Reagan Revolution.
With the collapse of the Bush 43 administration into well-deserved ignominy, Conservative writers are beginning to abandon the ideas that passed for conservatism under Bush 43, Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich. There seems to them to be nothing else to do but to resurrect Reagan and try to again dye his hair and paint his smile back on to make Conservatism again attractive to the voters.

The problem is, the so-called Reagan Revolution is not what conservative writers imagine that it was. Strong assertion, I know, but what backs it up? Stirling Newberry offers the facts. Here are some samples:
With George Bush's personal approval numbers at 39%, and job approval numbers wallowing in the mid 30's all the theories about American anti-intellectualism, the hava beer effect and Texas envy are out the window. Seems like Americans just like a guy who promises something for nothing and pretends to the tell the truth, that is, until the multi-trillion dollar bill for nothing comes in the mail. Bush's belief - that the right wing could aggressively use the accumulated military power to transform the nation into a reactionary extension of Texas, has failed, and with it the stars of people like Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz have fallen. The neo-cons, like Sullivan, have jumped off this bandwagon rather quickly. They never really believed in the long slow slog theory of changing the world with military power, they believed that Iraq was Panama with oil. It wasn't. It was Vietnam with oil.

And the second part of that did not make things easier. Americans like steadfast and courageous. They don't like stubborn and stupid.

However the breaking of the Bush boulder is not isolated, the end of the Gingrichite "Republican Revolution" is also at hand. Nancy Pelosi is set to become Speaker of the House, and end the entire closed system that Gingrich and Hastert have built.

In truth the revolution part ended with "Freedom to Farm" and its failure to produce wins for agriculture. After that flirtation with the free market, the Gringrichites went back to the tried and true job of congress - which is to dispense pork based on political power, and not economic power.
So of course, with the latest incarnation of the conservative revolution collapsing at their feet the conservative writers need to return to when conservatism had a winning hand to play. That was the legend of the Reagan Era. Stirling takes that myth apart piece by piece.

The essay is well worth reading.
posted by Richard @ 4:29 PM   0 comments
What is a Conservative?
The Gideon Rachman at The Financial Times reviews Andrew Sullivan's new book "The Conservative Soul" (HarperCollins).

As reviews go it suggests that the book is a rambling and somewhat disroganized work with some interesting insights, particularly to Europeans. Rachman said he had considered the power of Fundamentalist Christianity in America to be over-blown, so Sullivan's documentation of the extent of the Xtian Right takeover of the Republican Party rather surprised him. I also found the following interesting:
Sullivan sees considerable similarities between Islamic and Christian fundamentalism – in their claim to “know the truth”; in their disgust with modern western society, particularly over sexual issues; in their absolute distinction between the saved and the unsaved; in their belief in an impending apocalypse. He argues that 9/11 was particularly dangerous, because it provoked a confrontation between Islamist and Christian fundamentalism:

[Quote from Sullivan]"The absolutism of one almost inescapably triggered the absolutist tendencies of the other. 9/11 became for the president, his second ‘born-again’ moment…the born-again presidency redefined itself entirely in terms of fighting an abstract enemy, easily conflated into a single entity, readily accessible to the fundamentalist psyche: evil."
I find that a very interesting insight into both how the Bush administration operates and why it has made many of the specific errors it has made. It also argues for a much greater influence by Bush himself and less control by Cheney in overall goals.

Also it becomes more clear to me why Diplomacy has so little function in the Bush administration. If you are an absolutist who "Knows the Truth", how is it possible to take your opponents seriously and negotiate with them as equals? You're right and they're wrong. What's to negotiate?
posted by Richard @ 7:40 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Josh Marshall discusses the idea of legitimacy of rule
Josh Marshall Offers an interesting (and short) discussion of what effect a big win will have on the public perception or "conventional wisdom" of the legitimacy of Democratic rule.

The comparison to the concepts of "The Divine Right of Kings" and "The Mandate of Heaven" are particularly interesting. I'm probably slow, but I had not connected either of these philosophies of rule to the idea of the legitimacy of a government in Political Science.
posted by Richard @ 8:10 AM   0 comments
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Today’s great battle of the kitchen!
By Rick Brewer, reporter.

Our intrepid reporter has located the only witness to the heroic deed of Mac the Mouser and obtained a first hand report of what the witness observed. This is an exclusive!

The witness was initially otherwise occupied, and first became aware of the mouse – terrier interaction as she heard the scrabble of claws across the middle of the kitchen, so the chase was already in progress before she turned and observed it. The mouse had come from the vicinity of the kitchen cabinets and was for some unknown reason headed for the center of the room, and presumably beyond. Mac was already in rapid pursuit.

It is unknown if this was an accidental meeting engagement or if Mac actually flushed the mouse before chasing it. The latter seems more likely, since there was no obvious goal or hiding place in the middle of the kitchen where the mouse was headed. If the mouse had had a choice, he should have run into the cabinet, not towards the center of the kitchen. Anyway, the witness observed Mac as the heroic dog quickly caught the mouse and with an efficient snap of the jaw grabbed and shook it. The mouse did not survive the first contact, dying almost instantly according to the witness.

Mac then turned to display his unbloody catch to the witness, who immediately praised him and took custody of the corpse. The dead mouse was then provided with a respectible plastic sack as befitted an honorable deceased enemy, and was properly buried in the trash.

Efforts to contact the remaining mouse family for a comment were met with no printable comment, only low angry squeaking which appears to have been foul language aimed at the terrier and this reporter. They offered no excuse for the invasion of the house, and no remorse for the damage to the plumbing.

While victory over the mice is anticipated, reparations are considered unlikely. This is clearly total war.

The hero of the day, Mac, also had no comment over his heroic deed and merely continued his patrolling activities, but his dark brown almost steely black eyes flashed bright against his pure white fur as though he was saying "All in a days' work. There's more mice out there and I'm going after them." With that he went to patrol the utility room, an area of likely mouse infestation.

With heroes like Mac on our side, this house will soon be mouse-free!
posted by Richard @ 5:17 PM   0 comments
Update dispatch from the Mouse Hunt Front!
My traps are set under the kitchen sink, and have been useless for a day and a half. But one dumb mouse exposed himself in the kitchen and ran for it. Mac, the Westie, was on patrol, saw his opportunity and attacked!

Mac now has a dead mouse to his credit! Syniel and I are both quite proud of him, and he is doing a pretty good terrier imitation of a John Wayne "Aw, shucks. It was nothing special." His pride is obvious, however, in the wag of the tail, the joy in his eyes and the strut of his walk. He knows he did good.

The cat slept through the whole thing. I blame her mother for not teaching her to "mouse." But it IS the middle of the day, and she normally does night patrol. And the sweet brown sheltie mix, Foxie, simply has no clue why we are all fussing over Mac "the Mouser." Or the mouse, for that matter. She is a herding dog, of course. But right now the household needs mousers.

Unfortunately our Intelligence service does not have a "fix" on the size of the invading enemy mouse horde. We've hurt them, but how many more are there? We have no active spies, and none likely. I don't think there is any hope of infiltrating spies into the leadership of the mouse horde. We have no one available of appropriate size with adequate mouse language skills. So I guess we have to continue with Westie patrols in the day, cat patrols at night and traps in concealed locations that our patrols can't reach.

Thus the war continues, with no idea for how long. We will not cut and run. We are in this for the long term -- and the mice? They have ignored all opportunities to negotiate. I fear this is a war of extermination. There will be no peace in this house until the invaders are repelled or destroyed.

But as of today, Mac gets his "Mouser First Class" award! He is the house hero today!
posted by Richard @ 12:48 PM   0 comments
"Unacceptable"
This is a post published by Billmon which has to be read to be believed:
Washington D.C. (Whiskey Bar News Service) -- The White House today angrily denounced a Washington Post story pointing to a sharp increase in President Bush's use of the word "unacceptable" to describe things and events he doesn't like.

The story, which was based on an analysis of presidential speeches and transcripts over the past six years, suggested Bush's use of the word is "a signpost of Bush's rising frustration with his declining influence."

A White House spokesman said the story was "unacceptable."
'Nuff said.
posted by Richard @ 10:19 AM   0 comments
Friday, October 13, 2006
The current battle - the Mouse Hunt at my house
OK. So I realize that the mid-term elections are very near, and the Democrats now seem to have a real advantage. The fact that Foley has been grabbing 16 yeare-old Page ass and that the Republican leadership has been concealing this, even asking him to run for another term, has begun to register with the otherwise asleep voters is really going to effect this election.

But the big problem is local. A family of mice (big ones) has moved into my kitchen.

I wondered at the plumbing problems. First my dishwasher stopped pumping water. The thing goes through all the cycles but without water. It is quite useless. Then, five feet away in the utility room the clotheswasher suddenly dumped all the water it held onto the floor. With soap. OK. Both are at least seven years old. I didn't connect the problems.

But then the hoses in the kitchen sink faucets started leaking under the cabinets, and the plastic high pressure hoses had chunks missing from then. They had been chewed on.

I got mice.

Smart mice. Mouse traps that got the last ones four years ago merely lost their bait.

The West Highland White Terrier suddenly was sniffing and snorting at the kitchen cabinet. Fun to watch. Ever watched a real hunting dog at work? He's having a lot of fun, and is really focused on what he is doing, He'll snuffle and snort at the cabinets and the refrigerator (which fortunately has no plastic hoses) for hours. I opened one cabinet and he was inside in a flash, shoving aside all the plastic buckets and such and going to the rear of the cabinet. Suddenly a mouse ran out from the rear, leaped out ( and my 39 year-old kid claims performed a Matrix style flip in midair) before escaping behind the refrigerator. The kid claims it is a rat, but it is only about 3 inches long without tail.

I considered a snake. Can you hire a consultant snake? You know, a snake that shows up with a briefcase, gets his assignment, removes the mice, gets paid and leaves? Well, I haven't found one yet. Besides, my kid says if a snake moves in he moves out.

Guess I'm not ready for something that extreme - yet. I don't like snakes either. They remind me too much of lawyers.

OK. Time for traps. I have two dogs and a cat in the house, so poisons are out. The cat is not a mouser. (We gave the mouser away because he also sharpens his claws on our furniture. My daughter in tennessee claims he rules the territory around their home.) Our cat is a lap cat. Currently sleeping on top of my monitor, where she moved when I got back onto the computer. (Warm there, but she only stays there when I'm here. Periodically she will wake up, hop down onto my lap, and demand the stroking which she knows is her due. She's about a Five and a half pound grey tabby and she rules the house. No debate. But mice here get a free run. The terrier was working to flush a mouse in the utilility room, and she was watching him. But she is too old to learn to be a mouser. )

I need to get rid of mice. Review of Google points out that mice don't like cheese (who knew? I blame the dairy industry advertisements) but mice love peanut butter. I'll vouch for that. They cleaned out the peanut butter on three traps with no bodies left behind. (My tenderhearted kid keeps saying "can't we catch them and leave them near a church with instructions to convert to church mice?")

I'll also accept that if they'll stop chewing my plastic or rubber hoses. I can't get the plumbing repaired until the mice are taken care of. I HATE going to laundromats! That's a major reason I bought a house and a washer and drier! Investment be damned. I wanted someplace to keep a washer and drier and let the dogs run in the back yard.

So I tried traps to get the mice. They didn't work, so I got a mouse strip. Strong glue that smells good. Got one mouse, couldn't detach him without breaking his legs, so I killed him and put him in the trash. The other Mouse strip has been avoided even while the terrier informs us the mice are rampant.

Yes, by now the movie "Mouse Hunt" has been mentioned. Probably the second best comedy I have ever watched. Not quite as good as "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" but certainly on par with "the Pink Panther." But Mouse Hunt is not as a How to Do It movie. So I reverted to my military training.

When laying a mine field, you want the mines that blow in one area to scare the victims into other mines you have laid. The victim blows one mine, his compadres feel happy not to have been killed, but are surprised and step backwards - into another mine. Depends on the terrain.

So I placed two peanut butter baited mouse traps up against a peanut butter baited rat trap, with the rat trap against the wall and the mouse traps against the rat trap on the bait end.

It worked. One dead mouse in the rat trap. But both the rat trap and the mouse trap on the side of the dead mouse were without bait. Damned mouse ate well before being killed.

The terrier recognizes dead prey. Two quick sniffs and off to find something else. I suspect he was disappointed. But maybe not. Are Westies bred just to flush the prey, or to also kill them? He really loved it when he flushed the mouse in the cabinet, and didn't seem all that depressed when it got away. Nor did he act unhappy when the trap got one. Sniffed and moved on.

But so far that's two mice in a week. I wonder if this is an Arkansas family with many kids. Or maybe (observant) Catholic church mice where birth control is a sin. I'm still not ready to pay a plumber. I need them all gone.

My kid has bought a rat-sized live trap and baited it. No luck so far. It's in the utility room where the dogs and cat can't go if we keep the door closed. (The trap is big enough to catch the cat. But I don't think she likes peanut butter.) I've reset my traps in the cabinet under the kitchen faucets.

The war is on, my forward scout (the terrier) is roaming the kitchen, and I will win. This is NOT the movie the Mouse Hunt.

I hope.

Oh, and the other dog? She's a sheltie mix. She has no idea what the terrier is doing. But she does try to herd me and the cat. I haven't seen her try to herd the terrier. Some animals just can't be herded.


Update Oct 14, 2006
Got another mouse in the rat trap. Aaah, the power of cheese peanut butter!

Either they are very hungry or they are a family of deaf mice because this trap was right under one of those $8.99 Black and Decker mouse and insect repellers. Can't be that it doesn't work. It's Black and Decker for goodness sake!
posted by Richard @ 7:57 PM   0 comments
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
7 Senate seats and 43 House seats up for grabs per Charlie Cook.
From TPM Election Central we get this hopeful report of the current polls in this November election. There are 7 Senate seats and 43 House seats up for grabs from the Republicans. This Democrats need 6 Senate seats and 15 House seats to get control of the respective Houses.

It is possible that this election may offer America some protection from Bush and the conservatives. However, there is still always to possibility that Bush will do something utterly insane in the next two years.

If the voters in America don't have the recognition that self-preservation for Americans means voting Republicans out of office, then it really is time to leave this nation.
posted by Richard @ 4:48 PM   0 comments
How Bush created the NK bomb
Sterling Newberry provides a concise explanation of how the ignorant idiocy of the Bush administration has left the World facing a North Korea with what may today be an effective nuclear weapons, and certainly will be soon.
The long road to North Korea's atomic test is one that trails through several decades. However, the problem became particularly acute during the period where the Republican Congress of the late 1990's focused all of the country's attention on a sex scandal witch hunt. There is a fearful symmetry in a party that decided that partisan advantage permitted the use of trumped up sex charges to paralyze the country, finding, in turn, that their own sexual predators are dragging their chances at election into the swamp.

North Korea pursued a two track strategy towards achieving atomic weapons, a plutonium program, and an enriched Uranium program. It admitted to the first, and began negotiations to end the program in return for light water reactors, fuel deliveries and cash. By 1998, the Clinton administration was aware of the second track, and negotiated a framework to end the plutonium program, believing, correctly, that the uranium program was years away from success, and would be less dangerous in the long run. Simple containment would have been sufficient to end the Uranium program on similar terms. In the words of America's chief negotiator: "We can lease, but not buy, the North Korean atomic program."

When Bush took the executive powers, one of the first actions was to deep six the agreed framework, freeing the North Koreans, in their own minds, to return with full speed to their weapons work. Confident that China would not allow the regime to collapse into a failed state black hole, particularly because of the economic and political consequences, the decided that whatever the international community could do would be ineffectual. With the invasion of Iraq, North Korea moved to a stance of testing as an objective.

During this same period, North Korea began doing more than advancing its own program - it began proliferating. It traded technology with Pakistan, allowing Pakistan to weaponize its atomic program more quickly. It sold centrifuges to Iran and Libya. Libya would later make an handsome profit selling these out in return for a reentry into the international community.

By 2002 the US intelligence community was estimating that North Korea would be atomic capable. This was pushed aside in favor of forgeries accusing Saddam of acquiring Uranium in quantity, and being years closer to an atomic weapon than he was. The obsession with Iraq allowed a far more dangerous, and difficult to deal with, regime to flower into a proliferator and deterent state.
So what are we going to do about this international disaster? More from Newberry:
The United States is paralyzed by an idiot king, and a corrupt Congress. It has no military capability which frightens Pyongyang, simply because Pyongyang has both a protected research capability, and disproportional retaliation within its reach. This combination means that whatever sanctions are on tap, they will simply result in North Korea passing the pain on to China's border region, and selling more atomic technology to more willing bidders. North Korea does not even need to knowingly aid proliferation, merely sell technology which is "dual use" on terms which are easier than could be obtained from other nations.
Sterling is being much too polite. This is the result of the utter failure of the entire conservative movement. Barry Goldwater would be disgusted.

Ideology matters more to the conservatives than does effectiveness. They will permit the North Koreans to develop nuclear weapons rather than to admit that the people who can stop them may not be the most verbal conservative collaborators.

This is a total failure of the Bush/Cheney administration. The only solution to this problem is regime change – in America.
posted by Richard @ 3:03 PM   0 comments
Why is George W. Bush the worst President the U.S. has ever had?
Bush came out of the oil production industry. Not refining or distribution, both of which require a great deal of industry expertise for anyone to succeed, but production. He used other people's money and gambled that the next oil well he drilled would be successful.

Oil Production is a "Bet your company" industry. You don't need a lot of expertise - you can hire that. What you need is the willingness to bet large sums of (other people's) money to a drilling operation. Win and you are rich. Lose and you are bankrupt - and then you go on to set up a new company and try again. That is the core culture of the industry.

Bush operates by making decisions based on his intuition. He also does not go back and reevaluate his failures. He doesn't even want to hear about his failures, or he wants to blame someone else.

These are techniques which lead to the best chance of success for individuals in the oil production industry. They also consider the organization needed to accomplish the job of drilling the wells as disposable and unimportant.

A person with that professional background needs to be highly intelligent and very intellecuutally curious to make an effective transition into government. Even then it will be extremely difficult.

In government, the organization operates on routine which is based on very wide social acceptance, and is far from disposable. It is one of the sources of stability for the society that it is central to. Replacing a government organization ususally involves revolution and extreme social disruption.

With his lack of intellectual curiosity and his dependence on making decisions based on intuition (meaning based on his socialization and experience), George W. Bush is a guaranteed failure when being placed in a government top management job. He doesn't have a clue, he doesn't want to hear that he is failing, and he doesn't have the curiosity to determine what is actually going wrong with his decisions. Instead he will want to know who is to blame, because it can't be him.

It really is that simple. Bush is the worst single President America has ever had, and it was totally predictable.
posted by Richard @ 2:03 PM   0 comments
What went wrong in Iraq? Notes from Rajiv Chandrasekaran |
In my continual quest to find out how Iraq has gone so badly, I am delighted to find that Rajiv Chandrasekaran (BIO) is describing his views as described in his book:
Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone


Over at TPM Cafe he plans to discuss "...the people, the place and the policies -- that form key themes of Imperial Life in the Emerald City." over the next three days. Today he is discussing the selection of the staff for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). But first let me quote from Rajiv how it started out and where it is now.

Initially, before the fall of Saddam's government, didn't President Bush pledge that the United States would transform Iraq into a democracy? Then, of course, in the heady days after Saddam was overthrown, the Bush administration's ambitions grew larger. Iraq wasn't just going to be a democracy, but it needed to be a secular democracy. And a federal democracy. And it's economy needed an overhaul. State-owned industries would need to be privatized. Government subsides needed to end. Iraq needed capitalism. Oh, and we can't forget the army. Ambassador Bremer decided Iraq needed a new one.

Now, it seems, the White House would be content with anything but civil war. Raids by the militia-riddled police that violate Iraq's constitution? No problem, so long as you're getting the bad guys. Reconstruction? The pledge to generate 10,000 megawatts of power? To provide clean water to major cities? Forget about it. Forget even about generating enough electricity to meet the nation's demand. The country is generating the same amount of power it was under Saddam -- and that was under U.N. sanctions.
Rajiv points out that he is specifically NOT considering the question of whether we should have invaded Iraq in the first place. What he is doing is documenting what happened there after Saddam fell and we took control of the country.

[I'm still looking for a good description of what happened to the original U.S. post-war plan which was to place retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner in charge of the post-war operations. Somehow that was cancelled six weeks after the invasion (suggesting that something that was politically unacceptable was attempted by Lt. Gen. Garner), and the CPA under Jerry Bremer was suddenly introduced. This transition has yet to be adequately described, let alone explained. It isn't in this article by Rajive Chandrasekaran, either.]

From today's TPM article on the personnel selection policies of the CPA:
Instead of sending the best and brightest, in many cases we sent the loyal and the willing. The result was that the CPA was dominated -- and ultimately hobbled -- by administration ideologues.

Many of those who worked for the CPA got their jobs through James O’Beirne, the White House liaison at the Pentagon. He and his office took charge of personnel recruitment, dispatching queries for résumés to the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks, and GOP activists. To pass muster with O'Beirne's office, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

Fred Smith, who served as the deputy director of the CPA’s Washington office, told me that O’Beirne once pointed to a young man’s résumé and pronounced him “an ideal candidate.” The young man’s chief qualification was that he had worked for the Republican Party in Florida during the presidential election recount in 2000.

O’Beirne’s staff asked questions in job interviews that could have gotten an employer in the private sector hauled into court. Two CPA staffers said that they were asked if they supported Roe v. Wade and if they had voted for George W. Bush.

One former CPA employee who had an office near the White House liaison staff wrote an e-mail to a friend describing the recruitment process: “I watched résumés of immensely talented individuals who had sought out CPA to help the country thrown in the trash because their adherence to ‘the President’s vision for Iraq’ (a frequently heard phrase at CPA) was ‘uncertain.’ I saw senior civil servants from agencies like Treasury, Energy, ... and Commerce denied advisory positions in Baghdad that were instead handed to prominent RNC contributors.”

Another CPA staffer told me that when he went to the Pentagon for his predeployment interview, one of O’Beirne’s deputies launched into a ten-minute soliloquy about domestic politics that included statements opposing abortion and supporting capital punishment. The staffer didn’t agree with what was said, but he nodded. “I felt pressure to agree if I wanted to go to Baghdad,” he said.
If this same process of selecting only "ideologically pure personnel" rather than those who are skilled and experiences were used to staff the newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and to fill vacancies at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)then the hapless performance of both agencies is easily explained.

Tomorrow and the next day we will get a discussion of the place and the policies from Rajiv. In the meantime, let me suggest (strongly) that you go to the TPM Cafe article and get the details and embellishments the author offers.

By the way, the Communist Party hierarchy of the USSR promoted people in government based on their adherence to Communist ideology rather than their demonstrated expertise. I learned of this problem by reading U.S. evaluations of the effectiveness of organizational motivation techniques of the Soviet military. This was (in my opinion) a major reason for the collapse of the USSR. I believe that promotion based on ideological purity rather than technical competence was a major reason for the failure of the Soviet government to be able to control a modern industrial state. An organization (government, corporate or non-profit) gets from its employees what it rewards, and fails to get what it fails to reward.

Apparently the American anti-Communist conservatives learned a lot from their soviet enemies during the Cold War. In this case, they seem to have learned how to fail in a competitive situation between nations.
posted by Richard @ 12:12 PM   0 comments
Monday, October 09, 2006
NK "nuke" probably a dud.
Arms Control Wonk reports on the public data avaialable from the USGS on the net. It is difficult to be sure, but the test was probably less effective than their recent test of missiles. [H/T to TPM.]

Kevin Drum has more.
posted by Richard @ 2:01 PM   0 comments
Nuke test in N. Korea shows Bush blew it.
Donald Gregg, National Security Advisor to Vice President George H. W. Bush and later Ambassador to South Korea describes what is going on in North Korea and in the White House. Bush 43 and Cheney have screwed up (again.) See the Washington Post article.

[Thanks to TPM.]
posted by Richard @ 1:47 PM   0 comments
I was too kind to Mark Foley earlier
Well, my assumption that Mark Foley had restricted his predatorial contacts with Pages to emails was wrong. He used the internet to locate and seduce his victims. Here is an account by one of them of his relationship to the Republican Congressman, a relationship that ended in sex with Mark Foley.

Mark Foley is a sick sexual predator who has spent his six terms in Congress practicing his predation techniques on Congressional pages. This is much like the school teacher who had a baby with her 13 year-old student. The more political fact, though, is that the Republican leadership of the House has pretty clearly had strong indications of the extent of his behavior since at least 2000 and done nothing about it.

Dennis Hastert has been the Speaker of the House and ultimate leader of the Republicans in the House for all this time, and he either knew about it and did nothing (the most likely case) or he should have known about it and failed to run an institution in which such threats were routinely indentified, reported, and dealt with.

This was first and foremost a failure of Mark Foley. But protecting him and concealing his behavior from scrutiney and corrective action is a clear failure of both the Republican Party in Congress (the Republicans who knew of this carefully concealed it from Democrats in Congress, a fact which makes the Republicans even more guilty and knowledgeable of their own guilt) and it is an absolute failure of the Speaker, Dennis Hastert and the leadership of the House Republican Party.

Chalk up another total failure in governance to the Republican Party, this time in their own self-selected arena as Masters of Moral Proptiety and well as failure in leadership.

The Foley matter has really hurt the House Republicans. The LA Times points out that they have determined what their strategy for the last 30 days before the November election has to be:
...in recent days, Republicans have tried to rally around Hastert as well as coalesce around a double-barreled message of demanding GOP accountability and blaming Democrats.
That seems to me to be a self-defeating message. How can they credibly demand GOP accountability and simultaneously try to blame the Democrats who are not in the positions of power in the House?

This message is itself another admimission of defeat by the House Republican party and House Leadership.

The fact is that the Republican Party has failed the Pages in the Page program, it has failed the voters, and it has failed America overall. So they attempt to demand an accountability of their own leaders that they only talk about when badly threatened politically and simultaneously try to blame the Democrats for their own failures, thereby nullifying any talk of holding leaders accountable.

Amazing, isn't it? Sick, but still amazing.
posted by Richard @ 5:02 AM   0 comments
Friday, October 06, 2006
Observing the Republican house party
I have been reading through the reports of the disarray of the House Republican leadership and the resulting fall-outs since the weekend. Foley-Gate keeps growing and pulling in more players. I suddenly became aware that I am sitting here grinning.

This is such a pleasure to watch.

Now I do feel a twinge of regret for Mark Foley who has some real problems that if he were straight or a Democrat would probably have been taken care of by a friend getting him into the counseling he needs. Apparently, no Pages were hurt. I mean, for a young hetrosexual male it is a real shock to be hit on by another male, but that's life. It happens and you deal with it, just as girls do [well - except that it is harder for guys to learn to deal with since guys don't talk to each other.]

But all the fallout in the Republican Party!! It is like they are the reincarnation of the Keystone Kops, all brought together into a big room wearing conservative suits and funny hats. Everyone comes in, looks around with apprehension, then nervously stakes out a chunk of wall to stand against so no one can get behind them. Then they all watch each other suspiciously, while hoping that the media does not call on them to speak. They'll be there for the entertainment - they just don't know how bad the entertainment might be.

If someone anonymously yells "Who did it?" or "Who knew?" they each glance wildly around and point to someone else, hoping to deflect attention from themself, then glance uneasily at the people close to them to see if someone is pointing at them. Some are pointing blatantly. Some, instead, try to catch your eyes and then surreptiously glance at Hastert, hoping no one will notice what they are doing or who they gave up.

No one goes near the window or the balcony, doubtless fearing defenestration. Everyone is afraid to go near the door because it they leave, they will be the person blamed, so they can't leave the party. They've made it to the party where everyone who is anyone in the House Republican Party is, but they really, really don't want to stay for the entertainment. Someone will pay dearly for the entertainment.

It's a paranoid's circus, conducted in the Hell they built themselves. Somewhere Hieronymous Bosch is unlimbering his paints and brushes as he gets new inspiration for his paintings of horrors.

I'm sitting here watching it through a darkened window, grinning, and loving every minute of it. It's about time.
posted by Richard @ 12:20 AM   0 comments
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Foley's resignation does not reflect badly on gays
The LA Times has an interesting story today on the Mark Foley scandal. The story focuses on Foley's long-time friend and ten year chief-of-staff, Kirk Fordham.

Kirk fordham shared a mutual interest with his friend and employer, Foley. Both find that they are attracted to men as sex objects - though not each other. This was not a deep, dark secret. Fordham had managed Foley's original campaign for Congress in 1994, and Foley won even though his opponent brought up his sexual orientation. Apparently his voters were able to deal with his sexual orientation.

However, when Foley learned that the Senate seat would become open in 2004 and he tried to campaign for it, the White House rejected him and instead recruited Mel Martinez who won the Senate seat. While the voters of Florida might have accepted Foley, the Republican Party leadership would not.

I have read and heard in the news that a number of Republicans speak of "the Problem" as being Mark Foley's homosexuality. One Republican I heard yesterday stated that "Homosexuals have an excessive focus on sexuality." and when asked by the reporter how he knew this, he waffled and said that it was well-known by many experts, but named none. Since it is also well known that heterosexual males have an excessive interest in sex, merely with a different gender of sex object, I wonder what kind of delusion the Republican I was listening to lives under. In short, the Republicans are bigots.

Remember that Kirk Fordham is also homosexual. Yet he is the person who informed Dennis Hastert in 2003 that Mark Foley was sending inappropriate messages to pages. This is an indicator that homosexuality is not the problem. Some form of stress reaction was causing him to treat teenage boys inappropriately. This was the problem, but it is no different from a heterosexual male reacting to similar stress problems by treating teenage girls -'jailbait' - inappropriately.

The problem faced by the Republican leadership is first that when informed of the problem with Mark Foley, they were so blinded by their anti-homosexual bigotry that they did not know how to deal with him. Since he is one of the most prolific fund-raisers in the Republican Party they did not want to lose him. So they did nothing about Mark Foley's problem. They didn't know what to do, so that sat and did nothing. (Not a great example of leadership, is it?)

No that the fecal matter has descended into the whirling blades of the fan and hence spattered all over the mainstream media, the Republican leadership is heading for the hills. Although several people, Fordham included, have reported informing Hastert's staff about the problem, Hastert himself says he never heard about it.

Either Dennis Hastert is lying or he is unable to lead and manage his own staff. The latter is implausible for one who has been the Speaker of the House for nearly eight years, so he is lying.

But lying hasn't worked, so now he has dropped back to a fall-back position - Blame the Democrats and Clinton's aides.
When asked about a groundswell of discontent among the GOP's conservative base over his handling of the issue, Hastert said in the phone interview: "I think the base has to realize after a while, who knew about it? Who knew what, when? When the base finds out who's feeding this monster, they're not going to be happy. The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by [liberal activist] George Soros."

He went on to suggest that operatives aligned with former President Bill Clinton knew about the allegations and were perhaps behind the disclosures in the closing weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm elections, but he offered no hard proof.

"All I know is what I hear and what I see," the speaker said. "I saw Bill Clinton's adviser, Richard Morris, was saying these guys knew about this all along. If somebody had this info, when they had it, we could have dealt with it then."
Once again, he refuses to take responsibility for his own actions - or in this has, his own non-actions.

Which really goes to prove that the basis of the discont with his leadership is quite accurate. Hastert refuses to take responsibility for his own actions. He didn't know how to deal with Foley, so he did nothing. Now he lies or blames Democrats for his own failure.

The problem the Republican leadership faced was with the misbehavior of a homosexual collegue who was too valuable to lose. The problem was the kind of stress thing anyone could have after years of pressure and frustration, but because Republicans demonize homosexuals they could not see him as an individual who needed help. Now they don't know who to blame so Hastert blames Democrats, Clinton aides, Dick Morris, and George Soros. He would do as well to blame were-wolves or bad spirits. The problem is still Republican anti-hosexual bigotry. The Republicans whould have had similar problems if Mark Foley were Black. They would not be able to get past their bigotry to see him as a person.

I feel sorry for Mark Foley. As a homosexual male trying to make a political career in the anti-homosexual Republican Party he chose a difficult life, and it may have caught up to him.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a Democrat and if this causes his Congressional seat to go over to the Democrats and causes the kinds of bad publicity for Republicans in general, especially right before the election, I enjoy the heck out of that. It exposes the Republicnas for the generally rotten people their leadership consists of.

But my sympathies still go out to Mark Foley and his family. I really hope that now they can get the assistance they all need, and that Mark gets his life back together.

I get the impression that Kirk Fordham pretty much has his shit together. At least based on this LA Times story, he seems to have done things right. It looks like he will be looking for a new career now, but I'm willing to bet he finds his way reasonably well. Mark Foley is lucky to have a friend like him. [Damned shame he's a Republican, but there are good Republicans.]
posted by Richard @ 10:10 AM   0 comments
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Did the Bush admin try to stop bin Laden before 9/11?
What really happened to allow 9/11 to occur? Why did the Bush administration ignore the warnings of terrorism and the counterterorism plan presented by Sandy Berger and Richard Clarke? Why has Condi Rice conveniently "not remembered" the briefing in January 2001 with Sandy Berger and Richar Clarke on the plan to aggressively go after al Qaeda? Why does she "not remember" the July 10, 2001 briefing by Tenet (CIA Direstor) and Cofer Black about the near certainty (10 on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 most likely) of an impending attack on the U.S. by al Qaeda?

Time Magazine ( Aug. 04, 2002) described the change-over process from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.
Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger,...set up a series of 10 briefings by his team for his successor, Condoleezza Rice, and her deputy, Stephen Hadley. [Snip]

Berger attended only one of the briefings-the
[January 2001] session that dealt with the threat posed to the U.S. by international terrorism, and especially by al-Qaeda. "I'm coming to this briefing," he says he told Rice, "to underscore how important I think this subject is." Later, alone in his office with Rice, Berger says he told her, "I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject." The terrorism briefing was delivered by Richard Clarke...[Snip]

As chair of the interagency Counter-Terrorism Security Group (CSG), Clarke was known as a bit of an obsessive-just the sort of person you want in a job of that kind. Since the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000-an attack that left 17 Americans dead-he had been working on The result was a strategy paper that he had presented to Berger and the other national security "principals" on Dec. 20. But Berger and the principals decided to shelve the plan and let the next Administration take it up. With less than a month left in office, they did not think it appropriate to launch a major initiative against Osama bin Laden. "We would be handing (the Bush Administration) a war when they took office on Jan. 20," says a former senior Clinton aide.[Snip]

Clarke, using a Powerpoint presentation, outlined his thinking to Rice. A senior Bush Administration official denies being handed a formal plan to take the offensive against al-Qaeda, and says Clarke's materials merely dealt with whether the new Administration should take "a more active approach" to the terrorist group. (Rice declined to comment, but through a spokeswoman said she recalled no briefing at which Berger was present.) Other senior officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations, however, say that Clarke had a set of proposals to "roll back" al-Qaeda. In fact, the heading on Slide 14 of the Powerpoint presentation reads, "Response to al Qaeda: Roll back." Clarke's proposals called for the "breakup" of al-Qaeda cells and the arrest of their personnel. The financial support for its terrorist activities would be systematically attacked, its assets frozen, its funding from fake charities stopped. Nations where al-Qaeda was causing trouble-Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Yemen-would be given aid to fight the terrorists. Most important, Clarke wanted to see a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" where al-Qaeda had its terrorist training camps and bin Laden was being protected by the radical Islamic Taliban regime. ... Clarke supported a substantial increase in American support for the Northern Alliance, the last remaining resistance to the Taliban. That way, terrorists graduating from the training camps would have been forced to stay in Afghanistan, fighting (and dying) for the Taliban on the front lines. At the same time, the U.S. military would start planning for air strikes on the camps and for the introduction of special-operations forces into Afghanistan. The plan was estimated to cost "several hundreds of millions of dollars." In the words of a senior Bush Administration official, the proposals amounted to "everything we've done since 9/11." [Snip]

By last summer
[Summer 2001], many of those in the know-the spooks, the buttoned-down bureaucrats, the law-enforcement professionals in a dozen countries-were almost frantic with worry that a major terrorist attack against American interests was imminent. It wasn't averted because 2001 saw a systematic collapse in the ability of Washington's national-security apparatus to handle the terrorist threat. [Snip]

An aggressive campaign to degrade the terrorist network worldwide-to shut down the conveyor belt of recruits coming out of the Afghan camps, to attack the financial and logistical support on which the hijackers depended-just might have rendered it incapable of carrying out the Sept. 11 attacks. Perhaps some of those who had to approve the operation might have been killed, or the money trail to Florida disrupted. We will never know,
[if such aggressive action could have prevented 9/11] because we never tried. This is the secret history of that failure. [Snip]

As the new Administration took office, Rice kept Clarke in his job as counterterrorism czar. In early February, he repeated to Vice President Dick Cheney the briefing he had given to Rice and Hadley. There are differing opinions on how seriously the Bush team took Clarke's wwarnings. Some members of the outgoing Administration got the sense that the Bush team thought the Clintonites had become obsessed with terrorism. "It was clear," says one, "that this was not the same priority to them that it was to us."

So what we have is the Clinton administration who were responding to the attack on the Cole with a high level of urgency, but held off actually implementing the much more aggressive actions against al Qaeda because of the pending transition to the Bush 43 administration.

Interestingly, Condi Rice has stated that she does not recall any briefing on terrorism at which Sandy Berger was present. She also did not remember The George Tenet - Cofer Black briefing in July 2001.

Time suggests that a lot of the problem was inevitable disorganization caused by the transition between administrations. From what I have heard and read from the news, part of the problem was that the incoming Bush people believed their own propaganda ragarding the lack of competence of the Clinton people, so they have said they decided to prepare a "more comprehensive plan" than the one given them from the Clinton admin. But they obviously had no sense that terrorism was to be a priority. They fiddle-farted around and had one meeting (of Deputies) in April that concluded that the problem was important enough to kick up to the Priniciples. The Principles meeting was finally held September 4, 2001 (after everyone got back from their month-long August vacations.)

After 9/11 all of Clarke's plan was enacted promptly. That alone tells you they did nothing for nine months. They had strong warnings from Sandy Berger and they had Richard Clarke one their staff. True, Clarke is known to be impatient and not particularly tactful. Combine that with the Bush disdain for anything related to Clinton and their equally great disdain for expertise and for government in general, and their inaction becomes somewhat explainable.

But why did they not put the CIA and FBI on higher alert and get them coordinating better when Tenet and Black briefed Rice, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld in July 2001? Why did they do so little after that that Condi claims she does not remember the briefing and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld have never acknowleged getting it?

And why did Ben Venisti, and Zelikow
- the guy who wrote the 9/11 report - fail to include any word of the July 10 meeting with Condi Rice in the 9/11 Report after Tenet briefed them on having given it?

Finally, why has Sen. Pat Brown stonewalled presenting the Senate Intelligence report on the use of Intelligence prior to 9/ll which was orignially promised for before the November 2004 Presidential election?


Did the Republican Party screw up preparations for the pending al Qaeda attack in 2001 so badly that they have to conceal the level of their incompetence or duplicity until they can do something really spectatular like attacking Iraq and remaking the Middle East, or now that that has been screwed up, attacking Iraq and getting us involved in an even more horrific war?
posted by Richard @ 10:51 PM   0 comments
Rumsfeld and Ashcroft got the same CIA brief as Condi in July 2001
The McClatchy Washington Bureau (used to be Knight-Ridder) have verified that not only did Condi Rice get the CIA briefing that said al Qaeda was going to soon attack the U.S. in July 2001, so did DoD Chief Rumsfeld and DoJ Chief Ashcroft.
One official who helped to prepare the briefing, which included a PowerPoint presentation, described it as a "10 on a scale of 1 to 10" that "connected the dots" in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al-Qaida, which had already killed Americans in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and East Africa, was poised to strike again.

Former CIA Director George Tenet gave the independent Sept. 11, 2001, commission the same briefing on Jan. 28, 2004, but the commission made no mention of the warning in its 428-page final report. According to three former senior intelligence officials, Tenet testified to commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste and to Philip Zelikow, the panel's executive director and the principal author of its report, who's now Rice's top adviser.
So it wasn't just Condi Rice who ignored Tenet and Cofer Blac that Summer. It was ALL the top Cabinet Officers.

This can only have happened because Bush and/or Cheney were told and said to ignore the warnings. When Rice, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld all had the same information, they wouldn't have dared ignore it without direct instructions from Bush to do so. That's about the same time Ashcroft stopped flying on commercian airliners, too. Highly suggestive, even when we DIDN'T know he had gotten the CIA briefing telling him that on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 highest) the likelihood of al Qaeda attacing the U.S. homeland soon was a ten.

Why wouldn't they have ignored the warning? Because if they had done it on their own and the attack happened, they could have been thrown under the train as a scapegoat. Rice and Rumsfeld are each too smart to have not been aware of that.

That means it was policy of the U.S. government to ignore the CIA warnings of imminent action by al Qaeda. Any other conclusion is ludicrous.
posted by Richard @ 4:32 PM   0 comments
The Repubs are committing suicide; the Dems are dithering. Why?
I agree with the principles of the Democratic Party more than I do those of the Republicans, and I utterly detest the procedures used by Republicans to elect some of the craziest idiots we have in public life outside Hollywood. Now, going into the Fall elections the Republicans have let all their crazies out of the asylums at the same time, and in any rational system we would expect to see Democratic majorities take over both the Senate and the House this coming January.

As much as we'd like, even desperately need, that to happen, it isn't anything like assured. The Republican machine is still an extremely well-funded, well-organized and effective political machine. None of the adjectives can be applied to the Democratic Party.

Why? What is wrong with this nation?

Billmon, who obviously could not live up to his promise not to blog again before the elections, presents a comparison to the current political situation in America to that which existed in America between 1832 and the Civil War. During this time the Democrats took over political control of the nation and the Whig party fractured into disorganized splinters, out of which grew the new Republican Party.

Using that period as a standard, Billmon then points out the similarities and the differences today and why we cannot anticipate any favorable change in the political system.

Billmon is really one of the best analysts writing on the internet today. Here I think he exceeds himself. Go read it.
posted by Richard @ 11:25 AM   0 comments
From Congress: It is more important to pay Mastercard than to support God's work.
Congress once again pays off the Banks and credit card companies for their political support. They passed a debt-collection industry approved Bill to 'correct' situations in which debt collectors have lied and overcharged debtors they were collecting from.

See anything self-defeating in what Congress did compared to the problem they were supposedly correcting?

Why not? To the Republicans the general population is nothing more than a set of fields to be machine-farmed for profits. Would't want the crops to escape being harvested, would we?
posted by Richard @ 8:31 AM   0 comments
Why should Hastert go?
Josh Marshall provides a clear summary of why Hastert should not remain any longer as Speaker of the House.
Pretty much everybody in the leadership knew something about it. And most of them remembered telling Hastert. But he'd never heard about it. He was out of the loop. John Boehner just made up remembering telling him. Rodney Alexander contacting Hastert's office. He never heard. Tom Reynolds was lying too, until it was clear Reynolds wouldn't eat his words like Boehner.

The scandal -- to the extent we are talking not about Foley as an individual but the leadership's role in enabling him -- is about accountability. And at the gut check moment, Hastert lied to duck responsibility.

Everyone could see it. And from that moment on he couldn't, and I suspect he can't, shake that defining impression.

On Friday night Hastert could have said, 'I heard about this. I thought we'd taken care of it. Clearly there was much more there than we realized. Now we're going to get to the bottom of it.' If he had, I don't think we'd be hearing those calls for resignation, at least not yet.

Yet all of us can only be who we are. He could have said that. But he didn't. I suspect because he's the same guy who let Foley run unchecked for years, presided over a regime that enabled him, like so much else. It was in character.
-- Josh Marshall
There's not too much else to say, is there?

Denny Hastert is the Speaker of the House. He is responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen in the House. He was told by numerous members of the House Leadership about the problems with Mark Foley, but when he was asked about it, he lied and said he had not been told.

It was time to take responsibility for his own actions as leader, and he flat refused to stand accounable. Instead, he lied. He refused to stand accountable for his own actions, instead he lied to coverup his failure to act and to try to deflect blame to others.

Hastert should be toast before the end of the week. If he isn't, then the entire Republican Party in the House stands as failing to be accountable to America.
posted by Richard @ 6:42 AM   0 comments
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