Saturday, October 28, 2006

No blogging for a while

So I'm off to Mexico for a week, so this blog will be on temporary hiatus. I'll be in the state of Oaxaca -- President Fox thinks it's so neat, he's sending federal troops to quell rioting in the city of Oaxaca! Read more here. Actually, I will be in the hopefully more tranquil town of Puerto Escondido with my girlfriend, sipping margaritas and doing next to nothing.

So while I'm gone, here are some things to keep yourself occupied:

1. Read Michael Lewis's fantastic profile of Coach Bill "Big Tuna" Parcells. Did you know that Parcells gets so worked up over games, he chokes on his own bile? This and other fun facts available for your perusal.

2. Do you consider yourself a fan of the Seattle Seahawks? You do? Then you should be reading Michael Sando's blog already. Sando covers the Hawks for the Tacoma News Tribune, and his blog is the best there is in pro football.

3. Would you like to see how my fantasy football team is doing? You would? Then check out the standings for my league here. My team name is DIJA VIII, and why yes, that is me in first place.

4. Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat, insulated dipshit.

5. If you live in San Francisco, or California, and need to read up on the six billion state and local initiatives we're supposed to vote on, check this nonpartisan site out.

6. Sen. Barack Obama -- the next President? Look, he's a swell speaker and all, but let's not get too excited. Did you know Obama's never taken a clear stand on gay marriage? And that he's voted against the expansion of free trade? He's Ben Riley's personal nightmare: socially conservative, fiscally protectionist. ("Yeah, but he scares the shit out of the GOP, and would make them defend the south in the 2008 elections." I know, I know.)

7. This guy is a total tool. "Success is a mental transformation." -- Aleksey Vayner

Ok, that should keep y'all busy.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A dunk in the water

Prepare yourself. Take a deep breath. I'm about to defend Dick "Darkside" Cheney.

Perhaps you've hear the latest flap over whether Cheney admitted to supporting "waterboarding," the controversial technique of strapping suspected terrorists to a board, lowering -- dunking? -- them into water, then pulling them out just before really bad things happen. Here's the NY Times summary:

Cheney triggered the flap in an interview Tuesday by radio broadcaster Scott Hennen of WDAY in Fargo, N.D. Hennen said callers had told him, ''Please, let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves lives.''

''Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?'' Hennen asked.

''Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture,'' Cheney said. ''We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in.''

Human rights groups, Democrats, and various others are apoplectic over these remarks. I'm not. First, this was a radio interview, a friendly radio interview, and there's a world of difference between saying "yeah, a dunk in the water is ok if we know it would save lives" -- I actually agree with Cheney on this, assuming we know the "dunk" will actually work -- and saying "the U.S. condones the use of waterboarding." Second, and this is really provocative, is waterboarding really so bad? Assume coercively obtained testimony is reliable (a big assumption). I've never understood why waterboarding should be considered "torture," insofar as it is more psychological ("you are going to drown, so fess up!") rather than abusive ("here I am ripping out your figernails -- confess to make it stop").

Sex, gays and prostitution

Over on, Professor Eugene Volokh is asking how someone reconciles (a) believing in full marriage rights for gays and lesbians can also (b) support prohibitions on prostitution.

Here's my comment:

My reason is that sex should be fun, but although gays and lesbians enjoy sex as much as -- and usually more than -- straight folk, no prostitutes I know enjoy having transactional sex with their johns. Indeed, becoming a prostitute radically transforms, and often destroys, a prostitute's ability to enjoy sex with anyone ever again. As a result, their initial "choice" to engage in prostitution erodes the sexual freedom that I think is somewhat critical to enjoying a healthy and free life. In other words, I'm less concerned about sexual autonomy rights, and more concerned about the normative outcomes of sexual public policy. Fostering gay relationships enhances sexual autonomy. But so does banning prostitution.

In response to this comment, someone named "Toby" asked:

Many kitchen workers find their relationship to food to be radically changed by the expereince (and many don't). SHould we generalize?

Toby, you ignorant slut. Do you think "kitchen workers" have the same relationship with food that prostitutes do with sex, i.e., they feel an intense self-loathing and desperation every time they eat lunch?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

From Rumsfeld's press conference today, regarding the timelines we apparently aren't giving the Iraqi government (contrary to Pres. Bush's assertions):

Q Sir, what I don't understand about the benchmark plan, if we can call it that, is what happens if and when the Iraqi government fails to meet the timelines, projections, whatever you want to call them, for some of the major benchmarks? I mean, we've been told that they're not given ultimatums. We've been told -- but we've also been told by the president in recent days that U.S. patience is not unlimited. So there's -- but I don't understand; there must be consequences or responses built into this plan. Can you address that at all?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's a political season, and everyone's trying to make a little mischief out of this and make -- turn it into a political football and see if we can't get it on the front page of every newspaper and find a little daylight between what the Iraqis say or someone in the United States says or somebody else in the United States says.

[Length windbag portion omitted]

Now, you're looking for some sort of a guillotine to come flowing down if some date isn't met. That is not what this is about. This is complicated stuff. It's difficult. We're looking out into the future. No one can predict the future with absolute certainty.

[More windbagginess]

And so this is something they're going to work through. And I wouldn't waste a lot of newsprint trying to find daylight between everybody on this, or try to find things that are wrong with it. I think -- the idea of saying, "We're here, we want to get there, here are some steps to get there. Let's go ahead and tell the world that we think those are the steps we want to get there, we've kind of agreed on them," and then see if we can't do it. And then, of course, you can point with alarm and say, "Oh my goodness, you didn't make it." And you can have a front-page article and everyone will have a good time. And we'll say, "That's right, you didn't make it." And then the ones that we make earlier than we thought, we'll never see it on the front page.

We need to pause at this point to remember what Sec. Rumsfeld's one redeeming quality is/was supposed to be, and that is, his ability as an administrator. Yet here we have someone asking Secretary Rumsfeld about having benchmarks for progress in Iraq, and Rumsfeld acts as if these are "political footballs" that lead to front-page news articles that everyone will have a good time over. Whatever that means.

Here's the deal, Rumsfeld: if you set up benchmarks for progress in Iraq, and then fail to meet those benchmarks, everyone should point with alarm and go, "Oh my goodness, why is the Secretary of Defense such a fuck up, and why does he still have a job?" Understandably, you might find this a bit inconvenient, due to your complete inability to acknowledge the dire situation we've gotten ourselves trapped in, but this is hardly a political football. This is war. And this is America losing the war, due to idiots like you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The best news the GOP's heard all week

The New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered the state legislature to enact a plan providing full civil union benefits to gay and lesbian couples, though none dare call it marriage. From today's opinion:

Although we cannot find that a fundamental right to same-sex marriage exists in this State, the unequal dispensation of rights and benefits to committed same-sex partners can no longer be tolerated under our State Constitution. With this State’s legislative and judicial commitment to eradicating sexual orientation discrimination as our backdrop, we now hold that denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1. To comply with this constitutional mandate, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples or create a parallel statutory structure, which will provide for, on equal terms, the rights and benefits enjoyed and burdens and obligations borne by married couples. We will not presume that a separate statutory scheme, which uses a title other than marriage, contravenes equal protection principles, so long as the rights and benefits of civil marriage are made equally available to same-sex couples. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to samesex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.

Do you hear that sound? It's Karl Rove, tap-dancing his way down to James Dobson's "Focus on the Family" here in the final weeks before the election. While I am 95% happy with this decision -- they should just call it marriage already -- it would have been nice for the NJ Supreme Court to wait three friggin' weeks to announce its decision. This will motivate the base.

Democratic counter? Every time Republicans mention the ruling, drop in a Foley reference, then proceed immediately to talk about Iraq, and how Iraq is 100 times more important an issue.

Madonna and the orphan

Although I've been trying as hard as I can to ignore the "Madonna adopts a little black African baby" story, I couldn't stop myself from reading about her recent interview with Oprah wherein she defends her bizarre attempt to seem Angelina Jolie-like without any of the sincerity. Here's the Madonna refuting claims that the father of the stolen black baby didn't realize he was losing his son for life:

Madonna: He looked into my eyes and said to me that he was very grateful that I was going to give his son a life, and that had he kept his son with him in the village he would have buried him.

What the hell? Is this standard Malawi practice if you don't get adopted by a washed out pop singer? "Son, if the Madonna does not adopt you, subjecting you to the life of an adopted celebrity son who does too many drugs and parties with Paris Hilton's daughter, I plan to bury you alive."

But there's more:

The boy's father is a "a simple man who comes from a village," [Madonna said]. He has been terrorized by the press which has spun out a "completely false" story, the entertainer said.

He comes from a village? No fucking way. No wonder it was so easy to steal his son. I'm sure the poor villager was completely unswayed by having the Malawian government and the world's biggest washed-up pop star and her 457-person entourage arrive and suddenly snatch away his son. But the press? Terrorizing.

Please, now, stupid little shit story, go away.

We lose Iraq? Bush's apocalyptic vision

President Bush, earlier today:

If we do not defeat the terrorists or extremists in Iraq, they will gain access to vast oil reserves and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments across the broader Middle East.

They will launch new attacks on America from this new safe haven. They will pursue their goal of a radical Islamic empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia.

First, what "moderate" governments is Bush referring to? Turkey? Second, gotta love the shout out to a possible Moors-like invasion of Spain to create a new caliphate. Third, you have to wonder if this nightmare scenario was considered by the Bush Administration before invading Iraq. Given the possibility that Iraq wouldn't embrace Western democracy whole cloth, did we not anticipate the possibility of a terrorist stronghold sitting on top of one the world's largest oil reserves?

Dog eat dog now bird eat bird

This pelican apparently swallowed a pigeon in London. No one knows why -- pelicans eat fish, not other birds.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Iraqi Innocents

Once again, I find myself pondering a point made by Gregg Easterbrook in 'Tuesday Morning Quarterback' about the war in Iraq. Easterbrook expresses confusion and dismay about the lack of concern for the loss of innocent life in Iraq. Using Pres. Bush's own estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths, Easterbrook writes:

Had some other country or group done something that caused 30,000 deaths here, we would claim an unlimited right of self-defense and retaliation. Yet the death the United States has brought to the innocent of Iraq isn't even being discussed here. Some of the Iraqis who have died because they have been hit by our bombs, or in the sectarian violence our destruction of the Iraqi government set loose, would have died by now regardless; perhaps some of them would have been killed by Saddam Hussein, had he remained in power. But by invading Iraq we made ourselves responsible for what happened next, and what has happened next is killing of the innocent. When 3,000 were villainously slain here, we called it a crime against humanity. Since then we have caused or played a role in the deaths of perhaps 10 times as many in Iraq, and this is spoken of here as if it were some mere unfortunate side effect of policy. History may judge America harshly for acting as though Iraqi lives have no value.

While I agree that the deaths of civilian Iraqis is both horrible and underanalyzed, the U.S. is not entirely to blame. True, the invasion and destablization of Iraq has created fertile ground for sectarian violence, and our complete and utter failure to plan for the postwar occupation has increased the violence further still. But at the end of the day, American soldiers are not killing innocent Iraqis -- they are trying to protect them. Indeed, American soldiers are continuing to sacrifice their own lives in the pursuit of security for the Iraqi people. No, Iraqis are killing Iraqis, and only Iraqis can make it stop. Whether they will choose to do is the pressing humanitarian question of our time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bush: "What, me stay the course?"

White House senior advisor Dan Bartlett, today, when asked about our whether our strategy for Iraq is to "stay the course":

HANNAH STORM (co-host): So, Mr. Bartlett, staying the course is no longer the operative strategy?

BARTLETT: Well, Hannah, it's never been a "stay the course" strategy.

Previous mentions that we intend to stay the course by the President and or press secretary Tony Snow (as reported by Think Progress):

BUSH: We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. [8/4/05]

SNOW: The second thing you do is you stay the course. [7/10/06]

SNOW: But on the other hand, you also cannot be a President in a wartime and not realize that you've got to stay the course. [8/17/06]

BUSH: We will stay the course. [8/30/06]

BUSH: We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the temptation is to try to get the President or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We're just going to stay the course. [12/15/03]

BUSH: And my message today to those in Iraq is: We'll stay the course. [4/13/04]

SNOW: People are going to want more of it, and that's why the President is determined to stay the course. April. [8/16/06]

BUSH: And that's why we're going to stay the course in Iraq. And that's why when we say
something in Iraq, we're going to do it. [4/16/04]

BUSH: And so we've got tough action in Iraq. But we will stay the course. [4/5/04]

Oh, I know you can reconcile these two statements through nuanced explanation. But for the life of me, I can't understand what Bartlett was thinking, denying the very phrase we've all heard Bush repeat over and over again in the last two years. It's just bad politics, plain and simple, and suggestive of the disorder that's enveloped the GOP recently. They just can't stay the course.

Bush leaning toward Kurdistan?

Is the Bush Administration beginning to contemplate supporting an independed Kurdistan? According to Harper's, there are reasons to think yes:

There are signs—slightly cryptic, but still worth noting—that the Bush Administration may be leaning towards partitioning Iraq. The main exhibit is an October 6 AP photograph of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani meeting in Irbil, the provincial seat. Rice and Barzani stood at a podium, flanked by a red, white, and green Kurdish tricolor flag. Neither the Iraqi flag, nor any other indication that the Secretary of State was in Iraq, was in view.

I hate diplomatic tea reading, and unlike the Harper's reporter, I think it's entirely possible Rice was oblivious to the flags being flown during her visit. Still, perhaps we are starting to realize we're going to need to pick the "least bad" option in Iraq. And I think that option is Kurdistan.

Enron CEO gets 24 years in prison

Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison today. By way of comparison, the man actually responsible for Enron's downfall, former CFO Andy Fastow, was given six years, largely because he cooperated with prosecutors who wanted to bag Lay and Skilling because of their titles.

To his credit, such as it is, Skilling still refuses to admit any wrongdoing, and he stands a decent shot on appeal. Assuming he doesn't kill himself before that happens.

Geeks, fantasy sports, and Congress

Well, it was bound to happen. Some geeks have created a "Fantasy Congress" online league. You pick teams of 5 Senators and 12 Representatives, and get points based on how many bills they sponsor and pass.

Read more here:

If this catches on, we will see a revolution in conventional politics. Seriously. My eight-year obsession with fantasy football has made me roughly 7,000 times more interested in football -- and more intelligent about football too. It's not hard to imagine the same effect with fantasy Congress, as players become obsessed with the inner workings of our nation's legislature. C-SPAN will become the new ESPN. "Congressional Fantasy Magazines" -- not to be confused with Mark Foley's private porn stash -- will sprout up before the start of each new congressional session, handicapping the "hot rookies" who've just been elected.

(And you bet I'm signing up for a team.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why not Kurdistan?

What should we do about Iraq? Though many are asking the question, few have answers. Today, our man in Baghdad, General William Caldwell IV, flatly announced that our current attempts to secure that city are, simply put, not working. The death count is skyrocketing for civilians, and U.S. soldiers are dying at numbers that are approaching -- and may even exceed -- the fatalities suffered during combat operations. Clearly, something needs to be done, but what? Pulling out rapidly would be disasterous for everyone, but in particular the U.S.; we aren't ready to stomach another Vietnam-like failure. Committing more troops might help -- emphasis on the might -- but we aren't ready to stomach escalation, either. What to do?

Let me propose one possibility: Kurdistan. The Kurds have been our greatest allies in this fight. They also happen to be the largest ethnic group in the world without their own country. As an added bonus, they happen to live in (a) the only relatively safe region in Iraq and (b) a region that has lots of oil. They also embraced democracy, and they happen to sit right on the border with Iran.

At this point, the U.S. needs to think about saving face. If the U.S. were to suddenly present a resolution to the U.N., calling for the creation of a Kurdish state, we could salvage some modicum of our huminatarian mission, and one day hopefully we could point to the successful creation of a democratic state in the Middle East. To be sure, Turkey will go bananas, but so what? We nail them with allegations of genocide and besides, we'll no longer need military bases in their country anyway (those would be moved to, you guessed it, Kurdistan).

What would happen in the rest of Iraq? Sadly, probably war, and murder, and terrorism. But that's happening already, and unless we're ready to permanently station 150,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, it will continue to happen. We need a pivot in policy, and I say we pivot around the Kurds.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Seahawks versus Rams -- The Review

The good

Just about everything that happened in the second half. The defense got incredible pressure up front -- three sacks with a three man rush! -- and the offense finally started looking like the actual Seahawks offense, instead of the imposters who showed up for the first two quarters against the Rams, the last quarter against the Giants, and all four freakin' quarters against the Bears.

Deion Branch got the TDs, but my man D.J. "Clutch" Hackett made some huge plays for us to keep the ball moving at critical spots, including a 16-yarder in the final two minutes. At some point, Hackett will supplant Burleson as this team's #4 WR.

Josh Brown, after clanking a short kick, nailed two 4o+ yarders and then absolutely DRILLED the 54 yarded to win the game. Nice comeback, Josh.

Hasselbeck's two-minute drive was a thing of beauty. And Ed Hochuli, I want to kiss your guns.

The bad

I can't believe I'm typing this, but Chris Spencer is making me long for the days of Pork Chop Womack. He's leading the team with three sacks given up, and he's had four false start penalties all year. He's not going to keep his job at this rate.

Memo to Maurice Morris: you almost cost us the season with your pathetic fumble at the end of the game. Once Shaun get healthy, get ready for the bench.

Memo to Marcus Trufant: At some point, aren't you tired of Torry Holt making you his bitch?

The ugly

The first two quarters were just horrible to watch. I thought we were headed for another Bears-style disaster, and I was beginning to seriously question the heart of the team. Whatever Holmgren said or did at halftime, it obviously worked. But the Hawks have yet to string together four straight quarters of solid play. I still think we are the best team in the NFC -- Rex Grossman showed his true colors against the Cardinals, and it won't be the last time -- but we are approaching midseason, so its time to start playing in midseason form.

Civilian casualties in Iraq: 650,000 are not dead

About a week ago, a study was published that estimated somewhere between 426,000 and 800,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the U.S. invasion. The mean of that number is 650,000, and for whatever reason, that number has stuck. President Bush, when asked about this study, said it had been discredited and that he didn't put any stock in the numbers. In response, various media types have gone into a frenzy, including media watchdog Eric Alterman:

According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, George Bush's lies have killed not 30,000 innocent Iraqis, as the president not long ago estimated, but nearly 22 times that amount, or 655,000. Neither the Pentagon, nor much of the mainstream media have made much attempt to make their own counts -- it's just not that important to anyone. So how has the U.S. media reported on these shocking-albeit-necessarily-imprecise findings, based on door-to-door surveys in 18 provinces, by the experts trained in this kind of thing? The actual methods included obtaining data by eight Iraqi physicians during a survey of 1,849 Iraqi families -- 12,801 people -- in 47 neighborhoods of 18 regions across the country. The researchers based the selection of geographical areas on population size, not on the level of violence. How strict were their standards? They asked for death certificates to prove claims -- and got them in 92 percent of the cases. Even so, the authors say that the number could be anywhere from 426,000 to 800,000.

Newsflash: Bush is right, Alterman is wrong. The 650,000 figure is wrong. The 426,000 figure is almost certainly wrong. I could explain why myself, but instead I'll just steal from my friend Megan McArdle's blog (you'll need to read her entire blog to get an overall sense of her argument):

In August, according to UNAMI, there were 73 violent deaths per day in Baghdad. In July, there were 93. Extrapolating this evenly across the remaining 75% of the population would give us approximately 125,000 deaths per year in the entire country, which is still below the lower bound of the Lancet study. But we also know that the other regions of Iraq aren't equally violent. The 10% of the population that is Kurdish lives in a basically stable area. So it's really 65% of the country, or another 16.5 million people that would have a similar violence rate. That gives me roughly 110,000 total. However, we also know that the country is, on average, safer than Baghdad, though some places, like Fallujah may be more dangerous. So that number needs to be revised downwards substantially. How substantially? No idea. Finally, we also know that the violence against civilians has been getting worse; even if the collection of death certificates is shoddy, the direction of the trend is clear. So earlier years would have fewer than 116,000 deaths even if the rest of the country were just as violent (on average) as Baghdad. Call it an upper bound of 300,000, being very charitable. That's a high number. But that's the top of the range, not the most likely number. What is the most likely number? No idea, and I'm not going to join the Lancet doctors in giving a false impression of precision. But it's less than a third of the Lancet study's upper bound.

Make no mistake, far too many have died, largely as a result of poor post-war planning. But there's no way 650,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.


Just in case the above quote didn't convince you, here's Steve Moore, a political consultant who's actually conducted suveys in Iraq.

In their 2006 report, "Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional sample survey," the Johns Hopkins team says it used 47 cluster points for their sample of 1,849 interviews. This is astonishing: I wouldn't survey a junior high school, no less an entire country, using only 47 cluster points.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Iraq, Afghanistan and "Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking"

Gregg Easterbook, who writes a football column for ESPN called Tuesday Morning Quarterback, makes an interesting point in this week's piece. Commenting on the recent television docudrama that essentially blamed Clinton for 9/11, Easterbook writes:

Suppose Clinton had, in 1998, ordered an invasion of Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaida and Taliban forces there, as the docudrama suggested Clinton should have. Surely the President would have been bitterly denounced by Republicans, and since Sept. 11 would never have happened, today the 1998 invasion of Afghanistan would be spoken of as a pointless fiasco of the highest order. Something to chew on when you think about the Iraq war.

I think that, in general, this is an excellent point. Preemptive measures often get discredited politically when the danger they were designed to preempt never comes to fruition. And, despite what we now know about Saddams' lack of WMDs, Saddam was a threat to the region and to international stability, and it's quite possible that, had he been left in power for another 15 years, he would have instigated some form of catastrophic attack.

The problem with Easterbrook's counterfactual, however, is that there were many choices short of war that might have prevented 9/11 -- just as there were many choices short of invasion that might have contained Saddam. Steven Coll's "Ghost Wars" details the many, many lost opportunities we had to assassinate Bin Laden and/or undermine the Taliban's hold on the country. While Easterbrook is right that an invasion of Afghanistan would have been denounced, that's because, absent knowing the future a la God, you can't just invade countries based on hunches .

Unless, of course, you're named George W. Bush.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tony Snow -- does he know how to read?

Today, White House Press Secretary Tony "Foxy" Snow was asked about a recent interview with Iraqi President Al-Maliki by the USA Today. From the White House transcript of Snow's press conference:

Q He [Al-Maliki] also has said in USA Today, though -- you say you're on the same page, in terms of fighting the militias -- Maliki told the USA Today that his government will not force militias to disarm until later this year or early next year, despite the violence.

MR. SNOW: What's interesting is that's the lead of the piece and I've read the interview now three times and it's not in there.
* * *
I read the piece, too, and maybe they -- they published a transcript, and the transcript seems to indicate that the Prime Minister is actively engaged in the issue of militias. And there is no mention -- maybe I'm missing it here, but I've read it three times -- of saying that he's not going to force militias to disarm until later this year or early next year. As a matter of fact, he says he's in the process of doing it now.

Jeez, three times? Maybe the USA Today really did make a mistake. Then again -- maybe Snow can't read (from the USA Today transcript):

The problem of militias, in countries throughout the world, requires time. The most important thing is that we have started and started strong. We have given a clear message: Militias should reconsider their existence. ... The more success we have on the political side will help us deal with this issue. The initial date we've set for disbanding the militias is the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

So, just to recap: press secretary Snow read the interview with Maliki three times, failed to catch the key takeaway point in Maliki's speech, then lied about Maliki's promises to the American people (via the claim that Maliki "said he's in the process" of disarming now). Impressive.


Incidentally, I know that the reporter said "disarm" and that Maliki said "disband," and that the two terms are not necessarily synonymous. If you read the entire Maliki transcript, however, it's clear that when the USA Today asked about "disbanding" the militias, it did so in the context of -- and here I'm quoting Maliki directly -- "(CPA) Order 91 that deals with disbanding militias. We have formed a committee to work on disbanding militias and give them a deadline by which they have to lay down their arms. " It's obvious to me, and to USA Today, and to anyone who has not been lobotomized, that Maliki was using the two terms interchangeably.

The hits just keep on coming for the GOP

According to an AP story just filed:

F.B.I. Raids Home of Pa. Congressman’s Daughter

MEDIA, Pa. (AP) -- The FBI raided the homes of Rep. Curt Weldon's daughter and a close friend Monday as it investigates whether the congressman improperly helped the pair win lobbying and consulting contracts.

Earlier Monday, Weldon called the investigation politically motivated and called the timing suspect. A Republican locked in a tight re-election bid, he denied wrongdoing and said he gave his daughter no special help.

''What I find ironic, if there is an investigation, is that no one would tell me until three weeks before the election,'' Weldon said at an appearance in Media. ''This incident was 2 1/2 years ago.''

So now The FBI is politically motivated in its investigations? Is that really the stance Rep. Weldon wants to take on behalf of the GOP? How's that going to play with the moderate Dems living in Pennsylvania?

The implosion continues.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Abu Ghraib? According to the GOP, porn, not torture

From the Associated Press today:

HARTFORD, Conn. — Republican Rep. Christopher Shays said Friday the Abu Ghraib prison abuses were more about pornography than torture.

The congressman, who is in a tough re-election fight, said a National Guard unit was primarily responsible for the abuses.

"It was a National Guard unit run amok," Shays said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It was torture because sex abuse is torture. It was gross and despicable ... This is more about pornography than torture."

In fact, the 372nd Military Police Company from Cresaptown, Md., is an Army Reserve unit not National Guard.

Shays sought to defuse controversy over previous comments suggesting the Abu Ghraib abuses weren't torture but instead involved a sex ring of troops.

"Now I've seen what happened in Abu Ghraib, and Abu Ghraib was not torture," Shays said at a debate Wednesday.

"It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from (Maryland) who were involved in a sex ring and they took pictures of soldiers who were naked," added Shays. "And they did other things that were just outrageous. But it wasn't torture."

Seahawks versus Rams -- What to watch for

1. Jerramy Stevens returns at Tight End this week. His presence should (hopefully) have a bigger impact on the nonexistant running game, and help out our struggling offensive line.

2. Rams QB Marc Bulger hasn't thrown an interception all year, but it's not for lack of trying -- last week, I watched at least two surefire interceptions get dropped. The Seahawks' cornerbacks need this to be a statement game: they need to shut down Holt and Bruce and generate some picks.

3. Will the 2005 Matt Hasselbeck please show up?

4. Bobby Engram is out with a mysterious thyroid condition, so this may be the week we see Deion Brach show why he was worth a first round pick. But don't be surprised if 4th wideout D.J. Hackett makes a few huge, game-turning plays for us: Hackett has great speed and even better hands, and unlike the rest of the Hawks WRs, he's over six feet tall.

Another big game on the road. And I hate the Rams. GO HAWKS!

Baker to Bush: "We've lost Iraq"

As you may or may not know, former Secretary of State Jim Baker is heading a commission that plans to advise current President Bush about what to do in Iraq. The commission planned to release its report after the November elections, but someone leaked to the NY Sun, a right-wing leaning newspaper. According to the Sun:

WASHINGTON — A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.

Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, "Stability First" and "Redeploy and Contain," both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.

More telling, however, is the ruling out of two options last month. One advocated minor fixes to the current war plan but kept intact the long-term vision of democracy in Iraq with regular elections. The second proposed that coalition forces focus their attacks only on Al Qaeda and not the wider insurgency.

Instead, the commission is headed toward presenting President Bush with two clear policy choices that contradict his rhetoric of establishing democracy in Iraq. The more palatable of the two choices for the White House, "Stability First," argues that the military should focus on stabilizing Baghdad while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents. The goal of nurturing a democracy in Iraq is dropped.

If the Sun's report is accurate, this is incredible on a number of levels. First, it's refreshingly candid and realistic about our chances in Iraq. Second, it clearly undermines the entire foundation of Bush's rhetoric about bringing democracy to the Middle East -- though note that key qualified, "in the near term"; no doubt the final report will include some vague throwaway lines about the "long term" future of democracy in the region. Third, it's obvious that the report is being withheld to avoid destroying the Republican Party completely.

But the takeaway point is simple: We are failing in Iraq. Time to acknowledge this reality and deal with it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"The Wire" versus "The Departed"

This weekend, I, along with my girlfriend, went to watch the new Martin Scorcese film "The Departed." I was pretty excited because (a) I love Martin Scorcese, (b) I like Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg a lot, (c) I think Leo DiCaprio is decent in the right role, and (d) I enjoy Jack Nicholson, even though he's approacing Al-Pacino-like parody of himself lately. Also, the film was about cops and gangsters, and lately, I've been very interested in cops and gangsters (I'll explain momentarily).

In any event, and without giving anything away, here's my review of the film: it's dogshit. I hated it. It was so bad, I couldn't believe what I was watching. The central story -- that Jack Nicholson's gang has a rat within the Massachusettes police dept., and the police have a rat with Jack -- was full of gaping, glaring, indefensible holes. The love story was a complete crock. In fact, there were moments of such stupidity I laughed out loud in the theater in mocking derision. My girlfriend hated it too. Surely, we thought, this movie is destined to flop horribly, to be mocked for years to come as Scorcese's greatest mistake.

Then the movie ended. And the audience clapped.

Sure, it was opening night on a Friday. But here's the thing: everyone loves this movie. Check out -- it's polling 92%! For once, the critics and the public are in complete agreement -- the film is killing in reviews and at the box office.

So what gives? Two words: "The Wire."

If you haven't watched this television show on HBO -- the first three seasons are on DVD -- then you haven't watched what is indisputably the greatest show on television today, and arguably of all time. The basic premise: cops in Baltimore try to catch and prosecute drug dealers in Baltimore. That's it. Each season takes a different "target", i.e., gangster-criminal that is the focus of the police investigation, and then uses 12 episodes to masterfully demonstrate how the police build their case.

What makes The Wire uniquely brilliant is the realism it presents. While most television and movie "dramas" ask the viewer to suspend their disbelief, The Wire takes the exact opposite approach: Believe. The show strives at every turn to present the real Baltimore and the real lives of its denizens, from the street slingers selling crack on street corners to the cops on the beat to the corrupt City councilmen. And it succeeds. It succeeds because, with rare exception, the writing and the casting and the plot lines are all entirely believable and real. Simply put, it's a minimasterpiece.

Which is why, when I now watch shlock like "The Departed," I can't suspend my disbelief and enjoy the film, when nothing about the movie remains remotely plausible. It's just too fake. No, it's worse than fake -- it's absurd, in the literal sense of the word. The Wire versus The Departed? There's no comparison.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fatty Hastert's Fone a Fake

On October 5, Speaker Hastert announced that, in the wake of the Foley scandal, the House had set up a hotline. According to the NY Times transcript:

We've asked the Ethics Committee to look into this matter and we asked for criminal investigations to be opened by the Justice Department, the FBI and the State of Florida. We have a toll-free number where people can confidently call. And we've reached out to experts around the country to put a system in place to make sure this never happens again.

The tip number is 1-866-384-0481.

Try calling the tip number. It's still a fax machine.

Now, it's possible the NY Times transcript has the number wrong. It's also possible that Hastert got the number wrong. But there's also a third possibility: there is no toll-free telephone established, and Hastert was blustering to make it look like he'd taken action.

Via email, I've urged Josh Micah Marshall of "Talking Points Memo" to sic his muckrakers on this. Stay tuned. (And go read his blog, which has had excellent coverage of the North Korea situation -- even if he stole my timeline theme.)


Ok, Hastert burped the wrong number out first time around. The line is now up and running at 1-866-348-0481. And it's pretty funny -- "If you have information about Congressman Foley, please press 1."

President Bush's North Korean delusions

President Bush, answering a question today about whether the Administration's policies toward N. Korea have failed (as quoted by the NY Times):

I can remember the time when it was said that, The Bush administration goes it alone too often in the world, which I always thought was a bogus claim to begin with. And now all of a sudden, people are saying, you know, The Bush administration ought to be going it alone with North Korea.

At this point, two questions must be asked: who is advising the President, and where does he get his crack? Seriously, is anyone seriously contending the Bush Administration should be "going it alone" with North Korea? The Democrats aren't. The Republicans aren't. The U.N. isn't. In fact, I can't think of a single reputable entity or person that believes the U.S. can unilaterally deal with a nuclear North Korea -- virtually everyone believes that the Chinese are critical, followed by Russia, Japan, and South Korea, to whatever next steps are taken to contain the threat of Kim Jong Il nuking his neighbors, or selling fissionable plutonium to his neighbors.

So what the hell is President Bush talking about? His comment suggests some deep delusion about his perception of himself, our country, and the reaction to North Korea's nuclear test. At this point, it's fair to ask whether he grasps reality, or is completely disconnected from what's happening in the world.


Not long afterward, the press conference included this charming exchange:

QUESTION: What about the red line, sir? [As in, what is the red line that North Korea cannot cross before the U.S. will have to take drastic measures -- pretty serious question, no?]

BUSH: Well, the world has made it clear that these tests caused us to come together and work in the United Nations to send a clear message to the North Korean regime. We're bound up together with a common strategy to solve this issue peacefully, through diplomatic means.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

BUSH: If I might say, that is a beautiful suit.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My tailor appreciates that.

BUSH: And I can't see anybody else who even comes close.


Glad he's in a joking mood right. Funny stuff. Oh wait, it's not funny, and we're facing nuclear holocaust. My bad.


Now watch as someone from the Washinton Post asks a devastating question, and Bush gives an incomprehensible answer:

QUESTION: You said yesterday, in your statement, that the North Korean nuclear test was unacceptable. Your chief negotiator for the six-party talks said last week that North Korea has a choice, of either having weapons or having a future. When you spoke, a month or so ago, to the American Legion, you talked about Iran and said: There must be consequences for Iran's defiance and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

I'm wondering, sir -- your administration has issued these kinds of warning pretty regularly over the last five years. And yet these countries have pursued their nuclear programs.
I'm wondering: What is different about the current set of warnings? And do you think the administration -- our government runs the risk of looking feckless to world by issuing these kinds of warnings regularly without response from the countries?

BUSH: That's a fair question. First of all, I am making it clear our policy hadn't changed.
It's important for the folks to understand that we don't continually shift our goals based upon, you know, polls or whatever.

[Note: this has nothing to do with the question asked]

See, I think clarity of purpose is very important to rally a diplomatic effort to solve the problem. And so I try to speak as clearly as I can and make sure there's no ambiguity in our position. I also found that's a pretty good way to help rally a diplomatic effort that I believe will more likely work.

[Note the nonclarity and patent ambiguity in the preceding paragraph -- ah, sweet irony]

I know this sounds just saying it over and over again, but it's -- rhetoric and actions are all aimed at convincing others that they have an equal stake in whether or not these nations have a nuclear weapon, because I firmly believe that that is the best strategy to solve the problem.

[Note, once again, this has nothing to do with the question -- "are we making hollow threats?" -- but instead seems to recommit the U.S. to a diplomatic solution]

I mean, one has a stronger hand when there's more people playing your same cards. It is much easier for a nation to hear what I believe are legitimate demands if there's more than one voice speaking. And that's why we're doing what we're doing.

[Note that (a) Bush seems to have no idea how games with cards are played, and (b) he still hasn't answered the question -- he's still trying to figure out a response]

And to answer your question as to whether or not the words will be empty, I would suggest that, quite the contrary, that we not only have spoken about the goals, but as a result of working together, our friends, Iran and North Korea are looking at a different diplomatic scenario.

[Aha! Bush finally takes a stab at answering the question. Problem is, it's a complete lie. Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon, and North Korea just detonated one. So while I'm sure the two countries are intrigued by the different "diplomatic" scenario they face, the threats we've made have deterred them not one iota. Unbelievable.]

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Less dogs, more birds

This is a newly discovered breed of bird -- a "Yagries brush-finch" -- that lives in the Andes. Enjoy. (Courtesy of the NY Times)

Bush, Clinton, North Korea, Nuclear Bomb: A Timeline for the White House

1992: President Clinton elected President

North Korean nuclear status: no bomb

1996: President Clinton reelected President

North Korean nuclear status: no bomb

2000: Supreme Court installs President Bush

North Korean nuclear status: no bomb

2002: President Bush declares North Korea, Iran and Iraq members of axis of evil. Says Bush:

"[Our goal] is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

North Korean nuclear status: starts to get a little hazy, but probably no bomb

2004: President Bush relected

North Korean nuclear status: getting hazier...

2006: President Bush still President

North Korean nuclear status: BOMB!

October 10, 2006: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, explaining who is to blame for the North Korean acquisition of the bomb (from the NY Times):

Mr. Snow said that the approach pursued by President Clinton — which led to an agreement halting the North Korean nuclear program, an agreement Pyongyang is later believed to have violated — “made a lot of sense, but didn’t work.”

He said that the Bush administration has “learned from the mistakes, from the inability of prior administration efforts.”

Likewise, Mr. Bolton asserted that “the nuclear threat was really uncovered during the Bush administration.”

To recap, just in case the timeline isn't clear:

-- President Clinton: no nuclear North Korea
-- President Bush, six years into Presidency after vowing to prevent and contain WMDs in North Korea: nuclear North Korea
-- White House official stance: Clinton's fault, appeasement didn't work

Here's my final thought, one you wouldn't be able to read in the NY Times: What a fucking joke.

Why the U.S. should have signed onto Kyoto Treaty

It's not what you might think. Despite the ambitious goals of the treaty, I've long though it would be impossible to actually ratchet industrial development backward to the levels mandated by the Kyoto Protocol. I was not alone in my thinking -- President Bill Clinton reached the same conclusion, and thus never signed the accord. Thus far, America has decided to follow what you might call the "realist-pragmatic" school of global environmental policy.

In contrast, other countries have signed onto Kyoto, and then completely ignored actual implementation. Take, for example, our ice hockey, penguin loving neighbors to the north. According to an AP wire story released today:

Among the worst off is Canada, the current president of U.N. climate change talks, which this year became the first country to announce it would not meet its Kyoto target of a 6 percent emissions cut on average over the years 2008-2012. Canada’s emissions have ballooned by 29 percent instead.

This begs the question: given the tremendous amount of political ill-will the U.S. has suffered because of its refusal to live in Enviro-fantasyland, why don't we just sign the damn thing and do like the Canucks do, i.e., ignore it completely? True, there are the obvious detrimental affects to the environment -- but those can be no worse than what's happening already, given that the U.S. has no treaty obligations whatsoever. I don't really see any downside (neither, apparently, do the Canadians.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

One month to go

According to Gallup, the Dems are killing the Republicans in every conceivable category. There's one month to go, so I'm sure they'll find a way to screw things up, but right now it looks like a Democratic landslide.

North Korea and Iran

Although I'm still not wholly convinced North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb yesterday -- if it was a nuclear bomb, evidence suggests it was pretty teeny, and I don't exactly trust the truthiness of the North Korean military -- let's assume, for the sake of this blog post, that they do. The world will now have its first official "madman with a bomb" scenario -- and the only rational, logical response will be to diplomatically and economically isolate North Korea and hope for the best. We will have to stop worrying and learn to love the policy of containment.

That's why I think a nuclear North Korea makes a nuclear Iran much more likely too. Once we respond diplomatically to one madman with a bomb, the argument for responding to all future madmen (or in Iran's case, mad religious regime) with diplomacy will be strengthened. It's a shitty situation, to be sure, but one we will increasingly come to accept as inevitable. Indeed, the case could be made that the world has, perhaps blindly, already accepted two rogue nuclear states in India and a nuclear Pakistan -- two countries that go to war against each other every couple of years.

Sadly, the number one threat to humanity's existence is not global warming. It is not overpopulation. It is global thermonuclear war. And today, the world seems to have moved one step closer to that horrific possibility.

North Korea has the bomb

It appears North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb yesterday, although the details are sketchy. Although this is a disaster, short term, the world will no longer be able to ignore the humanitarian disaster that is North Korea today. And if China and Russia get serious about sanctions, it's possible that the regime will come under real internal pressure.

That, or nuclear war.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Memo to Republicans: Time to Panic

According to FOX News -- bear with me -- internal GOP polling shows the "Hastert-Foley" effect potentially resulting in a 50-seat loss for the Republicans. Dems need 15 to take control.

Hastert won't be able to survive this -- and that's a little unfortunate. The longer he sticks around, the better for Democrats, politically. Obviously.

Hastert: "The wheels have come off my brain"

So you may be suffering from Foley fatigue by now -- I'm not! -- but this thing keeps getting funnier/weirder/sadder. I just found this quote from Speaker Hastert in the Chicago Tribune:

[After insinuating, without any evidence whatsoever, that "Democratic Operatives" and George Soros were behind the Foley leaks, Hastert] 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."

Is that the Republican talking point they hope will salvage the November elections? "It's Bill Clinton's fault?" Seriously? Memo to Hastert: Clinton hasn't been President for almost seven years. Dick Morris hasn't worked for Clinton for almost decade. This is beyond pathetic. And I have a feeling voters aren't going to swallow this shit anymore.

Hot dog action

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Reason #4,592 Nancy Pelosi is a dipshit

Perhaps soon-to-be-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, discussing the Foley scandal (as quoted in the NYT):

“They don’t understand what this means and how it strikes to the heart of America’s families that this new wonderful entrepreneurial thing, the Internet, is now a danger to their children,” she told students at Georgetown University. "And that a person in the Congress of the United States would use it to endanger a child, with those in power and with authority and responsibility, looking the other way.”

Really? Is that the problem here? That Republicans don't understand the Internet? Admittedly, Hastert seems clueless about "the system" that allows IMs, but he's clearly losing his mind right now. And was Foley really endangering "children"? I know I'm guilty of claiming he's a pedophile, but in fact, all of his supposed victims were over the age of 16 (the age of consent in DC).

The political scandal to be exploited is the Republican cover-up to retain political control. Pelosi seems to think it's about the perverted potential of IMing. If she really pursues this angle, she'll screw up the biggest political gift ever handed to the Democrats. (Why am I not surprised?)

Speaker Fatty Hastert speaks!

From the transcript of Speaker Hastert's press conference this afternoon:

HASTERT: Well, thank you very much for everybody showing up today.

Translation: Good lord, there are over 4,000 members of the press covering this conference. The party is screwed.

I'm sorry -- you know, when you talk about the page issue and what's happened in the Congress, I'm deeply sorry that this has happened.

"The Page Issue" -- is that what we're calling it? How about, "The Creepy Republican Florida Sex Perv that House Leadership Ignored for Political Gain" issue instead?

And the bottom line is that we're taking responsibility, because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before: The buck stops here.

IM Mark64: Are you a young buck? I bet you are! Mmmm.

For something like this to occur, our system obviously isn't designed for the electronic age of Instant Messages.

What the hell is he talking about? What "system"? The system of having Republican sex pervs have weird IM-sex while waiting to vote?

When the Congress found out about the explicit messages, Republicans dealt with it immediately and the culprit was gone. We are now trying to correct the problem.

Problem with this statement is, er, it's not true. Republicans didn't deal with anything. Foley resigned. All else is chaos.

We've asked the Ethics Committee to look into this matter and we asked for criminal investigations to be opened by the Justice Department, the FBI and the State of Florida.
We have a toll-free number where people can confidently call. And we've reached out to experts around the country to put a system in place to make sure this never happens again.

The tip number is 1-866-384-0481.

I just called the tip number, and I got a fax machine. No joke.

We will do everything possible to make the program safe for the kids while they're in our care in Washington, D.C.

As an aside, if you ever wanted to be a Congressional page, this would be the time to apply. Anyone? Anyone?

And we will make sure that we can be a resource for their parents once they return home.

What does that even mean? That parents can file a complaint if their son's had IM sex with a Member of Congress?

We're looking for a person of high caliber to advise us on the page program. I reached out to the Democrat leader and shared with her some of the ideas and we hope to resolve this soon.

Yeah, how's that working out? According to The Daily Kos:

Hastert gave a call to Nancy Pelosi in Washington today. Nancy Pelosi said no, that's not good enough. We don't want an overhaul of the page program. We need a more thorough investigation. That's something that both Democratic and Republican aides that I've just spoken to agree on, that Pelosi refused. So Freeh, for the time being, will not be heading up, as other news organizations have been reporting, will not be heading up...a probe, or an overhaul...of the page program here in the House.

From the Q&A:

QUESTION: How were the e-mails characterized? How were they characterized? Were they just overly friendly ? Not only as the speaker, but as a former teacher, did that not ring any alarms to you...

HASTERT: We were advised -- our office and then the clerk's office and to the chairman of the page board that there was a Katrina message, period. We knew of no other e-mails -- we -- in that system. And there were no other e-mails other than that one that I know of. And we didn't even have the e-mail because the parents didn't want to give the e-mail out. They said, Stop it.
The guy that I asked to do that job a long time ago was John Shimkus. John Shimkus is an Army ranger. He's a tough guys. He goes right to the point when there's a problem.
He confronted the member. And the member said that he would stop doing that; asked if there was any other messages. He said no. And he said, Don't do it again. You know, that's what we did. The parents were happy.

That's it? "Don't do it again"? That's all? Why didn't the Republicans try that with Pres. Clinton, then, instead of, you know, impeaching him? They could have sent Shimkus over -- he's a tough guys, apparently -- and he could have made it plain: "Hey, Bill, the diddling of the interns? Don't do it again." Boom, problem solved.

Name your politician

Can you name the major political leader who made these statements yesterday?

Right, let's talk about tax. Everyone . . . knows that a low tax economy is a strong economy. But some people want me to flash up some pie in the sky tax cuts to show what we stand for. Let me tell you straight. That is not substance.

Not everything that [the other party] has done since 1997 is bad. People don't want us to turn the clock back. They want us to improve the bad things, yes. But they also want us to keep the good things . . . . Like the minimum wage. We'll keep it and, when we can, we'll increase it.

There is a price for progress in tackling climate change. Yes of course low-energy lightbulbs, hybrid cars - even a windmill on your roof . . . can make a difference and also save money. But these things are not enough. Government must show leadership by setting the right framework . . . Going green is not some fashionable, pain-free option. It will place a responsibility on business. It will place a responsibility on all of us. That is the point.

There's something special about marriage. It's not about religion. It's not about morality. It's about commitment. When you stand up there, in front of your friends and your family, in front of the world, whether it's in a church or anywhere else, what you're doing really means something. Pledging yourself to another means doing something brave and important. . . . And by the way, it means something whether you're a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and another man.

His name is David Cameron, and he's the head of Britain's minority Conservative Party (aka the Tories). Stunning to compare what passes for conservative politics over there, isn't it? Stunning, and refreshing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Review: Hawks v. Bears

The good

Hasselbeck and Branch seem to be developing some rapport

Josh Brown made both field goals

Willie Ponder did a decent job returning kicks

(Wow, talk about damning with faint praise)

The bad

The running game was nonexistant

All-galaxy LT Walter Jones appeared to get beaten for a sack -- that happened all of twice last year

Welcome back, dropsies! It's been a few years, but it's sure fun to see D-Jack and Burleson dropping critical passes

Holmgren's inexplicable play calling -- no one is fooled by the draw plays to Mack Strong on third and long

The ugly

When starting safety Michael Boulaware went down, in came Oliver Crestin -- you might remember him getting burned about 17 times during the Super Bowl, perhaps? Whether it was Crestin's fault or not, the secondary played like absolute garbage -- including starting cornerbacks Trufant and Herndon

The offensive line was atrocious. The Chris Guard (Spencer and Gray) got pushed back all night. Another 5-sack night for Hasselbeck, another week of wondering how important Steve Hutchinson was to this team.

Finally, the questions need to be asked: what's wrong with Hasselbeck? That's two games in a row where he's made some absolutely bizarre (and soul crushing) mistakes. Are the hits getting to him?

Now, with all that said:

(1) It's only week 4
(2) We've had a ton of injuries, but key players will be returning over the next couple of weeks (Jerramy Stevens, Shaun, Jordan Babineaux)
(3) The o-line should improve with time
(4) Hass will continue to get comfortable with Branch
(5) Our schedule is ridiculously soft
(6) We simply don't lose at home

Personally, I'd rather be peaking in week 19 than in week 4. We laid an egg Sunday night, but now we know we can be beaten. I'm looking forward to the rematch in the NFC Championship Game. In Seattle.

How would you like your Fatty Hastert cooked?

According to the AP, minutes ago:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A senior congressional aide said Wednesday he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office about worrisome conduct between former Rep. Mark Foley with teenage pages more than three years ago, long before officials have acknowledged becoming aware of the issue.

Kirk Fordham made his comments to The Associated Press in an interview as a Kentucky Republican canceled a campaign fundraising event with Hastert. Rep. Ron Lewis said he wants to know the facts behind a scandal that has roiled Republicans since last week.

The cover-up is unraveling. The GOP is too.

("Zip a dee doo dah, zip a dee day...")

Darth Cheney arrests his critics -- surprised?

You can read here about how a man who dared criticize Vice President Cheney -- to his face! -- regarding the Iraq War was immediately arrested by the Secret Service, who wanted to charge him with harassment. (Hat tip: Andew Sullivan) Luckily, the man was released w/out charge, and now he's suing the Secret Service agent that arrested him.

Why not sue Cheney too?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The deep scandal regarding Rep. Foley

Although I've been having some fun at Rep. Foley's expense, I think it's worth pausing to note and appreciate the many layers of scandal swirling around the GOP presently.

At its most superficial level, you have Foley himself, apparently a fan of IMing male "pages" ages 16 through 18 and engaging in awkward sexual banter. To be honest, like many Democrats, I could care less about the "gay" angle. And, to be really honest, I'm not overly worried about the age either. Not only are males of that age, gay or straight, absurdly horny, from all accounts the bizarre sex banter over IM was voluntary.

At layer two, you have the House leadership reaction, or lack thereof, to information about Foley's prediliction for pages. This is the scandal that threatens to bring down Speaker Fatty Hastert, and if we're lucky the entire Republican political apparatus. But even though I want the Dems to skewer, skewer, skewer the Republicans on this issue, the truth (again) is that, since I'm not all that bothered by Foley's behavior, I'm not really all that bothered by the failure of Hastert et al. to "take action." Should they have done more to protect the pages from this weirdo? Sure, I guess -- although that's much easier to say now, and much easier to say with access to the full range of creepy IMs they didn't have six months ago (despite what you may have read).

But then we get to layer three of the scandal -- the layer no one is really talking about. This is what really bothers me: I think most of the House leadership knew Foley was gay, even knew he had a fondness for young boys, but they didn't really care. Why? Because Foley was a Republican, an elected Republican, and a reliable Republican vote. This is pretty common in DC -- many Republicans are gay and closeted, and everyone knows it, and -- this is the key -- everyone treats them decently. Yet, when it comes time to vote on outlawing gay marriage, or stripping civil union rights, or otherwise ostracizing this poor, pilloried minority, the same House leadership can't stop itself from going on the attack. Hypocrisy and hate, wrapped together in one vomitous mass. This is the real scandal of Rep. Foley. And it's the real scandal of what the Republican Party has become.

File under "Never too late for the bleeding obvious"

From the NY Times, moments ago, re former Rep. Foley:

This evening, Mr. Foley’s lawyer, David Roth, disclosed that his client himself was molested by a clergyman from ages 13 through 15. Mr. Roth declined to identify the clergyman or the church involved. He also disclosed that Mr. Foley was gay.

Gee, what was the tip off? Also, when did former Van Halen singer David "Lee" Roth get his law degree? Finally, Foley needs to pick an excuse and run with it: alcoholism or molestation, which is it you -- wonderfully helpful for the Democratic party -- freak, you?

Condi not yet in clear, but...

I'm increasingly convinced there' s more smoke than fire to the July 10, 2001 Black and Tenet scandal (see below for summary). Mad Dog Veniste, the Democratic operative who grilled Condi during the 9/11 Commission hearings, is now disputing key points raised by Woodward. According to the NY Times:

On Monday, officials said Mr. Tenet had told members of the commission about the July 10 meeting when they interviewed him in early 2004, but committee members said he never indicated he had left the White House with the impression that he had been ignored.

“Tenet never told us that he was brushed off,” said Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic member of the commission. “We certainly would have followed that up.”

Now, it's possible, of course, that Tenet in fact felt Condi's brush off (sounds dirty), but didn't want to say anything to the 9/11 Commission for whatever reason -- such as protecting the Adminstration that had just awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor. But I don't buy that; surely Mad Dog Veniste would have grilled Tenet about the contents of the July 10 meeting itself. And surely if that meeting had included concrete information about an imminent terrorist attack, Mad Dog would have taken the whip to Condi.

Obligatory weekly funny dog picture

Monday, October 02, 2006

The 9/11 Condi Conspiracy Cover-up

Ok, while I've been giddy over the GOP sex scandal, another indisputable-more-important scandal's brewing. To recap the important facts as I understand 'em:

1. Bob "Deep Source, Deep Throat" Woodward has a new book out. In said book, he claims George Tenet and another CIA poobah, Cofer Black, met with then-National Security Adviser in July 2001 to warn about an impending al Qaeda attack on the U.S. According to Woodward, Black and Tenet (sounds like a sweet drink) came away from the meeting feeling like they got "the brush off."

2. Rice says she can't remember any meeting taking place. She also claims it's "ludicrous" to think she would have ignored any warning of an imminent attack.

*Orwellian "remember the past" note: Rice also thought it was "impossible" to predict that terrorists would want to hijack planes and plow them into landmarks, even though (1) the CIA predicted this exact scenario in its infamous August memo that the President ignored and (2) the FAA actually ran training scenarios to deal with just such a situation.

3. NY Times has now confirmed the meeting Rice can't remember did, in fact, take place.

4. But Rice never reported such a meeting to the 9/11 Commission -- you know, the Presidential Commission designed to provide the authoratative account of our response to the attacks.

5. Now, get ready for the weird twist. According to news sources of unknown reliability (The McClatchy report, which I've never heard of), the 9/11 Commission was told about the July Tenet-Condi meeting, and the meeting was even presented to Commission members "Attack Dog" Ben Veniste. Yet, there's not a single mention of this meeting, the Power Point presentation Tenet made, or anything other salient detail, anywhere in the 9/11 Commission Report! According to "McClatchy":

The independent Sept. 11, 2001, commission was given the same “scary” briefing about an imminent al Qaida attack on a U.S. target that was presented to the White House two months before the attacks, but failed to disclose the warning in its 428-page report.

Former CIA Director George Tenet presented the briefing to commission member Richard Ben Veniste and executive director Philip Zelikow in secret testimony at CIA headquarters on Jan. 28, 2004, said three former senior agency officials.

Tenet raised the matter himself, displayed slides from a Power Point presentation that he and other officials had given to then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on July 10, 2001, and offered to testify on the matter in public if the commission asked him to, they said.

Quick take:

1. If you are into 9/11 conspiracy theories, you just got some gasoline.
2. If Democratic Attack Dog Ben Veniste thought it wasn't worthy of inclusion in the 9/11 report, then maybe Rice isn't confused, and maybe the meeting wasn't all Woodward is cracking it up to be. It doesn't make any sense that Ben Veniste wouldn't grill Rice if he knew about the meeting (if he knew before she testified), or include details of the meeting in the report (if he learned of it afterward).
***UPDATE*** Apparently, Ben Veniste is claiming he wasn't briefed (according to the McClatchy piece). Gasoline? Did I say gasoline? Try napalm.
3. Democrats should therefore tread cautiously here before making too much of this -- there's real potential Woodward's overstated his case (he's done it before -- see, e.g., his previously laudatory treatment of the President re the War in Afghanistan).
4. If you think I included the words "9/11" and "Conspiracy" in my title to shamelessly drive my hit count up -- well, good for you.

GOP, we have a problem!

From the NY Times today:

The drama of who knew what when intensified over the weekend when Republican leaders — including Representatives John A. Boehner of Ohio, the majority leader, and Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the party’s
Congressional campaign committee — acknowledged that they had been aware for months of e-mail traffic between Mr. Foley and the 16-year-old Louisiana boy.
Mr. Reynolds said in a statement Saturday that he had also personally raised the
issue with Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

The speaker’s office has said Mr. Hastert did not recall any such discussion and had no previous knowledge of the matter.
This is what's known in political contexts as "getting nailed." (Inappropriate, yes, but TPV goes where other fear to tread.) You have high-profile GOP leaders covering their own ass, and the Speaker of the House claiming to have forgotten meetings about whether one of their members was a pedophile. Again: slice it this way, slice it that way -- any which way you slice it, the picture's not pretty for the GOP!

Meanwhile: Rep. Foley has resigned and is now claiming he's alcoholic. Does that make it better or worse? I say worse for the GOP! Instead of questions over resignation Foley's sucking air out of "What did Fatty Hastert read, and when did he become disgusted," the national medio can focus on the political angle -- plus, no one buys the alcoholism thing when it comes to repeated emails over many, many years (unlike, say, the forthcoming rehabilitation of Mel Gibson).

Legs, I tell you -- the story has legs!


ABC News, which owns this story, buries the lede in this report:

A former senior Republican official in Congress says Foley was one of a handful of members and staff whose behavior with pages was being closely watched.

Handful? Did you say handful! I want names! I want hearings! I want resignations!

Wow, the Foley scandal has legs!

So I thought the announcement that Rep. Mark Foley, the Republican pedophile from Key West, Florida, had been sending young Congressional interns creepy emails was, er, sort of funny. (There's no allegation that Rep. Foley actually did anything with the interns other than send emails that weirded them out.) But lo! Today I read in the NY Times that the House leadership knew about Foley's emails for more than a year. Hmm, why oh why would Speaker of the House Fatty Hastert want to keep this news covered up in a tight election year where the Democrats are threatening to unseat the Republican majority?

In other words, we have a scandal that combines:

1. Creepy pedophilia


2. Blatant political hypocrisy

All under the Republican tent! Can you say, "BINGO"? Sure, it'd be nice if the American electorate voted the Republicans out because of our new policy of torture, invading Middle Eastern countries, and spending with wild abandon, but I'll settle for a stupid sex scandal!

The best thing is, even if it's not true that Fatty Hastert was covering up for Foley, the damage has been done! Who cares about the details -- this is one of those political disasters that taints you simply by having to refute it -- "We did not cover up for that child molester" etc.

Good times.