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October 22, 2004

Sound of one hand slapping forehead

Via Bob I see that, like the president himself, most Bush supporters live in a reality of their own creation:

Three out of 4 self-described supporters of President George W. Bush still believe that pre-war Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or active programs to produce them. According to a new survey published Thursday, the same number also believes that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein provided "substantial support" to al Qaeda.

But here is the truly astonishing part: as many or more Bush supporters hold those beliefs today than they did several months ago. In other words, more people believe the claims today - after the publication of a series of well-publicized official government reports that debunked both notions.


October 21, 2004

Don't tell O'Reilly

Liegirls: phone sex for deluded conservatives.

(For the inevitable one percent of the audience which will somehow manage to miss the point--it's a joke. I think.)


October 20, 2004

New advertiser

I've got a new ad up, over to the right, from Three Rivers Press, which is publishing the latest book from my friend Peter Kuper. Now, of course, I would always urge you to do a little click-through on all my advertisers (and those of you aren't bothering should really take the time, because it is quite literally the least you can do to help keep this site afloat). But I especially urge you to check this one out. Peter Kuper is one of the most talented artists it has ever been my privilege to know, and if you are not familiar with his work, you owe it to yourself to take a look.

Say what?
The founder of the U.S. Christian Coalition said Tuesday he told President George W. Bush before the invasion of Iraq that he should prepare Americans for the likelihood of casualties, but the president told him, "We're not going to have any casualties."

Pat Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, said he had that conversation with the president in Nashville, Tennessee, before the March 2003 invasion U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He described Bush in the meeting as "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."


Yet another outrage

Overloaded yet?

It is shocking: The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the Congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.

"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward."



Extraordinary. An entire column on fearmongering--by Democrats. The day after Dick Cheney once again invokes the spectre of nuclear terrorism.

They--and by "they" I mean Bush supporters in general--honestly do seem to believe they can just create their own reality, that saying something makes it true. It would be laughable if the consequences weren't so tragic.

Just so you know

I'm juggling a lot of plates these days and feeling kind of overwhelmed from time to time, and in a low moment awhile back I suggested that this blog may not continue in its present form after the election. Well, I really wasn't fishing for compliments, but I do truly appreciate the avalanche of email this little comment inspired. At any rate, I'm having fun with it right now. At some point I'll probably cut back for a little while, or maybe take a little break, but I'm feeling less inclined to shut the place down entirely.


October 19, 2004

Why we love Bob

An entry from Bob's new blog, lifted whole:

Bob Rumson, er, Dick Cheney is at it again.
Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday evoked the possibility of terrorists bombing U.S. cities with nuclear weapons and questioned whether Sen. John Kerry could combat such a threat...

Only we, who ignored a daily briefing called Osama Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US, can protect you from the terrorists.

Only we, who have been so focused on Iraq -- which had no WMD -- and thus allowed North Korea and Iran to join the nuclear club, can protect you from the nuclear threat.

Only we, who were completely unable to anticipate that Iraq would spiral horribly out of control, have the vision to rule this country safely.

And there are actually people -- about 100 million of them, apparently -- who can believe this bullshit.

I say this again: AAAAAAGGGGGGHHH.

Draft, cont'd.

A reader points this one out:

The Selective Service has been updating its contingency plans for a draft of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in case of a national emergency that overwhelms the military's medical corps.

In a confidential report this summer, a contractor hired by the agency described how such a draft might work, how to secure compliance and how to mold public opinion and communicate with health care professionals, whose lives could be disrupted.

On the one hand, the report said, the Selective Service System should establish contacts in advance with medical societies, hospitals, schools of medicine and nursing, managed care organizations, rural health care providers and the editors of medical journals and trade publications.

On the other hand, it said, such contacts must be limited, low key and discreet because "overtures from Selective Service to the medical community will be seen as precursors to a draft," and that could alarm the public.


Under the plan, Mr. Flahavan said, about 3.4 million male and female health care workers ages 18 to 44 would be expected to register with the Selective Service. From this pool, he said, the agency could select tens of thousands of health care professionals practicing in 62 health care specialties.


In a recent article in The Wisconsin Medical Journal, published by the state medical society, Col. Roger A. Lalich, a senior physician in the Army National Guard, said: "It appears that a general draft is not likely to occur. A physician draft is the most likely conscription into the military in the near future."

I guess if I were a 44 year old doctor, I might be a little bit nervous too.

Jesus wept
Gen. Tommy R. Franks climbed out of a C-130 plane at the Baghdad airport on April 16, 2003, and pumped his fist into the air. American troops had pushed into the capital of liberated Iraq little more than a week before, and it was the war commander's first visit to the city...

Huddling in a drawing room with his top commanders, General Franks told them it was time to make plans to leave. Combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days if all went as expected, he said. By September, the more than 140,000 troops in Iraq could be down to little more than a division, about 30,000 troops.

By September.

Of 2003.

If all went as expected.

(Story here.)

Attack poodle Brooks loyally regurgitates the talking points


Kerry's third attack is the whole Mary Cheney thing. That's been hashed over enough. But remarkably, Kerry has not apologized. You use somebody's daughter to attack the father and his running mate. The parents are upset. The only decent thing is to apologize. If anything, an apology would make Kerry look admirable. But Kerry, in his permanent attack dog mode, can't do the decent and politically advantageous thing.

Okay, deep breath. Reality check time. Here's that horrible "attack" in which John Kerry so ruthlessly attempted to use the daughter against the father, thereby upsetting decent godfearing folk everywhere:

"We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

For the last time: that's only an insult if you think that being a lesbian is something to be ashamed of. Or if you are an achingly banal New York Times columnist in way, way over your head.

* * *

In that same column, Brooks pooh-poohs talk of a draft.

The administration, which hasn't even asked for trivial public sacrifices in a time of war, does not want to bring back the draft. The Pentagon does not want to bring back the draft. The Republican Party does not want to bring back the draft. Given the nature of military technology, it doesn't make sense to bring back the draft. There may be some in the bureaucracy taking precautions, but it is hard to imagine an attack with less basis in fact.

And that's the extent of the argument: there won't be a draft, shut up, don't worry about it.

Happily across the page, Paul Krugman looks at the issue from a reality-based perspective:

Those who are worrying about a revived draft are in the same position as those who worried about a return to budget deficits four years ago, when President Bush began pushing through his program of tax cuts. Back then he insisted that he wouldn't drive the budget into deficit - but those who looked at the facts strongly suspected otherwise. Now he insists that he won't revive the draft. But the facts suggest that he will.

There were two reasons some of us never believed Mr. Bush's budget promises. First, his claims that his tax cuts were affordable rested on patently unrealistic budget projections. Second, his broader policy goals, including the partial privatization of Social Security - which is clearly on his agenda for a second term - would involve large costs that were not included even in those unrealistic projections. This led to the justified suspicion that his election-year promises notwithstanding, Mr. Bush would preside over a return to budget deficits.

It's exactly the same when it comes to the draft. Mr. Bush's claim that we don't need any expansion in our military is patently unrealistic; it ignores the severe stress our Army is already under. And the experience in Iraq shows that pursuing his broader foreign policy doctrine - the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive war - would require much larger military forces than we now have.

All I know is, if I were twenty five, I'd be damned nervous.


October 18, 2004

October Surprise

Atrios is wondering what it's going to be. One thing to remember is that the original October Surprise happened behind the scenes, and, like dark matter, could only be deduced by a lack, rather than a presence. As it is alleged, certain Republicans, including the current President's father, made contact with Iran and cut a deal so that the hostages would not be released until after the election. (They were released on the day of Reagan's inauguration, shortly after his acceptance speech--and I distinctly remember thinking, at that moment, that the fix had been in.)

Today, the phrase October Surprise has come to mean something which is sprung upon the public in the waning days of the campaign--the surprise capture of Osama, a last minute presidential visit to Baghdad, that sort of thing. But--to quote Saint-Exupery completely out of context--sometimes the thing that is important is the thing that is not seen. An October Surprise could have just as much to do with what they try to keep from us as what they try to shove in our faces.

(Minor revision.)

Note for Mr. Safire

If you conservatives are so incredibly offended that John Kerry would mention the mere fact that Mary Cheney is a lesbian--and let's remember that this is hardly a state secret, given that Mary Cheney has been out of the closet for years and was in fact once employed as the lesbian and gay community liasion for Coors Brewing--but if that's such an outrage, I'm assuming that you guys must be really really offended by what another politician recently said about Mary:

After saying homosexuality is "selfish hedonism," (Alan) Keyes was asked if that makes Mary Cheney "a selfish hedonist." "Of course she is," Keyes told Signorile. "That goes by definition."

I eagerly await your principled denunciation of Mr. Keyes.


I missed Jon Stewart's appearance due to the Ohio trip, but it sounds like he really outdid himself.

STEWART: See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.

BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when they make mistakes.

STEWART: No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks.

* * *

STEWART: I would love to see a debate show.

BEGALA: We're 30 minutes in a 24-hour day where we have each side on, as best we can get them, and have them fight it out.

STEWART: No, no, no, no, that would be great. To do a debate would be great. But that's like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.


CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I'm sorry. I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring.


CARLSON: Let me ask you a question on the news.

STEWART: Now, this is theater. It's obvious. How old are you?


CARLSON: Thirty-five. STEWART: And you wear a bow tie.



CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do.

STEWART: So this is...

CARLSON: I know. I know. I know. You're a...


STEWART: So this is theater.

CARLSON: Now, let me just...


CARLSON: Now, come on.

STEWART: Now, listen, I'm not suggesting that you're not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie.

CARLSON: They're difficult.


STEWART: But the thing is that this -- you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great.

BEGALA: We do, do...


STEWART: It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...


STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.

* * *

STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one.

The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk...

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey.


BEGALA: Go ahead. Go ahead.

STEWART: I watch your show every day. And it kills me.

CARLSON: I can tell you love it.

STEWART: It's so -- oh, it's so painful to watch.

* * *

CARLSON: What's it like to have dinner with you? It must be excruciating. Do you like lecture people like this or do you come over to their house and sit and lecture them; they're not doing the right thing, that they're missing their opportunities, evading their responsibilities?

STEWART: If I think they are.


CARLSON: I wouldn't want to eat with you, man. That's horrible.

STEWART: I know. And you won't.

* * *

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.


CARLSON: OK, up next, Jon Stewart goes one on one with his fans...


STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

Full transcript here.

...or you can watch it here.

Greens for impact

David Segal is a Green Party City Councilman in Providence, Rhode Island, and Chair of Greens for Impact. If you're considering voting for Nader or Cobb this year, you should really pay him a visit.

There aren't a lot of former Nader supporters on the bus this time. Even former running mate Winona LaDuke has endorsed Kerry.

2004 is not 2000. And if you refuse to acknowledge and adapt to a changing situation--well, gosh, does that remind you of anyone else we know?

Hersh, cont'd.

More on this story, from a reader:

Hersh didn't just tell his story at Berkeley. He also told it on "The Diane Rehm Show," which NPR syndicates. The day Hersh was on the show (Friday, October 1) it was guest hosted by Steven Roberts.

Roberts, of course, is a contributing editor at US News & World Report as well as the husband of Cokie Roberts. So you'd assume that when he heard this, as a journalist he'd immediately think: god, I've got to find out more about this, from Hersh or any other way I can. And maybe I'll even tell my wife about it, so ABC News can use its gigantic resources to cover this.

But no. When Hersh told the story, Roberts barely batted an eyelid. I'd say it's beyond belief, except it's not. But it really is an incredible indictment of Roberts, as well as Washington journalists generally.

Here's a transcript of the exchange. It starts at about 12:25

HERSH: Two days ago, let me just tell you this, I got a call. I got this call, I've been getting these calls since My Lai. Guy in the field, officer -- he's got a unit, and they're near a village, and they were told -- the village was occupied by the insurgents. They were told to do something about it. So there was a group of Iraqis, they'd been very friendly with the guards around the granary. His men had gotten very friendly with these Iraqis. They were paid a few bucks each to protect the granary. It's in the rural area on the way to Syria from Baghdad. When they were told to do something about it, another unit came in and began to kill all the guards who were very friendly with the Americans in front of this other unit. And this soldier's an officer, tried to stop it. Couldn't stop it. Tried to complain about it. Was told, "No, we've got a great kill, we've killed a lot of insurgents." Remember body counts?

His concern was, he was so shocked and disillusioned he didn't know what to do. Do you know what my advice I give him? Do nothing. You've made your complaint. Everybody knows you're hot about. You've got a lot of guys there with a lot of weapons. Just keep it cool.

And that's where we are. It's so much like Vietnam.

ROBERTS: Probably the other thing you said to him was, "And call me regularly."

HERSH: No -- "when you get back."


ROBERTS: Seymour Hersh. His new book is called "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib"...


October 17, 2004

Just in case you missed it, cont'd.
Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality- concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.

Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy-which entails disagreement, which promotes candor-has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all America has to be.

That's from the essay by Susan Sontag that ran in the New Yorker shortly after 9/11, the essay that inspired Andrew Sullivan to spend the next couple of years giving his self-righteous little "Sontag Awards" to anyone who struck Little Roy (as Eric Alterman nicknamed him) as a fifth columnist, a traitor insufficiently worshipful of Dear Glorious Leader.

And you know what? Reading it from this perspective, it seems a hell of a lot wiser, and more prescient, than anything Andrew Sullivan has had to say over the past few years.

Recommended reading

In addition to the article mentioned below, don't miss this month's Atlantic Monthly. I'm a new and enthusiastic convert on the basis of this single issue, which has an extraordinary article on life inside the Green Zone, as well as this detailed look at Karl Rove's usual m.o.

I spent some time on airplanes this weekend, as you might have guessed.

Just in case you missed it

Extraordinary stuff in Ron Suskind's article in the NY Times Magazine this week:

Some officials, elected or otherwise, with whom I have spoken with left meetings in the Oval Office concerned that the president was struggling with the demands of the job. Others focused on Bush's substantial interpersonal gifts as a compensation for his perceived lack of broader capabilities. Still others, like Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, a Democrat, are worried about something other than his native intelligence. ''He's plenty smart enough to do the job,'' Levin said. ''It's his lack of curiosity about complex issues which troubles me.'' But more than anything else, I heard expressions of awe at the president's preternatural certainty and wonderment about its source.

There is one story about Bush's particular brand of certainty I am able to piece together and tell for the record.

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. In those days, there were high hopes that the United States-sponsored ''road map'' for the Israelis and Palestinians would be a pathway to peace, and the discussion that wintry day was, in part, about countries providing peacekeeping forces in the region. The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

And then there's this:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

When the people running the country consider being "reality-based" a negative thing...that's when you know you're in trouble.

The whole article is here. It's an easy, not to mention lazy, blogger's copout to lift a quick excerpt and say "read the whole thing"--but I truly mean it here. You really, really want to read this article.


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