Republicans get smacked down by constituents on Social Security; Rick Santorum shocked that the opposition can push back

From the NY Times:
After a bruising weeklong recess, Congressional Republicans will return to work on Monday chastened by public skepticism over President Bush's plan for private accounts in Social Security. One leading Republican, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, acknowledged that the opposition was better organized while another, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said bipartisan compromise was unlikely unless the president can change the public mood.
"It's a heavy lift," Mr. Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Friday, after a week spent crisscrossing his home state to play host to 17 town-hall-style meetings. He said the sessions ended "without my getting much of a consensus of where people are, except general confusion," and with the president still facing "a major job of educating people."
The story was much the same throughout the country, as Republicans - some already skittish over Mr. Bush's plan - spent the week trying to assuage nervous constituents. Instead of building support for Mr. Bush's proposal to allow younger workers to divert payroll taxes into private retirement accounts, some of the events turned into fractious gripe sessions and others did not go nearly as well as their hosts had hoped. Those listening sessions also forced Republicans to confront another reality: opposition to the spending cuts outlined in Mr. Bush's 2006 budget. The $2.57 trillion budget will dominate the Congressional agenda for the next three weeks. But instead of fighting Democrats, Republicans - many of whom campaigned on slashing spending and cutting the federal deficit - are at odds with themselves over which programs to cut and which to spare.
Mr. Grassley, whose position as Senate finance chairman makes him the linchpin of any Social Security deal, said he still intended to negotiate a compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But he warned that lawmakers would not act unless there was pressure from voters, and he said voters would not put pressure on Congress unless the president persuaded them that private accounts are necessary. "I think 90 percent of the lifting is with the president," he said. Mr. Grassley said, when asked if he was reaching out to Democrats, "That process is starting, but it's starting very slow because too many Republicans and Democrats - how would you say it? - don't have the confidence that this issue is ever going to come up."
Mr. Santorum complained that he was dogged all week by opponents of the White House plan who dominated news coverage. Mr. Santorum, who is the third-ranking Republican in the Senate leadership and chairman of the subcommittee on Social Security, was heckled by college students - the very audience the Bush administration was counting on - and peppered with questions from retirees. "Clearly the other side is better organized," Mr. Santorum said. "They got people to all these events. They had seniors lined up to ask questions, they had staff people running up passing them notes." Even so, Mr. Santorum described himself as encouraged at the level of interest; both he and Mr. Grassley said it was far too early to predict the outcome.

(Boo-hoo-hoo, Santorum. The opposition can get as ugly as you do, and you're SHOCKED. It can't possibly be true that they have legitimate concerns and are confronting you with the facts. They're just better "organized.")
(And as W puts his hands over his hears and says "LALALALALA, I CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING THE PEOPLE ARE REALLY SAYING," he gives his weekly radio address.)

Mr. Bush...declared himself pleased with how the recess week went. "I am pleased with the progress of the national discussion on this issue, and I look forward to hearing everyone's ideas when the Congress returns," Mr. Bush said. He added, "Some in Washington want to deny that Social Security has a problem, but the American people know better and you have the power to determine the outcome of this debate."
AARP, the powerful retirees' organization that opposes private accounts financed by payroll taxes, has been tracking the meetings, and offered a different assessment. "We've yet to find one where there was an enthusiastic reception," said John Rother, the group's policy director. "The most positive reception people are getting is lots of questions, and there's significant skepticism. This is proving to be a tough sell, and our polling suggests that the more people know, the harder the sell."
Democrats, many of whom held their own constituent meetings, were practically giddy at the Republicans' dilemma.
"The reviews are in: Santorum's Social Security roadshow was a bust," crowed the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Friday, in a headline that topped a list of excerpts from news accounts. "They have run into a real hornet's nest," said Brendan Daly, spokesman for Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. Mr. Daly said Democrats planned events for next week to keep the focus on Social Security. The fallout from the recess might deepen the division between the parties on Capitol Hill. Democrats have insisted that they will be united in their opposition to the Bush plan, and on Friday, Senator Jon Corzine, the New Jersey Democrat who is running for governor of that state, said he expected that feeling to intensify. "I can't imagine that people are going to come back more fearful that there is sort of a drumbeat of support for the private account concept," Mr. Corzine said. He held three constituent meetings devoted to Social Security, he said, including two featuring representatives of AARP. "It is clearly something that seniors are rejecting in very, very large numbers," Mr. Corzine said, "and increasingly it feels to me that even folks moving down the age spectrum are turning against it."
At least one Republican, Representative Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, said she would urge colleagues to "be really cautious about what we do." Ms. Capito, whose district includes a substantial population of older people and who has not taken a position on private accounts, said the response from constituents was "probably more negative than positive."
Like a number of other Republicans, Ms. Capito said she heard repeatedly from voters who were worried about Mr. Bush's budget, which would substantially cut or eliminate 150 federal programs. Another Republican, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said he heard so many complaints about cutbacks for vocational training grants that he has decided to oppose Mr. Bush on that issue. "Some of the programs that the president has eliminated may not be possible," he said.
Congress has failed to adopt a budget resolution for two of the last three years; a failure to do so this year, when Mr. Bush has made fiscal restraint a high priority, would be an embarrassment to the White House and a defeat for the Republican leadership in Congress. The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Judd Gregg, said meeting the president's spending goals would be a challenge. "Even though they may talk a fiscally conservative game, in the end, when they are asked to vote, they would rather not have to vote for something that will actually be real," he said.

And as the privatization campaign gets really ugly...
Also from the NYT:
USA Next, a conservative group that is supporting President Bush's plan to revamp Social Security with a campaign criticizing AARP, will send a letter to as many as 500 conservative activists this week signaling future lines of attack, officials at USA Next said.
The group was criticized last week when it tested an advertisement linking AARP to support for same-sex marriage, and now says it plans to attack AARP on other positions. "What the liberals cannot hide is the shameful record of liberal activism AARP has compiled over the years," a draft of the letter says.
Officials at AARP say the group is nonpartisan and has never taken a position on same-sex marriage.

(And did I mention that USA Next has hired consultants who previously worked for the Swift Boat Vets for Truth? Both the NYT and Media Matters have reported on the connection.)

How Bush Really Won

I overlooked this article by Mark Danner in the NY Review of Books when it came out last month. It's long, and it's really good. But I'll just post a key passage:
(Bush's) was a striking vision, clear and absolutely simple to understand. And it linked, firmly and directly, the so-called "moral values" of justice, fairness, and the Almighty to the cause of national security, and specifically to the war on terror that the Bush people kept relentlessly at the campaign's heart. "Terror," "Iraq," and "moral values," supposedly separate "important issues," had been seamlessly joined.
Of course whatever its virtues as a campaign theme, the picture the President offered was not especially "fact-dependent." Many well-known facts— on which Kerry, in his campaign, had laid such stress—were either irrelevant to it (the missing weapons of mass destruction, which went unmentioned) or directly contradicted by it (the failure to demonstrate connections between Iraq and the attacks of September 11). But the facts did not matter—not necessarily because those in the stadium were ignorant of them, though some certainly were, but because the President was offering in their place a worldview that was whole, complete, comprehensible, and thus impermeable to statements of fact that clearly contradicted it. The thousands cheering around me in that Orlando stadium, and the many others who would come to support Bush on election day, faced a stark choice: either discard the facts, or give up the clear and comforting worldview that they contradicted. They chose to disregard the facts.
...Many of the Bush supporters I spoke to were educated, well-informed people. They watched the news and took pleasure in debating politics. And yet they clung to views about important matters of fact that were demonstrably wrong. Steven Kull, public opinion expert at the University of Maryland, acknowledges that although one reason they "cling so tightly to beliefs that have been so visibly refuted...is that they continue to hear the Bush administration confirming these beliefs," the prevalence, and persistence, of these misperceptions is "probably not due to a simple failure to pay attention to the news." Rather, Kull writes, "Bush supporters cling to these beliefs because they are necessary for their support for the decision to go to war with Iraq."
...To support the president and to accept that he took the US to war based on mistaken assumptions is difficult to bear, especially in light of the continuing costs in terms of lives and money. Apparently, to avoid this cognitive dissonance, Bush supporters suppress awareness of unsettling information.
This analysis suggests the difficulties Kerry faced in pressing home his highly "fact-dependent" argument that the Iraq war was separate from the war on terror and thus a mistaken distraction from it. Not only did accepting the point require a good deal of sophistication and knowledge, not only did it seem to contradict the evidence on Americans' television screens each night, which often showed vivid depictions of terrorism in Iraq; it also seemed to imply to some voters that they should take what must have seemed an unpatriotic position. For if they accepted the false pretenses on which the war had been based, how could they go on supporting it, as Kerry, somewhat illogically and even dishonestly, seemed to be asking them to do?
Those running the Bush campaign clearly counted on the talent and influence of impressive propagandists like Limbaugh, and the help they received from an often acquiescent mainstream press. More, they counted on the President's reputation for forthrightness, together with the political folk wisdom that many people, particularly "during wartime," believe "the man, not the fact."

Cousin Oliver joins Social Security road show

From one of the Salon blogs:
You know a television show is on its last legs when it adds a cute child actor in a last ditch attempt at ratings. It happened to "The Brady Bunch." It happened to "All in the Family." It happened to "Different Strokes," "The Cosby Show" and "Family Ties."
And now it's happening to President Bush's travelling road show for Social Security reform (or, as Josh Marshall likes to call it, "Bamboozlepalooza").
The NY Times reports that nine-year-old Noah McCullough of Tonight Show presidential trivia fame has decided to join the President and entourage in stumping for privatization. He will travel in advance of presidential visits to soften radio and public audiences with his command of presidential trivia, his youthful charm and his faith in Bush's plan.
Noah says: "What I want to tell people about Social Security is to not be afraid of the new plan. It may be a change, but it's a good change."
The opportunity will also give Noah some valuable experience in campaigning. He plans to run for President in 2032 (when, in his expert opinion, Social Security will be "bankrupt" if we don't act).

Oh, joy! Newt Gingrich has a new book out!

It's called "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract for America" (like the 20th century one was such a rousing success). It's published by Regnery (of course!).
From the New Republic's review:    
History may regard Newt Gingrich as a failed firebrand-a man who promised to burn down the House and ended up burning out first. But the former speaker is more accurately seen as a philosopher-legislator, a rare and historically significant American who has had "the unusual experience of being an academic, a leader at the center of government power, and now a student of Washington."
Or at least that's Gingrich's not-so-modest message in the opening pages of his new book, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract for America. In Gingrich's words, he's "someone who spent twenty years in the United States House of Representatives" but also someone "who has made a lifelong study-including a Ph.D.-of history." Unfortunately none of that unique perspective comes through in this impassioned, incoherent manifesto. Certainly Gingrich's basic thesis is understandable enough. He argues that there are five central challenges Americans must meet: the threat of terrorism, the alarming growth of secularism, the decline of patriotism, the economic potential of new technology, and the financial solvency of social services. Yet from these broad ideas flow the details of Gingrich's new contract with America, and it is in the details that he stumbles. Every serious issue Gingrich takes up he solves with a sweeping, controversial, and ultimately impractical proposal. The solution to judges who do not follow the will of the Republican majority? Get rid of them or their judgeships. Gingrich argues for impeaching the members of the Ninth Circuit appeals court or, if that proves too difficult, doing away with the court all together. Yet he sidesteps the constitutional questions that the abolishment of a court by the legislative branch would raise. The solution to America's seemingly intractable intelligence shortcomings? Triple the size of the intelligence agencies. Gingrich observes that we need more linguists and more field agents. Yet he ducks the hard questions about how to finance, organize, and manage a larger intelligence community. Even when Gingrich stumbles onto a topic ripe for serious discussion-such as the role of foreign jurisprudence in American law-he is unable to avoid the temptation to throw bombs at the elite, effete left (or, as he insists, "Left").
Thus the broad topics Gingrich sets out at the beginning of his book quickly devolve into a series of glib proposals and easy attacks. To be fair, glimmers of a more scholarly Gingrich occasionally shine through-such as when he moves past red meat topics like religion to discuss technology, innovation, and education. Gingrich's futurism-a trait that allies and critics alike considered one of his quirkiest in the 1990s-is still visible in his ideas about maintaining American economic leadership. Still, after 200-plus pages, one begins to sense that the former speaker is not offering a book so much as a platform. And in fact each chapter ends with an exhortation to visit Gingrich's website, where he invites readers to do their part to "win the future." The book thus has sparked understandable speculation about a presidential bid in 2008.
Setting aside the promises of Gingrich's introduction, no reasonable person could expect scholarly inquiry from a man with a history of indulging in bombastic intellectual pretension and outrageous historical analogies: Gingrich once compiled a "required reading list" for fellow members of Congress; and on the eve of his great electoral victory ten years ago, the speaker-to-be told a reporter he was leading a "slave rebellion" against the Democrats who "run the plantation." One might have expected Gingrich to grow up a bit in the years since his fall from grace. But Winning the Future suggests that he's just waiting to launch another rebellion.

Ridge joins Board of Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting

Former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge has joined the board of Home Depot, Inc., announced CEO Bob Nardelli (who is also a big Bush fund-raiser).
You may recall that Ridge is quite familiar with home-improvement projects. He was instrumental in a short-lived run on duct tape in early 2003, when he encouraged Americans to turn to the sticky substance and plastic sheeting as protection against terrorists using chemical and/or biological agents. The move, which drew criticism from many corners, motivated many across the country to stock up -- to the extent that some retailers reported widespread shortages.
Both Home Depot and rival Lowe's were among the big beneficiaries of the buying binge. Home Depot, in fact, went so far as to set up special Homeland Security displays nears it entrances to tout sales of duct tape, plastic sheeting, batteries and bottled water, among other safe-room supplies.

And now for today's "Holy Crap!" department...

From Reuters:
The human race is expected to swell from the current 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion people by 2050, with populations exploding in hungry developing countries and stagnating in rich nations, the United Nations predicted on Thursday. The increase of 2.6 billion people is equivalent to the combined populations of China and India today, according to the U.N. Population Division's "2004 Revision" report.

U.S. defense contractor Halliburton, under scrutiny for its contracts in Iraq, has been given bonuses for some of its work supporting the U.S. military in Kuwait and Afghanistan, the Army said on Thursday.

Iraq is not the Bush regime's only contribution to suffering and death

NYT Editorial:
The Bush administration has contributed to suffering and death through the so-called global gag rule, which prohibits Washington from giving money to any group that performs - or even talks about - abortions. Organizations that provide desperately needed family planning and women's health services have lost their financing. Now there are moves in Congress and inside the administration to apply a similar rule to needle exchange programs. That would be an even more deadly mistake.
Allowing drug users to trade used needles for clean ones gets dangerous needles off the street and minimizes needle sharing. A proven weapon against AIDS transmission, it has not been shown to increase drug use, and indeed may reduce drug addiction by providing a way to talk to drug users and lead them to treatment. It is endorsed by virtually every mainstream public health group. Getting users into drug treatment is the best way to keep them safe. But the push for treatment - which is expensive and difficult - should come with needle exchanges.
Drug use is not a significant source of AIDS infection in Africa. In parts of Asia, the former Soviet bloc and Eastern Europe, needles are the major source of infection; three-quarters of all newly infected people in Russia are intravenous drug abusers, as are half of those newly infected in China. These are just the places where the AIDS epidemic is likely to explode next. A bumper poppy crop in Afghanistan will worsen the outlook, producing cheap heroin that could turn opium smokers into heroin injectors and thus fuel the epidemic.
Opponents of needle exchanges, mainly among the religious right, argue that the practice muddies the message that illegal drug use is unacceptable, and keeps drug abusers from suffering the consequences of their addiction. By this twisted logic, doctors should refuse to treat lung cancer in smokers. In any case, AIDS infections from sharing needles are not limited to drug users. They infect sexual partners, spreading the epidemic through societies.
While Washington does not buy syringes for needle-exchange programs, it does give money to groups that use other people's money to administer needle exchanges. But some conservatives are attempting to stop even that. The assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, Robert Charles, warned the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the joint program Unaids, that the organization should not work on needle exchange issues and should remove positive references to them from its Web site, which it did.
Representatives Mark Souder of Indiana and Tom Davis of Virginia, both Republicans, have asked the United States Agency for International Development for details on all financing for programs in which any group strongly advocating needle exchanges also participates. These lawmakers claim that a U.N. drug agency report attacks needle exchange as encouraging drug use. In fact, the report makes no such accusation and endorses needle exchanges.
In the Senate, a member of the staff of Sam Brownback, the Kansas Republican, has compiled a grossly inaccurate chart of programs financed by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that is subtitled "Immoral, Illegal (with bilateral funds) or Inconsistent with U.S. Foreign Policy." Needle exchanges rank high. At the moment, Mr. Brownback's office says he does not intend to attempt to block these programs. But some newer right-wing lawmakers are considering it.
So far, attempts to eliminate needle-exchange programs overseas seem to have limited support. Many administration officials and conservatives in Congress do not want to see crucial AIDS prevention measures derailed or American support withdrawn from such organizations as the Global Fund. One important test will be what the administration does in early March at the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Last year, United States representatives there attacked the scientific evidence in favor of needle exchanges as unconvincing. This year, the United States should refrain from such attacks - and members of Congress should call off their budding witch hunt.
Washington's antipathy toward needle exchanges is a triumph of ideology over science, logic and compassion. The United States should help pay for these important programs. If it cannot bring itself to do so, it should at least allow the rest of the world to get on with saving millions of lives.

Feingold takes on the Patriot Act

From the IPS News Agency:
Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, is on a collision course with President George W. Bush over how much leeway should be given to intelligence agencies and law enforcement to wage their "war on terror". Feingold has introduced three bills to limit provisions of the USA Patriot Act, legislation passed shortly after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks that curtails civil liberties in the interest of cracking down on "terrorist" activities.
Pres. Bush is pressing Congress to renew the controversial law without change.
Feingold's proposals would limit authority to delay notice of search warrants, restrict government access to library, bookseller, and other personal records for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, and clarify conditions for computer surveillance. Feingold, also the co-author with Senator John McCain of Arizona of a landmark campaign finance reform law, told the Senate, "I have many concerns with the Patriot Act. I am not seeking to repeal it, in whole or in part. My colleagues and I are only seeking to modify…provisions that pose serious potential for abuse."
"The privacy of law-abiding Americans is at stake, along with their confidence in their government," he said earlier this month. "Congress should act to protect our privacy and reassure our citizens." Meanwhile, Bush, speaking at a Justice Department ceremony last week, said the Patriot Act has been "vital to our success in tracking terrorists and disrupting their plans." He urged lawmakers to renew elements of the law that will expire at the end of this year. "We must not allow the passage of time or the illusion of safety to weaken our resolve in this new war," Bush said. Before he left office, Attorney-General John Ashcroft referred to the Patriot Act as "invaluable -- not only to save lives from terrorists, but to save children from kidnappers and pedophiles."
But Lisa Graves, senior legislative strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a major advocacy group, takes a very different view. She told IPS, "Sen. Feingold's bills will help shape the debate on the most troubling aspects of the Patriot Act, including secret searches of peoples' homes and also searches of the books they buy or borrow without showing any specific facts warranting such intrusions."
In response to the president's push to make the entire Patriot Act permanent without any changes, she added "these bills are part of the growing momentum across the political spectrum to fix the Patriot Act to bring it in line with the Constitution's checks and balances -- it makes sense to review the act regularly to guard both our safety and our liberty."
Feingold's proposals address three of the most controversial sections of the legislation:

Section 213, sometimes referred to as the "delayed notice search provision" or the "sneak and peek provision," authorises the government in limited circumstances to conduct a search without immediately serving a search warrant on the owner or occupant of the premises.

Sections 215 and 505 give the government access to library, bookseller, medical, and other sensitive, personal information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and related foreign intelligence authority.

Section 217 was designed to permit law enforcement to assist computer owners who are subject to denial of service attacks or other episodes of hacking.

Supporters and critics of the legislation agree that the USA Patriot Act gave law enforcement sweeping new powers to investigate and prosecute terrorism-related as well as more garden-variety criminal activities. Some of its provisions are due to expire this year, and the White House and most Republicans have been pressing to expand the law rather than modify it. Feingold was the only senator who voted against the legislation. With both the House of Representatives and the Senate controlled by Republicans, his latest amendments face an uphill battle. However, the liberal senator is not alone. Many civil liberties and human rights groups have vigorously opposed sections of the law, particularly those targeted in the Feingold legislation.
Feingold's proposal would narrow the circumstances in which a delayed warrant can be granted to the following: potential loss of life, flight from prosecution, destruction or tampering with evidence, or intimidation of potential witnesses.
"The 'catch-all provision' allowing a secret search when serving the warrant would seriously jeopardise an investigation or unduly delay a trial can too easily be turned into permission to do these searches whenever the government wants," Feingold said. It would also require a public report on the number of times that section 213 is used, the number of times that extensions are granted, and the type of crimes being investigated.
Feingold's second bill, which was co-sponsored by nine other democratic senators, deals with Sections 215 and 505 of the law. "The current law allows the FBI broad, almost unfettered access to personal information about law-abiding Americans who have no connection to terrorism or spying," he said. "The FBI could serve a subpoena on a library for all the borrowing records of its patrons or on a bookseller for the purchasing records of its customers simply by asserting that they want the records for a terrorism investigation. Since the passage of the Patriot Act, librarians and booksellers have become increasingly concerned by the potential for abuse of this law."
"The American people do not know how many or what kind of requests federal agents have made for library records under the Patriot Act. The Justice Department refuses to release that information to the public," he added.
The Feingold proposal would restore a pre-Patriot Act requirement that the FBI make a factual, individualised showing that the records sought pertain to a suspected terrorist or spy while leaving in place other Patriot Act expansions of this business records power.
Section 217, Feingold said, "was intended to target only a narrow class of people -- unauthorised cyberhackers. It was not intended to give the government the opportunity to engage in widespread surveillance of computer users without a warrant."
Section 217 is one of the provisions due to "sunset" at the end of 2005.

W and the "post-truth" presidency

In The American Prospect, Paul Waldman reviews Eric Alterman's new book, When Presidents Lie, which focuses on four "case studies" of big lies propagated by FDR, LBJ, JFK, and Reagan. W's "post-truth" presidency is a coda to the book, but Waldman argues:
Two things distinguish Bush from his predecessors on the subject of lying. First, Bush’s grandest lies have not been about covering up what has already happened but about persuading the public to go along with what he has decided to do but has yet to implement. Tax cuts, Iraq, now Social Security -- each major policy move has been accompanied by a campaign of deception. Lying is not a defensive reaction to a crisis but a carefully crafted strategy. Second, and perhaps most troubling, is that Bush seems unconcerned about getting caught. Indeed, the administration’s damn-the-torpedoes fearlessness is the source of much of its political success. That it would actually hire, along with a series of other Iran-Contra figures, a perjurer like Elliot Abrams -- who has recently been promoted to deputy national-security adviser in charge of democracy promotion, of all things -- is testimony to its utter audacity. Go ahead, these officials seem to be saying, call us a bunch of liars -- we really don’t care.
One of the common threads running through (Alterman's) history is that in case after case, the press went along with whatever the administration told it. Watergate may have temporarily cured reporters of this credulousness, but the remission lasted only so long. When the history of the Bush administration is written, the abject cowardice of the press in confronting an administration that held it in undisguised contempt and lied in its face will be one of the most depressing chapters. As citizens, we have no defense from official deception but the reporters who are tasked with discovering the truth and holding presidents to account on our behalf. As Alterman writes, if public officials “feel free to lie to the press -- and, by extension, the nation -- with impunity, then democracy becomes pseudo-democracy, as the illusion of accountability replaces the real thing.” Even when they have mustered the courage to point out fabrications in a story buried on page A19, the media’s mighty arrows of truth telling have bounced off this White House like a child’s toy with defective suction cups.
“In each case,” Alterman says about Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, and Reagan, “the president or his party was made to pay for his deceptions along with the country they so cavalierly misled.” As of yet, not only has neither Bush nor his party paid a price for the lies about Iraq but there is little reason to think they will anytime soon. In no small part, the administration is able to evade consequence for its mendacity because its supporters have adopted a siege mentality, hunkered behind the castle walls of their loyalty to the president. Presented with irrefutable evidence that the war in Iraq was sold on a series of deceptions, many of them simply stick their fingers in their ears and chant, “La la la, I can’t hear you.”
According to the University of Maryland’s Project on International Policy Attitudes, just before the 2004 election, 47 percent of Bush supporters believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and another 26 percent thought it had a major weapons program. Three out of four Bush supporters also thought Iraq was providing substantial support to al-Qaeda. These people seem to have resolved the cognitive dissonance created by the collision of the truth with their support of Bush by adopting a new set of “facts” more in line with what their leader had told them.
One trembles to contemplate the lesson of the Bush administration’s deceptions: Admit nothing, even when caught; continue to lie, even after the lie has been exposed; define anyone who questions the lie as an enemy of the nation or, failing that, of “the troops.” If your partisans stand firm (and particularly if your party controls Congress, so no pesky oversight hearings will take place), you can get away with just about anything. As Alterman makes clear, lies have consequences, often in blood. As we hear that forces within the Pentagon are seriously contemplating military action against Iran and Syria, one wonders just what they will tell us to justify the next military adventure. Will we believe them? And will it make a difference?


The unmitigated gall...

From H.D.S. Greenway in the Boston Globe:
1000 years before Pericles and the golden age of Athens, the Chinese were weaving silk, casting in bronze, and carving objects of beauty out of jade. Some of the world's greatest poetry was written in China when Alexander the Great was a toddler. In 240 BC, Chinese astronomers noted the passage of Halley's Comet, something that would not be done in the West for another millennium.
Thus I was bemused by Donald Rumsfeld's recent comments that China was a country ''we hope and pray enters the civilized world in an orderly way." A Pentagon spokesman, in a role similar to the fellow who follows the circus elephant with a shovel, jumped in quickly to explain that the secretary of defense did not mean to suggest that China was not a civilized country, only that it had been an inward-looking country that was now emerging as a global actor. True enough, but increasingly, it seems, ''civilized" actors are those who play roles written for them by the Bush administration.
It was the expansion of China's military power that prompted Rumsfeld's remark. Rumsfeld is paid to concern himself with such matters. But China is too big for the Bush administration to bully. A nuclear power and a permanent member of the Security Council, China can both defend itself and hinder many things the United States would like to do.The Bush administration came to power with a belligerent attitude towards China. Conservatives said China would no longer be coddled and should be treated as a dangerous rival.
But after 9/11, Beijing immediately offered its support in the war against terrorists, and one of the best aspects of Bush's post-9/11 policies was that unnecessary quarrels with China were put aside.
Now, in George W. Bush's second term, we have Donald Rumsfeld making ill-considered remarks about China, a country he There are three truths about China's future: Nothing is going to stand in the way of China becoming a world economic power. China's military power will also grow expediently in the Western Pacific and perhaps beyond. And China is in a period of transition, which Rumsfeld recognizes.
The United States can either recognize these truths and treat China with respect and understanding during this transition, helping to move China toward democracy, or it can confront China -- not a wise decision for the long run and ludicrous in the short run since Iraq has taken so many cards out of America's hand.

The unmitigated gall, part 2...

From the CBC:
Prime Minister Paul Martin said Canada must be consulted before the U.S. decides to fire on missiles that enter Canadian airspace, despite Ottawa's refusal to participate in America's missile defence program.
"I don't think that anyone expected that there would be any other finger on a button than the Americans," Martin said Friday, a day after his decision not to join the program. "But in terms of Canadian airspace, yes we would expect to be consulted. This is our airspace. We're a sovereign nation. And you don't intrude on a sovereign nation's airspace without seeking permission," Martin said.
Martin also rejected claims by U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci that Canada has given up its sovereignty by saying no to the missile plan. Cellucci had said the U.S. was surprised by Martin's decision, saying "we simply cannot understand why Canada would, in effect, give up its sovereignty, its seat at the table, to decide what to do about missiles that might be headed towards Canada."
"We did not give up sovereignty," Martin responded. "We affirmed sovereignty."
Martin repeated that the nearly $13 billion allocated for the military in Wednesday's budget proves Canada is committed to taking its share of responsibility for national and international security. "I think the other important thing is the other affirmation of sovereignty is the very large defence budget, which is designed to protect our coast, borders and Arctic sovereignty and also make sure we can play a role in the world. That is also an affirmation of our sovereignty," he said.
When he first took office, Martin suggested he supported joining the plan, saying he believed Canada should be at the table when it comes to any discussion of the defence of North America.
"I think our sovereignty depends on us being at the table when discussions are taking place about the defence of North America," Martin said in 2003, before becoming the Liberal leader.

And this comment from Matt Yglesias in The American Prospect:
“We simply cannot understand why Canada would in effect give up its sovereignty – its seat at the table – to decide what to do about a missile that might be coming towards Canada.”
That's quite the odd thing for Celluci to be saying. Now the reality is that if the United States manages to construct a working ballistic missile shield, and if some rogue state then manages to develop ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States, and then if that state chooses to fire a missile at the United States, and -- finally -- if that missile is routed such that it passes through Canadian airspace, we're going to fire our anti-missile missile at the hostile missile and the government of Canada isn't going to stop us. That, however, is an awfully long string of "ifs." Basically, it's not going to happen. The point didn't need to be addressed at all, much less in such a bombastic, over-the-top, inflammatory way.
Canadians are, for understandable reasons, very sensitive about the idea that they've lost their sovereignty to the 800-pound gorilla to the south. No prime minister wants it to look like he's getting pushed around by the United States. Making it look like the United States is trying to bully Canada or preparing to trample all over it makes it politically impossible for the government to work with Washington on areas of common interest and, in practice, makes it harder for us to push Canada around. In some ways, it's not the biggest deal in the world, but years after September 11 we still haven't secured real Canadian cooperation on some vital questions of border control largely because the Bush administration keeps provoking giant blow-ups over peripheral issues. Doing things like, you know, arguing that Canada is no longer a sovereign state. Chalk up another win for the erstwhile "grown ups."

For the sake of our children...

RFK Jr. argues that George W. Bush poses the biggest threat to our children, our environment, and our markets.
OK, we knew that already...but this is a good read.
He lays out the case against the Bush administration and calls for market-driven solutions to Bush's spreading environmental catastrophe. The logic is clear: Pollution is a subsidy. If polluters can shift the price of their toxic mess onto the public, they get an unfair advantage in the market. Our asthma- and mercury-plagued children are subsidizing industry, and it has to stop.

Bono for President...of the World Bank

From the LA Times Editorial Board:
Bono, the U2 rock star, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he is a credible candidate. But we have a better idea on how best to recognize his effective lobbying on behalf of African development — Bono should be named the next president of the World Bank.
Don't be fooled by the wraparound sunglasses and the excess hipness. Bono is deeply versed in the issues afflicting the least-developed nations of the world, as former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill learned when he traveled the continent with the musician. O'Neill, an uber-wonk, came back singing Bono's praises. Bono even brought ultra-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms to tears by relating poverty in Africa to passages in the Bible.
Bono may not have a PhD in economics, but he'd have plenty of real economists around the bank to consult. Bono is the most eloquent and passionate spokesman for African aid in the Western world. And given that both ex-President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have in recent years made Africa one of their focuses, that's saying something.
Bono led the Drop the Debt campaign in 2000, seeking to forgive billions in loans to the Third World, and in 2002 he co-founded Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa, a serious group that seeks to raise awareness of Africa's problems and lobby governments to help solve them. It could hardly ask for a better spokesman than its founder, whose fame has helped open doors that other lobbyists spend decades trying to crack.
Bono could enhance the World Bank's image and sell its poverty-reduction mission far more effectively than the other deserving candidates being mentioned for the job, which traditionally goes to an American — a tradition that deserves to be broken, even if not in favor of the Irish rock star.
For one thing, Bono could mobilize public opinion in favor of getting rich nations to abide by their commitments to development aid, which they rarely meet.
The singer likes to tell the story of how he got interested in Africa after visiting Ethiopia following the Live Aid benefit for Ethiopian famine relief in 1984. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, he compared contemporary indifference to Africa's plight with the indifference of some who saw Jews being herded away on trains during World War II. Surrounded by titans of industry at Davos, he also spoke of aid to Africa in terms of brand identity: Brand America is doing poorly around the world, he said, and spending more on poverty relief would help market the country and its products.
President Bush, who has a large say in who will get the job, should realize that Brand America and the branding of both the World Bank and development generally would benefit greatly if Bono gets the nod.

OK, folks, this is huge. Pass it on to everyone you know.

From Edward Wasserman, journalism ethics professor at Washington and Lee University, writing in the Miami Herald:
The news media got an unusual bashing during last year's bitter electoral campaigns. They got slapped around from all sides, and everybody argued about how the media tried either to undermine Bush or discredit Kerry or both.
Still, it's never clear why some media wrongs are made into a big deal while others slip by. Take the CBS "60 Minutes" report on Bush's military nonservice: The story itself was old, the dubious evidence was of dubious importance, and the broadcast had no discernible effect. It became a major scandal anyway.
On the other end of the scale is an instance of clear-cut media wrongdoing that involved unquestionably fraudulent evidence and had dramatic consequences. This one, however, has gone largely unremarked. It is the famous incident involving Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean that is known as The Dean Scream. And with Dean's recent appointment as Democratic Party chairman it's being hauled out as constituting the ceiling on whatever political ambitions he might still have, proof that he's shaky, unstable, unfit to serve - Howard Dean's Chappaquiddick.
You've seen the clip. After Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl, it's the most famous news video of 2004. Dean is addressing campaign supporters after he lost the Iowa party caucuses in January. He's screaming for no apparent reason, practically shrieking, ticking off the states where he's vowing to continue the race. His face is red, his voice breaking. He looks deranged. It's a portrait of a man out of control. It's documentary evidence that Dean lacks the temperament for high office.
In fact the Dean Scream was a fraud, probably the clearest instance of media assassination in recent U.S. political history.
Last year, a young cable news producer attended one of our twice-yearly Ethics Institutes at Washington and Lee University, in which students and journalists gather to discuss newsroom wrongdoing. He brought two clips.
The first was the familiar pool footage of Dean in Iowa. The candidate filled the screen, no supporters were visible. Crowd noise was silenced by the microphone he held, which deadened ambient sounds. You saw only him and heard only his inexplicable screaming.
The second clip was the same speech taped by a supporter on the floor of the hall. The difference was stunning. The place was packed. The noise was deafening. Dean was on the podium, but you couldn't hear him. The roar from his supporters was drowning him out.
Dean was no longer scary, unhinged, volcanic, over the top. He was like the coach of a would-be championship NCAA football team at a pre-game rally, trying to be heard over a gym full of determined, wildly enthusiastic fans. I saw energy, not lunacy.
The difference was context. As psychiatrist R.D. Laing once wrote: We see a woman on her knees, eyes closed, muttering to someone who isn't there. Of course, she's praying. But if we deny her that context, we naturally conclude she's insane.
The Dean Scream footage that was repeatedly aired rests on a similar falsehood. It takes a man who in context was acting reasonably, and by stripping away that context transforms him into a lunatic.
But that clip was aired an estimated 700 times on various cable and broadcast channels in the week after the Iowa caucus. The people who showed that clip are far more technically sophisticated than I and had to understand how tight visual framing and noise-suppression hardware can distort reality.
True, some network news executives commented afterward that perhaps the footage was overplayed and offered the bureaucrat's favorite bromide, that hindsight is 20/20. But the media establishment has never acknowledged this as a burning matter of ethical harm. That's because the Dean Scream incriminates the entire professional mission of television news, which is built around the primacy of the picture. TV producers don't profess to offer meaning and context; they get you the visuals, unless they're gory or obscene. The notion that great footage would be not shown just because it's profoundly misleading - that's a possibility few TV news executives would entertain.
That's why they're not eager to see the Dean Scream enter the canon of journalistic sin. And if that leaves Howard Dean's political future hobbled by a lie, so be it.

Is this your ownership society?

From Holly Sklar on CommonDreams.org:
Would you invest in a company that cut your wages, laid off your cousin, polluted your neighborhood, cut your health insurance and raided your retirement fund? If so, you'll love President Bush's "ownership society."
At a time of rising support for socially responsible business, Bush's ownership society offers less social responsibility, less opportunity and accelerating dis-investment in the future.
Extensive studies demonstrate the economic benefits of corporate social and environmental responsibility, including improved financial performance, productivity, quality, innovation and reduced operating costs. "For example," says Business for Social Responsibility, "many initiatives aimed at improving environmental performance -- such as reducing emissions of gases that contribute to global climate change...also lower costs."
The ownership society backed by Bush's fiscal year 2006 budget is the worst of all worlds: fiscally, socially and environmentally irresponsible, morally bankrupt, and toxic to democracy.
Lincoln fought for "government of the people, by the people, for the people." Bush stands for government of the owners, by the owners, for the owners.
The richest 1 percent of households already owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. Take-home pay as a share of the economy is at the lowest level since 1929. Bush is reshaping the tax and budget system so workers pay a greater share of the costs and owners pay less. As wealth is increasingly sheltered from taxes, inequality will become more entrenched and hereditary in Bush's ownership society. While Bush runs up the national debt to reckless levels, risking economic crisis, to give more tax breaks to millionaires, his budget cuts education, a pillar of individual and national progress, on the pretense of fiscal responsibility.
The unemployment rate is 30 percent higher than it was in 2000. About one out of six Americans has no health insurance, and half of all bankruptcies are illness-related. One out of eight Americans lives below the meager official poverty line -- and many more can't make ends meet above it. Yet, Bush's budget slashes already inadequate small business assistance, workforce development, community economic development, public health and safety, Medicaid, housing assistance, public transit, food stamps, childcare and much more.
Bush is building a bridge to the 20th century -- the pre-New Deal 20th century. Givebacks to wealthy corporations and people have already given us mid-20th century revenues for 21st century challenges. Total federal tax revenues, says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "are a smaller share of the economy than in any year since 1959, a time when Medicare, Medicaid, most federal aid to education, most child care and environmental programs, and anti-poverty programs such as food stamps did not exist."
With time running out to turn back the global tsunami of global warming, Bush keeps energy policy hostage to the oil and gas lobby. His budget slashes natural resources and environmental programs 23 percent by fiscal year 2010.
Tax cuts for the richest 1 percent will cost more than $120 billion in 2006, Citizens for Tax Justice projects. That about matches Bush's total 2006 budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs combined.
Instead of making irresponsible budget cuts, we should be repealing irresponsible tax cuts. Wealthy Americans have reaped the lion's share of economic growth. Without fair and adequate taxes, we cannot rebuild the public infrastructure inherited from past generations. We cannot invest in the research and education vital for our future.
We will not prosper in the global economy relying increasingly on low wages and outsourcing in place of innovation and opportunity. Bush is undoing the New Deal and later advances that made the American Dream real for millions of people -- and made the nation we own together a better one. Bush wants us to unlearn the lessons of the Great Depression and more recently burst stock bubble. He wants to transform Social Security's retirement insurance, with guaranteed lifetime benefits, into a more costly, risky, privatized investment gamble.
Bush's ownership society would replace the American Dream with the American Gamble, rigged for the wealthy and well connected. For the Gamble Generation, insecurity would be the norm and opportunity increasingly the birthright of wealth, not democracy.

ChoicePoint: The company that would sell your soul to the devil

From Tony Norman of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette:
Why am I not surprised that ChoicePoint, the consumer data-mining company that was recently conned into sharing 145,000 consumer credit profiles with identity thieves, is the same company that helped Florida "purge" its voter rolls of felons and other undesirable voters during the 2000 election?
When you're on such an undemocratic roll, why stop at helping to hijack an election in plain sight when you can earn millions selling the identities of every person gullible enough to have a credit history to shadowy front companies, organized crime syndicates and enterprising con artists?
And when not selling our hard-earned identities to felonious data brokers, why shouldn't ChoicePoint do the patriotic thing and sell the information -- much of which the government is restricted by law from harvesting for itself -- to the boys in Homeland Security as they go about assembling the ultimate domestic surveillance state?
What could be more American than invading the privacy of millions of people for fun and profit while continuing to evade government oversight with bribes in the form of generous campaign contributions? But it's not like the American Civil Liberties Union didn't warn us of this inevitable convergence of identity theft and ham-fisted Big Brother tactics at least a million times.
Last August, the ACLU released a report detailing how the government stands in line with other suspicious characters to buy information gleaned from most of us by so-called "data aggregators" like ChoicePoint. Every time you pull out your Giant Eagle Advantage card, a low-level bureaucrat in the belly of the data-mining beast knows about it and laughs.
It took the boys in Homeland Security a whole Orwellian minute to figure out that buying the information from a third party -- though contemptuous of the spirit of the law -- doesn't technically violate the Privacy Act of 1974. That law forbids Uncle Sam from assembling dossiers on law-abiding Americans unless they're specifically targeted by federal investigators. Like low-rent identity thieves, the government can gather the information in bulk and sit on it until it is needed.
Corporate data-miners don't have to be nearly as circumspect about the information they gather, though. ChoicePoint makes no bones about the fact that we're just numbers to be bought, sold and traded at its discretion.
California is the only state in the union that requires data-mining companies to inform residents when their identities have been stolen. Last week, Eileen Goldberg, a California resident and the only hero in this drama as far as I'm concerned, sued ChoicePoint in Los Angeles Superior Court for fraud and negligence.
For being a dupe in an ongoing criminal conspiracy, ChoicePoint deserves to be snowed under with lawsuits. With 700 fraudulent cases out of 145,000 tied directly to its negligence so far, a class-action suit is all but inevitable. With any luck, 49 other states will quickly adopt California's "breach law" and require data-mining companies to inform us whenever our identities have been compromised in their data banks.
In a just world, the practice of harvesting the financial minutiae of our lives should be a risky venture fraught with crushing liability. There's nothing more precious than our identities, but too many companies play with the raw data of our lives as if they were feudal lords and we, merely serfs.
Whenever I see a commercial featuring a straight-talking "thief" telling us that the only thing standing between us and identity theft is a shredder, I let out a hearty laugh. Sure, I use a shredder religiously to slice and dice the credit card offers that pour in every day, but I know companies like ChoicePoint will sell my personal information to the next criminal that asks for it, anyway. And what isn't sold willingly will be hacked eventually.
Maybe we should allow them to tattoo our Social Security numbers on our foreheads and call it a day.

A blog recommendation

I got a comment today from the bloggers at http://velvelonnationalaffairs.blogspot.com, who mentioned that they enjoyed my site and asked me to look at velvelonnationalaffairs. I did, and I highly recommend it.
Lawrence Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, publishes a blog with his views on national affairs, with some really interesting recent posts on Iraq, torture, Gonzales, Chertoff, and other legal/moral dilemmas facing the US. He has also written scholarly books praised by Howard Zinn and Joseph Ellis.
A sample quotation:
"We live in odd times. At least they seem odd to those in their 60s who suffer from the conceit that in their youth they were inculcated with some of the more admirable views of the 1950s and early 1960s. In those days, honesty, competence, hard work, modesty and, increasingly, concern for others were celebrated. The idea that we would have a President and Cabinet members who were criminals, and a Department of Justice which did everything it could to abet the crimes, was unthinkable. To be sure, there were those with bad ideas in those days, southern racists and militarists prominent among them. But I daresay that ever-increasing opinion went the other way. But today we have a president, cabinet officers, subcabinet officers, government lawyers, judges, and cabinet nominees who beyond dispute are guilty of crimes because they knew of, welcomed in the hope it would extract information, and unsuccessfully tried to immunize torture, torture which apparently even went to the point of approximately two to three dozen deaths in captivity. Of course, that these people are guilty of crimes is not something that the mainstream press is yet willing to say. It lacks the courage, especially as to Bush himself. Nor are the Democrats willing yet to say it, much less bring impeachment proceedings against this crowd of criminals, since it would not at this point be good politics -- Bush just won the election, after all, which for at least some time in the future will immunize this twice accidental president against being brought to book. Nonetheless, to use phraseology that was a favorite of a conservative, Bob Bork, despite the current weak knees of the press and the Democrats, "there is no legitimate argument" that Bush and company are not guilty of crimes. It was, indeed, the fear that its people were engaging in crimes that initially led the CIA to request the preposterous and now (only) partially abandoned legal opinions authorizing torture despite American laws against it."

How to win friends and influence people

What a freakin' hypocrite. I hardly know where to begin.

From the UK Independent:
President George Bush subjected Russia's Vladimir Putin to a public lecture on the fundamentals of democracy yesterday, injecting a chill into a relationship that has - until now - been characterised by bonhomie.
Meeting in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, Mr Bush emerged from a three-hour meeting with the Russian President joking and smiling and full of warm words. But his frequent references to "Vladimir" and the "fella" were peppered with targeted criticism of the state of democracy in Russia with which the more hawkish members of his administration are said to have lost patience.
An unsmiling, visibly irritated Mr Putin squirmed as he listened to Mr Bush tell a press conference he had been told that Washington had "concerns about Russia's commitment in fulfilling" the "universal principles" of democracy. "Democracies always reflect a country's customs and culture, and I know that," Mr Bush said. "Yet democracies have certain things in common; they have a rule of law, and protection of minorities, a free press, and a viable political opposition."
Mr Putin had wanted to talk about the two countries' joint efforts to combat terrorism but was forced instead to defend his domestic reforms and his commitment to democracy.
For a man who is seldom subjected to such face-to-face criticism and is famously cool under pressure, he looked at times as if he was about to lose his composure. "I respect some of his [Mr Bush's ideas] a lot and take them into account. Others I won't. [Such issues] should not be pushed to the foreground. New problems should not be created that could jeopardise our relationship. We want to develop the relationship."
Russian officials tried to play down the tension by suggesting the two men's relationship had matured to a level where they could now tell each other things they did not want to hear.
The two men could not, however, have looked more different. Mr Bush looked satisfied that he had obliged Mr Putin to justify his views on democracy and claimed a statement from the Russian leader vowing not to roll it back was the meeting's most important moment.
Mr Putin said: "Russia chose democracy 14 years ago without any outside pressure. It made this choice for itself, in its own interests and for its people and its citizens. It was a definitive choice and there is no turning back." A return to totalitarianism was impossible, he added.
However he indulged in none of the informal small talk beloved of Mr Bush and looked relieved to exit the stage with a stiff handshake, his face taut with pressure. In Russian official circles, the meeting is likely to be seen as a humiliation.



I kid you not: Sean Hannity runs a dating service on his website where people can post their pictures and describe their conservative bona fides to get hooked up with their soulmates.
Here is one representative post (complete with photo of woman wearing a patriotic party tiara):
"I love this country and I support our President. I saw him three times this past year, twice on the campaign trail and once at the inauguration. I cried when Reagan died. One of my favorite books is "I love you, Ronnie" - Ronald Reagan's love letters to Nancy Reagan. I want the kind of love that Nancy and Ronald Reagan had. I am a hopeless Romantic looking for a kind hearted fun loving, Christian guy who is willing to stand up for what he believes in and doesn't mind a strong, well educated, conservative, Christian women by his side."
(Thanks to John at Americablog for publicizing this!)

Hey hey ho ho Rick Santorum has got to go

From Daily Kos:
Chris Bowers has a funny take on Rick Santorum's social security event in Pennsylvania today. These two paragraphs are particularly hilarious:
[B]efore the event, Philly DFA began chanting "Hey-hey, ho-ho, Rick Santorum has got to go!" Local college Republicans, who are just about the only Republicans in West Philly, responded with a chant that beautifully was captured live by CNN: "Hey-hey, ho-ho, Social Security has got to go!" I love it when the other side does your campaigning for you.
Inside the hall, the biggest applause line of the event was generated early on when Santorum asked a rhetorical question about demographics and funding: "What happens in 2008?" Before he could answer his own question, someone shouted "Bush leaves office," and the room went wild.
Gotta love those College Republicans -- too young and stupid to use proper code words, letting their true intentions hang out in the open.

Kerrying on about the wrong guy

From ThinkProgress.org:
During last year’s presidential campaign, the right-wing offered any number of reasons to fear a Kerry presidency. John Kerry, the typical tax-and-spender, would negotiate with the terrorists, undermine efforts to ban gay marriage, bring salacious scandals back into the White House, increase government spending while cutting vital missile defense, and get buddy-buddy with his surrender-monkey European allies, like close associate Jacques Chirac.
Or, in other words, Kerry might have…
– Suggested raising taxes to pay for the costs of his massive $2 trillion pet reform project
– Entered into negotiations with the terrorists in Iraq
– Proclaimed that “nothing will happen in the Senate” on the anti-gay marriage bill
– Nominated a possible cabinet member who once engaged in adulterous romps in a motel room reserved for
exhausted 9/11 workers
– Offered White House press privileges to a partisan activist with an alleged history in gay prostitution
– Released the largest budget in U.S. history while slashing missile defense spending by $5 billion over six years
– During a “warm” and “friendly” tour through Europe, declared that Jacques Chirac could make a “good cowboy”

NYC gives Wal-Mart the finger

Facing intense opposition, a large real estate developer has dropped its plans to include a Wal-Mart store in a Queens shopping complex, thwarting Wal-Mart's plan to open its first store in New York City, city officials and real estate executives said yesterday. The decision by the developer, Vornado Realty Trust, is a blow to Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, and comes after company officials said that New York City was an important new frontier in which Wal-Mart was eager to expand.
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company was still exploring other sites in the city, but the possibility that the company would open a 132,000-square-foot store in Queens had immediately stirred a storm of opposition by neighborhood, labor and environmental groups as well as small businesses. Wal-Mart also faced opposition from many City Council members and several members of Congress.

Finally, some truly frivolous lawsuits

Two conservative groups have filed suits "seeking to invalidate the $3 billion stem cell research funding institute" that California voters enthusiastically approved last November. A spokeswoman for the institute brushed off the charges, saying the "proposition's passage demonstrated that a majority of voters 'felt comfortable that there was ample oversight and accountability,'" the Associated Press reports. It's no wonder the suits aren't being taken seriously. One, for instance, says the proposition illegally exempts institute members of conflict-of-interest laws since "it allows members to vote on awarding research grants that directly address diseases they or their family members may have," the AP notes. "At least three members have debilitating illnesses such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis."

Helen Thomas rocks

From her Hearst Newspaper column:
President Bush should look into the mirror before giving orders and threatening other nations. His militant foreign policy reeks with piety and is selectively threatening to several nations.
At a news conference Thursday, Bush demanded that Syria end its occupation of Lebanon but he stopped short of accusing Syria of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. An investigation to assign blame is under way.
It would also help if Bush were to practice what he preaches. His orders to Syria might carry more weight if the United States were not occupying Iraq,digging in for the long haul with reported plans for more than a dozen permanent military bases there.
Further, Bush decries the terrorists who "target innocent civilians" while conveniently forgetting that the United States has dropped tons of bombs on Iraq since launching its invasion nearly two years ago.
The refusal of the Bush administration to count the Iraqi dead makes it easier to overlook that sad toll.

Uncle Bucky

From the Center for American Progress:
It's not bad news for everyone in Iraq. Just ask William H.T. Bush, or, as President George W. Bush calls him, Uncle Bucky. Bucky Bush just made a cool $450,000 in war profits from Iraq through the St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc. Uncle Bucky, who sits on the company's board, cashed out a half-million of the company's stock options last month. ESSI's stock prices skyrocketed "to record heights" with Uncle Bucky's nephew's decision to invade Iraq. ESSI raked in millions from contracts to refit military vehicles with extra armor, build $19 million worth of its protective shelters for chemical and biological weapons (despite the fact that no biological or chemical weapons have been found in Iraq), and provide communications support services to the Coalition Provisional Authority. Of course, the company hasn't been without its share of trouble, even with a family member in the White House: Some of ESSI's sole-source contracts (with a value of $158 million) are now under investigation by the Pentagon.

The GOP's Wingnuts

From Paul Waldman on TomPaine.com:
Had you happened by the Conservative Political Action Conference taking place at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington this past weekend, you would have been able to hobnob with representatives of the entire spectrum of conservative American thought, from the right to the far right to the really far right. And you would have seen the leading lights of the Republican establishment rubbing shoulders with the most radical reactionaries in America. There was the vice president of the United States—and Ann Coulter, who regularly calls for the murder of those with whom she disagrees. There was Karl Rove—and Gary Aldrich, the former FBI agent and author who claimed Hillary Clinton hung crack pipes from the White House Christmas tree. There was Republican Party chair Ken Mehlman—and right-wing dirty trickster David Bossie. There were nine U.S. senators—and the authors of a passel of anti-Clinton hit books. And those were just the official speakers.
Yet you won't hear anyone asking prominent Republicans to "distance themselves" from the wingnuts in their midst. Reporters and pundits won't be fishing out controversial statements from CPAC conference speakers and asking elected Republicans to repudiate them. Conservative writers won't be penning magazine pieces advising the RNC to hold the center by purging activists whose views are "outside the mainstream."
But the story is far different on the left, where the circular firing squad is a regularly scheduled event. This is not to say that conservatives don't sometimes go after their own, but the critical difference is this: The right purges its moderates, while the left purges its liberals.
Part of this can be explained by the fact that at the moment, Republicans are in power and Democrats are retooling. And every now and again, a lone voice like that of Christine Todd Whitman will bleat from the wilderness that the GOP shouldn't get too in thrall to its radical religious wing. But Whitman's argument and her book were completely ignored by conservatives. It's My Party,Too now stands at a tepid #859 in the Amazon rankings.
Contrast that with the reception given to a recent article in The New Republic by editor Peter Beinart, in which he instructed Democrats that they needed "a sustained battle to wrest the Democratic Party from the heirs of Henry Wallace"—most particularly Michael Moore and the leadership of Moveon.org. Beinart's piece became the topic of extended debate and discussion on the left, after which he was given a mid-six figure advance by Harper Collins to turn the article into a book.
It would seem that membership in the left—who gets to be a part, whose part is important, and who needs to have their membership card revoked—is a matter of debate in the way it isn't for the right. Of course, the right has its internecine battles too, but not only do they take place mostly out of the public eye, they're about whose issues will dominate the agenda—not who gets to come to the party.
Liberals face two key problems: first, they have allowed the right to define them, and second, they have put virtually no effort into defining the right.
Turn on conservative talk radio or conservative cable news and you hear an endless dissertation on the evils of the left, much of which is focused on the idea that liberals are the "elite." Limbaugh, Hannity and their compatriots scour the countryside looking for a college professor or Hollywood actor who said something stupid or unpatriotic, so this heretofore obscure nobody can then be held up for ridicule and contempt. Consider the story of Ward Churchill, an academic of little discernible accomplishment or influence, whose potential speech (on what topic no one seems to know or care) at a small college in upstate New York has led to a deluge of feigned outrage. The Lexis/Nexis database contains more than 800 references to Churchill in American news outlets since this story began on Jan. 28—and that doesn't even include talk radio. In the last month, every single episode of The O'Reilly Factor save one has featured some discussion of Churchill (no telling why Bill dropped the ball on Feb. 10).
The message of this relentless campaign couldn't be clearer: liberals are radical elitists who hate your values, think you're stupid and want to run your life. And the response from at least some liberals is, "Oh yes, please forgive us. We'll get started on that purge right away."
Of course, there's a difference between Ward Churchill and Michael Moore—some people actually listen to Moore. But there's also a difference between disagreeing with someone and starting your own campaign against them. Imagine if liberals spent as much time working to publicize the radicals on the right as they do wondering which mouth on their own side they'd like to stuff a sock in.
There's no better time than the present for Democrats to think seriously about who they are and how they'd like Americans to think about them. But if they go about recasting their image without also working to shape the image of conservatism at the same time, they'll only be fighting half the battle. The fact that Republicans don't worry about how radical their fringe is means that there's plenty of ammunition just sitting there. Show Americans the orgy of hate-mongering and creeping fascism that is today's radical right and they'll recoil in disgust. Force Republicans to embrace or repudiate their radical supporters and they'll be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Then we'll be getting somewhere.

Mark Crispin Miller on "Gannongate"

From BuzzFlash:
The media's bizarre avoidance of this very juicy story makes a few things very clear--or I should say, very clear again. First of all, it's further proof that there is no "liberal bias" in the US corporate press--none whatsoever. It also reconfirms the fact that this media system is not simply "sensationalistic," and therefore apt to print whatever lurid stories its employees can dig up. There is a tabloid element, of course, but it works according to a double standard that is more ideological than commercial. Simply put, the US media reports sex scandals only when they seem to tar "the left," i.e., the Democratic party. As long as they involve the Democrats, the press is clearly willing to report such scandals even when they're fabricated. On the other hand, the press goes deaf and blind to "moral" scandals that involve Republicans, no matter how egregious and well-documented.
So Clinton's sex life was fair game. Not only did the press go ape over his affair with Monica, but US journalists were often not reluctant to run rumors, or at least allow the rightist rumor mongers to rave on uncontradicted. Clinton's sex life made careers in journalism, or what passes for it nowadays. Although it wasn't all that interesting, let's face it--it was a consensual affair with Monica, and he was strikingly inhibited throughout--it took up hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks of air time and print coverage. It made Mike Isikoff's career, gave Maureen Dowd innumerable columns, and pushed the likes of Matt Drudge and Lucianne Goldberg into prominence.
Now Bush's White House is embroiled in a sex scandal that is both more sordid and more serious than anything involving Clinton's infamous libido. This involves not just a huge security lapse, but what appears to be yet one more case of the Bush White House illegally deploying propaganda tactics through the institutions of the Fourth Estate.
Moreover, Gannon/Guckert seems to have been given classified information. He evidently knew of "shock and awe" before it was announced, for instance. The story's busting out all over, and getting uglier and weirder by the day--but not on the networks, not on cable, and, in print, primarily in opinion pieces. If this had happened in a Democratic White House, there would be no escaping it, and the rightists would be shrieking that the President of the United States had taught our precious children all about gay sex for hire. (According to the right, remember, it was Clinton--not his enemies, and not the press-- who went public with the news about those blow jobs.)
It's typical. There was a big sex scandal back in 1989, reported by, of all organs, the Washington Times, which broke the story of a male prostitution ring with lots of clients in the Reagan and Bush I administrations, and a midnight tour of the White House by six revelers, two of them male prostitutes. Did anybody ever hear of that again?
The same silence persists today; and what's crazier about it now, of course, is that this bunch purports to be real big on "moral values." In other words, they--unlike Clinton--just don't do that stuff. These are the ones imposing giant fines on radio stations for "indecent" speech, and the ones pushing abstinence-only sex education, and--above all--persecuting gays in every way available. And yet their various illicit recreations get no press outside of cyberspace.
So William Bennett's gambling got a lot of press, but his employment of Mistress Lee was not reported anywhere. Gary Condit's affair with--and alleged murder of--Chandra Levy was The Story You Could Not Escape for weeks right up to 9/11, even though there was no evidence that he had harmed her. On the other hand, Laurie Klausutis, an intern in Joe Scarborough's office, was allegedly murdered, right in his office, but it was all, some would contend, hushed up completely (and yet Scarborough sometimes whines about it anyway). We heard a lot about Woody Allen's situation--Newt Gingrich even crowed that it was typical "liberal" behavior--but when it turned out that the president of Hillsdale College, a far-right institution, had been boffing his own daughter-in-law, who went and blew her brains out in despair, that icky item had no legs. In fact, it had no torso, and no head. It simply wasn't, because the press will not go there when it involved the right.
...Those liberals who refuse to speak out on this issue just don't get it. They think they're being politically correct concerning gays, when all they're really doing is covering for the sickest homophobes. It was much the same thing with those Democrats who wouldn't make an issue of Bill Frist and his family making major profits off abortion. The Frists own a chain of hospitals that do abortions. That's astonishing hypocrisy, and ought to have been named as such, but it was not, because of Democratic shyness about saying anything that might sound anti-choice. But the sanctity of reproductive rights was not the issue there. The issue was the insincerity and greed of those Republicans who moralize about abortion even as they make a big fat buck from it. This fact would have appalled some on the right, alienating them from Frist & Co. Other, less scrupulous rightists would have been hard-pressed to defend Frist's practices, and that would have enabled a rhetorical victory in the eyes of the majority. That's how you play to win. And it would ultimately have been much better for the policy of reproductive freedom, as it would have weakened some of the leading players in the anti-choice propaganda war.
It's much the same with this issue. The point of going after Gannon/Guckert for his day job--and outing all his rightist clients--is not an anti-gay move. Rather, it's a way to demonstrate the bad faith of the homophobes, and, still more important, the psychological impossibility of their position. To note that this whole gay-baiting movement is itself the work of closet cases is to illuminate the pathological dimension of that movement.
...There's a big difference between hypocrisy and projectivity. Hypocrisy means "dissimulation" pure and simple. A hypocrite does one thing privately while playing a very different role in public. Insofar as he's capable of happiness, he's happy just to live such a divided life. What he does not need is to have some demon-figure(s) onto whom he can relentlessly project those aspects of himself that he unconsciously detests. This is the animus that drives the Bushevik movement--more than greed, more than oil, more than imperialism. The movement is, ultimately, pathological. Which explains its compulsive hatefulness. Every time the Bushevik vents his spleen against "the liberals," he's actually referring to himself. "The liberals," he insists, are lying, bitter diehards, who would do anything to stay in power; they steal elections; they are "a coalition of the wild-eyed"; and on it goes forever. If the movement weren't relentlessly projective, it would just disappear. They have to stay on the attack against the demon, which they can never finally kill, because that demon is inside them.
So this episode is not anomalous. Guckert/Gannon is no oddity, but just another fine example of projective nastiness. He's by no means the only gay homophobe in this movement, which appears to be the work primarily of closet cases. There are others who have not been outed, but should be. The rest of us should be taking this quite seriously, not just because it might enable a political advantage, but because it cuts right to the heart of what this Christo-fascist movement's all about.
Now we know how reasonable people feel, and have felt, in closed societies. You see one thing with your own eyes, and see something wholly different in the press. It can drive you nuts--which is, of course, the way you feel, having that surreal experience day after day. The trick is not to let it throw you, but to channel all that righteous indignation into trying to tell the truth in every way you can.


From Der Spiegel:
During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans. But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice. Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?
US President George W. Bush arrived in Frankfurt on Wednesday morning. He won't be meeting with the people here, but he will be meeting with a handpicked bunch of Germany's future business and political leaders.
The much-touted American-style "town hall" meeting the White House has been planning with "normal Germans" of everyday walks of life will be missing during his visit to the Rhine River hamlet of Mainz this afternoon. A few weeks ago, the Bush administration had declared that the chat -- which could have brought together tradesmen, butchers, bank employees, students and all other types to discuss trans-Atlantic relations -- would be the cornerstone of President George W. Bush's brief trip to Germany. State Department diplomats said the meeting would help the president get in touch with the people who he most needs to convince of his policies. Bush's invasion of Iraq and his diplomatic handling of the nuclear dispute with Iran has drawn widespread concern and criticism among the German public. And during a press conference two weeks ago, Bush said Washington is still terribly misunderstood in Europe. All the more reason, it would seem, for him to be pleased about talking to people here.
But on Wednesday, that town hall meeting will be nowhere on the agenda -- it's been cancelled. Neither the White House nor the German Foreign Ministry has offered any official explanation, but Foreign Ministry sources say the town hall meeting has been nixed for scheduling reasons -- a typical development for a visit like this with many ideas but very little time. That, at least, is the diplomats' line. Behind the scenes, there appears to be another explanation: the White House got cold feet. Bush's strategists felt an uncontrolled encounter with the German public would be too unpredictable.
To avoid that messy scenario, the White House requested that rules similar to those applied during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit two weeks ago also be used in Mainz. Before meeting with students at Paris's Institute of Political Sciences, which preens the country's elite youth for future roles in government, Rice's staff insisted on screening and approving any questions to be asked by students. One question rejected was that of Benjamin Barnier, the 24-year-old son of France's foreign minister, who wanted to ask: "George Bush is not particularly well perceived in the world, particularly in the Middle East. Can you do something to change that?" Instead, the only question of Barnier's that got approval was the question of whether Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority might create a theocratic government based on the Iranian model?
The Germans, though, insisted that a free forum should be exactly that. Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany's Ambassador to the United States, explained to the New York Times last week: "We told them, don't get upset with us if they ask angry questions."
In the end, the town hall meeting was never officially dropped from the agenda of the trip -- instead it was dealt with in polished diplomatic style -- both sides just stopped talking about it.
As an ersatz for the town hall meeting on Wednesday, Bush will now meet with a well-heeled group of so-called "young leaders." Close to 20 participants will participate in the exclusive round to be held in the opulent Mozart Hall of a former royal palace in Mainz, giving them the opportunity for a close encounter with the president. The chat is being held under the slogan: "A new chapter for trans-Atlantic relations." The aim of the meeting is to give these "young leaders" a totally different impression of George W. Bush. In order to guarantee an open exchange, the round has been closed to journalists -- ensuring that any embarrassments will be confined to a small group.
The guest list for the Wednesday afternoon gathering has been handpicked by several US organizations with offices in Germany. In recent days, the Aspen Institute and the German Marshall Fund have sent lists of possible guests to the German Foreign Ministry. The requirement was that all of the nominees had to be in their twenties or thirties and they must already have been in a leadership position at a young age. In other words: there won't be any butchers or handymen on the elite guest list, but rather young co-workers from blue chip companies like automaker DaimlerChrysler, Deutsche Bank or the consultancy McKinsey. The fact that two American organizations are the ones managing the guest list suggests that the chat won't be overly critical of Bush.

Great idea for an ad: Reframing the "birth tax"

From BuzzFlash:
Some of us disagree with the President.
We think the Iraq war is a mess.
We think vote suppression is a crime.
We think tax cuts for the rich are a bad idea.
We think business doesn’t know best.
And we think dissent is an American value.
This country was born because people questioned authority
It’s as American as apple pie
The Federal deficit, is 400 billion dollars this year,
the total National Debt is 7 trillion dollars.
I keep hearing it's our money,
But it's gone and now it's our debt.
Not corporate debt, it’s citizen debt
Every man, woman and child in this country
owes the government 25,000 dollars.
It would be fair to call this a “Birth Tax.”

War is heck

From Dana Stevens of Slate:
Since I live in the filthy-minded New York market, I got to see the unsanitized version of last night's controversial Frontline documentary, A Company of Soldiers (though even here, the show's broadcast time was pushed from 9 to 10 p.m. to avoid risking FCC indecency fines). I wonder which of the program's curse words were cut in those PBS markets that showed the "clean" version? Was it when the soldier said, "Holy crap!" upon seeing the massive hole left on the side of the road by a car bomb? When a commanding officer, realizing that an Iraqi civilian writhing in the back of a taxi is fatally wounded and beyond help, softly murmurs, "God damn it"? Then, after a Humvee explodes and one of men takes shrapnel to the ear, I guess they'd have to bleep out his panicked buddy yelling, "Pull fucking security!" What about the gunner discussing the death of two friends from his unit, who observes chillingly that, "My job is not to die for my country; my job is to make the other poor bastard die for his country"? Is the word "bastard" on the FCC list of naughty no-nos?
After watching the 90 grueling minutes of A Company of Soldiers, it's hard to believe that anyone would be more concerned with what the members of Dog Company in South Baghdad are saying than with what's actually happening to them. After watching the show, I spoke to David Fanning, Frontline's executive producer, about PBS's decision to reverse their usual policy of airing potentially offensive material on the nationwide "hard feed," while making a sanitized version available on demand to those local markets that preferred it. Last night, the default version of A Company of Soldiers—the one available on 300 out of the 350 PBS stations nationwide—was the expurgated one. But though Fanning sent out a memo last week protesting PBS's decision and stating that "this is the moment for public television to stand firm and broadcast 'A Company of Soldiers' intact," he says he understands the network's plight as well.
After all, he pointed out, if every PBS station had run the unedited version of A Company of Soldiers at 9 p.m. ET last night as scheduled, the potential fines across the country could have added up in the $90 million range. Under a new bill just passed by the House, the current cap of a maximum $27,500 fine per show could be increased to as much as $3 million per network per day. For the sake of comparison, the average episode of Frontline, Fanning estimates, costs around $400,000 to produce, and many local PBS stations operate on an annual budget of not much more than that. Michael Powell might not let you say these words in prime time, but the FCC has public television by the balls.
Bill Reed, the manager of KCPT, a PBS station in Kansas City that chose to run the program unedited in its original time slot and risk the fine, has compared the current broadcasting climate to the Red Scare of the 1950s: "You have to go back to the McCarthy era to get a feel for how far this has gone." When I asked Fanning if that was overstating the case, he grew thoughtful, saying, "A comparison is valid in that a minority of people have brought their values to bear on public standards." But Fanning was most worried about the intangible muzzling effect that the current climate of fear will have on producers of future shows, who are more likely to censor themselves in terms of program content. He cited a well-known 1985 episode of Frontline, Memory of the the Camps, which included never-before-seen footage from the liberation of German concentration camps in 1945. If that documentary were to air today, could images of nude prisoners fall under the FCC prohibition against "obscene, profane and indecent broadcasts"?
I asked Fanning if there was anything else viewers should know about the FCC's increasingly long shadow on the broadcast television landscape. He stressed the anachronistic quality of the commission itself: "We're trapped in an old structure here, of the regulation of broadcasting vs. the unregulatedness of cable." The current concern with obscenity in broadcasting, in Fanning's opinion, is "a surrogate for the larger cultural war ... a small group of outspoken voices are holding public TV hostage to these pressures from the Hill. It is so deeply contrary to what public broadcasting should be [...]. We have laws that don't allow the Voice of America in the US for a reason ... public broadcasting needs a funding mechanism that shields it from interference."
The Frontline documentary scheduled to air next week, The Soldier's Heart, an exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers returning from Iraq, also contains some strong language. In the preview screener I saw, one tormented vet, describing his fear of confiding in his fellow soldiers about his depression, wonders if he will be thought of as a "fucking pussy." Asked about the plans for that broadcast, Fanning said that those and other offending words were likely to be cut, though he felt that, like the language in A Company of Soldiers, they were context-appropriate. "We can't fight this battle every week," he sighed.

"The Administration and the Fury"

If William Faulkner were writing on the Bush White House.
By Sam Apple of Slate Magazine

Down the hall, under the chandelier, I could see them talking. They were walking toward me and Dick's face was white, and he stopped and gave a piece of paper to Rummy, and Rummy looked at the piece of paper and shook his head. He gave the paper back to Dick and Dick shook his head. They disappeared and then they were standing right next to me.
"Georgie's going to walk down to the Oval Office with me," Dick said.
"I just hope you got him all good and ready this time," Rummy said.
"Hush now," Dick said. "This aint no laughing matter. He know lot more than folks think." Dick patted me on the back good and hard. "Come on now, Georgie," Dick said. "Never mind you, Rummy."
We walked down steps to the office. There were paintings of old people on the walls and the room was round like a circle and Condi was sitting on my desk. Her legs were crossed.
"Did you get him ready for the press conference?" Dick said.
"Dont you worry about him. He'll be ready," Condi said. Condi stood up from the desk. Her legs were long and she smelled like the Xeroxed copies of the information packets they give me each day.
"Hello Georgie," Condi said. "Did you come to see Condi?" Condi rubbed my hair and it tickled.
"Dont go messing up his hair," Dick said. "Hes got a press conference in a few minutes."
Condi wiped some spit on her hand and patted down my hair. Her hand was soft and she smelled like Xerox copies coming right out of the machine. "He looks just fine," Condi said.

(Fine day, isn't it, Georgie, Daddy said. Daddy was pitching horseshoes. Horseshoes flew through the air and it was hot. Jeb looked at me. Stand back or one of his horseshoes is going to hit you and knock you down real good, Jeb said. Jeb threw the horseshoe and it went right over the stick and Daddy clapped. Run and get me that horseshoe, Georgie, Daddy said. I ran and picked up the horseshoe. The metal was hot in my hands, and I held it for a little bit and then I dropped it. I picked it up. It was hot in my hands and I started running away from Daddy and Jeb. Come back with that horseshoe, Daddy said. I was running as fast as I could. Jeb run after him and get me my horseshoe before he throws another one in the river, Daddy hollered. Jeb was chasing after me fast. Come back with that horseshoe, Georgie, Jeb hollered. But I was fast and I kept running until I got to the river. Dont you dare throw that horseshoe in the river, Jeb said. I threw the horseshoe in the river. Jeb fell on the ground. Jeb kicked and cried and then I cried.)

"He needs his makeup," Dick said.
"I'll do it," Condi said. She put a little brush on my check and it tickled and I laughed.
Rummy walked into the room. "Jesus, what's he laughing about," Rummy said.
"Dont you pay attention to him, Georgie," Dick said. "They're going to be asking you all about Social Security. You just remember what we talked about."
"He cant remember anything," Rummy said.
I started to holler. Dick's face was red and he looked at Rummy. "I told you to hush up already," Dick said. "Now look what you've gone and done."
"Go and get him Saddam's gun," Condi said. "You know how he likes to hold it."
Dick went to my desk drawer and took out Saddam's gun. He gave it to me, and it was hot in my hands. Rummy pulled the gun away.
"Do you want him carrying a gun into the press conference?" Rummy said. "Cant you think any better than he can?"
I was hollering and Dick was turning red and then white and the room was tilted.
"You give him that gun back, right this minute," Condi said. Rummy gave me Saddam's gun back and I held it my hands. It was hot like a horseshoe.
"You got the gun, now you stop that hollering," Rummy said.
Condi patted me on the back. "It sure is hot in here," she said. She fanned herself and took off her jacket. She smelled like perfume.


Guffaw of the day

From CampusProgress.org:
Many abstinence-only curricula are riddled with assorted tidbits of misinformation, scientific untruths, and outrageous gender stereotyping. Though the scientifically inaccurate sections give us greatest cause for serious concern – i.e. a portion of the WAIT training curriculum that claims HIV can be transmitted through sweat and tears – a number of medieval sounding quotations on relationships and sexuality also made our favorites list.

“Because they generally become aroused less easily, females are in a good position to help young men learn balance in relationships by keeping intimacy in perspective.”
Sex Respect, Student Workbook

“[R]esearch confirms that 14 percent of the women who use condoms scrupulously for birth control become pregnant within a year.”
Choosing the Best, The Big Talk Book
(In fact, when used correctly, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and up to 99% effective in preventing STDs including HIV.)

“Watch what you wear, if you don’t aim to please, don’t aim to tease.”
Sex Respect, Student Workbook

“The first player spins the cylinder, points the gun to his/her head, and pulls the trigger. He/she has only one in six chances of being killed. But if one continues to perform this act, the camber with the bullet will ultimately fall into position under the hammer, and the game ends as one of the players dies. Relying on condoms is like playing Russian roulette.”
Me, My World, My Future

“The liberation movement has produced some aggressive girls today, and one of the tough challenges for guys how say no will be the questioning of their manliness.”
Sex Respect, Student Workbook

“There is no way to have premarital sex without hurting someone.”
Sex Respect, Student Workbook

“Just as a woman needs to feel a man’s devotion to her, a man has a primary need to feel a woman’s admiration. To admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight, and approval. A man feels admired when his unique characteristics and talents happily amaze her.”
WAIT Training