August 2006 Archives

Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks, shows in her new book how easy it truly is to out-class Ann Coulter:

We live in America, the world’s oldest democracy. Democracy can prevail (is that what you and your friends really fear?), but that requires hard work, as President Bush might say. Every citizen in this country is entitled to his or her beliefs, and every citizen is entitled to participate. We still have the right to speak our minds to effect change (within the parameters of the law, of course). So don’t try to silence the voices of victims or anyone else, merely because you disagree with them or feel threatened by their political choices. In my opinion, your method of using intimidation and insults to "win" a debate is truly unpatriotic.

Actually, I expect that you will continue to scream and shout and smear as nastily as you want, so long as you think that that kind of behavior sells books. But we have tackled bigger bullies than you and lived through far worst circumstances than your book tour. We’re not intimidated by you. We’re not running away.

And under no circumstances will we be silenced by your "godless" rantings and ravings.


Mother Jones has posted a wonderfully designed interactive timeline of Iraq War II, based on the eight-page cover article from the current issue (October) of the magazine.

Walter Uhler wrote a two-part piece on "Crackpot Christianity" (part one is here, and part two is here). He slams Ann Coulter and her latest screed, Godless, for her part in fostering ignorance of science:

...except for the 2 million or so pathetic and witless kool-aid drinkers who mindlessly adore her, Darwin's Deadly Legacy would have gained greater mass credibility, had its producers decided to ask Bozo the Clown to pontificate on evolution.

Uhler mentions Jerry Coyne's "Coultergeist" at TNR, where Coyne writes of Coulter's Godless:

Any sane person who starts reading Godless will soon ask, Does Coulter really believe this stuff? The answer is that it doesn't much matter. What's far more disturbing than Coulter herself [...] is the fact that Americans are lapping up her latest prose like a pack of starved cats.


Her case for ID involves the same stupid arguments that fundamentalists have made for a hundred years. They're about as convincing as the blonde hair that gets her so much attention. By their roots shall ye know them.

I'm not sure which one is better.

housing bubble

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If you haven’t seen the second edition of Robert Shiller’s Irrational Exuberance yet, the NYT has a nice (well, not nice...but instructive) graph from it that illustrates our current housing bubble. The accompanying article examines the possibilities of the post-boom economy, and Anonymous Liberal notes:

a very real possibility that between now and November 2008, the housing market will head South and take the rest of the economy with it. And if that should happen, the '08 political calculus will change dramatically, and perhaps in unforeseen ways. Candidates on both sides would be wise to start giving this contingency some thought.

(Thanks to Atrios for the tip.)

Glenn Greenwald has two posts (original here and follow-up here) about a pair of American citizens (father and son) who traveled abroad:

They have not been charged with any crime, and no court has ordered or even authorized this denial of entry. The administration is just unilaterally prohibiting these two Americans from re-entering their country.

Greenwald asks:

what possible authority exists for the Bush administration -- unilaterally, with no judicial authorization, and no charges being brought -- to bar U.S. citizens from entering their own country? And what kind of American would favor vesting in the Federal Government the power to start prohibiting other American citizens from entering the U.S. even though they have been charged with no crime and no court has authorized their exclusion?

Glenn Greenwald appeared on Alan Colmes’ show, and completely tore apart some Bushite tool named Jed Babbin. The two-part audio (MP3) is here and here. Babbin claimed at one point that Greenwald had “no goddamned idea what he’s talking about” regarding the Hamdan decision’s conclusion that Bush’s military tribunals violated the law. It is, however, Babbin who is at a loss here. Hamdan specifically notes in Section VI that:

The UCMJ conditions the President's use of military commissions on compliance not only with the American common law of war, but also with the rest of the UCMJ itself, insofar as applicable, and with the "rules and precepts of the law of nations," Quirin, 317 U. S., at 28--including, inter alia, the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949. See Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 20-21, 23-24. The procedures that the Government has decreed will govern Hamdan's trial by commission violate these laws. [emphasis added]

Section VII states that “in undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction.” (On an even odder note, Babbin claimed that FISA “doesn’t cover foreign intelligence gathering.” Greenwald then pointed out that the acronym FISA stands for “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”) For an understanding of the Hamdan opinion from other sources, check out the New York Times and the Washington Post.

(Thanks to Jamie Holly at Crooks and Liars for the tip.)

Steve Benen writes in AlterNet about Bush’s recent comment while introducing an economist:

"It's an interesting lesson here, by the way. He's an adviser. Now, he is the Ph.D., and I am a C-student -- or was a C-student. Now, what's that tell you?”

What that tells me is that intelligence and education are not valued by the current administration. It tells me that the privilege inherent in being a scion of a wealthy and powerful family can buy Ivy League diplomas, a business career, and public office. It tells me that someone needs to quit pretending to read adult books and get back to his brush clearing and bike riding.

Bush's war crimes

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Check out this article:

A chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg has said George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes along with Saddam Hussein. Benjamin Ferencz, who secured convictions for 22 Nazi officers for their work in orchestrating the death squads that killed more than 1 million people, told OneWorld both Bush and Saddam should be tried for starting "aggressive" wars--Saddam for his 1990 attack on Kuwait and Bush for his 2003 invasion of Iraq.

It’s so nice to see someone who is familiar with the UN Charter and international law.

(Thanks to Hughes for America for the tip.)

David Corn writes at AlterNet that one of the mysteries surrounding Plamegate has been solved: Richard Armitage, then a deputy secretary of state, leaked information about Joe Wilson’s wife being a CIA agent to columnist Robert Novak. Corn observes that:

Bush backers cannot claim the leak was merely an innocent slip. Rove confirmed the classified information to Novak and then leaked it himself as part of an effort to undermine a White House critic. Afterward, the White House falsely insisted that neither Rove nor Libby had been involved in the leak and vowed that anyone who had participated in it would be bounced from the administration. […] It remains a story of ugly and unethical politics, stonewalling, and lies.

The full Newsweek article—from the book Hubris, co-written by Corn and Michael Isikoff—is here.

90% True has some hilarious parodies of the “Politically Incorrect Guides” that have been recently infesting bookstores.

(Thanks to PZ Myers for the tip.)

Six Questions for Michael Scheuer on National Security” at Harper’s is an interesting Q&A. The author of Imperial Hubris and Through Our Enemies’ Eyes observes that:

The war in Iraq has created huge divisiveness in our domestic politics, not to mention in our relationships with our European allies. At the same time, there are more people willing to take up arms against the United States, and we have less ability to win hearts and minds in the Arab world. If you're bin Laden living in a cave, all those things are part of the war and those things are going your way.

(Thanks to Jonathan Schwartz at This Modern World for the tip.)

Security expert Bruce Schneier’s recent column on terrorism deserves a wide audience. He has slammed the Chicken-Little fearmongers before, but he is particularly eloquent here:

I'd like everyone to take a deep breath and listen for a minute.

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.

We're all a little jumpy after the recent arrest of 23 terror suspects in Great Britain. The men were reportedly plotting a liquid-explosive attack on airplanes, and both the press and politicians have been trumpeting the story ever since.

In truth, it's doubtful that their plan would have succeeded; chemists have been debunking the idea since it became public. Certainly the suspects were a long way off from trying: None had bought airline tickets, and some didn't even have passports.

Regardless of the threat, from the would-be bombers' perspective, the explosives and planes were merely tactics. Their goal was to cause terror, and in that they've succeeded.


Our politicians help the terrorists every time they use fear as a campaign tactic. The press helps every time it writes scare stories about the plot and the threat. And if we're terrified, and we share that fear, we help. All of these actions intensify and repeat the terrorists' actions, and increase the effects of their terror.

Don’t let them succeed; don’t give in to fear. Fear is the mind-killer…

Jazz/fusion trumpeter Maynard Ferguson died yesterday at age 78 from liver and kidney failure. NPR did a mini-feature on Maynard this morning, but the only clips they played were from his disco-era "Gonna Fly Now." I can understand that they'd want to use something popular for a general audience, but I was disappointed that most people only know him for that song, or his other more-commercial-but-less-interesting work from that era.

Maynard's entire career, from when he started leading a big band as a teenager, was a six-decade testament to the power of music as a means to share joy with others. If more people were talented enough, dedicated enough, or lucky enough--cartoonist Charles Schulz comes to mind--to spend their entire lives doing what they love, the world would be a much happier place!

I was fortunate enough to see Maynard several times, beginning in the early eighties. He always knew how to play a great solo, assemble a great band, put on a phenomenal show, and inspire other trumpet players to spend time in the woodshed. Maynard was my "gateway drug" into the vast world of jazz trumpet playing: Miles, Dizzy, Clifford, Louis, and so many others stretched my ears in all sorts of ways, but not until Maynard had given me a visceral demonstration of what a trumpet could do within the jazz idiom.

Maynard was unjustly dismissed by some as a one-trick pony for spending too much time lost in the ledger lines, but there was much more to him than upper-register pyrotechnics. He played a mean valve trombone, his jam sessions were great...and the list goes on. I'm listening to his legendary Birdland Dream Band right now, and they swing as hard as they did half a century ago! "Give It One," "Blue Birdland," and his eponymous "Maynard Ferguson" feature tune with Stan Kenton (here at YouTube) never fail to energize me. I'm still waiting for some of his best music to be released on CD.

RIP, Maynard...and thanks for all that music!

Bob Cesca has the best comment on the Bush-vs.-Rove book-reading contest]:

Rove is trailing by 10 books, until November when Diebold will put him up by three.

Have you heard about the latest wingnut slander campaign against science? The upcoming broadcast “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy” blames Hitler’s evil on Charles Darwin. D. James Kennedy, with backing from Ann Coulter and others, claims that “To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler.”

PZ Myers has posted a long list of Hitler quotes as a rebuttal. After reading them, I would put it simply: “No Christianity, no Hitler.”

Dean, John. Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush (New York: Little, Brown, 2004)

Dean's critique of the hyper-secretive Bush/Cheney administration is written with a tone of lamentation, as Dean has seen a similar paranoia destroy his former boss Richard Nixon. Dean makes the parallel explicitly in a number of places, such as this: "I thought they played dirty at the Nixon White House, but this [Plamegate] is worse for two reasons. Nixon never went after his enemies' wives, and he never employed a dirty trick that was literally life-threatening." (p. 171) Dean also likens Bush's Iraq to Nixon's Vietnam, writing that:

Not since Lyndon Johnson hoodwinked Congress into issuing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized sending American troops to Vietnam, has a president so deceived Congress about a matter of such grave national importance. And not since the Reagan administration's disregard of the Boland Amendment has a president shown less regard for congressional authorization in matters relating to war and peace. (p. 152)

Dean stumbles, however, in making a common misattribution on page 186: "When the government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny." (See the Jefferson Library's "Guide to Thomas Jefferson Quotations" for a correction; although this is a pithy sentiment, it should not be attributed to Jefferson.)

That minor error aside, Dean has done valuable work in exposing this odiously reactionary administration. For those voters still conned by the endless claims of "national security," Dean provides my Quote of the Day:

Maybe Bush and Cheney can sell their excuses [for excessive secrecy] to those who do not have a clue about such matters or to blind loyalists who will tolerate anything, but none of their secrecy rationalizations can withstand scrutiny. (p. 179)

They won't leave office of their own volition--except when driven out of office by scandal--so we must use the ballot box to effect our own rescue.

sixty books?

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The Bush administration’s latest lie, that he has read sixty books so far this year, is priceless:

Maybe it was the influence of his wife, Laura, a former librarian, or his mother, Barbara, a longtime promoter of literacy. Or perhaps he was just eager to dispel his image as an intellectual lightweight. But President Bush now wants it known that he is a man of letters. In fact, Bush has entered a book-reading competition with Karl Rove, his political adviser. White House aides say the president has read 60 books so far this year (while the brainy Rove, to Bush's competitive delight, has racked up only 50). [emphasis added]

Ezra Klein’s post at American Prospect takes Bush to task, but I’m bothered by Klein’s assertion that:

Reading books, particularly nonfiction books, takes a really long time. It's hard, and it's boring, and I say this all as an effete liberal intellectual who likes reading long, boring books but can't, like everyone else I know, seem to finish them.

As someone who actually has read more than sixty books this year, I recognize that I am atypical. Like Klein, I would probably also classify myself as a “liberal intellectual” who likes reading long books, but I rarely find them boring. Maybe he’s not reading the right books?

(Thanks to Steve Benen at Crooks and Liars for the tip.)

Kevin Drum reposts some economics-and-politics analyses of Larry Bartels’ paper “Partisan Politics and the U.S. Income Distribution” (96KB PDF). It’s great reading if you missed it the first time around. (I suspect it could be really eye-opening for anyone who believes the Republicans-are-better-for-the-economy myth.) Drum notes that:

Democratic presidents have consistently higher economic growth and consistently lower unemployment than Republican presidents. If you add in a time lag, you get the same result. If you eliminate the best and worst presidents, you get the same result. If you take a look at other economic indicators, you get the same result. There's just no way around it: Democratic administrations are better for the economy than Republican administrations.

After observing that the GOP does a better economic job only in election years, Drum summarizes, “Bottom line: if you're well off, vote for Republicans. But if you make less than $150,000 a year, Republicans are your friends only one year in four. Caveat emptor.”

Lawrence Tribe addresses criticism of Judge Taylor’s ruling in ACLU v. NSA here, and Glenn Greenwald has more to say here:

The significance of Judge Taylor's ruling lay not in the quality of her judicial opinion (which everyone gets to feel really smart by demeaning), but instead it is the resounding rejection of the extremist and dangerous theory that the President, because of the "war" we are fighting, has the right to operate without constraints of any kind, including those imposed by the Constitution and Congressional statutes. On that key issue, the court's analysis was correct and even powerful.

I think it’s safe to predict that we’ll be discussing this case—and its appeal—for quite some time.

A New York Times editorial on the ruling notes that:

… one judge in Michigan has done what 535 members of Congress have so abysmally failed to do. She has reasserted the rule of law over a lawless administration…

Glenn Greenwald has a brief analysis here, Anonymous Liberal has two (here and here), and there are two at Balkinization (by Joel Balkin and Marty Lederman).

Dubya weighed in on the issue during a Q&A at Camp David this morning, in his usual semi-articulate manner:

The judge's decision was a -- I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree. That's why I instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately, and I believe our appeals will be upheld. […] And I -- the American people expect us to protect them, and therefore I put this program in place. We believe -- strongly believe it's constitutional.

(Thanks to John at AmericaBlog for the tip. As he notes:

Bush said he thinks his wiretapping program is constitutional. But, he doesn't decide that. The courts do, whether he likes it or not.

I’ve often wondered at the Right’s ability to consume the news and regurgitate nothing but their preconceptions. Will Murphy shows how it’s done.

(Thanks to Atrios for the tip.)

According to ThinkProgress, Faux News has just reported that a federal district court has ruled Bush's warrantless wiretapping program unconstitutional.

update (12:48pm):

ThinkProgress has posted a link to the injunction, which states:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants, its agents, employees, representatives, and any other persons or entities in active concert or participation with Defendants, are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program (hereinafter "TSP") in any way, including, but not limited to, conducting warrantless wiretaps of telephone and internet communications, in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (hereinafter "FISA") and Title III;

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND DECLARED that the TSP violates the Separation of Powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III;

update 2 (2:16pm):

The full opinion is here (128KB PDF), and it's interesting reading. Judge Anna Diggs Taylor pulls no punches, and repeatedly notes the illegal acts committed by this administration. Here is one example:

Defendants have violated the Constitutional rights of their citizens including the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and the Separation of Powers doctrine.

Regarding the Bushevik "unitary executive" theory, she writes:

We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all "inherent powers" must derive from that Constitution.

Her concluding sentences are also worth savoring:

Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution.

This case is one of the reasons I joined the ACLU! They deserve support for bringing this suit forward, and for protecting the right of each and every citizen to be free from illegal intrusion.

update 3 (3:17pm):

John Amato quotes Russ Feingold:

Today's district court ruling is a strong rebuke of this administration's illegal wiretapping program. The President must return to the Constitution and follow the statutes passed by Congress. We all want our government to monitor suspected terrorists, but there is no reason for it to break the law to do so. The administration went too far with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program. Today's federal court decision is an important step toward checking the President's power grab.

and observes that Judge Taylor is due "to be assaulted by the right" for daring to point out the illegality of their program.

Revving up Faux News, the Moonie Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the rest of the GOP media machine: three, two, one...

Elspeth Reeve writes “A defense of Ann Coulter” in TNR:

Coulter shocks and offends, but underneath her offensiveness is a grain of truth that people cope with by critiquing her hair. […] Yes, yes, Coulter has said some terrible things. But I don't think it's the terrible things that really bother liberals. Coulter makes us cringe not when she lies, but when she says things we wish weren't true.


Coulter is a pretty woman who holds up a mirror showing us the ugliest parts of ourselves. She makes nice liberals think bad thoughts--particularly about whether they would have sex with her. Which is why we often fight back dirty, talking about her looks. […] All wrapped up in liberals' snarky comments about her hair is a wellspring of latent guilt for judging her by her hair. [emphasis added]

At least Reeve is honest enough to admit that Coulter isn’t exactly a paragon of truthfulness. For the record, though, it is the lies that make us cringe. I’m mostly inured to Coulter’s tactlessness, but the factlessness or her rants still bothers me. Reeve concludes with this bit of hero-worship:

I love Ann Coulter because, in her, I see a loudmouth on the assembly line, fighting not to be squished and whittled and boxed into the shape Washington seems to think fits a girl just right.

Reeve may wish to defend Coulter on feminist grounds, but such a defense is a weak one. Coulter is indeed succeeding in the male-dominated field of political punditry, but the problem isn’t that she eschews the stereotypically feminine qualities of soft-spokenness, politeness and consensus-seeking; it’s that she has succeeded at the expense of accuracy, honesty, civility, and journalistic integrity.

For anyone who just missed it, that was a perfectly accurate assessment of Ms. Coulter that, like the vast majority of liberal critiques of her public commentary, has nothing to do with her hair, her looks, or—shudder!—whether I’d have sex with her. (See I Fucked Ann Coulter in the Ass, Hard for a truly cringe-inducing tale.)

Writing at Pharyngula, PZ Myers discusses a NYT op-ed on children’s scientific illiteracy. Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, bemoans Creationism and other religious-based ignorance of science in “How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Illiterate:”

I have recently been criticized by some for strenuously objecting in print to what I believe are scientifically inappropriate attempts by some scientists to discredit the religious faith of others. However, the age of the earth, and the universe, is no more a matter of religious faith than is the question of whether or not the earth is flat.

It is a matter of overwhelming scientific evidence. To maintain a belief in a 6,000-year-old earth requires a denial of essentially all the results of modern physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology and geology. It is to imply that airplanes and automobiles work by divine magic, rather than by empirically testable laws.


As we continue to work to improve the abysmal state of science education in our schools, we will continue to battle those who feel that knowledge is a threat to faith.

But when we win minor skirmishes, as we did in Kansas, we must remember that the issue is far deeper than this. We must hold our elected school officials to certain basic standards of knowledge about the world. The battle is not against faith, but against ignorance. [emphasis added]

Myers notes that, while Krauss’ piece “is a good, strong piece of work, it doesn't go quite far enough.” He concludes:

I will remind you all that the title of Krauss's piece is "How to Make Sure Children Are Scientifically Illiterate." He's right that one way is to elect school board officials who are raving ignoramuses who advocate the insertion of nonsense into public school curricula. But he's missing an even more pernicious and common way to make children scientifically illiterate: raise them in a household that values faith above reason. He's choosing to fight the symptom rather than the disease, and I think his approach is doomed to ineffectuality. [emphasis added]

Bush and Camus

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While on vacation at his “ranch” in Waco, Dubya has allegedly been spending time with existentialist writer Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger.


The Carpetbagger Report has the best commentary on this absurdity:

"The Stranger" is not … how do I put this gently … an easy read. It's a novel steeped in philosophy, most notably Camus' existentialism, and delves into a not-so-subtle atheism (Meursault rejects any suggestion of embracing religion and believes there are no supernatural influences on humanity).

If Bush has decided to branch out and challenge himself, considering a worldview that is clearly at odds with his own, I'll be the first to congratulate him. But based on everything I've seen of the president, I simply find it hard to believe. I'm not suggesting the president offer us a book report, but if he wanted to take a moment, perhaps at his next press conference, to share his reaction to the book, I'd be anxious to hear his perspective.

Post Script: By the way, just an aside, if Bush did read the book, what will the GOP base think about the president picking up an existentialist novel with atheistic themes written by a Frenchman?

Once again, This Modern World nails it.

John Sugg’s piece at AlterNet on Christian Reconstructionists mentions Gary North’s support for “the stoning of gays and nonbelievers,” and describes the platform at a recent “Creation to Revelation” conference:

• Six-day, "young earth" creationism is the only acceptable doctrine for Christians. Even "intelligent design" or "old earth" creationism are compromises with evil secularism. • Public education is satanic and must be destroyed. • The First Amendment was intended to keep the federal government from imposing a national religion, but states should be free to foster a religious creed. (Several states did that during the colonial period and the nation's early days, a model the Reconstructionists want to emulate.) • The Founding Fathers intended to protect only the liberties of the established ultra-conservative denominations of that time. Expanding the list to include "liberal" Protestant denominations, much less Catholics, Jews and (gasp!) atheists, is a corruption of the Founders' intent.

Sugg concludes that, while “Dobson, Robertson, Falwell and the Southern Baptist Convention (the nation's largest Protestant denomination) may not agree with everything the Reconstructionists advocate,”

they sure don't seem to mind hanging out with this openly theocratic, anti-democratic crowd. It's enough for Americans who believe in personal freedom and religious liberty to get worried about -- before the first stones start flying.

Editor & Publisher writes about the timeline of the New York Times' expose of Bush's NSA scandal last December. (Thanks to John at AmericaBlog for the tip.) Bill Keller, the NYT's editor, admitted that the paper delayed publishing the Pulitzer-Prize-winning story until well after the 2004 election. Bryan Calame's article yesterday morning notes that:

Internal discussions about drafts of the article had been "dragging on for weeks" before the Nov. 2 election, Mr. Keller acknowledged. That process had included talks with the Bush administration. He said a fresh draft was the subject of internal deliberations "less than a week" before the election.


Mr. Keller declined to explain in detail his pre-election decision to hold the article, citing obligations to preserve the confidentiality of sources. He has repeatedly indicated that a major reason for the publication delays was the administration's claim that everyone involved was satisfied with the program's legality. [emphasis added]

Note also that last week's terrorist plot regarding British flights into the US was thwarted without resorting to illegal surveillance. As Glenn Greenwald writes, "Despite the bizarre effort by Bush followers to use this U.K. plot to argue for the need for the President to break the law, it actually demonstrates precisely the opposite:"

First, most of the surveillance of the terrorist plotters was conducted by British law enforcement. British law requires the issuance of warrants before telephone conversations can be intercepted, and every warrant must "name or describe either one person as the Interception Subject, or a single set of premises where the interception is to take place." Being able to eavesdrop only with warrants did not prevent British law enforcement from stopping these terrorist attacks. [...]

Even more significantly, to the extent that U.S. law enforcement agents attempted to assist in the pre-arrest surveillance of these terrorists, they were able to eavesdrop on the conversations of scores of individuals inside the U.S. by obtaining the approval of the FISA court, just as the law requires... [emphasis in original]


Ware, Chris. McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Issue 13 (San Francisco: McSweeney's, 2004)

The literary series McSweeney's Quartery Concern has ventured into the graphic realm under the guest editorship of wunderkind Chris (Jimmy Corrigan) Ware, producing an amazing thirteenth issue. This wonder-filled hardcover anthology features a dust jacket that folds out to a huge (14" x 22") comics section illustrated in Ware's usual incredibly detailed style, and includes a pair of mini-comics from Ron Rege and John Porcellino.

Ware's selections for the book's interior content are idiosyncratic, but that's an encouraging sign--it demonstrates that the medium has matured enough that it can no longer be pigeon-holed as only kiddie fare and adolescent superhero angst. There is a piece on Rudolphe Töpffer, essays by Ira Glass and John Updike, George Herriman's final half-dozen Krazy Kat strips, chapters from Joe Sacco's The Fixer, Charles Burns' Black Hole, some Love & Rockets from Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, a snippet of Chester Brown's biography of Louis Riel, a few pages from Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No short, it's an impressive collection.

McSweeney's #13 is the sort of serious treatment that the comics medium deserves but rarely receives. Is it too soon to start hoping for a sequel?

In his column yesterday, Cal Thomas wrote that Ned Lamont's victory over Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut primary indicates the rise of what he calls "Taliban Democrats." The linking of liberals with an authoritarian conservative theocracy is absurd on its face, but I doubt that any of Thomas' true believers will even notice the contradiction. In an astounding burst of hyperbole, Thomas says Lieberman's loss shows that Democrats "effectively issued a political fatwah," are "willing to kill one of their own," and states that Lieberman was "being targeted as an infidel worthy of electoral death."

Lieberman's fate has little to do with "the will of the party mullahs," because many of them--including Bill Clinton and Barbara Boxer--campaigned for him; Lieberman lost for the simple reason that his GOP-lite candidacy garnered fewer votes than that of Ned Lamont. Cal Thomas may be frightened and angered by the end of the Democrats' rightward drift, but voters are rewarding it.

According to a recent CNN poll, 60 percent of Americans oppose our military presence in Iraq. Thomas repeatedly attempts to marginalize the mainstream by claiming that their views are a "narrow line" toed by "ultra-liberals" and "the narrow and rigid agenda of the kook fringe." Really? The majority of our country consists of ultra-liberals?

What a wanker.

(Thanks to MediaMatters for the tip.)

Nancy Greggs at DU has posted the piece “As defined by others,” which discusses the ways Republicans slander Democrats. It’s a helpful tonic for everyone who is tired of the Right’s constant misrepresentation and oversimplification. My favorites are:

I am stubborn because I insist on thinking for myself, instead of allowing myself to be told what to think.

I am an intellectual snob, because I seek out the truth, instead of accepting what I am told without questioning the motives behind it.

I am an elitist because I believe in being well-read, well-educated, and well-informed, and do not want my country being governed by those who are clearly none of those things.


I am ill-informed because I do not accept biased media news coverage as being the last word on any topic.

I am ill-advised because I want to hear both sides of an issue, and not just the side I am told is the correct side.

Are you loyal to President Bush? Take this quiz and find out!

This Scripps Howard poll shows how Americans would vote if previous presidential elections were re-run today. The changes all favor Democrats: Nixon would lose to McGovern in 1972, and Bush would lose to Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004.

Fool me twice…can’t get fooled again.

(Thanks to Joseph Hughes for the tip.)

Paul Greenberg writes this about Ann Coulter:

Ms. Coulter has somehow managed to channel the malicious spirit of her hero Joe McCarthy - and she's having much the same devastating effect on conservatism's reputation. But the Ann Coulter fan club, unable to distinguish between conservative and merely just right-wing, remains oblivious.

He has little else to say, apart from recommending Florence King’s column at NRO (“Watch Ann Go Whoosh!”), which contains this gem:

At her best, Coulter writes well, but the chief source of her success is that she is a perfect match for the American ideal: smart as a whip but dumb as a post, educated but not learned, sexy but not sensuous, all at the same time. She would not hesitate to choose a sledgehammer over a stiletto…

RawStory has Santorum and Hutchison’s strategy document for the GOP (2.4MB PDF) during the August recess, along with a background article. Apparently, Santorum apparently believes that repeating empty slogans (the three he suggests are “Securing America’s Homeland,” “Securing America’s Prosperity,” and “Securing America’s Values”) will stave off the GOP’s impending collapse.

The plan contains the usual election-season shenanigans: calling the estate tax “the death tax,” claiming that “renewal of the Patriot Act” has aided “the capture of many of al Qaeda’s top leaders,” and implying that Democrats “oppose[d] preserving a clear definition of marriage” by shunning the GOP’s failed anti-marriage amendment. Santorum then blamed Democrats for Republican profligacy (“Democrats…voted to continue raiding Social Security’s trust fund to pay for wasteful spending”) and lauded the GOP for its aspiration to “balance the budget in 5 years.” The complaint that “Democrats block the line item veto” is irrelevant in light of the Supreme Court’s 1998 decision in Clinton v. New York that ruled the line item veto unconstitutional.

If they’re going to campaign on brazen dishonesty, they deserve a resounding defeat.

This Salon article talks about a recent Harris poll showing that half of Americans still believe (after all the reports and investigations demonstrating the exact opposite) that Iraq had WMDs in 2003 when we invaded. Media critic Michael Massing says, "I'm flabbergasted...[t]his finding just has to cause despair among those of us who hope for an informed public able to draw reasonable conclusions based on evidence."

This reminds me, sadly, of the "Separate Realities" report (550KB PDF) from October 2004, where the GOP was also on the wrong side of the facts. Republicans (and their Democratic enablers) keep trying to justify their rush to war, regardless of how many facts show that they were wrong.

Simply pathetic.

Tom Tomorrow parodies this viewpoint in his two latest cartoons, "The Rightwingoverse" and "You Were Wrong about Everything."

If you had any doubts about the scope of the NSA’s operations at their 350-acre headquarters in Fort Meade, here’s a little tidbit from the Baltimore Sun:

The NSA is Baltimore Gas & Electric's largest customer, using as much electricity as the city of Annapolis, according to James Bamford, an intelligence expert and author of two comprehensive books on the agency.

The article notes that the NSA “is already unable to install some costly and sophisticated new equipment, including two new supercomputers, for fear of blowing out the electrical infrastructure:

The agency got a taste of the potential for trouble Jan. 24, 2000, when an information overload, rather than a power shortage, caused the NSA's first-ever network crash. It took the agency 3 1/2 days to resume operations, but with a power outage it could take considerably longer to get the NSA humming again.

Jonathan Chait writes in the LA Times about an upcoming sitcom starring Calista Flockhart as a conservative pundit. Chait criticizes one of the show’s writers for not knowing that Bill Buckley wasn’t an Eisenhower Republican, and notes that the NYT has twice referred to Buckley as a neoconservative. Chait concludes:

Even if sitcom writers and newspaper reporters get things wrong, there's still a deep sense among the liberal intelligentsia that it's important to understand conservative thinking in all its permutations.

But where are the right's efforts at outreach? You don't hear conservatives mourning their lack of common ground with the English department at Columbia University. In fact, it's incredibly rare to find a conservative who understands liberalism as anything other than hatred for the rich and a desire to hand over our foreign policy to the United Nations.

Winning, apparently, gives conservatives the luxury of not having to care what the other side thinks. [emphasis added]

Chait is correct that those liberals who are ill-versed in conservative taxonomy—but who nonetheless understand their positions—are a far cry from conservatives who make no attempt to comprehend liberalism and prefer to rely solely on stereotypes.

This DailyKos post on the Library of Alexandria brings back fond memories of Carl Sagan’s treatment of it in his Cosmos series. It’s like crack for diehard bibliophiles like me.

Check out this Wikipedia article for more information.

EJ Dionne asks if this is “The End of the Right?” and John writes at AmericaBlog that the GOP “has run out of ideas:”

They've destroyed our foreign policy, have lost Osama, derailed the war on terror by invading the wrong country and botching the war, and are slowly destroying the American economy with a massive budget deficit brought on by Bush's never-ending tax cuts.

We are living in conservative nirvana, the entire government is run by Republicans, and they've gotten every policy wish they've always wanted - and it's destroying us. Is this really what people want to vote for all over again this fall?

This op-ed about the religious Left wonders which form of Christianity will dominate our political discourse:

Will the voice of Christianity that speaks the loudest be one that emphasizes a God who smites his enemies or a God who says "Love Thine Enemies"?

When Christianity is heard in America's political arena, will the predominant voice be one that focuses on condemning those who diverge from the straight-and-narrow path, or the one that emphasizes more the teaching, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone"?

Which Christianity will help shape our public policies-the one that is pre-occupied with the distinction between those of right and those of wrong belief, or the one that is most concerned with protecting the most vulnerable and needy?

With what image of the sacred will the strongest Christian voice imbue the American culture?

Will it find the heart of the Christian vision in the "Book of Revelation," where God saves his own while not only destroying his enemies but also inflicting prolonged agony on? Or will it emphasize the teachings of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, with its blessings on the life-serving virtues of the merciful and the peacemakers, and its assurance that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth?

Will it emphasize, as the heart of the human relationship with the divine, the torturing of the flesh of the flogged and crucified Christ (as did Mel Gibson's disturbing and polarizing film, the Passion of the Christ)? Or will the predominant image of Jesus be of him comforting the afflicted and healing the sick?

Will the Christianity that helps shape our public affairs be a religion of guilt and punishment and revenge, or one of forgiveness and love?

(Thanks to Religious Right Watch for the tip.)

John Conyers has released The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution and Coverups in the Iraq War, and Illegal Domestic Surveillance. The full HTML version is here, and the PDF is here (28MB).

A letter writer to my local newspaper recently penned this gigantic pool of effluence in defense of Dubya:

Previous presidents far worse than Bush

I continually hear people of this state whine and complain about how President Bush is the worst president ever. That is a shock to me.

I think Bush has done much better than many presidents. If Bush worse than Franklin Roosevelt, the man who rounded up Japanese Americans, citizens of this country and threw them in internment camps? There was Abe Lincoln, who many regard as a fabulous president. This would be true as long as you don’t mind the raping of the United States Constitution. States’ rights were a dying animal since his presidency, especially because his Emancipation Proclamation didn’t even apply to the entire U.S., just to states he didn’t like.

President John Kennedy wasn’t much of one either. He wiretapped and kept tabs on civil activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., cheated on his wife, and escalated the Cold War to the highest tension it has ever been, almost inciting all out nuclear war.

Let us not forget President Jimmy Carter, who let Iranian terrorists keep dozens of Americans hostage for 444 days. When he finally decided to take a small amount of military action, he couldn’t even do it right, and it cost eight Americans their lives because he didn’t plan well.

Don’t forget about the part where he gave $8 billion dollars [sic] back to the terrorists and one of them eventually became president of a terror state that constantly mocks and threatens the U.S. and states that it should annihilate Israel.

If you think President Bush is as bad as it ever was, I guess ignorance really is bliss.

[name redacted]

It required a response, so I wrote one:

Bush is far worse than previous presidents

A recent letters page featured comments from someone who was “shocked” to hear criticism of President Bush; more knowledge of history might help him to be less surprised by reality. Bush is a very unpopular president—with an approval rating hovering below 40%—and there are many valid reasons for this negative assessment.

Evaluators of the previous presidents mentioned are well aware of their flaws. Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus is widely acknowledged to be a constitutional violation; FDR’s partisans freely admit that internment was a mistake of similar magnitude; and even people nostalgic for JFK’s mythical Camelot realize the errors inherent in allowing J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to run amok. (I would add that Kennedy’s resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a masterful response to Soviet missile deployment, not an optional or preemptive measure, and that his marital infidelity was—like Clinton’s—irrelevant to his presidential standing.)

The difference between these clear-eyed assessments of past presidents and the sycophants currently worshipping at the altar of Bush is startling. Neither Bush nor his supporters seem able to admit that a single mistake has been made since January 2001, although the list of failures seemingly grows longer by the week.

Bush’s failures are both egregious and legion: ignoring the threat of terrorism until 9/11; wrecking our long-term economic prospects with fiscal profligacy and top-heavy tax cuts; engaging in a reckless and lawless invasion of Iraq while letting bin Laden escape; ignoring science in favor of politics; bulldozing the church/state wall with funding for “faith-based” programs; blundering the response to Hurricane Katrina; violating international treaties; demanding a “unitary executive” right to disappear or torture detainees at will; fostering an unprecedented attitude of secrecy and unaccountability; and continuing to ignore or excuse the steady drumbeat of domestic spying scandals and other constitutional violations.

While history may not rate Bush the worst president ever, he is certainly in contention for that dubious distinction. How can the GOP dead-enders continue to defend the indefensible and blindly support an administration that has been such a travesty? They must be wearing Republican-tinged glasses that transform Bush’s ignorant bravado into political principle and his bluster into statesmanship in order to rate his failed tenure in office anywhere above the bottom tier of presidencies. The GOP faithful may be enjoying a blissful ignorance of W-worship, but the rest of us will be laboring for decades to repair Dubya’s disastrous legacy.

There are two other points that would not fit into my letter, so I append them here:

The writer’s attack on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is nonsensical. The Proclamation was not a pre-emptive strike against the Confederacy, but an action taken nearly two years into the Civil War. Lincoln did not write it to penalize “states he didn’t like,” but to take action against those states that had seceded from the Union in favor of maintaining slavery. Whatever one’s opinion on the “states’ rights” doctrine, there is no doubt that the individual rights of an enslaved people righteously took precedence in this instance.

Also, the failure of Operation Eagle Claw—the attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages—can hardly be blamed on Carter. The unexpected sandstorm, mechanical failure, and helicopter crash that doomed the rescue mission were not his fault. In addition, Carter’s agreement to return $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets was contingent upon release of the hostages. The Algiers Accords which contained this condition were signed the day before the hostages were released, yet many commentators give Reagan the credit for Carter’s diplomacy. (Speaking of Reagan, he deserves far more criticism than Carter for making deals with terrorists; see his unconstitutional Iran-Contra scheme for details.)

Mike Tidmus has some great visual remixes of Mel Gibson’s Passion and his alcohol-fueled ranting. Check it out!

(Thanks to Pam Spaulding at Pandagon for the tip.)

Bob Burnett’s piece on “The Liberal Response to the Failure of Conservatism” at HuffPo sounds a hopeful note for the resurgence of liberalism from the conservative wreckage:

The vacuum left by the failure of conservatism must be filled by an articulate and relevant liberal ideology. The problem won’t be in preparing this—it’s a reformulation of the liberal vision and values of the Founders; basic ideas that last saw a cogent reformulation in “The New Deal.” The problem is finding a liberal spokesperson that Americans trust.

There are actually two crises in American politics: the dominant conservative ideology has failed and, at the moment, the country has no leadership. This dire situation should be a golden opportunity for liberals.

John at AmericaBlog posts some words that should give everyone pause when they know the source. Read it, and ask yourself: like frogs in a pot of slowly heating water, will we react? Or will we sit still until it is too late?

Vanity Fair has published a lengthy article, complete with transcripts and audio clips, of NORAD’s response to the 9/11 hijackings. As reporter Michael Bronner observes:

It's a story that was intentionally obscured, some members of the 9/11 commission believe, by military higher-ups and members of the Bush administration who spoke to the press, and later the commission itself, in order to downplay the extent of the confusion and miscommunication flying through the ranks of the government.

As noted in the Washington Post yesterday, members of the 9/11 Commission suspected that the official Pentagon story wasn’t quite accurate:

Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said. [emphasis added]

Amid the confusion, chaos, and communication failures, the administration took every opportunity to exaggerate any shred of decisiveness in the face of danger:

In his bunker under the White House, Vice President Cheney was not notified about United 93 until 10:02—only one minute before the airliner impacted the ground. Yet it was with dark bravado that the vice president and others in the Bush administration would later recount sober deliberations about the prospect of shooting down United 93. "Very, very tough decision, and the president understood the magnitude of that decision," Bush's then chief of staff, Andrew Card, told ABC News.

Cheney echoed, "The significance of saying to a pilot that you are authorized to shoot down a plane full of Americans is, a, you know, it's an order that had never been given before." And it wasn't on 9/11, either.

President Bush would finally grant commanders the authority to give that order at 10:18, which—though no one knew it at the time—was 15 minutes after the attack was over.

Richard Kim has a follow-up piece addressing responses to the “Beyond Marriage” website. The highlights are links the the perennially mendacious Focus on the Family’s attack on marriage, and an enjoyable rebuttal:

…in a way we feel like we should actually thank Focus on the Family and this piece's contributers for giving us yet another bit of evidence for our files of "pro-family" duplicity. Because while we respect that each of the groups working against us have their own variances in viewpoints, it's shocking to see just how often chicanery pervades their rhetoric and actions. It makes one wonder why they must so frequently reply on fallacy to sell their own "agenda" to their unsuspecting followers.

Senator Clinton commented while questioning Rumsfeld today that he had “made many comments and presented…many assurances that have frankly proven to be unfulfilled” regarding an overly optimistic assessment of Iraq. Rumsfeld testily responded:

Senator, I don’t think that’s true. I have never painted a rosy picture. I have been very measured in my words, and you’d have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I have been excessively optimistic.

This ThinkProgress article shows just how easy it was to prove Rumsfeld wrong; they provide four documented examples.

update (8/7 @ 9:12am):
Here is Senator Clinton’s addendum to the Congressional Record.

The Onion’s parody of Bushevik power grabs, “Bush Grants Self Permission To Grant More Power To Self,” is perhaps a little too close to reality for comfort.

(Thanks to DailyKos for the tip.)

This cartoon from Ted Rall falls into the same category.

Glenn Greenwald’s “Echoes of the Nixon Era” at Salon runs down the details in Specter’s support of the Bush/NSA illegal spying scandal:

Specter's bill (S. 2543) is titled the National Security Surveillance Act, and it is framed as a series of amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. […] In reality, Specter does not want to amend the mandates of FISA so much as abolish them. His bill makes it optional, rather than mandatory, for the president to subject himself to judicial oversight when eavesdropping on Americans, in effect returning the nation to the pre-FISA era. Essentially, the president would be allowed to eavesdrop at will, precisely the situation that led to the surveillance abuses of the Nixon White House and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.

The NYT reports on Gregory Boyd, an evangelical conservative preacher of a suburban St. Paul church “packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals.” Following on the heels of fellow evangelical Randall Balmer, author of Thy Kingdom Come, Boyd has written a new book: The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church. Boyd has also dared to stake out a non-doctrinaire position from the pulpit, which has cost his church about 1,000 of its 5,000 members. Here is a sample:

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy…America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.”

It’s not a surprise that so many parishioners found that truth difficult to hear; one hopes that those who remain will continue to listen, and perhaps to read.

Check out this God Is for Suckers! interview with Richard Dawkins. Responding to a question about those who feel that science leads to “despair” or a feeling that “everything is meaningless,” Dawkins responds eloquently:

I don’t feel depressed. I feel elated. My book, “Unweaving the Rainbow,” is an attempt to elevate science to the level of poetry and to show how one can be—in a funny sort of way—rather spiritual about science. Not in a supernatural sense, but there are uplifting mysteries to be solved. The contemplation of the size and scale of the universe, of the depth of geological time, of the complexity of life–these all, to me, have an inspirational quality. It makes my life worthwhile to study them.


I think there is something glorious in the universe, in contemplating the Milky Way galaxy, in contemplating the fact that this is only one in billions of galaxies, contemplating the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, humanity really has gone a very long way toward understanding the universe in which we live and the life form of which we are a part. I find that a truly inspirational thought. Obviously, there are other things having nothing to do with science—music, poetry, sex, love. These are all things that make life, to me, extremely worth living. Then there’s the added fact that it is the only life we’re ever going to get. Don’t kid yourself that you’re going to live again after you’re dead; you’re not. Make the most of the one life you’ve got. Live it to the full. [emphases in original]


Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

If you don't know Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, you're really doing yourself a disservice; if you don't check out her new book Fun Home, you're compounding that error. In contrast to Bechdel's tightly focused twelve-page coming-out story from Gay Comics (reprinted in The Indelible Alison Bechdel), Fun Home is a fully fleshed-out autobiographical tale. The story of her coming-of-age and coming out is told alongside her family life and her (closeted) father's apparent suicide.

Rather than the scratchy art of the early Dykes strips, Bechdel here augments her more confident linework with some subtle tonal gradations--to great effect. The identical composition of these panels shows some of her artistic growth from 1993's "Coming Out Story" (Gay Comics #19) to Fun Home's version of the same event:


Due to her father's job as a high-school English teacher, literature is a constant feature of Bechdel's tale: from Daedalus and Icarus to Shakespeare, Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Proust, F Scott Fitzgerald, and Camus. This passage of Bechdel and her father bonding over books (p. 204) is one example:


Bechdel's art is as wonderful as her ear for narration and dialogue. The way she layers them in this book make it a perfect example of the type of stories that can be told best in the graphic novel medium. Her work deserves the appreciation of a broader audience, and Fun Home looks to be her ticket out of the "gay ghetto."

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