Monday, May 29, 2006


for a country at war is there any more heart-rending ceremony than memorial day?

because as we pause to honor the fallen, as we acknowledge the sacrifices they've made on our behalf, we must also consider the sacrifices we have or haven't made for them.

sacrifice, or the paucity of it, is perhaps at the heart of the failure of the iraq adventure. it is a failed cakewalk, a failed war-on-the-cheap. it was supposed to have been not a war but a police action and it was supposed to have been finished in may 2003 — that’s all that had been planned for. it is an occupation attempted with the minimum resources, run by shirkers and dodgers, manned by backdoor conscripts and mercenaries. it is deficit-funded during a time of tax cuts, asking no real demand from the citizenry but their applause, and lacking that, their silence.

so the question we face is what are we willing to sacrifice in support of the occupation? what are we willing to sacrifice in opposition to it? personally, i have never supported the war, am not in the military, nor have family in the military, but i can’t think of anything that i’ve had to sacrifice in opposing the occupation except the time i’ve spent writing against it.

on another blog (i can’t remember which), someone asked that if this war is so vitally important, why no draft, no full mobilization of our resources? perhaps the unspoken (and unspeakable) answer is now that this “slam-dunk” investment has become a money pit, the architects want to hold onto whatever diminishing profit remains — and i’m referring here more to those mega-bases than exxon and halliburton profits — at least until they can “ponzi” the war off onto the next administration.

the time is drawing near, if it is not in fact already upon us, when people are going to have to make a decision. some believe that the occupation is necessary, if only to responsibly fix what we broke. others like myself believe that withdrawal is necessary, to make way for those who actually can fix it. it's time for those supporting the occupation to make the sacrifices necessary to make it work or those opposing the occupation to make the sacrifices necessary to stop this war and remove the officials running it. but what those sacrifices may be i don't have an answer to yet.

Friday, May 26, 2006

club fed: not what it used to be

don't rat. don't cut in line. don't ask. don't touch. pay your debts. flush often. don't whine.

— david novak, downtime: a guide to federal incarceration

while basking in the communal schadenfreude that's descended on the internet in the wake of the convictions of enron's ken lay and jeffrey skilling, i've noticed a lot of commenters tempering their glee with the expectations that lay and skilling, however much they deserve it, won't exactly be breaking rocks at leavenworth, but instead sinking putts in a minimum-security "country-club" federal prison.

so what kind of a vacation experience are kenny-boy and jeff looking at? i ran a short search on federal prisons and quickly discovered an archived thread on that addresses the concerns of those looking for advice on the way in.

the thread is particularly noteworthy since it reproduces in full an august 11, 2002 new york times article about federal prisons, "white-collar criminal? pack lightly for prison", published in the wake of the indictment of sam waksal, former ceo of imclone systems, whose stock got his pal martha stewart in so much trouble:

assume you are a major corporate executive accused of a securities fraud that has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in investor losses. maybe you'll be acquitted. but what if you're convicted? how long will your sentence last? where will you serve the time? and will there be tennis?

although the article doesn't closely examine the stories of country-club living in federal prisons in the past, prisons conditions and sentencing since 1987 have become significantly harsher for everyone, and especially for white-collar criminals:

... nonviolent criminals convicted of financial felonies can face years or even decades in prison, especially since november 2001, when the u.s. sentencing commission drastically increased sentences for white-collar crime, with special emphasis on frauds involving many millions of dollars.

under old sentencing guidelines, a first-time, nonviolent offender who committed a fraud that caused 50 or more people to lose $100 million or more faced a prison sentence of five to 6½ years in a federal institution. now, under the formula used by the sentencing commission in the 2001 guidelines, the same individual faces a minimum of 19½ years and a maximum of 24½ years.

... ten years is a critical threshold; convicts sentenced to more than 10 years are placed in a prison behind fences and razor wire. less than 10, and you've got a good chance of residing at a prison camp, often fenceless, for inmates with low risk for escape or violence.

prison for convicts of all stripes has become a more sterile experience:

almost no personal property is allowed, not even contact lenses. inmates are allowed only one religious text, one pair of eyeglasses, dentures and dental bridge, one solid wedding ring with no stones, $20 in change for vending machines, and cash or money orders for an inmate account.

an inmate can put unlimited funds in the account but is allowed to spend only $175 a month. inmates can buy from a small selection of shoes, toiletries and snacks in the commissary, but most money is consumed on telephone calls, which are monitored. all prisoners are required to work in jobs that pay 11 cents an hour — tax free.

living conditions are tight. at most camps, bunk beds are crammed into small cubicles that hold two to six inmates. think of the office cubicles occupied by the minions at your company, and imagine sharing one as living quarters with another person you might or might not like for the next several years.

... those serving time for white-collar crimes number only about 1,000 of the federal system's 160,000 inmates. so you'll likely find yourself surrounded by drug dealers, robbers and check kiters.

oh dear, not exactly the polo set.

meanwhile, options for whiling away the time have become fewer and fewer, though if you're lucky, there just may be tennis after all:

the most productive way to serve your time, former inmates say, is self-improvement. several camps at former military bases do have tennis courts, now called multiuse surfaces, that accommodate volleyball and basketball. many inmates end up in better physical shape than their office careers ever allowed.

education in the federal prison system is widely considered a joke by inmates, but most camps have a library and there is plenty of time for reading and writing. inmates can receive books by mail, although storage space is limited. they can subscribe to magazines, except those deemed pornographic.

but, as related by commenters in the thread, the weightpiles made classic by many a prison drama are being allowed to die of decrepitude:

greyghost: just for the record — on the weight lifting equipment — that was not what the bop [bureau of prisons] wanted. that is what congress wanted. the bop liked the idea that inmates had the opportunity to excerise, work out, release their stress and frustrations out lifting weights. congress just thought that the bop, by allowing weight lifting, was doing nothing more than helpding [sic] to churn out bigger and stronger predators out on the street.

wileycoyote: ... as for the weights, you are correct. they don't have to remove the old ones unless they become damaged or broken and they will not be replaced. the problem lies with the fact that there really are very few of the older prisons that still do have weights and every time a new warden or new captain comes on the yard the first thing they usually say is "if there is even one fight on the weightpile, those weights are out of here." eventually there will be a fight. even if no weights are used in the fight, if it happens within shouting distance of the weightpile they are gone. i've seen this happen at least 3 times.

and of course internet access is understandably verboten:

fed-x: no computers hooked to the internet what-so-ever, unfortunately.. the bop is afraid of computers.. you will be lucky to get access to them at all.. some institutions have small computer classes but not all of them.. they are definitely on a physically isolated network with no outside connections.

ultimately it seems that the worst punishment awaiting lay and skilling is the enormity of time they now have to do absolutely nothing but contemplate their reversals of fortune. i would imagine, at least in the minds of these two high-fliers, having lived in the lap of every luxury imaginable, with every possible entertainment available to them at their beck and call, that to be reduced to staring for years at a steel toilet and grey walls, must be the cruelest punishment of all.

pkduc: from my experience in federal prison, the biggest obstacle i faced was boredom. i was at pekin (female camp) in il. there was absolutely nothing to do. there were no programs except for drug offenders and the library contained nothing but outdated law books and old paperback romance novels. the boredom was mind numbing.

shortly before the new york times piece, new york magazine covered "club fed" in a 5-page feature, "you've got jail". its focus on the personal experiences of several inmates makes it a pretty entertaining read:

when charles surrendered four years ago, he had, remarkably, even less luck than freddy. convicted of defrauding the government, he was supposed to serve his sixteen-month sentence at allenwood camp. but when he arrived, he was told, without explanation, that he'd been reassigned to allenwood's low-security facility up the road. only two weeks after his arrival, one of the guards found a hypodermic needle and steroids under the mattress of one of his two roommates. the three men were immediately strip-searched and inspected for needle marks. then they were thrown in separate holes.

the lights were off when charles arrived. men in the neighboring cells were howling and pounding their fists against the walls, which they would continue to do all night. thinking it was a light switch, charles hit a small plastic button next to a mirror.

"don't touch that!"

charles whipped around.

"that's the panic button, you son of a bitch!"

tyrone had been sitting in the hole for four months, because he refused to work. when charles first saw him, he had all the thoughts that a soft, pasty white guy would be expected to have when confronted with a hulking black cellmate: "this is a cliché." it didn't take long, though, before he discovered that clichés were useless in prison life. "tyrone," says charles, "was one of the most interesting people at allenwood."

to pass the time and calm his nerves, charles asked lots of questions. too many. three days later, when the warden came by, tyrone gave her a very different response when she asked if he was ready to work. "yeah, i'm ready," he barked. "this fuckin' white guy won't stop talking."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

we really mean it this time

we really, really do.

[u.s. ambassador to iraq zalmay khalilzad] added that any turnaround "really depends on the performance of this government" and whether it succeeds in curbing the violence.

asked whether the united states would have to admit failure and pull out if there was no improvement in the next six months or a year, he said: "we will have to wait and see."

... "the next six months will be truly critical for iraq," khalilzad said.

so is tom friedman earning any royalties on this tune ... ?

he should.

Monday, May 22, 2006

still waiting

david shuster, having caught his breath after his last big report on karl rove's pending indictment, decides to play it safe on tonight's msnbc hardball with chris matthews:

shuster: it's now been 26 days since rove testified to the grand jury for the fifth time. defense lawyers say prosecutors remain focused on rove's claim of a bad memory, regarding a conversation with time magazine reporter matt cooper. rove's legal team and former prosecutors tracking the investigation expect special patrick fitzgerald to announce a decision at any time.

yes, i expect he will, at that.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

the waiting game

things seem to be getting out of hand.

still no rove indictment. one journalist's already checkered career may be irreparably damaged. his sponsor's reputation sways in the wind. prosecutor fitzgerald remains silent. has something gone horribly wrong in the plame investigation?

one would certainly thinks so from the ballooning body of speculation overtaking the blogosphere. could all this be msnbc reporter david shuster's fault?

the ball got rolling with shuster's breathless but compelling argument made on msnbc countdown with keith olbermann on may 8:

olbermann: what are you gathering on these two main points? is the decision by mr. fitzgerald coming soon? would it be an indictment?

shuster: well, karl rove's legal team has told me that they expect that a decision will come sometime in the next two weeks. and i am convinced that karl rove will, in fact, be indicted. and there are a couple of reasons why.

first of all, you don't put somebody in front of a grand jury at the end of an investigation, or for the fifth time, as karl rove testified a couple — a week and a half ago, unless you feel that's your only chance of avoiding indictment. so, in other words, the burden starts with karl rove to stop the charges.

secondly, it's now been 13 days since rove testified. after testifying for three and a half hours, prosecutors refused to give him any indication that he was clear. he has not gotten any indication since then, and the lawyers that i've spoken with outside of this case say that if rove had gotten himself out of the jam, he would have heard something by now.

and then the third issue is one we've talked about before, and that is, in the scooter libby indictment, karl rove was identified as official a. it's the term that prosecutors use when they try to get around restrictions on naming somebody in an indictment.

we've looked through the records of patrick fitzgerald from when he was prosecuting cases in new york, and from when he's been u.s. attorney in chicago. and in every single investigation, whenever fitzgerald has identified somebody as official a, that person eventually gets indicted themselves, in every single investigation.

will karl rove defy history in this particular case? i suppose anything is possible when you're dealing with a white house official. but the lawyers that i've been speaking with, who know this stuff, say, don't bet on karl rove getting out of this.

that report gave an outside deadline of two weeks (may 22) for an indictment to appear. leopold's explosive story, coming just four days after shuster's report, became irresistible to many because it fit the schedule.

but once the deadline passed, speculation took off faster than exxon's profits — something's gone horribly wrong, right?

strangely, no one's really questioned the integrity of the two week deadline itself. the only person who could have lent credibility to the deadline was fitzgerald. but it was never put forth or confirmed by fitzgerald. the two week deadline put forth by schuster came from rove's team:

well, karl rove's legal team has told me that they expect that a decision will come sometime in the next two weeks.

rove may have floated the deadline for his own purposes, in order to sow the speculation, confusion and disappointment that's now descended on everyone following the case.

if so, it is ultimately just a delaying tactic, since any indictment that's finally handed down will be national front page news, and any confusion will be then dispelled. in the meantime, fitzgerald may in fact be working right on schedule all along — his schedule — which, like everything else he's handling in this case, he obviously prefers to keep to himself.

time to shit

as reported in my post "has it been six months yet?", tom friedman has a problem with deadlines. but matthew yglesias, who's currently playing guest host in josh marshall's stead at talking points memo, reports that he's not the only one dithering:

yglesias: beyond poking fun at people, there's a serious issue here. voters are upset about how things are going in iraq. so democrats want to criticize the bush iraq policy. this means they must agree that things are going very badly in iraq. but the consultant class along with various others has determined that calling for withdrawal is a losing strategy. consequently, democrats find themselves arguing that iraq is perpetually on the brink of total disaster as a result of bush's policies, but never, ever, ever actually goes over the tipping point of becoming the sort of lost cause where the main american goal has to be cutting our losses.

i think an important distinction needs to be made between those like friedman who insist that we're always six months away from the crucial deciding factor for staying or withdrawing from iraq, and those insisting that iraq is always on the brink of disaster. while it's certainly possible that a situation can teeter precariously for an indefinite period, it's certainly not practical to allow a period for making a crucial decision to remain open indefinitely. the first concerns conditions that may be outside one's control, but the second is about conditions when one actually takes control.

so those who continue to claim that iraq is at the tipping point could still be right (although i personally don't believe so; i believe civil war began last year); but friedman proved himself wrong years ago. either iraq has hit his magic milestone, obligating us to stay, or iraq hasn't, obliging us to leave, but to continue to move the goalposts and insist that it's not yet time to make a decision is to indulge in a most disingenuous and deadly game of procrastination.

friedman's six months has expired five times already. so, to paraphrase nixon, it's time for everyone to shit or get off the pot.

the song remains the same

ok, sure, so there's a few minor security openings still available, but what the hey, i feel like another chorus of "turn, turn, turn". how about you? all together, now ...

president bush: the formation of a unity government in iraq is a new day for the millions of iraqis who want to live in freedom. and the formation of the unity government in iraq begins a new chapter in our relationship with iraq.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

has it been six months yet?

not quite, according to new york times columnist tom friedman:

the next six months in iraq — which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there — are the most important six months in u.s. foreign policy in a long, long time.

new york times, "the chant not heard", november 30, 2003

what i absolutely don't understand is just at the moment when we finally have a un-approved iraqi-caretaker government made up of — i know a lot of these guys — reasonably decent people and more than reasonably decent people, everyone wants to declare it's over. i don't get it. it might be over in a week, it might be over in a month, it might be over in six months, but what's the rush? can we let this play out, please?

npr fresh air, june 3, 2004

what we're gonna find out, bob, in the next six to nine months is whether we have liberated a country or uncorked a civil war.

cbs face the nation, october 3, 2004

improv time is over. this is crunch time. iraq will be won or lost in the next few months. but it won't be won with high rhetoric. it will be won on the ground in a war over the last mile.

new york times, "the last mile", november 28, 2004

i think we're in the end game now. ... i think we're in a six-month window here where it's going to become very clear and this is all going to pre-empt i think the next congressional election—that's my own feeling— let alone the presidential one.

nbc meet the press, september 25, 2005

maybe the cynical europeans were right. maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. that will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the sunnis in iraq intend to be. if they come around, a decent outcome in iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. if they won't, then we are wasting our time.

new york times, "the endgame in iraq", september 28, 2005

we've teed up this situation for iraqis, and i think the next six months really are going to determine whether this country is going to collapse into three parts or more or whether it's going to come together.

cbs face the nation, december 18, 2005

we're at the beginning of, i think, the decisive, i would say, six months in iraq, ok, because i feel like this election — you know, i felt from the beginning iraq was going to be ultimately, charlie, what iraqis make of it.

— pbs charlie rose show, december 20, 2005

the only thing i am certain of is that in the wake of this election, iraq will be what iraqis make of it — and the next six months will tell us a lot. i remain guardedly hopeful.

new york times, "the measure of success", december 21, 2005

i think that we're going to know after six to nine months whether this project has any chance of succeeding. in which case, i think the american people as a whole will want to play it out or whether it really is a fool's errand.

oprah winfrey show, january 23, 2006

i think we're in the end game there, in the next three to six months, bob. we've got for the first time an iraqi government elected on the basis of an iraqi constitution. either they're going to produce the kind of inclusive consensual government that we aspire to in the near term, in which case america will stick with it, or they're not, in which case i think the bottom's going to fall out.

— cbs, january 31, 2006

i think we are in the end game. the next six to nine months are going to tell whether we can produce a decent outcome in iraq.

— msnbc today show, march 2, 2006

can iraqis get this government together? if they do, i think the american public will continue to want to support the effort there to try to produce a decent, stable iraq. but if they don't, then i think the bottom is going to fall out of public support here for the whole iraq endeavor. so one way or another, i think we're in the end game in the sense it's going to be decided in the next weeks or months whether there's an iraq there worth investing in. and that is something only iraqis can tell us.

cnn late edition with wolf blitzer, april 23, 2006

well, i think that we're going to find out, chris, in the next year to six monthsprobably sooner — whether a decent outcome is possible there, and i think we're going to have to just let this play out.

msnbc hardball with chris matthews, may 11, 2006

yes, folks, you've heard tom's song before. it's sung to the tune of "turn, turn, turn".

(hat tip to the media researchniks at f.a.i.r.)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

gangsta rapture

i've always been a sucker for a good character study, and to my delight, in the last week of april, a thing of sheer unintended comedic beauty, dating back to 1997, was rescued from the 24/7 public-access sideshow of cable tv. given some of the truly borderline personalities already in fierce, no-holds-barred competition for our attention on free cable, you can imagine what it takes to stand out with any distinction. but i think we have a winner.

anyone who remembers the 90s prime-time tv sketch comedy in living color will recognize damon wayans' surly homey the clown, but this particular homey has traded his stuffed sock for a bible. if you haven't yet had the pleasure, meet ray ray, host of call-in ministry spirit of truth: one man show, who's come in the name of jesus by the power of the holy spirit to spread the word, and if you don't like it, you can kiss his muthafuckin ass, you stupid bee-yotch!

for those not reflexively repulsed by free-flung obscenity, especially obscenity freely flung in the name of the almighty, spirit of truth is genuinely hilarious, precisely because of all the wanton blasphemy.

ray ray:next caller! mimi!
mimi:y'know what, you are a real ...
ray ray:i don't give a fuck whatchu think, bitch!!!
mimi:... about ...
ray ray:your thoughts — your thoughts —
mimi:... you don't know ...
ray ray:— your thoughts ain't my thoughts!
mimi:... you need to go take that ...
ray ray:bitch, i'm flowin' straight from the survivor scroll!!
mimi:[ inaudible ]
ray ray:cut that bitch off!!! next caller!

but ray ray's show delivers much more than cuss-soaked brimstone. our prophet's abusive persona, his bizarre hairstyle (a mullet on steroids? an inverse bowl-cut?), his missing tooth, his dubious-looking oversized bible and his pimp cane, topped off by the pyschedelic, unanchored, roller-coaster camerawork are just the most obvious accents punctuating his production. i've yet to tire of it. there's something mesmerizing about his diatribe, a je ne sais quois that probably feeds the same urge that compels us to take just one more peek at the scene of the wreck.

one of the less obvious aspects of my fascination with ray ray is cultural, so forgive me for indulging in a bit of armchair sociology. i don't think i'd be too far out on a limb to presume that ray ray is a product of penal institutions. it's a presumption that hasn't escaped at least one of his callers:

voice #1:lemmee ask you a question: how come when you readin' you act like you have a hard time readin'?
voice #2:he musta been in jail!!
ray ray:cause i'm god, bitch!

ray ray probably didn't get too far in school before he graduated to prison. and in prison all psychosocial development comes to an abrupt halt, at least any development not immediately related to basic survival skills. so when ray ray was finally let free, he was still the same raw schoolkid that had been locked away, only now he was more brutish, and perhaps psychotic as well. such is the crucible that is our prison system.

so where does the evangelizing come in? one might wonder just what ray ray hopes to accomplish by browbeating his prospective converts. he seems thoroughly oblivious to the irony that his abusive sermonizing inspires, to a person, only reciprocal abuse from his callers. not a soul misses his opportunity to mock the prophet of the lord jesus by the power of the holy spirit:

caller:... love whatcha doin ... i love all your cussin' an' carryin' on ...
ray ray:you the devil ... ? aha-hah!! you the devil!! you a satanist, huh?
caller:... we gonna have a ...
ray ray:you — 'ey, 'ey, then you wrote a book, too, then right? you got a book with blood on it, huh? you satan, huh? who created yo ass, satan?
caller:[ inaudible ]
ray ray:who created your ass? i come in the name of jesus by the power of the holy spirit!
caller:... i want you to ...
ray ray:i come in the name of jesus by the power of the holy spirit!
caller:... i'm the devil, an' i'm'a fuck yo ass up ...
ray ray:the devil is a motherfuckin' liar! so you know i ain't worried! bee-yotch!!! stupid bitch!
caller:... bitch ...

i suspect the prophet was himself a prison convert; that the god ray ray discovered behind bars was a particularly wrathful one might explain the complete absence of any ability to engage people in any manner other than a domineering vindictive contempt. his attitude no doubt helped him survive lockup, but, as far as we can tell, it isn't very helpful in winning a devoted flock — his "144,000 strong" — much less in getting anyone who isn't already his prag to listen to anything he has to say. to complete the picture, a psychotic break from reality probably inhibits any ability to objectively evaluate his own interactions with others.

ray ray's hold on sanity seems tenuous at best: he insists that he is god and writes his own rap-flavored scriptures (scraptures?) to the power of his own holy spirit. but evidently he proved stable enough to have put together a preoccupying outlet for his psychoses, this cable program for spreading his gospel. i would imagine that, in a pre-cable era, he would have been relegated, like vast majority of nameless prophets before him, to a street corner, where his relentless abuse and unrestrained arrogance most likely would have quickly led to a violent confrontation and back to prison. in this sense we might consider him, for the time that his program was being broadcast, uniquely blessed.

man, i come in the name of jesus by the power of the holy spirit. it don' matter how you come with me. is you — is you down doin' what i'm talkin about doin': lawyers an' get this book open. trained in these words to get the poor, the fatherless an' the widows up outta them penitentiaries. are you down wit that? you ain't down wit that, shut yo goddamn ass up!!!

the limits of failure, pt. iii

hmmm. that didn't take long.

a new cnn poll, comparing attitudes towards president bush's job performance with that of his predecessor bill clinton, seems to have put josh marshall off our running wager:

speaks for itself. and i suspect americans attitudes toward president bush will own [sic] grow more grim over time.

clinton outperformed bush in every measure: economy, foreign policy, national security, disaster management, promoting unity, meeting people's needs and honesty.

looks like buyer's remorse has officially set in.

Friday, May 12, 2006

poll pall

virtually overnight the washington post has generated a poll showing twice as many supporters than objectors to bush's illegal nsa spying program, which only yesterday was revealed to have been accumulating records on "tens of millions of americans", contrary to the administration's repeated assurances. bush supporters are of course ecstatic at any news that can be wrung into kool-aid while bush critics seem to be reflexively retreating into their ready disenchantment with the apathetic hordes.

i was planning to post my own analysis of the poll, whose construction raises serious questions regarding the framing of issues, and which completely ignored the central issue of warrants, court orders and oversight, but glenn greenwald's "polling hysteria and the nsa program" nimbly beat me to the punch:

... when the nsa eavesdropping scandal was first disclosed, rasmussen reports quickly issued a blatantly flawed poll purporting to show that "sixty-four percent (64%) of americans believe the national security agency (nsa) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the united states." the question mentioned nothing about warrants. it mentioned nothing about fisa. and it specified that the government would be eavesdropping only on conversations "between terrorism suspects."

the only surprise with the results was that only 64% favored that. One would think that virtually everyone would favor eavesdropping on terrorism suspects. nonetheless, since that was the first poll, it was held up by bush followers as proof that the nsa scandal was political suicide for democrats ...

as the debate over the nsa scandal became more informed and more americans understood the issues at stake, virtually every poll thereafter showed that a majority or plurality of americans oppose warrantless eavesdropping and/or believe the president broke the law, and some even show that a plurality favors the censure resolution. opinions change when people stand up and explain why what the government is doing is wrong and dangerous, and americans respect politicians who are willing to do that even when — especially when — they are not guaranteed by the consulting class ahead of time that they will win.

all other issues aside, there is nothing for bush opponents to lose here by pursuing this issue. nobody who has abandoned george bush is going to again become a supporter of his because he is keeping track of the telephone calls of every single american....

... meanwhile, in the real world, ever since the nsa scandal was revealed, the president's approval rating has done nothing but plummet. that, of course, does not demonstrate a causal relationship, but it certainly proves that scandals of this type do not remotely help the president in any way. all of those frightened beltway democrats who were anonymously screeching that russ feingold's censure resolution played right into karl rove's omnipotent hands, that it destroyed the grand democratic plan, that it would allow the president to recover by forcing the debate back onto his turf — how wrong were they, as always?

i encourage you to read the entire post.

meanwhile, for a no-nonsense takedown of the poll's questions themselves, be sure to also check out former telephone pollster krazypuppy's "worst poll ever: americans do care" at daily kos.

the limits of failure, pt. ii

josh marshall pauses to reconsider our little wager?

hmmm. that didn't take long.

bush at 29%. harris interactive's new poll, just out.

two days may be too early to be certain, but, as i previously argued, there appears to be no need for bush to commit any further acts of malfeasance (though further acts are most definitely still to come), as josh had proposed, in order to sustain his slide in the polls; time itself will take care of his remaining support. i'd say he's officially in free fall.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

some advice for senate democrats

there is a bully in the schoolyard.

this bully is not interested in playing by the rules. he thinks that the rules are for sissies. he is counting on their yielding to rules that he refuses to follow.

the sissies need to stop cowering. they need to stop worrying about looking like sissies. the bully has already proven that.

the sissies need to realize that no matter how much they try to accommodate the bully, the bully has no interest in making life easier for the sissies. the bully only wants to make life easier for himself.

the sissies need to put aside whatever idiosyncratic dysfunctions that prevent them from cooperating. because without cooperation they are simply prey for the bully.

the sissies need to confront the bully. outside, where everyone can see, so everyone will know. everyone has to know. it is of utmost importance that everyone knows.

the sissies need to bloody his nose.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

the limits of failure

josh marshall makes a bet and posits a diminishing probability that bush's poll numbers will continue their tortured drift into hitherto uncharted depths of presidential ignominy:

mind you, i'm not saying that the president's popularity will continue to fall into the 20s. the continuing descent is something like a mathematical limit. each point lower digs deeper into the base of truly committed partisans and unquestioning hacks. so knocking off each new point on the way down requires ever greater displays of incompetence, failure and general infamy. and even for president bush that's a challenge.

i think josh misses the important role of genuine good news in supporting morale. it's not necessary for "ever greater displays of incompetence, failure and general infamy", as he puts it, to sustain the downward pressure on bush's approval rating. i would argue that the lack of good news all by itself is just as corrosive. even fervent supporters need regular helpings of good news in their diet; fans cannot live on the absence of disaster alone. people need tangible evidence that things are improving or moving forward; without that evidence, their patience eventually runs out, at which point they will abandon a losing or stagnating cause.

treading water is tiresome. so until bush can toss his dwindling supporters a real lifeline, a positive reason to keep paddling — something more than a slogan and a photo op — i predict that his numbers will continue to fall, especially when it doesn't get any better than this.

it's also worth mentioning another dynamic that i believe may be contributing to the erosion of bush's base: the effect of watching like-minded folk abandon the cause increases the pressure on the remaining faithful. there's nothing earth-shattering in that observation, but instead of taking it for granted, i want to elaborate a bit on how it appears to work. (disclaimer: i'm no polling professional so i have no studies or statistics to back my claims here, so yes, i'm pulling this hypothesis straight out of my ass!) the pressure to leave is greatest on those on the threshold exposed by the most recently departed.

dubya's followers are obviously not monolithic in many ways, including with regard to the intensity of their attachment to him. the least committed left first, and with each successive wave of defections, a new vulnerable front is exposed. dubya apparently has just lost the 32%ers, leaving the front in the hands of the 31%ers. unless reinforcements arrive, in the form of good news, the 31%ers will eventually join suit.

what i find fascinating about this dynamic is that i believe that the front is far more important to dubya's support than it first appears. i believe that the front serves as an insulator which allows those behind the front — in this case, those at 30% and below — to hold onto the dream. those on the front line are the heavy lifters, supporting the faith of everyone behind them. as long as the 31%ers hold fast, those below will feel safe and justified in their continued mule-headed commitment. as long as those in line ahead of them remain loyal, their loyalty will never budge, because, as any loyal keyboard commando knows, actually having to serve on the front line is no picnic, whether in iraq or in the polls.

so right now, it's up to the 31%ers. exactly what it will take to shake their faith, exactly when that moment will happen, or, most importantly, exactly how to identify and manipulate them, i have no idea, but ultimately it may take nothing but time. and so, like dominoes, they will fall.

Monday, May 08, 2006

personal bests

jimmy carter:

i think the best time was probably dealing with the middle east issue at camp david ... and even better i think was the peace treaty that came along six months later. i made a very difficult decision over the almost unanimous opposition of my cabinet and my staff to take the initiative and to go to egypt and to go to israel to try to get begin and sadat to agree on a peace treaty. and when they did sign — both of them signed the agreement — i guess that was probably my best moment.

bill clinton:

[kosovo] might be perhaps the most satisfying thing because it might prove that people can lay down their hatreds of people who are different. you know, i basically think free people will figure out a way to make the most of their lives and work out their problems if they can get the rules of engagement right. ... and i think what we did in kosovo was profoundly important.

george w. bush:

the best moment was — you know, i've had a lot of great moments. i don't know, it's hard to characterize the great moments. they've all been busy moments, by the way. i would say the best moment was when i caught a seven-and-a-half pound large mouth bass on my lake. [laughter]

Sunday, May 07, 2006

november won't wait

in bush country, when it rains, it pours and pours and pours and pours and pours ...

if the republicans think that they can simply batten down the hatches and ride out the cruel storm season that's settled permanently on bush's second term, they're slowly but surely finding out how utterly futile that strategy is. it's a strategy predicated on the hope that the storm doesn't get worse and ends quickly.

cia director porter goss' abrupt resignation was only the latest of a repetitive series of heavily publicized blows to bush's keeling ship of state. before this last thunderbolt, republicans were just getting themselves comfortable with the grim thought of only losing control of the house, like a bunch of convicts settling into electric chairs:

bill kristol: as of right now, republicans will lose the house. (march 5)

mclaughlin group:

tony blankley: i think most republican operatives believe, if the election were held today, that they'd lose the house and it would be close in the senate.

pat buchanan: the democrats would take the house and they'd have a good chance of taking the senate.

eleanor clift: i think a democratic takeover of the house, yes. (april 7)

pundit david brooks even goes so far as to suggest not only that losing would be a good tonic for republicans, but that democrats would actually behave themselves!

there's really a torpor in the administration. they're not doing anything right now. i think it's now likely to move the house — that they will lose the house. and i think house republicans, privately, most of them admit that. for like a year they were saying, "well, we've got it so sewed up with redistricting. we'll lose, but we won't lose the whole house." i'd say about two weeks ago the conventional wisdom shifted and people said, "we're in such trouble. we are going to lose the house."

personally, i think it would be good for the republican party because it would make them a little more responsive. it would be good for the democratic party; they'd be a little more responsible. but i think now it's likely they will lose the house. if the democrats can't win now, when are they ever going to win? (april 2)

by now it must be painfully obvious to republicans that their lowered expectations are never going to be low enough. they've wanted to believe that public support would eventually bounce back, from iraq, katrina, the cheney shooting, dubai, gas prices — but they've been proven wrong every time. that's because the lord nelson they put at the helm of their navy turned out to be an ahab who's firmly lashed himself to the wheel and threatens to drag them all the way down to the bottom with him. they made their deal with the devil; they traded their principles for power; now they'll be left with neither.

very soon, if it is not already too late, republicans, as a group, are going to have to throw up their hands and say "enough! we can't take this shit any more! this is killing us!" they are going to have to make a stand. they can no longer afford their meager expectations or their dwindling hopes.

they are going to have to take some kind of proactive and substantive role — one far more meaningful to the electorate than a photo op or a $100 gas bribe — if they hope to stanch this massive hemorrhaging of their electoral prospects. only by enacting real legislation and real reforms that tangibly benefit the electorate will republicans be able to stave off their banishment to the political backwaters. legislation calling for a withdrawal from iraq; for campaign and lobbying reform; for reducing the deficit; for reducing gas prices; for creating jobs and raising the minimum wage; for expanding healthcare.

such an effort necessarily involves taking on their dear leader, head-on, mano-a-mano, just for their own survival. for five years republicans have obsequiously accommodated his every whim, but bush's leprous administration has mutated into a ten-ton albatross, a nosferatu sucking the life-force from the party and dragging it into hell. writing on bush's efforts in iraq and iran, columnist thomas friedman likens the white house to a bunch of drunken drivers:

as someone who believed — and still believes — in the importance of getting iraq right, the level of incompetence that the bush team has displayed in iraq, and its refusal to acknowledge any mistakes or remove those who made them, make it impossible to support this administration in any offensive military action against iran.

i look at the bush national security officials much the way i look at drunken drivers. i just want to take away their foreign policy driver's licenses for the next three years. sorry, boys and girls, you have to stay home now — or take a taxi. dial 1-800-nato-charge-a-ride. you will not be driving alone. not with my car. (april 19)

yes, it is well past time to revoke junior's license. so how do republicans strip him of that privilege? the answer lies in challenging bush on his abuse of signing statements.

the boston globe reported how bush has used the signing statements in hundreds of instances to exempt himself from being bound from any law passed by congress:

bush is also the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, an act that gives public notice that he is rejecting a law and can be overridden by congress. instead, bush has used signing statements to declare that he can bypass numerous provisions in new laws. (may 3)

in their challenge to bush, republicans must flatly refuse to recognize any signing statement he attempts to append to any bill. henchforth they must allow bush only to sign or veto a bill, in accordance with orthodox senate tradition. democrats will have no problem joining republicans in such a challenge, especially in defense of strong legislation. already forces are gathering for just such a showdown:

boston globe: the chairman of the senate judiciary committee, accusing the white House of a ''very blatant encroachment" on congressional authority, said yesterday he will hold an oversight hearing into president bush's assertion that he has the power to bypass more than 750 laws enacted over the past five years.

''there is some need for some oversight by congress to assert its authority here," arlen specter, republican of pennsylvania, said in an interview. ''what's the point of having a statute if ... the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn't like?" (may 3)

but will republicans recognize the true magnitude of the opportunity materializing before them?

bush will no doubt put up a fight to preserve his enlarged domain. if republicans have any hope of restraining ahab, and honestly wish to rehabilitate themselves in eyes of their constituents, they will make their stand here, take their case loudly before the public and force bush to respect all aspects of the laws they pass in their entirety. would bush veto a bill calling for a withdrawal from iraq? or one for reducing the deficit? especially if such bills were backed by a veto-proof majority from both parties? if congress chooses to ignore him in exactly the manner he's ignored them, who will give a fuck?

it's time for congress to show bush what it's like to be powerless. i can find no other means of redemption for republicans other than an act of defiance and integrity. it very well may be too late for them in the eyes of the electorate. it may not win them back any voters that already have been lost. at this stage of the game, it may be simply a matter of keeping the voters they still have, but what other options lay open to them?

washington post: "this administration may be over," lance tarrance, a chief architect of the republicans' 1960s and '70s southern strategy, told a gathering of journalists and political wonks last week. "by and large, if you want to be tough about it, the relevancy of this administration on policy may be over." (may 7)

but the fate of the republicans is insignificant compared to the fate of the country. as long as bush is allowed to hang onto his license and remain petulantly unchallenged, as long as he threatens nuclear armageddon, pisses away the treasury and reduces every agency to a fema, the entire crew, republican, democrat and independent, remain on course to go down in flames with him. dear leader is tearing the country down around his thick granite skull. with a guaranteed new fiasco every week for the next six months, november can't wait.

in truth, i don't expect the republicans to take the high road. that would require a unity they no longer exercise. had they been on the high road, had they placed country before party, they would not now be writing their own obituary. i expect them to fracture and take their chances locally running on their individual merits. they will take what looks like the easy way out. so divided they will fall, hunkered in their cabins, hoping to wait out the storm. but the electorate won't wait with them.

so if november comes to find the republicans reduced to irrelevancy, they will have only their own cowardice to blame. they will not be missed.

al gore: we simply cannot afford to wait 1,000 days to put the brakes on the bush agenda ... the level of cynicism and crass political calculation ... is truly breathtaking. (may 7)

his finest moment

president bush, when asked what he considered the best moment thus far in his five years in office:

you know, i've experienced many great moments and it's hard to name the best ... i would say the best moment of all was when i caught a 7.5 pound perch in my lake. (may 7)

for once i believe him.

(hat tip to reuters.)


leave it to digby over at hullabaloo to mine bush's pathos to its proper depth:

there are, imo, only three ways to understand this comment, assuming it's true. quite possibly it's the pathetic whine of a deeply, perhaps clinically. depressed man who believes himself a total failure. or maybe this is a man so uninterested in his job, let alone in serving his country, that he has no business whatsoever being president. or perhaps this is simply an arrogant bastard who holds in utter contempt anyone who dares to ask him a question, so he responds with the stupidest thing he can say. (obviously, nothing precludes all three or some combination of two.)

to be all pre-emptive about it, someone's bound to comment that maybe this just shows how much of a down-to-earth regular guy bush is. yeah? all the down-to-earth regular guys i know don't have their own lake, fer chrissakes. those people are filthy rich, even if they wear jeans on their estates. but there's a character thing here, too. the down-to-earth people i know who hold important jobs are mighty proud of of what they do and mighty happy with their achievements. and they can tick them off without thinking too hard about what they might be. and, even as a joke, they don't talk about catching a big perch when a newspaper asks them to name their best moment in more than five years. they name their accomplishments. or, if they're trying to play up the down-to-earthiness, they name their children or something they did with their spouse. (may 7)

impossible idiocy

physicist sean carroll of the blog cosmic variance reports the birth of a wrongness singularity in the blogiverse.

and just what is a wrongness singularity?

a statement is either wrong or it is not wrong ... by the conventional rules, n declarative statements can be wrong at most n times. by the pauli exclusion principle, you just can’t be more wrong than that!

to be wrong more than that should defy the laws of logic, but this is the right-wing blogiverse we're observing, so singularities are theoretically possible. carroll focuses his blogometer on reynolds' recent bloviations regarding u.s. energy policy in the middle east:

of course, if we seized the saudi and iranian oil fields and ran the pumps full speed, oil prices would plummet, dictators would be broke, and poor nations would benefit from cheap energy. but we’d be called imperialist oppressors, then.

four statements, four instances of preposterousness. (can we call these falsehoods prepostulates?):

  • prices would plummet — no, they wouldn’t. as it turns out, the saudi and iranian oil fields are running at very close to full capacity; any increase would be at most a perturbation.
  • dictators would be broke — not sure which dictators we’re talking about here — the ones we just deposed? in fact, dictators have shown a remarkable ability to not be broke even in countries without vast stores of oil wealth.

  • poor nations would benefit — because it’s really the poor countries that guzzle oil? this one baffles me.

  • we’d be called imperialist oppressors — now, in a strict sense this is not wrong. we would be called that. because invading sovereign countries in order to take over their natural resources is more or less the definition of imperialist oppression. however, reynolds’ implication is clearly that we should not be called imperialist oppressors, that it would somehow be unfair. which is crazy. so can we count that as wrong? yes!

so far, a straightforward proof. now, onto the hidden fifth element:

as tim lambert points out, instapundit managed to be wrong yet another time, by begging a question and then getting the wrong answer!
  • the subjunctive clause opening the first sentence cleverly slides from invading saudi arabia and iran to running pumps at full speed. actually not something that would happen in the reality-based world! as tim says, "yeah, because that’s pretty much the way it worked out in iraq."
so in fact, reynolds has managed to fit five units of wrongness into only four declarative statements! this is the hackular equivalent of crossing the chandrasekhar limit, at which point your blog cannot help but collapse in on itself. it is unknown at this point whether the resulting end state will be an intermediate neutron-blog phase, or whether the collapse will proceed all the way to a singularity surrounded by a black hole event horizon. we may have to wait for the neutrino signal to be sure.

the right-wing blogiverse: an endlessly fascinating place to visit, but i can't see how intelligent life could exist there.

porter gone

former cia director porter goss, then chairman of the house intelligence committee, when asked in march 2004 if he'd consider returning to work for the cia, where he served through the 1960s:

i couldn't get a job with the cia today — i'm not qualified. i don't have the language skills. my language skills were romance languages and stuff. we're looking for arabists today. i don't have the cultural background probably. and i certainly don't have the technical skills, as my children remind me every day: "dad, you got to get better on your computer." so, the things that you need to have, i don't have.

— from michael moore's farenheit 9/11, 2004

this was probably not the answer goss gave when bush nominated him for cia director in august of that year.

the guardian unlimited: the white house dismissed the footage as "hearsay". goss was described as the "right man" by the president on tuesday. (august 14, 2004)

Friday, May 05, 2006

what so proudly we hide

... at least until president bush is finished making the world safer:

associated press: frankfurt, germany — the official team bus to be used by the united states during the world cup will not bear a flag for security reasons.

the 32 official buses were presented thursday in frankfurt and the other 31 buses have large national flags of the their teams painted on rear sides.

... at the 2002 world cup, the united states was among the most heavily guarded teams. when the americans arrived at incheon international airport, about 500 police formed a corridor the players walked through as they came out of customs, with swat team commandos mixed in.

when the team's charter flight landed at daegu airport before a game against south korea, two tanks were on the runway. metal detectors were placed at the entrance of the team hotel throughout the team's stay.

(hat tip to think progress.)

our worst fears

elizabeth dole is afraid. very afraid. the country is headed toward disaster.

as in a terrorist attack? another katrina-sized storm? an incurable pandemic? financial collapse?

not exactlybut the enemies are at the gates.

as in osama? zarqawi? iran? north korea?

not exactly

associated press: washington — the head of the senate republican committee paints a dire picture of democratic congressional control, warning that the opposition party would "put the war on terrorism on the back-burner" and maybe even impeach president bush.

in a fundraising appeal this week, sen. elizabeth dole, r-n.c., asks for immediate financial help "to prevent the most left-wing democrat party in history from seizing control of the united states senate" in the november elections.

... in the fundraising letter, dole rails against liberal democrats in the senate and warns that if they prevail, "our worst fears" will be realized. she argues that empowered democrats would "increase your taxes, call for endless investigations, congressional censure and maybe even impeachment of president bush, put the war on terrorism on the back-burner" and "take over the white house in 2008!"

she assured the recipients of the fundraising letter that she was working around the clock "to help our country avoid this disaster."

all hyperbole aside, while the country might not be on the edge of extinction, senate republicans most certainly are, and who would know better than their own nervous staffers, whose continued well-being depends wholly on their bosses' uninterrupted incumbency, as related by one purported congressional insider:

as many of you know, when congress is in session, most of my working days are spent on the hill. i have contacts on both sides of the hill and both sides of the aisle on both sides, people i have known for years and chat with.

the republicans on both sides of capitol hill are running scared right now. very scared. the staffers i know on more than one committee have been told that if the republicans lose the majority in november, they will lose their jobs, so now is the time to start making connections with representatives and senators in safe seats, republican organizations, friendly lobbyists and the like and putting together resumes.

there is a mood of despondency in republican circles, and the conventional wisdom in some of those circles is that loss of at least one house is inevitable. the conventional wisdom is also that loss of one chamber will be disastrous because the resulting investigations will bring the whole house of cards crashing down around the party's ankles.

if i were looking at not just unemployment, but probes and trials and sentences, i'd be scared too. come november, a lot of republicans may be grabbing their ankles.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


it's not easy defending positions you've never actually thought about.

sully erna, frontman of top-of-the-charts grunge metal band godsmack, attempts to explain to jay babcock of arthur magazine why he doesn't have a problem with licensing his songs to the military for their recruitment videos:

jb: well i have a quote from you here: "we've always been supportive of our country and our president, whereas a lot of people i thought" — and you said this in 2003 to mtv news, you said — "a lot of people i thought lashed out pretty quickly at what we did and i thought the government did everything pretty cleanly and publicly as possible."
se: yeah ... ?
jb: well, what are you talking about?
se: that was my opinion at the time. the whole war thing, and trying to keep us up to date like ... if you remember, back in other wars, we didn't have the opportunity to follow it through the media, and cnn, and the news — live updates and that kind of thing. and i thought that for the most part you know we were allowed to follow it as best we could through the media sources that were feeding us information.
jb: [incredulous] you didn't think the media was being controlled by the military?!?
se: well, it could be. i don't know.
jb: you didn't look into it?
se: listen, are you a fucking government expert?

oh shit, another one of these friggin' experts! man, i couldn't get outta high school fast enough to get away from these geeks!

se: so i just feel, well, you know, whatever we can do to say 'thank you for protecting our country' is what we try to do. i'm not trying to make this a big political issue.
jb: okay. have you done anything to prevent people from joining the military?
se: no.
jb: to maybe educate them as to what's in store for them?
se: i don't have enough education in the military to educate them in anything.

besides, it's not like there's any possible reason you wouldn't jump with both feet on gettin' your song in a recruiting vid, right?

se: we just simply — an opportunity came up, they wanted to use some music for a recruit commercial. what are we gonna say, no?
jb: yeah. how hard is it to say 'no'?
se: why would we, though?!?
jb: because —
se: is it because you don't feel the same way about the government that we do, makes you right and us wrong?
jb: yeah. what do you feel about the government? tell me what —
se: aw, that's crazy, man! that's just an opinion.
jb: i can back my opinion up from here to tomorrow if you would like to talk to me all day long.
se: well, obviously you've done a lot of research and you've
jb: that's right, because —
se: — got a different opinion. we don't know that stuff that you know, so —
jb: why don't you do some research before you get involved with these sorts of things? you're talking about young kids' lives. you're talking about kids —
se: [yelling] would you rather not have us be protected so they can come and overrun our country?!?

because, after all, if we were to actually do some research, the terrorists would win! but if you like your fuckin' research so much, they still got libraries in iraq!

jb: you know what i'd like, sully? a department of defense. not a department of offense that attacks other countries — sovereign nations — who do things in a different way than us, who we have no right to go over and invade and change their governments. would we want someone else to do that to us?
se: i'm not saying —
jb: how hard is that to think about?
se: i'm not saying that we were right on every war that we've created. i know that we've been damn wrong at times about stuff —
jb: when have we been wrong?
se: [yelling] but they have also been wrong too!
jb: when have —
se: i don't trust someone like fuckin' sadaam and osama to come in here and try to control —
jb: [incredulous] when did sadaam try to come in here and control our country?
se: dude, [yelling] why don't you go live in iraq then if you have such a problem with america? why are you here?

because, you know, you can love it or leave it, you osaddama-lovin' geek! love it or leave it!

now, if you'll excuuuse me, i have some recruiting song$ to cut.

now i could care less whether sully erna supports the troops, or how he chooses to demonstrate his support. there's a broader issue on display here.

the issue here, which jay babcock clearly illustrates, is that sully's position is completely bankrupt because he's made no effort to think about it in anything but the shallowest terms.

whatever your beliefs, especially if you actively promote them in order to influence the behavior of others, you have a responsibility to learn what all the facts are. because sully hasn't made any effort to learn anything about the military or the war, he's unable to offer any credible or coherent rebuttal to jay's arguments. all he has are cheap slogans.

sully obviously has no interest in the military beyond indulging himself in some kind of feel-good give-em-hell rock-and-roll fantasy that he's getting paid to promote. and not being in the military himself makes him not just an idiot but a hypocrite.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

running on empty

looks like the party of stunts photo ops staged events cheap political manuevers ideas has just run out of them:

washington post: the response so far has been profiles in panic. some conservatives dropped their philosophical opposition to tax hikes and business regulations and began complaining loudly about oil companies and the auto industry.

president bush last week announced that he wanted the authority to raise fuel economy standards on automobiles. one aide acknowledged the idea was devised on the fly, with almost no planning or discussion among relevant agencies. this became obvious within hours when white house officials cautioned that bush had no immediate plan to use the authority even if he had it.

a few days earlier, bush backed diverting crude oil from the strategic petroleum reserve, an idea he dismissed less than two years earlier as a political stunt.

republican lawmakers likewise have responded with a mishmash of solutionssome barely vetted, others with little chance of becoming law.

the problem? it seems that the citizens of emerald city, even the once-fawning dittoheads, are now paying very close attention to the man behind the curtain ...

new york times: the senate republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to ease the burden of high gasoline prices is eliciting more scorn than gratitude from the very people it was intended to help.

aides for several republican senators reported a surge of calls and e-mail messages from constituents ridiculing the rebate as a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in november.

"the conservatives think it is socialist bunk, and the liberals think it is conservative trickery," said don stewart, a spokesman for senator john cornyn, republican of texas, pointing out that the criticism was coming from across the ideological spectrum.

angry constituents have asked, "do you think we are prostitutes? do you think you can buy us?" said another republican senator's aide, who was granted anonymity to openly discuss the feedback because the senator had supported the plan.

conservative talk radio hosts have been particularly vocal. "what kind of insult is this?" rush limbaugh asked on his radio program on friday. "instead of buying us off and treating us like we're a bunch of whores, just solve the problem." in commentary on fox news sunday, brit hume called the idea "silly."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

the nine-percent delusion


nine percent.

i think we've found the absolute bottom that bush's approval rating could possibly sink to:

the cnn poll, conducted april 21-23 by opinion research corporation, found that only 9 percent thought the u.s. mission in iraq had been accomplished, while 40 percent believed it would be complete someday.

that's 21 points to go. at its current trajectory, an average of one point per month, his numbers should hit 9% in february 2008.

(and if that 9% ever wakes up, bush'll hit zero just in time for the 2008 elections!)

(hat tip to think progress.)

Monday, May 01, 2006

turn, turn, turn

yes, folks, you've heard this song before. it's sung to the tune of "the light at the end of the tunnel". 1

from today's remarks at the white house, on the third anniversary of bush's "mission accomplished" speech:

bush: a new iraqi government represents a strategic opportunity for america — and the whole world, for that matter. this nation of ours and our coalition partners are going to work with the new leadership to strengthen our mutual efforts to achieve success, a victory in this war on terror. this is a — we believe this is a turning point for the iraqi citizens, and it's a new chapter in our partnership. (may 1, 2006)

after the nomination of the prime minister:

cheney: i think we'll look back several years from now and see that 2005 was really a turning point, in the sense the progress we made both in terms of training iraqi forces, because we've now got a large number of iraqis taking the lead various places around the country from a security and military standpoint, but also because of the political milestones that were achieved ...

i think about when we look back and get some historical perspective on this period, i'll believe that the period we were in through 2005 was, in fact, a turning point; that putting in place a democratic government in iraq was the — sort of the cornerstone, if you will, of victory against the insurgents. (february 7, 2006)

after the iraqi elections ...

cheney: the basic point, and one i've made already that i believe that the elections were the turning point. and we had that election in january — first free election in iraq in decades — and that we will be able to look back from the perspective of time, and see that 2005 was the turning point, was the watershed year, and that establishment of a legitimate government in iraq, which is what that whole political process is about, means the end of the insurgency, ultimately. (december 18, 2005)

before the elections ...

bush: there's still a lot of difficult work to be done in iraq, but thanks to the courage of the iraqi people, the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of iraq, the history of the middle east, and the history of freedom. (december 12, 2005)

after the january elections ...

mrs. bush: people in the middle east and commentators around the world are beginning to wonder whether recent elections may mark a turning point as significant as the fall of the berlin wall. (march 8, 2005)

mcclellan: it marks a turning point in iraq's history and a great advance toward a brighter future for all iraqis, one that stands in stark contrast to the brutality and oppression of the past. the election also represents a body blow to the terrorists and their ideology of hatred and oppression. (january 31, 2005)

before the january elections ...

bush: tomorrow the world will witness a turning point in the history of iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom, and a crucial advance in the war on terror. (january 29, 2005)

before the transfer of sovereignity ...

bush: a turning point will come two weeks from today. on june the 30th, governing authority will be transferred to a fully sovereign interim government, the coalition provisional authority will cease to exist, an american embassy will open in baghdad. (june 16, 2004)

bush: and this is a turning point in history. it's a — it's an important moment. and one of the reasons why i'm proud to stand here with [italian prime minister berlusconi] is he understands the stakes, he understands the importance. and like me, he shares a great sense of optimism about the future. (june 5, 2004)

at the first anniversary of the invasion ...

bush: one year ago, military forces of a strong coalition entered iraq to enforce united nations demands, to defend our security, and to liberate that country from the rule of a tyrant. for iraq, it was a day of deliverance. for the nations of our coalition, it was the moment when years of demands and pledges turned to decisive action. today, as iraqis join the free peoples of the world, we mark a turning point for the middle east, and a crucial advance for human liberty. (march 19, 2004)

after the mideast summit (and subsequent violence):

rice: the events of the last few months make clear that the middle east is living through a time of great change. and despite the tragic events of the past few days, it is also a time of great hope. president bush believes that the region is at a true turning point. he believes that the people of the middle east have a real chance to build a future of peace and freedom and opportunity. (june 12, 2003)

turning point, new chapter, milestone, cornerstone, watershed, body blow (!) — call it what you will, but a quagmire by any other name would smell just as rank.

1 a popular hit from the vietnam era:

a year ago none of us could see victory. there wasn't a prayer. now we can see it clearly — like a light at the end of a tunnel. (september 28, 1953)

— lt. gen. henri-eugene navarre, french commander-in-chief

at last there is a light at the end of a tunnel. (september 13, 1965)

— joseph alsop, syndicated columnist

i believe there is a light at the end of what has been a long and lonely tunnel. (september 21, 1966)

— president lyndon johnson

their casualties are going up at a rate they cannot sustain ... i see light at the end of the tunnel. (december 12, 1967)

— walt rostow, state department policy planning chairman

come see the light at the end of the tunnel. (december 1967)

— new year's eve party invitation, u.s. embassy, saigon

from "the experts speak: the definitive compendium of authoritative misinformation", by christopher cerf and victor navasky, 1984

season opener

even though vermonters were among the first townsfolk to set the state impeachment initiative in motion, they were quickly overtaken by illinois and california, whose resolutions beat theirs in the race to their respective state legislatures. (see my previous post "tremors".)

not to be outdone, some vermonters chose not to wait for their state representatives to weigh in on their resolutions, which were introduced last week.

this morning they delivered three resolutions to speaker of the house dennis hastert. they also secured a promise from their congressman bernie sanders to see that their resolutions would be duly introduced to the floor:

at 9:00 a.m. et this morning ellen tenney of rockingham, vermont, and julia dewalt of newfane, vt., presented to the staff of speaker of the house dennis hastert petitions from three towns in vermont (their own two towns plus marlboro) calling for the impeachment of president bush. the towns had each passed resolutions to send the petitions.

these are the first of many petitions from towns, cities, and possibly states across the nation that will be arriving at congress's door. they are presented under the guidelines of jefferson's manual, section 603, and will be referred to a house committee, probably the judiciary, for consideration.

similar resolutions have now been passed by at least 13 cities and towns, and have been introduced in three state legislatures, with more expected this week.

following delivery to hastert's office, tenney and dewalt visited congressman bernie sanders' office, and his staff promised to make sure the speaker's office followed through by sending the petitions to the clerk and to the house judiciary committee.

without a doubt the legitimacy of their municipal resolutions will be challenged. without a doubt they will be quietly tabled, as any initial attempts to move towards impeachment will be, legitimate or otherwise. but without a doubt more are scheduled follow.

so, as the first articles of any kind to reach the house, i officially declare impeachment season open!

let the games begin! it's going to be fun watching the republicans play impeachment whack-a-mole!


thanks to commenter constant, it looks like any attempt to "quietly table" the resolutions will not be met without a fight:

the purpose of this isn't to fall into the trap of "waiting for" or "deferring to" "the committee."

rather, the resolutions must — as was done with [the 1903 impeachment proceedings against florida judge charles swayne]force the congress to vote on the matter.

remember what was done during swayne: the florida proclamation directed/asked the full house to vote on the proclamation, then it went to committee.

then — here's the key — despite the committee not agreeing over what happened with swayne — as is likely the case going to be with bush — the judiciary committee then had to provide the results to the full house for a second vote.

we have to figure out how to do the same: force the house to confront this, and not bury it in committee.