Sunday, December 31, 2006

Progress being made!

Bush said the other day:
The key to success in Iraq is to have a government that's willing to deal with the elements there that are trying to prevent this young democracy from succeeding.

We want to help them succeed...

I'm making good progress toward coming up with a plan that we think will help us achieve our objective. As I think about this plan I'm always -- have our troops in mind. There's nobody more important in this global war on terror than the men and women who wear the uniform, and their families.
Time it took for Bush's adventure in Iraq to kill 1,000 American service members: 17 months, 15 days.

Time it took for another 1,000 to die: 13 months, 19 days.

Today we hit the 3,000 mark, 14 months, 5 days after the last such mark.

Goddammit.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Random Ten

1. "Bishop Allen Drive" - Bishop Allen
2. "Fast Cars" - Aesop Rock

3. "Look For Me As You Go By" - The Innocence Mission (Download this. I mean it.)
4. "Sea of Love" - Cat Power
5. "The Comeback" - Shout Out Louds
6. "The Auld Triangle" - The Dubliners (I was raised on this kind of stuff. I'm surprised it's on YouTube.)

7. "Mid Atlantic" - Asheru and Blue Black of The Unspoken Heard
8. "Annabelle" - Gillian Welch
9. "Stairway to Heaven" - Rodrigo y Gabriela
10. "Blue Flower" - Mazzy Star

Writers who got Iraq right, Episode #2

Before the Iraq War began, New York Times columnist and Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman was one of the few voices in the major media opinion pages openly arguing that the Bush administration had failed to meet the burden of proof required to justify an attack on Iraq. He argued a glance at the history of the administration would show that, even when the "war" was swiftly won, the aftermath would be costly in matters of both blood and treasure.

For this foresight, he was called "deranged" one the pages of a competing, national newspaper. He was called shrill, gnome-like, disgusting by right wing bloggers. He was threatened with bodily harm in the landslide of hate mail driven by attacks from Bill O'Reilly and others. The National Review even instituted an on-line column dedicated to "debunking" Krugman's arguments.

If his status as Right Wing Target Number One is any indication, he clearly scared the crap out of Bush supporters.

Unfortunately for them--and for our country--Krugman was inarguably right in his predictions about the war.

In this second episode of Nitpicker's attempt to look back and remember the writers who were right about Iraq before the war began, I spoke with Paul Krugman about Bush administration intimidation, the failure of the media to properly question the "evidence" about Iraq's WMDs and how, in the American media today, being consistently wrong is good for a writer's career.

As the interview begins, I point out that, while it's suggested that he opposed Bush simply for partisan reasons, he was clearly willing to be convinced that the war was the right thing to do.



While you're here, consider donating to Nitpicker's Fund Drive. I have big plans for the site and, more importantly, as a former military journalist, I intend to blog from Iraq in the coming year, providing audio, video and photos from the country. I can't do it without your help, though.

(For Episode 1 and more background on this series, see this post.)

Update: I was asked by an e-mailer if I would type up a transcript, but I'm really not interested in doing that. I will, however, provide one of the high points of the interview here, since I think it's important. In discussing the way in which being wrong about Iraq was a smart career move, Krugman said:
KRUGMAN: Now that almost everybody agrees that (Iraq's) a total disaster, to discuss what we do about the total disaster, you get a panel of two journalists who both were for the war and both spent three years saying the next six months would be crucial.
Meanwhile, as Krugman points out, a smart guy who was right about Iraq--Robert Scheer--was kicked to the curb, with Jonah "I'm certain I'd be against moral relativism if I knew for sure what it meant" Goldberg was installed in his place.

Heh

Justin Rood caught this hilarious bit on CNN from Bush's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend:
HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.

TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure.
Can't argue with that. Eventually, Osama bin Laden will die.

Who was it who said, "the future is clear to me--what I don't understand is the present"?

Pentagon official agrees with Nitpicker

There are several newspapers you can rely upon to be in the tank for the Bush administration and, of the journalists who work for those papers, no one who write has been more of a Bush cheerleader than Rowan Scarborough.

Yet even Scarborough can't dress up the aimless nature of the impending escalation in Iraq.
The U.S. Army is studying a number of options for surging troops into Iraq if President Bush picks that approach as his centerpiece for a new war strategy, military officials said yesterday.

One official who was sent the briefing slides for various surge options said he was struck with the lack of new ideas after an intense three-month review process inside the Bush administration. "Some of this stuff is what the old Coalition Provisional Authority looked at," said the official, referring to the U.S. government organization that ran Iraq from 2003 to 2004.
Atrios has been saying all along that, no matter how much Bush might pretend to be "considering all options," withdrawal isn't one of them. As I've been saying, those who support escalation are so deluded they actually seem to think "MORE TROOPS!" is all the plan they need.

Repeat after me: There's no plan in this plan.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bill Bennett: Ford's comments about Bush administration indecent

Bill Bennett is known for having a thing for dead presidents--as long as they're falling from a slot machine--but, over at the Corner, he's calling Gerald Ford a coward.
Since "decency" seems to be the watchword of the day and the consensus modifier for Jerry Ford (a view with which I generally concur), may I nevertheless be permitted to ask this: just how decent, how courageous, is what Jerry Ford did with Bob Woodward? He slams Bush & Cheney to Woodward in 2004, but asks Woodward not to print the interview until he's dead. If he felt so strongly about his words having a derogatory affect, how about telling Woodward not to run the interview until after Bush & Cheney are out of office? The effect of what Ford did is to protect himself, ensuring he can't be asked by others about his critiques, ensuring that there can be no dialogue. The way Ford does it with Woodward, he doesn't have to defend himself...he simply drops it into Bob Woodward's tape recorder and let's the bomb go off when fully out of range, himself. This is not courage, this is not decent. The manly or more decent options are these: 1. Say it to Bush's or Cheney's face and allow them and us to engage the point while you're around, or 2. Far more decently, say nothing critical of Bush will be on the record until his presidency is over. There's a 3. Don't say anything critical of George Bush to Bob Woodward at all.
Note that the options Bennett provides seem designed not to transmit the opinion that Ford clearly wanted to get out, but to protect the Bushies from criticism. Had I the opportunity, I think I would ask Bennett whether he thinks it's decent to call a dead man a chickenshit rather than use one or more of his numerous oppportunities to appear in the media to argue with Ford's opinion that the U.S. shouldn't attempt to "go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security" or that caving to the right and dumping Nelson Rockefeller from his presidential ticket "was an act of cowardice."

I have a problem with an embargo of this type, but I don't think this is an issue of Ford's cowardice. Rather, this simply raises once again the question of Bob Woodward's ethics. While listed in the byline of the piece Bennett describes as a "Washington Post Staff Writer," Woodward is, in fact, an assistant managing editor at the newspaper. If Woodward agreed to keep something from his paper for the purposes of a future book, then what good is he to the Post any longer? Shouldn't the paper use his salary to hire three young go-getters to find the next Watergate scandal and let Woodward write his books full time? What else might Woodward, who's said he's "in the habit of keeping secrets," be squirreling away for future release? Why trust a paper whose reporters put statements--made in an election year, I should point out--up on a shelf for long-term storage?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Nitpicker fund drive

Recently, I began a series entitled "Writers who got Iraq right," in which I will be interviewing those pundits, columnists and other writers who have been proven correct in predicting the Iraq War would be disastrous.

I have received numerous e-mailed comments on the first interview in the series, in which I interviewed Atlantic Monthly senior editor Jack Beatty (who was correct before the war and, in my view, is still dead on in his diagnosis of our sick, foolish media). The comments have been uniformly positive in regards to the content of the interview, but commenters have complained about the interview's audio format.
Why not use Quicktime or some other multi-platform technology that doesn't suck? Why not include a podcast on itunes if you want to reach a larger audience. These things are simple nowadays.
The commenter is right. Such things are simple nowadays. They are not, however, free. The format I used was the result of relying upon the charity of Ourmedia.org. While a fine service, I uploaded a 10 MB mp3 and the WMA file was what the system spit out. I would have preferred a better format, but, right now, I've gotta go with the cheaper route.

The truth is, there are plenty of new products I would like to offer readers of this blog in the coming year. The "Writers who got Iraq right" series will continue and I have six installments in some stage of production (in fact, I completed my interview with Paul Krugman about an hour ago and will post it tomorrow). I would like to spend some time in war zones later this year--either returning to Afghanistan, where I served, or traveling to Iraq (the groundwork for this trip is currently being laid). And, finally, a full site move and the addition of original audio and video are on the wish list for 2007.

That all costs money, however.

That's where you come in.

I have infrequently requested donations since this site began in September 2002. When I have, I have received several kind donations from readers. Every cent was a reminder Nitpicker was providing something my readers weren't getting elsewhere and that, scruffy blogger or no, I had a responsibility to continue providing that content. Every cent made me want to give those readers more. I am a father and husband, however, and my family already suffers from the loss of the time blogging requires. And, without the benefit of funding from sugar daddies and/or think tanks--yeah, I'm looking at you, Jonah "The United States needs to go to war with Iraq because it needs to go to war with someone in the region and Iraq makes the most sense" Goldberg--I simply can't justify adding those features if they have to be funded out-of-pocket and the trip overseas simply won't happen.

So.

I'm putting out the call once again for donations. If you find this site useful and would like to see it grow, please click on the donation button on the right. The response will drive my ability to make this site better.

P.S. If you would like the mp3 version of the Beatty interview and you have an e-mail which will accept a nearly 10 MB file (Gmail will), please send an e-mail to nitpicker-at-gmail.com with "Beatty" in the subject line.

Nothing to see here, right?

Here's a picture of George Soros from the NRA's freaky new graphic novel, Dusky People and Jews Want You Dead, So Buy Guns (or whatever it's called).





















And this is from a 1943 or 1944 Nazi propaganda poster. The caption reads "The Jew: The inciter of war, the prolonger of war."





















I'm going to invoke Nitpicker's "Rove Exception" to Godwin's Law on this one.

Update: For the record, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association has done this sort of thing before.
Another way anti-gun activists "have tentacles into the grass roots of this country" is through 527 committees, instructs LaPierre.

"One of the major funding people at the U.N. in terms of the gun ban movement and the NGOs [Non-governmental Organizations] is [billionaire activist] George Soros, who is putting tens of millions of dollars into 527 committees within the U.S. designed to manipulate our elections.

"George Soros is like a new toxin that is polluting American politics. These people consider themselves earthlings first and citizens of any other country second. They eat breakfast in London and dinner in New York and fly around the world in their jets.

"It is increasingly infecting American politics like a germ, and we are going to have to deal with it - including the national and international media."
Tentacles? Where have I seen...Oh. Yeah...1943:

Saturday, December 23, 2006

This I get

Friday, December 22, 2006

Right wingers agree with terrorists

You would think that Republicans would be shamed by the fact so many of them seem to agree, at least to some extent, with the beliefs of terrorists and other Muslim extremists. For example:
  • Dinesh D'Souza thinks that "decadent and depraved American culture...angers and repulses other societies—especially traditional and religious ones." You know, like the religious conservatives of al Qaeda.

  • Congressman Virgil Goode (R-VA) believes, in the manner of the Taliban, that countries should be run by a single religion. They only disagree on which religion should rule.

  • Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter think certain Americans are simply asking to be attacked by terrorists.

  • Bush supporter author Orson Scott Card thinks that, when terrorists call us decadent and evil, Hollywood movies "prove their point."

  • Mary Grabar, writing on one of the most-visited conservative sites, writes she agrees with pre-Enlightenment views of women, specifically that"Women, without male guidance, are illogical, frivolous, and incapable of making any decisions beyond what to make for dinner." It's unlikelythe Saudis who keep women from taking part in the electoral process would disagree.
Me, I'd be ashamed if these beliefs were held by people on my side of the political aisle, but not Republicans.

Tom DeLay, for example, has said about the midterm elections that "Democrats didn't win. Republicans lost." Today, Ayman al Zawahri released yet another tape (a reminder, of course, that he's still on the loose) and it seems like he's been listening to Tom DeLay.
(Democrats) aren't the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen -- the Muslim Ummah's vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are the ones who won...
Shit, if terrorists directly copied the "it's not you, it's me" explanation of one of the leaders of my party, I'd probably whistle quietly to myself and hope that no one else noticed. Republicans, they lap it up.
The Jawa Report: How many times have we said that Democrat victotry will be seen by Islamic terrorists as a victory for them?

Riehl World View: If the Democrats had the slightest bit of back bone to offer in support of the war on terror, you'd think some Democrat leader would immediately want to take this head on. Unfortunately, they can't really do that, perhaps because to a good extent, it's true.

California Yankee, at Redstate: Zawahri may be right, but the Democrats couldn't have done it without the help of the biased media wing of the Democratic Party.

Power Line's AssRocket: I actually agree with Zawahiri on that one...Once again, I think he has a point...Once again, Zawahiri isn't entirely wrong...(And I simply have to add that Jules Crittenden praises Hinderaker for "sacrific(ing) himself to give us a good roundup. No greater love..." Apparently, in right wing world, reading is now what amounts to sacrifice and is worthy of praise similar to that which Jesus gives to those who sacrifice their lives for their friends [John 15:13].)
Yeah, you're reading that right. Those are four major right wing blogs agreeing with al Qaeda's Number Two!

Hell, Zawahiri should probably get his own log-in over at the Corner for his statement that attempting a diplomatic solution involving Iran would be to "embark on a painful journey of failed negotiations." (Then again, they've got too many radical weirdos over there already...How about My Pet Zawa?)

So far, only the conservative blogger "Captain Ed" has shown the sense to warn his "friends on the internet" that this is propaganda from a "delusional psychopath" and "(t)aking any part of it seriously is a mistake of the first order." Too bad for Ed that so many of his friends are themselves delusional and, therefore, willing to agree with a terrorist as long as he supports their beliefs about Democrats.

Update: Take Gun Toting Liberal's quiz.

Cross-posted at Unclaimed Territory, where I've been guest blogging.

More on Republicans circling the firing squad

I've talked about this before, but it's interesting that it's being picked up elsewhere and Conn Carroll makes an excellent point about why the blogs are acting as they are.
While plenty of pro and con Dem WH '08 posts can be found on lefty blogs, there has also been a noticeable and public effort to refrain from attacking the candidates. Instead, '08 concern has been concentrated on identifying which down ballot races the netroots want to be a factor in. The right side of the sphere is completely different. One can't glance at RedState with out reading some hit piece on a GOP WH '08 candidate. Meanwhile, there is nary a mention of which down ballot races the righties want to target. We speculate that having been around the block once, the netroots grey tooths don't want to relive the nasty fights they had in '04, while for the righty 'sphere this is their maiden contested primary.

Did the "Greatest Generation" suffer from Stockholm Syndrome?

Were more than 60 percent, of our WWII vets hostages? Andrew Stuttaford thinks so, writing that the draft amounts to "the state...kidnap(ping) its young people."

Update: Another conservative, revisionist take on WWII. Fred Barnes says D-Day was a "great miscalculation."

Investing in Iraq

And you thought Bush was gambling with our troops' lives...

Curt Weldon: Public Enemy?

Justin Rood reports over at TPM that "Curt Weldon got a letter from the government the other day." The L.A. Times:
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed congressional records from Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) as part of an escalating Justice Department corruption probe aimed at determining whether Weldon used his influence to win favors for family members, people familiar with the investigation said.

The previously unreported subpoena was issued by a grand jury in Washington before the November election, although it is unclear when Weldon received it.
Seems Weldon might have violated House rules by keeping the subpoena secret. This is serious stuff, but, in a sign that either studying the allusive writings of Pynchon/Faulkner/etc. or traveling the link-heavy Web has damaged my psyche, I read Rood's line and instantly heard Chuck D:

I got a letter from the government
The other day
I opened and read it
It said they were suckers
They wanted me for their army or whatever
Picture me given' a damn - I said never
Here is a land that never gave a damn
About a brother like me and myself
Because they never did
I wasn't wit' it, but just that very minute...
It occured to me
The suckers had authority
Cold sweatin' as I dwell in my cell
How long has it been?
They got me sittin' in the state pen...

Writers who got Iraq right, Episode #1

Two weeks ago, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman offered an "honor roll" of politicians who were right about the Iraq War before it began.

Despite generally terrible, incurious media coverage before the war--for which many media outlets belatedly apologized--there were also several pundits, columnists and authors who were right about the war before it began.

For my money, no one predicted what has ultimately transpired better than The Atlantic Monthly senior editor Jack Beatty. He wrote several pieces about what was coming, but two in particular stand out. On February 5, 2003, Beatty wrote that, no matter what the Administration was saying, this war was going to be costly in both human and financial terms.
The rubble of "victory" will still be smoking when the U.S. taxpayer inherits the burdens of occupation. In a comprehensive analysis of the economic costs of war, William Nordhaus, a Yale economist, gives a range of bad news, starting from $100 billion, if all goes well, to as much as $1.9 trillion if nothing goes well and the occupation drags on. U.S. troops never seem to come home...
Early this year, Columbia and Harvard economists estimated that the war could top out over $2 trillion.

In this case, as in many others, it wasn't so much that Beatty was looking into the crystal ball and predicting magically, but, unlike so many of his fellow writers, Beatty brought together information gathered from experts on economics, sociology and from his own deep understanding of history and showed the Iraq War would be anything but the cakewalk we were being promised.

Even after the war began, Beatty was dead on. On May 1, 2003, as the most of the American press was fawning over Bush's "audacious" carrier landing stunt--"ultimate in presidential symbolism"--The Atlantic Monthly published a piece in which Beatty, today, seems to have been particularly clairvoyant:
My brother-in-law fought in Vietnam for the domino theory. His son fought in Iraq for a new domino theory—the notion that a U.S.-sponsored democracy there will release a democratic "tsunami" that will topple the authoritarian governments of the Arab world. Domino Theory One was based on a strategic misconception: that we were containing expansionist international communism in Vietnam instead of resisting a nationalist, albeit Leninist-led, revolution rooted in the struggle against French colonialism. Domino Two is based on the theory that the Arab "regimes" are our enemy in what James Woolsey, the former CIA chief and ubiquitous TV hawk, calls "World War Four"—because their domestic repression stokes Islamist terrorism, which the regimes then deflect toward the U.S. But Shiite anger at the U.S. and the baffled response it has met with from U.S. officials who expected our forces to be hailed as liberators suggest that religion may be to Domino Two what nationalism was to Domino One—its fatal blind spot. Isaiah Berlin captured the nature of religious-based resistance to foreign domination in his metaphor for the political dynamics of nationalist resistance that swept us out of Vietnam—"the bent twig," which snaps back harder the further it is pushed.
As the first in Nitpicker's series of "Writers Who Got Iraq Right, I interviewed Jack Beatty about the war, why so many in the media failed to see the horrors ahead, Don Rumsfeld's resemblance to Alfred Graf von Schlieffen, and how evidence "get(s) in the way of being a 'big thinker.'" Audio of that interview follows (Windows Media Player required.)

As the audio begins, Beatty is discussing the unwillingness of George W. Bush and his supporters to understand what their war has become--and was always destined to become.

Listen to the interview.

Keep visiting for more installments, including Nitpicker's interview with Paul Krugman, who is next in the series.

Update: Episode #2 in this series--an interview with Paul Krugman--is now available here (and in a much less annoying format).

Update: Hello, Romenesko readers! Look around. For you journalists, I'd especially like to see someone cover this and, while you're at it, please do some research.

Update:If you would like the mp3 version of the Beatty interview and you have an e-mail which will accept a nearly 10 MB file (Gmail will), please send an e-mail to nitpicker-at-gmail.com with "Beatty" in the subject line.

Update: I failed to mention that Jack Beatty is a frequent guest on WBUR's "On Point."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Why is Sandy Berger free?

Come. On.

Sandy Berger should be in jail, right alonside Elliot Abrams and Oliver North. We need to quit letting people get away with playing fast and loose with issues of national security.

And Dubya should share a cellblock with them, too.

Once again...

Good for Rick Moran. Too bad some of his commenters ain't buying what he's selling.

We've learned so much

Bernard of Clairvaux, early 12th century
The knight of Christ, I say, may strike with confidence and die yet more confidently, for he serves Christ when he strikes, and serves himself when he falls. Neither does he bear the sword in vain, for he is God's minister, for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of the good.
Today.

If you're missing your hourly Eschaton fix...

Blogger has put Atrios in the penalty box. Read him here temporarily.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Announcing the winner of the Mock Mallard Contest

Congratulations to Eric G. (Click image for larger size.)



Eric has won a copy of a copy of Bloom County Babylon, one of 10,000,000 things that made me a liberal and proof positive that left-leaning big-beaked birds are funnier.

Explanation of contest here.

Note to self: World not completely nuts

Right wing bloggers agree: Debbie "Once a Muslim, always a Muslim" Schlussel is a ridiculous, bigoted, unhelpful and illogical. Good.

No word yet, however, on how they feel about Rep. Virgil "The Muslims are Coming!" Goode (R-VA, though this story doesn't mention that).

I can't wait to see how he reports from Hell

Blaming the generals

Thank goodness. We can all rest assured that President Bush and his neocon posse weren't responsible for the Iraq debacle.

It's all of our stupid military leaders. So sayeth the right.

Victor Davis Hanson:
That is not to say that simply staying the course will bring victory without radical changes in tactics and strategy—but that ability to change quickly and fundamentally is nothing novel in American history. That infamous summer of 1864 was saved by Uncle Billy Sherman’s completely unorthodox...blah blah blah...

The point? ...(L)et us hope there is a Sherman, Patton, Ridgeway, Abrams et al. among us. [Not like these current fools, right, VeeDee?]
Ralph Peters
Has the Army forgotten what war is? (The No. 1 complaint I now hear from officers in Iraq is about "green-zone generals" who have no idea what the streets outside their bubble are like — our military leaders are beginning to sound uncomfortably like World War I's "chateaux generals.")...

...blah...

Politically correct leadership has killed 3,000 American troops in Iraq and wounded another 20,000. Now Iraq is nearly hopeless, thanks to military theorists who think that culling sound bites from "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" serves us better than clear thinking, common sense and fighting spirit.

It didn't have to be that way. Our troops didn't fail. Our national leadership did. And so did the generals.
Cliff May
Abizaid strikes me as a good man, a smart man, a brave man and a dedicated soldier. But he either has not understood how to defeat our enemies in Iraq or has not understood how to communicate that he is making progress toward that goal. War in the 21st Century combines a clash of arms with a clash of ideas, images and perceptions. Those not adept in both areas can not win. Rumsfeld also failed to grasp this.
John Podhoretz
In contrast to the shameful pop-culture image of military commanders as hair-trigger psychos eager to hurl nukes at butterflies, America's military leaders are far more cerebral, intellectual and cognizant of history's lessons than all but a small handful of this country's leading policy wonks.

...blah blah blah...

They knew what they were doing (in Iraq), and why they were doing it. But they just got it wrong, and they didn't know how to change direction to get it right. What's more, having committed to a certain approach, they can't just reverse field because to do so would be to admit that the past 3 1/2 years have been bungled.

What happened, exactly?

The war fighters became political scientists. They trusted their theories about Iraq and their sense of how best to build up a country, rather than narrowing their task to bringing the enemy to heel and securing the country.
Victor Davis Hanson
I wish the Iraqi Study Group had suggested, George Marshall-like, that they were looking for a colonel or one-star general who wished to be a four-star commander of a victorious American army. Somewhere amid the ranks we have still confident, gifted military officers who believe that they have the know-how and expertise to stop these killers, provide stability for the political process to continue — and impart a victory to the United States.
Rich Lowry
The false lesson that some conservatives took away from Vietnam was that war was too much managed by the civilians and, gosh, if General Westmoreland were left even more alone, we would have won in Vietnam, when the truth is General Westmoreland had no idea how to defeat the insurgency on the ground in Vietnam and in some respects, Abizaid and Casey have been replicating his mistakes and Bush has been replicating LBJ's mistakes by letting them just pursue their strategy and totally subcontracting out his role as commander-in-chief to them with a strategy that has now been proven as a failure. And I think if Bush is really going to run this war and make this decision to go with the surge, he's going to have to confront that core belief that is repeated over and over and over again, that, basically, I do whatever the generals want on troop levels. And I think that was always a mistake for him to have that kind of attitude, but it's goint to take a big attitude adjustment for him to turn around and say, "You know what? The generals aren't always right."
Bush's only mistake? Trusting those stupid generals.

Tell me again how conservatives support the military?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A note to right bloggers

Dear Chickenhawks:

Load up your shit and go put your money where your mouth is. If you're not going to fight the war you so desperately cheerlead for, the least you could do is get off your fat, stupid asses, crawl up from the darkness of Mommy's basement and comb the streets of Baghdad trying to prove your point instead of sitting around bitching about how the AP reporters are--you think--making things up and that the organization itself is trying to "cover it's [sic] tracks."

Also, learn how to use apostrophes.

If you could be bothered to actually use your fucking brains for a second, you'd realize that the Marine major many of you very appropriately memorialized over the past few days (though I'm sure, as a PAO, she's just another "staff puke" to Rush Limbaugh) was killed after dropping off a few journalists. It could have been just as likely the reporters she was traveling with could have been killed as well. It's a dangerous place and for you hothouse pansies to spit on the work those people are doing over there while sitting in the safety of your warm, stateside homes is simply despicable. You know nothing. You can only convince others like you that there may, possibly, just might be a slim, slim chance that something funny's going on here.

And your people cling to that reed of disbelief like suckling pigs stuck to the teat. You don't want the truth. You only want permission to not believe.

For the record, I applaud Michelle Malkin for taking up Eason Jordan's (admittedly self-serving) challenge and I'll point out that I offered to balance out his little party with some military journalism experience, but, not being one of the nation's most famous and beloved racists, he wouldn't bite.

So I put it to you: Either go or shut up. Check your facts with your ass on the line or, please, just sit silently in your little puddles of urine and leave the thinking to those of us who aren't too scared to remember what it means to be an American.

That is all. Thank you for your time.

Update: The scorecard so far
32: Number of journalists killed while covering the Iraq War in 2006 alone

15: Number of journalist support staffers killed in Iraq in 2006 alone

0: Number of chickenhawk rightwing bloggers killed while pissing and moaning about war coverage since the war began
Eric Boehlert has more.

Update: Always rely on Power Liners to bring the stupid.
(I)t may be that there really is a police captain (named Jamil Hussein), who actually has witnessed and reported on dozens of violent episodes in all corners of Baghdad, but whom, for some reason, the AP has been unable to produce. That possibility still exists, but appears to be growing more remote.
It is strange that the AP doesn't seem interested in dragging out an Iraqi source and shouting, "Dance, monkey!" while all their bureau reporters and staff circle up and clap rhythmically. I'm sure Hussein would then be welcome on many national television shows and, afterward, he could go home with some lovely green room gift baskets and a big target to stick on his family.

Conservative meets free market. Whines.

Over at the Corner:
Christmas Present [John Derbyshire]
My health insurer has just notified me, in a brief form letter, that my monthly premiums are to rise from $472.33 to $857.00 on January 1st. That's an increase of 81 percent. ***E*I*G*H*T*Y*-*O*N*E* *P*E*R*C*E*N*T*** Can they do that? I called them. They sound pretty confident they can. Ye gods!
Oh, and did I mention he's made fun of Democrats' suggestions that kids ought to have health insurance in the world's only superpower?

Never thought I'd see the day

Finally. Democrats circling the wagons and Republicans circling the firing squad.
"If the Republican Party wants to send the social conservatives home for good, all they have to do is nominate Rudy Giuliani," said Rick Scarborough, a Southern Baptist minister and president of Vision America. "It's an insult to the pro-Christian agenda. . . . He's going to spend a lot of money finding he can't get out of the Republican primaries."
This is a real schism people and, as I've said, it's going to lead to a Democratic president.

(h/t Greg Sargent)

Joint Chiefs dismiss the McCain/Bush planless plan

It seems I'm not the only one who thinks that extra troops should actually have a mission before being sent to Iraq.
Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said.

But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.

The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Progress is slow

George W. Bush, Oct. 25, 2006:
Most people out there – I agree with you – those who say we shouldn't have been there, they're clear. A lot of people – one time I – well, a lot of people are just saying, you're not doing enough to win. We're not winning, you're not doing enough to win, and I'm frustrated, I want it over with, with victory. And I'm trying to figure out a matrix that says things are getting better.
George W. Bush, December 15, 2006:
I think it's been a very difficult year in Iraq – for our troops, for the families of the troops, for the Iraqi people. And it's been difficult for the American people, because success in Iraq has been slower coming than any of us would like. And so the task at hand now is to come up with a new way forward. I think most Americans fully understand the importance of success; they're wondering whether we have a plan to succeed. It's my job to listen to a lot of opinions and come up with a strategy that says we have a plan.
What a difference one month, twenty days and an election make.

(h/t Dan Froomkin)

A sinking feeling

I have written about Major Connable before and, yes, he knows how to manipulate the terms of an argument. Witness:
For some, the collapse of Iraqi society into Hobbesian mayhem is inevitable no matter how many American troops remain on the ground. A few argue that disintegration of the Iraqi state actually would bring about the national catharsis that seems so elusive today — that absolute civil war would be a greater good.

This cold calculus ignores the very real impact of an American withdrawal on the people we now protect. Any debate that does not consider the bloody reality we would leave in our wake does a disservice to the people of Iraq and the troops who have fought so hard to defend them.
Compelling stuff, but let's look at the facts.
  • We're not doing a very good job of protecting anyone right now. So says the DoD (PDF link) in a report released today.
    In the past three months, the total number of attacks2 increased 22%. Some of this increase is attributable to a seasonal spike in violence during Ramadan. Coalition forces remained the target of the majority of attacks (68%), but the overwhelming majority of casualties were suffered by Iraqis. Total civilian casualties increased by 2% over the previous reporting period. Fifty-four percent of all attacks occurred in only 2 of Iraq’s 18 provinces (Baghdad and Anbar).
    The Defense argument here is that attacks are limited to "hot spots," but nearly a third of American troops are in Baghdad and the violence continues to increase. Even Connable has to admit that "Since 2005, the situation in Anbar has significantly deteriorated."

  • The troops, as I've pointed out before, are ready to come home and don't seem all that concerned that leaving now would somehow dishonor them.*

  • Al Anbar province--the focus of much of Connable's essay--is getting steadily worse according to a report by the Marine Col. Pete Devlin, the head of Marine intelligence in Iraq. We've lost the political battle in the area.
There was, I believe, a slim chance that this war could have turned out differently, but it would have required smart, thoughtful people at the helm of American government and not the clubby, venal chickenhawks who have overseen this war. I understand that there will likely be violence in Iraq after a pull-out, but the violence is bad and worsening in the very areas our troops are focused despite their best efforts. While I appreciate Maj. Connable's well-founded belief in the abilities of American troops, every bomb that goes off and kills Iraqis creates more insurgents. Every bullet we fire seems to do the same.

Iraq is not just a quagmire. It is quicksand. The more our soldiers struggle, the more Iraq sinks.

* Leave the accusations of dishonor to the likes of John Podhoretz, who writes that "Americans in uniform haven't failed," but they've morphed from warriors to sissified "political scientists" unwilling to change course because that would "be to admit that the past 3 1/2 years have been bungled." That's some but. Ralph Peters makes the same point in the December Armed Forces Journal (not yet available online), and even stumbles into a moment of lucidity arguing the "key issue" in regards to the insurgency "is motivation, not tactics." He's right. He goes on, however, to suggest that "graphic, tangible destruction is what ultimately breaks an enemy's will," without the slightest hint that he understands the motivational effects of "graphic, tangible destruction" on a generation of Muslims.

Claiming a piece of Territory

Glenn Greenwald has invited me to guest-blog at Unclaimed Territory while he pushes his next book toward its deadline. Come by.

He's on to us

In order to prevent bloggers like me getting a case of "the big head"--We are each, after all, the Person of the Year. Whoopee!--George Will has pointed out blogs are an act of "narcissism." Of course he's right. What other reason could people like me have to post our screeds and philippics (thanks, George) besides a need to be noticed?

After all, it's not like a major American newspaper just spent 2,500 words telling us that Hillary Clinton is married to Bill Clinton who, I'm told, has a wandering eye.

It's not like an editorial board member of a different major American newspaper actually said it wouldn't be a "hard thing" to extend the tours of soldiers in Iraq. (And it's not like that still-of-military-age person's only career experience consists of being nestled in the bosom of said major American newspaper.)

It's not like a major political magazine published an essay praising Bush's "new plan" as an "approach that has proved to be effective elsewhere, notably in Vietnam."

It's not like the list of big media transgressions goes on and on, including the continued employment of an obviously dishonest writer who refuses to correct his mistakes.

If those things were true and the American press weren't perfect, then there might be a reason for blogs to exist. But, nope, it must be narcissism.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

For my money, I'm so glad that Newt Gingrich is trying to run for president. He's going to serve as a nice litmus test. If you buy what he's selling, you're just an unAmerican nutjob.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told an audience in New Hampshire Muslim clerics pulled off a plane for praying should have been charged criminally.

[snip]

"Those six people should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists," Gingrich said. "And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated for being correct in the protection of citizens."

[snip]

Their suspicious behavior apparently consisted of reports that they had prayed in Arabic and that they were not sitting together but had walked around to talk to each other.
Please, please, please nominate this man, Republicans.

What a coinkydink

From Editor and Publisher:
Has the mysterious and much-disputed Associated Press source in Iraq, a police captain named Jamil Hussein -- finally been found? His existence has been challenged in the past three weeks from the U.S. military, some Iraqi officials and conservative bloggers in the U.S.

A blogger named Marc Danziger who has followed the debate claimed late Saturday that he believes he has positively identified the captain at the Yarmouk police station, just as the AP had claimed, although (if this checks out) his first name may be spelled Jamail, not Jamil.

Though far from definitive proof, it was strong enough to cause at least one conservative blogger to wonder if those who had mocked the AP might have to eat “a huge shinola sandwich.”

Just Thursday, Eason Jordan, the former CNN news chief now launching a Web site called IraqSlogger, had earned headlines by offering to fly Michelle Malkin to Baghdad to search with him for Capt. Hussein. She had accepted, and the IraqSlogger site now runs an urgent plea for tips about Hussein’s whereabouts in a crawl at the top of its site.
David Neiwert points out that "Even in their brief flashes of awareness, they're can't tell shit from shinola."

Lindsay writes, "Imagine that, as soon as Michelle is asked to put up or shut up, one of her colleagues solves the mystery."

And my prediction of November 30th has been all but proven correct. Of course, eating crow (or a shit sandwich) implies that the right bloggers are equipped with a capacity for shame. I have yet to see proof of such a thing.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Memo

To those who believe that getting the troop levels just right will fix the problems of Iraq: If you think this is truly a national problem on par with the threat of WWII that must be won militarily, then why are you suggesting fiddling with troop levels through extensions and adjusted deployment schedules? Why isn't the suggestion that we ramp up overall troop levels and send the vast majority of those troops to the "central front in the war on terror" not for a year or 15 months, but until the war is "over"? There was no arbitrary time limit on how long a soldier would serve during WWII.

If they believed what they repeatedly argued, the Magic Number Theorists would quit trying to sell a small "surge" of troops (which they inexplicably seem to think the American public will buy) and just ask that we send them all.

A look at the right's intelligence dipstick

There are some who will see this New York Sun essay as one of the signs of the apocalypse--it's perhaps the most poorly written, terribly reasoned piece of Free-Republic-comment-cribbing I have ever witnessed in print and that's saying something. On the other hand, I have to see this editorial as a good sign for the country. This tells me that only the very stupidest of Americans can be dredged up to write this sort of stuff these days. Read:
My name, Alicia, means truth, so here it is. We are at war. Our military is the best in the world and the smartest we've ever had. Our enemies are barbaric beheaders who want us dead — period. You cannot negotiate with them. They exist on mendacity.

You have been warned.
Oh my. This is what you get when a movement appeals to fear and stupidity for too long. Most people--smart people--eventually get over their fear. Then you're left with only the stupid.

Josh Marshall's take, "News Flash: New York Sun opens its ed pages to 3rd graders." *Snort*

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wow, that is weird

The genius of Rich Lowry.
Not to sound like JPod, but the odd thing about McCain as the frontrunner is that he is coming in second in polls, something that wasn't true of establishment front-runners in the past. He's trailing to Giuliani, of course. Now maybe all that Giuliani support goes to McCain if Giuliani doesn't make it, but at the moment it seems obvious that McCain is the frontrunner, though not necessarily an overwhelming one.

It was a very good year for "moral relativism"

A year's worth of Jonah Goldberg's views of moral relativism.

May 2006: The month in which Jonah thought moral relativism is bad.
Another point which might be worth mentioning is that while Matt (Yglesias) ostensibly rejects the notion that there is an objective, external, thing called "good" or "evil" he clearly accepts "better" and "worse" as real things outside his own private worldview. It's always seemed a dodge to me to deny objective moral reality, while at the same time clinging to notions of better and worse. What do better and worse point to if not the good and the bad?
September 2006: The month in which Jonah Goldberg thought moral relativism meant the exact opposite of what it means.
Comparing CIA facilities to Stalin's gulag may sound righteous, but it is a species of the same moral relativism that denounces all pushers of old ladies equally.
December 2006: The month in which Jonah Goldberg decided moral relativism was fine by him.
Gen. Pinochet seized a country coming apart at the seams. He too clamped down on civil liberties and the press. He too dispatched souls. Chile's official commission investigating his dictatorship found that Pinochet had 3,197 bodies in his column; 87% of them died in the two-week mini-civil war that attended his coup. Many more were tortured or forced to flee the country.

But on the plus side, Pinochet's abuses helped create a civil society.
And now he thinks of his life as vintage whine...

O'Reillogic

Follow this closely:
If x = y, then a should lead to [insert random thing here].
I'm not kidding.

Iraq: The Magic Number Theory

I will keep asking this over and over, because the media certainly hasn't been: How would more troops change the situation in Iraq? What would those troops do?

Silly me, I thought I'd finally get an answer in the new American Enterprise Institute report by Fred Kagan. Unfortunately, there are no new ideas in this report (which is really more of a poorly executed Power Point presentation than an in-depth report). As far as I can tell, Kagan's entire argument is that we need more of the same. His entire argument is that, in Baghdad, we need more troops performing more patrols.

The only thing even marginally "new" about Kagan's approach is his suggestion that we should clear areas and provide a "strong leave-behind presence" to keep those areas from re-igniting. Kagan, at least, admits his plan for more troops will result in an increase in casualties--but only, he assures us, in the "short-term" and we shouldn't perceive that as a "sign of failure." He fails to explain how a surge in patrolling American troops could possibly "hold" territories when the space of a single apartment and the anger of a single man could lead to the deaths of dozens. He fails to explain how sectarian attacks will decrease. He simply seems to believe that doing the same thing with more people will finally solve the country's problems.

Great Moments in Contextless Quoting

Tom DeLay:
I’ve been convicted, I’m in prison and being raped.

Oh great

Among this mini-photo album of pictures from the print reporters' White House Christmas party, we find the following:
The girl can't help it: Can Nedra Pickler be any cuter? Bush calls her "Nedra Baby." She is leaving the White House beat to cover the Democratic presidential candidates for AP.
Remember Nedra? She's Rush Limbaugh's favorite AP reporter, who writes things like "when he criticizes Bush's links to Lay, Dean never mentions that Enron's mismanagement was not the result of the president's tax-cut package" and "several of the nine (Democratic) candidates criticized the tax cuts George W. Bush pushed through Congress. But none mentioned that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan . . . has cited those cuts as a reason for the recent economic growth."

In her desire to make sure that Democrats mention everything she think they should have, Nedra will very helpfully just, you know, say that they did. For example, when she quoted Howard Dean as "calmly" dismissing his rivals as being "co-opted by the agenda of George Bush." Dean hadn't said that, calmly or otherwise, but the ever-alert Pickler felt that he certainly would have if he'd only remembered.

So take heart, Democratic presidential candidates, you don't have to worry that you'll leave anything out this election cycle. Nedra Pickler is going to make sure what need be mentioned gets mentioned.

P.S. You have to go read the captions of the photos on the site linked above. It's written by the Houston Chronicle's Julie Mason, who seems to have copied some of her comments directly from her high school yearbook.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Duckhunting

Don't forget to enter Nitpicker's "Mock Mallard" contest, but please get over to the Comics Curmudgeon, who found some Mallard Fillmore comics much more to the point of the matter.

I'll bet Bruce Tinsley wishes he hadn't written some of that.

Oldest trick in the book

Tom DeLay said:
DeLay said he was motivated to start the blog and create the Grassroots Action and Information Network after observing the success of liberal organizations such as MoveOn.org, the Media Fund and Americans Coming Together. He said he hopes to utilize some of the same tools to help Republicans win elections.

It’s this liberal coalition, working in concert with the news media, that will propel Clinton to the White House in 2008, DeLay said. “Hillary will be the next president of the United States because they have built a coalition,” he said.

[snip]

DeLay named Clinton loyalists Harold Ickes, Sidney Blumenthal, James Carville, Paul Begala and Joe Lockhart as the masterminds behind the left-wing coalition. He said that these groups, more than anything else, contributed to the GOP’s fall this November. “I have never seen a more powerful coalition,” he said.
Allow me to translate:
HILLARY CLINTON! BOOGETY BOOGETY BOOGETY! GIVE ME MONEY, YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKERS!

Please show me what integrity looks like, Tucker Carlson

Last night on Tucker, the slowly swelling pundit said:
Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana was reelected to his ninth term in Congress this weekend, crushing his opponent in the runoff election to represent the City of New Orleans. Even by local standards Jefferson is colorful, which is to say, crooked.

Not only has the FBI videotaped him taking what it says 100 grand in bribe money, but at least $90,000 of that money was found in Jefferson‘s freezer in the current in his kitchen at home. Two of the congressman‘s close associates, including a member of his staff, have pleaded guilty in that same bribery investigation. Jefferson himself is expected to be indicted sometime next year.

[snip]

Keep in mind too that Jefferson will serve until or unless he is hauled away in handcuffs in what Democrats are billing as the most ethical Congress in history. A body that has cast off the quote “culture of corruption” created by the Republicans. Yes, that sound you hear in the background is in fact the irony alarm going off.
Irony?

Jefferson was re-elected not by the Democratic House members, but by his own constituents. On the other hand, Pelosi and the Democratic House leadership removed Jefferson from his committee position despite his not being indicted and, today, chose to keep him off the committee. They can't block him from the House entirely.

For the record, supposedly whacked-out, partisan left wing bloggers spoke out against Jefferson before the election, too.

But, while we're at it, let's see how Republicans handled similar cases:
Bob Ney (R-OH) on the other hand, remained Chairman House Administration Committee--which oversaw lobbying reform--until he stepped down of his own accord. He will spend years in jail for bribery.

Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) remained on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee and the intelligence committee until he plead guilty, despite a mountain of evidence he was guilty. And, oddly enough, when the Republican chairman of the intel committee was asked about allegations of prostitution, he replied “It's unsavory, it is pathetic, it is sickening, but not surprising.” There is no suggestion that same chairman, Pete Hoekstra, asked for Cunningham to be removed.

And then there's Tom DeLay, for whom Republicans actually changed the House ethics rules so he could remain in power despite indictment (which they later changed back when Americans went ewwww...). He stepped down from Republican leadership on his own, only when the stink was unbearable. When he gave his farewell address, "Republicans crowded the chamber and applauded."
That sound you hear is actually my patented "Tucker Carlson's being a dumbass alarm." I apologize for the fact it rings constantly.

Extremists

"Convert or die!" says Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"These oppressive countries are angry with us ... a nation that on the other side of the globe has risen up and proved the shallowness of their power," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the northern town of Ramsar, the semi-official news agency Mehr reported Wednesday.

"They are angry with our nation. But we tell them 'so be it and die from this anger'. Rest assured that if you do not respond to the divine call, you will die soon and vanish from the face of the earth," he said.
"Convert or die!" says Tim LaHaye.
Liberal and progressive Christian groups say a new computer game in which players must either convert or kill non-Christians is the wrong gift to give this holiday season and that Wal-Mart, a major video game retailer, should yank it off its shelves.

The Campaign to Defend the Constitution and the Christian Alliance for Progress, two online political groups, plan to demand today that Wal-Mart dump Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a PC game inspired by a series of Christian novels that are hugely popular, especially with teens.

The series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins is based on their interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation and takes place after the Rapture, when Jesus has taken his people to heaven and left nonbelievers behind to face the Antichrist.

Give us back our symbol of peace on earth and good will toward men...or die, Jew!

Apparently, Bill O'Reilly sicced his Culture Warrior shock troops on a Seattle Rabbi.
Christmas trees are going back up at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Pat Davis, president of the Port of Seattle commission, which directs airport operations, said late Monday that maintenance staff would restore the 14 plastic holiday trees, festooned with red ribbons and bows, that were removed over the weekend because of a rabbi's complaint that holiday decor did not include a menorah.

[snip]

Port officials received word Monday afternoon that (Seattle Rabbi Elazar)Bogomilsky's organization would not file a lawsuit at this time over the placement of a menorah, Davis said in a statement.

"Given that, the holiday trees will be replaced as quickly as possible," he said.

[snip]

The rabbi has also offered to give the port an electric menorah to display, said his lawyer, Harvey Grad.

"We are not going to be the instrument by which the port holds Christmas hostage," Grad said, emphasizing the rabbi never sought removal of the trees, but addition of the menorah.

The rabbi had received "all kinds of calls and emails," many of them "odious," Grad said, adding he was "trying to figure out how this is consistent with the spirit of Christmas."
Come now...Everyone knows that O'Reilly and his ilk are just pure-of-heart traditionalists trying to help America recall Christmases like they used to be. You know, like in Spain circa 1490.

Calling Kathryn Lopez

Remember how the Corner was all in a tizzy because Jim Webb wouldn't have his picture taken with President Georgie? Remember how George Will said his refusal was "calculated rudeness" (even though his version was a lie)?

What will they say about Little Ricky?
Mr. Santorum, a Republican whose once-steady rise in politics ended with a resounding defeat, refused to be photographed with Mr. Casey, and brushed past reporters in his closing days in the Capitol.
Can Kathryn Lopez bring herself to call her hero "classless"? Don't hold your breath.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The mock Mallard contest

And a go-to joke goes down in flames...



Click image for larger version.

I'm no bit writer, so feel free to write your own, using this handy-dandy fill-in-the-blank version, or simply put your suggestion for a punchline in the comments.



Whoever recommends the best punchline, as chosen by Nitpicker, will receive a copy of Bloom County Babylon a reminder that comic strips with a political attitude can still be funny. Deadline will be Saturday, noon Central time.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Don't forget

Click on the button on the right (or here) and buy a phone card for a veteran.

Damn it, Rahm!

Rahm Emanuel, Democratic congressman from Illinois, lied about having no "awareness" of the Foley scandal. Glenn Greenwald gets this exactly right.
To compete with Republicans, Democrats need not only (be) political idealists, but also calculating strategists who are devoted to winning. That's fair enough. But they also need to enforce some (at least) minimal ethical standards if they are to avoid becoming indistinguishable from the rotted and corrupt GOP tyrants who were just so deservedly tossed out of power.
Emanuel's lying doesn't excuse the lying by Republicans on this issue, of course, but it certainly does tick me off.

"Some people believe..."

Man, do I hate this sort of crap. In an article on religion-based programs in prisons, New York Times reporters Diana B. Henriques and Andrew Lehren write:
But even in today’s more accommodating environment, constitutional scholars agree that one line between church and state has remained fairly bright: The government cannot directly finance or support religious evangelism or indoctrination. That restriction typically has not loomed large when public money goes to religious charities providing essentially secular services, like job training, after-school tutoring, child care or food banks. In such cases, the beneficiaries need not accept the charity’s religious beliefs to get the secular benefits the government is financing.

The courts have taken a different view, however, when public money goes directly to groups, like the Iowa ministry, whose method of helping others is to introduce them to a specific set of religious beliefs — and whose success depends on the beneficiary accepting those core beliefs. In those cases, most of the challenged grants have been struck down as unconstitutional.

Those who see faith-based groups as exceptionally effective allies in the battle against criminal recidivism, teen pregnancy, addiction and other social ills say these cases are rare, compared with the number of programs receiving funds, and should not tarnish the concept of bringing more religious groups into publicly financed programs, so long as any direct financing is used only for secular expenses.
Those who see...?

How can two (relatively) high-paid journalists write that sort of tripe when studies show that prison ministry programs which give special benefits to prisoners have little to no long-term effects on rates of recidivism. Sure, those who support the programs will say they help, but couldn't journalists check on that?

This is not a new problem. In 2003, for example, a study showed that participants in Chuck Colson's InnerChange program had much lower chances of going back to prison. Journalists were beside themselves reporting this fact and Colson got an invite back to the White House he so tainted as a member of the Watergate crowd. Only problem was, it wasn't true. The truth was that, if you looked past the study's abstract, you found that, as Mark Kleiman wrote, "the InnerChange group was slightly more likely to be rearrested (36.2% versus 35%) and noticeably more likely to actually go back to prison (24.3% versus 20.3%)." Those turned out to be facts that only a blogger could love.

In 2004, Baylor professor Byron R. Johnson published a study in Justice Quarterly (Vol. 21, June) in which he argued that the "little we know from preliminary research (into prison fellowship programs)...tends to be positive." This despite the fact that his own study found no difference between the re-arrest rates of members of prison fellowship (PF) programs and non-members. Here, in fact, is the chart from his own study.



Baylor, of course, bills itself as the largest Baptist university in the world, which may explain some of Johnson's positive spin, but even he admits that the only bit of good news he found was short-lived. He found that PF members who participated most vigorously in Bible study programs did better than those who participated less, but only until the third year after their release from prison.



All in all, the Times piece was a pretty balanced one, but many journalists seem to tiptoe around any issue of proof when matters of faith are involved. I understand that. These studies, however, are not matters of faith but of fact. They took me all of two minutes to find and, when dealing with state and federal programs, journalists should take at least a few minutes to let their readers know whether the programs they're discussing are effective.

Congratulations to the Democrat who will be the next president

Republicans are stuck between a rock and a hard place and, as far as I can tell, this pretty much clinches my take on it.
"It's sort of hard to suddenly say everyone agrees Baker is the way to go when the leading Republican candidate for '08 is saying no," said William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard.
I've been thinking for a while that someone who has continued to support the Iraq War is now in a tough position. The war in Iraq is inarguably not working out, so you either have to suddenly drop your support for the war or suggest, per McCain, that those who have been prosecuting the war (with your support) haven't been aggressive enough and should send more troops. The former idea makes you look like you're flip-flopping for political reasons and the latter gets support from roughly 15 percent of the American public.

The only people who can be said to have been somewhat reasonable on this issue like, say, Chuck Hagel, probably can't pull in the votes to make it out of the Republican primary. Whoever does make it out won't win over the moderates with an Iraq strategy of "More troops and on to Asculum!" especially when that even our generals on the ground don't support the call for more troops. Americans are done with "the 7,000-mile screwdriver" and we don't need another in the White House.

I don't necessarily think, as Paul Krugman does, that you had to have opposed the war from the beginning. Americans will forgive voting for the war, but not the continuing cheerleading. Republican primary voters won't support people who've undermined Bush.

Unless some major upheaval occurs, we will have a Democratic president elected in 2008. Tell me where I'm wrong.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Do this

Click on the button at the right (or here) and donate to Phone Cards for Vets. According to the press release:
Veterans Administration (VA) budget cuts in recent years have left many of our nation's veterans at VA hospitals without the means to call their families over the holidays. So Working Assets has joined with a coalition of partner organizations to bring some holiday cheer to the veterans in the form of calling cards, which will be delivered to VA hospitals across the nation on December 18th.
Get to it.

Now.

These guys have earned it.

O the humanity!

A tragedy, truly. From the Corner.
Friday, December 08, 2006

Grrrr. [Jonah Goldberg]

Due to technical disasters at Bloggingheads HQ, my hour long conversation with Ann Althouse for BloggingHeads has been lossed [sic] to history forever. We discussed everything from transgender issues to "liberaltarians" to the author of The Conservative Soul. Gone, gone forever.

Posted at 8:41 AM

Thursday, December 07, 2006

McCain on the ISG

In McCain's response to the ISG (emphasis mine):
Our troops should be sent to Baghdad - or anywhere in Iraq - in order to complete a defined mission, not to serve until some predetermined date passes.
Saying "stabilize Baghdad" is not defining a mission. I ask again: What will the extra troops be doing, exactly?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Love to hear the Stossel go cheap cheap cheap

Look, if you take John Stossel seriously at all, you're an idiot. I can't help you, because you've lost the knack for discernment. His "reporting" is riddled with made up facts and anecdotal b.s.. It's just the truth. Do yourself a favor and check out anything he says before you make the mistake of referencing him in a conversation with smart people or e-mailing one of his articles to your friends. Just don't embarrass yourself like that.

Sadly, that's just how I received his latest article, in an e-mail from a conservative friend, along with the smug message that "You liberals are so compassionate other peoples money." (Funny, I don't remember ever handing $1.5 Billion of other people's money to oil companies, but that's neither here nor there.)

For the record, here are a few short points about Stossel's piece:
  • His Salvation Army bucket bit is b.s. There are no controls or description of demographics to make it meaningful.

  • The guy he quotes, Arthur C. Brooks, writes things like this on his website:
    The average amount given per household from the five states combined that gave Mr. Bush the highest vote percentages in 2003 was 25 percent more than that donated by the average household in the five northeastern states that gave Bush his lowest vote percentages; and the households in these liberal-leaning states earned, on average, 38 percent more than those in the five conservative states.
    Of course, Bush did very well in states with lower cost-of-living, too. For example, Wyoming, gave him his highest percentage of votes and Massachusetts his lowest. According to this site, it's 40 percent cheaper to live in Casper, Wyoming than it is to live in Boston, which might explain some of the tight-fistedness despite higher income levels. Making only 38 percent more in Massachusetts still equates to a lower buying power. (I haven't--and probably won't--read his book, but the short excerpt on the site is filled with such "insights" and when you add in population and, say, odds of commuting, you'd probably find it's all pretty much a wash.)

  • Brooks also writes lines like "Surely Jimmy Carter would have been surprised to learn that the selfish Americans he criticized so vociferously were most likely the very people who elected him president." Surely that right there merits a recheck of his numbers.
This is just a quick take, but, honestly, Stossel's one "journalist" I feel I can pretty much ignore.

To my friend who sent the e-mail: Be smarter.

A poem for an asshole

Wobbledy Bobbledy,
Jonathon Derbyshire
wrote a small poem, the
clever old bloke.

Inconspicuously,
a long way away,
ten soldiers died while
he made his joke.

And the bastard doesn't even have the good form to follow form. Where's the second stanza double dactyl, dick?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Say Jim, you remember the other day when you were asking me the definition of irony?

Newt Gingrich writes that, aw shucks, he just wanted to take away the bad guys First Amendment rights.
We should be allowed to close down websites that recruit suicide bombers and provide instructions to indiscriminately kill civilians by suicide or other means, or advocate killing people from the West or the destruction of Western civilization...

We need an expeditious review of current domestic law to see what changes can be made within the protections of the 1st Amendment to ensure that free speech protection claims are not used to protect the advocacy of terrorism, violent conduct or the killing of innocents. [Emphasis Nitpicker's]
Here's the irony: The ad that popped up when I clicked over to Human Events was for Bill O'Reilly's new crapfest I Was a Middle-aged Loofah Lover Culture Warrior.

That's right, the same Bill O'Reilly who said:
If Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, ‘look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
Also advertised on the site was Ann Coulter's book, Godless. Ann of course, famously suggested that she wouldn't have had a problem if Timothy McVeigh had attacked the New York Times building and later softened that statement by adding: "after everyone had left the building except the editors and reporters."

And let's not even get started on all the right wingers whose low opinions of American culture suggests they feel that terrorists are in some way justified for attacking us. Don't believe me? Check out Dinesh D'Souza's upcoming book, in which he will argue Muslim extremists were provoked by the "American cultural left, which for years has been vigorously exporting its domestic war against religion and traditional morality to the rest of the world." Americans accused of oppression, immorality and debauchery? Where have I heard that before?

I'm starting to think there might be another reason for Gingrich's attempt to criminalize certain types of speech. He might simply be trying to get the right wing airwaves and publishing houses all to himself.

Tony Snow has lost it

Speaking of idiots, you have got to read the transcript for today's press conference. Tony Snow twists himself like a pretzel trying to spin the space between yes and no into consistent. Get this bit:
Q Does the President today believe that we are winning in Iraq? It's a very straightforward question.

MR. SNOW: I know, but I did not ask him the question today. The most recently asked, he said, "yes."

Q Okay, so that might change from day to day. So it may have changed --

MR. SNOW: No, I don't --

Q -- he may no longer believe that we're winning the war in Iraq. You don't know.

MR. SNOW: I have no reason to think it changed, but also, again, go back and take a look at the broader answer that Bob Gates gave and ask yourself, is this consistent or inconsistent with what the President has been saying? I think you're going to find it's very consistent.

Q Why is it consistent if he said -- he said we're neither winning, nor losing. He didn't say we were winning.

MR. SNOW: Then he proceeded to talk about the very challenges the President has been discussing in terms of developing capability on the Iraqi side of an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself. So what you may have are two guys who are looking at different definitions. I don't know. I don't want to try to read their minds. But what I do think is important in taking a full look at what Bob Gates was doing is then to take a look at when he started drilling down. What did he talk about? Precisely the same things that the President has been discussing for weeks and weeks and weeks.

April.

Q Even though it was precisely the same thing, he said, we are not winning, and --

MR. SNOW: No, he said -- I believe the answer was, either "yes, sir," or "no, sir."

Q And then he went into the fact that "but we're not losing." But this administration has said we are winning. Leading up to the midterm elections, President Bush was asked pointedly at his press conference, are we winning? He said, yes, we're winning, and he went on to explain why. He explained why we're not winning. You from this podium said --

MR. SNOW: No, I don't believe -- what Bob Gates -- I don't believe that Bob Gates said that we were --

Q He supported his statement. And you from that --

MR. SNOW: But how did he support it? Did he support the statement by saying anything that was inconsistent with what the President has said? And I don't think he did.

Q But his statement is inconsistent with what the administration says. The President has said, we are winning. You from that podium said, we're winning --

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q -- but we haven't won.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q He said -- he agreed that we are not winning. So how is that consistent --

MR. SNOW: And he also said we're not losing.

Q But how is that consistent? The President never said, we're not losing. How is that consistent?

MR. SNOW: Because -- okay, because they may have -- I don't know what the definitions are, April. [Italics Nitpicker's]
R.I.P., the last shred of Tony Snow's credibility.

For the record, I was pissed as hell about Clinton's "the meaning of is" statement, but, overall, he ran the country well. However, for all of you Republicans who whip out that quote every time you want to prove inconclusively that Clinton was an untrustworthy bullshit artist, now's the time you can prove whether you meant it or not. Tony Snow's entire job is to talk to the press. He does nothing else and for him to say that he doesn't know the "definitions" of consistent makes him a useless liar.