Monthly Archives: February 2007

Kurtz, Marcotte, Paul, and The Church

In the wake of Amanda Marcotte’s resignation from the John Edwards campaign, Howie Kurtz has responded with one of his patented, snide, attack-without-attacking columns in the WaPo. After a reasonably fair summation in which he quotes liberally from Marcotte’s resignation post at pandagon, he swings into Howie-mode with this little gem of a graf:

The former North Carolina senator was caught between conflicting pressures. On one hand, Marcotte and McEwan, like many writers in the freewheeling blogosphere, had written profane and offensive attacks on their detractors, using language that no presidential candidate would be comfortable defending. On the other, liberal bloggers were embracing their cause, depicting them as victims of an orchestrated conservative campaign to discredit them.

There are two outright lies in that short graf and one opinion stated as fact. Let’s begin with the First Lie:

1. “…had written profane and offensive attacks on their detractors”.

The posts which so offended Donohoe and from which Howie quotes later on – out of context, naturally – were NOT attacks on her “detractors”. They were attacks on the Catholic Church’s anti-female attitudes, biases, and policies, in particular its rigid insistence on mixing into the abortion debate with what an objective observer could only call a “heavy hand”. It would be impossible in any legitimate sense to consider the quotes for which Marcotte was pilloried a personal attack on any “person” when they were so obviously aimed at an organizational entity. Here’s the quote:

The Catholic church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics.

“The Catholic church” is not a person and, so far as I know, has never attacked Amanda Marcotte. Benedict would probably be a “detractor” if he knew or cared what she said but he doesn’t. I feel safe in saying that you could search his recent speeches exhaustively without once hearing the name “Amanda Marcotte” pass his lips, so she certainly wasn’t responding to anything he said about her.

As a recovering Catholic and a minor student of Church history, I can also tell you, categorically, that there’s only one mistake in that sentence: Catholics don’t “tithe” (give one-tenth of their pre-tax income to The Church). Continue reading

Marcotte Resigns

Via MNObserver at Norwegianity comes the news that Amanda Marcotte has resigned from John Edwards’ campaign. Her first post back at the old stand explains why. Continue reading

PubSpeak 2

hom*i*cide (hom’-i-side) n. Someone who commits suicide, as in FoxNews reports today that a homicide bomber blew himself up

stri*dent (stry’-dent [like the gum, only with an “s”]) adj. 1. loud, aggressive 2. anything said by a Democrat at a decibel level above that of a horse whisperer 3. anything said by a woman at a decibel level above that of a dead cat 4. anything said by a Democratic woman at a decibel level above that of the parasites inside an igneous rock (see also, harsh, grating, hysterical)

hys*ter*i*cal (hiss-tair’-i-kl) adj. description invariably applied to: 1. all women 2. all liberals 3. all Democrats 4. the Iraq Study Group

un*fair (uhn’-fare) adj. 1. anything done once by Democrats to any Republican who previously did it dozens and dozens of times to them 2. any criticism by anybody of any Republican about anything

par*ti*san (par’-tih-zuhn) n. 1. any Democrat who disagrees with any Republican about anything, no matter how trivial 2. any liberal policy, no matter how disconnected from politics (science, for example) 3. the media (except some; see impartial) 4. Ralph Nader 5. Sean Penn (and the rest of that Commie bunch in Hollywood) 6. Michael Moore 7. Norman Mailer (see also, moonbats)

par*ti*san at*tack (par’-tih-zuhn a-tak’) phr. 1. any attempt by any Democrat to expose Republican corruption, especially if true 2. any attempt by Democrats to make Republicans obey the law, act ethically, or respect the Constitution

im*par*tial (im-par’-shul) adj. 1. any statement, act, or characterization of a Democrat by any Republican, no matter how false, bigoted, or mean 2. any purely political act by Republicans done with the intention of bolstering a specious or indefensible argument, especially if that argument is devoid of supporting facts 3. any study done by the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, or the Hoover Institute, no matter how devoid of actual fact those studies are 4. Bill O’Reilly and/or FoxNews 5. The Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, the National Review 6. Rush Limbaugh 7. Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza

bi*-par*ti*san (bye-par’-tih-zuhn) n. 1. Democratic surrender to Republican will 2. Democratic obedience to Republican dictates 3. anything Republicans do that Joe Lieberman will support

con*sult (con-sulk’) v. 1. what Bush does when he tells Democrats what he’s going to do before he does it 2. what Republicans do with each other (see also, closed loop)

Tom the Dancing Bug | Salon Comics

At Home with Nate the Neoconservative

How neocon philosophy works in real life.

Hillary in New Hampshire

Hillary Clinton has just made her first real foray into NH, and that means the ’08 campaign is officially under way. If her experience there is any indication of what the future holds, she’s got a tough row to hoe.

The response to Clinton’s visit to New Hampshire, her first since 1996, was typified by Roger Tilton.

Tilton, a financial consultant from Nashua who had risen at 4 a.m. to make the drive north, asked Clinton to apologize for her vote [on the war]. She refused — reiterating her stance that “I have taken responsibility for my vote.”

Tilton was unmoved. “Until she says it was a mistake, she won’t get my vote,” he said.

Clinton was in Berlin, NH, way up in the nor’east corner of the state where the borders of NH, Maine and Canada meet. I grew up in southern NH. When I was a kid, northern NH was a bastion of support for the ultraright wingnut John Birch Society. Those were the guys who thought FDR was a Commie mole who was going to hand the US to the Soviets and fluoridation was a Commie plot to turn America’s children into Commie robots. Everybody who wasn’t a member – and almost everybody was – gave the JBS lots of vocal support if they knew what was good for them.

Northern NH has changed but not all that much. Continue reading

Case Against Custer Battles Dismissed by Reaganite Judge

(cont’d from previous post)

Which brings us to Custer Battles.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Republican and Reagan appointee with a history we’ll get to a bit later, dismissed outright the case against Scott Custer and Mike Battles. In order to understand what level of judicial abortion this is, you first have to know a little about the case. Sydney Blumenthal explains.

Providing private military forces, or mercenaries, became a booming business overnight. One 33-year-old named Michael Battles, a one-time minor CIA employee and failed Republican candidate for Congress but with political connections to the White House, partnered with a former army ranger named Scott Custer to form a new security firm called Custer Battles. They had no experience in the field at all. “For us the fear and disorder offered real promise”, Battles explained. Their contacts won them a lucrative contract to guard the Baghdad airport.

Custer Battles became a front for an Enron-like scheme involving shell companies in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere that issued false invoices and engaged in other frauds. By the time the Pentagon eventually barred the company from further work for “seriously improper conduct”, it had raked in $100 million in federal contracts.

Scott Custer and Mike Battles walked into Iraq’s Green Zone to find themselves in the middle of what Blumenthal calls “neocon paradise”:

Hiring for the CPA staff was handled by the White House liaison at the Pentagon, James O’Beirne, who is also the husband of rightwing pundit Kate O’Beirne. He requested résumés from Republican congressional offices, activist groups and think-tanks. “They had to have the right political credentials”, said Frederick Smith, the CPA’s deputy director in Washington.

Senior civil servants were systematically denied positions. Applicants were questioned on their ideological loyalty and positions on issues like abortion. A youthful contingent, whose résumés had been stored in the Heritage Foundation’s computer file, was promptly hired and ran rampant in the green zone as the “brat pack”.

Bremer declared a flat tax, a constant Republican dream that could never be passed at home by Congress. He promulgated wholesale privatisation of state-owned industries, which created instant mass unemployment, without acknowledging any consequences. Peter McPherson, a former Reagan administration official close to Dick Cheney, was flown in to run the Iraqi economy. He stated his belief that looting was accelerating the process of privatisation – “privatisation that occurs sort of naturally.”

In this free-for-all atmosphere, there wasn’t much coming from the PTB at the CPA to discourage the boys from helping themselves. After all, everyone else was. Continue reading

L. Paul and the Missing $12B: Who Cares?

L. Paul Bremer, head of the old Coalition Provisional Authority and Viceroy of Iraq immediately after Gen Jay Garner was fired for criticizing the Bush Administration’s total lack of after-invasion planning, appeared before Henry Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week to explain what happened to some missing money. $$$12BIL$$$ worth, to be exact. In cash. Bundles and bundles of it in $100 bills at $400K/bundle. Stacked on pallets. So many pallets they had to be shipped to Iraq on giant C-130 cargo planes.

One $500 million outlay was explained away with a one-word record entry — “security” — in the provisional authority’s books. Ten disbursements ranging from $120 million to $900 million have no documentation at all, as if they were petty cash.

So where did it all go?

Bremer doesn’t know.

It was all, he said, very confusing. Continue reading

Doug Feith’s Chickens – Roosting At Last

Three years ago I was one of the few people writing about Doug Feith’s role in cooking the intel used to justify the Iraq war. I wrote about him a lot. And the OSP, which got a lot of attention, and C-TEG, which didn’t but should have. Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a report yesterday that details Feith’s “cherry-picking” (highlighting raw intel that seems to support a particular position and ignoring everything that doesn’t) and “stovepiping” (Sy Hersh’s word for sending the cherry-picked intel straight to the top – in this case, Cheney’s office – without bothering with verification or corroboration) as the Bush Administration, in particular Cheney, forged a case for our first-ever pre-emptive invasion on the basis of what they knew to be bogus information.

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included “reporting of dubious quality or reliability” that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

Feith’s office “was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda,” according to portions of the report, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). The inspector general described Feith’s activities as “an alternative intelligence assessment process.”

At the time I gave George Tenet a deal of credit for trying to tell first Cheney and then Bush that the CIA’s information was running counter to administration assertions of WMD’s and yellowcake and the existence of a nuclear program that was at best unconfirmed and at worst a fantasy. I gave him that credit right up to the moment he surrendered to Bush’s insistence on being told what he wanted to hear, that infamous moment when Tenet threw up his hands and made his slam-dunk remark in exasperation. Continue reading

Edwards Blogging Controversy: A Summary (Updated)

You have probably heard by now that Michelle “Dancing on the Ceiling With My Head Up My Ass” Malkin and Bill “Jews Are Taking Over the World” Donohue have attacked the Edwards’ campaign for hiring pandagon‘s Amanda Marcotte and Shakespeare’s Sister‘s Melissa McEwan to, as the NY Times put it in its own inimitable fashion, “reach out to liberals in the online world”. Donohue, notorious himself for such temperate comments as “If you asked” some Hollywood actors “to sodomize their own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with a smile on their face” and “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular” claimed that Amanda was a “potty-mouth”.

This is what’s known as a “double standard” given Donahue’s spirited defense of Mel Gibson‘s attack of intensely profane anti-semitism only a few months ago, and what my mother would have said was “the pot calling the kettle black” as the way he did it was, well, pretty G-D profane. Continue reading

Humana (3): Rate Hike = Profit Hike

Humana, Inc, the giant health insurance company that recently announced a rate hike of 130% in Massachusets alone, just released its fourth quarter numbers. Their earnings doubled.

Health insurer Humana Inc. said Monday its fourth-quarter profit more than doubled on the strength of its burgeoning Medicare business, capping a record year in revenue, profit and medical membership. Buoyed by the momentum, the company raised its earnings projections for 2007.

The Louisville-based company said revenue from its Medicare Advantage plans — which offer comprehensive health care coverage — nearly doubled in the quarter over the previous year. Its stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans generated another $882 million in new fourth-quarter revenue.

For the three months ended last Dec. 31, Humana posted net income of $155 million, or 92 cents per share, compared to nearly $61.8 million, or 37 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had projected 88 cents for the just-ended quarter.

Humana President and Chief Executive Michael B. McCallister said the strong growth positioned Humana for “further progress” in 2007. The company raised its earnings-per-share projection for 2007 to between $4 and $4.20, up from its previous estimate of $3.90 to $4.10.

Interesting. They doubled their customers’ rates and doubled their earnings. That’s kind of a direct ratio, isn’t it? Meaning the price rise in customer premiums went straight to their profit column, do not pass go and for god’s sake don’t hand in a claim.

Explain to me again why for-profit health insurance is better than not-for-profit? For people other than investors, I mean.

Drive-By Ads: Who Owns the Public Square?

A lot of people had a lot of fun at Boston’s expense last week.

Maybe justifiably so, to some degree. I don’t buy Boston Police Comish Edward Davis’ explanation (dutifully echoed by the Globe) that the fact that terrorists boarded planes at Logan Airport on 9/11 excuses the over-reaction that resembled a small War of the Worlds-style panic any more than anyone else.

Nor have I any intention of arguing with the conclusion that up here in New England we don’t always get the latest cultural spasms until the rest of the country has already passed them by. In fact, I kind of like that about us. I never have thought much of the way you guys snatch at the latest piece of cultural poopery like a hungry actor snatching at a roast beef sandwich in a gutter. We may have our faults, but in my opinion that’s not one of them.

No, what bothers me is the whole concept of “viral advertising” and the incredible corporate assumption behind it: that they own our public space and can do anything they like with it. Continue reading

Low Taxes and Privatization: Failure Squared

Molly used to tell the story of her first day covering the Texas legislature for the Observer. She sat in the press box that morning watching the most powerful men in the state (they were all men in those days) enter the chamber, slap each other on the butt, and commence talking about what “a fine piece o’ tail” they had last night, you shoulda seen ‘er, some of them packing guns under their suit coats, and she thought, “This is going to be fun.” It was due to her reporting, at least in part, that the Texas legislature became a national joke.

It isn’t all that funny now. As one of the posters on a BBS forum I used to inhabit liked to point out, the agenda Bush brought with him to Washington originally was less a neocon agenda than the agenda of the Texas Republican Party, lifted from that quirky, ignorant, arrogant collection of blockheads, blind ideologues, batshit whackos, and corrupt “bidnissmen” to be transferred whole and unedited to the national stage like a small town minstrel show suddenly invading Broadway. That it has been an embarrassment to anyone who doesn’t piss in a box and a disgrace to what America used to stand for was, in hindsight, entirely predictable.

The two dumbest ideas Bush brought with him from Texas have to be a) the belief that you can slash taxes to the bone – especially corporate taxes – without hurting core social services like education and maintenance of the infrastructure, and b) the conviction that privatization of core govt responsibilities – like education and maintaining the infrastructure – would somehow be cheaper and more efficient despite the abysmal record of the corporatocracy in both areas, and despite the need to show massive profits to investors, a need the govt doesn’t have.

After nearly 7 years of untrammeled experimentation in both areas, what should have been clear from the beginning has now been proven beyond doubt: both these “policies” are dismal failures. Continue reading

The Democratic Winter Forum: The Split Goes Public

I had my doubts when Howard Dean accepted the chair of the Democratic National Committee. When he took it over, it was a largely ceremonial/administrative position with little public exposure and even less real power. I thought it was at least possible that he was burying himself in a meaningless position so he could work on his pet project: netizenship.

In retrospect, I should have known better. It’s beginning to look now as if he had nothing less in mind than using the DNC as a platform from which to push the Democrats back to their populist roots and re-make it as the Party of the People.

I can’t prove it and I haven’t seen it anywhere else yet, but I suspect that it is Dean who’s behind the emerging bi-polarity of the Democratic Party. For that reason, and for convenience, I will call the two sides the “DNC wing” (center-left) and the “DLC wing” (center-right). The outlines of the split began coming into focus yesterday at a Party forum arranged by Dean’s DNC. Six candiates – the two in the top tier, one from the second level, and three others who barely register on the radar yet – were the first to speak (there will be more today), and between them they marked the boundaries of the split as clearly as dogs pissing on trees. Continue reading

Pets for Hillary

Well, Hillary’s campaign is off to a flying start what with the introduction of her stirring slogan:

Let the Conversation Begin

Yessir, that’s a barn-burner alright. Bound to charge people up and send them into battle with the forces of evil loaded down with Weapons of Mass Narcosis (WMN’s).

But the brilliance doesn’t stop there, oh no. With the kind of cutting-edge, forward-thinking, outside-the-box innovation we’ve come to expect from the Democrats the last 15 or 20 years, Hillary and her team are blazing new trails untramped by previous candidates. For example, she’s now pioneering an effort to reach a neglected but no-doubt valuable constituency: animals.

I shit you not. This is straight off her campaign website. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Leave it to the mastermind of the 15,000-page Clinton health-care plan to come up with an strategy so comprehensive that it targets pets.

Is this her constituency? People who dress their animals and name them after make-believe movie pets? (“Brinkley” was the name of Tom Hanks’ dog in You’ve Got Mail.) And we’re supposed to run out there and work for, raise money for, and vote for somebody as leader of the Western world who thinks this kind of stuff is “cute”?

Despair washes over me like a bucket of deer urine.

Keeping On: In Molly’s Name

Oh, shit.

That was my first thought, my only thought, all I had time to think before a D10T or something that felt an awful lot like one, slammed my stomach from the inside.

Oh, shit.

Not elegant. Not poetic. Neither am I. But there was a world in it just the same.

Oh, shit shit shit.

When my mother died of liver cancer at the age I am now, I was expecting it. I’d been expecting it for years. We all had. We knew it was coming and we were prepared. I didn’t cry. I’d done all my crying every time over the 15 years she suffered with it when what looked like remission turned out to be no more than a little breathing space before the next onslaught of the disease. Every time she slipped back into that dark world of hospitals and chemo treatments, lost hair, black-and-blue arms wrist to shoulder from injections and blood-taking and intravenous feeding, the weight that had taken so long to put back on melting away in a matter of days, I would leave her room after each visit, find a corner somewhere downstairs or outside, maybe sitting in my car, and cry.

I never said oh, shit.

So this feeling I’m having is odd. I didn’t know Molly Ivins. I never met her, never even saw her in person. I only read her column like millions of other people, bought her books like millions of other people, admired her guts, her wit, and her persistence like millions of other people. I knew she had been fighting breast cancer for years and that lately she’d been losing. I knew the symptoms – I saw my mother go through it – and I thought I was prepared.

And yet here I am, staring at this screen and saying oh, shit as if I had lost one of my few real friends.

But in a way that’s exactly what just happened. Continue reading