Category Archives: RWNM

Drudge Sludge

There were two separate pieces to the Drudge Report’s Kerry slander. The first was that he had an affair with an intern. Good story except for a few minor mistakes, like: she denies it categorically and there is no evidence or confirmation that it ever happened; her family denies it; her husband denies it; she wasn’t in Washington when it was supposed to be going on; and she wasn’t an intern. Aside from that, it was right-wing journalism at its finest.

Unfortunately, once the bubble at the core of the story burst, that left the conservative press scrambling to make an issue out of the second piece: Drudge the Sludge’s accusation that the story originated from a comment made by Wes Clark. Well, now that turns out to be false, too. From NRO political clolumnist Ryan Lizza:

I was there when Clark spoke, and just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, I’ve also checked with other reporters who were there. Since it was off the record (sort of), I can’t get into what Clark actually said (let’s just say it was not his finest moment on the campaign trail), but I can report that the quote Drudge attributes to him–“Kerry will implode over an intern issue”–is not accurate. He never said that.

Glad somebody at the NRO has a sense of journalistic honor. I didn’t check to see if the news had filtered down to the Corner Kids yet.

Score: Matt Drudge 0 for 2. Those of you surprised by this development should report to your local clinic as soon as possible for de-programming and therapy.

(By way of The Poor Man)

The War on Kerry, Part 3

Mother Jones just started a blog. It’s called, fittingly enough, The MoJo Blog, and while it’s gotten off to what I would call a slow start, it’s still worth checking for little gems like the “Mass Hysteria” post that outs the new Weekly Standard “Get Kerry” column called–shades of the “X”–The Kerry Files. It specifically promises to provide right-wing radio talk show hosts with “talking points” to use against him in the coming months “as a service to my broadcasting colleagues.”

NATIONAL SECURITY. Voters cannot trust John Kerry’s judgment or his resolve on issues of national security. From his April, 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to his statement on January 29, 2003, in a Democratic candidates’ debate that the war on terror is “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation,” Kerry has fundamentally misunderstood threats to national security and the best means to defend the United States against them.MULTILATERAL MAN. The “Swiss-educated son of a foreign service officer,” as Time Magazine described Kerry in its February 9 issue, is a fully-formed U.N. man, for whom the opposition of the U.N. to any proposed American initiative would mean at least temporary and perhaps permanent paralysis.

DEFENSE RECORD. As a senator, John Kerry has voted against the full funding of most major weapons systems of the past two decades, including the MX missile, the Patriot inteceptor, and missile defense deployment.

THE L-WORD. According to Kerry-friendly Time Magazine’s profile, there is “plenty to support the notion that Kerry [is] just a classic bleeding heart: his ratings from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action have always hovered in the 90%-to-95% range.”

There’s two pages of this. Nothing John Kerry has done in his entire life is worth the spit you shine your shoes with; he’s been wrong on every single issue every single year. Hewitt won’t even give him any credit for voting for Junior’s radcon-inspired Holy War. This is how the Rove Machine works: they develop these arguments and then pass them around to each other. The only thing that’s new about this is that Hewitt is bragging about it. At the beginning he says:

WITH LESS THAN 38 WEEKS until the November 2nd vote, radio hosts have got to sharpen the message. That’s less than 200 broadcast days, and even with 15 segments per three hour show, that’s only 3,000 opportunities to present a four- to twelve-minute segment that focuses on some aspect of John Kerry’s record.

–and after 2 pages of innuendo and snarky personal attacks (“Kerry’s personal arrogance is legendary, and his nickname–‘Live Shot Kerry’–conveys that his arrogance is without even the mediating aristocratic virtue of reserve.”), he finishes with:

THERE’S A SHOW’S-WORTH OF TALKING POINTS with which to start. Did I mention the photos of Kerry and Jane Fonda? Or that he’s voted against cutting taxes a gazillion times and wants to raise them in 2005? Or his opposition to parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion?Against this hour’s work the Democrats have Ambassador Joe Wilson, their feverish attempt to distort the president’s national guard service, and the possibility that Saddam fooled the world into believing he had WMD.

No wonder liberal talk radio can’t succeed. Those hosts have no ammunition.

My goodness, no. No ammunition at all. Well, maybe the deficit. I hear it’s getting pretty big. Oh, and I guess maybe there was that pre-emptive war Bush started over NOTHING. But that’s pretty much it–except for the BA’s wholesale surrender to corporate interests, their trashing of what was once a healthy economy, their willingness to help those corps move jobs overseas instead of fighting to keep them here to cut the jobless rate which has risen barely a notch since the economy supposedly “recovered.” And oh yeah, their steady embezzlement of SocSec funds, their Scrooge-like treatment of the troops they’re sending to die for Halliburton’s oil fields, their trashing of environmental regs that have made our air and water cleaner in the last 30 years, the hatred of us abroad that they’ve engendered with their arrogance and snobby unilateralism…. Hell, I don’t think I could get more than 4 or 500 pages of stuff like that. And certainly none of it is anything like as evil as Kerry refusing to vote for a missile defense boondoggle system which has been “in development” for 25 years to the tune of $$$Tens of Billions$$$ and still doesn’t work. How dare he? Clearly he hates America.

No, I can see where liberal talk shows won’t have hardly anything worthwhile to chew on, alright. Just that unimportant blowing of a covert op’s cover in order to punish a guy who dared to depart from the Rive script and tell the truth, and that outrageous distortion of the President’s National Guard non-service (hey, he was working on a Republican political campaign, and a guy’s gotta have priorities), oh, and that little boo-boo with WMD? Hell, that was all Saddam’s fault–and the CIA’s–and Tony Blair’s–and Scott Ridder’s–and most of all, Bill Clinton’s! But not Bush’s. No no NOT Bush’s.

They got so little to talk about they might as well shut down, ay?

KerryAttacks II: The Third Front

After establishing the first two beach-heads in their War on Kerry–that the war hero is really an ambitious traitor who hung out with Hanoi Jane and a Taxachusetts elitist liberal who voted against the GOP’s valiant attempts to beef up our nation’s security–Karl Rove’s Echo Chamber has just opened up its Third Front: he’s a tool of the “special interests”.

The Bush campaign sent an e-mail Feb. 12 to six million supporters with a link to an Internet video attacking Kerry for being “unprincipled.” The ad claims Kerry got “more special interest money than any other senator,” which is false.While it is true that Kerry got $640,000 over the past 15 years from individual lobbyists, that’s only one type of special-interest money. And the Bush campaign itself has reported raising $960,000 from individual lobbyists in the past year alone.

The ad says Kerry got “millions from executives at HMO’s, telecoms, drug companies,” which is true — for Kerry’s entire political career. But so far Kerry’s presidential campaign has received a small fraction of what the Bush campaign has received from those particular sources. By any definition, Bush’s “special interest” money greatly exceeds Kerry’s.

But this does not, of course, make Bush “unprincipled.” So it took Kerry 15 years to collect 2/3 of the money Bush collected from lobbyists this year alone, so what? Kerry is “unprincipled”, Bush is not. Why? Read my lips: Kerry, Democrat; Bush, Republican.

Blatant hypocrisy has been a Republican campaign trademark for generations, but rarely has it risen to the Olympian heights to which the radical neocons have brought it. As Krugman (and I) pointed out, the Cult of Personality strategy demands that the leader appear to be pure, above the fray, thinking only of the welfare of his children, honest, forthright, and humble: a Good Man Battling the Forces of Evil. The corollary, therefore, has to be that anyone who opposes his Wise and Just Rule is impure, willing to roll in the mud, so ambitious that he thinks only of himself, dishonest, deceitful, and arrogant: an Evil Man trying to Destroy the Forces of Good.

This bi-polar script doesn’t allow for shades of good or evil because, in America, nuance doesn’t sell. We like our problems simple, uncomplicated, and easy to digest, and our decisions certain and unambiguous: black vs white, heroes vs villains, day vs night, good vs evil. Put it like that and we all know where we stand, and without the nagging discomfort of engaging in any actual thought.

The GOP knows how to package simple-minded campaigns, we don’t.

(Thanx to regular reader–and commenter–eagle2 for the tip)

KerryAttacks–The Smear Campaign Begins in Earnest

Here we go again.

1. Right-wing internet smear-meister Matt Drudge is hinting around about a Kerry affair, claiming the lady in question was shipped overseas to get her out of the way, which makes the charge “hard to prove”.

The nature and details of a claimed two-year relationship, beginning in the Spring of 2001, between a young woman and Kerry is at the center of serious investigations at several media outlets.After being approached by a top news producer, the woman fled to Africa, where she remains, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal.

Well, as the right-wing echo chamber always says, if you’ve got a good thing, beat it ro death with a big stick.

But don’t stop there. Surely there must be a way to use this feathered tar on more than one enemy? Well, yes, as it turns out. While he’s at it, he claims that “in an off-the-record conversation with a dozen reporters earlier this week, [Wesley Clark] plainly stated: ‘Kerry will implode over an intern issue.'” There you go–a two-fer.

Not to be outdone, Rush Limbo is not only treating this rumor as Gospel, he’s figured out the culprit and it isn’t the right wing. It’s–wait for it–Hillary Clinton!

I don’t deny this is exciting news to a lot of people. Keep in mind, ladies and gentlemen, and you know, I don’t want to sit here and go nah-nah-nah-nah all the time, but there has been one voice, one voice consistently saying, I have warned you people about this several times, I have told you, don’t worry about Bush, don’t worry about the Bush campaign. The Clintons are going to take care of this year’s Democratic nominee. If Hillary wants to be president in 2008, if Hillary wants to be president, period, the Clintons will take care of this year’s nominee. And now even Democrats, unnamed, are quoted in the New York Post today as thinking the same thing.

Note the standard Echo Chamber tactic: Notoriously unreliable right-wing rumor-monger puts out rumor which the notoriously unreliable right-wing commentator immediately accepts as fact, quoting a notoriously unreliable right-wing newspaper as back-up. Classic.

BTW, Limbo’s “I don’t deny this is exciting news to a lot of people” comment came in response to a call from a woman who said this report of Kerry’s supposed infidelity “lifted [her] spirits.” She found it “delicious.” I just bet she did. The wingnuts all seem to be enormously attracted to and titillated by anything to do with sex. They just can’t get enough. It’s beginning to look unhealthy.

2. And still we’re not done (this has been a productive day for the smear-meisters). Limbo and Sean Hannity, invoking the Guilt-By-Association (GBA) strategy, are parading a picture of right-wing bete-noir Jane Fonda sitting with Kerry. This is, of course, enough for condemnation from the faithful. “How dare he sit with Hanoi Jane? He must be a traitor.” And apparently the fact that the picture is of a Viet-nam anti-war rally and the two of them are sitting in the audience 3 rows apart is completely and totally irrelevant. And if Hanoi Jane, as Rush refers to her, says they happened to both be speaking to the rally and didn’t even meet that day, well, what do you expect a traitor to say? To make sure you get the point, Rushie adds an old photo of Jane with her fist raised in a “Power-to-the-People” salute, which of course confirms that she is a Commie traitor.

And this is just the beginning. Wait ’til they really get rolling.

(Via Slate)

Worry About Kerry Dept

As predicted, now that Kerry is the front runner, the assault has begun and it’s just as nasty as many of us thought it would be. Phaedrus at No Fear of Freedom links to the first shot in the war– a column in the National Review Online (NRO) by Mackubin Thomas Owens in which he claims that Kerry slandered other soldiers for purely political reasons in the so-called “Winter Soldier” investigation of war crimes in Viet Nam .

Kerry did not return from Vietnam a radical antiwar activist. According to the indispensable Stolen Valor, by H. G. “Jug” Burkett and Genna Whitley, “Friends said that when Kerry first began talking about running for office, he was not visibly agitated about the Vietnam War. ‘I thought of him as a rather normal vet,’ a friend said to a reporter, ‘glad to be out but not terribly uptight about the war.’ Another acquaintance who talked to Kerry about his political ambitions called him a ‘very charismatic fellow looking for a good issue.'” Apparently, this good issue would be Vietnam.

Not content with trashing Kerry’s motives, Owens goes on to trash the whole Winter Soldier investigation–according to him it was a pack of lies:

Kerry hooked up with an organization called Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Two events cooked up by this group went a long way toward cementing in the public mind the image of Vietnam as one big atrocity. The first of these was the January 31, 1971, “Winter Soldier Investigation,” organized by “the usual suspects” among antiwar celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Dick Gregory, and Kennedy-assassination conspiracy theorist, Mark Lane. Here, individuals purporting to be Vietnam veterans told horrible stories of atrocities in Vietnam: using prisoners for target practice, throwing them out of helicopters, cutting off the ears of dead Viet Cong soldiers, burning villages, and gang-raping women as a matter of course…..In fact, the entire Winter Soldiers Investigation was a lie. It was inspired by Mark Lane’s 1970 book entitled Conversations with Americans, which claimed to recount atrocity stories by Vietnam veterans.

He goes on to claim that Kerry was a major promoter of this “lie”–

Kerry’s 1971 testimony includes every left-wing cliché about Vietnam and the men who served there. It is part of the reason that even today, people who are too young to remember Vietnam are predisposed to believe the worst about the Vietnam War and those who fought it.

–and that, in fact, the atrocities never happened, or if they did happen, they didn’t happen very often:

The first cliché is that atrocities were widespread in Vietnam. But this is nonsense. Atrocities did occur in Vietnam, but they were far from widespread. Between 1965 and 1973, 201 soldiers and 77 Marines were convicted of serious crimes against the Vietnamese.

So now we have it: a preview of the radcon strategy for destroying Kerry’s candidacy and in the process revising history so it’s more to their liking. Kerry told “heinous” lies for cynical political gain, and he was willing to slander his own comrades to do it. The terrible stories told by Vets were all made up, they weren’t even real soldiers, and anyway we could have won if we hadn’t chickened out.

Rehabilitating the Viet Nam war has been a major radcon goal since the retreat from Saigon, and in Kerry’s candidacy they have obviously caught a glimpse of a way to attack him and re-define the war at the same time. In full holocaust-denial mode, we are about to be treated to a raft of columns and stories insisting that Viet Nam was a just war, that stories to the contrary are liberal propaganda, and that anyone who says otherwise is a traitor.

Anyone who claims that the atrocities reported by the Winter Soldiers never happened or are blown way out of proportion needs to be tied to a chair and forcibly read the Toledo Blade‘s outstanding series on the elite platoon known as Tiger Force.

Since the war ended, the American public has been fed a dose of movies fictionalizing the excesses of U.S. units in Vietnam, such as Apocalypse Now and Platoon. But in reality, most war-crime cases focused on a single event, like the My Lai massacre.The Tiger Force case is different. The atrocities took place over seven months, leaving an untold number dead – possibly several hundred civilians, former soldiers and villagers now say.

This 4-part, in-depth series details the day-today nature of the war, the expectations of higher-ups, the commonality of what we would call atrocities, and the effect this kind of war had on the ordinary soldiers who had to fight it.

With Iraq threatening to turn into another guerilla war against another population that doesn’t want us there, the radcons are desperate to get us to believe that no harm could possibly come from this and that we should turn our backs on the lessons we thought we learned in Nam.

Don’t let them snow you.

How Radical Conservatives Took Over the GOP

Remember how I talked in The Cult of Personality about the role of conservative foundations, think tanks, and corporate media in the Radcon take-over of the Republican Party? Well, I’m not the only one who sees it.

Benedict Spinoza of American Samizdat has his own blog called Benedict@Large from which I stole the following article. Entitled The GOP, Inc. – Selling Public Policy as a Commodity, it lays out clearly both the path and the players I was talking about and explains exactly how and when corporations took control–and why. Author Richard Behan calls the radcon philosophy “Movement Conservatism”, but, as you’ll see for yourself, we’re talking about the same thing–a dump by any other name still smells of rotting fruit. Or words to that effect.

I’m reprinting it here in full. including the source-notes. It’s long but, like the Kuttner piece, required reading for anyone who wants to understand how we got here–and to get a handle on how we get out….

The GOP, Inc. – Selling Public Policy as a Commodity
by Richard W. BehanThe G.O.P. was once a respectable political party, giving voice to cautious citizens who saw much to protect in the affairs of the nation. The Democratic Party offered a forum for less sanguine citizens to disagree and seek reform, and in the healthy conflict between the two a robust democracy served the nation well.

Neither party was rigidly ideological, driven passionately to impose a set of beliefs, as the Taliban, say, imposed Islam in prewar Afghanistan. Both parties respected democracy.

Except in their Orwellian rhetoric, the Republicans no longer do, and the G.O.P. has withdrawn from serving the nation at large. About 25 years ago it became the political arm of “Movement Conservatism,” and today it promotes not the general welfare but the commercial interests of corporate enterprise.

Movement Conservatism is a self-serving and socially malevolent cabal of mega-corporations, right-wing think tanks in Washington, their archconservative foundation benefactors, and an intricate nationwide network of linkages in the communications media, religion, higher education, and law. It has been called the “conservative labyrinth,” and common to all its elements is a theology of “free markets,” an ideology coming to full bloom in the Administration of George W. Bush. Today, the G.O.P. seeks to impose it at every turn.

In the abstract, and historically, “free markets” are hugely appealing.

In the primitive markets of The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith’s seminal book of 200 years ago, there was absolute parity in bargaining power between autonomous consumers and subservient, proprietary producers. There were enough of both, competing among and between each other, that no one on either side could fix the market price. Prices were set only by the aggregated bargaining of the market as a whole, and hence were powerful signals of social preferences.

Smith detailed how such “free markets” assured the socially optimum allocation of raw materials, capital, labor, goods, services, and incomes, “as if by an invisible hand.”

“Free markets” so conceived still enchant the simplistic and determined thinking of Movement Conservatives, especially as they perceive and attack “government intervention” in the markets. They choose to ignore, however, 200 years of subsequent economic history.

“Free markets” today are a fantasy, because contemporary markets are wholly dominated by corporate, not proprietary enterprise, and characterized by its features: among others, by administered prices, branded goods and services, transnationalization, vertical integration, wholesale externalization of costs, consolidation by mergers and acquisitions, the instantaneous and international mobility of capital, and the subjugation, by ubiquitous advertising, of consumer sovereignty. Corporate domination of “free markets” has destroyed the ability of markets to make socially optimum allocations, but none of this seems to penetrate the minds of Movement Conservatives. Nor do they see that trumpeting “free markets” gives free reign to corporate license. (A cynic might suspect otherwise.)

There is nothing socially optimum about the calamitous conditions in the nation today.

A dangerous, unjust, and growing gap between rich and poor festers ominously. Public education is collapsing. Homelessness is rampant. Health care is denied 16% of our citizens. Real wages are stagnant or declining. The nation’s physical infrastructure is crumbling. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eleven percent of American families are not adequately fed,[1] while an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and other “lifestyle diseases” ravishes the rest of society. State and municipal governments retrench in fiscal panic, and federal deficits transcend anything ever known. Our economy survives only by exporting high-paying jobs and importing daily a billion dollars of foreign capital_to finance not investment, but consumption. For the first time ever we have invaded a sovereign nation without provocation, sundering the world community and enraging much of it. In approximately 25 years, this is what Movement Conservatism has delivered, while trumpeting “free markets.”

Public policy is malfunctioning. It is no longer fashioned to promote the welfare of the nation at large, but to create, enhance, or protect the profit opportunities of American corporations.

Two things occurred in sequence to enable corporations first to intervene and then to dominate politics, just as they have come to dominate markets.

Political campaigning switched, in the 1960’s, from party-centered rallies and print media to candidate-centered television_which was vastly more expensive. Then, in the 1970’s the campaign finance laws were rewritten, political action committees were authorized, and corporate PAC money soon flowed in floods. Today, about * of all campaign financing comes from corporate sources, and it is not contributed as a public service.[2]

Often the payoffs are effected with infuriating arrogance.

Noncompetitive contracts come to mind, for the Halliburton and Bechtel Corporations to rebuild Iraq. The purchase of energy policy by the Enron Corporation is another example. Yet another is the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act, signed by President Bush on December 8, 2003.

This law so heavily subsidizes the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries nearly 700 lobbyists were deployed to see it enacted.[3] At the photo-op signing ceremony, President Bush was joined by five Senators and five Representatives. Together, these eleven public servants accepted more than $14 million in campaign contributions from the health and drug companies.[4] (Roughly half went to Mr. Bush.) Among other provisions, the law makes it illegal for Medicare, using its market clout, to bargain down the cost of drugs, and effectively prohibits senior citizens from buying their prescriptions at far lower prices in Canada. Public policy to serve corporate well being? What, conceivably, else? Free markets at work?

Public policy is now a commodity, to be exchanged for value received.

The fantasy of “free markets” is politically expedient for Republicans and economically rewarding for their corporate clients. It suggests that parity still exists between producers and consumers, making palatable any policy said to increase the freedom of the market. (Deregulating markets for electricity comes to mind. Think Enron.) Such policies tend to increase only the freedom of corporate producers, typically at great expense to consumers. (Ask any Californian.) Only a malcontent would accuse Republicans of seeking this result intentionally.

How did the “free market” fantasy destroy the Republican party? First it had to be institutionalized as a coherent, secular theology, and that was done with skill, dispatch, money, and patience as Movement Conservatism took shape.

In the writings of Friedrich von Hayek (The Road to Serfdom, 1944), and his student Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom, 1962) the ideology was at hand. Free markets, not governments, should regulate the affairs of society: that is the extent of the argument. “Government is not the solution,” a devotee proclaimed, “government is the problem.” And that is the extent of the vision.

Nuanced thinking is not a trademark of Movement Conservatism, however, and the need to apply the ideology was seen to be acute in the 1960’s and ’70’s. The nation’s campuses were percolating with protest, the result of anti-business, “liberal” faculties encouraging their impressionable students. On the national stage Nader’s Raiders were mounting successful attacks on what they alleged were excesses of corporate capitalism.

A seminal critique of the nation’s leftward drift was written in 1971 by Lewis F. Powell, Jr., a corporate attorney, a former president of the American Bar Association, a member of 11 corporate boards, and eventually a Supreme Court Justice. The “Powell Manifesto” saw the future of the free market at stake, and advocated a confrontational counterattack. It would become a long term, comprehensive, nationwide campaign to implant the “free market” paradigm, focusing on four primary arenas: higher education, the mass media, politics, and the court system. The “Manifesto” was widely circulated and it would achieve stunning success.

First Adolph Coors was persuaded. Beginning with a quarter-million dollar gift in the early 1970’s he transformed the obscure Analysis and Research Association into the Heritage Foundation. It has prospered with Coors funding ever since, channeled through his Castle Rock Foundation.

Endowed with corporate profits from the past, other archconservative foundations also established right-wing think tanks in Washington in the ’70’s and ’80’s or strengthened existing ones. In addition to Castle Rock, twelve other foundations form the financial core of Movement Conservatism. They are the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, The Charles G. Koch, David H. Koch, and Claude R. Lambe foundations, the Phillip M. McKenna Foundation, the JM Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Henry Salvatori Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.[5]

The Heritage Foundation is the largest and best financed beneficiary, but many others are familiar. The American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Manhattan Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the National Association of Scholars, Accuracy in Academe, the Media Research Center, and Accuracy in Media are prominent on the national level. Less well known are hundreds of “free market” cells scattered nationwide, all funded by these few foundations. (One such is F.R.E.E._the Foundation for Research in Economics and the Environment. It provides week-long indoctrinations into “free market” ideology, at luxury resorts near its home in Bozeman, Montana.. The invited participants, with all expenses paid by F.R.E.E., are federal judges.)

The top 20 conservative think tanks spend about $150 million a year, but not on short-term projects. Coordinated by an umbrella group, the Philanthropy Roundtable, they concentrate on a long-term ideological program: sustaining and expanding the free-market paradigm, and enshrining it in public thought, action, and policy.

Taking shape in the late ’70’s, Movement Conservatism became a sort of economic Taliban, absolutist in conviction, righteous, and anxious to impose its ideology on the American people. It found its vehicle in the presidential candidacy and election of Ronald Reagan, and over the next eight years Movement Conservatism and the Republican Party came to be coterminous.

There was little resistance. Since the Republican Party traditionally has been the party of commerce and finance, Movement Conservatism had only to sell an appealing ideology to a receptive constituency. As the pursuit of “free markets” came to mean “corporate well being,” the transaction was consummated. The Republican Party took on the ideology, and also assumed a commercial function: marketing public policy as a product. It became the G.O.P., Inc., and forfeited its role as a party of the people.

President Reagan’s agenda came almost whole-cloth from the Heritage Foundation. His massive tax cut slashed current revenues, but Reagan shoveled trillions of dollars to corporations in the defense industries anyway. In so doing he added twice as much to the national debt as all his predecessors combined, from George Washington to Jimmy Carter.

This was the first shot from the most vicious and despicable weapon in the arsenal of Movement Conservatism: pile more and more indebtedness onto future generations so that debt service increasingly forecloses public expenditures for anything else. The stupendous deficits of George W. Bush preordain a starving public sector for decades to come.

In 1988 the Democrats learned how effectively corporate financing can facilitate television-based campaigns. A lot of money can make Willy Horton a household name. And so by 1992, dominated by the Democratic Leadership Council, the Democrats veered sharply toward the center, seeking corporate financing for the Clinton campaign. Clinton delivered, enthusiastically embracing “free trade,” a global version of the free market fantasy. The Democrats were flirting with their own transformation to corporate status, and they continued in 2000, running free-trader Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, once chairman of the DLC.

Ralph Nader’s Greens couldn’t see much distinction between the G.O.P., Inc., and its Democratic emulators, and they high-centered the election. The Supreme Court, sporting a couple of Movement Conservatives on the bench, did the rest.

Some Democrats today are openly critical of a centrist, corporate-friendly stance for the party. Others still cling to it: the threat remains.

This is how the GOP, Inc., sells public policy as a commodity today.

45 million Americans have no health care coverage, as President Bush, on Heritage Foundation cue, undertakes the privatizing of Medicare. The greater his success, the more the Hospital Corporation of America will benefit. HCA operates the country’s largest chain of for-profit hospitals, but can’t make enough money honestly when Medicare is public. The company has paid $1.7 billion in fines for overcharging Medicare and Medicaid, the largest fraud settlement ever. HCA was formed by a Mr. Thomas Frist. One of his sons, Thomas Jr., earned $160 million a year as CEO. Another son, William, has a $26 million interest in HCA, and he is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate. Health care corporations and PAC’s have contributed over $2 million to William Frist’s campaigns.[6] Mr. Frist engineered a provision in the Homeland Security Bill shielding the Eli Lilly drug company from liability lawsuits. Lilly contributed $1.6 million to Senate election campaigns in the 2000 election cycle, 79% to the G.O.P., Inc. And now Mr. Frist has steered through the Senate the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act. Drug sales are expected to increase, under the law, by $13 billion a year.[7]

The American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Heritage Foundation have crafted or influenced virtually the entire programs of both domestic and foreign policy for the George W. Bush Administration. They display the intricate personal networks_mutually beneficial and self-serving_that characterize Movement Conservatism.

Mr. Jeb Bush, the President’s brother, served as a Trustee of the Heritage Foundation. Virginia Lamp Thomas is the Director of Executive Branch Relations there. Jeb Bush’s father appointed Ms. Thomas’ husband to the Supreme Court, which decided the 2000 election in favor of Jeb Bushs’ brother. Privatizing Medicare and public education are two of the targets at Heritage.

Mr. Rupert Murdoch served on the Board of The Cato Institute. He owns Fox Television News and the Weekly Standard, virtual house organs of the Bush Administration. Mr. Murdoch’s application to acquire Direct TV was finally approved by the Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Colin Powell’s son Michael. The approval was delayed because Mr. Murdoch’s communications empire exceeds the national media ownership cap of 35%. The Republican House raised the cap with a rider on the Omnibus spending bill to 39%–precisely the number Mr. Murdoch needs.

Charles Koch is a founder of the Cato Institute. His brother David is a Director. The Cato Institute wants to privatize both Social Security and the federal public lands. Charles and David own Koch Industries, a $35 billion oil company indicted in 1999 for cheating on its federal-land oil leases. It faced charges of $214 million. The Kochs and their employees contributed generously to George Bush’s several campaigns. David Koch and his wife gave $487,500 exclusively to Republican candidates in the 2000 election cycle. In that cycle Koch Industries contributed over a million dollars, 90% to the G.O.P., Inc.[8]

The Clinton Administration charged Koch Industries with $352 million in pollution and hazardous waste violations. The Bush Administration dropped the charges when Koch Industries agreed to settle for $332 million less. Shortly after that, the Bush Justice Department settled the lease-cheating case for $20 million, saving Koch Industries another $194 million.[9]

The Kochs have given handsomely to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. So did Enron CEO Kenneth Lay. Wendy Gramm, Senator Phillip Gramm’s wife, was an ardent deregulator at Mercatus, and sat on Enron’s Board of Directors.[10]

Mr. Lay in turn was a Trustee of the American Enterprise Institute. He no longer is, but more than half the current trustees are CEO’s of American corporations, including Dow Chemical, State Farm Insurance, Mead Westvaco Corporation, American Express, Merck & Co., Motorola, and Exxon/Mobil.

Vice President Richard Cheney has been a Trustee of the American Enterprise Institute. His wife, Dr. Lynn Cheney, is currently a senior staffer there. So is Richard Perle, a chief architect of the National Security Strategy that drove the invasion of Iraq. So is Michael A. Ledeen who, grateful for Perle’s work, reveled in the success of the Iraqi war. “Every ten years or so,” Ledeen said recently, “the United States needs to pick up some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”[11]

The Annual Dinner of the American Enterprise Institute was held last February 26th, in Washington. The featured speaker was President Bush, who “…delivered a historic address on the need for a new government in Iraq and the role it could play in spreading democracy in the Middle East.” [12] Soon thereafter, justified by a threat we now realize he fabricated, Mr. Bush picked up Iraq and threw it against the wall.

**************************

[1] “Household Food Security in the United States, 2001.” U.S. Department of Agriculture, ERS Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. FANRR29, October, 2002.

[2] See opensecrets.org website, at http://www.opensecrets.org/

[3] See Public Citizen Congress Watch, June 2003

[4] See Center for American Progress, “The Progress Report, December 9, 2003.”

[5] See “How Conservative Philanthropies and Think Tanks Transform US Policy,” by Sally Covington, in Covert Action Quarterly #63, Winter, 1998.

[6] See “The Bad Doctor; Bill Frist’s long record of corporate vice,” by Doug Ireland, in the L.A. Weekly, January 10-16, 2003.

[7] See “Understanding the New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit,” published by Families, USA, Nov. 25, 2003

[8] As reported in “Oil & Gas: Top Contributors,” at http://www.opensecrets.org/

[9] As reported in “Koch Industries and the Pollution of the Bush Whitehouse,” at http://www.mediawhoresonline.com/

[10] See “Bull Market,” by Garance Franke-Ruta, cover story in the Washington City Paper, March 8-14, 2002

[11] As quoted in “The Demonstration Effect,” by Lewis H. Lapham, Harper’s Magazine, June, 2003, p. 11

[12] Described on the American Enterprise Institute website, at http://www.aei.org/about/c

Richard W. Behan’s latest book is Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands (Island Press, 2001). For information about the book go to http://www.rockisland.com/~rwbehan/. Behan is currently working on a more broadly rendered critique, Citizens, Arise! A Patriotic Call to Retrieve Our Democracy.

Werewolves of London

On Lydon’s BBS a while ago, I responded to the posting of an article in the Jewish magazine Forward which stated that at least 2 members of a group of young men who had been seen in an alley “celebrating” while videotaping one of the planes that crashed into the WTC on 9/11 had been identified by the FBI as agents of Mossad. Despite dismissing the report of a “celebration” and the charge in a British newspaper that the incident might show that the Israelis knew ahead of time both the date and target of the attack, anonymous trolls (they’re almost always “anonymous”; we call them “mice” for short) instantly accused me of anti-Semitism for accepting the FBI’s conclusion and then proceeded to call me a series of other foul names for attacking the “celebration” and claiming that Mossad knew ahead of time that the attacks were coming, both of which I had specifically cast doubt on or outright debunked.

The right-wing attack-dogs of the GOP have pioneered the tactic of labeling anyone who criticizes a Bush policy as anti-American or a Sharon policy as anti-Semitic. The jingoist “patriots” of LimbaughLand have cheerfully accepted and spread this nasty strategy for so long that it’s almost an article of faith for them–they now believe their own propaganda. Certainly it functions well in cutting off debate on questionable policies–at least, it does as far as they’re concerned. Once you say something–anything, really–that allows them to call you a traitor, all hopes of rational discussion are over. I mean, what can you say to a traitor? What could he say that you might need to listen to? Nothing. And that’s the name of the game for the Bushies and the radical right wing that supports them: stifle the criticism, cut off the debate.

Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds, the two most influential of the right-wing bloggers, have made this tactic a centerpiece of their approach; Ann Coulter has written a whole book equating Democrats with traitors; and various members of the Bush Administration themselves–most notably Rumsfeld and Cheney–have resorted to the tactic freely and often on national tv whenever questions are raised about their decisions.

So it didn’t surprise any of us when Bush-buddy Blair mimicked the tactics of Junior’s minions and slammed the quarter-million protestors in London by calling them anti-American. Mother Jones reports that:

Blair denounced “resurgent anti-Americanism” and called on Europeans to use Mr. Bush’s trip to drop their caricatured view of United States policy. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw echoed his remarks last week and described criticism of George W Bush’s state visit to Britain as “fashionable anti-Americanism”.

But it apparently came as something of a surprise to the Brits, who aren’t used to this sort of thing. George Monbiot, writing in the Evening Standard (available online at OutlookIndia.com), sounds both bemused by the charge and a trifle angry:

Those of us who oppose George Bush’s policies are often accused of being “anti-American”. It’s an odd charge. No one suggests that people who don’t like Tony Blair are “anti-British”. It seems to be an attempt to discredit us by suggesting that we are motivated not by reasonable political objections, but by an old and visceral contempt for an “upstart nation”.But perhaps the gravest of the charges we can lay against George Bush is that he is himself an anti-American. His style of government stands at odds with everything we were led to believe the United States of America represents. There is first the question of his election. The evidence that the electoral roll in Florida was rigged in order to exclude black voters appears to be compelling. The conduct of his party both during and after that election appears to be a grotesque insult to the nation which invented modern, Jacksonian democracy.

Then there is his assault upon civil liberties. The Patriot Act he pushed through Congress erodes many of the freedoms the American constitution appears to guarantee. In the offshore prison camp of Guantanamo Bay, Bush appears to have built his own Bastille, in which people are jailed indefinitely without charge or trial. George Washington and Thomas Paine must be turning in their graves.

But the greatest of all his offences against American values is his construction of what looks very much like an imperial project. If the US stands for anything in the popular imagination it stands for national sovereignty and self-determination. It tore itself away from a grasping empire – our own – and declared its opposition to all subsequent attempts to bend sovereign peoples to the will of a distant nation. It came to the rescue of its old imperial oppressor when our own sovereignty was threatened by Hitler, and ever since then we have identified America as the champion of those nations which struggle against occupying powers. But now Bush has invaded and conquered a sovereign nation and installed in it a regime scarcely distinguishable from the old European colonial authorities.

What we have been enduring the past couple of years must finally be called by its right name: a Cult of Personality, the “L’etat, c’est moi” religion of “The Leader Can Do No Wrong”. Bush and his supporters have cut through democratic platitudes about govt ruled by the people straight to a Stalinist identification of the Leader as the State. For them the two are synonymous–to criticize one is to criticize the other since they are one and the same.

Monbiot is onto something here: Bush and the Bushies are profoundly anti-American in outlook and actions. The Cult of Personality suits dictatorships just fine but is at root virulently antagonistic to the plurality and diversity of democracy–so antagonistic, in fact, that it is virtually impossible for the two to co-exist. Even DeGaulle eventually learned that.

Monbiot ends his essay with a plea for protestors to “flood the streets”:

This week, Tony Blair will be showing Bush around town much as an imperial prefect might have led the Roman emperor around a newly-acquired domain. We cannot depose this new emperor (it is even doubtful whether his own citizens can do so), but we can show him that his policies, and our government’s submission to them are unwelcome here.It is sometimes easy to forget, in the midst of a furious crowd, that all our liberties were acquired not through polite representation, but by means of insurrection and protest – from the Boston tea party to the demonstrations of the suffragettes. When the governing powers lose sight of the people, protest is often the only means of reminding our leaders that we still exist. It is messy and troublesome, but it is often all we have.

Our purpose is to show the American people that even the people of the nation Bush regards as his closest political ally reject his policies. Nothing could be more damaging to a man whose credibility is already gravely challenged at home. Let us peacefully flood the streets of London on Thursday, not because we hate George Bush’s country, but because we love the values it is supposed to embody.

Reports suggest they’ve followed his advice. May we do likewise when our chance comes.

Luskin and the RWNM v Krugman

INTERMISSION

I don’t know if my tiny core of readers (which I estimate is less than 50 at this point–though they are 50 truly discerning and intelligent folk with impeccable taste, which goes without saying since they read me1) knows or cares who Atrios is, let alone Donald Luskin, and as a rule I try to avoid the kind of inbred, talking-to-ourselves by-play that blogging is heir to, but a recent post by a blogger I like–John McKay at archy–goosed me to for once break my rule. First, the background (from McKay):

Luskin, for those new to this story, writes an NRO column and a blog primarily dedicated to hating Paul Krugman, the best columnist at the New York Times (note my lack of link to Luskin, I’ll get back to that). Luskin’s May 7 NRO column was called “We Stalked, He Balked” and was based on the idea that by getting Krugman to answer the claims of Luskin and his “squad” they somehow had him on the defensive (Krugman has been so fatally damaged by Luskin that he was nominated for a Nobel Prize this year).On October 5 Atrios posted an item on his indispensable Blog, Eschaton, with the title “Diary of a Stalker” that had a pointer to Luskin’s blog and no further comment. Luskin’s main post that day was called “Face To Face With Evil,” and described attending at a lecture and book signing by Paul Krugman. Apparently Luskin feels that throwing his own words back in his face is libel and complained. He was especially upset at some of the comments that were made by people who had the gall to actually go to his site and read his words. Atrios picks up the story:

“In my correspondence with Luskin he asked that I take down the post because of the comments, and said I had an obligation to do so. I asked if he meant a legal or ethical obligation, and he didn’t respond. I then informed him that if he would tell me which comments he specifically was unhappy with I would be happy to delete them. He declined this offer, and said I should just take them all down.”

That’s not good enough for Luskin and he has retained a lawyer. Luskin’s attorney, described by Kos as a “dumbass sleazebag lawyer (Jeffrey J. Upton of Hanify & King P.C.),” officially notified Atrios of their demand that he remove post and comments deemed objectionable by Luskin. In an apparent non sequitur, the paragraph describing Atrios’ dastardly crimes ended with the sentence: “Determining your identity for the purpose of making service of process can be easily accomplished through a subpoena to Blogspot.com.”

OK. Everybody up to speed now? Here’s the portion of McKay’s post that got to me:

Atrios’ secret identity is as closely guarded as that of Superman or the Batman. Even the Joker and Lex Luthor are far too honorable opponents to think of fighting that dirty (Brainiac might, but he’s a machine lacking such subtle emotions as honor). However, outing is not too low for Luskin and Upton. The threat is clear, cede editorial control over all mention of Luskin (a public figure by virtue of his NRO column) or lose your privacy. It’s pure, cheap legal intimidation. It’s the very definition of a nuisance suit. And the precedent has a chilling affect on all bloggers.The only way to fight a bully is for everyone to stand up for the victim. Do not let them pick us off one at a time. Do not abstain because you have some quibbles with Atrios. I did not speak up when they came for the Jews and all that. This is easy for me to say, because I like Atrios, but I hope some conservative and especially libertarian bloggers will see that their interest lies in not allowing this kind of intimidation to stand.

The course of action is clear. First, write about it. Second, boycott Luskin. If you’re linked to him, unlink him. If you are not linked to him, make a link then get rid of it just for the principle of the thing. Third, call the creepy little stalker a creepy little stalker; they can’t sue us all. Fourth, if they do sue Atrios (right now they’re just at the blustering threats stage), send him money. Calpundit has already offered to form the legal defense committee. Fifth, when they come looking Atrios, we all stand up and cry, “I am Atrios.” Sure, that leads to us all being crucified on the Via Appia, but we’ll all laugh about it when we’re older. (emphasis added–m)

McKay is right about the issues and probably about the solution even if, like a lot of other bloggers (including a surprising number of right-wingers), his concern is a trifle overblown. Orcinus puts the legal threat into perspective:

For what it’s worth, I have extensive experience with nuisance lawsuits like this; as Atrios himself notes, these kinds of things are a common way for right-wingers to harass and intimidate their critics. I’ve been subjected to similar threats multiple times over the course of my career, all of them on equally specious grounds.It does mean that Atrios is going to have to go out and hire a reasonably good libel lawyer to file a response, which will cost money in itself. I trust he’ll set up a defense fund, and all of Blogville ought to chip in to fight this one. Moreover, if Luskin does manage to learn his identity, and then reveals it, Atrios himself will have ample grounds for a countersuit.

I’m fairly confident Atrios will find that he will only need for his lawyer to file a reasonable response (which won’t be difficult) concluding with the note: “We look forward to discovery.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard back from my would-be harassers (the list includes a former U.S. senator) after those letters.

S/he’s quite right; Luskin’s suit isn’t a serious threat; it’s a nuisance suit designed to harass and/or intimidate a blogger Donald doesn’t like. There is practically zero chance that anything will come of it except, as Orcinus says, Atrios will be put to the burden of hiring and paying a lawyer to stomp on it. But it is a sign that the wackier wingnuts are beginning to take bloggers seriously enough to threaten them with bogus legal action. Previously this sort of snit-fit was reserved for big guns like Michael Moore or Al Franken who were bringing their obnoxious views to a mass audience in defiance of the orders of right-wing pundits. In a perverse sort of way, I suppose you could see this as blogging’s coming-of-age. Major Barbara of Arms and the Man (a must-read blog if ever there was one) puts blogging itself into historical perspective. S/he writes:

Upton’s letter to Atrios is a very serious threat, to each and every one of us. Anonymous tracts helped create this country, and blogs are today’s pamphlets. Tom Paine and Ben Franklin deserved no more freedom in the 18th century than bloggers do today.

Well, *blushing to be put in the same league with Tom and Ben* s/he makes a good point there. That’s what blogging is about and what drew me to it. It’s the one place in our corporate-media-controlled environment which they don’t yet own, and which is wide enough and deep enough and open enough to encompass anybody who can afford to be online–a minimal expense in today’s economy (let’s face it, if I can afford it, almost anybody can)–and has something worth saying. It’s hard to get heard, of course–Technocrati tracks over a million blogs, including Omnium–but it’s possible. Which, aside from getting a letter-to-the-editor published in your local newspaper, is more than you can say for the rest of the corporate-controlled outlets.

What Luskin’s hissy-fit shows is that with some success in getting your message out comes interest from the P’s-That-B and opposition wingnuts in stopping you. These are not exactly rational or tolerant folk we’re dealing with. Ann Coulter thinks that anybody who disagrees with her should be taken behind her upscale hair salon and shot; Tom Delay thinks anybody who disagrees with him is ipso facto an enemy of America; and Dick Cheney thinks that if someone disagrees with him it’s de jure proof that they’re insane. A lot of the far right-wing is, shall we say?, awfully, maybe overly, sensitive to opposition. Digby puts it in a nutshell:

When, exactly, did the right wing become such a bunch of lame-assed pussies, anyway? These are the big, bad motherfuckers who are going to run the world? If this is any indication of how they take a punch, Jenna Bush had better get used to wearing a burka, because Osama bin Laden is going to be sitting in the White House within the next decade.The whining, the crying, the wringing of the hands about “political hate speech,” the law suits over hurt feelings, running away from interviews with a 5’2″ woman because she was “aggressive,” snivelling about “leftist homophobia” for making fun of the simpering drooling over Bush’s “masculinity” — it’s all so pathetic.

We’ve got nothing to worry about folks. Limbaugh’s in rehab because he couldn’t take the pain and had to hide his illegal “little blue babies” under the bed so his meanie of a wife wouldn’t get all mad at him, Bennett spent years furtively cowering behind the “Beverly Hillbillies” video poker machine at the Mirage so that nobody would recognize him, Coulter’s having little temper tantrums on national TV because she’s not being “treated fairly,” and Junior travels with his own special pillow and can’t even give up his favowit, widdle butterscotch candies for longer than an hour and a half.

All codpiece, no filling.

Indeed.

But that’s not necessarily something to laugh off. We can now because we can afford to, and that’s where the more serious issue arises.

What the Bushies and their Norquist-wing allies are essentially trying to do to the legal system is pack it with judges who would support nuisance suits like Luskin’s when they come from the right and are aimed against the left but throw them out of court without a hearing if the direction is reversed. They want a judiciary so slanted and so far to the right that they will never again have to suffer the slings and arrows of criticism without the healing balm of legally-exacted revenge to salve their bruised and battered egos.

Look at the kind of people they’ve been trying to pack the Federal bench with if you doubt it. In every case, they’ve chosen judges who have made decisions contrary to law whenever they had to to protect conservative interests, judges whose decisions prove that their ideological beliefs trump their belief in the rule of law to the point that one begins to get the impression that they think “the rule of law” is nothing but a minor inconvenience they can ignore whenever they feel like it. If the ultra-conservatives were to succeed in what they’re trying to do to the courts, Luskin’s threat would not only be real, it would be very, very dangerous.

That we can still laugh this off is largely due to the courageous work–much less heralded than it should be–of the Democrats in Congress who have managed, despite the way the majority treats the minority (the so-called “Energy Bill” was written entirely by Republicans in committee, and the committee leadership allowed only 2 Democrats to “observe”, forbidding them from speaking on pain of expulsion), to block these anti-democratic appointments through sustained and co-ordinated use of the filibuster.

I have been–and will no doubt continue to be–as critical of weak (when it isn’t non-existent) Democratic opposition in other areas as I think necessary, but nobody can fault their unsung heroism in stopping these heinous imperial judicial appointments for 2 solid years. If they accomplish nothing else (and they may not the way they’re going), this alone makes them worthy of our admiration and respect.

Go Team!

PS. If I haven’t made it clear, Atrios had every right to post what he did and Luskin is a creepy little stalker and a monument to fruitcakes everywhere. End of story.

1. Edited for flattery

Tom Friedman Can’t Write

I haven’t chimed in on the Friedman debate which has enraptured a number of the members of the blogoisie because while I sometimes agree with him and sometimes don’t, what really drives me nuts about the guy isn’t what he says but how he says it. Tom Friedman can’t write.

Here’s an example from today’s NYT:

Most Democrats either opposed the war (a perfectly legitimate position) or supported it and are now trying to disown it. That means the only serious opposition can come from Republicans….

I’m sorry? Would Mr Friedman care to explain why opposition to the war means you can’t be a serious opponent of the war? Apparently not. In Mr. Friedman’s world, this is a given so obvious it doesn’t need to be explained, but the rest of us who are underprivileged enough that we have to live in the real world would like to know.

I don’t think that’s exactly what he meant. I’m not sure what he meant though I think he’s suggesting, for unexplained reasons, that opposition to the war before it was launched negates criticism of problems arising in the post-war period. But that’s not what he said. The construction (a very poor one) forces the reader to assume that Mr. Friedman believes that “serious” opposition to the war in Iraq can only come from people who support the war in Iraq, which is going to cut the opposition down to himself and, maybe, David Brooks (I don’t count Rummy’s recent snowflake because it has nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do with consolidating his own power). I suppose we should be thankful that he allowed as how Democratic opposition was “perfectly legitimate” even if it couldn’t be “serious”.

My problem with Friedman is that in every single column there’s at least one hopelessly confusing construction (often in the 2nd paragraph for some reason) that leaves one scratching one’s head wondering either: “Did he really mean to say that?” or “What the hell does that mean?” I get the impression sometimes that, perhaps forced by the constriction of column-length, he left something out that would fill in the blank. Other times, it’s something that seems to come from so far out in left field in the context of the column that one assumes it must belong in some other piece and got stuck into this one by mistake.

This contextual confusion tends to create internal inconsistencies that are difficult to reconcile with his main point. For example, if Mr Friedman did mean what I suggested he meant, the only way his apparent separation of “the war” and “the post-war” phases could be consistent is if he believed (not to belabor the obvious) that the war is over. Does he? Well, actually, No. He says later in the column:

Attacks on our forces are getting more deadly, not less. Besides those killed, we’ve had 900 wounded or maimed. We need to take this much more seriously. We’re not facing some ragtag insurrection. We’re facing an enemy with a command and control center who is cleverly picking off our troops and those Iraqi leaders and foreigners cooperating with us. Either we put in the troops needed to finish the war, and project our authority, or we get the Iraqi Army to do the job — but pretending that we’re just “mopping up” is a dangerous illusion.

He is actually chiding the Bush Admin for their refusal to acknowledge that the war is still going on, so how could he logically justify claiming that we are in a post-war phase? This kind of stuff is the reason I rarely read him and don’t waste my time criticizing him: who the hell knows what he was actually trying to say?

As Friedman has consistently been one of the most influential voices in the punditocracy, the confusion his writing often generates is a real problem, which is a shame because a lot of what I think he might be saying deserves “serious” consideration and debate, as in today’s piece. Doesn’t he have an editor? Somebody who could ask the 2 questions listed above before the column gets printed and suggest some clarification? Or does the NYT assume that everybody it hires can write and so it can afford to dispense with frivolities and useless extras like “editing”?

I don’t know what the answers to those questions are but it would be a lot easier on us readers (infelicitous constructions in the NYT are not exclusive to Friedman) if there was somebody around whose job it was to say, “Um, guys? This paragraph doesn’t make any sense….”

But I ain’t holding my breath.

David Brooks Can’t Write – Or Think

Somehow, the more of David Brooks’ stuff I read, the less surprising it is that this rather–can we say “superficial”?–thinker was so thoroughly taken in by some pretty obvious right-wing propaganda. The wonder isn’t that he fell under its spell in the first place, the wonder is that he ever scraped together the intellectual wherewithal to escape.

Witness the first paragraph of his latest NYT Op-Ed piece:

Imagine if James Madison and the other Founding Fathers had tried to write a constitution while carriages were being blown up on the roads from Boston to Philadelphia. Imagine if, instead of holding their debates in complete secrecy, they had been forced to conduct them in the full glare of the global media. Imagine if they had been forced to write that document while America’s neighbors worked to ensure their failure.

Can you imagine an opening paragraph that could manage to miss the key point as thoroughly as this one did? And so far as I know, there aren’t even any exploding carriages outside his townhouse to wreck his concentration.

Imagine, David, if the FF’s had to write a constitution under the noses of a British Colonial Govt watching their every move and holding veto power over any clause they didn’t like. Imagine if they had been forced to write that document on orders from the Foreign Minister while British soldiers broke into the homes of their friends and family and put bags over their heads when they arrested them for sedition. Imagine if they had been forced to write that document while their neighbors and allies were too busy protecting themselves from threatened British invasions of their own countries to be of any help. Imagine.

If you can imagine those things, you can begin to understand how difficult it is going to be for Iraqis to write their constitution.

And yet, Mr. Brooks avers, “things are going pretty well.”

Things are also going well because while Americans are making most of the decisions about how Iraq is run now, they are not dominating the constitution-writing process. “It has to be an Iraqi product,” a senior Bush administration official insists.

Uh-huh. Well, I’m convinced. It’s not like the Bushies ever lie, or anything. I’m sure neither Bremer nor Cheney nor Wolfie nor any of our other vested officials would interfere. Why should they? While they keep the Iraqis busy pounding out a document that may never be adopted, they’re selling off the country to foreign business interests (except oil, thank you very much, which we’ll just hold onto for a little while if you don’t mind–well, even if you do, frankly–until Shell and Chevron have it locked up) who plan to be too well-entrenched (and US-protected) to be removed no matter what the Iraqis need or want, say or do.

I don’t mean to belittle the serious work the more serious Iraqis are trying to do. It’s not impossible that one day the constitution they’re struggling with may actually have a chance to be enacted.

But with the US restricting their options from the outside and would-be dictator/autocrats like Ahmad Chalabi worming their way into power from the inside, the realistic chances that the Constitution they’re slaving over will ever be the foundation of their govt as ours is rather than a largely-ignored token gesture with little real force and even less influence aren’t good.

But Mr. Brooks is so focused on how impressive it is that we’re letting them play at being independent that he’s aquiver with excitement and blind to the dark shapes looming not that far off-screen.

If he were a movie character, he’d be Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.

Rush to Oxycontin

archy on Rush’s, um, little indiscretion:

As a bleeding heart liberal, my first impulse is to feel compassion for the suffering and tragic trajectory that have led this poor man to the degrading depths of addiction. But Rush wouldn’t want it that way. As a champion of the personal weakness theory of addiction, I’m sure he’ll want us demand that he take some damn responsibility for his life and grow the fuck up. However painful it might be for us, the only way we can respect the man’s belief system is to gang up and kick him while he’s down.

I agree. Go get ‘im.