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Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)

31.8.04

Sad, but true
 

I'm sure this wasn't what the Republican National Committee had in mind. On the other hand, I think this image says all that needs to be said about the way the Republicans tend to treat the troops they so often lionize. Praise them to the skies when the cameras are turned on. Once the limelight fades, into the trash with them.

Our men and women in uniform deserve better than this. They deserve to have a commander-in-chief who doesn't treat them like yesterday's fish-wrapper.


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Flop!
 

(Or maybe that should be "Flop-sweat.")

Commander Codpiece has proven himself to be a flip-flopper extraordinaire. After appearing yesterday on NBC's Today show and declaring that he didn't think we could win the War on Terra, the Flip-Flopper-in-Chief has apparently changed his mind:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - President Bush will tell the nation's largest veterans' group Tuesday that "we will win" the war on terror, seeking to quell controversy and Democratic criticism of his remark aired a day earlier that victory in the anti-terror battle may not be possible, his spokesman said.

Oops.

Now, to be fair to the preznit, there's probably good reason to think we aren't going to win the War on Terra. For one thing, "war" is really not the right way to go about fighting terrorists. Sending the First Armored Division after a creepy bunch of shadowy figures with a distressing tendency to disappear without warning before reappearing someplace else half a world away is not likely to be a winning strategery. In fact, sending in the First Armored Division to smoke the terrorists out of their hidey-holes (destroying everything in reasonable proximity thereto, of course) is likely to anger and inflame even more people than the huge numbers that are already pissed off at us. Many of those newly enraged folk might wind up in the terrorists' ranks.

However, it is quite distressing (to this observer, at least) that it's taken three and a half years for Emperor C+ Augustus to figure out this sad fact of life. Anybody with a halfway decent high school education and a handful of functioning brain cells could have told him as much oh, long about 12 September, 2001. Also distressing is the preznit's willingness (and the eagerness of his surrogates, as witness the entire program at the RepugliCon in New York last night) to invoke the events of 11 September, 2001 to make him look good. It seems the War on Terra is winnable whenever it makes Commander Codpiece look a little less like a six-foot-high steaming pile of shit, to borrow a phrase from the Rude Pundit.

The fact that, at least in his saner, more sober moments, Dumb-ya is apparently sufficiently not-stupid to recognize that a victory in the War on Terra is a long shot at best, and quite likely impossible, indicates the Brobdingnagian depths of cynicism and the staggeringly callous opportunism that are characteristic of the Shrubbery. Explain to me again why we're supposed to think these boobs are "steady leaders"? Or why we would want to endure any more of them than the hundred-odd days left until they all find themselves out of a job?


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30.8.04

Can it be?
 

Is the Dear Leader a great big honkin'..... FLIP-FLOPPER?

Oh, the humanity!

Courtesy of Kos here is the Mother of All Flip-Flops from Commander Codpiece, our War Peace War That Other Thing Preznit:

Dumb-ya on Today, 30 August 2004:

"Can we win?" the war on terror, Bush said, "I don't think you can win it."

Dumb-ya on The Day After the Day That Changed Everything, 12 September 2001:

This battle will take time and resolve. But make no mistake about it: we will win.

Dumb-ya in October 2002:

We will win, because of what we love. We will win because we're determined and strong. We will win because we're a nation which holds values dear to our heart. And we refuse to be intimidated by anybody, at any place, at any time. We will win because we want to uphold our duty and obligation to leave America intact and free, so future generations of people, Hispanic or otherwise, can realize dreams, can succeed, can realize their God-given talents. That's what this is all about.

Dumb-ya in November 2003, after giving a little plastic turkee to the troops:

We will prevail. We will win because our cause is just. We will win because we will stay on the offensive. And we will win because you're part of the finest military ever assembled. And we will prevail because the Iraqis want their freedom.

Dumb-ya this April:

We will win this test of wills, and overcome every challenge, because the cause of freedom and security is worth our struggle.

Now let me see if I've got this right. This is what the Shrubbery thinks is "steady leadership in a time of change"? (Or whatever the hell that lousy slogan was.) This is the guy whom Rudy Giuliani (I know, I know: consider the source. Still.) earlier today fatuously compared to Sir Winston Churchill? More to the point, any rational person would want four more years of this shite why?

Or, to put it another way, "Is our preznit being edumacated yet?"


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Things that make one say "hmmmm"
 

Via ArchPundit comes this interesting quote from Judy Baar Topinka, the last Republican elected state official left standing in Illinois, and also the chairwoman of the Illinois Republican Party:

"He has his own agenda. He doesn't necessarily work within the confines of the Illinois Republican Party," she said. "So, we really don't know what Mr. Keyes is doing, when, until he alerts us. He lets us know--when he feels so moved to let us know--where he is.

"I don't know if it's a good thing," for the party, she added. "It certainly seems to be his way."

When the chair of the state party doesn't know what her party's candidate for U.S. Senate is doing unless said candidate bothers to inform her, I can't say as that inspires a great deal of confidence in either the candidate or the party which he allegedly represents. Opensecrets.org reports that as of the end of June, Keyes had raised not quite $40,000. Frankly, I'm amazed it's that much, and I wouldn't care to lay odds that the Illinois Republican Party is going to be doing much to fill his coffers.

Remember, "may you live in interesting times" is supposed to be a curse.


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29.8.04

This just in
 

In a startling revelation, a new group has made some shocking allegations with the potential to do serious damage to the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Calling themselves Galilean Citizens for the Truth, the group alleges that Jesus Christ may not have been the Lord and Saviour he claimed to be. One group member claims that Jesus "has not been honest about his record." And in the most stunning claim of all, the procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate, went on record as saying "His wounds were minor and completely self-inflicted."

Despite repeated attempts, neither Jesus nor any of his spokesmen were available for comment.

Developing...


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28.8.04

I have GOT to get me one of these!
 

Of course, it would help if I had a yard to put one in. Details, shmetails. Gnomes for of Bush!
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The commander's codpiece is on fire...
 

...again.

Jeebus, you'd think these people would have learned by now that there are these wonderful things called computers that can connect to this cool new toy called the internet, which features some great little things called websites and databases, and that all sorts of things that used to be hard to track down are now accessible in seconds with just a couple of mouse clicks and a reasonable facility with the English language. Apparently not.

Anyway, we have another data point or three to add to the population of the Lies of George W. Bush:

"I don't make decisions based on polls."

(Press conference, 3 October, 2003)

"The president's engagement goes far beyond voter drives. He calls Mr. Rove most mornings, sometimes as early as 6 a.m., for an update on everything from the latest state polls to what Mr. Kerry said the night before, aides said.... His conversations with Mr. Rove - often by telephone as Mr. Rove is driving to work; sometimes in the Oval Office at 8 a.m. - amount to two seasoned political operatives sharing a take on the lay of the land. The subjects, Mr. Rove said in an interview: "What's the general buzz, state polls, what is out there as major activity in the campaign, voter registration numbers."

(New York Times, 27 August, 2004)

That same story also makes mincemeat out of Dumb-ya's claim (in an interview with Diane Sawyer last December) that he didn't read newspapers, preferring to get his news "from people who don't editorialize." Before he calls up Unca Karl for his daily discussion of the polls, Dumb-ya pores over the newspapers in the residence, quoth the Gray Lady.

That last could cut both ways for Bush. On the one hand, it is nice to know that the guy who's got access to the launch codes is apparently not too dumb to be able to read a newspaper himself. On the other hand, how the hell can he read that stuff each and every morning and (a) still believe he has any chance of winning this election, and (b) still lack anything even remotely resembling a clue to what's going on in the world and how bad things really are out there beyond his cushy Secret Service bubble?


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JoeMentum! is back
 

From an interview yesterday on Faux News with Chris Wallace (subbing in for ass-hat Brit Hume). Wallace had asked Alan Keyes what would happen if he got "shellacked" in the November election:

Get shellacked? That's not even on the table. A matter of fact, the Democrats are running so scared, and my opponent has been running scared since I stepped into the race. I think it's just the opposite. We are building up the kind of momentum that has struck fear into the heart of both Obama and the Democrats in Illinois.

Oh, yeah. We're just quaking in our boots at how close the race has gotten. So many candidates have come back from 41-point deficits with two months to go before the election that we're really starting to crap in our drawers at the prospects that you might conceivably lose by only 35 points.

Meanwhile, a little later than I had intended (we had a total power failure in our neck of the woods for a couple of hours this morning), here's what the Chicago Tribune had to say this morning on yesterday's spat over Keyes being on the Illinois ballot at the State Board of Elections:

A spat at the Illinois State Board of Elections over whether Republican leaders had the power to replace Jack Ryan with Alan Keyes as the Senate nominee threatened to hold up certification of the entire November election ballot, which by law had to be approved by Friday.

[edit]

On Friday, the action moved to the eight-member elections panel, which is split evenly between the two major parties. The board's Democrats said they weren't sure state law allowed substituting Keyes for Ryan.

A sometimes dramatic, four-hour standoff produced a rare instance of unity between the conservative Keyes campaign and that of the more liberal Democratic nominee, Barack Obama. Both said the Republican deserved to be on the ballot and sent representatives from their campaigns scurrying to the Thompson Center, where the board was meeting.

Obama's position notwithstanding, Keyes was quick to charge Democrats with political shenanigans. But if that was the case, the motive was hard to figure.

[edit]

In the end, all it apparently took to resolve the issue was a five-minute call to the board from a lawyer with the Republican National Committee who said the party thought the selection of Keyes was on the square.

Even though they finally relented and voted to allow Keyes on the ballot, Democratic board members said they still reserved the right to change their minds next week if some remaining questions about what the lawyer said aren't answered to their satisfaction.

[edit]

Although state law provides guidance on how to replace nominees for other statewide and congressional offices, it apparently is silent when it comes to how to fill a vacancy for what will be printed on the ballot for U.S. Senate.

[edit]

With state law requiring the board to certify the ballot by the end of the day, members allowed the entire state ballot to become hostage to the dispute over Keyes. At one point, the four Democrats voted against a motion to certify the ballot as long as Keyes was on it. Minutes later, all the Republicans voted against a motion to certify the ballot with everyone on it except Keyes.

Later, when one Democratic member threatened to leave before things were resolved, a Republican on the panel pleaded for him to stay and offered to buy drinks at a nearby tavern while they awaited the call to come in from the RNC attorney, who was in New York preparing for the party's national convention.

Finally, as the board members munched on doughnuts in place of dinner, the crisis was resolved after listening to the Republican lawyer on a speakerphone as he cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that had allowed Democratic leaders in California to select a replacement candidate.

[edit]

The resolution came several hours after a Republican board member left the meeting because he was late for a pig roast, granting his proxy to another of the Republicans who stayed behind.

Shorter version: State law is not clear on the question of who gets to make replacements for U.S. Senate candidates if they withdraw or are otherwise moved off the ballot. State law also requires that ballots be certified by the State Board of Elections before they can be printed and distributed to the local precincts, which must happen at least 60 days before any election involving candidates for federal office. (Yesterday was 66 days before the November 2 election.) Obama did not ask the board to boot Keyes, nor did he support the board's attempt to do so on legitimate legal grounds.

I particularly liked the part where the Republican members of the board offered their Democratic counterparts drinks as an incentive to get them to stay in the meeting. Especially given that apparently one of their own members felt that going to a pig roast was more important than performing his constitutional duty.

In any event, this is a non-story. It got about a minute of air time on the Chicago news last night, and a small box on the front page of this morning's Tribune, plus a jump to page 16 with the rest of the story. It will be over and forgotten by Monday everywhere except in Alan Keyes' warped little mind.


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27.8.04

Breaking: We may not have a carpetbagger after all
 

The Illinois State Board of Elections (whose server seems a little, um, busy right now) has apparently refused to certify the November ballot as required by law before it can be printed and distributed. Apparently the sticking point is the candidacy of carpetbagging Marylander Alan Keyes for U.S. Senate.

I'll keep checking on this throughout the evening. The board is apparently still meeting, and things are up in the air right now. But as things now stand, Alan the Loon may not have to wait until November to go back to Maryland.

Update: He's back on the ballot, dammit. Again from Capitol Fax:

UPDATE 6:7:21 pm - "Lots of case law," thrown at them by the RNC lawyer reportedly convinced the recalcitrant Democrats on the Board of Elections to switch their votes. They are now printing the certification forms and then will reportedly adjourn for the evening. That's it for tonight, barring more weirdness. UPDATE 5: 7:15 pm - The State Board of Elections has reportedly unanimously voted to certify the entire ballot. Keyes' candidacy is saved. More later.

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Oh, the humanity!
 

Courtesy of Left of the Middle, here's the Alan Keyes Quote of the Day for yesterday:

Instead of being afraid of defending ourselves, we would do well to follow a course of action that re-educated our people in the means of their self-defense, and it would, by the way, provide an armed citizenry that would make terrorists think twice and three times before they dared to threaten our people.

And probably cause that armed citizenry to think less than once before daring to threaten other armed citizens, or even unarmed ones. Aren't there enough bullets flying around our streets these days, without unleashing hordes of mouth-breathing gun-nuts and their concealed weapons?

Please. This is a "solution" in search of a problem. And a candidate in search of a base of support, which he is unlikely to find in Illinois.

(Hat tip to ArchPundit.)


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26.8.04

Goopers just found their convention theme
 

Reuters is reporting that a federal judge in Manhattan has ruled unconstitutional the so-called "partial-birth abortion" ban that the Shrubbery rammed through Congress in 2003. He made the ruling on the grounds that the law failed to provide exceptions to protect the health of the mother.

U.S. District Judge Richard Casey "condemned the late-term procedure as 'gruesome' and 'barbaric,'" but concluded that the law prohibiting the procedure violated a Supreme Court ruling that mandates exceptions for women's health. A federal judge in San Francisco enjoined enforcement of the law there in June. Ass-Crotch, as expected, has announced the intention of the Justice Department to appeal. Fortunately, his term as attorney general will likely be over by the time the Supreme Court could hear such an appeal, even assuming they would agree to take it, which is far from certain.

I have to agree with Judge Casey. Intact dilation and extraction is a gruesome procedure, and it has its barbaric aspects. But the same thing can readily be said of many, if not most surgical procedures. I would absolutely want intact D&X to be a procedure of last resort, to be used only when all other possibilities have been exhausted.

But that's also why I have to agree with his ruling. The available evidence suggests that intact D&X is a very rarely used procedure, all the screaming and the foaming at the mouth from the wingnuts notwithstanding. And I'm very damn sure that I don't want a bunch of fanatics (or my government) telling my doctor that he may not utilize an available procedure (especially when my life is on the line) because some people don't like it. If I want that security when it's me and my doctor in the examining room, I can't very well turn around and tell a woman that she can't have it when it's her and her obstetrician and she's got a significant complication late in her pregnancy.

I don't expect to see the Goopers parsing this decision in those terms next week, however. Judge Casey followed the terms of his oath: he upheld a ruling of the Supreme Court, as against an ill-advised law that was always more of a symbolic fig-leaf than a legitimate piece of legislation. But I guarantee, all we'll hear from the Goopers in New York next week will be "activist judges" this and "moral decay" that, yadda, yadda, yadda. Like we couldn't have predicted that already--and fat lot of good it is likely to do them.


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Pie Iesu Domine, dona eis requiem!
 

Cue the choir to start singing the Requiem for the Illinois Republican Party. The following is from the managing editor of Illinois Leader, the main conservative Republican portal for Illinois:

Along with the refreshing, honest and bold declarations Keyes brings to Illinois has come an energy that is just beginning to take hold throughout the grassroots. Everywhere Keyes speaks, he energizes and motivates people into believing they can make a difference if they simply catch a vision of what he sees.

It took an out-of-stater with the boldness of Keyes to come to Illinois, assess the situation and issue a prognosis spelling the demise of a once-healthy and lively IL GOP if a dramatic course of action is not taken immediately.

So convinced is Ms. Eaton of the rightness and the righteousness of the Keyes campaign, she has taken a leave of absence from her duties at the Leader to work on the Keyes campaign.

Add this to the growing pile of evidence in favor of the proposition that the ultra-conservatives in the Republican Party are completely out of touch with reality. I would not (and the overwhelming majority of Illinois voters appear to agree with me) call anything that Alan Keyes has said since the GOP tapped his carpetbagging arse to run for the Senate either "refreshing" or "honest," though I'll give her "bold."

I would also disagree with Ms. Eaton that Keyes represents a solution to "the demise of a once-healthy and lively IL GOP." Dramatic action may indeed have been required to resurrect the fading hopes of the party to restore itself to relevance, but I don't think bringing in a certifiably crazy carpetbagger at the last minute was the right dramatic action to take. There, too, the polling numbers would appear to bear me out.

Keyes is going to go down in flames this November. Big flames. And then he's going to slink back to Maryland and try to parlay his failed bid for the Senate into more time and higher fees on the lecture-and-book-tour circuit. He's not going to stick around and do the hard work of rebuilding the Illinois Republican Party. Nor, I suspect, are the types of folks who are being "energized and motivated" by Keyes' fire-and-brimstone speeches. If they gave a rat's arse about working for the Republican Party, they'd have been out in the trenches long since. They'll come out and cheer for Keyes for the next couple of months, and then they'll disappear back into the woodwork once he leaves the state.

Ms. Eaton quotes with approval these words from Novakula, on last weekend's "Capital Gang" on CNN:

I think it is a very good idea to have this, because the Republican Party of Illinois is a basket case. It's [made up of] people who don't believe in anything, who had 20 years of Republican governors who were moderates. They missed the Reagan Revolution. The reason that they [are] one of five states with no job - no economic - increase is because they have such high taxes.

That Novak could call Illinois taxes "high" indicates that while he may have been from here, he hasn't spent much time in the Land of Lincoln recently. State income taxes are at 3 percent--where they have been for most of my working life. And the end result of that stagnation is the fact that the state is somewhere between $4 and $5 billion in the hole, and slashing programs to the bone to get by. Property taxes are on the high end, though that is at least partly due to the fact that local governments are having to pick up the slack when the state and federal levels don't come through.

And it would be a good idea for Novakula (and Ms. Eaton, and Mr. Keyes) to remember the main reason why our 20 years of Republican governors were moderates: because three-fourths of Illinois' population, more or less, lives in the City of Chicago and its environs, and they don't much care for Republicans. Red-meat ultra-wing-nut folk like Keyes don't play well in Chicago. Never have. Never will. And unless there's a huge influx of population into the rest of Illinois, anybody who wants to run for governor is going to have to be acceptable to the Chicago bloc of voters. Otherwise, they're doomed from the word "go."

Another fact that Mr. Keyes would do well to keep in mind for the next 70-odd days.


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My condolences
 

To my fellow blogger TBogg, whose father died yesterday. He and his family are in my thoughts and prayers.


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That's 36 million too many
 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 36 million U.S. residents were living in poverty last year--an increase of 1.3 million from the 2002 numbers. Children and minorities were worse off than most, according to the report.

Those are abysmal numbers, no getting around it. But here's something else that bugs me about this story. The first sentence of the Reuters report I've linked to above reads as follows: "Some 1.3 million Americans slid into poverty in 2003 despite the economic recovery..." (emphasis mine).

As Jon Stewart would say, "Whaaaaaaaa?"

How the hell do you call it an "economic recovery" when there are more poor people this year than there were last year? Or when fully an eighth of the total U.S. population can't earn enough money to afford basic necessities like food and shelter? Or when "incomes were essentially stagnant" according to the Census Bureau report?

It's not an economic recovery until more people are working this year than last year. It's not an economic recovery until there are fewer people trying to find work this year than there were last year. It's not an economic recovery until people are making more than they were last year--and that increase actually means something besides the fact that they may be able to keep up with the rising cost of living. It's not an economic recovery when people are still losing their jobs to outsourcing and overseas job migration, and then, if they're "lucky," can find work at a fast-food joint or at Mall-Wart, where they'll make a fraction of what they used to. It's not an economic recovery when people max out on their unemployment benefits and then stop bothering to look for work, because there just isn't any to be had. It's not an economic recovery when more than 300,000 people apply for 3,000 temporary jobs.

In short, it's not an economic recovery. Not by a long shot. It's a stagnant economy if we're lucky. It's an economy swirling the toilet bowl if we're not.

And that's definitely something to keep in mind when you step into the voting booth November 2. Do we want four more years of "same old, same old," or do we want to try something different?


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25.8.04

Game. Set. Match.
 

Triple-amputee and Vietnam veteran Max Cleland is stopped by a sheriff's deputy and several Secret Service agents from paying a call on the preznit, down on the, uh, farmette in Texas. Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe this election is now over. Kerry by a landslide.

Update: The gentleman in the flak jacket is apparently a Secret Service agent. Though there's a squad car in the picture, it seems to be there just for show. Plus, the paper the agent is holding is, according to Mrs. Atrios, a copy of this letter from nine senators, asking the preznit to denounce the Lying Scumbags for Character Assassination. I can't make out all of the signatures, but the ones I can read include Frank Lautenberg, Daniel Ikaka, Tom Harkin, Fritz Hollings, and Bill Nelson.


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God be good to her
 

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has died, aged 78.

The most important thing Kubler-Ross did was bring death out of the dark for the medical community, said Carol Baldwin, a research associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona and who worked as a nurse in one of the nation's first hospices in 1979.

"She really set the standards for how to communicate with the dying and their loved ones," Baldwin said recently. "Families learned that it's not a scary thing to watch someone die."

The funny thing is, Kübler-Ross learned that by growing up in an old-fashioned home where death wasn't hidden from the young. The idea that death is a scary thing from which the young and sensitive must be protected is a very modern invention. A thousand years ago, it would have been laughable. In those days, you had around a 50% chance of surviving past the age of two years--and whole families, including livestock, slept in small huts. They would have seen death on a regular basis--and probably also the creation of life, too, which gave them a bit of perspective.

The one bad thing I can say about Kübler-Ross's work is that it's become so popular and so well-known, that people forget that On Death and Dying, her most famous work, isn't the only book ever written on the topic. In fact, her magnum opus deals with only a very specific subset of the topic: the experiences of people who are themselves dying. I don't in any way want to belittle the book or its importance: but I do want to try to dispel the notion that everyone grieves every loss through a process that looks like the K-R stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance).

The importance of Kübler-Ross's work can be judged, I think, from the reaction it received when it was first published. As a recent feature on NPR noted, some of her colleagues were simply furious with her for working on such a depressing subject. They were worried that if they told their patients they were dying, the patients would lose faith in them as healers, and lose hope--and thus hasten the outcome. Never mind that the patients had the need to prepare themselves and their loved ones, or that the doctors were looking at their patients more in terms of numbers and syndromes and drug and treatment regimens than as human beings going through a quintessentially natural and normal process.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross helped us to remember that fundamental truth. And we're better off for her candor.


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This man is a lunatic!
 

Carpetbagging loon Alan Keyes yesterday called a press conference to attack the "ideological extremism" of Democrat Barack Obama, his rival for the Illinois Senate race this fall. At the press conference, Keyes asserted that the Constitution protects machine-gun ownership:

Declaring "the front line of the war against terror once again involves the citizens," Republican Alan Keyes said Tuesday he believes the U.S. Constitution grants properly trained private individuals the right to own and carry machine guns.

"You're not talking about giving citizens access to atom bombs and other things," the former presidential candidate said. "That's ridiculous."

No, Mr. Keyes, what's ridiculous is that you would deride Senator Obama for ideological extremism even as you demonstrated your own complete lack of connection with reality. Just last week a Chicago family was mourning the death of a bright young girl (age 15) who was killed at a music festival by a teen-ager with a handgun who was actually shooting at someone else. It seems like we hear about such incidents--in Chicago, in Rockford, in Aurora, all over the state--at least once a week. Can you imagine the carnage we would face if these children could walk into a gun shop and pick up an Uzi?

What is ridiculous, Mr. Keyes, is your transplanting yourself here from Maryland less than a month ago, and assuming that you know anything about Illinois, its people, its politics, or its problems--and thinking that you and your radically stupid ideas are a solution to any of them. What is ridiculous is the fact that the Illinois GOP agreed to let you represent them in the coming election.

Fortunately for the citizens of Illinois, Mr. Keyes, of which you really are not one, your latest foray into the theatre of the absurd is likely to kill off any last minute flicker of a chance that you could gain any significant support here. Just wait until this snippet has been repeated four or five times on every radio and television station, and printed in every newspaper in Illinois. By this time next week your polling numbers are going to make your current level of 24% support look huge by comparison. You'll be calling press conferences and making campaign appearances to which no one will show up except perhaps to deride your foolish ideas.

Then, on November 3, you will slink back to Maryland with your tail between your legs, never again to darken the doorsteps (or the television sets) of Illinois and her citizens again. And we'll all be breathing a huge sigh of relief, I guarantee you.

Good-bye and good riddance, Mr. Keyes. I can't say that we of Illinois have been the better for knowing you.


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24.8.04

Once is chance
 

Twice is coincidence.

Three times is a conspiracy.

It's time for the Shrubbery to come clean about the Not-So-Swift Lying Scumbags for Character Assassination. Given that the cat is already well and truly out of the bag, they'd be smart if they admitted now what most of us have suspected all along--the "independent" group was never anything but a front for the CheneyBushCo campaign. First it was Karl Rove's biggest fund-raiser bankrolling them. Then there was a CheneyBushCo campaign staffer appearing in one of their advertisements slanders.

And now it's one of CheneyBushCo's campaign lawyers who just happens to be giving legal advice to the Not-So-Swifties. Of course, if the Shrubbery had any brains, they'd fire the lawyer in question on the grounds of incompetence. If he was worth whatever (hefty, I'm sure) fee the campaign was paying him, he'd have covered his tracks a little better.


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Cheney waffles on gay marriage
 

Reuters is reporting that Big Dick said today that "he does not personally support a constitutional amendment against gay marriage" but accepts Dumb-ya's "decision to pursue such a ban as administration policy."

Major-league asshole. Big time.


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Me likee!
 

The Rude Pundit has a very good point. (Be warned: What follows is un-PC at its best.)

If the Rude Pundit was some kind of magician, he'd halt all the marches and protests in New York. He's take all the money that's being spent on travel, on legal challenges to the obvious discriminatory actions of the city of New York, on the organizing of the protests, and he'd put out TV ads and flyers that say something like, "Silence=Contempt". Yep, he'd start a campaign of silence. Of ignoring the hate spewing from the Garden. Ignore the bullies. Of denying them the chance to portray us as a bunch of lunatics who would dare protest a "sitting President." Make the press coverage about how all these groups are protesting with their absence. Have petitions signed by thousands and thousands of people stating that they are expressing their opposition to the GOP by refusing to acknowledge their presence. Yes, some will try to spin the lack of protest as a sign of support. But the message can be controlled. And empty streets filled with hundreds of cops is a pretty frightening little image, no? Also, it's a way of telling Mayor Bloomberg to go fuck himself with his protester discount buttons.

I like the visual image of thousands of peaceful protesters standing outside of Madison Square Garden with tape over their mouths better, but the Rude One has a point. The Goopers are just edging on the verge of orgasm at the thought of all the campaign ad footage they're going to be able to get if things turn violent in New York next week.

And really, we don't want to interrupt their convention. We want them to go to New York and do their Republican thing. It's certainly been working well for the Democrats thus far: every time a batch of Republicans gets together lately, it seems like they wind up handing us the ammunition with which to slaughter them (rhetorically speaking, of course).

Wait until they're gone. And then we can all have a great big party, making fun of them and all the stupid things they did. That's footage they aren't going to want to use in their campaign ads.


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The full text of Sen. Kerry's "Christmas in Cambodia" speech
 

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth Not-So-Swift Lying Scumbags for Character Assassination are making much of a remark that Senator Kerry made on the floor of the Senate on March 27, 1986, in the context of a debate about aid to the Nicaraguan contras. Of course, they cherry-picked only that part of the speech that they could use to discredit the man for whom their scorn appears to know no bounds--at least this year. Once upon a time, many of them had some highly complimentary things to say about Senator Kerry. But apparently we aren't supposed to remember that. Just like we aren't supposed to look at all of his speech: just the bits that they want us to see.

I call bullshit. What the Not-So-Swifties and the wingnut bloggers are doing with this speech is very similar to what the fundagelicals do with the Bible when they reach into it as if it were a grab-bag of proof-texts, and pull out just that one or that set of verses that supports their position. It's shoddy scholarship, it's illegitimate interpretation, and it's just plain bad policy.

Herewith is a transcript of Senator Kerry's complete speech of March 27, 1986. I made it from a photocopy I made from the daily digest of the Congressional Record for that date. The speech begins on page S3593 and concludes on page S3596. I have indicated pagination within the transcript by enclosing the new page number in square brackets (e.g., [S3594]) at the point where the text ends on the previous page and before it begins on the following page, which is the number given in the brackets. Also enclosed in square brackets are any editorial comments I have made on the text, chiefly to indicate that I have followed the text exactly as it stands, even when there are errors of spelling or grammar. Otherwise, the words here are exactly as they appear on the pages of the Congressional Record.

Mr. KERRY. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. President, I congratulate Senator SASSER on his commitment to try to move the administration and indeed to move the Senate toward a sensible position of compromise on this issue.

I have been pleased to serve as part of the working group with the distinguished Senator from Tennessee, and I thank him for having adopted a [S3594] number of approaches that meet concerns of mine and others.

I urge my colleagues who disagree with me on the question of the value of supporting the Contras to vote for this proposal because it is vastly superior to the carte blanche involvement that is going to be brought to us by the administration. This proposal is limited to only humanitarian aid, it gives us a second vote in 6 months, and places the highest priority on negotiations.

Mr. President, I am going to vote for this proposal not because I support the Contras, as I have repeatedly said that I do not, because I think this proposal offers the Senate the kind of opportunity that the U.S. Senate ought to be seeking when it discusses issues of war and peace.

In saying that I will support this, however, I wish to underscore one central point. Any proposal, any effort, that leaves the Senate in a position, or Congress, or this country in a position, where we are looking to the Contras as some kind of final leverage as an entity that is somehow going to bring a solution to the problem in Central America is a flawed solution.

The debate here is not over whether or not the Contras qualify as freedom fighters; not over whether or not 10 or 12 percent are ex-Somocistas.

The debate here is over whether or not the Contras can at any point in time, in any way, contribute to a real solution of the conflict. And I think that the evidence is clear that rather than help solve that conflict, the Contras prolong it; rather than diminish the tensions in the region, we are militarizing it; rather than creating a framework for negotiations, the Contras raise hopes that fly in the face of the negotiated settlement because, as I have heard from Senator after Senator on the one hand say, "How can you negotiate with the Communist nations; the Sandinistas will never negotiate." We just heard it from the Senator from California. He talked to Ortega. He knows he is never going to change.

So the reality is that hidden behind all of the rhetoric, what we are really doing here is voting on lethal aid to the Contras in order to give them the ability to be able to overthrow the Sandinistas. That is the real policy.

Rather than leaving the Sandinistas to deal with economic problems they have, with political problems they have, we are going to give the Sandinistas the excuse to be able to turn to their people and to turn to other Latin American nations and say, "Look at the colossus of the North, look at what the colossus of the North is doing to us. We need your help." So they will continue to unify their people around that threat.

What is worse, Mr. President, is that the Contras bring with them the inevitability of further U.S. involvement. I know there are many in here who said in the last days, oh, no, we do not want American boys down there. We have heard it from the White House--we are not going to widen this war. We are not going to see American troops down there. That is not our intention. How many times have we heard that in the debate?

Mr. President, how quickly do we forget? How quickly do we forget? No one wanted to widen the war in Vietnam. We heard that. Let me remind you of what we said during that period of time.

"There is going to be no involvement of America in war unless it is a result of the constitutional process that is placed upon Congress to declare it. Now let us make that clear." That was the President of the United States in 1954.

"We would not get into a war except by the constitutional process which, of course, involves the declaration of war by Congress." That was the President of the United States in 1954.

"Using United States ground forces in the Indochina jungle would be like trying to cover an elephant with a handkerchief. You just can't do it." That was the Senate majority leader in 1954.

"I would go to Congress before committing combat troops." That was another President in 1962.

"I would oppose the use of United States troops as the direct means of suppressing guerrillas in South Vietnam." That was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1964.

"We have no plans at present to send combat troops to South Vietnam"--Robert McNamara, 1964.

"I don't feel expanded use of American ground troops to be an effective addition to the war"--the senior Senator from Arizona, in 1966.

"There is a grave danger at the present time that the administration will go overboard in increasing American forces in Vietnam. We might be able to win the war but by doing so we would have on our hands the dependency for a long time to come. That is the wrong way to handle it"--Richard M. Nixon, in 1966.

Those words did not mean anything. Then we got into the war. We began to say, We do not want to widen it. "The United States seeks no wider war"--Lyndon Johnson, 1964.

"We can plainly say we are not escalating the war." That was the Senator from Alabama. "We seek no wider war"--William P. Bundy. "We seek no wider war"--White House, February 1965. "The United States still seeks no wider war"--Lyndon Johnson, 1965. "We still seek no wider war"--Lyndon Johnson, later in 1965. "The United States could not win militarily in a classic sense because our national policy [sic] of not expanding the war"--General Westmoreland. And so on.

Finally, president Nixon, 1970. "In cooperation with the armed forces of South Vietnam, attacks are being launched this week to clear out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian-Vietnam border."

Mr. President, I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia.

I have that memory which is seared--seared--in me, that says to me, before we send another generation into harm's way we have a responsibility in the U.S. Senate to go the last step, to make the best effort possible in order to avoid that kind of conflict.

Mr. President, good intentions are not enough to keep us out of harms [sic] way. The danger here is our support of the Contras. Everyone knows the Contras are our Contras. We have a proprietary interest in the Contras. So with that proprietary interest we will raise the stakes, and then will come the commitment of our prestige and worse our pride, our pride. How many battles do we fight for pride? The ultimate vote today on temporary policy to give lethal aid that everyone in this Chamber says is not enough to do the job--the job, I take it, meaning to overthrow the Sandinistas is the ultimate vote.

There is an enormous contradiction in that because we will see people come back to us at the same time next year and say to us, you know, we need more money. Now, I will hear it from the senior Senator from North Carolina, and others: We have backed these guys. We have given them guns. We have given them the hope for freedom. We have given them a stake in their own country. We cannot desert them now.

I remember a politician who ran for President in 1968 with the secret plan for peace, and he was elected. The only promise he kept was that 4 years later the plan was still a secret. At the time that he ran there were only 22,000 or so names eligible to be on the wall down there at the Mall. When he finished, there were 58,000.

So, Mr. President, we have a special responsibility. We will be back here, and when the money is needed, we ultimately have to come back. We will be voting on a self-fulfilling prophecy that we have created. We give the Contras aid, and mark my words, you will see more Soviet helicopters, you will see more Cubans. Then the President will have another excuse to come back to the people of this country and [S3595] say, look at what is happening down in Central America. Look at what is happening in Nicaragua. All these Soviets and all these Cubans. We have got to do something about it. And the stakes will increase; international tensions will increase; superpower cold war rhetoric will increase. And nothing will be done to create greater stability.

(Senator WILSON assumed the chair.)

If we continue to fund the Contras, we enhance tensions, we further isolate ourselves from our allies, and we put ourselves in a much more serious predicament.

For the first time in our history, for the first time in our diplomatic history today, the U.S. Senate is going to vote on giving lethal aid to a group of people who overtly are seeking to overthrow a government with whom the United States still has diplomatic relations. This is not exactly a Gulf of Tonkin resolution. It is at least, thank God, one step removed. But it carries with it implications that are just as grave. It is bent on a course of dividing this Nation.

If there is one lesson that many learned during those terrible years of Vietnam, lessons learned both fighting in the war as well as fighting against it back in this country, it is that never again did we want to see people in American uniforms put in the position of having to fight when this Nation does not support the policy. That is where the problem of the issue of resolve, raised by the junior Senator from California, comes in. Even if you have the best intentions and a noble cause, you do not have the ability to rally around that cause if the American people do not understand why it is that sons and daughters of theirs must go to war.

This administration tells us they are serious about negotiations, and have been all along. But all of us have been watching this process. I have watched it with the distinguished chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and others, the Senator from Tennessee. I think all of us share a deep concern that this administration is not willing to negotiate. That is why the Sasser amendment is so important--because it holds us to a regimen of accountability in negotiations without leaving the administration the open door to be able to simply define the lack of good faith in those negotiations, and automatically have military money to expend as a consequence.

Why is it, if this administration were serious that it was only shortly before the vote in the House of Representatives last week, that finally an Ambassador of Phillip Habib's stature is appointed? Why is it that that Ambassador does not visit Nicaragua? Why is it that the Ambassador of Nicaragua to the United States has never met with the Secretary of State in serious negotiations let alone discussions in this city?

Why is it that the White House has not called on the presidents of the Contadora nations to come to the White House and to meet with them? There is not a person in the media, a Senator or a Congressman in Washington, who are all well-schooled in the nature of the media and how you attract attention and give visibility to something--there is not a person here who does not know that these talks could have been put on a higher plane of activity and of intensity. Yet that [sic] we have not yet done that. We have done the direct opposite.

Last year as we were poised to vote for humanitarian aid only, just humanitarian aid, the President of the United States sent a letter to us through the majority leader, and I quote:

I recognize the importance some Senators have attached to bilateral talks between the United States and Nicaragua and the establishment of a ceasefire. I have considered these views and believe that such steps could help to promote the internal reconciliation called for by Contadora and endorsed by so many Latin American leaders. Therefore, I intend to resume bilateral talks with the government of Nicaragua and will instruct our representatives in these talks to press for a ceasefire as well as a church-mediated dialog between the contending Nicaraguan factions.

Sincerely,

RONALD REAGAN

That is what he told us last year. That is what got him humanitarian aid. Now what is the U.S. Senate poised to do?

The U.S. Senate is poised to reward this administration for its lack of good faith in not following through on that letter and that promise, and not just give them humanitarian aid, "Hey, let us give them lethal aid, too."

That simply does dishonor to the process of legislating, it does dishonor to the nature of the words of the President, and it does dishonor to all of us in the Senate who I think deserve better when we accept the President's word in good faith.

I do not believe that this country cannot find it in its spirit to take 6 months under the confines of this amendment to pursue a peace process.

Let me just say, Mr. President, I have talked to the distinguished chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee about this. I keep hearing Senators come to this floor and say, "We have a threat of a Soviet base in Nicaragua. We have the threat of offensive weapons. We have problems of political pluralism. We have problems of whether or not we are going to be able to enforce these things."

I agree we have some of these problems. There is not a Senator on the Democratic side or the Republican side who does not believe there are not [sic] serious issues at stake in Central America. The issue here today is how do you fashion a policy that will allow you to protect those goals?

Mr. President, you do not pursue that policy by dividing. You do not pursue that policy by ignoring opportunities for negotiations. All of us share those concerns. But I would submit to you that it is only after we have exhausted negotiations, only after we have pursued multilateral remedies through the Organization of American States, only after we have worked closely with our allies to support our policy, and only after the American people understand the perfidiousness of the Sandinista administration if they persist, that we will be able to take the actions that the Contras inevitably lead us to.

That is what is at stake in this vote today.

You know, it is interesting, Mr. President, that Senator after Senator has pointed to every single Latin American leader not supporting our policy. What is worse, when we imposed unilateral economic embargo on Nicaragua, it was not Libya that came in to fill the vacuum. It was not the Bulgarians. It was not the North Koreans. It was not the Soviet Union or the Cubans.

Who replaced for [sic] the United States as a source for Nicaraguan products? Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada--our own allies. Our own allies are keeping Nicaragua afloat.

If we went through the Organization of American States and if we supported strongly a Contadora agreement as the Nicaraguans say they do, then we would have a document to hold up on the floor of the Senate and say to the people, "Look, they signed this document. They agreed to do these things. They must be held accountable to it."

I think, Mr. President, that that is the stuff of which a sound foreign policy is built. I think when you go through that kind of process, you earn the right to turn to the American people and say the things that have been said on this floor.

Mr. President, I do not think there is a Senator in this body who has not at one time or anther [sic] walked down by the Vietnam memorial wall here in Washington. It is, I understand, the most visited area in all of Washington. I visit there at times, in an attempt to place the issues of war and peace in their proper perspective. The names of some of my friends leap out at me, from John Rose, to Johnny White, to Dick Pershing, and others. When I see those names, Mr. President, I remember that I came here to the Senate with a special responsibility.

Edmund Burke wrote a letter to the sheriffs of Bristol, and in that letter he said that conscientious men should be cautious how they deal in blood.

I see leaping out at me in those names, and in that message a reminder that we should be cautious how we deal in blood; that we are a nation that can afford to take the extra step before we see another wall with more names.

I think the nations of the world expect that of us. I think our Latin [S3596] American neighbors expect that of us. I think that our constituents expect that of us.

Finally, Mr. President, I would hope that we think enough of ourselves and of this process to expect it from ourselves. I hope my colleagues will not be stampeded and not be frightened into saying that it is not worth a few months to put to test a negotiating process and build a consensus around our policy, rather than rushing headlong into an ultimate confrontation that throws caution about blood to take [sic] wind.

I've reported. You decide whether or not this is the kind of a man, and the kind of a policy, that we need to see our course steady and steer this ship of state safely through the waters of our current "war on terror." As for me and my house, I'll follow this kind of policy any day, and twice on Sundays, before I'd put my faith in a lying, draft-dodging sack of shite like Commander Codpiece.


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For shame!
 

The Israeli minister of health has declared Israeli hospitals off-limits to 2,800 Palestinians engaging in a hunger strike in Israeli prisons. As he told Army Radio, "I am not prepared for there to be a situation where the lives of patients and medical teams are endangered in our hospitals as a result of us having to admit these murderers."

Seems like someone needs to bone up on the Hippocratic Oath.

And while we're at it, the public security minister who said last week "he didn't care if the prisoners starved to death" should go back and read the book of the prophet Isaiah:

"Is not this the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am,' if you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail." (Isaiah 58:6-11, New American Standard)

I understand the animus, really, I do. It's just that it's not only not helpful, it ultimately hurts your cause more than it helps. Do the right thing: It's the only way.


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The fisking of the preznit
 

Yesterday, Dumb-ya met with what he's pleased to call his "defense team." Then he stupidly decided to take questions, whereupon he lost whatever shreds of control he had over the message he was trying to project (apparently, that he actually knows what he's doing in Iraq, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding).

Q Some of your supporters are refighting the Vietnam War with their comments about Kerry's war record. Do you think that these attacks of this nature are unpatriotic, un-American, seeing as we're sending young people to war at this time?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think we ought to be debating who best to be leading this country in the war against terror. And that's what I'll continue to try to convince the American people of, is that I'm the right person to continue to lead the country in the war on terror. I think we ought to be looking forward, not backward. And that's the kind of campaign I'll continue to run.

Good luck with that one, Mr. Preznit. You haven't managed to do it yet, and you've been working on it for at least the last year. Moreover, you really should fire whichever idiot on your campaign team told you that it would be a good idea for you to frame this election in terms of who is the right person to lead in the war on terra.

Q But why won't you denounce the charges that your supporters are making against Kerry?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm denouncing all the stuff being on TV of the 527s. That's what I've said. I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process. And I asked Senator Kerry to join me in getting rid of all that kind of soft money, not only on TV, but used for other purposes, as well. I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill. I thought we were going to, once and for all, get rid of a system where people could just pour tons of money in and not be held to account for the advertising. And so I'm disappointed with all those kinds of ads.

Translation the first: "I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process when it benefits the Democrats. Whatever Republicans do is just fine and dandy. We can have all the unregulated soft money we want." Alternative translation the first: "I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process. And I should know, since I started up a 527 of my own four years ago, to game the (s)election process in Florida."

Translation the second: "I'm either too dumb to understand the bills that somebody on my staff puts on my desk to sign into law, or I just sign whatever anybody puts in front of me and tells me to sign. You decide which option makes me look like the bigger incompetent boob."

Q Thank you, Mr. President. This doesn't have anything to do with other 527 ads. You've been accused of mounting a smear campaign. Do you think Senator Kerry lied about his war record?

THE PRESIDENT: I think Senator Kerry served admirably, and he ought to be -- he ought to be proud of his record. But the question is, who best to lead the country in the war on terror; who can handle the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief; who's got a clear vision of the risks that the country faces.

Nice of you to have noticed that Senator Kerry's war record is better than your own, you moron. And again, fire whoever it was on your campaign staff who told you you should bring up the question of who best to lead the nation and assume responsibilities as commander-in-chief. Lemme see: A hard-drinking, coke-snorting, AWOL nincompoop who's failed at everything he's ever done and been bailed out by his family: what's to like about that set of qualifications? Or a bona fide decorated veteran who knows what it's like to send young men to die or be horribly maimed because he's had to do it, on the ground, with bullets whizzing past his ears, a man who's done yeoman's service in Congress, and who has actually posted his plans for the nation during his first term in office? That's a no-brainer.

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527s. I can't be more plain about it. And I wish -- I hope my opponent joins me in saying, condemning these activities of the 527s. It's the -- I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold. I've been disappointed that for the first six months of this year, 527s were just pouring tons of money, billionaires writing checks. And I spoke out against them early. I tried to get others to speak out against them, as well. And I just don't -- I think they're bad for the system.

Was that before or after you created yours in 2000? And again, if you thought 527s were such a Really Bad Idea, did you completely forget to read the McCain-Feingold bill before you signed it, considering it's the legislation that regulated the 527s' activities?

Q Sir, on the price of oil, it's at or near record levels. Other than pushing for your energy proposals, which we know about, what else are you doing to try to mitigate the price of oil?

THE PRESIDENT: That's the best thing, is to come up with a comprehensive energy strategy that encourages conservation, encourages environmentally sensitive exploration for natural resources in our own hemisphere. It talks about, of course, dealing with new forms of energy. And, admittedly, those aren't going to come on market in time to deal with the current price of oil...

So, when were you planning to start planning for dealing with new forms of energy? Or did "dealing with new forms of energy" mean, as it has throughout your régime, "denying categorically that such things either exist or are possible"? And perhaps you'd care to explain your flip-flop on this issue? For your first several years in Washington, you maintained, parroting the line your buddies in the oil industry were no doubt feeding you, that our road to energy independence lay in drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: conveniently ignoring the fact that (a) we don't know if there's all that much oil up there, and (b) it would take at least a decade to build the facilities necessary to get at the oil and bring it to market. Were you lying or being stupid then, or are you lying and being stupid now?

Q Just one more thing along that line. Are you concerned that the price of energy could become a campaign issue here of larger proportions than it already is?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the people know that we have -- this administration has been asking for Congress to pass a comprehensive energy plan for over two years. We recognized this problem two years ago and spoke out clearly and urged the members of Congress to pass a bill. And it's stuck. So people know we've been proactive on the issue.

And this would be that same bill that your pal Big Dick wrote, behind closed doors, with all your buddies from the oil industry, right? The one that insisted we shouldn't worry about things like coal or wind power or making solar power cheaper and more efficient: all we needed to do was drill, drill, drill up in Alaska where it would be at least 10 years before we could benefit from a drop of whatever it is we'd find once we'd ruined the wilderness? That doesn't sound all that proactive to me.

THE PRESIDENT: You think he will? (Laughter.) I'm looking forward to giving it. I want to talk about what I intend to do. We've got a great record, when you think about it -- led the world and the war on terror; the world is safer as a result of the actions we've taken; Afghanistan is no longer run by the Taliban; Saddam Hussein sits in a prison cell; Muammar Qaddafi has gotten rid of his weapons; Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror. There's more work to be done in fighting off these terrorists. I clearly see that. I understand that we've got to use all resources at our disposal to find and bring these people to justice.

When you think about domestic politics, we've faced a recession, had tax cuts that encouraged economic growth and vitality. We've helped reform a education system with the No Child Left Behind Act. We've reformed Medicare, first administration ever to get Congress to move forward on Medicare reform. We got trade promotion authority; it opened up more markets for U.S. entrepreneurs and farmers and manufacturers.

We've had a great record. But the only reason to even talk about the record is to say, give us a chance to move the country forward. We're people who can get the job done. We've proven to you we can get the job done, and there's more work to be done. And I'll talk about that in the convention. In other words, it's going to be a forward-looking speech.

I can't really improve on this. Any boob who could look at this régime's three and a half years of incompetence, bungling, lies, malfeasance, and generally complete cluelessness and call it a "great record" is clearly not in touch with reality. He should be committed for psychiatric evaluation, not handed the nuclear launch codes.

There is a lot of ideas moving around. And we've got a lot of smart people looking at the best way to fashion intelligence so that the President and his Cabinet Secretaries have got the ability to make good judgment calls on behalf of the American people. That's what I'm interested in. I'm interested in how to get the best intelligence to my desk so I can be a good decision-maker on behalf of the people of this country. And intelligence is a vital part of winning this war against these terrorists. We've got to know who they are, what they're thinking, where they are. And so that's how we're approaching this issue.

Now, listen, I've called for a national intelligence director because I think it's an important part of coordinating activities to make sure the analysis of information is as good as it can possibly be. I am not for anything standing in between me and my line operators like the Secretary of Defense. In other words, once intelligence is in place, and once we come up with a decision as to how to act, I want to make sure the person responsible for the actions is -- has a direct report to me.

Seems to me we haven't had a problem with getting the "best intelligence to [your] desk." The problem has been in getting you to pay attention to it long enough to notice that those terrorists against whom you want to win the war were planning to attack us. Actually bothering to read the frickin' reports would be a good place to start.

You called for a national intelligence director only after your polling told you it was a popular idea. And making the analysis of information "as good as it can possibly be" won't do a damn bit of good if the idiot who gets those analyses either can't or won't bother to read the bloody things.

Pathetic.


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23.8.04

A little perspective
 

I'm in rather an odd mood this evening. I'm digging into my research project, which is on the tail end of one of the nastier periods in the world's history (World War II). The start of the fall semester means the return of the students, which means increased traffic, noise, stupid behavior, etc. My lazy summer of guilt-free television watching, novel reading, and general slackness, is now over. That's got me down a little. Then there's the political situation, which has had me down and nervous for quite a little while now.

This morning, after hanging around my folks' place (I'm house-sitting for them while they're visiting the grandkids) waiting for the cable guy to come and look at my mom's broadband connection, I finally got into the office around 10:30. I spent most of the day running around trying to get caught up, and not having much success.

At one point, I was talking with a colleague about something when one of our emeritus faculty came in to speak with her as well. Seems that one of the students in his summer class is not happy with the grade he received. As the faculty member told the story, the student came in after the grades were posted and whined about how this was the first "B" he'd ever received in more than 100 hours of college course work.

My first thought--and I nearly said as much to the faculty member and my colleague--was "Oh, boo-fucking-hoo!" What I did say was that if the only problem this child had in his life was getting one B in an introductory chemistry course, he should count his bleedin' blessings and shut up.

At the time, I was thinking primarily of all the political stuff that's coming down the pike, the world situation, the rising price (and shrinking supply) of oil, global warming, crumbling infrastructure, stagnant economy, yadda, yadda, yadda. And I still think those things are ultimately way more important than one's college grade-point average.

But then I ran my last errand of the day before coming home to curl up with some books and watch some pretty horses do amazing things (I don't much care for track and field, so I'll be watching a tape of Bravo's equestrian coverage from early this morning). That errand was to go visit my 95-year-old grandmother in the nursing home. She's been on a long, slow decline for the last five years or more, but is still ticking along although she's no longer able to walk and her mind tends to wander.

As I always do when I go to see her if we have any in her mini-fridge, I asked her if she wanted me to peel her an orange. "Oh, yes," she said. So I did. When I asked her, after giving her the first section, if it was good, she made no answer. She just looked at me and smiled a beatific smile.

That's when what I like to call the Cosmic 2 × 4 came crashing into the back of my skull. Yes, history is important. So is politics, and absolutely this year's election. But what it's really about is being nice to one another. Bringing a smile to the face of an elderly woman who can't take care of herself anymore. All else is grass: here today, and good for nothing but casting on the fire tomorrow.


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(Some of) what the Swifties don't want you to see
 

This got started in response to something NTodd started up over at Dohiyi Mir. He was trying to find out what was behind the ellipsis in the middle of the snippet that one of the recent ads from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth Not-So-Swift Lying Scumbags for Smear Campaigns. It's the one where John Kerry claims to have been in Cambodia on Christmas 1968. Gajillions of wingnuts have practically drowned in their own spooge, "proving" that he was lying or wrong when he said so. (For the record: he was off by one month. Big hairy fuckin' deal.)

However, since I couldn't find the speech online through Lexis/Nexis, and since the law library at the university where I work is only five minutes' walk from my office (and right across the street from the main library, where I had to go pick up some interlibrary loan stuff for my M.A. research project anyway), I decided to go dig out the Congressional Record for March 27, 1986. InstaHack (and I won't link to his site, either) provided a scan of part of the page that had the "Christmas 1968" paragraph on it, but never offered the full speech.

This post doesn't offer the full speech, either: I haven't gotten around to transcribing all of it, and I don't feel like trying to clean up the scans and either create the PDF file or try and make nice JPEGs that I can load to Blogger tonight. But I will give the relevant part of Senator Kerry's remarks in full.

The ironic thing is, once I got the speech, I discovered that the ellipsis that had NTodd wondering what had been left out....shouldn't have been put in in the first place. What follows is from the Daily Digest of the Congressional Record for the Senate for March 27, 1986. Kerry's full speech begins on page S3593 of that volume, and ends on page S3596. He is speaking, as best I can tell from the surrounding material, on Amendment 1718, to a pending bill in the Senate to provide aid to the Nicaraguan contras. The bit that follows starts in the middle column of page S3594:

Mr. President, how quickly do we forget? How quickly do we forget? No one wanted to widen the war in Vietnam. We heard that. Let me remind you of what we said during that period of time.

There follow twelve paragraphs, carrying over into the third column of S3594, of statements made by the U.S. government and its officials relative to the war in Vietnam, from 1954 to 1965. The thirteenth paragraph introduced the snippet that the Not-So-Swifties and the other wingnuts have been riffing on. I will quote that 13th paragraph and the six that follow it (including one which carries over to the leftmost column of S3595):

Finally, President Nixon, 1970. "In cooperation with the armed forces of South Vietnam, attacks are being launched this week to clear out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian-Vietnam border."

Mr. President, I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. [The mysterious ellipsis was put in right where that semicolon is, before the words "the troops were not in Cambodia."]

I have that memory which is seared--seared--in me, that says to me, before we send another generation into harm's way we have a responsibility in the U.S. Senate to go the last step, to make the best effort possible in order to avoid that kind of conflict.

Mr. President, good intentions are not enough to keep us out of harms [sic] way. The danger here is our support of the Contras. Everyone knows the Contras are our Contras. We have a proprietary interest in the Contras. So with that proprietary interest we will raise the stakes, and then will come the commitment of our prestige and worse our pride, our pride. How many battles do we fight for pride? The ultimate vote today on temporary policy to give lethal aid that everyone in this Chamber says is not enough to do the job--the job, I take it, meaning to overthrow the Sandinistas is the ultimate vote.

There is an enormous contradiction in that because we will see people come back to us at the same time next year and say to us, you know, we need more money. Now, I will hear it from the senior Senator from North Carolina, and others: We have backed these guys. We have given them guns. We have given them the hope for freedom. We have given them a stake in their own country. We cannot desert them now.

I remember a politician who ran for President in 1968 with the secret plan for peace, and he was elected. The only promise he kept was that 4 years later the plan was still a secret. At the time that he ran there were only 22,000 or so names eligible to be on the wall down there at the Mall. When he finished, there were 58,000.

So, Mr. President, we have a special responsibility. We will be back here, and when the money is needed, we ultimately have to come back. We will be voting on a self-fulfilling prophecy that we have created. We give the Contras aid, and mark my words, you will see more Soviet helicopters, you will see more Cubans. Then the President will have another excuse to come back to the people of this country and [S3595] say, look at what is happening down in Central America. Look at what is happening in Nicaragua. All these Soviets and all these Cubans. We have got to do something about it. And the stakes will increase; international tensions will increase; superpower cold war rhetoric will increase. And nothing will be done to create greater stability.

Damn. Just change a few references in that speech, and he could give it on the stump tomorrow.


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22.8.04

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine
 

Agence France Presse has reported the death (sorry, but the linked story is auf Deutsch), at age 105, of Marcel Caux, one of the last Australian veterans of World War I (and probably one of the last WWI veterans, period). The state funeral he will receive is no more than his due. God be good to him.


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They have made me very angry
 

(You should imagine the title being read by Mel Blanc as Marvin the Martian.)

One of the Not-So-Swift Veterans for Smear Tactics went on Faux News Sunday today and admitted he had no proof to back up his charge that Senator Kerry had fabricated the reports of enemy action that led to his winning two medals. He didn't retract the charges, however; he insisted his "proof" that he was telling the truth was "...the fact [sic] that I wasn't wounded in that 5,000 meters of fire that he wrote about."

That was bad enough. Then Bob Dole decided to jump on the dogpile atop Sen. Kerry:

"I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and he never bled, that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out," said Dole who himself was badly wounded in World War II.

"Maybe he should apologize to the other 2.5 million veterans who served," said Dole. "He wasn't the only one who was in Vietnam."

Maybe Senator Dole should pull his wizened head out of his withered arse and remember that the Purple Heart is awarded for any wound, no matter how superficial, if suffered in a combat zone. (See, e.g., the episode of M*A*S*H in which Frank Burns wins one for getting a fragment of his breakfast egg's shell in his eye.) Moreover, any wound that leaves shrapnel behind (a) is likely to have bled, and (b) is unlikely to have been superficial.

I'd have thought that Senator Dole would be standing by his fellow veteran in the face of these smear attacks. Apparently he doesn't have the class of another Republican senator from Kansas, Pat Roberts, who said that "while the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group had 'every right' to express their opinion, 'we ought to get out of the character assassination business.'"

Enough already!

  • Fact: John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam, in combat. George W. Bush did not get anywhere near a place where he could have heard a shot fired in anger, much less have one fired at him.
  • Fact: John Kerry honorably completed his term of service, as demonstrated by his military service records. George W. Bush refused to take a mandatory physical to retain his flight status, under questionable circumstances that he has never bothered to explain, circumstances that are widely believed to be related to his cocaine habit. Furthermore, the records that Bush has made available (grudgingly, it must be remembered) don't address the crucial question of where he was for the last few months of his service period. There is also reason to believe that he may have been fraudulently credited with service points he never earned, and also that he may have been accounted a deserter at some point before wangling his discharge--early.
  • Fact: John Kerry did not have the power to give himself medals. The military authorities who did have that power gave him at least five: three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star. George W. Bush never won a single medal.

If CheneyBushCo want to make an issue of Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam, they had best be ready for the storm of shit that will be coming their way. Their own records will not stand up to scrutiny. Senator Kerry's record can and has. He showed up. He volunteered for the service that neither Cheney nor Bush could be bothered with. They're pissing into a hurricane, and don't realize that it isn't rain on their faces they're feeling. The more fools they.


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21.8.04

Kick the Shrubbery where it hurts
 

The Not-So-Swift Veterans for Smear Tactics (I call 'em like I see 'em: "truth" is the last thing on these people's minds) is a front for the CheneyBushCo campaign. The Not-So-Swifties have been spreading lies, distortions, and mischaracterizations of Senator John Kerry's military record.

As my nickname for these morons implies, they really haven't been too swift. Their statements have been contradicted by official Navy records, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune (as I posted this morning), and every man who served under John Kerry--which none of the Not-So-Swifties did, by the way. Their version of "serving with" someone appears to consist of no more than being in the same general part of the country at roughly the same time. By those criteria, I can claim to have been an Apollo astronaut, since I once followed two of them into the men's room to get their autographs. (Hey, I was nine years old; what did I know?)

Commander Codpiece has steadfastly refused to condemn the Not-So-Swifties' tactics. Through his silence, Dumb-ya is approving their action. In fact, Bush campaign officials in Florida are promoting events for this front group. And two of the people appearing in the latest ad for the Not-So-Swifties are prominent Republican activists, one with direct ties to the CheneyBushCo campaign--a direct violation of campaign finance laws.

As they always do when they get desperate, CheneyBushCo have abandoned the issues (which are of no help to them anyway) and turned instead to smearing an opponent. They did it to John McCain in 2000 during the South Carolina Republican presidential primary. (And after the way they treated him four years ago, I totally don't understand why McCain is whoring for CheneyBushCo. Do they have videotape of him playing golf with Satan, or something?) They did it to former Georgia Senator Max Cleland in 2002, daring to call a man who lost three limbs in combat in Vietnam a terrorist. And now they're trying to do it to our next president, John Kerry.

Enough is fucking enough already!

The Kerry campaign has a petition drive on. So stand up with our man and let your voice be counted. Tell Commander Codpiece to stop the smear and get back to the issues. You can sign the petition here.

Don't believe what the CheneyBushCo campaign shills say. John Kerry's commanders in 1969 remarked that "In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action, LTJG Kerry was unsurpassed." In fact all of Kerry’s performance reports (available on the Kerry website) display an absolutely heroic record of service.

The Kerry campaign has also released a new internet ad called "Old Tricks" which shows John McCain asking George Bush to apologize for attacking McCain's own heroic record. You can watch it here.

This is the time the old typing tests used to talk about: the time for all good people to come to the aid of the party and stop the filthy smear tactics that CheneyBushCo are pushing. Go torture Karl Rove--and tell your friends, too!


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Not-So-Swift Lying Scumbags decisively discredited
 

There has been a great deal of hand-wringing, wailing, and gnashing of teeth in the blogosphere recently over the ads attacking our next president put out by a group of disgruntled Vietnam veterans and funded by well-connected Republicans. I will not dignify these lying scum by linking to their site, but you know where to find them if you're really interested.

I am not one of those who believe that these ads are going to do serious damage to Senator Kerry's chances this November. In fact, I think they're quite likely to help him more than they hurt him, especially if he and his campaign continue to be effective in giving their opponents and their critics just enough rope to hang themselves with. Bush has not denounced these ads, and evidence is mounting that, even if the group producing them is not formally affiliated with the CheneyBushCo campaign, there are close connections between them. The problem with flinging mud is that you're bound to get some on yourself, and the last thing Commander Codpiece needs is for people to dig deeply into his Vietnam service records.

Meanwhile, Kerry has been getting help from other Vietnam vets who are dismayed at the prospect of watching a man who served honorably being slimed by people who, for the most part, were never there. One of them came out of the closet, as it were, today. And he just happens to be the only other swift boat commander still alive who was present that last day of February 1969:

There were three swift boats on the river that day in Vietnam more than 35 years ago—three officers and 15 crew members. Only two of those officers remain to talk about what happened on February 28, 1969.

One is John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who won a Silver Star for what happened on that date. I am the other.

For years, no one asked about those events. But now they are the focus of skirmishing in a presidential election with a group of swift boat veterans and others contending that Kerry didn't deserve the Silver Star for what he did on that day, or the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts he was awarded for other actions.

Many of us wanted to put it all behind us—the rivers, the ambushes, the killing. Ever since that time, I have refused all requests for interviews about Kerry's service—even those from reporters at the Chicago Tribune, where I work.

But Kerry's critics, armed with stories I know to be untrue, have charged that the accounts of what happened were overblown. The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us. It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there.

Even though Kerry's own crew members have backed him, the attacks have continued, and in recent days Kerry has called me and others who were with him in those days, asking that we go public with our accounts.

I can't pretend those calls had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this. What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it.

I was part of the operation that led to Kerry's Silver Star. I have no firsthand knowledge of the events that resulted in his winning the Purple Hearts or the Bronze Star.

But on Feb. 28, 1969, I was officer in charge of PCF-23, one of three swift boats—including Kerry's PCF-94 and Lt. j.g. Donald Droz's PCF-43—that carried Vietnamese regional and Popular Force troops and a Navy demolition team up the Dong Cung, a narrow tributary of the Bay Hap River, to conduct a sweep in the area.

The approach of the noisy 50-foot aluminum boats, each driven by two huge 12-cylinder diesels and loaded down with six crew members, troops and gear, was no secret.

Ambushes were a virtual certainty, and that day was no exception.

[Edit]

The difference was that Kerry, who had tactical command of that particular operation, had talked to Droz and me beforehand about not responding the way the boats usually did to an ambush.

We agreed that if we were not crippled by the initial volley and had a clear fix on the location of the ambush, we would turn directly into it, focusing the boats' twin .50-caliber machine guns on the attackers and beaching the boats. We told our crews about the plan.

[Edit]

Known over radio circuits by the call sign "Latch," then-Capt. and now retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, the task force commander, fired off a message congratulating the three swift boats, saying at one point that the tactic of charging the ambushes was a "shining example of completely overwhelming the enemy" and that it "may be the most efficacious method of dealing with small numbers of ambushers."

Hoffmann has become a leading critic of Kerry's and now says that what the boats did on that day demonstrated Kerry's inclination to be impulsive to a fault.

Our decision to use that tactic under the right circumstances was not impulsive but was the result of discussions well beforehand and a mutual agreement of all three boat officers.

There are plenty of additional details in Rood's story. You should go read it (free registration is required).

I will say, however, that I hope Rood does not follow through on his intention, expressed at the end of the seventh quoted paragraph above, of never talking about the events of that day (or the rest of his service in Vietnam) ever again. I understand the reticence of combat veterans to talk about their experiences. My father has never really talked about his service during the Vietnam War, although he was never, to my knowledge, in a combat zone (he was a radar operator in South Korea, or so my mother always told me). My stepfather has only made veiled references to his service in Germany during and after World War II.

I suspect this is the result of a number of factors. They include reluctance to speak of things that are far outside the range of experience of most people, not wanting to make oneself out to be a hero, not wanting to remember some of the horrible things they heard and saw (and may have done), and, in the case of Vietnam, the stigma associated with those who served during that conflict.

However, I am also an historian. If we are ever to understand what happened in those wars, we must ask those who served in them to tell their stories. And especially with regard to World War II veterans, our time is running out. WWII vets are dying at the rate of around 1,000 per day. Within a couple of decades at most, they'll all be gone--and their stories with them.

So I have this to say to all of our veterans: Your stories will not be pretty, I'm sure. They will probably not be easy to tell, and some, perhaps even many, of your fellow citizens will not want to hear them. Don't let that stop you. If you can't speak of them to your family, then please consider contacting the National Archives and arranging to make an audio tape. Say "yes" when a history student comes to you and asks to interview you for an oral history project. Write down your recollections, and be sure that your family members know what and where they are, and make arrangements to send copies to the appropriate government archives. Generations of future historians will thank you, and it is one last service that you can do for your country.


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20.8.04

 

According to the Washington Post:

The Justice Department is using secret evidence in its ongoing legal battles over secrecy with the American Civil Liberties Union, submitting material to two federal judges that cannot be seen by the public or even the plaintiffs, according to documents released yesterday.

In one of the cases, the government also censored more than a dozen seemingly innocuous passages from court filings on national security grounds, only to be overruled by the judge, according to ACLU documents.

Among the phrases originally redacted by the government was a quotation from a 1972 Supreme Court ruling:

"The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect 'domestic security.' Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent."

Justice officials also excised language describing one of the plaintiffs: "provides clients with email accounts" and "provides clients with the ability to access the Internet." The identity of the company in question remains secret to the public.

Enough said.

(If you hold your cursor over most of the blacked-out portions, a title will appear: unlike what the government is providing in this case.)


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