October 31, 2004

The French Government Funding Mosques?

Yes, that would be quite a change of pace in deeply secular France. But French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, soon to take over the ruling party of French President Jacques Chirac, is advocating such a change in an effort to block extremism and ensure that France's Muslim population doesn't distance itself from the rest of the country.

Posted by armand at 02:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Cruel and Shameless Bush Campaign

So Bush campaign officials see the Bin Laden tape as a "gift", and they want voters to be "nervous about their personal safety".

My first reaction is to say that the president has chosen to surround himself with some seriously sick and twisted individuals. But given that he's a man of resolve, steadfastness and high moral character (or so people keep saying) I guess I must be missing something.

Posted by armand at 02:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Target Audience for the Bin Laden Tape: The Muslim World

Publius makes that case here.

Posted by armand at 02:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Outsourcing the Fight Against Al Qaeda

The answer to the question that opens this article is probably. And even if Bin Laden himself wasn't there, clearly a massive number of Al Qaeda fighters escaped capture because of the strategy chosen by Bush, Rumsfeld and Franks. Given such a failed strategic choice (and massive mistake in judgement) why are so many people eager to give him another shot when he screwed up the first time (and yes, this does give me an opening to pursue their utter indifference to the terrorist threat until AFTER thousands had died ... but writing more on that this afternoon would just leave me with a bad headache). What's the Texas saying? This president is all hat and no cattle. Even the normally pointless Maureen Dowd gets this one right - why should we believe the president when he says he'll take care of Bin Laden in the next four years if he hasn't gotten him in the last three (and here Dowd's even being nice to Bush - apparently not expecting him to have caught Bin Laden pre-9/11 even though he'd already organized strikes against Americans)?

Posted by armand at 01:47 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 30, 2004

The Bin Laden Tape

Is anyone else a little taken aback at the content of the tape? I mean much of it is predictable - Americans: stop backing Israel and killing Muslims or we're going to fill your streets with blood no matter who you elect as president. That's to be expected. But the degree to which he taunts President Bush ... was that in previous tapes? Implying he only holds power because his father was a powerful man, that he never dreamed that the ruler of the United States would leave 50,000 people alone in burning towers while he kept reading My Pet Goat ...

At a certain level I don't think he really cares who wins our election (neither Bush nor Kerry is at all likely to break our ties with Israel). But it does appear clear that he enjoys sticking it to President Bush.

UPDATE: To clarify, he might care who wins - but I don't know see that it's likely he's going to behave any differently depending on Tuesday night's results.

Posted by armand at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Breeders Cup

Today's the day. Many of the greatest race horses from around the world have come to the US to compete in 8 races. While the Kentucky Derby may still be the most famous horse race in the United States, Breeder's Cup day is when you have the best of the best competing in many divisions.

In the first race of the day the the favorite, Ashado, won the Nextel Distaff by 1 1/4 lengths over Storm Flag Flying (who was competing in her last race). In the second race, favorite Sweet Catomine overcame traffic problems to win an easy victory in the Juvenile Fillies. She will now presumably win the 2004 Eclispe Award for the best horse in her division. The winner of the Mile was more of a surprise - Singletary, a Kentucky-bred named after the famed linebacker. The six year-old Speightstown, who had won 4 of his 5 previous starts in 2004, was victorious in the Sprint. Speightstown and Ashado are both trained by Todd Pletcher. Pletcher, who had never before had a Breeders Cup winner is having a very fine afternoon. English superstar Ouija Board cemented her position as the world's top turf female by winning the Filly and Mare Turf.

UPDATE: In the day's later races ... Frankie Dettori rode Wilko to a very surprising win in the Juvenile. Also in the money in that race were Afleet Alex and Sun King. There was another huge upset (one of the biggest in the history of the Breeder's Cup) in the Turf as Better Talk Now defeated heavy-favorite Kitten's Joy. And in the Classic, the biggest race of the day and arguably the most important horse race of the year, Ghostzapper posted a commanding win. He took the lead immediately and no horse seriously threatened his lead throughout the race. Roses in May placed. Pleasantly Perfect, last year's champion in the Classic, came in third. Ghostzapper, who's trained by Bobby Frankel and owned by Stronach Stables, won over 2 million dollars for Saturday's effort. He ends the year victorious in all of his starts, and would seem likely to be named Horse of the Year.

Posted by armand at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 29, 2004

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

Apparently Michael Moore asked that during an event yesterday in West Virginia. Is this a silly question? I don't know that it is when we have a president who likes to say that he's doing God's work. And given studies like the recent one in The Lancet noting massive levels of civilian casualties ... it seems even less silly a question. I don't purport to speak for him, but I have some trouble with the notion that Jesus would be pleased by these tactics.

Posted by armand at 04:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Department of Defense - Or Campaign Mouthpiece?

Juan Cole has these thoughts on the pathetic dog and pony show that Larry DiRita staged today. It's seems that the civilian leadership of the Pentagon can't even manage a press conference in DC without embarrassing themselves. Is it any wonder that Iraq's a mess?

Posted by armand at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chalabi, Again

I agree with Kevin. That the Bush team trusted this guy is just mind-boggling. And considering the harm he's done (and may continue to do) I think you can make a pretty strong case that that fact alone ought to disqualify them from office.

Posted by armand at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democracy Deserves Better than Republican Challenge in Ohio

Unlike many people, my tolerance for a significant level of nonsense, finger pointing and strategizing around election time is pretty high. I've even upped my expectations. I see it like psyching yourself up to go watch something like, oh, Day After Tomorrow; you have to adjust your expectations for how awful it could be in order not to run screaming and gagging from the theater. This year, I know both sides will cry dirty tricks. I've heard from my mom in Florida that the Democrats are trying to steal the vote in Florida. (Really she said it.) And I let it go, especially after the last political interaction she and I had.

Today, via Eschaton, I read an article about 976 challenges to voter registrations made by Republicans in Ohio that the local election Board voted unanimously to dismiss. It seems that for no apparent (or, no good, justifiable... - we could guess the apparent) reason, these 976 people (out of some original 35,000 according to the Beacon Journal) had their registrations challenged. The manner of the challenge was a mailing - and the implication was that it was certified, as there seems to have been a mechanism of refusal by the recipients - from the GOP. If the recipient refused or was unavailable to accept the mailing, it was returned, and the voter was put on the challenged list. It seems (again, the implication of the article) the original list was made up of people who had changed addresses, and then the GOP mailer went out, "[b]ut returning the Republican literature landed [the recipient] on the "challenged'' list."

People who move need to register their new address. A freshly registered "Mary Poppins" who handed in her forms with "D. Duck" "M. Mouse" and "W. Coyote" should be challenged. There is a legitimate representation issue, and this is important to note. However, challenging a vote simply because a person refused to sign for what looked to be "Republican literature" is outrageous. Who accepts a certified letter from a political party they don't belong to? Can we really believe that the originators of this plan didn't have that in mind when they conceived it? Those who hatched and executed this scheme to challenge legitimate voters in order to do nothing more than undermine the free and fair electoral process should be ashamed, and investigated by the appropriate body (which seems to be Justice, which has been contacted by the election board). I can understand parties "working their angle." This, however, is absolutely reprehensible.

It it important to note, that in the unanimous vote to throw out the challenges, the leadership to make the decision came from Republicans. "After hearing some of the protests, the board voted unanimously to dismiss all 976 challenges. The move, ironically, came from Republican board member Joseph Hutchinson and was seconded by Republican Alex Arshinkoff after they determined that the four local Republicans who made the challenges had no evidence to back up their claims." Standing up to this kind of thing within party ranks should happen more often, or we risk forgetting that our primary efforts as citizens should be support of our system of democratic representation. You can have winners and losers in any kind of political system. Democracy in the the United States deserves better than this kind of action.

Posted by binky at 02:35 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The McPeak Ad for Kerry

I don't know who out there funds such things, but I heard a great ad for Kerry on the radio this morning. It was an endorsement for Kerry by Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Bush voter in 2000 (and, for what it's worth, one of the guys with stars on their shoulders that I've long admired as having guts, vision, and a willingness to take on the status quo when it could use a good shake). It was really quite simple, primarily hitting the theme that we need strength, but we also need competence and that he knows Kerry isn't a man who'll take us to war without a plan to win. I think it's the kind of thing that would appeal to lots of people here in rural areas, or in the Midwest. If there's still air time to buy, I think the campaign or its surrogates would be well-served by airing that more often.

Posted by armand at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Do I ever hope that Senator Jim Bunning is sent packing back to Kentucky on Tuesday. He has nothing to show for his last 6 years in DC except for a string of loathsome votes. Substantively I'm stumped to think of a single thing he's accomplished on his own. He refuses to respect the voters and democracy enough to engage in actual debates. He says his opponent looks like the son of Saddam Hussein. And now he has his surrogates purposely making ambiguous statements that question his opponent's sexuality. This guy is both incompetent and loathsome and should be permantently retired from the US Senate.

UPDATE: Publius notes that it's really Sen. Mitch McConnell who's behind this. I would presume that's accurate since Bunning seems unable to organize a one-car parade. But still, it's Bunning who's on the ballot and who will benefit from this sleazy innuendo - so it's Bunning who should be defeated.

This also shows though just how effective a fighter McConnell can be, and if they can stomach his methods, the Republicans would be very well served by electing him as their Leader in the Senate. Frist has been a disaster. Not that I mind that of course, but if you actually want someone who can push through the Republican agenda, McConnell would seem much more suited to the job.

Posted by armand at 10:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 28, 2004

8 1/2

Putting an end to one of the most obscene holes in my knowledge of the cinema, I watched Fellini's 8 1/2 last night. Wow. I think it's probably Fellini's "best" film. Honestly, I like La Dolce Vita more. That's the one I would prefer to have in my own film library. It really hits me on more layers personally, and I like that it's more morally and emotionally ambiguous. You can watch it many times and read it in different ways. And of course it's generally an excellent film in a host of ways. But as a piece of film-making it's hard to equal, much less top, 8 1/2.

Posted by armand at 02:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It Wasn't Just Al Qaqaa That Was Looted

Let's not forget in all the coverage of Al Qaqaa that it wasn't just that one facility that was looted in this war that has supposedly made Americans safer, plenty of other places were looted too - including places that had other dangerous material. Non-proliferation (or attempted non-proliferation) through invasion is an extremely risky strategy. But even putting that aside, this administration's shockingly poor planning and execution made turned risky choice into needless disasters. Things didn't just happen because of fate or the fog of war. The Bush administration made decisions and we are living with the consequence. Sadly, those consequences have left Americans anything but safe.

Posted by armand at 02:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Do You Debate? Who Do You Refuse To?

I'm linking to this story about Ginny Schrader refusing to debate her opponent to get the reaction of the other members of Bllodless Coup, and our readers. Generally speaking, I don't think people should vote for candidates who refuse to debate. If you can't support you beliefs in front of your constituents you shouldn't be running. And it's rather offensive, in a democracy, to refuse to go before them, engage them, and present your ideas and priorities (one of the biggest problems I have with the US presidency, regardless of who's in office, is the fact that presidents rarely, if ever, do this any more). That said - if your opponent is going to compare you to Hezbollah, should you stand for that and take part in what appears likely to become little more than an exercise in name calling? I'm not so sure about that. I'm not saying what she did was right or wrong. I think it's understandable, but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Posted by armand at 02:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2004

The EUP Blocks Commission Nominees

Flexing its ever-growing political muscle the European Parliament has refused to approve the European Commission proposed by incoming EU Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso. While this fight was originally over the conservative Italian who had been proposed to take over the Justice ministry, it now appears that several other nominees to the Commission may be axed too. Oh, and for those of you who think Turkey should be added to the EU, EUpolitix notes there's one more that perhaps should be added to the list to be replaced. As someone who studies international relations this is really rather fascinating to watch - a hugely powerful supranational IGO growing ever stronger continuing to gradually assert more power over the states that seemingly comprise it.

Posted by armand at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Greg wants to know why all the smart, sexy ladies of television are redheads.

Posted by armand at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rumsfeld Running Wars on the Cheap

First Tora Bora, the Iraq. What does David Kay say about Al Qaqaa?

"Al-Qaqaa had been heavily looted in April and May," said Kay, who left Iraq at the end of 2003 after reaching the conclusion that the country did not have weapons of mass destruction. Kay, who first visited Al-Qaqaa as a U.N. inspector in 1991, said the facility was not guarded after the U.S.-led invasion in early 2003 and was not being guarded when he left Iraq. "The extraordinary thing would be to find a site that was really guarded," Kay said. But, he added, the facilities were numerous and often encompassed hundreds of acres. "There weren't enough troops to guard the ministry buildings," Kay said. "It's a result of not having enough troops on the ground. And it would have been a very large number. This is not a small thing."

Emphasis mine.

Posted by armand at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2004

Netanyahu's Not-So-Secret Plots and Ploys

Well, that failed miserably. Am I the only one who sometimes wonders how Netanyahu continues to be Likud's bright light of the future (yes, again) when as the article states he has such a long record of demeaning himself and political blunders? True, he gives a great speech, and has considerable presence. I guess that's all you need in some circles.

Posted by armand at 10:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Kerry Cabinet

Laura at War and Piece brings us Carl Cannon's report on who might staff a Kerry cabinet. Look at the article - you might find your name (it's loaded with lots and lots and lots of names).

Posted by armand at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's UN Lies, 380 tons of explosives, and the decline of Tacitus

Yeah, that's a hell of title, but I'll try to live up to it. The two competing news stories that seem to be resonating around the blogosphere are the "Kerry lied about meeting the UN" revelation (broken first by the Washington Times, then jumped all over by Redstate (1), Redstate (2), and Powerline (whatever that is; links to other comments there), and Tacitus; rebuttles by Pandagon, and Kos). Meanwhile the left end of the spectrum went nuts over the revelation that 380 tons of very efficient high explosives went missing from a huge arms depot that the IAEA was pointing to back in the spring of 2003 (Bloodless, of course, has already jumped all over this, but other commentary from Phil Carter/Inteldump, Obsidian Wings, and Talking Points Memo/Josh Marshall).

What seems more interesting than re-hashing the facts (my take: yes, Kerry likely exaggerated but did meet with some of the members of the Security Council, and yes, the explosives likely were there after major combat, but were taken quite a while ago), is the left/right debate over which issue is more important. Both sides have taken up arms and have commenced hostilities (the Redstate (2) post above, the Pandagon post above, the Tacitus post above, and this ObWi post, and I'm sure I'm missing a few).

This debate seems fundamentally flawed. I mean, what; Kerry might not have met with all 15 members of the Security Council before the second Iraq war started is somehow worthy of more consideration than 380 tons of explosives (that could be used to set of nuclear bombs) that are likely being used right now to blow yet more things up in Iraq? (And, have you seen the spike in violence since Ramadan started?) I don't dismiss the relevance of the Kerry story to the election - it does speak at least to some degree to his governance (though, I would argue, not much). But can we focus on the bigger picture here? I grant that 380 tons of explosives likely disappeared months ago. There is nothing we can do about it now. But doesn't the fact that it did disappear speak volumes about the way the war and occupation were conducted? If we didn't guard this site (and, because of the IAEA connection, this site made the news - which sites didn't?), what else got out into the hands of the insurgents? Or, by extension, outside of Iraq (did Al Qaeda take this opportunity to replenish some stocks?)?

If we can't agree that a missing 380 tons of explosives is at least more worthy of debate and discussion than potentially missing meetings between a single US Senator and members of the UNSC over two years ago, then how can we have rational debate?

Which leads me to Tacitus (the man, not the blog). Tacitus was the motive force for one of the first blogs I encountered a year or so ago, when blogs made it onto my personal radar screen. I read his blog fairly regularly for a long time, and admired the ability of a right-of-center person to intelligently debate issues in a reasonably civil manner. I liked that he gave posting rights to people from both sides of the isle for the sole purpose of generating intelligent discourse about politics. I followed his links out to find the sites I (still today) most commonly read. Obsidian Wings calls Tacitus their "blogfather", and I suppose that to the degree that BloodlessCoup is anything (at least for me), it looks to the Tacitus/Obsidian Wings family-of-posters-who-can-argue-both-sides-well camp of blogs (versus, say, InstaPundit or Atrios) as what sort of place we are (other members of bloodless may disagree; I'll not speak for them).

Tactitus does not seem to be Tacitus anymore. Both the site and the individual have changed. This is not a new complaint, though I think that most complainers miss their mark. Tacitus, both at his own site and at Redstate, isn't worse, but is different. The Tacitus of old would have been far more willing to engage the debate over the explosives (though likely to argue that it isn't as relevant and have good arguments why) rather than push the "Kerry lies" theme. The explosives story (and what it represents in a larger discussion of the pros and cons of the policies in Iraq) is just far more important and interesting than a silly debate about the precise number of UN representatives Kerry met with, and how many times Kerry has told this story. Instead, Tactitus (over at the already cited Redstate) argues that the Kerry lies story is clearly important because it changed one vote in Ohio.

There is an old Washington Monthly piece that argues that the political world is filled with "Wonks and Hacks", and the two never get along. Wonks want to argue policy and policy analysis, and hacks just want to win the political/bureaucratic fights. Hacks need wonks to justify their ideas, and wonks need hacks in order to actually pass legislation and win elections. It's a trite little "the world can be divided into two types of people" sort of article, but I think it has some essential truths. And I think that Tacitus has moved in the last few months over the the hack side. I originally came to him because of his wonk side. I am a wonk, and while I suppose I can accept the need for hacks, they just don't speak to me. So Tacitus just doesn't do it for me any more, and the people who complain about how much worse he is are missing this key change. If the wonk comes back, that's great, but there are plenty of others out there (look on our blogroll) who can take up the slack. This isn't really a complaint about Tacitus (it is, but only from a "wonkish" perspective) - I'm not saying "Because I disagree with Tacitus more often, he has gotten worse"; I'm saying that what he writes about seems less important to me, so I pay less attention. If he's happy doing what he's doing, then good on him. I'll miss his insights, but people change, and life goes on.

Now, can we go back to arguing about who will best fix the mess in Iraq and how to go about doing it?

Posted by baltar at 01:07 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Recess Appointment to the Supreme Court?

If Chief Justice Rehnquist steps down while the Senate is in recess, President Bush could name an appointee to fill his seat for the duration of the NEXT Congress. Yes - even if the president is defeated on Tuesday. Lyle Denniston has the details relating to this topic.

Posted by armand at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dr. Rice - Liar or Incompetent Danger to the Country?

Stuart Benjamin raises what's long been one of the most difficult questions to answer about this administration. I mean there's so much evidence for both possibilities.

Posted by armand at 10:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I Heart Huckabees

I watched this last Friday night. There were some interesting bits in it. And the cast is fantastic and everyone went after their roles with gusto. I particularly enjoyed Mark Wahlberg, but I think they all did what they were required to do extremely well. And there were some biting portrayals of various social groups (crunchy environmentalists, business types with their forced camaraderie). But is there more to the film as a whole than David O. Russell saying "dialectics are neat!"? If so, let me know. Until then, I still think Three Kings is his best movie. That was excellent.

Posted by armand at 10:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Conversation

I finally got around to watching this Francis Ford Coppola classic last night. It strikes me that it's very much the product of its era (the early/mid 1970's). There's a constant tone of menace, instability and a despairing moral conscience. The person entrapped in this guilt and unease is Harry Caul, a man who tapes the conversations of others. While he is excellent at this one thing, the rest of his life is at best unhappy, and at worst falling apart. And even his one gift can have horrifying consequences - some people respond in violent ways when they learn they've been spied on.

This is a slow movie, but that's not surprising since it was partially inspired by the work of Antonioni (along with Hitchcock and, according to Coppola, Tennessee Williams). And given that it's both a character study and a thriller its pacing usually works. The constant repetition, particularly of the conversation taped at the start of the film, is probably its most interesting structural characteristic. And there are a couple of beautifully shot sequences.

It's not the greatest thing ever, and it does come across as a bit dated. But it's a high quality piece of work. If you are interested in the suspense films of the 1970's, Francis Ford Coppola or Gene Hackman, it's something you'll want to see.

Posted by armand at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2004

The Military Wanted to Take Out Zarqawi, Bush Wouldn't Support Them

War and Piece discusses the new Wall Street Journal coverage of the White House's failure to approve an attack on Zarqawi when he was in Northern (non-Saddam controlled) Iraq in 2002. Gen. John Keane, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army at the time, described the camp where Zarqawi was located as "one of the best targets we ever had". But that strong, decisive, action-oriented Bush White House refused to approve plans to attack the terrorist training camp.

Posted by armand at 01:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Fundamentally Dangerous Approach to Foreign Policy

If you go invade a country to ensure that it doesn't develop dangerous weapons, wouldn't you think that you wouldn't allow the angry locals and bad guys to steal 380 tons of easily smuggled high explosives out from under your nose?

It seems entirely plausible that many of the Americans and US-friendly Iraqis who have been killed in the last seventeen months have been killed by these weapons that the Bush-led US GOVERNMENT didn't secure. Oh, and by the way, these weapons could be smuggled out of Iraq and used against US-oriented targets elsewhere - or even in the manufacture of an atomic bomb. Good freakin' grief. Now I could make the usual point about how Bush's "smoke 'em out" strategy isn't making us safer, or stress the ever-more obvious, depressing fact that the Bush administration, even if it had good goals and approaches, is too incompetent to actually put them into practice. It looks more and more like they'd be unable to organize an elementary school cake walk, so the invasion of another country was obviously a bit above their skill level. I strongly hold to both of those positions. But it seems to me that along with those facts, this points out the inherent problems with Bush's invade-first strategy to confronting enemies. If containing proliferation is the goal, and the president himself has said that nuclear proliferation is the #1 threat the country faces, a security policy based on invasion opens up all kinds of problems in terms of securing the resources that we are hoping to contain or eliminate. If the president can't put his favored strategies in practice in a way that doesn't heighten the threat to Americans (and there seems ever more evidence that he can't) he should be replaced.

Oh, as the Defense Department and other elements of the government have been putting steady pressure on Iraq not to inform the IAEA about this ... well again it looks like vital security concerns are taking a back seat to concerns about image and electoral politics. Again I ask - is this who we want providing for the security of the country?

Posted by armand at 10:18 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

October 22, 2004

The Next Justice(s)

Stuart Taylor has a run-down on possible nominees. This piece in The National Journal is better than the usual prospective nominees article. While most of the names are familiar, there are a few new ones, and Taylor offers brief but still somewhat detailed descriptions of their backgrounds, pluses and minuses.

Posted by armand at 11:44 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

US Senate Debate in Louisiana

I remain concerned that David Vitter will win a majority in this race on November 2nd, thereby winning election and avoiding a run-off. But on the bright side of things, Ricky Prado notes that State Treasurer John Kennedy looked worlds better than Congressman Chris John in the recent Senate debate, and apparently he got in some great digs at Vitter. Between that performance and recent polling I think Kennedy still has a good shot at making a run-off against Vitter, if there is one. John's debate performance perhaps reminds people of one of the real weaknesses he has as a candidate - he's never had to win a tight race before. That lack of experience in a close campaign could prove his undoing.

Posted by armand at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 21, 2004

The British Save Bush on Iraq - Again

Following a request by the Bush administration, the British have agreed to redeploy 850 of their troops in central Iraq. The troops will remain under a British general, though they will be under tactical American command. They will be there for "weeks rather than months", and Prime Minister Blair has promised they will be home by Christmas.

Posted by armand at 11:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Team Bush: Committed to Giving Your Money to Cotton Farmers

It's stories like this one that leave me flabbergasted when people try to make the argument that Kerry will be worse for trade than Bush will. I suppose it's possible. But President Bush has set such a low bar over the last four years that I don't think that's at all clear.

Posted by armand at 10:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Whither the Supreme Court's Conservative, Individualistic Ideology

Prominent Republican legal scholar Charles Fried (a former member of Massachusett's Supreme Judicial Court and US Solicitor General under Ronald Reagan) bemoans the growing philosophical incoherence of the US Supreme Court, and it trampling on long established doctrines that are in line with conservative thinking (conservative thinking of a classical liberal bent). Jack Balkin notes that Fried is basically just sick and tired of Justice O'Connor (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Posted by armand at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2004

Is the EU an Independent Actor?

Talk about your topics that will be IR specialists in an uproar - I have yet to see fisticuffs break out, but the disagreements between those who think it is and those who think it just represents the interests of member states can run very deep. Today's debate on the topic involves a fight between EU leaders and Italy over a conservative Italian who's the incoming Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs. Henry Farrell looks at the mini-crisis and sees evidence of EU independence. Tobias Schwarz thinks Farrell's interpretation of these events is a reach, and the EU isn't as independent of state interests as Farrell suggests.

Posted by armand at 08:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saved! and The Day After Tomorrow

Bloodless Coup gathered a few nights ago to check out a few new DVD releases. I really enjoyed Saved!. I mean it's pretty cute right from the start between Mac Culkin's acerbic delivery and our believing heroine sacrificing her virginity to try and save her gay boyfriend. He stays gay, she gets pregnant and lessons about Christian tolerance commence. If you expect to see church bashing or the taunting of believers - this really isn't that kind of thing. What it is is funny and sweet and generally really well done. And if, like me, you've been wondering what on Earth Mandy Moore can give to the world that has an IQ over 75, look no further. She's really very good in this as Hilary Faye, the Christian high school's queen bee.

The Day After Tomorrow is something else entirely. Most importantly it's bad. Actually, it's unspeakably awful. But hey, it's the kind of bad that allows for a multitude of jokes while you watch the film. Put the disc in and start your own MST3K commentary. I assume all involved must have gotten enormous paychecks to take part in this monstrosity. The plot is so stupid you have trouble believing someone actually had the nerve to type it. Oh, and it would be offensive too if it weren't so bad that you can't possibly take it seriously (talk about your macho men and helpless women stereotypes). Still, it's got Jake G., and it's really funny (though it's hard to tell if that's intentional), and you're bound to cheer (or smile devilishly) when the Weather Channel morons get flattened ... so if you're looking to kill a few hours with something silly and preposterous you can do much worse than this.

Posted by armand at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dictators and Terrorist-Backers for Bush!

The leaders of Iran and Russia are publicly backing President Bush. This shouldn't come as a surprise given that the president's actions have closely resembled some of the fondest dreams of the repressive, terrorist-supporting Iranian leadership. And of course those actions go far beyond merely trying to install an Iranian agent as the head of the new Iraqi government.

Posted by armand at 11:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2004

The Next Attorney General, Part II

Yesterday I wrote a post noting an item in the Washington Whispers column discussing likely candidates to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General. You may have noticed that the Republican list did not include the current Deputy Attorney General, James Comey. Why? Well, Orin Kerr has a post on the Volokh Conspiracy today that I think says all you need to know about how people rise to the top of the Bush administration - it's not competence (given who holds senior posts in the DOD it's CLEARLY not competence), it's loyalty. And it seems that Comey has "erred to much on the side of neutrality".

Posted by armand at 03:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Mother Post

This weekend I traveled to visit my parents, and ended up having a very frustrating political conversation with my mother. Yeah, sure, everyone has those, but this one really crystallized for me how effective the GOP advertising has been, and how little reality matters to the political message that people embrace.

This is a very hard conclusion to admit, as I've always considered myself a fairly radical democrat (small "d" as in, highly in favor of the most inclusive democratic participation by the citizenry). I remember having a political science professor who described the opinion (not his exact words) that low voter turnout was probably a good thing, because most people are idiots making poor choices anyway, so we probably weren't losing any representation by them not voting, i.e. sure, if people actually voted for what they wanted, it would be a loss, but since they don't, it isn't. This opinion always seemed excessively cynical and elitist to me.

However I was confronted with a case of cognitive dissonance in my own (ok, my parents' own) home. My folks are elderly, have high prescription drug costs and complicated interactions with insurance companies and hospitals, are concerned about friends' grandkids in the military, are living a modestly well-off but comfortable retirement from being a white collar professional (dad) and full-time mom, have been married for over 50 years, and go to church on Sundays. No, their names aren't Ward and June, but close enough. In most things, I would say that they are moderates, having been "Reagan democrats" but not caring all that much for one party or the other, and certainly not the type to employ or encourage extreme partisan rhetoric. If I had to describe them in general terms, especially my mom, I would say they were law-abiding, fair, and community-minded. You know, the neighbors you leave the keys with and know they will not only keep on eye on your place, but they won't take a look around inside either because that would be none of their business and wrong.

Because of this, the conversation I had with my mom was all the more confounding, as she discussed several personal situations and preferences that seemed fairly to entirely consistent with an anti-Bush position, then proceeded (some 30 minutes later) to regurgitate almost verbatim the Bush/Cheney party line, and say she would support them on November 2nd because "we can't afford to change things right now because of the times". Two examples:

1. Our neighbor - who is like an aunt because our families have been friends for so long- has a grandson who has been deployed to Iraq. By all accounts he worked very hard to get into the military, and sees it as a career decision. In Iraq, he was wounded in his unarmored vehicle by shrapnel which hit him in his chest which was unprotected by suitable armor. So, he is one of the entry level, on the ground guys suffering from the lack of support and supplies that has been decried by military supporters on both sides of the political aisle. In addition, he recently witnessed the deaths of several of his friends at once, and had to place their remains in body bags. In telling me the story, my mother talked about how worried she was that these kids are over there, and aren't adequately protected, and how terrible it is that a young kid from a small town in rural USA has been forced to "grow up" in such a sudden, traumatic, and terrible way, as well as that it doesn't seem very clear exactly what we're doing over there.
2. Because of chronic health care issues, my parents interact on a regular basis with other seniors (and non-seniors) struggling with similar long term problems. They have an acqaintance who, months from retirement after working 40-odd years for one manufacturing plant in the rural south, was laid off and thus lost all pension benefits and health care, at a point in life where getting a new job would be extremely difficult and also complicated by debilitating diabetes. My mother expressed her concern for this woman, and also the desire that she contact a lawyer, because it didn't seem fair or legal that she should lose all her pension. My mother also said that she thought the woman ought to "go on disability" so that she could get medical treatment for her condition, and start getting social security since it wasn't likely she could get another job in the area given her age and health.

As I said, a half hour later, in a discussion of other neighbors' political signs in their yards, my mother said that the neighbor with the grandson in Iraq was supporting Bush, as would my mother, because we have to support the troops. I asked her (really, I was calm) if it didn't seem wrong to support the candidate who sent them there (for, as we had discussed, at the minimum not totally clear reasons) without proper equipment, which put their lives at greater risk. She essentialy said no, you can't support the troops and vote against the President. Next, my mom started talking about the flu vaccine, and how the problem was all the "trial lawyers" (I still can't believe my mother used the words "trial lawyers") and that they were to blame (which is not only logically counterintuitive but that the fact checking orgs and news media out there have shown to be false). She went on to talk about how those lawyers ("ambulance chasers on TV") down in Florida are in cahoots with welfare cheats who are living the high life on - you guessed it - disability. I asked her what the difference was between those people (which, I hate to admit, probably means "foreigners/illegal aliens/etc" especially in the fear spin) and her acquaintance with diabetes, and got the response that it was different because all those people in Florida really weren't disabled.

At this point I imagine a collective eyeroll out there from the gentle readers of Bloodless Coup, either along the "parents/grandmas/generation gap" lines or "as if we didn't know that this was happening?" lines. It was really shocking to see, however, how effective the GOP rhetoric has been in 2004. I can't say I always agree with my mom's choices, but they've always been fairly consistent both in logic (e.g. Jimmy Carter is a good Christian and deserves my vote) and over time (e.g. support for centrists with a pro-incumbent bent, but crossing party lines fairly regularly especially at the state level). The kicker is that while the above discussion didn't take place in our home town, we are from (drumroll, please) Palm Beach County. None of the uproar of the 2000 elections seems to have registered at all. Not foreign policy, not election 2000, not health care, not anything really critically challenges the message that "we need to support our president" even when the overall judgement (talking about mom again) is that the country is in trouble, probably getting worse, and the Bush administration is probably responsible.

I still believe in inclusion. I definitely want my mom to keep voting, not least because she was the one who took me behind the red-white-and-blue curtain to show me how to pull the levers and that it was not only my right but my democratic responsibility to participate in politics. It just makes me frustrated that people are so susceptible to the message that they can contradict their own expressed preferences, that the parties so cynically exploit the tendency, and that no one really seems to care.

Posted by binky at 01:07 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Why Republicans Should Vote for Kerry

By former many-term Republican Governor William Milliken of Michigan.

Posted by armand at 01:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 18, 2004

What Would Kerry Do?

This post at Obsidian Wings is great.

Posted by armand at 04:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Inquirer Endorsement of Arlen Specter

If the Philadelphia Inquirer wants to endorse Arlen Specter, that's their business. But part of their reasoning is really, really weird. They note that Specter's seniority means that he will be the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee next year, and how important that is given expected vacancies on the US Supreme Court and the fact that the Republican next in line, Jon Kyl of Arizona, is an extreme conservative who doesn't support Roe v. Wade. What I find bizarre here is that they seem to imply we need Specter so that he can block anti-choice US Supreme Court justices that Kyl would support. But don't they know Specter voted to confirm Justices Thomas and Scalia?

Posted by armand at 10:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Next Attorney General

US News' Washington Whispers column tends to be about as reliable as a Magic 8 ball. But since yesterday I was encouraging people to think who would fill the top slots at State and the DOD in 2005 I feel I should pass along their picks for likely nominees at Justice. If Bush wins, they see former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson or Bush-Cheney '04 Chairman Marc Racicot taking over as Attorney General. Personally, I think either one would be a vast improvement over John Ashcroft. Their names for a Kerry administration - New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid or Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker. I'm not sure what to think of the idea of Madrid as Attorney General given her long-standing feud with that state's top Democrat (meaning no offense to Jeff Bingaman), Governor Bill Richardson.

Posted by armand at 09:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Post-War Planning: To Be Provided

Even if one were to believe that a president had great instincts, if he has no plans about how to put those into action - how competent a president is he?

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. The administration also failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions.

In fact, some senior Pentagon officials had thought they could bring most American soldiers home from Iraq by September 2003. Instead, more than a year later, 138,000 U.S. troops are still fighting terrorists who slip easily across Iraq's long borders, diehards from the old regime and Iraqis angered by their country's widespread crime and unemployment and America's sometimes heavy boots.

"We didn't go in with a plan. We went in with a theory," said a veteran State Department officer who was directly involved in Iraq policy.

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October 17, 2004

Filling the Cabinet

Baltar raises an interesting point in the comments section of the post on Dan Drezner’s latest thoughts on the campaign – there has been extremely little discussion of who would serve as Secretary of Defense in a John Kerry administration. In fact there has been little discussion of who would serve in senior cabinet posts during the next four years regardless of who wins.

So here is your assignment for the next couple of days – think about who you think George Bush and John Kerry would name as Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State and discuss how this affects your view of the prospects for either potential presidency. I think this is a great topic to get posts going from a variety of readers.

I’ll get things started. It strikes me that while Bush might not get rid of Powell and Rumsfeld immediately (especially if there are major military operations right after the election) both are likely to leave their offices in a second Bush term. Who replaces Powell? I’d say our ambassador to the United Nations, former Sen. Jack Danforth of Missouri has the best shot. He’d be easily confirmed, he’s respected (he was on the short list for Vice President), and he the kind of patrician and serious yet caring demeanor that Bush may favor at State. I wonder as well if our ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilizad might not have a shot at this post. Bush values having a racially diverse team, Khalilizad seems to be a competent administrator, and he’s likely to stay on message with the White House team given his association with the Project for a New American Century. And of course USTR Robert Zoellick may have a shot at it if he wants it and can’t get named Treasury Secretary. But really I don’t know that it matters who fills this slot given President Bush’s apparent distaste/contempt for the State Department. If Powell couldn’t win the department any respect from Bush, can any of these men? And if the president is disinterested in the views of his specialists in foreign policy, even when they are represented by an able individual (be it a Powell or a Zoellick) – is that the kind of president who should have administering our government?

I’ve long thought that NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe would replace Rumsfeld, particularly as Paul Wolfowitz’s reputation has become ever more tarnished. But at this stage I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Condi Rice (she has announced she wants to leave the NSC post) nominated for this job. Why? Because I wonder if O’Keefe has been away from Defense issues and outside the national-security loop for too long. The president may want to have someone with more immediate experience on the Iraq issue to carry out the war. If you’ve been reading this blog for long you’ll know that I find the prospect of a Secretary Rice at once revolting and scary beyond words.

As to Kerry, I think he will name Richard Holbrooke as Secretary of State. I am pleased by this possibility. Yes, he’s a media hound. But he does get things done, and I think his general beliefs about foreign policy would fit very well with the kinds of policies Kerry has announced he hopes to carry out. Also, I think that appointment would likely mean that the State Department would have a greater impact on government policy than it would have under a Bush presidency – and I think that would be a good thing.

As Kerry’s Defense Secretary … who knows? On Don Imus Kerry listed 4 possibilities: Senators McCain, Warner, and Levin, and former Secretary of Defense Perry. I can’t imagine McCain or Warner would take the job and Perry is 77, so I view his appointment as unlikely. That leaves Levin. Levin has long been known as one of the brightest and most hard-working member of Congress, and he knows DOD issues backwards and forwards. I think he’d be a fine choice, however, it strikes me that Levin and another senior senator I think a lot of and who might otherwise be an appealing prospect (I’m referring to Bob Graham of Florida) both suffer from two potential problems. First, they are politicians and it strikes me that of the last 4 men to serve as Secretary of Defense under Democratic administrations (that is, the 4 since LBJ) the two who were politicians were notably less impressive than the two who were not. Secondly, I don’t think either of them ever served in the military and that’s not going to be looked on favorably in certain quarters. Nonetheless, it strikes me that Levin is perhaps the leading contender, and if that were to occur I would not be disappointed.

But if it’s not Levin – who? Kerry’s list opens the door to naming a Republican, as President Clinton did in his second term. But given the current political climate I’m having a hard time thinking of a senior Republican who would take the job. Still, I’d say that a Republican nominee is a definite possibility. The only other politician that makes immediate sense to me is Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina. He’s been on the House Armed Services Committee for decades and is, like Levin, extremely bright and hard-working. However, like Levin I don’t think he served in the military, and as the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee it’s probably more likely he’d be selected to run Kerry’s budget office.

Other possibilities? Well, it could be a Clinton era-official (Walter Slocombe, John Hamre, Rudy de Leon), but honestly I don’t know much about the second and third-tier leadership of the DOD at that time. I will note though that the two most successful and capable (to my eyes) Secretaries under Democratic presidents (Brown and Perry) both held doctorates and served in the DOD as director of defense research and engineering prior to their appointment as Secretary. Given current events I’m not sure Kerry would name a scientist, but given that lack of discussion on this topic I suppose anything is possible.

If it comes down to a choice of Rice versus the Kerry Mystery Candidate – here as well I will opt for even an unknown Democrat given Rice’s long record of ineptitude and mendacity.

Posted by armand at 06:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why Limited-Government Types Should Vote for Kerry

Stuart Benjamin makes a succinct and compelling case at the Volokh Conspiracy.

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Adrian Peterson

I'm extremely reluctant to bring up the race for the Heisman Trophy since I don't think it conveys who's really "the best" any more than I think that the Emmys or American Idol really spotlight someone who is inherently better at their craft than their competitors. That said, this year's race took a most interesting and potentially historic turn with Purdue's loss to Wisconsin yesterday. More and more I'm wondering if any of the top quarterbacks (Kyle Orton, Aaron Rodgers, Jason White and Matt Leinart) are really going to be able to set themselves apart from the rest of the best. Orton, who had appeared a cut above, now has a very visible mistake on his record. So if it's not going to be a quarterback, and it very well might not be, then who would get it? At this point I'd say the numbers point to Adrian Peterson. That's right - it looks quite possible that a freshman could end up being the favorite for the Heisman.

Posted by armand at 04:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scowcroft on George W.'s Middle East Policies

Brent Scowcroft, the National Security Advisor to the first president Bush (and basically Bush I's ideological soul-mate) publicly states that he thinks George W. Bush has taken American foreign policy horribly off-course when it comes to the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli peace process. He still wants him reelected, but he hopes for a fundamental change in the direction of Bush II's policies.

Of course the Ron Suskind article I linked to yesterday notes that at his very first National Security Council meeting Bush made it clear that he wanted the US to pull-out of the peace process (reversing decades of bipartisan foreign policy on the issue) and give Sharon a free-hand to do whatever he wanted. Now Secretary Powell objected to this (though he quickly learned not to do that), but the president wasn't interested in hearing from regional experts or considering how this might affect other US priorities in the region, he simply stated "a show of force by one side can really clarify things".

Now given the president's deeply-held beliefs on this (which, by the way, would seem to offer little in the way of a new solution since one-side has dominated that conflict in terms of power and force for decades) and his disinterest in hearing other opinions it appears clear that short of it hurting his own political strength there is absolutely no reason to expect the president will alter the direction of policies on this matter. And this is a matter of even more consequence now that we've decided to tie ourselves more closely than ever to that region of the globe. But though Scowcroft must expect more of the same policies which will negatively affect our interests on this vitally important issue ... he is a supporter of the president.

Posted by armand at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Interview With Sandra Oh

While ostensibly this is an interview that's part of the press campaign for Sideways, the latest film by Alexander Payne (who gave us one of the classic black comedies of recent years in Election), this interview in The New York Times also touches on the challenges faced by many actors who are trying to succeed in Hollywood. In the case of Ms. Oh, those challenges include being a Canadian of Korean ancestry.

If you've never seen her, you might want to consider renting Last Night, a film written and directed by Don McKellar that deals with how people react to the impending end of the world. It's probably not to all tastes, but I found it rather intriguing. Ms. Oh won the Best Leading Actress Genie (Canadian Oscar) for her performance in that film.

Posted by armand at 11:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2004

The Non-Reality-Based Administration

Ron Suskind's piece in the Sunday New York Times is chilling. While you already likely know the general thrust of it - that the president is curious about very little, believes what he believes regardless of "facts" or "reality", and surrounds himself with sychophants who don't challenge him or his frequently inaccurate beliefs - it's worth reading for the details. Do we really want someone like this running the country?

Posted by armand at 05:57 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Reasons Not To Vote For Kerry

I know bloodlesscoup often comes off as universally against our beloved President, and universally for Kerry, but it is worth noting that there are some legitimate potentially objections to a Kerry Presidency. Daniel Drezner (a Univ. of Chicago Int'l Relations prof) admits to being right wing (and did some work for the 2000 Bush/Cheney ticket, if I remember correctly), but finds himself drifting towards Kerry in this cycle. He still has issues with Kerry, but for him it comes down to process: Kerry has bad instincts, but good procedures and decision-making/policy analysis - Bush has better instincts, but catastrophic decision-making and analysis.

Given the foreign policy stakes in this election, I prefer a leader who has a good decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I don't like, over a leader who has a bad decision-making process, even if his foreign policy instincts are skewed in a direction I do like.
If Bush gets re-elected, he and his team will view it as a vindication for all of their policy decisions to date. Whatever groupthink occurred in the first term would pale besides the groupthink that would dominate the second term. Given the tactical and strategic errors in judgment that this administration has made, I have to lean towards Kerry.

The comments section after his post is where the real action is. I won't quote any (it's a very long thread), but there are a bunch of fairly thoughtful posts that really do find holes in Kerry's assumptions and plans. It's at least worth noting and debating the potential flaws that Kerry brings to the table. I still firmly believe that no one can be worse than Bush, but that doesn't make Kerry automatically Churchill.

One caveat: while there are nuggets of wisdom in the Drezner thread, there are a hefty amount of wingnut mouth-breathers. Try to ignore them. I still don't know why (reasonably) intelligent people continue to think that Kerry has given a veto over US actions to the UN or Europe. He has repeatedly stated and argued that he won't. I understand that many feel (perhaps legitimately) that he will be less aggressive, which translates to using force less often (and we should debate the pros and cons of this), but that isn't the same as a "veto" over our actions. Anyway, worth a read

Posted by baltar at 03:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 15, 2004

The Bulge on Bush's Back

As Kevin Drum notes, something was there in all 3 debates. Like Kevin, I'd like to know what it is. But beyond that, I think this is another glaring example of the degree to which the president can live in a cocoon far removed from the people. I mean if the press can't even get an honest answer about this, is it at all surprising that serious policy questions are never seriously discussed (or even acknowledged)?

Posted by armand at 02:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

George Bush as The Bubble Boy

Hey, he even refers to himself that way. As I've written before, insulating one's self in the fashion he describes is a recipe for disaster. Anyone who holds a senior position in the White House should have been able to predict that serious mistakes would follow decision making in that environment. We see no sign that he's changed his patterns of decision making, so it appears that if he's reelected we'll be treated to 4 more years of avoidable mistakes.

Posted by armand at 01:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Born Rich

I rented this documentary made by Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson. Honestly, there's not much to it. I mean you make some interesting small discoveries. For example, kids from rich families can have bad skin (or at least S.I. Newhouse IV, a rude Euro-royal, and Johnson do - though Johnson is nonetheless kind of cute). Oh, and Newhouse actually has a Goonies poster up in his dorm room. But basically their relationships with their families and money are what you would likely expect. Some of the young people who are featured seem very nice, bright, interesting and well-grounded. Others - not so much.

But I'd say that if you want to watch a movie about young, rich New Yorkers (and not a film about any of the particular people featured in Johnson's documentary) you're better off just watching Metropolitan (which will hopefully eventually be released on DVD). It's sweet, very witty, insightful, and you can keep in mind that in that work the clueless and the assholes are just fictional characters.

Posted by armand at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 14, 2004

WV GOP Values Fear

This evening, I found the following gem from the West Virginia GOP on my voice mail:
Hi I’m calling to ask for your vote to stop the massive assault by liberal politicians on our conservative West Virginia values. During regular business hours you can go to the county courthouse and stand for strong values by casting your vote early for our Republican team. You don’t have to wait to show the Hollywood liberals that West Virginians have a steady moral compass. You can now vote any weekday at the county courthouse. Don’t let eastern elitists and their handpicked judges remove “under God” from the pledge of allegiance or force us to recognize same-sex marriage. Stand up and be counted early. Please don’t take the chance that a personal or work emergency will keep you from voting on election day. Don’t wait. Vote today. Paid for by the WV Republican Party: www.wvgop.org
First the "banned" Bible mailer, and now this. It's good to know that rational debate and temperate language continue to be a mainstay of the GOP campaign strategy. It's also good to know that they eschew the elitism of a group that cares not about guaranteeing the ability of the whole population to vote, but urges its special few to look out for themselves first. "Work emergency" my ass.
Posted by binky at 07:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Palm Beach County

That's right: natural disaster. They can't even test the voting machines in Palm Beach County. And Theresa "Butterfly Ballots" LePore is still there. I don't want to go through another four years fending off cracks about my home town. Aargh!
Posted by binky at 04:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Ballots for You

Hmmm ... the mayor of a large midwestern city in a swing state requests additional ballots for November 2nd noting that the city received fewer than it received in 2000 or 2002 and that turn-out is likely to be higher this year. The mayor is turned down - by a Bush campaign official. Just how shameless is the Republican party going to get in its moves to block certain voters from voting?

Posted by armand at 03:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

If Kerry wins...

...I think the turn-around point everyone will point to is the set of debates. Over all three debates, Kerry managed to seem Presidential (dignified, calm, in command, knowledgable, etc.). I'm not just saying this; most of the polling bears out a Kerry victory last night (and all the other nights). To some degree, it didn't matter how Bush did (though his mannerisms in all three debates didn't help his case).

The country is not in good shape: economy just struggling along, deficits as far as the eye can see, Iraq is a slow motion train wreck, and the world hates us. All people needed to see was the Kerry has the potential to be the President, and he achieved that over the three nights.

(Note: I did say "If Kerry wins": there is still a mess of time between now and November 2nd. Nobody should count their chickens.)

Posted by baltar at 01:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Small-Scale Oklahoma Press Turns on Tom Coburn

It seems there are several papers in the state that have already had more than enough of Republican US Senate nominee Tom Coburn.

Posted by armand at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cambodian Succession

For those who care, the 81 year old king of Cambodia is stepping down (for real this time, as he has flirted with it in the recent past). According to CNN, "The monarchy, for its part, is seen as a critical stabilizer in a deadlocked power-sharing government, acting as a moral voice against corruption while pushing for democratic reform."

The rest of the story profiles the new King. The tone of it though...let's see, dancer, bachelor, likes France, art enthusiast, not strong. Gee, I wonder what they're trying to insinuate. The NYT, for example, only picked up the comment of the French official. Once again, CNN takes the high road.

Posted by binky at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Destroying Voter Registrations

Am I right in thinking that there is really no recourse for people whose registrations have been destroyed? There are claims that the registrations of people who tried to register as Democrats have been destroyed in Nevada, Oregon and West Virginia. Presumably many of these people may not know that their registration materials weren't processed. Does anyone know if there is anything these people can do to be sure they have the right to vote on November 2nd? I'm guessing there's not - but I hope there is.

Posted by armand at 11:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The End of the World...

...must be approaching, because for once the Economists and the Political Scientists are in agreement. Well, kind of. A survey of randomly selected economics professors who serve on the editorial board of the American Economic Review shows that except for the issues of "free trade and globalisation" the respondents think Kerry has better policies than Bush. Read this BBC/Economist report that came out last week.

The opinion about the Bush tax cuts really surprised me, by the way.

More than seven out of ten respondents say the Bush administration's tax cuts were either a bad or a very bad idea, and a similar proportion disapproves of Mr Bush's plans to make his tax cuts permanent.

That's not what I expected from economics professors at all. A more thorough explanation/analysis would be useful.

Posted by binky at 09:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 13, 2004

More on Popular

So I was quickly losing patience with Popular, my latest revel in bad teen angst/comedy. A Sadie Hawkins episode that’s all about both the boys and girls hating their bodies (hey writers, you’ve done that already), a lame and weird sexual harassment episode (fyi, everyone takes away everyone else’s power), and “Caged” – an episode about what happens when all the girls get their periods simultaneously, are stupid enough to write down their darkest secrets in a new (mid-way through the semester?) Feminism class (I am shocked, just shocked, that Nicole stole those scraps of paper out of the class trash bin), and then get locked in the bathroom together. OK, well, “Caged” did have that great and bizarre bit about the Bio teacher’s S&M practices after dark. Still, I wasn’t floored by it. But then in just one episode Popular manages to return to true greatness in an episode about a conniving boy who fights dirty to not merely become the first guy on the cheerleading team (the Glamazons), but to become head cheerleader.

As to the plot, I think Television Without Pity described it best – “I am astonished at the Scooby-Doo logic path the show is following. Astonished, amazed, and impressed. It's like the best combination of an after-school special and Sassy magazine.” But beyond that, this episode is loaded with zingers that are at once very amusing, and completely out of place. The writers seem to have so much trouble remembering that they are not writing their own dialogue – they are apparently a bunch of gay guys in the 20’s and 30’s – they are writing dialogue for supposed high school students. It’s a very funny juxtaposition. Examples of this snappy repartee:

What in the name of Linda Evangelista?

You’re Maria, she’s Anita at best.

I dig you in a Bonnie and Clyde let’s dress-up in expensive clothes and kill people kind of way.

If I’m half as evil as that horrible vampire Adam then I should be burned at the stake. But the truth is I don’t want my friends to have to accessorize with Madonna-style crucifixes – they’re so 80’s.

Of course this episode, “All About Adam”, has other pluses too – Wonder Woman music (!), Operation Angels Part II, a high school named after Lynyrd Skynyrd, and lots and lots of Mary Cherry (who has all kinds of new talents in this episode). With episodes like this, I’m not going to give up on Popular just yet. It can be really funny.

Posted by armand at 03:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Giveways to the Haves

Yikes - this latest tax bill, approved by your Republican Congress and president is just appalling. Read about the whole thing. This provides the setting:

The story began nearly three years ago, with an initial impetus simply to replace a $5 billion annual tax break for American exporters that the World Trade Organization had ruled was illegal. It ended this week with a 633-page behemoth that offers new tax giveaways to everyone from corporate titans like Boeing and Hewlett-Packard to an array of oil and gas producers, shopping mall developers, wine distributors, even restaurants. Many companies, like General Electric and Dell, are likely to end up with far more tax relief under the new bill than they had ever received from the old tax break. Some, like Exxon Mobil, never qualified for the old tax break at all but will enjoy tax savings now.
Posted by armand at 12:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dick Cheney Manipulates the Intelligence Service

So maybe this isn't new news exactly, but this post by Juan Cole gets at a fundamental point in this whole business about "everyone thought X", or how it was "bad intelligence" that led us into war. Uh, no. We had lots of intelligence, and the administration chose to see certain things in it. That was their choice. And when they didn't get to see what they wanted to see (as in this case) they took other actions - like creating a whole Cheney-worldview intel shop for Doug Feith to run at the DOD. What's disconcerting is that this shows this kind of thing is still going on. And there's little reason to think this will end if Bush is reelected.

And of course this doesn't even get at the point that the intelligence leaders see is on the kinds of questions and topics they request information about. It's not like a desk oficer says "I should send this to the president!". So the questions that are asked have a great deal to do with the quality of information the president gets ... and this kind of behvaior suggests to me that we really should expect Bushand Cheney to ask the kinds of questions that will really keep them accurately informed about what's going on in the world.

Posted by armand at 11:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Can Kerry Form a Broader Coalition?

This move by Germany looks promising.

Posted by armand at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2004

Even more helpful!

Perhaps you've seen the Human Rights Watch report or the media coverage of it that describes the Al Qaeda "ghost detainees" as "disappeared" people. This language is not chosen lightly, and was borne of the repressive military regimes that perpetrated state terrorism against their own people, most widely recognized in Argentina with the Madres de Plaza de Mayo.

Turns out that people aren't the only things disapearing in Iraq. Now, let's see, what DID we do with those NUCLEAR assets?!

Posted by binky at 03:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Randy Kuhl

When you've got a divorce record like this, you'd think you'd think twice about running for Congress. And you'd think a party would think twice about nominating you. But hey - if you've been winning state legislative elections anyway, I suppose you're still on track to become the next member of Congress from the Southern Tier of New York. That this odious thug is likely to take the place of the ever-civil Amo Houghton, to my mind one of the best members of Congress ... well, it's a very sad thing.

Posted by armand at 02:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lonely Pets

In the third hour of sitting at my desk in my home office, listening to my next door neighbors' dog in his third hour of barking and howling, I am forced to confront yet aagain the question: why do idiots get dogs and then lock them up at home all day, in conditions where they are miserable and make everyone around them want to wring someone's (the owner's) neck? Dogs bark. Dogs are supposed to bark...it's their job to be alert to the presence of strange things. Dogs bark out of delight at seeing their people, in play with their little buddies. I got it, I understand and accept this fact. However a dog that barks and howls without interruption for hours is not alerting. Possibly obsessed, but sure not delighted or playing. Poor dog. People suck.
Posted by binky at 01:46 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Disparate Populations

As binky noted below, a large number of professors of international relations (fairly prominent ones, at that) have come together with a open letter opposed to Bush. This is not the first group of policy experts who have chosen to do this: diplomats & military officers, former generals and admirals, nobel laureates, pediatricians, and business school professors have all come out against Bush (list found via Obsidian Wings).

Then, I find an interesting op-ed in the WaPo that reports on a recent poll of active duty, reserve and guard members. Overwhelmingly they are voting for Bush over Kerry (almost 4 to 1). This seems very disconnected, especially in the face of the fairly massive protest against Bush that comes from the policy community (the open letters I cited above).

What divides these groups? Why this disconnect? I don't think anyone is surprised to see the military go pro-Bush, but the margins are staggering. What makes it so disconnected is the presence of strong protest against Bush coming from the policy community that mostly thinks about using the military (international relations academics, diplomats, and generals/admirals). The presence of fairly large numbers of people from those camps keeps this from being a simple "the military recognizes that Kerry's flip-flops and record will get them killed, and they support a resolute Bush" story. If that were true, we wouldn't be seeing the policy community fire off all these open letters. These policy people (I guess excepting the pediatricians), of all civilian groups, should be the ones most closely associated with the military, and should be most in tune and supportive of them, and they aren't.

One group or the other needs to change opinion, for this to be logical for me.

(P.S. - Yeah, I know open letters aren't a survey, and don't carry the same validity as the polls mentioned in the op-ed. Still, I think that if we did have a poll of those groups, the anti-Bush/pro-Kerry would beat the Pro-Bush sides in those groups. In other words, the open letters do represent a somewhat accurate take on the opinions of those populations.)

Posted by baltar at 01:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Now this is helpful!

India doesn't seem to be getting its knickers in a twist, so who is the intended recipient of this signal?
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan said Tuesday that it has successfully test-fired a medium-range, nuclear-capable missile that could hit many cities in neighboring India, but defense officials said it was not intended as a message to the rival country.
India was informed beforehand about the test of the Ghauri V missile, which has a range of 930 miles. The launch, at an undisclosed location, was witnessed by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, an army statement said.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Aziz said Tuesday in a statement that ``the nation is proud of our scientists and holds them in the highest esteem for making the national defense impregnable.''
The Ghauri missile is produced by Pakistan's main weapons facility, Khan Research Laboratories -- named after Abdul Qadeer Khan, the disgraced chief scientist behind Pakistan's nuclear program.
Posted by binky at 01:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Senate Race in Kentucky

What in the world is going on? Jim Bunning has been as undistinguished a senator as you could find. Nonetheless, in crimson-red Kentucky it looked like he was close to a lock for reelection, even after the Democrats nominated a very appealing candidate in Dr. Dan Mongiardo. True Bunning caught some heat after he said Mongiardo looked like a member of the Saddam Hussein family. But that's not the kind of thing that will cost a Republican reelection in Kentucky, and it's arguably not even the lowest of the dirt that Bunning has thrown. But lately this race has taken some truly bizarre turns - and it's quite possible that this may actually become competitive.

Posted by armand at 12:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yet Another Tom Coburnism

Really, what is with this guy (uh, possibly the next senator from Oklahoma). His latest bizarre statement - there is rampant lesbianism in the schools of Oklahoma. The educators in the schools, not surprisingly, have failed to notice any such thing. Maybe this isn't so shocking from a guy who thinks gays are the biggest threat to American and supported Alan Keyes for president. But really - how did we get in a position where a man like this might get elected to the US Senate?

Posted by armand at 12:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

You are not alone: aka foreign policy scholars speak!

Just as the Brooks column had me thinking about Hobbes, I wandered over to Crooked Timber and found this post. Seems I am not the only one with Hobbes on the brain. Below the discussion of Hobbes and bribery however, is a note about something I can't believe we at bloodless coup have missed. A group called Security Scholars for Sensible foreign policy have produced an open letter to the American people condemning the Bush administration's foreign policy. The letter is articulate, balanced and analytical. A striking element is the list of signatories. To my fellow IR folks let me just say: Dudes, check out that list! The rest of you should be aware that the list contains some of the biggest and most respected names in the discipline. On top of that, it has some of the darkest of the "dark Realists" (Mearsheimer) in addition to the usual "cooperation and interdependence" suspects (Keohane). Rather broad and distinguished a group (even including folk from our alma mater, though not Chuck G.).
Posted by binky at 11:53 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Saudi Royal Family and Deborah Tannen

How often do you see that combination in a blog post? Probably never until today. Here's Helena Cobban's post that mentions both. The gist is that the Sauds aren't going to let women vote in their municipal elections (I'm just shocked that such close friends of America would do that - not), and that Tannen thinks Bush's I'll-never-apologize-for-anything rhetoric is going to hurt him with women on November 2nd. One other reason you might want to check out Cobban's website is that she's been visting Lebanon and has a lot of posts on that trip and what life is like in Lebanon today.

Posted by armand at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tomorrow's Lies Today

Paul Krugman lists a set of lies of that the president has said (and will likely repeat in tomorrow's debate) about his record and about Senator Kerry's proposals. Read this column and know these facts. Given that the first political organization I ever paid dues to was the Concord Coalition it's no surprise that I am especially revolted by the president's claims that he's been a fiscally responsible leader who's shrinking government, and that his budget deficits are the fault of international events rather than his own policies (those are HUGE lies). But the president's record and claims are equally detached from reality when it comes to the nature of his tax policies and the number of private-sector jobs that have vanished during his presidency.

Posted by armand at 11:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Crowded or a Spacious World?

Today's David Brooks column is an interesting reflection on the connection between domestic and international politics. I don't necessarily buy everything he's selling (the paragraph with Pat Buchanan in it, for example) but I like what he is trying to do, and I think it makes some sense to look for the commonalities of vision in foreign and domestic policy. Plus, he refrains from the language of demonization.
Posted by binky at 10:31 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

Hey Big Spender

Just for the record, Kevin Drum notes Bush's bald-faced lie last Friday (that neither Kerry nor Charlie Gibson called him on) about how much he's increased non-defense discretionary spending. One of the reasons the deficit is going up so much is that he can't seem to control himself from spending your money (and that he's borrowing on behalf of you and your children) and then spending some more. Under Bush non-defense discretionary spending has increased at a rate vastly higher than under Clinton or Bush's father, or even Jimmy Carter. Yet again, "conservative" isn't the first word that leaps to mind to describe our president.

Posted by armand at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry Respects Federalism, Bush Does Not

John Kerry has promised to end the raids against the use of medical marijuana that have been a hallmark of President Bush's drug and crime policies. These have even been going on in states which have passed laws allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Yes, you might think that the supposed "conservative" would be the one more likely to respect states rights, but you would be wrong. And you might think that a "compassionate" conservative would care about helping to lessen the suffering of people in pain, but, sadly, you'd be wrong about that too. The president is more interested in maintaining his tough image than actually helping the sick. Yes, he's a man of ... character.

Posted by armand at 11:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2004

Captain Obvious

I read both the Sunday NYT and WaPo today, and just couldn't get worked up about anything. I was all, like, "yeah, yeah, yeah." Didn't really matter what subject. Bush is spending money to scientifically test to see if prayers can heal. Yeah, that's a big shock. I guess that is one way of cutting down on national health care costs. Would that be a faith-based initative, or not? Some Marines in Iraq are disheartened by how tricky the insurgents are. Can't tell who the good guys and bad guys are, easily. Hmmm, it's an urban guerilla war. I'm shocked, shocked!, that they won't stand still and let us shoot them. Some of the troops support the war, some don't. Sort of like America. Friedman, in his continuing quest to sound like the cutest columist in America, invents a new phrase: PMD (people of mass destruction). Woo!! Where did he get that. I could almost see the smoke comin' out of his ears. Dowd must have needed to hose him off. Broder, the dean of American Journalism, finally notices that Bush & Cheney continue to claim that all the reasons given before the war for why we should invade Iraq are still valid, even though everyone (including hermits in Alaska) knows they haven't found anything there. Really, Mr. Broder? Is this news to you? Perhaps you should read that newspaper you work for every now and again. It's really interesting!!! And informative!!! The Bush and Kerry camp's can't agree on anything. Iraq. Economy. Terrorism. Stem Cells. What direction "north" is when standing at the White House. The time. What that meal between breakfast and dinner is called. It turns out that each state has separate rules for voter registration, who gets to vote, counting and a whole bunch of technical stuff. And it just might be possible that both Democrats and Republicans are trying to turn the rules to their advantage, to get more votes for their side. Wow. If only this had happened in the last election, maybe in a key state, we would have realized this earlier! Thank god for the Washington Post! Oh, and spam and spyware are irritating and annoying. What a great idea! I'll have thousands of subjects to post about now: I'll just tell people what they already know. Coming tomorrow: Water is wet! Tuesday: Fire is hot!

I'm tired. I'm out of energy to find more useless articles. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have something actually interesting to say.

Posted by baltar at 06:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 07, 2004

Bush plays Calvinball

The President (and Vice) have officially left the planet. Or, at least, they have a mobile Calvinball "Opposite Zone" that is always in place around them, so that whatever they say is just the opposite of the truth:

"Based on all the information we have to date," Mr. Bush said at the White House, "I believe we were right to take action, and America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in prison. He retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction, and he could have passed that knowledge on to our terrorist enemies." (cite)

Bush claims Saddam had the "knowledge, materials, the means and intent" to produce WMD. This is just plain false. We know he didn't have the materials or means to produce nuclear weapons. Several reports, including the newly released Duelfer report, clearly show that Saddam did not have enriched uranium or plutonium to use in bombs. Nor did Saddam have labs or factories to produce any of the components. Saddam didn't have the ability to make any kind of serious chemical or biological weapons, but since some of those you can make in a bathtub, I suppose Bush isn't outright lying (anyone with a copy of the Anarchists Cookbook can make tear gas, which is technically a WMD). It is unlikely that Saddam had the knowledge to make nuclear weapons, if by "knowledge" you mean ability to quickly assemble factories and production lines. Saddam was still in the lab stage, and was on a path to acquiring the knowledge, but clearly didn't have it. I'll grant that Saddam likely had the intent, but getting one out of four right isn't a good record for anybody, much less a President.

Why does Bush have to speak this way? Why can't he acknowledge that Saddam wasn't a threat on this issue (the others - human rights violations, threats to neighbors, funding international terrorism - are at least more debateable). It's this kind of language that drives me insane, and why I'll be voting for Kerry. It's like Calvinball - he just says the opposite of whatever the truth is. Doesn't anyone see what this does to his credibility?

Posted by baltar at 04:45 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Bush and Religion (a special post for my mother)

I'm not going to make any political hay out of this, just note it as somewhat odd. Our very religious President (a man lionized by American fundamentalists), in fact, does not attend church regularly.

Like I said, I make no political comment on this one. My own person belief is that one's relationship with God is individual, and doesn't really need an organized congregation as a necessary part. My (sainted) mother, however, has disagreed with me on this, and (if I remember correctly) has quoted scripture on this. In any event, I think my view is a distinct minority view, and that most practicing Christians would argue that church (public worship in a group) is a necessary part of being Christian. It is odd (neither good, nor bad, just odd), that Bush - so firmly a Christian both publicly and privately - does not attend.

So, Mom, care to comment?

Posted by baltar at 12:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 06, 2004

Get That Driver a Drink

So I read in The Atlantic that a new AEI-Brookings study shows that people with a .08 blood alcohol level (legally drunk) drove more slowly and had a better braking response than the study's control groups (drivers who were not drunk, and drivers talking on a cell phone).

Posted by armand at 11:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jim DeMint as School Principal

For a man running for the US Senate Republican Rep. Jim DeMint sure does spend a lot of time thinking about who should be running the nation's classrooms. First he said gays shouldn't be allowed to be teachers, now he says that the same holds true for single, pregnant women. Tom Coburn is still at the top of the list of Republicans I hope I don't see in the Senate in 2005, but DeMint might end up giving him a run for that title by November.

Posted by armand at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 05, 2004

Why is it?

Why is it that in the year 2004 we have nonsense like this? (emphasis added)

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a leading opponent of abortions, agreed that 30 states or more would move to restrict or curtail abortion if Roe was overturned. ``The court is out of step with the rest of America,'' he said. ``I have no doubt that you would see a majority of the states take action to protect unborn children and their mothers.''

Protect what? Protect from whom? Are there packs of raving abortionists running around in the streets? Are they going to round up pregnant women and send them to war in Iraq? Oh wait I get it, protecting us from the scary belief that we are more than just vessels for children, or that when we decide to have children we don't need the "protection" of his organization. We are not women, we are mothers. Well, thanks ever so much Mr. Perkins, but your idea of protection is something I don't need. If I don't want to have an abortion, I think I can hold off the gangs of godless liberals trying to drag me off to the clinic.

Posted by binky at 04:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The President Tells Bald-Faced Lies About Senator Kerry

It's not that I'm shocked by this. I think he's as slimy as they come, so of course he does. What I find peculiar, if completely predictable, is how he can so obviously do this - and still be defended by his fans as such a man of honor and integrity. Do they just turn off part of their brains? As someone who studies these things for a living, sadly the answer is that yes - actually, they sort of do (well, I'm talking about the people who aren't obviousbly saying these things about him for craven political reasons). But I don't think that means we shouldn't be vigilant in waking people up to this.

Posted by armand at 03:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bringing Back the Draft in Bush's Second Term

Now I know Bush said in the debate last week that he didn't want to bring it back. And yes, the senior officers in the Pentagon will scream bloody murder (but since many of them have been doing that for the last 4 years, perhaps that's not the biggest of obstacles). But David Hackworth thinks the draft will be coming back if Bush is reelected. I still have trouble imagining this happening. But if Bush is serious about "staying the course" in Iraq (something I'm not sure he'll do, but something that's certainly possible) it's going to be very hard to do that with the manpower currently available. So as much as at one level I find it hard to imagine, at another level it seems like it may very well be necessary. I'm starting to be able to get a picture in my head of Charlie Rangel in the Rose Garden shaking hands with the president surrounded by lots of young faces in uniforms as they announce plans to bring it back.

Posted by armand at 01:01 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Speaking of Crumbling...

The wall of certainty?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. intervention in Iraq was hampered early on by a lack of adequate forces and efforts to contain looting after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, according to the former U.S. administrator in Iraq.
``We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness,'' Paul Bremer said in a speech reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday. ``We never had enough troops on the ground.''
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday he was misunderstood when he stated hours earlier that he knew of no ``strong, hard evidence'' linking Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda.
``I have acknowledged since September 2002 that there were ties between al Qaeda and Iraq,'' Rumsfeld said in a Web site statement issued following remarks he made to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday.
``Today at the Council, I even noted that 'when I'm in Washington, I pull out a piece of paper and say ``I don't know, because I'm not in that business, but I'll tell you what the CIA thinks'' and I read it'.''
Rumsfeld, during a question-and-answer session before the Council on Foreign Relations, had been asked to explain the connection between Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network -- one of the U.S. arguments for launching a war on Iraq.
He replied: ``To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.''
Posted by binky at 11:04 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Congress Crumbles

Via CalPundit/Washington Monthly comes a very detailed report in the Boston Globe of how the legislative process in Washington is collapsing:

With one party controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, and having little fear of retaliation by the opposing party, the House leadership is changing the way laws are made in America, favoring secrecy and speed over open debate and negotiation. Longstanding rules and practices are ignored. Committees more often meet in secret. Members are less able to make changes to legislation on the House floor. Bills come up for votes so quickly that elected officials frequently don't know what's in them. And there is less time to discuss proposed laws before they come up for a vote.

I realize that bashing Congress is somewhat of a national sport, but they really are one of those checks and balances that were intended to be used in the constitution. I'm not going to bash the Republicans for this (the story does that enough), but instead bash all of Congress: it's bad for the country when Congress rolls over for the President. It's their job to deliberate and propose laws to make the country better. It's their job to re-visit executive agencies to check how their legislation is being implemented. It's their job to question the executive branch about what policies they are following and both the process and goals of that agency. I don't care if the Democrats or the Republicans are in charge, just so long as Congress has leadership. This isn't to say that Congress should always oppose the Executive, just that it is supposed to cast light on their actions to further political debate. Public debate, by the way, can be thought of as a market solution: let a bunch of ideas fight it out in the public sphere, and the "best" will be more readily accepted and adopted. Republicans are supposed to like market solutions. Of course, if the GOP really has no interest in public debate or letting Congress have anything resembling a spine, then you get a result that looks a lot like what the Boston Globe writes about...

Posted by baltar at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2004


Since we don't have a teen-comedy category (and I dread the thought of how much time I'd waste if I created one) I'm filing the following under "culture" - because really, how do we study American culture and society if not through teen comedies?

I’ve begun watching the first season the old WB series “Popular”. I remember seeing a bit of it when it was on the air (the show only lasted two seasons) and at that time the series struck me as being heavily influenced by Parker Lewis (yes!!!) and Ally McBeal (such a mixed bag). I am becoming a fan of this. Now being an afficiando of teen comedies that is perhaps not that surprising. But the thing is that early in the series it seems to have very much resembled Dawson’s Creek (no!!!!!) and Beverly Hills 90210 (good god no!!!!!) in terms of its level of melodrama. And while I prefer its comedic bits, even the melodrama is captivating. Why? When it sticks to that tone it is a train wreck of extraordinary proportions, and if you’re having a bad day and want to get away from reality … well, this is much less realistic than an Anne Rice novel or an episode of Passions. Which isn’t to say it’s very good melodrama. It’s not. It’s not even remotely passable. But it’s just so horrible that it’s hard to turn away from the disaster unfolding in-front of you.

The number one problem with the show is that the character who according to the norms of television should be the heroine (and this show is nothing if not painfully predictable in terms of its plot “twists”, “very special episode” sentiments, and conformity to many of TV's norms) is the most dislikable character I’ve come across in TV, film or literature since … well, possibly since I learned to read or turn on a television. Sam is the rebel girl. You know, that very special unique individual (the kind who’s so unique she shows it be getting her nose pierced!) who challenges the norms and calls the cheerleaders and jocks on their elitism. But you see the problem is that the cheerleaders and jocks are such better people than she is. Even Nicole Julian, the show’s uber-bitch character (imagine a tight-pored blonde under 20 pounds of lip-gloss who has the black heart and perfectionist tendencies of Hannibal Lecter), is nicer than Sam. Yes, Nicole would happily dine on puppies for breakfast if it was the trendy thing to do, but at least she protects her friends occasionally. Sam is clinically obsessed with the popular kids, is very clearly paranoid, and does everything in her power to bring them down, no matter who she hurts in the process. And she hurts pretty much everyone on the show, repeatedly. One of the many unusual incongruities that the writers force upon the viewers is that Sam tends to spend every episode whining, pulling hideous “rebellious” pranks, criticizing and undermining her pack of outcast friends (another set of characters who are much nicer and more appealing than her) in her drive to “expose” the generally well-meaning head cheerleader, Brooke McQueen. Yet at the end of every episode they forgive her for some reason (that has yet to be comprehensible even one time presuming these aren’t the most needy co-dependents on the planet) and everyone agrees that Sam was really right about everything. Of course if this show was set on planet Earth presumably one of these people would develop a spine and recognize the fact that the only people who should be talking to Sam would be the guards and doctors at the high security mental institution where she belongs. She really is a sociopath. But she’s also really dull. For somehow managing to pull off that combination we really should give the writers a round of applause – or see to it that they never work again.

So the show is burdened with this megalomaniacal queen of mope (and the mope is yet another conundrum of the show – aside from the fact that she’s desperately jealous of the cool kids it’s hard to see that there is anything remotely tough or hard in Sam’s life), some of the worst opening credits in the history of television, and the soporific, yet seemingly obligatory, storylines involving the parents. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that every episode has at least 4 Three’s Company misdirection moments, but that everything is always wrapped up with the definitiveness of a Scooby-Doo mystery in a mere 40 minutes. But all that said, the show offers non-cringe-inducing entertainment too.

Popular earns plenty of laughs with its imagined day-dream scenes, fantasy episodes, episodes with storylines that are genre classics (a homecoming queen election episode), as well as the wildly stereotypical ways in which some of the secondary characters are designed and cast (the fat would-be cheerleader, the prancing drama teacher, pasty chess club nerds with bad hair and bad clothes who actually eat dirt). And some of the rest of the characterizations and castings are clever in a quite different way. The show features yet more stock characters – but gives them complexities that turn some of the conventions of teen shows on their head. Take the school’s Queen B, Brooke McQueen and Josh Ford (the quarterback). These are two of the more appealing young characters on TV in recent years. Yes, they have a tendency to sometimes overlook the people outside of their clique. But at heart both are really extremely nice, and they handle Sam’s barbs and attacks with considerable grace. When they do make mistakes, they are quick to own up to them. It’s really a rather interesting way to portray the popular kids. Or consider Nicole Julian. When the bio teacher calls her “Satan’s child” no doubt every character in the classroom thinks that’s on target. The thing is though that she’s not simply some cruel, self-involved bitch (that would be our “heroine” Sam). She enjoys being vicious, but there are larger reasons for her behavior. She’s been hurt in her life, and she sees despair and rackets all around her. She would think that the rules of the universe are encapsulated in Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’ (or she would if she knew the song, and maybe she does – the show is filled with more than its share of anachronistic 1980’s references), and she does everything in her power to manipulate the things that surround her in order to maintain her position in (or atop) the social pecking order (as an example, she is the only person who votes strategically in the race for homecoming queen). She’s the big bad, but it’s not as if she was simply evil without a purpose (like, say Amber on Cluless – not that I don’t enjoy Amber). And if you like your television filled with over-the-top side characters of the Cosmo Kramer or Karen Walker variety, Roberta Glass, April Tuna and Mary Cherry add a lot of extremely broad laughs to the show. If the show had become more of a hit Mary Cherry could have easily eclipsed Patsy and Edina as drag queen favorites. I mean c’mon: she’s a Bob Mackie-wearing, Christian oil princess from Texas whose career aptitude test tells her she should be a serial killer. And her mother (Cherry Cherry) is played by Delta Burke!

So there are a number of funny and even mildly uplifting reasons to watch the show (while it offers plenty of been-there script topics, like the body images of teenage girls, it also offers some surprises, like considering the body image issues of male athletes). Overall, it’s kind of trashy and far too frequently tiresome – but I’m afraid I’m getting hooked.

By the way - if you ever want to read truly hilarious scathing reviews of TV shows, teen comedies or not, I urge you to check out Television Without Pity. The summaries there tend to be much better than most TV shows themselves.

Posted by armand at 09:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Political Analysis from Jeff Tweedy

Really. I'm not joking.

Posted by armand at 01:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Condi Lies on TV - Yet Again

It's not funny because it's true.

UPDATE: Publius's discussion of this is deeper.

Posted by armand at 11:07 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Senate Race in South Carolina

This had long looked to be a great pick-up opportunity for the Republicans, but Democrat Inez Tenenbaum has pulled into essentially a tie with the Republican nominee, Congressman Jim DeMint. Given the demographics of South Carolina I'd say that DeMint still has a considerable edge, but some of his policies and statements clearly aren't sitting well with many South Carolina voters. His plan to replace most federal taxes with a 23% sales tax has many (rightly) concerned, and to say he's been rather unfeeling toward those who've lost their jobs in the textile industry is a gross understatement. Just look at his wording on the matter in Sunday's debate. Still, one thing DeMint did at the debate will, I predict, win him more than a few votes. He came out for firing gay school teachers. Maybe I don't have my finger on the pulse of South Carolina - but I'm thinking that's a win for him, especially since Tenenbaum explicitly said she disagreed.

Posted by armand at 10:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 03, 2004

The Latest on Tom Coburn

I suppose I fear no possible new freshman senator more than Dr. Tom Coburn, the Republican nominee in Oklahoma. It's not that the Democratic nominee there is a real prize (I find a lot of his policy positions odious right-wing hackery, though he's a good politician), it's more that Coburn is simply scary - thinking that gays are the biggest threat to American today (what are those who think it's terrorism, nuclear proliferation or even structural poverty thinking?), advocating killing doctors who perform abortions, sterilizing women without their consent (to be fair, the doctor has denied this, but it has been publicly claimed by the woman involved). And I can't say that his performance today on Meet the Press has calmed me at all. First there was the culture war good vs. evil talk (though for the record, he did not say his opponent was evil), and then there was this on a question about how to cut the deficit:

Dr. Coburn: We need to have, first of all, a freeze on any increase in government spending except homeland defense and defense. We need to look at every government program.

Mr. RUSSERT: So a freeze on Social Security and Medicare?

Dr. COBURN: No, I said government programs; not Social Security and Medicare.

OK, so maybe here he's tripping over words and thinks that a freeze on discretionary spending would cut the deficit - which of course it would only do marginally at best. The deficit would still be there, and be pretty damn big. But the bigger head-shaker here is ... does he not realize Social Security and Medicare are government programs? As a doctor and a former member of the US House I presume he does ... but it's a bizarre misstatement ... and yet another sign of Russert's wacky priorities that he didn't press Dr. Coburn for a clarification (I mean he wouldn't want to cut into the time Kate O'Beirne has to praise Bush after all).

Anyway, I haven't gotten to the best part yet. The next Coburn question dealt with why Coburn supported ALAN KEYES for president in 2000 (you know, when our dear leader George W. Bush was running at the same time). Sadly he simply said that Keyes was a great communicator, then went on to praise Bush. But I had no idea - Oklahoma may elect a US senator who thinks Alan Keyes should be president. Wow.

Posted by armand at 04:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Latest on Republican Moves to Outsource Torture

Obsidian Wings has an update. If this matters to you, read the update and call your congressman.

Posted by armand at 03:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Choke by Chuck Pahalniuk

Yesterday I did something I very rarely do. I put aside a novel I was half-way through and decided I wouldn't read any more of it. Given that, perhaps it is unfair to criticize it harshly. All sorts of books don't work unless you read the whole thing. But I was unimpressed. Yes, parts of the book were funny, but nothing about the prose, plot, characters, or structure struck me as very interesting. Here and there it was spot-on, but those were sadly surrounded by vast, tedious swaths of words of little interest conveying nothing. I know he is (or was a few years ago) supposed to be one of the cool kids of modern literature. But this struck me as a very lazy exercise (perhaps, given his choppy writing style and the subject matter he thought he could pretty much just skate by on his supposed-rebel rep alone?), and I failed to really feel any of the characterizations ... even to feel the emptiness or obsessions they supposedly had. I repeat, yeah, he can be funny. But all in all, like far too many supposed princes of cool ... he's boring.

Posted by armand at 12:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fox News and Communist/Republican 527s

Bashing Republican, uh, Fox "News" is really too easy to be worth the time - but this still strikes me as worth noting in that it gets at 1) the level of their mendacity and 2) their level of laziness.

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Funny Cide and Purdue Post Big Wins

If you remember the 2003 Triple Crown you'll remember that Funny Cide was last year's Smarty Jones. But since losing last year's Belmont Stakes, the New York-bred gelding has had a very disappointing career. Prior to Saturday he'd lost 9 of his last 11 starts. However, I am pleased to note that yesterday he was once again victorious, winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park (he edge out Newfoundland by three-quarters of a length). He will compete next in the Breeder's Cup Classic at Lone Star Park on October 30th.

And as for other suddenly good days after extended droughts, I'll note that Purdue finally won at Notre Dame Stadium yesterday. The last time that had happeneded was in 1974. They won big (41-16) in a game that will certainly help QB Kyle Orton's Heisman chances.

Posted by armand at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 02, 2004

The Bush Record on Iraq: Flip Flops and Chalabi

Juan Cole has this post up on how Bush's "plans" and priorities regarding Iraq have changed several times since the invasion. This is of course true. But if he's suggesting that can be used by Kerry as a campaign issue, I really doubt it. Even if it is inaccurate (and it largely is) Kerry is now viewed as the country's #1 flip-flopper and that means he would have little opportunity to nail Bush on this point. He deserves it, but I don't think the American people will listen to Kerry on this.

Where Cole is right though is on using Ahmed Chalabi as an issue. I have yet to hear one word from the Kerry campaign on him, so maybe they know something I don't. But it is pretty clear that much of the administration, probably including the president, wanted to put him in power in Baghdad. Given what we knew about him at the time that was a horrifying error in judgment. And given what we know now, it boggles the mind. We wanted a man who divulges American secrets to Iran to run Iraq??????? I suppose the difficulty is in linking him directly to President Bush, but you would think they would have at least been able to work in talking points on him regarding our policies on the growth of Iran's nuclear program. I mean if he's imperiling our ability to fight what the president himself has labeled the #1 security threat to the country today - that would seem to be a good issue to hit upon.

Posted by armand at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2004

Carl Cameron

Just in case Outfoxed wasn't enough to convince you that Carl Cameron shouldn't be allowed to pretend he's an objective political reporter, now we have this. I know it is Fox News, but does ANYTHING cross the line there? If ANYTHING does I don't see how he can possibly be allowed to continue to cover the presidential race this year.

Posted by armand at 05:13 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Can Islam Change?

This article in The New Statesman looks at the fight within Islam, and attempts by a variety of Muslim groups in South Asia to take it in a more "humanistic" direction.

Putting on my "Westerner" hat for a moment I think that one of the deepest tragedies of the president's foreign policy is that it may very well be stoking and strengthening the harshest and most violent and reactionary Islamist movements at a time (after September 11th and an earlier strong of defeats for for the radicals) when there was a tremedous opportunity for these types of people to win converts and achieve successes.

Posted by armand at 05:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

FMA Fails to Get Approved in Delay's (uh, the US) House

Which isn't to say it didn't get a majority. It did. But it fell far short of garnering the necessary 2/3's approval that is required for a constitutional amendment. 36 Democrats voted for it, 27 Republicans bravely voted no (BoifromTroy has a list of their names), and the caucus of the truly spineless (those who didn't vote either way) attracted 20 members.

Posted by armand at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack