Friday, October 14, 2005

Iraqi Failure: The Big and Small Picture

Among Cursor's many links today are a long but highly detailed report by Patrick Cockburn--a nice compliment to the article about Fisk (noted below), and this SF Gate piece about US Lt. Col. Todd Wood, who's responsible for apologizing when US troops kill Iraqis who aren't part of the insurgency.

If you've got the time, check both out.
Kewl-Aid Kids

Krugman makes it clear he's not real thrilled with what passes for journalism these days:

But many people in the news media do claim, at least implicitly, to be experts at discerning character - and their judgments play a large, sometimes decisive role in our political life. The 2000 election would have ended in a chad-proof victory for Al Gore if many reporters hadn't taken a dislike to Mr. Gore, while portraying Mr. Bush as an honest, likable guy. The 2004 election was largely decided by the image of Mr. Bush as a strong, effective leader.

So it's important to ask why those judgments are often so wrong.

Right now, with the Bush administration in meltdown on multiple issues, we're hearing a lot about President Bush's personal failings. But what happened to the commanding figure of yore, the heroic leader in the war on terror? The answer, of course, is that the commanding figure never existed: Mr. Bush is the same man he always was. All the character flaws that are now fodder for late-night humor were fully visible, for those willing to see them, during the 2000 campaign.

And President Bush the great leader is far from the only fictional character, bearing no resemblance to the real man, created by media images.

Read the speeches Howard Dean gave before the Iraq war, and compare them with Colin Powell's pro-war presentation to the U.N. Knowing what we know now, it's clear that one man was judicious and realistic, while the other was spinning crazy conspiracy theories. But somehow their labels got switched in the way they were presented to the public by the news media...

More broadly, the big problem with political reporting based on character portraits is that there are no rules, no way for a reporter to be proved wrong. If a reporter tells you about the steely resolve of a politician who turns out to be ineffectual and unwilling to make hard choices, you've been misled, but not in a way that requires a formal correction.

And that makes it all too easy for coverage to be shaped by what reporters feel they can safely say, rather than what they actually think or know. Now that Mr. Bush's approval ratings are in the 30's, we're hearing about his coldness and bad temper, about how aides are afraid to tell him bad news. Does anyone think that journalists have only just discovered these personal characteristics?

Let's be frank: the Bush administration has made brilliant use of journalistic careerism. Those who wrote puff pieces about Mr. Bush and those around him have been rewarded with career-boosting access. Those who raised questions about his character found themselves under personal attack from the administration's proxies. (Yes, I'm speaking in part from experience.) Only now, with Mr. Bush in desperate trouble, has the structure of rewards shifted.

So what's the answer? Journalists who are better at judging character? Unfortunately, that's not a practical plan. After all, who judges their judgment?

What we really need is political journalism based less on perceptions of personalities and more on actual facts. Schadenfreude aside, we should not be happy that stories about Mr. Bush's boldness have given way to stories analyzing his facial tics. Think, instead, about how different the world would be today if, during the 2000 campaign, reporting had focused on the candidates' fiscal policies instead of their wardrobes.

People wonder why blogs are gaining momentum while journalism reputation is at a level usually reserved for politicians...maybe it has something to do with what Krugman's saying here. For instance, not once did I ever hear any journalist ask some pretty basic questions in the run up to Operation Enduring, say, "what is the specific threat from Iraq which demands immediate action?" or "why don't our troops have adequate body armor for their persons and adequate reinforcing of their vehicles?" or "what's up with slapping a $6,000 dollar bill on a wounded soldier?", etc. etc. No, it seems as if they were all busy wondering if the main victory parade would end at Firdos Square, the Washington Monument, or Federal Hall...

Now, of course, that crowd can't be bothered with the operation--even as humans are turned to pulp daily. I dunno--maybe thinking about such things interferes with their digestion.
Anarchy in the M.E.

Robert Fisk sees a half empty glass, full of holes, and dripping blood:

Most of Iraq is in a state of anarchy, with insurgents controlling parts of Baghdad just half a mile from the so-called Green Zone, an Independent debate was told last night.

Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, whose new book The Great War for Civilisation: the Conquest of the Middle East has just been published by 4th Estate, painted a picture of deepening chaos and misery in Iraq more than two years after Saddam Hussein was toppled...

He told the debate in London: "The Americans must leave Iraq and they will leave Iraq, but they can't leave Iraq and that is the equation that turns sand to blood. At some point, they will have to talk to the insurgents.

"But I don't know how, because those people who might be negotiators ­ the United Nations, the Red Cross ­ their headquarters have been blown up. The reality now in Iraq is the project is finished. Most of Iraq, except Kurdistan, is in a state of anarchy."

He said that the portrayal of Iraq by Western leaders ­ of efforts to introduce democracy, including Saturday's national vote on the country's proposed constitution ­ was "unreal" to most of its citizens. In Baghdad, children and women were kept at home to prevent them from being kidnapped for money or sold into slavery. They faced a desperate struggle to find the money to keep generators running to provide themselves with electricity. "They aren't sitting in their front rooms discussing the referendum on the constitution."

With insurgents half a mile from Baghdad's Green Zone, Fisk said the danger to reporters from a brutal insurgency that did not respect journalists was increasing. "Every time I go to Baghdad it's worse, every time I ask myself how we can keep going. Because the real question is ­ is the story worth the risk?"

He attacked television reporters for flinching from depicting the everyday bloodshed on the streets of Iraq. "You can go and see Saving Private Ryan or Kingdom of Heaven ­ people have their heads cut off. When it comes to real heads being cut off, you can't. I think television connives with governments at war." He added: "Newspapers can tell you as closely as they can what these horrors are like."

Asked if the "anger and passion" he felt over the events he witnessed had affected his objectivity, he said: "When you are at the scene of a massacre, you are entitled to feel immense anger and I do."

He rejected suggestions that graphic pictures of the dead in newspapers took away their dignity. He said: "My view is the people who are dead would want us to record what happened to them."

And the best thing is, it only cost $200 billion dollars--and counting.
Scum Rises to the Top

It also makes for a serious case of the jitters when the chips are down:

The a mood of intense uncertainty in the White House that veers in some cases into fear of the personal and political consequences and anger at having been caught in the snare of a special prosecutor. And given how badly things have been going for Mr. Bush and his team on other fronts - a poll released Thursday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center put his approval rating at 38 percent, a new low - they hardly have deep reserves of internal enthusiasm or external good will to draw on...

The prospect of a White House without Mr. Rove, Mr. Bush's longtime strategist, has some allies of the president in a near panic, fearful that without him the administration would lose the one person capable of enforcing discipline across a party that has become increasingly fractious and that is almost at war with itself over the president's nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court.

Oh, sorry--that was my schadenfreude showing.

At other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Bug Man is all upset at Ronnie Earle, as we all know. Now, he's running an ad likening the prosecutor to an attack dog. Too bad the investigation is ongoing, i.e., no comment from Earle, who, if I remember right, replied to DeLay's charge of his being partisan to "being called ugly by a frog." Well put.

DeLay's phone records were subponeaed by Earle, who also wants to know about his purchase of a minivan--ooh, that must smart...not only is the Bug Man under the glare of investigative lights, he's also got a mommy car. Ouch.

Finally, to round out this post, here's a fun (but memory intensive) graphic demonstrating what Shrubusto looks like in freefall. 38 percent--and dropping.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Friday Music Post

Following up from yesterday: Attaturk offers his own interpretation of a Johnny Cash classic (with apologies): Federal Prison Blues.

99 years is way too lenient.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thursday Music Post

And let's add an envious link to Murph's post re: obtaining a copy of the Stanley Kubrick archives...I wonder if he--Murph, that is--is particularly fond of Beethoven?

Heather Carbo, a matter-of-fact librarian at an evangelical seminary outside Philadelphia, was cleaning out an archival cabinet one hot afternoon in July. It was a dirty and routine job. But there, on the bottom shelf, she stumbled across what may be one of the most important musicological finds in years.

It was a working manuscript score for a piano version of Beethoven's "Grosse Fuge," a monument of classical music. And it was in the composer's own hand, according to Sotheby's auction house. The 80-page manuscript in mainly brown ink - a furious scattering of notes across the page, with many changes and cross-outs, some so deep that the paper is punctured - dates from the final months of Beethoven's life...

The Times goes on to note that the scorebook was available for public viewing today, and will eventually be sold at auction. The work itself is or was apparently controversial, not being well received intially--as they conclude:

Beethoven could not comprehend why the work was not better received. When he was told the audience at the premiere called for encores of the middle movements, he was reported to have said: "And why didn't they encore the Fugue? That alone should have been repeated! Cattle! Asses!"

Today, we'd call them neo-cons. Or wingnuts.
Lukewarm Mush Meets Soggy Milquetoast

That or Karl Rove must have some horribly compromising photographs--and negatives--of one Richard Cohen. Read and retch.

ReddHedd at FireDogLake makes for reading that WON'T make you nauseous.
Frogmarch Revue

Simbaud points to his esteemed colleague Joe Wezorek's effort--appearing in The Nation.
Soup's Up

Werther, writing at Counterpunch, begins with a classic Kingfish quote:

"Corrupted by wealth and power, your government is like a restaurant with only one dish. They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen."

He follows with an appetizing slam on the GOP:

In truth, criticizing the GOP is like dynamite fishing: hardly sporting, but appealing nevertheless when one is in a certain mood.

Certainly, the Party of Lincoln provides rich material for humor of a rather sarcastic kind: a war on Iraq that may be the greatest strategic disaster in our history; doubling the national debt in fewer than five years; the tomfoolery of Freedom Fries [1]; a tragic-comic ineptitude at protecting U.S. citizens from the mere vicissitudes of weather while simultaneously claiming the divine power to coerce all mankind into an earthly utopia; the nomination to the Supreme Court of Miss Harriet Miers.

[1]The originator of the term Freedom Fries, the Hon. Walter Jones (R-NC), has recanted his support for the Iraq war after seeing one body bag too many. He is as a consequence a pariah in his own party. The Chairman of the House Administration Committee, the Hon. Robert Ney (R-OH), who actually imposed the renaming of the pomme frit on the House restaurants, now threatens to be ground up in the clanking machinery of the Abramoff scandal. Rarely has justice ever been so symmetrical.

But, he makes sure the other side of the aisle gets no relief for their burning asses in the proverbial frying pan:

A glance at this morning's Washington Post op-ed page, the bulletin board of America's nomenklatura, quickly brings one back to earth. In a piece entitled "Using Our Leverage: The Troops," Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), a presumed scourge of the Bush administration, argues that a subtle threat to pull out U.S. troops would be the inducement ­ or sub rosa extortion ­ to get the Iraqi politicians to settle their differences and ultimately defeat the insurgency.

On one level, this is an outburst of unbelievable naiveté. One can only imagine that Senator Levin has been brainwashed by his various Potemkin tours of the Green Zone so as to believe that the U.S. military occupation is actually popular. It is not. On the other hand, we can assume that the minority of Iraqis who have battened on to the occupation for their own position or profit already have their visas in order should the plug ever be pulled. Prospectively, they are just one more émigré group poised to drive up rents in Arlington, Virginia. The idea that the "threat" to pull out U.S. military forces leverages anything is an exercise in delusion. This is what Democrats concoct when desperation forces them to devise an alternative Iraq policy.

The full article is lengthy, but worth a look. Thanks to my super-secret source for pointing me to it.
Scott McClellan: Yapping Ankle Biter

Geez, like a friend of mine said, he's turning into a mini-Dubya. From the appropriately named Crooks and Liars, a link to E&P:

NEW YORK Questions today from longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas caused White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to declare that she opposes the war on terrorism. His response caused one of Thomas's colleagues, Terry Moran, to leap to her defense.

They also note (via a link to TPM) that McClellan flat out lied about Shrubleroy's video press conference--he claimed it was in no way scripted. Wrong:

It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.

Duh. Has there been ANYTHING this administration's done that ISN'T scripted? That's all they know how to do, for chrissakes. They certainly don't know how to govern, that's for damn sure.

Let's just hope, come 2009, there's still a United States TO govern...
Family Fued

Billmon analyzes the growing rift within the GOP:

Right-wing opponents of the Miers nomination also shouldn't be too surprised to find themselves slimed as "sexists," "elitists," "geeks" and (my favorite) "so-called movement conservatives" who have no followers. After all, many of them eagerly helped the administration slime those who opposed the neocon march of folly as anti-Semitic extremists who hate America almost as much as they love the Islamofascists. They know how the Rovian game is played -- or should. So it's a little late for the bow-tie brigade to whine about the way the RNC spin machine rips quotes out of context to make the Orwellian case that black is white. After all, they were for it before they were against it.

Oh, this could get good. Funny enough, I'm actually reminded of something generally attributed to, of all people, Herr Kissinger. When asked about the Iran-Iraq war back in the 80's, he supposedly said, "It's a shame they can't both lose."
On Jokes

Bob Herbert looks at Bush's recent post-Katrina pledges and gets it:

A Page 1 article in The Times on Tuesday carried the following headline: "Liberal Hopes Ebb in Post-Storm Poverty Debate."

I might have started laughing if the subject weren't so serious. Who in their right mind - liberal, moderate, Rotarian, contrarian - could have possibly thought that George W. Bush and his G.O.P. Wild Bunch (Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay et al.) had suddenly seen the light ("Eureka! We've been wrong!") and become serious about engaging the problem of poverty in America?
The article noted that some liberal activists had hoped that the extraordinary suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina might lead to a genuine effort by the administration and Congress to address such important poverty-related matters as health care, housing, employment and race.

After all, the president himself had gone on national television from the French Quarter of the stricken city of New Orleans and promised "bold action."

"As all of us saw on television," said Mr. Bush, "there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality."

I assumed that most people watching the president realized that he was deeply embedded in a Karl Rove moment. The speech was a carefully scripted, meticulously staged performance designed primarily to halt the widespread criticism of Mr. Bush's failure to respond more quickly to the tragedy.

As the president spoke, it never occurred to me that anyone would buy into the notion that Mr. Bush and his supporters would actually do something about poverty and racism. Someone who believed that could probably be persuaded to make a bid on eBay to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mr. Bush is the standard-bearer par excellence of his party's efforts to redistribute the bounty of the U.S. from the bottom up, not the other way around. This is no longer a matter of dispute. Mr. Bush may not be the greatest commander in chief. And he may not be adept at sidestepping the land mines of language. ("I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn't here.")

But if there's one thing the president has been good at, it has been funneling money to the rich. The suffering wrought by Katrina hasn't changed that at all.
One of the first things the president did in the aftermath of Katrina was to poke his finger in the eyes of struggling workers by suspending the requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act in the storm-ravaged areas. Passed during the Great Depression, the law requires contractors on federally funded construction projects to pay at least the prevailing wage in the region.

This is one more way of taking money from the working poor and handing it to the wealthy. A construction laborer in New Orleans who would ordinarily be paid about $9 an hour, the prevailing wage in the city, can now be paid less. So much for the president's commitment to fighting poverty.

Poverty has steadily increased under President Bush, even as breathtaking riches (think tax cuts, cronyism, war profiteering, you name it) have been heaped upon those who were already wealthy. Class divisions are hardening, and economic inequality continues to increase dramatically.

Mr. Bush's political posturing (his speeches, his endless trips to the Gulf Coast) is not meant to serve as a beacon of hope for the downtrodden. It is a message to middle-class voters, who have become increasingly disturbed by the president's policies and were appalled by the fact that he seemed unmoved by the terrible suffering that followed Hurricane Katrina.

The man who campaigned as a compassionate conservative and then turned the federal government into a compassion-free zone is all but handing out press releases that say, "I care."

He cares all right. About his poll ratings. In the end, much of the money to help lower-income victims of the recent storms will most likely be siphoned from existing, badly needed and already underfunded programs to help the poor and near-poor.

A real effort to fight poverty and combat discrimination? From this regime? You must be joking.
Bush: "Pay No Attention..."

" vice pResident Cheney behind the curtain."

"Implosive Harmonic Convergence"

Also known as: Shrubleroy--and his legion of cronies--will fade away with both a bang and a whimper.

Credit for this post's title goes to TPM--Marshall offers a heavy dose of irony re: the Miers nomination, the fact that the red meat evangelical crowd refuses to sink their fangs in, and that Operation Iraqi Sinkhole's "nominal aim [was] to create a secular, rule-of-law-based democracy which would end the cycle of repression, fanaticism and violence which spilled onto America's shores four years ago.

I'll withhold criticism of Marshall's point as to Iraq for now--I doubt seriously that Team Bush had ANY Iraqi plan, except perhaps a few speechifyings to bolster Shrub's tough-guy credientials--but a major political storm is bearing down on the Potomac. And a whole mess of wingnut heroes lack the means to escape.

The latest 'nut to feel the strong winds of change is Bill Frist--gee, when it's all over maybe he can star in his own reality show, although killing and dissecting cats most likely appeals to only a limited demographic. Instead, perhaps he could preside over his own blind trust--each week he and his relatives can meet behind closed doors to decide which bit of the family empire to jettison. Or, better yet, they can mark a couple of balloons with symbols representing assets, and display them before someone in a chronic vegetative state ("She's no longer looking at the HCA balloon. Call the broker.")

Meanwhile, Big Time, Other Priorities is now possibly a target of Fitzgerald's investigation, Tom DeLay's so desperate he's resorting to phone message spinning--and round-the-clock attack ads on Ronnie Earle--and, what was to be Shrub's crowning achievement, topping even the old man, has turned to leaden rubble. Citing Billmon again, the latest numbers, according to Peter Hart, demonstrate "[Bush's] trampoline [is] made of cement."

It now looks like the rush to war itself will be a focus of the Fitzgerald investigation, because the White House Iraq Group seems to be a major player in the attempt to smear Joe Wilson. This means large chunks of the administration might well be called to stand tall before the man. And without his coeterie of henchmen, Shrubusto will look even smaller.

The next few months will be really interesting...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Scattered With the Winds

Schroeder points to a NY Times graphic that gives you an idea of where Katrina evacuees went. Short answer: all over.
Back Up and Running

Chasing your tail is no fun...turns out the problem was a security update. Yeah, it's secure, allright: the first time you install it, nothing works.

Uninstalling/reinstalling did the trick. Come to think of it, uninstalling the Bush regime--but NOT reinstalling it--would solve a lot of national problems.

Speaking of: I see Shrubleroy will soon be crossing Matt Lauer off his Christmas Card list--or, more likely, having Andy Card take care of that as soon as the cheeseburgers are distributed. Then there's this little gem--admittedly straight out of rumor central, but definitely something to consider: Dick and Jane Shrub might be dissolving their little tag team. Judith Miller is doing her canary impersonation, which suits her a hell of a lot better than playing the martyr (emphasis on playing). And, to round out this truncated post, I see a new site is up to compete with Cronyjobs. With the right attitude and connections, you too can experience the thrill of working in or near the executive branch--or, if you're REALLY lucky (and sufficiently sniveling) there could be a Supreme Court seat in your future!

Remember, though: Team Bush demands loyalty above all. Be prepared for some serious asskissing.

The office completely lost its internet connection--nothing. It's being looked at, but for now, I'm down for the count.

Back when we're back...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Busy at Work=Slow to Post

Apologies, but today has been one of those days here...and I'm a little zonked from moving stuff. Unless something comes up--other than the very strong possibility that Scooter, right now, had better be steeling himself for some time in the clink...or that Other Priorities's spokesperson is doing the "distance" dance...or that Tom DeLay, like the weasel he is, is desperately trying to avoid the fact that he can't even chew off his firmly trapped leg...etc. etc.--I'm going to call it an evening. No sense in posting for posting's sake.

Back tomorrow.
Keeping Score

Running through the blogosphere this morning, I realized that the administration dedicated to "personal responsibility" and "changing the tone" is so deeply enmeshed in scandal that saying "they're up to their necks in them" would be charitable. I mean, we're really talking about--no pun intended--a veritable great flood. Sometimes it's...hard work...just keeping up.

Let's see: You've got Enron, the Cheney Energy Task Force, the California Blackouts, the August 6th PDB, 9/11 and My Pet Goat, Osama got away, the whole sorry mess in Iraq, Plamegate, Curveball, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Halliburton, sailboat fuel, the combination coingate/voting machine fiasco in Ohio, manwhores in the White House, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, ramping up the terror alerts for political purposes, the Katrina response, Michael Brown, Harriet "Star Struck by the Dim Bulb" Miers...and that's just what I can remember off-hand. I'm sure there are other instances of gross incompetence, or malfeasence--or even plain old simple cynicism.

Geez. I guess The Onion really was right when they said back in 2001: Our Long Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Over.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Yee Gads

Another from Attaturk, here's Captain James Yee's first person account of how the United States Army ruined his life and his marriage. Yee, you'll recall, was very publicly detained and charged with all sorts of offenses after leaving Camps X-Ray and Delta in Guantanamo...charges which were eventually dropped.

Take a look--and realize how far gone some elements of this administration have become.
Team Bush: Like the Cable Company...Only Worse

Krugman's latest from behind the chintz curtain makes it pretty clear that the administration is hoping their myriad promises--"yes, we'll be there between 11 and, honest"--will be quickly forgotten...even as those affected by the storms have little to do BUT wait for assistance that might NEVER arrive:

Ever since President Bush promised to rebuild the Gulf Coast in "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen," many people have asked how he plans to pay for that effort. But looking at what has (and hasn't) happened since he gave that speech, I'm starting to wonder whether they're asking the right question. How sure are we that large-scale federal aid for post-Katrina reconstruction will really materialize?

Bear with me while I make the case for doubting whether Mr. Bush will make good on his promise.

First, Mr. Bush already has a record of trying to renege on pledges to a stricken city. After 9/11 he made big promises to New York. But as soon as his bullhorn moment was past, officials began trying to wriggle out of his pledge. By early 2002 his budget director was accusing New York's elected representatives, who wanted to know what had happened to the promised aid, of engaging in a "money-grubbing game." It's not clear how much federal help the city has actually received.
With that precedent in mind, consider this: Congress has just gone on recess. By the time it returns, seven weeks will have passed since the levees broke. And the administration has spent much of that time blocking efforts to aid Katrina's victims...

Since the administration is already nickel-and-diming Katrina's victims, it's a good bet that it will do the same with reconstruction - that is, if reconstruction ever gets started.

Then, the professor reminds us that, of all people, Karl (sweet-Jesus-I-hope-he's- soon-to-be-frogmarched) Rove was supposedly in charge of the reconstruction effort...except that, um, well, maybe he wasn't:

Last month The New York Times reported that Karl Rove had been placed in charge of post-Katrina reconstruction. But last week Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, denied that Mr. Rove - who has become a lot less visible lately, as speculation swirls about possible indictments in the Plame case - was ever running reconstruction. So who is in charge? "The president," said Mr. McClellan.

Which leads to the conclusion:

Finally, if we assume that Mr. Bush remains hostile to domestic spending that might threaten his tax cuts - and there's no reason to assume otherwise - foot-dragging on post-Katrina reconstruction is a natural political strategy.

I've been reading "Off Center," an important new book by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, political scientists at Yale and Berkeley respectively. Their goal is to explain how Republicans, who face a generally moderate electorate and have won recent national elections by "the slimmest of margins," have nonetheless been able to advance a radical rightist agenda.

One of their "new rules for radicals" is "Don't just do something, stand there." Frontal assaults on popular government programs tend to fail, as Mr. Bush learned in his hapless attempt to sell Social Security privatization. But as Mr. Hacker and Mr. Pierson point out, "sometimes decisions not to act can be a powerful means of reshaping the role of government." For example, the public strongly supports a higher minimum wage, but conservatives have nonetheless managed to cut that wage in real terms by not raising it in the face of inflation.

Right now, the public strongly supports a major reconstruction effort, so that's what Mr. Bush had to promise. But as the TV cameras focus on other places and other issues, will the administration pay a heavy political price for a reconstruction that starts slowly and gradually peters out? The New York experience suggests that it won't.

Of course, I may be overanalyzing. Maybe the administration isn't deliberately dragging its feet on reconstruction. Maybe its lack of movement, like its immobility in the days after Katrina struck, reflects nothing more than out-of-touch leadership and a lack of competent people.

Maybe...or maybe it reflects a certain view among the cabal in Washington: billions--indeed, HUNDREDS of billions--for their pet projects, regardless of whether they have a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding...and the shaft for everyone else. They're the ultimate welfare queens.
Stop--You're Killing Me

Nothing says more about Shrubusto the man--and his whole sorry administration--than his threatened first veto--it's all about the torture:

In his five years in the White House, President Bush has yet to veto a single piece of legislation. Yet he's threatening what may be an unprecedented veto of a major military spending bill during wartime if it contains an amendment banning U.S. torture of military prisoners...

Reflect for a moment: The president of the United States, the leader of the free world, may veto a measure that bans "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of any prisoner in the hands of the U.S. government. Has this country really strayed that far from the liberties and the rule of law that it was founded to uphold?

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who sponsored the amendment, rightly notes that his proposal merely codifies what has been assumed to be the law for decades. In addition to prohibiting abuse of detainees, the amendment would require that all U.S. troops, as well as other federal agencies such as the CIA, adhere to interrogation and detention standards outlined in the Army Field Manual...

Last week, the White House warned the Senate that an appropriation containing the anti-torture provision might be vetoed, because it would tie the president's hands on terrorism. It would be helpful if the note had included some mention of the federal laws and constitutional provisions that give a president the authority to allow the abuse and torture of detainees.

Not only is abuse and torture of prisoners and detainees unconstitutional, immoral and ineffective, it has an ominous flip side. U.S. military leaders warn that such treatment puts American forces at greater risk of being mistreated when they are captured by hostile forces.

And, in the interest of generating a wider audience for those now cloaked behind New Pravda's wall of selectivity, here's Bob Herbert on the same topic:

So who would you expect to remain out of step with this important march toward sanity, the rule of law and the continuation of a longstanding American commitment to humane values?

Did you say President Bush? Well, that would be correct.

The president, who has trouble getting anything right, is trying to block this effort to outlaw the abusive treatment of prisoners.

Senator McCain's proposal is an amendment to the huge defense authorization bill. The White House has sent out signals that Mr. Bush might veto the entire bill if that's what it takes to defeat the amendment.

The Washington Post summed the matter up in an editorial that said:

"Let's be clear: Mr. Bush is proposing to use the first veto of his presidency on a defense bill needed to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan so that he can preserve the prerogative to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In effect, he threatens to declare to the world his administration's moral bankruptcy."

No torture is a no-brainer. Pro torture, quite frankly, simply means which flavor of oppression you prefer.
Blowin' in the Wind

From Attaturk--and yes, this is an actual photo and caption:

An Iraqi man picks up copies the the new constitution draft from boxes on the edge of a Baghdad, Iraq, garbage dump... Iraqis will vote on Oct. 15, on the country's constitution after the country's Shiite-led parliament ended a bitter dispute with Sunni Arabs about how the referendum will be conducted. (AP Photo/Asaad Muhsin)
Scalia: Tantrum Over--for Now

Laffer of the day:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Saturday that he had not expected President Bush to nominate him to replace the late William Rehnquist as chief justice.

"I'm not even sure I wanted it, to tell you the truth," Scalia told reporters at a media briefing before a gala dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan...

Scalia said the time he would have had to devote to administering the court as chief justice would have taken away from his thinking and writing. However, he said, "The honor would have been wonderful."

Yeah, right.

Scalia additionally noted the grapes just out of his reach "were probably sour anyway," and that he never really did like the first girl who ever broke up with him. OK, no, he didn't say that, but:

Asked if he knew why he wasn't nominated, Scalia said the reason "is locked in the heart of the president."


Scalia was the only justice who did not attend a September 29 White House swearing-in ceremony for Roberts. Scalia said Saturday that he had a commitment that could not be broken.

According the Federalist Society Web site, he was leading a two-day seminar on the separation of powers in Avon, Colorado.

That, AND there was the keynote address at the Moab, Utah Optimist Club to consider. After all, commitments are commitments.


Scalia, who is of Italian-American heritage, was in New York to serve as the grand marshal of Manhattan's Columbus Day Parade on Monday.

My guess is they're sizing him up to determine how many rope handlers will be needed for NEXT year's Columbus Day parade--when he can serve as a float.
Como Esperando Abril

I spent some time this weekend catching up on chores, which are now slightly magnified: as per some references in the past few weeks, I had some VERY good personal news. I'm now the owner The bank is now the owner of a house I'll be moving into over the next few weeks.

As you might expect, with all the things happening here in the wake of the hurricane (no pun intended), things didn't exactly go smoothly. However, last week the deal was finally closed. When the dust settles, I might have a few posts relating to all the stuff that happened.

Anyway--when not boxing things, or bagging garbage (the latter, if I do this right, will be double the former...and, come to think of it, is there REALLY a difference between stuff and crap, when all is said and done?), I was keeping up mostly with matters Plame...guess y'all have seen some of the big stories: Judith Miller AND Karl Rove will be making return appearances before the grand jury to, ahem, desperately save their hides clarify their earlier testimony. Should be interesting.

From what I've seen, midnight is rapidly approaching, and their smoked-window SUVs are about to turn into 70's era rust-bucket station wagons, complete with peeling, fake-wood trim...and less than a quarter tank of gasoline, i.e., not nearly enough to make it to safe ground...but maybe sufficent to put them in the pokey...

There are a few folks among the few folks reading this humble blog who might not spend lots of time wandering through the sphere, as it were, so for their benefit, I'm noting the following links:

Firedoglake, Murray Waas, and The Next Hurrah are at least my Big Three for the latest on the case. Can't speak for others, but there's enough material to keep me awake late trying to keep up.

And, as Billmon notes, while right now all a humble blogger can do is speculate, it sure LOOKS like a meeting of fan and excrement (i.e., Liddy, Rove, and Miller). In other words, Fitzgerald is the prosecutorial equivalent of Santa Claus...which means I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas to arrive.

Or maybe it's Like Waiting For April.