Saturday, September 30, 2006

In Illinois, Empty Conservative Catch-Phrase "Cut And Run" Takes On Much Different Meaning

During a recent debate, Peter Roskam, the Republican candidate for Illinois's sixth district, trotted out the familiar line that his Democratic opponent wanted America to "cut and run" from Iraq.

His opponent, Tammy Duckworth, a former National Guard pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq last year when her helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, was visibly angry at the exchange.

"I just could not believe he would say that to me," said Duckworth, who now walks on artificial legs with the help of a cane. "I have risked my life to serve my country and you cannot question my patriotism."

***

It could have been worse. One joke supposedly making the rounds among some Roskam supporters was that Duckworth supporters were being silly -- it wasn't like Roskam said Duckworth favored "cut and roll." Get it? Isn't that hilarious? Someone call Ann Coulter.

***

But of course, Roskam's use of "cut and run" is just empty conservative spin.

"I am sick and tired of the Republicans saying 'Either you agree with us on national security or you are not patriotic'," said Duckworth, who like many Democrats recommends a "phased redeployment" of US troops in Iraq -- similar to a proposal advocated by our top man in Iraq, Gen. George Casey. "It is total baloney – in fact I have a better army word, but I can't use it. We must never forget that it is patriotic and it is American to question people in power."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

When Did It Become Humorous For Conservatives To Threaten To Kill U.S. Journalists?

"Powder Puff Spooks Keith" screamed the headline on yesterday's "Page 6" of the conservative-friendly, Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post.

Seems someone isn't too happy with Olbermann, host of MSNBC's Countdown and a frequent critic of the Bush Administration. Olbermann received a letter at his Manhattan home with a batch of white powder in it and a note saying it was payback for his on-air comments. An NYPD HazMat unit later determined the envelope contained soap powder.

"However, that wasn't enough to satisfy Olbermann, who insisted on a checkup. He asked to be taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where doctors looked him over and sent him home. Whether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn't known," wrote the Post's Richard Johnson.

Haha. Olbermann gets a death threat from a conservative prankster, but because Olbermann is a) a journalist; and b) a liberal, that's funny stuff.

This has become the year for conservatives to actually propose -- apparently without any repercussions -- that U.S. journalists should be killed. Sadly, the response from the right to such open threats has been a case of the giggles.

In case you missed it:

-- In July, Ann Coulter admitted that she sent the New York Times an envelope with an X scrawled through it and a suspicious powder inside. The powder was later determined to be cornstarch."So glad to hear that the New York Times got my letter and that your friend at the Times thinks I'm funny," she e-mailed a journalist after the incident

.-- In June, Coulter told Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes that she stood behind her claim that Timothy McVeigh -- who was executed for his role in bombing a federal building in Oklahoma City -- should have instead bombed the New York Times office, especially if the reporters were inside.

-- Also in June, San Francisco conservative radio host and sometimes MSNBC political analyst Melanie Morgan wrote in an e-mail-based interview with The American Prospect: "However, the best solution that I can think of to deal with any newspaper editor, whether it's from the NY Times, LAT, WaPo, or the Wall Street Journal who is responsible for leaking national security classified information, is to be locked in a steel cage with the family members of slain troop members who would happily deliver the ultimate punishment of death."

What has happened to our country? When did it become humorous to threaten to kill a U.S. journalist?

And take it a step further: What if someone took these conservative yahoos seriously, and instead of sending cornstarch or soap powder, actually sent anthrax? What if instead of threating to blow up the New York Times, someone actually listened to these conservative yahoos and actually did it?

Would conservatives still laugh?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

In response to the ongoing saga surrounding Sen. George Allen (R-VA), the online liberal magazine Slate has created "The George Allen Insult Generator."

As its creators note (no doubt tongue-in-cheek): "We know what you're thinking: When's George Allen going to insult me? That's where Slate's George Allen Insult Generator comes in. Are you black? Fat? A stamp collector? Sen. Allen's got an insult — and a rationalization — waiting for you."

I have to figure even conservatives can laugh along with the silly insults and sillier rationalizations. After all, Radio Clown Mark Levin has legions of fans appreciating his teasing "Schmucky Schumer" and "Her Thighness," and conservatives passionately defended Ann Coulter's sense of "humor" when she "joked" during a January speech that liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned.

The Virginia Senate race keeps getting more and more interesting ...

Some Pentagon Critics Say U.S. Needs A Larger Army To Fight Iraq, Afghanistan Wars. Rumsfeld? He Hopes Montenegro Can Help. (Montenegro?)

Does the U.S. need a larger Army?

Gordon R. Sullivan, the former Army chief of staff, told the the New York Times that the Army was simply too small for the many responsibilities it faced and should be expanded from about 500,000 in the active force to some 560,000. It also needs to make greater use of the National Guard, he said.

Barry R. McCaffrey, the retired four-star Army general, also asserted that the armed forces needed to be expanded. “We cannot sustain the current national security policy," he told the Times.

But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has not favored substantially expanding the Army, concluding that such a step would draw money from programs he favors to overhaul the military. Congress, however, has mandated a temporary 30,000-soldier increase for the Army.

The strain on the Army may grow worse if Italy decides to leave Afghanistan at yearend. Italy has some 1,600 troops among the 20,000 NATO-led troops in Afghanistan. (The U.S. also has more than 20,000 troops there.)

The death yesterday of an Italian soldier in Afghanistan fueled a new debate among Italy's ruling coalition as to whether to continue funding its troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano defended the Afghan mission, but Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero said: "it's obvious that we have to seriously look at the issue of how to get out." In a separate interview, Ferrero said: "this is not anymore a peace keeping mission but a war mission."

But even if Italy leaves the coalition, Rumsfeld has found one replacement source of troops: Montenegro.

Montenegro?

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic told Rumsfeld yesterday that Montenegro, which in July declared independence from its loose federation with Serbia, would consider sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The country, which has a population of 620,000, has an Army of between 650 and 1,100.

In other words, Montenegro can't fill Italy's shoes -- let alone the shoes some Pentagon critics suggest the U.S. needs to add to win the war.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Radio Clown Mark Levin Shows Disdain For Clintons, Truth

Radio Clown Mark Levin was in rare form tonight.

The subject was Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) -- or as Levin so "humorously" puts it "Her Thighness" -- and her defense of what husband Bill Clinton said during an interview with Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace.

Levin didn't really care what Sen. Clinton had to say. He made up his mind long ago that President Clinton was a failure fighting terrorism. Why?

"Your husband was too busy taking a dip in the intern pool," he said.

It's such a predictable statement from fact-challenged conservative ranters. Levin really isn't interested in the truth, but "truthiness." And if he can get in a couple of cheap, nasty shots against the Clintons, all the better. Name-calling is commonplace for Levin; it's the best the radio clown can do to get laughs from his fringe conservative audience.

But don't take my word for it, or even President Clinton's. Take the word of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission Report, which says on Pages 117-118:

9/11 COMMISSION REPORT: At the time, President Clinton was embroiled in the Lewinsky scandal, which continued to consume public attention for the rest of that year and the first months of 1999. As it happened, a popular 1997 movie, Wag the Dog, features a president who fakes a war to distract public attention from a domestic scandal. Some Republicans in Congress raised questions about the timing of the strikes (against Al Shifa, a Khartoum pharmaceutical plant, which intelligence reports said was manufacturing a precursor ingredient for nerve gas with Osama Bin Ladin's financial support. CIA Director George Tenet concluded the strikes probably missed Bin Ladin by a few hours.)

... Everyone involved in the decision had, of course, been aware of President Clinton’s problems. He told them to ignore them. (National Security Advisor Sandy) Berger recalled the President saying to him “that they are going to get crap either way, so they should do the right thing.” All his aides testified to us that they based their advice solely on national security considerations. We have found no reason to question their statements.

The failure of the strikes, the "wag the dog" slur, the intense partisanship of the period, and the (inconclusive) nature of the Al Shifa evidence likely had a cumulative effect on future decisions about the use of force against Bin Ladin. Berger told us that he did not feel any sense of constraint.

***

Levin might have been confused, of course, because the recent ABC "docudrama" Path To 9/11 suggested Clinton was distracted by intern Monica Lewinsky. And that in turn has caused reporters from the mainstream media to get the story wrong.

The New York Times wrote in its Sept. 8 review of Path To 9/11: "The Sept. 11 commission concluded that the sex scandal distracted the Clinton administration from the terrorist threat." (It corrected the error in the following edition.)

And last week, Reuters incorrectly cited Clinton as saying he was too distracted by the "Lewinsky scandal to confront the Islamic militant threat that culminated in the September 11 attacks." That unnecessarily created an artificial debate on the subject. Reuters should have cited the report as a definitive source.

Another Day, Another Person Alleges Sen. Allen Used The "N-Word"

Christopher Taylor, an anthropology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told the New York Times yesterday that in the early 1980s, he heard Sen. George Allen (R-VA) use the "N-word" to describe black Americans.

Taylor, who is white and was then a graduate student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said the term came up in a conversation about turtles in a pond near Allen’s property.

According to Taylor, Allen said that “around here” only the black Americans — whom he referred to by the epithet — “eat ‘em.” Taylor told the Times that he was “kind of taken aback” by Allen’s language because it was their first meeting. “Most of us are antiracist,” Taylor said.

***

By itself, it has all the makings of a he-said/he-said tale.

But Taylor's story is hardly an isolated one when it comes to Senator "Good Ol' Boy."

It comes just a day after three former teammates of Allen's at the University of Virginia told the liberal online journal Salon that Allen "repeatedly used" the "N-word" and demonstrated racist attitudes toward black Americans during the early 1970s.

As JABBS noted last week, Allen tried to shrug off questionably racist things on his resume to NBC's Tim Russert, suggesting those were "rebellious, anti-establishment" things he did as "a kid" -- even though such episodes occurred well after Allen turned 40. (Click here to read a partial list of events.)

Will more stories be revealed as we get closer to election day? And will Virginians simply accept Allen's denials of wrongdoing as either fictional accounts by one-time friends, or "rebellious, anti-establishment" things he did "as a kid" of 25, 32 or 41?

Come clean, Sen. Allen. Things can only get worse.

CBS News Hires Longtime Bush Flak As On-Air Analyst

Nicolle Wallace, who was White House Communications Director until July, has joined CBS News as a political consultant.

Wallace has a long association with the Bushes, serving as director of communications for the 2004 campaign, as director of media affairs in President Bush's first term, and press secretary for Bush's brother and Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

She will "provide on-air analysis on a variety of political issues, including the upcoming 2006 elections," CBS News announced.

It'll be interesting if any conservative ranters wonder aloud whether Wallace will provide unfair "conservative media bias." The same folks were hot to jump all over former Clinton communications director George Stephanopoulos after he joined ABC in 1997 as a political analyst -- even when the praise came from ABC News' Diane Sawyer, a one-time Nixon and Ford staffer!

Something tells me the conservative ranters will look the other way with Wallace.

Monday, September 25, 2006

One Of These Newsweek Covers Is Not Like The Others, Begging The Question: Why?

In Europe, Latin America and Asia, the Oct. 2 edition of Newsweek features a cover story about how Afghanistan isn't the sunny democracy discussed by the Bush Administration.

In the U.S., the Oct. 2 edition of Newsweek features a cover story on celebrity photographer Annie Leibowitz.

One of these covers is not like the others. What's wrong with this picture?

***

The Newsweek story starts simply: "You don't have to drive very far from Kabul these days to find the Taliban."

That matches up with what the Washington Post reported that Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, says often to his staff: "Show me where the roads end, and I will show you where the Taliban begins."

Now compare the above two quotes to what President Bush said in 2004: "(A)s a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence."

One of these quotes is not like the others.

So what exactly is Newsweek trying to do by switching covers? Protect Americans from the truth -- or the "truthiness" of the Bush Administration?

Wonkette, writing about the variation in the covers, notes: "Damning evidence that the press can’t or won’t escape its lapdog complicity for fear of further upsetting right-leaning American readers? Sure."

I'd love to hear alternative explanations.

TSA To Ease Onboard Liquid Ban. Why? Did The Terrorist Threat End?

The Department of Homeland Security is easing its ban against carrying liquids and gels onto airliners. An announcement is scheduled for later this morning.

Under the new rules, most liquids and gels that air travelers purchase in secure areas of airports will now be allowed on planes.

My question is, why the change?

Is there no longer a terrorist threat? Hard to believe, with Osama Bin Laden still at large and our government not trying very hard to catch him. Does DHS now believe, as others have suggested, that it's near impossible to bring chemicals onto a plane, mix them, and ultimately detonate them? Do they no longer believe the plot to blow up airplanes over the Atlantic, foiled by the British, was plausible -- or repeatable?

Has the government figured out how to test for liquid explosives? DHS says it plans to test technology Japan demonstrated for the U.S. back in January. Maybe the GAO and FBI are prepared to issue new reports, reversing themselves after saying last year that the U.S. has no adequate way to detect liquid explosives. No?

I'm hoping that the DHS' decision isn't political. With an election just a few weeks away, what we need is a DHS that sees the red flags, and quickly tests and implements technology to screen for liquid explosives.

Easing the ban, which no doubt will continue to confuse passengers and employees, makes little sense, unless DHS plans to tell the American people that the threat of onboard liquid explosives is non-existent, and that the fears generated this summer were the result of speculation and hyperbole.

In Latest Claim Of Racist Tendencies, Three Football Teammates Say Allen Used "N-word" In College

The claims of questionably racist actions by Sen. George Allen (R-VA) continues to grow.

This question of whether Allen had racist tendencies has been bubbling under the surface. But everything changed last month, when Allen used the word "macaca" to describe a man of Indian descent who was tracking his campaign for Democratic rival Jim Webb -- a slur that can mean "shithead."

Now, a lot of people -- Virginia voters included -- are re-examining the "good ol' boy" stories, and like a poorly made suit, the threads are unraveling rapidly. Allen has a law degree; he must realize that the evidence is mounting against him.

The latest claim of Allen's "racism" comes from three former teammates of Allen's at the University of Virginia, who told the liberal online journal Salon that Allen "repeatedly used" the "N-word" and demonstrated racist attitudes toward black Americans during the early 1970s.

"Allen said he came to Virginia because he wanted to play football in a place where 'blacks knew their place,'" Dr. Ken Shelton, a white radiologist in North Carolina who played tight end for the University of Virginia football team when Allen was quarterback, told Salon. "He used the N-word on a regular basis back then."

Shelton said Allen also nicknamed him the "Wizard," because he shared the name of a prominent Klansman.

Two other teammates spoke on condition of anonymity.

One agreed Allen used the "N-word" to describe black Americans. "It was so common with George when he was among his white friends. This is the terminology he used."

"My impression of him was that he was a racist," the other teammate said.

***

As JABBS noted last week, Allen tried to shrug off the questionably racist things on his resume to NBC's Tim Russert, suggesting those were "rebellious, anti-establishment" things he did as "a kid" -- even though such episodes occurred well after Allen turned 40.

Those include:

-- He was 25 when he opened a law office in Charlottesville, Va., in which he kept a noose -- a symbol to many people of a time when black Americans were lynched.

-- He was at least 25 when he had a confederate flag displayed in his living room.

-- He was 32 when he opposed a state holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

-- He was 41 when he issued a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month.

-- He was at least 41, and perhaps as old as 46, when he kept a picture of Confederate troops in his governor’s office.

Now comes word that Allen allegedly used the "N-word" when he was 20 or 21.

Should Virginians -- left and right -- overlook the obvious?

Certainly, conservatives don't want Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) to forget his less than one-year stint in the Ku Klux Klan when he was about 26. Byrd is now 88.

Byrd's stint in the KKK was inexcusable, one that he has lived with and says he regretted. "I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. ... I can't erase what happened," Byrd told the Washington Post last year.

You don't see a lot of people on the left defending Byrd's decision to join the KKK in the 1940s. I'd bet that if a poll were taken of Democrats nationwide, they'd have wanted Byrd out of national politics long ago. It's hard to forgive such a stupid decision, even 63 years after the fact.

But while conservatives continue to crack jokes at Byrd's expense, many want to give Allen a free pass.

Virginians may not be as kind this November.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Reuters Reporter Fails To Cite 9/11 Commission Report, Creates False Debate On Clinton

Joanne Morrison of Reuters, please get your story right.

In your article about Bill Clinton you say the following: "Earlier this month, Clinton dismissed as 'indisputably wrong' a U.S. television show that suggested (he) was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal to confront the Islamic militant threat that culminated in the September 11 attacks."

Bill Clinton didn't "dismiss" the allegations. The September 11 Commission Report dismissed the allegations, and had you read even one single story about that entire debacle you'd have known this. The way your story is currently written presents the issue as he-said she-said, when in fact, Clinton wasn't the one rebutting the allegations, the 9/11 Commission Report states categorically that the allegations have no basis in fact. You set up a false equivalence that lessens Clinton's claim and strengthens those who defamed him. Which is more than ironic since the story itself is about FOX News trying to defame Clinton by rewriting history.

Ms. Morrison, what you wrote is not fair, it's not correct, and it misleads the reader into thinking the issue is somehow murky when it definitively is not. Please correct your article.

-- AMERICAblog, Sept. 23

Fox News Shows (Again) Why It Isn't "Fair And Balanced"

During an interview with Bill Clinton that aired this morning, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace insisted it was conducted in “good faith.”

Check out the image at right. That's how the Fox News website promoted the interview.

"Fair and balanced"? Hardly.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pennsylvanians Rejecting Santorum's Multiple Efforts To Trick Voters

A new poll from Rasmussen shows Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) trailing Democrat Bob Casey Jr. by 10 points.

It shows, perhaps, that Pennsylvanians are not buying into Santorum's hyperbole this campaign season. In spite of an onslaught of dishonest moves by Santorum in recent weeks, Casey actually added to his lead from Rasmussen's August poll.

-- They're ignoring Santorum's latest television advertisement, which makes false claims about who's donating money to Casey's campaign.

-- They ignored Santorum's lie about Casey's ties to Al Jazeera on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor.

-- They didn't pay attention when Santorum made misleading claims about discovering Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Santorum also hasn't been significantly helped by asking his supporters to pour thousands of dollars into the campaign of Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli. Rasmussen's poll has Romanelli at just 5%.

Happy Rosh Hashanah, Sen. Allen

It's certainly been a confounding week for Sen. George Allen (R-VA).

Allen confirmed that his maternal grandfather, Felix Lumbroso, an Italian businessman jailed by the Nazis in North Africa, was Jewish. He then followed that by noting that while he took "great pride" in his newly discovered ancestry: "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops," a comment that some found insensitive to Jews, and others found simply odd.

"From a Jewish perspective, he is as Jewish . . . as I am," Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, the largest association of Orthodox synagogues in the United States, told the Washington Post.

As the Post noted: "Why should anyone be offended upon being asked if he or she has Jewish ancestry? Does acting huffy in response to such a question (as Allen did when first asked, during a debate this week) imply that one believes there is something wrong with being Jewish? Or did Allen think that the questioner was implying that there was something wrong with being Jewish, since the questioner brought it up just after asking how he had learned the French slur "macaca," which some have suggested could have come from his mother, who was raised in French-speaking Tunisia, and who was, as it turns out, born Jewish . . . ? Oy."

Like I said, it's been a confounding week.

As Jews worldwide -- myself included -- prepare tonight for Rosh Hashanah, we hope for a Happy New Year or a Sweet New Year. (Rosh Hashanah meals often include apples and honey, to symbolize a "sweet new year.")

Regardless of whether he prevails over Democrat Jim Webb this November, or succumbs because of "macaca" and other issues, perhaps Allen can have a Sweet New Year as he incorporates his newfound knowledge into his 54-year-old "good ol' boy" soul. (Or at least he can learn to make better quips.)

Happy Rosh Hashanah, Sen. Allen.

Texas Governor, Running For Re-Election, Uses Misleading Figures To Tout His Spending On Education

Maybe Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) needs a math tutor.

Perry, running for re-election this November, has a new advertisement touting: “Since I became governor, education funding has increased $9 billion.”

But that's a misleading claim -- because Perry isn't responsible for the entire amount, and the $9 billion figure includes money not going to schools or students.

As Houston television reporter Lee McGuire breaks down, the $9 billion figure:

McGUIRE: (T)he state’s own budget figures show $3.9 billion is federal money out of the state’s control. Another $2.1 billion is actually being used to cut local property taxes and fix a system ruled unconstitutional by the courts. So that money is really going to homeowners in the form of tax cuts. Schools didn’t get any new money in the process. That means the state has actually committed $3.3 billion new dollars for schools under Governor Perry -- not $9 billion like Perry’s campaign ad claims.

It probably doesn't matter. Perry has a double-digit lead in a four-person race for Governor -- even though Perry is only being supported by one of three potential voters.

Of course, it's possible that if Perry were to be more honest with voters, his poll numbers would improve.

Pentagon Refutes Conservative Myths About "Able Danger"

The crusade by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) to prove that a defunct military intelligence program had identified Sept. 11 hijackers prior to the attacks -- and to promote the myth that the 9/11 Commission was trying to protect the Clinton Administration from embarrassment -- was rejected again yesterday by a Pentagon report that found no evidence to support any of the congressman’s allegations.

The Defense Department inspector general’s report concluded that members of the Able Danger data-mining operation "did not identify Mohammed Atta or any of the 9/11 terrorists as possible threats at any time during its existence."

"In fact, Able Danger produced no actionable intelligence information," Acting Inspector General Thomas Gimble wrote in the 71-page report.

The 9/11 Commission had previously dismissed Weldon’s claims, which led the congressman to ratchet up his accusations that commission members and staffers conspired to exclude the Able Danger findings from their final report to shield the Clinton Administration from embarrassment.

Weldon hit the national media circuit in the summer of 2005. "This is a scandal, I think, bigger than Watergate," he said in December.

Perhaps the conservative mythmakers and radio ranters will finally put this story to rest.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Santorum Creates Amazingly Inaccurate Ad In Latest Desperate Effort To Close Gap With Casey

A new television advertisement from Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) may be the most inaccurate spot of the 2006 campaign season.

It's the latest desperate gambit by Santorum, who has trailed his Democratic opponent, Bob Casey Jr., in polls for several months, often by 10 points or more.

a narrator opens the ad by saying, "Meet Bob Casey's campaign team."

As Pennsylvania television reporter Ben Simmoneau notes: "None of the seven men portrayed in the ad are actually members of Casey's Senate campaign team. One man referenced is actually dead. And though the group is shown in one shot behind prison bars, none of the men referenced are currently behind bars."

Perhaps most hypocritically, Santorum has taken money from two of the men portrayed in the ad.

As Simmoneau reports: "Rick Santorum has taken money from two of the men portrayed in the ad, including a man the ad references with these words: 'Several more of Casey's largest contributors are under investigation, including Casey's handpicked campaign finance chairman.' That line refers to Robert Feldman. But Feldman and his wife actually gave Santorum $2,000 for this Senate campaign. Feldman hasn't given any money to Casey, and he's not Casey's handpicked campaign chairman."

The Santorum campaign told Simmoneau the "ad is about character." But all it shows is that Santorum has none.

***

This is just the latest questionable move by Santorum to close the gap in the polls.

When he's not lying about opponent Casey ties to Al Jazeera or making misleading claims about discovering Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, seems Santorum has been asking his supporters to pour thousands of dollars into the campaign of Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli.

Anything to try to reverse that lead and save his job. Truth? Who needs the truth?

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

A Sept. 19 article in the Los Angeles Times, on the political price John McCain may be paying for his stance on torture and coercive interrogation, contains this remarkable paragraph:

"This very definitely is going to put a chilling effect on the tremendous strides he has made in the conservative evangelical community," said the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, one of several conservative activists who support Bush's proposal on interrogation techniques.

As the Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum noted: "Apparently an unrestricted right for the CIA to abuse prisoners is now a traditional value. Crikey."

Allen, Moving On From "Macaca," Makes Questionably Anti-Semitic Comment

Sen. George Allen (R-VA), still reeling from being caught slurring a man of Indian descent, now has apparently been caught making a questionably anti-Semitic comment.

Following an Aug. 25 article in the Jewish Daily Forward, Allen and campaign manager Dick Wadhams confirmed that Allen's maternal grandfather, Felix Lumbroso, an Italian businessman jailed by the Nazis in North Africa, was Jewish.

Allen admitted he knew as much when he angrily ducked a question on the subject during a debate Monday with Democratic challenger Jim Webb.

Speaking with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Allen said the disclosure is "just an interesting nuance to my background."

He added, "I still had a ham sandwich for lunch. And my mother made great pork chops."

Ah, a joke about not eating kosher (read: "I'm not really Jewish.")

Why didn't he just make a joke about paying full price for that sandwich? Then he really could have completed the stereotype.

***

Allen has spent a lot of time trying to cultivate an image as a "good ol' boy," even though he was born in Southern California, and grew up there and in Chicago. And maybe as a fake "good ol' boy," Allen thinks it makes good politics to distance yourself from being even a little bit Jewish. (Virginia's population is only 0.9% Jewish, according to the Census Bureau.)

Allen -- a man who has apologized for his lengthy history of questionably racist decisions -- has been trying to distance himself from his recent use of "macaca" to describe the man, a Webb campaign worker who is American but of Indian descent.

"It’s not who I am. It’s not how I was raised," Allen told NBC's Tim Russert on Meet The Press.

His latest off-the-cuff remarks would seem to confirm the opposite.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Connecticut Republican Lies To Claim Democratic Opponent Is "Wrong On Security"

A new televison advertisement from Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) uses a lie to portray her Democrat opponent, Chris Murphy, as weak on national security issues.

Here's the script for the advertisement:

NARRATOR: A call is placed from New York to a known terrorist in Pakistan. A terrorist plot may be unfolding. Should the government intercept that call or wait until the paperwork is filed? Nancy Johnson says: ‘Act immediately. Lives may be at stake.’ Liberal Chris Murphy says: ‘No. Apply for a court warrant even if valuable time is lost.’ Chris Murphy — wrong on security, wrong for America.

But in truth Murphy, like most Democrats, supports the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required a court-approved warrant for wiretapping. In the case of national emergencies, the FISA court permits the government to get a search warrant 72 hours after surveillance is conducted. (In the link, see Section F, Item 2.)

In other words, Johnson is repeating the same spin conservatives have been floating for the past few months.

It sounds pleasing to the ear. The Democrat doesn't care, "even if valuable time is lost." But the argument for speed doesn't make much sense when the law allows warrants to be issued after the surveillance operations have taken place.

But when you are trying to win an election, as Johnson is, why make an argument based on truth?

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

The Bush Administration’s efforts to end the genocide in Darfur has been plagued by serious errors. Now, the President Bush is appointing Andrew Natsios as special envoy to Darfur to get things back on track.

Who is Andrew Natsios?

– As director of U.S. Agency for Intenational Development, Natsios promised that the U.S. contribution to reconstruction of Iraq would be no more that $1.6 billion. Congress has already appropriated nearly $20 billion for reconstruction in Iraq. The CBO estimates the total cost of reconstruction will be between $50 and $100 billion.

– Natsios was the manager of Boston’s “Big Dig,” widely considered one of the most mismanaged public works projects in history.

Sounds like just the guy to help solve the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

-- Center For American Progress, Sept. 19

Levin, Limbaugh Offer Ridiculous Logic To Defend Republicans' Chances This November

Radio clown Mark Levin was in rare form on tonight's rant.

Levin and guest David Limbaugh agreed that the agenda advocated by conservative talkers -- President Bush's agenda -- wasn't going to attract "any moderates or liberals."

Levin added, with typical hyperbolic flourish, that conservative Republicans didn't need support from "mental patients" (aka moderates and liberals) to retain control of the House and Senate.

The rant might rally the troops. But their logic is ridiculous. A look at polls over the past 10 days show Bush's agenda had an approval rating of 37% to 44% -- an average of 40.4%.

Only someone in the conservative media would suggest that's enough to win elections.

As JABBS has noted, some Republican politicians have distanced themselves from Bush, while others are running advertisements that fail to mention Bush or which imply that they are not running on Bush's agenda. Hardly a vote of confidence.

Republicans may wind up retaining control of the House and/or Senate. But it certainly won't be for the reasons laid out by Levin and Limbaugh.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Should Americans Be Ashamed That Bush (Again) Is Choosing Not To Pursue Osama?

"We now know why the Bush administration hasn't made the capture of Osama Bin Laden a paramount goal of the war on terror. Emphasis on Bin Laden doesn't fit with the administration's strategy for combating terrorism. Here's how President Bush explained this Tuesday: "This thing about . . . let's put 100,000 of our special forces stomping through Pakistan in order to find Bin Laden is just simply not the strategy that will work."

-- Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard, Sept. 13, 2006


I've disagreed with President Bush on many things -- from policy to political tactic to spin control -- but I never thought I'd be ashamed of Bush.

That moment came for me when Bush said, for the umpteenth time, that the U.S. would not dedicate itself to capturing Osama Bin Laden.

It dawned on me that we are fighting a war, with 2,700 dead and 20,000 injured, on the original premise that Saddam might have had ties with Al Qaeda, might have had a relationship Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, might have wanted to pass weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, might have created a safe haven for terrorists. In 2003, Condoleeza Rice said that Saddam might be close to developing a nuclear weapon, and that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

The only actual thing we knew for sure on Saddam and terrorists was that he was sending money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Everything else we knew about Saddam dealt with horrible things he had done against his own people.

But with regard to Al Qaeda, we didn't know much for sure. We just knew what he might do.

But Bin Laden, who actually led the group that actually did hit us on Sept. 11, isn't worth our trouble? Bin Laden, whose group was behind the London, Madrid, Riyadh, Istanbul and other bombings, whose group might have been tied to the plot to blow up of airplanes over the Atlantic, who continues to pose a horrible threat -- if you listen to Bush's own words -- that's the guy we can't be bothered trying to catch?

The fact that Bush is completely out of step with the vast majority of Americans is obvious. Bush's critics haven't asked for 100,000 special forces hunting down Bin Laden. They have said that Al Qaeda should be our nation's top priority in the war on terror, not an afterhought -- not something that the U.S. might deal with.

Conservative ranters say that "if we get hit again" we should blame the ACLU, "activist" judges, "liberal" politicans and the media.

That's empty conservative spin. Bush has had five years to direct our forces -- working with other nations in our U.S.-led "coalition" -- to stop the terrorist group that struck us on Sept. 11, 2001.

As Bush said on Sept. 11: "Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts." That's Al Qaeda.

"Just Don’t Smooch Him, Mr. President"

Headline of the week: "Just Don’t Smooch Him, Mr. President."

It heads a Sept. 17 blog post from Denver Post columnist Dan Haley, who writes that President Bush will campaign for Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez on Oct. 4. Beauprez trails Democrat Bill Ritter by 8 percentage points in the latest Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll.

The reference, of course, is to Bush's infamous kiss of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), which combined with a lovefest from the conservative media, probably cost Lieberman a primary victory against challenger Ned Lamont.

Lieberman subsequently began a run as an independent. Polls show Lieberman in a tight race in his rematch against Lamont.

Colorado Republicans no doubt hope for better results from a Bush appearance.

Boehner Struggles To Answer Whether Republican Congressman Guilty Of Influence Peddling Should Be Out Of Congress

What does it take to lose one's seat in Congress?

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) struggled with that question while speaking with Chris Wallace on the Sept. 17 edition of Fox News Sunday.

Wallace asked twice. Boehner failed to answer the first time, then gave a lame answer when pressed:

WALLACE: (T)his week Congressman Bob Ney, one of your Republican colleagues in the House, agreed to plead guilty to influence-peddling. Now, he has stepped down as chairman; he's still a member of Congress. This is a man who is basically admitting that he sold his vote. Should he spend another day in the House?

BOEHNER: Bob Ney clearly admitted to making some big mistakes. And he's going to pay dearly for the mistakes that he's admitted to. But he's also checked himself in for alcohol abuse. And right now my prayers are with him and his family. It's a sad day for the Congress and a sad day for Bob Ney.

WALLACE: Should he resign from the House?

BOEHNER: That's a decision that he and his family are going to have to make.

***

As the Center for American Progress noted: "Boehner has reportedly been more candid with Ney in private, but Ney “hasn’t taken the hint.”

It'd be refreshing if Boehner were as candid with the American people. I'm guessing that if Ney were a Democrat, Boehner would not hesitate to publicly demand an immediate resignation.

Gore To Stand Up Against "Truthiness" With Upcoming Book, Which Promises To Fighting Those Unwilling "To Let Facts Drive Decisions"

Al Gore continues to fight back against "truthiness."

The former vice president's next project is a book, The Assault On Reason, to be published next spring.

As described by editor Scott Moyers, the book is a meditation on how "the public arena has grown more hostile to reason," and how solving problems is impeded by a political culture with a pervasive "unwillingness to let facts drive decisions."

Sounds like another, much-needed effort to fight the fact that we live in an age when a group of people -- loosely known as the "conservative media" -- have woefully misinformed their viewers and listeners.

I write this knowing that conservatives who read this blog will yell and scream about how liberals think that only they know facts. But look at this poll -- the stats speak for themselves. Those who rely on Fox News Channel or conservative talk radio for your "news" -- as perhaps 20 million Americans do each week -- are more likely to be misinformed on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy issues.

***

Gore knows this, because Gore has often been a target of conservative "truthiness." They mock him with myths they created about things he never said. They call him a tree-hugger and sneer, safe within the protective bubble of ignorance. It's politics vs. science. It's name-calling vs. debate.

As JABBS has noted, President Bush laughed at Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. And lobbyists for ExxonMobil created a parody video to belittle Gore and make fun of global warming. By mocking Gore, they hope others will ignore the facts he lays out in his documentary.

But truthiness and mockery only work so well. The harder the conservatives laugh, the more people seem to agree with Gore's views -- at least on global warming.

So maybe Gore's new book will fight back against those unwilling "to let facts drive decisions."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Casey, Discussing Abortion And "Faith" Issues, Seeks To Close The "God Gap"

Since the 2004 presidential election, in which voters who attend church weekly voted 2 to 1 for President Bush over Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Democrats have sought to close what some call the "God gap."

Bob Casey Jr., increasingly looking like he will upset Sen. Rick Santorum to represent Pennsylvania, is one of several Democrats who are openly talking about "faith" and related issues. Consider him the poster child for closing the "gap."

In the battle to be inclusive, Democrats need to be a party that has room for anti-abortion candidates like Casey, just as Republicans who want to be inclusive need to make room for the beliefs of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who favors abortion rights as well as gay rights. The party that does a better job may have a leg up on wooing the Reagan Democrats/Clinton Republicans who will likely decide the 2008 presidential election.

Casey, speaking this weekend at Catholic University in Washington, gave Democrats a refresher on how to be inclusive.

In truth, Casey was advocating many of the ideas supported by President Clinton and Vice President Gore in the 1990s -- reducing the rate of abortions, supporting programs that aid women and children.

Casey discussed at length his "understanding of the common good." In effect, he was talking about what it meant to truly be a "compassionate conservative" on social issues.

It's not enough to just say that you oppose abortion rights and to pass restrictive laws. That doesn't end the reasons some women seek abortions; it just causes unnecessary suffering.

A common misconception -- promoted by the conservative noise machine -- is that Democrats who favor abortion rights favor abortions or want "abortion on demand." It's the same mindset that suggest that Democrats think abortion is a "lifestyle choice," or that Democrats support women coming up with any old reason to have late-term (or as conservatives call it, "partial-birth") abortions.

Another misconception pushed by conservative ranters is that favoring abortion rights increases the number of abortions. Statistics show otherwise -- the rate of abortions dropped in the 1990s. (In the current decade, the rate continues to drop, but at a slower pace.)

***

While arguing that all Americans should "unite ... behind the understanding that the common good requires us to value all life," Casey cited legislation proposed by House Democrats that would target "the underlying factors that often lead women to choose abortion."

He added: "If we are going to be pro-life, we cannot say we are against abortion ... and then let our children suffer in broken schools. ... We can't claim to be pro-life at the same time we are cutting support for Medicaid, Head Start or the Women, Infants and Children's Program."

Casey took a swipe at those who simultaneously consider themselves religious conservatives, but who fail to support programs that are built on a "foundation of social justice."

"Justice demands our understanding that the hungry, the impoverished and the uninsured in this country are not statistics; they are children of God," he said.

Hard to argue with that.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Allen: Questionably Racist Decisions Came As a "Kid" ... Aged 25, 32 And 41

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) had an uncomfortable few minutes explaining to NBC's Tim Russert why he was no longer the man who in earlier years had made questionably racist decisions.

Allen, on this morning's Meet The Press, started by again offering why he insulted a man of Indian descent who was tracking the Republican's re-election campaign for challenger Jim Webb, calling the man a "macaca" -- a slur that literally means "a monkey,' but also can mean "shithead" -- or Macaque, a French slur used to describe North Africans. (Allen is of French Tunisian descent.)

Allen, whose campaign had offered several explanations along the way, said "macaca" was a made-up word. Only he knows the truth.

"It’s not who I am. It’s not how I was raised," Allen told Russert.

He may think that, but recent polls suggest Virginians don't think it was an unintentional slur.

Russert, with actual facts at his disposal, asked this damning follow-up:

RUSSERT: This is not the first time that people have looked at your record, and, and, and raised questions. The New York Times said, “In 1984, as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Mr. Allen opposed a state holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After being elected governor in 1993, he issued a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month.” And the Associated Press says, “Allen used to keep a Confederate flag in his living room, a noose in his law office and a picture of Confederate troops in his governor’s office.” Can you imagine black Americans, black Virginians reading that? What would they be thinking about George Allen, and why did you do that?

And that led to this amazing exchange:

ALLEN: There are a lot of things that I wish I had learned earlier in life. I grew up in a football family, as you well know, and my parents and, and those teams taught me a lot. And one of the things that you learn in football is that you don’t care about someone’s race or ethnicity or religion, it’s a meritocracy, it’s a level playing field, and it’s what we should aspire to in our society. ... Through the years I’ve learned and I’ve grown, and I’ve learned from people. I’ve learned in the civil rights pilgrimage that I went down to Selma and Montgomery and Birmingham, and, and listened to heroes of the civil rights struggle...

RUSSERT: So no more, no more Confederate flags?

ALLEN: On the Confederate flag — look, I wish I had had these experiences earlier in life, because I would have made decisions differently. The Confederate flag — as, as a kid, I was rebellious, anti-establishment, I still am. And I looked at the flag as a symbol for that.

RUSSERT: But you were governor.

***

Let's break it down.

Allen was born in Southern California, and grew up there and in Chicago. He wasn't a "good ol' boy" growing up in the segregated South (not that this would excuse racist behavior). He didn't get to Virginia until age 19, when he transferred from UCLA to the University of Virginia.

So, when Allen wore a confederate flag on his lapel in his high school yearbook picture -- being rebellious -- he did so in Southern California. He associated himself, unnaturally, with the Confederate (aka racist) South.

It seems contradictory to say, "I grew up in a football family, as you well know, and my parents and, and those teams taught me a lot," on the one hand, and then say "on the Confederate flag — look, I wish I had had these experiences earlier in life."

On the one hand, Allen learned from his parents and his father's football teams not to be a racist. On the other hand, he learned to be a racist. Something's amiss.

But logic wasn't Allen's strong point during his stay on Meet The Press.

"As a kid, I was rebellious, anti-establishment," he said. But consider:

-- He was 25 when he opened a law office in Charlottesville, Va., in which he kept a noose -- a symbol to many people of a time when black Americans were lynched. He was at least 25 when he had a confederate flag displayed in his living room.

-- He was 32 when he opposed a state holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

-- He was 41 when he issued a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month.

-- He was at least 41, and perhaps as old as 46, when he kept a picture of Confederate troops in his governor’s office.

In other words, Allen wasn't a "kid" when he made these decisions.

Only Allen knows the truth about Allen. But his lame excuses, which began with his explaining away "macaca" last month, only continued today on Meet The Press. Whether it costs Allen a chance to retain his Senate seat this November -- and a chance at the presidency in 2008 -- remains to be seen.

But in football vernacular, Allen was "stumbling and bumbling" this morning. It's hard to believe Virginians won't notice.

Friday, September 15, 2006

When Gas Prices Rose, Conservatives Chastised Liberals. Now That Gas Prices Are Dropping ... Conservatives Are Chastising Liberals?

Over the past few days, one of the conservative radio talking points has been to lambaste liberals with regard to falling gasoline prices.

Sean Hannity the other day said that liberals and the media owe President Bush an apology for questioning his leadership when gas prices were on the rise, and should give Bush credit for the recent price drop -- about 22 cents/gallon on average over the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, radio clown Mark Levin ranted last night about how liberals don't understand the laws of supply and demand. Supply is up, he said, and prices have dropped. He then made fun of "Schmucky Schumer" (Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and demanded that Schumer apologize to the American people for questioning earlier this year whether Big Oil was artificially hiking prices.

I found this all very amusing.

It always amazes me when conservative talkers rant on about how un-American the left (and on occasion, parts of the right) is for asking questions. For example, Bill O'Reilly last year suggested that there's a fine line between dissent and treason, and offered that, conveniently, all the hosts at Air America Radio were guilty of the latter and should be arrested immediately.

But with regard to gasoline, the current ranting falls somewhere between amusing and amazing because its the polar opposite of the conservative talking points of five months ago -- when Schumer dared to ask the Federal Trade Commission to look into gas pricing.

Back in April, conservative columnist and Fox News Channel "All-Star" Charles Krauthammer wrote this to explain the sudden rise in gas prices:

KRAUTHAMMER: Demand is up. China has come from nowhere to pass Japan as the number No. 2 oil consumer in the world. China and India -- between them home to eight times the U.S. population -- are industrializing and gobbling huge amounts of energy.

Over the spring and summer, Americans heard a lot about the sudden and previously unnoticed mass demand from China and India. Why were gas prices skyrocketing toward $3/gallon? Demand from China and India was outpacing supply.

"The world has never faced a problem like this,'' Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) told Bloomberg News last month -- just before prices began to drop.

So what happened to all those Chinese and Indians? Did Ken Mehlman mail fliers asking them to all garage their cars until, say, the November election?

Even with gas prices dropping, the media keeps touting growing demand from India and China. Either the media has it wrong, or conservatives -- who aren't talking about India and China demand now -- used some misdirection this spring.

With misdirection, of course, conservatives can simultaneously chastise those who ask questions ... without providing any answers.

Bush Remarkably Consistent On Capturing Bin Laden: It Hasn't Been A Priority For Four Years

On the subject of capturing Osama Bin Laden, President Bush has been remarkably consistent of late. It's not a priority, and apparently hasn't been since 2002.

The fact that he is completely out of step with the vast majority of Americans must be our problem.

Here are three quotes that sum up the current philosophy:

"We now know why the Bush administration hasn't made the capture of Osama bin Laden a paramount goal of the war on terror. Emphasis on bin Laden doesn't fit with the administration's strategy for combating terrorism. Here's how President Bush explained this Tuesday: "This thing about . . . let's put 100,000 of our special forces stomping through Pakistan in order to find bin Laden is just simply not the strategy that will work."

-- Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard, Sept. 13, 2006

Q Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican ... said he is absolutely convinced we will capture Osama bin Laden before the election.

BUSH: Well, I appreciate his optimism. I have no idea whether we will capture or bring him to justice, may be the best way to put it. I know we are on the hunt, and Osama bin Laden is a cold-blooded killer, and he represents the nature of the enemy that we face.

-- Speaking to Tim Russert, NBC's Meet The Press, Feb. 8, 2004

Q Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden. Why is that? Also, can you tell the American people if you have any more information, if you know if he is dead or alive? Final part -- deep in your heart, don't you truly believe that until you find out if he is dead or alive, you won't really eliminate the threat of ...

BUSH: Deep in my heart I know the man is on the run, if he's alive at all. Who knows if he's hiding in some cave or not; we haven't heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is -- really indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. ... So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you.

-- March 13, 2002 press conference

***


One more factoid to reflect the administration's post-2002 thinking:

The CIA last year closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Bin Laden and his top lieutenants. Of the decision, Michael Scheuer, a former senior CIA official who was the first head of the unit, known as Alec Station, told the New York Times in July: "This will clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda."

***

From the wayback machine.

"Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."


-- Bush, Sept. 11, 2001


"I don't care, dead or alive — either way. It doesn't matter to me."

-- Bush, Dec. 14, 2001

What "Liberal Media"? A Decade Later, In An Unrelated News Story, New York Times Won't Let Clinton Forget Lewinsky

The New York Times has long been lambasted by fact-challenged conservatives as the nexus of the "liberal" media. But those able to look past the blind stereotyping would likely agree with this assessment from The Daily Howler:

"Celia Dugger writes a long, intriguing, front-page report about Bill Clinton’s work on AIDS in Africa. She considers Clinton’s record as president — and his work on the issue in the years that have followed. Clinton “plays a unique role in shining a light on the problem,” Bill Gates says at one point in the piece. But omigod! Early on, Dugger can’t help herself. Early in an informative piece, Dugger is found typing this:

DUGGER (8/29/06): [O]n this trip, Mr. Clinton seemed anything but a man tormented by guilt. Rather, he reveled in his role as a private citizen championing people with AIDS.

''The reason I do this work I do is that I really care about politics and people and public policy,'' he said in one of several interviews, scornfully dismissing questions about whether his global AIDS work is a form of redemption for what he failed to accomplish on the issue as president, or for the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Clinton was busting his ass about AIDS. But to Dugger, the question just had to be asked. What did all this say about Monica? Can’t we get back to The Girl?

But then, for the empty souls of our mainstream press corps, it has always been All About Monica."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Frist Hopes To Attach Political Favor To Defense Spending Bill

Don't accuse outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) of not having his priorities in order.

Frist, not seeking re-election to concentrate on a 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, wants to attach a measure prohibiting people from using credit cards to settle Internet gambling debts ... to the compromise Defense Department authorization bill.

The Defense Department bill authorizes U.S. military operations, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Frist is no dummy -- he's knows the bill is a cinch to pass. Might as well have his political favor pass, too.

Why make the attachment? Because conservative groups want the measure to pass -- groups that could help Frist is his presidential bid. Frist mentioned the legislation in a recent speech in the politically important state of Iowa.

Is the gambling debt legislation important? Maybe. Is it worth holding up passage of the Defense authorization bill by even a single day? Maybe not.

Kind of illustrates how Frist's priorities don't quite match up with the country's, doesn't it?

Carlson Is A Big Loser ... On Dancing With The Stars

So Tucker Carlson is a big loser ... again.

The conservative pundit was an early casualty on ABC's Dancing With The Stars.

Apparently, Carlson struggled with the reality show's format as much as he has in transitioning from CNN star to MSNBC ratings cellar dweller. As MSNBC's Keith Olbermann noted last night on Countdown: "(A)ny dance the man spends part of which in a chair is by definition a lap dance, lap dancing with the stars!"

Here at JABBS, we'll remain non-partisan. Forget soon-to-be-deposed Air America Radio host Jerry Springer. We're rooting for former NFL star Emmitt Smith!

Daily Show Investigates Cable News Shows' Questionable Use Of Question Marks (AKA "The Cavuto")

Like other media critics, the folks at Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart have an uncanny ability to point out flaws in the media that should be obvious, but which are often overlooked.

The difference, of course, is that rarely do the Howard Kurtzs of the world make people laugh uncontrollably.

Wednesday's edition of The Daily Show offered viewers that special combination of a comprehensive skewering of what some consider "journalism," in a way that will make viewers laugh and think at the same time.

The topic at hand was simple. When and why cable television news shows use question marks on the teasers at the bottom of the screen. Are they really asking a question, or avoiding making a declarative statement?

Here's an unofficial transcript from the Stewart-delivered segment:

STEWART: The last five years have generally been marked by a large amount of uncertainty, sometimes best represented by the growing use of the question mark on 24-hour news channels.

(montage follows ... Fox News Channel: "5 Years Later: Why Isn't America More United?" ... CNN: "Saddam & 9/11?" ... Fox News Channel: "Did President Politicze 9/11 in Monday's Speech?" ... CNN: "Mideast: Brink Of War?" ... CNN: "Safe Harbors?" ... CNN: "Al Qaeda Link?" ... ABC: "Can Your Purse Make You Sick?")

STEWART: Are we on the brink of war? Are our harbors safe? Is there a link to Al Qaeda? Can your purse make you sick? Incidentally, the answer to the last question is no, except for the new Kate Spade "Streptococcasack."

The two main news networks use their question marks differently. CNN has used the question mark to address more existential issues: Apocalypse Now? End Times? Will We Ever Be Safe Again? (with images of "Apocalypse Now?" "End Times?" "Ever Safe Again?")

Without the question mark, these questions would be absurd. But CNN isn't saying these are the end times, they're saying (shrugs and in funny voice) "End times???"

In fact, sometimes, like during the London bombings, CNN isn't really sure what they're asking. (image of "What If ...?) What if? ... Maybe.

Then there's Fox News. It uses its question marks in a more focused way, asking queries like: "Have Dems forgotten the lessons of 9/11?" (with image of "Have The Democrats Forgotten The Lessons Of 9/11?")

Just a question. Now, technically, that's not really a question mark at the end of that. It's a similar punctuation symbol known as "The Cavuto." It's named for the journalist? (shrugs) who pioneered its use in sentences like:

(shows montage and narrates ... "Why Is Russia Doing Business With Nations That Hate America?" "Why I s America More Concerned About Economhy ThenTerror?" "Media Preaching Hate In The Mideast?" "Is The Liberal Media Helping To Fuel Terror?")

Cavuto is not "saying" these things. He's just asking, like, "Is your mother a whore? What? I'm not saying she's a whore. I'm just wondering out loud if she is a whore. All I'm saying is reasonable people who have banged your mother for money can disagree."

By the way, I do not want to give you the impression that Cavuto is biased. He's not. He doesn't just use the question mark on Democrats, but Republicans too, like: (with images, narrates: "The #1 President On Mideast Matters: George W. Bush?" "The Best President?")

I know the answer to that one! Yes, Fox has figured out that by simply putting a question mark at the end of something, you can say f**king anything. For instance:

(image at the bottom of The Daily Show screen, as Stewart narrates: "The Question Mark: A Prophylactic Protecting Fox news From Anything It Might Contract During Its Extensive GOP C**ksucking")

Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You can't just come out and say that, but ... (bing, as question mark is added to statement) I'm just asking!

Of course, if news organizations had any courage, they'd put declaratives in their lower third. Surely there's something news organizations must be willing to come out and emphatically assert and stand by. Is nothing on this earth worthy of an exclamation point?

(image of Fox News Channel: "Here's Yanni!")

Really? Because to me, I look at that and think, "Yanni?"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

GUEST COLUMN: Are The Terrorists Winning?

It's a question that has to be answered, unfortunately.

And it pains me to say this. And it angers me to say this.

It's now been five years since Sept. 11, 2001, and each year I feel its an anniversary I seem to dislike more and more, because I see just how far our country has come since that period five years ago when it seemed like all Americans were united in spirit, despite the tragedy, and now, because I see how unfortunately divided we are, how disrespected and loathed we are by much of the rational, free-thinking world, how inept and impotent we seem in the face of danger, how fearful we have grown as a common people.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said years ago that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

It's that second part of that sentence which strikes me more right now, because right now, all I see that we have is fear itself, and the nameless, unjustified terror we have used to paralyze ourselves from having true debates on the direction this country should be going, on whether the tactics we are using to make us safer are indeed only sowing the seeds of our downfall, of whether we are moving forward proudly and strongly, or moving backward in a reactionary, guarded and frightful manner, like rats caught in a trap.

All of this came bubbling up to the surface this morning after I read the transcript of what our President said last night on the air in what was supposedly going to be a non-political speech, but one where he once again tried to underline ways to divide Americans rather than unite Americans, which was supposed to be his big promise all those years ago before he first ascended to the Presidency, back in late 2000. But this president, who I admittedly only had hope for in the first few months after September 11, when -- after fits and starts -- he seemed to embrace a broad coalition and work towards a goal that was necessary, getting Osama bin Laden and dismantling Al-Qaeda, failed me and people who share my values once again.

It came in the line in the speech where he said: "Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad. Osama bin Laden calls this fight "the Third World War" -- and he says that victory for the terrorists in Iraq will mean America's "defeat and disgrace forever."

This statement is nonsensical to me. It once again sets up a straw man, a false choice, that somehow, that critics of the war -- like myself -- believe that the terrorists would leave us alone if we left Iraq.

But this is not an either/or choice in the first place, which makes the thought, as voiced by the President, all the more aggravating. We know quite well that they will not leave us alone regardless of whether we're in Iraq or whether we're not in Iraq. It is besides the point.

I also find it disturbing that our President would seek to define our goals based on what one of the world's worst killers will "think of us." He and his cohorts blast those of us who seek to try to find understanding from a common citizen in the Middle East and what roots could cause a growing attraction to suicide bombing as a profession, but yet he would take the word of bin Laden as a reason to justify our actions and, furthermore, to justify his own political gain. If you reject that idea, I direct you to Dick Cheney's words, who said after Ned Lamont's victory over Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Senatorial primary, that it "emboldens al-Qaeda types." So voting in Iraq by dipping your finger and making it nice and purple symbolizes freedom; the same action in America emboldens the terrorists.

But back to the subject of this screed, that the terrorists are winning. Indeed, if anything has happened in the last five years, we've played into al Qaeda's hands more than anything else. To wit:

-- We have validated the belief of those who suggest we are intentionally looking to attack and occupy Muslim lands through our disastrous occupation of Iraq. I hold no love for Saddam Hussein, but what we have accomplished there is nothing short of a disaster, one that has only emboldened the terrorists and given cover to those who would seek to boost bin Laden's standing in the world. Is there any wonder so many in the Muslim world feel disdain and hatred when they think of the United States? Can we honestly say we have not given them cause for this feeling? Some would suggest that the invasion of Afghanistan did the same thing, but that doesn't hold up -- the entire world felt that invasion was justified, and many still do today, including JABBS.

-- We have turned our existences into fearful ones, running about wildly at every color-bar-enhanced generation of a terror warning. Bill Schneider recently reported on CNN that "One year after 9/11, 31 percent of Americans said they felt fear when they thought about the attacks. Five years after the attacks, that numbers is up to 44 percent." More people are living in fear now, five years later? Is Osama bin Laden not laughing at this?

-- America is more divided than ever. There have always been groups of people on either side of the political spectrum who want to reflexively blame other Americans or the government for their ills or for the world's ills; sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are misguided and hysterical. But as tough as this administration likes to talk about what it is doing, their tactics -- conflating those who oppose them as "appeasers," suggesting that those who disagree, in the worlds of Secretary of State Condi Rice, would have decided to maintain the status quo with regard to slavery (SLAVERY!? Are you serious?), suggest that they perceive their greatest enemies to be those in their own country, not the terrorists. It suggests that they regard people who disagree with them as more dangerous and as a larger threat than the terrorists themselves.

-- Conflating our various enemies into one gigantic hydra-headed beast, for which the only response is to kill, kill, kill and kill some more. Much like Saddam, I hold no love or respect for Hamas, Hezbollah, the governments of Iran and Syria, or Al-Qaeda. But to suggest they're all on the same side and all have the same goals not only ignores history but also results in poor planning and poor strategy that, if the same method is applied to dealing with them, results in the possibility of them uniting in common cause against us, rather than those groups being isolated from each other. Dividing and conquering is the true way to win the struggle against these various groups, not by united them while at the same time estranging ourselves from our own allies and our own friends; the reputation of the United States, once considered a beacon, is now in the toilet around the world. Surely this didn't happen just "because," but for good reasons, those of our own doing.

And I'm convinced that most of this has happened because the President and his cronies are fearful, reactionary, unintelligent men, but mostly fearful. It's the reason they allowed or turned the other way when terrorist suspects were herded into secret prisons around the world to be tortured, and why the Administration seeks to wiretap Americans without warrants for an indefinite period of time, when a court exists that would allow them to already lawfully conduct surveillance without a warrant for a few days to begin with. They can already do what they want -- and yet, they felt the need to subvert that even further.

The President now wants to be able to try some of the dangerous terrorists that we managed to capture in military tribunals without allowing them to see the evidence against them -- are we really so fearful to think that we won't have enough of a case against these people that we're simply going to execute them when the evidence isn't shown to them? Is this the United States? Or is this Pinochet's Chile? To embrace torture, gulags and secret prisons and kangaroo courts, is not to embrace the values we were taught as Americans. It is the antithesis of it, to be honest. If we cannot be confident that we cannot prevail in a trial where the defendants are terrorists, then we have already lost.

I hesitate to bring up Nazis, but since the Administration has done it so many times, well, I feel I can do the same. But the fact is, we held trials at Nuremberg for some of the worst criminals the world has ever seen, and they were open proceedings, where the defendants were allowed to view the evidence against them. The same can be done for these criminals as well. And criminals is what they are.

Much as the administration likes to pump these people up into some kind of gigantic beast coming to enslave us, they are really just common thugs, albeit with greater delusions of grandeur and larger intentions than your garden-variety mobster. But by inflating them into something more than that, Bush glorifies their own ideology and makes it, to many in the Middle East, seem a potential alternative -- instead of marginalizing them as the thugs and dirtbags they are, fearful men that they are themselves, who seek only power for their own purposes, who seek not free and open societies, but thugocracies where they are the only law and nobody is allowed to speak freely.

It is a measure of pride to me that Muslim communities in America -- and other types of communities in America too -- share very little with those people, because it shows how free speech, the rule of law and economic opportunity present much better alternatives than any of Bin Laden's hateful ideology, and the dead-end attitude he represents towards openness, democracy and freedom of speech. Osama bin Laden represents none of those things.

President Bush, unfortunately, does not speak to the best in America, and does not inspire America to greater things but speaks only to our fear and our worry. He talks constantly of the great sacrifices that people made at Ground Zero, and those who gave charitably in the wake of Hurricane Katrina but does nothing to inspire that among all citizens, instead only preying on our fears to justify short-term political gains.

Karl Rove is going to do the same again, by using 9/11 families to justify the usage of these kangaroo courts that are so far from our own values, that do not represent America. Some will ask me whether I believe the terrorists "have rights" or some such; I really don't care about them either way. They've mortgaged their claim on humanity a long time ago. Ultimately the terrorists we have captured will be tried, and either given life in prison or death, depending on the level of their involvement. I am fine with either of those outcomes -- this is the justice they will be faced with.

But I do care about America and what it represents, however, and this is not what it represents. Not when, five years after 9/11, I walk by a hole in the ground every day, as Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans put it harshly -- even though he's right. Not when, one year after New Orleans drowned, federal, state and local officials dicker about putting things back in place and cronyism results in favorable contracts to those who give most to the government, and money is stolen while federal officials do nothing about it.

President Bush, to me, represents a degradation of the institution of the Presidency. There are many liberals who retain much anger at Ronald Reagan, and while the man was no saint, he at least showed the pragmatism to work with those he disagreed with and the strength to consider viewpoints that didn't conform to an already-decided-upon worldview. Negotiating with, and having discussions with, and talking to people who disagree with you and in fact may be a sworn enemy is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It's what many people of an older generation would call "being a man," (excuse the sexism).

Moving on, Bill Clinton may have brought a measure of shame on the office due to his personal peccadillos, but at no time did he tarnish the legacy of the office in terms of his conduct in foreign or domestic policy -- even though, he, too, was not perfect. And as ineffectual a president as I thought George Herbert Walker Bush was, I now see that his quiet strength and practical approach is far superior to the destructive, radical, frightened worldview that his son holds.

Supporters of George W. Bush frequently try to evoke parallels to Reagan, but he is nothing of the kind, and his failure to learn the positive lessons of that man's successors -- Bush and Clinton -- instead desiring mostly to rebuke their legacies at every turn, underscores his unwillingness to learn and understand that he was not born in a vacuum, where he can "make his own reality."

I do wish now that a statesman (or woman) existed, one who could rally people in the manner of JFK, Eisenhower, Truman or FDR. Maybe I'm naïve, and my elders who remember those days will tell me that they weren't all that great, or something like that. But I won't lose hope, even as the president squanders almost all of the unity that existed after 9/11. I will remember, as Edward R. Murrow said, that "we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

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