K Marx
the Spot!

K Marx The Spot

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30 March 2004

The Madness Is Not Restricted To March

I love the NCAA's March Madness Basketball Tournament, especially rooting for the underdog. During the break in the action this week it may do you some good to read about the darker side of college basketball and the true cost of our entertainment. Adrian Wojnarowski's latest entry at ESPN.com is well worth the read. While you are at it, read these one, two, three articles by Derrick Z. Jackson from the Boston Globe.

Posted by PAUL at 3/30/2004 02:28:00 AM

Slick Willard Plays Politics With Gay Marriage

In a process that would take 2 1/2 years to take effect, the Massachusetts Legislature cleared the first hurdle toward banning gay marriage and legalizing civil unions. By a vote of 105-92, the Massachusetts Legislature gave initial approval to a constitutional amendment that would strip same-sex couples of court-mandated marriage rights while approving civil unions as part of a marriage ban. To become law, the vote must be affirmed again during the 2005-2006 legislative session before going to the voters in the fall of 2006.

The Boston Globe is reporting that Gov. Willard "Mitt" Romney, a Republican, told reporters he would ask the state's highest court to block gay marriages, now scheduled to begin May 17 under the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's landmark November ruling, until the amendment process has run its lengthy course. The Globe also reported that Attorney General Tom Reilly, a Democrat, whose job it is to represent the state in court, said he would not seek the delay on Romney's behalf. Reilly, who is on record as opposing gay marriage, is likely to run against the governor when he comes up for reelection.

Romney will have to take away, not stay, a gay marriage right that will have been in effect for 2 1/2 years. Even then, the opportunity to turn back the clock on civil rights will only be available if a fragile legislative coalition can be maintained along with a statewide vote. By then, it is unlikely that the public will see gay marriage as the threat to America that politicians like Romney blow it up to be.

Posted by PAUL at 3/30/2004 01:39:00 AM

29 March 2004

More Bad News for the Right, but Maybe Not an Omen

After the defeat of the conservatives in the spanish election earlier this month has now come the defeat of the French conservatives in regional elections yesterday.

While many French voters support Mr. Chirac's foreign policies—particularly his opposition to the United States over the invasion of Iraq—the unpopularity of Mr. Chirac's domestic economic program has become a dominant issue here and was the major theme in the elections, which were effectively a midterm referendum on his administration.

Teachers, hospital workers, scientists and firefighters have all taken to the streets in recent months to protest changes that are meant to make the French work harder and get less in retirement.

In the United States, commentators usually exult over reports of rising productivity and gush about the economic nirvana that we might achieve with privatization of the enormously successful Social Security system. French workers have shown that striving for productivity gains really means fleecing workers just a bit more, and cutting retirement benefits is annoying for the rich but painful for everyone else.

Even a foreign policy that broke with the conservative party line coming from Washington could not protect Jacques Chirac's party from the electorate's rejection of its economic policies.

And yet America could still be different. The most amazing aspect of American politics is twofold: not only does the United States lack a major social-democratic or labor party, but the leftmost of the major parties seems to be ashamed to seek to represent the working class. And so the Republican party, whose leader claims with a straight face that his massive tax cuts for the topmost 1% of incomes (those over $300,000 or so per year) are benefitting ordinary Americans. Howard Dean faced derision and mockery when he tried to convince white Southerners that their votes for the social policies of conservatives were contrary to their economic interests. In virtually every other democratic country, Dean's words would have been obvious to the point of pointlessness. Only in the United States, they were heterodox.

Posted by Tim W at 3/29/2004 01:22:00 AM

28 March 2004

Beware of Frist

Atrios and Hesiod remind us that Senator Frist is not one to talk about exploiting one's "insider status." In fact, Frist has a number of conflicts of interest that merit watching as pointed out by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

Posted by PAUL at 3/28/2004 06:14:00 PM

Comic Relief

I just watched Tim Russert interview Richard Clarke. Russert, in his trademark serious demeanor and in a series of questions, asked Clarke to respond to every accusation the Bushies have leveled against him. In essence, Russert lets the White House make Clarke the issue as opposed to the White House's own actions. Clarke did a fine job of defending himself. The Bush administration's attacks hardly deserve the respect given them by Russert. I prefer Jon Stewart's take on the Bush administration's attack on Clarke. It says a lot about political discourse in our country when American voters need to turn to comedy, not news programs, to put politics in proper perspective.

Posted by PAUL at 3/28/2004 12:03:00 PM

Sharon Faces Indictment on Bribery Charges

Haaretz is reporting that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon faces probable indictment on suspicion that he took bribes on real estate deals. Could it be that Israel's legal system will do for the world what George W. Bush has refused to do; create a dynamic in Israel that will push peace over violence?

Posted by PAUL at 3/28/2004 10:51:00 AM

27 March 2004

Supreme Arrogance and Manipulation

Someone "wrote a speech for Senator Bill Frist". He did not write it himself. In the speech, Frist attacks Richard Clarke and his testimony under oath before the committee investigating September 11. Frist speaks with indignation and paints Clarke as a man who not only lies about the events surrounding September 11 but has traded on his insider status in "an appalling act of profiteering." By way of contrast, keep in mind that Frist does not see "an appalling act of profiteering" in the actions of Halliburton.

Near the end of the rant, Frist tells the world what really has the Bushies worried: "it is understandable why some of the families who lost loved ones in the 9-11 attacks find Mr. Clarke's performance appealing . . .Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility. In my view it was not an act of humility, but an act of supreme arrogance and manipulation."

Clarke did what George W. Bush has refused to do: tell the truth and apologize. Clarke's statement was both powerful and persuasive. No, Mr. Frist, it is not Richard Clarke who is the arrogant manipulator. That would be George W. Bush.

Posted by PAUL at 3/27/2004 12:15:00 PM

Politics Trumps Security

The Bush administration is running scared. Congressional Republicans, no doubt backed by the White House, are now pushing to declassify testimony by Richard Clarke from 2002 in hopes of discrediting Clarke's criticisms of the Bush administration. The White House has already released Clarke's resignation letter, outed Clarke as the off-the-record spokesman of positive remarks about Bush's response to terrorism, and released the attack dogs on the former counterterrorism official. None of the above has effectively rebutted Clarke's testimony given under oath last week. Anyone who works for a living knows that resignation letters are always positive and that staff often write and say what the bosses want, as opposed to their own positions. The steady stream of current White House officials spewing the administration line is evidence of that fact. To date, the pathetic nature and volume of the White House attacks on Clarke have served only to magnify his statements.

Spain's President Aznar and his party were turned out of office by an electorate that would "not forgive incompetence, ideological spin and mendacity" in dealing with the threat of terror. Aznar was a bit player. Bush is the world leader responsible for the bait-and-switch from a promised war on terror to a war in Iraq based on lies. Throwing Aznar out of office was not a victory for al-Qaeda, nor will voting Bush out be one. It will be a victory for truth.

Posted by PAUL at 3/27/2004 09:54:00 AM

26 March 2004

Your Friends Tell Much About You

The annual Saint Patrick's Day breakfast in South Boston is hardly an event for those expecting political sophistication. Instead, it's a platform for corny humor and corned beef. But the jokes that politicians can reveal a lot about them, even if you're not a Freudian.

As Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix noted this week, Romney tossed a throwaway line that reminded careful observers of some painful Boston history:

About a minute after stepping up to the podium inside Local 7 Ironworkers Hall, Romney delivered this gem: "There?s nothing wrong with our supreme court in Massachusetts that having Wacko Hurley as chief justice wouldn?t cure!" Quick history lesson for those whose knowledge of Boston doesn't extend back a decade (a group that, judging from the aforementioned one-liner, may include the governor): in March 1992, South Boston's Allied War Veterans Council, the long-time sponsor of Southie's St. Patrick's Day Parade, denied the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB) permission to enter the event. GLIB, an organization largely made up of Irish émigrés, went to court, won the right to participate, and marched in 1992 and 1993. In 1994, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld GLIB's right to march, organizers cancelled the parade. In 1995, the US Supreme Court reversed the SJC's decision, ruling that—as a private group —the Allied War Veterans Council had a First Amendment right to determine the parade's composition. (Public sponsorship of the event had been scaled back as the controversy dragged on.)

As the parade's chief organizer, John J. "Wacko" Hurley embodied the veterans' determination to keep gays out—which, of course, helped pave the way for the ugliness that ensued. In 1992, smoke bombs and beer cans were thrown at some of the gay marchers as bystanders shouted, "You bunch of fags, get out of Southie" and "I hope you all die of AIDS, homos." In 1993, when Hurley promised to continue the legal fight ("We?ll go on until we have a parade of a family nature," he vowed), gay marchers were spat upon and pelted with snowballs as sharpshooters watched from rooftops. In 1994, Hurley explained the parade's cancellation by saying, "They're not going to shove something down our face that's not our traditional values."

Whatever one thinks of the US Supreme Court's 1995 decision, the nastiness directed at GLIB on the streets of South Boston was an overt display of homophobia. And there was a clear subtext of intolerance lingering behind Hurley's—and the veterans'—determination to keep gay and lesbian people from participating in the parade.

Romney had better stop making such wrong-headed remarks, even as jokes, lest he not get to be god of his own planet in the afterlife.

Posted by Tim W at 3/26/2004 12:19:00 AM

25 March 2004

What Did John Ashcroft Know and When Did He Know It

The past few days have seen the Bush administration's minions explain that they had no idea that any terrorist attacks were forthcoming in September 2001. It is propably safe to assume that whatever evidence they had was ambiguous at best. (Far more damning are not only the administration's overall obliviousness to the threat of terrorism, but also its manifold lies and deceptions that stemmed from the actual attacks.)

But one fact from July 2001 gnaws at me.

In response to inquiries from CBS News over why Ashcroft was traveling exclusively by leased jet aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the Justice Department cited what it called a "threat assessment" by the FBI, and said Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term.

"There was a threat assessment and there are guidelines. He is acting under the guidelines," an FBI spokesman said. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department, however, would identify what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.

A senior official at the CIA said he was unaware of specific threats against any Cabinet member, and Ashcroft himself, in a speech in California, seemed unsure of the nature of the threat.

Perhaps the threat against Ashcroft was wholly unrelated to the 11 September hijackings. But now would be a good time to find out for sure.

Posted by Tim W at 3/25/2004 11:48:00 PM

Why Does George Bush Hate Education?

George Bush came to Boston today on a whirlwind trip to give a fundraising speech at a hotel in downtown Boston. The concomitant security detail closed a number of streets and made Boston's ordinarily gruesome traffic positive chthonic for many commuters.

But the most surreal bit of news came when the Boston Globe revealed one consequence of the speech by the president who promised to leave "no child behind":

The president's visit unexpectedly canceled classes for 1,425 children at the Boston Renaissance Charter School, a K-8 institution on Stuart Street a block away from the hotel. The Boston Public Schools system, which provides about 30 buses to transport Renaissance students, said it could not guarantee timely pick-up of students at dismissal time, said Dudley Blodget, chief operating officer of the Renaissance School's foundation. The school also feared that the 300 parents who pick up their children would not be able to reach the school.

"It's a sad situation that you have to close off school because of a fund-raising event," said Roger F. Harris, Renaissance headmaster.

Jonathan Palumbo, spokesman for the Boston Public Schools, said his transportation director only found out about the visit yesterday. The school department has few schools in the area, and they will not be directly affected, Palumbo said, although school officials anticipate delays at dismissal time.

So over a thousand students will literally be left behind so the president can take $2,000 apiece from 500 of his nearest and dearest friends, all of whom presumably have access to something called the postal system.

Posted by Tim W at 3/25/2004 11:39:00 PM

White House Had al-Qaeda Warning Before 9/11

"The White House Had al-Qaeda Warning Before 9/11." That simple fact is on the front page of today's Financial Times.

Richard Clarke, the former White House head of counter-terrorism, told the truth and shamed the White House. His frank commentary was made all the more powerful by his public apology to the victims of that act of terror. Compare Clarke's willingness to testify publicly with Condoleezza Rice's refusal and only a Bush stooge would give the White House's past and present denials any credibility.

The Financial Times tells it straight. "The commission's preliminary report, expanding on criticisms Mr. Clarke leveled against the Bush administration in a book published this week, largely corroborates his claim that he had pushed for a stronger response in the face of 'alarming evidence that al-Qaeda was planning a big attack.' "

The White House's refusal to allow Rice to offer a rebuttal under oath, citing executive privilege, was Nixonian. A Party that attacked Clinton for parsing speech while denying adultery has shamed itself by selling a lie about September 11 and the war in Iraq. Bush's reelection strategy as an activist in the war on terrorism has run into a problem, the truth.

Posted by PAUL at 3/25/2004 06:03:00 AM

23 March 2004

How Not to Win Friends or Influence People

After assassinating the founder of Hamas, the Israeli government is refusing to rule out more killing.

"Everyone is in our sights," Israeli Internal Security Minister Tsahi Hanegbi told reporters on Tuesday. "There is no immunity to anyone."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, commenting on the Israeli threat, urged all parties to "exercise maximum restraint".

Hamas has pledged to avenge Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli missile strike outside a Gaza mosque on Monday. Israel said the wheelchair-bound cleric and Hamas spiritual leader masterminded suicide bombings.

"We will fight them everywhere. We will hit them everywhere. We will chase them everywhere," Rantissi told thousands of mourners in Gaza's main soccer stadium.

Previous assassinations triggered waves of suicide bombings on buses and cafes that killed scores of people in Israel, which put its security forces on high alert after Yassin's death.

It is hard to imagine any party in this sordid mess emerging better off. Israel has tried this sort of stunt before, with deadly consequences. Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have been unwilling to stop the cycle of violence. And the United States government seems wholly unable to do more than request "maximum restraint."

Had the Bush administration really included the foreign policy "grown-ups" that it promised the American public, it might be making a bit more than a token effort to get Israel to act like its palestinian neighbors were worth taking seriously. Even the American business community, not known for its profound insight into human nature, knows that actions have consequences.

Posted by Tim W at 3/23/2004 10:12:00 PM

The Free Republic of Old Europe

Paul's post below, while sadly indicative of what passes for conservative thought nowadays, has one amusing aspect. It seems to me that Jim Robinson uses an awful lot of Latin for someone so opposed to France, Germany, and Spain—the so-called "old Europe."

As Terence said so long ago, veritas odium parit.

Posted by Tim W at 3/23/2004 09:59:00 PM

Consumed By Hate

We are not kidding you. Jim Robinson really did post the following to the homepage of Free Republic.

Statement by the founder of Free Republic:

In our continuing fight for freedom, for America and our constitution and against totalitarianism, socialism, tyranny, terrorism, etc., Free Republic stands firmly on the side of right, i.e., the conservative side. Believing that the best defense is a strong offense, we (myself and those whom I'm trying to attract to FR) support the strategy of taking the fight to the enemy as opposed to allowing the enemy the luxury of conducting their attacks on us at home on their terms and on their schedule.

Therefore, we wholeheartedly support the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive strikes on known terrorist states and organizations that are believed to present a clear threat to our freedom or national security. We support our military, our troops and our Commander-in-Chief and we oppose turning control of our government back over to the liberals and socialists who favor appeasement, weakness, and subserviency. We do not believe in surrendering to the terrorists as France, Germany, Russia and Spain have done and as Kerry, Kennedy, Clinton and the Democrats, et al, are proposing.

As a conservative site, Free Republic is pro-God, pro-life, pro-family, pro-Constitution, pro-Bill of Rights, pro-gun, pro-limited government, pro-private property rights, pro-limited taxes, pro-capitalism, pro-national defense, pro-freedom, and-pro America. We oppose all forms of liberalism, socialism, fascism, pacifism, totalitarianism, anarchism, government enforced atheism, abortionism, feminism, homosexualism, racism, wacko environmentalism, judicial activism, etc. We also oppose the United Nations or any other world government body that may attempt to impose its will or rule over our sovereign nation and sovereign people. We believe in defending our borders, our constitution and our national sovereignty.

Free Republic is private property. It is not a government project, nor is it funded by government or taxpayer money. We are not a publicly owned entity nor are we an IRS tax-free non-profit organization. We pay all applicable taxes on our income. We are not connected to or funded by any political party, news agency, or any other entity. We sell no merchandise, product or service, and we offer no subscriptions or paid memberships. We accept no paid advertising or promotions. We are funded solely by donations (non tax deductible gifts) from our readers and participants.

We aggressively defend our God-given and first amendment guaranteed rights to free speech, free press, free religion, and freedom of association, as well as our constitutional right to control the use and content of our own personal private property. Despite the wailing of the liberal trolls and other doom & gloom naysayers, we feel no compelling need to allow them a platform to promote their repugnant and obnoxious propaganda from our forum. Free Republic is not a liberal debating society. We are conservative activists dedicated to defending our rights, defending our constitution, defending our republic and defending our traditional American way of life.

Our God-given liberty and freedoms are not negotiable.

May God bless and protect our men and women in uniform fighting for our freedom and may God continue to bless America.

Jim Robinson."

Posted by PAUL at 3/23/2004 09:28:00 PM

Out Of The Loop

What is it about the Bush Administration that keeps giving me deja vous? Widely published reports quote Vice President Dick Cheney as saying on Rush Limbaugh's radio show that Richard Clarke "wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff.” Was it not the senior Bush that contradicted his personal diaries by saying he was "out of the loop" on Iran-Contra? Would someone please tell the Bushies that mouthing "in" or "out" of "the loop" is no longer a phrase that creates plausible deniability, especially when there are other facts in evidence.

Posted by PAUL at 3/23/2004 07:04:00 AM

22 March 2004

Bush Dropped The Ball

Lost in the coverage of Richard Clarke's interview with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes is the play the story received throughout two days of CBS Sports' coverage of second-round action of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Continual promos for 60 Minutes were run during the weekend. Basketball viewers were repeatedly told that an expert in antiterrorism in the Bush White House would reveal in an interview that President Bush "dropped the ball against terrorism before Sept. 11." The metaphor was one that would not be lost on most basketball fans. Millions of young male voters heard Clarke's message in simple terms with which they could relate.

Posted by PAUL at 3/22/2004 09:06:00 PM

Proof that Nobody Pays Attention to David Brooks

On Tuesday, 16 March, David Brooks wrote in his column that the Spanish voters who booted the conservative government out of office last weekend, were just a bunch of weak-willed appeasers. Included in his simplistic screed was this little gem:

If a terrorist group attacked the U.S. three days before an election, does anyone doubt that the American electorate would rally behind the president or at least the most aggressively antiterror party? Does anyone doubt that Americans and Europeans have different moral and political cultures? Yesterday the chief of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, told Italy's La Stampa, "It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists." Does he really think capitulation or negotiation works better? Can you imagine John Kerry or George Bush saying that?

Besides the specious argument that a government that had failed in its duty to protect the populace would necessarily be rewarded in the polls, this paragraph had a major problem. Prodi didn't exactly say that.

To his credit, Brooks tried to make amends. On Saturday, 20 March, David Brooks appended a correction to his column:

In Tuesday's column I quoted the European Commission's president, Romano Prodi, telling the Italian newspaper La Stampa that force was not the answer to terrorism. I was relying on an Agence France-Presse translation, which was incorrect. Prodi actually said force should not be the only answer to terrorism. He said terrorism would not abate until the Israeli-Palestinian dispute was resolved.

And, today Cathy Young penned a column for the Boston Globe in which she heads toward the fanciful notion that a plurality of Spaniards preferred the social democrats to the conservatives that lied not only about the 11 March bombings but also about links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. She even cites a libertarian, writing in the same libertarian magazine that employs her, who dispels the notion that the spanish voters were just appeasers.

But she finds that the oft-trod path of sliming Europeans was just too compelling. then she drops the ball—and cites, you guessed it, the original quote that Brooks did.

Poor David Brooks! Even the columnists in the Boston Globe, which is owned by the New York Times, can't be bothered to read his columns!

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Posted by Tim W at 3/22/2004 07:42:00 AM

Commodity Fetishism, Revisited

What a week for the Sesame Street fan! First, Spalding Gray, feared dead, turns up dead. Now the wonderful "Monsterpiece Theatre" parody of "Monster in a Box" isn't nearly as funny anymore. (Alastair Cookie introduces the play as "written by Spalding Monster, directed by Spalding Monster, starring Spalding Monster—no ego problem there!")

And now Martha Stewart is likely to face jail time unless an appeal succeeds. So, the episode in which Martha Sewer advises Oscar and Grungetta on planning a grouch wedding loses a bit of its sly humor. (Faced with the dilemma of whether to drip mustard or slime on the invitations, Martha suggests "Both! It's a grouch thing!" Fortunately, Maria convinces the lovebirds that they don't have to get married if all they want is "a trashy party.")

Posted by Tim W at 3/22/2004 01:29:00 AM

Making Sausages

As the hoary adage goes, one does not want to know how sausages are made. (And not just because the casing is traditionally made from intestines.) I never thought of this adage as useful, because I actually care about what I eat.

The adage certainly fails when it applies to politics. Knowing how political decisions are made tells us reams about our government and our politicians.

Ron Suskind has generously provided anyone—even anyone who did not buy the book—free access to some of the documents that underpin the recent book written by him and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.

Go and check out the site: there's something for everybody, with more to come, all in the public domain.

Posted by Tim W at 3/22/2004 01:21:00 AM

19 March 2004

The Powell Doctrine

On Brad DeLong's weblog, he quotes Colin Powell's rejoinder to John Kerry that Kerry ought to "[n]ame a specific issue where it looks like I have been marginalized. DeLong proceeds to list fifteen separate issues in which Bush and company seem to have marginalized Powell.

I think that the problem is far greater than a list of issues, even greater than the fact the the Secretary of Defense seems to have more input into the foreign policy of the United States than the Secretary of State.

In previous administrations, cabinet members resigned from office when the polciies of the government were incompatible with their advice or their ideology. Merely 24 years ago, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance resigned because he disagreed with the Carter administration's doomed plan to rescue the American hostages in Iran. His resignation, on 21 April 1980, predated the mission (although it was not announced until a week later, after the mission had failed).

In February 2003, Powell addressed the United Nations Security Council and made the case for a preemptive war against Iraq. His speech and accompanying slide show amounted, in retrospect, to an embarassing display of lies, prevarications, and wishful thinking. Either Powell knew then that he was peddling untruths to the Security Council, or he knew later, when the facts in the presentation were revealed to be so many fables. Either Powell was being duped, in which case a resignation would be the only way to save face, or he was a knowing accomplice, in which case a resignation would be an admission of guilt.

The more we know about the Bush White House, the more apparent the real answer is.

Posted by Tim W at 3/19/2004 02:03:00 AM

John McCain Is Not an Idiot

John McCain is not an idiot, although his party's leaders must think he is. Last week, McCain answered a off-the-wall question in a Good Morning America interview with an honest answer: if his friend and colleague John Kerry asked him to be his running-mate, he would consider accepting the offer.

I doubt that Kerry would ask any Republican to run with him for vice president, let alone McCain. While branded a maverick, McCain usually votes with his party on almost every issue before the Senate. In other words, he's no Jim Jeffords. And McCain knows it. During the interview, he stressed the unlikelihood of the hypothesis. With in the day, his press spokesman was pouring cold water all over the artificially heated story.

McCain, though, is not staying out of the spotlight. Yesterday, he dismissed Bush campaign claims that Kerry was somehow weak on defense. The first salvo came from Dick Cheney.

"The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security," Vice President Dick Cheney declared Wednesday. A day earlier, the Bush campaign released an ad arguing Kerry had turned his back on U.S. soldiers by voting against an $87 billion aid package for Iraq and Afghanistan last year. On Thursday, the campaign put out yet another ad accusing Kerry of waffling on military issues.

Enter McCain.

Asked on two morning TV shows Thursday whether he thought Kerry was weak on defense, the Arizona senator was quick to bat down the suggestion. Furthermore, he chided both parties for waging such a "bitter and partisan" campaign.

"This kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice," he said on The Early Show on CBS.

As for Kerry, McCain said the senator would have to explain his voting record but he also told NBC's Today show: "No, I do not believe that he is necessarily weak on defense. I don't agree with him on some issues clearly. But I decry this negativism that's going on on both sides."

How George Bush and Dick Cheney could ever expect John McCain to toe the Bush campaign line on anything defies belief. Barely four years ago, remember, George Bush let his campaign operatives spread all manner of lies and innuendo about McCain. The Bush 2000 campaign itself merely advertised that McCain was "another politician... America can't trust".

Perhaps most voters cannot recall the daily minutiae of the last presidential campaign, but surely the participants should. And John McCain has certainly not forgotten.

Posted by Tim W at 3/19/2004 01:42:00 AM

Blue Ribbon Blues

Remember that blue ribbon commission that George Bush claimed would figure out why all of the American intelligence was based less on facts than fact by-products?

Josh Marshall noted some time ago that the commission not only includes a Republican hack from the heady days of driving Bill Clinton batty with subpoenas, but it also has curiously narrow purview.

Now Time magazine has noticed. And even reminded us of two more commission members with interesting pasts. Interesting as is "tastes like chicken":

Panel member Henry Rowen, a Hoover Institution scholar and former Rand Corp. president, worked under Cheney at the Pentagon during the first Gulf War. In September 1990, with Cheney's backing, Rowen cooked up Operation Scorpion, a secret plan to invade Iraq from the west, go all the way to Baghdad and topple Saddam. (The plan went nowhere.) Another panel member, former CIA deputy director William Studeman, now with Northrop Grumman, contributed $250 to candidate Bush's campaign in 2000. His wife gave the Bush re-election committee $500 just a week before her husband was named to the panel last month.

Panel member Charles Vest, president of M.I.T., has been accused by a colleague of being slow to investigate allegations of fraud at a lab that does missile-defense work for the Pentagon. Ted Postol, an M.I.T. professor of technology and national security, says Vest was told in 2001 about allegations that officials at the school's Lincoln Laboratory misled federal investigators about the failure of a key test of the U.S. missile-defense system—a top Bush priority. Postol claims that Vest "did not take action," even though he "knew there were potential criminal violations and scientific fraud." A spokesman for M.I.T., which received $726 million in federal work in 2003, said any suggestion that Vest ignored the claims is "categorically untrue."

But that's not the best part about the commission!

Five weeks after being appointed, the group has not met, and it is unclear when it will.

I suppose that there's no urgency to meet: after all, it's not like bad intelligence led to an unnecessary war, or damaged American relations with a host of countries. Yet again, imagine the media maelstorm if Bill Clinton had tried this sort of burial of a controversial issue.

Posted by Tim W at 3/19/2004 01:22:00 AM

17 March 2004

Global Views of the US are Highly Unfavorable

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell all recently attacked John Kerry as the White House's political operatives acted to paint Kerry a liar for stating that "more leaders" were looking favorably on a change in administrations in Washington. Nice try. Too bad for the Bushies that the facts are splashed across the pages of the international press. Voters in Spain sent Bush a clear message, throwing out of office Bush's partner in war. Today, the Financial Times published a survey of public opinion on US policy that supports Kerry's statements and makes Bush and his apologists look like the real liars. The Financial Times reports that global animosity towards the US and its foreign policies has intensified since the end of the war. Bush has taken almost universal support for the US after September 11 and thrown it away.

According to the Pew Research Center, majorities in all Muslim countries surveyed believed the war on terrorism was an effort to control the Middle East's oil and to dominate the world. In Britain, Washington's key ally in the conflict, 58 per cent said the US was less trustworthy and only 24 per cent thought it was more trustworthy. The French and the Germans continue to view the US just as negatively as they did at the end of the war.

Does Bush really believe the leaders of countries with such clear anti-Bush public opinion prefer him over Kerry?

Posted by PAUL at 3/17/2004 08:02:00 AM

16 March 2004

The Flip Side of Social Security Privatization

Brad DeLong wrote recently about the strange argument for partial privatization of Social Security:

I think it's worth laying out the basic underlying logic of Lindsey's plan. The plan is to:

  1. Borrow lots of money from the private sector by issuing extra Treasury bonds—and pay an interest rate of, say, 3% plus inflation per year.
  2. Invest the borrowed money in stocks and bonds—and receive average returns (dividends plus capital gains) of, say, 5.5% plus inflation per year.
  3. The extra flow-of-funds into financial markets leads businesses to invest in plant and equipment, expand their operations, and raise their profits. An extra 2% of the original sum borrowed is recaptured in additional corporate income tax collections.
  4. Roll over and reinvest the profit margin—the 5.5% return on the portfolio plus the 2% corporate tax collections minus the 3% interest on the borrowing—in stocks and bonds year after year.

In the Lindsey plan, this borrowing cheap and investing dear is an immensely profitable exercise. After twenty years, according to the assumptions underlying this plan (as presented, for example, in Feldstein and Samwick (2000)*), your assets have grown to $2.95 for each dollar borrowed. You can then cash out, retire the original Treasury bond that you had issued, and clear a profit of $1.95 for every dollar originally borrowed. After thirty years your assets have grown to $5.65 for each dollar borrowed. You can then cash out, retire the original Treasury bond that you had issued, and clear a profit of $4.65 for every dollar originally borrowed.

In context, the Lindsey plan places this in a framework of Social Security reform, private accounts, et cetera. But those bells and whistles are unimportant: at its core, the plan is to use the government's credibility and financial soundness to borrow cheap and invest dear, and so earn enormous long-run profits. Why, if Lyndon Johnson had borrowed $1 trillion 40 years ago and invested it wisely, the financial resources the government would now have as a result would allow us to eliminate the individual income tax completely!

It has, however, never been completely clear to me how this argument hangs together. The 2% return in the form of higher corporate tax revenues: does that assume that the additional Treasury debt has no counteracting effect crowding out private capital accumulation? Or is there an implicit assumption that federal programmatic spending will drop when government resources are diverted into these investments in stocks and bonds?

DeLong raises some excellent points, but there is a huge underlying contradiction in all of this talk of investing in the stock and bond markets. Both laissez-faire and welfare-state capitalists view nationalization as anathema: it is inefficient, unproductive, and probably unhealthy. Yet a nationalized industry works for the profit and greater benefit of the public, its sole owner.

What supposed conservatives like Larry Lindsey would do is to have the government—technically, the Social Security Trust Fund—nationalize a portion of the stock market, so that the government would in effect own a sizable chunk of the shares of publicly traded companies. Either government bureaucrats would decide which companies would be partially nationalized, or some private firm would do the government's choosing for it, or the government would invest in a broad universe of stocks. The first option would turn privatization into the least conservative government program in the history of conservative thought. The second option would be so ripe for conflicts of interests that even Wall Street, let alone Congress, would be loathe to see it in action. So let us assume that the third option prevails.

In essence, the partially privatized Social Security system would be gambling that holding a minority stake in a broad mix of companies was not only good for the government, but better for the government than using tax revenues to pay for Social Security costs. As the last few years have shown, it is a rare day that minority shareholders have much of any say in who runs a company, let alone how a company is run. The only way for the government to ensure that it gets its money's worth from its investments is to demand seats on boards of directors. And if the government is going to do that, why not nationalize in the first place and save all of the paperwork and proxies?

Saving social security by just taxing more of the incomes of rich people sounds better and better.

Posted by Tim W at 3/16/2004 01:29:00 AM

A Good Omen for Kerry

While George Bush must be aghast at the recent election results from Spain, John Kerry must be pleased. After al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks on commuter trains in Madrid, a plurality of Spanish voters responded by punishing the party that had linked Saddam Hussein with the criminals who had killed innocents in New York, Washington, Bali, and elsewhere.

José María Aznar had cast his lot with George W. Bush, even when conservatives in France and Mexico and elsewhere had decided that war against Iraq was ill-conceived and irresponsible. And when his government made the weak yet unrelenting argument that Basque separatists had altered decades of tactics to engage in mass murder of civilians, voters were far from comvinced.

In the United States, the Republican message for the past 30 months has been that of Morton's Fork—if terrorists attack, then Republican leadership is needed, but if they do not attack, then Republican leadership has been validated. It was nonsense in 1487 when the original John Morton used it, and it is nonsense today. More pernicious than that nonsense, however, has been the chronic inflation and conflation of the threat that Saddam Hussein posed to America and its allies. As events have shown, by 2002, Saddam Hussein was hardly a threat to Kuwait, let alone the United States or Spain or any of its European allies.

Spaniards who voted for the socialists—for our American readers, the Spanish socialists, like most socialist parties in Europe, advocate welfare-state capitalism— knew that the right wing would paint a leftist victory as a victory for appeasement. But disavowing a small role in an imperial misadventure hardly constitutes capitulation. Indeed, the socialists have already pledged to bring the perpetrators of the 11 March train bombings to justice. They simply refuse to continue the pathetic lies of the right, that invading Iraq would somehow make Spain a safer place.

In Washington, George Bush and his handlers should be nervous. Not only did a terrorist attack fail to rally the populace around the right, but it also made the populace question the right's probity and even its usefulness.

Posted by Tim W at 3/16/2004 01:10:00 AM

14 March 2004

A Bad Omen for Bush

Conservative Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar saw his handpicked successor Mariano Rajoy lead his Popular Party to a defeat in the Spanish national elections.

The socialists, who had campaigned on an openly anti-war platform, will hold 164 seats to 148 seats for the Popular Party. If socialist leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero can meet expectations by cobbling together at least 12 allied legislators from regional parties, then a key member of the "coalition of the willing" will not be so willing after all.

Posted by Tim W at 3/14/2004 09:01:00 PM

Toe to Toe

The Bush v. Kerry fight has all the makings of Hagler v. Hearns, the championship bout held on 16 April 1985 at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas where the contenders came out of their respective corners and went toe to toe in the middle of the ring. It did not take long for the self-described "compassionate conservative" to go negative against John Kerry in attack ads. The simple message Bush wants Americans to believe is that Kerry is "wrong on taxes" and "wrong on defense." The facts be damned. Kerry is giving as good as he gets, calling Bush and his attack machine "crooks" and "liars" and challenging virtually everything that comes out of the Bush campaign.

Bush can't run on his record, so he's running on fear and xenophobia. Like his father, Bush wants White Americans to fear a dark-skinned male. Papa Bush blatantly used Willie Horton's Black face to scare White America in his ads. His son tones down his ads with more subliminal imagery, so the use of the dark-skinned male's face is only in passing. White Americans are asked to look into the eyes of a man with Middle Eastern features during an attack ad on Kerry entitled "100 Days". The ad is shameless. The Bush campaign is shameless.

John Kerry would do well to continue to go after George W. Bush as hard as Marvin Hagler pursued Thomas Hearns. Kerry can take everything and anything Bush throws at him. It is only a matter of time before Bush hits the mat.

Posted by PAUL at 3/14/2004 11:40:00 AM

10 March 2004

The Passion of the Hubble

At a time when Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has dominated the media and pulled in over $200 million at the box office, a Twenty-First Century look at the origin of the universe and our species has attracted relatively little attention. The deepest-ever view of the universe, a long-duration exposure by the Hubble Space Telescope looks back to the edge of the "Big Bang." Scientists describe it as a chaotic scramble of odd galaxies, smashing into one another and re-forming in bizarre shapes. It is absolutely fascinating scientific achievement and breakthrough which should capture the imagination of people around the world.

Alas, we prefer to debate "the facts" around a Biblical story, written decades after the events were alleged to have taken place by biased observers who contradicted each other's accounts. These accounts would later be transcribed by a Church that showed a penchant for adherence to dogma that resulted in death for many brave enough to question Church authority. Today, that same Church covers up the buggery of children by priests while it dictates to its members acceptable and non-acceptable love and marriage.

Pardon me for being a secularist but have we not reached an intellectual level that allows us to distinguish between faith and facts? People are free to believe that Jesus is the son of God. Gibson is free to put is beliefs on the "Big Screen." Frank Rich and Jon Voight are free to raise issues with the film for alleged anti-Semitic undertones. Bill O'Reilly is free to call Rich a "coward" and an "elitist." Rich is free to embrace those labels while rejecting O'Reilly's claim that Rich is a "secularist." God forbid someone in the public eye not anchor themselves to one of the organized religions.

I prefer to ponder the snapshots of the universe that have captured light that streaked through space for what sceintists estimate is more than 13 billion years and began when the universe was only 5 percent of its current estimated age of 13.7 billion years. We can now view approximately 10,000 galaxies. Wow! We need to hear more about these astronomers and less about Gibson, O'Reilly, and Rich. We also need to keep the Hubble, that Bush plans to trash, operational. Maybe Gibson can spare some of that $200 plus million.

Posted by PAUL at 3/10/2004 11:09:00 PM

Horror Show

Atrios picked up a classified ad for "audience work, one hour tape time, cash pay at end of show" for the Dennis Miller show on CNBC. The pay was $15. Respondents to the ad were asked to include contact number, nationality, age and photo. I love the fact that they are asking for demographic information so they can pretend Miller has appeal to a young and diverse audience. Funny, I didn't see Drudge post this story so I emailed it to him to bust his chops. I guess there is not enough room on his web page because it still has not been posted. Can anyone name another television job with a bigger rogues gallery (Miller, O. J. Simpson, and Rush Limbaugh) than third chair on Monday Night Football? Here's the heads-up on Miller we gave you back in April 2001.

Posted by PAUL at 3/10/2004 10:10:00 PM

08 March 2004

What Rises to the Top is Not Always Cream

The Boston Herald has announced with glee the hiring of Mike Barnicle. In a sane world, a journalist guilty of not only blatantly plagiarism but also fabrication of news stories would find few takers for his brand of journalism. Alas, Barnicle has not only his new Herald gig, but also a weekly column for the New York Daily News, a daily radio show on WTKK in Boston, and frequent spots on the Chronicle show on WCVB-TV in Boston and the MSNBC cable network.

The timing of the announcement reminds us of the last time that Barncile made the news, when he slandered two Academy Award nominees as "terrorists" solely because of their names. The Herald must be eager for that sort of levelheaded, sober, insightful thinking from its new columnist.

As usual, Dan Kennedy offers the sober and pithy truth: the Herald could have hired Barnicle any time since the Globe fired him some five years ago, but until today, the Herald could claim that it had a whiff of journalistic standards.

Posted by Tim W at 3/08/2004 02:50:00 PM

06 March 2004

Fit To Print

I just read on Bartcop that the NYT Web edition canceled Ted Rall's editorial cartoons effective March 1 because they didn't fit "the tone" of its web site. That's just sad. Many of us out here in the blog world greatly appreciate the courage and wisdom in Rall's work. In a world where the lies and propaganda of the political Right are deemed "fit to print" we are seeing dissenting voices silenced or marginalized. "Liberal Media," indeed!

Posted by PAUL at 3/06/2004 09:01:00 PM

Martha Stewart and the Cultural Revolution

The Martha Stewart tragedy playing out in New York and across our media reminds me of Bernardo Bertolucci's epic film, The Last Emperor. In that film, Pu Yi, emperor of China, sees his life changed dramatically by his own actions, but more so by the political upheaval in China and across the world. In the end, Pu Yi endures ten years of thought reform to transform his sense of privilege to an acceptance of himself as just one of many in the Republic of China. Indeed, the Last Emperor transforms into a common man.

Stewart stands guilty of her own sense of privilege and her refusal to confess her "crimes." Ironically, what is demanded of Stewart is similar to what was demanded of the privileged during the Cultural Revolution that swept over China. Stewart was tried on obstruction of justice, not insider trading. She lied to prosecutors just like Pu Yi lied to his interegators/"teachers" in prison. I have no doubt that Stewart did what the prosecutors accuse her of doing. Nor do I doubt Stewart believes in her own innocence. She did what thousands of others have done and what the majority of stockholders would do with insider information. She traded on it to her personal advantage.

After her conviction, Stewart was unrepentant, announcing that she believed "in the fairness of the judicial system" and that she would "ultimately prevail." This appears to be both wishful thinking and marketing spin. The odds are stacked against a convicted felon winning on appeal. Stewart likely faces a sentencing hearing this summer. Judges and prosecutors tend not to favor defendants that stand before them professing their innocence at sentencing. Stewart will be required to openly confess her crimes and ask for the court's leniency or she will spend time in prison. The show trial is entering its final act. Will the woman who has spent so much time in front of the camera follow the script?

Posted by PAUL at 3/06/2004 08:45:00 AM

04 March 2004

The Selling of the President 2004

President Bush, who is running unopposed in the Republican primaries, rolled out a $4 million ad campaign last night, of a $140 million primary war-chest, to sell a fictional portrayal of himelf to the American people. The unabashed Bush, who has stonewalled the fact finding of the commission investigating the September 11 tragedy, woke up today to criticism from family members of the victims of those mass murders. A number of family members took exception to the Bush's use of September 11 imagery to sell himself like soap to the American people. There were many heroes that terrible day and in the days after. None of them were named George Bush. Bush, if you recall, went into hiding. Mark Bingham didn't. Bingham rushed the cockpit on United Flight 93, ensuring that the plane could not be used to kill innocents other than himself, his fellow passengers, and the crew of Flight 93. Mark Bingham was many things to the the people he loved and who loved him. Mark also happened to be a homosexual. George Bush, an advocate of state's rights, has called for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would deny homosexuals equal rights. Shame on you, President Bush. And, shame on the media for not pointing out this hypocrisy.

Posted by PAUL at 3/04/2004 10:05:00 PM

03 March 2004

The Most Important Story

The story of Pakistan and two generations of American presidents is the most important story of the end of the Cold War, more important than the end of the Berlin Wall, more important than China's metamorphosis into a curious amalgam of rampant capitalism and state socialism, more important than the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and certainly more important than the "war on terror." In this week's New Yorker, Seymour Hersh outlines a Faustian deal between the United States and Pakistan:

On February 4th, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is revered in Pakistan as the father of the country's nuclear bomb, appeared on a state-run television network in Islamabad and confessed that he had been solely responsible for operating an international black market in nuclear-weapons materials. His confession was accepted by a stony-faced Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's President, who is a former Army general, and who dressed for the occasion in commando fatigues. The next day, on television again, Musharraf, who claimed to be shocked by Khan's misdeeds, nonetheless pardoned him, citing his service to Pakistan (he called Khan "my hero"). Musharraf told the Times that he had received a specific accounting of Khan's activities in Iran, North Korea, and Malaysia from the United States only last October. "If they knew earlier, they should have told us," he said. "Maybe a lot of things would not have happened."

It was a make-believe performance in a make-believe capital. In interviews last month in Islamabad, a planned city built four decades ago, politicians, diplomats, and nuclear experts dismissed the Khan confession and the Musharraf pardon with expressions of scorn and disbelief. For two decades, journalists and American and European intelligence agencies have linked Khan and the Pakistani intelligence service, the I.S.I. (Inter-Service Intelligence), to nuclear-technology transfers, and it was hard to credit the idea that the government Khan served had been oblivious. "It is state propaganda," Samina Ahmed, the director of the Islamabad office of the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that studies conflict resolution, told me. "The deal is that Khan doesn't tell what he knows. Everybody is lying. The tragedy of this whole affair is that it doesn't serve anybody's needs." Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who is a member of the Pakistani senate, said with a laugh, "America needed an offering to the gods—blood on the floor. Musharraf told A.Q., 'Bend over for a spanking.'"

A Bush Administration intelligence officer with years of experience in nonproliferation issues told me last month, "One thing we do know is that this was not a rogue operation. Suppose Edward Teller had suddenly decided to spread nuclear technology and equipment around the world. Do you really think he could do that without the government knowing? How do you get missiles from North Korea to Pakistan? Do you think A.Q. shipped all the centrifuges by Federal Express? The military has to be involved, at high levels."

The intelligence officer went on, "We had every opportunity to put a stop to the A. Q. Khan network fifteen years ago. Some of those involved today in the smuggling are the children of those we knew about in the eighties. It?s the second generation now."

In public, the Bush Administration accepted the pardon at face value. Within hours of Musharraf's television appearance, Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State, praised him as "the right man at the right time." Armitage added that Pakistan had been "very forthright in the last several years with us about proliferation." A White House spokesman said that the Administration valued Musharraf's assurances that "Pakistan was not involved in any of the proliferation activity." A State Department spokesman said that how to deal with Khan was "a matter for Pakistan to decide."

The deal in question would be to allow Pakistan not to punish its pedddlers of weapons of mass destruction in exchange for sending American troops into the Pakistani hinterlands to look for Osama bin Laden. But even if that deal does not exist, the story of Pakistan is a sordid one, for both Democrats and Republicans.

It should be public knowledge that decades of American administrations have coddled Pakistani governments, in spite of an incessant drive to produce nuclear weapons. In the early 1970s, Pakistan was a useful counterweight to India, which had allied itself, after a fashion, with the Soviet Union. In the late 1970s, Pakistan was a vital bulwark against Soviet plans to dominate Afghanistan. Billions of dollars of military aid flowed to Pakistan despite American fears of Pakistan and India escalating their common shooting wars into a nuclear shooting war. Throughout the 1980s, even when Pakistan had assembled nuclear weapons, American fears of Communism kept the military spigot flowing. Only after the Soviets left Afghanistan did George H. W. Bush finally decide that he could no longer certify that Pakistan lacked nuclear weapons.

In essence, from Jimmy Carter on, American presidents acted as if the lesson of Vietnam was not that fighting the spread of Communism through proxy wars was dangerous and expensive and deadly, but that we needed religious zealots to fight the Commies for us.

Our friend in Southwest Asia was the primary military benefactor of the mujahedeen and, later, their political descendants, the Taliban. Our friend in Southwest Asia is the hub of international trade in the components and technology for producing nuclear weapons—whatever advances Iran and Libya have made stem directly from trade with the nuclear scientists in Pakistan, and North Korea's favorite military trading partner iss, yes, Pakistan. And even when General Musharraf has admitted that his scientists have contributed to nuclear proliferation, his response is the most farcical of show trials: public contrition and a full pardon. And in a time where democracy seems so important in Iraq, our best ally in the war on terror is a dictator who ousted a democratically elected president in 1999. President Bush, is of course, troubled by this and made a clarion call for change back in June: "He's working to build a modern Pakistan that is tolerant and prosperous. Achieving this vision of moderation and progress will require movement toward democracy in Pakistan."

We wrote about our pandering toward Musharraf back in June. Nothing that Seymour Hersh writes about Pakistan should be surprising, because it's the same old story from the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s, just with slightly different actors. The big, bad, Soviet Union is gone, but we have a new bugbear to replace the bear. The Pakistani leader is a dictator, not an elected official. The Pakistani military is just as volatile as ever. The Pakistani scientists are still doing their yeomans' work. And the American president is in a vice that he can't escape, even if he wanted to.

Posted by Tim W at 3/03/2004 07:44:00 AM

02 March 2004

Nuclear Hypocrisy

Bush is the opposite of Achilles. He is vulnerable throughout the body politic. His only invincibility is his ability to attract the wingnut vote by pushing cultural conservatism. To use an old Texas term, "that dog won't hunt" this November. Based on recent statements coming out of the Bush campaign, Karl Rove knows they need a real issue to appeal to voters. It appears Rove's use of focus groups and opinion polls has lead him to believe that Bush can score points by campaigning on "national security." This may be Bush's strong suit but only relative to the horror show of mismanagement that has defined the Bush presidency. It is not surprising that an administration that can call 2.3 million lost jobs "job growth" can also claim Bush has increased "national security." Juxtapose that to the words of an old C.I.A. consultant who has openly stated that America has not "been this vulnerable since the British burned Washington in 1814.” I can't say I disagree. How will the Bush administration handle the truth? They'll deny it and keep repeating the lie.

Sy Hersh, writing in The New Yorker, exposes the Bush administration's failure on the key issue of nuclear proliferation, a national security issue of prime importance. Americans hate a hypocrite and calling this administration hypocritical on national security is being kind to Bush. His administration has coddled Pakistan's sharing of nuclear material and information, creating a real risk to American national security. A. Q. Khan, the so-called "Johnny Appleseed” of the nuclear-arms race," and the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, was recently exposed for selling/trading nuclear-weapons material and information with Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Based on Hersh's reporting, we now know that the Bush administration was well aware of these transgressions. What did they do? They cut deals with Pakistan and attacked Iraq.

The new campaign strategy will be to say Kerry waffles and Bush is decisive. They'll leave out the part about Bush being consistently wrong.

Posted by PAUL at 3/02/2004 11:30:00 PM

Right Idea, Wrong Book

Mel Gibson's splattery, literal potrayal of the suffering of Jesus according to Saint Matthew, managed to rake in $117.5 million in box-office receipts over its initial five days of release. Apparenly no one is giving up filthy lucre for Lent.

Alas, Gibson is taking some heat for anti-Semitic themes in the film, from not only the text in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, but also from other matrial added in the screenplay. And many critics have recoiled at the mind-numbing violence in the protracted crucifixion scenes.

I think that Gibson made a small error and a large error. He picked the wrong Gospel story: common sense says to avoid Matthew and John if you want to use the unabridged text and you want to avoid anti-Semitic slurs. But if he's trying to get Americans in particular in touch with fundamentalist religion, he picked the wrong story. Focusing on the crucifixion will do little to convert the skeptical, although it might play to the already converted. There is a much, much more appealing story to tell in Mel Gibson's manner: the Song of Solomon, unedited and uncut, in full-frontal splendor.

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

His "countenance." Right. And we haven't even broached the whole deal about the pomegranates.

If Gibson had made this movie, it wouldn't have cost $30 million, and it would have taken in a lot more money.

Posted by Tim W at 3/02/2004 01:47:00 AM

Why Do Social Conservatives Hate the American Economy?

When the Supreme Court's decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health becomes effective on 17 May, one thing is for certain. Business in Provincetown, Massachusetts will be booming. Provincetown already has a sizable gay and lesbian community that burgeons each summer, but the possibility of marriages has town leaders excited.

Town Manager Keith A. Bergman said he could use the windfall. In the last two years, he said, the town lost $100,000 in state aid, despite rising health care costs for municipal employees. A publicly operated nursing home, Cape End Manor, loses $1 million annually.

Expanded benefits for gay Provincetown employees who marry will cost the town $150,000 a year. But officials said the expense will be easily offset by rising room tax revenue—a predicted 6 percent increase over last year's $970,000.

The increased tourism, town officials said, could help reverse declining year-round population, and a 14 percent drop in the housing stock since 1990.

"It's like San Francisco, everybody is going to want to come here," said Maghi Geary, who plans to hire additional staff at her flower shop, The Provincetown Florist. She said business will quadruple in May.

Several store owners have already invested in the wedding industry. David Schermacher, owner of Ptown Parties caterers, is buying a closed restaurant to host wedding receptions, and hiring two pastry chefs for wedding cakes.

At the Provincetown Museum, curators hope to erect a tent for wedding ceremonies next to the 252-foot high Pilgrim Monument. The owner of the White Wind Inn, Michael Valenti, is organizing a wedding planning business, with packages including sand dune tours and a traditional marriage ceremony at the town's two beaches, Herring Cove and Race Point.

This is capitalism at its best, the kind of activity that even the Old Man found laudatory. But social conservatives find all that wedding planning just too icky: they would rather see the continued festering of the economy of an historic town.

Posted by Tim W at 3/02/2004 01:25:00 AM

01 March 2004

Another Fifth Columnist for Gay Marriage

There is a reason that opponents of gay marriage either make an explicit call to religion or an implicit one through words like "sanctity" or "sacred": governments lack a rational basis for discriminating against gays and lesbians.

In the United Kingdom, The Economist is a conservative weekly magazine, albeit one with a sober and rational editorial policy. And its current lead editorial reaffirms its 1996 call for governments to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Meanwhile, Democrats even in liberal states cower before the supposed might of the Christian generals. I like to think that the Democrats in question are being spineless, that the might of the Christian soldiers is not as immense as they fear.

Posted by Tim W at 3/01/2004 01:40:00 AM

The Logical Extreme

The Christian generals of the Family Research Institute and their good friends have spent an awful lot of pelf on full page newspaper advertisements to thank President Bush for his efforts to deny full civil rights to gay and lesbian Americans. Ultimately, these Christian soldiers rely on the occasional condemnatin of homosexuality in the Old Testament to deny gays and lesbians to right to marry. (I was particularly touched by the number of Southern Baptist leaders who attached their names to the advertisement, because their organization was founded on the enlightened principle that Christianity and slavery were mutually compatible.)

Some enterprising liberals have seized the opportunity to ask conservative legislators to back the Ten Commandments and sign pledges of incessant marital fidelity. But an even more enterprising twist involves taking the reliance on the Old Testament to its logical extreme: if homosexuality is bad because the Old Testament says so, then it is only fair to obey, to the letter, the strict dietary laws of the Old Testament.

It is only fair to note that many Christians point to a few passages in the New Testament, particularly that incredible scene from Acts of the Apostles in which Peter tells of his trance in which the Lord told him to eat all of the pigs and cockroaches and owls and shrimp that he wanted. But that scene suggests, I submit, that God's word is not nearly as immutable as these Christian generals would have their soldiers believe.

Posted by Tim W at 3/01/2004 12:15:00 AM

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