Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dean not doing well for Dems

Or so reports the Post today:

The Democratic National Committee under Howard Dean is losing the fundraising race against Republicans by nearly 2 to 1, a slow start that is stirring concern among strategists who worry that a cash shortage could hinder the party's competitiveness in next year's midterm elections...

From January through September, the Republican National Committee raised $81.5 million, with $34 million remaining in the bank. The Democratic National Committee, by contrast, showed $42 million raised and $6.8 million in the bank.

Bad numbers for the Dems, to be sure.


Around the blogosphere:

Joe Gandelman at TMV: "The bottom line is: Dean is apparently NOT delivering what the Democrats want and need to mount a spirited campaign against the Republicans."

Otherwise, the right-wing blogs (Don Surber's open trackback is here, The Political Teen's is here) tend to be addressing this story quite eagerly (and gleefully):

See, for example, Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters: "With the midterm primaries less than three months away, the GOP has four times as much money in the bank as the Democrats, and they have done much more work in reaching outside of their traditional base for both voters and candidates... By any measure, the Dean chairmanship has been a failure of embarrassing proportions for the Democrats, but now they're stuck with him for at least one electoral cycle."

And Pejman Yousefzadeh at "[I]t is strange and interesting to see that a supposedly unmotivated Republican base is vastly outraising their motivated Democratic counterparts. If you believe the traditional school of thought regarding campaigns and money, you have to think that the amount of money Republicans have on hand will help in 2006."

But John Hinderaker at Power Line looks at it a different way: "The reason why this discrepancy may be immaterial is that nowadays the Democrats depend mainly on a handful of super-rich contributors, who will undoubtedly come through for them next year with massive contributions to the independent Section 527 groups. So I would expect the Republicans to be out-spent once again, regardless of how the 'official' numbers stack up."

I hope he's right, but perhaps it won't matter much:

John Cole at Balloon Juice: "I don’t think money is going to be as important in the ‘06 elections if things stay the way they are now. The Democrats have a motivated and hungry base, while the Republican party is demoralized, angry, weary, arrogant and fractured."

Fair enough, but the Republicans have a way of unifying their disparate elements for the sake of electoral success, and the Democrats haven't exactly been, well, magnetic lately. It's true that the Democrats do have a few "super-rich contributors," like George Soros, who could tip the balance or at least even things out with the Republicans, but it does worry me that Dean isn't doing better to bring in the smaller donors. American politics are still extraordinarily polarized, after all, and the Democrats can't count on "a motivated and hungry base" alone to secure victory next year -- that is, to win back the House and/or the Senate, or at least to reduce the Republicans' majorities in Congress. Plus, a year is a long time in politics. A single event here or there could reenergize the Republicans. And with so much money then their opponents, the Republicans could leave the Democrats once again tasting the bitterness of opportunities lost.

If nothing else, these disappointing numbers should motivate Democrats to do better. (Give, if you can.)


My previous posts on Howard Dean:

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Mitt Romney and the anti-gay movement

How in God's name did Romney become governor of Massachusetts? Was it just that he seemed to be more moderate than he really is? Or was it his all-American good looks and charisma? I went to college there back in the early-'90s. Sure, there were conservatives like William Weld around, but Romney in Massachusetts is like, say, Ted Kennedy in Alabama.

I still have friends in Massachusetts. I really need to ask them about this. Or, if they're out there and they're reading this, please comment here. Or if you're from Massachusetts yourself or otherwise have an answer, please feel free to do the same.

Anyway, here's the Romney story for today:

Governor Mitt Romney leveled an unusually personal attack yesterday at the Supreme Judicial Court for legalizing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, telling a group of conservative lawyers and judges that the justices issued the ruling to promote their values and those of "their like-minded friends in the communities they socialize in."

Though Romney has criticized the SJC's watershed 2003 decision many times before, the broadside he delivered at the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention in Washington, D.C., was an atypically sharp and direct attack on the four justices who found that the Massachusetts Constitution afforded gays and lesbians the right to marry.

"If a judge substitutes his or her values for those values that were placed in the constitution, they do so at great peril to the culture of our entire land," he said.

The remarks won applause from the 500 lawyers, scholars, and others who packed a ballroom to hear Romney's speech.

You know, the anti-gay movement often hides behind indirect arguments against same-sex marriage. For example, they argue that "activist" judges shouldn't be allowed to legislate from the bench, that only a legislature of the people's representatives should be allowed to decide on same-sex marriage. Or they argue that "marriage" is a religious institution and that they're therefore defending religious freedom.

But let's call it like it is: The anti-gay movement is anti-gay. Period. It opposes same-sex marriage because it's anti-gay. Period. It wants to deny basic civil and human rights to gays and lesbians because it does not consider them to be equal to straight men and women. Period. Gays and lesbians are sinners. They're inferior. Period.

Negotiation is not possible. Compromise is not possible.

The anti-gay movement is absolutist and extremist. We who are on the other side must realize this and fight back with equal conviction and the knowledge that we have justice on our side.


Note: Of course, I realize that Romney may be preparing for a run at the presidency and that he may be trying to prove his right-wing bona fides on a key social issue. McCain will run, but it's unclear if he'll ever be able to shake his "maverick" label, despite ongoing attempts to endear himself to the right on issues like "intelligent design". But who could be the mainstream, establishment alternative to McCain? Frist is out, Jeb Bush likely won't run (plus, there's a good deal of Bush fatigue out there in the electorate), Giuliani is way too liberal for the primaries, Rice has said she won't run but she's also too moderate and too inexperienced, and George Allen's a fool. Who else? Gingrich? Yeah, right. Racicot? Bland and unknown.

So why not Romney?

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Friday, November 11, 2005

John Cusack, blogger

One of the best actors of our time (see Woody Allen's brilliant Bullets Over Broadway, for example) writes about the Bush Administration at The Huffington Post:

Bush 2. How depressing, corrupt, unlawful and tragically absurd the administration's world view actually is... how low the moral bar has been lowered... and (though I know I'm capable of intellectually lazy notions of collective guilt) how complicit our silence as citizens is... Nixon, a true fiend, looks like a paragon of virtue next to the criminally incompetent robber barons now raiding the present and future.

The right, of course, would consider Cusack's post yet another example of radical Hollywood liberalism. Which is a good reason why it's worth a read. A lot of it makes a lot of sense.

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Liberalism and centrism in American politics

At the Post, columnist David Ignatius discusses the "Rise of the Center":

With Tuesday's elections, you could sense a small shift in the polarities that have been tugging Republicans and Democrats toward their bases. All of a sudden the center doesn't look quite so lonely or inhospitable. In fact, it may be regaining its status as the commanding heights of American politics.

Here's a prediction: The important political battles of the next several years will be over which party commands this high ground of the center -- and offers solutions to the problems that worry the country. Right now neither Republicans nor Democrats can lay coherent claim to being that party of performance. They are both still captives of the old conventional wisdom that the route to victory passes through the base -- the true believers on the right and left wings who are the activists in both parties. That logic works until the big majority in the middle finally says: Enough!

Ignatius may be onto something, and I certainly hope he's right. But let me say two things:

1) There is still intense polarization in American politics. President Bush, who has spent his presidency pandering to his base, is wildly unpopular at the moment and two gubernatorial races went (as predicted) to the Democrats on Tuesday. (And the moderate Republican Michael Bloomberg won again in New York City -- against a ridiculously inept Democratic opponent.) These may be signs of a shift to the center, but I'm not yet convinced. It's true that two leading contenders for '08, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have played to the center, but can either one win without also pandering to their respective parties' bases? The bases are key to the primaries, after all, but 2000 and 2004 also proved just how important it is to turn out the base for the election itself.

2) I'm on the center-left. I call myself a moderate liberal. I would very much like to see the center assert itself again in American politics. But what exactly is the center? Is the center where the Republicans think it is, well to the right of where it used to be? Or is with, say, Bill Clinton, somewhere on the center-left? The point is, the "center" is open to debate and interpretation. And if centrism for the left means abandoning liberal principles and ideals and embracing certain illiberal aspects of conservatism, then I'm not sure I really want much to do with it. It's fine to be a "moderate" or a "centrist," and I myself am no ideologue, but some things are worth standing up for over and above compromise. (For example: social security, universal health care of some kind, and the environment.)

Regardless, the center is with the Democrats, more to the left of where the Republican spin machine says it is. Indeed, I would say that liberalism is centrism. But it's up to liberals, and their Democratic candidates and representatives, to explain that to the American people, that is, to explain just how liberalism is at the very center of American life, how America's fundamental values are themselves fundamentally liberal.

(For a somewhat different take, see Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. He's one of the true centrists in the blogosphere.)

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Tom DeLay's lost plea

From the Post:

Lawyers for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) tried unsuccessfully in late September to head off felony criminal indictments against the then-majority leader on charges of violating Texas campaign law by signaling that DeLay might plead guilty to a misdemeanor, according to four sources familiar with the events.

The lawyers' principal aim was to try to preserve DeLay's leadership position under House Republican rules that bar lawmakers accused of felonies from holding such posts. DeLay was forced to step down as leader on Sept. 28 after the first of two grand jury indictments.

Plus, it looks like DeLay may have admitted to the crime. Indeed, he may be Ronnie Earle's chief witness to the crime. At an Aug. 17 meeting with Earle, "DeLay acknowledged that in 2002 he was informed about and expressed his support for transfers of $190,000 in mostly corporate funds from his Texas political action committee to an arm of the Republican National Committee in Washington and then back to Texas".

Read the whole article. It provides an excellent overview of the DeLay case (and, of course, DeLay's misdeeds).


Around the blogosphere:

Kevin Drum at Political Animal: "This is bizarre. DeLay knew that Earle believed the plan to be illegal. Even if he disagreed, why would he admit to knowing anything about it? What good could that possibly do him? Anyway, it turns out that DeLay's admission is the only evidence Earle has against him. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I sure hope DeLay has fired whatever lawyer told him it was OK to chat about this stuff with a guy who's been trying to put him in jail for the past three years."

Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report: "For all his public denials about his involvement in the money-laundering scheme, here was DeLay admitting to a prosecutor about his role and understanding of the transactions, effectively making him part of the conspiracy to circumvent election law."

See also AMERICAblog, Firedoglake, The Stakeholder, and, on the right (and one of the better voices on the right), John Cole at Balloon Juice.

Correction: I still think that John Cole is one of the better voices on the right, but the post in question was written by a new liberal blogger at Balloon Juice, Tim F. Tim e-mailed me this evening and referred to himself as "an unhinged liberal sort of guy". I can't confirm or deny his alleged state of unhingedness (he certainly seems to be fully hinged), but his stuff looks good so far, and, as they say, I think it speaks volumes about John that he's brought on a liberal, even a possibly unhinged one, as a second writer at his blog. As some of you know, I've been making efforts here to reach out to the best voices from across the spectrum, whatever my own mostly liberal leanings, and Balloon Juice is certainly one of the blogs I recommend.

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In memoriam

We remember.

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Today, November 11, is Remembrance Day.

John McCrae, "In Flanders Fields"

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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More trouble for the GOP as budget bill stalls

As if Tuesday's election results weren't enough, the Republicans have another problem, this time in Congress:

Facing defeat, House Republican leaders on Thursday abruptly called off a vote on a contentious budget-cutting bill in a striking display of the discord and political anxiety running through the party's ranks.

Despite making major concessions to moderate Republicans, House leaders failed to win enough converts to the budget plan and surrendered in midafternoon. Leading Republicans said they would try again next week to find a bare majority for more than $50 billion in spending cuts and policy changes...

It was a stunning retreat for a Republican majority that has prided itself on iron discipline and an ability to win even the most difficult floor votes consistently. It was set against Democratic election victories on Tuesday that left Republicans worried about the 2006 midterm contests.

Cutting taxes for the rich, slashing social programs, drilling in the Arctic. Some party, eh?

Steve Soto at The Left Coaster: "In a further sign that the House GOP is in trouble, interim Majority Leader Roy Blunt had to postpone a vote on a budget reconciliation bill that would have cut $50 billion primarily from food stamps, Medicaid, and student loans among other GOP pet peeves. The bill until yesterday also had ANWR in it, but that was jettisoned to garner moderate GOP votes in the caucus. That strategy failed today when those same moderates said they couldn’t withstand the pressure from their constituents to vote against the cuts. Plus, the moderates said that their constituents were against ANWR as well. You know things are different in Washington now when House GOP moderates are defying the White House to listen to their constituents for a change." Make sure to read the whole post.

Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report: "Yesterday was a complete debacle for the entire party. Centrist Republicans, many of whom are in competitive districts and are worried about re-election, were asked to go along with over $50 billion in cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, agriculture subsidies, student loans, and a host of other programs. They wouldn't. Simultaneously, far-right Republicans were asked to give up on drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They wouldn't either." Another great post.

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Pat Robertson is a dangerous idiot -- Part Deux

I guess we're starting another series here at The Reaction. I'd recently thought of starting a series called "Signs of Conservative Insanity," but, honestly, I just don't have the time. I'd quickly be overwhelmed by all the material.

So let's narrow it down a bit to a series called "Pat Robertson is a dangerous idiot". Yes, the title is an ad hominem attack, but I just can't find a better way to put it.

I wrote Part Un back in late-August. It had to do with Idiot Pat's call for the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. You can find it here.


So, Part Deux:

The Kansas Board of Education may be certifiably insane, but the voters of Dover, Pennsylvania, aren't. At least not the majority of them. From the AP: "All eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce 'intelligent design' — the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power — as an alternative to the theory of evolution."

Good news, to be sure.

But not to Idiot Pat:

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design...

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."

Eight families had sued the district, claiming the policy violates the constitutional separation of church and state. The federal trial concluded days before Tuesday's election, but no ruling has been issued.

Later Thursday, Robertson issued a statement saying he was simply trying to point out that "our spiritual actions have consequences."

"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever," Robertson said. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."

If "God is tolerant and loving," why does He subject us to Idiot Pat? Or maybe that's not a fair question. I wouldn't want to blame God for Idiot Pat.

Either way, Idiot Pat has a history of being a dangerous idiot: "In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to 'kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.'"

(By the way, I'm sure Mr. Darwin could help the residents of Dover. At least he could explain the truth to them.)

For more, see The Brad Blog (which also looks at Idiot Bill), Wonkette, Just a Bump in the Beltway, and The Moderate Voice.

CNN has the story here.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Another farewell to Aaron Brown

There have been a lot of posts recently at The Reaction (head to the main page or, if you're already there, scroll down to seem them all), but I wanted to single out one of them:

You'll be missed, Aaron Brown (click to go straight there)

I've gotten some wonderful responses to this one, both by e-mail and in the comments section. It's nice to see that I'm not the only one who appreciates one of the finest newsmen in the business and, when he was there, the best thing about CNN. I and many others wish him the best and will watch him wherever he ends up.

To those who have already commented, thank you.

To everyone else, please feel free to click on the link above or scroll down to that post and, once there, to add your comments. Or, if you prefer, add them here.

And, of course, I invite you to comment on any of my posts. I read them all and respond whenever I can.

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Has the U.S. used chemical weapons in Iraq?

Specifically in Fallujah.

The BBC: "Italian state TV, Rai, has broadcast a documentary accusing the US military of using white phosphorus bombs against civilians in the Iraqi city of Falluja." The Christian Science Monitor has more.

The Independent: "Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon."

Juan Cole has a great post: "The Americans' moral fibre is being destroyed from within by things like Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, and other atrocities. In the end, America may not any longer be America. The country that began by forbidding cruel and unusual punishment is ending by formally authorizing torture on a grand scale, and by burning small town Iraqis down to the bone with white phosphorus."

Needless to say, I am saddened. My America, the America I love, would never do this. Would it?

More on this story as it develops.

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There is NO revolution in France

Yesterday evening, I pointed out that "what's going on in France is complicated" and that [m]ultiple triggers have sent alienated and in some cases highly politicized youth into the streets". An obvious observation, I thought, but that hasn't stopped some observers from engaging in astonishing exaggeration and misrepresentation.

I hesitate to quote such stupidity, but here's what Daniel Pipes has to say about the French riots:

The rioting by Muslim youth that began October 27 in France to calls of "Allahu Akbar" may be a turning point in European history...

End of an era: The time of cultural innocence and political naïveté, when the French could blunder without seeing or feeling the consequences, is drawing to a close. As in other European countries (notably Denmark and Spain), a bundle of related issues, all touching on the Muslim presence, has now moved to the top of the policy agenda in France, where it likely will remain for decades.

These issues include a decline of Christian faith and the attendant demographic collapse; a cradle-to-grave welfare system that lures immigrants even as it saps long-term economic viability; an alienation from historic customs in favor of lifestyle experimentation and vapid multiculturalism; an inability to control borders or assimilate immigrants; a pattern of criminality that finds European cities far more violent than American ones, and a surge in Islam and radical Islam.

Europe certainly has problems. It needs to think about how well (or how poorly) it has integrated its immigrant populations into its national communities and it needs to consider the long-term viability of its largely socialist welfare systems.

But come on. Is this really "a turning point in European history"? Like the fall of Constantinople, or Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of that church in Wittenburg, or the storming of the Bastille, or the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, or the Battle of the Somme?


Or not. Pipes blames everything on "the Muslim presence" and on, to quote Ratzinger-cum-Benedict, the tyranny of relativism. Ah, conservatives are so subtle, aren't they?

Here's an antidote. Mark Goldberg at Tapped:

Could it be that in France the teenage children of unemployed, poorly educated immigrants are rebelling against a system that purports to call them citizens but treats them as less than that? Could it be that lighting cars on fire is a way teenage boys express anger when they suddenly realize that the reality of their day-to-day experience belies the promises of a system that calls them equal in the eyes of the republic?

And could it be that the reason the French press doesn't consider these riots to be part and parcel of a Muslim fifth column's plan to take over the country is because how the rioters dress, the hip-hop they listen to, the films they relate to -- these are not reflective of Islamist culture at all, but rather a culture indigenous to these banlieues.

Well, exactly. Pipes and his ilk are spinning the riots through their own anti-Europeanism and through the distorted prism of a "clash of civilizations" worldview. But what if it's just a major outburst of anger that has little or nothing to do with al Qaeda and jihad?

The riots are awful, but they'll end. And France and the rest of Europe will move on. Hopefully having learned something, hopefully doing something to confront its admittedly serious challenges.

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Democrats win! The-uh-uh-uh-uh Democrats win!

(The title of this post is meant to be read aloud as an impersonation of Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling.)

Kaine wins in Virginia, Corzine wins in New Jersey. (And Bloomberg, once a Democrat, wins in The Big Apple.)

Joe Gandelman: "Our contention for several months now is that the GOP would have to be in trouble since its electoral victories relied heavily on its conservative base but also on large chunks of independent and moderate voters who, as various polls have shown, are leaving the GOP fold in large numbers."

So much for Bush's last-minute trip to Virginia.

(See also The Left Coaster, Pandagon, and Comments from Left Field.)

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Lott spills the beans, Frist and Hastert have egg on their faces

So here's the deal, according to the Times: "A newspaper report that the Central Intelligence Agency had set up secret American prisons in Europe for the interrogation of terrorism suspects drew calls today for investigations into who leaked that information." Republicans don't want an investigation into who knew what and when before the Iraq War, but of course they're all over this. The not-so-dynamic duo of Bill Frist and Hastert even suggested that such a leak "could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences".

But then Trent Lott emerged from the shadows and revealed that the leaker was likely a Republican senator.


(For more, see Hullabaloo, The Mahablog, The Left Coaster, The Carpetbagger Report, and TalkLeft. Crooks and Liars, as always, has the video -- and so does Think Progress.)

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Kansas v. The Truth

What's the matter with Kansas? How about this:

Risking the kind of nationwide ridicule it faced six years ago, the Kansas Board of Education approved new public-school science standards Tuesday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

The 6-4 vote was a victory for "intelligent design" advocates who helped draft the standards.

The six Board members who voted for the new "standards" are -- you guessed it -- Republicans.

Oh, and how's this for some icing on your cake of ignorance: "In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena."

Let me get this straight. The Kansas Board of Education rewrote the definition of science?! Pardon my bluntness, but what the fuck is going on in the world?

(I've previously written about so-called ID here, here, and here.)

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Arnold in the voting booth

(affected Austrian accent)

I'll be back... to vote. Again: "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up to his Brentwood neighborhood polling station today to cast his ballot in the special election — and was told he had already voted."

Funny story. The Brad Blog has it all.

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Texas: bastion of intolerance

That's right, "Texas became the 19th state to approve a constitutional ban of gay marriage as voters decided nine proposed amendments today." With around 700,000 ballots counted, it was 77 percent for the ban, 23 against. But turnout of registered voters was just 16 percent. I wonder what the other 84 percent think. (No, not really. I'm sure we already know what they think.)

Are there any Texans out there who would care to comment on this? I don't mean to disparage an entire state, your state, but I find this all quite depressing.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A state of emergency in France

I haven't yet commented on the horrible situation in France, though, privately, I've noted the lack of contextual perspective (that is, a lack of understanding of French history and politics) in much of the right-wing reaction to the riots -- as if the right, succumbing to the moral ease of enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend gymnastics, is somehow relishing this apparent attack on the French state. Many on the right seem to see this as justifiable comeuppance, and, to borrow a term from France's long-time enemy to the east, it's Schadenfreude all the way.

In other words: The French are snotty, anti-American elitists who think they're better than everyone else. Plus, they supported Saddam and opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. At every turn, they seek to block American interests. If this were happening in the U.S., if American cities were burning, the French would cheer on the rioters or at least blame America's racial politics and economic barbarism for the oppression of entire classes of people.

So the French deserve it. Period.

Not that we should expect much in the way of disinterestedness from the partisan right. Not that we should expect them to understand what's really going on and what really sent those young people out into the streets.

For what's going on in France is complicated. Multiple triggers have sent alienated and in some cases highly politicized youth into the streets. (After all, The Battle of Algiers, which marked the beginning of the end of the French occupation of Algeria, didn't happen all that long ago.)

And this is why I haven't yet commented. And why I won't comment here. Rather than jumping to premature conclusions, I think it's important to develop a more reasoned (and reasonable) response. So instead of telling you all what I think, I'm going to wade into this story with links to key developments, round-ups of reactions from around the blogosphere (which will allow me to some room to comment), and, beyond that, deeper analysis of the causes of this astonishing moment in French history.


From the Times:

The French government, unable to quell nearly two weeks of civil unrest, invoked emergency measures today to impose curfews in its strife-torn suburbs, where bands of youths continued to rampage, burning cars and battling with police.

After a series of mostly ineffectual pledges by French leaders to restore order and crack down on lawbreakers, the government resorted to a 50-year-old law, dating from the Algerian war, which authorizes local officials to enforce nighttime curfews for up to 12 days, starting at midnight tonight.

"The republic faces a moment of truth," Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said in announcing the decree during a grim-faced address in Parliament. "A return to order is the absolute priority."

Mr. Villepin also outlined a package of economic and social measures to try to address the entrenched racial discrimination and chronic unemployment that have bred resentment and alienation in the suburbs, which have large populations of West African and North African origin.

"Our collective responsibility is to make difficult areas the same sort of territory as others in the republic," Mr. Villepin said. He admitted, however, that merely restoring order would "take some time."

Of course, "Villepin and other French leaders have come under stinging criticism for their response to the unrest," but this is at least a step (or a few) in the right direction. Order needs to be restored, but France also needs to think through its commitment to diversity. It's not good enough to put up with non-French communities, to see them as some sort of domestic "Other" that isn't really French. Those communities need to be integrated into the larger national community and accepted as important components of the French cultural landscape.

French nationalism has historically been rooted in language and culture. Unlike, say, German nationalism, which is rooted in blood, and hence which cannot be acquired, French nationalism, like Amerian nationalism, is potentially universal, generally open to those who wish to learn French and to participate in French culture.

But there is also, of course, a racial (and racist) component to French self-identity, a turn from the universalist French identity developed during the Enlightenment and actualized through the ongoing revolution after 1789. Anecdotally, I remember taking the train from Charles de Gaulle airport into the center of Paris and seeing swastikas all along the sides of the tracks. Whereas Germany has been forced to account for its past, France has never quite accepted responsibility for its involvement with the Nazis under the Vichy regime, for its history of racism, and for its imperial domination of North Africa and elsewhere.

It's not enough to scapegoat right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen and his National Front. After all, there's a reason he's been so popular.

So, yes, this is a start -- even if the great irony is that the government has resorted to a law that dates from France's occupation of Algeria.

But let's conclude here with some perspective: As bad as these riots have been, there's been only one death. Over 6,000 cars have been burned, and the rioting has spread from Paris to 300 other cities and towns, but this is not the great apocalypse, the end of Europe, that some are suggesting.

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SCOTUS to rule on military tribunals

No wonder Bush wants a more conservative SCOTUS, especially when it comes to executive power. The Times reports:

The Supreme Court announced today that it would decide the validity of the military commissions that President Bush wants to use to bring detainees charged with terrorist offenses to trial.

The case, to be argued in March, places the court back at the center of the national debate over the limits of presidential authority in conducting the war on terror. Last year, the Supreme Court rejected the administration's position that the federal courts have no jurisdiction over people held as enemy combatants at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

This time, once again, the justices acted over the vigorous opposition of the administration, which urged the court to stay its hand and defer any review until after a detainee had been tried by a military commission and convicted.

Note: "the vigorous opposition of the administration". It's enabling torture -- why not injustice generally? Hey, I wonder what Cheney thinks about this!

And I wonder how the Roberts Court will rule...

Andrew Sullivan has it right: "The president, in my view, should have lee-way to exercise executive power in wartime as he sees fit, in emergencies when the legislature cannot be expected to act with sufficient speed or secrecy. But broad detention policies in a war that is now defined as permanent should not be in the hands of one man outside of legal, judicial or legislative review."

See also TalkLeft and Firedoglake.

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Defending Rove: Bill Kristol's un-conservative conservatism

This should hardly come as a surprise, but Weekly Standard editor and Fox News-frequenting neocon-Straussian Bill Kristol does not think that President Bush should fire Karl Rove (or, presumably, that Rove should resign). See here:

[W]ould firing Rove help Bush? No. It would reflect at attempt by Bush to find favor among "good government" moderates and allegedly reasonable critics. It would signal a repudiation of the dominant political strategy of Bush's first term. And it would most likely prove a disaster.

After all, it was with Rove as his primary adviser that Bush put together the remarkable back-to-back election successes of 2002 and 2004. Bush had barely won the presidency in 2000, and Republicans had lost five Senate seats. Yet with Rove's advice, Bush was able to help the GOP gain seats in both the House and the Senate in 2002 and 2004, as well as building a three million vote majority in the 2004 presidential election...

In fact, throwing Rove overboard -- dropping the political adviser who has been with Bush during his past comebacks and greatest triumphs -- will increase the sense of a White House in disarray and retreat.

But isn't it? (Or does the truth not matter?)

Kristol, long an influential conservative pundit and prominent Republican strategist (if never fully accepted by the current administration, given his past and present support for John McCain), argues that Republicans "must accept the persistence of the polarization that has marked American politics since the election of 2000" and that that Bush himself must remain "a polarizing president".

To that end, Bush needs Rove, the only one who can get him back on track, the track of polarization, going into 2006. This is about "a Bush comeback," to a point, but it's really about the long-term success of the conservative movement and the party to which Kristol long ago sold his soul. I have no doubt that Kristol cares deeply about the conservative principles he professes to revere, but, in this case, his naked ambition, his ambition to push an agenda of electoral victory, trumps any real concern for the good, for what is good for America.

He'll do anything, it seems, to win. That's all that seems to matter.

In this sense, he's like Polemarchus, trapped in a political world of friends and enemies -- but where's the Socrates to guide him to justice? (Plato, Republic, Book I)


By the way, what the hell's wrong with "good government" and "moderation"?

How does he even have the nerve to call himself a conservative? Burke would not be amused.

I've already written about Kristol's "culture of conservative victimhood". You can add to that an essentially un-conservative conservatism.

He's one of the smartest people on the right. Too bad he's put himself in the service of those who would battle for control of the ship. He should have stuck to stargazing (Plato, Republic, Book VI).

(For more, see the Bull Moose.)

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President Cheney??????????

Over at Slate, former NSC staffer Daniel Benjamin looks into the nightmare of present-day reality and sees.... President Cheney:

It has become a cliché to say that Dick Cheney is the most powerful vice president in American history. Nonetheless, here is a prediction: When the historians really get digging into the paper entrails of the Bush administration -- or possibly when Scooter Libby goes on trial—those who have intoned that phrase will still be astonished at the extent to which the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney was the center of power inside the White House -- and at the grip it had on foreign and defense policy.

Scared yet? Read the whole piece.

And check out Kevin Drum: "As a wise man said back in January 2003 regarding Cheney and his curiously enduring reputation for competence even in the face of mountains of contrary evidence, 'his terrible judgment will, at some point, become impossible even for the Beltway crowd not to see.' Looking back, perhaps historians will say that November 2005 was when they finally saw it."

Let's hope so.

See also Digby at Hullabaloo: "It's finally coming into focus that every single one of this administration's so-called grown-ups are idiots. There were people who knew that the avuncular Dick Cheney was something of a nut, but nobody believed them. He just seemed so darned competent compared to the callow Junior, there was no need to look any further."

Yes, Dick Cheney, enabler of torture. I can't believe I used to respect this guy -- way back when (I was stupid). Now at least I can refer, via Drum, to his "relentless moral cretinism".

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Bush: "We do not torture"

Yes, he says it here. (Define "We".) But then what was going on at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib? What may still be going on there and/or in other U.S.-run detention facilities around the world. THE ONES WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT?

Bush: "We're working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible, to do our job. There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law."

What law? The law as interpreted by Atty. Gen. (and Bush crony) Gonzales?

More, why is Cheney trying to block Senator McCain's efforts to push a torture ban through Congress?

I agree with Senator Levin: "We need a 9/11-type commission to restore credibility to this nation."

Otherwise, how can America possibly stand up for, and attempt to spread, its ideas of liberty, democracy, and equality under the law? What would the Founders say about what this administration has done, about what it has condoned, about what it has done to America's moral core and reputation abroad?


My latest post on this subject:


Around the blogosphere:

Steve Clemons asks if Bush's claim is at all credible: "Not when your Vice President is seeking to exempt important organs of the U.S. government from the McCain provision that would ban any agent of U.S. interests from subjecting detainees under its control to "torture or inhuman treatment."

Kevin Drum: "Fine. Then shut down the black sites, tell Dick Cheney to stop lobbying against the McCain amendment, and allow the Red Cross unfettered access to prisoners in our custody. After all, if the events of the past four years had happened in any other country in the world — the abuse, the memos, the photos, the relentless opposition to independent inspections — isn't that the least it would take for any of us to believe it when that country's head of state declared 'We do not torture'? It's not going to be easy for the United States to regain its credibility as a country dedicated to combatting barbarism and supporting human rights. That's all the more reason we should start now."

Andrew Sullivan: "If that's the case, why threaten to veto a law that would simply codify what Bush alleges is already the current policy? If 'we do not torture,' how to account for the hundreds and hundreds of cases of abuse and torture by U.S. troops, documented by the government itself? If 'we do not torture,' why the memos that expanded exponentially the lee-way given to the military to abuse detainees in order to get intelligence? The president's only defense against being a liar is that he is defining 'torture' in such a way that no other reasonable person on the planet, apart from Bush's own torture apologists (and they are now down to one who will say so publicly), would agree."

Let me quote the rest of his powerful post: "The press must now ask the president: does he regard the repeated, forcible near-drowning of detainees to be torture? Does he believe that tying naked detainees up and leaving them outside all night to die of hypothermia is 'torture'? Does he believe that beating the legs of a detainee until they are pulp and he dies is torture? Does he believe that beating detainees till they die is torture? Does he believe that using someone's religious faith against them in interrogations is 'cruel, inhumane and degrading' treatment and thereby illegal? What is his definition of torture?"

Mr. President? Do you have answers to these questions, responses to these suggestions. They come from three of the best.

See also Julie Saltman, Shakespeare's Sister, Needlenose, Wonkette, Centerfield (where I post from time to time), and Matthew Yglesias at Tapped.

Mr. President? Hello?

Or are you with Cheney on this?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Alito filibuster unlikely, says Biden

From Reuters:

A key Democrat said on Sunday that he expects the full Republican-led Senate to vote on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito without the threat of a Democratic filibuster.

But Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware said a decision would not be made about such a possible procedural roadblock until more lawmakers meet with President George W. Bush's conservative nominee to the nation's highest court.

"My instinct is we should commit" to an up-or-down vote by the full Senate, said Biden, a member of the Judiciary Committee. "I think the probability is that will happen.

"I think that judgment won't be made... until the bulk of us have had a chance to actually see him and speak to him."

Biden made his remarks on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. And he may be right. The Democrats might ultimately not filibuster the Alito nomination.

But Biden was referring to his "instinct" and to "probability". The Senate Judiciary Committee won't begin its confirmation hearings until January 9, over two months from now, and so there's still a lot of time for Democrats (and those few moderate Republicans who might be uncomfortable with Alito's conservatism) to peruse Alito's record and to make up their minds. As Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois put it on CBS's Face the Nation, after all, "[s]ome of the opinions that [Alito]'s handed down are controversial decisions".

It remains to be seen whether enough senators -- 41, to be exact -- find them (and him) to be too controversial for confirmation. And, beyond that, it remains to be seen what would happen if the Republicans invoked the so-called "nuclear option" in response to a Democratic filibuster.

What is certain is that Alito will be confirmed. What isn't is how difficult his confirmation will be.


Captain's Quarters: "People should find it easy to come to a judgment on Alito's qualifications. Unlike Harriet Miers, he has a long track record of working on constitutional law as well as a solid career as a litigator, first as a prosecutor and later as an appellate attorney. He has spent the last 15 years as a federal jurist and has written plenty of opinions on many cases. This record shows him to have a splendid judicial temperament, excellent commitment to the law, a high level of legal erudition and scholarship, as well as having a more originalist/conservative philosophy of jurisprudence on the bench."

Fair enough, and conservatives have every reason to want to see one of their own confirmed, but the rest of us still have time to make up our minds -- and, before we do, to scrutinize Alito more thoroughly.

See also The Moderate Voice.

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A "Roveless Bush"?

Time has an interesting piece by Mike Allen called "A White House Without Rove?" It begins:

He's weary. His wife and only child, who is approaching college, miss him. He has monstrous legal bills. His unique bond with the President is under stress. His most important work is done.

Karl Rove's colleagues don't know exactly when it will happen, but they are already laying out the reasons they will give for the departure of the man President George W. Bush dubbed the architect. A Roveless Bush seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. But that has changed as the President's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff remains embroiled in the CIA leak scandal.

Read on. It's good

AMERICAblog: "It's just great that Karl is causing a lot of the damage to Bush now. How ironic. He built Bush and now he's destroying him." That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's undeniable that Rove is hurting Bush. How much remains the big question, but it's likely better for Democrats that he remain in the public eye.

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The latest American offensive in Iraq

The Times is reporting that "[t]housands of American and Iraqi troops laid siege on Saturday to [the town of Husayba] near the Syrian border in one of the largest military assaults since American-led forces stormed the guerrilla stronghold of Falluja last year". More:

American commanders say Husayba has become a bastion for cells of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the group led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that claims credit for many of the deadliest suicide bombings of the war.

Husayba is one of the first and most vital stops for foreign jihadists who enter Iraq through a series of desert towns along the Euphrates River corridor...

Needless to say, despite my recent criticism of the conduct of the war, I hope this latest effort works. Iraq would be better off without the insurgency, much of which is made up of foreign jihadists, and the sooner the security situation in Iraq stabilizes the sooner American forces can come home and the sooner Iraq can transition to something resembling a liberal democracy.

Isn't that what we all want?

(Still, given the history of Bush Administration spin, there is reason to be skeptical.)

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Cheney the torturer -- "relentless moral cretinism"

Last night, I wrote about yet another piece of evidence that the Bush Administration used selective intelligence to justify its war in Iraq, specifically the fact that a key informer in American custody, a certain al Qaeda official named al-Libi, was known well before the war to be a "fabricator" of information.

Today, Kevin Drum, whom I quoted in last night's post, has an important post on how that information was gathered -- and on Vice President Cheney's role in the gathering:

Via Atrios, it turns out that we had excellent reasons to be skeptical of al-Libi's testimony. As Newsweek reported last year, al-Libi was one of the first test cases for Dick Cheney's campaign to introduce torture as a standard interrogation technique overseas, replacing the FBI's more mainstream methods...

Not only did the details of his testimony seem inconsistent with known facts, but DIA knew perfectly well he had given up this information only under torture and was probably just saying anything that came to mind in order to get it to stop.

As Mark Kleiman points out, this is the pragmatic case against torture: not only is it wrong, but it doesn't even provide reliable information anyway — and it makes Cheney's relentless moral cretinism on the subject all the worse. Larry Wilkerson, who investigated this back when he was Colin Powell's chief of staff, confirms that "there was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office" that authorized the practices that led to the abuse of detainees, and Cheney continues to vigorously support the use of torture to this day, pressuring Congress behind closed doors not to pass John McCain's anti-torture legislation...

If conservatives dislike Dick Durbin's comparison of American practices to those of Hitler and Stalin, they should make clear to Dick Cheney that America doesn't condone the practices of Hitler and Stalin. Because apparently, the vice president of the United States does condone them. Vigorously. It's enough to make any decent human being puke.

Yes it is.

Lades and gentleman, the Vice President of the United States.

(I previously defended Senator Durbin for "courage in a time of cowardice" here.)


Around the blogosphere:

Andrew Sullivan (via Kevin's post): "A man who avoided service in Vietnam is lecturing John McCain on the legitimacy of torturing military detainees. But notice he won't even make his argument before Senate aides, let alone the public. Why not? If he really believes that the U.S. has not condoned torture but wants to reserve it for exceptional cases, why not make his argument in the full light of day? You know: where democratically elected politicians operate."

Indeed, how does Cheney have any credibility at all on this?

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow looks at the bigger picture: "Not that they cared [about selective intelligence, much derived from torture]. Their intention was to invade Iraq, and they'd use absolutely anything in order to fabricate a case of their own. And yet, they never made the case. The only people who ever really believed this stuff were those who were not really looking for a reason, and who would probably have been happy to go to war without being given one at all... [W]e need to tell the world that we repudiate these people. Putting them in jail would be simple justice, but national security demands that we get them the hell out of our government." Read the whole thing.

See also The Agonist and Marty Kaplan at The Huffington Post.

On the right, see Outside the Beltway: "It may well be the case that Libi was a 'fabricator.' But there is simply no question that Saddam had a long history of dealings with Islamist terrorist groups." How convenient to write off going to war on fabricated evidence. And what about the whole torture thing? Or is that too embarrassing for the right?


Elsewhere, McCain is taking action against this culture of torture and the enabling thereof in the Bush Administration: "Girding for a potential fight with the Bush administration, supporters of a ban on torturing prisoners of war by U.S. interrogators threatened Friday to include the prohibition in nearly every bill the Senate considers until it becomes law. The no-torture wording, which proponents say is supported by majorities in both houses of Congress, was included last month in the Senate's version of a defense spending bill. The measure's final form is being negotiated with the House, and the White House is pushing for either a rewording or deletion of the torture ban."

Of course it is. And of course McCain is doing the right thing. (I agree with Justin Gardner at Donklephant: "Keep fighting the good fight John!")

Crooks and Liars comments.

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