Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tension in the DMZ

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As I reported yesterday, North Korea may be planning to conduct a nuclear test sometime "in the future". The tension along the DMZ that separates the two Koreas is palpable:

South Korean troops have fired warning shots at soldiers from the North amid rising tension over North Korean plans to test a nuclear weapon.

Early reports suggest that about 40 shots were fired when soldiers crossed into the demilitarised zone.

It is unclear why North Korean soldiers entered the DMZ, but, obviously, the situation is such that even the slightest twitch could provoke full-fledged war. Indeed, the North may even be trying to goad the South, and the U.S., into war. Perhaps that's precisely Kim's strategy.

As Robert Kaplan notes in his excellent piece in the October Atlantic (subscription only, but try to get hold of it) on what could happen "When North Korea Falls," military action against the North could actually backfire, splitting the U.S.-South Korea alliance, turning public opinion against the U.S., which would be blamed for instigating the conflict, and keeping the North "afloat" with post-conflict international aid. (The chief beneficiary of the fall of Kim's regime will likely be China, Kaplan argues, and I suspect that China's position would be strengthened further if the U.S. acted militarily.)

Regardless, according to the BBC, "a nuclear test could come as early as this weekend". Even if it doesn't, it could come soon.

The tension isn't likely to dissipate either before or after a test. Which means that war will continue to be just a twitch away.

Bookmark and Share

Oh, how the mighty have fallen

By Michael J.W. Stickings

At Newsweek today, Marcus Mabry examines recent poll numbers, one of which shows Bush at "a new all-time low for the Newsweek poll" (33 percent approval rating), and wonders how low Republicans can go.

Recent developments have been bad for the GOP: "[A]n aide to Karl Rove resigned over the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling and corruption scandal"; "Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner declared that the United States had 90 days to quell the violence in Iraq, or risk losing the war"; and, of course, "[t]he drip-drip-drip of scandal surrounding the former Congressman from Florida, which became a deluge this week, now threatens to sink Republican hopes of keeping control of Congress".

All good for the Democrats -- although, to be fair, rampant corruption in D.C., the quagmire in Iraq, and sexual predation in the halls of Congress aren't good at all.

For more, see Billmon (at Whiskey Bar), who picks apart the Rovian effort to spin Foleygate against the Democrats; Joe Gandelman (at The Moderate Voice); Pamela Leavey (at The Democratic Daily), BooMan (at Booman Tribune); DemFromCT (at The Next Hurrah); The Heretik (at Shakespeare's Sister); and Neil the Ethical Werewolf (at Ezra Klein).

Bookmark and Share

Signs of a blowout

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Given "the news for the past 10 days or so," Stuart Rothenberg "wonder[s] how Democrats can possibly fail in their efforts to take both the House and the Senate".

Rothenberg doesn't go so far as to offer a firm prediction, but: "The national atmospherics don’t merely favor Democrats; they set the stage for a blowout of cosmic proportions next month." The Republicans "look inept" and are "flirting with disaster". So much so that "[a] true blowout is now possible".

It's the Woodward book, it's the Foley affair, it's Iraq, it's vulnerable GOP incumbents like Santorum in Pennsylvania and Allen in Virginia and weak GOP candidates like Corker in Tennessee. "Republicans still have a month to 'localize' enough races to hold onto one or both chambers of Congress," but the national is overwhelming the local and the Republican strategy may not work.

I think it's far too premature to predict anything resembling a "blowout" (not that Rothenberg does). Winning back the House is a real possibility for the Democrats, but winning back the Senate would mean beating the Republicans in seven of eight close races (Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia) -- for more on this, see Charles Franklin's recent handicapping piece at TNR.

Democrats have momentum, but winning Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia would be an astonishing accomplishment. Even New Jersey poses a challenge, but wouldn't it be something if the Democrats won the other seven closes races and lost New Jersey?

Again, all this assumes that these state campaigns remain national in scope and that the breaks continue to fall the Democrats' way. But I have learned -- as many have learned, loss after loss -- not to underestimate the Republicans. There are promising signs, but there's also a long road ahead.

Bookmark and Share

The Turnaround

By Creature

The Republicans get offensive. This, from Hardball, through Digby:

"The issue is not Denny Hastert. The only issue now is what did the Democratic leadership know and when did they know it? Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emmanuel need to go under oath before the ethics committee and clear their names."

Huh? Who holds the Congressional keys? Who runs the committee show? The party in power continues to act like they have no power. Like they are the wronged minority. Like they are the victim. As far as I'm concerned they have no souls. I'm sick.

Digby takes it further.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

Bookmark and Share

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XV

By Michael J.W. Stickings

While in Baghdad on Thursday, according to the NYT, Condi Rice claimed that Iraqis are "making progress". Of course, she was "[w]earing a helmet and a flak jacket and flanked by machine-gun-toting bodyguards to defend against insurgents," and "the military transport plane that brought her to Baghdad was forced to circle the city for about 40 minutes because of what a State Department spokesman later said was either mortar fire or rockets at the airport," and "[d]uring her meeting with President Jalal Talabani, the lights went out,... a reminder of the city’s erratic -- and sometimes nonexistent -- electrical service," but, well, whatever. Right? I'm sure there's progress being made somewhere. Surely Condi wouldn't lie about a thing like that. Surely we shouldn't read too much into "[t]he extraordinary security precautions" taken throughout her visit. There's progress, dammit!

Only, the reality on the ground continues to suggest otherwise: "She arrived in the midst of an especially bloody few days for American troops. At least 21 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since Saturday, most in Baghdad. Two car bombings in the city on Thursday left at least four Iraqi civilians dead."

Juan Cole has more here. And he links to this horrific report from Reuters on Thursday's killed and wounded throughout Iraq. And these are just the reported killings and woundings. What else happened on Thursday that went unreported?

Still, I'm sure there's progress there somewhere. Surely Condi can see Iraq clearly through her helmet, flak jacket, bodyguards, and military escort. Surely she and her boss in the Oval Office know what's really going on in Iraq. Surely delusion hasn't yet gotten the better of them.

Yeah, right.

(For more, see The Carpetbagger Report, Shakespeare's Sister, Daily Kos, Taylor Marsh, Liberty Street, The Heretik, the MoJo Blog, and Wonkette.)

Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 06, 2006

Pelosi's Herculean task

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to the AP, Nancy Pelosi would use her first 100 hours as Speaker of the House to begin to "drain the swamp" left by the Republicans.

Well, sure, she has a plan. I like it and I wish her all the best.

But the corruption and injustice run deep. It would take a long time, and truly Herculean perseverance, to undo the damage inflicted on America over twelve long years of GOP rule.

But that doesn't mean Pelosi and the Democrats shouldn't try. Win first, then may the draining begin.

Bookmark and Share

Take your job and shove it

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So just what does Dubya do for a living? Just what does it entail to be president?

This is about as good as it gets. Click to play, watch the whole clip, and laugh hysterically throughout.

Bookmark and Share

Me and the Duggars

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's funny, you know. Since I started this blog on March 29, 2005, I've written posts on many, many different topics. Most of my posts have been political in one way or another, though I've also written extensively on popular culture and philosophy. In all, I and my contributors, co-bloggers and guest bloggers, have written almost 1800 posts.

Quite a few of those posts, I'm happy to say, have been linked to at prominent blogs and/or news sites and have generated a lot of traffic for The Reaction alongside our regular readers. And yet, one post that seems to have received a disproportionate amount of attention, judging by the comments that it still gets even though it's now deep in the archives, is the one I wrote on October 14, 2005 on the Duggars -- Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 16 children. You can find that post here.

At the time, I was not terribly enthusiastic about what the Duggars were up to in terms of procreation: "This has nothing to do with God or a god or the gods. Rather, it has everything to do with Jim and Michelle fornicating without birth control while maintaining a child-like belief in divine omnipotence. Faith is no excuse for ignorance and irresponsibility. Someone needs to tell them to stop. Now."

I suppose I stand by what I wrote back then, although, if you read through the comments, you'll notice that quite a few readers (and presumably many in the wider public) disagree vehemently with me. That's fine. The Duggars are free to do what they want. It just seems to me that procreating so prolifically isn't necessarily such a good thing. But then I hardly share their child-like, and selective, beliefs.

I won't add more here, but I was wondering if there are any new Duggars. I've done a quick search today but didn't come up with anything other than reports of #16 from last October and the family website, which seems not to have been updated recently.

What are the Duggars of Springdale, Arkansas up to? Are they still being fruitful and multiplying like crazy?

Bookmark and Share


By Heraclitus

First, rather than burying the hat tip for this post at the bottom, I'm going to acknowledge it up front. Both of the books discussed below were brought to my attention by this post from
Michael Bérubé, who has done yeoman's work exposing and ridiculing people like Dinesh D'Souza and David Horowitz. With that said...

You probably heard about Jerry Falwell's joke a week or so ago at a fundraiser, something to the effect that if Hillary Clinton runs for president, it will energize his base more than if "Lucifer" were to run (incidentally, it would be really interesting to have a psychoanalyst follow someone like Falwell around and take note of the contexts in which he uses the various names for Satan). Hillary Clinton, basically a right-wing Democrat = The Prince of Darkness (the comparison prompted Echidne to wonder if Falwell's preference for the Devil could be put down to his possession of a schlong, albeit a Satanic schlong). A little over the top, right? Why even bother to mention it? Isn't this the same nutjob who said September 11th was the fault of "pagans" and "abortionists" and other such miscreants? No one's listening to this fool, are they?

Well, funny you should ask. Dinesh D'Souza, who wrote in the late 80's, "listening to Falwell speak, one gets a sense that something is right about America, after all" (the "after all" is the best part), has a new book coming out. It's title? The Enemy at Home. Here's the blurb.

In THE ENEMY AT HOME, bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza makes the startling claim that the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist acts around the world can be directly traced to the ideas and attitudes perpetrated by America’s cultural left.

D’Souza shows that liberals—people like Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Bill Moyers, and Michael Moore—are responsible for fostering a culture that angers and repulses not just Muslim countries but also traditional and religious societies around the world. Their outspoken opposition to American foreign policy—including the way the Bush administration is conducting the war on terror—contributes to the growing hostility, encouraging people both at home and abroad to blame America for the problems of the world. He argues that it is not our exercise of freedom that enrages our enemies, but our abuse of that freedom—from the sexual liberty of women to the support of gay marriage, birth control, and no-fault divorce, to the aggressive exportation of our vulgar, licentious popular culture.

The cultural wars at home and the global war on terror are usually viewed as separate problems. In this groundbreaking book, D’Souza shows that they are one and the same. It is only by curtailing the left’s attacks on religion, family, and traditional values that we can persuade moderate Muslims and others around the world to cooperate with us and begin to shun the extremists in their own countries.

That's right, folks. September 11th wasn't the fault of the pagans and abortionists. It was the fault of Bill Moyers.

But who's publishing this? Some wingnut press that brought us The Turner Diaries? Um, well, see, that's the funny thing. The publisher is Random House. Apparently, a market for wingnut screeds there be, and Random House isn't going to let any old-fashioned concerns about the quality of our public discourse stop them from exploiting it.

Speaking of which...

Since the rise and fall of the Nazis in the midtwentieth century, fascism has been seen as an extreme right-wing phenomenon. Liberals have kept that assumption alive, hurling accusations of fascism at their conservative opponents. LIBERAL FASCISM offers a startling new perspective on the theories and practices that define fascist politics. Replacing conveniently manufactured myths with surprising and enlightening research, Jonah Goldberg shows that the original fascists were really on the Left and that liberals, from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton, have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler’s National Socialism.

Goldberg draws striking parallels between historic fascism and contemporary liberal doctrines. He argues that “political correctness” on campuses and calls for campaign finance reform echo the Nazis' suppression of free speech; and that liberals, like their fascist forebears, dismiss the democratic process when it yields results they dislike, insist on the centralization of economic decision-making, and seek to insert the authority of the state in our private lives–from bans on smoking to gun control. Covering such hot issues as morality, anti-Semitism, science versus religion, health care, and cultural values, he boldly illustrates the resemblances between the opinions advanced by Hitler and Mussolini and the current views of the Left.

Impeccably researched and persuasively argued, LIBERAL FASCISM will elicit howls of indignation from the liberal establishment–and rousing cheers from the Right.

Yes, howls of indignation -- you know, like they're being tortured by the state -- which isn't fascist at all.

There are obviously so many things to say about this, and this post is obviously already too long. But what is amazing about this is Goldberg's apparent silence (the book hasn't been published yet) about the concentration of power in the hands of the executive under Bush, the attempt to dissolve the separation of powers, the suspension of habeas corpus and the legalization of torture. Somehow, campaign finance reform and gun control are more fascist than these things. I hate to sound paranoid, but honestly, if you were consciously trying to create a smoke-screen while the government makes a genuine move towards towards fascism, I don't think you could do any better than this.

I used to think Jonah Goldberg was too much of a lightweight to be a fanatic. Apparently I thought wrong.

Bookmark and Share

Latest round of dithering on Darfur

By Heraclitus

Sudan has sent a threatening letter to the UN, telling them that Sudan would regard a UN peace-keeping force in Darfur as a "hostile act." Well, yes, it would be. That's the point. You have to be hostile with states coordinating genocide.

Kofi Annan proclaims that the region is "on the brink of catastrophe." Two hundred thousand people people have already been murdered and two million displaced. What exactly is Kofi Annan's definition of "catastrophe?"

Meanwhile, I'm reduced to rooting for John Bolton, who, with his awful moustache and pseudo-swagger, is clearly the poor man's Sam Elliot.


Update: Sudan retracts the threatening letter, and says it would "accept the UN providing training and logistical support to the AU force, whose mandate has been extended until the end of 2006."

Bookmark and Share

More on Masturgate

By Heraclitus

I know that the all-the-Foley-all-the-time thang is getting old, but damn it if the Republican flaks aren't the ones who won't let it go. After all, why try to sweep the matter under the rug when you can smear the vics? Jane at Firedoglake sees it for what it is:

Rush Limbaugh re-victimized Mark Foley's teenage victim today by using his name publicly, as did Matt Drudge. (Both Roger Simon and InstaCracker made sure the identity was widely disseminated by linking to the no-name wingnut blogger to whom the original dirty work was tasked.) Because it's not enough that their leaders are beating off online during national security votes, or that the GOP spent years covering the whole thing up — no, no they must do their part to harass, bully and intimidate anyone who threatens their authoritarian cult, even the young victims of sexual predators. Especially if there might be other kids thinking of stepping forward with similar stories (as three more now have). It's the manly thing to do, after all.

On an unrelated note--latish, sleep-deprived album review: Sonic Youth's Dirty. Much of the album is unlistenable, and rather laughably so. But the last five songs alone are worth the price of the album, and "Theresa's Sound-world" and "Sugar Kane" are also first-rate. "Sugar Kane" and "Chapel Hill" are, indeed, superb songs that every listener of rock and roll should hear before dying. So, in short, it's an uneven album, but uneven because every song is either amazing and will stand up to an infinity of listenings, or abysmal crap.

Bookmark and Share

All about a nuclear North Korea

By Michael J.W. Stickings

North Korea may conduct a nuclear test sometime "in the future". The commitment is vague, but the problem is serious. Check out a BBC Q&A on the crisis here.

The latest news is that Russia appears to be "in direct contact with North Korea to try to prevent it from carrying out its plan to test a nuclear weapon".

Stay tuned.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Foley Affair: Prankster or predator?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Drudge claims it was all a silly prank that got out of hand, continuing the shameful efforts of some on the right to let Foley and his GOP enablers off the hook, but The Raw Story debunks that claim:

Sources inside ABC News tell RAW STORY that the evidence of widespread misconduct by Foley is overwhelming and rules out the possibility that the entire scandal is based on a prank or a sting.

In addition, ABC News's The Blotter is reporting,

[t]hree more former congressional pages have come forward to reveal what they call "sexual approaches" over the Internet from former Congressman Mark Foley.

Pam, who is all over this story, has more. Check back with her for updates.

Meanwhile, a new Rasmussen poll indicates that 61 percent of Americans "believe that Republican leaders have been 'protecting [Mark] Foley for several years.'" Time polling finds much the same, with serious implications for the Republicans come November:

Two-thirds of Americans aware of the congressional-page sex scandal believe Republican leaders tried to cover it up -- and one quarter of them say the affair makes them less likely to vote for G.O.P. candidates in their districts come November.

Above all, we mustn't let the GOP, or those on the right generally, take control of this story and spin it their way. Efforts are well underway, by Drudge and others, but this was no innocent prank. Foley preyed on a specific group of teenaged boys from his position of power. Republicans knew it was happening and let it happen. It's that simple. And that awful.

See also MyDD, The Carpetbagger Report, Daily Kos, Taylor Marsh, and Andrew Sullivan.

Bookmark and Share

Sullivan responds to Foley "prank" claims

By Heraclitus

Drudge, to whose site I refuse to link, is now claiming that the dirty IMs were just a "prank." Andrew Sullivan's response is concise and devastating.

Three other pages describe Foley's online predation. The GOP is going to have to find another angle to deflect this. They've tried blaming the MSM; they've tried blaming Clinton; they've tried to turn all the victims into pranksters. It's been a worthy display. But in the end they may have to take ... responsibility. Remember that? It used to be a conservative value.

Bookmark and Share

Women to be Stoned in Iran

By Heraclitus

Seven women have been sentenced to be stoned to death in Iran for adultery (or "crimes against chastity"). Ali Eteraz has a list of eight things to do to try to prevent this. Apparently, activists in the US have received confirmation from within Iran that previous action by Western activists have prevented past death sentences from being carried out. Eteraz has letters for you to send to Iranian government officials. You'll notice that they're quite fulsome and obsequious, which may seem a little inappropriate, what with the barbarism and all. But the reality is that firing off angry emails denouncing "mullahs" isn't going to do anything to help these women.

So, let's be like those Democrats we keep hearing about, and be pragmatic.

(Via Jill and Jessica.)

Bookmark and Share

Why W is such a nightmare

By Heraclitus

"George Bush has the satisfied arrogance of the privileged and the dangerous obstinacy of the incompetent. He personifies a retrograde provincialism."

-- Francois Loncle (2000)


That's a quote from a French Socialist during the 2000 presidential campaign. I think it pretty much says it all, about as precisely and succintly as possible (another small reminder of our debt to Blaise Pascal). But, just to be even-handed, and to put the point in our own more familiar political idiom, I'm also going to quote Alan Keyes, although only from memory. I remember in an interview, during his campaign for the GOP nomination in 2000, Keyes said something like, "All I'm asking people to do is to take a look at George W. Bush, listen to him speak. And I ask you, Does this seem like someone who has ever had to make a serious moral decision in his life? Does this seem like someone who has ever had to take a real stand, to really sacrifice something, to make a genuinely difficult decision? And if he hasn't yet, why would he start now? And is this really the situation to trust that he will?"

W spent the first half or thereabouts of his adult life in a bottle. Of course, the pack of mindless hyenas we have for a press corps treated this as a possible scandal. Rumors of cocaine use were everywhere, and the question was whether it could be proved. What people should have been discussing is how utterly fantastic it is that someone should spend his entire adult life until 40 or so being a party boy, then somehow fall into a series of sweatheart deals that made him millions of dollars, and shortly after that be elected governor of the second largest state in the U.S. Such a thing would obviously be impossible for anyone else. W's reality principle is, to say the least, underdeveloped.

And so when Iraq began to descend into chaos, W cleared shrub, and briefly stood in front of some cameras, displaying less gravitas than when describing how he had wiped out on his dirt bike. When Katrina hit, he played a guitar and joked about how much he used to enjoy getting loaded in New Orleans. Or let's recall that, in 2000, people said that while he may not have been top drawer in the brains, gravitas, or experience department, he would get good people and listen to them. Ah, yes. Harriet Miers, anyone? Or how about George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, whom W continued to defend after it was clear he had botched his job horribly. Donald "Stuff Happens" Rumsfeld? Actually, wait -- that should be Donald "Abu Ghraib" Rumsfeld. Alberto Gonzalez writes a memo advocating torture, and gets elevated to AG (and we now know this was no mistake). And who hasn't enjoyed the John Bolton show? (Well, pretty much everyone who's had to work for him and everyone else in the world. It turns out the guy is a narrow-minded hothead who is always wrong.) Paul Wolfowitz, telling us how the Iraqis will throw flowers at our feet and treat us as liberators, and that Iraqi oil will pay for the occupation? And, of course, who could forget Michael Brown -- oh, wait, it turns out that Brownie was indeed doing a heck of a job, and it was, once again, primarily W's fecklessness that was so disasterous (not that W has ever owned up to it, or even given any sign that he understands what actually happened).

Recall, on the other hand, the smear campaigns against Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neill. Compare these two to Miers or Gonzalez, and it's obvious, as so many others have noted, that all that matters to W is personal loyalty. The point I'm stressing here is not that W is an ideologue, although he obviously is, but that he is unfit to govern as a person. I, at least, tend to think that a Jeb Bush presidency would have been vastly superior to the debacle we've gotten, not because Jeb is all that much more moderate, but because he's had to work with reality for his entire life.

And this brings us to the sorry spectacle of torture. Why are we surprised that a man who mocked a condemned woman is pro-torture? In his childish little mind, there are good guys and bad guys, and you can do whatever you want to the bad guys. That also explains, by the way, his truly butt-ugly smear campaign against McCain in SC in 2000. This is someone who can't begin to grasp the principles being violated. He does, indeed,
combine the satisfied arrogance of the privileged and the dangerous obstinacy of the incompetent, and the damage he has done to America in six years is immeasurable.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Little fatties

By Heraclitus

A recent article in Slate,
a publication that helps me understand how Lenin must have felt about Eduard Bernstein, suggests that children are more likely to be obese if their mothers work. Echidne does an excellent job of shredding it.

Bookmark and Share

Fox News labels Foley a Democrat

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's the proof, via The Brad Blog.

This happened "[t]hree different times. In two different segments. Each cutaway about 15 seconds or more. Showing Foley as a DEMOCRAT. Amazing."

Amazing? Not really. It's Bill O'Reilly. It's Fox News. They have no integrity. They have no shame. This is what they do.

Bookmark and Share

Dennis Hastert is a dangerous idiot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From Think Progress:

Interviewed by Rush Limbaugh [yesterday], House Speaker Hastert said Mark Foley's inappropriate behavior was "a political issue" and promised Rush that "we are going on offense."

The "offense" is an effort to portray the scandal as a conspiracy specifically timed by liberals to affect the elections. "We are the insulation to protect this country," Hastert declared, "and if they get to me it looks like they could affect our election as well."

So, let me get this straight. It's all politics. Forget that Mark Foley is a sexual predator. This is now a campaign issue. Plain and simple. Democrats are just using Foley to get to Hastert and the Republicans, who have done such wonderful things for the country.

Do you ever get the feeling you're living in some alternate reality where nothing makes sense and you're just mucking around in bullshit? Sort of like when Jerry, George, and Elaine are waiting for a table at that Chinese restaurant. There's one point where Elaine just loses it. I feel that way now. I'm losing it.

In all seriousness, this is fucking insane. We're talking about a sexual predator here. A man -- a man in a position of authority, a man in a position of responsibility, a member of the House of Representatives, for fuck's sake -- preyed on impressionable and vulnerable teenaged boys. He had sexual relations with them on the Internet. He sought sexual relations with them in person. Is that not what happened? Is that not what this is about? Republicans are trying to change the channel, but no partisan spin will help them this time.

It's not the Democrats' fault that a Republican is a sexual predator. It's not the Democrats' fault that the Republican leadership knew what was going on and let it go on. How should the Democrats respond? How should they deal with a sexual predator? How should they deal with the denials and cover-ups? Should they not be critical of Foley? Should they not be critical of Hastert and the other enablers of sexual predation in the Republican leadership?

Where is the outrage from Republicans themselves? Oh, no, there's no outrage. This is politics. And they're now going on the offensive. How fucking offensive is that? Is there not something sick and twisted about the Republicans responding to a story of sexual predation by themselves going on the offensive, by turning to political predation?

Dennis Hastert is a fucking idiot. And so are all those who still refuse to deal with the real issue of Mark Foley's reprehensible behaviour.

Bookmark and Share

Only in Florida

Guest post by Capt. Fogg

It gets even stickier for good old sticky fingers Foley. It gets more amusing to watch people trying to defend him when things like this ABC report come out documenting that the master debater "interrupted a vote on the floor of the House in 2003 to engage in Internet sex with a high school student who had served as a congressional page". The vote was for an emergency wartime supplemental appropriations bill, and it's so good to know that our Republican crusaders have things well in hand when an emergency arises.

Perhaps we should nickname Mark Foley The Rock, because when he's turned over all kinds of horrible, slimy things wriggle in the daylight – like the fact that e-mails from Foley to a Louisiana boy were given to Florida newspapers and to Fox News last year and none of them had the time or space to cover it. Wouldn't want to print anything so inflammatory without investigating, you see, and of course Fox couldn't afford any actual investigation, having spent all its funds on fiction writers, and the Miami Herald was too busy with sports and celebrities.

And then there's Katherine Harris, using the opportunity to assure us that the Republicans knew nothing about it and that it was the Democrats doing all the covering up. And you wonder what happens to comedy writers who have too big a habit to write for TV anymore.

The Raw Story reported yesterday that Foley's attorney would hold a news conference in Palm Beach. The attorney promised to deliver a "bombshell". I couldn't wait to watch it even though I was expecting a truckload of mierda, as they say in Miami. And that's exactly what it was.

At least on TV, you don’t have to smell the Republicans.

Bookmark and Share

Tell me another one

Guest post by Capt. Fogg

"I know nothing!"

-- Sgt. Hans Georg Schultz


The question isn't how many Republicans it takes to screw in a light bulb, or screw a country or screw up an economy. It doesn't matter; we have enough of them to screw everybody and screw up everything. The question I'm most interested in is this: How many irrefutable facts, how much credible testimony, official documents, records, and videotapes does it take to force a Republican to admit she's been lying?

Are they all going to decide suddenly, like Mark Foley caught with his pants down, that they're alcoholics in need of treatment, or are they going to admit that everything they predicted was wrong, all the facts presented in evidence were fabricated, and all the denials they have made in denial of all the damning evidence were lies? Yes, of course, I'm being facetious. Rummy and Cheney would simply melt into a hissing puddle before either would confess, Bush's peanut brain is far too coke-ravaged and God-besotted to be able to conceive of being in the wrong, and Condi... Ah yes, lyin' little Condoleezza, George Bush’s Sergeant Schultz. She will just keep handing out the lies with those unblinking cobra eyes, like one of those old penny arcade fortune teller machines, without hesitation and with no regard to what was handed out moments before.

So was the Bush Administration warned that al Qaeda was about to attack? Did they snub the urgent reports of Richard Clarke and George Tenet? Of course they didn't, even though it can be proven that they did.

How many Republicans do you need to march over a cliff before they admit that the law of gravity isn't a Liberal Myth? Inquiring minds want to know.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Fun with Foley

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Todd sent me this today. Highly amusing -- even if the subject matter isn't.

Bookmark and Share

The Republican Party: Soft on Pedophiles

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

There you have it: a winning campaign slogan for the Democrats if you've ever heard one. And if the Republican brass claims they didn't know enough about Foley's extra-curricular activities to stop this pedophile, one need not look further than Cheney's "one percent" doctrine. After all, if even a one percent threat of terrorism merits a hundred percent response, it must be the same for when elected officials abuse their power to abuse children.

Bookmark and Share

Damned Liberal Media

By Heraclitus

Once again, the liberal media has jumped to all manner of unfounded and unwarranted conclusions about one of their political opponents. Or was it just a cynical, self-conscious smear campaign all along? Time will tell, but meanwhile, The Poor Man Institute has the original transcripts of Foley's IMs (see also their home page, the first link). And, as you will see, his comments were entirely innocent in their original context. Shame on you, shame on all of you, for thinking such a thing of a Republican.

Michael Bérubé

Bookmark and Share

The Foley Affair: Words and deeds of a predator

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On CNN yesterday, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow called them "simply naughty e-mails" -- E&P has the transcript here. In other words, playful. Maybe unethical, but more or less innocent.

But this was far more serious than the GOP (and White House) spin would have you believe:

In addition to explicit sexual language, former Congressman Mark Foley's Internet messages also include repeated efforts to get the underage recipient to rendezvous with him at night.

"I would drive a few miles for a hot stud like you," Foley said in one message obtained by ABC News.

The FBI says it has opened a "preliminary investigation" of Foley's e-mails. Federal law enforcement officials say attempts by Foley to meet in person could constitute the necessary evidence for a federal charge of "soliciting for sex" with a minor on the Internet.

The post at The Blotter also includes a transcript of an IM exchange between Foley and one of his targets.

For more on this, see Pam's House Blend, The Blue State, and Obsidian Wings.

As for me, I'll just say this: Go fuck yourself, Mark Foley. And the same for all you dangerous fucking idiots who enabled his abuse (Hastert et al.) and who are defending him now (Drudge, Snow, et al.). Your partisanship is indefensible. Your refusal to confront, and to do everything in your power to stop, a sexual predator is despicable. You knew about this back in 2005, didn't you? But you kept it quiet.

You thought it best to protect a sexual predator. That says all we need to know about what kind of people you are.

Bookmark and Share

Murder in Pennsylvania

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Honestly, I don't know how to respond to this. You know the story by now:

A truck driver armed with three guns, two knives and 600 rounds of ammunition burst into a one-room schoolhouse in this Amish community Monday, lined at least 11 girls against a blackboard and shot them "execution style," killing three before taking his own life, police said.

Sometimes nothing makes sense. Sometimes everything seems hopeless. Sometimes there is nothing but despair. How is this possible?

Bookmark and Share

Who's John Laesch?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

All you need to know is he's the Democratic challenger to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in Illinois's 14th Congressional district.

Well, no, that's not all. For more, see Jane Hamsher's latest "Blue America" post over at Firedoglake. Laesch joins Jane, Howie Klein, and FDL readers in the comments section.

Hastert will be tough to beat, but his role in Pagegate, as it's now being called, may provide an opening. Besides, Laesch is, in Jane's words, "a fantastic candidate with true progressive values who needs our help more than ever now that Hastert is on the ropes". He's young, he's impressive, and he's the right man for Congress.

And he certainly has our support here at The Reaction.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 02, 2006

Democrats poised to take control of Senate

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Alright, I'm getting ahead of myself, and I remain somewhat pessimistic, but MSNBC is reporting on new polls that suggest "Democrats are in striking distance of taking control of the Senate". The races in ten states -- Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Missouri, New Jersey, Washington, Maryland, Ohio, Montana, and Tennessee -- "show the following:

  • Two Republican incumbents in very serious trouble, Burns [MT] and Santorum [PA].
  • Four Republican incumbents tied with their challengers, Chafee [RI], Allen [VA], Talent [MO], and DeWine [OH].
  • One Democratic incumbent tied with his challenger, Menendez [NJ].
  • One Democratic incumbent with a real lead, Cantwell [WA].
  • One Democratic open seat with a Democrat in the lead, Cardin in Maryland.
  • One Republican open seat with a tie, Tennessee.

The results show that the Democrats have a real chance of gaining control of the Senate. However, as the election approaches, Democrats may have to lead by significant amounts to counteract the well-funded Republican get-out-the-vote effort. And almost every toss up seat needs to break for the Democrats for them to gain the six seats that they need."

Possible, but not likely.

However, as Chris Bowers argues, "[a]s Republicans unravel in almost every way you can imagine, Democrats clearly have the breeze blowing in their direction". So much so that "the Senate is in play right now, even if the odds still favor Republican control". Still "pretty amazing".

Perhaps I need to be a bit more optimistic.

Bookmark and Share

Unspeakably disgusting

By Heraclitus

Sometimes the GOP attack machine does something so disgusting you couldn't make it up. Like Matt Drudge blaming the teenagers Foley was soliciting online for the Congressman's actions. No, I'm serious.


For more, see Hullabaloo, The Huffington Post, TalkLeft, and Echidne of the Snakes. -- MJWS

Bookmark and Share


By Heraclitus

Kinky Friedman, a Jewish cowboy singer-songwriter, is
running for governor of Texas. His campaign slogan is "Why the hell not?" Actually, if you look at the report on his campaign at the BBC, many of his proposed policies and attitudes are pretty retrograde, but, if nothing else, you have to love his song titles. "They ain't making Jews like Jesus anymore," for instance. Or, my personal favorite, which I heard on a 60 Minutes profile of him some time ago. It's an homage, or something, to Merle Haggard's "Proud to be an Okie from Muskogee." The Kinky Friedman version? "I'm Proud to an Assh*le from El Paso."

And of course he has his own

But Kinky is not the only colorful character running for W.'s old job:

He is joined by the former mayor of Austin, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who has tried to match Kinky in the nickname stakes by calling herself "one tough grandma".

In fact, she tried, unsuccessfully, to have the "grandma" put on the ballot papers.

Bookmark and Share

Cover Up

By Creature

They did not protect the homeland. Then they covered it up:

Members of the Sept. 11 commission said Sunday they were alarmed that they were told nothing about a July 2001 White House meeting at which George J. Tenet, then director of central intelligence, is reported to have warned Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, about an imminent attack by Al Qaeda and failed to persuade her to take action. [...]

The disclosures took members of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission by surprise last week. Some questioned whether information about the July 10 meeting was intentionally withheld from the panel, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

September 11th was the first and most glaring example of Bush incompetence. They were asleep at the wheel and they have been covering it up and scapegoating ever since. I'm disgusted.

And, of course, Rice calls it "simply ludicrous."

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)


Update: The Washington Post has more here. -- MJWS

Bookmark and Share

The Foley Affair: Warnings ignored, abuse enabled

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It looks likes the cover-up/denial goes back years, according to ABC News's The Blotter:

A Republican staff member warned congressional pages five years ago to watch out for Congressman Mark Foley, according to a former page.

Matthew Loraditch, a page in the 2001-2002 class, told ABC News he and other pages were warned about Foley by a supervisor in the House Clerk's office.

But nothing was done. Why? Loraditch says it was because "members of Congress, they've got the power". Which makes this all the more repugnant. Foley was in a position of power over impressionable young people and he abused that power, abusing those young people from, and avoiding being found out because of, his position of power.

John Amato: "There's no way for the Republican leadership to feign ignorance or miscommunication any longer. Hastert and Co. should be held accountable."

For more on Foley and Hastert, see Firedoglake. For more on Tom Reynolds and Foley, see AMERICAblog. For the scandal within the scandal, see The Moderate Voice. For the right's defence of Hastert, see Unclaimed Territory. For a run-down of "[t]he latest sleaze," see Pam's House Blend. Get everything you want to know at Memeorandum.

Sick and twisted on all levels, no? But what's worse? What Foley did or what the GOP leadership did to cover it all up?

Bookmark and Share

Austria's electoral uncertainty

The BBC reports:

Austria's opposition Social Democrats have won a surprise election victory, defeating Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's People's Party.

With all but absentee ballots counted, the centre-left Social Democrats won 35.7% of the vote, narrowly beating the the People's Party at 34.2%.

But what now? A "grand coalition" of the Social Democratic Party and the People's Party, akin to the grand coalition currently governing Germany, is a possibility -- it seems to be "an option preferred by many Austrians," and it is the only two-party coalition possible given the results of the vote. (Austria uses a List-Proportional Representation electoral system for federal partliamentary elections. In simple terms, this means that seats in the National Council are allocated to parties in proportion to their shares of the popular vote.)

The People's Party could prefer to form a coalition with the two right-wing parties, the Freedom Party (11.2%) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (4.2%). Since the last election, the People's Party has governed in coalition ("a controversial alliance") with the Freedom Party, but that party's leader, the notorious Joerg Haider, broke away to found the Alliance last year. Also, the Social Democrats could presumably try to govern with the Greens (10.4%).

So far, according to the BBC, "Austria's leading politicians are refusing to commit themselves". "Coalition negotiations are likely to be time-consuming and difficult".

For more on Austria's 2006 election, including updated results, see Wikipedia.

Bookmark and Share

Tester leads in Montana

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to the Billings Gazette, a new poll shows that "Democratic challenger Jon Tester is leading Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns by a 47 percent to 40 percent margin" in the Montana Senate race.

For more see TalkLeft: On core issues like Iraq, health care, education, social security, the minimum wage, abortion, stem-cell research, and the environment, "Jon Tester is a proud progressive. In Red State Montana. And he is winning." That says a lot.

See also Left in the West.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Foley Affair: Partisan hypocrisy, personal abuse

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Mark Foley may have been in a deep, dark closet, but that doesn't excuse his despicable hypocrisy:

At the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a young Republican congressman from Florida did something that seemed ordinary at the time: He condemned President Clinton on moral grounds for having a relationship with the White House intern.

"It's vile," Mark Foley, R-Jupiter, told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."

And his fellow Florida Republicans aren't amused: "'The hypocrisy is very hard to swallow,' said Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, a prominent Republican. 'I think he needs some serious help. He has some mental-health issues, but he was a person that people put their trust in, and he had a lot of power. He betrayed that trust, and he abused the power.'"

Alas. Foley may have abused his power, but he also abused a teenager. And Clinton's behaviour was "vile"? Clinton had the addiction? Clinton threw it all away?

How refreshing to find such moralism exposed for what it is: a fraud.

Bookmark and Share

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XIV

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So, you know, there was that curfew in Baghdad this weekend. Remember? Well, according to the AP, "[t]he curfew was lifted early Sunday". And what happened then?

At least 23 people were killed in violence Sunday, and 21 bodies were found in Baghdad or to the south, many of them bound and tortured. In the evening, gunmen burst into a frozen food factory in Baghdad, kidnapping 24 workers and wounding two others — similar to past attacks in which militants have picked out members of the opposing sect from among the captives and killed them.

The U.S. military also reported Sunday that two American soldiers were killed the day before in fighting in western Anbar province — bringing to at least 70 the number of U.S. troops killed in September, the second highest monthly toll this year after April, when 76 died.

Like I said, a lasting peace is a long way off. It wasn't too hard to predict that the violence would resume, and there seems to be no end to it.

Bookmark and Share

The Foley Affair

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I haven't written anything yet on l'affaire Foley (a.k.a., Foleygate), but it now seems that "[t]op House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children’s issues. This according to The New York Times. See also Roll Call, which is reporting that "National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.)... had informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) of allegations of improper contacts between then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and at least one former male page, contradicting earlier statements from Hastert". And, of course, see The Washington Post.

Steve Benen sums it up: "One of the things that makes this ongoing story interesting is that the Speaker's office can't keep its story straight. Hastert knew, then he didn't, then his office knew. Now, straight from the NRCC chairman, he did know — but apparently didn't do anything... Given what we've learned, it seems the GOP House leadership considered politics first, the well-being of teenaged pages second."

Some other reaction from the blogosphere, along with my own:

Chris Bowers: "Dennis Hastert should start to consider resigning his leadership position. He has abandoned all oversight of how his caucus is run." Agreed. There's no excuse for what Hastert did.

Glenn Greenwald: "It goes without saying that having a predatory Congressman sexually solicit teenage Congressional pages is a serious problem and the House leadership had a responsibility to act when they learned about it. And here, they clearly appear not to have taken action due to the political desire to protect Foley's seat." Politics is a dirty game, as I recently wrote, but this amounted to covering up illegal and highly unethical behaviour.

For more, see Jane Hamsher, Pam Spaulding, Brad DeLong, Ed Morrissey, and many others.

To me, this story more or less speaks for itself. The e-mails were highly inappropriate, to say the least, and Foley has resigned. Hastert and the Republican leadership knew of the e-mails but kept quiet.

All pretty clear, no? Someone in the leadership ought to step down, and that someone ought to be Dennis Hastert.

Two other excellent posts worth mentioning:

Andrew Sullivan on being in the closet and what that does to you: "What I do know is that the closet corrupts. The lies it requires and the compartmentalization it demands can lead people to places they never truly wanted to go, and for which they have to take ultimate responsibility. From what I've read, Foley is another example of this destructive and self-destructive pattern for which the only cure is courage and honesty."

Barbara O'Brien on the essentially human aspect of this story: "I sincerely hope that Foley's conduct amounted only to inappropriate e-mails. Whatever it was he might have done, however, we’re likely to find out that lots of people either knew or suspected Foley’s behavior was inappropriate, yet they couldn’t bring themselves to confront him. Or if they did speak to him, they still covered up for him. This isn’t a Republican thing, it’s a human thing... I suggest it would be more helpful if everyone resolved to notice, acknowledge, and act upon inappropriate behavior between adults and children and not ignore it or cover it up. This doesn’t mean engaging in vigilante witch hunts; just stop the denial."

With revelations of Hastert's cover-up, this has become a political affair that strikes the very top of the Republican leadership in the House. As Barbara puts it so well, however, this is essentially a human affair, from Foley's life-long repression and closeted sexuality, to the whispers and rumours around Washington, to the denials from all involved, to the political cover-up, right through to Foley's resignation and where we are with this story today. Stopping the denial would be a good start, but, given the repressed state of American sexuality, not to mention the political culture in Washington, I wonder how likely it is that that will happen anytime soon.

Bookmark and Share