Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sendero Luminoso

By Heraclitus

Abimael Guzman, the long-time leader of the major Maoist guerrilla group in Peru, Sendero Luminoso, or "Shining Path," has been tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for the violence his group committed. The organization itself is now all but defunct. The coverage of the BBC is good. The story in Peru is well-known and familiar: a far-left guerrilla group begins agitating for revolution with acts of violence, the government responds, committing at least as many atrocities in return. Over 70,000 people were killed during the career, for lack of a better word, of Sendero Luminoso, but only half by the rebels themselves. Much of the government's brutality came under the leadership of Alberto Fujimori, a war criminal currently living in Chile and fighting extradition to Peru. The Wikipedia article on Sendero Luminoso is very good, comprehensive and well-documented, and includes discussion of some of the massacres committed by both the Maoists and the government.

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A government of laws, not of men (this time with feeling)

By Heraclitus

I'm sorry to post something so glum on a Saturday afternoon, but it's worth recalling that alleged dirty-bomber Jose Padilla was held for three and a half years without trial by the US government, and tortured for most of that time. And he was and is a US citizen. So, while I hate to sound paranoid, and although I think the comparisons of the Bush administrations to the Nazis or Stalin are a bit overwrought, the reality is that this administration has steadily eroded, which is a euphemistic way of saying "made war on," the fundamental principles or bases of American political life. And they mean for US citizens to fall in this war, if they deem you an "enemy combatant." If you think the Bushies wouldn't let politics interfere with the "war on terror," the one thing they really are serious about, recall this post.

For more see here and the discussion by the invaluable Glenn Greenwald here. This earlier post by Greenwald is also excellent. Via Chris Clarke.

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The Iraqi dead

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So just how many Iraqis have been killed since the war began? Is the number really well over 600,000, as the recent and widely-quoted Johns Hopkins report suggests?

At Healing Iraq, Zeyad says that "654,965 excess civilian deaths is an absurd number". He estimates that the actual total is "half that number". Yet he makes an important point that is often lost in our attempts to quantify the violence in Iraq:

As if it is different for Iraqis whether 50,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the war or 600,000. The bottom line is that there is a steady increase in civilian deaths, that the health system is rapidly deteriorating, and that things are clearly not going in the right direction.

He's right. 600,000 is a lot worse than 50,000, but 50,000 is still pretty bad. Is it possible to justify 50,000 "excess" deaths? A single death is a tragedy. Beyond that, all we have are numbers, the callousness of quantification -- even worse, the politicization of quantification, with one side saying this, the other that, all with little apparent regard for the basic truth that thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq since that much-ballyhooed shock-and-awe campaign back in March 2003.

I suppose the actual number does matter. We should all know just how massive the death toll has been, just what the human cost of the war has been. But let's not get caught up in excessively pedantic arguments that detach us from the human context of the violence in Iraq. Whatever the actual number, after all, Bush's misadventure in Iraq has been a disaster, with countless Iraqis suffering as a result.

Read Zehad's excellent post. Then go see Tim F. over at Balloon Juice: "If people stopped dying tomorrow, Bush and his enablers would have an ambiguous claim for the bloodiest reign in recent Iraqi history. Regardless of whether we personally killed these people, they died because we consciously chose to destabilize Iraq without planning for the power vacuum and the violent groups that it would inevitably draw in. But people won’t stop dying tomorrow. The bloodshed has gotten immeasurably worse in recent months and precisely no reason exists to think that trend will turn around."

And so it goes. The number of "excess" Iraqi dead, whatever it is, will keep rising. The human cost of failure is immense indeed.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Reaction Round-Up -- 10/13/06

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If you've been visiting this site regularly (and if not, we certainly hope you do -- everyone's welcome), you may have noticed that I, the co-bloggers, and the guest bloggers are posting more than ever. We've gone from around 2-4 posts a day to 6, or 8, or even 10. All the posts from the past two weeks are on the main page, and we invite you to scroll down to see what you may have missed, but it's easy with all this blogging for posts to get lost well down the page. Some very good posts, if I may be so immodest. So I thought I'd introduce a new feature, the Friday Reaction Round-Up. Each and every Friday (I hope), I'll put up a post at the end of the day with direct links to some of our posts from the past few days, posts that I think may be of particular interest to you. Let us begin (in no particular order):

So there you go. If you've seen these already, I apologize for the repetition. But if you haven't, I hope you check them out. There have been many more (scroll down and have a look), but these are some of the highlights. And stay tuned -- we'll be back with many more posts throughout the weekend and beyond. And wherever you are, have a great weekend.

(Go Steelers! The 1-3 Steelers!)


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Nobel Peace Prize

By Heraclitus

The Noble Peace Prize has been awarded to Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist, and the Grameen Bank he founded. The bank pioneered the use of micro-credit, small loans to the very poor that enable them to become self-sufficient and even start small businesses, thereby lifting themselves out of poverty. The BBC and The New York Times have more. The Grameen Foundation's website, which accepts donations, is here.

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The GOP clinging to moral relativity and the malleability of facts

By The (liberal)Girl Next Door

According to Congressman Christopher Shays, as long as no one dies, Republican scandals don’t matter. That is setting the bar a bit high, but, okay, I can work with that. This Republican administration, aided by this Republican Congress, purposefully hoodwinked the American public into an illegal war that has cost almost 3,000 young Americans their lives, and, according to a new report from Johns Hopkins University, over 600,000 innocent Iraqi citizens as well. I’d say that rises to the level of importance. And as if that weren't enough, the Republican Congress supported and passed this Republican administration's wish list on torture and continues to look the other way when it comes to extraordinary rendition, you know, kidnapping so-called “enemy combatants” and sending them to Uzbekistan to be tortured, sometimes to death. How about murder and war crimes, Congressman Shays? Does that matter? I’d be happy to talk these issues to death, as they have greater consequences than a sexual predator in your midst. The problem for you, Mr. Shays, is that you have to defend this sleazeball as well as your leadership that protected him at the peril of our children, but, you’re right, compared to the nearly one million deaths that have resulted from GOP incompetence and hubris, a few teenaged boys used for the sexual gratification of a power-mad Congressman is really nothing to get worked up about.

When confronted with the report on Iraqi civilian deaths, our dear President, of course, simply denied the facts. Big surprise, eh? This is a man who still thinks global warming is a hoax and continues to hinder scientific research on stem cells because he’d rather pander to his right-wing religious base that think a fertilized egg is a person. To be fair, the report gives only an estimate of war-related fatalities, which it says falls between 393,000 to 943,000 people, but even on the low end that is a far cry from the 30,000 deaths the Bush administration claims, which is an estimate as well. Heading into a midterm election that is looking more and more grave for Republicans every day, Mr. Bush has no choice but to deny the accuracy of the report. Politically it’s his only option, and we know that when Bush speaks political calculus has already been applied to his words before they ever leave his lips.

Trickle-down may not work when it comes to tax breaks for the rich, but when it comes to accountability there is a top-down flow. When the president routinely denies scientific findings and exhibits a laissez-faire attitude toward accuracy and accountability, it has an effect on the myriad of government agencies charged with serving and protecting the public. When Bush stood next to FEMA’s Michael Brown during the disaster that was the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and told the world, “You’re doin’ a heckuva job, Brownie,” he sent the message that political blood is thicker than even 20 feet of water. It should come as no surprise that heads of other agencies got the message that the right answer is the one that benefits this administration, facts be damned. Thus we have NASA scientists bullied into changing their findings, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers having their findings on global warming kept from the public and EPA labs conducting tests on our water supplies that start with the desired answer and then conduct the tests. Fixing the facts to fit the policy is the true legacy of the Bush administration. No wonder they think they are never wrong. All evidence to the contrary is promptly dumped in the trash and anyone who dares utter the truth is cut loose immediately.

I get the sense that the Republican voter base doesn’t care much about the stifling of facts and the manipulation of science for political gain, but I can only hope that they have enough self-respect to stop supporting a party that holds them in such contempt. If the “values voters” will get off their high horses long enough to at least look at the facts on the ground, they will see that the GOP has nothing but lip service to offer them. They need to stop listening to Karl Rove and start listening to their own, and they should start with David Kuo, the former number two guy at the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives who has written a book about his experience with the Bush administration, titled Tempting Faith: An Inside Story Of Political Seduction, in which he reveals that Karl Rove’s office routinely referred to Evangelical leaders as “the nuts”. It’s time to face facts. The home that Evangelicals have found in the Republican Party is an abusive one, and it’s time to get out. They really should trust their first instinct and stay out of politics all together, it will only sully their religion and allow for devils like Karl Rove to take God’s lambs and turn them into Republican sheep. Don’t go over the cliff with them, cut the ties, and save yourselves while there’s still time.

(Cross-posted at The (liberal)Girl Next Door.)

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Just bad

By Heraclitus

Someone needs to bar all white celebrities from going to Africa, or even mentioning the continent. First, Gwyneth Paltrow
appeared in an ad proclaiming "I Am African," decked out in tribal paint and beads. Some were less than amused. That, however, was just the warm-up. Not to be outdone, Kate Moss arrayed herself in motherfucking blackface and posed for a similar ad. I'm not making this up. Now, Madonna has adopted a child from Malawi. Apparently, the child is named David because, as Conan said last night, "David" is the Malawian word for "publicity stunt." (By the way, a child's rights group in Malawi is trying to stop Madonna from adopting the kid. "It's not like selling property," they say. I can't help but laugh. Well, it's really more of a cackle.) I'm willing to give Angelina Jolie a pass for her various adoptions, because she seems to be genuinely committed to good works, and was doing this sort of thing back when people just thought it was weird (although perhaps I'm acuated by purely libidinal impulses here).

The song I'm listening to while writing this? What could be more appropriate than "Big Tears"? By the way, if you don't know about Elvis Costello's collaboration with The Fairfield Four, "That Day is Done" (to which I'm now listening), you should acquaint yourself with it posthaste.

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We have met the enemy, and she is Mary Jane

By Heraclitus

The Taleban are using a crop of monstrous marijuana plants as cover. The Canadians are on the case. Apparently, they can't burn the forest of ganja down, because the plants are too saturated with water. They did manage to burn a little, but then the soldiers got too stoned to fight the Taleban. As one soldier told his CO: "Sir, three years ago before I joined the army, I never thought I'd say 'That damn marijuana'."

The story reminds me of when I was in high school, and a bit of pot-head myself, and we had an all-school assembly about drugs. They did a slide-show, and one of the pictures was of a sheriff's deputy next to a marijuana plant about six feet tall. It looked like an evergreen. I started crooning softly to my stoner buddies around me, "O, Christmas Tree, o Christmas Tree, how lovely are your branches" (although I'm not sure if those are the actual words).

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Mets 2, Cardinals 0

By Heraclitus

That was a very tough loss for the Cardinals. Who could've expected Tom Glavine to pitch so very well? Hell, for that matter, who expected Jeff Weaver to only give up two runs in five and two-thirds innings? I thought he'd give up two runs on the first two batters. It's really too bad St. Louis couldn't get a win out of that performance. But, as I predicted, Carlos Beltran carried the day. Now we'll see if the rest of my prediction comes true, and the Cardinals win the series. For those of you who followed my advice rather than my prediction, and put a dime on the Mets, things are coming along nicely, no?

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Blue Storm Surge

By Creature

A really smart man does math from behind The Wall and calculates a Democratic landslide come November. The floor is yours Professor Krugman:

Here’s what’s happening: a huge Democratic storm surge is heading toward a high Republican levee. It’s still possible that the surge won’t overtop the levee — that is, the Democrats could fail by a small margin to take control of Congress. But if the surge does go over the top, the flooding will almost surely reach well inland — that is, if the Democrats win, they’ll probably win big.

That is, if the Bushies play fair, the Democrats will win...

Unless the Bush administration is keeping Osama bin Laden in a freezer somewhere, a majority of Americans will vote Democratic this year.

Unless the Bush administration bombs Iran.
Unless the Bush administration bombs North Korea.
Unless the Bush administration bombs the homeland.

And if all else fails, there's always the Diebold paperless bomb.

Pay per view Paul can be found here.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Brown 54, DeWine 40

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Go, Sherrod, Go!

MyDD has a whole lot more here.

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Silent George

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In Virginia, the new George Allen campaign strategy seems to be to keep him as far away from the media as possible, lest he say something stupid, such is his wont.

But what does it say about a political candidate -- and an incumbent U.S. senator, no less -- that the best and perhaps only way for him to win is to shut the fuck up?

Indeed, what does it say about George Allen as a human being?

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Thursday, October 12, 2006


By Michael J.W. Stickings

Chris Bowers of MyDD is reporting on new polls that show Democrats headed for "a looming landslide" victory in November. Indeed, according to this polling, Democrats are "currently ahead in the House by 19 seats, 224-205". And they are doing quite well in key GOP-held districts throughout the country.

Unfortunately, Speaker Dennis Hastert is solidly ahead of his Democratic challenger in IL-14, John Laesch, but one of our favourites, Joe Sestak, is up by eight points over incumbent Republican Curt Weldon in PA-07.

This is getting awfully exciting.


See also the latest installment of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball: "For the first time this year, your cautious Crystal Ball now projects a Democratic majority of somewhere between 221 and 225 seats (with 218 needed for control)."

The Senate is also within reach, but consider this: "The Crystal Ball believes that when the votes are counted, Democrats will have between 26 and 28 Governors, up from the current 22--and they are likely gaining seats in the vital states of Ohio and New York."

But I'll try to keep my burgeoning excitement under control.

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Warner bows out

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Big political news today. Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner announced that he will not run for president in '08. The public reason, as is often the case when politicians remove themselves from politics, is family. Which means it probably isn't the real reason, or at least not the entire reason. Warner probably does want to spend more time with his family, and perhaps his family doesn't want him to run, or perhaps the sacrifices involved in running for the presidency are too great to take the plunge at this point in his life, but perhaps other factors played a role, too.

Such as? Warner would have run as a moderate Democrat, which he is. But the leading moderate Democrat is Hillary Clinton. Perhaps Warner looked ahead and saw no chance of beating her. Or perhaps, as the Post indicates, the poll numbers weren't looking that promising anyway. Perhaps he has a better shot at the Veep spot. Or perhaps he'll run for Senate to replace the other Warner from Virginia. Or perhaps he'll run for governor again.

It's just odd, because, as Steve Benen notes, Warner was "running hard". It's a "shocker," says Chris Bowers, who says that the primary beneficiary (sorry: unintentional pun) could be John Edwards (note: I blog occasionally at Edwards's One America Committee). That's also Ryan Lizza's view (h/t: Steve): "The big winner today is John Edwards, whose team has been slyly trying to undermine Warner in recent weeks, since it rightly saw the former Virginia governor as Edwards' biggest threat to be the anti-Hillary." I would add that Edwards is a much more credible anti-Hillary candidate than Warner could have been. I look foward to a Clinton-Edwards race, if that's what it comes down to. Both are highly admirable Democrats with legitimate shots at the White House.

For more on the likely fallout of Warner's decision, see BooMan: "The immediate beneficiary of Warner's decision could be John Edwards, because he is the other southern candidate. But I actually think it benefits all the other centrists, like Biden, Vilsack, Bayh, and Clinton. The first three are such longshots that I think the real beneficiary is Clinton." And Brendan Nyhan: "Clearly, the major beneficiary of this development is John Edwards, who is now the main 'electable' Democrat from the South in the race." That always seems to help.

Following Kos, Big Tent Democrat wonders if Obama could wind up in the race. Intriguing. Actually, Kos sees Edwards as "the frontrunner" already. Obama may be "too raw".

All fascinating stuff for us political junkies eagerly looking ahead to November 2008.


UPDATE: Read Dickerson. The primary beneficiary may be Bayh. Regardless, let the wooing begin.

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Vive la France!

By Heraclitus

You have to love the French. Well, I do, anyway, and I'm serious. They've just passed a law making it illegal to deny the Turkish genocide perpetrated against the Armenians from 1915 to 1917. The American Congress can't even pass a resolution admitting that this historical fact did indeed take place, because they're too cowardly and beholden to Turkish commercial interests (what? the US Congress? craven and venal? really?)--although, to be fair, Presidents Clinton and Bush should really bear the majority of the blame. But the French government, albeit in slightly dodgy circumstances, has not only refused to play along with the lie, but has decided to make it illegal to tell it at all.

Obviously, some may be uncomfortable with this. Shouldn't freedom of speech include the freedom to lie? Well, first, it doesn't in France, so there's nothing untoward about this law in that regard. More importantly, it's obvious why such a lie is being told in the first place: because a fairly powerful nation-state has every reason to want it told and believed, and is throwing all of its weight behind the lie. This marks an obvious difference between this case and that of Holocaust denial (which is also illegal in France). No one with the power, political and financial, of the Turkish government is out there denying the Holocaust. Thus in the US, where such laws are obviously impossible, Holocaust denial is gaining no ground, while, to repeat, the US Congress can't even bring itself to get off its knees and tell the truth about the Armenian genocide.

I also have no problem with freedom of speech being restricted in the case of historical fact. I think that denying the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide is altogether different from trying to revive phlogiston theory. Scientific theories are already interpretations, and you can't outlaw an interpretation. It's entirely possible, though probably unlikely, that phlogiston theory could be revised and become the basis for a scientific revolution, or at least a significant scientific advance. If a revamped phlogiston theory can make more sense of the problems scientists are working on than the alternatives, it will prevail, and rightly so. But denying historical facts, like the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide (or the French Revolution or the founding of Rome), is simply a case of lying, and lying to advance obvious interests. So I think legislating on questions like these is fundamentally different from legislating other intellectual questions or opinions, even in the "hard" sciences.

Meanwhile, in a further blow the forces of reaction in Turkey, Orhan Pamuk has been awared the 2006 Noble Prize for Literature. Pamuk has faced legal persecution in Turkey for discussing the brutal subjection of both Armenians and Kurds by the Turkish government.

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The Idiot

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With apologies to Dostoevsky, there's a new idiot in town. Not that we haven't known this for a long time, but, should you need more proof, or should you just need to have the point driven home, consider what George W. Bush said about Iraq and the Iraqis during his Rose Garden press conference yesterday:

I do know that a lot of innocent people have died and it troubles me and grieves me and I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to -- you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.

What? Iraqis "tolerate" the "level of violence" that has left hundreds of thousands dead? Bush was responding to the recent report that found suggested that over 600,000 Iraqis have been killed during the war. He does not consider that report "credible". But even if he's right -- and I have a hard time even typing that -- even if he's right and the actual number of Iraqis killed during the war is smaller, how can he possibly claim that Iraqis "tolerate" the violence that rages all around them?

I, too, applaud the courage of the Iraqis (of many of them, at least). But consider this, from Think Progress (which also has the video and transcript of the press conference): "In reality, 890,000 Iraqis have moved to Jordan, Iran and Syria since Hussein's fall and more than 300,000 have fled to other parts of Iraq to escape the violence. Additionally, 71 percent of Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave Iraq within a year, saying "they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq."

But reality isn't part of Bush's views on the matter. For him, it's all about clinging to crazy fantasies that all is going well (and, where possible, covering his ass over one of the biggest debacles in American history). Has there ever been a more clueless president? Has there ever been more of an idiot in the White House?

For more, see Crooks and Liars (which also has the video and transcript), The Carpetbagger Report, Firedoglake, Eschaton (with 1164 comments and counting), Shakespeare's Sister, Attytood, Democracy Arsenal, and co-blogger Creature at State of the Day.


UPDATE: CNN has the complete transcript here. See also the Post here.

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Freedom is messy

By Heraclitus

John Cole has a list of the top ten likely Republican responses to the new report that there have been an estimated 655,000 deaths in Iraq since the US invasion. (Although the list is meant as a joke, some of the items have in fact already been put forward in all seriousness by various GOP flacks and hacks). It seems worth cutting and pasting, for your convenience and enjoyment. My own personal favorite is #9.

10. At least when we kill civilians, it is an accident. Saddam intentionally killed civilians.

9. No one could have predicted there would be civilian casualties.

8. We tried to come up with a plan to win this war without killing civilians, but obstructionist Democrats made it too hard.

7. How many innocent civilians did FDR and Truman kill? (Excuse partially used with a reference to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.)

6. Why all the fuss? The Iraqi people can ‘tolerate’ a few dead. (Excuse actually used by Bush in his presser.)

5. Freedom isn’t Free. Freedom is messy.

4. Better to have collateral damage over there than to have it over here.

3. The terrorists don’t care if they kill innocent civilians.

2. Brian Ross and the media have known people are dying in Iraq for a long while. Why did they wait until right before an election to tell us? (Excuse actually used here at Red State.)

1. Epidemiologists?!? What the hell do skin doctors know about waging war? (Excuse partially used here: “So somewhere between 8 and 194 thousand, good lord I hope I never get treated by one of these quacks.”)

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We've sure come a long way since 9/11

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Um, then how is it that, as WaPo is reporting, "only 33 FBI agents have even a limited proficiency in Arabic, and none of them work in the sections of the bureau that coordinate investigations of international terrorism, according to new FBI statistics"?

That's 33 out of 12,000!

Don't you think a few more agents with at least a modest understanding of Arabic, if not genuine proficiency, would help? What with the whole jihadist threat and everything. You know, terrorism.

(And don't look for Arabic language specialists in the military. Right, Bleu Copas?)

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My World Series pick

By Heraclitus

This is for you gamblers out there. I almost posted something two weeks ago, when Michael was in Pittsburgh and the Bengals beat the Steelers, predicting a Bengals-Bears Super Bowl. I'm still fairly confident about the Bears, especially if Rex Grossman can play well in the playoffs, but the Bengals don't seem so hot after being dismantled by the Patriots. After the Yankees won Game 1 of their series with the Tigers, with Jeter going 5-for-5 (he ended batting over .500 for the series), and Abreu and Sheffield hitting so well, I almost predicted that the Yankees would be in the World Series again, or at least almost posted something about how it seemed likely. So, if you gamble, bet on the teams I don't pick. Only maybe not so much in the American League, where I think we can say with confidence that the Tigers will win. I also believe they'll win the World Series, against the Cardinals, whose hitting will be too much for the Mets, who, for their part, will crumple under the pressure, with the exception of Carlos Beltran. I know that if you have little success with predictions, you should probably keep what prognostications you do make short and sweet, but there it is. Now, get out there and put a dime on the Mets.


UPDATE: Bottom of the third, 3-1 Athletics, because Milton effing Bradley just hit a two-run home run. What did I tell you?


UPDATE 2: Tigers 7, A's 4 -- bottom of the seventh. You should be more confident with your picks, Heraclitus. Although I think the Mets will prevail in the NL. The Cards are without Izzy, after all, and their starter for Game 1 is... Jeff Weaver. That says it all. Even without Pedro, the Mets will win. Pujols may hit .750 with 9 HRs in the series, but the Mets will win. In six.

Oh, crap. Milton effing Bradley just hit another homer. 7-5 Tigers.



FINAL UPDATE: Okay, now that Granderson just drilled a home run about 400 feet into right-center, I am indeed comfortable proclaiming a Detroit victory here is Game 2. You're right, Michael, I should have more confidence in my picks. I'm awesome.

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Cory Lidle dies in NYC plane crash

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It is now being reported that one of the two people who died when a small plane crashed into an uptown Manhattan apartment building this afternoon was Cory Lidle, pitcher for the New York Yankees and formerly of my hometown Toronto Blue Jays. He was a certified pilot and the plane was registered to him.

ESPN has the story here. See also CNN, which is reporting that Lidle was the only person in the plane, and the NYT.


UPDATE: It has now been confirmed that Lidle and his flight instructor were killed in the crash.

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America's other border

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

The Christian Science Monitor has a great series of photographs on its website documenting life on "America's Other Border" -- that is, its 4000 mile (longest undefended) border with Canada. It was a surprise to me as a Canadian just how much security has been beefed up below the surface since the 9/11 attacks, and of course, one wonders how longer the border will remain undefended given the current paranoia on Capitol Hill about border security. Whatever happens, the photos are wonderfully evocative of life in border communities from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

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Not good

By Heraclitus

As you've probably heard, a small plane crashed into a high-rise residential building in NYC a little while ago. According to the BBC, the FBI and Homeland Security have said that the incident does not appear to be a terrorist attack. The worst-case scenario, of course, is that the plane had a dirty bomb aboard, something nuclear or biological. I'm not an expert on NYC geography, but I believe the plane did not crash into the most densely occupied part of New York, so that perhaps is a good sign. We'll know for sure in a few hours.

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By Heraclitus

Slavery is alive and well in our world, not only in Darfur and places like that, but around the globe in the form of forced prostitution. Read this post. Or wait an hour or so first, so your lunch doesn't come back up on you.

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XVI

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Washington Post has the bad news (from Reuters):

Iraqi police found 60 bodies dumped across Baghdad in the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday morning, the apparent victims of sectarian death squads blamed for the escalating violence that threatens to pitch the country into civil war.

Most of the victims had been shot in the head execution-style, an Interior Ministry official said. They were all men, some of whom had been blindfolded or bound, the official said, and signs of torture included bruising and broken limbs.

It all seems so redundant now. As horrible as that sounds. But this is what's really going on in Iraq, this is what Iraqis are facing day after day, and the story of 60 dead gets Page A12 in the Post. Perhaps it's no one's fault that attention is lapsing, perhaps the Post is right to bury it. After all, mass murder in Iraq isn't really news anymore, is it? It's commonplace. It's the norm. It's just the way it is. And we've become desensitized to the violence and the killing. Or else we just don't want to know about it anymore.

But how sad is that? How utterly tragic Iraq has become.

The war may be Bush's misadventure, and he and it may deserve our ongoing criticism, but the victims -- the nameless, faceless victims who don't any longer warrant our attention -- ought to be remembered as the horrors rage on. Their deaths may not be front-page news, but that doesn't make them any less significant.


Also from The Washington Post:

A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred...

It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group...

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.

Read the whole article. I'm sure the findings will be disputed by those who have an interest in disputing them, but if they're true or even anywhere close to the truth what they reveal is that Bush has been misleading the American people as to the full scope and horror of his war in Iraq.

601,000 dead from the violence. 500 a day. Those are human beings -- men, women, children -- not abstractions. And they have been killed violently. And more will be killed violently. Today, tomorrow, the next day. But, hey, freedom is on the march, right?

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More on Iraq

By Heraclitus

As a follow-up to Michael's post just above, Juan Cole has an extended round-up of reporting on another bloody day in Iraq. The violence included the murder of the Iraqi Vice President's brother:

Gunmen dressed in police uniforms killed the brother of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi on Monday. The Sunni Arab community interpreted the assassination of Lt. Gen. Amer al-Hashimi, and adviser to the Ministry of Defense, as the work of a Shiite death squad. He was the third of the vice president's siblings to be killed this year. Sadrist Shiites in parliament have accused al-Hashimi and his Iraqi Islamic Party of having links to the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Have you supported a Ford lately?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A new DSCC poll -- yes, that's the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- puts Democrat Harold Ford ahead of Republican Bob Corker by seven points in the Tennessee Senate race, 51% to 44%.

In addition, "just 35% of voters [in Tennessee] believe George Bush has done an excellent or good job as president".

Tennessee is one of the eight key Senate races of which the Democrats must win seven in order to secure a majority. Needless to say, these are very promising numbers.

(Looks like those shameless anti-Ford smears might not have worked out too well.)

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The excitement of Democrats

By Michael J.W. Stickings

At least the news media are paying attention now. Here, for example, is WaPo's Froomkin on "Bush's Downward Slide". This much is now clear: "President Bush's approval ratings appear to be dropping to their lowest levels ever -- and this time, to the enormous apprehension of the White House, there's something voters can do about it."

But let's not get too excited. Here's how Kos put it today in an important "reality check" post: "While things look great for us right now, the election isn't right now. And if Republicans can do anything, it's close the deal. And quite frankly, we're not a sure thing anywhere... We've got a long ways to go, and nothing in this cycle is in the bag. Nothing. So no slacking. No premature celebrating. No heightened expectations."

Remember, whatever happens in November, there will still be two more years of George W. Bush in the White House. And there will still be a presidential election to win in '08. Let's keep things in perspective.

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The Foley Affair: Dennis Hastert and the graveyard of lies

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's just too easy, isn't it? Here's "Speaker" Hastert giving a press conference in front of a graveyard (h/t: AMERICAblog). Let your imagination run wild.

(Also, if you have the subscription, see Noam Scheiber's recent piece on Hastert at The New Republic, "Fool on the Hill". Scheiber points out that "Hastert is a bumbling half-wit," "a guileless nincompoop".)

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By Heraclitus

Strange but true, a company called Neuticles makes synthetic testicles for implant in neutered pets (or bulls). Their website isn't as amusing as one might hope, but it's still worth poking around for a few minutes. Their slogan seems to be "With Neuticles, it's like nothing ever changed." I can only imagine the reaction of a dog to that, if he could talk. "It's like nothing ever changed? Like nothing ever changed? The hell it didn't -- you cut my fucking balls off, you son of a bitch!!"

Via Lewis Black on Conan last night.

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Nihilism in the Oval Office

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Digby writes that Bush is "The PoMo President" -- postmodern, that is. How so? "Whatever his reasons, he seems to have adopted a shallow PoMo-style philosophy that everything is debatable down through time so it doesn't matter what he does." Conservatives have long tried to make the case that liberalism is nihilism in sheep's clothing, that is, that liberals don't believe in anything except nothing, that liberals don't believe in truth, that liberals, in Digby's words, have "no values". And yet it seems that "nobody has practiced relativism more successfully than the modern Republican party".

Excellent point.

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Fallout: Reaction to North Korea's nuclear test (II)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Part I is here.)

According to an analysis in The Washington Post, "North Korea's apparent nuclear test last night may well be regarded as a failure of the Bush administration's nuclear nonproliferation policy". North Korea is now much more of nuclear threat then it was when Bush took office in 2001.

Needless to say, however, this is not how the threat will be spun by Bush and his defenders. Conservatives never liked the so-called "Agreed Framework" that froze North Korea's nuclear program, and, regardless of Bush's failures, this latest and intense escalation will allow them to pursue "a confrontational approach". The Clinton approach, once supported by Colin Powell, may have worked. Now we may never know. "Now U.S. officials will push for tough sanctions at the U.N. Security Council, and are considering a raft of largely unilateral measures, including stopping and inspecting every ship that goes in and out of North Korea."

The anti-diplomacy rhetoric is already being ratcheted up in the blogosphere. Just look at the title of one of Michelle Malkin's posts on the test: "We are in range;another test coming?" She might as well pull a Rice and stoke public fears with those two dreaded words: mushroom cloud. Others contributing to the usual culture of fear are Wizbang, which cites a FOX source (and how credible is that?) with regard to a possible second test and which cites a Russian course (also via FOX) to the effect that the device tested was much stronger than other sources have suggested. For this second point, see my previous post on the test, where I referred to credible sources that have suggested that it was either a small bomb or a dud.

I should note, however, that sensible conservatives like Outside the Beltway's James Joyner, Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey, and PoliBlog's Steven Taylor are not pushing for war, although obviously they aren't holding Bush in any way responsible. However, some conservatives, like Roger Simon, are emphasizing the story in order to change the subject from Foley and the Republicans' other problems. Better to scare the hell out of people, terrorizing them to vote Republican, than to deal with the cover-up of Foley's sexual predation and other issues like, oh, I don't know, Iraq.


The Carpetbagger Report provides "a copy of the official Democratic talking points" on Bush and North Korea. Key point: "President Bush’s North Korean policy is one of failure. Over the past six years, Kim Jong Il has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, increased his plutonium stockpiles and continued testing missiles that he exports to the Middle East and Africa. And now, it seems, North Korea has tested its first nuclear weapon. The Bush Administration’s policy towards Pyongyang has made America less safe. It’s time for a new direction."

Yes. In terms of U.S. politics, the North Korean nuclear test shows just why new leadership is needed in Washington. Bush has gotten it all wrong, and the world today is a much more dangerous place than it was when he took office precisely because of his disastrous policies. It isn't just jihadist terrorism, after all. The threats to U.S. national security are truly global and multi-faceted. They were never to be found in Iraq. They were to be found, and are still to be found, in the activities of both jihadist terrorists and rogue states like Iran and North Korea. Bush, it seems to me, has never understood those threats. Even jihadist terrorism, given the stupidity of his misadventure in Iraq and the increase in the terrorist threat that that has caused. And now a dangerous state has conducted a nuclear test. Even if it was small, even if it was a dud, the test highlights the overall failure of the Bush Administration and its Republican allies to guide America through these turbulent times. The damage has been done, but it is not too late for change.


Around the blogosphere:

The Belgravia Dispatch (h/t: Balloon Juice): "One thing is for sure: a destabilized nuclear North Korea is even worse than a relatively stable nuclear North Korea -- so let's make sure Cheney doesn't get all creative destructionist on us. Our North Korea policy has proved a woeful failure (not just during Bush 43, but also through Bush 41 and Clinton too...), let's not make it even worse by over-reacting..."

Unclaimed Territory, where Glenn Greenwald provides some of the best criticism of Bush I've seen: "It is impossible to contest the fact that the administration has done nothing to improve the situation. Quite the contrary. Negotiations with North Korea have regressed, not progressed. In response to our empty and hollowed belligerence, the North Koreans have become more belligerent, not more cooperative. They have acquired greater weapons capability right in front of our faces. And now they have tested a nuclear weapon." A must-read post.

Political Animal: "Let's recap: The Bush/Cheney administration took a bad situation with Iraq and made it even worse. They've taken a bad situation with Iran and made it even worse... They've taken a bad situation with North Korea and made it even worse... At every step along the way, they've deliberately taken actions that cut off any possibility of solving our geopolitical problems with anything other than military force." Exactly.

AMERICAblog, where "AJ," a former DOD intelligence officer, writes this: "Let’s call North Korea what it is: a part of President Bush's Axis of Failure. Since he bizarrely linked North Korea, Iran, and Iraq nearly a half-decade ago, North Korea has acquired nuclear capabilities, Iran has become more militant and more powerful, and we've turned Iraq into a terrorist-producing failed state. Axis of Failure." Also a must-read post.

Liberal Oasis looks at Bush's "hard-line" strategy: "[T]he Bush Administration never was interested in a negotiated deal to prevent North Korea from getting nukes. The neocons want regime change in North Korea, in an attempt to constrict the rise of China. And they see any deal as helping the North Korea dictator remain in power."

Mahablog repeats once again that this isn't Clinton's fault.

Taylor Marsh comments on "China's collapse of influence".

Matthew Yglesias asks a key question: "[W]ould we actually want to see North Korea collapse, or would that make the nuclear situation even worse since, presumably, we don't want to see those weapons and material floating around?"

The Democratic Daily has John Kerry's response.

The Moderate Voice has a round-up and provides a bunch of useful links.

See also Bradford Plumer, Ezra Klein, The Washington Note, and NewsHog.

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North Korea and the October surprise

By Heraclitus

Perhaps it's just wishful thinking on my part, but if there's one good thing that may come out of North Korea's nuclear tests, it might involve the vaunted "October surprise" Karl Rove had been promising the GOP. Many assumed that the surprise would be an attack on Iran's nuclear plants (and it says a great deal about this White House that so many sober people believed that Karl Rove would be making that decision). Such a move would enable Bush and the Republicans to look tough and homeland-protectory. But now that North Korea has gone ahead and gone nuclear, a strike on Iran would seem rather beside the point. It's true that in some ways Iran seems like more of a threat to actually use their nukes than North Korea, but even if Bush bombed Iran's plants, he really couldn't claim much credit for himself, given that another card-carrying member of the Axis of Evil has already tested its nuclear weapons. So, if nothing else, this test may force the White House to make a decision based on principle or prudence rather than politics (oh, wait, I forgot whom we were talking about), or at least help bring a little bit of balance back to the government (in the form of Democratic control of one or both houses of Congress).

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Which values?

By Heraclitus

I know the whole Foley thing is so pre-North-Korea-testing-nukes, but Echidne had some very insightful comments on the GOP strategy or worldview, on display here as elsewhere, that I thought were worth repeating and thinking about:

[The conservatives' approach] isn't just turning the public and private spheres inside out. It's more like making everything about the lives of the powerful private and everything about the lives of the poor public. Thus, those in the government may have all the secrecy they wish but the lives of poor women on welfare can be freely dissected in public arenas. Bedrooms of the powerful wingnuts are private places, bedrooms of the rest of us have searchlights and video cameras. And the only values that matter are morals about sexuality and gender relationships and family matters, all interpreted tightly within a patriarchal tradition. Values about business or warfare or running the public sector don't matter, or are replaced by the "patriotism" of unquestioning obedience to the current administration. Values such as caring or neighborliness or justice don't matter or are made into private values.

All this allows the Nosey-Parkers among us to criticize their adult neighbors' consensual sexual behavior with other adults freely and also obviates any need to help the same neighbors when they are in financial trouble. The former is a public concern, the latter a private problem brought on by reckless spending or laziness.

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Fallout: Reaction to North Korea's nuclear test

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You've all heard the news. North Korea has conducted a nuclear test.

Reaction from the international community was predictable. There was outcry, with President Bush calling the test "provocative," "a threat to international peace and security". "The North Korea regime remains one of the world's leading proliferators of missile technology including transfers to Iran and Syria," he said. "Once again, North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond". It is not clear how it will.

According to The New York Times, "The United Nations Security Council today began working on a resolution condemning North Korea's action, shortly after President Bush denounced the announcement of the test as a 'provocative act,' one that requires an 'immediate response.'" It is not clear what that means, although, according to the BBC, the U.N. Security Council has condemned the test and "will also consider what steps to take next, including sanctions that could be mandatory and enforceable". The U.S. has already "circulated a 13-point draft resolution seeking targeted sanctions".

An analysis in the Financial Times suggests that the test is "a sign of weakness". Regardless, it's hard to know what kind of a sign it may be without even knowing the scope of the test. The BBC: "The size of the bomb is uncertain, with estimates varying from 550 tons of destructive power to as much as 15 kilotons. The 1945 Hiroshima bomb was 12.5-15 kilotons." And yet, "[t]he French Atomic Energy Commission says the blast measured about one kiloton or less and could have been the result of a failed nuclear test". Indeed, "the claimed test does not necessarily mean North Korea has a fully-fledged nuclear bomb or warhead that it can deliver to a target".

The possibility of a failed test raised by the French AEC is backed up by Defense Tech's Jeffrey Lewis, who suggests that "the test was probably a dud". He provides a follow-up at ArmsControlWonk, calling the test a "failure". See also Kevin Drum here.

So what do we know? Not much. It was likely either a small bomb or a dud.


More to come...

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The Foley Affair: Is it time for Hastert to go?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

According to a new CNN poll, over half of Americans (52 percent) think Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert should resign over his handling of Mark Foley's sexual misconduct (whether for actions or inaction before or after the story broke is unclear). A majority of Americans (52 percent) also "believe the GOP leadership didn't investigate the charges earlier because they were deliberately covering the scandal up".

Both numbers should be higher, but such is the intense partisanship that not even revelations of sexual predation and denials thereof can penetrate.

The poll also puts Bush's approval rating at 39 percent, Congress's at 28 percent.

But these are the key numbers looking ahead to November: "Fifty-eight percent of likely voters say they plan to vote for Democrats in November, compared with 37 percent who say they'll vote GOP," a 21-point divide.


USA Today has even worse numbers for the GOP: 37 percent for Bush, 24 percent for Congress, and a 23-point lead for Democrats.

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Kerry on the trail

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Is John Kerry running for president again? It looks like it.

(He'd run, of course, as an ardent war critic. For more on Kerry's Iraq regrets, see here.)

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The curse of Dick Cheney

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Bob Woodward reveals on Meet the Press yesterday that Dick Cheney swore at him over the phone. Woodward calls it "a metaphor for what’s going on. Hang up when somebody has a different point of view or information you don’t want to deal with." Think Progress has the transcript. Here's the video:

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Losing Afghanistan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the AP: "NATO''s top commander in Afghanistan" -- British Gen. David Richards -- "said Sunday the country was at a tipping point and warned Afghans would likely switch their allegiance to resurgent Taliban militants if there are no visible improvements in people's lives in the next six months."

The spin coming out of the White House may claim that all is well and that the U.S. remains committed, but this is a warning that ought not go unheeded. Five years after the war began, the future of Afghanistan remains as uncertain as ever. Victory was elusive and the war may yet be lost. And then what will it all have meant?

For more on the coming anarchy in Afghanistan, see here.

For more on the need for more troops in Afghanistan, see here.

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Opposing Chavez

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the BBC:

Tens of thousands of people have marched through the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in support of the main opposition candidate, Manuel Rosales.

Mr Rosales will face President Hugo Chavez in December's presidential poll.

The march, which filled the main avenues of the city centre, was the biggest opposition rally Venezuela has seen since early 2004.

The upcoming election comes down to the prospect of liberal democracy vs. Chavez's anti-American cult of personality. And yet Rosales is hardly a liberal democrat. He is a social democrat, literally, and something of a nationalist.

He objects at least in part to Chavez's illiberal regionalism, his efforts to build a political and economic alliance (with others in Latin America, as well as with rogue states like Iran) to counter U.S.-led global liberalism. At home, he would do this: "We will distribute land to the peasants, but we will buy it in such a way as to respect the principle of private property, just as we will respect those of human rights and social justice." His ideology seems to mirror the leftism that has recently risen to power in Latin America -- in Bolivia, for example. Whatever the merits of such leftism, Rosales is, as the BBC puts it, the "only option" for anti-Chavez forces in Venezuela. For that alone he deserves some appreciation.

Chavez will win -- he would not allow himself to lose -- but at least there's something in the way of a viable opposition to Chavez's quiet tyranny. Whether there will still be a viable opposition after the December election, however, is another matter entirely. I wouldn't count on it.

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The Axis of Evil has nuclear weapons

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

Various news outlets are reporting that North Korea has just conducted a successful nuclear test. If there ever was any question of the utter stupidity of pursuing phantom WMDs in Iraq, instead of worrying about the real threat posed by Pyongyang's nuclear program, it is as bright as an atomic flash in the night sky. The Bush Administration has failed to prevent WMD proliferation in the most spectacular way tonight. And with the quagmire in Iraq sopping up most of its forces, and its international diplomatic credibility at a low ebb due to its egregious violations of international law these last few years, it has no good options to respond. This is going to be one sorry mess. The world has become that much more dangerous tonight.


Update: See also the AP and The Washington Post. -- MJWS

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The un-ethics of George Allen

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You all know about the racism (if not, see here and here), but George Allen's ethics problem -- that is, the extent to which he is ethically challenged is going public -- is getting broader and deeper the closer we get to next month's elections.

The AP is now reporting that "[f]or the past five years, [Allen] has failed to tell Congress about stock options he got for his work as a director of a high-tech company". That's bad.

In addition, Allen "asked the Army to help another business that gave him similar options." That's also bad.

And it gets better (for us; worse for Allen): "When AP showed Allen's lawyer the Senate ethics manual requirement that such options must be reported each year regardless of value, the lawyer said he was unfamiliar with that provision. Allen has now asked the Senate ethics committee for an opinion on whether he should have disclosed them." Allen's lawyer claims that he is unfamiliar with the provision to report stock options, as if it some sort of legal technicality, and Allen himself is essentially pleading ignorance. We already knew Allen was racist thug, not to mention a buffoon and a jackass, but now it appears he's also a crook and a liar. And he says he didn't know better? Sure.

I agree with MyDD's Jonathan Singer that the AP article is "fairly damning," and I also suggest that you read the article in full, given the complexity of Allen's business dealings.

I also agree with Taylor Marsh: "He just doesn't understand the difference between right and wrong."

That inability seems to have characterized much of Allen's life, public and private alike. It's gotten him in trouble time and time again. Think about what we know, all that we're coming to know as the campaign goes on. But what about everything we don't know, everything that Allen has managed to keep quiet? It's like when Sammy Sosa was caught with the corked bat. Was that the only time he ever used a corked bat? Highly unlikely. Allen's closet must be crowded indeed.

The real George Allen is being revealed. Will the voters of Virginia finally say they've had enough of him?

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Favorite son

Guest post by Capt. Fogg

Today's Palm Beach Post calls former Representative Mark Foley "one of Palm Beach County's favorite sons." Normally any other homosexual community college dropout busboy and waiter with a couple of drug possession arrests wouldn't grow up to be any red-state-man’s favorite son, but we're a binary culture. You're either for or against and, either way, the blinder the faith, the more fun it is to participate in the game.

His father, "Big Ed" Foley, may have been a union leader, but when Mark decided to go into politics, he became a Republican. It was a closet, and perhaps he chose that pose for the same reasons he described himself as a "lady's man" in his high school yearbook and told people he saw his future as a married man with a family. Whether he was only confused as many young people are or whether he used the party of "traditional values," government oversight of consensual activities, and outright gay bashing as a cover, he had the support of people for whom the straw man of "the homosexual agenda" was anathema. As long as he kept stirring the cauldron of hysteria against nudism, lewd drawings of children, and internet predators, he was on the team. As long as he supported George and his plan to defraud the public out of their retirement funds, he was on the home team.

He was a Republican and the knee-jerk supporters of Republican politics supported him and brushed off his apparent sexual orientation with accusations of liberal bias. They supported him the way one might support the White Sox over the Cubs: not because any of the players are local boys, not because they occasionally came around and mowed your grass or helped the kids with the homework or invited you to their barbecues, but because you chose some metaphysical connection with them, as struggling working class people have done with the party that sits on them and excludes them and disdains their ambitions and sends their sons and daughters off to die in the desert.

I feel mostly sadness at the humiliation of this pathetic man, dragged down by his foolish passions like dignified old Immanuel Rath in Der Blaue Engel, although I do delight in the discomfiture of his party. The loss of the flimsy Halloween costume gravitas of right-wing opinion shouters, spewing non sequiturs and slanders in the vain hope that they can turn the blame on the Democrats, is as welcome as the swan song of the fat lady in some tedious opera.

I've been waiting for the fall of the right for a long time, but I cannot count them out. We can never count them out because their madness and their weakness and their cowardice and their greed will always be part of us all. We can't count them out because they still have their hands around our necks and their finger on the button. We can't count them out because, like the mildew in your shower, the algae in your pool, the Kissinger in your politics, they will always come back.

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