Almost two-thirds of American military personnel and their families responding to a new poll said the Bush administration underestimated the number of troops needed for the mission in Iraq, and more than half said that citizen-soldiers in the National Guard and Reserves were carrying too heavy a burden.
If you get a chance, read the Annenberg press release linked above. It presents a much fuller picture than what I have seen in most media accounts.
Bulgarian news is reporting the capture of a Zarqawi look-a-like:
A man quite resembling to world's most wanted man Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was reportedly captured in the outskirts of Fallujah, RIA Novosti news agency informed quoting Elaf online edition.
The web source reported that US militaries are currently carrying out DNA-checks over the identity of the captured man.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is suspected to be the mastermind of one of most cruel militant groups in Iraq, Tawhid al-Jihad. It has reaped the black fame of beheading mercilessly its hostages, including two Bulgarian truck drivers.
It wouldn't be wise to get hopes up, but potentially very good news for the troops and Iraqis.
Update, 10/16/04, 7:27 PM EST: Nope. U.S. military says reports "not credible."
Nonetheless, the Bush attacks will produce long rebounds, which Kerry can turn into fast break points. In politics, this entails seizing Bush's arguments and using them to advance Kerry's narrative. Luckily, it's not hard to do, especially given the power (and truthfulness) of Kerry's narrative - Bush is "out of ideas, out of touch and unwilling to change." Every Kerry proxy (and that includes you and me) needs to hammer Kerry's theme home, not merely on offense, but on defense. When Bush accuses Kerry of being a liberal, that is evidence that he is out of touch. The details are irrelevant at this point, everyone who wants to know them already does. When Bush accuses Kerry of wanting to cut and run in Iraq, it shows that he is out of touch and unwilling to change. After 270 minutes of standing on the same stage with John Kerry, Bush still can't see the obvious falseness of his positions. And on and on and on. We can't stop scoring points.
How is Democratization Supposed to Make America Safer?
I support efforts to spread democracy and liberalization. If done properly, through encouragement of indigenous democratic movements, wise use of soft power, and a principled (read: not transparently self serving) foreign policy, it works to the benefit of everyone except those displaced from the former regimes. Unfortunately, the period of international instability like that following Sept. 11 is probably the worst possible time to undertake an aggressive democratization strategy.
Stable democracies (with the apparent exception of the United States) are much less likely to wage war, much less likely to initiate war, and very rarely wage war against other stable democracies. For much of the nineties, this reality was viewed as a prima facie case for democratization as a pro-peace strategy. Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder pointed out the logical leap inherent in that jump, though: the process of democratization involves a period of destabilization during the transition from authoritarianism to democracy. Regimes become unstable democracies before they become stable democracies. During this transitional stage, regimes are more likely to adopt aggressive foreign policy postures than either their predecessor authoritarin regimes or their eventual stable forms.
It is probably true that a world where more countries were mature, stable democracies would be safer and preferable for the United States. However, countries do not become mature democracies over night. More typically, they go through a rocky transitional period, where democratic control over foreign policy is partial, where mass politics mixes in a volatile way with authoritarian elite politics, and where democratization suffers reversal. In this transitional phase of democratization, countries become more aggressive and war-prone, not less, and they do fight wars with democratic states. [Mansfield and Snyder, Democratization and the Danger of War, International Security 20:1 (Summer 1995) p. 5]
While waging a war against an anti-state ideology like bin Ladenism, the strategic benefit of democratization seems to be seriously in doubt. Yet there has been little debate about the desirability of democratization in the current security environment. Almost all of the disagreement focuses on the Bush administration's sincerity or its competence.
That the Green Zone is no longer secure is obviously a sign of the overall deteriorating security situation in Iraq. I haven't seen much discussion of specifics though, including the impact of the situation on the January elections and on efforts to internationalize the operation. The conditions are already worrying the UN, whose involvement is critical on both issues.
Update 9:44 AM EST: Reuters says that today's "bombings have reinforced U.N. fears about sending more senior staff to Iraq to help prepare for the elections, a spokesman at U.N. headquarters in New York said."
The U.S. has asked GBR to move troops to Baghdad while US troops are engaged in Fallujah, according to the BBC. Tories are worried about the unclear chain of command. It's obviously important to have sufficient troops where they are needed in Iraq, but the Bush administration doesn't appear to be making things easy for the Brits.
More details are leeking out about the administration's use of government funds to advance their partisan interests in No Child Left Behind. DOE paid $700,000 to Ketchum in 2003 to have the PR firm monitor media coverage of NCLB and produce a Karen Ryan video news release, exactly like the Medicare ad [PDF] called "covert propaganda" by the GAO.
PFAW acquired the evidence of this latest abuse of government authority from a FOIA request. It hasn't publicly released the original documents, but the details are pretty damning.
The larger Ketchum report is divided into separate reports organized by time period (some reports represent individual months and some represent report multiple-month time periods). All of the reports contain a "Score Sheet" indicating the study's methodology. In this Score Sheet, which is used to evaluate individual media stories, eleven factors are listed as "Positive Messages." Each instance of a positive message is to be given five "points" plus a "bonus" of 10 points if there are more than three positive messages in a news story. Among the specific positive messages listed toward the five point and ten point bonus system is the following: "The Bush Administration/the GOP is committed to education."
The Bush administration harnesses the power of the government for partisan ends in two ways. First, it explicitly uses government funds for coalition building and propagandizing, i.e., the Medicare videos, the NCLB videos, much of the faith based initiatives agenda, the allocation of emergency funds, etc. Second, it times governmental decisions for partisan political advantage, including when serious strategic sacrifices are necessary. This includes the "roll-out" of the Iraq invasion marketing strategy, the timing of the various funding requests for Iraq, the selective declassification and release of security information, the raising and lowering of threat levels, and tactical decisions concerning troop activities in Iraq.
It is impossible to be too shrill in assessing the negative implications of the campaignistration.* They have no respect for the rule of law, primarily because their conception of sovereignty has no room for popular legitimacy independent of party interest. They are moving the country toward a commisarial dictatorship, and they are using our money to grease the skids.
Representative Marilyn Musgrave (R-Co.) cried about the "radical homosexual agenda" in an email yesterday: "Leaders of the homosexual lobby know if they can take me out, no one will stand against them in the future. I have no other choice but to ask for urgent help from pro-family Americans like you."
Congresswoman Musgrave should stand side by side with HRC and defend John Kerry against that pernicious "homosexual lobby:"
Is what Kerry did last night gay friendly? That's the bottom line of this. This is not gay friendly to do what he did last night. It was a cheap shot. He outed somebody he doesn't know and he hasn't spoken to and had to speak hypothetically about what she should say.
The NYT has a solid editorial on the administration's assault on the Section 8 housing vouchers program:
Things are getting worse by the day, thanks to ideologues in the Bush administration who prefer a laissez-faire approach, regardless of the social costs. Unable to dismember the Section 8 program directly, HUD has chosen to destabilize it with a series of rule changes and budget maneuvers that are being felt from coast to coast. The current HUD secretary, Alphonso Jackson, has settled on a particularly destructive strategy involving misdirection and sleight of hand. He releases poorly explained policies that include hidden, but draconian, cuts. After an outcry from Congress, he retreats to lesser cuts that leave the program diminished, housing authorities confused and the general public mistakenly believing that the status quo has been regained.
All editorials should be so direct. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has an excellent reference page on Section 8.
The GOP isn't using Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney to allege gay baiting. The "insult" isn't to Mary, it's to Dick and Lynne. Republicans can accuse Kerry of treason, but Kerry's respectful reference to Mary is too much for the hyper-sensitive Cheneys.
The LA Times has another article on the poor state of port security. George Bush can't be bothered with real homeland security - bad photo-ops just don't get dealt with in his administration. Who wants to bet that when the port attack happens the GOP blames it on unions?
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council on Monday, IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei said satellite photos and follow-up investigations show "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement" at sites related to Iraq's nuclear program that had once been subject to stringent monitoring.
On Tuesday, Iraq's interim science and technology minister, Rashad Omar, said all sites under the interim government's control have been secured.
The minister said the missing equipment which the IAEA says includes milling machines and electron beam welders was taken in the looting spree that followed last year's invasion, which the United States said was aimed to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. The sites were quickly secured by coalition forces before they were turned over to Iraqi authorities with the formal handover of sovereignty in June, he said.
President Bush said Wednesday night that Canadian help was on the way to relieve the flu vaccine shortage. But America's top health official and other experts said Thursday that getting more supplies of vaccine from Canada is unlikely.
There isn't enough time for U.S. regulators to approve a Canadian vaccine, and Canada doesn't have enough to spare, they said.
"They've been disparaging the Canadian drug system, saying how it's a buyer beware situation, completely unsafe, can't guarantee the safety," said David MacKay, executive director of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. "Then the moment that they need to go to Canada to find our flu vaccines, all of a sudden, magically, things are safe."
The US Northern Command in Colorado issued a "warning order" sometime this week over "concerns that terrorists might try to disrupt the Nov. 2 election." The Florida National Guard is preparing to call up a "couple of hundred" Guardsmen to protect Florida airports.
According to a new report from the TSA Inspector General, leaked to AP:
The government agency in charge of airport security spent nearly a half-million dollars on an awards ceremony at a lavish hotel, including $81,000 for plaques and $500 for cheese displays, according to an internal report obtained by The Associated Press.
The spending on the party really was exorbitant:
The reception included finger food, coffee and cake that averaged $33 per person. Seven cakes cost a total of $1,850; three cheese displays, $1,500.
The agency paid $64 per gallon of coffee, $3.75 per soft drink serving, $1,486 for three balloon arches and $1,850 for seven sheet cakes, the report said. A singer of the national anthem was paid $75 and a "lifetime achievement" award was given to an employee retiring from the two-year-old agency.
The executive bonuses were equally egregious, though the TSA at least issued an anemic response.
This obviously isn't surprising, but the GOP delayed a necessary vote to raise the debt ceiling until after the elections to avoid political embarassment:
Federal operations are unlikely to be affected because Congress is certain to raise the debt limit in a lame-duck session in November. Congressional Republicans had wanted to avoid an embarrassing vote to raise the debt ceiling just a few weeks before Election Day.
Since Mr. Bush took office in January 2001, the federal debt has increased about 40 percent, or $2.1 trillion, to $7.4 trillion. Congress has raised the debt ceiling three times in three years, raising it most recently by $984 billion in May 2003.
On Thursday, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said that the federal government was about to breach the limit again and would be able to keep operating only if it started tapping money intended for the civil service retirement fund, the pension system for federal workers.
Carl Schmitt defined himself as a "polemiologist," a word that probably became a lot more ambiguous in the translation into English. It is too good a word to not be used though, so here's my take: A "polemiologist" is a person that offers statements that structurally and formally appear to be arguments, but that are offered only for their aesthetic effect.
People that say things to look tough, religious, or resolute, or to make others look so - these people are polemiologists. Rebutting their "arguments" without addressing their aesthetic assertions gets us nowhere.
Political Liberalism is unbelievably resilient to outside challenge – almost too resilient, to the extent that it quickly co-opts and demobilizes legitimate criticism. Carl Schmitt from the right and the Frankfurt school from the left hurled devastating attacks at the position, but were sucked into it as soon as they tried to justify their criticisms. The shield of Liberalism is the simple question: "why?"
When Schmitt claimed Liberalism quashed authentic emotion, or eliminated political enmity through technocratic economizing and moral rumination, his school was rebutted by Habermas' simple questioning: why is this the case? Schmitt and his acolytes responded, not with the sword, but with an answer, an attempt at persuasion. When Horkheimer and Adorno claimed that instrumental rationality was a dehumanizing mask for crass political interests, they were answered by the same question. They, too, responded with an attempt at justification.
This is the core of Liberalism – public justification, the belief in the possibility of rational communication that can persuade people and eventually of convince them, if not of the rightness of the substantive decision, at least that their concerns were recognized, that the processes which led to a decision were fair, and that the question is not permanently settled. I used to think that if someone avoided recourse to the sword, Liberalism would eventually emerge triumphant.
My confidence in the resilience of the system began to fail in the run-up to the 2000 election, as an alternative to the sword began to emerge: brazen dishonesty. The practice of public justification is founded on an assumption that those offering the justification are presumptively honest, that their justifications are offered in good faith. With the modern conservative movement, operating on that presumption will get you a knife in the back.
Treasury yesterday reported total FY 2004 receipts of $1,880 billion and total outlays of $2,292 billion, for a deficit of $413 billion. 18% of the FY 2004 budget is funded by future generations. By my calculation, deficit spending begins on day 300 of this year, or October 26 - exactly one week before the presidential election.
According to the NYT, the Pentagon has reopened an investigation into allegations that four Iraqi reporters (3 working for Reuters, 1 for NBC) were tortured at Forward Operating Base Volturno in January.
The case "could provide evidence that maltreatment of prisoners occurred elsewhere in Iraq." The initial investigation concluded that the "soldiers involved acted within the applicable rules of engagement, policies and procedures." Unfortunately, that statement now appears to be in no way inconsistent with the allegations of torture.
The Austin Chronicle has a nice run down of some of Tom Delay's recent hits. It details a memo filed by Tom Delay's lawyer, Ed Bethune, with the House Rules Committee, which calls "for [retiring Congressman Chris] Bell [D-Houston] and CREW [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] to be cited for 'contempt of Congress' or otherwise sanctioned for violating the prohibition against outside assistance to House members for official business. Bethune is speaking for Tom DeLay, rightfully notorious for eliminating the middlemen and inviting the business lobby directly into his congressional office to draft their own legislation. To paraphrase Ronnie Earle, being called contemptible by Tom DeLay is like being called a thug by Tony Soprano."
It makes sense to have Bethune representing Delay:
Ed Bethune's golden parachute. [Arkansas Times 1/31/97]
By Michael Haddigan
January 31, 1997
(With the start of President Clinton's second term, the Times begins a new feature to track new developments, ephemera and sundry notes from the wide-ranging Whitewater investigations.)
All's quiet on the Whitewater front, at least as long as the Inaugural interval lasts. Presumably, independent counsel Kenneth Starr has continued debriefing former Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan owner Jim McDougal about the thrift's operation in the 1980s and about any and all Clinton connections.
And Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethics violations have actually overshadowed Whitewater in recent weeks. Former Arkansas Congressman Ed Bethune, who helped draft Gingrich's ethics defense, had his own brief -- and largely forgotten role -- in the S&L mess that ensnared McDougal. Bethune, a former FBI agent, is now practicing law in Washington and had represented Gingrich previously.
Bethune was president of Little Rock's First Federal Savings and Loan for a few months before it went under in June 1989 at a cost to taxpayers that dwarfed the cost of closing Madison.
The tab for First Federal was a whopping $833 million. Madison's was $73 million, according to the federal Resolution Trust Corporation.
Bethune failed to return calls to his Washington, D.C., law office, but press reports fill in the blanks.
In fall1986, Bethune joined First Federal's board. He then became president and CEO of the thrift in January 1987. At the time, First Federal was the largest S&L in Arkansas with total assets of about $1.7 billion. Bethune was also the Arkansas Republican chairman.
But First Federal was suffering from the same problem affecting other Arkansas thrifts _ loans for office buildings and apartment complexes with high vacancy rates went bust. Reappraisals required by federal regulators dropped the values of the projects well below what First Federal had paid for them in the first place.
By August 1987, First Federal was $22.1 million in the hole.
In September, eight months after he signed on, Bethune announced his resignation.
The savings and loan ended the fiscal year $83.9 million in the red. But Bethune departed the soon-to-fail institution with a golden parachute. After his resignation, he received $368,000, including severance pay totaling $259,000 and $109,000 of his $200,000 annual salary. Bethune moved to Washington in January 1988, giving up the state Republican chair.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the S&L in February 1989, as part of President Bush's overall savings and loan rescue plan. First Federal closed its last fiscal year in June 1989 in the hole for $471.2 million.
On September 1, 1989, federal regulators took over the thrift entirely, renaming it First Savings of Arkansas. The lack of investigative interest in affairs at First Federal became a side issuein the Whitewater probe. The Resolution Trust Corporation spent only13 hours investigating First Federal. By contrast, the RTC, then under a Republican administration, spent a total of 5,661 hours probing Madison, which closed at a fraction of the cost of First Federal.
There is no indication of wrongdoing by Bethune himself, but FBI agents believed there were matters worth investigating at the institution.
An October 1992 FBI memo identified First Savings and Savers Savings Association as cases having "significant criminal potential.
"It is requested that (FBI Headquarters) contact RTC and request it expeditiously address providing referrals on Savers and First (Savings of Arkansas,) neither of which can have been the subject of investigation or indictments and which are believed to have much greater prosecutive potential than Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan," the memo said. Nothing public ever came of the suggestion.
Cal Thomas is upset that airport security doesn't acknowledge his privilege:
Airport insanity: "My profile is radically different from all those who killed nearly 3,000 of my countrymen on September 11, 2001. My 'holy book' of choice is the Bible. My race is Caucasian. I am a loyal, taxpaying, patriotic, evil-hating, English-as-first-language, natural-born American. If profiling were allowed, I wouldn't be the one filling out government forms to prove I'm not a terrorist. The other guys would."
Starting in the late 1970s, the nation's leaders sought to break a corrosive cycle of rising inflation and stagnating output by remaking the U.S. economy in the image of its frontier predecessor - deregulating industries, shrinking social programs and promoting a free-market ideal in which everyone must forge his or her own path, free to rise or fall on merit or luck. On the whole, their effort to transform the economy has succeeded.
But the economy's makeover has come at a large and largely unnoticed price: a measurable increase in the risks that Americans must bear as they provide for their families, pay for their houses, save for their retirements and grab for the good life.
A broad array of protections that families once depended on to shield them from economic turmoil stable jobs, widely available health coverage, guaranteed pensions, short unemployment spells, long-lasting unemployment benefits and well-funded job training programs have been scaled back or have vanished altogether.
This devolution of economic risk is the defining characteristic of our age - and the article gets it exactly right in noting that it is the intentional result of a series of political decisions.
This phenomenon has a number of pernicious effects. Perhaps the most important is what I think of as the law of conservation of risk: economic risk toleration has an inverse relationship with social risk toleration. As people's economic situations becomes more tenuous, their psychological willingness to accept diversity declines. Anti-immigration sentiment rises. Economic nationalism and international isolationism increases. Racism rises. General resentment rises. People seek recourse in reactionary political ideologies.
Conservatives want increased economic risk, they exploit it. Their corporate benefactors profit from increased bargaining power vis a vis labor, their campaign coffers fill, the appeal of their reactionary social ideology increases.
Liberals want the opposite. Good jobs, a solid safety net, and a secure retirement increase a country's acceptance of diverse people and ideas, producing a reinforcing upward spiral of creativity, productivity, and growth. People with good jobs are more willing to try out new ideas, to listen to new voices, to act on their entrepreneurial impulses.
(Libertarians, btw, live in a dream world, usually induced by a trust fund).
Pierre Bourdieu says it best:
It has emerged clearly that job insecurity is now everywhere: in the private sector, but also in the public sector, which has greatly increased the number of temporary, part-time or casual positions; in industry, but also in the institutions of cultural production and diffusion - education, journalism, the media, etc. In all of these areas it produces more or less identical effects, which become particularly visible in the extreme case of the unemployed: the destructuring of existence, which is deprived among other things of its temporal structures, and the ensuing deterioration of the whole relationship to the world, time and space. Casualization profoundly affects the person who suffers it: by making the whole future uncertain, it prevents all rational anticipation and, in particular, the basic belief and hope in the future that one needs in order to rebel, especially collectively, against present conditions, even the most intolerable.
Added to these effects of precariousness on those directly touched by it there are the effects on all the others, who are apparently spared...The existence of a large reserve army, which, because of the overproduction of graduates, is no longer restricted to the lowest levels of competence and technical qualification, helps to give all those in work the sense that they are in no way irreplaceable and that their work, their jobs, are in some way a privilege, as fragile, threatened privilege (as they are reminded by their employers as soon as they step out of line and by journalists and commentators at the first sign of a strike). Objective insecurity gives rise to a generalized subjective insecurity which is now affecting all workers in our highly developed economy...
So insecurity acts directly on those it touches (and whom it renders incapable of mobilizing themselves) and indirectly on all the others, through the fear it arouses, which is methodically exploited by all the security-inducing strategies, such as the introduction of the notorious "flexibility," - which, it will have become clear, is inspired as much by political as economic reasons. One thus begins to suspect that insecurity is the product not of an economic inevitability, identified with the much heralded "globalization," but of a political will. A "flexible" company in a sense deliberately exploits a situation of insecurity which it helps to reinforce: it seeks to reduce costs, but also to make this lowering possible by putting the workers in permanent danger of losing their jobs. The whole world of production, material and cultural, public and private, is thus carried along by a process of intensification of insecurity, with, for example, the deterritorialization of the company... [Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market, 82-84]
Bourdieu calls the corporate instrumentalization of risk "flexploitation." It is an evocative word, and seems radical at first perusal. But the concept builds on a long tradition in American liberalism, from Roosevelt to RFK.
Who Is Jack Abramoff? College Republican, Manichaean
Jack Abramoff swindled tens of millions of dollars from Native American tribes. He pled the fifth before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, while his cohort Mike Scanlon dodged the subpoena.
This scandal has received a muted reaction in the liberal universe - whether because of outrage fatigue or preoccupation with more immediate concerns, we haven't Hammered this home. Abramoff is a big conservative fish, we need to make sure he rots on the shore.
Abramoff got his start in politics while at Brandeis, chairing the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans from 1980-1981. Teaming with Harvard contemporary and lifelong fellow traveler Grover Norquist, Abramoff's organizational acumen allegedly won Massachusetts for Reagan.
As head of the Massachusetts Federation of College Republican Clubs, Jack Abramoff (elected National Chairman in 1981) produced over 10,000 youth votes. Reagan won by only 3,000 votes. [College Republican History PDF]
From the Mass. Alliance, Abramoff jumped up to College Republican National Chairman (CRNC), a post he held from 1981-1985. Soon after Abramoff took the reigns as CRNC, Ralph Reed showed up at his door looking for a job:
While working for the College Republicans, he and Norquist set up the United Students of America Foundation, a 501(c)3 "dedicated to educating students on the need to defund political activism on campus" that funneled money to conservative causes.
Abramoff assumed the chair of the USA foundation in 1984. He became a member of the Council for National Policy in 1984. He founded the International Freedom Foundation in 1985. He became executive director of the Reagan aligned organization Citizens for America in 1985. All of these are Heritage Foundation aligned organizations.
But I get ahead of myself. From Nina Easton's book, which every liberal who wants to understand conservatism needs to read, more on the climate Abramoff fostered at the College Republicans:
The Republican Party isn't the answer to America's problems, the Rev. Jerry Falwell said Sunday night; Jesus Christ is.
Only Christian leaders will protect the United States from terrorism, abortion and gay marriage, the often controversial televangelist told an audience of several hundred at Bannockburn Baptist Church in Southwest Austin.
'There's a revival sweeping our land,' he said, estimating that more than 20 percent of voters are evangelical Christians. 'Our people are getting saved. . . . They're getting registered to vote, and they're voting Christian.'"
Regular visitors may have noticed the new "articles" section in the right column. I use Furl, an archive service that I found through an old Brad Delong post, to organize some of my web reading. The links on the right are either those that I eventually want to blog on or those that I generally find interesting.
As I regularize the process, I hope it proves helpful both to readers and to my currently helter-skelter relationship with online information.