Monday, December 31, 2007



This morning I was watching a talk show on the BBC and the moderator asked for predictions about the biggest story of 2008-- the U.S. elections. Two of the talking heads thought McCain would win, one Clinton and one Obama. When talking about the Democratic nomination, no one mentioned Edwards; it was all Clinton the Insider who would provide a smooth transition from the Bush years and wouldn't change much and the quasi-"revolutionary" Obama. Do they ever have that wrong-- at least the part about Obama. Democrats in Iowa and Democrats starting to pay attention around the country are noticing that there is only one agent of change running this year: John Edwards. You want more of the same? Vote for Clinton, Obama or any of the pathetic pygmies seeking to personify a third George Bush term. You wanna shake things up a little? Edwards is the one. Insiders are scared shitless of him; his game plan will win in Iowa. Meanwhile an Insider hack like Stuart Rothenberg is already running around like a chicken without a head as Edwards surges and looks more and more like the victor in the first contest-- great news for anyone who actually knows the U.S. must end the war in Iraq.
Democrats must decide whether they want a candidate who is angry and confrontational, and who sees those favoring compromise as traitors (Edwards), or a candidate who presents himself as a uniter (Obama), or a candidate who presents herself as someone who understands the ways of Washington and can get things done (Clinton).

While Clinton and Obama both acknowledge the importance of working with various interests, including Capitol Hill Republicans and the business community, to come up with solutions to key problems, Edwards sounds more and more like the neighborhood bully who plans to dictate what is to be done.

The former North Carolina senator is running a classic populist campaign that would have made William Jennings Bryan (or Ralph Nader) proud. Everything is Corporate America’s fault. But he’s also portraying himself as fighting for the middle class and able to appeal to swing voters and even Republicans in a general election.

...But let’s be very clear: Given the North Carolina Democrat’s rhetoric and agenda, an Edwards Presidency would likely rip the nation apart – even further apart than Bush has torn it.

On Capitol Hill, Edwards’s “us versus them” rhetoric and legislative agenda would almost certainly make an already bitter mood even worse. He would in the blink of an eye unify the GOP and open up divisions in his own party’s ranks. Congressional Republicans would circle the wagons in an effort to stop Edwards’s agenda.

Non-insiders, on the other hand, are starting to see Edwards as the one man who can help America break free of it's shameful Bush past, someone who really will right the wrongs of the past 8 (if not 28 years). Without Ralph Nader 2000 run, George Bush, if remembered at all, would be known as a hapless, sub-mediocre former Texas governor. Today Nader let loose on Clinton for the Bush-lite Insider and representative of a hopelessly corrupt system that she is. He acknowledged that Edwards is the only one fit for the job.
"The issue is corporate power and who controls our political system and it's not who has experience for six years or two years," he said, alluding to an ongoing debate over experience between Clinton and freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

"She has experience in the Senate, and what that experience has meant is going soft on cracking down on corporate crime, fraud, and abuse, soft on cutting tens of millions in corporate subsidies," he continued.

...Nader, a four-time presidential candidate, called Edwards a Democratic "glimmer of hope." He has long criticized Democrats as indistinguishable from Republicans, chiding both parties as slaves to corporate financing and interests.

And Nader isn't the only non-hack to slam back at the Rothenbergs, Clintons, Bushes, Romneys and Obamas. While fake populist Mike Hucksterbee wows credulous Republican rubes with his "Look at this negative ad about that horrible pro-abortion Mormon cultist and lying flip flopper I decided not to air," a real populist who speaks a language millions of ordinary Americans understand has endorsed Edwards. Yesterday John Nichols reported in The Nation why John Mellencamp is in Iowa supporting Edwards-- and why that's more important than the bevy of airheads who back Clinton, Obama, Giuliani and Huckabee.

Edwards "has waged a dramatically different campaign than Obama's feel-good effort. Where Obama has run the softest sort of campaign, Edwards is mounting a edgy, muscular effort that owes more to the memory of Paul Wellstone or the sensibilities of Ralph Nader than to the smooth triangulations of Bill Clinton or the not-so-smooth compromises of John Kerry. Edwards has fought his way back into contention with aggressively populist positions, anti-corporate rhetoric and a campaign that eschews glitz for grit. Necessarily, the former senator from North Carolina opts for a different sort of celebrity than the other contenders."
So it is that Mellencamp will come to Iowa Wednesday to close the Edwards campaign off with a "This Is Our Country" rally at the not-exactly-Hollywood Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines. (In case anyone is missing the point here, they will be distributing the tickets from the United Steelworkers Local 310 hall.)

Where Winfrey brought a big name but little in the way of a track record on the issues that are fundamental to the rural and small-town Iowans who will play a disproportional role in Thursday's caucuses, Mellencamp is more than just another celebrity taking a lap around the policy arena.

For a quarter century, the singer has been in the thick of the fight on behalf of the rural families he immortalized in the video for "Rain on the Scarecrow," his epic song about the farm crisis that buffeted Iowa and neighboring states in the 1980s and never really ended.

Mellencamp has not merely sung about withering small towns and farm foreclosures. As a organizer of Farm Aid, he has brought some of the biggest stars in the world to benefit concerts in Iowa and surrounding states, and he has helped to distribute the money raised at those events to organizations across Iowa.

Farm Aid is nonpartisan. It's not endorsing in this race. But Mellencamp is. The singer, who this year will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but whose music remains vital enough to have earned a 2008 Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, was lobbied for support by other campaigns, especially Clinton's. But he has a long relationship with Edwards. He has an even longer relationship with the issues that Edwards is talking about. Indeed, his credibility is grounded in the recognition that Mellencamp has repeatedly taken career-risking anti-war, anti-racist and anti-poverty stances that other celebrities of his stature tend to avoid.

What matters, of course, is the fact of that credibility -- and the fact that it is so closely tied to the farm and rural issues that have meaning even in the more urbanized regions of Iowa. That is why, if there is an endorsement that is going to have meaning with the people who drive down country roads to attend caucuses on what looks to be a very cold and unforgiving Thursday night, it is likely to be that of the guy who proudly sings that, "I was born in a small town..."

If you check our Blue America site here at DWT you'll see that we're concentrating our efforts on House and Senate seats again this year. To me the most important races looming, the ones I plan to concentrate on for the next couple of months are Democratic primaries that pit agents of change against insider hacks-- like agent of change Donna Edwards vs hack Al Wynn in Maryland, agent of change John Laesch vs a Blue Dog hack named Foster in Illinois, and agent of change Mark Pera vs hack Dan Lipinski. Those are the races we urge our readers to contribute to this month. But... if any of our readers happen to live in Iowa or New Hampshire, please think carefully about doing the right thing and voting for John Edwards.


Very much worth careful consideration for everyone in Iowa tomorrow. Also very worth paying attention to is Jane's on the scene coverage at FDL for the next few days. That's where I'm turning to for the straight story, not to the shallow hacks at CNN or the Washington Post.

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When I tell people I spent the better part of a year in Afghanistan they assume I was in the military. I'm a bit old for that-- not to mention temperamentally unfit-- and when I mention it was in 1969 and 1971 when I was there, they write it off to eccentricity. I don't purport to be an Afghanistan expert, but recent history will bear out my claims to know a lot more about the place than Bush, his ill-starred regime or the self-serving mooks and clueless imbeciles whose advice the U.S. government has followed.

When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan after 9/11-- a target Rumsfeld and Cheney felt was unworthy of the mighty U.S. military-- almost everyone thought it was, aside from being just, a good idea-- everyone, that is, except people who know their Afghan history... and even more especially, the people who could factor in their knowledge of Afghan history with their knowledge of the Bush Regime's dearth of leadership abilities and monumentally breathtaking incompetence and arrogance (a bad combination).

"Here the for will not meet us in pitched battle, as other armies we have dueled in the past, save under conditions of their choosing. His word is worthless. He routinely violates truces; he betrays the peace. When we defeat him, he will not accept our dominion. He comes back again and again. He hates us with a passion whose depth is exceeded only by his patience and his capacity for suffering. His boys and old men, even his women, fight us as combatants. They do not do this openly, however, but instead present themselves as innocents, even as victims, seeking our aid. When we show compassion, they strike with stealth."

An American politician? No. An American general. Guess again. A Russian general in the 80s? A British general far earlier? No... Alexander the Great addressing Macedonian troops fighting in Afghanistan more than 300 years before Christ. Well, it's actually author Steven Pressfield's version of Alexander in his brilliant and timely (2006) latest book on the history of the ancient world, The Afghan Campaign.
The kind speaks of will-- our own and the enemy's. The foe, he declares, has no chance of overcoming us in the field. But if he can sap our resolution by his doggedness, his relentlessness; if he can appall us by his acts of barbarity, he can, if not defeat us, then prevent us from defeating him. Our will must master the enemy's. Our resolve must out last his.

It's never gonna happen. The Macedonians couldn't pull it off-- and their leader was brilliant, heroic, charismatic and beloved, as well as mortal-- nor did the Russians or Brits or anyone else who tried, at least not for the long run. Bush's resolve and will? The American people's? Hillary Clinton's? Mullah Omar and his boys aren't going anywhere. How many Americans could point out Afghanistan on a map-- even with my clue in the title... even if their life depended on it?

The following is neither an American nor a Russian; it's Pressfield's Alexander rallying his people again:
The types of operations we are now compelled to wage; methods of pursuit, of capture and interrogation; the treatment of so-called non-combatants; all actions we take in this theater-- these are war too. Are you are warriors who must perform these acts.

Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it. Someone should have grilled Bush on what he learned in Yale, instead of speculating on whether he or Al Gore would have been more fun to have a beer with.

"The instrument of counterguerilla warfare is the massacre. Its object is terror, to make oneself an object of such dread that the foe fears to face you ever. This practice has worked for the army of Macedon across all Asia. It does not work here. The Afghan is so proud, so inured to privation, and so in love with liberty that he prefers death to capitulation."

Americans were once that in love with liberty as well-- which is how we kicked the British imperialist dogs out of our original 13 states. Now we're in love with comfort and safety and would exchange liberty for the chimera of security offered by avaricious political manipulators.


And we're not the only ones who have noticed it isn't going as swimmingly as the Bushites want you to think. In fact A.P. reports that "U.S. military deaths, suicide bombings and opium production hit record highs in 2007. Taliban militants killed more than 925 Afghan police, and large swaths of the country remain outside government control." The A.P. story sounds like it could have been written by a Greek scribe 2300 years ago.


A DWT reader offers an interesting discussion of the contrast between Democrats and Republicans in what they're willing to do to gain and hold power


I was delighted to find this comment added to the comments discussing my recent post about the late Harry Dent, the Nixon-era political operative who more than anyone else masterminded and oversaw the Republican "Southern strategy," and his late-in-life acknowledgment, after years of heated denials, that of course that strategy was based on racial animosity. Our anonymous commenter has such interesting things to say about the power dynamics of Repubs vs. Dems that I didn't way any DWT readers to miss them.--Ken

The Republicans' Southern Stategy has ALWAYS been based on white fear/resentment toward blacks. It is the basic glue of Southern Republicans. I have lived in the South and worked for Republican and Democratic politicians my entire career. Nothing has really changed. It is the unspoken but understood undercurrent of Southern politics which I often refer to as the "they are not with me" rule. They don't have to say it, everyone just knows. Go ask some white male redneck with a pickup and gunrack and he will tell you very clearly why he is a die-hard Republican despite not having health insurance, a job with benefits, a mobile home he can barely afford, etc. How many black faces do you see at NASCAR?

The thing that MIGHT change this year, is that the average voter outside the hard-core South is more threatened by Bush and his henchmen than Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, assorted rappers and carjackers all put together. Quite an accomplishment, really. Good job, Georgie boy.

The funniest thing I saw in this story about Dent, Thurman and the whole sorry bunch was the discussion about Nixon's Supreme Court nominees. Suffice it to say that one of his nominees (who didn't make it) proved to be of the Larry Craig School of Bathroom Etiquette. It was pretty funny watching this unfold, since the R's were scared to death he would be confirmed and then pull a Larry Craig/Mark Foley on them. Didn't happen, since the D's, as usual, did the right thing and stopped it before the sorry mess destroyed a man and his family (not that his family was unaware of all this).

I remember sitting in a meeting listening to the rather unsavory details, thinking that the D's should let it go and let the R's twist in the wind when everything hit the proverbial fan (or men's restroom in this case). The D's fundamental problem boils down to the following. The R's only care about retaining power at all costs and would never let a man's reputation stand in their way. The D's just don't think that way and always throw in the equation some bleeding heart comments about doing the decent and honorable thing. This is why the R's continually kick their butts. It's unfortunate, but that is the reality of the situation. Have the D's learned their lesson yet? We shall see.

The stakes have gotten much higher. Let's hope the D's have finally grown some balls.

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Quote of the day: Is it possible that NYT op-ed chump-in-chief Andrew Rosenthal has the odious Bill Kristol mixed up with the sublime Billy Crystal?


"The idea that The New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual - and somehow that’s a bad thing. How intolerant is that?"
--NYT Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal to

Rosenthal, it appears, knows Bill K. from his own days in the NYT's Washington bureau, when they seem to have done an inordinate amount of hobnobbing. Now you always have to worry about people who actually know transparently bogus people like our Bill and don't see through them, and sure enough, by the time Mr. Rosenthal is describing his Bill as "a serious, respected conservative intellectual," you know he's been totally hornswoggled.

It's like those people who claim to have known Chimpy the Prez before he made the big career change to defiling the White House, and tell us what a "nice guy" he is. No, he's not, and in all likelihood the reason theythink so is that whenever theyspoke to him, he mostly nodded in agreement and said things like, "You're so right." And they didn't even notice the blank glazed look in his eyes.

Just for the record, Andy, I can't imagine any rational acquaintance or detached observer describing Billy the K as "serious" OR "respected" OR "intellectual," and I like to think that no serious conservative would accept him into that fraternity either. All the guy is, and I mean all, is the son of a famous father who did a famous, even pioneering political crossover from left to right to become, as he's often referred to, "the godfather of neoconservatism," and has ever since shown himself to be a blithering idiot.

I suppose you could still call Irving Kristol an "intellectual"--just a very stupid and thuggish one. Little Billy has inherited (or acquired--I don't want to assume the primacy of nature or nurture here; the kid was probably doomed either way) the stupidity and thuggishness, with nothing to accompany them but his outsize lack of self-awareness. So no, Andy, we on the left aren't afraid of opposing views. We're just embarrassed for the NYT to see them lending space and credibility to a no-account, vicious pseudo-intellectual hooligan.

Note about the head on this post: I didn't meant to tar Billy Crystal with the suggestion that he's conservative, which as far as I know is far from the truth. But he is certainly worlds more serious, respected, and intellectual than Bill K., which makes him three-for-four on the Rosenthal Scale, where Bill K. finishes with an oh-fer.

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As Tom Tomorrow completes his review of the year 2007, Chimpy the Prez blithers incomprehensibly and Glenn Beck's head explodes (no harm, no foul)


Has it been only a week that we've been waiting for the thrill-packed conclusion of Tom Tomrrow's annual Year in Review? Well, "Part the Second" is here! [As always, click anywhere on it to enlarge.]

And if you missed "Part the First," you can find it here.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Correction: Sometimes you pull a date out of your head, and it's a real date, but not the one you were looking for


I've just gotten around to correcting it in my previous post, but for the record, Howie and I have known each other since 1961, not 1965. The date I erroneously pulled out of my head is the year we graduated high school, not the year we started, which is when we met.



It looks like the Thai military, the royalist politicians and the rest of the anti-Thakson coalition have figured out how to get around the huge PPP victory Thaksin's allies won at the polls last week. Their Election Commission is disqualifying more and more of the winning PPP members for cheating and vote buying. The minor parties, which the PPP (or the Democrats) need to form a government, say they are waiting to see how many PPP winners get disqualified before deciding which way to jump. So far 6 have been barred from participating in Parliament, shrinking the PPP's seats down to 227.

Yesterday I saw Bush on TV talking about how the terrorists are trying to undermine Pakistan's "democracy." I think if he ever comes to trial some prosecutor needs to ask him to define democracy or ask him to explain how military juntas allied with his government qualify as democracies. Another rigged election this last week: Kenya.

Anyway, according to this morning's Bangkok Post, the head of the Election Commission, Sutthipol Thaweechaikan said three more PPP winners-- Pornchai Srisuthiyothin, Rungroj Thongsri and Prakit Poldej-- are also "banned from political activities for one year and were subject to criminal charges along with their canvassers for making financial promises to those who cast their ballots for them." They were found guilty of having promised incentives to eligible voters in Buri Ram. A new election will be held there January 13 and the 3 will have to pay the costs of the election while not be allowed to be on the ballot.

There is speculation in Bangkok that the Election Commission may be able to disqualify enough PPP winners to throw the election towards a Democratic Party-led coalition, a sure premise for political instability, especially up north where Thaksin is still immensely popular.


Both the U.S. and hailand rate among the worst countries in the world when it comes to the government spying on its own ciizens.

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I'm really sorry I can't actually share any of Richard's lamb curry (or Ronnie's risotto), or the tarte tatin--all made in the bread oven--with you


This is my hosts' border collie Dot, in a photo I found on this computer from when she was a puppy. She's not a puppy anymore, but those eyes have become even more powerful. She knows how to get what she wants.

I just wrote a note to the now "Out of Burma (Myanmar)" Howie, and I've decided there's no reason why I shouldn't bore other people as well with this mundane trivia--on this, the 10th consecutive day I haven't gone to work (with two days yet to go!), a feat I don't believe I've accomplished since, well, the last time I was unemployed. (Even when I was employed, I recall managing it once or twice way back in that old century we used to have. What was it called? The 20th?)

This meagerly precedented retreat was occasioned by my company's use-it-or-lose-it policy with regard to our PTO days. Like many people, I tend not to use those precious days too quickly, for fear of not having them later on, when perhaps I'll need them--and perhaps out of the vain hope that maybe this year I'll go someplace. It never happens, and eventually each year I'm faced with having to use up the remaining days. This year there were so few work days left that I didn't even try to use up my sick days.

(I once foolishly mentioned "using up" my sick days to my supervisor--while I was engaged in working out a plan to use up my vacation days--and got back a withering reply about how sick days aren't something we "use up" but are something we are given in case of need. It served me right for mentioning it. This year I had to give up even attempting to use up my sick days.)

I spent most of the early days of this "vacation" (that is what they call it, isn't it?) watching TV, including at least five or six movies I'd never seen, several of which I remember thinking were pretty good. When I noticed that my present hosts (see below) have the 2008 edition of Leonard Maltin's movie guide (this is not a plug--I have never bought it and don't intend to, but that doesn't stop my from using other people's copies), and decided it would be interesting to look up some of those movies I watched, I was able to come up with just one actual title, plus one other picture whose content I recall vaguely (but not the title). I can't remember anything at all about any of the others.

As noted below, I'm writing this from bed (!) at my friends Richard and Leo's house in upstate New York. I have known them since about 1970, and Howie since 1961, making them my oldest friends in terms of continuous service. Which means that for some 40 years they kept hearing about each other, but hadn't actually met until this year.

Richard and Leo moved upstate a few years ago, to a lovely little converted old farmhouse, which soon showed structural problems that required serious reconstruction, which segued into a massive rebuilding and expansion project that is still ongoing. (Richard found a brilliant contractor, who seems able to build anything, and is a stickler for doing every job right. Naturally they've become great friends. In fact, we're going to Nick and Judy's annual holiday party tonight.) This is the first visit I've paid where the bread oven referred to below--a massive construction project in its own right, involving not just building the immense stone oven, but making sure that the house supports it and that it's all up to building code, which meant among other things installing a new chimney.

I began my e-mail to Howie with a reference to his recent departure from Myanmar:
So they let you out, eh? I imagine they were happy to see you go. [The picture? That's Dot again, at only four weeks, I think.]

I've been up at Richard's since Friday--will stay for New Year's Eve then return home Tuesday. Using up all my remaining vacation days for 2007, I've now had some 9-10 days of relative peace. The effects won't last more than a minute or two into Jan. 2, but gee whiz, it's been nice.

Richard now has a spare laptop working, with wireless Net access throughout the house via satellite, so after a couple of days of wrangling with the usual technical issues--an unfamiliar computer (especially the keyboard), getting connected, working in Windows (but at least in Firefox), having to use MS Word since Windows doesn't seem to have an easy-to-use utility like Notepad--I'm finally getting accustomed to it. In fact, I'm reading and writing now IN BED! At least while I was struggling with all the technical issues, I was getting blog stuff written, and now it's coming easier.

One of Richard's major construction projects--by itself it almost entailed rebuilding the whole of the existing portion of the house--was having a wood-burning bread oven built. It's a massive thing of stone, and it took ages to complete, but he's finally been using it, or rather LEARNING how to use it. He started firing it up when we got here Friday night (it takes almost a day to get up to temperature), then had it ready to use yesterday for a whole bunch of stuff. (It starts up at about 700 degrees and then gradually drops, so you have to plan a sequence of "projects" that take advantage of the gradually lowering heat.) He did a whole bunch of breads and rolls, and then a lamb curry, and a tarte tatin (one of his longtime specialties, but it's actually SUPPOSED to be baked in a wood-burning oven), and then when his friend Ronnie arrived (they met cooking together in a restaurant, and are still fun to watch cooking together in a kitchen) he was able to do his risotto in the bread oven. It was all pretty splendid--the risotto and the curry sauce tasted like they had been made for each other.

And to top it off, I've got a cold.

Happy new year!

And to everyone else out there.--Ken

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Now Donald and Mickey, there would be a real unity ticket!
(No, not Goofy! That would be just, well, you know.)

Politically, the Insider Establishment is being challenged and people respond in various ways. My favorite is when far right Democrats and a smattering of dispossessed mainstream conservatives get together to "save" America from... the radical left. (Hillary? Obama? Edwards?). What a joke! They want a "unity government." Bloomberg/Hagel, McCain/Lieberman, Vomit/Excrement... just what the country needs! No one should even be considered for the presidency who isn't seriously contemplating unifying Bush, Cheney and their top 200 henchmen with prison cells. But it probably won't surprise you to know that the Beltway's worst insider hack journalist is pushing something far different today. Sam Nunn, David Boren, Chuck Robb... all you need is Zell Miller and John Breaux and we can get the Confederacy started again.

With ole Fred Thompson waking up long enough to tell folks “I’m not particularly interested in running for president," and with "None of the Above" the clear winner of every Republican Party poll, there's a real worry that an out of control outsider like Huckabee or a deranged neo-fascist like Ron Paul could grab the GOP nomination away from a reliable-- albeit sure loser-- Insider like Romney, Giuliani or McCain. The way things look now, that's like ceding the presidency to Hillary Clinton-- and the Insiders in our country are even less eager to seer her in power than their equivalents in Pakistan were to see Bhutto take over. Ironically, neither Clinton nor Bhutto was an actual threat to the Insider Establishment.

The voice of the Republican Party-- Fox News-- has been doing what it could to marginalize Huckabee and Scott. In fact, yesterday Scott claimed Fox-- and, by implication, the GOP hierarchy-- is so scared of him that they're going to keep him out of the final debate leading up to New Hampshire.
"They are scared of me and don't want my message to get out, but it will. They are propagandists for this war and I challenge them on the notion that they are conservative."

Today's NY Times describes the last days before the Iowa caucuses as a Republican slaughter house, with all the pygmies at each other's throats. In the last weekend before the Iowa caucuses, the Republican presidential candidates are bloodying the field with a blizzard of negative attacks, showing the strains of a wide-open and unpredictable race." Huckabee has proven himself unqualified to all but those who think that George Bush is qualified-- and that could mean a win in Iowa Republican caucuses. He's given up on reminding everyone in the state that Romney is a Satan worshipping cultist and is concentrating on Romney as compulsive liar.

But if Huckabee is counting on every single far right loon and imbecile in the country to rally to his banner, he was in for a great big disappointment. The man on whose knee Mel Gibson learned to be a racist, a bigot, an anti-Semite and a right-wing extremist, dear ole crazy dad, has endorsed... well, Ron Paul of course.


I almost wish I was flying to Des Moines with Jane to watch these crazy, some would say anti-democratic, caucuses up close. But I'm still here in Bangkok monitoring the Thai elections and getting ready to write by big story about Thai massages (at the AroundTheWorldBlog). I'm fascinated to see John Edwards moving up in the polls. I always thought he would win on the second round but now it looks like he could do it in the first. And Huckabee... looks like even Iowa Republicans figured out what a phony this turd is!

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Saturday, December 29, 2007



In the 5th grade my friend Larry Goldstein had a real dullard of a canary named Perry. Perry wasn't much but he certainly could have been as effective a CNN Pentagon correspondent as Barbara Starr, who's an excruciating embarrassment even to CNN-style pretend-journalism. Within minutes of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Starr was on CNN worldwide-- and in Myanmar where I was at the time, real news channels are banned and only CNN is allowed, so I had no choice-- spewing out the official Bush Regime line about how the bogeyman al-Qaeda killed her, with subtle implications that they'll kill you too if you don't elect an Insider Establishment hack as the next president of the U.S. Was it al-Qaeda? Maybe. Was it Musharraf? Just as likely-- if not more so. He certainly had the most to lose by what was shaping up as a Pakistan People's Party (PPP) landslide in the elections. Aside from his job and his status, Musharraf stands to lose the source of the immense wealth he has managed to amass as head of state, as well as his freedom and even his life. (Recall that several former Pakistani heads of state came to violent ends, not least of whom was Benazir's father, who was hung by the military.)

Do I know Musharraf had her killed? Of course not-- no more than Perry, CNN, Barbara Starr and the Bush Regime know Osama bin-Laden had her killed. [Factoid: a recent poll in Pakistan showed that 48% of the people there support bin-Laden; not sure what the margin of error is on that number.] Musharraf's regime sure is acting like they killed her! Within hours of the murder they had the site hosed down, destroying potential forensic evidence. There was no autopsy and the government is now claiming she died by hitting her head on the sunroof-- and discounting the eye-witness reports of bullets entering the neck and bullets exiting from the back of the skull... and all the blood. Must have been one nasty bump! Doctors at the hospital where she was taken are being told to keep their mouths shut.

Pakistan isn't exactly a country built on laws. It was created as a Muslim state and has been a hellhole ever since. Recently the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was arrested for being independent and all the Supreme Court judges were replaced by the military dictatorship. You want to believe anything these people say-- even if their pals in the Bush Regime and the corporate media demand we do?

At the urging of the Bush Regime-- apparently not distracted from it's simultaneous efforts to destabilize the recently elected actual democratic government of Bolivia, possibly even plunging that country into civil war (a hallmark of Bush Regime foreign policy)-- Musharraf says he's going to have the "elections" staged on schedule. Bush's spokesman says anything else will be a victory for terrorism and bin-Laden. Problem is, the next 10 days is unlikely to offer up a viable opponent to... Musharraf.

Now look, I have barely a jot of admiration for Benazir Bhutto. She was as corrupt as Musharraf-- if less brutal-- as much an American puppet, another collaborator with Islamic fundamentalist maniacs and completely ineffective as a leader-- speaking a populist game while playing a hierarchical/aristocratic/oligarchical one. Still, I'm not rejoicing at her death-- which serves the interests of all the bad guys. And the ideas of her 19 year old son taking over as head of the PPP would be nearly as absurd as Jenna Bush taking over as head of the GOP.

I just got back to Bangkok from Yangon. Myanmar's junta appears-- at least to westerners-- as clownish and heavy-handed in their propaganda, which seeks to connect those who espouse democracy and basic human rights to evil foreign powers existentially threatening all that the Burmese hold sacred and dear. They are a danger to the nation! Some buy the line-- although, according to the last discarded election, not that many. The U.S. government propaganda is far smoother, far more subtle and far more sophisticated... and far more successful. Pakistani propaganda lies somewhere in between. Authoritarian governments by their nature are never to be believed about anything. They shouldn't be tolerated-- not for a moment. When Bush stole the 2000 election and American citizens let it pass with barely a whimper from any quarter, we earned all that was to come. I hope we learned something-- but I doubt it, which is why Pelosi is a criminal for taking impeachment off the table.


Musharraf says there is "no need" for an international investigation into the assassination of Bhutto. According to one of her aides, she was planning to expose Muharraf's plans to use the Pakistani version of the KGB to rig the elections. That might have been a motive, no? Notice how many "democracies" have taken to vote rigging since Bush stole the 2000 presidential? Does Pelosi?

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Coming soon to a large metropolitan op-ed page near you: the man who's proving you CAN TOO always be wrong


Bad news is bad news, right? You don't go shooting the messenger, right? And at the same time, if you happen not to know the bad news, that doesn't make it not so, right? You can always ignore it, or try, but in order to ignore it, you have to know what it is, don't you?

So, in case you hadn't heard, word coming out of a certain large, self-important metropolitan newspaper is that its latest op-ed coup, signing on as a weekly columnist starting, I don't know, sometime in 2008, is one of the dumbest, and surely one of the most obnoxious, persons on the planet . . .


I know that a number of online and other media types--including TV's Bill Moyers--have explored the question of the "price" paid by the media thugs and hitmen, pimps and whores who helped drive the U.S. over the cliff of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The answer, usually, is that not only did they pay no price, but they were in fact rewarded, often spectacularly, for their spectacular wrongness. (Many of those same investigators looked at the parallel case: the fate of media and other people who stuck their necks way out trying to avert the disaster. And in general, correspondingly, they have been punished.)

Bill Kristol's career seems to be about disproving the shop-worn canard that nobody can always be wrong. If anybody can do it, our Bill can.

Coming soon to a certain large, self-important metropolitan newspaper near you.

[click on it to enlarge]


Far right extremists like Kristol-- and Kristol in particular-- have attacked the credibility of the NY Times for years. Anything that deviates, even as occasionally as the Times does, from the official policy line of the regime, is not to be trusted. Now Kristol will be able to destroy their credibility from inside.--Howie

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Isn't it nice to know that in the end Harry Dent, architect of the GOP "Southern strategy," sort of took it back? Never mind, Harry!


I think we're all familiar with the "Southern strategy," the concept by which Republicans took full advantage of Southern white resentment at the civil rights revolution and the minimal empowerment of blacks. It's what got Richard Nixon the GOP nomination for president in 1968 and then put him in the White House, and it was then used to turn the South into the Republican bastion it remains to this day.

I think too that anyone with memories of the Nixon White House knows the name of Harry Dent (seen above in 1969 with President Nixon in the background, back to the camera, talking to Rep. George H. W. Bush), a key Nixon adviser. But I for one didn't appreciate how the South Carolinian Dent and the Southern strategy intersected. Harry Dent was, more or less, the architect and living embodiment of the Southern strategy.

In the New York Times Magazine's annual "The Lives They Lived" issue, out tomorrow, our friend Rick Perlstein has a terrific piece on Dent and his role as the chief conceptualist and enforcer of the Southern strategy--first as right-hand man to South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond (he was, it seems, the man who persuaded Strom to bolt the Democratic Party for the GOP in 1964 in support of Barry Goldwater's candidacy) and later as Nixon's "Southern strategist."

The funniest touch is Rick's tribute to Dent's "gift for soothing the egos of powerful men": "On the Nixon Oval Office tapes you can hear him agreeing with whatever the president says almost before he's through saying it." The rest isn't funny at all.

Of Dent's White House service, Rick writes:
Most of Dent's days were spent working the back channels, assuring Southerners that the administration would stonewall federal court desegregation decisions. After Nixon's first Supreme Court nominee, South Carolina's Clement Haynsworth, withdrew under a cloud of corruption allegations, the president ordered Dent to "find a good federal judge further South and further to the right." Dent obliged him with G. Harrold Carswell, who once campaigned for the Georgia State Legislature with the credo, "I believe that segregation of the races is proper and the ONLY practical and correct way of life in our states." Nixon, following Dent's example, argued that the opposition to Carswell's nomination was mere regional bigotry against the South. Liberals, not without reason, regarded Dent, Time reported, as "a Southern-fried Rasputin in the Nixon administration."

Dent was apparently touchy about charges that his career was built on race-baiting, cultivating and politically exploiting racial animus. He seems to have been capable of great indignation at such imputations. But in the end, in a twist that falls somewhere between touching and stomach-turning, "he came clean," as Rick puts it:

The lay preacher in Dent suffered from a guilty conscience. In his 1978 memoir, "The Prodigal South Returns to Power," Dent wrote that his politics were never racist. "The aim of the Southern strategy," he claimed, was merely "to have the South treated just like any other section of the U.S.A." Three years later, when he retired from law to preach the Gospel full time, he came clean. Yes, he admitted, of course he had exploited race to aggrandize Southern power. "When I look back," he said, "my biggest regret now is anything I did that stood in the way of the rights of black people."

Well, thanks for setting the record straight, Harry. I guess, sort of like the late Gilda Radner's SNL Emily Litella character and her addlepated "Never mind," that's supposed to make it all okay.

[P.S.: Would you believe that there's a Wikipedia entry for "Never mind"?]

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Today it's not just me fulminating about the Reverend Huckypoop's savage ignorance on immigration--I've shanghaied Pastor Dan as a guest fulminator


"The fact is the immigration issue is not so much about people coming to pick lettuce or make beds. It's about people that can come with a shoulder fired missile and can do serious damage and harm to us, and that's what we need to be worried about. And the unsecure borders that we have pose a real national security threat."
--"Mad Mike" Huckabee, ranting in Iowa, trying to show Republican single-issue psycho-voters that he isn't soft on immigration, no matter what those left-wing meanies say

"While privileged men work their games of power, it is the children of the poor and dispossessed who get stuck with the tab."
--Pastor Dan, in a Holy Innocents' Day post on Street Prophets

Poor Hucko was raving about 660 "illegal Pakistanis" crossing into the U.S., er, carrying shoulder-fired missiles, apparently. Of course what the Huckababy doesn't know about U.S. immigration can be summed up in a single word: everything. The missile-launching Pakistanis swimming across the Rio Grande exist nowhere except in the lurid psycho-instead-of-sexual fantasies of people like Minister Mike. (Don't you get the feeling sometimes that what wingnut loons need to knock the crap out of their brains is some decent, honest--i.e., non-Republican--sex?)

Of course the immigration issue is about people coming to pick lettuce and make beds and do all those other sub-minimum-wage jobs nobody else is willing to do. These people are so tightly woven into our economy that if they were suddenly deported en masse, in accord with the wishes of the loopiest anti-immigration loons, nobody would be more surprised than those loons to see hardly any sector of American life continue functioning intact.

At this point, since dishonesty and stupidity on this scale, especially unchallenged dishonesty and stupidity, make me kind of nuts, I'm going to turn the podium over to one of the sanest and most grounded people I know, Pastor Dan of the "Street Prophets" website, in this excerpt from a post he did for Holy Innocents' Day:

Just today, Mike Huckabee linked Benazir Bhutto's assassination to illegal immigration:
In his speech today, Huckabee said it should be of concern to Americans that 660 illegal Pakistanis crossed the American border last year.

One reporter asked if that was ethnic baiting?

"No, not at all. I'm just saying maybe that a lot of Americans who live in Pella, Iowa maybe look halfway around the world and say, how does that affect me?" said Huckabee.

"And the way it affects them is that we need to understand that violence and terror is significant when it happens in Pakistan, it's more significant when it happens in our own cities, and it happens if people can slip across our border and we have no control over it," he continued.

"The fact is the immigration issue is not so much about people coming to pick lettuce or make beds. It's about people that can come with a shoulder fired missile and can do serious damage and harm to us, and that's what we need to be worried about. And the unsecure borders that we have pose a real national security threat."
It's true that those 660 Pakistanis may have brought surface-to-air missiles with them. Given that most illegal immigrants overstay visas rather than swim the Rio Grande, it seems unlikely, but anything's possible.

Or they may have been like Joseph and Mary, frightened young parents fleeing a dangerous, chaotic situation to protect their lives and the life of their child. It may have even been that two of them were toting a new messiah with them.

Who knows? Anything's possible.

I want to be surprised that Huckabee, the Southern Baptist pastor, could miss such obvious symbolism. But I'm not, and for the very reason that underscores the importance of this lesson: while privileged men work their games of power, it is the children of the poor and dispossessed who get stuck with the tab.

If Mr. Huckabee were much of a Christian, he would have drawn the obvious line between anti-democratic violence in Pakistan and instability outside its borders. He could have articulated the faith claim that God has and does act decisively to establish peace and justice, and calls his disciples to do the same. He might even have said that stable, peaceful, democratic regimes around the globe are not only consistent with the Christian faith, but in the best interests of our own nation.

But apparently, that would have provoked a hostile response. He would have been deluged with accusations of being "soft" on illegal immigration and "not serious" on foreign policy. Both those charges seem to translate into being insufficiently bloodthirsty, or at the least not punitive enough to salve the hardened hearts of many Americans. Collateral damage be damned, we want to be safe at any cost, and if a few hundred brown children more or less get greased, well, it's their own fault for being born into such a f***ed-up part of the world. Which means, unfortunately, that Rachel will continue to weep for her children. Today - and every day - is Holy Innocents' day.


The last time I wrote about Itty-Bitty-Brained Mikie Huckababy, I was taken to task for having fun with his name and that of other famous far-right-wing sociopaths like Chimpy the Prez, the squatter in the White House who has spent seven years doing everything chimpanically possible to turn the U.S. into chimp poop.

Undoubtedly the complainer has finished reading the riot act to the lying scumbags of the Right-Wing Noise Machine like "OxyContin Rush" Limbaugh, who habitually traduce all manner of folk whose toes they aren't fit to lick.

I guess for me it comes down to a matter of respect. Lying, demagogic piles of filth like Chimpy the Prez and the Reverend Huckster have devoted their lives and diseased egos to trashing every shred of human sanity and decency.

Now we have the Reverend Huckypoop, of whom it could formerly be said that he had on occasion shown a glimmer of sanity on the immigration issue, showing that there are truly no depths of intellectual dishonesty and hate-mongering to which he won't sink if that's what he has to do to show that he's just as brain-damaged as any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls.


I hope it will be noted that I take care always to refer to ministers, even ones as debased as the Reverend Huckypoop, as the Reverend Huckypoop, rather than plain old Reverend Huckypoop. I was trained by a persnickety veteran copy editor to apprecdiate that "reverend" is a term of honor rather than a title. And so I extend the courtesy even to practitioners of the kind of junk Christianity peddled by Minister Huckster and his ilk, a bogus Christianity that would have shocked and appalled Jesus, who is ritually fetishized but has had his beliefs and teachings systematically expunged from the carnival.

My goodness, can you imagine how Jesus would have responded to the anti-immigrant hate-mongering being carried out even in his name? It would have left him with a lot of souls in need of saving.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Yes, it's another installment of "Know Your U.S. Public Servants": "Ambassador" Sam Fox shares the spirit of Christmas with 1,700 of his best buds


As you sort through your Christmas loot, perhaps coming to grips with the wreck of a life you’ve led, to be filled with such a sad lot of cheap, thoughtless gift-givers, this little item from our pal Al Kamen’s last Washington Post column before taking off on vacation last week may bring a tear to your eye.

You remember "Ambassador" Sam Fox, right? You know, the Swiftboaters’ sugar daddy, who was rewarded with the ambassadorship to Belgium (and if financing a band of sociopathic liars to help steal an election doesn’t earn a fellow an ambassadorship, what does?), only his nomination couldn't get out of Senate committee and so had to be end-arounded with a recess appointment? In case you missed it, here’s how the "ambassador" sent greetings from Belgium to his 1,700 nearest-and-dearest:
Merry Xmas From Belgium

GOP mega-contributor Sam Fox, the Swift boat backer who received a controversial recess appointment to be ambassador to Belgium, has arranged for special, one-kilo (2.2-pound) bars of superb, dark Belgian chocolate, stamped with the State Department seal, to be given as Christmas presents.

The Belgians are speculating that President Bush, a renowned chocophile who shopped for chocolates on trips to Belgium in 2001 and 2005, will most surely find one of these under the tree Christmas morning.

That bar would be part of a 1,700-bar order that Fox placed with famed Antwerp chocolatier Erik Goossens, whose company specializes in high-end chocolates. Most likely, several other White House aides and administration officials will be getting the prized chocolates.

"It was quite difficult to do," Goossens told us, requiring "special molds and special boxes." It was all "very fancy. We did our best." That should be more than delicious.

How much would all this cost? Goossens wouldn't touch that one, though he noted that his 52-year-old family company considered it a "prestige project." That probably means Fox got something of a break on the price. And this is a nearly two-ton purchase.

Let's do some cogitating. Goossens's chocolates sell for a little more than $50 a pound in this country. So each bar would cost about $110.

Perhaps Fox could make such a bulk purchase for $150,000. Maybe he will send some chocolate to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democrats, who are still furious at the White House for pulling back his nomination at the last minute and giving him the ambassadorship?


Did you hear about the fire in Vice President "Big Dick" Cheney's Eisenhower Executive Office Building lair a week ago Wednesday? "Naturally," says Al, it "has everyone in Washington speculating about its origin. Arson might seem a bit far-fetched to folks outside the Beltway, but it would not be the first time a small conflagration was planned by a White House official."

Which sends Al strolling down Memory Lane, to the crackpot plot hatched by G. Gordon Liddy to firebomb the Brookings Institution--
"as a diversion," he writes in his memoirs--to get into the security vault and steal Daniel Ellsberg's Vietnam War papers.

"We devised a plan that entailed buying a used but late-model fire engine of the kind used by the District of Columbia fire department," Liddy wrote, "and marking it appropriately." The plot included "uniforms for a squad of Cubans" and adequate "training so their performance would be believable."

The firebomb would go off at night "so as not to endanger lives needlessly," Liddy wrote. "The Cubans in the authentic-looking fire engine would 'respond' minutes [later] . . . hit the vault, and get themselves out in the confusion" as real fire equipment arrived. "The bogus engine would be abandoned at the scene."

The decision from higher-ups, Liddy wrote, "was swift. 'No.' Too expensive. The White House wouldn't spring for a fire engine." (Pikers!)
"And now," writes Al, "we have this curious, possibly successful fire Wednesday. So the obvious question is: What did they try to burn? [Emphasis added.] (We'll let the appropriate authorities find the perps.)"
Yes, it's the final In the Loop Contest for 2007. Simply guess what documents or other materials the arsonists were trying to destroy. Could it have been a secret legal opinion from Cheney Chief of Staff David Addington, giving the vice president the inherent authority to set the fire?

Send your entries to Winners will receive an In the Loop T-shirt. You must include your name and telephone number (home, work or cell) to be eligible. And of course, administration officials and Hill folks may opt to enter "on background." Deadline is Jan. 9. Don't delay.

Man, we'd love one of them T-shirts. If you've got any ideas that you'd like to have ripped off--I mean, that you'd like to share--just fire away.

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Reporters are starting to look into Rudy G's influence-peddling, which means that some reporters are starting to do their job


Yes, it's the famous Giuliani Partners, in 2004--with Rudy's right-hand guy Bernie (where else?) at his right, before moving on to his new career as a public embarrassment.

"It was all because of Giuliani. And he got to take the money."
--Ed Bisch, "whose son died of an OxyContin overdose," as reported by Barry Meier and Eric Lipton in today's New York Times, and who "said that he believed that [OxyContin maker] Purdue [Pharma] got a free pass for years thanks to Mr. Giuliani"

Okay, let's stipulate that the Mayor of 9/11 didn't do anything illegal, and possibly even--by prevailing standards--nothing egregiously unethical. There are even suggestions that in allowing his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, to take on Purdeu Pharma as a client, and in playing an active role himself in pushing back against a rising tide of public outcry and legal jeopardy, was acting honorably.
"Everything I did with Giuliani Partners has been totally legal, totally ethical," Mr. Giuliani recently told The Associated Press. "There's nothing for me to explain about it. We've acted honorably, decently."

In the OxyContin case, Mr. Giuliani's supporters suggest that as a cancer survivor himself, he was driven by a noble goal: to keep the company's proven pain reliever available to the widest circle of sufferers.

"I understand the pain and distress that accompanies illness," Mr. Giuliani said at the time. "I know that proper medications are necessary for people to treat their sickness and improve their quality of life."

But the NYT reporters, in their extended look at Giuliani Partners' and Giuliani's hugely profitable involvement with Purdue Pharma, "the company's first and longest-running client," suggest that it "provides a window into how he used his standing as an eminent lawyer, a Republican insider and a national celebrity to aid a controversial client and build a business fortune."
A former top federal prosecutor, Mr. Giuliani participated in two meetings between Purdue officials and the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the agency investigating the company. Giuliani Partners took on the job of monitoring security improvements at company facilities making OxyContin, an issue of concern to the D.E.A.

As a celebrity, Mr. Giuliani helped the company win several public relations battles, playing a role in an effort by Purdue to persuade an influential Pennsylvania congressman, Curt Weldon, not to blame it for OxyContin abuse.

Purdue turned to Giuliani Partners in 2002, six years into
what D.E.A. officials described as perhaps the most aggressive promotional campaign for a high-powered narcotic ever undertaken. It promoted the drug not only to pain specialists, but to family doctors with little experience in treating serious pain or recognizing drug abuse.

As a result of the expanded access, critics charged, OxyContin wound up in the high schools and street corners of rural America where curious teenagers crushed the pill, defeating the time-release formula, and ended up addicts, or in some cases, dead.

Complicating the company's problem was a rising tide of charges regarding not just its marketing of OxyContin but what the reporters describe as D.E.A.'s inspectors' finding of "widespread security and record-keeping problems at the company's manufacturing plants." Giuliani Partners "became involved in every aspect of the company's problem."

Of course, to deal with Purdue's plant security issues, Giuliani Partners could deploy its own Mr. Security, Bernie "Love Nest" Kerik, who of course hadn't yet become the public embarrassment we know and love. And Giuliani's own active participation--both publicly ("It is clear to us," Purdue lawyer Howard R. Udell was quoted as saying in a Giuliani Partners promotional brochure, "and we hope it is clear to the government, that Giuliani would not take an assignment with a company that he felt was acting in an improper way") and in the form of personal contact with government lawyers including D.E.A. chief Asa Hutchinson--seems to have been worth whatever Purdue paid, however much that was. "Giuliani Partners would not say how much Purdue had paid it, but one consultant to the drug maker estimated that Mr. Giuliani's firm had, in some years, earned several million dollars from the account."

The D.E.A. official in charge of the Purdue inquiry is said to have recommended a $20 million fine for the record-keeping problems. In 2004, two years into the Giuliani Partners pushback, the company paid a $2 million fine, naturally without admitting any wrongdoing.

About the one person the company couldn't neutralize was the fairly obscure U.S. attorney for western Virginia, John L. Brownlee.
For years, Mr. Brownlee and his small team had been building a case that the maker of the painkiller OxyContin had misled the public when it claimed the drug was less prone to abuse than competing narcotics. The drug was believed to be a factor in hundreds of deaths involving its abuse.

Clearly Giuliani and his clients expected Brownlee to be awed by Rudy's stature.
Between June and October 2006, Mr. Giuliani met or spoke with the prosecutor on six occasions. During those conversations, Mr. Giuliani was cordial but pointed in arguing against what he felt were flaws in the case.

Mr. Brownlee would not change course, though, even when the Purdue legal team appealed, unsuccessfully, at the 11th hour to his superiors at the Justice Department in Washington.

In October 2006, Mr. Brownlee told Mr. Giuliani and Purdue that he expected to ask for a grand jury indictment by the end of the month. Plea discussions ensued and Mr. Brownlee ultimately agreed that the three executives would not have to do jail time.

In the settlement, Purdue and the targeted executives agreed to pay $634.5 million, and the company "after years of denial and a high-profile public relations campaign, was forced to admit that it had misled doctors and patients.

Measured against Purdue's presumed billions in OxyContin profits, and especially in the absence of any jail time, a lot of people--including parents of children who had become casualties of OxyContin abuse--cried out that the company had bought its way out of much bigger trouble, with particular focus on the role of Giuliani, prompting this rather remarkable statement from U.S. District Court Judge James P. Jones: "It has been implied that because Mr. Giuliani is a prominent national politician, Purdue may have received a favorable deal from the government solely because of politics. I completely reject this claim."

Among those unpersuaded was Ed Bisch, whose son died of an OxyContin overdose. He's the fellow who said, "It was all because of Giuliani. And he got to take the money."

Indeed he did. As the Times reporters point out, growing attention has been paid recently to the clients serviced and services performed by Giuliani Partners:
Giuliani Partners carved out a lucrative niche in corporate consulting, crisis management and security.

In the process, Mr. Giuliani, a Brooklyn native whose legal career had largely been spent in government, became a corporate trouble-shooter with homes in the Hamptons and on the Upper East Side. According to financial disclosure forms filed in May, his net worth was more than $30 million.

Again, there may have been no illegal activity involved, and our Rudy insists there was nothing unethical either. But at the very least, it's unsavory. How many stories like the Purdue one await public airing? What it amounts to is the good old American practice of taking the money and running.

Well, maybe Rudy is entitled to cash in on his years of public service. It seems to me an appalling qualification for any future public office. Like the presidency, to pick a random example.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

In the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, maybe only one thing is clear: The mess in Pakistan has gotten messier


Buses burn in Hyderabad, in former Prime Minister Benazir
Bhutto's home province of Sindh, following her assassination

It's still unclear exactly how two-time Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was murdered today following a campaign rally stop in Rawalpindi. It appears that she was shot and her car was the target of a suicide bomber--after the car had pulled away

It's even less clear who is behind the assassination. If we set aside the possibility that President Pervez Musharraf--who is at once the U.S.'s best friend in Pakistan and no friend at all--was involved, and it's not at all clear that this possibility can be set aside, it seems likelier that the movers were supporters rather than opponents of the president. (U.S. policymakers have been trying to ram a Musharraf-Bhutto alliance down the throats of the Pakistanis.)

I've seen it suggested that Bhutto as a martyr may serve the democratic cause in Pakistan more than she ever did in her manipulative and corrupt political life. It's hard to see in the short term, though, where a meaningful pro-democracy movement might come from in Pakistan.

A few things seem relatively clear:

(1) The country was already both a human disaster zone and a powder keg--a nuclear powder keg at that.

(2) The mess is even worse today. The country was already in a state of emergency, and President Musharraf now has the perfect excuse clamp down even further. The scheduled election seems an all-but-certain casualty.

(3) It would be hard to imagine anyone less competent to have a positive influence on the situation than the babbling criminal psychopaths in charge of our foreign policy, who have done more to promote the cause of anti-American terrorism than Osama bin-Laden could ever have dreamed of. (Howie was just writing about the mess that the Bush regime has made of our policy toward Pakistan--dumping $5 billion in without achieving any result, unless you count deepening and hardening anti-Americanism.

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Update to Howie's post from Myanmar: NO MORE POSTS FROM MYANMAR


Merry Christmas everyone! I'm in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma). Internet access is next to impossible but people have ingenious ways of re-routing and a bunch of technological trickery to get around the junta's heavy-handed attempts to stifle communication with the outside world. This is a real Orwellian society; it's incredible. I hope to write about it when I get back but today I couldn't resist the temptation to write a very mild post at DownWithTyranny about the propaganda in the media. And that was the end of DownWithTyranny in Myanmar. They sure found it fast, decided they didn't like it and closed it down! I guess I should never have written about how the junta forced the rock band Iron Cross to change the name of their album from THE WILD WIND to more acceptable BREEZE.


Let's suppose you're a functionary working for a tinpot dictatorship, and you hear tell of a website called "DownWithTyranny." Do you:

(a) E-mail your friends saying, "Hmm, this sounds way cool"?

(b) Read some back posts, adding snarky comments reflecting the pro-tyrannical point of view?

(c) Block the shit out of the damn thing?



Wednesday, December 26, 2007



I hope to write a more extensive analysis of the situation I've been experiencing here in Myanmar once I leave the country. But this morning at breakfast I came across the local English language newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar. It mostly extols the beauty, virtue and joys of all things Burmese and contains page after page of grief from everywhere else in the world-- from multi-car pile-ups in America, earthquakes in Russia and Indonesia, floods in Sri Lanka, trade deficits in South Korea, to a bus accident in Bolivia and a shooting in a Birmingham pub.

When the government of Myanmar hired some Bush-connected lobbyists to spruce up their image in Washington, DC, they apparently decided against having them help out with the New Light. The back page of the paper this morning is a little heavy-handed, even for the Bushies. It features some interesting points it asks all Burmese to keep in mind:

* Skyful liars attempting to destroy nation
* BBC lying
* VOA deceiving
* RFA settling up hostilities
* Beware! Don't be bought by those ill-wishers

No BBC here-- but they don't seem to have any problem with CNN. And readers won't be shocked or surprised by the Orwellian outburst on the last page. In fact, on page 2, The New Light lists 4 points at the top of te page, called "People's Desire:"
* Oppose those relying on external elements, acting as stooges, building negative views
* Oppose those trying to jeopardize stability of the State and progress of the nation
* Oppose foreign nations interfering in internal affairs of the State
* Crush all internal and external; elements as the common enemy

Myanmar seems in many ways like a place time has left behind-- and that isn't all bad by any means. No McDonald's, no Starbucks, no globalization... Of course filling up tin cans from a pond for drinking water might not be your cup of tea. But it's what you need to do if you want a cup of tea... just a mile from The Strand, the most luxurious hotel in the country. But, like I said, I'll try to work up a little analysis of this once I'm out of Myanmar.


You've probably never heard of Nyi Pu-- he's one of the most popular blues singers in a country where blues is a natch. The government is so careful about mass media that when he tried releasing his new album, Everything's Gonna Be Good, they made him change the name to Everything is Good. A metal band, Iron Cross, was forced to change their album title from The Wild Wind to The Breeze. Our Founding Fathers knew what they were talking about when they put the 4th Amendment into the U.S. Constitution.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Special Christmas DWT News Quiz: Is it possible that, without knowing it, Mitt Romney didn't actually entirely lie?


"I saw the Patriots win the World Series--excuse me, the Super Bowl."
--former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, ripped out of context (it's actually even sillier in context, as you'll see)

Now it appears that then-Michigan Gov. George Romney actually did make what is described as a "surprise" appearance at a civil rights march with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Grosse Pointe. The Politico has reported finding two witnesses to such an event, in 1963.

Fortunately for Willard "Mitt" Romney's reputation as someone who wouldn't tell the truth if his life depended on it, this doesn't really undiscredit his lie about seeing his father march with Dr. King in his Richie Rich hometown.

I admit it strikes me as intriguing that Mitt has chosen to resurrect a fable that made sense when he was peddling himself in liberal Massachusetts. But now, when he's pandering his butt off to the right-wing GOP base as the man who put the "big" in "bigot"?

The party I feel bad for here is Mitt's dad. George Romney was a pretty decent guy--an authentically moderate Republican who indeed had a commitment to civil rights, of a sort that would get him drummed out of the party today.

You'd think that Mitt has enough experience by now being caught in lies that he would hve developed better skills at covering over it. Maybe the fault lies with the docile press that up to now really hasn't held him to account for his nonstop whoppers. Meanwhile, what exactly has Mitt been saying about his peculiar story? Better to ask: What hasn't he been saying?

And that in fact is the question for our special Christmas Day DWT News Quiz:

Which of the following things did Mitt Romney NOT say about seeing his father march with Martin Luther King Jr.? (Thanks to Sam Stein and his timeline on Huffington Post the other day.)

(a) "My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit."

(b) "Actually, I have two dads, in the sense of 'having,' and they used to play pinochle together, Martin Luther King Jr. and, you know, my other dad George, at our house in Grosse Pointe, and they both liked Sousa marches, my two dads, and sometimes when Dr. King was at the house they would go out in the streets and march around while humming 'The Stars and Stripes Forever,' and they let me watch. Many's the time that me and David Broder and Stephen Hess would just stand out on the porch with binoculars watching them."

(c) "I speak in the sense of I saw my dad become president of American Motors. I wasn't actually there when he became president of American Motors, but I saw him in the figurative sense of he marched with Martin Luther King."

(d) "My brother also remembers him marching with Martin Luther King, and so in that sense I saw him march with Martin Luther King."

(e) "You know, I'm an English literature major as well. When we say, 'I saw the Patriots win the World Series,' it doesn't necessarily mean you were there--excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it's a figure of speech."

(f) "If you look at the literature, if you look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of in the sense I've described. It's a figure of speech and very familiar, and it's very common. And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort."

(g) "The point we were making was that the issue of Mormonism had to do with its civil rights record. Did he walk with Martin Luther King? Today, I have no idea."


Yes indeed, our Mitt said nearly all of these things--all, in fact, but (b) and (g), and (b) is just silly, unworthy of appearing in a serious News Quiz.

Come to think of it, (g) is kind of silly too but is relevant because it was said by an actual person, Stephen Hess, now Senior Fellow Emeritus, Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He was explaining recently what he and now-legendary pundit David S. Broder might have meant when they wrote, in their 1967 book The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the GOP that George Romney "has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit." It doesn't appear that either of them could, or can, source the story. Very likely it was just some story they heard--and repeated.

And on that note, Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Special Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers' Bulletin: Rest easy, folks--many, many of those toys won't cause the kiddies serious permanent harm


I'm going to be trying to catch up on some items I've noted recently but never got around to writing about, starting with this special bulletin for DWT readers still frenziedly finishing work on your holiday shoppping list.

On Dec. 19, Public Citizen released an in-depth look at the current safety crisis in the U.S. toy market, "Santa's Sweatshop: Made in D.C., With Bad Trade Policy," prepared by its Global Trade Watch division. As division director Lori Wallach summed it up:
"Our children’s safety has been the price for soaring profits and CEO pay of major U.S. toy companies that have chosen to relocate their production to venues in which they cannot ensure the safety of their products.”

The Public Citizen press release about the report contains some eye-popping numbers:
In 1970, 86 percent of U.S. toys were produced domestically, employing 60,000 American workers; average U.S. toy firm profits were $50 million; CEOs made 58 times what their production workers made; and annual recalls never exceeded 12 per year. Today, 87 percent of U.S. toys are produced overseas, toy firm profits have soared 1,750 percent to $930 million annually, and CEOs make 500 times what the remaining 9,000 U.S. toy production workers make and more than 21,000 times the average 36 cent hourly wages earned by Chinese production workers, who produce 74 percent of U.S. toys while recalls have skyrocketed with 120 recalls in 2007 alone.

I was tempted to highlight some of those numbers, but then I realized I would have wound up boldfacing the entire paragraph. Which maybe wouldn't have been such a bad idea. Perhaps the most dramatic number, though, is 21,000, as in the multiple of U.S. toymaker CEO wages to those of their surrogate Chinese workers. Yes, twenty-one thousand!

Meanwhile, as the report points out, the ideologues and profiteers of the far right have enforced a loud "F.U." to America's children by effectively dismantling our product safety regulatory apparatus:
Despite non-stop media exposes about dangerous toy imports, little attention has been given to the underlying cause of the crisis. Nor have recent attempts by Congress to reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) focused on import safety. While imports have soared more than 400 percent since 1980, pro-corporate legislators pushed by anti-government ideologues have cut the CPSC’s budget by a third in real terms. Meanwhile, the agency that is supposed to ensure our nation’s product safety has authorities and a structure that are based on the 1970s premise that U.S. toys are produced domestically. Recent CPSC bills fail to remedy this mismatch.

“It is outrageous that in the midst of this imported toy safety scandal, Congress is producing legislation that fails to deal with import safety while simultaneously passing more trade pacts that promote offshoring of production and expose U.S. safety standards and inspection improvements to attack as illegal trade barriers,” said [Global Trade Watch division director Lori] Wallach.

Presumably the industry calculation is that not enough children will be killed or disabled to seriously shrink the U.S. toy market and eat into those soaring profits.