Saturday, October 13, 2007

Whoa! UK 43/ LSU 37

They announced UK/LSU scores all evening at the regional high school band competition tonight.

Several great things here.

It wasn't so much that the UK football team beat a no. 1 team (although they hadn't done that since 1964) but they won the kind of game they've been losing for decades. UK used to play top teams tough, but find ways to lose in the end.

Tonight, they found ways to win in the end.

Another thing is that Kentucky scored the last two touchdowns of regulation against an LSU defense that was supposed to be dominant. UK's strong on both lines and has lots of talent in the skill positions. It showed tonight.

Finally, the LSU win is a validating win. Arkansas and Louisville don't seem as strong now as they seemed when UK beat them. But LSU was coming off a win over Florida and has a win over South Carolina as well. LSU is the real deal and the win over LSU validates the previous wins over Arkansas and Louisville.

After the Louisville win, I wrote that UK was a 10-20 team. They look more like a top ten right now and playing Florida straight-up win or lose next week would confirm that.

Ann Coulter, Jewish People, Kittens

When the announcement for Ann Coulter's new book came out, I predicted that Ann would try to stimulate sales by putting in a picture of herself biting the head off a kitten.

Given that the kitten is still alive, the prediction would seem to be wrong.

Instead, Ann is trying to goose her sales by dabbling in anti-semitism. You can't help but admire the clever way that Coulter steers interviewer Donnie Deutsche toward her anti-semitic comments on "The Big Idea." When Deutsch asks Coulter about her ideal version of America, she describes the 2004 Republican convention (via African-American Political Pundit).
In her recollection of the convention, she said: "People were happy. They're Christian. They're tolerant. They defend America."
Of course, Republican delegates were also overwhelmingly white, straight, and very well off. By focusing on Christianity, however, Coulter leads Deutsche into his next question.
"It would be better if we were all Christian?"
Now, Coulter is off to the races. Having set up the question about not accepting other religions, Coulter answers with a simple "yes" as a way to focus the interview on her favorite terrain, i.e., the question of whether she's a bigot, in this case whether she's anti-semitic.
" When pressed by Deutsch regarding whether she wanted to be like "the head of Iran" and "wipe Israel off the Earth," Coulter stated: "No, we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. ... That's what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws."
Under more questioning about whether she was being "offensive," Coulter continued:

"No. I'm sorry. It is not intended to be. I don't think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to live up to all the laws. What Christians believe -- this is just a statement of what the New Testament is -- is that that's why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament."

It's almost needless to say, but Ann ends her anti-semitic statement by implying that it's really the Jews who are prejudiced. "We believe your testament, but you don't believe ours." I swear that sometimes I think there must be a Bigotry for Dummies book that instructs racists, homophobes, and religious zealots to end every statement with a claim that minorities are the ones who are the real bigots.

So, what's the meaning of it all?

Obviously, Ann Coulter is trying to increase sales of her book by being "outrageous" and the Anti-Defamation League gives her a hand by being "outraged":
"Coulter's remarks are outrageous, offensive and a throwback to the centuries-old teaching of contempt for Jews and Judaism.
But there are some interesting considerations there. For example, it looks to me like Ann Coulter--who is as good at political calculations as anybody--has decided that there's no chance for a Republican presidential candidate to get anywhere with the Jewish vote. So, why not start a controversy over anti-semitism if that's going to help her sell books. It's not like she would think that Jewish people are a group that actually matters to the Republican Party or the conservative movement.

That's the same calculation that goes into Coulter's gay-baiting of people like Bill Clinton and John Edwards. If Republicans had a shot at the gay vote, she probably wouldn't do it.

Beneath that calculation, there's another calculation that should disturb Jewish leaders much more than Coulter's "outrageous" comments. If Ann Coulter is going to get out this kind of casual anti-semitism, then it's quite likely that she doesn't think that the Jewish community is capable of anything more than impotent outrage.

If I were a Jewish leader, I'd be much more worried about the political calculation behind the insult than the insult itself.

Help! Ahab's After Me

My sister-in-law Cheryl just sent me some pictures from our August family reunion. My kids are cute, but I look like the great white whale at about 230 pounds. Time to lose.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sanchez on Incompetence and Other Bush Crimes

CRIMES OF NEGLIGENCE. Speaking about the war in Iraq, Ret. Gen. Richardo Sanchez, the U. S. military commander in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, claimed that Bush administration incompetence was responsible for the "nightmare" of the Iraq War.

If some of America’s political leaders were in the military they would have been relieved or court-martialed long ago, Sanchez told a conference of military journalists.

"Neglect and incompetence" by the National Security Council has led to an intractable situation in Iraq, the former commander of coalition forces in Iraq said.

As was the case with Jimmy Carter's assertion that the Bush administration has been engaged in torture, what Sanchez is saying about "neglect and incompetence" is obvious and has been for years. What's interesting is that Sanchez is characterizing the incompetence of the Bush team as "criminal negligence." Bush administration officials would have been "court-martialed" if they had been in the military because their "neglect and incompetence" resulted in the loss of so many American and Iraqi lives and the waste of so many military assets.

An indictment of Bush administration negligence would certainly be extremely long--including George Bush's going with his "gut" on invading Iraq, the idiotic belief that the occupation would be a piece of cake, the decision not to suppress the initial round of looting, the breaking up of the Iraqi Army, and the failure to evaluate the internal politics of Iraqi Shiites.

Of course, there was Abu Ghraib as well.

As matters of criminal negligence, all of these examples of neglect and incompetence constitute "high crimes and misdemeanors" that would be impeachable if the Democrats were strictly applying the constitution.

Sanchez doesn't mention that the Bush administration was also involved in a variety of crimes against humanity that would include the constant round-ups and illegal interrogations of "men of military age," the treatment of accused terrorists at Guantanamo, the policy of exporting accused terrorists to countries that engage in torture, and the use of practices like extreme sensory deprivation, psychological torture, and waterboarding in our own facilities.

It's already well-known that the Bush administration has been engaged in widespread violations of American and international law. By alluding to the criminal negligence in Bush administration conduct, Sanchez adds another dimension to the indictment of the Bush team.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Anger over Graeme Frost

I am generally not particularly affected by right-wing nastiness. It's disgusting and I try to highlight the disgusting aspects of right-wing smearing in my Smearkrieg series. But I generally look at right-wing smearing primarily as a tactic by political forces that I oppose. In the case of Graeme Frost, however, I find that I have a lot of anger over right-wing efforts to smear him and his family over the family's receiving S-CHIP assistance.

Thinking about why that is the case, I want to give my "friends" on the right an idea of why the smear didn't work and why it will get worse for them if the story goes on.

The bottom line is that the Frost case reminds me of Terry Schiavo.

What made most Americans disgusted with the conduct of the right in the Schiavo case was that they could imagine the Bill Frists and James Dobsons interfering with their cases if they were catastrophically injured. Would the religious right keep them alive as vegetables for ten years? Twenty? Forty? People were invested in the Schiavo case because they saw what the right was doing to Terry Schiavo as something that could happen to them.

The same is the case with Graeme Frost and his family. The two Frost kids were in a car accident, have had large-scale medical bills, and have benefitted from the S-CHIP program. What makes me angry about the efforts of Malkin and other conservative bloggers to smear the Frosts is that they would just as soon do the same thing to my family if we were in that situation and it suited their political purposes. My family makes more than twice the income of the Frost family but that could easily be wiped out if one of us was injured, became ill, or otherwise wasn't able to work. If my family received assistance as a result of these kinds of events, we could be just as subject to a right-wing inquisition as the Frosts.

And the thought of it pisses me off.

Obviously, it's dangerous for me to generalize from my own anger over the Frost smear to the country as a whole.

But I think that a lot of the reason that the right-wing is losing ground in the Frost controversy is that most Americans have a sense that the right could treat them the same way.

And they don't like it.

More Than Mean-Spirited

I don't think that Hillary Clinton quite gets it right when she describes the right-wing attack machine as "mean-spirited."
“President Bush and the Republicans should lay off Graeme Frost and all the other children who are getting health care . . . I thought I’d seen the depth of political partisanship and mean spiritedness but the Republicans and their right wing allies have really taken the cake this time."

Of course, it's not like the term "mean-spirited" does not have an honorable lineage in relation to the Republicans. Kentucky Democrats often refer to Republicans as "mean-spirited" Republicans.

And "mean-spirited" might still be a good term for regular Republicans.

But "mean-spirited" does not adequately capture the sick viciousness of the right-wing attack apparatus. In fact, what the right's been doing to the Frost family isn't unusual or distinctive at all. It's the same thing they did to 9-11 widows, Michael Schiavo, John Kerry, Max Cleland, gay people, the Alabama Democrats Rove attacked as pedophiles, and the impoverished black women the right used to stigmatize as "welfare queens.

In each case, the smear artists of the right sensed a smearing opportunity and moved in for the kill as if smearing was the only thing that made their lives worthwhile. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case for a lot of them. They smear, therefore they exist.

That's not mean-spiritedness, it's a particularly repulsive kind of sadism that the right confuses with toughness. As a type of politics, it's best characterized as the "politics of repulsiveness."

Carter Being Obvious Again

Jimmy Carter stated another obvious truth in an interview with CNN.

In an interview with CNN, President Carter said the U.S. is undoubtedly torturing prisoners in violation of international law. “I don’t think it. I know it,” Carter told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Unfortunately, we've gotten to the point where statements by major Democratic figures about the obvious truth concerning the Bush administration are rare . . .

And praiseworthy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jimmy Carter: Master of the Obvious

"Master of the Obvious" might be an understatement in relation to Jimmy Carter's comments on Dick Cheney for Reuters today.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday denounced Vice President Dick Cheney as a "disaster" for the country . . . who has had an excessive influence in setting foreign policy . . . He's a militant who avoided any service of his own in the military and he has been most forceful in the last 10 years or more in fulfilling some of his more ancient commitments that the United States has a right to inject its power through military means in other parts of the world.

In many ways, Dick Cheney is a tragic figure. Cheney waited thirty years for his opportunity to enact his vision of unlimited presidential power and his ideas turned out to be just as disastrous now as they were during the Nixon years.

However, there really is little doubt that "Cheneyism" has been a disaster for the United States and its interests in the world--a disaster that will take a long time to recover from.

Folks on the right might argue that it's improper for Carter as an ex-president to criticize a sitting vice-president so harshly, especially during a time of war.

But ex-presidents Carter, Bill Clinton, and even George Bush I should have a duty to speak out more concerning the abuses and disasters of the current Bush administration, not less.

As I've observed many times in the past, the Bush administration is no longer a credible government and the United States really needs people to step into the void and speak with the (informal) authority of the public concerning issues of public importance.

I initially thought that Nancy Pelosi might be able to serve as a spokesperson for the public at large. But she wasn't willing to risk the next election to serve the public now.

Ultimately, it looks like all the major figures outside the Bush administration are going to sacrifice the public welfare for short-term political manuevering. As a result, Jimmy Carter's willingness to speak the American public's revulsion toward Dick Cheney and the Bush administration is a welcome development.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Smearkrieg No. 10--The Joy of Shooting Bambi

The dispute over the right-wing's attempt to smear Graeme Frost, the 13 year old boy who delivered the Democratic Party radio address on Bush's SCHIP veto a couple of weeks ago, have been all over the internet.

But you have to love this comment by right-wing blogger/Fox commentator Michelle Malkin.
“When a family and Democrat political leaders drag a child down to Washington at 6 in the morning to read a script written by Senate Democrat staffers on a crusade to overturn a presidential veto, someone might have questions about the family’s claims. The newspapers don’t want to do their jobs. The vacuum is being filled. If you don’t want questions, don’t foist these children onto the public stage. Fight your battles like adults and stop hiding behind youngsters dragging around red wagons filled with your talking points.”

For Malkin and the other smear artists of the right, it's all about the joy of shooting Bambi, of taking a 13 year old kid and pumping him full of lead, humiliating him within an inch of his life, or at the very least stealing his lunch money.

She loves it.

The more innocent or worthy the representative of a liberal position, the more joy that people like Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter take in smearing them.

If you're an innocent kid like Graeme Frost, they'll attack your family. If you're a war hero like John Kerry or a Marine colonel like John Murtha, they'll get extra big kicks out of tearing into your military record.

That's why Michelle Malkin blames Democratic Senate staffers for her smear campaign. If they're going to put a kid out there, they should know that Malkin will take extra pleasure in smearing him. The Democrats just should have known.

What a great country!

Lucky the Virgin Mary wasn't a liberal. The smear-artists of the right would have asked a lot of tough questions about one of her sons and there would be no "Christian traditions" to defend.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Unwelcome Return of the Liberal Hawks

One unfortunate consequence of the stabilization in Anbar province is the return of "liberal hawks" like Michael O'Hanlon and Richard Cohen to the editorial pages of major newspapers. Here's Richard Cohen in the International Herald Tribune:
But I suppose the one thing that astonishes me above all is the apparent CERTAINTY of almost everyone about Iraq. Here’s a monster called Saddam Hussein (no “annoying thug” as L.K. Burnett suggests in comment 45), with a Stalinist personality cult, heading a Baath party that borrowed heavily from Nazi
totalitarian organization, sitting for decades at the head of a country he’s turned into a nighmarish realm of terror, populated by a circles within circles of cowed informants who make the Stasi look like a plaything.

Cohen doesn't seem to understand that "almost everyone" (outside the neo-con dead enders) is certain that the invasion of Iraq failed because we actually made things even worse.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Changing Standards for Landslides

Way back in the day, the right was crowing about what a big win Bush got in 2004 when he beat John Kerry by three points.

But times have changed.

Republicans are increasingly expecting to lose the presidential election in 2008 and lose big.

But they're also raising the rhetorical standards for landslides. Bush's three point win in 2004 was practically a landslide but even a fourteen point Hillary win could be easily dismissed.

According to Rep. Tom Cole, the chairman of the Congressional Republican Campaign Committee (via David Broder):
"That is no landslide election . . . The Republican nominee, whoever he is, wins at least 43, 44, 45 percent against her, and that gives us a base for congressional races.

I wouldn't dispute that the Republicans will still have a base in the South, Plains States, and rural areas after 2008. It's not like they're going to dry up and die.

But if Hillary wins 57-43, that will be a landslide.

That's also my very preliminary prediction for the final outcome.

In Addition: Glenn Greenwald brutalizes Broder for reporting Cole's views as though they were actually true.

Fred: The Legacy Candidate

There are a few things that are clear about the 2008 campaign even in the early stages. One thing coming into focus is that Fred Thompson is running as the Bush legacy candidate.

Like the Bush campaigns of 2000 and 2004, Fred Thompson expects to get a lot of credit just for getting his lines straight. And here's some Fred Thompson lines from a positive review on National Review Online.

‘a government powerful enough to give anything to ya is powerful enough to take away everything you have.’

“I hear a lot of folks talking about ‘lost revenue’ when it comes to tax cuts. When you have tax cuts, the revenue’s not lost. The taxpayer knows where it is, it’s in his pocket!”

“We are locked into a mandatory spending cycle that’s going to bankrupt the country if we continue on the same pattern.”

“We are blessed to be living longer than ever before, and /we are blessed with the best health care in the world in this country. But we are turning our blessings into a curse for the next generation.”

It doesn't take any policy expertise or experience to deliver these kinds of lines. A guy doesn't have to his homework to get it right. In fact, too much knowledge could mess him up. A guy like Thompson can be out of the loop for ten or fifteen years and still get it right.

And that's exactly the point. Thompson's core constituency is people who are suspicious of too much knowledge, too much work, and too much involvement in politics.

Just like George Bush, "hard-working" Fred gives them what they want.