Saturday, December 10, 2005

Rest in peace, Richard.

Comedian Richard Pryor dies at 65

Actor and comic known for caustic wit suffers apparent heart attack


On the eve of the Iraqi "election"....

We've finally arrived!

To the fine folks who write here at Ye Olde Blog, we have arrived--we are officially on the "Dumb Guy" mailing list! We finally got (a version of) the Nigerian bank letter!

I am Mr. T. smith , deputy senior regional manager at Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance in Yorkshire.I have urgent and very confidential business proposition for you. On June 6, 2000, Mr. Barry Kelly made a numbered time (Fixed) Deposit for forty-eight months, (being four years) valued at US$40,000,000.00, forty Million, Dollars) in my branch.....and so on.

I know, I expected to be quite a well-endowed male able to please her all night long, and have a degree from a presigious unaccredited university to boot by now, but that was all personal. Now the blog is going to get $40 million!!!!

I never know how to feel about these things. I don't want to see people taken, but on the other hand, I do have a firm and abiding belief that stupidity should be painful. If you think a pill advertised in your email will turn your sprout into the Jolly Green Giant, you deserve to lose a hundred bucks. If you believe that someone overseas is going to wire you millions, you deserve to be cleaned out. If you paid for a "degree" from a "presitious unaccredited university" or cut a check to the International Star Registry to "name a star" for you without realizing that you just paid some loser sitting in his parents' basement with a graphics program and a color printer, you are good for a chuckle and deserve the worthless poster you get. It is also foolish to waste scarce law enforcement resources on these scams when a little common sense would stop this nonsense.

I will finish this thought later, but I need to forward some emails so Starbucks will send me free coffee.

America the Incurious

In an interview with the Boston Globe, former 60 minutes anchor Mike Wallace says that this is what he would ask the president if given the chance:
What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?

Incurious. That's a bit of a funny word - not used particularly often. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines it as
Lacking intellectual inquisitiveness or natural curiosity; uninterested.

As I think about that, since I do not lack curiosity, I wonder if that's not perhaps a remarkably accurate word for the condition that the wingnuts want both their leaders and their followers in. Rove and DeLay and the like don't want a President who pays attention and is inquisitive - that's not his job in their model. They want someone who will be a mouthpice, do what he's told, and really isn't interested in what's going on. Chimpy McPetGoat fits that model perfectly. He is one of the least intellectually engaged people I've ever seen - there really is no there there.

And I think (no offense to Schmidlap - not that he'll notice, he's busy pissing off the wingnuts again) that it's a better word than "stupid" for the teeming masses, yearning to never have to use their brains. Of course, those masses would never understand such a word, but that's really the point. The curious person learns about things different from what they already know, because there's a perceived value to them in the investigation - this leads to an intellectual journey which involves challenging one's beliefs, trying to see multiple points of view, and developing a deeper and more complex understanding of the world and of themselves. The incurious person disdains all that (sorry to the incurious, I know I'm using some polysyllabic words here) and lives in a world where they rely on someone (Rove, Dobson, etc) to tell them what to do and think, where they don't question their leaders, where Pete's cognitive dissonance questions never enter their mind, where it makes sense to vote against their self interest, and where they feel comfortable using myth and volume to replace science and reason. They have no problem with suspending a bilingual student for speaking Spanish instead of English in high school, because they lack the curiosity to understand cultures other than their own, and they don't want anyone to force them to deal with the unknown.

I'll close here with an answer to Mr. Wallace's final question - yes, I do believe that incuriosity has quite a lot to do with the reason the country is so [expletive]'d up.

Friday, December 09, 2005


So I hear that racist Christofascist wingnut Bill Bennett wants us all to dip our fingers in purple ink to show our solidarity with the Iraqi "voters" establishing an Islamic republic by force of U.S. arms...

She puzzled over this for some time, but at last a bright thought struck her. `Why, it's a looking-glass book, of course! And if I hold it up to a glass, the words will all go the right way again."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A note from Campus Progress

I received an email from Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress, that I would like to share:


I read your insightful posts about Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court on The Thinker. I wanted to bring to your attention a CampusProgress--AmericanProgress campaign we just launched called Alito’s America. Check out the website, The campaign includes a pretty provocative TV ad and tools for people to get involved in stopping Alito. Thought it might be of interest to you and your readers.

They are a solid organization worthy of your attention.

Now that's a list I'd like to see

From Yahoo! News:

US terror watchlist 80,000 names long
Thu Dec 8,10:59 AM ET
STOCKHOLM (AFP) - A watchlist of possible terror suspects distributed by the US government to airlines for pre-flight checks is now 80,000 names long, a Swedish newspaper reported, citing European air industry sources.

The classified list, which carried just 16 names before the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington had grown to 1,000 by the end of 2001, to 40,000 a year later and now stands at 80,000, Svenska Dagbladet reported.

Airlines must check each passenger flying to a US destination against the list, and contact the US Department of Homeland Security for further investigation if there is a matching name.

The list contains a strict "no fly" section, which requires airline staff to contact police, and a "selectee" section, which requires passengers to undergo further security checks.

Some 2,000 passengers checking in at Stockholm's Arlanda airport have had to be cleared with the US authorities because of name matches on the "selectee" list this year, although none was prevented from boarding, Svenska Dagbladet said.

Given random chance, any person you know has about a 1 in 75,000 chance of being on that list, if we consider the entire world population.

Extra, extra!

Another Hannity gem

Dr. Magoo often questions my sanity for listening to Hannity (I'm a poet but didn't know it!) but the unintended humor on this idiotfest is amazing. Last night, Sean informed us that God gave us Ronald Reagan to defeat "communism" and God has now delivered GWB to us to defeat the scourge of terror. If Sean's right, God has about as much eye for talent as the Detroit Lions!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

If the Democratic Party nominates Hillary in 2008, I'm voting 3rd party

We've known, ever since her defection from her "lifelong" fandom of the Cubs to the Yankees to coincide with running for the Senate from NY State, that she has exactly zero credibility and nothing resembling a spine.

But, as's War Room reports, she's gotten even limper and more pathetic.

"The senator from New York can't find her way to a clear position on Iraq; Clinton said over the weekend, "I disagree with those who believe we should pull out, and I disagree with those who believe we should stay without end." "

So we shouldn't leave, but we shouldn't stay forever? Gee, thanks.

Not only that, but in her deep and profound wisdom, "Clinton has agreed to co-sponsor a bill by Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett that would make it illegal for anyone to intimidate any other person by burning the flag, to burn someone else's flag or to desecrate the flag on federal property. At the same time, however, Clinton continues to oppose efforts to amend the Constitution to prohibit flag burning. Without such an amendment, it's not at all clear that Bennett's proposal would survive the inevitable trip to the Supreme Court."

I haven't written much on flag burning here, because, like the Christmas thing, it's a crap issue put forth by the Republicans to distract us from their lies, theivery, and murder when there's no hot blonde chicks missing, but for her to even discuss this shows an utter lack of anything even approaching the evolutionary process of something that could one day turn into the primitive foundations of a cerebral cortex, given the right conditions and the interference of two or three deities or perhaps demigods.

Mommy, the first lady made Baby Jesus cry

From's War Room:

Yesterday afternoon, First Lady Laura Bush popped into Pottery Barn in Georgetown, where she was overheard telling shoppers, "Happy holidays."

Your orders

We have previously given the marching orders to Dr. Magoo: Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.

Of course, we are still conspiring with the left-wing media, the Trilateral Commission and international Jewry to subvert and destroy Christmas. But I must advise that we have Santa Claus in custody:

and will turn him over to Dick Cheney unless our demands are met.

Waiting for my orders

I'm confused. According to the right, we're engaged in a major war to ruin Christmas. They even have graphics and everything:

And I'm clearly a liberal. I made the decision to donate money to a couple of liberal causes, and since then, I'm on every mailing and phone list known to man. I get solicitations from MoveOn, John Kerry, Howard Dean, and half the Democrats on the planet for money or time to help protest the war, send Karl Rove to jail, send Tom DeLay to jail, fight the Patriot Act, oppose Supreme Court nominations, prevent torture, change Congress in 2006 - a whole swath of things, really. But not once have I gotten my marching orders for the war on Christmas - what did I do wrong?

Let me remove that plank from my eye...

Bushes' 'holiday' cards ring hollow for some.

It is wonderful to see the whackjobs turn on the American theocrat!!

By the way, I must be doing something right. I received a hand-signed Christmas card from Jimmy Carter.

God bless you, sir!

Cognitive Dissonance, Redux

President Chimpy spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations. Contrary to CFR custom, but typical of President Bonzo, he doesn't take questions. He gives us some gems:

Today we mark the anniversary of a fateful day in American history. On December the (who says December THE 7th???) 7th, 1941, our peaceful nation awoke to an attack plotted in secret, and executed without mercy. The strike on Pearl Harbor was the start of a long war (less than four years for a "long" war--how long will "Operation Iraqi Clusterfuck" last???" for America -- a massive struggle against those who attacked us (if only Anne Sullivan could hold President Hellen Keller's hand under the pump. George, did you hear what you just said,
a massive struggle against those who attacked us???? Waa...waaa..You started a "massive struggle" against someone who DIDN'T attack us!!!! Waah waah..nope, Helen W. Bush isn't getting it...)

On September the 11th, 2001, (again, what is with the "the??" but nice cheesy exploitation of 9/11) our nation awoke to another sudden attack. In the space of just 102 minutes, more Americans were killed than we lost at Pearl Harbor. Like generations before us, we accepted new responsibilities, and we confronted new dangers with firm resolve. (Let's attack a completely unrelated country!!!!!!!)

Like generations before us, we're taking the fight to those who attacked us (and those who didn't)

The terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity (they did? I must have missed that memo. And they are making war on "humanity?" Terror attacks in Canada, Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Mexico, Guatemala, Latvia--oh the humanity!...oh wait, never mind.)

Last week at the Naval Academy, I gave the first in a series of speeches outlining our strategy for victory in Iraq. I explained that our strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. (sounds like a GREAT idea! When will you start this whole "understanding the enemy" thing???) The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists. (Alex, may I have new stupid words for $100?)

The terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda are the smallest but most lethal group. Many are foreigners coming to fight freedom's progress in Iraq. They are led by a brutal terrorist named Zarqawi -- al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq (every source says that the vast majority of "fighters" are native, and the
al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq is a flat-out lie. Zarqawi is a thug and the Bushies fell for his self-aggrandizing "al-Qaeda in Iraq" crap to tie Iraq to Bin Laden.)

The terro
rists' stated objective is to drive U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq and to gain control of the country. They would then use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America, overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East, and try to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain.

Hmm...there was no opportunity for "terrorists" to occupy Iraq before your boneheaded invasion, and your suggestion that these nebulous "terrorists" would
"overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East, and try to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain is just comical."

The terrorists in Iraq share the same ideology as the terrorists who struck the United States on September the 11th, (
9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11) If we're not fighting and destroying the enemy in Iraq, they would not be leading the quiet lives of good citizens. They would be plotting and killing our citizens -- across the world and within our own borders. By fighting the terrorists in Iraq, we are confronting a direct threat to the American people -- and we will accept nothing less than complete victory. (talking point bingo--fight them there, not here! BINGO!!!!!)

We're pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Iraq. Last week, my administration released another screen for my sorry ass to stand in front of called the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq."

Amazing. Read the whole sack o' crap here.

A plug for progressive radio

You may have noticed I have a bizarre sense of humor, described by many as "not funny," but I have funny for you. In Chicago, Saturday mornings on AM 850 while going to the hardware store, or online, check out the Stephanie Miller show. She is hilarious (and the daughter of Goldwater's running mate????) and has a great voice guy with drop dead impressions.

She is a hoot.

A bad joke

I rarely do this, but:

After numerous rounds of "We don't even know if Osama is still alive," Osama himself decided to send George Bush a letter in his own handwriting to let him know he was still in the game. Bush opened the letter and it appeared to contain a single line of coded message:

370HSSV 0773H

Bush was baffled, so he e-mailed it to Condi Rice. Condi and her aides had no clue either, so they sent it to the FBI. No one could solve it at the FBI so it went to the CIA, then to the NSA. With no clue as to its meaning they eventually asked Britain's MI-6 for help. Within a minute MI-6 cabled the White House with this reply:

"Tell the President he's holding the message upside down."

More from the "Pants on Fire" File

I borrowed this from a very entertaining blog I just discovered, Swerve Left:

`I keep thinking that Shrub is going to tell the truth about something at some point just to keep us off guard, but I may be mistaken. Think Progress had the following on one of those gaping holes in the latest propaganda blitz:
Yesterday, President Bush claimed that Iraqi security forces “primarily led” the assault on the city of Tal Afar. Bush highlighted it as an “especially clear” sign of the progress Iraq security forces were making in Iraq.

The progress of the Iraqi forces is especially clear when the recent anti-terrorist operations in Tal Afar are compared with last year’s assault in Fallujah. In Fallujah, the assault was led by nine coalition battalions made up primarily of United States Marines and Army — with six Iraqi battalions supporting them…This year in Tal Afar, it was a very different story. The assault was primarily led by Iraqi security forces — 11 Iraqi battalions, backed by five coalition battalions providing support.

TIME Magazine reporter Michael Ware, who is embedded with the U.S. troops in Iraq who participated in the Tal Afar battle, appeared on Anderson Cooper yesterday. He said Bush’s description was completely untrue:

I was in that battle from the very beginning to the very end. I was with Iraqi units right there on the front line as they were battling with al Qaeda. They were not leading. They were being led by the U.S. green beret special forces with them.'

Here is a picture of the president during his speech:

Cognitive Dissonance

"Cognitive dissonance" is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. It therefore occurs when there is a need to accommodate new ideas, and it may be necessary for it to develop so that we become "open" to them...... if someone is called upon to learn something which contradicts what they already think they know, particularly if they are committed to that prior knowledge, they are likely to resist the new learning.

See example below:

Deja vu all over again

Excerpts From President Nixon's Speech on "Vietnamization," November 3, 1969.

I believe that one of the reasons for the deep division about Vietnam is that many Americans have lost confidence in what their Government has told them about our policy. The American people cannot and should not be asked to support a policy which involves the overriding issues of war and peace unless they know the truth about that policy.

In January I could only conclude that the precipitate withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam would be a disaster not only for South Vietnam but for the United States and for the cause of peace….For the future of peace, precipitate withdrawal would thus be a disaster of immense magnitude. A nation cannot remain great if it betrays its allies and lets down its friends. Our defeat and humiliation in South Vietnam without question would promote recklessness in the councils of those great powers who have not yet abandoned their goals of world conquest. This would spark violence wherever our commitments help maintain the peace in the Middle East, in Berlin, eventually even in the Western Hemisphere. Ultimately, this would cost more lives. It would not bring peace; it would bring more war.

The South Vietnamese have continued to gain in strength. As a result they have been able to take over combat responsibilities from our American troops. Let me now turn to our program for the future. We have adopted a plan which we have worked out in cooperation with the South Vietnamese for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat ground forces, and their replacement by South Vietnamese forces on an orderly scheduled timetable. This withdrawal will be made from strength and not from weakness. As South Vietnamese forces become stronger, the rate of American withdrawal can become greater.

I have not and do not intend to announce the timetable for our program. And there are obvious reasons for this decision which I am sure you will understand.
In speaking of the consequences of a precipitate withdrawal, I mentioned that our allies would lose confidence in America. Far more dangerous, we would lose confidence in ourselves.

Oh, the immediate reaction would be a sense of relief that our men were coming home. But as we saw the consequences of what we had done, inevitable remorse and divisive recrimination would scar our spirit as a people. We have faced other crises in our history and have become stronger by rejecting the easy way out and taking the right way in meeting our challenges. Our greatness as a nation has been our capacity to do what had to be done when we knew our course was right.

I recognize that some of my fellow citizens disagree with the plan for peace I have chosen. Honest and patriotic Americans have reached different conclusions as to how peace should be achieved. In San Francisco a few weeks ago, I saw demonstrators carrying signs reading: "Lose in Vietnam, bring the boys home."

Well, one of the strengths of our free society is that any American has a right to reach that conclusion and to advocate that point of view. But as President of the United States, I would be untrue to my oath of office if I allowed the policy of this Nation to be dictated by the minority who hold that point of view and who try to impose it on the Nation by mounting demonstrations in the street.

Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.

President Franklin Delano Bush-December 7th

Pearl Harbor Attacked!
President Franklin Delano Bush Declares War on Paraguay!!!

How to make a theocracy without really trying

How Bush Created a Theocracy in Iraq
By Juan Cole

The Bush administration naively believed that Iraq was a blank slate on which it could inscribe its vision for a remake of the Arab world. Iraq, however, was a witches’ brew of dynamic social and religious movements, a veritable pressure cooker. When George W. Bush invaded, he blew off the lid. Shiite religious leaders and parties, in particular, have crucially shaped the new Iraq in each of its three political phases. The first was during the period of direct American rule, largely by Paul Bremer. The second comprised the months of interim government, when Iyad Allawi was prime minister. The third stretches from the formation of an elected government, with Ibrahim Jaafari as prime minister, to today.

PLEASE read the rest of this excellent discussion of how badly Bush botched Iraq here.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Do you really want us to do that, Don?

Rummy said we should, besides noting "how many Americans have been killed," ask "what they died for."

Do you really want us to ask that, Don? Do you?

Pet Peeves

I have two pet peeves to address. The first are reporters like this:

Our Chicago contributors and readers have discussed this ad nauseum, but please. We live in northern Illinois (or as above, in Pittsfield, MA). It gets cold. It snows. Cold and snow ARE NOT NEWS!

The second pet peeve is this guy:

Go away. Just go away.


Here is the story I mentioned before on the Iraqi "troops" settling old scores.

The Ministry of Truth

CIA Ruse Is Said to Have Damaged Probe in Milan
Italy Allegedly Misled on Cleric's Abduction

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service

MILAN -- In March 2003, the Italian national anti-terrorism police received an urgent message from the CIA about a radical Islamic cleric who had mysteriously vanished from Milan a few weeks before. The CIA reported that it had reliable information that the cleric, the target of an Italian criminal investigation, had fled to an unknown location in the Balkans.

In fact, according to Italian court documents and interviews with investigators, the CIA's tip was a deliberate lie, part of a ruse designed to stymie efforts by the Italian anti-terrorism police to track down the cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian refugee known as Abu Omar. The strategy worked for more than a year until Italian investigators learned that Nasr had not gone to the Balkans after all. Instead, prosecutors here have charged, he was abducted off a street in Milan by a team of CIA operatives who took him to two U.S. military bases in succession and then flew him to Egypt, where he was interrogated and allegedly tortured by Egyptian security agents before being released to house arrest.

This is disgusting. You can read more here.

Condoleeza Shits on Habeas Corpus (what a shock)

Apparently our intrepid Secretary of State received permission from Darth Cheney to cop to the existence of a system of secret prisons to hold terrorist suspects in Europe, conveniently out of the view (and reach) of the federal courts, pesky do-gooder agencies, and the mainstream media. While the story itself is not earth-shaking (the silence from the WHIG contingent in the wake of the allegations was both deafening and damning evidence), it contains some genuine nuggets of disingenuous neoconicity:

First, here is her quote as to the REASON for having the secret prisons in third countries: "We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible, but there have been many cases where the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option. In those cases, the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in rendition. Sometimes these efforts are misunderstood."

Let me translate that for you....
"Often, CIA operatives find people outside the U.S. we THINK are terrorists, or who are the FAMILY MEMBERS of people we THINK are terrorists. Local authorities can't arrest them, because there is no EVIDENCE of actual wrongdoing, nor hold them for any period of time because of DUE PROCESS laws. So in these cases we either pressure the government to allow them to disappear or we simply abduct them and bring them to secret prisons where NO ONE knows where they are. Sometimes we get caught doing this and we have to spend a couple of weeks thinking up really lame and transparently disingenuous excuses."

When asked directly if the interrogators used torture, Rice said: "The United States does not transport and has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture" (emphasis added).

Translation: "If we can manage it, we contract out the transporation to a private firm, preferably one with ties to Darth Cheney, so technically, no official personnel have done anything wrong. While I can't confirm the use of torture, as it would get lots of people indicted and impeached, I can tell you that we cetainly do torture these people, that's why we move them outside U.S. jurisdiction. I mean after all, the activist judges keep on insisting that detainees have rights - even those being held at Gitmo - so we needed to establish these facilities in countries outside their reach."

Once again, the neocons show us that the only use they see for the writ of habeas corpus is to use it to wipe their collective asses. Meanwhile, they've managed to pretty much trash our standing as a paragon of human rights.

Plan for victory

shamelessly stolen from


Since we originally posted this feature, our esteemed friend Schmidlap suggested: Shrub should be allocated a maximum of 5 bozos, and then after his presidency mercifully ends, we retire that rating and make the subsequent maximum a 4. Kind of like MacArthur being the last 5 star general. Because no one can ever be this bad again. Right?
Peter: I wholeheartedly agree, and have added a bozo.

I applaud Dr. Magoo's weekly update idea, a valuable public service. I think we should expand on it, like Homeland Security, and use a rating system. So every Monday, we will update the National PBS (presidential bozo scale.) Currently the nation is at the highest PBS level of FIVE bozos.

We will keep you advised of any changes.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fred Barnes, who are you crappin'??????????

If there was a traveling trophy for such things, I think we could retire it. Fred Barnes, cartoonish buffoon from Bill Kristol's rag, the Weekly Standard, earns a lifetime achievement award with the following:

WE NOW KNOW WHAT WAS behind President Bush's mysterious refusal for so many months to respond to Democratic attacks on his Iraq policy--a refusal that came at great political cost to himself and to the American effort in Iraq. It wasn't that Bush was too focused on Social Security reform to bother. Nor did he believe Iraq was a drag on his presidency and should be downplayed. Rather, Bush had made a conscious decision after his reelection to be "nonpolitical" on the subject of Iraq. It is a decision he now regrets. And has reversed.

Here's how a senior White House aide explains the decision not to answer criticism of the administration's course in Iraq: "The strategic decision was to be forward-looking. The public was more interested in the future and not the past, since it was just hashed over during the election." The president didn't ignore the subject of Iraq entirely. He delivered a half-dozen speeches on Iraq and the war on terror, including an evening, prime-time address, in the first 10 months of 2005. He just didn't rebut partisan attacks.

Harm was done. "Obviously the bombardment of misleading ads and the earned media by MoveOn et al. had an impact," the Bush aide says, "and culminated during the Libby indictment and the [Democratic] stunt of the closed session of the Senate" on prewar intelligence. "That's when we pivoted."

By then--and we're talking about early November--Bush's job approval had plummeted. So had public support for the Iraq war. And there's a direct correlation between the two. The president stood at 51 percent job approval in the Gallup poll when he was inaugurated to a second term last January and 52 percent in the Fox News survey. Now he's at 37 percent in Gallup, 42 percent in Fox.

Support for his Iraq policy did not fall as precipitously, but it was in gradual decline, and that accelerated. Gallup asks interviewees if the Iraq intervention was worth it. Forty-six percent said yes last January, 38 percent in November. When only a little more than one third of the country believes the most important national security policy of the era is worth pursuing, the president has a huge political problem. Even Republican members of Congress were getting queasy. Bush, with less sway in Washington today than 10 months ago, has been hard-put to reassure them.

Though the White House hasn't said so, there was more to the president's no-response decision than aides have let on. In Bush's defense, he's never routinely responded to attacks. And the successful election in Iraq on January 30 was followed by several months of euphoria about Iraq. There was hope the insurgency would collapse. It didn't.

I think the president, after a contentious first term, wanted to soften the partisan edge of his image and be more statesmanlike (HAH!!!!). His speeches on Iraq, tough-minded as they were, reflected that. And so did his willingness to reject cues from his conservative base of supporters and to offer, in public concessions, to compromise with his opponents.

In short, it was a purple detour, a blend of Republican red and Democratic blue. A White House official insists there was no specific decision to be less hard-nosed on domestic issues in the president's second term and drift to the center. But that happened, just as his approach to Democrats on Iraq was easing up. A mere coincidence? No way.

Next to Iraq, the most controversial item on Bush's agenda, especially among Democrats, is tax cuts. At the outset of 2005, he decided to put off a drive in Congress to make his deep tax cuts permanent, a move that upset conservatives. Later, the Bush administration steered the presidential tax commission away from radical tax reform. He also put aside the proposed amendment banning gay marriage, another red flag to Democrats and liberals but a favorite issue of conservatives.

On Social Security reform, he broke with his own strategy for winning congressional approval. The plan was to agree, but only as a last resort, to raise the ceiling on the amount of personal income subject to payroll taxes. Instead, Bush announced early on that he'd agree to lift the ceiling. He also backed progressive benefits reduction--the well-off would be hit the hardest--which is opposed by conservatives.

In filling vacancies on the Supreme Court, the president chose conservative nominees who wouldn't ignite instant opposition by Democrats. He took responsibility for the slow response (????????) to Hurricane Katrina, though the mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana were more to blame (pants on fire!). And so on. Overall, while Bush is a conservative, he often didn't act like one.

The nonpolitical strategy was a failure. Democrats picked up on none of his overtures. Once they began a campaign of accusing Bush of lying to the country about prewar intelligence to justify invading Iraq--an impeachable offense--Bush abandoned the strategy. The pivotal moment came after nine months of unanswered charges by Democrats concerning prewar intelligence. The president was a slow learner (OK, we agree!).

On Veteran's Day, November 11, Bush fired back. And he and Vice President Cheney have continued to do so quite effectively. His poll numbers, measured by Fox News after the president's speech last week laying out his "plan for victory" in Iraq, showed strong improvement. Sure, it's only one poll, but his approval rating jumped six points in the Fox News survey, from 36 percent to 42 percent.

Is this the start of a Bush comeback? Could be. And there's even stronger evidence of a turnaround. Until Democrats began rallying to the call for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the debate was between Bush and the facts on the ground. Now it's between the president, who wants to withdraw troops when conditions in Iraq allow, and Democrats, who want to set a fast timetable for pullout and stick to it, no matter what. This debate Bush should win. (amazing!)

Lean to the left, lean to the right

Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight...and die.

I don't have confirmation of this yet, but I heard a story that the Iraqi vice-president disputed Washington's assessment of the troop training process. Not surprisingly, the "troops" are being used for retribution by the Shi'a for past abuses at Sunni hands. Great.

This fits in with a statement by the U.S. commander overseeing the building of Iraq's security forces, as he said that "the training of Iraqi police was complicated by the armed militias still claiming the loyalties of many officers."

Ah, the key question of nation-building. In an influential essay written many years ago (1970) and set in a world far far away (medieval Europe), Joseph Strayer emphasized the importance of the transfer of a population’s loyalty away from family, local community or religious organization to the new state and its institutions. I'm sure that's happening, aren't you?

Update - December 2005

We here at Thinking or Sitting want to make sure that you keep up with the latest news, so we're instituting a new Update feature for the first Monday of every month.

12:50 pm, Central Standard Time, December 5, 2005 - President George W. Bush is still an idiot.

Should the situation change dramatically, we will be on top of things here and let you know how to react. Thank you.

But wait...I thought we were fighting "turr."

It looks like, surprise, surprise, that we are fighting, ahem, Iraq in Iraq--not "turr." Damn those rejectionists!

US Army admits Iraqis outnumber foreign fighters as its main enemy

by Toby Harnden in Ramadi

Iraqis, rather than foreign fighters, now form the vast majority of the insurgents who are waging a ferocious guerrilla war against United States forces in Sunni western Iraq, American commanders have revealed. Their conclusion, disclosed to the Sunday Telegraph in interviews over 10 days in battle-torn Anbar province, contradicts the White House message that outsiders are the principal enemy in Iraq.

More here.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What's wrong with these pictures?

Where my wife is:

Where I am:


Whack a mole, redux

"'He was al-Qaida's No. 5 and this is what we know.''

But wait, I thought he was Number 3???

We have killed the Number wait, we have killed the Number 5...

Oh, I see....Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our amongst our weapons....amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

He just makes you proud to be an American, doesn't he?

Alex, may I have Islamic republics for $100?

Sistani urges pro-religious vote (link)

NAJAF, Iraq - Iraq’s most influential Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, has told believers to vote in elections on Dec. 15 and urged them to support religious candidates, his office said on Saturday.

A representative in Sistani’s office said he instructed followers to do three things: turn out to vote on the day; avoid voting for any list whose leader is not religious; and avoid voting for “weak” lists so as not to split the Shia vote. The instructions looked like a coded endorsement of the United Iraqi Alliance, the main Shia list which won the last election in January and dominates the current government.

The United Iraqi Alliance groups Iraq’s two most powerful religious Shia parties -- the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and the Dawa Party, which is headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. The Alliance was formed for January’s election with the blessing of Sistani. His aides have since criticised the government’s performance and he has distanced himself from party politics, telling his aides not to give explicit endorsements.

But as well as now appearing implicitly to back the Alliance, Sistani’s instructions may also turn Shia voters away from a rival list headed by Allawi, who is secular and has built a coalition of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. Sistani’s statement may also damage a list headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, another secular Shia.

It also encourages voting for the most powerful bloc, rather than smaller parties or lists, a move that is likely to favour the United Iraqi Alliance over smaller Shia Islamist groups.

The answer is a resounding "YES!!!!!!!"

Is George Bush the Worst President Ever?

by Richard Reeves

PARIS -- President John F. Kennedy was considered a historian because of his book "Profiles in Courage," so he received periodic requests to rate the presidents, those lists that usually begin "1. Lincoln, 2. Washington ..." But after he actually became president himself, he stopped filling them out.

"No one knows what it's like in this office," he said after being in the job. "Even with poor James Buchanan, you can't understand what he did and why without sitting in his place, looking at the papers that passed on his desk, knowing the people he talked with."

Poor James Buchanan, the 15th president, is generally considered the worst president in history. Ironically, the Pennsylvania Democrat, elected in 1856, was one of the most qualified of the 43 men who have served in the highest office. A lawyer, a self-made man, Buchanan served with some distinction in the House, served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and secretary of state under President James K. Polk. He had a great deal to do with the United States becoming a continental nation -- "Manifest Destiny," war with Mexico, and all that. He was also ambassador to Great Britain and was offered a seat on the Supreme Court three separate times.

But he was a confused, indecisive president, who may have made the Civil War inevitable by trying to appease or negotiate with the South. His most recent biographer, Jean Clark, writing for the prestigious American Presidents Series, concluded this year that his actions probably constituted treason. It also did not help that his administration was as corrupt as any in history, and he was widely believed to be homosexual.

Whatever his sexual preferences, his real failures were in refusing to move after South Carolina announced secession from the Union and attacked Fort Sumter, and in supporting both the legality of the pro-slavery constitution of Kansas and the Supreme Court ruling in the Dred Scott class declaring that escaped slaves were not people but property.

He was the guy who in 1861 passed on the mess to the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. Buchanan set the standard, a tough record to beat. But there are serious people who believe that George W. Bush will prove to do that, be worse than Buchanan. I have talked with three significant historians in the past few months who would not say it in public, but who are saying privately that Bush will be remembered as the worst of the presidents.

There are some numbers. The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered -- maybe they were all crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial as it was interesting. These were the results: 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.

This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record:

He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;

He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;

He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;

He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;

He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans) and foreign (Iraq and the battle against al-Qaida);

He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;

He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;

He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime.

Quite an indictment. It is, of course, too early to evaluate a president. That, historically, takes decades, and views change over times as results and impact become more obvious. Besides, many of the historians note that however bad Bush seems, they have indeed since worse men around the White House. Some say Buchanan. Many say Vice President Dick Cheney.

Inside the Iraqi Elections

The crack news team here at The Thinker will be breaking down the complex issues facing the Iraqi electorate as they will go to the polls in a few days to elect their constitutional assembly. The Shi'a majority, the Sunnis who support the government and those Sunnis who are resisting have vastly different objectives going into the election.

Our photographers visited each group in and around Baghdad and returned with these images:

The first is from a Shi'ite rally:

While here we have a group of pro-government Sunnis:

and finally, a Sunni opposition group: