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Sunday, October 22, 2006

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Is this thing on?


Avedon (2:05 PM) permalink




Thursday, October 12, 2006

Train jumps tracks

Gene Lyons

Only weeks ago, GOP campaign officials were breathing smoke and fire. According to Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-N. Y., the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, hapless Democrats had no idea what they were up against. Relentlessly negative TV commercials funded by the party's $ 50 million war chest were about to bury Democratic candidates under an avalanche of charges dug up by so-called opposition research - unpaid student loans, late tax payments, embarrassing lawsuits, etc. "We haven't even begun to unload this freight train," Reynolds boasted to The New York Times. Asked why the party that currently controls the White House and both houses of Congress wasn't stressing positive themes in its TV ads, he burst out laughing. "If they moved things to the extent that negative ads move things," he said, "there would be more of them." A few days later, Reynolds himself got run over by an off-schedule freight train in the form of the nastiest Washington sex scandal in decades. It's doubtful he's laughing now. Reynolds, see, is the guy who says he and Rep. John Boehner, ROhio, warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert last spring about Rep. Mark Foley's "overly friendly" e-mails to 16-yearold congressional pages.

The speaker recalls no such meeting.

Reynolds was alerted to the situation by his own chief of staff, one Kirk Fordham, who'd previously been Foley's chief of staff. Fordham, in turn, insists that he quit working for the very horny congressman after warning Hastert's staff "sometime in 2002 or 2003" about Foley's salacious e-mails to high school boys. Fordham says that Jeff Trandahl, the recently resigned clerk of the House, told him about a drunken late-night visit by Foley to the pages' dormitory.

Hastert's chief of staff, with whom the Illinois lawmaker shares a Washington townhouse, claims the meeting with Fordham never happened. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that Arizona Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe "personally confronted" Foley about sexually explicit e-mails as long ago as 2000.

GOP staffers have reportedly been warning Republican (but not Democratic ) pages to be leery of Foley since 2001.

Despite hearing, seeing and speaking no evil, Hastert has bravely accepted "full responsibility" - in Washington, the phrase is universally understood as a formulaic incantation signifying its exact opposite and magically absolving blame - and promised a vigorous investigation. The speaker also went on Rush Limbaugh's program to blame Democrats, with no evidence whatsoever, for leaking Foley's incriminating e-mails to the press. Apparently false, but so what if they had ?

But back to Reynolds. After warning Hastert (or not ) about the Florida congressman's unseemly interest in adolescent lads, what did the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee do next ? Did he notify the police or the FBI ? Did he even contact the feckless sleuths on the House Ethics Committee ? Reynolds did none of those things. Instead, according to conservative columnist Bob Novak, he talked Foley out of retiring from Congress.

Then Reynolds accepted a $ 100, 000 contribution from Foley to the NRCC. Can you say "hush money" ? I knew you could.

Representing Palm Beach, Fla., one of the nation's wealthiest congressional districts - GOP propagandists Limbaugh and Ann Coulter own homes nearby - Foley had raised millions more in campaign contributions than he needed and donated it to the party. He was a GOP cash cow, plain and simple.

Back home in Buffalo, Reynolds' Democratic opponent has been running TV ads saying he "knew of the problem months ago, but he failed to act aggressively to protect the kids.... Reynolds not only failed to act, he actually urged the Florida congressman to run for office again, possibly putting more kids at risk."

According to a poll in the Buffalo News, Reynolds now trails Democrat Jack Davis by 15 points, 48 to 33 percent.

What makes this scandal a political godsend for Democrats, writes Glenn Greenwald on his "Unclaimed Territory" weblog, is that it's "like the Cliffs' Notes version of... how the Bush movement operates." Unlike, say, Republican hocuspocus on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq, budgetary flim-flams and extreme negligence after Hurricane Katrina, it's about something simple and direct that everybody gets in his gut. It's all there: the elevation of money and power over all competing values, the transparent lies and evasions, grotesque attempts to blame the victims - the infamous Drudge Report and others claimed the pages led poor Foley on - and ludicrous demands that prominent Democrats take lie detector tests to prove they didn't blow the whistle. Some Republicans claim a homosexual conspiracy because several who tried to stop Foley's predatory behavior are openly gay. "There has been a virtual carousel... of one pathetic, desperate attempt after the next to deflect blame and demonize those who are pointing out the wrongdoing," Greenwald writes. "This is what [Republicans ] always do, on every issue. The difference here is that everyone can see it, and so nothing is working."

[Via Moose & Squirrel]


Avedon (12:15 AM) permalink




Thursday, July 06, 2006

Times revealed little that Bush hadn't told us
Gene Lyons

The key thing about the infamous New York Times scoop that's drawn the theatrical wrath of the Bush administration is the last thing you'll hear from the newspaper's embattled editors: how little real news it contained. Nobody who's paying attention could be surprised that U. S. agents monitor international money transfers. George W. Bush has been patting himself on the back about it for years. The June 28 edition of MSNBC's "Countdown" led with several video clips of Bush touting U. S. plans for cutting al-Qa'ida's cash flow. On Sept. 24, 2001, while the rubble of the World Trade Center was still smoking, Bush announced the "Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Center at the Department of the Treasury to identify and investigate the financial infrastructure of the international terrorist networks." A veritable barrage of White House press releases has chronicled the government's work with NATO and international agencies like the Financial Action Task Force to combat money laundering and terrorism. The subject of the Times report, SWIFT - the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a Belgian consortium that coordinates commerce among 7, 800 banks - has been discussed in congressional hearings and U. N. reports since 2002.

SWIFT is no secret. It publishes a slick magazine, hosts a lavish yearly trade exposition and features its cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force on its corporate Web site. Indeed, in 2004, Stuart Levey, who heads the Treasury Department's anti-terrorism efforts, told Congress that al-Qa'ida had quit using international banks and taken to dispatching couriers carrying suitcases filled with cash. Numerous reports have documented that fact.

The Times' article concerned not operational details, but worry among some officials that the U. S. might be casting its net too wide, although it concluded that the government was doing nothing illegal. So did same-day stories in the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. In short, the information was of marginal interest to anybody but specialists in international finance.

So how dumb would a terrorist have to be not to know that U. S. spies monitor international money transfers? Maybe dumb enough to fall for the White House's demagogic attack on The New York Times (but not, oddly, The Wall Street Journal or the LA Times) as a left-wing newspaper so consumed with hatred for Bush that it would risk catastrophe to embarrass him.

The New York Times arrogant? Goodness, yes. Condescending, too. During the decade the newspaper devoted to its farcical coverage of the Whitewater hoax, feeding out of Kenneth Starr's soft little hand like a Shetland pony, I experienced that condescension firsthand. Even confronted with dispositive documentary evidence that its Whitewater stories were bunk, its basic response never varied: We're The New York Times and you're not.

But left wing? Well, the Times, along with The Washington Post, led the 2000 "war on Gore" that basically gave Bush the presidency. Then-columnist and now executive editor Bill Keller actually quoted his 3-year-old daughter's opinion that the Democratic nominee was a stiff.

After 9/11, the Times, along with the rest of the newspaper consortium, buried its finding that had all the legal votes in Florida been counted in 2000, Al Gore would have been president.

Lest we forget, it was reporter Judith Miller's series of leaked, single-source "exclusives" touting Saddam Hussein's imaginary nuclear weapons accompanied by TV appearances by Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney carefully coordinated with Times publication dates that helped stampede the nation to war. Columnist Keller thought invading Iraq was a terrific idea.

Now the Times has its reward. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll thinks he knows why.

"Many members of the president's base consider �New York' to be a nifty code word for �Jewish,'" he writes. "It is very nice for the president to be able to campaign against the Jews without (a) actually saying the word �Jew' and (b) without irritating the Israelis."

Actually, that's wishful thinking. Anti-Semitism, as such, is old hat among True Believers on the extreme right. For years, the idea's been percolating through the right's well-organized propaganda apparatus that Democrats aren't loyal Americans.

Regarding Ann Coulter's ludicrous book, "Slander," I once wrote that "the �liberal' sins [she ] caricatures - atheism, cosmopolitanism, sexual license, moral relativism, communism, disloyalty and treason - are basically identical to the crimes of the Jews as Hitler saw them." Michael Savage, Michael Reagan, Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh and others peddle the same sterilized American update of an ancient slur. Limbaugh recently called 80 percent of Times subscribers "jihadists." Now the Bush White House, desperate to prevail in 2006 congressional elections, has taken up the cry. Reasonable people never want to believe that extremists believe their own rhetoric. But quit kidding yourselves. This is mass psychosis. The next terrorist strike, should it happen, will be blamed on the enemy within: treasonous "liberals" who dissent from the glorious reign of George W. Bush. Unless confronted, it's through such strategems that democracies fail and constitutional republics become dictatorships.

[This article originally appeared in the Arkanasas Democrat-Gazette. Thanks to Moose & Squirrel.]


Avedon (10:33 AM) permalink




Monday, June 26, 2006

Service resumed

The Sideshow is back online.


Avedon (12:12 AM) permalink




Sunday, June 25, 2006

Technical difficulties continue

It appears there's some sort of major problem with Telewest's fibre cables that's causing outages all over the country. They are working on repairs but no one knows when things will be back together.


Avedon (10:29 PM) permalink





From A Distance

Since Fasthosts is still down, I've been having a bit of a P.F. Sloan festival on YouTube.

Most people have heard P.F. Sloan's music but don't know it. For example, the first ten seconds of "California Dreamin'" (listen but don't watch that video) is him playing guitar.

A few people may be familiar with "Let Me Be" as recorded by the Turtles. (That video is a hoot - remember what sweet little boys they were before they became Flo & Eddie?)

And just about everyone has heard Barry McGuire's rendition of "Eve of Destruction". The record company told Sloan that if he played that song for anyone, they'd suspend his royalties, and when they heard McGuire singing it, they did.

(The original versions of both of those are gentler.)

When the Patrick McGoohan show (that preceded The Prisoner), Danger Man, was shown in the US, it was given a new title and theme song - the latter being "Secret Agent Man", another from P.F. Sloan, sung by Johnny Rivers.

But you can hear the man himself singing his "From A Distance", a song I've always been fond of.

I couldn't find any of the surf music, which is surprising since he did so much stuff for Jan & Dean. (But I did find something I would have posted if it had been available when Jan Berry died in 2004, a live performance from later in their career of "New Girl In School", which is not a P.F. Sloan song.)

Cracked me up when I read an interview with Sloan in Songwriter magazine by someone who had never heard of him until Jimmy Webb wrote a song called, "P.F. Sloan" - he'd assumed the title name was of a fictional character meant to represent the trials of songwriters, and had been shocked to learn that it was actually a real person.

Some of the other stuff he did is a little embarrassing and I think I'll skip mentioning it, although I'm afraid you've heard that, too.


Avedon (7:21 PM) permalink





Technical difficulties

Yes, The Sideshow appears to be down. I can't get the site for my provider, either, so I don't know what's going on. Let's hope things will be back together shortly.


Avedon (4:42 PM) permalink




Friday, June 23, 2006

Staying the course is politics, not planning
by Gene Lyons

Instead of running for majority leader if Democrats take control of the House in 2006, maybe U. S. Rep. John P. Murtha ought to run for president. He may be 74, but the man knows how to handle himself in a fight, a skill too many genteel Democrats appear to have forgotten. Here's the story: After escaping indictment last week, the new Republican ethical gold standard, White House apparatchik Karl Rove hustled to New Hampshire for a GOP fund-raiser. There he engaged in the kind of cheap smear for which he's justly infamous. Of Democrats like Murtha who voted to confront Iraq but have become war critics, Rove said: "Too many Democrats - it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough and when it gets difficult, they fall back on that party's old pattern of cutting and running. They may be with you at the first shots, but they are not going to be there for the last tough battles." Let's pass over the fact that when George W. Bush presented the Iraq resolution, he vowed that it wasn't a declaration of war. Most people knew better. When Tim Russert played the videotape of Rove for Murtha on "Meet the Press," the crusty old former Marine reacted angrily.

"He's in New Hampshire," Murtha said. "He's making a political speech. He's sitting in his air-conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, �Stay the course.' That's not a plan. I mean, this guy - I don't know what his military experience is, but that's a political statement."

For the record, Rove's military experience, like Vice President Dick Cheney's and that of virtually all the neo-conservative architects of this ill-conceived utopian fantasy, is absolutely zero.

Murtha knows about war. A native of the coal-mining and steel-making region of western Pennsylvania, he volunteered to fight in Korea and Vietnam, where he won two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with Combat "V" and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. I'm confident that even at 74, he could kick Rove's pasty posterior with one leg - assuming he could outrun the little creep.

As history, this cut-and-run business is nonsense. It wasn't Democrats who made peace in Korea. It was President Dwight Eisenhower. Democrats didn't dispatch Henry Kissinger to whisper to China in 1972 that the U. S. could live with a communist Vietnam. President Richard Nixon did. He began the long, bloody retreat that ended with the North Vietnamese taking Saigon under President Gerald Ford.

Maybe the oddest thing about the legacy of Vietnam is that the worst thing that could happen, from a rightwing perspective, did happen. The U. S. lost the war. Communists conquered much of Southeast Asia. And the effect on national security ? Well, we got lots of good Vietnamese restaurants out of it. Otherwise, none.

The communists soon fell to fighting among themselves, with Vietnam invading Cambodia, China attacking Vietnam, and the Chinese and Soviet Russians entangled in a blood feud. Next, Russia invaded Afghanistan. Domestic fallout from that bloody fiasco helped cause the collapse of the U. S. S. R. and the demise of communism almost everywhere - also because nobody but a few crackpot professors in the West believed in it anymore.

Exactly why so many like Rove, Bush and Cheney, who avoided Vietnam, subsequently metamorphosed into countryclub Napoleons is mysterious. Personal psychodrama appears to be involved.

It's past time to get real, Murtha says. Invading Iraq was an unnecessary folly.

"We didn't have a threat to our national security. That's been proven," Murtha told Russert. "Second, we [sent ] inadequate forces to get it under control in a transition to peace.... [T ] he third thing was no exit strategy.

"It's no longer a military war," Murtha said. "We have won the military war against [the ] enemy. We toppled Saddam Hussein. The military's done everything that they can do. And so it's time for us to redeploy.... Only Iraqis can settle this."

Murtha didn't say so, but there's no chance of an Iraqi democracy friendly to the U. S. That's a delusion. Bush's photo-op visit merely underscored the point. Three years after "Mission accomplished," and the mighty conqueror flies into the fortified "Green Zone" unannounced and can't trust Iraq's prime minister enough to give him, oh, an hour's notice ? That's not how Alexander the Great did it. Meanwhile, Murtha says, the U. S. is spending $ 8 billion a month while American soldiers are being killed and maimed, physically and psychologically, mainly to provide political cover for Bush. Intimidated by Rove ? Not hardly. "You can't sit there in the air-conditioned office," Murtha said, "and tell these troops - they're carrying 70 pounds on their back inside these armored vessels and hit with improvised explosive devices every day, seeing their friends blown up, their buddies blown up - and he says, �stay the course.' Yeah, it's easy to say that from Washington, D. C."

[Originally from The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]



Avedon (12:33 PM) permalink




Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bush's fabled intuition may be just that
Gene Lyons

Tell me again about President Bush's fabled intuition, his born leader's gift for choosing the right course of action by natural instinct. Oh, and, yes, the peerless political genius of Karl Rove. Because if you didn't know any better, it would appear that the administration's grandest schemes have gone badly awry, confronting the White House with a political crisis seemingly beyond its control. For the longest time, Bush was the GOP and the GOP was Bush. Although I've always seen the cult of personality surrounding Bush as a rationalization of his manifest shortcomings of character and intellect, there was no denying its power. Now that illusion appears to be fading. Both the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq and the incomprehensible political blunder of trying to hand over management of U. S. ports to a company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates have brought about the unthinkable: open dissent from prominent Republicans and discontent among the Republican base. The scary part is that Bush's second term has an almost unimaginable three years to run longer than the entire presidency of John F. Kennedy.

Because of the way things are going, we may be about to find the authoritarian rock-bottom; that is, how many Americans will profess unthinking loyalty to any president calling himself "Christian" and "conservative," and retaining the support of right-wing radio hosts.

Roughly one-third is my guess. According the latest CBS News poll, Bush's approval rate stands at 34 percent, down eight points from January.

Only three few months ago, Republican pundits excoriated Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean for expressing doubts that the Iraq war could be "won" in any traditional sense, and calling for the immediate withdrawal of National Guard troops and the phased pullout of all U. S. forces within two years. "Howard the Coward, " one called him. They derided a highly decorated Marine veteran, Rep. Jack Martha, D-Pa., after he referred to continued U. S. occupation of Iraq as " a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion" and called for a tactical retreat. White House spokesman Scott McClellan accused Murtha of wanting "to surrender to the terrorists."

Now the destruction of the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra, a site almost as holy to Shia Muslims as St. Peter's Basilica is to Roman Catholics, seems to have set the nation on a seemingly irreversible path to open civil war - something Dean and other opponents of invading Iraq, with its seething sectarian and tribal rivalries, warned against years ago. Atrocity follows sickening atrocity, which U. S. and British troops appear powerless to prevent.

So what will right-wing character assassins now say about William F. Buckley? Writing in the National Review, the magazine he founded, one of contemporary conservatism's elder statesmen has seen enough.

"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed," Buckley concludes. "Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols."

Will GOP apparatchiks question Buckley's patriotism ? Call him a traitor?

"The administration has, now, to cope with failure," he adds. "Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality."

Translation: Bush must eat crow for the country's sake. Alas, reality has never been his strong suit. He prefers aircraft carrier photo ops. Assuming that anybody in the White House has enough courage to brave one of Bush's famous temper tantrums, however, here's how this column, aware of his penchant for seeing himself as his generation's Winston Churchill, has long suggested putting it to him: Mr. President, Iraq isn't Normandy, it's Dunkirk, a tactical retreat from an over-exposed and unsustainable position. In the "war on terror" it's not D-Day 1944, it's more like 1940. On the other hand, how can anybody reason with a politician who committed the spectacular folly of the Dubai Ports World deal ? Persons eager to save Bush from the consequences of his heedless bullying characterize opposition to handing over control of U. S. harbors to a stateowned company run by a hereditary Arab monarchy as "quasi-racist scaremongering," " global ethnic profiling" and worse. What rubbish. If there's a racial component to the dispute, Bush's fear-mongering created it. Furthermore, there are perfectly legitimate political objections to handing over operating control of U. S. ports to a state-run company anywhere in the world, much less a Middle Eastern monarchy with a demonstrable history of allowing itself to be manipulated by extremists. If he's lucky, Bush's fellow Republicans will find some pretext to save him from the trap he's created.

Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Courtesy of Moose & Squirrel.



Avedon (1:26 PM) permalink




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