Copyright © 2006 Frank Lynch.
Me: Frank Lynch
These are my mundane daily ramblings.
Partisan values. This Tuesday was, I think, the first time I went into the voting booth consciously thinking about party. Oh, don't get me wrong, I generally vote for the Democratic candidate (sometimes under another party's name, just to throw that offshoot a little more voice), but when it came to NY State Comptroller Alan Hevesi (D), I admit I was torn. I felt like I couldn't reward a politician who really appeared to fall down on the job, but I thought hard about passing the decision to replace him off to Eliot Spitzer, who I presumed would win the governor spot: wasn't it better to allow Spitzer the opportunity to replace Hevesi with another Democrat? Ultimately I voted against Hevesi: whether or not he might retain his job under Spitzer, I couldn't give him my vote, and I refused to cast a vote that would tell politicians I didn't care about corruption.
In my district, there was no question but that we were sending Democrats to the House and Senate. But I couldn't help but wonder how many people who went into the booths on Tuesday thought about the implications of who they were voting for, not just for their own representation, but for the ultimate majorities in the two houses of Congress, and with them the resulting powers on committees. In my view the Republicans' biggest failure wasn't in corruption or on scandals but in their remission of their duty of being an independent branch of government. Think of the investigations and hearing which just didn't happen, thanks to their compliance with the President, as if he were some God.
Committee Chairs and party loyalty is one of the aspects which has always struck me about Democrats who seem more Republican than Democrat (like Zell Miller) or Republicans who strike Democrats as ready to switch (newly booted Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island). When the other night I posted clipped a complaint from NRO's blog about Chafee "deserving" to lose, I thought, but didn't write, that the Republicans were lucky they'd had Chafee on their side of the aisle as long as they did, contributing to their majority and helping them hold committee chairs.
So I was a little flummoxed when I read Billmon's tentative admiration for Chafee, and the way he continued his membership in a party that really didn't welcome him, couldn't have welcomed him, for anything but his contribution to the majority. What's to admire for making it needlessly more difficult for yourself, advantageous for a party that you don't really believe in, and, in retrospect, fills you with such distaste that when you're replaced by a Democrat you think the country will be better off?
Well, Gerald Ford is off the hook. I'm surprised at how fragile public perceptions are, sometime: Senator Allen's hairpin turn in his reelection campaign certainly came with his "macaca" reference, wouldn't you say? Of course, it didn't stop there, but coming in the context of his questionable history of Confederate flags and nooses in the office, it sure was the straw that stirred the drink... And what a whirlpool it unleashed.
In the odd moment here and there today I tried to remember another political moment which was as severe, and all I could remember was a statement President Ford said in a debate with challenger Jimmy Carter:
"...there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration."
Poland, of course. He forgot to mention Poland. He did in later questioning, but the concept seemed to beyond his ken, either that or he was in denial. And wow, did that hiccup hurt: Ford came out looking like a complete naif.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006:
Just saying (perhaps too late). The Republicans like Rick Santorum who have tried to hide away from the President, saying the midterms "are not about George Bush" are obfuscating facts. It's true, the elections are not "about" the President, but in our tri-partite government, where the legislative branch is supposed to have equal power to the executive branch, the legislative branch's independence and check upon the executive branch is an issue. And thus, when the executive branch (the White House) has had an unsuccessful (code for 'abysmal') effort in Iraq, the failure of the legislative branch comes into play. All those blank checks get cashed. We've had enough!
I don't know if this sentiment will play out to a majority in
both houses of Congress, but Senator Santorum, I think you
do need to understand the Constitution. Sorry you didn't
before you got into politics: it's tough to take a job
without reading the job description first. Senators are not
parrots. (Repeat after me...)
ONE ODD THING (Ramesh Ponneru)
Well, here's the deal Mr. Ponneru, the prefix "re" doesn't
imply a natural condition in this case, only a prior condition.
As Atrios might have said in this circumstance, as he has
recently, this is another chapter in simple answers to obvious
questions. Sorry, Ramesh.
Sour grapes from the jilted lover.
Over at NRO's Corner: "Party labels
aside, Chafee deserved to lose more than any other
incumbent. What a lousy senator, a man who is utterly
unpredictable because he has no real beliefs."
Too much of the Internet is free. The editor of the Los Angeles Times was let go, thanks to his refusal to go along with staff cutbacks. There have been cutbacks at other newsrooms (like the Washington Post), so why should the LA Times be any different? Regrettably, it gets this way when owners start to think of what they offer as a commodity and either give it away for free or coupon the hell out of it. Why pay regular price?
I've long hated the joyous, naive proclamation that "Information wants to be free." My retort many years ago is "Information doesn't want to be free. It wants to be inert. It takes effort to move it." Too much of everything on the web is free, news along with it. I've long held that we need some different kind of pricing model. My preference is a fee for each page viewed, with the price adjusted depending on the site owner (perhaps down for a site that wants to sell sell sell like Amazon, or up for a site whose value is in information itself, like a newspaper). I don't think subscription models are enough: subscription models only compensate those sites who have repeat value to a visitor. There are tons of sites (like my Johnson site) which fill an occasional need, but deserve recompense nonetheless.
Newspapers are seeing their circulation drop because the new
model is "free." On the web and in the handouts in the major
cities. And quality is going to suffer, trust me, even more than
it already has. The people who have the energy and talent to
hound out a story's meaning, finding fewer extrinsic rewards, are
going to look other occupations. And then, to expand Johnson's
dictum about those who don't write for money, we will be left
"Reporters keep asking White House Press Secretary Tony Snow about President George W. Bush's "contingency plans" if Democrats were to win the House and/or Senate in today's midterm elections. Snow has been patiently explaining for weeks that no such formal plans are being made, since the President expects Republicans to defy the pundits and win both."
Not a lot to say yet... Just got home, polls are closed practically nowhere, and I presume you've been reading elsewhere about the myriad efforts to confuse and sway Democratic supporters from their vote. I'm sure I'll have more to say later. But I was surprised to hear a soundbite from Ron Brownstein on the NBC Nightly News that he was stuck by the way candidates from both parties were trying to claim the center, and veer away from the extremes. I'm not sure why he's surprised by this: first, we all remember that in 2000 Bush told us he was a "Uniter, not a Divider," and talked about all the times he reached across the aisle to Texas Democrats (as if a Texas Democrat is anything like a Massachusetts Democrat?). Secondly, because to succeed after the primaries in most states you have to act like a centrist to succeed. Maybe that's truer in an election for national office than statewide, but I just don't see how you can get elected without aiming for your own state's center at least.
The future, now that Osama Bin Laden has been sentenced to death. I feel a lot safer, knowing that Osama bin Laden has been sentenced to death for his crimes. When you think about all he did — not just regarding 9/11 and the death of thousands of innocents, but also the bombing of the Cole, and the embassies in Kenya — nobody could look at justice being served here as a bad thing. The entire effort to bring him to justice has been well-directed, and it's good to know this monster won't be recruiting more terrorists on the basis of his past, horrendous acts. Bravo, I say! (I can barely restrain myself from breaking into a chant, a la a hockey fan at Lake Placid: "U. S. A.! U. S. A.!")
UPDATE: A visitor informs me that it was, in fact, not Osama bin Laden, but Saddam Hussein who was sentenced to death today. So be it, my bad, I stand corrected. But really, what's the difference between the two? Sentencing Saddam Hussein to death is practically the same: the Vice President has pointed out that Mohammed Atta met Iraqi intelligence agents in a Starbucks in Fairfax, so we know Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. So getting Saddam Hussein is practically the same thing. U.S.A.!
UPDATE 2: "Kroeter, huh" has emailed me and pointed out that practically no one but the wackiest, at this point, believes Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11. He cited conclusions in the 9/11 Commission's report pointing out that Iraq and al Qaeda met over the years, but nothing ever came of any of their meetings. Alright, but Saddam Hussein was a bad man, he killed a lot of other people, and I feel safer knowing that he's being brought to justice. The world is better off, and so the invasion was a good thing. End of story. Can I please plug my wife's book now?
UPDATE 3: Oy. Someone with an IP address associated with NRO has emailed me to remind me that whether or not Saddam Hussein was once worth waging a "just war" against, several argued against this in more recent years, empty authorities like the Catholic Church and Human Rights Watch. So what? I'll go back to the WMD argument, the burgeoning democracy thing, ensuring a free supply of harissa, and all that. Look, the world was already a better place when Saddam Hussein was apprehended, and when he hangs, it will be like a chicken in every pot. Trust me. U. S. A.!
UPDATE 4: I think I must have been linked by Atrios or
DailyKommie in such a way that the emails disguise the source
link (it's unidentifiable, but I know they have a mission against
the truth), because I've been getting not only a flood of emails
from people who point out that because our forces have been
redeployed, "foolishly," in Iraq, America is "less" safe (hah!)
than we would be if we weren't — these are their actual
words — "bogged down in Iraq." That, of course, is stupid:
Iraq doesn't have bogs. You want bogs, invade Ireland. Not a lot
in common after the second letter, you twerps. Another
thing they assert is that Iraq didn't actually have WMDs, nor the
means to produce them. They cite US reports. OK, maybe so: but
look at this way: we really needed a theater to strut our stuff
in, okay? So whether or not the invasion had anything to do with
anything, at LEAST IT PUT THE WORLD ON NOTICE! And that, my
friends, is a good thing.
The politics of releasing nuclear information. Go read Digby: He's found a passage that makes it clear that the impetus for releasing all the unvetted, untranslated Iraqi documents on their arms program was Bush's political concerns, and support for the war.
I quote from his source:
How lovely (wouldn't you agree) that decisions on releasing documents of unknown contents were made in order to create more support for a war which was already a fait accompli, irreversible, cows out of the barn, and all that!
Remember, this was the issue in isolating classified material for Libby to share with NY Times writer Judith Miller: generate support for the war. Bush seems to have had little or no concern about the contents he was ordering put up on the web. Sway the opinions, that's all that matters, let's not wait for history, because in his heart of hearts he knew Iraq is not a comma... He'll only take the long view and claim history will be on his side at the odd moment in front of a camera. Behind the scenes, it's all the present.
The "black is white, white is black" 1984-ish aspect of this
whole episode is how fingers have been pointed at
the New York Times for the way "it" has supposedly endangered
national security by writing about it, as opposed to how the Bush
administration endangered our lives by caving in to political
pressure from the Right — and envisioning an opportunity
for public opinion to shift as a result of the zealous efforts of
untrained wingnuts, who may be able to translate, but know little
or nothing about weighing the preponderance of the data to
advance it to information and, ultimately, wisdom. In an
atmosphere where public opinion was apparently all that mattered,
I imagine that an interest in being judicial would last as about
long as a single M&M.
So the job hires again disappointed expectations, 92,000 hires, about a third lower than expected. On the other hand, prior figures for September and August were revised upwards. September's tally was revised up to 148,000, a figure which would have exceeded the expectations at that time, 125,000. As for August's figures, they were revised a second time, to 233,000; August's figures always exceeded expectations, 121,000.
So under the current perspective, even with the low report for October, the tally for the last three months together is 473,000 jobs; not bad, just under the number needed to keep pace with population growth.
I will get to the drop in the unemployment rate measured by the household survey, but let's point out one more thing regarding the 92,000 October hires. The source of the hires is worrisome to some:
The encouraging news — which the GOP is emphasizing in the final days — is that the unemployment rate (measured in the household survey) dropped two-tenths of a percent, to 4.4%, its lowest figure in five years. Lower unemployment is of course a good thing, but we should take this line of the President's with a grain of salt:
Not so clear that it's due to tax cuts: the Fed went through a long period of interest rate reductions, allowing people to refinance their mortgages, and shift the way they spend their money. This has been a pretty significant engine in and of itself; for the President to not discuss this is, at best, disingenuous on his part.
(As an aside, Dean Baker questions GOP cynicism regarding the
September hires figure: if it's understated, as they claim, then
productivity has plummeted. Choose your
Game theory basics. Over at
Stephen Rittenberg takes a terrorist's endorsement of the
Democrats at face value, and thinks it's a discredit to the
Democrats. This is of course exactly the game: the
terrorists know how wonderful Bush and Co. have been for their
business, and if endorsing the Democrats means GOP supporters
will work harder to keep the President's party in power, then
that's what they'll do. This is exactly what OBL was doing
with his tape just before the 2004 Presidential election, when he
cast aspersions on Bush's policies.
Blog of the Year, said Time magazine. Over at Powerline Paul Mirengoff (not John Hinderaker) fell into a misinterpretation of that New York Times article regarding the U.S. web site showing that Saddam Hussein was working towards nuclear weapons prior to Gulf War I; I guess he was so breathless in his "this proves it, this proves it" that he never stopped to think about the timeline of what the Times was talking about. I certainly understood it when I read it last night; the Times was clearly not talking about recent efforts, but about governmental negligence in putting the manuals online...
Mirengoff's mistake, like others, was to assume that reports written in 2002 for the benefit of UN inspectors crowed about nuclear capabilities in 2002. Yeah, right. That's why the U.S. said they were hiding things, why Condi Rice did those op-eds about why the Iraqis weren't being forthright... Because in 2002 the Iraqis said they were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.
Seriously, it had to have been wishful thinking on the wingnuts' part to draw that conclusion, and many of them wished their Fridays away.
But I'm not even at the good part yet: the way Mirengoff condones his misinterpretation:
Frankly, I'm not sure there's much of a distinction here. If Saddam's regime was capable of building an atom bomb within a year in 1991, then it was capable of doing so in 2002. And it's hard to believe that, in light of the progress arch-rival Iran had made on that front, Saddam would not have completed the job by now had he not been overthrown.
OK, let's break this down into its components. First, Mirengoff is saying that the reason we invaded is because of WMD. I don't believe that's true, Bush has acted like there were other reasons which remained after that layer of the onion was peeled away, but if that's the world Mirengoff wants to hold onto, okay, we'll take that as a given (before we knock it down).
His "if... then..." claim ("If Saddam's regime was capable of building an atom bomb within a year in 1991, then it was capable of doing so in 2002") is not supported by the facts. The official reports (both the interim report from Kay and the final report from Duelfer) showed that whatever intentions, whatever desires Saddam Hussein may have had in 2002, he most certainly did not have the capabilities. The sanctions were working; Saddam Hussein had nothing but crumbling, decaying parts left over from 1991. Further, the best intelligence — defectors who weren't painting rosy "Yes you can change the world pictures" for the administration — had pointed this out; further, the UN inspectors hadn't uncovered any evidence to suggest that Iraq had a nuclear program. The sixteen words from Bush's 2003 State of the Union had been declared questionable by the CIA... In short, there was plenty of reason to question the wisdom of invading Iraq over WMDs in 2003, and those who had the best access to the information were certainly in a position to see it.
As for Iran, just how much progress has Iran made? What has Mirengoff been reading that we mortals don't know about? I mean, the IAEA has pretty much been on top of what Iran has been doing, and has been raising the flags. Was Iran really in a position to get Saddam Hussein his nuclear capabilities?
And if Iraq needed Iran, doesn't that fly in the face of Mirengoff's claim that Iraq was "just as capable" in 2002? How "capable" are you in 2002 if you need Iran to make you capable? And if Iran's supply makes you capable in 2002, then who, pray tell, is the problem: Iraq or Iran? Why invade Iraq? Huh, Paul?
I'm not sure how to describe what we're seeing in the waning days running up to Tuesday's elections. On the one hand, it does seem as if an awful lot of Republican candidates (and those who support the Republicans) are flopping around like hooked fish newly landed in the boat... But on the other hand, do we really think this behavior has only manifested itself recently?
I'm not going to be so bold as to suggest that this is new behavior, but here are some recent activities which have been noticed:
Computer scariness tonight. Somehow,
our firewall was breached. The pointer was moving around in a
herky-jerky motion outside my control, skipping off to distant
places on the monitor. I checked with others in the house to see
if they were seeing anything similar, but they weren't... I
opened up Task Manager to see if I could tell if an odd process
was running (and of course I couldn't: Norton has more processes
running in the background than the CIA). Soon I started to see
browsers opening: Netscape, for instance, which I didn't even
know I had! Finally I shut the DSL modem off for ten minutes, to
get a new IP address. Scans since then haven't picked anything
up, and the track ball has been fine. I think it must have been
Karl Rove, who's probably peeved about my last post.
Stagecraft. If for nothing else — okay, nothing else — it's time to credit the GOP for its sense of stagecraft. Their policies, and the actions of their leaders, are pretty bankrupt when you consider...
Forgive me if I've left something out - - I need to move on to the second part of this discussion, in fact I know I've left a lot out, but I can't write them all out and show up as a responsible worker tomorrow morning, so please add more in the comments...
As for the stagecraft in this context: the cumulative impact of all of the above and other aspects which time wouldn't allow me to fully enumerate would, if this were an intervention on an alcoholic, have the beloved target begging for redemption and the time in the tank. But not the GOP, no way! Ken Mehlman will sign checks for ads which were geared to conjure Mandingo fears among the white males in the voting booths, and later claim he had no control over their airing because although the GOP paid for them, they were produced independently. Uh huh. Pretty good bit of stagecraft there, eh what?
And Bush in the past few days: in spite of the fact that Osama Bin-Laden doing what he could to make it clear that Bush helped him more than Kerry would (see this post from me, and my 2004 suspicions were confirmed in Ron Suskind's book), Bush has been doing everything he can to support the GOP in these midterm elections by claiming that if the Democrats win we're all going down the tubes. Bush is trying to wash away his complicity in creating more terrorists; while I believe it will be a triumph for terrorism if we don't accomplish peace in Iraq, it's clear that Bush created a provocation by invading Iraq, by his "Bring 'em on" crapola, and through his continual failed efforts there. (Personally, I think we should stay, but only if we can switch Bush's brain with something more reasonable which will allow us to really have an impact. The entire effort needs a new face, one which the Iraqis can have confidence in, one which the rest of the world can have confidence in. Not sure who: Powell seems to have been boxed out; the Pope seems to have fouled the kitty... Barf alert to all you NRO leaders... Jimmy Carter? Bill Clinton? Choose your poison, there are so many choices, but for God's sake choose wisely!)
Cheney, too: some of his remarks this week have suggested that the terrorists in Iraq have been focusing on our elections. I don't doubt that some of that is true, but it's also been Ramadan. In 2003 Ramadan was the start of a big offensive by the insurgents (that's what they were called back then, before the wingnuts started engaging in their "I can out-label them" shoot- outs, where they'd have these hoedowns and conjoin all sorts of word forms into stuff like "Islamo-pomo-fasco-hyper-oppresso-fiends. types.") And it's happened every Ramadan since, but Cheney wants us all to think that it's all tied to our elections: and this is what we will face into perpetuity if we elect those flower-sniffing Democrats instead of the GOP, which had the good sense to turn away from hunting OBL down in Tora-Bora for better things, like hunting for monsters under the bed in Iraq.
See, this is the really cool thing about the GOP stagecraft. They've really been completely ineffective. The people who work for the CIA and the military, who have jobs which are not at the whim of the President: they are doing an impressive job, they deliver the bad news, even if the President wants to brush it away with an "OK, you've covered your ass" (see Suskind). They're doing a phenomenal job, but the President isn't listening, and he hopes you aren't either. The intelligence services put out a summary report which notes that while our exit will give terrorism a blue ribbon, our presence there has been a huge recruiting tool. Yet Bush ignores this: his Excellent Adventure was incredibly misguided. And it was his invasion, so he won't admit the problems it's caused. Didn't I talk about interventions above? How about "denial"?
Look, I have to wrap this up, so I can't fully explore it all,
but it's really incredible: a horrible government, a party which
controls every branch of government and should be demonstrating
what it can accomplish in an unfettered environment, and still
their campaign premise is this: the Democrats are going to be
bad! As if the Republicans have been good!