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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Annus horribilis

No, no, no. not what Dubya and Dick called that New York Times reporter. Just your basic Latin phrase for bad year. But for who?

Things haven't gone too well for Tom "The Exterminator" DeLay, our erstwhile House leader under indictment for conspiracy. Or for Bill "Long Distance" Frist, the Senate Majority Leader who took time out from his busy schedule diagnosing Terri Schiavo to dump his HCA stocks before they tanked.

Jack Abramoff? His 2006 is going to be considerably worse than the year now ending. Ditto for Michael Scanlon, his partner in scam. Which brings us back to Termite Tommy.

At least Randy "Duke" Cunningham will have someone to talk to at his Club Fed resort.

Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown? Nope, though he certainly had a better year than the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The private contractors cleaning up in FEMA's wake? Now they'll be sorry to see this lucrative year end, but there's probably more in the pipeline for them.

Same for the oil companies, if not Ted "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens. Or the folks in the cold states who will have to choose between heating and eating.

Scott McLellan? Well maybe better than Jeff Gannon or Armstrong Williams or the Lincoln Group, but not by much. The MSM? Not really.

The folks in Dover, Pa. better watch out, according to Pat Robertson. I hope they have intelligently designed protection against the curse.

Just a smattering of the outrage and outrageousness of the year about to end. I'd say the overall conclusion is any American who is looking for honesty and decency from the compassionate conservatives who are running us and our nation into the ground is the big loser this year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Ridgie, you're doing a heckuva job

Doing some catch up reading and there is much to commend in the Washington Post's two-parter this week on the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.

The bureaucratic infighting is astounding, the lack of focus on the mission appalling and, as Katrina proved, the results inevitable. All you need to know about DHS is how it worried, in its first days, about how to brand itself.

And its ironic that good 'ol Brownie was right for the wrong reasons. Brown argued the plan to dismantle and reorganize FEMA was wrong, stripping it of its ability to fight inevitable natural disasters, its raison d'etre, so that it could fight the hidden terrorist menace.

So like everything else about the Katrina response, his reasoning did not focus on good management, but rather, turf.

Oh, it's spying time again

Good morning, fed. Hope you don't what I'm about to write personally.

It's becoming quite clear the truth-challenged Bush administration believes that putting the Constitution in the shredder is justifiable collateral damage in its messianic crusade to save the world. Truth is another one of those collateral damage items, but it's been in short supply anyway.

While far from a technology genius, I assumed that the use of the NSA to tap into the domestic conversations of alleged terrorists was hardly a surgical strike. Vacuum cleaner would be more like it. Now comes additional proof that the Hoovers were out in force (ouch, bad pun) as the NSA engaged in data mining, spying on many thousands of millions of Americans in the pursuits. J. Edgar would have been proud. He didn't believe in surgical strikes either.

It's also interesting to note that one one of the principals in the room for the deal to allow stepped up activities to find and bring to justice the terrorists who attacked our country says he never agreed to the overly broad powers the Bushies claim they got from Congress.

No matter what Tom Daschle says though, because he and everyone else involved in the decisions would get a sweeping grant of immunity from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Bush apologists continue to scoff at the increasing use of the "I-word." Why, they huff, even Bill Clinton did it." So let's see, Clinton is OK when it comes to justify illegal spying but his lying was far different than George Bush's multiple fibs. (And why does this spellchecker offer FBI as an alternative to 'fib'?)

OK, let's review. Clinton lied under oath in what may have been the only forced case of suspending 5th Amendment rights in US history. No one died.

George Bush has lied in virtually every public forum and has flouted other Americans rights from free expression and illegal search and seizure, even bypassing what in effect is a rubber stamp court. The returns are just beginning to come in (ouch, another one) on what other illegalities have been committed by and in the name of George W. Bush. Thousands have died.

Gotta love that consistency.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ho, ho, ho, happy holidays

Our compassionate conservatives offered a holiday gift to a broad cross-section of Americans yesterday -- enough lumps of coals in their stockings to regenerate the coal industry.

Vice had to slither out into the daylight from his undisclosed location to cast the tie-breaking vote on an appropriations bill that offers the first significant cost-cutting from a GOP-dominated government that has handed out billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans over the past five years.

Guess who's taking it in the chin this holiday season: the poor, the elderly and students who might oppose what these folks are doing if they could afford the education. Check out this holiday cheer:

States would have sweeping new authority to impose premiums and co-payments on millions of low-income people covered by Medicaid. States can also scale back benefits for many recipients.

For the elderly, it would be more difficult to qualify for Medicaid coverage for nursing home care if they transfer assets to their children or other relatives for less than fair market value.

Medicare would freeze payments for home health services and reduce payments for medical imaging.

Welfare recipients would be subject to stricter work requirements. States would be subject to new financial penalties unless they put more people to work or further reduce the number of families receiving assistance.

Aid that helps states collect child support from absent parents would be reduced.

Some kudos those, to the Republicans who found the backbone to force the Cheney tiebreaker and to kill, for now, Ted Stevens' naked ANWR drilling grab.

With apologies to William Brink and the New York Daily News, GOP to America: Drop Dead (from the cold, poor health, old age or because you do not live in Iraq or Afghanistan).

Blame Game

OK Mitt, you just said it all -- in Washington you are considered a moderate. Media bashing is a major part of Washington "moderation."

But unlike those folks, you are not consistent. You change your views like a chameleon to fit the audience you are wooing. And like Bill Weld, your attention span is limited.

As for who is distorting your image, I simply refer you to someone who knows you best. The thing I love most about conservatives is their willingness to accept responsibility for their actions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Snowball rolling downhill

So everything you did is legal, right George? Tell it to the judge.

The decision (at least we think the so) of James Robertson to resign from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in protest of the Bush administration's decision to bypass it is another sign of the soundness of the legal opinions of Alberto Gonzalez and the Justice Department.

Now before the Theocons make it partisan by saying Robertson was appointed by Bill Clinton, let's note that while Clinton put him on the bench, William Rehnquist made the FISC appointment. In other words, Judge Robertson displayed characteristics missing from Bush appointments: backbone and a devotion to the rule of law.

But hey, if Dick Cheney says its legal, that should be good enough for us.

A small but slowly growing group of senators, from both parties, seem to be developing backbones when it comes to the outlandish and illegal bullying tactics of our Supreme Commander and his sidekick George.

At its heart, this is but one more episode in a power grab by an administration that does not respect or defend the Constitution of the United States, despite what they swear to on a Bible.

Wasn't that failure to uphold an oath the excuse used to impeach Bill Clinton -- over a cigar?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fools on the Hill

Perhaps it's no surprise that the Bush administration thinks it can steamroll Congress and the American people into thinking it's OK for them to break the law. After all, this spineless Congress has a similar goal -- ram through special interest legislation by any means necessary.

What exactly drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the bird flu and cutting Medicaid and student loan assistance have to do with the war in Iraq is hard to fathom at first glance. But lo and behold, our fearless congressional "leaders" have linked them in a cynical display of pork barrel politics.

Tying together two pieces of legislation to achieve their ends -- including attaching ANWR and avian flu spending to the defense bill -- the House voted in the dead of night to place the interest of oil companies ahead of the poor. Profile in Courage? Or Gutless Wonders?

Let's not forget that one of the architects of this scam, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, is also the man behind the multi-million dollar "bridge to nowhere" in his home state.

There appears to be a few Senate Republicans willing to stand up against this outrage. Let's hope so -- even if that means that they will probably became the subject of warrantless spying by their potential opponents in the next election.

I'm the law

The rationalizations of the Bush administration for its egregious violations of citizens rights through the use of warrantless spying would be outrageous if they were not so commonplace from the most lawless President in American history.

Bush is making Richard Nixon look like a piker when it comes to his assault on civil rights. Not only are potential al Qaeda sympathizers under investigation, so are animal rights activists. And while there is no denying that some members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have overstepped the bounds of protest, they are not in the same league as those who would bomb buildings.

But the FBI's rationalizations -- and those of Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez -- are stunning in their over-reach, and even some former Bushies agree.
"In times of crisis I think you have to explore, use every capability and explore every option," said Roger Cressey, who was principal deputy to the White House counterterrorism chief during Bush's first term. "But past those, in the day-to-day operations when there is no imminent threat, you need to revisit procedures and structures in place to ensure proper oversight."
Especially when you have a court with the record of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Here is a secret court that acts as a rubber stamp, yet the Bushies find it "cumbersome" to fill out some forms and attempt to defend their actions which stand in direct opposition to constitutional protections against unwarranted search and seizure.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Credibility chasm

Trust me. That in essence is George Bush's message to the world this holiday season. Oh we screwed up some and yes my opponents have a right to draw the breath of life (for now) but we must stay the course.

Reassuring. Humble. The early reviews are just what the spin doctors ordered. And make sure Dick Cheney is around to kick the cat. The folks are so obsessed with secrecy that they don't tell our friends they are coming for a visit.

As usual, W's wordsmithies were on target. Make what sounds like a conciliatory gesture, then come back with an alleged trusim that offers no room for dissent.
"I have heard your disagreement and I know how deeply it is felt," Bush said. "Yet now there are only two options before our country: victory or defeat."
How about a third way: empowering Iraqis to take over the push for their own destiny and not some course predetermined by the White House situation room.

This Times analysis also clearly lays out who the "enemy" is.
Mr. Bush's use of the term "defeatists" lay at the rhetorical crux of his new argument. The main obstacle, he now contends, is not the insurgency or the anti-American sentiment in Iraq; it is the risk that Americans will give up too early and let terrorists believe they have intimidated "America into a policy of retreat." It is an argument he made forcefully in the four speeches that preceded his Oval Office address, when he contended that Al Qaeda believed that Americans would abandon Iraq as they abandoned Vietnam.
As Pogo said: "we have met the enemy and he is us."

Until George Bush learns the world is full of grays and not the stark black and white nothing will change. The recent Iraqi elections appear to be a good thing. But what will happen if the nation we have prodded toward democracy opts for a fundamentalist Shiite model (a distinct possiblity based on their constitution)? What if that nation's leaders treat its citizens with the same contempt and disrespect for the rule of law as this nation's?

If Lyndon Johnson had a credibility gap, this Texas president has a Grand Canyon of credibility he needs to close. And spying on us won't do the job.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

We are not alone

No, not aliens. Feds.

It's a fairly safe assumption based on the latest revelations of Bush administration domestic spying operations, such as those reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post that have some folks with badges reading these posts. Those same folks targeted during the anti-war protests of the Vietnam Era.

It's a chilling thought that a president who seems to believe he answers only to (his version of) God feels not a whit of concern about turning on a domestic spying operation in the name of catching "terrorists."

Let's be clear here. I am not opposed to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies with the legal power to act within our borders to seek warrants, even from secret courts, if they have suspicions that someone poses an imminent threat to our safety. I don't want any more buildings blown up and innocent people massacred.

But our president has a very hard time separating people like me -- who disagree with him -- from those who seek to do us harm. His rhetoric always sets up straw men that makes it clear you are with him or a traitor. He has said told the world bluntly that you are either with the terrorists or with "us."

Now, ponder these words, reported by the Post:
The Post reported that the FBI has issued tens of thousands of national security letters, extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans. Most of the U.S. residents and citizens whose records were screened, the FBI acknowledged, were not suspected of wrongdoing.

The burgeoning use of national security letters coincided with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks -- and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed.
All those people really communicating with folks in Afghanistan? What are they doing with that information? Checking on the IP address I'm using to write this? Or the one you are using to read it?

To repeat a crucial point: no one is suggesting (except George Bush and his pals) that people who oppose his policies want to do away with surveillance of bad guys. No, we want to do away with surveillance of innocent people exercising the constitutional rights we are alleged fighting and dying for in Iraq.

You know, freedom and democracy, not having a tyrant looking over our shoulder every minute of the day, trying to impose a narrow-minded religious philosophy on us.

What do you think Fed?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

L'etat, c'est moi

The stunning constitutional power grab by King George is finally coming into full view with the revelation that the NSA spied on American citizens without worrying about the niceties of the Constitution.

The revelations reported by the New York Times also lay bare the spinelessness of the Republican Congress that has aided and abetted in the abdication of its authority as a co-equal branch of government. No wonder W violated his own policy of not commenting on the myriad legal woes surrounding the ethically challenged GOP and pronounced Tom DeLay innocent before a trial. That's what kings do, after all.

And it makes it all the more imperative that Samuel Alito and his deference to executive power not be named to the Supreme Court. Anyone who views congressional oversight of the executive branch as "congressional pilfering" is a dangerous threat to democracy.

The Bush philosophy of unbridled and unchecked executive authority is hardly unusual. After all Richard Nixon had a host of power grabs from secret bombing of Cambodia to domestic spying (by the NSA) to justifications for cutting off the investigation of a "third-rate burglary" as necessary to the national interest.

The difference then was a Congress willing to stand up for its constitutional perogatives and a Supreme Court that was unwilling to stick itself into the middle of politics. What was also different was an aggressive, watchdog press that took presidential abuse of power seriously.

It's somewhat heartening to see that the sleepy giant is slowly awakening from its slumber. But you also can't help but wonder what would have happened had the Time reported the story a year ago, with the nation deciding on choosing a new president. Or if had displayed appropriate skepticism about the WMD claims that apparently went from Ahmad Chalabi's mouth to Judy Miller's notebook.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Democracy, American style

Iraqis appear to have taken an important step in the Bush administration's goal of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Good luck, they are going to need it.

The biggest question is what is that new government going to look like, based on its role model, the United States. Will it include spying on its own citizens without court approval?

How about supporting torture?

Or religious tolerance?

The latest revelations about the Constitution-busting practices of the Bush administration -- all in the name of American freedom -- suggest once again that we have lost the war on terror because we have abandoned the principles we claim to be fighting to preserve. There's no need to fear a caliphate, the latest scare term in the Bush arsenal.

The work of the anti-democratic (small d) forces in the White House, Cabinet and Congress have accomplished what Islamic extremists could not. We are a nation where civil liberties are cast aside in the name of "democracy." We are a nation where "enemies" are jailed without due process, their every word monitored. We are ruled by religious zealots pushed by a small band of ayatollahs who wish to impose their narrow world view on everyone.

The one big difference? Iraqis are starting fresh, a chance to succeed if they ignore their teachers. They turn out en masse to vote. We stay away in droves, turned off by the cynicism, viciousness and dirty tricks (see Florida and Ohio).

George, you've done a great job learning from Saddam.

The MBA politician

People often complain about the political horse-trading that takes place in politics. Why can't government be run like a business, they wonder.

Because government can't (or at least shouldn't) ignore or jettison "unprofitable" centers like the poor and because boards of directors are notorious for being hand-picked to agree with the CEO.

Take a look at the reigns of George W. Bush and W. Mitt Romney (anyone for banning the letter W from the alphabet)?

Our Harvard Business School trained CEOs are aloof leaders who delegate the responsibility and take the credit (blame still goes elsewhere, except of course in the Bush administration, where it doesn't exist).

The Boston Globe offers a solid review of Romney's three years as Massachusetts CEO. It is a picture of very little significant accomplishment (despite Romney's absurd claims of having achieved everything he can). And it is slim record because the CEO thought he could get his "board of directors" to rubber stamp his actions. The elected Democrats who dominate the Legislature thought otherwise. As well they should.

The Bush White House, blessed with a compliant, servile board of directors, er, Congress, does have a roster of programs to show their constituents. Of course, those constituents do not live in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, or poor urban communities across the nation. They do not attend public schools which have received tougher standards and fewer dollars. They don't work in industries that have shed jobs and safety standards in the crush to compete with foreign subsidiaries of domestic corporations whose leaders go by the names of Lay, Koslowski and Rigas.

The winners in this MBA presidency have been the top one-tenth of 1 percent of the wage earners in the United States who have been blessed with lower taxes and fewer strings on the way they do business. The people who shed "unprofitable lines" so they can fatten up their bottom lines.

And all George needs to do is travel on his "corporate" jet, mingle with hand-picked audiences and spout talking points prepared for him on one-page memos recommended in B-School classes on how to be a CEO.

But back to Mitt. Unlike like his GOP predecessors, particularly Bill Weld, Romney disdained the reality that politics is the art or debate and compromise to achieve results for all people.

The Massachusetts Legislature has its problems to be sure, but it does reflect a cross section of the state. And while the Republican Party in Massachusetts has been on life support for years (perhaps that's why the GOP doesn't support pulling the plug?) a case can be made that the Democrats represent the cross section. Did anyone ever accuse Tom Finneran of being a liberal?

By disdaining the art of compromise (business types call it negotiations) and seeking a hostile takeover of his board of directors last year (and failing miserably) Romney shows the same MBA instincts that is leading the US over the cliff. Recognizing he has no chance of achieving his goals his way, he opted to become a lame duck and take his show on the road.

Thankfully there will be no golden parachutes for him from the shareholders of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, American citizens wil be strapped with the cost of the foolish Bush mistakes for generations to come.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Adios, au revoir, auf weidersehn

True to form, Mitt Romney announced the worst-kept secret in Massachusetts politics: he's bored and wants to play on the national stage. True to form, Mitt made claims that just don't stand up.

The Empty Suit says he's accomplished just about everything he set out to do: Balancing three budgets without new taxes, capital gains tax reform and improving math scores. Funny, I thought the Legislature had something to do with the first two (which also included spreading pain to cities and towns and fixing a giant mistake.) Of course all pols take credit for everything that happens on their watch.

But Our Fraud Governor did actually speak some truth:
'There was very little that had to spill into a second term that we had any prospects of ever getting done. . . . The vision that I ran for and that I promised to the people of Massachusetts I've delivered to the extent that I possibly can."
By running against the Legislature and, eventually, the people of Massachusetts themselves, Romney guaranteed he would be even more ineffectual. Bill Weld quickly learned he needed to work with legislators to get things done -- and he did. Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift were members of the Legislature and understood its importance to accomplishing things.

Mitt, the ultimate CEO, thought he could delegate and command. Government does not work that way (nor should it).

So now what of his promise for health care reform and auto insurance reform? Were they less important than his stance on gay marriage, the death penalty and restrictions on stem cell research? Or were they planks for the national campaign he claims he has not decided upon.

They report and you decide.


Bill Frist, knee deep in a sea of alligators of his own making, remains true to form. The Big Guys are who count.

Faced with the choice of changes in the alternative minimum tax, which has become a monster targeting the income of middle income people, or lowering capital gains and estate taxes, guess which Frist chooses?

Compassionate conservatism? Looking out for your own tax breaks?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dead tree society

"We're sorry but due to production problems, delivery of your copy of the (fill-in the blank newspaper) has been delayed." That, in a nutshell is the sound of a dying industry.

The newspaper business is not as financially bereft as you might think. There are clouds on the horizon as large retailers become larger ones, taking Filene's advertising away along with the name. Heck, those newspaper shareholders are getting worried that their profits are dipping below 20 percent. Lay off some more reporters.

What represents the real troubling future for newspapers is the ink on tree delivery format is dying and our moguls haven't figured out what to do about that. The folks at Federated Department Stores who have swallowed up Filene's and Marshall Field's in their quest to Macy-fy America aren't too keen on running their huge display ads on boston.com.

You can guess I am of a certain age because I actually like to sit with a newspaper. There are advantages: you can take it anywhere: spread out on the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, lie on the living room floor on Sunday with sections spread out, adjourn to the "library" with reading material.

Newspapers are compact and getting smaller and there is an effort to add some respectability to the tabloid format that is so easy to read on the bus or subway (provided you have more than inch of space from the backpack in your face!)

The problem -- and it is huge -- is the delivery system. Once upon a time it depended on kids (and their parents). In the business' infinite wisdom kids were phased out as unreliable. In their place came adults with cars deemed more reliable (a dubious proposition). Take away a kid's first job and their reason to have an attachment to a newspaper. Smart move.

Not to mention the fact that papers that once offered a discount to their guaranteed customers charge a premium ($1.09 per copy for a home-delivered Times) and ask you to pay in advance without offering reliability in return.

So what's the problem, you might be saying, you can always read it online. Yep, that's the problem for the industry all right. Because I can read it online, for free.

There are aesthetic problems: I'm stuck at a keyboard (or a ridiculously tiny PDA screen) and I can't browse a web site in the same way I scan headlines. You must make an affirmative decision to click on a link, open multiple pages to satisfy their needs to satisfy the advertisers they do have with click count. The randomness of choosing at whim based on headline and story placement is gone. I won't even get into the issue of the comics.

And the nightmare di tutti nightmares for the industry: they are giving it away. Sure the Wall Street Journal has a successful online model (and our office subscribes because it is actually cheaper and it really did a number on the thief who kept taking our copy every day!) But no one else has found a model that works financially for access to the entire newspaper. Can you say expense account or tax write-off?

The New York Times is in the middle of an experiment to see if they can charges $49.95 for columnists and other "select" copy. I get the archives for my subscription to the dead tree edition but is that worth $50 bucks? (Or is that "select access worth $600 a year?)

The Boston Herald charges for access to their columnists. (Since I stopped buying the paper because it was sliding way to far downscale and I can hear the Herald opinions on Fox News Channel, why bother?)

Until they come up with a satisfying way to put a newspaper in cyberspace (or until my generation dies out) newsprint will win out over electrons. And until publishers find a successful model to charge for electrons in a medium that was founded on the concept of free. You get the idea.

And there's another problem: younger readers could care less about a newspaper. Or maybe they do. The experiments with papers like the Boston Metro are encouraging -- you see a lot more people on the train with a paper. But for old fogies it's hard to like a paper that takes less time to read than the Herald.

So I'll just wait to see what excuse they come up with today for the lack of a paper before I head out the door. And troll the websites.... and strip the advertiser cookies out of my browser.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Interesting twist

In normal times, you might be tempted to say "hurray," with word that the Supreme Court will take a look at the shenanigans that comprised the last Texas congressional redistricting. No not the dramatics of legislators leaving the state or even the payoffs that have 'ol Termite Tommy in the dock.

The high court is going to take a look at the question of whether the Voting Rights Act was violated by cutting up districts to make it easier for a midstream putsch to install more Republicans in the House. And as one of the parties proclaimed "When you set out to hammer the Democrats, it's going to be difficult to do that without hammering minorities' rights as well."

But there's no guarantees here under the GOP interpretation of the Constitution. Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department thought everything was just fine. The Supreme Court is basically unchanged since its venture into partisan electoral politics with its convoluted Bush v. Gore decision.

And waiting in the wings, perhaps in time to cast a decisive vote is Samuel Alito, You know, the guy who questioned the correctness of Baker v. Carr, the "reapportionment" decision.

By the time we're through with this one, Iraq could have a better example of a model democracy. And you know what they say about justice DeLayed in justice denied.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Rummy, W and Vice

Perhaps those are the guys the psy-ops folks had in mind for the Three Stooges-based program they thought about to tell the Arab population of the Mideast that America has the freedom and openness the should emulate.

In some ways, this is getting old: we know the Bush administration holds the concepts of freedom of speech, press and religion in contempt. Paying for news is old hat for these guys.

And there is indeed nothing wrong, as noted, with psychological operations (propaganda or disinformation for those less-clued in):
"Psychological operations are an essential part of warfare, more so in the electronic age than ever," said Lt. Col. Charles A. Krohn, a retired Army spokesman and journalism professor. "If you're going to invade a country and eject its government and occupy its territory, you ought to tell people who live there why you've done it. That requires a well-thought-out communications program."
Two problems: How well thought out is this when the idea is to use American "cultural icons" like the Stooges and The Onion and two, why is it that everyone except the American public knows?
A former Lincoln employee said the ploy of making the articles appear to be written by Iraqis by removing any American fingerprints was not very effective. "Many Iraqis know it's from Americans," he said.
The old lawyer's rule is never ask a question you don't know the answer to. So the Bush administration must have known the answer to the query: "just how stupid do you think the American people are?"

Monkey business

The debate over evolution comes down to two simple things: money and power. And as usual, Theocons and their compassionate conservative minions want something for nothing.

The latest battle in the cultural wars, chronicled by the Washington Post in suburban Georgia, is a repeat on a sorry old theme: the belief that government is bad, except when it pays for something I want.

When my parents wanted to me learn about my religious roots and the bible, they sent me to an after-school religious school, which they paid for as part of their temple dues. They did not demand the public schools teach those topics.

When my parents did not want me to watch something on TV or listen to something on the radio, they did not not ask the government to intervene and ban the record or the program. They turned the set off.

But to the Theocons, who are firm believers in the "get the government off my back" philosophy when it comes to taxes to pay for schools and public safety, don't see it that way. Their perception of religious freedom is the ability to impose their narrow world view on everyone else.

Whether the topic is abortion, gay rights, dissonant cultural themes in music or movies -- and now the origins of life -- the Ayatollahs of the Theocratic States of America believe they serve the same function as the religious police in Saudi Arabia. Their job is to defend this culture against the heathens and non-believers who would stain their views.

Some, like the "pro-life" zealots" who kills physicians to protest abortion, behave just like their Saudi counterparts. Others, like Pat Robertson, leave the suggestion for others with more "courage."

The current "debate" over evolution versus intelligent design is but the latest round of a cultural war led by people out to destroy the current way of life under a Constitution that protects everyone's point of view and opinion.

Their goal is nothing less than those of Osama bin Laden's followers, to impose their own version of the Sharia law on the faithful and condemn the rest of us to living with the terror of a knock on the door from the religious police to tell us we are wrong.

And by the way, intelligent design fans, if the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennesee was not enough to convince you, here's something to suggest just how wrong you are.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Peace, love and understanding

One thing you can count on from Theocons is that they offer a sense of goodwill to all men. Take these two stories as examples.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino has been forced to defend his Catholicism and beliefs by the zealots who proclaim they know what is right for all people to belief. For example:
''This is a tragedy. This is a very sad day for Catholic Charities," said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League. ''It's very disturbing to have Catholic Charities honor the mayor, when he's spent his whole career working against Catholic principles."
Mr. Doyle, what are those actions? Believing in a woman's right to choose? Believing that all people should be treated with respect and dignity despite their sexual preferences?

Or this little gem from Bill Cotter, who the Globe should have identified as a leader of Operation Rescue, that "pro-life organization that condones the murder of people who disagree with them.
Catholic groups ''need to maintain their integrity" by following the church's moral teachings. Cotter said.
Just like John Salvi?

Or the warm and fuzzy words Elaine Donnelly, president of the conservative Center for Military Readiness, which has opposed gays in the military and women serving in combat roles. She takes on a whole institution without the benefits of supporting facts.
'Implementation of a self- interested Wellesley proposal could create a new job market for women's studies graduates schooled in man-hating ideology," she told the Globe.
Or the ever forgiving Phyllis Schafly.
''Wellesley is doubly bad because it is completely feminist," Schlafly said in an interview. ''The whole thing is a taxpayer-funded operation to establish the notion that men are natural batterers and women are victims and women are always right and men are always wrong."
And liberals are haters? "Mumbles" Menino has never been more eloquent.

Poor misunderstood pharma

The silence from the corporate world and their minions. But then again. So what's new about that when they get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar.

The admission by the New England Journal of Medicine that it messed up in not thoroughly vetting a study showing Merck's Vioxx to be the greatest thing since sliced bread is the lesser of two sins. The fact the company "tweaked" the data to ignore messy little complications like the fact it posed a danger to people is the far greater sin.

What's instructive in this and other accounts is the relative silence from the company (enmeshed in a third lawsuit over Vioxx deaths) and the industry behemoth PhARMA. The company's written statement says only three additional heart attacks "did not materially change any of the conclusions in the article." I guess there is little you can say about falsifying data that stands up to scrutiny.

As for the industry, which is quick to insist the massive amounts in charges customers in the US is designed to encourage continued research, the best we can seem to find is an unnamed executive telling the Globe that protocols targeted only at industry-funded research is "unfair."

I'd say this action is more reflective of the industry's hardball tactics. No wonder corporate America has a PR problem.

Lapdog journalism

The history of political reporting in the United States can adequately summarized in three phases: lapdog, watchdog and junkyard dog. The evidence is overwhelming we are deeply in a lapdog phase and as Michael Massing documents in the New York Review of Books, we're not getting out soon.

The foibles and peccadilloes of presidents were nobody's business during the first lapdog era. FDR's polio and the mistresses of FDR, Eisenhower and Kennedy were well known in the press corps, if not in the public. The need for access, in this instance to simply be admitted to the White House -- and the code of "gentlemen" kept those sorts of things out of the papers.

The watchdog era began when the press grew tired of the military's "Five o'clock Follies" in Vietnam, when reporters knew they were being lied to. That deception, aided by whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg and the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, led to a greater disbelief in the words and deeds of the Johnson and Nixon administrations and the dawn of the watchdog era.

The high watermark of watchdog journalism was Watergate, where two young police beat reporters locked onto a "third rate burglary" in the offices of the Democratic National Committee and rode it to the impeachment and eventual resignation of a president.

But it is crucial to remember that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were cop shop reporters. The national reporters who covered Congress and the White House didn't break the story. They tagged along when the young bloods ferreted out the details.

Perhaps because of embarrassment, but more likely because of hubris, the tone of coverage changed after Nixon's resignation and Ford's decision to pardon him. Welcome to the junkyard dog era, where everything was on limits -- and the careful sourcing used by Woodstein slowly slipped away as a standard.

Political reporting, as popularized by Teddy White, made process the king over substance. The need to be in the room when decisions were made was more important than the decisions -- and their implications. That need for access put the handlers in the driver's seat and really ushered in the rise of spin.

For those on the outside looking in, the total domination of handlers bred resentment and the need to expose the Potemkin's Village of the campaign. So we were treated to a look at Gary Hart's sex life, Michael Dukakis in a tank and other trivia. Iran-Contra slipped by most noses, as did the savings and loan scandals because those after all, were about policy not politics. Bill Clinton's sexual peccadilloes were front page news, as was his dissembling. The junkyard dogs were in their glory.

While all this was going on, the Theocons were in full-throated cry with their challenge to their "liberal media" as purveyors of junk who don't respect government or our leaders (unless of course they don't respect the leaders, in which case they aid and abet the scandal machine. Time for another shift.

Welcome back to lapdog journalism. Cowed by the attacks from the right, fearful of the charges of treason and being unpatriotic, and now owned by large corporations, the media have retreated in the face of the most secretive administration since Richard Nixon.

The Qatar briefings during the Iraq War had all the feel of a high tech Five o'clock Follies. Being the only show in town, short of embedding with the troops and facing bullets directly, reporters signed on (No disrespect to those who did see the war up close and personal. But by it's very nature, that reporting was one-sided.)

So the Bushies got what they wanted -- a docile coverage of the war that ignored Iraqi civilian deaths, that did not highlight US military casualties and of course accepted at face value claims about WMDs, a Saddam-Osama connection and the concocted stories about Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman.

The media also bought in to the greeted a liberator's line and the "coalition of the willing" propaganda that ignored the fact that world outrage over those same tactics.

Now we are led to think that perhaps the worm is turning again, back to the watchdog era -- coverage of New Orleans' heartache, renewed life in the White House pressroom, the Plame leak investigation.

It's too early to say for sure, but alas I don't think the signs are real. There is still too much attention to polls, not enough to substance beyond things like the economic numbers that give lie to those sentiments, as Massing points out so well in the piece that got me started on this.

I'm just not sure who will win this dog show yet, but I am rooting for the watch dog.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Happy holidays (if you are rich)

The true spirit of a Compassionate Conservative Christmas was on display in the U.S. House yesterday: doling out a $56 billion Christmas present to their friends and cronies just days after slashing funds for Medicaid, food stamps and student loans.

Of course, the GOP zealots were in full demagogue mode:

"The Democrats want to take away the paychecks of [my constituents], replace them with welfare checks and call that compassion," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.). Maybe he snarled instead of said?

If Jeb's constituents are the Enron boys, he may have a point.

And of course the tax timebomb set to explode on families, particularly those with kids, continues to tick away. Our honorable GOP lawmakers have yet to make a serious move to deal with the alternative minimum tax. Could it be because the AMT eliminates things like deductions for high state and local taxes, something more common in blue states?

And leave it to the GOP "leaders" rail against Democrats who want to raise taxes.

"If you vote yes for the Democratic substitute, you are increasing taxes over five years by $40 billion," Representative Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said. "That is the single largest tax increase since they were in the majority in 1993."
Of course the fact there are staggering deficits as far as the eyes can see to pay for Bush's Iraq Follies is sound fiscal policy.

How stupid do they think we are? Never mind. I think I know the answer.

Happy holidays (if you are religious)

This is has festered for bit ...

The sheer idiocy and venality of the Bush Christmas card protest is mind-boggling. Our Theocon Ayatollahs are really going off the deep end in their obnoxious effort to put Christ back in Christmas.

This Bush League protest come on the heel of a tempest in a teapot set off by Jerry Falwell's ludicrous threat to sue the city of Boston if it insisted on lighting a holiday tree instead of a Christmas tree. (Way to show that backbone Tommy.)

Hey guys, you really need to cut down on the rum in the egg nog.

I guess there are not enough controversies in this country -- and certainly not enough catering to the religious fundamentalists who are threatening basic human values by the insistence on imposing their values and beliefs upon all Americans (something in direct contradiction of the values and philosophy of the Constitution and its promise of religious freedom.)

Let's review here. The holiday season -- which encompasses Hanukkah and Kwanzaa too -- has become the largest retailing opportunity of the year. Who is to blame? Blame the secular humanists or the "merchant class" (you know the people targeted by Henry Ford and everyone else looking for a scapegoat when things don't go the way they planned and in whose faith I was raised).

But the fact is that despite strong religious undertones (that are still honored in creche scenes around the country, including Boston) the season has tried to bring "tidings of comfort and joy" to all.

Now the Theocons are trying to reduce who receives those tidings by imposing their small minded world view on the masses. The standing joke is there is no "fun" in fundamentalism.

Talk about being Grinches. So Jerry and Denny and the Wildmon family of Tupelo, Mississippi, get a life, lighten up and don't try to impose your "moral values" on me. Rather, heed to advice of former congressman Bob Edgar, now the general secretary of the National Council of Churches.

"I think it's more important to put Christ back into our war planning than into our Christmas cards."
Happy Holidays!

Post script: I'm not sure what you can really say about the commitment of the Ayatollahs. If the day is so darn important, why are they taking it off? Instead of the DVD, how about a Yule Log tape?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Backbone wanted

Beltway Democrats are having the vapors because a few outspoken, high profile people like Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are suggesting an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Oh gosh, oh golly, that's the worst idea since Dean's scream, says one Georgia Democrat (or is that the only Georgia Democrat?)

The agita comes as Vice does what he does best: head off to secure location and slander administration foes as traitors. "That would be unwise in the extreme," says Vice about immediate withdrawal, being an expert on both lack of wisdom and extremism.

Can we get a new script please?

Polls show there is a strong sentiment in the country that we are on the wrong track in Iraq. There are basically three schools of thought: Bush bitter-enders; set a timetable and turn it over to Iraqis; and get out now. The GOP, for the most part, represent the bitter-enders. 'My president got us here and I will ride with him straight off that cliff,' they say in the spirit of LBJ backers. Democrats, for the most part, populate the other two schools.

Beltway Democrats, however, are auditioning for the role of the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, afraid not simply of a decision, but afraid of debate. Because if they attempt a rational discussion in the face of GOP demagoguery, well, gee whiz, they may look weak.

Guess what, your weakness is showing in your meekness.

The rap against the Democratic Party is not that simply that it is weak on defense. The rap is that it is weak in the knees, afraid to take a position that may offend potential voters. As that paralysis from analysis spreads it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Americans don't trust Democrats because they have become too mealy-mouthed to say what they believe.

W and Vice are as wrong as the day is long but they are not afraid to shoot their mouths off and savage their critics. Their courage is on display by the fact they now only speak at military bases and tightly controlled GOP fund-raising events.

Democrats prefer to savage themselves if one or two people suggest that maybe we try to talk about issues of substance.

The donkey party's chances of regaining the House and Senate look fairly decent right now because of GOP corruption and the coup staged by the religious hard right doesn't sit well with lots of open-minded people.

But if the Beltway "leaders" continue to behave like jackasses and cringe in their shadows rather than discuss withdrawal options favored by a majority of Americans, they will continue to be targets for the GOP attack machine that has virtually nothing else going for it.

Maybe Beltway Democrats should read of the part of the Scarecrow and wish for a brain.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Blind arrogance

So Rummy thinks all our problems would go away if only the media told the good news about Iraq and stop dwelling on the negatives?

What's the matter Rummy? Upset that your schemes to buy good news have been exposed? That reporters may finally be developing a backbone after soaking up the blatant lies and distortions that the Bushies have put out for years on subjects ranging from Al Qaeda's connections to Saddam to WMDs to flower petals that were going to greet our troops in Baghdad? Or maybe that your use of the media to get your enemies has led to some indictments?

There's a lot of things wrong with the media -- from the ethically challenged Jayson Blair and Judy Miller to the supine response to the war claims offered by Rummy at all to the chiropractic challenges to indeed report some "good news." The pursuit of the shareholder premium over the truth threatens to destroy the business.

But as Woodstein noted yesterday, there are strong similarities between this administration and the Nixon administration they helped to bring down because of lies. Those similarities really show up strongly when you look at the full-court press to intimidate the media. Sadly, this administration has done a much better job of that -- otherwise George W. would be in the well of the Senate on trial.

Oh I forgot, this Congress is too supine and corrupt to defend the Constitution.

DeLay tactics

Tommy the Exterminator won one and lost another in his continued effort to justify the extortion that passes for fund-raising that has characterized his rise to prominence in the GOP.

A Texas judge has sided with DeLay in tossing out a conspiracy charge, the first indictment leveled against the former House Majority Leader for his fund-raising schemes to gain control of the Texas House so he could eventually add five more Republicans to Congress through a midstream redistricting.

This was the count DeLay ridiculed when Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle brought it earlier in the fall. But the follow-up counts brought by Earle were allowed to go to trial. Despite the gleeful spin of the DeLay spin machine, Tommy is still in deep trouble.

In a sign of the contempt this "lawmaker" holds the law, his attorneys argued there was nothing illegal because the law only applied to the use of corporate checks and not cash. Isn't that the kind of legal nitpicking Theocons love to accuse liberals of raising to an art form?

What's also troubling about this case is the naked partisanship of the Justice Department, revealed last week in overturning a ruling that called the redistricting gimmick was illegal.

We continue to see the "moral leaders" of the GOP being thoroughly blinded to the morality play taking place on Capitol Hill and the rest of the Bush empire: Duke Cunningham has already copped a plea to bribery; Scooter Libby is indicted and Karl Rove is by no means out of the woods for their roles in the Plame outing; Bill Frist is under investigation by the SEC and stands accused of playing favorites with HCA, the family business. And of course there's the whole Abramoff morass that seem likely to ensnare Bob Ney and, full circle, Tom DeLay.

So how do our moral leaders respond: when the going gets tough, Vice goes fund-raising. And the rest of the boyos react with "relief" that they won't be forced to reinstall DeLay into the majority leader's seat in January the way he wants.

What a wonderful way to run a country. Maybe this is what they have in mind for Iraq?

Monday, December 05, 2005

All talk, no action

The final final report of the 9-11 Commission simply reconfirms what all of us have known for a long time: If overheated rhetoric could substitute for action the United States would be the safest country in the history of the planet.

And as a sign the Bushies knew this report hits way too close to home, designated flak Dan Bartlett tried to pass the blame off on Congress.

You mean that servile body that says bless you when the administration sneezes? Particularly instructive is this statement:
"Now Congress has not changed the way its done business in all terms," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "They are funding things based on old models, pre-9/11 models. And we think it's important that homeland security dollars go to where the threats are, and that's something we'll be constantly pushing the Congress to change."
You mean the Congress that has allocated more dollars per capita for Wyoming than New York City? (Yes that is a Heritage Foundation link!) The one that has failed to adequately address how the money is being spent? Or the one that continues to ignore other plausible threats, like LNG tankers and cargo ships?

OK, we'll blame them too. But starting a war in Iraq when the enemy was in Afghanistan; inflaming and building an insurgency hell-bent on hating America; squandering worldwide goodwill by the use of torture, lies and inflammatory rhetoric makes you pretty culpable too.

Playing politics while New Orleans drowned

Two stories over the weekend highlight the political and administrative nightmares that became paramount during Katrina and her aftermath. No one comes out smelling like roses.

In one very clear sense, the messenger makes a difference, W's decision to make Karl Rove his point person in the recovery effort is going to get any Democrat's political antenna up. Turd Blossom was not and is not a nonpartisan administrator. The boyos were indeed in deep doo-doo as a result of Brownie and FEMA's ineptitude and Rove's role proved that.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Negin had also not acquitted themselves with precision under fire -- the lack of buses on standby and the failure to prepare the Superdome adequately as a shelter stand at the top of the list.

But the decision to release 10,000 pages of state documents to clear the air -- and expose their failings -- also stands in stark contrast to the Bush administration penchant for secrecy. When the choice was to send help, no strings attached, or send in the political artillery in the person of Karl Rove, W. made a strong statement about his priorities.

And the decision to make the folks of the Gulf Coast and the rest of America pay for the financial excesses of Iraq reinforce that it was politics over first, last and always for the Bushies.

Aren't we forgetting someone?

Maybe it's a simple oversight but this recounting of the GOP's chances in 2006 gubernatorial races has an interesting omission: Where's Mittsie?

The newly minted chairman of the Republican Governors Association puts on his prognosticator's hat and sees what lies ahead for the GOP: New York, Ohio, Iowa all get mentioned. A couple of those states even have potential presidential candidates.

So is it that Kerry Healey is considered a shoo-in by the national media -- or has Mittsie shared something with other folks that he hasn't bothered to tell us?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

...Not as I do

The one thing the Bush administration excels at is the defamation and cheapening of the Constitution in the pursuit of "American values." The latest examples, thanks to a media that finally seems to be remembering that its job is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

The CIA is taking prisoners in a zeal to find every potential Arabic-sounding surname, even if they are wrong -- and unwilling to acknowledge it. The highlight, or lowlight of his story (which suggests that you suck it in if you have an argument with your spouse) is this comment from a CIA operative:

"It was the Camelot of counterterrorism," a former counterterrorism official said. "We didn't have to mess with others -- and it was fun."
Before the wingnuts howl about how this is the typical wooly-headed liberal unpatriotic endorsement of terrorism: NOT. But how about an apology or compensation for wrongful imprisonment? Even a secret deal would have bought Masri's silence and our corporations do it all the time.

The Bush administration views the American people as empty-headed dolts who, if force fed the same pablum over and over again, will follow blindly. At least that's the view of Peter Feaver, the Bush's administration's favored pointy-headed intellectual and author of a form of the winning the hearts and minds strategy that didn't work in Vietnam.
"The Pentagon doesn't need the president to give a speech and post a document on the White House Web site to know how to fight the insurgents. The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion," Christopher F. Gelpi, a colleague of Dr. Feaver's at Duke and co-author of the research on American tolerance for casualties, told the New York Times.
In fine Orwellian fashion, this story by the excellent Knight-Ridder team of Walter Strobel and Jonathan Landay says the administration believes that to fill people's heads with the official view also requires that they not hear another side.

I guess H.L. Mencken was right about freedom of the press belonging to those who own it. The Bush administration must think its owns the Constitution. Or that their arguments can't stand up without scrutiny. When that happens, you silence the critics.

And last but not least, there are the other, financial costs of this war on terrorism and freedom. The administration (and Congress) that insists that we are spending way too much money on victims of Katrina and Rita and every day life in American cities does have limits on the where they draw the line on fiscal responsibility.

The scariest thing is we still have three more years of this shameful stain on American history.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Do as I say...

The military's acknowledgment that it is buying news in Iraq is hardly surprising.

After all, the Bush administration has done it repeatedly at home with such standout episodes at "Karen Ryan reporting" on the Medicare and Armstrong Williams feeding at the public trough to shill for the Department of Education. And let's not forgot the ringer in the press room, Jeff Gannon or whatever his real name is at the ready when Scott McClennan needed a break from the less-than-intense questions of the pressroom regulars.

But when you put together this affront to American values with torture at Abu Ghraib, the secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, the fast-and-loose dealing with American terror suspects and the Patriot Act, you are left with the obvious question: just who has won the war on terror?

By shredding all the constitutional principles we have held dear for more than 200 years, I'd say we're losing that war.

A real compassionate conservative

The term compassionate conservative should probably be retired from overuse and abuse. The folks claiming the mantle have generally been very lacking on the compassion side.

That's why it's sad to see someone who really has compassion leave the public stage. US AID Director Andrew Natsios is hanging them up and going to teach diplomacy at Georgetown University. So when disaster strikes in Africa or when tsunamis hit the Pacific, the US will no longer be represented by the tall, balding Massachusetts native.

A one-time member of the Massachusetts House and a former Republican State Party Chairman, Natsios was pushed aside when the real "conservatives," led by Ray Shamie took control of the state GOP.

No one would accuse Andrew of having a great track record as party chair. Look what he had to work with: Greg Hyatt, the erstwhile 1986 gubernatorial candidate who had some, shall we say, wardrobe malfunctions; and Royall Switzler, a lovable blowhard who knew how to puncture pomposity until he tripped himself up on his own resume in that same year.

It's instrumental to look at Natsios' contemporaries in the Mass. GOP during that area. They have all done well. Andy Card is the most visible, but he's drifted far from his roots as a crusading populist; Paul Cellucci, who drifted as well, right out of the country and into a Bush appointment as Canadian ambassador that allowed him to continue his greatest loves: playing politics and the ponies.

Natsios took his principles with him when he went on to better things and he never lost them. More's the pity for us now that he is headed to the dreaded private sector.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Do the right thing

I am not a big fan of the anti-tax movement because I believe what they really represent is the tax-someone-else movement. There are only a handful of true believers, most of them dangerous people like Grover Norquist, out to destroy government for simple ideological (and financial) gain.

So it is a highly unusual moment when I agree that the Massachusetts Legislature is going to do the right thing by refunding a capital gains tax increase found to be unconstitutional, rather than plow ahead with an unfair retroactive tax.

If the state were still deep in the hole I might not agree with this one. It has the money and doing the right thing now gives them leeway to do the right thing later -- not capitulate to the kind of blind tax cut fever that has financially bankrupted an already morally bankrupt federal government.

And given the sluggishness of the Massachusetts recovery coupled with the huge needs for infrastructure etc. (not to mention rising property taxes that threaten great harm to the elderly) they keep enough in the state's coffers to meet needs. History has clearly shown too deep a round of cuts in the state during sluggish fiscal times is a recipe for disaster.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Operation BS underway

The latest tactic in the battle to win the hearts of minds of skeptical Americans was unveiled yesterday by the Bush administration. Call it the Signs Offensive. If we can't convince the insurgents to lay down their weapons with our guns, we'll do it with our words, then we will leave.

The campaign juggernaut that rolled over John Kerry by repeated confident assertions (not necessarily all true) showed they have not lost the chutzpah. A 35-page document, dozens of signs that blare the word "plan" and a friendly setting in a military environment. Classic campaign tactic. Same campaign sincerity.

But what exactly is the plan?
  • Build up the capability of Iraqi troops. Not necessarily a smashing success to date;
  • Bring democracy to Iraq. Some positive signs but millennia of history suggest it may be a fool's mission. Only time will tell if that one works;
  • Restore economic prosperity and rebuild Iraq. So tax cuts all around and forget about New Orleans.
Apparently not part of the "official" plan is this piece of media manipulation. After all it works so well over here. Welcome to the Fox News Channel.

And of course, no Bush speech would be complete without the same vicious red herring rhetoric about not cutting and running because we support our troops. This administration can't seem to help itself in accusing its opponents of being treasonous enemies of the state. I support the troops (who are there by choice) and the best way to support them is to get them home safely.

And frankly, that doesn't means pulling out tomorrow. An orderly timetable (some would call it that a plan) to turn the civil war we created among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds over to the principals. Isn't that what democracy is all about -- letting people make their own decisions?

Well at least W's 35-page book means he can't claim he has a "secret plan to end the war."