Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is Bob Corker Tall Enough to be Senator?

The Fox News interview with Bob Corker last Sunday really set us to thinking. Far be it for us to use a man's physical attributes against him, but is he tall enough to be Tennessee's senator?

Wendi Thomas, a Memphis columnist, has wondered about Corker's height as well:

Height shouldn't matter, but it does. Corker says he's 5 foot 7 inches tall, but when I met him at a debate, we stood just about eye to eye. And I'm 5-1. On a good day. With thick socks and heels.

Here's our best guess at how he'd look posing with French President Jacques Chirac, who is 6 foot 3 inches tall.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Gary Wills on Faith-Based Government

How Bush launched an anti-smoking campaign in Iraq

Historian Gary Wills, a professor of history at Northwestern and Pulitzer winner for Lincoln at Gettysburg, provides an excellent summary of the extent to which, for the first time ever in America, the Bush administration has brought religion into government. His article appears in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books.

The right wing in America likes to think that the United States government was, at its inception, highly religious, specifically highly Christian, and even more specifically highly biblical. That was not true of that government or any later government—until 2000, when the fiction of the past became the reality of the present.

Some of the details of Bush's promotion of religion are well-known. Wills breaks the categories down: faith-based justice, faith-based social services, faith-based science, faith-based health and faith-based war. The latter category includes this sad anecdote:

Those recruited to serve in the CPA were asked if they had voted for Bush, and what their views were on Roe v. Wade and capital punishment. O'Beirne trolled the conservative foundations, Republican congressional staffs, and evangelical schools for his loyalist appointees. Relatives of prominent Republicans were appointed, and staffers from offices like that of Senator Rick Santorum. Right moral attitude was more important than competence.

That was proved when the first director of Iraqi health services, Dr. Frederick Burkle, was dismissed. Burkle, a distinguished physician, was a specialist in disaster relief, with experience in Kosovo, Somalia, and Kurdish Iraq. His replacement, James Haverman, had run a Christian adoption agency meant to discourage women from having abortions. Haverman placed an early emphasis on preventing Iraqis from smoking, while ruined hospitals went untended. This may suggest the policy on appointments that put Michael Brown in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the parallel is insufficiently harsh. Chris Matthews brought it up on his television show while interviewing the Washington Post reporter who had covered the CPA in Iraq, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who said, "There were a hundred Browns in Iraq."But there were Bible study groups in the Green Zone.

Unfortunately for all of us, tales of Bush's incompetence are no longer surprising. Faith-based incompetence from the president is what we've come to expect.

5' 7" Bob? Really?

FoxNews provided this interesting, er, perspective on Bob Corker yesterday.

We can't help wondering if the point of Harold Ford's parking lot offensive was to give us this perspective.

There are some very humorous ideas one could think of for background music, if one wished to respond to Corker's "jungle drums" ad in kind.

Calling the GOP Base to Vote

Jesus' General at Patriot Boy is on a roll. He's put together a get out the vote ad for candidates George Allen (welcome to America, Macaca), Conrad Burns (little Guatemalan man) and Bob Corker (jungle drums in Africa). It will be hard for Move On to top this.

YouTube video (0:57)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Quiet Week Ahead?

When George Allen starts doing book reports on Jim Webb's novels and peddling them to the media via Drudge, you can pretty much assume the campaigning is almost over. With any luck, this will be a quiet week ahead, as the campaigns go dark with their GOTV operations. The last few days have been remarkably devoid of news that has much political significance.

Nothing interesting popped out of the Sunday news shows. A few people are still kicking Rush around, but the general public lost interest in that issue late last week. The airwaves are likely to be saturated with negative ads all week, but it appears that everyone's cards are pretty much on the table now and all that remains is for any undecided voters to make up their minds. There are still rumors of more Foley-related disclosures, but we've heard that before and anything new is unlikely to affect more than one race. The timing of Conrad Burns' indictment is unclear and there's a slight chance that could hit the fan this week.

There's not much that could sway the most likely outcome of the November 7 election at this point: House to the Dems; Senate to the Republicans.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Kicking Off With the Chicks

No better way to start the weekend than with our gals, the Dixie Chicks. Here they are singing the national anthem at the January 26, 2003, Super Bowl.

YouTube video (2:10)

Public Interest in Limbaugh Feud Over

Judging by the Alexa traffic ratings for Rush Limbaugh's web site, public interest in his feud with Michael J. Fox peaked on Thursday, October 26, and is now over. It's time to move on. There are only 11 days left until the election. Don't waste them beating a dead horse.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Worst Congress Ever

"A stable of thieves and perverts"

Rolling Stone's contributing editor Matt Taibbi presents a devastating report card on the do-nothing Congress. Laziness is just a part of it:

In the Sixties and Seventies, Congress met an average of 162 days a year. In the Eighties and Nineties, the average went down to 139 days. This year, the second session of the 109th Congress will set the all-time record for fewest days worked by a U.S. Congress: ninety-three. That means that House members will collect their $165,000 paychecks for only three months of actual work.

What this means is that the current Congress will not only beat but shatter the record for laziness set by the notorious "Do-Nothing" Congress of 1948, which met for a combined 252 days between the House and the Senate. This Congress -- the Do-Even-Less Congress -- met for 218 days, just over half a year, between the House and the Senate combined.

The problems run much deeper, of course, and include rampant corruption, plus an institutional failure to act as a check on the executive branch. Taibbi lays out what it takes to become the worst Congress ever in five easy steps.

If you want the short version, watch the interview Taibbi did with Amy Goodman this morning on Democracy Now!

Are Corker's Racist Ads Too Subtle?

Jesus' General, over at Patriot Boy, thinks he might know how to help Bob Corker:

I'm worried that the ads Tennessee senatorial candidate Bob Corker and the RNCC are running might be a bit too subtle. Sure, the jungle drums and the "he's after our white women" pitch are cues most people would get, but I'm not sure the audience they're trying to target will catch on. Those good old boys ain't none too bright.

He's put together a new Corker ad that makes it all a bit clearer.

YouTube video (0:50)

Dixie Chicks "Shut Up and Sing" Opens Today

NBC refuses to run ad

The Dixie Chicks' powerful documentary, "Shut Up and Sing," opens today in New York and Los Angeles, and it's already stirring up controversy as NBC refuses to run a Chicks ad. According to the Hollywood Reporter:

In a press release issued late Thursday, the Weinstein Co. said that NBC had rejected a spot for the docu, which opens today in New York and Los Angeles, because the spot included material that "disparages President Bush."

Golly. There's not a lot that NBC could air these days if they won't let people disparage Dubya. The good news is that all the other networks have approved the spot.

Movie trailer (YouTube - 2:30)

Limbaugh: All About Ratings

Ever wonder what would possess a man to willfully make himself the butt of national jokes or distort himself into a cruel caricature of a human being? Money. And in show business, ratings equals money.

Rush Limbaugh will milk his "dispute" with Michael J. Fox for all it's worth, not because he believes a word coming out of his own mouth or because he's ideologically driven, but because it's good for ratings. Here's what's happened with his web site, which has nearly tripled in page views over the past two days according to Alexa's data. The same thing is probably going on with his radio show. People can't resist a freak show, and Rush's is free.

It's all too bad for Republicans, who are dying a slow death in the strangle-hold of Limbaugh's fat grip. He's done more for Democrats in this election than the Foley scandal ever could.

Instant Messaging to Victory

Mark Fiore does it again. Don't miss his Flash animation, "GOP 2.0 - Instant Messaging to Victory." This new GOP instant messaging software enhances your political perversion experience, lets you keep track of all the people in your influence peddling network, and offers other nifty features!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Michael J. Fox on CBS. What an Interview!

"If bringing the message means the messenger gets roughed up a little bit, I'm happy to be that guy"

Katie Couric adjusts Fox's microphone after he accidentally kicks it off. Will Rush Limbaugh accuse CBS of staging this moment?

Wow. What an interview. Please watch this Katie Couric interview with Michael J. Fox from CBS. Fox is an incredibly powerful and astute spokesman for Parkinson's research and has indeed not, as he put it, just been plucked off the apple cart.

From the transcript:

KC: Rush Limbaugh, I contacted him because I wanted to fairly represent what he was saying because he believes that that clip was played and his real issues were not represented. So he told me, I called Rush Limbaugh and he told me, "I believe Democrats have a long history of using victims of various things as political spokespeople because they believe they are untouchable, infallible. They are immune from criticism". He went on to say "Michael J Fox is stumping for Democrats in the political arena and is, therefore, open to analysis and criticism as we all are."

MF: Well, first thing, he used the word victim, and in another occasion, I heard him use the word “pitiable. And I don’t understand, nobody in this position wants pity. We don’t want pity. I could give a damn about Rush Limbaugh’s pity or anyone else’s pity. I'm not a victim. I'm someone who’s in this situation. I'm in this situation with millions of other Americans, whether it’s like I said, for Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s, or ALS, or diabetes or spinal cord injury or what have you. And we have a right, if there’s answers out there, to pursue those answers with the full support of our politicians. And so I don't need anyone’s permission to do that. As far as democratic politics go, you know it’s kind of funny, because the argument that I heard from that quarter, was first, that I was manipulating it, that I was a con-man essentially, and I didn’t have the symptoms and was putting them on, so I was perpetrating fraud. And when he backed off then, then it became that I was a dupe of the, a shill for the Democrats, that I was being exploited. And the truth is, I've been involved with this issue since 2000. And in the meantime, separate and apart from my political involvement, I've started a foundation that’s raised $85 million for research and is the second leading fundraiser for Parkinson’s research after the federal government. And um, you know, I'm not a Johnny-come-lately. No one plucked me off the apple cart to come and do this. I mean, I believe in this cause. I’ve put a lot of my life and energy into it, and we're serious about it.

YouTube video (10:10)

National Review Online Gets Aramaic Right, Then Wrong

NRO sells out its readers for 30 pieces of silver

It's always interesting, and disappointing, to catch a cover-up or a lie in the making. After Jim Caviezel recorded his commercial about stem cell research, speaking Aramaic, people naturally wondered what he'd said.

Rush Limbaugh's translation was the oddest:

CAVIEZEL (in Aramaic): You know now. Don't do it. Vote "no" on two.

As one might expect of a blog with a well-educated and diverse readership, National Review Online came up with a transcription and translation very quickly, provided by a student of Aramaic:

Happened to be reading the Corner this evening in between sporadic bouts of translating Aramaic (actually Syriac, but same difference) for my grad studies. What Caviezel said was "l'bar nash b'nashak", or "the son of man with a kiss". Which isn't even a complete sentence, but whatever.

The reference, obviously, was to a biblical passage in which Jesus asks Judas, "Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" But something had gone awry. Caviezel, or the commercial's editors, had chopped off the first part of the quote.

We have independently confirmed with an Aramaic scholar that the transcription and translation provided by the student are accurate, and that the first part of the quote was in fact lopped off.

What happens next in the story of the Caviezel quote is fascinating. The Washington Times (nobody's paragon of journalistic excellence) reported that it had the "exclusive" translation:

When presented with Mr. Fulco's translation, which was confirmed by several other Aramaic scholars, the group agreed to release the exact translation exclusively to The Times.

"It means 'You betray me with a kiss,' which means Amendment Two is a betrayal because it is deceptive," Ms. Ruse said. "It promises one thing and delivers another."

Suddenly, the word "betray" had inserted itself into the translation, although its Aramaic equivalent was nowhere to be found in the transcription, which the Times confirmed as "le-bar nash be-neshak," exactly what the Aramaic student had provided.

Back we go to the National Review, which suddenly changed its translation to match that of the Washington Times:

The Corner can end all suspense and officially confirm that in the commercial airing in St. Louis tonight Jim Caviezel says in Aramaic, "You betray me with a kiss." (Which is what a few readers, including one Aramaic student told The Corner last night.)

Actually, it wasn't what the Aramaic student told The Corner, and it isn't the proper translation. But, there you have it. The National Review sold its readers and its credibility for 30 pieces of silver, or its equivalent in whatever political capital might have been gained by lying about the quote.

Chris Matthews on GOP Racism

Speaking on MSNBC yesterday, Chris Matthews emphatically accused the Republicans of using racist tactics in Tennessee. From his comments:

These are racist ads. This ad running in Tennessee is not rough, it's racist. There's a difference between tagging the other side, having some fun with them, making them pay for their mistakes in the past, but you should never make a person pay for being a certain race. And that's what this is about. It crosses the line.

YouTube video (1:50)

The GOP's recourse to racism in Tennessee is more than a little disheartening, as Americans are trying to find a way to united warring ethnic groups under our rule in Iraq. This isn't just Bob Corker. It's the Republican National Committee ("bimbo ad"), the Republican National Senate Committee ("Fancy Ford") and Corker's own campaign ("jungle drums").

This is about much more than partisan politcs. We will be the first to denounce Democrats for racism if examples are brought to our attention. This blog has repeatedly denounced Democrat Jim Webb for trying to justify sexist comments he's made in the past. As a nation, we simply can not survive in this atmosphere of hate, perpetuated by commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, and carried forward by politicians like Bob Corker. It is tearing our society to shreds and it's high time Americans said "enough."

When Republicans Run Amok: Jungle Drums on Anti-Ford Radio Ad

By our count, this is the third Republican ad with racist overtones in Tennessee. The Republican National Committee paid for the first one, the "bimbo ad" that has been widely denounced for race-baiting. The Los Angeles Times reported on October 24:

A new Republican Party television ad featuring a scantily clad white woman winking and inviting a black candidate to "call me" is drawing charges of race-baiting, with critics saying it contradicts a landmark GOP statement last year that the party was wrong in past decades to use racial appeals to win support from white voters.

Critics said the ad, which is funded by the Republican National Committee and has aired since Friday, plays on fears of interracial relationships to scare some white voters in rural Tennessee to oppose Democratic Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr.

The second, in our opinion, is a web site funded by the National Republican Senate Committee called "Fancy Ford." The site reveals the shocking news that Ford spent $3,100 in 60 visits to the U.S. House Members' Dining Room in 2005, or about $50 per visit. Would the NRSC have thought anything was amiss if a white-skinned House member dined well? We doubt it.

The third was reported yesterday by TPM's Election Central. A new radio ad endorsed by Bob Corker lays out the differences between himself and Ford. (Ford studied UPenn while poor Bob stayed home to study in Tennessee, etc. We kind of doubt Bob was Ivy League material, but that's beside the point.) Whenever Ford's name occurs in the ad, jungle drums can be heard in the background. Whenever Corker's name occurs, a sort of bland, angelic music is played. The TPM article about the ad is very interesting, and recommended reading. Listen to the ad here (MP3).

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Jesus Responds to Michael J. Fox in New Ad

Well, that didn't take long. Jesus didn't like the Michael J. Fox ad and, just like Rush Limbaugh, he's said so. In Aramaic.

OK, so it wasn't Jesus himself. It was Jim Caviezel who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.

Jesus, or, uh, Caviezel, speaks to us in his boyhood Aramaic about stem cell research. His words?

"L'bar nash b'nashak."

In case you've forgotten all the Aramaic you ever knew, it means "the son of man with a kiss."

Jesus doesn't have to use verbs, or even make sense. He just has to show up every once in a while and put sick people in their place.

YouTube video (1:01)

Update: We've received word that Jesus will be doing ads for the NRA next. Like Moses. Some difficulties are expected in translating "assault weapons" into Aramaic.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Botero Does Abu Ghraib

What do Botero's pudgy, comic figures have to do with Abu Ghraib? The 50 or so paintings and drawings he did on the subject were exhibited last year in Italy and Germany. They're on display now at the Marlborough Gallery in New York. Bloomberg reports:

In a couple of canvases, the bulbous figures appear in the mournfully familiar pyramid of naked, hooded bodies on a spotless cellblock floor, hands and feet shackled by rope bracelets. In several works that isolate one or two inmates in ignominious positions, flesh bursts out of pink, red or green bra and panties or diapers.

Other canvases depict men being sodomized with a broken stick, suffering a rain of urine or cowering before green attack dogs that are combination wolf, bull and stegosaurus.

You can see 25 of the paintings and drawings here.

Senate Looking Bleaker for Dems

Republicans mount racist attacks on Harold Ford

There's no good news for Democrats this week about Senate races. The Montana race, which looked like an easy pick-off for Democrats just a few weeks ago, has tightened, and Tester barely holds the lead, according to Rasmussen.

The states where Democrats are virtually assured of winning seats from Republicans are Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Wins in those three states would give the Dems 48 Senate seats, assuming they hold on to New Jersey. To take control, they would have to win three of the following four races: Missouri, Montana, Tennessee and Virginia.

Of those, we're guessing Democrats will only win Montana. The Republican incumbents in Missouri and Virginia have weathered the campaign well, with Missouri's Senator Jim Talent displaying a remarkable prowess for public debate. His challenger, Claire McCaskill, is a second-rate candidate and political hack who, let's face it, just doesn't belong in the Senate. In Virginia, Democrats have fielded a Republican Lite candidate, Jim Webb, who hasn't demonstrated much political agility in the field and won't do much to change the direction of the country. Both McCaskill and Webb are weak Democratic candidates whose voices won't be missed in the national discourse.

On the other hand, Democrat Harold Ford of Tennessee is superior in all respects to his opponent and deserves to win his election. Whether we want to talk it about it as a nation or not, the outcome of this election will depend on Ford's race. The negative ads ("Fancy Ford" is a good example) are obliquely racist, and Republicans obviously understand all too well that success in Tennessee will hinge on turning out their trailer park base.

(This graphic is taken from a National Republican Senate Committee web site. The message? Black men shouldn't dine well.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Limbaugh Mocks Michael J. Fox

Liposuck 200 pounds off, stuff him in black cocktail dress and you'd never know the difference between Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. The market for hate politics has turned bearish and Rush is getting desperate. More at Crooks and Liars.

Jon Stewart on Republican Paranoia

It's not just Republican congressman Curt Weldon who sees a sinister hand behind investigations into his apparent influence peddling. The entire GOP apparatus, from George Bush to Bill O'Reilly, believes there's a massive, international conspiracy to turn Congress over to Democrats.

YouTube video (3:20)

Robert Dreyfuss on Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman interviewed Robert Dreyfuss on Democracy Now! this morning. Watch it for an excellent summation of his views about a coup in Iraq, or read the Asia Times article we suggested.

From the transcript:

Now there are rumors all over the place, in Washington, in Baghdad, in other places, that there are forces trying to come up with a non-democratic solution, some sort of coup d'etat, some sort of military takeover that would oust the elected government. It could be done under a constitutional fig leaf, let's say, if Maliki were to resign in favor of some junta of national salvation. It could be done in the middle of the night by some enterprising colonel or general, where the United States would look the other way.

I don’t think any of this could happen without American support, but I do know that there are a number of people inside the Baker commission, within the U.S. government, in the CIA and elsewhere, who are thinking about this.

Audio/video links and transcript at Democracy Now!

Bad News for Webb: He Needs Women Voters

According to a Washington Post article this morning, Democrat Jim Webb's chances of ousting Republican Senator George Allen will depend on women voters.

We return to the postulate we formulated after the Webb/Allen Meet the Press debate: A racist Republican can win, but not a sexist Democrat. Webb has consistently attempted to justify his sexist comments throughout his campaign, on Meet the Press and more recently on CNN's Situation Room. The Democratic party and Democratic bloggers have done Webb a grave disservice. They could have told him months ago to stop justifying himself and simply apologize.

It's bad luck for Webb that women will have the last word in the Virginia race. Nowhere, and especially not in the South, is it ever appropriate, nor has it ever been appropriate, to publish remarks about "horny women." Webb just can't get that through his thick head.

(The graphic below is from a truly idiotic web site sponsored by the NRSC, with a Halloween theme.)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Required Reading: "A Coup in the Air"

Would a military coup in Iraq solve Bush's problems?

Writing in today's Asia Times, Robert Dreyfuss discusses the signs that Iraq is headed for a coup and military dictatorship. Dreyfuss writes in a well-researched article called "A Coup in the Air":

Of course, no coup will happen at all - no general or colonel would dare try - without, at the very least, a wink and a nod from the CIA, the US military, or Khalilzad. And most likely, it would take significantly more than a wink, something like explicit support and promises of assistance.

But, according to my reporting, that is precisely what is being discussed in Washington, even among the inner councils of Baker's Iraq Study Group, the realist (that is, anti-neo-conservative) commission set up last spring to figure out what to do about Iraq.

Salah Mukhtar, a former top Iraqi official who served as Iraq's ambassador to India and then Vietnam in the period just before the US invasion of Iraq, is not a spokesman for the Iraqi resistance. But he is very well plugged in to the thinking of that country's insurgent leaders. When I spoke to him this week by telephone, he assured me the resistance was well aware that elements in the Bush administration might be planning a coup. According to him, the main focus of such a coup - even one fostered by the United States - would be to mobilize the Iraqi Army against the Shi'ite militias.

The United States is not good at wars against insurgents because, Rumsfeld's protestations to the contrary, they require large numbers of troops. The Pentagon's rule of thumb is 10 troops per insurgent, and all the technology in the world doesn't change that basic rule of insurgent warfare.

The United States is quite good, on the other hand, at counter-insurgency by proxy, providing training, weapons and advice behind the scenes to ruthless dictatorships. A coup in Iraq would permit the U.S. to draw on its ample experience from Latin America during the Cold War. It would absolve the U.S. from all responsibility to Iraqis once the coup has been completed. In short, it would be the most expedient and cynical of all options that are on the table for Iraq.

Make no mistake: A new military dictatorship in Iraq will be one of the bloodiest affairs the world has ever witnessed. The complications arising from warring ethnic groups, rival international interests, a surfeit of arms and deteriorating health conditions practically guarantee that more than three million Iraqis will eventually lose their lives in the ensuing chaos.

Sadly, all Americans will bear the judgment of history and the ire of the Muslim world for that death toll, yet we will have no voice in making the decision to abandon democracy for dictatorship in Iraq, a decision that will be made covertly, without our informed approval, as part of a domestic political calculus to rescue President Bush and the Republicans from the tragic mess they've created.

Weller Accuses Congressman of Drinks with 21-Year-Old

Weller story gets weirder

Republican congressman Jerry Weller (IL-11) has informed the congressional Ethics Committee that a colleague once invited a 21-year-old intern to his home for drinks. His campaign spokesman, Steven Shearer, said the campaign obtained that information from reporters who phoned to ask about Weller's rumored involvement with a teenage congressional page.

The Morris Daily Herald in Weller's home district reports:

With the Mark Foley page scandal looming over Washington, Shearer said Weller felt it appropriate to inform the committee even though nothing illegal appears to have occurred. Unlike congressional pages, who are high school juniors who help out at the Capitol, interns are college students who work in offices."It seems a little strange that a congressman would do that with a 21-year-old," Shearer said. "In light of everything going on, we were just letting them know."

Given that the age of consent in every country on the planet, including Madagascar, is 21 years of age or younger, it is not clear how Weller's allegation might relate to the Ethics Committee investigation. If Shearer's story is correct, reporters phoned up to ask about a case that would not fall under the committee's purview, somehow confused Jerry Weller with the congressman who invited the adult intern for drinks, and convinced him their information was credible enough to warrant him phoning the Ethics Committee to report something he'd heard third-hand about a non-existent crime.

Does anybody buy this story?

Michael J. Fox Ad in Missouri

Claire McCaskill's campaign in Missouri began running an ad that features Michael J. Fox last week. Transcript:

As you might know, I care deeply about stem cell research. In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill who shares my hope for cures. Unfortunately, Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research. Senator Talent even wants to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope. They say all politics is local, but it's not always the case. What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans. Americans like me.

YouTube video (0:37)

David Kuo on Colbert Report

David Kuo, author of Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, appeared on the Colbert Report last Wednesday, October 18. Here's a brief excerpt from the exchange with Stephen Colbert.

Colbert: Why'd you write this book?

Kuo: Because I think someone had to point out that Jesus and George W. Bush are different people.

Colbert: OK, maybe so. I'm not confused about whether George W. Bush is God, ok, but clearly God hired George W. Bush.

YouTube video (6:09)

David Kuo launched a blog at Beliefnet on October 13, where people from many faiths are discussing his book tour experiences (including an encounter with a "teamster" who had been given a question by Cheney's chief of staff), ideas about a fast from politics, the relationship of religion to the state and other topics.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Rep. Jerry Weller Denies Sexual Involvement with Page

Republican congressman Jerry Weller (IL-11) issued a statement yesterday denying sexual involvement with teenage congressional pages, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Weller said a page or intern sponsored by his office was subject to questionable behavior by another congressman.

His campaign manager, Steve Shearer, told the newspaper:

We believe we have now gotten to the bottom of this and other reporters who have researched this agree -- that what we have been told is that a page or intern who was sponsored by Cong. Weller was inappropriately invited to a social event with another congressman.

Shearer said that "wild rumors" circulating in the blogosphere "is a new way of political assassination," and that there were no facts to back up any story about Weller.

According to Shearer, the page in question is male and Weller has not been contacted by any investigative agency. It was unclear from his account whether the congressman had prior knowledge of the incident or had contacted authorities, such as the special ethics subcommittee, about it. The committee had previously issued a letter asking all congressmen to interview former pages and report their findings. The FBI is also reportedly interviewing both male and female pages.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Internet Afire with New Page Scandal Rumors

Rumors began circulating on the Internet yesterday evening that Republican congressman Jerry Weller (IL-11) will be named soon in a third congressional page scandal that may involve a 16-year-old girl. None of those claiming to have information about the congressman have posted a source or other evidence so far.

Most of the rumors track back to this diary on DailyKos, which names the congressman directly.

Gonna have to trust me on this, but I have fantastic information that Weller R-IL (11th District) is the next one coming down in the page scandal. Can't reveal source.

Another post by blogger ArchPundit claims to have three sources, all different from that of the Kos diarist. ArchPundit writes:

Sometime, probably in the next 48 hours though I'm betting sooner than later, an Illinois Congressional race is going topsy turvy. It's another pick-up for Dems. If you are observant around the net you'll find the information. Mobilization is already occurring around the state to get ground troops.

The Chicago Tribune refused to endorse his candidacy this morning, citing concerns about a conflict of interest between his congressional work and his marriage:

His wife is a leading member of Guatemala's Congress and the daughter of a former Guatemalan dictator who has been accused of war crimes, yet Weller continues as vice chair of a House subcommittee on the western hemisphere.

Weller also appears to have performed a favor for a campaign contributor when he hand-delivered a letter to the Belizean prime minister about a matter in which the contributor was involved.

Rep. Jerry Weller (left) with President Bush.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Senator Larry Craig Denies Reports of Homosexuality

Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho denied reports of homosexual encounters yesterday to Washington state's Spokesman Review newspaper, calling them "completely ridiculous." The Review reported:

Craig, who is married, denied the allegations through his staff, saying they "have no basis in fact." Sid Smith, spokesman for the Idaho Republican, said it would be hard to independently check Rogers' sources, adding, "saying you have anonymous sources doesn't seem very convincing to me."

A lawsuit "isn't out of the question," but Craig hasn't considered it at this point, Smith said. "That would be taking it a little more seriously than it deserves," he added.

The allegations surfaced yesterday through gay activist blogger Mike Rogers, who published them on his web site BlogActive.com and in a nationally broadcast radio interview with Ed Schultz. Rogers said he is confident about his information, telling the newspaper, "I have never been wrong, and in this, you can't be 99 percent right. It's 100 percent or nothing."

On his website, Rogers writes:

I have done extensive research into this case, including trips to the Pacific Northwest to meet with men who have say they have physical relations with the Senator. I have also met with a man here in Washington, D.C., who says the same -- and that these incidents occurred in the bathrooms of Union Station. None of these men know each other, or knew that I was talking to others. They all reported similar personal characteristics about the Senator, which lead me to believe, beyond any doubt, that their stories are valid.

Rogers said the issue is one of hypocrisy, not lifestyle. Craig has voted against numerous legislative initiatives for gays, and supports a constitutional marriage amendment. His home state of Idaho is one of the most conservative in the nation.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bush: Iraq is a Mess

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News interviewed President Bush this morning and broadcast the interview on his television show, popular with older Americans, this evening. Discussing the division of Iraq into autonomous regions, Bush said:

Dividing is basically saying there's gonna be three autonomous regions will create, Bill, a situation where Sunnis and Sunni nations and Sunni radicals will be competing against Shia radicals, the Kurds will then create problems for Turkey and Syria and you've got a bigger mess than we have at this point in time which I believe is gonna be solved.

Who knew O'Reilly would get a scoop? Iraq is a mess.

Chapter 1 of "Tempting Faith"

The first chapter of David Kuo's controversial new book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, is on-line at ABC News.

The excerpted chapter deals with his childhood and first experiences with religion. Kuo's style is lean, honest and eminently readable. For years the religious scene in the United States has been dominated by the shrill, obnoxious, self-serving voices of those who capitalize on faith, turning Christianity on its head to vile and unnatural uses, the voices of men like Gary Bauer, James Dobson, Donald Wildmon, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Kuo's voice is refreshingly gentle and meek, the small still voice that speaks after the storm.

Highly recommended.

CNN Poll: 64% Now Oppose Iraq War

According to a new CNN poll, 64% of the American public now opposes the Iraq war. The poll, with a margin of error of +/-3%, was conducted from October 13-15. Respondents were asked "Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq?"

That's the highest number yet registered in this particular poll, up 2% from two weeks ago and 10% since June. Asked whether they approve or disapprove with the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, 64% said they disapproved.

The poll was conducted after the publication last Thursday, October 12, of a study in The Lancet which determined that about 650,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion. The study's results do not appear to have significantly swayed public opinion, either because they were not widely publicized or because the public believed George Bush's assertion that the methodology was not credible.

Battle for the Senate: Virginia Now a Toss-Up

According to this morning's Rasmussen Reports, the Virginia senate race has narrowed, with incumbent Republican George Allen now leading by just 3 points. In the Rasmussen count of senate races, that leaves Democrats and Republicans now tied at 48 all, with four toss-ups: Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee and now Virginia. Democrats will have to win at least three of those tight races to take control of the Senate.

Rasmussen's latest poll shows Allen leading Webb 47 to 44%, marking a 3-point shift since October 1 polling when Allen led by a larger 49 to 43% margin. About 17% of poll respondents said the Foley scandal was "very important" in their decision, suggesting Webb may have picked up some support after the Foley scandal that he lost after his sexist comments were widely publicized.

At this moment, Democrats are favored to take Republican seats in Pennsylvania, Montana, Ohio and Rhode Island. Republicans have reportedly written off Pennsylvania and Ohio. The only Democratic seat threatened in the November election is New Jersey.

In Missouri, Democratic candidate Claire McCaskill dropped 2 points following her Meet the Press debate and is still locked in a statistical dead heat with incumbent Jim Talent. Whatever benefit she may have gained from the Foley scandal may have been negated by her poor showing on MTP.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Reichen Lehmkuhl and Lance Bass Accept HRC Awards

Here are the videos of Reichen Lehmkuhl and Lance Bass accepting their Visibility Awards at the Human Rights Campaign's national dinner last week. The HRC is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, and certainly the most powerful for LGBT rights.

Lehmkuhl is a retired captain of the U.S. Air Force and the winner of "Amazing Race." He said his number one priority is to end discrimination against gays in the military. He recently published a book called Here's What We'll Say: Growing Up, Coming Out, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Lance Bass was a member of the 'N Sync band.

YouTube videos:
Lehmkuhl (7:51)
Bass (2:46)

Rev. Barry Lynn on the White House "Judas Moment"

The Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, discusses the White House's betrayal of conservative Christian groups in this interview with Keith Olbermann. The sordid, backroom dealings of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives have been detailed by David Kuo, in his book Tempting Faith, to be released on October 16. Kuo describes how White House officials constantly mocked conservative Christians behind their backs.


I don't think that most of the people who would consider themselves religious right members or conservative evangelicals have any idea that within Karl Rove's office they are being referred to as nuts or ridiculous or any of the other language. You know a lot of religious right leaders say to me that I'm either the biggest thorn in their side or the biggest enemy in their midst and sometimes things even more impolite but all I do is argue with them on the merits of issues. But to have the top leaders of the White House refer to them with this kind of language becomes a Judas moment, a moment where they feel betrayed and they're going to feel betrayed as this story gets out more and more.

YouTube video (5:01)

The Santorum Meltdown

We all know old "man-on-dog" Rick Santorum's a nut, but it's nice to have video evidence. This footage is taken from the October 12 Pittsburgh debate between Santorum and his Democratic challenger Bob Casey. Rick gets testy whenever the question of his state residency, and the huge sum he charged Pennsylvania tax payers to cyberschool his children, comes up. You can practically see the steam coming out of his ears as Casey goads him on. Santorum is at least 14 points behind in the polls. You can see why.

YouTube video (2:35)

Polls, Polls and More Polls

Let's not lose our heads. Yes, the political environment looks good for throwing some bums out of Congress, perhaps good enough to give Democrats majority control of the House, but still not good enough to win the Senate. Recall that at least one pollster, Rasmussen, hasn't found any partisan shift or shift of evangelical votes after the Foley scandal. Remember that Jim Webb in Virginia still hasn't come to terms with his sexism and probably never will, and he's making no headway in his campaign. Recall that Claire McCaskill gave a pitiful performance in her Meet the Press debate last Sunday. Remember that we're talking about Democrats, who, given the slightest chance to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, will do so every time, versus Republicans, who play an admirable end game with an awesome machine for turning out votes where they count.

We're back to toss-up status in the Tennessee senate race, where Democrat Harold Ford's lead over Bob Corker has narrowed, after briefly moving into a more comfortable zone. In the Rasmussen count, that makes 49 Republican seats, 48 Democrat seats and three toss-ups in Tennessee, New Jersey and Missouri. Democrats have to win all three to take control of the Senate. Again, one could almost weep for the lost opportunities. If Democratic blogs had taken Jim Webb to task early on and insisted that he humble himself over his sexist comments, Virginia might be in play now. If Democrats had coached Claire McCaskill for her Meet the Press debate, she might have a runaway lead this week. Anyway, the Senate is looking worse post-Foley than it did before.

The House, on the other hand, is probably better. If you want to add some sparkle and sunshine to your day, take a look at Charlie Cook's "National Overview" at the Cook Report:

Category 5 Hurricane Heads for House GOP

This is without question the worst political situation for the GOP since the Watergate disaster in 1974. I think a 30-seat gain today for Democrats is more likely to occur than a 15-seat gain, the minimum that would tip the majority. The chances of that number going higher are also strong, unless something occurs that fundamentally changes the dynamic of this election. This is what Republican strategists' nightmares look like.

This Democracy Corps memo (pdf) is brightly optimistic, but don't expect us to vouch for anything with James Carville's name on it. Carville is to political analysis what Wayne Madsen is to investigative reporting.


We do not often get to write such a report — changes so large over such a short period that they certainly portend a whole new playing field for the November election . . . The end of the Congress — with the increased pessimism and anger about Iraq and the Foley scandal and subsequent partisan brawl — has moved voters to shift their assessments of the parties and their votes. The 1994 election broke at the end; this one just broke. The shift is evident on every indicator — party, Bush, war, intensity and morale. The shift this poll shows in the Republican held seats reflects a dramatic change nationally in the generic congressional ballot. On Monday, Democracy Corps will release a report that shows that a 5-point swing on average to the Democrats in the ten media polls conducted in October. The Democratic vote, stuck at 49 percent for months, suddenly jumped to 53 percent in the last two weeks. We highlight these findings this Friday afternoon because Democrats and progressives need to think radically differently about the 2006 battle — in this three-week window. In 1994, the race shifted dramatically at the end, but Democrats have a chance to consolidate gains large enough to affect congressional control over this decade. That means allocating resources and finding new resources to lock in the gains, as the Republicans move their much greater resources up to the new barricades.

Sound analysis or a sales pitch for Carville's services? We rather expect it's the latter.

Friday, October 13, 2006

David Kuo Launches Blog

David Kuo has launched a new blog at Beliefnet, a moderate Christian website, called "J-Walking" (the J is for Jesus.) His first post was logged yesterday at 7:17 pm and describes some elements of his faith, concluding, "Check back soon because we are going to get off to a quick start... trust me." A bio on the same page mentions his work at the White House, his family and his membership in the Association of Professional Bass Fishermen.

Kuo is the author of Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, which contains shocking revelations about the White House, extremist religious leaders and the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. The book is scheduled for publication on October 16.

Beliefnet also features a blog by Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics and another critic of extremist religious groups. Wallis wrote, in a blog post this morning:

The release of God’s Politics simply revealed what was already there—a large and growing constituency of faith-inspired people who had felt unrepresented by a small group of narrow, vitriolic, and partisan religious voices. That they feel their voice is now being heard is one of the greatest satisfactions for me. The best thing I hear after God's Politics events from so many people is, "I don't feel alone anymore." As I say at almost every stop, “The monologue of the Religious Right is finally over, and a new dialogue has just begun.” Now all our voices are changing the conversation. Amen.

With an Alexa traffic ranking of 3,412, Beliefnet has far more visitors than websites on the extreme religious fringe, like the American Family Association (afa.net), which ranks only 55,092 . Both Kuo's and Wallis' blogs use Haloscan commenting.

Stay tuned. This is getting really interesting . . .

White House Reassuring Religious Leaders Over Kuo

The National Journal is reporting this morning that the White House office of public liaison and Karl Rove's office have been busy phoning religious "leaders" to reassure them over the David Kuo book. The book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, contains devastating allegations that the White House ridiculed conservative Christians, while using them for political gain. It will be released on October 16.

But it is unclear whether the White House can do much to limit the damage if Kuo's allegations are widely reported. In many cases, these religious groups were established to further the political agendas of their founders, and "membership" consists of nothing more than a mailing list of publication subscribers and a donor list. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, for example, bases its membership numbers on nothing more than web site hits. Plying gullible Christians for donations, the owners of these enterprises receive substantial salaries for themselves and their families, plus high-level political access as they work to turn out voters for the Republican party.

The relationship between these men and the Republican party is symbiotic. Republican leaders at the highest level lend credibility to the owners of conservative groups, which they use to solicit donations, in return for votes. As in any symbiotic relationship, one organism could not survive without the other. Kuo has previously accused the religious "leaders" of complicity in the White House's abuse of its Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, saying they didn't care because they are not concerned about social issues such as poverty.

It is therefore not surprising that the owners of these groups have been quick to denounce David Kuo's book. James Dobson of Focus on the Family issued a statement which called the book, "little more than a mix of sour grapes and political timing." Dobson went on to say, "While Focus on the Family does not participate in the faith-based initiative program, we are allies with many who do -- and they have far different impressions of the people and events documented in Kuo's book. Our support for the program is unchanged, and we applaud the president's hard work in reducing dependency on government programs while connecting people to their communities."

Tony Perkins, the owner of the Family Research Council group, told MSNBC, "The timing comes out right before an election. It's another one of those kiss-and-tell books that we see so often."

The danger was never that James Dobson and Tony Perkins would become disillusioned with Republicans, who help them earn a living. It was that their gullible donors would begin to sense they've been duped by the parasites who feed off them, and that the well of donations and votes would run dry. Like the White House, Dobson and Perkins are doing their utmost to limit the damage.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pollster Finds No Partisan Shift After Foley

Rasmussen Reports has found no partisan shift in its polling since the Foley affair. For polls conducted during a 7-day period ending October 11, after the time the scandal first broke, the polling agency determined that 37% of respondents identified themselves as Democrats, and 32.3% as Republicans. That is unchanged from poll results prior to the Foley scandal.

Rasmussen has seen a noticeable decrease in the number of people who identify themselves as Republicans since the 2004 elections. Two years ago, the numbers for Democrats and Republicans were virtually the same.

Rasmussen has also found no evidence so far of a shift in evangelical voter support for Republican candidates and says its polling data "suggests limited if any movement as a result of the Foley fall-out." The agency believes the scandal's biggest impact will be the time it cost Republicans, eating up at least 10 days of the final campaign push.

It is possible a national discussion about David Kuo's new book will diminish the Republicans' appeal to evangelicals, but given the highly partisan rhetoric with which some liberals, including Keith Olbermann, have already framed the discussion, that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Extremist Candidate Bachmann: Schiavo Was Healthy

You have to give Republican Michele Bachmann credit: She's all crazy all the time. The extremist candidate in Minnesota's 6th congressional district wants creationism taught in public schools, doesn't believe in minimum wage, doesn't believe in global warming and says Terri Schiavo was healthy. George Bush just loves her and has helped in her fund-raising efforts.

Fortunately, she faces a strong contender in her district: Patty Wetterling, who hit the national spotlight during the Foley scandal because of her tireless efforts to protect the nation's children after her own 11-year-old son was kidnapped and never found.

Transcript of Bachmann's Schiavo comments from a recent debate:

I would have voted in favor of protecting the life of Terri Schiavo. She was a woman who was healthy [audience laughter] and she had brain damage. There was brain damage, there's no question, but from a health point of view, she was not terminally ill.

Of all the Republican clowns running for Congress this year, Bachmann is definitely a contender for the silliest candidate award.

YouTube video (0:17)

Lancet Study Co-author on Democracy Now!

Press could easily confirm 650,000 number by talking to graveyard attendants

Speaking on this morning's Democracy Now!, Les Roberts, a co-author of the study published yesterday in The Lancet which shows 650,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion, responded to President Bush's comment that the methodology was not credible:

I just want to say that what we did, this cluster survey approach, is the standard way of measuring mortality in very poor countries where the government isn’t very functional or in times of war. And when UNICEF goes out and measures mortality in any developing country, this is what they do. When the U.S. government went at the end of the war in Kosovo or went at the end of the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. government measured the death rate, this is how they did it. And most ironically, the U.S. government has been spending millions of dollars per year, through something called the Smart Initiative, to train NGOs and UN workers to do cluster surveys to measure mortality in times of wars and disasters.

Are Americans more willing now to face the tragic human death toll in Iraq? Roberts sees a significant change in how the American press and public is responding to this study, compared to a similar study two years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Les Roberts, I saw you Upstate New York a while ago, after your first study came out, and you commented on how little it was commented on or picked up here in this country, though cited all over the world. But now you have the report out in The Lancet, and you have the President Bush responding to it, even if he is discounting it. You’ve got General Casey responding to it. What about the U.S. press looking at these figures?

LES ROBERTS: You know, I think that -- this is just my opinion -- the U.S. press sort of follows public opinion. It doesn’t necessarily lead it, except in a few circumstances, like AIDS in Africa. And the public is ready to think, “Wow, things might be going badly in Iraq.” And I don’t think the public was ready to say that two years ago.

And so, when this study came out, Tony Blair was asked three times -- I’m sorry, the 2004 study came out, Tony Blair was asked three times in the week that followed, "What do you think of this estimate that 100,000 Iraqis had died in the first 18 months of occupation?" No one asked George Bush about how many civilians had died or about our study for 14 months after the study came out. And then, when he was asked, it was just by a member of the public in a forum in Philadelphia.

And now, within about four hours of the study coming out, he was asked directly, he was forced to respond, there was a dialogue going on. So, I think that the nation, as a whole, is more ready to honestly talk about Iraq, and that’s led the press to be more able to honestly talk about Iraq.

Roberts said the press working in Iraq could easily verify the information by simply asking graveyard attendants how many more bodies are being buried now than in 2002.

Would the embedded U.S. press do anything so daring that might require a little independent research? We're not holding our breath.

Transcript, audio and video links at Democracy Now!

CNN Poll: 52% Say Bush Should Fire Rumsfeld

A CNN poll reported today reveals that 52% of the American public believes President Bush should fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Only 33% of those polled said Rumsfeld should not be fired and 15% were unsure. The results mark a significant change in public opinion since CNN asked the same question in April this year, when only 39% said Rumsfeld should be fired.

Rumsfeld has come under continuous attack for flubbing the occupation of Iraq, most recently from high-ranking military officers who served there. Yesterday, a scientific study revealed that the U.S. invasion of Iraq may have caused 650,000 Iraqi deaths, as violence spirals out of control and the country descends into anarchy and civil war.

Rumsfeld was a political mentor to Dick Cheney and gave him his first big break in politics. In 1974, when Rumsfeld became Gerald Ford's chief of staff, he made Cheney his deputy.

Dennis Hastert's Other Side

A side of Hastert the world didn't see during his October 10 news conference in Illinois. What was that AP photographer thinking? We have a pretty good idea.

The David Zucker Ad

Republicans have moved with force into YouTube, posting a new video ad by David Zucker yesterday which criticizes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Democrats for treating the safety of the U.S. as a "game." The ad depicts Albright serving cookies to terrorists, singing "Kum Ba Ya," mowing their grass and changing a flat tire. The ad was filmed by David Zucker, who directed "Naked Gun" and a number of other parody films. Zucker switched to the Republican party in 2004, citing his concerns about security. The YouTube video has been seen by nearly half a million viewers so far and has a nearly perfect rating. Wikipedia has more.

YouTube video (1:32)

John Zogby: 650,000 Number Highly Reliable

CNN International interviewed pollster John Zogby, of Zogby International, about the statistical methodology used in the study, published in The Lancet, which concluded that more than 650,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion, about 600,000 of them violently. Zogby said:

I can't vouch for it 100 percent, but I'll vouch for it 95 percent, which is as good as it gets in survey research. I know PIPA, the group at the university that conducted the polling in the U.S. I know of the group that -- the university that published and conducted the survey on the Iraq side. In fact, we've used them ourselves. These are good researchers. I have read their methodology statement. It is a good one and a sound one . . . in terms of the sampling of methodology that was used, this is sound and this is going to generate quite a bit of debate.

I don't think that there's anybody in my business who responsibly believes that 30,000 to 40,000 or 45,000 Iraqis have been killed since March of 2003.

Earlier today, President Bush dismissed the study, saying it was not credible.

Americans have an urgent responsibility to discover the truth about the number of Iraqi deaths. As Colin Powell famously said in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, "If you break it, you own it." Our elected president made the decision to invade. He was supported by our elected representatives in Washington, who funded the invasion. As a nation, we are responsible for the consequences.

The numbers of dead revealed by the study are shocking, but future numbers are likely to be even more shocking. Our own Department of Defense uses a 10% rule-of-thumb for civilian deaths in any civil war. Based on these new numbers, one can only conclude that the civil war is well underway, as many experts have warned. We can therefore expect at least 2 million Iraqi deaths before this conflict has finished. Are we, as a nation, prepared to accept responsibility for those deaths and what are we doing to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people? Has the Defense Department done the necessary planning for such a death toll? The study raises many troubling new questions about the mission in Iraq to which Americans must demand urgent answers.

YouTube video (7:22)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Must-See Video: Olbermann on "Tempting Faith"

As we wrote last Friday, October 6, David Kuo's new book, Tempting Faith, is appearing at the worst possible moment for Republicans. The book, scheduled for release on October 16, contains some hard-hitting allegations about how the Bush administration, which privately referred to evangelical leaders as "the nuts," used the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for political projects, while directing a minimal amount of money to charities, faith-based or otherwise. Kuo served as the Office's deputy director during Bush's first term.

Keith Olbermann obtained an advance copy of the book and is doing a two-part analysis of its contents. The first was aired this evening.

Kuo writes, "“White House staff didn't want to have anything to do with the Faith-Based Initiative because they didn't understand it any more than did congressional Republicans. They didn't lie awake at night trying to kill it. They simply didn't care."

Instead the White House used the office for political purposes, sponsoring campaign events under its aegis. The Machiavellian uses of the faith-based initiative, once described by Kuo as the "cross around the White House's neck," appear to be amply documented in the new book.

This is a video everyone should definitely watch. Even more than the Foley affair, Kuo's explosive book promises to drive a deep wedge between Republicans and their religious base, by exposing the cyncism and contempt with which Republicans treat that base. (Urgent criticism of Olbermann: Stop comparing the Southern Baptist Convention to Islamic extremists. That's not Kuo's point and it's not helping.)

Video (wmv) and transcript at Crooks and Liars.

Bush: Lancet Study Not Credible

Speaking at a news conference today at the White House, President Bush said he did not consider the study published in today's Lancet, which concludes that 654,965 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion, to be credible.

From the transcript:

QUESTION: Back on Iraq, a group of American and Iraqi health officials today released a report saying that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the Iraq war. That figure is 20 times the figure that you cited in December at 30,000. Do you care to amend or update your figure? And do you consider this a credible report?

BUSH: No, I don't consider it a credible report. Neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials. I do -- I do know that a lot of innocent people have died, and that troubles me. And it grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they're willing to -- you know, that there's a level of violence that they tolerate. And it's now time for the Iraqi government to work hard to bring security in neighborhoods so people can feel -- can feel, you know, at peace. No question it's violent. But this report is one -- they put it out before. It was pretty well -- the methodology is pretty well discredited. But I, you know, talk to people like General Casey. And, of course, the Iraqi government put out a statement talking about the report.

QUESTION: So the figure's 30,000, Mr. President? Do you stand by your figure, 30,000?

BUSH: I, you know, I stand by the figure a lot of innocent people have lost their life. 600,000 or whatever they guessed at is just, it's not credible. Thank you.

Video (wmv) via Crooks and Liars (1:49)

Minuteman Founder Storms Off Democracy Now!

Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist abruptly ended an interview on Democracy Now! this morning, citing "legal advice" after Columbia student Karina Garcia, of the Chicano Caucus, accused the Minutemen of attacking protestors during his speech last week. Univision coverage of the event shows a man, identified as a member of Gilchrist's organization, kicking a student in the head from the stage.

Transcript and video/audio links at Democracy Now!

Stewart Blasts CNN North Korea Reporting

Jon Stewart correctly points out that while nobody had confirmed North Korea's "nuclear test," CNN reported it as though a test had actually occurred. (As you might imagine, Fox News was even worse.) The test still has not been confirmed, and some intelligence analysts are now saying privately that the event recorded in North Korea was not nuclear.

YouTube video (1:28)

Study: 601,027 Violent Deaths Since Iraq Invasion

Defense Department's own data confirms latest household survey?

Deaths due to violent sources per Governorate. Source: The Lancet.

A startling study (pdf) published today in The Lancet, a highly respected British medical journal, estimates that 601,027 Iraqis have died of violent causes since the 2003 invasion, and that there have been 654,965 excess Iraqi deaths in the same time period. The study was conducted by Gilbert Burnham, Riyadh Lafta, Shannon Doocy and Les Roberts. Burnham, the lead author, is an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study estimate, based on household interviews, is dramatically higher than the death toll reported by other organizations, such as Iraq Body Watch, which are based on passive surveillance methods like monitoring newspaper accounts. The authors note:

Our estimate of excess deaths is far higher than those reported in Iraq through passive surveillance measures. This discrepancy is not unexpected. Data from passive surveillance are rarely complete, even in stable circumstances, and are even less complete during conflict, when access is restricted and fatal events could be intentionally hidden. Aside from Bosnia, we can find no conflict situation where passive surveillance recorded more than 20% of the deaths measured by population based methods. In several outbreaks, disease and death recorded by facility-based methods underestimated events by a factor of ten or more when compared with populationbased estimates.

The death rate found in this study compares favorably with data collected by the Department of Defense itself (via the Multi-National Corps-Iraq), according to a figure in the study report in which the death rates estimated for the May 2004 to May 2005 and the June 2005 to June 2006 periods are virtually identical to those of the household survey. But it is not clear from the report where the DoD data was obtained. The study estimate implies nearly 700 violent deaths per day in Iraq, but the MNC-Iraq estimates only 117 violent civilian deaths per day. The DoD estimate is based only on violent deaths in incidents to which coalition troops respond.

Data from all surveys show a dramatic increase in the Iraqi death rate, which has virtually doubled from 2005 to 2006. Deaths attributable to coalition forces account for 31% of violent deaths, according to the household survey, and the authors note that:

Most violent deaths were due to gunshots (56%); air strikes, car bombs, and other explosions/ordnance each accounted for 13–14% of violent deaths. The number of deaths from gunshots increased consistently over the post-invasion period, and a sharp increase in deaths from car bombs was noted in 2006.

Trends in number of deaths reported by the Iraq Body Count and the MultiNational Corps-Iraq and the mortality rates found by this study. Source: The Lancet.

The authors note that the mortality rate estimates, which have more than doubled since the invasion, meet the Sphere standards for a humanitarian emergency, concluding that, "We continue to believe that an independent international body to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions and other humanitarian standards in conflict is urgently needed."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Foley Interest Fades; Did Scandal Tip Public Opinion?

Traffic data from Alexa for a major Democratic blog and a minor blog that spent a lot of time covering the Foley scandal suggests that interest in the topic has already faded. Traffic to both sites saw an upswing when the scandal broke, peaked in the middle of last week and has now returned to a baseline value.

While public curiosity has waned, the most recent polls of likely voters by CNN and USA Today/Gallup, showed dramatic gains by Democrats on a generic ballot, where they are now favored by 21% and 23%, respectively. Both polls were conducted from October 6-8 and represented a gain of about 10 points for Democrats, compared to September polls by each agency.

What that might mean for the November elections is anyone's guess at this point. Even if the polls stick, it is unclear how they will translate into individual races, some of which are so close that a change of only a few points could determine the outcome. By the weekend, the political fallout from the scandal may be clearer.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Awaiting Confirmation of North Korea Test with Dread

As in previous addresses about things nuclear, President Bush seemed to be struggling not to laugh this morning as he pronounced the words "nuclear" and "proliferators" during his brief news conference. Undoubtedly, like the infamous "where's the WMD" video he filmed for the Washington press corps, his difficulty with pronouncing those words correctly is a subject of great White House mirth. As usual, Americans watched in dread as our president struggled to put the interest of the nation and the world above his own urgent narcissistic instincts and it was a relief when he concluded without having giggled aloud.

The Bush administration's carelessness over nuclear weapons extends far beyond the president's inability to pronounce the words "nuclear" and "proliferators." In the march to war in Iraq, the administration effectively trivialized them by lumping them with unconventional biological and chemical weapons, which kill limited numbers of people in confined spaces. A nuclear bomb is the only true weapon of mass destruction.

The administration has spoken repeatedly of developing new nuclear bombs, for use as bunker busters, and has effectively threatened Iran with a nuclear strike by leaking "plans" of such a strike to the press. Those positions are abhorrent to the entire world, not least because the United States is the only nation ever to have used nuclear bombs in war.

President Bush and key advisors allowed the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network to operate for nearly three years without intervention, according to a February 13, 2006, article in the New Yorker, written by Steve Coll and unfortunately unavailable on the Internet. The administration chose to monitor the network, from early 2001 to late 2003, rather than shut it down, according to Coll. Perhaps that decision made good sense from an intelligence perspective, but in light of Iran and North Korea's success in acquiring nuclear technology from Khan and the international crises that have resulted, Americans deserve more information about, and a justification for, that decision. It is ironic that, while the administration foisted fake intel on the American public about aluminum rods and yellow cake uranium in Iraq, it may have been monitoring a real, ongoing transfer of nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Radiation and seismic signature studies will have to be concluded, perhaps as early as this evening, before the world knows whether North Korea actually conducted a nuclear test or not. Ironically, the international Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that would have allowed nations to quickly confirm the test has not been ratified and awaits the signature of both the United States and North Korea. A confirmation of the test would mean that one of the world's most dangerous and unpredictable dictators now has the world's deadliest weapon. It is an announcement the world awaits with dread.

Dems Flub Another Meet the Press Debate

Claire McCaskill speaks in campaign soundbites

It's impossible to know how important the Meet the Press debates are for the elections, but Democratic candidates have certainly not used them to advantage. Virginia's Jim Webb gave a disastrous performance on September 17 when he became mired in a discussion about sexist comments he had published. Maybe it didn't hurt him, but it certainly didn't help, as his poll numbers continue to hover outside the range that would pose a serious threat to incumbent Senator Allen.

Claire McCaskill is locked in a much closer battle with incumbent Senator Jim Talent in the bellwether state of Missouri, the all-important race that will determine where the Senate balance of power falls for the next two years. Her performance yesterday was certainly not what one might have hoped. Our critique follows:

Style: McCaskill began well, projecting a warm, relaxed, almost folksy image that would appeal to any voter, but became increasingly tense and nervous as the debate wore on. Talent projected the image of a technocrat, sure of his facts, but not particularly affable. His demeanor was relaxed and unflappable throughout the debate. Advantage to Talent.

Time: Talent controlled the time, without appearing to hog it. We did check that, because it appeared to us he spoke far more than McCaskill did, and these are the numbers: Talent used 58% of the time while McCaskill used only 42%. McCaskill frequently gave one word answers ("yes," "no," "certainly"), like a beaming school child who knows the right answer, when she could have elaborated, however briefly.

Substance: Again, it was Talent who controlled the facts, while McCaskill often spoke in disjointed campaign soundbites. She did the best she could in defending an earlier remark that, "George Bush let people die on rooftops in New Orleans because they were poor and because they were black." She became mired in a discussion of her own, personal plan for Iraq that was far too specific and she seemed generally to have a poor grasp of foreign policy. We could all have lived without this comment on Bill Clinton: "I think he's been a great leader, but I don't want my daughter near him." It was tasteless and bound to provoke disagreement from everyone, one way or the other. Compare that to Talent's comment on Bush, "Certainly, he's going to end up better than Jimmy Carter, probably not as good as Ronald Reagan." Properly nuanced, plenty of wiggle room and offensive to hardly anyone. McCaskill did not capitalize on the stem cell issue, her greatest strength, on which she should have spoken at length. Instead, she took the bait as Talent goaded her into a discussion of partial birth abortions. What is surprising is that, after so many years of abject Republican failure on everything from Iraq to Katrina to the invasion of Americans' personal privacy to its rejection of science, Democrats can not find a clear, simple message and express it forcefully. Anyway, the debate goes to Talent.

Maybe the stem cell issue can carry the election for McCaskill or perhaps the Foley thing will tip the scales in Missouri, but it would have been very nice to see a convincing debate performance, too. Is it possible the Democratic party has no debate coaches to polish candidates for these appearances? Why spend millions of dollars on ads if you're going to blow millions of dollars worth of time that's offered, at no charge, by a national network? Thank goodness the only Meet the Press debates remaining are Minnesota and Maryland, not New Jersey and Tennessee.

MSNBC video of the debate here.
Transcript here.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Republicans Knew of Sexually Explicit Foley Messages in 2000

The plot thickens, as the Washington Post reports Republican congressman Jim Kolbe (AZ8) knew about sexually explicit e-mails sent by Mark Foley to a page as early as 2000. Kolbe, the only uncloseted gay Republican in Congress, confronted Foley directly about the e-mails, but it is unclear whether he notified other House members. His press secretary denied the e-mails contained explicit language and said "corrective action" was taken at the time.

The report appears to push the timeline for when House Republicans were first told of Foley's sexual communications with pages back by at least three years.

Rep. Kolbe, himself a former page, is resigning at the end of his current term. Like Foley, Kolbe was outed by gay publications after voting for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Kolbe decided to openly declare his sexual preference, and won five more elections, while Foley decided to keep his a secret from constituents.

Patrick McHenry's Unseemly, Short Career

McHenry dated Susan Ralston, disgraced Rove aide

Not surprisingly, the homework on Republican Representative Patrick McHenry (NC10) has already been done. Washington Monthly published an unflattering profile of the ambitious young congressman in its October 2005 issue. This well-written article, by Benjamin Wallace-Wells,explores McHenry's giddy ascent through the Republican ranks from his days as a College Republican. How did McHenry rise so quickly? It's easy. He has no shame and his district is overwhelmingly Republican so he doesn't need to worry about reelection.

From the article:

No political movement can survive on talking points alone. It requires an endless succession of faces, flesh and bone, elected officials willing to impose their smiling mugs in front of the camera even when the talking points are ridiculous. In the nine months since he came to Washington, McHenry has cultivated a role as a kind of fraternity pledge for the House leadership, willing to do the dirty work on behalf of crusades that the rest of his caucus will no longer touch. He was still pumping Social-Security privatization this summer, months after the GOP leadership had given up on the bill. He was still attacking Terri Schiavo's husband after other Republicans, with an eye toward opinion polls, clammed up. And in June, he was summoned by the cable networks to defend Karl Rove after it began to appear likely that the president's chief strategist had identified Valerie Plame as a CIA agent while talking to reporters.

McHenry is perhaps the most successful and precocious of the endless string of those guys, the youngish Republican representatives who show up on cable television to defend the indefensible. But McHenry has also mastered, far more quickly than most, the inside game, the art of cultivating personal relationships with the powerful. Soon after moving to Congress, McHenry hired Grover Norquist's press secretary as his own. More recently, he's been dating Karl Rove's executive assistant.

We assume that would be Miss Susan Ralston, who resigned Friday after a House Government Reform panel report revealed that she received tickets to sporting and entertainment events from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, for whom she'd previously worked, in exchange for inside information about the White House.