Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Saturday, April 30, 2005
It was 30 years ago today...
...that Saigon fell and the Vietnam war ended. America lost 58,000 soldiers, and lost Vietnam to the Communists. We also lost our innocence in a big way. I was a toddler when the war ended, and have no memory whatsoever of our being a nation at war during that time. But I do know a few Vietnam veterans, and how painful that period, and for many, their homecoming, was. This is a good time to remember that win or lose, war is hell. It's brutal and its harsh and it's soul-killing in many ways for the people who fight it, and the civilians who endure it. But the people who fight our wars are, after all, ours. They deserve our love and respect. Period. Whether you like the wars we fight or not, the fighting men and women deserve our thanks. So today, I'll just post one thing: thank you.
posted by JReid @ 5:33 PM  
Friday, April 29, 2005
Enemy of the state
Former Clinton advisor Sydney Blumenthal has a must-read piece in the Guardian regarding Collin Powell's backdoor campaign against his former deputy, John Bolton (plus Condi Rice's inability to shake the cover-up thing). Killer paras:

The Bolton confirmation hearings have revealed his constant efforts to undermine Powell on Iran and Iraq, Syria and North Korea. They have also exposed a most curious incident that has triggered the administration's stonewall reflex. The foreign relations committee has discovered that Bolton made a highly unusual request and gained access to 10 intercepts by the National Security Agency, which monitors worldwide communications, of conversations involving past and present government officials. Whose conversations did Bolton secretly secure and why?

Staff members on the committee believe that Bolton was probably spying
on Powell
, his senior advisers and other officials reporting to him on diplomatic initiatives that Bolton opposed. If so, it is also possible that Bolton was sharing this top-secret information with his neoconservative allies within the Pentagon and the vice-president's office, with whom he was in daily contact and who were known to be working in league against Powell.

If the intercepts are released they may disclose whether Bolton was a key figure in a
counter-intelligence operation run inside the Bush administration against the secretary of state, who would resemble the hunted character played by Will Smith in Enemy of the State. Both Republican and Democratic senators have demanded that the state department, which holds the NSA intercepts, turn them over to the committee. But Rice so far has refused. What is she hiding by her cover-up?


Could the Bolton nomination be the thing that finally peels the lid off the neocon war cabal? If it is, then how ironic is it that the once untouchable president walked right into it, with the help of Dick Cheney...?
posted by JReid @ 2:50 AM  
Do we remember?
The Pentagon this week quietly released more than 300 pictures of honor guard ceremonies and flag-draped coffins of fallen soldiers from the Iraq, Afghanistan and other U.S. conflicts, including Korea and Vietnam. The release came after a lawsuit by the National Security Archives and other parties. You can get the full experience here, and needless to say, you should. We all should.
posted by JReid @ 2:11 AM  
Freepen 'hell
Yep, that post is as good as dead. The poor Winchester guy is getting flamed for calling Dubya "Bushie." He should have gone with "smirking chimp boy..."

Update: I was wrong. It took about ten minutes, not five. Offending thread gone. But now we've got Man Has Meltdown After Burger King Runs Out Of Fries and of course, the ever popular, Pray for President Bush - Day 1684.

Ah, the Free Republic!
posted by JReid @ 12:24 AM  
Thus sayeth the Freepers:
Interesting first post on the presidential newser tonight on the Free Republic. (Gotta love that name - WinchesterMagnumSniper - RNC to the core...) Note that Bush has now returned to his Rockefeller roots according to this poster, who I must say is not alone on these boards post-election. Still, I give this thread about five minutes before it's pulled.

Not One Mention of Illegal Immigration by Bushie or Press

Posted by WinchesterMagnumSniperOn
04/28/2005 9:08:18 PM PDT You'd think at least one "journalist" would have taken the opportunity tonite to embarrass Bushie and his band of Rockefeller liberals over the Minutemen's success and the government's failure to secure the Mexican border. When a dozen al-Qaeda infect themselves with small pox, cross the border and begin spreading it around at a Padres game, LAX and the MTA bus system, illegal immigration will be a bit tougher to ignore. Right now, Mexican illegals only cost the US economy $68 billion/year, according to a new study by Columbia University.

posted by JReid @ 12:09 AM  
Most likely to suck up
...Okay, I have my answer on who'd be the most solicitous of Bush tonight. Wouldn't ya know it, with all the overly deferential questioners in the presser with Dubya, Matthews would go and grab the prize. Leave it to MSNBC to provide a post-op that feels as good as a gentle Mother's Day massage...

Matthews praised the president effusively for stiff-arming the James Dobson axis over judges and faith, pronounced himself positively proud of George for telling the truth about the POTUS not being able to lower gas prices, and seemed genuinely tickled by Bush's sparkly demeanor. Sheesh. If he was any more loving I'd have to start calling him Abdullah...

For his part, Russert serves up the standard issue Bushnalysis: not too harsh, try to sound tough. He breaks down the same points as Matthews, plus an extended riff on Bush's "sliding scale" Social Security plan, and how the Dems are going to attack it like starved, wild dogs on Friday.

TimRussert: First, it’s clear this president is deeply concerned about the energy problems in the country, particularly the high price of gasoline. He acknowledged there is no quick fix, and it is having an effect on consumer confidence and job creation and the economy.

Secondly, on his plan laying out for Social Security — he called it a “sliding scale” in terms of benefits. Look for the Democrats to say that that plan would cut benefits anywhere from 20 to 40 percent for the next two generations of recipients, and that will commence a very big battle on Capitol Hill.

Third, his answer on faith and judicial opponents — it is a clear break from what many of his supporters said this past Sunday: that these nominees were blocked because of their belief in faith. He said that is not the case. He thinks they are blocked because of the strict constructionists. That will cause unease amongst some Christian activists in the Republican Party.


I'd tell you what they had to sa on CNN, but I just couldn't stomach even five minutes of Bush gagaism from Paula Zahn.
posted by JReid @ 12:00 AM  
Thursday, April 28, 2005
If I could talk with President Bush for 15 minutes...
Gallup asked 1,003 people that question, and surprise! A small majority said something on the order of "get out of Iraq."

Personally, I'd use my 15 minutes to try and figure out if Mr. Bush is for real about his new neoconservative/theocratic ideology, or if it's just politics ... and to get all the dirt on Bush's Crawford snogfest with Crown Prince Abdullah... Cmon, Dubya, the stroll through the blue bonnets, the "Splash Day" references, the refusal to go whole hog on the gay marriage amendment ... you're so giving me Clay Aiken, man!
posted by JReid @ 1:14 PM  
Desperate times...
President Bush goes on television live! at 8:30 tonight for a rare press conference to try and stanch the bleeding from his various initiatives, from Social Security to energy policy. Hm. Wonder who'll ask the most obsequious, kiss-ass question this evening? David Gregory? Somebody from Fox? CNN and the Associated Press have been sucking up the administration pretty aggressivelylately, maybe on of their guys will have a go (unless it's John King...) I guess it's anybody's guess.
posted by JReid @ 11:04 AM  
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
"Idolspiracy?"
Is there a conspiracy to wreck "American Idol?" I know, I know, it's not important in a "global war on terror" sense of the word, but you've got to admit, Constantine Maroulis getting the boot and thug-wannabe near felong Scott Savol surviving week after week is pretty "2000 election," isn't it?

Well you know what that means: time for the conspiracy theories...

A site called "vote for the worst" is inviting its members to tork the A.I. voting by voting for "the worst the show has to offer," and this year, it's Scott Savol. Scuttle is college students all over the U.S. are jumping on the V4TW bandwagon. The ultimate test of the conspiracy: if the "voters" manage to choose this lout as America's musical idol (apparently with the enthusiastic support of Method Man -- rumored to be a Savol fan...)

As Drudge would say, "developing..."

Update: There's now an online petition making the rounds demanding a recount. And with ABC's expose coming up next week, you've got to wonder what's going on in the minds of "Idol" producers at Fox. How long can the show survive controversy, elimination of popular contestants, and Scott Savol's boorish thug act? I know it's just a TV show for goodness sakes, but it does say something about American culture when a show designed to be a search for a squeaky clean superstar devolves into a race to the bottom...

BTW, the moderators on the Idol message boards are furiously sanitizing history with an almost Bush administration-like efficiency. Posts containing the words "fixed", "boycott" or "Coke" last about 30 seconds... interesting...
posted by JReid @ 11:18 PM  
Tuesdays in the park with George

Sorry, but this Bush strolling through the Texas blue bonnets, holding hands with Prince Abdullah thing just won't quit. Wapo's Dan Froomkin has the rundown of reactions from the press, and from the good ole' boys.

CBS does too:

As CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports, while it clearly strikes a nerve, you get the feeling it goes beyond coziness with the Saudis or dependence on their oil. Asked what he makes of it, one man says, "I don't like it."

When it comes to two men holding hands, America's got issues. "I mean I'd love to meet the president, but I'm not going to walk around holding his hand," says XXXX. "I'm not that kind of guy, know what I'm saying. "I like girls. I don't like boys."

Nevermind that Mr. Bush might actually get some points for it in the Middle East.


BTW, Jerry Srpinger on the radio this morning made it sound like this was Bush's first stab at male hand-locking with his Saudi pals. But if you check out Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" you'll see it's par for the course. Maybe for their next meetup, Bush and Bandar should party it up at Texas Splash Day...
posted by JReid @ 5:41 PM  
The incredible, shrinking president
Remember back in the day, when George W. Bush was God? The Freepers revered him, angrily running off any fool who dared to criticize the Commander in Chief on their boards, rather than glorify and pray for him. (There really was a thread on the Free Republic called "a day in the life of President Bush" -- with glorious photos!) The Daschle Democrats made wimpy feints at opposition, but ultimately capitulated to his post-9/11 greatness -- on tax cuts, on Medicare, on the war and the Patriot Act...

Well, those days are done.

President Bush, welcome back to earth, where you are just a lame duck politician and the Republicans on the Hill don't have to listen to you.

Howard Fineman takes up the argument, leading with a cute critique of the Bush administration's faltering P.R. machine (never can get enough of this picture:)



Fineman:

You’ve got to hand it to the PR geniuses at the White House. There’s nothing like back-to-back Texas photo ops with Crown Prince Abdullah and Rep. Tom DeLay to give Americans a visceral sense that the Boss is on top of the gas-price situation and desperate to save working folks cash at the pump.

Just kidding, of course.


Actually, it’s hard to imagine two political events LESS likely to win the president points. George Bush held hands and pecked cheeks with Abdullah in traditional desert fashion – but the prince gave him the back of his hand on the issue of the moment: oil supply and prices, which the Saudis essentially control. Then the president welcomed the embattled DeLay into his photo space in Galveston. That was no energy-issue coup, either. Until lobbyist Jack Abramoff came into the picture, DeLay’s best-known corporate ties were to corporate titans such as Kenneth Lay of Enron in his home town of Houston.


That Midas touch?

Across a range of issues, and in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the Bush Administration seems to have lost its touch. Is it losing momentum in a serious and permanent way? Yes, Bush has been down politically before, and recovered smartly. He’s a fighter, and has the ability to ignore the gloom and doom around him. Yes, the Democrats don’t have much of an answer to him other than to shout “no” on a host of issues. Still, despite Republican control of virtually every lever of power in ashington – in a way because of that very fact – Bush finds himself playing defense.


Fineman goes on to spell out the problemas, from Bush's lame national tour and its failure to convince Americans to hand their Social Security money over to Bush's pals on Wall Street, to Bush's failure to put forward a single idea to bring down gas prices, to Bolton and DeLay and on and on. Throw in plummeting consumer confidence, investor optimism and other economic indicators, including declining new home sales in the red-hot Miami market, and you've got the recipe for a dismal second term. Even the rich people are starting to worry...

I remember saying to a few friends before the election that with the economy facing an inevitable downturn due to deficits, war jitters and the Wall Street and real estate bubbles, maybe the presidency wasn't worth having this time. At the time, it was a way to try and live with the prospect of four more years of Dubya. Now it seems damned near prescient.
posted by JReid @ 4:32 PM  
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Losing their religion?
With all that they've won in recent years, you'd think the American right would be in a constant state of triumph. Instead, they appear to be coming apart at the seems. After the Terri Schiavo fiasco, which laid bare for the rest of us 1) the agenda of their fanatical religious core and 2) the nakedness with which their politicians are willing to exploit #1, the schism between scheming politicians and the sincerely radical people they purport to lead has grown, and the marriage of convenience, between neocons, theocons and real conservatives, has hit a rocky patch.

Four issues dominate the current terrain: Judges (which really means abortion), John Bolton (which really means repudiation of the United Nations), illegal immigration (the last thing upon which the current crop of so-called conservatives and actual conservative Lou Dobbs still agree) and Social Security (which I suspect the base cares far less about, but which has become a test of George W. Bush's ability to wield actual and persuasive presidential power.

On Judges, the base appears to be going absolutely apoplectic. Writing on an albeit Canadian online site, Canadafreepress.com, Alan Caruba, founder of an outfit called "The National Anxiety Center" (whose previous passion appears to have been debunking the theory of global warming,) sums up the angst:

A lot of thoughtful conservatives are having serious second thoughts about George W. Bush. His failure to act upon core values of fiscal conservatism and sovereignty is a growing concern.

Donations to conservative organizations and think tanks are in sharp decline. A lot of conservatives have decided to stop giving financial support because they are losing faith in the ability of these groups to have any effect on administration policies.


Bush has an engaging personality, but he’s not running for office anymore. He is already a very lame duck.


In concert with Republican party leaders in Congress, the White House has been unable to get its judicial appointments approved and the fight over John Bolton’s appointment as UN ambassador suggests the party lacks unity on Capitol Hill. Bolton has been confirmed four times for previous positions. Unless the GOP can unite to overcome the obstructionism of the Democrats, it bodes ill for the party.


If conservatives stay home for the 2006 elections, power can shift to the Democrats.
People are increasingly worried about the huge budget deficit created by a President and a Congress that have been on a spending binge. The national debt has increased by $2.16 billion every day since September 30, 2004. It is now a cliché that Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill while in office. New "entitlements" added to Medicare for prescriptions will add still more to the rising tide of national debt. It is not "if" the economy will reach a tipping point this accumulated debt cannot be
paid, but when.


Compounding fears is the appearance of an increasingly shaky economy that includes rising inflation and major corporations like General Motors in trouble. Wall Street is experiencing early tremors that forecast a bear market.


An issue reaching critical mass are the illegal immigrants flowing across our southern border. The assertion that they are necessary to do the work that Americans will not is nonsense. With the exception of the agricultural sector that has always depended on migrant workers, there are many jobs American workers would take if they weren’t already being given to undocumented workers paid in cash. Illegal workers sent $20 billion dollars home to Mexico last year!

Caruba goes on to blast the bloated Medicare drugs entitlement, the No Child Left Behind Act, which placed the federal backside firmly on top of local school districts, and the expansion of federally owned land. None of these are unfamiliar complaints, it's just that since Dubya went from bland 49 percenter to Beloved Leader after 9/11, they're complaints we've becom unaccustomed to hearing from Republicans.

The base may not want to hear these gripes seeming to come from Canada, and many folks on the Free Republic thread linked to Caruba's piece wrote him off as a swiper who can't swipe W, and complainers on the thread as moderate woosies and trolls. But some posters on the thread begged to differ, zeroing in on perhaps the two most important issues to two of the most important parts of the base.

Issue 1: Abortion (euphamisms in play -- judges, fillibuster, "people of faith")

To: MikeEdwards:
The Republican leadership has managed to alienate both of its wings - a remarkable feat considering the majorities they won across the board a couple of months ago. On this thread so far I've seen conservatives angry about immigration, and conservatives angry about spending policies. These issues are important, but they were never the reason my wing voted for the Republicans for all these 30 years.

Pro-lifers have been unified on just one thing: protecting life. We understood long ago that this meant getting Republican majorities to change the composition of the courts, and for pro-life judges to reverse Roe v. Wade. That's always been the strategy, and come last November, we were crowned with success. And that very DAY, Arlen Specter - new head of the Senate Judiciary Committee - stood up and warned the President not to press a "radical" slate of judges who would overturn Roe.

The Republican Party ignored the howls of pro-lifers. So the pro-lifers took a "wait and see" attitude when Specter was installed. Well, in just the past three weeks we saw the Republican party fail spectacularly and catastrophically on life issues.

First there was the Terri Schiavo debacle, in which the Bush boys themselves and Congress and the Republican-controlled courts (Greer: Republican; Justice Kennedy: Republican) all washed their hands of the matter and killed her. And then Frist waffled and thus far has failed to pass the nuclear option, despite thre being 55 Senators.

Pro-lifers are not very calculating souls. Most are devout Christians and not very political. They're not going to change parties. What they will do is stay home. And with them gone, the Republican majority will collapse. At this point, all the Republicans can do is pass the nuclear option. That would stanch the bleeding. They have lost trust, but not all of it. If they don't, they are doomed in 2006 and for a long time thereafter. If the pro-lifers leave, many of them will turn back to their private lives and faith and not enter worldly politics again. Republicans are blowing it, and it starts with the failure of both Bushes in the Schiavo case. They showed weakness, and became lame ducks the instant they did. It's too bad. But it is what it is.
41 posted on 04/26/2005 11:42:56 AM PDT by Vicomte13 (Et alors?)

Issue 2: immigration (code for economic worries, jobs) next poster:

To: MikeEdwards:
that piece absolutely spot on imo.i know it is treasonous, but i am either sitting out 2006 or voting straight libertarian (which means sitting out).probably the same in 2008 the way things are advancing presently.we are up to our eyeballs in illegals working for half wages, in the meantime our taxes, fees, fines and penalties are going up (only for the legals). our hospitals and municipalities are going bankrupt, and we are paying $2.25 a gallon for gas to get to the jobs that we no longer have because they left for china or mexico.

in my town there is one empty (for 3 years now) osram facility that went to mexico, and a second closing operations in a year (800 more layoffs). also our hunt memorial hospital, long since bankrupt and currently (imo)the most expensive sparrow nesting site in north america.it will be worse when the dems regain control, but likely the total collapse they will inevitably cause (i'm from massachusetts, i've seen it before) will bring about a new generation of real leaders. if not, we all will have to learn to become landscapers and chimney sweeps for trial lawyers, college professors and other "government" employees. massachusetts been there too... that was the
"massachusetts miracle".at present i would not give the gop the steam off of my urine never mind a vote or donation.above is my donation to the gop.
49 posted on 04/26/2005 12:00:02 PM PDT by mmercier


And what are some of the disgruntled Freepers going to do about it?

Donations to conservative organizations and think tanks are in sharp decline. A lot of conservatives have decided to stop giving financial support because they are losing faith in the ability of these groups to have any effect on administration policies.

Yep, that describes me. As I responded to Ken Mehlman's latest solitication:

Hi Ken,
I can't believe you sent this while I'm reading that Stoneless Frist is negiotating with the DemocRATS.

Hypocrite? Talk to Frist.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-ews/1391058/posts
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1391054/posts

Are we the majority or not?

Mitch McConnell said Sunday we have the votes.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1390409/posts

VP Cheney has said he'll gladly break a tie.
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1384952/posts http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1389219/posts
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1384952/posts

What more do we need?
Why can't we "git-er-done?"
We need to get a pair, grow up and like the
MAJORITY we are! I guarantee you if the situation were reversed the DemocRATS would be beating us up so bad our mothers wouldn't recognize us. I truly dislike the DemocRATS and all they stand for. But they got STONES!

upchuckAiken, SC

PS -
1. Judges
2. Bolton
3. Criminal aliens
4. Social Security

Four issues that MUST be resolved to our benefit. If not, 2006 and 2008 are gonna be total disasters for us.
48 posted on 04/26/2005 11:56:44 AM PDT by upchuck ("If our nation be
destroyed, it would be from the judiciary." ~ Thomas Jefferson)


Never thought I'd hear Democrats accused of having "stones," but there we are. The perpetual victims on the right continue to feel victimized by "the system" even when they run the system. They can't blame Democrats for being unable to implement their agenda (Biblical control over the governing philosophy of the United States and sealed borders), so what to do? Who do you blame when your guys are in charge?

My guess is that it probably is still too close to 9/11 for Republicans to confront their cognitive dissonance with Dubya. They will continue to worship him at least as long as the other side continues to loathe him. But Congress is another matter, and we could be looking at payback in 2006 (remember the old term "throw the bums out?")

Whatever happens, it's clear that Republican politicians will not be able to run on abortion fever forever. Abortion is THE Holy Grail of the Christian right, and once it's clear that the RNC is exploiting the Grail, they're toast. Having whipped the Christian right into a frenzy, they can't exactly mollify them comeanother election time with promises that "if we just elect (fill in the blank), Roe is as good as gone."

Fool me once ...
posted by JReid @ 3:51 PM  
I wanna hold your hand
News rags that normally love bomb the Bush administration were at pains to sift through their discomfort at the image of their beloved leader strolling through the Crawford underbrush, hand in hand with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah on Monday. I know it's wrong to gloat, but who can help it? These pictures are as steamy as those US Weekly snaps of Brad and Angelina gettin' saucy in the sub-Saharan!

The NY Post pulls an "Us Weekly" by putting the snoggers on the cover under the headlines "High price of oil":


April 26, 2005 -- WASHINGTON — President Bush yesterday held hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and took him on a stroll through a field of bluebonnet flowers at his Texas ranch in a pitch to get the Saudis to pump more oil.


They embraced and traded air kisses on both cheeks after the prince, clad in flowing robes, arrived nearly 30 minutes late for his second visit to the Bush ranch in Crawford. The president firmly held the hand of his guest, who's in his 80s, and guided the Saudi ruler through the field of blooming bluebonnets as they headed to an office for a few hours of meetings.

"[My] personal relationship with the crown prince is important," Bush told reporters
just before Abdullah arrived.


The Chicago Sun Times played it straighter, delving into the cultural meaning of the hand-holding in the second half of their story, cleverly entitled "Bush to Saudis: Give us a hand" and even calling on James Zogby, brother of the pollster:

When Bush and Abdullah held hands walking into their meeting, the gesture prompted questions about two men showing that kind of physical intimacy. Fred Jones, the National Security Council spokesman, said hand-holding is an Arab expression of ''friendship, respect and trust.''

The gesture goes further than a symbol of friendship, according to James Zogby, of the Arab American Institute, a Washington-based Arab civil rights organization. ''The president and Crown Prince Abdullah were also sending a real political message that they are partners and friends and intend to remain that way,'' Zogby said.

''To the Saudi people, the message was that their leader has the respect and support of the American president. And the fact that President Bush confidently took the crown prince's hand and held it all the way into the office said to Americans, 'This is my friend and I am going to walk with him,' " Zogby said.


Not to be outdone, the Freepers invite their readers to caption the lovey-dovey pic. Best shot: "The love that dares not speak its name." Another keeper: "What happens in Crawford stays in Crawford." The alarmist take: "Good grief. They look like a couple of pansies. Why would our president do this?" Great stuff. Who says Freepers aren't funny? Although during the election, this thread would have been pulled immediately, and the poster banned as a troll...

Over the Moonie ...

The Wash Times declines to describe the passionate hand holding, but does present an ode to that wonderful conservative birds and bees maxim: true love waits:

CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush yesterday pressed Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah to increase the flow of crude oil from his nation's vast reserves, but failed during their meeting to win any short-term relief for Americans pummeled by
sky-high gasoline prices.


Instead, Bush administration officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, touted long-range plans already
offered by the Saudis to increase capacity and production by several million
barrels per day by the end of the decade.

...

A joint statement by the two leaders reflected continued tensions over the issue of democratic change, but did not criticize Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record.

It said: "The United States considers that nations will create institutions that reflect the history, culture and traditions of their societies; it does not seek to impose its own style of government on the government and people of Saudi Arabia."


Ah, love in the springtime, when a boy finds his prince!
posted by JReid @ 12:46 PM  
Monday, April 25, 2005
Carrot, stick, whatever...
What have we learned from the Bush administration so far this week?

First: Holding hands with Crown Prince Abdullah down on the ranch while pleading for more crude production won't get oil prices down:

"There is no shortage of crude oil," said Adel Aljubeir, foreign affairs advisor to Prince Abdullah. " . . . It would not make a difference if we put an extra 1.5 to 2 million barrels of oil on the market."

The price hikes, he said, are a result of a confluence of factors, including: increased demand, limited refinery capacity, a lack of spare production capacity and the fear permeating the market because of the ongoing violence in Iraq. Some oil policy experts agreed there is relatively little Saudi Arabia can do in the short run to lower
oil prices. The country is producing about 9.5 million barrels of oil a day -- close to its nearly 11 million-barrel capacity.


Second: hard-lining Venezuela is about as effective at chest thumping in Cuba's general direction, only Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is sitting on 15 percent of our oil diet... (That means Venezuela, like Saudi Arabia (and for that matter, Russia), holds a whip hand over the U.S. economy, by virtue of the same black gold that built the Bush family fortune.)

American officials, who had chosen to ignore Mr. Chávez through much of last year, now recognize the need for a longer-term strategy to deal with a leader who is poised to win a second six-year term in elections next year.


A multiagency task force in Washington has been working on shaping a new approach, one that high-ranking American policy makers say would most likely veer toward a harder line. United States support for groups that Chávez supporters say oppose the government has been a source of tension in the past. Under the plans being considered, American officials said, that support may increase.

...

"What's happening here is they realize this thing is deteriorating rapidly and it's going to require some more attention," said a high-ranking Republican aide on Capitol Hill who works on Latin America policy. "The current look-the-other-way policy is not working."The United States, he said, is particularly concerned because Venezuela is one of four top providers of foreign oil to the United States. "You can't write him off," the aide said of Mr. Chávez. "He's sitting on an energy source that's critical to us."

A main problem for the United States is that Washington has little, if any, influence
over Caracas. The high price of oil has left Venezuela with no need for the loans or other aid that the United States could use as leverage. Nor does the Bush administration have much support in Latin America, where left-leaning leaders now govern two-thirds of the continent. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to raise concerns about Venezuela in a four-country tour through the region this week. Political analysts say she will have a hard time finding support. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on a recent trip to Brazil, publicly raised concerns about Mr. Chávez. Days later, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, in a meeting in Venezuela with Mr. Chávez and the leaders of Colombia and Argentina, pointedly said, "We don't accept defamation and insinuations against a compañero," meaning a close friend.


Bottom line: the Bush administration appears to have friends only where they are useless to us, and no friends where we badly need them.
posted by JReid @ 11:45 PM  
The hand that rocks the cradle
Two pictures capture the essence of my frustration today. In the first, a trio of police officers drag a 5-year-old's hands behind her back, handcuff her, arrest her, and take her to the police station. All for "tearing papers off a bulletin board" and allegedly hitting a teacher. If this is the new response to a toddler's temper tantrum, we're in bigger trouble than I thought. That said, raise your hand if you think the same scenario would have gone down in ole' St. Pete if the 5-year-old, like the teacher and assistant principal, had been white...



Picture number two shows Our Man Dubya holding hands (in the traditional Arab style) and walking with his buddy, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. "Bandar Bush" brought his play brother to the Crawford ranch to beg the Kingdom to produce more oil. If the best the president of the United States can do to stave off an impending energy crisis in the country he perportedly runs (along with being the "leader of the free world") is to canoodle a foreign dictatorship for crude, we're in far more trouble than I thought.

posted by JReid @ 3:31 PM  
Drip ... drip ... drip
The latest bad news on would-be U.N. ambassador John Bolton comes from all the way across the pond, where British Foreign Secrtary Jack Straw is said to have complained in late 2003 to his then counterpart Collin Powell, about Bolton, who was Powell's deputy in charge of arms control. The British apparently were so bugged by Bolton and his overwrought negotiating position on Iran, that they convinced the American government to freeze Bolton out of the negotiations that ultimately led to the U.S. arms deal with Libya.

Newsweek reported, in its May 2 edition, that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw complained about Bolton to then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in November 2003. Citing a "former Bush administration official who was there," Newsweek said Straw told Powell that Bolton -- Powell's undersecretary for arms control and international security -- was making it impossible to reach an agreement on Iran's nuclear program.

According to the official, Newsweek reports, Powell then turned to an aide and said, "Get a different view on [the Iranian problem]. Bolton is being too tough." Newsweek said British officials "at the highest level" persuaded the White House to keep Bolton off the negotiating team that ultimately convinced Libya to give up its nuclear program.


Bolton was unwilling to support a compromise under which the United States would
drop its goal of regime change in favor of "policy change" in exchange for
Libya's disarmament, the magazine reported.


...hang on, wasn't Bolton's supposed masterminding of the deal to get Libya's Khaddafi to give up his WMD supposed to be a central justification for making him U.N. ambassador? Awaiting a word on that from Rich Lowry and the other guys at National Review who've been making that case on the talk show circuit (the NRO boys are currently in full mouth froth over Powell's hand in the unraveling Bolton nomination). Even without the Newsweek revelations, other analysts have expressed serious doubts that Bolton had any hand in Libya's change of heart. Arms Control Wonk linked to a particularly scathing one in March.

How much longer can Bolton hang on? Well, he's a tough guy -- a kiss-up, kick-down sort of bloke. Maybe he can chase a few Senate aides around the cloakroom, hurling obscenities and see what happens...

By the way, if Bolton and his boss (the president) are doing such great gravy on saving the world from weapons of mass destruction, why is the Bush administration considering going to the U.N. with a plan to effectively quarantine North Korea? And we're not doing much better on Iran.

If Mr. Mustache is supposed to be judged on the basis of how we're doing on proliferation, his nomination isn't worth a warm bucket of spit.

Random, uncsolicited advice:

Just a thought: Maybe the president should throw the world (and the Dems) a real curveball and nominate his father as Bolton's replacement. The elder Bush would sail through confirmation, the switch would seize the cable headlines for a couple of days and push Bolton, and maybe even DeLay, off center stage for a minute, and papa's got direct job experience, having held the post before (plus credibility in the Arab world, where he makes oh so much cash, that Dubya couldn't buy with the help of all his daddy's friends and benefactors). Of course, the looneys on the hard right hate Bush 41's guts... but hey, Dubya doesn't have to run for reelection, so who cares?
posted by JReid @ 12:25 AM  
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Maybe God is trying to tell you something...
Bush's Earth Day speech rained out...
posted by JReid @ 3:32 PM  
Anger management, II
The NYT runs with newly released emails that point to the depth and breadth of animosity would-be U.N. ambassador John Bolton felt for his staff at State, and for intelligence analysts not willing to go along with his rabid conspiracy theories about Cuba's supposed WMD.

None of the dozens of messages reviewed by The New York Times were from Mr. Bolton. But the correspondence, spanning a period from February to September 2002, included e-mail sent to Mr. Bolton by his principal assistant, Frederick Fleitz, as well as extensive exchanges between Mr. Fleitz and Christian P. Westermann, the State Department's top expert on biological weapons who clashed sharply with Mr. Bolton over Cuba.


The messages included a Sept. 25, 2002 note in which Thomas Fingar, the No. 2 official in the State Department intelligence branch, deplored what he said had been the toll inflicted on Mr. Westermann by Mr. Bolton and Mr. Fleitz.

"I am dismayed and disgusted that unwarranted personal attacks are affecting you in this way," Mr. Fingar said in a message sent to Mr. Westermann. Two days earlier, in another message, Mr. Westermann wrote to Mr. Fingar to say that "personal attacks, harassment and impugning of my integrity" by Mr. Bolton and Mr. Fleitz were "now affecting my work, my health and dedication to public service."


The correspondence provided to the Senate committee also includes a Feb. 12 message sent to Mr. Bolton by Mr. Fleitz, who disparages what he calls the "already cleared (wimpy) language on Cuba" that Mr. Westermann had recommended be used by Mr. Bolton in his planned speech. It made clear that Mr. Westermann had proposed language that reiterated existing, consensus assessments by American intelligence agencies, rather than the stronger assertions that Mr. Bolton had been pressing to make about possible efforts by Cuba to obtain biological weapons, which Mr. Bolton contended were borne out by some highly classified intelligence reports.


"I explained to Christian that it was a political judgment as to how to interpret this data, and the I.C. should do as we asked and sanitize my language as long as sources and methods are not compromised," Mr. Fleitz wrote to Mr. Bolton, referring to the intelligence community. Mr. Fleitz said of Mr. Westermann, "He strongly disagrees with us."



Drip, drip, drip. Bolton's nomination really seems to be circling the drain. Only question is, who will pull the plug? The Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, the White House, or Bolton himself...
posted by JReid @ 3:16 PM  
That 70's show
George W. Bush may like to think of himself as FDR (complete with the God-ordained right to "revamp" FDR's signature program, Social Security), but I'm starting to think he's more like Jimmy Carter. No, not the humanitarian, Nobel winning post-presidential Carter, but the in-office, ineffective foreign policy-having, stagflation-bedeviled Carter. Case in point:

Murmurs of stagflation hint at challenge for Fed: Slowing growth, rising prices offer faint echo of 1970s
posted by JReid @ 3:11 PM  
Friday, April 22, 2005
Blowback
The guy who wrote the TIME Magazine puff piece on Ann Coulter hits back at his critics. Crib notes version: it's not a puff piece, damnit! And my critics are jerks... Still, gotta love that TIME cover! Coulter looks like she should be starring in "The Ring III"!
posted by JReid @ 1:58 PM  
Anger management

Republicans can parse this story a million ways, slam Republican opponents of the nomination as hypocritical no-shows and traitors from dusk 'til dawn, but they can't escape the quickly solidifying, collective picture of one John Bolton, U.N. ambassador nominee: he is a bully, an anti-diplomat, and an ambarassment to whatever agency is fool enough to have him.

Newsweek (eventually leeched by CBS News) nails Bolton on, not just his bad temper, but on his possible misstatements to the Senate Foreign Relations committee regarding the supposed attaboys he testified to receiving from George W. Bush's ambassador to South Korea after delivering a 2003 speech to the Heritage Foundation dissing North Korea as a "hellish nightmare" led by a "blud sucker" who incidentally is also "human scum."

Bolton testified that then-ambassador Thomas Hubbard both approved and high-fived the speech. Hubbard begs to differ, and has gone to the committee with his version, which could spell trouble for our fair nominee (lying to the committee is not a good way to win the support of wavering Senators).

Worse, former Monica stain-chaser Michael Isikoff and pardner Mark Hosenball detail serious allegations against Bolton that go well beyond his apparently odious personality and management style:

...Congressional Democrats are also pressing the administration for a more detailed explanation of why Bolton requested unedited intelligence intercepts from the National Security Agency which included the names of American government officials. According to a letter that the State Department sent this week to Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, one of Bolton's most vocal critics, over the past four years Bolton on 10 occasions requested that NSA supply him with unedited intercepts that included U.S. officials’ names. Under normal procedures, NSA, which is severely restricted from spying on Americans, is required by its own rules to edit out the names of any American citizens who are mentioned in intercepts the agency collects from its vast international network which eavesdrops on international communications and breaks foreign government codes.


Bolton opponents have speculated that Bolton might have sought the unedited NSA intercepts so that he could use them to try and promote his policy positions in the administration and undermine the positions of officials who opposed him. Administration and Congressional sources tell NEWSWEEK, however, that the State Department and NSA over the last few days have reviewed their records and discovered that since 2001, State Department officials made an estimated 400 requests for intercepts which included the names of Americans or citizens of other countries which are NSA's partners in its international eavesdropping network, which include Great Britain, Canada and Australia.


Bolton's supporters argue that his 10 requests for such material over the last four years therefore are insignificant. Bolton's critics say that they cannot tell whether or not Bolton's requests for the information were significant until they have some sense of the content of the unedited intercepts Bolton had requested.


That last allegation, that Bolton may have sought to obtain the names of American officials in order to lobby or undermine them, seems serious enough on its own to raise questions about whether this man would ever be trusted by his U.N. colleagues were he to head to New York. His history of bullying, intelligence bending and undiplomatic blustering have already made it doubtful he would be either liked, respected, or readily believed... And this helps U.S. foreign policy how???

And of course, this saga wouldn't be complete without a bit of White House chicanery:

Congressional investigators are also pressing the State Department to release extensive e-mail exchanges between Bolton, his aides, and the State Department and CIA officials that Bolton tangled with regarding Cuban WMD. Before Bolton's initial confirmation hearing earlier this month, the State Department sent the Foreign Relations Committee a sheaf of relevant e-mails which appeared to be unclassified. But the Department later sent another set of the same material covered by a classified cover-sheet, leading some Bolton opponents to suggest the administration was trying to re-classify formerly non-secret information to avoid public embarrassment to Bolton.


Congressional sources say that the administration has now relented and de-classified part of the material, but Bolton's critics who are pressing for further de-classifications expect some of the documentation to be made public later this week.

The only question at this point seems to be, how much more public embarrassment are Bolton, the White House, and their die-hards in the press and in "the base" willing to put up with before they Bernie Kerik this guy?
posted by JReid @ 12:37 AM  
Thursday, April 21, 2005
McCainerations
Update to my previous post about the slippery nature of John McCain. Here's a lively paragraph tucked into Friday's Washington Post piece about Colin Powell's quiet influence in the Bolton drama:
The White House also helped organize Republicans to speak out in favor of Bolton yesterday. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on the Senate floor that Bolton's temper should not disqualify him. "I believe John Bolton could provide the medicine the United Nations needs," he said.

Again I ask: Democrats are you still in love?
posted by JReid @ 11:41 PM  
Excellence in broadcasting
Rush Limbaugh on why John Bolton is the right man for the U.N. -- and why the U.N. is the wrong organization to protect America's national security. Note to Rush: the United Nations is not responsible for protecting Americas securi... oh, never mind, here's the quote:

You know who is killing themselves on this, and it's not going to be readily apparent because you're not going to see polls on it and you're not going to see man on the street and woman on the street interviews out in the red states, but the people in this country who were watching this are going to understand that we got hit on 9/11. The UN is totally incapable of protecting us and protecting anybody else. It's nothing but a corrupt institution as currently constituted.

We need some hardball at the UN. We need some hardball in the area of national defense. We need some people who are going to kick butt and take names later. We need some people who are not going to subject the defense of this country to a bunch of wacko diplomats at the United Nations, most of whom are not interested in our own security in the first place. The status quo libs want to maintain a corrupt institution because it is opposed to America just as they are opposed to America when George Bush is president, and that's what this is all about.

posted by JReid @ 3:56 PM  
Spine check
With the Bolton nomination in much more trouble than the White House or the Republican Party expected, the focus is sharpening on the four wavering Republican Senators: Chaffee (RI), Hagel (Nebraska), Chairman Lugar (In) and George Voinovich of Ohio, who surprised many when he joined Lugar in seeking to delay a vote on the Eddie Haskel of American government.

It's only a matter of time before the pressure on these four mounts, from the Vice President's office (Dick Cheney is Bolton's chief sponsor, in addition to being the actual president of the United States...), from GOP leg-breakers in the leadership, from the right-wing press and from the third-party goon squad that polices Republican behavior via the Internet.

The first salvo came from the Wall Street Journal's editorial page (also on OpinionJournal.com) yesterday, when Voinovich got a working over on his allegedly Boltonesque behavior aboard an airline in 1996:

Gov. Short Fuse blew on Oct. 20 when federal rules delayed his plane's takeoff as the president arrived in Columbus. As it often does when the president flies, the FAA issued a Temporary Flight Restriction, commonly referred to as a no-fly order. When this order is in effect, no planes other than essential aircraft are cleared for takeoff. That reduces the chances of a terrorist staging a kamikaze attack on Air Force One.

The order kept the governor and his plane on the ground. And he was honked.
Gov. Voinovich called it "bull"-something and ordered his pilot to break the rules and take off. He even dared the control tower to "shoot us down." That, too, would have cost. One hour of flying time for an F-15 Eagle fighter jet runs $3,399 to $4,037.


In addition to being irrelevant (one burst of temper when Voinovich was governor of Ohio versus Bolton's apparent serial abuse of subordinates hardly qualifies as "apples to apples"), the implication of the article is clear: expect the pressure on the wavering Republicans to be intense, and intensely personal.

The second salvo comes in the form of a new ad from the winger 527 group Move America Forward in which Voinovich is called "disloyal" and a "traitor to the Republican Party."

If we are to take the WSJ at face value, Voinovich appears to have moxie enough to withstand the pressure, and I have no doubt that Chuck Hagel (my favorite Republican, I must confess) has the guts to stand up to the administration, but I'm not so sure about Lincoln Chafee, who needed others to come forward before he had the intestinal fortitude to voice his own doubts about Bolton. Chafee needs the WH and GOP to stand down any potential primary challenges, not to mention the coming DNC pressure cooker in 2006. Yes, he is a target, along with Santorum and our old buddy Tom DeLay.

...And you thought the silly season hadn't yet begun...
posted by JReid @ 10:34 AM  
Still in love with McCain?
Personally, I lost my religion on John McCain a long time ago. After his defeat in the 1999/2000 primary, McCain -- the supposed "Maverick" who continues to receive the full Monica from the press, pivoted instantly from Bush-hating, wounded 'Vet to Bush toady. He spends more time retreating from his supposed piques at Bush, including smirking and shuffling his way around questions of why Bush dissed him early in his first term by skipping the usual signing ceremony for the McCain-Feingold (-Shays-Meehan) campaign finance reform Act, and then signing it on the down-low without McCain present, and worse, why the Bush campaign went after McCain's war record and his family during the 2000 South Carolina primary. I guess all is forgiven in politics.

Since those bitter days, McCain has graduated from Bush tolerator to full-on Bush booster, including serving as the AWOL flyboy's wing man during the 2004 campaign.

Why does he do it? First, because John McCain isn't a "maverick," as so many hopeful Democrats (who pined for him to join John Kerry's presidential ticket last year) and media suck-ups want to believe. He's a politician. He loves the limelight, loves the press plaudits, and loves the power. And these days, the way to get the power he craves is to be President Bush's best friend. So McCain will deviate from the White House when he has to (as on the nuclear option and other issues on which he sides with Democrats). But he will never fully leave him, and certainly wouldn't think of dissing him to the media.

Bottom line: John McCain is running for president in 2008 and could use the support of Bush's base. If you want a Maverick, Chuck Hagel is about the closest you're going to get. For the most part, however, the Senate is the wrong place to look.
posted by JReid @ 10:19 AM  
Rush Limbaugh could not be reached for comment...
AP: 1 in 5 Teens Abused Prescription Drugs
posted by JReid @ 3:15 AM  
Bolton nomination in peril?
It once seemed that the WH and its Congressional henchmen would fight to the death to have John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador sent to the full Senate. Now that's not so certain, and if you believe the reporting, Bolton's nomination looks to be in real trouble now...

Of course, it all depends on how stiff the spines of three Senators are: Rhode Island's Chaffee (he's not exactly been a profile in courage on this nomination), reliably independent-minded Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and George Voinovich of Ohio, who jumped ship with Foreign Relations chairman Richard Lugar to stall a vote on Bolton's nomination.

Says the NYT:

The nomination appears to hang on what emerges on several points. One is whether the Senate panel substantiates accusations from a former contract worker on an Agency for International Development project that Mr. Bolton, as a private lawyer hired by her employer, tried to intimidate her in 1994. A co-worker has corroborated some of the charges made by the former contract worker, Melody Townsel, while the president of the company has challenged some of her claims.

A second point involves documents sought by the committee from the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, to clarify conflicting accounts about Mr. Bolton's role in several matters, including his attempts while working as an under secretary of state to seek the transfer of several employees, and his requests for identifying information about American officials who were mentioned in or participated in conversations intercepted by the National Security Agency. He addressed some of these issues in his public testimony last week, but Democrats have said there is evidence some of his answers were less than candid.

Finally, Mr. Bolton's prospects may hinge on calculations made by the nominee himself, or by the White House, and particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, who is regarded as his main patron. For now, President Bush and his team appear to see the battle as a test of wills, but new information, or the potential for another bruising hearing, may turn his cause into an unacceptable political liability. Mr. Chafee told CNN that the committee's Republicans might consider whether to recommend that the nomination be withdrawn.


And interestingly, Condi Rice's endorsement seems to have had little impact on the proceedings. It doesn't say much for her that she is supporting the nomination of a man who purportedly withheld information from her regarding Iran's nuclear program when he was a State Dept undersecretary and she was National Security Advisor...
posted by JReid @ 1:02 AM  
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Rovian wisdom?
WaPo covers Bush's brain, Karl Rove's comments to a college audience (unscreened, interestingly enough...) regarding the "liberal media."
"I'm not sure I've talked about the liberal media," Rove said when a student inquired -- a decision he said he made "consciously." The press is generally liberal, he argued, but "I think it's less liberal than it is oppositional."

...

"Reporters now see their role less as discovering facts and fair-mindedly reporting the truth and more as being put on the earth to afflict the comfortable, to be a constant thorn of those in power, whether they are Republican or Democrat," Rove said.

I think that Rove has it half right: the first half. The media does play a sort of oppositional role, when they do their jobs correctly. But increasingly, the opposition is not "the comfortable" or the powerful, it's the other media outlets. The media lives to scoop and one-up other members fo the media, both mainstream and outsider (including the blogs). The running battle sometimes produces scoops that upend the president, Congress and others, but just as often, staying ahead of the ratings curve in a crowded, competitive information marketplace involves throwing love bombs at whoever the media perceives as the popular center of gravity, whether it's the president (and his iPod), the "values voter" or Ann Coulter...

It's rare these days for the media to exert much energy really challenging power. When they try, and especially when they fail, the results can be a torrent of push-back and endless grief ("Rathergate"). So most float along with the tide, doing mostly whatever the competition is doing, and only mildly challenging power (most vigorously when they're piling on, less so when they're leading the story). Sad but true: there are few Woodwards or Bernsteins out there anymore. For the most part, the media doesn't fight the power, it simply regurgitates what the power tells them.

Update: as if on cue, Salon's take on the uber-deferential (and ultimately bland) press coverage of the new pope, and the Village Voice weighs in with a call for reporter "civil disobediance."
posted by JReid @ 1:53 PM  
...and gnashing of teeth
All of the anger, dismay and demoralization from liberal Catholics over Pope Benedict XVI has gotten me thinking: whether in Catholicism or Protestantism, Islam or Hinduism, the job of the church to set guidelines, interpret scripture, and present an objective "truth" and moral code of optimal behavior, which believers can then accept and strive to follow, or reject and ignore. It strikes me that it isn't the church's job to query its members as to what rules they'd like to follow, and then make that the doctrine. If liberal Catholics don't like the church's rules, they are free to ignore them. It seems wrongheaded to expect the church to adapt its rules to fit the evolving popular culture: religion, almost necessarily, stands apart from and against the tide of culture. If it were to flow along with it, it would hardly be religion. Just my take...

Update: same argument, better said by James Lileks.

Quote of the day:
At least my greatest fear didn’t happen: they’d choose a Pope from Africa, and, unaware with the nomenclature of American marketing, he would call himself “Urban.”
posted by JReid @ 1:49 PM  
Inside baseball
No more MoDo and Freidman on Sundays? Well I like Frank Rich, and as long as the Times doesn't mess with Krugman, I gues I'm straight...
posted by JReid @ 1:30 PM  
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Facing the future
Excellent article arguing for a second look at the Catholic Church's celibacy rule (the one Western Catholic pet peeve that has little or no scriptural backing, and which is probably the most realistic target for change...)
posted by JReid @ 5:57 PM  
Catholic Continuity
The Cardinals obviously were not looking for a transformational figure when they selected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany to be the new pope ... (socially liberal American Catholics strike me as being a bit spoiled, not to mention completely unrealistic, in their shock and disappointment (Andrew Sullivan and company are fuming. The Pavoneys are giddy...) that the church refuses to flip it's entire doctrinal philosophy to meet the lifestyle needs of the modern, "cityfied" Catholic (or to bring that doctrine up for review -- perhaps the Episcopal Church works that way, but the Catholic Church doesn't -- and I emphasize that I am no longer a member...) As I said in an earlier post (which incidentally turned out to be wrong on Ratzinger being too creepy looking to make the cut), you go to church with the doctrine you have... And I'm not sure I buy the conventional wisdom that young Catholics will bemoan and bewail Ratzinger's elevation. Young Catholics are far more conservative than the MSM chooses to believe...)

Back on the subject of the new pope, there's been a bit of scuttle about why Ratzinger chose the name Benedict XVI. It might have something to do with the identity of the "prior Benedict," Benedict XV:

Highlights of "15":
  • ... served a relatively brief term (1914-1922) after the death of the previous pope, Pius X...
  • ...attempted to soothe German-French relations when he canonized Joan of Arc...
  • ... staunchly opposed World War I, entreating all sides to sue for peace, and who called the war "The suicide of Europe"(he even issued a Papal peace proposal, which Woodrow Wilson turned down as "premature" -- he being the only one to respond)...
  • ... emphasized the training of native priests in Third World countries, to quickly replace "outsider" European clerics and missionairies...
  • ... waged an internal fight against "modernist scholars" within the church.
I think that sums it up pretty well. Get the full backgrounder here.
posted by JReid @ 4:26 PM  
Pope, there it is
"May you live interesting times" is a legendary curse, but today, it's an extraordinary statement of fact. I barely remember when Pope John Paul II was elected pope (I was a little kid). Now the second pope of my lifetime has been elected (no surprise, it's Ratzinger -- Lord, Wikipedia is fast...!)

Who would have thought that the naming of a religious leader would be such big news across the secular world. But history shows that the pope has almost always been a major political player. John Paul II just took it to another level. Ratzinger was an unsurprising choice in many ways -- he will maintain the conservative doctrinal philosophy of his predecessor (he helped come up with it, after all), and at 78, he is old enough that -- barring a miracle -- he won't rule the roost for a quarter century, as John Paul did. World Youth Day on his home turf in Germany should boost the Deutsch economy, at least. And hey, the guy has his own fan club -- he probably should be pope.

Of course, there will be the inevitable queasy feelings about electing a German pope just three generations after World War II, but any suggestions that Ratzinger is tainted by the period in which he spent his formative years appears to be bunk (though as a young German man, Ratzinger was, by requirement, a member of the Hitler Youth, and he did do time in an Allied POW camp...)

And I can't help but feel that the College of Cardinals copped out in a way -- choosing continuity rather than boldness, and opting for a safe respite of doctrinal sameness and European blandness rather than going for a more inspiring cultural pick. I say that admitting that I'm kind of bummed (in an outside-looking-in, non-Cathloic sort of way), that the Third World didn't get a shot. The time seemed so right for a Latino or -- if you're into really long, long-shots -- an African pope. But bummed doesn't mean "surprised." I didn't think the world was ready for a Black pope -- though I did think brown might work out...

Right now, CNN is harping, as American news organizations will do, on what the new pope's attitude might be toward the United States. Tellingly, the Cardinals elected their senior member, a man closely aligned ideologically with his predecessor, who vigorously opposed U.S. foreign policy and the lack of attention by rich nations toward the world's poor -- and a man from one of the two main European opponents to the invasion of Iraq... We all knew the next pope wouldn't be an American, but in this day and time, a German is about as NOT American as you can get. (American Catholics, don't hold your breath for a liberalization of church rules.)

So, Pope Benedict XVI it is. (But I still say he's a bit creepy looking...)
posted by JReid @ 12:42 PM  
Ironic statements 101
"The centralization of state power in the presidency at the expense of countervailing institutions like the Duma (parliament lower house) or an independent judiciary is clearly very worrying."

--Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ... talking about Russia's undemocratic moves, not her boss'.
posted by JReid @ 12:40 PM  
Monday, April 18, 2005
What conservatives do well:
Coordinate. The level of coordination between conservative media, think tanks, corporations, politicians etc. is truly impressive, as is their constant push to infuse academia, corporations and increasingly, the media with like-minders.

Exhibit A: this employment ad is something you don't see every day (at least not about a news organization...) And note that this listing was posted, not on a media or academic site, but on an online political job board...
FOX News Channel - Fox News Channel is looking for advocates on campus - Log-on to: http://www.foxnews.com/projects/internships/ for more information.

When you click on the link, you find that FNC is looking to "get us onto your campus" to bring forth a "fair and balanced perspective on current events." And then there's this, from our friends at Heritage, from the same political employment job board:

The Heritage Foundation Job Bank - The Heritage Foundation maintains a Job Bank to assist in placing conservatives in public policy-related positions, both in government and the private sector, in the Washington, D.C. area. Our candidate placement process is a free service provided by The Heritage Foundation which is CONFIDENTIAL and discreet for both employer and employee. For more information, log-on to: http://www.heritage.org/About/JobBank/index.cfm


Again, something liberals simply don't do...
posted by JReid @ 6:10 PM  
Who's your inner European
Take the survey. You'll love it. I'm a bit disturbed to discover that my inner European is French ... I'm not sure I like myself so much now ...
posted by JReid @ 5:02 PM  
Deuling Headlines:
BBC (and most other news sources) this morning:


Independent UK (as of 5 p.m. U.S. EST):

Sunni rebels threaten to kill hostages

posted by JReid @ 4:53 PM  
Dear George ... I don't think they're listening to you ...
U.S. again warns Israel against expanding West Bank settlements

By The Associated Press

The United States warned Israel on Monday against expanding Jewish settlements, and said it would seek an explanation from the government about newly announced plans to build 50 new homes in the West Bank.President George W. Bush "made his views pretty clear" during his meeting last week in Crawford, Texas, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that "Israel should not expand settlements," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with Bush to South Carolina.
posted by JReid @ 4:32 PM  
Unsurprising headlines...
From WashPost:
U.S. Outreach to Islamic World Gets Slow Start, Minus Leaders
And here's the kicker of a subhead:

Effort Involves No Muslims; Hughes Will Not Arrive Until Fall

And let's throw in a couple of alarming paragraphs:

Despite the administration's repeated pledges of outreach, the State Department's main program directed at the Islamic world has no Muslim staff, U.S. officials say.

"There's a dearth of Muslims in the State Department generally," a senior State Department official said. Like Powell, who is Egyptian American, most Arabs in the administration are Christians, sources said.

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States and is expected to become the second-largest religious bloc here in the next few years, but the government has not tapped into its own community as part of the global outreach, U.S. officials say.

posted by JReid @ 1:55 PM  
Cardinal lockup
My very non-Catholic pastor on Sunday had the best papal quote of the week (I'm paraphasing):

"Pope John Paul was alright with me ... he gave us the best example of how you can forgive, without forgetting: When he was shot, he recovered, and then he went to the jail and forgave the man who shot him. But after that, he rode around in a bullet-proof Pope-mobile. In other words, I forgive you, but I'm not gonna put myself in a position to have to forgive you for shooting me again."

Back to today, the Cardinals are all tidily locked up inside the Sistine Chapel debating and awaiting Godly inspiration in choosing the next pope. American Catholics hoping the white smoke will indicate a more moderate pontiff has been chosen had better think again. German Cardinal Ratzinger, who I personally think is too creepy looking to be the next pope after the more cuddly looking John Paul (unless you're looking for an ominous, spooky pope more fitting of the age of The Da Vinci Codes,) issued a blistering critique of what he called the "dictatorship of relativism" that states that "there are no absolute truths."

From NYT:

The cardinal led a Mass today in St. Peter's Basilica dedicated to the election of John Paul II's successor. The 114 other cardinals, who were to retreat behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel in the afternoon, sat in quarter-circles in front of him. It was the last public rite before the princes of the church will vote with secret ballots to elect the 265th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

"A dictatorship of relativism is being built that recognizes nothing as definite," the cardinal said, "and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one's ego and desires."
For 25 years, Cardinal Ratzinger served as John Paul's theological right hand - and watchdog - as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In his writings and public statements, he has often sought to uphold the primacy of Catholicism, saying no other religion offered a path to salvation. "Relativism," he has said, implies that other faiths are equally - and wrongly - valid. The idea was strongly expressed in a document the congregation issued in 2000, Dominus Iesus, which provoked angry responses from other religious leaders.

In his homily, Cardinal Ratzinger said that Christians were tossed on the waves of Marxism, liberalism and even "libertinism;" of radical individualism, atheism and vague mysticism. He also decried the creation of "sects" and how people are seduced into them, using a term church leaders often employ to refer to Protestant evangelical movements.

"Having a clear faith, according to the Credo of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism," he said. "Yet relativism, that is, letting oneself being carried 'here and there by any wind of doctrine,' appears as the sole attitude good enough for modern times."

Obviously, for the Catholic Church, there certainly are moral absolutes, and the American church isn't going to change them. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to church with the doctrine you have (or you give up and become an Episcopalian...)

And speaking of conservative Catholics...
posted by JReid @ 11:49 AM  
Santorum Senatoratim
WaPo has an interesting in-depth today on GOP firebrand Rick Santorum. Worth a read if you're interested in getting inside the mind of the legendary "man on dog" guy. I'm dying to know what the dirty word is that a sex columnist reportedly wants to make synonymous with the PA Senator's name...
posted by JReid @ 11:30 AM  
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Isn't it ironic...
...that when the right's favorite scandal: oil-for-food, finally nabs a big fish, he's from Texas...
posted by JReid @ 4:04 PM  
The end of the world as we know it
Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachne has it percolating today on the most uncomfortable topic in the news business: the coming -- and inevitable -- death of the newspaper, and what the industry might be able to do to save itself from extinction.

Jarvis' solution: cut out the fat, forget the sports and business sections, and produce newspapers whose sole focus is well-reported local news: [bracketed text and bolds are mine]

Imagine a newspaper that is only local news -- no sports, no business, little or no entertainment, and commodity national and international news treated as the I-saw-that-already commodity it is: only local news.

Why? Because we need to seriously consider new business models for journalism. See [Fox honcho Rupert] Murdoch's speech yesterday. See Merrill Brown's Carnegie report. See a hundred posts about media here. And see the two posts directly below about editors not even noticing the revenue that supports their enterprises disappearing and about putting out one-size-fits all products. We need to stimulate radical discussion of radical new views to rethink this business before it's rethought without us.

Having dealt with the sometimes frustrating worlds of the newspaper editorial division and the local TV news sweatshop, I can tell you that NEITHER one is adapting to the "new world order" nearly fast enough. The TV folks still look at the web team as those tech geeks in the corner we're forced to make the anchors "throw to" before every commercial break. The newspaper folks, at least in this market, are still lost in the worship of ancient op-ed writers, allowing few voices from my generation onto the page. But the thing is, people my age (early 30s), and especially people younger than me DON'T READ THE NEWSPAPER, and they're not going to start reading the paper if it remains as it is today -- largely dated AP headlines you already got from cable or online, plus sports, business and entertainment info from yesterday.

And at this stage, it's mostly older, suburban housewives who watch the local TV news. Most of the rest of us get our news online (or from John Stewart).

As for the editorial section, who needs it when you've got 24-hourse of opinion-bludgeoning on cable? Most of the op-eds are syndicated at this point, and readers would much rather email them to friends online than cut out a clipping (I admit I saved all my clippings, but that's a story for another therapeutic session...)

And since both the papers and the local news are mostly bundles of the same syndicated wire copy anyway (the same mega-conglomerate that produces the local ABC affiliate's web site here in South Florida also produces the site for the NBC affiliate, and yes, they share content -- you'd be surprised how many "news web-sites" have carbon copies in cities all over the U.S. BTW the former head of the conglomerate is now a bigwig at CNN...) it seems like a singular focus on local news offers a rare chance at differentiation.

For example, back when I was editing a local news web site for a network affiliate, our biggest stories often were the purely local dramas -- the grieving widow suspected of paying the car-jacker who shot her husband to death (and of buying crack cocaine from him), the umpteenth Cuban migrants wading to shore as news choppers buzzed overhead, catching every moment of the drama, or the latest Florida child to be kidnapped, (and of course, the one that beats all: bad weather). I sometimes hated those stories, but they maximized what the station -- and the web site -- could do well, and do differently. Ploughing local news resources into chasing national stories is ultimately a waste of time for the big newspaper and TV sites, because they can get that content more easily and cheaply from a shared source.

So maybe one answer for newspapers is to use their hard copy product to dive into the local stories, and drive users to their websites for the rest of what was once in the paper (entertainment, sports, national news, etc.)

The TV folks are on their own.
posted by JReid @ 3:47 PM  
Gentle disassociation
How to create distance between yourself and a scandal-tainted pal.

Step one: Clarify the defition of "friend..."
The White House said today that President Bush considers House Majority Leader Tom DeLay a friend but suggested he's more a business associate than a social pal.

"I think there are different levels of friendship with anybody," presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Perhaps Mr. DeLay should consult former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott for guidance before the onset of step two: "Kick said friend to the curb."
posted by JReid @ 12:05 PM  
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Savol'd by the bell
Where does pop culture meet the presidential election cycle? On American Idol, of course. And while it's pathetic that people vote on A.I. with more fervor than they vote for president (though in slightly smaller numbers,) there's always a chance for a year 2000 style upset ... and for Ohio and Florida to screw it up...

Case in point: Tonight on Idol, Nadia Turner, from Miami, got the boot, while Shaker Heights, Ohio's Scott Savol was saved (for a third straight time). The Idol boards are on fire over this one, with most of the heat being trained on the 28-year-old who in 2001 was arrested for allegedly roughing up his infant son's mother at her home during a Valentine's Day domestic dispute.

Savol, an overweight (but not in the "velvet teddybearish," Ruben Studdard sense of the word "overweight"), attitudinal gangsta wannabe with modest singing talent, a horrible little mustache and, according to the eternally bubbly host, Ryan Seacrest: greasy glasses, joined Turner, a gorgeous, Caribbean Christian (with fantastic hippie-mod style and massive, Sideshow Bob hair) from the Sunshine State, in the bottom three. (Let's face it, she picked a song nobody knew and paid the price). But here was the shocker: with them at the bottoom was the show's onetime odds-on favorite -- Helena, Alabama's mannerly rocker Bo Bice, one of the oldest performers on the show at 29, and one of the two or three most talented.

Compounding the horror, it appears that Bo actually got fewer votes than Scotty-boy, prompting the A.I. message board dwellers to go ... well ... ape sh*t.

One poster asked whether Nadia got the boot for revealing her Christian beliefs. Others simply posted various permutations of WTF??!!!!???? and vowed to bump the offending Savol off at all costs next week. Another offered to "make a deal with Satan" if only Scott could be voted off next week. One unfortunate post lurked off into racial wonderland, asking whether or not Savol is part Black. This poster summed it up brilliantly:
Nopoint2: Ohio is pretty good in pulling up mystery votes. Just think about the presidential elections last year. Maybe Scott is getting some support from the White House. :)
Priceless.

Last thing I'll say on this: like presidential elections, American Idol voting is about intensity more than talent. Whoever has the most fan intensity wins, whether or not they were the best performer week after week (isn't that right, bad-debater Dubya...?) I have no clue who'll be the next pope, but I can tell you with authority that this year, when the dry ice smoke and corny, canned car commercials clear, the next American Idol will be of Greek extraction. And how do I know? Say it with me: Intensity. Note the number of posts to each contestant's message board as of 10:59 EST Wednesday:

Anthony Fedorov - 45,780
Nadia Turner - 74,878
Scott Savol - 39,216
Bo Bice - 109,012
Carrie Underwood - 49,457
Anwar Robinson - 115,498
Vonzell Solomon - 24,327
Constantine Maroulis - 257,794 (and one of the threads is labeled "Greek God Groupies."

Shall we all start practicing our "make love to the camera" pouts now? And yeah, I just admitted I watch "American Idol..."
posted by JReid @ 10:39 PM  
Sideshow Mel
No doubt, Mel Martinez is an embarrassment to the State of Florida, as well as to the United States Senate and the GOP. So how do Floridians follow up on having one out of two Senators screw things up serially, including being the source of the now infamous Schiavo memo, that they become the Senate's class buffoon? Why, we consider adding another, in the person of Cruella de Ville herself, Katherine Harris.

Cheers to FloridaPolitics blog for the links. And check out Martinez' fascinating explanation of just how the highly elucidating memorandum ended up in the hands of Democrat Tom Harkin (having gotten there by way of Marintez's hands and coat pocket):
He said it somehow ended up in his pocket, and he handed it to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, weeks ago, thinking it was a summary of the Schiavo legislation. When Harkin read it, he saw instead a strategy outlining how Republicans could appeal to their conservative base by taking up the Schiavo bill and using it against Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., next year at election time.

Listen, Florida, we only have TWO Senators. Two shots at getting it right, or at least not humiliating ourselves. Please keep Nelson in his Senate seat, if only to avoid the inevitable "Bo and Daisy Duke Take the Senate" jokes...
posted by JReid @ 12:46 PM  
Oh god, they're BREEDING...!

Britney Spears and her moocher husband Kevin Federline have finally traversed the mystical pop culture plain, becoming the white Whitney and Bobby. Sure hope the doctors at the hospital lucky enough to manger this former virgin's birth-day are tactful enough not to hand the bill directly to mom while her feet are still in the stirrups. The least they could do is let Kev' have a look at it... Hey, just think, now his two youngest kids will be about the same age!

But I'm just being cruel. Take it away, Imogen Tilden of the Guardian UK:

Ending months of feverered speculation, it is with relief we learn that Britney Spears is pregnant. An announcement on her official website spills the beans: "The time has finally come to share the wonderful news that we are expecting our first child together."

Phew. And we thought she was just eating too much pasta. This news puts the finishing touch on the former teenage star's reinvention as trailer trash queen. Her first marriage lasted a grand total of 55 hours, with this, her second, she gained two step-children, a smoking and junk food habit, and a stylist who must really really really hate her. Was it only five years ago she was the world's most famous virgin?

posted by JReid @ 12:09 PM  
Disturbing headlines:
U.S. labs rush to destroy dealy influenza virus accidentally sent to labs in 18 countries ... including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. ...

The samples are of Asian flu, which killed between one and four million people in 1957 but disappeared by 1968. Testing kits containing the virus were sent to more than 3,700 laboratories in 18 countries from Brazil to Lebanon.

The World Health Organization said the virus could "easily cause an influenza epidemic" if not handled properly. Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore have all destroyed their samples, the WHO said, and Germany said it had disposed of its virus as well.

Taiwan was said to be moving "very, very fast" to destroy the samples it had received, and Japan said its health ministry had ordered it destroyed in the nine labs that had it. The WHO was unable to confirm how much had been destroyed in US labs, which received the vast majority of the samples.

The full list of countries and areas where laboratories received the virus is: Bermuda, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and the US.


And one you may have missed from about a week ago (I know I did).

Scientists say two-thirds of world's resources 'used up.'

The human race is living beyond its means. A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.


Praise the lord and pass the antidepressants...
posted by JReid @ 12:02 PM  
Unsurprising headlines
Karzai discussing long-term security arrangements with U.S.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday he is preparing a formal request to President Bush for a long-term security partnership that could include a permanent U.S. military presence.
posted by JReid @ 11:32 AM  
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
iPod this
...The Guardian adds a great twist to the maddening "What's in Bush's iPod?" press lovejob. They've invited readers to suggest some songs for the president's collection. And here they are... ("American Idiot" by a landslide! Truly brutal, those Brits...)
posted by JReid @ 5:42 PM  
Don't mess with ...
Bill Clinton's wife.
posted by JReid @ 5:35 PM  
Bolton hearings, unplugged
Best line from the Dana Milbank rundown of the Bolton hearings from Monday (WaPo):

Only Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) and, to a lesser extent, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) tried to defend Bolton. Allen described Bolton as "the absolute perfect person for the job." Chafee looked as if he were in after-school detention and lacked questions to fill his allotted time.
posted by JReid @ 2:03 PM  
Negro-punt-e
WaPo reads through the once-secret papers of John Negroponte, soon to be our new National Intelligence Chief. Seems John-boy was on the wrong side of the march to freedom during his involvement in the Contra scandals of the Reagan era, at least when it came to standing up for human rights in "friendly" Honduras:

Overall, Negroponte comes across as an exceptionally energetic, action-oriented ambassador whose anti-communist convictions led him to play down human rights abuses in Honduras, the most reliable U.S. ally in the region.

There is little in the documents the State Department has released so far to support his assertion that he used "quiet diplomacy" to persuade the Honduran authorities to investigate the most egregious violations, including the mysterious disappearance of dozens of government opponents.

The contrast with his immediate predecessor, Jack R. Binns, who was recalled to Washington in the fall of 1981 to make way for Negroponte, is striking. Before departing, Binns sent several cables to Washington warning of possible "death squad" activity linked to Honduran strongman Gen. Gustavo Alvarez. Negroponte dismissed the talk of death squads and, in an October 1983 cable to Washington, emphasized Alvarez's "dedication to democracy."

posted by JReid @ 1:58 PM  
Kiss up, kick down guys
If you believe many of the people who have worked for and with him, John Bolton is a bully of the first order, and not a very smart one: he seems to have alienated many of the potential character witnesses who could have testified that his bungling of North Korean arms control and his shoot-from-the-mouth blunders during public speeches were aberrations, and not indicative of his character.

Instead, we get tales of abuse of authority by Bolton when he was the State Department's intelligence and research chief. Today's AP headline (reproduced by all the major dalies):

Former chief of the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research castigated John R. Bolton on Tuesday as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy "who
abused analysts who disagreed with his views of Cuba's weapons capabilities.

With Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Democratic attack, Carl W. Ford Jr. appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support accusations of harassment.

"I have never seen anyone quite like Mr. Bolton," Ford testified under oath. "He abuses his authority with little people."

Contradicting Bolton's assertion Monday that he never tried to have officials who disagreed with him discharged, Ford charged that Bolton tried to sack the analyst, Christian Westermann, and that Bolton was a "serial abuser."


Sounds like just what we need at the United Nations ...

And speaking of kiss-ups, I find two stories on major Internet news sites today particularly disturbing:

"iPod one reveals Bush's musical tastes" (reproted by CNN's Peter Wilkinson today):

The music tastes of U.S. President George W. Bush have come under scrutiny after an aide revealed the playlist of his new iPod player.

The portable digital device, given to Bush by his daughters Jenna and Barbara last July, contains much country music, but also songs by Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and the Knack. ...


You mean to tell me CNN felt it was important and worth their dime to put a reporter on finding out what George Bush listens to on his freaking iPod? I sure hope this guy Wilkinson is a new hire or an intern... Quick: raise your hand if 1) you give a crap what George Bush listens to, iPod or no, and 2) you're not a "daily prayer for our beloved president" FReeper.

...then there's this lead paragraph from MSNBC's "First Read:"
Having sent United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad unannounced, President Bush for the second day in a row clutches his good-luck charms of national security and burgeoning democracy in Iraq, delivering a speech on the WOT (war on terror) at Fort Hood at 11:20 am ET, meeting with the families of 30 fallen soldiers, and having lunch with US troops at 12:30 pm ET.

Not such a bad thing in istelf, unless you pair it with this:

"Three indicted in alled terror plot against U.S. financial institutions."

Timing is everything, particularly when it produces distraction (with the help of a kiss-up press corps...)
posted by JReid @ 1:04 PM  
Monday, April 11, 2005
You know you're screwed when...

Even a sleazebag like Jack Abramoff throws you over the side ... this may be a bit premature but, bye-bye, Tom DeLay (and good for you, Chris Shays.)
posted by JReid @ 3:57 PM  
Failing up
For a couple of weeks, conservatives and their friends in the MSM have been stretching and contorting themselves trying to tie the persons and "culture of life" philosophies of President Bush and Pope John Paull II (with Fox's Neil Cavuto and Bill O'Reilly, as well as Rush Limbaugh actually stretching the pope's vehement opposition to the Iraq war as "not so strong" ("human failure," "illegal," "immoral" not strong enough for you guys...?).

Well now, there really is a link between the Vatican and the White House (besides their mutual experience of hero worship on the part of the press): Both "administrations" have demonstrated a tendency to promote failure.

In Bush's case, the key failure was the intelligence leading up to both the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq war, all of which has since been completely discredited. For their failures, Bush administration neocon hawks have, to a man and woman, received, not scorn, but promotions!
  • Former National Security Advisor Condi Rice: "I think it was entitled, 'Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States.'" Result: Promoted to secretary of state.
  • Defense Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz: "The Iraq war will be paid for by Iraq's oil exports ... 200,000 troops not needed..." Result: Nominated to lead World Bank
  • Former CIA Chief George Tenet: "Iraq WMD intel a 'slam dunk.'" Result: Received Medal of Freedom in 2004, along with fellow failures Gen. Tommy Franks and failed CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer, who presided over the descent of Iraq into a corruption-plagued money pit...
  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: failures too numerous to mention, starting with reliance on Chalabi, no post-war planning to speak of. Result: Still on job. Offers to resign following Abu Ghraib scandal rejected.
  • Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, senior U.S. military official in Iraq: presided over Abu Ghraib scandal, including importing "torture" type tactics from Guantanamo Bay. Result: No reprimand or loss of position.
  • Former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez: Wrote infamous "terror memo" expanding the "stress means" U.S. military personnel can use on detainees ahead of the Gitmo and Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandals. Result: Promoted to attorney general.
  • And of course, the latest fail-up, John Bolton: failed in job of keeping a lid on spread of wmd and nukes, got kicked out of Korea talks, generally cheesed off the whole world and said the top few floors of the U.N. wouldn't be missed (I assume, if they were blown off...) Soon to become ambassador to the United Nations.

...and on and on (we haven't even discovered the professional heights to with Messrs. Feith and Cambone will soar once they retire comfortably from their posts at DOD).

And now, the Catholic Church has followed suit, taking one disgraced former Archbishop forced to resign from his diocese in Boston, and letting him perform a mass in Rome for the departed Pope, only now, he's a Cardinal...

posted by JReid @ 3:14 PM  
The open leg society

Bush and Sharon measure off...
posted by JReid @ 3:08 PM  
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Law and order
Talk about killing the buzz ... after a week of endless kudos and affection for the departed pope, the Catholic Church has to go and muck it up by allowing disgraced former Boston Archbishop, now Cardinal Bernard Law, to officiate at Monday' mass for John Paul II. ... From CNN: the protesters are coming. This will certainly rev up Andrew Sullivan, who is quickly trumping fellow Brit Christopher Hitchens as top Catholic-icon-squisher in the land (move over Mother Theresa, the big old pontiff's movin' in...) Some free, unsolicited advice to the mother church from a former member of the flock (I'm now a Protestant, and sorry, I've already read "The Da Vinci Code"): lock Bernie Law in a closet. He's your Tom DeLay...

Other stuff: Salon clobbers the right-wing bloggers over Martinez' supposedly "renegade aide," who admitted last week to writing the infamous Schiavo memo. Reracking my recent post on this subject here.
posted by JReid @ 2:58 PM  
Shameless self-promotion
Just find out the RR got a mention by CNN's blogspotters on Friday. Cheers to Jackson's Junction for the link. He's also got some good info on the latest Sumatra quake (no tsunami this time). Happy Sunday.
posted by JReid @ 2:52 PM  
Friday, April 08, 2005
Tom DeLay is a ...
... nut job. Not only that, he's a dangerous, smarmy, corrupt nut job. (Even the ultra-Republican Wall Street Journal detects an odor...) Here's hoping he loses his job in '06.
posted by JReid @ 12:44 PM  
Handshakes and handkerchiefs
The pope's funeral has ended an historic era. It has also launched one. The new pope will have big shoes to fill. John Paul II even proved the great diplomat in death, his funeral becoming the venue for an historic handshake between the president of Israel, Moshe Katsav, and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad:

President Moshe Katsav, who was at the Vatican as part of Israel's delegation to the funeral of Pope John Paul II, twice shook hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday. The two men were in close proximity to one another throughout the procession due to the fact that the Israel and Syrian delegations to the funeral were positioned next to one another.

At the conclusion of funeral services, the Iranian-born Katsav also shook hands with President Mohammed Khatami. The two spoke for almost an hour in Farsi. Katsav
also reportedly embraced Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.


Small thing, but a good thing. ... The pope's funeral brought together kings and presidents, prime ministers and upwards of 4 million ordinary folk -- Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Whatever you thought of this pope's moral stands on a host of issues, you've got to admit he was a transcendant figure, and one who will go down in history as one of the great popes.

That said, it wasn't all amore in Roma. President Bush, who led the U.S. delegation, was ... oh, let's just let the Associated Press describe the scene:
Bush sat on the aisle in the second row, next to his wife, Laura. Beside them were French President Jacques Chirac and his wife, Bernadette. The two presidents shook hands.

When Bush's face appeared on giant screen TVs showing the ceremony, many in the crowds outside St. Peter's Square booed and whistled.
Ahem. The esteem the pope is held in all over the world couldn't provide a starker contrast to the way in which Mr. Bush is perceived... then again, could the whistling have meant "you go boy?" ... Bush also took the opportunity to distance himself on the "religion thing" from former President Clinton.
posted by JReid @ 12:01 PM  
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Ahem...
Will the right-wing bloggers now apologize for their snide wave-offs of the GOP memo (fully reproduced by onlineathens) crowing about the potential political bonanza represented by the Terri Schiavo tragedy, now that the memo has been traced back to an aide to brand new Florida Senator Mel Martinez?

Apologies can start with Powerline, who had this to say in March:


We have written extensively about the fake "talking points memo" on the Schaivo case that ABC News and the Washington Post publicized, beginning on March 18. We have pointed out, most comprehensively in the Weekly Standard, that there is no reason whatsoever to believe that the memo originated with the Republicans, and considerable reason to think it may be a Democratic dirty trick.

Not to be outdone, Michele Malkin said this:


Regarding the fishy Schiavo talking points memo, Washington Post reporter Mike Allen told Howard Kurtz that "we simply reported that the sheet of paper was distributed to Republican senators."
...implying that somehow several papers and wire services had doctored the memo story to make the GOP leadership look bad...

Interestingly enough Martinez, along with PA first-string winger Rick Santorum had tried to pin the memo on an aide to Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

More Malkin:


EYEWITNESSES? By Michelle Malkin · March 26, 2005 05:40 AM

Josh Claybourn of In the Agora reports a startling new development in the Schiavo "GOP Talking Points" memo story: On Friday four staffers of Senators Rick Santorum and Mel Martinez accused a renegade aide to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) of distributing forged "talking points" to members of the media and claiming Republican authorship. In the Agora's extensive investigations in the alleged "GOP" Schiavo talking points memo reveal possible tricks from low level Democratic aides. Two of the four GOP staffers tell ITA they were eyewitnesses to the exchange....

Four separate staffers, two apiece from two different conservative Republican
Senators, now report to In the Agora that a young renegade aide working for Sen. Harry Reid constructed the memo and then distributed it to members of the media.
Two of those staffers claim to be eyewitnesses to the exchange. ITA contacted Sen. Reid's office and was told the allegation was "laughable." None of the four GOP staffers would comment on whether Reid's aide acted on his own or from orders from superiors. Developing. . .

Malkin plots a comeback today - saying Martinez "told the Washington Times he did not see the Schiavo memo until ABC News and the Post publicized it. But Sen. Tom Harkin told the Post that when Martinez handed him the memo, "[Martinez] said these were talking points -- something that we're working on here."

Here's the exact wording from WaPo:

Martinez, a freshman who was secretary of housing and urban development for most of President Bush's first term, said he had not read the one-page memo. He
said he inadvertently passed it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had worked with him on the issue. After that, officials gave the memo to reporters for ABC News and The Washington Post.

Harkin said in an interview that Martinez handed him the memo on the Senate floor, in hopes of gaining his support for the bill giving federal courts jurisdiction in the Florida case in an effort to restore the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube. "He said these were talking points -- something that we're working on here," Harkin said.

Asks Malkin:
How could Sen. Martinez describe the contents of the memo if he had not seen it? And who is "we?"

Then there's Brian Darling, Martinez's legal counsel (until last night, when he resigned). According to the Post, Darling is taking the blame for authoring the Schiavo memo.

Readers of this site will recall that nearly two weeks ago Josh Claybourn of In the Agora received a false tip from four people, two of whom claimed to work for Sen. Martinez. (The other two claimed to work for Sen. Rick Santorum.) Claybourn's sources falsely stated that the Schiavo memo was authored and circulated by a young "renegade" aide working for Sen. Harry Reid. Two of Claybourn's sources stated that they saw the Reid aide passing out the memo.

A few days before Claybourn's story broke, the Prowler reported similar allegations, citing "Senate Republican leadership aides to both Sen. Rick Santorum and Sen. Mitch McConnell, as well as the Senate Republican Policy Committee."

Did Darling give a fake tip to Claybourn to try to divert attention from himself? If so, who were his co-conspirators? Who exactly spoke to the Prowler and from whom did the Prowler's sources get their information? To date, Claybourn has not responded to my suggestion that he divulge the phone numbers of his sources. Will he continue to play nicey-nice with his sources now that they have been shown to be manipulative, lying smear merchants?

The story's not over. Sen. Martinez and his former legal counsel may still have plenty of 'splainin' to do.


Indeed... and nice conspiracy theory, but as in most cases, the simplest explanation is usely the best: Mel Martinez' overzealous political shop screwed up. It wouldn't be the first time: during the Republican primary, Martinez ran a notorious smear campaign against his opponent, former Clinton impeachment manager Bill McCollum, accusing him of not being conservative enough for supporting stem cell research and a hate crimes bill (did I mention that Martinez is a one-time moderate, and GOP-boogeyman "trial lawyer"?), and calling McCollum "the new darling of the homosexual extremists," prompting the St. Petersburb Times to withdraw its endorsement of him.

So is this little snaffu so out of character for the Martinez camp?

I think not.
posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
So Christian of the president...
... to take pettiness to a whole new level by snubbing former President Jimmy Carter for the papal funeral delegation. You mean to tell me the prez could fit Andy Card on the plane, but not the first American president to welcome a pope into the White House (in 1979)? And why the dis? Apparently, hurt feelings over Carter's anti-war statements during the 2004 election campaign. Way to show us what a good Christian you are, Mr. President.
posted by JReid @ 3:18 PM  
Post-pontiff digression
MSNBC takes up the Catholic-gay debate, starting with an appearance by Andrew Sullivan last night. (The political teen wraps it here.) Sullivan basically broke the spell of praise and good will that so far has blanketed Pope John Paul II's passing, accusing the late pontiff of looking the other way as hundreds of American priests abused their young charges. Sullivan wraps it up on his site today, and he throws a few barbs on the gay marriage thing as well:
When you hear about this Pope's compassion, his concern for the victims of society, his love of children, it's important to recall that when it came to walking the walk in his own life and with his own responsibility, he walked away. He all but ignored his church's violation of the most basic morality - that you don't use the prestige of the church to rape innocent children. Here was a man who lectured American married couples that they could not take the pill, who told committed gay couples that they were part of an "ideology of evil," but acquiesced and covered up the rape of minors. When truth met power, John Paul II chose truth. When truth met his power, John Paul II defended his own prerogatives at the expense of the innocent. Many have forgotten. That's not an option for the victims of this clerical criminality.
I think that's too harsh: you can't honestly hold the pope responsible for a scandal in the American church. You can blame the American cardinals and bishops and other leadership, whose behavior was scandalous. Maybe you can even blame the Vatican culture, which encouraged the leadership to protect the "center" at all costs. But this was a uniquely American mega-scandal, that has at least as much to do with the culture of the American church, and its inability to attract a wide pool of candidates, as it has to do with flaws in the church. Should the pope have spoken out more? Sure, but I think an honest reading of his papacy shows that he was stalwart in his rhetoric about the dignity and rights of the innocent, particularly children. This was a management failure, not an ideological one.

Meanwhile, the "Connected" gang did the gays in the church debate this afternoon. The emails on this are pretty standard fare...

And there's been no end to the grief caused by gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson's comments on Jesus' single life, and the apparent implication by Robinson that the author of the Christian faith was on the down-low. Robinson denies saying Christ was gay, but the war of words has erupted into a full-fledged blog-fight:

The war of words continued yesterday between the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and a blogger accusing him of implying that Jesus may have been gay.

``He didn't say it outright, but he implied it, and he's got to stand by it,'' David Virtue said yesterday, when he read Bishop V. Gene Robinson's denial in the New Hampshire Union Leader. ``We've had a creeping homosexualization of the Episcopal Church, and the church is coming apart at the seams because of it.''


And to cap it off, another blogger, backed by the National Review, is accusing CNN and USA Today of suppressing their own poll because it showed a decline in Americans' support for gay marriage. The Washington Times reported on the poll and it also showed up on Pollingreport.com. But no mention in any of the major newscasts, broadcast or cable, at least that I've seen.

Two churches, one common crisis. Welcome to the culture wars.
posted by JReid @ 1:47 PM  
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
The priestly calling
I spent a good part of the morning reading Pope John Paul II's 1995-era "Encyclical" -- a long letter written to his brothers in the church. The title: "The Gospel of Life." In it, the pope laid out a devastating critique of modern societies, which increasingly treat life as disposable. Far from dwelling only on abortion, the Encyclical takes off after the global evils of poverty, exploitation of workers, and war, as well as the more familiar "dignity of life" issues like the death penalty (actually the lead-off argument in the letter), contraception, abortion and euthanasia (with startling premonitions of the Terri Schiavo case).

It's a long read, but worth it. Here's the link, from the now well-publicized group Priests for Life, headed by the Friar who was one of Terri Schiavo's parents' "representatives," Fr. Frank Pavone. A sample:

And how can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes? And what of the violence inherent not only in wars as such but in the scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood? What of the spreading of death caused by reckless tampering with the world's ecological balance, by the criminal spread of drugs, or by the promotion of certain kinds of sexual activity which, besides being morally unacceptable, also involve grave risks to life? It is impossible to catalogue completely the vast array of threats to human life, so many are the forms, whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear today!
(No, the pope didn't spare homosexuality, which he argued vociferously against throughout his papacy, with hurtful results for many people...)

Which brings me to the subject of the American priesthood, which has been dealt a series of devastating blows, all inflicted by its own priests, too many of whom have been exposed as serial child molesters, some offending over 20 years or more.

How is it that the rigorous moral code of the "Gospel of Life" manages to live in the same religious house as a seemingly rampant pedophilia? How did these men remain within the walls of the church, reading their pope's calls to respect the dignity of life, particularly innocent life, and do what they did? And how did their cardinals and superiors allow them to remain?

More fundamentally, how is it that the American Catholic Church (of which I am no longer a member, btw), is so different in tone from the conservative church John Paul II was laboring so hard to build?

And how uncomfortable were the pope's teachings for the reportedly large number of homosexual men who are a part of the priesthood? I'd be fascinated to hear their observations on the pope's passing. And their numbers aren't small, according to experts, who note a reputed "underground homosexual culture" in the American seminary, which has been having a tough time attracting heterosexual men to the celibate priesthood:

From Religioustolerance.org:
  • Father Donald Cozzens wrote that several studies have concluded that about 50% of priests and seminarians are gay.
  • David France of Newsweek, referring to St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, CA, wrote: "Depending on whom you ask, gay and bisexual men make up anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent of the student body at the college and graduate levels."
  • Rt. Rev. Helmut Hefner, rector of St. Johns Seminary "accepts that his gay enrollment may be as high as 50 percent."
  • Gay journalist Rex Wockner commented: "When I was in the Catholic seminary in my early 20s (St. Meinrad College, St. Meinrad, Ind., 1982-1983; University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Ill., 1983-1984), at least 50 percent of the students were gay....At St. Mary of the Lake, the straight students felt like a minority and felt excluded from some aspects of campus life to such an extent that the administration staged a seminar at which we discussed the problem of the straight students feeling left out of things..."
  • Author and sociologist James G. Wolfe estimated that 55.1% of seminarians were gay. 7
    Bishop Jerome Listecki is an auxiliary bishop of Chicago, rejects some estimates that as many as 50% of seminarians have a homosexual orientation.
  • It would seem that about 50% of present-day seminary students have a homosexual orientation.
This is certainly not to imply that the large number of gay priests is the cause of the pedophilia scandal. Clearly it is only a small minority of homosexual men who molest children. But there is something to the argument that the American Catholic church has become as much a place to hide -- for homosexual men, for pedophiles, and others, as it is a place to answer a call from God. Psychologists have described a kind of stalled puberty in many men who take to the seminary, an immaturity that leads some of them to relate more easily to pre-teen boys. Note that most of the sex abuse cases involved not children per se, but young teenaged boys...

More from Religioustolerance.org:
  • Men with a homosexual orientation might be attracted to the Roman Catholic priesthood for a variety of reasons:
  • Most probably feel deeply that they have a definite calling by God to become priests.
    Some may be attracted by the "caring and nurturing nature of the priesthood, which is part of the nature of ministry."
  • The current bar against marriage for priests has no inhibiting influence, as it does among potential priests with a heterosexual orientation.
  • Priests are generally respected by the public. Being ordained gives homosexuals instant relief from the persecution that they had experienced as laity.
  • The priesthood gives them protection from homophobia and the potential of physical assault. Much of the public assumes that many middle-aged and older men who have never been married, are gay. Thus, the priesthood becomes a safe place to hide their sexual orientation.
  • The Roman Catholic priesthood may be attractive to persons with a homosexual orientation because, at this time, is an all-male institution. They would feel comfortable there.
  • Some seminary students might be attracted by the homosexual sub-culture of most seminaries -- a culture that is probably not present in schools that train for other professions.
  • It is possible that some predatory candidates for the priesthood might seek ordination because it would give them a position of power over the laity and give them access to many children.
With all that to digest, one wonders how the two halves live within a whole church -- why do so many gay men choose to abide in a church with such a firm doctrine against them? I have to admit I don't get it. The pedophiles joining up I get, and think they should be buried under the jail. But for the everyday, average gay men in the church and seminary, how do they reconcile their lives (if indeed they are "living the underground") and their church's rules, which they are required to teach to their parishioners?

Is it time for the church to allow gays to serve openly? Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson recently found out how difficult that idea can be. He's currently battling a metastasizing scandal after being accused by newspapers in the U.S. and U.K. of suggesting that Jesus himself was gay...

Or maybe it really is time to widen the employment pool by allowing priests to marry ... (by the way, priests in some traditions of the church, including the Eastern rite, already have the right to wed... and if you've read your European history, you know that the celibacy vow has no basis in scripture, and everything to do with limiting the temporal power of popes, including their ability to hand the papacy down to their sons...

The statistics don't lie:
ADDED URGENCY COMES from another unavoidable Catholic crisis: a shortage of priests. In 1975, America had 60,000 Catholic priests; by 2001 there were just over 45,000. Their numbers continue to decline at a rate of about 12 percent a year. For individual regions, the burn rates translate into dramatic declines: In 1966 in Chicago, there were 1,340 priests. That number has now dropped to 657.

The numbers in the seminaries are even more dire. While there were around 47,000 seminarians in 1965, in 1997 there were only 5,000 (according to figures cited by Chester Gillis in Roman Catholicism in America, from the Columbia Contemporary American Religion series). Ironically, the ranks of Catholics in the United States are growing, swelling with an influx of Catholic immigrants from Latin America.

To put it baldly, the American priest appears to be a dying breed. But if the Church were to welcome back its married priests, it could increase its ranks by as much as a quarter. [Source: Tucsonweekly.com]
It's not just about sex and sexuality, it's about changing the secretive and limiting nature of the church and its hierarchy. Surely, men who had families and children of their own would have been less able to shuffle pedophiles around from diocese to diocese as they ruined the lives of children. Surely a more open church could deal more directly with issues of sex and sexuality. Surely a married man could serve God just as well as a celibate one? How about making celibacy an optional rite, reserved for a specialized few? Then again, to take the conflation theme one step further, if priests were allowed to marry, could we look forward to a major blowup over gay marriage within the walls of the Vatican...?

Just a thought.
posted by JReid @ 5:54 PM  
Faith by numbers
As someone who was christened Catholic, but raised Protestant, I have to admit I rarely paid much attention to the papacy of John Paul II. Like many people, only upon his death have I really revisited his accomplishments. And you know, they are many, and they are impressive.

The more I learn about this pope the more impressed I am by his courageous life, particularly in his native Poland under both the Nazis and the Soviets, and his push to help free Eastern Europe from communism (Reagan worshippers will have to make room for John Paul in their assigning of credit for the fall of the wall). I may not have agreed with his sometimes exorbitantly conservative stands on things like family planning, condom use and stem cell research, with all their implications for slowing the advance of AIDS and furthering the papal vision of prolonging life, and I agree with some observers who say that he probably ruled so long that he ultimately strangled the church's ability to adapt, modernize and grow beyond his ideology (not to mention Rome's lame response to the American priest sex abuse scandal) -- but Pope John Paul II seems to have been, by all measures, an heroic figure, blessed with that rarest commodity: moral clarity and consistency (on poverty, abortion, the war, the death penalty, and on and on -- the story of how his "four words" moved the late Sen. Mel Carnahan to commute a death sentence in an election year is stirring).

The religious right in this country could learn a thing or two ... and by the way there's a fairly scary strain of Catholocism in this country that's aligning with evangelical Protestantism in a way that could produce some pretty unpleasant, theocratist mischief... but that's a topic for another time, and another Terri Schiavo rehash. The media, I guess myself included, are loathe to dwell on a person's down points when they're lying in state.

Meanwhile, American Catholics seem a world apart from the rest of the John Paul Diaspora...

From ABC News:

About a quarter of Americans identify themselves as Catholics, a number that's held steady for decades (ranging percent from 22 percent to 29 percent in annual averages of Gallup poll data since 1948). But the share of Catholics who say they've attended church in the past week has fallen dramatically, from 74 percent in 1955 to 45 percent last year.

Many Catholics — notably unlike evangelical Protestants — are adept at separating their political and religious preferences, and comfortable holding views — on abortion, the death penalty, legal recognition of gay couples, premarital sex, birth control, the ordination of women, marriage by priests and many other issues — that are very different from those of their church.

In an example of the separation they maintain, 17 percent of Catholic voters in the
2004 exit poll called "moral values" the top issue in their vote (a flawed question politically, but useful in this sense), compared with 41 percent of evangelical Protestants and 28 percent of all non-Catholic Christians.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll last month, 57 percent of Catholics said the next pope should change church policies to reflect the attitudes and lifestyles of Catholics today; fewer, 41 percent, preferred maintaining traditional policies. Among churchgoing Catholics there was a 48 percent to 51 percent division on the question — only a tepid call for tradition from the most faithful.

In a weekend Associated Press poll, 63 percent of Catholics said the next pope should give the laity a greater say in how the church is governed. And a weekend Gallup poll had results on church policy much like we've seen for years: Seventy-eight percent of Catholics said the church should "allow birth control," 63 percent said it should let priests marry, 59 percent said it should ease doctrine on stem-cell research and 55 percent said it should open the priesthood to women. (All were lower, but not insubstantial, among weekly churchgoing Catholics.)

And this interesting nugget:

In an ABC News poll on Terri Schiavo, 63 percent of Catholics supported removing the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube, precisely the same as the number among all Americans.
Hear that, major media? The "major Schiavo divide" ain't much of a divide after all...

Still, I wouldn't look for much of what American Catholics want to be implemented by the next pope ... at least not anytime soon.

From the Guardian:
The Pope's longevity allowed him to shore up his philosophical position as few
of his predecessors had been able to do. No fewer than 97 per cent of the
cardinals eligible to elect his successor were appointed by John Paul, leading
Vatican-watchers to predict that the next Pope will be equally conservative in
ideology.
(See previous post on the three lessons from the coverage of John Paul II's death and legacy.) Besides, the next pope will have a full enough plate wrestling with the increasing urgency of interfaith dialogue with Islam (in Europe, Africa and Asia in particular), the dwindling priesthood in the U.S. (and the shortage in Asia) plus rampant secularism in Christian Europe, not to mention the global scourges of poverty and AIDS and the continued battle over the Holy Land and other assorted messes. Ordaining women and recognizing same-sex marriages are likely not going to be high on the agenda.

(Interesting, radical notion: what if the 120 Cardinals locked up in the Sistine decide to throw a radical curveball and name Jaime Ortega, the 68-year-old Archbishop of Havana, Cuba as the next pope? That would sure be a shocker -- only bigger one would be to name Arinze, the Nigerian...)
posted by JReid @ 12:12 AM  
Monday, April 04, 2005
1001 reasons it's good to be a celebrity, vol. 3

You can be really, really disgusting and still have a shot at keeping your job...

Is there anything more repulsive than the thought of getting smutty phonecalls from "The Insider" Pat O'Brien?

Money quotes from TVgasm:

We have accessed Hollywood Insider's Pat O'Brien's alleged voicemail messages to a coworker he is trying to coerce into a threesome with both he and an anonymous woman identified only as "Betsy."

Message after message the stunningly sleazy comments to his coworker get more and more graphic as Pat gets more and more into the idea of watching the voicemail recipient and "Betsy" or a "hire a hooker" do things to one another while doing "coke."

At one point, he seems to acknowledge his actions as being a little...well...off when he remarks "I dont know whats wrong with me...I dont do this" and then leaps right back into "...but I just want to make you *expletive* crazy...let's just *expletive* have sex and fun and drugs.....and go crazy."


How to put it ... yes, that's it: "ewwwwwww..."

By the by, I briefly worked with O'Brien's former "Access Hollywood" co-host Shaun Robinson (when she was an anchor and I a lowly news writer at the Fox affiliate in Miami), whom O'Brien is rumored to have groped at a Christmas party (not to be outdone by licking another coworker's face... yeck...) I can tell you, she's good people, but If she's got any dirt on this guy, here's hoping she leaks it all, and soon. The scariest thing about this is that it means there's actually someone out there in medialand more loathesome and repulsive than Bill O'Reilly... perish the thought!

If you need more O'Brien laugh fixes, definitely check out Defamer (or listen to Howard Stern tomorrow morning -- he's been killing the guy!)

Previous reasons
posted by JReid @ 9:40 PM  
Pope blanket, day 4
Day 4 of blanket coverage of the Pope's passing, and it seems three themes have emerged:

1. This pope was not just a good pope, he was a great, transformational, heroic pope. (check out this very thorough bio).

2. American Catholics are saddened, but hopful in the pope's passing, that a change gon' come.

3. They're wrong.

First, the rudiments: body lying in state, President Bush to attend funeral, pomp and circumstance, but not for Chuck and Camilla, who'll have to wait 'til Saturday to visit dispair on the hearts of those who still worship Princess Di by making their royal shack-up official. By the by, Charles will attend the pope's funeral on Friday, but his dear Camel will not.
The prince, heir to the British throne, cut short a skiing holiday in Switzerland on today to fly back to Britain to attend Vespers for the Dead in the pope's honor at Westminster Cathedral here. He attended the service along with Mrs. Parker Bowles, but his fiancée, who is divorced, will not accompany him to the pope's funeral, Britain's Press Association reported.

Also, this fantastic story, about the reaction of the man who shot the pope in 1981, to John Paul II's death.

And of course, the bets are on about who could be the next pope. Bishop Desmond Tutu has thrown his bid in to see the first Black pope, and there is a Nigerian cardinal on the short list, but my money's on Latin America. One thing's for sure, the next big guy will absolutely not be from the United States... Here's a good rundown on the contenders.
posted by JReid @ 5:11 PM  
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Life among the Freepers, part I
Think the Terri Schiavo madness is dying down? Don't count on it. According to the FReepers, RightMarch.com, a winger organiztaion that calls itself the antidote to Moveon.org, is planning a national conference to discuss and strategies against the "judicial war on faith" (view the RightMarch ad here - requires Adobe Acrobat). The FReepers are coordinating bus service to get the faithful to a "march for justice" in conjunction with the event. Speakers will include Tom DeLay, our old buddy Alan Keyes, who hopefully has brushed up on Florida law since his recent appearance on the Randi Rhodes show, and Phyllis Schlafly (wow, they're even digging her up?)

Oh, and RightMarch is also preparing a national ad to eulogize the "martyred" Terri "Schindler-Schiavo." Wonderful.
posted by JReid @ 3:56 PM  
Someone please inform Fox...
... that the pope has passed away. Seems they jumped the gun earlier, prompting a brand new slogan for MSNBC: just call them "fair ... and accurate."
posted by JReid @ 3:16 PM  
DeLay tactics
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg gets the prize this week for best political left hook. Lautenberg pasted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in a letter questioning whether DeLay's causting comments on the Terri Schiavo case may have violated federal law.

Delay's statement, released on May 31st, the day Terri Schiavo expired in a Pinellas County, Florida hospice, sure seemed threatening enough:

Contact: Dan Allen or Shannon Flaherty, 202-225-4000, both for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

SUGAR LAND, Texas, March 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) today released the following statement mourning the passing of Terri Schiavo:

"Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo's friends in this time of deep sorrow."


That prompted the following heated response from Sen. Lautenberg, which I'll print in its entirety:
April 1, 2005

Tom DeLay Majority Leader House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

Dear Majority Leader DeLay,

I was stunned to read the threatening comments you made yesterday against Federal judges and our nation's courts of law in general. In reference to certain Federal judges, you stated: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

As you are surely aware, the family of Federal Judge Joan H. Lefkow of Illinois was recently murdered in their home. And at the state level, Judge Rowland W. Barnes and others in his courtroom were gunned down in Georgia.

Our nation's judges must be concerned for their safety and security when they are asked to make difficult decisions every day. That's why comments like those you made are not only irresponsible, but downright dangerous. To make matters worse, is it appropriate to make threats directed at specific Federal and state judges?

You should be aware that your comments yesterday may violate a Federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. §115 (a)(1)(B). That law states:

"Whoever threatens to assault…. or murder, a United States judge… with intent to retaliate against such… judge…. on account of the performance of official duties, shall be punished [by up to six years in prison]"

Threats against specific Federal judges are not only a serious crime, but also beneath a Member of Congress. In my view, the true measure of democracy is how it dispenses justice. Your attempt to intimidate judges in America not only threatens our courts, but our fundamental democracy as well.

Federal judges, as well as state and local judges in our nation, are honorable public servants who make difficult decisions every day. You owe them -- and all Americans -- an apology for your reckless statements.

Sincerely,

Frank R. Lautenberg


Okay, so Lautenberg may be reaching a little -- there was no specific threat to judges in DeLay's lame-brained statement, but the atmospherics certainly don't look good, especially with the wack-job horde that trails Schindler family "spokesman" and anti-abortion racketeer Randall Terry still hanging around (by the way, did you catch Terry singing on MSNBC during their LIVE! coverage of the Schindler post Schiavo-death prayer service? Yeesh! Can the double CD set be far behind?)

Anyway, wonder how DeLay's allies, who are gearing up for a major "Save DeLay" P.R. blitz, will spin this one, which if nothing else points out the gaping holes in DeLay's moral fiber...

The blitz is being planned by a group of conservative activists, mostly outside groups like the American Conservative Union and Heritage Foundation, who met recently to plan strategy:
After several participants at the meeting said they would help, DeLay said he hoped the others would, too, according to one person there who spoke anonymously to avoid angering his fellow conservatives.DeLay reportedly added that it would be “really nice if some calls would originate from you guys into members’ districts letting them know” why they should tell their representatives to support him.

Yes, it would be nice, wouldn't it...
posted by JReid @ 2:55 PM  
Friday, April 01, 2005
Consistency
Say what you want about Pope John Paul II -- like Paul in the Bible, he was a moral absolutist, irking many modernists with his no-budge views on homosexuality, abortion and marriage. But this pope, who many consider to be the third leg in the iron stool that helped elevate the people of Eastern Europe over the Soviet Union (the other two legs being Britain's Margaret Thatcher and the late Ronald Reagan -- yes, the analysis is too simplistic, but there you go), was a man of rigorous moral consistency, particularly when it comes to the much-vaunted "culture of life:"

-- he opposed abortion (which he called "legal extermination" of people, akin to the Holocaust)
-- he opposed capital punishment (in all cases, Scott Peterson death salivators...)
-- he pushed for more development aid to poor countries (staves off death nicely)
-- he spoke out on the twin killers of poverty and AIDS (though the condom thing was a problem, and we all know abstinence only doesn't work)
-- he opposed war, inlcuding, and quite forcefully, the Iraq war (and told the Bush administration as much to their faces, when so many others, including the venerable American press, went along with the program).

As commendable (and refreshing) as that moral consistency is -- the religious right in this country could learn a lot from it, and so could Catholic conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Terry Jeffrey (of Human Events, who recently said on "Hardball" that the law of the United States "must follow natural law and God's law") -- this pope will also be remembered not-so-fondly for his ironclad opposition to homosexuality, gay marriage (which he called part of an "ideology of evil" in his new book), stem cell research, sexual education, condom use, birth control and his muted response to the global priestpubophile sex scandal.

That said, the thoroughly pre-modern pope was a magnet for young people, and he gets eternal props for standing up to the Soviets -- as well as to Western leaders who failed to fully and consistently act on their faith (hello, former Texas governor who never commuted a death sentence...)

It will be interesting to see which side of his legacy -- the heroic stands with the people of his native Poland and across Eastern Europe, and his historic reconciliation between Christians and Jews, plus his steadfast stand against the Israeli government and for the historic treasures of Palestine, not to mention his constant support for the Palestinian people and statehood, or for his seeming harshness and refusal to bow to the modern on issues of morality -- will dominate the short- and long-term history.

MSNBC has a heads-up on this question, and so far, here's how it's shaking out on their online poll:

What do you think is Pope John Paul II's most significant impact on the church and the world? * 33261 responses
- His tenet on the sanctity of life - 17%
- Pilgrim Pope: His travels around the world - 18%
- Adherence to conservative doctrine - 8%
- Reaching out to all religions - 38%
- For being a geopolitician and helping bring about the collapse of communist rule in Europe - 19%
posted by JReid @ 4:15 PM  
On death and dying
The death of Terri Schiavo and, imminently, of the pope are surely not being lost on evangelical Christians and Catholics, whose more extreme wings teamed up to oppose the removal of the severely brain-damaged woman's feeding tube (which the courts determined was her wish).

And while the media didn't exactly shine by elevating the Schiavo case to a nation-splitting controversy, despite the fact that about eight in 10 Americans agreed with Michael Schiavo's view, and with the idea that the case should have remained a private affair, they have gotten one thing right: the evangelical Protestant-Catholic movement is preparing to use these twin events to make real the "culture of life" -- a Catholic term coined in the age of Pope John Paul II.

The Denver Post does a good take:

Terri Schiavo's death could prove to be a potent symbol to social conservatives seeking to overturn legal abortion and step up a campaign against the judiciary, although political analysts question whether that's realistic given the complex, deeply personal nature of the Schiavo saga.

The debate over whether to keep the severely brain-damaged Florida woman alive divided the country [okay, they screwed up here, because the country is hardly divided on this, but let's go on...] but brought together evangelical and conservative Catholic leaders who in recent years have found common ground on moral issues.

But polls found both Catholics and evangelicals supported the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube and opposed intervention by Beltway politicians.

On Thursday, leaders from both traditions offered prayers for Schiavo's soul, sympathy for her family and suggestions that future battles loom over Supreme Court nominees, abortion and stem-cell research. Colorado Springs Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Sheridan called Schiavo's death "a protracted act of murder" and "another sad chapter in the annals of the culture of death."

Sheridan expressed concern about disabled people or others judged not to have sufficient "quality of life."

"Once we see that Terri's death is not an act of mercy, but rather the direct taking of an innocent life, perhaps there will be a renewed effort to build a culture of life in our country," Sheridan said.

While many evangelicals had reservations about government intervention, the moral foundation of the Schiavo case was that withdrawing nutrients and hydration challenges the God- given dignity of every human being, said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of government affairs with the National Association of Evangelicals.

"It's imperative that the culture of life extends from the womb to the grave, from the cradle to the hospice," Cizik said. [Pity they're not more concerned about the "life" that takes place in between... sorry, no more interruptions...]

Polls, however, show evangelicals are not as likely to agree with their leaders about Schiavo as they are on gay marriage and abortion. An ABC News poll last week showed 46 percent of evangelicals supported removing Schiavo's feeding tube, while 44 percent opposed it. The numbers for the general public were 63 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

"The troops are not as lined up behind the generals on this one," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "It's more complicated an issue, and people are conflicted about it. There are views that families should decide on these things. And the further you move up on government, the more leery people become of it, especially when Washington gets involved."


Where does this go next? To the courts, which despite their universal rebuff of the Schindlers by mostly Republican appointees, will be THE battleground for the next salvos in the culture wars. Look for a showdown over one, perhaps even two, Supreme Court nominees as early as this summer. Take it away, James "Spongebob" Dobson:
"Every Florida and federal judge who failed to act to spare this precious woman
from the torment she was forced to endure is guilty not only of judicial
malfeasance - but of the coldblooded, coldhearted extermination of an innocent
human life," Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said in a statement.

Democrats be warned: the buzzword for the next two years is "life" -- and that means the showdown over abortion has begun. You didn't think these "culture of life" warriors are going to spend the next two years beefing about the rights of the disabled, did you?
posted by JReid @ 4:02 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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