Monday, January 31, 2005


A lot of folks are trying to figure out what these elections really mean. Some are pointing out scary parallels with the Vietnam elections of '67, some are trumpeting the same sorts of oratories we heard when Saddam was captured, and some are saying that it don't mean much.

I like important events to have morals, and my take on this is simple: going forward, no matter how this thing ends, we can't blame it on the Iraqis.

Overwhelmingly, this election demonstrated that there is widespread support for the institution of representative democracy. Iraqis didn't boycott elections becuase they preferred an alternative form of government (say, restoration of the monarchy); they didn't stay home out of fear; hell, they didn't even demand a perfect election process as a condition of participation. They voted. This is good news to anyone who wants to create representative democracy in Iraq--the people are willing to not just go along with it, but to risk their lives for it.

But at the end of the day, this condition is necessary but not sufficient for a successful democracy. It's not enough that the people of Iraq are brave and eager. There's an army with its own agenda, which may or may not coincide with those of the Iraqi people. There's an organized insurgency with many different factions pushing its own interests. So, it's good news that the Iraqi people, en masse, want a peaceful, representative governing process. Unfortunately, what they want doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Still, when this all ends, I don't want to hear neocons talking about how "those people" can't rule themselves peaceably. From every indication, they've got what it takes. From here on out, it's all on us.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Club for Growth: My Opening Bid on the Social Security Trust Fund is $10,000!!

Dear Club for Growth:

Recently, you indicated that the Social Security Trust Fund has no assets, but is composed entirely of "paper IOUs that represent the Trust Fund’s obligations, not assets."

As a patriotic American, I would like to solve this problem for the government. I would like to take those "paper IOUs" off your hands. I've got $10,000 in savings, and I'll give it all to you in exchange for all the "paper IOUs" that are in the trust fund. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!

I figure this solves a horrible problem for you all. Now, those "paper IOUs" aren't the Trust Fund's horrible burden, they're MY horrible burden. And you can just finance the Social Security program out of general funds, the same way we finance the Defense Department. Also, hey, you're $10,000 ahead!

Because, you know, if the Trust Fund's really "not an asset," you'd be a fool not to trade it for cold hard cash. Right? Right??

I'll be waiting by my email.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No On Gonzales

Sometimes, you just have to say no. This is one of those times.

You Gotta Have a Little Extra to Buy Smoothies for the Death Squadders!

Apparently the new US embassy in Iraq is going to cost $1.5 billion. Kinda shatters the old record of $250 million. And what's funnest about the Bush Administration is that I'm not sure if this padding is going to go to Halliburton contractors or to our dear Ambassador Negroponte, as a little death squad slush fund for training and, I dunno, special treats for the best killing machines. Of course, we're not in the business of training and supporting death squads anymore, are we?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Safire Gives Bush a "B-"

Lessee...Safire puts Bush's Second Inaugural in the top 5 of 20 second inaugural speeches...we do the math...and figure out that puts it at the 80% mark, as far as second inaugurals go.

80% is a B-. It's a C if you're a less than generous grader.

Talk about damning with faint praise...

UPDATE: Safire printed a correction--there's only been 16 second inaugurals. It was a cheap shot anyway, so I ain't gonna redo the math (I'm a girl, and, Summers knows, I find numbers confusing and scary).

I guess for me, the real lesson is going to be that right-wingers don't fact check. Ever. No matter how ludicrously fact-checkable their assertions are and how utterly idiotic they'd look if they got them wrong. Therefore, before performing math on a winger's "numbers," you must first check the numbers, lest you be dragged down with them into the pit of stupid.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Appropriately Named Fred Dicker...

Was involved in a confrontation with NY State Democratic Party Chair Herman "Denny" Farrell about Dicker's story on Farrell's girlfriend--it seems she and Farrell have a little bundle of joy coming, she's 30 years younger than Farrell, and they're not married! Heavens to Betsy!

Anyway, the exchange didn't make either of them look too good. But what I found really shocking was Dicker's self-defense of his reporting: that the story was newsworthy because Farrell was a public figure and, more specifically, "
an elected official in a (black) community that's been troubled with out-of-wedlock births."

Why the hell is Dicker playing the race card? Does he really think it's credible to suggest he wouldn't have run the story if it were a white State Democratic Party Chair having a baby out of wedlock? And in what universe is it acceptable for Albany's pre-eminent political writer to argue that a double standard for black politicians should be standard operating procedure in journalism? I don't know what's more offensive, the lying or the casual use of a completely racist argument. (Happy Martin Luther King Day, everyone! See how far we've come!)

Dicker is not the first political journalist to confuse the kind of reporter he thinks he is with the kind of reporter he really is. Dicker clearly wants to believe he's a serious journalist, who only reports on issues of profound social and/or political significance. However, this story shows that he's a reporter who at least occasionally descends into tabloid coverage of politicians. Reporting on love children isn't hard reporting--it's salacious gossip-mongering. It's entertainment news.

Dicker is Albany's top reporter, and he should start acting like it. This was his scoop, but it was a gossip scoop, not a news scoop. If he wants credit for the scoop, he has to take heat for the gossip. Tortured spin justifying the "newsworthiness" of gossip doesn't make journalists look better--it devalues true news, it makes the public suspicious of reporters' integrity, and it leads to insanities like Albany's top political reporter telling everyone it's OK to use different rules for white and black politicians. If political reporters are embarrassed they print gossip, they should stop doing it and kick it over to Page Six.

And for the record, I love Page Six. Do you think Angelina broke up Brad & Jen? Discuss in comments.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

To Hell with your Yellow Ribbon Bumper Sticker!

There are a lot of yellow ribbons on cars belonging to people who don't have kids, friends, or neighbors in the military. There are also a lot of people who have confused support for the Iraq war--meaning its tactics, the pentagon's civilian leadership, and this administration's foreign policies--with support for the individuals who are fighting this thing out on the ground. That's simply not acceptable.

Let me make my own positions clear. I thought Afghanistan was right. I think Iraq is a fool's errand. And I support any troop in our army who's fighting in either conflict. I especially support the troops who think the Iraq war is the worst idea ever, who are appalled by the senseless carnage, who think this will undermine America's strategic preeminence for the next 50 years and who are still following their orders to fight in Iraq.

I firmly believe America is stronger becuase of its professional and apolitical soldiers. It's a really bad thing when armies start taking positions on issues. Because, you know, they are uniquely positioned to persuade people to take their side of the argument--personally, I'd expect a Sherman Tank rumbling down my block to make me reconsider my position on pretty much anything.

This is why I support every soldier who is doing his job. It's his job to shoot and fight and kill and die. It's an absolutely appalling, horrible job. And it's a vital and necessary one. Whether or not I think the political leaders have sent troops off to fight the wrong war has no bearing whatsoever on the sacrifices soldiers are making. It is a soldier's job to fight every single war he is directed to fight, especially the wars he thinks are a really stupid and bad idea.

This is why those yellow "I support George Bush" ribbons piss me off so much. It's not the job of civilians to make a soldier's sacrifice worth something by patronizing him with a line about how he's really lucky to be fighting in such a great and important war. The fact that he's willing to fight in any war is reason enough to justify his sacrifice. A soldier's sacrifice is not the least bit diminished becuase he is fighting in an unnecessary war, like WWI, Vietnam, or Iraq, and only a spoiled, soft, pansy ass civilian would ever suggest such a thing. Soldiers sacrifice themselves as part of not only the most powerful but also the most professional military the world has ever seen, a hard fought professionalism that too many civilians like me take for granted. In America, we have a powerful military but we don't worry about coups, we don't worry about mutinies, we don't worry about an army that quits the field of battle, we don't worry about an army that demands political input, we don't worry about an army that plunders for a week after conquering a city, we don't worry about all the things that countries with strong militaries have worried about throughout all of history. Soldiers who die in the line of duty die for the honor of a military that has a damn lot to be proud of, a military whose ethos has made America stronger for more than 200 years.

Putting a yellow sticker on your car becuase you like George Bush is like patting a soldier on the head and saying, "That was a great war, don't you love the President?" It's not just vile because it's condescending, ignorant, and exploitative--it's vile because it dismisses your own responsibility to our soldiers.

As civilians, we have a responsibility to honor the sacrifice every soldier has already made when he steps on the field of battle. In this professional military, he has literally given over his life to us, promising to follow our civilian leaders even if he knows they're sending him over a cliff. Supporting the troops doesn't mean you put a yellow ribbon on your car becuase you like George Bush. Supporting the troops means you don't send them off to hell on a snipe hunt.

So, on behalf of all civilian Americans, I'd like to apologize to our troops. I knew this war was a bad idea. I tried to stop it, but I wasn't able to. I should have done more. We all should have done more--we should have debated it more, we should have demanded more from our leaders, we should have done something other than get caught up in the drums of war. And now I don't know what we have to do to fix it. I don't think any of us do. I'm sorry. You've done your job. I didn't do mine. I'll do better next time. I promise.