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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Well, it could be true... you just never know.

Oh, it's been all over the political pages, so it deserves mention.

Basics - should something happen to the President, then to the Vice President, the next in line to run the whole show is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. You could look it up in the constitution. That go-to guy at present would be Representative J. Dennis 'Denny' Hastert, Republican of Illinois, graduate of Wheaton College (fundamentalist Christian) and a former high school coach at Yorkville High School (1964-1980). His basic bio is here - he's been in the House since 1986 and speaker since 1999. Between the teaching gig and the US House, he spent four years in the Illinois House of Representatives. He's been around.

His voting record by issues is here.

But no one much pays attention to him. And one assumes he got tired of that.

So on Fox News Sunday he made some waves. He decided to raise some questions about George Soros, the Democratic Party financier and donor to anti-Bush 527 ads and a major financial backer of - to float an idea about this Soros, the billionaire financier. Chris Wallace was the interviewer and wanted Hastert to say something about and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and all these groups airing attack ads not directly tied to each candidate.

Here's the key part of the exchange -
HASTERT: Here in this campaign, quote, unquote, "reform," you take party power away from the party, you take the philosophical ideas away from the party, and give them to these independent groups.

You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where--if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. And I--

WALLACE (interrupting): Excuse me?

HASTERT: Well, that's what he's been for a number years--George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there.

WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

HASTERT: I'm saying I don't know where groups--could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know. The fact is we don't know where this money comes from.
Before, transparency--and what we're talking about in transparency in election reform is you know where the money comes from. You get a $25 check or a $2,500 check or $25,000 check, put it up on the Internet. You know where it comes from, and there it is.
Ah, now we see, Soros is an international drug dealer, and that's where those who oppose George Bush get the funds to oppose him.

Note he doesn't say this is true. He says he just doesn't know. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Jack Shafer points out here -
Soros runs the Quantum Fund hedge fund and earned a reported one billion dollars in 1992 betting against the British pound. According to the Christian Science Monitor, he's dropped five billion of his fortune on his various "open society" programs around the world. He's given $12.6 million to the anti-Bush 527s, chump change relative to the size of his fortune. In addition, Soros has been a very public advocate and funder of drug-law legalization and liberalization campaigns.
Ah, the last part is the kicker, a lever Hastert can use.

Soros is ticked. And here (PDF format) the letter he sent Hastert on the 31st demanding an apology, and a retraction.

Hastert fires back a letter here saying he never referred to drug cartels on Fox News Sunday, that Chris Wallace did. Technically correct of course, as Wallace did ask whether Hastert was saying Soros made his money from dug cartels, and Hastert only say, well, he just didn't know for sure.

Actionable? Slander?

Hypothetical - If I say I heard you like to rape and murder Girl Scouts, and since there is no evidence you haven't raped and murdered Girl Scouts, well I can say I just don't know if it is true or not. And I haven't said anything slanderous. I just said I don't know.


Hastert's letter does list initiatives to decriminalize illegal drug use to which Soros has contributed. The bugs him. But Soros is giving these groups money. He's funding them, not the other way around.

Oh well. Drugs is drugs. And Hastert too doesn't do nuance.

Jack Shafer points out his theory of where Hastert got the whole idea, and it is amusing -
Where did Hastert get the notion that Soros might be getting money from drug cartels? A good guess would be the organization headed by political fantasist, convicted felon, and perpetual presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. This campaign literature from the "LaRouche in 2004" Web site, dated Oct. 29, 2003, makes the drug charge directly:

Years of investigation by LaRouche's associates have answered that question in grisly detail: Soros's money comes from impoverishment of the poor countries against whose currencies he speculates, and from deadly mind-destroying, terrorism-funding drugs.

The LaRouchie slander of Soros dates back to the early '90s. Michael Lewis recorded an anti-Soros protest by LaRouche followers in a Jan. 10, 1994, profile in the New Republic. Since then, the drug charge has been a LaRouche literature mainstay. See, for example, this cached copy of a 2002 interview with LaRouche from his organization's Executive Intelligence Review.

Hastert may have also brushed up against the idea in a 1997 House hearing about needle exchanges that he chaired. David Jordan, the former U.S. ambassador to Peru, testified that Soros has backed drug legalization initiatives and owns a piece of a bank in Colombia. Connecting the imaginary dots, Jordan says, "And I think it would be very interesting for you to look to see and bring sometime [sic] who benefits from the legalization of narcotics."
Ah, not saying it's so, but it could be so?

Note - the Just Above Sunset background item on Lyndon LaRouche is this - January 11, 2004 Odds and Ends: "Religious cults, like fringe candidates, are never quite as much fun as you'd imagine. Lyndon LaRouche, Scientology... whatever."

But Shafer's catch - this connection to Lyndon LaRouche - is a minor issue.

What is most interesting is the dynamic here - attack by raising an outrageous allegation and say you just don't know if it is true or not. Stay safe, legally. But get the message out. And the damage is done.

Works every time.

Posted by Alan at 21:01 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 2 September 2004 09:33 PDT home

Tuesday, 31 August 2004

Topic: For policy wonks...

Nuance for Dummies

Think golf. Josh Marshall at Talking Point Memo tees up the ball...

Three quotes from President Bush -

From a White Press conference 13 April 2004, this -

"One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can."

From 28 August 2004 this -

"I don't think you can win it (i.e., the war on terror). But I think you can create conditions so that the -- those who use terror as a tool are -- less acceptable in parts of the world."

From 31 August 2004 this -

"We meet today in a time of war for our country, a war (i.e., the war on terror) we did not start yet one that we will win."

Which is it? Fooled ya, suckers! You don't know, do you?

Marshall comments -
Come to think of it, this may be an ingenious way to pump up viewership for the president's speech on Thursday night. Tune in to find out his final answer: can we win or can't we? We'll be on the edge of our seats.

We're told that later today the president will be commenting on whether the war between Oceania and East Asia is winnable.
Yeah, yeah.

Not important. As Elizabeth Bumiller points out in the New York Times -
President Bush, in an interview broadcast on Monday, said he did not think America could win the war on terror but that it could make terrorism less acceptable around the world, a departure from his previous optimistic statements that the United States would eventually prevail.

In the interview with Matt Lauer of the NBC News program "Today," conducted on Saturday but shown on the opening day of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Bush was asked if the United States could win the war against terrorism, which he has made the focus of his administration and the central thrust of his re-election campaign.

"I don't think you can win it," Mr. Bush replied. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

As recently as July 14, Mr. Bush had drawn a far sunnier picture. "I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror," he said.

At a prime-time news conference in the East Room of the White House on April 13, Mr. Bush said: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can."

It was unclear if Mr. Bush had meant to make the remark to Mr. Lauer, or if he misspoke. But White House officials said the president was not signaling a change in policy, and they sought to explain his statement by saying he was emphasizing the long-term nature of the struggle.

Taken at face value, however, Mr. Bush's words would put him closer to the positions of the United States' European allies, who have considered Mr. Bush's talk of victory simplistic and unhelpful. ...
Oh geez! Bush is getting all French on us now?

Ah, he must have misspoken. No change. Not really.

He takes it back, or, well, adds nuance. Or what passes for nuance these days when you speak to a convention of the American Legion.

Bush: 'We Will Win' the War on Terror
President Reverses Statements Made in 'Today' Show Interview
Mike Allen, The Washington Post, Tuesday, August 31, 2004; 4:48 PM
NASHVILLE, Aug. 31 -- President Bush rushed Tuesday morning to reverse his assertion that the war on terror cannot be won, trying to deflect a planned barrage of Democratic attacks by telling the nation's largest veterans group that "we are winning, and we will win."

Bush, asked about "this war on terror" in an interview aired Monday on NBC's "Today" show, had said: "I don't think you can win it." But with Democrats castigating him as a defeatist, he told the annual convention of the American Legion that "in this different kind of way, we may never sit down at a peace table."
Ah, you see when you talk about a table it becomes more clear. We will win, but we won't be sitting down at any tables, so it might not look like we won.

Got it?

Well, to clarify any problem you have with the subtlety of that idea, President Bush decided that he had better explain this all in more detail and nuance to the largest political audience available at any one time in North America - the listeners to the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

So he dropped by the Limbaugh show as a special guest and said this -
I should have made my point more clear about what I meant. What I meant was that this is not a conventional war. It is a different kind of war. We're fighting people who have got a dark ideology who use terrorists, terrorism, as a tool. They're trying to shake our conscience. They're trying to shake our will, and so in the short run the strategy has got to be to find them where they lurk. I tell people all the time, "We will find them on the offense. We will bring them to justice on foreign lands so we don't have to face them here at home," and that's because you cannot negotiate with these people. And in a conventional war there would be a peace treaty or there would be a moment where somebody would sit on the side and say we quit. That's not the kind of war we're in, and that's what I was saying. The kind of war we're in requires, you know, steadfast resolve, and I will continue to be resolved to bring them to justice, but as well as to spread liberty ... There's no doubt in my mind, so long as this country stays resolved and strong and determined, and by winning, I just would remind your listeners that Pakistan is now an ally in the war on terror.
They lurk, you see. And that makes things complicated. And Pakistan is an ally. Case closed.

Marshall adds this -
The president deserves every whack he gets for changing his position twice in three days on the issue he has made the centerpiece of his campaign. But folks should also start using his bobbling to make the point that the issue is less whether the president thinks the 'terror war' is winnable than the fact that he doesn't even have any clear idea of how to fight it

(A reader makes a good point: Reading the above, you can see why President Bush doesn't 'do nuance.' It ain't his strong suit.)
Yeah, well, he tried.

The actual conversation that started all this? From the Matt Lauer interview on "The Today Show" note this -
LAUER: You said to me a second ago, one of the things you'll lay out in your vision for the next four years is how to go about winning the war on terror. That phrase strikes me a little bit. Do you really think we can win this war of ter--on terror? For example, in the next four years?

Pres. BUSH: I have never said we can win it in four years?

LAUER: No, I'm just saying, can we win it? Do you say that?

Pres. BUSH: I don't--I don't think we can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the--those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in part of the world, let's put it that way. I have a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand is to find them before they hurt us. And that's necessary. I'm telling you it's necessary.
Okay, he's just a little vague here, but hoping we get the general idea. Or he's trying to show us he's a deeper thinker than we imagined, as he can be are nuanced as that Kerry guy.

Many, many commentators have pointed out that had Kerry said such a thing - that we cannot win this war on terror by the usual definitions of winning - the Republicans would have tarred and feathered him and run him out of town on a rail. Kerry would be pilloried as weak on terror and a traitor and a defeatist and so on and so forth - as cowardly and timid as, say, Max Cleland. Max Cleland and John Kerry don't like facing the enemy. Did either of them join the Texas Air National Guard and fly missions to protect Houston from the deadly, daily attacks of the Viet Cong air force? I think not! Cowards!

The conservative but gay, American but once British writer Andrew Sullivan says the obvious -
The odd thing is that this really does sound like a parody of Kerry. And if Kerry had indeed said that, we would be hearing nothing else for weeks. And indeed, every time I hear the president talk extemporaneously about the war - his interview with Tim Russert last February was a classic - he does seem to have almost no conceptual grasp of what he's talking about. Back then, he seemed flummoxed by the very concept of a distinction between a war of choice and a war of necessity. Now he seems to be parroting a Council on Foreign Relations confab on the permanence of terrorism.

We're all told that the president knows what he believes about this war and today he corrected himself. But the issues here - how to fight Islamist terror, what constitutes success, the necessary blend of military action, diplomacy, police work, etc. - are not minor.

You have to be impressed by this president's resilience in the war and his aggression. He also deserves enormous credit for shifting U.S. policy toward democratization in that part of the world. But there are times when you have to wonder whether he really understands this issue as deeply as he needs to; and whether that limited grasp has led to some of the calamitous "miscalculations" that even he has now acknowledged.
Yeah, but folks don't care. Read the poll numbers.

Items like Fitness for Command (August 22, 2004 - No one wants to mention the elephant in the room, but things change...) - and the August 29 follow-up here - just reinforce the idea the pointy-headed intellectuals have it in for a guy who is just trying to do the right thing. He may be weak on the concepts, but he relishes killing the bad guys real dead. Why would you want more?

Punishment and revenge matter to people.

Even if we kill the wrong folks - yeah, no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and no ties to al-Qaeda or Osama and no real threat - and even if we mess up a bit (as it is still a but dicey on the streets there now) - at least we're doing something. Maybe the wrong thing, but something, unlike those who want us to be so thoughtful and prissy and follow the rules. Even if we lock up people for years with no charges and keep in from communicating with anyone at all - and maybe we got the wrong folks - at least we're doing something.

Remember the words of Marge Simpson - "We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." Doing something now is better than thinking things through and doing something clever after you figure out what might happen when you do it? Maybe.

Action trumps thoughtfulness. This is America.

Apropos of that, this Associated Press item caught my attention -

U.S. May Shift Billions for Iraq Security
Monday Aug 30, 5:38 PM ET
The State Department is considering whether $3.34 billion intended for public works projects in Iraq should be thrown at security, a State Department official said Monday.

The money would be part of $18.4 billion Congress approved last year for rebuilding Iraq.

Though Bush said this money was needed "urgently," little has been spent because of bureaucratic delays and security problems.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, has recommended that the $3.34 billion be reallocated from water, sewage and electricity projects. If security is improved, oil production could be increased, eventually making more money available for reconstruction, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ...
Yep, making it up as we go along.

We don't do ready, aim, FIRE!

Not our style.

We do ready, fire, AIM!

Does it matter? You make adjustments.

We will soon reach the inevitable milestone in the war - one thousand dead American soldiers. Our scoffing at planning? Our quick but wrong-headed assessment of what the situation was and what it was likely to be if we acted this way or that - where we were not supposed to ask questions but just trust the guys in charge? Does it matter? It might matter to these one thousand soldiers, but they're dead.

Move on.

Posted by Alan at 17:56 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 31 August 2004 18:08 PDT home

Monday, 30 August 2004

Topic: Photos

Now on line!
Just Above Sunset ...

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, is online now.

Volume 2, Number 34 of contains...

[>] A special guest column from Rick Brown, the News Guy in Atlanta.
[>] Breaking news on the spy story from Friday
[>] Three sequential items on Political Character (if there is such a thing)
[>] A photo-essay on last week's celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of The Liberation of Paris, with words and pictures from Ric Erickson on the spot, along with links to items (in French) on how the French see California
[>] A surreal story, via Ric Erickson, of an odd event in Ch?tellerault
[>] Bob Patterson goes wild with two columns - digging deep for what is really what!
[>] Snazzy photography - working close-up and personal pretentious
[>] The usual odd quotes to amuse you...

... and more!

One of the photos?

Posted by Alan at 20:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 29 August 2004

Topic: Photos

Coming soon!
Just Above Sunset should be on line in a few hours...

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, should go online late today. If you wandered over here from there, last week's issue is still current. That would be Volume 2, Number 33.

Volume 2, Number 34 is almost completed, but the Just Above Sunset web hosting service has crapped out, again. Earthlink has been telling me since yesterday morning they are working on it. We shall see.

On this end I will be trying every workaround I can imagine.

In the meantime? A pretty picture -

Posted by Alan at 12:42 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 28 August 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

News Cycles: Friday Afternoon Follies

Why does the interesting news break late Friday afternoon after the press put their Saturday newspapers to bed and the nightly newscasts were over, and the weekend television programming turns to sports? Sometimes if you have bad news you hold release of it for the least possible exposure. Maybe no one will notice. Then too, sometimes life just doesn't follow the news cycle.

Bush and the Texas Air National Guard

Is Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, the person who got President Bush into the Texas Air National Guard? Late Friday a video clip [Windows Media] started going around, and the wire services started picking it up.

If you have a slow connection or cannot stream the video, Barnes says this -
Let's talk a minute about John Kerry and George Bush and I know them both. And I'm not namedropping to say I know `em both. I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I'm not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. And I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do, when you're in office you helped a lot of rich people. And I walked through the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been because it was the worst thing that I did was that I helped a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard and I'm very sorry about that and I'm very ashamed and I apologize to you as voters of Texas.
Oh man, this is trouble

Jeff Horwitz adds this -
Barnes then condemned the Republican attacks on John Kerry's war service: "And I tell you that for the Republicans to jump on John Kerry and say that he is not a patriot after he went to Vietnam and was shot at and fought for our freedom and came back here and protested against the war, he's a flip-flopper, let me tell you: John Kerry is a 100 times better patriot than George Bush or Dick Cheney."

The video of Barnes was filmed by Todd Phelan and Mike Nicholson, organizers of a political group called Austin4Kerry. Phelan is currently an organizer for the Travis County Democrats. The video first appeared on the Austin4Kerry Web site on June 25, but was widely overlooked until Friday. The video also includes a separate interview conducted by the same two filmmakers in which Barnes speaks with admiration about Kerry's valor.

Phelan and Nicholson recall they were surprised by the candor of Barnes' remarks while they were filming him at the rally. "To be honest with you, my eyes lit up instantaneously," Phelan told Salon. "I looked at Mike, he looked at me, and it was like 'Did he just say that?'"
Yep, he did.

But is he lying? Did he help a rich white kid take the coward's way out of fighting in a war the kid said he totally supported? We shall see if this is so.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, wants the facts.
I'd like to hear him give some details as to how he did that. Who approached him? Is there evidence that George W Bush was aware it was happening? Was his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, demonstrably aware? What strings did Barnes have to pull?
Yep, Rick has the instincts of a newsman. This is just one guy saying he did this, and a lifelong Democrat at that. He is not happy with the younger Bush, but is he making this all up?

Did the younger Bush receive special favors? As noted here by James C. Moore, the fellow who wrote "Bush's Brain" - the recent book about Karl Rove - the answer from Bush is no, and Moore provides a direct quote from Bush: "I certainly didn't ask for any. And I'm sure my father didn't either. They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time."

If Barnes is telling the truth? Bush can always say he had no idea Barnes did anything. Bush will say he didn't ask for any favors, nor did his father. Barnes must have been freelancing or something.

If Barnes is lying? Well then Bush looks good. Some guys are just lucky, as I'm sure you understand.


More interesting is the Friday late-breaking news that someone high up in Douglas Feith's office at the Pentagon has been feeding Israel top-secret planning documents and got caught. CBS broke the story late in the afternoon, Pacific Time.

The most detailed version of this mess is here, from an investigative reporter who has been working this story for many months and was going to publish soon - but got blindsided.

Of course this Isreali-mole-in-the-Pentagon expos? confirms everything the Muslim world knows, or think they know. This won't play well in all the capitals from Amman to Cairo to Islamabad. We are, it seems, really the Likud Party West and Israel is the fifty-first state. More fodder of the evil-doers who hate us. The only word is, for now, a "high level official" turns out to be a spy for Israel, and Sharon has had all our planning documents and details of our military array for some time. The word going around this is an employee at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, one Larry Franklin, reporting up through Douglas Feith to Rumsfeld. My money would have on Richard Perle, the former head advisor to Rumsfeld. Perle ran the Jerusalem Post for Conrad Black, and Perle was the chief advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu way back when. Oh well. The story will play out early next week, and it may have to do with how the US and Israel plan to deal with Iran and its nuclear threat - bomb them, or invade and occupy the place, or fund a coup? Whatever.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, adds this -
I do hope we nail and jail whoever is responsible. (Remember Jonathan Pollard? Is my recollection correct that Clinton would not pardon him during the mid east talks, nor would he as he left office?)

If Bush takes this lightly, which may help him in Israel and certain segments of the American Jewish community, it will definitely further hurt America's image around the world - which, of course, this crowd has heretofore not given a flying fart.
And as I said to Ric, yes, Pollard is still in jail. Clinton wouldn't let him out. And Israel is still protesting his sentence. And by the way, all polling I've seen shows Bush is not getting any more of the Jewish vote than he ever got - which is not much. Kissing Sharon's ass these last three years hasn't moved the figures at all. It must be frustrating.

As for America's image around the world, these guys prove they're tough by ticking off the number of former allies who are appalled and scornful of what we now do or say - their objections are a badge of honor.

This just gets more interesting all the time.

Posted by Alan at 12:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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