Friday, August 13, 2004

Mighty winds a'blowin' 
Fred Kaplan has a depressing article in Slate about Iraq, in case the overcast skies and the death of our last link to admiration of France hasn't gotten you down enuogh alreadyl

"Historical analyses suggest that at least 300,000--possibly as many as 500,000--troops are needed to impose order in Iraq. Fewer than half that many U.S. and British troops are currently stationed there, and neither country has many armed forces to spare. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne, is training a new Iraqi army (much of which amounts to re-recruiting the less tainted members of the old Iraqi army), but that project will take a few years to bear fruit, and it's questionable, in any case, whether Iraqis would shoot their own. ([Juan] Cole notes that, during last spring's aborted offensive in Fallujah, the local police chief told the U.S. Marines that his men would not attack the native insurgents. More recently, nearly all 4,000 Iraqi security forces in Najaf defected to Muqtada Sadr's army.)

"Even if our re-energized allies agreed to send more troops, they would be but a beginning, a holding action, and who knows how long they'd have to stay? What kind of country Iraq becomes, what kind of politics it practices, what kind of alliances it forms--all are mysteries. You don't hear Paul Wolfowitz waxing lyrical these days, as he did a year ago, over the universal truths of Alexis de Tocqueville. Even he must realize that the best we can hope for, at this point, is an Iraq that doesn't blow up and take the region with it. The dismaying, frightening thing is how imponderably difficult it will be simply to avoid catastrophe."

Have a great dinner 
And bid a fond farewell and hearty thank you to Julia Child, who brought high-quality gourmet food into the homes of America, leaving canned green beans and powdered mashed potatotes as frightening reminders of a 1950's childhood.

Child prepares a French delicacy in her cooking studio in this picture from Nov. 24, 1970. (AP)

Thursday, August 12, 2004

George W. Bush = Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge? 
Speaking of He Who Must Not Be Named (back), Dan Froomkin takes note in today's Washington Post of Dubya's curious reluctance to say - well, you know - that name.

Is there a full moon tonight? 
I can hear Steve Lonegan howling
TRENTON -- Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan this afternoon said that he has filed paperwork with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission to run for Governor in the 2005 election.

Lonegan will run in the June 2005 Republican Primary and said his announcement today was designed to tell Republicans and Democrats alike that “the Democrats can run who they want to replace McGreevey. They don’t scare me. Every one of these possible candidates represents the same failed pro-tax, anti-suburban, pro-abortion, anti-homeowner liberal-left agenda that McGreevey represented and I’ll beat whoever they put up, regardless of how much they spend.”

The Bogota Mayor, who won reelection last year to a third term by 16 points in a town carried by both Gore and McGreevey by 3-2 margins, said he has been urged to run by conservative leaders throughout the state who are “fed up with the ultra-left agenda being pushed by the soon to be former Governor and his legislative lapdogs.”

“All along we expected that McGreevey would ultimately not be the candidate so the Governor’s announcement today has had no effect on our strategy,” Lonegan said. “Corzine, Codey, Andrews and McGreevey have the exact same ultra-left views on every single issue from taxes to debt to abortion to gun control and everything else. New Jersey taxpayers are fed up with their tax and spend liberal big government and social engineering programs that have made our taxes among the highest and our business climate among the worst in the nation.”

Wow! Who knew? 
The Feds are REALLY looking out for us. All along we poor souls thought the Bush administration just didn't want us to buy less-expensive Canadian drugs because it would reduce Big Pharma profits.

How little we knew! They have much loftier goals. First they told us it was because Canadian drugs suffer from poor quality, but now they have an even more compelling reason - al-Qaeda terrorists want to attack us by poisoning Canadian prescription drugs. And forget about maple syrup and Molson's Golden. They're too dangerous. Why didn't we think of this before?

Gee, Mr. Bush, on behalf of my beer-belly, my pancakes, and my mom and her drug bills, I thank you.

Did Republicans pay Golan Cipel to blackmail the governor? 
McGreevey Describes 'Intensely Personal Decision' in Speech
Easy to believe the GOP was angling furiously for McGreevey's resignation, looking to shoe-horn in a special election. Was Rudy G. waiting in the wings -- unwilling to run in a primary but all too willing to have it just handed to him? Already the GOP is gunning for McGreevey to vacate sooner. And they'll be after Dick Codey first thing in the morning.

This ain't over.

He who must not be named 
Now we know who his supporters are.

Republicans For Voldemort

Bush has an idea 
One of his unscripted, uninformed, unfathomable ideas - the ones he comes up with when he's left too long out of sight of his minders. The ones that leave Karl Rove's head ready to explode.

He thinks it would be a good idea to simplify the tax system by imposing a national sales tax in place of the federal income tax. The tax code has been getting more regressive since Reagan, and this would be a real killer - working people are already taxed more heavily (rates on earned income are much higher than on income from assets), and sales taxes are even more burdensome on low- and middle-income people who spend most of their income on necessities.

In other words, it's Republican class warfare. The rich versus everyone else.
When a supporter asked President Bush about scrapping the current tax code and replacing it with a national sales tax, he replied favorably: "I'm not exactly sure how big the national sales tax is going to have to be, but it's the kind of interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously."
It didn't take long for the White House press office to deny that Bush really said what he said
The White House is denying that President Bush is considering a national sales tax.

The denial comes a day after the Bush created a stir by calling such a tax "an interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously."
Flippity? Also floppity. AND dumb - really dumb.

Why Resign? 
I'm wondering about the real reasons behind McGreevey's resignation. It seems to me that he should simply have outed himself and then remained in office. It would have been the politically courageous thing to do.After having said
My truth is is that I am a gay American and I am blessed to live in the greatest nation with the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world," he said. "Shamefully, I indulged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates the bonds of matrimony. It was wrong, it was foolish and it was inexcusable.

For this I ask for the forgiveness and grace of my wife," McGreevey told a stunned news conference, his second wife Dina by his side, holding his hand.
He should have stiffened his spine, announced some new initiatives toward legalizing gay marriage, and thanked New Jersey's citizens for their support. Instead, he went on to announce his resignation. I can only assume that either:
  1. The pending harrassment suit or the ongoing fundraising scandals would be damaging beyond recovery, or
  2. He was pressured to resign by the party because they felt he would be unable to retain office in the next election.
Opportunity lost. Too bad.

Update 10:50 PM
I'm afraid that "stiffen his spine" sounds unnecessarily harsh. I didn't mean it to ... I'm sure Mr. McGreevey is feeling horrible - worse than I hope I ever feel. It's just that, had it been possible for him to find his way through this without feeling the need to resign, it would have been to everyone's benefit.

The resignation statement 
From The New York Times:
Good afternoon. Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity, who I am. As a young child, I often felt ambivalent about myself, in fact, confused.

By virtue of my traditions, and my community, I worked hard to ensure that I was accepted as part of the traditional family of America. I married my first wife, Carrie, out of respect and love. And together, we have a wonderful, extraordinary daughter. Carrie then chose to return to British Columbia.

I then had the blessing of marrying Dina, whose love and joy for life has been an incredible source of strength for me. And together, we have the most beautiful daughter.

Yet, from my early days in school, until the present day, I acknowledged some feelings, a certain sense that separated me from others. But because of my resolve, and also thinking that I was doing the right thing, I forced what I thought was an acceptable reality onto myself, a reality which is layered and layered with all the, quote, good things, and all the, quote, right things of typical adolescent and adult behavior.

Yet, at my most reflective, maybe even spiritual level, there were points in my life when I began to question what an acceptable reality really meant for me. Were there realities from which I was running? Which master was I trying to serve?

I do not believe that God tortures any person simply for its own sake. I believe that God enables all things to work for the greater good. And this, the 47th year of my life, is arguably too late to have this discussion. But it is here, and it is now.

At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is.

And so my truth is that I am a gay American. And I am blessed to live in the greatest nation with the tradition of civil liberties, the greatest tradition of civil liberties in the world, in a country which provides so much to its people.

Yet because of the pain and suffering and anguish that I have caused to my beloved family, my parents, my wife, my friends, I would almost rather have this moment pass. For this is an intensely personal decision, and not one typically for the public domain.

Yet, it cannot and should not pass. I am also here today because, shamefully, I engaged in adult consensual affair with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable. And for this, I ask the forgiveness and the grace of my wife. She has been extraordinary throughout this ordeal, and I am blessed by virtue of her love and strength.

I realize the fact of this affair and my own sexuality if kept secret leaves me, and most importantly the governor's office, vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure. So I am removing these threats by telling you directly about my sexuality.

Let me be clear, I accept total and full responsibility for my actions. However, I'm required to do now, to do what is right to correct the consequences of my actions and to be truthful to my loved ones, to my friends and my family and also to myself.

It makes little difference that as governor I am gay. In fact, having the ability to truthfully set forth my identity might have enabled me to be more forthright in fulfilling and discharging my constitutional obligations.

Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign. To facilitate a responsible transition, my resignation will be effective on November 15th of this year.

McGreevey Resigns! 
Governor Jim McGreevey just announced his resignation, effective Nov. 15, 2004.

His stated reason: He is gay and has been having an extramarital affair with a man.

"I am a gay American," McGreevey said.

According to CBS News, Gov. McGreevey is about to be named in a sexual harrassment lawsuit by a former male aide.

Another factor in his decision is probably the recent "Machiavelli" fundraising scandals that Chris Christie has been trying to pin on him, and the consequent plummetting of his poll numbers.

This will make Maplewood's State Senator (and Senate President) Dick Codey the next governor. Codey would also retain his Senate Presidency. It's said that the New Jersey Governorship is among the most powerful non-federal elective positions. Codey will have a double-whammy, since he'll also retain his Senate post.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Hooray for Minnesota 
Home & Garden

It has its own Maplewood too.

Where to do your bargain shopping 
From Slate, via Ezra at Pandagon

Based: Washington (not the DC one).
Pay: Starts at $10 an hour.
Turnover: 21%
Unionized: 1 in 6 workers.
Executive Donations: $365,750 to Democratic causes.

Walmart (includes Sam's Club)

Based: Arkansas
Pay: Average pay lower than Costco's lowest pay.
Praises Sung By: Dick Cheney
Turnover: 44%
Unionized: Don't make me laugh.
Company donations: $1.658 million, 81% to Republicans

John McCain - Party Whore 
Let me start by saying this: I disagree with almost every position of John McCain's. It's not for nothing that he is a Republican. Nevertheless, I have always respected him as an exemplar of the honorable, dedicated public servant - more interested in what is right (in his eyes) than what is politically expedient.

That's who John McCain used to be.

McCain still talks the talk, but he no longer walks the walk. Just a few days ago he called the "Swift Boat Veterans" anti-Kerry smear-job dishonest and dishonorable, comparing it to an equally heinous ad the 2000 Bush campaign ran against him. He then called on George Bush to disavow the ad. Bush, of course, made the decision not to do so. McCain's reaction? Go out on the campaign trail with Bush, give him on-stage hugs and laud him for "great moral clarity" and making "the hard choices."

(Pablo Martinez Monsivais -- AP)

McCain has misplaced his own "moral clarity." He seems so focused on preserving his party cred, his viability as a future Republican candidate for President, that his sense of honor, or even of propriety, seems to have fallen off the back of the campaign bus.

The Bette White/Eminent Domain "Poll" 
It's on, apparently. Several people on Maplewood Online report having received their calls, and from their descriptions the poll sounds even more moronic than the justification for running it. They ask for respondents by name. Then just a few questions: "Awareness of the Bette White issue and the use of eminent domain to acquire, and then approve/disapprove"

Real opinion polling is done randomly. Respondents are never asked for by name. Before getting to the specific topical questions, they would be asked a battery of boilerplate demographic ones: age, sex, race, place of residence, household income, voting history, education level. Who the respondents are is irrelevant - what's important in a poll is what they are. Without that information, those running the poll have no way of knowing if their sample at all reflects the population under study. Even then, they have to decide how to map those demographics onto the population as a whole. It's not at all an exact science. That's one of the reasons why the current crop of Presidential election polls have such varying results - everybody makes somewhat different assumptions about the population the sample is supposed to represent.

Once they get to the topical questions, real polls generally ask them in several ways, from different angles, to make sure that 1) the respondents understood the question in the intended way and 2) the respondents aren't trying to spoof the results. It doesn't sound like this was done either.

It's no surprise that the polling methodology sounds so bogus - designing, running, and analyzing a good poll is not a cheap thing to do. You can be sure that, when Harris or Zogby runs a poll with 1000 samples, it costs a LOT more than the $1.00/sample the TC allocated for theirs.

The upshot? No matter how the poll turns out, it's bullshit. The TC will have thrown away $1000 of our money. Not to mention the time and expense they wasted in drawing up, advertising, and then defeating their own eminent domain ordinance.

The Maplewood Township Committee needs to get off its collective ass, do its homework, and decide the Police HQ issue on the merits. That means considering neighborhood impact, current economic impact, future economic development, public safety, tax consequences - the lot. They have to decide, and live with the outcome. If that pisses off some of the electorate, so be it - that's how electoral politics works. Do what's right for the town as a whole. The Vic DeLuca/Jerry Ryan era TC made that kind of a call on the property-tax revaluation issue. They publicized it, solicited community input, and then did what they thought was right for all of Maplewood. And it was. And it got them un-elected. And it still was the right thing to do.

There's a phrase I often find obnoxious but which seems particularly apropos here:
Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Fed raises interest rates again 
The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee (FOMC) just raised the federal funds rate another 1/4%, to a still historically low 1.5%. It is the second such rise this year. They're trying to forestall inflation, but in such a fragile, barely-there, job-growth-free recovery, the risk is that any tightening of the money supply will shut down what little growth there is. Inflation has been running at about 0.5%/month (much higher than during most of the last 20 years), mostly due to spiking energy costs. While those costs are probably near their highs now, they're unlikely to decline anytime soon - there's not a lot of excess capacity at the wellheads, and with the winter heating season coming, gasoline's probably not going to come down much more.

The way to ameliorate this energy-cost inflation in the short-to-medium term is to stabilize Iraq and get their wells back on-line - but the Bush administration is showing no capacity to do that. The other 900-lb gorilla in the room is the weak-dollar policy that Treasury has been pursuing for the last couple of years - the euro and the yen are much stronger than the dollar right now, so imported goods are getting more expensive. In the old days that would spur American companies to cut costs, but these days they're more likely just to move more jobs offshore and concentrate on developing their Asian and European markets. One thing that keeps me awake nights is worrying about if (or maybe that's when) a major oil-producer decides to price in euros instead of dollars. When that happens, our economy will find itself in some very deep, very smelly, shit.

The FOMC meets one more time before the election, in early October. It'll be interesting to see what the economy does between now and then, and how Greenspan deals with it on the eve of the election.

Porter Goss - DCI-designate and partisan hack 
Rep. Porter Goss(R-FL), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has been nominated to be the new Director of Central Intelligence. He's been an excellent water-carrier for the Bushistas - so much so that when asked about investigating the Valarie Plame case, he said
Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation
Just what I'd expect from a Bush appointee.

Former DCI Admiral Stansfield Turner described Goss' nomination as
the worst...in the history of the job. We in the public need to be confident that intelligence is not being skewed for political purposes.... To put somebody who is so highly partisan in this job will further diminish public confidence in our intelligence.
One hopes that he'll be in office for only the couple of months between his confirmation (mid-September at the very earliest) and John Kerry's inauguration.

Remember that Bob Dylan tune? 

Señor, Señor, can you tell me where we're headin'
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?
Seems like we've been down this way before
Can you tell me what we're doing here, Señor?

"While senior American military officials in Baghdad appeared confident that they had Mr. Sadr's forces in Najaf contained, officers and soldiers on the front line painted a different picture. They said that rebels move freely between the cemetery and Najaf's old city, and that American forces do not fully control the cemetery, which is three miles long and two miles wide."

A follower of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr carrying an RPG launcher takes to the streets Monday in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
Photo: Nabil Juranee/AP

A follower of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Meanwhile, back in Baghdad ...

The Washington Post says "residents rejected" a government-ordered afternoon-to-dawn curfew in Baghdad's Sadr City. "The Americans shot the Imam Ali shrine, so now the people will fight with the Mahdi Army," said one resident. "Everyone is outside their houses. Even the children. People are watching and all of them are ready to fight on the streets."

Monday, August 09, 2004

Glen Ridge - home of true Americans 
Glen Ridge town pool membership costs $750. A family membership at the Maplewood pool costs what? $200/year or so? What is that, some kind of communist plot? I guess in Glen Ridge they're real Americans - good George Bush 'murricans - who understand that subsidizing rest and relaxation for the rabble is effete, un-American, socialist, and very probably French. Maplewood, on the other hand, is full of nothing but lazy hedonistic crypto-commies. And don't get me started on South Orange! They only charge something like $25. That's not just effete - that's downright evil.

How bad is the Khan leak? 
Bad. Juan Cole has it.

The Senate is starting to notice ... 
...that the Bush administration seems not to care much about intelligence.

Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has sent a letter to the White House asking them to explain why the name of Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was operating as a mole within al-Qaeda, was released to the press. George Allen (R-Va) simply said "In this situation, in my view, they should have kept their mouth shut and just said, 'We have information, trust us."'

Condi Rice claims that the name was released only "on background," as if that means it's not to be published - but, as Josh Marshall notes, "on background" doesn't mean 'not for publication,' it means 'not for attribution.' Even if it DID mean 'do not publish,' why the hell would they give that name to ANYone? Especially with the likes of Richard Shelby around?

via Reuters

Our bestest allies ever! 
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq has issued arrest warrants for Ahmad Chalabi, a former Governing Council member with strong U.S. ties, on counterfeiting charges, and for his nephew Salem Chalabi — head of the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein - on murder charges, Iraq's chief investigating judge said Sunday.

And let's not forget that grand champion of democracy, Ayad Allawi, who shut down al-Jazeera in Baghdad AND is clamoring for his own display in the Torturer's Hall of Fame alongside Saddam Hussein and Lynndie England. I'm sure Iraqis feel much safer and more secure now.

A ringing endorsement 
Oh what a friend we have in Hastert. Or at least newly annointed Illinois Senate candidate Alan Keyes does.
"I spent five weeks trying to find good people," said Mr. Hastert, who said he approached state legislators and the former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and Gary Fencik, an Ivy Leaguer who was a hard-hitting safety.

"I got down into last week interviewing a 70-year-old guy who was a great farm broadcaster in Illinois," Mr. Hastert said. "He decided because of his health problems he couldn't do it. You know, we were down — we needed to find somebody to run, somebody who wanted to run. And, you know, Alan Keyes wants to run, and I hope he's a good candidate."

But Tim Russert pressed Mr. Hastert by saying it appeared that Illinois Republicans had gone out and recruited an out-of-state black candidate to oppose Mr. Obama, who is also black.

"I tell you what," Mr. Hastert. "I was out of town when it happened."


Sunday, August 08, 2004

Iraq police enter Al-Jazeera's Baghdad bureau Saturday.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's interim government has closed the Baghdad office of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network for one month, citing national security concerns.

Who was it who once scribbled "Let Freedom Reign!" ---?

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