Posted at 12:26am on Jun. 20, 2007 It's All A Very Clever Plan!

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Kevin Drum has Michael Moore all figured out:

It's true that I wish Michael Moore were a wee bit more scrupulous with the facts in his films, but I sometimes wonder if he doesn't insert random distortions into his movies deliberately. With rare exceptions, after all, they're small things that could just as easily have been presented correctly without damaging his narrative at all. But the end result is the kind of publicity money can't buy, and it's the sweetest kind of publicity of all: the kind that's subsidized by his enemies, who helpfully boost ticket sales by furiously denouncing his films for weeks on end.

Got it? It's not that Moore is being disingenuous. It's just that he is being a diabolically brilliant salesman! What . . . what genius!

But fear not. Kevin Drum assures us that in SiCKO, Moore is being scrupulous with the facts. And you can take Kevin Drum's word for it. Because even though, in the past, Moore was disingenuous in order to get publicity, this time, he is being entirely honest and straightforward. Kevin Drum assures us of that, after all.

Of course, when Republicans or conservatives are disingenuous with the facts, they are not being brilliant salespeople, capable of "getting [their] mortal enemies to do all [their] publicity for [them." Because we all know Republicans and conservatives aren't that smart.

This heads-we-win-tails-you-lose rationalization has been brought to you by the Reality-Based Community. In the meantime, read Michael Tanner, who in Kevin Drum's world, is a dupe. Oh, and I guess this is just some more of that calculated disingenuous behavior designed to attract some free publicity. But don't worry. We can still trust what Michael Moore has to say about health care.


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Posted at 12:15am on Jun. 20, 2007 "We're Behind You All The Way!"

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

So, Ryan Crocker, the Ambassador to Iraq, needs personnel:

Ryan C. Crocker, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, bluntly told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a cable dated May 31 that the embassy in Baghdad -- the largest and most expensive U.S. embassy -- lacks enough well-qualified staff members and that its security rules are too restrictive for Foreign Service officers to do their jobs.

"Simply put, we cannot do the nation's most important work if we do not have the Department's best people," Crocker said in the memo.

The unclassified cable underscores the State Department's struggle to find its role in the turmoil in Iraq. With a 2007 budget of more than $1 billion and a staff that has expanded to more than 1,000 Americans and 4,000 third-country nationals, the embassy has become the center of a bureaucratic battle between Crocker, who wants to strengthen the staff, and some members of Congress, who are increasingly skeptical about the diplomatic mission's rising costs.

"In essence, the issue is whether we are a Department and a Service at war," Crocker wrote. "If we are, we need to organize and prioritize in a way that reflects this, something we have not done thus far." In the memo, Crocker drew upon the recommendations of a management review he requested for the embassy shortly after arriving in Baghdad two months ago.

"He's panicking," said one government official who recently returned from Baghdad, adding that Crocker is carrying a heavy workload as the United States presses the Iraqi government to meet political benchmarks.

"You could use a well-managed political section of 50 people" who know what they are doing, the official said, but Crocker does not have it because many staffers assigned to the embassy are "too young for the job," or are not qualified and are "trying to save their careers" by taking an urgent assignment in Iraq.

"They need a cohesive, coherent effort on all fronts," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "It's just overwhelming."

And the Congressional majority--or at least one of its members--appears to respond with contempt.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 4:22pm on Jun. 19, 2007 Is Your Congressman on This List?

If he is, then he didn't sign the RSC's veto letter

By Bluey

The Republican Study Committee last week secured enough support -- 147 members to be exact -- to sustain a presidential veto of Democrat-passed appropriations bills that exceed the White House's spending requests. Much has been made of the accomplishment, but so far there's been little focus on the 54 Republicans who chose not to add their name to the letter.

That fact that Republican leaders, conservative stalwarts and even Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R.-Calif.) signed the letter is an indication that the effort has widespread support. So why did 54 Republicans not make a vow to hold the line on federal spending? I don't have the answer, but these men and women might.

Robert Aderholt, Joe Barton, Gus Bilirakis, Ginny Brown-Waite, Michael Burgess, Shelley Moore Capito, Michael Castle, Thomas Davis, Charles Dent, Vernon Ehlers, Jo Ann Emerson, Terry Everett, Michael Ferguson, Jeff Fortenberry, Luis Fortuno, Vito Fossella, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Jim Gerlach, Bob Goodlatte, Sam Graves, Doc Hastings, Robin Hayes, David Hobson, Kenny Hulshof, Timothy Johnson, Walter Jones, Mark Kirk, Joseph Knollenberg, Frank LoBiondo, John McHugh, Candace Miller, Jerry Moran, Timothy Murphy, John Peterson, Thomas Petri, Todd Platts, Deborah Pryce, Jim Ramstad, Ralph Regula, Dennis Rehberg, Dave Reichart, Rick Renzi, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Jim Saxton, Mike Simpson, Christopher Smith, William Thornberry, Michael Turner, Fred Upton, James Walsh, Jerry Weller, Heather Wilson, Frank Wolf, C.W. Bill Young.

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Posted at 10:47pm on Jun. 18, 2007 A Bad Bill That Will Raise Taxes

By Bluey

Senators Max Baucus (D.-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa) have apparently lost faith in the free market. The Finance Committee duo last week introduced a bill that would impose new taxes on publicly traded partnerships. Their move appears timed to coincide with the upcoming initial-public offering (IPO) of the Blackstone Group.

The Baucus-Grassley bill has prompted outrage among conservative and free-market groups. It inspired the American Conservative Union to issue an action alert today calling for the bill's defeat. The ACU move could be followed by others tomorrow. The ACU alert put it this way:

The free market community is united against any new tax increases and will oppose this bill vigorously. Not only is this legislation a major tax increase, it will actually depress tax revenues as other partnerships will choose to stay private or reincorporate abroad -- neither of which is good for the economy, the government or investors.

More on the jump ...

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Posted at 8:53pm on Jun. 18, 2007 One Of The More Misnamed Pieces Of Legislation In Recent Memory

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

John Fund excoriates the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act":

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided to hold a vote this Wednesday on perhaps the most unpopular element of the Democratic agenda. The Employee Free Choice Act has already passed the House, but now it faces real hurdles in the Senate because, contrary to the name, it undermines workplace democracy.

Under the so-called card-check bill, a company would no longer have the right to demand a secret-ballot election to certify a union, thus stripping 140 million American workers of the right to decide in private whether to organize.

Republican senators, except possibly Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, are uniformly opposed to the idea. "We went to the secret ballot in the early 1800s in this country for a darn good reason: If somebody's looking over your shoulder, your ballot doesn't mean much," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says, noting fears of intimidation by unions should the bill pass.

But conservatives aren't the only ones concerned. A February survey of 1,000 likely voters by McLaughlin Associates found that 79% of respondents oppose the bill, with only 14% in favor. Even Democrats opposed the idea, 78% to 16%.

So why is Mr. Reid taking the risk of putting the bill on the floor, since even if it passed it would face a certain presidential veto? Simply put, the card check law is the No. 1 priority of union lobbyists in the new Democratic Congress. Union membership numbers are down. In the 1950s, 35% of private-sector workers belonged to unions; only about 7% do today.

Of course, union officials blame others for their decline. "In the past few decades, labor law has been so twisted by corporations and their union-busting hired guns that it is now virtually impossible to form a union against an employer's wishes," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says--even though unions currently win just over half of the elections called over union representation.

Card-check procedures for making a union the sole bargaining representative for employees are already part of labor law. If 30% of workers sign a card asking for a union, an employer is obligated to certify the union or call an election. What the card-check bill would do is force certification without a secret-ballot election as soon as a majority of workers at a plant signed pro-union cards.

This is bad legislation, for all of the reasons listed here. As I write in my article, I don't believe this bill will be made law, but that's no reason to go easy on the disastrous influence it would have on public policy--or on the people who crafted the bill in the first place.

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Posted at 8:51pm on Jun. 18, 2007 Intimidation Shouldn't Pay

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

This represents one of the more appalling bits of backsliding imaginable, especially given the fact that Pakistan is an American ally against terrorism:

Pakistan demanded on Monday that Britain withdraw a knighthood awarded to author Salman Rushdie, as a government minister said the honour gave a justification for suicide attacks by Muslims.

Angry protesters in several cities torched British flags and beat them with their shoes in protest at the accolade for the Indian-born writer of "The Satanic Verses" and chanted "Death to Britain, death to Rushdie."

Rushdie, 59, was forced to go into hiding for a decade after Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 issued a death sentence over his book "The Satanic Verses," claiming it insulted Islam.

Iran has already accused British leaders of "Islamophobia" after Rushdie -- now Sir Salman -- was awarded the knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday to mark her 81st birthday.

"If somebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet, then it is justified," Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq told the national assembly.

The minister, the son of military dictator Zia-ul-Haq who died in a plane crash in 1988, later retracted his statement in parliament and said he meant to say that knighting Rushdie could spark terrorism.

"I was explaining that if the British government awards a knighthood to Salman Rushdie -- whose only credibility is that he wrote a blasphemous book -- then such action with encourage extremism," he told AFP.

"If someone blows himself up he will consider himself justified. How can we fight terrorism when those who commit blasphemy are rewarded by the West?" he said.

More below the fold . . .

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Posted at 8:49pm on Jun. 18, 2007 "You Stop Touching Me!/No! You Stop Touching Me!"

Meanwhile, Test Scores Continue To Regress . . .

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

I just cannot believe this:

Fairfax County middle school student Hal Beaulieu hopped up from his lunch table one day a few months ago, sat next to his girlfriend and slipped his arm around her shoulder. That landed him a trip to the school office.

Among his crimes: hugging.

All touching -- not only fighting or inappropriate touching -- is against the rules at Kilmer Middle School in Vienna. Hand-holding, handshakes and high-fives? Banned. The rule has been conveyed to students this way: "NO PHYSICAL CONTACT!!!!!"

School officials say the rule helps keep crowded hallways and lunchrooms safe and orderly, and ensures that all students are comfortable. But Hal, 13, and his parents think the school's hands-off approach goes too far, and they are lobbying for a change.

"I think hugging is a good thing," said Hal, a seventh-grader, a few days before the end of the school year. "I put my arm around her. It was like for 15 seconds. I didn't think it would be a big deal."

A Fairfax schools spokesman said there is no countywide ban like the one at Kilmer, but many middle schools and some elementary schools have similar "keep your hands to yourself" rules. Officials in Arlington, Loudoun and Prince George's counties said schools in those systems prohibit inappropriate touching and disruptive behavior but don't forbid all contact.

Deborah Hernandez, Kilmer's principal, said the rule makes sense in a school that was built for 850 students but houses 1,100. She said that students should have their personal space protected and that many lack the maturity to understand what is acceptable or welcome.

"You get into shades of gray," Hernandez said. "The kids say, 'If he can high-five, then I can do this.' "

Read on . . .

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Posted at 2:53pm on Jun. 18, 2007 The Timing of the Immigration Debate

Jeff Sessions Won't Have to Miss Crucial Vote

By Bluey

Erick and I have raised concerns about the timing of the Senate's cloture vote on the immigration bill this week. Our fear is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) would bring up the bill when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), one of the most vocal opponents, was back home at a fundraiser with President Bush.

I just learned from a well-placed Senate source that Reid can't file cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill until Wednesday, meaning that under Senate rules the cloture vote will be Friday. There's a chance it won't even happen on Friday if the Senate debate over the energy bill drags on. Cloture is viewed as a key gauge of the bill's prospects for passage.

This timing is good news for conservatives who oppose the bill. As I wrote last week, the absence of even one senator would hurt the chances of blocking the bill. Sessions is too important to lose.

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Posted at 7:10pm on Jun. 17, 2007 A Longer Surge

Another One From The Files Of The Department Of The Obvious

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

It should surprise precisely no one that a surge in troops will be needed for longer than September in order to bring order and stability in Iraq. General Petraeus has said as much today:

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said he does not expect the "surge" of 30,000 additional troops to Iraq to finish their job by September, a critical month when lawmakers expect a clear read on whether the larger troop presence is having an effect.

"Fox News" Host Chris Wallace asked Petraeus, "You surely don't think the job would be done by the surge by September?"

"I do not, no," Petraeus replied. "We have a lot of heavy lifting to do. The damage done by the sectarian violence in the fall and winter of 2006 and early 2007 ... was substantial."

Petraeus also did not dispute reports indicating he might want to extend the troop increase into next year, simply calling them "premature."

It actually isn't premature to talk about this. Quite the contrary; we should talk about this in order to lay down the groundwork for an increased troop surge, lest we fail to adequately communicate the need and allow those who oppose the reconstruction effort to broadcast unchallenged their demands for a precipitous troop withdrawal.

Of course, I have long ago lost faith in the ability of the Bush Administration to campaign on behalf of seeing the reconstruction effort through. I know that General Petraeus has a lot of good sense about him, but if the White House won't speak up on behalf of the reconstruction effort, there really isn't all that much that General Petraeus can do to fill the vacuum.

So color me concerned. Petraeus is surely right in saying that the surge needs to be extended past September. If he and the White House manage to pull off actually extending the surge, it would be nothing short of miraculous.

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Posted at 7:09pm on Jun. 17, 2007 Surprise

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

It would appear that Nicolas Sarkozy is being denied his expected landslide win:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's allies won a large majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday but fell short of the predicted landslide after talk of a sales tax hike appeared to cost them votes.

When voting ended, leading polling institutes projected Sarkozy's centre-right allies would win 341-350 seats in the National Assembly, well below some pre-vote estimates that they could win up to 470 deputies.

The pollsters also projected that the Socialists would win between 202-210 seats in the 577-seat legislature.

The surprise results were a relative setback for the president, who had urged voters to give him a decisive victory to underpin his program of sweeping tax and labor reforms.

Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and allies had 359 seats in the outgoing legislature.

The Socialists and affiliates, who had 149 deputies in the outgoing parliament, appeared to have been buoyed by a row over government plans to hike a value-added tax.

"The blue wave that had been announced...has not taken place," said Socialist leader Francois Hollande, who has been under fire since Sarkozy's presidential victory in May.

"In the new assembly, there will be diversity and pluralism. That's good for the country," Hollande said.

More below the fold . . .

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Posted at 7:08pm on Jun. 17, 2007 From The Files Of The Department Of The Obvious

Jolly Bad Show, Chaps

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Stop the presses: There is bias at the BBC.

The BBC has failed to promote proper debate on major political issues because of the inherent liberal culture of its staff, a report commissioned by the corporation has concluded.

The report claims that coverage of single-issue political causes, such as climate change and poverty, can be biased - and is particularly critical of Live 8 coverage, which it says amounted to endorsement.

It warns that celebrities must not be pandered to and allowed to hijack the BBC schedule.

After a year-long investigation the report, published today, maintains that the corporation's coverage of day-to-day politics is fair and impartial.

But it says coverage of Live 8, the 2005 anti-poverty concerts organised by rock star campaigners Bob Geldof and Bono and writer Richard Curtis, failed to properly debate the issues raised.

Instead, at a time when the corporation was renegotiating its charter with the government, it allowed itself to effectively become a promotional tool for Live 8, which was strongly supported by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Geldof, Bono and Curtis were attempting to pressure world leaders at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, which was taking place at the same time, to help reduce poverty in developing countries under the banner 'Make Poverty History'.

Mr Blair said the campaign was a "mighty achievement". The huge Live 8 concerts across the world were its culmination and the BBC cleared its schedules to show them, with coverage on BBC One, Two and Three and Radio One and Two.

Around the same time it also screened a specially-written episode of Curtis's popular sitcom The Vicar of Dibley that featured a minute long Make Poverty History video and saw characters urged to support it. And it aired another Curtis drama, The Girl in the Café, in which Bill Nighy falls in love with an anti-poverty campaigner - even giving Gordon Brown an advance copy.

The BBC also ran a week long Africa special featuring a series of documentaries by Geldof and a day celebrating the National Health Service, prompting Sky News political editor Adam Boulton to tell a House of Lords select committee it was in danger of peddling government propaganda.

The report concludes BBC staff must be more willing to challenge their own beliefs.

It reads: "There is a tendency to 'group think' with too many staff inhabiting a shared space and comfort zone."

Read on . . .

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Posted at 8:17pm on Jun. 16, 2007 Petraeus vs. Reid

You Decide Who's Not in Touch

By Bluey

There's a document circulating around Washington, D.C., comparing Gen. David Petraeus and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who last week said Petraeus "isn't in touch" and made other disparaging comments about our military leaders.

Time on the Ground in Iraq

Petraeus: Approximately 2 years, 4 months total. Nine months as commander of 101st Airborne, 15 months training Iraq Security Forces, more than 4 months as Commander of Multinational Force Iraq.

Reid: Less than 48 hours (March 21-22, 2005)

Years of Military Experience

Petraeus: 33 (after his graduation from West Point in 1974). Petraeus is a master parachutist and is air assault and ranger qualified.

Reid: None

Military Decorations

Petraeus: Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal (twice), Defense Superior Service Medal (twice), Legion of Merit (four times), Bronze Star Medal for valor, State Department Superior Honor Award, NATO Meritorious Service Medal, Gold Award of the Iraqi Order of the Date Palm, Combat Action Badge; French, British, and German Jump Wings.

Reid: None

Counterinsurgency Planning

Petraeus: U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Manual, 282 pages

Reid:Real Security: Protecting America And Restoring Our Leadership In The World,” 103 words

Weapons Caches Discovered

Petraeus: Under his command, Coalition forces have discovered 441 weapons caches since January 2007. As MNF-I has pointed out, every time you take weapons out of the terrorists hands you save lives.

Reid: None

Post Offices Re-named

Petraeus: None

Reid: 11 this year

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Posted at 7:35pm on Jun. 16, 2007 Slime And Smear

"The Dullest, Cruelest New York Times Op-Ed Writer"

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

When it comes to discussing Clarence Thomas, Orlando Patterson has the talking points down pat. Too bad they make no sense whatsoever:

After all the twisted racial history of the United States Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas was confirmed by the Senate with the smallest margin of victory in more than 100 years, with little professional scrutiny and with a level of manipulative political rancor that diminished everyone directly involved. The effect on Thomas, we learn from this impeccably researched and probing biography, was to reinforce the chronic contradictions with which he has long lived.

Thus, although he seriously believes that his extremely conservative legal opinions are in the best interests of African-Americans, and yearns to be respected by them, he is arguably one of the most viscerally despised people in black America. It is incontestable that he has benefited from affirmative action at critical moments in his life, yet he denounces the policy and has persuaded himself that it played little part in his success. He berates disadvantaged people who view themselves as victims of racism and preaches an austere individualism, yet harbors self-pitying feelings of resentment and anger at his own experiences of racism. His ardent defense of states' rights would have required him to uphold Virginia's anti-miscegenation law, not to mention segregated education, yet he lives with a white wife in Virginia. He is said to dislike light-skinned blacks, yet he is the legal guardian of a biracial child, the son of one of his numerous poor relatives. He frequently preaches the virtues of honesty and truthfulness, yet there is now little doubt that he lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings -- not only about his pornophilia and bawdy humor but, more important, about his legal views and familiarity with cases like Roe v. Wade.

A few points follow.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 6:05pm on Jun. 16, 2007 My Kind Of Governor

Would That There Were More Like Him

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Indiana's Mitch Daniels is every small-government advocate's dream come true. He has gone on a massive privatizing spree in his state and it is a breath of fresh air to see a governor determined to break government's hold on the provision of services to its citizenry. As Governor Daniels himself puts it:

"Government is the last monopoly," Mr. Daniels said. "So competition is the key. That's why I'm indifferent -- public or private, as long as the benefits of competition are brought to bear."

Quite so. Of course, the antediluvian contingent is up in arms:

. . . B. Patrick Bauer, the Democratic speaker of the House, says it is time to put the brakes on so much dealing. "Why don't we just do some of this ourselves?" Mr. Bauer said. "This is a greedy generation of governors. They're selling everything off and not thinking about the future. This all comes back to greed. Did I mention Enron to you?"

I'm sure that a whole host of citizens would prefer that government not do "some of this" themselves, given that government regularly displays a massive level of incompetence and overspending that makes Enron seem like an idyllic period in the life of the nation.

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Posted at 6:04pm on Jun. 16, 2007 Giving The Surge A Chance

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

If anyone tells you that the surge in Iraq has been shown to fail, they either don't know or don't want you to remind them that the surge has only begun to be implemented. The full complement of forces were deployed only this past Friday, after all. To his credit, Secretary Gates is making this precise point:

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday that a troop surge in Iraq is only starting to have its full impact and that it is too soon to tell whether conditions will be ripe by September for decisions on US force levels.

The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, said that the latest troop reinforcements to arrive in theatre had enabled the military to begin major operations against Al-Qaeda rear-bases outside the capital.

"While I indicated yesterday that I think we'll see some trends and be able to point in some directions by September, the full impact of the surge is really just beginning to be felt," Gates said.

Gates has held out the possibility of US troops reductions if the surge succeeds in calming a wave of sectarian violence in Baghdad by September, but he was more cautious Saturday during a brief unnannounced visit to Baghdad.

"I actually think it is premature to answer that question or make that judgement," he told reporters.

"I think we have to wait and see where we are in September to see what follows the report that the ambassador and the general turn in."

Read on . . .

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