Saturday, May 10, 2003

Dealing in reality

True Patriot over at Go Pound Sand writes in:
I gotta tell ya. I am not to worried about what Bush did 30 yrs. ago. And, most importantly, the military loves the guy. If they are not asking questions why does the arrogant left?

like your blog, but you should do a little more to acknowledge reality...

My reply:
Somehow, I suspect it meant a hell of a lot to you what Bill Clinton did 30 years ago.

After all, it seems to matter a hell of a lot what Robert Byrd did more than 50 years ago.

I guess double standards like that are meaningless when "the military loves the guy," eh?

But considering that the guy abandoned his post during wartime, the real question is: WHY does the military love him?

Could it be that they just haven't been told the truth?

After all, the main way to acknowledge reality is to deal in facts.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Flyboy Bush

The question of George W. Bush's military record is working its way back into the public discourse, thanks to his ham-handed antics aboard the USS Lincoln. Paul Krugman brought the matter up, as did the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn. Atrios, of course, has been on it all along, as has The Horse.

The frustrating thing about this story is the widespread impression that because there remain so many unanswered questions about Bush's extended absence from Texas Air National Guard duty, somehow the "real" scandal hasn't been uncovered yet. This seeming mystery indeed was at the root of Howard Kurtz's absurd dismissal of the story. And indeed there are many questions about Bush's service record that need answering.

But the reality is that what we know about his record now should be considered a scandal, and should have been since it was uncovered during the campaign.

Namely, there is this salient point:

Bush blew off his commitment to the Texas Air National Guard by failing to take a physical, and thereafter failing to report to his superior officers at his old unit for at least seven months. His flight status was revoked, and he never flew again -- at least, not until the Lincoln stunt.

These facts have never been disputed since they were uncovered, and in fact were acknowledged by Bush's spokespeople. Moreover, as Joe Conason has already noted, Bush actually falsified this aspect of his service in his ghost-written autobiography, A Charge to Keep, describing his pilot's training in some detail, then concluding: ''I continued flying with my unit for the next several years." In fact, Bush was suspended from flying 22 months after he completed his training -- a period that does not even generously fit Bush's description.

Several of Bush's former superiors in the TANG -- most of whom remain on friendly terms with the president -- have defended his service and suggested that there was nothing wrong with Bush's behavior in what for most other servicemen would be considered a fairly clear case of dereliction of duty.

Consider, for instance, the rationalization offered by Albert Lloyd Jr., a retired TANG colonel, in the Boston Globe story that in many respects was the most serious effort by anyone in the mainstream media to examine the issue:
But Lloyd said it is possible that since Bush had his sights set on discharge and the unit was beginning to replace the F-102s, Bush's superiors told him he was not ''in the flow chart. Maybe George Bush took that as a signal and said, 'Hell, I'm not going to bother going to drills.'

''Well, then it comes rating time, and someone says, 'Oh...he hasn't fulfilled his obligation.' I'll bet someone called him up and said, 'George, you're in a pickle. Get your ass down here and perform some duty.' And he did,'' Lloyd said.

This rationalization, of course, begs the question: What if anyone else had pulled such a stunt?

The reality is servicemen do not ordinarily have the option of deciding whether or not to attend drills. They do not typically have the option of shortening their commitment to the task for which they have been trained based solely on their own assessments of where they fit into the scheme of things. Those decision are made by their superiors. Moreover, the military considers the training of its personnel to be a significant asset that it protects, particularly for high-skill positions like jet-fighter pilots. This training is expensive, and pilots' status -- particularly their availability for potential combat -- is a carefully monitored commodity.

Secondarily: If Joe Shlabotnik had failed to fulfill his commitment, would anyone have bothered to call him and urge him to find a way out of his "pickle" -- before the MPs came and took him away?

[Lloyd's hypothesis also is somewhat at odds with reality; though the F-102s were scheduled for phase-out, this would not occur until well after the completion of Bush's original six-year commitment.]

As Uggabugga observes in his terrific graphical presentation of the entire case surrounding Bush's military service:
Expensively trained pilots are not casually suspended. There is normally a Flight Inquiry Board. If one had been convened, its three senior officer members would have documented why such a severe action was justified in relation to the country's military objectives at the time, as opposed to the simple desire of a trained pilot to just "give up flying".

There is no evidence now in the public domain that a Flight Inquiry Board was convened to deal with Bush's official reclassification to a non-flying, grounded status.

This absence of a Flight Inquiry Board is of particular interest to veteran pilots. The implication is that Bush's misconduct was handled like everything else in his military service: aided and abetted by powerful family connections.

There remain many other questions about Bush's service, of course. Why exactly did he refuse to take a physical? Was it related to the plans then in the works to begin drug-testing military pilots? And why don't the various stories about his supposed fulfillment of his duties while working in Alabama on a senatorial election campaign jibe? Why have the documents related to this service been altered in some cases? Indeed, the ultimate question may be: Why does Bush refuse to release his military records?

This question alone should have set off journalists' instincts around the country. That it has not so far remains, I think, one of the chief pieces of continuing evidence supporting Eric Alterman's thesis in What Liberal Media? that whatever liberal bias once existed in the media has been thoroughly supplanted with a painfully obvious conservative bias, one that has permeated the culture of newsrooms to the point that questions which once would have intrigued any thinking reporter are now airily dismissed in the name of avoiding charges of "liberal bias."

For those who want the documented goods on Bush's military records, be sure to visit Martin Heldt's Web site. Marty's an Iowa farmer who decided to make use of FOIA and get ahold of the actual documents, most of which have been reproduced. (For a more partisan and somewhat sensational, yet reasonably accurate, take on the matter, visit

But forget all these unanswered questions. Just from what we know now, the question that needs answering is this: Why did Mr. Bush abandon his commitment to his country during wartime? Why did he blow off his valuable training and remove himself from flight status?

The question any serviceman should be asking is this: What if I were to treat my commitment to service just as Bush did? What if I trained to be a pilot and then refused to take a physical? And then failed to show up for any subsequent meetings of my unit? Dropped out of sight for seven months?

And then he ought to think about the big grin Bush wore along with that flight suit.

Shades of race

J. Keirn-Swanson writes in:
From personal experience, I'd have to take issue with at least part of the following statement posted on your site this morning:

"I gather there is plenty of Hispanic homophobia and hatred of blacks for them to find common cause with the GOP base."

The perception of a monolithic bloc of Hispanic homophobia is not as nuanced as your comments on race usually are. While I've found that Cuban-Americans tend to be more likely to act/react in this fashion, younger generation Mexican-Americans are more likely to respond to someone's sexual orientation with a shrug. This, like other issues, remains more problematic for older communities than younger ones and the dominant voices in the Cuban community still remain the '60s generation who wheeze on about Castro being the devil. The machismo attitude is probably more dominant in the Cuban community than in others, the Mexican being more laissez faire, with Puerto Ricans somewhere in the middle (while not counting all the other Hispanic communities (South Americans, other Caribbean nations) who display a range of reactions along this continuum (Brazilians seem to be faily open minded but not as significant a voting bloc as the above Big Three).

As for hatred of blacks, this possibly goes too far (white southerners are more prone in that extreme). Puerto Rican/Black intermarriage is far more prevalent than in any other racial-ethnic match-up. Brazilian intermingling of the races is near legendary. The GOP strategy of pulling Hispanics off of the Democrats with these tactics is not a sure winner (and is very likely to backfire). Apart from some photo-op Hispanic appointments (Gonzales, attempts at Estrada), the GOP outreach has done poorly.

Excellent points. I don't think Richard Einhorn (who actually made the remarks you cite) was suggesting any kind of monolithic view of the Hispanic community, but simply commenting on the existence of a faction within the community prone to anti-black or anti-gay sentiments. To what extent the GOP is hoping to appeal to such voters is hard to assess, but I wouldn't put anything past Karl Rove and Co. I certainly agree with your analysis of its chances of success.

For what it's worth, I've observed similar behavior among Asians, particularly those who grew up in Asia, where attitudes about blacks remain utterly appalling. Second- and third-generation Asian-Americans are likewise much more prone to holding a multicultural worldview.

In any event, I've seen no indication that the GOP is hoping to court those voters -- possibly because there isn't a widespread perception that Asians are the victims of prejudice (though as I've remarked previously, this is in many ways a false perception). Remember: The whole GOP "inclusiveness thing" is purely a cosmetic ploy designed to attract votes not from the minority community but from the fence-sitting soccer moms in the suburbs. Touting their Asian "inclusiveness" probably isn't as cost-effective, as it were.

Nascent brownshirts

Gil Smart over at Smart Remarks had some salient comments the other day regarding the virulence of the primordial ooze that's being excreted by the right these days. He first quotes a post from the Little Green Footballs comments, during a discussion about Saudi funding of terrorism:
To most people, 15 million smackers is a LOT of money, but this token funding pales in comparison to the billions in funding by the Saudis of the cause of Wahhabism in another country. That country would be the United States of America.

Whether or not the street knows it -- and they don't -- we are now in the early phases of the fight for our existence as a nation, and as the standard-bearers of the idea of democracy.

We have most of the EU and a good portion of NATO aligned against us -- the old school appeasers of Europe -- and most of the Arabic nations, and third-world oppressor nations as well. They are starting to sense a common ground of opposition to our position, which is one of self-determination of man.

That is very dangerous to all these folks, as they represent the dictator and dictator-enabler; the rapists and the voyeurs who profit from the rapes of mankind.

This war won't be quick, or easy. We will undoubtedly end up being forced to kill off some of our own citizens in order to protect the ideas set down by our framers over 200 hundred years ago.

It's happening now, and suddenly, and we are right in the midst of it. It is going to get bloody and scary and desperate before all is finished and a victor emerges.

I hope and believe that the victor will be the one that represents rightness and honor, because otherwise it means the end of democracy on earth, another untold dozens or hundreds or thousands of years of terror.

IndyMedia is part of the problem. We can't just go up and shoot these people for their hatred and ignorance, just like Israel cannot just wipe out the people in the PA controlled lands. Militant Islam KNOWS these things, and will be using them to coalesce the forces of their believers and sympathizers to undermine the efforts for equality and peace until, and if, they are defeated.

Is everyone ready? The time is here, and now.

Prepare yourselves.

Gil correctly boils down the salient points:
* Everyone is against us.

* They are using our own system against us.

* Thus, there will need to be a purge -- "We will undoubtedly end up being forced to kill off some of our own citizens in order to protect the ideas set down by our framers over 200 hundred years ago."

* That purge will be justified.

* Because we represent the forces of "rightness and honor."
Gil goes on to explore the significant ramifications of this kind of thinking; go read his post. I should add that what stood out in this post was the obvious eliminationist thrust of the argument, which is the most disturbing aspect of its fairly clear-cut fascistic nature.

I try not to get too worked up over either Usenet posts or blog comments, but I agree that the appearance of this kind of thinking is becoming increasingly common, and that is a cause for concern.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Santorum and strategies

From the mailbag, Richard Einhorn writes in response to my ruminations on the Democrats vis a vis Rick Santorum:
The Democrats are a genuine puzzlement indeed. Are there really so few voters with brains that Dems really risk anything by standing up and forcefully denouncing Santorum?

As with the peace protests, the Republican powers that be have unilaterally declared the Santorum flap unimportant. One can only hope that both the peace protests and outrage against Santorum's perverted bigotry grow into something permanent and politically powerful that will make it far more difficult to take issues embarassing to the right wing off the national agenda.

I'd like to suggest that you elaborate on what you write here:

This shift in GOP strategy is in most regards a good thing; the more that extremist positions are marginalized within the GOP -- which has unfortunately tended to pander to such voting blocs in the recent past -- the more they are marginalized in the population at large. But so far there is no indication that recent Republican attempts to cast off their Cro-Magnon image and assert their "inclusiveness" are anything more than cosmetic.

I'm sure you realize GOP gay strategy is similar to their wink wink nudge nudge attitudes towards blacks, where code words were developed that meant one thing to the Cro-Magnons -- 'We're just as bigoted as you are' -- and quite another to the rest of us -- it looks like they're changing their attitudes. It would be good to hear more about code-words like "inclusive" or code-strategies like Ari Fleischer's "Bush is not interested in a person's sexuality, but only in their soul."

Finally, unlike blacks and gays, I think that the GOP is making serious efforts to woo Hispanic voters. I gather there is plenty of Hispanic homophobia and hatred of blacks for them to find common cause with the GOP base. But what is being downplayed is that the CroMags are just as bigoted against Hispanics. The opposition strategy should be to drive a wedge between Hispanics and the GOP by outing the extreme right's bigotry towards Hispanics.

And reader C.G. chimes in on a similar note:
This quote is questionable:

It became clear during the Trent Lott controversy that Karl Rove and Co. were writing off the neo-Confederate wing (for now, at least) in pursuit of the ever-elusive Suburban Voter, who might swing Republican if he/she could be convinced the GOP weren't awash with extremists of nearly every stripe.

Don't see this. Immediately following the Lott dumping the Bush administration communicated their commitment to the neo-Confederates loud and clear with a series of moves, including renominating the conservative judge [Charles Pickering] who was rejected by the Democratic Senate last year and announcing opposition to the Michigan Affirmative Action policy on MLK day.

I do agree that the Lott dumping, being positioned as a race issue (instead of him simply being pushed aside, as happened with Gingrich and almost certainly happened here), was an attempt to seek out middle voters. I just don't agree that Rove was writing off the racist wing of the GOP.

I probably should have been more clear about my paranthetical remark -- "(for now, at least)" -- by noting that this was something of an assumption that was made at the time by a number of observers. Rove and Co. clearly made an example out of Lott, and there's little question it created considerable anger among the neo-Confederate crowd. Many thought at the time that Rove was intentionally writing them off; in retrospect, it's clear he only intended to create the image of doing so -- knowing that no matter how pissed off they might become, they would have no trouble roping them back in later.

That Rove has been able to pull off this neat trick is abundantly evident in the great zeal for Bush's war among the rednecks.

And as Richard adeptly points out, the Republicans' techniques have altered very little since the early days of the Southern Strategy. The only change is that now they've added a full barrage of Newspeak to the repertoire: The new code words like "inclusiveness" actually stand the meanings of the words on their heads, which in itself serves as a kind of signal to the extremist blocs -- while simultaneously obliterating their potency as issues for the opposition. Nasty, but neat, and all too effective.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Lying skank alert

Q: When do you know Ann Coulter is lying? A: When any orifice on her body is open. This includes her pores.

From her recent appearance on MSNBC's Hardball:
COULTER: Yes. No. That’s true. And though I have to say, in the current President Bush’s defense, he was a pilot. I mean, it wasn’t like the typical avoiding ... the military service by serving in the National Guard. He was a pilot in the National Guard. He was training to be a pilot. It’s a dangerous National Guard duty. If the Vietnam war had continued, he would have gone to the Vietnam war as a pilot, so -- I mean, he is a pilot, though he was not -- he did not serve in wartime.

Just to set the record straight, from the Boston Globe of May 23, 2000:

One-year gap in Bush's National Guard duty
But 22 months after finishing his training, and with two years left on his six-year commitment, Bush gave up flying - for good, it would turn out. He sought permission to do ''equivalent training'' at a Guard unit in Alabama, where he planned to work for several months on the Republican Senate campaign of Winton Blount, a friend of Bush's father. The proposed move took Bush off flight status, since no Alabama Guard unit had the F-102 he was trained to fly.


Lieutenant Bush, to be sure, had gone off flying status when he went to Alabama. But had he returned to his unit in November 1972, there would have been no barrier to him flying again, except passing a flight physical. Although the F-102 was being phased out, his unit's records show that Guard pilots logged thousands of hours in the F-102 in 1973.

What it boils down to is this: As a National Guardsman, George W. Bush blew off two years' worth of expensive flight training, paid for by taxpayers during wartime, by failing to report for duty or take a physical, thereby forcing the Texas Air National Guard to revoke his flight status. This abandonment of his duty meant that in no way could Bush have been called up for flight duty in Vietnam.

All those servicemen who cheered his "flyboy" schtick on the USS Lincoln should ask themselves which brig they'd have served in had they pulled the same kind of stunt. And they ought to wonder about any commander-in-chief who takes his commitment to his service so lightly.

[Via Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler, who of course also demolishes Coulter's suggestion that Bush's TANG duty was not a "typical avoiding ... military service."]

Media atrocity alert

Sally Jenkins, writing in the Washington Post about a couple of college coaches getting the boot for acting like horny old men:

For Mature Audiences Only
The coaching profession should take notice: Grown-ups are running this country again. Whether you like the fact or not, people such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are in charge, responsibility is the new chic and there is extremely low public tolerance for overserved boyish high jinks from people who are paid to be leaders.

Oh yes, indeed, Sally. They are so very mature that they didn't believe they needed to heed the warnings about terrorism from that "overserved" and "boyish" predecessor. Look where all that maturity got us.

And while we're at it, we also need sportswriters who write like grownups -- not as wide-eyed toadies and propagandists for the White House.

Hate crimes and the GOP

I guess my post about Rick Santorum vis-a-vis the federal hate-crimes law was timely:

Senators Want to Expand Hate Crimes Law
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., would include protections based on sexual orientation, disability and gender to existing laws that target violence because of race and religion.

Supporters pushed anew for passage of the bill as Republicans grapple with political relationships with gay groups in the wake of recent comments by Sen. Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate GOP Conference, who compared sodomy to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery during an interview with The Associated Press.

Note that Specter denies he's pushing this now as an antidote to Santorum's remarks:
"I've been for this bill a long time before what Senator Santorum said," Specter said. "I'm not going to get in the business of amends."

The only question about this is why Specter didn't rescue this bill from the clutches of Orrin Hatch last fall, when it was bottled up in the Judiciary Committee. But better late than never.

Of course, the real test for Republican "inclusiveness" will come when this legislation hits the House. There's practically zero chance that The Bug Killer and his gang of rodents will let it survive the gnawing they have in store for it.

Democrats have so far let this issue slide into the GOP's lap. One wonders if they'll have enough sense to exploit its imminent excursion into the Valley of Death. Considering the way they've handled it thus far, there's little reason for optimism.