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Spencer Blog Archives 4-03

Click here for Mr. Spencer's latest blog entry.


what are W and the boys hiding?

It's obviously bad enough they think it will jeopardize their chances at re-election, right?

To review, I wrote about this almost a year ago.

[Link via Atrios]

Posted by Tom at 8:37 p.m. CDT


Here's this week's Gene Lyons column!

Chanting the Party Line

Hey kids, want to be first on your block to chant the GOP party line? Don't sit waiting for the local newspaper to arrive, read the Republican National Committee's"Weekly Team Leader," peruse GOPUSA.com, or check out the Weekly Standard. It doesn't matter which options you choose, because they all say the same things. Over and over and over.

From the standpoint of Democrats, the most impressive aspect of the Republican spin and smear machine, perfected during the Clinton years, is its unanimity. Liberal pundits simply aren't as gifted at groupthink. They're too busy bickering and riding their individual hobbyhorses for the kind of coordinated effort favored by the GOP.

Conservative culture warriors conduct political debate like a corporate ad campaign. They're always on-message: same targets, same smarmy techniques. It's political journalism, Enron style. (They're also better paid. Democrats, alas, have no wacky tycoons to match Rev. Moon, Rupert Murdoch and Richard Mellon-Scaife.)

Especially during wartime, political propaganda descends to the pro-wrestling level. They didn't think so under Bill Clinton, but because our glorious leader symbolizes the nation, questioning President Junior's sublime wisdom has become ipso facto anti-American. Like the sheep in Orwell's Animal Farm, true believers make up the majority of every strongman's chanting mob--from Julius Caesar to Saddam Hussein.

That doesn't make Bush a dictator. But right-wing pundits like Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and Fox News's Bill O'Reilly aren't stupid. They know exactly what they're doing when they argue that Iraq war opponents hate Bush, and therefore hate America."[T]he real agenda of conservative media's overbearing pundits," editorializes Salon"is to drive everyone who disagrees with them out of the public arena. They're not interested in open debate; their goal is to intimidate and silence."

Mostly, they don't want anybody paying attention to stories like last week's admission to ABC News by Bush administration"senior officials" that they exaggerated the threat from Saddam's"weapons of mass destruction" to sell the public on a war whose real purpose was to"flex muscle" in the Middle East."We were not lying," said one official."But it was just a matter of emphasis."

I've always assumed that Saddam had chemical weapons left over from his days as a U.S. client, when the Pentagon helped him target Iranian troops. Having researched the subject when the Reagan administration proposed manufacturing nerve gas at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, I figured Saddam wouldn't risk annihilation by using it against a nuclear-armed foe. It's also too bulky and too easily detected to export for terrorism; a deadly anachronism useful only for genocide.

Both Bush and Colin Powell, however, presented detailed lists of forbidden Iraqi arms. They claimed that Saddam was hiding tons of VX, and thousands of artillery shells and missiles. They said he had 18 mobile bio-war labs, and huge stores of anthrax. They hinted that U.N. weapons inspectors were incompetent or worse. Bush told the American people that not to strike Iraq first would be"suicide." But U.S. officials still haven't found Iraqi weapons either. Now they hint they were mainly blowing smoke.

So who do Democrat-Gazette editors, following upon a wildly inaccurate report on the GOPUSA website, think we should be angry with? Why Bill Clinton, of course, who, we're told, delivered an"anti-war rant" and made"Saddam Hussein out to be just your ordinary reasonable dictator" in New York on April 15. Through the dark art of selective quotation, the editorial ignored Clinton's explicit praise for Bush's handling of the war."Saddam's gone," Clinton said"and good riddance."

The outcome of the war, Clinton added, was never in doubt."I would like to say something nice," he said."I think the President and Secretary Rumsfeld and our military really did the right thing in taking another week to ten days to conclude this because they were able to save thousands and thousands of civilian lives and if we're going to, in effect, occupy Iraq we want to do [it] with the least cost of lives on both sides."

Even if no weapons of mass destruction are found, Clinton added"I don't think you can criticize the President for trying to act on the belief that they had a substantial amount of chemical and biological stocks, because that's what the British military intelligence said....That's what I was always told, and I can just tell you that if you're sitting there in the Oval Office, it is just irresponsible to say, 'I've just got a feeling you're all wrong.'"

So what drew conservative ire? Clinton still thinks the U.N. Security Council could have been brought around, and expressed hope Bush would be magnanimous toward reluctant allies, whose help we're going to need down the road. In the Manichean world of conservative punditry, that all but makes him a traitor.

Posted by Tom at 3:38 p.m. CDT


Paul Krugman's column from yesterday notes the pattern of misinformation by the administration to sell the war and later to claim we'd found WMDs:

One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false. In fact, my guess is that most Americans believe that we have found W.M.D.'s. Each potential find gets blaring coverage on TV; how many people catch the later announcement — if it is ever announced — that it was a false alarm? It's a pattern of misinformation that recapitulates the way the war was sold in the first place. Each administration charge against Iraq received prominent coverage; the subsequent debunking did not.

Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration's credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons."I don't know what more evidence we need," he said. In fact, the report said no such thing — and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC's Web site bore the headline"White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq." Then the story vanished — not just from the top of the page, but from the site.

Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat — just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.

Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy — aren't we?

This pattern has been repeated so many times that it can't be accidental. The pack of lies that Colin Powell presented at the U.N. that was almost entirely debunked within a week of the presentation is but one example, there are numerous others.

This is more than" crying wolf" folks -- it's a conscious effort by the administration to mislead us, time and time again. It also demonstrates a major failure by our pathetic flag-waving corporate media as well. Like a large number of Americans, the folks in the media have an astonishingly short attention span.

Less polished people (righties would call them unpatriotic I'm sure) might call this what it truly is -- lying.

Posted by Tom at 2:50 p.m. CDT


Jim Capozzolla is done with The New Republic[an]. I'll pile on as well. I think most folks who have any sort of fair bone in their body these days can recognize a bunch of right-wing hacks when they see them. The TNR is no longer worth the paper it's printed on I'm afraid.

Oh yeah, Jim would also like to know if you've heard about Ashleigh Moore?

Posted by Tom at 1:33 p.m. CDT


Kevin has a post today that is a perfect example of why there is great value in reading blogs. Here's a bit of it:

My view is that a progressive tax system is best, for reasons of basic equity and fairness. Why? I'll leave that for another post, but for now I just wanted to make a point that often gets hijacked by lengthy discussions of economic minutiae: in reality, tax rates are a reflection of what we value in a civil, democratic society. That's what the argument should be about, and we shouldn't allow partisans — either conservative or liberal — to avoid the subject by pretending that their proposals are nothing more than neutral arguments about economic growth. It's just smoke and mirrors to take our minds off what's really important, and we shouldn't let them get away with it.
This is a point that is always missed by our media. We should be talking about WHAT we're getting for our tax money and what we're spending it on. Both parties have been playing the"economic growth" card for too long.

This is a discussion that is long overdue in Washington.

Posted by Tom at 10:53 a.m. CDT

FINALS DAY 04-30-03

I've got finals for three of my four classes today. I gave one to my night class last week. I'll still blog but I certainly won't put up twelve posts like I did yesterday!

It'll take me a couple of days to grade the papers but I'll still blog of course. It breaks the monotony after all.

Posted by Tom at 9:17 a.m. CDT


Ah, the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration and the Republican congress -- the government could default on its debt in May. And they're proposing new tax cuts, right?

Impressive, eh?

Posted by Tom at 8:43 a.m. CDT


This time, fortunately, only two protesters were killed.

This occupation thing sure is going well, isn't it?

I hope we don't average a Kent State per day but it's looking likely at this point.

Posted by Tom at 8:28 a.m. CDT


Kos and his wife are incubating a new Democrat!

That's wonderful news Kos!

Posted by Tom at 10:01 p.m. CDT


You know sometimes you hear these crazy things they say and do in Washington and you think"what a bunch of morons. How stupid can they be?" But you really do need to remember these folks in Washington are the first stringers, the third and fourth string intellects are sitting in the state legislatures -- especially now that term limits have removed all the people who had any idea how the state lawmaking and budgeting process is supposed to work.

My father was telling me the story this weekend about a female representative of a state workers' union in Arkansas that was trying patiently to explain to a relatively new legislator that with these budget cuts"they" were going to start shutting down offices and laying off people soon." The legislator's response? Something along the lines of"surely, they won't do that." This genius apparently had no idea the"they" she was talking about was the legislature -- the"they" was actually him.

Well things are no better here in Missouri. Keep in mind the budget situation in Missouri is so grave that the folks in the House decided to show great courage and delegate their power to the Senate try to solve it -- and they still haven't solved it even though they did that weeks ago. Buried in the middle of this article about the bleak reality that is the budget situation here in Missouri is this plan to generate revenue for the state:

Republicans legislators want to

Generat[e} $5 million by imposing a 5 percent tax on adult entertainment. The tax would apply to sales of sexually explicit material and services, such as live nude performances and actual or simulated sex acts.


The adult entertainment tax would apply to fees for bestiality, masturbation and sadistic or masochistic abuse. Sen. Sarah Steelman, a Rolla Republican, distributed a proposed amendment to add lap dances to the services that would be taxed.

My friends and I have been talking about this one all day. Isn't bestiality and sadistic or masochistic abuse already against the law? How can these folks tax people for doing something that's against the law anyway? If you're going to tax it, it should be legal, right?

But here's the big thing, it appears, according to this, that I'm going to be taxed if I masturbate! Holy moly! How's that for invasive government? I mean, heck, how are they going to find out?

This certainly gives a new meaning to"self-reporting," doesn't it?

"Sorry kids. No Christmas presents this year. Mommy and Daddy sort of blew too much money, um, frivolously."

Okay, okay, I know that I'm being a smart aleck here and this tax is only meant to apply to folks at adult entertainment establishments who perform such services but, wait, aren't such services illegal too? I thought charging for sex or masturbation was illegal?

So somebody's going to have to explain to me why Republicans think they can gain revenue from taxing acts that are supposed to be illegal activities in the first place. Are they suggesting that perhaps these acts should be legal and then we should tax them?

I'm just not following the logic here.

Someone's clearly going to have to explain this one to me.

Any takers?

This blog entry also posted on the Political State Report.

Posted by Tom at 9:17 p.m. CDT


This column asks all the right questions about the just-completed IraqWar Part II. Here's a bit of it:

We Americans have always had a penchant for creative self-delusion. We chafe, for example, at corruption in government, yet routinely reelect the scoundrels who perpetrate it. We demand both services and cuts in the taxes that pay for them.

But it seems the agony of Sept. 11 has pushed us into an altogether new realm, where we don't even care if our rhetoric makes sense, as long as we're led to a feel-good conclusion. The joy of kicking butt obliterates the need to make an honest case for war.

Wasn't it just four years ago -- I reminded my acquaintance -- that a roiling posse of critics piously preached how utterly unacceptable it was for a president to be excused even for a piddling lie that had absolutely no impact on the lives of any non-Beltway American? Bill Clinton was impeached -- impeached! -- for not admitting an intern had performed a sex act on him in the Oval Office.

Now there is plausible doubt that George Bush and Colin Powell were telling us the whole truth when they pronounced, not as a possibility but a fact, that Hussein had these terrible weapons and could at any moment instigate a terrible strike on America.

Bush dismissed the efforts of chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, whose teams searched for evidence of the chemical and biological weapons that Hussein allegedly possessed, and found nothing. We must go to war anyway, Bush told us, because Hussein refuses to disarm.

Well, where is it all?

Our troops swept across Iraq in three weeks and secured oil wells within hours. Didn't we have a priority list of potential weapons depots to seize and secure? Did we even know where to start looking?

Now the administration is all but giving up the search, saying it hopes Iraqi informants will eventually lead us to the stuff. If we didn't know where it was, how did we know it was so grave a threat that war was essential?

Did Bush mislead us? Was the American public duped into supporting a war that killed 128 Americans, 31 Britons and thousands of Iraqis, damaged U.S. prestige around the world and may have worsened, rather than improved, U.S. security?

Oh, who cares -- we won the war!

At least Bush wasn't lying about sex in the Oval Office! We'd have impeached him for that.

And, hey, Bush wasn't under oath, as was Clinton -- although it would be nice to believe swearing honesty wouldn't be necessary when a president addresses the nation.

I don't regard my hawkish acquaintance as a hypocrite; for sure, his brutal honesty makes him a rare breed.

But we're heading for big trouble as a nation if we aren't even concerned that our heads of state may be manipulating us by manipulating the truth.

In a nation where hypocrisy is rewarded, expect more lies.

And from an administration that lies about everything, expect the lies to become more numerous and more outrageous as the next election approaches -- especially if the economy shows no signs of rebounding.

Posted by Tom at 7:36 p.m. CDT

THANKS! 04-29-03

Thanks folks -- I just had my 180,000th visitor via a link from Daily Kos. It's only been 8 days since I had my 170,000th visitor. I've also had a little over 265,000 hits since I installed my hit counter as well.

Considering that, like last week, I've been gone for a few days, I'm still quite happy with the site traffic. I should be here for a while now. No more traveling until the end of May probably -- and I may be able to blog on that trip.

As always, I do thank you for reading. I appreciate it greatly. I hope to give you a reason to come back.

Posted by Tom at 4:14 p.m. CDT


has been offered a job by Arab television network Al-Arabiya.

That truly is priceless, isn't it?

Since this war was such a joke on numerous levels it makes perfect sense that the thing people may remember from it is this guy. I know one of my colleagues was very excited when he heard the news. He couldn't get enough of this guy.

Posted by Tom at 2:48 p.m. CDT

A LOTT OF POSTS 04-29-03

As I was hunting for a Lott post to link to from January, it occurred to me that I should go ahead and provide you with a list of posts in order as well. It's quite a walk down memory lane!

Anyway, here goes:

January posts: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

February posts: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

March posts: here and here. (The John Lott scandal was annoyingly interrupted by that immoral and unnecessary war in Iraq after all.)

April posts: here, here, herehere, here, here, here, and here.

Goodness. I blogged a bit about this, didn't I?

Update: There also is an excellent article in Reason magazine by blogger Julian Sanchez about the Lott scandal as well. This won't be available online until next month. As soon as it is available, I will link to it.

Update 2:Here's the link to Julian's article.

Posted by Tom at 1:48 p.m. CDT


As usual, Tim Lambert's got the goods. Isn't it astounding that it takes an article by a couple of Glenn's friends to convince him that Lott might be full of it?

I also love the fact that, even after all this, Glenn is still carrying water for Lott. He published on his blog an e-mail from Lott that is clearly meant to serve as a distraction from the bigger problems exposed by Ayres's and Donohue's devastating article.

John Quiggin also has an excellent post on the subject too. Like me, Quiggin believes one of the not-so-innocent bystanders to be harmed by this scandal is Glenn himself:

But the biggest not-so-innocent bystander to be hit by friendly fire is surely the king of the blogworld, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. Having cut his blogging teeth on the Bellesiles scandal (the discrediting of a widely-acclaimed piece of research seen as favorable to gun control), and having ferociously attacked those on the anti-gun side who failed to dissociate themselves from Bellesiles, Reynolds has consistently given Lott the benefit of the doubt, and has even, in a dispute between Lott and respected economist Steve Levitt, been implicated in Lott's slimy manoeuvres (again, see Tim Lambert for the complex and gory details). Clearly all that rhetoric about 'fact-checking your ass' only applies to those who come up with the wrong conclusions.

Boy, doesn't Quiggin's post sound a bit like this?

Update: I don't think I've mentioned this before but one of my readers who is also an economist writes in to remind me that Steve Levitt, whom Insty and Lott have been assaulting with great ferocity, just won the Clark Medal, a very prominent award for economists.

Posted by Tom at 1:01 p.m. CDT


over at the Daily Billboard.

Posted by Tom at 12:19 p.m. CDT


Hey, people are talking about teaching history in the blogosphere -- and I was out of pocket to talk about it at the time. What a drag!

Anyway, both CalPundit and Atrios posted this weekend about teaching history backwards -- and a few college professors have actually posted on the comment boards over at Atrios and CalPundit!

I have toyed with this idea and one of my colleagues tried it a couple of semesters ago. She said it was difficult and didn't work. She only tried it once. That doesn't mean it can't work but explaining causation becomes quite a problem I'm told.

My approach is to constantly try to draw connections to the present -- especially when the past is teaching us lessons we've happily decided to ignore. I also try to spend a fair amount of time on Cold War and post-Cold War history as well. I got a bit behind this semester but I always try to get to the present. However, I must admit that the post-1996 part of my course is still primarily composed of wisecracks.

I think my students do find the last week of class the most useful. I'll be teaching an upper-level course in U.S. Since 1945 next fall and I'm really looking forward to it!

Posted by Tom at