Entrapment Again

“His planning unfolded under the scrutiny and even assistance of undercover agents, officials said. ” NY Times, November 27, 2010, in reference to Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was recently arrested in Portland, Oregon, for “attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction”.

This horrible person was planning to blow up a bomb at the lighting of a community Christmas Tree expected to attract up to 10,000 people.

Well… was he. Did Osman Mohamud, out of the blue, suddenly decide that he wanted to kill a lot of Americans? Or was he a rather fanatical Moslem whom the FBI recruited for a terrorist act which the FBI undercover informant was “planning”.

The FBI got wind of him months ago when he apparently tried to contact radicals in Pakistan. They got wind of him. Then undercover FBI agents contacted him and offered to help him commit some kind of terrorist act. They demurely “suggested” — on the secret recordings, of course– that he do something less destructive and more symbolic, but he insisted, no, no, he wanted to see innocent people die. That should satisfy those human rights activists who keep complaining about entrapment!

So the FBI undercover agent offered to help him build a bomb. Wait a minute…. Mohamud obtained some of the materials and turned them over to the FBI undercover agent and the undercover agent returned a device to him which he told him was a bomb. The FBI supplied the bomb. Mohamud then drove to the public square at the Christmas Tree Lighting and dialed the number that was supposed to blow it all up. That’s when the FBI arrested him.

So the FBI encouraged Mohamud to commit a crime but when Mohaumd proved too inept to actually commit the crime on his own, the FBI kindly stepped in and provided him with the bomb.

So if an FBI undercover agent went up to a man in a bar– let’s go crazy and suggest a white man– and said “I could get you some top grade heroin” and the man said, wonderful, let’s go, and he was arrested and brought to trial, what would happen? Most judges would refuse to convict. The question is, would the defendant have committed a crime without the intervention of the undercover police officer?  If not, it’s called “entrapment”. It’s why policewomen posing as prostitutes can’t actually bring up the idea of sex for money; the man has to bring it up or the charges won’t stick– it will look like committing a crime was the police woman’s idea. That’s why policemen can’t pose as drug dealers, going around offering drugs to people. It has to be the idea of the person committing crime.

(I feel ridiculous explaining this. I would be very happy to learn it’s not necessary– most people understand why allowing entrapment by the police is a bad idea. )

The police should not be going around trying to create crime by presenting opportunities to people to commit crimes. Among other things, this is offensive to the idea of equality under the law, for the police have no intention of going up to just anybody to see if he or she might be willing to consider committing a crime if offered the opportunity.

No, no, they only approach certain, selected, unlucky individuals. Right now, they certainly don’t seem interested in approaching, say, NRA members, or members of white supremacist militia groups, or vigilante groups, or Scientologists, any of which might have a number of members who could easily be persuaded to commit a serious crime with the right encouragement, and technical assistance. Say, burn down a house, or shoot a few illegal immigrants, or burn down a mosque.

If the police had not intervened, it is by no means certain that Mohamud would have committed any crimes on his own initiative. He might have. He might have remained a blustery, stupid young man who nevertheless never had the guts to actually go out and do something with his big talk. Like a lot of people.  He might have realized he didn’t have the technical skill to build a bomb and given up the idea.

He should perhaps have been charged with being an accessory to attempted murder. The FBI agent, of course, is the conspirator.

Ah yes… and I hear the right-wingers squawking hysterically, “Oh! So you want to wait until a crime has been committed before you lock someone up!”

Well, maybe not.  I think I could go along with the idea.  As long as the FBI approached other militant groups– including America militia groups– as well as potential Moslem extremists.  The fact is, we know that there are many, many more American Nationalist militants than there are Moslem extremists in America.

“So you think the police should have let him build a real bomb and set it off at the Christmas tree lighting?” No, but they should never have assisted him with building a bomb. They already had him under surveillance.  They could have charged him with a minor offence like “uttering threats”.  They should have let him fend for himself and then arrest him if he succeeded in building a bomb, once he had a real bomb in his possession, before he had a chance to use it. If I were a judge, I would ask myself again and again: would a crime have been committed if not for the intervention of the police?

Why should that be frightening? That’s how we do it with every other crime, even murder. Did you forget that there was a price to be paid for freedom and democracy? And one of them is that most of the time people commit crimes before being arrested.

And anyway, didn’t you want the government off your back?

The tabloids, in Britain, have been offering bribes to officials with FIFA to see if they would take them. Some of them did. My first question is, did they bring up the idea of a bribe or did the undercover reporter?

It absolutely matters. If the reporters were the ones who brought up the idea of bribes, they should first investigate every other FIFA Official to see how many others would accept the offer. It would not be fair to single out only the ones who happened be available to the undercover reporters.

I know– a lot of people are going to go, “well, even if it wasn’t his idea, he still agreed to it and should be locked up for at least 50 years”.

Yeah right. And why is it inevitable that some of the recordings of Mohamud’s conversations with the undercover FBI agent have been “lost”? It is inevitable. It is inevitable. It is inevitable. The police ask you to believe that they just happened to go missing. What a coincidence!

And you don’t want to look like a fool for being soft on crime, do you?

I personally would be quite satisfied if we had a justice system that would immediately drop any charges against an individual if it becomes clear that no crime would have been committed without the active participation or encouragement of the police or police agents or informants. Simple. The police already understand that principle when it comes to prostitution and illegal drugs.

Actually, I would not be satisfied with this because it is an innovation. I would be satisfied with this because it’s what 200 years of jurisprudence has settled on in order to prevent the police and justice system from abusing their powers.

Yes, there will be some crimes committed that would have been prevented under the newer interpretation of the law. But, that’s pretty well how our justice system is supposed to work. Until recently, we in the democratic west, didn’t try to lock people up for thinking about committing a crime.

The reason is that we don’t know who else might commit a crime if offered the same “encouragement” as people like Mohamed Osman Mohamud were offered.

Excited Delirium and Other Scurrilous Syndromes of the Police State

Have you heard about the new medical condition that causes people in police custody to suddenly die? It’s called “excited delirium” and it is exacerbated by “multiple drug toxicity”. It also, don’t you know, actually gives people “super human” strength. I’ll bet you thought that only happened in comic books!

Now, if you had a number of men who were drunk or high, and loud and abrasive, or experienced a sudden influx of superhuman strength, there are many unfortunate things that could happen to them but one of the least likely– and veritably unknown before the use of the taser– is sudden death.

But if you had an equal number of men who were tasered repeatedly by the police, then thrown to the ground, hand-cuffed, and tasered again, we know you will likely have a few deaths. In those cases, we hereby declare that the deaths are caused by contagious “excited delirium” exacerbated by “multiple drug toxicity”. The superhuman strength is of no avail in these situations.

I’ll bet that right now, if you are a cop with a taser, you are making a point of memorizing the phrase: “excited delirium” and “multiple drug toxicity”.

Some day, those words might save your career.

And I’ll bet you didn’t know that “excited delirium” is not a real condition. It was invented by the taser industry to explain those inconvenient deaths of people being tasered.


Lest you think I am anti-cop… I’m not. I’m only against bad policing and police cover-ups.

I just saw a documentary on Frontline about a group of cops in New Orleans called to a bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina because a man was seen with a gun. Now, first of all, this IS America: what’s the problem? Oh wait– he was a black man. Okay, so the cops pull up in a rented cube van, two in the front and about eight in the back where they couldn’t see what was happening. As they are pulling up– I’m not making this up– one of the cops in the front fires a warning shot. Seriously. A warning shot. The rest of the cops in the back think there is something happening so they quickly jump out of the truck and take positions and carefully assess the situation to try to determine where the shots are coming from, how many gunman are involved, if there are any civilians in the line of fire, and how best to ensure public safety in the face of the threat.

Hoo ha! Had you! Just kidding, of course.

Actually, they jumped out of the van, guns a’blazin’, and shot wildly in all directions. Eight people were hit, two of them fatally. Fortunately, no dangerous guns were found. At least, not on the civilians.

Well. Cops are under a lot of stress, you know, what with all the bizarre super humans with excited delirium going around. My theory is that these guys on the bridge were displaying symptoms of “prescient excited delirium with multiple inactivity inversion”.

[Update: 2011-08-05. Apparently, the five officers involved have been convicted of… well, did you think they would be convicted of murder? No. They were convicted of various civil rights offenses, and covering up the shooting. They still complain bitterly that even though Ronald Madison was running away from them at the moment he was shot, he still probably would have had a gun if he could have and would have turned around fired it at police if he had been what the New Orleans police thought he was…. wait–]

Some of these links will be dead by now.  Too bad.


What is “excited delirium”?

I googled it.  Here’s what I found

 (in wikipedia):  Excited delirium is a condition that manifests as a combination of deliriumpsychomotor agitationanxietyhallucinations, speech disturbances, disorientation, violent and bizarre behavior, insensitivity to pain, elevated body temperature, and superhuman strength.[1][2] Excited delirium is sometimes called excited delirium syndrome if it results in sudden death (usually via cardiac or respiratory arrest), a relatively frequent outcome particularly associated with the use of physical control measures, including police restraint and tasers.[1][2]

Shockingly, African American men seem disproportionately disposed to affliction by this medical condition.

You should read that last line carefully: death is a frequent outcome   “particularly associated with the use of physical control measures…”

How wonderful to be a short-tempered cop and have a syndrome that can be applied to anyone with the indecency to die on you during a tasering.  How wonderful for a corporation to be able to invent and sell a syndrome to explain why people die when using your product.  (Yes, a victim is “using” the product manufactured by Taser International.)

And here’s the bottom line: neither the American Medical Association nor the American Psychological Association recognize “excited delirium” as a real medical or psychological condition.  The standard authority on mental illness, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does not list it.   Let the lobbying begin…  What will it take?  A big fat donation to the right “charity”?  Future employment with lavish benefits to a current panel member?  Whatever… it’s not that hard to do.

real doctor talking about excited delirium.

If you want to believe the police on this one, that is certainly your privilege. IF you want to believe the police would not lie about the actions of the victim, or the necessity for force, or the prudent application of the taser…. I have two words for you:

Robert Dziekanski

In my humble opinion, “excited delirium” is the product of a rather distasteful collaboration between police officers and medical examiners to cover up instances of excessive force used by the police causing death.

More of Bill’s hysterical over-reactions to the use of tasers:

How to Attend to an Emergency, Mr. President

In the tenth episode of Season 1, “In Excelsis Deo”, of West Wing, President Bartlet is entertaining a group of school children in the White House at a Christmas Celebration when urgent news arrives concerning the health of a gay youth who had been beaten nearly to death (obviously based on the Matthew Shepherd murder).

An aide approaches Bartlet as he is speaking to the children and whispers in his ear. Bartlet, cool as could be, tells the children that one of the parts of his job is to attend to emergencies from time to time. He leaves them for a moment and goes off with the aide who fills him in. He makes a few comments and then returns to the children.

This episode was filmed in 1999, two years before 9/11.

I have heard people defend President Bush’s performance on 9/11 by saying it was quite reasonable for him to continue sitting there, looking painfully at a loss, for seven minutes after an aide had informed him about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. It’s odd that Aaron Sorkin, merely creating a fictional situation for his tv series, thought the President would do what Bartlet did, so smoothly and confidently, in that episode. At the time I saw it, of course, I barely noticed it. It was only after viewing Season 1 again, years later, that I was struck by the uncanny resemblance of the fictional scene to what happened in real two years later, and the contrast between what Aaron Sorkin thought the President would do and what Bush actually did. I believe that had Bartlet been a conservative Republican, Sorkin would have had him do the same thing: it’s so simple, so logical, so becoming of the President of the United States.

Just noted.


Congratulations America– you just passed a remarkable milestone this year. Well, actually two years ago. First time, more than one in every 100 adults in the United States is… what? Smart? Rich? Single? A heroin addict? Alcoholic? Educated? A member of the Tea Party? Mexican? Dutch? Drives a BMW? Bikes to work? Has a PHD? Works for the government? What?

In prison.

That’s not one of every 100 males. It’s 1 of every 100 adults.

I would suggest to you that any nation that would incarcerate 1% of it’s population, barring the most ridiculously extreme set of circumstances, which I can’t even imagine, is collectively psychotic. This is an unsustainable circumstance, a cesspool of repression and denial, a cancer of social and political malignancy.

One in every 100 adults is in prison.

This is a society that has completely failed to deal with crime and justice in a responsible way. It is the path of a third world dictatorship, a tin pot fiefdom, a colonial outpost, a medieval manor with witches and heretics and plague.

Put it together with the empty factories and warehouses and plants in Detroit and Buffalo and the mid-western states… this is a country that needs to go back to the drawing board and redefine what it understands as the social contract between citizens and government, between workers and employers, between police and suspects.

So, America, what is the meaning of this? Bad luck? Godless atheism? Religious fanaticism? You are among the most repressive, authoritarian states in history on this issue: you love locking people up.

One in every 31 adults in the U.S. is either in prison or on probation or parole.

Yes, the rate of incarceration in the U.S. probably far exceeds that of any other country on the planet, with the exception of North Korea– and nobody knows for sure about that.

What’s different about Minnesota? It has the lowest incarceration rate in the U.S. at 171 per 100,000. Louisiana has the highest at about 700 per 100,000. I know– the figures don’t jive (“over 100” means 1,000 or more per 100,000, which obviously is not possible if the highest state only has 700). Not sure why. The “over 1 per 100” number is supplied by the Pew Center on the States.

Iniquitous Denmark has 59 people in prison for every 100,000, which is lowest in the world. That’s less than 1/10th the rate in the U.S.

China: 117.

CBC News: Copying CNN’s Dismal Formula

Richard Stursberg came to the CBC about six years ago, hired some American consultants who told him that people want more weather, more banter, more light news, more trivia in theirs newscasts, and systematically destroyed the least worst news broadcast in Canada.

My wife and I now watch PBS news from the U.S. I’ve tried out CTV occasionally. Incredibly, it is better than the CBC National. I didn’t think I would ever be saying that.

So here’s the CBC:  Nancy Wilson is the hostess on the weekend. She is a perfect little hostess and I think she should take time out from her busy hosting gig to maybe hock a little Tupperware or Avon on the side. In the meantime, she conveys to the viewer just how remarkably trivial the world is out there. One minute it’s a tornado or earthquake or war killing thousands of people, the next it’s chilly out there– did you bring a sweater, Mark? Might be a good day to curl up with a warm book. Did I mention the airplane crash? Let’s go to the reporter in the news room– look! He’s got his sleeves rolled up! He must be working very hard, and you can tell he’s incorruptible because, for God’s sake, he has his sleeves rolled up. And he’s moving! He’s walking from one desk to… where-ever. The camera is moving with him. By golly, this is real news I care about, not some mere journalist. And now, let’s cut to Diane to explain how we can keep our kids safe from meteorites– Diane? Diane has moved to the same desk as Nancy– they are having a conversation about the news, just like people you know.

I’ll admit, the PBS Newshour seems a little dry in comparison. There is a ten or fifteen minute lead story, explored in depth, then the news headlines, then three more stories, usually, each allotted about 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes, compared to most news broadcasts, is a lot of time. Stories can be explained and analyzed in depth. The expert guests often look rather plain– you immediately suspect they were recruited for their expertise rather than their looks.

Stursberg has now resigned, with no explanation. I hope the CBC realizes they made a big mistake and chooses to head off in a different direction. The first step should be to unmakeover the National.

Am I the only one who does not like the National makeover?  No, not by a long shot.  Ratings are down between 30 and 40%.  More on Richard Stursberg.

The idea was that even if old fogies like me get pissed off, the new format would attract young people. One prays for future generations if they’re right.

So, when do they admit failure and move on to something more interesting?

By the way, CTV News ratings are currently about double the CBC’s.

The CBC makeover into a pale clone of CNN is not a coincidence. The chairman of the CBC, Richard Stursburg, openly wanted the CBC to be more like the big American stations.

So that’s why we also got absurd programs like “The Border” and “Dragon’s Den” and “Battle of the Blades” and “All for one with Debbie Travis”.

Fast Cuts: Mediocre Directors

All right, you’ve finished shooting. You assemble your video and your audio and your special effects and start trying to pull it altogether into a coherent whole. You think you’re finished and the big moment arrives– you show it to your friends, some crew, film company execs, sponsors, whatever. It’s boring. It’s dull. It doesn’t “move”.

You are mortified. What can you do? Don’t give up! You promise everyone you’ll go back into the editing suite and fix it. But you can’t reshoot, because the actors have gone home, the crew is dispersed, the light’s different…

No problem. Just shorten every cut. Shorten every cut to about .6 seconds. That’s right, less than a second. Cut, cut, cut. Then add some more sound effects, lasers, metal on metal, whoosh! More cuts. More, until you have about 40 cuts a minute, if not more. Loud music, loud effects. Now, let’s jiggle the camera, as if your camera was drunk, staggering around in circles, totally discombobulated. That’s it– makes it look like this is really happening to Brad Pitt, right. You can tell it’s really happening because the camera man is jiggling the camera, man. That like a documentary! Looks real. Looks really real.

Fast cuts never make any scene look great, but they prevent lousy scenes from looking really, really bad. You can’t tell any more– each shot is only on the screen for a second or less. What you have is the illusion of action and movement, which is analogous to being able to be the eyes in the heads of five different people in rapid succession. This does not reveal anything to the viewer: it merely keeps him from realizing that the director is unable to develop an interesting sequence of actions from a single point of view.

This is not the same as Eisenstein’s theory of montage: in Eisenstein’s view, each cut provides a comment on the previous and succeeding cuts, thereby creating a coherent sequence that gives meaning to the action. The famous scene of the baby carriage rolling down the steps and the Cossack holding his sword aloft and the woman about to scream…. Modern action films simply provide a succession of shots without any inner coherence at all. That would require work.

Sergei Eisenstein, also known as the Soviet Eraserhead.


Why do ALL the previews now have quick cuts going to black? Can’t anyone do anything on their own nowadays? Who started it? Who did it first? Who said now everyone has to do it the same way: short, quick cuts, fade to black, fade to black, fade to black. The audience can really tell that this film has lots of action, so they will want to see it. Do not, under any circumstances, give the audience any idea of what the movie will actually be about, because it’s not about anything: it’s guns, helicopters, and babes, and moving cameras, and explosions, and revenge and mayhem.

Event the trailers for the films that appear to be about relationships or character are now chopped into tiny little disconnected shots, fading to black…

The Puritanical Conspiracy

You can’t not be wary of being accused of paranoia, of being one of “them”– the conspiracy theorists. But you can’t not be aware, as well, of the fact that the people responsible or not for the conspiracy would be fully cognizant of the fact that people can be persuaded to label people who understand what is going on as “paranoid”. As I have noted before, the best friend any Kennedy assassination conspirator might have had would have been Kennedy assassination conspiracy buffs, like David Lifton, who posited that Kennedy’s body had been surreptitiously stolen from Air Force One and surgically altered to cover up the fact that shots came from the front (wouldn’t it have been easier to just shoot him in the back?).

If I had been involved in a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy, I would not have had some stooge write a book asserting that there was no conspiracy– I would have a stooge write a book asserting a conspiracy, and let slip that aliens might have abducted the brain. Far more effective at manipulating public perception: it’s not cool to believe in conspiracy. Coolness is always more important than veracity.

And so to Clinton. Looking back, fifteen years later. To the impeachment scandal. You have to think about what happened to Julie Hiatt Steele.

Follow me:

Suppose it was a conspiracy of sorts– and I don’t mean a deep, dark, coordinated effort master-minded by some evil genius from within his impervious bunker. Keep the straw men out of it. I mean a group of powerful financiers including Richard Mellon Scaife, and group of complicit Republican politicians who probably were not fully aware of how things were being managed for them. Why would they be? What advantage would it be for Scaife if Asa Hutchinson or Henry Hyde knew that this was all a plan? They didn’t need to know. They just needed to know that Clinton could be harmed and they just needed to tools provided by one means or another. Scaife probably started the process, but Kenneth Starr and his cronies managed it quite well within their own fraudulent agenda.

Anyway, we have Starr struggling– unsuccessfully– to convince America that Clinton, like Nixon, had to go. The Republicans were not averse to voting for impeachment without public support, but the decisive votes would have to come from across the aisle, and the only way to get them was to persuade the Democrats to cut Clinton loose and vote for impeachment.

It was a strange situation. Several Republicans on the impeachment parade had themselves cheated on their wives. Newt Gingrich carried on an affair with a staff member while his wife was in the hospital being treated for cancer. The public didn’t think the issue was big enough to impeach a popular president. So Kenneth Starr was struggling.

Kenneth Starr looked like a less sophisticated version of John Roberts, current chief justice of the Supreme Court. Like Roberts, Starr was good at pretending to examine all the facts carefully as if he actually had an objective opinion on anything, and then, shockingly, arrive at the conclusion he always wanted: impeachment.

So Starr is struggling. The evidence was not as strong as he had liked. He tried to nail the Clintons for Whitewater by bullying Susan MacDougal into corroborating the allegations but she wouldn’t do it. So here’s what he did: he charged her with obstruction of justice. The “obstruction” was her failure to bend to his will and lie about the Clintons’ involvement with a illegal or inappropriate $300,000 loan. The other witness had really done something illegal and had agreed to testify against Clinton in exchange for a plea bargain. That’s how American criminal justice works. Only in the movies and TV are actual evidence and guilt involved in the equation.

So along comes Kathleen Wiley. Wiley had a history of prevarication and wasn’t a very good, credible witness, and she had openly flirted with Clinton and tried to arrange a tryst, to no avail. Then she went to Kenneth Starr and accused Clinton of groping her. On the day her husband, who was himself charged with misappropriating client’s funds from an investment scheme, shot himself to death in his car on a side-road somewhere.

Wiley claimed that a woman named Julie Hiatt Steele, who does appear to have been a sensible, rational person, also admitted to her that Clinton had groped her, and could testify that Wiley had told her about the groping long before the scandal broke (implying, of course, that she was jumping on a bandwagon). Wiley also had Michael Isikoff from Newsweek in her bag, and a book deal. The only thing she lacked, in fact, was credibility.

Did I mention the book deal?  The profit center?  The money, which should always be followed?

Yes, complicated. Let’s say for a moment that Kathleen Wiley’s story was completely untrue. Does it take a genius to conceive of the idea of her making it up? Maybe not out of whole cloth… maybe yes, out of thin air. Julie Hiatt Steele naturally denies the story. Kenneth Starr subpoenas her to testify. When she denies the story, as any perfectly truthful person would do, she is charged with Obstruction of Justice, which carries a potential sentence of 40 years.

Kenneth Starr, obviously out to prove that some tiny portion of the $50 million his investigation cost actually produced something, simply chose to punish the witnesses who refused to bend their testimony to his will by using his extraordinary powers to indict them for “obstruction of justice”, a term that meant whatever he wanted it to mean, Alice.

Then he leaked portions of their grand jury testimonies– a serious criminal offense, by the way– to the media, knowing full well that most news organizations wouldn’t bother to either fact check, or hold the leakers accountable for suggestive and inaccurate details.

Kind of whacky, isn’t it? But if this was the actual result, it is easily possible to imagine that someone planned this outcome, very carefully. Steele must have been enormously tempted to give in and corroborate Wiley– she was threatened with all kinds of dire consequences, her apartment searched, friends and relatives intimidated– if she did not cooperate, and all kinds of sweetness and light if she did.

It will be more difficult for them to employ this strategy against Obama, but I don’t doubt for a second that they will try. Wait for it. It’s coming. Remember, it will structured in such a way to permit Republican leaders to seem uninvolved in revelations, the leaks, the rumours, and then weep crocodile tears about doing their “duty” to investigate.

carefully developed account of how the scandal was manipulated by Kenneth Starr, Lucianne Goldberg, and Linda Tripp.

Am I paranoid? Or not. If I am right about the Clinton impeachment, I might be right to anticipate that some kind of similar effort will be made against Obama at some point, especially if the Republicans gain a majority in the House (allowing them to hold inquisitions). Suppose Richard Mellon Scaife or the Koch brothers are out there right now with millions of dollars available to bring down the president, through whatever means possible, and without the slightest constraint of ethics or morals? How could they do it?

Well, the myth of the Tea Party is a start. The Tea Party does not exist, as the media would have you believe, in the sense of a powerful, influential, successful political force. Check the real poll numbers: the Tea Party is utterly impotent, in terms of real influence. There is not a single Republican candidate in any district who is winning because he or she is a “Tea Party” candidate, but there are least 16 who are losing, for that reason.

And it is beyond nauseating when establishment Republicans like John Boehner now strut around claiming that they have always represented the unsullied puritan ethos of those saintly tea party activists with their lovely racists signs and posters.

Most Americans– and I mean MOST, as in about 70%– shrug them off as inconsequential and embarrassing. Have you checked Sarah Palin’s numbers lately? The Democrats can only dream that she will be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. John McCain must weep at night knowing what he will now be remembered for.

In terms of fake influence, however, the Tea Party soars. In terms of “perception”, the news media, including the alleged liberal media, give it far more prominence than it deserves. Why? Because the Wall Street Journal and Fox News have ordained that the Tea Party is BIG NEWS. Because they believe that if they shout it out loud and often enough, people will actually begin to believe that America is embracing the political ideology of these idiots. Because they are funny and scary and outrageous. I believe their own insignificance will become apparent to them by January when Trent Lott’s dictum becomes true: “we need to co-opt them”. They will not resist, though, in some ways, I wish they would.

Anyway, Scaife and others would never do anything that would conspicuously link them directly to any of the more insalubrious efforts against Obama, including the pseudo-racist rumours about Islamic beliefs or Kenyan culture. They would merely fund groups who do, researchers, investigators, people like Linda Tripp who are willing to do the dirty work on behalf Mitch McConnell and the like.


The Dog Must be Walked; War Must be Paid For

Why oh why oh why did the Democrats not demand that the Republicans pay for their wars out of current tax revenues?

Would Americans have voted for a war that was going to cost each of them, man, woman, and child, $750 (over $2000 per household) so far? Or would they have demanded better proof, at least, of the actual existence of weapons of mass destruction?

The Republicans cut taxes while taking on the war and then borrowed to cover the deficit. Why did the Democrats allow the Republicans to bill the war to future generations? Did they not realize that once Bush had run up the deficit, the Republicans, having whipped the nation into a patriotic frenzy (with, among other things, those nauseating “God Bless America” interludes at ball games), could now use the deficit as an excuse to slash spending on programs that actually benefit most Americans?

Was this planned?

David Stockton appeared on “60 Minutes” last Sunday. The former Reagan budget director actually advocated higher taxes on the rich for the simple common sense reason that the country’s bills need to be paid.

One could be forgiven with coming away with the impression that there is indeed a class war going on in the U.S.: the rich are out to destroy the middle class.

Common sense: whether you were in favor or opposed to the Iraq War, it defies belief that the Republicans were able to get away with cutting taxes at a time when it was clear that the government needed additional revenues to defend itself against terrorism. Who benefits the most from the peace and security of the U.S.? The rich. So who pays the least to defend the peace and security of the U.S.? Proportionately, the rich.

By borrowing the money for his wars (and that is absolutely what he did), and then cutting taxes to the rich, George Bush stunningly shifted the burden of the cost of the wars to the middle-classes. The next step in the process is for the Republicans to scream bloody murder about the awful deficit they created and weep crocodile tears: “now we’ll have to cut Social Security and Medicare and other social programs! Alas!”

The Democrat’s biggest blunder? By allowing themselves to be cornered into supporting the war and terrified of being accused of raising taxes, the Democrats consented to screwing themselves. They should have demanded that Bush raise the revenue to pay for the war without borrowing! That would have been a Rove-like tactic that might have brilliantly positioned themselves as the more fiscally responsible party in 2010.

Instead, they are like the adults whose kids promised they would walk the dog every day, if they would only, please, please, please, get a dog. And now the Republicans sit on their fat asses watching “American Idol” on TV, ignoring the dog.

And now, well, the dog must be walked. And it’s raining, and it’s cold, and it’s dark. And the dog must be walked.