Saturday, May 01, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

This morning, on my way to Reading Terminal Market to buy the week's pound of caffeine, I encountered a passel of chanting fundamentalists with a flag, and a bunch of huge photos of fetuses. They used very loud microphones—and an eight-year-old boy was doing the preaching. I gave them a little, well, "body language," but maybe I should have called child protective services.

I used to believe there might be a God, but after seeing these clowns, I'm starting to swing toward the idea that there isn't. Yech. FTF.

In Flanders fields 

A famous poem from World War I, written in 1915 by, as it happens, a Canadian: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD.

Here is the names of the dead part:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
(via Arlington Cemetary.net)

And here is the part I find problematic—the "stay the course" part.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

What constitutes betrayal of the war dead? MacCrae suggests not "tak[ing] up the quarrel with the foe." The problem with this view of World War I is that it doesn't seem to be right. Take the Versailles settlement: that certainly finished the "quarrel" with Germany. But if stopping the blockade of Germany immediately after the war, and an easier settlement, had prevented the rise of Hitler, would that have betrayed the dead? I don't think so. If a policy of unconditional surrendur had not been followed, and a peace made with Germany in 1916 (say) had prevented the Bolshevik Revolution and Hitler too, would that have betrayed the dead? Again, I don't think so.

The point is not to play games of what-if, but to say that war aims change—and not to change when change is called for betrays not only the dead but the living. (Economists, I believe, classify problems like this under the heading of sunk costs.) "Stay the course" is a propaganda slogan, not a policy.

But I can think of two more parallels between World War I and Iraq.

The first is the parallel between the Chateau Generals of World War I and the chickenhawks of the Iraq war. True, the Chateau Generals actually did serve, unlike the Chickenhawks. However, both share a remarkable ability to send soldiers to their deaths while risking nothing themselves.

The deeper parallel is that the Chateau Generals had no concept of how to fight the war they actually ended up fighting. Not having evolved a doctrine for trench warfare, they persisted in sending men protected only by cloth into killing fields miles in extent—until wiser politicians refused to send them more men. Similarly, our chickenhawks persist in fighting the war they know, against states, when in fact Al Qaeda,and whichever of their successors come out of the blowback from Iraq, are post-modern, non-state actors, and all the more dangerous for that.

Rushing more tanks (devised in World War I, almost a century ago) to Iraq is simply a confession of failure. It's a confession of failure in the Iraq war—can we fight photographs of US personnel torturing Iraqis with tanks? And it's a confession of failure in what should be a campaign against the fundamentalists of AQ—how does sending more tanks to Iraq protect us against, for example, loose nukes? Do you feel safer because we're sending more tanks to Iraq? I certainly don't.

Republicans chutzpah on "waffling" 

I love the way the Republicans try to have it both ways. Their Iraq policies in ruins, they change course. Not so dumb, even if it does smack of desperation. But isn't that... waffling?

In its policy changes, the White House has handed the United Nations the lead in selecting an interim government, moved more tanks and heavy armor into the country and softened a harsh policy of excluding members of Saddam Hussein's Baathist government from the new Iraq.

In Al-Fallujah, the administration has turned to a former general in Saddam's army to lead hundreds of former Iraqi army troops in an effort to suppress a violent uprising against the U.S.-led military occupation. The general, wise to the symbols of power in Iraq, showed up Friday in his old uniform. In the Shiite south, the administration has been unable to crush a ragtag militia led by renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Announcing the purge was among civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer's first acts when he arrived in Baghdad a year ago, and analysts said the move frightened and alienated members of Iraq's once-privileged Sunni minority, which had formed the backbone of Saddam's government, and helped give impetus to a violent Sunni rebellion against the U.S.-led coalition.

Bremer recently said he was reinstating thousands of former Baathists.

White House officials sought to downplay such policy changes. ``We characterize it as an adjustment,'' said one official, who requested anonymity. ``Any wise person evaluates the situation and makes adjustments to the realities they find.''
(via the San JoseMercury News)

So when a Republican makes adjustments to the realities they find, it's—besides a virtually unprecedented event—a mature act of statesmanship. When Kerry does it, it's waffling. Typical.

Smarty Jones wins Derby! 

Philly's horse! Yes!

Iraqi prisoner torture: "I don't know whether to puke or go blind." 

My father was a World War II veteran, and that was his expression for being faced with, well, unpalatable choices.

Because I don't have a TV, I didn't see the CBS 60 Minutes program on our torture of Iraqi prisoners, so I didn't see the pictures until today (back here).

And hey, remember last year when The Battle of Algiers was all the rage in the corridors of power at the Pentagon? Looks like we really took that movie to heart—not only did we torture prisoners, we put it all on film! [Rim shot. Silence.]

"Going forward," as we say in corporate-speak when we want to put a clusterfuck of truly awesome proportions behind us, what are the policy implications of broadcasting images of US contractors and troops, male and female, beating, sexually assaulting, sodomizing, and raping Iraqi prisoners in Abu Gharaib prison?

First, the flaks are minimizing and denying, as we would expect them to do. Briefing General Kimmit does the few bad apples defense, but clearly the barrel of apples is rotten, since as Juan Cole points out, the commanding officer at Abu Gharaib is on the hook too, so the problem is systemic. And we don't really know, at this point, how far up the Constitutional chain of command the rot goes, do we? And we certainly don't know how far up the extra-Constitutional chain of command the rot goes, either—the chain of command in the shadows that leads from the mercenaries, to the CPA/RNC, to... well, where, exactly?

Second, Bush's response—both his words and his actions—is utterly lame, as we would expect it to be. Here's the whole thing:

[BUSH]: Yes, I shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated. Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. And so I -- I didn't like it one bit.

But I also want to remind people that those few people who did that do not reflect the nature of the men and women we've sent overseas. That's not the way the people are, that's not their character, that are serving our nation in the cause of freedom. And there will be an investigation. I think -- they'll be taken care of.
(transcript via The WhiteWash House)

How lame.

I don't see the words "apology" or "apologies to the Iraqi people" in there anywhere. Can you see them? The Inerrant Boy simply cannot apologize!

Of course, Bush uses the same bad apples defense his flaks do ("few people"). But at this point in the story, we can't really know that, can we? Some of the abusers were mercenaries (one named John Israel—nice PR move, that, in the Arab world). And the people controlling the mercenaries are the CPA/RNC, which means we know nothing about what they've been doing at all. This could be the tip of the iceberg.

More amazingly, Bush gets all the facts wrong. Not "will be" an investigation—there already was one. Where can he think the photos came from, if not the investigation? Even more weirdly, Bush doesn't say that the military justice system has a courtmartial in progress. He says "taken care of." WTF? In Bush-speak, that means an extra-judicial assassination. Could it be that, in fact, the military justice system isn't dealing with the problem—because it can't? Because mercenaries aren't under military control, but under the control of the RNC/CPA? Tip of the iceberg again!

Even more amazingly, Bush had to have known about the situation for at least two weeks, since the Pentagon got CBS to suppress the story for two weeks. So why on earth didn't the administration try to get out in front of the story? Announce it themselves, and hold those responsible accountable? Instead, they wait, and it blows up in their faces. Where was KaWen? Unka Karl? I know they're busy lawyering themselves up for the coming indictments, but couldn't they have made this a priority?

Third, it looks to me like we really can stick a fork in the whole Iraqi adventure—if not our imperial prospects. I wonder if this clusterfuck is the reason for long-time Republican loyalist Margaret Tutweiler's quiet resignation this week as the Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy to the Arab world—"a muck up of massive proportions" (John Zogby). Just when we need PR the most, the head of that effort jumps ship. Could it be that she knows her job just got impossible?

We can't kill them all. Consent ot the governed needs to work even during an occupation. And I just don't see how we can possibly get any kind of consent after these pictures. Let's try to translate these pictures into our own terms. Let's imagine that Republican operatives, in addition to hijacking the election in Florida and setting up an extra-Constitutional Government, had also staged a Tailhook-style party at the Governor's mansion in Tallahassee, during the course of which they beat, sexually assaulted, sodomized, and raped a number of prisoners who had been handling the catering for the banquet as part of a work release program. And that while the operatives were beating, sexually assaulting, sodomizing, and raping the prisoners, they were filming the whole thing. And that a report on the incident had taken over a year to be produced, and after having been kept secret, the film was finally shown on TV. Perhaps that would add, shall we say, insult to injury? Would you think it was just a few bad apples? Or would you think "that's how these people operate"?

We may have passed the tipping point; Krugman thinks (back) we have. At some point image becomes reality. We're using Saddam's Abu Gharaib prison; our CPA is using Saddam's "Republican Palace." The Iraqis may have decided that they don't like the new boss any better than they liked the old one. If so, all the tanks in the world won't help us.

"Puke or go blind." I'm taking the "puke" alternative—the level to which these actions appall and outrage is fathomless.

But there are many people who will take the "go blind" approach—the cognitive dissonace will be too much for them. (Certainly this worked for Bush on the question of whether Saddam had WMDs, with the connivance of FUX and the other state media.)

And I'm not certain how to open the eyes of people who have wilfully chosen to be blind—except to take the liberal approach of working from facts, facts, facts. Readers?

NOTE Read Seymour Hersh here. Thankfully there is at least one reporter left in the SCLM who isn't a whore. I also like that the New Yorker has placed his story in a department named (what else?) "Facts."

UPDATE Latest up here: "The perfect shitstorm.

Souter assaulted 

while jogging.

Not while duck hunting...

Iraq occupation: It must have been much worse than they told us, from the very beginning. 

As always, the numbers tell the story:

The Bush administration is under fire from U.S. lawmakers who complain that only a tiny portion of the $18.4 billion to rebuild Iraq has been allocated and some funds are being diverted for security and administration costs.

As of March 24, only $2.24 billion has been earmarked
according to an early April report prepared for Congress by the White House.

According to the report, $184 million is being diverted away from the water sector to pay for the costs of operating the successor to the Coalition Provisional Authority. A further $29 million is being reallocated "from various lines" to pay for administrative expenses at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"I have very serious concerns about the pace of assistance funding in Iraq, and the management of those funds," Rep. Jim Kolbe, an Arizona Republican who chairs the House Appropriations foreign aid subcommittee said on Thursday.
(via Reuters)

Leave aside the fact that Bush rushed the $20 billion dollars through Congress because of the urgency of it.

Leave aside the fact that employing young Iraqi men in public works construction would have made the insurgency far less likely.

Leave aside the fact that a lot of the $2 billion has been stolen, ny the Iraqis themselves, our creatures in the IGC, and of course our own corporations.

Leave aside the fact that the mercenaries and security people that are taking the $2 billion are for all practical purposes a private army, under the control of the CPA/RNC, and outside any constitutional authority, or the Geneva convention.

The point is this: $18 billion dollars for the Republicans to spend, with essentially no Congressional oversight. Can anyone imagine that they would shovel that cash to their friends and campaign contributors the minute they were able to do so? The money must be burning a hole in their pockets! And the fact that they haven't been able to make a dent in the money pile—because their friends and campaign contributors, as much as they like money, don't intend to get killed for it—means that the security situation now is not just a flare-up. It's been bad from the very beginning. For a whole year. And therefore, any talk that the Iraqi security situation was improving was simply a lie, since otherwise the money would have been spent. Yes, the numbers tell the story.

Iraq occupation: Torture photos in the New Yorker 


Thanks to Seymour Hersh. (No thanks to the SCLM, Pravda on the Potomac, or Isvestia on the Hudson.)

Worse, this is news only to us. The investigation took place early this year, and the events last year.

Say, I wonder if the tortured Iraqis, you know, told anyone? And perhaps that might account for some amount of Iraqi bitterness? Perhaps even a degree of mistrust of the CPA? "Worse than a crime, a blunder." (Talleyrand).

I don't know which is worse, the torture itself or the what? The stupidity? The imperviousness? the evil that made it possible.

Eesh. Our own soldiers (male and female, by the way). And taking photos, imagine! Showing the same sense of impunity that torturerers show the world over. And you know they only photographed what was, by their standards, mild.


Not in my name!

NOTE The essential Juan Cole covers the reaction to all this in the Arab world. It's bad, folks.

Bread & Roses; Memories of a "Rebel Girl" 

When I was alive the birds would nest upon my boughs; And all through long winter nights the storms would round me howl. And when the day would come I'd raise my branches to the sun; I was the child of earth and sky - and all the world was one. ~ Laurie Lewis

One Big Union ~ Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World)

The IWW - "One Big Union For All" - was founded in Chicago in 1905. Among the delegates representing labor interests on June 27th 1905 were Big Bill Haywood, Mary "Mother Jones" Harris and Eugene Debs. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was fifteen years old at the time. Flynn joined the IWW in 1907 at the age of seventeen.

1905 perspective: "The slum population in New York exceeded the population ratio in Bombay [India], reaching a density ration of 1,000 persons an acre in some areas." ~ The Peoples Almanac, 1975

Harbor Allen, author of "The Flynn", The American Mercury, December, 1926 writes:
It was after Thomas Flynn [her father] had been defrauded out of a years pay that Elizabeth G. Flynn turned to Socialism. She was fourteen years old and zealous. An essay that she wrote on education, submitted in a contest at the Morris High School, in the Bronx, caused almost as much consternation among the teachers as the dropping of a hand-grenade in the faculty-room.

A 1906 newspaper clipping reprinted in Harbor Allen's American Mercury article, describes the grassroots oration style of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn:
"She quoted from the works of great men who had defied the existing order. Marat she gave em by ell, Mirabeau by the inch, Byron, George Eliot, Tom Paine, and Maxim Gorky by the acre and the mile."

Flynn was soon invited to speak to audiences while sharing the stage with well known Socialist speakers of the day such as author Jack London and labor activist Eugene Debs. However,....as Allen continues to explain:

...grown discontented with the pussyfooting of the Socialists, she left her compromising friends and marched out belligerently with the I.W.W.

Flynn remarked on this exit by explaining, "I felt that direct action was needed, not a concession wrung laborously here and there, but a complete overthrow of the system under which the poor are exploited in the interest of the rich." The I.W.W. offered Flynn that option, and, as Allen notes in AM, it was the kind of action that easily spooked the so-called 100% patriotic American specimen of the day.

"Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by man and women in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence than ours." ~ Grover Cleveland in "The Ladies Home Journal" 1905

Harbor Allen continues:
In those days the very mention of it [I.W.W.] threw pious and patriotic Americans into shudders of horror. It stood for all the wickedness which has since been represented in Southern and Western minds by Clarence Darrow and Moscow. There is no more madcap chapter in the whole history of American labor than that recounting the rise of the I.W.W. [...] Upon this gaudy battlefield, with the glint of Irish pugnacity in her eye, soon emerged an eighteen-year-old leader. She confounded her enemies, the police. She laughed at them and played jokes on them. They put her in jail but they could not keep her there. Western editors combed the dictionary to find invectives against her. She remained irrepressible. No matter what they did she bobbed up again, fiery, fearless, clouting to the left and the right with her wit. Even when they triumphed over her she always saw to it that they went limping home from battle. At the very heart of the wobbly fight, revelling in the smoke and the dust, stood Gurley Flynn.

So here now listen: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn recounts the labor struggles of the IWW, Big Bill Haywood, Joe Hill, William Z. Foster, the Lawrence Strike of 1912 (which was commonly referred to as the Bread and Roses Strike), and the Red Scare of WW1 - among other significant historical events recorded in the history of the American labor movement. The following excerpts are from a lenghthy published transcript of a tape recorded address Elizabeth Gurley Flynn delivered to faculty and students at Northern Illinois University on November 8, 1962.

Flynn opens her address:
I was asked to speak about primarily the IWW. Well, those are the initials for the Industrial Workers of the World which used to be called the "I Won't Work" which was extremely incongruous because actually the people who belonged to the organization were in the basic, most difficult hard-working industries of our country. To call it the workers of the World was rather an ambitious name as actually it never did go beyond the confines of the United States and it grew out of the desire of American workers to continue the traditions and the form of organization of the old Knights of Labor.

Flynn concludes her address:
Now, I am going to tell you of a few of the things that we never heard of in those days. It is very well to realize the difference in the environment, the difference in the composition, the difference in the level of our development. We couldn't see things with the eyes of 1962. We saw them with the eyes of 1905 through about 1917. Well, we certainly never heard of such a thing and we never thought it would be possible, that there would be social security or unemployment insurance. Those were the results of the 30's. The great struggle that came out after the decline of the IWW. Also, we never heard of vacations with pay. We never heard of vacations, let alone vacations with pay. We never heard of seniority as it is understood today. There were no pensions for retirement of workers. There were no welfare funds of unions. There were no health centers of unions, and there were no trade union schools such as there are today.

All of these things have come with the unions that have come into existence since the period of the IWW.


Now, you may ask me, and I am not going on any longer because I know you want to ask me, and I talked too long, have we made progress?

Oh, we certainly have, we certainly have, in spite of all the difficulties, in spite of all the problems, the labor movement has made tremendous progress. There is a new role and a new outlook for youth today. One of the pamphlets that I read years ago, I don't know if any of you have ever heard of it, is Peter Kropotkin's Appeal to the Young and it was a beautiful appeal to the young to carry forward their responsibility to make this world a better world to live in. Now, I feel in our way we did our best but the time comes when you know, they say old age isn't a disease but I say it is. The time comes when you have to slow down and lay off and give the benefit of your experience to a younger generation, if they want it. I feel very grateful to you for this opportunity. I very rarely speak on a subject like this and therefore I feel very grateful to you for the opportunity to relive my youth in a sense and to bring to you some of the tremendous struggles and sacrifices and ideals and hopes that went into the early years of this century to building the American labor movement.

Allen concludes:
So died one of the most militant bands of rebels America ever nourished. Its philosophy was impractical, its aims often absurd, its tactics still oftener childish. [...] Yet the wobblies, at their best, were gallant and picturesque fighters, steadfast in the face of vituperance and danger, and it was these qualities which drew Gurley Flynn to them.

"Go to the strangers who are within my land and destroy them all except the Lion," said the Wicked Witch. "Bring that beast to me, for I have a mind to harness him like a horse, and make him work." "Your commands shall be obeyed," said the leader. Then, with a great deal of chattering and noise, the Winged Monkeys flew away to the place where Dorothy and her friends were walking.

Millwheels of Greed
The wives, mothers and the children all go in to produce dividends, profit, profit, profit. The brutal governor is a pillar of the First Methodist church in Birmingham. On Sunday he gets up and sings, "O Lord will you have another star for my crown when I get there?" ~ Mary Harris (Mother Jones), 1908

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn died in September of 1964 - but then again - Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's never really die at all, now do they? They are only reborn again and again, down through the roil and rock of generations. Ain't that right?

So -- Rock on left wing rebel girls!

This has been a short history in a small place, in honor of the one million plus, "...on the National Mall..."too big to ignore.'" And upcoming millions too big to ignore; See: "Take Back America Conference Agenda June 2, 3, 4 - Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington DC. Wednesday, June 2 ~ 12:00 PM Pre-Event: Jobs with Justice announces National Workers' Rights Board. ...by national leaders who stand up for workers' rights." ~ Remember Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

The leader of the Winged Monkeys flew up to her, his long, hairy arms stretched out and his ugly face grinning terribly; but he saw the mark of the Good Witch's kiss upon her forehead and stopped short, motioning the others not to touch her.

"We dare not harm this little girl," he said to them, "for she is protected by the Power of Good, and that is greater than the Power of Evil.

exempli gratia - vox populi


Friday, April 30, 2004

Kerry, Starting to Cohere? 

John Kerry just finished giving that speech at Fulton College in Missouri, the site of Winston Churchill's deservedly famous Iron Curtain speech, and what one can only hope will be Dick Cheney's deservedly infamous partisan and decidedly not statesman-like speech on Monday, which attacked Senator Kerry as a candidate who has what it doesn't take to be President, those famous troubling opinions about national defense and America's place in the world.

Senator Kerry and his campaign staff are to be congratulated. It was an impressive speech that took full advantage of one of those pregnant campaign moments sometimes handed to you by your opponent; Kerry and staff appear to have understood the dynamics of the moment, and executed the exact right response superbly.

The setting was perfect; Kerry couldn't have asked for more if it had been set up with the precision of a convention moment, but without that deathly lack of spontaneity. The audience wanted to hear from Kerry and let him know it.

And Kerry came through. This was a political speech about what needs to be done to change the failed course we are pursuing in Iraq. It was billed as John Kerry on Iraq and it did not disappoint, all the more so because his bearing and delivery were that of a statesman. No shouting, no direct attacks on the current administration, but a comfortable awareness that the failing nature of our current policy in Iraq is a given that most people accept. And Kerry avoided making the corollary mistake of sounding too grim, too comfortable with our failures there; it will take a special kind of propagandist to find any gloating in this speech, not that the slackers that hang out at a certain corner won't rise to the challenge.

Kerry presented a measured optimism that there is a way out of Iraq other than being driven out by Iraqis themselves, or by merely declaring either victory or defeat and simply leaving. Yes, there was no major policy proposal that he hasn't mentioned before, but this speech fleshed out his position, contextualized it, and answered, with appropriate indirection, the winger meme of the week, already taking hold among the SCLM, that there is virtually no difference between the Kerry and the Bush position on Iraq.

Before I continue, let me be clear, there were many items on the agenda of many of us on the liberal/left axis that we are waiting to hear Kerry say that he continued not to say on this occasion, and one or two phrases that make many of us shudder with distaste that he did say, like "staying the course," that one, mercifully, only once, and largely to make a point about its inadequacy as a description of what needs to be done.

My own greatest worry about Kerry's positions thus far has been what I consider to have been a straight-up mistake he made in appearing to back Bush's embrace of Sharon's so-called exit plan. So I was grateful that he made no mention of Israel or the Palestinians. I still believe that we can change Kerry's mind, "we" being those of us who support him, are raising money for him and working on his behalf. I plan to speak to that possibility in a weekend post. For now, I hope it will be sufficient to caution all of us not to do the work of the wingers for them. Without getting into the policy specifics in the speech, to be addressed in later posts, this was a speech that I think most of us ought to be able to live with, and not entirely unhappily. More needs to be fleshed out. But nothing Kerry said is inconsistent with the kinds of policies most of us think are essential to get us out as early as possible from an American occupation that is, in itself, the chief impediment to both stability and some form of democratic governence for the Iraqi people.

All three cable news networks carried the speech. CNN and MSNBC offered very little post-speech commentary. On Fox we were given Eleanor Clift and some columnist from the NYPost; Clift had a similar take to mine; this was a major step forward for the campaign, Kerry looked and sounded like a President, and one who knew what he was talking about. The NYPost hack had to reach to fit what we'd all just seen into one of the cliches the right has been hawking this week, and he contented himself with observing that Kerry lost an opportunity by not attacking the President's policy more specifically in order to differentiate himself from that policy, in other words, he should have behaved like Cheney, so that we'd have an easier time making the point that there is no real policy difference between the President and Senator Kerry, which leaves those only those questions of "character," like the President's steadfastness and Kerry's squishiness, to argue about. That's how they want to frame the Iraq question. Kerry went some way in reframing Iraq as a policy difference. Or so it seemed to me.

I have much more to say, and other bloggers I want to link to, but I'm writing this one on the run, so I'll leave it here.

Let us know what you think about the speech?

UPDATE From alert reader Zappatero, here's a link to the video at CSPAN. Anyone got a transcript?

Happy Mission Accomplished" Day!, part 2 

Let's confuse the Republicans with facts:

The Department of Defense and family members have identified 718 U.S. servicemembers who died supporting U.S.-led operations in Iraq. Of these, 580 died since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations there had ended.
(via AP)

Hmm... 580/781 is 80%.

Well, I guess it depends on the definition of "major", "combat", and "operations" ... Since Inerrant Boy cannot be wrong.

Happy "Mission Accomplished" Day! 

Yes, a year ago tomorrow Bush defiled the name of a great Republican and President, by using the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln as photo-op fodder for campaign commercials.

You remember: The photo-op they kept the troops an extra day at sea for? The photo-op where, although the carrier was only thirty miles off shore, they turned it for the cameras to make it look like it was out at sea? The photo-op where all the other dignitaries flew in by helicopter, but Bush was flown in on a fighter jet? The photo-op where the landing restraint wire was practically slack, so the fighter rolled halfway down the deck before stopping—since if the wire is nominal and tight, civilians like Bush vomit at the sudden shock of deceleration? The photo-op where Bush wore socks for a codpiece? The photo-op with the "Mission Accomplished" banner? The photo-op where Bush denied responsibility for the "Mission Accomplished" banner when it started looking like a loser of an idea?

Yes, that photo op.

However, our Inerrant Executive is never wrong, and so He is taking the opportunity to tell us so:

It will be a year on Saturday since Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln beneath a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished" and announced that major combat in Iraq had ended.

[Executive] Bush on Friday defended his speech a year ago on the deck of an aircraft carrier proclaiming the end of major combat in Iraq and said "we're making progress, you bet" in bringing stability to the war-torn country.
(via LA Times)

Right. I don't understand, though, why more Americans died after the end of "major combat" than before.

Answering reporters' questions ... Bush said that on the day he spoke aboard an aircraft carrier off San Diego, he also noted that "there was still difficult work ahead."

Oh, please. "Difficult work" like rushing in tanks and armored Humvees a year later, to deal with an insurgency? Don't make me laugh. It hurts too much.

"A year ago I did give the speech from the carrier saying we had achieved an important objective, accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein," Bush said.

A little revisionist history, eh?

"As a result, there are no longer torture chambers or mass graves or rape rooms in Iraq," the president said
(via LA Times)

I'll leave it to others to argue the semantics about whether the Iraqi bodies buried in and around Fallujah are mass graves.

But Bush is—surprise!—lying about the torture chambers and rape rooms. They are still in Iraq—just run by mercenaries who should be ashamed to call themselves Americans:

Graphic photographs showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a US-run prison outside Baghdad emerged yesterday from a military inquiry which has left six soldiers facing a possible court martial and a general under investigation.

Colonel Jill Morgenthaler, speaking for central command, told the Guardian: "One contractor was originally included with six soldiers, accused for his treatment of the prisoners, but we had no jurisdiction over him. It was left up to the contractor on how to deal with him."

She did not specify the accusation facing the contractor, but according to several sources with detailed knowledge of the case, he raped an Iraqi inmate in his mid-teens.
(via Guardian)


Mission accomplished, my Aunt Fanny!

Iraq insurgency: Looks like we are re-Baathifying—though that may be too little, too late 

Well, it sure is easier to buy the Iraqis off than to kill them all and let God sort them out. Looks like someone in the Bush regime wised up. The signal, I imagine, was Chalabi saying they could bought the Baath party, and hence security, a year ago. $200 million looks cheap now, eh? The essential Juan Cole writes:

There are everywhere signs that the United States has embarked on a policy of re-baathification, rehabilitating thousands of ex-Baathists and putting them to work. Fifty former Baath officers met with Minister of Defense Ali Allawi on Thursday, expressing their deep disappointment with the current make-up of the new Iraqi army. The policy has two goals. First, it is aimed at mollifying the Sunni Arabs, who have given the US so much trouble in the past year, and from whom the high-ranking Baathists were largely drawn. Second, it serves as a threat to insurgents and Shiites, that if they continue to make trouble, they will be facing the aides of Chemical Ali.

Whoever made the decision to pull back and try to put an Iraqi face on the confrontation in Fallujah had more good sense than has been demonstrated by American leaders recently in Iraq. A bloody invasion of Fallujah had the potential of greatly deepening Iraqi and Arab hatred for the United States. It remains to see whether the new Iraqi force is up to the task of restoring order and quelling the fighters. The police in Fallujah have so far been ineffective, often admitting that they refuse to fight Iraqis on behalf of the Americans.
(via Informed Comment)

Of course, what might have brought realpolitik-style "good" results a year ago might not bring results today. Things change. Krugman writes:

All the information I've been able to get my hands on indicates that the security situation in Iraq is really, really bad. It's not a good sign when, a year into an occupation, the occupying army sends for more tanks. Western civilians have retreated to armed enclaves. U.S. forces are strong enough to defend those enclaves, and probably strong enough to keep essential supplies flowing. But we don't have remotely enough troops to turn the vicious circle around. The Iraqi forces that were supposed to fill the security gap collapsed — or turned against us — at the first sign of trouble.

And all of the proposals one hears for resolving this ugly situation seem to be either impractical or far behind the curve.

Some say we should send more troops. But the U.S. military doesn't have more troops to send, unless it resorts to extreme measures, like withdrawing a large part of the forces currently in South Korea. Did I mention that North Korea is building nuclear weapons, and may already have eight?

Others say we should seek more support from other countries. There may once have been a time — say, last summer — when the U.S. could have struck a deal: by ceding a lot of authority to the U.N., we might have been able to persuade countries with large armies, like India, to contribute large numbers of peacekeeping troops. But it's hard to imagine that anyone will now send significant forces into the Iraqi cauldron.

Some pin their hopes on a political solution: they believe that violence will subside if the U.N. is allowed to appoint a caretaker government that Iraqis don't view as a U.S. puppet.

Let's hope they're right. But bear in mind that right now the U.S. is still planning to hand over "sovereignty" to a body, yet to be named, that will have hardly any power at all. For practical purposes, the U.S. ambassador will be running the country. Americans may believe that everything will change on June 30, but Iraqis are unlikely to be fooled. And by the way, much of the Arab world believes that we've been committing war crimes in Falluja.

I don't have a plan for Iraq. I strongly suspect, however, that all the plans you hear now are irrelevant. If America's leaders hadn't made so many bad decisions, they might have had a chance to shape Iraq to their liking. But that window closed many months ago.
(via The Times)

Well, unless we can get the Sunnis to run the country for us like they ran it for Saddam (perhaps with our mercenaries helping them do the work our Geneva Convention-bound regular troops can't do). After, all the worst of the Ba'athists are a lot like the CPA/RNC folks: they will do literally anything to gain and hold power.

It really takes some cojones... 

to attack your political opponent for voting for cuts in the military that you suggested and supported at the time:

Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been charging that John Kerry would be a dangerous president because he opposed many key weapons that the military now relies on, himself presided over the biggest cutbacks in defense programs in modern history when he was secretary of defense under the first President Bush.

As Pentagon chief from 1989 to 1993 Cheney canceled or cut back many of the same weapons programs – bombers, fighter planes, battle tanks – that he says Kerry tried to deprive the armed forces of.
But wait, it gets even better:

The latest Bush-Cheney campaign ad depicts weapons such as the B-2 stealth bomber flying over a battlefield and then disappearing into thin air, attempting to convince voters that if Kerry prevailed back then, U.S. military forces would be underequipped.

Yet Cheney canceled the B-2 bomber program after 20 planes, even though the Air Force insisted it needed 132. He opposed upgrading the M1 Abrams tank, recommended killing the latest model of the F-14 fighter jet and opposed buying more F-15s.
So -- Cheney personally killed the B-2 that is the centerpiece of the advertisement!

I'm really not even sure "rank hypocrisy" quite covers it, eh?

Anyone got a better way to describe it?

And, yeah yeah, I know "typical Republican" comes immediately to mind but I'm looking for a memorable phrase to describe it.

Any ideas?

Update: Ooops. Forgot the link. Here you go.

Heh. The first leak of Mary Kate and Ashley's "visit" with the 9/11 commission is—wait for it—to the moonie Times 

Man, those Republicans work fast, don't they! And surprise! They are still pushing the "no time and place" line.

President George Bush told the panel investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks a security memo he got warning of attacks lacked a date or place.

In the closed-door interview alongside Vice President Dick Cheney in the Oval Office Thursday, a commission member who asked not to be identified told the Washington Times Bush was questioned repeatedly about the Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled, "Bin Ladin determined to strike in U.S."
(via Washington Times)

So, the natural question would be: "Mr. Bush, during your vacation, did you take any immediate action to pin down the time and place?"

Of course, if that question was asked and/or answered, that wasn't leaked:

No other details of the three-hour interview were available.

And according to Drudge (sigh) Bob Kerrey and Lee Hamilton left early.

One can only congratulate them on their unwillingness to participate in the "sock puppet farce."

The tinfoil hat theory, of course, would be that somehow an electronic recording device was smuggled in, so they have a transcript.

Soldier being prosecuted for abusing Iraqi prisoners a whistleblower? 

Certainly that would be entirely consistent with Bush Up-Is-Downism and vengefulness against perceived enemies.

A soldier facing a court-martial for his role in the alleged abuse of Iraqi war prisoners says commanders ignored his requests to set out rules for treating POWs and scolded him for questioning the inmates' harsh treatment.

Army Reserves Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick wfrote that Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad lacked the humane standards of the Virginia state prison where he worked in civilian life, according to a journal he started after military investigators first questioned him in January.

The Iraqi prisoners were sometimes confined naked for three consecutive days without toilets in damp, unventilated cells with floors 3 feet by 3 feet, Frederick wrote in materials obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

"When I brought this up with the acting BN (battalion) commander, he stated, 'I don't care if he has to sleep standing up.' That's when he told my company commander that he was the BN commander and for me to do as he says," Frederick wrote.

The writings were supplied by Frederick's uncle, William Lawson, who said Frederick wanted to document what was happening to him. Lawson and Martha Frederick, the sergeant's wife, said Frederick was being made a scapegoat for commanders who gave him no guidance on managing hundreds of POWs with just a handful of ill-trained, poorly equipped troops
(via AP)

Way to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, guys. Especially since the Islamic world has TV, and abuse of Iraqi prisoners is a top story.

UPDATE Alert reader 56K asks a pertinent question:

Dear Billy Graham:

Is it acceptabe in the eyes of the Lord for the US occupation troops to torture Iraqi prisoners?

If not, why are you silent?

Yours in Christ,

UPDATE Atrios points out that private contractors were supervising the interrogation of prisoners. Yech. All this was sadly predicatable. See a Republic of Mercenaries.

"Jeebofascist": Request for comments 

Readers: Have any of you the Jeebofascist in its natural habitat? If so, where? Can you describe its plumage and habits?

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

And sweet dreams.

If I can sleep, that is, with the vision of Mary Kate and Ashley (yech) immediately below.

Thanks, farmer. I think.

American Naive 

Erla Mae Nevin, a little known folk painter from Hazlehurst Georgia, produced the only known historic visual documentation of the young divinely chosen leader and his patriarch coadunate attendant as they - having undertaken for the Glory of God, and the advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our Dear Leader and Country - present themselves entre nous before the assembled Nine-Eleven Commission of State Elders and Knowers of Secret Things. The painting currently hangs in the Great Hall of Monarchs and Heroes of the Autocracy in the nation's capitol.

- and he stepped into the river and seized up the drowning idiot, snatching it aloft by the heels like a great midwife and slapping it on the back to let the water out. A birth scene or a baptism or some ritual not yet inaugurated into any canon. He twisted the water from its hair and he gathered the naked and sobbing fool into his arms and carried it up into the camp and restored it among its fellows. (Cormac McCarthy, "Blood Meridian")

Gaudeamus igitur ~ let us therefore rejoice.


No shit, Sherlock Department: Bremer on Bush terror priorities in 2001 

Well, well, well.

L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, said in a speech six months before the Sept. 11 attacks that the Bush administration was "paying no attention" to terrorism.

"What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this,'" Bremer said
at a McCormick Tribune Foundation conference on terrorism on Feb. 26, 2001.
(via AP)

Goodness! I wonder if this contradicts Bush's testimony today....

WaPos's Froomkin: Times endorses Bush 

Well, maybe not on the editorial page. But what other interpretation should we put on this mystifying behavior?

[The] New York Times [has] some bad polling news for the president.

"Support for the war in Iraq has eroded substantially over the past several months, and Americans are increasingly critical of the way President Bush is handling the conflict, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll," they write.

Bush's approval rating "now stands at 46 percent, the lowest level of his presidency in The Times/CBS News Poll, down from 71 percent last March and a high of 89 percent just after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001."

In fact, Bush's disapproval rating of 47 percent is now higher than his approval rating.

There's lots more numbers and a graphic on the Web site.

But is the Times trying to defuse its own bombshell? An unsigned sidebar explains how its poll compares to other recent ones -- and why. In short: "The New York Times/CBS News Poll's main findings were consistent with trends in some other recent polls but somewhat more negative for Mr. Bush." But "in statistical terms" they're "virtually the same."
(via WaPo)

Looks like another cheap attempt at fake "balance" to me. Fact: Bush's approval rating sucks (anti-Bush). Interpretation: The fact doesn't matter (pro-Bush). But let's remember Okrent's Law (back):

The pursuit of balance can create imbalance, because sometimes something is true.

Question: When is the Times going to pursue what is true? Liberals have the facts on our side, we have nothing to fear from this!)

Answer: Not as long as Kit "Performing" Seelye, Judith "Kneepads" Miller, and Jodi Will-Whore-'Em are on the job ....

The Monday morning horror 

Used to be that the WhiteWash House would release the news it didn't want anyone to notice at 5:00PM Friday—like the Bush's "complete" service records, that turned out not to be.

But now horror happens 24/7, so 5:00PM Friday is just one hour among the others.

Now it turns out there's a new time to watch for horror: Monday morning.

[Stephanie Cutter, Kerry's communications director], said Bush strategists often launch attacks against Kerry at the beginning of a week in which they are expecting bad news. This week's schedule includes a Supreme Court hearing on Vice President Cheney's secret energy task force, today's joint appearance by Bush and Cheney before the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks, and the first anniversary of Bush's landing on an aircraft carrier with a "Mission Accomplished" banner.
(via WaPo)

Good catch, Stephanie. Now what are you going to do to control the news cycle?

NOTE And here's a really weird comment from Kerry on this week's Monday Horror, the ginned up medals controversy:

Republicans are raising questions over a Vietnam War protest Kerry participated in 33 years ago, saying he pretended to throw away his medals. Kerry said Monday he threw away his ribbons and the medals of two other veterans, and he rejected the questions as a "phony controversy."(Full story)

After the conclusion of an interview with ABC during which he was grilled on the topic, a clearly frustrated Kerry -- who apparently believed the camera had been turned off -- sputtered into a microphone, "God, they're doing the work of the Republican National Committee."
(via CNN)

Merciful heavens, Senator, what world have you been living in? Yes, that is exactly what they are doing. You thought the "Dean Scream" was manna from heaven? No. They targetted him—and now they are targetting you. Welcome to the real world!

Plame Affair: Wilson names names. Was felon who blew Valerie Plame's cover on Dick "Dick" Cheney's staff? 

Who knew? Can it be that that the Republicans would happily break the law to smear an enemy? More Republican lawbreaking. Media yawns, collects paycheck.

Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has been pegged as a possible leaker of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to a syndicated columnist, according to a new book by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, Plame's husband.
(via AP)

"Pegged", eh? Hmmm... Nice picture!

Or could it be Iran-Contra thug Elliot Abrams?

The other name "that has most often been repeated to me in connection with the inquiry and disclosure into my background and Valerie's is that of Elliott Abrams, who gained infamy in the Iran-Contra scandal during the first Bush administration." (Abrams, Leiby explains, is on the staff of the National Security Council.)

Then again, they could be heaving "Scooter" (love the sobriquet!) over the side to protect Rove....

Another suspect named in Wilson's book: White House chief political adviser Karl Rove. "The workup on me that turned up the information on Valerie was shared with Karl Rove, who then circulated it in administration and neoconservative circles," Wilson writes.

Columnist Robert Novak has said only that "two senior administration officials" were his sources.

Two sources? I know! It was Mary Kate and Ashley! Let's hope the grand jury can find out...

How Will We Know When John Kerry Is Done? 

Stick a fork in him. That's what our hard-working-to-the-point-of-suicidal-exhaustion, meritocratic media stars say *.

On the basis of two polls last week that still showed the presidential race as essentially even, and very little change for Kerry in the swing states, punditistas across the pundit spectrum, from putative liberals like Noam Schieber at TNR, to salt-of-the-earth centrist Kerry bashiros like Mickey Kaus, to genuine wingers like Bay Buchanan, who informed us recently on CNN that John Kerry's numbers are flat because he has been rejected as a credible alternative to George Bush, a consensus has been emerging that Kerry's campaign has stalled upon take-off, and is hovering in its airspace, struggling against the force of gravity. Punditistas were particularly struck that the period the poll sampled came after a spate of bad news for the Bush administration, and still, Americans cleaved to their President, leading some of the wiggier wags to propose the possibility that the worse things go for this country overseas, the more will Americans rally round the flag and the man who appears to be holding it.

Now we have a new poll, from the NYTimes and CBS that suggests a rather different picture.

Support for War Is Down Sharply, Poll Concludes

Support for the war in Iraq has eroded substantially over the past several months, and Americans are increasingly critical of the way President Bush is handling the conflict, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

After initially expressing robust backing for the war, the public is now evenly divided over whether the United States military should stay for as long as it takes to stabilize Iraq or pull out as soon as possible, the poll showed.

Asked whether the United States had done the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, 47 percent of respondents said it had, down from 58 percent a month earlier and 63 percent in December, just after American forces captured Saddam Hussein. Forty-six percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, up from 37 percent last month and 31 percent in December.

The diminished public support for the war did not translate into any significant advantage for Mr. Bush's Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The poll showed the two men remaining in a statistical dead heat, both in a head-to-head matchup and in a three-way race that included Ralph Nader.

Support for Mr. Bush is stronger in other areas vital to his re-election, including his handling of the threat from terrorism, which won the approval of 60 percent of respondents.

Even so, just short of a year after Mr. Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln last May 1 and proclaimed the end to major combat operations under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished," his approval rating has slid from the high levels it reached during the war.

Here's what part of this new poll you'll hear talked about the most:

The survey held hints of trouble for Mr. Kerry as he seeks to introduce himself to an electorate that knows relatively little about him. While 55 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters said they strongly favored the president, only 32 percent of Mr. Kerry's supporters strongly favored their candidate.

Sixty-one percent of voters said Mr. Kerry says what he thinks people want to hear, versus 29 percent who said he says what he believes. The Bush campaign has attacked Mr. Kerry for months on that score, portraying him as a flip-flopper with no convictions.

On the same question, 43 percent said Mr. Bush says what people want to hear and 53 percent said he says what he believes

It's amazing, really, and somewhat depressing, I have to admit, that this administration has successfully launched that particular meme against John Kerry, of the man who can never take a stand, never talk straight, and even more amazing that they then kept it afloat by using, in particular, aspects of John Kerry's service to America in a war, usually referred to in other contexts as being a war hero, as well as his principled public stance against the war upon his return to this country, which was not something that most Americans wanted to hear from returning veterans, and certainly not Richard Nixon and his hitman, Charles Colson.

More to come on what the real problems of the Kerry campaign are, and how some of us on the left may be making them worse.

You can read the rest of the information on the poll here.

* By the end of today, I promise this reference will be made clear.

Fat Tony speaks, and emits an odor of sanctimony 

And—Fancy that!—the press is allowed to quote him!

As long as judges tinker with the Constitution to "do what the people want," instead of what the document actually commands, politicians who pick and confirm new federal judges will naturally want only those who agree with them politically, Scalia said.

"And so politics has made itself known," Scalia told an audience of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Good judges are honest lawyers who stick to the letter of the law or the Constitution, whatever their political philosophy, Scalia said.
(via AP)

Rich. "Politics has made itself known." I love it.

Three words: "Bush", "v", "Gore".

I won't use the phrase "duck pit", but feel free to think it!

Americans May Be Dying, but Irony Isn't 

Nightline, born during the Iranian hostage crisis to obsessively monitor Carter's unsuccessful efforts to secure the release of a few dozen Americans, is getting yanked for one broadcast covering Bush's contribution to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds. (via Atrios)

Iraq insurgency: CPA stands for "Corrupt Provisional Authority" 

But with the Republicans in charge, what else would be expect?

A senior Defense Department official is under investigation by the Pentagon inspector general for allegations that he attempted to alter a contract proposal in Iraq to benefit a mobile phone consortium that includes friends and colleagues, according to documents obtained by The Times and sources with direct knowledge of the process.

John A. Shaw, 64, the deputy undersecretary for international technology security, sought to transform a relatively minor police and fire communications proposal into a contract allowing the creation of an Iraq-wide commercial cellular network that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year, the sources said.
(via LA Times)

And guess what! The administration is screwing Iraqi first responders, as well as our own!

Shaw's efforts resulted in a dispute at the Coalition Provisional Authority that has delayed the contract, depriving U.S. military officials and Iraqi police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and border guards of a joint communications system.

That has angered top U.S. officials and members of the U.S.-led authority governing Iraq, who say the deaths of many Americans and Iraqis might have been prevented with better communications.

Hey, wonder if the cell phone network in the Iraq works? Especially since we imposed the US cell phone standard on them, as opposed to the GSM standard, which the rest of the world uses? Hey, who cares?

CDMA, which was developed by Qualcomm, is used in the United States and some countries in Asia. Its rival, a standard developed by Europeans called GSM, is used in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

"Hey, we won the war," Shaw said in an interview. "Is it not in our interests to have the most advanced system that we possibly can that can then become the dominant standard in the region?"

Wow! War profiteering! Scratching the surface of corruption, I'm sure.

Back to normal on Fallujah 


Bush insisted "most of Fallujah is returning to normal" despite a massive American bombardment yesterday.
(via UK Mirror)


U.S. warplanes carried out new air strikes and gunfire erupted in parts of this volatile city Thursday night, hours after Marines announced a tentative deal to end a nearly month-long siege that has cost hundreds of lives. Separately, a series of hit-and-run attacks and a car-bomb blast killed 10 U.S. soldiers during the morning, most of them in and around the capital.

A cease-fire agreement -- reached with the assistance of local leaders and signed April 19 -- has largely been ignored by people in the city. Although the deal called for such heavy arms as mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to be surrendered to the Marines, all they have received is a small assortment of rusty, inoperable weapons.

The latest plan emerged from three days of discussions between U.S. commanders and four former Iraqi generals, according to Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Fallujah.

(via WaPo)

Cue The Boos 

Al Gore, apparently under the impression that he exists, has pledged to various entities of the Democratic Party, six million plus dollars that are to be drawn from his 2000 campaign accounts.

The former vice president pledged to donate $4 million to the Democratic National Committee. The party's Senate and House committees each will get $1 million, and the party from Gore's home state of Tennessee would receive $250,000.

The Democratic Party in Florida, site of the divisive 2000 election recount, will get $240,000 from a separate Gore campaign account. Republican campaign committees still hold a fund-raising advantage over Democrats.

"The outcome of this election is extremely important for the future of our country and for all that America stands for," Gore said. "I want to help John Kerry become president and I want to help Democrats retake control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives."

Ron Fournier is reporting for the WaPo, and you might just get the impression that he has some awareness that the poor hapless Gores aren't on Sally Quinns dinner party invitation list.

He shocked the political community late last year by endorsing then front-runner Dean, whose campaign collapsed several weeks later in Iowa.

That deserves the award for being the most (fill in the blank) statement of the week, but what kind? Readers?

This one I think I can peg:

Gore narrowly lost Florida and the presidential race after the Supreme Court stopped the disputed recount.

Misstatement masquerading as an understatement? I guess it depends on what your definition of "lost," or perhaps "won" is.

Despite his endorsement of Dean, Gore met recently with the putative nominee, Senator Kerry: "John will be a great president for all Americans, and I want to do everything I can to help him fight against the outrageous and misleading campaign being waged by the Bush-Cheney campaign," Gore said. I predict that this statement will produce a significant round of chuckles and sneers among our hard-working, to the point of exhaustion, meritocratic media stars.

If you are especially curious about which of these three men hates/resents/ or other harbored secret negative attitudes, (fill in the blank) the other two, or vice versa Xs two, or how Gore really feels about Bill Clinton, also vice ersa, tune into Hardball during the next two days; depending on the headlines, Chris is sure to address this important issue, and if you're lucky, Peggy Noonan and Pat Caudell will be in attendence.

Watch also for amusing, in a putative sort of way, variations on "the six million dollar man." Remember all the references in campaigns past to Gore's mechanical inability to register as an actual human being. Expect also derisive references to the fact that by law, Gore couldn't keep the money for himself, though he could have donated it to charity, instead of to a political party, a choice whose ethical/moral implications, in view of the political party, eek, he chose, will no doubt be addressed by members of the Capital Gang. Look also for one of those crack political reporters at the NYTimes to interview some nameless Democrat to express relief that Gore no longer exits, politically speaking, and remark upon the pathos of Gore not understanding that.

Boos there will be, how many and aimed at what particular Gore failing is the only open question. Why? Because Al Gore is under the mistaken impression that he exits and that outrageous assumption on his part is a deadly giveaway that Al Gore still doesn't understand who it is in this country who gets to decide who does or does not exist.

For more pathetic evidence of Al Gore's delusions, click here, here, here, and here.

Beyond sad, isn't it?

More Jeebofascists  

Apparently the pre-1954 Pledge of Allegiance was a phony bit of treasonous claptrap:

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott turned a routine recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance into a political flap this week when he omitted the words "under God" while leading the House of Representatives in the pledge.

McDermott, D-Seattle, said he recited the pledge before Tuesday's House session the way he had learned it as a child in Illinois, before the words "under God" were added, and that he meant no offense. When he came to "under God," McDermott paused while the rest of the House said the words and then continued on with the pledge.

"That's how I've always said it," McDermott said yesterday. "I make my pledge to my country and that's the end of it."

(via Seattle Times)

But of course it's not the end of it for our own homegrown Taliban, not by a long shot:

Republicans pounced on the omission. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, accused McDermott of "embarrassing the House and disparaging the majority of Americans who share the values expressed in the pledge."

Washington State Republican Party chairman Chris Vance echoed the criticism in a statement yesterday: "One more time, Jim McDermott has embarrassed Washington state."

The House's presiding officer Tuesday, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said the words "under God" would appear in the Congressional Record of Tuesday's proceedings, regardless of how McDermott had recited the pledge.

McDermott, 67, has been a lightning rod for conservatives since he took a high-profile trip to Iraq in 2002 and told television interviewers President Bush would mislead the public to justify an invasion.

This last, of course, is the big stinking turd in the middle of the living room: McDermott told the truth, so he must be hounded from public life. Too bad he routinely gets 70% of the vote in his district. At the very least, therefore, he must be smeared at every opportunity. Even if--especially if--he's a professing Christian:

"I was a 6-year-old boy when I gave my heart to Jesus Christ," said McDermott, a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. "I went to Wheaton College with Billy Graham. But religion shouldn't be worn on your sleeve. I don't wear my religion on my sleeve. I don't think my relationship with God has any place in this."

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." --Matthew 6:5-6

Looks like the Jeebofascists have another traitor within who needs purging.

Taxation without representation 

So, if Pennsylvania is 50/50 Republican/Democratic, but the Republicans have gerrymandered "my" House delegation so that it is split 19/12 Republican/Democratic (here), and all revenue spending bills originate in the House, doesn't that mean that I'm being taxed without being represented?

This is, of course, a general problem: Though the country is controlled by a political machine based in the Red states, the Blue states are subsizing the Red states through tax revenues.

Time for some tea in the harbor....

NOTE Alert reader Ubu corrects me:

All tax legislation must originate in the House - that's what's referenced as "revenue bills" in the Constitution. Appropriations bills - spending - originate in both House & Senate.

Well, heck, that's what I meant.

Of course, the Constitution is a dead letter anyhow, what with Bush shifting $700,000,000 that both houses appropriated from Afghanistan to Iraq without, uh, telling anyone.

Mary Kate and Ashley before the 9/11 commission 

Alert reader JasonC comments:

Who knows what hijinx those loveable twins will get themselves into this fine morning! I hope they wear matching outfits.


Negroponte's Stygian Shores 

Senate Foreign Relations Committee members are deciding whether or not to confirm George W. Bush's nomination of John Negroponte, a man who knows a rape room when he sees one, to ambassador of Iraq. Proving once again that the current Battalion 43 occupying the White House is little more than a squalid nest of paroled Reagan administration felons. A dangerous homicidal juicehead full of cheap moonshine Jesus and Nazi crank; driving south in a stolen 1980 Chrysler Cordova while live hand grenades roll around in the trunk.

Then again, it would appear that the brahmins of the SFRC aren't really trying to decide anything at all and in fact all the decidin' and confirmin' and concernin' is already pretty much decidedly, for whom the bell tolls, in the can.

Fast track slackers | Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings. Via Democracy Now
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT): We're not going that far, John, here, but in a sense, what I'm getting at here, it's obvious that this committee is going to confirm your nomination. So, in the traditional sense, the normal question and answer period is not really appropriate here because I don't think anything that you are going to say is going to dissuade any of us that you should not be the choice and get this job done.

[excerpt] "Two Democrats, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Barbara Boxer of California, noted that they had disagreed with Mr. Negroponte when he was an ambassador in Honduras and deputy national security adviser... [...] But they said they would set aside those concerns out of personal respect for him." ~ New York Times, Wed., 04.28.04 | "Ambassador Nominee Defends Limits on Iraq's Sovereignty | page A9. [excerpt]

Well jeepers, thats right diplomatic of em. Below are a few "concerns" apparently set aside out of "personal respect" for liege Negroponte's fragile sensibilities. Afterall, peers of the realm Sir Dodd and Lady Boxer wouldn't want to upset Ambassador Death Squad with uncomfortable reminders of potentially problematic bygone derring do. Sakes no.

Battalion 316: [Democracy Now - interview transcript]

SISTER LAETITIA BORDES: Why yes, good morning Amy. As I mentioned yesterday on your program, I had gone to Honduras to meet with then-ambassador John Negroponte to find out what had happened to 32 women from El Salvador, who had taken refuge in Honduras and who disappeared. At that time there was the Battalion 316. The Battalion was another name for the horrible death squad that was operating in Honduras at that time. That was well known to ambassador Negroponte. The reason I say it was very well known to ambassador Negroponte was that General Alvarez Martinez was then chief of the Honduran armed forces, and he was the secret head of battalion 316. Now, Negroponte and Martinez, the people would tell you, it was known that they would wine and dine together, and had ongoing connections. So, it is absurd to think that Mr. Negroponte would say that he did not know what was going in El Salvador at that time. As I found out 13 years later that the women we were looking for had been badly, badly tortured and then put in a helicopter and dropped into the ocean. They used Salvadoran military and helicopters to take these women and drop them over the ocean. Now, Battalion 316 continued to function the whole time that Negroponte was there, and I don't think too many people know that General Gustavo Martinez was kind of, quote, “Beheaded by his own military.” There was kind of a coup, and he took temporary refuge in the United States. When he went back to Honduras, he was assassinated. I don't think many people know about that. It is believed that he was assassinated by members of the military, who were very upset with him because of deals that he had made with the United States while he was the general. What angers me -- angers me very, very much is that there's absolutely no reference being made to the past of Mr. Negroponte in Honduras during these hearings. We just don't hear anything about it. We do not learn from our history. The people of Iraq are those who are going to be the ongoing victims of John Negroponte, who believes that the end justifies the means.

Sister Laetitia Bordes, a Catholic nun with the Society of Helpers, a Catholic community of women. She is talking to us from San Bruno, California. Democracy Now/interview

General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez:
...who had been trained at the US Army School of the Americas and in Argentina. He believed that Honduras should take the Argentine approach to dealing with dissent, which consisted largely of kidnapping suspects and torturing them to death in secret jails. His fanaticism disturbed some of his comrades, but when American officials decided to use Honduras as a base for the contra war, they found him an eager ally. He was willing not only to turn over parts of Honduran territory to the contras and allow them to function with impunity, but also to tolerate and even direct the "disappearance" of Hondurans who protested.


During his years in Honduras, Negroponte acquired a reputation, justified or not, as an old-fashioned imperialist. Sending him to the UN serves notice that the Bush administration will not be bound by diplomatic niceties as it conducts its foreign policy. ~ source: "Our Man in Honduras" ~ source: "Our Man in Honduras", By Stephen Kinzer NY Review of Books>, September 20, 2001.

Candor - an endangered species.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Ct., noted differences that he had with Negroponte when the diplomat was ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s. "Those differences stem largely from a lack of candor about what the U.S. was and wasn't doing in Central America in the conflict at that time," Dodd said. "And although I intend to support and strongly support this nomination when it comes to a vote in this committee, and later on the Senate floor, I want to make one point especially clear: That same issue -- candor -- in my view, is going to be critical with respect to continued support for U.S. policies in Iraq." [excerpt] Source: FoxNews

Bushlette and his willing executioners wouldn't recognize candor if it came flapping through an open Oval Office window and laid an egg on the desk. And apparently Christopher Dodd wouldn't recognize a viper if it slithered up his pantleg and sunk its fangs into his left nut. Whatever.

However ya look at it - it's gonna be a weird scary summer.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

Tomorrow, Mary Kate and Ashley "visit" with the 9/11 commission. Won't that be fun?

Scalia licenses Republican gerrymandering 

Well, so much for legitimate government under Republican rule.

A Supreme Court plurality, in a Pennsylvania case that may change the political landscape of the United States, said Wednesday that the courts cannot rule on challenges to political gerrymandering.

The decision could affect similar disputes in Texas and elsewhere and is expected to benefit the Republican Party. It could also open the floodgates to politically gerrymandered redistricting wherever one party has firm control of a state legislature.

But a four-justice plurality led by Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that political gerrymandering claims are "non-justiciable" because no standards for judging such claims [of gerrymandering] exist.

"The use of purely political considerations in drawing district boundaries is not a 'necessary evil' that, for lack of judicially manageable standards, the Constitution must tolerate," Breyer said in his dissent. Breyer then proceeded to offer 15 pages illustrating what he said were possible standards.

State Legislatures Magazine reported after the 2002 elections that Republicans had firm control of 21 state legislatures and Democrats firmly controlled 16. Partisan control is divided in 11 legislatures; the remainder are effectively deadlocked.

Political gerrymandering is espoused by such national figures as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and it is expected to spread after Wednesday's ruling.
(via UPI)

Funny how willing Scalia was to make a ruling in Bush v Gore, where standards also did not exist, and how willing he is to make a ruling now. I wonder why?

Democrats to infiltrate Republican National Convention with "shadow volunteers"? 

Excellent! And best of all, one of the proponents of the idea is from Philly!

[T]here is evidence that the idea of volunteering, then not showing up, or showing up and using anti-Republican language has interested many people.

The biggest public proponent of the idea is a 37-year-old computer consultant from Philadelphia, David A. Lynn, who has created a Web site called shadowprotest.org. It is calling on protesters to volunteer at both the Republican convention and the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Boston earlier in the summer. Mr. Lynn has issued press releases, and tried to sell his idea across the Internet, where it has picked up some momentum.

Boston appears largely immune to the tactic since the host committee there had signed up 12,000 volunteers by the end of March, the host committee said.
(via The Times)

Still more excellent!

But New York, which has a long way to go to reach its target, has so far registered only about 1,400 potential volunteers. Marilyn Shaw, director of volunteer services for the host committee, said all volunteers would be vetted by law enforcement before they are signed up. She also said volunteers would be expected to attend many meetings before getting their volunteer shirts.

"I'll be honest with you," she said. "We meet and greet them so many times they become our best friends."

I love the idea of "anti-Republican language." What would that be? Stating a fact?

And I also love the idea of passing as a Republican... But I'm not sure I could stand it. Anyhow, readers, have at it!

Iraq: Why not just let the Iraqis vote on whether they want us to stay? 

How hard could that be?

UPDATE Alert reader snarkey comments:

Hey! If it works out can we try it here?

New York Times sends in the clowns: Jodi Will-Whore-'Em buries the Bush AWOL story yet again 

Surprise! I hate to read stuff like this on my morning commute, because it ruins the mood of the morning, but readers, it's my job. Here's Jodi Wilgoren doing what I imagine, if she's not a complete whore, she must think of as reporting. I've done some deletions and added the bracketed material to clarify the true state of play:

[Kerry's aides] offered reporters a provocative [useless! Who cares if it is provocative? Is it true?] four-page handout [document] headlined [titled], "Key Unanswered Questions: Bush's Record in the National Guard."

Mr. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1973, but there is some dispute, [a long-running controversy] about how he got a coveted pilot spot, [why he was grounded for missing a medical exam,] [whether he was present for the entire term of his service,] and about missing attendanceservice records, [including the DD214 that would document the grounds for his discharge]. Mr. Cheney received deferments from the draft because he was a student and an expectant father. [Although Senators McCain and Kerry have authorized the unconditional release of all their service records, Mr. Bush has never done so.]

The Kerry handout, reviving questions that swirled around the White House earlier in the year, asked why Mr. Bush missed a medical exam while enrolled in the National Guard in 1972; why he requested not to be sent overseas for duty; how he got in over other applicants despite low scores; and where various records are.
(via NY Times)

And check that last sentence: "where various records are." Wilgoren buries the story right there. Readers, you know the detail (back), so you know that these records are the ones Bush must release to clear his name. They are:
  • The missing mandatory report on Bush's grounding

  • The missing DD214 discharge (that would give the grounds for his discharge)

  • The missing accumulation of total retirement points (that would show when he served)

And paystubs and a W2 would establish his attendance. Where are they? (Answer: On microfiche that Bush won't release.)

So Wilgoren does a "he said, she said", throws up her hands, and does no reporting. Meanwhile, what runs on page A1? A fluff—and I mean fluff—piece on Kerry's personal handler (see the essential Howler).

What a sick farce.

Readers, the address of hapless, overworked Times Bud Man Daniel Okrent is here: public@nytimes.com. Remember, he's the inventor of what is rapidly becoming known as Okrent's Law (back):

The pursuit of balance can create imbalance, because sometimes something is true.

Feel free to write Mr. Okrent a polite, detailed letter sharing your views on how Jodi Wilgoren, and the World's Greatest Newspaper (not!) are doing on finding out the truth.

Alert reader 56K suggests:

perhaps we should email the Howler link to the NY Times's largest investor, T Rowe Price and ask them if a newspaper who lied about this can be trusted to tell the truth about its financials


Put NYT/Wilgoren in the subject line

Well, maybe this link too...

Why are we even treating Kavanaugh's nomination seriously? 

Look at the record:

As a Starr deputy, [Appeals Court nominee Brett] Kavanaugh wrote the report to Congress saying that Mr. Clinton's dalliance with a former intern, Monica S. Lewinsky, provided grounds for impeachment.
(via NY Times)

So why aren't we all simply treating Kavanaugh's nomination as the joke it is, and reacting with hysterical laughter? We're going to give this guy lifetime tenure? WTF?

Supremes about to privatize the executive branch 

Isn't that what letting Cheney keep the papers for his energy task for private amounts to?

In a closely watched test of the president's right to operate behind closed doors, the Bush administration urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to preserve the freedom of the executive branch to solicit private outside advice.

Most of the justices signaled that they were prepared to do just that.
(via LA )

Not only that, there won't be a way to even find out what's been kept secret:

Moreover, neither Congress nor the courts may force the president to turn over information through so-called discovery orders, he said. "We are submitting that the discovery itself violates the Constitution," he said.

So, suppose industry "advice" takes the form of actually writing Federal regulations, and then having the administration they already own sign off on it. Could that be kept secret? Legally? Apparently, the Court is about to answer Yes.

Basically, the Bush theory of governance is that, every four years, there's a (rigged) national referendum on the Executive. (Let's not call Bush a "President" any more, OK?) In between, the Executive gets to do whatever the Executive wants. Bush has already totally trashed Congress's power of the purse by moving $700,000,000 appropriated for Afghanistan into Iraq, without so much as letting them now. Now, neither Congress nor the people will be able to look inside the Executive to see what it does or how it works, all under the guise of protecting "private advice." Hey, if the advice is so good, and the advice is something that won't screw us all over, why hide it?

So much for the Republic.

Appalling. Outrageous.

Looks like Spector pulled it off 


Arlen SPECTER: 527,365 (51%)

Pat TOOMEY: 510,724 (49%)
(via here)

With 99% of precincts reporting.

Tod bad. I would have liked to see Hoeffel stomp a winger. I think it will be harder for a Democrat to beat Spector. But what do I know? I've only been in Philly for three years, so it's not like I'm a native or anything. Readers?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Goodnight, moon. 

Karen Ooze. I like that.

Karen "Primordial" Ooze. I like that better.

Thanks farmer!

Sweet dreams, all...

Spector/Toomey results for PA Republican primary 

Continuously updated here.

Pennsylvania: Philly and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between ....

Demoiselle Hughes 

Karen "the Texas Motormouth" Hughes, born in snooty elitist cheese-eating surrender monkey Paris? (Paris, France that is.)

The daughter of an Army major general, Hughes was born in Paris, France, and lived in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, Kentucky, Canada, Panama and Texas while growing up.

She graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1977 and went to work as a television reporter in Fort Worth. In 1984, she moved from covering politics to playing the game.

Texas press coordinator for the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984, she later became executive director of the Texas GOP and joined Bush in the early months of his 1994 campaign for governor. LINK

What will we tell the children!!!

There is to be no questioning of the Dictator during the Circus 

A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it. - George W. Bush, July 26, 2001.

Project Vote Smart - National Political Awareness Test





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Project Vote-Smart.org ~ http://vote-smart.org

I'm the commander -- see, I don't need to explain -- I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation. - Quoted: "Bush at War" by Bob Woodward -Sep. 2001.

College where Cheney smeared Kerry asks Kerry to speak 

More like this!

Sen. John Kerry will speak at the same college where Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a blistering speech about the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, a senior Kerry adviser told CNN.

Cheney's speech Monday at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri draw a rebuke from the school's president who said he was "surprised and disappointed" by what he described as "Kerry-bashing."

College President Fletcher M. Lamkin invited Kerry to speak and Kerry agreed.
(via CNN)

The Times actually gave Cheney's speech front page coverage. Cheney throwing red meat to the base is news? Sigh...

Stolen Dem Memos: AP, that's NOT what he said! 

Read this (for the background, back):

No one at the White House knew about Democratic memos on judicial nominees being taken from Senate computers by GOP Senate aides, one of President Bush's lawyers told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

"I don't know of anyone who was aware of this matter until we heard about it through the media," said Brett Kavanaugh, who serves as Bush's assistant and staff secretary. He was testifying before the committee at his confirmation hearing to be a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
(via AP)

Lawyers tend to pick their words very carefully. (In the Clinton years, the MWs used to call this "parsing.")

Winger thug Kavanaugh didn't "no one at the White House knew." He said "I didn't know of anyone who was aware." Not the same at all.

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