Saturday, September 25, 2004

Taliban Healthcare Comes to Peoria 

(via NYT Business section)

The Bush administration has broken new ground in its "faith-based" initiative, this time by offering federal employees a Catholic health plan that specifically excludes payment for contraceptives, abortion, sterilization and artificial insemination.

The plan, which will begin enrolling federal workers in 31 Illinois counties in November, is sponsored by OSF Health, a unit of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, which runs the St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria and five Roman Catholic hospitals in Illinois and Michigan.
Now frankly I would be tempted to shrug at this point...of all the "faith-based" crap this administration has pulled this is far from the worst. Until you read a little further....
The OSF plan has two parts. It couples a tax-free savings account for enrollees to use to pay for routine care with a high-deductible health plan that offers coverage only after the annual deductible has been reached - $1,050 for individual or $2,100 for family coverage. As part of the benefit, a portion of the premium that the government will pay to OSF will be deposited into each enrollee's savings account.

The government's total contribution to the new OSF plan will be $240.89 a month for individuals and $599 a month for families. The employees' monthly premium contribution will be $80.30 for individuals and $199.66 for families. By comparison, federal workers enrolling in a more traditional preferred provider plan in Illinois will pay $89.09 for individuals and $299.96 for families.
So if you join up with regular ol' Blue Cross or whatever it costs you a hundred bucks more a month, a significant amount given what Federal work pays down in the ranks. Join Blue Bishop instead and save that amount, PLUS get a payment into your deductible account...just as long as you're careful never to have sex. If temptation overcomes you and you're all that desperate for sterilization services there is always your local veterinarian.

I can see real potential here. If this plays in Peoria (thank you Richard Nixon) I can see it catching on elsewhere:

Blue Seagull, available in and around Salt Lake City: No coverage for lung cancer, liver disease, addiction treatment of any sort, or dental services like teeth whitening. Family coverage must include one male but is decidedly vague on number of females covered per household.

Blue Buggy, available in Lancaster PA, Amana IA, Arcola, IL and other towns with heavy Amish populations: No treatment for injuries incurred in auto accidents unless caused by collision with horse-drawn vehicle; no treatment for electric shock injuries; separate deductible for each child with genetic disorder caused by inbreeding.

Blue Baptist: No coverage for anything. All payments made to pastor of local church for power-of-prayer rituals. Patients charged extra for bad reactions to snakebites.

Bush Lost iWreck--Pass it On 

George Bush, personally, with his own dirty fingers and his own lying mouth, cost the US military whatever chance they had of "winning" (at least in the military sense) the war on the insurgency in Iraq.

This is worse than just about any White House meddling in the conduct of military operations that I can think of. Worse than Johnson micromanaging Vietnam. Worse than Lincoln ordering the untrained Union forces into the debacles of Ball's Bluff and Bull Run.

This could be a better story than it is--how about naming names, Rajiv? WHO in the Provisional Authority mismanaged the training and recruitement of the Iraqi police? WHO was the "private contractor" hired to do this training, and WHO ordered it chosen?
(via WaPo)
The police outpost here is supposed to house 90 armed members of Iraq's National Guard. Their job is to keep watch over a stretch of six-lane highway, deterring insurgents from laying roadside bombs and trying to blow up a bridge over the nearby Tharthar Canal.

But when the U.S. Marine commander responsible for the area visited the outpost this month, he found six bedraggled guardsmen on duty. None of them was patrolling. The Iraqi officer in charge was missing. And their weapons had been locked up by the Marines after a guardsman detonated a grenade inside the compound.

The unit's demise underscores the degree to which errors committed by civilian and military leaders during the 15 months of rule by the U.S.-led occupation authority continue to impede the U.S. effort to combat a vexing insurgency and rebuild Iraq's shattered government and economy. Recovering from those mistakes has become the principal challenge facing the United States in Iraq, three months after the transfer of political authority to an interim government.

"We're trying to climb out of a hole," said an official with the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity. American missteps during the occupation, the official said, "continue to haunt us."

The errors have had a major impact on almost every aspect of the U.S. agenda here, from pacifying rebel-held cities to holding elections in January to accelerating reconstruction projects. In each area, past mistakes have made it far tougher to accomplish U.S. objectives and those of Iraq's interim government.

The guardsmen in Saqlawiya, who come from the nearby city of Fallujah, were not always this pathetic. Early this year, their battalion was lauded by the U.S. military for repelling insurgent attacks on the mayor's office and police headquarters in Fallujah. They were, as one Army officer put it in March, "a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark place."

The battalion disintegrated in April because of an order by the White House and the Pentagon to have the Marines lay siege to Fallujah -- a decision top Marine officials now acknowledge was a profound mistake. As Marines advanced into the city, the guardsmen were put in an untenable position: Either flee, or join the Marines in fighting Iraqi neighbors -- and risk violent retribution. The guardsmen fled.

In early April, as the Marines were besieging Fallujah, U.S. commanders ordered one of the first battalions of Iraq's reconstituted army to join the fight in a supporting role. The commanders figured it would provide the Iraqi soldiers with a valuable lesson. It turned out to be the other way around.

When the soldiers, who had just finished basic training, were told where they were being sent, they staged a mutiny and refused to board transport helicopters. The Iraqis told U.S. officers that they did not enlist in order to fight fellow Iraqis.

Stunned U.S. military officials tried to determine what had gone wrong. According to several commanders, they eventually concluded that it was a mistake to have a private contractor conduct basic training, a concern that had already been raised by some veteran military officers, who maintained that the military would have done a better job. Their objection was ignored by the Pentagon's civilian leadership. Once the soldiers finished boot camp, they were put under the command of U.S. officers whom they had never met.
To go with my WHO questions above I have one more: WHY is this running on a Saturday, the least-read day of the week? I know it's in the dead-tree paper today because somebody posted a screenshot of it on dKos. Maybe there's another installment tomorrow that will answer my quibbles. Meanwhile, go read.

Iraq clusterfuck: Allawi wants to try Saddam, US says No 

First, we learn that Negroponte controls Allawi's schedule (back) Now this.

So much for Iraqi sovreignty:

The trials of former president Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants likely will not begin this year, a U.S. official here said Friday, contradicting a recent pronouncement from Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, that Hussein's trial could commence as soon as next month.

Allawi has sought to speed up the trials by exhorting judges and investigators to accelerate their work and by replacing the administrator of the special tribunal that will conduct the trials. The prime minister has said he wants the proceedings to begin before national elections, scheduled for January.

But the U.S. official, who is part of team of Americans advising the tribunal, cast doubt on that timetable because of the complexity in proving that Hussein and other top officials ordered soldiers and low-ranking government officials to commit atrocities. "These are very difficult trials," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "These are command-responsibility cases. . . . You have to follow the chain of command up."
(via WaPo)

Absolutely. I mean, it's obvious that the specialists and privates in the Army wouldn't have done what they did at Abu Ghraib without at least feeling they had been authorized... Oh, wait. Sorry. Wrong chain of command. My bad. What I meant to say—

Gee, it looks like Bush has decided that putting Saddam on trial won't get him any votes in November. I wonder why? Could it be pictures like this? Back from the days when Rummy had real hair?

CNN Embed Fakes Orgasm! 

Your morning 'Chestnut'


Friday, September 24, 2004

Goodnight, moon 

I remember the immortal words of Colin Powell: "I sleep like a baby. Every two hours, I wake up screaming."


Cowardly Broadcasting System 

Well, ratfucking (back) works, doesn't it?

CBS News said yesterday that it had postponed a "60 Minutes" segment that questioned Bush administration rationales for going to war in Iraq.

The announcement, in a statement by a spokeswoman, was issued four days after the network acknowledged that it could not prove the authenticity of documents it used to raise new questions about President Bush's Vietnam-era military service.

The Iraq segment had been ready for broadcast on Sept. 8, CBS said, but was bumped at the last minute for the segment on Mr. Bush's National Guard service. The Guard segment was considered a highly competitive report, one that other journalists were pursuing.

CBS said last night that the report on the war would not run before Nov. 2.

"We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," the spokeswoman, Kelli Edwards, said in a statement.

Ms. Edwards said that the report had been scheduled for June but that it was postponed because of additional news on the subject.

The CBS statement followed a report in the online edition of Newsweek that described the frustration of CBS News reporters and producers who said the network had concluded that it could not legitimately criticize the president because of the questions about the National Guard report.

According to the Newsweek report, the "60 Minutes" segment was to have detailed how the administration relied on false documents when it said Iraq had tried to buy a lightly processed form of uranium, known as yellowcake, from Niger. The administration later acknowledged that the information was incorrect and that the documents were most likely fake.

The Newsweek article said the segment was to have included the first on-camera interview with Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who was given the fake documents and who provided them to a United States Embassy for verification. The documents were sent to Washington, where some officials embraced them as firm evidence that Iraq was aggressively trying to make nuclear weapons.
(via the pretty-cowardly-themselves Times)


Iraq clusterfuck: What Kerry would do 

And he's not exactly a dove. From Kerry's speech today at Temple:

My fellow Americans, the most urgent national security challenge we face is the war against those who attacked our country on September 11th, the war against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. As president, I will fight a tougher, smarter, more effective war on terror. My priority will be to find and capture or kill the terrorists before they get us.

President Bush was right to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban. I supported that decision. So did our country and our allies. So did the world.

But since then, again and again, the President has made the wrong choices in the war on terror… around the world and here at home.

Instead of using U.S. forces to capture Osama bin Laden… the President outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, who let bin Laden slip away. That was the wrong choice. ... That was the wrong choice. ... That was the wrong choice. ... That was the wrong choice. ... That was the wrong choice. ... That was the wrong choice.

The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy – Al Qaeda -- which killed more than three thousand people on 9/11 and which still plots our destruction today. And there’s just no question about it: the President’s misjudgment, miscalculation and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the war on terror harder to win. Iraq is now what it was not before the war – a haven for terrorists. George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority. I would have made Osama bin Laden the priority. As president, I will finish the job in Iraq and refocus our energies on the real war on terror.

And my litmus test: loose nukes (back):

Twelve years ago, we began a bipartisan program to help these nations secure and destroy those weapons. It is incredible – and unacceptable -- that in the three years after 9/11, President Bush hasn’t stepped up our effort to lock down the loose nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. More such materials were secured in the two years before 9/11 than in the two years after.

When I’m president, denying our most dangerous enemies the world’s most dangerous weapons will become the central priority for America.

At our seaports we’re physically inspecting only 5% of the cargo coming into America. The Bush Administration is spending more in Iraq in four days than they’ve spent protecting our ports for all of the last three years.

For al Qaeda, this war is a struggle for the heart and soul of the Muslim world. We will win this war only if the terrorists lose that struggle. We will win when ordinary people from Nigeria to Egypt to Pakistan to Indonesia know they have more to live for than to die for. We will win when they once again see America as the champion, not the enemy, of their legitimate yearning to live in just and peaceful societies. We will win when we stop isolating ourselves and start isolating our enemies. The world knows the difference between empty promises and genuine commitment.

So we will win when we show that America uses its economic power for the common good, doing our share to defeat the abject poverty, hunger, and disease that destroy lives and create failed states in every part of the world. The world’s poorest countries, suffering under crushing debt burdens, need particular attention. As president, I will lead the international community to cancel the debt of the most vulnerable nations in return for them living up to goals of social and economic progress.

We will win when we work with our allies, to enable children in poor countries to get a quality basic education. More than 50 percent of the population in the Arab and Muslim world is under the age of 25. The future is a race between schools that spark learning and schools that teach hate. We have to preempt the haters. We have to win the war of ideas. New generations must believe there is more to life than salvation through martyrdom.
(via John Kerry transcript)

As I say, he's no dove. Neither am I. After all, we can hardly have fundamentalists flying airplanes into our buildings—any more than we can have them loading loose nukes into shipping containers and setting the timers.

My only concern: The speech reads great. Can anyone tell me how the speech sounded? Remember Xan's crucial insight: "Bushspeak is not meant to be read, but to be performed." (back) How was Kerry's speech as a performance? Readers?

UPDATE Hey, guess what! Kerry can interact with a heckler without having them arrested, or having morans in the crowd drown them out with that noxious "Four More Years!" chant, or having his thugs assault them. What a concept! Alert reader pol writes:

I saw most of the speech. It was excellent.

Someone interrupted [Kerry] in the middle of the speech and asked him what he would do about AIDS. He stopped his speech, spoke about how he had sponsored legislation for AIDS research and how Bush has paid out very little of the money he's promised for AIDS, then segued back into his speech seamlessly. It was impressive to see him connect like that, and a nice touch, too.

About That "Poll" Bush Cited.... 

Remember yesterday, in the Rose-Petal-and-Chocolates Garden? Bush said the "right track/wrong track" polls were better in Iraq than they were here. Aside from the fact that he is receiving some well-deserved mockery for what this says about people's attitudes here, Atrios points us to a genuine find by a party who goes by the nom-de-blog Balta :
Who exactly did that poll that Mr. Bush cited in his press conference which said that Iraqis were more optimistic about their country than the U.S.? Here's the answer.

Bush was referring to a survey by the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit group aimed at promoting democracy, which showed that more than 51% of Iraqis felt their country was headed "in the right direction." Thirty-one percent said it was headed in the wrong direction.

Now, suspicious as I usually am of our "Liberal" media, something struck me as curious about this. They call it the "International Republican Institute".
Cue scary music. Here's a partial list of the governance and participants in this IRI. Affiliations have been emboldened (sorry) for emphasis:

John McCain Chairman (R)
Michael V. Kostiw Vice-Chairman - also Vice President, International Government Affairs at ChevronTexaco
U.S. Representative David Dreier
Lawrence S. Eagleburger - Short-term Secretary of State under Bush 1
Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. - Former Chairman of the Republican Party
Alison B. Fortier - Director, Lockheed Martin Missile Defense Programs
Susan Golding - Former Republican Mayor of San Diego
U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, (R-Neb)
Robert M. Kimmitt - US ambassador to Germany under Bush 1
Dr. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick - Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
U.S. Representative Jim Kolbe, (R-Ariz)
Brent Scowcroft - Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Bush 1.
William J. Hybl - Bush 2's U.S. Rep to U.N. General Assembly
Fred Meyer - Former Chairman, RNC Victory 2000 and the Presidential Inauguration 2001 Executive Committee
Alec L. Poitevint, II - National Committeeman, Georgia Republican National Committee
Marilyn Ware - Board of Trustees, American Enterprise Institute

U.S. tax dollars go to fund the thing, and they really mean it when they say "Republican." They've been potentially involved in the coups in Venezuela and Haiti. THey even hosted a talk during the Republican National Convention. It also has a current budget of over $20 million dollars.
Down in Atrios' comments on this post we find the following by a commentor known as Count Asterisk:

51% said Right Track
31% said Wrong Track

Breaking the numbers down further:

18% said "Go away, go away"

15% shot at the poll taker
14% kidnapped the poll taker
2% kidnapped and shot the poll taker

51% said "We love America, we love America, please don't shoot us"
Run over to Balta's place and take a look, he has details on this outfit far beyond this brief excerpt. Let's just say this IRI is not nearly as interested in promoting "democracy" as they are "Republicancy." And overthrowing elected governments from time to time, but only when people were foolish enough to elect the wrong governments, dammit.

5:00 horror: Maybe this time "all" of Bushs military records have been released? 


Ha ha ha.


The Defense Department released the records in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The Associated Press. Friday was the court-ordered deadline for the Pentagon to turn over all records it could find on Bush's Texas Air National Guard service.

The release marked the second Friday night in a row that the Defense Department has released more of the president's National Guard files. The White House has repeatedly announced this year that all of Bush's records have been released, only to have the Pentagon come up with more files in response to the AP's lawsuit and FOIA requests.

The records do not have information about the most controversial aspects of Bush's service: gaps in attendance for as long as six months in 1972 and 1973 and the future president's decision to skip a required medical examination in 1972 that ended his certification to fly F-102A fighters.
(via AP)


So, where was Bush during his missing year? And why has no witness come forward to claim that $50,000 reward?

And why did Bush miss that medical exam?

And why on earth is Bush proud of a record that ends with being grounded?

And is Bush just as proud of the thousands he's sent to their deaths in his own war?

Iraq clusterfuck: Negroponte controls Allawi's daily schedule 

So much for sovreignty.

George Will—WTF?!—writes:

After "This Week" arranged with Allawi's office for Sunday's interview, the U.S. State Department called ABC to say that the office of U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte in Baghdad had decided that the interview would not happen until this coming Sunday, after Allawi's U.S. visit. This attempt by the U.S. embassy to exercise sovereignty over the prime minister raised interesting questions about just what was actually transferred on June 28 when sovereignty was supposedly given to the Iraqi government. The White House recognized the inconvenience of such questions. The interview occurred.
(South Missippi Su n Herald via Josh Marshall, who is getting snarkier and snarkier these days.)

But, I dunno. This may be a little exteme. I mean, that thug Acting President Rove controls "President" [cough] Bush's schedule, so why shouldn't that thug Ambassador Negroponte control "President" [cough] Allawi's schedule? Let's be reasonable here.

Common Humanity 

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing.

Yesterday, I mentioned listening to President Bush in his joint press conference with PM Allawi, held in the White House rosey scenario garden , and asked the question, did I hear correctly, did he just say that the electric grid in Iraq was performing above pre-war levels, and asked readers if I hadn't just heard the President of the US tell an easily verifiable lie.

Well, in a land far away, Riverbend was also listening to the President; although, as she tells us, she usually avoids doing so, she was curious to see what Allawi was up to. The title of the post is "Liar, Liar," and here is what she has to say about the electricity in Baghdad.
My favorite part was when he claimed, "Electricity has been restored above pre-war levels..." Even E. had to laugh at that one. A few days ago, most of Baghdad was in the dark for over 24 hours and lately, on our better days, we get about 12 hours of electricity. Bush got it wrong (or Allawi explained it to incorrectly)- the electricity is drastically less than pre-war levels, but the electricity BILL is way above pre-war levels. Congratulations Iraqis on THAT!! Our electricity bill was painful last month. Before the war, Iraqis might pay an average of around 5,000 Iraqi Dinars a month for electricity (the equivalent back then of $2.50) - summer or winter. Now, it's quite common to get bills above 70,000 Iraqi Dinars... for half-time electricity.

She's absolutely right; the President's speech was almost interchangeable with ones he's given six months ago, six months before that, in fact, all the speeches he's given have been variations on the same "everything's great in Iraq" theme ever since it first began to occur to everyone else that everything wasn't. That's the President's Rovian modus operandi; deny, deny, lie, lie, attack, attack.

As Jon Stewart noted on the Daily Show, Allawi's speech sounded like it had been written by Bush speechwriters. Stewart is an American Jew, so am I, Riverbend is an Iraqi muslim, but the truth is still the truth, and our common humanity makes us more alike than different, at least when it comes to talking back to a TV screen.
I sat listening, trying not to focus too much on his face, but rather on the garbage he was reiterating for at least the thousandth time since the war. I don't usually talk back to the television, but I really can't help myself when Bush is onscreen. I sit there talking back to him- calling him a liar, calling him an idiot, wondering how exactly he got so far and how they're allowing him to run for re-election. E. sat next to me on the couch, peeved, "Why are we even watching this?!" He made a jump for the remote control (which I clutch to shake at the television to emphasize particular points)- a brief struggle ensued and Riverbend came out victorious. You know things are really going downhill in Iraq, when the Bush speech-writers have to recycle his old speeches. Listening to him yesterday, one might think he was simply copying and pasting bits and pieces from the older stuff.

She also helps to put in perspective Allawi's performance on Thursday.
After Bush finished his piece about the glamorous changes in Iraq, Allawi got his turn. I can't seem to decide what is worse- when Bush speaks in the name of Iraqi people, or when Allawi does. Yesterday's speech was particularly embarrassing. He stood there groveling in front of the congress- thanking them for the war, the occupation and the thousands of Iraqi lives lost... and he did it all on behalf of the Iraqi people. It was infuriating and for maybe the hundredth time this year, I felt rage. Yet another exile thanking the Bush administration for the catastrophe we're trying to cope with. Our politicians are outside of the country 90% of the time (by the way, if anyone has any news of our president Ghazi Ajeel Al Yawir, do let us know- where was he last seen or heard?), the security situation is a joke, the press are shutting down and pulling out and our beloved exiles are painting rosey pictures for the American public- you know- so everyone who voted for Bush can sleep at night.

Try and get your boggled mind to think for a moment about the implications of major Iraqi politicians being outside of the country 90% of the time. Read the whole thing.

We should probably note that Riverbend's take on her own country is markedly different from that which one gets from another Iraqi blog, "Iraq, The Model." I read "Ali" and his compatriots fairly regularly, and I don't quite know what to make of them. I'm prepared to believe that many Iraqs feel the same committment to a pluralistic, democratic future for Iraq, but find myself put off by their easy acceptance of so much misery being visited on their countrymen, their soaring rhetoric which mirrors so perfectly Bush and the American right wing, and most of all, I question his readiness to claim that anyone who is currently resisting the occupation is nothing more nor less than a terrorist. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the portrait painted in the Guardian/Observer of at least one insurgent strongly suggested that he is anything but a hater of either democratic governance, or Americans as a people, and that if the Bush administration had made good on any of its promises, they would have won the patient support of more Iraqis than they've managed to. My question about Ali is why its so difficult for him to imagine that there were other ways of deposing Saddam, and other ways to help the Iraiqis toward a democratic future other than a full scale primarily American invasion whose purpose was not merely to get rid of Saddam, but even more importantly, to deliver all of Iraq into the hands of Bush & co?

I don't read Riverbend because she confirms the negative view of the occupation that I want to have; what is happening in Iraq breaks my heart. I read her because of her intelligence, gift for writing, and her honesty, and the rare opportunity to hear first-hand from such a sensibility what is happening in a place where history is happening right before our eyes, a history for which we Americans have a primary responsibility.

UPDATE Some numbers from Kos ("put together by USAID, are distributed to international aid workers and NGOs")."Liar, Liar," indeed.—Lambert

The "Quasi War" Part 2 

Finally! Someone in the media (Dana Milbank) has recognized that W's use of fear for partisan purposes in the War on Terra is like John Adams's use of the "Quasi War" on France!

Such accusations have been a component of American politics since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and surfaced in the modern era during the McCarthy communist hunt and the Vietnam War protests.
In a column for the History News Network, I suggested this more than two years ago. It's about time someone finally said it. I've been waiting for this moment for quite some time.

Of course, Adams and the Federalists ultimately lost a close election in 1800 as most Americans (or, more accurately, most Americans who could vote at the time) rejected this fear-mongering and elected Thomas Jefferson president. Their fear-mongering didn't work.

Therefore it would be nice if history repeated itself in this instance.

Americans simply have to prove that they can't be scared into voting for an incompetent and bumbling incumbent administration. The Bush campaign is doing its best to "stampede the herd" and, so far, it appears to be working.

As I've said on a couple of different comments to posts here, if W wins the election, I think it's going to be a rough four years for W. I suspect the wheels will rapidly come off Iraq in the months following the election and the economy is apparently pretty soft so a "dubya dip" recession very well may be in our immediate future. Furthermore, as Iraq spending increases the deficit is going to approach $1 trillion annually within two or three years.

If Bush wins, it will be nice to pin all of these problems on his administration and his party. As Atrios said the other day, if Bush wins, will we then, finally, be able to agree that EVERYTHING is his fault and not that of the all-powerful Clenis?

A second four years for W would also put the final nail in the coffin for the efficacy of all that Republicans hold near and dear as far as economy and foreign policy is concerned. Tax cuts have failed to do a damn thing for the economy (they didn't really work that well during the 1980s either, by the way). Militarism and go-it-alone-ism haven't worked at all in Iraq and as anti-terrorism policy.

The worst part for a John Kerry administration would be that it would have to work really hard to clean up the the horrible mess that is our economic and foreign policy -- a mess that no Democrat created I might add.

To return to the historical parallel, it would be nice if Bush's administration was ultimately remembered as Adams's administration has been by historians: as a desperate cabal of fear-mongering incompetents who tried ham-handedly to hold onto their power and succeeded in destroying their own party in the process.

That outcome, even if (God forbid) it means another four years for W, would be fine with me.

The Trial of Sadaam Hussein 

Prime-Minister-du-Jour Allawi may wind up regretting his notion of pushing for a "trial" of Sadaam before "the" elections. (If you saw much of the coverage of the Rose Petal Appearance of the two potentates yesterday you might have noted how it was occasionally hard to determine just which country's elections were being referred to at any given time.)

The proposal, however, has brought some voices bubbling back up out of the Memory Hole into which they had fallen. One of those voices belongs to a Chalabi, and--dig this!--he's the one who comes off sounding like the voice of reason, sanity, and respect for something resembling the rule of law:

(via AP via Jackson MS Clarion-Ledger)

Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The former director of the Iraqi war crimes tribunal said that interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has taken over the court and could rush forward with "show trials" of Saddam Hussein and other former Iraqi leaders to boost his popularity before presidential elections scheduled for January.

In an e-mailed statement Thursday, Salem Chalabi, the former chairman of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, urged the international community to prevent Allawi's government from politicizing the trials.

Allawi has said he wants the trials to begin sooner than the one or two years the court argues it needs to delve into tons of documents and prepare to prosecute Saddam and the top members of his regime. Allawi replaced Chalabi with a member of his own party - though Chalabi insists the move was illegitimate.

In August, Iraq's Central Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on murder charges for Chalabi, and the court said it wanted Chalabi's uncle, prominent exile politician Ahmad Chalabi, on counterfeit charges.

Those charges have since been dropped,
Did you hear about that? Me neither. Dang, we gotta start following the news more...
but the murder investigation into the death of a Foreign Ministry official continues, Chalabi said.

"These murder charges were concocted in order to discredit me and the Iraqi Special Tribunal," he said.

Chalabi said his ouster was a violation of the court's U.S.-written founding law, which appointed him for a three-year term and holds the tribunal as independent from the government.

He said the investigations were not ready for indictments or trials that would meet minimum legal standards.
One question never, ever asked: What laws is Sadaam charged with violating? Pre-war law? What specific statute? You think that Sadaam, any more than Bush, being in control of the entire apparatus of government, didn't have some clause in there saying "If the President sez it's legal, then dammit, it's okay"? That would seem to bring up a problem with the notion that you can't have an ex post facto law--you can't charge somebody with something that wasn't illegal at the time it was done even if the law changes later.

Or is it postwar, Occupation "Provisional Authority" law? That brings up another set of challenges. If it's going to be a kangaroo court, which seems inevitable, where the charge consists of "You're a naughty, naughty man, dammit!" let's just admit it and get on with the theater and not tarnish the notion of "law" by pretending it's a trial.

Pushing Them Where They Want to Go 

Lambert notes (here) that Google News "skews right". This is said to have complicated reasons, which we believe because the word "algorithms" was used. Some rightwardness is less hard to understand. We have a little kabuki theater playing out in Norfolk, Virginia:

Richmond Times-Dispatch
NORFOLK A news-talk radio station in southeastern Virginia has dumped CBS News because of listener outrage over Dan Rather's "60 Minutes" report questioning President Bush's National Guard service.
Democracy in action, right? The People rose up and demanded Change, and this humble station nobly listened to their consumers. That's sure what they'd like you to believe anyway:
"We had so much outcry from our listeners. They were calling and complaining and saying they wouldn't listen to a CBS newscast anymore," said Lisa Sinclair, general manager of Sinclair Communications, which owns WNIS and four other stations in the Norfolk area, home to the world's largest naval base.

"This is a conservative market, and people felt that CBS was exhibiting a great deal of liberal bias and lost credibility with this situation," Sinclair said, referring to the Sept. 8 story. Sinclair did not know how many upset listeners had called the station.
We've seen the name "Sinclair Communications" a couple of times before, haven't we? Big supporters of The War on iWreck, big supporters of Bush as it just happens. In addition, the company is based in Minneapolis. Lisa Sinclair wouldn't know Norfolk from Nashville. But still, this was all spontaneous outrage, right? From local Norfolkians? Um, maybe so, maybe not:

Station managers at several CBS affiliates said they appear to be a target of a national e-mail campaign placing pressure on the network to oust Rather as anchorman of the "CBS Evening News."

Many e-mailers offer the same message: I will not watch CBS News again until Rather is gone, said Bob Lee, president and general manager of WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, and head of the CBS affiliate board. Lee said he can't recall any other issue getting such a big response from viewers.

The e-mail campaign appears to originate from a blogger on the Web site Rathergate.com, who is forwarding e-mails to stations around the country.

"The buck has to stop," said Mike Krempasky of Falls Church, who works for a political advertising company and set up Rathergate.com, as well as the conservative-oriented Web site Redstate.org.
And they say one man's opinions don't amount to a hill of beans in this country anymore. I nominate Mike Krempasky for the 2004 Hill of Beans Award for his contributions to expanding diversity in public discourse, so long as all the diversity agrees with him.

What's missing from this picture? 

"Produced by the U.S. Department of State, Office of International Information Programs" - http://usinfo.state.gov/
Countries Where al Qaeda Has Operated Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda - (Posted November 10, 2001)

This list was posted to the State Depatment's webpage on Oct. 10, 2001:

Albania | Algeria | Afghanistan | Azerbaijan | Australia | Austria | Bahrain | Bangladesh | Belgium | Bosnia | Egypt | Eritrea | France | Germany | India | Iran | Ireland | Italy | Jordan | Kenya | Kosovo | Lebanon | Libya | Malaysia | Mauritania | Netherlands | Pakistan | Philippines | Qatar | Russia | Saudi Arabia | Somalia | South Africa | Sudan | Switzerland | Tajikistan | Tanzania | Tunisia | Turkey | Uganda | United Arab Emirates | United Kingdom | United States | Uzbekistan | Yemen

Uh....what's missing from this list? If you answered "Iceland" - YOU - yes you! - win the Pontiac Sunbird with the rollaway sunroof!

John archy McKay has more including a copy of the 2001 State Dept. map. As well as info and links.....so go check that out. (includes a Village Voice link - who also discovered the map.)

Also noted here: Uncle Horn Head who reminds us that Hesiod at Counterspin Central is back in action.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why do the results in Google News skew right? 

We certainly hope it's not bias—though some human at Google-owned blogger shamelessly pimping for the winger Mighty Wurlitzer (back) might give us pause.

The US Annenberg Online Journalism Review has a reasonable hypothesis:

Despite those predictable flaws, it's been puzzling to read Google News' takes on John Kerry and George W. Bush over the past month.

n addition to mainstream news outlets from both sides of the political fence (say, NPR and The Washington Post on the left and The Washington Times and New York Post on the right), there were 34 anti-Kerry screeds from the second-tier websites. There was only one pro-Kerry item, from CommonDreams.org.

Far from an isolated example, the pattern has repeated itself throughout the past month. Small conservative Web sites such as Useless-Knowledge, Men's News Daily, Michnews and ChronWatch turn up in disproportionate numbers when clicking on news about John Kerry. Useless-Knowledge, for instance, made up 12 of the first 100 results for John Kerry on Friday, and 11 of the first 100 results Saturday.

By contrast, a search on George Bush or George W. Bush typically results in a fairly neutral, evenly balanced set of results from both sides of the political spectrum, with many of the same small conservative sites showing up to sing the president's praises.

What's going on? Have Google's search results been hijacked by Fox News?

"I think what you're seeing is an odd little linguistic artifact," said Zuckerman, former vice president of Tripod.com and now a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society who studies search engines. The chief culprit, he theorized, is that mainstream news publications refer to the senator on second reference as Kerry, while alternative news sites often use the phrase "John Kerry" multiple times, for effect or derision. To Google News' eye, that's a more exact search result.

A second possible factor, Zuckerman said, is that small, alternative news sites have no hesitancy about using "John Kerry" in a headline, while most mainstream news sites eschew first names in headlines. The inadvertent result is that the smaller sites score better results with the search engines.

"You have to wonder why some of these wacky sites make the cut," he added. With an occasional exception, Weblogs are generally not found among the Google News results, so Zuckerman had some advice for aspiring political publishers who want to game the search engines: Don't blog -- start an alternative news network. Use terms like George Bush and John Kerry frequently, rather than their last names alone, in both your text and headlines. Publish new works frequently.

What Zuckerman calls gaming the system, others call optimizing your site.
(Online Journalism Review via Talking Points Memo)


Isn't this another way of saying "Don't mourn, organize"?

And isn't there one other factor? It's an awful lot easier to set up a network when you're funded. And as we know, there's been a lot of funding in the past for winger networks doing meme transmittal. $300 million worth...

We need an equalizer, don't we?

Goodnight, moon 

1. Super analysis of the Iraq clusterfuck by Leah (back).

2. Start spreadin' the memes:

(via "The Mighty Atrios)

It's the Amazing Two-faced Man! (And does that make Dick "Dick" Cheney the Dog-faced Boy?)

3. Hunter: TANG typewriter: ROVE did it. Why am I not surprised? And why isn't this post over at Fables of the Reconstruction? Heh.

4. They're playing our song! OK, so it's a classic.

Bush's "mandate": When they say it's not about the money, it's about the money 

Acting President Rove clues us in on what Bush will consider His mandate to be, if He takes office a second time:

White House political adviser Karl Rove said President Bush, if re-elected, will claim a legislative mandate to institute personal Social Security accounts, to simplify and reform the tax code and to extend No Child Left Behind standards into high school.

When you hear a Republican use the word "reform," put your hand on your wallet.

Although the election debate has been dominated by foreign policy and national security, Mr. Rove told editors and reporters of The Washington Times at a luncheon yesterday that the president also will claim a mandate to move on domestic issues.

Weird. Bush didn't run on that platform. But now He's going to claim a mandate? Oh, I forgot. That's what He did the last time He won took office.

Mr. Rove yesterday said the administration won't produce specific policy for changing Social Security during this campaign, but it's clear what Mr. Bush wants and, if he wins, he will consider that a mandate to move forward.
(via The Moonie Paper)

Since we already know that "tax reform" means that only people who work for paychecks will get taxed, and we already know that Bush didn't bother to fund No Child Left Behind, let's look at Social Security. After all, giving up my guaranteed retirement check so that those fine upstanding people in the financial industry (back) can rake off a commission—I mean, where do I sign up?

And here I want to go back to a post that I wrote on July 4, 2003, back when we were all over at Atrios (see The Constitution, Corporatism, and "Loot, Repeat") It's based on an article by Nick Confessore, which you should also read (see "Welcome to the Machine") The "Loot, repeat" piece even has a handy chart!

The "Loot, repeat" concept has two simple points:

(1) With Republicans, when they say it's not about the money, it's about the money.If they say "reform," it's about the money. If they say "values", it's about the money. And especially if they say "freedom," it's about the money. As we'll see in a minute, Social Security is an especially obvious case of this.

(2) With Republicans, there's a method to their madness; their operations have a signature that you can watch out for. Here it is:

(1) Target: Pick an existing government revenue stream
(2) Transmit memes: Focus on the Mighty Wurlitzer on the target
(3) Privatize: Write the legislation "privatizing" the revenue stream
(4) Loot: Steer the privatized service to a wired (Republican) firm, and
(5) Repeat: Take a payoff from the wired firm, as campaign contributions or otherwise. With the payoff money, return to step (1) and pick new targets.
(Quoting "Loot, Repeat"

A simple example is Medicare prescription drugs [step (1)]. It is not an accident that the program is more complicated, more costly, and involves an initial corporate subsidy. That's the result of steps (3) and (4). As for step (5)—no doubt an alert reader can give the figures on the campaign contributions to the Republicans from Big Pharma.

Now, Social Security is the biggest money pot there is [step (1)]. And years of unrelenting winger propaganda and phony projections (back) [step (2)] have made the need for "reform" part of the CW. Never mind that the arithmetic doesn't add up (2-1=4). In fact, the looting [step (4)] has already begun (back); part of the Clinton surplus that Bush pissed away with the reverse Robin Hood move of giving the super-rich tax cuts was built up from ordinary people's pay checks through FICA contributions. Oh, that would be step 5—as the beneficiaries of Bush's largesse have already given the Republicans record contributions to complete his rape of the public purse.

Now, however, in election 2004, Bush is going for it all—all $2 trillion-worth of loot (step 4). (back),

Is it any wonder that his guys are energetic and very well-funded? Is it any wonder that such a big pile of cash draws whores?

So, when Republicans say it isn't about the money, it's about the money.

And when Republicans say "reform," put your hand on your wallet.

Especially with Social Security.

NOTE Readers, this is a complex issue and hard to explain simply. I believe Kerry has to hammer Bush on the war. But I also believe that the fate of Social Security is what this election is all about.

NOTE This post is an attempt at framing a la Lakoff, as written up in crucial post by Kos.

World o' Fluffing's Greatest Hits: The Bush Years 

Words fail me:

"[BUSH] But what's important for the American people to hear is reality," Bush said, turning toward Allawi. "And the reality's right here in the form of the prime minister."
(via ABC)

Election fraud 2004: Bush politicizes DHS to suppress Latino regisitration 

Incredible but true!

To an immigrant, Arnold Schwarzenegger told delegates at the Republican convention last month, there is no country "more welcoming than the United States of America." And most of the time, that's true.

But it wasn't true last week in Miami Beach, where the Department of Homeland Security attempted to ban a nonpartisan voter registration operation from setting up tables on the sidewalk outside a massive naturalization ceremony at that city's convention center. The DHS complained that Mi Familia Vota would be blocking the doors at the swearing-in. But last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan ruled that the right to register voters was protected by the First Amendment, though he did stipulate how much space the group's tables could take up.

If that arrangement seems to you the kind of compromise that Mi Familia Vota and the DHS could have arrived at themselves without making a literal federal case out of it, you underestimate the Bush administration's aversion to voting by new immigrants -- particularly new Hispanic immigrants. (The DHS didn't respond to Mi Familia Vota's request for a meeting.) In states such as Florida and Nevada -- battleground states with Republican election officials and burgeoning Hispanic populations -- the activities of groups such as Mi Familia Vota have been challenged by GOP officeholders, though it's a new wrinkle to have the DHS join the fray.
(via WaPo)

Oddly, I read this story in today's paper edition of the Newark Star Ledger, but I can't find it on the site. And I can't find it on WaPo either. Now, before I go all paranoid....

Oh, wait a minute. I forgot. Inerrant Boy is Chosen of God to Lead His People. So anyone who doesn't vote for him is going to Hell. And what more could we do, to keep Der Heimat, whoops! The Homeland Secure than preventing people who are going to Hell from voting? Well, a lot more, actually, but this will do for a start.

Bandar Blows It, but Ivan Rides to Rescue 

Remember how "Brother" Bandar (bin-Sultan bin-Bush) promised that, come hell or high water, Saudi Arabia would use its leverage with OPEC to drop oil prices just in time for the election? Apparently somebody isn't clapping hard enough, because things aren't working too well there.

And remember how, when prices were spiking last spring, at or over $2.00 a gallon at the pump almost everywhere, Dear Leader not only did nothing to help the situation but aggravated it by continuing to buy crude for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, because that was absolutely vital to the national interest?

Funny how things change. Funny timing too, the cynical might think.

(via AP)
The Bush administration said Thursday it is weighing a request from several U.S. refiners to borrow crude oil from the nation's emergency stockpile to help offset supply disruptions along the Gulf Coast from Hurricane Ivan.

``Certainly Hurricane Ivan had an effect on the supply of oil imports and production in the Gulf of Mexico,'' said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. ``It has limited some refiners' access to crude oil supplies.''

He said that the Department of Energy was reviewing the requests.

In the past, President Bush has resisted calls to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, located in Texas and Louisiana, in an effort to counter soaring prices. Bush had criticized President Clinton's move in the fall of 2000 to tap the reserve, saying it was a political effort to help Democrat Al Gore, Bush's opponent in the 2000 election.
Damn! The potency of that man is just amazing. It's still the fault of The Clenis!

A World Of Pain: What "We" Have Achieved In Iraq 

As you may have heard, Riverbend has posted for the first time since early August.

With her usual searing honesty, she reports her reaction to seeing a bootleg video of "Farhenheit 911" and tells us what 9/11 means to her as an Iraqi, living through this hellish American occupation that for over a year and a half now has predicated the terms under which Iraqis will live. Yes, non-Iraqi jihadists have had a part in all this, but we created the conditions of chaos, and the porous borders that have let them use Iraq as a forward position from which to wage their Jihadist war against the west, and not incidentally thereby demonstrate the impotence of the world's greatest superpower. Our President seeks to camouflage that woeful set of facts by pretending it's all part of the plan; "Bring 'em on," he says, better we fight them in Iraq than here, oh, and, by the way, we're to be congratulated for the blessings of liberty we're bringing to Iraqis.

Writing on September 15th, Riverbend tells us about a few of those blessings:

The last few days, Baghdad has been echoing with explosions. We woke up to several loud blasts a few days ago. The sound has become all too common. It’s like the heat, the flies, the carcasses of buildings, the broken streets and the haphazard walls coming up out of nowhere all over the city… it has become a part of life. We were sleeping on the roof around three days ago, but I had stumbled back indoors at around 5 am when the electricity returned and was asleep under the cool air of an air-conditioner when the first explosions rang out.I tried futilely to cling to the last fragments of a fading dream and go back to sleep when several more explosions followed. Upon getting downstairs, I found E. flipping through the news channels, trying to find out what was going on. “They aren’t nearly fast enough,” he shook his head with disgust. “We’re not going to know what’s happening until noon.”

Try for a moment to imagine yourself, at night, in your own bedroom, in your house or apartment, in your own town or city, not being surprised anymore by bombs exploding, or attacks from the air: imagine your own life, and the lives of the people who matter to you, being lived in a world where walls are haphazard, streets are broken, and buildings are carcasses, and no real end in sight to the violence of this war that isn't a war, because the President of someone else's country keeps proclaiming that this army of strangers he's sent to liberate you knows what's best for you, will stay in your country until that President of someone else's country "succeeds" in making your country what he thinks it ought to be, because "failure," despite all the failed promises of reconstruction of a functioning infrastructure, "is not an option," though killing and maiming increasing numbers of Iraqis clearly is.

Of course we can't really imagine that reality, not even those of us who were against this invasion from the first, though not against holding Saddam to account, on the matter of WMD and on the matter of his violation of the human rights of Iraqis. What distinguishs us from Bush & co and its battalion of keyboard tough guy idealists, so gung ho for a war and occuapation they wouldn't be caught dead fighting in, or reporting on first hand, is that it doesn't even occur to the likes of Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, David Brooks or Wm. Kristol, that any reality other than the one in their own heads is worth trying to imagine.

The increasingly invaluable Spencer Ackerman makes the point in his TNR blog, "Iraqued," in a post about hearing Paul Wolfowitz addressing a group of visiting Iraqi dignitaries at a evening affair just last week; Ackerman compares two examples of Wolfowitz's "now-signature rhetorical mixture of delusion, arrogance, and platitude." with his reputation as a true paragon of neo-con idealism. (link, subscriber only)

Our plan for Iraq is what Iraqis can do for Iraq. Your future is in your hands.

It's wonderful to see Iraq standing up on its own two feet, taking its rightful place in the international community. ... We can't tell you how to solve your problems in your country. ... There are going to be extraordinary days ahead, and difficult days as well, both positive and negative.

Ackerman comments:

If you thought he couldn't get any more dismissive with other people's lives, he did: "Iraqis probably understand the challenges more than Americans." You think? If President Bush is allowed to continue his non-strategy in Iraq, the Iraqis listening to Wolfowitz last night stand a very good chance of being murdered by insurgents, like Izzedine Salim of the Iraqi Governing Council was. Wolfowitz stands a very good chance, by contrast, of returning to an endowed chair at a think tank. Just minutes before he spoke, I chatted with a top official of Iraq's Interior Ministry, who through an interpreter complained with astonishing candor about the U.S.'s inability to arm and equip police officers, whose morale he called "low." The Iraqi government, he said bluntly, was much weaker than the various insurgencies consuming the country.


....on the question of postwar Iraq, the intelligence community has understood the situation on the ground exponentially better than Wolfowitz. His method of dealing with difficult questions is to dismiss those who ask them. Consciously echoing Bush's convention-speech reference to a 1946 New York Times dispatch about occupied Germany--which he took completely out of context--Wolfowitz bragged about finding a line from Life magazine in 1947 that said "Yes, America got rid of Nazism, but maybe the cure is worse than the disease."


And that reference reveals something significant about Wolfowitz, Bush, and the supposed intellectual fault lines within the administration. There is a conceit in right-wing circles--a conceit shared by both Pat Buchanan and Bill Kristol--that the administration neoconservatives led by Paul Wolfowitz are somehow "different" from President Bush. In fact, three years after September 11, they are exactly alike in both program and intellectual style: dogmatic yet adrift, and relentlessly deceitful.

Tuesday, dogma adrift and relentless deceitfulness were in rare form, on display first at the UN, where the President didn't even try and pretend that he meant anything he was saying, whether it was the fiction that the he stood with the people of Iraq who want nothing more than a continuation of the current situation, or the fiction that Prime Minister Allawyi was the real head of a real Iraqi government that expresses the real desires of most Iraqis. But it was the President's performance in the joint press conference with Allawi that struck me as the high point of the day.

PRESIDENT BUSH: A couple of opening statements. We'll answer -- I'll answer a couple of questions from the U.S. media, AP and Reuters, and I'll answer a question from the Iraqi media, as well.

First, Mr. Prime Minister, it's been my delight to visit with you. I appreciate your courage. I appreciate your leadership. I am -- I share the same confidence you share that Iraq will be a free nation, and as a nation, our world will be safer and America will be more secure. We look forward to working with you, sir. I'm proud that you have -- you and your administration have stood strong in the face of the terrorists who want to disrupt progress in Iraq.

Today -- yesterday an American citizen was beheaded. We express our heartfelt condolences. We send our prayers to the Armstrong family. We also stand in solidarity with the American that is now being held captive, while we send our prayers to his wife. These killers want to shake our will --


PRESIDENT BUSH: They want to determine the fate of the Iraqi people. We will not allow these thugs and terrorists to decide your fate, and to decide our fate. As your election draws closer, I'm confident the terrorists will try to stop the progress by acts of violence. And I appreciate your will, and I appreciate your strength. And we'll stand with you, Mr. Prime Minister. Welcome.

PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: Thank you very much. I would like to pay my condolences really to the people who lost their lives in defending -- fighters of freedom and democracy. The barbaric action of yesterday really is unbelievable. It demonstrates how much these criminals are wanting to damage our worth across Iraq, as well as in the civilized world.

We in Iraq appreciate tremendously the courage President Bush took in deciding to wage war to destroy Saddam. The atrocities and tyranny and -- atrocities that have been committed when Saddam was around was unbelievable. We show a lot of -- hundreds of thousands of mass graves in Iraq.

The war now in Iraq is really not only an Iraqi war, it's a war for the civilized world to fight terrorists and terrorism. And there is no route but the route of winning, and we are going to prevail and we are going to win, regardless of how much damage they are going to make and cause in Iraq and elsewhere.


PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir. Scott.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You've answered some of Senator Kerry's criticisms in the last couple days about your Iraq policy. A couple of Republicans have raised some questions, as well, in the last couple days. Senator Hagel said that, "sharp analysis of our policies is required. We didn't do that in Vietnam, to the point where we finally lost." Senator McCain, you're not being "as straight as we would want him to be," about the situation in Iraq. What do you say to them?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Both Senators you quoted strongly want me elected as President. We agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. And that stands in stark contrast to the statement my opponent made yesterday when he said that the world was better off with Saddam in power. I strongly disagree. It is in our interests that we deal with Prime Minister Allawi. It's in our interests that we work toward a free society in Iraq. And I believe we'll have a free society in Iraq, and I know that a free society in Iraq makes America safer and the world better off.

My opponent has taken so many different positions on Iraq that his statements are hardly credible at all.

Who is from the Iraqi media?

Q Mr. President, how do you evaluate Mr. Allawi's visit to America? And in what way -- how can we -- what the result will be reflected on the situation of Iraq, as a result of this visit?


This is an important visit because the Prime Minister will be able to explain clearly to the American people that not only is progress being made, that we will succeed. The American people have seen horrible scenes on our TV screens. And the Prime Minister will be able to say to them that in spite of the sacrifices being made, in spite of the fact that Iraqis are dying and U.S. troops are dying, as well, that there is a will amongst the Iraqi people to succeed. And we stand with them. It's also an important visit for me to say to the people of Iraq that America has given its word to help, and we'll keep our word.

Who is the Reuters man here?

Q Right here, Mr. President, thank you. Why do you think the CIA's assessment of conditions in Iraq are so much at odds with the optimism that you and Prime Minister Allawi are expressing at the moment?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The CIA laid out a -- several scenarios that said, life could be lousy, like could be okay, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like. The Iraqi citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions. The Iraqi citizens are headed toward free elections. This government has been in place for a little over two months, and the Iraqi citizens are seeing a determined effort by responsible citizens to lead to a more hopeful tomorrow. And I am optimistic we'll succeed.


One thing is for certain. My discussions with Prime Minister Allawi reconfirm to me that the world is much better off with Prime Minister Allawi and his government in power. And any statement to the contrary is wrong. The idea somehow that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power is an absurd notion.

That last, the waving of Saddam's bloody shirt in the face of anyone who questions the decision to go to war or the prosecution of the occupation is the President's security blanket, habitually clutched at to ward off all questions raised about the worsening situation in Iraq. And didn't he sound like a petulant child when brushing aside the CIA's own estimate of the dire security situation in Iraq? Just "guessing?" In 2002, when we'd had no human intelligence resources on the ground in Iraq since 1998, the Bush administration spoke with one voice to reassure us that the intelligence claims which confirmed Saddam's Iraq as a gathering threat were certain, you could take them to the bank, or slam dunk them through the nearest hoop. Now that we've had all kinds of human resources on the ground in Iraq for a year and a half now, our intelligence estimates are just guesses. Is a puzzlement.

In the context of Kerry's strong speech on Iraq this Monday, and the equally clear and strong position he articulated in Tuesday's press conference, Bush and Cheney's attempts to reduce all questions about Iraq to whether the world is a better place with Saddam Hussein under lock and key lacked their usual punch. Saddam in jail, big plus. Iraq on the brink of becoming a failed state, much bigger minus. Bush/Cheney ought to be able to recognize a cost/benefit analysis when they see one.

Based on Allawi's performance on Tuesday, in which each of his pronouncements mirrored exactly Bush administration talking points, I would predict that his address this morning to a joint session of Congress will display his readiness to be used by the Bush administration as part of its campaign for re-election.

For a dose of reality, read, if you haven't already, this compelling portrait from the Observer of a Sunni insurgent who initially welcomed the American overthrow of Saddam .

Intelligence experts in Iraq talk of three main types of insurgent. There is the Mahdi Army of Shia Muslims who follow the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and have led recent resistance to coalition forces in northern Baghdad, the central shrine city of Najaf, and Basra, the southern port under British control. There is also 'al-Qaeda' - non-Iraqi militants who have come to Iraq to wage jihad. And finally the 'former regime loyalists', who are said to want the return of Saddam Hussein or, if that is impossible, his Baath party.

Abu Mujahed, worryingly for the analysts, fits into none of these easy categories. For a start, he was pro-American before the invasion. 'The only way to breathe under the old regime was to watch American films and listen to their music,' he said. He had been a Bon Jovi fan.

Some of Mujahed's expectations were wholly unrealistic, but it wasn't disappointment that fed his disillusionment.
He spoke of how his faith in the US was shaken when, via a friend's illicitly imported satellite TV system, he saw 'barbaric, savage' pictures of civilian casualties of the fighting and bombing. The next blow came in the conflict's immediate aftermath, as looters ran unchecked through Baghdad.

'When I saw the American soldiers watching and doing nothing as people took everything, I began to suspect the US was not here to help us but to destroy us,' he said.

Abu Mujahed, whose real name is not known by The Observer, said: 'I thought it might be just the chaos of war but it got worse, not better.'

He was not alone and swiftly found that many in the Adhamiya neighbourhood of Baghdad shared his anger and disappointment. The time had come. 'We realised. We had to act.'

Read the rest and you'll find Mujahed's reality is nowhere represented in what our President or "their" Prime Minister had to say this week. And note, too, that nowhere did the President seem to understand that Prime Minister Allawi's claim of sovereignity comes exclusively from us, there having been no elections as yet in Iraq.

Let us remember too, since it is devilishly difficulty to keep track of the mountain of mis-judgements made by this administration in Iraq, that the sole reason there are elections scheduled for January is that the Ayatollah Sistani vetoed the original Bremer/Bush plan by demonstrating his ability to put a hundred thousand protesting Iraqis in the street to demand direct elections to chose a interim government. Remember, too, that the only source Sistani was willing to believe about the non-feasibility of elections being held sooner than January of 2005 was the UN and Kofi Anan, and that Sistani was only willing to agree to the appointment of an interim government that would receive sovereignity from Bremer's coalition authority prior to elections if the UN played a prime role in the selection. And let us also not forget that the sudden revamping of the Brenner/Bush plan this summer to include an earlier than planned turnover of soverenity to an Iraqi government was the precise policy that both the UN and the non-coalition European countries were insisting was a necessary first step to get other countries to offer help on the ground in Iraq. So, in the end, Bush did a switcheroo, known in some quarters as a flip flop, but too late for American taxpayers, the American military on the ground in Iraq, or the Iraqi people to get the extra benefit from it that was available if Bush were ever able to listen to anyone outside his own small circle of advisors.

(BTW, I'm working on another post that will offer a talking points list arranged chronologically of all the mistakes made by Bush & co in Iraq from the point of the statue of Saddam coming down, so if any readers have suggestions, please email, or leave them in comments.)

Listen for a moment to the ambivalence of that Sunni insurgent, who, remember, has taken up arms against the American occupation:

Last week US military casualties in Iraq passed the 1,000 mark, most killed since the end of the war by the actions of men like Abu Mujahed. The former engineering student said he does not know how many his group has killed: 'It is impossible to say what has been hit. I could boast of killing maybe 25, but to be honest we don't know,' he said. 'Maybe only five or six.'

'I know the soldiers have no choice about coming here and all have a family and friends,' he added. His justification for the struggle was an inconsistent mix of political and economic grievances and wounded pride: 'We are under occupation. They bomb the mosques, they kill a huge number of people. There is no greater shame than to see your country being occupied.'

He dismissed the interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, as 'the Americans' Barbie doll' but then says that if everyone had 'full bellies' no one would fight.

'Iraqis' top priority is to provide a good living for their families. I take home less than 250,000 ID (£100) a month and I have four children. I have to pay the rent, doctor's bills, my wife needs something, my house needs something. And a kilo of chicken costs 2,500 ID.'

'The US or the UK are not my enemy. I know that any individual US or UK citizen is very good, but we will keep fighting the occupying forces. We have no choice.'

It shouldn't have been that difficult to give a man like this, a Sunni who despised Saddam, a different choice, maybe two or three different choices. John Kerry is saying it isn't too late.

As I finish this post, I'm listening to Allawi this morning addressing congress. Wow, is he ever in Bush's pocket. Or perhaps its the other way around. And now in the Rose Garden, Bush is saying that the electrical grid in Iraq is fully functioning at pre-war levels. Am I missing something? Did I just hear our President tell a straight-up easily verifiable lie? Readers, please advise in comments.

I fear that Allawi is Bush's kind of guy; tough, resolute, mendacious, and an idealist about democracy and human rights, which is to say, he, like Bush, enjoys the sound of his own soaring rhetoric, while both men are relatively indifferent to the messy actuality of creating and preserving the institutions required to implement the rhetoric here on earth.

The best discussion I've read about Allawi is by Andrew Cockburn and can be found at Salon. Herewith, a sample:

May 29, 2004 There could be no more perfect evidence of the desperation among U.S. officials dealing with Iraq than the choice of veteran Baathist and CIA hireling Iyad Allawi as prime minister of the "sovereign" government due to take office after June 30. As one embittered Iraqi told me from Baghdad on Friday: "The appointment must have been orchestrated by Ahmed Chalabi in order to discredit the entire process." He was not entirely joking, given the fact that Chalabi joined the rest of the Governing Council in voting for Allawi despite their long and vicious rivalry.

Though he is Shiite, Allawi was once upon a time an active Baathist, a member of Saddam Hussein's political party, and is thought to enjoy much support among the officer corps of the old Iraqi army, and by extension among many former Baathists and influential Sunni. Indeed, there are reports that the reason Ahmed Chalabi, the neoconservative favorite, urged his friends in the White House to dissolve the army last year -- a decision now acknowledged to be the most disastrous of the occupation -- was Chalabi's fear of the support enjoyed by his rival (and cousin -- everyone in Baghdad is related) within the military.

Allawi cut his political teeth as a strong-arm Baathist student organizer before being dispatched by the party to London to run the Iraqi Student Union in Europe. Apart from the Iraqis he dutifully monitored, other Arab students with whom he came in contact were of considerable interest in Saddam's Baghdad, since they tended to be drawn from elite circles in the Middle East. They were also of more direct value to Allawi personally, garnering him a fruitful array of connections in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, which he then used with great effect in various business enterprises in the region. By the late 1970s he had become wealthy.

Cockburn goes into detail about Allawi's fascination with "the intrigue of intelligence operations," which led to the always paranoid Saddam's unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Allawi, and his subsequent career as an anti-Saddam exile, which has included a long rivalry with Chalabi.

The most interesting as well as depressing information Cockburn supplies is about the machinations of both Chalabi and Allawi, in concert with Bremer and the US to prevent the nomination of the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi's first choice as interim Prime Minister, Hussein Shahristani.

Shahristani, a devout Shiite, would have been an inspired appointment. A man of extraordinary courage and integrity, he once told Saddam Hussein to his face that Iraq should not build a nuclear weapon. Predictably, he was tortured and put on trial for espionage, in the course of which he blithely insulted Saddam's parentage. He spent 10 years in solitary confinement in Abu Ghraib. "I probably survived execution because I was there on the direct orders of Saddam," Shahristani once told me. "And he simply forgot to sign my death warrant." He escaped disguised as a prison guard during the 1991 war after suborning a trusty who unlocked his cell and helped him flee.

Finding refuge in Iran, Shahristani refused to move on to comfortable exile in the West, preferring instead to stay in Iran and organize aid for otherwise friendless Iraqi refugees as well as the resistance inside Iraq itself. His unshakable independence eventually drove the Iranians to force him to move to London.

Returning to Iraq immediately after the war, Shahristani eschewed the trappings of power and cash rewards sought by other returning exiles and even refused to enter the U.S. Green Zone headquarters on the grounds it was occupied territory. He soon earned the trust and respect of Ayatollah Sistani. But that was not enough to protect him from self-interested intriguers like Allawi, Chalabi, and the representatives of the Islamist parties SCIRI and DAWA.


The United Nations, charged with coming up with the new government, was taken by surprise by Allawi's selection. U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he "respects" the decision and is willing to work with Allawi, according to U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard. But the world body was less than effusive about the choice.

Me too. How could the Bush administration not see the greater value to the United States and what we say we hope to accomplish in Iraq of Shahristani over Allawi?

I'll talk about Kerry's speech about Iraq in a separate post, but for some idea of why his proposals may not be as utopian and impractical as they sound in the context of how the Bushies have handled the occupation of Iraq, take a look at this essay by Salim Lone, a surviving member of the UN delegation to Iraq in 2003. The essay, "I Lived to Tell the Tale: It wasn't Last Year's Bomb but American Policy which Destroyed the UN's Hopes in Iraq," details the way in which the Bush administration had already undercut the ability of the UN to be of use in creating an intelligent occupation that might have succeeded to the benefit of both the US and the Iraqi population, even before that terrible bomb of August killed 22 members of the delegation, including the incomparably valuable, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The vicious terrorist attack a year ago today surprised no one working for Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN secretary general's special representative. Indeed, the UN chiefs of communication in Iraq had met that morning to hammer out a plan to counter the intensifying perception among Iraqis that our mission was simply an adjunct of the US occupation.

Little did the Iraqis know that the reality was quite the opposite: by August, the UN mission had grown very distant from the Americans. The intense early relationship that Sergio, the world's most brilliant negotiator of post-conflict crises, had fashioned with Paul Bremer, the US proconsul, had already fractured. Contact was intermittent now that Bremer's coalition provisional authority (CPA) could deal directly with the Iraqis whom it had appointed, with Sergio's help, to the governing council. General dismay over occupation tactics aside, Sergio had already parted company with Bremer over key issues such as the need for electoral affirmation of a new constitution, and the arrest and conditions of detention of the thousands imprisoned at Abu Ghraib prison.

The low point came at the end of July last year, when, astonishingly, the US blocked the creation of a fully fledged UN mission in Iraq. Sergio believed that this mission was vital and had thought the CPA also supported it. Clearly, the Bush administration had eagerly sought a UN presence in occupied Iraq as a legitimizing factor rather than as a partner that could mediate the occupation's early end, which we knew was essential to averting a major conflagration.

Sergio had nevertheless continued to squeeze whatever mileage he could from what he called the "constructive ambiguity" of a terrible postwar security council resolution; one that sent UN staff into the Iraqi cauldron without giving them even a minimal level of independence or authority. It is not an exaggeration to say that it was this resolution that rang the death knell for the UN in Iraq. Having heroically resisted American pressure to authorize the war, security council members decided to show goodwill to the "victors". "A step too far" was how an Iraqi put it to me on my second day in Baghdad.

So it wasn't the "terrorists" who made a meaningful UN presence impossible in postwar Iraq, "little did the Iraqi's know," even less did Americans know about any of the reality Lone is talking about.

Read the whole thing; it's one of the most important pieces I've read about what went wrong with postwar Iraq. As if we didn't know.

CBS fiasco: SCLM gets "the blogosphere" wrong again 

And surprise! It's to the winger's advantage! What liberal media?

Would it be too much to ask that journalists do just a little basic research?

They know enough to know that Limbaugh is "conservative" [pause for true conservatives to gag] but they don't think to ask whether the blogs are.

Unbelievable? All too believable. From often reasonably reliable (at least when WaPo owned a piece of it) International Herald Tribune. Watch how seemingly neutral reportage eliminates half of your discourse:

It was largely the hammering of Web sites like www.freerepublic.com, www.instapundit.com and www.littlegreenfootballs.com, echoed by talk-show hosts - from the conservative talk-meister Rush Limbaugh to imitators like Sean Hannity and Michael Savage - that left CBS News without cover or defense, like a boxer too exhausted to protect his head.

As if the freepers and LGF weren't conservative? Puh-leeze! Can we have just a little objectivity here?

The blogs' response in the CBS News case was so immediate that some shaken Democrats muttered about a White House conspiracy.

"The" blogs? Like all blogs?

Within hours of the memos' becoming electronically viewable, according to Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, www.freerepublic.com had posted a message from a certain “Buckhead,” who said the memos appeared typographically anachronistic - likely produced by computers unavailable in the early 1970s. Remarkably, a plethora of other experts on 1970s' fonts and spacing popped up almost instantly to agree.

Um, and it turned out that F/Buckhead was a winger oeprative, a lawyer, and a member of the Federalist society (back) Not exactly a guy in his pajamas, eh?

This writer learned in an earlier life, editing letters to this newspaper, that an error that might go unchallenged in a local American paper would almost invariably be caught by someone among the International Herald Tribune's far-flung readership. Someone, somewhere, would always know.

Blogs have the unknown reliability of “a tipster calling a reporter on the phone,” South said. Some tips pan out, others fizzle. But someone, somewhere, will always know.
(via Herald Trib)

Right. "Someone will always know." We'll be waiting for the correction real soon....

You'd think that a first thing that a journalist [cough] would do, when talking about a new medium that he or she does not understand, would check the circulation figure.

Here are the top 1o blogs from the NZ Bear ecosystem (here):

Looks pretty much like America, right? Evenly divided.

Daily Kos: Liberal

Talking Points Memo: Liberal

Eschaton: Liberal

And Volokh, if not liberal, is nothing like LGF.

Yet, for some reason, the SCLM, when it talks about "blogs," leaves out the liberal half of the blogosphere. I wonder why?

Bush AWOL: The hills are alive, with the smell of ratfucking 

The facts vs. the fonts:

As usual, the utterly essential Orcinus not only nails the analysis, he points out the way forward. Starting with the criticism/self-criticism:

Ever since the word came down Sunday night that CBS was backing off the story, I've been contemplating my mistake. Some of it was an excess of rigor: Being an old curmudgeonly editor, it was apparent to me that the vast majority of the "forgery" charges were themselves bogus. As someone who's dealt a great deal in conspiracy theories and debunking them, it was abundantly clear that nearly all of the right-wing bloggers' claims were utter nonsense. They had, moreover, leapt to the conclusion that these were forgeries without anything approaching actual proof. My chief tenet -- and a point that still holds, frankly -- is that it's impossible to declare something a forgery without dealing with original documents, and without establishing proper provenance.

Yep. Where I went wrong on this one as well. Heck, I OWNED AN IBM TYPEWRITER, IN THE '70s, THAT DID KERNING AND SUPERSCRIPTS. [1]. Where we went wrong was trusting the SCLM to do, like, actual journalism.

I understand their thinking: The memos mostly substantiated things we already knew about Bush's record. Contemporaries said the memos certainly sounded like things that Jerry Killian was concerned about, and were consistent with Bush's actual performance (or lack thereof). But it's a basic rule: You don't run with a story -- and especially not a major story -- without nailing everything down. And CBS didn't come close.

Thus—surprise!—leaving Bush smelling like a rose (again).

In the process, they probably destroyed any chance that there will be a serious discussion of Bush's military record.

We'll see what AP comes up with (unless the way that the wingers have "worked the refs" on CBS with this one succeeds in killing the story).

The tragic irony of it all is that Kevin Drum (or Orcinus, or Atrios, or Corrente) could have told Dan Rather not go anywhere near Burkett, but to look at Paul Lukasiak instead.[2]

And now, a very interesting point:

There's an added element here, though, that needs discussing: The whole scenario -- particularly the way the Bush AWOL story has been effectively nullified -- that stinks of a classic Rovian Ratfucking.

This is especially the case if Burkett is telling the truth about how he came into possession of the documents: From a "mystery woman" named "Lucy Ramirez" who gave them to him at a rodeo.

Given that Burkett's credibility cannot be any lower than it is now, it's extremely unlikely that he received any such phone call or talked to any such person.

But on the off chance that he is telling the truth, it raises a question:

Any chance that "Lucy Ramirez" has a more than a passing resemblance to Yvette Lozano?
(via Orcinus)

And now, for your viewing pleasure:

[1] Incidentally, I don't recall the issue of the variation of the baseline that a manual typewriter would produce. Was it? How manaically thorough was the forgery? And why not, after all, just buy a $75 typewriter?
[2] The story isn't about "the blogosphere." The story is about how a Republican elf transmitted a story to the winger blogosphere, thence to the Standard, thence to ABC.... And why CBS didn't look to the one portion of the blogosphere that could have saved them. "Liberal" media, ha.

Iraq clusterfuck: Kerry points out that the emperor has no clothes 

And about time, too:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Thursday that Iraq's Ayad Allawi was sent before Congress to put the ``best face'' on Bush administration policy.

Shortly after Allawi, the interim government's prime minister, gave a rosy portrayal of progress toward peace in Iraq, Kerry said the assessment contradicted reality on the ground.

``The prime minister and the president[Allawi and Bush] are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story,'' Kerry said.
(via MinneapolisStrib)

A child of six could see that Allawi is in DC to fluff Bush by saying whatever Bush needs him to say.

Kerry points this out; good! The amount of winger yammering on this will be directly proportional to the truth of Kerry's statement, and the degree to which Bush is, well, unclothed.

MEMO TO KERRY: Don't say "the President." Say "Bush." You're not in the Senate anymore. And why concede Bush a title He didn't earn? Besides, it makes for a better soundbite. See the edits above.

The Wecovery: Economy starts to tank (again) 

I guess this means we're making "progress on the ground":

A closely watched measure of future economic activity fell in August for a third consecutive month, reflecting an uncertain climate for both businesses and consumers.

The Conference Board said Thursday its Composite Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell 0.3 percent in August to 115.7, following a decline of 0.3 percent in July.

The August reading was the third month of decline in the index, after more than a year in which it gained steady ground. The drop last month was larger than the 0.2 percent decrease forecast by analysts.

Economists said the August drop in the index confirms a slackening in the recovery in recent months. But, while the new reading is cause for some concern, it comes as other evidence shows the economy is growing at a modest pace, they said.

"When the index goes down for a few months it doesn't mean the economy is in deep trouble, it could just mean the economy is cooling off," said Gary Thayer, chief economist with A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis. "We get mixed signals on the economy when we're in a soft period like we've been in this summer, but the underlying economy is still doing pretty good."

The index is closely followed because it is designed to forecast the economy's health over the coming three to six months.
(via WaPo)

I blame gay marriage.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Postcards From New York City  


"This Is Our Country Too! - On October 20th let's tell George how we feel by sending a postcard to the White House."

From the folks at Stop Bush Postcards:
"Greetings from New York City"
We are selling postcards based upon nyc graffiti - our goal is to raise money for the Dems and to remind people to get out and vote. And of course to let george know how we feel. We have set up a day, an event, for everybody to mail their cards to the White House.

There ya have it. Visit Stop Bush Post Cards.com. Buy some cards and send them to the White House and to friends and relatives as a reminder to get out and vote. Various designs available.


Goodnight,. moon 

Too tired to write....

But Xan's post on Bushspeak is genuinely frightening.

Yes, He's good at what He does.... Be afraid, be very afraid...

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