Saturday, August 06, 2005

War Heroes 

Sometimes you see two stories in completely different places, on seemingly different topics, and realize that whether their authors know it or not (which they almost certainly don't) they actually go together. Rather like the way two signs, one saying "Entrance" and the other saying "Exit", go together if they're posted on opposite sides of the same door.

First, this one, via the NYT
Many in the military are disheartened by the absence of an instantly recognizable war hero today, a deficiency with a complex cause: public opinion on the Iraq war is split, and drawing attention to it risks fueling opposition; the military is more reluctant than it was in the last century to promote the individual over the group; and the war itself is different, with fewer big battles and more and messier engagements involving smaller units of Americans.
The other I found in this item over at dKos, wherein they cite this story from the Guardian:
Juba is the nickname given by American forces to an insurgent sniper operating in southern Baghdad. They do not know his appearance, nationality or real name, but they know and fear his skill. "He's good," said Specialist Travis Burress, 22, a sniper with the 1-64 battalion based in Camp Rustamiyah. "Every time we dismount I'm sure everyone has got him in the back of their minds. He's a serious threat to us."
Some worry that Juba is on his way to becoming a resistance hero, acclaimed by those Iraqis who distinguish between "good" insurgents, who target only Americans, and "bad" insurgents who harm civilians.
This is the first I had heard of "Juba" as an individual, but I know his type. So do you. We've had folks like him in our own history, and more importantly, in our legends, literature and myths. The Swamp Fox. Zorro. Nathan Bedford Forrest. John Galt. Kilroy. Marshall Dillon.

It doesn't matter whether the cause for which they fight is good or evil, as perceived at the time or today. But you know what? Not a single one of those legends was written by a military PR department.

shadows of a thousand suns 

hiroshima memorialLet all souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.

inscription: Memorial Cenotaph, Hiroshima Peace Park

And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. ~ Revelation 6:4

The following blockquoted material, written by Faubion Bowers, can be found in The People's Almanac (1975), by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace; pages 507-510.

August 6, 1945:
There was a pika, a blinding flash of pink, blue, red, or yellow light -- none of the survivors ever agreed on the color -- brighter than 1,000 suns but coming from a fireball only 110 yards in diameter. In that split second the hypocenter or point of impact reached a heat of 300,000 C. Within a 1,000-yard radius granite buildings melted, steel and stone bridges burned and so did the river below them, roof tiles boiled, and people evaporated, leaving their shadows "photographed" like X-ray negatives on walls and pavements.

In a matter of seconds, 4 sq mi. of central Hiroshima was flattened into extinction. Every clock and watch stopped at exactly the same time: 8:15. Because of ionization, the choking air filled with a sickish sweet "electric smell." The bright blue, sunlit sky turned darkly yellow, and a churning cloud of smoke spurted upward for 50,000'. From a distance it looked like a gigantic mushroom, but to the escaping Enola Gay the shape was more that of grotesque question mark. Capt. Robert Lewis, the co-pilot, exclaimed as he saw it roiling in the air, "My God, what have we done?" The cloud rose so high its heat condensed water vapor. In minutes "black rain," sticky, pebble-sized drops of wet radioactive dust dripped down over Hiroshima, staining the skin of the survivors with red blotches.

Within an hour or so, 100,000 Japanese had died outright. So did 22 American men and women, who were prisoners of war. A 23rd, a young soldier surviving the explosion, was dragged from the rubble of the detention camp and slaughtered by angry Japanese. The population still able to walk around wandered about the smoking ruins in a bewildered daze, unable to find their loved ones, incapable of orienting themselves, as all landmarks had vanished. Amazingly, the survivors felt little pain. It was as if the greater terror of the unknown canceled the lesser horror of suffering. Most of the walking wounded were naked, their clothes having been burned or blown off, but among the sizzled bodies it was impossible to tell men from women. Those who had been wearing white were less scarred than others, since dark colors absorbed, rather than deflected, thermonuclear light. Friends did not recognize each other, because some had lost their faces. Others had "imprints" of their nose or ears outlined on their cheeks. Those who reached out to help the more severly disabled drew back their hands only to find they were holding gobbets of charred flesh. Wounds smoked when dipped in water.

In time, another 100,000 Japanese would slowly die from thermal burns and radiation sickness.

"A weapon of unparalled power is being created. Unless, indeed, some international agreement about the control of the use of the new active materials (uranium, plutonium, etc.) can be obtained, any temporary advantage, however great, may be outweighed by a perpetual menace to human society." - Niels Bohr, in letter to both Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944.

In April 1945, Einstein himself had 2nd thoughts about what he had started. Again he wrote to Roosevelt, asking for extreme caution in the use of the bomb, but Roosevelt died and the letter lay on his desk. By June, 1945, the German James Franck, the Hungarian Leo Szilard, and 57 other top-ranking scientists petitioned from New Mexico that "if the U.S. releases this means of indiscriminate destruction upon mankind, she will sacrifice public support throughout the world and precipitate the race for armaments." [...] ...[Arthur Compton] wanted a nonmilitary demonstration to "warn" and "impress" the Japanese before actually using the bomb.

The Government in Washington argued back and forth. Secretary of War Stimson and some of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff insisted that it would save 100,000 American lives and that dropping it by surprise on a "combined military and residential [civilian] target would produce maximum psychological shock." (These were the same reasons Hitler had given for the attack on Rotterdam.) General Marshall wanted the Soviets to join the war against Japan and to save the bomb for use at some possible future date against the Soviets. General Eisenhower felt that the Japanese were already beaten, that acceptable warfare could finish the job and bring about surrender. He said, in short, that the bomb was completely unnecessary and would rouse world condemnation.

Throughout the discussion and disputations, as Compton would later say. "it seemed a foregone conclusion that the bomb would be used." The final decision was up to President Truman. When John Toland, author of The Rising Sun, asked him if he had done any soul-searching before deciding, Truman replied , "Hell, no. I made it like that," and he snapped his fingers in the air.

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that one way or another. - J. Robert Oppenheimer

"If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky,
That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...
I am become Death,
The shatterer of Worlds."

~ The Bhagavad-Gita


Friday, August 05, 2005

A song for Judy 

Was/Not Was:

Hello Dad, I'm in jail!
Hello Dad, I'm in jail!
Hi Dad, I'm calling you from jail!
Hi Dad, Happy birthday. I'm in jail! Jail! Jail!
Hi Dad.

After all those years, I'm in jail now!
I'm in jail! I'm in jail! I'm in jail!
I like it here. It's nice!
I like it!
Hello Dad, I'm in jail!
Hello! Hello Dad! Hi, I'm in jail!
Say hi to Mom, from jail!
I'm in jail!
I'm gonna stay here!
I like it here!
Ha ha-ha ha-ha-ha!
I like it!
Yeah, throw away the key!
I'm in jail!
Hello Dad, I'm in jail!
Hello Dad. Hi Dad, I'm in jail! Jail! Jail! Jail! Jail!

First Amendment martyr my Aunt Fanny.

Theocracy rising: Long live the King! 

How alien this seems:

Senior clerics called on Saudis Friday to take their "bayah," or oath of allegiance, to [newly crowned Saudi King] Abdullah, saying it was a religious duty.

Tens of thousands of Saudis - tribal chiefs, Islamic clerics, army commanders and commoners - have been flocking to the Riyadh governor's palace to pledge loyalty to Abdullah, vowing to "hear and obey" the new king.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Seedes, the imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, went so far as to compare the oath to the king to that taken by Muslims to the Prophet Muhammad 14 centuries ago.

"I urge all Muslims to take the 'bayah' because it is part of the creed and a religious duty," al-Seedes said in his Friday sermon, broadcast live on television. He added that those who failed to take the oath would go to their graves as non-Muslims.
(via AP)

Yep, a big draft of Kool-Aid always goes down smooth in The Desert Kingdom.

Meanwhile, in The Delusional Kingdom, remember this from "election" 2004?

"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

Um, I think there's a transcription error. Shouldn't that be "raise your right arm"?
(From the archive vaults buried deep in the bedrock under One Corrente Square)

I sure wish I could find one single Republican who's sorry they took "The Bush Pledge." But it seems that once you've drunk the Kool-Aid, you can't go back... Can any one prove me wrong? Can anyone give me examples of Repubublicans who've successfully undergone deprogramming?

Novak apologizes, chortle 

The apology is boring, but the incident must have been riveting. Always nice to watch a winger meltdown (back). Now, if only they'd storm out of the White House:

The incident occurred Thursday as Novak and Democratic operative James Carville were handicapping the Senate candidacy of former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Novak said the opposition of the Republican establishment in Florida might not be fatal for her.

"Let me just finish, James, please," Novak continued. "I know you hate to hear me, but you have to."

Carville, addressing the camera, said: "He's got to show these right wingers that he's got a backbone, you know. It's why The Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em that you're tough."

"Well, I think that's bull---- and I hate that," Novak replied. "Just let it go
(via AP)

What I like hear is that Carville is ballbusting Novak for being a cog in the Republican noise machine. Seems like some sense is finally seeping into the Beltway 500 (of which Carville is a fully paid-up member).

But my theory on what really happened...

I hear the heat wave we're having has been causing that grey fluid winger replicants have instead of blood to boil over, causing sudden and visible leakage (c.f. Alien). And that's what happened to Novak—right on the set! No wonder he had to leave and go clean himself up, the poor guy... So, if you hear of any more bizarre behavior by winger replicants, now you know why!

What will today's 5:00 horror be? 

Bush is at the ranch, so presumably He's got plenty of free time to dream up something really special...

If a TV station launches and nobody reports it, does it make a sound? 

This story already has about 3 layers of irony attached to it, and it's only 2 weeks old.

If the word "Telesur" does not mean anything to you, it means you a) live in the United States and b) don't read ragtag socialist websites. Because otherwise, you would know that Telesur, a joint venture of the Venezuelan, Argentinian, Uruguayan, and not least, Cuban governments, went on air last month to combat what President Hugo Chavez called "American cultural imperialism". The 24-hour news channel will broadcast across Latin America and carry such heretical points of view as indigneous opposition to hemispheric "free trade" agreements. (Matt Yglesias might want to TiVo that one.)

Now, one would think that, from a FOX news point of view, this would be an unexceptional event. Venezuela currently has something like 43 different channels, all of them anti-Chavez and pro-US, so if there were ever a justification for a station to counter "media bias," this would be it.

But of course, one would be wrong. As in the US, it's not enough for pro-corporate interests to dominate the airwaves, they must control it. Anything less is anathema. So, like treason follows Rove, the launch of Telesur has prompted our own freedom-loving House of Representatives to pass legislation that would bankroll creation of our very own propaganda outlet in Latin America. (The legislation has yet to be taken up by the Senate.)

Meanwhile, demonstrating how a free press works in the United States, a Google search turns up a single significant source of coverage of this imperialistic tit for tat here: The Miami Herald. (The government-run CBC and BBC, by contrast, have run multiple, critical stories about Telesur.) To its credit, the Herald notes not just the unprincipled interference in Latin American affairs that this represents, but also its obvious counterproductiveness:
In a telephone interview from Caracas, Teodoro Petkoff, a prominent anti-Chávez leftist politician and publisher of the daily Tal Cual, said that a U.S. government broadcast to Venezuela and the rest of the region would be ''utterly stupid.'' It ''would amount to playing into Chávez's hands,'' giving him new ammunition to go around the world playing the victim of U.S. aggression, he said.

And indeed, since the Bush Administration's earlier, all-but-transparent efforts to foment a coup against Chavez backfired, his approval ratings have risen to around 75%. But that's the definition of a zealot: doing the same thing again and again, while expecting a different result.

Ham-fisted incompetence like this almost makes me want to donate money to bill-sponsor Connie Mack's re-election campaign.

That slithery sound you hear is a Beltway Dem positioning itself for a Presidential run 

Yeah, yeah, big tent. But the peasants with pitchforks aren't always inside the tent, know what I mean?

Here's what we at least want. The Kos "litmus test":

[1] Does candidate 'distance himself' from the party and/or its leaders, or is he proud to be a Democrat?

[2] Does he talk like a bureaucrat or like a regular person?

[3] Does she make it clear that she opposes Bush and the Republicans?

[4] Does she back down when the corporate press/media or Republican pundits attack him, or does she stand by her words?

[5] Does he sleepwalk through the campaign, or does he act like he wants to win?
(via Kos)

I thought of The Litmus Test when I read this wretched little crotte-esque effusion from Evan "Buh" Bayh:

Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, a possible presidential candidate in 2008, said Thursday that his party lacks credibility on national security and needs to convince Americans that Democrats are willing to use force when necessary.

"Unless the American people know that we will be good stewards of the nation's security, they're unlikely to trust us with anything else," said the two-term Indiana senator. "That's a very important threshold we have to get over."

"Many Americans wonder if we're willing to use force to defend the country even under the most compelling of circumstances," Bayh said. "The majority of Democrats would answer that question that, yes, there is a right place and a right time. We don't get to have that discussion because many people don't think we have the backbone."

Bayh has spent three days in Iowa, the first presidential caucus state, attending party fundraisers and meeting privately with activists who play a crucial role in Democratic politics.

And now comes the zinger. I've got to stop drinking coffee while I do this; I almost lost another keyboard:

Bayh said he would make a decision on a presidential bid after next year's midterm elections, basing it, in part, on whether he has a realistic chance of winning the nomination.

"Is this a sensible thing to do?" he said. "I've never been a big person for fool's errands. I think you have to conclude you have some prospect of being successful."

Let me clue you in, Evan. (May I call you Evan?) You don't pass the litmus test.

[1] Evan, you distanced yourself from the Party. Merciful heavens! National security should be ours! Take it to the Republicans on armor! Take it to the Republicans on "facts and intelligence were fixed around the policy." Take it the Republicans that the IEDs are made from the ordinance Bush didn't secure after the war because He thought the Iraqis would be throwing us roses! Take it to the Republicans that recruitment numbers are tanking because Iraq is a Bush clusterfuck and everybody, especially the parents, knows it! The Iraq War is theirs to lose, and they're losing it! And everybody outside the Beltway 500 knows it!

[2] Evan, you talk like a bureaucrat. Listen to the man: "A very important threshold we have to get over," forsooth? Words to stir the blood! Nobody cares about all this internal party mechanics stuff, Evan. They care about you, and what you are doing. And one very good surrogate test for you being willing to defend our country is you "become willing" to defend yourself—and your constituents—from attack. The Republicans are following their playbook, and attacking Democrats every day. Politically, economically, culturally, spiritually, in all ways. That's what they do. That's what many of them are paid to do. So why don't you, personally, take a baby step over the threshold yourself, and punch back where they are punching us? But what do we get instead? More mealy-mouthed Beltway consultant-driven palaver about the dirty laundry of process. Gaaah! Just do it!

[3] Evan, you don't make it clear that you opposes Bush and the Republicans. Re-read this: More words to stir the blood:

"I've never been a big person for fool's errands. I think you have to conclude you have some prospect of being successful."

Wow, way to hammer home those Democratic principles, Evan. Way to give me a real reason to vote for you. Way to ... Eesh, this is worse than B.S.S., I've got to stop...

Another Washington General, after raising some money and sucking the media oxygen, is regretfully going to decide not to run. But you know something? The Washington Generals never win anyhow!

Buh-bye, Evan....

A Tale Of Two Dictators 

Vladimir Putin, unlike our own president, appears actually able to learn from the stupid mistakes of his past:

"A Russian mini-submarine with seven sailors aboard snagged on a fishing net and was stuck on the Pacific floor with only enough air for the seamen to survive one more day, Russia's navy said.
The U.S. Navy is rushing an unmanned, remote-controlled vehicle from San Diego to Russia to help in the rescue efforts, the Navy said...
Russia appealed to the United States and Japan for assistance, the Interfax news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Malakhov as saying."
Back in August of 2000, Putin was faced with a similar problem when the submarine Kursk went down, after which he fended off the world's offers of assistance for days, and pulled off a Bush-like feat of silence on the matter.

Perhaps he could teach the Dauphin something about learning from the past, as Bush now appears to be on a course of preparations for yet another Mid-east war of agression with Iraq's neighbor:

"The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States...
As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections."
Where have we heard that before?

The Washington Chestnut: A profane, squalid, unclean thing 

August 05, 2005
CLICK ON IMAGE: for full size easy to read view.

Bos Novak

Meanwhile, CNN, itself providing ample evidence by example for the disproof of "intelligent design", has discovered a titilating new topic of discussion to chirp and burble about... namely, vestigial organs. "Male nipples" to be exact. The sheer mention of which apparently arouses a tittering dizzy chucklefest amongst the news gigglers at CNN. Hopefully some gin soaked barbeque-belt Christian evangelical "scientific" spellbinder will be summoned to witness before the CNN flock, at some critical juncture, and explain to all of us heathens what exactly it was that stirred God Him Almighty (baroque prankster that he obviously was) to seemingly pointless fanciful embellishments. At least in this mysterious case. Praise the conceptual design possibilities.

38% The chronic decline of the Texas Souffle. Via AP:
WASHINGTON - Americans' approval of President Bush's handling of Iraq is at its lowest level yet, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that also found fewer than half now think he's honest.


Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq, which had been hovering in the low- to mid-40s most of the year, dipped to 38 percent. Midwesterners and young women and men with a high school education or less were most likely to abandon Bush on his handling of Iraq in the last six months.

Delenda est ArbustoCo.


Truth or Consequences 

Truth is becoming increasingly unpopular these days, whether spoken in a courtroom or by scientists refusing to tow the party line.

Leah's post yesterday, in which she dissects the right-wing's dogpile on Judge John Coughenour, U.S. District Judge of Seattle, for daring to give a reasoned, thoughtful statement during his sentencing of "Millenium Bomber" Ahmed Ressam, and for taking a shot at the Bush administration's Cheka-like handling of prisoners since 9/11, should be read with an eye to the impending Roberts appointment. Not for a minute do I believe Roberts won't ultimately become a Supreme Court Justice, because whatever Georgie wants, Georgie gets. But it's worth reflecting that even the best-laid appointments can blossom into surprising outcomes, and Coughenour, who was appointed by the Right's own saint, Ronald Reagan, is now the very same being excoriated by them for his "liberal" behavior.

In the meantime, following on the heels of my own post yesterday, it was interesting to see that Krugman, in today's NYTimes, is remembering Irving Kristol (father of Bill) as the architect of the strategy that led the right to develop think tanks and foster academic research to debunk both economic and scientific findings they found inconvenient to their ideology:
"The most spectacular example is the campaign to discredit research on global warming. Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, many people have the impression that the issue is still unresolved. This impression reflects the assiduous work of conservative think tanks, which produce and promote skeptical reports that look like peer-reviewed research, but aren't. And behind it all lies lavish financing from the energy industry, especially ExxonMobil."
He goes on to tie this in to the support of the right for Intelligent Design, which has gotten yet another goose in the media since Bush's recent remarks in Texas:
"The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom."
Not to mention the ultimately fatal operation to remove truth from the body of science.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Terrorizing Judges 

As you may remember, federal judges can be impeached, and though such a punishment has been mentioned by at least one blogger in regards to the judge in question, it appears that a coordinated smear campaign is going to suffice to still the roiled waters of rightwing outrage. And no, this is not a case based on what we usually think of as the "culture war" issues, although, in its deepest meaning, this case is centrally about that conflict, as it is about what makes as both strong and ourselves, as Americans.

The case being asserted against U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour is fairly easy to understand. Poor man, he indicted himself with the following words, uttered last week in open court on the occasion of his sentencing of Ahmed Ressam, sometimes known as the millennium bomber, otherwise known as a hapless, Algerian immigrant to Canada who was caught on the eve of 2000 by several alert officials at the Canadian/US border, as he tried to cross, heading south with a car loaded with explosives and a plan to blow up LAX.

Here is what Judge Coughenour had to say about the implications of the Ressum case: (Link courtesy of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
"Okay. Let me say a few things. First of all, it will come as no surprise to anybody that this sentencing is one that I have struggled with a great deal, more than any other sentencing that I've had in the 24 years I've been on the bench.

"I've done my very best to arrive at a period of confinement that appropriately recognizes the severity of the intended offense, but also recognizes the practicalities of the parties' positions before trial and the cooperation of Mr. Ressam, even though it did terminate prematurely.

"The message I would hope to convey in today's sentencing is twofold:

"First, that we have the resolve in this country to deal with the subject of terrorism and people who engage in it should be prepared to sacrifice a major portion of their life in confinement.

"Secondly, though, I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.

"I would suggest that the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.

"Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.

"Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel.

"The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism.

"Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.

"It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We will be in recess."
I have quoted the judge in full because what he said strikes me as so important, so moving, and so inspiring. Others reacted differently.

Within forty-eight hours, his words, along with the facts of the case, were being disassembled and rearranged into the shape of a bullseye plastered across an e-poster that portrayed this Ronald Reagan appointeee as The Poster Judge for why we need the Patriot Act, and military tribunnals, and anything else Bush & Co deem necessary to convince us that we are AT WAR, and why we should regard any American who has a different view as not merely wrong, but as one who is aiding and abbeting our "violently extreme," (according to the Bush administration's most current nomenclature), enemies around the world.

Since we're all too familiar with such arguments and the copious cross-quoting endemic to rightwing blogs, what follows is a sampler of rightwing opinion on the subject of Judge Coughenour. (Don't be fooled by their tone of authority borne of total knowledge of all relevant facts; be assured there is more to this story.)

Rick Edwards at PowerPundit was early on the scene; you can read his summary here, clearly based on this AP report, which emphasized the differences between the judge and the prosecutor over length of sentence because of Ressam's truncated cooperation with the government.

Michele Malkin riffs off of Hugh Hewitt and Captains Quarters, but the title she choose for her post pretty much says it all:

Reckless judicial arrogance was on display in Seattle earlier today during the sentencing hearing for al Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam, the would-be Millennium bomber.

Hugh Hewitt is all over the actions and statement of Judge John Coughenour, a Reagan appointee who is an embarrassment to conservatives and an impediment to winning the War on Terror. The headlines say Ressam was sentenced to 22 years in jail for plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on the millennium. Prosecutors pushed for the max: 35 years. Ressam will get credit for the 5 years he has already been in custody; he may be out and free to do al Qaeda's bidding again in as little as 14 years.

Coughenour used the occasion to pat himself on the back, express his opposition to military tribunals and detention of enemy combatants, and argue in support of applying the full panoply of constitutional rights to foreign al Qaeda conspirators. Hewitt points to Coughenour's sentencing sermon and writes:
Whatever the message the judge hoped to send, the one he in fact did send was to Islamicists all around the globe: Come to America. Try and kill us. Either you succeed and get to your version of heaven, or you'll get a second chance 22 years later after spending a couple of decades setting up networks that can help you with round 2.

The arrogance of this renegade judge's lecture is simply beyond belief. Congress should summon the judge to testify as to his inane remarks, but precede and follow his appearnce with panels comprised of vitims of terror and the families of military killed in the war.

I am ashamed to say Judge Coughenour is a Reagan appointee.
Double-ditto that.
Hugh Hewitt was not content to leave it at that. In an UPDATE to the original post, Hewitt sumarizes past outrages in Judge Coughenour's caseload, and compares Reesam's sentence to those of other "violent extremists," including some Montana militiamen sentenced by Coughenour, the guards at Abu Ghriab, and most interestingly, to Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; remember this one, we'll be coming back to it.

Spurred on by angry emailers, in another post, Hewitt offers ways to fight back against the arrogance of this judge - everything from being sure not to vote for Maria Cantwell to sending the judge an umbrella; it took me a moment to figure out that one - the heavy annual rainfall in Seattle? Silly me, how could I have missed the reference to Lord Chamberlain and - wait for it - appeasement.
Maybe he will get five of Chamberlain's props, maybe 50. But each time an umbrella arrives he will know that a citizen reviewed his self-serving sentencing statement and found it the sort of timorous sophistry that encourages more attacks rather than sending any sort of message of resoluteness to the terrorists.
Not only is this judge "arrogant," he is timorously arrogant.

Go back and read what the judge said and then ask yourself how we got from there to here, from Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, et al, to Bush & Co, wherein self-described superpatriots, most of whom, please note, do not live at the margins of our political culture, no indeed not, can conflate a ringing endorsement of the on-going power of our founding document with foolish, weak-kneed appeasement, and can suggest, in all apparant seriousness, that a federal judge should be hauled in front of a congressional inquiry to answer for comments made from the bench in defense of that document?

Malkin, quoting herself, reminds us of the problems of bringing terrorists to justice in a criminal proceeding - you know, all that secret intelligence that can be exposed in an open courtroom. Although she points to the trial of Ramsi Yussef, at least she doesn't mention the usual talking point endlessly reiterated about it - that our ability to monitor cell phones was exposed and thus, terrorists stopped using them. Never mind that the recent European arrests of suspects tied to the London bombings were tracked by their cell phones. Nevermind that at a certain point, even the dimmest among the Al Queda cadre would have figured out that someone was listening to their cell phone conversations. Never mind that the potential problems Malkin brings up in lieu of that one are equally as dim-witted: Moussaoui may have demanded access to classified documents, or to suspected terrorists in custody overseas, but an American judge had no difficulty denying those requests; nor, thus far, has there been any known instances of "witness" intimidation.

On such slender potential protections of intelligence are we supposed to say "au revoir" to the constitution, as well as to the most minimal standards of human decency.

At Captains' Quarters, a guest blogger added these gems to the conversation:
Just a warning, as if any were needed, that just because a judge is a solid Republican, appointed by the most "Republican" Republican president in decades and confirmed by a staunchly Republican Senate, doesn't automatically mean he can't turn out to be an ass.
And after providing the judge's remarks in full, this final comment:
I rest my case for military tribunals: at least if they were secret, we wouldn't have to listen to boneheaded lectures by buffoons in black!
Why do these rightwingers hate America?

Captain Ed himself arrived in time to add his own unique endorsement to the reviling of Judge Coughenour:
Not only do I endorse everything Dafydd said, I have to add my two cents as an addendum. Please remember that this case got highlighted by the Kerry campaign during last year's election as the model for handling terrorists, as opposed to the wartime approach favored by the Bush administration. This shows that our first instincts were correct, and that the only advantage of using civilian courts to fight international terrorists will be to highlight the damage that Presidents can do when they pick idiots to sit on the federal bench.

However, I will point out something that Judge Coughenour seems to have forgotten in his zeal to hold himself up as a Constitutional protector, as opposed to the rest of us police-state brownshirts. We captured this terrorist on American soil, mostly by luck and the sharp eye of airport security. Under most circumstances, that does mean that the civilian courts would come into play. If we had traced the terrorist using highly-sensitive intelligence capabilities, however, we would have to have exposed them in Judge Coughenour's court, making them unusable after a single prosecution.


Evidently, because of what he was charged with and convicted of, Rassem could have gotten a maximum of 35 years. If Coughenour had given him the max, I would have been disappointed that Rassem couldn't have gotten more, but I would not have held it against the judge; judges cannot impose arbitrarily draconian prison terms -- they are bound by the legal maximums.

But the good judge gave this insect only 63% of what he could have given... and with all the time off and time served, he'll actually be out after serving less than 40% of what he could have been required to serve. This is not simply wrong... it is unconscionable.

If this is the model that Kerry and the pirates have for fighting the war on terrorism, then it's no wonder they've been frozen out of power ever since 9/11.
There is so much misinformation in that statement, I hardly know where to begin; for now, let me only point out that "airport security" had nothing to do with apprehending Ressam, that border agents from both Canada and this country we're responsible for his capture, operating on both American and Canadian soil, and most important, that prosecuting Ressam involved tracking his past movements and contacts using "highly-sensitive intelligence capabilities." We'll come back to that thirty-five year sentence and Kerry cluelessness.

We know that rightwing blogs are powerful, but as of Tuesday evening, when Bill O'Reilly, (as seen here by The Heretik) swivelled that most fearful of media WMDs, his "Talking Points Memo," into position to take aim at Judge Coughenour, was not his fate pretty much sealed?

Based on no particular evidence, O'Reilly surmized that both the sentence and the judge's words were a shot across the Bush bow:
The Factor felt that Judge Coughenour was making a political statement in issuing a light sentence to Ressam. "This guy is sending a message to the Bush administration--'If you keep messing around like you are, because I don't like it, I'm going to give these guys lesser sentences.' I think that's the message here." Benjamin Cardoza Law professor Marci Hamilton agreed that it appeared the judge used his position to issue his own political message. "It sure did look like he set himself up an opportunity to pontificate from the bench? it certainly was beyond what he should have been doing. The point of justice is 'Lady Justice is blind.' It's not supposed to be a political statement."

That's O'Reilly's own formulation of the discussion, no transcript being readily available. God knows, it's no surprise to discover yet again that O'Reilly is a ridiculous figure who is incapable of understanding logic, reason, or how to assemble facts to make a point, and Professor Hamilton seemed as genuinely a dull bulb as her comment above would suggest, but what was truly remarkable about the entire discussion, which included FOX'S Judge-in-Residence, Andrew P. Napolitano, was the total absence of any systematic awareness of the facts of this case, a condition the cross-discussion on rightwing blogs also demonstrated.

O'Reilly mentioned that Ressam had cooperated with authorities, but immediately dismissed that important fact because Ressam had recently stopped cooperating. Naplitano insisted that Ressam's cooperation had been substantial, although the judge seemed to think it resulted from a plea deal, which is just plain wrong. And both the law professor and the Judge had no difficulty with O'Reilly comparing those 22 years to the 35 years the Prosecutors were asking for, when in fact, the actual sentence was 27 years, the original sentence offered by the U.S. government in exchange for Ressam's cooperation, minus time served AFTER Ressam's conviction, a factor that would have been similarly deducted from the prosecutor's desired 35 year sentence, so the actual comparison should have been between 27 and 35 years, or between 22 and 30 years.

Nits not worth picking, you say?

Well, surely the fact that Ressam stood trial and was convicted by a jury is more than a nit, and yet that fact is absent from all rightwing awareness of this case, despite it being explicitly stated by Judge Coughenour in his comments from the bench. And remember that maximum 35 year sentence? Ressam was convicted in early April of 2001, after a three week trial, of nine criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism; what Ressam was facing at that point was a sentence of between 57 and 130 years in prison. You can make your own conclusions about who is the clueless one, John Kerry or Captain Ed.

Had anyone on the right been interested in finding out the facts of this case, or had they been interested in the trial at the time, they would have had another instance of a Coughenour decision about which to rage. A noted French terrorism expert, knowledgeable about Al Queda, and with direct knowledge of some of the facts of Ressum's history was called by the prosecution. Judge Coughenour heard Jean-Louis Bruguiere's testimony in the absence of the jury, and though the judge acknowledged Bruguiere's superior expertise, his testimony was disallowed as too prejudicial to Ressam, in view of the volume of evidence against the accussed amassed by the prosecution.

Imagine the howls of rage that would have issued from the right, if the right had been paying attention to this trial. They weren't, just as the Bush administration wasn't paying attention to the concerns about Osama Bin Ladin expressed directly to them by departing members of the Clinton administration.

As it turned out, Judge Coughenour was right about the sufficiency of the prosecution's case.

Faced with spending the rest of his life in an American prison, Ressam agreed to cooperate with the US government. However, the severity of the sentence appears not to have been the only factor in his decision.
Through 16 months of detention and trial, Ressam stayed true to his training and maintained the secrets of his jihad. But after his conviction, he was shaky — isolated from family and his Islamist brothers, and still taking medicine for the malaria he had caught in the Afghanistan camps.

He grew attached to his lawyers, in particular to Oliver, a small, light-haired woman fluent in French. He would not shake hands with her, as he did with his male lawyers, but he spoke to her gently.

Her terrorist client, Oliver said, was "very sweet. Very polite."

Ressam confided to his lawyers that he had found the trial surprisingly fair. The judge had treated him respectfully. The experience was not at all what he expected of the country he had been taught to hate.

Ressam also told Oliver he was unsure of the morality of his plan to massacre innocent holiday travelers. He said he needed to study the Quran to see if he had misunderstood passages.

So when Justice Department lawyers offered a deal to reduce his sentence, Ressam was ready to listen. (my emphasis) The terms were simple: His minimum sentence would be cut in half, to 27 years. In return, he had to testify against an associate, Mokhtar Haouari, and others. He had to reveal all he knew about al-Qaida — plots, training, tactics.

Ahmed Ressam became a terrorist turncoat.

On May 10, 2001, FBI Agent Fred Humphries questioned Ressam, the first of dozens of interviews. The information was invaluable — and terrifying. He explained how he was recruited in Montreal and funneled into the bin Laden camps. He talked in detail about training with Taliban-supplied weapons. He informed on Abu Zubaydah, Abu Doha and other top al-Qaida operatives. He provided the names of jihad fighters he had met in the camps. He revealed that he had contemplated blowing up an FBI office and the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.

He also confirmed one of the greatest fears of the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies: The camps had trained thousands of men in chemical warfare.

Ressam told Humphries about putting on a gas mask, then watching as an instructor put a small dog in a box. The man added a small amount of cyanide and sulfuric acid, creating poison gas. The dog convulsed and died.

If you place this cyanide gas box near the air intake of an office building, the instructor had said, many people can be killed.
I'm quoting here from a superb multi-part series, "The Terrorists Within," that a group of staff writers undertook for the Seattle Times on the subject of Ahmed Ressam.

Who gets credit for turning Ressam? Everyone reponsible for Ressam receiving a fair trail, as spelled out in our constitution, everyone - the prosecutors, the defense lawyers, all of them court-appointed public defenders, and finally Judge Coughenor.

Karl Rove, having watched what happened on 9/11, may have prepared for war, but he might have done better, along with all the big honchos of the Bush administration, starting with the President, to have paid attention to that which they had hitherto ignored, and especially a case like Ressam's, of which it could almost be said that a kind of therapy, consisting of everything that is best about this country and its jurisprudence, turned a confirmed Al Queda operative into an astonishingly cooperative informant and witness.

How valuable was Ressam's information? Let us count the ways.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Ressam's solitude has been broken by a stream of visitors, often FBI agents such as Fred Humphries, but also investigators from Germany, Italy and elsewhere.

With federal public defender Jo Ann Oliver at his side, he is told names and shown photographs of suspected terrorists and asked if he knows them.

On several occasions, Ressam has been flown to New York City for similar questioning. There, he is held in a detention center just blocks from Ground Zero.

Ressam did not recognize any of the 19 suicide hijackers from Sept. 11. But he was able to identify student pilot Zacarias Moussaoui of Minneapolis, now in U.S. custody, as a trainee from Osama bin Laden's Khalden camp.

Ressam informed on Abu Doha, a London-based Algerian who was the brains and money behind Ressam's Los Angeles airport plot. He identified Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who ran the Khalden camp, and Abu Sulieman, who taught bomb-making at the Darunta camp.

Most importantly, Ressam named the previously little-known Abu Zubaydah as a top aide to bin Laden. That helped smash the notion that Zubaydah, also now in U.S. custody, was little more than a travel agent for terrorist wannabes making their way to the al-Qaida camps.

Ressam is expected to testify at the trials of these and other suspected terrorists.

So it is that Ahmed Ressam — the boy who loved to fish in the Mediterranean, the teenager who loved to dance at discothèques, the young man who tried and failed to get into college, who connected with fanatical Muslims in Montreal, who learned to kill in bin Laden's camps, who plotted to massacre American citizens — has become one of the U.S. government's most valuable weapons in the war against terror.
Remember, I promised we'd get back to Richard Reid, the shoe bomber:
Ressam's information was given to anti-terrorism field agents around the world _ in one case, helping to prevent the mishandling and potential detonation of the shoe bomb that Richard Reid attempted to blow up aboard an American Airlines flight in 2001. (link)
Doesn't the Bush administration deserve some credit here, for the turning of Ahmed Ressam? Or, did the intervention of the Bush DOJ contribute to Ressam's truncated cooperation?

That and other fascinating possibilities will be addressed in Part 2, which will be appearing on this blog no later than tomorrow morning.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE Welcome, Kossacks, to The Mighty Corrente Building. Nice work, Leah.

Rapture index nets up 1 on famine, drought, gog 


The famine entry (+1, i.e. good):

Central Africa is having a severe famine.

The drought entry (+1, i.e. good):

Spain is having its worst drought in 60 years.

The Gog (Russia) entry (-1, i.e. bad):

The lack of activity has downgraded this category.

See, in the wacky Alice-in-Wonderland world that these Rapture folks live in, everything bad is good, because the bad things are signs of the End Times!

Famine? Great news! (Except to those starving to death, which doesn't include a lot of these Rapture folks!)

Drought? Great news! (Except to those who are thirsty, which doesn't include a lot of these Rapture folks either.)

So, when we get a "President" "elected" who just totally screws the pooch on anything he touches, it's all good! Because it brings the Rapture closer!

So if you're hungry, or you're thirsty, and Bush brought that on you, remember that the Rapture folks want it to happen, and they all vote Republican.

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident 

"Our administration will be creative. We're committed to protecting our environment and improving our economy, to acting at home and working in concert with the world. This is an administration that will make commitments we can keep, and keep the commitments that we make."

---George Bush, June 11, 2001 speech
explaining why he won't support the Kyoto Accord or act decisively on global warming.

"Lunn and others are in the midst of a polar bear census in western Hudson Bay. While the work is not yet complete, Lunn says the numbers so far suggest that the population size has fallen since censuses of the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. He says, "We've seen differences. We don't seem to see the same number of adult females and cubs as we used to in denning areas. The adult females and cubs we find tend to be closer to the coast than they used to be, perhaps because there are not as many males near the coast as there used to be. We're not seeing adult males in the same numbers as we used to. There are more problem bears in and around Churchill. Things are changing. It's clear something is going on in the Hudson Bay ecosystem."
What's going on is likely to continue if, as researchers believe, climate change is the driving force behind the changes.
Average air temperatures on Earth are increasing. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s, global temperatures have risen an average of 0.6°C (1.1°F), according to the report of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment published in 2004. This report was the result of the work of hundreds of scientists from all over the world.
The overwhelming consensus among scientists is that these temperature increases are due primarily to man-made emissions of certain "greenhouse" gases, such as carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases trap the heat of the sun in our atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels is the main way humans add greenhouse gases to the environment. Before the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere was about 280 parts per million. Today it's between 360 and 380 parts per million. That's a 35 percent increase in about 150 years."

---The Smithsonian reporting for The National Zoo in July/August 2005 on the possible extinction of polar bears resulting from global warming.

"Today, more than 60 leading scientists—including Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors and university chairs and presidents—issued a statement calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. According to the scientists, the Bush administration has, among other abuses, suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels.
“Across a broad range of issues, the administration has undermined the quality of the scientific advisory system and the morale of the government’s outstanding scientific personnel,” said Dr. Kurt Gottfried, emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University and Chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Whether the issue is lead paint, clean air or climate change, this behavior has serious consequences for all Americans.”"

---February 18, 2004 Statement from The Union of Concerned Scientists on the Bush administration's warping of scientific data, including that on climate change.

"The collapse of a huge ice shelf in Antarctica in 2002 has no precedent in the past 11,000 years, a study that points the finger at global warming says."

---ABC News report
August 4, 2005, on the cause of an unprecedented collapse of a massive Antarctic ice shelf 3 years ago.

"Extraordinary efforts by the White House to scupper Britain's attempts to tackle global warming have been revealed in leaked US government documents obtained by The Observer.
These papers - part of the Bush administration's submission to the G8 action plan for Gleneagles next month - show how the United States, over the past two months, has been secretly undermining Tony Blair's proposals to tackle climate change.
The documents obtained by The Observer represent an attempt by the Bush administration to undermine completely the science of climate change and show that the US position has hardened during the G8 negotiations. They also reveal that the White House has withdrawn from a crucial United Nations commitment to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions. "

---June 19, 2005 Guardian article on the Bush administration's undermining of efforts to address global warming at the G8 meeting in Gleneagles.

Sometimes the words just speak for themselves.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Afghanistan: spectral apparitions 

"You know only - A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, - And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, - And the dry stone no sound of water. - Only - There is shadow under this red rock, (Come in under the shadow of this red rock), - And I will show you something different from either - Your shadow at morning striding behind you - Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust." ~ Thomas Stearns Eliot, The Waste Land

The following post contains excerpts from Ghost Wars; The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, by Steve Coll. It's intended as a kind of added accompanyment to Xan's earlier post Once Upon A Time which links to Juan Cole's recent reminder of the Reagan Bush administration's covert holy war, once upon a time, in Afghanistan.

"The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny"
If there is one thing that can be said for the entire contingence that characterized the Reagan administration's support of the insurgency in Afghanistan it might be that we helped sow and nurture and reap, to some considerable extent, the harvest of future wrath. We helped placate, fund, and train a revolution, a careless desolation, cloaked in the pretensions of some mottled divine retribution, for which relegated elements would ultimately return to haunt us. We showed the jihadist that, given the necessary tools and training, patience, ruthlessness and resolve, a small group of rag-tag "freedom fighters" could run a super-power out of town on a rail. We made true believers of the true believers. And now we are the occupation. We are the super-power to be uprooted from the sands. As far as the jihadist holy warriors of today are concerned - we are the new Soviet Union.

The CIA had strong contacts dating back decades among exiled nationalists from the Baltics and Ukraine. It knew far less about Soviet central Asia, the vast and sparsely populated steppe and mountain region to Afghanistan's immediate north. Pushed by Casey, American scholars and CIA analysts had begun in the early 1980s to examine Soviet Central Asia for signs of restiveness. There were reports that ethnic Uzbeks, Turksmen, Yajiks, and Kazakhs chafed under Russian ethnic domination. And there were also reports of rising popular interest in Islam, fueled in part by the smuggling of underground Korans, sermonizing cassette tapes, and Islamic texts by the Muslim Brotherhood and other proseltyizing networks. The CIA reported on a May 1984 lecture in Moscow where the speaker told a public audience that Islam represented a serious internal problem. ['Ghost Wars', pages 103-104]

In order to avoid occupying to much territory here (full post contains additional excerpted material) this post can be found in it's entirety here: spectral apparitions


We get comments 

Alert reader shirt asks a good question:
Where can I contribute to 2006 and not have that money spent on worthless consultants?

And alert reader ralph has a good answer:
If you want to win, the GOP.


A hint that they're getting a little spooked (you should pardon the expression) by messages reading ROVE. TREASON. BETRAYAL. on freeway overpasses, notices in agate type in the middle of the baseball standings, "While You Were Out" slips of phone messages, the very fine print at the bottom of TV ads for erectile dysfunction remedies and dietary supplements, and most of the better Internets:

(via More Trustworthy Than the NYT)

The White House denied rumors of wrongdoing by anyone named Karl Rove Monday, saying the alleged deputy chief of staff does not exist.

[snip] McClellan reiterated his denial of Karl Rove's existence 33 times during the press conference. When pressed, he distributed a list of "real, actual political figures about whom I'd be happy to comment." The list included only President George W. Bush and Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta.

[snip] The phantom advisor has come under heavy fire in recent weeks from critics of the administration, who say he should be fired for his role in the scandal. President Bush has pledged that anyone in his administration found to be involved in the CIA leak will be dismissed.

"There is no such organization as the CIA," McClellan said. "This is tinfoil-hat stuff."

Paul Hackett, American Hero 

Okay, you're right; if he'd won, the title of this post would probably have been different.

But Hackett isn't a hero by virtue of losing an election. He's a hero for running for office. He's a hero for seeing a connection between his experience in Iraq and the value of elective office. He's a hero because he only lost by 4 percentage points, in a district that is somewhere around eighty percent Republican. That is an amazing achievement. As was the money blogs raised for him. That is real power, my friends.

Do not think the Democratic Party has not noticed that organization at the grass roots can produce the money needed to run a modern electoral campaign. And blogs aren't even all that organized. They reach a lot of people with a story about who is deserving and why, and what we 're proving is that when the story is compelling, enough people will contribute $25 to $50 to make a candidate competitive, even against the Republican special interest cash machine.

As it happens Hackett was a great candidate, a veteran, a man who volunteered to go to Iraq even though he had questioned the Bush policy of invasion before it began. None of that protected him from the usual GOP smears, but that's old news for all of us. He showed himself also to be thoughtful, well-informed, tough, unashamedly progressive, and most importantly, able to talk straight to voters.

Representative Schmidt is going to have to run again in 2006, and we should let Paul Hackett know that we'll be there for him if he chooses to run against her again.

Don't take my word for Hackett's loss being a genuine victory; Atrios has a wonderful pre-election quote from Charlie Cook that spells out the nature of that victory.

Daily Kos and My DD have lots more; go and be inspired.

On the other hand, this election did take place in Ohio; need I say more? Probably, I should. But Billmon makes that unnecessary; click here, read and get angry; then read Mark Crispin Miller's article, "None Dare Call It Stolen," in the new Harpers, and when his book on what happened in Ohio in 2004, "Fooled Again," is published, which should be soon, order it through the ever indispensable Buzzflash; I'm guessing it will be added to their list of first-rate premiums.

UPDATE: If you don't want to spring for the single issue of Harper's, though I should add that a subscription is a very reasonable $12 to $14 dollars, and given the quality of critical articles they're running, you should consider becoming a subscriber, here's a pretty good summary of Miller's article.

UPDATE Excerpts from Miller's article are Here.

Schmidt: Groundhog Day? 

Back to Schmidt's 3% margin of victory...

Please don't tell me that one county (Clermont) was late getting the vote counted...

And please don't tell me that county used electronic voting machines...

And please don't tell me that there were "malfunctions" in Clermont on election night...

And please don't tell me Clermont is the most heavily Republican county in a heavily Republican district...

And please don't tell me Clermont is Jean Schmidt's home base....

Because then I'd have the sense that the same thing was happening, over and over and over again... As if I was trapped between the pages of the Republican playbook.

Billmon has more.

Schmidt: Delusional in victory 


"We began this race way back in late March, and no one had thought we'd be the focus of the national media or be the so-called first test of the Republican Party and the Bush mandate. Well, ladies and gentleman, we passed that test," Schmidt said.
(via WaPo)

A 4% margin in a heavily Republican district doth not a Bush Mandate make.

NOTE But thanks to Jean Schmidt for keeping this golden oldie Google Bomb "live"...

Wombs 'R Us 

For all you Philip K. Dick fans out there:

"Brain Dead American Woman Gives Birth to Girl

A 26-year-old brain dead pregnant woman kept on life support for almost three months at a Virginia hospital gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The baby, delivered by caesarean section, weighed one pound and 13 ounces (0.8 kg) and was being monitored in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Virginia Hospital Center, the hospital said in a statement.

The mother, Susan Torres, suffered a stroke on May 7 in the 17th week of her pregnancy due to an aggressive melanoma and was brain dead, her family said...

"The entire staff and administration of Virginia Hospital Center, especially the physicians and nurses caring for Susan Torres and Baby Girl Torres, are delighted with the successful delivery," the hospital statement said."

So glad they finally figured out how to eliminate the middlewoman. And see there, they managed to manufacture a brand-new womb to replace the dead one, so science can march on. The Church is surely pleased.

In all seriousness, this was a choice made by the husband, who said it was based on "what Susan would want". And though I find it shockingly creepy, unlike the Terry Schiavo protesters I can accept his right to make such a private decision, even though it resonates with problems for the future for women and how they are perceived when pregnant. It has been hard enough for pregnant women to maintain some kind of human persona when the world of anti-abortionists is telling they are little more than incubators.

O brave new world, that has such people in't! Where's the exit?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hackett so, so close 


As of 10:30:

US HOUSE Ohio 2nd Dist
662 precincts of 753 reporting
JEAN SCHMIDT 49,681 50%
PAUL HACKETT 48,811 50%

Of course, Ohio's Second District iswhat, 80% Republican? Some fantastically high percentage, in any case.

So, Bush has already been humiliated (if such a thing is possible). Still, it would be nice to pick up the seat...

And ensure an honest recount, into the bargain....

UPDATE And thanks to the wise, discerning Leadership of the D.L.C.... Oh, wait, that didn't happen, did it? Totally under the DC radar. Thank God, it's the only way they could get anything done. Bob at Swing State says this, and I agree:

UPDATE (Bob) 10:03 Great night to be Howard Dean -- the 50 state strategy is gold: fight in every district, in every state, in every state and things move. People are chanting, LET'S GO PAUL

UPDATE Aw, shoot

US HOUSE Ohio 2nd Dist
753 precincts of 753 reporting
JEAN SCHMIDT 57,974 52%
PAUL HACKETT 54,401 48%

A moral victory. And I strongly stress the word "moral."

Once Upon a Time (Or Twice. Or Thrice) 

Go read Juan Cole.

The American Right, having created the Mujahideen and having mightily contributed to the creation of al-Qaeda, abruptly announced that there was something deeply wrong with Islam, that it kept producing terrorists.
Just....go. Click. Read. Now.

Pursuit of Hypocrisy 

Atrios posts about Santorum's latest salvo against the "pursuit of happiness," prompting a lot frankly predictable posturing from our side about the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers.

First of all, the conservative lament about its presence in the DoI is nothing new. Malcolm Muggeridge was bleating about it at least as far back as 1979 ("There is something ridiculous and even quite indecent in an individual claiming to be happy. Still more a people or a nation making such a claim. The pursuit of happiness... is without any question the most fatuous which could possibly be undertaken. This lamentable phrase the pursuit of happiness is responsible for a good part of the ills and miseries of the modern world."), and for all I know it's been a bete noir of theirs going back even further. Santorum is just riffing on a golden oldie as far as his base is concerned.

Nor is the complaint entirely ill-founded. In one episode of the Sopranos, the one-legged Russian mistress Svetlana lectures Tony about how Americans, unique among their fellows, expect their lives to be happy, and as a result are chronically disappointed--a statement well supported by social statistics regarding alcohol and drug use, divorce, crime rates, homicide, abortion, etc, nearly all of which rank the United States at or near the bottom. Even Tocqueville saw that problem coming.

Rather than wrap ourselves in the flag, it might be more interesting to ask conservatives just what happiness they resist pursuing, if self-restraint is so good. Because, when I look around for examples of conservative self-sacrifice, I don't see a whole lot. Is it recognizing the necessity of long-term fiscal sanity by keeping government spending from exceeding income? Serving themselves in wars they ask others to die for? Supporting sustainable environmental policies that provide a livable world for future generations?

Hell, let's set more modest goals. How about not cheating on your wife? I think there was a commandment about that one--though maybe Tom Delay is having one of his goons have reverse that regulation. Or how about not bearing false witness? How about not unjustly enriching oneself at others' expense?

Here's a question: has any prominent conservative, anywhere, ever urged self-restraint on himself or other conservatives, as opposed to using it as a political weapon against unmarried pregnant women, drug addicts (Rush Limbaugh excepted) or gays? And if self-restraint is a social good, how come liberals who legislate against smoking in restaurants, or harrassing members of the opposite sex onthe workplace, labeled "scolds" and "PC fascists"?

[Update: Fixed meaning-reversing typo.]

Frogmarch Watch: I'm just wild about Harry 

From Harry Reid's office, a fine summing up of facts versus Republican fictions in Treasongate. Here (via Kos)

Theocracy Rising: Inerrant Boy Now Out of The Closet as a Creationist 

Anything for the base!

Oh, wait. It's not "Creationism"—it's Creationism's stealthy Trojan Horse, "Intelligent Design."

President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.

During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported
(via WaPo)

Great to see all those live-saving discoveries we can put down to I.D. I mean, the list is too long to count, right? The electric light bulb, the phonograph, heart surgery, Prozac...

But really, the greatest proof of Idiot's Delight Intelligent Design
is that Inerrant Boy is our President! Allahu Akbar, God is Great!

At Play In The Coal Fields Of The Lord 

So the price of oil hit a new record yesterday after the death of King Faud. No doubt the superstitious bone-rattlers that make up the investment community thought the Saudis so bereft by grief that they might shut down the oil fields and market sand paintings instead. What a crock. But what a money-making crock!

As Bush prepares to sign the upcoming energy bill, with its massive giveaways to big oil and no thought at all given to conservation outside of extending daylight savings time, it's useful to remember that, despite skyrocketing prices, U.S. consumption of gasoline keeps rising (up almost 2 1/2% since last year). Not a new fuel efficiency standard in sight, and plenty of tax incentives to buy ludicrously dysfunctional monstrosities like Hummers. Like our houses, our helpings, and our conversations, we like our cars big and loud, and we have no patience for mealy-mouths blathering about conservation, discipline, and sacrifice. So we gave ourselves a president whose idea of sacrifice for the common good is to get out the credit card and go shopping.

In addition, the bill dramatically increases funds for nuclear energy, while the world tsk-tsks at Iran for wanting to do the same thing. Coal, too, gets a boost, but long-gone are the days when that would mean work for miners. Coalbed methane extraction and new terraforming techniques reduce the number and kinds of workers needed while eliminating unsightly mountains and neighborhoods.

No sense looking for a reasonable approach from that bunch of panicky old sheep in the Congress, and useless to expect a logical idea to materialize from the coke-addled brain of a president who thinks science is something that supports the Book of Elijah. Let the kids and grandkids deal with it, just like they can deal with the deficit, rogue nuclear meltdowns, and the collapse of the currency market. "Make a buck while the sun shines" is their motto, and let tomorrow take care of itself.

But just in case, get a Supreme Court justice on the bench who'll rubber stamp your environmental agenda and get behind the energy industries that have been so good to you and yours.

What's in a Rove 

MJS sees treason and betrayal:
Tomorrow, consider posting these simple, easy to use words wherever you go on the Many Internets. You'll be glad you did.

Other revealing clues to what's in a Rove include this poetic anagram interpetation using "treason-betrayal" in each line with Rove added. Reads as follows:

Of course, for all you "strict constructionist" die hards out there, there are also the dictionary definitions of "rove". For instance: "To wander about at random... [...] To roam or wander around..." and so forth. However, there are other defining characteristics of "rove" which would seem to apply more exactly in this case. As in: "to stretch and twist (fibers) before spinning; ravel out". Or, "a slightly twisted and extended fiber or sliver." Under Karl Rove's picture in the dictionary it might one day read: "A roaming spinner of stretched and twisted fibs."

And then there is the "rover" - for which one definition would include: "a pirate" or a "pirate ship". Which certainly fits the bill when considering the ship of fools of which Mr. Rove just so happens to be an important "reeve". [one definition of "reeve" being: "A high officer of local administration appointed by the Anglo Saxon kings.] "Rove", by the way, used in the nautical sense, is also "a past tense partical of reeve." Heh. Isn't this fun?

But my favorite is the "rove beetle". Rove beetles themselves (the insect variety that is) are not necessarily non-beneficial insects. But, on the other hand, The Karl "Rove Beetle" seems to have evolved otherwise. Only retaining some of the more colorful characteristics of it's less pampered cousins as a kind of lifestyle choice. Being fond of maggots and making the bones disappear comes immediately to mind. Also, eating dung and living upon decaying matter, including corpses - where the Karl Rove Beetle incubates its young (which would explain the Karl Rove Beetle's attraction to Bob Novak) - seems to be the Karl Rove Beetle's preferred office. Which is where, I will suppose, the nickname "turd blossom" might have originated. A turn blossom being a euphemism for a, well, you know, a "cow pie" or "medow muffin". Two of the Karl Rove Beetle's favorite picnic spots from which he draws his elan vital and hatches new generations of shiteaters.

"When disturbed, the Rove Beetle raises the tip of its abdomen and may squirt a foul-smelling mist at its enemies." Eww. Just ask Valerie Plame Wilson or John McCain etc etc... or even that Matt Cooper double super secret agent guy at that fancy-boy magazine outfit.

The Karl Rove Power Beetle is something like something that crawled off of a cow-plop at the Crawford Ranch in Texas and developted an insatiable appetite for yellowcake and media maggots at which point it grew to an enormous size and layed its eggs all over the White House pirate ship. So, be careful where you step if you have to visit that fouled crows nest.

Try to picture it all as some kind of really bad grade B monster movie involving plenty of betrayal, treason, and wandering among messy ports of strange and twisted fibs.

I'm not sure how to stop the monster and save the country but I think it may involve the Air Force and electricity and flinging Judy Miller into the bubbling maw of an angry mountain.


O! what a fall was there, my countrymen; Then I, and you, and all of us fell down, Whilst bloody treason flourish'd over us. ~ Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


Monday, August 01, 2005

Gaslight Watch: Deja vu all over again 

I've got this crazy feeling that I've heard all this somewhere before:

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal. The new estimate could provide more time for diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. President Bush has said that he wants the crisis resolved diplomatically but that "all options are on the table."

In January, before the review, Vice President Cheney suggested Iranian nuclear advances were so pressing that Israel may be forced to attack facilities, as it had done 23 years earlier in Iraq.

In an April 2004 speech, John R. Bolton -- then the administration's point man on weapons of mass destruction and now Bush's temporarily appointed U.N. ambassador -- said: "If we permit Iran's deception to go on much longer, it will be too late. Iran will have nuclear weapons."

But the level of certainty, influenced by diplomacy and intelligence, appears to have shifted.
(via WaPo)

Not, of course, that "fixing the intelligence and the facts around the policy" are in the Republican playbook. I'm sure that was all just a one-time thing, and they've learned from their mistakes. And after all, this is 2005, so there aren't any branches of government at stake.

So I think we should all just trust the President.

And if He wants to have Dick "Dick" Cheney whip those analysts back into line, then God love him.

NOTE Note that I'm not saying there's no chance Iran has nuclear weapons, or that it would be good if they did. What I am saying is that the ideologues in the malAdministration have so totalled FUBARed themselves, in both intelligence and execution, that there's simply no reason to believe anything they say.

NOTE Funny how this report got leaked on the same day Bush left for the ranch.

MBF Watch: Denver Three to sue 

I hope Bush has deep enough pockets. Will the buck finally stop somewhere?

Federal prosecutors have declined to press charges of impersonating a Secret Service agent against a White House volunteer who ousted three people from a speech by President Bush in Denver on March 21.

The three, Alex Young, 26; Karen Bauer, 38; and Leslie Weise, 39, said they were told by the Secret Service that the man admitted ejecting them because they arrived at the event in a car with a "No more blood for oil" bumper sticker.

Dan Recht, an attorney for Bauer, Weise and Young, said his clients plan to pursue a civil lawsuit against the man, accusing him of violating their free speech rights and assaulting them.

"We don't know who it was, but we'll find out who it was and we'll sue him," Recht said. "I'm disappointed but not surprised charges won't be filed, but it remains to be seen whether the Secret Service did a thorough investigation."

Young, Bauer, and Weise were bounced from Bush's appearance at the Wings over the Rockies museum at the former Lowry Air Force Base. The event was part of the president's national tour [Bamboozepalooza] to promote changes to Social Security.

The trio, who have been nicknamed the Denver Three, said the event staffer who confronted them was dressed like a Secret Service agent, wearing a suit, radio earpiece and lapel pin that identifies people with security clearance. The Secret Service has said the man was not an agent.

Bauer and Weise say they were pulled aside at the gate and were told by another event staffer to wait for the Secret Service. They said the man who showed up threatened them with arrest if they misbehaved.

Because the president's visit was a public event paid for by taxpayers, considerable debate has erupted over whether it was legal to bar people because of their political speech.

But White House press secretary Scott McClellan backed the trio's ouster, saying in April, "If we think people are coming to the event to disrupt it, obviously, they're going to be asked to leave."
(via Rocky Mountain News)

Though how the Republicans "think" this, without any evidence... Oh, I forgot! The Republicans have a direct pipeline to the All-Seeing and All-Knowing One.

So I think we should just support the President. And I don't see what all the fuss is about. Of course McClellan is right: Any expression or thought that is not expressed or thought by The Godly One is, by definition, disruptive. Especially when the Godly One is on a national tour. At a minimum, these guys are guilty of thoughtcrime, and at the worst, blasphemy. Personally, I'd say the Denver Three were lucky to escape without a beating (back) Looked at in the right way, I'd say the Bush volunteer was doing these guys a favor.

And the loony left should pipe down being taxpayers and not being able to see Our President. Think of it as giving the unchurched an opportunity to tithe.

NOTE Thanks to alert reader nick.

Frogmarch Watch: Immunity for Treason 

I always wondered exactly what Senator Pat Roberts (R-Wingnut) was up to when he scheduled hearings on Treasongate. Cox News (not AP, not WaPo, not the Times, not even Knight-Ridder) has more

WASHINGTON — As Congress tip-toes into the controversy over the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, some lawmakers and analysts worry that the criminal investigation of the matter could be undermined by any congressional grant of immunity from prosecution, as has happened in the past in politically charged investigations.

The cases of key Iran-contra figures Oliver North and John Poindexter underscore their worries: both were prosecuted and convicted by independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, but their convictions were overturned because Congress had granted them immunity in order to compel them to testify in the congressional investigation of the Reagan administration's arms-for-hostages deals.

Walsh, in his final report on the White House brokering arms deals with Iranian terrorists to free American hostages and diverting arms sales profits to anti-government guerrillas in Nicaragua, complained that Congress had "infinitely complicated" his efforts to prosecute North and Poindexter or to force them to testify about the activities of higher-ups in the Reagan administration.

"Immunity is ordinarily given by a prosecutor to a witness who will incriminate someone more important than himself," Walsh wrote. "Congress gave immunity to North and Poindexter, who incriminated only themselves and who largely exculpated those responsible for the initiation, supervision and support of their activities."

Walsh concluded with a word of caution to future lawmakers: "Congress should be aware of the fact that future immunity grants, at least in such highly publicized cases, will likely rule out criminal prosecution."

Consequently, because recent disclosures that senior White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby were sources for Time magazine reports about Plame, some lawmakers and analysts are reprising the warnings of Walsh to the congressional intelligence committee chairmen as they plan hearings on the leak.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., for example, is drafting letters of caution to the chairmen, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan.

"The (congressional) hearings should not be used as a ruse to provide White House officials with immunity," Lautenberg said in a statement late Friday.

[Senator Roberts] spokeswoman, Sarah Little, said the Senate hearings would look into the two-year probe by Fitzgerald, her comments coming after editorial columns in the Wall Street Journal labeled Fitzgerald a "loose cannon" and an "unguided missile."
(via Daily Sentinel)

The past isn't dead—it isn't even past. But maybe it just seems that way because the Republicans really do have a playbook. And they keep running the same plays over and over again.

So The Prick Got In--And Without A Condom 

From the Archives, in honor of the stealth appointment---what we should not forget:

More Salt In The Wound

bolton-150 Via Buzzflash, an interesting development in the Bolton force-feed: in 2002 he engineered the removal of a UN family agency head whose actions threatened to expose Bush's allegations of Iraqi weapons for the sham they were, and whose proposed plan to send chemical weapons inspectors to Iraq could have ruined the intelligence fakery on which the eventual invasion depended:

"John R. Bolton flew to Europe in 2002 to confront the head of a global arms-control agency and demand he resign, then orchestrated the firing of the unwilling diplomat in a move a U.N. tribunal has since judged unlawful, according to officials involved.
A former Bolton deputy says the U.S. undersecretary of state felt Jose Bustani "had to go," particularly because the Brazilian was trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. That might have helped defuse the crisis over alleged Iraqi weapons and undermined a U.S. rationale for war.
Bustani, who says he got a "menacing" phone call from Bolton at one point, was removed by a vote of just one-third of member nations at an unusual special session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), at which the United States cited alleged mismanagement in calling for his ouster."
Bustani himself revealed some interesting, and by now familiar, Bolton tactics:

"In June 2001, Bolton "telephoned me to try to interfere, in a menacing tone, in decisions that are the exclusive responsibility of the director-general," Bustani wrote in 2002 in a Brazilian academic journal.
He elaborated in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde in mid-2002, saying Bolton "tried to order me around," and sought to have some U.S. inspection results overlooked and certain Americans hired to OPCW positions. The agency head said he refused. "
In March 2002 the US went public to get rid of Bustani, and succeeded in April by threatening the OPCW with the withholding of operating funds. All this, mind you, at a time when Bush repeatedly assured the American public that he was doing everything possible to get Iraq to comply with weapons inspections and to avoid having to go to war. And only 3 months later, the Downing Street memo stated that the US saw "war as inevitable".
Later, when Bustani appealed the termination to the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, where UN agencies go with personnel issues, the tribunal ruled in Bustani's favor, stating his removal was unlawful and awarding him damages.
So Bolton was complicit in the warping and cover-up of information related to the invasion of Iraq in order to facilitate the Bush administration's plans to wage an illegal war, and he used his by now well-known bullying tactics to accomplish that, against a head of an agency that is a family member of the UN, where Bush now wants to appoint him as the representative of our nation.

Do I have it right?

The Godly One to annoint Bolton today 

They just can't help themselves, can they?

President Bush plans to sidestep the Senate on Monday and install controversial nominee John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, an administration official said.

The appointment, which is expected during a White House ceremony this morning, would constitute a so-called recess appointment. Bush, who has refused to surrender the fight over Bolton, has the power to fill vacancies without Senate approval while Congress is in recess.

Under the Constitution, the recess appointment during this August's break will last until the next session of Congress, which begins in January 2007.
(via WaPo)

Incidentally, none of us care that Bolton is "blunt, combative." Hey, I don't even care that if Bolton chases U.N. delegates "down the hall" (back)—after $70 million to investigate a blowjob, we've all "moved on," haven't we?

What I do care about is that Bolton lied to Congress (back), and that Bush never released all the documents Dems ask for, some of which would have cleared Bolton of the charge that he used intelligence intercepts for political purposes (probably for the W.H.I.G.).

That, and the fact that to these guys, "reforming" the UN means gutting it, and Bolton is one of the winger loons who believes in exactly that.

Anyhow, I give. Bolton's exactly the guy to represent America as it has become under Bush the Second. I'm sure he'll be a superb appointment.

NOTE Anyone want to start a pool on when the first Bolton puffpiece appears? I give it 45 days.

corrente SBL - New Location
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