Friday, January 30, 2004

Gravy Train's a Rollin'

The Island of Balta links to a Reuters article about the proposed Bush "Defense" budget. It gives a whole new meaning to living off government largesse.

Maybe they'll finally be able to equip all of the soldiers with kevlar vests and night vision goggles--but let's not get carried away. First things first:

The defense budget made waves on Wall Street, with analysts seeking clues on the futures of key defense contractors like Lockheed, Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman Corp., Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics Corp. .

"Boeing appears well served by this budget proposal," Wachovia Securities analyst Robert Spingarn said in a research note. The Chicago-based company is the lead contractor for both the ground-based missile defense program and the Future Combat System.

The 2005 budget asks for almost $69 billion in weapons research and development, up from the $64.7 billion it sought last year.

And that doesn't even include the money sinkhole known as "missile defense."

Balta's site has the link to the rest of the article.

Partial Transcript

Well, I bit the damn bullet and purchased a Nightline transcript, as per a post below regarding David Kay and what I thought I heard. I'll post the relevant section, and let you decide--in retrospect, perhaps I'd been drinking was a little distracted, but take a look (emphasis mine) :

[1]23:41:54 TED KOPPEL (ABC NEWS)
Among the Iraqi scientists that you've now had a chance to talk to, among the Iraqi leaders like Tariq Aziz that you've had a chance to talk to, have you learned anything that surprised you?
I learned a lot. Tariq Aziz, for example, goes in great lengths describing the Iraq post-'98. A Saddam that was more isolated, was more caught up into a fantasy world, a novelist, a playwrighter. Not concerned with affairs of state, but yet awarding money to scientists, for example, directly without any sort of external review. It was literally the heart of darkness, a society coming apart. And I think we missed, by and large, what had happened after 1998.
[1]23:42:39 TED KOPPEL (ABC NEWS)
Missed in what sense? Missed that something had -I mean, how would we have known that Saddam was that disengaged or, for that matter, that remove from reality?
Well, better human intelligence and we might have known. There's a history of missing this. We missed how far the Soviet Union had descended into economic incapacity and decayed military might before its collapse. And the stories of the great surprise of what the Soviet Union, this giant of a superpower, looked like when we really saw it from the inside. So, I think we missed that. We missed a society coming apart.
[1]23:43:14 TED KOPPEL (ABC NEWS)
(OC) Doesn't that -sort of mitigate against a preemptive foreign policy, the kind of foreign policy that the Bush Administration is talking about right now? If we can't rely on our intelligence in places like the former Soviet Union, in places like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, on what basis do we preemptively go to war?
I think you cannot have a preemptive foreign or military policy unless you have pristine, perfect intelligence. The lessons are right now.
[1]23:43:41 TED KOPPEL (ABC NEWS)
There's no such thing.
We don't have it and it may not be physically possible, intellectually possible.
[1]23:43:46 TED KOPPEL (ABC NEWS)
What conclusion do you reach as to preemptive strikes?
I reach a conclusion that as a democracy, you be very careful about it and require extraordinarily high levels of evidence. Though, I must say, in the case of Iraq, you can't spend any time there but doubt that Iraq is better off without Saddam. The hundreds of thousands of people that simply disappeared under his rule, ripped apart society there. And also I quite frankly think we were on the verge of Iraq becoming more dangerous as it decayed into this storehouse of huge amounts of military equipment, including WMD capability and technology, just at the time that other groups and countries were seeking that.
[1]23:44:29 TED KOPPEL (ABC NEWS)
(OC) It raises a couple of interesting questions, David Kay, as to what some of those scientists may yet choose to do and as to what may yet happen in Iraq, whether it is indeed a safer place. We have to take a short break. We'll be back with David Kay in just a moment.

Huh? Kay appears to be saying that Iraq was falling apart, therefore the invasion was justified. Quite a ways from Bush telling the world that Hussein could spring a "mushroom cloud" on us as a calling card.

I'll admit that the post below was--well, you decide--was it any more of an exaggeration than "25,000 liters of anthrax?"

Yet another update: Atrios links to Nick Confessore at Tapped, who takes this same theme and goes further with it. I'd be remiss not to point it out. Confessore also notes that a caller took Pruden to task, although Wes managed to weasel his way out (this was after I left for work).

And, not that I expect it to be published, but I went ahead and fired off an email regarding this to the editor--who is Wes Pruden...

Don't mean to beat a dead horse here, but I just finished reading this article in Counterpunch, that, just by coincidence, links to a speech John Kerry gave in 1971 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I went ahead and read it, and came across the following quote:

"They [Veterans at a meeting Kerry attended in Detroit] told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."

OK. So, why cite this here? Because it seemed awfully familiar. So, I held my nose, put on my foul weather gear, and again visited the Washington Times website. Sure enough, Wes Pruden managed to show why he ISN'T a true journalist:

"They ... raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power," he told a Senate committee in 1971 when he was just home from the war, and "cut off limbs, [blew] up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."

Notice the difference? And, just to further reduce his credibility, Pruden repeated the lie on C-Span this morning. Of course, I'm aware that ellipses are often used to twist and distort the truth, but here's an example that still reeks of whatever smell it is that seems to infect the Times. Bad Attitudes was dead-on accurate: Kerry is well on the way to a state of perma-fuck--and let me thank Lead Balloons for inventing this term--it describes the state of the media vis-a-vis a Democratic candidate perfectly.

Funny thing is, I don't even like John Kerry all that much. He waffled a lot back in the 80's on the war issue in Central America, and, as I've noted below, seems to talk a lot without saying much. But there's a strong potential that he'll be the last A.B.B. in the race, and I'm pretty sure anyone interested in preventing four more years of BushRove will have to be extra vigilent in paying attention to idiots like Wes Pruden, who seem to think no tactic is too low to stoop to when pushing Dubya.

Could we tack on an extra five years and $1,000 fine if they're caught pushing Dubya in a school zone?
Loyalty Oaths, Part II

Quick Update: I linked via Mary to the Buzzflash interview with George McGovern: thanks for the reference, Mary. This is well-worth reading, especially in light of another Prudenism that I recalled in mid-read: Wes also mentioned, in the course of chucking mud at Scott Ritter, that "Americans haven't left a battlefield in disgrace since the Civil War." Hmmn--does that mean that the mad dash to exit Vietnam, culminating in the infamous airlift from the Embassy compound, was some sort of smashing victory? (Ritter correctly noted, BTW, that we've essentially LOST the war in Iraq, regardless of how you look at it. We kicked Saddam's ass, to be sure, but in the process destroyed civil society, and furthermore DID NOT shock or awe the population. Does any sane person think that Iraq will be the "showcase" for our "new" policy in the Middle East)?

In contrast to Scott Ritter, who apparently uses his cerebral cortex, Wes Pruden prudently sticks to thinking with his medulla oblongata. Hence, his comments this morning, again on C-Span, but he got the 8 am CST slot.

Pruden is "editor in chief" for the Washington Times--why does this sound like being the "main chef" at Der Wienerschnitzel? Anyway, he took time out of what must be a busy day of digesting and subsequently regurgitating propaganda to--well, regurgitate propaganda for those of us who fell asleep last night watching C-Span...

For the record: I have extremely lame cable tv--only about twenty channels (and here in Baton Rouge, about half are damned religious channels). I got cable to get a small discount on a cable modem, and I watch too much tv anyway. But I digress...

If they recast this morning's show, take a little time to watch this guy (keep a bucket handy in the event you need to hurl yourself). Talk about having read the memo: Pruden managed to slime Kerry, even as he praised the latter's military record. Damn, what were the exact words? Something about "I can't criticize his military record, but...," which means he's been clearing out the phlegm in his throat for at least a half hour, in preperation for launching a massive loogie. In this case, it was to allege Kerry "slander[ed]" the GI's he "left behind" in Vietnam.

Here's the fish wrap editorial. Judge for yourself. (excuse me while I shower. I've now linked to the Washington Times TWICE).

Additionally, Pruden managed to dredge up the spectre of Jane Fonda, saying that V.V.A.W. was "financed in part" by Hanoi Jane. So there.

Wes also managed to get in the dig that Kerry "was discharged early" (never mentioned that there was a "three (Purple) Hearts and You're Out" policy at the time--and Kerry got three), while defending Bush's "National Guard" service by claiming that "the story came out and was thorougly investigated" in 2000. Pruden, though, couldn't carry the lie to tull term: he punted to Bush himself, indicating that "the President will have to decide if he wants to discuss that," or words to that effect. As far as the story being "thoroughly investigated:" I don't recall the Washington Times having anything, although I'll admit that I'd read toilet paper before picking up Pruden's rag.

Finally, if you've managed to view the Times' main page and still have a functioning keyboard, take a look at the Kerry "Botox: Did He or Didn't He?" story. Pruden, true to form, tried to weasel his way out of that one, claiming that "well, it isn't a 'serious' story--and we only stuck it on the front page because we don't have a style section." He then explicitly compared the Senator to Abe Lincoln, adding that "if Lincoln was running for president today, he'd probably need a botox treatment."

And that's the kind of shit we get from the "editor in chief" of admittedly the "other" Washington newspaper, although it is the rag of choice for the wingnuts. BTW: sure enough, someone called in this morning to repeat another wingnut mantra, namely, "the deficits are running at only 4 percent of GDP--roughly equal to the Reagan Administration, and the first years of Clinton."

Gag. I had to leave for work anyway, but I also didn't want to throw a brick at the screen.

I'd seen enough. Wes Pruden gets an "A" this morning--for "asshole."
Loyalty Oaths

Maybe it's not that bad--yet--but, damn...

It sometimes pays to fall asleep with the TV on, which I did last night while C-Span was on (imagine that--falling asleep to C-Span). I'd spent a good bit of the evening putting together a fouton that is now my new sofa while watching Richard Perle and Tiyyip Erdogan speak of democracy--which was somewhat like watching nuns talk about sex.

So this morning I wake up--though, to be fair, I sleep pretty light and at least once or twice heard the unmistakable accent of John Edwards, which means they probably ran the Charleston debate overnight--but this morning, albeit groggy at first, I recognized the voice and television visage of former US Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter discussing the Kay testimony. Interesting. Ritter must be on the official enemies list, and that's certainly reflected by the ridiculous child molestation charges lodged against him (I won't provide any links. Google them up if you want--you'd probably get the same web sites with a search for "wingnuts."

Anyway, Ritter was, as always, succint and accurate: he pointed out the facts that are now evident, he suggested that elected officials are guilty of impeachable offenses (specifically fraud), and he defended himself from the slime bags that seek to impugn his good name. For the record, Ritter was a Marine for twelve years, he cites active service in Desert Storm, and strongly denies that he worked for anyone except the United States--although he indicated that we would have done well to listen to our allies (and they STILL are our allies) France and Germany.

For his troubles, he was verbally attacked several times by morons, but, to his credit, Ritter defended himself without getting into the gutter with his attackers.

Alas, C-Span is probably as close to a national audience as Ritter is likely to get these days--but if you have cable, there MIGHT be a rebroadcast later this evening or over the weekend. Unlike the Perle/Erdogan non-event, this won't put you to sleep.

In a minute, Part II of this post, also regarding Washington Journal: Presumably in the interest of equal time for morons, Wes Pruden, editor of the Washington Times, took center stage at C-Span's studio. Anyone familiar with the Times' style of reporting won't be surprised at his performance.
Patriotism, Halliburton Style

I can only imagine that the present Board of Directors for the "Houston-based energy company" views the war in Iraq as a win-win situation for themselves and the secured, location not-disclosed, Vice President. Granted, a paper loss of $947 million (including a charge of $1.1 billion as an installment in ongoing asbestos claims settlements) isn't exactly something they will crow about. However, the war has generated "$2.2bn of revenue in the fourth quarter of the year, with profits of $44m. Total fourth-quarter revenues rose 63% to $5.5bn."

In other words, we taxpayers are paying Halliburton's bill. Cheney must love that one: he was the inmate commanding the asylum when the company bought Dresser Industries, a subsidiary of which was caught up in the asbestos exposure scandal. Unfortunately, sympathy for companies facing asbestos claimants isn't exactly catching on, unlike, say, the S & L bailout in the early '90s (thank you, Neil). This could have really brought the company down, but, with war and it's associated services, HAL has held steady. Indeed, it's even gained a little over time.

Sorry for the bad pun, but this must be the "pay" in "patriotism." Because you certainly don't see HAL or any of its subsidiaries donating their services. I'm sure they've given it some thought (sarcasm), but have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders...

And Cheney "needs" his annual compensation-- the exact amount just like the VP himself--presumably secure and definitely undisclosed, although in the range of $100,000 to $1,000,000 a year.

Every little bit helps.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

President Jack

Timshel linking to DailyKos was where I first saw these results. The point both were making was that about 2500 people voted for DEMOCRATS in the REPUBLICAN primary. But while I was scanning the numbers, I came across the name Tom Laughlin (if you link to the AP results, scroll down a ways--Tom picked up 147 votes. Something tells me he's not exactly preparing for a prime time speech come the convention).

Tom Laughlin--man, that name sounded familar. Could it be that--yes, it is--Billy Jack is running for President.

Tom's platform is available by clicking on the link above. Go ahead and hate your neighbor.

From TalkLeft, a link to a Flash piece by Eric Blumrich.
In German, That would be Blitzkrieg

"Only 16 Americans died in the lightning war that drove the Taliban from power at the end of 2001."

From Ananova.
Thanks, Basket Full of Puppies

I found Basket Full of Puppies from Mary's site. Thanks for the mention, Matt.

He claims a readership of seven, which is substantially higher than my own (by conservative estimates), but I'm guessing that anyone who wants to go over and see what he has to say will be welcome.

Matt is up in Wisconsin--Madison, I think. Speaking from experience, it sure is nice in the summer--both weeks of it. Although, if winter sports are your thing, there's always Elver or Olbrich Park for sledding, the lagoon at Tenny Park for skating (never skated at Vilas--only went to the Zoo there), and there's even skiing at Cascade, uh, they call it Cascade Mountain. Well, it's higher than the levee.

Still, I prefer to ski when there's warm water and a boat.

One other thing, Matt--doesn't the Monona Terrace Convention Center bear an eerie resemblance to the suicide center in the movie Soylent Green?

Seriously, though, enjoy the clean air, the lakes, the bikepaths, Picnic Point and Second Point, etc., Matt--at least when spring finally comes around.
Still Looking

Just following up from a post last night: there is no transcript yet from Nightline's interview with David Kay. However, I'm sure I heard what I mentioned in last night's post. Kay alleged that Hussein's regime was in danger of collapse (ok, maybe he didn't say "imminent," although I want to read the interview). As soon as I find anything, I'll pass it along.

This is getting almost comical, except for the fact that large numbers of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians are risking life and limb on a daily basis. Last night I also tuned into the long version of Kay on C-Cpan. The amount of verbiage used to avoid stating the obvious is staggering. I'll give them that much credit--they hide statements of fact far better than any rouge state's cache of illegal arms (especially when the rogue state in question simply doesn't have them).

I laughed out loud when Kay told one of the senators (I forget who, but it might have been Carl Levin) that evidence of "related program activities" included unsuccessful attempts by the Hussein regime to manufacture VX precursors with local chemicals, and unsuccessful attempts to freeze-dry liquid anthrax (no word on how Hussein GOT anthrax). So Saddam tried to localize his weapons production--duh. He didn't succeed, probably because chemical manufacture is difficult without the proper raw materials, and after 1991, Iraq couldn't even get chlorine (a standard agent in chemical weapons) to purify their drinking water (because chlorine is "dual-use"). Aside: lack of purified drinking water was a MAJOR reason for the large numbers of deaths resulting from the sanctions.

So Saddam Hussein had "the potential to potentially become a potentially major threat" to the United States at "potentially some potential time in the potential future." I'd like to see some criminal defense attorney try to justify criminal action with the "potential threat" defense. It would receive the ridicule it deserves.
15 Years and Counting

"We are dealing with," [Judge H. Russel Holland] wrote, "reckless corporate officials."

One issue I find troubling with the Times article, and especially the segment on the local news last night, is the description of Joseph Hazelwood. Sure, I laughed when I read about a bit of political theater years back concerning the Captain (a group in Madison amended a line in the old folk song What Will You Do With a Drunken Sailor. The new version became "put him in charge of a supertanker" ). Yes, Captain Hazelwood had something like two drinks before boarding the then Exxon Valdez (which I believe is now called the Condolezza Rice. Go figure). But he was not flailing about at the helm when his ship ran aground on Bligh Reef; he was, in fact, below decks. So, please Channel 9, don't get smug while describing something that didn't happen. Hazelwood's crime was negligence, not reckless operation.

If you want to hit him hard for negligence, by all means do so. It is the responsibility of the ship's captain to ensure safe operation, particularly for a boat this size operating in shallow waters. But alleging that he was drunkenly steering is simply wrong, and further diverts public scrutiny from the real problem: Operation of large single-hulled tankers in sensitive waters is like playing with gasoline and matches.

Just ask the folks who live or used to live in Prince William Sound.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Did I Just Hear This?

On Nightline, David Kay just floated the trial balloon that we went to Iraq to save the country from the imminent collapse of the Hussein regime. Unfuckingbelievable. I'll do what I can to get a transcript as soon as possible.

At last. This was motivated by a comment at Atrios, which led me to The Island of Balta. I encourage anyone who wishes to take a look at the island, in particular, this post about Billy Tauzin, the slithering reptile US Representative from Louisiana's Third District. Looks like you can purchase Billy for the low, low price of slightly more than $1million a year (no word on whether this is on the installment plan).

Timshel, as usual, was on top of this several days ago.

Full Disclosure: I usually try to hit several homepages when reading comments at one of the big sites like Atrios'. I figure maybe others do the same. The odds of someone dropping by are a little bit better than playing the lotto. That said, Balta writes some good stuff, and was nice enough to drop a comment in below regarding my post entitled Myth. So via a combination of courtesy and merit, Balta is linked to from here.

I don't ever figure to make it to the rarefied air of the big leaguers like the aforementioned Atrios, but hell, anyone with a mouse and/or a keyboard can potentially find my screeds. Without trying to be too self-referential, this is the opposite of the point I was trying to make in the myth post below, and to which I added a comment of my own. Besides, I feel as qualified to speak about issues as most pundits, and a good bit more qualified than some (see Kurtz, Howard, Krauthammer, Charles, Brooks, David, Noonan, Peggy, et al).

And no, I'm not going to link to them. I actually linked a while back to the Free Republic site, and I'd like to think that counts as equal time for the foreseeable future.

The Word of the Day

Is perma-fuck, courtesy of the good people at BadAttitudes.

Maybe it's just me, but in all the punditry surrounding the presidential campaign, I find none more grating than the standard line about how "Iowa and New Hampshire provide the unique opportunity for candidates to get their message across directly to the voters," blah blah blah. Blah Blah.

There's not a chance in hell that the process will ever change--Iowa and New Hampshire both, by law, establish the starting line for the official campaign--but please. Midwesterners and New Englanders are neither more nor less qualified to begin the process. New Hampshire gets first-in-the-nation primary standing because for a long time it was one of the few States to select delegates via the primary process. And Iowa got a taste of the big time in 1976, and decided that they liked it. Period.

To further my short thesis here--take a look at the following page at OpenSecrets. Use the drop down box to cycle through total fundraising, dollars spent, and cash on hand. To give a small sample:

Bush is approaching $85 million total--he's already spent almost $15 million and he's running more or less unopposed.
Dean has a total amount raised of a little more than $25 million, and he's spent almost half of that.
Kerry topped out at roughly $20 million--and two thirds of that is gone.

There's NO WAY that you spend upwards of $12-15 million on "retail" politicking. Outlays like this represent all the trappings of modern campaigns: staff, media, polling, you name it. The idea that somehow these two contests are "different" in any meaningful procedural way is silly.

Unless--you make the argument that the early, small contests are a way of getting your staff up to speed, with the possibility that a gaffe or two here and there, either by the candidate, or by his supporters, can be corrected before you hit the Super Tuesdays on the process. If THAT'S the argument, I'll buy it.

But please spare the myth of Midwestern wholesomeness and New England's "fierce independence." That no longer holds water. Campaigns for the presidency are a big business, and the idea that some genuine Mom & Pop candidate will manage to sneak into the race via the early contests, and somehow defeat the big guys is about as true as the idea that a small retailer will somehow defeat Wal-Mart (hell, a relative of mine who sells insurance told me that one of his clients, a sporting goods store, went out of business because Wal-Mart could retail for less than the client paid wholesale).

Sure, it's possible that a little guy could take on the retail chain. But I wouldn't bet on it.
2 Cents

A couple of observations regarding the primary yesterday: Timshel linked to a DailyKos which went further up or down the chain, depending on your point of view, to a story AP filed, which shows upwards of 2,500 Republicans wrote in a Democratic candidate's name in THEIR OWN primary. Interesting. Of even more interest to me is this, a self-styled "inside the beltway" look at the race by Stirling Newberry. I think it's well worth reading. If you have the time, take a look at the comments as well.

A little discussed aspect thus far is the record turnout of voters, both for the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. This could spell trouble for Bush. Again, take a look at the Newberry article--in particular, note his claim of anxiety among Republican wonks over the inevitability of the lies being exposed (for example, the Administration is working overtime to DENY the 9/11 Commission more time to complete their work--more on that in another post)--and consider it in light of voter turnouts thus far.

Dean's day in the sun is pretty much over, although he has enough money in the bank to stay on the road for a while. He'll represent the progressive wing of the party. The reward for all his hard work will be a prime time slot at the convention.

I was quite impressed with Clark's speech--and again, see the Newberry piece--the Republicans are AFRAID of this guy--but it doesn't look all that good for the general. IMHO: two reasons. One, he focused all his energy on New Hampshire, and couldn't do better than third--and it was essentially a tie for third. Second, while I realize this ain't 1952 (or 1868, for that matter)--in general, no pun intended, generals shouldn't have to submit to the nominating process like mere mortals. Generals get anointed, not nominated. Clark actually having to do all the usual stuff is like seeing Michael Jordan playing minor league baseball. It just doesn't look right.

But as to his speech last night: whoever is writing Wes Clark's material has a nice, strong, progressive persuasion. If Clark can be convinced to campaign for the good of the party come the fall, he might be able to do some real damage to Bush--and position himself for a choice Cabinet slot.

John Edwards didn't hurt himself or help himself too much, with emphasis on the former. He's "all in" come South Carolina, and it will depend on how the cards play out there. I still think he's the odds on favorite for VP on almost any ticket--even Clark's, should the general somehow turn it around, which I doubt will happen. Edwards is another potential thorn in Bush's side. The key thing to remember is that even if Edwards or Clark don't actually move Southern States into the Democratic column, they can keep Bush tied up down here. If Bush has to spend his time protecting his base, that could spell victory for the Democrats.

Joe Lieberman seems to have a political death wish, and that's about all I want to say about him. Either that, or someone is financing him in the hopes that he'll manage to damage the eventual nominee. Lately, a number of folks have been coining words like "Joementum," etc. I saw several over at Pandagon. I don't know--maybe that's the only way to stay awake when discussing the Joester. I'll add my own: Joennoying.

Dennis Kucinich has a similar problem to Richard Gephardt: no eyebrows. Weird. I like the things he says, but he's beginning to resemble a New Age motivational speaker. I wonder if he wins his Rep. seat in Cleveland with the same rhetoric...

Finally, on the now clear "front-runner," John Kerry: one thing that bothers me is that he keeps saying Bush wants to run the election on national security issues. True, the political hacks that are speaking for the Resident are mouthing those words at present. But Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, two true slimeballs, know slime. They ARE slime--see, they've got an unfair advantage in that regard--and, as such, will be as flexible as--well, slime--in sliming Kerry. The strategy will NOT be national security if Kerry carries the day. It will be "as liberal as Ted Kennedy," who occupies a special position as Satan's spawn to the wingnuts. Kerry better have a solid defense ready. If I was his advisor, I'd be looking to cut deals with Edwards and Clark asap: first, no negative campaigning, second, put Edwards on the ticket as VP, and offer Clark whatever he wants, be it State, Defense or whatever--then have BOTH blanket the South this summer and fall. And be ready to fight fire with fire: the consensus seems to be that the nominee shouldn't dirty his message with attacks on Bush, but that doesn't mean underlings can't plant well placed leaks or make some public statements. Staying above the fray doesn't mean that you can't assign some folks to the fray itself.

Can Kerry beat Bush? Of course. Bush is an EXTREMELY weak candidate: the economy, regardless of how much creative accounting is done, continues to be shaky, the war in Iraq is a disaster, the war in Afghanistan, ditto, the war on Terror is a joke. Everything Bush touches turns to lead. Rove's strategy is to keep Bush in the political equivalent of a spider hole--that's how weak the candidate is. Hence, the late convention. The idea will be to put Dubya in a bubble, and keep him from opening his mouth unless he's thoroughly learned his lines. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Rove attaches an electric dog collar to Bush when he's being prepped for the trail, complete with shocks corrections whenever he strays too far from the prepared script.

About the only wild card in the race will be the media. Don't count on it, but there's always the small possibility that someone in the Fourth Estate will wake up long enough to realize that even a cheap attempt at investigating the past three years will uncover so many skeletons in the Bush closet that you could have a killer Halloween party (or make a mint supplying the medical sciences). But even if the media continues to hit the snooze button, the fact that voters are actively turning out is a hopeful sign. It could be that while the press comments on the finery, the public notices the emperor really isn't wearing anything at all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The Wounded

I'm trying to work on a longish post regarding Iraq, mostly by editing it, so it can be read/digested without taking too much time. In the course of some searching around, I came across this and this. While neither is a particularly short article, they are both worth looking at--and might lend some perspective the next time you read a story that dispassionately includes a line like, "A roadside bomb exploded in the central Iraqi town of Khaldiya Tuesday, killing three American soldiers and at least one Iraqi civilian and injuring several other people."
Rand Beers

It's been so long since Beers jumped ship to join the Kerry campaign that I'd forgotten--until Counterpunch published this profile. While it won't change my Anybody But Bush position, it serves as a useful reminder that "Anybody"--if elected--will need to be carefully watched and/or heavily criticized. Not being Bush isn't good enough.

Short version of the Counterpunch profile: Beers defends the cruel practice of aerial fumigation in Colombia, which devastates farmland, whether used for coca cultivation or not. This practice hurts poor farmers the most--not only are their crops and land ruined, they are subject to health problems related to exposure to chemicals. Cocaine production is generally not affected by this spraying--as anyone living in an urban area here in the US can attest to.

Beers even, bizarrely, tried to link revolutionary movements in this hemisphere to the Middle East terrorism, although he later recanted. However, as some have noted, identification with Al Qaeda among South Americans is in fact growing--I guess they adopt the stance, to paraphrase James Brady, that "the enemy of the enemy is my friend."

By the way: has anyone heard anything about Brady's mission lately?
Slightly Injured

I'm having a little trouble typing today, so any posts will be brief. Exercise will make me healthier if it doesn't kill me first.

Monday, January 26, 2004

AWOL with a Dubya

UPDATE Quote from George W. Bush, First Presidential Debate, October 3, 2000:

"I think that people need to be held responsible for the actions they take in life. I think that's part of the need for a cultural change. We need to say that each of us needs to be responsible for what we do."

Mary is where I first saw this, and I took care to read the comments as well.

There are plenty of websites that have delved into the matter of Bush and his record of military service--or lack thereof--and I encourage anyone reading this to seek them out and judge for themselves (Here's an additional link to Dave Neiwert. From there take a look at the sources he provides).

As noted below, Michael Moore calling Bush a deserter is not much more of an exaggeration than saying Iraq had 25,000 liters of anthrax--or, perhaps more appropriate, citing the British government as a way of covering your ass while lying through your teeth--although I'm inclined to cut Bush a little slack on the issue of desertion, per se, because I think AWOL is more appropriate, regardless of the "defense" undertaken by the wingnuts of the right (they claim either lost military records, or argue that, in aggregate, Bush served "enough" time--the latter sort of the ultimate interpretation of "a flex schedule").

Democratic Veteran seems to have the best take on this: in spite of good evidence that Bush was AWOL, there is even better evidence that he failed to obey a direct order, in his case, an order to take a physical, which would clear him for flight status. Whether or not this was due to his fear of failing a drug test is almost a moot point--failure to obey an order is a serious charge, and one that deeply reflects the Bush character: rules are for other people, not him.

For that matter, his drug use reflects the same overriding principle.

You know, considering my political points of view, I would not normally be bashing someone for either walking out on the armed forces or breathing deeply in the presence of controlled substances. I tend to believe in a libertarian point of view in these matters, i.e., if I'm not hurting someone, stay out of my business. But it is one thing to believe this way, and quite another to say, wait, the rules that I flout MUST be enforced for anyone else. THAT'S why Bush's military record--and, indeed his drug use--is a valid question--it speaks to his character.

Which kind of flies in the face of just about everything this country stands for (see, US Constitution, Amendments 5 and 14).
Navel Gazing

It's a little long, but worth reading: Billmon writes about a discussion of blogs during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. If you go to his main page, you'll also see his take on Cheney's "We Did Nothing Wrong--End of Discussion" speech at the same.

I thought I'd try to summarize the main points--but even that would become an impossibly long post. So, let's just say I recommend it to anyone writing or reading weblogs. You'll probably find a lot of things you agree with, and a few things that you think are completely wrong.

I'm guessing that most folks reading this have already seen a lot of this elsewhere: yet more violence and death in Iraq, then there was the admission by Halliburton that at least two employees were a little too, uh, agressive, in working with a Kuwaiti subcontractor--from the looks of it, they demanded a kickback in exchange for steering business their way. Here's a statement by Randy Harl, spokesperson for the big H: "We have diligent internal controls and a strong corporate code of business conduct. We have a fiduciary responsibility to our clients to carefully monitor every transaction."

In other words, we promise not to do it again, unless we're CERTAIN we can't get caught.

Oh, and you've gotta love David Kay's admonishing of the CIA. Does this administration have no shame? Does anyone NOT believe that the Administration was "stovepiping" raw intelligence to the political appointees, instead of having it vetted in the normal process? That's like getting a ticket from a traffic cop for ignoring the signal light--because you were following his directions...

There's a feature series over at Southern Exposure--Atrios was where I first came across the link--discussing war profiteering both in the present conflicts and over the ages.

Here's something extremely troubling. I came across a post from Salam Pax, which included the following:

...being pushed into the corner labeled [young male of Middle Eastern / Muslim origin] hasn’t been much fun lately...The current western world view has antagonized a huge number of people, the West wasn’t that interested in dialogue. We were simply labeled as Muslim terrorist.
One of the more amusing results of this has been my friend’s G arrest by American soldiers while he was on a job for an American Newspaper. He was given the head-sack and an angry soldier shouted at him “it was you [your type] who attacked the world trade center”. Now this is funny because G. is so pro-American it gets to me sometimes, he is Christian (but he hates it when you tell him that because he really is “agnostic”), so why did the soldier accuse him of attacking the World Trade Center? Because he had a Muslim looking beard and looked “of mid-eastern origin”.

In this vein, I'd encourage a look at Orcinus, who titles the link The American Taliban--but this isn't about John Walker Lindh or Yaser Hamdi. The focus is on good old "patriots." Link to the Alternet interview with Daniel Levitas, who provides lots of information about folks every bit as hell bent upon wrecking havoc in the US, except that, far from being "swarthy Middle Easterners," they are, instead, the living confederates of Timothy McVeigh.

By way of example, here's a paragraph from the Alternet interview:

What was the reaction of these groups to 9/11?

A number of neo-Nazi groups were tremendously animated: They praised the terrorists of Al Qaeda, even though they denounced them in racist terms because they were Arabs. "We may not want them marrying our daughters. But anyone who is willing to fly a plane into a building to kill Jews is alright by me," said one of the leaders of the National Alliance. "My only concern is that we Aryans didn't do this and that the rag-heads are ahead of us on the Lone Wolf point scale," said another. These folks call themselves 'patriots' and defenders of the constitution, but some of them are just as theologically committed to murder as the most violent fanatics of radical Islam. Based on what we've seen post 9/11, we cannot afford to be concerned about terrorism as simply a "foreign" phenomenon. From the earliest days of the Ku Klux Klan, domestic hate groups have been all too eager to perpetrate terrorism against their fellow Americans.

Are these folks crackpots? Without a doubt. Are they dangerous? You decide. My attitude is: most of these lunatics woudn't even cut it with the Redneck Special Forces--but all it takes is one to really ruin your day.

Sunday, January 25, 2004


Actually got through to Minnesota Public Radio's blog-talk on the 1-800 line, but was on hold until they came back a minute or two ago and told me I was too far back in the queue to make it to the air. Damn.

My phone's batteries were dying anyway...

There's still about five minutes left--by the way, Ken, Andrew Sullivan just gave a kudo to George Orwell's As I Please--and he took the time to slime Atrios for using a pseudonym.

Chores await, but I'll have some things to jot down a little later. For those who want to take a look at something interesting, here's a link to Timshel's post today regarding Baton Rouge and it's lack of identity. Indeed. Cajun meets redneck here on this side of the Mississippi--and the necks win. There's a school, a downtown of sorts that was abandoned years ago, and then there's the vast amorphous burbs that connect to each other via a nightmarish collection of four-lane roads.

By the way--even with the expenditure of large sums of money, the odds that downtown will EVER attract the numbers of people needed to make it more than a work week enterprise are close to zero. Years of neglect insured that.

But, like I said, gotta knock out a couple of things.