Saturday, March 20, 2004

Neocons Versus the World

Read about it at your source of choice.

It's ironic that the neocons claim to be protecting the world against terrorism, yet blithely ignore the fact that the world neither wants nor appreciates the style of "protection" they offer, namely, turning Armageddon into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The actions of this cabal of shitheads running the government has worldwide ramifications, but they show only contempt for those who could well be affected by the policy of all-war and only-war. Which itself is stupid--all the military might of the United States and whatever other government they can bribe into providing token support cannot and will not eradicate the terrorist threat. However, it stands to reason that said military might will do plenty of killing, thereby playing right into bin Laden's scheme for worldwide jihad.

Bush is bin Laden's biggest ally.
Freedom's Just Another Word

Check out this book review of Life on the Outside:The Other Lockup in today's New York Times: It nicely outlines the sheer insanity of this nation's drug laws. Cops rely on rats, who continue to deal contraband while first time offenders are sentenced to ridiculously long prison terms. Once convicted, these offenders find themselves shut out of numerous opportunities to lift themselves out of the conditions that led to dealing in the first place. Talk about a revolving door.

Conservatives show their true nature when it comes to issues like this. Prisons are the epitome of big government, yet they seem to have no problem with spending insane amounts of money to lock up mostly drug offenders. Indeed, drug offenders often face longer sentences than those who commit violent crimes.

A society that incarcerates such a large number of individuals--not to mention the conditions under which they confine them--runs a tremendous risk.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Is Karl Rove Running the Army?

The New York Times reports that remaining charges of mishandling classified information, adultery, and possession of pornography will be dropped against Chaplain James Yee, who was initially accused of espionage while ministering at the Guantanamo prison for--well, I was going to say "enemy combatants," but who really knows what sort of folks are being detained there?

His lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell of Washington, said the resolution demonstrated that Captain Yee had prevailed in his fight.

"This represents a long overdue vindication," Mr. Fidell said.

He added, however, that Captain Yee was still owed an apology, and he suggested that the Army was simply trying to sweep its mistakes under the rug by asserting that it dropped the charge of mishandling classified documents to keep information from becoming public.

And, of course, there's the matter of the Army going out of its way to engage in the same sort of tactics that are routine for the Republican Party--make a reckless charge, unsupported by the facts, and follow it up with a sleazy personal attack. In a classic cover-your-ass moment, the military added the porn and adultery charges when it became apparent the espionage charge wouldn't stick. Additionally, they held Captain Yee in solitary confinement for three months, and went out of their way to destroy the man's life.

Possessing pornography and messing around are crimes? Hell, if the executive, legislative, and judicial branches were held to the same standards, you wouldn't have a government. As for the adultery charge--would it have been "better" if Captain Yee did what apparently the other folks at Gitmo do, namely, hire a prostitute?

Shit--at times, the level of hypocrisy in the army amazes me.
More Republican Compulsive Lying Exposed

Link via Musing85 and Tbogg
t r u t h o u t - William Rivers Pitt | 9/11 Nonsense exposes the Republican Lie Machine for what it is. They are far more interested in scoring cheap political points than actually protecting the country. To this end, they've exploited the 9/11 tragedy, and, in a what-else-is-new spirit, have attempted to blame--Bill Clinton, and now, John Kerry.

In truth, however, September 11 became a political football on September 11. Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, blamed the Clinton administration. "The decision to get down and dirty with the terrorists, to take their threat seriously and counter them aggressively, was simply never taken," wrote Sullivan. Senator Orrin Hatch referred in 1996 to the terrorist threats, threats which compelled Clinton to attempt the passage of a comprehensive anti-terrorism bill that would have gone a long way to stopping 9/11, as "Phony threats." After September 11, he joined the 'Blame Clinton' chorus.

During his administration, Clinton offered legislation that would give the Treasury Secretary broad powers to ban foreign nations and banks from accessing American financial markets unless they cooperated with money-laundering investigations that would expose and terminate terrorist cash flows. The legislation was killed by Texas Republican Senator Phil Gramm, who was chairman of the Banking Committee. At the time, he called the bill "totalitarian." It was revealed later, of course, that Gramm killed the bill because it would have blocked Enron officers from laundering stolen stockholder money through the same offshore conduits the terrorists were using. Gramm, from Texas, was beholden to Enron, and killed the bill at their behest. Of course, he joined the 'Blame Clinton' chorus after the attacks, and never mind the facts...

The list goes on. September 11 became a political football on that very day, and it has since been punted all over the playing field. The GOP has tried relentlessly to throw the blame at Clinton, but on Tuesday, the game took a bizarre new turn. According to an editorial in the New York Post, John Kerry is to blame for the attacks of September 11. Yes, you read that right. John Kerry did it.

The article, written by Paul Sperry and titled "The Warning Kerry Ignored," claims that Kerry was given a warning some months before the attacks of security problems at Logan Airport, where two of the planes originated, and failed to handle them properly. He sent the warning, received from an FAA agent in Boston, to the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General. According to this FAA agent, and according to Sperry, this wasn't good enough. Because of Kerry's failure, the article argues, 3,000 people are dead.


Richard Clarke was Director of Counter-Terrorism in the National Security Council. He has since left. Clarke urgently tried to draw the attention of the Bush administration to the threat of al Qaeda. Richard Clarke was panicked about the alarms he was hearing regarding potential attacks. Clarke is at the center of what has since become a burning controversy: What happened on August 6, 2001? It was on this day that George W. Bush received his last, and one of the few, briefings on terrorism. According to reports, the briefing stated bluntly that Osama bin Laden intended to attack America soon, and contained the word "hijacking." Bush responded to the warning by heading to Texas for a month-long vacation. It is this briefing that the Bush administration has refused to divulge to the committee investigating the attacks.

Clarke will appear before the 9/11 Comission on March 24th. I'll be watching for what he has to say.

The Unbearable Lightness of Bush's Brain

The Island of Balta posted about this op-ed between BasketBlogging (Full Disclosure: I've been keeping an eye out on the brackets as well--I did one for fun and one in a $2 dollar office pool--so far, I'm in the middle of the pack in the office pool--19 wins, 5 losses).

The Tribune Online is a registration site, so I'll post this in its entirety below. But first, here's a link to Bush's Speech Marking the First Anniversary of the Iraq War. Funny, he barely says the word "Iraq" during the first half of it. Compare and contrast it with the Hitleresque effort the pResident stammered out a year ago, when Iraq was to be the bow and ribbon of the re-election package.

I guess some folks might whine at my use of the term "Hitleresque effort," and, in a certain sense, they're correct: Bush could NEVER orate with the skills Adolf the evil one possessed. But a careful examination of the transcript itself displays the manifest deception and cruelty common to both.

And, without further adieu, here's the Trib Op-Ed:

By Steve Chapman

The flip-flopper running for president
Changing positions is something President Bush knows a lot about. He does it all the time.

Published March 18, 2004

The other day, Donald Trump criticized Warren Buffett for ostentation, the French accused the Belgians of being snooty, and Kid Rock lamented the decline of good manners. Sound impossible? You're right. But they're no more unlikely than the truth, which is George W. Bush attacking John Kerry for changing his positions.

"Sen. Kerry clearly has strong beliefs," the president quipped recently. "They just don't last very long." Bush says his Democratic challenger has flip-flopped on the Iraq war, tax cuts, the USA Patriot Act and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Changing positions is something Bush knows a lot about. He does it all the time, even as he pretends to be steady and sure. But what he lacks in consistency, he makes up in certitude. He's a man who believes what he says, even if what he says is exactly the opposite of what he said yesterday.

But conservatives have been happy to echo the official line. Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger lambastes Kerry as "inconsistent and opportunistic," traits he attributes to decades of service in the U.S. Senate. "In this world," reveals Henninger, "the instinctive hedging ascribed to Kerry, an ear for the upper registers of nuance and an aversion to constancy, is natural and normal."

Reading Henninger, you might forget the Senate produced such presidents as Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson--who were not exactly mealy-mouthed milquetoasts. He also overlooks plenty of current and past senators known for straight talk and strong convictions, from Barry Goldwater and Phil Gramm on the Republican side to Ted Kennedy and Henry "Scoop" Jackson in the Democratic ranks.

If Kerry sometimes reverses course, it's not because he's wasted 20 years representing the people of his state in the U.S. Senate when he could have been doing something useful, like running a baseball team. It's because, like most politicians, he sometimes finds that a shift in positions is politically useful--not an admirable motive, but hardly an unusual one.

Kerry certainly can't match the heroic consistency Bush has shown on tax cuts--which the president proposes when the economy is growing and when it's shrinking, when the budget has a surplus or a deficit, when the nation is at peace or fighting a war. A guy who uses a hammer on a nail and a screwdriver on a screw, in Bush's book, would be guilty of flip-flopping. A man of principle uses a hammer for every task.

I really shouldn't fault the president for his unchanging position on tax cuts, since it's one of his few positions that haven't changed. During the 2000 campaign, he said, "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building." Those troops are now reconstructing Iraq. After denouncing President Clinton's military intervention in Haiti, Bush sent the Marines there himself.

Bush said his predecessor "overdeployed" American forces, but he has stretched them even thinner. After pledging to bring our troops home from Bosnia, he kept them there.

In the campaign, he promised to boost the defense budget. After taking office, he said he'd keep it at the level proposed by Bill Clinton. Then he decided to raise it after all.

Bush partisans portray him as a forward-looking leader in the war on terror. That took another turnaround. In 2001, outgoing National Security Adviser Sandy Berger informed his successor, Condoleezza Rice, "You're going to spend more time during your four years on terrorism generally and Al Qaeda specifically than any other issue." But the administration left Osama bin Laden alone until he killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Bush rejected demands for a new Department of Homeland Security, but eventually changed his mind. Then, when he didn't get his way immediately, he said the Democratic-controlled Senate was "not interested in the security of the American people"--because it declined to approve something he had opposed just months before.

The president was against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage; now he's for it. He rejected the idea of negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, but lately he's been doing just that.

On Iraq, he promised to ask for a second vote by the UN Security Council before invading, only to renege when it became clear he would lose. In his 2003 State of the Union address, he said Saddam Hussein had vast stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. In his 2004 State of the Union address, he said Saddam Hussein "had weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

Bush thinks it would be a mistake to entrust the presidency to a candidate with a history of flip-flopping on important issues. He should hope Americans don't agree.
Septuagenarian Mutant Ninja Rumsfeld

Link Here. Everything from Evil Eye Style to Viper Fangs, and a lot in between.

Colin Powell received a rather chilly reception in Baghdad today--a number of journalists walked out of a news conference he was holding in protest over the incident with the Al-Arabiya reporters. CNN now notes that a second employee of the organization died from his wounds.
Nuclear 7-Eleven=Major Non-NATO Ally

The New York Times has the details:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell praised Pakistan's handling of a sweeping nuclear proliferation scandal during a visit here on Thursday and announced that the Bush administration would designate the country a "major non-NATO ally."

Once it is formally conferred by President Bush, the status will give Pakistan added diplomatic prestige and greater access to American military technology, surplus defense equipment and training, State and Defense Department officials said.

The United States and Pakistan are still working out the details of $1.5 billion in long-term military assistance, and the new status will give the Pakistanis access, for instance, to American counterterrorism research projects that could be used in the offensive against Al Qaeda operatives along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Pakistan is the fifth Islamic country to receive the title, after Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait. Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Thailand, the Philippines, Israel, Australia and New Zealand also enjoy this status.

Guess Pakistan could have used the counterterrorism stuff today. As for the handling of the nuclear scandal--you've gotta be kidding me. That's like praising the Genovese family for their work handling gambling and drugs...

Take another look at the Islamic countries that are "major non-NATO allies." Real bastions of democracy, eh? (sarcasm)

The Guardian UK reports that an Al-Arabiya employee was shot dead at a US checkpoint in Iraq.

Al-Arabiya employees said another colleague was wounded when another car sped past a US checkpoint in central Baghdad. They said troops fired on both cars, Reuters reported. A US military spokeswoman said she had no immediate information on the incident.

"I stopped in front of the checkpoint and then I saw another car coming fast towards it and I thought it was going to explode," said Ahmed Abdul Amiya, the driver of the Al-Arabiya car. "I tried to race away ... and then the Americans started firing at random. They hit the first car and then they started shooting at our car."

So--if you try to get away from a potential car bomb, you run the risk of getting shot. This kind of chaos will do nothing at all in the battle to win hearts and minds. And, if we DON'T win that battle, forget about ever declaring victory in this war.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

An Appropriate Eulogy

TBogg delivers one for Michael Kelly:

Maybe if Kelly hadn't been so blinded by his hatred of Al Gore, he's be alive today.

I suppose I could be called "cheap" and "low" for pointing that out.

I don't particularly care...
In Iraq, Feeling Insecure Isn't a Psychological Condition

Steve Gilliard nails it regarding the Iraq disaster one year in:

With the latest bombblasts in Iraq, it's clear that there is only one issue which matters-security...

While some like to talk about a liberated Iraq, and clearly, the onus of the police state and Saddam's greed is gone, much of the terror has been subcontracted to private groups. So, it's far more random and dangerous for the average Iraqi to live their lives. There are now thousands of Udays and Qusays creating terror when and where they want...

This security arrangement has failed. The guerillas can operate not only with impunity, but at times of their choosing. Iraqis feel less safe as the coaltion fails to protect them from both terrorism and crime...

How bad is security? The latest car bomb had artillery shells. Now, a year after the war, how in God's name are there artillery shells availble for bombmaking?...

People will talk about being liberated from Saddam, but what good is liberation when you have to fear both US troops taking away your relatives on an informant's word and gangsters storming your house. That sounds like a different kind of hell, since Saddam wasn't random. This way, you have no idea when hell will break loose and you have to sit around with an AK or a pistol to make sure you can protect yourself from the criminals.

We're also totally blind to the antics of US troops in Iraq. Limited reports of hookers and missing cash surface, but given the language gap and hostility between US troops, who largely resent the burden of Iraq duty, and Iraqis, there has to be fairly high levels of tension. None of this makes for a good security situation, much less any hope of Iraq assuming the security burden on June 30.

Another good point Gulliard makes is that, not only is the coalition of the willing becoming a lot less willing (see Spain, and now, Poland), but the fact is that we've not had the overt support of a SINGLE Arab nation. Turkey, a MIDDLE EAST nation (not the same thing), has waffled over support--losing the $25 billion dollar lottery prize last year, but picking up a cool billion after the fact (funny--I recall a number of wingnuts beating their collective chests and ranting about the price Turkey would "have to pay"). But think about it--not a single Arab nation has sent troops. What about the neighbors of Iraq, who, presumably, would have most to fear from Saddam's aggression (unless Bush is implying that Baathists could simply materialize here in the US--do you think they might hold the secret of the Transporter from Star Trek?)--but NO ONE in that region sent so much as a Pomeranian Grenadier. Why is that? Could it be that their intelligence was, I don't know, maybe BETTER than ours? Heaven forbid...

If there were soldiers patrolling that were just a little more local to the region, we might actually have a chance to figure out when and where the attacks were coming from--thereby reducing or minimizing them. But, given the strategy and tactics, we're basically in a "react" mode.

Not exactly a winning strategy.
McCain to Bush: Fuck You

The New York Times has this article about the Senator from Arizona. No, it isn't a sweetheart endorsement of the Democratic candidate, but it IS a nice bitch-slap at the lunatics running Camp Bush:

``I think that John Kerry is a good and decent man. I think he has served his country. I think he has different points of view on different issues and he will have to explain his voting record. But this kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice.''

Mr. McCain also defended Mr. Kerry in an appearance on NBC's "Today," saying in response to a question that he did not believe Mr. Kerry was "weak on defense."

Meanwhile, the serial liars who run the Bush campaign managed to pick up on a quote from Senator Kerry regarding the $87 billion dollar appropriation that they'll try to use to their advantage. How? By assuming that everyone in the country had the IQ of a tuber.

Here's Kerry's quote: "I actually did vote for his $87 billion, before I voted against it."

Oh, how the right will throw their arms in the air with glee and pretend that this is a smoking gun somehow "proving" that the Senator tries to have it both ways. Sadly, it does take a slight degree of literacy--and a tad of education--to see that this is little more than dust thrown in the air from a group of folks who've lost ALL credibility in matters domestic and international. And, if anyone seeks to say otherwise, consider that proof that said anyone is either a liar or a moron.

Here's why: The Senate, like any legislative body, follows a protocol, or rules of order. Perhaps you've heard of Robert's Rules of Order--to be honest, a pretty boring tome of a book, but such rules ensure that proper procedure is followed, not unlike court proceedings. In the US Senate, the rules mean, among other things, that a bill might have to undergo MULTIPLE votes prior to final passage or rejection. And that's exactly what happened here.

Kerry and a number of other Senators tried to amend the bill in several ways--one would have paid the $87 billion by raising the taxes of people making over $200,000 a year. Another provision tried to separate the money going to the military from the money going to Halliburton--not a bad proposal, considering that Halliburton is beginning to rival Hussein in the level of corruption they've managed to grease their grubby little palms with over there. Unfortunately, both of these reasonable suggestions were voted down--so the Senator, sticking to his principles, went on the record with a final NO vote to express his displeasure with the method Bush used to basically extort an extra $87 billion dollars of borrowed money so that he could continue to play war in the Middle East--with deadly consequences for the troops.

By the way--notice how the $87 billion STILL didn't properly equip all of our forces? Some continue to lack body armor.

That's the story. Yeah, it's a little longer than a ten second sound bite, but I don't think anyone with a middle school education couldn't figure it out--that is, if their middle school actually functioned--but that's another story.

I expect the right will continue to bloviate about this, mainly because they have nothing else. The baby that is the war in Iraq is one year old--and it's clearly ugly. The economy is in the tank, Afghanistan is a mess, our "ally" Pakistan has been selling nuclear techology to anyone with cash, and the terrorists are publically supporting Shrub, apparently because he's so stupid.

For some reason, the Bob Dylan song "Idiot Wind" is now stuck in my head...
Basra and the Sunni Triangle

The Guardian UK reports a car bomb killed five in the largest city of southern Iraq.

The first anniversary of the Iraq war doesn't find much to celebrate. Between the blowing up of the Mt. Lebanon Hotel, continued killings of US Soldiers, the targeting of Iraqis who are seen as "collaborators" along with Western civilians, and now an act of violence in a supposedly "pacified" part of the country make it clear that Iraq will be a sinkhole for some time.

For anyone wanting some perspective on how the occupation could potentially go, here's a link to an article published last year in the Boston Globe online. It covers what is called the "Vietnam of Israel," namely, their foolish attempt to occupy South Lebanon. What began with "rice and flowers" ended with a humiliating Israeli retreat and the empowerment of Hizbollah. The article itself points all a number of pitfalls awaiting occupation forces, and explains the concept of a "tipping point" in political terms.

The link is courtesy of As'ad abu Kahlil, and carries a few of his own quotes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

It's Moments Like This

When I feel like I've won the C-Span lottery. The rebroadcast of Cheney's speech is on, but I'm also browsing websites, which keeps the teeth-grinding down.

Freudian slip of the talk--"In Iraq we came as conquerers, not lib...(cough) liberators not conquerers."

The rest of it is pretty standard fare for the looking-glass folks, and the gratuitous sleaze thrown at Kerry actually sounds pretty pathetic--Cheney's schtick is suited more for a county agent's election, and he tossed in a few outright lies, just in case anyone had any doubts at all about the almost compulsive lying that is so characteristic of the administration.

Billmon likened Cheney to Laurence Olivier's character in Marathon Man:

And then I realized who it was: Dr. Christian Zell, the sadistic Nazi dentist brilliantly played by Sir Laurence Olivier...

In a subsequent post, he goes on to add

Doesn't matter if it's true, doesn't even matter if it's a complete non sequitur -- as when the White proclaimed that John Kerry was "lying" because he wouldn't disclose the names of the foreign leaders (cough, Chirac, cough. Schroeder, cough) who told him they were aching to see Bush put on a slow train back to Texas. The main thing is to confuse and obfuscate the audience. Most voters, hearing virtually identical charges and countercharges bouncing back and forth, will quickly conclude there's no way to figure it out, and who the hell knows anyway?

Or at least, that's what the Rovians are banking on.

Will this be called the "P.T. Barnum" strategy one day?
Sort of Like How Union Carbide Handled Bhopal

For Iraqis in Harm's Way, $5,000 and I'm Sorry

Actually, I think the saddest part of the article is this:

Outside the room where the captain was saying he was sorry, a long line of people waited. One was Ayad Bressem, a 12-year-old boy scorched by a cluster bomb. His face is covered by ugly blue freckles. Children call him "Mr. Gunpowder."

"I just want something," the burned boy said.

"Come back later," a guard told him. "You'll get some money. But we're busy."

If you link over to the article, there is a photograph of Bressem. The caption indicates he lost vision in one eye, in addition being physically scarred.

If this kind of injury happened to a child here in the United States, I'll bet there'd be a long line of people personally offering to rip the offending party apart limb by limb.
Don't Hear Much About THIS Anymore

The Island of Balta links to a letter sent to Buzzflash regarding
"The Flypaper Strategy." Remember THAT gem? By fighting the "terrorists" over in Iraq, we were keeping them tied up in the Middle East, thus making the Western world "safe for democracy."

To be honest, Spain did keep its democracy safe. They held an election in spite of the disgusting act of terrorism, proving to Al Qaeda that the free expression of the people would not be denied by fanatics. Of course, the Republicanidiots like David Brooks wouldn't think twice about canceling a plebiscite--not surprising, considering how Florida's presidential election was essentially cancelled four years ago.

But I digress: The Flypaper Strategy was the first justification after the fact regarding Iraq, when it was clear that the flowers and kisses were to be in short supply in Mesopotamia. But, oh how the neocons and their minions crowed. We were going to entice them turrurists over to Iraq, then kill em all and let Allah sort em out.

But that approach is now nothing more than just another dead fish of a policy--rotting on the dock, stinking up the place, like all the other lies they've been telling us.

Which reminds me: Balta has a good link to a Houston Chronicle Op-Ed by Harvey Rice. It's his personal mea culpa for buying into the myth and drinking the Kool-Aid. Worth reading...
Cheney: Inadequate Military Supplies, Needless Deaths of US Soliders and Iraqi Civilians, Chaos in Iraq, Resurgence of Al Qaueda="Nuances"

Cheney quoted on CNN: "Whatever nuances [Kerry] might fault us for neglecting, it is not an impressive record for someone who aspires to become commander in chief in this time of testing for our country."

Nuances. That's what Cheney thinks about the fuck-ups in Iraq and Afghanistan that he and his sock puppet Bush are responsible for. Nuances. Twenty eight people killed (and counting) in the latest bombing in Baghdad. More nuance. Over 500 US soldiers killed, at least 3,000 wounded, many seriously. To Dick, yet more, uh, yeah--nuance. An economy in tatters, people unable to even find a job, much less qualify for anything resembling decent health care. Ah, just another nuance to neglect.

You know, if Cheney's pacemaker goes on the fritz and he ends up having the big one (the 'big time' big one?), not only will I not give a shit, I might even laugh at the poetic justice. Normally, I wouldn't think ill, personally, of someone with a heart condition. But Dick, pun intended, is a Dick.
Lying to a National Television Audience? Priceless.

Talking Points Memo provides a link to the latest MoveOn ad. It's nothing more than footage of Donald Rumsfeld getting caught in a lie on Face the Nation.

Marshall precedes his MoveOn post with a note regarding what he calls "the broader issue of disrespect for the people [the Republicans are] communicating with." He says it borders on contempt, but I think it goes way beyond that.

The issue in question regards the lie that John Kerry sought to cut the pay of US military personnel being sent to the Middle East. Not only is that patently NOT TRUE, but what IS TRUE is that Bush sought to do just that--cut pay for servicemen and women who were being sent into battle. Unfuckingbelievable.

The same Bush team ranted about a Kerry bill that was going to make a modest cut 1 percent cut in the National Reconnaisance Office--money which they weren't even using, by the way--and then we find out that the REPUBLICANS passed on the Kerry bill and MADE EVEN LARGER CUTS in the program.

Bush--and the people who support him--are, to be honest, becoming delusional. And that's not political rhetoric--I mean they are genuinely going off the deep end, and trying to drag the country down with them, consequences be damned.
Kaiser Dubya

Billmon again uses his considerable ability to offer an interpretation of Bush that's nail-on-the-head accurate:

In the past, I've called [the Iraq war] the worst strategic blunder since the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. But at this point I'd go further. It may have been the worse strategic blunder since Wilhelm II dragged Germany into a two-front war in 1914. And while the outcome ultimately may not be as catastrophic (we can only hope), the causes of the fiasco are quite similar. Like Kaiser Willy's Germany, Bush's America has gone out of its way to turn friends into enemies. And in this, at least, it has succeeded...

What's missing [in the wingnut whining about the Spanish election] -- intentionally, I think -- is any acknowledgement of how we got from a place where Le Monde could declare Nous sommes tous Américains, to a place where being seen as a U.S. ally has become a serious political health risk across most of Europe.

From day one of the war against Al Qaeda, the Bush administration has treated "old" Europe with a barely (if that) disguised contempt. It refused to give NATO a meaningful role in the war in Afghanistan -- even though such support was offered immediately, and unconditionally, in the aftermath of 9/11. Following the the fall of Kabul, it resisted efforts to expand and internationalize the peacekeeping force, and gave only tepid support to European efforts to strengthen the Karzai government, at the expense of the regional warlords with whom the Pentagon prefers to do business.

Then came the administration's decision to invade Iraq, taken with out any consultation with the Europeans whatsoever -- even though they had significant economic and strategic interests in Iraq (just as America does in the Saudi theocratic police state) and were far more exposed to the potential fallout (oil shocks, refugees, etc.) than the United States.

Billmon continues by pointing out that virtually every sentient carbon-based life form, minus the idiot neocons and their supporters, now recognize Iraq as the quagmire it is. As if anyone needs additional proof, I think today's bombing in Baghdad makes it pretty clear that chaos is the only authority in the region. Nice work, neocons.

By all means check the article out. It's a little long, but captures nicely the conundrum in which the Bush administration finds itself. They CAN'T afford to go-it-alone, even as they've spent the two and a half years following 9/11 by spitting on virtually all of our erstwhile allies.

I'll conclude this post by noting Billmon's excellent description of James Baker III--"asshole king of the universe"--and his apt metaphor regarding Bush tilting at "Middle Eastern windmills (or oil wells, as the case may be)." Yes, (also in his words) Spain no longer wanted to be "part of the clown posse" in Iraq, and neither do they want to be subjects of Kaiser Dubya. For that matter, a majority of Europe is fed up with the fantasy cowboy act--it has made them decidedly LESS safer.

Sure, the true isolationists can dismiss the opinion of the rest of the world. But they'll soon find out that business sucks when no one wants anything to do with you.
Mike Baer Gets Whacked

The Advocate reports that the Senate's secretary has been made an offer he can't refuse:

"This gives Mr. Baer an opportunity … to do what he needs to do," said Senate President Pro-tem Diana Bajoie, D-New Orleans, who drafted the letter. "He can bow out in an honorable way -- resign or retire."
Do We Have to Rename More Food?

Now that Spain is back to being "Old Europe?"

Spanish Rice Lone Star Long Grain
Spanish Omelet Heroic Hash
Gaspacho Patriot Soup
Paella Freedom Stew
Sangria Liberty Wine....

Update (2:30pm) while not technically a food item, per se, someone here suggested Spanish Fly Patriot Missile. So, if we're going beyond food, I'll add Spanish Inquisition Patriot Act.
Checking in on The Hill

I linked over to Josh Marshall's Hill column from TalkingPointsMemo to check out his opinion on the Kerry/foreign leaders non-issue. Actually, as Marshall notes, "Boston Globe reporter Patrick Healy, who filed the pool report that included the quote in question, announced that he’d gotten it wrong. Kerry said 'more leaders,' not 'foreign leaders.' " Yeah, whatever.

(By the way: TPM has an excellent post about the down-is-up type of lying that the latest Bush political ads engage in).

I disagree that this was a foolish thing for Kerry to say: despite the self-righteous whining by various Bush mouthpieces--including the absolutely laughable statement from Dick Cheney, the Sultan of Stonewall--I find it incredible that ANYONE would consider this to be anything but what it is--the truth.

Bush has only two major allies, England and Israel. He's managed to augment this with various "coalitions of the bribed willing." I've posted before regarding just who exactly joined the Iraq coalition, and it's not exactly an top-flight list of nations--c'mon, Afghanistan? Albania? Gimme a break.

Marshall's criticism of Kerry is based on political considerations, i.e., he thinks the statement needlessly provided Team Bush with a little ammunition. I see the point, but I won't cede it. If I was running the show, I'd stay on offense: first, ANY statement from Dick Cheney about "coming clean" should be publicly thrown back into his face. Second, ask Bush to name any foreign leader who has expressed a preference for the pResident's re-election--and find out what Bush may have offered in exchange for such support. Finally--and this is why I DON'T run the show--while the general United States' public might well be deeply suspicious of 'feriners,' we are NOT in any position to go it alone as a country. That may not be a popular notion here in the land of fantasy-cowboys (see Bush, George W.), but like it or not, we'd better get used to the fact that we NEED to positively engage the rest of the world. It's just plain good from a business standpoint.

Which is yet another reason why the Crawford Cretin is a failure: he doesn't even practice good business sense. Goddamn--did he sleep through EVERY class session at Harvard?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

And Down Goes Blogger!

I think most folks are having a time with Blogger today, so I'll try to post this then I'll take a break. Mary had this link to Legal Fiction--a superb analysis of the Spanish election, which furthermore linked to Juan Cole. It's nice to know I'm in agreement with the professor:

After nearly four years of White House rhetoric stolen from old Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns, the determination in this speech to pursue anti-terrorism with an eye to establishing social peace and creating the conditions of human development hits me as a gale of fresh air.

So this is what al-Qaeda was going for with the train bombs? To create a "grand alliance" of democracies against it? Zapatero's speech is a victory for Bin Laden?

No, it is a defeat only for the Bush administration and the Neoconservative philosophy of Perpetual War...

Earlier in the post, Cole gave a nice bitch-slap to morons like Andrew Sullivan, who's simplistic, pea-brained view of the situation in the Middle East needs to be shown for what it is: bullshit, pure and simple.

There is not and cannot be such a thing as a "war on terror." Terror is a tactic. There can be a global counter-insurgency struggle against al-Qaeda and kindred organizations. But a large part of such a struggle must be to deny al-Qaeda recruitment tools and propaganda victories. The way the Bush administration pursued the war against Iraq, as a superpower-led act of Nietzschean will to power, simply made it look in the Middle East as though al-Qaeda had been right. Bin Laden's message was that Middle Easterners are being colonized and occupied by the United States.

There is no evidence at all that the Spanish public desires the new Socialist government to pull back from a counter-insurgency effort against al-Qaeda. The evidence is only that they became convinced that the war on Iraq had detracted from that effort rather than contributing to it. This is not a cowardly conclusion and it is not a victory for al-Qaeda.

Already, the faith-based purveyors of the "Merukun Way" are trying to use 3/11 as a means of somehow pasting together the last shards of Bush's shattered credibility. In doing so, they're flailing wildly, trying to somehow spin the idea that a Kerry presidency will farm out anti-terrorism to Deputy Barney Fife. Which is horseshit, and a sure sign that they're desperate (along with, of all people DICK CHENEY pressing Kerry to "come clean" regarding just which overseas leaders told him to kick Bush's ass. Hell, DICK, tell me which ones DON'T want that--it's a much shorter list. And while we're on the subject of coming, this post is getting pretty long already). No, the fight against terror is simply something that demands a little more than a knee-jerk reaction, especially when you're either so stupid or evil that you let the TERRORIST go scot free for two years while you manage to bog down against the WEAKEST country in the Middle East, namely, Iraq--which, for all its brutality, HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH 9/11 or 3/11.

No, Spain, as I posted below, did not present Al Qaeda a resounding victory--they presented Bush with a resounding defeat. Dolts like Andrew Sullivan, who seem to view the world through polarized lenses--there are ONLY two possible solutions to everything--are the ones who whine about what a shame the election is, when in fact it's a good sign that the Spanish feel the need to apply grown-up solutions to anti-terrorism efforts--and don't want a leader who plays dress up pilot and stages photo op landings on aircraft carriers--nor do they want his junior partner.

Thoughtful Analysis

Billmon, without showing any disrespect to the four missionaries killed in Iraq, does point out that their presence in the country is yet another example of how Bush doesn't even begin to get it regarding the Middle East, and why his policies have failed thus far, and will continue to fail:

No one likes to see people murdered in cold blood. But the very presence of fundamentalist missionaries in Iraq (as part of the official relief effort, no less) is a cultural and political abomination, as well as a classic example of just how seriously the Bush admnistration takes the struggle against terrorism -- which is to say, not very seriously at all...

The problem, of course, is that the Islamic fundamentalists have more or less the same attitude: Not all religions are created equal. And unlike the Baptists, they tend to take their "war for souls" rhetoric literally.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't be so hostile towards the Christian side in this clash of civilizations. In general, I think the Southern Baptists should be free to preach their cult-like beliefs to whomever they like -- just as long as they stay away from my door. If they want to sneak into closed countries in search of a martyr's death (or, more likely, a martyr's explusion) more power to them. Personally, I think proselytizing is culturally and morally obnoxious. But so is religious repression.

But the missionary presence in Iraq -- as part of a conquering infidel army, no less -- unquestionably has been an enormous propaganda gift to the jihadists. It's hard to imagine a better way to reinforce the idea that the war on terrorism is actually a Christian crusade to subjugate Islam than to let a bunch of noisy right-wing religious bigots set up shop in the heart of an occupied Arab country -- holding badly needed relief aid in one hand and a Bible in the other. Like Jesus's general, my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God Jerry Boykin, these people are literally helping Al Qaeda promote its core message to the Islamic world.

How many more times will Bush have to fail before people realize that that's exactly what failures do: fail. Here's an excerpt from today's Paul Krugman New York Times Op-Ed:

Polls suggest that a reputation for being tough on terror is just about the only remaining political strength George Bush has. Yet this reputation is based on image, not reality. The truth is that Mr. Bush, while eager to invoke 9/11 on behalf of an unrelated war, has shown consistent reluctance to focus on the terrorists who actually attacked America, or their backers in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

This reluctance dates back to Mr. Bush's first months in office. Why, after all, has his inner circle tried so hard to prevent a serious investigation of what happened on 9/11? There has been much speculation about whether officials ignored specific intelligence warnings, but what we know for sure is that the administration disregarded urgent pleas by departing Clinton officials to focus on the threat from Al Qaeda.

After 9/11, terrorism could no longer be ignored, and the military conducted a successful campaign against Al Qaeda's Taliban hosts. But the failure to commit sufficient U.S. forces allowed Osama bin Laden to escape. After that, the administration appeared to lose interest in Al Qaeda; by the summer of 2002, bin Laden's name had disappeared from Mr. Bush's speeches. It was all Saddam, all the time...

It's now clear that by shifting his focus to Iraq, Mr. Bush did Al Qaeda a huge favor. The terrorists and their Taliban allies were given time to regroup; the resurgent Taliban once again control almost a third of Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda has regained the ability to carry out large-scale atrocities.

But Mr. Bush's lapses in the struggle against terrorism extend beyond his decision to give Al Qaeda a breather. His administration has also run interference for Saudi Arabia — the home of most of the 9/11 hijackers, and the main financier of Islamic extremism — and Pakistan, which created the Taliban and has actively engaged in nuclear proliferation.

Some of the administration's actions have been so strange that those who reported them were initially accused of being nutty conspiracy theorists. For example, what are we to make of the post-9/11 Saudi airlift? Just days after the attack, at a time when private air travel was banned, the administration gave special clearance to flights that gathered up Saudi nationals, including a number of members of the bin Laden family, who were in the U.S. at the time. These Saudis were then allowed to leave the country, after at best cursory interviews with the F.B.I.

And the administration is still covering up for Pakistan, whose government recently made the absurd claim that large-scale shipments of nuclear technology and material to rogue states — including North Korea, according to a new C.I.A. report — were the work of one man, who was promptly pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Bush has allowed this farce to go unquestioned.

So when the Bush campaign boasts of the president's record in fighting terrorism and accuses John Kerry of being weak on the issue, when Republican congressmen suggest that a vote for Mr. Kerry is a vote for Osama, remember this: the administration's actual record is one of indulgence toward regimes that are strongly implicated in terrorism, and of focusing on actual terrorist threats only when forced to by events.

I didn't want to lift so much of Krugman's piece, but it's that important. Bush's record--his public actions--are nothing to be proud of. They are, in fact, shameful. It is my sincere hope that the Kerry campaign forces the rest of the media to cover what is noted here. Because then Bush will be seen for what he is: an empty, miserable failure with no accomplishments.
Blogger is Working Again

So on that note, I'll offer this link to red alert, a QuickTime movie (link courtesy of Needlenose). Prepare to laugh.
Sex, Lies, and Statistics

The Angry Arab News Service says exactly what I was thinking when reading the results of a nationwide poll of Iraqis:

In a new BBC poll of Iraqis, US favoured son, international embezzler, Ahmed Chalabi had no support at all, while Saddam Hussein remains one of the six most popular politicians in the country. And Chalabi is the least trusted leader in the whole of Iraq. By the way, after reading about the report on the poll on the BBC website, I was rather surprised with some of the advertised results. So I retrieved the full text of the report (warning: .pdf file). Read and judge for yourself. Very very suspicious and unreliable, in my estimation, and the BBC website adds a positive spin that does not necessarily conform with the contents and the results.

In spite of it being a .pdf, I encourage you to read the file. Compare it to the headline and text of the BBC article.

Then Professor Kahlil adds something I never would have considered:

Also, I find it absolutely unbelievable that Ayatollah Sistani (and his name was wrongly identified as Said instead of `Ali) scored so low on people's preference for leader, as did Al-Hawzah, while Saddam got some points. There is something wrong here, and often the problem is translation and methodology. For example, Professor Ingelhart at the University of Michigan has been running public opinion surveys around the world in more than 70 countries. In one published volume of his work, Human Values, people in more than 40 countries were asked who are their least favorite neighbors. And in Turkey, more than 90 per cent of respondents allegedly said that Muslims are their least favorite neighbors. This tells you why I get suspicious about some Western-conducted surveys in Middle East lands. Also, in this poll, people have high preference for religious leaders (more than 40 percent), and yet religious leaders scored low when people were asked about their choices.

This makes sense--considering the rather abysmal state of Western knowledge regarding the Middle East in general, the polling data should be taken with a grain of salt. As noted below, my own opinion is that most Iraqis are happy that Hussein is gone--but that doesn't mean ALL are, NOR does it mean they love us. Iraqis aren't stupid, and they know exactly who Saddam's Sugar Daddy was for all the years he ran the show. In fact, some Iraqis likely benefitted from the Hussein regime--duh. A police state runs in part because of a large bureaucracy--which means jobs for a good number of people. And those folks are likely none too happy that the gravy train ground to a halt.

Were some of these bureaucrats professional torturers? I don't doubt it. Torturers are on the payroll of most despotic regimes, and might even be here or there in a democracy. That said, to suggest that EVERY bureaucrat in the Hussein regime was engaging in sadistic acts is a foolish charge, and demonstrates utter ignorance as to how any nation state--despotic or not--functions.

It is also foolish to suggest that all of Iraq was quaking in its boots on a daily basis under the Hussein regime. Even massively despotic regimes like Hussein's--or, for that matter, the Shah of Iran's--cannot function with that level of terror. Again, those who've actually studied national governments and their means of organization know that despotic regimes which practice torture do so not on the entire body public, but on select members of the public--the idea is to teach a lesson to everyone else. Both the Shah and Hussein did this to political opponents, real or imagined, and religious leaders. In the case of both, this kept secular political opposition out of the picture, but had the effect of making religious leaders a de facto alternative. That's a MAJOR reason why Iran is now a theocracy, and why Iraq is likely to become one.

That's not to say torture is "OK." No, it isn't. But the grisly stories coming from the neo-cons tell us a lot more about them than they do about Hussein in particular, or the Middle East in general.

The fact is that torture, for instance, is practiced by ALL regimes in the Middle East--don't kid yourselves. Getting hysterical about Saddam's torture these days is nothing more than a cynical attempt to justify the invasion after the fact, now that the WMD lie has been seen for what it is--a lie.

By the way: I'll be happy to rake Bill Clinton over the coals on this one too--he used the WMD canard to bomb the country in 1998, which I thought at the time, and still think today, was a very cynical attempt to deflect attention from the Monica Lewinsky incident.

In the end, most Iraqis probably don't give a damn as to who is running the government--sort of like the way most US citizens don't really care who runs OUR government. The idea that they've been pining for the last 25 years for Western (back in the day, White, Anglo-Saxon) Democracy is nothing more than a neo-con wet dream. Iraq, or the political entities that preceded it, has maintained a degree of civilized organization for thousands of years. Whether or not we in the USA appreciate their method of organization matters not one bit to them. And, as far as Western Democracy is concerned, to attempt to impose it by force in IRAQ of all places is vain-glorious and foolish. It won't work, and we are paying the price for trying.

"Democracy" in Iraq, like it or not, is a term that will be ultimately defined by the Iraqis themselves.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Stating the Obvious
Update: 12:30 am: The Advocate blames the victim...

Madrid Bombs Shook Voters is the headline of the Washington Post story, but the text is a little more explicit:

MADRID, March 15 -- The hand-lettered sign at the sidewalk memorial for the 200 victims of last week's deadly train bombings starkly summed up a sentiment of many who came to pay respects Monday afternoon. It read: "They Died to Support Bush."

I've been reading the arguments about whether or not this was a victory for Al Qaeda--but here's the first reference I've seen that notes it was most definitely a defeat for Bush.

Several added that it also reflected a sense of alarm and despair that seems to cut across the political spectrum over the way the United States is wielding power in the world.

"We love America -- Faulkner, Hemingway, Coca-Cola and Marilyn Monroe -- but we have something against your government," said Luis Gonzales, 56, a high school Spanish literature teacher, as he stopped to view the rows of candles, flowers and makeshift signs at the central Puerta del Sol. "Aznar took us into a war that wasn't our war but only for the benefit of the extreme right and the American companies."

So, while I'm sure the intimidation factor AND the fact that Anzar looked foolish and inept when he tried to blame the bombings on ETA were considered, I think the US should look carefully at the Bush factor. Anzar clearly allied himself with the administration. And now we know how Spain feels about that.

While little hard polling information was yet available, analysts pointed to an unexpected level of voter turnout -- which at 77 percent was 9 points higher than the 2000 elections -- and the participation of 2 million first-time voters as indicating a last-minute surge against the ruling Popular Party. The winning Socialist Workers' Party and a number of regional anti-government parties also gained support in autonomous provinces...

Usually analysts expect a dramatic disaster such as last week's synchronized attacks on morning rush-hour commuters to solidify support for governing parties with well-defined law-and-order policies. At first, when officials blamed the Basque separatist movement known as ETA for the bombings, the pattern seemed to be holding, with opinion polls suggesting the ruling party might increase its grip on power. The Aznar government has been widely credited for taking a tough stance against ETA.

But in the ensuing 48 hours, as suspicion shifted toward Islamic extremists connected with the al Qaeda network, the tide seemed to turn. Opposition politicians and journalists alleged that the Aznar government was withholding evidence implicating al Qaeda, triggering unprecedented street demonstrations outside Popular Party headquarters here and in other major cities on the eve of Sunday's elections.

While ETA was widely seen as an unavoidable domestic enemy that had to be confronted, many voters said they believed al Qaeda would never have targeted Spain had Aznar not supported Bush in the Iraq war. "Americans need to understand that Bush's attitude is causing more hatred and more terrorism," said Marie Isabel Garcia, 31, a foreign language graduate student who visited the Puerta del Sol memorial.

Others said their votes reflected both a lack of confidence in Spain's intelligence and security services, which failed to detect warning signals that the attack was imminent, and a lack of trust in Aznar, who has been accused of manipulating and selectively using intelligence information for political purposes. Recent disclosures that the U.S. and British governments used faulty intelligence on Iraq's access to weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war compounded the government's credibility problem. In the end, those issues overshadowed the government's recognized success in managing Spain's economy.

With the exception of the economy, Anzar's circumstances sound awfully similar to those of Bush. We're not the Spainish, but this can't look good to the GOP. Going it alone is not really an option for the US anymore, and everyone knows it. Yes, Spain is a minor partner in the coalition--but this will have repurcussions throughout the continent, and possibly in England as well.

Iraq must be Arabic for quicksand.

Supporting The Troops

CNN actually covers an anti-war demonstration:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More than 60 people gathered Monday in Washington for a march to the White House, calling for an end to U.S. military action in Iraq.

The protest, the second day of a two-day demonstration against the Bush administration, drew mostly peace activists, along with a few relatives of U.S. troops, organizers said.

Relatives of U.S. troops killed in Iraq gathered Monday outside Walter Reed Army Medical Center for an emotional protest.

The protesters are marching from the hospital, where many wounded troops are treated, to Lafayette Park across Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House -- a nearly six-mile trek.

How many more soldiers will die in what was ultimately nothing more than neo-con fantasy mixed with re-electioneering posturing? By the way, neither the neo-cons nor Team Bush have gotten what they've wanted. All they can do right now is keep a lid on the coverage, and hope the casuality numbers aren't all that bad. The projection of American Power has actually been the opposite: we're barely in control of what had become the weakest state in the Middle East. And the weight of the misadventure ensures that Dubya will have a lot less of the US Treasury to throw around to the various US States in a traditional election year perogative of largesse...

About the only thing Bush got right is, lo and behold, Iraqis hated Saddam. Duh. But just because they hated him doesn't instantly mean they love us. I don't know...maybe the pResident will crow about being "half right." But half right is also half wrong. In scholastic terms, it doesn't even make a "C" grade. Meanwhile, Bush's policy towards the Israeli/Palestinian peace process is--no policy.

Face it: Bush has Failed. Give him his "F," but don't let him retake the course. This isn't Freshman PoliSci 101. It's the most powerful position in the world. "F" means go home...
Cheney's Logic Isn't

Talking Points Memo summarizes nicely both Dick Cheney's capacity for lying--virtually limitless--and the administration's understanding of the terrorist threat--microscopic AND myopic.

The real question -- the one on which there may be said to be a true debate--is whether the terrorist networks are truly independent actors or whether they cannot subsist without states backing them, whether they are in fact the pawns of states.

The Bush approach has been fundamentally the latter one--a belief in the continuing centrality of states as the actors in international affairs. Thus, the focus on taking down states as a means of combatting al Qaida. The contrary approach is one that actually focuses much more on the terrorist networks.

To which I'll add only that any discussion of terrorism that focuses solely on the Middle Eastern variety is, in a word, racist. While seeking to determine who's the swarthiest Arab of them all, Orcinus continues to remind us that the term "terrorist" also encompass right-wing militias of the type that Timothy McVeigh identified with. And, we STILL have no arrests in the matter of the anthrax letters--or even a clue as to who mailed them. What DO we have? A nifty color-code Alert of the Day--oh, did anyone check to see if this might have been raised in light of the attacks in Spain? I didn't think so...

Poetic Justice

CounterPunch Wire: General Gramajo Executed by Bees:

Guatemalan former defense minister Hector Alejandro Gramajo Morales, responsible for the torture and murder of thousands of Mayan peasants, died on March 12 at a hospital several hours after being attacked by "africanized" bees at his farm in Santo Tomas, Sacatepequez department...

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sued Gramajo under the Alien Tort Claims Act on behalf of nine Guatemalans for acts of torture, abduction and murder under his "pacification" program in the western Guatemalan highlands in 1982, when he was Army chief of staff. After retiring from the army, Gramajo described his "pacification" program by saying: "You needn't kill everyone to complete the job... We instituted Civil Affairs, which provides development for 70% of the population while we kill 30%..."

Gramajo's murderous sidekick, Gen. Rios Montt, is currently under house arrest in Guatemala. Is there a brown recluse or black widow in his future?

In the case of Efram Rios Montt, one can always hope...

Houston, We Have a Problem

When The Virginian Pilot runs an editorial like this, it's a sign that Team Bush can expect choppy waters:

War came first, the evidence second
The Virginian-Pilot
© March 14, 2004

As more tidbits emerge about the workings of pre-war intelligence, it increasingly appears that the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq was a policy in search of a rationale. In the wake of CIA Director George Tenet’s Senate testimony last week, more clues have come to light that the president’s team made up its mind before the facts were in.

The Pilot is one of the more conservative papers in one of the more conservative regions of the country. I remember reading it (but not being aware of the editorial position) as a kid. My father, along with thousands of other servicemen, was stationed in the Norfolk/Hampton Roads/Chesapeake area for several years (dad was a naval aviator). Home of the Atlantic Fleet Headquarters, the region isn't exactly a hotbed of progressive politics.

On the other hand, Timshel found this editorial in Lafayette's local paper (under the heading "Other Opinions"). Published out of Jacksonville, Florida (another stop during my dad's career--in fact, I was born there)--this one falls for Bush like they've got a schoolgirl crush on the guy...

But if I was Bush--or Rove--I'd begin to worry about editorials like the Pilot's. I'd also be worrying about the fact that the Republican Party isn't exactly touting his record--to the contrary, it's been KerryBashing from the outset. This sort of stuff doesn't bode well for the pResident.

Meanwhile, Spain has delivered a resounding non vote on the Iraq war, and as the quagmire continues, even families of military personnel are beginning to ask questions as to why Iraq was such a threat that we ignored Al Qaeda.

And the economy still sucks.

Bush has dug a mighty deep hole--although it's possible he can still spend his way out of it. Otherwise, it's gonna be 86-43-04.
Contractual Obligation Tin-Foil Hat Post

I was sitting around browsing web sites (Atrios has a link to this set of pictures and an article) and idly listening to C-Span (some symposium on the upcoming election--party-types talking shop) and I began to think: if I was evil like Karl Rove, how would I try to smear my opponent?...

Hmmn: what about hacking into someone's computer and planting embarrassing material on the hard drive? And then I realized--shit, that could be easier than I thought.

Well, not for me. I really only scratch the surface of that stuff. But, here's a possible blueprint--to the best of my understanding--of how such a thing could be done.

First, forget about trying to do this to either Kerry or Bush themselves: Bush already stopped using his Macintosh sometime in 2000, and not just for lack of skill. Legal considerations alone are enough for a candidate to NOT TOUCH a computer for the duration of a political campaign or during a term of office. I'll assume for the moment that Kerry likewise has limited or cut out any computer usage.

But, you've got the political and/or office underlings who almost live off the internet. And I wonder how many of them have even a basic understanding of how open an internet-connected computer is...

Hijacking email would be one thing--but, if you ask me, that'd take too much time and effort.

I'd try to plant a cookie--of questionable taste of some sort--on an unsuspecting staffer's machine. Then rely on some idiot journalist you've got in your pocket to ask a pointed question at just the right moment.

Again, I'm not the person who could actually do this, but it seems like a hacker of moderate skill could figure out how to modify a cookie from almost ANY server to include almost anything, and then push said cookie down to any number of computers. Without solid security on many levels--and I doubt folks who carry around laptops with a wireless connection have solid security--I'm pretty sure this could be easy to do.

If anyone out there wants to confirm or deny, please enlighten me. Also, if there are any other scenarios, I'd be happy to learn about them as well.

But only for purposes of general information. I have no more than a passing interest in this--every once in a while, as noted above, I try to think as the enemy would. And this seems like it would be right up Karl Rove's alley, except for the fact that Rove himself probably is out of the loop in terms of computer knowledge. I'll bet, though, that he's got a few pasty faced folks on the payroll who've eaten their fair share of cold pizza washed down with Jolt Cola.

I don't want to be surprised if/when they try something like this.
Bribes and the Bribing Bribers

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, March 14 — Federal investigators are scrutinizing television segments in which the Bush administration paid people to pose as journalists praising the benefits of the new Medicare law, which would be offered to help elderly Americans with the costs of their prescription medicines.

The videos are intended for use in local television news programs. Several include pictures of President Bush receiving a standing ovation from a crowd cheering as he signed the Medicare law on Dec. 8.

The materials were produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, which called them video news releases, but the source is not identified. Two videos end with the voice of a woman who says, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."

But the production company, Home Front Communications, said it had hired her to read a script prepared by the government.

Now, I'm not so naiive that I haven't heard of video news releases--hell, PR firms use them all the time. But the Bush Administration making use of such tactics without so much as making a timely disclosure is a whole new level of what I believe Senator Kerry refers to--correctly--as extremism.


One question is whether the government might mislead viewers by concealing the source of the Medicare videos, which have been broadcast by stations in Oklahoma, Louisiana and other states.

Federal law prohibits the use of federal money for "publicity or propaganda purposes" not authorized by Congress. In the past, the General Accounting Office has found that federal agencies violated this restriction when they disseminated editorials and newspaper articles written by the government or its contractors without identifying the source...

Other documents suggest the scope of the publicity campaign: $12.6 million for advertising this winter, $18.5 million to publicize drug discount cards this spring, about $18.5 million this summer, $30 million for a year of beneficiary education starting this fall and $44 million starting in the fall of 2005.

"Video news releases" have been used for more than a decade. Pharmaceutical companies have done particularly well with them, producing news-style health features about the afflictions their drugs are meant to cure.

The videos became more prominent in the late 1980's, as more and more television stations cut news-gathering budgets and were glad to have packaged news bits to call their own, even if they were prepared by corporations seeking to sell products.

I don't recall personally whether or not I saw any of the videos that were broadcast here in Louisiana, although I've noticed occasional "reports" on the local news that were not local in the slightest. Nor were they "parent" reports from ABC, CBS, or CNN (neither the local NBC nor Fox affiliate broadcasts local news in the Baton Rouge market). And, frankly, it's not like genuine local news would be much better. I've already posted to the effect that Bush intends to use local news as a "stealth" strategy, and now it appears that he won't just work for favorable coverage (although that's more-or-less for the asking). He's producing the segment itself, which erases the line between journalist (again, admittedly for local news, "journalist" is pretty generous)--sorry, between journalist and figure being covered.

That ain't news--it's propaganda.

Sunday, March 14, 2004


After making my previous post, I decided to check out a little more of Needlenose, and came acrossthis:

Courtesy of a commenter, Ga6thDem, at Daily Kos:

Pentagon officials now believe they have been unable to locate Osama bin Laden because he has found a place in which to hide where:

(1) it is easy to get in if you have the money;
(2) no one will recognize or remember you;
(3) no one will realize that you have disappeared;
(4) no one keeps any records of your comings and goings; and
(5) you have no obligations or responsibilities.

The analysts are still puzzled, however, as to how bin Laden found out about the Texas Air National Guard.

Still, they might want to check for Osama in Alabama, but not necessarily at a military base. My own suggestion would be to look around Birmingham for people talking about a certain "Saudi Souffle."

I'll Second This

Michael (good name...) over at Musing's musings linked via Ezra at Pandagon to Swopa at Needlenose's storyboard suggestion for a John Kerry advertisement. Great work. By all means check it out, and especially the final shot--as Swopa notes, it would be a superb slogan for Senator Kerry's campaign.

Didn't link to it then, but here's Swopa's storyboard from earlier in the week--it offers a more realistic view of our CIC's response to the tragedy: stun and run.