Friday, April 16, 2004

Transportation Rant

I almost forgot--it's been at least a week since I've carped or bitched about the lack of transportation alternatives to private vehicles (although I did just that in a Timshel post on Wednesday, I think. It was about the legislature finally thinking about making ANY open container with alcohol in a car illegal). But, I came across this article over at Jesus' General almost by accident (don't ask).

The piece is worth checking out in its entirety. It's a little long to attempt to summarize with a pulled paragraph or two, but here's the gist, IMHO: SUV's appeal on a psychological level to folks because they provide the appearance of safety (different from actual safety) along with, yes, a greater degree of passive safety (that is, if you ASSUME you'll be getting into a wreck anyway, sure, wrap some extra metal around yourself. But if you'd, say, like to AVOID accidents, you might want a vehicle that responds a little better).

But I don't do it enough justice. Read it for yourself.
Beating the Freedom Into Them Iraqis

Saw this in a comment by Anna Wiseman at Body & Soul. From Malaysia News Online:

An Iraqi has died of his wounds after US troops beat him with truncheons because he refused to remove a picture of wanted Shia Muslim leader Muqtada Sadr from his car, police said today.

The motorist was stopped late yesterday by US troops conducting search operations on a street in the centre of the central city of Kut, Lieutenant Mohamad Abdel Abbas said.

After the man refused to remove Sadr's picture, the soldiers forced him out of the vehicle and started beating him with truncheons, he said.

US troops also detained from the same area five men wearing black pants and shirts, the usual attire of Sadr's Mehdi Army militiamen and followers.

Qassem Hassan, the director of Kut general hospital, identified the man as Salem Hassan, a resident of a Kut suburb. He said the man had died of wounds sustained in the beating.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition could not confirm the incident.

Maybe it's not as destructive as destroying a village in order to save it, but it certainly doesn't speak volumes for either freedom or concern for ordinary Iraqis when stuff like this happens. But, let's be honest: freedom, or even a degree of concern for Iraqi citizens, was never high on the list for those who were (and presumably still are) in the throes of war-fever.

No, far more important than, say, making sure the soldiers KNEW SOMETHING about the country that was being invaded was the chance to SHOW THEM DAMNED ANTI-WAR FOLKS that Uncle Sam can kill with impunity and shove his boot into the small of anyone's back he wishes. Would that mean that a few thousand civilians, who never did a thing to hurt the US, would suffer a horrible death? Well, maybe so, but, like Tommy Franks says, we don't do body counts.

We also don't do studying the institutions which set the foundation of the socio-political structure, nor do we seek to understand local conditions nor do we keep looters from destroying basic records required for civil society to function. Nah--it's far too important to just invade, so that Bush can be seen as "pResidential."

Sort of like how he was pResidential Tuesday night: Q."Did you do anything based on the threat of hijackings in general, based on information current to the summer of 2001? A. "I asked for the PDB. It was mostly a historical document."
Zinni: Rumsfeld is a Crock

The San Deigo Union-Tribune reports on the thoughts of former Marine General Anthony Zinni:

Zinni said the United States must now rely on the U.N. to pull its "chestnuts out of the fire in Iraq."

"We're betting on the U.N., who we blew off and ridiculed during the run-up to the war," Zinni said. "Now we're back with hat in hand. It would be funny if not for the lives lost." ...

"I spent two years in Vietnam, and I've seen this movie before," he said.

Of course, Iraq is NOTHING like Vietnam. It's a desert, not a jungle. I guess Zinni is just ANOTHER person who doesn't understand that Dubya DOESN'T make mistakes--why, Mr. pRez told us that himself Tuesday night.

And, while this is slightly off topic, I was listening to NPR while on my lunch break. Some reporter from the St. Louis Post Dispatch was speaking from Iraq. He said Marines on the ground consider the situation to be nothing short of WAR. It's not mop up, it's not "a few disgruntled Baathists, it's every bit as significant as the combat in World War II, according to those in the field. As the reporter said, "They're literally fighting for their lives."

I guess they're wrong, too. After all, who knows best: a bunch of grunts on the ground, or the pResident and Mr. Rumsfeld in Washington?
One Person's Trash is Another's Treasure

I've seen this posted at a few sites: Balta, and TalkingPointsMemo, to name two. The Guardian's report is from Josh Marshall, and sums it up as good as anything:

Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards...

The United Sattes has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March 2002 on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction...

[S]atellite imagery shows "extensive removal of equipment and in some instances, removal of entire buildings,'' in Iraq.

In addition, "large quanitities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transfered out of Iraq from sites'' previously monitored by the IAEA.

In January, the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor.

Earlier this week, I posted about the new Ministry of Trade in Iraq, and how it is encouraging the export of scrap metal by easing regulations. At the time, I mentioned that it would be interesting to see if they attempted to keep metal contaminated with DU off the market. Apparently they're not even regulating yellowcake.

For the record, the IAEA was aware of Iraqi nuclear material prior to the invasion. Indeed, they had, with the help of the UN inspection teams, identified and sealed sites where the stuff was contained. The invading forces did NOT maintain a guard around these sites, and looting was reported. In some cases, people got sick from exposure to radioactive material.

Now we're finding out that this stuff has reached the open market. Geez. Can't we do ANYTHING right? Establishing a perimeter around known nuclear sites should have been a TOP priority. Hell, I opposed the invasion, but if Bush was going to go ahead with it anyway, couldn't he at least have done it properly? Yet, he STILL can't think of any mistakes.

Add this to "bring 'em on," "hit the trifecta," "we found the WMD," "Saddam wouldn't allow the inspectors to return," "Mission Accomplished," and "the Weapons of Mass Destruction have to be somewhere," etc., etc., etc.

Update: Not to mention his dismissal of the August 6th PDB as "history," and his inability to articulate why he wouldn't alert the country to HIJACKINGS IN GENERAL, not merely hijackings that use airplanes as weapons...

Can we please just send this guy back home to Texas and let him play with his chainsaw? Provided, of course, he's nowhere near any people or animals.
Rumsfeld: We Don't Negotiate With Terrorists: We, uh, Discuss Things

From the transcript of yesterday's brief:

Q Mr. Secretary, there's been some frustration expressed by the Marines in Fallujah, some of the Marines, that sitting still, they're just sort of sitting ducks now and they want to understand the justification for this cessation of offensive operations.

We hear people talk about the folks who are attacking them, calling them thugs and terrorists. Yet there are negotiations going on right now. I thought we don't negotiate with thugs and terrorists. Can you help us understand what are you trying to accomplish with this cessation of offensive operations in Fallujah, and who are you negotiating with, and why?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I will -- I'll try to reach for precisely the right words. I think you didn't hear General Pace. If I heard him correctly, he said there's a cessation of offensive operations, not operations, meaning that there still are engagements taking place.

And second, there are discussions. I don't know that I would characterize them as negotiations, nor do I think that a number of the people in Fallujah are the kinds of people that one would successfully negotiate with. But for the sake of argument, use the word -- instead of "negotiations," use the word "discussion." Now, why would one discuss anything? Well, there are a host of reasons. There are a lot of innocent people in there, and there are people who aren't innocent. And one would like to -- and I think the people doing the discussing tend to be either people on the Iraqi Governing Council or representatives of the people on the Iraqi Governing Council, or neighboring, for the most part, Sunni tribal leaders, officials.

You should not take away any implication that the United States and the coalition forces are going to allow the terrorists to continue to terrorize that city. Now, at what pace and in what way and with what preceding steps one might take of a political nature, an economic nature or a discussing nature is something that the people over there are thinking through and worrying through, and at the right moment they'll do the right thing.

Nice parsing, Donald.

From today's Washington Post:
U.S. Officials Hold First Direct Negotiations With Fallujah Leaders (

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- U.S. military and civilian officials met Friday with leaders from Fallujah, the first known direct negotiations between Americans and city representatives since the siege of the city began April 5.


The Guardian profiles Mordechai Vanunu, who has spent 18 years in prision--eleven in solitary confinement--for revealing the location of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East. The only problem for him is that they're in the wrong country: Israel.

Vanunu will be released next week, and hopes to return to a normal life, preferably outside the country that confined him for the crime of telling the truth.

If anyone deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, it is him.
Blogger is a Free Service

So I guess there's no whining when it works like an '81 Chevette with clutch problems. I've had problems viewing recent posts. Am wondering if their servers have been either affected or otherwise modified due to recent virus threats.

I cleared out temporary internet files and days to keep pages in history in Internet Explorer on my own machine, and this seemed to work. Unfortunately, it means that I now have to remember all the websites I hit. I guess I could use bookmarks and/or the blogrolls, which is a small head start.

Otherwise, can't say much just yet--last night I watched the Rumsfeld follies on C-Span. I think the mainstream press publicized some of his remarks, and it certainly looks like he's aged about a decade in the last twelve months. I guess creative lying is hard. Rumsfeld (I almost typed Rumsfol--i.e., Rumsfolly--a fitting slip of the fingers) was followed by an odd group of generals decked out in battle fatigues (one four-star, three three-stars), like they were going to take the next plane out of Andrews and hit the beachhead fighting. Alas, they were only the muscle of the team, and managed to bark their way through a few answers about troop rotation before heading off stage.

Looked like a pack of dobermans.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Why Can't Dubya Read? Hell, He Can Barely Speak! One Step at a Time, Please

Matt, over at Basket Full of Puppies leads us to this article from Reuters:

Bush Makes Three Mistakes While Trying to Cite One

(Reuters) While struggling unsuccessfully this week to think of a single mistake he has made since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President Bush committed three factual errors about weapons finds in Libya, the White House said on Wednesday.
Bush, long known for his grammatical conundrums and confusing phraseology, told reporters twice during Tuesday's prime-time news conference that 50 tons of mustard gas were discovered at a turkey farm in Libya.

On the second occasion, he was responding to a reporter who asked him to identify the biggest mistake he had made since the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people and prompted the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan...

The next day, the White House said the accurate figure for the Libyan mustard gas was 23.6 metric tons, or 26 short tons, not 50 tons.

Moreover, the substance was found at different locations across Libya, not at a turkey farm. And observers did not find mustard gas on the farm at all, but rather unfilled chemical munitions, the White House acknowledged.

"The president misspoke and we just want to correct the record," explained White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Think about this the next time Bush opens his mouth. Truth isn't merely irrelevant to him, it's in another galaxy entirely.

Why Can't Dubya Read?

Link via Bad Attitudes. Sidney Blumenthal, among other things, contrasts Clinton and the Dauphin's way of handling PDB's:

Bush, in fact, does not read his President's Daily Briefs, but has them orally summarised every morning by the CIA director, George Tenet. President Clinton, by contrast, read them closely and alone, preventing any aides from interpreting what he wanted to know first-hand. He extensively marked up his PDBs, demanding action on this or that, which is almost certainly the likely reason the Bush administration withheld his memoranda from the 9/11 commission.

"I know he doesn't read," one former Bush national security council staffer told me...

As the iconic image of the "war president" has tattered, another picture has emerged. Bush appears as a passive manager who enjoys sitting atop a hierarchical structure, unwilling and unable to do the hard work a real manager has to do to run the largest enterprise in the world. He does not seem to absorb data unless it is presented to him in simple, clear fashion by people whose judgment he trusts. He is receptive to information that agrees with his point of view rather than information that challenges it. This leads to enormous power on the part of the trusted interlocutors, who know and bolster his predilections.

At his press conference, Bush was a confusion of absolute confidence and panic. He jumbled facts and conflated threats, redoubling the vehemence of his incoherence at every mildly sceptical (sic) question. He attempted to create a false political dichotomy between "retreat" and his own vague and evolving position on Iraq, which now appears to follow senator John Kerry's, of granting more authority to the UN and bringing in Nato.

The ultimate revelation was Bush's vision of a divinely inspired apocalyptic struggle in which he is the leader of a crusade bringing the Lord's "gift." "I also have this belief, strong belief that freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom." But religious war is not part of official US military doctrine.
(from The Guardian).

I can't wait to hear Dubya spew forth more on the August 6th PDB and other warnings: "If only they'd been presented to me via TV, I would have moved heaven and earth..."
The Face of the Occupation

Empire Notes has been noted by others--I'm sure most of y'all (who I probably should thank by name) have heard of it. I'll add it to the roll along with LSUBlog as soon as I can. In the meantime, though, check out the site regularly, as it provides an extra voice in Iraq to counter the spin from the Warmongers and wrong-wingers (thanks to Needlenose for correcting my verbiage), which is reaching pulsar speed:

At the same time as their existence in Iraq provokes violence and as their brutal methods provoke violence, U.S. forces do nothing to provide security. Kidnappings of Iraqis for ransom are rife -- nobody ever investigates. Leading academics are being killed -- ditto. People are afraid to walk the streets after 9 or 10 -- nobody does anything about this. Women are far more constricted in getting around than they used to be. The list goes on and on. The U.S. military does nothing, absolutely nothing, about these security problems.

Anyone who swallows any of this propaganda about "providing security" should spend one day talking to people in Iraq.

The occupying army is REQUIRED, under all conventions regarding "civilized" warfare, to provide security for the general population. That's one big reason why the Army Brass requested roughly double the number of soldiers they eventually received. The nickel and diming of that decision has resulted in paying through the nose after the fact (see The Iraq war IN PRINCIPLE was bad, but the Bush team has compounded the disaster by being so inept.

And the next time some idiot accuses Kerry or anyone else of "undermining" the war effort, remind them of that salient point, along with the following: it was BUSH who bragged "bring 'em on," it was BUSH who callously joked about "winning the trifecta" in describing US History post 9/11, it was BUSH who lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction and then had the gall to JOKE about it, it was BUSH who said we would be greeted as liberators, and it was BUSH who was not only asleep at the wheel prior to the attacks on the US, but who couldn't be bothered to delay his Texas vacation to check up on things.

Criticism of Bush's record isn't unpatriotic. It is unpatriotic to follow blindly while the idiot leader urges us to leap off the bridge.
Quote of the Day

From Billmon at Whiskey Bar, about Bush's decision to suck up to Ariel Sharon:

It strikes me that bin Laden has been going about this all wrong. If he'd just started his own PAC, and spread enough money around, he probably could have gotten Congress to vote to blow up the World Trade Center.

I mean, why bother with suicide bombers when you've got both major political parties on your side?

Be sure to check out his own citation from The Washington Post: a Republican congressional aide, who wishes to remain anonymous (and here's why) rationalizes Bush's insane decision by suggesting that it could deliver Florida to the GOP. Goddamn. If only lightning could strike that asshole down.

For the record, John Kerry isn't doing a whole lot better in this regard--he stands in support of the decision, hence the statement about BOTH major parties.

Whenever I think I'm getting TOO cynical, leave it to power politics to put it all in perspective.

In the "like fucking for virginity" category, Reuters reports that MacDonalds is coming out against obesity.
¡Dales por el culo!

Al Giordano at Big, Left, Outside offers both a Spanish lesson that isn't real safe for kids AND some of the best commentary about the controversy at Air America radio. To summarize: stopping payment on a check isn't the same as bouncing one. And there's no such thing as bad publicity. And ¡dales por el culo! isn't something you want to say in mixed company where the majority of people hablan espaƱol, unless you're cierto they get the joke.
More Than Mere Numbers

I'll let the right-wingers bloviate about how the body count isn't all that important--it shows a stunning disregard for the families of the soldiers and offers insight into their twisted mind set. But for those who actually care about the consequences of war, here's a The New York Times article accompanied by this grim slide show. Those killed in the war are more than a number of the day/week/month or year. They leave behind friends and family, who carry the memories forever.

Iraqis who've been killed in the conflict also leave behind friends and family. The numbers are decidedly higher, but the grieving isn't any less significant.
Bush: Wake Me Up When They Hit Us

LSU Blog, who will be listed shortly on the roll, has a link to a Washington Post article that indicates the August 6th PDB wasn't the only warning of an impending terrorist attack in the United States. Check out his post and link to the article there (for some reason, I'm having trouble hitting the Post's site myself this morning).

From the sound of it though, maybe this is another indication that Dick Cheney WAS in charge, if one takes his excuse for opting out of Vietnam seriously. I believe he said at that time that "[he] had other priorites." How true.

Off topic, but: speaking of attacks, the office here is abuzz with talk of various security flaws and viruses that are floating about the internet today. The State of Arkansas was especially hit hard, and we're scrambling to avoid a similar fate here in the Gret Stet. This might keep me busy for a while. For those running Windoze operating systems, here's a link to a FREE Microsoft site that will install security updates on your computer. I also strongly recommend that you make sure your virus definitions are up to date. I'll probably post something by way of an update later today, if I'm not slammed with work.
How do You Know When a Politician is Lying?

Deutsche Welle reports that the latest bin Laden tape makes an offer to Europe: no more attacks if they pull their troops out of--well, I was going to say the Middle East, but something tells me (the fact that bin Laden is psychotic) that Osama's definition of what consititutes a pullout is vague.

All European nations are officially reacting with outrage: "We can't negotiation [sic] with al Qaeda," a statement released by the [British] Foreign Office said. "Their attacks are against the very idea of coexistence. The right response is to continue to confront terrorism, not give in to its demands." The British government accused bin Laden of pursuing a "cynical strategy" of trying to divide Europe and the United States.

But if there's one thing I've learned about politicians, it's that words like "never" and "negoiate" don't always mean "never negoiate." I'm not saying that the EU is ready to start the discussions--far from it. But I am saying that when political leaders say they don't negoiate with terrorists, I do wonder if there are any unexplained gaps in their public schedules. It's the cynic in me.

I also am beginning to wonder when Europe does decide to really break with the US on issues related to foreign policy--Germany and France opted out of the Iraq war for selfish reasons, to be sure, but as Iraq looks worse and worse to everybody except the lunatic right wing, it will only be a question of when Europe sets their own course. I doubt seriously anyone would consider actually talking to bin Laden himself, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if an accomodation was reached with people who don't view Osama as Public Enemy Number 1 (although they may or may not view him favorably). After all, it's not really Europe's fight.

And if it becomes the US versus the Muslims, then bin Laden has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
The Cost of Doing Business There Just Rose Dramatically

CNN's headline confirms the worst news for one of the Italian security guards being held as a hostage. The kidnappers are demanding an Italian troop withdrawal from the region, among other things, and are threatening to kill the other three.

This got me thinking about the reconstruction projects. Is there anyone who would risk doing business in what has to be about the most hostile environment imanginable? It turns out there are--$20 billion dollars is a lot of money. That said, I wouldn't bet on the rescheduled Expo going off exactly as planned, nor do I think these companies are seriously going to put any money into the country until the security situation is a whole lot better. I'll be scanning their fancy websites though.

Linking around, I managed to come across this website for the brand new Iraqi Ministry of Trade. Too bad I missed this, uh, good bit of news, I guess. They just passed a brand-new set of regulations designed to facilitate the export of scrap metal, going so far as to define the "product" itself:

“Scrap Metal” – is metal material that has been finished and put to use as a product or part of a product, but has lost its intended usefulness as a result of obsolescence, damage or destruction, excluding copper and lead . The Minister of Trade may further define what metals are permitted or prohibited from exportation through an announcement referencing this instruction and published in the Official Gazette.

There's no shortage of scrap metal in Iraq--it stands to reason there's a growing market in the stuff. It will be interesting to see, though, if they pass further regulations regarding scrap that's been contaminated by uranium dust. There's nothing in it as written, but I'll bet no one wants to be seen as just watching dirty bomb material get freighted-out, as it were.

Yeah, there's a LOT of money on the table for the reconstruction projects. Enough to perhaps provide SOME high-priced security. But there will always be the chance that a situation could get out of hand. And without a clear victory in the hearts and minds aspect of the war--which didn't happen--any westerners are in potential danger.

Yet another example of failed policy by Bush. He managed to tear Iraq apart, but doesn't have a clue as to how to put it back together.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A Burning Bush, or a Glowing Raed?

Raed Jarrar (scroll down a bit), thinks he's found the WMD in Iraq. It first arrived in 1991, and more was delivered over the last twelve months:

More than 40% of the American soldiers are affected by the radiations of the Depleted Uranium used by the American Forces during this war.

Well… I did check many sites personally, using a Geiger Counter, and found that the radiation level is like 25000 – 50000 times more than the regular background reading. I saw hundreds of Iraqi tanks destroyed by DU bullets, in the middle of the residential areas… I mean… Saddam is a criminal, he put those tanks between civilian houses, but Bush is a criminal too… he used radio active weapons to destroy them.

Iraqis were cutting parts of the radio active tanks, and melting them to be re-used as steel I beams for constructing houses. I met dozens of Iraqis working in a huge area near the southern gate of Baghdad where the American forces collected some hundreds of destroyed Iraqi tanks… those Iraqis didn’t know the meaning or Uranium, or the meaning of radiation… they didn’t have other jobs and they had official papers from the CPA, as an approval for cutting and transferring the parts of the Iraqi weapons.

In some places like Nasryya, Basra, Amara and Kut, destroyed Iraqi tanks were not moved from their locations, I tried – in cooperation with dozens of other volunteers -to start some small awareness campaigns in those cities, I hope they reduced the number of children playing inside the tanks.

I noticed many holes in the ground near the destroyed tanks, which means that hundreds of bullets are contaminating the surface water of Iraq now, (the bullet can reach easily the dept of 75 cm under the ground, and the Iraqi surface water is around that level) I mean… I can easily identify the tank destroyed by a DU bullet now, if you search carefully you’ll find the hole of penetration, which is the point the bullet entered from. When the DU bullet (which is extremely solid and strong) hit an Iraqi tank, it penetrates the 8 – 10 cm of metal as if you are punching a can of Pepsi using a screw driver… it’s really nothing for the bullet. The thing is that during this penetration so much friction happens between the two metals (steel and DU) that makes the DU bullet burns like a mass of fire, it burns up everything in the tank (including the tank ammunition) causing a big explosion inside the tank, that’s why usually you can notice the turret thrown upside-down some meters away from the burned tank.

Be sure to check out his post, which includes the source material.
Literal Truthers

Billmon's latest alerted me to the BIG story today--as I noted earlier, work kind of put a kink in my daytime posts for a spell. News reports are pretty unanimous in noting that the actions of the Shrub are unprecedented, and indeed they are: the United States has swallowed, to paraphrase Alexander Cockburn, hook, line, sinker, rod & reel, the Sharon land grab:

Ariel Sharon was smiling during much of his joint White House conference with President George Bush...

He secured most of what he came to Washington DC for, perhaps more than even he had dared to expect.

He had wanted public endorsement of the principle that the pre-1967 borders on which so many - and not only Palestinians - have long assumed would form the basis of any future settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, were not after all inviolate. And he wanted a clear public statement from the US President that there would be no right of return to Israel for the families of those who have been refugees for more than half a century.

That he got both, not implicitly but explicitly, was made all the more surprising given that President Bush, mired in the intractable chaos and bloodshed of Iraq, might have been expected to be especially sensitive about anything which would exacerbate tensions between himself and Arab leaders.

Reaction from the other point of view is, as you might expect, decidedly less positive:

Palestinians reacted with fury last night to President George Bush's endorsement of Israel retaining occupied Arab land as they predicted the final collapse of the Middle East peace process.

Ahmad Qureia, the Palestinian Prime Minister, said in Ramallah: "He is the first president who has legitimised the [Israeli] settlements in Palestinian territories. We as Palestinians reject that. We cannot accept that. We reject it and we refuse it."...

Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian cabinet minister, described Mr Bush's statement as "like someone giving a part of Texas's land to China".

Hamas has it's own reaction to Bush and Sharon's idea:

Palestinian militant group Hamas said today President George W Bush's statement that Israel could keep parts of the West Bank proves armed resistance was the only way for Palestinians.

The group's political leader, Khaled Meshaal, said Bush's policy marked the end of "illusions that there can be a US-sponsored political settlement" between the Jewish state and the Palestinians.

"This stance proves that resistance is the only way," Meshaal told Reuters in a telephone interview from Beirut.

In the best of times, the Israeli/Palestinian question must be handled delicately. Bush's reckless statement can only be seen as the rantings of an individual who is rapidly losing his sense of reality, OR the rantings of an individual who is pushing like mad to lay the groundwork for a regional conflict in perhaps the most dangerous area on the planet--or both.

Religious freaks, like a case of shingles, are an unfortunate fact of life. But the actions of the few in pushing such an insane agenda--a bizarre interpretation of Judeo-Christianity that rivals fundamentalist Islam in its willingness to maim and kill--are tantamount to making everyone either a Christian soldier or an Islamic jihadist. If there is one word that would sum up this salting of the wound in the Middle East known as Israel/Palestine, it is insane. Particularly at a time when our occupying forces in Iraq DON'T need any additional sparks to light the dry-as-a-bone tinder.

I'm more than aware of the apathy towards almost any political issues among the general population of the United States (gasoline prices excepted). But the statement today by the illegitimate Dauphin will spell trouble--for the region, and for the United States. The next time our country is targeted by a terrorist act, the reaction in the rest of the world will be telling, and probably won't be nearly as sympathetic as the reaction to 9/11. Without having to do so, Bush has condemned more to death.

Pie in the sky...

About Face!

The Guardian reports that ten thousand US soldiers got a little more than they bargained for:

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than 10,000 American soldiers who were to return this month to home bases in Louisiana and Germany will have their tour in Iraq extended at least three months to help combat the surge in anti-occupation violence, defense officials said Wednesday.

The decision, which has not been announced publicly, breaks the Army's promise to soldiers and their families that assignments in Iraq would be limited to 12 months. The affected soldiers already have been in Iraq for a year.

Welcome-home ceremonies at Fort Polk, La., scheduled for this month, have been canceled. In Baumholder, Germany, some soldiers' families have stopped marking the days off the calendar.

I wonder how many of these folks also have been kept in the ranks due to "stop-loss" orders, which are little more than a draft in disguise.

Sorry for the slow post day. I've been a little busy at work, and was also told that I needed to be a little more productive--will try to work around that. Anyway, I came across this via Bad Attitudes: A Molly Ivins column about how Tom Delay in her words

...may have achieved the near-impossible by breaking Texas campaign finance laws. Since Texas essentially has no campaign finance laws, this is no mean feat.

Because justice also has pretty lax finance laws in THAT gret stet, I'm not holding my breath or anything, but one can always hope...
Is Karl Rove Grady Williams?

Maybe, although George Bush is no Pedro Martinez. Still, if that's all Bush has left in the tank, the Democrats should be feeling better than the Yankees entering the eighth inning last year in Game Seven.

Last night I tuned in to catch the, uh, sort-of press conference. It was more of a hybrid: An address, if you can call it that, by Bush, followed by a very slightly tougher than normal, but, thanks to opening remarks, shorter than normal Q and A.

I checked out some commentary--a lot of people noticed Bush's electric-eel tie--the neckwear equivalent of Edwin Edwards' electric blue suit from back in the 70's. My own guess is that the White House has been on plasma screen TV's for so long that they don't know how to dress for the old fashioned, low-res idiot boxes most of us still have. But I tried to mostly focus on the clown show itself, which I followed up with Pickard and Black's 9/11 testimony on C-Span.

Typical of the kind of night was a question asked by I believe a Los Angeles Times reporter--IIRC, it was whether or not Bush did ANYTHING in response to the statements in the August 6, 2001 PDB regarding hijacking. Bush answer was, in a word, not. He rambled on about vague generalities, falling back to the tired old line about if he'd only known 9/11 was going to happen, he would have tried to stop it. In other words, he did NOTHING when told that Al Qaeda was looking to hijack airplanes in the United States.

The opening speech was what I expected. Bush sounded like he had been dosed with some sort of barbituate. He slurred a number of words, and, as others have noted, he pretty much read the speech like a sixth grader might read a book report. His mangled syntax and grammar was likewise evident, although the pundits generally gave him a free ride on this while they worked as hard as they could to say nothing at all until the polling data comes in.

Bush showed he's still capable of delusion on the WMD issue--too bad he didn't recall his tasteless jokes when asked if he'd made any mistakes in the last three years (nor could he recall the Mission Accomplished joke, or the 'bring em on' line, etc. etc.). Rove (who the cameras showed paired up with a baleful looking Condi Rice--sort of a twin axis of evil on their own), must have beaten "the vision thing" into Bush, given his frequent references to a peaceful, democratic Iraq. Unfortunately, he couldn't provide an answer to the question of who will be in the transitional government, which supposedly will take control in about ten weeks. And calling for a "democratic Middle East" without something specific on the table is a little like a Miss America contestant calling for World Peace, and not quite as effective.

Hell, if I was John Kerry's ad team, I'd be looking to juxtapose the following visual images: the strutting, posing fly-boy, followed by the confused look on his face when asked about mistakes, followed by the tasteless jokes about WMD (then the confused look), the "bring 'em on" crap (followed guessed it), the lie about Saddam not letting the weapons inspectors in (followed by), etc., etc. Close with something like "I'm John Kerry and I support this message because The Presidency of the United States is NOT a Junior Achievement Project," etc. etc."

Another ad would feature the dozens of Miss America contestants who've called for "World Peace," again juxtaposed with shots of Bush offering his "vision of democracy and freedom in the Middle East." A voiceover could say something like "a REAL plan for the Middle East is a little more difficult than an answer to a question in a beauty pageant. It would outline specific goals, and level with the American people as to the real costs. I'm John Kerry and I approve this message because the free world neads real leadership. Leave the beauty pageant answers for Miss America."

I suppose the right-wingers are going to holler a bit about those who asked Bush about "mistakes," as if it's some sort of trap they were springing. Personally, I kind of wish they hadn't been so damn open-ended: why NOT ask about the tasteless WMD jokes, or the Mission Accomplished clown show, or his crass "bring 'em on" flap. Still, the blank look on his face spoke volumes. Rove might have managed to get the dim bulb to mouth syllables, but he still can't make him understand.

But what Kerry MUST do right now is begin to make Bush the object of ridicule. It's not all that difficult, especially after last night. But it's got to begin now.

Someone has to tell the Democrats to not worry about a backlash, because there won't be one. In fact, the response from Bush would reveal a LOT about his character: as someone who is petty, mean-spirited, and calculating. Which would play right into the Democrats' hands. The key is to make Bush a laughingstock.

That would be the ultimate truth in advertising.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Asscrossed: Clinton Culpa

The New York Times reports on John Ashcroft's ceremonial passing of the buck at the 9/11 Hearings:

WASHINGTON, April 13 — Attorney General John Ashcroft strongly defended the Bush administration and himself today before the 9/11 commission, laying the blame for intelligence failures prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks squarely on the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Mr. Ashcroft said Al Qaeda was able to plan and carry out the attacks that killed some 3,000 people in large part because of policies of the Clinton administration and its deliberate neglect of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's computer technology.

Well, what else would you expect from a guy who works for a serial waffler and miserable failure? John Asscrossed then let his inner Old Testament emerge in full force whine:

"My sorrow for the victims of Sept. 11 is equaled only by my rage at their killer. Osama bin Laden is to blame for my anger. I blame his hatred for our values, his perversion of a faith, his idolatry of death. It was his hand that took the lives of nearly 3,000 innocents on September 11. It is his face that is the face of evil."

Asscrossed contradicted the testimony of Thomas Pickering, who said that he briefed the A.G. twice before being told that no more briefings were required. It'll be interesting to see who's right--my money ISN'T on Asscrossed. He also claimed that Janet Reno was inaccurate in saying that counterterrorism information was shared between agencies.

From his quoted statements, it sounds more like John-Boy saw a wall where there was a chain-link fence. And his "blame Clinton" crap is simply more of the same tired bullshit: Bush and his team--that includes you, Asscrossed--we're at the helm. If you ignore warnings about icebergs, don't start blaming the passengers you left on shore when the ship plows headlong into one.

What a bunch of weasels the Bush Team is--they're like whining little children who can't shoulder responsibility for their own actions, in spite of the Clown in Chief campaigning on a pledge of 'personal responsibility.' When I think of his pasty face (thanks to Mary for the link), I'm reminded of a scene from Battleship Potemkin--at the beginning of the mutiny, an Orthodox priest tries to quell the uprising. He brandishes a cross while haughtily lecturing about faith.

The next scene in the silent film required a caption--the sailors shoved the priest aside while shouting, "Out of the way, biblethumper!"

Rationale, not Rational

Fanatical Apathy has a metaphor and a lesson for us all:

Imagine you're at a party, when your friend Jon gets a paper-cut his hand. It was probably those cheap, overly stiff cocktail napkins that are to blame, but that's not so important right now. After a brief flurry of suggestions, your friend Josh takes charge of the situation and attempts to help Jon... severing his arm at the elbow...

By all means check out the whole piece, but if you're really short on time, here's the conclusion:

At some point, somebody's gotta say, "Hey, cut it out, dude. You're hurting Jon." Sadly, you may have to risk bringing Jon's morale down if you have any interest in saving his life. So you'd might as well go ahead and say it. As a longtime and avid party-goer, I know this for a fact: Once someone loses a limb, most social events kinda lose their momentum anyway
Collective Punishment

From the Mercury News:

Saturday, as residents started escaping the city, they told tales that are sure to inflame. The residents refused to give their names, saying that even talking to an American right now could endanger their lives.

But one, a doctor, said: "I was in my home for days, unable to leave, even to treat the sick, for fear of being shot. One morning, I decided I had to make it to the hospital, but just before I left, I saw my neighbor walk from his house. An American sniper shot him, once in the head. I was afraid to go out to him, to treat him. I watched him die."

Want to know what it's like to lose 25 million hearts and minds? Stay tuned...
The Coalition of the--uh, Two or Three, Actually

The Washington Post reports that many in the Occupation Coalition are looking for ways to cut and run. Pretty soon, I'm guessing it will be down to the US, Britain, and El Salvador. Meanwhile, Today in Iraq notes that Halliburton has suspended supply convoys because they can't guarantee the safety of the drivers, and supply lines are being contested by resistance fighters.

The US IS reaching out, though, to some of Saddam Hussein's former officer corps, in a desperate attempt to get a handle on the situation, although neither they nor 10,000 more troops can close the lid of the Pandora's Box that Iraq has become.

I wonder how the "new" schools in Fallujah are handling the latest assault...
Common Dreams Reports on Cynical Nighmares

New Reports on U.S. Planting WMDs in Iraq is the title of the article. They're republishing from an Iranian news source, Mehr News, which I don't know, so I won't vouch for them. But read the article and judge for yourself.
Learning the Lessons of History All Over Again

Jerome Doolittle at BAD ATTITUDES has an outstanding post and reference to Daniel Ellsberg:

“They [Wolfowitz and Perle] don’t understand Vietnam at all, even just from a military point of view. We couldn’t get people to risk their lives to inform us about the Vietcong, but they would risk their lives to inform the Vietcong about us, so they knew every move we were making, and we didn’t know any moves they were making. That didn’t mean they could beat us from one year to the next, but it meant that we couldn’t possibly beat them. We couldn’t find them unless they wanted us to find them.

“Well, that’s going to be the same with al Qaeda. After Iraq, we are not going to be able to get any degree of cooperation from governments with large Muslim populations. Al Qaeda can grow and do what they want — they’re safe, essentially. That doesn’t mean they’re going to beat the U.S., and it doesn’t mean they’re going to drive us out of the Middle East. But it does mean they’re going to be able to kill a huge number of American civilians, much more than if we had the police and intelligence cooperation of Arab and Muslim states, which the Iraq war will destroy.”

As it stood, our intelligence in the region wasn't all that good to begin with--although they did pick up a lot of chatter prior to 9/11, which the pResident promptly ignored. The situation will get worse, especially now that the Iraq occupation is being seen by everyone except the lunatic right-wing as a stinking sack of shit. Then again, I don't know--maybe lunatic right-wingers like the smell of shit in the morning. But the rest of us unfortunately will have to live with what they've brought about.
Bush's Response to Terrorist Threats: Hit the Snooze Button

The Washington Monthly posts and links to Dave Neiwert and MSNBC. To wit:

Some sources who have read the still-secret congressional report say some sections would not play quite so neatly into White House plans. One portion deals extensively with the stream of U.S. intelligence-agency reports in the summer of 2001 suggesting that Al Qaeda was planning an upcoming attack against the United States—and implicitly raises questions about how Bush and his top aides responded.

One such CIA briefing, in July 2001, was particularly chilling and prophetic. It predicted that Osama bin Laden was about to launch a terrorist strike “in the coming weeks,” the congressional investigators found. The intelligence briefing went on to say: “The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.”

So, tonight Bush dons his monkey suit and winds up his little brain for a scripted version of amateur hour with the press. No doubt he'll tell us that he took the terrorist threats "seriously" at the time. How serious? This Modern World lets us know:

And what did President Serious About Terror do after reading the memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US," since after all it did not indicate that there was any cause for alarm?

Well, he went golfing, of course.

President Bush was in an expansive mood on Aug. 7, 2001, when he ran into reporters while playing golf at the Ridgewood Country Club in Waco, Tex.
The day before, the president had received an intelligence briefing -- the contents of which were declassified by the White House Saturday night -- warning "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." But Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday.

"No mulligans, except on the first tee," he said to laughter. "That's just to loosen up. You see, most people get to hit practice balls, but as you know, I'm walking out here, I'm fixing to go hit. Tight back, older guy -- I hit the speed limit on July 6th."

I'm sure the golfing world sleeps easier knowing that the clown in chief is making sure the links are free of threats.
One After the Other

The Rude Pundit (warning: while I read/like his writing, some might be offended) has his own version of the Domino Theory.

Actually, today's writing is safe for work...
Lance Corporal Dumbass

Via Mary and Body & Soul. The Marines are investigating the photograph in question.

Morons like Corporal Dumbass aka Boudreaux should be forced to carry around a large copy of the picture in question, with the caption translated into Arabic, through Sadr City--without the benefit of armaments or body armor.
Educational Reading

Billmon over at Whiskey Bar once again aces the test. And he scored a perfect 14 out of 14 on a LGF vs. LGF quiz.

Here's a small sample, but take a look at the entire article--it's well worth the time.

But reading the quiz quotes carefully, I also noticed two things:

1.) The average Late German Fascist was considerably more articulate -- and almost certainly more intelligent -- than the average Little Green Footballer.
2.) The Late German Fascist quotes tended to describe genocide as a harsh and disagreeable duty that had to be done to save the Fatherland. The Little Green Football quotes generally made it sound like a spectator sport .

The first difference obviously reflects the difference in rank and station between the two groups. The Late German Fascists quoted in the test were all leaders -- top party officials, Werhmacht generals, etc. And many of the quiz quotes were taken from their public remarks, which no doubt were written by the finest speechwriters Nazi Germany had to offer.

I'm sure if we could go back and transcribe (and translate) the beer hall boasts of a typical group of SA men, or the shop talk of a couple of Gestapo torturers, it probably would sound a lot more like the typical Little Greenfoot Balls comment -- a kind of pidgin Mein Kampf.

Monday, April 12, 2004

What Kind of Syrup Would You Like?

Needlenose points out that the warbloggers are trying to paint the wrong politician as someone who waffles. Here's to correcting the notion about who waffles on issues, who waffles when it comes to speaking truthfully, who waffles about his past history, and who waffles like he was born on a Belgian grill. Did I mention this politician is also a miserable failure?

Yes, that's right: a miserable failure AND someone who waffles.

The waffle part is making me hungry...later.
History Lesson

BAD ATTITUDES links to a Daily Telegraph article about a previous adventure in Iraq, undertaken with imperial ambitions. And, sort of like our adventure in Mesopotamia, it didn't go all that well.

Will neocons ever learn any history?

Clown Show Tomorrow on TV

Timshel has a link to a Yahoo report. He further links to Druge, which is the only place where I was able to find a time listing--7:30 pm Central.

I'm trying to think up a drinking game, not that I officially approve of such activities (emphasis on "officially"), but work has been a little busy, plus I'm trying to plan for a small vacation next week. But I'll be looking to tip up my glass when the Clown in Chief says things like:

Terrorists hate freedom

We need to stay the course in Iraq.


The economy is looking up.

Isolated pockets of resistance.

The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein.

Anytime Saddam and 9/11 are mentioned in the same sentence.

When Iraq is mentioned as part of the war on terror.

Geez--that's enough alcohol to kill a draft animal. But I'll save a special bottle of something should one name be mentioned:

Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda doesn't count, since I expect Bush won't be able to ignore that--so he'll lie (hey, that's another good one--take a sip whenever the press doesn't call out the Clown when he lies. Forget about being hung over JUST on Wednesday. At this rate, I won't be feeling ok until the weekend). I'm willing to bet Osama is a no-show in this little scripted piece.

One other prediction: there will be at least one moment when Bush makes a COMPLETE fool of himself, but there will be little or no mention in the SCLM. They'll gloss it over the way that no one mentions a drunken relative at a family reunion.
Slightly Late For April Fool's Day

And not quite my cup of mushroom tea, but I'm willing to compromise at times. Goodle Good News.

Back to real life.
Kimmitt's Strategy for Avoiding Civilian Casualties

Look the other way. That's right. Literally he said "change the channel" when asked about reports showing the bodies of civilians killed in the battle of Fallujah.

How long will it be before airing of Baywatch on Iraqi television will signal major combat? Of course, one small problem is that there still isn't enough electricity, although the private generator market manages to fill the gap at times.

No word yet on when Kimmitt will announce his "bury your head in the sand" strategy.
Major Combat Operations in Iraq are Over - News - 70 Coalition Troops Die In Iraq Since April 1. The Bush strategy is to pray. Literally.

USAction has been running a couple of issue advocacy spots here in Baton Rouge. The major focus is Halliburton and asbestos claims. One spot last night also brought up the fat cat military contracts HAL receives.

"You're not shutting me down, are you Dave?"
See No Warnings, Speak of No Warnings, Hear No Warnings

George W. Bush, April 11, 2004

THE pRESIDENT: David, look, let me just say it again: Had I known there was going to be an attack on America, I would have moved mountains to stop the attack. I would have done everything I can. My job is to protect the American people. And I asked the intelligence agency to analyze the data to tell me whether or not we faced a threat internally, like they thought we had faced a threat in other parts of the world. That's what the PDB request was. And had there been actionable intelligence, we would have moved on it.

I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to in the PDB, but if you're referring to the fact that the FBI was investigating things, that's great, that's what we expect the FBI to do.

Q Wasn't that current threat information? That wasn't historical, that was ongoing.

THE pRESIDENT: Right, and had they found something, they would have reported it to me. That's -- we were doing precisely what the American people expects us to do: run down every lead, look at every scintilla of intelligence, and follow up on it. But there was -- again, I can't say it as plainly as this: Had I known, we would have acted. Of course we would have acted. Any administration would have acted. The previous administration would have acted. That's our job.

Eric Boehlert

Friday 26 March 2004

A former FBI translator told the 9/11 commission that the bureau had detailed information well before Sept. 11, 2001, that terrorists were likely to attack the U.S. with airplanes.

A former FBI wiretap translator with top-secret security clearance, who has been called "very credible" by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has told Salon she recently testified to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States that the FBI had detailed information prior to Sept. 11, 2001, that a terrorist attack involving airplanes was being plotted.

FBI Agent Cited Trade Center Attack Ahead of 9/11
By The Associated Press

Tuesday, 23 September, 2002

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Minneapolis FBI supervisor said in a pre-Sept. 11 conversation with headquarters that he wanted to prevent suspicious student pilot Zacarias Moussaoui from flying a plane into the World Trade Center, a congressional investigator testified Tuesday.

Coleen Rowley's Memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller

I feel that certain facts, including the following, have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mis-characterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even for improper political reasons.

How much more information does Bush need for it to be "actionable." Remember, this is a person who has executed people on not much more than a thirty minute briefing. And a person who has invaded Iraq on not much more than the hope there'd be enough rusting barrels of chlorine to justify WMD.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

The Bartleby Battalion

Billmon has the link to the Post article and a few remarks. My favorite is this:

From the Post:

[Maj. General Paul Eaton] declined to characterize the incident as a mutiny, but rather called it "a command failure."

Billmon's response:

No doubt -- like the Caine Command Failure, the Sepoy Command Failure, the Command Failure on the Bounty, etc.

My own thoughts when reading the article drifted to Melville. Like Bartleby, the Iraqi 2nd Batallion "preferred not to," when, in their case, the order came to fire upon the people of Fallujah. Duh.

Evereything about this so-called war of liberation has stunk to high heaven. Between the decided lack of large crowds with flowers and candy, the looting which might have had the benefit of destroying documents showing US complicity with Saddam but also shattered the bureaucratic stability that civil society requires, to the cynical awarding of reconstruction contracts--you name it--everything thus far has been a prime example of how NOT to wage war, not that war should have been waged in the first place. War by Murphy's Law.

No amount of right-wing spin can make this ugly child any prettier. Today a helicopter was shot down in Fallujah. Tomorrow, a soldier might be killed by an IED. Civilians will be randomly picked off, angering the population (but it won't be reported here, further clouding the eyes of those who support such things as the massacre of civilians).

And Bush, who apparently can't connect enough dots to understand a memo that talks about hijacking planes, strikes in the US, and targets in New York and Washington, apparently can conjure up non-existant threats from Iraq, war with which apparently became his obsession, if not addiction.

Four more years? Thanks, but I'd prefer not.