Friday, May 21, 2004

Top Ten List

Via The Left Coaster, theMirror UK brings us the Top 10 Reasons Bush wants to ban Fahrenheit 9/11.
Taking the Practical Approach

Molly Ivins has some useful advice regarding Iraq, along with scathing criticism for Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz:

The Center for American Progress has an exit strategy I think sounds useful. It is recommending Bush call an emergency international summit immediately, seek to have the United Nations fully oversee the transition, have NATO take the security responsibility and set up an independent trust fund for reconstruction. Further details of the plan can be found at the center's website...

One of our more impassioned public scolds, Michael Massing, wrote last week of "our great national narcissism," our notorious lack of knowledge about other cultures, our inability to speak foreign languages and our indifference to the deaths of Iraqis (hundreds of civilians dead in retaliation for the attack on four American contractors). Excuse me, but I really don't think Americans need a lecture on our many failings -- I think it is time, rather, that we call on one of our greatest strengths.

We are a practical people and often quite shrewd. That means knowing when to cut your losses. Let's use it now. Let's not stand around with our thumbs in our ears pretending the nincompoops who got us into this knew what they were doing. We were attacked by Al Qaeda. Let's go get them and leave the Iraqis to international authorities

A Matter of Timing

The Advocate has a follow up on Bush's visit. This Adam Nossiter story mentions protests both inside and outside the Assembly Center--a few boos at the ceremony, and a group of folks at the Parade Grounds. The grounds themselves are, as Timshel surmised, about a thousand yards from the PMAC. I think at certain spots, you might be able to glimpse part of the roof, but that's about it.

Nothing yet from the listserve, but I'll keep checking back. Nor did Nossiter give an estimate of the number of people protesting, although this Pic article suggests organizers were hoping for more than a hundred. Some folks were expected to drive up from New Orleans and join in the fun.

And I was stuck at work...

Link via Balta. Christopher Heiser quotes James Carville:

"You know, back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs and our military would be totally overstretched. You know what: I did vote for Al Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come true."
Drug Dealers

Sometimes they aren't street thugs, but instead, Army Brass. CNN reports on an anti-malarial drug called Lariam, which is used to treat strains of the disease which have become resistant to chloroquine.

Like they say in television ads, side effects can include: nausea, sleep disorders, nightmares or thoughts of suicide. Apparently, some soldiers have killed themselves and/or their spouses, and Lariam side effects cannot be ruled out as a possible cause.

Stranger still, is that the Pentagon prescribes Lariam for soldiers stationed in Iraq and Kuwait--in spite of the fact that malaria parasites in the region are confirmed to be NOT resistant to chloroquine, which presumably has less severe side effects.

Military Intelligence...
Guilty on the Charge of Doing the Right Thing

Reuters reports on the case of Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia, who refused to redeploy to Iraq last year. Sgt. Mejia was found guilty of desertion--his sentence will be a year in jail, a dishonorable discharge, and a reduction in rank. He tried to register as a conscientious objector and also noted in his defense that regulations prohibit non-citizens from serving more than eight years in the Army. Mejia, who holds dual Costa Rican and Nicaraguan citizenship, served for nine years.

Prison will not be easy from Mejia, but I believe he made the right decision. The war is illegal. It shouldn't be a crime to refuse to serve in an unjust war.

Talking Points Memo found something in Bush's speech that speaks for itself:

Department of unintended Chalabi ironies. From President Bush's commencement speech at LSU: "On the job, and elsewhere in life, choose your friends carefully. The company you keep has a way of rubbing off on you. And that can be a good thing or a bad thing."
Special Ed

WAFB and The Advocate don't have a whole lot to say about Bush's speech at LSU. Timshel picked up the AP story, which also ran in the online version of the Pic.

Since I'm on an antiwar listserve here, I should see some word of the real protest. Apparently, some folks declined to join in the standing ovation Bush received--I'll assume they are the honors students. One person shouted out "four more years," which might make you wonder how said student could have possibly earned a diploma. Well, remember: it's LSU.

Bush's address went on for all of sixteen minutes. Considering that it took about two hours to be seated after running through what must have been one hell of a security gauntlet, perhaps that's for the best. That's also about the limit of Bush's ability to hold an audience, if we judge from his record of public speaking. Bush rarely speaks in public for more than half an hour.

Themes included "listen to mom"--maybe that's why he won't allow photographs of the caskets arriving at Dover AFB--be on time, be honest (do as he says, not...), and stay the course in Iraq. Hey, doesn't that beg the previous question? You know, the one about honesty?
Jack Ryan and Justin Warfel: Creeps

Talking Points Memo explains why.

The Guardian has details on the wedding party assault by US forces.

Haleema Shihab: "I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me. My youngest child was alive next to me."

Ma'athi Nawaf: "I saw something that nobody ever saw in this world. There were children's bodies cut into pieces, women cut into pieces, men cut into pieces."

It seems as if our forces there are descending into madness.
Abuse--American as Apple Pie

Linda Burnham has an interesting article about "American Values."
Hell in the Holy Land

The Guardian has a photo gallery from Rafah.
More on Why We've Lost in Iraq

Military Shrugs Off Attack on Wedding Party:

A US Marines general says he has no need to apologise for an attack in the remote Iraqi desert that killed about 40 people, who witnesses say included women and children celebrating a wedding.

"How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles [16 kilometres] from the Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilisation?" Major-General James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, which operates in western Iraq, said in Falluja...

Asked about witness testimony and footage from Dubai-based Al Arabiya television that showed weeping relatives lowering bodies, one of a child, into graves, he said: "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men."

Juan Cole, who's been to the Middle East and knows more than just a little bit about the region, notes:

In my trips to the Gulf I was always taken to the desert late at night by my hosts for a kind of extended picnic, with lots of (gender segregated) festivities, poetry, singing.

Furthermore, he cites a reader of his website, who writes:

On many occasions, Saudis I know spent the weekend “in the desert” for a wedding or other celebration. On one occasion, a Saudi that I worked with . . . asked me if we could trade cars for the weekend so he could attend a relatives wedding being held “in the desert”. I had great fun driving his Mercedes around Riyadh that weekend while he had great fun driving my jeep to and from the desert. And his “30 males of military age” comment? That’s truly ridiculous. I’ve been to LOTS of weddings that had “30 males of military age with them”.

Our military has no understanding of the culture or customs AND has the gall to chalk up a horrific incident as "the breaks of the game." Yet some folks still wonder why Iraqis detest us...
Idle Musings

From Eric Idle, this mp3 nicely sums it all up.
We're Not Blaming America--We're Blaming George W. Bush

Unfortunately, I'm missing out on a "free speech zone" experience this morning. Some folks will be on the Parade Grounds protesting the pResident, and I'm a little surprised they'll even be that close. I thought the police would push the protest over to the levee, if not Port Allen.

Damn. There's no way I could get away from the office this morning. We've got folks out, and I'm on call, which precludes discretionary leave. Oh well. It looks like there might be some local media coverage of the protesters.

But since I'm stuck here---

This CNN story about Nancy Pelosi's remarks caught my eye. I'm sure anyone stopping by has some idea of what Pelosi said--which is the truth. Bush is incompetent. The real revelation here is the reaction of people like Tom "minorities-took-my-place-in-the-army" DeLay. Tom's got his chickenhawk self all worked into a snoot, and accused Pelosi of putting American lives at risk with her statement. Ed Gillespie whines that it's a "blame america first" position.

No, it isn't.

It's a blame George W. Bush position. Um, Tom, Ed--your leader is the one responsible for the mess in Iraq. And it's time he admitted it. Roughly one year ago, when prancing around on the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush was more than ready to wrap himself up in the "success" of the mission. But, as they say, defeat is an orphan.

Idiots like Gillespie and DeLay can't seem to get through their thick skulls the fact that we've LOST the war. It doesn't matter how many statues you topple or how lightning quick an assault is. The war is lost because it's clear that the Iraqi people detest our presence. And, after seeing images like this, can you blame them?

Under these circumstances, it is totally reasonable to question the wisdom--or lack thereof--of those that created the conditions in which we find ourselves. Suggesting otherwise is ridiculous and a little disturbing. Pelosi isn't causing harm to the military--Bush is. He's the one who signed off on the folly that is our Middle East policy.

Gillespie and DeLay actually sound more desperate than anything else...

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Doing More With Less

Linda Baker, writing in Salon (daypass or subscription), reports on an interesting trend in urban planning: so-called "second generation" traffic calming. The idea is that by reducing or eliminating things like turn lanes, traffic signals, and even lanes--combined with an increase in road use by bicyclists and pedestrians--you create a shared anarchy which forces a change in driving habits. A motorist must keep an eye out not just for other vehicles, but for everyone using the road.

Baker cites examples of this working in places such as Northern Europe, England, and even China. Take a look if you don't mind waiting through a fifteen second ad.

Unfortunately, I doubt this would work here in the South on a general level, although I could see some potential in certain neighborhoods. And, while not really on topic, I'd absolutely like to see automotive traffic banned from the French Quarter. The streets weren't designed for fossil burners, and it shows. Let taxis drive on certain streets, sure. And the service vehicles--yeah, you have to allow them to get in as well. But half the fun of the Quarter is stumbling from one watering hole to another--unless you encounter the ire of someone in an SUV, pissed at the world because he or she can barely navigate down Bienville Street.

Man, I gotta get down to New Orleans soon. It's been almost a month, and even then, I was only there for the last Sunday of Jazz Fest...

Checking Back

Sorry for the slow posting--it's been a little busy over here. Now that things have calmed down a bit, here's something I found over at Pandagon. The Center for American Progress was good enough to take notes when the Bushoviks decided to go on the record in regards to Iraq. This might be worth printing out and referencing the next time a neocon decides to waste your valuable time with yet another "reason" why it was necessary to invade.
The Wheels are Falling Off--and the Engine is Missing

Andrew Cockburn in Counterpunch, has the reason for our turning on Chalabi: he was planning a coup.

According to Cockburn, Ahmad has been plotting for the last couple of months. It's been clear from the beginning that a convicted-in-absentia- embezzler (in neighboring Jordan) isn't exactly a George Washington figure. I think Chalabi held out some hope based on the continuing support provided to his faction by the Bush administration. When it became clear that there was no hope at all, Ahmad apparently thought destabilizing the incoming regime would be his ticket to success.

As I noted yesterday, political factions of all kinds are vying for power in Mesopotamia. Imagine that. The US created an absolute vacuum there, and the chance to grab the brass ring is far too tempting to pass up. The fact that we'd been grooming Chalabi is indicative of both the fact that some were aware of the danger of a power vacuum and that some were incredibly stupid in thinking this guy could fill it. A Chalabi government would have ZERO credibility. Don Corleone would have more legitimacy as mayor of New York.

If Chalabi is willing to destabilize an incoming government in an attempt to claim the prize, think of what others are doing. Also consider that the new government is supposed to be in place in six weeks. Six weeks.

Whoever is selected for that thankless task might want to learn a little about Pope John Paul the First, pope for thirty days or life, whichever came first...
Science Thursday

Jim Holt, writing in Slate, offers the theory that the universe is nothing more than a lab experiment.
Welcome to the Future--Please Turn Yourself In

CNN has the following:

"NEW YORK (AP) -- Before helping to launch the criminal information project known as Matrix, a database contractor gave U.S. and Florida authorities the names of 120,000 people who showed a statistical likelihood of being terrorists -- sparking some investigations and arrests."

I'm sure we'll all rest a little easier once the potential terrorists give up the ghost and place themselves at the mercy of the authorities--who no doubt will respect their rights to the same extent that we see in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

But here's the laff line of the article:

Seisint Inc., is a Boca Raton, Florida, company founded by a millionaire, Hank Asher, who stepped down from its board of directors last year after revelations of past ties to drug smugglers.

I wonder if Asher made the list too...
Breslin--"No Thanks on the Kool-Aid"

In Newsday:

"...yesterday [former mayor Guiliani] sat before the 9/11 commissioners and they collapsed in awe. They listened to him give a walking tour of how he tried to find a command center. Not once did anybody ask him about the stupid idea he had had for his first bunker, the one that fell out of the sky. They asked no questions of a mayor whose fire department had no radios that worked when a police helicopter said the north tower was going to fall. And 343 firefighters died. They wanted to hear nothing of blood on Giuliani's hands. They only wanted to hear whatever he had to say and they regarded his words as those of a hero. They had no idea that the guy was a flop who got lucky with an air raid."

The New York Times, in contrast, opts for fawning coverage:

The matter of whether he and his administration had indeed performed wisely and heroically is central to his reputation and to his seemingly bountiful business and political future. Since leaving office, he has positioned himself as the man for corporations, cities and even countries to consult in order to feel secure.

Sure, eventually they got around to noting some of the protests by people who lost family members in the attacks or in the aftermath. Some wanted the former mayor questioned on the problems with police radios--problems that had been noted in 1993, but never dealt with.

At this point, unfortunately, the fire is gone from the hearings. Thanks to the sheer number of scandals, the 9/11 Commission will release a report that's likely to be greeted with a collective yawn. I'll give the Bush administration a little bit of credit: the level of corruption, sleaziness, and overall incompetence is SO high that the public simply can't keep up. Indeed, there's barely enough time to chronicle it all.
GAO Rules US Version of TASS Illegal

White House's Medicare Videos Are Ruled Illegal:

"The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said on Wednesday that the Bush administration had violated federal law by producing and disseminating television news segments that portray the new Medicare law as a boon to the elderly.

The agency said the videos were a form of 'covert propaganda' because the government was not identified as the source of the materials, broadcast by at least 40 television stations in 33 markets. The agency also expressed some concern about the content of the videos, but based its ruling on the lack of disclosure."

At least the Soviets were upfront when it came to identifying its propagandists.
The Bartleby Brigade

The New York Times reports that the US will consider a plan to allow Iraqi security forces the option of declining orders from American commanders. The idea is to give a greater appearance of sovereignty. The report doesn't say if they can opt out of KP or other such chores.
Chalabi's "Put to the Question"

CNN reports on a spat between Ahmad Chalabi and Paul Bremer which apparently resulted in Ahmad getting a taste of American Justice, Iraqi style.

The wheels have fallen off.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Reuters reports that: John Abizaid believes

"a further surge in violence is likely in Iraq after the June 30 return of self-governance and leading up to Iraqi elections, which could require the deployment of more American troops..."

Here are some of Abizaid's exact quotes:

"I would predict, and I think Rick (Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq) will agree with me, that the situation will become more violent even after sovereignty because it will remain unclear what's going to happen between the interim government and elections."

"So moving through the election period will be violent, and it could very well be more violent than we're seeing today. So it's possible that we might need more forces""

"So getting more international forces, getting a higher quality of Iraqi force, will help figure out where we stand."

As for the first two direct quotes, duh. What's happening in Iraq is a classic case of manuevering by various factions staking claims to power. You'd think that an administration obsessed with INVADING another country might consider this as a rational post-war act. But Team Bush doesn't think rationally. As Atrios noted yesterday, The Village Voice reported there's lot more faith than we realized in Bush's faith-based initiatives, including areas where you'd think faith might supplement intelligence, not the other way around.

As for what I'll call the quest for the Holy Grail quote, international forces and a 'higher quality' of Iraqi force have about as much chance of happening as I do of winning the lottery. We're in this one more or less on our own, and the pitiful numbers of Iraqi "security" personnel reflect the fact that the whole operation was bullshit from the moment Cheney gave the order.

June 30th is, what, about six weeks away. Something tells me this has "Mission Accomplished" all over it--in the same sense as the banner on the USS Lincoln last year.
If only this were Television--Then We Could Say it was a Rerun

And it would hopefully have the same dismal ratings as the first airing. Sadly, this isn't the case. The Associated Press is reporting another instanceof the US firing on a wedding party. Reminiscent of the July 2002 case when an airstrike killed roughly fifty Afghans (and wounded another 120), a helicopter in western Iraq killed over forty people, many of them women and children.

As is normal, US officials refuse to comment...

Link courtesy of As'ad AbuKhalil.
Ten O'Clock Scholars

The New York Times reports on the emerging realization among the Bush Administration that final exams are coming up, i.e., the November election. To that end, they've suddenly discovered a new found love for government programs that Bush spent three years trying to cut. Now they're scrambling to dole out money--sort of like how a last minute crammer for an exam copies down reams of notes, and maybe even the odd cheat sheet, as Tlachtga points out here.
Razing Questions

Needlenose directs us to this aerial view of the proposed destruction of houses in Gaza, proving that Israelis are just as capable of violating the Geneva Conventions as we are.

And on the same general topic, here's Elizabeth Corrie's latest column in Counterpunch. Her cousin, Rachel Corrie, was killed last year trying to block a bulldozer from demolishing another house in Gaza. The bulldozer was manufactured by Caterpiller. If you have time to read all of Ms. Corrie's article, by all means do so. If not, here's a brief excerpt:

The Israeli Army takes Caterpillar bulldozers, armors them, and uses them to inflict collective punishment on Palestinian civilians, in violation of international law. More to the point, it does so in violation of Caterpillar's own published policy of social responsibility, which states that its "commitment to financial success must also take into account social, economic, political and environmental priorities," a policy guided by "high ethical standards" that seek to guarantee its "reputation for integrity."

Is Caterpillar legally responsible for the way Israel perverts its bulldozers from tools of construction into weapons of destruction? Maybe not. Does it have a moral responsibility, as outlined in its own system of values, to investigate how its products are used and to preserve its "reputation for integrity" by holding its clients accountable to the same standard it holds for itself? Yes.

What's weird is that it wouldn't be such a bad idea to REBUILD Rafah, considering that the overall condition of Palestinian towns and cities in both the West Bank and Gaza have suffered from years of neglect. But the Israeli policy doesn't call for building anything--it calls for destruction.

And Bush endorses this policy wholeheartedly.
Business Alliances

The Financial Times reports that the US might finally be having second thoughts about doing business with one Victor Bout, Ukrainian arms dealer known as "the merchant of death." Bout earned this moniker by supplying all sorts of stuff to various factions fighting internecine conflicts in Africa. Apparently this sort of freelancer is exactly what the CPA ordered in Iraq, where Bout flies cargo jets in and out of Baghdad International Airport, hauling supplies and whatnot.

Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the person who brought this up in yesterday's Senate hearing. In response, Richard Armitage played dumb, along with Paul Wolfowitz--both expressed official "surprise," in yet another Captain Renault moment. The Deputy Secretary of State even allowed the diplomatic equivalent of "he's scum," while Wolfie preferred to let sleeping dogs lie--by lying himself, if you ask me.

Not knowing that Bout was doing business in Iraq is like not knowing that the Crips and Bloods sell drugs in Los Angeles. I guess you could get into some Rumsfeldian blank verse and talk about known unknowns, although this sort of deniability is just that--a means of sheltering officials who can and should be held responsible for their decisions.

Which brings me to the whole charade regarding the hearings (I'm sure you can still catch the RealVideo feed on C-Span). Wolfowitz, Armitage, and the whole sorry crew keep playing the unknown known unknown theme like it's some sort of combination smart bomb/trump card. Everything is predicated upon being "at war," which apparently is some sort of euphamism for "we don't plan." To which I say: bullshit.

I think the public has a right to see what sort of plans were being made, if only to recognize just how absurdly inaccurate Team Bush was. IF by some sort of ultimate bureaucratic fuck up there really are no plans, then the public should know that too. Because no plans would mean that the State Departments and War Departments aren't doing their jobs. Actually, Wolfowitz alluded to several plans, sort of a downward spiral from best to worst case, but managed to sweep them under the rug before anyone pressed him to offer details of said plans. I expect they're classified anyway, but forcing him to bring that up would at least be something.

So, in the end, it looks like Bout will get the boot. No tears for Victor, though. The guy has made millions trading on death and suffering. I'm sure he'd call himself a dedicated free marketer, even if a great deal of his money is the result of government contracts. No word on how he sleeps at night.

The business of America...

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Deviated Prevert

Fred Kaplan, in Slate summarizes the latest news regarding Abu Ghraib:

The gist is that last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put in place a secret operation that, in Hersh's words, "encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq."

Hersch also alleges that one George W. Bush--again to paraphrase from Dr. Strangelove--heard about the preversions. But alas, there's no evidence that anyone was leading a mutiny of preverts, unless you consider Rummy's extreme makeover, Pentagon edition, to be just that.

I don't know--maybe they were so obsessed with Saddam because, deep down, they envied him...
Qat Ups

Dispatches From Yemen. Elizabeth Eaves reports in Slate about Yemen's national habit: chewing qat.

I remember years ago learning about this while sitting at the Student Union up in Madison. I had met somebody from Yemen who clued me into all sorts of stuff, not the least being that rich Saudis would travel to Sanaa for the sinful pleasures denied them in the kingdom. Sort of like a cut rate Morocco.

It's doubtful I'll ever get to Yemen, but the stuff's legal in England--so maybe I'll sample if/when I make it there.
You Know EVERYTHING About Being a Rat, Isn't That True, Mr. Hill?

Henry Hill didn't mean THIS kind of rat. The New York Times says that Gambian giant pouched rats are picking up the slack in the hunt for land mines--provided you breed them in captivity. For the price of a few bananas and peanuts, they'll sniff around all day, and their olefactory sense is keen enough to locate buried disasters-in-waiting. Their size--three pounds--also works to their advantage: unlike dogs, they don't weigh enough to set the mine off.

One small drawback: they don't like working on Mondays. Imagine that.
Did The Right Thing

Timshel has an update on Hugh Thompson. Thompson, who lives in Lafayette, was a helicopter pilot who served in Vietnam. In 1968, he managed to put a halt to the massacre at My Lai by positioning his helicopter between villagers and US Soldiers. For this, he was villified by the military--although, thirty years later, he was cited for his act of heroism.

Read more about Thompson over at Crawling Westward, and, if you have the time, check out the Picayune article he links to.
Your Tax Dollars at Work

Link via TalkLeft. The Los Angeles Times has a report on sworn testimony given by guards at Abu Ghraib. Fair warning: this article isn't for the squeamish.
Chalabi's Allowance Cut

The New York Times reports that Ahmad will have to go it alone in terms of finances:

WASHINGTON, May 17 — The United States government has decided to halt monthly $335,000 payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, an official with the group said on Monday.

Mr. Chalabi, a longtime exile leader and now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, played a crucial role in persuading the administration that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. But he has since become a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration, who say the United States relied on him too heavily for prewar intelligence that has since proved faulty.

That certainly was written in classic Times style: understatement verging boredom. The fact that we've paid out roughly $27 million dollars to a convicted crook elicits a yawn from the paper, which didn't bother to note his conviction in Jordan for this report.

All that money, and what did we get? A broken country, seething with violence. All sales final.
Prince Hal

Needlenose has an update on Dick Cheney's once and future corporation.

You can click on HAL above (Halliburton's NYSE moniker) to check out the price. Looks like it's a little down--I guess getting slapped on the wrist to the tune of almost $160 million dollars can do that...but something tells me they're still quite bullish on the business of death. Needlenose further points out that the overall price for HAL has risen 50 percent since the beginning of 2003, and they stand to reap a windfall of around $18 BILLION dollars before the war's over.

That'll be enough to settle the asbestos claims AND pay Cheney.
Is Satire Dead?

The Boston Globe covers the State Department's human rights report.

Colin Powell and the rest of the cabinet didn't show up for the report's release wearing wife-beater shirts. Otherwise, the irony is pretty much complete. Richard Armitage gets the laugh line--he pronounced us fit to condemn human rights abuses in Burma, Zimbabwe, and Belarus. Gee, that's nice to know--better than Burma. That could be a new slogan. Land of the free, home of the brave, better than Burma.

At least we promised to "prevent future human rights abuses" in Iraq. Emphasis on future, I guess.

Is it just me, or can other folks picture Bush, Cheney, Rummy, et al, sitting before the parole board, asking for lienency? That'd be a hearing I'd like to see televised...

Monday, May 17, 2004

Pink Slipped in a Red State

Via Atrios and Counterspin, news that the Timkin Company, a speciality steel manufacturer visited by pResident George W. Bush last year, is shutting down. Bush visited the plant last August to showcase his economic plan.

How's that for truth in politics. Vote Bush--he'll eliminate your job.

By the way, Hesiod added a link to Bush's own website that touted the visit. Recall, it was last August. There are plenty of contenders for the Bushism, but I think this one wins: "we have finished a war -- in the process of finishing a war in Iraq."

Aeschylating the Conflict

Maureen Dowd in The New York Times

"Oblivious of the consequences, the impetuous black sheep of a ruling family starts a war triggered by a personal grudge.
The father, a respected veteran of his own wars, suppresses his unease and graciously supports his son, even though it will end up destroying his legacy and the world order he envisioned."
Pity Coverage

The New York Times engages in a bit of it here, with a story on Dennis Kucinich campaigning in Oregon, which holds its primary on Tuesday. Remember, though, Kucinich WAS right: Iraq will be the main issue of the campaign, and the war, as he predicted, is a disaster.

Kucinich won't get the nomination, of course, but his goal is to gather a few delegates here and there, which could provide at least a voice for progressive causes during the convention.

Apostropher links to Media Matters, which recently produced an ad featuring Rush Limbaugh literally debasing himself with his own pompous verbiage. Check it out here. They also transcribe the insane utterances of Michael Savage, nee Weiner, who thinks it would be just fine to throw a dart at a map of the Middle East, then nuke the city it finds (minus, of course, any Israeli towns or settlements).

Sad to say, but I'm guessing at least a few folks have thoughts akin to Mr. Savage, nee Weiner. And when we finally leave the mess we made in Iraq, they'll be blaming the libruls for not letting them pull out the nukes (although, as the link below notes, Depleted Uranuim is doing plenty of damage--see the interview in the Sacramento Bee).

If they had their way, we'd make Saddam look like a piker.

Can't Blame This on PFC England

Salon (subscription or day pass) has an article by Andrew Cockburn, brother of Alexander and Patrick, on the other scandal in Iraq--the wholesale looting of oil revenues:

"For most of the past year, Iraqis have complained about ill treatment and torture meted out by the army of occupation. No one paid much attention until the Abu Ghraib photographs became public. Over the same period, in several visits to Iraq, I heard Iraqis complaining with equal vehemence about the generalized corruption of the occupiers -- corruption that extends from the top right down to ordinary soldiers robbing Iraqis of cash and valuables during house searches and vehicle checks, and military and CPA officials at every level demanding bribes and kickbacks.

These complaints get the same brushoff treatment as the torture and abuse victims at Abu Ghraib got until what was happening at the prison became widely known. A photo of CPA officials giving the thumbs up and pointing to their wallets might make a difference. In the meantime, don't expect the administration to give Iraqis their money back anytime soon."
Seeing Through the Lies

Ack: Forgot to cite my source. It is Steve Soto at The Left Coaster.

The Sacramento Bee interviews former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey, recently discharged from active service. Massey was sent to Kuwait in January of 2003 and participated in the Iraq invasion.

"Q: What experiences turned you against the war and made you leave the Marines?
A: I was in charge of a platoon that consists of machine gunners and missile men. Our job was to go into certain areas of the towns and secure the roadways. There was this one particular incident - and there's many more - the one that really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. From all the intelligence reports we were getting, the cars were loaded down with suicide bombs or material. That's the rhetoric we received from intelligence. They came upon our checkpoint. We fired some warning shots. They didn't slow down. So we lit them up.

Q: Lit up? You mean you fired machine guns?

A: Right. Every car that we lit up we were expecting ammunition to go off. But we never heard any. Well, this particular vehicle we didn't destroy completely, and one gentleman looked up at me and said: 'Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything wrong.' That hit me like a ton of bricks.

Q: He spoke English?

A: Oh, yeah."...

Q: How many times were you involved in checkpoint "light-ups"?
A: Five times. There was [the city of] Rekha. The gentleman was driving a stolen work utility van. He didn't stop. With us being trigger happy, we didn't really give this guy much of a chance. We lit him up pretty good. Then we inspected the back of the van. We found nothing. No explosives.

Q: The reports said the cars were loaded with explosives. In all the incidents did you find that to be the case?

A: Never. Not once. There were no secondary explosions.
In Other News, Sun Rises in East, Sets in West

From Pandagon, here's something from the Washington Post, making the point that Republicans have an astounding ability to behave like assholes.

Criticism of the war is akin to treason, outright lying is acceptable for scoring political points, and only George W. Bush is allowed to solicit funds for campaigns.

If only they could solve the democracy problem here, then it'd all be ok.
Barbara Ehrenreich

Offers a thoughtful perspective in today's Los Angeles Times about the Abu Ghraib abuses.
At Last

CNN reports that an artillery shell rigged into an I.E.D. was found to contain traces of sarin.

Congratulations, Mr. Bush. WMD seems to have become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Cockburn's Take

In this weekend's Counterpunch:

What's clear enough is that the quality of US leadership from the very top down, both civilian and military, is rancid. Accountability has long gone out of the window. The venality and corruption of Bremer's coalition officials and many of Sanchez's officers have naturally allowed many in the armed forces to degenate into criminal thuggery. Iraqi families complain that after US troops have searched and smashed up their homes, the occupants return to find their safes broken open and their savings and valuables stolen...

It's ironic how the great moral crusade for freedom and democracy in Iraq has foundered on a photo of Private Lynndie England hauling around The Other on a dog leash. Even the images of torture degrade one's moral instincts with appalling speed. I'd love to see a photo of Anne Coulter clipping the leash on Rush Limbaugh, though not being Muslim he probably wouldn't care. Remember, being forced to strip naked and have one's genitals menaced by savage dogs is something Muslims apparently find abhorrent. Those Others are a bunch of ninnies, aren't they? Not like us Christians.
Playing the Numbers

The Independent UK has a report on the failure to account for the deaths of civilian Iraqis in the war:

"The failure to keep account of civilian casualties is monstrous. It gives the impression that the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens are worth less than those of soldiers."
Menzies Campbell, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats

The lack of accounting is seen by some as a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Of course, considering the number of violations, this one might have to "take a number" and wait until the public wakes up from its slumber (if the public EVER wakes from its slumber). There is one group looking into the civilian deaths: Iraq Body Count. To date, they calculate that between nine and eleven thousand Iraqi civilians have been killed, though this doesn't include Fallujah.

Those are Saddam-like numbers.
Put That in Your Engine and Burn It

Reuters has some not-so-good news for the SUV crowd. Expect gasoline prices to remain high.

In other news, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council (Riverbend calls it the Puppet Council) was killed by a suicide bomber while waiting at a checkpoint near the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Anyone who still believes the invasion of Iraq was a good idea needs to have their head examined.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

My .0002 Cents Worth

Regular posting will resume tomorrow, but this weekend involves some personal business for me. The short version: I might be on the way to home ownership, and need to retrieve some records...and there was also the matter of catching up with another good friend who came into town for a visit.

That said, my reaction to The New Yorker's latest on Abu Ghraib is roughly the same as anyone else: I'm disgusted, but not all that surprised. There is nothing so low that the Bush Administration won't give it a try, and the thuggery evident in their actions reflects a profound contempt for everything this country has ostensibly stood for--and yes, emphasis on ostensibly. I'm not so naiive to believe that we are the shining city on the hill, although at the same time I agree with Chomsky when he notes that, indeed, we do have a lot of freedom within the country. Overseas, however, we play a different game.

Ah, I'd like to go on, but I really need to get back to other stuff here. I'll be back either later tonight or on Monday--and, I'll be adding some sites to my link list--thank's 2million to those who've added me recently, and sorry I've been a little lazy on the flip side.