Friday, October 15, 2004

Lies and the Lying Liars

Greenboy at Needlenose links to this San Jose Mercury News article about people who have a knack for lie detecting:

Technology hasn't yet produced a lie detection machine that's accurate enough to be used in court, but one Bay Area psychologist has found a few people who are human lie detectors -- they can spot a fib 80 to 90 percent of the time.

University of San Francisco Professor Maureen O'Sullivan and others have worked for years to dissect what makes these folks so hard to fool.

Of about 13,000 people she and her colleagues have tested over the past decade, only 31 have distinguished themselves as ``wizards'' of lie detection, O'Sullivan told reporters Thursday at an American Medical Association briefing in Washington, D.C.

By interviewing wizards, her team has gleaned some hot tips for how to smell a lie.

Sheer mental overload from the process of fabricating something, O'Sullivan said, can show up as hesitations in speech or slips of the tongue. Accomplished liars may try to compensate by talking faster, but this makes them more likely to become tongue-tied or use odd phrases -- nuances that wizards can often catch.

Lying stirs up emotions, she said. For most people, the emotion may be distress, but others delight in deceiving people. The clue to the deception is the mismatch between what the person says and what he seems to be feeling.

Among the biggest bluff giveaways are so-called microexpressions -- subconscious smirks and grimaces that leap on and off the face within fractions of a second.

Greenboy comments:

Wow, if that doesn't sum up Bush's performance on Debate 3 perfectly - smiling at inappropriate times (like when talking about people without healthcare, jobless or forgoing their flu shot), broken speech, numerous tongue slips, a personal record on Smirks-Per-Second! Of course the simpliest way to tell whether or not Bush is lying is to read his lips - if they are moving, he is lying!

Keeping track of all the hard work. Bush knows that.
Two Versions of Schadenfreude

James Wolcott offers the New York literati interpretation, while The Rude Pundit explains things for the masses.
CSX Says "Let Amtrak Pay"

Well, it's been a while since I've posted about transportation matters, but a friend alerted me to this story in The New York Times:

In accident after accident, in derailments and grade-crossing collisions, CSX and other major freight railroads have used Amtrak to shield themselves from tens of millions of dollars in liability, an examination by The New York Times has found.

For three decades, Amtrak has been paying these liability claims, regardless of fault, as a condition for using the freight lines' tracks. Not only do these payments shift the burden of paying for negligence from profitable corporations to taxpayers, they remove an incentive for railroads to keep their tracks safe.

There has never been a full accounting of these payments. Even Amtrak officials could not say how much the arrangement, known as indemnification, has cost the railroad, which needed $1.2 billion in government subsidies this year to stay afloat.

But an analysis by The Times of records obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act found that Amtrak has paid more than $186 million since 1984 for accidents blamed entirely or mostly on others. In each instance, freight railroads were accused of playing the major or a contributing role in causing those accidents, which killed 53 people and injured nearly 1,300, according to court records, government investigators and lawyers for crash victims.

Most of those accidents were not covered by Amtrak's insurance, an Amtrak spokesman said. And the $186 million reflects only part of Amtrak's costs stemming from accidents. The figure does not include payments made before 1984, outstanding claims from recent accidents, settlements of less than $100,000, the cost of repairing damaged Amtrak equipment and legal bills for defending the freight railroads in court.

So--Amtrak is chronically underfunded, yet they pay for damage caused by assets they don't own? Great. Next thing you know, they'll be asked to cover the maintenance costs for the track...

This is "Supporting the Troops," Mr. Bush?

I first saw this at BFOP, but for some reason couldn't pull up the link while at home. Here it is:
From The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi:

A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said Thursday.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq — north of Baghdad — because their vehicles were considered "deadlined" or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook...

The 343rd is a supply unit whose general mission is to deliver fuel and water. The unit includes three women and 14 men and those with ranking up to sergeant first class.

"I got a call from an officer in another unit early (Thursday) morning who told me that my husband and his platoon had been arrested on a bogus charge because they refused to go on a suicide mission," said Jackie Butler of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Michael Butler, a 24-year reservist. "When my husband refuses to follow an order, it has to be something major."

The platoon being held has troops from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi and South Carolina, said Teresa Hill of Dothan, Ala., whose daughter Amber McClenny is among those being detained.

McClenny, 21, pleaded for help in a message left on her mother's answering machine early Thursday morning.

"They are holding us against our will," McClenny said. "We are now prisoners."

McClenny told her mother her unit tried to deliver fuel to another base in Iraq Wednesday, but was sent back because the fuel had been contaminated with water. The platoon returned to its base, where it was told to take the fuel to another base, McClenny told her mother.

The platoon is normally escorted by armed Humvees and helicopters, but did not have that support Wednesday, McClenny told her mother.

The convoy trucks the platoon was driving had experienced problems in the past and were not being properly maintained, Hill said her daughter told her.

The situation mirrors other tales of troops being sent on missions without proper equipment.

Note: The Guardian UK has additional information.

The last line--being sent on missions without proper equipment--is putting it diplomatically. Bob Herbert's op-ed about Eugene Simpson (I linked to it this morning) points out that Mr. Simpson was trained as a tank driver, but was ordered to do interdiction work from the confines of a Humvee. Sue Niederer's son, who was killed in Iraq, wasn't trained to defuse bombs--yet he was put on a bomb squad. Soldiers become mere fodder in the eyes of war planners (yet another reason to always use war as a LAST resort).

But, back to the platoon. Their mission--running supplies--has got to be by far and away the most dangerous operation in Iraq right now. Most occupation troops are garrisoned in at least reasonably secure sites, although even the Zone formally known as Green, aka Fortress America in Baghdad, is vulnerable. But if the Zone isn't safe, imagine the conditions on the roads.

Then, consider: for $400 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR--$400 Billion!--we don't have adequate equipment like body armor, armored vehicles, or night vision goggles, i.e., the equipment an army NEEDS for day to day operations in a combat zone. What the hell has Bush been doing with all the money?

Culture Friday

The New York Times reviews a Romare Bearden retrospective at the Whitney Museum:

IN July 1963, a month before the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington, Romare Bearden met with a group of other black artists in his studio on Canal Street to talk about what they should do for civil rights. "Western society, and particularly that of America, is gravely ill, and a major symptom is the American treatment of the Negro," Bearden said. "The artistic expression of this culture concentrates on themes of `absurdity' and `anti-art,' which provide further evidence of its ill-health."

It was his idea that the group, which called itself Spiral (based on the Archimedean idea of a spiral growing in all directions at once, outward and upward), work together making collages. The plan didn't catch on, but it abruptly set Bearden, who was then 51, an abstract painter slow to find his own voice, along a new path.

The collages that he made until his death in 1988 are among the glories of American art. They now occupy a floor of the Whitney Museum. This is the Bearden retrospective that attracted mobs of admirers at the National Gallery in Washington, where it was organized and first presented. As in Washington, it has inspired a slew of events — lectures, concerts and more exhibitions, at the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Museum and elsewhere. Bearden, a beloved and influential figure in the history of art and black culture in New York, has finally come home...

His goal (this, among other things, he shared with Jacob Lawrence) was not "the Negro in America in terms of propaganda," as he put it. It was "to reveal through pictorial complexities the richness of a life I know." He explained further: "I do not need to go looking for `happenings,' the absurd or the surreal, because I have seen things that neither Dalí, Beckett, Ionesco nor any of the others could have thought possible; and to see these things I did not need to do more than look out of my studio window."

Check out the entire article, then, if you feel like it, use the search engine of your choice to find out more about this incredible artist. Both my sister and one of my best friends are Beardon fans--said friend once got to see a retrospective of his work in Winston-Salem--and while the best I've managed is a few collages at various museums (and whatever I can find on the internet), I'm certainly impressed. Here's one of his paintings featured in The Times's accompanying slide show:

This looks like it could've been influenced by Matisse.
Not Just a Statistic

Bob Herbert profiles Army Staff Sgt. Eugene Simpson Jr:

Sunlight was pouring through the doorway to the furnished basement of the neat two-story home on Reardon Lane. The doorway had been widened to accommodate the wheelchair of Army Staff Sgt. Eugene Simpson Jr., who was once a star athlete but now, at age 27, spends a lot of time in his parents' basement, watching the large flat-screen TV.

I asked the sergeant whether he ever gets depressed. "No," he said quickly, before adding, "I mean, I could say I was sad for a while. But it didn't really last long."

Sergeant Simpson's expertise is tank warfare. But the Army is stretched thin, and the nation's war plans at times have all the coherence of football plays drawn up in the schoolyard. When Sergeant Simpson's unit was deployed from Germany to Iraq, the tanks were left behind and the sergeant ended up bouncing around Tikrit in a Humvee, on the lookout for weapons smugglers and other vaguely defined "bad guys."...

His feelings about the military, at the moment, are ambivalent. "Of course, I still wish I could walk and still be in the military," he said. "That's what I love to do."

But when I asked if he still loved the military itself, he paused and then said:

"Not as much. That's basically because we were over there, all these young guys, doing our jobs, but we really didn't know why we were there. I ask myself, 'What was our purpose?' And to this day I still can't figure out our purpose for being there."

He said he accepted his obligation, as a soldier, to fight. He is not resentful. But he would have appreciated a little more clarity about what he was fighting for.

Make a Run for the Border

The National Post calls Bush's "plan" to import flu vaccine from Canada "ironic":

When President George W. Bush spoke of importing Canadian flu vaccine during Wednesday's election debate, many in the U.S. public health community were struck by the irony of an administration that slams the door on cheaper Canadian drugs, but looks north for help with an embarrassing vaccine shortage.

Now, I don't know if Team Bush is upset or not that Canadians seem to grasp the nuance of a term like "irony," but Tommy Thompson, who has what I'd call an ironic name, seemed to give a thumbs down to the idea--perhaps because, well, it makes Bush look foolish:

[Thompson] said it was doubtful that vaccine from producers not currently licensed in the United States could be imported to help with this year's massive shortage.

"It doesn't look promising."

I'll say. In fact, it looks like Bush is flip-flopping, which is hardly something he's comfortable admitting, even if it's his real legacy as commander in chief. Oh, the pain of having to deal with reality after three years of living in the bubble. It could make someone look like this:

Is that an expression of panic?
John O'Neill: Swift Boat, Slow Brain

Nightline went to the Vietnamese villages of Tran Thoi and Nha Vi to ask residents about a day some thirty-five years ago when a squadron of US Patrol Boats engaged local fighters. One boat was PCF 94, commanded by Lt. (JG) John Kerry.

Memories don't last forever, but significant events stay with people, particularly when the events involve death and destruction. Such was the case on February 28, 1969. The villagers who spoke to Nightline recall in a general sense what happened, and certainly remember the folks who died that day. Interestingly, their accounts are more or less in agreement with the after-action report written up for the US Navy. On the basis of the report, Kerry was awarded a Silver Star.

However, one person who was nowhere near Tran Thoi and Nha Vi on that day insists the villagers and report are in error. That man is John O'Neill. Last night, following Nightline's report from Vietnam, O'Neill butted heads with Ted Koppel. Actually, he did little more than plug his book, whine about how the show was duped by the commies, and generally make an ass of himself.

Oh--one other thing: last night's report also noted that someone--an American--was in the area six months before Nightline. It appears this person was working for O'Neill's organization, but left after speaking to villagers who confirmed the overall truth of Kerry's version of events. (Kevin Drum notes this as well as Josh Marshall).

Amazingly, O'Neill managed to out asshole Koppel himself, which is no mean feat. Ted is a sneer-master, if not THE sneer-master of network news. I have zero affinity for the guy, but getting on his bad side isn't a such a good thing. Koppel and shows like his function as gatekeepers of the national agenda, and when he dismisses you as a schill or hack, it's a sign that your message is no longer getting through. Such was the case with Mr. O'Neill last night.

The Swift Boat morons look like they'll get their time on Sinclair Broadcasting, which is unfortunate, given the extent to which they're lying. However, between the organized boycotts of advertisers and the negative publicity surrounding the program itself, this particular instance of a Rove sleaze tactic seems to be barely treading water rather than knifing the Democrats in the back. And after watching O'Neill's pathetic performance last night--well, I don't want to get too optimistic, but it sure would be good if this was the beginning of the end for their brand of gutter politics. We deserve a lot better.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bush--Feeling the Heat

I think this story confirms that George W. Bush is thinking it could slip away--the dauphin normally doesn't deign to communicate with the rabble aka the White House Press Corps when on Air Force One. However

President Bush paid a rare visit to the press cabin aboard Air Force One on Thursday to express optimism about his prospects and dismiss polls showing Democrat John Kerry won their third debate.

"The debate phase of the campaign is over and now it's a sprint to the finish," Bush said. "I'm excited about it. My spirits are high. I'm enthusiastic about my chances."

Bush, joined by Arizona Sen. John McCain, spoke on what was only his third visit to the Air Force One press cabin since he took office in January 2001, as the Bush campaign sought to reassure Republican supporters after post-debate polls indicated Kerry won the last debate.

I think Bush is just beginning to panic a bit. In spite of what Karl Rove might have told him, the fact is that Kerry cleaned his clock in all three debates. Hell, just looking at the two individuals spoke volumes--Kerry LOOKED like a president, Bush looked like he was trying to recall the items on a grocery list that he forgot to carry with him to the Bet-R Store. Between the looks and his gaffes, Dubya needs something good to happen--and soon.

It's nice to watch him squirm a bit.

Who The Hell is Gorm Voelver?

Who? Well, for one, he's the Joachim Johansson of New York Press's Wimblehack 2004, having made it into the draw as a late qualifier when Newsweek's Jonathan Alter apparently was disqualified from the competition.

Thanks to Jeffrey at Library Chronicles for providing the link.

Now, onto the tournament--well, just a bit of it: Voelver upset the always hacktacular Bob Woodward in a walk over. Here's what the judges said about his work:

His latest campaign piece ("Bush Har Brug for Hjaelp," Oct. 5) was a taut, trenchant piece of writing of the sort we don't often see in America. "Den proever at saette modstanderen John Kerrys helterolle fra soldatertiden i et daarligt lys," he writes, adding: "Filmen starter med at fortaelle, at mens Vietnamkrigen rasede, blev George W. Bush hjemme i Texas for at beskytte staten mod horder af vietcong-terrorister."

Later, he recounts Bush's response:

"Bevaeg laeberne, som om mikrofonen ikke virker. Stil spoergsmaalet: 'Vi har aldrig tidligere haft en praesident med et hesteansigt. Saa hvorfor nu?'"

Next week is the Final Four. Hmm. I don't know--at this point I think the strongest hacks are Cal Thomas and Elizabeth Bumiller, although James Bennet must feel pretty good about the draw. We'll see.

And, off topic but: I'd like to give Library Chronicles an extra shout out today for this post and this article, which nicely sums up the ridiculous weapons for cash program the US has launched in Iraq. Jeffrey's take:

First, Shiite militants bring us their old guns for which we give them cash. Next, Shiite militants use the cash to buy newer, cleaner, more reliable guns. Thus inefficiencies are removed from the system and the economy is modernized.

I couldn't say it any better myself, so I hope Jeffrey doesn't mind if I lift the entire passage--with proper attribution, of course.

The Fog of War

The New York Times reports that

Up to 28 U.S. soldiers face possible criminal charges in connection with the deaths of two prisoners at an American-run prison in Afghanistan two years ago...

Unfortunately, the 3,000 or so who died in the US bombing campaign don't merit so much as an official apology, becoming simply "collateral damage." And then there are the allegations that Northern Alliance forces allowed Taliban POWs to suffocate to death inside semi trailers.

Of course, plenty of folks right here in the US would likely gloat about the deaths of Taliban prisoners, whether or not they understand the principles behind the Geneva Conventions. But I bring all this up to note the problem with war, generally speaking--it carries within it an almost innate expectation that ugly things will occur. In other words, whether or not we are party to, and elect to abide by, such things as the Geneva Convention, the odds are that something will happen in the course of hostilities that, like it or not, could be considered an atrocity.

For instance, the Swift Boat Moron in chief, one John O'Neill, still apparently refuses to admit that a "free fire zone" is a direct violation of the Convention (General Provisions, Article 3, Section 1), as he takes the position that NO atrocities were committed by the United States during the Vietnam War. Mr. O'Neill is simply wrong. Atrocities were committed in Vietnam, they were and are being committed in Iraq, they happened in Panama, in Korea, during World War II (on ALL sides), indeed, there ISN'T a conflict where NO atrocities happened--war itself implies a certain tolerance for what we generally consider unacceptable behavior, yet even by relaxed standards, actions occur that are beyond the pale.

This is why war must always be the final, last resort--an action to be taken ONLY when all other means of resolving conflict have proven futile. Bush's actions in Iraq don't even come close to meeting that criteria, and even the Afghanistan conflict seems to have occurred with haste to the extent that thousands died for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were victims of "the fog of war."

Here these victims become little more than statistics. In their hometowns, family members grieve, or vow revenge, or engage in all the activities you could consider if you've lost a loved one. Unfortunately, in the developed world, mention of such tragedy is usually dismissed with a wave of the hand and sterile terminology--and, often enough, disdain. We somehow consider ourselves less savage--even as we put out of our minds the images of suffering that accompany ALL wars. Some actually revel in the destruction, choosing to believe myth before truth--the myth that we will somehow bestow all the trappings of civilization upon those we bomb into oblivion.

War can bring out the worst in people. It can even affect those of us who aren't in the combat zone. I believe this was one reason why the Founding Fathers bestowed war making powers solely on the most unweildy body of the Federal government, the Congress. We should NEVER take lightly the decision to go to war--even when it turns out that the war was "easy," as in, say, the first Gulf War. It was "easy" for most US citizens, although no one seems to be all that concerned these days with the soldiers who were killed (likewise, the few dozen killed in Panama don't even register as a blip on the radar). It was NOT all that easy for the Iraqis, who still suffer the effects of that war, the Iran war, AND the present war (not to mention the sanctions). Consider: if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq can generate actions like our soldiers killing or torturing prisoners in custody, imagine how the Afghans and Iraqis might react.

I just sincerely hope they don't plan on traveling here to exact their revenge.
Director's Cut

I'll be wandering around various upscale DVD stores in the near future, looking for The Battle of Algiers (or, hell, maybe I'll go ahead and order it from Amazon), which Barbara Keenlyside reviewed here. The three disk set has plenty of extras, and one scene described by Keenlyside is recounted in my summer reading project--which has carried over into fall.

I've already posted a progress report on Horne's account of the Algerian conflict--once again, I don't feel like fishing around through my archives--but I continue to see enough parallels between our misadventure in Iraq and the Algerian war to merit a comparison. Right now, the biggest similarity I see is the willingness of both sides to engage in increasingly violent acts. And such actions will work against the United States, being as how we truly are outsiders in the Middle East (in contrast, the French at least had some support among the pied noirs, or Algerians of European heritage).

As long as the Bush plan for Iraq continues to be the model, there WILL be regular acts of violence. It won't matter whether or not US troops are wounded or killed in such actions. Our presence in Iraq is supposedly to "keep the peace," and if there is no peace, then we WILL be blamed. Just as the French in North Africa ultimately paid the price for, as much as anything else, their INABILITY to stop random acts of violence.

To be sure, the various elements comprising the Iraqi resistance lack the FLN's level of sophistication and organization. But one thing they do have is a surfeit of weaponry. Our dash to Baghdad meant that large supplies of explosives, guns, and other such material was simply ignored. I'd like to think that, if they had a chance to do it over, our military would plan things differently--even if Bush can't bear to admit that there were any mistakes.

It's ironic that, of all countries we could've really learned a lesson from, France was the best model (and I'll add the USSR/Russia as an honorable mention, based on their Afghanistan misadventure). But I guess in the heady days of early 2003, when there was a fever-pitched hatred of all thing French, there never was a chance we'd catch the message...
Impressionism About Surrealism

Sorry again to be a little late out of the gate today--once again, things got a bit busy around here.

I managed to at least catch all but the very beginning of the debate last night, first listening on the radio while driving home, then hustling up the stairs to catch the rest on TV. It looks like I didn't miss much, except the very first question when Bush denied having no interest in capturing Osama bin Laden.

In my mind, Kerry wins by not losing.

Since I'm sure most folks stopping by have been catching up with all the spin, I'll only note a few things in passing: Atrios linked over to a DailyKos open thread that discusses something just a little odd: Bush apparently asked Kerry to meet with him following the debate--two people who claim lip reading capabilities (one of whom is deaf) offer what they believe they saw the candidates say. Hmm.

I don't think Kerry's comment about Cheney's daughter will hurt him at all--it wasn't done in any mean-spirited way, and it was to the point--the question, after all, was about gays and lesbians and whether each candidate considered it a "lifestyle choice" or not. James Wolcott has some good things to say about that.

The Rude Pundit is doing his best to concentrate on the debate, and not on the sexual harrassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly. I'm looking forward to both posts.

This news can't help Bush at all: Two suicide bombers killed five people and injured eighteen INSIDE the Green Zone--if it isn't safe, forget about the rest of both Baghdad AND Iraq...

Finally, Your Right Hand Thief has a post about the plans of First Lady Laura Bush, should her husband eke out four more years--seems Ms. Bush would like to work with juveniles with substance abuse problems. Funny--she could do that just as easily in Crawford.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

War Hero

Robert Acosta is one hundred times the person George W. Bush will ever be. Check out what he says in this ad created by Operation Truth, "a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to educate the American public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the troops who have experienced them first-hand."

Please watch the ad and tell others about it.
How Did This Happen?

I actually had a busy day here at work...and due to prior committments, I'll likely miss the beginning of tonight's show. But I should be able to catch most of it, then I'll watch the replay tonight.

Apologies for the slow post Wednesday--I'll try to catch up following the debate.

Unlike the pathetic garbage Sinclair plans to foist on it's viewership, PBS is airing a very good Frontline twice this week, at least for those of us in Louisiana. Last night I caught the initial broadcast (ok, I was flipping back and forth between it and the baseball game). Tomorrow will be the reairing, and if you still can't watch it, you'll be able to catch it online after the 15th.

I'm surprised the Democratic Party hasn't used more footage of Kerry in the Senate speaking about Bush's war resolution back in 2002. I saw one clip lasting about 30 seconds that would be devastating--Kerry warns that Bush failed to build a coalition, he failed to produce a postwar plan, and while he had no doubt that the US Military could oust Hussein, Bush had nothing beyond that. Which, of course, is pretty much exactly what happened.

Of course, tonight's also the final round of Debate Spin 2004, featuring an hour and a half of the candidates themselves, followed by a frantic half-hour of spinning. James Wolcott has a few things to say about it, and I'll be watching along with most everyone else. It could get interesting. Right now, Bush has dug himself such a hole that I expect to see a number of otherwise "liberal" pundits give him sympathy points--"well, he used all his time tonight, so therefore...blah, blah, blah."

Let's see--some predictions should be easy: Bush will blame Clinton for the anemic economic performance of his administration. He will allege that John Kerry will raise taxes. He will dodge questions regarding job losses by referencing the "stock market crash" of 2000, 9/11, and the "war" on terror. He will insist things are looking up (hey, just like in Iraq). He'll holler about Kerry's attempt to revive "big government" without mentioning that Bush's proposals actually cost $1 trillion dollars MORE.

Paul Krugman has a list of eight lies or distortions you'll likely hear in tonight's debate. Once again, Krugman delivers. Then tomorrow night, try to catch the Frontline show.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

At a Loss for Words? Or Just Plain Lost?

I saw the link to BushBuzz yesterday at Pandagon, but didn't get around to looking at it until today on my lunch break. It's instructive--the Quicktime movie clearly demonstrates that the man running for Texas governor is not at all the same individual serving as commander in chief.

The movie suggests that Bush suffers from some sort of cognitive impairment. Well, maybe. However, I'm beginning to wonder if instead he's simply overwhelmed by the responsibilites. Consider: some folks allege that the reason Bush gave up on his pilot's gig because he developed a debilitating fear of flying. The next time you see Dubya--say, tomorrow during the debate--pay close attention to his body language. I'm wondering if he's likewise developed a debilitating fear of speaking in public and/or being president. And, having heard or read the gossip surrounding the dauphin's relations with his parents, this could be especially troublesome for Bush the Younger--once again, he can't live up to his old man's legacy. It must pain him.

Bush has always tried to adopt a sort of tough guy posture--a good example during the last debate was brought up by Jeanne at Body and Soul--Dubya, when asked about abortion, said, among other things:

I signed a bill called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. In other words, if you're a mom and you're pregnant and you get killed, the murderer gets tried for two cases, not just one. My opponent was against that.

To which Jeanne replies:

Okay, the nonchalant way he said "if you're a mom and you're pregnant and you get killed" was downright creepy. A Kitty Dukakis raped and murdered moment. But except for the fact that he's unaware that women are more concerned with not being murdered in the first place than how much retribution he gets to exact if they are -- really, why does every issue become a matter of punishment to this guy?

But the fact that he speaks this way also underscores a degree of desperation, if you ask me. It's as if Bush must PROVE, both to himself and the world, that he's got what it takes to be at the top of the food chain. Which, to me, means that, deep down, he's not so sure he really DOES have it. Sure, he was comfortable being governor of Texas, which involves little more than signing off on death sentences for convicted murderers (whether or not they're actually guilty is a whole other question, but Dubya never really let that get to him) President of the United States, though, is a whole different ballgame...

In this light, I came across a link from Swopa at Needlenose to a post by Rick Freedman at World On Fire. Freedman compares and contrasts the Iraq non-crisis to a genuine episode where the United States was threatened by and was threatening use of Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Cuban Missile Crisis, which occurred forty-two years ago.

The intelligence was clear—a small country in a highly strategic part of the world was arming with weapons of mass destruction. The threat was undeniable. An unstable leader with ties to a homicidal ideology was working overtime to build nuclear and other offensive weapons, despite repeated assurances that no such activity was underway. The American President had to act—he couldn’t allow this imminent mortal threat to go unchallenged.

The entire post is well worth reading, so I'll link to it again. However, if you're very short of time, here are a few choice paragraphs:

Robert Kennedy’s contemporaneous notes, later distilled into the memoir “Thirteen Days”, are widely acknowledged as the definitive inside study of the policy-making process during that period...

As [he] characterizes the interaction [among excomm members],

the group met, talked, argued, and fought together. They were men of the highest intelligence…it was no reflection on them that none was consistent in his opinion from the very beginning to the very end. That kind of open, unfettered mind was essential. From some there were only small changes…for others there were continuous changes of opinion each day...

It was during these initial deliberations, listening to the proposals for a surprise military action by the American superpower against a small, defenseless nation, that Bobby Kennedy passed the famous note to JFK: “I now know how Tojo felt when he was planning Pearl Harbor”...

[JFK] ordered his advisors to split into teams, which they dubbed the “hawks” and the “doves” (according to Schlesinger, the first use of those familiar terms in this context), and asked them to write their recommendations, including the speech the president would give to announce their decision, and to anticipate all contingencies with recommendations on how to mitigate or react to them. The teams then reconvened, exchanged plans between teams, and each team critiqued the arguments of the other side. Papers were returned to the original groups, and the comments were responded to.

When JFK finally made the decision to apply the blockade of Cuba, Bobby remarked that

the strongest argument against the all-out military attack, and one no one could answer to his [JFK’s] satisfaction, was that a surprise attack would erode if not destroy the moral position of the United States throughout the world...

One of the key elements of the drama surrounding the blockade was JFK’s determination to leave Khrushchev room to maneuver. He had just finished reading historian Barbara Tuchman’s book “The Guns of August”, which described the great European powers blundering into WWI. Kennedy was determined to avoid that error...

When the crisis finally cooled down, and the Soviets agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba, certain things were clear, as Robert Kennedy detailed in his book. RFK’s conclusions fall into two basic categories: the deliberation process and the policy decisions it produced.

In terms of the deliberative process, Bobby noted;

I believe our deliberations proved conclusively how important it is that the President have the recommendations and opinions of more than one individual, of more than one department, and of more than one point of view. There is an important element missing when there is unanimity of viewpoint. I have frequently observed efforts being made to exclude certain individuals from participating in a meeting with the President, because they held a different point of view. He [JFK] wanted to hear presented and challenged all the possible consequences of a particular course of action. From all this probing and examination, President Kennedy hoped that he would at least be prepared for the foreseeable contingencies and know that he had made his decision based on the best possible information. His conduct of the missile crisis showed how important this kind of skeptical probing and questioning could be.

It also showed how important it was to be respected around the world, how vital it was to have allies and friends. If we are to preserve our national security, we will need friends, we will need supporters, we will need countries that believe and respect us and follow our leadership.

Bobby’s conclusions regarding the actual policies is also instructive:

The final lesson of the Cuban missile crisis is the importance of placing ourselves in the other countries shoes. During the crisis, President Kennedy spent more time trying to determine the effect of a particular course of action on Khrushchev or the Russians than on any other phase of what he was doing. Miscalculation, misunderstanding and escalation on one side bring a response. No action against an adversary is taken in a vacuum. A government will fail to understand that only at their great peril. He dedicated himself to making it clear that the US had limited objectives…After it was finished, he made no statement attempting to take credit for himself or for the Administration for what had occurred. He instructed all members of the government that no statement be made which would claim any kind of victory.

Just as no action against an adversary occurs in a vacuum, neither does any review of historical events. The purpose of history is to teach us, or to shame us when its lessons are ignored, leading to disaster. Luckily, we have the tools to do this comparison, in the form of the intimate inside account of the Bush team’s path to war provided by Bob Woodward in his all-access best-seller, “Plan of Attack”. So it becomes critical to compare and contrast the successful decisions made by the Kennedy brothers and their ExCom with those made by our current Commander in Chief. The comparison is not flattering to the Bush team.

Through Woodward’s book, it’s common knowledge that Bush, rather than following a deliberative process, held informal one-off conversations with numerous advisors, often huddling privately with Rice or Cheney, and excluding Powell and Armitage because they were known to disagree. Rather than consulting with the elder statesmen of their party, Bush mocked them, famously called the elder Bush “the wrong father” for advice and counsel, and referring to Brent Scowcroft, who wrote in a famous OpEd of the dangers of occupation, as “a pain in the ass in his old age.” Bush once told Woodward:

I have no outside advice. Anybody who says they’re an outside adviser of this Administration on this particular matter is not telling the truth. First of all, in the initial phase of this war, I never left the compound. Nor did anybody come in the compound. I was, you talk about one guy in a bubble. The only true advice I receive is from our war council. I didn’t call around, asking, ‘What the heck do you think we ought to do?'
Contrasted with JFK’s deep and penetrating analysis of the contingencies, Bush deliberately ignored or disregarded the planning efforts of his own agencies when they disagreed with his team's ideological conclusions. In fact, Woodward implies that the final decision to proceed against Saddam came almost by default, when Cheney announced to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Nashville that "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction [and] there is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us." Woodward reports that, once Cheney had made these public accusations, the administration felt boxed in and feared that inaction would appear as weakness both politically and militarily. Cheney delivered a pre-emptive strike, with the desired effect.

And what of the policy itself? With the history well documented and the outcome unfolding in front of us every day, the notion that military power is the only way, or even the ‘cleanest’ way, to resolve mortal threats is disproved again, for those so ignorant of history that they need further evidence of that fact. While the tough-guys of the right mock the idea of sensitivity towards other nations, diplomacy with our historic allies, and even the very idea of debate and deliberation, the specter of 120 million potential victims, one blink away from annihilation in our first real brush with Weapons of Mass Destruction, calls out to us to remember the lessons of that week in October 42 years ago. In a moment of clarity before they got tangled in the thickets of Vietnam, the Kennedy brothers and their advisors realized that, even when struggling with grievance and threat, the human virtues of patience, empathy, and reflection can be more effective than retribution, and can help nations as well as men avoid the outcome hinted at in the Chinese proverb that advises “he who seeks revenge should first dig two graves.” The comparison between the Kennedy brothers, especially the “moral clarity” of Bobby as he argued for the salvation of the moral values that define our nation, and the callow, simple-minded, and ultimately self-destructive posturing of Bush and his right-wing armchair warriors illustrates again what we’ve lost.

I realize that's quite a long cut--and, believe it or not, it IS edited. However, I believe it's important to look at the Bush record--and it's just as important to praise Freedman for recognizing the parallels and writing the post.

Tomorrow is Round Three of the debates--Bush has a very difficult job ahead, as he'll have to simultaneously be less intense but also more focused. That's a difficult tightrope to walk for even an excellent public speaker, which he plainly no longer is. It's gonna be interesting to see which George W. Bush shows up...

Container Inspection

James Wolcott suggests an effective test for the Kerry/Edwards proposal:

But I believe that it would be more prudent to start small and begin by checking only a single container for subversive intent, an empty container that goes by the name of George Bush.

Before he is allowed into the debate hall Wednesday night he should be frisked or, at the very least, given a full frontal and dorsal go-over with an airport security wand to make sure he isn't wired and wearing a Radio Shack battery pack...If he needs to cheat for the debate, he can write cryptic notes on his cuffs like everybody else, or deploy the Morse Code blinking system he and Karen Hughes invented to send messages to each other across a crowded room. Because if he suddenly sprouts a pair of rabbit ear antennae out of his head like Ray Walston in My Favorite Martian, I for one am going to be very suspicious.
Able-Bodied Enough

I've posted about something similar (I just don't feel like combing through my archives right now). Unfortunately the Sandusky Register is a (paid) subscription only site, but this arrived in my email box. Short version: here's another example of how desperate the military is to fill slots. Keegan is 58 years old, has been retired from the National Guard for eight years--and is about to ship out to Iraq. Since the Register won't let me link to the article, here it is in full:

Jim Keegan served in the U.S. Army National Guard for 28 years, but he has never gone to war.

That is about to change. After eight years of retirement, the Army wants him back.

The retired warrant officer spent his last day in Ohio Oct. 1 with his friends and family, watching his son Todd's football game. Jim Keegan, of Vickery, left for Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo., the next morning with a Margaretta victory fresh on his mind.

Andy Keegan, 19, put off looking for a job so he could drive with his father from Vickery to Missouri, talking face to face for the
last time in at least a year and a half.

"You are always worried about the unknown, but after the initial shock it's just a job I have to do," Jim Keegan said. "I just live everyday like it's my last. I always have."

Jim Keegan's return to active service came just days after his marriage ended. In one month, he had to tie up a divorce, train his replacement in
the Ohio Veterans Home maintenance department and cherish limited time with his family.

But he is not alone.

As of July, the Pentagon has recalled about 5,600 Army veterans back to active service to aid in the war, according to an article posted on, a military think tank based in Washington, D.C.

More than 60 percent of soldiers in Iraq are reserve or National Guard, Maj. David F. Creamer wrote in an e-mail from Baghdad. Creamer is an Independent Ready Reserve officer recalled to duty on July 6. He said the Air Force and Marines have a heavy reserve presence in Iraq, but the Army is the largest force with the largest reserve.

Still, it is stretched thin.

"The Army is running out of reserve units that can be rotated back in and not be required to serve over consecutive 24 months," Creamer said. "By the time call up, training, mission and redeployment is done, the Army guys only have a couple of months left for service."

Air Force members typically serve 120-day tours, Marines do 7-month rotations and the Army does 13-month rotations.

Jim Keegan was recalled for 545 days, but he is already preparing for an extended tour.

He said the job is still the same, but the technology has changed.

At 58 years old, Jim Keegan has 25 days to go through processing, get used to running 5 miles a day and learn all the new technological advances on the equipment he will be working on in Iraq.

"I was shocked when he was called back with his age," his mother, Helen Keegan, said. "He's got the kids and he's got me, but we just pray for the best and pray it won't be long until he gets back."

Before he left, Jim Keegan was still not sure exactly what his assignment would be. Because he has so many years of experience, he said it is
possible the Army would want him to be an instructor. But it is more likely he will end up in Iraq, he said.

"My biggest fear is being able to protect my troops if I end up in command because I have been out for so long," he said.

Creamer said more than half of the U.S. force in Iraq is juggling their civilian lives and their military careers. "Most of us here are the same way," he said. "We don't really want to be here, but we all agreed to come if the call was made. It's kinda like the Commissioner putting the 'bat light' in the sky for Batman. We dropped our civilian jobs, put our lives on hold and our families lives as well and came."

At least Keegan, from what I can tell, appears to be in good health. IIRC, the other article I came across--about a 56 year old man who was likewise called up--mentioned some serious health issues.

So, maybe this is how Bush will avoid the draft--he'll call back men old enough to be grandfathers.

What would Jesus drive? Well, unless he decided to turn water into gasoline (and here's hoping at least a little more wine on the side) it probably wouldn't be a Hummer. Here in Baton Rouge, gasoline is $1.90 a gallon, and with oil running at $54 dollars a barrel (54.40 or fight?), you can expect the price to rise even further.

How long will it be before you start seeing folks taking out payday loans to fill up the tank?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Bush & Cheney's Terror Tautology

Juan Cole analyzes Cheney's attack on John Kerry's statement that he wants to reduce terrorism to "nuisance" levels. Cole points out what's obvious to everyone except a few clowns in the US Executive Branch and the assorted minions they've managed to, well, brainwash.

Cole's post is a little long, but worth reading.

Michael Berube has something to say about Dred Scott and the anti-abortionist movement:

Dred Scott was viable outside the womb at the time his case came before the Supreme Court. Pass it on...

when you’re debating stem cell research, absolutely, absolutely do not genuflect before fundamentalist extremists when they equate five-day embryos with living persons and refuse to allow scientific research on the former in order to relieve pain, suffering, and disease among the latter...

Insist in the face of their religious fundamentalism that the conflation of actual with potential persons does harm to actual persons (including, notably, pregnant women) in both substantive and consequentialist senses (that is, it violates a principle of care for living persons, and it has nasty effects to boot)...

granting full personhood and full human rights to entities that cannot survive outside the womb does a profound injustice to actual living persons. And likening fetuses to slaves is simply obscene.

Yes. Kerry came close Friday when he adopted (no pun intended) very reasonable positions on third trimester abortions and parental notification. My own position is that I trust women to make the right decisions FOR THEMSELVES. No one has the right to take that decision away--and the rights of a woman will ALWAYS be more important than the rights of a fetus. End of story.
Bush: You Forgot Clausewitz--What About Clausewitz?

How's this for sending mixed messages to the troops:

Major Assaults on Hold Until After U.S. Vote

The Bush administration plans to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, say administration officials, mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the U.S. presidential race.

And, as Steve Gilliard points out, it's not like major assualts will do a hell of a lot of good--any territory we "gain" will most likely be lost right after we cede control to the "Iraqi" forces, who, like their ARVN predecessors, aren't exactly motivated.

In a similar vein, Gilliard notes the hypocrisy of the weapons buy back program underway in Sadr City. Yeah, right. We're buying back WHAT THE INSURGENTS DON'T NEED and GIVING THEM MONEY which they can spend on other things--like better weapons, or provisions.

The fact is that what we're critically lacking is understanding of what's happening on the ground in Iraq. Pretty much everything the Bush team is saying is AT BEST pure speculation, and, more likely, lies pulled straight out of their ass. Not a word of it can be believed.

Now, we see that Bush is playing politics with military operations. These folks will stoop at nothing.


Wish I'd seen this prior to last Friday (and the Thursday before), but better late than never. offers you Bush Bingo. They leave it up to you to decide what prizes--hell, I'll maybe use it as a drinking game this Wednesday.

Better not go with shots--twenty four would be lethal.
Special Olympian

A quick note about something I heard this morning on the drive to work--I was running a little late, and caught the first couple of minutes of the Jim Engster Show--which is locally produced by WRKF (NPR affiliate here in Baton Rouge).

Engster interviewed Bob Livingston's former press spokesperson (damn, I think Timshel posted something about him the other day--as for me, I've forgotten his name already). Anyway, the guy suggested that Bush "won" Friday's debate because he proved to the public that he was, in fact, capable of "walking and chewing gum."

Is THAT how low some have sunk when it comes to judging the qualifications of George W. Bush? The guy is "presidential" if there's no visible drool on his necktie? Sadly, this seems to be the case.

Four years ago, Bush famously came up sort of one for four when asked if he could name the leaders of Chechnya, Taiwan, India, and Pakistan. His response was to lash out at reporter Andy Hiller:

"What I'm suggesting to you is that (because) you can't name the foreign minister of Mexico, therefore you're not capable of what you do. But the truth of the matter is you are, whether you can or not."


Presumably in the four years since he took office Bush has managed to get just a little better with his world leaders--he's managed to cite Kwasniewsky and Blair during both debates--but can he, for instance, tell us who's in the "Coalition of the Willing" without a crib sheet?

The job of president requires a little more gray matter than that necessary to walk and chew gum. To suggest otherwise, as was done this morning, is yet another reason why the "global" war on terror is going so poorly--if you're going to have a global strategy, it's important to understand the globe. This president--and his supporters--seem to think that's unimportant.
As Opposed to What...A Catastrophe?

So, rounds one and two of Rove's October surprises are apparently the decree Sinclair Broadcasting issued to their affiliates to run an anti-Kerry, Swift Boat Loonie inspired video (Atrios has quite a bit more, including information about Sinclair's president and resident John, David D. Smith), and this drivel, reported by CNN, about how Team Bush plans to attack Kerry for declaring he wants to reduce the terrorism threat to "a nuisance." Nice.

The Bush administration has played games with the nation in regards to terrorism since 9/12/2001, and they're upset that Kerry wants to REDUCE the terror threat? What--are they upset that they won't be able to spin the color coded terror wheel of fortune? That Ashcroft won't be able to slither out of his snakehole to warn about "increased chatter?"

One thing that disappointed me during Friday's debate was Kerry's response to the question of 9/11 and why there hasn't been another attack on America--yet. Um--both candidates refer to a "global war on terror." Global as in "the whole world."
How convenient to forget the bombings in Bali and Spain. How convenient to forget the anthrax attacks right here in the United States. How convenient to forget the bombing in Egypt, the bombings in Turkey, the attacks in Russia, the bombings in Morocco, and so on. How convenient to forget the daily bombings in Baghdad.

The warmongers call for a global war on terror, yet they're fixated on two countries--Iraq and the United States. Regarding the rest of the world, they seem to have adopted a point of view best expressed in a term I found in this New Yorker article last night. The original French (yes, it's a French expression) is "Comme une vache observant un train allez près." Translated, it means "like a cow watching a train go by." The New Yorker piece uses the term describe Bush's deer-in-the-headlights look during the first debate, but it can also express the complete lack of a world view on the part of the warmongers--which kind of contradicts the concept of a "global" war. A war which isn't going all that well for the globe, by the way.

So the press corps will dutifully report on the use of "nuisance" by Kerry, and parse the term into the ground--while forgetting that the Bush plan is little more than "expect more catastrophes--hopefully outside of the US's borders," in which case the reaction will be "gee, too damn bad."

That's why, in response to another questioner from Friday's debate, the rest of the world holds a negative view towards the United States.