Friday, February 25, 2005

Literary License

Sam Apple, writing for Slate, imagines the Bush White House as covered by William Faulkner:

Down the hall, under the chandelier, I could see them talking. They were walking toward me and Dick's face was white, and he stopped and gave a piece of paper to Rummy, and Rummy looked at the piece of paper and shook his head. He gave the paper back to Dick and Dick shook his head. They disappeared and then they were standing right next to me.

"Georgie's going to walk down to the Oval Office with me," Dick said.

"I just hope you got him all good and ready this time," Rummy said.

"Hush now," Dick said. "This aint no laughing matter. He know lot more than folks think." Dick patted me on the back good and hard. "Come on now, Georgie," Dick said. "Never mind you, Rummy."

We walked down steps to the office. There were paintings of old people on the walls and the room was round like a circle and Condi was sitting on my desk. Her legs were crossed.

"Did you get him ready for the press conference?" Dick said.

"Dont you worry about him. He'll be ready," Condi said. Condi stood up from the desk. Her legs were long and she smelled like the Xeroxed copies of the information packets they give me each day.

"Hello Georgie," Condi said. "Did you come to see Condi?" Condi rubbed my hair and it tickled.

"Dont go messing up his hair," Dick said. "Hes got a press conference in a few minutes."

Condi wiped some spit on her hand and patted down my hair. Her hand was soft and she smelled like Xerox copies coming right out of the machine. "He looks just fine," Condi said.

The rest is here.
Dust in the Wind

Kansas--the State, not the band--gets a double mention in today's NY Times. Paul Krugman riffs on the ad-campaign against the AARP, the one that suggests that blue haired ladies and gray haired men will whack you with their purses and canes until the US military crawls away from Iraq in order to attend mass gay weddings:

The slime campaign has begun against AARP, which opposes Social Security privatization. There's no hard evidence that the people involved - some of them also responsible for the "Swift Boat" election smear - are taking orders from the White House. So you're free to believe that this is an independent venture. You're also free to believe in the tooth fairy.

Their first foray - an ad accusing the seniors' organization of being against the troops and for gay marriage - was notably inept. But they'll be back, and it's important to understand what they're up to.

The answer lies in "What's the Matter With Kansas?," Thomas Frank's meditation on how right-wingers, whose economic policies harm working Americans, nonetheless get so many of those working Americans to vote for them.

People like myself - members of what one scornful Bush aide called the "reality-based community" - tend to attribute the right's electoral victories to its success at spreading policy disinformation. And the campaign against Social Security certainly involves a lot of disinformation, both about how the current system works and about the consequences of privatization.

Krugman points out that those against privatization of Social Security have logic on their side--in a BIG way. However, Frank's book notes that modern political persuasion is anything but logical:

The message of Mr. Frank's book is that the right has been able to win elections, despite the fact that its economic policies hurt workers, by portraying itself as the defender of mainstream values against a malevolent cultural elite. The right "mobilizes voters with explosive social issues, summoning public outrage ... which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends." ...

So it doesn't matter that Social Security is a pro-family program that was created by and for America's greatest generation - and that it is especially crucial in poor but conservative states like Alabama and Arkansas, where it's the only thing keeping a majority of seniors above the poverty line. Right-wingers will still find ways to claim that anyone who opposes privatization supports terrorists and hates family values.

In other words, expect it to get even worse--the wingnut windbags will continue to bloviate about how Granny and Grandpa are in cahoots with Al Qaeda. Well, reactionaries have a history of blaming scapegoats.

The other story out of Kansas is a hell of a lot scarier: wingnut State Attorney General Phill Kline has gone fishing--for women's medical records. (more here). Note that while Kline claims he's fighting predation/molestation of children under the age of 16, the fact is that he's requesting records for more than 90 women who may have had late-term abortions (illegal in Kansas unless the "continuation of the pregnancy will cause a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."). Additionally, steps that could be taken to ensure privacy of the women have been rejected by this zealot. No, what the AG is after are women who thought they were making a medical decision based on their needs and in consultation with a physician. Let's hope his bait gets cut.

As YRHT pointed out a couple of days ago, the hypocrisy of the wingnuts in this matter is more than evident with even a cursory exam: how come they don't wail and mourn when it comes to miscarriages? Nature, as the cited article in the post states, is "appears to be an avid abortionist," terminating over two thirds of conceptions. Will the 'nuts make miscarriage a crime?

Probably not--yet--but the point needs to be made over and over that the wingnut argument is actually centered around restricting women's rights. And that's why they have to be stopped.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

No, it ain't Tomato Sales

One badly wrong guess, and a couple of hints later, I'm pretty sure I've got the answer to Oyster's quiz. I won't give away the answer, but if the suspense is killing you, here's a hint--one that should give it away, so don't click if you still want to figure it out on your own.
The George & Vlad Show

To be honest, I haven't seen it, nor have I looked at a transcript--but I assume C-Span will rerun it tonight. James Wolcott apparently did watch, though, and has a few things to say:

That joint press conference with Bush and Putin--jayzus. I suppose it's healthier for the well-being of the world not to have Bush in his belligerent rooster mode, mouth downturned with determination as he chops the air with his fist and puts the bad guys on notice that he means business, but oy is it embarrassing watching him act like Andy of Mayberry with world leaders, praising Putin as an honest "fella," sorta inviting Chirac to visit the Crawford ranch since he's always "lookin' for a good cowboy," and referring to the members of the press as "a nice bunch of folks."...

Andy? Nah, more like the title of Wolcott's post: Gomer Says Hey.

Wolcott also has some pointed criticism for the press:

Unfortunately, the questions from the reporters present were so rambling and shambling that they didn't penetrate Bush's strawman act and throw him off script. Reporters seem to have forgotten how to ask brief, pointed questions that elude easy deflection; they talk out the clock.

Exactly--and count me as another person sick and tired of listening to reporters drone.
War Really is Hell

They're calling it a case of "not enough" evidence. Hmmm...

It was a striking -- some said chilling -- moment in the battle for Iraq, captured on videotape: a wounded, un-armed Iraqi, shot to death by a U.S. Marine.

CBS News has learned that military investigators conclude there is not enough evidence to formally charge that Marine.

For the record, I'm not necessarily in favor of prosecuting the soldier who did this--war is an ugly business (which is one reason why you DON'T GO TO WAR UNLESS YOU HAVE TO). However, some soldiers have been prosecuted--and convicted--of offenses ranging from abuse of detainees to manslaughter to murder. Prosecuting some but not others isn't exactly fair. And the REAL criminals--the ones who sent them off on the snipe hunt--haven't so much as been admonished, much less sent to the dock to stand tall before the man.

But the thing that really gets me is the "not enough evidence" garbage. This was captured on videotape, for chrissakes. Saying there's "not enough evidence" insults the intelligence of a houseplant. The soldier shot someone who was wounded and unarmed. Yes, it's war--and I'll bet shit like that happens more often than anyone wants to admit--nerves are frayed, people are frightened, a noise can mean absolutely nothing or it could be the very last thing someone hears before being killed.

Oh, and for the record: the Geneva Conventions are VERY clear in regards to treatment of wounded, be they enemy soldiers, militia, volunteers, or resisitance fighters. In other words, under the international agreement the US is party to, the soldier in question committed a serious offense. Whether or not the stress of combat drove him to commit such an act is...well, normally something that would be determined at trial (and, again for the record, I'd be inclined to view such a defense favorably).

What the US government is saying, in this case, is that apparently the Geneva Accords are to be enforced selectively. That's setting a dangerous precedent.
Bucky Bush Appreciates the Sacrifice

Who's Bucky Bush? He's the younger brother of 41 and the uncle of 43--um, and I guess I was wrong when I thought it was yet another SNL character (turns out that was Uncle ROY, PLAYED by Buck Henry). Anyway, Bucky sure knows a good deal when he sees one:

The Iraq war has produced many winners and many losers. And one small but significant winner is a certain William "Bucky" Bush, brother of one president and uncle to the current occupant of the White House.

The good fortune of Uncle Bucky, as he is known within America's ruling family, has been to hold a seat on the board of Engineered Support Systems Incorporated (ESSI), a St Louis-based company that has flourished mightily as a military contractor to the Pentagon.

Last month, ESSI shares hit a record $60.39 (£31.64) apiece ­ more or less exactly the moment the presidential uncle chose to sell 8,438 options worth around $450,000, according to obligatory reports filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and disclosed by the Los Angeles Times yesterday. William Bush denies that his presence on the board has had anything to do with the company's success in boosting expected revenues to an estimated $1bn in 2005, in good part reflecting no-bid contracts relating to the war.

Let's see...$450,000 divided by 1500--that works out to about $300 dollars for each official KIA.

The company has supplied a variety of equipment to the US military effort in Iraq, including a $49m contract to refurbish military trailers and an $18m deal to provide communications services to the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran post-Saddam Iraq until June last year. In 2003, ESSI was awarded contracts for equipment to help search for, and protect US soldiers from, Iraq's chemical and biological weapons, which turned out to have been a figment of the imagination of the Bush administration.

At least the Brit press gets it right--the weapons were a "figment of the imagination,"--and still are, in the minds um, well, in what passes for the minds of the wingnuts:

"America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd," he crowed. Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq." (Chris Cox, R-CA)

But, back to Bucky:

The episode is another illustration of how the Iraq conflict, costing the US $5bn a month, is proving a bonanza for some. A prime example is Halliburton, the oil services group once chaired by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, whose Iraq operations have been plagued by alleged contract overcharging and other issues.

Some Democrats complain that the Bushes and their associates have been given a virtual free pass on business affairs ­ unlike President Bill Clinton, who was hounded for years over his involvement in Whitewater, a modest Arkansas real estate venture, in which he and his wife Hillary actually lost money.

Don't spend all that money in one place, Mr. Bush.
Crown Hall

I'd seen this mentioned--at Cursor, I think--and now King of Zembla has posted, complete with additional info:

During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans. But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice. Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?

Simbaud goes on to note the now usual steps taken by the various layers of security surrounding the dauphin--sealed manhole covers and recommendations to people along motorcade routes, etc., that they close their windows and avert their gaze to "avoid misunderstandings," which apparently is diplomatese for "one false move and we'll stomp you half to death--if we're in a good mood. Or maybe we'll blow your brains out if we're not."

Gee--why don't they appreciate freedom?

Will this man be new White House Correspondent for Talon News?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Tail Chasing

UnFairWitness links to a story that pretty much epitomizes Operation Go Cheney Ourselves:

Profuse thanks poured from Japanese politicians Tuesday following an announcement by Australian Prime Minister John Howard that his country was dispatching 450 additional troops to southern Iraq to safeguard the Self-Defense Forces providing humanitarian assistance there.


Australians guarding Japanese in Iraq...Tex offers an alternative:

Why don't we just pile a few billion dollars up and burn them and everyone go home?
Judy Woodruff, the Human Ostrich

Hullabaloo uses transcripts to show the CNN "reporter" doesn't understand how investigative journalism works. Note to Judy: if there's smoke, a GOOD reporter at least looks to see if there's fire, particularly if there are folks rushing around with extinguishers. Judy Woodruff, on the other hand, sticks her nodding cranium into the sand within nanoseconds of hearing the administration announce "Move on--nothing to be seen here."

Congressman Maurice Hinchey knows how to be a better journalist than least he's asking questions, and refusing to accept "official explanations," which the press used to occasionally do (e.g. Watergate, although recall that Woodward and Bernstein were virtually alone in covering the story for the first year or so--the rest of the media mostly ignored it).

You know, when I re-read the transcript, Woodruff sounds like...James Jeff Guckert Gannon...
One Way to Get Noticed, I Guess

Send an email to Eschaton...

The Rude Pundit has some fun channeling the ghost of Paul Bowles.
Weakly Standards

BuzzFlash interviews Mark Crispin Miller, who launches a few verbal warheads:

The media's bizarre avoidance of this very juicy story makes a few things very clear--or I should say, very clear again. First of all, it's further proof that there is no "liberal bias" in the US corporate press--none whatsoever. It also reconfirms the fact that this media system is not simply "sensationalistic," and therefore apt to print whatever lurid stories its employees can dig up. There is a tabloid element, of course, but it works according to a double standard that is more ideological than commercial. Simply put, the US media reports sex scandals only when they seem to tar "the left," i.e., the Democratic party. As long as they involve the Democrats, the press is clearly willing to report such scandals even when they're fabricated. On the other hand, the press goes deaf and blind to "moral" scandals that involve Republicans, no matter how egregious and well-documented...

Now Bush's White House is embroiled in a sex scandal that is both more sordid and more serious than anything involving Clinton's infamous libido. This involves not just a huge security lapse, but what appears to be yet one more case of the Bush White House illegally deploying propaganda tactics through the institutions of the Fourth Estate.

Moreover, Gannon/Guckert seems to have been given classified information. He evidently knew of "shock and awe" before it was announced, for instance. The story's busting out all over, and getting uglier and weirder by the day--but not on the networks, not on cable, and, in print, primarily in opinion pieces. If this had happened in a Democratic White House, there would be no escaping it, and the rightists would be shrieking that the President of the United States had taught our precious children all about gay sex for hire. (According to the right, remember, it was Clinton--not his enemies, and not the press-- who went public with the news about those blow jobs.)

Ah, there's no sense in trying to pick and choose excerpts--it's all worth reading. Here's another link to the entire interview.
Not Exactly News, but...

The Pope is an old kook--literally:

Homosexual marriages are part of "a new ideology of evil" that is insidiously threatening society, Pope John Paul says in his newly published book.

You know, it'd be amusing if the Church didn't still have a large flock of folks who literally believe John Clown II is Christ's representative on earth. Gay marriage is the problem? Bullshit. Priests who molest children are a problem. But the pope is silent on THAT topic.

What an asshole.

There's more:

He also reveals that he is convinced the Turkish gunman who shot him in 1981 did not act alone and suggests that the former Communist Bloc may have been behind the plot to kill him.

Ah, yes, the Claire Sterline/Arnaud de Borchgrave wingnuttery. if John Clown believes it, then he belongs in a rubber room, not on the throne of St. Peter.

Finally, there's the de rigeur condemnation of abortion--in this case, the pontiff likens it to The Holocaust, rightly drawing the ire of some Jewish groups--and hopefully the ire of women (and men) everywhere. Abortion is a decision made by a woman in consultation with her doctor. That a doddering old man, and one who took a vow of celibacy to boot, would say something like that is both insulting and patronizing to women. He ought to be ashamed of himself--although I have my doubts as to whether or not he's capable of that level of thought at this point.

John Clown has received remarkably favorable coverage from the press over the years, in spite of the fact that his theology is essentially midieval, and despite his virtual silence on the matter of pedophile priests. When I was still nominally Catholic, occasionally I'd hear folks talk about him as a "living saint." And, to be fair, he did oppose the war in Iraq. But he's no saint--and with his latest book, he's proving that he's incapable of recognizing the modern world. And, he ignores the overwhelming stench within his own organization while tilting at windmills and attacking straw men.

That's pathetic.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

We're Number 173!

In the same way that we in the Gret Stet can hold our heads high when we rank 49th in some state-by-state rundown of desirable statistics (i.e., TGFM, or "Thank God For Mississippi"), Afghanistan can TGFBMBFN&SL, or "Thank God For Burundi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Sierra Leone:"

Three years after the United States drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan and vowed to rebuild, the war-shattered country ranked 173rd of 178 countries in the United Nations 2004 Human Development Index, according to a new report from the United Nations...

The survey, "National Human Development Report: Security With a Human Face," released Monday in Kabul, is the first comprehensive look at the state of development in Afghanistan in 30 years. In addition to ranking Afghanistan in the development index for the first time, the report warned that Afghanistan could revert to anarchy if its dire poverty, poor health and insecurity were not improved.

"The fragile nation could easily tumble back into chaos," concluded the authors of the study, led by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, the report's editor in chief. "The basic human needs and genuine grievances of the people, lack of jobs, health, education, income, dignity and opportunities for participation must be met."...

One-fifth of the children die before the age of 5, 80 percent of them from preventable diseases, one of the worst rates in the world. Only 25 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water, and one in eight children die from lack of clean water.

Afghanistan now has the worst education system in the world, the report concluded, and one of the lowest adult literacy rates, 28.7 percent. Annual per capita income was $190 and the unemployment rate 25 percent, said Hanif Atmar, the minister of rehabilitation and rural development.

"Obviously this is a warning," the minister said of the report. "It shows why we are poor, how and in what way we can solve this."

The success of Afghanistan depends on improved security, political reform, broad-based economic development and gradual elimination of poppy production, Mr. McKechnie said, adding that failure in any of those areas would imperil the reconstruction of the state country and the living conditions of the people.

The report and its donors emphasized that attention must be paid to helping the nation's poorest people if Afghanistan is to be lifted out of its dire poverty and persistent instability.

What's truly sad is that we probably could have pulled this country up to a respectable, if still low, level of development if we'd spent even 1/100th of the money that's going into Operation Go Cheney Ourselves in Iraq...

Link via Angry Arab.
Hack(worth)ed Off

David Hackworth has a few reality based thoughts:

As with Vietnam, the Iraqi tar pit was oh-so-easy to sink into, but appears to be just as tough to exit.

This should be no big surprise! Most slugfests - from bar brawls to military misadventures like Vietnam and Iraq - take some clever moves to step away from once the swinging starts.

This is why most combat vets pick their fights carefully. They look at their scars, remember the madness and are always mindful of the fallout.

That’s not the case in Washington, where the White House and the Pentagon are run by civilians who have never sweated it out on a battlefield. Never before in our country’s history has an administration charged with defending our nation been so lacking in hands-on combat experience and therefore so ignorant about the art and science of war...

Col. Hackworth goes on to point out the similarities between the "trained" ARVN troops in Vietnam and the "trained" Iraqi troops in Mesopotamia. Short version: lightning CAN strike twice when it comes to training, equipping, and especially motivating an army of local auxillaries. Duh. The unreliability of auxillary forces has been known for almost as long as imperial armies have been conquering and occupying territory. Of course, it can hardly be said that Iraq is occupied, when some cities require repeated doses of liberation (which further reduces the ability to occupy other regions of "conquered" territory). But history has never been a strong suit for this administration, despite the fact that I think Mr. Bush majored in history at Yale. Go figure.

Evidently my internet addiction is managable...and the hat doesn't look so bad either. (Update: in my zeal to publish SOMETHING today, I forgot to give credit where it's due--I saw this in comments at Scaramouche).
[FUALI-DOT-COM] - Internet Addict Test: "
I am 36% Internet Addict.
Slight Internet Addict.
I could go either way. Deep into the madness of nights filled with coding CGI-Scripts and online role playing games, or I could become a normal user. Good luck!
Will the REAL AARP Agenda Please Stand Up?

Whiskey Bar points out several improvements to the ridiculous USANext ad suggesting that AARP is apparently an acronym meaning "old people want gays to get married and troops to get fucked." Rising Hegemon gets it right, if you ask me.

For anyone who might be confused about the greenish "graham crackers," here's a hint.
Coalition of the Desperate for a Green Card Willing

King of Zembla and Suburban Guerrilla clue us in on an ugly secret with the official Pengagon casualty count--of only US personnel, of course (which in itself speaks volumes, i.e., Iraqis, whether insurgent or civilian, are inherently less equal to the wingnut crowd). From Suburban Guerrilla:

Hired security contractors, or mercenaries, and recruits who are not citizens who enlisted to obtain a "green card," are not counted or mentioned. A large number of the green card recruits are from Mexico and Central America. There are no organizations to look after their rights or help them once they're in Iraq. Most of them are buried in Iraq when killed.

A videotape produced and distributed by the "Majles Shora Al-Mojahideen in Fallujah," one of the most important military wings of the Iraqi resistance, showed a burial site discovered outside the Iraqi city of Samara with tens of bodies in US military body bags. The dead were dressed in US uniforms. It is estimated that as many as 40% of the US troops serving in Iraq are green card recruits.

SG also found an Indymedia story that suggests Mazen Dana, the Reuters photojournalist killed in broad daylight outside Abu Ghraib prison (soldiers said they mistook his camera for a rocket launcher), was working on a story about graves in Iraq containing the remains of people dressed in US military clothing.

I guess this means that some died in the name of freedom--the freedom for one George W. Bush and his cabal to lie a little more.

Monday, February 21, 2005


I saw this at Whiskey Bar, and, to be fair, I think one of the Law & Order juggarnaut of shows had a fictionalized version:

Defense attorneys call it Brooklyn's Abu Ghraib. On the ninth floor of the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, terrorism suspects swept off the streets after the Sept. 11 attacks were repeatedly stripped naked and frequently were physically abused, the Justice Department's inspector general has found.

The detainees - none of whom were ultimately charged with anything related to terrorism - alleged in sworn affidavits and in interviews with Justice Department officials that correction officers:

Humiliated them by making fun of - and sometimes painfully squeezing - their genitals.

Deprived them of regular sleep for weeks or months.

Shackled their hands and feet before smashing them repeatedly face-first into concrete walls - within sight of the Statue of Liberty.

Forced them in winter to stand outdoors at dawn while dressed in light cotton prison garb and no shoes, sometimes for hours.

Hmmm. Squeezing (Ghraibing?) genitals, sleep deprivation, freezing, and just plain old abuse. Not exactly a record that makes you want to hold your head high. But, according to the Justice Department, it's all in a day's work:

The Justice Department's inspector general has substantiated some of the prisoners' allegations - and some incidents were captured on videotape. But the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any federal correction officer at MDC.

"I was informed the videos amounted to nothing more than shoving, but no serious injuries," said one Justice Department official, who would speak only on condition he not be identified.

But Inspector General Glenn Fine, whose staff reviewed 380 MDC videotapes, reported in 2003 that "These tapes substantiated many of the detainees' allegations." Furthermore, the officers were not just a few bad apples but "a significant percentage of those who had regular contact with the detainees," Fine wrote last March.

The Justice Department currently is reconsidering its rejection of a News Freedom of Information request for the tapes, after the paper filed an appeal.

Nothing more than shoving...I'd hate to go through a hurricane with the JD official--he'd probably call it "nothing more than a rainstorm."
Just Asking

Could Hunter Thompson's death be an epilogue to The Claudine Longet Invitational?
Trivia Question

Q. Who once said, "Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy." ?

A. Find it here, along with an article about a remarkable American soldier who blasts a hole into that appalling phrase that's big enough to drive a truck through.
While I Was Out

Man, what a weekend, and I don't necessarily mean a good one. Hunter Thompson apparently killed himself--this was a bit of a shock, as I'd assumed he had sort of a Keith Richards ability to, well, survive just about anything. RIP, HST.

Then there's the matter of the Bush tapes, which don't surprise me a whole lot--with one exception: Bush comes out, no pun intended, with the statement that he won't bash gays, which is, well, very Christian of him--and, it turns out, a lie, as the 2004 election proved.

Is it just me, or is Bush...well, no, I don't even want to consider something like that...

Gannon/Guckert is news across the pond, even if the media here is treating it as tabloid fodder (Atrios has a couple of good links--one pointing out some, um, interesting contrasts when it comes to sex scandals, the other noting how shrill PowerLine is when replying to serious questions--on the latter point, YRHT posted on WeaknessLine's "j'accuse" of treason on the part of Jimmy Carter in similar I posted in comments, I think this is a desperate attempt to mask the miserable failures on the part of their chosen heroes.

Speaking of miserable failure, Iraq once again exploded in violence over the weekend with at least 55 people killed in a series of suicide bombings--at least one US soldier was killed too, but the national news seems to be ignoring this.

Bob Herbert nicely summarizes the Iraqi tragedy in an op-ed:

So tell me again. What was this war about? In terms of the fight against terror, the war in Iraq has been a big loss. We've energized the enemy. We've wasted the talents of the many men and women who have fought bravely and tenaciously in Iraq. Thousands upon thousands of American men and women have lost arms or legs, or been paralyzed or blinded or horribly burned or killed in this ill-advised war. A wiser administration would have avoided that carnage and marshaled instead a more robust effort against Al Qaeda, which remains a deadly threat to America.

On the domestic front, the Sleaze Boat Veteran consulting group has now put the AARP in their sights, because they've come out against Bush's plan to shipwreck Social Security. I dunno--maybe their strategery will be to declare that AARP members really "aren't all that old."

Finally, in what must have been a painful pill for old-school NASCAR fans (the kind who think of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. as the patron saint of carbureted motors, restrictor plated or not), Jeff Gordon won the Daytona 500. Too bad he didn't win last year, when the dauphin stopped in to bask in their glory. I've heard that old-school fans will leap to their feet, and men who haven't so much as touched their spouse in years will proffer hugs if Gordon crashes. Yeah, they really hate the guy, sort of in the same way GOP hacks hated Clinton...and for much the same reason, which is...well, really no reason at all.

Back in a bit.