Friday, April 01, 2005

Good Old Fashioned Loyalty Oaths

Jesselee at DailyKos points to the money quote in this Washington Times article, that, to me, reads like a peckerwood parody of Hitler in the bunker:

Morton Blackwell, Republican National Committee member from Virginia and a member of ACU's board, said Republicans are being told support for Mr. DeLay is mandatory if they want future support from conservatives.

"Conservative leaders across the country are working now to make sure that any politician who hopes to have conservative support in the future had better be in the forefront as we attack those who attack Tom DeLay," he said.

You vill support zee Majority Leader and you vill ENJOY it! Seig Heil!

Billmon then takes it to a whole other level.
Juan Cole Hits a Home Run

Here's another must read. Professor Cole weaves together a powerful argument against right wingnut patriarchy, using Iraq, the Schiavo tragedy, George W. Bush, and Tom DeLay. As I'm sure many others have said/thought/mentioned or otherwise considered, the "culture of life" sure knows how to dish out industrial-sized doses of death without so much as working up a sweat. And Cole gives the pResident a figurative slap upside the head after reading about his bizarre Thursday "press conference:"

It is like a parody of himself. He stresses that intelligence work is a) hard and b) secret.

That is supposed to make it all right that we sent a high-tech army into a poor, weak country and turned it into a failed state, killing 40,000 innocent Iraqis and suffering over 1500 coalition troops dead and over 10,000 US troops wounded, many maimed for life, and spending $300 billion on it? For no reason? When the poor weak state did not in fact have the weapons of mass destruction that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz insisted it had? When they bullied anyone who questioned their evidence for all this, and got their billionnaire buddies who own the media to have their anchors and editorialists also bully any dissidents?

Because intelligence work is hard and secret?

How does Bush square all the violence he has unleashed in the world with his praise of "life?" What is the link between war-mongering and being "pro-life?"

And, for equal times sake, he lays into the anti-choice folks:

It turns out that anti-abortionism is not about life at all. It is about social control. It helps establish a hierarchical society in which men are at the pinnacle and women kept barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Likewise, the Schiavo case was in part about the religious Right dictating to Michael Schiavo how he must lead his private life.

Good stuff. Take a look.
Unreachable White House

From King of Zembla. Seymour Hersh, speaking at New Mexico State, Las Cruces, delivers a dim assessment of the Grandstander in Chief, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just check out the whole thing if you're feeling a little too upbeat lately...
Wouldn't Surprise Me

You've probably seen this since it's an Atrios link, but this is so right up Bush alley that I'll bet at least some in the administration have discussed it:

Now (in this theoretical world) all individuals have retirement income accounts that, while government regulated, are likely to be somewhat similar to 401K and other accounts. If you fall into the need for Medicaid otherwise, its possible that any new law will structure the Private Accounts in a manner that will make them vulnerable to either deny medicaid, or force the recipient to spend down the private account (if they are indeed permitted to do so! - it could be that they would not be permitted to spend the resource down quickly to "preserve" the resource, allowing for a catch-22 denial of medicaid benefits) in order to become eligible for medicaid.

In other words, switching from Social Security to some private account scheme would allow medicaid to have yet another resource to factor into denials, and another resource to force you to spend down your resources (good luck, spouse - you have 90k to live on for the next 30 or 40 years!).

"Solving" the Social Security "problem" could solve the Medicaid problem as well!

I mean, if you don't mind our government's policies going back to the dark ages.

No shit. And in case people don't realize this, Medicare also requires a spend down to qualify for certain benefits.
A Soldier's Perspective

Today in Iraq has an email exchange for today's post. If you have the time, you should read it all, but if you're running short, here's a sample:

During the initial high-intensity combat phase of the campaign in March/April 2003, the 3d Infantry Division crossed the LD at the Kuwaiti border and attacked along the Euphrates river on a planned line of advance through Nasiriyah - Samawah - Najaf - Hilla - to the strategic objective of Baghdad. The attack stalled at Najaf, less from to Iraqi resistance than poor logistical support due to Rumsfeld’s faulty force structure. As a result, the US follow-on exploitation force, 1st Marine Division, swung right across Tigris river at Kut and attacked Baghdad from the east bank of the Tigris, drawing off defending Iraqi units from 3ID. Re-supplied, 3ID continued the attack and Baghdad fell.

Although 3ID and 1MD took Baghdad, they lacked the resources to secure Iraq. Weeks of looting, murder, rape, riot and disorder followed, all directly attributable to Rumsfeld’s failure to follow the advice of the professional officer corps. Before the war, General Shinseki, US Army Chief of Staff, warned Congress that a successful conquest and pacification of Iraq required at least 400,000 troops, would take a minimum of five years, and would cost $100 billion annually. Rumsfeld and his buddies went apeshit and a Republican Congress ignored the General. Paul Wolfowitz said GEN Shinseki was “wildly off the mark.” Larry DiRita said GEN Shinseki was a political partisan. Dougie Feith publicly called GEN Shenseki a liar. GEN Shinseki made the honorable decision to retire. No civilian political appointee from Rumsfeld’s office attended GEN Shinseki’s retirement ceremony, presumably just to spite an American officer who disagreed. They didn’t hear GEN Shinseki say, “Beware the twelve division strategy for a ten division Army.” The American people didn’t hear that waning either, because our media was too busy yapping about “shock and awe.”

I did not know that the individual running Today in Iraq was a veteran, but I have no reason to disbelieve (note: if only a small part of the site loads, hit the F11 key TWICE. That usually clears it up. An alternative solution is to download Mozilla). At any rate, he provides both an excellent summary of the initial invasion and a clear analysis from a military perspective, while showing respect to a fellow soldier.
Operation Doofus

Your Right Hand Thief has the link. The Rude Pundit has a few things to say too.

Short version: the major source of "intelligence" regarding Iraqi weapons programs was an individual code named "Curveball." How apt. His qualifications were apparently a fondness for drink and the ability to lie through his sodden teeth. The Bush administration's dim-witted agreement with Curveball's lies was lagniappe.

Here's the Rude One's summation:

No, it's not "ha-ha" funny. It's more like "bang-bang-you're-dead-soldier" funny.

What will you do with a drunken asset?
Take him at his word and believe all he says...
Media Pushers

If you don't mind sitting through an ad (or if you have a premium subscription), this Salon article is a good read.

Short version: In the "mainstream media," a national consensus about the Schiavo tragedy becomes a sign of a "divided" country. The reality is that most Americans no more want Tom DeLay and Randall Terry playing doctor with their loved ones than they'd want to get poked in the eye with a burnt stick. Yet the media insists there's some sort of divide--and conveniently ignores Mr. Terry's past (as well as the fact that another protester was a registered sex offender).

Oh, and while on this subject, the batshit insane ramblings of Tom DeLay continue apace: yesterday, it was thinly veiled threats (Tom's Christian conversion apparently ignores the New Testament), today, calls for impeaching judges who disagreed with him.

However, Tom must realize that his political career is in the feeding tube stage at this point, with both Rethuglicans and Democrats ready to withdraw sustenance. And I'll be raising a glass in celebration when that son-of-a-bitch takes his final step off the plank...

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Nat'l Security Democrats: "We'll Fuck Things Up Just as Badly"

From King of Zembla. Matt Taibbi smells a horrible odor emanating from certain Democrats:

"Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. I would say to John, 'Let me put it to you this way. The Lord Almighty, or Allah, whoever, if he came to every kitchen table in America and said, "Look, I have a Faustian bargain for you, you choose. I will guarantee to you that I will end all terror threats against the United States within the year, but in return for that there will be no help for education, no help for Social Security, no help for health care." What do you do?' My answer is that seventy-five per cent of the American people would buy that bargain."

—Joe Biden, in The New Yorker, on what he would say to John Kerry

"Look, the answer is, we have to do an unbranding. We have to brand more effectively. It's marketing."

—Kerry, in the same piece, on the Democrats' need to sell themselves as tough

Around the same time Joe Biden was selling New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Goldberg on the idea that the only hope for the Democratic Party was to abandon all social programming and invade the planet, some interesting polls were taken in the three countries most involved in the Iraq invasion.

What do the polls show? Support Bush, Blair, and Howard has dropped like a lead ingot. Duh...

Yet the response, at least from some Democrats, is to make sure their toe is firmly in place between said ingot and the ground below:

In the midst of all of this, the Democratic Party is preparing its shiny new 2008 position on Iraq and terror. Described in Goldberg's New Yorker article, the political plan is centered around a new faction that calls itself the "National Security Democrats" (a term coined by that famous liberal, Richard Holbrooke) and is led by revolting hair-plug survivor Joe Biden. The position of the "National Security Democrats" is that the party should be "more open to the idea of military action, and even preemption" and that the Democrats should "try to distance themselves from the Party's Post-Vietnam ambivalence about the projection of American power." Additionally, the Democrats ought to reconsider their traditional stance as an opposition party and learn to embrace Republican heroes like Ronald Reagan...

It would be easy to dismiss the Biden revival as a cheap stunt by a discredited party hack with all the national appeal of the streptococcus virus, except for one thing. Biden's "national security" camp includes all four of the expected main contenders for the Democratic nomination—Biden himself, Hillary Clinton, Indiana senator Evan Bayh, and John Edwards. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, another outside contender, is also a member of this camp. We are going to be hearing a lot about "National Security Democrats" in the next three years.

The Democratic party leadership's persistent and bizarre campaign of self-condemnation and Republican bootlicking is one of those things that, on its face, makes very little logical sense. It makes cultural sense; we have come to expect that the cultural figures we call the Democrats will respond to electoral failure first by sniveling and finger-pointing, and then by puffing up their chests and telling their dates they know how to handle themselves in a bar fight. From the Republicans we expect just the opposite; beaten at the polls, they immediately start cozying up to snake-handlers and gun freaks and denouncing school lunches as socialism. It is impossible to imagine a Newt Gingrich responding, say, to LBJ's Great Society by concocting its own expensive plan to feed the poor black man—but we fully expect that a Democrat who loses an election will suddenly start to reconsider his opposition to preemptive invasion and Reaganomics.

I can't, for the life of me, understand why any of these folks would adopt such a position--the lesson of Iraq is as subtle as a sledgehammer between the eyes to ANYONE who's bothered to look at more than a local news broadcast. And that's the model for the future? Jeez.
He's Afraid...He's very, VERY Afraid

Another one from my friend Benjamin (credit him with pointing out to me the link below) this from William Pitt, at Truthout:

When I went to New York City this past summer to cover the GOP convention, I remember being awed by the degree of security surrounding Madison Square Garden. There were fences to control the fences, fifty cops on every corner, none of whom knew what the others were telling people to do, a half-dozen passes of needed to get twenty feet in any direction, and that was before you even got inside the door.

I saw the same thing when I went to DC to cover the Inauguration. The capitol was an armed camp, a sea of Bush supporters surrounded by tens of thousands of protesters. At one point, I stopped for 30 seconds next to a squad car to check my cell phone, and was immediately confronted by three cops asking me what I was doing. Amusingly, the security fences and cops decided not to give those protesters One Big Spot to congregate, and instead spread them out like butter across the entire route. The effect was to make the protests seem much larger than they were - and they were big - while forcing the Bush folk to elbow past them every six feet for the entire length of Pennsylvania Avenue.

All those fences. All those guns. All those cops. At first, it seemed like an arguably necessary precaution; these were, after all, the two cities to take the hit on 9/11. But the longer I stayed, the longer I looked around, and the closer I observed the behavior of Bush and his people, I came to a sad conclusion: This security was not about keeping us all safe from terrorists, but was about keeping Bush safe from his own people. The President of the United States is flatly terrified of the citizens he would supposedly lead to some supply-side promised land. He is scared to death of us.

I witnessed first-hand the massive security dump in New York City in the days leading up to the convention, and can attest to the troubing nature of it all. But anyway, Pitt goes on to quote a Daniel Ellsberg interview that should really open up the eyeballs of anyone concerned about democracy in this country:

I think our democracy is going to be tested to the breaking point by some very dark days ahead and before long. I do expect there to be another major terrorist event. Ports, the nuclear power plants and the chemical factories are extremely vulnerable to an attack. To a considerable event, the war against terrorism has been a hoax because the president has not only spent so much money on the war in Iraq, but because the war in Iraq virtually subverts the war on terror. You cannot reduce the appeal and the strength of Al Qaeda while we occupy Iraq. You can only strengthen it, and strengthening it is what we've been doing steadily for the last couple of years.

I think that's the kind of thing we do have in our future, especially when there's another terrorist attack. In that case, I think we'll see enacted very quickly a new Patriot Act, which I'm sure has already been drafted which will make the first Patriot Act look like the Bill of Rights, and the Bill of Rights will be a historical memory.

If you have time, read the entire piece.

Oh, and speaking of being tested to the breaking point, I guess most folks saw Atrios's link to ThinkProgress--Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, is all but threatening lynch mob tactics against those he disagrees with. Well, hopefully soon, we won't have Tom to kick around any more... Hatred

The major religions in Israel found something they can all agree on--hating gays:

International gay leaders are planning a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem in August, saying they want to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in the Holy City, home to three great religious traditions.

Now major leaders of the three faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable.

You'd think the various patriarchs would, oh, I don't know, spend more energy on trying to work towards peace in the region instead...
Grandstander in Chief

Bush, who, as John Aravosis noted, could barely be bothered by the school shootings in Minnesota, and can't even be reminded of combat deaths in Iraq without doing his best impersonation of a snapping turtle, found time to preen before the cameras and bleat the words "culture of life."

What an absolutely shameless son-of-a-bitch.
Another "Mercy Killing"

At first, I confused this story with this one, but actually they are separate incidents:

A military court has found a US army captain guilty of killing a wounded Iraqi man in central Iraq last year.
Capt Rogelio Maynulet, 30, said he shot the man, who had been wounded in a clash with US soldiers, in order to end his suffering...

Karim Hassan, 36, was killed on 21 May last year near the central Iraqi town of Kufa.

US troops fired at a vehicle they thought was carrying militants linked to the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.

The hearing was told that the car's passenger was killed immediately, while the driver was badly injured.

Lt Colin Cremin testified that Maynulet and others in his unit had described the incident to him, saying the driver "had half his brain hanging out, there was nothing more that could be done for him".

In closing remarks on Thursday, the prosecution had said Maynulet had "played God" when he shot the man.

Of course there are any number of incidents where shooting the wounded can't at all be considered "mercy killing" (but which seem to bring on howls of delight from the wingnuts--I dunno, maybe they get off on watching people die, as long as they're comfortably sitting in their cozy houses). Regardless, it speaks volumes as to our patronizing--and utterly contradictory--attitudes towards Iraqi citizens. The disconnect in this: unable to decide whether to liberate or shoot them, whether to build a school or raze a city, combined with a none-too-subtle racist approach (I see a LOT of "white man's burden" rhetoric coming from the Bush administration, even as they pretend to mouth the opposite) is unbelievable. "Mercy killing" likewise smacks of racism: I seriously doubt anyone in this country would advocate two bullets to the head of, say, someone seriously hurt in a car wreck.

I've noted previously (don't feel like scouring my archives, but it's there) that I'm ambivalent about convictions and sentences for US soldiers who do this--by recognized standards, these men ARE guilty of criminal acts, yes--but the entire enterprise is an exercise in thuggery on an international scale, one that was supposed to be the crowning achievement of the dauphin before the old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men came crashing down on his flight-suited strut. Under those circumstances, foot soldiers are--well, mere foot soldiers. Pawns in a very deadly game.

And, again, I'll mention that we should be VERY concerned that some individuals could be badly affected by their experience in combat.
Dead Wrong

No shit. 1600 US troops dead wrong, as many as 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead wrong.

ABC News reports on a presidential commission's report about pre-Iraq war intelligence:

U.S. intelligence on Iraq was "dead wrong" in almost all cases before the Iraq war and flaws are still all too common throughout an American spy community that requires a major overhaul, a presidential commission reported on Thursday.

The commission's report, ordered by President Bush after he launched the Iraq war two years ago based on intelligence about its weapons programs that proved to be false, said the harm done to American credibility "will take years to undo."

"We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the commissioners wrote.

However, the commission's report, if you ask me, is dead wrong too:

Bush, accused of hyping the intelligence on Iraq in order to pursue a costly war with a deadly aftermath, and his inner circle escaped direct blame.

The commission said it found no evidence that the White House or the Pentagon put political pressure on analysts to color the intelligence to back up their claims.

That's not what other people think.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Calling Pro-Lifers

From Rising Hegemon. The BBC reports on starvation in the new Iraq:

Increasing numbers of children in Iraq do not have enough food to eat and more than a quarter are chronically undernourished, a UN report says. Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led intervention - to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says.

UN specialist on hunger Jean Ziegler, who prepared the report, blames the worsening situation in Iraq on the war led by coalition forces.

He was addressing a meeting of the 53-nation commission, the top UN rights watchdog, which is halfway through its annual six-week session.

When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, about 4% of Iraqi children under five were going hungry; now that figure has almost doubled to 8%, his report says.

Governments must recognise their extra-territorial obligations towards the right to food and should not do anything that might undermine access to it of people living outside their borders, it says.

That point is aimed clearly at the US, but Washington, which has sent a large delegation to the Human Rights Commission, declined to respond to the charges, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

Mr Ziegler also says he is very concerned about the lack of food in North Korea, where there are reports that UN food aid is not being distributed fairly.

In Darfur, the continuing conflict has prevented people from planting vital crops, he says.

Overall, Mr Ziegler says, he is shocked by the fact that hunger is actually increasing worldwide.

Some 17,000 children die every day from hunger-related diseases, the report claims, which it says is a scandal in a world which is richer than ever before.

"The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder," Mr Ziegler said. "It must be battled and eliminated."

Alas, there's no word on how many of these kids would require a feeding tube...which means Randall Terry and his ilk couldn't give a shit...

From AmericaBlog, link to this:

Best. Picture. Ever.
Well, at least the best picture I've seen today...

While on the subject of best whatever, take a look at James Wolcott's latest--he captures the essence of the Schindlers, their associated minions, and their flaks perfectly. Wolcott also notes this transcript of the Joe Scarborough show--you've probably heard of it, if not seen it already--where old Joe is taken to the mat by Ronald Cranford, M.D., one of Ms. Schiavo's neurologists. If there's any possibility of a general awakening of the public in this country, last night could possibly be considered the "At long last, have you no shame?" moment.

Oh, and if you want to see a streaming video of the interview, Crooks and Liars has it.

While on the subject of armageddon as self-fulfilling prophesy, you gotta shake your head when you read this:

The United States will sell F-16 jet fighters to Pakistan in a deal that State Department officials said Friday would improve regional security.

Selling F-16's to the biggest nuclear pusher on the planet is like giving a street gang shiny new .50 caliber rifles.
No Deposit, No Refund

The Guardian notes a report by a number of leading scientists suggesting that humans are treating the earth like a can of soda:

A report backed by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries - some of them world leaders in their fields - today warns that the almost two-thirds of the natural machinery that supports life on Earth is being degraded by human pressure.

The study contains what its authors call "a stark warning" for the entire world. The wetlands, forests, savannahs, estuaries, coastal fisheries and other habitats that recycle air, water and nutrients for all living creatures are being irretrievably damaged. In effect, one species is now a hazard to the other 10 million or so on the planet, and to itself.

"Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it says.

Of course, given what we know about the Bush administration's approach to science, I can't say this will so much as raise an eyebrow in the executive branch (though it might cause some clown to worm out of the woodwork with equivocal statements about how the issue "is open to interpretation"). Then again, considering the batshit insane ravings of the religious right regarding the end of times, I wouldn't be surprised if they'd go out of their way to hasten the process...

Armageddon as self-fulfilling prophesy...

More GOP Moral Values

Roger Ailes has an interesting letter on his site, written by Douglas S. Smith, who is now probably more famous than he ever wanted to be. Take a look...

So--I wonder when Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, David Brooks, Rush Limbaugh, James Guckert, and the rest of the GOP Scream Machine take to the airwaves to denounce the intrusion on Mr. Smith's "private life."
The Professor has several obversations worth mentioning, commenting on extremism in general. For those without a subscription to the online version of the paper, here's an appetizer:

One thing that's going on is a climate of fear for those who try to enforce laws that religious extremists oppose. Randall Terry, a spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents, hasn't killed anyone, but one of his former close associates in the anti-abortion movement is serving time for murdering a doctor. George Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, needs armed bodyguards.

Another thing that's going on is the rise of politicians willing to violate the spirit of the law, if not yet the letter, to cater to the religious right.

Everyone knows about the attempt to circumvent the courts through "Terri's law." But there has been little national exposure for a Miami Herald report that Jeb Bush sent state law enforcement agents to seize Terri Schiavo from the hospice - a plan called off when local police said they would enforce the judge's order that she remain there.

And the future seems all too likely to bring more intimidation in the name of God and more political intervention that undermines the rule of law.

The religious right is already having a big impact on education: 31 percent of teachers surveyed by the National Science Teachers Association feel pressured to present creationism-related material in the classroom.

But medical care is the cutting edge of extremism.

Yesterday The Washington Post reported on the growing number of pharmacists who, on religious grounds, refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or morning-after pills. These pharmacists talk of personal belief; but the effect is to undermine laws that make these drugs available. And let me make a prediction: soon, wherever the religious right is strong, many pharmacists will be pressured into denying women legal drugs.

And it won't stop there. There is a nationwide trend toward "conscience" or "refusal" legislation. Laws in Illinois and Mississippi already allow doctors and other health providers to deny virtually any procedure to any patient. Again, think of how such laws expose doctors to pressure and intimidation.

Also tried to post this yesterday. And while Blogger is now, um, working, I've noticed my page looks like Bush's plan for privatizing Social Security...
Dark Horse of the Apocalypse

Tbogg laments his almost-but-not-quite-winning-ticket:

Dammit. I had James Dobson in my trifecta...

Just when you thought that Terris Schiavo was going to win the I'm Closer To Jesus Than You Are Stakes by edging the Pope out (and, trust me, that Pope hat is pretty formidable on the lean at the tape) here comes dark horse Jerry Falwell from out of nowhere down the stretch.

In Jerry's case, Hell called. His room is ready.

Cheney must've faded down the stretch.
James Guckert's Military Career

DailyKos diarist Susan G, writing under the name EPluribusMedia (bet James doesn't know what that means), has a timeline on this media whore--one thing missing is military service...I wonder if his "clients" can sue for false advertising?
Free Speech is Limited to Those Who Own...Nevermind

Team Bush apparently thinks they're still campaigning, and therefore can limit participation in campaign events--except that, wait a second: the election is over...(from Rising Hegemon)

DENVER -- The U.S. Secret Service on Monday said it was investigating the claims of three people who said they were removed from President Bush's town hall meeting on Social Security last week after being singled out because of a bumper sticker on their car.

The three said they had obtained tickets through the office of Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., had passed through security and were preparing to take their seats when they were approached by what they thought was a Secret Service agent who asked them to leave.

One woman, Karen Bauer, 38, a marketing coordinator from Denver, said the agent put his hand on her elbow and steered her away from her seat and toward an exit.

"The Secret Service had nothing to do with that," said Lon Garner, special agent in charge of the Secret Service district office in Denver. "We are very sensitive to the First Amendment and general assembly rights as protected by the Constitution."

The Secret Service is in charge of protecting the president.

Impersonating a Secret Service agent is, I believe, a crime.

Note: tried to post this yesterday...
Three-Legged Race

Note: Blogger is acting like shit again. Imagine that.

If this posts at all, it'll be amazing.

Juan Cole notes the "fiasco" in the new Iraqi parliament while taking time to mention three disturbing trends: first, ordinary Iraqi citizens are nervous, i.e., sick and tired of the chaos (who wouldn't be?), second, the insurgents are showing a surprising ability to disable Abrams tanks (the rear of the vehicle is vulnerable), and finally, that Iraqi prisons are stuffed to the gills--well, in that respect, maybe some "American-style" democracy has finally found its way to the Fertile Crescent.

Meanwhile, Billmon, who last week likened WRITING his blog to mainlining, is once again providing READERS like me the equivalent. In this post, he nicely summarizes the problem facing the US at present: the IRAQI government (if it can ever form itself) has the United States over a barrel:

Rooting around on Google yesterday looking for clips on the negotiations over the new Iraqi government (It's almost ready! Any day now! Really!) I came across this bit of semi-official propaganda, courtesy of US News & World Report, which explains how the mighty USA hopes to control its Shia-dominated client state once the new government (We're close! Honest!) is up and running:

U.S. officials in Baghdad said they are prepared to play diplomatic hardball – including the threat to withhold billions in promised reconstruction aid – to ensure that Iraq's political newbies stick to the game plan for a democratic, pluralistic, federalist, and unified state. "The Iraqis are free to choose whatever vision of Iraq they want. That's entirely up to them," says a diplomat in Baghdad. "It's entirely up to us, the United States, who we choose to support. We can use these funds elsewhere."

Now “newbies” is a pretty laughable choice of nouns to describe men who have spent decades in the deadly whirlwind of Middle Eastern politics – the prototypical war of the all against the all – and not only survived but emerged on top. It would be interesting to see how long Bill Frist or Denny Hastert would last in that particular jungle armed only with their teleprompters and their power ties...

The truth is that the Bush administration is now captive to the Shia coalition, not the other way around – just as earlier administrations became captive to a series of South Vietnamese presidents, from Diem to Thieu, who stubbornly refused to sacrifice their own narrow interests to serve an American-made strategy for winning the war (or, in the end, for losing it gracefully.)...

Failure in Iraq, as we have been reminded again and again, is not an option. So the idea the Bushies would deliberately pull the financial rug out from under the only viable alternative to chaos – and consolidation of a radical jihadist sanctuary in the Sunni Triangle – is absurd.

It’s not just the fact that a large, and growing, share of the promised reconstruction funds have been redirected to security work – like shoring up the walls of our Fort Apache in the heart of Baghdad or building bomb proof mess halls at US military bases. That kind of spending will be necessary as long as the military occupation lasts, no matter how disobedient the new Iraqi government becomes.

But even if the administration was ready and able to pour billions into Iraq's reconstruction – and millions more into the Swiss bank accounts of favored Iraqi politicians – a threat to withdraw that largesse would be about as credible as a threat by the Shia leadership to demand the withdrawal of US troops. Both sides know these things aren’t going to happen.

Exactly. Which means that our ridiculous adventure in Iraq will lurch along for a while before eventually landing with an ugly crash and thud. The options available are incredibly limited--and there's an ongoing insurgency that shows NO sign of letting up regardless of who manages to cobble together any sort of "working" government. Right now, any outcome that the US could conceivable refer to as a semblence of "victory" will result in the equivalent of a Saddam Hussein-like government. In other words, a gigantic circle-jerk at the cost of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Even "liberal" social programs weren't that kind of drain...
OK, Maybe Irony ISN'T Dead

Pope John Paul II has a feeding tube of his very own to go along with his breathing tube. Perhaps Randall Terry and his minions will park their sorry butts outside the Vatican now.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ghoulish Indeed

Daily Kos has the story, so you've probably seen it, but gawddamn nonetheless:

The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups.

"These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler's legal battle to keep Terri's estranged husband from removing the feeding tube from Terri," says a description of the list on the Web site of the firm, Response Unlimited, which is asking $150 a month for 6,000 names and $500 a month for 4,000 e-mail addresses of people who responded last month to an e-mail plea from Ms. Schiavo's father. "These individuals are passionate about the way they value human life, adamantly oppose euthanasia and are pro-life in every sense of the word!"

Lends a whole new meaning to the term Schindler's List. Geez, I wonder what they'll do next? How about marketing Terri's Iced Tea (Warning: do not drink this product more than 14 times a day)? Or Schiavo Headache Powders? (all proceeds directed to Randall Terry). And, yeah, I guess I'm going to hell for this one--wonder if the Schindlers will be there too, given their crass opportunism: Terry Schiavo's Produce--keeps longer than ordinary vegetables.
Faith Based Initiative

You won't find it in the online version of the local rag, but a friend of mine told me that the newsprint copy has the story of Blake Lemoine, a soldier from Moreauville (near Marksville), who wants out of the army after a stint in Iraq. The L.A. Times (subscription required) provides a few details:

Spc. Blake Lemoine, who returned to Germany in May 2004, said he wanted to quit the Army because of religious beliefs.

The special military court in Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt, sentenced Lemoine to seven months' confinement, reduction in rank to private and a bad-conduct discharge.

Lemoine, from Moreauville, La., has spoken out against U.S. soldiers' treatment of Iraqis, saying, "Iraqi civilians are often treated worse than animals."

As noted, the online Advocate seems to be missing the story--but, according to my friend, some details emerge regarding his religious persuasion:

"He also argued that his duties as an ordained pagan minister (my italics-michael) are in conflict with his job in the U.S. Army.” Which helps explain the dog-collar necklace his wife is wearing in the photo.

War News o'the Day provides a few additional details:

Specialist...Lemoine, 23, who served in Iraq last year, sent his chain of command a letter this year, announcing all the reasons he should be allowed to quit: the Army conflicts with his religious beliefs and rituals; he and his wife are not monogamous, counter to military policy; he is bisexual.

Well, he sure does sound like he's from Louisiana--a regular hedonist (although I didn't know true hedonists lived so close to the border between north and south Loosiana, which, given the general differences, might as well require a passport).

Is Lemoine really pagan and bisexual? I dunno--he says he is (and I might have to check out the paper copy, if only for a glance at the dog-collar necklace his wife was wearing). But at any rate, I'll certainly give Mr. Lemoine credit for having a--unique reason for declining additional military "service," (quotes deliberate--the last thing the military is doing in Iraq is "service," unless you count the greater glory of the dauphin qualifying). And this is further proof that the "war" in Iraq is OVER. Whatever Spc. Lemoine's true beliefs, the fact is that he and plenty of others are opting out of what they correctly see as Operation Go Cheney Ourselves, with the potential for real damage for those caught over there (aside: last night C-Span had a pretty poignant piece about veterans at Walter Reed Hospital learning how to use their new artificial limbs). Anyway, Lemoine is simply following in the footsteps of others who opted out of Vietnam--and his reason for avoiding service is a hell of a lot more, um sanitary than say, Ted Nugent's.

So, good luck Spc. Lemoine.

Monday, March 28, 2005


That's probably the common element to anything I'll be mentioning, beginning with Blogger now more or less being equivalent of a Yugo. Shit, I'd probably have better luck tapping out Morse code on a cup attached to a piece of took almost 45 minutes to simply get to the point where I'm able to compose something--and I still don't know if it's gonna publish. (Update: two hours and three tries thus far).

Not that I'm likely to switch just yet, but I actually looked at typepad to check out their service...

Anyway, I'm going to post several otherwise non-related items, with the idea that maybe I can get Blogger in gear just long enough to note a few things, and then I've got some stuff to do that involves more than watching IE's progress bar stall over and over again.

So Many Idiots, So Little Time

Democratic Underground's Top Ten Conservative Idiots List was updated earlier today, and there's plenty of competition. I'm sure I would have eventually gotten to it anyway, but I was searching around for references to the gag-worthy "Culture of Life" mantra that slithers out of the lips of the wingnuts and came across it...I wasn't disappointed.

"Cultists of Life" check in at the runner-up spot...amazingly, Hal Turner, wingnut radio talk show host, allowed his inner Nazi to overshadow his own cult leanings upon learning that Ms. Schiavo is Jewish. Others, while not following in Hal's footsteps, per se, have made at least half-hearted attempts to sow hate and fear, threatening to shoot either Michael Schiavo, or the judge (who is himself a devout Christian). Tom DeLay and George W. Bush demonstrated themselves to be hypocritical idiots, respectively--DeLay, it's been revealed, had a similar enough situation to Schiavo involving his father: the elder DeLay was badly injured and was being kept alive with a respirator. The family decided to shut it off.

Bush, who, recall, demonstrated his fealty to the "cult of life" by mocking Karla Faye Tucker while governor of Texas--and might as well have spat on every person in uniform in the country when he turned WMD into a punchline at a black-tie dinner, signed legislation allowing hospitals in the Lone Star State to turn machines off regardless of family wishes. Bush also ducked the issue of the teenage suicide shooter in Minnesota for almost a week--what bravery on the part of the commander in chief. I guess he was waiting for Rove to look at the polling data...

Finally, Jeb gets jabbed when word gets out that he sent a goddamned posse to try to take the corpus--literally. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.

Anyway, there's a LOT more to see by linking over.

Lesson on How to Win Ugly

The Rude Pundit's got it.

Guiliana Sgrena and Naomi Klein

Suburban Guerrilla and Counterpunch both have excerpts, and the news would be shocking--except for the fact that almost nothing captures public attention (unless it's the Schiavo tragedy)...Sgrena reveals new details about what was the closest of calls (including the fact that she was shot with what appears to be a .50 Caliber gun, which tore through her shoulder and punctured a lung).

Short version: there was no checkpoint. The road itself was NOT the airport road familar to anyone who's aware of the situation in Iraq (i.e., the most dangerous road in the world). Sgrena was traveling a VIP route to the airport, which required a diversion into the Green Zone. The car was shot at FROM BEHIND. Oh, and the US has taken custody of the vehicle (although it is owned by the Italian government) and refuses to release it to investigators....Hmmm.

Keep the Cardboard Box, Throw Away the Item

From Bad Attitudes here's a link to a Michael Kinsey's op-ed that opens with two prescient paragraphs:

Based on the two big domestic stories of last week -- Terri Schiavo and Social Security personoramification (or whatever they want us to call it instead of privatization) -- the Republican philosophy seems to be that people need more control over their own retirements but less control over their own deaths.

Based on recent polls, most people feel the exact opposite. They prefer the modest but certain Social Security check they get every month over the opportunity to spend their twilight years nursing their portfolios and worrying every time Alan Greenspan's successors open their mouths. On the other hand, they want to set for themselves the rules about their own final departure. Specifically, people are terrified of being kept joylessly alive, active minds trapped in shut-down bodies or lost minds mocking the dignity of a lifetime, just to prove somebody's political point.

Kinsey goes on to suggest that Bush actually believes in his culture of life (and Social Security privatization) rubbish--as he puts it, Bush possesses "the stubborn conviction of the unreflective mind." Hmmm. We'll see whether or not that plays out over time, won't we?

Finally, here's an op-ed by Bob Herbert about a law suit filed on behalf of Arkan Mohammed Ali. Who's that? Herbert informs:

Arkan Mohammed Ali is a 26-year-old Iraqi who was detained by the U.S. military for nearly a year at various locations, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. According to a lawsuit filed against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Ali was at times beaten into unconsciousness during interrogations. He was stabbed, shocked with an electrical device, urinated on and kept locked - hooded and naked - in a wooden, coffinlike box. He said he was told by his captors that soldiers could kill detainees with impunity...

No charges were ever filed against Mr. Ali, and he was eventually released. But what should be of paramount concern to Americans is this country's precipitous and frightening descent into the hellish zone of lawlessness that the Bush administration, on the one hand, is trying to conceal and, on the other, is defending as absolutely essential to its fight against terror.

This underscores a major flaw in the global "war" on terror. It's not enough that Mr. Ali was freed. The problem was jailing and abusing him in the first place.

OK, I'm hoping that Blogger will actually post this--then I've got to go get a few things done. Maybe later I'll be able to post again, but if not...

And, for the record, I'm really getting sick & tired--yeah, I'm a small fry in the blogging world, but it's frustrating nonetheless...
A Reasonable Question

Juan Cole asks why, if there are some 60 insurgent attacks a day in the new Iraq, why do we hear about so few? Even Today in Iraq, an indispensible source of news, rarely links to more than perhaps a dozen reported incidents a day.

It seems as if you hear about Afghanistan even less...

(note: if it's Monday, Blogger must be working like shit--not that they'd ever mention it).
Expose Yourself to Art

Last week the New York Times reported on Banksy, a British graffiti artist who self-comissioned an exhibit of several works at prominent museums in the city. You can read more about this here.

The artist at work


New York Times slideshow.
Ignorance of the Law

Back in the old days, when the USA was just another heathenistic, secular humanist deomocracy, it wasn't an excuse...but now, it's a justification for actions resulting in the death of at least one prisoner in Iraq on the foreign side--and, hitting closer to home, it's just as effective when it comes to creditors and their grubby fingers.

From the first article:

...they determined the soldier involved had not been well informed of the rules of engagement.

That's setting the bar awfully low, if you ask me. Yeah, I'm aware that the 'all-volunteer' military sometimes forces them towards the duller knives, but I didn't think it was all that difficult to provide these less-than-stellar individuals with a skill set that includes the ability to recognize, say, friend from foe, or armed combatant from surrendered soon-to-be-prisoner-of-war (not to mention that POW's should as a rule be treated humanely--if nothing else, you do that as a safeguard).

I read somewhere--sorry, but I don't have the link--that the US refusal to sign on to the International Criminal Court was precisely for situations like this. Interesting...

Oh--and here's another interesting story--a North Carolina representative is sponsoring a resolution requesting that no charges be filed against a US Marine who shot two fleeing Iraqis (who turned out to be unarmed) during the first assault on Fallujah. To be honest, I don't know if prosecuting the Marine would solve anything anyway...who, in his position, WOULDN'T be a little quick on the trigger? On the other hand, the two Iraqis WERE shot in the back...thus showing that this war has really degenerated down to levels of ugly that no one wants to think about too much--no wonder coverage has been scaled back so drastically.

But, back (no pun intended) to the 'ignorance of the law' theme--but on this side of the globe:

The problem, most military law specialists say, is that too many lenders, debt collectors, landlords, lawyers and judges are unaware of the federal statute or do not fully understand it.

The law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, protects all active-duty military families from foreclosures, evictions and other financial consequences of military service. The Supreme Court has ruled that its provisions must "be liberally construed to protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of the nation."

Since this was picked up by Atrios, you've probably seen it already. But, for anyone who doesn't have a Times account, here are a few more excerpts:

The relief act provides a broad spectrum of protections to service members, their spouses and their dependents. The interest rate on debts incurred before enlistment, for example, must be capped at 6 percent if military duty has reduced a service member's family income.

The law also protects service members from repossession or foreclosure without a court order. It allows them to terminate any real estate lease when their military orders require them to do so. And it forbids judges from holding service members in default on any legal matter unless the court has first appointed a lawyer to protect their interests.

The law is an updated version of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act, which was adopted on the eve of World War II and remained largely unchanged through the Persian Gulf war of 1991. But in July 2001, a federal court ruled that service members could sue violators of the relief act for damages. And the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 prompted Congress to take up a long-deferred Pentagon proposal to update the old act. The revised statute, clearer and more protective than the old one, was signed into law in December 2003.

"There are 50,000 judges in this country and God knows how many lawyers," said Alexander P. White, a county court judge in Chicago and the chairman of one of the American Bar Association's military law committees. "Are people falling down on the job - the judges, the bar, the military? Probably." And broad understanding of the law "is not going to happen overnight."

Military lawyers, credit industry organizations and some state courts and bar associations have also tried to spread the word about the new law. But these efforts are not enough, said Col. John S. Odom Jr., retired, of Shreveport, La., who is a specialist on the act. "What we need is a way to reach Joe Bagadoughnuts in Wherever, Louisiana," he said. "Because that's where these cases are turning up."

One reason they are surfacing in unlikely places is the Pentagon's increased reliance on Reserve and National Guard units that do not hail from traditional military towns, said Lt. Col. Barry Bernstein, the judge advocate general for the South Carolina National Guard. When these units are called up, he said, their members find themselves facing creditors and courts that may never have dealt with the relief act.

Now, I hate to get cynical, but stop and think about it: soldiers are being sent off to a particularly ugly war--a war where killing unarmed civilians is now considered an acceptable practice (true, insurgents generally don't wear uniforms or other identifying material). If prisoners--who, as we now know, are being abused (or tortured), die in custody, then it's probably ok, especially if you're knowledge of regulations is a little hazy. However, regardless of how liberal (no pun intended) the rules of engagement are, war is still something that, to put it mildly, can stress the hell out of you (after all, one IED can really change your life forever). Add to this the very real possibility of the system screwing up and the bank forclosing on your house, or repossessing your car--and add to THIS the appalling cuts in veterans benefits...

The odds of someone "going postal" are, sadly, quite good. Maybe THAT'S what we should really worry about (note: the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City tragedy is not quite a month away).