Friday, June 17, 2005

History Lesson

Neo-cons seem, above all, to have either forgotten--or rejected--the saying "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Hence, their clamoring to invade Iraq, which, as we all know, isn't like Vietnam at all (sarcasm)...although, deep down, these same neo-cons know that they've been chafing about Vietnam SINCE we got out of THAT particular quagmire, and additionally, they've been itching to prove that such a war was winnable ever since.

It makes for an odd sort of contradiction, and one that could offer insight into their peculiar mindset. But, since any discussion of such things would inevitably devolve into matters of tactics, as opposed to strategic concerns, it might be better to compare the war in Iraq--to the war in Iraq...

At home, I came across this post from DC Media Girl a couple of days ago, and kept my browser open so I wouldn't forget to post something--now's as good a time as any to take a look:

My friend Larry Johnson, terrorism expert and inhabitant of the reality-based cmmunity, sends in the following post

Wishful thinking is no substitute for empirical analysis and a policy grounded in reality. The Bush Administration is coming slowly and uncertainly to this realization...For people who truly want to understand what lies before us I recommend doing two things: 1) Watch the movie The Battle of Algiers and 2) Read the following "Report" by Lawrence of Arabia. It is Deja Vu all over again.


A Report on Mesopotamia by T.E. Lawrence
By Ex.-Lieut.-Col. T.E. Lawrence
Sunday Times
August 22, 1920 [Mr. Lawrence, whose organization and direction of the Hedjaz against the Turks was one of the outstanding romances of the war, has written this article at our request in order that the public may be fully informed of our Mesopotamian commitments.]

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster...

Yet our published policy has not changed, and does not need changing. It is that there has been a deplorable contrast between our profession and our practice. We said we went to Mesopotamia to defeat Turkey. We said we stayed to deliver the Arabs from the oppression of the Turkish Government, and to make available for the world its resources of corn and oil. We spent nearly a million men and nearly a thousand million of money to these ends. This year we are spending ninety-two thousand men and fifty millions of money on the same objects.

Our government is worse than the old Turkish system. They kept fourteen thousand local conscripts embodied, and killed a yearly average of two hundred Arabs in maintaining peace. We keep ninety thousand men, with aeroplanes, armoured cars, gunboats, and armoured trains. We have killed about ten thousand Arabs in this rising this summer. We cannot hope to maintain such an average: it is a poor country, sparsely peopled; but Abd el Hamid would applaud his masters, if he saw us working. We are told the object of the rising was political, we are not told what the local people want. It may be what the Cabinet has promised them. A Minister in the House of Lords said that we must have so many troops because the local people will not enlist. On Friday the Government announce the death of some local levies defending their British officers, and say that the services of these men have not yet been sufficiently recognized because they are too few (adding the characteristic Baghdad touch that they are men of bad character). There are seven thousand of them, just half the old Turkish force of occupation. Properly officered and distributed, they would relieve half our army there. Cromer controlled Egypt’s six million people with five thousand British troops; Colonel Wilson fails to control Mesopotamia’s three million people with ninety thousand troops.

We have not reached the limit of our military commitments. Four weeks ago the staff in Mesopotamia drew up a memorandum asking for four more divisions. I believe it was forwarded to the War Office, which has now sent three brigades from India. If the North-West Frontier cannot be further denuded, where is the balance to come from? Meanwhile, our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply, are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the wilfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad. General Dyer was relieved of his command in India for a much smaller error, but the responsibility in this case is not on the Army, which has acted only at the request of the civil authorities. The War Office has made every effort to reduce our forces, but the decisions of the Cabinet have been against them.

The Government in Baghdad have been hanging Arabs in that town for political offences, which they call rebellion. The Arabs are not at war with us. Are these illegal executions to provoke the Arabs to reprisals on the three hundred British prisoners they hold? And, if so, is it that their punishment may be more severe, or is it to persuade our other troops to fight to the last?

We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. All experts say that the labour supply is the ruling factor in its development. How far will the killing of ten thousand villagers and townspeople this summer hinder the production of wheat, cotton, and oil? How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?

Forget the past at your peril...
Tripe, Dignity, and Multimedia Friday

In order--first, here's Dana Milbank's pathetic attempt to curry favor with the neocons, which is more than a little odd--it's almost like someone sucking up to get Titanic tickets for the maiden voyage...but KNOWING the captain will steer the damn thing straight into an iceberg. What a loon.

Conyers, as y'all probably know from Atrios, wrote Milbank, Abramowitz (WaPo editor) and Getler (ombudsman) a letter that ranks right up with "At long last, have you no shame?" Check it out.

And finally, jesselee of DCCC, who also printed Conyers's response, linked to this piece that, goddamnit, should've been part of a national media campaign in 2004. Politics isn't softball.
Dig Two Holes...Part II

Looks like Ramadi is back in insurgent hands--that's what the Guardian says, which also notes that five more Marines were killed by a bomb yesterday (according to the same article, a "sailor" was also shot dead):

Insurgents have taken over much of the Iraqi city of Ramadi and used it to launch attacks against US forces while terrorising the population with public beheadings.
A huge bomb killed five American marines yesterday and showered body parts on to rooftops, fuelling suspicion that armour-piercing technology is being developed and tested in Ramadi.

US troops recovered the remains and withdrew to their base outside the Arab Sunni stronghold, leaving masked gunmen to erect checkpoints and carry out what residents said was the latest of many executions.

A man described as an Egyptian spy was beheaded and his body dumped on a busy shopping street. Warned by the killers to leave it for five days, shoppers pretended not to notice the figure in the brown robe, its head resting on its back.

Four days ago two suspected Shia militiamen were beheaded in the marketplace in full view of traders, said a senior police officer who asked not to be identified.

Team Bush will do their utmost to spin this story as "civilization versus savagery;" however, the "savagery" is the direct byproduct of "civilization's" idiotic attempt to literally shoot and bomb the country to "freedom" (whatever THAT'S supposed to mean, considering that until 1990, the US was none too upset with Saddam Hussein). And the public, I think, is getting sick and tired of the whole operation--Bush's poll numbers are falling like flour out of a chute.

I think people are just getting sick and tired of it all--it's not like there's any sort of general knowledge of Iraq itself, apart from a vague understanding that it's "over there" somewhere (and/or that "feriners" or "A-rabs" live there and/or the soldiers are fighting for "freedom" although as to the latter, "freedom" isn't exactly well defined). The dollar costs of war might not have sunk in yet, but it's getting harder and harder to find regions of this country that haven't had military funerals or soldiers returning shattered either in mind or body.

And Team Bush STILL, as plenty have noted recently, hasn't provided a decent explanation for why we invaded in the first place. WMD's weren't there--the official explanation of "well, we all THOUGHT they were there" has more holes in it than a sieve, "Spreading Democracy" at gunpoint is simply foolish, and while Saddam is no longer killing or brutalizing people, it's not as if people are no longer being brutalized or killed. Add in the fact that OUR men and women are likewise paying a horrible price, and that makes for a losing formula.

Finally, there's no way out for Team Bush. He can stall and try to run out the clock until 2009 or admit defeat and bring the troops home. At this point even Mr. Freedom Fries himself wants a timetable for withdrawing the troops. And there's no reason NOT to do this if we keep seeing situations like Tal Afar or Ramadi--it's almost as if the military is being forced to chase its tail.

Bush looks like the kind of person who likes watching a dog chase its'd be nice if he realized that the military is a bit more important than a pet.
New, Improved Napalm

See, it wasn't napalm used by US forces during the initial invasion of Iraq (and probably in Fallujah during Operation Freedom via Obliteration last fall). It was a new, improved, napalm-like substitute:

The MK77 bombs, an evolution of the napalm used in Vietnam and Korea, carry kerosene-based jet fuel and polystyrene so that, like napalm, the gel sticks to structures and to its victims. The bombs lack stabilising fins, making them far from precise.

Call it Jellied Freedom Kerosene. And don't forget to "misinform" your ally:

American officials lied to British ministers over the use of "internationally reviled" napalm-type firebombs in Iraq.

Yesterday's disclosure led to calls by MPs for a full statement to the Commons and opened ministers to allegations that they held back the facts until after the general election.

Despite persistent rumours of injuries among Iraqis consistent with the use of incendiary weapons such as napalm, Adam Ingram, the Defence minister, assured Labour MPs in January that US forces had not used a new generation of incendiary weapons, codenamed MK77, in Iraq.

But Mr Ingram admitted to the Labour MP Harry Cohen in a private letter obtained by The Independent that he had inadvertently misled Parliament because he had been misinformed by the US. "The US confirmed to my officials that they had not used MK77s in Iraq at any time and this was the basis of my response to you," he told Mr Cohen. "I regret to say that I have since discovered that this is not the case and must now correct the position."...

Mr Ingram did not explain why the US officials had misled him, but the US and British governments were accused of a cover-up. The Iraq Analysis Group, which campaigned against the war, said the US authorities only admitted the use of the weapons after the evidence from reporters had become irrefutable.

Coverup? Good heavens! Is it possible that OTHER coverups occurred, like maybe "fixing intelligence" to fit into the policy?

Decide for yourself--informally, of course:

A group of US congressmen has held an informal hearing into a memo that suggests President George Bush decided on the Iraq war months in advance.
More than 100 Democrats took part in the public forum, calling on the White House to explain the leaked UK memo.

And I'm sure the eleven major votes scheduled by the GOPher leadership concurrent with the hearings was merely a coincidence...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

No Apologies

Good to see that Senator Durbin is sticking to his guns:

A Durbin spokesman said Wednesday that the senator did not plan to apologize for the comments. The senator issued a statement saying it's the administration that should apologize "for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure."

This is in response to rat terrier White House spokesperson Scott McClellan's chiding Durbin for the following statement he made on the floor of the Senate:

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:
"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you can get as good an analysis as any over at Whiskey Bar--to provide a quick summary, here are two first-rate points:

America: Still better than Stalin
Quantitatively, the case against moral equivalence may be open and shut, but qualitatively . . . well, it's getting a little more dicey.

And, perhaps the most salient point is: what GOOD has come from the sort of "intensive interrogation" now considered SOP? Can they point to ANYTHING?

Oh, sure, the neo-con/wingnut response would likely be something like "that's classified." Which is, of course, bullshit.

No, I think the pattern here is very clear--at least some people in this country are more than a little comfortable with turning the US into little more than a less-bad version of [name your favorite authoritarian/totalitarian nation here]. For whatever reason, these folks are quite filled with hate, and more than willing to vent said hate on whoever lies in the path--in this case, weird looking foreigners, with the added benefit that, indeed, some (but not all) had, at the very least, criminal intent (if not criminal histories).

However, the fact that such hatred has truly degenerated into a measure of sadism among at least some members of the military is troubling. No, this isn't a blanket criticism of the armed forces (for those who don't know, I was a military kid--dad was a career officer in the US Navy). It IS, however, an observation that those who HAVE decided they don't mind stooping to the level of banana republic (on both the military and civilian oversight side) are doing the entire country a disservice. Do you think the rest of the world will distinguish between "good" and "bad" Americans? How many people of Middle Eastern, North African, Western, or, for that matter, even Eastern Asian descent were considered kooks by Westerners, say, in the late 70's/early 80's, thanks to regular doses of Iranian nationalism/Islamic fundamentalism on our television screens at the time?

You reap what you sow--sometimes tenfold. THAT'S why folks like Durbin are shocked and outraged by horrific behavior on the part of American officials. We're not supposed to be merely "better than Stalin," or "better than Saddam." Whether or not it's crap, the United States really does have a world image--one that, each day, Team Bush is further sullying.
Dig Two Holes--Take the Dirt From the First...

The TalAfar two-step:

Nine months ago the American military laid siege to this city in northwestern Iraq and proclaimed it freed from the grip of insurgents. Last month, the Americans returned in force - to reclaim it once again.

After the battle here in September the military left behind fewer than 500 troops to patrol a region twice the size of Connecticut. With so few troops and the local police force in shambles, insurgents came back and turned Tal Afar, a dusty, agrarian city of about 200,000 people, into a way station for the trafficking of arms and insurgent fighters from nearby Syria - and a ghost town of terrorized residents afraid to open their stores, walk the streets or send their children to school.

It is a cycle that has been repeated in rebellious cities throughout Iraq, and particularly those in the Sunni Arab regions west and north of Baghdad, where the insurgency's roots run deepest.

"We have a finite number of troops," said Maj. Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, which arrived in Tal Afar several weeks ago. "But if you pull out of an area and don't leave security forces in it, all you're going to do is leave the door open for them to come back. This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country. In the past, the problem has been we haven't been able to leave sufficient forces in towns where we've cleared the insurgents out."

While officials in Washington say the military has all the troops it needs, on-the-ground battle commanders in the most violent parts of Iraq - in cities like Ramadi, Mosul and Mahmudiya - have said privately that they need more manpower to pacify their areas and keep them that way.

So, where will the military find folks willing to play a very deadly lottery? Neither neo-cons nor their offspring seem all that eager for a piece of that sort of action. I suppose we could try to put the squeeze on the Coalition of the Willing Coalition with the Willies whatever they're calling it these days, but I doubt they'll bite for any sort of bribe considerations. And our more traditional allies show no signs of interest whatsoever--I think that has something to do with democratic values, i.e., they actually listen to their respective publics, who made it clear before Operation-It's-Duck-Season--Fire! that discretionary war is just plain wrong.

Looks like "Mission Accomplished" turned out to be a typical Dubya boast--all souffle, no substance...
It'll Take More Than the Change Between the Seat Cushions

Maybe it isn't time to look into lending agencies for SUV drivers yet, but...

Oil rose sharply over $56 a barrel Thursday as brisk demand for transport fuel in the United States, the world's biggest consumer, continued to unnerve the market.

U.S. oil prices have gained nearly 30 percent since the start of the year.

Wednesday's rally drew on a deeper-than-expected fall in U.S. crude inventories, shown in weekly government data, following a recovery in refinery runs and countering the bearish effect of substantial growth in distillate stockpiles.

The market brushed off an OPEC deal to raise formal production by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd), two percent, with traders well aware that real output levels would be little changed.

As Freeway Blogger once put it--"10 Miles per Gallon, 2 Soldiers per Day."
Almost Cause for Celebration

The US House of Representatives voted to repeal part of the Patriot Act--the part known as the "library provision." However, this might be more symbolic than anything else.

Bernie Sanders included the provision in an appropriations bill for the Justice Department, and Team Bush is threatening a veto--in addition, the bill goes to the Senate, who might make their own additions/subtractions before a Conference Committee irons everything out...hence, almost a celebration.

Still, it's a start--albeit a small one. FBI agents can still sniff around public computers with internet connections--oh, and they've ALWAYS had the ability to do genuine police work, that is, investigating, obtaining the proper writs and warrants, etc. (you could call some provisions of the "Patriot" Act the "Lazy" Act--that would be more accurate).
Last and Frist

Damage control, wingnut style:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a surgeon who had questioned Terri Schiavo's diagnosis during the intense national debate on whether to remove her feeding tube, said the autopsy documenting her severe brain damage brings "a very sad chapter to a close."

"She had devastating brain damage, and with that the chapter is closed," Frist said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Frist, R-Tenn., said he never made his own diagnosis but did argue there wasn't enough information about Schiavo's condition to justify allowing her husband to remove her feeding tube against her parents' wishes.

"I raised the question, 'Is she in a persistent vegetative state or not?' I never made the diagnosis, never said that she was not. I did say that certain tests should be performed to determine that before starving her to death," Frist said in the interview.

Hmmmm...Atrios linked to Think Progress, which has a reality based version of Mr. Bill's statements at the time:

Frist on Senate Floor, 3/17/05:

I have looked at the video footage. Based on the footage provided to me, which was part of the facts of the case, she does respond.

More from Frist, 3/17/05:

She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli…

In the real world, you just can't wish the record away, Senator...
Recommended Reading

Billmon hits another one out of the park with this post. Damn, it's good...if not terribly optimistic.

Check it out nonetheless.
"Does Anybody Know What Posthumous Means?"

According to Bob Herbert, The Army Times (May 30th) quotes this rhetorical question Staff Sgt. Andre Allen asked recruits in week seven of basic training. Allen continued:

"It means after death. Some of you are going to get medals that way,' he said matter-of-factly, underscoring the possibility that some of them would be sent to combat and not return."

Before week seven, though--indeed, before enlistees literally sign away their lives, a recruiter's approach is slightly less, um, honest:

The approach recommended by the recruiting handbook is somewhat different. It's much softer. Recruiters trying to sign up high school students are urged to schmooze, schmooze, schmooze.

"The football team usually starts practicing in August," the handbook says. "Contact the coach and volunteer to assist in leading calisthenics or calling cadence during team runs."

"Homecoming normally happens in October," the handbook says. "Coordinate with the homecoming committee to get involved with the parade."

Recruiters are urged to deliver doughnuts and coffee to the faculty once a month, and to eat lunch in the school cafeteria several times a month. And the book recommends that they assiduously cultivate the students that other students admire: "Some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist."

It's not known how aware parents are that recruiters are inside public high schools aggressively trying to lure their children into wartime service. But not all schools get the same attention. Those that get the royal recruitment treatment tend to be the ones with students whose families are less affluent than most.

Schools with kids from wealthier families (and a high percentage of collegebound students) are not viewed as good prospects by military recruiters. It's as if those schools had posted signs at the entrances saying, "Don't bother." The kids in those schools are not the kids who fight America's wars...

The sense of desperation is palpable: "Get involved with local Boy Scout troops. Scoutmasters are typically happy to get any assistance you can offer. Many scouts are [high school] students and potential enlistees or student influencers."

One of the many problems here is that adolescents should not be hounded by military recruiters under any circumstances, and they shouldn't be pursued at all without the full knowledge and consent of parents or guardians.

Let the Army be honest and upfront in its recruitment. War is not child's play, and warriors shouldn't be assembled through the use of seductive sales pitches to youngsters too immature to make an informed decision on matters that might well result in their having to kill others, or being killed themselves.

War isn't homecoming, and it's certainly not the Boy Scouts. The tactics noted above are simply sleazy and dishonest.

Before Operation-Send-More-Cannon-Fodder, the military didn't have a problem meeting their recruitment quotas. Of course, back then, enlistees were under the assumption they were defending their country. These days, it doesn't take a valedictorian to know that the military is nothing more than a prop for George W. Bush's game of fantasy wartime pResident. As so many others have noted, Bush doesn't think getting rid of Saddam Hussein is worth the lives of HIS kids. Maybe they'll decide that having Bush as pResident isn't worth the lives of theirs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

We Have Free Speech--Every Wednesday Between 3:00 and 4:30

Actually, if I remember it right, the quote was "I can't think of a more open place than the University. We have free speech every Wednesday between 3:00 and 4:30." The person speaking was one of the esteemed administrators at LSU...

To make a long story short, back in the 1980s a group I was in received a reprimand for leafleting on we had a second day of leafleting, featuring the Bill of Rights, which led to a Reveille article and the quote above...

Anyhoo...that quote came to mind after seeing Lamar Alexander's, um, unique excuse for avoiding an on-record approval of the US Senate resolution apologizing for failing to pass anti-lynching legislation:

I just got off the phone with a lovely staffer for Senator Alexander I called to register my displeasure with him for his refusal to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution last night. I told her I would like to have Tennessee's 2 Senators demonstrate a more high-minded, united attitude about such things than their counterparts in Mississippi, who seem content with furthering the racist South image that is their heritage.

She was very polite and read a prepared statement. It started off with a little misdirection: assuring me that he did not oppose the legislation, and that it passed unanimously, and that he didn't co-sponsor "because" he had already co-sponsored legislation celebrating black history month, and that he intended to bring that one up again.

Senator's your go to hell.
Coming Attraction: Civil War

This Post article covers the previews:

The State Department is investigating "serious and credible" reports that minorities in Kurdish-held areas of northern Iraq have been wrongly arrested and detained, spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday...

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that police and security forces led by Kurdish political parties, and backed by the U.S. military, abducted hundreds of minority Arabs and Turkmens in Kurdish areas. The newspaper said the abductions began more than a year ago and accelerated after the Jan. 30 election.

Let's see...I'd expect that these abductions will lead to reprisals, establishing a good-old-fashioned cycle of violence...way to go, neo-cons.
Hard Work

Cindy Sheehan wants to teach the pResident the real meaning of the term:

"Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big (brother) into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both," she said.
Bush Says "Thank You, Louisiana!"

YRHT links to the Pic for this one:

The Bush administration on Tuesday said it opposes sharing offshore oil and gas royalties with coastal states, a significant setback for Louisiana's effort to secure federal financing to restore its battered coastline.

Oyster notes:

Bush is protectionist when it hurts Louisiana ports and free trade when it hurts Louisiana sugar. He's slashed funds to protect our state from flooding, and gives us $8 million to fix a $14 billion coastal erosion problem.

Some thanks...
"It Might as Well be the Summer of Love Out Here"

So says Capt. Rick Bruce of the San Francisco police regarding the various Medical Marijuana Clubs doing business in the city...


The best sellers at the Green Cross medical marijuana dispensary here are whipped up in the kitchen of Kevin Reed, the founder and president.

Fresh-baked marijuana cakes. Marijuana cookies with Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Marijuana peanut butter, lollipops, peanut brittle and espresso truffles...

The Incredible Edibles, as the confections are called, account for 40 percent of sales at the Green Cross, a thriving nonprofit organization in a neighborhood of hip bars, trendy restaurants and Victorian row houses. The 150 or so customers it serves each day can pay with Visa or MasterCard and need only a doctor's recommendation to gain entry...

Mr. Reed collects sales tax on purchases - $10,000 last month - provides health and other benefits to his 10 employees and has 16 security cameras at the dispensary. A bouncer is posted at the door, and an employee outside keeps the sidewalk free of loiterers.

"I am in this to help people and show people it can be done right," Mr. Reed said, "not to go to prison."

Mr. Reed sells his confections for $5 each, but if patients prefer to bake their own, or smoke the marijuana instead, they can choose from an assortment of dried marijuana buds. Prices for the 50 or so strains in stock are uniform: $300 an ounce.

The so-called budtenders who work behind large glass display cases provide assistance in selecting the best strain. All of them are medical marijuana users, and they typically are medicated while working.

"We have a great time here," said Mr. Reed, preparing marijuana buds to treat a back injury he sustained in a car accident 13 years ago. "And we make people smile."

Summer of Love? Sounds a lot less harmful than Operation-No-Need-to-Uparmor-the-Humvees-Since-We'll-be-Showered-With-Flowers-and-Kisses.
Just Another Day

Today's news from the "still winnable" war:

A man wearing a belt packed with explosives blew himself up in a restaurant at an Iraqi National Guard base north of Baghdad today, killing at least 23 Iraqi soldiers and wounding 28, officials said. In the capital, two separate attacks left at least nine people dead...

In the blast at the military post today, the bomber, wearing an Iraqi National Guard uniform, walked into the restaurant at lunchtime at the Khalis base, northwest of Baquba, police and Interior Ministry officials said. The authorities were investigating how the attacker had managed to pass through security checks, Lt. Col. Mehdi al-Ubaidi of the Khalis police said. Wounded soldiers were taken to hospitals in Khalis and Baquba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, he added.

Gee...maybe he passed through security checks because 1) he was in a uniform, and 2) because the New,Improved, and Now-Only-Dedicated-to-Good-Things Iraqi Army is THOROUGHLY INFILTRATED by insurgents...some of whom might have been manning said checkpoints.

Geez. Neo-Con idiocy knows no bounds.
F Bomb

And rightly so. Rising Hegemon puts Tom Friedman in their sights and lets loose a laser guided diss:

In today's attempt at an ass-saving do-gooder lecture, Friedman, while admitting indirectly that the decision to go into Iraq was a disaster waiting to happen continues the "clap louder" defense of saying "it can still be saved".

His opening paragraph ...

Conservatives don't want to talk about it because, with a few exceptions, they think their job is just to applaud whatever the Bush team does.

Fair enough, but then this:

Liberals don't want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don't want the Bush team to succeed.

The latter, of course, is the defense that will be writ large by the Republicans as the entirety of their ill-conceived plan reaches the critical mass of complete failure. "It was because the liberals didn't clap loud enough".

Kiss my ass.

From its conception, to its planning, its selling, its implementation, reimplementation, redefinition, re-reimplementation, reorganinazation, and ultimate its retreat, this has been entirely a CONSERVATIVE PRODUCTION.

But here is a fact Tom. We liberals take no joy in being right, because you don't celebrate being right when its evidence is more than 1,700 Americans dead, tens of thousands wounded, as many as 100,000 Iraqis dead; with more than $300 Billion in costs eventually going down the toilet, and our Nation's reputation in tatters we liberals find little to celebrate.

I couldn't say it better myself.

Friedman goes on to claim that the war is "still winnable,"--which is apparently news to the folks fighting it. And while giving Donald Rumsfeld a good solid kick is both appropriate and even kind of fun, the fact is that this war wouldn't have been "won" even IF the "Powell Doctrine" had been applied. We might have been able to put a lid on the problem for some time, but eventually the pressure cooker would have blown open, with the same result (see Iran, Mr. Friedman).

Friedman concludes with what amounts to the John Kerry plan--more troops, more international participation, etc. etc. Nice try. The wingnuts who got all juiced up at the prospect of a good old fashioned war aren't exactly breaking down the doors at the recruiting offices (that why we call y'all CHICKENHAWKS, wingnuts). The rest of the public has either, to use Tom's phrase "gone shopping," or otherwise tried to tune out the grim numbers of casualties resulting from Operation-Chickenhawks-are--Chickenhawks.

The war is OVER. Team Bush LOST it, and in losing, squandered the lives of our soldiers, the lives of the Iraqi civilians who've been killed, the money spent from the national treasury, and the reputation of the United States. I for one refuse to let that be forgotten.
Rest in Peace

The Terry Schiavo autopsy was released to the public today, and as anyone with half a brain an outlook based in reality would know, it showed she had irreversible brain damage:

"Her brain was profoundly atrophied," Jon Thogmartin, medical examiner for Florida's Pinellas-Pasco County, told a press conference. "There was massive neuronal loss, or death. This was irreversible and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons."

“The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain," he added.

Thogmartin was joined by Dr. Stephen Nelson, who described her condition as "very consistent with a persistent vegetative state," which is what Michael Schiavo and most doctors had contended was the case...

Thogmartin added that Terri Schiavo had been blinded by the injury and that all evidence indicated that she could not have survived without a feeding tube.

“Removal of her feeding tube would have resulted in her death whether she was fed or hydrated by mouth or not,” Thogmartin said.

In addition, the report said no evidence existed that Michael Schiavo tried to hasten his wife's death via drugs or other substances as her parents had alleged.

If you want to view the entire autopsy report, here it is (.pdf).

You've probably seen Atrios' link to Think Progress--Bill Frist's video aided diagnosis turned out to be more a statement on his innate horseshitness.

I doubt the wingnuts will have much to say about the autopsy report itself--with one exception. Being that there was no way to determine the initial cause of Ms. Schiavo's collapse that put her into the state she was in, expect that crowd (who, if they'd been allowed to bring Schaivo the cups of water they paraded on television with, would've killed her)--anyway, look for them to imply criminal behavior by Michael Schiavo--who I then hope sues them for every penny.

Actually, I wish they'd leave him alone, but that probably won't happen.

In the meantime, rest in peace Ms. Schiavo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nice Work, If You Can Get It

Philip A. Cooney the White House staff member who repeatedly revised government scientific reports on global warming, will go to work for ExxonMobil in the fall, the oil company said today.

Mr. Cooney resigned on Friday as chief of staff to President Bush's environmental policy council, two days after documents obtained by The New York Times showed that he had edited the reports in ways that cast doubt on the link between greenhouse-gas emissions and rising temperatures.

A former lawyer and lobbyist with the American Petroleum Institute, the main lobbying group for the oil industry, Mr. Cooney has no scientific training.

The White House, which said Friday that there was no connection between last week's disclosure and Mr. Cooney's resignation, repeated today that Mr. Cooney's actions were part of the normal review process for documents on environmental issues involving many government agencies.

"Phil Cooney did a great job," said Dana Perino, a deputy White House spokeswoman, "and we appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector.

There was no comment from Mr. Cooney's descendents, who will have to pay for his actions.
Um--How Controversial Can This Be?

Apparently controversial enough to keep 16 Senators from going on the record.

Is it really that difficult to declare you're against lynching?!?
Helluva Day

Sorry for such a late start--and we didn't even have a serious meltdown on our Storage Area Network like we did last week...

Anyway, in case you're wondering (yeah, right): I spent this morning in a training class, learning about the latest and greatest in SQL and SP1 from the evil empire--and this afternoon I've been stuck in a relatively easy, but surprisingly steady help desk shift that's kept me from even reading, much less posting.

That said, I managed to get through Whiskey Bar's penultimate post (at least for now)...and damn, is it worth looking at:

In an institution where can-do optimism is about as mandatory as patriotism, it's remarkable to hear Army generals talking like this:

Military action won't end insurgency,
growing number of U.S. officers believe.

Truth is, even if Centcom had twice the troop strength, it's hard to see how the insurgency could be defeated -- that is, reduced to military, political and economic irrelevance -- on a battlefield as chaotic and complex as Iraq. There are simply too many cross-cutting social and cultural and ethnic and tribal realities that stand in the way of a successful counterinsurgency effort, unless the idea is simply to pound every city, town and village in the Sunni Triangle as flat as Fallujah.

Even then the insurgents probably would still be hiding in the rubble, waiting for the Americans to go pound somewhere else. The Army may have unchallenged ownership of whatever ground it happens to be standing on, but as soon as local control is handed back over to the Iraqis, the infiltration and the intimidation begin all over again.

But don't take my word for it--read the whole thing.

Things might be slowing down just a bit here. Catch up with y'all then.

Monday, June 13, 2005


TalkingPointsMemo notes that few media outlets have noted this interesting (no pun intended) case of what, back in the day, might have been termed as "influence peddling:"

Back in November 2003, [Mitchell]Wade [owner of MZM, Inc., a defense contractor] was apparently looking for a house to purchase and 'flip' in the San Diego area. So he purchased the San Diego home of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R), a prominent member of the House Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee, for $1,675,000.

But pretty much from the start Wade dealt himself deep in the hole because he turned around and put it right back up for sale at about the same price. As you can see, here Wade severely constrained his ability to profit from reselling the house because he was offering to sell it for the same price he'd just bought it for.

But things only got worse from there.

As this article in today's San Diego Union-Tribune explains, the house sat unbought and unoccupied for 261 days. And Wade had apparently seriously overestimated the value of the property.

When the place finally sold, it went for only $975,000, thus saddling the unfortunate Wade with a loss of some $700,000.

I guess it goes without saying that that experience probably soured Wade on the real estate game for good.

But at the same time as all this was happening, according to the article, Wade's defense contracting business started going like gang-busters. In the words of the article, "Wade, who had been suffering through a flat period in winning Pentagon contracts, was on a tear – reeling in tens of millions of dollars in defense and intelligence-related contracts."

I guess I've been going about the house hunting game all wrong--you see, I've been spending the past months carefully saving records of bills paid on-time, rent checks deposited, banking records, etc...when I really should've just called myself a defense contractor...
Planet Cheney

Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday the United States' image has not been damaged by allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay and that people who urge the closing of the prison "probably don't agree with our policies anyway."

Cheney answered back to Guantanamo critics during an appearance at the National Press Club, saying that the approximately 540 prisoners being interrogated at the prison were properly housed and fed, received medical care and had religious needs met.

"If we didn't have that facility at Guantanamo to undertake this activity, we'd have to have it someplace else because they're a vital source of intelligence information," the vice president said. "They've given us useful information that has been used in pursuing our aims and objectives in the war on terror."


Planet Cheney denizen Duncan Hunter agrees:

"We treat these people very well," Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said on "Fox News Sunday.""We supply every one of them with the Quran. We supply them with oil. We supply them with prayer beads. Five times a day on the prison system, we do the call to prayer with arrows pointing in the direction of Mecca and assist them in their prayer ritual."

Hunter also provided a visual demonstration of what Atrios appropriately termed "chicken porn"--supposed examples of the chow served to the Gitmo detainees.

Planet Cheney is also a place where gratutitous insults are an example of plain-spokenness.

But in the real world, things are, well, real...and the picture isn't all that pretty. Let's see--administration officials out and out lie about who is or isn't a terrorist (though I think most folks already knew that from the ridiculous color code threat alerts last year that amounted to balloon fuel). Oil prices are climbing again, and while the grim news from Iran isn't listed as a cause, you can bet traders will be keeping a close eye on what's happening there. The war in Iraq is finally being seen for what it really is: a case of narcissistic wishful thinking on the part of one George Dubya Bush, who probably spent more time planning the mid-semester bash at Yale's DKE House than he did for the aftermath of Gulf War II: The Sequel. Oh, and did anyone notice another case of BSE in the news today--and would you like fries with that?

No, on Planet Cheney, reality is not allowed to intrude.

A prominent lawmaker who prompted cafeterias in the US Congress to change the name of their french fries to "freedom fries" in anger over France's opposition to the Iraq war, has now turned against the conflict and wants a firm schedule on the withdrawal of US troops.

Representative Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, has written more than 1,300 letters of condolence to the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and will introduce legislation this week calling for a firm timetable on the withdrawal of US troops, ABC's "This Week" said Sunday.

"Quand je regarde le nombre d'hommes et les femmes qui ont été tuées -- il est presque 1.700 maintenant, en plus près de de 12.000 ont été sévèrement blessés -- et j'estime juste que la raison d'entrer pour les armes de la destruction de masse, la capacité des Irakiens de faire une arme nucléaire, qui est toute montré qu'elle n'était jamais là. Et mes maux de coeur, tout à fait franchement."*

*"When I look at the number of men and women who have been killed -- it's almost 1,700 now, in addition to close to 12,000 have been severely wounded -- and I just feel that the reason of going in for weapons of mass destruction, the ability of the Iraqis to make a nuclear weapon, that's all been proven that it was never there. And my heart aches, quite frankly."

Merci, Representatif Jones. Vous avez écrit plus de lettres de condoléance que l'administration de Bush entière combinée. Mais, Il sûr vous a pris assez longtemps pour changer d'avis.
More Desperation

The terrorists in Afghanistan are getting desperate too:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a U.S. military vehicle in southern Afghanistan on Monday, killing himself and wounding four American soldiers, one seriously, the U.S. military said.

The military denied Afghan police and army reports that at least five Americans had been killed in the attack in Mirwais Mina, about 10 km (6 miles) from the city of Kandahar.

Taliban guerrillas claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a surge of militant violence in Afghanistan in the run up to parliamentary elections due to be held in September...

The troops were from a U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team based in Kandahar and the blast occurred as they were returning to their base from a patrol, Yonts said.

Another U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, called it the work of "terrorists who know their cause is lost."

It was the latest in an upsurge of Taliban-linked violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Prior to Monday's attack, 13 U.S. soldiers had been killed since March, including three in two other attacks in the past week.

Kandahar, a bastion of the Taliban during their five years in power before being overthrown by U.S.-led forces in late 2001, was the scene of a suicide bomb attack on a mosque on June 1 that killed at least 20 people.

About 150 insurgents have been killed in violence this year, according to U.S. and Afghan government figures. Dozens of government security men have also died in the fighting.

Local television news had this story Saturday afternoon, but AmericaBlog has the post:

As the head of the Selective Service System, William Chatfield said Saturday in Baton Rouge that he hears questions about a draft call a lot lately.

"From everything I hear, right now, the all-volunteer Army is sufficient," he said.

Aravosis points Mr. Chatfield to this article:

The Army announced yesterday that it missed its recruiting goal for the fourth consecutive month, a deepening manpower crisis that officials said would require a dramatic summer push for recruits if the service is to avoid missing its annual enlistment target for the first time since 1999.

The Army will make a "monumental effort" to bring in the average 10,000 recruits a month required this summer, said Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, head of the Army's recruiting command. An additional 500 active-duty recruiters will be added in the next two months -- on top of an increase of 1,000 earlier this year.

The Pentagon is also considering asking Congress to double the enlistment bonus it can offer to the most-prized recruits -- from $20,000 to $40,000 -- and to raise the age limit for Army active-duty service from 35 to 40, he said.

"The challenge is one of historic proportions," Rochelle said, acknowledging that he is not sure whether the traditional summer surge in Army recruits will take place, or how large it might be.

I'm pretty sure the draft would be reinstated only as a final option...but we're rapidly running out of alternatives.
Downing Street Redux

Whiskey Bar only has limited use for this Post article (and have I mentioned only some thousand times or so that I highly respect Billmon?)--but I'll go with half a loaf being better than none at all:

A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

In other words, the expectation in Britain was that there would be more than "just one vase."

The fact that the Post made this a front page article suggests--at least to me--that a tiny crack might be appearing in the walls of fortress Bush. However, as plenty of others note, don't expect the media lap dogs to turn into the hounds of hell any time soon. They are as invested (embedded?) in the operation as deeply as the neo-cons, and continue to do their utmost to deny that a shitstorm is raging in Mesopotamia--either by the traditional propaganda technique of simply NOT REPORTING on said shitstorm, or, when required to adopt more flexible techniques, pretending that reporting has been done (hence, Russert's reference to "the famous memo," i.e., the original Downing Street document, which was so famous that NBC hadn't bothered to mention it previously).

Now, I for one am moderately surprised that Iraq turned so ugly, so fast. But I was under the assumption that the military was planning for something more akin to Gulf War I, at least in terms of numbers of soldiers involved. Which wouldn't have made the war any less illegal, but WOULD have made it decidedly less LETHAL for 1700 soldiers, at least 20-25 thousand Iraqis (and maybe a lot more). That said, I also figured that eventually we would've pissed off enough people eventually to ensure the formation of a violently anti-American nation, just as the CIA covert op that restored the Shah had what they call a major "blowback" some 25 years after the fact. In other words, pay now or pay later.

Team Bush apparently never considered the costs. Britain did, and after reading the article, I'm surprised Blair was so enthusiastic about the project. And, of course, the piece contains a most unsurprising account of the mule headed hubris of the neo-cons, in this case Paul Wolfowitz once again showing a remarkable capacity for consuming shoe leather:

Testimony by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of Iraq policy, before a House subcommittee on Feb. 28, 2003, just weeks before the invasion, illustrated the optimistic view the administration had of postwar Iraq. He said containment of Hussein the previous 12 years had cost "slightly over $30 billion," adding, "I can't imagine anyone here wanting to spend another $30 billion to be there for another 12 years." As of May, the Congressional Research Service estimated that Congress has approved $208 billion for the war in Iraq since 2003.

$208 billion dollars could do an awful lot if spent HERE in the US instead of going into Operation-Where's-the-Money-Going? But the memo shows that nation building, which is what Bush wrought with his foolhardy invasion, isn't exactly on the neo-con radar screen. And when all is said and done, I think we'll find some rather odd spending decisions, particularly considering that there were/are genuinely real needs for the soldiers sent off on this task--needs being met with hillbilly armor instead of anything resembling a plan.

Then again--they're called the Mayberry Machiavellis.