Friday, March 26, 2004

Don't Know About the Terrorist Alert Color Code, but the Slime Alert is at Red

CNN is reporting that, all of the sudden, the hacks who refer to themselves as the Republican Party suddenly are in favor of open government. They want to declassify Richard Clarke's 2002 Congressional testimony so they can line-by-line it against what he told the 9/11 committee. Here's what Dennis Hastert said:

"We need to lean forward in making as much information available to the public as possible, without compromising the national security interests of the nation."

Yes, we need to do that Dennis. Let's start with any material in the files at the White House. Oh, and while we're there, is is possible that you could dig up the phone records back when Valerie Plame's name was leaked to Bob Novak?

Bill Frist, who has earned himself a special place in hell for killing cats, proffered the following--no word on whether he added a "hrrumph" at the end:

"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath."

Is that why CONDI won't be sworn? Although I see that she's ready to, uh---clarify (yeah, that's the ticket)--CLARIFY her position once again ("What I MEANT to say...").

Oh, and Mr. Frist, while you're comparing stuff, let's talk about the cost of the Medicare drug subsidy you're offering the pharmaceutical companies. Was that $395 Billion, or $534 Billion? Or was it $551 Billion? Mr. Frist, recall you're under oath...

Meanwhile, things are going so well in Iraq that that a firefight killed a number of our auxiliaries, as well as a US Marine and an ABC cameraman, near Tikrit. Then we have Moqtada al-Sadr, a powerful cleric in Baghdad, calling 9/11 "a miracle from God," , while Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani makes it clear that he has no use for the new Iraqi constitution. And just to make sure we haven't left anyone out, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is letting us know that the War on Terror is succeeding in South Asia as well: having "escaped" from the hideout that he most likely wasn't hiding out in anyway, he released a tape calling for the overthrow of General Musharraf in Pakistan. They must really be getting desperate...

I keep waiting to hear Bush say he's doing as well in the war on terror as he is with the economy. Technically, that would be true. Just don't make him say take an oath...

Bush's Economic Plan: Buy Your Own Body Armor!

And help America grow! CNN reports that some soldiers STILL have to shell out to keep from getting shelled:

(AP) -- Soldiers headed for Iraq are still buying their own body armor -- and in many cases, their families are buying it for them -- despite assurances from the military that the gear will be in hand before they're in harm's way.

The military says the shortfall is over and soldiers who do not yet have the armor soon will. But many want to avoid the risk.

Hm. The shortfall is over and those who do not yet have it soon will...sounds to me a LOT like lawsuit defendants who say "I did nothing wrong and I promise I won't do it again."

And how much do you want to bet that if any of these companies got outsourced to China or India, Bush would describe it as a "success story."

And, Maybe Some Day, the President Will Shake Your Hand Make You the Butt of a Joke

Actually, it's a double joke judging from this article that hit the wires Wednesday:

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - To meet the demand for troops in Iraq, the military has been deploying some National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers who aren't fit for combat...

David Lloyd, a 44-year-old mechanic with the Tennessee National Guard, died of a heart attack in Iraq last August. His wife, Pamela Lloyd, said her husband didn't know he'd had a problem, but his autopsy showed three blockages in his coronary arteries...

"They funneled us through the medical part: boom, boom, boom," said Michael Scott, an Iowa National Guardsman who had a herniated disc. "They let it be known they weren't real interested in hearing about stuff. `No, you're fine right now.'"...

How many soldiers are unfit is unclear. Each soldier who spoke with Knight Ridder said he or she knew of others who - like themselves - were sent to Iraq despite health problems ranging from allergies requiring refrigerated medications to heart disease.

Several also said many soldiers weren't given physicals but only were asked a few cursory questions about their health by the medical screeners...

Nearly every one of the soldiers interviewed had to be medically evacuated out of Iraq because battlefield conditions exacerbated their health problems.

Bush's response has been to giggle about what was THE MAJOR REASON for invasion. Of course, considering that he's also seen fit to play fly-boy, to crassly announce "bring 'em on" at the prospect of attacks on our soldiers, and has an ongoing policy of ignoring the caskets of the dead when they're flown back to the US (neither does Bush attend funerals, and he's been remarkably stingy with his time when it comes to the wounded--although he seems to have PLENTY of time for fundraising)--why not send off to war those folks who have prior medical conditions? Hell, it wouldn't surprise me if Bush were to "volunteer" these folks for dangerous assignments.

It's amazing how the right wingnuts act as if THEY are the ones who "really" are concerned about our soldiers, when their hero Bush is busy CUTTING the Veteran's Affairs budget while simultaneously rubberstamping the marching orders of soldiers who should be under a physician's care. Of course, they'll respond with the inevitable "they knew what they were getting into when they enlisted," which, as I've posted below, is simply the 21st century equivalent of figuratively spitting on the troops. Oh, yeah: war protesters never actually DID that, contrary to popular myth. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if some right wing agent provacateurs did. That's right up their alley.

Busy Morning

I've been dealing with what I call a zero-sum move by one of the agencies here in DOA. It's sort of like the old drill seargent task--dig a hole, then dig another hole, etc. etc. I'll have something after lunch, but in the interim, check out Timshel's post about a lawsuit in the alma mater's town: Madison, Wisconsin (I'm feeling a cold chill just typing the name--hell, it took me three years to thaw out after moving back).

In a nutshell, a group of UW students are suing a number of downtown bars and the Dane County Tavern league, alleging price fixing on drinks under various anti-trust statutes. I took a look at the Cap Times article--with the exception of one club, I've imbibed in them all.

Well, it's a class action lawsuit, but I can't be part of the class, much to my chagrin--I wasn't there when the price fixing went into effect. Damn.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

On Credibility

I've been reading the news articles regarding Richard Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 commission and the various mewlings from Team Bush in response. Clarke said he expected to be attacked, and the slime hose is on full throttle--but the only folks who seem to be listening to this garbage are those who've been slaking their thirst ceaselessly with the packets of Kool Aid noted in the post below.

Bush even tried to get James Thompson to haul the water containers in his capacity as member of the commission, although he failed pretty miserably. Still, that hasn't stopped some from desperately pursuing the line that Clarke somehow was disengenuous, based on a background briefing he gave two years ago that Fox News decided to un-background as it were. Not to be outdone, Condolezza Rice declassifed an email Clarke sent her, effectively demonstrating that this administration has no problem placing politics above the national interest.

Rice, meanwhile, has been prevaricating in regards to her refusal to testify before the commission, saying it would "violate the separation of powers" or words to that effect. TalkingPointsMemo notes (and Billmon concurs) that MANY executive branch personnel have testified before legislative committees, including Zbigniew Brzezinski and Sandy Berger. Interestingly, there are five who REFUSED--and four of them served under Nixon at a time when Tricky Dick was singing his swan song.

But let's look a little more closely at those who are struggling and scrambling to question the credibility of Richard Clarke:

Rice: stressed that there was no way anyone could have predicted that terrorists would use hijacked planes as missiles and attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

That's simply not true.

Bush: where does one begin? The uranium canard, the WMD lie--which he jokes about now, even though close to 600 soldiers have been killed to generate a punch line for a correspondent's dinner--then there's his economic record which can be summarized as "put it on the credit card," his appalling handling of the Valerie Plame scandal, the cover-up, assisted by Christine Whitman, of the hazardous environmental conditions in Lower Manhattan after 9/11, his stonewalling of the commission itself--recall that he refuses to divulge the contents of the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief, even though the title indicated Al Qaeda was determined to strike in the United States. And this is merely a partial list.

Rove: Between his history of dirty politics and his own handling of the Plame scandal, Karl the Bald is a walking testimonial to right-wing sleaze.

Cheney: Saddam, Nukes, Halliburton--and he had the gall to say his wealth had nothing to do with the federal government (and Joe Lieberman, the idiot, let him get away with it).

Rumsfeld: Caught lying on national television.

One could easily find many more cases of Bush aides engaging in acts ranging from deception to straight out lying. To suggest that Clarke is somehow discredited because of one background brief and a now declassified email is a sign of desperation, pure and simple. It is the administration that has been thoroughly discredited. Clarke joins a growing list of people who publically have voiced their concern that Bush was more than willing to let his twin obsessions with tax cuts and Saddam Hussein trump EVERYTHING, including the real threat of terrorism and the real danger of economic decline. Bush is, quite honestly, unfit to be chief executive, and the people he surrounds himself with are equally unfit in this regard. Hell, Bush wouldn't be fit to be on "The Apprentice."

"Dubya--you're fired!"

Long Hard Slog

William Lind writes about the situation in Iraq:

We will...find that we have no enemy we can talk to and nothing to talk about. Since we--but not our enemies--seek closure, that is a great disadvantage. Ending a war, unless it is a war of pure annihilation, means talking to the enemy and reaching some kind of mutually acceptable settlement. When the enemy is not one but a large and growing number of independent elements, talking is pointless because any agreement only ends the war with a single faction. When the enemy's motivation is not politics but religion, there is also nothing to talk about, unless it is our conversion to Islam. Putting these two together, the result is war without end--or, realistically, an American withdrawal that will also be an American defeat.
I'm Not Thirsty

The Gotham City 13 shows us what flavors of Kool Aid they're drinking at the White House. Thanks to Musing's Musings for the link.
Ha Ha Funny (not)

CNN reports that Bush tried to make light of his invasion of Iraq last night at the Radio and Television Correspondent's Dinner:

There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said.

Maybe Bush will try to crack a joke about this:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three U.S. troops have died in separate attacks north and west of Baghdad, U.S. military sources said Thursday.

Or this:

(CNN) -- A new audiotape attributed to Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's top deputy, calls on residents of Pakistan's tribal areas to resist government forces sent to search for al Qaeda fighters.

Or maybe he'll just try to slime Richard Clarke, who ripped the administration a new one yesterday.
A Study of Epic Stupidity

The Bushiad and The Idyossey - George W. Bush and The Epic Battle of Testosterone. Homer Lives!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Random Thoughts from Yesterday's Testimony

Correction: C-Span 3 is running the hearings. I hope C-Span will replay them in the evening--otherwise I guess I'll have to try to run the streaming video from the website.

C-SPAN is running the hearings, but I can't really sneak a peek here at work. Still, yesterday I jotted some notes down, which I've edited slightly and strung together--

Bush wasn't testifying--imagine that--but I saw his statement to the press. It hit me: it seems like he forms all his words at the front of his mouth. Try it: see how close to a Bush faux Texas accent you can get to, then use your diaphragm to project your voice--you can't. Or maybe I should say, you cain't.

A lot of Powell and Rummy's testimony emphasised the fact that Bush was in office for only eight months prior to the 9/11 attack. They seem to think that's too short of a time to acclimate. My response: you've gotta be kidding me. I've NEVER held a job where I WASN'T evaluated earlier--usually after three or six months, although once the first eval came one month in. Bush should have known that the job of President of the United States is a little harder than president of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club.

Powell kept talking about the Taliban when asked about Al Qaeda. Sure, the Taliban supported Al Qaeda, but a big problem with the Bush policy--and the reason behind a lot of questions--is that the policy DOESN'T take into consideration the actions of non-government entities like Al Qaeda. Powell made positive references to Uzbekistan at least twice. I don't know if I'd want to crow about an official relationship with Karimov, unless you're hoping no one realizes he's the new Saddam. Powell also noted that war prior to 9/11 would not have been politically feasible. Sounds Clintonesqe there, if you ask me.

Powell also said something about the terrorist database being "not real good." I believe this was in regards to questions about how known operatives of Al Qaeda managed to get into the US. I'd like to know if Katherine Harris and Diebold generated the data.

One tack the Bush team is desperately using, trying to get some wind into their sails, is the eliminate vs. roll back stratagems regarding bin Laden. Don't you have to roll back something BEFORE you eliminate it? You can launch a big-strike, although Powell noted the lack of political feasibility. Also, in retrospect, the big-strike didn't work either--Madrid is proof of that. Another problem is that during the time between the so-called policy change, the de facto policy became "do nothing."

I'll have a few more random thoughts later, but one other thing I've noticed about the hearings is that it looks for all the world like the logical follow up to Watergate and Iran-Contra. The conservatives are moving to the beat established by their forebears: lying isn't a problem if it's politically expedient, political opponents must be beaten into the ground, the public must simply be kept in the dark, and they know what's best for us. The heroes of the neo-cons ran roughshod over the Constitution to get their way, and their political descendents are determined to do likewise, if only because that's how they were taught.

Rare stargazing spectacle as planets align is the title of this CNN article. Hopefully this is a good auspice as I begin yet another year on the planet--for the record, my, uh--ah what the hell, I ain't gettin any younger and I might as well not lie--my 39th year.

By coincidence, TheLeftCoaster is also a March Aries born on the 24th. And I've just noticed that Mr. Soto isn't on my list on the right. Apologies--that will be fixed before the morning is over.

Other good news is that, while my dad is still hospitalized, things are looking a lot better than on Sunday. And it looks like I'll be able to make it to DC for the March for Women's Rights next month, although that means no Festival International--and I'll miss the first week of Jazz Fest, but should make it back in time for the second weekend.

Last night I jotted down some notes while C-Span replayed the 9/11 Commission hearings. I was downing a bottle of wine--French wine, and I make NO apologies for that--during the show, so maybe I should get them edited and organized before posting.

Now I just have to get over the nausea that came with eating a piece of the chocolate chip cookie "cake" some of the folks here at work presented me. I haven't eaten a food product that contains that much sugar since I had a Twinkie sometime in the early 80's...

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Reading Comments

Thingwarbler posted about this.
Can't Stop Laughing

From Atrios: Project for the New American Empire

Update: if nothing else, you've gotta read the "Hitchen's column."

Finally, C-Span is running the replay of the 9/11 committee. Hell, I've only watched a couple of minutes, but I hope no one minds if I offer my own "big picture" analysis.

The Clinton adminstration was willing to look at how Fourth Generation Warfare is fought. They looked at MANY levels of potential attack, from large to small scale, from high tech to low tech, from traditional to non-traditional methods.

The Bush administration looked at Iraq.

Any questions?
Final Exam: Compare and Contrast...

Compare: Slate quotes a passage from Richard Clarke's book describing how the Clinton administration foiled an Al Qaeda plot to explode a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport. In doing so, countless lives were saved.

In December '99, every day or every other day, the head of the FBI, the head of the CIA, the Attorney General had to go to the White House and sit in a meeting and report on all the things that they personally had done to stop the al Qaeda attack, so they were going back every night to their departments and shaking the trees personally and finding out all the information.

Contrast: Here's what Clarke has to say in regards to Bush and Al Qaeda:

If that had happened in July of 2001, we might have found out in the White House, the Attorney General might have found out that there were al Qaeda operatives in the United States. FBI, at lower levels, knew [but] never told me, never told the highest levels in the FBI. ... We could have caught those guys and then we might have been able to pull that thread and get more of the conspiracy. I'm not saying we could have stopped 9/11, but we could have at least had a chance.

Bonus points: Explain what connections exist, if any, between Saddam Hussein, 9/11, and Osama bin Laden. Be specific, and provide documentation.

Bonus points 2: Identify at least three individuals in the Bush administration who sought to link Saddam Hussein with 9/11. Include the date that these allegations began to circulate within the White House.
I'll Have Another Round, Bartender

Billmon, who's serving the drinks over at the Whiskey Bar, wants to make sure this is on the record before it gets lost in the Richard Clarke maelstrom:

Terry Holt, the chief spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign was quoted saying in the Washington Post today:

"John Kerry's campaign seems to be summed up this way: I went to Vietnam, yadda, yadda, yadda, I want to be president."

If you have a few minutes, please give the article a look.

On the same topic, I've been letting a line from a while back smolder in my head for a bit. It's something a lot of folks in the warmonger crowd sputtered when it became clear that Iraq was to be "a long hard slog." It went, "Well, they [the troops] knew what they were getting into when they signed up."

As I posted in the comments above, that's the moral equivalent of spitting on the troops. And those who support Bush, who is trying to cut Veteran's Benefits even as he issues Stop-Loss orders that keep folks enlisted beyond their legal obligation, are doing the same.

If nothing else, right-wingers, you should have enough of a conscience to appreciate the dangers soldiers face. You owe them. Welcome the soldiers back with something more than a pat on the back and a hand in their wallet. Tell Bush he needs to do a hell of a lot more for our veterans (of ALL our conflicts). That's the least he can do. With luck, it could be the last thing he does prior to retiring permanently to the Crawford ranch house.
Intelligence and Disinformation

Bush, as Atrios and others noted, was apparently pushed in front of a microphone by his mentor Karl Rove, in order to "set the record straight" regarding 9/11. And set the record straight he did:

“The facts are these, George Tenet briefed me on a regular basis about the terrorist threat to the United States of America, and had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on Sept. 11th, we would have acted,” Mr. Bush said. Tenet is the CIA director.

Mr. Bush did not mention Clarke or the Iraq war in his response, but reviewed the progress of the U.S.-led war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

"We've captured or killed two-thirds of their known leaders and we're still pursuing them. And we will continue to pursue them so long as I am the president of the United States," he said.

"We're making progress. There is more work to do. This country will stay on the hunt," he said.

OK--what Bush seems to be saying is that if Al Qaeda had managed to call the private White House number (or the phone on George Tenet's desk) and informed the administration that they'd decided to hijack four planes on September 11, 2001--and, Mr. Heathen President, are you writing this down? We said FOUR planes on September 11--what, you want the flight numbers? OK...United Airlines Flight 175, out of Boston, American Airlines Flight 11 also out of Boston (but Atta is taking a commuter plane into Logan from Maine), United Airlines Flight 93, out of Newark, and American Airlines Flight 77 out of Dulles--Dulles--Dulles Airport, just outside of WASHINGTON....

IF Bush had received this critical information, then he CERTAINLY would have acted. God, one would hope so...for that matter, I'd like to think that maybe he'd have cancelled his book reading in Florida. Of course, having ONE plane hit the North Tower of course wasn't enough to call off THAT important event, especially since, in Bush's mind, it was "a terrible pilot."

A terrible pilot indeed. One who thought nothing of killing thousands in pursuit of his demented political agenda--irony intended.

However, to move back into the realm of slightly more normal discourse, does Bush or anyone else think that the public will accept that, in order to be on the alert for Al Qaeda, we needed the itinerary of the hijackers? 5:00 am, wake up. 8:00 am, hijack plane? For chrissakes, intelligence, as Rummy notes over and over, is never 100 percent. It should have been enough for Bush to think about the title of his August 6, 2001 briefing, "al-Qaeda Determined to Strike in U.S." I mean, I don't know how "intelligence" can BE more specific, unless you've got quality agents working behind enemy lines. And this was clearly not the case.

So, when Bush comes before the cameras (no doubt fully expecting the lapdog media to avert their eyes when speaking to him), recognize that his function RIGHT NOW is to fog the mirror. Which is about all he's good for. The entire Bush record is consistent with someone who is asleep at the wheel. And the country will be paying the price for a LONG TIME...
Celebrate the Moments

Riverbend offers her perspective on the first year of the war:

And where are we now? Well, our governmental facilities have been burned to the ground by a combination of 'liberators' and 'Free Iraqi Fighters'; 50% of the working population is jobless and hungry; summer is looming close and our electrical situation is a joke; the streets are dirty and overflowing with sewage; our jails are fuller than ever with thousands of innocent people; we've seen more explosions, tanks, fighter planes and troops in the last year than almost a decade of war with Iran brought; our homes are being raided and our cars are stopped in the streets for inspections… journalists are being killed 'accidentally' and the seeds of a civil war are being sown by those who find it most useful; the hospitals overflow with patients but are short on just about everything else- medical supplies, medicine and doctors; and all the while, the oil is flowing.

But we've learned a lot. We've learned that terrorism isn't actually the act of creating terror. It isn't the act of killing innocent people and frightening others… no, you see, that's called a 'liberation'. It doesn't matter what you burn or who you kill- if you wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and drop missiles and bombs, then you're not a terrorist- you're a liberator.

The war on terror is a joke… Madrid was proof of that last week… Iraq is proof of that everyday.

I hope someone feels safer, because we certainly don't.
La Familigia Scalia

Musing's musings links to a great line from E. J. Dionne regarding Scalia and impartiality:

True, Scalia's impartiality can't be questioned. It can't even be imagined.

"Iraq! Saddam! Gotta Go Potty!"

I've been reading the big league writers, and a few more--I know that most of y'all have the links, and for the one or two that don't, check the right side of this page. What I've been noticing from reading and from what I've seen (the 60 Minutes segment, the McClellan briefing, etc.), is that the Bushistas are doing their best to attack Clarke on various personal levels, but miss out on the major theme of the book: that Bush was so obsessed with Iraq that he was willing to use 9/11 as a pretext for invasion.

Funny, Paul O'Neil emphasized the same thing. DiIulio didn't focus in Iraq, per se, but pointed out how sane, rational policy takes a back seat to the Mayberry Machiavellis. I'm sensing a pattern here. And it's not a pretty sight.

In the case of Iraq, George W. Bush, like it or not, showed all the restraint of a 4 year old waiting in line to use the little boys room. Jumping up and down in an I-gotta-go-real-bad jig, he eventually he pissed himself, then prounounced he was pleased with the consequences.

Now he expects us to clean it up...
Implausable Deniability

Nightline devoted last night to the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and then C-Span followed up with a replay of the morning briefing. I'll get to the hatchet job on Richard Clarke in a subsequent post, but McClellan's responses to the assassination were, in a word, troubling.

McClellan asserted that Bush was NOT told beforehand about the killing. Hm. On the one hand, he may be right: this could be a case where, like in the movie "Z," where we've held up our hands and said, "that's for YOU to know, NOT ME." On the other hand, it could be either just another lie the Bushistas proffered to the sheep, or worse, MAYBE WE REALLY DIDN'T KNOW. That scares me. Now, don't get me wrong: last September, Israel made an initial attempt on the life of Yassin. At the time, our public response was short of condemnation (remember, there's an awful lot of diplomatic gamesmanship here). But we, or at least she (Condi) expressed "concern."

Who knows what was said behind closed doors. But if the US DIDN'T tell Israel to call off the dogs, then the administration will have only themselves to blame if we become targets of Hamas' rage. And, as noted above, if we really didn't know, it means that our intelligence in the region is worse than abysmal.

Anyone who thinks the US doesn't spy on Israel (and vice versa) has put their cranium in an anatomically impossible position, as the New York Times would say. We spy, they spy. Recall Jonathan Pollard? If our spies in Israel couldn't alert us to this action then it calls into question our entire intelligence apparatus in the region. Israel is now our closest ally. If we can't spy capably in a friendly country, who knows how shitty our intel is in other, less friendly nations.

Normally, when you have an intel deficit, it's possible to balance out your data with the help of friendly governments. That's one reason alliances are made. Duh. But Bush's increasingly isolationist stance lessens the chance that other governments will assist our agents--hell, they've shown that they're more than willing to sacrifice an agent's cover for a minimal political gain. So, we may have to face the troublesome fact that we DIDN'T know. Or, if we DID know, that our government is so stupid that it didn't give an emphatic thumbs down to what was a really, really stupid decision by Sharon.

Yassin was no angel. But the fact is that VIRTUALLY ALL of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders have blood on their hands. Sharon is just as horrible as the Sheikh, if not worse. I think world opinion recognized this, and took the position that it is more important to STOP THE KILLINGS. By not stopping them, Sharon has guaranteed that plenty will live and die by the sword.

Guess he didn't read the part about turning it into a plowshare.
We Found the WMD

Salon (today it's worth the time it takes to click through the ad) reports that the problem isn't Saddam, it's the land of the free and the home of the brave:

chemical weapons made for the Pentagon itself often have wound up in the wrong place -- or disappeared completely. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently investigating some 200 sites in 35 states where the military and its contractors cannot account for missing chemical-warfare agents. Among the weapons already uncovered is a long-lost stash of deadly mustard gas buried less than five miles from the White House.

"One of the ultimate ironies is that for all of the U.S. government's finger-pointing at Iraq and other countries -- nations we're challenging to account for every one of their weapons of mass destruction -- our country is riddled with similar weapons that our government itself can't even find," says Elizabeth Crowe, an organizer for the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a coalition of citizens living near chemical-weapons sites.

Earlier in the same piece:

Yet despite the dangers of PFIB (basically, victims exposed to it--even for short periods--suffocate) you would have had little trouble stealing enough of the deadly gas to wreak havoc in a subway or an office building. "If bin Laden had known that there were 23 cylinders of this stuff, all he had to do was hop a fence to get it -- literally," says Dean Ullock, an official with the Environmental Protection Agency. "A lot of this stuff was stored in a little garden shack in the back of the property, and all you would have had to do is walk in."

And, near the end:

The Bush administration acknowledges the pressing nature of such risks -- yet it has done almost nothing to improve security at chemical plants. If anything, it has made matters worse. Last year, under pressure from the chemical industry, the White House transferred oversight of the industry from the EPA -- which was attempting to toughen security -- to the new Department of Homeland Security. As chemical lobbyists and administration officials are well aware, Homeland Security does not have the regulatory authority to require the industry to adopt stricter measures.

The Republican-dominated Congress has been equally unwilling to act. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., introduced a bill last year to improve safety and enhance security oversight at chemical facilities. But in the face of a formidable lobbying effort against the legislation, Corzine's bill has languished. In October, a Senate committee passed a loophole-ridden measure -- written with the support of the Bush administration -- that allows industry to self-regulate without any new hazard-reduction requirements. But even that watered-down legislation has stalled.

"The industry has just completely stonewalled the involvement of the government in this whole process," says a frustrated Corzine. "We've been looking all over God's green acre for chemical weapons in Iraq and other nations while largely ignoring chemical security at home."

No way can this be spun in any sort of positive direction...

Monday, March 22, 2004

It's the Stupidity, Stupid

Uri Avnery, noted Israeli peace activist, writer, and former Knesset member, has this to say about the assassination of Yassin:

This is the beginning of a new chapter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It moves the conflict from the level of a solvable national conflict to the level of religious conflict, which by its very nature is insoluble.

The fate of the State of Israel is now in the hands of group of persons whose outlook is primitive and whose perceptions are retarded. They are incapable of understanding the mental, emotional and political dimensions of the conflict. This is a group of bankrupt political and military leaders who have failed in all their actions. They try to cover up their failures by a catastrophic escalation.

Already, the Israeli press sees the potential for retaliation--but not just within the confines of the Israeli state (Billmon provided the link):

Those who thought that killing Sheikh Ahmed Yassin would serve as a deterrent are mistaken, Dr. Reuven Paz, director of the project for the research of Islamist movements (PRISM), GLORIA Center, the Interdisciplinary Institute of Herzliya, told The Jerusalem Post

Paz warned that Yassin's demise could have severe repercussions not only in Israel, but will cause reactions throughout the entire Muslim world and lead to attacks against Israelis and Jews abroad.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why some politicians, particularly conservative heads of state, are obsessed with killing people. Yes, Yassim was associated with Hamas (so was the Israeli state, by the way--they thought Hamas could take some of the wind out of Arafat's sails). But to ignore the possibility of repurcussions is unbelievably dumb. Sharon didn't sign the death warrant just for Yassin. He signed death warrants for a number of people, be they Jewish, Arab, or neither (but unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time). I don't know--maybe people like Sharon have issues with their manhood or something...because he's certainly not thinking this through.

Empires, Evil, Etc.

I see that Israel continued with their strategy of throwing gasoline on flames by killing Hamas leaderSheik Ahmed Yassin--boy, that'll go over well with the Palestinians. Read As'ad abu Kahlil's reaction here. Meanwhile, The White House is protesting too much, if you ask me, regarding Richard Clarke's interview and book.

I posted below that the cabal of shitheads running the government seems to be wishing for Armageddon--and, if they have to, they'll hasten the process. In doing so, it looks like the idea will be to ensure the primacy of defense spending and related industries--turn the terrorist threat into the 21st Century equivalent of the Cold War.

After the Soviet Union fell--and right wingers, when you bloviate about Reagan winning it, you're full of shit--the group of industries that Eisenhower referred to as the Military Industrial Complex realized the gravy train was at the end of the line. They needed something to justify the fat military contracts--especially when you consider that most of the procurements made not a single contribution to the national defense, unless you think an $800 dollar toilet seat is somehow justified. As long as the USSR and it's godless ideology was around, anyone questioning such an expense was dismissed as "soft on communism."

Now, the idea will be to eventually inflate large portions of the Arab world to the status of--well, since they aren't exactly godless, they'll be accused of something equally hideous in the eyes of the right. And you can take your pick: swarthy, wild-eyed, worshippers of a "different" god (that's for the truly ignorant, but hey, never underestimate....). Once sufficiently slimed, the public will hopefully clamor for blood, ensuring a cycle of violence and continued profits. Fun, no? Even better, "soft on terrorism" sounds enough like "soft on communism" to ensure maximum lunacy and minimal analysis amongst the masses. The end of the line becomes the start of the line for the next trip.

That's the major reason why Bush et al bray about Iraq being tied somehow to Al Qaeda. In their view, anyone who isn't with us is against us and therefore in their bizarro world de facto allied. Of course, the tortured logic of this might be one reason why Condolezza Rice seems to have a chronic case of the yips, but the program is the program--even if careerists like Clarke rely on conventional logic, which no longer has a place in this administration.

The War on Terror already has its hot spots: Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan--by the way--you gotta laugh at Musharraf basically pulling a fast one on us--remember how breathless the media was last week about the impending capture of Ayman Adh-Dhawahiri? Some speculated Osama himself might come crawling out of the woodwork. Well, folks, you've bin had. In the same way that National Guard personnel have bin had--one weekend a month, and five years or so overseas fighting the wars that justify Richard Perle's expense account.

Which brings us to the final lie: Bush claims he'll be able to fight his wars without raising taxes. Hm. Perhaps in his little fantasy world, credit card bills don't have to be paid. That, or it's a task for the hired help. Because the borrow-and-spend spree he's launched upon guarantees that taxes will be raised down the road. Whether or not it's during his tenure in office, his expenses will have to be confronted. And when they are, it's not going to be a pretty sight.

Which is why Europe is looking to opt out. They realize the lunacy of bankrupting the nation in pursuit of vainglorious victories--victories that will mean little if you've gutted the country to pay for them. Furthermore, being a little closer to where the action is, I believe they've got the good sense to try to keep a lid on the battle: it's a lot easier for terrorists to get from the Middle East to Europe than to Fortress USA these days.

In the end, if Bush wins, we're in for a rough ride. The new Cold War will further isolate the US, while at the same time increasing the likelihood for more war (as Team Bush would flail away at those who simply don't want us around). The economy would continue to go down the tubes, and the possibility of the various hot wars getting out of control and going postal would be quite high.

What was it that Jefferson said? Something about being troubled when he reflected upon the fact that god is just?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

On Appeasement

Kevin Drum's new location, The Washington Monthly, has the following comment from Thumb. I hope he doesn't mind me citing it in its entirety:

Bush wrote the book on appeasing Al Qaeda:

Al Qaeda wanted Saddam removed from power, Bush removes Saddam from power. Al Qaeda wanted US military out of the Saudi peninsula, Bush removes US military from Saudi peninsula. Al Qaeda wanted to be treated seriously as a world class player locked in a fundamental clash of nations (for recruiting purposes) as opposed to rogue criminals, Bush declares them world class players locked in a fundamental clash of nations and refuses to view this as a law enforcement action. Al Qaeda wants Bin Laden's families, financiers and operatives flown out of the US immediately after the 9/11 attacks, Bush overrides the national flight ban to allow private Saudi aircraft to round up everyone connected and whisk them out of the country before they could be interviewed by the FBI. Al Qaeda wanted a chemical weapons lab at Kirma, the pentagon wanted to destroy it, repeatedly requests to destroy it; Bush refuses to allow it. Al Qaeda wanted the US to restrict freedoms on it's citizens, the Bush administration restricted freedoms on citizens. Al Qaeda wanted the population to be afraid, Bush tells the population to be afraid.

Now that's appeasement. (I guess he owed them big for all their financial help in his early business ventures)

Let's stop appeasing Al Qaeda. Vote out the Bush administration before they encourage Al Qaeda any further.

And, for the record, Spain did NOT appease Al Qaeda. They voted out a government that lied to them. We in the United States might want to consider that. A government that lies about one thing might well be lying about other things.

On a different note, this will likely be my only post of the day. I'm running down to New Iberia in a little bit, and won't get back until this evening. My father has been experiencing some health related issues and checked into the hospital last night. For those of y'all who believe in the power of prayer, mantra, or just warm thoughts, you're welcome to pray, chant, or think. He'll appreciate it, along with myself and our family. Have a good one.