Friday, January 28, 2005

The Cheerleader

First, I've gotta post the photo, just because the dauphin looks, well, so small. I guess on a positive note he IS wearing attire that could be considered "businesslike," unlike Cheney donning snow blower togs at Auschwitz.

It almost looks like a photographic trick, where someone can look gigantic or miniscule, depending on where in the oddly shaped room they choose to stand, although I can't imagine Bush ever looking larger than life...

Wimblehack Elizabeth Bumiller (with two others) sat down with Dubya and produced the following bit of fluff. If you want, you can read a partial transcript here.

Apologies to whoever posted this recently--I can't remember the source--but it was something to the effect that Team Bush, when not engaging in either venal bullying or small minded viciousness, spews forth rhetoric that, when you read or hear it, oddly exhibits plenty of "kumbaya" as well. For example--

On the occupation of Iraq:

A fundamental question also that I think a lot of Iraqis understand - and I do, too - is how do we make sure the Iraqi citizens view U.S. troops as helpers, not as occupiers.

On "presidential power:"

I made a decision based upon presidential power. I think - no, I can't think of any examples where I said, 'Gosh, I wish I had more power.'

On the future prospects for Iraq--and Palestine:

I think two of the great ironies of history will be that there will be a Palestinian state and a democratic Iraq showing the way forward for people who desperately want to be free

On race issues:

[I'm working] to put out policies that I think are beneficial to all people, including African-Americans, and will continue to do so.

To be honest, none of those statements, on their face, is necessarily head-in-the-clouds (with the possible exception of "helpers, not occupiers"--what the hell is that supposed to mean? Like Romper Room, except with M-16's and .50 Calibers?). However, none of those statement MEAN ANYTHING without a firm understanding of history, recent events, etc., and without, at the very least, a genuine policy. Bush has yet to show that he has ANY understanding of either the broad picture or particulars--and, without that kind of understanding, he might as well be batting his eyes and babbling about "world peace":

He laughed when asked about his admission on Wednesday, during a news conference, that he had not read the article in the periodical Foreign Affairs written in 2000 by Condoleezza Rice, his new secretary of state, laying out his foreign policy.

"I don't know what you think the world is like, but a lot of people don't just sit around reading Foreign Affairs," he said, chuckling. "I know this is shocking to you."

Now, apparently neither Bumiller, Sanger, nor Stevenson asked the logical follow up--did he read either white papers or other material outlining the policy? If they did ask this question, the didn't record the response. But a president who doesn't understand his foreign policy beyond "we hate tyranny" (which is both naiive and a lie--see, for instance Egypt, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and, for that matter, China, aka, financier to the USA)--is dangerously incompetent.

Bush demonstrates this both in foreign and domestic policy--the former when he insists that the US neither tortures people nor do we send people to other countries to be tortured (tell that to Maher Arar), the latter when he says "destroying life in order to create life is not ethical" when asked about his stem cell policy. Has anyone explained in vitro fertilization to him? And since when has stem cell research been focused on "creating life"? I think the focus is on curing and healing.

I dunno--maybe the sort of tripe Bush tries to pass off as filet mignon really does sit well with the public (in spite of what I read about how most people either don't know or misinterpret his policies). But it's not exactly a winning formula if times get tough--and times will get tough.
News & Notes

To begin, I'd like to first point to these three articles--here, here, and here--Brian Thevenot authored them and Timshel provided the links. They're a very good series on the day to day reality faced by, in this case, Louisiana National Guard personnel assigned to Iraq. All I can add is that they're well worth the time invested in reading them.

As to investments of time, I'm still trying to decide if last nights episode of Nightline was worth watching. Steve Gilliard has a pretty good summary, with a link to this DailyKos diarist who attended the event. He added some details not presented to the television audience.

As for me, watching a Nightline "Town Meeting" is something I'll do only with the assistance of mood altering substances. The very name is enough to almost make me hurl. Between High Priest Koppel and the focus-group stench that all but breaches the television-living room barrier, I find them a lame exercise at best. At worst, there's almost an exponential degree of bad high school civics in the process.

Gilliard makes several good points, which I'll summarize: first, George Allen's ONLY saving grace was that he hogged time that otherwise might have been given to Queen Sow Richard Perle. Joe Wilson continues to push the Kerry plan, i.e., internationalization, which right now could well be the only possible way to turn shit into Shinola--but it's NOT gonna happen. Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA) at least suggested defining an exit strategy, but Koppel himself nixed that idea (and later, Ted demonstrated a lack of empathy as only a well-fed, well-housed elite can: after giving a perfunctory listen to a young ex-solder who is now a triple amputee, he basically told him to "get over it." How nice).

Cindy Sheehan at least was given some time to mourn her son--which she did eloquently. Ted then cut her off.

A woman spoke about her husband, who was killed in the same ambush as Sheehan's son. She's taking the opposite point of view, that her husband's death means we can't cut and run, lest his death be in vain. On the face of it, it's hard to argue with that. Yet, I didn't see Koppel tell HER to "get over it." He should have. The war isn't some sort of college football contest, where the team needs to strive valiantly until the clock reads all zeros, whether or not they have a chance. It's war. And war, while being a bloody, gut-wrenching business, requires cold, calculated thinking. At a certain point, the old college try is an exercise in foolishness.

Gilliard notes that we're LOSING the war--but nobody wants to admit the obvious. Instead, we're regaled with stories about casualties in World War II or Vietnam or how we're "winning" the firefights and/or killing Iraqis at a feverish pace. Unfortunately, that's all bullshit. The war is a lost cause. Our actions in Iraq have turned the population against the US forces, and the US forces either cannot or will not (mostly cannot) offer anything most Iraqis want or need--like safe streets, electricity, water, jobs, decent schools, etc. Allawi, bottled up in the Green Zone, is akin to a pathetic shadow of Saddam--not even able to inspire fear, much less inspire hope.

But the pro-war crowd continues to promote the cause, desperately clinging to false hopes. The latest is the
"election," which is going surprisingly well--in Australia. Hey, maybe the wingnuts can suggest a mass exodus to the outback. It's a desert too, after all. As for the vote in-country...I'll wait and watch, but when leaflets are distributed in broad daylight, threatening death to those who vote (with no apparent consequences for those distributing the leaflets), it can't be considered a good sign. Besides, the vote itself consists of secret candidates, secret party platforms, secret polling places...things would have to get a hell of a lot better to even be considered Orwellian in the truest sense of the word.

And Bush's reaction? Any vote at all is a good vote. Jeez. They really should ship him over with the next troop deployment, so he can see first hand what sort of freedom he's brought to the region.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

All in How You Look at It

I wonder how the administration will spin this...probably by noting a "reduction" in car bombs:

Days before Iraqis head to the polls, a suicide tractor bomb detonated outside the Kurdish Democratic Party office in the northern city of Sinjar, killing four Iraqi soldiers and a guard, a provincial official said.

Tractor bombs? Jesus H. Christ. And you know, I still don't get how the US public can simply accept that upwards of THIRTY PEOPLE WERE BEHEADED, scores more were otherwise killed--and NO ONE has been caught, much less charged with any crime and/or brought to trial. Unbelievable...

Billmon actually entitles his latest post "Newspeak," but I don't want to plagerize. Check it out, then head over to this New York Times article about the wonders of private personal accounts in Chile--a model for Dubya's new toy:

Nearly 25 years ago, Chile embarked on a sweeping experiment that has since been emulated, in one way or another, in a score of other countries. Rather than finance pensions through a system to which workers, employers and the government all contributed, millions of people began to pay 10 percent of their salaries to private investment accounts that they controlled.

Under the Chilean program - which President Bush has cited as a model for his plans to overhaul Social Security - the promise was that such investments, by helping to spur economic growth and generating higher returns, would deliver monthly pension benefits larger than what the traditional system could offer.

But now that the first generation of workers to depend on the new system is beginning to retire, Chileans are finding that it is falling far short of what was originally advertised under the authoritarian government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

For all the program's success in economic terms, the government continues to direct billions of dollars to a safety net for those whose contributions were not large enough to ensure even a minimum pension approaching $140 a month. Many others - because they earned much of their income in the underground economy, are self-employed, or work only seasonally - remain outside the system altogether. Combined, those groups constitute roughly half the Chilean labor force. Only half of workers are captured by the system.

Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts - burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment - are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.

The article and accompanying graphic note that Chile's pension plan still accounts for a greater percentage of government spending than does Social Security here in the US.

So, the pension privatization plan in Chile is not at all dissimilar to Operation Go Cheney Ourselves in Iraq--it failed to solve a non-existant problem, but managed to create several new ones. No wonder Bush considers it a model. He understands how it works.

As for the rest of us--well, why can't we just learn to appreciate Newspeak?
Support the Troops--by Ignoring Them

Frank Rich points out how easy it is for the wingnuts to never have to say they're sorry:

But in at least one way we are not back in Vietnam. Iraq hawks, like Vietnam hawks before them, often take the line that to criticize America's mission in Iraq is to attack the troops. That paradigm just doesn't hold...

There was, for instance, according to the Los Angeles Times, "nary a mention" of the Iraq war or "the prices paid by American soldiers and their families" at the lavish Inauguration bash thrown for the grandees of the Christian right by the Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition at Washington's Ritz-Carlton...

However, that didn't keep the media from saying pretty much just the opposite:

...television's ceremonial coverage of the Inauguration, much of which resembled the martial pageantry broadcast by state-owned networks in banana republics, made a dutiful show out of the White House's claim that the four-day bacchanal was a salute to the troops. The only commentator to rudely call attention to the disconnect between that fictional pretense and the reality was Judy Bachrach, a writer for Vanity Fair, who dared say on Fox News that the inaugural's military ball and prayer service would not keep troops "safe and warm" in their "flimsy" Humvees in Iraq. She was promptly given the hook. (The riveting three-minute clip, labeled "Fair and Balanced Inauguration," can be found at, where it has seized the "most popular" slot once owned by Jon Stewart's slapdown of Tucker Carlson.)

Alas, there were no Fox News cameras to capture what may have been the week's most surreal "salute" to the troops, the "Heroes Red, White and Blue Inaugural Ball" attended by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The event's celebrity stars included the Fox correspondent Geraldo Rivera, who had been booted from Iraq at the start of the war for compromising "operational security" by telling his viewers the position of the American troops he loves so much. He joked to the crowd that his deployment as an "overpaid" reporter was tantamount to that of an "underpaid hero" in battle. The attendees from Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, some of whose long-term care must be picked up by private foundations because of government stinginess, responded with "deafening silence," reported Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post. Ms. Roberts understandably left the party after the night's big act: Nile Rodgers and Chic sang the lyrics "Clap your hands, hoo!" and "Dance to the beat" to "a group of soldiers missing hands and legs."...

Rich goes on to note that Team Bush has already moved on to "All Social Security, all the time," taking the public with it (apparently some two thirds have no friend, relative or co-worker in the combat zone). Iraq gets tuned out--mere entertainment/small tragedy as yet another death is announced at the end of the national newscast (or gets slightly more attention on the local news). He notes that Bush didn't bother to say "Iraq" in his inaugural address (because, as I've said, he doesn't want to be reminded of it--he wants someone to bail him out of it).

And, to conclude with the beginning, Rich opens with the observation that we've already had some five V-I Days--funny how they didn't work out. In order, they were the fall of Baghdad (April 9, 2003), "Misison Accomplished" (May 1, 2003), Saddam's capture (December 14, 2003), Allawi's takeover (June 28, 2004), and now, the "election" coming up this weekend, which already the Bushistas are admitting will be about as definitive a V-I Day as any of the others.

Time to think about declaring victory and getting the hell outta there...unfortunately, though, it won't be as easy as it was in Vietnam, since Bush's folly has now resulted in both de facto training and arming of more terrorists than the US public dares to imagine...
Soft Bigotry, Low Expectations

Juan Cole makes, in slightly nicer language that I'd use, a solid point regarding one of the dauphin's favorite mantras--that "the world is a better off" since Saddam Hussein was driven from Baghdad:

You know, if all you have to boast about is that you are better than Saddam Hussein, it isn't actually a good sign. Can you imagine what would have happened to the Republican Party if its reply to Kerry's criticisms of last summer had been, "Well, the American Republican Party is a damn sight more progressive than Hitler was." Saddam was overthrown on April 9, 2003. It is 2005, and the US has been running Iraq for nearly two years. Now the question is, how does the situation in Iraq compare to the Philippines, or India, or Turkey. Answer: It sucks. There is little security, people are killed daily, there is a massive crime wave, and elections are being held in which most of the candidates cannot be identified for fear of their lives. So the conclusion is that the Bush administration has done a worse job in Iraq than the Congress Party does in India, or the AK Party does in Turkey. That's the standard of comparison once Saddam was gone. And, by the way, veteran NYT journalist John Burns, who is nobody's fool, told Tina Brown last Friday that he was taken aback when an Iraqi told him recently that he wished Saddam were back. This was an Iraqi who really had been delighted at the American invasion. So Bush should drop the cute sound bite about being better than Saddam.

And, staying with Professor Cole for a moment, I saw that Riverbend cited him in her latest post:

This is the speech that I wish President Bush had given in fall, 2002, as he was trying to convince Congress to give him the authority to go to war against Iraq.

A war against Iraq will be expensive. It will cost you, the taxpayer, about $300 billion over five years. I know Wolfowitz is telling you Iraq's oil revenues will pay for it all, but that's ridiculous. Iraq only pumps about $10 billion a year worth of oil, and it's going to need that just to run the new government we're putting in. No, we're going to have to pay for it, ourselves. I'm going to ask you for $25 billion, then $80 billion, then another $80 billion. And so on. I'm going to be back to you for money more often than that unemployed relative that you don't like.

As to the first reference, I'm in wholehearted agreement--quite some time ago I used a sports analogy: Bush continuing to crow about Saddam's overthrow is like assuming he's won the game because he scored the first point(s). It's neither a recipe for success nor a plan for establishing order.

Instead, it's a sign of a serious attention deficit--almost as if Bush just wishes the problem would go away. Which, if you think about it, is the story of his life. Others have come through to bail him out at every juncture--his parents trundled him off to Alabama to schmooze when he was an embarrassment in Houston (what with the drug use, the AWOL problems, etc.); later, he was bailed out of failed businesses, later still he "succeeded" in a business that benefits from a written anti-trust exemption (major league baseball)--it's no wonder Bush has no stomach for the genuine hard work it will take to salvage a Middle East policy that minimizes the huge amount of damage he's caused in such a remarkably short amount of time. No, instead the toy is consigned to the rubbish pile--and no one dare mention that the fact that it's rusted, broken, and beyond repair had something to do with the lack of care on the part of the dauphin. No, only good news must reach his ears...

As to Cole's other post--let's face it, honesty has NEVER been a strong suit with the Bush clan. The only way he'd give a speech like the one Cole suggests would be if James Baker III threatened to carve him a new one if he didn't (and Baker might have to make good--at least in part--before the boy heeded).

"Don't Grumble--Give a Whistle"

Wimblehack winner Elizabeth Bumiller covers the Bush gang's response to chewing on life's gristle:

President Bush's opening statement at his news conference on Wednesday was striking for what it left out: any mention of the 31 Americans who died overnight in the crash of a Marine helicopter in Iraq, the largest number of American deaths in a single incident since the war began.

Mr. Bush instead focused on his long-term goal of "ending tyranny in our world," and then cast the Iraqi election coming Sunday as part of a march of freedom around the globe. He said that if he had told the reporters in the room a few years before that the Iraqi people would be voting, "you would look at me like some of you still look at me, with a kind of blank expression."

The president's words were part of an aggressive White House communications strategy this week and next to frame the risky Iraqi election - a critical test of his assertion that the country is on the path to stability - in the best possible light. The goal, a Bush adviser said, was not only to lower expectations but to avoid any definition of success.

When the president was asked to define what a "credible" turnout in Iraq would be, he quickly side-stepped, saying only, "The fact they're voting in itself is successful."...

Though the tone of the news conference was at times light and bantering, in response to a question later Mr. Bush did address the helicopter crash: "Obviously any time we lose life it is a sad moment," he said.

By Wednesday afternoon, in an interview with Al Arabiya, the satellite television network, he had incorporated his response to the crash into his larger message about freedom.

"Today a tragic helicopter accident is a reminder of the risks inherent in military operations," he said in the television interview, again in response to a question.

Mr. Bush's decision not to mention the helicopter crash in his opening statement, the Bush adviser said, was part of a longstanding White House practice to avoid having the president mention some American deaths in Iraq but not others.

"It's almost a policy," said the adviser, who asked not to be named because the president does not want aides talking about the inner workings of the White House, "because if you mention one, you have to mention them all."

The president took a similar approach in November 2003, when a Chinook helicopter was shot down in Iraq and 16 Americans died. Mr. Bush stayed at his ranch and let Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld do the talking, and officials said they did not want Mr. Bush to be consumed by headlines. "If a helicopter were hit an hour later, after he came out and spoke, should he come out again?" Dan Bartlett, a senior aide, said at the time...

On Iraq policy, Mr. Bush has sought this week to rise above the daily bad news - insurgents vowed this week to cut off the heads of Iraqis and their children if voters went to the polls - and to put a positive stamp on an election that could be disrupted by insurgent attacks on Sunday and set the tone for the next four years...

Mr. Bush made that point in the interview with Al Arabiya, which is considered more moderate toward the Bush administration than its chief competitor, Al Jazeera...

White House officials said that planning for the news conference began on Monday and that it was essentially Mr. Bush's idea. Although the president typically dislikes news conferences, White House officials also say he is closely involved in setting strategy in dealing with the news media and understands when it is in his interest to use his powerful podium to try to shape public perception of the news...

The message, a senior administration official said, is: "We're not going to wake up on Monday with the sparrows chirping in downtown Baghdad. This is not going to be perfect."

Gawd. Where do you begin? Thanks to C-Span, I was able to catch the replay last night, and it was even worse than I expected. Then this hairball of an article is regurgitated up by the Wimblehack champion. Ignoring the dead is explained away as "almost policy" (I guess ignoring the Iraqi dead is "genuine policy." I mean, geez--can you imagine? Most of the "collateral damage" from the war makes the Zapruder Film look like children's programming). Then you've got the reference to Al Arabiya with no mention that the station is widely perceived as a vehicle for US propaganda--which might be because the station was created and is funded by the US government. The emphasis on "the message," as opposed to, oh, I don't know, maybe a sincere, critical look at THE ACTUAL POLICY?!?

Hackmiller's piece is a celebration of president is little more than spokesperson, ignoring the responsibilities of the office.

Compare and contrast Hackmiller's empty calories with John Burns's sobering assessment that "Security is only an ideal:"

Starkly put, Baghdad is not under control, either by the Iraqi interim government or the American military.

Or, in yet another reality-based piece in the Times, James Glanz and Thom Shanker write:

More than two-thirds of all Iraqis live in districts that have experienced insurgent attacks in the past month, according to an analysis of new intelligence data...

Five provinces have suffered more than 150 attacks over the past 30 days, with highs of 467 in Salahaddin Province, a Sunni area north of Baghdad that encompasses the troubled cities of Samarra and Tikrit, and 798 in Baghdad. Three more provinces sustained 30 to 100 attacks in the period, the data indicate.

Even though the heaviest concentration of violence is in Sunni Arab areas, the mayhem extends throughout the country, from Basra in the south to the northernmost reaches of Nineveh Province, which includes the volatile city of Mosul. Even in the traditionally peaceful Kurdish north, there were three attacks in Erbil and three in Dahuk in the last 30 days, casting doubt on recent assertions by Iraqi and American officials that just four provinces are so violent as to pose serious challenges for the elections.

So much for the "only four violent provinces" spin.

Hackmiller's piece demonstrates all too clearly Team Bush's thought process regarding the ugly mess they've created in Iraq, namely, that it's just politics and nothing that can't be repaired with a bit of positive PR. Unfuckingbelievable. James Wolcott picked up on this, noting the total disconnect alpha chimp displayed:

The White House announces a press conference in the morning. After the announcement comes the news that 31 Americans died in a chopper crash in Iraq (6 others died today in seperate incidents). The president takes the podium fresh with the knowledge of that tragedy--and radiates a cheerful disposition bantering with the press about senior citizens and their faulty memories...

When Bush did address the soldiers' deaths, he said that we "weep and mourn" when Americans die, but as he was saying it his hand was flatly smacking downwards for emphasis, as if he were pounding the table during the business meeting, refusing to pay a lot for a muffler. The steady beat of his hand was at odds with the sentiments he was expressing--he didn't look or sound the least bit mournful or sombre. And why should he? Death doesn't seem to be a bringdown for him.

Of course it's not a bringdown for him--those who are dying exist only in the abstract for Bush, and I think the last four years have shown he has a somewhat limited capacity in that area. And the deaths continue--eleven more today, and counting.

Which for them means time to stick to the message. Nothing more.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Joe Lieberman=Cure for Insomnia

As far as I know, James Wolcott is the first to add the term "Joelasses" to the national lexicon, after which he notes, in much better style than my own, Joe's startling ability to bring on heavy eyelids and semi-consciousness in even the most hyper of folks:

He's always sounded deeply drowsy, but today his vital signs seemed to slip into the danger zone that barely separates us from the undead...He propped himself up to drone his support for the nomination of Condi Rice as Secretary of Clueless...Sleepy Joe also argued that partisanship should end at the nation's shores when the country is engaged in global war on terror, which is counseling Democrats to commit self-emasculation. They did that during Bush's first term, and look at the good it did.

If I ran anything like a daycare center, naptime would be preceeded by five or so minutes of Joe opining on virtually any subject. That's all it would take.
Dubya's World--Babble On

Once again, a busy work day slowed my written output, and I'm just catching up. But after reading both this article and the transcript of Bush's "press conference" this morning, all I can think is "oh shit."

Dubya might not be as dumb as I sometimes think (to be honest, I'd probably back the dauphin in an intelligence contest with a signpost--but only after careful consideration). However, I seriously doubt he bothers to think about what he's saying from one moment to the next. For instance, he babbles on at one point about how "voting in itself" is a sign of success in Iraq--without any expression indicating that he's even aware of, oh I don't know--FALLUJAH, for instance...or the ongoing issue of prisoner/detainee abuse in Iraqi, instead, it's all about how we had to get rid of Saddam, we had to get rid of Saddam, we had to get rid of Saddam RIGHT NOW because...

Well, because of what? There isn't a shred of evidence indicating he was capable of attacking, much less preparing to attack, the United States or one of our numerous "democratic" allies in the region like Jordan or Kuwait--note that "democratic" is in quotes for a reason.

Bush has requested, to date, approximately $280 billion dollars for Operation Folly in the Desert, of which $150 billion has already been spent. Oyster hit one out of the park here, noting the price tag above (he also compared it to the cost of other wars), following up with the observation that we haven't really accomplished squat in Mesopotamia. Earth to wingnuts: if the best Bush gets after another $200 to $400 billion dollars (or more) is "Baathism without Saddam" or "Islamic Fundamentalia," then the mission is neither accomplished nor a success. Oh, and when you budget $1.5 Billion dollars for an embassy, it's because you're putting enough reinforced concrete into the plan to stop a tank...which means that the country said embassy is housed in, um, well, hates our guts. Do you ever wonder why?

Bush doesn't. In fact, as far as I can tell, these days he's really beginning to look like he misses his days pre-1986, when a wagon was simply something to fall off of.

Oh, and in the interest of balance, Bush shows a lack of understanding on domestic issues as well--when asked about the out of control budget deficit, the best he can come up with is the lame response that he's got a which I say, put up or shut up. What the hell IS the plan? And, to further his babbling nature, he flat out lied about Social Security:

As dictated by just math, there is the - the system will be in the red in 13 years. And in 2042, the system will be broke. That's because people are living longer and the number of people paying into the Social Security trust is dwindling.

That's a LIE. Social Security will NOT be in the red in 2018. It WILL have to cash in securities (purchased US debt) that the agency at present buys with the surplus it accumulates (just for this reason) in order to meet obligations--sort of how, say, a person who quits a job would use a savings account to keep the rent payments up to date until they found a new job. As for 2042, no, the system won't be "broke." It WILL have to consider scaling back payments IF and ONLY IF long term growth projections for the entire US economy are as lame as predicted (and, if they ARE that lame, then perhaps the solution is to elect officials who will adopt economic policies that generate more growth--jeez).

You know, I really think Bush just doesn't give a shit what he actually says. I guess, in his mind, it doesn't matter anyway--it's just words.

Unfortunately it DOES matter. And by handing the keys to this mad, drunk-on-power idiot, we might well find ourselves being driven off the cliff...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

No, it Wasn't a Hate Crime

I meant to post something about this over the weekend, but didn't--my apologies.

Anti-abortionists here got all worked up over the weekend, protesting the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Local media went to great lengths to publicize both a march, and a display of crosses on the LSU Parade Grounds. By way of balance, one television station found exactly one student who took a pro-choice position.

IIRC, the other television station that runs a local newscast claimed they asked for a comment from Planned Parenthood, but none was forthcoming.

The display of crosses was vandalized Saturday night/Sunday morning. Anti-abortionists are saying this is a hate crime.

No, it isn't. It's vandalism. Hate crime is the deliberate targeting of individuals based on, for instance, their race, or their sex. An example of hate crime would be assaulting or killing someone because they're ethnic background is Semitic. And I think a good argument could be made that denying a woman's inherent right to control her own body is also a hate crime.

For the record, I consider the anti-abortionists' display yawn-inducing--but hey, they're entitled to make their statement. I also think the folks who vandalized the display showed poor judgement: they would have done better to organize their own display or demonstration.

Roe v. Wade hasn't forced a single woman to undergo an abortion. The ruling was complicated, but not all that complicated. It basically said that a woman, if she so chooses, can terminate a pregnancy up to the point where a fetus is potentially viable outside of her womb. In other words, a woman IS a human being, and IS entitled to basic rights, including the right to control her own body. There is NOTHING in the ruling that requires a woman to abort a child. It does allow a woman to exercise her right to choice--and to do so in a manner that is medically safe.

What's wrong with that?

The King of Zembla cites Robert Byrd putting the Cost of War in perspective.

While some Democrats seem to remember where they left their collective spines, Joe Lieberman can't decide if he'd prefer an exo-skeleton or whether he really is more inclined towards the watery spinelessness of a jellyfish:

...several Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, support Rice's nomination.

"I've always believed that our responsibility to advise and consent does not mean that we have to agree with every opinion or every action that the nominee has ever taken," Lieberman said in his opening remarks.

"Our responsibility is to determine whether the nominee is fit for the position ... and whether the nominee, in our judgment, will serve in the national interest. And of course I conclude that Dr. Condoleezza Rice meets that standard at least and much more."

Way to go, Joe.
With Friends Like This...

Link from Today in Iraq. Acccording to this AP report, Islamic clerics in Saudi Arabia are encouraging young militants to go to Iraq and fight there. In doing so, they're both making a small contribution to the insurgency, but are relieving pressure on the Saudi government, which has its hands plenty full enough with fundamentalists.

Something tells me that Bush won't get asked about this.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell--And Don't Investigate

The New York Times reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union released documents on Monday describing complaints of serious abuse of Iraqi civilians, including reports of electric shocks and forced sodomy, and accused the military of not thoroughly investigating the cases.

The documents list dozens of allegations of abuse at American detention centers - the use of cigarettes to burn prisoners, aggressive dogs, electric shocks, sexual humiliation and beatings - that began at about the same time such acts were occurring at Abu Ghraib prison...

The documents list several sites where abuses are reported to have taken place, many of them at the detention center at Adhamiya Palace, one of Saddam Hussein's villas in Baghdad. The documents contain allegations from detainees about being abused and statements from American contractors who said they saw the effects of beatings.

In one case, a detainee said that while at Adhamiya Palace, his nose was pinched while water was poured down his throat, a wooden stick was inserted forcefully into his anus and electric shock was applied to his genitals. Some of the allegations were directed against Iraqi policemen. One contractor who said he was assigned to screen detainees brought to Abu Ghraib said that many who had come from Adhamiya arrived with serious injuries, including one boy with a bleeding rectum. He said the boy had told him that an Iraqi policeman had sodomized him with a soda bottle and that American soldiers were present.

So, the new Iraqi police, that is, those who aren't either insurgents in disguise, or victims of the insurgency, turn out to be remarkably similar to the old police.

The Washington Post has more:

Army personnel have admitted to beating or threatening to kill Iraqi detainees and stealing money from Iraqi civilians but have not been charged with criminal conduct, according to newly released Army documents...

The newly released reports detail allegations similar to those that surrounded the documented abuse at Abu Ghraib -- such as beatings with rifle butts, prolonged hooding, sodomy, electric shocks, stressful shackling, and the repeated withholding of clothing and food -- but they also encompass alleged offenses at military prisons and checkpoints elsewhere in Iraq. The elite soldiers with Army Special Forces and other Special Operations personnel stationed in various parts of Iraq were also implicated in some of the abuse but did not admit involvement, according to the documents...

Another case involved a 73-year-old Iraqi woman who was captured by members of the Delta Force special unit and alleged that she was robbed of money and jewels before being confined for days without food or water -- all in an effort to force her to disclose the location of her husband and son. Delta Force's Task Force 20 was assigned to capture senior Iraqi officials.

She said she was also stripped and humiliated by a man who "straddled her . . . and attempted to ride her like a horse" before hitting her with a stick and placing it in her anus. The case, which attracted the attention of senior Iraqi officials and led to an inquiry by an unnamed member of the White House staff, was closed without a conclusion.

I vaguely remember Bush saying something last Thursday about liberty and freedom...but I could be wrong. Maybe he was actually talking about fraternity pranks...
Your Flight has Been Cancelled

I wonder why news doesn't reach us, except, as far as I can tell, from the foreign press (link from Juan Cole):

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - Heavy fighting outside Baghdad International Airport prevented two Jordanian passenger planes from landing Monday, the airline spokesman said.

Royal Jordanian's planes made quick turns over Baghdad, where the airport's control tower denied the aircraft permission to land because of heavy fighting nearby, a spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

The two flights - in the morning and at noon - returned to Amman safely, he said. The second flight carried Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan, the minister told reporters in Amman afterward. Shaalan was trying to return to Iraq after visiting Jordan.

And, to follow up, I guess the US, and the media, has grown tired of the whole 'hostage' thing. Maybe the attitiude is 'been there, done that,' because this is the first I've seen regarding Ray Hallums since he was captured on November 1st of last year:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A newly released videotape shows an American taken hostage last year in Iraq pleading to be spared from a "definite death" as a rifle barrel points at his head.

You'd think there would be, oh, I don't know, at least a wave of publicity regarding Hallums and/or others who've been captured thanks to the liberation followed by the utter inability of the occupation forces to, well, occupy much more than highly secured locations, leaving the rest of the nation to fend for itself. But I guess that's the kind of 'negative' reporting that gets in the way of positive news...

Well, ok...someone please tell me today's "positive" story.

Oh, and here's something that CNN drops into paragraph 14:

Meanwhile, six U.S. soldiers died Monday -- one in a roadside bombing, and five in a vehicle accident.

Deaths of US soldiers merit exactly one sentence. What a display of support.
Cutting Down the Money Tree

Bush is requesting another $80 Billion dollars for war in Iraq and Afghanistan. That pushes the total cost of Bush's follies to $280 Billion.

Here's what we get in exchange for the money.

Here's what we haven't gotten.
What He Said

Your Right Hand Thief has two really good posts up at his site--one about the coronation address, the other on Operation Go Cheney Ourselves. Check out the articles he links to.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Take the A Train

Taking it just got a LOT harder. Apparently a homeless person, trying to stay warm, lit a fire near the north end of the Chambers Street platform which ended up causing massive damage to electrical relays and switches--and partially or totally stopping service on the A and C lines:

Until Wednesday, there will be no service between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. at Spring, Canal and Chambers Streets and at the Broadway-Nassau station, to allow workers to perform critical repairs. During those hours, the A will operate on the F track between West Fourth Street in Manhattan and Jay Street in Brooklyn.

In a statement, the transit agency said there were "no plans for the restoration of C service in the near future." The V line, which usually runs from Forest Hills, in Queens, to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, will be extended to Euclid Avenue, Brooklyn, which is the normal terminus for the C...

In the meantime, long waits and erratic service are likely to be the norm on the A and C lines, which have a combined average weekday ridership of 580,000 passengers. Riders from the Upper West Side of Manhattan and the Brooklyn neighborhoods of East New York and Ocean Hill-Brownsville will probably ride in very crowded trains.

Ouch. The New York City subway isn't pretty or glamorous, but it gets you--and THOUSANDS of others--where you want to go, and relatively cheaply (IIRC, I paid $21 bucks for a seven day unlimited ride pass last fall, and it was worth it).

Unfortunately, this fire underscores a big problem--the country's all hyped up about potential terrorism--yet, by ignoring the issue of the homeless, a disaster "described as the worst damage to subway infrastructure since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001" happened.

Subway officials are reasonably certain whoever set the fire had no intention of causing damage on such a scale. And, I'll add that if a decent network of social services were in place, it might never have happened.
Don't Miss Weather Like This At All

Timshel has what he describes as a "before things got out of hand" photo from Boston here--below I guess is the "after" shot:

Brrr. The caption read:
Frozen Solid
In Hull, Mass., a town located on a peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and Boston Harbor, houses were coated in snow and ice today

Apologies for slow posts--work got busy enough today. We're rolling out some network monitoring software, and I'm going to be the lucky person who will be using it...

Anyway, This Washington Post article notes that it can take as little as 20 minutes to turn an Iraqi against the occupation:

By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 23, 2005; Page A20

BAGHDAD -- The day after the soldiers came, Imaad ordered his mother to go through her refrigerator and pantry and throw out all the cheese that had been made outside Iraq. He went around and collected any images of Westerners in the house, threw them in a pile and burned them until they were floating bits of ash. He struck his mother repeatedly and forbade her to watch foreign news or movie channels on their new television.

The Americans were "the devil," Imaad ranted.

By all accounts, Imaad, 32, was a typical, mild-mannered college graduate who spoke English well and had quietly supported the U.S. presence in Iraq -- until Jan. 5, the night the soldiers came.

His story about that night, told days later in his small living room, is the story of how the U.S. military made an enemy of one man during a 20-minute encounter...

On the night of Jan. 5, Imaad and his mother, Um Imaad -- both of whom declined to give their full names for fear of retribution -- were watching a movie in the living room. As in most other parts of the capital for the past two months, their Adhimiya neighborhood has electricity about two hours a day. So the generators outside were humming at about 9 that night, and the television was turned up so they could hear.

Imaad said they were startled by a loud banging at the door. He went quickly to open it. When he did, Imaad said, there were about a dozen U.S. soldiers standing with their guns pointed at his head.

Imaad and his mother said the soldiers rushed in, ordering them to sit together while they searched the house. "You look poor," Imaad recalled one of the soldiers saying. "Why?"

Imaad answered in English: "I have not been able to find a job, although I'm a graduate of the College of Arts." His heart was pounding, Imaad said. His mother, a chatty widow who adores her son, sat next to him, shaking.

The soldiers went to search his bedroom. He heard laughing, and then they called for him, he said. Imaad went to his room and saw that the soldiers had found several magazines he kept hidden from his mother. They had pictures of girls in swimsuits and erotic poses. Imaad said the soldiers spread the magazines on his bed and put his Koran in the middle.

"This is a good match," Imaad said one of the soldiers told him.

"It was a nightmare," he said. "I will never forget those bad soldiers when they put the Koran among the magazines."

Within 20 minutes, the soldiers left without arresting him or his mother. While the soldiers went next door to search his neighbor's house, Imaad began to slap his mother, he said. "The American people are devils," Um Imaad recalled her son repeating.

He left her and went to a mosque to spend the night. "I asked God to forgive me," Imaad said, "because I could not prevent American sins." ...

Neighbors corroborated parts of Imaad's account. They said the soldiers raided their houses on Jan. 5, telling them that they were responding to an explosion in the area. One man said a soldier angrily punched him and broke his nose. The injury was apparent a week later.

They said American soldiers raided one side of the street, and Iraqi security forces raided another. They said the soldiers arrived in armored vehicles and left after about two hours, taking several Iraqi civilians with them.

The neighborhood is known to harbor insurgents, including some who moved to Baghdad from Fallujah after a U.S. offensive there in November. Neighbors acknowledged there were anti-American groups among them, but they said not everyone opposed the foreign troops or Iraq's U.S.-backed interim government.

Imaad and his mother said they had no memorable encounters with soldiers before Jan. 5, no reason to hate or mistrust them. But Um Imaad said she had been distraught since that night at the changes in her son, a plump man with a round face and a receding hairline. His father died in the Iran-Iraq war two decades ago, leaving mother and son with only each other for support...

Imaad said that two weeks after the raid, he was still struggling to return to normal. He was no longer hitting his mother, but he still would not allow her to watch foreign television or buy products made outside Iraq.

Imaad said he was embracing his Muslim faith as never before. He spends most of his time at the mosque praying or reading the Koran. He is also looking for a job.

Before the war, Imaad worked for a commerce company, making about $50 a month and spending most of it on transportation. He has not been able to find work in the nearly two years since.

He never really held the Americans responsible for that, he said, until the night of Jan. 5.

"I used to have a good opinion of the Americans," Imaad said. "But they are the enemy. They are bad."

See? It's simple, really--all that's necessary is to humiliate the locals, throw in a little disrespect for their religion (because, after all, it's not the "true" religion), maybe break a few noses, and've got a whole neighborhood that no longer cares one whit if your convoy gets hit by an I.E.D.

Rising Hegemon has a suggestion on how to honor Rosemary Woods.

For the record, I always felt a little sorry for her, particularly when she either tried to do the loyal thing and take the fall--or was asked to do so. Big league first basemen don't stretch as far.

The Watergate scandal was a wake up for me--in my defense, I was a child at the time. But it taught me a valuable lesson: don't trust politicians to tell the truth. Question authority, because they're probably hiding something

It's a lesson I'd like to think isn't lost on at least some these days...
Spooks R' Us

Yeah, Atrios already posted this, so I'm sure all have seen it...Still, it's interesting to see the kind of parsing a supposedly plain talking administration uses:

The Pentagon acknowledged Sunday that it is trying to improve its network of spies abroad but denied a published report that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had reinterpreted U.S. law to create an espionage unit under his control...

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita said it was "accurate and should not be surprising" that the Pentagon would try to improve its human spying capability...

As part of that effort, he said, the Defense Intelligence Agency "has been taking steps to be more focused and task-oriented for the global war on terror." DiRita said the Defense Department "remains in regular consultation" with congressional committees, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

DiRita denied that Rumsfeld controls a secret group of spies. "There is no unit that is directly reportable to the Secretary of Defense for clandestine operations as is described in The Washington Post," he said in a statement. "Further, the Department is not attempting to 'bend' statutes to fit desired activities, as is suggested in this article."

Here's the Post article (registration required). A snippet:

Military and civilian participants said in interviews that the new unit has been operating in secret for two years -- in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places they declined to name. According to an early planning memorandum to Rumsfeld from Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the focus of the intelligence initiative is on "emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia." Myers and his staff declined to be interviewed.

Operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places (like Somalia, Yemen, etc. etc.--and probably Pakistan and some of the former Central Asian Soviet Republics) know what? Whether or not their "reinterpretation" of law is in fact legal (not that they give a shit anyway)--they STILL SUCK at gathering anything useful...Zarqawi's still thumbing his nose at us (even as we crow about this or that "top aide" who's been captured), bombs explode at the rate of more than one a day, water was cut off in parts of Baghdad for six days--and, in what could be considered a war crime, was deliberately cut in Fallujah prior to the assault.

And, over the weekend, The Times brought Andrew Sullivan in to review a couple of books about torture--and added a third review to the mix. Nothing like books to make the public comfortable with atrocity...