Friday, February 04, 2005


Tex at Unfair Witness--who I don't link to often enough (well, it's not like I'll significantly increase ANYONE'S traffic, but he does amazing work)--anyway, Tex came across this startling piece of news:

Beheadings slow Iraqi security force build-up.

Imagine that...
Friday Words of Wisdom

From my sister (who got it from a friend):

February 2nd was Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address. It is an ironic juxtaposition: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog.
The Color Purple

They say politics makes strange bedfellows. No shi'ite. The Purple Fingered Faction of the GOP thus gave a thumbs up (no pun intended) to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani's slate of candidates, which has garnered about two thirds of the votes tallied thus far. Let's see...the GOP apparently endorses Islamic theocracy in Iraq, as well as close ties to Iran...

Wonder how long that's going to last...

Plenty of follow up reports on the "election" suggest rosy forecasts of voter turnout turned out to be...rosy (for example, best estimates of expatriate votes show a turnout of about 25%). That'll probably be enough for certain Rethuglicans to loudly assert that it was water soluble food coloring, not indelible ink, that stained their fingers and told the world that fundamentalist Islam is right up their alley (actually, come to think of it...).

But there's also the reality that the "election" is for an interim legislative body, which will choose president and prime minister, then try to put together a working constitution (which can be vetoed by a two thirds majority vote in any three provinces--see Triangle, Sunni), then there will be a regular election for a regular assembly...if this was a car, it'd have square wheels, would only run downhill--in reverse--get less gas mileage than one of Schwarzneggar's Humvees, and fall apart after sputtering to a halt.

There's also the matter of an ongoing war.

This is a prime example of the bizarre "kumbaya" elements to Bush, and, by extension, the GOP. I still wish they'd used hammers instead of food coloring on their fingers, but to get back to my point: You can have all the trappings of democracy you want--elections every week, raucous debate over everything from parliamentry procedure to criminal law, grand pronouncements of written compacts with the populace, etc. etc. ad nauseum...but it won't amount to much if the halls of government are accessable only via armored car and Green Zone pass. To wax all starry-eyed about the grand experiment in the eastern outposts of Araby without acknowledging that a full fledged war is going on, featuring well organized insurgents (and, I might add, well equipped insurgents thanks to the idiotic policies of Bush's daddy--no, not Poppy, Rummy) reaches such a height of foolishness that it would starve even the most acclimated brains of life sustaining oxygen. You know, I realize that plenty, if not most people, think political theory is just a steaming load of horseshit (hey, some political science students think so too, and not just the neo-con ones), but Iraq will go a LONG way in demonstrating that the social contract first requires a degree of civil order that's presently lacking--thanks to the US invasion. Civil order will remain elusive UNTIL an accomodation of some sort is reached with the insurgency. The US Military won't be able to kill them all. The US Military presence all but guarantees that any "government" constructed by Bush will have about as much authority as the average student government at a high school. Which further means that in the end, power will come from those who know the terrain, have a solid organization, and possess weapons.

The first of the previous points rules out the US--sure, we've got plenty of firepower and can hold any garrison for as long as we want (minus the inevitable casualties resulting from the need to resupply), but we don't "know" the terrain, which means a bit more than being able to read a topographic map. Those who understand the society will eventually take power, and the degree to which this is done by violence is ultimately a function of our own military presence--which is a little too late to undo at this point.

Well, whatever happens, Bush's simplistic musings--and the idiotic, knee-jerk, lockstep marching from his naiive believers--make downfeathers look like lead ingots in comparison. I've said before that history will judge him harshly. It'll be interesting to see how rapidly history catches up with this administration...

Fourteen Signs of Fascism (Flash HTML). Have a look.
Gonzales's First Day

Hmmm. So CNN reports that Alberto "briefed" Justice Department staff--wonder what that entailed?

The Rude Pundit notes the GOP's fascination with Gonzales's ethnic background--that or maybe they just like how the word "Hispanic" rolls off their wrinkled, craggy lips. He concludes:

Yep, like Clarence Thomas, that shining beacon of hope for the black community, Alberto Gonzales, who is, indeed, the first Hispanic Attorney General and, in fact, Attorney General to all of us, will glow like a 7-11 burrito being nuked in a cheese-stained microwave, casting a beam on smiling would-be torturing Hispanics everywhere, wondrous Hispanics who toil in the fields of America, trying so hard to justify the ways of the white people who order them to do their bidding.

Actually, he also goes on to tell both John McCain and Joe Lieberman where they can shove it--and rightly so. Rewarding Gonzales is like giving a puppy filet mignon after he's taken a shit on the rug.
Plagerism MetaPost

OK, I'm lifting this verbatim, though to be fair, my sister sent this in an email...and then I googled a link:

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stop bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

11. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido: All talk and no action.

13. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

4. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

17. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

OK, some of the links are a bit of a stretch--and I couldn't come up with anything for Decafalon or Karmageddon...and, full disclosure: coming up with a link for Ignoranus took less than a nanosecond.

You Try to Resign from the Job You Have, Not the One You Want

Rumsfeld casts a spell on Dubya

Hmmm. The other Donald tells Larry King that he tried to send himself out to pasture twice following reports of abuse at Abu Ghraib, but both times the dauphin insisted he stick around--sort of like a bad cold.

I felt that he ought to make the decision as to whether or not I stayed on," Rumsfeld said Thursday on CNN's "Larry King Live" program. "He made that decision and said he did want me to stay on."

Rumsfeld indicated that he felt a measure of responsibility for the scandal. At a Senate hearing in May, Rumsfeld said the abuses occurred on his watch and "I take full responsibility."

After taking "full responsibility," he then suggested that stuff happens:

"The problem is, this kind of thing occurs in prisons across the country and across the world," he said. "And you have to know it's going to be a possibility.

Well, to his credit, he didn't chalk it up as fraternity pranks, but that hardly seems to be a mea culpa statement.

Rummy also suggested that a lawsuit accusing him of war crimes might preclude his attendance at a security conference in Germany this summer. Well, that's a small measure of justice, I guess.

More interesting to me is Dubya's insistance that Rummy stay at the helm. Because that indicates--very strongly--that the Commander-in-Chief has a bit of a problem (no, make that a BIG problem) with, um, commanding.

I guess Bush is finding out that it doesn't matter how many pairs of socks he puts on in the morning. The shoes are still too big.

This morning also has reports of the Gonzales confirmation (60-38 in favor, including--sadly, but not really unexpected--a 'yea' vote from the Senior Senator of the Gret Stet). I'm sure Alberto felt like he was left exposed and twisting in the wind for a while, and I sincerely hope he manages to recover from the damage it must have done to his psyche and maybe even his constitution (um, that was satire). You can say, I guess, that Mr. Gonzales has risen to the top of the human pyramid at Justice--which, I'm sure entailed a degree of both self-humiliation and maybe even stepping on a few toes during the climb (but no word on whether he was forced to remove his clothes).

I was thinking about the confirmation hearings last night while catching a bit of news as to Alberto taking over the reins--sure, lawyers never opt for simple expressions when there are $50 dollars words and/or phrases available, but it's interesting that, as the Chronicle article notes, a week before Gonzales's grilling, Justice "published a new legal definition of torture that repudiated the August 2002 memo, calling the use of torture 'abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms.'" Alberto could just as easily used similar language, yet he didn't. All the legal wrangling aside, it would've been quite easy to assert that while standards consistent with Geneva would be applied to "enemy combatants," certain rights would be denied, such as [name the right here--this could include the right to freely associate with other detainess, the right to live in barracks as opposed to jail cells, etc.]. Would that have impressed me? Probably not. But it likely would have been found acceptable by the big shots. Instead, Gonzales CHOSE to use language that was deliberately vague--both for CYA purposes AND to allow a little "washboarding" here and there (and god knows what the hell else).

I suppose there's some good news that 38 Senators voted "nay" to this sort of hypocrisy. Supposedly this will taint Alberto to the extent that his rise to the slag heap known as the Supreme Court is now on permenant delay. But, then again, I thought Bush's first term would be a caretaker regime, given that, well, it wasn't as if he'd actually WON that election...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Beavis and Butthead Grow Up

I'll actually give this guy a few charity points for honesty, but is this really what someone wants as the public expression of the US Military?

"Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot," [Lt. General James] Mattis said, prompting laughter from some military members in the audience. "It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

I guess Mattis brought up Afghanistan to reassure folks that, well, you know, he wasn't for shooting normal white folks like himself--just pathetic little brown skinned ones that abuse women. Why, it's almost as if he's a regular Charles Bronson.

Maybe it's just me, but I think I'd prefer to see someone who is given a training and lethal weapons be a little more aware--no, not even sensitive, just more aware--of what it means to actually kill people, even if the people being killed REALLY are assholes. And, for the record, I don't doubt that plenty of Afghan men treat women like shit. Some of them almost certainly deserve to be punished--um, by an Afghan court, under Afghan law--NOT by some foreigner running around in fatigues wielding an M-16 or .50 Cal.

Oh, and I wonder if Mattis gets the same rush when people on HIS side are killed? It'd be nice to know--"General Mattis, is it "a hell of a hoot" to see, oh I don't know, the corpse of Pat Tillman? Just wonderin'..."

Being as how war involves such a complete breakdown of social order, it's pretty goddamned important for soldiers in the military to show a degree of awareness as to the lethal nature of combat. Some troops have a grudging respect for the people they fight--sort of an 'honor among soldiers' situation. My own father, a career military officer, was granted the priviliege of flying Soviet officers from one location to another within the United States during a period of detente. He was presented with a set of Soviet wings, which he kept with his other decorations and insignia. He considered this gesture one of honor and respect.

James Mattis has no honor.
Who Dares Question King George?

Once again, apologies for the slow rate of writing while I handle an unexpected spate of genuine work here at work. Hopefully things will calm before too long.

The Rude Pundit has as good a post as any regarding the SOTU address, which I gagged down along with more mood altering substances last night. My one "drinking game" was a promise to down at least five shots in a row if I heard the term "Coalition of the Willing"--it surprised me when the dauphin mentioned the term "coalition," but the rest of the magic phrase never reached his lips, as far as I could tell.

Truthfully, though, while I left the audio on, I decided to listen to the address in the same way Karl Rove claims most people watch the news--as if the sound were off. In addition, Suetonius's account of the reign of Galba also made for a mild distraction--hence, I didn't hear it when Democrats apparently voiced "NO" to Bush's call for burning down Social Security...

I WAS listening when Bush went through the motions about how lawsuits apparently ruin everything--funny, I thought the right to a hearing in open court for the purposes of addressing/redressing grievances was the hallmark of government by law--but I likewise missed out when Bush suggested that asbestos victims need to suck it up or words to that effect. Hmmm. Actually, Dubya, they did.

By the way, a friend of mine has a decent suggestion for Democratic responses to Bush and/or his policy proposals--hope he doesn't mind me quoting him more or less in full:

On the SOTU address: sitting through that State of the Union address was just torture..."

On the proposal to obliterate Social Security: "I think the president has really tortured the facts on this topic...".

Or "it's shocking how this administration is trying to hood-wink the country into Social Security reform. I mean they really are pulling our chain."

On Bush's tax restructuring: I believe this administration wants to adjust our tax code to more resemble a human pyramid with those at the bottom bearing all the burden of those at the top..."

Oh, and is it just me, or do others wish that Piyush "Bobby" Jindal's Purple Fingered Salute Squad had used a hammer to color their digits, instead of dye? That has to rank as one of the cheaper political stunts ever, and in fact is a slap in the face to people like Ali Abbas and others who've been killed or wounded in the war (I'd bet that Jindal and the others couldn't name a single individual victim). So, Bobby, what's next? A call to piss on the graves of the dead? That wouldn't surprise me.

Later, I did a double dose of penance, catching a little bit of Nightline. Mary Matlin did her best impersonation of the Wicked Witch of the West (apologies to Margaret Hamilton), and I recall a few other wonks sitting around comparing West Wing clips to "real life." Any sins I manage to indulge in next week while visiting New Orleans are officially absolved.

I did find one line funny--when Bush, brow furrowed in pool hall concentration (ok, that's a Tom Waits line, but it's appropriate) gravely noted that, in the year 2027, Social Security will require an infusion of "$200 billion dollars." Hmmm. I can think of ONE way to save that kind of money...but it would have meant that Georgie needed a different excuse to prance about the deck of an aircraft carrier...

And, I likewise watched the tribute to Byron Norwood, who's parents were invited to sit behind the First Lady. I'll quote The Rude Pundit directly on that:

Let's get another thing straight: the moment when Safia Taleb al-Suhail embraced Janet Norwood, whose son was killed in action in Iraq, resides in a stomach-churning netherworld between revolting and disturbing. It was revolting for its exploitation of the pain of this mother as a political prop for Bush's speech. Byron Norwood, a Marine Sergeant from good ol' Texas, was killed in the destruction of Fallujah. It was disturbing because the media's perception of the hug was such a product of desired delusion: please, please, please don't let this mother's son have died in vain, please don't let that man on the podium have sold us a bill of goods.


On the Koppel show, all agreed that was a "he hit it out of the park" moment. Even if I didn't agree with The Rude One, I'd like to think I'd choose a different metaphor--one more appropriate to a memorial.

But the real fact is that none of these folks actually consider "the rest of America." Watching them drone on about Social Security and how much their kids will need it (as did Bush), I couldn't decided if I wanted to laugh out loud or throw a brick at the screen. Can you imagine their trust fund spawn waiting by the mailbox at the beginning of the month (and then trying to decide if they'll use the stipend for food or medicine? Or, in Jenna Bush's case, Beer or Ecstasy...?). I decided it was better to laugh, since there's nothing wrong with a three year old TV (demo model), and there's no need to replace it.

So, I watched a little more post-SOTU spin, and it came to me: Those in the halls behave like celebrities, and I assume they consider themselves celebrities. The final defining moment was watching the C-Span feed after the main event. At one point, their apparent lone camera lingered on a medium range shot of John McCain, waiting for his close-up with a different media outlet. He just stood there, bathed in bright lights, like an old Greek statue of himself. Ossified.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ethics, Texas-Style

I'm still playing catch up here and I'll be busy again in just a bit, but I had a chance to glance at some headlines, and came across this Reuters article--I'm reminded of a title I saw at Whiskey Bar...something like "Fox--Reports of Henhouse Intrusions Greatly Exaggerated."

So, Tom Delay let Dennis Hastert know exactly who wields the mace--and it ain't the speaker:

A contributor to U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay's defense fund [Rep. Lamar Smith] was named on Wednesday to the House ethics committee, which twice last year admonished the Texas Republican.

In a shake-up of the bipartisan panel that critics called part of a purge and a "shutdown" of ethics enforcement, Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, also replaced the chairman, Joel Hefley, a Colorado Republican, with Washington state Republican Doc Hastings, who was already on the panel.

Common Dreams has more.
Bush: "Fire is Cool!"

After dealing with technology yesterday, I dragged myself home, opened Volume I of Edward Gibbons "Rise and Decline of the Roman Empire" (I've been feeling the need to read printed books lately), booked a hotel room in NOLA for Monday--hey, it's Mardi Gras after all--then kicked back with the alcoholic beverage of my choice and tuned in the Ted Koppel show. I find Ted less unbearably smug once the mood altering substances take hold. So, the theme last night was Social Security. It looks to be the latest Bush administration toy, now that the really cool shiny thing known as the Operation Iraqi Freedom (or Operation Go Cheney Ourselves) is more rusted than shiny, and thus unworthy of the dauphin's attention--except perhaps for the occasional insistance that it's still HIS toy, so don't get any ideas.

Surprisingly, last night's show all but said that Bush's dire predictions about the "crisis" were, in a word, bullshit. Of course, Koppel couldn't resist suggesting that it was, of course, all Bill Clinton's fault because Bill said something back in 1998 about how eventually the system WOULD need some fixing...

Bush, on the other hand, is acting like we need to blast it to smithereens. Go figure.

I'm not going to get into a numbers battle with this post--most of y'all have seen the figures presented by people with a much better understanding of that than me. But even after listening to two of the more boring guests I've seen on the Koppel show (Ted must've really been looking for stereotypical economists, or maybe he was supplementing the ads his program runs for some sort of sleep aid), it became apparent that this is simply a political game Bush is playing. To underscore this, Koppel ended with--David Brooks--who I think is now called Bobo on the internets. He lived up to that, spewing forth a mix of empty rhetoric and faux populism, couched in language designed to sell the myth of perpetual motion--or at least perpetual prosperity of the kind promised by the Roaring 20's. God, what an asshole.

When the Beavis and Buttheads squeak about the "crisis," well, they're lying. Social Security works. And it will continue to work for some time. Additional revenue will eventually need to be tapped, but the program is fully funded for the next 35 years, and is almost three quarters funded beyond that. That's a hell of a lot more secure than, say, the average home mortgage, which is secure only to the extent that the average homeowner continues to work at a job that allows him to pay the note. But I don't see mortgage brokers announcing that the sky is falling.

But Bush loves to go breaking things (see Iraq). To fund his "plan," he's proposing what is ultimately a reduction in benefits of around 40 percent (i.e., screw the retirees), and massive federal borrowing (taking huge amounts of money out of credit markets that could be used, say, to finance mortgages), and then hoping the ensuing house of cards doesn't collapse (perhaps basing his scheme on Dick "sage" Cheney, who thinks federal deficits no longer matter--by the way, Brooks channeled that sentiment in his closing remarks last night). However, it won't work.

What DOES work is the program as structured--the economy of scale generated by incoming revenue to the system allows it to purchase massive amounts of commercial paper (all US Treasuries), which has the added benefit of keeping US debt right here in the US (as opposed to shipping it overseas--do you think China would NOT use debt leverage if it came to that? Dream on). Revenue to ensure a surplus in the system--or at least a balance--could easily be generated by raising the cap on FICA taxes (currently about $90,000). Growth itself, beyond the pessimistic projections proffered by Bush and the SSA, will also cover shortfalls. In fact, you have to wonder why Bush et al would offer up such Marxist arguments about the "looming crisis" as if they have no faith in the most basic of investment instruments. Why do they hate America?

Finally, on the most important level, Social Security works because millions of retirees, widows, disabled individuals, etc., receive what is by all reckoning a modest stipend each month that allows for more or less independent living. You won't get rich collecting Social Security, but, like with my own grandparents, you can make it each month without having to rely on family members for financial support. That's the LEAST a society as rich as ours can do. Besides, by retiring, the labor market opens up to younger folks who need jobs.

About the only thing that's a "problem" with Social Security is that you can't game the system by relying on connections, contacts, insider deals, and whatnot. Which is probably why Bush hates it so much. It's proof that things can be done successfully the right way--and Bush, deep down, KNOWS he's never been able to succeed like that.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

This Would be Useful this Evening

I've meant to link to Drinking Liberally for a while--it'd be nice if something like this was available in Louisiana, even though the logical location would be New Orleans--or Lafayette. Which would require travel by automobile--not a good thing if you've been drinking.

On the other hand, there are plenty of hotels in NOLA, and Lafayette is just up the street from the family homestead in New Siberia. Friday or Saturday evening--early enough to allow for additional night life--could be an option. If anyone's interested, let me know. And, there's always Red Stick if anyone wants to turn Drinking Liberally into a charity case...ok, that's not entirely fair, but right now my favorite local spot for that kind of event is undergoing renovations.

Today's drinking excuse is derived, of course, from work. To be fair, I actually learned quite a bit today, and in such a way that will probably stick with me...but pounding your head and/or fist into a wall is never much fun.

Without trying to bore anyone with the details, I'll simply note that, in the course of discovering that I WASN'T entirely out of my head, I managed to speak to gold, silver, AND platinum tech support in the course of a three and a half hour call that determined the problem was a defective part known as the backplane. Tomorrow, a tech will arrive to replace the offending part, and I'll have another go at setting up/installing a new server, and external JBOD.

JBOD is technicalese for "Just a Bunch Of Disks." That's exactly what they are--14 disks, each roughly 150Gb in size. The unit they're a part of will eventually be configured in such a way that the computer thinks it's one BIG disk (that's my job). This morning I spent a couple of hours going through everything I could think of before calling into technical least I didn't miss something glaringly obvious.

Will catch up on other, more important stuff--more in a bit.

Oh, off topic, but...a friend recently loaned me Life of Pi. I started it Sunday evening and finished it last night--that is, for the first time. I'll be reading it again, and can recommend it highly.

Monday, January 31, 2005

"The Edsel of Iraq"

Harsh words, but after seeing the graphic associated withthis article, perhaps it's as good an assessment as any:

Much of the problem was lack of foresight. The Humvee comes in an armored version, but military leaders initially saw little need for it, and the Bush administration did not bet on a prolonged insurgency in Iraq. Now that roadside bombs have become a weapon of choice, every Humvee rolling off the line at AM General, the Indiana-based maker, is the more rugged kind.

"The way we thought we would use trucks five or six years ago is different than the way we are using them today," said Lt. Gen. Claude V. Christianson, the Army's deputy chief of staff for logistics, in an interview earlier this month at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

"We had planned and organized our forces so that we would have an area that we owned, and we'd have boundaries, and we'd have a front line, and we'd have a rear area," he said. "The trucks that we use to deliver supplies would be driving along roads that were relatively secure. Today's battlefield is not like that."

"Lack of foresight" could serve as a ready explanation for almost any element of the war in Iraq, not just the vehicles. But even factory armored Humvees won't turn the tide. And, to change topics just a bit, Scaramouche has as good a comment as any regarding the 'election:'

Yesterday, the people voted for slates without knowing the major players, the candidate's names, or their stand on issues. (I don't know anybody who would even set up their Fantasy Football League under these conditions.)


Besides, when those who were elected FINALLY complete their work, IF they complete it (the winners of the "election" are delegates to a body which will draft a constitution), is there any guarantee at all that what they produce will have any force of law? As Patrick Cockburn writes:

In the immediate future, the election changes little in Iraq. The world is full of parliaments duly elected by a free ballot but power stays elsewhere, with the army, the security services or, in the case of Iraq today, an occupying foreign power.

It's an occupying foreign power that can't control basic security, even when on what was undoubtedly the highest level of alert seen since the fall of Baghdad (it still amazes me that "35 dead" is somehow just fine by some--as if these people killed trying to vote are nothing more than window dressing--numbers, without name, face, friends or family). What will happen once the order to stand down is given?

You know, the vote was conducted in the absence of internationally recognized monitors (it was too dangerous). If such a "demonstration election" was held by a client state of anyone BUT the United States, do you think anyone would consider it legitimate? Imagine if Nicaragua had tried this in the 1980's--Reagan would have popped a blood vessel hollering about it. Yet, this is just how desperate the Bush policy in Iraq has become--they're willing to go to almost any length to pronounce something a "success," even when it means basically stomping and spitting on the bodies of those killed. "Only 35 dead."

That's sick.

But it fits in perfectly with the slapdash method of thinking by the Bush administration, which not only showed ZERO foresight, but refused to seriously make plans once it became apparent that they screwed things up--badly. Sure, they were dragged into the "election" itself, as Swopa ably pointed out. However, that really doesn't change anything. And, if things continue to go as they are, there will be A LOT of wingnuts who will rue the day that they decided to bray to the effect that you only had two choices with Iraq--immediate war or perpetual Saddam-love. Because certain people among that crowd and their fellow travellers (offhand, I'm thinking Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle) would leap at the opportunity to put in someone just as brutal as Saddam--hell, Perle STILL thinks Chalabi should be the viceroy--and call it a day.

This bodes very badly for the future of "democracy" in Iraq. Any serious analysis of the situation, which by definition means we can forget about the 'kumbaya' statements written for Bush to memorize, will make it clear that we never HAD a plan for democracy in Iraq. What that means is that, regardless of how the vote--or any subsequent vote--turns out, there is no real groundwork for anything approaching genuine representative government. What is being developed, in a de facto way, is the means for one or another (or several) militias to take control of various areas--by force--once the US finally withdraws.

As for those who were shot, run over, tortured, blasted to death by cluster bombs, or victimized by terrorists taking advantage of the power vacuum, well, that's be their tough luck. For those US soldiers killed or wounded in combat--or in non-combat accidents--well, tough luck for them as well. Don't expect Bush to consider the ramifications of his actions. But the "new" Iraq is in no way going to be any kind of model--except for how wrong things can get when you lack any degree of foresight. And the answer to that could be "very wrong," "very, very wrong," or "very dangerously wrong." None are particularly good--so let's hope for that which is least bad...
Did Arthur Andersen Handle the Books?

Paul Bremer's provisional authority somehow managed to lose about nine billion dollars in the course of their administration in Iraq.

Bremer himself got worked all into a huff and fired off an angry letter, asserting, among other things, that the auditor's report "assumes that Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war."

Well, I'm glad Bremer admits he was running the country during a war. I was under the impression that major combat operations ended May 1, 2003.
Clown Royal

"Resounding success," eh? Or so the dauphin says, according to this transcript...and according to reports from the bleating, braying press..."pResident Bush entitled to gloat?" Gloat about what? THIRTY FIVE people were killed by nine suicide bombers. One hundred others were wounded. Juan Cole is my source for the New York Times story, and he has several other valid points: Kurdish and Iraqi Shi'ias voted in large numbers; Iraqi Sunnis stayed away from the polls (Samarra, a city of 200,000, recorded 1,400 votes total).

Nine suicide bombers were able to breach security that resembled nothing so much as a supermax prison, with automotive traffic banned. Raed Jarrar notes that plenty of people believe(d) rumors suggesting food rations would be cut for those who didn't vote. The election itself was for an interim parliament, and, as many have noted, consisted of candidate slates that were secret. They can't stay secret for long, though, meaning that more individuals will become targets for assassination or kidnapping.

One thing I find amazing is how easily Bush is able to dismiss the thirty five people who were killed--he did so with the same aplomb with which he's dismissed the dead US soldiers and Iraqi civilians already killed in the war. Here's a man who, when governor of Texas, had no problem putting to death people who were judged guilty of murder (and in at least one case judged guilty on pretty flimsy evidence). Yet, with upwards of three dozen people killed in one day, Bush does little more than acknowledge them--almost as if it's more an annoyance than anything. There's little or no word on just how he intends to apprehend the folks who organized the violence (and it's safe to say the suicide bombers themselves were not lone nuts--they work in tandem with an insurgency that's quite deadly). No, to Bush, the dead are mere numbers.

Oh, and for those who insist that this "exercise" will somehow turn the tide, Needlenose points to Daily Kos diarist/researcher patachon, who found this interesting story. I'll cite it in part:

WASHINGTON-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in...[the] election despite a...terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports...83 per cent of the...registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals...

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the [terrorists] to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Yeah, the ellipses and words in brackets are there for a reason. If you go look at patachon's post, you'll find out the article is datelined September 4, 1967, and it's about the election in Vietnam.