Friday, March 25, 2005

Run for the Border?

Sorry for the slow updates today--amazingly, it's not Blogger's fault, but instead Cox Cable, which took a vacation for the better part of the day (I'm at home since today is a holiday)...
The Canadian government denied refugee status to Jeremy Hinzman, a US soldier who fled to Toronto trying to avoid deployment to Iraq:

Thursday's decision, which was formally announced on a government Web site, could affect at least eight -- and possibly dozens more -- American soldiers seeking refuge in Canada, yet help improve strained relations between Washington and Ottawa...

Hinzman's attorney, Jeffry House, said his client would appeal the ruling and still believed that he would be granted refugee status in Canada.

"He is disappointed," House told CBC TV. "We don't believe that people should be imprisoned for doing what they believe is illegal."...

Hinzman argued before the Immigration and Refugee Board last December that he would have been taking part in war crimes if he had been deployed with his unit. He claimed the war in Iraq was illegal and he would be persecuted if forced to return to the United States...

Another soldier spoke to The Toronto Star:

Pvt. 1st Class Joshua Key, 26, of Oklahoma City is the latest war resister to flee to Toronto, arriving two weeks ago with his wife and four children. He told the Toronto Star that he served in Iraq with the 43rd Combat Engineering Company, which was deployed in April 2003.

Key said he served eight months in Iraq before he left the military when he was on leave back at the 43rd's base in Fort Carson, Colorado in December 2003.

"I was in combat the entire time I was there," said Key. "I left for Iraq with a purpose, thinking this was another Hitler deal. But there were no weapons of mass destruction. They had no military whatsoever. And I started to wonder.

I guess they could take comfort in the knowledge that plenty of folks would support their right to a feeding tube if they were horribly injured in combat.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Younger Than That Now

Billmon, once again, brings the house down with a post entitled "My Back Pages." There's no sense in trying to cite anything--it's all worth reading (in my case, twice).

And, while I'm at it, here's the latest from The Poor Man--it's already been noted by Atrios so you've probably seen it, but the visual aids lend to the interpretation.


If the French can get away with calling "eighty" quatre-vingts (i.e., four twenties), then I damn well can call this my thirty-tenth birthday. I'm heading out early today--might try to catch Myshkin tonight at the Red Dragon Listening Room (if there are any tickets left) and there's a good chance I'll drop by one of several places where I've been known to imbibe (am leaning, no pun intended, towards the Tsunami on the top floor of the new arts center downtown).

Anyway--they say life begins at...ah, the hell with that. Let's see how I feel tomorrow...
Good for Wrapping Fish, I Guess

Oyster notes an Esquire article (apparently not online--at least I didn't see it) about "best bites" (that's FOOD, ye of filthy minds) where the Crescent City gets nary a mention...


But in an age when Team Bush isn't flagged daily for political corruption, when Sponge Bob is labeled obscene (but the war in Iraq is heroic)--an age where Bill Bennett is called an authority on moral values, Ann Coulter's rantings are considered worthy of punditry, when Social Security is "in crisis" (hey--has anyone else seen the AARP ad called "Bringing Down the House?" click here and scroll down to the title--Real Player file), etc. etc. etc.--well, it doesn't surprise me that Esquire's hacks couldn't be bothered...

YRHT suggests a big F*** You to the authors. That's being charitable.
Bulldog--or TANG?

Via AmericaBlog, this interesting Daily Kos post re: James Guckert. According to SusanG--who says future posts on the topic will be handled at the logon ePluribus Media--Mr. Guckert seems to have a conspicuous absence of records regarding his claim of military service in the US Marines.

No word on any record of service in Alabama or Texas--but I wonder if this aspect of Mr. Guckert's "career" might be one of many reasons why Team Bush was so lightning-quick to take a shine to him...
GOP Turns Tragedy into Ugly Tragedy

Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich--and, for the record the US Supreme Court--talk sense regarding the case of Terry Schiavo.

Billmon considers the logical extremes of Jeb Bush's lunacy, while Richard Cohen manages to do what he's best at, namely, bash Democrats--in this case, for lacking a spine...

As to the latter, well--Cohen is correct in noting that those Democrats who, for better or worse, are considered leaders within the party, have figuratively crawled under a rock in this case, which is appalling--in Cohen's opinion, they're too busy waiting for polling data to tell them what is OBVIOUSLY the right thing--to let this poor woman and her husband ALONE. The matter was decided on the state level.

On the other hand, GOP stalwarts like Frist, DeLay, la Famiglia Bush, et al, sound (no pun intended) progressively more creepy every time they open their clap-traps. Which is why, as Dowd notes, that in a CBS poll, three quarters of those surveyed "thought it was all about politics."


Yesterday I noted the Democrats should be all over this--they should. There's rank hypocrisy at play. For instance: not ONE religious wingnut has come up with a single individual other than Ms. Shiavo to get all huffy about. There's the GOP memo which gives their game away. There's the entire, well, sorry to use the word again (but it's so fitting) CREEPY nature of it all--Tom DeLay talking out of his ass about Michael Schiavo--publicly lying and not giving a shit. Dowd gets it right when she notes that the Hammer wants to cut $15 billion dollars from Medicaid yet apparently doesn't get or doesn't care that such a stance makes mere hypocrisy pale in comparison...then she goes on to note that DeLay considers this to be all about HIM. Schiavo is merely a prop.

And here are a few excerpts from Rich:

This circus is the latest and most egregious in a series of cultural shocks that have followed Election Day 2004, when a fateful exit poll question on "moral values" ignited a take-no-prisoners political grab by moral zealots. During the commercial interruptions on "The Ten Commandments" last weekend, viewers could surf over to the cable news networks and find a Bible-thumping show as only Washington could conceive it. Congress was floating such scenarios as staging a meeting in Ms. Schiavo's hospital room or, alternatively, subpoenaing her, her husband and her doctors to a hearing in Washington. All in the name of faith.

Like many Americans, I suspect, I tried to picture how I would have reacted if a bunch of smarmy, camera-seeking politicians came anywhere near a hospital room where my own relative was hooked up to life support. I imagined summoning the Clint Eastwood of "Dirty Harry," not "Million Dollar Baby." But before my fantasy could get very far, star politicians with the most to gain from playing the God card started hatching stunts whose extravagant shamelessness could upstage any humble reverie of my own.

Senator Bill Frist, the Harvard-educated heart surgeon with presidential aspirations, announced that watching videos of Ms. Schiavo had persuaded him that her doctors in Florida were mistaken about her vegetative state - a remarkable diagnosis given that he had not only failed to examine the patient ostensibly under his care but has no expertise in the medical specialty, neurology, relevant to her case. No less audacious was Tom DeLay, last seen on "60 Minutes" a few weeks ago deflecting Lesley Stahl's questions about his proximity to allegedly criminal fund-raising by saying he would talk only about children stranded by the tsunami. Those kids were quickly forgotten as he hitched his own political rehabilitation to a brain-damaged patient's feeding tube...

The president was not about to be outpreached by these saps. The same Mr. Bush who couldn't be bothered to interrupt his vacation during the darkening summer of 2001, not even when he received a briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," flew from his Crawford ranch to Washington to sign Congress's Schiavo bill into law. The bill could have been flown to him in Texas, but his ceremonial arrival and departure by helicopter on the White House lawn allowed him to showboat as if he had just landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Within hours he turned Ms. Schiavo into a slick applause line at a Social Security rally. "It is wise to always err on the side of life," he said, wisdom that apparently had not occurred to him in 1999, when he mocked the failed pleas for clemency of Karla Faye Tucker, the born-again Texas death-row inmate, in a magazine interview with Tucker Carlson.

Rich concludes with his own, shorter version of Cohen's point:

It is a full-scale jihad that our government signed onto last weekend, and what's most scary about it is how little was heard from the political opposition. The Harvard Law School constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe pointed out this week that even Joe McCarthy did not go so far as this Congress and president did in conspiring to "try to undo the processes of a state court." But faced with McCarthyism in God's name, most Democratic leaders went into hiding and stayed silent. Prayers are no more likely to revive their spines than poor Terri Schiavo's brain.


Now, to be sure, sometimes it isn't bad to let a political opponent continue to shoot long after it's apparent that the crosshairs are firmly affixed to said opponent's foot. On the other hand, how difficult is it to come down on the side of common sense against what is undoubtedly religious whacknuttery on steroids? The people trying to bring water to Terry Schiavo (who'd probably choke to death on it) are lunatics--which speaks volumes for those who wish to be thought of as their leaders (read: DeLay, Frist, both Bushes, Randall Terry--oh, and sorry to divert, but Terry recently accused Alan Colmes, of all people, of selling cocaine to juveniles...apparently Colmes uncovered footage of Terry publicly asking that an abortion provider be murdered--not exactly a pro-life position)--anyway, in this matter, the public is clearly on more or less the same page--the federal government HAS NO BUSINESS in the matter. And, for those of us who've done a bit more than scratch the surface, it's apparent that the state government--at the request of both Michael Schiavo AND the Schindlers--has looked at this matter extensively. So, let them be.

The situation is tragic enough already. The GOP has turned it ugly. And, sadly, the Democrats have mostly turned away.
Body Counts Afterall Redux

Eli at Left I has an update on yesterday's news that's unlikely to show up in the US media:

I also wrote in another post about how nice it would be if reporters actually investigated the incident and did such radical "reporter" things as asking to see the alleged 85 bodies, and so on. Well, now someone has. Not an American reporter, mind you, but an AFP reporter (and, at least as of now, the story is only running in Australian media):

"Up to 40 fighters were seen today at a Iraq lakeside training camp attacked by US and Iraqi forces a day before and said they had never left, an AFP correspondent who visited the site said. The correspondent, who went with other journalists to the camp at Lake Tharthar, 200km north of Baghdad, said he saw 30 to 40 fighters there.

"One of the fighters, who called himself Mohammed Amer and claimed to belong to the Secret Islamic Army, said they had never left the base.

"He also said only 11 of his comrades were killed in airstrikes on the site."

It's unfortunate that our government's credibility is, well, in the toilet when it comes to Iraq--not that the insurgents are any more credible--but one person I'll at least give creedence to is Juan Cole, who notes the following:

Agence France Presse...managed to get some independent journalists up to the lake, north of Samarra, and they found 40 guerrillas still there. The guerrillas denied that 85 of their fellows had been killed by the Iraqi army, but admitted that 11 had been killed by US aerial bombardment. (American news organizations such as CNN refuse to report news that is only carried by AFP, because they consider it to have inadequate journalistic quality-control. But reports like this one are not being done by US wire services in Iraq, and if we don't take AFP seriously, we essentially may as well just believe whatever Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib and the Pentagon claim...

...the US military is filtering our news from Iraq, and we only hear about a fraction of the violence that actually takes place there. What we do hear is often imbued by a kind of US boosterism (such as the recent faintly ridiculous claim that Fallujah is the safest city in Iraq-- as though it were still an inhabited city). Even if it were not exaggerated, this report about the Tharthar Camp would mean more in the context of all the violent incidents that occurred on Wednesday, but we don't have access to most of those. That such battles signal a "tipping point" in the counter-insurgency struggle strikes me as highly unlikely. Another question: Are these gung-ho gendarmes killing Sunni jihadis from a Shiite background? Are they getting intelligence via the Badr Corps?

Cole, in other words, is suggesting that even a best case scenario re: Tharter Camp is incipent civil war--not exactly a "light at the end of the tunnel moment."

Meanwhile, the one genuinely steadfast member of what could truthfully be called the Anglo-American coalition, namely Britain, is in the midst of a row over whether a deputy legal advisor to the foreign office--and their Attorney General--believed the war was legal in the first place:

...the Government released the resignation letter written by Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who quit as a deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office before the war because she believed military action would be unlawful.

But a section of the letter was "redacted" - blacked out. The missing sentences have been seen by The Times. In them, Ms Wilmshurst said Lord Goldsmith used to share her view that invasion was unlawful without a second UN resolution, but had changed his mind by the time he wrote a letter on March 7 2003. By March 17 he had declared an invasion of Iraq would be lawful.

Opposition spokesmen and some Labour backbenchers have wondered aloud whether the Attorney General was leaned on to change his view.

Well, to their credit, the scandal involves something other than outright torture, although The Times article notes that soldiers could potentially be prosecuted if the war was judged illegal.

And finally, to round out this post, Jerome Doolittle makes an interesting point re: Rummy's blaming the war's woes on Turkey (see below):

Has it really never occurred to him that the war, being entirely optional, could have been delayed until enough troops were assembled? Doubtful. More likely he was just having a little fun, knowing that anyone dumb enough to watch Fox News couldn’t tell horseshit from a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate anyway.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bad Memories

Riverbend has a post marking the second anniversary of the war's beginning:

The sky was lit with flashes of red and white and the ground rocked with explosions on March 21, 2003. The bombing had actually begun on the dawn of the 20th of March, but it got really heavy on the 21st. I remember being caught upstairs when the heavier bombing first began. I was struggling to drag down a heavy cotton mattress from my room for an aunt who was spending a couple of weeks with us and I suddenly heard a faraway ‘whiiiiiiiiiiiiiz’ that sounded like it might be getting closer...

The faces in the safe room were white with tension. My cousin’s wife sat in the corner, a daughter on either side, her arms around their shoulders, murmuring prayers softly. My cousin was pacing in front of the safe room door, looking grim and my father was trying to find a decent radio station on the small AM/FM radio he carried around wherever he went. My aunt was hyperventilating at this point and my mother sat next to her, trying to distract her with the voice of the guy on the radio talking about the rain of bombs on Baghdad.

A seemingly endless 40 minutes later, there was a slight lull in the bombing- it seemed to have gotten further away. I took advantage of the relative calm and went to find the telephone. The house was cold because the windows were open to keep them from shattering. I reached for the telephone, fully expecting to find it dead but I was amazed to find a dial tone. I began dialing numbers- friends and relatives. We contacted an aunt and an uncle in other parts of Baghdad and the voices on the other end were shaky and wary. “Are you OK? Is everyone OK?” Was all I could ask on the phone. They were ok… but the bombing was heavy all over Baghdad. Shock and awe had begun.

Two years ago this week.

What followed was almost a month of heavy bombing. That chaotic night became the intro to endless chaotic days and long, sleepless nights. You get to a point during extended air-raids where you lose track of the days. You lose track of time. The week stops being Friday, Saturday, Sunday, etc. The days stop being about hours. You begin to measure time with the number of bombs that fell, the number of minutes the terror lasted and the number of times you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of gunfire and explosions.

We try to put it out of our heads, but it comes back anyway. We sit around sometimes, when there’s no electricity, or when we’re gathered for lunch or dinner and someone will say, “Remember two years ago when…” Remember when they bombed Mansur, a residential area… When they started burning the cars in the streets with Apaches… When they hit the airport with that bomb that lit up half of the city… When the American tanks started rolling into Baghdad…?

Remember when the fear was still fresh- and the terror was relatively new- and it was possible to be shocked and awed in Iraq?

With the exception of the families of soldiers (or contractors) killed or wounded, most folks in the US probably consider the war in Iraq little more than an inconvenience--the occasional source of bad news. Imagine how it feels for those who are caught up in the day to day unreality of utter chaos. Ouch.
Body Counts Afterall?

The New York Times reports on a raid against an insurgent training camp in Iraq:

Iraqi and American forces killed at least 80 insurgents during a Tuesday morning raid on what appeared to be the biggest guerrilla training camp yet discovered, Iraqi officials said today. Seven Iraqi police officers were also killed and six were wounded in what American and Iraqi officials characterized as an especially fierce battle...

The number of anti-government fighters killed was the most reported in a single conflict since the American offensive against the insurgent stronghold of Falluja last November. The size and location of the camp, with scores of guerrillas reportedly living in tents and small buildings in a marshy lakeside encampment 50 miles northwest of the capital, revealed a strategic shift among some insurgents, American military officials said. It was first time, they said, that the military had come across insurgents organizing in such numbers in a remote rural location, reminiscent of Al Qaeda training camps in the arid mountains of Afghanistan before the American invasion there...

Along with munitions, training manuals, prepared car bombs, suicide-bomb vests and computers, the Iraqi and American forces discovered identification papers that showed some of the fighters had come from outside Iraq, Major Goldenberg said, though he declined to identify the nationalities of the foreign insurgents. Iraqi officials said the foreigners mostly came from Arab countries, and a written statement early today from the Interior Ministry said an Algerian had been arrested.

But Gen. Rashid Flaiyeh, the head of the police commandos in Salahuddin Province, where the battle took place, said the bodies of Filipino and Arab men were also among the dead guerrillas. "I was surprised there were men from the Philippines," he said on the state-run television network Iraqiya. "The Arab countries are sending fighters into Iraq because they want to destroy our democratic movement." The effort by the insurgents to set up such a large outpost by a lake so relatively near Baghdad was an audacious, if ultimately ill-fated, move. American and Iraqi officials said they had no immediate information on how or when the camp was established. Before the American invasion, the site, Lake Tharthar, in an otherwise barren, parched region, was a popular tourist spot for Iraqis and was home to a fish farming project started by the government of Saddam Hussein...

The battle was the second in recent days in which American forces were engaged with a large, highly organized paramilitary group. On Sunday, an American convoy fended off an ambush by a band of 40 to 50 insurgents in Salman Pak, a town 12 miles southeast Baghdad. The American military said 26 attackers were killed in that fight, which was the most ambitious assault against the American military since the Jan. 30 elections and showed that the guerrilla war was still burning two years after the American-led invasion and despite a high turnout in the elections.

Eighty killed is barely a drop in the bucket. Besides, as Juan Cole notes, the hard core resistance fighers and leaders hardly need an Al Qaeda type training camp--the wars of the 80's and 90's gave them plenty of lessons. Besides, foreign fighters are a very small percentage of the insurgency.

I expect that for a while though, we're likely to hear about casualty counts--it's the "best" news the war planners can point to right now. Although it still seems more than a little odd--claiming to kill 80 insurgents almost two years after declaring "Mission Accomplished" tends to undercut the message...
Puppet Show...and George W. Bush

Swopa gets it right in his assessment of Dubya's road show:

Anyone who remembers the plot of This Is Spinal Tap (as opposed to its many famous one-liners) will recall that it deals with a band whose dwindling popularity forces it to perform in ever-more-humiliating and pathetic circumstances.

This New York Times article today suggests that Dubya's let's-kill-Social-Security concert tour has started to take on that same feel as it passes through Albuquerque, New Mexico:

Even as he travels the country selling his Social Security overhaul, President Bush is beginning to acknowledge some of the constraints of his plan for individual accounts.

. . . Even the slogan at the president's public events has changed. At the New Mexico event, gone were the banners that once declared the president's interest in "Strengthening Social Security."

Instead they had a more targeted message: "Keeping Our Promise to Seniors." His last several outings have been dedicated to reassuring older voters that their Social Security payments are not in jeopardy, rather than demanding the bold restructuring that was once the focus of his sales pitch.

He has visited centers for older Americans, interrupting residents' card games to repeat the promise. He has brought along his mother, Barbara Bush, to show he understands older people's concerns. And he has enlisted prominent Republicans including Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator John McCain of Arizona to help mollify what polls show to be substantial opposition among the elderly to his approach.

. . . Unlike most other presidential appearances, the event inside the darkly lit Kiva Auditorium was sparsely attended, with hundreds of empty seats. Several participants joined the politicians onstage, including a 78-year-old retired teacher, Margaret Valdez, and her 24-year-old granddaughter, Jessica, who both support individual accounts. The older woman said she had appeared with Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, at a Social Security event before, suggesting that the performance was even more practiced than most.

Currently residing in the "where are they now bin..."
Ship of Fools/Busload of Idiots

This week's edition of The Top Ten Conservative Idiots has plenty to digest (no pun intended), from the Congressional Rethugs to George W. Bush--and friends--to the case of Charles and Patrick Linton, for whom the Pledge of Alliegiance isn't good enough--it MUST be in the language of Jesus Christ, namely, American English...

It's hard work to pick out just one link to follow--but I've been watching the David Horowit-less lunacy lately, and noticed he clocked in at number 5--so I took the time to link over to the truth on the matter he's been regurgitating of late, the non-story about the picked upon student at Northern Colorado, who didn't get an "F" on an exam that didn't ask the question "explain why George W. Bush could be considered a war criminal" which supposedly caused said student to instead explain why Saddam Hussein was a war criminal...

Anyway, here's the long version--and, for those without a lot of time, here's the short version:

The question was

The American government campaign to attack Iraq was in part based on the assumptions that the Iraqi government has “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” This was never proven prior to the U.S. police action/war and even President Bush, after the capture of Baghdad, stated, “we may never find such weapons.” Cohen’s research on deviance discussed this process of how the media and various moral entrepreneurs and government enforcers can conspire to create a panic. How does Cohen define this process? Explain it in-depth. Where does the social meaning of deviance come from? Argue that the attack on Iraq was deviance based on negotiable statuses. Make the argument that the military action of the U.S. attacking Iraq was criminal?

The exam consisted of four questions--of which the students had to answer three. The one above was an optional question. Instructions indicated a minimum of three pages for the answer--the student's response came in at two pages. Oh, and the professor, Robert Dunkley, is a registered Republican.

This is why Horowit-less issued a "correction" to his original assertion (which he's repeated as an anecdote in lectures at any number of locations) entitled "Correction: We Were Right.". Maybe he could follow up with additional corrections, such as "No WMD in Iraq: We Were Right," "No Social Security Crisis: We Were Right," "Florida 2000 Election Debacle" etc. etc. etc.

Yeah, this is a meta, meta post, but Your Right Hand Thief has a link to Approximately Perfect--from there, it's one click to Get Your War On's phenomenal set of panels devoted to the Terry Schiavo case. Wow.

Read 'em and weep get angry.

Oyster and Justin both got my attention citing this quote:

My wife and I made our living wills last night. Mine says that if I fall into a persistent vegetative state, and Tom DeLay comes within a hundred miles of me, I am to turn into a zombie and rip his fucking head off. They can't prosecute the undead for manslaughter, can they?

You know, I'd pay to see that. Sort of an updated Night of the Living Dead--in DC.

Last night I managed to endure most of Nightline, which was even lighter than usual, thanks to it being moderated by George Stephanoupolis. But they played a recording of DeLay's tasteless little screed--and, after listening, it really hit me: this clown is actually suggesting god deliberately caused a young woman in Florida to suffer brain damage for the greater good and glory...of Tom DeLay.

I swear, if the Democrats aren't all over this like white on rice, then they've become zombies, too--albeit ineffectual ones. What DeLay said is truly creepy, and NO AMOUNT of explaning is good enough for him to slither away untouched.

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it--I'd like to note for the record that killing small animals is a known trait of serial killers--a trait shared by Bill Frist. Now, I'm not saying he IS a serial killer--but I'd like him to explain something: how DID he kill all those kittens? Strangulation? Throat slitting? I think the public has a right to know.

Note to Democrats: the two paragraphs above are how politics is played. And no, it's not the most pleasant game in town. But it's effective. It's time the Democratic party stepped up to the plate with a real bat, not the plastic one they've had on their shoulder. The GOP isn't playing whiffle-ball.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Whine Connoisseur

Tom DeLay and Bill Frist deserve each other--Cat Killer and the Bug Man:

"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. A recording of the event was provided by the advocacy organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. DeLay complained that "the other side" had figured out how "to defeat the conservative movement," by waging personal attacks, linking with iberal organizations and persuading the national news media to report the story. He charged that "the whole syndicate" was "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in."

The day before, Senator Frist, the Tennessee Republican whose past includes a career as a heart-lung transplant surgeon and whose future might include a run for president, addressed the same group by telephone. Even though the Senate's daylong budget debate kept him at the Capitol, he told the group that he had already talked to a neurologist who had examined Ms. Schiavo. Dr. Frist said he had serious questions about her diagnosis.

"I promise you that I will not leave tonight or tomorrow until we do everything we can and ultimately save the life by preventing the starvation of Terri Schiavo," he said, according to the recording.

Maybe someone can suggest the right cheese to go with their whine. DeLay is sooooo put upon--I mean, geez, if the Majority Leader can't violate ethics rules with impunity, then what is this country coming to? As for Frist--well, if he's able to offer such stunningly accurate medical diagnoses outside the area of his speciality, based solely on secondhand information, you've gotta wonder why he so avidly strangled kittens while earning his degree. Surely he could have foregone this youthful indiscretion--unless he really liked doing it.
Another Day, Another Lie

While the Bush administration sheds crocodile tears for Terry Schiavo, they're going out of their way to add to the number of people who might eventually suffer brain damage:

When the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a rule last week to limit mercury emissions from U.S. power plants, officials emphasized that the controls could not be more aggressive because the cost to industry already far exceeded the public health payoff.

What they did not reveal is that a Harvard University study paid for by the EPA, co-authored by an EPA scientist and peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists had reached the opposite conclusion.

That analysis estimated health benefits 100 times as great as the EPA did, but top agency officials ordered the finding stripped from public documents, said a staff member who helped develop the rule. Acknowledging the Harvard study would have forced the agency to consider more stringent controls, said environmentalists and the study's author.

Don't expect any emotional outbursts from the House Majority Leader.

While on the subject of kidnappings and other such criminal activity in Iraq, check out this news from Reuters:

During Saddam Hussein's regime, women could dress less conservatively in the big cities and would not be punished, according to female activists.

But now women say they are no longer safe and decapitated female corpses have begun turning up in recent weeks with notes bearing the word "collaborator" pinned to their chests, according to Colonel Subhi al-Abdullilah, a senior police investigator...

Islamic militants have killed 20 women in the northern city of Mosul and a dozen more in Baghdad since the beginning of this year according to local authorities. All of the victims were women who were looking forward to a better future. They include three gynaecologists, two pharmacists and students.

In Latifiyah, some 25 kilometres south of Baghdad, Sunni radicals have pasted leaflets on the walls of shops, schools and mosques, prohibiting women from leaving their homes without the traditional abaya and banning them from using make-up. The warning says if they don't obey the laws they will be killed.

Eleven women have been killed in the area so far. Three bodies were found decapitated and the others were shot in the head, according to Major Quassim Yacoub, a senior officer at the local police station.

In November 2004, Amal al-Mamalachy, a well know women's rights activist and government adviser, was hit by 10 bullets and killed in Baghdad on her way to work. Her car was hit by a total of 160 bullets and many of her security guards shot dead in a ferocious attack.

In other incidents, Akilla al-Hashimia, a member of the interim government, was killed in October 2003. Nisreen al-Burawary, minister of public works, the only woman in the cabinet, survived an attack last year in which two of her bodyguards were killed. The bodyguards were also considered as activists and collaborators with US forces inside the country.

Margaret Hassan, the former director of the CARE International in Iraq, was kidnapped and killed in November 2004. Hassan was married to an Iraqi and had spent 30 years in the country working on humanitarian issues. Her unknown captors called for British troops to withdraw and for women in Iraqi prisons to be freed. She was the first foreign woman to be killed in Iraq since the conflict began in 2003.
Law & Disorder

Patrick Cockburn reports on what can only be termed the most extreme sort of cynicism:

US intelligence and military police officers in Iraq are routinely freeing dangerous criminals in return for a promise to spy on insurgents, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

In one case where the IoS has seen documents, police rescued a doctor after a gun battle with his kidnappers and arrested two of the kidnap gang, who made full confessions. But US military police took over custody of the two men and let them go. The doctor had to flee to Egypt after being threatened by the gang.

Is it any wonder that Iraqis despise the occupation? The US military is not in a position to provide civil order--but they'll free kidnappers with the hope that some sort of useful intelligence can be obtained, which is at best a dice roll. Operation Go Cheney Ourselves is proceeding apace.
Strange Bedfellows

Juan Cole makes an interesting point about the Schiavo tragedy: By shoving themselves into a private matter, DeLay and his cronies are acting just like fundamentalist Islamic partisans of the Middle East:

Like many of his fundamentalist counterparts in the Middle East, Tom Delay is rather cynically using this issue to divert attention from his own corruption. Like the Muslim fundamentalist manipulators of Hisba, Delay represents himself as acting on behalf of a higher cause. He said of the case over the weekend, ' "This is not a political issue. This is life and death," '

Republican Hisba will have the same effect in the United States that it does in the Middle East. It will reduce the rights of the individual in favor of the rights of religious and political elites to control individuals. Ayatollah Delay isn't different from his counterparts in Iran.

Exactly. And I don't think the public appreciates this sort of Congressional meddling. Democrats should, no pun intended, hammer this home for the next year and a half until the 2006 election.

(note: sorry for the slow posting today--it's been a busy morning).

Monday, March 21, 2005

Speaking of Slithering Snakes

Via Needlenose, the Wall Street Journal notes that Bush's fake Texas accent, is, in a word, fake:

Last month, addressing European leaders in Brussels, Mr. Bush spoke precisely, with only traces of his twang. He paid homage to the Continent's political legacy, such as the Magna Carta, and flawlessly pronounced the name of Albert Camus.

Linguists and longtime watchers of Mr. Bush say it is evidence of a subtle but unmistakable change the 43rd president has undergone in speaking style. He is enunciating more clearly and dotting his remarks with more literary references. Gone is much of the verbal swagger, which produced such memorable first-term phrases as "bring 'em on" (said of Iraqi insurgents) and "dead or alive" (said of catching Osama bin Laden). Some linguists even say they detect a dialing-down of Mr. Bush's Texas accent, at least in his formal speeches.

Geoffrey Nunberg, a professor of linguistics at Stanford University, says that Mr. Bush now also pauses more, making his speech seem more "considered."

The Texas strut and drawl may have worked well to win votes and given Mr. Bush a regular-Joe appeal in his first four years when he still faced re-election. Now that he is trying to sell an ambitious second-term agenda -- overhauling Social Security and the tax system, in addition to helping bring democracy to the Middle East -- his remarks are often more conciliatory and appear to be targeted more at congressional critics and European leaders. Playing to that crowd means Mr. Bush portrays himself a bit less as a Texas Ranger and more as an Ivy League-educated chief executive -- which of course he is.

Mr. Bush may also be weighing his legacy factor. When presidents are mindful of the history books, their style sometimes is different from when they're trying to win elections.

It'll be interesting to see what happens to his style when the rug is pulled out from under his sorry ass.
Speaking Truth to Power

Michael Schiavo demonstrates a great deal of dignity under the circumstances:

Angered by the latest political developments in Washington, Michael Schiavo said Saturday that it isn't just the Florida governor who should visit his wife to learn about the case.

Jeb Bush's brother, President Bush, should visit Terri Schiavo, too, he said.

"Come down, President Bush," Schiavo said in a telephone interview. "Come talk to me. Meet my wife. Talk to my wife and see if you get an answer. Ask her to lift her arm to shake your hand. She won't do it."

She won't, Schiavo said, because she can't.

And, showing some restraint, he referred to Tom DeLay as a "little slithering snake." Indeed. In fact, I feel bad--for snakes.
Rumsfeld: Blame the Turkey--um, I Mean, Blame Turkey

Rummy pathetically fishes for an excuse:

The fault, Mr. Rumsfeld contended in two appearances on television talk shows, rested with Turkey, a NATO ally, which would not give permission for the Fourth Infantry Division to cross its territory and open a northern front at the start of the war in March 2003.

"Given the level of the insurgency today, two years later, clearly, if we had been able to get the Fourth Infantry Division in from the north through Turkey, more of the Iraqi Saddam Hussein Baathist regime would have been captured or killed," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

Boy, that's gonna go over well there--especially considering that anti-US diatribe/sci-fi novel Metal Storm is such a big hit in Asia Minor. But, back to the subject at hand: how exactly would a northern front manage to avert the "catastrophic success" that was the march to Baghdad in the first place? According to Donald "the-dog-ate-my-Iraqi-battle-plan" Rumsfeld, it would've been the old hammer and anvil approach--whereupon Dumsfeld contradicted himself, noting that

...the large fraction of the Iraqi military and intelligence services just dissipated into the communities.

Hmmm. Like they wouldn't have otherwise? Dissipation isn't the most precise of terms, but I believe the process, in a military sense, involves changing your clothes and blending into the community. That isn't all that difficult to do, particularly when you consider that US forces were for a time attempting to ingratiate themselves with the same. I believe what Rummy is ultimately doing is telling a big old fish story--"we had it on the reel, but then..."--you know the rest.

Or, maybe he really IS blaming THE turkey...
Sign of Success

Billmon must be doing something right if David Horowitz is getting all snippy. For reference, the original post is here--make sure to scroll all the way to the end for full enlightenment.
Half Full Mostly Empty

I mistakenly forgot to copy my post before hitting the publish button. And, continuing the trend, Blogger is acting like shit.

Anyway, I took a look at CNN and The New York Times this morning, of course, and both are announcing glorious news--a smashing victory over the forces of Central Asia...24, or maybe it's 26 dead insurgents...Haifa Street, aka Purple Heart Boulevard (160 awarded to soldiers patroling it), is quieter these days (until fighting flares up again--mark my words).

Juan Cole, on the other hand, offers a more sobering assessment:

That [the insurgents] can still field 24 at a time, even if they were killed, is not a good sign.

This weekend marked the beginning of the third year of the war (Mission Accomplished? No, not really--in fact, not at all). The BEST news the government can announce is the death of two dozen more insurgents? I wonder how many "accidental" deaths occurred over the weekend. Oh, that's right: we don't do body counts.

Upwards of 100,000 killed on their side, definitely over 1500 US soldiers killed (and more than 10,000 injured), the cost standing at almost $160 billion dollars...doesn't sound like much of an anniversary to celebrate. Oh, and can those who were throwing temper tantrums two years ago until the invasion began provide any comparisons between occupied Iraq and occupied Germany--or Japan--after a similar period of occupation? Cole actually compares Iraq to either Northern Ireland (US=England), Sri Lanka (US=India) or Lebanon (US=Syria). NONE are particularly comforting to consider...
Congress Lays an Egg

Slithering down several branches on the evolutionary tree, the House of Representatives passed the Terry Schiavo bill last night, while pResident Bush, in an even rarer breach of protocol, actually cut short his latest vacation to imprint his "X" on the document.

To anyone watching C-Span last night, here's hoping you had a reasonably strong constitution--no pun intended--or had thoroughly digested an early dinner...or at least had the benefit of strong drink. Goddamn--after listening to the braying Rethuglican clowns last night, I wouldn't trust them to decide on an oil change for a car. NOT ONE of them has ANY familiarity with the particulars of the case, yet they insert themselves into a private family decision as if it's their fucking birthright. And, to further the insult, any number of these morons proffered gratuitous swipes at Michael Schiavo, darkly hinting that he's at fault, because...he got on with his life. (these same folks don't have a problem with Newt Gingrich pushing his first wife for a divorce WHILE she was in the hospital fighting cancer).

By the way--how can you tell when Tom DeLay's lying? Simple--when he opens his mouth:

ABC News obtained talking points circulated among Senate Republicans explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case. Among them, that it is an important moral issue and the "pro-life base will be excited," and that it is a "great political issue -- this is a tough issue for Democrats."

When asked about these talking points on "Good Morning America," DeLay said, "I don't know where those talking points come from, and I think they're disgusting."


The hypocrisy of the GOP is so thick you could use it to pave highways. America Blog notes that, even as Terry Schiavo is suddenly a cause celebre, 44 million people without ANY health insurance don't even count (in fact, with cuts to Medicare under consideration, they're LESS than zero to those who call themselves "pro-life"). Aravosis also notes that Bush himself could barely be bothered with offering emergency assistance to the tsunami victims--yet will race back to DC to pander...

And Billmon has a couple of first rate posts up, as usual, on the matter--one, an interesting comparison between the Hammer and a rabid dog, the other noting a remarkable similarity between the visages of Jebster and Il Duce. Definitely worth a look.

Atrios speculates on an interesting situation in Texas--despite a law that authorizes hospitals to withhold care to patients who are terminally ill (signed into law by George W. Bush), a terminally ill patient was recently moved to a nursing home, where a feeding tube and ventilator will keep his vitals signs functioning (at least until Delay tells them the coast is clear and they can cut the machines off).

This entire matter has gone beyond embarrassing. And I hope the public wakes up and realizes that DeLay and the rest of the clown posse are responsible...for this and a hell of a lot more over the last four years.