Friday, May 06, 2005

Ivins on Social Security "Reform:" Not a Nest Egg, a Rotten Egg

She also notes something others have pointed out, including your's truly:

Bush said, "I know some Americans have reservations about investing in the stock market, so I propose that one investment option will consist entirely of treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government." These are exactly the same treasury bonds that currently guarantee Social Security and have been described by Bush, including in the very same press conference, as a cabinet full of "worthless IOUs."

Molly also notes the inside-the-beltway phenomenon of claiming budget cuts are actually increases:

Bush used another common disinformation claim out of Washington -- we are not cutting the benefits, we are merely slowing the rate of growth in the benefits. This is a perennial form of government lying.

"Of course we are not cutting Head Start. We are spending more money on Head Start than ever -- look, here's this figure in our budget, it is more than it was last year, and so that is an increase."

Except, since there are ever more kids who qualify for Head Start (and even at the lowest level, the program has never been fully funded), when the increase in funding is way too small to cover the increase in the number of most needy kids, what you have effectively done is decrease the spending per child in the program, and that is, in fact, cutting the program. It will not work as well. That this old dog still hunts is a shame on the arithmetic teachers of America.

Aside: they do the same with Veteran's Administration budgets.

But at least we now know that most of us are wealthy--in fact, anyone making more than $20,000 dollars a year is in that elite group.

Maybe that'll help me out the next time I go out on the town: "Honey, did I mention that I'm filthy rich?"
The Bush Iraq Policy: Crazy Glue and Baseball Bats

Kevin Zeese interviews Patrick Resta of Iraq Veterans against the War:

Zeese: The major argument for staying in Iraq is if the U.S. leaves there will be greater chaos. How do you see this -- is the U.S. minimizing the chaos in Iraq?

Resta: I always ask people to describe the situation now. Is it not chaos? To me the definition of a civil war is when people from a country kill other people from that country. That's what happening now in Iraq. US troops are the problem, not the solution. We are reliving the Vietnam War now and it's sad. We're reliving it because the people in power didn't learn anything from that event. They were too busy dreaming up ways to dodge the draft.

Tank battalions will never rebuild power and water purification plants no matter how long they stay in Iraq. Halliburton and Bechtel didn't build Iraq, so why are they rebuilding it? If you really want Iraqis to have democracy let them run their own affairs. When you break something in a store you don't sit there with crazy glue trying to piece it back together. And you most certainly don't run around with a bat breaking more things. What you do is apologize, write them a check, and get out before you do anymore damage.

Resta makes more sense than ANY of the lunatics working for Team Bush--and more sense than plenty of "sensible" Democrats as well.
Bug Up His Ass

As Rising Hegemon points out, "for the GOP, even humility is HARD WORK."

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) delivered an emotional homily yesterday on the need for greater humility in public servants, declaring himself a sinner before a largely Christian audience and warning that pride has brought down leaders throughout history.

"Just think of what we could accomplish if we checked our pride at the door, if collectively we all spent less time taking credit and more time deserving it," DeLay told the 54th annual National Day of Prayer gathering on Capitol Hill. "If we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it. If we spent less time on our soapboxes and more time on our knees."

DeLay drew appreciative smiles when he added, "For in God, all things are possible, ladies and gentlemen. And even greatness from lowly sinners like you and me -- especially me."

Appearing before TV cameras and 300 people in the ornate Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building, DeLay said: "No matter what your faith, no matter what your political persuasion, your prayers for our increased humility, for our ever-humbler service to God and neighbor are needed and wanted."

DeLay, a Baptist, spoke at a time when the House ethics committee is considering an investigation of the financing of his overseas travel with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who faces criminal and congressional investigations. Most of DeLay's speeches these days appear aimed at shoring up his support among national conservative groups and constituents in his suburban Houston district.


Ah, yes, the "special" Christians of the Wingnut variety...special as in "short bus" special.
So Billy, When Did You Develop This...Theory?

Once again, Krugman delivers with an analysis and critique of the Medicare giveaway to Big Pharma.

Near the end, though, is a quote from former Louisiana Representative Billy Tauzin, who parlayed a career of pandering to their interests into the ultimate golden parachute: he now heads the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, i.e., the drug lobby. Nice work--if you can get it. The job pays (they think) about $2 million dollars a year.

But comments like this make me wonder what Billy's putting into his drink. When asked about cheaper, imported drugs, he went on record:

“[it's a] threat of not just criminal elements but al Qaeda and terrorist elements.”

Terrorists could use counterfeit drugs to spread infectious diseases, he said. Tauzin said he understands why members of Congress would vote for a reimportation bill for political reasons but indicated there is a big difference in voting for a bill in either chamber and “making it the law of the land.”

“I would hate to have on my conscience that I voted to make [importation] the law of the land and then woke up one day when al Qaeda used a bunch of fake Viagra tablets to get anthrax into this country,” he remarked. “That’s a real possibility.”

That's right--al Qaeda might spike the imported Viagra--and god knows WHAT they might do to Cialis or Levitra. And, of course, this could potentially sap our precious bodily fluids, or worse, cause a mine-shaft (no pun intended) gap.

I'm sure glad Big Brother Billy's looking out for us...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Another Bronze Medal

Yet again, the "Number 3 Leader of Al-Qaeda" has been captured:

A Libyan seized in Pakistan this week was the fourth purported No. 3 leader of al-Qaida killed or captured since the Sept. 11 attacks, but the global dragnet has yet to reach up the terror group's hierarchy to the main prizes Osama bin Laden and his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahri.

Pakistani and U.S. officials hope the arrest of Abu Farraj al-Libbi after a shootout in a graveyard Monday may change that.i At least five other al-Qaida suspects have been detained in Pakistan over the past week, intelligence officials say...

The first man dubbed al-Qaida's No. 3, Mohammed Atef, was killed by a U.S. airstrike on Kabul in November 2001 as the Taliban regime crumbled in Afghanistan.

Abu Zubaydah, the next to assume the role, was captured March 28, 2002, in the eastern city of Faisalabad. The Saudi-born Palestinian survived gunshot wounds in the stomach, groin and leg, and has been in U.S. custody ever since.

Zubaydah's replacement, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was arrested in Rawalpindi, near the Pakistani capital, on March 1, 2003. He also is in U.S. custody.

Ramzi Binalshibh, another top bin Laden deputy, was arrested in the southern city of Karachi on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

al-Libbi--can we call him "Scooter?"--will presumably become quite familiar with the term "waterboarding" over the next few weeks, and will likely be subject to additional niceties like "intensive interrogation" in a region of our choosing, but "beyond our jurisdiction." Ah, diplomacy.

There's hope that al-Libbi knows--and, with the help of some "intensive interrogation," will reveal--Osama's hidey hole. However, I doubt it. If three separate "Number 3 Leaders" were taken into custody, does anyone really think number four would magically be entrusted with the secret? Besides, by the time they're done with him, Libbi might as well confess to shooting JFK AND causing the Hindenburg to crash. Torture isn't exactly a reliable method of obtaining information.

But, I guess it makes some sadistic fucks government officials--and private citizens--good 'n happy.
Personal Anecdote

This is cross posted in comments at Oyster's site--his question re: salaries and corrupt officials was actually an aside--his post concerned both a Baton Rouge trip experience in traffic hell and a reference to some traffic justice at Daisy's site.

In comments, Michael of Musing's Musings asked if BR traffic was really that bad--he offered Chicago traffic hell as a comparison...

Short answer: yeah, it IS that bad, particularly since Red Stick is, well, only a "city" by the most generous of definitions. Yet, traffic on the highways and main arteries slows to a CRAWL at least twice a day--and more often when you have a meeting of idiots or a clash of metal...which happens more or less daily.

Anyway, I digress. The comments re: Chicago got me thinking of a time some ten/twelve years ago when I lived in the upper Midwest (Madison) and used to visit with my dad when he flew into ChiTown more or less annually. He worked as company pilot for the folks who make Louisiana Hot Sauce and his bosses would go to a big food convention at McCormick Center.

One year, taking him back to Midway Airport, we were stuck in traffic on the Stevenson (I think). While waiting, someone in the car to the left of us leaned out the window and said, "Hey, where's the hot sauce?!" He'd seen my LA license plate--then he and the driver laughed and drove on.

While I kept my eye out, my dad fished into his bag, where he actually had a couple of bottles. Eventually our lane began to move, and when we passed the car in question (I remember it being a dark red, 70's era Monte Carlo), I leaned out, announced "Here it is," and tossed both bottles over to a VERY surprised person in the passenger seat. Dad leaned over and said he worked for the company. I can't say I've NEVER seen someone that surprised--the guy said something about just making a joke, then he thanked us--but it'd certainly be on a top five list.

Years later, my father mentioned to me that his boss now tells this story, with one exception--he (the boss) is now in the car with us. Dad unfortunately passed away recently, but I'll note for the record that no, his boss WASN'T there.

But, this IS a true story. Every once in a while, I wonder if the folks in Chicago ever remember or tell it to others.
Captains Renault

The title isn't a reference to "round up the usual suspects," or "I'm shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on," but instead a lesser known line: "I'm just a poor corrupt public official."

YRHT asks "How much does a corrupt U.S. govt official in Iraq make?" while linking to this LA Times story. For those who don't want to deal with registering, here's the Boston Globe's version of the same:

U.S. government mismanagement of assets in Iraq, from the lack of proper documentation on nearly $100 million in cash to millions of dollars worth of unaccounted-for equipment, are setting back efforts to fight corruption in the fledgling democracy, auditors and critics say.

Iraq became awash in billions of dollars in cash after the U.S. invasion two years ago, often with few or no controls over how that money was spent and accounted for. From the $8.8 billion provided to Iraq's interim government to millions provided to U.S. contractors, investigations have detailed a system ripe for abuse.

The latest indication of that came Wednesday when investigators released a report saying $96.6 million in cash could not be properly accounted for. The total included more than $7 million that was simply gone, according to the report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

But what's $7 million among friends? After all, almost $4 BILLION dollars are missing from yet another set of accounts supposedly devoted to Iraqi reconstruction. In contrast, $7 million is, well chump change.

And who are the chumps?

Investigators are looking at a "handful" of possible suspects, said Jim Mitchell, a spokesman for the special inspector general's office. He noted that the inquiry was in an early stage, saying only that the discrepancies uncovered by the auditors warranted referral to criminal investigators.

He also said it was unclear whether the U.S. officials operated in concert, since they served at different times.

"We're not saying the money is lost. We're saying they can't account for it," Mitchell said.

One U.S. official told auditors that he was given $6.75 million on June 21 and told he had to spend the money by June 28, the day the U.S.-led administration in Iraq turned over sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.

U.S. officials "were under the impression that it was more important to quickly distribute the money to the region than to obtain all necessary documentation," the audit report says.

Auditors were struck by a series of apparent accounting errors in the Rapid Regional Response Program, an obscure rebuilding effort operated from the Hillah office. The program was designed to jump-start reconstruction in south-central Iraq by allowing U.S. officials to quickly issue contracts worth up to $200,000 each.

To pay for contract work in Iraq's cash-based economy, the U.S. appointed military personnel and civilians to physically hand out money to Iraqis. The U.S. officials were then supposed to reconcile those payments with receipts. But the auditors found that such receipts were lacking or incomplete for $96.6 million of $119.9 million in payments.

In one case, two U.S. officials left Iraq after completing their tours of duty without accounting for a total of $1.5 million. The manager of the cash funds zeroed out the balance on a spreadsheet — an apparent attempt "to remove outstanding balances by simply washing accounts," the audit report says. The officials, like all others in the audit, were not named.

In another case, the U.S. on May 30 ordered the removal of the official in charge of the overall cash program, but he remained in the job until June 20. When told he had failed to account for $1,878,870, the official returned exactly that sum three days later — leading to suspicions that he had "a reserve of cash and turned in only the amount" needed to complete the clearance process, the report says.

In another case, one payment official had three errors in his accounting books. In one example, he told superiors that he had given $311,100 to another U.S. official when he had actually handed over $1,210,000, leaving it unclear where the remaining $898,900 was, the report says.

Two other audits, also released Wednesday, criticize the overall U.S. handling of Iraqi and U.S. funds.

For contracts funded with Iraqi money, contract officers could not show that services had been delivered in more than half of 300 contracts valued at $332.9 million.

For contracts funded with $18.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds, officers could not even find about a quarter of 48 contracts that had been selected for review. Other contracts were found stuffed in drawers or misfiled.

Hmmmm...IIRC, most folks involved in the "reconstruction" are fully credentialed wingnut operatives--demonstrating several things. One, they don't exactly qualify as "conservative." Hell, the money being talked about here makes the Great Society look pretty skinflint in comparison. Two, the supposed financial acuity of the pro-business set leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. And three, this gang couldn't shoot straight even if you if you gave them a gun mounted on a tripod and grounded in cement.

Rising Hegemon blasts holes--big enough for freight trains to run through--intoDavid Brooks's latest drivel in the New York Times.

On Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln gathered his cabinet to tell them he was going to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He said he had made a solemn vow to the Almighty that if God gave him victory at Antietam, Lincoln would issue the decree.

Lincoln's colleagues were stunned. They were not used to his basing policy on promises made to the Lord. They asked him to repeat what he'd just said. Lincoln conceded that "this might seem strange," but "God had decided the question in favor of the slaves."

I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that faith should be kept out of politics...

I wouldn't mind this little snippet so much, if it wasn't complete unmitigated bullshit.

Lincoln had discussed the Emancipation Proclamation with his cabinet months before, beginning with a conversation with Secretary of State Seward and Secretary of the Navy Welles in mid-July 1862; they were stunned because until then Lincoln had opposed such a matter (apparently by Brooks logic "God" was telling Lincoln to keep slavery until then). Others, NOT GOD, had been encouraging Lincoln to issue a decree of emancipation for months, and he had been ruminating on the matter for a matter of weeks before this conversation.

Lincoln then discussed the matter with his entire cabinet a little over a month later telling them he intended to issue an emancipation proclamation. Some, such as Secretary of War Stanton and Attorney General Bates encouraged him to immediately issue it; Secretary of the Treasury Chase was reluctant to do so, the others were mixed, but it was Seward that suggested, to Lincoln's agreement, to wait to issue the proclamation until after a Union victory...

But the notion of Lincoln being in any fashion like an "evangelical" via Brooks column is a pigheaded notion (one that he tries to run away from, pathetically, at the column's end). Brooks, like so many puts Lincoln's thoughts into their own head and has him, in the end, coming out thinking like he thinks [something that is possible in only two ways, being Brooks or through a *special* assist from John Wilkes Booth -- sic semper moronis].

It was not the way that Lincoln thought, particularly in the Summer of 1862.

Brooks could be stupid enough not to know the difference, but I would guess its a lying manipulation of history.

Oh, and unlike Bobo Brooks, I will source my authorities:

LINCOLN, David H. Donald, pgs. 362-377.

The real shame is that Brooks is unlikely to be called on his bull/horse/bat/monkey shit by anyone with the kind of access he gets in the regular media. So, he'll bounce from this to, oh, I don't know, maybe a column about red-state ideas about humor to insane rantings about Social Security to god knows what. And yesterday's insanity will quickly be forgotten, though ultimately inculcated into wingnut mythology--Lincoln the evangelical--just like the bullshit about James Madison.

Isn't there a way to revoke their pundit license for any extended length of time when crap is proffered as shinola?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Hopefully, no one will mind the second link to Today in Iraq in as many days--but it's that good.

I won't even try to summarize, besides noting how damned important it is: Matt, one of three people who write the blog, juxtaposes George W. Bush's May 1, 2003 speech with recent events--and ends with a list of those killed in action thus far.

Every line is worth reading.
If This Guy Turned You Down...

Another busy day here on the farm, but I can't complain too much...

But, onto the post--once again, courtesy of Ben, this obit for Edward "Von" Kloberg (Kloberg added the "von" to make him more europeanish, I guess)...

Geez, if sleeze counted for a nickel, this guy was a millionaire. Kloberg lobbied in DC for some of the worst humans to walk the planet in modern times:

A legend of sorts in public relations circles, he counted as clients Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Samuel K. Doe of Liberia; Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania; the military regime in Burma; Guatemalan businessmen who supported the country's murderous, military-backed government; Mobutu Sese Seko of the former Zaire; and, in a figurative coup of his own, the man who overthrew Mobutu and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Von Kloberg embraced the slogan "shame is for sissies" as well as an unabashedly Edwardian style of living. He arrived at balls and galas wearing black capes, and he traveled with steamer trunks. He added the "von" to his name because he thought it sounded distinguished.

In a life full of flamboyance, his end followed form: The District resident, 63, leapt to his death Sunday from "a castle in Rome," a State Department spokeswoman said. Von Kloberg's sister said a lengthy note was found on the body, and U.S. Embassy officials in Rome told her that he committed suicide.

Apparently the leap was due in good measure to severe health problems--I guess, in public relations terms, you could call it a preemptive strike. So, good riddance.

In the early 90's Spy magazine did a send up on Kloberg, assigning a writer to approach him with the aim of improving the image of a "client" who was pro-Nazi. I vaguely recall reading the resulting article, as Spy was on my list back then.

And, this actually made me laugh--Kloberg apparently had some standards:

He said he once turned down work for Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed, who offered $1 million shortly before he was shot to death in 1996. Von Kloberg said there was no potential for "turning around" that country.

Honor among thieves...
Link of the Day

From Counterpunch, a website devoted to May 4, 1970.
War Speed Kills

(From Benjamin)...Add a new group of soldiers to the casualties of war:

Just three days home from the war in Iraq, Army Spc. Robert Tipp Jr., couldn't wait to open the throttle on his knobby-tired ATV.

"It was like he was in prison for a year, and the bird's free," Gail Tipp says of her only son, who returned in late March. "He was riding that four-wheeler as hard as he could."

Tipp's father, Robert Sr., agrees: "He thought that nothing could hurt him now."

There were no roadside bombs along that winding stretch of lane in this Gulf Coast town. Just a freedom that Tipp hadn't tasted for more than a year — and a sharp curve that he and his speeding ATV couldn't handle.

When he smashed, without a helmet, into the pavement on the evening of March 26, Robert Jr. — the 20-year-old his mother still called "Scooter" — suffered massive head injuries. He died hours later, on Easter morning.

Soldiers, many just back from the war, are being killed in vehicle accidents at a pace that has the Army alarmed. The fear is that soldiers' safe return from combat has left many feeling just as Tipp did: invincible. As a consequence, they drive too fast, sometimes under the influence of alcohol, and lose control of their cars, their trucks, their motorcycles or ATVs.

Some feel invincible. Others simply can't deal with the return to a "normal" environment after being in one hell of a pressure cooker for one or more tours of duty. Either way, both the Army and Marines are alarmed at the trend and are trying to take steps to abate it.

For families, though, the grief is the same as if their son/daughter/spouse/lover died in combat:

Gail Tipp, 49, a retired school bus driver, relives every moment of those last days with her son. "It was like he couldn't harness the energy he had," Gail says. "Everything was now. There was no waiting."

Robert Tipp, 51, a chemical plant operator, torments himself for not stopping his son from riding the ATV.

"Follow your instincts," he says. "If you've got a feeling that they're living too fast a lifestyle, even if it makes them mad, pisses them off, slow 'em down." The alternative — losing someone so quickly after a happy homecoming from war — is unbearable, he says.

Tipp remembers how he wept after seeing his son off to war. "He strapped that M-16 on his shoulder and he marched off. He looked like he was 10 years old.

"I thought, 'Nothing can be harder than this,' " the father recalls. "Boy, was I wrong."
The Iraq Defense

At the end of this superb op-ed, Eugene Robinson writes:

How can President Bush preach to the world about democracy, about transparency, about the rule of law, and at the same time disregard national and international law at will? What message can Vladimir Putin be hearing? Or the dictators in Beijing? Or the mullahs in Tehran?

The entire piece is worth reading, but the short paragraph above got me thinking about something I saw on Nightline Monday. In Sudan, ongoing massacres in Darfur have to date drawn some world sympathy--but not much else. A correspondent interviewed Sudan's Interior Minister, i.e., the highest ranking government official directly culpable for the massacres short of the head of government. His response was telling--the kind of bloviating common to Latin America in the 70's and 80's, i.e., "There is a war going on...and, in a war, people die," but he also pulled out a card bound to become a standard defense for any Pipsqueak Pasha or Two-bit Thug: The United States is doing the same thing in Iraq.

And, we are.

I guess you could say at this point that we're a banana republic on steroids. Run by Banana Republicans.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Double Rant--Plus One

Today in Iraq featured a twin rant yesterday (scroll down), which linked over, among other things, to the "unclassified" report about the killing of Nicola Calipari, and the wounding of Guiliana Sgrena and Andrea Carpani.

For those who might not have caught the story elsewhere, a heavily redacted report was initially issued, but a European reader noticed the .pdf was poorly prepared, enabling anyone to erase the redactions. The resulting document might not read exactly like a mini Pentagon Papers, but it's hard not to draw some pessimistic conclusions.

Take the time, though, to look over the rant, which begins by pointing out Donald Rumsfeld annoyance over being reminded about General Shinseki's pre-war assessment of force requirements:

"During the hearing, Rumsfeld assailed critics who were talking about possibly resuming the draft, and said he was tired of hearing about former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's prediction a month before the invasion that 'several hundred thousand' troops would be needed to occupy Iraq."

That quote frosted my ass. So Rummy’s “tired of hearing about” General Shinseki? Boo-fucking-hoo. Cue the violins and break out the Kleenex for poor, abused Rummy.

Let’s put this in perspective: General Shinseki predicted a long, difficult and costly occupation while Rumsfeld and his Chairborne Rangers predicted flowers and music. General Shinseki wanted a heavy force structure for the initial invasion while Rumsfeld insisted on a skeleton force. General Shinseki was right and Rummy was wrong.

Rummy’s stubborn, ideological insistence on a “lean” force resulted in nation-wide disorders after the fall of Baghdad. Rummy’s incompetence armed the insurgency when he didn’t give the Army enough resources to secure Iraqi weapons and ammunition depots. General Shinseki was right and Rummy was wrong.

Rummy’s rosy predictions and flawed force structure led directly to the complete collapse of the CPA’s reconstruction program - and don’t forget that Rummy directly supervised Baghdad fashion maven and incompetent administrator Paul Bremer. The ever-growing insurgency is a direct result of Rummy’s earliest decisions. General Shinseki was right and Rummy was wrong.

And all roads from Abu Ghraib lead straight to Rummy's office door.

Rummy, you incompetent, ignorant, arrogant son of a bitch, pucker up and kiss my greasy ass.

Indeed. So, Don is upset, eh? Somebody should ask him how a wounded soldier must feel. Or, the family of a soldier who's been killed. Or the family of an Iraqi civilian who's been either killed or wounded. And, just to demonstrate Mr. Rumsfeld's capacity for evil, why not let him wax on about how good it makes him feel when insurgents are killed.

I've mentioned over and over--not that I've got the ear of a higher up, but nonetheless it's my 1st amendment right--that our policy in the Middle East should be one of identifying then supporting MIDDLE EASTERNERS with whom we can ally with. Which, if you think about it, is a highly reasonable stance, considering that they LIVE THERE AND WE DON'T. And, at least until we began blasting away in Mesopotamia, there was the possibility of doing just such a thing (of course, the Bush strategery was to shove Ahmad Chalabi down their collective throats, thereby demonstrating an almost bottomless capacity for stupidity on his part--of all the potential pro-US Iraqi nationals, Bush chooses the most obvious crook).

Instead, for what can ONLY be deemed to be a case of political expediency, Team Bush ran off to slay the toothless dragon, and now is thoroughly attached to the Iraqi tar baby, partly because the situation was always going to be a hell of a lot more complicated than their collective GOP pea-brains could grasp--and partly because Rummy, proving that evil is not necessarily genius, decided to test his own theory about warfare, sending a skeleton force. The rest of Team Bush must truly be delusional--thet are the embodiment of democratic subversion, yet they somehow thought that Iraqis would allow themselves to be herded into a western-friendly government...without having the first consideration that Iraqis, being a modern, multi-ethnic society, might have any number of political agendas. But, geez, that would've meant no flight-suit photo op...

Now the ugly truth is...well, out, as it were, but the one true herd of bleating sheep--namely, the domestic media--continues to march in lock-step with the administration, not even taking the first step towards showing a degree of independence. Ergo, the story of the war slides down to the back pages, or shows up on local newscasts when a young man or woman is buried with full military honors. Photographs of flag draped coffins are deemed unacceptable, and even the wounded are brought back to the US late at night, so as not to upset the citizenry.

I spent the afternoon (blogging at home today--took the day off) looking over the post-action report (part II of Today's rant) on the Sgrena matter--Yankeedoodle summarizes some things that caught his attention if you don't have time to read the whole thing. Interestingly, The New York Times actually notes it--in the last two paragraphs of a story about the Italian rebuttal. Nicely buried, but the statement of fact seems to have escaped most of the media, and you certainly won't see any administration official, much less the pResident, asked about it:

The report said that tensions along the expressway had been heightened by 135 insurgent attacks on the road in the previous four months...

Look at that line again--135 attacks in four months, or, roughly 120 days. That's on an single stretch of road that covers not quite twelve miles. Nor are these attacks necessarily furtive actions undertaken in the dead of night. The Times doesn't bother to mention it, but the report notes two thirds of the attacks occur during the day. In the last nine months, insurgents have mounted over 15,000 attacks on coalition forces. Baghdad alone has seen some 3300 attacks just in the last four months (2400 directly against coalition forces, the rest presumably against civilians, police, ING, etc.). During the week when Calipari was killed, 166 IED incidents were recorded. Of these, 131 detonted, 35 were defused or detonated in controlled explosions (or were duds), and 82 casualites resulted. From February 27th through March 25th, 422 attacks were launched against the 3rd ID.

This material, "redacted" from the officially released report, are startling, particularly when you consider how little of this is reported in the press. Just doing the math, you can determine that upwards of 50 attacks A DAY are launched by the insurgents. Which makes this little tidbit of news about the low morale among forces loyal to Musab al-Zarqawi something that stretches credibility. In reality, Iraq is turning into a meat grinder par excellence, which seriously undermines the ability of the United States's ability to conduct effective foreign policy.

Now, why the media can't simply read the goddamned report--and write about it--is beyond me.

Finally, Today in Iraq links over to this smackdown of Jonah Goldberg by Greg Mitchell. Goldberg launched into yet another tired "but it ISN'T Vietnam" screed recently, which Mitchell nicely disposes of, using a metaphor similar to Billmon (who likened the war to Vietnam--on crack). Mitchell suggests speed--close enough.

He goes on to caustically note the straw man arguments Goldberg trots out like so many tired horses, but notes the BIG similarities--the lies that were proffered to start the fighting, the wholesale destruction of cities, the outrageous costs, the pathetic attempt to nationalize the conflict--and, in the end, the certainty that the United States will LOSE. In my book, we've already lost, and might as well come to grips with the consequences, given that this is a bit more serious than the "old college try." Now, whether or not we LEARN anything is a different matter. Evidently, one lesson, ending roughly thirty years ago, just wasn't enough for the wingnut warmongers.

The shame is that some citizens STILL bought their overpriced, used-war.
Clean Sweep

Dubya can finally point to a landslide of his very own--unfortunatly for him, it's it's all ten spots on Democratic Underground's Top Ten Conservative Idiots of the Week.

On the other hand, it's nice that someone manages to carefully chronicle the dauphin's attributes, ranging from the not-all-that-surprising "dumbell," "hypocrisy," "war mongering," "aiding the terrorists," to fiscal irresponsibility...yet, checking in at #5, mild praise: Dubya in prime time noting that religion shouldn't be some sort of defining test for patriotism. Of course, DU notes this came on the heels of "Justice Sunday," a fascisthon of supplicants to Team Bush.

Poor old Tom DeLay only managed an honorable mention this week, having demonstrated, if nothing else, his own unique brand of hypocrisy by sucking on a Cuban stogie during a photo-op a couple of years back...yeah, smoking mere Jamaicans grown from Cuban hard work.
For the Record

As plenty of others have noted, the revelation that Bush and Blair lied to start the Iraq war is no great surprise--neither is especially the United States's media blindness to the memo in question, which you can read for yourself right here.

But, stories about Laura Bush's ghostwritten jokes sense of humor and timing and/or brides getting cold feet are about the speed of our media these days...while lying about wars that kill thousands are off the radar screen.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Meet the New Boss...

From Needlenose. If anyone has even the slightest belief that the Bush administration cares one whit about Iraqi citizens, this New York Times article will quickly dispell the notion. Short version: The "Salvador" option is alive and well in the form of Special Forces commando squads of Iraqi thugs. Additionally, the leader of the squadron has taken a further step, with the frightening--in the Orwellian sense--concept of a television show called "Terrorism in the Grip of Justice," which is little more than a genuine recreation of the public confessions of Orwell's novel--or the show trials popular in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. Suspects, many clearly having had several rounds of "intensive interrogation," confess to just about anything. All that's missing is the public execution afterwards.
Reason Number...

Well, you could call it reason 1 or reason 1,000--either way, it's as clear as a cloudless day (not unlike yesterday afternoon in New Orleans) why Iraq is already a lost cause:

[Delgado] wasn't happy when, even before his unit left the states, a top officer made wisecracks about the soldiers heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads and burn some turbans.

"He laughed," Mr. Delgado said, "and everybody in the unit laughed with him."

The officer's comment was a harbinger of the gratuitous violence that, according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers on ordinary Iraqis. He said: "Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people's heads."...

Mr. Delgado said he had witnessed incidents in which an Army sergeant lashed a group of children with a steel Humvee antenna, and a Marine corporal planted a vicious kick in the chest of a kid about 6 years old. There were many occasions, he said, when soldiers or marines would yell and curse and point their guns at Iraqis who had done nothing wrong.

He said he believes that the absence of any real understanding of Arab or Muslim culture by most G.I.'s, combined with a lack of proper training and the unrelieved tension of life in a war zone, contributes to levels of fear and rage that lead to frequent instances of unnecessary violence.

Unfortunately, I can't say I'm all that surprised by these allegations--nor will I be surprised thirty years from now (if I'm still alive) when these kinds of things are routinely denied. In addition, there will be an entire cottage industry grown up around analysis of "Iraqi veterans, many of whom are homeless, etc. etc. etc."--in other words, it will be yet another instance where Iraq is not at all like Vietnam (that's sarcasm--in case the odd wingnut stops by and reads this)--or, like any other losing effort in history.

Deep down, I think the wingnuts realize the colossal size of the pile of shit they've slid head first into--of course, their acknowledgement of that fact is done in typical style: blame others. Pat Robertson managed to go cuckoo-for-cocoapuffs in a BIG way twice over the weekend, asserting that it's judges, not terrorists who are the real problem--then turning around and fro good measure saying Muslim-Americans are not fit for higher office. And while Robertson is, as anyone who looks at him can clearly see, a nutjob of the highest order, he does carry weight with the storm troopers/footsoldiers that comprise Karl Rove's "base."

But the base can no more win the "cultural" war than they can win the war in Iraq. And, as we flounder in the Middle East, hemmorhaging lives and money, as the economy lurches along without gaining traction, while the dauphin stumbles around searching for his keys under the social security streetlight (because he can see better there), it looks like the public is finally recognizing that the driver is asleep at the wheel.

It's gonna make for a hell of a hangover...
Put the Burrito Down, and SLOWLY Walk Away

Life imitates art, or at least farce:

A call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lock down the school. All over a giant burrito.

Someone called authorities Thursday after seeing a boy carrying something long and wrapped into Marshall Junior High.

The drama ended two hours later when the suspicious item was identified as a 30-inch burrito filled with steak, guacamole, lettuce, salsa and jalapenos and wrapped inside tin foil and a white T-shirt.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," school Principal Diana Russell said.

We haven't done them, have we? Right. Bananas. How to defend yourself against a man armed with a banana. Now you, come at me with this banana. Catch! Now, it's quite simple to defend yourself against a man armed with a banana. First of all you force him to drop the banana; then, second, you eat the banana, thus disarming him. You have now rendered him 'elpless.

Suppose he's got a bunch.

Shut up.

Suppose he's got a pointed stick.

Shut up. Right now you, Mr Apricot.


Sorry, Mr. 'Arrison. Come at me with that banana. Hold it like that, that's it. Now attack me with it. Come on! Come on! Come at me! Come at me then! (Shoots him.)

Aaagh! (dies.)

Now, I eat the banana. (Does so.)

You shot him!

He's dead!

He's completely dead!

I have now eaten the banana. The deceased, Mr Apricot, is now 'elpless.

You shot him. You shot him dead.

Well, he was attacking me with a banana.

But you told him to.

Look, I'm only doing me job. I have to show you how to defend yourselves against fresh fruit.