Friday, May 27, 2005


This morning Atrios' link was broken, but you can catch the exchange of letters between Tom DeLay and Dick Wolf at YatPundit.

Short version: Tom DeLay is a wanker.

Slightly less shorter version: The Hammer, pouting about a Law & Order episode featuring a less-than-fawning reference to his Hammerness, fired off a pouty letter to Dick Wolf (L&O Producer) correction--he fired off a letter to NBC President of Entertainment Jeff Zucker. No word on how loudly Tom stomped around his office while dictating said letter, but my own guess is "somewhere between quite loud and obscenely loud."

Here's Wolf's reply (Wolf apparently took it upon himself to respond):

Every week, approximately 100 million people see an episode of the branded 'Law & Order' series. Up until today, it was my impression that all of our viewers understood that these shows are works of fiction as is stated in each episode.

But I do congratulate Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a TV show.
What Wolcott Says

He wrote not to bury Friedman, but not really to praise him much either:

I am pleased that Thomas Friedman has gotten on board with my modest proposal of a few months back that the Guantanamo prison facility be emptied and dismantled. We visionaries are always slightly ahead of the pack and it is a happy development when a distinguished blowhard like Friedman stumbles upon the path of enlightment.

However, I wish he had taken a bold step farther and embraced my brainstorm that Gitmo be converted into a bird sanctuary. This would prove to be a popular goodwill gesture in the region and provide a popular resort for migrating avians. The cost and upkeep would be far less taxing than the maintenance price of keeping suspected terrorists in orange jumpsuits behind barbed wire indefinitely...

I suspect that Friedman, like most in his celebrity journalist class, is so divorced from nature that it never occured to him that Gitmo might serve a higher purpose as an avian haven. But at least he grasps that Gitmo in its present utility is an abomination and a stain upon what little honor the US has left under Bush.
Exporting the 2nd Amendment

(from Cursor). Hey, why should we have all the guns, when it's possible to export leaded death worldwide?

Perhaps no single policy is more at odds with President Bush’s pledge to "end tyranny in our world" than the United States’ role as the world’s leading arms exporting nation. Although arms sales are often justified on the basis of their purported benefits, from securing access to overseas military facilities to rewarding coalition allies in conflicts such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, these alleged benefits often come at a high price. All too often, U.S. arms transfers end up fueling conflict, arming human rights abusers, or falling into the hands of U.S. adversaries...U.S. arms sometimes go to both sides in long brewing conflicts, ratcheting up tensions and giving both sides better firepower with which to threaten each other. Far from serving as a force for security and stability, U.S. weapons sales frequently serve to empower unstable, undemocratic regimes to the detriment of U.S. and global security...

In 2003, more than half of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms transfers in the developing world (13 of 25) were defined as undemocratic by the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report: in the sense that "citizens do not have the right to change their own government" or that right was seriously abridged. These 13 nations received over $2.7 billion in U.S. arms transfers under the Foreign Military Sales and Commercial Sales programs in 2003, with the top recipients including Saudi Arabia ($1.1 billion), Egypt ($1.0 billion), Kuwait ($153 million), the United Arab Emirates ($110 million) and Uzbekistan ($33 million).

Uzbekistan must be feeling cheated. Only $33 million dollars worth of weapons? No wonder Karimov resorts to boiling dissidents alive. He's saving his ammo for street protests...

When countries designated by the State Department’s Human Rights Report to have poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are factored in, 20 of the top 25 U.S. arms clients in the developing world in 2003-- a full 80%-- were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.

The largest U.S. military aid program, Foreign Military Financing (FMF), increased by 68% between 2001 and 2003, from $3.5 billion to nearly $6 billion. These years coincided with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the run-up to the U.S. intervention in Iraq. The biggest increases in dollar terms went to countries that were directly or indirectly engaged as U.S. allies in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, including Jordan ($525 million increase from 2001 to 2003), Afghanistan ($191 million increase), Pakistan ($224 million increase) and Bahrain ($90 million increase). The Philippines, where the United States stepped up joint operations against a local terrorist group with alleged links to al-Qaeda, also received a substantial increase of FMF funding ($47 million) from 2001 to 2003. Military aid totals have leveled off slightly since their FY 2003 peak, coming in at a requested $4.5 billion for 2006. This is still a full $1 billion more than 2001 levels. The number of countries receiving FMF assistance nearly doubled from FY 2001 to FY 2006--from 48 to 71.

The greatest danger emanating U.S. arms transfers and military aid programs is not in the numbers, but in the potential impacts on the image, credibility and security of the United States. Arming repressive regimes in all corners of the globe while simultaneously proclaiming a campaign for democracy and against tyranny undermines the credibility of the United States in international forums and makes it harder to hold other nations to high standards of conduct on human rights and other key issues.

"...makes it harder to hold other nations to high standards of conduct on human rights and other key issues...", i.e, the "well, the US does it" defense, practiced, as noted recently here, by Sudan, among other paragons of human rights defenders. And, as the report notes, weapons sales have increased at a feverish rate since 9/11. Or, When we haven't increased sales, we've left tons of ordnance "curbside"--like in Iraq, where our "no money down" program nicely played into the hands of the insurgency. Wingnuts can thank Donald Rumsfeld, loyal squire lackey DOD secretary. Thanks, Donald--you might not lose any sleep (do cyborgs sleep at all?), but your blitzkrieg polices resulted in needless soldier deaths.

At a minimum, the time has come to impose greater scrutiny on U.S. arms transfers and military aid programs. The facile assumption that they are simply another tool in the foreign policy toolbox, to be used to win friends and intimidate adversaries as needed, must be challenged in this new era in U.S. security policy. A good starting point would be to find a way to reinforce and implement the underlying assumptions of U.S. arms export law, which calls for arming nations only for purposes of self-defense, and avoiding arms sales to nations that engage in patterns of systematic human rights abuses, either via new legislation or Executive Branch policy initiatives. Equally important, the automatic assumption that arms transfers are the preferred "barter" for access to military facilities or other security "goods" sought from other nations should be seriously re-considered. Economic aid, political support and other forms of support and engagement should be explored as alternatives whenever possible.

Gee, the report suggests 1) following the law, and 2) looking at alternatives to weapons sales, like diplomacy and economic aid, as tools with which to conduct foreign policy--how quaint that notion must seem to the crooks and liars occpying DC these days...
Just Another Word

I don't know much about Debra Pickett, but her Op-Ed in the Chicago Sun Times (IIRC, the "liberal" Chi-town paper, though that's a highly relative term) offers hope that some in the press are waking up from the soma-like daze brought on post-9/11:

The news from Washington is like a bad Broadway show, the kind that promises to make you laugh and cry and be better than "Cats."

The comedy came first. On Monday, President Bush stood beside Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a "Joint Press Availability."

Asked if the Iraqi insurgency was getting more difficult to defeat militarily, Bush answered with a classic Dubya-ism.

"No, I don't think so," he said, "I think they're being defeated. And that's why they continue to fight."

It's the sort of answer that makes you pause and scratch your head for just long enough to give him a chance to change the subject. He's quite masterful at doing this, which made me wonder if he hadn't taken Karzai aside before the press conference and whispered in his ear, "Listen, Hammie, these reporters are tricky. You better let me handle 'em. I've got 'em wrapped around my finger with this whole newspeak war-is-peace idea Karl found in some book from the 1980s."

But Bush's Orwellian logic -- good for only a cynical chuckle -- was definitely not the comic high point of the afternoon. Instead, for sheer free press-thwarting brilliance, Karzai easily won the day.

After the two men made some opening remarks, talking about the glories of bringing democracy to Afghanistan, Bush announced, "And in the spirit of the free press, we'll answer a couple of questions."

Afghanistan's 'free' press

The first question dealt with the military's treatment of Afghan prisoners of war. It was full of facts and details and built-in follow-ups, so you could tell the reporter asking it would probably never get called on again. And, after this rocky start, Bush decided to let the American reporters cool their heels for a while.

"Somebody from the Afghan press?" he asked next.

There was an awkward silence, which Karzai gamely tried to fill in by asking, "Anybody from the Afghan press? Do we have an Afghan press?"

Then he spotted the single reporter his government had permitted to travel outside Afghanistan.

"Oh, here he is," Karzai said, as the room filled with the not-quite-warm laughter of people who suspect they might actually be the butt of a joke but aren't sure.

It turned out, National Public Radio journalist David Greene reported later, there were nine other Afghan reporters who were to have followed Karzai on his U.S. visit but, at the last minute, the Karzai government decided to withhold their travel permits for fear the journalists might try to escape their troubled homeland.

Bush seemed genuinely surprised that the Afghan reporters weren't there -- American journalists had been asked to fill in their empty seats -- so it seems that Karzai forgot to mention to his good friend that the whole free press thing has a slightly different meaning in the burgeoning democracy that is Afghanistan.

I imagine they had a pretty good laugh about that one.

And I bet Bush was jealous...

I think we heard the Bush administration in full voice this week, laughing at those who ask questions, wringing tears from those who would dare dissent.

If it were a Broadway show, you could buy a ticket, watch the show and then walk out into the open air. But this is our real life, and there are not even fire exits.
What the Pentagon MEANT to Say...

Yahoo News/David Corn offer A Tale of Two Pentagon Press Briefings.

Briefing Number 1:

MR. DI RITA: We've found nothing that would substantiate precisely -- anything that you just said about the treatment of a Koran. We have -- other than what we've seen, that it's possible detainees themselves have done with pages of the Koran -- and I don't want to overstate that either because it's based on log entries that have to be corroborated.

Briefing Number 2:

We did identify 13 incidents of alleged mishandling of the Koran by Joint Task Force personnel. Ten ot those were by a guard and three by interrogators.

We found that in only five of those 13 incidents, four by guards and one by an interrogator, there was what could be broadly defined as mishandling of a Koran. None of these five incidents was a result of a failure to follow standard operating procedures in place at the time the incident occurred.

Corn ends by noting Team Bush, they of the cult of life, are strangely silent about life being taken with government funds in brutally repressive ally in the GWOT Uzbekistan. Hmmm.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Freedom, One Casualty at a Time

There are a couple of folks who occasionally stop by my humble blog who don't necessarily read big leaguers--so, for their benefit, I'm providing a link to this Daily Kos diary--Diane--who has an appropriate post for the upcoming holiday, titled One Hundred Names You Won't Hear This Memorial Day:

On Monday we will celebrate Memorial Day, the one day of the year when President Bush actually has to acknowledge our otherwise officially-invisible war dead...

It is precisely because Memorial Day brings home to us the uniqueness and value of every life that one group of war dead will be conspicuous by their absence from all our commemorations: and that is the many thousands of Iraqis we have killed since March 2003. Because who really wants to be reminded that at least 20,000 and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqis - people just like us - are dead today because of a war we should never have started?

Their names will never be engraved on the Mall, and their faces will never warrant a spread in the Washington Post, but I will commemorate here 100 or so of those Iraqis who, thanks to us, made the "ultimate sacrifice" whether they wished it or not.

The post notes that it contains graphic images. For me, though, the real obscenity is the callous indifference those who thisted for war have for the consequences, particularly those who, without the slightest degree of irony, invoke suffering by the Iraqi people as justification for hostilities.
Art Deco Thursday

If you're into it, check out this entire NY Times section devoted to the 75th anniversary of New York City's favorite skyscraper, The Chrysler Building.

Not to be such a snob, but until a few years ago, friends of mine lived about ten blocks south of the edifice, and I used to love being able to go out on their balcony for a smoke break, which offered superb views of the "radiating arches" at the top.

At the same time, The Chrysler Building has always been a bit of an afterthought:

This second-billing relegation began when the Chrysler Building was but an ingénue. Movie lore has it that in the 1933 picture that bears his name, King Kong was originally going to swat airplanes from the building's silvery spire. But the Empire State Building, finished in 1931, soon stole the thunder, and the gig, when it eclipsed the Chrysler Building's blink-of-an-eye reign as the world's tallest. In clips and stills from that movie, there in the background sulks a dwarfed Chrysler Building.

James Sanders, the author of "Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies" (Knopf, 2001), jokes that any essay regarding the Chrysler Building in movies should be titled, "And the Award for Best Supporting Skyscraper Goes to ..."

And I noticed that the series forgot what made me aware of the building in the first place: The SNL Coneheads Sketch, where the tower doubled as a spaceship, bringing the family back to Remulak.

If Art Deco is your thing, take a look.

The evolution of the design.
Culture, Minus the "-ure"

Bob Herbert "takes the gloves off" in exposing hypocrisy from Team Bush:

A photo of President Bush gingerly holding a month-old baby was on the front page of yesterday's New York Times. Mr. Bush is in the habit of telling us how precious he thinks life is, all life.

The story was about legislation concerning embryonic stem cell research, and it included a comment from Tom DeLay urging Americans to reject "the treacherous notion that while all human lives are sacred, some are more sacred than others."

Ahh, pretty words. Now I wonder when Mr. Bush and Mr. DeLay will find the time to address - or rather, to denounce - the depraved ways in which the United States has dealt with so many of the thousands of people (many of them completely innocent) who have been swept up in the so-called war on terror.

People have been murdered, tortured, rendered to foreign countries to be tortured at a distance, sexually violated, imprisoned without trial or in some cases simply made to "disappear" in an all-American version of a practice previously associated with brutal Latin American dictatorships. All of this has been done, of course, in the name of freedom...

Warfare, when absolutely unavoidable, is one thing. But it's a little difficult to understand how these kinds of profoundly dehumanizing practices - not to mention the physical torture we've heard so much about - could be enthusiastically embraced by a government headed by men who think all life is sacred. Either I'm missing something, or President Bush, Tom DeLay and their ilk are fashioning whole new zones of hypocrisy for Americans to inhabit...

The government, like an addict in denial, will not even admit that we have a problem.

"We're in this Orwellian situation," said Leonard Rubenstein, the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, "where the statements by the administration, by the president, are unequivocal: that the United States does not participate in, or condone, torture. And yet it has engaged in legal interpretations and interrogation policies that undermine that absolutist stance."

Personally, I keep seeing the "not as bad as" defense being invoked, i.e., "well, we're not as bad as Saddam Hussein, etc."--indeed, Bush used to bring up "rape rooms," at least until stories surfaced about similar practices by troops and/or contractors. It's a sign of how low we've sunk when the best we can come up with is "not as bad" as someone who was a deranged mass murderer.

And unfortunately, we can't really say that, unlike nutjob bin Laden, we haven't killed any innocent people. In fact, deaths resulting from US actions occur quite frequently--I'd guess more or less daily, although you have to look to alternate sources for news of that sort.

Combined with torture as policy, it doesn't make for a pretty picture. Sadder still is how all this seems to be taken in stride by the citizenry. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, good people are doing nothing.

YRHT, in comments, graciously pointed me to his post I alluded to below--it's from February 21st and here's the link. I stand corrected: It's actually "fewer than one-third of conceptions" that result in live births.

"Nature appears to be an avid abortionist..."

What do the fundamentalists (emphasis on "mental") have to say about that?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Run Away!

William S. Lind is less than impressed by the hysterics in DC a couple of weeks ago:

Two weeks ago, a small, single-engine plane inadvertently strayed into the closed air space above Washington. The result was panic. Both the White House and the Capitol were evacuated, with police shouting "Run! Run!" at fleeing staffers and visitors. Senators and Congressmen abandoned in haste the floors of their respective Houses. Various RIPs (Really Important People) were escorted to their Fuehrerbunkers. F-16s came close to shooting the Cessna down.

The whole episode would have been funny if it weren't so sad. As an historian, I could think of nothing other than the behavior of an earlier profile in courage, the Persian king Darius, at the battle of Issus. As the Roman historian Arrian described it,

The moment the Persian left went to pieces under Alexander's attack and Darius, in his war chariot, saw that it was cut off, he incontinently fled ­ indeed, he led the race for safety . . . dropping his shield and stripping off his mantle ­ even leaving his bow in the war-chariot ­ he leapt upon a horse and rode for his life.

Not surprisingly, Darius's army was less than keen to fight to the death for its illustrious leader. As one British officer said, commenting on U.S. Marines' love of running for exercise, "We prefer our officers not to run. It can discourage the troops."

I suspect that more than a few of our soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, enjoying as they do a daily diet of IEDs, ambushes and mortarings, were less than amused at watching Washington flee from a flea.

Lind sees this ultimately as part and parcel of a Beltway elite that "draws a distinction between itself and the rest of the country." And, as AmericaBlog points out, they even draw a distinction within the Beltway--a distinction that, in its essence, is perfectly willing to sacrifice those who don't make the grade. Lind concludes:

At some point, that gap may grow wide enough to swallow the state itself. Kings who become cabbages, like Darius, end up history's losers.

Point made.
180 Degrees

William Saletan has a nice table up at Slate, pointing out the degree of disengenousness when it comes to George W. Bush's contradictory positions on stem cell research and the death penalty.

On that note: some time back, Oyster pointed out the hypocrisy of those who claim that "life begins at conception." I can't recall the exact statistics, but I believe upwards of 50 percent of fertilized eggs fail to attach themselves to the uterine wall, i.e., a woman's body de facto aborts them. Yet, no one on the anti-choice side is hollering, wailing, gnashing their teeth, tearing their hair out, or otherwise lamenting.

Thanks to this fake "respect for life," upwards of 400,000 embryos remain frozen in test tubes around the country--boy, that's showing some respect.

And, changing the subject a bit, Bush hasn't exactly demonstrated a "respect for life" in his foreign policy either.

Another superb essay is hot off the press at King of Zembla:

People who kill other people are desensitized. Humans are hardened to the face of suffering; the killing becomes reality, compassion an abstraction... When [a solider] does his soldierly duty of causing misery, death and maiming, he must do it compassionately, according to some hallucination generated in the Pentagon by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The hallucination is transferred through the chain of command until it reaches where the rubber meets the road---then five privates go on trial for hurting an enemy they were specifically trained to kill. Anyone who has ever been in the armed forces understands the certain hypocrisy of the proposition...

All these post-teens in desert camo, the ones making the “good kills,” as an appropriately conducted murder of an Iraqi is deemed military parlance, they are heroes on the TV news. Funny how you cannot see their Clearasil on TV. I have never seen as much acne medicine as when I was in the military during the Nam era, of which this war reminds me greatly.

As James Carroll brilliantly put it in "A Nation Lost" (Boston Globe 4/22/03):
Photographic celebrations of our young warriors, glorifications of released American prisoners, heroic rituals of the war dead all take on the character of crass exploitation of the men and women in uniform. First they were forced into a dubious circumstance, and now they are themselves being mythologized as its main post-facto justification -- as if the United States went to Iraq not to seize Saddam (disappeared), or to dispose of weapons of mass destruction (missing), or to save the Iraqi people (chaos), but ''to support the troops.'' War thus becomes its own justification. Such confusion on this grave point, as on the others, signifies a nation lost."

I just heard that Vern and Sherry’s kid, Glen, got killed in Iraq...Killed by a roadside IED. And I cannot help but think about the road that led him to Baghdad. The one that started with the deepest love of his crippled up ole daddy and ended, right along with his chances in life, right after high school when there was no possibility of college and no work within a hundred miles of the reservation. The kid was quick as a whip, just like his daddy who could draw, do calc in his head and break horses on those days he had enough wind to tackle the job. And like his daddy, Glen was born into on of those corners of America where people are rooted in the earth they were born upon and grow up grounded enough not to care about making it in the big city or imitating what they see on television. They also grow up proud of their country, untroubled by the bitter truths borne by more educated people. Their notion of patriotism has to do with a sense of place and people, blood, kin and whatever higher power rustles the branches great red fir trees, animates both the chipmunk and the mountain lion, and stirs fish to leap in the rivers. Hard as it will be for urban readers to understand, Glen was a stone cold country boy of a kind mostly vanished from America. The real thing. Now he is dead...But I think there is not one goddamned thing in the entire nation of Iraq worth the life of that boy.

But overall, we can expect more of the same. Thousands more dead, blood and treasure hemorrhaged on desert sand for the satisfaction of an elite cult of aging rich men obsessed with power. Americans seem not too worried. They knowingly reelected the men who orchestrated perhaps the bloodiest public hoodwinking in American history, one spawned in secrecy, hatched behind closed doors and launched upon the world amid a flurry of the most vulgar sort of lies... Dick Cheney has said that: “The American people will continue to support this ongoing effort to establish freedom and democracy in the world.”

Or to put it in the parlance of the dwarves of darkness behind the thick oval room curtain: “The dumb fucks will never see through it.”
On Crime and Pay

Priscilla Owen was confirmed to sit on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals today:

The 56-43 vote to appoint Owen to the New Orlean-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was a consequence of an agreement reached earlier this week that averted, for the time being, a bitter dispute over Democratic use of the filibuster to block Bush's judicial choices.

Owen, said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., "withstood an orchestrated partisan attack on her record."...

It wasn't easy for Owen, 50, to get to this point. She was subjected to nine hours of hearings, answered more than 500 questions and endured 22 days of floor debate.

Poor Pris--all that waiting, all that sitting. As for the "orchestrated partisan attack on her record?"


In 1993, a fourteen-year-old boy, Willie Searcy, was in a car accident that left him a "ventilator-dependent quadriplegic." For the rest of his life he was going to need machines and constant nursing to keep him alive. His parents' insurance wouldn't cover it, and the family didn't have the money to pay for it. They had a ventilator, but no backup generator in case of a power failure. Medicaid provided 104 hours per week of nursing, but it was cut to 34 hours per week when he turned 21.

His injuries were partly caused by a defective seat belt in the Ford pickup his stepfather was driving at the time of the accident. An East Texas jury ordered Ford to pay Willie Searcy $30 million. That money would have kept him alive if he'd ever gotten it. But Ford's legal team took the case to the Texas Supreme Court, where, unfortunately for Willie Searcy, the judge who took the case was Priscilla Owen:

Jeanne D'Arc cites Salon:

Two years after the lawyers representing Willie Searcy and the lawyers representing Ford had requested an expedited hearing, Owen wrote the majority opinion. A process that could have been completed within months of the oral argument in November 1996 dragged on until Owen completed her opinion in March 1998.

Her opinion was stunning. Not because it ruled against Willie Searcy and his mother, Susan Miles, but because of how it ruled against them. Owens ruled the case would have to be retried in Dallas because it was initially filed in the wrong venue. Yet venue was not among the issues, or "points of error," the court said it would consider two years earlier when it took up the case...

Willie Searcy's case was a textbook example of "results oriented" justice that is common in Texas. Often, judges first determine the desired outcome of a case. Then they adapt the facts and the law to make it happen. It was also a glaring example of judicial activism, or making law from the bench, which is anathema to conservative Republicans -- unless it serves their purposes, as it did in the Terri Schiavo case.

These rulings are not entirely informed by the justices' love for certain principles of law. If the Texas Supreme Court is the most business-friendly bench in the nation -- and it is -- it's because corporate interests pay for the justices' election campaigns. Of the $175,328 Owen took in from the Texas defense bar while Willie Searcy's case moved through the courts, she got $20,450 from Baker Botts, the mega-firm run by Bush family consigliere James A. Baker III. Baker Botts was part of Ford's defense team.

Searcy's case eventually was decided in his favor--but, as noted above, the family couldn't afford 24 hour-a-day care while the judgement was pending. Hence, four days after the Dallas Court of Appeals upheld the verdict, Searcy's mother awoke to find her 21 year old son dead. The ventilator had malfunctioned.

She might as well have suffocated him herself.

I'm thinking of sending a pillow to the court, with instructions that it's a "Pillow for Priscilla"--she can use it to suffocate more victims. And, of course, we've learned that for certain criminals, a life of crime DOES pay. It just depends on making sure you don't get sucked into petty larceny, but go all out for the big bucks.
Reality vs. Hype

CNN can cheerlead all it wants, but Juan Cole provides a far more realistic analysis of the Iraq war to date (and a less than upbeat prognosis):

The US military cannot defeat the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement any time soon for so many reasons that they cannot all be listed.

The guerrillas have widespread popular support in the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, an area with some 4 million persons. Its cities and deserts offer plenty of cover for an unconventional war. Guerrilla movements can succeed if more than 40 percent of the local population supports them. While the guerrillas are a small proportion of Iraqis, they are very popular in the Sunni Arab areas. If you look at it as a regional war, they probably have 80 percent support in their region.

The guerrillas are mainly Iraqi Sunnis with an intelligence or military background, who know where secret weapons depots are containing some 250,000 tons of missing munitions, and who know how to use military strategy and tactics to good effect. They are well-funded and can easily get further funding from Gulf millionnaires any time they like.

The Iraqi guerrillas are given tactical support by foreign jihadi fighters. There are probably only a few hundred of them, but they are disproportionately willing to undertake very dangerous attacks, and to volunteer as suicide bombers.

There are simply too few US troops to fight the guerrillas. There are only about 70,000 US fighting troops in Iraq, they don't have that much person-power superiority over the guerrillas. There are only 10,000 US troops for all of Anbar province, a center of the guerrilla movement with a population of 820,000. A high Iraqi official estimated that there are 40,000 active guerrillas and another 80,000 close supporters of them. The only real explanation for the successes of the guerrillas is that the US military has been consistently underestimating their numbers and abilities. There is no prospect of increasing the number of US troops in Iraq.

The guerillas have enormous advantages, of knowing the local clans and terrain and urban quarters, of knowing Arabic, and of being local Muslims who are sympathetic figures for other Muslims. American audiences often forget that the US troops in Iraq are mostly clueless about what is going on around them, and do not have the knowledge base or skills to conduct effective counter-insurgency. Moreover, as foreign, largely Christian occupiers of an Arab, Muslim, country, they are widely disliked and mistrusted outside Kurdistan...

Therefore, I conclude that the United States is stuck in Iraq for the medium term, and perhaps for the long term. The guerrilla war is likely to go on a decade to 15 years. Given the basic facts, of capable, trained and numerous guerrillas, public support for them from Sunnis, access to funding and munitions, increasing civil turmoil, and a relatively small and culturally poorly equipped US military force opposing them, led by a poorly informed and strategically clueless commander-in-chief who has made himself internationally unpopular, there is no near-term solution.

Ouch. This means a steady, somber drumbeat of casualties (with implications for an "all-volunteer army), enormous expenditures (although, to be fair, companies like Halliburton, who gleefully profit from death, will love THAT), and little prospect for a policy solution that's favorable to the United States. George W. Bush may care little for history, and even less for those who have to go and fight his vainglorious, egotistical colonial wars, but his actions will have profound effects on this country, and not in a good way--except for, perhaps, when it's all said and done, an apprecation for the limits of raw power, and an understanding of what is or isn't important in the larger scheme of things.
Triumph of the Shrill

From Rising Hegemon, here's a link to Capital Buzz...with a very minimal amount of Photoshopping--really, just a little bit of touch-up for Senator Reich, I mean Senator Rick:

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


This week's Top Ten Conservative Idiots has a photo showing a Koran "allegedly desecrated by US forces in Ramadi."

Something about it looked awfully familiar.
Christ Cultist

Smashing windows, Jesus-style:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The pastor of a small Baptist church has refused calls to take down a sign posted in front of his church reading "The Koran needs to be flushed," saying Tuesday he has nothing to apologize for.

"My creed is the Bible, which tells me I am supposed to stand up and defend my faith," said the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the 55-member Danieltown Baptist Church in Forest City. "I don't hate Muslims, I just hate their false doctrines...

To be fair, some believers aren't exactly ready to jump on the bandwagon:

Richard Land, who heads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, criticized the church's decision.

"If we want other people to respect our religious symbols and documents we need to respect the symbols and documents that they believe are sacred," he said. "What positive purpose does this serve? None. It's not going to make it easier to evangelize Muslims or foster respect for our religious beliefs."

George Bullard, the associate executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, called it "a local church autonomy issue."

"It does not represent the sentiment of our convention," he said. "I can't speak for any particular church, but we are not in support of that."

While demonstrating a degree of tolerance the Christ Cultists seem to lack, Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Council on Islamic-American relations, notes that Jesus is actually considered a significant figure in Islam:

"Christians often ask themselves, 'What would Jesus do?'" said the group's spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper. "I don't think Jesus, who is loved by Muslims and mentioned frequently in the Quran, would use such hate-filled and divisive rhetoric."

But, proving that wingnuttia is a vast, yet empty void, the article goes on to mention:

Lovelace said he does not believe he is being intolerant.
The Hominids

While following my own advice and perusing WIIIAI, I came across Banksey's latest:
Dueling Lines of the Day

OK, maybe they're not really dueling, since one was from yesterday...

From Needlenose, I came across the VERY well-written "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It" (I recommend bookmarking, as opposed to trying to type the entire URL). Anyway, there are any number of lines worth quoting in this post about Afghanistan--the entire piece is well worth reading (and, as a bonus, there are some wonderfully captioned photos). But the one that got me was near the end:

A soldier beats a prisoner from his country to death for, supposedly, spitting at him, and Karzai has to pretend that’s sufficient. It’s the puppet thing taken to the next level: instead of speaking while Bush drinks a glass of water, he has to speak while eating whatever shit is handed to him.

However, from Eschaton and Surburban Guerrilla, Mark Kleiman offers his opinion of esteemed Justice Clarence Thomas:

If a state law called for shoving a red-hot poker up the defendant's rectum immediately after indictment, Thomas (George Bush's ideal Justice) would point out that the precedent of Edward II showed that such a practice was not "unusual," and that in any case it wasn't covered by the Eighth Amendment because it was pre-conviction and therefore not "punishment," which by definition comes after conviction and sentence. That's just the sort of guy he is.

Either one could take the blue ribbon, if you ask me.
Marching Orders

From Le Monde (via Truthout). Caption:
Fundamentalists vest Congress to fight abortion, homosexuality, and stem cells.

The Senate averted a show down on the nuclear option last night--causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth among those with wingnut the way, Nightline viewers were treated to yet another appearance of Mary Landrieu, senior senator from the Gret Stet.

Landrieu gets a lot of face time on national broadcasts, it seems. Perhaps this is an attempt by the national Democratic Party to raise her profile--I really don't know--but if nothing else, it provides a net positive down here.

Giving credit where it's due, Landrieu spoke with some degree of sense. She noted that it's not a good idea to stop business in the Senate, when we're faced with massive budget deficits, when Louisiana desperately needs action taken on coastal erosion (she mentioned the energy bill contains provisions for this)--and she mentioned the war in Iraq, aka Operation-Let's-Go-Out-of-Our-Way-to-Do-EVERYTHING-Wrong.

Speaking of which: Eight more US soldiers now have no interest in what sort of morons Team Bush nominates for federal judgeships, and what sort of rules should govern the "advise and consent" process in the Senate:

Four soldiers died in two separate attacks in central Baghdad today, and another four were killed south of the capital on Monday.

Two Iraqi civilians were also killed in Baghdad today when a car bomb exploded near a police station.

Today's attacks came after at least 33 people were killed on Monday in car bomb blasts aimed at Iraqi Shiites in what appeared to be the latest attempt to exploit the sectarian divisions that have tormented the country.

Three United States soldiers with a Task Force Baghdad convoy were killed when a car bomb exploded at about 1:30 p.m. today in the central part of the city, a military spokesman said.

About an hour later, in the same area of Baghdad, gunmen shot and killed an American soldier at an observation post. The soldier later died from his wounds, said the spokesman with Task Force Baghdad, Sgt. First Class David Abrams.

Also today, the military said that four soldiers assigned to the Marines were killed on Monday when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle during combat operations in Haswa, about 25 miles south of Baghdad...

All told on Monday, attacks across Iraq killed at least 43 people, including Waiel al-Rubaie, a senior aide in Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's administration, and his driver, who were shot to death in the Mansour district of Baghdad. The American military said three American soldiers were also killed in the northern city of Mosul on Sunday.

In other Iraqi news, it turns out that Rummy was, as you might guess, flat wrong (again) when he implied that reports of looting museums were exaggerated:

The latest figures, presented to the art crime conference yesterday by John Curtis of the British Museum, suggested that half of the 40 iconic items from the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad still had not been retrieved. And of at least 15,000 items looted from its storerooms, about 8,000 have yet to be traced.

And, in case you were wondering, more than 150 foreigners were kidnapped in Iraq last year. Of that number, roughly one third were eventually killed.

US occupation forces are supposed to provide internal security. I'd say it's pretty apparent they're unable to do the job. Which isn't exactly a good sign.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Opposition ABC's

I missed this Stan Goff piece on Counterpunch Thursday, but happened upon it over the weekend--coincidently, C-Span found their spine and rebroadcast George Galloway's testimony several times as well.

Of course, the Senate committee still hasn't produced a transcript of Galloway's opening statement, despite the fact that it's freely available on any of a number of web sites.

The point isn't that the MP is a saint, or martyr, or anything of the sort--but he DID demonstrate, as Goff notes, "[how to speak] as an opposition:"

Since there seems to be a great dark space in the middle of your heads where the notion of opposition should be ­ a void filled by parliamentary molasses and the pusillanimous inabilty to tell simple truths ­ I suggest you all review the recordings of Galloway's confrontation with Republican Senator Norm "Twit" Coleman to see exactly how effortless it is to stand up to these cheap political bullies. While you are at it, you can watch your colleague Carl Levin demonstrate exactly what I mean about most of you and your party, as he alternately hurls petulant cream-puff insults at Galloway and kisses Coleman's stunned, clueless ass to give that toothy dipshit some comfort in the wake of Galloway's verbal drubbing.

Galloway didn't have to walk up to the docket and slap the cowboy shit out of Coleman ­ though I admit I still struggle with my own secret urges to do just that with most of the air-brushed, combed-over, Stepford meat-puppets who now people the United States Congress. No, all Galloway had to do was tell the unvarnished truth, and it had exactly the same effect. If Democrats had half the spine that Galloway does, if you would stop chasing your creepy little careers through the caviar and chicken-salad circuits of duck-and-cover American political double-speak, then not only would people like me not be calling for all to abandon the Democratic Party and take their fight to the streets like good Bolivians not only that, but you'd have won the last election.

Goff notes the same thing as Krugman (see below): Democrats, at least on the national level, have been badly outmanuevered, and at least in part the result of their own doing. Remember when the common slur against the party was that they were only interested in what was going on "inside the beltway?" That STILL seems to be the case, even as the GOP pisses/spits on common folk while claiming it's warm rain.

Admittedly, in exchange, the GOP sanctions the politics of hate, which seems to be as strong a vote-getter these days as ever. Last fall it was "smear the queers," previously it's been "black--get back," and it's ALWAYS been "feminist=feminazi,"--a pyramid base of prejudice. Given that this hate is, interestingly, sanctioned by the peculiar brand of Christianity common among the mouth-breathers, a solid base of support awaits those who tap into the fear and loathing.

That said, the shrinking violet approach to opposition has NO chance of success, while "GOP-lite" is even worse (allowing "a little bit of hate" is sort of like implying that someone can be "a little pregnant").

Now, there's plenty to be disappointed about with one Howard Dean, but this weekend he at least gave Tim Russert a bit of a pranging--and the looming battle royale over "the nuclear option" could signal a turnaround among the Dems, if they follow up.

However, getting back to Goff:

People follow those who speak plainly and fight. Aside from Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, and Cynthia McKinney (not surprisingly Black women who know where it goes if you let rich white men get away with giving you a bunch of shit) and a precious few others, the Democratic Party is not only just another party controlled by big capitalists; it is not even a good *capitalist* opposition party (much less a real opposition).

In other words, he doesn't think there's gonna be any follow up:

You don't deserve anyone's support, not even as a tactical matter any longer, because you end up doing ritual verbal combat then give the "cornpone Nazis" of the Republcan Party any goddamn thing they want. That's why Galloway rhetorically spanking that soap-opera-looking shitbird was the most satisfying thing many of us have seen in months.

Goff is a former Army careerist (and NOT one on the "corporate" career path--he was a soldier) who doesn't mince words--nor does he tolerate any bullshit. As such, I'm not too surprised he's ready to cut the Democratic Party loose.

I'm not nearly as inclined to do the same, perhaps in part because I'm willing to tolerate a lot more bullshit--but I think the Democrats could do a hell of a lot better if they'd stop agonizing and apologizing, and instead throw a few punches. One major offensive can and should be one pointing out that it's NOT America that's tarnishing it's reputation throughout the world--it's a bizarre combination of cracker capitalists and ignorant Christ cultists who neither know capitalism nor Christianity. And the REAL problem with waiting until they fail is that they'll be dragging down with them a whole lot of people.

Again, as noted below, I can only hope that isn't gonna happen.
Fair Warning

Once again, Krugman has some interesting things to say--far more interesting than, say, Daniel Excrement Okrent (The Daily Howler has as good a reply as anyone to the Times' 'public editor').

But I digress...the focus of Krugman's op-ed today is that the 2004 election wasn't the death of government by any stretch:

After November's election, the victors claimed a mandate to unravel the welfare state. But the national election was about who would best defend us from gay married terrorists. At the state level, where elections were fought on bread-and-butter issues, voters sent a message that they wanted a stronger, not weaker, social safety net.

I'm not just talking about the shift in partisan alignment, in which Democrats made modest gains in state legislatures, and achieved a few startling successes. I'm also talking about specific issues, like the lopsided votes in both Florida and Nevada for constitutional amendments raising the minimum wage.

Since the election, high-profile right-wing initiatives, at both the federal and state level, have run into a stone wall of public disapproval. President Bush's privatization road show seems increasingly pathetic. In California, the conservative agenda of Arnold Schwarzenegger, including an attempt to partially privatize state pensions, has led to demonstrations by nurses, teachers, police officers and firefighters - and to a crash in his approval ratings.

There's a very good reason voters, when given a chance to make a clear choice, increasingly support a stronger, not a weaker, social safety net: they need that net more than ever. Over the past 25 years the lives of working Americans have become ever less secure. Jobs come without health insurance; 401(k)'s vanish; corporations default on their pension obligations; workers lose their jobs more often, and unemployment lasts much longer than it used to.

By way of example, Krugman cites a bill passed by the Maryland legislature that would have mandated an increase in health care expenditures by big businesses. The bill was vetoed by the governor, but the fact that it was passed in the first place is significant.

Krugman implies that BOTH parties at the national level are, well, disconnected from the needs of their constituents...but rather than paraphrase, let me cite him directly:

Why, then, is Washington so out of touch?

At a gala dinner in his honor, Tom DeLay cited his party's recent achievements: "bankruptcy reform, class-action reform, energy, border security, repealing the death tax." All of these measures are either irrelevant to or actively hostile to the economic security of working Americans.

Yet as Mr. DeLay boasted, many Democratic members of Congress also voted in support of these measures. In so doing, they undermined their party's ability to claim that it stands for something different.

So where will change come from?

Then, to conclude, we have this:

Everyone loves historical analogies. Here's my thought: maybe 2004 was 1928. During the 1920's, the national government followed doctrinaire conservative policies, but reformist policies that presaged the New Deal were already bubbling up in the states, especially in New York.

In 1928 Al Smith, the governor of New York, was defeated in an ugly presidential campaign in which Protestant preachers warned their flocks that a vote for the Catholic Smith was a vote for the devil. But four years later F.D.R. took office, and the New Deal began.

Of course, the coming of the New Deal was hastened by a severe national depression. Strange to say, we may be working on that, too.

I'll flat out say that I hope for once Krugman is dead wrong re: working on a severe national depression. But all I've got is hope, while I think the professor might well be sitting on a fair bit of evidence.

LOTS of Common Ancestors

Your Right Hand Thief struck the right tone today, noting the interesting juxtaposition of "news" from Tangipahoa Parish here in the Gret Stet...

Short version: Rev. Louis Husser (too bad his first name and middle initial aren't "Buford T.") has his panties all in a knot over the ACLU's insistance that church and state maintain a degree of separation. Rev. Husser, who apparently has forgotten Biblical admonitions re: public prayer, additionally distinguishes himself with one of the oddest conspiracy theories I've ever heard:

In the cafeteria at Loranger High School, a thumbprint machine to identify students has aroused the ire of parents who think the machine "is a forerunner of the Antichrist," Husser said.

"We know that there are electronic devices that will be used in the End-Time by the Antichrist," the minister said. "Some feel that it is leading into some of the tactics of the Antichrist, which is a cashless system."


Tangipahoa, as you might expect, has likewise found itself in conflict with the ACLU over (what else) evolution...and, if you stop and think about it, folks arguing that the end time is manifest due to debit cards aren't exactly occupying the higher rungs of that ladder.

Meanwhile, the REAL agenda of the school district suffers:

But a few others in the parish are worried that one set of beliefs is struggling to establish dominance over all others, and liberties are getting lost in the process.

"I don't think the schools are the place for the prevalence for a particular type of religion," said Howard Nichols, a former school board member. "The people behind all this are fundamentalist Christians. They have stampeded the board by these massive demonstrations," he said. "I think we are diverting a tremendous amount of time that could be spent on improving test scores."

And he's concerned that a school district with a mediocre record -- it sits in the middle of state rankings -- is being distracted from academics.

Oh, and while the god mob bloviates, a group of fellow travelers is now under investigation for behavior that, if true, is just plain nuts.

On that note, let's sincerely hope that THESE allegations aren't what they appear, or are at worst confined to a few sick individuals. The article references the McMartin preschool case, which turned out to be a Reagan-era sham. Zealot prosecutors destroyed the lives of innocent people.

So, let's give these folks due process, even if their comrades are disinclined to such constitutional provisions. However, it's not a stretch to say the members of Hosanna church were, well, batshit-insane AND good Christians.

Those things seem to go hand in hand.