Friday, October 07, 2005

Truth to Power

There's so much in Juan Cole's analysis of Dubya's speech that it's difficult to know where to begin, or what to specifically cite. Talk about--well, I was going to call it a smackdown, but it's not. It's a carefully reasoned, line-by-line refutation of such a profoundly stupid policy that I really hope you've got time to look at. Here's the conclusion:

Mr. Bush, I don't recognize the world you paint. I find your speech a form of sheer propaganda, having almost no relationship to reality. And I am very, very worried that you will allow to happen to the Oil Gulf what you allowed to happen to New Orleans. After watching you for five years I have become convinced that you don't have the slightest idea what you are doing in Iraq, that you are just reacting and playing it by ear. You can't do that, George. This Iraq thing is extremely complex. It needs serious, concerted thought by high-powered people, not just your cronies and yes-men and ideologues of various stripes (from Right to far-Right). You might just need the help of Iran and Syria to get Iraq right. Did you ever think of that? Iraq is the biggest policy failure in US history so far. You need to get a handle on it, the way you do on tax cuts for the billionaires (you've been very effective in making your rich friends richer). Otherwise all that extra treasure you've thrown to your tuxedoed "base" is going to go right down the tubes, drowned in a world of $20 a gallon gasoline.

You can't "stay the course" because you don't have a course. Get one.
No Lipstick

My super secret source (NOT, I assure you, Karl or Scooter...although those who enjoy their Schadenfreude protracted might like reading this)...anyway, my source, on deep background, provided for my perusal Krugman's latest from Times Select.

So, I'll pass it along to y'all--enjoy:

A Pig in a Jacket

During the California electricity crisis, Dick Cheney sneered at energy conservation, calling it a mere "sign of personal virtue." But this week Samuel Bodman, the energy secretary - who is widely regarded as Mr. Cheney's proxy - declared that "the main thing that U.S. citizens can do is conserve." Is the Bush administration going green?

No, not really. This administration's idea of encouraging conservation is an ad campaign centered on a cartoon pig. When it comes to substantive energy policy, the administration is still thinking drill-and-burn.

The background to Mr. Bodman's remarks is growing public anger over high energy prices. Most of the focus right now is on the price of gasoline, but the worst is yet to come: just wait until people see their winter heating bills, especially for natural gas, which has roughly doubled in price since last year.
And the political danger to the administration is obvious: polls suggest that many people blame energy companies for high energy prices, and blame the administration for failing to control price gouging.

Funny, isn't it? During the California crisis, some of us deduced from economic evidence that electricity shortages were artificial, the result of market manipulation by energy producers and traders. This deduction was later confirmed by the Enron tapes, but at the time we were voices crying in the wilderness.
Now, much of the public believes that corporate evildoers with close ties to the administration are conspiring to drive prices up. But this time they aren't, at least so far.

Just in case you think I've gone soft on the energy industry, let me say that claims that we're having a crisis because environmentalists wouldn't let oil companies do their job are equally bogus. When you hear someone talk about how no refineries were built for 25 years, remember that until recently, oil companies weren't interested in building refineries, because they had excess capacity and profit margins were thin.

In fact, the current crisis is nobody's fault, except Mother Nature's. Both Katrina and Rita were stronger hurricanes when they plowed through offshore oil and gas fields than when they made landfall. And because damaged refineries and other energy facilities are competing for a limited number of repair crews, it's taking a long time to get those facilities back up and running.
What this means is that a lot of "demand destruction" must take place over the next few months. That is, one way or another, people will have to be persuaded to limit their consumption of natural gas, gasoline and heating oil to match the available supply.

In the absence of an effective conservation policy, prices will do all the persuading: the cost of fuel will rise until people drive less and turn down their thermostats. The problem, of course, is that high prices will impose serious hardship on many families.

And that's why administration officials are sounding vaguely greenish: they hope to limit the price pain by persuading people to curb their energy consumption out of a sense of public duty. Done right, such a campaign really could make a difference. In fact, energy conservation played a significant role in ending California's crisis four years ago.

But as you might expect, the administration's conservation push lacks conviction. President Bush has spoken in favor of conservation, but he seems more interested in trying to justify the Iraq war. And the administration's attempt to promote "Energy Hog," a cartoon pig in a leather jacket, as a conservation mascot verges on the pathetic.

So it's going to be a long, cold winter. But what about the longer term?
The long-term case for energy conservation doesn't have much to do with the current shortages. Instead, it's about national security, broadly defined - reduced dependence on Middle East oil supplies, reduced emission of greenhouse gases. But one might have hoped that the administration's new willingness to use the language of conservation would spill over into long-run policy.

No such luck: when it comes to substantive actions, as opposed to public relations, it's still the same old, same old. Mr. Bush has called for more refineries, but has said nothing about raising mileage requirements and efficiency standards for appliances. And as for a higher gasoline tax, which would be politically possible only with broad bipartisan backing - don't be silly.

Conservation's day will come. But it hasn't happened yet.
Mission From God

So, I wonder if God told Shrub about the death and carnage his foolhardy invasion of Iraq would unleash. Today's body count stands at six Americans and lord knows how many Iraqis, innocent or not.

I wonder if God mentioned that, two years plus into the invasion, American soldiers would be torturing Iraqis, more for fun than anything else, or that "war porn" would enter the national lexicon, rolling off the tongue as easily as "nice day, isn't it?"

Perhaps God also told the Shrubster that, contrary to the latter's assurances, there'd STILL be terrorist threats--some real, some fake, causing genuine suffering or at the very least serious stress--and I wonder if God let the dauphin in on a little secret: that a free society will ALWAYS be at risk, but that you have to strike a balance between legitimate concerns and respect for freedom...and that violence should always be a LAST resort--which precludes wars of choice against countries who pose no threat (regardless of how much of a son-of-a-bitch is running said country).

God was awfully short with Shrub..."take Saddam out." That's it? Nothing else? You'd thing "all powerful, all knowing, etc. etc." would cut even the most clueless (read that as "Junior") about all these things...

Of course, there's a much more logical explanation: the pResident is "hearing voices in his head."

Think about it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What I Meant, Your Majesty*

Well, well. Karl "the Warthog" Rove must've had a panic attack:

Federal prosecutors have accepted an offer from presidential adviser Karl Rove to give 11th-hour testimony in the case of a CIA officer's leaked identity but have warned they cannot guarantee he won't be indicted, according to people directly familiar with the investigation.

The persons, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy, said Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has not made any decision yet on whether to file criminal charges against the longtime confidant of President Bush or others.

The U.S. attorney's manual requires prosecutors not to bring witnesses before a grand jury if there is a possibility of future criminal charges unless they are notified in advance that their grand jury testimony can be used against them in a later indictment.

Rove has already made at least three grand jury appearances and his return at this late stage in the investigation is unusual.

The prosecutor did not give Rove similar warnings before his earlier grand jury appearances.

Wonder what he's gonna
A Few Ounces of Sanity

Can't find an online link, but a friend send this to me--looks like it's from the BR Business Report:

The state Department of Transportation and Development, which wants to establish Amtrak service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, should have a proposal for the project from Kansas City Southern and Amtrak no later than mid-month, says Cleo Allen, spokeswoman for DOTD. "Once we get that, then we'll be able to determine financial viability and where to start the ball rolling for the funding request," she says.
The project would require $25 million for three years of operation during hurricane recovery, with more money likely needed for capital improvements. FEMA and the Federal Highway Administration are two potential sources of funding. Initial service, with two trains departing daily from Baton Rouge and two from New Orleans, could begin 30 to 60 days after funding is firmed up, Allen says, adding that the need for light rail between the two cities has taken on a new urgency since Katrina. "This situation is different in that we're talking about a service for displaced workers, people who need to come to town for office jobs, reconstruction, to work on their own houses. This service would also really unite the region; the premise for the service is completely different and perhaps that make might a difference in how it's received."

Allen says she hopes passenger use will be high enough that train service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans can become permanent. Train stations at Memorial Stadium and in Ascension Parish are being considered. New Orleans has the Union Passenger terminal near the Superdome. (Steve Clark)

Well, it's about goddamned time. You'd think rail service between the largest and second largest cities in a particular region would be a no-brainer...but logic has never been a strong suit in the Gret Stet.

And, in a "will miracles ever cease" case, here's another snippet from the same publication:

New B.R. zoning rules would permit mixed use, walkable neighborhoods
A panel of the Smart Growth Task Force has started discussing a new zoning classification that permits traditional neighborhood projects, the ones that blend retail, offices and housing in a walkable community. Boo Thomas, executive director of Plan Baton Rouge, says there is widespread support for adopting TND zoning. The first traditional neighborhood development in Baton Rouge will be Willow Grove on Perkins Road by Richard Carmouche.

A neighborhood where you can actually walk--here in Baton Rouge? You've got to realize that at least half the neighborhoods in this town don't even have sidewalks ("Sidewalks? Whaddya need those for? You can't drive on em...")...

Geez. If the city keeps this up, there might actually be some clean air to breathe.
I Hope This Isn't True

But if it is, then this country should be very, very worried. From People Get Ready:

I talked to a source over the weekend who I'll leave anonymous for now. Suffice it to say, he isn't a law enforcement official, but his job allows him to move into areas of the city that are generally forbidden to average citizens - that means, in particular, the Ninth Ward. Most of the I-10 exits passing through the Ninth Ward are blocked by National Guard soldiers. One some occasions, my source said that he was simply told, "Sorry, not today. There's something going on in there."

My source said he asked an old special forces friend who maintains contacts in the field about the off-limits warnings. His friend revealed that a private security firm was eliminating criminals who stayed behind after Katrina. The name of the security firm my source cited was "Sweetwater", although I think he meant "Blackwater". That's right, Blackwater is the private security company providing security details to high profile officials in Iraq. Then, the shocking statistic came out: according to the ex-special forces soldier, the security firm killed 175 people in 2 days...

Notwithstanding my hawkish stance on the treatment of criminals in New Orleans, I am profoundly troubled that a private security firm was hired to secure the city. The last time I checked, we still lived under a constitution that secures our freedom until proven guilty in a court of law, and before a jury of our peers. I can fully understand that some a-hole wielding an automatic rifle should be taken out. But I'm very uneasy about a private mercenary force patrolling the streets I live on - or hope to live on again. Street execution by a private corporate army is just beyond the pale of anything I could have imagined would ever happen in the United States of America. On the other hand, Blackwater personnel were, reportedly, deputized by Governor Blanco. The problem is that these guys are, by and large, mercenaries who don't have civilian law enforcement training.

Yawn. The pResident, like an old GI Joe doll, delivered yet another "stay the course" speech. Pull the string and get the same, repetitive, tired old lines:

freedom is once again assaulted by enemies
global campaign of freedom
we will see freedom's victory

Two, four, six eight:

I appreciate Carl Gershman
I appreciate Chris Cox
I appreciate the secretary of state


fourth anniversary of a great evil
proud city covered in smoke and ashes
September the 11th
like September 11th
September the 11th, 2001
September the 11th
September the 11th

Suck up:

Ronald Reagan
General Peter Pace
Americans in uniform

Fear mongering:

mortal danger to all humanity
deadly bombing
Innocent men and women and children
the killers
evil Islamic radicalism
militant jihadism
Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot
Al Qaeda
Bin Laden
(wonder if he coughed)
Wolf (well, not really, but...)

OK, I guess you get the gist of it. And, to be honest, on a purely rhetorical level, there are some items with which I can agree: hell yes, terrorists seek to exploit conditions of suffering (especially when suffering results from occupation). Duh. And there are at enough nut-jobs out in the world with ready access to enough designed or improvised weaponry to be a cause for concern.

But there's more to the GWOT than the ultimate fool's errand in invading Iraq, and NO justification after the fact takes away from it being the ultimate Operation Stumblebum. In a sense, Operation Iraqi Clusterfuck is the perfect metaphor for Dubya himself, all pomp and show but ZERO substance, ZERO planning, and, when all's finally said and done, ZERO return. I've used this metaphor before, and don't really like it all that much, but it fits: they confused scoring a touchdown with winning the game. Ask the average Saints fan if that's how it works.

Shrubusto can bark all he wants, but Iraq is a done deal (emphasis on DONE)--and, if he had the slightest shred of conscience, at the VERY least you'd hear something about "to the extent the federal government is responsible blah blah blah." But you don't even hear that. A couple of days ago, when asked about the "Iraqi security forces" (who really are making ARVN look like disciplined cadres), Bush talked right out of his ass. Does the guy even KNOW what Rummy said last week?

Bush is not merely crashing and burning--he's increasingly becoming irrevelant. Despite fawning praise from the likes of Rick Santorum--which itself speaks volumes(Santorum is evidently a rat that's too stupid to desert the sinking ship), speeches like this merely hammer home the point that the Brush-Clearer in Chief has no clue as to existing conditions in the war he started--and neither does he understand the broader picture, beyond hackneyed platitudes more suited for high school debate--or, to be more precise, cheerleader for high school debate.

Yes, developing a long term strategy or strategery for countering terrorism is definitely hard work--both physical and mental. Why anyone would think the pathetic failure occupying the White House could accomplish either is quite beyond me.
The Night Before Fitzmas, or a Visit From The Special Prosecutor

Rising Hegemon interprets an old classic.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Personal Business Concluded

And, on a happy note at that...apologies for the slow posting again today, but I managed to finally conclude a personal matter that's been in flux for the last month or so. I've mentioned this in a couple of posts below, and will provide details in the next week or so.

Now back to normal posting--I hope.
Gunfire: The New Wakeup Call

Hat tip to Attaturk--another "slice of life" piece from Knight Ridder, or, without trying to sound gruesome, more of a slice of corpse:

Matthew Schofield, Knight Ridder Newspaper's Berlin-based Europe correspondent, is beginning a six-week assignment in Knight Ridder's Baghdad Bureau - his third reporting trip to the Iraqi capital since he accompanied U.S. Marines during the initial U.S. push into Iraq in March 2003. The following account was written as a memo on how he'd spent his second day back in the country.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - So, this was my Tuesday:

Woke up, 7 a.m., gunfire outside. Decided to read in the windowless bathroom, then take shower and brush teeth, using bottled water, of course.

9 a.m. - Kevin, a former British Royal Marine commando who's in charge of security for Knight Ridder, warns that things might be heating up, so be careful out there. He reads the daily reports of violence all over the country.

"Out where?" I ask. "I'm not leaving the building, am I?"

"Yes," I'm told, "You're on for the Green Zone" - the supposedly secure city center that is home to most of the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy.

10 a.m. - Go have breakfast. Kevin carries a blue backpack containing an AK-47. He says that I need some exercise and that he's willing to cover me if I go for a swim later. I think he's joking.

11 a.m. - We leave the 10-foot-high blast walls that surround the hotel complex in a two-car convoy. The rear car's job is to run interference in case "bad guys" try to intercept "the package" (that would be me).

Noon - Dropped off several blocks from the Green Zone and walk to Checkpoint 3 (the main entrance). Walking because on Monday Iraqi army soldiers pushed me back inside the car, while pointing a machine gun at my head and shouting. They fired at reporters - warning shots, the reporters think - from National Public Radio and The Wall Street Journal. The three incidents prompted a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman to start a briefing with journalists by saying, "OK, raise your hand if you were shot at today."

As I'm walking, phone rings. I answer. My Iraqi colleague Mohammed, who reports full time for Knight Ridder, takes the phone from my hand, whispering fiercely, "No English here. Be very, very afraid here."

I get inside and call the number back, reaching a very nice U.S. Army major who says we need to meet to discuss how to make the entrance to the Green Zone safer for journalists. "Can you meet in about an hour?" he asks. I agree, and he says he'll pick me up at the National Assembly building at 12:50 p.m., and we'll walk together to Checkpoint 3.

12:10 p.m. - Get inside National Assembly building. Someone steals my watch at the final security check.

12:30 p.m. - Talking to Saddam Hussein's old translator. He explains that democracy in the new Iraq is a fiasco. Bush's fault, and Bush will have to face the judgment of history for his mistakes. (All times from here are approximate; see above.)

12:50 p.m. - The major is late so I decide to head down to the checkpoint and wait for him. Mohammed says, "No, you're not. You're waiting for his call."

1 p.m. - On phone with the major, who's apologizing for being late when a car bomb explodes at Checkpoint 3 entrance. Gunfire ensues.

1-3 p.m. - Locked down in National Assembly building with legislators while bomb debris and bodies are cleared from the street.

Here's the rest. Yeah, they can they're "making progress," or the insurgents are in their "last throes," or whatever the hell they want. Doesn't make it true.
Less Than Zero

About the only thing that made watching yesterday's press conference slightly less nauseating was the realization that Bush is truly in freefall...the guy's deflating faster than the Hindenburg, and with much the same result: crash and burn.

Sure, there were a few things that even the incredible shrinking mandate couldn't adjust--at times, Dub flashed his innate arrogance, his answer to a question about how the GOP could appeal to minority voters was, to put it diplomatically, patronizing--and, as usual, he either drifted around questions like a paddleless canoe, or knit his brow in poolhall concentration before forcing out three point responses, depending on what I can only guess was his mood of the moment. However, something's missing.

The press dutifully went through their motions--genuflecting, displaying deference to the dauphin, laughing at his lame jokes, but I think all but the most delusional realize that not only will history's judgement of Bush rank him down at the bottom, near Harding, Buchanan, and will contemporary accounts. Like an old television set, Shrubelroy is in the state between the time you hit the off button but before the image leaves the screen--fading and shrinking before turning into a singularity...then, finally, poof: it's gone.

Aside: It was ironic that the only clear statement Shrubusto made yesterday was a stirring defense of "executive privilege," that is, the same thing Nixon banked on during his own Hindenburg impersonation some thirty years or so ago. Listening to this reminded me of a line I recall reading somewhere in one of Hunter Thompson's books--probably The Great Shark Hunt--that summed up "executive privilege" as really nothing more than a modern version of the divine right of kings. Yep.

Despite Bush's famous claims that he really doesn't care about history, the fact that he will be known as a failure must be galling, particularly when you consider that his own father's reputation has been has Bill Clinton's (and lord only knows what Son-of-Bush thinks about the relationship between 41 and 42). When all is said and done, Dubya's reign will be an afterthought--albeit one with an ugly aftertaste in the forms of John Roberts and Harriet Miers.

Finally, there's the upcoming fall season of indictments, which should make for interesting times...don't know about y'all, but I vaguely remember when Nixonair made its own forced, hard-landing. This one is beginning to look about the same.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Squirm DeLay Squirm

After reading the latest about the former--and it's now looking like forever former--Majority Leader, I've gotta think the blood and bile are rising so high inside him that the for next few weeks--if not longer--he'll feel like it's midsummmer in Sugarland, minus the A/C:

A Texas grand jury indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) yesterday for alleged involvement in money laundering related to the 2002 Texas election, raising new and more serious allegations than the conspiracy charge lodged against the former House majority leader last week.
The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.

DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.

House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists.

Tom's defense? It's all about the golf.

And while it's fun to watch the sumbitch put on the tough guy act when you know he's quivering, this scandal actually crosses over the pond, and becomes a reverse British Invasion--indeed, it's serious enough to make Maggie Thatcher pull out the Pinochet defense.

I guess Tom's too young to try that...of course, he could maybe claim it was a chemical reaction...
Bush: No Trajan

So writes Gary Leupp, and I doubt anyone--even Harriet Miers--would disagree with his assessment:

...if America is comparable to Rome, George Bush is surely no Trajan...

And while Leupp cites the dangers in drawing analogies, his short article is worth reading whether or not you're drawn to history--and some things can't escape comparison:

Trajan had not gone in to the war intending to provoke rebellions or terrorism. His ostensible reason was to punish Parthia for political interference in the kingdom of Armenia, which Rome considered part of its sphere of influence. But Dio Cassius called this a "pretext" and declared that Trajan simply wanted "to win renown." Julian Bennett in his recent biography of Trajan agrees with this assessment (Trajan, Optimus Princeps: A Life and Times, 1997).

In 117 the proud emperor wisely elected to withdraw from Mesopotamia, and died in retreat in Cilicia. His adopted son and successor, Hadrian, returned Mesopotamia to Parthia the following year. "Thus it was," wrote Dio, "that the Romans, in conquering Armenia, most of Mesopotamia, and the Parthians, had undergone severe hardships and dangers for naught." But as historian B. W. Henderson put it, "it was very wise to abandon what could not be kept."

"Win renown"...sounds a lot like "I'm a war president."
Peeance, Freeance

"Look, Harriet, I don't give a shit about O--, um, Os-aima bin Laden. Let's go watch Barney chase an armadillo."

A mind is a terrible thing to have--or not to have a mind at all.

Funny enough, I expect to have almost the exact same expression in photo #2 above when I will myself to actually watch the damn press conference tonight. Just reading it is enough to make my dentist grin with anticipation: I'm literally grinding through fillings. Jesus.

I could pull out and post almost ANY pathetic set of consecutive syllables by way of demonstration, but I'm guessing you already know our pResident is some mix and match of vicious knuckle-walker and scowling idiot. I mean, shit, where do you begin?

So, if you dare, here's the entire stupefying transcript...plowing through it almost makes HeeHaw look like Dr. Zhivago.

# (apologies to YRHT for borrowing one of his practices)

From WIIIAI, who describes this as "must read." I couldn't agree more:

The first soldiers to arrive on Khalil Bashir's doorstep in Gaza five years ago explained the new geography of his home in terms he understood only too well. His three-storey house was to be like the West Bank, the Israeli officer said, with its areas of divided security and administrative control.
The army designated the living room as "Area A", after the part of the occupied territories where the Palestinians have control, and told all three generations of the Bashirs, from 81-year-old Zanah to her five-year-old granddaughter, that they were confined there for most nights and sometimes for much of the day. It was the only part of the house they could still call their own.

The bathroom, kitchen and bedrooms were "Area B", where Palestinians administer themselves but Israel has security control. In the Bashir home that meant soldiers had priority and the family had to ask permission to cook or go to the toilet.

And then came "Area C", where the Israeli military government runs everything and the Palestinians have no authority. The soldiers warned the Bashirs that all of their home above the ground floor was Area C and if they ventured up the stairs they would be shot...

"Occupation is getting up in the morning to make tea and finding a soldier in your kitchen making coffee," said Mrs Bashir. "Occupation is when I wanted to go to the toilet, a soldier had to go with me. I wasn't allowed in my bedroom. I looked in on my way to the toilet one day and there was a soldier with no clothes on in my bed. Occupation is your son walking around with a bullet in his back even after the soldiers have gone."

The day the soldiers moved in to Mr Bashir's house he vowed that no matter what they threw at him, he would not hate; his energies would go into trying to understand and, in his words, love the Israelis. Mr Bashir, a headmaster, began by leading hundreds of his pupils in a chant for peace each morning.

"I witnessed three wars and two intifadas and now I'm thinking of my children's future," he said. "I don't want them to see war and the only way to prevent that is to overcome the mountain of suspicion. We are destined to live together with the Israelis. We have to change our mentality. If we let our wounded memory guide our future steps we will have only pain."

There has been much to test Mr Bashir's resolve over the past five years. The military tried to prise the family out of the house. It made a wasteland of the greenhouses and fruit orchards, including 170 palm trees, that provided their relative wealth. Soldiers wounded Mr Bashir with a mortar and shot and injured two of his sons, leaving one with a bullet lodged next to his spine and in danger of paralysis. They also killed the family donkey.

For the last few weeks until the Israelis finally left Gaza last month, the family was confined to the living room day and night while the army prepared for the withdrawal. Even the children had to knock on the door for permission to go to the toilet.

It all happened because the Bashir home had the misfortune of being 20 metres from the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, an outpost of religious Israelis. When the Israeli soldiers arrived during the first few weeks of the intifada, they wanted the family to leave the house altogether. But the Palestinians learnt during Israel's 1948 independence war that if they abandoned property the Israelis would take it or destroy it.

"This place is the cradle of my childhood," Mr Bashir said. "I don't want to commit the mistake my people made in 1948. I don't want to be a refugee."

At first he thought that being confined with the soldiers would provide an opportunity to break down the suspicion and persuade them that there were Palestinians who believed in peace and coexistence. But he found them unwilling to listen, or under orders not to. "They behaved professionally but they didn't leave room for human contact. Their orders were not to be friendly with us," he said. Mr Bashir was regularly forced to strip to his underwear on his own doorstep before entering the house, often in front of his children...

Last month, after the soldiers hauled off the machine guns and finally drove away, Mr Bashir ventured up the stairs of his home for the first time in five years. What he found was a relatively small thing compared with the shootings of his sons and the destruction of his orchards, but it left him flummoxed for the first time since the soldiers arrived: placed around the walls were the Bashirs' cooking pots, each with a pile of human excrement in the bottom.

"The moralistic army used our cooking pots as lavatories," Mr Bashir said. "They dominate my bathroom and they use the toilet all the time. So why did they behave in this way? They used our cooking pots and they left them behind deliberately. They gathered everything, even empty bottles, sandbags and took it with them. But they left this as a souvenir."

Mr Bashir grappled to understand and reluctantly concluded that it could only be explained as a deliberate and provocative mocking of everything the soldiers knew he stood for.

"I am not angry. I am disappointed." he said. "I am disappointed because I didn't expect the Israeli army to behave in this way. I used to tell my friends that in spite of everything, the Israeli army is civilised. I really have to think about that now."
Busy Morning

Back this afternoon--too much work...but, on a personal note, something positive. More on that as it develops.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Here's an extended play version of something Oyster posted about last week--LBJ's '65 visit to NOLA in the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy, and a comparison between 1965 and 2005. Long, but worth looking at.
No Success Like Failure

Another end around on Times Select, this is Paul Krugman's latest--the last paragraphs sum it up as good as anything:

So here's the key to understanding post-Katrina policy: Mr. Bush can't avoid helping Katrina's victims, but he doesn't want to legitimize institutions that help the needy, like the housing voucher program. As a result, his administration refuses to use those institutions, even when they are the best way to provide victims with aid. More generally, the administration is trying to treat Katrina's victims as harshly as the political realities allow, so as not to create a precedent for other aid efforts.

As the misery of the hurricane's survivors goes on, remember this: to a large extent, they are miserable by design.

Again, here's the whole op-ed.

Again, hat tip to The Editors. Frank Rich's latest:

The bottom line, [Andrew] Ferguson wrote, was a culture antithetical to everything conservatives had stood for in the Gingrich revolution of 1994. Slaying a corrupt, bloated Democratic establishment was out, gluttony for the G.O.P. and its fat cats was in. Mr. Abramoff and his gang embodied the very enemy the "Contract with America" Congress had supposedly come to Washington to smite: "'Beltway Bandits,' profiteers who manipulate the power of big government on behalf of well-heeled people who pay them tons of money to do so." Those tons of Republican money were deposited in the favors bank of K Street, where, as The Washington Post reported this year, the number of lobbyists has more than doubled (to some 35,000) since the Bush era began in 2000. Conservatives who once aspired to cut government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub" -- as a famous Norquist maxim had it -- merely outsourced government instead to the highest bidder.

Mr. DeLay's latest plight is only a tiny detail within this vast Boschian canvas of depravity. If this were Watergate -- and Watergate itself increasingly looks like a relatively contained epidemic of corruption -- the Texas grand jury's indictment of the congressman and his associates would be a sideshow tantamount to the initial 1973 California grand jury indictment of the Nixon aide John Ehrlichman and his pals in the break-in at Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office; Watergate's real legal fireworks were still in the wings. So forget about all those details down in Texas that make your teeth hurt; don't bother to learn the difference between Trmpac and Armpac. Fasten your seat belt instead for the roller coaster of other revelations and possible indictments that's about to roar through the Beltway.

The most important plot development of the past two weeks, in fact, has nothing to do with Mr. DeLay (as far as we know). It was instead the arrest of the administration's top procurement officer, David Safavian, on charges of lying and obstructing the investigation of Mr. Abramoff. And what an investigation it is: The F.B.I., the I.R.S., the Treasury Department and the Interior Department have all been involved. The popular theory of the case has it that Mr. Safavian, a former lobbying colleague of both Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Norquist, is being muscled by the feds to rat on the big guys in Washington -- much as another smaller fish may have helped reel in Mr. DeLay in Texas.

The DeLay and Abramoff investigations are not to be confused with the many others percolating in the capital, including, most famously of late, the Justice Department and S.E.C. inquiries into the pious Bill Frist's divine stock-sale windfall and the homeland security inspector general's promised inquiry into possible fraud in the no-bid contracts doled out by FEMA for Hurricane Katrina. The mother of all investigations, of course, remains the prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's pursuit of whoever outed the C.I.A. agent Valerie Wilson to Robert Novak and whoever may have lied to cover it up. The denouement is on its way.

But whatever the resolution of any of these individual dramas, they will not be the end of the story. Like the continuing revelations of detainee abuse emerging from Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo, this is a crisis in the governing culture, not the tale of a few bad apples. Every time you turn over a rock, you find more vermin. We've only just learned from The Los Angeles Times that Joseph Schmitz, until last month the inspector general in charge of policing waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon, is himself the focus of a Congressional inquiry. He is accused of blocking the investigation of another Bush appointee who is suspected of siphoning Iraq reconstruction contracts to business cronies. At the Justice Department, the F.B.I. is looking into why a career prosecutor was demoted after he started probing alleged Abramoff illegality in Guam. According to The Los Angeles Times, the demoted prosecutor was then replaced by a Rove-approved Republican pol who just happened to be a cousin of a major target of another corruption investigation in Guam.

We have to hope that the law will get to the bottom of these cases and start to connect the recurring dots. But while everyone is innocent until proved guilty, the overall pattern stinks and has for a long time. It's so filthy that the Republican caucus couldn't even find someone clean to name as Mr. DeLay's "temporary" stand-in as House majority leader last week. As The Washington Post reported in 2003, Roy Blunt, the Missouri congressman who got the job, was found trying to alter a homeland security bill with a last-minute provision that would have benefited Philip Morris-brand cigarettes. Not only had the tobacco giant contributed royally to Mr. Blunt's various campaign coffers, but both the congressman's girlfriend (now wife) and his son were Philip Morris lobbyists at the time.

This is the culture that has given us the government we have. It's a government that has spent more of the taxpayers' money than any since L.B.J.'s (as calculated by the Cato Institute, a libertarian research institution), even as it rewards its benefactors with tax breaks and corporate pork. It's a government so used to lying that Mr. DeLay could say with a straight face that the cost of Katrina relief could not be offset by budget cuts because there was no governmental fat left to cut. It's the government that fostered the wholesale loss of American lives in both Iraq and on the Gulf Coast by putting cronyism above patriotism.
Unsurprising, but Still Unbelievable

The body armor situation for US soldiers serving in combat is STILL FUBAR'd:

Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon still hasn't figured out a way to reimburse U.S. troops for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq.

For Marine Sgt. Todd Bowers that extra equipment — a high-tech rifle scope bought by his father for $600 and a $100 pair of goggles — turned out to be a life-or-death purchase. And he has never been reimbursed.

Bowers, who is from Arizona but going to school in Washington, D.C., was shot by a sniper during his second tour in Iraq, but the round lodged in his scope, and his goggles protected his eyes from the shrapnel that struck his face.

"We weren't provided those going to Iraq," he said yesterday. "But they literally saved my life."


On Friday, a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, said in an e-mail message that Defense Department officials were "in the final stages of putting a reimbursement program together and it is expected to be operating soon." Colonel Krenke declined to discuss a reason for the delay.

Army surveys have shown that infantry members spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year on gloves, boots, flashlights and other tools used in combat...

Officials in the Defense Department initially opposed the program last year, arguing that it would be a financial burden and could undermine the accountability and effectiveness of equipment used in combat.

Recall, this is an agency that's requested $419 BILLION dollars for FY 2006, which DOESN'T include "supplementals" like, um, the cost of war...odd, no? And they STILL can't even come up with money to pay for equipment.

Idiots? Wankers? BOTH!

It's hard work--for those who chronicle the activities of wingnuttia as well as for those of us taking the time to examine their efforts and judge for ourselves.

Ergo, I'll link to both The Editors' Wanker of the Week AND Democratic Underground's Top Ten Idiots--you make the call.

Oh, and Ian has a local contender.

So many to choose from...
What Goes Around...

Operation Stumblebum Overseas turns out to have direct implications for the domestic version:

Relief efforts to combat Hurricane Katrina suffered near catastrophic failures due to endemic corruption, divisions within the military and troop shortages caused by the Iraq war, an official American inquiry into the disaster has revealed.

The confidential report, which has been seen by The Independent, details how funds for flood control were diverted to other projects, desperately needed National Guards were stuck in Iraq and how military personnel had to "sneak off post" to help with relief efforts because their commander had refused permission.

And how's the overseas clusterfuck proceeding? About as you'd expect:

Many American troops on the ground in Muqdadiyah expect the violence to continue long after they're gone. They worry that Sunni Muslim insurgents - from a Sunni population that makes up 40 percent of Diyala - will simply move from targeting U.S. forces to ratcheting up attacks against Shiite Muslims, who compose 35 percent of the province. Shiites are a majority in Iraq, and they dominate the Baghdad government.

Muqdadiyah is a relative backwater of some 100,000 people. But the guerrilla war there, while gaining little attention, indicates wider instability than military leaders have acknowledged and could plague efforts to put the Iraqi government on its feet.

"As soon as we leave this place they're all going to kill each other," Molina said at a meeting in his barracks recently.

His sniper team commander, Staff Sgt. Donnie Hendricks, agreed: "It's going to be a f------ civil war."...

Commanders for the 3rd Infantry Division in Diyala said the number of attacks there had dropped from about a dozen a day last year to seven. Roadside bombs, they said, have decreased by a third. The latter trend, though, hasn't held up this month. In September 2004 there were 72 roadside bombs detonated or found, but 106 this month.

"They say attacks are down. Well, no s---," Hendricks said. "We're not patrolling where the bad guys are."

U.S. patrols on a parallel road, Route Marie, ended in late May.

Pointing to Route Marie on a map on the wall of his barracks, Hendricks traced a 2-mile stretch of the road with his index finger.

"They kicked our a-- off this road," Hendricks said. "They hit us with so many IEDs we had to stop using it." He used the military's term for homemade bombs, "improvised explosive devices."