Saturday, April 05, 2003

In Case You Had Even the Slightest Doubt - Part Deux  

Yes, they really are crazy.
In this dry desert world near Najaf, where the Army V Corps combat support system sprawls across miles of scabrous dust, there's an oasis of sorts: a 500-gallon pool of pristine, cool water.

It belongs to Army chaplain Josh Llano of Houston, who sees the water shortage, which has kept thousands of filthy soldiers from bathing for weeks, as an opportunity.

''It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized,'' he said.
Is this what all the non-Christians fought World War 2 for, to have their thirsty children coerced into baptism?

via Atrios, who is angrier than I've ever read him.

Attacks On Americans In the US  

A small, psychotic minority of slimeballs who claim they are Americans have been violently disrupting antiwar demonstrations. Some have phoned in death threats. Others have provoked violence. Orcinus has details on some in his April 4 entries.

In Case You Had the Slightest Doubt  

Yes, they really are crazy.
Shortly after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stark warning to Iran and Syria last week, declaring that any "hostile acts" they committed on behalf of Iraq might prompt severe consequences, one of President Bush's closest aides stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that his unpredictable defense secretary had just raised the specter of a broader confrontation.

Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work.

Civilian Body Count Hits 1000  

As I was checking the site, just before leaving, and noticed that a milestone has been passed. One thousand civilian deaths in the war. Since 50% of Iraqis are under 15, can we assume that 500 of those are children? I don't know stats enough, but it's awful anyway you look at it. They are people just like you and me who have died. And for what?

Blogging Will Be Light Today  

Family stuff to attend to. I may go over some drafts of things or finish up some essays I've been writing, but will resume regular b'casts late tonite/tomorrow.

The Former Mideast Envoy and General: "The Wrong War"  

General Zinni, you may recall, was the Mideast envoy who had the thankless task of trying to explain All Things Bush to Arafat and Sharon, two of the world's world's most tone deaf ears under the best of circumstances. He resigned over the Iraq war, the news of which has apparently been buried, because this is the first I've heard of it. He says Iraq is "The wrong war at the wrong time":
America may be on the threshold of military victory in Iraq, but that hasn't changed Anthony Zinni's feelings against the war.

"This is in fact the wrong war at the wrong time," the retired Marine general said Thursday night at Canisius College. Zinni was head of Central Command until Gen. Tommy Franks took over nearly three years ago..

Zinni had served as President Bush's peace envoy to the Middle East until this month, when he spoke out against the war. "I had grave reservations about this whole undertaking and expressed those," Zinni said. "That's one reason why I'm no longer the Middle East envoy...

"The endpoint of this war and how Baghdad goes down is going to be critical," Zinni said. "We have not won the hearts and minds of the people in Iraq. We're going to have to finish this in a way that does not create a lot of death and destruction but at the same time does not make us look weak.

"Understanding the Arab mind-set has been difficult for the United States.

The biggest mistake the United States made in the war, Zinni said, was speaking of "shock and awe." "That was a way to say: "Your fate is inevitable. We're going to crush you. The might of America will defeat you. Just surrender and throw down your arms.'

"You don't speak to Arab pride and Arab manhood in this way. That whole psychological business gave them another cause to fight for, more than they would have fought just for Saddam."

Zinni said everything in the Iraq war will climax in what he called "the moment."

"That moment will be when the region, the country and the world realizes Saddam is gone. It will be a moment of decision. There will be tremendous mixed emotions in the Islamic and Arab world," he said.

"On one hand, they will be glad we rid them of Saddam. On the other hand, there will be great apprehension about this world power that bullied its way in, ignored international arguments and has now decided to impose a form of government on this country...

It was the United States that used the term "pre-emptive war" with Iraq, and that bothers Zinni. "I think it was a mistake to make that statement and put it in our national security strategy and make it an overt policy," he said. One thing Zinni praises about the war is the skill of U.S. military personnel.
Via The Agonist

Friday, April 04, 2003

Media Censors Itself  

Here are two examples from the FAIR article:
Brent Flynn, a reporter for the Lewisville (Texas) Leader , was told he could no longer write a column for the paper in which he had expressed anti-war views. "I was told that because I had attended an anti-war rally, I had violated the newspaper's ethics policy that prohibits members of the editorial staff from participating in any political activity other than voting," Flynn wrote in a note on his personal website. "I am convinced that if my column was supportive of the war and it was a pro-war rally that I attended, they would not have dared to cancel my column.... The fact that the column was cancelled just days before the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq raises serious questions about the motives for the cancellation." Although Flynn was ostensibly sanctioned for compromising the paper's "objectivity," he continues to serve as a news reporter for the paper, while losing the part of his job where he was expected to express opinions.

Kurt Hauglie, a reporter and columnist for Michigan's Huron Daily Tribune , quit the paper after allegedly being told that an anti-war column he had written would not run because it might upset readers ( WJRT-TV ,3/28/03 ).
And these are the ones that dared open their mouths to report it. I have several journalist friends who won't even attend private parties that are being held to raise money for anti-war activities.

Brady Kiesling  

I've been sitting on a Wall Street Journal article about Brady Kiesling, the first diplomat who resigned in opposition to the Bush War. Alternet has just published a transcript of a recent interview with him and you can also follow their links to listen to it, and hear another diplomat who quit, John Brown, as well.

Kiesling sounds shy, thoughtful, and worried, perhaps even a bit confused as to how he got stuck with the odious task of being a spokesperson for those opposed to Bush and the war. It makes what he has to say painfully honest-sounding. Towards the end the host, Lauren Flanders asks a simple question and he waxes eloquent:
LF: If community groups wanted you to come and speak, could you?

JBK: Let me put it this way: I'm delighted to talk to anyone, however, I think the audience, the most important audience in the United States, is not these wonderful community groups, say in Northern California, who I believe really share my values and position pretty strongly. The audience is a much larger one, it's very hard to grapple with. This is the vast majority of the American people who want to have confidence in their elected president, want to believe that there's a policy that will make them safer, need to be told that there IS a policy that will make them safer, but it's not the one that we're following now. And I don't know how one reaches out to this part of the population. I would like to encourage them just to realize they're not in as much danger as they think. They've been frightened by all this talk of duct tape and terrorism, but America is still the safest country in the world and American people are basically safe. And we should use our safety and our prosperity and our strength to do good, and we can do good.

Not With A Bang, But With A Cough?  

Serious people know that germs pose a far greater threat to mankind than terrorism, and readers of books like William McNeill's "Plagues and Peoples" and Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" know microbes have been the downfall of many a civilization. SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome, a new virus from Guangdong Province in China — doesn't look like a civilization-killer, and probably isn't nearly as bad as the 1918-19 influenza virus. But experts fear it may be too late to prevent a global SARS pandemic — that is, it may be too late to stop the virus from spreading throughout the world. And the bug is already having major economic consequences: fear of the disease has paralyzed much business in Hong Kong and has led to a drop in air travel worldwide.
Geez, Louise. World war. Rocks from space land all over Chicago. Volcanos. Floods. Now, a second worldwide plague.

What's an atheist to do?

Thursday, April 03, 2003

I Wouldn't Take It Personally, George. Well... Actually I Would.  

The Horse comes back from vacation in great form:

America Prefers "Impeached" Clinton to "Wartime" Bush

Newsweek reports Bush's approval rating at a sad 66% - a full seven points lower for the "popular wartime preznit" than Clinton's approval rating the day after "impeachment."
That must be so embarrassing

Americans Want the UN to Take Over  

Yes, most Americans have rallied around the flag, but nevertheless:
A poll released on Monday by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes suggested that 52 per cent of Americans believe the UN should be in charge of governing post-war Iraq, while only 30 believed the US should do it.

The US has long insisted that the UN's role in post-war Iraq should be "important" but confined to humanitarian aid, with little or no political authority.

In addition, the poll - taken over the first weekend of the war, between March 22 and March 25 - suggested Americans would prefer that any future military action undertaken by their government be sanctioned by the UN security council.

According to the poll, 66 per cent of respondents said the US "should not feel more free to use force without UN authorisation", while 29 per cent believe they should. "The public is not viewing the decision to go to war with Iraq as a watershed that signifies the declining importance of the UN or as a precedent for the US to feel more free to use military force without UN approval," said Steven Kull, director of PIPA.
via Cursor. Dollars to donuts, the UN has only the smallest of small roles.

Letter to Calpundit  

Kevin Drum has a post about election 2004. I've written him a letter, a revised version of which is posted below. In his post, Kevin suggests three areas for the dems to focus on: Gay rights,
Social Security/tax reform, and finally national health insurance. Then he suggests, "Next, we have to find some way of making Republicans look scary."

Here is my (slightly revised) reply:

Dear Kevin:

You're spot on to start now to concentrate on strategies for '04 but your emphasis is off the mark. I believe the Dems should focus on these issues and in this order:

I - The Great Issues of the Day

NB- If Dems refuse to engage the Great Issues, then Bush will have no difficulty demonstrating they are not thinking like a president. Right now, there are three Great Issues and Democrats must confront Bush on them forcefully and consistently. Those issues are:

The War - Easy to quarrel with Bush on this. Even the FBI and CIA told him it would only increase terrorism, not diminish it. Even he admitted it. If there is a any kind of Islamist terrorism against Americans, it is reprisals against the stupid war. There are many other reasons as well.

The Fight Against Terrorism - Where's Osama, al-Zawahiri, Omar? How come no one's come up with a charged suspect in the anthrax case? Experts agree: the only long term way to minimize terrorism is hearts and minds. What have we done that's real in this regard? Nothing.

Homeland Security - Bush is so vulnerable there isn't enough duct tape around to for him to keep an argument together.

II - The Most Important Domestic Issue

The Economy - If the Dems are lucky, and the country isn't, the DOW will be below 6000 and the economy will become an Category I issue. But if it stays the same or gets even slightly better, putting this front and center will backfire on the Dems. They must address great issues first. (Folded into this are all the dreadful corporate scandals and the Bush neglect.)

III - The Other Important Issues

North Korea - sorta forgot about that one.

Supreme Court and the Judiciary - Prevent the packing of the courts.

Minorities - the neglect these days is disgraceful.

Health Care - This is the level of priority I would assign to this. It's a sign of how awful things are that something this vital is so low on the totem pole.

IV - The Other Issues Which Would Be Vital If Bush Hadn't Made Such A Mess

Media Consolidation - Clear Channel and other monopolies, including Microsoft, which is trying to dominate every media it can get its hands on.

Voting and Effective Election Reform - We are long overdue.

Social Security - You're right regarding the reform needed.

Civil Rights - Reverse Ashcroft, fire Poindexter, reverse limits to FOIA, etc.

Gay Rights - Appoint Mary Cheney head of the commission to seek a way to expand them.

Education - stop the prayer in school nonsense, earmark more money, attract better teachers.

Now, as for making Bush look scary, a Dem just has to tell the truth about Bush. Start with the war, his belief that he has been called by God (they should wrap that nonsense around him and demand that he speak to it ), and his refusal to listen to anyone except his wise men.

What Will '04 Be Like?

Election 2004 will make Election 2000 look like Bush was playing by Marquis of Queensbury rules. It will be the dirtiest election in US history and they will stop at nothing to win. Some nightmare scenarios:

A Bush/Rice Ticket - Cheney almost certainly wont run. Powell wont either, I'm pretty sure. Rice is the obvious VP choice (Frist is lightweight compared to her). Unless the Dems are fully prepared, then there'll be no reason to bother voting as Bush will win in a landlslide. The Dems have no black leaders of the stature of Condoleeza Rice (she's probably gay, so that will split that vote as well).

A Terrorist Attack In Fall '04 - If there is a terrorist attack that's big enough and close enough to election time, Bush wins hands down. A friend of mine believes Bush is capable of declaring martial law. I doubt it, but this would be a scenario that would enable him to "delay" elections. At the very least, a state of emergency caused by an event like 9/11 that "clearly couldn't be predicted by anyone, no matter how watchful" will cause tremendous sympathy.

A Palestinian State "Is At Hand" - Bush announces that delicate secret negotiations are making positive progress but true Israel/Palestine peace is just weeks away but he needs the complete backing of the American people.

Stealth Funding of Nader - They did this in Florida, I read somewhere. A liberal third party candidate that can't win, like Nader, would kill us.

Sorry it got so long. It's a big topic.

Stand Up and Be Counted  

Cursor links us to this site of pictures of "traitors." Exactly who is being betrayed is a bit unclear, as the site is hosted by In any event, I'm thinking I'd like to be listed. In case you, too, might want to stand up and be counted, email them at

Anti-Bush, Pro-American  

Arundhati Roy
Those who descend so easily into the pit of racist abuse would do well to remember the hundreds of thousands of American and British citizens who protested against their country's stockpile of nuclear weapons. And the thousands of American war resisters who forced their government to withdraw from Vietnam. They should know that the most scholarly, scathing, hilarious critiques of the US government and the "American way of life" comes from American citizens. And that the funniest, most bitter condemnation of their prime minister comes from the British media. Finally they should remember that right now, hundreds of thousands of British and American citizens are on the streets protesting the war. The Coalition of the Bullied and Bought consists of governments, not people. More than one third of America's citizens have survived the relentless propaganda they've been subjected to, and many thousands are actively fighting their own government. In the ultra-patriotic climate that prevails in the US, that's as brave as any Iraqi fighting for his or her homeland.

While the "Allies" wait in the desert for an uprising of Shia Muslims on the streets of Basra, the real uprising is taking place in hundreds of cities across the world. It has been the most spectacular display of public morality ever seen.

Most courageous of all, are the hundreds of thousands of American people on the streets of America's great cities - Washington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco. The fact is that the only institution in the world today that is more powerful than the American government, is American civil society. American citizens have a huge responsibility riding on their shoulders. How can we not salute and support those who not only acknowledge but act upon that responsibility? They are our allies, our friends.

* * *

Despite the pall of gloom that hangs over us today, I'd like to file a cautious plea for hope: in times of war, one wants one's weakest enemy at the helm of his forces. And President George W Bush is certainly that. Any other even averagely intelligent US president would have probably done the very same things, but would have managed to smoke-up the glass and confuse the opposition. Perhaps even carry the UN with him. Bush's tactless imprudence and his brazen belief that he can run the world with his riot squad, has done the opposite. He has achieved what writers, activists and scholars have striven to achieve for decades. He has exposed the ducts. He has placed on full public view the working parts, the nuts and bolts of the apocalyptic apparatus of the American empire.

Picture of the Week  

Courtesy Orcinus

Live In Oregon? Get FREE Federal Housing!!  

A correspondent sent me this tip for all you Oregonians out there:
An Oregon anti-terrorism bill would jail street-blocking protesters for at least 25 years in a thinly veiled effort to discourage anti-war demonstrations, critics say.

A Bargain At Half the Price  

Anyone who uses bbEdit knows that this is a truly great deal:
Upon purchase of BBEdit at the price of US$250,000, you will receive the following:

* a single-user license for BBEdit 7.0 on CD-ROM, hand-delivered to your specified address by a Bare Bones Software employee wearing a gorilla suit. (5% surcharge for street clothes.)

* a ceremonial breaking of the seal on the installation CD-ROM (provided that you agree to the terms of the license agreement), followed by installation of the software and creation of a backup.

* an interpretive reading of the BBEdit User Manual, online help, and tech support FAQ web page.

* one year of feature request implementation service, provided by a Bare Bones Software employee (4-6 weeks required for implementation)

Requirements for installation and delivery include:

* prepayment in the amount of US$250,000 (certified check only)
* an orderly and hygienic working environment, including a refrigerator full of microbrewed beer (20% surcharge for mass-market or "lite" beer)
* on-site residence facilities, including a television and high-speed (1mpbs+) Internet access (10% discount provided for home theater)

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Gulling the Gullible  

The Art of Joey Skaggs
After playing journalists for fools for nearly 40 years, Skaggs now looks back on an illustrious career as a "hoax artist" who shows the world just how easy it is to pass off the most outrageous claims as the truth.

* * *

Hair Today Ltd. gleaned a substantial amount of air time and ink in 1990 as a firm specializing in a cure for baldness through hair transplants from the dead, much the way doctors would transplant a kidney.The Boston Globe was among the news organizations fooled on this one.

* * *

Skaggs emerged in 1981 as Dr. Josef Gregor, an entomologist who extolled the virtue of consuming cockroach hormones as a cure for colds, acne, anemia and menstrual cramps. WNBC-TV's Live at Five featured an interview with the doctor, who claimed to have graduated from the University of Bogota in Colombia. Skaggs says no one checked his credentials. The newscasters only seemed to become suspicious when Skaggs played his organization's theme song — "La Cucaracha."

* * *

Posing as Giuseppe Scagolli in 1976, Skaggs appealed to women who wanted children with sperm provided by the likes of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. Several wire services and Ms. magazine picked up the story of a sperm bank robbery.

The point is rather apparent. We ask so much from the news organizations we trust. If a poor artist with few resources can fool the media into believing outrageous lies, what hope do we have against a well-funded, malicious liar?
Yes, exactly.

Quote of the day  

Courtesy, MoDo who found this brilliant gem from William Kristol and Lawrence Kaplan's "The War Over Iraq":
"Well, what is wrong with dominance, in the service of sound principles and high ideals?"
This is the same fallacy as the old Goldwater slogan, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."

Extremism and liberty are mutually incompatible. Dominance, with all its well-earned associations to coercion and sadism, is not a sound principle upon which to shape a culture.

Dominance and high ideals are mutually incompatible, as we are all about to learn the hard way.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003


The beeb has collected the best Rumsfeld sound bites and they are not to be missed.

The Case to Stop the War, Even Now  

Galbraith at Tapped.
The dilemma is now acute. Retreat is unthinkable. George W. Bush's neoconservatives (standing safely in the back) will figuratively execute any who quail. The level of violence will therefore be raised. Meanwhile, the prime stocks of precision munitions have been drawn down, and speculation about the future use of cluster bombs and napalm and other vile weapons is being heard. And so the political battle -- the battle for hearts and minds -- will be lost. If history is a guide, you cannot subdue a large and hostile city except by destroying it completely. Short of massacre, we will not inherit a pacified Iraq.

For this reason, the project of reconstruction is impossible. No one should imagine that the civilians sent in to do this work can be made secure. To support "the groundwork" for this effort is to support a holocaust, quite soon, against Iraqi civilians and also against the troops on both sides. That is what victory means. You can watch the beginnings (if you have satellite television) even now, as injured children fill up the hospitals of Baghdad.

The moral strategy would be to avoid the holocaust. To achieve that from the present disastrous position, the United States would have to accept a cease-fire, which would lead to the withdrawal of coalition forces under safe conduct. There would be no military dishonor in such a step. It would, however, entail the humiliation of the entire Bush administration, indeed its well-deserved political collapse. Too bad the moral strategy is not a practical one.

The practical alternative? It is to oppose, to speak up and to write against the war, to expose and illuminate the frightful choices we confront. Let us remind our leaders at every turn of their recklessness and miscalculation. The American public may, if it chooses, reject the liberal position and support the hawks. But let us give them a choice.

Non-Americans Need Not Apply  

Swine Alert
Bechtel Group Inc. is working on a $1.7-billion aluminum smelter in Bahrain. Parsons Corp. is building a city for 200,000 in the Arabian desert. Fluor Corp. has a $1.3-billion agreement to develop oil fields in Kazakhstan.
For these behemoths, a $600-million deal is hardly worth breaking a sweat over. Yet when the U.S. Agency for International Development asked the three California companies whether they wanted to bid on a project on the other side of the world, all of them jumped at the chance to write proposals on a tight deadline.

The reason: No one wanted to miss out on the chance to be the first to rebuild Iraq. As the corporate giants well know, the $600 million is merely the initial installment of what promises to be a much bigger sum.

"A $600-million contract could easily turn into a couple of billion," said Charles Tiefer, a former deputy general counsel of the House of Representatives. "Pretty soon, it would be real money."

The contract, moreover, is "cost-plus-fee." The contractor will be reimbursed for its bills by the government, plus a set profit.

* * *

Foreign companies and their governments were incensed that they weren't allowed to bid. Procurement experts wondered whether USAID, which is used to giving relatively small grants, would be overwhelmed by administering billions in contracts. Critics said the bidding was cloaked in unusual secrecy -- something they found particularly worrisome given the strong ties of some of the bidders to the Republican Party and the Bush administration.

"The usual standard is full and open competition," said Steven Schooner, co-director of the government procurement law program at George Washington University. "When the government operates in secret, people assume it has something to hide."

* * *

Meanwhile, Bechtel's headquarters in San Francisco has been the scene of repeated demonstrations for 12 days. Dozens of protesters were arrested trying to block the entrance.
"The demonstrators are saying that companies in the running for the reconstruction contract are somehow profiting off the war," said Bechtel spokesman Jonathan Marshall.

"I would say on the contrary that any program to rebuild schools and hospitals and roads and other civilian infrastructure is fundamentally humanitarian in nature," he said. "We would be proud to do that work."

* * *

DPK Consulting, a San Francisco firm that helps developing and "transitional" countries implement anticorruption and rule-of-law programs, turned down an opportunity to bid on a governance contract.

For one thing, it had enough work already. For another, it was worried about whether its involvement would be poorly perceived in Islamic countries where it already had projects.
But there was also a moral component.

"We didn't want to appear to be endorsing the war," DPK co-founder Bill Davis said.

More Conflicts of Interest  

Swine Alert
Of the 30 members of the Defense Policy Board, the government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon, at least nine have ties to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002. Four members are registered lobbyists, one of whom represents two of the three largest defense contractors.

The board’s chairman, Richard Perle, resigned yesterday, March 27, 2003, amid allegations of conflicts of interest for his representation of companies with business before the Defense Department, although he will remain a member of the board. Eight of Perle’s colleagues on the board have ties to companies with significant contracts from the Pentagon

via Cursor

Now He Tells Us  

Yeah, we've always know this but this is the first time I think that he ever mentioned it. What else do you expect from that Son Of a Bush?
President Bush warned that terrorist groups or even, in a last-ditch show of desperation, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "may try to bring terror to our shores" in retaliation for the war in Iraq.

Dumbest Lead of The War  

ABC News
The idea that the West, particularly the Bush administration, is pursuing a war against Islam again may be growing in the Muslim world.
"May again be growing..." Eh, I don't think that's possible, folks.

Quote of the Day  

Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."
David Neiwert on his invaluable Orcinus blog made this his quote of the day. I hope he doesn't mind if I do, too. Go visit him. He's been focusing on the ways right wingers get their ideas mainstreamed. Great stuff.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Held Without Charge  

This is a very troubling story that is going around today.
A software designer was being held Thursday as a material witness in a terrorism investigation after FBI agents searched his Hillsboro home and his office at Intel.

According to neighbors and co-workers, Maher Mofeid Hawash, 38, was the target of Thursday's searches by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Maher Hawash is a Palestinian who's now an American citizen, married a woman who's American and apparently not of Palestinian origin and has three kids. Mike, as Maher is known, has done consulting work for Intel, and written a computer book. Three years ago he donated $10,000 to Global Relief which was listed as an organization that funnelled at least some money to terrorists. According to Hawash, Global Relief was, at the time he donated, considered a mainstream charity.

Hawash is being held virtually incommunicado and he has not been charged. A former VP of Intel, who testified against Microsoft incidentally, vouches for him. I've written him requesting more information. I can't help but wonder if this is one of the early explicit uses of the new "Patriot" Act powers for evil. On the other hand, I don't know enough about the situation other than to wonder. But since he is being held without being charged, I'm very, very worried.

Tivo Owners: Brand New Feature!!  

Take part in a real life terrorist investigation!!
Could the federal government find out what you're watching on TV? Even if you're not the subject of a criminal investigation?

If you're a satellite TV or TiVo owner, the answer is yes, according to legal experts and industry officials.

Under the USA Patriot Act, passed a month after the 9/11 terrorist attack, the feds can force a noncable TV operator to disclose every show you have watched. The government just has to say that the request is related to a terrorism investigation, said Jay Stanley, a technology expert for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under Section 215 of the Act, you don't even have to be the target of the investigation. Plus, your TV provider is prohibited from informing you that the feds have requested your personal information.

via Cursor.

Important Assignment for Tomorrow  

Neal Pollack has decreed April 1, 2003 Make Fun of Dick and Lynne Cheney Day! So tomorow, sharpen your wits and let fly.

In case you don't know what this is about, there is a site which has received a threatening letter from Dick Cheney's lawyer (paid for, apparently, with your tax dollars) to stop making fun of him and his wife. Now normally I don't link to sites with a puerile attitude that makes fun of our leaders and their in-the-public-eye spouses but I make an exception here so you will know the depts of depravity that some people will go to make fun of others.

Now remember: Tomorrow, Lynne and Dick are counting on you for a thoroughgoing worldwide humiliation!!

Tapped on Turkey  

I like The American Prospect and Tapped a lot but sometimes, they seem incapable of connecting the dots until it is too late. In this post, Tapped argues,

"The White House 's diplomatic screw-up with regard to Turkey -- and by extension, the administration's arrogance and disdain for international goodwill of which the Turkey debacle was merely the endpoint -- will cost American lives. It's just that simple. "

Indeed it is that simple. And what should have been the response of an administration that was behind its troops? Postpone the invasion until it was worked out. It's just that simple.

I'm sure that I wrote a letter to the times the day Parliament voted against the troops saying as much. Nevertheless, on March 14, I wrote in a letter to a right winger " I will oppose Bush at every possible opportunity, because he wants them [US troops] IN harm's way and if the risk gets more dangerous, for example if Turkey refuses to allow Bush to put troops there, why Bush wants them to go in anyway..."

Here's the kicker. I'm just a musician. But anyone with commonsense could see this. How come it took anyone until now to realize that not having a northern front should have meant delay automatically? How come no one bothered to make the argument?

It's True: It's Not About Oil  

Dumb idiots.
Two leading evangelical Christian missionary organizations said Tuesday that they have teams of workers poised to enter Iraq to address the physical and spiritual needs of a large Muslim population.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the country's largest Protestant denomination, and the Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse said workers are near the Iraq border in Jordan and are ready to go in as soon as it is safe. The relief and missionary work is certain to be closely watched because both Graham and the Southern Baptist Convention have been at the heart of controversial evangelical denunciations of Islam, the world's second largest religion.

* * *

Two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Franklin Graham called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion" during an interview on NBC, the television network. In his book published last year, "The Name," Graham wrote that "The God of Islam is not the God of the Christian faith." He went on to say that "the two are different as lightness and darkness."
Is Franklin Graham going in? Are you kidding me? The blood of any missionary that dies in Iraq will be on his head. God may forgive him.


Read it now and pray to god he was only fed a pile of disinformation to make the Iraqis overconfident. No point in excerpting. Read the whole thing, then when you're done, subscribe to the New Yorker if you don't already.

Presidential Character  

This article is widely quoted in the blogosphere this morning. But people are focusing on the wrong issue:
President Bush's aides did not forcefully present him with dissenting views from CIA and State and Defense Department officials who warned that U.S.-led forces could face stiff resistance in Iraq, according to three senior administration officials.

Instead, Bush embraced predictions of top administration hawks, beginning with Vice President Dick Cheney, who predicted Iraqis would joyously greet coalition troops as liberators and that the entire conflict might be over in a matter of weeks, the officials said.
Most of the commenting is on the identity of the three senior officials and how the White House is trying to distance itself politically from the train wreck around the corner that could be the Iraq War.

But presidential character is the issue, not the machinations of the advisers. A president with a strong character consults advisers, listens to them carefully, and then makes up his/her own mind. This is enormously difficult and many great presidents, eg Lincoln, were known by their colleagues as indecisive, wily, and incapable of acting forcefully.

If a person of character is confronted by unanimity among advisers regarding a dramatic course of action, alarm bells go off immediately. Or they should go off as unanimity on a course of action is a very, very rare occurence. Indeed, Lincoln had political enemies in his cabinet not only to keep them where he could see them, but also to provide totally different opinions than ones he would normally be inclined to make. Kennedy (who was not a great president, but in some areas was more than competent) during the Missile Crisis consulted both with uber-Hawk Curtis Lemay AND with Stevenson, a man who deliberately, with full knowledge that it could destroy his career, played devil's advocate, calling for a unilateral backing down by the Kennedy administration. Even within the center of opinion as to how to proceed, Kennedy generally listened to advice on a course of action but then deliberately made his own specific decisions in regards to nuance of response.

Bush wants us to believe that he was kept in ignorance and did what his experts said was best. So, if the experts were bozos, get experts who are not bozos and all will be fixed.

That's not good enough.

Let's not get distracted by the internecine squabbles. The failure was not in the inability to get an alternative message to Bush. The failure was that Bush refused to engage the issues and synthesize the advice he was given. His advisers are nobodies. He's the one who goes down in history.

The failure is in Bush's character as a leader.

Quote of the Day: "100 bin Ladens"  

Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt:

"When it is over, if it is over, this war will have horrible consequences," Mubarak told Egyptian soldiers in the city of Suez.

"Instead of having one bin Laden, we will have 100 bin Ladens," he added.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Weeks of Waiting?  

Yes, according to this article:
U.S. troops dug in south of Baghdad on Sunday, preparing to wait for weeks before resuming their advance on Saddam Hussein's heavily defended capital...

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in Washington: "We have no plans for pauses or cease-fires."
This is the first thing Rumsfeld has said in a very long time that I believe.
Franks was asked if the 11-day-old war, which the U.S. vice-president said would last "weeks not months," could now stretch into summer; he would say only: "One never knows."


A friend of mine from Canada sent me this, which he had posted in the comments sectiion of a different blog. He is referring to comments made by US Ambassador to Canada Celluci who had basically threatened the country with repercussions for not supporting Bush's war:
First I'd like to say that Vancouverite is pretty well on the mark with his comments. Our own Prime Minister is a small town hood of sorts who exceeded the Peter Principle by a country mile. But we don't rally behind him like sheople if he's doing something stupid. We have much less reverence for the office of PM here than americans do for the office of president. We are equal opportunity critics of politicians. If it's political and it talks, we question everything out of its lips.

But the comments from the US ambassador were both out of line and untrue. Celluci's comments were particularly galling for the following reasons. He said that "if something were threatening Canada we'd be there to help no questions asked". Well, I'm an electrical engineer, not a historian, but if I recall correctly, the US didn't get involved in WWII until the Japanese forced the issue, about two years after it started. And we did have German submarines off both coasts during that war. And while we were fighting the Nazis there were arms manufacturers that were selling ammunition to the Germans via Brazil. Nice neighbours. In WWI the US was two years late getting involved. If memory serves me correctly we didn't go to Viet Nam, but the US administration at the time didn't get their knickers in a twist about that. I can't recall ever reading anything of the sort in the press of the day.

Further, the need for defence hasn't really been there for the last 50 years. We didn't have an apoplectic fit of fear that there was a commie under every bed during the cold war. In fact the McCarthy era was nearly as scary as now. Socialist leaning Canada could have been a danger - NOT. During the last 50 years who was going to attack us? Polar bears? The Greenland fishing fleet?

The last nation to invade Canada was, wait for it, the US, in 1812. And if my father is correct, the next nation to invade us will be the US, and it will be over control of fresh water - you've nearly drained all of the major aquifers in the country with irrigation, though this is not quite common knowledge yet.

While I'm no historian, I think Celucci's comments were pure and utter bullshit. But because we're bad neighbours, we got threatened that there would be reprecussions. We're supposed to support you no matter what. Well, when a friend of mine is about to do something monumentally stupid (or even my brother for that matter), I'm not going to follow him off the proverbial cliff out of some misguided sense of blind loyalty. I'm going to tell him he's being a stupid shit and to come back to talk to me when he's pulled his head out of his ass. And that's just the way most of us feel about Bush and the power-drunk loonies he takes advice from.

My advice to you Americans. Take back your country. As it stands now Osama won. Civil liberties are slipping away. Freedom is disappearing. Paranoia and a fixation on security is the norm. What a great way to live in the "home of the free". The best security you'll ever get is to change your foreign policy, rein in the exploitation of other countries by transnational corporations, and learn that maybe every one doesn't want to be like you. Diversity is a good thing. If Alexis de Toqueville could see you now he'd spin in his grave.

Sorry for the rant but the lying, deceiving, prevaricating, heartless, greedy fundamentalist morons that are in charge in Washington are making your country hated around the world, even more than before 911. You must take it back from them.

Calpundit's Remarks On "Liberal Extremism"  

Left Blogistan has raked Kevin Drum over the coals for his remarks apropos "liberal extremism." I have very little to add except to say that I didn't see the Academy Awards, but I suspect only a very priggish group would think it necessary to make the Berry/Brodie smooch into an issue one way or another.

As for Kevin's poorly chosen words regarding "ordinary people" who are offended at the more outre antics at gay marches, I'm reminded of a story my friends in Sydney told me. Every year there is a huge Gay Mardi Gras. Originally it was an expression of total queer outrageousness, with gays trying to outdo each other with crazy costumes and shenanigans. Straight people looked at it all and said, hey why are the gays having all the fun, and joined in, so it became an all-embracing carnival of silliness and madness that, according to my informants, leaves the city so "knackered" that the Monday afterwards has been declared an official unofficial holiday.

This is all to the good. But Americans are very uptight, puritanical people in comparison. We actually get shocked at public sensuality AND we are obsessed with it, both hallmarks of this puritanism. Strikes me that my friends in Sydney, who span a wide variety of genders and partnering arrangements, have it over us hands down. Even the most "traditional" were, if not amused by the Gay Mardi Gras, certainly were more than tolerant of it.

As for Kevin's other criticisms, there is little to say. The truth is that the one thing that right wingers do extremely well is criticize liberals. Far be it for me to compete with masters of liberal bashing like Limbaugh.

Digby Tells It  

Oh, boy, this is precisely the kind of focused criticism that should be all over the mainstream news. There is not a single comma that's inaccurate. Digby here has been talking about the buzz surrounding an upcoming Sy Hersh article in the New Yorker regarding the fact that Rumsfeld ordered a smaller number of troops rather than the larger number requested by the military.
This [Rumsfeld's unproven strategy ] is yet another example of the radical Republican experimentation with every institution of the United States. Like the wild supply side experiment with radical tax cuts, the Federalist Society assault on the legal system, and the abrupt change to a doctrine of unilateralism and preventive war, it is the result of insular, second rate, ivory tower think tank intellectuals taking the reins of power and completely running amuck.

It is hard to overestimate the level of damage this chaotic agenda of dangerous, radical change these people can wreak. This is no joke. The Democrats had better get a grip on this threat to our way of life. It is not about offended sensibilities or cultural niceties or social conformity. It is about a bunch of mediocre minds and megalomaniacal personalities who are experimenting with the most powerful government on the planet as if it is a Heritage Foundation seminar.

Now, Why Would Rumsfeld Want a Cheap War?  

What kind of reasoning goes into trying to conquer a country on the cheap? Well, let's see if we can think of some (not saying these are the reasons, just hypothesizeing):

1. We couldn't afford it. The economy is in bad shape after all.

2. Rivalry with Powell. Instead of Powell's overwhelming power model (the Powell Doctrine), R. would prove he was a smarter tactician than Powell with a more efficient war model.

3. Bush and R. would demonstrate to Congress and the country that aggression and war was "cost effective," cheaper than diplomacy. Could they be this ruthless and cynical? Not sure, but it makes sense if:

4. They want to wage a lot of wars (eg Iran, Syria, NoKo). Each one can't cost that much.

Number two above relates the Bush's Afghan adventure which relied on proxy ground troops and shock and awe. The problem was that while extensive bombing helped, there was more ground troop fighting than they cared to admit, according to a Foreign Affairs article.

Quote of the Week  

"The U.S. was planning on walking in here like it was easy and all," a young marine named Jimmy Paiz told ABC News this weekend with a rueful smile. "It's not that easy to conquer a country, is it?"

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