Thursday, November 06, 2003

Major Gains In Registered GOP Voters  

Not to mention 2 more governorships earlier this week:
The Republican Party, which lagged in registered voters for much of the last century, has made major gains across the country and pulled even with Democrats, a study of the electorate found. Of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center, 34 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 33 percent as Republicans and 33 percent as independents. Republican gains were chiefly among white Protestants, white Roman Catholics and Hispanics and came in swing states like Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota. But opposition to the Iraq war and rising partisan polarization could complicate further gains, the survey found.
This despite the incredible series of disasters piled on disasters the Republicans have delivered to this country, and the world, over the past three years.

Anyone want to question Dean's attempt to get us all to wake up to how seriously things are right now? This is what he's saying:

Everyone should be against Bush. Even the guy flying the Confederate flag. Because Bush is screwing everyone - left, right and sideways.

And that's exactly the right message for the country, not just the Dems, to hear. And we better say it that bluntly, or it won't penentrate the reality distortion field Bush and the Republicans have created.

(I will be on a one week hiatus. See you then.)

Two More U.S. Soldiers Killed in Iraq  

140 in combat operations since "Mission Accomplished."
Two American soldiers were killed in separate attacks near Baghdad and along the Syrian border, the U.S. military said Thursday, and a Polish major was seriously wounded in an ambush south of the capital.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The South Will Rise Again! Again  

Well, at least Salon gets it, sort of.
If there was any political subtext or hidden calculation behind Dean's remarks -- and I have no evidence there was -- my guess is that he knew his candor would trigger his opponents' inner scolds. And then, while they scrambled to proclaim their political correctness, Dean would once again look like the plain-talking guy who takes risks, who says what's on his mind, who leads and doesn't merely follow. Whether Dean planned it or not, his rivals -- predictably -- took the bait.

Quote of the Day  

From the debate last night: "Sharpton, dressed in his customary three-piece suit, once again had most of the night's punch lines. 'I come from the [Martin Luther] King movement' he said. 'We believe in dreams. Mr. Bush believes in hallucinations.' "

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Mr, Kristof: Are You SURE This is Progress?  

Nick writes:
Sure, we're making some progress in Iraq. A hand grenade sells for $2.50 now, compared with 10 cents a few months ago.
As I understand it, 2/3 of Saddam's conventional armory has yet to be confiscated. So there's plenty of weaponry out there. So... If the price of hand grenades has risen so dramatically:

Doesn't this mean that there is 25 times the demand for hand grenades as there was a few months ago?

Open Letter To Atrios And Donald Luskin  

Dear Atrios and Donald Luskin,

I am very glad that the two of you have worked out your differences and have decided to put an incident that got blown out of proportion behind you.

But I urge both of you NOT to spare your language in the future. It is always better to cross the line occasionally into bad taste and incivility than to withold a strongly held opinion out of fear of reprisal. That is what is meant by the term "freedom of speech." It is freedom to say what is not supposed to be permitted. It is freedom to say things that the majority dislikes. It is freedom to be vituperative and offensive.

We need more lively discourse, NOT less. If it is needlessly offensive, then that too must become an object of open discussion. And it is up to each individual to determine whether or not that criticism is warranted. It is not up to others to compel changes in your language or, even worse, to silence or restrain you from speaking your minds.

So back to the barricades, guys. Let the slings and arrows fly anew.



Tuesday, November 04, 2003

"The Reagans" Really Bad News. Maybe A Little Good News  

CBS caved in, the morons. That's the bad news.

Maybe good news? CBS lost a bundle doing this. I'd reckon that Bush made one heckuva powerful enemy. Think they're already anti-Bush? Not so. Their coverage pre-Iraq was fawning. But now... Haha. Well, we'll see.

Almost certainly good news: Like most tv docudramas, it probably stunk even in its original edit. Now you don't have to waste your time.

A Clever Ploy: Bush Hatred Is Like Roosevelt Hatred.  

This cunning piece of work has reminded me, as if I needed any more, that I really need to frame stuff far better than I have up to now. I'll focus on only one part of it:
We could hear talk against the president on almost any street corner. Media voices lashed out at the president every day. It had become an ugly scene, where president-haters seemed to be everywhere.

No, that is not today's America where anti-Bush feeling is intense. It's the Midwest of the 1930s where dislike of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was palpable in that stronghold of conservatism.

That dissent had become personal, much the same as what's heard from liberals today. Those Republicans were almost viscerally opposed to FDR's New Deal effort to lift the country out of the deepening depression. And they let off steam by ridiculing the president for his personal style. They particularly disliked the jauntily tilted cigarette, the supremely confident smile.

Today we have the Democrats, whose strong opposition to President Bush's policies - particularly his methods of involving the US in Iraq, and his tax cuts, which they say favor the rich - is increasingly expressed in angry, personal terms against Mr. Bush.

So for the millions of people who find encouragement in Bush's confident stride, there are growing numbers of Americans - mainly liberal Democrats - who see a cocky president, someone they simply can't abide.
In other words:

Proposition 1: Bush hatred by liberals today is like Roosevelt hatred by conservatives in the 1930's.

This leads to an unspoken assertion:

Proposition 2: Roosevelt, despite the hatred directed at him way back, is now recognized as a great president.

This implies:

Proposition 3: Bush will be recognized as a great president in the future, even by liberals.

After concluding that this was the most likely thrust of this passage, my first thought was a question: Why did the author go all the way back to Roosevelt to show such rabid hatred of a Democratic president? Why not use Clinton?

That's easy to answer. He wanted to link Bush to an inarguably great president who was maligned.

So, since this seems to be the author's clear intent, one is tempted to meticulously debunk the comparison, for example by questioning the historical accuracy of the assertion that Roosevelt hatred was widespread in the midwest; or whether those conservatives who hated Roosevelt in the 1930's would now admit he was right (from what I can tell, btw they still think he was an evil Communist).

One would be wrong to do so.

Because that means that the inital frame is an acceptable one. That is, that a comparison between Roosevelt and Bush would yield insights that are apropos.

Now, when you think about it that way, the very idea of a comparison between the two men immediately invites hilarity. It's too absurd to seriously consider.

So now let's ask another question, the one I should have asked at the beginning:

Why did the author try to compare Roosevelt and Bush? That is, in the most general sense: Why was this frame established in the first place?

The most likely answer:

Because it distracts our attention from making the most apt comparison: Between Hoover and Bush.

Because every moment that we spend carefully decimating the Roosevelt/Bush frame is a moment that we ignore the fact that Bush is the first president since Hoover who has created negative job growth over the course of his first term.

And when we make that frame the salient one, some very interesting associations are set up:

Proposition 1: Bush, like Hoover, has presided over negative job growth.

That leads to:

Proposition 2: Bush, like Hoover, has plunged us into a serious depression.

Which leads to:

Proposition 3: Replace Bush in 2004 before it gets any worse.

Now, you might ask some questions about this chain of associations, especially regarding its accuracy, for example: Has Bush plunged us into a serious depression?

Now, rather than answer that, let me pose a final question:

Wouldn't you rather be debating how seriously awful our economy is right now than how well Bush compares to Roosevelt?

The South Will Rise Again! Or, The Genius Of Howard Dean  

The recent flap over the Confederate flag is prima facie evidence that Howard Dean is a lot smarter than you or me. Indeed, as Liberal Oasis points out, Dean's political acumen may be at a far higher level than even his devoutest supporters give him credit for.

Why? Because everyone, so far, believes that Dean was directing his comments at Confederate flag wavers in some sort of quixotic quest to appeal to Southern racists. He was not.

Dean's Confederate flag comments were calculated to drive a stake through the heart of the Republican Southern Strategy. In and of themselves, they won't be enough, of course. But these comments are part of a carefully constructed and systematic plan on Dean's part to go after seemingly hopeless areas of strong GOP support, to attack the very premises by which Republicans define their constituencies.

For a while, the pundits greeted every new Bush initiative as "bold," "audacious," or - my favorite since it's so weasly - "breathtaking." They confused a bold idea with a foolish one. In contrast, Dean's strategy here, as elsewhere, is genuinely bold and audacious. And once again, the punditocracy doesn't get it. They think he was simply being a bit foolish.

A while ago, Dean said:
"White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us, and not [Republicans], because their kids don't have health insurance either, and their kids need better schools too."
Recently, he repeated the sentiment:
"I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks."
This remark attracted a firestorm of criticism from the Democrats (but oddly, the NAACP and other black groups were silent.) So, through a spokesman, Dean released this statement:
"I want people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic."
So Dean mentioned the Confederate flag (ok, the Battle Emblem or whatever it is) three times so far. This is clearly deliberate for as Digby makes clear, it was not necessary for Dean to mention the Confederate flag - one of THE symbols of white supremacism - if he merely wished to appeal to blue collar Southerners. And how important are they to Dems anyway? Indeed, Digby points out that 45% of whites in the South voted Democratic in 2000. And, as Digby rightly believes, simply to evoke the Confederate flag is, to say, the least, playing with fire. Surely, Dean would be foolish if he thought that anything he said could convince most (possibly any) Confederate flag wavers to vote for him.

Dean's strategy, however, makes perfect sense, when one realizes that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the Confederate flag is a lose/lose/lose proposition for the Republican Southern strategy. Since Nixon, the flag has been one of the major symbols the GOP has used to pander both to the bigotry of many southern whites and throughout the country as a wink-wink-nudge-nudge at the racist right meaning, "We might say certain things that are nice about blacks, but trust us, we're really on your side." Right now, in Mississippi the Confederate flag is being used to rally the faithful even if many of the national Republican leaders, including Bush, have been circumspect about voicing overt support.

Typically, Democrats have deplored the use of the Confederate flag and written off those who fly it as unreachable. This, to say the least, was - and remains -a terrible idea. In the South, this put Democrats in a terrible bind, because in the more rabidly right wing white counties, the Republicans invariably rubbed their noses in the Confederacy and made it an issue. At best, Democrats could only respond by ignoring the issue. And the Republicans? They just kept on hammering at it, making the Dems look like wusses as they watched their tongues, trying not to lose any more votes than necessary.

Now, the brilliant question Dean poses to Bush and others is a far better way to proceed:

"Do Republican leaders agree with my Democratic opponents? Do they, too, unequivocably denounce the practice of evoking the Confederate flag in order to gain support?"

If the GOP's (unlikely) answer is "Yes, the Confederate flag is a disgraceful symbol of racism" it will infuriate the hard right all over the country. A yes response would also open a crack in the GOP's rock-hard support from the white majority, which might be all that is needed to split off at least some of the more rabid elements into the hands of ineffective right wing third parties.

However, should Bush, et al, answer with the equally unlikely, "No, the Confederate flag is a legitimate expression of group solidarity," Dean has the GOP hoist on their own petard. For not only is that hardly what Dean is saying, but it wouldn't fly in the rest of the country.

So the GOP really has only one decent option, to parse words as precisely as Dean has. And then Dean has them exactly where he wants them. The Republicans will have to prove that they are real, rather than phony populists. And they can't.

Get it? Republicans, in pandering to racist whites in the South, have insisted that the Confederate flag is a Southern populist, not a racist, symbol. Dean says, all right. Now, aside from supporting the right to fly the Confederate flag, which doesn't get anyone a job, and doesn't make anyone any safer, how populist have Republicans really been?

Now if that was all that Dean accomplished by mentioning the Confederate flag, that would be enough. But he accomplishes a lot more.

He demonstrates that he is unafraid to meet Republicans on their most stable turf , and with their closest held issues. He demonstrates that there is not a single area he will not probe to see if he can find something to his advantage.

Now, folks. That is a bold strategy. That is audacious and, yes, breathtaking. That is exactly what the Democrats need to do to win.

In contrast, consider one of the Democratic responses to Dean's remarks. Gephardt replied, "I will be the candidate for the guys with American flags in their pickup trucks." Which really means: "Unless you clean up your act, all you alienated southern white people can go fuck yourselves."

Of course, Dean knew how appalled African-Americans and liberals of all backgrounds might be by his tactic. But he evoked the Confederate flag in such a way as to give not even an inch of sympathy towards racists. It's appalling, yes., but it just might work. In which case it's not appalling, but daring.

The NAACP's silence about Dean's remarks is telling. If the NAACP itself wasn't consulted on what Dean would say, surely Dean's other black supporters were. Dean certainly made it clear that he mentioned the Confederate flag not to appeal to white racists but rather to bash Bush over the head with it. No wonder NAACP said nothing!

Now, is it true that Dean really is "bold" and "audacious," or am I rationalizing an incredibly dumb blunder on Dean's part? Well, I think a fair test of which view is right would be to see whether Dean is equally bold and audacious in other areas where the Republicans have claimed to be so strong that they can't be questioned.

Well, guess what? Dean has indeed been equally fearless in attacking another area, the Republican holiest of holies. That's right, the issue of religion.

For Dean early on said, "I'm tired of listening to fundamentalist preachers. And notice how he put it. Not Christians, not evangelicals, but only fundamentalists. It's as careful a choice of words as it is sincerely felt. And the effect, if the Democrats adopt it as a mantra and develop it, is stunning:

Contrary to popular belief, God is not a Republican. Only fundamentalist preachers are. And fire-breathing fundamentalists of the sort Dean, and the rest of us, are so bloody tired of are a small minority within every religious denomination.

So if this is the way Dean thinks -and I'm sure it is - if Dean is prepared to concede not even a single vote to the Republicans; if Dean is capable of such superb planning that he can pry the issues free from seemingly unassailable Republican frames and place them squarely within a context in which Democratic principles clearly shine, he just may win not only the nomination, but the presidency.

And by demonstrating his considerable political skills on such a relatively minor matter, like whether or not to mention the Confederate flag, Dean proves he has precisely the kind of mind that is required to make a great president.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Monday, November 03, 2003

Heh Heh  

Nifty Google search. Click and enjoy.


From the totally liberal and commie-run Army Times
Commissaries and the Defense Department’s stateside schools are in the crosshairs of Pentagon budget cutters, and military advocates, families and even base commanders are up in arms.

Defense officials notified the services in mid-October that they intend to close 19 commissaries and may close 19 more, mostly in remote areas.

At the same time, the Pentagon is finishing a study to determine whether to close or transfer control of the 58 schools it operates on 14 military installations in the continental United States.

The two initiatives are the latest in a string of actions by the Bush administration to cut or hold down growth in pay and benefits, including basic pay, combat pay, health-care benefits and the death gratuity paid to survivors of troops who die on active duty.

The roots of all these efforts reach back to the highest levels of the Defense Department.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made no secret of his desire to get the military out of support activities that are not central to its core war-fighting functions, said Joseph Tafoya, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity. As soon as he arrived at the Pentagon three years ago, Tafoya said, Rumsfeld began asking: “Why am I running stores? Why am I in education?”...

“As Marines, we take the short end of the stick in many ways,” said Col. James Lowe, commander of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. “But when it comes to our children, we’re very intolerant about them being shortchanged.”

And shortchanged is exactly how military families and family advocates are feeling, said Joyce Raezer, director of government relations for the National Military Family Association.

“How can leadership be talking about cutting back on quality-of-life benefits right now when the force and everyone supporting the force is at such a high stress level?” Raezer said.

The week the commissary cuts became known, 11 soldiers were killed in Iraq, and as many as 30 failed to show up on scedule for return flights to Baghdad at the end of their two-week R&R visits.

“Betrayal — write that down and put it in your report,” said Col. John Kidd, garrison commander of Fort Stewart, Ga., testifying at Tafoya’s forum on the need to keep military-run schools on his post. “As a commander, I will fight this tooth and nail. Folks down there are not just militant on this issue. They will march on Washington.” ...

“We are so remote, it would make it really difficult” if the store closed, said Patti Gentry, wife of an Army colonel at White Sands. Although two sprawling bases — Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., and Fort Bliss, Texas — actually border White Sands, it’s 45 miles to the commissary at Holloman and more than an hour’s drive to the store at Fort Bliss.

“Even the closest commercial grocery store is 26 miles away, in Las Cruces. It’s desert between here and there,” Gentry said. “It would be awful” if the White Sands store closed.

She noted that a large proportion of the housing area, with more than 330 homes, is populated by enlisted and company-grade officers from all services.

The Disappearing Jobs  

found on You Will Anyway who found it on Center for American Progress

US Soldier Killed In Tikrit  

So far, info is buried in the middle of a CNN roundup of Iraq news.
In violence north of Baghdad, a 4th Infantry Division soldier was killed Monday afternoon when his vehicle hit a mine in Tikrit, Saddam's ancestral homeland, a U.S. military spokesman said.
via The Agonist

Good News In The Polls  

Donkey Rising has the skinny:
Only 40 percent now say that Bush “understands the problems of people like you”, compared to 58 percent who think he does not. Sounds like folks think he’s out of touch. Say, didn’t they think that about some other president not so long ago?

The New York Review of Books Has Got Lots This Month  

Bob Somerby over at The Daily Howler has taken The New York Review of Books for several journalistic sins recently. He fumed over a Larry McMurtry review and howled away at Russell Baker's review of Krugman's new book. Bob wasn't wrong, darn it, but one would get the impression if you just read him that NY Review was worthless.

Not so. In fact, I'm surprised it isn't referred to more often in the blogosphere. If you go to the link above you will find an excellent essay on Wesely Clark by Elizabeth Drew. In addition, Paul Krugman graciously reviews both "Bushwhacked" and "Big Lies" and recommends them both heartily to his readership.

In addition, if you buy the mag, or subscribe to the online addition, you can gobble down an excellent essay on Wilsonianism and all sorts of other goodies, like David Lodge on Coetzee, and Daniel Mendelsohn on Peter Singer.

In the past, New York Review has run one of the only essays I've seen by Brady Kiesling, since his famous letter, numerous articles by Didion, Mailer and many others critical of Bush, as well as must read critiques of literature, biography, and even some science.

Go, check it out, and think about subscribing.

Aussies Do It Right: E-Voting  

While critics in the United States grow more concerned each day about the insecurity of electronic voting machines, Australians designed a system two years ago that addressed and eased most of those concerns: They chose to make the software running their system completely open to public scrutiny.

Although a private Australian company designed the system, it was based on specifications set by independent election officials, who posted the code on the Internet for all to see and evaluate. What's more, it was accomplished from concept to product in six months. It went through a trial run in a state election in 2001...

It has been widely reported that Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, one of the biggest U.S. voting-machine makers, purposely disabled some of the security features in its software. According to reports the move left a backdoor in the system through which someone could enter and manipulate data. In addition, Walden O'Dell, Diebold Election System's chief executive, is a leading fundraiser for the Republican Party. He stated recently that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.''

"The only possible motive I can see for disabling some of the security mechanisms and features in their system is to be able to rig elections," Quinn said. "It is, at best, bad programming; at worst, the system has been designed to rig an election."

"I can't imagine what it must be like to be an American in the midst of this and watching what's going on," Quinn added. [It sucks, dude] "Democracy is for the voters, not for the companies making the machines.... I would really like to think that when it finally seeps in to the collective American psyche that their sacred Democracy has been so blatantly abused, they will get mad."
Emphasis added.

The Story Of "The Reagans"  

Far more entertaining than the miniseries could ever be. And far more disturbing.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Times Reports Diebold, And Completely Misses The Story  

The headline reads "File Sharing Pits Copyright Against Free Speech" so you'd never know that the subject is the incredible scandal of the Diebold voting machines.

Nor does the article focus on any substantive issue. Rather it focuses on the narrow social issue of whether Swarthmore should have caved and taken down the online posting of the infamous Diebold memos when Diebold threatened them.

Like I really care, when a company controlled by a fanatical Republican activist who heads Diebold (see excerpt from Times article below for substantiation of this characterization) is permitting his company to change program code in the machines illegally and refusing to provide either a paper trail for voters or a proper audit of his machine's software.

The Times, either too clueless or too lazy to investigate the subject carefully simply buries the substantive meat in the middle of the article. After some 13 paragraphs of "he said, she said" tedium bereft of fact comes this little tidbit, buried on page 3 of the online version:
[C]ompany executives have made large contributions to the Republican Party and the chief executive, Walden W. O’Dell, said in an invitation to a fund-raiser that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.’’
Holy cow. Don't you think this qualifies as front page above-the-fold news? "Head of Voting Machine Company Promises To 'Deliver' Electoral Votes To Bush In '04." Can you imagine if this was a Democrat?

But the Times tries to reassure us in the next paragraph:
He has since said that he will keep a lower political profile.
Translated: he'll be a lot more careful about what he puts in writing from now on.

And the article slogs on, tacking back and forth from he said, she said. Not a single sentence betrays any knowledge by the reporter of, let alone any interest in, the Diebold memos or in the highly serious issues of computer security and voting.

Then, towards the end, Diebold claims that the august-sounding Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) has "proved" that their machines have "security and sanctity." Leaving aside the sanctified nature of their machines (did God bless them?), not a word can be found in the article that SAIC is, to say the least, staffed at the highest level with Republican activists and hard right extremists. They even hired Stephen Hatfill, the South African mercenary and all-around creep who was a "person of interest" in the anthrax attacks. In fact, guess who was president of SAIC at one time? None other than David Kay of the Kay report. And that's just for starters. (More and far better links to come in the next 24 hours. See end of this post.)

Oh, and one more little thing. The Times reporter was so incredibly lazy that he didn't even bother to determine whether the Diebold guy was telling the truth about the SAIC report on the voting machines. In fact, the Times itself reported that SAIC said that the Diebold machines had "a high risk of compromise." As an expert noted in that same Times article, "It almost seems as though the people writing the Maryland action plan [who are implementing Diebold voting machines in coming elections] either did not read or did not understand the S.A.I.C. report... What they should say is, `We're going to put these systems on hold until they say that these things are safe to use.' "

Diebold is a scandal of the highest order of magnitude. It deserves careful, detailed reporting. Want to bet it never receives it?


Diebold and SAIC share lobbyist. This is a clear conflict of interest. They were also fired by Ohio for financial ties to another voting company.

Article about the scope of SAIC. It will certainly surprise you.

Diebold Directors And Officers. Many of these officers are RNC activists and contributers.

Flypaper Or Target Practice?  

A while back, the right wingers, in a more and more desperate effort to justify the utterly senseless Bush/Iraq war, were floating the notion that perhaps Iraq now was like flypaper, luring hapless terrorists and terrorist wannabes to their deaths while keeping them from bothering the US. Aside from the obscene cynicism of such a notion - US soldiers as sticky, sweet bait is just the first of numerous revolting images conjured up by the metaphor - it is possible that the terrorists look at Iraq as a fantastic opportunity.

Rather than flypaper, Iraq may be target practice. Or rather a laboratory the size of California to perfect all kinds of terrorist attacks.

Consider: Random sniper shootings. Car bombs. Synchronized suicide bombers. Missile attacks on planes at Baghdad airport. The shooting down of choppers. The sheer number and diversity of the attacks (and the average concerned American only hears about a fraction of them) points not only to a prolific and well-planned schedule of deployment, but also to an opportunity to observe and study what works and what doesn't.

You object, "How can it be "practice"? A lot of the guys doing the evil deeds either blow themselves up or are caught. And they won't be able to get to the US anyway." I reply:

The terrorists who are deployed are disposable. The well-hidden leaders, like the cunning, and by no means stupid, al Zawahiri, are surely studying Iraq to see what tactics work and what don't. They are also studying the reactions both of the people and of the US government.

In the past few weeks, we've seen what appears to be an "improvement" in their efficiency in carrying out both lethal and symbolic attacks (the downing of the helicopter, the attack on the al Rashid while Wolfowitz was in residence). This implies:

1. The terrorists are learning quickly and getting better at planning and deployment.
2. Professional planning, perhaps by Qaeda operatives, may be involved. These people are gaining valuable experience.
3. A valuable lesson is being driven home. The number of targets in a society under military occupation like Iraq, is nearly limitless and need not be confined simply to one or two large cities. Imagine the number available in a much larger, and much freer country like the US.
4. Successful terrorism attracts fresh recruits. Apparently, there have been calls for jihad all over the world and the call is being answered (link to come).

And the future?

1. More of the same; i.e., more bombings, missiles, and shootings in Iraq.
2. Export of these perfected tactics to other countries, including the US.
3. Deployment of ever more lethal weapons in Iraq, mostly low tech, but very lethal.
4. Experimentation with enormously spectacular "conventional" attacks - huge bombs, profoundly disruptive industrial sabotage, dozens of syncrhonized attacks, etc.
5. Experimentation with megaterror - bio, chemo, etc.

It is numbers and 4 and 5 that are the most speculative. So far, al Qaeda and others have, with the obvious sui generis exceptions, limited themselves to relatively small attacks. A building. Three coordinated attacks. A pipeline. No wmd's. They're really not that sophisticated. Even 911 was low tech albeit elaborately planned.

But I can think of no better place in the world than Iraq in which to test out new tactics and highly innovative strategies to create chaos, mayhem, and horror. So I ask again:

Is Iraq flypaper? Or target practice?

Frank Rich  

When he had a column on the op-ed page, I didn't think they were particularly interesting, even if I agreed with him. Now, writing about media and its discontents, he's found his voice and his writing is as sharp and fitting as Robert Johnson's suit.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

A Landmark In Civil Rights  

Episcopal Church consecrates openly gay bishop.

Today, God smiled.

Iraq Flat Tax Praised By Grover Norquist  

So Grover Norquist, the right wing loon praises the imposition of a flat tax in Iraq by Paul Bremer. "It's extremely good news," says Grover.

Well, I say, if he prefers living in a society that has implemented a flat tax, he should move to Iraq immediately and check it out.

GOP Demands Fiction Disclaimer For "The Reagans"  

Personally, I don't have a problem with that, provided all appearances by Bush officials also carry a disclaimer stating that the views expressed are fiction. From Salon. And check this out:
"I would make the same case about a portrayal of the Kennedy administration or the Carter administration,'' [GOP chairman Gillespie] said.
I wonder why he excluded Clinton from that list?

More Evidence Of Wolfowitz's Genius  

Melanie over at Kos posted an excerpt from what may become a rather infamous speech that Wolfowitz gave at Georgetown. This is from the Q&A with students. Notice the idiotic ad hominem zingers and straw men with which Wolfowitz tries to deflect the students' very pointed remarks.
Q: Hi, Mr. Wolfowitz. My name is Ruthy Coffman. I think I speak for many of us here when I say that your policies are deplorable. They're responsible for the deaths of innocents and the disintegration of American civil liberties. [Applause]

We are tired, Secretary Wolfowitz, of being feared and hated by the world. We are tired of watching Americans and Iraqis die, and international institutions cry out in anger against us. We are simply tired of your policies. We hate them, and we will never stop opposing them. We will never tire or falter in our search for justice. And in the name of this ideal and the ideal of freedom, we assembled a message for you that was taken away from us and that message says that the killing of innocents is not the solution, but rather the problem. Thank you. [Applause and jeers]

Wolfowitz: I have to infer from that that you would be happier if Saddam Hussein were still in power. [Applause]


Q: I'd just like to say that people like Ruthy and myself have always opposed Saddam Hussein, especially when Saddam Hussein was being funded by the United States throughout the '80s. And -- [Applause] And after the killings of the Kurds when the United States increased aid to Iraq. We were there opposing him as well. People like us were there. We are for democracy. And I have a question.

What do you plan to do when Bush is defeated in 2004 and you will no longer have the power to push forward the project for New American Century's policy of American military and economic dominance over the people of the world? [Applause]

Wolfowitz: I don't know if it was just Freudian or you intended to say it that way, but you said you opposed Saddam Hussein especially when the United States supported him.

It seems to me that the north star of your comment is that you dislike this country and its policies. [Applause]

Digby On American Exceptionalism  

Riffing off one of my recent posts on Manifest Destiny, Digby has some excellent thoughts that go to the heart of the matter:
Should we stop genocide and ethnic cleansing? Yes. Should we not support authoritarian dictators on behalf of greedy American busnessmen? Yes. Should we work within international institutions to create global consensus on civilized behavior? Of course. Should we lead by example? If only we would.

Should we invade foreign countries and forcefully impose American style democratic capitalism because it is the best of all possible worlds and nothing could be finer?

Emphatically, no.

General Clark Doesn't Have A Plan. NOT.  

You will encounter, among other memes, that Clark has to get specific. That is a lie. Clark has always been specific. Courtesy Digby, here's Clark being interviewed on Iraq.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's turn to Iraq. More attacks today. There have been horrific attacks this week. If you became president tomorrow, what would you do to restore some sort of security there?

WESLEY CLARK: Well, the first thing I would do is get the big picture right. And what you've got is a regional dynamic in which both Syria and Iran are working consciously against the United States in the region because they believe that this administration intends to handle them next.

So that a U.S. success, however it's defined in Iraq, means that then the United States is free to put more pressure on them. So they don't want us to have that success so the regional dynamic needs to be worked inside Iraq. We would go immediately back to Kofi Annan at the United Nations and say let's talk again about what the United Nations or an international organization could do. I would remove that occupying power, that authority there. I'd put it under the United Nations or an international organization. I would ask the Iraqi governing council to take more responsibility for governing Iraq.

One of the things we want to do is we want to avoid the emergence in Iraq of more intense sect feelings. You have the Kurds in the North. They're armed; they kept their army. They're very concerned if the Turks were to come in. They're prepared if anything should go wrong in the rest of Iraq, they're prepared to say, okay, we have got our independent Kurdistan. You have the Shia in the South. They've never gotten really organized and they're not... they have not been traditionally as radicalized as the Iranian Shia population has, but they're organizing. There's a 500,000 man army of god in Baghdad. There's others and there's jostling for position and there's been some assassinations and assassination attempts in there. If that goes the wrong way, we could have real violence in Iraq.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's go back to something you just said, though. Are you saying that the coalition authority that Paul Bremer heads now, you would transfer that authority to the U.N.?

WESLEY CLARK: Yes, I would.

MARGARET WARNER: Would you retain U.S. authority over the military aspect?

WESLEY CLARK: Yes, you must do that. The United Nations cannot do the military piece, but I believe that you can put the United Nations or you can form an international organization as we did in the case of Bosnia to do the political development and the economic development, and you can take Halliburton out of the expanded nation building role it has and let it do what it normally does which is provide some of the logistics back up for the American troops.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. But are you saying you would do this because you think then that would encourage foreign countries to send serious numbers of troops to help?

WESLEY CLARK: I think you do it for three reasons. First, because it takes the United States off the blame line in the eyes of the Iraqi people and especially in the Islamic world. So now it's not a U.S. occupation. It's a lot of the different nations who are simply there trying to help because remember it's not only the international authority but you make the Iraqi governing council immediately take more responsibility. Then number two, I think it improves your chance of getting more significant, more immediate grant economic assistance. Number three, I do think it makes it more likely you'll get more substantial numbers of foreign troops.

MARGARET WARNER: President Bush said in his press conference Tuesday, we're not leaving, quote unquote, until Iraq is stable. Are you suggesting that the U.S. would ever leave militarily before the situation was stable?

WESLEY CLARK: I think we have to be very careful about leaving. We don't want to leave prematurely. We don't want Iraq to fall apart, but there is a window in there in which we've got the optimum chance for stabilizing and after which if we don't handle things right, it could go downhill and be counterproductive for us.

MARGARET WARNER: So when you say, as you said in the debate Sunday night, you said you want the president... let me get the exact're waiting for the president, to quote, have a strategy to get out. What is your strategy to get out?

WESLEY CLARK: Well, what I do is first of all I've just described it. I put the international authority in. I reduce the influence of the U.S. occupying authority. I put the Iraqi governing council more in charge. I work for the constitution of the Iraqis in the long term. I keep the U.S. in charge of the security situation. I build up the Iraqi security forces. And I would... I do it all the same way we did it, let's say, in the Balkans. We put out a matrix. You said here's your political. Here's your economic. Here's your military. Here's what you're going to do this month, that month, so forth. Here's where you want to be. Here's your objectives. Here's how much it's going to cost. Show it to the American people.

MARGARET WARNER: Here's what I'm trying to get at. Do you agree, for instance, with the Bush administration that until the Iraqis have a constitution and a government elected under that constitution that they can't run the show themselves?

WESLEY CLARK: No, I don't agree that they've got to have a constitution. I mean it took the United States of America seven years after its independence to get a constitution finished. I mean, we started with the Articles of Confederation. So they may work for a long time on a constitution. We don't want to be there running the show in Iraq for seven years.

Santorum's Top Dog  

The priest who baptised Robert Novak.

I hope every Catholic reads this article. Note the minimal amount of feedback from mainstream Catholics and the ineffectiveness of their answers compared to McCloskey's.

You can expect that if McCloskey et al. are not vigorously opposed now, they will completely dominate all public discourse on American catholicism. And the great tradition of the Berrigans and the Dorothy Days will be utterly stamped out.
[A]fter a stormy five-year tenure at Princeton University, McCloskey was dismissed as an associate chaplain after students and faculty petitioned for his removal. They claimed that McCloskey violated academic freedom by counseling against taking courses taught by professors whom McCloskey deemed "anti-Christian," which McCloskey argued was part of his pastoral role. Advising Catholic parents shopping for a college for their children, he later wrote, "If you encounter words and phrases like 'values,' 'openness,' 'just society,' 'search,' 'diversity,' and 'professional preparation,' move on."

Dave Neiwert On Mississippi And GOP's Identity Politics  

Absolutely right:
"Identity politics," though it was not called that then, was an invention of 19th-century white supremacists who, along with their acolytes, continued to employ such divisions with abandon through most of the first half of the last century. Their heirs continue to do so, but in less nakedly racial terms.

Now we have attacks on affirmative action, the "welfare state," hate-crimes legislation, and various aspects of civil-rights law, all under the umbrella of combating "identity politics." And consistently, there has been one primary source for this resurgence of white supremacy camouflaged as "normal" politics: the conservative movement generally, and the Republican Party specifically.

Black leaders often criticize the Democratic Party for its abysmal lack of leadership at times like these, pointing to such failures as indicative of the party's tendency to take black voters for granted. Certainly, there's little doubt that Democratic silence on these issues not only empowers the bigots, it also saps the energy from the party's base.

Democrats really need to ask themselves whether they want to be courting the votes of people inspired by the Confederate flag, or the same minorities for whom that flag is a symbol of oppression and intimidation. And if the latter, it is well past time for them to speak up about what is happening in Mississippi.

Seraphiel's Cartoon Roundup  

If you've got a tabbed browser, open 'em up in different tabs (in Safari, command click the link) and enjoy. They're great.

another one
a third
a fourth

Colin Powell Should Resign This Spring (Draft of an Open Letter)  

Colin Powell tried to serve his country as well as he could these past three years, cleaning up the dung that Bush, Rumsfeld and their cohorts spread around the world with diahrettic abandon. But there was so much of it that was excreted that Powell's reputation itself was inevitably smeared. Throughout it all, Powell soldiered on, perhaps thinking that if his country required him to lose face, he was prepared to sacrifice even that.

While earlier, he may have served as a counterbalance to the extremists in the government, that role is no longer necessary. For reasons that go far beyond Powell's influence (namely the truth of Iraqmire and the plummetting loss of support for Bush in the polls), the once-all-too-real possibility that Bush will continue to conquer the middle east by invading Syria and Iran is vastly diminished.

Therefore, for the good of the country, Colin Powell should resign sometime before the summer of '04.

By doing so, the last fig leaf that hides the Bush administration's extremism will be removed from everyone's eyes. The country's civilian movers and shakers -the businessmen who know that perpetual war is not profitable, the heads of the mainstream media, the leaders of the mainstream scientific, religious and cultural institutions - will simply have to confront the reality that the Bush administration is far too radical to be allowed another 4 years in power.

If Powell resigns, say, 4 to 6 months before the election, the Bush administration would not have time to take advantage of the loss of his sensible influence. But the electorate would have enough time to realize that some of the worst people in America holding some of the worst ideas for America's future that have ever been thought are about to make things far worse than they already are.

Powell's resignation would help assure the removal of Bush from power in 2004. Powell, of all people, surely knows this is the best thing that could happen to this country right now. As a patriot and as a soldier, therefore, Powell should resign sometime this spring.

(to be reworked as an open letter to the Secretary of State)

Great Job, David Rieff. No Gift For You!  

Dear David Rieff,

Your article in today's New York Times Magazine, Blueprint for a Mess, is a brilliantly researched, analyzed, and reported chronology of the failure on the part of the Bush administration to plan for the aftermath of the war in Iraq. It joins a small group of documents - Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation, Sy Hersh's New York reporting, David Corn's summer article on Robert Novak and Valerie Plame - that are essential reading for those who wish to understand what actually happened this past year. Anyone who cares about the future of this country, and the future of Iraq should read your article, and save it.

Therefore, I have some bad news for you, Mr. Rieff.

As I'm sure you know, earlier this week, the major media were scooped by a low budget website who managed to remove the censorship from a Justice Department document pried loose under the FOIA. All it took to uncover the blacked-out portions of the document was an elementary knowledge of Adobe Acrobat, a common program for creating pdfs that all reporters that regularly deal with electronic documents -ie, nearly all 21st Century reporters - should have mastered a long time ago.

I felt so sorry for the two Times reporters who had been so publiclly humiliated that I sent them a consolation, gift, a complimentary copy of Adobe Acrobat 6 PDF For Dummies, urging them to share it with colleagues. (Yes, Mr. Rieff, I really sent it.)

However, you, sir, have done such an exemplary job, that I see no reason to send you a similar gift. Clearly, you know exactly what you're doing and do not require my sympathy or material support to practice excellent journalism. Please do not be too disappointed: Your loss is the country's gain.

Below is an excerpt from your article that I found particularly fine. In particular, I am struck by the fact that you went out of your way in this excerpt to connect the dots. You convincingly demontrate the relationship between a clueless decision by the arrogant and ignorant Bush administration and the widespread resentment of the American presence by so many Iraqis.

Please continue your excellent work.


On May 15, [pro-consul Paul Bremer] announced the complete disbanding of the Iraqi Army, some 400,000 strong, and the lustration of 50,000 members of the Baath Party. As one U.S. official remarked to me privately, ''That was the week we made 450,000 enemies on the ground in Iraq.''

The decision -- which many sources say was made not by Bremer but in the White House -- was disastrous. In a country like Iraq, where the average family size is 6, firing 450,000 people amounts to leaving 2,700,000 people without incomes; in other words, more than 10 percent of Iraq's 23 million people.

Hot Or Not?  


At Least 14 Killed in Separate Attacks Against U.S. Troops  

Worst day since Mission Accomplished:

"At least 13 soldiers were killed when a U.S. Chinook helicopter was shot down west of Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said.

'Currently 13 soldiers are KIA (killed in action) and some 20 wounded,' a spokesman told Reuters. The attack caused the biggest single death toll among occupying troops since Saddam Hussein was toppled in April.

Separately, a U.S. soldier died after being wounded in an overnight roadside bomb blast in Baghdad."

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