Saturday, May 01, 2004

"Despicable Diebold"  

Diebold banned in California:
California has banned the use of more than 14,000 electronic voting machines made by Diebold Inc. in the November election because of security and reliability concerns, Kevin Shelley, the California secretary of state, announced yesterday. He also declared 28,000 other touch-screen voting machines in the state conditionally "decertified" until steps are taken to upgrade their security.

Mr. Shelley said that he was recommending that the state's attorney general look into possible civil and criminal charges against Diebold because of what he called "fraudulent actions by Diebold."

In an interview, Mr. Shelley said that "their performance, their behavior, is despicable," and that "if that's the kind of deceitful behavior they're going to engage in, they can't do business in California."

The move is the first decertification of touch-screen voting machines, which have appeared by the tens of thousands across the nation as states scramble to upgrade their election technology.
Hopefully, it's not the last.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Bremer Faulted Bush On Terrorism  

Truer words were never spoken:
L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, said in a speech six months before the Sept. 11 attacks that the Bush administration was ``paying no attention'' to terrorism.

``What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this,''' Bremer said at a McCormick Tribune Foundation conference on terrorism on Feb. 26, 2001.

Bremer spoke at the conference shortly after he chaired the National Commission on Terrorism, a bipartisan body formed by the Clinton administration to examine U.S. counterterrorism policies.

The remarks drew attention on the same day Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney appeared before the Sept. 11 commission to explain the precautions they took to prevent a terrorist attack after taking office in January 2001.

Operation Shades of Shatila  

Taking a page from Ariel Sharon's past:
U.S. Marines said Friday they plan to pull back from Fallujah into its rural areas following a tentative agreement to transfer power in the city from U.S. to Iraqi forces.
Translated: When they start killing each other, hey man, don't blame us!

Y'know, a lot of people think that Sharon and friends should be indicted for war crimes for what happened in Sabra and Shatila, which bears a queasy similarity to what seems to be playing out in Iraq right now.:
Mr Sharon declared that "2,000 terrorists" remained in Palestinian refugee camps around Beirut. Sabra and Shatila were surrounded by Israeli tanks and soldiers, with checkpoints to monitor the entry or exit of any person.

But on the afternoon of 16 September [1982] about 150 LF fighters moved into the camps...
What transpired is considered perhaps one of the worst atrocities in the history of the Middle East conflict during which at least 800 civilians died.

Bush might think twice about listening to Ariel Sharon. But what am I saying? You have to think once in order to think twice.

[Update] Immediately after posting this, I started to think that the analogy to Sabra/Shatila is really not terribly good, as Fallujah is Sunni and so are the Baathists who will make up the re-constituted Iraqi army serving as Abizaid's proxies. The ethnic hatred is pretty absent and so the dynamics of retaliation that drove Sabra/Shatila aren't so much in play. In fact, the far better-informed Juan Cole thinks the Iraqification of the siege is a pretty good idea. We'll see, but I can't see much good coming out of this any way I can imagine it:

1. The Iraqi army enters Fallujah and engages in a wholesale slaughter. Everyone in the world will know that they committed those atrocities on behalf of the the Americans.

2. The Iraqi army enters Fallujah and proclaims it liberated. Joining with the "anti-American insurgents" -who may very well be fellow Baathists- they provide arms and brains that will make it more, not less, difficult for a civil war between minority Sunnis and majority Shias to be averted.

3. The siege of Fallujah, now Iraqi-fied, continues indefinitely, a situation that will inevitably lead to the sapping of the will of the sieging army who will then be tempted to reconsider which side they are on, their countrymen's or the Americans who are forcing them to conduct the siege.

4. The reconstituted Baathist army, who know how to deal with their fellows, will negotiate a handover of all heavy armament from the Fallujan insurgents. Then, since their mission is over, the Baathist army will voluntary disband, handing over all their weaponry to the Americans, and stand down to await the peaceful turnover of authority to a representative government on June 30th, all without firing a shot.

I'm just kidding about #4, of course. But that seems to be the hope behind this plan. And as we all know about hope...

Krugman At Near Perfect Pitch  

A truly great column, from the opening, eerily prescient Orwell quote through the deservedly cynical "So they lied to us: what else is new?" But in his wrap-up, Krugman slips ever so slightly:
don't have a plan for Iraq. I strongly suspect, however, that all the plans you hear now are irrelevant. If America's leaders hadn't made so many bad decisions, they might have had a chance to shape Iraq to their liking.
Not a chance.

Thursday, April 29, 2004


Hey, remember that photo of a Christ-like John Walker Lindh, nearly naked, tied down and ready for shipping? Apparently, he was treated kindly:
Last month, the U.S. Army announced 17 soldiers in Iraq, including a brigadier general, had been removed from duty after charges of mistreating Iraqi prisoners.

But the details of what happened have been kept secret, until now.

It turns out photographs surfaced showing American soldiers abusing and humiliating Iraqis being held at a prison near Baghdad. The Army investigated, and issued a scathing report.

Now, an Army general and her command staff may face the end of long military careers. And six soldiers are facing court martial in Iraq -- and possible prison time.
And Digby posts one of the pictures, a genuinely obscene image.

(And no, I don't think all, or even a large minority, of US soldiers act this way. The problem is that if only a few are acting like pigs, everyone suffers.)

Your Children's Deaths Not On The Front Page Anymore  

Check the Times. No mention I can find on the front page that 10 more U.S. troops died in Iraq.

via Atrios

Jon Stewart/Karen Hughes Must See  

In this clip, Jon Stewart, the greatest tv anchor since Cronkite, reports Karen Hughes' remarks equating pro-choice supporters with terrorists.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Flash! Kerry Likes Strawberry Jam!  

One would think that the fact that John Kerry likes pb&j's is too trivial to report. But one would be wrong. It is vitally important information.

For if you pick up a print copy of the New York Times , you will find that column 1 of page 1 - that is, one of the most prominent news positions in the world devotes paragraph after paragraph to the details of John Kerry's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You'll learn who makes them and when! You'll learn about the bread! And that strawberry is preferred to grape!

What on earth is going on here? It's called "feeding the GOP attack dogs." It's called character smear. Indeed, the aide who makes the sandwiches is called a "part butler" in the headline. America can only come to one conclusion: Kerry doesn't know that real Americans, like Bush, don't have butlers. Kerry's an aristocrat who doesn't understand NASCAR values.

What more does the NY Times think we need to see to get a sense of Kerry, the man? Well, helpfully they provide a picture of Kerry's aide bending over in a crowd, serving as a human desktop for the candidate to sign autographs.

There's even a sidebar where we learn that this aide carries Imodium. Translated: just like McClellan, Kerry wants to make sure he has the slows!

But two questions remain answered: What on EARTH is this unspeakable piece of partisan dogwaste doing in a supposedly respectable, supposedly the MOST respectable, American newspaper?

And when are we going to see articles about Bush's high-four-figures suits and HIS huge bevy of servants, valets, and sycophants?

Even odds that Kerry's pb&j and "elitism" is the subject of the next MoDo. Any takers?

Bringing The War Back Back Home?  

Anyone notice what might be a larger pattern right now? From the al Qaeda standpoint, they seem to be bringing the war home, to predominantly Muslim areas and countries.

Today we read about a a revolt in the predominantly Muslim southern Thailand. Yesterday, there were terrorist attacks in Syria. And Jordan barely foiled an enormous attack. And there have been numerous terrorist incidents in Saudi Arabia. There's also been increased Christian-Muslim violence in Indonesia.

And then there's Iraq. And oh yes, Afghanistan (remember them?).

It may just be happenstance, but given al Qaeda's enthusiasm for synchronized attacks in widely separate places, it does raise some questions.

Also, notice that all the recent attacks are taking place outside the US. That could be the prelude to a storm here, just in time for elections. Remember, they like having Bush in power 'cause they can lead him around by the nose; havoc, fear and martial law in the US could help clinch that.

"Plan of Attack"  

How come CREEP recc'd's Woodward's book? Campaign Desk explains a theory advanced by Allan Murray in the Wall Street Journal:
Bush likes the book.

Yes, the president is a fan of the book that an exercised Rush Limbaugh called "an anti-Bush, antiwar screed" ... the book that Ivo Daalder of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institute calls "a deeply disturbing indictment of the president and his policy" ... the book that would cause a Kerry "landslide" if enough people read it, according to MSNBC's Bill Press.

How can this be? Well, Murray explains, if read with neither liberal nor conservative blinders on, the book paints a flattering portrait of Bush -- and of no one else. Secretary of State Colin Powell is painted as "Hamlet on the Potomac," forever out of the loop. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld comes off as a schemer who refuses to take a clear stand on much of anything. CIA chief George Tenet is blamed for monumental intelligence failures. Vice President Cheney is feverish with dreams of war. Only Bush, the steadfast figure at the core of this collection of flawed climbers, is portrayed almost admiringly, says Murray, a former Washington Bureau Chief of the Journal, who now performs that role for CNBC.

"The book gets it right," Murray explains. "The president is exactly as Mr. Woodward portrays him: a man who judges his counterparts by their character -- he often uses an earthier term -- rather than their intellect. A man so certain of his positions that he loses no sleep to doubts. A man who talks to God about key decisions, but avoids long discussions with advisers who disagree. Love him or hate him, this is the real George W. Bush."

That the White House is, in effect, shilling for Woodward's book has to be a hard pill to swallow for a whole host of commentators, from Rush Limbaugh to Brookings' wise men.

But the case Murray makes for why it's so is thoroughly convincing. [Emphasis in original.]
Hat tip: Kevin Drum

General Clark On Bravery  

Read it all:
John Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for his service in Vietnam. In April 1971, as part of a protest against the war, he threw some ribbons over the fence of the United States Capitol.

Republicans have tried to use this event to question his patriotism and his truthfulness, claiming he has been inconsistent in saying whether he threw away his medals or ribbons. This is no more than a political smear. After risking his life in Vietnam to save others, John Kerry earned the right to speak out against a war he believed was wrong. Make no mistake: it is that bravery these Republicans are now attacking.

Although President Bush has not engaged personally in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop others from making them. I believe those who didn't serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the decency to respect those who did serve — often under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery and, yes, with undeniable patriotism.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Be Careful What You Ask For  

Jon Lee Anderson
I remarked that his [Shiite cleric Ayad Jamaluddi] hopes for a sweeping transformation of a national psyche had few historical precedents, at least under modern American stewardship. The postwar transformations of Germany and Japan were possible only because there was a wholesale capitulation by the regimes in both countries after devastating military assaults. In Japan’s case, this had come about after the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and after Emperor Hirohito’s radio broadcast offering Japan’s unconditional surrender, and the admission that he was not a divine being. Jamaluddin smiled: “Then maybe what we need is another Hiroshima for Iraq. Maybe Fallujah will be our Hiroshima. Inshallah.”

Operation No More Mr. Nice Guy  

It's on.
Multiple explosions shook Fallujah after dark Tuesday, and large plumes of smoke billowed into the sky as fighting erupted for the second straight night. An American AC-130 gunship hammered targets in the city.

Blasts and gunfire went on steadily for more than half an hour in sustained fighting, apparently in the northern Jolan district, a poor neighborhood where Sunni insurgents are concentrated.

Flames could be seen rising from building, and mosque loudspeakers in other parts of the city called for firefighters to mobilize.

The fighting erupted as a two-day extension to a cease-fire ended. Earlier in the day, U.S. aircraft dropped leaflets in the city of 200,000 people, calling on insurgents to surrender.

``Surrender, you are surrounded,'' the leaflets said. ``If you are a terrorist, beware, because your last day was yesterday. In order to spare your life end your actions and surrender to coalition forces now. We are coming to arrest you.''

Fighting in the same neighborhood on Monday night killed one Marine and eight insurgents, and tank fire destroyed a mosque minaret that U.S. commanders said insurgents were using as sniper's nest.

U.S. troops fought militiamen overnight near Najaf, killing 64 gunmen and destroying an anti-aircraft gun. An American soldier was killed Tuesday in Baghdad, raising the U.S. death toll for April to 115 -- the same number lost during the entire invasion of Iraq last year.

Open Letter To Tony Blair From 52 Former Brit Diplomats  

Read it all. These guys know what they're talking about. Here's the very undiplomatic end:
...there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Torture Wolf Now  


Postmodern Imperialism  

Via Chris Nelson comes the clearest explanation yet of exactly how the Bush administration sees itself.

It's from an excerpt of an interview with Ron Suskind on AirAmerica
Suskind: He says, you know, "You, Suskind, you're in what we call the 'reality-based community'" -- that's actually the term he used.

I said, "The WHAT?"

He says, "The 'reality-based community'.". He said, "you all believe" -- now let me see if I can get this right -- "You all believe that answers to solutions will emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality."

I said, "Yeah... YEAH, OF COURSE..."

He says, "Well, let me tell you how we really see it. You see, we're an empire now. And when we act, we kinda create a reality. Events flow from our actions. And because of that, what we do is... essentially... we act, and every time we act we create a whole new set of laws of physics, which you then judiciously study for your solutions, and while you're doing that we'll act again, promulgate a whole other set."

Janine Garofolo: "So you throw a rock in the pond, and the ripples go out..."

Suskind: And this guy said, "and that's where we'll stand ultimately; you'll study us, and we'll act. We'll be the actors, and you will study what we do. And if you're really good -- on good behavior -- maybe thirty years from now one of us will visit that graduate seminar you'll be teaching at Dartmouth in your tweed blazer." That's the thinking.

Domestic Terrorism Watch  

Dave Neiwert's on top of it, again. This time the targets were specifically Democrats, liberals, and those opposed to the Bush administration. And once again, there's been hardly any publicity about it.

Atrios On Religion  

In a recent post, Atrios once again publishes an extended rant on religion (he also very kindly mentions this blog). As usual, whenever, Atrios rants, I find myself completely, or nearly completely, in agreement. I want to add just a bit to his concluding remarks:
I would suggest that some of the reason some on the Christian Left feel somewhat that their religion marginalizes them from other liberals is something which impacts us all - Religion Is a Very Sensitive Subject. Unless you are an extreme evangelist or in a group of extraordinarily like-minded people, discussion of deeply held but not universally shared religious beliefs is almost always problematic. Some people just don't consider it to be appropriate dinner party conversation.

In my immediate community* - New York artists/professors/intellectuals/professionals - Religion is a far more personal topic than any other. Talk of sexuality is very open, both in regards to the vicissitudes of personal relationships and the hydraulics. Deep discussions of one's beliefs and/or avowal of religion, as opposed to scholarly/historical talk, makes everyone uncomfortable.

That said, nearly everyone I know avows membership in some sort of religious organization. Nearly everyone's kid will be confirmed, bat/bar mitzvahed, and so on. Catholic friends attend Easter services, Jewish ones celebrate Passover. As previously discussed, everyone in this multi-denominational, but exceedingly religious, country of ours cherry picks what religious practices to observe, and what not to. I would bet that while his kids (if has them) might never go through one, even Steven Weinberg -who really has nothing good to say about religious belief- has gone to the Bar Mitzvah of some of his friends' kids.

So while the subject might be improper dinner conversation either for my friends or for Atrios's, religious observance is so deeply embedded into American life that many of us, observant or not, barely notice it. Crucially, so many different kinds of religious observance are so widely tolerated that we barely notice our own tolerance. Try celebrating a Bar Mitzvah in Saudi Arabia, fr'instance. Or celebrating Mass in an ultra-orthodox Jewish settlement on the west bank. Or loudly celebrating Mohammed's birthday in Beijing.

No American who is deeply religious should undervalue one of the truly great ideas upon which the United States was founded: the assertion of the basic right to worship in whatever fashion you choose, provided your observances does not infringe on the rights of others. Thus, many of us who are very religious respect the right to choose even if we do not wish to exercise that right ourselves. Thus, many of us who are not at all religious respect the right to close public schools and businesses near the observance of some religious holidays even though a purely "secular" reason for these closings cannot be found.

Thus many Americans, no matter how devout or otherwise, are disgusted, contemptuous and even horrified by attempts to impinge on this widespread tolerance by right wing fanatics, who have never believed that tolerance of difference -a core American value- is a virtue. Roy Moore earns our contempt not because he's religious, but because he thinks his particular expression of his religion should be everyone's. Franklin Graham earns our disgust because he advocates not tolerance of religious difference but intolerance of Islam so extreme that he exhorts his followers to convert Iraqis who never invited anyone to convert them.

As for the reason why many of us become uncomfortably silent when personal avowals of religion are brought up, well, perhaps we are worried that we are going to be harangued a la Pat Robertson, or Jerry Falwell, or Louis Farrakhan, or Father Scalia (Tony's brother) to accept some intolerant nonsense simply because it was prefaced by "As a Christian/Jew/Muslim/Whatever who follows the Word of God faithfully..." There is simply no way for an American who values tolerance to respond to something like this except with some variation of, "believe whatever you want, but if you demand that I or anyone else who doesn't believe like you to act like you, then screw you."

So, religious moderates need to separate themselves from the right wing operatives who openly despise religious tolerance. And they need to promote moderate leaders to challenge the hegemony of religious nuts who have hijacked the mass media's discourse on religion. If they do so, then perhaps the discomfort they feel talking about their beliefs with other moderates or liberals who do not share their particular expression of faith stands a chance of evaporating.

*Naturally, my total social group consists of a far larger constituency than this. It has ranged, at various times, from lower middle class working stiffs to genuine American artistocrats, the existence of which most Americans are barely aware of, even in the Age of Bush. But my immediate community consists of those who I come into contact with everyday - my family, close friends, co-workers, fellow parents at my daughter's school, and so on.

Karen Hughes Tickles The Dragon Tail  

Both Atrios and Kos among many others, I'm sure, point to some disgraceful remarks by Karen Hughes contained in a NY Times article about the 1 Million plus abortion rights rally in DC this weekend. But if you read the Times article, the remarks are nowhere to be found. And for good reason. As reported by Kos they are:
"I think that after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life," she said. "President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions. And I think those are the kinds of policies the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy and, really, the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."
As Kos translates, Hughes is saying that "supporting pro-choice policies and politicians is the same as supporting al-Qaeda."

Two points to keep in mind. Hughes didn't exactly say pro-choice=pro al qaeda. But she was trying to imply it while leaving herself some wiggle room to deny that's what she was implying if called on the carpet. Apparently, someone decided she had not left herself enough wiggle room, that it was really a counterproductive thing to say, so poof! it vanished.

Nevertheless, this is a common RNC rhetorical ploy which I call "tickling the dragon's tail". The trick is to mention Bush's opponents as close as possible to a mention of terrorism. The idea is create an association in the public's mind between opposition to Bush and support of al Qaeda without actually saying it. A similar technique was used to create the impression in people's minds that Saddam Hussein caused 9/11. No, no one actually said so, but Saddam and 9/11 were mentioned so many times in such close proximity that the association stuck.

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