Saturday, October 30, 2004

Eight Marines Killed In Iraq  

Near Falluja:
Eight U.S. Marines were killed and nine wounded Saturday in al Anbar province west of Baghdad, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said.

The casualties came amid heavy air and artillery assaults in the province, where the restive city of Falluja is located.

A Marines spokesman said those casualties were outside Falluja in a single incident. No further details were immediately available.

The military has been trying to crack down on insurgent strongholds in the area.

U.S. forces launched fresh assaults in Falluja on Saturday, striking targets from the air and battling insurgents on the ground.

Marines operating around the outskirts of southeastern Falluja were engaged with mortars from insurgent forces within the city in the early afternoon, a Marines spokesman said.

The Marines responded with the longest barrage of artillery fire on insurgent positions in weeks, the spokesman said.

Marines later dropped air ordnance on an insurgent position in southern Falluja to support a group of Marines engaged on the ground, the spokesman said. The aircraft also used machine-gun fire against the insurgents, the spokesman said.
It's being underplayed in the news.

Congratulations To A Talented Friend  

It is always a pleasure when someone whose art you love receives wider recognition. When you actually know the artist (a rare thing) and like them enormously (much, much rarer), the pleasure is doubled, tripled, exponentialed. So I was thrilled when my wife told me that our friend Catherine Barnett had won the prestigious Whiting Award for her first collection of poems, Into Perfect Spheres Such Holes Are Pierced.

It is well-deserved. The book is a cycle of poems about a profound loss. At first, we assume the loss, which is so utterly exceptional, simply must be a fictional construct, a literary exercise to explore the grotesquely improbable that lurks within an ordinary farewell. Then we pray this is so. Then, when we finally realize the loss is real - that the impossible actually happened - we still refuse to accept it, or its aftermath. For, as we indulge in the inevitable exercise in narcissistic introspection -how would I feel if that happened to me? - our mind just won't go there. But the poems do go there, and they are unforgettable. We end up accepting the incomprehensible as real.

For an artist, working with material this wrenching is extremely difficult. The task is to find a way not to express one's own grief - which, as Auden's poem about the painting of the fall of Icarus cruelly shows, holds little interest beyond one's immediate circle. Rather, the artists tries to induce the reader into imaginatively re-creating the artist's feelings, then transmute those particulars into the reader's own experience. But that's only half of it. Next, the artist must get the reader to re-imagine those now-personally-felt emotions as the artist's own emotions, and then imagine outwards again, to see the effect of those feelings in other people, on family and friends. Only via this intricate psychological labyrinth can an artist's own affective world acquire genuine meaning for others.

At this daunting task, Catherine Barnettt fully succeeds. Her poetic voice is masterful, sensitive, tightly controlled and deeply passionate. It is a beautiful, beautiful work. Here's a short excerpt, but go and get the book. Those of us who know Catherine personally, who read her book and/or heard her read her poems knew these were wonderful pieces, we didn't need an official imprimatur. But now, with this award added to the others, Catherine's poetry will surely attract more readers who will learn how just how special our friend is.

C minus A and B equals—
Tree with no branch equals—

What grief looks like:
A knife rusted in the side of a goat.

No, no.
A shiny coin falling in water

And the fish dart for it.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Osama Returns, Fails To Endorse Either Candidate  

What a week you've had, George Bush. Missing explosives, the outing of massive voter fraud by your party, your VP's company gets investigated by the FBI, the Red Sox hero cancels on you, Caroline Kennedy disses you, songwriters complain when you use their song. And thenguess who pops up to remind everyone that he's still out there and you failed to catch him?

Major Battle In Iraq On Election Eve?  

Could this be the October Surprise? A rapid, major victory in Fallujah?
.S. marines prepared on Friday to storm the Iraqi cities of Falluja and Ramadi to crush Sunni Muslim insurgents and Arab fighters.

"We are gearing up for a major operation," Brigadier General Denis Hajlik told reporters at a base near Falluja. "If we do so, it will be decisive and we will whack them."

Hajlik, deputy commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said the expected assault would involve Iraqi forces.

Iraq's U.S.-backed interim government has vowed to pacify the whole country before nationwide elections due in January.

U.S. planes have launched almost daily air strikes on what the military says are safe houses used by a network of Iraqi and foreign fighters led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The latest air raid on Friday killed three Iraqi men and wounded three more civilians, hospital officials said.

A full-scale U.S.-led offensive could be as devastating as a marine attack in April that Washington called off after a world outcry over civilian casualties in Falluja. Local doctors reported more than 600 dead in the fighting.
Y'know, it could work, provided there are zero American casualties.

Bush Plays The 9/11 Card  

With just four days to go, President Bush sought today to turn the campaign's focus back to the 9/11 attacks, appearing at a political rally with several relatives of prominent victims of the terrorist strike and highlighting their heroic sacrifice.
The question, my friends, is how will Kerry deal with this?

It may not even be necessary for Kerry to mention the 9 months of willful neglect that preceeded 9/11. All he needs to do is to remind them that Bush, true to form, still neglects the country's security.

Ratfucking In Milwaukee  

via talkleft who got it from others.

Voter Fraud And Dirty Voting Tricks In Ohio  

What Atrios says.

Schilling Cancels Appearance With Bush  

He did the right thing. And his statement is exactly right, too:
While I am a Bush supporter, and I did vote for him with an absentee ballot, speaking as I did the other day was wrong. While I hope to see him re-elected, it's not my place, nor the time for me to offer up my political opinions unsolicited...''
A rare case of truly gentlemanly conduct. Bravo, Schilling. Bravo, Sox.

2004's Scariest Halloween Costumes  

Guaranteed to scare the beejeesus out of you. Go NOW.

Richard Cohen Wants To Waste Our Money  

Digby led me to check out a new Richard Cohen column in which he calls for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

You would think I would be among the first to amen this, seeing as I've often discussed what are clearly impeachable offenses by Bush. But I'm not. What is wrong with this idea?

1. There's not enough time. Bush will be gone by January 20. There are many more things that take priority over his impeachment, like putting together a cabinet, re-building interparty relationships in Congress, learning the new phone numbers of the world leaders that Bush stopped talking to a few years ago, and so on.

2. It's a waste of effort. Bush ain't Nixon. He's worse, but that doesn't mean there aren't many people who will fight against his impeachment. An impeachment effort will fail.

3. It's not the appropriate way to redress what Bush did. 'Nuff said.

But what if Bush wins on November 3?

Please, please. It's only the morning here. Let's not go there before I've had my 10th cupppa Java, 'k?

Economist Endorses Kerry  

If you subscribe, read it here. The Economist vacillates a lot in their editorial (if you read what they say, you will get my joke.) But their summation is decisive:
... as Mr Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him, given a viable alternative. John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America's great tasks.

Answers For Kevin Drum  

Kevin asks,
The evidence so far seems to indicate that the explosives [at al QaQaa] were indeed looted after the invasion. But does it matter? Is 380 tons of this stuff really important in the grand scheme of things?
Answer: Let's ask the survivors of the bombings. And their relatives.

Case Sealed  

Yup, the IAEA seals were on the doors videotaped by KSTP tv reporters.

Remember what Bush said recently?

"“…a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your Commander in Chief."

It's about time that someone who acknowledges facts and can make proper inferences is our Commander in Chief.

GOP Dirty Tricks Redux  

Again, Ohio. Just read it all. Sickening.

Note: this and the previous post via Atrios, who hopefully will forgive me not linking to him these two times as its 3 in the morning.

GOP Dirty Tricks  

Ohio voter fraud.
It is an outright case of election fraud in Lake County.

The phony letter says newly registered voters signed up by the Kerry or Capri Cafaro campaigns or the NAACP, their registrations are illegal and they will not be able to vote.

“That was not authorized by the Board of Elections, said Elections Director Jan Clair. “It was not mailed by the Lake County Board of Elections.”

A real board mailing would have Clair’s signature.

The letter was brought to election officials by Ron Colvin, a longtime registered voter and head of the Lake County NAACP.

Sheriff Dan Dunlap is investigating. “It will be a federal offense because you have

interfered with the constitutionally protected right to vote,” he said.

Congressional candidate Capri Cafaro says she’s sure the letter came from the other side. “So it seems to me the Republicans will stop at nothing to win and this is just another voter suppression tactic,” she said. “I believe it came from someone with significant political motivation.”

In a race where the mud’s been flying, Cafaro’s opponent, Steve LaTorette, decided to sit this one out and said he would have no comment on her charges.

Whether it was Republicans, or Democrats wanting to make it look like Republicans, or some guy sitting in his pajamas at his home computer, the sheriff says from now to Election Day, ignore any message that tells you not to come out and vote.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Civilians In Iraq: Perhaps 100 Times The Official US Casualty Rate  

How to lose hearts and minds forever:
A survey of deaths in Iraqi households estimates that as many as 100,000 more people may have died throughout the country in the 18 months since the U.S.-led invasion than would be expected based on the death rate before the war.

There is no official figure for the number of Iraqis killed since the conflict began, but some non-governmental estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000. As of Wednesday, 1,081 U.S. servicemen had been killed, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

The scientists who wrote the report concede that the data they based their projections on were of "limited precision," because the quality of the information depends on the accuracy of the household interviews used for the study. The interviewers were Iraqi, most of them doctors.

Designed and conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, the study is being published Thursday on the Web site of The Lancet medical journal.

The survey indicated violence accounted for most of the extra deaths seen since the invasion, and airstrikes from coalition forces caused most of the violent deaths, the researchers wrote in the British-based journal.

"Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children," they said.

The report was released just days before the U.S. presidential election, and the lead researcher said he wanted it that way. The Lancet routinely publishes papers on the Web before they appear in print, particularly if it considers the findings of urgent public health interest.

Those reports then appear later in the print issue of the journal. The journal's spokesmen said they were uncertain which print issue the Iraqi report would appear in and said it was too late to make Friday's issue, and possibly too late for the Nov. 5 edition.

Les Roberts, the lead researcher from Johns Hopkins, said the article's timing was up to him.

"I emailed it in on Sept. 30 under the condition that it came out before the election," Roberts told The Asocciated Press. "My motive in doing that was not to skew the election. My motive was that if this came out during the campaign, both candidates would be forced to pledge to protect civilian lives in Iraq."

Hah Hah! Hah!  

"Whatever It Takes" is right:
One of President Bush's closing television advertisements features a doctored photograph with certain images of uniformed soldiers sprinkled repeatedly into a crowd to enhance the backdrop of a presidential speech.

A Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman acknowledged the editing of the image, which was still posted today at the top of the Bush website to publicize the 60-second ad titled "Whatever It Takes."

The ad, distributed this week to national cable channels, shows an excerpt of Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. In it, Bush is shown talking about his compassion for the sacrifices made by military personnel and their families.

In the 45th second, however, the ad shifts to an image of a sea of camouflage-clad military personnel who are apparently listening to the president speak at another rally. As the image comes into focus over the course of about four seconds, a handful of the troops can be seen clearly replicated in various spots in the crowd. This visual cloning was pointed out by the blog Daily Kos.

Warning: Don't Trust Everything You Read In The New York Times  

Recently, I speculated on a detail in a recent Kristof column.. I wrote:
So let's go to the intelligence tests Bush and Kerry took some 30 years ago, in which Bush scored higher than Kerry, and which Kristof also mentions in this misbegotten column. Apparently it never occurred to Kristof that such a result might highlight how utterly bogus such tests are. Or if you want to make the unwarranted assumption that such tests are valid instruments, that perhaps the approximately 20 years of boozing that Bush's strong-willed character indulged in took its toll on the man's grey matter. Or that reality testing is nothing the military of 30 years ago thought important enough to measure. Or...or...or...
What Kristof was picking up on was this NY Times article which reports that Bush scored higher than Kerry on military intelligence tests. It turns out I should have looked a little closer at the article. My bad. For in a post at Media Matters co-authored by one Duncan Black, we learn that the people involved in this comparison were not exactly the most tightly wrapped of individuals:
[The Times article reported that] right-wing columnist Steve Sailer concluded that President George W. Bush has a higher IQ than Senator John Kerry, purportedly based on their scores on military tests. But then, rather than seeking a different view on the suppositions of Sailer -- whom Tierney identifies as a conservative -- Tierney obtained validation of Sailer's findings from University of Delaware "I.Q. expert" Linda Gottfredson. Tierney didn't report that Gottfredson is herself a controversial figure whose research has been funded by the Pioneer Fund, an organization designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its support over the years of the work of white supremacists, eugenicists, and others dedicated to proving the existence of genetic differences between races...

Controversy arose around Gottfredson after her university first rejected a $174,000 grant she received from the Pioneer Fund, and then later accepted it following legal pressure, according to the book The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund by William H. Tucker. The SPLC noted that the Pioneer Fund's original charter called for the pursuit of "race betterment" for descendants of "white persons" who "settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution." The SPLC also reported: "Many involved in the early years of the fund, including its first president Harry H. Laughlin, maintained 'contacts with many of the Nazi scientists whose work provided the conceptual template for Hitler's aspiration toward "racial hygiene" in Germany,' according to an Albany Law Review article by Paul Lombardo." The Pioneer Fund has funded work by Jared Taylor, founder of American Renaissance magazine whom the SPLC describes as "a courtly presenter of ideas that most would describe as crudely white supremacist," and Richard Lynn, a current member of the American Renaissance board of directors and emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster. In an article in the July 2002 edition of American Renaissance, Lynn wrote that "blacks are more psychopathic than whites."
Even if iq tests were valid, which they are not, then these are two of the least reliable folks to rely upon to analyse and interpret the results. In short, the Times had no business publishing this article without proper context.

Better yet, they should never have published it at all.

Missing Explosives: Case Closed  

KSTP has the video proof that tons of explosives were in the al Qa Qaa area, if not al Qa Qaa itself when the troops arrived. They were poorly protected. Worse, the troops broke in and when they left, failed to secure the opened doors. Nor were there enough troops to guard the explosives.

Case closed.

(Note: Mac users won't be able to view the video in safari, but is viewable in internet explorer.)

Visualize Winning  

Oh, please, please, please!

Iraq US Military Deaths Now At 1111  

Via Iraq Coalition Casualties

New Richard Clarke Book  

Richard Clarke heads the list of authors of "Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action." A generous selection of excerpts are available in pdf form at the link to The Century Foundation site, above. Here's the beginning of the overview
Government spokespeople and the media often use the phrase “al Qaeda” or “al Qaeda-related” as shorthand for a larger and more complex array of jihadist terrorist groups. In fact, despite the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the arrests of jihadist leaders around the world, the jihadist network remains strong, diverse, and may well be growing in complexity. These groups have conducted twice as many attacks since September 11, 2001, as they did in the three years prior to that date. Jihadist leaders who have been captured or killed have been replaced. Although it is difficult to be precise, the strong consensus among experts is that the rank and file of jihadist membership has increased significantly since 9/11.

Significantly, in evaluating U.S. progress in neutralizing the jihadist movement, we need to acknowledge that the war in Iraq has been deeply counter-productive to the greater effort. As a sin of commission, the Iraq war alienated crucial allies in the battle against jihadists, made friendly Muslims into skeptics, made skeptics into radicals, and created a sanctuary for itinerant jihadist insurgents. Iraq had no strong connection to the terror threat facing the United States and Saddam’s removal has done nothing to lessen the threat we face from al Qaeda and the jihadists. Perhaps the most vivid demonstration of this point is that a year and a half after Saddam’s removal, the terror alert level in America remains unchanged and there is anticipation of a major al Qaeda attack within the next few months. The simple fact is that even if Iraq magically turned into a stable, secure democracy today, the United States could suffer another 9/11-type attack tomorrow.
It looks like vitally important reading for anyone seriously interested in understanding the full nature of the radical Islamist confrontation with the West. I'll post a link directly to Amazon when it's out.

Ohio Voter Fraud/Suppression Update  

It's gonna be a mess:
Ohio Republicans said they will step up their Election Day challenges of questionable voters in light of a federal judge's ruling Wednesday blocking them from making pre-election challenges.
That means intimidation and long lines that will discourage voters, especially the kind that Republicans hate. Ordinary Americans.

David Kay Says It Was Nigh Impossible, Too  

Still not convinced Bush is bluffing?
DAVID KAY: I must say, I find it hard to believe that a convoy of 40 to 60 trucks left that facility [al QaQaa] prior to or during the war, and we didn't spot it on satellite or UAV. That was because the main road to Baghdad from the south was a road that was constantly under surveillance.

Iraq denies explosives disappeared before war.  

Sounds plausible.
A top Iraqi science official says it is impossible that 350 tonnes of high explosives could have been smuggled out of a military site south of Baghdad before the regime fell last year.

The UN nuclear watchdog this week said the explosives went missing from a weapons dump some time after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in April 2003.

But as the issue of the missing explosives took centre stage in the US presidential campaign, some US officials have suggested they had gone before the US-led forces moved on Baghdad.

"It is impossible that these materials could have been taken from this site before the regime's fall," Mohammed al-Sharaa, who heads the Science Ministry's site monitoring department, said.

"The officials that were inside this facility (Al-Qaqaa) beforehand confirm that not even a shred of paper left it before the fall.

"I spoke to them about it and they even issued certified statements to this effect which the US-led coalition was aware of."

Mr Sharaa also warns that other nearby sites with similar materials could have also been plundered. [Emphasis added.]
That's right. It wasn't an isolated incident.

Looting In Iraq  

Peter Galbraith has a horror story just in time for halloween. Unfortunately, it's true:
On April 16, 2003, a mob attacked and looted the Iraqi equivalent of the Centers for Disease Control, taking live HIV and black fever virus among other potentially lethal materials. US troops were stationed across the street but did not intervene because they didn't know the building was important.

When he found out, the young American lieutenant was devastated. He shook his head and said, "I hope I am not responsible for Armageddon." About the same time, looters entered the warehouses at Iraq's sprawling nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha on Baghdad's outskirts. They took barrels of yellowcake (raw uranium), apparently dumping the uranium and using the barrels to hold water. US troops were at Tuwaitha but did not interfere.

There was nothing secret about the Disease Center or the Tuwaitha warehouses. Inspectors had repeatedly visited the center looking for evidence of a biological weapons program. The Tuwaitha warehouses included materials from Iraq's nuclear program, which had been dismantled after the 1991 Gulf War. The United Nations had sealed the materials, and they remained untouched until the US troops arrived.

The looting that I observed was spontaneous. Quite likely the looters had no idea they were stealing deadly biological agents or radioactive materials or that they were putting themselves in danger. As I pointed out to Wolfowitz, as long as these sites remained unprotected, their deadly materials could end up not with ill-educated slum dwellers but with those who knew exactly what they were doing.

This is apparently what happened. According to an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued earlier this month, there was "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear program." This includes nearly 380 tons of high explosives suitable for detonating nuclear weapons or killing American troops. Some of the looting continued for many months -- possibly into 2004. Using heavy machinery, organized gangs took apart, according to the IAEA, "entire buildings that housed high-precision equipment."

This equipment could be anywhere. But one good bet is Iran, which has had allies and agents in Iraq since shortly after the US-led forces arrived.

This was a preventable disaster.

Al QaQaa Timeline  

Al QaQaa timeline put together by Jeanne d'Arc, useful for those who still doubt that Bush is lying through his teeth about this.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Red October!!  

And to a Blue November!!!

Stolen Munitions Failing The Austin Powers Defense  

Josh has the skinny:
head of the Iraqi Science Ministry's site monitoring department says there's no way the explosives were snagged from al Qaqaa before the former regime fell.

"It is impossible that these materials could have been taken from this site before the regime's fall," Mohammed al-Sharaa told the AFP. "The officials that were inside this facility (Al-Qaqaa) beforehand confirm that not even a shred of paper left it before the fall and I spoke to them about it and they even issued certified statements to this effect which the US-led coalition was aware of."

Does this guy have an axe to grind? Is he biased? I can't say I know anything about him
You do remember the Austin Powers defense?

General Clark Gets It  

And General Clark has been reading Tristero
Today George W. Bush made a very compelling and thoughtful argument for why he should not be reelected. In his own words, he told the American people that “…a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your Commander in Chief.

President Bush couldn’t be more right. He jumped to conclusions about any connection between Saddam Hussein and 911. He jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction. He jumped to conclusions about the mission being accomplished. He jumped to conclusions about how we had enough troops on the ground to win the peace. And because he jumped to conclusions, terrorists and insurgents in Iraq may very well have their hands on powerful explosives to attack our troops, we are stuck in Iraq without a plan to win the peace, and Americans are less safe both at home and abroad.

By doing all these things, he broke faith with our men and women in uniform. He has let them down. George W. Bush is unfit to be our Commander in Chief.
via Atrios.

Florida Follies: Broward Lost 60,000 Absentee Ballots  

The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office on Tuesday pointed a finger at the U.S. Postal Service for nearly 60,000 missing absentee ballots, but it acknowledged it has been overwhelmed by calls from frustrated voters.

While the Postal Service denied responsibility for the missing ballots, Broward County commissioners, anxious to avoid another election debacle, offered to send county employees to help with the phones. Dozens of employees could begin assisting the elections office today to answer telephone calls and to process voters at the 14 early-voting sites.

"What we are seeing is unprecedented, so if the supervisor of elections needs our help, we will help," County Mayor Ilene Lieberman said. "It's a week to the election, and voting is a basic right in our country."

Just six days away from the general election, the Supervisor of Elections Office has fielded hundreds of complaints from people who have yet to receive absentee ballots. Many more have been unable to get through to election officials to complain or get their questions answered.

Quote of the Day  

George W. Bush:
[A] political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief.
For once, I fully agree with him.

If the Kerry campaign doesn't exploit this gift from heaven to the full, they are crazy.

Reyes-Alonzo Update  

I received a phone call from Charles Kuck, the lawyer for Juan-Manuel Reyes-Alonzo, the ex-Cuban Intelligence officer who married an American, moved here, informed the authorities of his intelligence activities, but didn't register as a foreign agent, and therefore has been arrested and held incommunicado since September 2.

Kuck explained to me that they have a request pending with ICE and he is "cautiously optimistic" that Reyes-Alonzo will be released on mid- five figures bail, "comparable to that set for a murderer," he said. I asked Kuck what he did for Cuban intelligence and Kuck said he was asked to "blend in with tourists in Cuba," and was not trained in anything violent, or anything against the US.

Again, it is unclear to me whether Reyes-Alonzo might be a bad guy or not.


No, not the 380 tons - remember, tons - of explosives, but something else entirely:
Considered the worst filmmaker of all time, Ed Wood won a cult following after his death and now fans can see his long-lost last film "Necromania," a work some say shows he was so bad that he was brilliant.

But it's not for the faint-hearted. The 1971 movie is a porn film documenting the sexual enlightenment of a young couple at the hands of a coven of witches...

"Necromania" -- the last film Wood directed -- was filmed over two or three days with a budget of no more than $7,000 and the only copies went missing soon after it was made. The movie tells the story of Danny and Shirley, a young couple who visit the mysterious Madame Heles for help with their flagging sex life. The lessons they are taught involve skulls, spells and sex in a coffin.

Rudolph Grey, author of a biography of the director, and a fellow Ed Wood enthusiast, movie distributor Alexander Kogan, unearthed "Necromania" in a warehouse in Los Angeles after more than 15 years of detective work.
Also, no wmd's found.

For A Good Time  

Lie Girls

Poor Nick Kristof  

Something's seriously awry with Kristof. Here it is, a week before the most important election since, what?, 1860? well, surely within the lifetime of most of the country's voters, and what's on his mind?

The autobiography of George H. W. Bush's dog, as ghostwritten by Barbara Bush.

If only that were the strangest thing in Kristof's latest:
Like President Ronald Reagan, reality to him [G.W. Bush] is not about facts, but about higher meta-truths: Mom and Dad are loving grandparents, Saddam Hussein is an evil man, and so on. To clarify those overarching realities, Mr. Bush harnesses "facts," both true and false...

One example [of Bush's "core of values" that "provides genuine leadership" ] is Mr. Bush's determination since 9/11 to add to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, even though this pushes up gasoline prices. Mr. Bush's approach is foolish economically, and it is crazy politically. Yet his grim willingness to raise gas prices during his re-election campaign underscores a solidity of character and convictions.
Meta-truths, not immature perceptions. Genuine leadership, not stubborn ignorance.
If Mr. Bush were a private citizen, I would admire his tenacity, just as I respect...Flat-Earthers.
Admiring the tenacity of Flat-Earthers...

Honestly, I don't know where to begin.

So let's go to the intelligence tests Bush and Kerry took some 30 years ago, in which Bush scored higher than Kerry, and which Kristof also mentions in this misbegotten column. Apparently it never occurred to Kristof that such a result might highlight how utterly bogus such tests are. Or if you want to make the unwarranted assumption that such tests are valid instruments, that perhaps the approximately 20 years of boozing that Bush's strong-willed character indulged in took its toll on the man's grey matter. Or that reality testing is nothing the military of 30 years ago thought important enough to measure. Or...or...or... Or that there is nothing inconsistent with believing that Bush is genuinely ignorant, genuinely incapable of grasping complicated reality, a genuine sociopath, a genuine liar, and yet, because of his social standing, his wealth, and his ruthlessness can manipulate weak-willed men like Kristof with ease.

And now for a real meta-truth.

Brooks. Safire. Friedman. Kristof. Dowd. Five deeply troubled individuals who have regular access to some of the most important media real estate in the world. Each uniquely incompetent at providing thoughtful insight into the problems that beset our country, our world. During a time when we need such insight the way we need air.


[Update: Somerby has similar thoughts.
How inane is your Washington press corps? Who on earth—except a journalist—uses a silly example like this to decide how truthful a president is? And who on earth—except a Big Journalist—can swim in a sea of such deep double standards without so much as noticing? Finally, who but a Washington journalist produces such cant as we see in this piece? George Bush isn’t a liar—he just clarifies overarching realities by harnessing “facts” which are sometimes false. Who except a Washington journalist—or a stoned college sophomore—ever uses language that way?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Dirty Tricks - Florida Republican African-American Voter Disruption  

"A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals.

Election supervisor Ion Sancho believes some voters are being intimidated

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called 'caging list'.

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: 'The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day.'

Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot.

Mass challenges

They may then only vote 'provisionally' after signing an affidavit attesting to their legal voting status.

Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter 'in the 16 years I've been supervisor of elections.'

'Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting.'

Sancho calls it 'intimidation.' And it may be illegal.

Oh, Yeah, Wise Guy? Prove It. Y'ain't Got Nuttin' On Us, Kerry! Nuttin,' see?  

Like a cheap hood bluffing the cop in a bad movie, the Bush administration's only coherent response to their incompetent loss of 380 tons of terrorist-grade explosives is, I'm not kidding here, that Kerry "can't prove it was there".

Sinclair Death Watch #12  

Moody's goes negative
ody's Investors Service on Monday revised the outlook on Sinclair Broadcast Group's debt rating to negative from stable, citing factors including lower-than-expected 2004 revenue growth, and concerns about revenue in 2005, a non-election year.

Accentuate The Positve, Obfuscate The Negative  

Here we go again. A perfectly clear story, that 380 tons of terrorist-class explosives were left unguarded, has been muddied up as obsessives focus on minutiae to rebut the Bush administration lies.

Over the past two or three years, the reality-based community has become somewhat more effective than before in the first step: exposing rightwing propaganda. The problem is that the right has figured out a perfect counter-response. Obfuscate, obfuscate, obfuscate. And then intone, "Who knows what happened? It's not clear."

By now, you'd think that we'd be able to anticipate this, and stop it cold. But you'd be wrong. No one yet is competently anticipating the right-wing obfuscation strategy on a given issue, let alone fashioning an appropriate rhetorical counter-response.

Thus, like the Bush/National Guard Story, the Osama escapes from Tora Bora story, the flu vaccine shortage, and countless others, the 380 missing tons of explosives being used right now on American troops is becoming an un-story.

[Update: After writing this, I learned that Michael Tomasky made the same point.]

Monday, October 25, 2004

Iraqi Security Forces: Bush vs. Reality  

Here's Bush from the first debate:
There are 100,000 troops trained, police, guard, special units, border patrol. There's going to be 125,000 trained by the end of this year. Yes, we're getting the job done.
But how good are these forces? (pdf)
Manpower totals are misleading because some 25-33% of men are on leave or in training at any given time.
And the whole report is even more sobering. And that was a month ago. Here's the current reality, breaking news on the massacre of 50 Iraqi security cadets:
The massacre of 50 unarmed Iraqi cadets headed home on leave suggests Iraqi insurgents have infiltrated Iraq's security forces deeply enough to gain intelligence and make precision strikes of their own.

Although U.S. officials say it's too early to tell whether the cadets were set up, some American officers have long regarded Iraq's security forces as susceptible to infiltration. Last week, defense officials in Washington described Iraq's security forces as "heavily infiltrated" by insurgents.

"The police and military forces all have insurgents in them," according to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Sinclair of the 1st Infantry Division. "You don't have a pure force."

"In The Air"  

Anyone else find Bush saying that it "is up in the air" whether the US can be safe from terrorism a rather tasteless remark after the 9/11 attacks?

Kerry In The Senate  

One more amazing story, courtesy of Salon, about John Kerry's exceptional Senate career:
In December 1985, when Brian Barger and I wrote a groundbreaking story for the Associated Press about Nicaraguan Contra rebels smuggling cocaine into the United States, one U.S. senator put his political career on the line to follow up on our disturbing findings. His name was John Kerry.

Yet, over the past year, even as Kerry's heroism as a young Navy officer in Vietnam has become a point of controversy, this act of political courage by a freshman senator has gone virtually unmentioned, even though -- or perhaps because -- it marked Kerry's first challenge to the Bush family.

In early 1986, the 42-year-old Massachusetts Democrat stood almost alone in the U.S. Senate demanding answers about the emerging evidence that CIA-backed Contras were filling their coffers by collaborating with drug traffickers then flooding U.S. borders with cocaine from South America.

Kerry assigned members of his personal Senate staff to pursue the allegations. He also persuaded the Republican majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to request information from the Reagan-Bush administration about the alleged Contra drug traffickers.

In taking on the inquiry, Kerry challenged President Ronald Reagan at the height of his power, at a time he was calling the Contras the "moral equals of the Founding Fathers." Kerry's questions represented a particular embarrassment to Vice President George H.W. Bush, whose responsibilities included overseeing U.S. drug-interdiction policies.

Kerry took on the investigation though he didn't have much support within his own party. By 1986, congressional Democrats had little stomach left for challenging the Reagan-Bush Contra war. Not only had Reagan won a historic landslide in 1984, amassing a record 54 million votes, but his conservative allies were targeting individual Democrats viewed as critical of the Contras fighting to oust Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. Most Washington journalists were backing off, too, for fear of getting labeled "Sandinista apologists" or worse.

Kerry's probe infuriated Reagan's White House, which was pushing Congress to restore military funding for the Contras. Some in the administration also saw Kerry's investigation as a threat to the secrecy surrounding the Contra supply operation, which was being run illegally by White House aide Oliver North and members of Bush's vice presidential staff.

Through most of 1986, Kerry's staff inquiry advanced against withering political fire. His investigators interviewed witnesses in Washington, contacted Contra sources in Miami and Costa Rica, and tried to make sense of sometimes convoluted stories of intrigue from the shadowy worlds of covert warfare and the drug trade.

Kerry's chief Senate staff investigators were Ron Rosenblith, Jonathan Winer and Dick McCall. Rosenblith, a Massachusetts political strategist from Kerry's victorious 1984 campaign, braved both political and personal risks as he traveled to Central America for face-to-face meetings with witnesses. Winer, a lawyer also from Massachusetts, charted the inquiry's legal framework and mastered its complex details. McCall, an experienced congressional staffer, brought Capitol Hill savvy to the investigation.

Behind it all was Kerry, who combined a prosecutor's sense for sniffing out criminality and a politician's instinct for pushing the limits. The Kerry whom I met during this period was a complex man who balanced a rebellious idealism with a determination not to burn his bridges to the political establishment.

The Reagan administration did everything it could to thwart Kerry's investigation, including attempting to discredit witnesses, stonewalling the Senate when it requested evidence and assigning the CIA to monitor Kerry's probe. But it couldn't stop Kerry and his investigators from discovering the explosive truth: that the Contra war was permeated with drug traffickers who gave the Contras money, weapons and equipment in exchange for help in smuggling cocaine into the United States. Even more damningly, Kerry found that U.S. government agencies knew about the Contra-drug connection, but turned a blind eye to the evidence in order to avoid undermining a top Reagan-Bush foreign policy initiative.

The Reagan administration's tolerance and protection of this dark underbelly of the Contra war represented one of the most sordid scandals in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Yet when Kerry's bombshell findings were released in 1989, they were greeted by the mainstream press with disdain and disinterest. The New York Times, which had long denigrated the Contra-drug allegations, buried the story of Kerry's report on its inside pages, as did the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. For his tireless efforts, Kerry earned a reputation as a reckless investigator. Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch dubbed Kerry a "randy conspiracy buff."

But almost a decade later, in 1998, Kerry's trailblazing investigation was vindicated by the CIA's own inspector general, who found that scores of Contra operatives were implicated in the cocaine trade and that U.S. agencies had looked the other way rather than reveal information that could have embarrassed the Reagan-Bush administration.

Even after the CIA's admissions, the national press corps never fully corrected its earlier dismissive treatment. That would have meant the New York Times and other leading publications admitting they had bungled their coverage of one of the worst scandals of the Reagan-Bush era.
Read it all.

And Had Bush Been President During The Cuban Missile Crisis  

He'd have started a major nuclear war.

If So Much As An Ounce Was Used To Harm An American Soldier...  

It wasn't just the Museum, or the Library, or even the nuclear facilities. They didn't bother to secure nearly 380 tons of major explosives.

But at least they kept the oil ministry safe from looters.

The Bushites are the most overachieving incompetents since...since...since...well, I'm sure I'll think of a comparison. Custer? Nah, only about 210 died under his command. Nero? No, at least he had musical talent. Umm...

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Bunning Fauxed Up  

Fox makes you stupid:
U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning [R-Ken.] said yesterday that he was unaware of reports that a unit of Army Reserve soldiers in Iraq had refused an order to deliver fuel for reasons including that their trucks were lightly armored.

"I don't know anything about that," Bunning said during a news conference after a speech he gave to the Rotary Club of Louisville...

When reporters told him that the unit's refusal was a national news story and involved a soldier from Louisville, Bunning said, "Let me explain something: I don't watch the national news, and I don't read the paper. I haven't done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information."

Told that Fox News broadcast the report, Bunning said, "Not the times I watched it. So the fact that somebody was from Louisville, I know about that."

Bunning's opponent in the Nov. 2 election, Democratic state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, said Bunning's comment was "another indication of how he's just simply out of touch."

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