Monday, July 07, 2003

Lieberman on Iraq

Lieberman writes:

Unlike some in my party who continue to question our use of force in Iraq, I have not wavered in my belief in the justness of the war we fought. In this, I know I am following in the proud tradition of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Clinton, all of whom were ready and willing to apply our military might when necessary to protect our security.

But those great Democratic leaders also recognized that force alone could not keep us safe. The same holds true today. If we are to win the wider war against terrorism, we must do more than throw Saddam Hussein out of power. We must lift up the moderate Muslim majority around the world and give them the tools to take down the radicals who want an endless holy war.

The best way to do that is by demonstrating -- through words and deeds alike -- that we are democracy-builders, not empire-builders; peacekeepers, not profiteers. If the Bush administration continues behaving as though "to the victor go the spoils," to the victor will also go all the responsibility, all the risks, all the wreckage -- and all the blame for what happened in Iraq after Hussein was gone.

Since the future lies ahead, and "we broke it, we bought it," let's bypass the issue of whether Iraq was a just war. (I left that material in because they were important to express Lieberman's views, not because I agree with them.)

I think Lieberman's got the right take in the right words on "democracy-builders, not empire-builders" -- and that the Bush regime is all about empire. It takes courage to use the word "empire" and call Bush on this. And Lieberman's got some reasonable policy proposals too.

So I give Lieberman credit for "standing up" on this issue. Sorta. Thoughts?

"A pattern of deception"

I don't know what's gotten into the sleepy old Inky, but they have started giving the Bush malAdministration a little reality therapy. The Philadelphia Inquirer editorializes:

President Bush is playing Whack-a-Mole with scientific reports that he doesn't like:

Uncomfortable facts about global warming pop up in an environmental report card. Whack!

Yellowstone National Park staffers tell a world treasures watchdog that the park is in trouble. Whack!

The Environmental Protection Agency discovers a senator's clean air bill is more effective than the President's. Whack!

But the moles are popping up faster than the Bush team can beat them back. Information is leaking out. A pattern of deception is emerging.

Despite their constant talk about "sound science," Bush administration officials keep manipulating or suppressing scientific information for political reasons. This censorship limits the ability of Congress and the American people to make informed public-policy choices. It needs to stop.

The latest flap involves the EPA's withholding of a key comparison of air pollution bills. EPA is acting as little more than the White House's propaganda puppet, churning out Clear Skies press releases. Before debating power-plant cleanup, the Senate will need to turn elsewhere for factual analysis of pending bills.

Two weeks ago, the EPA had to omit the entire global-warming section from its "Draft Report on the Environment," a 30-year statistical snapshot of the U.S. environment, after the administration tried to replace solid findings with "pabulum," according to outgoing EPA administrator Christie Whitman. As a partial substitute, the White House wanted to insert a reference to a study partly financed by the petroleum industry. Whitman rightly said no. But the administration has edited global warming out of numerous other reports. That's ignorant.

President Bush talks a good deal about "sound science." Apparently, his definition of the term is: science that supports his political agenda.

It seems like hot stuff, only because the rest of the SCLM is so lazy and flaccid.

Go Inky!

NOTE: We saw the same thing in Iraq, where the Bush malAdministration removed people with technical qualifications in favor of Self-Identified Christian activists who didn't know the country or the language. Whack!

Rapture index down 1


Is this good news, bad news, or good news/bad news?

Nuts, bolts, shoe leather

In the continuing discussion of how to use the Internet as an organizing tool, many readers have made the point that the goal is electoral success (ie, any Democrat winning). For electoral success it's necessary to, well, actually talk to people face to face, not just on the net. And it's also necessary to talk to people from all walks of life about why they should be registered to vote, why they should vote, and who they should vote for.

In a word: Organize! This goes especially for all the political newbies drawn into the Democratic primary process through the Internet and MeetUp.

Alice Marie Marshall writes about the nuts and bolts of organizing a precinct (I guess the smallest unit of granularity in our political system). It's definitely worth a read.

Edwards on corporate accountability

Holly Ramer of AP writes:

"The abuse of stock options that are hidden from balance sheets have been central to the corporate scandals," Edwards said in prepared remarks provided to The Associated Press. "This is about honest accounting. It is a fundamental tenet of economic reform. If we're going to restore values to our economy, we need to do the right thing here."

The spectacle of Enron executives and others cashing out millions of dollars worth of stock before their companies collapsed has renewed the debate over counting stock options. A board that sets standards for corporate accounting favors reforms, but business interests, especially high-tech companies, have been vocal opponents.

Edwards said his proposal would help restore integrity to corporate America and boost the economy by reviving investor confidence.

"I don't believe our values are a luxury of economic growth. I believe they are the engine of economic growth," he said. "Books that are honest, executives who are responsible and employees who work hard for fair wages are essential to our economy.

None of what Edwards says should need saying, of course, except the spectacle of the Republicans looting while the looting is good is so spectacular.

And Edwards is right that values are the engine of growth. Why would any investor want to join a game that's grossly and obviously rigged for the insiders? (Say, is "Kenny Boy" in jail yet? Thought not.)

We Have An Answer To The Question: Can Anything Shame MSNBC?

Courtesy of pie, I found out about Savage a few minutes after Lambert.

Anti-gay remarks?

You may be asking yourself, MSNBC hadn't noticed this Savage prediliction before now?

Well, this comment was really, really special.

The popular radio talk show host who did a weekend TV show for the cable channel referred to an unidentified caller to his show Saturday as a "sodomite" and said he should "get AIDS and die."

Okay, so it may take a very high pile of marde...

Savage axed from MSNBC

David Bauder of the AP writes:

MSNBC on Monday fired Michael Savage for anti-gay comments.

Oh, but his ratings weren't all that good either.

Aired at 5 p.m. EDT Saturday, Savage didn't translate into a television hit. He increased the ratings for the time slot marginally, according to MSNBC.

Why on earth did MSNBC hire him in the first place? What did they think they were getting?

How Iraq Is Polling Here has a page of comparative polling for June on issues pertaining to Iraq.

I'm not sure what to make of it, although the trend line indicates some kind of concern with what's going on there.

Also, here's a PDF abstract of a PIPA poll on the same subject.

Any thoughts on what it all means?

Goring Dean

The incomparable Daily Howler on Evelyn Nieves's disgusting little hatchet job on Howard Dean.

And newspapers wonder why circulation is falling... Because we've seen it all before, that's why! As the Howler shows.

Viceroys Indeed

Billmon at Whiskey Bar has so much good stuff up, I don't know where to begin.

Probably a good place is to point out an irony he picks up on, I completely missed in discussing the same WaPo article.

He tells you who are beginning to sound like Democrats here, and its signifigance.

I'd say that if progressives are ever going to develop a sensible, persuasive defense policy -- one that protects America and promotes its true long-term interests, without turning its soldiers into geopolitical cannon fodder -- now would be the time to do it.

Billmon was ahead of the pack in evaluating Paul Bremer back in May.

But when the stakes are somewhere in between – as they are now – personal power struggles can turn deadly: not for the participants, of course, but for the poor schmoes (U.S. and foreign) who wind up being used as pawns. Vietnam was one example. So was the Iranian hostage crisis. So was Iran-Contra. And now we have another.

This is the key to understanding Bremer, I think. Looking at his career, particularly his recent career, I see a man who excels at only one thing: not making enemies. It’s the ultimate bureaucratic skill -- and the key to emerging as the consensus pygmy when the giants are at each other’s throats.

Whether that same skill will serve him as well in Iraq – where you don’t have to make enemies because they make you – is more doubtful. But given Bremer’s track record, you probably can bet on one thing: Whatever happens in Baghdad, he’ll emerge without a fleck of mud on his well-tailored suits.

There's more.

And don't miss his fascinating take on the enduring nature of American innocence abroad.

I was prepared to take issue with a certain pessimism in it, when reader Hobson directed my attention to this report in the Village Voice.

U.S. Curtails Iraq's Newfound Media Freedoms

BAGHDAD—The print press is booming here as newspapers rose from five government-run papers during Saddam Hussein's regime to around 150 now. But U.S.-led forces are dampening the mood of the free press by censoring it.


Coalition forces last week raided a distribution center of Sadda-al-Auma newspaper in Najaf, two hours from the capital. They questioned the staff and seized copies of an edition that ordered Iraqis to join the resistance against Americans.

They had their reasons; the article is distinctly fair, and members of this new Iraqi press have differing reactions.

But even where a relatively unprofessional broadside is anti-American, or praising resistance to US occupation, isn't it better to know who is saying what, than to drive such dissatisfaction underground, or worse, into actual violence. Did anyone think to go and talk to the editor of that paper in Najaf, before confiscating its output?

Our CEO president


"In my line of work, you see a problem, you address it."

Spoon, please.

Labour whitewash on WMDs?

AP. It's kind of schizophrenic, actually. The conclusion:

"Consistent with the conclusions reached elsewhere in this report, we conclude that ministers did not mislead Parliament."

But then you look at the detail. For example, on the Niger uranium ("crude forgeries"):

"It is very odd indeed that the government asserts that it was not relying on the evidence which has since been shown to have been forged, but that eight months later it is still reviewing the other evidence. The assertion 'that Iraq sought the supply of significant amounts of uranium from Africa' should have been qualified to reflect the uncertainty."

"Very odd indeed." Oh, those Brits! And about imminent threats:

"The 45 minutes claim (that Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of Saddam Hussein's giving the order) did not warrant the prominence given to it in the dossier, because it was based on intelligence from a single, uncorroborated source."

Move along people. No story here.

UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader Tresy, this from Toronto's Globe and Mail:

A British parliamentary committee on Monday sharply criticized the government's handling of intelligence on Iraqi weapons but narrowly cleared Prime Minister Tony Blair's communications chief of "improper influence" in drafting a controversial intelligence dossier.

The cross-party committee also said Mr. Blair misrepresented to lawmakers the status of the second dossier, published in January, which included material copied from a graduate thesis posted on the Internet.

The committee said that it was "wholly unacceptable" for the government to plagiarize work without attribution, as happened with the January dossier.

By telling lawmakers that the document represented "further intelligence," Mr. Blair "misrepresented its status," the committee's report said, although it acknowledged the Prime Minister learned of its provenance only later.

The Foreign Affairs Committee, which questioned Mr. Campbell, said the powerful communications chief "did not exert or seek to exert improper influence" in including the 45-minute claim in the September document.

That verdict was reached only after the committee chairman, Labour Party lawmaker Donald Anderson, used his tiebreaking power as chairman to exonerate Mr. Campbell.

The report said it was wrong for Mr. Campbell — an unelected special adviser hired outside the civil service system — to have presided over a meeting on intelligence matters, and said the practice should cease.

Meanwhile, one of those loony Tories, MP John Stanley, makes the following point:

No evidence has been found in Iraq to substantiate four key assertions in the September document:

  • That Iraq has a major chemical-biological weapons program with an "active, ongoing production capability."

  • That Iraq had up to 20 longer-range missiles capable of hitting British bases in Cyprus.

  • That Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa as part of an effort to restart a nuclear weapons program.

  • That Iraq had some chemical and biological weapons ready for deployment within 45 minutes of an order.

Oh well... Never mind.

The British Are Coming

Guardian set to publish weekly news magazine in US.

Liberating the Orphans

We all remember this story - Saddam had a bunch of children who were imprisoned because of their political beliefs (they wouldn´t join his youth corps) and our wonderful liberators let them free.

Oops. Wait. Never mind.

Al Rahma, an orphanage in northern Baghdad, was run by the state under Saddam Hussein, but is now run by clerics from the Shiite Muslim town of Najaf. They took control of the institution four days after American forces liberated Baghdad in April.

The orphanage had been home to 107 girls and boys whose parents were killed or imprisoned, or were unable to care for them. As the Americans advanced on Baghdad, they mistook the orphanage for a jail or prison and released all the children who were there.


Many children who have not returned have resorted to life on the streets, begging for food or money, or perhaps turning to drugs or prostitution.

...NTodd has more.

Bremer's henchmen

Surprise! aWol's malAdministration is appointing politically wired, self-identified Christians with no Middle Eastern expertise to "remake Iraq in America's image".

Well, one image, anyhow. Pity Bremer! He's got a tough row to hoe...

Texas D's standing up

R. G. Ratcliffe in the Houston Chronicle writes:

A Republican congressional redistricting bill is set for full House debate today -- 57 days after Texas Democrats created a political legend by killing a similar measure with a dramatic regular session walkout.

Prospects for redistricting remain uncertain in the state Senate. A two-thirds majority of the 31-member body is required to bring a bill up for debate, and so far four swing votes (three Democratic, one Republican) remain undecided.

State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the [redistricting] map sponsor, said his mission is political: "My objective always has been to send more Republicans to the United States Congress."

"We can't just roll over. We can't just hand it to them," said Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio ...

That's what I like to hear from a Democrat! Are any Beltway Dems listening?

Clark on Iraq


Where does the United States go from here in Iraq?
You have to define what success is, and then you have to work toward it. I would define it politically. Put in place some kind of Iraqi government that [has] some semblance of democracy. The first thing I’d be doing right now [is] calling provisional, national, regional and local councils together from all parties before elections are held. I would ask for their assistance, their ideas and their support in producing security in the region first and guarding the remaining economic infrastructure. I would lay out to them the limitations of the United States’ capabilities. I’d try to get the Iraqis increasingly involved in taking responsibilities. Put an Iraqi face on all the actions that you can and as much of the decision making as possible.

Contrast Clark's approach to what Leah just posted -- Bremer riding around in his SUV in a dress-for-success costume and using the royal "we." Thoughts?

Operative Drudge misfires


A more transparent example of "let's you and him fight" I have never seen!

MW with a heart of gold....

Yes, Howie Kurtz is still covering for Tim Russert. In this little piece of Russert hagiography from Howie, there's (surprise!) no mention of the fact that Russert shilled for the White house by having them prepare phony statistics and talking points for him when Howard Dean was on his show. And not for the first time, either.


Would That Be The Royal "We"?

Last week, I heard Charles Krauthammer on Fox News refer to Paul Bremer as our proconsul, catching himself before saying "viceroy." Whatever the word, Mr. Krauthammer's meaning was umistakable; Iraq was now "ours," the first acquisition in America's new benevolent empire, the first piece in the puzzle of our Pax Americana.

Perhaps you think I'm making too much of a word.

Here's a view of Mr. Bremer from this week's TIME cover story.

For the foreseeable future, cleaning up the mess has fallen entirely to Bremer, 61, the proconsul in whom the Bush Administration has vested complete authority for getting the country running again, winning 25 million hearts and minds and eventually making Iraq safe for democracy. "


Since taking control of the U.S.'s postwar operation in early May, Bremer has earned near unanimous backing inside the Administration, thanks to his toughness, pragmatism and devotion to the job. Bremer has become so attached to the country he runs that he speaks of it in the first-person plural.

"We are eventually going to be a rich country," he told reporters last week. "We've got oil, we've got water, we've got fertile land, we've got wonderful people."


In public Bremer has adopted an almost presidential air, moving about in motorcades flanked by Secret Service agents, wearing a suit and tie despite the heat, positioning himself behind a podium at press conferences. "Everything Jerry Bremer's done has been to give the impression that he's in charge, that someone is running things," says a senior U.S. intelligence official. "And after the disorder, that's exactly what you need." On Bremer's desk sits a plaque that reads success has a thousand fathers.

Yes, but are any of them going to be Iraqis?

Did Bremer assume no one in Iraq would be reading TIME? If so, Steve Gilliard says Bremer's wrong. And wrong about more than that.

The TIME article is fairly damning of the entire Bush administration. Apparently, they were unprepared for on-going resistence once the "war" was over, and unprepared for the problems of law and order that are not unknown in post-war circumstances.

So testy is the White House about the violence in Iraq that President Bush last week was reduced to school-yard posturing. "There are some who feel that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on," he said, an outburst that seemed particularly ill-advised the following day, when 20 soldiers were wounded in attacks across Iraq.

Despite the President's bluster, Bush Administration officials are privately worried that U.S. forces are caught in a dangerous loop. The persistence of attacks has forced the U.S. to remain on a combat footing, which has diverted attention and resources away from the reconstruction effort.

Maybe the President's Clint Eastwood moment isn't playing that well after all. Not in the face of this, anyway.

Recent Iraqi attacks on U.S. troops have demonstrated a new tactical sophistication and coordination that raise the specter of the U.S. occupation force becoming enmeshed in a full-blown guerrilla war, military experts said yesterday.

The new approaches employed in the Iraqi attacks last week are provoking concern among some that what once was seen as a mopping-up operation against the dying remnants of a deposed government is instead becoming a widening battle against a growing and organized force that could keep tens of thousands of U.S. troops busy for months.


"The increasing enemy activity in Iraq is very unsettling," said retired Marine Lt. Col. John Poole, a specialist in small-unit infantry tactics. "It could mean that the situation has started to escalate into a guerrilla war."


Poole says he worries that the aim of the Iraqi attacks is not to defeat U.S. forces as much as it is to provoke them. He says the Iraqi intent is to wage a war of attrition, causing enough casualties that U.S. commanders "use an increasingly heavy hand." In that way, the U.S. forces "will automatically alienate the local populace."

That's always been the conundrum, hasn't it? How could the people whose idea this war was not have anticipated the always ambivalent relationship between occupied and occupier? How could they know so little about Iraqi nationalism that it didn't occur to them to avoid an American imperial presence.

I don't doubt that a majority of Iraqis don't want us to leave yet. They expect us to help them put back together what we broke. But this top down approach is nuts.

Bush/Cheney/Wolfewitz are using the Japan/Germany model they were warned not to. We've moved from liberators to conquerors. Questions keep being asked about our committment to stay there. I'm much more worried about how much longer Iraqis are going to tolerate being treated as a defeated people.

State "waivers" gut Medicaid

Robert Pear of the Times writes:

The Bush administration has allowed states to make vast changes in Medicaid but has not held them accountable for the quality of care they provide to poor elderly and disabled people, Congressional investigators said today.

The Bush administration has allowed states to make vast changes in Medicaid but has not held them accountable for the quality of care they provide to poor elderly and disabled people, Congressional investigators said today.

More than a dozen state waiver programs covering tens of thousands of people have gone more than a decade without any federal review of the quality of care, the accounting office said. These programs were in Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Many states sign contracts with social service agencies to manage care for Medicaid recipients, but never review the quality of care or verify that services were actually provided, the report said. In Oklahoma, it said, 27 percent of Medicaid recipients received none of their authorized personal care services, and 49 percent received only half of the authorized services.

Hmmm.... Wonder how many of these arencies that take Federal money and don't provide care are Republican contributors? Especially in Texas?

Talk radio vs. the Internet

Ronald Brownstein of the LA Times writes in his column

Surprisingly, it appears about the same number of Americans regularly obtain information from the Internet and talk radio. The best data on this come from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, an independent polling organization. Its latest surveys show that 17% of Americans listen regularly to talk radio, while 15% go online every day for news.

That large talk-radio audience has proved an enormous political asset to conservatives. Pew found that almost half of regular talk-radio listeners consider themselves conservatives, compared to just 18% who call themselves liberals.

But those who regularly seek news on the Internet divide more evenly between moderates (39%), conservatives (35%) and liberals (23%). That balance reflects a broader realignment in political attitudes: Voters with more education have been trending Democratic (largely around social issues) for years, and a much higher percentage of regular Internet users than talk-radio fans have college degrees.

Those contrasting audiences help explain why Democrats have made more inroads on the Internet than on talk radio. Dean's success was a milestone.

With just six staffers, MoveOn has demonstrated that through the Internet it can mobilize at least as much grass-roots activism as the talkers on the right.

The success of MoveOn and Dean is likely to accelerate the right's efforts to utilize the Internet as well.

Of course, we've encountered Net triumphalism once before, during the Bubble. But MoveOn and Dean are generating cash, not just clicks, so the good feelings aren't just "irrational exuberance." However, as many readers pointed out Saturday, reaching out beyond the web will be key to any electoral success.

Letters, They Get Letters

And so the lies begin:

Keep your eye on Dean if you want a loser in ’04
Monday, July 7, 2003

In response to the June 28 letter “Keep your eye on Howard Dean”: First of all, Howard Dean’s fiscal record in Vermont is an utter disaster. More jobs have left that state under his regime than any in recent history. He has raised taxes practically every year he has been in office, defining him as the true “tax and spender.”

See here for the truth.

Dean became governor in 1991.

Advantage Blogosphere!

Okay, I usually hate blog triumphalism but Adam in MA figured out the identity of the mysterious former ambassador who had the job of investigating the Nigerian nukes before his NYT op-ed.

Help the Troops and Their Families

Here´s a list of organizations that allow donations of stuff and money to help out the troops and their families.

(thanks to Dub´s blog)

War is Peace

I think the NYT should rethink their standing headline.

General Turgidson speaks


Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says nuclear weapons could be crucial tools for destroying chemical and biological weapons stocks without causing wider harm.

"In terms of anthrax, it's said that gamma rays can ... destroy the anthrax spores, which is something we need to look at," Myers told reporters at the Pentagon on May 20. "And in chemical weapons, of course, the heat (of a nuclear blast) can destroy the chemical compounds and make them not develop that plume that conventional weapons might do, that would then drift and perhaps bring others in harm's way."

Well, uh ....

Big pharma Loot, repeat on Medicare prescription drugs

Who knew?

Jim Drinkard of USA Today writes:

An emerging prescription drug benefit for retirees represents a victory for drug companies and their lobbyists, who have spent heavily to keep Republicans in control of Congress.

pharmaceutical-makers already have averted what they feared most: a single new bloc of 40 million consumers with the market power to dramatically drive down prescription prices — and industry profits. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill bar the government from getting involved in price negotiations.

Instead, both bills break the nation into 10 or more regions where private insurance companies would offer coverage for prescriptions. Rather than negotiating with the government, the pharmaceutical industry would deal with an array of insurers, each with thousands of clients, rather than millions. The extra costs would be paid by taxpayers and consumers.

Think of the "extra costs" this way. Every time your grandmother goes to the pharmacy for her prescription, the Republicans are reaching into her purse, taking out, say, a twenty, and handing it to big pharma. Sure, it's "only" twenty bucks, but it sure adds up fast, doesn't it?

So how did this happen? Loot, repeat.

In 2002, drugmakers spent $20 million on congressional races, four-fifths of it to help Republicans. That doesn't count a $17 million television ad campaign that the industry funded to boost Republican members of Congress in close races.

A new drug benefit would pump about $400 billion in tax dollars into the health care system over 10 years.

The loot: $37 million to skim $400 billion. Not a bad deal! (Say, how is HealthSouth doing these days, "Dr. Kitty" Frist?)

The repeat: When the $400 billion is directed to wired, Republican firms, they can fund the lobbying and the campaign contributions and the think tanks and the MWs to privatize Medicare entirely. Then they can take hundreds of bucks off your grandmother instead of just twenty!

Loot, repeat. It's the Republican way!

NOTE: I wrote the other day that Republicans weren't taking this legislation seriously (heck, we don't know how to pay for it after the tax cuts for the rich, and it only kicks in after the election, in 2006), since they hadn't lined up any companies to be players in the regions. But I guess the government largesse is so lavish that the companies are, well, shy about stepping forward to take advantage of it. Either that or typical sloppiness by the malAdministration.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

The scum also rises

Belatedly, I note the excellence of Orcinus's Bush the Liar piece on July 3 (scroll down). It's really a "King for a Day"-style compilation. The WMD fiasco is not an isolated incident; it's how the guy thinks and acts. It's how he leads his life, and he won't change.

I seem to be working out on W a little hard this evening -- but it's such a target rich environment, who could resist? Back to graver (and less fun) matters of policy -- but not yet, oh Lord, not yet!

Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis

Orcinus's sober, detailed, and readable study on fascism is now available for download here (PDF format: $5 donation).

Do not use "the 'F' word" until you have read Orcinus carefully.

Macho, macho man!

Our own Inky editorializes:

"Bring 'em on"?

U.S. soldiers are dying and dodging guerrilla bullets in a hot and hostile country and their commander-in-chief says, "Bring 'em on"?

Mr. President, do you live in a play house or the White House?

Good one! (And good points on what aWol's malAdministration should "get real about"-- the Inky is pretty mainstream.)

Our CEO president

I really, really hope this is an error in translation or transcription. From Ha`aretz:

According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush
said: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I
struck them, and then he instructed me to
strike at Saddam, which I did ...

Well, now we know! (Thanks to alert reader EssJay)

What did Bush know, and when did he know it?

Joseph C. Wilson writes in a Times Op-Ed:

Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me. ...

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake — a form of lightly processed ore — by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office. ...

It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.

As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. ...

Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.

The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses.

(It's worth remembering that in his March "Meet the Press" appearance, Mr. Cheney said that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.") At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted.

Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.


UPDATE: From Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech:

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Right. But:

After Bush repeated the British claim in his State of the Union address in January, the United Nations sought U.S. documentation. The purported Iraq-Niger letters were turned over to the United Nations, which found them to be forged.

In retrospect, officials said, it would have been better to have left the uranium claim out of the president's speech ...

"And up through the ground came a'bubblin' crude...." Forgeries, that is. Exaggerations. Self-deceptions. Lies... Texas-sized lies...

Our CEO president


"Don't focus on elite, but focus on the people, themselves..."

Oh, wait, he's talking about Africa. Sigh...

(Thanks to alert reader Vicki for this gem.)

Democrats Beat Bush

It is important to keep in mind the fact that, taken all together, the Democrats tied or beat Bush for Q2 fundraising. Obviously comparing the numerous primary Dem candidates with the uncontested (in the primaries) Bush is akin to comparing apples to durians. But, it does say something about the willingness of the people on the light side of the force to open up their wallets.

More lies on pollution enforcement

Chris Bowman of the Sacramento Bee writes:

The Environmental Protection Agency under President Bush has overstated its success in fighting polluters by lumping counterterrorism and narcotics cases led by other agencies into its environmental enforcement record, a Bee investigation has found.

The performance inflation masks a significant drop-off in the federal government's pursuit of criminal polluters during the past two years, according to interviews with EPA agents and officials, analyses of EPA enforcement statistics and reviews of internal agency records.

"We were encouraged to... find anything that's got any breath to it and put a case number on it," one senior agent said. "We were approaching the end of a fiscal year. They wanted to make it look like a good year."

"Clear Skies" ... Right ... Anytime these guys put a fine-sounding name on some legislation, check your wallet.

Is the fix in for a Republican Congressman?

Pat Stith of the Charlotte News-Observer writes:

In 2000 and 2001, the former president of an obscure bank in the western end of North Carolina admitted to FBI agents that he had violated federal banking laws. He also implicated 11th District [Republican] U.S. Rep. Charles H. Taylor of Brevard, who founded Blue Ridge Savings Bank and was chairman of its board of directors.

The banker, Hayes C. Martin of Asheville, and a major borrower, Charles E. "Chig " Cagle, a political confidant of Taylor, have pleaded guilty to scheming together to defraud the bank and launder money. In FBI interviews, Cagle also said Taylor was involved.

Taylor, however, has not been charged. He was not subpoenaed before the federal grand jury that indicted the others. And the FBI hasn't interviewed him.

Golly! Imagine if this were an obscure land deal in Arkansas!

Money is the mother's milk of politics

So ....

Our CEO president

Interviewed here:

"I'm the kind of person that likes to know all the facts before I make a decision."

Glad to have that cleared up!

"State's Rights" in action

From the letters section in WaPo:

Daniel P. Szparaga [letters, July 1] said that former Georgia governor Lester Maddox "had an effect on the lives of at least a few people."

That is true. During the Maddox era in Georgia, I was driving through that state with my wife and two of our sons. We stopped at a diner for lunch.

At the entrance, the waitress ignored us, so we thought it was local practice to seat ourselves. We did, and we sat and sat. I finally summoned the waitress and asked whether we could order. She pointed to one of our sons and said, "Not with that n----- here." (Our son had a very dark tan.)

I asked the waitress to send over the manager. He came, carrying a Maddox ax handle that he banged on the table while repeating what the waitress had said.

We left quickly. I was not about to argue with a man swinging a Maddox ax handle, a symbol of the prejudice of that time.

Obviously, Mr. Maddox had an effect on the lives of my family.


Silver Spring

Well, those days are gone. Right?

Homeland security still a mess

The Republicans keep telling us they're better at homeland security. But they're botching the job.
Dean Broder bites dog in WaPo:

As head of a Council on Foreign Relations task force that includes a former national security aide to three presidents and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rudman is back warning that "the United States remains dangerously ill prepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American soil."

No one has seriously challenged the findings, based on field surveys and testimony by the first responders and their professional organizations, that there are large gaps to be filled. Few police or fire departments have enough radios and communications equipment, biological testing devices, breathing aids or protective garments to deal with a major disaster. Hospitals are inadequately prepared for a massive influx of injured patients.

The job they are not botching is getting money to Bush voters in the red states:

Another task force recommendation -- one that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge shares -- is that the distribution formula for federal funds be changed. Under the current formula, the federal government is putting $10 per capita into Wyoming compared with $1.40 per capita for New York. With pressing needs and limited resources, more realistic priorities have to be set, so that the places with dense populations, strategic targets and landmark buildings will get the protection they need.

Think they'll re-allocate to "realistic priorities" before 2004? Not a chance! Electing Bush is the priority!

Maine enacts universal health insurance

Ellen Goodman of the Glob writes:

Just behind John Baldacci's desk, under dutiful portraits of the first Maine governor and his wife, there's a small plaque with a question carved into the wood: ''What have you done for the people today?''

This is not the quote of a great philosopher or some modern pollster. It's what Baldacci's father, a JFK Democrat and Italian restaurant owner from Bangor, used to ask, with needling humor, when his son came home from a long, hard day of lawmaking.

If all goes well, Governor Baldacci will have a pretty decent answer. Maine has just become the first state in the union to approve a plan to provide universal access to affordable health insurance.

And in the Beltway, they're arguing about prescription drugs. Band-aid on a cancer....

Do Your Patriotic Duty!

Give until it hurts.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Internet as organizing tool

J.P. Gownder of WaPo writes:

But had helped Dean reach new constituencies, such as African Americans, other ethnic communities, working class people, non-liberals? Not based on what I saw. Without the Internet, it was likely that Dean would find support among affluent, white, liberal professionals. With the Internet, he attracted affluent, white, liberal professionals who spent a lot of time online. was just a continuation of politics by other means.

But the Internet can't become a substitute for the gritty, difficult work of true grass-roots campaigning in diverse ethnic and socio-economic communities. As it stands, Meetup mostly preaches to the choir. And the quasi-religious New Economy hoopla I heard at the meetings shifts the focus away from the candidate and onto his organization. As a postmodernist would say, with Meetup the virtual becomes more real than the real. So while campaign staffers and political pundits relish Dean's considerable lead over his rivals in membership, there's no guarantee of real-world electoral success.

This accords with my experience at MeetUp. I think it's a problem. Thoughts?

Can We Talk?

Amongst ourselves? About what is acceptable in the way of political rhetoric? Without getting verklempt?

Not if any of those guys at Spinsanity are listening, or we'd better be damn careful. And absolutely clear in how we phrase our ideas.

For instance, are we on the left being unfair to the Bush enviornmental policies?

Ben Fritz at Spinsanity thinks so, and chastizes Howard Dean, in particular, for "repeating a deceptive tale about the Bush administration over and over on the campaign trail.

In speeches and in interviews, Dean frequently implies that a Bush administration environmental policy called "Clear Skies" would actually lead to increases in pollution from current levels. "This country's in a lot of trouble," he said last week on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It's in trouble because we have a radical right administration that are dismantling the New Deal and it is not telling the truth about a lot of things that they say. The Clear Skies Initiative ... basically allows you to put more pollution into the air."

What's Spinsanity's complaint? Mr. Fritz admits that environmental groups have made the point that the Clear Skies Initiative may diminish the level to which dangerous emissions would otherwise be reduced, if current policies and trends were left just as they are. And apparently, nothing less than that kind of nuanced explanation is acceptable political rhetoric.

While some environmental activists are upset about "Clear Skies," it's not because the plan would actually lead to increases in pollution beyond current levels

Okay, let's grant that Dean could have been clearer in what he was saying, but also please note that he was making a larger point about the administration's purposes, not participating in a detailed discussion of environmental policy. This was MTP and Tim Russert, for heaven's sake.

Ben claims Dean makes a similiar statement in his speech officially announcing his candidacy. Here's the only reference I could find that might fit Ben's description.

Our leaders have developed a vocabulary which has become meaningless to the American people.

There is no greater example of this than a self-described conservative Republican president who creates the greatest deficits in history of America. Or a President who boasts of a Clear Skies Initiative which allows far more pollution into our air. Or a President who co-opts from an advocacy organization the phrase "No Child Left Behind," while paying for irresponsible tax cuts by cutting children's health care.

Sorry Ben, but what's the problem with this statement again? Where's the implication that the "increase in pollution" is above current levels.

Maybe if it had just been Governor Dean, Ben might not have made a fuss. But he thinks he's spotted a worrying trend.

Unfortunately, the former Vermont governor is not the only one to spread this canard. The liberal journal accused Bush of implementing "a 'Clear Skies' plan that leads to more pollution" in one of its "op-ads" that ran in major newspapers.

The "op-ad" in question was a companion piece to the "Misled" commercial. It's basic point is that Bush/Rove have a habit of producing variations on popular programs that often do the opposite of what their catchy titles imply. Here's what I presume is the offending graph:

And it’s been showing cracks from the strain between the rhetoric and the reality of Mr. Bush’s policies: endorsing Medicare while trying to undermine it; a "Clear Skies" plan that leads to more pollution; promising to "leave no child behind" but underfunding his own education plan; and Robin-Hood-in-reverse tax policies masked as "compassionate conservatism."

Well, excuuuuuussssse us, but the Clear Skies initiative will lead to more pollution by any number of criteria.

Bush global warming plan will allow more pollution

President Bush’s global warming plans will allow more greenhouse gas pollution to occur at a faster rate than if the nation maintained the pollution trends of the past five years, a new study has found

Analysis by the National Wildlife Federation, of data released by the US Department of Energy (DoE), shows that over the last five years carbon dioxide emissions have gone up by 4.9% despite Bush saying he wanted to, “set America on a path to slow the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions.”

This increase is set to continue to 10% over the next ten years, if current trends continue.


The pollution increases we have seen for the past five years are bad enough for the environment, but the White House’s global warming plan would allow more pollution to occur at an even faster rate,” said Jeremy Symons, climate change and wildlife manager for the National Wildlife Federation.


The report comes in the same week that it was revealed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withheld key findings of its analysis of Bush’s Clear Skies initiative for power plant emissions.

The Clear Skies initiative is designed to reduce emissions from power plants over the next twenty years, yet does not address carbon dioxide – largely considered one of the most important greenhouse gases.

The EPA found that a separate senate plan to combat air pollution would be more effective in reducing harmful pollutants, if marginally more expensive. Crucially, the senate proposal has a carbon dioxide reduction plan that can be carried out at ‘negligible’ cost to industry.

Environmentalists have described the Clear Skies bill as a dilution of current EPA air pollution requirements and criticised the EPA for not releasing their full results.

I guess it depends on what your definition of "current levels" is.

This is nitpicking on an epic scale.

Spinsanity does useful, sometimes excellent work, and I don't only mean when they're taking it to rightwingers. I'm willing for my side to take its lumps when it's deserved. But something else is going on here besides non-partisanship.

Understand, I'm not accusing anyone of bad faith. I am accusing Spinsanity of seeing all political rhetoric through the distorting lens of conventional wisdom about what is or isn't "spin."

They are not alone in this. The mainstream media treats all campaign rhetoric as an enemy of truth. That attitude, along with a perceived need to appear even-handed and balanced produces a cynical attitude towards the political process, if not governance itself. Not good in a democratic society.

To be continued: Next: a historical example

Even Their Fig Leafs Need Fig Leafs

That's what the "Clear Skies Initiative" was in the first place, wasn't it? A way of packaging the naked truth about this administration's faith based certainty that "ennvironmental extremists" were ruining the country with their insistence that extractive energy companies shouldn't be the ones setting environmental policy for the country.

So Rove & co came up with a Repubican initiative dedicated to a future of clear skies for us, and clear sailing for a Bush reelection, and a general all round triumph of Republican values.

Damn, if those environmental extremists, from the Sierra Club to the Atlantic Salmon Federationweren't all over their proposals, tearing apart the details; it's the focus on details that makes the environmental movement so extreme.

But most Americans are still worried about the air they breathe, and they're beginning to worry about global warming, so...back it was to the drawing board for the Bush administration.

EPA Issues Rosier 'Clear Skies' Analysis, Based on New Model
Agency Denies Hiding Data on Rival Bill

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a new, optimistic assessment of the benefits of President Bush's anti-air-pollution bill yesterday and disputed claims that it had intentionally hidden data showing that a competing Senate plan would provide greater long-term public health benefits at only a slightly higher cost.

Here's what those claims EPA is disputing are all about:

EPA Withholds Air Pollution Analysis
Tuesday, July 1, 2003; Page A03


The Clear Skies proposal is designed to reduce power plant emissions over the next 20 years. A centerpiece of Bush's environmental policy, its passage could burnish his 2004 reelection credentials. But the president's plan does not address carbon dioxide emissions, which many scientists consider an important greenhouse gas that may contribute to the Earth's warming.

Bush's stand has drawn sharp criticism on several fronts, and a bipartisan group of senators has proposed an alternative bill that would limit carbon dioxide emissions. Unreleased information from an EPA internal analysis concludes that the competing bill would provide health benefits substantially superior to those envisioned under Clear Skies.

The administration does have it's supporters, none of whom could be characterized as "extremists."

Utilities push Clear Skies Act

WASHINGTON - The electric power industry is lining up "grassroots" support among its employees, retirees and stockholders for President Bush's beleaguered Clear Skies air pollution bill.

The bill would change the Clean Air Act, creating a new way of policing air pollution from power plants. In place of mandatory pollution controls, it would create a national "cap and trade" system in which utilities could buy and sell pollution allowances and choose their own technology for reducing pollution.

Nothing extreme about good old-fashioned self-interest; where would this country be without it?

Frank O'Donnell clears up what's so muddy, environmentally speaking, and yet so transparent politically, about Karl Rove's version of clear skies here.

Feel Better About Your Country

courtesy of Jeanne d'Arc:

Julia knows how to do it. If you missed this, Enjoy

Statistics Of War: Some Suggestions

Courtesy of the comments to Atrios' post "Stop It." (read them if you haven't yet)

Steve Gilliard reminds us that even "killed in combat" is traditionally narrowly defined by the military as a death caused directly by enemy actions.

Michael (in DC) rejects the distinction, and reminds us "they're dying in service to their country and to the bush junta. Most troop deaths don't happen in "battle," that's been true throughout the history of warfare & it's no less true now."

NTodd points us to the folks (elvis56 among them) at Lunaville who are paying special attention to this subject. And keeping count here. You'll also find there a link to The Onion's brilliant take on the Pres's "bring them on."

steve laudig contributes additional casuality tracking links here, here, and here.

I'm overloading you with all this information because Demetrios makes the excellent point that this is a perfect subject for "letters to the Editor."

The letters can challenge the use of such confusing and misleading statistics without editorial comment as to what's being counted, if that's what you local paper is doing.

Or the letters can call attention to the use of the "low" death rate often quoted by people like Byron York (see July 4th PBS NewsHour), which, like "security grandmother" I wondered about when I heard him dismiss the postwar death rate as an historic low. There's also the issue of what kinds of wounds our military personnel are suffering.

An email to the NewsHour might be a good idea, too, asking that Mr. York's statistic be clarified.

If you need something to inspire your letter, check out this article from Maine (courtesy of NTodd). And there's more good stuff in that comments thread.

Clueless in Arabic

From The Command Post:

U.S. authorities discovered that the acronym of the reconstituted Iraqi army, the New Iraqi Corps, is an Arabic slang word for fornication. The name has been changed to the New Iraqi Army.

Oh well, at least we caught this problem in time... The Ayatollahs we're going to need to run Iraq for us wouldn't have liked that one bit.

No hard intelligence on WMDs before Iraqi war

Walter Pincus in WaPo:

U.S. intelligence analysts lacked new, hard information about Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons after United Nations inspectors left Iraq in 1998, and so had to rely on data from the early and mid-1990s when they concluded in months leading up to the war that those programs continued into 2003, according to preliminary findings of a CIA internal review panel.

On another controversial Iraq intelligence issue, the preliminary report indicates that although al Qaeda and Hussein had a common enemy in the United States, and there were some ties among individuals in the two camps, "it was not at all clear there was any coordination or joint activities," said one individual inside the CIA who is familiar with the report

Five year old data?!

Let's ask "What would Saddam do?"

So you're Saddam, and despite the shell game, the sanctions have worked. You've had to bury the centrifuge part that you've got under a rosebush. What would you do? Would you say (a) "I'm powerless" by showing that you have no WMDs? Or would you say (b) "I could be powerful" by continuing to play the shell game, even with no WMDs?

Just guessing, it seems to me the choice was (b). That would explain two things: why the WMDs are so hard to "find," and why (despite Saddam's evil nature) there was no use of them in the war.

It would also explain a third thing: aWol's maladministration had no hard evidence from normal channels, so they went with what they could get. Anything they could get. From anywhere they could get it. In fact, they lied..

Bush lies, people die.

Yellow dog Democrat


Ann MacKinnon, a part-time postal worker from Lee, N.H., also disagreed with Kerry's vote on the war but is leaning his way nonetheless. "I'm in a pragmatic mood," she said. "I think he can beat Bush, which is what I want."

What she said.

The coveted Rove endorsement


Privatization farce

Or tragedy. AP:

Law enforcement officials are investigating why an escape from a privately run county jail went unreported until one of the four fugitives, injured jumping from the jail roof, showed up at a hospital a few hours later.

Two of the inmates, including one charged with murder, were still on the run Saturday morning.

''We in law enforcement are totally disgusted, and it's disheartening,'' said McKinley County Sheriff's Deputy Ron Williams.

''There obviously was human error,'' said jail warden Cody Graham, who runs the facility for Management Training Corp., a private jail operator under contract with McKinley County.

Has anyone ever reflected on the craziness of a creating a system that has an incentive to build more prisons for profit, and then an incentive to run them as cheaply as possible?

Trial balloon on Iraqi ayatollah

Yep, maybe we can use the moderate Shiites as a shovel to dig ourselves out of a jam. Patrick Tyler of the Times writes:

Mr. Wolfowitz asserts that he was not among the Shiite bashers, and is not now. Given his remarks, it is hard to imagine that the Bush administration has not considered that an ayatollah might be Iraq's first postwar leader.

Last month, Grand Ayatollah Sistani sent a private message to L. Paul Bremer III, the American occupation administrator, admonishing him that he was making mistakes in how he was treating Shiites, especially in Najaf where the American-appointed governor was accused of running a corrupt and unjust administration. It appears that Mr. Bremer got the message. The governor was arrested last week. But Mr. Bremer also blocked Najaf's attempt to vote the alleged scoundrel out of office, arguing that elections are premature.

Premature for whom, some Iraqis ask. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has issued a fatwa, or religious decree, against allowing Mr. Bremer to appoint the Iraqis who will draft a new constitution. Rather, the cleric urged Iraqis to demand general elections to select the constitution's framers. Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress leader and a secular Shiite contender to lead Iraq, went to see the grand ayatollah last week and seemed to endorse the election plan.

Mr. Bremer has resisted on grounds that Iraq won't be ready for elections until it has had a census and an electoral law. But dissent is growing, and is only a symptom of the unease between the occupation authority and the Shiites.

The question for President Bush is whether he could ever accept an ayatollah as an ally. He may have to and, in any case, it will be up to the Iraqis.

Well, it was going to come to this sooner or later, wasn't it? Facts on the ground...

Stop It!

Reading through google news I´m getting increasingly angry. If the Pentagon wants to try and minimize the number of casualties reported by the press by labelling everything a traffic accident, fine. But, increasingly our media has stopped bothering to even report the distinction - there are too many articles reporting that only 20something US troops have been killed in Iraq since May 1, without clarifying that this is only the killed-in-combat number. The total number is triple that.

US v. Turkey

We´ve detained a bunch of Turkish special forces.

What happens when two NATO countries go at it? So confusing...


As I´ve said before, I really try hard not to emphasize every single negative aspect of this ridiculous war we´ve gotten ourselves into. But, at least from where I´m sitting right now (admittedly away from US TV news), there´s been very little attention paid to the families of the soldiers who are suffering the consequences of this disgusting situation.

Via Tom Spencer I see this article in the NYT which touches on this issue. This paragraph, which Tom highlights, jumps out in particular:

"When my husband first deployed, the people at work were so sweet, giving me days off, saying take whatever time I need," recalled Ms. Franklin, who answers telephones at a financial institution near the fort. "But it's not like that today. Now they look at me kind of funny and say: `Why do you need a day off now? Isn't the war over?' "

This reminded me of some passages in Christian Bauman´s excellent novel The Ice Beneath You. It´s much less of a "war novel" than one might think from the marketing, but some of the pivotal events take place in Somalia during a time when most Americans were unaware that we even had troops there. I imagine there´s something about being in a hell hole with your friends getting killed and wondering why it doesn´t even make the evening news.

In the runup to the war the media didn´t hesitate to bring the cameras to the bases to capture the brave-if-tearful goodbyes as our soldiers went off to Iraq. Now some of those same families have been damaged or destroyed, with parents killed or maimed. And, that doesn´t include the unimaginable (by me) psychological trauma these soldiers are experiencing or any possible "Gulf War II Syndrome" health effects.

As this Army Times editorial (which had previously disappeared, but has now returned) makes clear, the Bush administration cares nothing for what happens to these men and women once, Jeebus-willing, they make it home.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary — including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Then there’s military tax relief — or the lack thereof. As Bush and Republican leaders in Congress preach the mantra of tax cuts, they can’t seem to find time to make progress on minor tax provisions that would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others.

If we really had a liberal media we´d be hearing far more about the families of fallen and maimed soldiers than we do about Scott Peterson or whatever it is Larry King is talking about these days. If we really had compassionate conservatives we´d be hearing more about where to donate money to help out military families having financial hardships (and, if anyone knows of any reputable charities with low marketing overheads that deal with this kind of thing let me know). With summer here and school out one wonders how many temporarily one-parent full time military and reservists´ families are managing to pay the bills and handle child care duties (I´m sure Mickey Kaus can explain it). Extended family isn´t much of an option for military families who frequently move.

Anyway, I could rant about this more but it´s depressing me.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Microsoft ...

Who'd a thunk it? Convicted monopolist Microsoft just can't seem to reform itself. Kristi Heim of the San Jose Mercury News writes:

Microsoft has delayed proper licensing of data that allows its software to operate with other programs and devices, raising ``numerous concerns'' about its compliance with a government antitrust settlement, according to a report released Friday.

The Justice Department and 16 states, including California, said Thursday that a court order may be needed for Microsoft to lower the rates it charges other companies for the data.

Microsoft's failure to implement appropriate licensing terms on time is a serious worry, they said, because it could make the core of the settlement ``prematurely obsolete.'' The licensing provision was intended to be the ``most forward-looking provision'' in the settlement, directed toward ``unfettering the market and restoring competition.''

Microsoft thinks they can act with impunity. But why would they think otherwise? In the corporatist state that Bush and his gang are creating, allowing corporations to act with impunity is exactly the point!

UPDATE: Plus, they're going offshore.

The "G"IA program

Hiawatha Bray of the Glob writes:

Annoyed by the prospect of a massive new federal surveillance system, two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are celebrating the Fourth of July with a new Internet service that will let citizens create dossiers on government officials.

The system will start by offering standard background information on politicians, but then go one bold step further, by asking Internet users to submit their own intelligence reports on government officials -- reports that will be published with no effort to verify their accuracy.

"It's sort of a citizen's intelligence agency," said Chris Csikszentmihalyi, assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab.

He and graduate student Ryan McKinley created the Government Information Awareness (GIA) project as a response to the US government's Total Information Awareness program (TIA).

Check it out!

Can't work out how submit information, though (like aWol's Texas Air National Guard record. Anyone?

Flag sales decline

Ross Kerber of the Glob writes:
For retailers, not even the stars and stripes are forever. After providing a burst of revenue last year, sales of American flags, USA-themed picnic supplies, clothing, and other patriotic paraphernalia have lagged this Fourth of July season, as controversy over the US war with Iraq and fading passions over the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have cooled consumers' ardor for the red, white, and blue.

It's quite a comedown for merchants still using the colors of Old Glory to move everything from flip-flops to SpongeBob T-shirts. Some report adequate sales of star-spangled items, but well below 2002's record-breaking levels. Other explanations range from a weak economy to a rainy June that cut demand for paper plates.

What a shame! The hucksters and shills are finding Old Glory isn't a draw....

Or maybe people are starting to figure out that waving the flag is one thing, and patriotism is another?

Presidential "Press Conference"

With not one single question. Shameless.

UPDATE: I just checked the URL again to see if aWol's monologue was still billed as a press conference. It was. Seeing all the "(applause)" in the text, I was reminded of this oldie-but-goodie:

The White House asked if President Bush could address the European Parliament, Baroness Williams revealed on BBC One's This Week show on Thursday. But, she said, Euro-MPs were told there was a condition attached to him making the speech: a standing ovation should be guaranteed. The speech has never taken place.

This guy really does live in a bubble, doesn't he? Nothing but applause...

MWdom at its finest

Will Lester of AP writes, after checking out his kneepads:

The day was a nonstop birthday celebration, as the former pilot from the Texas Air National Guard visited this Air Force base to commemorate the 100th anniversary of powered flight.

"Former" covers (up) a multitude of sins. Here is the story. Bush was:

Suspended and grounded from flying duty on verbal order of the TX 147th Group's Commanding Officer for "his failure to accomplish annual medical examination"

after mandatory drug testing had been instituted.

Among much else! See the whole disgraceful time-line of aWol's "service" in the Texas Air National Guard..

Completely shameless!

That wasn't the Constitution itself collapsing?


PHILADELPHIA — What was to have been a spectacular opening of the National Constitution Center was marred Friday when a huge wood and steel frame collapsed on the stage, injuring several people and narrowly missing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"We could have all been hit, bumped," O'Connor said into a microphone.

We were, Sandra. We were. In Florida 2000....


Schwarzenegger Promotes Film in Iraq. And promoting with quotes like these:

"It is disastrous financially [in Iraq] and there is the leadership vacuum, pretty much like in California right now."


The Constitution, Corporatism, and "Loot, Repeat"

For July Fourth

The Constitution made us, as Americans, who we are. The Bush administration has been quietly revising it:
We the people rulers of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general corporate welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to profits for ourselves and our posterity associates, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Satire? I wish. Establish justice? The Patriot Act. Provide for the common defense? Our ports, airways, and reservoirs, power plants, and mass transit are little more secure now than they were before 9/11. And how is the Iraqi war the common defense when it's never been shown that it will make one single American safer? Domestic tranquility? Sure, through Clear Channel and the suppression of dissent. Promote the general welfare? I'd laugh, if I weren't banging my head on the table...

But forget about the easy shots. Let's follow the money. Trying to figure out what the Republicans are really up to (to model their behavior) I think there are two essential notions:
  1. Corporatism
  2. Loot, Repeat

For Corporatism, here again is the relevant clause as revised by Bush:
Promote corporate welfare, and secure the blessings of profits for ourselves and our associates.
Corporatism is what Bush does, as opposed to what he says. Does this seem about right for the Republican's long-term, strategic goal?

Republicans use Loot, Repeat tactics, as analyzed by Nicholas Confessore (go read!) in service of Corporatism. Here are the steps:

(1) Target: Pick an existing government revenue stream
(2) Transmit memes: Focus on the Mighty Wurlitzer on the target
(3) Privatize: Write the legislation "privatizing" the revenue stream
(4) Loot: Steer the privatized service to a wired (Republican) firm, and
(5) Repeat: Take a payoff from the wired firm, as campaign contributions or otherwise. With the payoff money, return to step (1) and pick new targets.

Some Republican factions -- wingers, self-identified Christians, militia types -- are useful primarily in the targeting, meme transmission, and legislative phases, and as thugs. They are, as the Trots would say, "useful idiots." Bush, DéLay, Frist, and our own Rick Santorum are fully implicated in all the steps to Corporatism. IOW, it really is all about the money.

Loot, Repeat is not a conspiracy theory -- it's something very familiar: A political machine. If anything, it's good old-fashioned party building, just as the Democrats used to be able to do.

Loot, Repeat is parasitic. Nothing of value is created; it is only possible for the Republicans to plan to loot Social Security because FDR created the New Deal. Loot, Repeat diverts existing revenue, and delivers less value to citizens for a higher price (see Paul Krugman for how Loot, Repeat is playing out in Florida).

Here is an UggaBugga-style sketch of the steps of Loot, Repeat. It's incomplete; maybe readers can help fill in some blanks. Some of the projects, like privatizing Social Security, are not yet complete; a Loot, Repeat cycle can take years to play out.

The repeat column -- the money trail to where the payoff goes -- is most incomplete. Aggregated, however, this column provides the answer to the question: "Where did the Bush contributors get their $200 million from, and what are they doing with it?"

1. Target Revenue Stream2. Transmit memes3. Privatize4. Loot5. Repeat
Defense DepartmentNeo-cons, PNACOutsourcingthe Iraq warNo bid contracts, etc. 
Medicare Prescription drug benefitRebates to big pharma; cherry picking 
Social Security  Commissions for mutual fund industry 
Public Schools Vouchers, contracting with private companiesE.g., wired EdisonCampaign contributions
Prisons  Wackenhut, etc. 
Stategic Petroleum Reserve  Contract to wiredKoch IndustriesCato Institute
Public utilitiesEasily manipulated California initiative process Kinda deregulate electricityCriminal manipulation of the power market fleeces Californians of billions - Bush FERC still says it's OKEnron dollars are a top source for Bush campaign contributions in 2000.
Jeb Bush funnels Florida taxpayer money into Enron stock
Proprietary software instead of free, open-source solutions. 
Electronic voting machinesFlorida debacle due to "hanging chads" instead of outright fraud 

UPDATE: Thanks to alert readers Dave Johnson and Tom for Edison, and Dave Johnson for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Thanks to alert reader EssJay for Enron (how could I forget?!)

Loot, Repeat in the service of Corporatism. I'd like to think that all Republicans don't want to shred our Constitution and abuse the American people in this way.

Our CEO President

aWol says:

I base our foreign policy based upon deep-seated principles.


Meanwhile, in the other qWagmire

Amir Shah of the AP writes:

U.S.-led coalition forces launched an operation in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan aimed at denying al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives a haven in Pakistan border regions, a military spokesman said Friday.

''The purpose of this operation is to prevent the re-emergence of terrorism, deny anti-coalition fighters sanctuary and prevent further attacks against NGOs (nongovernment organizations), coalition forces and equipment,'' Lefforge said.

Attacks against foreign aid workers and international soldiers in Afghanistan have increased in recent months. The violence is usually blamed on al-Qaida, Taliban remnants and loyalists of renegade rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Sounds like they've already emerged. But maybe aWol took his eye off the ball with AQ for some reason?

Say it isn't so...

Hal Varian (of the excellent Information Rules) has some analysis in the International Herald Tribune:

Even the formerly moribund technology sector is reviving, with the Nasdaq showing a 26 percent return since January.

According to recent reports, much of this renewed vigor is driven by individual investors. Is this a rational response to undervalued technology stocks, or the start of another bubble?

the market is still susceptible to irrational exuberance on the part of small investors.

Unfortunately, it is reportedly the most speculative stocks - biotech, Chinese Internet and penny stocks - that are showing the biggest price surges, and most of the interest appears to come from individuals. Analysts, whose views might be more representative of institutional investors, appear to be sitting on the sidelines.

If this pattern persists, it does not bode well for the current technology recovery.

Sigh... I thought we'd done the technology bubble already....

Jebbie's continuing troubles

From the Florida Department of Children and Families: Computers that track at-risk children collapse on first day.

Jeb Bush's DC&F is the department that , well, keeps losing kids...

C'mon Jeb! Get it together! There's a dynasty at stake!

SCLM Alert

Right vs. Right on the Today Show.

In Defense of Fascism

Apparently Michael Ledeen´s a fan.

Why am I not shocked.

This Weak

I´m no fan of either George, but why doesn´t anyone ever ask the rather obvious question - who the hell wants to watch George Will? Does anyone like that guy?

Here There Be Monsters

13 tons of dead octopus.

Joe on Ann

Joe Conason discusses Ann´s book, but don´t worry it´s still very interesting reading and provides us all with some nice history lessons.

Coulter discusses McCarthy's impressive high school record in considerable loving detail. But somehow she neglects to mention McCarthy's first moment in the national spotlight. That was his infamous 1949 campaign on behalf of Nazi S.S. officers who were convicted of war crimes for the massacre of American troops in the town of Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. On their orders, 83 American prisoners of war had been murdered by Waffen S.S. machine-gunners. The S.S. officers were sentenced to death, but McCarthy insisted that the entire case was a frame-up, with confessions obtained by horrific torture. He intervened in Senate hearings on the case and lied repeatedly during his defense of the Nazi murderers. His most spectacular claim was that the American investigators had crushed the testicles of German prisoners as an interrogation technique. McCarthy was later shown to have served as the pawn of neo-Nazi and communist provocateurs who were using the Malmedy case to whip up anti-American sentiment in postwar Germany. The main source for his false charges concerning Malmedy was a Germany lawyer named Rudolf Aschenauer, whose closest ties were to the postwar Nazi underground and to American right-wing isolationists, but who has also been identified as a communist agent. Aschenauer testified at U.S. Senate hearings in Germany that he had passed information about Malmedy to McCarthy. The S.S. officers were guilty, as the Senate report confirmed -- although most of them later got their death sentences commuted in a gesture to former Nazi officials who aided the West in the Cold War. But McCarthy had succeeded in his larger purpose, winning publicity for himself and casting a negative light on the war-crimes trials.

We may remember, that it wasn´t long ago that Jonah Goldberg was defending this man.

As Jonah told us, "What makes McCarthyism so hard to discuss is that McCarthy behaved like a jerk, but he was also right."

Aside from everything else, it´s shocking that he could be so profoundly ignorant as to not realize that McCarthy was as much about Jew-baiting as it was about red-baiting.

Bush at War

War is Peace

Elaine Chao trumpeted the high unemployment rate as a sign that the economy is in recovery. Why? Well, because the labor force grew by 600,000 in June. To some degree it´s a change in the denominator which is driving the increase.

Using logic that only a Real Business Cycle theorist could love, dear Ms. Chao has determined that all of those people are re-entering the labor market because of renewed economic opportunities.

I´ve always had fun mocking real business cycle theory, which can be described simply as claiming that all unemployment is purely voluntary and recessions are caused when small decreases in wages due to external factors cause people to voluntarily leave their jobs. When wages are lower than normal people choose to enjoy some leisure time, figuring they´ll go back to work when wages are higher.

Actually, during this downturn I gained some new respect for RBC theory. In my sphere I´ve seen one member of two-earner households use the soft economy as a reason to, say, have/raise children, or pursue a more independent (less lucrative) endeavour of some sort.

But, people burn through their savings (or, borrow 110% on their inflated house price) pretty quickly. And, while it is true that people re-entering the labor market is driving the changes in the unemployment figures, anyone who has picked up the classifieds knows that it isn´t renewed economy opportunity that is driving them there - they´ve spent their savings and maxed out their equity and credit cards and it´s time to find a job before the bank takes their houses.

The numbers support my personal observations - women, the traditional primary caregivers, are swarming back into the labor force. 415,000 women 20 and over started pounding the pavement again in June.

Cardassian Justice in Gitmo

Everyone is guilty, the problem we face is figuring out who exactly is guilty of what...

Thursday, July 03, 2003

The quicker picker upper

About that bounty for Saddam and his sons...

Worked great for OBL, didn't it?

And what's that old AA definition of insanity -- "Doing the same thing again and expecting a different result"?

Plus, the first Iraqi to claim the reward better do like the Turks did before the war -- cash on the barrelhead, son. Given that tendency to "bait and switch" that aWol's malAdministration has.

The problem with Dean


"He has a very aggressive style in terms of arguing with the refs."

Working the refs does the job for the right, doesn't it? As Alterman shows. So why not for us?

(See the incomparable Howler for more.)

UPDATE: NPR transcript here.

They brought 'em

U.S. 'Still at War,' General Declares; 10 G.I.'s Wounded:

The statement from the commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez of the Army, came on a day in which 10 American soldiers were wounded in three separate attacks.

The multiple attacks today came a day after Mr. Bush seemingly invited confrontation with militant Iraqis, saying, "Bring 'em on." The American-led alliance, he said, has adequate force to deal with the security situation.

Today's attacks seemed to defy that assertion.

"Mission accomplished"? But that wasn't a lie! That was just for a photo-op!