Saturday, August 02, 2003


Down, down, down...

Shorter Tom Friedman

The British public wouldn't support a war to save the Iraqi people from Saddam's tyranny because they have never experienced terrorism.



Appears that this lovely little substance might be repsonsible for Gulf War I Syndrome.

Squalene is classed as an ad juvant - a chemical which is added to a vaccine to make it more combative. It is a naturally occurring substance in the human body but injecting it is illegal, and past scientific research in rats and mice has found that it causes auto-immune disease. Consequently, squalene in the form of a vaccine is unlicensed for human or veterinary use.

Oops, article way old. I hate when I get stuff and I don't notice the old dates on the articles...

Something to Remember

As of this time in the summer of 1991, only Paul Tsongas had made it clear he was running for the nomination.

Prompting sentences like this, from the August 8, 1991 Financial Times:

The shortage of declared Democratic candidates is in marked contrast to the same stage four years ago when half a dozen Democrats were formally in the race. The difference is largely explained by President George Bush's continuing high approval ratings in the polls and the widespread assumption that he will be nearly impossible to beat next year.

(oops, date fixed)

David Kay

It appears that David Kay, who keeps promising us "surprises" on the WMD front, which of course is one of those "tells" - I didn't realize that the discovery of WMD in Iraq, which WERE THE CAUSE OF THIS RIDICULOUS WAR was supposed to be a surprise - is the source of the fraudulent claim about the IAEA.

Former United Nations weapons inspector David Kay's appointment a few weeks ago as an adviser for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director George Tenet on WMD issues is a shining example of how the game is being played. Kay is now benefiting from his successful efforts to help the Bush administration justify the Iraq war. He was the one who told the government that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna produced a report in 1991 that indicated that Iraq was at the time just six months away from having a bomb. Bush and Blair held a news conference in Crawford, Texas, last September touting Kay's claim, and the US media published it prominently. The media did not verify the allegation by talking to representatives of the IAEA, which would have been worth the investment of a few minutes' time, since such a report by the IAEA simply doesn't exist.


Demagogue links to this shockingly reasonable article by Rich Lowry about the mentally ill.

Demagogue's a bit hard on liberals being at fault here, I think. It is true that the deinstitutionalization movement was a liberal movement, but it wasn't supposed to stop there. The idea was that many mentally ill patients had been locked up and abandoned in horrific and, yes, expensive institutions instead of receiving any kind of proper treatment and without any attempt to provide them with anything resembling a "normal life." Deinstitutionalization was supposed to be accompanied by group homes, etc... with the patients still having very monitored existences, though with at least one foot in the "real world."

Of course, Republicans (cough Reagan cough) seized on this as a cost-saving measure, closed the public institutions, and the money for other types of care never materialized.

While misguided liberal notions are presumably behind the difficiulties people face in obtaining such things as involuntary commitment papers, as with many things that's only part of the story. From what I've seen, the core reason is often simply a lack of money, with other things being simply excuses.

Happy Anniversary to the Hamster

Well, I'm a day late, but anyway. Eric was running one of the best sites out there when he was still in high school, though none of us new he was such a youngster at the time. Go pay him a visit and while you're there make a donation.

For a Hamster flashback, check out his exchange with Meek and Mild Colmes.


Dave Eggers writes an Op-Ed in defense of Americorps, another program Bush promised to maintain and extend but which has instead been slashed.

AmeriCorps needs an emergency infusion of $100 million just to maintain its current operations. While the Senate voted to appropriate the money, the House of Representatives refused to approve the emergency funds — and then adjourned for the summer. Meanwhile, the administration has been largely silent — and it remains unclear whether it will press Congress to provide the funds in September.

Which is confusing, considering how vocal President Bush has been about the need to maintain and even expand our national service programs. At one time, in fact, the president proposed expanding AmeriCorps to 75,000 members. "We need more talented teachers in troubled schools," the president said in his 2002 State of the Union address, the first after 9/11. "U.S.A. Freedom Corps will expand and improve the good efforts of AmeriCorps and Senior Corps to recruit more than 200,000 new volunteers."

It was the president's words that encouraged young people to send in AmeriCorps applications. Thousands of outrageously qualified applicants were prepared to quit high-paying jobs, to put off graduate school, to move to, say, rural Louisiana — all in the name of national service, in the name of doing something selfless for a country that needed healing. AmeriCorps approved new volunteer slots and assumed it had the support of Congress and the president. Now, on the eve of a new school year, Congress and the White House have turned their backs on these volunteers.

Must we note that the $100 million that could save AmeriCorps is less than one-tenth of what we spend in Iraq every week? Is it too obvious to mention that the president, who long scorned nation-building abroad while encouraging education here at home, is now clearly choosing the former over the latter?

It's no secret that many in the G.O.P. have long favored the dissolution of AmeriCorps. And though the process won't necessarily be speedy, Republicans in the House are well on their way to making the program a thing of the past. And what happens then? Who or what steps into the chasm created by the White House's failure to act? No one knows. But what is certain is that a generation that was beginning to engage with government, with citizenship and service, will be abandoned, and will be given good reason to shrug back into an easy and familiar, "Well, what did you expect?" sort of cynicism. In fact, the best and most idealistic members of this generation are the ones who will feel most betrayed. Preventing this is within Washington's power — and $100 million is, relatively speaking, a paltry amount to pay for keeping alive the volunteer spirit of the youth of this country.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Cato Loves the Clenis

Cats sleeping with dogs and whatnot.

The Bush administration's newly released budget projections reveal an anticipated budget deficit of $450 billion for the current fiscal year, up another $151 billion since February. Supporters and critics of the administration are tripping over themselves to blame the deficit on tax cuts, the war, and a slow economy. But the fact is we have mounting deficits because George W. Bush is the most gratuitous big spender to occupy the White House since Jimmy Carter. One could say that he has become the "Mother of All Big Spenders."

The new estimates show that, under Bush, total outlays will have risen $408 billion in just three years to $2.272 trillion: an enormous increase in federal spending of 22 percent. Administration officials privately admit that spending is too high. Yet they argue that deficits are appropriate in times of war and recession.


But the real truth is that national defense is far from being responsible for all of the spending increases. According to the new numbers, defense spending will have risen by about 34 percent since Bush came into office. But, at the same time, non-defense discretionary spending will have skyrocketed by almost 28 percent.


But perhaps we are being unfair to former President Clinton. After all, in inflation-adjusted terms, Clinton had overseen a total spending increase of only 3.5 percent at the same point in his administration. More importantly, after his first three years in office, non-defense discretionary spending actually went down by 0.7 percent. This is contrasted by Bush's three-year total spending increase of 15.6 percent and a 20.8 percent explosion in non-defense discretionary spending.

Panzers Forward Steaming

I am not making this up.

There was an after-dinner salute to the group's outgoing chairman, Scott G. Stewart, and someone thought it would be fun to pass around a "College Republican Hymnal" of some of Stewart's favorite decades-old songs that had been sung by the Party of the Right, a Yale group that's part of the school's debating society.

"I think they're hilarious," Stewart, now with the Leadership Institute, said yesterday, noting how dated and over-the-top they are.

So the delegates stood to sing the hoary favorite "Stomping Out the Reds," which is sung to the tune of "Bringing in the Sheaves."

The chorus goes: "Stomping out the Reds, stomping out the Reds/ We'll advance rejoicing, stomping out the Reds!"

The first verse is: "Meet the Left in action, put them all in traction/ Get great satisfaction, bashing in their heads!"

The last verse begins: "Bayonets bright gleaming, panzers forward steaming . . . "

Panzers? Nazi tanks?

Ah, those exuberant Yalies.

Worst Government Ever

Says Nobel Prize winning economist George Akerlof.

Akerlof won, in part, for explaining why the used car market is filled with "lemons," demonstrating the problem of adverse selection in certain markets.

Army of One

From Symbolman and Take Back the Media.

Marriage is about raising children

So sayeth the thrice married childless Limbaugh.

Sometimes I wonder if their brains function at all.

Climbing the Charts

Joe Conason's book is climbing that Amazon chart...

...hey, Oliver got *his* copy...

Tales of American Health Insurance

South Knox Bubba shares his personal experiences with the American health insurance industry.

Poll: Who has this happen to them a lot? I swear, everytime me or the Mrs. goes to the doctor, and pay our required copayment assuming that's the end of it, we get a bill either from the doctor or the insurance company. Of course, after wasting many minutes of our lives trying to find out what the problem is, we inevitably get an "oops, we just goofed" answer.

It happens too often.

Berke Favored to Run NYT Washington Bureau

Lord help us all.

When Wingnuts Crumble

Crossfire yesterday:

BEGALA: Just a second. He didn't talk about gays and homosexuality, but he did talk about divorce. And I'm wondering, as a straight American, my folks have not had exactly a very good track record on marriage, OK? Don Imus, the radio host, was pointing that out this morning. Half of all straight marriages end in divorce. Tell me why Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani can get married three times, but a gay person can't get married once?

RIOS: Oh, Paul, you know what?


RIOS: You're talking about -- you're trying to -- you're trying to make the case for gay marriage by pointing out something else that's wrong. I mean, marriage should be a faithful union between a man and woman for a lifetime. And that's a fact. And any time...


BIRCH: ... the moral universe, saying you should be doing better.

RIOS: Elizabeth...


BIRCH: Half of your marriages fail.


RIOS: Elizabeth, that's -- you know what? You're right. And that's a shameful thing. And a lot of the men in here are hooked on pornography. And a lot of the women are hooked on romance novels and fantasizing about other people. The point is...

Look, there is absolutely no argument against civil union or marriage or whatever for gay people other than simple bigotry. Absolutely none.

And, on that note, you can go sign this pledge.

To Kill or Not To Kill

Should we take him out or put him on trial? Unsurprisingly, the Bush administration is floating trial balloons about the former.

Big Lies

The wingnut representative of whatever anti-gay wingnut organization on CNN right now is claiming that gay men have an average lifespan that is 25 years shorter. The only place this statistic comes from is from the stupidest study in the world.

Perle the Cash Grabber

Apparently Richard Perle required foreign media outlets to pay him for interviews, despite restrictions on DPB board members using their public offices for private gain.

Larry Flynt for Governor

Sorry, Georgy, I have to withdraw my prior endorsement. Go Larry!

Buzzflash Interviews Joe Conason


And, you can buy his new book here.

Where's my darn review copy...

Unemployment Drops, Jobs Decline, Labor Force Declines

The good news it that the unemployment rate has dropped to 6.2%. The bad news is that this is entirely driven by people dropping out of the labor force. Last month Elaine Chao said that the rising unemployment number was a good thing because it was driven by people, drawn to renewed economic opportunities, re-entering the labor force. I'm sure this month she'll interpret people dropping out of the labor force as a good thing as well.

Here's the AP:

WASHINGTON -- The nation's unemployment rate declined to 6.2 percent in July as nearly half a million discouraged Americans stopped looking for a job. Payrolls were cut for the sixth month in a row, suggesting that businesses remain cautious and want to keep work forces leans despite budding signs of an economic revival.

The Labor Department's report Friday pained a picture of a job market that remains stubbornly sluggish and continues to frustrate people looking for work.

The economy lost 44,000 jobs in July. While that's an improvement from the 72,000 shed in June, economists were hoping that positions would actually be added. They were forecasting payrolls to go up by around 10,000.

Although the jobless rate dipped to a two-month low of 6.2 percent from a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in June, much of decline's July represented the exodus of 470,000 discouraged people who abandoned job searches because they believed no jobs were available.

And, here's the BLS data.

Letters, They Get Letters

To the New York Times:

the Editor:

Re "President Denies He Oversold Case for War With Iraq" (front page, July 31):

President Bush let slip some crucial information at his news conference when he said, referring to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, "In order to placate the critics and cynics about intentions of the United States, we need to produce evidence."

If the Iraqi weapons exist, we need to find them not to placate critics but to prevent them from being used for devastating attacks on the United States! The weapons that the administration described before the war could be used by whoever now possesses them to kill us by the thousands or millions.

The fact that President Bush did not express concern about this prospect, but instead described the stakes as a matter of political credibility, indicates that he privately assumes that the weapons do not exist.
Bedford, Mass., July 31, 2003

To the Editor:

President Bush maintains that we will find the weapons of mass destruction (front page, July 31).

Well, let's hope that they do not exist, because the question that raises the hairs on the back of my neck is, Who has access to them until we find them?
Old Greenwich, Conn., July 31, 2003

This is just something which has been so obvious from the beginning. They've never displayed the slightest bit of concern about finding whatever it is because it could be dangerous, but only because they need to justify their invasion.


And, for those who are now claiming that the Bush administration was always talkings about "weapons programs" and not "weapons," don't you remember the final double dog ultimatums we kept giving Saddam? You know, we kept telling him that he had to "disarm" or we were going to invade? Disarm WHAT?

Ashcroft Denied

Talk Left informs us that the defendants involved in the federal death penalty case in Puerto Rico were acquitted.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

6 Degrees of Laurie Mylroie

Abu Aardvark tells us a little bit about one of Wolfowitz's pals:

What is Wolfowitz talking about? Boehlert doesn't speculate, but I'm happy to. I would never presume to know the mind of the Wolfowitz, but I have a pretty good idea what is going on here: Wolfowitz is loyal to his friend Laurie Mylroie. Mylroie, for those who haven't come across her before, has long been kind of the "crazy aunt" of Iraq policy. Obsessed with the idea that Saddam Hussein was behind most of the world's evil, Mylroie has spun an astonishing web in a series of articles and a very odd book to "prove" that Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing - as well as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (you may have thought it was Timothy McVeigh, but hello - pay attention, okay?), the 1997 Luxor attacks in Egypt, the Cole bombing, the anthrax attacks, and the cancelation of Firefly (well, maybe not that last one, but he probably *wanted* Firefly canceled).

In her brand new book, "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror" (yes, you read that title right), Mylroie goes even farther, entering into tinfoil hat-country. According to Mylroie, Iraq was responsible for September 11 - not working with al-Qaeda, not coordinating with al-Qaeda, but actually responsible for it, while cleverly setting al-Qaeda and bin Laden up to take the fall. Yes, Mylroie (who was invited to testify before the 9/11 commission, co-authored a book with Judith Miller, is affiliated with AEI, is good friends with Ahmad Chalabi as well as with Paul Wolfowitz) denies bin Laden's responsibility for 9/11: "On September 11, much of America was convinced that the shock and horror we suffered that day had been the work of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network"(p.43)... but, she asks, how did the US know so quickly that al-Qaeda was to blame? Wasn't this based on a lot of disinformation? You bet - "the information may have been calculated to direct the United States to look at one culprit rather another: at al-Qaeda, not Iraq." (p.51) The book repeats (again!) her Ramzi Yousef theories; and then extends the same analysis to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (really an Iraqi agent under deep cover). (She quotes - without a hint of self-awareness or irony, Admiral Hyman Rickover saying "we should not love our opinions like our children" (p.48). Most egregiously (although this is of course a tough call, given the bewildering web of hypotheticals, possibles, speculatives, and unsourced allegations), she argues that the CIA and the State Department (along with pretty much everyone else) intentionally covered this up for careerist reasons - they were all so wedded to defending Saddam (!) that they wouldn't admit the evidence put before them (it is true, of course, that these people wouldn't pay attention to Mylroie's theories or evidence, because, well they aren't insane or political hacks, which explains her resentment... but not why anyone else should take it seriously).


I Didn't Watch It, But...

I think both Left and Right should agree that when CNN can run promos for Bill Maher (on Larry King) describing him as "America's most controversial comic," we have a bit of a problem.

Letters, They Get Letters

We do have a bit of a Moron-American problem. To the Anchorage Daily News:

Finding weapons is irrelevant; Iraq's support of terrorism justifies war

All this controversy about faulty intelligence with regard to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is meaningless. To infer this war was not justified based on the lack of WMDs is shortsighted. Whether WMDs are found is irrelevant to me. Iraq openly supported and allowed these terrorist groups to flourish. The very lowlifes who caused more American deaths in one day -- Sept. 11, 2001 -- than Pearl Harbor. That in and of itself is justification enough for me to go into Iraq and remove the tyrant who allowed this, while at the same time hunt down the terrorists like the dogs they are.
-- Sam Albanese

Eagle River

Jobs for John

John's a big loser who can't hold a job and isn't sufficiently grateful for all that Dear Leader has done for him. Joke, of course, but his "John Snow and Me" moment is funny.

(via Tapped)

Oh, and someone give the guy a job damnit. Here's his resume.

Stop Discriminating Against Me

Let's suppose I were a member of the Datholic religion, one with a long and venerated history. Church doctrine of my particular religion clearly came down against women's suffrage and any participation by women in government. In fact, the head of my church, the Tope, came out very strongly against women voting, and in fact decreed that all Datholic members of government, to remain in good standing, must fight to end the immorality of female political participation in all its forms. Now, it's true that not all Datholics followed this particular doctrine, and definitely true that not all Datholics who followed it personally felt that the State should actually outlaw it. But, nonetheless the Tope thought this one was pretty important.

And me, being a 50 year old judge being nominated to the federal bench, had made it clear in numerous writings that I personally felt that it was abomination for women to be allowed to vote or play any role in legislative or judicial leadership positions of any sort. And, in my past as a judge I'd made some rather bizarre rulings with respect to employment gender discrimination suits filed by women against state and local governments. In addition, I'd made it fairly clear that I felt that God's law trumped that of the State. These two points together demonstrating to reasonable observers that I would be incapable of making legal rulings based on the law instead of my own religious beliefs.

Would it be appropriate to claim that people objecting to my nomination were discriminating against Datholics in government?

Give Give Give

I don't care what you give to, but give to something.

You could of course buy me some welcome home gifts.

Or, you could give to the DNC Epatriot fund.

Or, the ACLU - Pennsylvania or National, or find your own state's chapter.

Or, one of the primary candidates to the left.

Or, the heroic Texas Democrats.

Thursday is New Jobless Day

Congratulations to the 388,000 new jobless, and the few thousand that were left out the previous week.

The unemployment number comes out tomorrow...

Imagine if a Liberal Had Said...

"if you go back and read Osama bin Laden’s notorious fatwah from 1998 where he calls for killing Americans, the two principal grievances were the presence of those forces in Saudi Arabia, and our continuing attacks on Iraq. Twelve years of containment was a terrible price for us."

Conservatives would be howling about the fact that this person was part of the Blame America First crowd.

Oh, the Horror

I'm no lawyer, but if Andrew Sullivan thinks his desperate "compromise" with respect to a constitutional amendment would be anything but a nightmare he's nuts. I mean, what happens when states starting being able to refuse to recognize marriages - any marriages - made in other states?

How to avoid that nightmare? He could back an alternative amendment that says merely that no state should be forced to recognize the marriages in any other state. That essentially codifies federalism and prevents a nationalization of gay marriage through the courts (a highly unlikely scenario, in my view anyway). And it doesn't tell states what they can and cannot do for their own residents.

what a mess that would be.

Moonie Times Contrasts Vietnam and Iraq

You just gotta wonder about people who can print paragraphs like this.

The North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies were bright, skilled, resourceful, well-led, and very brave.
In Iraq, we're fighting Arabs.

Truly Weird

This really does deserve a re-run.

DR. WOLFOWITZ: Let me say a couple of things, Tim. People act as though the cost of containing Iraq is trivial. The cost of containing Iraq was enormous. Fifty-five American lives lost, at least, in incidents like the Cole and Khobar Towers, which were part of the containment effort. Billions of dollars of American money spent so...
MR. RUSSERT: Was Iraq linked to those?
DR. WOLFOWITZ: Absolutely. Oh, no, not to the—I don’t know who did the attacks. I now that we would not have had Air Force people in Khobar Towers if we weren’t conducting a containment policy.
I know we wouldn’t have had to have the Cole out there doing maritime intercept operations. And worst of all, if you go back and read Osama bin Laden’s notorious fatwah from 1998 where he calls for killing Americans, the two principal grievances were the presence of those forces in Saudi Arabia, and our continuing attacks on Iraq. Twelve years of containment was a terrible price for us. And for the Iraqi people, it was an unbelievable price, Tim.

As Eric Boehlert says:

On "Meet the Press" this week, Wolfowitz suggested that by trying to contain Iraq during the 1990s instead of invading to topple Saddam, at least 50 American lives were lost, in terrorist incidents like the bombings of the USS Cole and the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. How were those related to Iraq? Incredibly, Wolfowitz told NBC's Tim Russert that he didn't know who was responsible for the Cole and Khobar Tower attacks.

But on that question, the agreement is all but unanimous: It wasn't Saddam, it wasn't Iraq. It was Osama and al-Qaida.

Record Breaking Month

Looks like July will break the visit record here, due in no small part to the efforts of my guest bloggers.


Over at Oxblog someone has their knickers in a twist over supposed twisting of Blair's words. Oxblog says:

So, here's what Tony Blair said (as he responded to a question asking whether he would continue to serve as prime minister in a third Labour term in government): "There is a big job of work to do - my appetite for doing it is undiminished."

And here's what the BBC reported in its lede: "Mr Blair, who said his appetite for power remained 'undiminished'...."

And not to let a good distortion go, the website then links to the story thusly: "Tony Blair sidesteps questions on the David Kelly affair - but says his appetite for power is "undiminished"."

I really don't understand what the problem is here. The context, as Oxblog makes clear, is that he was responding to a timely question, given his record breaking length in office, and I really don't see how any reasonable reader would think the BBC was claiming that Blair was owning up to megalomaniacal tendencies.

Nits, nits, everywhere....

But, in any case, I wonder why there's very little comment by the right wing blogosphere about the undue influence of Spanish and Italian governments on their state run televisions. I'm always a bit amused by the tendency to simultaneously criticize the BBC for being anti-Blair while alluding to it somehow being a problem of state run television. Hello?! Whatever problems they seem to think the BBC has, it clearly has everything to do with their independence from the Blair government. On the other hand, under Aznar and Berlusconi the state run newscasts have increasingly become cheerleaders for their respective parties.

Vatican Says Lawmakers Have Duty to Oppose Death Penalty

Oh, wait, that isn't it.


Troubletown shows us what liberal talk radio would be like if it were a mirror image of the current conservative wingnuts dominating the airwaves.

(via uggabugga)


Yeah, I know the html on this web page is a total mess. But, if anyone can figure out why this thing isn't displaying correctly for lower resolutions, let me know. THe issue is that on lower resolutions one needs to scroll left and right to get the full page and I can't figure out why.

UPDATE: problem found. thanks. But, while I'm asking these types of things, does anyone know how to get IE to default to opening new windows full screen? Every now and then it starts opening them up in little mini windows which I then have to expand and I can never figure out how to it to stop.

Back in the Saddle

As may be apparent I have returned from undisclosed freedom hating location to the land where they love freedom. Some woman, who clearly hates freedom, made the mistake of taking a picture while in line at immigration and was swiftly whisked away to be re-educated.

Ah, the smell of freedom. 'tis glorious.

Thanks to Leah, Lambert, Farmer, and Tresy who ran things beautifully while I was away. They'll be around a few more days if they wish as we transition back to "normality." I've been trying to think of some creative ways to increase the Power of My Mighty Blogs, so hopefully I'll have some success..

World in Conflict

Say hello to World in Conflict, which comes to you recommended by David Neiwert.

Blog Ads! We've got Blog Ads!

A bug was fixed which was making my ads last forever, so now there is plenty of space over to the right. Can't beat these advertising rates...

Howard Dean Proves He's No Terry Molloy

No "I coulda been a contender" for Dr. Dean.

When you get this kind of extended, straightforward, chock full of information, down the middle story in the NYTimes, not reported exclusively through the prism of whether or not your electable, you are a contender.

The farmer already sent you to read Digby's thoroughly enjoyable flaying of the DLC's resent throat-clearings about Dean. Those of you who haven't yet, go.

Lisa at Ruminate This points the way to these excellent essays at Liberal Oasis on the same subject.

Then think about this. It might make sense if we who disagree with the DLC about what Democratics need to do to get elected, let them know. Slow mail letters would be good, or emails to their website. Polite, articulate, specific would be best. If a hundred people bothered to take the time, they'd notice.

Justice in America

A letter to the Economist:

SIR – Faith in the American legal system has eroded to such an extent that not even the president can trust that justice will be served should terrorists stand trial in American courts. In fact, most Americans will take solace from knowing that terrorists will not have access to a legal system where justice is so rarely served.

Thomas Keiser
Wexford, Pennsylvania


Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Tivo, Cheap!

Someone bought one through the site so I notice that it's on sale from amazon.

Oh, and if you're feeling really generous you can buy one for me!

What the Hell Are We Doing

In Afghanistan:

American military officials acknowledged that two prisoners captured in Afghanistan in December had been killed while under interrogation at Bagram air base north of Kabul – reviving concerns that the US is resorting to torture in its treatment of Taliban fighters and suspected al-Qa'ida operatives.

A spokesman for the air base confirmed that the official cause of death of the two men was "homicide", contradicting earlier accounts that one had died of a heart attack and the other from a pulmonary embolism.

The men's death certificates, made public earlier this week, showed that one captive, known only as Dilawar, 22, from the Khost region, died from "blunt force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease" while another captive, Mullah Habibullah, 30, suffered from blood clot in the lung that was exacerbated by a "blunt force injury

UPDATE: Odd, this article is quite old. I remember the story, and had thought this was an update to it.

If There's A Futures' Market In Terrorism....

From reader Hobson, the entreprenurial suggestion that certain websites, like this one, might have marketing value as emetics for left-leaning bulimics.

For instnace, "If unable to induce vomiting manually, surf here."

A particular potent sample:

The Howard Dean campaign was forced to cancel events this week in response to events in Iraq. Donations to the Uday and Qusay Hussein Memorial Fund can be submitted directly to the Dean campaign.

I suspect that the effect of this little pill of bile would be equally as vomitous on most Americans.

So save it and start a file of the outrageous, to be made available to all interested friends who're are too well rounded to be as obssessed about politics as we are.

Time we let more Americans know what's being said and done in their patriotic name.

Good Fences and Good Neighbors

If a fence is to have even a shot at making good neighbors, it better not be built by one neighbor on the other neighbor's land.

The Palestinians call it a wall. Check out the picture of it in this BBC article; what would you call it? Bush seemed to understand why this fence/wall, depending on which side of it your standing on, is such a problem for Abbas, but according to this BBC report of the Bush/Sharon meeting, Bush stayed on the fence, if you will, for now.

I've mentioned before I don't doubt that President Bush wants his roadmap, a genuine achievement, it should be acknowledged, to lead to where he's promised it will, to a secure Israel, side by side with a viable Palestinian state. Or that he's willing to put forth the kind of personal committment without which nothing will genuinely change.

My skepticism that he can achieve what the roadmap promises is not wishful thinking. This dangerous, tragic conflict needs to get solved, for the sake of all of us. If solving it rebounds to President Bush's credit, so be it.

This conflict should have been at the center conceptually of how we viewed the Middle East in the context of 9/11 from the day after that attack. That was the consensus of Arab leaders, including, astonishingly, the Saudis. Remember, at that Arab summit in the Spring of 2002, for the first time since Israel's creation, the Arab world stood ready to extend recognition to a Jewish state, a possibility that was ignored. The administration already had its sights trained on Iraq.

Of course, it's now a fundamental administration talking point that regime change in Iraq has paved the way for inplementation of the roadmap. That may have been Sharon's demand, but we were not required to accept his view. But it wasn't only Sharon. His view is shared by the chief architects of policy in this administration. And as long as Bush brings those neo-con assumptions to solving this conflict, which is drenched in history, not in ideology, I fear he can't succeed.

An astonishing example of a policy based on those assumptions was flagged by the usually estimable Matthew Yglesias, who remarks that it's author, Michael Totten, is "making sense."

Wow, not to me. After explaining his roadmap skepticism, Totten lays out a different approach, one that places the Palestinian's in the larger matrix of international terrorism.

It is time to ask ourselves honestly: Is it possible to support a Palestinian state without encouraging terrorists elsewhere?


Lest the Arab-Israeli conflict grind on indefinitely, Palestinians eventually need their own state. But we need to find a way to get them that state while discouraging bad actors elsewhere.

Though it looks good on paper, the current "road map" to peace won't cut it.


The trouble with the road map isn't that Palestinians won't cooperate. The problem is there's no punishment if they don't.


Here's the way an effective solution might work. First, defeat terrorism. Second, nurture democracy. Third, negotiate a settlement.

The first phase should be simple. Terrorism must be punished. And anti-terrorism must be encouraged. The Palestinian Authority should be given one last chance to eliminate terror. And if the PA refuses, the U.S. must do the following:

Classify the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist organization.

Declare "regime change" in the West Bank and Gaza the official United States policy.

Support to the hilt every anti-terror operation by Israelis short of war crimes.

The first phase would not be complete until the enemies of peace are defeated, deported, imprisoned, or killed. These include Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Yasser Arafat's Fatah, the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It may also include the Palestinian Authority.

Takes one's breath away, doesn't it? Why even bother with giving the Palestinian's that one last chance? In fairness, the analysis is a good deal more detailed than these quotes might suggest. But it's PNAC neo-con essence is contained in that italicized three step outline.

As Kevin Drum notices in an interesting discussion of the same Totten essay;

And while Michael does say that there would be subsequent phases in which we would dictate the terms of a Palestinian democracy, that only comes later. In the here-and-now, there's little question that his plan relies entirely on a massive application of military force, and the followup depends on a continuing military presence as well.

As Kevin rightly complains, whenever anyone questions this reliance on a kind of total war waged endlessly into the future as our chief means of defending ourselves against terrorism, even when the commentator is, like Kevin, mildly hawkish, he's told he's setting up a straw man.

What I take that to mean is that the Krauthammes and Kristols, and Tottens of this world aren't prepared to travel their own roadmap to it's logical conclusion. However, I think they do mean what they say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They, at least, view their approach as an alternate to the President's.

What worries me is that Bush himself retains those same PNAC assumptions, without realizing that they are incompatible, not only with his specific roadmap, but also with arriving anywhere that this country, Israel, the Palestinians and the rest of the world are going to be happy to find themselves.

The Senate Rediscovers The Separation Of Powers

I hope many of you were able to catch one of the several showings on C-Span of the grilling Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Bolton got in front of the Senate Foreign Relatins Committee yesterday. Not that either man looked discomforted, especially Wolfowitz, who may turn out to be more the embodiment than either Perle or Cheney of the PNAC vision of America's future, as democratic beacon and overlord to the world.

As the administration will undoubtedly do in the case of N. Korea, Wolfowitz blamed the failed policy of containment, i.e., the Clinton administration's policy toward Iraq, (actually, the policy left to it by the previous Bush administration), for....tada...Osama Bin Laden and 9/11. I'm still looking for a trasncript, but that is, indeed, what Wolfowitz seemed to be saying, and fairly explicitly. Apparently, had Clinton heeded the neo-con letter sent rather publically to him at the time of the withdrawal of the UN inspection regime, and invaded Iraq then, in 1998, no 9/11.

Interesting to remember that Clinton's chosen response to Saddam's final refusal to cooperate with UNSCOM, four days of targeted missile attacks meant to destroy what WMD were left, and the dual use facilities where they might be manufactured or stored, was greeted by Republicans as a "wag the dog" scenario, meant to distract the nation from what was really important, and we all know what that was.

Doubtless the neo-cons would have you believe that had Clinton decided to go to war, he would have had Republican backing. Does anybody really believe that?

If Clinton's motivation was the personal one of creating a distraction, what better distraction, surely lasting more than four days, than announcing a war policy towards Iraq. Does anyone doubt that had Clinton made such an announcement, it would have ended up on the list of Impeachment particulars?

Old news, you say. Don't think so. The blame Clinton meme is going to be played louder and more often.

Yesterday, though, the Senators, Republicans as well as Democrats weren't buying.

I agree with the rest of the members of this committee that I think you, Mr. Bolten, should be more forthright in terms of what the costs are going to be so that we have some idea, and the American people [know], how long, how much," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio).

The contentious three-hour hearing marked the second time in three weeks that the administration faced sharp congressional criticism of its performance in postwar Iraq.

Committee members from both parties also took aim at what they called the administration's "shifting justification" for the war....(edit)

"In the months leading up to the war, it was a steady drumbeat of weapons of mass destruction," said Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.). "All the testimony this morning . . . is about what a tyrant Saddam Hussein is, who brutalizes the people. . . . So I'll ask the question, Secretary Wolfowitz: What are we doing there?"

And that was just the Republicans. Even Joe "Miss Congeniality" Biden is fed up with this administration's uh, anal-retentive problems with truthfulness.

When Bolten said that the administration did not plan to ask for funds in the fiscal 2004 budget for sustaining 150,000 troops in Iraq and rebuilding the country because it didn't know what the precise costs would be, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), the committee's ranking Democrat, erupted.

"Give me a break, will you?" he said. "When are you guys starting to be honest with us? Come on. I mean, this is ridiculous."

What filled that committee room yesterday was the sweet smell of oversight. What will be a more difficult problem for the White House than the passion they've raised among Democrats is the doubts they've raised among heavyweight Republicans in the Senate.

"Cheap-labor Conservatives"

Avedon Carol at Sideshow provides a LINK to Conceptual Guerilla, who examines the noisy well fed special interest sect known as: "cheap-labor conservatives"

Sandra E. Jewell wanders right into a nest of the excitable little well-fixed pelfs right here:
"...a group of conservative students at UNC/Chapel Hill protested the summer reading assignment of 'Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America', by Barbara Ehrenreich. ( The students said the book, which presents the lifestyles of minimum wage earners in several different jobs including one at WalMart, was one-sided and that the other side, apparently that of the super-rich, should also be required reading. As the appropriate antidote one student suggested the Sam Walton autobiography." See: The Class Wars: A Regal Obituary by Sandra E. Jewell

Outrageous! To the ramparts Chuzzlewits'! You there, fetch me my John Dickson & Son, Round Action 12 Gauge featuring standard Dickson rib with Princes Street Address and splinter forend of finest English walnut! This ignoble class warfare hooliganism must be halted, strangled in it's baseborn crib! Driver! Driver!..... to the Hunt Club!

This also, from "Conceptual Guerilla": Down With "Corporate Feudalism"
At bottom, conservatives believe in a social hierarchy of "haves" and "have nots" that I call "corporate feudalism". They have taken this corrosive social vision and dressed it up with a "respectable" sounding ideology. That ideology is pure hogwash, and you can prove it. [...] "Cheap labor". That's their whole philosophy in a nutshell – which gives you a short and pithy "catch phrase" that describes them perfectly. You've heard of "big-government liberals". Well they're "cheap-labor conservatives".

Conceptual Guerilla weblog.

June 2003. Number of states in which Wal-Mart is the largest employer : 21
Statistic via: "Harper’s Index"

Important - Update!!!: Attention dangerous "far-left" subversives and malcontent helots of the Cheap-labor National Security State - Go read Digby's excellent post: Who Me ASAP.


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Why Is The President Afraid To Meet The Press?

Eric Alterman announces An Altercation Contest that asks that question, which, stop the presses, this WaPo editorial also wonders about.

His last such event was March 6 -- before the war with Iraq, before the passage of his tax cut, before the latest outbreak of violence in Liberia, before the release of the 9/11 report, before -- well, you get the idea. Nor is this lag time unusual for the Bush presidency: During his more than two years in office, Mr. Bush has held just eight solo news conferences. The last one before his March appearance took place four months earlier. By contrast, President Clinton had held 33 such events at this point in his term, and the first President Bush had held 61.

Mention of that March press conference pretty much answers the question, doesn't it. Click here to refresh your memory of some of the difficulties the President sometimes experiences in such situtations

Also, check out Eric's commendation of Nick Kristoff, alone among big-time pundits in being willing to hold the President to account for his promises to Africa.

And there's a special mid-week apperance by Charles Pierce in today's CORRESPONDENTS’ CORNER.

Have They No Shame?

A purely rhetorical question, as I'm sure you guessed, although this example of Republican hypocrisy is very special.

I guess it depends on your definition of "gratitude" and your definition "tangible."

Saudis Reject Redaction

Turns out the Saudi Royals would prefer those twenty-eight pages be made public.

The White House has already rejected their request. Gee, that was quick.

We have nothing to hide," Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in the White House driveway this afternoon as he indignantly denied any suggestions that his country has not been a full partner in the campaign against terrorism.

"We are disappointed," the prince said of the administration's refusal. "But we understand the reasons."

The prince's meeting with the president followed a hastily scheduled flight from Saudi Arabia to Washington amid a controversy over the administration's decision to keep part of the report under wraps.

"Anyone who believes that this president would cover up for anyone involved with 9/11 must be out of touch with reality," the prince said as he reasserted that his country is a full partner with the United States in battling terrorism

Well, if the White House isn't protecting the Saudis...

"There's an ongoing investigation into the 9/11 attacks, and we don't want to compromise that investigation," Mr. Bush said. "If people are being investigated, it doesn't make sense for us to let them know who they are."


In defending the decision to keep the classified section under wraps, Mr. Bush said, "We have an ongoing war against Al Qaeda and terrorists, and the declassification of that part of a 900-page document would reveal sources and methods that will make it harder for us to win the war on terror."

So let me get this straight. We've got an on-going investigation and we've got an on-going war, and never the twain shall meet? Really? No way to redact just the references to those sources and methods?

If the point of keeping a portion of a 900 page report classified is to protect the Saudis, it certainly can't be said to be working.

Why Is Iraq So Central To TWOT? Because We're There

This brilliant insight is Billmon's.

This essay, in which you'll find it, provides the kind of clarifying insight that will become, I'm guessing, the foundation upon which all further arguments, about what to do next, how to define success, how to preempt the Republican and media assumption that the Bush administration owns the national security argument, will have to be based.

In the end, policy mistakes -- particularly big ones -- tend to produce a kind of circular reasoning -- in which those in charge try to justify the policy by citing the need to avoid, at all costs, the failure of the policy. So it was in Vietnam. So, too, with our latest misadventure in Iraq.

A prime example of this loopy logic comes from the father of the war himself, Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz....
This is what the conquering hero told Tim Russert:

I think winning the peace in Iraq is now the crucial battle in the war on terrorism.

And why is Iraq the crucial battle in the war on terror?

Not because of WMD, and not because of terrorist ties, as Billmon points out Wolfowitz now concedes.

If Iraq is now the central battle in the war on terrorism, it's because America is there -- or rather, because Wolfowitz and his crew put it there, in pursuit of their dream of a domesticated Arab world, reconciled to Western hegemony and living in peace and harmony with Israel and its soon-to-be-born Palestinian bantustan.

And so the circle is closed: Because America in Iraq, it must fight the "terrorists." And because it must fight the terrorists, America has to be in Iraq.


The problems raised by such thought processes go way beyond the GIs who must die to keep Wolfowitz's logical loop from coming untied. Calling the war in Iraq the central battle in the war against terrorism ignores the distinct possibility that it is in fact a monumental diversion from the real struggle against terrorism -- a strategic distraction that will make huge demands on the American military and the American intelligence community for years, if not decades. (italics mine)

And that's just the beginning. Go, read, absorb, save to your hard drive, and then continue to think with the same clarity on the key political problem ahead, how to recapture the security issue, which has to be done if we're to outst Bush.

Among The Wounded

From reader, Dan, in the comments thread to Atrios' Christian Bauman post: this link to a site that will help you understand what it means to be among the wounded.

Be warned, this is graphic and wrenching. But these are our brothers and sisters serving in Iraq; the least we owe to them is to pay the profoundest attention to what the cost of their service is to them and to their friends and families.

We're lucky, here on the left, to have such intelligent and knowledgeable writers as Kos, and Steve Gilliard and Billmon, who have personal experience in the military. To that list, I'd like to add frequest Atrios commentator, YankeeDoodle, whose website, "War News," you can find here. I find myself checking in there regularly.

Sometimes the posts appear to be roundups of war news, but the juxtapositions are essays in themselves. And the extended discussions in a "rant" like this one, are among the best you'll find anywhere on this side of the online line.

At Least The Greens Started Their Own Party

I don't begrudge the DLC their desire to have a dialogue about where the Democratic Party needs to stand on various issues.

What bothers me is the self-defeating way they make their arguments. They don't seem to see it that way, which gives me the impression that they don't mind seeing Democratic failure when they can say they told us so. Which means that in some fundamental way, they don't really identify with the Democratic Party.

Chris at Interesting Times has some good thoughts on this dilemma here, here and here.

Politics Is Visceral

The gut reaction of "whaaaaat, are they nuts,"most of us had to the news that the Pentagon had it's thumbprints all over a plan to create a futures market in terrorism turns out to have been the right one.

Paul Wolfowitz, testifying to the Senate this morning, has announced that the program is being discontinued. Senators want more; they want to know who and how anyone entrusted with the defense policy of this country could have come up with such a nutball notion. Apparently, our old friend, John Poindexter had a lot to do with it.

Wolfowitz knows a loser when he sees it.

The approach he's taking in his testimony is as chilling as it is telling. Generally, he's setting up the Clinton administration as the ones who didn't get it, therefore the USS Cole and the Khobar Towers, and that all due goes to the Bushies for all progress against terrorism. Democrats seems prepared to fight back.

In the interim: At Maxspeak, the Sandwichman, Tom Walker, presents the essence of Wolfowitz.

Falling off the Front Page

It´s rather disconcerting how little coverage the deaths of American soldiers are getting. Sure, the basic fact and numbers are reported, but the personal side - widely covered in the runup to the war - is gone.

Awhile back in this post, I said:

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.

Christian, whose website can be found here, was kind enough to respond:

My anger over this subject is so deep and profound I have a hard time expressing it. It's one of the things (obviously) that led directly to the writing of my book, and continues (on a somewhat smaller scale) in my next book.

Americans forget about the troops serving because the media allows them to. Because the media is scared the public will lose interest and turn the channel. It's very, very frustrating.

What's happening right now in Iraq, this constant-24/7-fear-of-being-shot-by-every-person-I-see was life as usual for American soldiers in Somalia, the beginning of Haiti, Bosnia... Half the time Americans didn't know we had troops there, and if they did, it was easily brushed off. "Well, it's not a war, right?"

No. In some ways, psychologically, it's worse.

So now here we are, "major combat over," and I fear this is happening again. Army families were fun to film 6 months ago, when they were all teary goodbyes. Now, it's just unpaid bills and small kids developing behavior problems and ulcers forming -- and none of that is very interesting to network TV news.

Killing Saddam's sons gave Bush a 3-point bounce

Now I understand! (back).

Futures market in terror


Personally, I think this idea is technically sound, and it might save some lives. The concept's been around for years, and it has a reasonable track record; see the Iowa electronic markets. Alert reader Ian Kinman points to for an additional precedent.

So Senator Wyden should stop grandstanding, already. (That is, unless he isn't "serious" about national security issues. Sheesh!)

COMMENT Some readers object that the market isn't ethical. But if the premise of the program is sound—i.e., that the market has predictive value, which the Iowa program seems to support—then it would seem to me unethical not to use it. After all, we can't have people flying airplanes into buildings or letting off dirty bombs in our cities, can we? And surely putting money into a market (as opposed to, say, torturing prisoners or abolishing civil liberties) is a reasonably harmless way to go about this task?

Others object that the market is merely a mirror for conventional wisdom; "garbage in." But the only question is whether the market has predictive value regardless of its inputs. This is a technical question, to be settled by empirical methods. Obviously, if it doesn't work, we shouldn't do it.

Alert reader Ebie makes the point that:

The IEM predicts the results of elections -- collective tallies -- not the results of a few individuals acting from a very different set of premises than most Terror Investors are going to be working with.

Which, to my mind, argues for expanding the program so it to functions as a collective tally. (Though Ebie says I'm wrong— read the thread.)

Others ask for citations. I think of this market as a subset of market-oriented knowledge engineering (e.g., here) where ideas like it are well known. As for the Iowa market, a little poking about the site yields several research papers, including this one (PDF). Alert reader Gabriel Demombynes provides an economist's perspective here.

Have at it, people! It's an interesting issue.

Republican tactics 101: The Snipe Hunt

US backs down on claim Saddam's bodyguard caught.

But what the heck! It's already driving the news cycle. Well done, lads!

It worked for WMDs, didn't it?

The forgotten reconstruction

Afghanistan is dominated by warlords. Surprise!

First, YABL:

By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall.


Marshall knew that our military victory against enemies in World War II had to be followed by a moral victory that resulted in better lives for individual human beings.

Well, to be fair—the misLeader doesn't actually call for a Marshall plan. But is it even "technically accurate" to say that an Afghanistan run by warlords is a moral victory?
Todd Pittman of the AP writes:

In a report released Monday night, Human Rights Watch accused soldiers and police loyal to powerful warlords many of whom are in the government of kidnapping, extortion, robbery and the rape of women, girls and boys. The New York-based group also detailed numerous death threats against Afghan journalists and low-level politicians who criticized authorities.

''If allowed to continue with impunity, these abuses will make it impossible for Afghans to create a modern, democratic state,'' the group said.

President Hamid Karzai's administration has been struggling to rebuild this war-shattered country and extend the central government's authority beyond Kabul, the capital. Most of Afghanistan is controlled by warlords who rule as they see fit and have private armies of their own.

Most of those now in power were backed by the United States and its allies in the war that toppled the Taliban in late 2001 and many still work as allies alongside American troops now in the country.

Karzai appointed many of the warlords as governors because they already controlled areas in the lawless wake of the Taliban's collapse.

His government is supposed to draft a new constitution in October and government officials are traveling through the countryside to solicit public views on what the charter should contain. National elections to choose a new head of state are scheduled for next June.

Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said the overall human rights situation appeared to be worsening, in part because of U.S. and other allied support for warlords.

''External support for warlords is destabilizing Afghanistan,'' Adams said. ''The United States and the United Kingdom, in particular, need to decide whether they are with President Karzai and other reformers in Kabul or with the warlords. The longer they wait, the more difficult it will be to loosen the warlords' grip on power.''

Sound familiar? Let's hope not. Suppose, just suppose, in Iraq, a truly democratic election were held, and the Shi'ites came in first... WWG1D? ("What would George I do?") The "reconstruction" of Afghanistan—remember when Bush forgot to put money for it into the budget?— may provide a clue.

"American Justice"

Thanks for the memories... Of a country where once the rule of law prevailed...

Michael Powell of WaPo writes:

Even now, after the arrests and the anger and the world media spotlight, the mystery for neighbors in this old steel town remains this: Why would six of their young men so readily agree to plead guilty to terror charges, accepting long prison terms far from home?

"These knuckleheads betrayed our trust, and we're disgusted with their attendance at the camps in Afghanistan," Mohammed Albanna, 52, a leader in the Yemeni community here, said of the six men who have admitted to attending an al Qaeda training camp two years ago. "But the punishment doesn't fit the crime, or the government's rhetoric. It's ridiculous."

But defense attorneys say the answer is straightforward: The federal government implicitly threatened to toss the defendants into a secret military prison without trial, where they could languish indefinitely without access to courts or lawyers.

That prospect terrified the men. They accepted prison terms of 61/2 to 9 years.

"We had to worry about the defendants being whisked out of the courtroom and declared enemy combatants if the case started going well for us," said attorney Patrick J. Brown, who defended one of the accused. "So we just ran up the white flag and folded. Most of us wish we'd never been associated with this case."


So now we know that the execution chamber at Gitmo is destroying the entire American system of justice, too, not justmilitary justice. Given that George I has arrogated to himself the power to declare anyone an "enemy combatant." (Sounds rather like the lettre de cachet, doesn't it?)

The Lord High Executioner

Seems Bush sloppiness extends to just about everything ....

Alan Berlow's Atlantic article on Bush's sloppy handling of clemency proceedings made it into WaPo today, in an article by Peter Carlson.
First , YABL:

"I take every death penalty case seriously and review each case carefully," he said while governor of Texas.

Now the reality:

"A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute," Berlow writes.

Mr. Berlow's advocacy piece is more at home in his usual places of publication," Wassdorf wrote, such as ", which is mostly regarded as a cartoon solely dedicated to Bush Bashing."

Gonzales' memos and half-hour briefings were not the entire clemency process, merely the end of it, [Pete Wassdorf, Gonzeles' deputy counsel] says. "Governor Bush's office was fairly informal," Wassdorf wrote in his letter, and "it was not at all unusual after a meeting on a different subject or during an ad hoc meeting to discuss upcoming executions."

Perhaps that's true. But is an informal bull session the best way to delve into the complex details of a murder case?

After reading Berlow's article, and Wassdorf's letter, it's hard not to conclude that both Gonzales and Bush were rather callous, even cavalier, about the most profound decision any government official can make -- the decision to kill another human being.

Sound familiar? It will to the troops.

The alternate reality of Al From

Dan Balz writes:

Dramatic erosion in support among white men has left the Democrats in a highly vulnerable position and unless the party strongly repositions itself, President Bush will be virtually impossible to beat in 2004, according to a new poll commissioned for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). ...

DLC leaders have criticized former Vermont governor Howard Dean, whose antiwar rhetoric fueled his rise to prominence in the Democratic presidential race, and today, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), the DLC chairman, warned that the party is "at risk of being taken over by the far left." The choice for Democrats, Bayh said, is, "Do we want to vent or do we want to govern?"

Leaving aside the issue of how the poll might have been designed...

The reality of "white men": The one constant with Dean is that he has the cojones to take it to the Republicans. Why the DLC thinks cojones aren't attractive to white men is beyond me. (Why aren't the DLC hammering on the Bush administration gutting overtime protection, if they want to appeal to men so badly?)

The reality of "anti-war": This is a tired old '60s label recycled by the mentally lazy. There's a perfectly reasonable case that the war on Iraq is bad for America on straight national security grounds. The Democrats can and should make it.

Dean the "far left"? That's truly an alternate reality ... Not that the Republicans won't make ample use of Bayh's little sound bite in 2004.

Get a grip, Al!

NOTE As a yellow dog Democrat, I support anyone who can beat Bush in 2004—even Lieberman. But the DLC isn't helping the cause in 2004 by pulling stunts like this.

On the Taking of Hostages

Calpundit says:

At first we're led to believe that we're gaining ground in Iraq due to a simple shift in tactics, but a few days later we learn that what this really means is that we're kidnapping families and holding them hostage in order to increase the "quality and quantity of intelligence." This may seem like a good idea in the world of 24, but in the real world it's a war crime. It should end right now, and I hope everyone who linked to the first article links to the second as well and denounces these tactics as unworthy of us. The world should know that we're better than this.

Jim Henley says:

y the way. I never want to hear another word about the alleged iniquities of Justin Raimondo, ANSWER, Robert Fisk, Patrick Buchanan, Lew Rockwell or even, god help us, the French. Not one more fucking word.

A few readers have pointed out that we never actually signed on to Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention. Absolutely correct. Apologies for the mistake Here´s Convention 4, articles 34 and 147.

Art. 34. The taking of hostages is prohibited

Art. 147. Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.

Reader AQ also writes in to give us this from the Uniform Military Code of Justice.


Any person subject to this chapter who, except as provided by law, arrests, or confines any person shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Of course, now that the law is just Bremer´s personal game of Calvinball who knows what this means.

Mark Kleiman comments, noting my mistake, as does Phil Carter. Tom Spencer and Big Media Matt also comment.

Killer Ds off to Albuquerque

You go!

True patriots, every one. Please demonstrate your love for these fine senators by contributing money to the Texas Democratic Party here.

As always, Charles Kuffner is your one stop spot for all Texas redistricting news.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Rat stays on land, avoids ship

Mike Allen of WaPo writes:

The Bush administration said yesterday that former secretary of state James A. Baker III will not join the Iraq reconstruction effort, as some administration officials had hoped.

Baker was among several prominent figures some administration officials hoped to entice into taking charge of specific tasks related to the rebuilding process, such as seeking money from other countries or restructuring Iraq's debt.

State Department spokesman Richard A. Boucher said at his daily briefing that neither Baker nor Secretary of State Colin L. Powell "had ever heard about it -- it's a dead parrot."

Well, well... Wonder why not? Maybe Baker wants to keep spending time with his family? And who are the other "prominent figures" who just don't want to get involved?

Krugman on Bush v. Blair


Now the Bush administration was at least as guilty of hyping the case for war [as Blair's]. It was a campaign not so much of outright falsehoods — though there were some of those — as of exaggeration and insinuation. Here's what the public thought it heard: Last month, 71 percent of those polled thought the administration had implied that Saddam Hussein had been involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

(Which we now know, from the 9/11 report, was YABL.)

And when it comes to domestic spin, Mr. Blair isn't remotely in Mr. Bush's league. Whether pretending that the war on terror — not tax cuts, which have cost the Treasury three times as much — is responsible for record deficits, or that those hugely elitist tax cuts are targeted on working families or that opening up wilderness areas to loggers is a fire-prevention plan, Mr. Bush has taken misrepresentation of his own policies to a level never before seen in America.

While Mr. Bush's poll numbers have fallen back to prewar levels, he hasn't suffered a Blair-like collapse. Why?

One answer, surely, is the kid-gloves treatment Mr. Bush has always received from the news media, a treatment that became downright fawning after Sept. 11. There was a reason Mr. Blair's people made such a furious attack on the ever-skeptical BBC.

Another answer may be that in modern America, style trumps substance. Here's what Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said in a speech last week: "To gauge just how out of touch the Democrat leadership is on the war on terror, just close your eyes and try to imagine Ted Kennedy landing that Navy jet on the deck of that aircraft carrier." To say the obvious, that remark reveals a powerful contempt for the public: Mr. DeLay apparently believes that the nation will trust a man, independent of the facts, because he looks good dressed up as a pilot. But it's possible that he's right.

What must worry the Bush administration, however, is a third possibility: that the American people gave Mr. Bush their trust because in the aftermath of Sept. 11, they desperately wanted to believe the best about their president. If that's all it was, Mr. Bush will eventually face a terrible reckoning.

I'll take door number three...

Letting the Cat Out

A Forbes columnist begins his column thus:
More often than not, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia can be found on the side of business, free enterprise and conservatism. He cast one of the deciding votes that made George W. Bush President.
Unless, of course, you believe in quaint "conservative" ideas of judicial restraint, states rights and, you know, counting votes. But it's nice of him to not bother patronizing his readership with the customary, Posner-esque apologias for the Court's powergrab, don't you think? "We stole it fair and square," as a Republican quoted by Bob Parry once put it, and the writer knows he's among friends. Must feel good, not having to lie all the time.


Lee Strope of the AP writes:

When Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean asked his supporters to match the fund-raising prowess of Vice President Dick Cheney, they stepped up to the plate, raising more than $450,000 over the Internet in a single weekend.

I've always liked this passage from Hunter S. Thompson's masterwork, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The good doctor is reading the sports pages in a North Vegas coffee shop, and comes upon

a speculative piece on page 46 about rookie sensation Harrison Fire, out of Grambling: runs the hundred in nine flat, 344 pounds and still growing.

"This man Fire has definite promise," says the coach. "Yesterday, before practice, he destroyed a Greyhound Bus with his bare hands, and last night he killed a subway. He's a natural for color TV. I'm not one to play favorites, but it looks like I'll have to make room for him." Indeed.

This man Dean has definite promise ...

The Worst Reason Thus Far For Our Being In Iraq

I suppose this Reuters report in the NYTimes that, according to General Sanchez, Iraq has become a "terrorist magnet" could be thought evidence in favor of Andrew Sullivans rhetorical justification of the President's "Bring 'em on" moment.

In case you missed it, Sullivan's take, went something like this: the President's words were not mere rhetoric; better to flush out the enemy there, in Iraq, where we have a considerable army, than in dispersed locations around the world, or, worse-case scenario, at home, as we found ourselves doing on 9/11.

A bigger surprise than the fact that some outsiders have been drawn to Iraq to oppose the American presence there, is the fact that this Sullovian addition to the ever-growing list of reasons purporting to explain what the hell we're doing in Iraq has gained enough traction not only to still be around, but to have been given a pet name.

At TPM we are given several samples of the meme, learn the pet name is "flypaper," the flypaper, presumably, being Iraq; , and finally, get Josh Marshall's withering analysis of all this foolishnes.

All I have to add is this fantasy; that Geroge Soros would take it into his head to offer Mr. Sullivan financial support for a trip around Iraq, so that Mr. Sullivan could share his theory with Iraqis of the majestic part, as terrorist flypaper, they are playing in our remaking of the Middle East, and so he could, as well, reassure those same Iraqis, not to worry, becuase he's quite sure they're going to love the makeover.


Quote #1:

... exploiting a "visceral hatred" of George W. Bush among those on the far left which the nation does not share.

Quote #2:

Their single organizing philosophy is an irrational, all-encompassing, broiling hatred of George W. Bush.

The source for #1: The DLC.

The source for #2: Tom DéLay.

Why does Al From use the same talking points as a fruitcake Republican?

Companies Love Misery

The house organ of rich whiners, Forbes, has published its latest Tax Misery Index. Take a look:
The Bush tax cuts, Forbes exults, are dramatically alleviating tax misery in the United States, as can be seen by our dramatic improvement in the rankings over three years. Why, in just three years we've put at least a dozen countries between us and those tax hellholes, France, Belgium, Norway and the other Saddamite nations. And if Congress just has the spine to accelerate the tax cuts scheduled for 2006, it will just be us and a bunch of Third World Nations, as we race down to the wire of a taxless society. Go Seabiscuit!

Addendum: The 3-year data are here.


Pete Yost of AP here:

The congressional report on pre-Sept. 11 intelligence calls into question answers that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave the public last year about the White House's knowledge of terrorism threats.

President Bush's adviser told the public in May 2002 that a pre-Sept. 11 intelligence briefing for the president on terrorism contained only a general warning of threats and largely historical information, not specific plots.

But the authors of the congressional report, released last week, stated the briefing given to the president a month before the suicide hijackings included recent intelligence that al-Qaida was planning to send operatives into the United States to carry out an attack using high explosives.

The Sept. 11 congressional investigators underscore their point three times in their report, using nearly identical language to contrast Rice's answers with the actual information in the presidential briefing.

"Dr. Rice's briefing was a full and accurate accounting of the materials in question without compromising classified material that could endanger national security," National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Right. "It's full and accurate, with the single exception that what we told you is white, is black."

"Full and accurate"—I think that's going to get a plaque in the Orwell Hall of Shame right next to "technically accurate."


More Aid For Afghanistan: It's A Good Thing

Better late than never is increasingly the essence of Bush administration policy.

Annouce a policy. Pronounce it bold. Then a success. Ignore contrary facts. Attack critics, and alternate policies. Then, when the inadequacy of the original policy is reaching political mass, do what your critics have been saying for months needs doing and pretend it was your idea all along.

The Bush administration will soon propose a $1 billion aid package for Afghanistan aimed at bolstering the government of President Hamid Karzai and countering criticism that U.S. officials have lost interest in rebuilding the country as their focus has shifted to postwar Iraq, senior administration officials said yesterday.


The proposed $1 billion in aid resulted from "a comprehensive, strategic update on Afghanistan," said Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, who confirmed accounts of the program provided by other officials but declined to provide further details.

"We noted that there's a lot that we're spending in Afghanistan and there's a lot at stake strategically," Feith said. "And we asked ourselves are we investing enough, given the expense of everything that we're doing, the importance of success and the benefits, strategic and financial, of completing our mission there sooner rather than later."

Just happened to notice, don't you know.

South Knox Bubba calls this administration tendency, "Bush's struggle with reality." Cal Pundit calls it "George Bush VS The World, (it's a two-parter). Joe Klein to whom both link, considers it less a case of Bush deceiving us, than Bush deceiving himself, if that makes a difference to you.

Afghanistan needs looking to, no doubt about it. More money better spent on infrastructure and such, which is what is being promised, is doubtless, what's needed.

Excuse me if I wait to see what the implementation looks like, and not only because of the hollowness of past promises, like supporting AmeriCorps. The real question seems to me to be whether or not policy makers who continue to insist that Iraq is the key element in our "war" with terrorism can really get a handle on the true signifigance of Afghanistan.

Republicans can't handle money

Jeannine Aversa of AP here here

The government's estimate of how much it expects to borrow from the credit markets this quarter has risen by a third to compensate for lower than expected income-tax payments and higher spending, the Treasury Department said Monday.
Treasury's latest $104 billion borrowing projection for the July-September quarter is larger than a previous estimate of $76 billion made in April.

The new projection would represent the largest amount ever borrowed during the July-September quarter.

A billion here, a billion there— pretty soon you're talking real money!

Graham on the censored 28 pages in the 9/11 report


Declassifying more intelligence information, [Democrat Bob] Graham wrote ... "will permit the Saudi government to deal with any questions which may be raised in the currently censored pages, and allow the American people to make their own judgment about who are our true friends and allies in the war on terrorism," wrote Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The censored passages deal with information that suggest "specific sources of foreign support for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers while they were in the United States," according to a summary in the congressional report. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

Of course, the real question is what the White House knew and when they knew it, also censored from the 9/11 report, but it's good that Graham is dealing with getting the 28 pages uncensored. It takes a village to stomp a weasel...

The Florida Democrat has been among Bush's harshest critics of late. Over the weekend, Graham repeated his criticism that Bush "knowingly" misled the American people about the reasons for going to war in Iraq and said that was an impeachable offense.

"Clearly, if the standard is now what the House of Representatives did in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the actions of this president [are] much more serious in terms of dereliction of duty," the Florida Democrat said on Fox News Sunday.


UPDATE From alert reader johnx: Graham was on Bill Maher's show, used the term "Osama Bin Forgotten." Hey, who says Graham is dull? Not me!

UPDATE Careful orchestration?
Tabassum Zakaria of Reuters here:

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister will meet President Bush on Tuesday and was likely to ask that portions of a Sept. 11 report related to Saudi Arabia be declassified, U.S. officials and diplomatic sources said.

Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal requested a meeting with Bush and it was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

Yep... The 28 pages could just be a news-cycle-sucking diversion (back). When will Graham call for all the White House material to be released?

Our fruitcake Republicans

Tom "Don't call me French!" DéLay here (from alert reader pixie (via uggabugga (via another Atrios alert reader))).

Phew! Then again, this is what we're up against!

UPDATE I see from our readers that I was not the only one who checked to see that this was not a parody site.

When Is It Okay To Execute An Innocent Man?

Never, you say? Think again. It's okay if the person in question has received a fair trail, copious appeals, but not been allowed to take advantage of new DNA technology to establish actual innocence, thereby preserving our ignorance on that issue, so no one can say an innocent man has been executed.

Kevin Drum has the story, plus his own excellent comment, plus excellent and informative reader comments.

This is what justice will look like across the country if President Bush gets to reshape the Supreme Court.

Drudge bites dog

Here (thanks to alert reader erik (conservative).

We know Bush wraps himself in the flag—but autographing one?!

What I wonder is, who fed Drudge this little item? And why is he running it?


Michael Georgy of Reuters via WaPo:

"One 1st Armored Division soldier died and three others were wounded ... when an unknown number of individuals dropped an improvised explosive device from an overpass onto their convoy," U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Two of the wounded had already returned to duty.

The incident highlighted the ease with which attackers target U.S. troops. The weapon was dropped on a heavily armed group and the assailant quickly melted away in an area that was not densely populated.

In the past 10 days alone, 17 have died at the hands of a largely unseen enemy, making it the bloodiest period for U.S. forces since Saddam Hussein was toppled in April.

"Mission accomplished" my Aunt Fanny.

Wonder how long before the administration gives up the "spike" spin and concedes that killing Saddam's sons had nothing to do with the Iraqi insurgency. And let's count our blessings, eh? The Shi'ites are quiet....

Forget The Red/Blue State Divide; They're All Red Ink States Now

It's taken a while, but the big guys, like the NYTimes have finally noticed:

Just three years ago, the states were still a plus for the economy. While the private sector had begun to limp, state spending had remained strong and so had revenues, despite cuts in tax rates in several states.

Today the opposite is happening, and that makes the states a net minus for the national economy. Without that reversal, some economists say, the economy would probably be growing at an annual rate of more than 3 percent, enough to create jobs rather than eliminate them.


The cuts in state spending are just starting to be felt, with the impact landing disproportionately on the poor. "We have been shifting a lot of spending for social services from the feds to the states," said Robert M. Solow, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Nobel laureate. "And that means the cuts that are taking place are hurting people at the bottom of the income distribution."

Not just the poor, though.

Does this administration even get that governtment workers pay taxes too, that they make purchases, and all those other activities that stimulate an economy? Or that kids who get kindegarten cut out from under them aren't ever going to be four or five years old again?

Has anyone even bothered to tell Bush that state revenues are tied to Federal tax rates, so those Bush tax cuts have meant reduced revenues for many states, especially for states with progressive income taxes. Whoops. Better not clue him into that one.

All of this was avoidable: Anyone remember revenue sharing? And avoiding it would have helped avoid this anemic recovery we're in. Cripes! This administration has figured out how to make lemons out of lemonade and thinks it's a good thing.

Read the whole article, ane then weep.