Saturday, February 08, 2003

Chutzpah, Definition Of

Rumsfeld annoyed over secret plan on Iraq By Pamela Hess UPI Pentagon Correspondent From the International Desk Published 2/8/2003 10:36 PM MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- The United States is likely to reject a proposal France and Germany are crafting for beefed up U.N. arms inspections in Iraq, a plan being developed without consulting the United States, U.S. officials said Saturday. An annoyed U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld learned of the proposal Saturday night after it was reported in the German newsweekly der Spiegel. The proposal, to be presented next week to the U.N. Security Council, would send thousands of U.N. troops -- so-called "blue helmets" -- and hundreds, possibly thousands, more inspectors to enforce U.N. resolutions calling for Iraq's disarmament. In comments to reporters, a senior U.S. government official said, "In diplomacy, if you are trying to win friends and influence people the last thing in the world you want to do is to lay on the U.S. government -- on the most important issue facing us -- a major diplomatic proposal through the press. That's not exactly the way to go."
Incredible. The U.S. is lecturing "Old Europe" on the proper way to conduct diplomacy?

Slacktivist has a nice run down of all the ways in which Powell's case to the UN is falling apart.

More On Impeachment

I've just sent out the following message via email to people I know. It is a followup on my previous post.
I have not been one of those who have called for the impeachment of Bush. While I consider him to be the worst President in American history and I consider him to have seized power through an unconstitutional coup, I have not reached the point where I thought there would be good grounds for possible impeachment proceedings. Until now. Consider the following LA Times article that talks about the grilling Colin Powell received from member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Several lawmakers (Democrats of course) asked him why, if we have known about this camp for months, we haven't taken it out. I have asked the same thing on my blog and Joe Conason has done the same in Salon. Colin could answer in public. Most likely because he didn't want to admit that their intelligence on this was weak at best. It would hurt their PR efforts for war for Iraq. And, of course, if he tells them this in a classified briefing, the Senators can't tell everyone else because then they will be accused of leaking classified information. But, consider this: 1) The administration has known about an Al Qaeda camp for months (at least that is what they claim). 2) It knows that it is producing deadly toxins (at least that is what they claim). 3) Yet it has done nothing about it (but won't explain why they haven't done anything about it). 4) But, having now talked about it in public at the UN, the camp, if it ever actually existed, has probably been torn down and its occupants spread to the four winds. In other words, in order to win people over to its side on the Iraq war question, the Bush administration may have deliberately endangered the lives of Americans by allowing this camp to exist for so long. And, they may have further endangered Americans by blowing the cover on this camps existence in order to win public support for a war on Iraq. I would say that a President who, by his actions, knowingly endangers the lives of Americans for political gain, has violated his oath of office and ought to be duly impeached and removed from office. What say you all?

Lawmakers Ask the Obvious Question. Powell Just Shrugs.

Ongoing Iraqi Camp Questioned Lawmakers press Powell as to why terrorist training ground has not been destroyed. WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spent a significant part of his presentation to the United Nations this week describing a terrorist camp in northern Iraq where Al Qaeda affiliates are said to be training to carry out attacks with explosives and poisons. But neither Powell nor other administration officials answered the question: What is the United States doing about it? ... The lawmakers put new pressure on the Bush administration to explain its decision to leave the facility, which it has known about for months, unharmed. "Why have we not taken it out?" Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) asked Powell during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday. "Why have we let it sit there if it's such a dangerous plant producing these toxins?" Powell declined to answer, saying he could not discuss the matter in open session.
Of course not. If he admitted that the information was speculative it would hurt the administration's case in the eyes of the public. He'll tell the Senators that in private, but he won't admit it in public and the Senators won't call him on it because then the Bushies and their allies in the press will say that they are leaking classified information that could get Americans killed!!! Don't they know there is a war on! AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!! To this day I'm not sure what pisses me off more: the Bushies and their naked power grabs, or everyone else around them who just sit back and let them do it. Show some fucking balls you idiots!
Absent an explanation from the White House, some officials suggested that the administration has refrained from striking the compound in part to preserve a key piece of its case against Iraq. "This is it, this is their compelling evidence for use of force," said one intelligence official, who asked not to be identified. "If you take it out, you can't use it as justification for war."
Oh. My. God. And does this official approve of this kind of naked warmongering?
Several lawmakers and intelligence experts expressed concern that Powell's presentation Wednesday might have cost the United States an opportunity to prevent the spread of toxins. "By revealing the existence of the camp, it's predictable whatever activity is there will probably go underground," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "I don't understand why we don't hit it," said Robert Baer, a former CIA officer who worked extensively in northern Iraq. U.S. officials said the Pentagon and the CIA considered plans last summer for a covert raid on the compound, but that administration officials decided against pursuing the plan.
Got that? The administration has known about an Al Qaeda camp for months (at least that is what they claim). Knows that it is producing deadly toxins (at least that is what they claim). Has done nothing about it (but won't explain why they haven't done anything about it). But, having now talked about it in public at the UN, the camp, if it ever actually existed, has probably been torn down and its occupants spread to the four winds. In other words, the Bush administration may have deliberately let a dangerous terrorist camp continue to exist and then blow the cover on their knowledge of that camp in order to win people over to their side in attacking Iraq. I don't know about you, but I think this could be grounds for impeachment.

As a protest against the coming police state I am putting up the Gadsen flag (that little yellow waving flag to the left). You are welcome to steal the graphic if you want to. I've also put up the American flag just to show that being anti-war can be pro-American.

Biting off more than they can chew?

Have the Bushies finally over-stepped their bounds with Patriot Act II? I've yet to see anyone on the right suggest it is a good idea, and some are vehemently against it.

Jeanne D'Arc has an interesting post up about the reaction of the Oprah Winfrey audience to Tom Friedman's suggestion that we may have to occupy Iraq for 20 years.
The latter part of the show consisted of an interview with Tom Friedman, and the interesting thing there was not Oprah's fawning, but seeing what happens to Friedman's suggestion that war with Iraq will have to be followed by a twenty year occupation when it hits the real world. People who follow news religiously – and for the most part, that's not Oprah's audience – have heard the call to imperialism so many times we've become numb to the idea. But when the camera turned to the audience after Friedman's suggestion, you could see the shock on their faces. Mouths open. Shaking their heads. Friedman looked increasingly ridiculous saying that this twenty-year occupation is what Americans have to be prepared for, while (mostly) women looked at him as if he were out of his mind. One man in the audience, in fact, rose to tell him exactly that. Watching the show was worthwhile if only to see Friedman get taken down.
We who spend our time following this stuff closely can sometimes forget what it must be like to be an "ordinary" citizen who only finds out about this stuff the day before it is about to happen. Could it be that the neo-imperialists have made a serious miscalculation that public opinion will swing to their side once their program becomes apparent? Americans have never been hot on the idea of imperialism. Indeed, much of our political history is devoted to the idea of getting involved in the affairs of others only when we absolutely have to. Imperialism is a violation of the core of that idea.

Friday, February 07, 2003

More adventures in diplomacy

Rumsfeld visits Europe with more frank words PARIS Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brought his dispute with France and Germany to Europe on Friday, ruffling feathers further by saying that France is a country that always seems to disagree with everyone else.
Rumsfeld was then heard to say, "I mean, they're just so...French!"

Do The Math

I was struck by a thought. The Pentagon has apparently drawn up plans to hit Baghdad with approximately 300-600 cruise missiles (and other smart weapons) in the first 48 hours of the war. This is part of their "Shock and Awe" plan. Just how much explosive power is this? I did a quick search via google to find out what the payload of your average, non-nuclear Tomahawk missile is. I was able to find the following online exchange that discusses this (I cannot vouch for the numbers, but the poster sounds pretty sure of their facts):
1.) A typical tomahawk non-nuclear warhead weighs up to 1,000 kg of PETN for the conventional bunker busters, not 500 kg. The typical warhead only weighed 454 KG containing RDX until recently when they shifted to a 317 kg warhead containing PBXN-107, increasing both the explosive yield and flight performance. 1,000 KG PETN warhead = 39,000 KG TNT 454 KG RDX warhead = 17,706 KG of TNT 317 KG PBXN-107 warhead = 36,000 KG of TNT Upcoming 317 KG PBXN-112 warhead planned by the Navy = 47,000 KG of TNT 1 580 KG nuclear warhead containing @ 80 KG of Plutonium = 200 Kilotons of TNT (200 million KG of TNT)
Let's suppose the Pentagon follows through on their plan. Let's do the math: 300-600 cruise missiles (PBXN-107 warheads) = 10,800,000 - 21,600,000 KG of TNT (10-22 Kilotons of TNT) The bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima was equivalent to 20 Kilotons of TNT. Weapons of Mass Destruction anyone?

Tapped Repeats the Same Mistake, Expects Different Result

This is their advice to Hillary:
DON'T RUN, HILLARY. For months, Tapped has watched, with some amusement, conservatives feverishly speculate about Hillary Clinton running for president. For us, the booming market in Hillary-gossip perfectly illustrates the way extra-chromosome righties have become practically co-dependent on the Clintons. (See this speculative article in the New York Post.) A Clinton run would confirm everything the right believes about Bill & Hill -- their lust for power, their narcissism, etc. -- while providing direct-mail copy for years to come. But it won't -- or at least shouldn't -- happen, because a Clinton run would be such a bad strategic idea. You'd be starting off campaign season with no chance of winning at least 40 percent of the country, period. You'd send every conservative footsoldier to the barricades. It would be lunacy. Even Hillary must know that. Right? Now we're not so sure. Tapped recently asked a friend well-connected in Clintonland whether a Hillary candidacy in '04 or '08 was within the realm of possibility. He said, basically, that the senior Clinton alums who are close to Hillary talk about it all the time. Bad news for the Democrats.
Why is it that so many on the left willingly submit their political choices to the GOP Sub-Committee For Approving Only Milquetoast Opponents? Why is it that they are so willing to let the Republicans get the first crack at determining the Democratic electoral strategy? The simple truth of the matter is that there is no Democrat alive today (or dead for that matter) that the Democrats could pick that would not be subject to the exact same smear campaign that would come with a Hillary candidacy. Didn't the people at Tapped learn anything from the 2000 election? Gore made the mistake of thinking that he would be treated differently because he wasn't Bill Clinton. Tapped makes the mistake of thinking that Democrats will do better if they have someone who isn't a Clinton or a Gore. Wrong wrong wrong. The Democrats should be specifically looking for the kinds of candidates that are most guaranteed to upset the Republicans. Why? Because it indicates that they think those candidates have a chance of beating Dubya. Consider this: Hillary is a known quantity. They can't really dig up any more on here then they already have. Furthermore, Hillary knows what it means to be the focus of a GOP smear campaign. Thus she is not as likely to be thrown for a loop when it inevitably comes. Finally, remember that one factor that went into Dubya's support in 2000 was the idea that people could "correct" for their "mistake" in electing Bill Clinton back in 1992. Well, wouldn't electing Hillary do much the same thing? I would say she is the 2nd most ideal candidate for the Democrats, after Al Gore. Democrats have got to stop running scared of the Republicans going "boo!" Indeed, they should relish the prospect.

Just a coincidence?

Consider this. Yesterday O'Reilly starts a shitstorm by using the term "wetback" when describing illegal Mexican immigrants. Today, Glenn Reynolds makes a post about some New York politician making racist remarks. Today, much of the rest of the world is talking about the plagiarism in the British MI6 report on Sadaam Hussein. Today, Glenn Reynolds makes a post about gun control groups being accused of plagiarizing an AP report. Is this a subtle form of "you guys do it to" so shut up? You decide.

"You don't do everything in life you can just because you can. Nobody does." -- Bill Clinton, Larry King Live, 2/6/2003 I think that is a concept that Bush and his buddies would have a difficult time understanding.

Imagine the best of all possible worlds...

Mathew Paris has a new column up on the Times Online web site that engages the reader in a very useful exercise: imagine that the rosiest of the war hawk scenarios were to come true. If so, would you still oppose a war against Iraq? If the world falls in line behind the US, the UN passes a resolution authorizing force, the war is over quickly with a minimal number of casualties, and the middle-east does not blow up as a result of the attack, would the doves have been proven wrong?
Don’t, in summary, dress up moral doubt in the garb of wordlywise punditry. Give warning, by all means, of the huge gamble that allied plans represent, but if all you are talking is the probabilities, say so, and prepare to be vindicated or mocked by the outcomes. We are very quick to aver that Tony Blair will be discredited and humiliated if the war goes wrong. Will we be discredited and humiliated if the war goes right? If the basis of our objection was that the war would fail, that should follow. I do not think that the war, if there is a war, will fail. I can easily envisage the publication soon of some chilling facts about Saddam’s armoury, a French and German scamper back into the fold, a tough UN second resolution, a short and successful war, a handover to a better government, a discreet change of tune in the biddable part of the Arab world, and egg all over the peaceniks’ faces.
Mr. Paris provides one answer to the question:
I am not afraid that this war will fail. I am afraid that it will succeed. I am afraid that it will prove to be the first in an indefinite series of American interventions. I am afraid that it is the beginning of a new empire: an empire that I am afraid Britain may have little choice but to join.
This really gets to the heart of the matter: what shape do we want the future to take? Do we want a world in which a multi-lateral coalition of nations cooperate with each other to bring about peace and prosperity? Or do we want a world in which one nation steps up above the rest and, in effect, imposes its own conception of "peace" and "prosperity" on the rest of the world? Does the choice come down to one of PAX-UN or PAX-America? There is, for me, another aspect to this, though it is related to this fundamental question. I have said before that I don't trust the Bushies to be in charge of this country or to lead this war. Why would I trust them to lead and shape the form of PAX-America? In his inauguration speech Bush spoke a lot of nice sounding words about a humble foreign policy which respected the opinions and independence of other nations. It was all a lie. To Bush, humility means that everyone else has to humble themselves before him and the mighty American war machine. As he told Bob Woodward
"I'm the commander—see, I don't need to explain—I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."
The problem with a PAX-America, the problem with any empire, is that it is only as good as its leadership. PAX-Romana could at least be said to have had some wise leaders in its time, but it also produced Commodus. The one difference is that he didn't come along until the empire was a couple of hundred years old. In our case, Commodus may be our Octavius. (Thanks to Tim Dunlop of The Road To Surfdom for the link)

How To Lose Friends and Piss Off Allies by Donald Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld remark outrages German press Donald Rumsfeld's latest comments comparing Berlin's attitude to a war on Iraq with that of Cuba and Libya have touched a raw nerve in Germany's press. "Axis of the ignorant" is how the left-leaning Tageszeitung headlines its report. "Sarcastro" writes Berlin's Tagesspiegel. "Rumsfeld's latest jolt" says the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The Hamburger Morgenpost clearly feels irony is called for: "Hooray, at last we have some friends!" Mystified In their commentaries, even Germany's centre-right dailies find it hard to stomach Rumsfeld's opinion. The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says "there are good reasons to criticize the German position on Iraq.. but this is a mixture of tastelessness and insult." "Verbal jostling just hardens positions even further, because every government has to save face", the paper warns. The tabloid Bild, which is normally a friend of all things American, is equally mystified. "Government outraged - Rumsfeld compares us with Libya and Cuba" is its headline. The paper reports "head-shaking" in Chancellor Schroeder's office, and lists politicians from all parties who have rejected the US defence secretary's remarks.
Ah, Germany is just "old Europe". Besides, we whooped their asses twice. Why should we care what they think?

Kieran Healy has an interesting post on the Blair Newsnight session here. He brings a useful perspective to the matter since myself, Atrios, and Kevin Drum are simply quite amazed by the idea of a leader being subjected to this kind of grilling. Actually, I'm not so much amazed by it as I am wistful. I managed to catch a session of the British Parliament the other day on C-Span. It was, I assume, one of the "Prime Minister Question Time" sessions that is mentioned in a comment to Kieran's post. It was really refreshing to watch a political leader be subjected to direct questioning by other members of his country live on national TV. Apparently this is a common practice in the British form of government. I can certainly see a benefit to it as it forces the leader to answer tough questions that an imperialist like Bush would just rather avoid. I have no doubt that Clinton, and most likely Gore, could have stood up to the kind of grilling I observed. Bush, as I said previously, would be crying for his mommy within five minutes. Tops.

Hannity Too?

Is the pressure starting show over at FOX? First O'Reilly wigs out with Jeremy Glick. Then he starts talking about Mexican wetbacks. And now comes a report, via Democratic Underground, that Sean Hannity flew off the handle at a bunch of high school kids who didn't want their private information turned over to military recruiters.

O'Reilly shows his class again

I don't have an official transcript or video link for this yet, but this is what a poster on bartcopnation reported tonight:
"NEWS FLASH:: O'REILLY REFERRED TO MEXICANS AS 'WETBACKS'" During an interview with congressman Silvestre Reyes ... time to bring him down now! here's the full quote: "We save lives because Mexican wetbacks, whatever you want to call them coyotes, they're not going to do what we're doing no people are not going to die in the desert. We seal it down and maket 100 times harder to come across. You know, 79% of Americans see that, congressman. You are in the minority on this one. And so is pResident Bush."

I've heard that the Pentagon plan to hit Bagdad with hundreds of missiles in the first two days of the coming war is part of an overal strategy called "shock and awe". We will hit them so hard and so fast that they will be imobilized by those two emotions. There's another word for this: blitzkrieg.

CalPundit comments on the Blair Newsnight appearance and makes an astute observation:
Bush has gone a step beyond the Imperial Presidency and is now conducting something like a Papal Presidency: he does nothing in public except make speeches ex cathedra and then wait for his friends in the press to fawn over his commanding presence. Doubts had been swirling around, but when Bush finally spoke, all those doubts were erased. It was a riveting performance.
All Hail Pope George the First!

Well. At least one Democrat is showing some spine with Bush

And, what's more, he's doing it from a hospital bed!

Read the following exchange between Prime Minister Tony Blair and the moderator and audience of the BBC show Newsnight. Then try to imagine Dubya have to face the kind of questioning Blair has to deal with nearly every day. Then lay bets as to how long he would go before he went into a total meltdown.

O'Reilly at his worse

It is, of course, a given that Bill O'Reilly is a waste of airwaves. But even I didn't think he was as capable of the kind of low behavior he exhibited while interviewing Jeremy Glick, a man whose father died in the 9/11 attacks and has signed on to the Not In Our Name campaign. The following excerpt from the interview hilights O'Reilly's despicable behavior:
O'REILLY: You are mouthing a far left position that is a marginal position in this society, which you're entitled to. GLICK: It's marginal -- right. O'REILLY: You're entitled to it, all right, but you're -- you see, even --I'm sure your beliefs are sincere, but what upsets me is I don't think your father would be approving of this. GLICK: Well, actually, my father thought that Bush's presidency was illegitimate.
By what right does Bill O'Reilly claim to speak for Mr. Glick's father? If I were the victim of a terrible tragedy like Mr. Glick suffered and was sitting across from someone who made a statement like that I would demand that they apologize immediately. That, or punch them in the face. O'Reilly knows nothing about what Mr. Glick's father would or would not say about his son's actions. Yet he pretends to have special knowledge of Glick's father's opinion as if he had some direct line to heaven. Would Mr. O'Reilly like it if someone started speaking for his dead relatives in a similar manner? Of course he wouldn't. He'd go into one of his typical rants about it. Only this time it would be a justified rant. That Mr. Glick didn't haul O'Reilly off and feed him a knuckle sandwich is to his credit.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Does Tom Brokaw hate America?

A reader over on bartcopnation (blackcat77) reports:
"Holy cow! Brokaw invokes New Year's 2000" At the close of his broadcast tonight, Tom Brokaw reminded us that on New Year's Eve, 1999 we had peace, prosperity and security. Now we have depression, imminant war with Iraq, a threat from N Korea and terrorism everywhere. Refering to the hopes of that day, Brokaw said, "Maybe we should sue for breach of promise." I was left with my jaw hanging open after hearing that. The whole news had been one scary story after another. He left it unspoken who was running the country then and who is now, but the implication was there, for me at least. If your network news is delayed, try to catch the last two minutes of the broadcast -- it's well worth the look just for the fact that somebody actually had the nerve to point out how far we've fallen in so short a time.

Who said Bush isn't creating new jobs?

MORTICIAN-$6,000 Sign-On Bonus Location: New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Philadelphia, PA; San Diego, CA Position Type: Employee Position Duration: Full-Time Date Posted: 02/06/2003 We are looking for candidates Nationwide!!!! Worldwide. Position will require relocating. The Navy Mortuary Affairs Program is responsible for the recovery, preparation and final disposition of Navy and Marine Corps deceased personnel and their eligible beneficiaries. Even during peacetime, we are funeral service professionals caring for our brothers and sisters-in-arms throughout the world during a most difficult time, providing aid to their families with Honor and Dignity. You would serve as a uniformed member of the United States Navy Hospital Corps, a group deeply ingrained with traditions of Honor and Commitment not unlike the devotion of those who choose the funeral industry as their career. Requirements are a graduate of accredited Mortuary school and licensed Funeral Directors/Embalmers willing to serve where needed in locations such as Italy, Spain, Guam and the United States. Experience in all facets of the funeral industry is a plus with emphasis placed on technical ability. An enlistment award of $6000 is available as well as advanced rate upon completion of training. Applicant must be a U.S. Citizen , less than 35 years of age, and in good health. Worldwide. Position will require relocating. For more information, contact a Career Development Specialist at (email), or 888-633-9674 (toll free).

Glenn links to a story providing more proof that there is an Al Qaeda cell operating in northern Iraq. Okay Glenn. Then let's go wipe out that cell if we are so sure it is there and is as dangerous as suggested. Indeed, why haven't we done so already? And what does any of this have to do with the question of attacking Iraq?

Hot new fashion trends!

A few days back I linked to a story about British soldiers wearing goggles with holograms of a snake face. Looks like their American collegues have found a way to one-up them.
MARINES MASQUERADE US Marines on exercise in Kuwait have been seen wearing some unusual accessories - skull masks. US soldiers have been wearing a range of designer ski masks to protect their eyes from the desert sand. The Grim Reaper skull mask was spotted alongside more trendy designs from the likes of Scott and Oakley.
(thanks to Silfay Hraka)

Well, I suppose it would solve the body bag problem

Pentagon considers cremation for bio-chem deaths Thursday, February 6, 2003 Posted: 12:46 PM EST (1746 GMT) WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon is considering cremating the remains of soldiers who may die in an Iraqi chemical or biological attack in the Persian Gulf, Pentagon officials said Thursday. The military already has specific procedures for disposing of contaminated remains. But cremation has never been an authorized means of dealing with remains in the battlefield.
At least they won't have any bad visuals of flag-draped coffins coming off airplanes. Rove would approve.

A right-wing dream soon to be fulfilled?

For as long as it has existed the right-wing in this country has hated the UN. It is the central focus of a lot of paranoid nightmares about one world government and the loss of precious American individuality. Well, it looks like there is finally an administration in power that might fulfill the dreams of some that this institution be tossed in the dustbin. Glenn Reynolds links approvingly to this Mark Steyn post that gloats about the impending demise of the UN. It makes me wonder if the whole point of the Bushies going to the UN with a case that would be increasingly harder and harder for it to swallow was specifically to destroy the institution and lay the groundwork for the eventual departure of the U.S. from the body. It's similar to what they did to the Independent Counsel law via Ken Starr: push the limits of the institution to the breaking point and then gloat over its downfall.

The Brick Testament has new episodes.

Thanks to the Rittenhouse Review for pointing out today's editorial in the New York Sun. It is perhaps one of the most offensive, anti-democratic screeds I have ever read. It applauds the NYC government for blocking the attempt to put together an anti-war protest on Feb. 15th because, if the protest were allowed to proceed, it might dissuade Bush from going to war. (Imagine that!) It then goes on to say that, if this were to happen, it would be tantamount to treason because Sadaam is an enemy of the US and stopping a war against him is providing him aid and comfort. It then advocates that the government send along observers to take down names and faces for eventual trial for treason. Finally, it says this:
To those concerned about civil liberties, we’d cite the pragmatic argument made last night by, of all people, the New York Times’s three-time Pulitzer-Prize winning foreign affairs columnist, Thos. [sic] Friedman. “I believe we are one more 9/11 away from the end of the open society,” Mr. Friedman told an American Jewish Committee dinner honoring the chief executive of the New York Times Company, Russell Lewis. His point was that if terrorists strike again at America and kill large numbers of Americans, the pressure to curb civil liberties and civil rights will be “enormous and unstoppable.” What we took from that was that the more successful the protesters are in making their case in New York, the less chance they’ll have the precious constitutional freedom to protest here the next time around.
You get the logic here? If there is another terrorist attack, the government will crack down on civil liberties. So, we have to go to war to prevent that from happening. But, if the protesters have their way, we might not go to war. Therefore, we have to crack down on their civil liberties. Now there is a fine example of burn-the-village-in-order-to-save-it thinking!

Really, it's all a matter of trust.

The simple truth is that Powell could have produced all the evidence in the world to show that Sadaam has WMD and it would have made very little difference because he chose also to present the flimsiest of cases for the Al Qaeda link at the same time as if the evidence for the latter was as strong as the evidence for the former. If they will lie, obfuscate, and deceive on this matter then how are we to trust them on anything else? Indeed, given the raw nerve that is 9/11, the fact that the Bush administration would use terrorism as an angle to sell a war against Iraq makes it even worse. It means that Bush is willing to traumatize people with memories of that awful day in order to get what he wants. That's not what I call a trustworthy leader.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Joan Vennochi response to criticism of her Kerry column

Joan Vennochi wrote a column on John Kerry that is a typical example of the "get-inside-the-candidate's-head-but-don't-actually-say-anything-of-substance" style of journalism that has dominated political reporting in this country (making him the front runner for the Gore treatment in 2004). Joe Conason raked her over the coals for it yesterday. Dan Kennedy followed up on Joe's comments here. Well. Vennochi has responded to Kennedy in what can only be described as your typical "defensive-letter-responding-to-an-accusation-that-may-be-closer-to-the-truth-than-I'd-like-to-admit" letter. I especially love how Joan accuses Dan of hiding behind Joe AND of being, in essence, a shill for the Kerry campaign. She also describes the "effort" against her column as "vehement". She seems to see that vehemence as a sign that she is actually on to something, otherwise why would people be complaining? Well, Joan, maybe they are complaining because they are tired of the kind of lightweight political journalism your column represents? Nah!

AMT? What AMT?

From Max:
A measure not proposed by the President, but a certain cost in the near future, is relief for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT is a provision of the individual income tax aimed at high-income persons. It is not indexed to inflation, and as a result its coverage will dramatically expand over the next ten years. This increased tax burden will effectively deprive tens of millions of taxpayers the tax cuts passed in 2001, as well as any that might be enacted this year. There is no question that Congress will be forced to consider AMT relief, and it will be very expensive. A mid-range estimate for the cost of fixing the AMT, based on work at the Urban Institute, is $500 billion.
Max Max Max. Bush doesn't have to worry about AMT. It's only a problem because it is indexed to inflation. But if we have no inflation then it won't be a problem? No? Hell! If we have deflation then that means the budget picture will actually get better! Right? Right?

More satellite photos

(Thanks to byoon2k over on bartcopnation for the image.)

Is the U.S. in violation of UN resolution 1441?

Oliver Willis asks the question. I would say that, because the resolution uses the word "requests" (meaning member states can decline to supply information that could help the inspectors in their task) that the U.S. is not in technical violation. But that's getting legalistic and we all know that Republicans don't like people who get legalistic. Right? Right?

What would you pay for a 9/11 investigation?

Yeah! I've been wanting for the last couple of weeks to put together a comprehensive comparison of various small government programs with the amount of money that has been set aside for the 9/11 commission ($3 million, in case you forgot). I started to look, but couldn't find a good enough source that would detail department budgets at that detailed a level. Well, Dwight Meredith over at P.L.A. has done it for me. Specifically, he compares the cost of several investigations (not just the one of Clinton) to what has been allocated for the 9/11 investigation. For example, we spent $17 million investigating whether Mike Espy took an illegal gift (football tickets). Is that more important then the role of intelligence failures in the leadup to 9/11? You tell me.

Should Muhammed Ali be locked up?

David Neiwart asks the question:
My first question to them is: Do we intern Muslim Americans? Or just Arab Americans? If they answer the latter, then the next question immediately arises: Then what about all those non-Arab Muslims who are likewise implicated by association with Al Qaeda? You know -- the Pakistanis and Indians, the Bangladeshis, the Malaysians and Indonesians and Filipinos? They are, after all, racially distinct. Should we round them up too? If not, then what good are we doing just rounding up Arabs? Aren't we letting a lot of potential Al Qaeda operatives roam free? All right, then say they answer the former -- intern all Muslims. That raises the next question: Then are they now willing to intern all those black Americans, like Muhammad Ali, who have converted to Islam?
David David David. You just don't understand. Muscular leadership doesn't need all that wishy-washy second-guessing. It just...knows...what the right thing to do is and it does it. Questioning the long-term implications is just another way to try and weaken them. Sap them of their precious bodily fluids, as it were.

Pyongyang: Hey? Why should the U.S. have all the fun?

N Korea threatens US with first strike Pyongyang asserts right to pre-emptive attack as tensions rise over American build-up Jonathan Watts in Pyongyang Thursday February 6, 2003 The Guardian North Korea is entitled to launch a pre-emptive strike against the US rather than wait until the American military have finished with Iraq, the North's foreign ministry told the Guardian yesterday. Warning that the current nuclear crisis is worse than that in 1994, when the peninsula stood on the brink of oblivion, a ministry spokesman called on Britain to use its influence with Washington to avert war. "The United States says that after Iraq, we are next", said the deputy director Ri Pyong-gap, "but we have our own countermeasures. Pre-emptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the US."
I'm sure the mavens at the White House can figure some reason why its okay for them to have a pre-emptive attack policy, but not North Korea. The world waits.

Robert Scheer points out one reason why we should suspect that Powell would be a willing participant in a military deception: he's done it before. "War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support," -- Colin Powell, in brighter days

"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends." - Gandalf There has been an attempt by some to use the Lord of the Rings as supporting evidence in the march towards War with Iraq. Yet the central message quoted above keeps coming back to me. Especially in light of Colin Powell's presentation this morning to the UN. Does Sadaam Hussein deserve to be overthrown? I daresay he does. I have said before that he deserves to be dragged through the street by his testicles. But just because someone deserves to be ill-treated does not mean that we have the wisdom to know when it is best to be the instigators of that treatment. It is clear to me that the Bush administration is dominated by individuals who are very "eager to deal out death in judgement." Yet none of them have, to me, demonstrated the wisdom necessary to comprehend let alone deal with the consequences of doing exactly that. It is that which dissuades me from joining the call for war more than any other factor. "All we have to decide is what to do with the time we are given." - Gandalf, again

Great Minds Think Alike

Joe Conason brings up the same question I have.
There was also a clue that American confidence in the data presented by Powell is not absolute. His presentation about links between Iraq and al-Qaida included a satellite photograph described as a "terrorist camp" in northern Iraq where operatives are trained in the use of poisons. "You see a picture of this camp," he said. "The network is teaching its operatives how to produce ricin and other poisons ... Those helping to run this camp are Zarqawi lieutenants operating in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq. But Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organization, Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq." If the United States firmly believes that its satellites have located an al-Qaida training camp in northern Iraq, why haven't our bombers, jets and missiles destroyed it already? On the ground, northern Iraq is friendly Kurdish territory, and the U.S. and its allies control the airspace.

More On Why We Haven't Bombed Already

I should mention that I'm not the only one who was struck by this thought. I was listening to the commentary on NPR after the UN session ended. One of the commentators said he had worked in intelligence and it was clear to him that the picture Powell showed originally had the label "suspected Al Qaeda chemical weapons facility" but that the "suspected" was removed from the caption on the way to the U.N. He says this had to be the case because it would be inconceivable and unconscionable if that had been a KNOWN Al Qaeda facility and we had not gone in and taken it out already, either by bombing or other means.

Would you trust this man with your military?

Mr. Secretary, if what you say is true, why hasn't the US already attacked Iraq?

One of the major features of Powell's presentation was the allegation of ties between Al Qaeda and Sadaam's government:
Powell also said that an al Qaeda terrorist network headed up by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a high-ranking Osama bin Laden lieutenant who fled to Iraq from Afghanistan, had been operating freely in Iraq for more than eight months and was using Baghdad to coordinate its activities. Zarqawi has been linked to October's assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Jordan and the alleged ricin plot that was broken up in London last month. His whereabouts are unknown.
Powell is essentially suggesting that elements of Al Qaeda are alive and well and working, with the blessing of Sadaam, in northern Iraq. But, if that is the case, and the US government believes it to be true. Why haven't we already gone in to take out these elements? We've bombed suspected Al Qaeda installations in Pakistan, for God's sake, yet we have left a suspected Al Qaeda facility operating freely in Iraq for eight months without doing anything about it? Bush has already established the principle that the US has the right to go pretty much anywhere it wants to get the people who were behind 9/11. His administration is now asserting that some of these people have taken up residence in Iraq. It says it knows where they are, what they are doing, and who they are working with. YET IT HAS DONE NOTHING ABOUT IT! This is either a monumental failure in Bush's much vaunted war on terrorism or it is a lie. Which do you think it is?

Can You Put Your Faith In a Liar?

Musings & Meanderings asks the all important question following Powell's presentation: "Just how are we to believe an administration that has lied about their absolute proof so often in the past?" This is the heart of the matter for me. I have said before that I could support a war against Iraq on any number of conditions. But I simply can't trust the Bush administration to be the leader in determining if they should be attacked and when and how they should be attacked. Powell asks how we can continue to trust Sadaam. We can't. But neither can we continue to trust Bush. When given the choice between two ways, neither of them acceptable, I always look for a third way. Don't tell me there isn't a third way. There is always a third way.

Bush's Base

I don't think this guy needs convincing by Powell (from FreeRepublic):
200 years from now, I want their children's children's children's children to cower and cringe in fear whenever they hear the sounds of jet engines overhead because their legends tell of fire from the sky. I want them to hide in dark caves and holes in the earth, shivering with terror whenever they hear the roar of diesel engines because the tales of their ancestors talk about metal monsters crawling over the earth, spitting death and destruction. I want their mothers to be able to admonish them with "If you don't behave, the Pale Destroyers will come for you", and that will be enough to reduce them to quivering obesience. I want the annihilation to be so complete that their mythology will tell them of the day of judgment when the stern gods from across the sea .. the powerful 'Mericans .. destroyed their forefathers' wickedness.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

I don't generally go in for the "smirk vs. chimp" type of humor. But the clever use of javascript on this page makes it worth visiting.

An appropriate quote at this juncture: "If the unexamined life is not worth living, why is that those who examine their lives never seem to be having a good time?" - Dave Sim

Worth a thousand words...

Are Liberal Ideas "To Complex" For TV?

Todd Gitlin has a new article up at The American Prospect that you should check out. I'd like to draw attention to the following:
In case you haven't noticed, it takes more to seize your attention now, to paralyze your itchy finger before it gets to the remote control. ... To the problem of securing attention, the FOX News Channel has found a 24-7 solution: Get its hands around your neck. ... Could liberals fight back? In a provocative book, The Sound Bite Society, Jeffrey Scheuer argued that television's formats, not just its ownership, tilt rightward because liberals are partial to complexity whereas television prefers simplicity. (Radio, too.) If a liberal is, as Robert Frost is said to have said, "a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel," a conservative idea of a quarrel is a fight against straw wimps.
Reading this made me reflect on something: Is the "liberals are partial to complexity" meme just another myth pushed by the right, and willingly accepted by the left, to keep the left from even considering a serious attack on the Limbaughs of the world? Who says liberals can't produce soundbites? Who says liberals can't distill their ideas down to the simple slogans that TV and radio demand? I attended the January anti-war rally in Portland and saw plenty of examples of strong, left-wing soundbites all around me. Are liberals deliberately hobbling themselves by buying into the comforting notion that they aren't successful on the airwaves because their ideas are to complex? Are they being lulled by this meme into a sense of resignation? The right may win the airwaves, but the left gets the consolation of thinking that they are more complex. Or is that just so much bullshit?


Timothy Noah has made quite a find: the new Bush budget contains an admission that the budget deficit was caused, in part, by the 2001 tax cut.

The People Aren't Fooled (an update)

Here's the link to the poll mentioned previously.

The People Aren't Fooled

...even if the establishment media is. Courtesy MWO comes a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that apparently shows that 49% of the people believe that the Bush administration would knowingly lie in presenting their case against Iraq to the UN. Furthermore, 58% believe that they would knowingly conceal information that contradicted their position. This is the President that so many whores in the media have said that the American people "trust"? What definition of trust do they use? The same one the Bush administration uses? Note also that the poll apparently says that Powell is trusted more than Bush by a 62% to 24% margin. Yet it is Powell who will be making the presentation to the UN tomorrow (the one that 49% said could knowingly contain lies). Perhaps some of the respondents didn't know this? (No link yet for the actual poll. I'm going exclusively on what MWO is reporting at this time.)

In the post below I missed this little...Perle...of wisdom from the prince of darkness:
"But in the German case, the behavior of the Chancellor is idiosyncratic. He tried again to incite pacifism, and this time failed in Sunday's elections in Hesse and Lower Saxony. His capacity to do damage is now constrained. Chancellor Schroeder is now in a box, and the Germans will recover their equilibrium."
How exactly does one "incite" pacifism?

Democrats discover their spines?

House Members Question White House's Budget Plan By DAVID STOUT ... One Democrat greeted the budget chief [Mitch Daniels] amiably. "Mr. Daniels, you're a nice guy," said Representative Jim Moran of Virginia. "I like you personally." "It's mutual, congressman," Mr. Daniels replied. Whereupon Mr. Moran called Mr. Daniels "a good loyal soldier." "But the price of that loyalty is going to be that you're going to have to accept some responsibility for the worst management of this nation's economy in American history," Mr. Moran said. But other Democrats were less friendly.
The New York Times considers Moran's comments to be "friendly"? Oy!

And so it begins...

Pentagon adviser: France 'no longer ally' By Martin Walker UPI Chief International Correspondent From the International Desk Published 2/4/2003 3:41 PM WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- France is no longer an ally of the United States and the NATO alliance "must develop a strategy to contain our erstwhile ally or we will not be talking about a NATO alliance" the head of the Pentagon's top advisory board said in Washington Tuesday. Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and now chairman of the Pentagon's Policy Advisory Board, condemned French and German policy on Iraq in the strongest terms at a public seminar organized by Iraqi exiles and American Middle East and security officials. But while dismissing Germany's refusal to support military action against Iraq as an aberration by "a discredited chancellor," Perle warned that France's attitude was both more dangerous and more serious. "France is no longer the ally it once was," Perle said. And he went on to accuse French President Jacques Chirac of believing "deep in his soul that Saddam Hussein is preferable to any likely successor."
Mon dieu! I once speculated that, if America continues down the road being forged by Bush and company, it is not inconceivable that we could someday end up in a war with the very people we now consider our closest allies. Richard Perle would probably be happy with such a situation.

Poll Watch

New poll results from the LA Times
While Bush still draws high marks for his handling of terrorism and engenders respect as a level-headed chief executive, his overall job-approval rating dropped to 56%. That is down seven percentage points from December, and it is as low as he has ever received in a Times Poll during his presidency. "My feeling about him has changed in the past two years," said Peggy Farber, a law student and Democrat in New York who responded to the poll. "I thought when he came into office his judgment might be pretty good; I thought his education package, for instance, was a good idea. But now I don't feel he has good judgment at all. It's gone." Farber's disillusionment underscores one of the poll's most striking trends: the widening polarization of opinion about Bush.
There's an old saying: the higher they are the harder they fall. I have a feeling that, as people's judgement of Bush falls, they will end up a lot like Peggy Farber: REALLY down on him.
The poll found that Bush has one other significant asset in this swirling debate: a reservoir of faith in his judgment. By 55% to 39%, those surveyed said they trusted him to ultimately "make the right decision" about going to war with Iraq. In fact, confidence in Bush's personal qualities -- along with unwavering support from his GOP base -- appears to be the foundation of his continuing political strength. For instance, when those who approve of Bush's performance as president were asked why, they overwhelmingly pointed to not policies but personal attributes: 30% said he was a strong leader and 15% called him trustworthy. By contrast, those who disapproved of Bush pointed to policies, with 40% citing Iraq and 12% his economic package.
When in times of trouble people want to believe their President is the right man for the job. This, more then actually performance, goes a long way towards explaining why so many people think Bush will do the right thing. It's called wishful thinking and all of us suffer from it to one degree or another. Having said that, it is bizarre that, while so many people opposed Bush's march to war, or are at least very wary of it, many of them say they will still support him if and when he does take us to war. In other words, there is a significant percentage of people out there who will support him even if they think he is doing the wrong thing simply because he is the President and we would be at war. Can anyone explain that kind of thinking to me? Please?

Bush Exaggerates Again!

Bush Unsure He's Been to Space Center ASSOCIATED PRESS SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) - President Bush is no longer so sure he's been here before. A day after telling reporters that Bush had visited Johnson Space Center while serving as governor of Texas in the 1990s, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer backpedaled from that assertion. "I think right now it's somewhat murky," the press secretary said aboard Air Force One Tuesday, en route to a memorial service for the seven Columbia astronauts who died in last weekend's tragedy. On Monday, Fleischer dismissed suggestions that Bush had not been interested in the NASA program before the Columbia crash and rejected a report that Bush had never been to the Space Center. He told reporters the president visited the facility near Houston in 1995 or 1996.
All through the 2000 campaign the media was unmerciless in dealing with similar examples where Gore mispoke about his experience. Do you think they will hold Bush to a similar standard? Yeah right.

Monday, February 03, 2003

The Dream of Space ... And Poor Analogies

Kevin Drum:
THE DREAM OF SPACE....William Burrows has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today in which he talks about our destiny in space:
If anything good is to come out of the cause for which the Columbia astronauts died, it should be a resolve that it is humanity's destiny to inhabit Earth orbit, the moon and beyond.
But turn that around and see how this sounds instead:
If anything good is to come out of the cause for which the Titanic passengers died, it should be a resolve that it is humanity's destiny to inhabit the ocean's depths, its sea floor, and beyond.
This is a poor analogy. The Titanic was never meant to go to "the ocean's depths" while the Columbia was most certainly designed to go to "Earth orbit". Also, Titanic was not an exploratory/experimental vessel. A closer analogy for Columbia would be to one of the ships used by Magellan, Columbus, and others. Not all of them returned either, but that doesn't mean we should have stopped the exploration. I'm sure there were advisers in 1492 who thought financing Columbus' expedition was a boondoggle of the worst sort.

Dowd: "The Bush administration has made fuzzy evidence against Saddam Hussein sound scarier than it is, and scary evidence against Kim Jong Il sound fuzzier than it is."

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Osama Who?

Overpass Protests

A growing movement?

A Coalition of the Bought Off

U.S. woos war allies with cash, weapons Iraq's neighbors swap staging sites for billions in aid By Stephen J. Hedges and Catherine Collins, Chicago Tribune. National correspondent Stephen J. Hedges reported from Washington and Catherine Collins from Istanbul Published February 2, 2003 WASHINGTON -- When U.S. and Turkish officials meet this week to discuss Turkey's potential role in any war with Iraq, they will also review an offer of U.S. aid. The multibillion dollar offer may look like so much diplomacy but is, in fact, a bid--the price the Bush administration is willing to pay for the use of Turkey's military bases, airfields and ports. The U.S. is offering more than $4 billion in loans and grants, according to a Western diplomat in Istanbul, which represents a "significant step forward" in the Bush administration's efforts to add a critical ally to its "coalition of the willing" against Iraq.


"The African American Republican Leadership Council does not appear to feature African Americans." One priceless exchange:
I did, however, have one of the council's few African Americans on the line. So, Kevin: Where are the black people? "I'd like there to be more, but let's be honest, right now the Republican Party and African Americans have a large rift." But how can you work toward getting more black leaders if the public face of your group seems to consist largely of white people? Is this any way to get black Republicans in Congress? "What do we need black Republicans in Congress for?" I did not expect that answer.
Sadly, the Republican party's problems with African Americans reminds me a lot of the Democratic party's problems with pretty much everyone else.

Our side's closing argument (via reading & writing and no more mister nice blog) Messieurs Mearsheimer and Walt provide the most concise summary yet of exactly why we should not go to war with Iraq. 1) Containment has worked 2) There is no evidence that Hussein is any threat to his neighbors 3) There is no evidence that he is developing nuclear weapons 4) There is no evidence that he has or ever will provide WMD to groups like Al Qaeda 5) There is plenty of evidence to suggest that attacking Hussein will encourage other countries to develop nuclear weapons (we attack Iraq, but not North Korea, wonder why?) 6) There is plenty of evidence to suggest that attacking Hussein will encourage the continued rise of extremist Islamic groups throughout the Middle East 7) There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the endeavor will be costly in both lives and money. In other words, there is no obvious benefit and plenty of drawbacks to an attack on Iraq. But then Bush is the servant of God and his will will be done. Lord have mercy on us all.

A look at who supports expected Iraqi war By THOMAS HARGROVE Scripps Howard News Service January 31, 2003 - Twenty-three percent of the 1,039 adult residents of the United States answered "absolutely certain" when asked: "What if the United States sends troops to Iraq to force it to disarm its weapons of mass destruction? Would you be absolutely certain, pretty certain or not certain that our involvement is correct?"
Entire nation 23
Men 30
Women 17
18-24 24
25-44 24
45-64 22
65 or older 24
Not A High School Graduate 17
Graduated High School 23
Attended Some College 28
College Graduate 21
Post Graduate Studies 23
Northeast 17
South 28
Midwest 23
West 21
Lives in major city 23
Smaller city 23
Suburb 23
Rural area 23
Income Below $25,000 21
25,000 to $40,000 22
40,000 to $60,000 22
60,000 to $80,000 22
Above $80,000 27
White 26
African-American 18
Hispanic 10
Asian-American 15
Single, no children 17
Married, no children 24
Single with children 24
Married with children 26
Very Conservative 39
Somewhat Conservative 26
Middle of the Road 20
Somewhat Liberal 11
Very Liberal 20
Strong Democrat 18
Lean Toward the Democrats 12
Independent 20
Lean Toward the Republicans 26
Strong Republican 46
(Source: National survey of 1,039 residents of the United States conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University from Jan. 17-30.)
That last one is especially interesting. Even amongst "Strong Republicans" Bush has only been able to convince 46% of them that attacking Iraq is absolutely the correct thing to do.