Friday, April 30, 2004

It's tomorrow on the east coast... happy 'Mission Accomplished' day.

"Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

George W. Bush, USS Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003

"I don't think there's anyone in this room today or 6,000 miles away who doesn't wish that those words had been true ... but we've seen the news. We've seen the pictures. And we know we are living through days of great danger.''

John Kerry, Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, April 30, 2004

"These are MY soldiers -- not yours..."

"So don't toss me a yellow ribbon to tie around a tree. Don't hand me a sign to stick in my yard.

And don't tell me to shut up."

Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former US Army Public Information Officer. The Left Coaster has a lengthy, well, rant doesn't really capture it. If you've been wondering whatever happened to pure, undiluted, fully justified righteous anger, well, Sheila is clearly a master of the form.

Just knowing someone else is as pissed off as I am cheers me up enormously. Don't miss it.

A reminder...

...that the Kerry campaign is trying to scrape together everything they can before the FEC filing deadline at midnight. If you can give, this would be a fine time. If you'd like to do it through my Kerry Core page, this link or the button to the right will get you to it, and get you my profound appreciation, too.

sov-er-eign-ty (n.): Complete independence and self-government

Somebody buy this man a dictionary.

"Because a large military presence will still be required under U.S. command, some would say 'Well you are not giving full sovereignty'. But we are giving sovereignty so that sovereignty can be used to say, 'We invite you to remain'. That is a sovereign decision."

Colin Powell

So is "We invite you to leave," Mr. Secretary.

What a pathetic hack.

New Math

CBS News/New York Times poll, conducted April 23-27

Bush Approval:

Overall - 46 approve/47 disapprove (40/47 among independents)

Foreign Policy - 40 approve/51 disapprove (36/52 among independents)

Iraq - 41 approve/52 disapprove (37/53 among independents)

Economy - 39/54 (36/57 among independents).

Right Track/Wrong Track - 36 right/55 wrong (30/59 among independents)

As they put it at Donkey Rising, "We can now safely disregard the theory that bad news somehow doesn't hurt Bush politically."

In other words, Don't Panic.

There are scandals...

...and then there are atrocities.

The stories about the atrocities (there is no other word) at the Abu Grahib prison in Iraq are deeply disturbing even if you don't subject yourself to the photography that supports them (and I won't subject you to those photos here. They're easy enough to find for those interested). Six soldiers have been charged with crimes committed while acting as guards and aids to civilian interrogators. Col Jill Morgenthaler of Central Command says the charges against the six are for "indecent acts, for ordering detainees to publicly masturbate; maltreatment, for non-physical abuse, piling inmates into nude pyramids and taking pictures of them nude; battery, for shoving and stepping on detainees; dereliction of duty; and conspiracy to maltreat detainees".

A private contractor was originally included in the group charged, but it was determined that the military had "no jurisdiction," and he was released. "It was," Morgenthaler said, "left up to the contractor on how to deal with him."

Two private firms were involved in the interrogations at Abu Ghraib, CACI International Inc and the Titan Corporation. According to investigators, "A CACI instructor was terminated because he allowed and/or instructed MPs who were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by setting conditions which were neither authorised [nor] in accordance with applicable regulations/ policy." It's not clear from reports whether this was the contractor that Morgenthaler referred to, but another report indicates that "One civilian contractor was accused of raping a young, male prisoner but has not been charged because military law has no jurisdiction over him." At first glance, it seems there are at least two cases involving specific civilians. In any event, it seems outrageous that given Iraq's current status, which can only be described as martial law, these civilian contractors cannot be brought under the rein of the military occupation they are contracted to serve. Sounds like the 'no controlling authority' defense gone wild.

One of the soldiers facing charges is Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick, who is charged with maltreatment for allegedly participating in a photo, for posing for a photo while sitting on top of a detainee, an indecent act for observing one scene and assault for allegedly striking detainees – and ordering detainees to strike each other.

His response? “We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain rules and regulations,” says Frederick. “And it just wasn't happening."

Jeanne at Body and Soul writes "The lesson of the Boudreaux photograph is that when you put young men and women into positions where they are both powerful and powerless -- powerless to change the course of events, powerless even to protect their own lives, and at the same time able to bully other people -- some of them are going to do stupid, vicious things.

"These photos raise far more disturbing questions. Do we have a military that knows perfectly well that young, frightened, inexperienced, poorly trained soldiers are going to do brutal things, and has decided to make use of that convenient fact?"

She's right, I'm afraid, about the inevitablity of some troops stepping over the line of decent behavior in the stresses of combat situations, and she raises a good question about the responsibility that rests up the chain of command for this situation, but frankly, there's no excuse available to the soldiers who, whether driven by their own impulses or by clearly illegal orders, participated in the kind of scenes that are depicted in the photographs which are circulating.

Frederick, for instance, may feel that he was given inadequate guidance by his superiors, but he is a senior NCO in the Army Reserve and a professional corrections officer in civilian life. Which part of "maltreatment for allegedly participating in a photo, for posing for a photo while sitting on top of a detainee, an indecent act for observing one scene and assault for allegedly striking detainees - and ordering detainees to strike each other" did that experience lead him to believe was permissable? You don't need to memorize the Geneva Conventions to grasp the problems here.

While I'll make no excuses for the behavior of the enlisted men who have been charged, I'm so far disappointed with the news about how the chain of command is being held accountable. So far, it seems to be limited to an "administrative review," which seems clearly insufficient given the range of criminal charges levied against the enlisted troops. Heads need to roll - high ranking heads.

Gary Myers, an attorney for one of the enlisted men is partly right. "This case involves a monumental failure of leadership, where lower level enlisted people are being scapegoated," Mr Myers said. "The real story is not in these six young enlisted people. The real story is the manner in which the intelligence community forced them into this position."

Well, the story is about the enlisted men who committed these war crimes. But it's also about the command structure that allowed those crimes to occur, and about the DOD policy of contracting out the war to private intelligence and security firms, and about the massive mobilization of reserves without adequate preparation for their assignments. It's about many things.

Be certain, though, that this story is not about the hundreds of thousands of men and women who serve our country honorably while in uniform. It is out of regard for them that everyone, at every level, who holds responsibility for these actions must be rooted out and punished accordingly, military or civilian.

And it's out of regard for them that we have to replace an administration that harbors a defense department whose policies have contributed to these crimes.

Note: The best reporting on all of this I've found is happening at Body and Soul. Check out Jeanne's work here, here and here for starters.

A new member...

...of the Smart People Against Panic club.

Matthew Yglesias signs in: "I'm seeing a lot of two things lately. One is Democrats panicking about John Kerry's candidacy. The other is stories about Democrats panicking about John Kerry's candidacy. I think the pundits ought to chill a bit."

Yep. And some of those nervous Democrats, too.

Work hard. Fight Back. Don't panic.

Update: Matt has more, writing "The other part of the case against panic is that John Kerry campaign is not, in fact, in a particularly large amount of trouble...If the election were being held this Tuesday, I think Kerry would probably win," and offering an optimistic assessment of the Rasmussen tracking poll. Check it out.

And don't panic.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Hey, they're busy!

Over at the Left Coaster, Steve Soto picks up an item I mentioned in passing earlier. Steve gives the disparity between the search for Bin Laden and Saddam's assets and the enforcement of the Cuban embargo a bit more play than I do. Understandable, of course. After all, I'm close enough to the Canadian border to jump in the car anytime the urge for fine Cuban tobacco is overwhelming, while Steve's way down there in the lower left.

It's a point worth emphasizing, though, and he asks questions worth asking.

"Four agents?" he wonders. "More than two and a half years after 9/11? Who deserves more investigation here: the Bin Laden-Saudi royal family connection, or money being sent to Cuba by family members and businesses?"

A little sympathy for those federal agents may be in order, though. I mean, there are only so many of them, and they're busy guys, lately, according to this blurb from Altercation.

"The White House is so desperate to protect its drug industry backers, it has deployed federal agents to search and intimidate low-income seniors traveling to Canada in order to fill their prescriptions."

I mean, between Cuban cigars and Canadian prescriptions, who's got time for the war on terror?

The pathetic hack opines...

"Obviously when casualties are going up, and April has been a particularly bad month for casualties...this causes people to stop and think and reflect, 'What are we doing?' and you can expect this to be reflected in the polls."

Colin Powell

Oh, if only we could expect stopping and thinking to be reflected in the policy...

Sic 'em, Roger!

Roger Ailes goes after Mickey Kaus with a vengeance...I can't really do it justice. Just go read what Roger has to say about the goat-loving hack (hey, that's what I heard!)

More: TBOGG comes at the goat lover from a whole other angle, remarking that "Black holes don't suck as badly as Mickey sucks at being a journalist."

Kaus-bashing fever! Catch it!

"Errorism," indeed...

Sally, the brilliant and beautiful Bride of Upper Left, has decreed that I post on the big bust in Prosser, where a vigilant art teacher has acted to rescue the republic from the scourge of 15 year old cartoonists. As a former public school teacher, the BBBUL is far more attuned to this kind of issue than I, but she's right. This one is worth noting, both as a matter of regional content and a potentially important civil liberties case.

Here's the stuff that led to a call to the local cop shop, which led to a call to the Secret Service, which led to all this furor.

* A cartoon of an effigy of Bush's head on a stake.

* A cartoon featuring Bush dressed as the devil, firing off rockets

* A cartoon with the caption "End the War -- on errorism"

* A cartoon one of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in flames

Nothing, as far as I can tell from the reporting, that actually threatens the President or another student. There's some indication that the kid, in fact, feels threatened by a government that wages reckless war and expresses disdain for our founding principles. That seems like a pretty patriotic impulse to me.

About the only one talking is Prosser Police Chief Win Taylor, who may have been better off thinking more and saying less (most folks usually are, in fact). He felt that the pictures were "...a threat against the president of the United States. And we notified the Secret Service because that's their bailiwick."

"We assume that he deliberately took an action of his own free will, which he reasonably should have known was against the code of conduct," the Chief said, although I'm not entirely what 'code of conduct' he's talking about, or how the young artist may have violated it. Maybe there is a (probably illegal) school rule that prohibits 'disrepectful' representations of the POTUS, maybe not, but absent an actual threat, what would inspire a call to police in the first place, or the Secret Service after?

Just your standard butt-covering paranoia.

"We've been in a different ballgame because police were attacked after what happened in Columbine," the Chief confessed. "Since then, we've all been under the gun with all these mandated policies for school security plans. ... Now for whatever reason, it's 'Oh, we want you to use discretion again.' We can't win."

Well, I don't know if they can win or not. I know that there seem to be a long list of losers in this case, from the teacher to the Chief. Only the kids seems to come off as a sensible and mature. A classmate of the artist, who finds the whole thing "Ridiculous and kind of embarrassing," says he's spoken to his friend and reports that he "didn't seem too freaked out, but (felt) like they're blowing this way out of proportion."

And they are.

John Kerry didn't...

...contrary to a common misconception, 'found' Vietnam Veterans Against the War, but the organization reached its greatest prominence and influence during, and arguably because of, his involvement.

The basis for that arguement is laid out well in Harold Meyerson's Washington Post piece yesterday.

"What Kerry did, in actuality, was provide a forceful voice and prudent guidance to a movement of angry men who had sacrificed for their country in a war that, by 1971, no longer had a plausible purpose but nonetheless continued to rage.

"It was precisely because Kerry's impulses were so mainstream that the Nixon White House feared him. Nixon didn't sit around with his goon squad of Bob Haldeman and Chuck Colson plotting against Kerry because they thought Kerry was Hanoi John. On the contrary, Kerry had to be taken down because his patriotism was so glaringly obvious."

And it's still true.

"There are days in this campaign when Kerry must think he's still up against Nixon and his thugs. The same slanders that Dick and his boys cooked up then -- Kerry as dangerous radical, Kerry as inauthentic liberal -- are being served up now by Nixon's ethical heirs."

I pledge allegiance... my own personal Congressman, Jim McDermott.

There's a reason Jim is referred to as "Congressman for life." That's because most all of us here in his district will vote for him as long as he asks us to. We'll do that for a lot of reasons. For his principled stand against needless war, his consistent support for universal health care, his fidelity to basic Democratic stands on reproductive choice, the right to organize and need to preserve the social safety net in our country.

And we'll do it even when he makes an absent minded, or even bone headed, mistake while leading the pledge of allegiance.

Yep, Jim's making headlines again, this time for excising "under God" from his recitation of the pledge in Congress the other day. He says his mind was focused on an upcoming one minute speech and he just rattled off the pledge the way he learned it in grade school and recited it for the first 17 years of his life. Frankly, I believe him. Jim McDermott has made a career out of standing firm on controverial ground. He's not inclined to weasel his way around this kind of thing, because he doesn't have to. He's going to get the requisite 50% +1 (actually, more likely 70% +1) from his constituents either way.

And then there are the facts of his life. He's been a professed Christian for over 60 years. He boasts of having been a Wheaton College classmate of Billy Graham's. He's a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, where he can actually be found on periodic Sunday mornings when he's in town. (Which Methodist congregation does the Christian in Chief belong to again? Oh, yeah, that's right...)

In a way, I'm kind of pleased to see the R's trying to make political hay out of this, because they're wasting ammo on a target they can't hurt. But he's my own personal Congressman, dammit, so I wish they'd just leave him alone...

Can't anyone get the message right?

Iraq is nothing like Vietnam, get it? The President says so, Rummy says so, heck, even John McCain says so. Iraq is completely different than Vietnam in every way...except the ways in which it's similar.

But pointing out those similarities "sends the wrong message to the troops," according to the Prez. Except the troops that make the comparisons, I guess.

Actually, there are important differences. Billmon, not satisfied with noting that "Iraq is Vietnam on speed," pushes the analogy, finding that "...speed was just the gateway drug." Iraq, he suggests, is Vietnam on crack.

But even Billmon knows the analogy is imperfect. After all, "...the Bushies have invented a few blunders that LBJ probably would have never thought of, like turning the Green Zone into a summer camp for the Young Republicans, or relying on the spiritual heirs of the people who gave us the $500 toilet seat to manage the logistical equivalent of the D-Day invasion -- many D-Day invasions."

So see? Iraq is different than Vietnam. Except in the ways it's similar. And in the ways it's different, it's even worse...

And don't worry about the troops. They know it.

I told you it was never ending.

The LA Times uncovers the latest candidate for the Scandal Scorecard.

"WASHINGTON — A senior Defense Department official is under investigation by the Pentagon inspector general for allegations that he attempted to alter a contract proposal in Iraq to benefit a mobile phone consortium that includes friends and colleagues, according to documents obtained by The Times and sources with direct knowledge of the process.

"John A. Shaw, 64, the deputy undersecretary for international technology security, sought to transform a relatively minor police and fire communications proposal into a contract allowing the creation of an Iraq-wide commercial cellular network that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year, the sources said.

"Shaw brought pressure on officials at the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad to change the contract language and grant the consortium a noncompetitive bid, according to the sources."

This isn't just a matter of a bureaucrat trying to steer some pork to a friend or two. This is the kind of scandal that endangers lives.

"Shaw's efforts resulted in a dispute at the Coalition Provisional Authority that has delayed the contract, depriving U.S. military officials and Iraqi police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and border guards of a joint communications system," according to the Times report.

On top of that, this kind of corruption tends to drive away the people who are working hard under trying circumstances to do things right. Daniel Sudnick, senior advisor to Iraq's minister of communications, and a chief deputy, Bonnie Carroll, resigned after refusing to comply with Shaw's demands that they alter contracts to satisfy his goals.


By the numbers...

Almost too much to keep up with in today's news, so here's a little hard data, down and dirty, for you to interpret as you will...

4 - Treasury agents assigned to investigate Hussein and Bin Laden holdings

20+ - Treasury agents assigned to enforce Cuban embargo

33 - "Terror-related" investigations since 1994

10,683 - Cuban embargo related investigations since 1994

10 - US combat deaths in Iraq yesterday

126 - US combat deaths in Iraq in April (so far)

736 - US troops died in Iraq since March, 2003

44 - Bulgarian soldiers who want to quit the mission to Iraq

0 - Spanish soldiers left in Iraq

46 - Filipino civilians who left Iraq, claiming they were tricked into their jobs

51 - Filipino soldiers and police deployed to the 'coalition'

338,000 - new unemployment filings last week in US

340,000 - dollars paid per month to the Iraqi National Congress for "intelligence information."

11 - number of stolen Iraqi goverment vehicles siezed from INC offices

0 - number of 'weapons of mass destruction' found in response to INC "intelligence information"

So, whattaya think?

I'll never look at the visitor logs the same way again...

...after finding this catch at Electablog.

According to Investor's Business Daily, "...analysts say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials might be starting to track blogs for important bits of information."

I doubtless flatter myself, of course. There's that regular late night visit from a State Department computer (Hi!), but that's surely benign. And there was that mysterious one time peek from DOJ...

Of course, real spooks wouldn't leave goverment IP's on the logs, but I'm going to be wondering about some of those AOL logins.

Kerry's hidden psychic powers?

The War Room reports that "Last week, after an interview on "Good Morning America," when John Kerry was confronted with a decades-old tape of his younger self...Kerry murmured: "God, they're doing the work of the Republican National Committee." Turns out, not surprisingly, he was right."

Yep, according to the Washington Post, "copies of the tape were provided to two news organizations by the Republican National Committee..."

Of course, now all the network yappers that keep going on and on about the need for Kerry to drop the Vietnam talk and focus on 'real' issues will apologize and turn their fire on the RNC oppo shop and their media stooges, right?

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Dare to Dream...

And work like hell to make your dreams come true.

(source graphic lifted from the Stakeholder - thanks!)

Scandal Scorecard - The Never Ending Story

And so it grows...the Scorecard is up to 26 entries, with the Executive Branch hitting 20 all by its lonesome this time out. 20 cases in which investigations are being held, or fines have been levied, or careers have been destroyed. Literally billions of dollars in mis- and malfeasance. The most corrupt administration in American history, by most any measure.

And while they can't hold a candle to the crowd in the White House, the Republican Congress hasn't got anything to be proud of either.

Here it is, The Never Ending Story edition...(new entries in bold)

Executive Branch:

1. Cheney's secret Energy Task Force

2. Ashcroft's illegal campaign contributions in 2000

3. Boeing I - the $23 billion tanker lease deal

4. Boeing II - the $1.3 billion surveillance aircraft boondoggle

5. Bush-Cheney 2000 fined $90K for failure to report $14 million spent on "recount" activities

6. Haliburton in Iraq

7. Haliburton in Nigeria

8. The Valerie Plame outing

9. Withholding information about the Medicare bill costs

10. Daniel Montgomery, Director of the Air Transportation Stabilization Board, accepting improper gifts from airlines.

11. John Korsmo, Federal Housing Finance Board chair and his wife Michelle, DOL official, illegal political fundraising

12. The suspension of Parks Police Chief Teresa Chambers in violation of Title 5 whistleblower protections.

13. The Iraqi National Congress' possible use of government funds to lobby for war.

14. Misuse of the Secret Service and other security to shield the President and Vice President from dissent on the campaign trail.

15. Abuse of the Presidential Records Act, to shield Reagan, Bush I and Bush II from scrutiny, and leaking information about Clinton pardons.

16. DOJ and Interior blocking the investigation of oil leases that cheated American Indian nations.

17. Charges by John Dean that Bush knowingly violated the terms of the Iraq war resolution

18. Diversion of $700 million in Afghan war funds to preparations for Iraq invasion

19. Failure to account for $40 billion in 9/11 emergency response funds

20. Use of IRS web site to disseminate political messages from RNC press releases


21. Senate Judiciary Committee computer theft.

22. The Nick Smith bribe

23. The DeLay Texas fundraising scandal

24. Bill Frist's financial stake in a medical malpractice insurer, while pushing malpractice "reform" in the Senate.

25. Rep. Henry Bonilla's American Dream PAC, which has contributed less than 9% of its funds to the minority candidates it was chartered to assist.

26. The NRCC's illegal transfer of $500,000 in soft money to ineligible recipients during the 1999 primary season

There. I typed it. Now I need to go wash my hands....

$700 million here, $40 billion there...

...pretty soon you've got the makings of a scandal.

Found on The Progress Report:

"9/11 – CONGRESSMEN DEMAND FULL ACCOUNTING OF EMERGENCY MONEY: On the heels of reports the president diverted $700 million into Iraq invasion planning without informing Congress, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Rep. David Obey (D-WI) pressed the White House on Monday "for a full accounting of how the Bush administration had spent $40 billion in emergency money that was provided by Congress just days after the Sept. 11 attacks."

"In a letter to the White House, Byrd and Obey say that "contrary to the requirements of law, there appeared to have been no consultation with Congress on how $20 billion specifically handed over to the president for his allocation had been distributed. They also said the administration had not submitted required quarterly reports on the use of the entire $40 billion for almost a year."

A full Scandal Scorecard update is slated for today...anybody got a Congressional goody or two for the list?

Preview of coming attraction?

Well, not really. It won't be attractive, I'm sure, and we won't be able to view it, but I imagine tomorrow will go something like this...

Why it's good to grow old...

This was the lede for an AP report on yesterday's fighting outside Najaf.

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

Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it?

A few paragraphs later, though, we find...

"According to a list of Iraqi casualties from the fight at both of Najaf's hospitals, almost all the dead were young men of fighting age, suggesting they may have been militiamen."

"Suggesting they may have been..."? Sounds a bit less definitive than "gunmen," doesn't it? I'm not sure what "fighting age" is, exactly. I'm sure I'm past it, for which I'm grateful.

It's an advance beyond 'Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out,' though, I suppose. 'Kill the young ones' is relatively selective targetting, by that standard...

There's no substitute for experience

As one of Alterman's readers points out in a note about the certain to be confirmed (really, he is) ambassador...

"...isn't it convenient for all concerned that his appointment coincides with the decision to give some old Baathist buzzards a role in forming The New Iraq? I mean, if we're going to be hiring guys with some death-squad experience, it's good that we have an ambassador in place who's equally familiar with the job."

See, there's always a silver lining - even in a career dark cloud like Negreponte.

Wes weighs in...

General Wesley Clark lays it out in a NY Times op-ed on the current round of attacks on John Kerry's military service and post-military protests. Clark, decorated for combat wounds and bravery in Vietnam himself, may well be the public figure best positioned to pass judgement, and he doesn't hold back...(my emphasis)

"This is no more than a political smear. After risking his life in Vietnam to save others, John Kerry earned the right to speak out against a war he believed was wrong. Make no mistake: it is that bravery these Republicans are now attacking."

His comments on the behavior of Bush are no less forthright.

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

Sic 'em, Wes!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

If you don't know what FUBAR means...

...then I suppose it's a perfectly family-friendly acronym, and if you do, well, I can't do any more damage to your impressionable mind. And there's no doubt, Iraq is FUBAR.

Ian Welsh has a list of some reasons over at BOPnews. It's arguably incomplete, but certainly worth a review. It's a long post, but I recommend a thorough reading. Here are his sub-heads...

Unrealistic Expectations

Threatening Iran and Syria

The Immediate Post War Period

The Coalition Provisional Authority


Chalabi : To weak to rule, too corrupt to serve

Disbanding the Army and the Secret Police

Failing to control weapons and munitions stockpiles

Failure to Choose Effective Proxies

Failure to Rebuild

Securing the Borders

The Rhetoric and the Reality of Democracy

The Failure of Justice

Militias: The State Monopoly on Force

Israeli Occupation Tactics

The Sparks: Mishandling al-Sadr and the Fallujah Atrocity

In other words, FUBAR...

James K. Galbraith sends the wrong message to the troops...

From his post at the University of Texas, Professor Galbraith opines:

"Economically, the Iraq war is more like Vietnam: insidiously underestimated, sold to the public and Congress on false premises, improperly budgeted and inadequately taxed."

We just can't take these guys anywhere...

When Dick Cheney asked for the chance to deliver a 'major foreign policy' speech at Westminster College in Missouri, they were delighted. Westminster is, after all, somewhat like hallowed ground for foreign policy addresses, famous as the home of Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech, and the previous host to luminaries including Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa and Mikhail Gorbachev.

As the press release announcing the Veep's appearance said, “I received a phone call just a few days ago, during which a member of the Cheney’s staff indicated that the Vice President wanted to come to Westminster again,” said (college president Fletcher) Lamkin. “The strong historical significance of our Westminster campus – and the focus on values and integrity that we maintain -- provides a perfect context for modern-day messages of leadership and service.”

Then came the speech, and Dick Cheney's performance, a visciously partisan stump speech, was perhaps best described by Atrios, whose note on the event is titled "Farting in Church". President Lamkin was somewhat more diplomatic, but no less distressed, issuing a campus-wide email apology which began...

"I would like to thank each and every one of you who were so courteous and respectful to Mr. Cheney during his visit and speech. Frankly, I must admit that I was surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing for a large portion of his speech. The content and tone of his speech was not provided to us prior to the event -- we had only been told the speech would be about foreign policy, including issues in Iraq..."

Be clear - Fletcher Lamkin is no wild-eyed lefty academic, viewing the world through lenses tinted pink by tenures at Berkely or Ann Arbor. A retired brigadier general, his last job was as the Academic Dean of his alma mater, the US Military Academy at West Point. Of course, what he learned there was duty, honor and a sense of propriety, elements of character sadly lacking in our Vice President.

But wait! There's more! Maybe Cheney's just trying to prove he can be as rude as his boss. Via boing-boing:

"How would you feel about a person who thinks it is okay to grab your shirt and use it clean their eyeglasses? That's how arrogant our President is. During a commercial break on the David Letterman show, producer Maria Pope was on stage and discussing something with Letterman, and while she was standing there in front of Bush, George leaned forward, grabbed the back of her sweater and used it to clean his glasses."

...and there's video!

Have we had about enough...and

These people terrify Karen Hughes...

...but they make me smile...especially when I consider that they traveled all the way from the Upper Left to that other Washington for the March.

Of course, I've never considered Presbyterians a very scary bunch...

Monday, April 26, 2004

"...the master of the wily maneuver."

That's Terence Samuel's evaluation of Minority Leader Tom Daschle in a piece for The American Prospect. Here's a little context...

"The list of important legislation that will die from inattention or political suffocation at the end of the 108th Congress is long and distinguished one: energy legislation, welfare reform, highway funding, asbestos compensation, medical-malpractice liability, a tax overhaul for corporations that do business overseas and that are now subject to sanctions by the European Union...

...Exercising the only real leverage the party has in Washington, Senate Democrats are making it difficult, and impossible when they can, for the Republican majority to work its will and that of the White House. Of course, one man’s obstructionism is another’s wily parliamentary maneuver. And Tom Daschle is the master of the wily maneuver."

Daschle doen't buy the 'obstructionist' tag. In fact, he lays claim to being the genuine small 'r' republican in the fray. Samuel quotes him saying "...they seem to say, ‘We want it our way or we don't want it at all.’ Well, this is a republic, and in a republic you have got to have the kind of vigorous debate on issues of consequence that the Senate allows. And that's all we're asking: a good, vigorous debate with amendments, with opportunities for senators to express themselves.”

And he's right, of course. Vigorous debate in an atmosphere where collegiality transcends partisanship is what has given the US Senate a reputation as the world's greatest deliberative body for generations, and that's the reputation that Bill Frist and his minions have stripped the Senate of. Now some of the more extreme elements in the Republican caucus are arguing in favor of just closing down shop if the Democrats won't roll over and stop fighting back. The Carpetbagger Report thinks that's a fine idea.

"So, Sen. Frist, I dare you," writes the Carpetbagger. "If you're sick of Daschle's obstructionism, then show him who's boss and shut down the Senate. He won't let you do what you want to do anyway. Why give him the satisfaction of your frustration? He's making a mockery of the legislative process. Better to send everyone home, take your message to the people, and start things fresh in 2005..."

Hey, I'll second that! After all, shutting down the government worked out so well for the Republicans the last time they tried it...

They're right about one thing...

...America does have a choice.

The DCCC's Stakeholder blog plucked this from the LA Times

"Last-minute tax filers desperately e-rummaging through the IRS' website might have run across, at the bottom of several official government press releases, this boldface alarm: "America has a choice: it can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the president's policies are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation."

"This is startling on two counts: one, by law, government functions — such as official press releases written by workers on a public payroll — and political functions — such as promoting one political policy over another — are twains that should never meet. Two, that press release language is syllable-for-syllable identical to the language on a Republican National Committee website from the week before."

And so the Scandal Scorecard grows...

It's a small buy...

...focused mainly on D.C., so if you're in the hinterlands like I am you may miss the latest Move On ad. You shouldn't miss the tag line, though, and you shouldn't hesitate to spread it far and wide...

"This election is about character. It's between John Kerry, who left no man behind ... and George W. Bush, who simply left."

Are they sure they wanted to go there?

I have no idea why the Republican attack machine wanted to go head to head with John Kerry over his war record, the validity of his military decorations or his justifications for opposing the war he served in after his return. Did they forget who their candidate is and what he was doing back then? Can they really believe that this is ground they can win on?

Whatever was on their minds, they've finally found the key to unlocking the passion that a lot of Kerry supporters have been waiting for the Senator to exhibit. He's fighting back, and scores the Quote of the Day.

"The Republicans have spent $60 million in the last few weeks trying to attack me. And this comes from a president and a Republican Party that can't even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. I'm not going to stand for it."

What pro-choice America looks like...

Saddle up, soldier.

In a piece for The Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg profiles SP4 Jason Gunn, who was med-evaced from Iraq, only to find himself returned while still being treated for PTSD, although his outfit is scheduled to rotate in only seven weeks.

When his mother, a Navy vet herself, made inquiries, she was told that "After discussion of his case it was determined ... this may be in his best interest mentally to overcome his fear by facing it. Therefore, he has been cleared for redeployment."

Fear? Since the Army acknowledges that Gunn is, indeed, suffering from PTSD, that response seems to indicate that the malady has now been reclassified as a manifestation of cowardice. They know better. Or perhaps they're operating on the theory that if your horse throws you, the only thing to do is climb back on. Of course, that theory fails if you broke a leg in the fall, I believe. And I think they know that, too.

What they don't know, though, is how to maintain the force levels they need in Iraq without throwing disabled troops back into the fray prematurely.

Gunn is hardly unique. Goldenberg points to other, in some case more extreme, cases.

"One sergeant major," she writes "was shipped out two months after neck surgery, despite orders from his military doctor for six months' rest. 'The nurse told me to put my hands above my head and said you are good to go,' he told the Guardian. A female supply sergeant said she was sent to Kuwait under medical advice not to walk more than half a mile at a time, or carry more than 50lb. Both had to be medically evacuated within weeks; the sergeant major required surgery on his return."

In another example, she describes "A mechanic, who suffered brain damage last June when his vehicle was hit by a suicide bus, was sent back to Iraq in October despite reported blurred vision and memory loss. He returned with his unit last month, and medical evaluations showed he had continued bleeding from the original head injury."

Goldenberg also points to an impending crisis that has received far too little attention from the US media and, one suspects, from the war planners and defense budgeters.

"15,000 soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have filed for disability claims." she reports. "Some 12,000 have sought medical treatment from facilities run by the department of veterans affairs. About 4,600 have sought psychological counselling. That demand threatens to overwhelm a veterans' healthcare system that has received no new funding since the Iraq war began."

Of course, veterans of previous conflicts know that the veteran's healthcare system was overwhelmed long before Bushco went into business creating new clients. In spite of the growing roster of patients for an already inadequate system, in fact, they are scheduling closures of VA medical facilities.

Apparently they think the best cure for say, an amputation, is a tax cut...

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Apostates all?

Hopefully anyone following the right wing's attempted religious blackmail of John Kerry has been tracking Atrios, who has done yeoman's duty, IDing Catholic Republicans who seem to be escaping similar treatment so far. Among the pro-choice Rs he's pointed out are George Pataki, Rudolph Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Ridge.

Today, though, he delivered the coup de grace with an item culled from a WaPo piece, which points out that...

" leaders may appear hypocritical or partisan if they condemn Kerry because he favors abortion rights while they say nothing about Catholic governors who allow executions, Catholic members of Congress who support the Iraq war or Catholic officials at all levels who ignore the church's teachings on social justice."

Actually, those "church leaders" wouldn't "appear" to be hypocritical or partisan on those grounds - they would be hypocritical and partisan, and some of them, in fact, are.

In fact, there's possibly - even probably - not a single Catholic politician of either party who doesn't, whether as a matter of conscience or expediency, deviate from a pure doctrinal line. That is, in fact, as it should be in a country which respects personal choice in religious matters.

It's not just a Catholic thing, either. Bush's professed denomination, the United Methodist Church, has, for instance, taken a strong stand against his war policy. Of course, Bush, unlike Kerry, is apparently not a member of a congregation, so delivery of the sacraments may be a moot issue in his case.

But really, we just don't want to go there. On either side. For any reason.

Whether the goal is security or democracy... seems pretty clear to me that somebody other than the current crop of nutball neo-cons is going to be needed to get the job done. The Agonist excerpts Richard Clarke's NYT op-ed, wherein he raises the issue of 'enforced democracy', writing (with my emphasis) that...

"We cannot win [the idealogical war] without significant help from our Muslim friends. ... US versions of MTV or CNN in Arabic will not put a dent in the popularity of the anti-American jihad. Nor will calls from Washington for democratization in the Arab world help if such calls originate from a leader who is trying to impose democracy on an Arab country at the point of an American bayonet...

It's clear to me that no matter what organizational bones Bush is currently tossing to the UN, in the end the 'democracy' he intends to install (see how weird that sounds?) in Iraq will consist of "Here are your choices. Vote or I'll kill you." And the curious thing is, I think he actually believes that that will produce a democratic Iraq that other middle eastern states will want to emulate.

We know he's nuts. The only question is...

On a day to remember...

...that women gave all of us life, the March for Women's Lives in D.C. is being subjected to the usual game of crowd size roulette in the media. You can pick any number you like. I'll go with this on the scene report from Kossack Trapper John.

"I'm at the March right now, and it's pretty fantastic. I gotta believe
that we're at near a million...remind people that we're on C-Span.

A million women, men, and kids standing up for basic freedom on
the Mall. Pretty cool."

And millions more of us there in spirit...

2, 4, 6, 8, time to transubstantiate...

April 25, 2004 | BOSTON -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry received communion from a Catholic priest Saturday, one day after a top Vatican cardinal said politicians who support abortion rights should be denied the Eucharist.

Kerry took communion during the 6 p.m. mass at Boston's Paulist Center, where campaign spokesman David Wade said the candidate regularly worships. The church is close to the Beacon Hill home Kerry shares with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

"We're following the directive of our archdiocese," said Father Joe Ciccone, who gave Kerry the Eucharist. "They have said we should give him communion."

My emphasis, but what I'd really like to emphasize is what a sorry state of affairs it is when right-wingnuts to whom we so often apply the word 'religious' have made the private religious practices of an American citizen a matter of national news.

I believe in a God who will damn them for that...


A Sunday funny, snagged from Change For America:

Kerry’s 25 minute speech was interrupted briefly by a small
group of protesters who put “flip-flop” sandals on their hands and
clapped and chanted that Kerry “flop-flops” on issues.

“I’ll make a deal with you,” Kerry responded. “I’ll send people
to George Bush’s rallies and they can clap their unemployment
checks together.”

Saturday, April 24, 2004

That's what I get...

...I suppose, for dashing off an email inviting folks to come by and comment. Haloscan seems to be buggered for the moment. Probably won't last long, though, so give it a click and see what happens. If it doesn't work now, come back and try again!

Update: Everything seems to be alright now, but hey, drop a note while you're here so I know everything's working on your end...

OK, 'rabid dogs' will work...

That's the way billmon described the gaggle of Republican Congresscritters that used their one-minute speeches to rip up the House rulebook on decorum and launch a slanderous personal attack on John Kerry from the House floor. In the interests of family-friendliness (it gets harder every day, folks), I'll go with that. As he says, "...they don't need any particular excuse to foam at the mouth." They don't need any particular facts, either.

Texas Republican Sam Johnson led the attack, apparently inspired by the 33rd anniversary of Kerry's US Senate testimony on behalf of Vietnam Veterans of America. Johnson claimed that Kerry "...blasted our nation, chastised our troops and hurt our morale. . . . What he did was nothing short of aiding and abetting the enemy." Now, that's a pretty serious charge. A false charge, but a serious one. In fact, Kerry blasted certain of our national leaders at the time, a time honored practice in America, and in fact, he accused them of conduct just as reprehensible and criminal as the charges Johnson now makes against Kerry. Kerry, of course, had the advantage of being right.

One thing he didn't do, and has never done, was 'chastise' the troops, and as regards morale, I was a GI in Vietnam in 1971, and will happily report that for me and those around me, the knowledge that people in the States were speaking up on our behalf and testifying about the insanity that surrounded us was one of the few bright spots on the morale front.

Johnson pulled out one of the standard slurs promulgated by Ted Sampley and his ilk, saying that "He's called Hanoi John," and in fact, he's been called that by a handful of partisan wingnuts, but it's an appalling comment from a Congressman on the floor of the people's House.

Johnson wasn't alone. Rep. John Kline (Minn.) chimed in with more lies, accusing Kerry of "...speaking ill of our troops or their service, then or now." Kerry, of course, didn't then and doesn't now. I'm kind of curious about Rep. Kline's vote on concurrent payments, though.

Randy Cunningham of California, who, like Johnson, was shot down over North Vietnam and served time as a POW, "said Kerry's 1971 remarks angered (him) and his comrades at the time," and invoked the Jane Fonda comparison. Of course, since the only access that Rep. Cunningham and his colleagues had to information came from their North Vietnamese captors, I'm left scratching my head about what exactly they heard and why exactly they chose to believe it. I was in-country, but had access to all kinds of media, from Stars & Stripes (then and now a more objective source than you might think) to hometown papers ranging from weekly shoppers to the New York Times. I just didn't notice anyone in despair over people at home exercising the rights that we were (at least in theory) serving to protect.

Of course, the Congessional D's didn't let the attacks stand without response. Noteworthy was the contribution of my own personal Congressman, Rep. Jim McDermott (who knows a thing or two about being politically slandered, trust me). McDermott, who was a Navy psychiatrist who treated many returnees during the war, defended the right of those who served to speak out. "But if you were in the National Guard and you didn't show up, you were AWOL for a whole year, you've got real nerve to start an attack on John Kerry's character," McDermott said. "Some people were simply not available; they never showed up for their flight physical."

Sic 'em, Jim!

I'll settle for stable...

John Kerry's remarks on the goal in Iraq earlier this week seem to disturb Patrick Belton at Oxblog.

Kerry suggested that democracy "shouldn't be the measurement of when you leave," Kerry said. "You leave with stability. You hope you can continue the process of democratization -- obviously, that's our goal. But with respect to getting our troops out, the measurement is the stability of Iraq."

Belton, noting that "'s pretty clear that what Kerry's doing here is establishing a lower bar for withdrawing troops from Iraq..." found the notion to be "Pretty dispiriting stuff.." and wonders "...weren't the Dems once the party which had habitually criticised administrations for privileging security over democracy?"

Well, I'm not sure the latter assertion is really all that true, at least as it applies outside the borders of the US, but even if Kerry's remarks represent a shift in Democratic Party thinking, I don't find it the least bit dispiriting to hear a Party leader strike a note of realism in regard to the current quagmire.

I'm not at all sure that democracy in any unified, national sense is a widespread aspiration among Iraqis, and I'm reasonably certain that if it is, that democracy won't occur because the US imposes it. It will happen through a long and contentious national struggle by Iraqis themselves, and the continued widespread militarization by an outside force is more likely to be an impediment than an assist in that process.

If there's some kind of national directorate, hopefully with the support and assistance of others in the Islamic world, that can raise an internal force to maintain civil order that's cognizant of civil liberty, the US can and should get out of the country, whether what we leave is a fully developed democracy or not. In fact, I'm not sure there's any alternative but an occupation that lasts a decade or more, and that seems to be no alternative at all.

Re-uppin' for the bennies?

The Army is reporting some pretty impressive retention numbers, given that there's a shooting war going on...or so you'd think.

According to the AP, "As of March 31 - halfway through the Army's fiscal year - 28,406 soldiers had signed on for another tour of duty, topping the six-month goal of 28,377. The Army's goal is to re-enlist 56,100 soldiers by the end of September."

I'm not sure, actually, that the numbers are very unusual, or other than one might expect. First, the military planners are loathe to set goals they can't exceed, let alone meet, and retaining 56,100 out of the entire Army doesn't seem all that challenging. The career NCO and officer corps should pretty much take care of it.

The concern, I think, is what the retention for Reservists and Guard members who have been called up for unexpectedly long and hazardous mobilizations is likely to be, and the purely anecdotal evidence I've seen so far suggests it's going to be lousy. Since we can't maintain the very limited kind of presence (limited in terms relative to what's really needed for the announced mission, at least) without significant callups from the reserves, any dilution there is going to mean a call for a larger regular Army, and I'm not sure the recruiters are getting a sufficient response these days.

That's why, I suspect, we're hearing the gentle beat of the draft drums lately, regardless of the ability of the Army to re-up Captains and Staff Sargeants. There's still a need for PFCs and Spec 4s...

It's a nice time to be 4-A (military obligation complete).

William Polk sends wrong message to the troops...

..and who, you may ask, is William Polk?

"William R. Polk is the senior director of the W.P. Carey Foundation. After studies at Oxford (BA, MA) and Harvard (BA, Ph.D.) he taught at Harvard until 1961 when President Kennedy appointed him a Member of the Policy Planning Council of the U.S. Department of State. There, he was in charge of planning American policy for most of the Islamic world until 1965 when he became professor of history at the University of Chicago and founded its Middle Eastern Studies Center. Later he also became president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. Among his many books are The United States and the Arab World; The Elusive Peace: The Middle East in the Twentieth Century; Neighbors and Strangers: The Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs; Polk’s Folly, An American Family History; and The Birth of America."

So, as you can see, he's somebody. And what, you may wonder, is his message?

"Looking back at America’s most grievous intelligence failure, Vietnam, we can see an analogy. Bluntly put, we thought we could shoot or bomb them into doing what we wanted. We saw what we wanted to see and never managed to ask the fundamental questions about what the people on the other side wanted, how they functioned and how we fit into their world."

In all fairness, he does see a significant difference between Iraq and Vietnam. "...we have suffered more American casualties in the months since the invasion than in the first three years of our involvement in Vietnam."

I'm not sure that's going to comfort the "Not Vietnam!" crowd, though...

via Juan Cole

Friday, April 23, 2004

We honor their memory when we honor the truth...

"I would make the argument that trying to hide the photos of these
people who gave everything for their country is actually dishonoring
them. They went over there in all of our names and died, and then
when they come back home, they're hidden behind a curtain.

I think that's wrong."

Russ Kick, The Memory Hole

Sometimes it really is that simple...

Juan Cole offers a response to a series of rhetorical 'gotcha' questions about the Iraq war posed by Christopher Hitchens.

"My reply would be simple. If you are arguing for war, you don't have to ask all these fancy questions. There are really only two questions you have to answer. The first is, would you yourself be willing to die fighting for this cause you have espoused? The second is, would you be willing to see your 18-year-old son or daughter killed for this cause? (I do not ask if you would be glad or satisfied; I ask if you would be willing)."

It's really hard to believe that anyone involved in making the decision for war bothered to ask those questions, isn't it? Does anyone think George thought the twins might get a chance to serve the cause, for instance?

Professor Cole's questions should be printed, laminated and mounted at eye level on the desk of every and any person ever responsible for sending troops into harms way.

I really try to keep a 'family-friendly' tone around here...

...but stuff like this is hard to describe in family-friendly terms.

From the Washington Post (with my emphasis):

"But a group of Vietnam veterans, some of them partisans, portray him as an ambitious young officer who attempted to collect undeserved Purple Hearts for minor injuries and used those medals to cut short his tour."

Some?!? Can anyone name a single one of these anti-Kerry vets that hasn't been exposed as a Republican hack, plant and/or operative? They are all partisans. This is purely a matter of partisan politics, and it enrages me not because John Kerry can't handle it - he's faced down political slander more than once in his career and come out just fine - but because the the attacks demean my service and the service of all my brothers in arms and, well, I'm about to get family-unfriendly if I keep this up...

But jeebus, people. John Kerry didn't have to get wounded three times, regardless of severity, to get a short tour of Vietnam. He could have avoided the whole damn thing by not volunteering for Naval service, not volunteering for swift boat training and not volunteering for a Vietnam tour in the first place.

In fairness, I suppose it should be pointed out that not all of the anti-Kerry vets are purely partisan. Some of them are partisan profiteers, like Ted Sampley (you'll have to dig up the link on your own. It won't appear here.), whose site leads with a bold red headlined declaring

We need Your HELP to maintain this web site!
Purchase our Bumper Stickers, Decals, Pins, Hats. Click on the Sticker!

(Insert family-unfriendly expletive here. Use your imagination - make it a good one.)

(and speaking of profiteering, I don't have bumper stickers, decals, pins or hats, but I do have a PayPal account...just sayin'...)

More from the Don't Panic file...

Ruy Teixeira cuts through the headlines for a look at the deeper story on some recent polling.

"...Kerry's favorabilty rating remained unchanged in the battleground states and that persuadable voters were uninclined to drink the Republican Kool-Aid about Kerry flip-flopping, believing Bush, more than Kerry, exhibited that behavior. And now check out these just-released findings from the same ABC News poll that contributed to Democrats' anguish about Bush being ahead. According to data in The Hotline (I can't find any link yet on a public website, but I'm sure one will eventually appear), Kerry is ahead of Bush by 4 points in the battleground states (50-46). He's even ahead of Bush by 2 points in these states with Nader thrown into the mix and drawing a ridiculous 7 percent."

"Note also that Bush's approval rating in the battleground states is 49 percent, 2 points under his national rating and that his approval rating on the economy in these states is just 41 percent, 3 points under his national rating."

While it's easy to fret about national polling, those numbers are nearly meaningless in electoral terms. While our votes affect national decisions, there's really no national election. It's a state by state battle for an Electoral College margin, and the battlegrounds need to be weighted differently than the stronghold states. National polls don't do that, so other than making us feel all warm and fuzzy when we're ahead, or cold and shivery when we're not, they don't much matter.

Elsewhere, Ryan Lizza's New York Times op-ed points out that Bush is holding little of the advantage that usually acrues to incumbents, with even the polls he leads showing him below the 50% mark. "Thus," Lizza concludes, "support for Mr. Bush should be seen more as a ceiling, while support for Mr. Kerry, the lesser-known challenger, is more like a floor."

We need to work hard to build a victory on the foundation that floor provides, and fight back against the political vandals who try to tear down our political edifice, but none of that is made any easier or more effective by panic.

Yep, Work Hard, Fight Back, Don't Panic.

Words to live, and campaign, by.


OK, I was a bad environmentalist and completely failed to mention, let alone come up with some penetrating observations to observe, Earth Day. Here's a little catchup, then, blatantly lifted from Whiskey Bar (and let me say that if you don't check in on billmon every day, you're missing some good stuff).

Phillips: “Are you saying this administration just doesn't care about air pollution?”

Buckheit: “Yes. I'm saying this administration has decided to put the economic interests of the coal fired power plants ahead of the public interests in reducing air pollution.”

Phillips: “That's a pretty serious allegation.”

Buckheit: “Well, I was the head of the air enforcement division up until a couple weeks ago and I watched it happen.”

Former EPA official Bruce Buckheit
Dateline NBC interview
April 20, 2004

Now, that was worth waiting for, wasn't it?

So, Happy Belated Earth Day.

When you can't even keep the profiteers in line...

...the 'monolition' isn't far off.

This note from Juan Cole:

"The continued lack of security and possibility of further big military operations have frightened many NGOs and contractors out of Iraq. Siemens and General Electric are leaving for the time being. A number of countries with small contingents in Iraq are seriously considering pulling them, in the wake of the Spanish withdrawal."

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Lest we forget...

There are 360 more of these at the Memory Hole.

Although "...on the eve of the Iraq war, a directive arrived from the Pentagon at U.S. military bases. "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops," investigator Russ Kick filed a FOIA request for any relevant photographs.

He notes "The Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Department of the Air Force, sent these photos (on CD-ROM) on 14 April 2004 in response to an unnumbered FOIA request from Russ Kick. The request was originally sent to Dover AFB and was denied in full. Upon appeal, all photos were released. Name tags and other personally-identifying information were removed from the photos by the Air Force."

So, is somebody going to fire the Air Force?

Another score?

I've held off putting the Woodward charge about the possible diversion of $700 million from Afghanistan appropriations into Iraq buildup expenses. It's not that I don't trust Bob Woodward...well, it's not completely that I don't trust Bob Woodward, but I've been watching the situation to see how it fleshes out.

It's getting pretty fleshy. The Carpetbagger Report is keeping close tabs, and offers the best summary I've found.

Looks like this one will make the list by next week, but I'm kind of disappointed. The Administration keeps racking up point after point on the Scandal Scorecard, and we're in risk of making the Republican Congress look good in comparison.

C'mon, folks, you've all got a Republican Congresscritter somewhere nearby. What have they done lately you'd call scandalous?

Don't take my word for it...

...there are more authoratative voices banging the 'Don't Panic' drum. In Rolling Stone's face off feature between James Carville and Frank Luntz, Carville offers salve to those who fear Kerry's not been aggressive enough lately.

"His strategy makes sense, given all the events that are going on in the world, with the 9/11 hearings and the war developments. It's not the time for Kerry to elbow his way to center stage."

I agree. I agree with another Carville observation, too, if only because I want to.

"John Kerry is going to win by four points."

Being unemployed has its down side...

...but in George Bush's America, at least being lonely isn't part of the problem.

Via the Left Coaster

"For two weeks in a row now, first-time filings for unemployment insurance came in higher than expected by analysts. After a disappointing increase last week of 30,000 in such claims the week before, it was reported by the Labor Department this morning that first time weekly filings came in at 353,000 when analysts were expecting the weekly figure to fall from 360,000 to 340,000."

And the really sorry part of that story is that 340,000 new unemployed was supposed to be the good news...

The shorter Bush/Kerry comparison

Sometimes a post is so good you just have to swipe the whole thing...from Kos:


Intelligent, mature and rich in educational background and experience, Ens Kerry is one of the finest young officers I have ever met and without question one of the most promising.


Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report.

Truth claims a victim

The Seattle Times reports that Tami Silicio, whose photograph of flag-draped coffins appeared in Sunday's paper, and soon on blogs and websites everywhere, has been fired from her job as a contract cargo worker in Kuwait for taking the picture.

The company she worked for also fired her husband, David Landry.

" Maytag's Silva said the decision to terminate Silicio's and Landry's employment was made by the company." The Times reports, "But he said the U.S. military had identified "very specific concerns" about their actions. Silva declined to detail those concerns.

"They were good workers, and we were sorry to lose them," Silva said. "They did a good job out in Kuwait and it was an important job that they did."

'Very specific concerns' indeed. Two people doing their job well becomes pretty meaningless compared to the important task of hiding the price of war from the American public, I guess.

Silicio took the photo to honor the fallen, as anyone who read the accompanying article in the Times would quickly understand. The treatment she has received in return dishonors her effort, their service and every American who values the truth.

More: via Corrente, contact info for Mercury Air Group, the owners of Maytag. And a phone number (310-827-2737). And a fax number (310-827-6528).

Maybe they didn't do the right thing, but you can...

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Scandal Scorecard - 23 Skidoo Edition

The Scandal Scorecard grows again with the addition of Boeing II and the Bush-Cheney 2000 'recount' account.

23 scandals? Time for the Republicans to skidoo...

Executive Branch:

1. Cheney's secret Energy Task Force

2. Ashcroft's illegal campaign contributions in 2000

3. Boeing I - the $23 billion tanker lease deal

4. Boeing II - the $1.3 billion surveillance aircraft boondoggle

5. Bush-Cheney 2000 fined $90K for failure to report $14 million spent on "recount" activities

6. Haliburton in Iraq

7. Haliburton in Nigeria

8. The Valerie Plame outing

9. Withholding information about the Medicare bill costs

10. Daniel Montgomery, Director of the Air Transportation Stabilization Board, accepting improper gifts from airlines.

11. John Korsmo, Federal Housing Finance Board chair and his wife Michelle, DOL official, illegal political fundraising

12. The suspension of Parks Police Chief Teresa Chambers in violation of Title 5 whistleblower protections.

13. The Iraqi National Congress' possible use of government funds to lobby for war.

14. Misuse of the Secret Service and other security to shield the President and Vice President from dissent on the campaign trail.

15. Abuse of the Presidential Records Act, to shield Reagan, Bush I and Bush II from scrutiny, and leaking information about Clinton pardons.

16. DOJ and Interior blocking the investigation of oil leases that cheated American Indian nations.

17. Charges by John Dean that Bush knowingly violated the terms of the Iraq war resolution


18. Senate Judiciary Committee computer theft.

19. The Nick Smith bribe

20. The DeLay Texas fundraising scandal

21. Bill Frist's financial stake in a medical malpractice insurer, while pushing malpractice "reform" in the Senate.

22. Rep. Henry Bonilla's American Dream PAC, which has contributed less than 9% of its funds to the minority candidates it was chartered to assist.

23. The NRCC's illegal transfer of $500,000 in soft money to ineligible recipients during the 1999 primary season

Quote of the Day

Bush may have left it out of his election year budget, but Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is one member of the GOP not afraid of the plain truth.

During a Today Show appearance, Hagel admitted that "Every ground squirrel in this country knows $50-75 billion in additional money is needed to sustain us in Iraq."

Looks like Congress will never catch up...

...on the Scandal Scorecard, as the Administration logs another entry, via Politus.

This time it's a legacy entry, going back to Campaign '00. Seems that the Bush-Cheney campaign left their expenses for the aborted Florida recount off the books, and has been hit with a $90,000 FEC fine for their failure to report.

In announcing the fine, it was reported that "Bush – Cheney 2000 held a bank account designated “Bush-Cheney 2000, Inc. – Media.” After the November 7, 2000 presidential election, the Committee redesignated this bank account “Bush-Cheney 2000, Inc. – Recount Fund” and used the account to raise funds and pay costs associated with the recount. However, the Committee failed to include that activity in disclosure reports filed with the Commission."

Guess they wanted people to think all those Republican staffers flew to Florida on their own tab. Voluntarily. Spontaneously, even.

Guess it may not have been so...

Catching up...

Much of yesterday was occupied with automotive-fu (nothing that a bunch of money I don't have for parts to be installed by a mechanic I can't afford won't solve...), so I didn't make my full run throught the blogs and news sites I usually mine for this stuff.

Until I get around to the Scandal Scorecard update, then, some of today's stuff will be catchup, which I'll kick off with kudos for Joanna over at Monkey Business. I've been watching the storm around 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, and meaning to dash off a note of support to her, because she deserves it and because we should be making some effort to counter the rash of hate mail generated by Ashcroft's outlandish charges and his wingnut followers.

Joanna, on the other hand, has actually written her letter, and shares it at her blog.

She signs off with "So, thank you for standing up for yourself, because in so doing you stand up for the truth, and for reasonable, rational, and just government - the sort of government that doesn't have to rely on character assassination to implement its agenda." That's a sentiment we should all share, and one we should all express - ideally in our own letters to Commissioner Gorelick.

I'm putting mine together today. Haven't found an email address yet, but I imagine correspondence in care of the Commission will reach her. Here's the snail...

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
301 7th Street, SW
Room 5125
Washington, DC 20407

Sometimes you just have to do something...

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

From the "Don't Panic" department...

...Josh Marshall offers some comforting wisdom about recent polls, noting that many of his Kerry supporting friends and readers are getting doomy and gloomy with ever swing of the figures.

"The first thing that is worth noting," he notes "is that if you look at the tally on the Polling Report website, there have been eight other polls conducted entirely or in part during the month of April. And only one of those showed a lead for the president..."

Of course, it's arguable that virtually no poll has really shown a measurable lead for anyone at this point. The margins tend to be five or six points maximum in polls that carry margins of error at +/- 3 or 4 minimum. Of course, to hold a truly measurable lead, the margin has to be at least twice the MOE (plus and minus count for and against each candidate), and just about everything and anything I've seen, except a handful of state polls, has been within the MOE, properly applied.

In any event, Marshall is absolutely right when he writes " ...over the first four months of this year, they've (the polls) oscillated back and forth a couple times. I think this is the just the nature of this race. And something folks on both sides are going to have to get used to."

Yep. Don't get complacent. We need to work hard. We need to fight back.

But right now? There's no reason to panic.

While my expectations are low...

...sometimes those people in the White House can still impress me with their stupidity.

I mean, if you're going to send your Press Secretary out to lie to the entire world, shouldn't you pick a subject on which you can give him just a little bit of cover?

You'd think so, wouldn't you?

But faced with King Abdullah's refusal to meet with Bush today (and when the last time a head of state visited the US and refused to meet with the President? Any President?), Scott McClellan was sent forth to announce that "...the changed plans were a result of "domestic issues" in Jordan."

It's a lie, of course. The changed plans were the result of Bush's latest flip-flop on decades of American foreign policy regarding Israel.

But don't take my word for it.

Speaking for the Jordanian government, Asma Khader told The Associated Press that "The Abdullah-Bush meeting would not be held "until discussions and deliberations are concluded with officials in the American administration to clarify the American position on the peace process and the final situation in the Palestinian territories, especially in light of the latest statements by officials in the American administration," according to the palace statement."

In other words, it's our foreign, not their domestic, policy that inspired the King to scrub his chat with the Prez. And McClellan's lie is left hanging out to...well, to hang him.

Weak offense? Maybe, but strong defense...

Nope, that's not an early Seahawks scouting report, just an observation on today's Washington Post editorial dealing with the Ashcroft v. Gorelick matter.

Atrios suggests that the WaPo attack on Ashcroft is handled "weakly," and he has a point. They start off strong, with headline branding his behavior for what it is - Mr. Ashcroft's Smear - but taper off by the end, implying that his behavior is somehow beneath him, or what we would expect of him. That's a sad case of confusing the man with his station, I'm afraid. Sure, I expect more from the Attorney General of the United States, until I consider who exactly that is, and then my expectations drop below the point where any disappointment is possible.

In fact, my anger with Ashcroft is less for his behavior, awful though it may be, than with the very idea that this man, who stands out as a miserable hack in a crowded Bushco field of miserable hacks, holds the position he has been assigned.

Still, the WaPo piece lays out the facts of the matter and successfully exposes Ashcroft's smear for what it is, while making a good point I haven't noted elsewhere. "...blaming her for the "wall"," they write, "is absurd in any event. The memo by Ms. Gorelick that Mr. Ashcroft branded as the culprit is not even mentioned in the history of impaired information-sharing that Mr. Ashcroft's department gave to the special court that finally lifted the barriers after Sept. 11, 2001."

It's definitely worth taking a moment or two to read.

And don't forget...

...there's a Scandal Scorecard update scheduled for tomorrow. Your nominations (especially on the Republican congresscritters) are eagerly solicited...

Real life intrudes... probably light blogging today, but I wanted to share a quick 'monolition' update with you.

On the heels of withdrawl news from Spain "...Honduras announced a similar pullout late Monday. President Ricardo Maduro said his country's 370 troops would withdraw "in the shortest time possible."

"Spanish and Honduran troops are mostly based in or around Najaf, where U.S. soldiers have been confronting the forces of an anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr."

But don't fret. Thailand is holding firm, as long as nobody starts a war or anything.

" BANGKOK, April 20 (Reuters) - Thailand will withdraw its 451 medical and engineering troops from Iraq if they are attacked amid growing turmoil in the country, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday.

"If we get hurt or killed, I will not keep them there," Thaksin told reporters a day after Honduras followed Spain in announcing they would pull their troops out of Iraq."

Call it the coalition of the willing to go just so far...

Monday, April 19, 2004

Hometown news...

I don't give a lot of props to the Seattle Times around here, but once in awhile the home team comes through with a big hit, as they did by running this front page image yesterday. One of the most despicable features of the Bush administration and their lackeys in the Rumsfeld DOD is the practice of hiding our war dead as though they don't exist.

So here's a hurrah for the Times for running this on page one. The picture came to them via Seattle native Tami Silicio, who works as a contract employee at a Kuwait cargo terminal. She sent it along, saying "So far this month, almost every night we send them home... It's tough. Very tough."

And she's one of my heroes right now.

Jeebus, can everyone be wrong about this?

Or could it be that the President is wrong and the rest of the world is making a good point?

My kinda headlines...

Kerry Hits Bush...

Kerry Broadens Attack...

Kerry Attacks Bush...

Kerry Rips Ineffective Bush Policy

Kerry Broadens Criticism...

Kerry Assails Bush...

Berkeley Professor sends wrong message to the troops...


"The clearest similarity (between the two wars) is that we got into both based on government lies. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution (that Congress passed giving President Lyndon Johnson authority to wage full-scale war in Vietnam) was based on an event that didn't happen. We would never have gotten into the Iraq war if claims about weapons of mass destruction were absent."

Robert Bellah, Elliot Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley

Armed insurgents aren't the only problem...

...and they may not be the biggest problem we have in Iraq. Via Body & Soul, this excerpt from the LA Times, which spoke to Bessam Jarrah, a surgeon, working with the Islamic League of Medical Professionals. (as usual, my emphasis)

""In the first months of the occupation, we, the educated people, thought America would show us a humanitarian way, a political way, to solve problems," Jarrah said. "But this use of force means the efforts to find a political solution for Iraq has failed, and now America is using Saddam's approach to problems: brute force.

"America won the war on April 9 last year; they lost the war on April 9 this year. That is what Iraqis feel."

Actually, I don't know exactly what date America lost Bessam Jarrah, but that may be the day we really lost the war...

They've been warned

I admit it. Most political bloggers (including yours truly) spend most of our time preaching to the choir. You don't find a lot of dissent in the comments logs at most blogs, whether on the left or right. We define our stance and attract, for the most part, the corresponding audience.

There are a few out there, though, that merit attention beyond their ideological range, usually because they bring genuine expertise to the subjects they cover. That's why I hope that someone, anyone, on the other side is reading Juan Cole. More and more, his blog is the first place I turn for information on the war, and on the region generally.

Today offers some great examples of why I find him so valuable, and why I hope that someone in a position to actually affect policy is at least giving his work some consideration.

After offering a summary of the weekend's bleak and bloody action in Iraq (a new front opened in Husayba, claiming the lives of five Americans and bringing the weekend death toll to 12 Americans and about 30 Iraquis), Cole looks at the claims of foreign infiltration, prinicpally from Syria, and finds the evidence sorely lacking. Then he reminds us why that misleading focus is so dangerous.

"The Husaybah fight appears to be an extension of Fallujah," he writes, "with some fighters from that city having moved over to Husaybah and having ambushed the Marines. This narrative contradicts the impression given by Gen. Myers that the problem is infiltration of foreign fighters from Syria. Rather, looks like infiltration of Iraqi fighters from Fallujah.

"I think this ritual invocation of Syria in connection with infiltration is just a way of attempting to intimidate and bully Syria, which some in the Bush administration would like to topple. If they think Iraqi instability is bad, wait until they see Syria without a proper government in Damascus. It won't be pretty; and remember, as Colin says, if you break it, you own it." (my emphasis)

Myers, et al, would have us believe that the Iraqis are waiting at home, clutching the sweets and flowers they've been saving for our troops, just waiting for those bad guys from out of town to leave. It just isn't so, and the continued claim that it is amounts to little more than saber rattling in a new direction, while our forces struggle to maintain a modicum of control over the fronts they've already been assigned. Let's just admit that the enemy forces in Iraq are Iraqis, and leave Iraq's neighbors out of this thing, can't we? We can't afford to break anything else.

Elswhere today, Cole comments on the impending monolition.

"The key issue now is Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite movement, and whether Spanish troops would stick around to help put it down, and risk getting mired in a colonial anti-insurgency effort. The answer: No.

"A problem for the US: A lot of other countries may well decide to follow suit. Most "Coalition partners" signed up for peacekeeping or reconstruction, not to fight against guerrillas (there is a difference between peacekeeping and peace-enforcing). The US could well lose half a division this way, and it doesn't have half a division to spare." (my emphasis)

This is serious stuff, and presents serious risks to our troops on the ground and our international efforts to battle the very real threat of organized terror. Juan Cole has a strong point of view, but he is no crank. He's a serious student of the region, with a serious message which he delivers in plain terms.

It's no secret that the Bush administration, taking their cue from the top, is intolerant of dissenting opinionpaying, but I hope someone who matters is paying attention to Cole. At the very least, I hope lots of you mine his work for letter to the editor material.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Actually, I'd like to see some of them behind walls...

The warden walked by and said son don't try
I'd hate to see you fall
For there is no doubt they'll carry you out
If you ever touch that wall
If you ever touch that wall

There's been another issue gnawing at me lately that I'd slotted for an extended Sunday rant, but it'll keep. While cruising my blogroll today, I stumbled on Oliver Willis' pointer to this.

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Jamie Gorelick, a member of the commission investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, said Saturday that she received death threats this week after a number of conservatives alleged that her former work in the Justice Department may have contributed to failures leading to the attacks."

Let's place the blame for this out of hand, over the top, anti-Democratic, outrage squarely where it belongs -- on John Ashcroft led the charge with a bald-faced lie to the 9/11 Commission while under oath, and on the Congressional scumballs, notably Tom Delay, Jim Sensenbrenner and Mitch McConnell who followed him into the fray.

When Bob Kerrey heard about McConnell's initial attack, his reply was succinct. "Mitch McConnell is the Republican whip of the Senate and he's accusing us of being too partisan? He can go to hell for all I'm concerned." The same sentiment applies to the whole lot, as far as I'm concerned.

What they claim this is all about is Gorelick's involvment in drafting a memo on a law which required a separation between intelligence and criminal investigations at the Department of Justice. What it's really all about, of course, is providing political cover for an Administration that was so narrow minded in it's assessment of intelligence, ignoring or rejecting anything that didn't fit into their predetermined policy view, that they seriously undermined the safety of the American people and the security of American borders. They're seriously afraid that an objective report from the Commission could be an election killer for the Bush administration. They should be.

But what about that memo? And what about that 'wall.'

Gorelick forthrightly states the facts in a Washington Post op-ed today. After stating that "At last week's hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft, facing criticism, asserted that "the single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents" and that I built that wall through a March 1995 memo. This is simply not true," she offers these salient points:

It is "...not a wall but a set of procedures implementing a 1978 statute (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA) and federal court decisions interpreting it."

Moreover, " was the justice departments under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980s that began to read the statute as limiting the department's ability to obtain FISA orders if it intended to bring a criminal prosecution.

And "...Mr. Ashcroft's own deputy attorney general, Larry Thompson, formally reaffirmed the 1995 guidelines in an Aug. 6, 2001, memo addressed to the FBI and the Justice Department."

The March 1995 memo, which concerned only two particular cases "...permits freer coordination between intelligence and criminal investigators than was subsequently permitted by the 1995 guidelines or the 2001 Thompson memo... My memo directed agents on both sides to share information -- and, in particular, directed one agent to work on both the criminal and intelligence investigations -- to ensure the flow of information "over the wall."

In fact "nothing in the 1995 guidelines prevented the sharing of information between criminal and intelligence investigators."

Mitch McConnell has asserted that the 9/11 Commission has "become a political casualty of the electoral hunting season." That's not, unlike Ashcroft's testimony about 'the wall,' completely untrue. The work of the Commission has been injured by the efforts of Republican hacks to do electoral damage control as the inadequacies of the Bush Administration's organization and response has become increasingly clear.

It's not simply a matter of partisanship, though. The Republican Chair of the Commission, Tom Keane, has been as honest about the objectivity and sincerity of the Commissions efforts as the GOP hatchetmen have been destructive and duplicitous.
When Keane writes "None of our votes have been cast on partisan lines. All of us are striving to achieve a set of recommendations that can win the support of all commissioners. We are committed as well to the integrity of our work," and when he expresses, as he consistently has, direct defenses of Commissioner Gorelick, he rebukes those hacks and scoundrels, and provides a glimmer of hope that people of honor can still find a home, however tight and temporary it might be, in the Republican Party.

They have some clearly dishonorable company in their ranks, though, and I'm one Democrat who thinks that Keane is to be commended for taking a clear stand against that dishonorable cohort.

Jamie Gorelick's standing firm. Her position on the Commission is, she says, "not negotiable." She's got more guts and integrity than any of those issuing anonymous threats, and more than any of the GOP hacks who are using lies and distortions that inspire such threats in their desparate effort to defend an indefensible Administration.