Monday, May 31, 2004

More later...

...but I'm off in a minute for the Northwest Folklife Festival to MC a show and commit a public act of felony folk music. Hopefully you'll find something equally enjoyable to occupy your holiday, but hopefully you'll reserve part of your thoughts to remembering why people get the day off in the first place...

Sunday, May 30, 2004

No wonder Bush can't get his job right...

...he doesn't seem to know what it is.

From Christianity Today
President George W. Bush, in a rare on-the-record session with religion editors and writers on Wednesday, said his job as president is to "change cultures."
Funny, I though his job was to "protect and defend the Constitution," which enumerates his duties fairly succinctly.
The Constitution of the United States

Article II, Section. 2.

Clause 1: The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Clause 2: He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Clause 3: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section. 3.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Nope, no culture change called for.

(Credit The Agonist with the catch.)

Saturday, May 29, 2004


A couple days away, and there's just too much news to digest. This is particularly hard to choke down.
This is getting very personal for me. One of the guys who was along on our trip has a grandson in Iraq, and I know the GI's wife and baby, as well. I know two others that are there, and two more with orders to go. The risks they are being asked to assume for - well, for what, exactly, and for how long? - would be simply absurd if they weren't so potentially tragic.

The US fatality count for May is now 74, moving it ahead of April '03 to become the third most deadly month of the war.


I'm back...

...and somewhat out of touch after a couple days hanging out on the western edge of the Canadian Rockies sans computer. The big news up there is the Parlimentary election, about which I'm woefully ignorant. I'm pretty sure that the Kamloops area is a Liberal Party riding (ie, district) right now, but the Conservative candidate seems to have the current edge in yard signage.

I'll be making the rounds of news sites and my blogroll to get reconnected and doubtless have something to say soon, but slow blogging is likely to continue for a day or two, since I'll be occupied to some degree with my annual MC duties at the Northwest Folklife Festival. If you're in the area, drop by the Broadway Lawn stage Sunday evening, where I'm host for a big country swing show, or the Fountain Lawn stage midday on Monday, where the program is an interesting blend of Klezmer and world music.

In between, I'll try to get caught up here...

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I'll be back...

...and blogging sometime Saturday evening, no doubt, but in the wee small hours of the night I'm off for beautiful Kamloops, British Columbia to join my veteran's drill team for a competition and parade...and a modest amount of hospitality room action.

Internet access is unlikely, and time will be at a premium, so this is probably my last post for 48 hours or so. Feel free to treat this as an open thread for comments, and to poke around the archives, and to find out how the PayPal button works, etc.

See you in a bit...

"Citizens of America, do your duty..."

"...elect this man." And with those words, former Senator Gary Hart turned the podium over to John Kerry.

(by the way, if anyone can offer a pointer to the text of Hart's full introduction, I'd sure appreciate it. It was a high point in a morning full of high points.)

John Kerry capped off his Seattle visit with a national security speech delivered to an invited audience of students and veterans, and I was lucky enough to be included among the latter. It was an inspiring event, with Hart, Theresa, Max Cleland and three members of Kerry's old swiftboat crews on hand. Among the band of brothers gathered in the front and center section of the hall were veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf I and Iraq. I got another chance to shake the man's hand, a chance to wish Theresa a belated happy wedding anniversary (yesterday was their 9th) and learned that Max Cleland's injuries offer no impediment to his ability to wrap you in a bear hug of impressive proportions.

Kerry's speech, the first in a series between Memorial Day and the D-Day commemoration, was primarily devoted to a broad outline of a four pronged proposal for a new foreign policy. As Kerry put it,
First, we must launch and lead a new era of alliances for the post 9-11 world. Second, we must modernize the world’s most powerful military to meet the new threats. Third, in addition to our military might, we must deploy all that is in America’s arsenal -- our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and the appeal of our values and ideas. Fourth and finally, to secure our full independence and freedom, we must free America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil.
The most pointed remarks were devoted to energy independence, especially in Kerry's direct confrontation of Saudi Arabia's role in international terror and our need to become independent of dependence on their petroleum supplies. You'll never hear George Bush or any of his minions utter words like these.
If we are serious about energy independence, then we can finally be serious about confronting the role of Saudi Arabia in financing and providing ideological support of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. We cannot continue this Administration’s kid-glove approach to the supply and laundering of terrorist money. As President, I will impose tough financial sanctions against nations or banks that engage in money laundering or fail to act against it. I will launch a “name and shame” campaign against those that are financing terror. And if they do not respond, they will be shut out of the U.S. financial system.

The same goes for Saudi sponsorship of clerics who promote the ideology of Islamic terror. To put it simply, we will not do business as usual with Saudi Arabia. They must take concrete steps to stop their clerics from fueling the fires of Islamic extremism.
If you see gasoline prices dropping precipitously in the near future, you'll know Prince Bandar was listening to John Kerry.

Early reaction from the other side was predictable, with Republican Senator George Allen getting first crack as designated spinner
These petty, hate-filled political attacks do not make America stronger or safer. John Kerry and the Democrats are more worried about political attacks than prosecuting the war on terrorism.
Wow. That sounds a great deal like a petty, hate-filled political attack to me, one that doesn't address a single point in Kerry's speech, or make America the least bit stronger or safer.

As far as prosecuting wars goes, I'll thank Senator Allen to spare me and the hundreds of my brothers in arms, Kerry Democrats all, that were in attendance his pious pseudo-patriotism. I'll thank him, too, to restrain himself the next time he feels like passing judgement on Vietnam veteran Al Gore as "...seemingly unstable." After all, remarks like that are petty. And hatefilled. And don't make America stronger or safer. And lead people to wonder again what those who didn't serve have against those of us who did.

In fact, those kind of remarks sound downright panicky. Of course, since Allen is the chair of the Repubican Senate Campaign Committee, a little panic on his part is probably called for.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Yes, I know it's Wednesday...

...and time for a Scandal Scorecard update.

The Scorecard has become a bit unwieldy, though, having grown to thirty entries in the last edition. I guess that shouldn't surpise me, but in addition to the Congressional shenanigans we've discovered, the ineptitude and corruption of the Bush administration has grown to astonishing proportions in a relatively short time. Among the executive branch agencies that have produced scandals are the office of the Vice President and the Justice, State, Health and Human Serices, Interior, Education and Labor Departments. It truly is the most corrupt administration in the history of the republic.

I'm pondering ways to reformat the thing, maybe giving it a page of its own so that I can flesh out the entries without having a 20 screen post every time I run it. For now, here's a link to the Top Thirty edition, and the new entries for this week.

The Scandal Scorecard:
Entries 1-30


31. The non-partisan General Accounting Office (GAO) found that the administration engaged in illegal propaganda with its fake news segments about the new Medicare law.

32. In response to a request by Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, in which he asked "...which firms are operating in Iraq, how many personnel each firm has there, which specific functions they are performing, how much they are being paid, and from which appropriations accounts," SecDef Rumsfeld offered "current listing of known PSCs." Not listed were CACI and Titan of Abu Ghraib infamy, and companies like the Vinnell Corp., MPRI International, SAIC, Eagle Group and WorldWide Language Resources, which are involved in training the new Iraqi Army, according to a Web site set up by the Department of Commerce.

33. The Defense Department has not submitted the required quarterly reports on how supplemental authorizations have been spent since May 9, 2003, a report that covered spending through February 28, 2003.

34. A dozen current and former truckers say they risked their lives driving across Iraq in empty trucks more than 100 times while "dodging bullets, bricks and homemade bombs" -- trips their employer, a Halliburton subsidiary, billed to the U.S. government.


35. The House leadership censored the C-SPAN cameras in the chamber during the three hours the they were harassing members to switch their votes, locking the cameras on the Democratic side of the chamber.
Gee, three out of five seem to belong to the Department of Defense. Perhaps you should sign the petition.

OK, that's over.

Kerry has announced that he will accept the nomination when it's offered at the Democratic National Convention. Good. Although I have some appreciation for the financial arguements that surrounded the suggestion that he might delay acceptance, I've been pretty skeptical of the notion for a variety of reasons.

Still, on balance, I think floating the idea has been a net good thing. It demonstrated that Kerry's willing to think outside the box and looking for novel ways to fight back against the GOP's bankroll and manipulation of the calendar. Attention was focused on the Republican financial advantage, which opens the door for conversations about where that advantage comes from. Stories were written about the unusually late timing of the Republican convention, which raises the spectre of their political manipulation of 9/11 in New York, which Americans have demonstrated little appetite for. It gives a little cover for the wave of attack ads they'll doubtless be running in the wake of the DNC, framing the attacks in an atmosphere of "They can only do that because..."

And in the end, Kerry made the right decision and will do the right thing. He is a smart guy, you know.

From the Don't Panic file...

Amidst much fretting that there's insufficient ground separating Kerry and Bush on Iraq policy, largely due to the Bush administration's efforts to co-opt the Kerry campaign's positions on the issue, Noam Scheiber hits the nail squarely on the head. Writing for &c. at the New Republic, Scheiber takes a decided 'Don't Panic' tone.
First, the fact that Bush has moved closer to Kerry on some Iraq-related questions is neither here nor there. Iraq is Bush's baby. Everyone knows it's Bush's baby. And if it keeps going badly, he's finished, regardless of how close he happens to be to Kerry's positions on the matter. Second, Kerry isn't left to argue that he has more credibility in executing the same policies. He's left to argue that Iraq has been a disaster, and that it's Bush's fault--which is almost self-evidently true. And, finally, declaring a timetable for withdrawing the troops would not be politically advantageous for Kerry. Doing so would give Bush cover to lay out a timetable of his own, which would be substantively disastrous but pretty useful politically for the White House. By not budging from his commitment to stay the course in Iraq, Kerry forces Bush to do the same, meaning he has to keep owning every inch of the disaster Iraq has become.
In fact, regardless of his notorious, if now ancient, vote on the original Iraq war powers authorization, no reasonable person can believe that this is the war Kerry voted for. He's repeatedly said as much, avowing that those who believe he would have conducted a war at the time it was started and in the manner it's been waged shouldn't vote for him. Indeed, they shouldn't. Everyone else should.

You can't begin a recovery in denial.

Steve Soto cites reports that blame gas prices for a big dip in consumer confidence, and that's a part of it, without doubt, but with durable goods down, the housing market diving and a continuing multi-million job deficit, the heralded economic recovery seems pretty illusionary to me.

In fact, Rasmussen's daily tracking on the economic conficence level fell to a six month low today, with 56% of Americans feeling things are getting worse. Even in the investment community, which has been the source for much of the recovery news, the split has 44% of investors seeing things going down, vs. 42% finding good news in the ecomomy.

The overall consumer scale is down as measured against one week, one month and three month benchmarks. Guess Bush is going to have to count on good news from the war front...heh.

Thankfully, Kos reads the Wall Street Journal... I don't have to, but can still enjoy gems like this.
"...these U.S. and Iraqi proxies will serve multiyear terms and have significant authority to run criminal investigations, award contracts, direct troops and subpoena citizens. The new Iraqi government will have little control over its armed forces, lack the ability to make or change laws and be unable to make major decisions within specific ministries without tacit U.S. approval, say U.S. officials and others familiar with the plan."

Shorter version: I got yer full sovereignty right here...

Bushco begs to differ...

...but apparently Tony Blair didn't get the memo. The Guardian offers this from the Prime Minister.
"Let me make it 100% clear, after June 30 there will be the full transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi government.

"If there is a political decision as to whether you go into a place like Falluja in a particular way, that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government and the final political control remains with the Iraqi government."

But in Washington, the pathetic hack demurs on behalf of his boss.
"If it comes down to the United States' armed forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission in a way that might not be in total consonance with what the Iraqi interim government might want to do at a particular moment in time, U.S. forces remain under U.S. command..." Powell told reporters.
" some way accomplishing their mission..."

But I thought their mission was Iraqi sovereignty...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The Speech

I missed all but the first few minutes of Bush's speech last night, but caught a replay later. Turns out I could have missed the replay and learned nearly as much. I only had a few questions he could have answered, well stated by Jesse Berney at Kicking Ass.
How long will our troops be in Iraq?

Who will be in charge of the new Iraqi government after June 30?

What kind of control will the new Iraqi government have over U.S. military forces?

How much will our continuing commitment in Iraq cost American taxpayers?
Of course, having heard the speech, I still don't know the answers. The really disturbing thing is that I don't think Bush himself has the answers, and I don't think he's even considered the questions. To ask them would be to consider the idea that our present course is imperfect, and that seems to be beyond his grasp. As the New York Times editorialized following the speech,
It's regrettable that this president is never going to admit any shortcomings, much less failure. That's an aspect of Mr. Bush's character that we have to live with. But we cannot live without a serious plan for doing more than just getting through the June 30 transition and then muddling along until the November elections in the United States.


The president still has a number of speeches left to deliver before June 30. We hope he will use them to come up with a more specific plan, to stop listing the things we already knew needed to be done and to explain to us how he intends to do them. An acknowledgment of past mistakes would be nice.
Nice, but not likely. It's come to the point that I believe the man is clearly delusional. I don't think he's lying, I think he has actually come to believe that, despite the absence of any evidence whatsoever, that Iraq is indeed the main front of the 'war on terror.' kept track of the number of times he invoked 'terror' or 'terroist' during the speech. It came to nineteen. They offer up some other interesting numbers as well.
Number of times George Bush explained how the invasion of Iraq was even remotely connected to the war on terror: ZERO

Number of Americans hurt or killed by an Iraqi terrorist prior to the US invasion of Iraq: ZERO

Number of Iraqis involved in the 1st attack on the World Trade Center: ZERO

Number of Iraqis involved in the attack on the USS Cole: ZERO

Number of attacks on US embassies around the world by Iraqis: ZERO

Number of Iraqis who are part of the top leadership of Al Qaeda: ZERO

Number of Iraqi hijackers on September 11th, 2001: ZERO
Iraqi relevance to the 'war on terror' is apparently another of Bush's 'faith based' programs.

Although the speech was remarkably uniformative, I can't really say that there was nothing in it that caught my interest. As low as my expectations were, even I was taken aback to hear Bush intone that
On June 30, the coalition provisional authority will cease to exist and will not be replaced. The occupation will end and Iraqis will govern their own affairs.
Can he really believe that the occupation that has created so much bloodshed in Iraq and international controversy is the presence of his band of Young Republican desk workers at the CPA and not the 135,000 + troops on the ground in Iraq? The occupation won't end until the military is withdrawn, and whatever happens on June 30, it doesn't seem likely to hasten that withdrawal by a single day. In fact, if the new Iraqi government turns out to be as unpopular and ineffective as many people expect, it's likely to extend the need for an external security force considerably.

As retired USAF Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, a veteran of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, told Salon, "Iraq is promised imminent "sovereignty" and "democracy." Pay no attention to the men with guns."

To assert that closing the CPA offices in exchange for a 1,000 person embassy staff and 135,000 soldiers represents an end to the occupation isn't a lie.

It's madness.

C'mon, Will...

...tell us what you really think!

Saletan, at Slate:
In press conferences, TV ads, and interviews this year, President Bush has manifested a series of psychopathologies: an abstract notion of reality, confidence unhinged from facts and circumstances, and a conception of credibility that requires no correspondence to the external world.
For a minute there I thought he was writing about Kaus...

It's coming...

...and he's coming on it! The new Kerry campaign plane is winging it's way toward Seattle tonight, with JK aboard. If you're one of the lucky ticket holders for the rally at Pier 62 tomorrow, take note of this bulletin just in from WA for Kerry HQ.
Due to the tremendous response to see John Kerry tomorrow morning in Seattle, we are asking attendees to arrive at 8:00 AM to Pier 62 (Pike and Alaska) in order to make it through security in time to see and hear Senator Kerry. Please notify others you know plan to attend.
If you don't have a ticket yet, there's still time. You can log in and print one out here.

I have a ticket, but aAutomotive fu and other complications may keep me away tomorrow. I'm on the guest list for a foreign policy address to an audience of veterans on Thursday, though, and promise to file a full report.


...but probably true.

Say what you will about this president, he could have coasted to re-election on a trumped-up economic recovery, based, to be sure on fiscal irresponsibility and the continued exploitation of the fear of terrorism, despite his incompetence in battling it. But his fanaticism about overthrowing Hussein overcame his [and Karl Rove’s] political good sense. If he loses the election, it will be entirely due to his insistence upon invading a country that posed no threat to us and doing so on the basis of false arguments to the American people and false assurances from his advisers that it would be an inexpensive cakewalk. Call it brave. Call it foolhardy. But there it is.

Speaking of the troops...

...if you don't subscribe to Salon, you may have missed the War Room item yesterday that cited a number of people spouting off in a way that Tom DeLay has characterized as "putting American lives at risk."

Among the subversive elements so cited were Gen. Anthony Zinni, Sen. Chuck Hagel, Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Sen. Richard Lugar, Mark Helprin, Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson, former House GOP leader Dick Armey, ACU Vice Chair Donald Devine, and George Will.

And now, in an item found at The Stakeholder, it seems that Mr. DeLay was once far less sensitive to the lives of Americans as well.
News Item (1999): House Majority Whip Tom DeLay questions the competence of President Clinton during Kosovo war, saying he committed American troops "unwisely" into a "Balkan quagmire."

Hypocrisy in high places? Shocking!

It's no surprise.

It's an observation that anyone who has served in the military will acknowledge as true, but in the midst of the 'Support The Troops' frenzy, which is in no small part inspired by guilt over the failure to support my generation of troops, the remarks of Elliot Cohen in today's Washington Post are somewhat controversial. In a piece worth the special attention of anyone who hasn't served - a number which includes much of our Congress and a distressingly high percentage of our civilian defense establishment today - Cohen points directly to the crazy aunt in the basement.
Unless subjected to thorough training, relentless discipline and solid leadership, normal products of our society -- individualistic, hedonistic, often unreflective and rarely far-sighted -- will act badly. For that reason, Abu Ghraib reflects not merely the actions of a few sadists who somehow slipped through the net but a broader failure of military leadership.
That's a notion reinforced by the words of Robert Bateman, an active duty Infantry officer writing to Eric Alterman at Center for American Progress.
...the fact is that as an officer my job is really about the control of state sanctioned violence. I give the potential violence a specific purpose and guide its direction in order to achieve ends. I also ensure that the violence is used only within the confines of the Geneva Conventions and our own code of laws. That's what being an infantry officer is really about. Hell, that's what being any combat arms or combat support officer is about.


Violence, in a military context, is like a genie in a bottle. So easy to uncork, but you need good officers, moral officers, hard and smart officers who know their profession to stuff that genie back in to the bottle. At least down at the tactical level.
We send our soldiers, sailors and Marines to hellish locations to perform acts which, in the context of our hometown lives, are inhuman. Limiting that inhumanity, and creating a context for the resumption of normality when the engagement is over, is the ultimate responsibility of every member of the chain of command, from the Basic Training drill instructor to the Commander In Chief.

Levels of culpability for specific acts, such as the tortures at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, vary, but some level of culpability has to attach to higher levels of command, and in a way that exacts a greater price than an admission of 'responsibility' that carries no sanction. I have resolutely refused to excuse the enlisted men and women that have been charges. They should pay an appropriate price for their share of the blame, and they have a share. They should have known better. But they should have been better trained and better supervised, and the blame that attaches to those failures in training and supervision has been so far overlooked in exacting a price.

The continuing effort, reiterated in Bush's speech at the Army War College last night, to paint the atrocities at Abu Ghraib as abberations, the claim that such behavior among US troops is shocking and unexpected, reveals a shocking failure of command. Inhuman behavior in the context of a war is easily predicted. In a war conducted by an armed forces heavily dependent on undertrained, over extended reservists, that prediction becomes even more sure. It's time to see the charges against some Lieutenants, Majors, Colonels and Generals.

And it's time for their appointed boss to go. The CinC can be removed by appropriate political action at the appropriate time.

Rumsfeld must resign now.

Sign the petition.

Monday, May 24, 2004


Jeanne is back to more regular posting after a brief hiatus at Body And Soul, which is a good thing for all of us who need an occasional tweak to our moral compass.

For example
Respect for the human body is a good thing. Think of the recent Abu Ghraib pictures of two MPs grinning over the bruised corpse of a prisoner. Logically, it should be the least offensive of the pictures. When those photos were snapped, Manadel al-Jamadi was beyond pain, fear, and humiliation, something that can't be said of the victims in any of the other photographs. And yet the treatment of his body -- cellophane wrapped, packed in ice, and squabbled and joked over -- is still obscene. Some basic respect for human beings breaks down in the desecration of a body. That insult may not have the power to hurt Manadel al-Jamadi, but it shrivels all our souls.
You do check in there every day, don't you?

Preview of coming distraction

Bush is going to speak to the nation tonight, apparently in order to assure us that he intends to have a plan to deal with the last country he invaded before he settles on the next one, or some such thing, but Digby saves us the need to actually watch the thing by pointing out
"He's like a Japanese speaking actor playing a role in phonetic English. No matter how passionately he delivers the lines, the inflection and the rhythm are always off because he doesn't understand the language he's speaking."
That's right folks. It doesn't matter what he says, because he doesn't know what he's saying. Or doing. It's up to us.

DeLayed reaction

Atrios noted the problem a couple days ago.
The fact that our entire government is apparently paralyzed with infighting is the kind of thing which should be treated with concern.
The kind of paralysis we're seening in Washington, D.C. right now is usually attributed to excessive partisanship, and it's certainly true that the Congressional Democrats seem more united and disciplined than most any of us can remember. That's really not the problem this time, though.

The Senate has had to postpone a budget vote because of Republican Party in-fighting, not simply because of Democratic Party resistance, and the cracks in the shell of unity among the House Republicans, cracks resulting largely from the insistent pounding that have given Tom DeLay the nickname 'The Hammer,'are becoming more apparent.

Those cracks are impressively revealed today in a Salon feature, ostensibly about former Republican Leader Dick Armey's rocky relationship with the Texas bug killer, but targetting much wider problems, both for the operation of Congress and for the White House. Armey, who is as partisan as the day is long himself, points out a problem that the dissension in Republican ranks is creating. Noting that Democrats are fretting about Ralph Nader taking a few points away from Kerry, Armey says
"...I think the Bush folks need to say, 'Well, how do we survive if 3 or 4 or 5 percent of our foundation base just decides to sit out the election?"
He sees it as a real concern for his side, and I don't disagree except that I see it as a real opportunity for ours.

The problem for the R's, in the view of Norman Ornstein, is that DeLay "has taken every norm the Legislature has operated on and shredded it." How bad is it? According to Ornstein,
"On a scale of 1 to 10, Democrats abused their majority status at about a level 5 or 6. Republicans today have moved it to about an 11."
The problem is that DeLay has used that abuse to solidify his own political power, often at the expense of his Party's traditional program, and has weakened the Party's institutional base in the process.

Not that that's a bad thing...

Update: I notice that The Stakeholder is touting the Salon story and tying it to their 'Hard Sell Monday' money pitch. It's a good place to toss a couple bucks if there's anything left after your generous donation to ME ME ME(ahem). There's a key election next week in South Dakota. Stephanie Herseth needs and deserves all the help the DCCC can offer. They can only help her as much as we help them.

Light blogging yesterday...

as Sally, the brilliant and beautiful Bride Of Upper Left, and I made a stab at retaining a semblance of a social life, so I've got some catchup to do. It's a beautiful day in Seattle though, and there's moss to knock off the roof and a couple of flats of geraniums that would look better in the window boxes than on the deck, so it may be hit and miss today as well.

And oh, yeah. I've got to do a little writing for money, too. Speaking of which, if anyone out there is connected to a campaign or consulting shop that could use some freelance copy-writing help, let's talk! There's an impending financial crisis (maybe perpetual is a better description) here at Upper Left World Headquarters, and my client list is a little thin just now.

Of course, if you'd like to toss a couple bucks in the tip jar instead, or as well, that would be just fine and greatly appreciated, too.

Always the optimist...

...Oliver Willis finds a silver lining for Bushco despite his slide in the CBS News poll.
"But hey, Bush's approval ratings are not as bad as Saddam's."
And if he's lucky, Bush's sentence won't be as long...

Sunday, May 23, 2004

The Green Zone as Young Republican playground

The catalog of what has gone wrong with our administration of the occupation of Iraq rivals the list of administration lies that led to the beginning of the war in Iraq, but today's Washington Post report on the way the Congressional Provisional Authority was staffed is a stunner.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col Joseph Yoswa, is quoted saying that when the government ran short of qualified applicants they "turned to the Heritage Foundation, an educational facility, albeit a conservative one, but primarily a place where you can get good, solid people." Hundreds of hires were made from the names gathered from a job board posted on the explicitly partisan Heritage web site. How good? How solid? The Post examines a group that were assigned to the CPA budget offices.
When Ledeen's group showed up at the palace -- with their North Face camping gear, Abercrombie & Fitch camouflage and digital cameras -- they were quite the spectacle. For some, they represented everything that was right with the CPA: They were young, energetic and idealistic. For others, they represented everything that was wrong with the CPA: They were young, inexperienced, and regarded as ideologues.
Several had impressive paper credentials, but in the wrong fields. Greco was fluent in English, Italian and Spanish; Burns had been a policy analyst focused on family and health care; and Ledeen had co-founded a cooking school. But none had ever worked in the Middle East, none spoke Arabic, and few could tell a balance sheet from an accounts receivable statement.

Other staffers quickly nicknamed the newcomers "The Brat Pack."

"They had come over because of one reason or another and they were put in positions of authority that they had no clue about," remembered Army Reserve Sgt. Thomas D. Wirges, 38, who had been working on rehabilitating the Baghdad Stock Exchange.
The various blunders and inadequacies of the gaggle of 20-something idealogues we staffed the occupation offices with are scary, but what I found particularly infuriating was this paragraph.
The pay turned out to be good. Ledeen and her coworkers had agreed to come to Iraq without knowing their salaries. They ended up with standard government base salaries in the range of $30,000 to $75,000 a year, plus a 25 percent foreign differential, another 25 percent for a workplace "in imminent danger" and overtime pay. In the end, almost everyone was making the equivalent of six-figure salaries.
Compare that to the pay rate of an Army infantry Specialist with four years of intensive training and experience, facing daily fire far from the CPA's heavily fortified 'Green Zone'. The experienced E-4's monthly rate is $1814, less than $22,000 a year. The allowance for 'Immanent Danger' is $225 a month. All totaled, the highly trained, combat hardened infantryman with all allowances makes less than the base pay of the CPA's entry level trainees, and less than a fourth of the six figure paychecks that "almost everyone" in the Young Republican trainee corps was pulling down when their generous allowances were folded in.


Saturday, May 22, 2004

Filling in the puzzle.

Although I've absorbed an enormous amount of coverage of the scandals surrounding the treatment of detainees in Iraq and elswhere, I haven't been able to escape a nagging feeling that something's been missing, or I've been missing something, that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

Reading Joe Conason's latest dispatch for Salon, it jumped right out at me...
The legal arguments that justified the Bush administration's undermining of the Geneva Conventions can be traced to John Ashcroft's Justice Department, where a top deputy to the attorney general drafted them during the months after 9/11.
Well, of course. That SOB's fingerprints had to be somewhere in this mess. And it turns out his role is pretty central.
According to a knowledgeable source, Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith first sought the assistance of the military's Judge Advocate General Corps in fashioning policies that evaded or diluted the Geneva protections. But ranking JAG officers, who prided themselves on upholding those traditional human rights safeguards, strongly opposed the changes sought by Feith. He then turned to the Justice Department, where Yoo -- then a deputy assistant attorney general in the department's office of legal counsel -- was assigned to formulate arguments to evade the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions.
One of John Kerry's earliest and most popular applause lines was his promise to appoint an Attorney General "...who's name is not John Ashcroft!" That alone is a deal closer for me, and a good enough reason to go out and find five more votes for JK...

Quote of the day

It's not pretty, but I haven't seen anything more striking...

"The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself."

Former Pennsylvania prison guard and Al Ghraib MP Charles Graner

And you thought Nancy was tough.

The esteemed House Minority Leader may have nailed Bush's moldy pelt to the White House wall with a railroad spike this week, but in some ways her comments pale beside the more widespread assault on the administration that comes via former NSC staffer Roger Morris, who concluded his own government career by resigning from the Nixon administration over the invasion of Cambodia.

Calling on today's foreign service professionals to follow his lead, Morris offers an open letterin Salon. Here are some of the characterizations he makes of the "cabal of political appointees and ideological zealots, led by the exceptionally powerful and furtively doctrinaire Vice President Cheney." He describes
"...a deeply politicized, parochial Pentagon."

a "...willfully uninformed and heedless president..." who has inspired "...tales of his ignorance and sectarian fervor."

while telling the FSOs that "You serve the worst foreign policy regime by far in the history of the republic."
How bad is it? This bad.
"...we are living a foreign policy nightmare, locked in a cycle of violence and seething, spreading hatred continued at incalculable cost, escaped only with hazardous humiliation abroad and bitter divisions at home. Debacle is complete.
He doesn't spare the foreign service's boss, declaring that Colin Powell
"...who remains the political general he always was, never honoring your loss by giving up his office when he might have stemmed the descent."

Then Morris makes his plea
."Your resignations alone would speak to America the truth that beyond any politics, this Bush regime is intolerable -- and to an increasingly cynical world the truth that there are still Americans who uphold with their lives and honor the highest principles of our foreign policy."
He knows, of course, that the price for such action is high. It's a price he once paid himself. Still, he offers this reassurance.
"My friends and I used to remark that the Nixon administration was so unprincipled it took nothing special to resign. It is a mark of the current tragedy that by comparison with the Bush regime, Nixon and Kissinger seem to many model statesmen."
There's more, just as strong, just as true. Buy the sub or watch the ad, but don't skip this one.

And speaking of the DCCC...

...if you're not a regular consumer of their blog, The Stakeholder, you might be missing stuff like these pearls from the Sacramento Bee.
Democrats hurled sharp barbs at the White House, with Rep. Robert Matsui of Sacramento, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, declaring that President Bush is "either clueless or incompetent" when it comes to the war.


Matsui, who rarely engages in political hyperbole, joined forces with Pelosi in blasting the president's conduct of the war.

He said the president "should come to grips about where we are in this war instead of fantasizing that we'll win this war."

The Sacramento congressman called DeLay "a thug and all here know it."


"What Nancy Pelosi said about the president's incompetence is on a lot of people's minds," he said. "She called it like it is, and they're coming back with cheap shots."


Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo. .... said he traveled with Pelosi to Iraq and Afghanistan, and "there's no more caring American than she is in dealing with the troops that she met, not only in the field, but in the hospitals."

Let's here for those House D's, working hard and fighting back!

By the way...

...howdy to the new folks that are coming this way via the DCCC's Rumsfeld wire. Hope you find this place worth a bookmark, and if you're so inclined, there's a PayPal button conveniently located to your right...

And if you'd like to drop a comment or two, I'd be delighted!

If you're looking for Chalabi news...

...I'm afraid that it's just another of those fascinating stories I simply don't have the time or energy to keep up with, but Josh Marshall is all over it. Anything I could tell you would be ripped straight from there, so you may as well visit the source.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I should live so long.

The CJR Campaign Desk's Brian Montopoli lays waste to some of the Republican comments on Nancy Pelosi's indictment of Bush's inexperience and incompetence with the simple application of fact...
Pelosi's statement was incendiary, and it's not surprising that the other side reacted angrily. But neither of these statements seems to directly address what Pelosi said. Schmidt talked about "blame America first," despite the fact that Pelosi did not, by any account, blame America -- first, last, or otherwise. He also said that it was the terrorists responsible for the violence, not the president -- despite Pelosi's not ascribing any responsibility for "the violence."

Reynolds reaches even further, claiming that Pelosi was taunting the troops "by saying they dying needlessly and are risking their lives in a shallow mission." Pelosi wasn't talking about the troops, of course, let alone taunting them -- she was talking about the president. And, as a later version of the story points out, she doesn't live in a "pastel-colored condo" -- though we're not sure how the color of Pelosi's place is relevant to Bush's performance in Iraq.
...and follows it up with an intriguing notion.
So here's an idea: What if Associated Press reporter Jim Abrams followed up these irrelevant quotes by writing, "When asked to directly address Pelosi's charges, he declined to comment." Once they've been stung by a few such printed rebukes, politicians, spokesman, and political operators will think twice before offering up talking points and ad hominem attacks instead of actual responses.
Like I said, intriguing, but you'll get better odds playing the lottery...

It's not what Jesus would do...

...but what we'd do to him.

I am not a Christian, but these words from Jeanne d'Arc at Body & Soul caught me right between the eyes.

The damage done at Abu Ghraib was done to Iraqi prisoners, to their friends and families, and to all Iraqis, who were sent a clear message about how our country treats their country. The "damage" to our military is secondary at most. After all the times we've seen the pictures, we still have a distorted view of who the victims are.

The most important thing to remember about the crucifixion of Jesus is not that it sullied the reputation of all the good Roman soldiers.


The case was long since made.

When considering the reasons for a Rumsfeld resignation, it's a mistake to focus too narrowly on the role he played in setting policies that resulted in the torture at Al Ghraib. While that may be sufficient grounds in itself for some, sufficient grounds existed long before the shocking revealations of that torture appeared. There were good reasons for John Kerry to call for Rumsfeld to step aside last fall, and good reasons for others to make similar calls long before that.

In fact, Rumsfeld himself pointed to the best reason at all during his recent Congressional appearance, where he admitted that he should consider standing down if he could no longer be effective in his role. The fact is, there's no evidence that he ever has been effective.

Retired Army officer turned pundit Ralph Peters stated the case plainly in a New York Post op-ed.
"He should resign for the good of our military and our country. Those twisted photos are only one symptom of how badly the Rumsfeld era has derailed our military.

"Rumsfeld has maintained a positive image with much of America because he controls information fanatically and tolerates no deviation from the party line. Differing opinions are punished in today's Pentagon - and every field general who has spoken plainly of the deficiencies of either the non-plan for the occupation of Iraq, the lack of sufficient troops (in Iraq or overall) or any aspect of Rumsfeld's "transformation" plan has seen his career ended.

"It isn't treason to tell the truth in wartime. But it verges on treason to lie. And Rumsfeld lies."

One of the elements that Bush cited in praising Rumsfeld for a "superb" job was his leadership in two wars, but at this point, both of those wars have to be counted as failure. In Afghanistan, the Taliban was removed from power, but it was done in a way that leaves them on the map, continuing to embattle the government we installed to replace them, and our primary focus, the top echelon of the Al Qaida terrorist ring, continues to elude capture. Resources that were allocated for the establishment of a stable government and the pursuit of Bin Laden and his chief assistants were diverted, apparently illegally, in order to begin the build up for the next Rumsfeld war in Iraq.

In the lexicon of more and more observers, Iraq is being translated as Arabic for Vietnam. Once again, we are in a war in which we cannot be defeated on the battlefield, but in which we cannot find a path to victory in the political sphere. Much of the reason for that can be attributed directly to Donald Rumsfeld's experiments in implementing a new defense philosophy and his refusal to consider the dissenting voices within the ranks of our military leadership.

Remember the glorious run to Baghdad? It was a textbook example of the Rumsfeld philosophy. A relatively small force of highly mobile units, supported by strike teams of special forces and an array of high tech weaponry that easily overwhelmed the toke resistance of a hugely diminished Iraqi opponent. We set out to depose Saddam, and depose him we did, but in the process we bypassed dozens of potential battle sites, leaving an armed and embarrassed enemy in our wake, ready to rise up in an persistent guerilla campaign that has made the occupation of Iraq a quagmire of, well, Vietnamese proportions. It was not only completely predictable, it was widely predicted by some of the very highest ranking officers in the military ranks.

It was a failure of planning that General Anthony Zinni, USMC Ret. and a former CinC of Central Command, judges in terms that would lead to the quick replacement of any field commander.
"In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption. I think there was dereliction in insufficient forces being put on the ground and [in not] fully understanding the military dimensions of the plan."

Zinni places responsibility directly at Rumsfeld's door.
"He should not have been surprised. There were a number of people who before we even engaged in this conflict that felt strongly that we underestimated...the scope of the problems we would have in [Iraq]."

It's not just a failure of battle plans and subsequent execution that has marked the Rumsfeld Defense Department. It has been a center for scandal, including the Boeing procurement scandals, the diversion of Afghanistan war funds and the appointment of high ranking officials with fraudulent academic credentials. His plan to revamp the departments personnel system, according to Kay Coles James, the Bush administrations director of the Office of Personnel Management "tramples veterans' rights, offers a bad model for changing federal pay and represents a strategic blunder in the attempt to modernize the federal civil service government-wide."

As the UPI's Martin Sieff has observed,
"Rumsfeld and his team of top lieutenants have therefore now lost the confidence, trust and respect of both the Army and intelligence establishments. Key elements of the political establishment even of the ruling GOP now recognize this."

"Superb"? Hardly. Effective? Not even.

Al Ghraib is enough, but there was enough already.

More than enough, for far too long.

Sign the petition.

Update: It just gets deeper. Look here for more on the erosion of confidence within the JAG corps and the misuse of contractors in Iraq.

And then sign the petition!

Of course, it's nothing like Vietnam...

...but I have noticed an increasing emphasis on enemy body counts in coverage of the battles in Iraq. We used to report enemy deaths with a similar certainty in the war to which this war must not be compared, too. As I recall, the general policy was that everything dead was the enemy...except I don't think they have water buffalo in Iraq.

At the same time, there seems to be less and less said about the growing ranks of American and allied fatalities. It's out there, though. Undelay does a great job day by day, personalizing the statistics with details about our troops lives and deaths. It should be a regular stop for any informed netizen.

For the raw data, you can try the fine folks at, who want you to know that 56 Americans have died in Iraq so far in May, out of a total of 60 coalition fatalities. That's the fifth highest monthly total since they started counting last month, and well on the way to the top two or three.

That brings the total coalition death toll to 907, with 797 of them being Americans.

And thousands and thousands of unnamed Iraqis.


A stinger, but it hurts so good.

In his weekly missive to Alterman, Charles Pierce offers some handy hints for Republican administrations who set out to undermine the Constitution. He has several good points, and defines the appropriate role for the pathetic hack.
Oh, and just for the purposes of set decoration, make sure Colin Powell is standing nearby, probably with pigeons landing on his head.

I wish I'd written that...

Nancy strikes back

And Bob's got her back.

Having drawn fire from every corner of the Republican attack machine, Nancy Pelosi fires back.
Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference that it was Bush's "activities, his decisions, the results of his actions (that) undermines his leadership, not my statements. My statements are just a statement of fact.

"Understand that when our kids are in harm's way, we are united -- it is one team, one fight. But they cannot say that anybody who criticizes their failures to be not supportive of our troops. It is the very support of the troops that provokes the candor that we must have about what's happening with this war, the cost in lives ... the cost in dollars to the taxpayer, and the cost in reputation to our country."

Kudos, too, to DCCC Chair Rep. Robert Matsui, who's standing strong with the Leader.
"In fact, what she said is what many people are thinking,'' said Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Sacramento, who heads the House Democrats campaign committee. "I think many Democrats want our leaders to speak out on these issues."

Matsui echoed Pelosi's critique of Bush, calling developments in Iraq a sign of the president's "either being clueless, or being incompetent."

As for the charge that such criticisms are inappropriate during a time of war, Matsui said: "Frankly, that's McCarthyism."

You can stand with her, too. The Stakeholder has a link to an online poll on Leader Pelosi's remarks. Vote early and often.

Now I'm really worried...


The Poorman gets a leg up on Kaus with a Dem Panic Watch item of his own...
Foundering Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry raises twice as much money in April as President George W. Bush. Bush raised $15.6 million in April and spent over $30 million, and has spent $130 million on his campaign so far. John Kerry continues to lead the president in most polls...

Heh. 'Dark days,' indeed...

Proof positive

They've got the White House. They've got the Senate and House of Representatives. They've got a couple wars and a bad attitude.

What they don't have, and can't seem to find anywhere, is a budget.

I can't remember who said it, but it's truer than ever.
The Republicans are the party that believes that government doesn't work, and when given the opportunity to govern, they prove it.

I suppose that's actually 'proof negative,' isn't it?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Help on the way?

Bush took a trip across town to soothe the fevered brows of the Congressional R's today, and Josh Marshall took note of a remark that may help him with that competency problem ShouldBeSpeaker Pelosi mentioned...
According to several participants, President Bush told Republicans that the Iraqis are ready to "take the training wheels off" by assuming power.

That's a bit of a condescending thing to say about a country which encompasses what is generally considered to be the cradle of civilization. But the thought that an extra set of training wheels may now be available prompts the question of whether the Iraqis might be willing to hand their pair off to the White House.

Of course, Cheney will have to hold the handlebars...


Looks like Lynndie's back in play...

Dave Pell's got the full run-down...

So it's not just me...

from History News Network
Of 415 historians who expressed a view of President Bush’s administration to this point as a success or failure, 338 classified it as a failure and 77 as a success. (Moreover, it seems likely that at least eight of those who said it is a success were being sarcastic, since seven said Bush’s presidency is only the best since Clinton’s and one named Millard Fillmore.) Twelve percent of all the historians who responded rate the current presidency the worst in all of American history, not too far behind the 19 percent who see it at this point as an overall success.

A few noteworthy comments from the historians...
"No predecessor so thoroughly managed to confirm the impressions of those who already hated America....I don 't think that you can do much worse than that."

"Bush is horrendous; there is no comparison with previous presidents, most of whom have been bad."

"He lies, constantly and often, seemingly without control..."

"George W. Bush's presidency is the pernicious enemy of American freedom, compassion, and community; of world peace; and of life itself as it has evolved for millennia on large sections of the planet."

"This president is unique in his failures."

I feel curiously comforted in my discontent...

Ya gotta love her. Really. You do.

via Kevin at Lean Left, these pearls from Rep. Pelosi.
"Bush is an incompetent leader. In fact, he's not a leader,'' Pelosi said. "He's a person who has no judgment, no experience and no knowledge of the subjects that he has to decide upon.''


"He has on his shoulders the deaths of many more troops, because he would not heed the advice of his own State Department of what to expect after May 1 when he ... declared that major combat is over,'' Pelosi charged. "The shallowness that he has brought to the office has not changed since he got there."

She's really overdue for a promotion. You can help.

Update: The Stakeholder has more (natch) and it gets better...

Honest, he's all wrong..,

...and that's alright.

As you may have noticed, I'm not a particularly big fan of all the Kerry/McCain speculation. I'm not even a very big fan of John McCain, who is a doctinaire Republican conservative, after all. On the other hand, it is kind of fun to see him stick his finger in his fellow R's eye and call them to account for their supposed principles.

He's not going to be the VP pick, though, and is exceedingly unlikely to abandon his Senate seat for the transitory honor of a cabinet post, even if asked by a President of either party. Nope, he's going to stay right where he is for as long as he (and the voters of Arizona) pleases. Which is fine, for the very reason pointed out at Pandagon today in a comment on the Hastert/McCain dustup that's in the news.
...what happens when someone says the wrong thing and McCain decides to go all maverick on them? He has enough credibility to both maintain his Republican voting record and criticize his own party strongly enough to turn people against Bush (and other Republican incumbents). McCain isn't Zell Miller. He actually has the ideological credentials to be a critic of his own party and persuade members of his own party to follow him.

As long as McCain continues to point to the hypocrisy of the Republican leadership, making them look foolish in the process and even more foolish to the degree they contradict him, the better off we are. McCain may be idealogically wrong about almost everything, but being an essentially honest man, he's also honestly wrong, and the liars who run his Party today can't do anything but suffer under the scrutiny of that honesty.

Making a list...

...and checking it until it's complete.
WASHINGTON — Three key witnesses, including a senior officer in charge of interrogations, refused to testify during a secret hearing against an alleged ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves.

Fair enough. They're within their rights. But since their criminal culpability for the events at Al Ghraib is evident from their refusal to participate in the Graner hearing, when will we see the criminal charges filed against
Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, director of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at the prison

Capt. Donald J. Reese, commander of the 372nd Military Police Company

and Adel L. Nakhla, a civilian translator employed by Titan Corp. who "elected not to participate in the proceedings and was excused."

More names belong on that list, including the names of some who wear stars on their shoulders, but it's a start.

Who are we, anyway?

I've said before that I'm a 'big tent' Democrat. As a long time advocate and activist for the liberal/progressive wing of the Party, I've still accepted that having major party status on a national level requires some major accomadations to a wider range of views. I get, for instance, that there probably aren't more than a couple dozen Congressional Districts in the country who would elect a Representative as liberal as my own Congressman, Jim McDermott. I heartily support the election of Don Barbieri to the open seat in WA-05, although I'm certain that Barbieri, who represents the more socially cautious, business-friendly "New Democrat" wing of the Party, will disappoint me with many of the votes he takes when elected.

Still, a tent, no matter how expansive, is ultimately an enclosure. There are walls on all sides - to the left as well as to the right. So, what makes a Democrat a Democrat?

This year, of all years, I think the line has to be support for the Democratic Presidential ticket. Zell Miller, for instance, has finally removed himself from the tent not by virtue of any of the votes he cast in common with the Republican caucus over the last six years, but by his endorsement of the Republican ticket for the White House. On the other side of the political spectrum, there's the spectre of Ralph Nader, whose candidacy continues to inspire comments like this:
"...Kerry is carefully positioning himself/squeezed between anti-war Democrats who might desert for Nader and the need to sound supportive of the troops."

There are several fallacies implied by those words, including the notion that John Kerry is, in fact, 'pro-war,' or that there's an contradiction between supporting the Bush war effort and supporting the troops who have been deployed as a result. I would argue strenuously on the negative side of either of those propositions.

The point that distresses me most at the moment, though, is the one made by the words I've highlighted. There's no doubt that many of the people who may vote for Ralph Nader vote for many, probably most, of the Democrats who appear on their ballots, year after year. Does usually voting for Democrats make you a Democrat? Well, no. Many people who generally vote Democratic emphatically identify as independents. Most of them, in fact, split their tickets. There's a substantial element of the electorate that takes great pride in proclaiming that "I vote for the person, not the Party." I suppose there may be elections in which there's even an element of validity to such a position. In the case of down ballot, non-partisan races, I may have cast a few ballots for non-Democrats over the years myself. I've even made the occasional protest vote when a Democratic ballot line has, for whatever reason, been taken by a candidate whose personal views lie too far outside the central positions of the Democratic Party to countenance. A good example is the occasional appearance of a LaRouche 'Democrat' appearing on a ballot.

Not this time, though, not this election year, in this Presidential contest. The contrasts are simply too clear. The price is simply too high. A Nader voter may be acting on strong (if, in my opinion, unreasonable) principles, but they are not Democratic Party principles. If you are a Democrat, you're voting for John Kerry. I really believe it's that cut and dried. If you choose to do otherwise, you're on the same side of the tent wall as Zell Miller, and welcome to the company you choose.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Big Three-O

Another week, and the Scandal Scorecard just gets bigger. Jesse from The Stakeholder suggests the ties between Tom DeLay and Messrs. Scanlon and Abramoff, who've raked in $45 million in lobbying fees because of their friend's presumed favor. It's a good story, worth your attention, but I'm not clear on how DeLay will end up criminally or civilly liable for his pal's good fortune, so it's not on the list yet.

Instead, we turn to the Department of Health and Human Services, which, according to the Washington Post, is being investigated by the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, the General Accounting Office, the Office of Government Ethics and the HHS inspector general for a series of incidents which, among other things, have "...repeatedly allowed government scientists to engage in lucrative consulting deals with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies..."

For example? The article cites several instances, but the one most directly tied to Bushco is an ethics waiver signed by HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson that let Medicare cheif Thomas A. Scully to line up his new job as a lobbyist with an Atlanta law firm that represents "drug makers, hospitals and other health care businesses" while he was crafting and promoting legislation that directly impacts the bottom line of those very businesses.

And with that, the Upper Left Scandal Scorecard hits The Big Three-O:
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's 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 ATSB, accepting illegal gifts from airlines.

11. John Korsmo, FHFB chair and his wife Michelle, a DOL official, involved in illegal political fundraising

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

13. The Iraqi National Congress' 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. Administration appointees with fraudulent academic credentials, including an Assistant and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and a member of the National Commission on Presidential Scholars.

22. NEW! HHS ethics investigations, including Thomas Scully negotiating a new job representing companies that directly benefit from his work as Medicare chief.


23. Senate Judiciary Committee computer theft.

24. The Nick Smith bribe

25. Tom DeLay's illegal Texas legislative contributions.

26. Tom DeLay's bogus “Celebrations for Children” charity, used as a front for
political receptions.

27. Tom DeLay's abuse of Treasury Department personnel for political puposes by ordering a a partisan analysis of John Kerry’s tax plan.

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

29. 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.

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

More fun with logins...

In a comment, Chris from Cereffusion wonders if signing the petition will put his name on 'a list.'

These guys showed up in the visitor logs, but they didn't respond...

May 19 9:12AM Defense Information Systems Agency (

It starts at the top.

The Denver Post reports that the investigations in Iraq include "......more than twice as many allegations of detainee abuse - 75 - are being investigated by the military than previously known. Twenty-seven of the abuse cases involve deaths; at least eight are believed to be homicides." The investigations extend to at least four facilities in Iraq.

ABC News reports that Sgt. Samuel Provance of the 302nd MI Battalion has charged that "dozens" of soldiers at Al Ghraib were involved in cases of abuse.

The Red Cross has filed reports of 50 allegations of abuse at Camp Cropper.

It's abundantly clear that the problems with our treatment of POWs and other detainees in Iraq extends far beyond a handful of Reserve MPs operating as roque agents in a single cell block. It's also totally unremarkable that this is true.

In fact, as scandalous as the conduct of those Reservists may be, the level of denial coming out of the civilian hierarchy and military brass is equally if not more scandalous. With over 130,000 heavily armed individuals operating in a distant, alien and generally hostile environment, it should simply be no surprise at all that as many as hundreds of them might conduct themselves improperly. It happens in every war. To pretend that we can conduct war in a pristine fashion, that Americans in Iraq cannot or will not do what Americans and troops of every nation have done in every other combat environment in our history is simply absurd.

It's also no reflection at all on the overwhelming majority of our troops - and the troops of other nations - that conduct themselves honorably in circumstances that those who have never been combatants simply can't fathom.

The abuses are a problem, but it's a problem that the UCMJ and the court martial procedures of the US military is completely capable of handling. The greater problem at this point is the attempt to cover up the realities of war and to pretend that these problems weren't inherent in the decision to go to war. To, in other words, compound the lies that led to the beginning of the war with another layer of lies about its conduct.

But lie they must, because the truth is that the central problem isn't using MPs to 'set the conditions' for interrogation, although that's a problem. The central problem is that a line is appearing that clearly leads from those Sergeants and Privates up through Captains and Majors and into the ranks of a series of Generals and civilian authorities. It's a line that leads directly to the office of the Secretary of Defense, where the conditions that made the behavior of those MPs inevitable were set in the first place.

The whole thing is rotten, and like a decaying fish, the rot extends from the head. For the honor of our troops and our nation, we need to cut out the rot where it begins.

Rummy has to go.

Sign the petition.

(The Stakeholder has a note on the 'Gonzalez Memo' that illustrates just how those conditions were set at and transmitted through the higher echelons.)

As bad as a fraternity prank...

...or a PE shower? You decide.

According to the Denver Post...
...During interrogation, detainee was kicked in the rib cage, punched in kidney area and slapped in the head.

...The detainee, an escapee who had been recaptured, was shackled to the door of his cell with his hands over his head and gagged. Five minutes later, he was found dead.

...Military police officer used butt of M-4 rifle to strike a detainee in the face and on the back of the neck. Then the officer placed the muzzle of his M-4 rifle in the detainee's mouth and pulled trigger on the empty weapon.

...a "high-priority target," was placed inside a sleeping bag with only his feet exposed. He was rolled back and forth while being questioned. One of the interrogators sat on his chest and placed hands over his mouth. He died during the interrogation, and an autopsy confirmed evidence of blunt force trauma to the chest and legs.

...A guard...fatally shot a detainee who was throwing rocks.

...A sergeant beat a detainee while his squad leader was present.

This is apart from the Al Ghraib torture cases.

Can we stop talking about 'a few bad apples' now?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Kerry Core update

Just wanted you all to know that the Upper Left Kerry Core account broke the $1000 mark today.

Thanks to all that have helped out - it's a level of support I never could have achieved on my own this year. In all honesty, though, my pals from The Well have pretty well outstripped the Upper Left readership in total donations. Maybe we can turn that around as we drive toward the second $1000. The Kerry campaign is looking for a financial 'Miracle In May.' Anything you can do would be great, and if you could do it here, well, that would be great, too.

Let's get ready to r-r-r-r-rumble!

Martin Sieff, in a column for UPI, says that
"...three major institutions in the Washington power structure have decided that after almost a full presidential term of being treated with contempt and abuse by them, it's payback time.

Those three institutions are: The United States Army, the Central Intelligence Agency and the old, relatively moderate but highly experienced Republican leadership in the United States Senate."

The Army and CIA have the inside story, and if they're ready to deliver it up to the Senate, they'll have a ready audience, with Sen. John Warner, Chair of the Armed Forces Committee already on record with his discontent.
"In my 25 years on this committee, I've received hundreds of calls, day and night, from … all levels, uniform and civilian, from the Department of Defense when they, in their judgment, felt it was necessary, and I daresay other members on this committee have experienced the same courtesy," Warner declared.

"I did not receive such a call in this case, and yet I think the situation was absolutely clear and required it - not only to me, but my distinguished ranking member and other members of this committee."

With help from other dissident Repbulicans, including Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and a united cadre of Democrats, the Senate Armed Forces Committee could be the setting for political disaster for the Bush administration. If the Committee becomes the forum for public testimony corroborating the unnamed sources behind the recent reporting in the New Yorker and Newsweek, it will be a lot harder to name the potential survivors than the probable victims of the criminal and incompetent policy directions that have emerged from DOD under Rumsfeld.

How likely is it that those in the know will come forward? More likely all the time, I think. Sieff reports that
"...intelligence and regular Army sources have told UPI that senior officers and officials in both communities are sickened and outraged by the revelations of mass torture and abuse, and also by the incompetence involved, in the Abu Ghraib prison revelations. These sources also said that officials all the way up to the highest level in both the Army and the Agency are determined not to be scapegoated, or allow very junior soldiers or officials to take the full blame for the excesses."
Administrations come and go, and military and intelligence professionals understand that. To think that they'll sit by and watch the reputations of the instutitions they've given their lives to sacrificed to the temporary advantage of a handful of individuals, no matter how high their temporary standing, is highly unlikely.

Without getting into an "if I told you, I'd have to kill you" level of detail, I'll just say that I spent much of my tour of Vietnam hanging around career MI types from MACV J-2 and the spooks down the hall. Whatever you may think you know from the movies about field phone generators and aborted helicopter rides, nothing drove those guys crazier than clumsy field interrogations by our erstwhile ARVN allies, or misguided instructions from those far from the field. I don't imagine that's changed much. That attitude, combined with the resentment that's been brewing in military circles for three decades after being hung with the blame for a 'defeat' in Vietnam in order to cover the political blunders of a series of pols and bureaucrats leads me to expect a backlash of enormous proportions before they take another tumble.

This is shaping up to be a wild ride. Fasten your seatbelt.

Likely suspects?

Fred Kaplan says the list is a lot longer than seven...
Bush knew about it. Rumsfeld ordered it. His undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Steven Cambone, administered it. Cambone's deputy, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, instructed Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had been executing the program involving al-Qaida suspects at Guantanamo, to go do the same at Abu Ghraib. Miller told Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the 800th Military Brigade, that the prison would now be dedicated to gathering intelligence. Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, also seems to have had a hand in this sequence, as did William Haynes, the Pentagon's general counsel. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, learned about the improper interrogations—from the International Committee of the Red Cross, if not from anyone else—but said or did nothing about it for two months, until it was clear that photographs were coming out. Meanwhile, those involved in the interrogations included officers from military intelligence, the CIA, and private contractors, as well as the mysterious figures from the Pentagon's secret operation.

You know I wouldn't send you over to Kaus' neighborhood without a good reason, but let's not slime brother Kaplan with guilt by association. Check out his analysis.

A word for the ones who got it right...

...but first, a little personal history.

About thirt(ahem) years ago, I was a witness in a court martial. It was no easy thing. The accused soldier was guilty, and though his crime didn't involve physical harm to anyone, it did involve the violation of a trust that hampered our unit's mission and general morale. He was found guilty, in no small part because of my testimony, and I witnessed him being led to the stockade in shackles.

It wasn't easy. The guy slept two bunks down from me for months. We shared who knows how many beers, laughs and barracks lies. He was a decent guy who, I'm sure, would never have committed a similar crime left to his own devices in his home town. Drafted into an alien culture (and military life is indeed an alien culture) and moved to a distant continent desocialized him in a way that resulted in a prison sentence, a Bad Conduct discharge and who knows what negative effect on the rest of his life.

It wasn't easy at all.

But it was necessary. It was the right thing to do. Not something to be proud of. Not something to be ashamed of. Just right.

It's also not something I've dwelt on much in the intervening years, but it was brought to mind by the Washington Post's reporting on the plight of Spec. Joseph Darby, the soldier who turned over the pictures of the torture at Al Ghraib to the authorities who finally took action to stop it.

Spec. Darby's actions had far greater impact than mine, and were, in some ways, immeasurably harder. The people on whom he blew the whistle were from his neighbors in the rural areas that the Army Reserve's 372nd MP Company draws its recruits from. Folks who know him, know them. The consequences of his actions have followed him home, and it hasn't been a particularly happy homecoming.

It's a shame.

I don't know if Spec. Darby takes pride in what he did. I know there's no shame in it. It was just right. And the response of some of his neighbors has been flat wrong.

As Kevin Drum writes, "...spare a thought for Spec. Joseph Darby. We need more men like him."

We do. And more like Master-at-Arms First Class William J. Kimbro, US Navy Dog Handler, who, according to the Taguba report, "knew his duties and refused to participate in improper interrogations despite significant pressure from the MI personnel at Abu Ghraib."

And more like 1LT David O. Sutton, 229th MP Company, who General Taguba says "...took immediate action and stopped an abuse, then reported the incident to the chain of command."

We need them, and they need us. What they did was hard. What they face now shouldn't be harder. While we condemn the bad guys, let's remember to commend the good guys.

"...fooling around."? Well foolish, anyway...

Well, foolish, anyway. And barbaric. And criminal. And...well, sometimes words fail.

PFC Lynndie England's back in the news, and she's not helping anyone - even, or especially, herself.
"Everyone in the company from the commander down" knew what was going on. "The pictures were shown to anyone who wanted to see them. Cpl. [Charles] Graner told me he showed them to his platoon sergeant and platoon leader."

"Cpl. Graner would personally stitch up detainees if the wounds weren't too bad. He would take pictures of his work. One particular incident, Cpl. Graner ran a former Iraqi general into a wall and split his lip. Cpl. Graner stitched up his lip."

"We thought it looked funny, so pictures were taken." It was "basically us fooling around."

And here you thought she didn't want to appear in any of the pictures has claimed she was ordered to pose for, because it was "weird."

Don't look to Lynndie for contrition, though.
She said there were many other abuses, but "I can't remember all of them." She said she didn't think guards should be punished because "we did what we were told."

In contrast, there's Sgt. Hydrue S. Joyner, who seems to get it.
"If an MI [officer] told me to make detainees masturbate together, I would cut off his air supply," said Joyner. "This is not acceptable instruction to me. There is no special training to know this behavior is wrong, except 'life.' "

Exactly so, Sergeant.

Good points from a surprising source...

Of all the petty conceits that comprise George W. Bush's personality, the ones that I've found most offensive as a citizen and a veteran are his apparent pride in being a 'war president' and his boast that he brought the country to 'a war footing.' We may be at war, but it's a stretch to say that he presides over the effort, and if he does, 'war criminal' might be a more accurate label, given the ongoing disclosures about the conduct of the war. As far as his 'war footing' claims go, the Wall Street Journal's Mark Helprin exposes that lie with a few simple facts.
"The president failed to go to Congress on September 12 to ask for a declaration of war, failed to ask Congress when he did go before it for the tools with which to fight, and has failed consistently to ask the American people for sacrifice. And yet their sons, mainly, are sacrificed in Iraq day by day."
Helprin is wrong about any number of things in his most recent Opinion Journal column, (hey, it is the WSJ), but he's absolutely right about that. And about this.
"When soldiers are killed because they do not have equipment (in the words of a returning officer, "not enough vehicles, not enough munitions, not enough medical supplies, not enough water"), when reservists are retained for years, and rotations canceled, it is the consequence of a fiscal policy that seems more attuned to the electoral landscape of 2004 than to the national security of the United States."
John Kerry offered Bush the opportunity to pay for his war during the $87 billion funding round, and Bush steadfastly refused, with the aid and comfort of the Congressional chickenhawks. The American people stand ready to make sacrifice and contribution if the cause can be justified, and the Administration reponse is 'go shopping' (if you can afford the gas for your trip to Walmart).

Bush dishonors our national resolve and in so doing disables our nation's warriors in the midst of a battle he ordered.

It's worse than a conceit. It's a disgrace.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Amazing, isn't it?

How Bush can be doing so poorly while the economy is doing so well...
Stocks Hit 2004 Lows on Iraq, Oil Prices

Offshoring of U.S. Jobs Said Accelerating

Average Gasoline Price Tops $2 a Gallon

Dollar Slides on Renewed Global Tensions

Ford Credit to Cut Branches, Shift Jobs



Never mind.

Everybody's got a pitch...

...for cash today, it seems, but I'm feeling kindly disposed to the DCCC right now, so if you aren't inspired to click on the PayPal button to your right (did I mention the ISP bill? The phone bill? The City Light bill?), well, click on over to the Stakeholder, where they'll fill you in on what's at stake, and treat you to a terrific Emily Miller story at the same time.

Why the warm feelings toward the House Democrats today? Well, as a proudly partisan D myself, I'm a perpetual fan, but I was particularly pleased to see this assessment of Don Barbieri's run for WA-05, the open seat formerly held by Speaker Tom Foley.
Greg Speed, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Washington's 5th District is one of about seven open seats in the nation that Democrats feel they can win.

"He is running one of the strongest campaigns in the country for an open seat right now," Speed said. "What has them in fits about Barbieri is he has the type of pro-business background and ties to the folks in the business and labor communities and in both parties in Spokane that is going to make him so formidable."

Personally, I think the symbolic value of recapturing Speaker Tom's old seat should elevate this one on anybody's priority list. I'll admit that Don Barbieri might be a little more pro-biz and hawkish than a lot of progressives would prefer, but frankly, a candidate who might please Seattle would go down in smoke in Spokane. The bottom line is that while he might not take every vote I might wish for in the House, he will take the one I wish for the most.

Which one might that be? This crack from State Republican Chairman Chris Vance offers a clue. ""The people of the 5th District are not going to elect a Democrat and help make Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House," Vance says.

Well, they just might. In fact, there's a pretty good chance they will. You might want to help. You can check him out here.