Tuesday, January 27, 2004

After Iraq: Are we safer?

The Republican talking points are out there: If anyone says that the war wasn't worth fighting, then they must want Saddam Hussein back in power. This, somehow, makes us less safe.

First, it should be said that the former charge is completely ridiculous. I don't know a single person who doesn't think it's a good thing that Saddam's out of power. However, that doesn't mean the war was worth fighting. In the recent issue of Details, I found the best argument against the "getting rid of Saddam makes the war all worth it" blather of the right. In a tiny, throwaway sidebar to a story about carbohydrates in food, the Iraq war is compared to the Atkins diet. It's perfect. In fact, you can insert any fad diet or health program and have the perfect analogy. Hell, even smoking works.

The point is this: The Atkins diet may help you lose weight, but it's not good for your long-term health. Eating only lettuce will have the effect, with different (but equally detrimental effects) to your overall health. And smoking, Ephedra and Fen-Phen can all decrease your appetite, with only the minor added problem that they'll also kill you.

At the point of death, of course, you begin to lose weight like a champ.

In other words, it's a good thing that Saddam's gone, but was it worth the cost to go to war now? We had so many other things to worry about -- al Qaeda, jobs, etc. -- and, after the tax cuts, very little money in the national coffer. What, then, made Saddam so evil that he had to be disposed of immediately? Asking this question doesn't mean I want Hussein back in power. Asking a formerly obese friend if smoking crack was the right way to lose weight doesn't mean I want him to get fat again.

But, say the true believers, Saddam's a mass murderer.

That's true, of course, but the timing is still suspect. As the keynote essay in Human Rights Watch's World Report 2004: Human Rights and Armed Conflict makes clear, humanitarian intervention is only an excuse when you're actually intervening. Showing up 16 years too late does no one any good.

Because the Iraq war was not mainly about saving the Iraqi people from mass slaughter, and because no such slaughter was then ongoing or imminent, Human Rights Watch at the time took no position for or against the war. A humanitarian rationale was occasionally offered for the war, but it was so plainly subsidiary to other reasons that we felt no need to address it. Indeed, if Saddam Hussein had been overthrown and the issue of weapons of mass destruction reliably dealt with, there clearly would have been no war, even if the successor government were just as repressive. Some argued that Human Rights Watch should support a war launched on other grounds if it would arguably lead to significant human rights improvements. But the substantial risk that wars guided by non-humanitarian goals will endanger human rights keeps us from adopting that position.

Over time, the principal justifications originally given for the Iraq war lost much of their force. More than seven months after the declared end of major hostilities, weapons of mass destruction have not been found. No significant prewar link between Saddam Hussein and international terrorism has been discovered. The difficulty of establishing stable institutions in Iraq is making the country an increasingly unlikely staging ground for promoting democracy in the Middle East. As time elapses, the Bush administration?s dominant remaining justification for the war is that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who deserved to be overthrown?an argument of humanitarian intervention. The administration is now citing this rationale not simply as a side benefit of the war but also as a prime justification for it. Other reasons are still regularly mentioned, but the humanitarian one has gained prominence.

Does that claim hold up to scrutiny? The question is not simply whether Saddam Hussein was a ruthless leader; he most certainly was. Rather, the question is whether the conditions were present that would justify humanitarian intervention?conditions that look at more than the level of repression. If so, honesty would require conceding as much, despite the war?s global unpopularity. If not, it is important to say so as well, since allowing the arguments of humanitarian intervention to serve as a pretext for war fought mainly on other grounds risks tainting a principle whose viability might be essential to save countless lives.

The essay goes on to say that, if we'd wanted to, we could have intervened and saved thousands of lives in Iraq, but that was back in the late 1980s and early 90s.

If you doubt that this is an accurate portrayal of events or that humanitarian reasoning for the war was secondary, I challenge you to find an instance where Bush said that Saddam Hussein must start treating his people better to prevent war. He never did. There were numerous instances of he-must-disarm speech, but I don't think you'll find one where he added that Hussein also had to start paying closer attention to human rights.

The point of the war, which is obvious to anyone who paid attention, was to make America safer. Saddam, the Bush administration said on many occasions, had weapons of mass destruction on hand and, being crazy, might use them against us. There are two answers to the question of whether he had them or not: he did or he didn't. It seems right now that the latter is true, as David Kay has reported. Robert Kaplan summarized much of the Kay report this way in Slate:

Iraq's weapons and facilities, (Kay) says, had been destroyed in three phases: by allied bombardment in the 1991 Gulf War; by U.N. inspectors in the half-decade after that war; and by President Clinton's 1998 bombing campaign...Kay adds that Saddam tried to resuscitate some of these programs, but?due to sanctions, fear of inspections, and lack of resources?he was not able to do so.

The weapons were gone before the shooting started. We were safe all along.

Unless, the former of the two previous choices was true and Saddam had WMD. The question remains, though, did the war make us safer? Hell no.

The inspections were working, Kay suggested in his October report. Saddam was kept in a box. But what if he did have weapons and, by attacking when we did, we scattered them like a child kicking dandelions? Kay himself skirted this issue Sunday on NPR:

Because of the breakdown of social and political order at the end of the war -- and rioting and looting continued unchecked for at least two months -- we're going to be left with ambiguity as to what we found. My summary view, based on what I've seen, is that we are unlikely to find stockpiles -- large stockpiles -- of weapons. I don't think they exist.

Or maybe he meant he hopes they don't exist.

The upshot is this: We are not safer today because of the Iraq war and neither are Iraqis. We are either just as safe as ever and our soldiers died for nothing (if there were no WMD) or we are in a much worse situation (if the alleged weapons have been scattered to the four winds). The war was fought at the wrong time and at too high a cost. Those who refuse to face the facts and, instead, turn to alternate reasons for our attacks are showing that they are unable to face hard facts and should not be trusted.
A Note to Wes

General Clark, I mentioned this about eight months ago, but I think it's time to bring up this idea again. The next time someone gets mad that you didn't wash your hands of Michael Moore for saying that President Bush was a "deserter," I suggest you say something like the following:

Well, you know [Wolf, Cokie, Judy, etc.], the President has made this issue worse by refusing to release a full copy of his military personnel file. In order to clear this up, I've decided that I'll ask the Army's record depository to release a full copy of my records directly to the media and would ask that the President do the same. That seems the fairest way to clear up this mess.

First, this would put Bush on the defensive on this issue. Second, you, General, would get press coverage like you wouldn't believe.

Now's the time to take the offensive.
Bush's economic plan

So far, it consists of selling ribs to Reuters.

If you've ever eaten the meat platter at The Constitution pub in London, you know that the Brits love red meat, but I don't see how their reporters' eating habits will be able to save our entire country's economy.

Then again, I'm not an economist...

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Beyond Iowa

I was going to post about the campaign and my impressions of where Clark and the others are at this point. But the fact is, I have to be on a plane in a few hours and sleep is more important at this juncture. I always promise myself that I won't be staying up all night doing laundry and packing the night before a trip but here I am once again.

However, since New Hampshire will be a done deal by the time I get back from my trip (and to blogging -1/31), I'll post on one interaction this week that demonstrates it's time for the Clark campaign to get out the bugle and sound reveille.

Minor missteps as of late include Clark's inability to me more assertive in correcting the misrepresentation on his position in Iraq -to put the issue to bed.

In a brief interview with Tom Brokaw the other night (which caused me great disappointment in Mr. Brokaw), the correspondent asked Wes Clark about his change in position on the Iraqi invasion when in the Fall, he had praised Bush and his team. Clark responded "Watch it, watch it ?" Those familiar with this repetitive attack knew that the general was once again intimating that they were misrepresenting his position and that the praise had been for the invasion of Afghanistan, not Iraq. For those who weren't familiar it wasn't clarified well at all.

This is too late in the campaign for this to be such easy media fodder. He might have responded, "I don't know Tom, does your wife know about the woman in Zonkers - oh, that's not true?" Okay, maybe not. However, he could have said, "I'll tell you what Tom, you read the transcript of my testimony in the senate hearing on U.S. policy in Iraq in September of 2002 and tell me exactly where my stated position differs from what it is today and then we'll talk. Until then, I'd greatly appreciate it if you wouldn't misrepresent my position."

I sincerely hope the general gets back to being himself and demonstrating his breadth of experience, yes in the context of the military, but not just the 'military man'; there's so much more there.

I promise a longer, more insightful post upon my return.

I'll also post on why John Kerry's campaign won't shouldn't fly. Here's a man that has spent twenty years in the senate, more in politics, demonstrating little or no initiative for party leadership and he now wants to be put in the Whitehouse. Can anyone name any truly significant piece of legislation he has authored? He's says we need someone who can stand up to Bush, and says Ashcroft needs to go. Yet, he voted for the Patriot Act and the Iraqi Invasion. I know, it wasn't his fault. The Patriot Act is a damn fine one, it just isn't being executed properly. Iraq, he was decieved - were you? Was he not around when Colin Powell basically said Saddam was impotent, that the sanctions and inspections had worked? He touts his foreign policy expertise, yet he was so easily deceived? A few things to think about; work up a lather. See you on the 31st.

Friday, January 23, 2004

The Unelected, Debates ... Well, The Unelectable

If you haven't seen Jon Stewart's Bush v. Bush debate, see it now.

Joan of Arches

Joan Kroc, heiress of Mickey D's donates $1.5 Billion to Salvation Army through the McDonald's Corporation estate.
Half of the donated money is to go toward construction of 30 to 35 new centers, which would provide recreational and educational facilities to the public, according to the paper. The other half is supposed to go into an endowment, from which the interest will be used to help offset operating costs, it said.
It's encouraging to see that wealth is still sometimes used for selfless good. I mean she could have just donated MS software-laden computers hamburgers to school libraries lunch programs.

Another Gentle Giant of Children's TV ...gone.

Goodnight Captain, my Captain.


It's in the hands of FedEx now. May I say, I don't particularly care for the typical government bid process. You hate to put too much time into a detailed bid when the predominant award basis is bid price. It's, of course, a game of weighing reasonable profit for effort on what the other nationwide vendors might submit. If you don't get the bid, you agonize over what you could have trimmed from the budget. On the other hand, if you get the bid, you think ... I should have left well enough alone and not gone back through for that last downward adjustment. Well, wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Light blogging next few days -have to finish a RFP bid.


The pundits will posit, the Deanics will demonize and rationalize but, in the end, the Iowa voters ignored the polls and spoke.

Monday, January 19, 2004

One Person's Dream, Is Another's Nightmare

My dream, Karl Rove's nightmare

Still Approaching Spiritual Death

Many comparisons have been made between Vietnam and Iraq. The situation in our country today, seems fulfilment of the promise in this prescient quote of Dr. King's, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on Military Defense than on programs of social uplift is "approaching spiritual Death".

In the '60s, I was, for the most part blissfully ignorant of racial prejudice and injustice and only marginally aware of the civil rights movement. I was a white kid living in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota and took a bus to my Catholic grade school in another suburb, Robbinsdale.

My best school chum, Agnes, was black and she also took the bus from her home in another suburb, Brooklyn Center. I suppose at some level, I was cognizant that we were of different races but I guess I attributed the fact that she was my only black friend to a paucity of black people (which was true in our suburban neighborhoods and our parochial school).

We were just kids and neither of us were particularly precocious or even mildly interested in the politics of the day, though I recall her parents were always attending civil rights meetings and rallies. I have a vague memory of hearing about the race riots in Minneapolis and the "burning" of Plymouth Avenue though I can't tell you if it was the summer following Dr. King's assassination in '68 or if it had been in '69.

It all seemed so distant to a kid without a driver's license, who never went to the city. In '69, along with my friend Aggie, I joined the group Up with People. It was only then I came to realize that Minneapolis had a very large minority population, to which I had just never been exposed.

However, it wasn't until as an adult, raising my own children within the city, in the public school system, and chauffeuring them to basketball games at the various inner city high schools, that I realized how physically close these socially-isolated places had been.

Agnes and I went to different parochial high schools and drifted apart. My children grew up with much more diversity and are richer for the experience. We moved to Idaho when our youngest was a high school freshmen and the middle child a junior. They were amazed and appalled at the intolerance they witnessed in their new high school. My daughter had the courage to speak out on her basketball team; I was one proud parent.

Reverend King said, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people." His widow, Coretta Scott King, stated "I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice" (1998, according to Reuters news service). "But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people." In honor of Dr. King, pledge to never be silent.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

When an Endorsement Isn't an Endorsement … It's Just a Photo Op -Will Iowans Bite?
"Anybody here from Iowa?" President Carter inquired. Spotting two near the rear of the sanctuary, he asked: "You going to be home tomorrow night?"

It was a poignant reminder of Dr. Dean's unusual choice to spend the final day before Iowa's caucuses 1,000 miles away in a town of 716 people who will not have their say in the Democratic nomination process until Georgia's primary on March 2.

Dr. Dean said last week that he was skipping 20 of the last 48 hours in the Iowa campaign because "when the former president of the United States asks you to go to church with him on the Sunday before caucuses, I think you probably take that up." But Mr. Carter said today that the visit had actually been Dr. Dean's idea and that he hoped all the Democratic candidates would make the pilgrimage to Plains "to kind of heal wounds and show that we can all worship together."

"I didn't invite him," the former president, wearing a bolo tie, told reporters and parishioners as he entered the church this morning. "He called me on the phone and said he'd like to come worship with me."

It was a coincidence, Mr. Carter said, that he was teaching from Job, which Dr. Dean has cited as his favorite Bible book.

"After I won in Iowa, I realized what Job was talking about," President Carter said. "It seemed like everybody descended on me with all kinds of abuse and accusations. And I felt like I was innocent, too."

After church, Dr. Dean stood with President Carter on the Main Street of Plains, where faded American flags flap in front of the red, green and beige brick facades of antique and memorabilia shops. As promised, Mr. Carter did not offer an endorsement, but did refer to him as a friend and "fellow Christian," praising his "courageous and outspoken posture." The two men shook hands, but did not raise them in the traditional politicians' pose.

Good Cop, Bad Cop .. Will It Work in '04?

From Cheney playing 'Dr. Doom' to president's Dr. Feelgood
When President Bush was telling the nation on Wednesday of his dreams for voyages to Mars and beyond, Vice President Dick Cheney brought a well-heeled crowd here painfully back to earth, telling them terrorists might well kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in the near future.

It was a jarring, but probably calculated contrast.
The president and his often dour running mate are known for their sharply differing personalities; with his paper-dry wit and droning delivery, Cheney has occasionally been called Dr. Doom.

But the juxtaposition of the two speeches this week -- one a visionary flight intended to inspire, the other a jeremiad laced with a sense of menace -- also seemed to reflect an unofficial launch of the president's re-election strategy.

Bush appears to be working hard to take the high road, speaking of dreams and triumphs and values, saying that the world is now a safer place. White House officials have hinted over the past week that the president's State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday, will focus on a positive agenda for the future, with the emphasis on initiatives like an effort to promote traditional marriages.

But the Republican Party's traditional strength, at least since the Vietnam War, has been defense and national security. Cheney appears likely to have inherited the job of emphasizing that point in the campaign, while stressing how great the need is for a muscular military posture to confront an unrelenting enemy bent on America's destruction.
So, the unelectable one thinks he'll be able to leave Iraq and his military record behind him in this election?

Star Wars All Over Again
President Bush's plan to expand the exploration of space parallels U.S. efforts to control the heavens for military, economic and strategic gain.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld long has pushed for technology that could be used to attack or defend orbiting satellites as well as a costly program, heavily reliant on space-based sensors, to thwart incoming warheads.

The moon, scientists have said, is a source of potentially unlimited energy in the form of the helium 3 isotope -- a near perfect fuel source: potent, nonpolluting and causing virtually no radioactive byproduct in a fusion reactor.

"And if we could get a monopoly on that, we wouldn't have to worry about the Saudis and we could basically tell everybody what the price of energy was going to be," said Pike.
Who's got the memo on interested parties for the helium fields?

Saturday, January 17, 2004

One Giant Step …Hubble's Light Allowed to Go Out
The Hubble Space Telescope will be allowed to degrade and eventually become useless, as NASA changes focus to President Bush's plans to send humans to the moon, Mars and beyond, officials said.

NASA canceled all space shuttle servicing missions to the Hubble, which has revolutionized the study of astronomy with its striking images of the universe.
Why continue with or improve upon a revolutionary tract when you can eliminate great science and propose a visionary boondoggle in an effort to garner votes.

China Confirms Two More SARS Cases; WHO reserves judgment
China confirmed two more cases of SARS on Saturday, the country’s most hectic travel weekend before the start of the Lunar New Year. The World Health Organization urged further testing to ensure the diagnosis was correct.

The government of the southern province Guangdong, where the disease emerged last year, said in a statement that SARS experts confirmed the two new diagnoses.

“They concluded that the clinical symptoms and results of laboratory tests and X-ray tests were in line with a diagnosis standard recommended by the Health Ministry for SARS,” the statement said.

But Roy Wadia, a WHO spokesman in Beijing, said the agency thought the confirmations were premature.

In the case of the businessman, blood samples were taken from him three days apart instead of at least seven — a timeframe that would be long enough to measure a significant rise in antibodies for any disease, Wadia said.

“At this time it’s difficult to tell what their antibodies are responding to. It could be the SARS coronavirus or a type of common cold virus,” he said. “We encourage a little more testing to be done to be 100 percent sure of the outcome.”

Saturday’s announcement came during China’s busiest travel season, when millions crisscross the country in planes, trains and buses to return to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year, the country’s biggest holiday, which starts Jan. 22.

A spokesman for the Health Ministry urged continued diligence in preventative work by health authorities at all levels, especially during this period.

“No effort should be spared in guarding against the spread of the disease,” the spokesman said in a statement. “We mustn’t be caught off guard or relax our vigilance.”

The first case of severe acute respiratory syndrome came to light in November 2002; the disease killed 774 people and sickened more than 8,000 globally before subsiding in June.
What a difference a year makes. China was hard-pressed to acknowledge the first SARS cases and now, the WHO is cautioning the Chinese government about premature admissions -even during a heavy travel season. This evolution is encouraging.

500 and Counting
Guerrillas killed three U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi officials on Saturday, taking the death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq to 500 since the war to oust Saddam Hussein began last March.
The roadside bomb north of Baghdad appeared to be one of the most powerful used against U.S. occupation forces to date -- killing the five inside a Bradley armored vehicle, which resembles a small tank.

After meeting Bush for talks on Friday, the U.S. governor of Iraq, Paul Bremer, said Washington was willing to adjust plans for handing over power to appease Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, but was unlikely to meet his key demand for elections this year.

Bremer also stressed the June 30 deadline for transferring power to an Iraqi government would not be extended. Coalition troops are, however, scheduled to stay under bilateral agreements with the new government.
Well, at least the 'rate' of attacks are down, if not the strength or sophistication. The deadline for power transfer, which is already dangerously too close to a certain election, obviously, cannot be extended.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Well, the comments haven't been lost - we'll work on getting the "bring 'em on" back.
Haloscan is incorporating former Blogspeak Blogs' comments; let's see if I appropriately cut and paste.
Nitpicker recommends

If you haven't been checking out Suburban Guerilla on a daily basis, you've been missing something (and I don't just mean the strangely titillating photo of girls with guns in knee-high socks that serves as a logo). You must read today's excellent post on the opposition to gay marriage. It's insightful, sweet and contains a spit-take worthy Bucky Fuller reference.
Jonah Goldberg makes it all better says Bush is stupid

Jesse has already taken Jonah Goldberg apart for this already, but I thought this bullshit should be addressed from another angle: Let's say Jonah's right.

Sen. Ted Kennedy gave another one of his angry speeches this week. With all the gravitas he could muster, he recycled his standard complaint: that the Iraq war was never really about WMDs or the war on terror. It was a "political product" from "Day 1" of the president's administration.

This echoes Kennedy's earlier diatribes, like last fall when he said, "Before the war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie."

Personally, I think Kennedy's an embarrassment to his party. But that doesn't change the fact that he's taken seriously or that he speaks for a large constituency. So let's try to deal with the "Kennedy School's" view of the Iraq war.

First let me admit that I think the failure to find significant evidence of weapons of mass destruction easily constitutes one of the greatest intelligence blunders since Pearl Harbor. There's still a chance we'll find something. But if we do, it will probably be too little, too late to change this basic assessment...

But hold on. To argue that this was a huge intelligence blunder is to largely let George Bush off the hook for the even-more-popular Bush critique: that he lied to the American people about Iraq.

For Bush to have lied, he had to have known that there were no WMDs, right? It's not a lie unless you know the truth. If you say something you think is true that later turns out to be false, we don't call that a "lie," we call that a "mistake."

Again, Jesse has already pointed out that speaking about something as if its true and omitting caveats is a form of lie in an of itself, so I won't get into that here.

But, if we say that Goldie's right here then, at best, Bush made a "mistake" that has led to the loss of nearly 500 American lives, thousands of Iraqi civilian lives, the stretching of our military to the breaking point and the explosion of our national deficit. Why would Americans want to re-elect a man who would make such a "mistake"?

CBS Reinforces Censorship of Programming Deemed Unfavorable to Republicans
From the network that cancelled The Smothers Brothers [we're aging ourselves here, aren't we] and refused to air The Reagans, we get this:
The network, over the years, has rejected dozens of advertising proposals by advocacy groups, who argue that the network only airs controversial messages that it agrees with.

Liberal group Moveon.org, known for its Internet funding power, told members this week that it hoped to have the first political Super Bowl ad.

But its hopes were dashed when CBS said the spot, which asks "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?" was an issue piece and could not run.

In a letter, CBS told PETA that it would not run advertisements on "controversial issues of public importance." …
CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said the policy had been in place for years. "We have a policy against accepting advocacy advertising," he added. CBS, a unit of Viacom Inc., does run political advertising for and against candidates.

CBS came under criticism in November when it decided not to run a two-part made-for-television movie, "The Reagans," after conservatives complained that it was unflattering to former president Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy.

PETA spokeswoman Lange said that CBS's broadcast of anti-smoking advertisements and even hamburger chain spots were controversial, advocacy pieces, as well.

"In essence, CBS is saying we will air an advocacy ad if we agree with the viewpoint," she said.
I'd say ban CBS, but it's programming is so pitiable you're probably not watching now. So, ban …Budweiser -hmmm. Okay, if you planned on watching, don't. If you like awful beer, buy another brand. But, let me get this straight. Anheuser-Busch can advertise because CBS advocates drinking but Moveon.org or Peta cannot because they don't advocate the dissemination of information or the ethical treatment of animals?

Pinky and The Brain - the Balancing of a Republican Ticket

Public Nuisance has an interesting observation about this uniquely Republican tradition.

By contrast, the GOP has developed a remarkable tradition. Every Republican ticket for 30+ years seems to have been designed to follow an unstated law of ticket balancing. The names change, and the positions change, but the balance remains the same. Since the basic purpose of an American electoral ticket is to take over the world, we can call it the "Pinky and The Brain Law".

YearPinkyThe Brain
2000 - 2004BushCheney
1988 - 1992QuayleBush
1980 - 1984ReaganBush
1968 - 1972AgnewNixon
This is strictly a GOP law - it's hard to name a single clear example of a "Pinky" from any Democratic ticket in those years. There were catastrophic choices such as Eagleton and Ferraro, but they were bad picks for other reasons. I suspect the fact that the intelligentsia has for some time now been one of the party's base groups makes it extremely unlikely that any Bush II or Quayle analogue could be nominated on our side. Which makes me wonder, given the overt or covert but quite frequent GOP appeals to anti-intellectualism in this period, whether the Pinky and the Brain Law isn't a subtle appeal of sorts by the GOP to a core constituency of their own.
No argument here

Thursday, January 15, 2004

A day of Protests

First, the uninvited, unelectable one, gets a less than warm welcome as he panders for the black vote at Reverand King's crypt.
As Bush placed a wreath on King's crypt, a low chorus of boos could be heard from across the street where 700 to 800 protesters beat drums and waved signs bearing slogans such as "War is not the answer" and "It's not a photo-op, George."

Bush's four-stop swing through Georgia and Louisiana allowed him to court two important constituencies — religious conservatives, who make up his base of support, and black voters, only 9 percent of whom supported him in 2000. Events in both states were paired with fund-raisers, which raised $2.3 million for his campaign account, already brimming with more than $130 million.

In this year's presidential race, Bush probably will garner only slighly more of the black vote, predicts David Bositis, a political analyst in Washington who focuses on black issues.

"Nine percent is the lowest for a Republican candidate since Barry Goldwater, he said. "When you get a zero on a test and you take it a second time, the odds are that you're going to do a little better."

Back in Washington, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said not one policy decision made by the Bush administration — from the war in Iraq to the economy, from education to the environment — has mirrored King's dream. "The president needs to be more embracing of elected African American officials and the entire African American community every day of the year, not just on January 15th," he said.
I'm thinkin' Georgie will buck those 'test' odds and not improve his 'score'.

While in Basra, an estimated 30,000 Shiite protesters took to the streets to voice their opposition to US-directed regional elections in Iraq.
The protest came Thursday as an aide to Iraq's foremost Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, warned that he might issue a fatwa, or religious edict, rejecting a U.S.-backed government if his demands for direct elections are ignored.

The turnout in Basra, estimated by British soldiers at up to 30,000, was the biggest protest organized by Shiite clerics against the power transfer plan.

The United States wants regional caucuses to choose a new parliament, which will then select an Iraqi administration. It says security is too poor and voter records too incomplete for fair elections.

The clerics want direct elections, fearing the caucuses may be rigged to keep Shiites out of power.
Are we having fun yet? Can you say fatwa?
I was going to post on the continuing misrepresentation of General Clark's comments on Iraq but I found that a new blog Campaign Desk, an offering of the Columbia Journalism school, had already done so. This blog is designed to provide a Critique and Analysis of 2004 Campaign Coverage. If their first outing (in which they take on Drudge, Slate, Salon, AP reporters and ABC News) is any indication, this is a site to be bookmarked and/or blogrolled -check it out.
A few assurances are in order: The Desk will be politically nonpartisan. While it will call attention to journalistic sins, both of omission and commission, it will by no means be exclusively a finger-wagging operation. It will have a lively, engaged tone, not a grim, censorious one. One of the Desk's important functions will be to praise work of high quality, and one of its most useful aspects will be its ability to bring distinguished work in the local press to national attention, instantly and (through links) in full.
Tom's in typical form as he reports on the Whitehouse plan to spend $1.5 billion to promote the institution of marriage. The first step is to encourage Neil Bush and Britney Spears to act as marital role models and marry each other.
"The real question," leaked Dick Cheney, "is whether $1.5 billion is enough, given the current deficit, to spend on marriage. Hell, I know lots of guys who spent way more than that getting divorces."

New Domestic Terror Group Identified: Al-gebra

via TalkLeft
At New York's Kennedy airport today, an individual later discovered to be a public school teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, protractor, setsquare, sliderule, and calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney general John Ashcroft said he believes the man is a member of the notorious al-gebra movement. He is being charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a fearsome cult," Ashcroft said. "They desire average solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret code names like "x" and "y" and refer to themselves as "unknowns", but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country."

"As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, there are 3 sides to every triangle," Ashcroft declared. When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes."

"I am gratified that our government has given us a sine that it is intent on protracting us from these math-dogs who are willing to disintegrate us with calculus disregard. Murky statisticians love to inflict plane on every sphere of influence," the President said, adding: "Under the circumferences, we must differentiate their root, make our point, and draw the line."

President Bush warned, "These weapons of math instruction have the potential to decimal everything in their math on a scalene never before seen unless we become exponents of a Higher Power and begin to factor-in random facts of vertex."

Attorney General Ashcroft said, "As our Great Leader would say, read my ellipse. Here is one principle he is uncertainty of: though they continue to multiply, their days are numbered as the hypotenuse tightens around their necks."

10 Most Endangered Parks
A conservation group's annual list of the 10 "most endangered" national parks has six holdovers from last year, still considered victims of dirty air, inadequate funding and bad policy.

The National Parks Conservation Association again named Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas as well as five national parks: Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee; Joshua Tree in California; Shenandoah in Virginia; Everglades in Florida; and Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

The group said air pollution threatens many of the parks. In addition, it said there are problems with private land sales and potential oil and gas drilling in Big Thicket; development along park borders in Joshua Tree; non-native species damage in Shenandoah; management and funding questions in the Everglades; and lack of money and bison slaughters in Yellowstone.
This, of course, isn't really a problem though. The Bush Administration can just create a plan where these parks swap dirty air credits with other parks that don't have the pollution problems.

Ready, Set, Go
All systems were "go" on Wednesday for the U.S. robotic rover to take its first drive on the surface of Mars and conduct an experiment with a European space probe circling the planet, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.

The rover Spirit is set to roll off the lander at about midnight PST on Wednesday night (3 a.m. EST) in a 9.8 ft jaunt that should take 78 seconds.

When it reaches the ground, Spirit will pause to point its mini-thermal emission spectrometer (mini-TES) up at the sky at the same time the European orbiter Mars Express snaps the same type of images from about 186 miles overhead.

The simultaneous images of the martian atmosphere from opposite vantage points will provide scientists with data of unprecedented detail about the composition of the Martian atmosphere, deputy project scientist Albert Haldemann said.

"We're doing something else historic tonight. For the first time we're going to look up while someone else is looking down," Haldemann said. "That is of great value to us."

When Spirit leaves the lander, it will encounter a 3.9 inch drop at the end of the ramp to the planet's surface -- a distance that is well within the rover's capabilities, Kevin Burke, egress mechanical lead, said.

"We're sitting exactly where we want to be. We're ready to get on with things," Burke said.

The Spirit team "woke up" the rover at 8:45 a.m. Mars time (about 8 p.m. PST) for the past two days with theme songs aimed at positioning it for egress: "Turn, Turn, Turn" by The Birds, "You Spin Me Round," by Dead or Alive, and "Round and Round" by Ratt, Trosper said.

Onboard cameras showed that Spirit successfully completed a 115-degree rotation atop the lander and is poised to drive down a rear ramp toward a crater 820 ft to the northeast.

The rover first will stop in place for two to three days to test soil and rocks at its egress point and to do "clean-up" operations associated with the shift to a mobile science mission, Trosper said.
Somehow, after traveling around 64 million miles, bouncing and rolling to a landing with nothing but a bunch of airbags to absorb the impact, a 3.9-inch drop and 115-degree rotation seem, I don’t know, anticlimactic.

Teddy Awakes; Discovers Bush Waged Unecessary War in Iraq
Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy said Bush had capitalized on fear from the September 11 attacks to put a "spin on the truth to justify a war that could well become one of the worst blunders in more than two centuries of American foreign policy."

Plucky New Zealander Does Crocodile Dundee Impression
A 90-year old New Zealand man grabbed a carving knife from his kitchen and chased away a masked intruder who had threatened his wife with a butter knife.

Saulbrey, who failed to hear the hapless intruder's demand for money because he was not wearing his hearing aid, then beat the burglar in a search for a more threatening weapon.

"Once I got the carving knife I said: 'Now you bastard, you're for it.' With that he threw his knife at me and took off out the door," Saulbrey told the newspaper.

"I was that bloody wild I would have stuck (the knife) in his Adam's apple," he said.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Was going to post this last week, but I forgot...
Unwanted memories can be driven from awareness, according to a team of researchers who say they have identified a brain circuit that springs into action when people deliberately try to forget something.
I don't know about you, but these days I don't expend much energy 'driving' memories from my awareness -they appear to leave of their own volition.
The findings, published today in the journal Science, strengthen the theory that painful memories can be repressed by burying them in the subconscious, the researchers say.

In the study, people who had memorized a pair of words were later shown one of them and asked to either recall the second word or to consciously avoid thinking about it.

Brain images showed that the hippocampus, an area of the brain that usually lights up when people retrieve memories, was relatively quiet when subjects tried to suppress the words they had learned. But at the same time, another region associated with motor inhibition, called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, showed increased activity.

Dr. Larry Squire, a professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of California at San Diego, who did not participate in the study, said it was difficult to say exactly what the brain images meant. Still, concluding that the activity in the prefrontal cortex points to a brain circuit that can block memories, particularly emotional ones, he said, might be too narrow an interpretation.

But Dr. David Spiegel, professor of psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said diverting thoughts away from something was the first step to forgetting about it completely. And the study, he added, supported the notion that people could suppress traumatic memories and still regain them later.

"People have to manage vast amounts of information by keeping most of it out of mind, which is true of emotional memories and all others," said Dr. Spiegel, who was not involved with the study. "At any given moment you couldn't remember most of what you know or you'd be overwhelmed. But the memories are there, and you can still recover them down the line."
Ever wonder why these images of our brains are called PET scans? Some neuroscientist's sick joke no doubt. Actually, it stands for 'Positron Emission Tomography'. It's a technique that measures brain activity by the uptake/utilization of a radiolabeled (yes, that nuclear radiation, or nucler if you're unelectable) sugar [energy source]. The good news is that, after November, maybe we'll be able to suppress the memories of the last three years. The bad news is, they won't likely stay suppressed forever. Anyway, neuroscience is the area in which the greatest gains are likely to be made in the next decade ...developing story.

How are Kenny and Pete Doing?
Andrew Fastow, chief architect of the off-the-books deals that brought down Enron, pleaded guilty along with his wife Wednesday in a deal that could take prosecutors to the top of the corporate ladder at the scandal-ridden company.
Not as well as they were, but better than they will be, methinks.

U.S. Park Police failed to detect a black trash bag left at the foot of the Washington Monument as part of a security drill on Sept. 11, 2003, Interior Department officials said Tuesday

Well, it's not as though we were on Orange Ernie alert or anything…oh
Undercover inspectors within the Interior Department left the bag at the monument. Instead of raising suspicions, the bag went undetected for at least 15 minutes. At the time, the nation's terror alert level was heightened because of the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The office already had reported extensively on security problems in August 2003. Results from the September 2003 security check were sent in a memo to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who quickly responded by ordering new security measures, department officials said.
Wait… who's the Homeland Security Director again? Guess he must've been busy with duct tape or something.

The Washington Post first reported the security lapse in Tuesday's edition.
Am I in a time warp? What month is this?

Corroboration for O'Neil - Where does that leave Rummy?
President Bush ordered the Pentagon to explore the possibility of a ground invasion of Iraq well before the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, an official told ABCNEWS, confirming the account former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill gives in a book written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind.

The official, who asked not to be identified, was present in the same National Security Council meetings as O'Neill immediately after Bush's inauguration in January and February of 2001.

"The president told his Pentagon officials to explore the military options, including use of ground forces," the official told ABCNEWS. "That went beyond the Clinton administration's halfhearted attempts to overthrow Hussein without force."

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld disputed O'Neill's account today. "I don't know what meetings he could have been in," Rumsfeld told reporters during a Pentagon briefing.
I don't know either Rummy, but it appears he wasn't alone in those meetings.

Still not Gunnin' for the Source
Convicted Washington, D.C.-area sniper John Muhammad awaits the death penalty, and his teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, faces life in prison. But Bull's Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma, Wash., where they picked up the carbine used to kill 16 people across five states in 2002 is still in business - in spite of hundreds of gun-law violations since 1997.

According to documents obtained by The Seattle Times in a freedom-of-information lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), guns traced to Bull's Eye were involved in 52 killings and other crimes from 1997 through 2001. The sniper case finally prodded the ATF to yank the dealer's license of the store's owner. He since has turned the Bull's Eye over to a friend while appealing the case.

More Journalistic Torpor: When Misinformation Goes Unchallenged

While riding around in the car today, I heard Madeleine Brand talking with Ed Gillespie (RNC Chair) on NPR's Day to Day. The topic was, did Gillespie think the Republicans needed to worry about any of the Democratic candidates in the 2004 election? He was gracious [sarcasm] and stated that he thought regardless of who the Democratic nominee was, that they expected it would be a close race. However, the discussion continued as follows:

Gillespie: The Democrats are going to spend an awful lot of money. There are outside groups coming together to defeat the pResident [my deviation]. These 'so-called' 527 groups, moveon.org and America Coming Together and the trial lawyers and AFL-CIO. They're going to spend 500 million dollars next year- half a billion dollars (for emphasis) to defeat the pResident. That money will have an effect, I guarantee you. It won't have enough of an effect to win at the end of the day. But it will have enough of an effect to make things close, I suspect.

Anyone besides me wondering where Ed got that ridiculous $500 million figure? And what about Republican-leaning 527-groups -suppose they might exist? Well, Ms. Brand apparently wasn't curious about those things.

Brand:The pResident has already raised $130 million dollars dwarfing all of the candidates on the other side combined. But why does the pResident need that much money and does that not flout, if not the letter, then the spirit of campaign finance reform?

Oh, you go girl -and Gillespie continues ...

Gillespie: Well, that figure is dwarfed by the number I just made up gave you. Which is $500 million from these outside groups that are designed with the full intent of defeating the pResident with their expenditures. The Democratic nominee is likely to have, along with the Democratic Party, about an equal amount of dollars to combat the pResident in his bid for re-election. So, if anything, we will be outspent between now and November on our side of the aisle.

There's that $500 million again and now, all the 527 groups are specifically designed to defeat Bush - I wonder if they know that's their sole purpose? The Democrats are going to outspend the Republicans? Never mind that this should actually be the case, as we are talking about an incumbent incompetent with no primary rival -is it likely? And what does Ms. Brand have to say?

Brand: Ed Gillespie, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Thank you.

Okay, then. In an article which appeared in the Boston Globe in August it was stated that the success of Democratic-leaning 527 groups may aid Democrats in the election because those groups had raised ~$185 million relative to the $81.6 million raised for their Republican counterparts. The idea being that this money would balance the large discrepancy in 'hard' money raised by Republicans, who have greater access to large numbers of wealthy individual donors, relative to Democrats. Go here for a breakdown of major 527 groups. My personal favorite is Republicans for Clean Air [almost choked on my water on that one]. It's a pro-Bush group that spent money on ads trashing John McCain's environmental record. If you care to give Ms. Brand your thoughts on her interview techniques, you can e-mail her at daytoday@npr.org.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Yep, removing the code resolved the blog 'loading' issue. I'll be leaving the comments off for now and see what's happening with blogspeak - switch to haloscan or another source if necessary. Long day - regular bloggin' will resume tomorrow.
Aha! Evidently blogspeak is down for an indeterminant amount of time and my loading problems may be related to javascript errors in the failed effort to find blogspeak - so no comments for awhile.
Bad tech weekend. First my connection died, no explanation from the cable company, no eta for service return. Finally Monday, I had my internet and e-mail back but couldn't get any blopspot blogs to load. Now, I can get them all to load, although Nitpicker loads very slowly and ... the comments have disappeared. Since the template appears to be intact, I'm going to post this and publish the blog to see if that resolves the issue - wish me luck.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Cheney flip-flops

In 2000:

The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. We don't get to choose, and shouldn't be able to choose and say, "You get to live free, but you don't." And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.

The next step, then, of course, is the question you ask of whether or not there ought to be some kind of official sanction, if you will, of the relationship, or if these relationships should be treated the same way a conventional marriage is. That's a tougher problem. That's not a slam dunk.

I think the fact of the matter, of course, is that matter is regulated by the states. I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.

I try to be open-minded about it as much as I can, and tolerant of those relationships. And like Joe, I also wrestle with the extent to which there ought to be legal sanction of those relationships. I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into.


"What I said in 2000 was that the question of whether or not some sort of status, legal status or sanction, ought to be granted in the case of a relationship between two individuals of the same sex was historically a matter the states had decided and resolved, and that is the way I preferred it," Cheney said.

But "at this stage, obviously, the president is going to have to make a decision in terms of what administration policy is on this particular provision, and I will support whatever decision he makes," Cheney said.

Shorter Dick Cheney: This is a topic on which I will say whatever it takes to get re-elected.
Your religion is in my politics! Your politics are in my religion!

I found this over at Crooked Timber and I'm seething.

Some lawmakers Friday came to the support of colleagues targeted with a Communion ban by La Crosse Bishop Raymond Burke for their positions on abortion and euthanasia.

"Dictating public policy for people of all faiths by holding sacraments hostage from those who believe does not sound right," said Senate Minority Leader Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, who was raised Catholic but is no longer practicing.

"What's the difference between a newspaper columnist or a talk show host who's a Catholic and goes on to write a column not to the liking of the church?" Erpenbach asked. "Is that person going to be denied Communion, too?"

In a decree made public Thursday, Burke ordered priests in the La Crosse Diocese to withhold the sacraments from Catholic legislators who support abortion or euthanasia.

Now CT blogger Harry Brighouse thinks this is "pretty amusing" and it's perfectly fine. It's not. It's despicable. There are numerous political policies on either side of the aisle which are in direct opposition to church stances (see the Church’s take on the death penalty, the war in Iraq, etc.). It’s not that the Bishop doesn’t have the right to deny communion, but that he’s really making a political statement here, not a religious one. There is no reason that you cannot see abortion as despicable, but still believe that making it illegal would, in the long run, cause more anguish than it would prevent.

One of the reasons that I’ve always admired the Catholic Church is that, despite it’s dictatorial appearance, it’s always been made up of people who disagree about all but the most fundamental aspects of faith and have spent 2000 years arguing about what the Bible really means.

Consider, for example, the different holy orders. If the church was truly monolithic, there wouldn’t be more than one order of priests or nuns. However, the numerous holy orders are basically made up of those who believe that they are following the correct path of service. If you don’t believe me, you should meet my former priest who loves nothing more than to trash on the ancient Aidan-inspired Irish Catholics and those “pinheaded” Jesuits.

Being “pro-life” is not, exactly, a tenet of the faith, but rather a policy stance. The tenets, the things I have to believe in order to be a Catholic (and I am), are included in the Nicene Creed.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. God of God, light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Catechism, on the other hand, is a document which is changing and is about how the Church views the faith now.

Would it have been right, in other words, for the Pope to have denied communion to those who refused to blame Jews for the death of Christ before Vatican II softened the Church’s stance on the subject? This is a perfect example of how those of faith should oppose the mixing of politics and religion.

(Most of this post showed up in the comments over at Crooked Timber, too.)
O'Reilly flip-flops

It's funny how things change...

Here's, here's the bottom line on this for every American and everybody in the world, nobody knows for sure, all right? We don't know what he has. We think he has 8,500 liters of anthrax. But let's see. But there's a doubt on both sides. And I said on my program, if, if the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush Administration again, all right? But I'm giving my government the benefit of the doubt. - Bill O'Reilly, March 18, 2003

If (Saddam) doesn't have any weapons, then we are doing the wrong thing. - Ibid.

If there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, this is very bad news for the country. America loses credibility, people who hate us have more ammunition, there is no question the USA will be damaged in worldwide opinion. - Bill O'Reilly, April 29, 2003

Things might change, but right now it looks like the CIA overestimated the weapons of mass destruction threat in Iraq.

This of course is embarrassing to the U.S. and President Bush should address the issue. If U.S. intelligence made a mistake then let's admit it -- there are too many America-haters making propaganda with the situation and some of them are right here at home.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace -- a left-wing organization -- is accusing the Bush administration of purposely misleading the country. But if you buy that argument you also have to buy that Bill Clinton, Dick Gephardt and Tony Blair were also in on the big con for they saw the same intelligence Mr. Bush did and came to the same conclusion: Saddam was harboring deadly weapons and could easily distribute them to terrorists.

So the lie theory is bull, but the mistake is real and it's a big mistake. The Bush administration should own up...

Americans are a forgiving people and we all make mistakes. We are now living in an age of ideological demagoguery where honest mistakes are turned into lies by ruthless, dishonest individuals. It makes me sick.

But in order to be forgiven the mistake must be acknowledged and so far the President has failed to do that. - Bill O'Reilly, January 9. 2004. (Link via Counterspin)

So much for straight talk.

And, hey, look at the left-wing crazies who work at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which dares to call itself a non-partisan organization.

Robert Kagan specializes in U.S. leadership and foreign policy. Currently based in Brussels, he writes extensively on U.S. strategy and diplomacy in the post–Cold War era, U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy, U.S. relations with Europe, U.S. policy toward China, and military strategy and the defense budget. He also writes on U.S. diplomatic history and the historical traditions that shape U.S. foreign policy today. He is cofounder, with William Kristol, of the Project for a New American Century. Kagan is also a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and the New Republic and a monthly columnist for the Washington Post.

O'Reilly simply has no respect for the truth or his viewers.

You'd Think They Were Actually Related

In a new book,The Perfect wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush, the author, Ann Gerhart, contends that the 22-year old Bush twins have shown little interest in their family's tradition of public service and persist in seeing themselves as victims of daddy's job.

Hmmm…public service -so that's what you call it. They're the victims of the pResident's so-called public service? What about the Iraqi people? Or the American people who had him foisted upon us by the Supreme Court or these guys? If they follow their father's example, don't they have about 18 more years to decide it might be time to grow up? It's the old nature v. nurture argument.

…And Then There Were None

The 150-year old company, Levi Strauss, closed its last two U.S. sewing plants.

We need new leadership that directs policy to support full employment, offer U.S. companies incentives to maintain operations in the U.S. and regard 'U.S.'companies that operate outside our borders as foreign entities.

Change of Venue

Mark Geragos was successful in moving the Scott Peterson trial away from Modesto. Meanwhile George Bush, the unelectable sets his sights on the moon.
Two related pieces (to previous post) you may wish to check out include an editorial by Williams River Pitt at Truthout, entitled Two Loud Words and an article by Bill Berkowitz at TomPaine.com, Media AWOL.

No Patriots at the Carnegie

The Carnegie Endowment criticizes administration's public assessments of Iraq dangers,
At a State Department news conference, Powell disagreed with a private think tank report that maintained Iraq had not been an imminent threat to the United States. And the secretary defended the case he had made last February before the United Nations for a U.S.-led war to force Saddam from power.

Three experts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in a report Thursday that the Bush administration systematically misrepresented a weapons threat from Iraq, and U.S. strategy should be revised to eliminate the policy of unilateral preventive war.

''It is unlikely that Iraq could have destroyed, hidden or sent out of the country the hundreds of tons of chemical and biological weapons, dozens of Scud missiles and facilities engaged in the ongoing production of chemical and biological weapons that officials claimed were present without the United States detecting some sign of this activity,'' said the report by Jessica T. Mathews, Joseph Cirincione and George Perkovich.

Iraq's nuclear program had been dismantled and there was no convincing evidence it was being revived, the report said.

And the U.S.-led war on Iraq in 1991 combined with U.N. sanctions and inspections effectively destroyed Iraq's ability to produce chemical weapons on a large scale, it said.

Years of U.N. inspections to determine whether Saddam was harboring weapons of mass destruction were working well, and the United States should set up jointly with the United Nations a permanent system to guard against the spread of dangerous technology, the report said.

It recommended that consideration be given to making the job of CIA director a career post instead of a political appointment.
Imagine Powell disagreeing with a report that ostensibly says he lied and yet…it would appear we've come full circle.

Powell now admits they have No Hard Proof in Linking Iraq to Al Qaeda.

And in February of 2001, he had this to say:
We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq, and these are policies that we are going to keep in place, but we are always willing to review them to make sure that they are being carried out in a way that does not affect the Iraqi people but does affect the Iraqi regime's ambitions and the ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and we had a good conversation on this issue.
Ah, we note with amusement the 'qualifying' "hard" in his statement regarding Al Qaeda links but what of WMDs? It seems the Carnegie report came to the same conclusion that Powell did in 2001.

But for a Fluke ...

One evening two winters ago, a man in Staten Island, N.Y., absent-mindedly flipped through his mail. Inside one envelope was a stack of fake documents, including United Nations and Defense Department identification cards, and a note: "We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands."
It had. The package, intended for a member of a self-styled militia in New Jersey, had been delivered to the wrong address.

From that lucky break, federal officials believe they may have uncovered one of the most audacious domestic terrorism plots since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. Starting with a single piece of mail, investigators discovered an enormous cache of weapons in Noonday, in East Texas, including the makings of a sophisticated sodium cyanide bomb capable of killing thousands of people.

Three people - William Krar, a small-time arms dealer with connections to white supremacists; Krar's common-law wife, Judith L. Bruey; and Edward S. Feltus, the man who was supposed to have received the forged documents - pleaded guilty in the case in November. They are being held in a Tyler, Texas, detention facility and are scheduled to appear before a federal judge for sentencing next month.

But what is typically the end of a criminal case may be only the beginning in this one. Some government investigators believe other conspirators may be on the loose. And they readily acknowledge that they have no idea what the stash of weapons was for - though they have tantalizing and alarming clues of a "covert operation or plan," according to an FBI affidavit.
The case began to unfold in January 2002, when the package was mistakenly delivered to Staten Island. Investigators traced it to a mailing and business center near Tyler, then to Krar and Bruey, who lived together in Noonday.

With Bruey's permission, they searched a storage facility the couple had rented. The firepower inside shocked law enforcement officers.

Investigators found nearly 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 65 pipe bombs and briefcases that could be detonated by remote control.

Most distressing, they said, was the discovery of 800 grams of almost pure sodium cyanide ? material that can only be acquired legally for specific agricultural or military projects.

The sodium cyanide was found inside an ammunition canister, next to hydrochloric, nitric and acetic acids and formulas for making bombs. If acid were mixed with the sodium cyanide, an analysis showed, it would create a bomb powerful enough to kill everyone inside a 30,000-square-foot facility, investigators said.

Also discovered were anti-Semitic, antiblack and antigovernment books and pamphlets, according to the FBI's affidavit.
Revelations, however, that many questions remain unanswered in the case have made it the target of the new, post-Sept. 11 politics of terrorism.

Critics of the Bush administration say federal officials and the mainstream media are suffering from tunnel vision -that they are so focused on international threats that they have failed to give sufficient attention to threats at home.

At most, the critics say, increased attention to this case could have brought more answers. At the least, they say, if the defendants in this case had been people with foreign backgrounds or Muslims, U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft himself would have announced the arrests and the guilty pleas.

Instead, details of the case were revealed in a half-page press release sent to local media. Officials say the case was at one point included in President Bush's daily security briefings, but it remains virtually unknown outside East Texas - even though, critics point out, it represents an instance in which federal authorities discovered a weapon of mass destruction.
David Neiwert over at Orcinus has been on top of this from the start and is even quoted in this article here:
"If anyone wanted evidence that the 'war on terror' is primarily a political marketing campaign - in which war itself is mostly a device for garnering support - they need look no further than the startling non-response to domestic terrorism by the Bush Administration," one blog, called Orcinus, said recently. The blog, which uses a killer whale as its mascot and targets the nexus of politics, culture and journalism, is written and compiled by David Neiwert, a Seattle resident and former journalist.
And if the envelope had been delivered to the intended recipient? Exactly.

It's Only a Matter of Time

As the crowds increase and more voters are exposed to Wesley Clark, his popularity grows, yet his decreased popularity among women has been cause for some speculation. Calpundit isn't sure of the cause of this gender discrepancy but speculates (tongue in cheek) that maybe the general should get Gert and his new grandson (Wes III) out on the campaign trail. I suggest the gender gap is due, at least in part to their unfamiliarity with the candidate at this point and a misconception that it is generals (rather than politicians) who get us into war. This man is a rarity -a Rhodes-scholar general who when asked about funding for the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts), clearly not a likely anticipated question, responds without hesitation that funding for the arts is extremely important because the arts help define the soul of a country. Come on ladies, get to know the general … here's a link to a previous post where I include several sources of information regarding Clark's remarks, biography, and policy statements including both audio and video of interviews, townhall meetings, congressional testimony etc. In addition, there's a post over at Kidding On The Square that has some other source material (e.g., quotes from other notable persons about Clark).

In time candidates' true colors are exposed, this will always be a good thing for Wes Clark. On the other hand, it would appear that Dr. Dean's true colors are getting quite a bit of exposure this week. First
In a telephone conference call that reporters were invited by mistake to hook into, Dean's campaign staff spoke candidly about strategy surrounding the impending Bradley endorsement.

"Tomorrow, (Tuesday) we're going to start by having Bradley do sort of a subtle thing, if we can, by saying that Dean is a real Democrat, and then follow that up the next day with an in-state person that's probably a little more direct," one unidentified staffer said.

The "in-state" appeared to be a reference to New Hampshire, where Bradley, Al Gore's opponent for the 2000 Democratic presidential nomination, was to appear this morning at a previously unscheduled breakfast.

Another staffer indicated that in a survey of voters Monday by telephone, people expressed concern that "this guy (Dean) is indecisive" and Bradley, a former Hall of Fame player in the National Basketball Association and a three-term senator from New Jersey, could help counter that.

"The Bradley message could be, like, (Dean) knew where he stood on the war, is still a Democrat, takes . . . positions, blah, blah, blah," the staffer said.

The next day, the speaker said, "surrogates" for Dean, both local and national, could "then hit Clark on the flip side of the argument: that he's indecisive, didn't know what party he's with, doesn't know his position on the war," she said.

The strategists ended their conversation when another reporter joined the conference, telling him, "I think you may have the wrong call-in number. This isn't a press call."
Followed by: [via Digby] this
If that's not proof of Clark's newfound No. 2 status in New Hampshire, Howard Dean's campaign produced still more evidence when it authorized volunteers to distribute anti-Clark flyers at a Clark town-hall meeting Wednesday here in Peterborough.

On one side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: PRO-WAR," followed by a list of the general's much-discussed statements in support of the congressional Iraq war resolution. It's the stuff that gave Clark grief when he entered the race in the fall: He advised Rep. Katrina Swett in October 2002 to vote for the resolution, and he told reporters this past September that "on balance, I probably would have voted for it." On the other side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: REAL DEMOCRAT?" followed by Clark's much-discussed statements in praise of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Bush Cabinet, plus evidence of his pro-Republican voting record in presidential elections (until 1992).
And then, this [via the New York Times and Pandagon

This newly unearthed tape is simply the most damaging thing I could imagine for Dean. As you read the article, you keep thinking it can't get worse and then it does. The timing of this is so bad for him that I have to think it's been held and finally fed by one of the campaigns.[Ezra]

Four years ago, Howard Dean denounced the Iowa caucuses as "dominated by special interests," saying on a Canadian television show that they "don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people, they represent the extremes."

Now Dr. Dean regularly tells audiences that the Iowa caucuses represent the essence of American democracy.[Ezra]

In February 1999, he said, "The next great tragedy is going to be Arafat's passing, believe it or not." He said the Israelis had thrown away an opportunity to negotiate with Mr. Arafat.

The excerpts shown on NBC also show Dr. Dean saying in December, 2000, "George Bush is, I believe, in his soul a moderate," and adding about those thinking that Mr. Bush's presidency would be a one-term one, "that is going to be a mistake."

What was that thing about Clark not being a Democrat again? There is enough in these tapes two piss off at least 4 interest groups and to make Dean look like the ultimate in flip-floppers. Certainly, this is the campaign's biggest test thus far.[Ezra]

The tapes were culled from 90 appearances by Dr. Dean, from 1996 to 2002, on "The Editors," a round table of journalists and politicians that is broadcast in Canada and on PBS stations in the United States.

An article about the tapes on the MSNBC Web site includes more excerpts. It shows that in January 1998, Dr. Dean speculated that there would "probably be good and bad" if the Islamic militants of Hamas take over the Palestinian leadership.
So, who's indecisive? A real democrat? Perhaps when Dr. Dean is writing his memoirs in 2005 he can explain how he managed to simultaneously lose the 'unreal' democratic base and fail to bring other progressives to the table.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Toss a Coin
For those of you (e.g., Kos) who are so enamored with polls, Gallup has some news for you. As it turns out, historically, the January frontrunner only wins the nomination 4 out of 10 times-less predictive than a favorable coin toss.

Catchin' Up ... Free Speech in Bush's World

From: Quarantining dissent / How the Secret Service protects Bush from free speech

When President Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up "free speech zones" or "protest zones," where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event.

When Bush went to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, "The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us."

The local police, at the Secret Service's behest, set up a "designated free-speech zone" on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush's speech.

The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, but folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president's path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign.

Neel later commented, "As far as I'm concerned, the whole country is a free-speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind."
That's what we kinda thought too Mr. Neel, but apparently we're all mistaken.

Pennsylvania District Judge Shirley Rowe Trkula threw out the disorderly conduct charge against Neel, declaring, "I believe this is America. Whatever happened to 'I don't agree with you, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it'?"
I guess Judge Shirley is kind of keen on free speech as well. On the whole, the Administration isn't doing so well with judges as of late, perhaps this is a sign of better times to come.

Police have repressed protesters during several Bush visits to the St. Louis area as well. When Bush visited on Jan. 22, 150 people carrying signs were shunted far away from the main action and effectively quarantined.

Denise Lieberman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri commented, "No one could see them from the street. In addition, the media were not allowed to talk to them. The police would not allow any media inside the protest area and wouldn't allow any of the protesters out of the protest zone to talk to the media."

When Bush stopped by a Boeing plant to talk to workers, Christine Mains and her 5-year-old daughter disobeyed orders to move to a small protest area far from the action. Police arrested Mains and took her and her crying daughter away in separate squad cars.
Gotta love that compassionate conservatism don't ya'? Wouldn't you think the media would be disturbed by this? Guess not.

The Justice Department is now prosecuting Brett Bursey, who was arrested for holding a "No War for Oil" sign at a Bush visit to Columbia, S.C. Local police, acting under Secret Service orders, established a "free-speech zone" half a mile from where Bush would speak. Bursey was standing amid hundreds of people carrying signs praising the president. Police told Bursey to remove himself to the "free-speech zone."

Bursey refused and was arrested. Bursey said that he asked the police officer if "it was the content of my sign, and he said, 'Yes, sir, it's the content of your sign that's the problem.' " Bursey stated that he had already moved 200 yards from where Bush was supposed to speak. Bursey later complained, "The problem was, the restricted area kept moving. It was wherever I happened to be standing."

Bursey was charged with trespassing. Five months later, the charge was dropped because South Carolina law prohibits arresting people for trespassing on public property. But the Justice Department -- in the person of U.S. Attorney Strom Thurmond Jr. -- quickly jumped in, charging Bursey with violating a rarely enforced federal law regarding "entering a restricted area around the president of the United States."
The bastard! Oops, I guess, technically, that would be Strom's daughter. Freedom, liberty and justice for all, eh Strom?

The feds have offered some bizarre rationales for hog-tying protesters. Secret Service agent Brian Marr explained to National Public Radio?, "These individuals may be so involved with trying to shout their support or nonsupport that inadvertently they may walk out into the motorcade route and be injured. And that is really the reason why we set these places up, so we can make sure that they have the right of free speech, but, two, we want to be sure that they are able to go home at the end of the evening and not be injured in any way." Except for having their constitutional rights shredded.

The ACLU, along with several other organizations, is suing the Secret Service for what it charges is a pattern and practice of suppressing protesters at Bush events in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas and elsewhere. The ACLU's Witold Walczak said of the protesters, "The individuals we are talking about didn't pose a security threat; they posed a political threat."
That's it; they're just looking out for our well-being. You know, given what this Administration has been able to get away with, I'm not sure it's possible for anyone to pose a political threat, either. Read the whole article here.

Catchin' Up … Digby Found

Okay, admittedly, he wasn't really missing, but has been posting here, where he has an excellent post for the practical argument on the selection of Clark over Dean.

Catchin' Up … Mad Cow

This definitive report on MadCow illustrates that perhaps we better stay away from beef altogether. Note: Viewer discretion advised.

Catchin' Up … Stealth Politics

While the manner in which the congressional Repugnicans went about voting on legislation was covered to a certain extent and Bush's signing Patriot Act: Part III into law the day Saddam was captured was also noted, this seems to have gone somewhat unnoticed: Bush Bypasses Senate, Makes 12 Appointments.
The appointments are:

• Albert Casey of Texas, to be a governor of the U.S. Postal Service; nominated March 4, 2002.

• Bradley D. Belt of Washington, to be a member of the Social Security Advisory Board; nominated Sept. 3, 2003.

• Raymond J. Simon, former director of the Arkansas Department of Education, to be assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the Education Department; nominated Sept. 22, 2003.

• Gay Hart Gaines of Florida, to be a member of the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; nominated Nov. 17, 2003. Gaines gave $1,000 to Bush's 2000 campaign and again this year and has given tens of thousands to Republican National Committee campaign accounts.

• Claudia Puig of Florida, to be a member of the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; nominated Jan. 9, 2003. Puig gave the maximum allowable donation to Bush's reelection campaign this year.

• Fayza Veronique Boulad Rodman of Washington, to be a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors; nominated Oct. 24, 2003.

• Cynthia Boich of California, to be a member of the board of directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service; nominated Sept. 23, 2003.

• Dorothy A. Johnson of Michigan, to be a member of the board of directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service; nominated Sept. 23, 2003.

• Henry Lozano of California, to be a member of the board of directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service; nominated Sept. 23, 2003.

• Ronald E. Meisburg of Virginia, to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board; nominated Nov. 20, 2003.

• Clark Kent Ervin of Texas, to be inspector general, Homeland Security Department; nominated Jan. 10, 2003. He has served as interim inspector general.

• Robert Lerner of Maryland, to be commissioner of education statistics at the Education Department; nominated June 3, 2003.
It's no secret that this Administration would like to see public broadcasting privatized and has, both the desire to, and no qualms about, controlling the 'message' to the public. Under those circumstances perhaps the most disconcerting appointments are those to the CPB and Broadcasting Board of Governors. But don't be surprised if Bob Lerner has some amazing statistics on No Child Left Behind in 2004 as well.