Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Busy...

Today was nuts!

I hope you clicked through to some of those great blogs on the right.

More tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2004

No Politics Here...

If you want a clear picture of how BushCo. politicized the situation in Iraq prior to the elections you only have to read this article on MSNBC carefully.

First, notice that now the election is over, it's okay to start talking about how more troops are needed on the ground. This discussion is couched in terms of continuing to press the "insurgents" now that the battle in Fallujah is over, but if comments about having "broken the back" of the insurgency could be taken at face value, then why would more troops be needed? Now that the election is safely past and Bush has no fear of being held responsible by voters for just how FUBAR Iraq has become, he is free to ramp up troop strength:

The officers said the exact number of extra troops needed is still being reviewed but estimated it at the equivalent of several battalions, or about 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers. The number of U.S. troops in Iraq fell to nearly 100,000 last spring before rising to 138,000, where it has stayed since the summer.

To boost the current level, military commanders have considered extending the stay of more troops due to rotate out shortly, or accelerating the deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is scheduled to start in January. But a third option—drawing all or part of a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division on emergency standby in the United States—has emerged as increasingly likely.
Second, while it was perfectly okay to "telegraph" our intentions in Fallujah, but hold off from executing the attack - again so that no ugly pictures would interfere with the Bush campaign's rosy depiction of progress in Iraq - it is now not okay to do so.

In discussing battle plans, commanders here did not want to telegraph the areas U.S. forces might be focusing on for their next offensives. But some of the potential targets can easily be discerned by mapping the locations of attacks on U.S. forces, including areas in or around the restive cities of Mosul, Ramadi, Baqubah, Samarra and Baghdad.
Most disturbing of all in reading this article is that is seems that some key lessons that should have been learned are being ignored. The first is that drawing on the emergency reserves - that brigade of the 82d Airborne Division - could leave the military even more short-handed than it already is to deal with military flare-ups in another part of the world. The second is that it seems that BushCo. is not finished "misunderestimating" the insurgents:

At the same time, officers cautioned against expecting anything on the scale of Fallujah, which involved more than 10,000 U.S. troops and about 2,500 Iraqi forces.

“They’re not going to be big operations like Fallujah, because there’s no place else in Iraq where the situation is like what it was there,” one commander said.
Not yet... not yet.

No Body Counts

Perhaps taking their cue from BushCo.'s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, big businesses are unable to account for the number of jobs lost to outsourcing among the number of employees laid off in any quarter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has been attempting to provide a public count of jobs lost to outsourcing, but more and more, the answer they are getting from companies is "we don't know." From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

In its latest report, published last week, the BLS could say only that 16,091 workers were laid off because of job relocations in the third quarter. It couldn't say how many jobs had shifted within the U.S. or were shipped overseas.

In 13 of the 95 cases involving job relocations during the third quarter, "the employer could not say anything beyond, 'I laid off 100 people in this layoff. I did move work, but I can't tell you how many of these 100 were due to the movement of work to X, Y and Z,' " says Lewis Siegel, who directs the BLS's mass-layoffs statistics program. The bureau concluded that that proportion was too high to provide a "meaningful" count.
There just is no doubt that these companies not only know this count, but they know - to the penny - how much they are saving by moving jobs offshore. There is nothing that businesses do - perhaps other than some mom & pop shops - that is not analyzed from every angle.

But is there really any incentive for the BLS, a part of the Bush Administration, don't forget, to get to the real numbers here? Is there any incentive for the businesses interviewed to give up the real answers? So long as more money flows to the bottom line, where it can be showered on obscenely paid executives and on pliant politicians, you can rest assured that the answers to both of those questions is "no."

Friday, November 19, 2004

Watching Clinton

All my wife and I could say last night, while watching Peter Jennings talk with Bill Clinton, was "man... I really miss him." The comparisons with Bush are immediate and unavoidable; here is a man who has a genuine warmth and a broad and deep intelligence. This was a man worthy of the office.

ABC's web site has a synopsis of the interview, but - unsurprisingly, I suppose - doesn't include the part of the interview where he slams the media and, pointing at Jennings, specifically ABC for aiding and abetting Republicans in the long smear of the Clintons. It was a classic Clinton moment.

As you would expect, Jennings steered the conversation in a different direction after that.

"Man, I really miss him..."

What Is Left to Say?

As I posted on Tuesday, regardless of what we do in Iraq now, we've lost in the long run. But do we really have to make it worse?

Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. soldiers, stormed one of the major Sunni Muslim mosques in Baghdad after Friday prayers, opening fire and killing at least three people, witnesses said.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Shopping For Health Care

Have you really thought about what health care might be like should Bush be able to get his plan enacted? Something I saw the other night got me thinking about it...

The piece I saw said that Bush's health savings accounts would mean that we'd all be responsible for the cost and use of our health care dollars. The reporter and Peter Jennings opined that would likely mean that people would skimp on preventative care, trying to keep lots of money in their accounts for later use. This would, of course, result in more trips to the emergency room which is much more costly in both the short and long run.

What really caught my attention was that there would be incentive to "shop around for the best price on medical care."

I don't know about everyone out there, but when I'm sick I really don't feel like calling around to find out which doctor's got the lowest price on an office call. If my doctor thinks I need lab work done, I don't want to have to take even more time from work to call around to different labs to find out who's got a sale on blood work that week.

Besides not wanting to shop around when I'm sick or when I'm afraid I might be, what the hell do I know about determining which lab has the best equipment or provides the most accurate tests? Just how am I supposed to know how to balance an inexpensive office call fee with expert care? For more complicated or more urgent medical work, am I supposed to take the time - would I even have the strength or the mental wherewithal - to shop around for an MRI or an endo-scopic exam? How do I judge the worth of one course of chemotherapy over another?

This idea of owning your health care sounds wonderful. If we were all doctors with the knowledge and experience to make such incredibly important decision in times of high emotion and stress, it might work. Maybe. But there are some things that are too important to trust to "the market." This remains among the worst ideas ever floated before the American public. I hope Bush's marketization of medical care dies a quick and quiet death.

New Title Available for Bush

North Korea's state media on Wednesday broke with the rigid codes it employs in referring to Kim, dropping the highest honorific title of "great leader" from a report on his visit to a military base. Although the term was again picked up in later broadcasts, it marked the first such omission in coverage of an official Kim event since he inherited the title from his late father -- North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung -- a decade ago, according to Japan-based Radiopress Inc. which monitors North Korea's official media.
Read more, here.

Walking in Circles

I'm sure I recognize these footprints, I know I've seen this rock before.

The United States has intelligence that Iran is working to adapt missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon, further evidence that the Islamic republic is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday.

Separately, an Iranian opposition exile group charged in Paris that Iran is enriching uranium at a secret military facility unknown to U.N. weapons inspectors. Iran has denied seeking to build nuclear weapons.

[snip]

Powell appears to be saying the Iranians are working very hard on this capability," Cirincione said. He said Powell's comments were striking because the International Atomic Energy Agency said this week that it had not seen any information that Iran had conducted weapons-related work.
Is it just me or have we been here before?

Wall Street Journal: "Cheney" the Geneva Conventions

I posted yesterday that the WSJ had completely ignored the reality of Fallujah in its editorial pages by leaving out any account of the Marine(s) shooting unarmed, wounded "insurgents" inside a mosque. Well, they finally got around to talking about that incident in an editorial today.

If you can believe these idiots, here is the first paragraph (subscription):

Some 40 Marines have just lost their lives cleaning out one of the world's worst terror dens, in Fallujah, yet all the world wants to talk about is the NBC videotape of a Marine shooting a prostrate Iraqi inside a mosque. Have we lost all sense of moral proportion?
Despite saying later that we let most of the insurgents get away for "humanitarian purposes," Fallujah was still, apparently, "one of the world's worst terror dens." And this somehow absolves our soldiers of all duties to obey the laws of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and of the United States. Both of which require soldiers to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

When not disemboweling Iraqi women, these killers hide in mosques and hospitals, booby-trap dead bodies, and open fire as they pretend to surrender. Their snipers kill U.S. soldiers out of nowhere. According to one account, the Marine in the videotape had seen a member of his unit killed by another insurgent pretending to be dead. Who from the safety of his Manhattan sofa has standing to judge what that Marine did in that mosque?
Ignore the snide remark that makes it seem that only folks sitting on their (expensive)"Manhattan sofa[s]" could be outraged by this behavior. We all have the standing to judge this Marine. He, along with all his superiors - right up the empty flight suit in the Oval Office - work for us. We expect them, regardless of their situations, to obey the laws and standards that make us (made? are we past that?) the beacon of hope and justice in the world.

It is, in the end, The Wall Street Journal, and anyone who supports their view of this event, who have abdicated the moral position that we should proudly occupy, that raises us above those whom we fight - whether or not we ought to be there. This soldier, and any others who broke the Law of Land Warfare and the Geneva Conventions, ought to be judged by all of us. And we should take that responsibility, to ourselves, to our soldiers and to the world, very seriously.

The Wall Street Journal, obviously, does not.

Republicans to Students: "Go Cheney Yourself"

Remember the debates? Remember how on so many subjects, the only thing that Bush could dredge out of his addled brain was education? It seemed to be the solution to everything from well... education to air pollution.

Guess what's the first thing to get cut in the budget proposals going before Congress - as they work to raise the federal debt ceiling by $800 billion?

Republicans in Congress neared agreement on a year-end budget bill that would dramatically slow the growth in federal support for education and nondefense scientific research to meet strict spending targets set by the White House.
While they're screwing over students, they might as well blow off scientific research. I mean those damned scientists are mostly atheists anyway, and none of the things they discover ever support what it says in the bible.

So yeah. "Cheney" them too.

Goodbye to Employer Provided Health Insurance?

If BushCo. get their way in a second term and is able to push through their tax plans, many of us who get our health insurance subsidized through our employers may be looking on the open market. Note the sentence I've highlighted in the paragraph below from this morning's Washington Post:

Instead the administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations.

The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
Hat tip to Atrios for the link.

So much for Health Savings Accounts being "voluntary," eh? Notice, too, all the sops to big business in the first paragraph. Not that there was any doubt, but there you have BushCo.'s true constituency. If you ever drank the "compassionate-conservative" kool-aid and thought the Republicans cared about what happens to you or me, this should finally disabuse you of the notion.

Welcome to the birth of USA, Inc.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Seeing Through the Red to the Hope

If you've heard of or read the Washington Post series about Michael Shackleford, a young, gay man living in Oklahoma, you'll want to read this.

There are times when people can give you hope that all is not lost in our country.

Florida Voting Problems?

There are some interesting things going on in Florida... still.

Via dKos, we find out that Bev Harris and her Black Box Voting folks have been looking very hard at results from certain precincts in Florida. The results have been not only some questionable results in vote tabulations, but some very hostile reactions from (Republican, of course) voting officials.

Read the diary entry here. Scroll down to see the latest from Bev.

There can be only one question here, and it should be asked of every Republican in office and that you know. When you ask, there should be no allowances for bluster or dissembling. Tell them to just answer the fucking question:

Why don't Republicans want every vote counted?

Denial

It's not just a river in Egypt.

Not surprisingly, the editors of the Wall Street Journal are still not reading their own paper nor, apparently, anyone else's. In an editorial this morning, they scoff at the very idea that our actions in Fallujah could possibly do anything other than keeping freedom on the march. They dismiss out of hand the possibility that the violence and destruction visited on Fallujah - and soon on other cities - could possibly encourage other Iraqis to take up arms against the US and Iraqi forces.

So coalition forces strike the city of Fallujah, and Iraqi insurgents respond by attacking in Mosul, Baquba, Kirkuk and Suweira. This, we now hear, proves that the more insurgents the U.S. kills, the stronger the insurgency grows. Call it the Obi-Wan Kenobi school of international relations: Strike him down, and he'll only become more powerful.

In real warfare, of course, killing the enemy means there are fewer enemies to kill. And in one week in Fallujah, and at the cost of some 40 American soldiers' lives and several Iraqi ones, about 1,200 insurgents were killed and another 1,000 taken prisoner. The insurgents have been denied their principal sanctuary. Their torture chambers -- a stark indication of what they intend for all of Iraq if they're allowed to prevail -- lie exposed.
Note that they even drag out that old bogeyman from Saddam's day: "torture chambers." So removed from the reality of the situation are the editors that they have not yet come to accept that we are an occupying force - note the quotation marks below;

Beyond whatever tactics the Iraqi insurgents may employ, their strategy is to convince Americans that there is no bottom; that their cause enjoys huge popular support; that it feeds off the resentments that "occupation" inevitably engenders; and that it can go on undeterred by whatever damage U.S. forces inflict.
Finally, exhibiting what is coming to be typical conservative behavior, they completely ignore events that have a profound effect on the topic at hand so that they don't have to change their minds given changing information. You know: "flip-flopping." There is not a word to be found in the editorial about the video of marines shooting wounded POWs inside a mosque in Fallujah. They acknowledge neither the event nor the profound - and negative - effect that action is likely to have on the situation.

It's no surprise, as I said. But it is instructive.

No Train Under the Tree?

I remember my first train set - anyone who had one probably does. It was a starter set that my grandmother bought me when I was about 10 or so. I remember setting it up in her basement; I remember how the track pieces snapped together, how I would carefully hook up the wires from the transformer to the track and then set the cars onto the track. The set had just enough track to make an oval or a small figure-eight, but I can still remember the sounds and the slight ozone smell as the train ran around the track.

Unlike many people, I never had a train in later years to put under my Christmas tree. I always wanted to get one, but other things took priority or I wasn't going to be at home during the holidays. Now of course, getting a scale train set, even a starter set, is pretty expensive: $800 to $1,000. Especially if you want a Lionel set - and really, when you think of trains, what other name comes to mind?

Well, it seems I may not get the chance now. In fact, nobody may get the chance after this year. Seems that Lionel has had to file for bankruptcy, according to the Wall Street Journal (subscription). And while filing for protection allows them to continue manufacturing and selling product for now, there is no guarantee that they will come out of bankruptcy.

There are other companies that make trains beside Lionel. But for those of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s, the loss of this brand would be the loss of one more memorable icon from our childhoods. That would be sad indeed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

It's Over

If there were any hope of salvaging our efforts in Iraq before, this should destroy it. We could stay for the next hundred years or pack up and leave tomorrow; it would not matter.

Destroying Fallujah in order to save it was not bad enough. Blasting mosques to rubble was not bad enough (regardless of the necessity). No, none of that was so horrible that we could not overcome it - eventually. A marine killing an unarmed, wounded "insurgent" inside a mosque while being filmed by an embedded TV crew; there is just no way for BushCo. to talk - or fight - their way out of that one. It doesn't matter if the soldier(s) responsible and every officer in their chain of command is court martialed and hung in public, we have lost the "hearts and minds" of every Iraqi and every Muslim in the world.

It's horrible enough that our soldiers would be put into such a situation; it's even worse that the winking and nodding at abuses at abu Ghraib and GITMO and other undisclosed detention areas have created a climate where the soldiers in the field believe that this sort of thing will be overlooked. We were supposed to have learned this lesson, along with so many in Viet Nam. Every training session I ever had in the course of 10 years in the Army that dealt with enemy wounded or POWs stressed that they were to be medically treated, segregated and sent to the rear for further treatment and interrogation.

We have lost this war with a single gunshot caught on video tape.

Pack our soldiers up and ship them home, there is now less reason than ever to expend them in this horrible war of aggression.

Iraq is lost.

What Face Will We Show to the World?

Yesterday, after Colin Powell's resignation was announced, I wondered who Bush would pick to take his place. Powell had started with such high expectations, only some of which were not disappointed. He had the potential to be a true moderating force on BushCo., but was so marginalized that he wound up being almost invisible except when trotted out to sell the neocon lies about Iraq to the United Nations.

I think he was uncomfortable not only in his role as Secretary of State but also in the role of pitchman to the UN. Only history will tell if Powell knew he was presenting false data to the world or not. Apparently, he's not telling; saying there is no book deal in the works. But it's a rare public figure who can resist telling the story from their own perspective.

Much like Bush's pick for the Justice Department, there was always the probability that he would choose so as to consolidate his coterie of yes-men. So in place of Ashcroft, who was widely despised by anyone to the left of... well, to the left of Ashcroft, we got Alberto Gonzales, the author of the torture memos. So it is, then, with State. In place of the rather moderate Powell we get Bush's confidante and "honorary family member," Condi Rice.

Instead of the affable Powell, Bush has chosen Rice to represent us to the world. Condoleeza Rice; the humorless, pinch-faced woman who's whole life has been defined by such an unbalance that she's not only never been married, she's never even been known to date; hell, I've never seen her smile. But this makes perfect sense if you think of how BushCo. have treated the rest of the world during the past four years. They don't want the rest of the world to like us, they only want them to either respect us or fear us.

And so, Condoleeza Rice is the perfect "face" for this administration. You can tell just by looking at her that Condi has no time for the niceties of diplomacy. She's the perfect hit-woman to present the "your-with-us-or-your-against-us" foreign policy that is sure to be expanded during this second term.

It's like meeting company at the front door with a shotgun.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Mencken Nails It

It probably took longer than he thought, though...

Via Saintperle (emphasis is mine):

"[W]hen a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental--men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost... [A]ll the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre--the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

H. L. Mencken, in the Baltimore Sun,
July 26, 1920
I hope he doesn't mind that I quoted the whole thing - it was just too good to pass up. Go check out Saintperle.

Scott Peterson!!

While Bush drones on about how well things are going in Iraq, the media fills the airwaves with stories about some half-wit in California offing his pregnant wife. You could almost forgive most Americans thinking that things are going just swimmingly all around the world.

Here's what MSNBC has to say - in between Scott Peterson stories;

U.S. and Iraqi forces found themselves fighting in Baghdad, Mosul, Baqouba and other regions on Monday while in Fallujah diehard insurgents held out to the last in the week-long battle.
Can't somebody in Washington tell the empty flight suit what's really going on in Iraq? We know he doesn't read the papers, and he regularly ignores Presidential Daily Briefings that don't have pictures. So, can't the CIA send somebody over to the Oval Office and give him the real news?

Oh, wait. Porter Goss is firing everyone who doesn't wear the rose-colored BushCo. glasses or who refuses to drink the neocon Kool-Aid.

Never mind.

Another One Bites the Dust

Colin Powell, according to MSNBC, has submitted his resignation.

I had no doubt that he would, only the timing remained in doubt. With Iraq on the brink of returning to chaos, with the world still reeling in disbelief that we'd return the empty flight suit to the throne, who can blame him?

I'd say he'd be missed, but he sold his soul long ago - and really, BushCo. has been ignoring him for so long and had him hidden for so long that it would be a lie.

Those Who Do Not Learn From History...

...Are bound to repeat it.

There was an interesting piece on NPR this Saturday where Annas Shallal, a Sunni Muslim who is founder of the group Iraqi-Americans for Peaceful Alternatives, discussed the history of Fallujah. The things he spoke of, while well known to historians of the area, seem to be exactly those things which BushCo. either are ignorant of or have ignored.

The name Fallujah itself does not bode well for anyone thinking of subduing it; it is derived from an old local dialect and means "divided." For millennia, this area has been ruled by warlords and strongmen and has vigorously resisted outside authority. The British learned this lesson the hard way in the 1920s when insurgents in the Fallujah area were instrumental in driving them out of Iraq.

We're already hearing from "embedded reporters" and administration sources that Fallujah is occupied and nearly "pacified." Nobody's used that exact word, but you just know it's right on the tips of their tongues. But these Iraqi fighters have hundreds, if not thousands, of years of experience driving out foreigners. They have the kind of patience we cannot imagine.

During the next four years, Bush will rightly be judged on, among other things, what he does to clean up the mess he's created in Iraq. He has just the next 48 months to prepare and polish his "legacy." But compared to the centuries of history in this area 48 months passes in the blink of an eye. The insurgents will move from town to town, avoiding our grasp, melting into the local population. They will wait out whatever this short-sighted and historically blind administration does, they will scheme against the US installed government. And when Bush is long retired to his ranch, when Iyad Allawi is retired or assassinated, they will still be in Fallujah.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Pyrrhic Victory

Pyrrhic victory \PIR-ik\, noun:
A victory achieved at great or excessive cost; a ruinous victory.

A Pyrrhic victory is so called after the Greek king Pyrrhus, who, after suffering heavy losses in defeating the Romans in 279 B.C., said to those sent to congratulate him, "Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone."
What will become of Fallujah after the current battle is done?

If you've seen the pictures, you know that in many parts of the city little remains but rubble. There is no electricity, any water or sewage service there was is now disabled, there is no phone service and the streets are too torn up even for bicycles. Apartment complexes, houses, stores and mosques are pockmarked with bullet holes, have gaping holes from tank rounds and RPGs or are completely demolished by mortars, artillery and bombs.

Because BushCo. telegraphed this move and then postponed it until after the US elections, the insurgents mostly melted away leaving a rearguard contingent to tie up our forces and moved on to other areas in Iraq to cause additional troubles. This was so effective that not only are the main US forces still trying to "mop up" the remaining insurgents in Fallujah, but an entire battalion of troops that were to contribute to the cordon around the city had to be sent to a nearby town after insurgents there overran the police stations making off with uniforms and more weapons.

So not only did we not kill or capture the main force of insurgents or any of their leaders, we've destroyed a city in the process.

What will the inhabitants of Fallujah think when they return? The insurgents will come back as soon as Operation Phantom Fury ends, along with the remaining residents. And they will play on the fears and emotions of those residents, coming back to ruined and destroyed homes and businesses. They and the imams will speak of the destruction wrought by our soldiers. They will tell stories of the desecration of the mosques, or the wanton killing of women and children, of the bombs falling indiscriminately from the sky; and true or not, the people will believe them.

And those young men who might have been more interested in their jobs or their schooling before will not have a place to work or study. Their families will not have a place to live or work. And those young men will join forces with the insurgents. And where there were 5,000 there will now be 7,000 or 10,000.

As our soldiers move from town to town, at the direction of the generals who get their marching orders from Bush's neocon cabal, they will leave a path of destruction in their wake. It's what they are trained to do and they do it better than any army on earth ever did. And as happened in the jungles of another third world country thousands of miles away and three generations ago, they will discover truths bought so dearly then: you really can't "win hearts and minds" by killing people, you can't save a village by destroying it, and in an insurgency you only control the ground you are standing on.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Tianenman Square, CA

Or as John at AMERICABlog put it last night:

"They deployed two fucking TANKS to counter an anti-war protest in LA"
Several excuses have been floated around for why these tanks just happened to show up at a peaceful anti-war protest, including that they "got lost." If these were military tanks, I can tell you that no goddamn unit in the country would have tankers out joy-riding in the streets and become lost - coincidentally - near a protest. It just does not happen. If they were police tanks, and LA does have vehicles very much like tanks, you can bet they weren't just out for an evening jaunt; these things are expensive to run and they don't get lost either.

Back to John at AMERICABlog who says it with all the outrage we should all feel about this:

I am absolutely speechless. We look like China. We look like the Soviet Union. They just sent two tanks to counter a peaceful protest in the second largest city of America. Good God. And where is the media coverage? They just sent TANKS to counter peaceful protesters. That kind of an outrageous challenge to the protesters could have easily sparked violence.

People, please, contact your local media, call any reporters you know, tell them about this. This is a huge story. This is absolutely scary shit. Sending tanks to confront peaceful protesters in an American city in 2004. Who the fuck are we anymore?
I second his call for action.

It's Time for the 'Q' Word Again

It's been a while, what with the elections, several days of despair and several more to recover. But it's that time again. Time to break out "Quagmire." Again.

Remember all those high explosives that weren't secured during the initial invasion of Iraq? Very nasty stuff and it was likely distributed to the insurgents around Iraq and used to create the many IEDs that have killed and injured our soldiers and many Iraqis. Then there was the story early this week that, among many other weapons that were not secured during the invasion, a couple thousand portable surface-to-air missiles went missing.

Once again those mistakes, that lack of detailed planning by BushCo. are coming back around to bite our soldiers in the ass.

A car bomb exploded near a police patrol in busy central Baghdad on Thursday, killing 17 people and wounding 20, police said.

A police source said the blast missed a convoy of suburban cars of the kind used by foreign security contractors, which had just passed through the commercial Saadoun Street district.
And then there's this:

Two U.S. helicopters were shot down near Fallujah on Thursday as fighting in the insurgent stronghold continued.

U.S. soldiers search for insurgents in Fallujah. Military officials said the Super Cobra helicopters were shot down in separate incidents and the crew members have been rescued.
There are no details on what was used to shoot down the helicopters, it could have been the missing missiles or just "regular" bullets. And the car bomb could have been fashioned from many things. But the fact that the explosives and the missiles are out there only heightens the danger to the soldiers and pilots.

Perhaps it's time to resurrect a Google Bomb from earlier in this quagmire: Miserable Failure.

Arafat Dead; Ashcroft Takes Credit

Not really. That is, Yassir Arafat is dead, but Ashcroft didn't take credit. Although given his resignation statement - see the post below - he probably will before the week is out.

This is one of those situations that's going to put Bush to the test. For the past four years he's done nothing to further the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, claiming that Arafat was a terrorist and an obstruction to the process. Well, Mr. Mandate, the obstruction is gone; time to get off your ass. Will we see any constructive overtures from the White House now, or will it be "more of the same?"

I have a feeling that Bush is going to run headlong into a lot of situations during the coming four years (fates help us...) that are going to require him to walk the big talk he mumbled and fumbled during the campaign. He can claim that his first term was hampered by 9/11 and obstructionist Democrats in Congress - it wouldn't be true, but he has and will continue to make that claim - but no more. He owns every failure, every missed opportunity, every crisis, everything.

The next four years have the potential to be one, long, never-ending train wreck for Bush: horrible to see, but impossible to look away from.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

When Is The Victory Party?

Did I miss the announcement that the Terrorism Threat Level had been changed to "green?" I didn't catch all the news this morning, maybe I missed the schedule for the New York City "Victory Over Terrorism" ticker-tape parade. Shouldn't there be fireworks and bells pealing?

"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."
John Ashcroft, November 9, 2004
WTF is he talking about? If he believes this bullshit, then it's way past time he retired. In fact, he should be retired to the closest hospital with a padded room.

"Nurse Ratched, calling Nurse Ratched."

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The War Prayer

Samuel Clemens - Mark Twain - may have been the most intelligent, most prescient writer in American history. Today, with stories of the attack on Fallujah in all the news outlets and the attendant stories of our soldiers pausing in prayer before entering the battlefield, and knowing that it was the so-called "moral issues" voter who put the war mongering empty flight suit back in charge, it's time to revisit one of Twain's most amazing works.

You can read the whole thing here, but the following is so apropos:

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle – be Thou near them! With them – in spirit – we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it – for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Tom Toles

Dear World, We're So Sorry...

Check out the photos of some of the other 55+ million who didn't vote for the empty flight suit and who are apologizing to the rest of the world. Then get out your digital camera, get out a pen and some paper and add your face to the gallery at Sorry Everybody.

Go.

Now.

P.S. Thanks to Pissed Off Patricia at BlondeSense for the link.

An Idea I Can Get Behind

Check out "Turn Your Back On Bush." This group's idea is simple, but potentially very powerful:

On January 20th, 2005, we're calling for a new kind of action. The Bush administration has been successful at keeping protesters away from major events in the last few years by closing off areas around events and using questionable legal strategies to outlaw public dissent. We can use these obstacles to develop new tactics. On Inauguration day, we don't need banners, we don't need signs, we don't need puppets, we just need people.

We're calling on people to attend inauguration without protest signs, shirts or stickers. Once through security and at the procession, at a given signal, we'll all turn our backs on Bush's motorcade and continue through his speech and swearing in. A simple, clear and coherent message.
Go check out their website; for now it's just a single page, and pass on the word. Blog about it, put it in your sidebar, send an e-mail. Even if you can't go to the inauguration, do your part to get this to someone who can.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Justice Department Spin on GITMO

This administration hasn't found anything it can't spin. Today a federal judge said that prisoners of the "Never-ending War on Terror" are due the same legal protections as combatants captured on any other field of battle.

But what does the Justice Department say?

He said the president properly determined that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to al Qaeda members. "The judge has put terrorism on the same legal footing as legitimate methods of waging war," Corallo said in a statement.
No, you idiot, it means that the same standards of conduct applies to us regardless of how we capture our prisoners.

This is yet another reason this administration should not be trusted with either the war on terror or with our civil liberties.

A Fundamental Disagreement

A group that we are all going to have to come to grips with - and soon - are fundamentalist christians who have taken over the far right wing of the Republican party. One of the questions that will have to be answered over the next several years is whether or not fundamentalists can be considered - in even the broadest definition of the word - rational. How that question is answered will determine the way in which we must deal with them.

Don't expect to see or hear any reality based discussion of this question in the media or in any public forum by representatives of the major parties.

But here is the question in its stripped-down form:

Can a group of people who overwhelmingly believe in the "virgin birth" and the coming "rapture" but are purposely blind to the irrefutable evidence of evolution be considered rational?
Notice the way that I've worded that question. I didn't say that they don't "believe" in evolution. Belief has nothing to do with evolution. It is a theory with incredibly broad explanatory power in biology, geology, medicine, epidemiology and other fields. It is also well supported by evidence gleaned from these fields. But belief - the kind of belief that results from faith - has no power to explicate evolution or the world. Fundamentalists are the flat-earthers of our day and are exactly analogous to fundamentalist Muslims in their hatred of modernity and progressivism.

So what do you call someone who ignores all evidence and persists in believing and promulgating outdated, obviously false or deluded world views? Rational? I don't think so. And yet the Republican party panders to this group, using them for their votes by appealing to their baser prejudices to drive them to the polls - in many cases against their own interests. Democrats have been only slightly better; witness all the "god talk" during the latter part of the presidential campaign.

Where should this discussion go from here? There are bits of it all around the blogosphere, but nobody has any solid ideas about how to raise this subject with the rest of the country. My formulation of it here is very rough... Outright bashing of the fundamentalists for their beliefs, regardless of how out of the mainstream of religious thought, will only alienate other believers. Appealing to them only makes us more like Republicans and is anathema to true progressive ideas. This will be a subject much debated - quietly in public, loudly in the blogosphere - for the next four years, at least.

Readers; any ideas?

Bark Bark, Woof Woof

Today marks the first anniversary of a wonderful voice in the blogosphere. If you haven't been reading Mustang Bobby this year, you've missed out on some great writing, a biting - but dry - wit and a perspective on events you might not get anywhere else.

Head on over to Bark Bark, Woof Woof and wish Mustang Bobby a happy day!

Entering Fallujah

It's difficult to write about what should be done in Fallujah; considering that we likely shouldn't even be in Iraq, the upcoming battle is going to leave too many dead; Americans and Iraqis. But our soldiers are there and the civilians have declared that Fallujah must be cleared of "insurgents." So the attack is on.

Once they are in the maze of building inside Fallujah, they will have to fight as I described in this post, below. But just getting into the city will be no mean feat, depending on the amount of damage that the US is willing to inflict on the city. Because Fallujah has basically been a no-go zone for American troops, they will have to clear the roads and alleyways of IEDs they may not be able to see. As they move along the main approaches to the city, they will have to secure the bridges and roads so that follow-on troops and supplies do not have to re-clear the same terrain.

Usually, reconnaissance units are assigned to move ahead and to the flanks of the main units on the move as well as securing the lines of communications behind. But with only about 10,000 troops at their disposal, there may not be enough troops to not only fight their way into the city, but to secure their flanks and rear. Each move along the way, some troops must be left behind to secure key areas and choke points. All the while, insurgents in the city have the "high ground" for observing their movements and to fire on them.

US forces will have plenty of technology on their side, and hopefully they will use it to full effect. This would included aerial manned and unmanned observation vehicles, long range optics, laser range finders, night vision systems and anti-battery radar for pinpointing enemy mortar positions. The problem becomes minimizing "collateral damage." And with more than 100,000 Iraqis potentially still in the city, this will not be easy.

This battle has the potential to be a turning point in our occupation of Iraq. If it goes well - for us, that is - it may temporarily result in fewer insurgent operations. If it goes poorly - that is, we could still win the battle but devastate the city and cause massive civilian casualties - we could spark not only a general uprising against US and Iraqi forces, but potentially unite the Sunni and Shi'a as never before.

The next several days will tell...

The Bush Economy

Expect to see more news like this now that the election is over and budget offices around the capitol are no longer worried about bad news affecting BushCo.'s reelection efforts. From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Military spending remained the fastest-growing component of the U.S. budget in fiscal year 2004, but the rate slowed somewhat, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO said defense spending grew at an annual average rate of 15% in 2002 and 2003 as the military launched operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Overall, "defense outlays in 2004 were 55% higher than in 2000," the CBO said in a new report detailing aspects of the previously reported $413 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2004, which ended Sept. 30.
And although government receipts from taxes were up, those increases were outstripped by spending. Corporate tax receipts grew during the period as well, but in part because of some legal delays in spending and the arcane accounting rules used. But they were still off from the years prior to Bush's selection in 2000. Any guesses why?

Yet despite the sharp increase in those receipts in 2004, they were still about 9% below their peak in 2000, in large part because of the tax incentives for business investment enacted in 2002 and 2003," the CBO added.
During the next four years emboldened by his new "mandate," we can expect to see the economy continue in exactly this manner, tilted towards military spending and giveaways to corporations and big earners who bankrolled Bush's campaign. The rest of the economy, especially social programs and anything that might benefit the poor or lower-middle class will get short shrift. Someone should really keep track of the promises Bush made in his campaign to just those groups and tick them off as they fall by the wayside in favor of stroking the rich and their corporations.

Aurora and Snow



Last night the Aurora Borealis were incredibly bright. Reds, Greens and Blues spread from the northern horizon clear to zenith. Then the clouds came in from the north and blocked them out. By the time we woke up this morning, those clouds had dumped an inch of snow on us.

I suppose that means that winter really is here.

Damn.

Friday, November 05, 2004

M.O.U.T.

Military Operations on Urban Terrain.

I'm not sure if that's still the name in current doctrine, but that's what fighting in a city was called when I was in the Army (1983 - 1993).

It seems that our military, nominally assisted by Iraqi security forces, is prepared to move into Fallujah within hours or days. There were several bombing sorties by American aircraft overnight and US Marines have stated that the "battle space" is being prepared. In other words, it won't be long.

Whether or not the name has changed, I can tell you what hasn't changed; fighting in a city is dangerous, bloody work. The fighting takes more soldiers that are required to fight on a similarly sized piece of open terrain and many more soldiers than it takes to hold open terrain after the battle.

The defenders always have the advantage, regardless of the disparity in technology. They know the terrain, they know the buildings, they've had time to knock out walls between buildings to provide movement and escape routes. They have the advantage of height, observing and fighting from the tops of buildings. They know and likely have the cooperation of the local population. In more open terrain, an attacker, doctrinally, requires a 3:1 advantage. In a city, especially an older, non-rectilinear one like Fallujah, the required advantage can climb to 5 or 10:1.

Although our soldiers will go into this fight with a huge technological advantage, unless the putative Iraqi government and BushCo. are willing to literally level the city, there is no doubt that this fight will devolve into house-to-house fighting. To do this, each building has to be isolated from the ones around it, and then soldiers fight their way into the building - usually on a floor other than the bottom - and then clear each floor, up and down. Once it's been cleared, a detail has to stay behind to make sure it's not reoccupied.

You can see how the numbers of troops required to do this can climb very quickly depending on how tenacious the defenders are. Throw in their limitless supply of high-grade explosives, looted from al QaQaa, plenty of RPGs and lots of fighters willing to blow themselves up or fight to the death, along with American 250 and 500 lb laser-guided bombs, Hellfire missiles and 2.75 inch aerial rockets and you've got a scene that would have made Dante blanche.

It's no wonder Bush wanted this to wait until after the election.

Can We Afford to Fight This Fight?

Can we afford not to?

It's been asked elsewhere, but why is it always the Democrats that have to give up things for the good of the country? John Kerry, after promising that every vote would be counted, conceded the election long before the final votes were counted. In fact they still have not been counted. But he did so for the good of the country - so that we would not have to go through 2000 all over again.

I'm not sure what to make of Greg Palast's claims at TomPaine.com. But here's his opening paragraph... except two words:

I know you don't want to hear it. You can't face one more hung chad. But I don't have a choice. As a journalist examining that messy sausage called American democracy, it's my job to tell you who got the most votes in the deciding states. Tuesday, in Ohio and New Mexico, it was ...
You know what he's going to say; Palast was the one who laid out all the evidence for the theft of the 2000 election. Is it true? I think it's too early to say. Do we really want to do this again?

Can we really afford not to?

Post Script: I suppose that the real question is whether or not anyone in the mainstream American media will pick this up and run it to ground. Will anyone in the White House press pool be willing to give up their precious access (what the hell that access is getting them in the way of information is beyond me anyway) to dig for the facts? I think we all know the answer to that question. And even if one of them were to have the gonads to take on this story, which corporate-owned media conglomerate network would agree to publish their findings and endanger all the goodies flowing from this administration?

I'm Only Here for the Free Beer

Actually it's for the free blog...

This is the first time all day that Blogger has let me into my own blog. If it weren't free I'd ask for my money back. Of course I've been too busy to do much blogging today anyway.

In an effort to lighten up the mood here at The Fulcrum and to move from the dark despair of Tuesday/Wednesday to the energized state we're all going to need to fight the next four years I'm posting the picture below. I've seen it a couple of places today and I pinched this copy from AMERICABlog. It gave me a good laugh and I hope it makes you laugh, too. And I hope it motivates you for the long fight ahead.

Behind the easy comedy, there's way too much truth in this:

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Doctors Without Borders Leaves Iraq

The Iraq quagmire just got a little deeper. With coalition members continuing to leave, the departure of Medecins Sans Frontieres leaves yet more work for our overtaxed military and civilian workers.

"It has become impossible for MSF as an organization to guarantee an acceptable level of security for our staff, be they foreign or Iraqi," said Gorik Ooms, general director of the organization in Belgium.
MSF had done over 100,000 medical consultations since this January. Who will see these Iraqi patients now? Our military medics? With the battle of Fallujah likely already started, they're going to be too busy. Iraqi doctors? If they were able to do that, it wouldn't have been necessary for MSF to have been there in the first place. So they won't get done at all.

BushCo.: winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis every day.

Elizabeth Edwards Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Very sad news for the Edwards family although it appears they have caught it relatively early.

My thoughts go out to this wonderful family...

Mandate?

A bare 51% is not a mandate. But Republicans are already claiming they have a broad national mandate. The Empty Flight Suit made an appeal to Kerry supporters, but if you read between the lines and if you read history (recent history, that is), you'll know that was not an appeal to meet him in the middle. No, the appeal was "you come way over here or you can go home." There will be no "reaches across the aisle" in the next four years. Just as there was none during the past four.

Mandate, my ass. As I said in comments on someone's blog this morning: "you can take your f***in' mandate and go Cheney yourself with it."

For a slightly less emotional take on what Bush means by his appeal, go read Maureen Dowd.

W. doesn't see division as a danger. He sees it as a wingman.

The president got re-elected by dividing the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule. He doesn't want to heal rifts; he wants to bring any riffraff who disagree to heel.
Hey, I did say it was slightly less emotional...

Well... That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I wrote that Bush's slim margin of victory would be taken as an affirmation of all that he's done in the past four years; that he would take the country being evenly split as a mandate. Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription) provides evidence of just that:

Big business is counting its blessings -- and anticipating more -- in the wake of President Bush's re-election.

The Bush administration had already proved itself to business in its first term when it enacted three rounds of tax cuts, eased environmental regulation, filled cabinet agencies with business-friendly appointments, and backed legislation to boost domestic energy production. Now, many companies and industries expect specific gains from new federal policies and programs, and the Republican Party's stronger hand in Congress will mean that those legislative proposals will face relatively fewer hurdles.

[snip]

In the next four years, drug makers, health-care companies and financial-service concerns expect to benefit from Bush efforts to rein in legal costs and extend dividend and capital-gains tax cuts. Wall Street companies are looking for a flood of new investment if Mr. Bush succeeds in opening the Social Security system to privately owned accounts. Fast-food chains are less worried about a higher minimum wage and auto makers about tighter fuel-economy standards -- both areas where a Kerry administration planned to make changes.

Many industries invested heavily in the Bush campaign as much to avert a victory by Sen. John Kerry as to help ensure four more years for Mr. Bush. Health-care and drug companies contributed $26 million to Mr. Bush and the Republican Party, knowing the Massachusetts Democrat planned to have the federal government bargain directly with drug makers on Medicare prices and allow drug imports from Canada.

While Congressional Democrats will probably continue their push for such measures, Mr. Bush's victory, along with Republican gains in the House and Senate, greatly diminish the Democrats' chances.
You can see where the welfare of the people falls in such an agenda, right?

UPDATE: An iteresting tidbit from the above article also provides a hint about what another four more years of the empty flight suit will bring:

"This was a meaningful mandate, and we can expect aggressive action on the Bush agenda," said Tom Gallagher, a Washington policy analyst for ISI Group, a New York investment firm. Mr. Gallagher's company put together a "Bush index" of stocks and industries that would be expected to do well in a second term; they include health care, insurance, defense, energy and utilities.

... Mr. Gallagher reasons that Mr. Bush's combative foreign policy would lead to "increasing short-term geopolitical risk ... causing some investors to seek protection" in gold.

House Cleaning

Last night, after getting home from work, my wife said, "no TV tonight." I had to agree with her that I just didn't want to see any of it. And so we sat in the den and looked for Christmas cookie recipes and listened to music from my iTunes library. There were a few times I was tempted to check my blog or to check the news but I resisted. The closest we got to any sort of news was to check the weather before we went to bed.

It was a good strategery.

This morning, while still disgusted by the results of Tuesday/Wednesday and still fearing for our future, the emotions are not so raw and they are slowly turning from an energy drain to a motivation for the long road ahead.

So this morning, in between getting back into the swing of things at work, I've decided to do a little house cleaning at The Fulcrum. You'll notice a few new things over in the "Politics" section on the right and there will likely be a few things that disappear and appear over the course of the next couple of days. Who knows, I might just harness all that emotion and energy to do a complete redesign. Maybe.

I suppose that was the long way of saying that despite the outcome of the election, The Fulcrum will not go away. I doubt that I'll keep up the pace of posting that I have over the last couple of months - but you never know. With this administration thinking they have a referendum for every right-wing bit of wing-nuttery in their arsenal, I doubt it will take them long to do something to get me fired up again.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by since I began this effort. Your comments and your "hits" are what keep me going. There's a lot of work left to be done between now and November 4, 2008.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Picking Up Where He Left Off

Hungary to Withdraw Troops From Iraq
Defense Minister Says Country Waited for U.S. Elections Results Before Deciding
The Coalition of the Willing seems to be still unraveling. Thousands of our troops in Iraq recently had their tours of duty involuntarily extended, some for the second time and our "coalition" is dissolving before our eyes. As our military is stretched further and further and as BushCo.'s hubris is fed by the latest election results, how will we meet the continuing troop needs of the "Never-ending War on Terror?"

We can't say when we might leave Iraq because the Preznit says that would tell the terrorists that they only need to wait one more day that we will. We can't say when the war will be won because the policies and the actions of this administration - if the last four years was any indication - will continue to serve as recruitment for terrorism. And we can't say for sure which country will be next on Bush's hit list.

What we can say - but Bush insists that we don't is this: DRAFT.

You Break It, You Own It

My Pet Goat

Remember this picture during the next crisis. With his "mandate," you just know there's going to be a next one.

Kerry Concedes

CNN and all the others are breaking in with the news that Kerry is conceding.

If you are a true patriot, one who believes in the gift of democracy handed to us by our forbears, one who believes in the inalienable rights guaranteed by our constitution, one who believes that America is a vital part of the community of nations, then it is time to grieve for our country.

Fear and Loathing

I've done things that would make your hair stand up on-end. I'm an adrenaline junky and most things that you'd consider risky I revel in. As long as I understand the risks and know all the things I can do to reduce that risk. You've heard some of these things from me before; I've flown helicopters (in the trees, at night with night-vision goggles), I've been shot at in war, I've flown small airplanes, I've flown hang-gliders. I've bungee jumped, rock climbed and rappeled down cliffs and out of helicopters at night.

These things don't scare me because I fully understand the activities and the risks that go with them.

Today, though, I'm scared.

It's a feeling I'm not used to - and not one that I enjoy in the least.

I'm afraid because of the things I know about BushCo. They've given us plenty to be scared of in their first four years. I'm even more afraid of the things we don't know. What do they have planned for a second term if Ohio falls into the red column? What other wars will they start? Will my 17 year old daughter (or my two neices) fall prey to a draft? What other restraints will they remove from their corporate backers; economic, environmental, legal? What other rights will they infringe upon?

Today, more than ever, the title of my blog describes the country. We are poised on a point - a fulcrum - centered in Ohio, and the smallest touch could send us tottering in one of two directions. On one side is hope for a better future. On the other is fear and a never-ending "war on terror." I don't understand what happened to get us here and I don't understand what can be done to keep us from falling to the side of fear. I don't know how to reduce the dangers of that path forward.

And so I'm afraid.

What Have We Done?

If, as appears likely, Ohio goes to Bush, here is what Republican America has effectively said to the rest of the country and the world:

  • We don't care that our children - and yours - will continue to die in wars of our aggression.

  • We don't care that the richest Americans will soon own everything.

  • We don't care that corporations have assumed control over much of the country.

  • We don't care that the neediest among us will starve, live on the street, or have no access to medical care (unless you profess faith to "our" god - maybe).

  • We don't care that our children and yours will live in a filthy, polluted world.

  • We don't care that women all over the world, especially here at home, have no choice in their reproductive life.

  • We don't care what that half of the country that didn't vote for us thinks, says or wants.

  • We don't care that segments of our population are discriminated against because of who they are.

  • We don't care what the world thinks of our actions even though they affect you directly or indirectly.
Essentially, those who've voted to keep the lying disaster of an empty flight suit in the White House have given everyone in the country and on the planet who don't subscribe to their limited, pinched view of the world the finger. Those who voted Republican may have given them free reign, without constraint of reelection concerns, to continue with the worst of the far right's agenda.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

WTF is Up With Florida?

When even Tucker Carlson says Florida is FUBAR for not being able to count absentee ballots until Thursday, then you know things are bad. Hell must have frozen over with Begala and Carlson agreeing about this.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida - the whole country hangs in the balance on those three states. The tension is unbearable.

Zogby's Latest

Kerry: 311
Bush: 213

Still very early, but these are promising...

It will be very interesting to hear the post-mortems on the polls this cycle. So many of the pollsters are being very conservative with their predictions.

First Projections

No surprises - yet.

Vermont to Kerry.

Georgia, Kentucky and Indiana to Bush.

I can hardly sit still to write this post... damn I wish this were done.

Can't CNN find someone other than Wolf for their election coverage? Anyone stopping by, let me know who you're watching.

Waiting...

I keep making the rounds of the news sites and blogs in between trying to get some work done. There are scattered reports of minor voting problems and lots of reports of long lines and record turnouts. But of course it's too early for there to be any real news about how things are going.

For those of you who stop by and have already voted let me know in the comments how your voting experience went today.

For those of you who haven't voted yet, let me be the last to say, "go vote!"

Wall Street Journal Overreaches - Again

How's this for a desperate, last minute spin of Bush's record?

Bush is a divisive wartime figure. So were Lincoln, Churchill and Roosevelt.
The empty flight suit should not even be mentioned in the same breath as those three, heroic men. And yet the WSJ editors - and most on the far right - think that just by saying it they make it so. The rest of the editorial is just as surreal.

Call it delusional reism.

Message in a Bottle

By 7:05 this morning I was in the voting booth and in a matter of just a few moments - after carefully checking to be sure my selections were correct - my votes were cast. It occurred to me as I sat to write this post, that casting a single vote is much like casting a message in a bottle into the sea. You can never be sure upon which shore either the message or the vote will wash up.

Ocean currents and the final spin of an election cycle can conspire to cast either one upon a friendly or hostile shore and it's only later that you can be sure that your message was received at all.

But just as you cannot control the great gyres of ocean tides and currents, no single person can control the destiny of our country at the polls. Acting together, though we can, as a community, move the US back towards the brotherhood of nations. Unlike the message in a bottle, which could float on the ocean without ever coming ashore, each vote - if there is any justice - is counted and tallied and comes to rest on the rolls.

Tomorrow, we'll all know upon which shore our votes have grounded.

Today is the First Day of the Rest of History

And you can have a part in shaping how that history will be played out.

Last night in Cleveland, John Kerry gave us a final push to get out the vote and a final look at a future of hope versus the future of fear that Bush has been pushing. Kerry looked tired - as he should, it's been a long campaign season - but he finished strong. It seemed we got a glimpse at our next president; confident, brave and a proud member of the reality based community.

So play your part to make this a better country. Get to the polls today and vote. And, to borrow a phrase from Teresa, vote often; that is, get others to the polls who might not otherwise go.

Vote for hope.

Vote for Kerry-Edwards.

Monday, November 01, 2004

And So It Begins

The crap has already started in Florida. Police in riot gear, five-hour early voting lines, Republicans trying to cut off the end of long lines...

Makes me proud to be a native Floridian.

Damn.

UPDATE: More from the Washington Post.

American Parochialism

I have friends and family in Canada who are following our election very closely; I even know someone who's taken tomorrow off to watch all the coverage he can get on CBC and the American networks. When my wife told a couple of workmates this the almost immediate reply was, "why do they care?"

If you're reading my blog, you probably already realize that what happens here affects people all over the world. But you'd be surprised - or maybe you wouldn't - at the number of people who have no clue.

Bush has not "just" been a disaster for the United States: asleep at the wheel before 9/11, more interested in "pet goats" than attacks on the World Trade Center, building the largest deficit in history from the biggest surplus in history, starting the first preemptive war in our history... But he's been an unmitigated disaster for our country's standing in the world, our recession has affected economies and standards of living around the world, traditional allies are no longer sure that we are the beacon of hope and democracy that we've been for generations.

But so many Americans are so parochial in their outlook, never bothering to wonder at their impact on the rest of the world. It's why so many of them could care less about the environment, it's why universal health care is considered profane, why our mass transit systems are the laughing stock of the world, it's why the UN has such a low standing with so many Americans. We are a country that's become incapable of seeing beyond our own shores, beyond what is good for us now.

It's a sad indictment on the state of the electorate. Perhaps - and I say this with great sadness and a sincere hope that it is not true - perhaps it's time for the US to begin its long, slow slide into theocracy and oblivion, joining other failed experiments in government in the dustbin of history...

I think that tomorrow's outcome will be an indication of whether we can rouse ourselves from this inward stupor or if we have, indeed, begun the long decline.

Jeb's Minions Violating First Amendment Rights

A reporter/photographer was chased down, tackled, punched and arrested for violating a law that had not been made public. It sounds like something right out of the former Soviet Union. But no, it happened today, in Florida.

A sheriff's deputy tackled, punched and arrested a US journalist for taking pictures of people waiting in line to cast early ballots in West Palm Beach, local media reported.

A sheriff's spokesman said later the deputy was enforcing a new county rule prohibiting reporters from interviewing or photographing voters lined up outside the polls, the Palm Beach Post said.

[snip]

Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Teresa LePore did not comment on the incident or the new rule, which had not been previously announced. LePore gained notoriety as the creator of the infamous butterfly ballot that confused thousands of voters in the chaotic and controversial 2000 election.
Thanks to AMERICABlog.

Watching the Poll Watchers

First, a federal judge says that Republican poll thugs must stay away from the polls in Ohio, then Michael Moore plans to have hundreds of amateur film crews to watch the actions of poll watchers in Florida and Ohio. Maybe things won't be as ugly as we've all been expecting...

Thanks to Hesiod and Atrios for the heads-up.

Younger Voters Will Decide This Race

I'll just re-post AMERICABlog's entire post on this subject:

As you saw in my previous post, AP said:

Voter turnout is likely to be higher than in recent presidential elections - especially among young voters - in a very close race, weekend polls suggest.
Couple that with what Zogby said this morning:

The real news here is that 18-29 year olds favor Kerry 64% to 35%, with 1% for Nader -- and 0% undecided. When I see a low undecided number it means that group is going to vote. I am factoring this group to be 12% of the total vote -- but it could be higher. Each point it goes higher translates into two-thirds of a percent for Kerry -- if these numbers hold up.
The higher the voter turnout among young voters, then the more likely it will be for Kerry to win.
VOTE! There has never been a more important time for you to vote - no matter your age. But you first time and younger voters have the power to change our country for the better.

VOTE!

One Final Day

It all comes down to a last day. All around the political blogosphere, whether on the right or the left, bloggers will make their final appeals, will write their final words on this election season today.

For sure there will be post-election discussions and dissections. The details will be pored over for weeks - or months if it's really close as all polls seem to suggest it will be. But today is the final day to try to persuade; to persuade the last undecideds out there to vote for Kerry/Edwards, to persuade teetering Republicans, to persuade those who might not vote to get out and pull the levers of power that our Constitution places within our hands.

I urge everyone who stops in today to make sure that you are as informed as you can be as you walk into the voting booth tomorrow. Truly informed; not just from a single source but as broadly and as deeply as you can be. Remember to think ahead; Americans are notoriously short-sighted. What will your children or grandchildren think of the choice that you make for them tomorrow? Most people can leave no legacy in the sense that the very rich or the very powerful can; but as a group the vast majority of us leave a legacy more important than the largest endowment. We leave a government - executive, Congress and the courts - that will have a profound impact on those who come after us.

Think before you vote.

But vote.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Explosives Bringing Down Bush?

It seems that BushCo. can't catch a break on the al Qaqaa story. With the evidence at hand, nobody who's a member of the Reality Based Community can deny that this was the result of widespread and continuing malfeasance on the part of the administration in the planning and conduct of the Iraq invasion. If this stays at the top of the news through the weekend, it could be the death knell for Bush.

Help keep it that way.

Keep up with all the details (lots of links!) at Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.

100,000 Iraqi Deaths

It will be interesting to see whether BushCo. decides to spin this or just ignore it.

Researchers have estimated that as many as 100,000 more Iraqis - many of them women and children - died since the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq than would have been expected otherwise, based on the death rate before the war.

Writing in the British-based medical journal The Lancet, the American and Iraqi researchers concluded that violence accounted for most of the extra deaths and that airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition were a major factor.
There was some concern with the initial results of this survey because it included data from Fallujah, where the post-war fighting has been most intense. But the nearly 100,000 number is based on calculations without the Fallujah data.

Shifting the Vote

Last night on ABC News, one of the talking heads following Bush around said that the President was making appeals to Democrats to cross over and vote for him. At the time, it only made my wife and I laugh. But this morning it gave me hope.

Such an appeal means that Bush is worried that his base will not be enough to carry him, it means that he's worried about the Republican internal polling numbers. It could also mean something very good for John Kerry.

I cannot imagine that more than a few Democrats are so anti-Kerry or so enamored with our empty (flight)suit president that they would be willing to go through four more years of BushCo. It boggles the imagination to even contemplate it. In other words, for every Zell Miller there are 100,000... well... me's.

On the other hand, besides the far right christian fundamentalists and the high-powered, high-contributing business leaders, there are many traditionally Republican constituencies that have plenty of reasons to either vote Kerry or not vote at all in protest. Think of those Republicans who are true fiscal conservatives; or of those sportsmen for whom the environment is important. Think of the Arab-Americans who voted for Bush in 2000 by a large majority. I'm sure you can think of plenty of others.

Both candidates are making appeals to the other side of the aisle. Only one, I think, has any chance of getting anyone to cross over.

al Qaqaa Just a "Small Portion"

With John Kerry on the attack and BushCo. scrambling from explanation to explanation for the missing explosives (must be the same spin-meisters who spun out reason after reason for the war in the first place), the story just won't die. Bush has accused Kerry of "disrespecting the troops" while his stand-in Rudy Giuliani was saying it was the troops fault.

And while Bush has said that al QaQaa represents a small amount of missing arms in relation to the amount that was actually captured or secured, the Wall Street Journal had this paragraph tucked away at the end of a short article this morning:

He [a bomb expert under contract to the Pentagon] added, however, that what was looted from al-Qaqaa is just a small portion of the dangerous munitions in the country at the war's end. Prewar Iraq was studded with similar weapons depots and many of them were left unguarded and subsequently looted. "There are hundreds and hundreds of tons of munitions kicking around Iraq," he said.
As usual, Bush had it only half right. These explosives were only a small portion of the arms that were all over Iraq, but they were also only a small portion of the arms that were looted and that are now killing our soldiers.

If this is not incompetence, the word no longer has any meaning.

O'Reilly Slithers Away

Leaving, as he always does, a trail of slime behind him.

I had really wanted to see O'Reilly left twisting in the wind; undone, broken like the hypocritical, sanctimonious ass that he is. Now we'll never know.

Damn.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Dr. Cheneystein

Maureen Dowd lets us in on Dick Cheney's true identity. It's a good read and the timing is perfect as we fast approach Halloween.

Iraq is Unwinnable

Those of us without rose colored glasses saw this a long time ago. Perhaps the recent spate of news out of Iraq is starting to make an impression on those who didn't see or ignored reality before.

Today's New York Times reports that the provincial capitol of Ramadi, a few kilometers down the road from Fallujah, is fast becoming another "no-go" area for American soldiers and exceptionally dangerous to anyone who works for the Americans. The proximity to Fallujah and the close coordination between insurgents in both cities means that any attempt to deal decisively with one must deal with the other.

The marines in Ramadi are so short-handed that they cannot usually put together four HMMWVs required to convoy safely through the center of town. Lists of "collaborators" are posted outside of the mosques and these people have been harassed and killed.

The situation in Ramadi and Fallujah and towns all over Iraq put the lie to BushCo.'s insistence that things in Iraq are progressing nicely and that "freedom is on the march." An uprising in Ramadi like the one in Fallujah would put the possibility of elections in January - already highly unlikely - beyond reach. Any vote taken without including these two cities would be highly suspect and not supported in the rest of Iraq.

This is what "staying the course" gets us in a war that never should have been.

That's Going to Leave a Mark

On the election, hopefully...

From today's Globe & Mail:

Four British former inmates of the U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo Bay sued Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others yesterday, saying they were tortured in violation of U.S. and international law.

The four former detainees are seeking $10-million (U.S.) in damages...
Holding them without access to legal aid or to their families was getting them bad press - and even worse legal rulings. Now this. Poor Rummy; nothing he does is right. What to do?

[they]want Mr. Rumsfeld and other defendants to be held accountable for their actions...
We do, too. We do, too.

Bush - No Connection to Reality

In declaring what would become the so-called "Bush Doctrine" of preemption, Bush declared that "moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place..."

Can you think of a more parochial, more narrow or more dangerous view of the world? If Bush really believes this, and there is every indication that he does, then he is more dangerous than just his recent debacles indicate. That his statement is false on its face is obvious to anyone who has read any history. Think of the "moral truths" of the Incas or the Aztecs in Meso-America. The ancient Egyptians certainly had their own take on morality. Think of the Huns, the Visigoths, the dynastic Chinese, feudal Japan. Imagine saying such a thing in a world that has seen the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge. Even Bush's favorite bogeyman, Saddam Hussein, had a different twist on "moral truth."

Bush's world paradigm has no connection to reality. He's already proven to be a danger to the world and our country in his quest to impose his reality on us all. He must not be allowed another four years, without the restraint of a pending reelection, to continue his pillaging.

Insurance Malpractice

No, I didn't get my title mixed up. Remember during the debates how we heard so much from Bush about how soaring medical malpractice insurance rates were caused by evil trial lawyers and outrageous punitive awards? (Not that we've heard much about that since, but that's another story...) And that the only way to cure the problem was with damages caps?

Seems that either Bush had bad information - where have we heard that before - or he was lying out of his ass. If I remember correctly, the number Kerry used was 0.5% of the rise in insurance rates for doctors could be traced to so-called "problems" with the tort system. Seems that John Kerry was much closer to correct that Bush. From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Last year, after a pitched political battle, Texans voted to amend their state constitution to allow caps on awards for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, in medical-malpractice cases. In most cases, that cap is $250,000.

In a filing with the Texas Department of Insurance seeking a rate increase, Medical Protective Co., an arm of General Electric Co., said the caps would lower payouts by just 1%.
Much like the "Texas Miracle" in school reform, seems that Texas' tort reform is so much smoke and mirrors. While the number one medical insurer in Texas enacted a rate reduction after the reform bill passed, the filing from which the 1% figure is taken was filed by the number two insurer as part of a request for a 19% rate increase. If this gets through the review process, there's no doubt that the top insurer will follow suit.

The relevant sentence from the filing: "Noneconomic damages are a small percentage of total losses paid. Capping noneconomic damages will show loss savings of 1.0%."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Triple Point

noun: the condition of temperature and pressure under which the gaseous, liquid, and solid phases of a substance can exist in equilibrium.
I remember from my physics courses that triple points were exceptionally interesting; a small change in any condition could cause a substance at a triple point to collapse into one of the states. The triple point is a precarious condition which rarely occurs naturally.

But it seems as if we've reached the political analogy of a triple point in this last week prior to the elections. The polls, taken all together, seem to have this race at a precarious balance where the slightest nudge could collapse the system into one of three possibilities: a Kerry win, a Bush win or a tie/contested result. All three of these outcomes have definite and distinct consequences.

Most interesting - and perhaps most dangerous - is that the national mood (if such a thing can really be said to exist at all) seems to be at somewhat of a triple point as well. A clear outcome would provide a needed relief from the ennui of the recent closely divided nature of politics. A tight finish has the potential to provoke either quiet acceptance or a spasm of... something... I'm not sure what. A tie or a contested result would likely result in some real outbursts of anger and frustration - not the staged, so-called "white collar" riots of 2000.

The interesting thing about this particular, public, triple point is that, unlike the clear results of a change in a physics experiment, there is no good way of predicting what would happen as an outcome of any particular result. The clear, non-contested outcome is the most predictable, but the results of the other two are, to borrow a phrase, "up in the air."

This triple point, with the country poised at a most precarious point, has caused a lot of anxiety. I know that for the past couple of weeks, I've become more anxious. From moment to moment my thoughts on the election range from despair to elation. One news piece will fill me with hope for a change, another seems to make it certain that we are doomed to another four years of war, deficit and bigotry. But so it is with these seeming magic points in physics and history. There are too many variables to predict which way the system will collapse. And so we have to fall back on our own small efforts to make a difference, hoping that the small push we provide will be the one to move the system in the way we want.

Your small push to the system is your voice and your vote. Use them both.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

This is NOT Who We Are

In a New York Times article describing how BushCo. lawyers have come to the conclusion that certain persons captured in Iraq are not subject to the Geneva Convention, I found the following two paragraphs.

It is possible that some of the prisoners transferred out of Iraq may have been handed over to friendly governments, like those of Egypt or Saudi Arabia, in a procedure known as rendition. Another possibility is that they were transferred to the secret American-run sites around the world that have been used since the Sept. 11 terror attacks to house the highest ranking Qaeda detainees, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of being the mastermind of the attacks.

Such transfers have been used by American officials in the past three years in part to subject suspected members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to interrogation practices harsher than those permitted under the Geneva Conventions or under American law. American officials have defended such practices, including a technique in which a prisoner is made to believe that he will drown, as essential to extract information that may be useful in preventing terrorist attacks.
This is exactly who the administration members are; secretive, lawless, vengeful, spiteful. But this is not who Americans are. We have laws and are signatories to The Geneva Conventions for a reason. But BushCo. continues in their push to remove the US from the community of civilized nations.

We are now exactly what aWol warned us that Iraq was: a rogue nation.

Campaign of Fear

BushCo. and their allies are at it again. While on the stump, they accuse Kerry & Edwards of running a campaign of fear. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is, once again, asking questions about who has the authority to cancel elections should a major terrorist attack occur just prior.

Government officials say they have no specific intelligence to suggest an imminent attack; and many states, exercising caution, are putting various safety and emergency measures in place around polling time. Still, that hasn't stopped some people from wondering: In the event of a major attack around Nov. 2, could the election be canceled or postponed? And who has the power to decide?

The simple answer, like in Missouri, is nobody. But there are enough shades of gray to suggest all sorts of caveats and complexities. The bottom line: If an election-time catastrophe were to arise, the government's reaction would likely depend on the particulars of what happened when and where -- not to mention inevitable legal wranglings.
Yes, there are the usual statements that there are no specifics around attacks close to elections. But they go on with the article anyway. And although the article goes on to say that probably nobody has true legal authority to delay or cancel federal elections, there is this one, ominous paragraph to think about:

The Congressional Research Service, part of the Library of Congress, addressed the question in July and found that Congress does in fact has the power to postpone presidential elections in the event of a national emergency. Moreover, the CRS's sweeping review of American case law and statutes found that the executive branch also has the ability to make it "difficult or impractical" for an election to take place. A memorandum drawn up for lawmakers said that the administration could limit the movement of citizens under emergency powers although an "exercise of such power would not appear to have the legal effect of delaying an election." In such an event, it concluded, legal resolution would ultimately fall to the courts.
Such questions are legitimate to ask during planning sessions. But barring clear, actionable intelligence of the danger of such attacks, floating articles such as this just a week prior to the election is fear mongering at its worst.

Campaign of fear, indeed.

Monday, October 25, 2004

BOOM!

Interesting details surrounding the "loss" of that 350 tons of high explosives from Iraq's former nuclear weapons research facility:

Several hundred tons of conventional explosives are missing from a former Iraqi military facility that once played a key role in Saddam Hussein's efforts to build a nuclear bomb, the U.N. nuclear agency confirmed Monday.

[snip]

Nearly 380 tons [note the discrepancy between the numbers - 30 tons is a lot of explosive power - ed.] of powerful explosives that could be used to build large conventional bombs are missing from the former Al Qaqaa military installation, the New York Times reported Monday. The explosives included HMX and RDX, which can be used to demolish buildings but also produce warheads for missiles and detonate nuclear weaponry, the newspaper said. It said they disappeared after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year.
And, most damning of all:

Al Qaqaa, a sprawling former military installation about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Baghdad, was placed under U.S. military control but repeatedly has been looted, raising troubling questions about whether the missing explosives have fallen into the hands of insurgents battling coalition forces.
Under military control... repeatedly looted.

Think about that in the context of my previous post about post-war planning. We do not need these slow learners in control of complicated decision.

Remember, "it's hard work."

VOTE