Thursday, April 29, 2004

On Vacation

Very early on Friday morning, my wife and I are flying to the US Virgin Islands. Friends of ours are getting married and they were wonderful enough to invite us to join them. Since we never had the chance to take a honeymoon when we got married almost two years ago, we're taking this opportunity and will not be back until Wednesday.

The picture of the pool is from the Westin Resort on St. John, where we'll be staying. The resort looks out over Cruz Bay and as you can see, the water is just the most incredible mix of blues and greens imaginable. While I've never been to the Virgin Islands, I have done a bit of scuba diving in the Caribbean so I can't wait to see the crystal clear water and all the tropical fish and corals.

The other photo is of Trunk Bay, one of the many coves and bays that surround the island. One of the best things about St. John, as opposed to St. Thomas, the larger island, is that about 75% of the island is designated as National Forest. So much of it is relatively untouched rain forest. I will have my digital camera and an extra SD Smart Card, so I will bring back lots of pictures which I promise to share with you all.

I doubt I'll have any opportunity to blog while I'm away what with the beaches and the rain forest and...ah... the rum! So be good, leave lots of comments about how jealous you all are, and I'll see you when I get back!

Winning Hearts and Minds - Part MCXXIV

This is sure to make us even more popular than we already are in Iraq:

A US general has been suspended in Iraq over the alleged abuse of prisoners by US troops in jails she ran.


CBS says the pictures it obtained show a wide range of abuses, including:

Prisoners with wires attached to their genitals

A dog attacking a prisoner

Prisoners being forced to simulate having sex with each other

A detainee with an abusive word written on his body.
The prison where the abuses are alleged to have taken place was a notorious torture centre during the Saddam Hussein era.
This also happens to be yet another bit of evidence that activities post-war were completely unplanned for:

"We had no training whatsoever," he [former guard] said.

"I kept asking my chain of command for certain things... like rules and regulations. And it just wasn't happening," he said.

He said he never saw a copy of the Geneva Conventions - which govern the treatment of prisoners - until after he was charged.

The Army investigation confirmed that reservists at Abu Ghraib had not been trained in Geneva Convention rules.

The Dick and Bush Show

So the Sock Puppet and the Puppet Master are sitting with the 9/11 Commission today.

No oath that they will tell the truth.

No cameras to capture this historic moment.

No recorders so that the country will know what is said.

Is there anyone out there who can honestly say that all the restrictions have some completely innocuous purpose? Is there anyone out there who really believes that these two don't have something to hide?



How did liberal come to be an epithet in modern politics?

It wasn't always so, but I was too young to really know what it was like when liberal wasn't spit like something foul from your mouth by so many people. I've always thought it was a kind of fear. Conservatives - by definition - try to keep things in stasis; they like the way things are or were. They look to the past for a better time, for better behavior, for a better life. Liberals tends to look to the future and to believe that government and technology (generally) and intellectualism can lead to a better life.

For most people, even liberals, the future is frightening with all of its unknowns, with its problems and opportunities unseen. Our primate brain, evolved on the predator filled savannahs of Africa, still tend to look with suspicion and fear at the shadows and places we cannot see clearly. Those who can see the past clearly and with longing, would be most afraid of a future seen at best through the haze and gauze of time so they fear not only the future, but those who would welcome and speed the coming of the unknown. And what conservatives and reactionaries fear, they hate.

I welcome a better future. I have learned from the past, yes. But I do not long to remain there. I am a liberal. Proudly so. But in this dangerous time for our country, how liberal is liberal enough? Steve Bates at The Yellow Doggerel Democrat asks that question today. It's what got me thinking about liberalism.

Go read the post, it will make you think, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Bush in Wonderland

Read the news coming out of Iraq today. Go ahead. Read it all or just read some of it.

Now tell me how isolated, what level of denial, how insane would someone have to be to say this:

"Most of Fallujah is returning to normal, there are pockets of resistance."

Bringing Freedom to the World

As long as your press says nice things about us.

Colin Powell has had the unenviable task of showing the rest of the world, yet again, what BushCo. means by "spreading peace and freedom throughout the Middle East." Visiting Qatar, one of our closer allies in the region, Powell asked that the small country do something about the coverage of one of the few "free" media in the region; al Jazeera.

The United States warned the Persian Gulf state of Qatar yesterday that an otherwise strong relationship between the two nations is being harmed by "false" and "inflammatory" anti-American coverage of Iraq by the Qatar-based Arab television network Al Jazeera.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other U.S. officials delivered the terse warning to a delegation headed by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabir al Thani - the highest level at which the subject has been discussed.
This administration is showing the world the worst face possible if its real goal is to spread freedom around the world. Detaining prisoners without due process and outside of the Geneva Conventions, restricting civil liberties at home and now attempting to get another government to muzzle its press. What a great representation of the best of America, no? Sure some of the coverage is "inflammatory," no doubt. But is this the way a country with a supposedly free press should act? Is this the face we want to show the world?

Semantics and the Medals - Coda

A final (I hope) word on John Kerry's medals from someone who actually has the qualifications to speak about such things. Please note that unlike the aWol President and the "Other Priorities" VP and all the other chickenhawks in BushCo., Gen. Wesley Clark is yet another decorated veteran. Clark call 'em like he sees 'em.

From the New York Times (via Hesiod):

...the Republican attack machine follows a pattern we've seen before, whether the target is Senator John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 or Senator Max Cleland in Georgia in 2002. The latest manifestation of these tactics is the controversy over Mr. Kerry's medals.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Weekly Dose of Relaxation

I haven't been able to keep up regularly with the Friday Dog Blogging, so there's no telling how long I'll keep this up... But for your relaxation pleasure comes this week's peaceful and (I think) beautiful photo to remind us all that there is always a little bit of beauty to be found if you just look hard enough.

These hyacinths are growing beside the road just down from my house, they are taking over from an old tree that somebody cut down and dumped in the field.

Spooks to Spy on Blogs

Say hello to the men in trenchcoats!

Via Hesiod.

The Price of Arrogance

From MSNBC, via Hesiod:

You really need to read the entire article, but I warn you; unless you are dead, it will make you cry.

The neurosurgeons at the 31st Combat Support Hospital measure the damage in the number of skulls they remove to get to the injured brain inside, a procedure known as a craniotomy. "We've done more in eight weeks than the previous neurosurgery team did in eight months," Poffenbarger said. "So there's been a change in the intensity level of the war."

Numbers tell part of the story. So far in April, more than 900 soldiers and Marines have been wounded in Iraq, more than twice the number wounded in October, the previous high. With the tally still climbing, this month's injuries account for about a quarter of the 3,864 U.S. servicemen and women listed as wounded in action since the March 2003 invasion.

Political Cartoon or WMD?

Perspective seems to be missing in a lot of things these days.

Take, for example, this story:

Secret Service agents questioned a high school student about anti-war drawings he did for an art class, one of which depicted President Bush's head on a stick.

Another pencil-and-ink drawing portrayed Bush as a devil launching a missile, with a caption reading "End the war -- on terrorism."

The 15-year-old boy's art teacher at Prosser High School turned the drawings over to school administrators, who notified police, who called the Secret Service.
There are just so many things I could say about this: the First Amendment issues, the lack of perspective, the lack of a sense of humor, the lack of better things for the Secret Service to be doing... But I think I'll let a friend of the unidentified boy put it into perspective:

"If this 15-year-old kid in Prosser is perceived as a threat to the president, then we are living in '1984'."

Semantics and the Medals - Redux

The Freepers and GOPers can lie and spin the story all they want, Thomas Oliphant was there.

In a voice I doubt I would have heard had I not been so close to him, Kerry said, as I recall vividly, "There is no violent reason for this; I'm doing this for peace and justice and to try to help this country wake up once and for all."

With that, he didn't really throw his handful toward the statue of John Marshall, America's first chief justice. Nor did he drop the decorations. He sort of lobbed them, and then walked off the stage.


...I saw what happened and heard what Kerry said and know what he meant. The truth happens to be with him.

Private Matt Maupin

Anyone remember that name?

Private Maupin was kidnapped during an attack on his convoy in the first week of April, and a tape of him was shown on al Jazeera TV. Our government made the usual noises about not negotiating with terrorists and kidnappers and then PVT Maupin disappeared. He disappeared in the worst way - he was, apparently - forgotten.

I haven't seen any stories with updated information on him. There have been stories that mention his name, but that's it. No official word that the government is doing anything at all to secure his release or to find him. No word on who may have him or what they want.

Does anyone remember Private Maupin?

Monday, April 26, 2004

All Things, Great [or] Small

These are the things that BushCo. will lie about or spin.

Not content to lie about, then spin the aftermath of "the great," that being the Iraq War and all the reasons leading up to it, this misadministration is even trying to dissemble and spin "the small," a movie, by telling NASA not to talk about it - at least initially.

From the New York Times:

"Urgent: HQ Direction," began a message e-mailed on April 1 to dozens of scientists and officials at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

It was not an alert about an incoming asteroid, a problem with the space station or a solar storm. It was a warning about a movie.

In "The Day After Tomorrow," a $125 million disaster film set to open on May 28, global warming from accumulating smokestack and tailpipe gases disrupts warm ocean currents and sets off an instant ice age.

Few climate experts think such a prospect is likely, especially in the near future. But the prospect that moviegoers will be alarmed enough to blame the Bush administration for inattention to climate change has stirred alarm at the space agency, scientists there say.

"No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with" the film, said the April 1 message, which was sent by Goddard's top press officer. "Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA."
NASA - and the administration - have backed off their strict embargo on information about the movie and the issues it will surely raise, but the official list of questions and answers that agency members will likely have to stick to has not been approved or released yet.

Says one anonymous scientist: "It's just another attempt to play down anything that might lead to the conclusion that something must be done" about global warming, one federal climate scientist said. He, like half a dozen government employees interviewed on this subject, said he could speak only on condition of anonymity because of standing orders not to talk to the news media.

Why confront those annoying, disturbing questions when "we" won't be around anymore anyway?

Semantics and the Medals

"It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

Arguments over the finer points of semantics often leave people in confusion. I don't believe the current, manufactured, flap over John Kerry's "medals" should fall into this category of semantic hair splitting. But it does require a little bit of knowledge of "military-speak." Every profession has a jargon; the military's just happens to be one of the better developed and more arcane. In the official jargon, there is a big difference between a medal and a ribbon.

A medal is just that, a die cast bit of metal hanging from a short piece of ribbon that is uniquely colored and striped. Medals are worn on the most formal uniforms in the military - and sometimes on civilian clothing as well. A ribbon on the other hand is a small bar of that colored and striped ribbon with no medal hanging from it that is worn on less formal uniforms. (See the photo at left.)

I never had to buy that most formal of dress uniforms when I was in the military, so I never bought dress medals; although I did have the larger presentation medals that came with some of the medals, I never wore them. To me - and to most soldiers - in the more relaxed, unofficial jargon of soldiers, these were "medals." Or, if you had enough of them, "fruit salad," because of the mix of colors and stripes.

It would not have been unusual for Kerry to have spoken of medals and been specifically talking about ribbons. And it would be why, having to speak more specifically about the event years later that he could say that he threw out his ribbons, but retained the medals and not contradict his earlier statements.

But don't look for that kind of knowledgeable detail from the Rethugs, as they haven't ever had a medal pinned to their chests. Nor from the press, apparently, who no longer look beyond the talking points handed them every morning.

Bush Disrespects Living Soldiers, Too

How badly did the Bush Pentagon bungle the planning for post-war Iraq? The gyrations they are putting the military through right now to begin addressing the problems in Iraq give some clues.

From this morning's Wall Street Journal:

With security in Iraq deteriorating, the U.S. military is laying plans to increase by about 10% the number of National Guard forces moving into Iraq this fall as part of the next rotation of troops at the same time it retrains more than 100,000 soldiers so it doesn't run out of troops in more than a half-dozen critical specialties.


If soldiers volunteer to stay on active duty longer, they can. To cover the gaps in key specialties, the Army Reserve will begin this week asking for volunteers to begin active-duty tours for two years. "We're going to be establishing provisional active-duty units with the volunteers," said Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve. Gen. Helmly said it is unclear how many volunteers among the Reserve's 211,000 soldiers will step forward.


Most of the looming shortages will be covered by retraining soldiers. To address the shortage of infantry soldiers, for example, the army is reducing the number of heavy-armored-tank brigades and retraining many of those soldiers as infantry troops, which are more effective in peacekeeping operations.
Some of these ideas may sound relatively benign to non-military people; but believe me they are an incredible departure from "normal."

Retraining troops into new specialties (MOS - Military Operational Specialties) is no mean feat. Each MOS has its own training structure and schools; each has its own personnel management system. And all of that is basically doubled because there is one system for enlisted and non-commissioned officers and one for commissioned officers. So while "retraining [tank brigade]...soldiers as infantry troops" sounds easy, while "establishing provisional active-duty units" sounds like a mere paperwork exercise, they are unbelievably complex and disruptive.

The pressure to do these things quickly and - like every thing BushCo. has done in Iraq - cheaply, will mean that they will be more dangerous than necessary and will likely not work as planned. These "provisional units" will more than likely be made up of a mix of experienced and retrained soldiers, but with experienced units and soldiers needed for actual operations, we can expect that these units will wind up with a deficit of experience and - until they are better established - to have higher accident and fatality rates in battle.

This is a bad idea all around.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Paying Our Respects

The entire set can be seen at The Memory Hole or at a mirror site here.

It's not the same as being there, or seeing the cargo planes roll in live on television. But go look at these photographs - regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum - and pay your respects to our soldiers. As we should have been doing all along.

Defining Sovereignty Downward

Let's make this really simple:

From Merriam-Webster:
1 obsolete : supreme excellence or an example of it 2 a : supreme power especially over a body politic b : freedom from external control : AUTONOMY c : controlling influence 3 : one that is sovereign; especially : an autonomous state
From this morning's New York Times:
The Bush administration's plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, administration officials said Thursday.
So just what exactly will happen on June 30? It seems pretty much nothing. It will be a symbolic act, at best, a made-for-TV spectacle that will be used to flog aWol's campaign. The remaining question in this stage-managed event is whether there will be any chance of getting video of soldiers returning home; since it's already been proven that there are not enough there.

How pathetic can BushCo. get?

Too Damn Bad - Read the First Amendment

As the fire-storm over photos of our war dead heats up, apparently the Pentagon is none too happy that they were released at all. From the BBC website:

The Pentagon has reacted angrily to the publication on US websites of photos of America's war dead arriving home.


"They're not happy with the release of the photos," said Dover Air Force base spokesman Col Jon Anderson of the Pentagon.
The rationale given most often is that BushCo. wants to protect the privacy of the families and to respect the dead. Why is it then that every quote I've ever seen from a family member is all in favor of releasing the photos? And how is anyone's privacy invaded when there are no names or any other identifying marks on the flag-draped coffins?

It's all BushCo. CYA bullshit. They know that not only could the Iraq quagmire not pass the sniff test, it wouldn't pass the "Dover test" either.

One of the spokespersons quoted in the article, however makes an interesting comment. I'm not sure if it was a slip of the tongue, a mistake or perhaps a hint.

"The photos will not be released through Air Force channels," said Air Force spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Cassidy, who added that requests for their release could be made under the same act [Freedom of Information Act - FOI].
COL Cassidy says their not happy about the original release, then says that they will not be released, but then reminds everyone how to get them released. A small act of rebellion by a military member? Perhaps.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

WTF is Going on in Colorado?!?!

Found via BlogAmY.

Outraged... dumbfounded... speechless...

In it's entirety from CBS 4 Denver:

Bill Lets Doctors, Nurses Refuse To Treat Homosexuals

Mar 28, 2003 9:07 am US/Mountain
DENVER (AP) State representatives have removed a provision protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination by health care workers.

Rep. Don Lee, a Jefferson County Republican, took a run-of-the-mill measure dealing with agency regulations and amended it to remove protection for gays under rules set by the Medical Services Board. It was approved by the House Thursday.

Lee argued that gays don't have state legal claims against discrimination now and the rules would create a special protection for them.

Senate Bill 88 passed on a 34-29 party-line vote, with a lone Republican, Rep. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs, siding with Democrats.

An angry Rep. Jennifer Veiga, a Denver Democrat and House minority leader, said Lee's approach also would allow for discriminating against people who are older, believe in a certain religion, belong to an ethnic group or have a physical disability.

"Does it create a special protected class? It absolutely does not," Veiga said. "It provides some assurance to large sections of our society that they will get treatment."

Rep. Shawn Mitchell, a Broomfield Republican, said that any medical professional who chooses not to treat someone would be disciplined under medical ethics or have a lawsuit slapped against them.

"They will be sued for medical incompetence, but not for political incorrectness," Mitchell said.
Several Democrats argued that the rule change would be unconstitutional.

In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Colorado's Amendment 2, which barred laws that protect homosexuals from discrimination.

"We went down this road in Colorado with Amendment 2," said Rep. Alice Madden, D-Boulder. "It wasn't a pretty trip."

Always Low Expectations, Always

It's been a while since I posted anything about Wal-Mart (see here and here and here), but most of you who've read my blog for any time know how I feel about this parasitic corporation. Rivka over at Respectful of Otters, always the go-to blog for social issues, has taken up my slack with a vengeance. A link from Kevin Drum drove lots of traffic to her original post, which means - yeah - trolls.

Check out her original post and the follow-up. Join the discussions on the comment threads.

While your there, keep in mind something I added to the comments: the dichotomy typically cited by conservatives (progressives fall into this trap as well) between "consumers" and "employees" is a false one. They are the same group of people.

UPDATE: If all of that doesn't get you fired up about Sam Walton's little empire, check out some of these statistics from Counterpunch (via BlogAmY). A quick example:

10,261: Number of children of Wal-Mart employees in Georgia who are enrolled in the state's PeachCare for Kids health insurance program, which provides medical coverage to children whose parents cannot afford it.

A New Hero

Tami Silicio, the woman who took the photo of flag-draped coffins in the hold of a cargo plane leaving Kuwait has been fired. She worked for a contractor providing logistical support for the military when she snapped the photo. Sending the picture to the Seattle Times, which published it, sent the military - and likely BushCo. - into a tizzy. Under unspecified pressure from the military, her company fired her.

Silicio was let go yesterday for violating U.S. government and company regulations, said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the contractor that employed Silicio at Kuwait International Airport.


Maytag also fired David Landry, a co-worker who recently wed Silicio.


Maytag's Silva said the decision to terminate Silicio's and Landry's employment was made by the company. But he said the U.S. military had identified "very specific concerns" about their actions. Silva declined to detail those concerns.
Note the attack on the family member's job as well, a signature BushCo. tactic.

Thanks to Dispassionate Lib for the link to the updated story.

Cost - Benefit Analysis

Conservatives seem to be enamored of cost - benefit analyses; I wonder if they've done this one yet.

The latest figure I've seen on the cost of our Iraqi operations is $4.7 billion/month or $56.4 billion/year. Just what have we gotten for that money? 700 soldiers dead, hundreds - if not thousands - of damaged and destroyed pieces of equipment, a country in chaos - a spark in the powder keg of the Middle East, thousands of civilian Iraqis dead, a new source of hatred and terrorism where there was none before, the passions of the entire Muslim world inflamed against the US. I'm sure I've missed a few in there, feel free to add your own.

I'm not sure of the cost of maintaining the No-Fly Zone in pre-war Iraq, but I'm sure it was several magnitudes of order less than $4.7 billion/month. There was likely some administrative and operational costs to maintaining the embargo on Iraq, but not much and it would have been spread across those who contributed to the UN budget at the time. What did that relatively small amount of money get us? Iraq was no threat to its neighbors, no threat to the US (as was stated before the war and has been proved since), Hussein was essentially a prisoner in his own country, his military was a shadow of its former (not very effective) self, and the UN was, as it turned out, rather effective in keeping Iraq from developing any further weapons capabilities. Again, I'm sure you can think of more.

A fair bargain? Now it's not so strange to consider that the Repugs haven't mentioned Cost - Benefit Analysis in the last year...

Republican Hypocrisy - Doubly Redundant?

Only in the broadest, playground bully sense could the Republican demands for the release of every scrap of John Kerry's military and medical records be seen as "fair play." But, ever immune to irony, they've made those records an issue.

Their Boy Blunder used every connection at hand to avoid active duty service in Viet Nam, hid out in an Air National Guard Unit where he didn't serve his time, where he took time off to work on a family friend's political campaign and where he was somehow able to finagle an early release so he could go to business school.

Kerry, despite likely being able to pull a few strings of his own, and despite misgivings about the war, served honorably in the Navy, was awarded two major medals for heroism and service and was wounded three times, receiving a Purple Heart in each instance.

And they want to make his records an issue?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Take a Deep Breath

Sometimes it can all seem like too much (see all my entries for today, e.g.). Too much to think about, too much to be outraged about. Too much work. Just too much.

Those are the times when a deep breath and a real look at the beauty all around us that can put things in perspective.

I caught this flock of crows crossing the valley behind my house the other morning just before sunrise. A thin sliver was all that was visible of the moon. It was a sublime moment.



Mark Morford at SFGate hits it out of the park:

This is the BushCo way: To apologize is to show weakness. To say you might've made some mistakes whilst tromping blindly down the warpath, well, that sort of humility doesn't sit well with the hawks and the corporate profiteers. There is only the push toward bigger, toward stronger, toward nastier and angrier and more troops and more weaponry and more draconian Patriot Acts and more enraged anti-U.S. fundamentalists and more dead soldiers in Iraq.
The rest is worth a read, too.

Texan Mouthbreathers...

Via Hesiod, at The Houston Chronicle:

The FBI is investigating an e-mail sent to the El Paso Islamic Center that threatened to make it "the center of death and destruction" if hostages in Iraq weren't released.

The message was discovered on Sunday after it was sent to the center's main e-mail address from a person called "freedom lover." It said the threat would be carried out in three days if hostages in Iraq were not freed.

The note also said, "The will of the people has been portrayed to you and your Satan worshipping faith."
Need I say more?

Those Who Do Not Learn From History...

It's no wonder BushCo., and especially Rummy, cannot learn from history. Besides apparently not reading any, they are so busy trying to revise it that there's not time to learn from it.


The Pentagon deleted from a public transcript a statement Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made to author Bob Woodward suggesting that the administration gave Saudi Arabia a two-month heads-up that President Bush had decided to invade Iraq.


Woodward supplied his own transcript showing that Rumsfeld told him on Oct. 23, 2003: "I remember meeting with the vice president and I think Dick Myers and I met with a foreign dignitary at one point and looked him in the eye and said you can count on this. In other words, at some point we had had enough of a signal from the president that we were able to look a foreign dignitary in the eye and say you can take that to the bank this is going to happen."

The transcript made it clear that the foreign dignitary Woodward was discussing was Bandar, although Rumsfeld would not say that. "We're going to have to clean some of this up in the transcript," Rumsfeld said in the omitted passage. "We'll give you a -- I mean you just said Bandar and I didn't agree with that so we're going to have to -- I don't want to say who it is but you are going to have to go through that and find a way to clean up my language too."

All told, the Pentagon transcript omits a series of eight questions and answers, some of them just a few words each. Yesterday Rumsfeld described the deleted passages as "some banter."
As I said yesterday, these guys supposedly reviewed Woodward's book prior to publication. What does it say about them that they are now trying to refute statements for which it's already been shown that Woodward has tapes?

Suicide Bomber in Saudi Arabia

What now?

At least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded Wednesday when a car bomb destroyed a Saudi security service building in the capital, witnesses said.

Saudi officials described it as a "terrorist attack" and Arab television said the body of suicide bomber had been found.


"We believe it is a terrorist attack," a Saudi Interior Ministry source told Reuters. He said a car packed with explosives blew up in al-Murabaa district.

The kingdom, a key U.S. ally and the world's largest oil exporter, is battling a tide of Islamist militancy linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.


Saudi Arabia last week defused five cars rigged with explosives in Riyadh, security sources said. Suspected Muslim militants also killed at least five Saudi policemen last week.

Also last week, a wanted Saudi militant called on Muslims in a video distributed on the Internet to kill Americans.
While there have been previous bombings, including one last year in a foreign housing enclave that killed 50 people, why is that the combination of the timing and the fact that the target was a Saudi security building made me wonder - danger tinfoil hat time here - whether this might be a set up for the House of Saud's dear friend, George W.

It's horrible that I'd even think that. It's awful that the actions of BushCo. would make that such a distinct possibility. I don't really believe, after a little time to consider, that it's really true. But it was the first thing to enter my head.

Inflection Point

An inflection point is that point on a curve where some change in the function causes a sharp departure from the former trajectory of the curve. As an analogy, it's a useful term when talking about a change in a situation after which things are not the same; they are not heading in the same direction. Usually this change is for the worse.

It seems things in Iraq - and Fallujah, in particular - have reached an inflection point (subscription).

A series of explosions ripped through three police stations and a police academy in the southern Iraqi city of Basra Wednesday, killing at least 55 people, including some 10 schoolchildren, and injuring at least 238, officials said.

Three near-simultaneous blasts targeted police stations at rush hour in Basra. At about the same time, a fourth explosion ripped through the police academy in the Basra suburb of Zubair. An hour later another blast targeted the same police academy.

Forty-five people were killed in the police station blasts and 10 were killed in the police academy explosions, officials and witnesses said. The injured included two British soldiers at the police academy, Maj. Hisham al-Halawi, spokesman for British forces in Basra, told Al-Arabiya television.

The attacks came a day after Iraqi leaders named a tribunal of judges and prosecutors to try Saddam Hussein, placing a longtime opponent of the ousted dictator in the forefront of the case against him and his former Baathist inner circle.
And in Fallujah:

Meanwhile, U.S Marines backed by tanks and helicopter gunships battled insurgents in northern Fallujah on Wednesday, killing nine, as a day-old attempt to bring peace to the besieged city hit snags, with Marines saying guerrillas were not turning in weapons.

Explosions were heard coming from the scene of the fighting, and Cobra helicopter gunships were blasting with Gatling guns from the air. Tanks moved into the Julan neighborhood from which Marines said insurgents their positions.

The attack came as U.S. Marine commanders said no guerrillas have come forward so far to turn in their heavy weapons, a key tenet of an agreement reached by negotiators that began being implemented on Tuesday. The Marines, in response, halted a key commitment on their side in the deal, the return of Fallujah residents to the city.
The general chaos and violence in Iraq has not subsided, and in fact these suicide bombings appear to be a stepping up of violence against not only Americans and the Iraqis working with them, but against civilians as well. The situation in Fallujah seems to have reached a point - easily predictable - where the US has to either storm the city to quell the insurrection (and incurring the wrath of every Sunni in the world) or back down giving the insurgents and their leader Moqtada al Sadr more power, more influence.

These two situations will feed off of each other and one of them will "break" soon. My guess is that Fallujah will be the flash point and the violence will spread from there like wildfire.

Our troops' supply lines are already tenuous at best. A general uprising will ensure that units become cut off from their logistics tail. Not all of them and not all the time. But it's going to happen. Some unit will get completely cut off and will run low on ammunition, medical supplies or water. Then what?

Day by day the situation worsens. Day by day more soldiers and civilians die. There has never been a plan, there is no plan. And that fact is killing our soldiers just as surely as if Bush and Rumsfeld were pulling the trigger themselves.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

So Which is It?

Woodward's book is "Recommeded Reading" on the BushCo. campaign site, it was reviewed before release by someone in the administration, and various news organizations have vetted at least some of Woodward's sources. The Shrub himself is one of the sources. Colin Powell says they were instructed by the White House to speak to Woodward.

So when Powell and others in the administration start disagreeing with what Woodward wrote, what are we to believe? That the administration would approve the release of the book and it was full of mistatements by the very people likely reviewing it? That Powell and others lied to Woodward? That Woodward is telling the truth and BushCo. were too stupid to notice?

Which is it?

UPDATE: Or, as alert reader Wanda notes, perhaps it's ALL OF THE ABOVE.

The Price of Arrogance

This is the price of BushCo.'s arrogance:

NOTE:I found the photo above on Romanesko, via Atrios. NTodd has it up as well. It's showing up in lots of places. It's originally from the Seattle Times and was given to them anonymously. You can read the story behind it here.

It's Settled; Americans Are Stupid

Maybe not you, or you over there. And definitely not me. But in general, I can only conclude that Americans are, in fact, dumber than a box of hammers.

Bad news and body bags continue to flow from Iraq on a daily basis. I've covered that well as have other bloggers. Afghanistan, what should be the front line of the "war on terror," is being ignored and will likely slip back into chaos and a Taliban lead theocracy. Revelations from the 9/11 Commission and the latest Bob Woodward book are all over the news and paint BushCo. in a very poor light about some of the most important decisions and actions a President can take. Everywhere the Shrub goes people who wish to make their voices heard are shuffled off into "Free Speech Zones" sometimes miles away from the boy king and the news organizations whose existence is owed to the now desecrated First Amendment are silent on the issue. The government budget moves further and further into the red every day while BushCo. insists that more tax cuts are needed and that programs for the poor and aged should be cut.

With all of that in the news - and yes, some of it you have to hunt for, but it's there - you'd think that Bush's approval ratings would be heading south faster than a snowbird in October. You could be forgiven for thinking that, but you would, of course, be wrong.


President Bush holds significant advantages over John F. Kerry in public perceptions of who is better equipped to deal with Iraq and the war on terrorism, and he has reduced the advantages his Democratic challenger held last month on many domestic issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

The poll also found that Iraq and the war on terrorism have surged in importance, and rank with the economy and jobs as top voting issues. Despite signs of concern among Americans about the violence in Iraq, the poll showed Bush's approval ratings holding steady and Kerry's slipping on a variety of issues and attributes.

By 49 percent to 44 percent, Bush is viewed as better able to deal with the country's biggest problems. Five weeks ago, those numbers were reversed. By comfortable margins, voters see Bush as stronger than Kerry on key national security issues.
How is this possible? Really, how could anyone possibly see this band of morons as being better able to deal with anything? I'm at a complete loss...

I hate making broad-brush statements; it's the height of prejudice normally. But in this case, all the facts lead to one inescapable conclusion. Americans are stupid.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Busy, Busy, Busy...

Lots going on at work today, so check out some of these folks:

Steve Bates at the Yellow Doggerel Democrat posts on breaches of National Security by Rumsfeld (and by extension - Bush).

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall covers lots of ground from Bob Woodward's new book. There are some very interesting things coming out of this book (including the subject of Steve's post above).

Billmon, ever indispensable, is back from his fishing trip with a vengeance.

Amy, at her semi-eponymous blog, BlogAmY, has found a photo of BushCo.'s plans for Iraq. Check it out!

There are lots more great blogs in my blogrolls. Please go check them out!

Saturday, April 17, 2004

NRA News?

This is interesting; the NRA is setting up a news operation. Why would such a narrowly focused organization want to set up first an internet radio news station with plans to expand into radio and TV? Do you think they might run newstories 24/7 about accidental shootings and stray bullets from drive-by shootings? Perhaps they'll have special interest stories about just why teflon-jacketed bullets that slip right through police bullet-proof vests are such a good idea. Maybe there will be pictures of deer riddled with AK-47 rounds; they do want to keep them legal - you know - for hunting.

Think the worst thoughts you may have about this group...

The media operation is expected to provide a platform for the NRA in the run-up to this year's presidential elections - a time when restrictions surround the use of donors' money for political advertising.

The NRA's media outlets will be financed by unlimited donations, known as "soft money".

Campaign finance laws ban the use of "soft money" for political advertising in the run-up to elections

"If you own a news operation," said Mr LaPierre, "you can say whatever you want. If you don't, you're gagged."

Experts say that the NRA might be able to sidestep campaign finance laws if it can convincingly show that it is running a media organisation.
While I have less than the most respect for our media, I do not think that they can "say whatever [they] want." Seems Mr. LaPierre has a little to learn about responsible news media.

Of course responsibility is something the NRA has been dodging for a long, long time.

NOTE:I was a police Explorer Scout and an expert marksman by the time I was 10 years old. I have at least 5 family members who are police officers. I spent 14 years firing weapons of every type and size from 9mm automatic pistols to 155mm howitzers; from 5.56mm M16A2s to 20mm cannon. I don't fear weapons or misunderstand them.

Face to Face With Death?

It had to have happened sooner or later. A soldier, thought to be missing since last week's attack on a fuel convoy, was shown on Arab TV as a hostage. The US government has said - as it has long said - that it would not negotiate for his release in exchange for captured Iraqi insurgents.

What now? The treatment and release of these hostages has been mostly an unknown, although some were released at the end of last week. But this is different. This soldier is not "merely" a coalition soldier or an NGO worker; this is a representative of the "Great Satan" himself. Will Private Keith Maupin be returned to his comrades or will we all be subjected to his videotaped execution?

The quagmire deepens; increasing its sticky, relentless grip on our soldiers, on our nation. It threatens to drown us in a morass of death and violence spiraling out of control.

What now?

Friday, April 16, 2004

Bush, Rumsfeld Incompetent III (Coda)

Do you imagine, in their worst nightmares - if they even have them - that George W. Bush or Donald Rumsfeld ever see this:

It is my fondest wish that this scene plays itself out beneath their fevered and sweat-stained brows every night.

Via The Agonist.

Bush, Rumsfeld Incompetent II

BushCo. are reducing troop strength on the central front of the War on Terror.

The United States, which has increased troops numbers in Afghanistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden and other militants, may cut their number after the country holds elections, the top U.S. military officer [General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff] said on Friday.


"We will see how events unfold. I think generally most of the country is pretty secure as a matter of fact,"he added.


Driven from power by U.S.-led forces in late 2001, the Taliban have declared a jihad, or holy war, on foreign and Afghan government troops and aid organizations, and threatened this week to step up attacks against the government and foreign troops.
While Myers emphasized that the war in Iraq was not driving this decision, I think the all-but-announced cancellation of the rotation out of about 20,000 troops from Iraq puts lie to that statement. Myers also stated, perhaps in a slip of the tongue that Pakistan was not fully engaged in helping to hunt down bin Laden or other al Qaeda or Taliban members in the border area, he was confident that they would soon be engaged.

Sounds to me like everyone's telling a different story in hopes that the public doesn't put it all together before November. I think they are hoping against hope.

Bush, Rumsfeld Incompetent

In case you still had any doubt.

Lots of people actually thought about and worried about bin Laden before 9/11.

Lots of people actually did think about and talk about terrorists using airplanes as missiles before 9/11.

Lots of people actually told BushCo. that there were no WMD in Iraq.

Lots of people actually warned the administration that an invasion of Iraq was a really bad idea:

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni wondered aloud yesterday how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could be caught off guard by the chaos in Iraq that has killed nearly 100 Americans in recent weeks and led to his announcement that 20,000 U.S. troops would be staying there instead of returning home as planned.

"I'm surprised that he is surprised because there was a lot of us who were telling him that it was going to be thus," said Zinni, a Marine for 39 years and the former commander of the U.S. Central Command. "Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?"

At a Pentagon news briefing yesterday, Rumsfeld said he could not have estimated how many troops would be killed in the past week.
Now, Marine Generals are not usually what you'd call liberal America haters - or whatever epithets the right-wingnuts are throwing around these days. And Zinni, especially had the C.V. to be authoritative in his assessments. That should have inoculated him against the usual mud slinging BushCo. breaks out for its detractors, right?


Known as the "Warrior Diplomat," Zinni is not a peace activist by nature or training, having led troops in Vietnam, commanded rescue operations in Somalia and directed strikes against Iraq and al Qaeda.

He once commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

Out of uniform, Zinni was a troubleshooter for the U.S. government in Africa, Asia and Europe and served as special envoy to the Middle East under the Bush administration for a time before his reservations over the Iraq war and its aftermath caused him to resign and oppose it.

Not even Zinni's resume could shield him from the accusations that followed.

"I've been called a traitor and a turncoat for mentioning these things,"
said Zinni, 60. The problems in Iraq are being caused, he said, by poor planning and shortsightedness, such as disbanding the Iraqi army and being unable to provide security.
Zinni's assessment of how the Iraqi situation is developing? It's pretty chilling:

"I spent two years in Vietnam, and I've seen this movie before," he said.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

bin Laden's Offer

What will this mean? What discussions, debates, arguments will it engender across the political and international spectrum?

In the near-term, it appears that it will not - thankfully - result in the capitulation of any European countries to bin Laden's demands. I don't really think there was too much fear of that. Despite what the right has insisted, Europeans (new or old) really do want to fight terror. They just didn't want the distraction of Iraq.

In the longer-term I wonder how right-wing governments - most especially, but not solely, here in the US - will use this pronouncement. As a cudgel to convince voters that to "change horses in mid-stream" would be tantamount to being pro-terrorism is my guess. This offer of a truce to Europe fits so well into BushCo.'s attempts to get American's to "stay the course" that with a little tin foil one could almost wonder at the timing of it all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Compare and Contrast III

Condoleeza Rice: We couldn't have known that terrorists would use airplanes as missiles.

President Bush: Nobody told me that terrorists would use airplanes as missiles.

Even planners for Pentagon exercises were thinking about terrorists using airplanes as missiles:

The U.S. military rejected a scenario in which a hijacked airliner flew into the Pentagon as it planned a training exercise months before an airliner was slammed into the building by hijackers in September 2001, defense officials said on Wednesday.

The proposed scenario was rejected by the Pentagon's elite Joint Staff as not in keeping with the April 2001 exercise, which dealt largely with how U.S. forces would be commanded in a confrontation with North Korea if defense headquarters somehow became incapacitated.

Defense officials said several scenarios under which military command had to be moved from the Pentagon were rejected and that the suggestion involving a possible foreign commercial airliner strike not only appeared unrealistic but could have taken over the whole exercise.
While rejected as a part of this particular exercise, this is proof that the meme was floating around the Capitol; that it wasn't some unimaginable pipe-dream scenario which could only have come from the mind of a cave-bound Osama bin-Laden.

See Compare and Contrast II and BushCo. vs Clinton (Compare and Contrast I, effectively).


Despite what the neo-cons and Rethugs tell you, patriotism is NOT agreeing with everything their exalted leader says and does. It is NOT stifling debate and protest. It is NOT submitting silently to the scorn and hatred heaped upon you by Rethugs, the religious-right and the neo-cons.

Go see this post by Hesiod for more.

Deconstructing Bush

Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome?

A stern, defiant President Bush said he wouldn't back down from the challenges of Iraq and offered no hint he would alter his approach there, despite a recent surge of violence that has boosted U.S. casualties and heightened criticism of the president's war plans.

In a rare nationally televised address, Mr. Bush insisted that success in Iraq is vital to defeat terrorism and protect Americans. Above all, he indicated that none of the violence and turmoil there would alter his plan to turn sovereignty over to Iraqis on June 30.
Doesn't it take a more mature person to admit mistakes and to learn from them?

In reply to the overtures, Mr. Bush offered no apologies and admitted no specific mistakes.

He did allow that before Sept. 11 "there are some things I wish we'd have done, when I look back. I mean, hindsight's easy. It's easy for a president to stand up and say, now that I know what happened, it would have been nice if there were certain things in place." Mr. Bush noted, though, that "I still would have called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein." Weapons of mass destruction, he said, "could still be there. They could be hidden."
And finally - for now - shouldn't a president, especially one who makes great and public claims to Christianity, shouldn't that president be a humble person?

For his part, the President, asked if his job was at risk, said, "I don't plan on losing my job. I plan on telling the American people that I've got a plan to win the war on terror. And I believe they'll stay with me. They understand the stakes."
A Final Note: If the pResident is planning on "telling the American people that [he's] got a plan to win the war on terror," shouldn't that be something he should have told us when we first got into the so-called war? And isn't the real question does he have a plan for Iraq? That's the real question we all want the answer to. And one he seems singularly intent on not answering.

All quotes from this article in the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Compare and Contrast II

Condoleeza Rice: We couldn't have known that terrorists would use airplanes as missiles.

President Bush: Nobody told me that terrorists would use airplanes as missiles.

From Reuters:

Freeh [ex-FBI Director], questioned by Democratic commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, later said intelligence services were aware of the danger that a terrorist might use a hijacked plane as a weapon.

He acknowledged steps were taken to protect the White House as well as special events, such as the 2000 Olympic Games and meetings of world leaders, against such a threat, but nothing was done to protect the country at large.

Ben-Veniste asked: "So it was well known in the intelligence community that this was a potential threat?"

Freeh responded: "It was part of the planning for those events, that is correct."

Country to Bush: "You're Fired!"

Out of touch, out of ideas, out of his f***ing mind:

"The situation in Iraq has improved," Mr. Bush insisted [with his trademarked smirk - ed].
April 12, 2004

When the Going Gets Tough... The Contractors Leave

A report I saw on ABC News last night and an article I read this morning in The San Francisco Chronicle have me so angry I can hardly write this post. Not that that's all that rare these days...

The ABC report was about contract truck drivers returning home from Iraq; apparently they are leaving in droves because the situation is so hot that they are refusing to drive supplies to units spread around Iraq. Who did al the drivers interviewed work for? Kellogg, Brown & Root, subsidiary of Halliburton. The article in the Chronicle was mostly about the situation outside of Najaf and Fallujah, but the last couple of paragraphs were related to the ABC report and are what set me off:

Military officials expressed concern about a growing problem that also plagued U.S. forces during the invasion last year: attacks on supply convoys. Over the past week, insurgents repeatedly have attacked military and commercial trucks and passenger vehicles on two major highways that run west and south from Baghdad, slowing the movement of troops and supplies and rendering both roads off-limits to most foreigners, U.S. military commanders said Monday.

The two highways provide the major links to the densely populated agricultural zone in the south and to Fallujah and Ramadi to the west. In the past week, armed bands of as many as 60 men have ambushed fuel convoys, kidnapped foreign civilians and shot down aircraft along the highways.

Military commanders remain very concerned about the motorways and have declared them dangerous but not impassable, Kimmitt said. He said it could take several weeks before they were completely safe for traffic.

The attacks have led many truck drivers working for Kellogg Brown & Root and other private contractors to refuse to drive, delaying the delivery of much-needed supplies to troops, military officials said.

Private contractors are responsible for providing about half the military's supplies in Iraq.

(Emphasis mine, ed.)
The combination of a complete failure to plan for the aftermath of the war, a desire to conduct this folly on the cheap, the refusal to accept the situation on the ground and provide more troops and the outright cronyism of letting contracts for support of the troops is endangering the lives of our soldiers. I commented on a post yesterday by Hesiod at Counterspin Central, that logistical planning is the least glamorous, but most important job in military operations. Nothing can happen without bullets, fuel and food. Nothing.

There is no other way to say this. The mismanagement of BushCo. is directly responsible for a lack of proper levels of supply line security, supply of ammunition, equipment and food for our soldiers. These factors directly cause additional deaths and injuries.

A military commander who planned and conducted such a shoddy campaign, resulting in so many deaths would be court-martialed.

Monday, April 12, 2004

9/11 As an Excuse

BushCo. has been excotiated by nearly all those left of Newt Gingrich for using 9/11 as an excuse to implement a mix of neo-con pipe dreams and far-right wet dreams. Everything from invading Iraq to Patriot Acts I and II, from CAPPS I and II to continuous warfare in the Middle East. There have even been those that accused them of wishing to facilitate the coming of the Apocalypse in some strange twist of Religious-Right prophecy mid-wifery. This last has usually been met with skepticism from all but the most rabid conspiracy theorists.

Is this proof that these folks were not so off the wall after all?

Rather, the task force wants to see the U.S. nuclear arsenal expanded to include more precise, lower-yield weapons -- especially those that could penetrate targets buried deep underground where conventional weapons can't reach. The idea is to give a President the option of incinerating enemy weapons, leaders and command-and-control systems with as little damage as possible to civilians. Having the option of highly precise nuclear weapons with greatly reduced radioactivity would also make the threat of their use more believable to terrorists contemplating attacks on the U.S. or allies.
Yes, the specter of low-yield nukes are back in the spotlight and back in consideration.

What this would allow, I contend, is lowering the threshold for use of nuclear weapons when things become too difficult to manage in more conventional ways. It is also a continuation of the fallacy that BushCo. has operated under since the beginning: That terrorists can be threatened with the destruction of a state actor. Al Qaeda has already shown this to be false as has Hezbollah and other non-state, non-local terrorist organizations. If al Qaeda were to launch an attack on the US again using the same staging areas as they used for 9/11 (not at all likely, but the example is instructive), would we use a couple of low-yield nuclear weapons on Germany? On Saudi Arabia?

The other uses contemplated by the administration are much better solved using other tools than the most horrible weapons ever imagined by man.

This administration, however, seems singularly incapable of learning a single lesson from history.

CAPPS Hasn't Disappeared

Think that the attempts by the government to upgrade the CAPPS system were stalled by privacy concerns?

Think again.

First JetBlue incited customer wrath (and a lawsuit) by releasing some 5 million customer records to the government, then Northwest did the same in January of this year. You'd think that the ensuing disaffection of customers and expensive lawsuits would be enough to scare the other airlines into respecting the privacy of customer information. You would, of course, be wrong.

From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

In a disclosure likely to rekindle privacy-concern fires, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines admitted giving information on 1.2 million passengers to outside research companies vying for contracts with the Transportation Security Administration.


American's disclosure comes at a sticky time for the TSA, which is struggling to develop the new system amid growing privacy concerns by the public. Testing for the screening system is already months behind schedule.
I've never flown JetBlue, it's been years since I flew either Northwest or American; it may be a long time before I fly on any of them. If your travel plans include any of these airlines in the near future, you should consider letting them know how you feel about this.

Setting an Example

As you read statements by Bush Administration officials there's one thing you should keep in mind. If the head of the administration, the President of the United States, is willing to stand before the American people and the world and lie about the reasons he want to be the first president to start a war, there is no reason to believe that anyone else in his administration would have any compunction about lying about anything less important.

Bush has already set the example for his people. He lied and - so far - has gotten away with it.

And so we have an entire administration of people who know that it's okay to lie. Bush lies about WMD and yellow cake, Cheney lies about and covers up the Energy Task Force and Halliburton, Rice lies about everything. Take your pick. The boss has set the bar; he's set it so low that the rest of his people just step right over it. As we anticipate the directors of the CIA and FBI testifying before the 9/11 Commission this week, keep that in mind.

History will eventually, hopefully, uncover the truths that BushCo. has buried at every step. What they uncover, I can't imagine, will be very flattering to any of them.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

This Has to be a Joke

An article today on MSNBC states that Bush's speeches are getting longer. Which, considering his tendency towards malapropisms and syntactic gaffes, is probably not a good thing. But here's the line that really made me laugh:

"He takes that role seriously, as sort of educator-in-chief," [Dan] Bartlett said.
"Educator-in-chief." Right...

Friday, April 09, 2004

Friday Dog Blogging

It's late, but I actually remembered!

I'm not really a dog person - I like cats, so I'm not used to an animal that can't let you out of its sight. Baylea can hardly stand to let her "mommy" get out of her sight. As you can see from this week's picture.

BushCo. vs Clinton

Compare and contrast:

BushCo.: Fought to prevent the formation of the 9/11 Commission. When it finally relented, it stacked the commission with people it (mistakenly) thought it could control. Every step of the way, the administration dissembled and smeared those who testified to anything other than the party line; especially Republican appointee Richard Clarke. They fought for months to prevent Condi Rice from testifying, relenting only when public and commission pressure became too much of a liability. They made sure that her testimony toed the neo-con line as closely as possible. They withheld documents released from the Clinton Library to the commission and refused to release thousands of other documents, all the while claiming to be giving all possible assistance. Finally, in a move that boggles the mind, after much wrangling, they will allow Bush himself to testify only if the VP is there to hold his hand.

Clinton: Released all documents relevant to the investigation from his Presidential Library. Promised unrestricted access by the commission in interviewing him and his VP, Al Gore. And... well, let me let a member of the commission say the rest:

The commission met in private with former President Bill Clinton later in the day, it said in a statement that praised Clinton for being “forthcoming and responsive.”

“I thought it was tremendously helpful,” former Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington, a Republican member of the commission, said Thursday night on CNBC’s “Capitol Report.”

“He was totally forthcoming,” Gorton added. “He answered our questions very well. It was a very productive four hours.”
Think about how people behave when they have something to hide. How do they behave when they have nothing to hide?

Very instructive, no?

Condi vs The 9/11 Widows

I haven't commented much on Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission. So I thought it would be appropriate to point you in the direction of some people who listened very closely to the testimony. Four of the widows, "The Jersey Girls," were on Hardball last night.

Go read how they shred Condi and Rummy and Georgie. Even Matthews, the big whore, gets in a few tangential digs.

MATTHEWS: How far did that information get up to the ladder to the president?

LORIE VAN AUKEN, WIDOW OF 9/11 ATTACK: You know, that’s the question we have, the urgency question. In “Bush at War,” it was quoted that Bush said he felt that al Qaeda was important but not urgent. Whose job is to convey urgency to the president if not the national security advisor, getting information from the intel. agencies up to the president?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Atlanta Airport

Yesterday it seemed to be a big story. Today it's basically disappeared. The first reports were of a grenade of some type attached to a cell phone, similar to those devices used in Spain last month. The stories were everywhere, with pictures of bomb squad members removing a bag from a restroom and talk about how the device was so much like the suspected al Qaeda devices on the Spanish rail line on March 11.

Today, I had to search for stories, most of them from last night, on Google News. Why the change?

It seems that there was no grenade and no cell phone either. Just a "trip flare" and some other "attachments." A fire hazard, perhaps, but no real danger, right? Not so fast.

I've used trip flares. They are activated when the pin, attached to a wire stretched across a path, is pulled, igniting the flare. Infantry troops set them out to "cover" avenues of approach that they cannot see directly or that are not the main approach for the enemy. Used properly they are not a danger to most people.

The problem with this story disappearing is that in the context of something like this getting on board an aircraft, they are exceptionally dangerous. Here's why:

There are two basic types of trip flares, one that when activated, burns in-place, illuminating the immediate. The other launches a small rocket with a flare that parachutes down, illuminating a larger area. The big problem in this case is what burns. It's magnesium powder; which burns at around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In the hold of an aircraft or in a bathroom on board, the burning magnesium would burn through the aluminum skin of the aircraft. At a minimum, this would cause the pressurized cabin to explosively decompress. If attached to the right place on the aircraft, it could burn through cables or hydraulic lines for critical controls. It's hot enough to actually set the aluminum on fire.

No one has said what the other attachments were yet. A two-way radio? A cell phone?

It's unlikely someone would go through the trouble and the risk of smuggling such a device into Hartsfield Airport just to start a bathroom fire.


On the real front of the war on terror - that would be Afghanistan, in case everyone wasn't clear on that point - a renegade general and "war lord" has taken control of a northern province city. President Hamid Karzai has had to send troops from the new and still very small national army to try and wrest control from General Abdul Rashid Dostum and his mostly Uzbek "private army."

The new president of Afghanistan can't control his own country. Coalition troops there are stretched way beyond the breaking point because the rest of the US military is distracted by Iraq, the troops that are there can't chase suspected al Qaeda soldiers into what is supposed to be our closest ally in the area; Pakistan, and the Pakistanis seem incapable of controlling the tribal areas where these al Qaeda folks are hiding out.

Good thing pResident Shrubby is "the War President," huh?

Are any of the adults in our government paying attention to this?

Nevermind... I forgot, there aren't any adults in charge here anymore.

Arianna Huffington: Cyberslut?

In Salon, via Bark Bark Woof Woof, we learn that Arianna is "weak in the knees" for bloggers:

Although I've only recently stuck my toe in the fast-moving blogstream, I've been a fan -- and an advocate -- ever since bloggers took the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond story, ran with it, and helped turn the smug Senate majority leader into the penitent former Senate majority leader, a bit of bloody political chum floating in a tank of hungry sharks. Simply put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene.
Go read the rest at Mustang Bobby's, then stay a while, there's lots of great commentary to read there.

I wonder if Ms. Huffington would deign to not only read blogs but to write one herself? An interesting idea...

UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader Elayne Riggs at Pen-Elayne, I learn that Ms. Huffington does, indeed have a blog: Arianna's Blog. Go check it out!

Rumsfeld in Wonderland

Rummy has finally taken the plunge down the rabbit hole and taken up residence in a secure bunker in Wonderland. How can I tell? Have a look at these two bits of an article on ABCNews:

REALITY: "Militiaman loyal to an anti-U.S. Shiite cleric controlled large swaths of three Iraqi cities Thursday after clashes with coalition forces, while U.S. Marines fought insurgents for the second day around a mosque in the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Fallujah."

RUMSFELD: "Rumsfeld discounted the strength of al-Sadr's militia. "There's nothing like an army," he said. "You have a small number of terrorists and militias coupled with some protests." U.S. officials estimate al-Sadr's force at about 3,000 fighters."
Amazing; this is the American Secretary of Defense and he is completely lacking a grasp of the reality of a combat situation in which our soldiers are being killed daily.


It's Official; Viet Nam II

Ted Kennedy thinks so, plenty of people on the web have asked the question; but I think it's official now. Iraq is becoming Viet Nam II. It's not just the rise in recycled rhetoric from that never forgotten conflict like "hearts and minds" and "body counts." Two things caught my attention this morning and as I listened to the news I knew that Iraq had morphed into a new thing: a quagmire, to be sure; a new Viet Nam.

The first thing I heard was a report that thousands of troops have been told they are not going home for a while. Our military is in the midst of a huge troop rotation right now, tired soldiers training and briefing their replacements (who themselves were probably in Iraq of Afghanistan less than a year ago), so there are lots of them there. By holding those ready to go home a little longer, BushCo. has effectively increased the troop level without any kind of public announcement of intent to do so. It sounds hauntingly like the way troops were built up in Southeast Asia as we transitioned from "advising" the South Vietnamese to making it an American war.

The second thing that really made my heart sink came while listening to some ex-colonel or general practicing at being a news talking-head. He spoke about the tactics that Marines and soldiers would likely use in Fallujah. Soldiers, he said, would cut off an area of operation inside the city, move in and "neutralize the target," then exit the city. The whole time he spoke all I could hear was the phrase "pacify the village." It was a basic lesson from Viet Nam that was taught at West Point and at all the Army training courses: you can't control territory you don't occupy. It wouldn't surprise me at all to begin hearing stories of "free fire zones." In the jungles of Viet Nam, American forces would move in, engage the VC, then move back to their fire bases; at night, the VC would move right back in and take up operations where they left off.

I think not only can we now say that Iraq is becoming Viet Nam, we can also say that as you'd expect from past actions, nobody in this administration has learned the lessons of history.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Did I Really Hear That?

As you can tell from last night's post and picture, I wasn't in any mood to write about events in Iraq. But this morning, one phrase I heard on ABC's news keeps spinning around in my head. And it was sent spinning even faster by a comment from Steve Bates on this post on "The 'Q' Word."

One of ABC's Pentagon reporters was passing on the comments of an (of course) anonymous military source who said (and this is my best memory of it), "We're not trying to win hearts and minds (ed. in Fallujah), we're just counting the bodies."

In the comment, Steve asked "are we allowed to name the V-war yet?" The "counting bodies" line and the invocation of Viet Nam is just too evocative. While I was relatively young at the time, I still remember the reports on the evening news from Viet Nam; the body counts, the pictures of helicopters and wounded soldiers, the knowledge that a favorite uncle was "over there." The correlation between those memories and the sights and sounds on the news this week has been way too close.

I only hope that the architects of our new Viet Nam have not so badly screwed things up that we are not able to salvage some good from all of this when they are kicked rudely to the curb in November. I hope that Kerry's cabinet picks are up to this job.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

A Balm for the Soul

I watched the news tonight and it was one of those broadcasts that left my wife and I depressed, sad and angry. More Marines dead, more battles raging in Iraq, so-called conscience laws for pharmacists who won't dispense legally prescribed medicines, remembering the masacres in Rwanda... the list goes on for way too long.

So, despite that opening paragraph, I want to tell you about something small and beautiful and innocent; something that, for a short time can help you forget about the madness of the world.

This past weekend it snowed here near Rochester, NY. It's a little late in the season, but not unheard of. There was lots of seed in our bird feeders, but when I took my camera outside, I wasn't really thinking of birds, but rather the scenery. I opened the back door and stepped out into the arctic wind and blowing snow. I took a shot or two of some grand old oaks through the snow - and they came out beautifully. But after all the noise of opening the door and snapping away with my digital camera, as I turned away, I saw a small shape in the tree just 15 feet or so from the back porch.

I was pretty amazed, but I guess the lure of lots of easy food was too much to overcome the desire to flee my none too quiet presence. Of course the fact that the wind was blowing at around 25 miles an hour and the snow reduced visibility to just half a mile or less may have had something to do with it as well. But there in the small, bare tree next to our newest feeder was this little finch. I snapped about eight or so pictures and then quietly went indoors where I watched him for at least another half an hour while he ate. And ate. And ate! I'm not sure how he got himself and all that seed on the wing, but a little while later he was gone.

As I looked at this picture and the others I took I thought how wonderful it is that while humans are so busy making a mess of their world, a little bit of nature manages to live on as if none of the rest of it were happening. I hope that this picture brings a little peace to you, too. Enjoy.

No Win Situation

The events in Fallujah and other areas of Iraq are being well covered and discussed in other blogs and in the news; I'm not going to rehash any of the facts.

We have, it seems, gotten to a point in our Excellent Iraqi Adventure where no matter what we do we will be wrong. Everything BushCo. can tell the military to do or not do will be exactly the wrong thing.

If the CPA or the Iraqis arrest al Sadr the Shiites will explode in anger and violence. Recent events will seem tame in comparison. If he is wounded or killed in the attempt it will seem that a nuclear weapon had gone off.

If the CPA does nothing about al Sadr and the Shiites, the spiral of violence will continue to spin out of control and more coalition soldiers and civilians and Iraqis will die by ones and twos or threes.

If the coalition decides to withdraw from Iraq precipitously (something that is not likely to happen given the swollen egos of BushCo.), anarchy and chaos will explode in Iraq and it will descend into the worst religiously fueled civil war imaginable.

If the coalition stays the violence perpetrated by the Sunnis will continue and probably spread well outside the Sunni Triangle and infect the rest of the country, ensuring that more coalition personnel die every day. A religious civil war is likely in this situation as well.
This morning on ABC News, Diane Sawyer, doing a pretty good imitation of a journalist, asked Paul Bremmer if there were anything that would force the rescheduling of the June 30th handover of power to the Iraqi Provisional Government. He would not even answer the question, despite repeated attempts by Sawyer to pin him down. It seems that this ill conceived power shift is going to occur no matter what.

It also seems that we are destined to lose more soldiers and civilians in this quagmire as BushCo. thrashes around blindly - without a plan.

Without a clue.

Without a chance to win.

Road to Ruin

If you've wondered why it seems that the tax burden falls more and more on the middle class and the poor, you're not alone. Everyone knows that BushCo. structured their tax cuts to benefit the top 1% of income earners, what you may not have realized is that tax laws for years have been changing so that corporations are paying less and less taxes.

How much less?

How about NONE.

Here's the headline from an article (subscription) in this morning's Wall Street Journal: "Many Companies Avoided Taxes Even as Profits Soared in Boom."

More than 60% of U.S. corporations didn't pay any federal taxes for 1996 through 2000, years when the economy boomed and corporate profits soared, the investigative arm of Congress reported.

The disclosures from the General Accounting Office are certain to fuel the debate over corporate tax payments in the presidential campaign. Corporate tax receipts have shrunk markedly as a share of overall federal revenue in recent years, and were particularly depressed when the economy soured. By 2003, they had fallen to just 7.4% of overall federal receipts, the lowest rate since 1983, and the second-lowest rate since 1934, federal budget officials say.
So let me get this straight: the top 1% of earners, who garner something like 20% or more of all income, pay less and less; corporations, who made trillions of dollars in that time paid less and less; government spending increased by a minimum of 3% - 4% and often more (and of course Congress voted itself at least one pay raise during that time).

So who gets stuck with the bill?

Class warfare my ass.

Monday, April 05, 2004

BushCo. Environmental Outrages

Still have a spot on your forehead that you haven't pounded against a wall or your desk? Not totally disgusted yet by Shrubby's Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia?

Go read this outstanding New York Times investigative report on how BushCo. systematically destroyed environmental regulations that were on the verge of delivering - not incremental - but a quantum leap in pollution reduction.

Having long flouted the new-source review law, many of the nation's biggest power companies were facing, in the last months of the 1990's, an expensive day of reckoning. E.P.A. investigators had caught them breaking the law. To make amends, the power companies were on the verge of signing agreements to clean up their plants, which would have delivered one of the greatest advances in clean air in the nation's history. Then George W. Bush took office, and everything changed.

Religious "Militias"

I've kept up with the news this weekend about the uprisings and deaths in Iraq. I haven't decided what to say about them - or even if there is anything to say that I haven't already. But something I heard in the reports and read in the articles struck me.

Why should any religion - or any sect of any religion, which claim to be about peace and love, need a militia?

There just shouldn't be any way of putting those two words together and have them mean anything. They should repel each other in thought and word like two magnets facing North to North. They should be the epitome of an oxymoron. And yet we read things like this:

"Within hours of a call by [Moktada al-Sadr, a 31-year-old firebrand Shiite cleric] to his followers to "terrorize your enemy," his militiamen, said to number tens of thousands across Iraq, emerged into the streets of Baghdad, Najaf, Kufa and Amara..."
I am not in any way religious; but this is a gross and horrible twisting of words and meanings; a religious "leader" imploring his "militia" to kill...

The world is mad.

WARNING: Totally non-P.C. Commentary Ahead!

Here's my suggestion to BushCo and Mr. Bremmer: Get every US and coalition soldier out of Iraq now. Get all the relief workers and missionaries and other NGO staff out. Seal off all the borders - nothing and nobody gets in or out. Throw away the keys.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Saturday... Sheep Blogging

I missed Friday Dog Blogging and I was wondering how to make up for it. Then I remembered that I'd stopped the other day at a farm not far away where they have a very large herd of sheep. I got a couple of great shots before they moved away - it could have been me mumbling something about lamb chops...

Anyway, one of my favorite shots was the one below. This sheep is so obviously ready to be sheared, but I thought she looked rather Rastafarian; with her dreadlocks and overall rather shaggy appearance. It was a beautiful day as you can tell from the color and brightness of the grass; I think the sheep were enjoying it as much as I was.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Bush Aides Block Clinton's Papers From 9/11 Panel

That headline, directly from this New York Times article, says it all.

BushCo. not only prevents the release of their own documents, but they've also gone after documents released by the Clinton archives. All this while pumping up Condi in preparation for her appearance before the Panel on Thursday.

These bastards are shameless.

BushCo., A Wholly Owned Subsidiary

If there were any remaining doubts that BushCo. is completely and cravenly in the pockets of various industries, let those doubts die a well deserved death.

From this morning's New York Times:

A report released by a House committee on Thursday describes how the Bush administration worked with the United States chemical industry to undermine a European plan that would require all manufacturers to test industrial chemicals for their effect on public health before they were sold in Europe.


Behind the scenes, the administration was working with the chemical industry to devise a plan to undermine the proposal, according to e-mail messages and documents released in the report.


The report, requested by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, says that American environmental groups and the general public were kept out of the administration's closed discussions and strategy sessions.

"We were frozen out," said Joseph Digangi of the Environmental Health Fund, an advocacy group cited in the report. "The administration went directly to the U.S. chemical industry and adopted their position whole cloth."

Anthony Gooch, the spokesman for the European Commission in the United States, said of the report: "There would seem to be an inordinate weight given to only one side of a complex argument. Significant concerns about the environment and public health seem to be totally absent from their policy."
Not only does American and Transnational industry control policy in our country, they are well on their way to controlling policy in other countries as well. With their much stronger environmental laws, the EU appears well able to resist such interference from BushCo. and industry. Appearances, however, can be deceiving:

The lobbying efforts of the United States appear to have succeeded. The European Union revised the proposal, known as Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, or Reach.

Five months after trade officials sent e-mail messages discussing how to persuade senior European officials to demand new cost-benefit analyses, France, Germany and Britain wrote to the president of the European Commission requesting a new assessment of the effects that the program would have on the industry.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

White House Directly Interfering With 9/11 Commission?

In a report just out on the CBS News site comes the possibility that someone in the White House was feeding information and perhaps questions to members of the 9/11 Commission on the same day as Richard Clarke was giving his sworn testimony. That someone was Alberto Gonzales:

The Washington Post says people with direct knowledge of the call say Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's top lawyer, called commissioner Fred Fielding and may also have called commissioner James Thompson, before Richard Clarke was due to appear on March 24.


Fielding and Thompson both asked questions on March 24 that concerned Clarke's credibility. Fielding referred to a previously classified briefing Clarke gave to Congress in 2002 in which he reportedly praised the Bush administration's terrorism strategy.

Thompson mentioned a White House briefing in 2002 that Clarke had given anonymously. Fox News first reported on Clarke's White House briefing just hours before.
The link is not iron-clad, yet. But the circumstances sound remarkably like Gonzales was providing confidential and classified information to 9/11 Commission members in order to cast doubt on Clarke's testimony. This provides proof that this maladministration will use any means, legal or illegal, to protect itself. It also provides added proof that concerns about the administration using selectively un-classified information from the CIA, NSA and FBI to cast doubt and aspersions on Clarke are well founded.

Again, we see that everyone in BushCo. considers everyone who disagrees with them as a target and themselves above the law.

Gotta Pay My Bills...

Lots of stuff going on today so I probably won't be able to post anything till much later today.

Please, check out some of the folks in my blogrolls - be adventurous; try someone you haven't read before!

And a sincere thank you to everyone who has visited The Fulcrum lately. In March I had 2,000 visitors, pushing my total well over 5K since just mid-November.