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April 30, 2004
Cheney Endorses Fox News

During a conference call with Republicans last night:

"It's easy to complain about the press -- I've been doing it for a good part of my career," Cheney said. "It's part of what goes with a free society. What I do is try to focus upon those elements of the press that I think do an effective job and try to be accurate in their portrayal of events. For example, I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they're more accurate in my experience, in those events that I'm personally involved in, than many of the other outlets."



First of all, since when is it appropriate for a sitting vice-president to endorse a specific news outlet, particularly to endorse it while implying that other outlets are not effective or accurate? It's actually completely inappropriate for someone in his position to endorse any commercial enterprise at all.

Furthermore, should it be ignored that the news outlet that the vice-president cites is the one that scored the lowest in terms of viewer misperceptions in this study?

Three misperceptions were studied:

  • There is evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda
  • We have found WMD in Iraq
  • World opinion favored the U.S. invasion of Iraq

In real life, these are all demonstrably false.

80% of those whose primary source of news is Fox held 1 or more of these misperceptions. Next was CBS with 71%. ABC had 61%, NBC 45%, CNN 55%, Print Sources 47%, and finally NPR/PBS wins with only 23%.

Where do you get your news?

So, to recap, the vice-president says that Fox News is, in his experience, "more accurate." In fact, it has been shown scientifically that they are the least accurate.

Good one, Dick.

Bremer Warned Of Terrorist Attacks

Via Talk Left.

The head of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, Paul Bremer, warned six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the Bush administration seemed to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism and appeared to "stagger along" on the issue.

Bremer, who in 1999 chaired a national commission on terrorism, gave a speech on Feb. 26, 2001, in which he said the "general terrorist threat" was increasing.

"The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism," Bremer said in remarks to the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

"What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?"'

"That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it. Maybe the folks in the press ought to be pushing a little bit."


That seems to fall perfectly in line with what Richard Clarke said. What tactics is the administration going to use to discredit Bremer? He hasn't lost his job, he's not on a book tour, he's not a Democrat.

[wingnut] Oh, wait.. Maybe he's secretly working for the Democrats. Yes, that's it! He's a liberal spy, and he's probably responsible for the downward spiral of events in Iraq. He's in a perfect position to undermine our mission there, he's been at it all along! I bet he speaks French, too! What kind of a name is Bremer, anyway? [/wingnut]

Bush Declares Himself Not A Racist

From the president's news conference today with Canadian Prime Minister Martin.

There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern.

So there is it. Now people who disagree with Bush's foreign policy are racists, too.

But there's more in this statement. For example: Who is he talking about when he says "the same color as ours?" He is white, I'm white, you might be white -- but "we" are not white, are we? And if criticism of his foreign policy just comes from people who think non-whites can't govern themselves, why do we also lack support from just about every non-white country in the world? They must be self-hating non-whites; they themselves don't even think they can govern themselves.

On a more basic level, people who say things like this are always racists. If you have to publicly say, unasked, that you believe that Muslims can self-govern -- "No, really, I do." -- you're probably a racist. You're certainly a race baiter.

In the same news conference, Bush had this to say about the anniversary of "Mission Accomplished."

A year ago, I did give the speech from the carrier, saying that we had achieved an important objective, that we'd accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein. And as a result, there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq. As a result, a friend of terror has been removed, and now sits in a jail.

No more torture chambers or rape rooms. Right. Oh, wait, except for these.

And classifying Saddam as a "friend of terror" -- very clever. Of course, thousands and thousands of other "friends of terror," including our good friends in Saudi Arabia who hold public telethons to support suicide bombers, are still at large.

More from The Guardian.

Sinclair Broadcasting

Senator John McCain has sent a scathing letter to David Smith, President and CEO of Sinclair Broadcasting.

I write to strongly protest your decision to instruct Sinclair's ABC affiliates to preempt this evening's Nightline program. I find deeply offensive Sinclair's objection to Nightline's intention to broadcast the names and photographs of Americans who gave their lives in service to our country in Iraq.

I supported the President's decision to go to war in Iraq, and remain a strong supporter of that decision. But every American has a responsibility to understand fully the terrible costs of war and the extraordinary sacrifices it requires of those brave men and women who volunteer to defend the rest of us; lest we ever forget or grow insensitive to how grave a decision it is for our government to order Americans into combat. It is a solemn responsibility of elected officials to accept responsibility for our decision and its consequences, and, with those who disseminate the news, to ensure that Americans are fully informed of those consequences.

There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq. War is an awful, but sometimes necessary business. Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war's terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.

Daaaaaamn! Snap!

This comes from a Republican, remember, and a former P.O.W.

The Center for American Progress has more on Sinclair's history of shilling for the RNC, including refusing to run ads critical of the administration, producing far right-wing centralized content, and requiring its affiliates to air messages "conveying full support" for the Bush administration.

Their FCC license should be taken away.

Not that it makes any difference but Sinclair is based in Baltimore, my hometown, and owns WBFF in Baltimore. It could be anywhere, but the fact that they're in Baltimore makes me even more mad.

Still More on Prisoner Abuse

All in all, I think the military is handling this very well. They haven't been making excuses, they've decried the acts categorically. Even when confronted with issues of "following orders," they've said that is no excuse.

This is all good.

The problem is it doesn't matter. If we were honest with ourselves, we probably would have assumed that some amount of ill treatment of Iraqi prisoners was going on. It's a war, and prisoners were probably being beaten up. If someone had asked me, I probably would have guessed that bad things happen.

These acts are worse than anything I would have imagined. Even someone being beaten up is in some way being shown more respect than what these pictures from Abu Ghraib show. They also show, by their mere existence, an astonishing level of stupidity on the part of these soldiers in posing for photographs of themselves committing these acts.

In the end though, regardless of the reaction and hopefully swift justice of our military, the world will see these pictures and we have already lost the battle for hearts and minds. We no longer have any ground to stand on in demanding humane treatment of our prisoners.

For what these soldiers deem "pranks," we will be repaid hundreds of times over.

So, for that, I'd like to say thanks in advance to the cretinous soldiers and contractors who committed these acts. With your sickening actions, you have helped to cement America's place as global pariah. My sympathy to your families, their shame must be unimaginable.

More on the Torture

We really, really fucked up with this.

The British press is picking up on the important detail that the people running the prisoner interrogations in the prison were hired contractors, meaning they're not subject to the rules of engagement or any other rules of war. They are truly outside of the law in Iraq, and this is the result.

Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick, the soldier most publicly accused of these crimes, claims that he is a scapegoat.

First of all, it has long been established that "just following orders" is not an acceptable defense. Neither is ignorance of the law. And in Frederick's case, ignorance of the law is not even a credible defense. It is likely that he did not know the letter of the law, in that he had no specific military prisoner training, and had apparently never seen the Geneva Conventions.

But here's the problem: he is a PRISON GUARD in Virginia. Whether he knew the letter of the law or not, there is no way I believe that he thought what he was doing was right. This is confirmed by his journal entries, which indicate that he complained about prisoner treatment to his superiors.

Even if his story is true (he began keeping a journal only after he was first questioned), he still participated and he does not get an excuse. His superiors should absolutely be held responsible, even more so, for these horrible acts, but it's not one or the other. They're all guilty.

I've been debating posting the pictures, and I've decided that I will, now that they're all over the place. I'm putting them in pop-up windows, though, so as not to force anyone to see them. That being said, I think it's very important that we all see them. Remember, this is being done in our name. Try to imagine the reaction in this country if pictures of American soldiers being treated like this surfaced.

As sickening as those pictures are, make sure you have a bucket handy as you read through the reactions to these horrific acts from some right-wing lunatics.

April 29, 2004
Wolfowitz No Count So Good

Paul Wolfowitz, key architect of the campaign to invade Iraq, should maybe pay a bit more attention to what he hath wrought.

At a hearing of a House Appropriations subcommittee, he was asked about the American death toll in Iraq.

"It's approximately 500, of which -- I can get the exact numbers -- approximately 350 are combat deaths," he responded

Oooh, sorry Paul, that's wrong. By more than 200 dead soldiers.

The correct answer was 722 dead of which 521 are combat deaths, though this number has probably gone up since I started this sentence. Too bad. We do have some lovely consolation prizes for you...

This bastard should be strapped down Clockwork Orange style and forced to watch Nightline tomorrow night.

Wolfowitz's spokesman said, "he misspoke."

A quick lesson: To misspeak is to make an unintentional verbal error, like calling someone John when their name is Jim, or referring to Condoleezza Rice as a man. Displaying your complete ignorance of the facts of a war you yourself created is not "misspeaking." Was he thinking of some other war?

Frontline Tonight : Bush and Jeebus

The Jesus Factor on Frontline tonight. Check your local listings.

bush and jesus As an evangelical Christian, President Bush has something in common with the 46 percent of Americans who describe themselves as being "born again" or having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Often has the president recounted praying about major decisions facing the nation--but what do we actually know about the rudiments of George Bush's faith? To what extent do the president's spiritual beliefs impact or influence his political decision-making? And how closely do Bush's religious views mirror those of the country's burgeoning--and politically influential--evangelical movement?
Claim v. Fact

The always wonderful Center for American Progress has launched a new "Claims vs. Facts Database," containing "more than 400 separate quotes from top conservatives..." The database then "contrasts these quotes with well-documented facts."

Let's take 'er for a test drive...

I selected "Environment" from the topics dropdown and "Official White House Statement" from the speaker dropdown.


Showing 1-1 of 1 records (1 pages)

Topic: Environment

Speaker: White House Official Statement

Date: 6/26/1905

"The President believes that we need to employ the best science and data to inform our decision-making, and that our policies should encourage innovation and the development of new, cleaner technologies."

"President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 once again launches an assault on environmental protection in this country under the guise of fiscal constraints." The President's budget plan would slice $93 million, or 12%, from scientific research on air, water and toxins. - Joint Budget Analysis by Environmental Groups, 2/4/04

Reference  Reference

This is going to be very useful.

Some Stations Will Not Air Nightline

From Poynter Online.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has ordered its ABC-affiliated stations not to carry tomorrow's "Nightline," which will air the names and photos of soldiers who have been killed in combat in Iraq.

Sinclair had this statement:

STATEMENT OF THE SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP The ABC Television network announced on Tuesday that the Friday, April 30th edition of "Nightline" will consist entirely of Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of U.S. servicemen and women killed in action in Iraq. Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq.

While the Sinclair Broadcast Group honors the memory of the brave members of the military who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country, we do not believe such political statements should be disguised as news content. As a result, we have decided to preempt the broadcast of ?Nightline? this Friday on each of our stations which air ABC programming.

We understand that our decision in this matter may be questioned by some. Before you judge our decision, however, we would ask that you first question Mr. Koppel as to why he chose to read the names of the 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorists attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001. In his answer, you will find the real motivation behind his action scheduled for this Friday.

"Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq."

Are they accusing ABC News of treason? This is a very serious charge, proffered with absolutely no evidence.

Of course, the names and faces of those killed in terrorist attacks, particularly those killed on September 11, were all over the news. We had full spreads in newspapers honoring them. That happened 2 1/2 years ago. Right now we are engaged in a war in Iraq and these pictures are relevant to that war.


We respectfully disagree with Sinclair's decision to pre-empt "Nightline's" tribute to America's fallen soldiers which will air this Friday, April 30. The Nightline broadcast is an expression of respect which simply seeks to honor those who have laid down their lives for this country. ABC News is dedicated to thoughtful and balanced coverage and reports on the events shaping our world with neither fear nor favor -- as our audience expects, deserves, and rightly demands. Contrary to the statement issued by Sinclair, which takes issue with our level of coverage of the effects of terrorism on our citizens, ABC News and all of our broadcasts, including "Nightline," have reported hundreds of stories on 9-11. Indeed, on the first anniversary of 9-11, ABC News broadcast the names of the victims of that horrific attack.

In sum, we are particularly proud of the journalism and award winning coverage ABC News has produced since September 11, 2001. ABC News will continue to report on all facets of the war in Iraq and the War on Terrorism in a manner consistent with the standards which ABC News has set for decades.

Political Wire points out that Sinclair executives are major contributors to president Bush's reelection campaign.

Who has the political agenda again?

Local Pol Does Good, Not God

My own personal Congressman, Jim McDermott (D - WA) is taking fire from Republicans for omitting the words "under God" when he led the Pledge of Allegiance in the House yesterday.

McDermott's staff is saying it was inadvertent, that he recited the Pledge the way he learned it as a child, but Talk Left points out that in an interview last month, he seemed to suggest that it was more a matter of principle:

"I personally don't think it adds anything to the Pledge of Allegiance, and I personally don't say, 'under God,'" McDermott is quoted as saying. "I consider it an infringement that I don't like. I don't like infringements of church and state. And so I don't know that I'm rigid, but I try to be consistent."

If it was in fact just his habit, fine, but I suspect this is not the case. I wish he would stand up to the attack dogs and tell it like it is, but I'm still proud of him for doing it in the first place. I'm going to call his office and make sure they know.

Lies Lies Lies

One of these days, the media is going to start calling a spade a spade and we'll see headlines that say "PRESIDENT LIES HIS FRICKIN' ASS OFF AND WE HAVE PROOF" instead of things like "reports indicate president's statements possibly not entirely accurate."

Today's crop of lies:

In his White House Briefing today, Dan Froomkin points a couple of whoppers. First, he quotes himself from a March 22 column, referencing a piece in the Wall Street Journal by Scott Paltrow.

Paltrow wrote: "Among other things, the commission is examining such questions as how long Mr. Bush remained in a Florida classroom just after the World Trade Center strikes, whether there really was a threat to Air Force One that day, how effectively American fighter jets reacted to the attacks, and who activated the national-emergency-response plan."

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., who famously whispered in the president's ear, "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack," has previously said that Bush left the Florida classroom he was sitting in within seconds.

But Paltrow wrote that "uncut videotape of the classroom visit obtained from the local cable-TV station director who shot it, and interviews with the teacher and principal, show that Mr. Bush remained in the classroom not for mere seconds, but for at least seven additional minutes. He followed along for five minutes as children read aloud a story about a pet goat. Then he stayed for at least another two minutes, asking the children questions and explaining to Ms. Rigell that he would have to leave more quickly than planned."

Paltrow wrote: "Both Republican and Democratic commissioners have said they are focusing closely on what happened next -- and whether mere minutes could have affected the outcome on Sept. 11. The panel's investigators are looking at questions such as the timeliness of presidential orders about intercepting the jet that at 9:37 a.m. plowed into the Pentagon."

Paltrow also wrote that Bush could not have been telling the truth when he told a town-hall meeting in December, 2001: "I was sitting outside the classroom, waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly myself, and I said, 'Well, there's one terrible pilot.' "

There was no such video until late that night, and the TV wasn't even plugged in, Paltrow wrote.

Giant lie, right out of the president's mouth, on the record. Total bullshit -- he just made it up. Meanwhile, John Kerry is being called a liar for referring to medals as ribbons.

We might be able to clear these issues up through the 9/11 Commission, but it seems that not only are the president and vice-president appearing together, defying all reason and sense when it comes to gathering testimony, but there will be no recording made of their testimony, no transcript, only hand-written notes.

Bush and his spokespeople continue to provide non sequiturs when asked why his is appearing jointly with Cheney.

From Bush's photo-op with the Swedish P.M. yesterday:

QUESTION: Yes, thank you, Mr. President. What does Vice President Cheney bring to your 9/11 testimony that you couldn't provide alone? And don't you owe history and the 9/11 families a transcript or a recording?

PRESIDENT BUSH: What he's asking about is a meeting I'm going to have tomorrow morning, talking with this 9/11 Commission about -- my attitude and the attitude of the Vice President about our country, our security, what happened on that particular date, what happened leading up to that. And I look forward to the discussion. I look forward to giving the commissioners a chance to question both of us. And it's a -- it will be an ample -- it will be a good opportunity for people to help write a report that hopefully will help future Presidents deal with terrorist threats to the country."

That certainly clears up that question. Or, maybe not. Let's try again, through Scott McClellan's press briefing yesterday:

QUESTION: Scott, just on the 9/11 -- I'm trying to -- I'm still trying to understand the argument behind insisting that the Vice President and the President appear together, and why a transcript -- why you all feel a transcript should not be provided. And I guess I just don't understand why the President wouldn't answer that directly, when it was asked of him today. He completely dodged the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is focused on helping the commission complete its important work. That's where the President's focus is. And I think I've been through --

QUESTION: I didn't ask where his focus was. I mean, that's fine, wherever his focus is. I'm asking a specific question. I'm just wondering why nobody will answer it. I mean, we may just want to understand the thinking here --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I think I have addressed it. I addressed it yesterday, David, when the question came up, and I addressed it a few weeks ago when it came up in the briefing room, as well, and I talked about that very issue. This is a good opportunity for the President and Vice President to sit down together with the commission and help them piece together all the information that they have been provided. This is not an adversarial process. We're all working together to learn the lessons of September 11th and look at what else we might do, in addition to the steps we've already taken, to win the war on terrorism. That's where our focus is.

Ahh.. Okay. Gotcha. So, they're appearing together because they're focused on helping the commission do it's work and because it's a good opportunity for them to be questioned. You know, the questioning -- it's a good opportunity for the questioning to take place, at the questioning. I don't know how I missed that.

As a final insult, when asked if the president had put a time limit on the questioning, McClellan responded: "We're talking about a sitting president of the United States, and I expect the commission's going to be fully respectful of that."

Yeah, he's a busy man you know. That brush at the ranch isn't going to clear itself.

April 28, 2004
Run This Up Yer Flagpole

Too rare but always sharply insightful and hilarious commenter Sleeve Coat has a suggestion for the new Iraqi flag, since the governing council's first attempt didn't fly.

new new iraqi flag

Sleeve is also an accomplished and fine-looking home inspector, should you need one.

U.S. Soldiers Accused of Torture

If you're on the west coast, you can still catch 60 Minutes II tonight to see this shocking story.

17 soldiers in Iraq, including a brigadier general have been removed from duty and 6 face courts martial for allegations about treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad.

The charges include:

  • Stacking prisoners in a pyramid
  • Striking prisoners and forcing prisoners to strike each other
  • Posing for photographs with naked prisoners, men and women
  • Threatening prisoners with electrocution
  • Positioning male prisoners to simulate sex
  • Writing slurs on prisoners' skin

One of the soldiers accused of these crimes says that he will not plead guilty because it was "the way the Army was running the prison" that led to the abuse.

"We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things...like rules and regulations," says [Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chip] Frederick. "And it just wasn't happening."

Do our soldiers need "support and training" to know that humiliating and abusing war prisoners isn't allowed? I'm pretty sure we don't need to specify that "you will not simulate homosexual sexual acts using the enemy as props" in our "rules and regulations."

CBS News has photographs of much of this abuse. Surely these pictures are going to find their way onto Arab television. Where will we be then? Is this the freedom, democracy and morality we're bringing to the Iraqis?

I realize that this evidence only implicates a few soldiers, and it is absolutely a good thing that our military is taking this seriously, making no apologies for it, and hopefully will prosecute these soldiers to the fullest.

It's still a nightmare, though, for our campaign to win "hearts and minds," if that was still possible.


INC Officials Under Arrest

NBC News is reporting that 4 Iraqi National Congress operatives are under arrest for abduction, robbery, stealing 11 Iraqi government vehicles, and firing on police officers.

The Iraqi National Congress is Ahmed Chalabi's group: the group who fed our intelligence services information on WMD which turned out to be false and was quite possibly fabricated out of whole cloth. The Pentagon still pays the INC $340,000 a month for intelligence information.

Former head weapons inspector David Kay -- who is now officially unreliable and possibly homosexual since he's publicly disagreed with the Bush administration -- questions why a group that most likely provided fabricated information which was used as justification for a bloody war is still on the U.S. government's payroll.

"You know, once taken, excused," says Kay. "Twice taken you're an idiot. And I think we're now at the point of we're really an idiot."
April 27, 2004
Flag Flap

See, this just seems really stupid.

First, doesn't the interim government of Iraq have better things to do than hold contests for new flag designs?

Second, isn't it a bit silly to celebrate the self-rule of the Iraqis by having an occupying country-appointed governing council impose a new flag on them that they had nothing to do with creating?

And then there's the design itself, which really defies all reason.

You may have noticed that nearly all countries in the Arab world have flags that follow a certain theme. Let's take a look.

egypt flag
jordan flag
palestine flag
sudan flag
iraq's old flag
Iraq's Old Flag

Wow. Remarkable similarity, huh? These colors and themes must be pretty important to the Arab identity, sort of like our Red, White and Blue symbolize our identity to us. (FYI - The green and black symbolize Islam and the red represents Arab nationalism.)

Apparently, the great minds entrusted with governing Iraq see things a bit differently. Here's the flag they chose:

iraq new flag

Whaaaa? Why, that looks completely different! I mean, you have the Islamic crescent moon there, that's good, but the rest is just out of left field. The two blue lines at the bottom are supposed to represent the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and the yellow line is somehow supposed to represent the Kurdish minority. Because, I suppose, they're yellow. Or they wet themselves whenever they see Sunnis or Shiites coming. Or they are "of the sun." Something.

One of the biggest complaints among Iraqis is that this flag not only does not bear any resemblance to the flags of their fellow Arab states, it bears quite a resemblance to the flag of another country in the region. I can't quite place it. Hmmmm..

Oh, yeah! It's Israel -- the country that kind of wants to kill them and is widely believed by them to be complicit with the United States in imposing foreign ideals and religions on them and basically wanting to control every aspect of their lives through military might and economic superiority.

israel flag

These Iraqis.. sheesh, they just can't seem to see that we're on their side.

Cover Story

This may seem insignificant, but take a look at the cover of the current issue of U.S. News and World Report.

us news cover

A couple things are notable about this image. Kerry -- a decorated war veteran who volunteered for incredibly dangerous duty -- is shown wearing a suit. Bush -- an undecorated Reservist who specifically declined war service, and faced military discipline for failing to report -- is shown in uniform. Bush is cast in cool stately blue, looking soldierly into the camera while Kerry is cast in commie red, in a picture of him arguing against the war in Vietnam.

It may seem silly, but these kinds of things have a profound effect. Ask any psychiatrist, or watch some television commercials for a while. Images matter, and these images side-by-side betray an extremely unfair bias. Contact U.S. News and tell them so.

Stand and Fight

The Daily Howler rightly praises E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post for today's column, "Stooping Low to Smear Kerry.

Dionne asks the long overdue question of those who are so shamelessly attacking Kerry over his war record: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

The answer is obviously no, they have no sense of decency. They attack Kerry for being in Vietnam, Clinton for not being in Vietnam, and Bush was playing volleyball. Who knows what Cheney was doing, he "had other priorities." One can only assume these included scowling lessons.

The Howler goes on to point out that while Dionne is finally fighting the good fight, it's not all good news from the Post. David Ignatius, in a sort of pretend mea culpa, explains why the media wasn't more on the ball about the false pretenses leading up to war in Iraq.

In a sense, the media were victims of their own professionalism. Because there was little criticism of the war from prominent Democrats and foreign policy analysts, journalistic rules meant we shouldn?t create a debate on our own.

And the cat is out of the bag. He is actually saying, right there in black and white, that it is not a journalists job to "create a debate" unless the parties have already decided to debate the issue. If party leaders aren't talking about it, well then journalistic professionalism demands that we not lift a finger to find the truth. His statement that foreign policy experts weren't criticizing the war is completely ridiculous.

In any case, it's good to see E.J. Dionne, and some others, starting to ask the real questions in this debate. The real questions are not about the details of this or that scandal, or this person or that person's military service. The real questions are about honesty, respect, honor, and decency.

The Wounded and The Dead

The Wounded

A tragic look at the wounded soldiers coming into and out of the Baghdad hospital. Meanwhile, the president is cutting veterans' benfits.

These men and women who come home broken, mentally and physically, and are often quickly forgotten are real heroes and deserve everything our government can possibly do for them.

The Dead

A description of this coming Friday's program, from Nightline's April 27 Daily Email.

Now I want to tell you about this Friday?s broadcast. We?re going to do something different, something that we think is important. Friday night, we will show you the pictures, and Ted will read the names, of the men and women from the armed forces who have been killed in combat in Iraq. That?s it. That will be the whole broadcast. Nightline has been reporting on the casualties under the heading of ?Line of Duty.?

But we realized that we seemed to just be giving numbers. So many killed in this incident, so many more in that attack. Whether you agree with the war or not, these men and women are serving, are putting their lives on the line, in our names. We think it is important to remember that those who have paid the ultimate price all have faces, and names, and loved ones. We thought about doing this on Memorial Day, but that?s a time when most media outlets do stories about the military, and they are generally lost in the holiday crush of picnics and all. We didn?t want this broadcast to get lost. Honestly, I don?t know if people will watch this for thirty seconds, or ten minutes, or at all. That?s not the point. We think this is important. These men and women have earned nothing less.

One point, we are not going to include those killed in non-hostile incidents. There?s no disrespect meant here, we just don?t have enough time in this one broadcast. But they are no less deserving of our thoughts. I hope that you will join us for at least part of ?The Fallen? on Friday.

I'll be watching.

Last Word On Kerry's Medals

Thomas Oliphant writes in The Boston Globe that he personally witnessed John Kerry throwing his medals/ribbons over the fence in 1971.

On the way to the fence where he threw some of his military decorations 33 years ago, I was 4 or 5 feet behind John Kerry.

As he neared the spot from which members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War were parting with a few of the trappings of their difficult past to help them face their future more squarely, I watched Kerry reach with his right hand into the breast pocket of his fatigue shirt. The hand emerged with several of the ribbons that most of the vets had been wearing that unique week of protest, much as they are worn on a uniform blouse.

There couldn't have been all that many decorations in his hand -- six or seven -- because he made a closed fist around his collection with ease as he waited his turn. I recall him getting stopped by one or two wounded vets in wheelchairs, clearly worried that they wouldn't be able to get their stuff over the looming fence, who gave him a few more decorations. Kerry says he doesn't remember this.

At the spot where the men were symbolically letting go of their participation in the war, the authorities had erected a wood and wire fence that prevented them from getting close to the front of the US Capitol, and Kerry paused for several seconds. We had been talking for days -- about the war, politics, the veterans' demonstration -- but I could tell Kerry was upset to the point of anguish, and I decided to leave him be; his head was down as he approached the fence quietly.

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.


From what I could observe firsthand about Friday, April 23, 1971, Kerry did not make even the slightest effort to pretend that he was throwing all of his military decorations over that fence. He did what he did in plain view, and in my case in the view of someone close enough to kick him in the shins.


Karen Hughes Is Evil

We already know this. She's the innocent looking flak who casually compares pro-choice marchers to terrorists and insists that we should ask some serious questions about John Kerry's (undeniably heroic) military service while protecting her friend George from having to discuss his service at all. She's a bitch and I hate her.

Last year, conservative talk show host and prominent bowtie wearer Tucker Carlson had this to say about her in an interview with Salon.

SALON: What about your profile of George W. Bush in Talk in 1999? That had to be the most damaging profile of him yet written -- swearing like a truck driver, making fun of Karla Faye Tucker's death penalty appeals, mimicking her saying, "Don't kill me!" -- because of its high profile, and because of your access to him. Did that bring you flak from conservatives?

CARLSON: Well, it's always disconcerting when something you write is received in a way you don't expect. I have no problem hurting someone's feelings -- obviously, I work on "Crossfire" -- but when you don't expect to, it's disconcerting. As I put in the book, the day before I filed the piece my wife asked, "Aren't people going to think you're sucking up?" And that was my concern, that people would think it's a suck-up piece.

SALON: And the response from team Bush?

CARLSON: It was very, very hostile. The reaction was: You betrayed us. Well, I was never there as a partisan to begin with.

Then I heard that [on the campaign bus, Bush communications director] Karen Hughes accused me of lying. And so I called Karen and asked her why she was saying this, and she had this almost Orwellian rap that she laid on me about how things she'd heard -- that I watched her hear -- she in fact had never heard, and she'd never heard Bush use profanity ever. It was insane.

I've obviously been lied to a lot by campaign operatives, but the striking thing about the way she lied was she knew I knew she was lying, and she did it anyway. There is no word in English that captures that. It almost crosses over from bravado into mental illness.

source (requires subscription or day pass)

What galls me so much about people like Hughes is that their horrible remarks are never challenged to their faces. Sure, the blogoworld goes nuts and there are stories in some newspapers, but at the time of the offense, the interviewers never say, "Wait a minute. Are you suggesting that pro-choice marchers are ideologically aligned with terrorists?"

Dear News Media,

Do your job. How hard would that be?


You Say Medal, I Say Ribbon

Dear News Media,

Listen. Shut up for a second.

You know those little colored bars military people wear on their dress uniforms? They're called ribbons. They represent the medals the soldier has earned, since wearing a bunch of actual medals on your chest is inconvenient, noisy, and also looks kind of stupid. So, they are ribbons, but they represent medals, and the words are often interchanged. If you ask an Army soldier about the little bar with a wide white bar in the middle, flanked by two thin blue bars and two fatter red bars on his or her chest, they'll tell you it's a Distinguished Service Medal. They probably won't say, "It's a ribbon that represents my Distinguished Service Medal" and they certainly won't call it a Distinguished Service Ribbon, as there is no such thing, though the bar itself can still be correctly called a ribbon. Get it?

Now, this wasn't very hard for me to figure out. Take a look at this page, for example. It seems, as the National Media and all, you could have made some small effort to look into this issue, instead of just going off half-cocked, parroting Republican smears, and accusing John Kerry of lying about something so ridiculous.

Next time, if you need some help, send me an email. I'll be glad to look up some stuff for you.


April 26, 2004
Sugar Land

Please Read this article. It's kind of long, but it's worth it.

Part of a series, the article describes the life of a "typical Red Stater," in Sugar Land, Texas, home of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and "a large number of Indian residents -- 'that's with a dot, not with a feather.'"

The basic picture is of a happy family with no problems who can't seem to understand why Blue Staters -- liberals -- are so worked up. What's the problem? Things are good. We all go to the same church, we all plant the same bushes, we don't give a shit about the environment, and we all drive American pick-up trucks. Why are those liberals so "whiny?"

It's a fascinating portrait. They're not stupid people, not bigots or assholes, but they can't see past the ends of their noses. If things are good in Sugar Land, Texas, well then things are probably good everywhere, and they'll thank you not to go on and on about how that's not so. People shouldn't look to the government to help them, they should help themselves, like the Steins did.

The Red Staters don't eat healthy food. They don't grind their own coffee. They own many guns and view hunting in the most romantic terms. Their definition of bravery is firing laser-guided missiles into practically prehistoric villages from miles above. They get their news from Pat Buchanon, Robert Novak and Ann Coulter.

Stein's breakfast is scrambled eggs over congealed grits fried in butter, and coffee that comes not in bean form but already ground and is brewed not through natural brown paper filters but unnatural white ones. " 'Melitta plants four trees for every one used in the production of our filter paper,' " he says, reading the side of the box of filters. He puts the box back in the cabinet. "I could care less."

That's very nice. And very typical. As long as things look nice and there is the appearance of calm and control, it's really not all that important what any of it means to the rest of the world. I wonder if he "could care less" how many people live in virtual slavery so that he can have low, low prices and nice, bleached white coffee filters. I wonder if he "could care less" that species are disappearing off of our planet at an unprecedented rate, with consequences we can't begin to understand.

And this is the problem: They don't care. They care about each other -- their families, their church -- but they don't care about people they can't see. They care about their rights -- to own guns, to buy cheap gas, to good schools -- but they don't care about rights for which they have no personal use. There's no empathy.

I'm sure these are nice folks in most everyday ways, and it's obvious that they hold their views strongly, but I can't shake the feeling that they're just wrong. I can't shake the feeling that if any of these issues ever came home to roost in Sugar Land, Texas -- if they had any idea what it was like to be on the losing end of the policies and attitudes they profit from -- they would feel differently.

Mr. Stein describes a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. as "great" (after an "awesome" speech by Bush and an "amazing" speech by Reagan). I wonder if this was part of the speech:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

the article

NOTE : Tomorrow comes the (already posted) Blue States installment. I'll probably have something to say about that too.

Peace Through The Chronic

Eric Schlosser, the author of such amazing and highly recommended books as Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness, had an op-ed piece in the Times yesterday about the wacky weedus (thanks to Luke for the pointer.).

I don't often write about the drug war, but perhaps I should. Without putting too fine a point on it, it's probably one of the greatest injustices ever foisted on the American people. Ha.

About 700,000 people were arrested in the United States for violating marijuana laws in 2002 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) ? more than were arrested for heroin or cocaine. Almost 90 percent of these marijuana arrests were for simple possession, a crime that in most cases is a misdemeanor. But even a misdemeanor conviction can easily lead to time in jail, the suspension of a driver's license, the loss of a job. And in many states possession of an ounce is a felony. Those convicted of a marijuana felony, even if they are disabled, can be prohibited from receiving federal welfare payments or food stamps. Convicted murderers and rapists, however, are still eligible for those benefits.

That bears repeating: Almost three-quarters of a million people arrested for marijuana crimes in one year. 90% for simple possession. Murderers and rapists receive federal benefits for which marijuana users are ineligible.

More than 16,000 Americans die every year after taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. No one in Congress, however, has called for an all-out war on Advil. Perhaps the most dangerous drug widely consumed in the United States is the one that I use three or four times a week: alcohol. It is literally poisonous; you can die after drinking too much. It is directly linked to about one-quarter of the suicides in the United States, almost half the violent crime and two-thirds of domestic abuse. And the level of alcohol use among the young far exceeds the use of marijuana. According to the Justice Department, American children aged 11 to 13 are four times more likely to drink alcohol than to smoke pot.

This proves that the real issue behind all of this is not concern for the health and safety of Americans, as we are meant to believe. It is utter hypocrisy.

Schlosser also points out that while people decry the use of "drugs" as destructive to our society, we're giving Ritalin to our children in record numbers, antidepressants are prescribed for shyness, and we are subjected to an endless barrage of drug advertisements in magazines and on television. But we don't consider a drug that allows a man to maintain an erection for 4 hours recreational. Marathon sex for middle-aged men is a medical necessity.

Over the past two decades billions of dollars have been spent fighting the war on marijuana, millions of Americans have been arrested and tens of thousands have been imprisoned. Has it been worth it? According to the government's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, in 1982 about 54 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 had smoked marijuana. In 2002 the proportion was . . . about 54 percent.

That should pretty much seal the deal, shouldn't it? No matter what your personal beliefs on whether people should be legally allowed to enjoy themselves, attempting to make it illegal simply does not work. 20 years of ruined lives and billions of wasted dollars: no effect.

Governments all over the world have decriminalized drugs, marijuana in particular, and their societies are not falling apart. In fact, they have money to spend on treatment and education, and room in their prisons for violent criminals. We, on the other hand, let violent criminals go free, with benefits, to make room for potheads. Our government arrogantly pressures other governments (Canada) into maintaining tough drug laws despite the will of their citizens and our supposed reverence for democracy.

More important, denying a relatively safe, potentially useful medicine to patients is irrational and cruel. In 1972 a commission appointed by President Richard Nixon concluded that marijuana should be decriminalized in the United States. The commission's aim was not to encourage the use of marijuana, but to "demythologize it." Although Nixon rejected the commission's findings, they remain no less valid today: "For the vast majority of recreational users," the 2002 Canadian Senate committee found, "cannabis use presents no harmful consequences for physical, psychological or social well-being in either the short or long term."

So the President personally appoints a commission to investigate an issue, and then reject the commission's findings because they're politically inconvenient. Lovely. Is this the kind of democracy most Americans think we have? I doubt it.

Schlosser closes with a brilliantly simple suggestion which I defy anyone to mount a credible argument against:

Here's an idea: people who smoke too much marijuana should be treated the same way as people who drink too much alcohol. They need help, not the threat of arrest, imprisonment and unemployment.

If we truly wish to be a compassionate society, it's the only answer. If you consider drug use to be harmful, or a moral failing, or simply a bad idea, show some compassion and attempt to help people instead of punishing them.

Finally, John Stuart Mill, from On Liberty, quoted in this excellent survey of drug use and drug laws by The Economist magazine:

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

Damn right.


Since "Kenny" is too cowardly to leave a real email address or URL attached to his hateful remarks in my comments, I'll respond to him here.

His comment:

All you "pro-choice" nazis can shove it up your ass....at least karen hughes wouldn't have KILLED her child like the cause that you promote does. KEEP IT UP....AMERICA WILL STAND AGAINST YOU.


There's really nothing to respond to here, actually. It's all hate-filled invective; no substance.

Abortion is not a pleasant procedure; no one wants to have one. What these people fail to realize is it is not abortion that is at issue here, it's choice. Abortions will be performed, they always have been. The question is will a woman have a right to choose to end a pregnancy safely and privately, instead of in a back alley with a coat hanger? Will a woman who's life is at risk because of a pregnancy be legally able to save her own life, or will she be required to martyr herself to the religious beliefs of others?

I would ask Kenny -- if he had the guts to engage in a serious debate -- if he is willing to fund with his tax dollars the care and education of all the unwanted children an abortion ban would produce. Is he prepared to have thousands and thousands of children in this country raised by people who don't want them, see them as a mistake, as a burden? Is he willing to promote contraception, or is this some fantasy where we will promote abstinence and that, somehow, all of a sudden people will stop having spontaneous sex?

It is certainly ironic that most people who hold his views are right-wing and Republican, and therefore a great majority of them support George Bush and the war in Iraq. Preemptive war under false pretenses certainly seems to be at odds with a notion of "respect for life." Not to mention gutting environmental regulations and rules, favoring corporate profits over the health -- and life -- of the entire planet. Is that respect for life? How about the fact that George Bush is personally responsible for ordering death warrants on 150 people in Texas, including the mentally ill?

After Karen Hughes compared pro-choice people to terrorists, we had Randall Terry on CNN. He's the president of the Society for Truth and Justice, which I think is where The Green Lantern works.

Remember, Adolf Hitler in the mid '30s had really big crowds and had a lot of famous people saying he was a great guy. It didn't do him much good in 1945.


So there again we have a ridiculous, insulting, and offensive comparison of pro-choice marchers with history's greatest monsters, this time the Nazis. It is shameful that the anti-choice argument is reduced to such attacks. Their only platform is religion, emotional sucker punches, and baseless attacks. There is no talk about freedom of choice, the health of the mother or the barbaric and deadly conditions that existed before Roe v. Wade, which we would surely be returning to if it were overturned.

Our laws are not perfect and can never perfectly reflect one person's or one group's moral position. The point is to ensure that our citizens have the freedom to choose when it comes to their own bodies and their own lives.

April 25, 2004
March On, Xena

march for women's lives

Congratulations to everyone who marched. I would have loved to have been there.

Karen Hughes presents the predictably inaccurate and fear-mongering point of view of the administration:

"I think that after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life," she said. "President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions. And I think those are the kinds of policies the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy and, really, the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."


See that? If you are pro-choice, you are also pro Al Qaeda.

These people literally have no shame. Zero.

She also parades the crap idea that most Americans are anti-abortion. It's been shown time and time again that most Americans favor some form of legal abortion, and are not at all in line with the radical right agenda on this issue, when they are presented with reasonable poll questions.

Sunday Meme

It's a lazy Sunday, so I'll play this meme.

"On the fourth try, Philip Jones, an enlisted man, mentioned casually that the unit's assignment was to draw up lists of radicals and to help develop contingency plans for censorship of the news media and U.S. mail in time of war."

--All The President's Men, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Simon and Schuster, 1974.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

April 24, 2004
More Religious Nonsense

The Vatican has now publicly said Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, should not be allowed to take communion.

While the Vatican is said to have "stopped short" of specifically naming John Kerry, all of the articles and news stories on this issue mention no one else. Conservatives are loving this.

Putting aside the fact that this is a(nother) shameful entry of religion into politics in this country, the big question is why is no one talking about Republican Christians who support abortion rights? There are some big names on that list, people who will be undoubtedly speaking at the convention this summer.

  • Mayor Rudolph Guiliani
  • Governor George Pataki
  • Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge

To name a few very notable ones. Perhaps they should take a look at Tom Ridge's voting record on abortion in Congress.

Atrios is encouraging people to call CNN at 404-827-1500 and ask them why they aren't discussing other politicians who should be excommunicated.

It may also be interesting for these "news" organizations to note that churches around the world have reprimanded George Bush for his actions in Iraq, some going so far as to ban him for life.

Other great entries on this from Body and Soul and Amy Sullivan.

Designs on the White House

Check out Designs on the White House, passed along by alert reader Marshall.

I'm thinking of submitting my baseball style shirt, even though I would be giving up literally tens of dollars in potential earnings by not selling them on my site. It may be worth it to have Al Franken and Tom Tomorrow judge -- and no doubt select -- my shirt.

If the notion so strikes me, perhaps I'll come up with a few more.


The flag-draped coffin images are now everywhere, thanks largely to Tami Silicio, who lost her job for it, and Russ Kick of The Memory Hole, who obtained hundreds of them through a Freedom of Information Act request. His gallery is here and mirrored here.

I agree with Kevin Drum on this issue: I don't get why the government is so adamantly against showing these pictures. They are a sobering and emotional reminder of what is happening in our name thousands of miles away, but they also clearly show with how much care and respect these dead soldiers are treated. The crisp, neat flags on every coffin at every stage, the soldiers standing in formation and saluting, it shows how very seriously these deaths are taken, and I don't think showing them diminishes support for the war.

Support for the war -- it's rationale, it's execution -- is a separate matter. I personally do not support it. But these pictures strengthen my support for the troops and for their families, and give me deeper respect for their service. If we are truly to be proud of this war and it's mission, as the administration's rhetoric clearly suggests, then why are we hiding the honor we give to those who have sacrificed so much for that mission?

Most likely, they believe that it's the safer bet. Criticism for not allowing the images to be seen is politically far less risky than an endless parade of images of fallen soldiers would be. Imagine if every newspaper in the country ran one photo for every fallen soldier, or even one for every ten. The political calculus isn't hard to understand.

Still, the pictures are the truth, and the truth should be seen -- respectfully.

So, with utmost respect, some more:

flag draped coffin
flag draped coffin
flag draped coffin
flag draped coffin

I think it's also interesting to point out, as Ted Koppel did tonight, that the one time recently that a similar image -- one of a flag draped stretcher being carried out of Ground Zero -- has been used in what most people agree is a disrespectful way was in a campaign ad for George W. Bush.

bush grounds zero campaign ad

The message? Using images of fallen heroes to inform the public and to illustrate their sacrifice and our respect for their service is disrespectful to their families. Using those images to further one's political career, that's okay.

April 23, 2004

I'd like to point out the following entry from Atrios, which I will quote in its almost entirety.

Atrios was inpired by this amazing page detailing the fight between the American Atheists and the first Bush administration, largely centering around this statement from George H. W. Bush in 1987:

No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.

The statement is shocking enough, but the whole story is worse.

Atrios' comments:

No one finds it particularly troubling when it's pointed out that an "out" atheist couldn't get elected dog catcher in most of this country, let alone to Congress. I'm actually not complaining really - I'm not trying to establish some sort of new victim group here. But, nonetheless, I'm a bit sick and tired of White Christian Males pretending that they're the persecuted ones.

In addition, I'm a bit fed up with people hand-wringing about anti-religious sentiment from "the Left." First of all, "the Left" which has any clout or power in this country is explicitly "pro-religion" to a degree which disturbs me. My retinas still burn with the image of the members of Congress on the steps of the Capitol screeching out "UNDER GOD" while performing the pledge of allegiance. Left-leaning people with strongly held religious views need to stop worrying about what some comedian says on some radio show and need to start worrying that the public faces of their religion are people who, if they had their way, would establish their own flavor of theocracy and revoke our right to worship as we please (or not at all).

I'm tired of liberalish Christians telling me it's my job to reach out to Christian moderates who feel that "the Left" is hostile to them. Screw that. It's time for liberalish Christians to tell their slightly more right-leaning brethren that those of us who fight to maintain the separation between Church and State do it to protect freedom of religion - not destroy it. It's time for moderate and liberal Catholics to take a stand against their Church's assault on Democratic (and only Democratic) politicians who deviate from doctrine.

I'm not hostile to religion. I'm hostile to those who cloak their hate in [sic] bigotry in religion. I'm hostile to those who want to impose their religion on me and everyone else. I'm hostile to those who have no understand where their freedoms come from, and why they're important. I'm hostile to Christian Exceptionalists who believe that simply by being religious they're immune from all criticism.


At the risk of being ironic, amen to that.

Fashion Police State

A State Representative in Louisiana has introduced a bill making it a crime -- punishable by a fine of up to $500, 6 months in jail, or both -- to wear low-slung pants that expose skin or "intimate clothing."

"I'm sick of seeing it," said Shepherd, a first-term legislator. "The community's outraged. And if parents can't do their job, if parents can't regulate what their children wear, then there should be a law."


How do you elect someone this stupid? J'accuse, residents of Jefferson Parish!


The Unintended Victim

First, Do Not Treat Gays

So, this is really cool.

Doctors or other health care providers could not be disciplined or sued if they refuse to treat gay patients under legislation passed Wednesday by the Michigan House.

The bill allows health care workers to refuse service to anyone on moral, ethical or religious grounds.

The Republican dominated House passed the measure as dozens of Catholics looked on from the gallery. The Michigan Catholic Conference, which pushed for the bills, hosted a legislative day for Catholics on Wednesday at the state Capitol.


Three other three bills that could affect LGBT health care were also passed by the House Wednesday which would exempt a health insurer or health facility from providing or covering a health care procedure that violated ethical, moral or religious principles reflected in their bylaws or mission statement.

Hey, cool! It's just like ... waddayacallit ... Nazi Germany!

Perhaps it would be wise to remind these fuckers of the oath they took when they became doctors, which reads in part:

I will treat without exception all who seek my ministrations, so long as the treatment of others is not compromised thereby.


That seems pretty clear to me.

Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said the bills promote the constitutional right to religious freedom.

"Individual and institutional health care providers can and should maintain their mission and their services without compromising faith-based teaching," he said in a written statement.


I must have missed that part of their "faith-based teachings" where Jesus said, "be merciful and kind and love your fellow man, unless you don't agree with his lifestyle or beliefs, in which case fuck him -- let him rot in hell"

I always forget that part.

Kerry's War Record

The Washington Post gives a detailed account.

An examination of his record, supplemented by interviews with the candidate, his crewmates and some skeptics, found little to undermine Kerry's portrayal of his service.
But a group of Vietnam veterans, some of them partisans, portray him as an ambitious young officer who attempted to collect undeserved Purple Hearts for minor injuries and used those medals to cut short his tour. A military policy allowed those who received three Purple Hearts, regardless of the extent of their injuries, to leave Vietnam. Kerry could have requested to stay but did not.

So this is their argument? That he could have requested to stay after 3 Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star, but he didn't? Naturally they forget that their own horse in this race specifically declined to volunteer for service in Vietnam.

bush declines vietnam service

In combat, eight of nine of them say, he [Kerry] was daring and unflinching, never tentative. The ninth, Stephen M. Gardner, an avowed Bush supporter, recently told [historian Douglas] Brinkley: "Whenever a firefight started he always pulled up stakes and got the hell out of Dodge." Once, famously, Kerry -- in violation of regulations -- beached his boat and went after the enemy, chasing down and killing a Viet Cong guerrilla carrying a rocket launcher.

Doesn't sound like "getting out of Dodge" to me. Neither does the incident for which he received his Bronze Star: After being wounded, he turned his boat around into enemy fire and personally hauled a wounded Green Beret out of the river, saving his life at great risk to his own.

They are seriously nuts to continue to pursue any kind of battle with Kerry over military service. They're not going to win this one.


queen mary 2 arrives in new york

That's some big ass boat.

My birthday is coming up, so if anyone's stuck for gift ideas..

For those on a budget, there's always the Headblade.


Treasury Propoganda

In comments to my earlier post on the partisan rhetoric at the bottom of IRS press releases, R. Davis points to his more detailed analysis of the release I mentioned and several others.

Truly shocking. I sincerely hope that someone is pursuing this in the courts or the legislature. The IRS is not a wing of the Republican party, no matter who is in the White House. They have no business issuing releases filled with unsubstantiated projections stated as facts and messages on the economy copied verbatim from the RNC.

The New York Times had this tiny piece on the issue several days ago. It states that the Kerry campaign has started a petition to stop this (ooooooh, a petition), and quotes a Treasury spokesman as saying, "Stating our position is appropriate."

That's nice and all, except that it's actually completely inappropriate.

He goes on to say that "the administration's views on fiscal policy are that lower taxes have helped strengthen the economy and led to an environment of increased job creation."

Okay, Rob Nichols, you complete tool of evil, we know that. The question was not what the administration's views are, the question is what makes you think an IRS press release on "Tax Day Reminders" is a place for the administration to air its "views?" The question is where do you get the idea that the administration can spew it's "views" using any part of the government it chooses?

By his logic, I suppose this would be "appropriate" too:

bush dollar

April 22, 2004
A Sad State of Affairs

This sucks. According to a new poll from the Program on International Policy Attitudes, Americans in shocking numbers still believe Iraq supported Al Qaeda and had WMD, and have basically completely incorrect feelings about world attitudes toward the war.

The Gadflyer's Poll Miner extracts some important data, which I will now extract from them. I guess that makes me the Poll Miner's Daughter. Oh, ha ha.

I will use little pictures to illustrate the results.

Question 1:
Which of the following statements do you agree with:

  1. Iraq gave substantial support to al Qaeda, but was not involved in the September 11 attacks.
  2. Iraq was directly involved in carrying out those attacks.
  3. A few al Qaeda individuals visited Iraq or had contact with Iraqi officials.
  4. There was no connection at all between Iraq and Al Qaeda

poll results

Question 2:
Which, if any, of the following statements do you agree with:

  1. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
  2. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction but had a major program for developing them.
  3. WMD have actually been found in Iraq.

poll results


Hopped Up On Goofballs

From a Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing:

... our delegation has been told by Fallujan leaders that many of the individuals involved with the violence are on some -- are on various drugs. It is part of what they're using to keep them up to engage in this violence at all hours. And the Fallujans leaders, the political and civic leaders with whom we've been talking, have repeatedly expressed this to be a serious problem, that the drug use by those engaged in the violence is something that we need to address.


See that? They don't hate us, they're just zoomin' on shrooms! Not only does this question whether there's any real, non-drug induced anti-American sentiment, it also shows one more example of the power of evil, evil drugs.

So parents, watch for those warning signs. If you don't stop your kid from using drugs, he just might start a guerilla insurgency against you.

Seriously, the real point is that this is totally irrelevant. Using drugs to keep your fighters awake and alert not only has nothing to do with their reasons for fighting or your tactics against them, it's something the U.S. military has done for years.

Coffin Photographer Fired

On Monday I posted this photo from the Seattle Times.

flag draped coffins

Well, today we learn that the woman who took the photo has been fired for it, as has her husband, who worked with her.

They both worked for Maytag Aircraft, a contractor providing services to the U.S. government in Kuwait. She's not a professional photographer, she just snapped the photo and sent it to a friend in the states, who passed it along to the newspaper.

A spokesman for Maytag said that the decision to fire her was made by the company, but he also said that "the U.S. military had identified 'very specific concerns' about their actions." He declined to elaborate.

I was interested to find out that the policy prohibiting photos of caskets dates to 1991 and the first Gulf War. The Pentagon predictably justifies it as a matter of respect for the families of the fallen, but to my mind that's a lot of crap.

Certainly we should be sensitive to the feelings of the families of these soldiers, but the public's need and right to have an honest impression of the costs of waging war, particularly a preemptive, controversial war like this one, far outweighs any notion of deference to the families. I would be interested to see a study on whether or not this is in any way what those families want, anyway.

UPDATE: Matt Drudge posts more powerful photos.

April 21, 2004
Who's a Hero Now?

It's hard to understand why the Republicans have been going after Kerry to release all of his service records. Did they really think that Bush could take Kerry on in a military service battle?

Well, they asked for it; now they got it.

The A.P. sifts through the record and concludes that Kerry's Military Records Show a Highly Praised Officer.

Kos has a rundown of Kerry's record, too.

For even more fun, try this side-by-side comparison(PDF) of Bush's military record and Kerry's.

The bad news is that the media is giving the Kerry-bashers a hand in this smear campaign. John O'Neill, a man who served in the same unit as Kerry -- BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME -- is popping up all over the place to say that Kerry is "not a war hero," and that he, "couldn't tie the shoes of some of the people in Coastal Division 11."

Notice that this CNN article leads with "A man who served in the same Navy unit as Sen. John Kerry denounced on Tuesday charges the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made as an antiwar protester that he and other U.S. troops committed atrocities in Vietnam."

It is not highlighted that this man joined Kerry's division two months after Kerry returned to the states. They do mention it in the second paragraph, but assign it no particular relevance; they certainly don't point out that this little fact would kind of undermine anything this guy has to say about John Kerry's heroism in battle, since they never served together.

The first sentence, "A man who served in the same Navy unit as Sen. John Kerry.." is plainly misleading and CNN should be ashamed of themselves.

CPA Website

Another quick note about the CPA's website.

It has been noted that it bears a striking resemblance to the website of Brookings Institution. Wow, kinda weird, huh?

Josh Marshall points out that it is clear who ripped off who if you take a look at the code. From the CPA's site:

submenu name="Brookings Review" id="brs" url="/press/review/rev_des.htm

Pretty lame, guys. You'd think they would at least copy from a conservative think tank.


They have got to be kidding.

As you've probably heard, Bush has named John Negroponte, current U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., as his choice for Ambassador to Iraq. I must admit I don't know too much about this guy, I've only just started reading up on him.

What I do know: He does not speak Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish or any other relevant language. He has no experience in the Middle East. The experience he does have is mostly in Central America, where he was Ambassador to Honduras during their Civil War, and part of the Iran-Contra scandal. He has been accused of misleading Congress about the use of "death squads" in that country.

Matt Yglesias has been foaming at the mouth over this guy for a couple of weeks. His piece at The American Prospect sums it up nicely.

Seems like a pretty ridiculous choice to head up the our democracy building efforts in Iraq, huh? A guy who participated in one of our most infamous dictatorship-building exercises.

Well, at least the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) has a sense of humor about this obviously hilarious issue.

They have posted a photo of Negroponte on their site, which has since been cropped of its irony. Below is how it was originally posted.


Recognize that painting in the background? It's Guernica: Picasso's masterpiece depicting the horror and brutality of war.

There is no doubt that Guernica challenges our notions of warfare as heroic and exposes it as a brutal act of self-destruction.


Body Count

Newsweek has a piece on the casualties sustained in Iraq. We're starting to see more of this, which is of course tragic, but we need to see it for just that reason. Those jerks are trying to numb us to death by war the way we're numb to death by car accident. Don't let it happen. These deaths were avoidable.

793 -- Total coalition soldiers killed in Iraq since the war began, according to the U.S. Army's Central Command, as of April 17, 2004. (690 are Americans). This number is now 808, with 705 being Americans. (updated via lunaville.)

8,875 - 10,725 -- The minimum and maximum estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq so far, according to IraqBodyCount.org, an organization of British and American academics. Other groups have even higher estimates.

3,466 -- The total of American soldiers wounded in action in Iraq through April 17, 2004, according to the Pentagon. There's a lot of controversy about these figures, which do not include many minor wounds, although they do include some soldiers who are wounded and returned to duty. Other estimates of wounded American soldiers range as high as 15,000.

source1 and source2

April 20, 2004
Bush Campaign Fined $90,000

Via Talk Left:

The Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign was fined $90,000 by the FEC today for failing to disclose funds -- $13 million -- kept in a separate bank account.

FEC Press Release.

Bush- Cheney 2000 admitted that the failure to report the receipts and disbursements associated with its recount activity and to properly itemize them as ?other receipts? and ?other disbursements? violated the Act. The committee agreed to cease and desist from violating these sections of the Act and agreed to submit a miscellaneous filing to the FEC that discloses and itemizes, where appropriate, its recount receipts and disbursements.

I like how they agreed to cease and desist from violating only those sections of the Act they have been found to have violated. Like if you were arrested for shoplifting, and as part of your plea, you agreed "never to break this particular law again."

Now That's Some Good Nonsense!

It's a beautiful thing to read Scott McClellan try to squirm his way out of answering direct questions. If you've gotten the impression that the White House has flatly denied the gas price fixing scheme story, have a look at how clearly their spokesman addressed it (via Josh Marshall):

QUESTION: Can you describe conversations between the White House and Prince Bandar about his essential promise to lower oil prices before the election?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you heard from Prince Bandar a few weeks ago about --

QUESTION: He didn?t talk specifically about the election.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the most recent conversation that we had with him regarding oil prices. And he expressed his views out at the stakeout to you all that Saudi Arabia is committed to making sure prices remained in a range, I believe it?s $22 to $28 price per barrel of oil, and that they don?t want to do anything that would harm our consumers or harm our economy. So he made those comments at the stakeout and we?ve made our views very clear that prices should be determined by market forces, and that we are always in close contact with producers around the world on these issues to make sure that actions aren?t taken that harm our consumers or harm our economy.

QUESTION: There were no conversations specifically about the President?s reelection?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can ask Prince Bandar to --

QUESTION: But from the point -- I mean, conversations are obviously two ways.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- what his comments were. But the conversations we have are related to our long-held views that we have stated repeatedly publicly, that market forces should determine prices.

QUESTION: To follow up on that then, I would gather that the White House view is one of expectation that the Saudis would increase oil production between now and November.

MR. McCLELLAN: Our views are very well-known to Saudi Arabia. Prince Bandar made a commitment at the stakeout that I will let speak for itself. You all should look back to those remarks.

QUESTION: We?re missing the allegation here, which is that Prince Bandar and the Saudis have made a commitment to lower oil prices to help the President politically. Is that your --

MR. McCLELLAN: I?m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those comments to him. I can tell you that what our views are and what he said at the stakeout is what we know his views are, as well.

QUESTION: Does the White House have any knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I?m sorry?

QUESTION: Does the White House have any knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I?m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those questions --

QUESTION: Is there a deal?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- I wouldn?t speculate one way or the other. You can direct those questions to him, but I?m telling you --

QUESTION: I?m not asking you to speculate either. Do you have knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I?m telling you what our views are and what we've stated, and I'm telling you what I do know, which is that our position is very clear when it comes to oil prices and what our views are. And Prince Bandar spoke to you all just a few weeks ago out at the stakeout after meeting with some White House officials and expressed --

QUESTION: So you have no knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and expressed their view. I'm not going to try to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those questions to him.

QUESTION: The President is confident that the American elections are not being manipulated by the world's largest oil producer?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our view is that the markets should determine --

QUESTION: The market doesn't. It's a cartel.

MR. McCLELLAN: But our view is that that's what -- that the markets should determine prices. And that's the view we make very clear to producers around the world, including our friends in OPEC.


Clearly, the whole story is flatly untrue, right? If it there was any truth to it, he would have been evasive. Glad we cleared that up.

The Saudi Oil Price Fixing Scheme

The big denial on this one is, of course, "there is not now, nor ever was there, a deal in place between the House of Bush and the House of Saud to alter oil prices in hopes of influencing the presidential election."

Well, duh.

It's another one of those clever non-denial denials. Of course they don't have a formal "deal." They're not complete idiots (really, they're not). But that doesn't mean they don't "understand each other" and have each other's best interests in mind.

The media acts as if they're going to find a contract titled, "Saudi Arabia's To Illegally Influence American Electoral Process" with the president's signature at the bottom.

Jeebus. Just because there's no formal agreement, doesn't mean there is no deal.

April 19, 2004
Think of the Children

Hey look! Another pissed-off career government official is mad about not having a job anymore and lashing out by saying nasty, fact-laden stuff about the Bush administration's policies.

The Bushies better start looking into this problem. Maybe they can get all their friends in the scientific community to investigate this phenomenon -- it seems to be spreading. Maybe it's a virus or something; we wouldn't want to cause a panic. They should perhaps lock down all government buildings, letting no one in and no one out. Just to be sure, they would probably want to kill anyone who shows signs of this terrible "disagree with the administration" (DWA) disease. If they don't take immediate and decisive action, the terrorists will have already won.

This one's about the environment.

Former top EPA official Bruce Buckheit had this to say to Stone Phillips:

Phillips: "What's the biggest enforcement challenge right now when it comes to air pollution?"

Buckheit: "The Bush Administration. An opportunity to reduce pollution just as we saw in Tampa is being foregone."

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

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

Phillips: "That's a pretty serious allegation."

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


Economic interests of giant corporations ahead of the public interest? This administration? Naaaaaahhhhh.

Has anyone checked out if this guy might be gay? Novak, I'm looking at you.

Read the whole transcript here, or watch the video.

A Thousand Words

The Seattle Times ran this picture today -- the kind of picture we should by all rights be seeing much more of, but aren't seeing because the administration has "moved mountains" to ensure that the true costs of war aren't seen here.

flag draped coffins


On Crossfire today, Paul Begala (the Democrat) presented to the panel the fact that the Saudi Ambassador was briefed about secret war plans (specifically marked NO FOREIGN, meaning no foreigners were to see these documents) before Colin Powell was told.

J.D Hayworth (R - Arizona) responded first that this would be serious, if were true. He based his assertion that they are false on Condi's denial. She never really denied it, though, instead vaguely saying Powell "would not have been surprised." Begala also pointed out that General Meyers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, confirmed the timeline.

So, seems like it's true, huh? So Hayworth should be upset that something like this would happen right?

Nope. He stuttered and mumbled something about "what if Kennedy hadn't talked to the British about the Bay of Pigs," now comparing sharing secrets with a state which we knows supports terrorists to sharing information with Britain. Good one. He then started saying Democrats can't have it both ways, they want multilateralism but complain when we let foreign leaders into the loop.

This kind of bullshit is so disingenuous as to boggle the mind. The nice thing is that if this is the best they can do, they're in big trouble. They will defend the president and the administration at all costs, despite all those annoying facts.

Tucker Carlson bailed Hayworth out by launching into a ridiculous little speech about how John Kerry is "the least charming man in America," and not a "Vegas guy."

Shameless. Take a very serious issue concerning the sharing of military secrets with dictatorships in the buildup to war, and in 10 seconds they're talking about someone's personality.

April 18, 2004

60 Minutes interviews Bob Woodward.

Woodward paints an interesting picture of the run-up to war. The president actually comes off looking better than most people around him, and that's not a big surprise. Bush is portrayed as being skeptical of the intelligence on WMD and hesitating to decide to invade, even though he had been talking about it since a few days after 9/11.

George Tenet, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are the real hawks here, the guys who started saying the intelligence was a "slam dunk" (Tenet) and that Saddam definitely possessed WMD (Cheney). Cheney is particularly shown to be completely obsessed with Saddam from the very start.

The big stories are:

  • The $700 million taken from an Afghan War appropriation to fund the build up for Iraq. Congress was never consulted. Illegal.
  • General Tommy Franks lied outright about the preparations for war, saying he had not been told to make a plan when he had been planning it for months.
  • The Saudi Ambassador was briefed on the decision to go to war before Colin Powell
  • The Saudis have promised Bush that they will lower oil prices shortly before the November election to give the president a boost.(!!)

Condi the Liar is already denying some of Woodward's claims, particularly that the decision to go to war was made in January of '03, not in March, as the administration has said.

According to Rice, "He [the president] said, 'No, I think we probably are going to have to go to war. We're going to have to go to war.' And it was not a decision to go to war. That decision he made in March, when he finally decided to do that."

So what she's saying here is that saying "We're going to have to go to war" is not a decision to go to war. The decision to go to war can only technically be said to have been made when the first soldier starts moving towards Baghdad, I suppose. Her logic seems to be that as long as there is still the possibility of changing your mind, you have not made a decision. Ridiculous. Again the administration's spokesliar is splitting hairs any reasonable person would find unsplittable.

It all depends on what your definition of the word "decision" is.

In the Red

I'm more a fan of pie charts, but line graphs are fun too.

Here are two that aren't so fun. From "A Comprehensive Assessment of the
Bush Administration?s Record on Cutting Taxes"
by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

deficit graph

job growth graph

So when you see the president and his cronies on TV smirking and congratulating themselves on a few thousand new jobs being created, keep these in mind.

Meet the Kerry

Just finished watching John Kerry's appearance on Meet the Press from this morning (transcript).


I thought he did a fine job, better than I expected. At the very beginning I was worried that he was going to slip into platitudes and sound bytes. Many of the clips of his speeches I've seen on the news are the same phrases over and over again; they've given me a less than terrific view of his abilities.

But this wasn't the case today. He was articulate, specific and seemingly honest. The contrast between his appearance and the president's appearance on the same show a month or so ago was stark. Kerry addressed Russert's questions directly, defended his past statements with facts, showed a good command of the details of many large issues, and even admitted to some past mistakes and allowed that he had changed his mind on several issues since his Vietnam days.

Bush, on the other hand... well, we know about that.

Some of Russert's questions were really stupid ("If you can't deliver on these promises in your first term, will you pledge now not to seek reelection?") but Kerry dealt with them well.

It was just so reassuring to see someone in government who actually could speak intelligently about world issues, explain himself without stuttering and babbling incoherently, and show a nuanced understanding of America's place in the world without a teleprompter or a prepared script.

The sad thing is that it should be such an unusual treat.

Transcript here. Well worth reading, or catch a rebroadcast on CNBC:

  • Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET and 1 a.m. ET
  • Monday night at 10 p.m. ET and 1 a.m. ET

The Deepening Quag

Contrast the following lead from the Washington Post yesterday with what we've been told over and over again by the president and his people about the situation in Iraq.

In the space of two weeks, a fierce insurgency in Iraq has isolated the U.S.-appointed civilian government and stopped the American-financed reconstruction effort, as contractors hunker down against waves of ambushes and kidnappings, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

The events have also pressured U.S. forces to vastly expand their area of operations within Iraq, while triggering a partial collapse of the new Iraqi security services designed to gradually replace them.

The crisis, which has stirred support for the insurgents across both Sunni and Shiite communities, has also inflamed tensions between Arabs and Kurds.


Words like, "fierce insurgency," "isolated the U.S.," "waves of ambushes and kidnappings," "pressured U.S. forces," "partial collapse of ... security services," " support for the insurgents across both Sunni and Shiite communities," and "inflamed tensions between Arabs and Kurds," are particularly striking.

This is hardly a picture of some "lawlessness and gangs," as the president would have us believe. According to this assessment, we are not moving forward, but the escalating violence has brought the "reconstruction of Iraq to a near-halt."

These statements are coming from commanders and contractors on the ground, not from people running for reelection based almost entirely on their record in this war. Believe who you will.

April 17, 2004
Plan of Attack

Bob Woodward's new book, Plan of Attack, comes out Monday, and it's already all the rage. Sounds like it won't be quite as fawning as his previous outing, Bush at War, focusing instead on the planning of Iraq and reportedly containing some good evidence that the planning started much earlier than the administration has admitted.

Of particular interest to me was the allegation that $700 million was taken from the supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War to fund the planning of the Iraq War, without Congress' knowledge or approval, which is completely illegal.

As Woodward notes:

Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this.


Woodward will be on 60 Minutes tomorrow night, and CBS promises answers to the following questions:

  • How early did President Bush begin planning the war on Iraq?
  • In the war's wake, which top administration officials now barely speak to each other?
  • What did the CIA say to President Bush to convince him that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction?
  • Which foreign dignitary was told of the plans to attack Iraq days before even key cabinet members were briefed?
  • Which key advisers did President Bush ask -- and not ask -- about whether he should go to war with Iraq?
  • Why did the CIA think Saddam had been killed before the ground war even began?

Should be interesting.

This Washington Post article is a bit milder, suggesting that Bush was skeptical about some of the WMD intelligence, putting more of the blame on Tenet and Cheney. There is also some interesting stuff about Powell's reluctance to go along with the plan.

The funniest line -- but not really funny -- is this:

Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."

Shit, it sounds like the president isn't as confident about the outcome of this war as he often sounds! We'll all be dead? That doesn't sound good.

Of course that's not what he meant. He meant History looking back generations, at which time of course we'll all be dead. It's still a disturbing statement for it's complete lack of insight, and the implication that he doesn't much care how history will judge the war. "Shit, I'll be dead, so I'll just do what seems good now. I'm not going to worry about how this affects world affairs in the long run."

This kind of shortsightedness is what got us into this mess, and it's really a scary thing to hear from such a powerful man.

April 16, 2004
Your Tax Dollars At Work

Oh, this really chaps my hide..

Via Pandagon, take a look at this Press Release from the Treasury Department entitled "April 15th Tax Day Reminder: Treasury and IRS Work To Make Paying Taxes A Little Easier."

Pretty basic; a rundown of how easy it is to file your taxes and answers to some basic tax questions. Then you get to the bottom and find this in bold letters:

America has a choice: It can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the President's policies are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation.

Please, if you have a minute, send this link to your Senators and House Representatives and tell them you don't want your money used to fund blatant Republican propaganda.

There are laws about these kinds of things, aren't there? Outrageous.

UPDATE :: The message on that (and other) Treasury Department documents comes directly from this Republican National Committee "Fact Sheet"! Unbelievable!

April 15, 2004
My Part of the Economic Recovery

You know what everybody needs these days? A new t-shirt. It's true. People also need more coffee mugs. Think about it.


Well, do I have the t-shirt and coffee mugs for you! That's right, Slapnose has finally gotten into the shameless commerce game. It's about time, I know. I've been slow on this one.

Seriously, I designed these shirts and I feel they're fairly sweet. They're reasonably priced, and for a good, dual cause.


  1. They subtly, happily and fashionably help get Kerry elected. No Bush-bashing, no "I Hate You, You Stupid Republican," just a nice statement in a baseball-y, summer-y style.
  2. They support me, an unemployed (but not unemployable) little blogger.

Here's a funky picture of me lounging on the couch wearing mine. Isn't it neat?

democrats t-shirt

If Liz had been home, I would have used her as the model. She's decidedly cuter.

That's it! Check it out!

Traditional Liberal

According to this Harvard Institute of Politics survey, I am a "Traditional Liberal." I was trying to be a little bit centrist, but I couldn't pull it off.

If you were wondering where you fall on the political spectrum, these 11 questions will clear it up for you. Err, that is, they will place you on the political spectrum as defined by a "national survey of college students."


Hey, remember Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Well, it turns out that we not only haven't found any secret ones, but we're doing a damn bad job of keeping our eyes on the ones we know about.

Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards.

Just warms your heart, doesn't it?

Now, to be clear, these aren't weapons but actually the makings of weapons. Uranium, rocket engines, stuff like that.

According to ElBaradei's letter, satellite imagery shows "extensive removal of equipment and in some instances, removal of entire buildings," in Iraq.

Entire buildings?!?!?

Here's another good one which will no doubt inspire confidence in our stewardship of the world's most dangerous substances:

The United States has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March 2003 on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

Oh, that's just wonderful. We're so busy bringing people Death and Democracy that we don't notice that they're sneaking buildings out of the country. And we've so completely cut ourselves off from the international community and watchdog organizations that we won't even let them in to control this stuff, even when they ask nicely.

We're some right bastards. Ahhh, sigh.

Not Quite One in 25 Million

This is an amazing little tale.

Originally posted onUnfogged, noted last July, and then resurrected today by Brad DeLong.

Carlyle Group ("The World's Largest Private Equity Firm" and 11th Largest Defense Contractor in America) founder David Rubenstein, solid Republican, said this in a speech in L.A.:

But when we were putting the board together, somebody [Fred Malek] came to me and said, look there is a guy who would like to be on the board. He's kind of down on his luck a bit. Needs a job. Needs a board position. Needs some board positions. Could you put him on the board? Pay him a salary and he'll be a good board member and be a loyal vote for the management and so forth.

I said well we're not usually in that business. But okay, let me meet the guy. I met the guy. I said I don't think he adds that much value. We'll put him on the board because - you know - we'll do a favor for this guy; he's done a favor for us.

We put him on the board and [he] spent three years. Came to all the meetings. Told a lot of jokes. Not that many clean ones. And after a while I kind of said to him, after about three years - you know, I'm not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should do something else. Because I don't think you're adding that much value to the board. You don't know that much about the company.

He said, well I think I'm getting out of this business anyway. And I don't really like it that much. So I'm probably going to resign from the board.

And I said, thanks - didn't think I'd ever see him again. His name is George W. Bush. He became President of the United States. So you know if you said to me, name 25 million people who would maybe be President of the United States, he wouldn't have been in that category. So you never know. Anyway, I haven't been invited to the White House for any things.

(emphasis mine)
source1 and source2

Ladies and Gentlemen, the CEO of the free world.

Bush Doubles Mustard Gas Figures

White House: Bush Erred on Mustard Gas.

Bush made two references to "50 tons of mustard gas" found on a turkey farm in Libya, using this to show that: a) our policy of force is working because Qaddafi wouldn't have disclosed this otherwise; and b) there could still be WMD in Iraq. Presumably our searching -- and the U.N.'s -- has not yet extended to poultry farms.

The White House has apparently been scrambling to admit this "mistake," to avoid a repeat of the "significant quantities of uranium from Africa" problem. Good move.

Still, one must ask: Why is he making so many mistakes? How come the mistakes never underestimate the threats? Shouldn't his information be checked a little more carefully?

Fishy. Fishy, I tells ya!

p.s. - lest I be accused of massaging my own figures, he didn't exactly double the quantity of gas, as implied by this post's title. Bush's figure was actually 2.1186440677966101694915254237288 times the actual figure.

The President is Not Available Just Now, Can I Take a Message?

Everyone should read this piece by Fred Kaplan in Slate.

He explains that the big revelation from George Tenet's testimony before the 9/11 Commission: that Tenet knew that Zacarias Moussaoui, a known Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons to fly a 747. Tenet had been briefed on this on August 23 or 24, 2001.

The question from Commissioner Tim Roemer was an obvious one: Did you tell the president?

Tenet replied:

"I was not in briefings at this time." Bush, he noted, "was on vacation."

"You never talked with him?" Roemer asked. "No," Tenet replied.

There is also evidence that Bush's story that the August 6 PDB was provided by the CIA at his request. He said this again during his press conference the other night.

The story on this has changed. On March 19, Tenet told the commission that the brief had been prepared at the CIA analyst's initiative. Then he changed his mind.

As Kaplan points out, it quite important to know who initiated the PDB. If the president asked for it, then he knew there was, to use his words, a "gathering threat," and was concerned, but then he did nothing about the report's conclusions. If he didn't request it, then not only is he lying about that now, but he appears to have been clueless about the terrorist threat during that summer.

Finally, this paragraph is a jaw-dropper:

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and the State Department's counterterrorism chief from 1989-93, explained on MSNBC this afternoon, during a break in the hearings, why the PDB -- let alone the Moussaoui finding -- should have compelled everyone to rush back to Washington. In his CIA days, Johnson wrote "about 40" PDBs. They're usually dispassionate in tone, a mere paragraph or two. The PDB of Aug. 6 was a page and a half. "That's the intelligence-community equivalent of writing War and Peace," Johnson said. And the title -- "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US" -- was clearly designed to set off alarm bells. Johnson told his interviewer that when he read the declassified document, "I said 'Holy smoke!' This is such a dead-on 'Mr. President, you've got to do something!' " (By the way, Johnson claimed he's a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000.)

Though spending 40% of your presidency on vacation seems a bit ridiculous to me, I'm willing to allow that it is possible to get lots done while not in Washington, D.C. The problem here is that he wasn't working from the "Western White House" as the media likes to call it, he was NOT working. He was really on vacation. Like, "Hold my calls" vacation.

Maybe someone should explain to him what, exactly, his job is. You don't get vacations. Get back to work.

Press Conference Cliff's Notes

I know most people don't have the time or will (or willpower) to watch or read Bush's entire press conference, so here's a nice synopsis of the major points. All you need to know.

Video: Press Conference in 60 Seconds.


Bin Laden offers "truce" to Europeans, Not Americans.

As General McAuliffe so famously put it at the Battle of the Bulge, "NUTS!"

Of course, this offer was specifically NOT directed to us, so we're in no position to respond, but surely all European powers will say something along those lines. They better.

Methinks Osamie is getting a bit of a swelled head. He may strike fear in the hearts of many people, and justifiably so, but he's crazier than I thought if he thinks he's going to be able to negotiate truces with governments. I can't imagine even those who have been steadfastly against the war from the start are silly enough to think they can negotiate with this murderer.


April 14, 2004

There's a lot of talk around the blogoworld (I don't say blogosphere) about the tie Bush wore last night. I, too, noticed it right away. It was herringbone or something that caused those irritating moiré effects on television.

Matt says everyone -- even he -- knows not to wear that kind of tie on television, and Wonkette gives a rundown of everyone's theories.

I hate to say this, because it makes me sound a little wingnuttish, but I bet they did it on purpose. Matt is right, everyone who has anything to do with television on a regular basis known that certain kinds of clothes just don't work. Certainly the people who handle the president of the United States know theses things. And purposely putting a distracting tie on the guy is exactly the kind of thing Karl Rove would do. It's effective, it's subtle, and you have 100% deniability plus the ability to paint those who would suggest it was intentional as whackos.

So they win on both sides. If you accuse them of distracting the public with hypnotic ties to draw attention away from the jabbering coming from the tie-wearer, you're a liberal conspiracy nut; and they also win because it worked. Any precious few seconds of attention taken away from his words is a victory for them.

Couldn't Have Said It Better

Ezra at Pandagon brilliantly captures the president's performance tonight. Go read Ezra's piece. I agree with him whole-heartedly.

The end result of the evening's show is that we should all be ashamed that this man and those who surround him are our leaders and representatives on the world's stage. He is truly an embarrassment and an insult. Worse still, he's dangerous.

April 13, 2004
Press Conference

The transcript isn't up yet, and I don't have the stomach to watch it again on the TiVo, so I'll just throw out the short version of the president's press conference, in case you missed it.

  1. We will stay the course in Iraq.
  2. Regular people like Freedom.
  3. Terrorists hate Freedom.
  4. 9/11 changed everything.

That was his opening statement. I imagine his notes for the question period were:

  1. In case of questions, see points 1 - 4 above.
  2. Next question.

The whole thing really infuriated me. His demeanor was insulting, his tone was insulting, his tie was insulting. He avoided nearly every question, some so blatantly I almost drove into a ditch (I was driving).

When asked why he and Cheney are insisting on appearing before the 9/11 Commission together instead of separately as the Commission requested, he resoonded:

"Because the 9-11 commission wants to ask us questions, that's why we're meeting. And I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions."

The questioner then asked again why they were appearing together.

Repsonse: "Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9-11 commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them."

(transcript from the NYTimes now available here)

Ashcroft's Priorities

Spring and Summer of 2001 -- Terrorist attacks against United States interests have been on the rise for years, and there is mounting evidence that these attacks will soon be brought to American soil. Former Attorney General Janet Reno's budgets highlight counterterrorism as a top priority for the Justice Department.

September 10, 2001 -- John Ashcroft submits his initial budget proposal, which contains a passing mention of "combating terrorists" and does not list counterterrorism as a priority.

Among the budget reductions listed in the proposal was a $65-million cut to counterterrorism equipment grants to state and local agencies -- leaving just $44 million in that program.

In addition, according to internal FBI and Justice Department budget documents, Justice sought to save another $58 million by rejecting FBI requests for additional counterterrorism personnel, including 249 agents and support staff, 200 analysts and 54 interpreters.


Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo absurdly points out that these documents are being circulated by the Center for American Progress, a "Democratic think tank run by former Clinton aide John Podesta," presumably as a way of refuting their contents. Don't believe these uncontested government documents, consider who is circulating them.

This kind of thing cannot be excused. With attacks escalating and evidence of planning for future attacks, Ashcroft took what had been a top Justice priority and took it off the list entirely, even going so far as to cut the budget for counterterrorism.

Bring on the excuses.

Culture of Responsibility

E.J. Dionne writes today in the Washington Post that George Bush would do well to read his own statements.

Last week at a Charlotte fundraiser Bush said:

We stand for a culture of responsibility in America. We're changing the culture of this country from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life.

The irony is staggering. Is this real life? Is this man really the President of the United States?

In light of his administration's dealings with the 9/11 Commission and his statement Sunday that the bloodiest seven days since the beginning of the war in Iraq was "a tough week," his words boggle the mind. Has George W. Bush ever -- ever -- taken responsibility for anything negative? It doesn't count to just take responsibility for anything that can in any way be interpreted as good news, as the leader of the free world (shudder), you are bound to have some complicity in bad decisions.

I would say "How can he say things like that with a straight face" but the truth is he can't. He never says these things with a straight face, he's always smirking. The two emotions of Bush: Vengeful and Bemused.

At the end of his column Dionne points out that even many Republicans are confused as to why the administration won't accept any responsibility. It is clear that the public is very forgiving, and is not interested in condemning individuals for 9/11. The public just wants its leaders to admit that mistakes were made and assure us that we are reforming broken systems. This attitude makes it all the more strange that Bush refuses to say it.

Naturally, I'm glad he's not saying it. I hope he never does. I also hope that, if he does, everyone realizes that it's too little, too late. We can no longer give the administration credit for doing what the public expects only after political pressure has reached critical mass. Apologies made under duress do not count.

The Understatement of the Year

In his "closing thought" on Nightline tonight, Chris Bury said that Bush's characterization of last week as "a tough week" in Iraq may have been "the understatement of the year."

Bury's entire statement is worth reading:

After visiting soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas, Mr. Bush acknowledged that it had been "a tough week in Iraq."

In fact, 58 Americans and hundreds of Iraqis died last week. The battles took place not only in the Sunni stronghold of central Iraq, but also in parts of the Shiite South that until now had been relatively peaceful.

Most disturbing of all perhaps were reports that some Shiites and Sunnis are joining together against a common enemy -- the United States and coalition forces.

It's still too early, of course, to know whether last week marked a tipping point against the U.S. led occupation, but the growing casualty count and the latest kidnappings suggest the insurgency has taken a more sinister turn.

And to characterize the bloodiest seven days since the war began as merely "a tough week" seems to gloss over something far more significant.

Amen brother.

This is why I sometimes do like the "mainstream press." Nightline, of course, is better than 99% of the news shows on television, as is 60 Minutes. Fortunately, they are also two of the most watched. What's great about Bury's statement is that it is not sensational; it's factual, clearly argued, and carefully notes that it is too early to draw overall conclusions.

This is the kind of statement that we need to be hearing from John Kerry. And, I would note, from ourselves. The president can't be allowed to get away with calling this "a tough week." He must be questioned on these pronouncements.

There was a little more to the "tough week" sentence. Here's the rest, and the one before.

Secondly, the situation in Iraq has improved. But you're right, it was a tough week, because of -- there was lawlessness and gangs that were trying to take the law in their own hands.


So not only is he describing the bloodiest week in over a year as "tough," he flat-out states that the situation has improved. Notice that he doesn't say that it "is improving," he says that it "has improved." This is a nice little trick. It has improved, I'm sure, since the days when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, for example.

Then he describes the insurgency as "lawlessness and gangs," firmly cementing his place as Understater of The Year, and making a strong bid for Grand Poobah of Delusion. I haven't heard anyone else have the gall to minimize the insurgency by referring to them as "gangs."

The final insult, as usual, is that he says it all with that shit-eating grin on his face. Is he enjoying this? Is he psychotic?

There, I went and gave advice about tone of discourse and then ignored it in the very same post. Oh well.

April 12, 2004
George W. Zork

Via Luke, who has had a little flurry of blogging himself tonight, comes this beautiful, geeky little gem.

If you get it, you get it. If not, it's probably not worth explaining.

I was trying to come up with a clever title for this -- something riffing on Hunt the Wumpus -- so as not to just steal Luke's clever title, but alas I got nothing.

Hunt the Dubya-umpus?
Hunt the George Wumpus?
Hunt the Wimpass?

No good.

george w zork

Scalia Apologizes.. Sort of

I didn't think this would happen.

Looking more closely, though, his apology is pretty thin. He denies that the confiscation was "not taken at his direction," and says to the reporters in a letter, "I was as upset as you were."

Ah, but then...

Justice Scalia said in the letter to the Reporters Committee that the controversy had caused him to revise his policy "so as to permit recording for use of the print media" to "promote accurate reporting." He suggested that he had been misquoted in some accounts as saying "people just don't revere" the Constitution "like they used to." But the letter did not set out his version of what he said, and a court spokesman declined to comment.

Justice Scalia indicated he would continue to ban the recording of his speeches by the broadcast press.

"The electronic media have in the past respected my First Amendment right not to speak on radio or television when I do not wish to do so," he wrote, "and I am sure that courtesy will continue."


Several problems here. First, if it wasn't "his direction" that resulted in the confiscation of the tapes, why does he need to change his policy? If that was his policy, then it did occur "at his direction," whether he specifically told the Marshal to do it in that instance or not.

It's the same tactic the administration uses -- if something is not spelled out in the most specific terms possible, then no responsibility can be assigned. He had a policy forbidding taping of his speeches and a Marshal assigned to carry out his policies. But since he didn't specifically tell the Marshal to confiscate that particular tape from that particular reporter, he's off the hook.

Second problem: He argues that his much circulated ironic statement in the speech that "people don't revere the Constitution like they used to" was a misquote. Well here's an idea genius: If people can record your speeches, there will be a record of what you say, and presumably fewer misquotes.

The last problem is a big one: He asserts his First Amendment right to "not speak on radio or television." Maybe if he was speaking as a private citizen, at his son's Bar Mitzvah or something, I could see that. But if he is giving a speech in his capacity as Supreme Court Justice, where does he get the idea that the public has no right to know what he's saying?

The First Amendment does not only concern itself with Freedom of Speech, but also Freedom of the Press, remember? It in no way implies that Speech has precedence over Press.

Bush to Hold Press Conference Tomorrow

President Bush is to hold one of his infamously rare press conferences tomorrow night. I can't wait to see it.

It's astounding to me that it doesn't strike more people as odd that press conferences by our president are so incredibly rare, during one of the most eventful and contentious administrations in our history.

This should be a good one, though. The tone in this country is very different than it was a few months ago, and I look forward to Bush evading some pretty tough questions. I look forward to boiling over with rage as he smirks and regurgitates meaningless talking points and empty rhetoric.

Putting him out in public unscripted has always been death for these guys -- which is of course why they've so resolutely avoided it -- and it should be worse than ever this time, considering the circumstances.

Weaknesses in the System

Bush: U.S. Intelligence Might Need Post-9/11 Reform

It took him 2 1/2 years to figure out that the intelligence system might need reform? It took most people about half an hour. So that would make Bush's figuring this out about 657,000 times slower than most people. Not bad.

Obviously that's meaningless and I mostly made it up. Still, the fact that he is now saying we might need to make some reforms is ridiculous. The only concrete things he ever says are in reference to evil people and how we should kill them.

This also points out the new party line (same as the old party line), which is that the blame lies everywhere except in the White House. It's institutional, it's systemic, but it always stops somewhere right outside the doors of the White House.

"Now, the 9/11 commission hearings are going to analyze that which went on and hopefully bring recommendations forward to help this administration and future administrations do our solemn duty to protect the American people," he said. "And that's why I think the hearings are a good thing, particularly when they address any weaknesses in the system."


"That which went on." Priceless.

It's interesting how enthusiastic the president is about hearing the Commission's recommendations, considering he fought the creation of the Commission and has given them only as much information and cooperation as is absolutely necessary. And often less.

God and War
God, we pray that our actions here give some glory back to you. We live in grace even here, and we are not afraid of death. . . None of us wants to die here, but death is the blink of an eye, and you wake up in paradise.

In an article in the Washington Post about Marines discovering evidence of suicide squads in Fallujah was the above quote. Sound like the words of an Islamic martyr-to-be? Well, they were actually spoken by Navy Chaplain Wayne Hall during his Easter communion.

Compare this to a letter found among the suicide bombers equipment.

I say goodbye with tears in my eyes and heart, and I ask God for victory. Father, don't blame yourself. I am happy to be here. Mother, don't be weak. Raise your children to be martyrs for the cause.

The similarity is striking both in the implication from both that "god is on our side" and that paradise awaits those who die --and kill -- in pursuit of a "holy" goal.

This is a stark illustration of why military action will never accomplish our goals in this case. Just ask Israel.

Unfortunately, we still have many in our country -- echoing many on their side -- who think the solution is to "firebomb the entire city," as this terrifyingly misguided editorial suggests.

My only prayer is this oft-repeated one: God protect me from your followers.

House of Saud

Fascinating and damning article by Craig Unger, author of House of Bush, House of Saud, about the questions the 9/11 Commission should be asking the FBI about the evacuation of many powerful Saudis immediately after 9/11.

Let's go back to Sept. 13, 2001, and look at several scenes that were taking place simultaneously. Three thousand people had just been killed. The toxic rubble of the World Trade Center was still ablaze. American airspace was locked down. Not even Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who were out of the country, were allowed to fly home. And a plane bearing a replacement heart for a desperately ill Seattle man was forced down short of its destination by military aircraft. Not since the days of the Wright Brothers had American skies been so empty.

But some people desperately wanted to fly out of the country. That same day, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States and a long-time friend of the Bush family, dropped by the White House. He and President George W. Bush went out to the Truman Balcony for a private conversation. We do not know everything they discussed, but the Saudis themselves say that Prince Bandar was trying to orchestrate the evacuation of scores of Saudis from the United States despite the lockdown on air travel.

Meanwhile, a small plane in Tampa, Fla. took off for Lexington, Ky. According to former Tampa cop Dan Grossi and former FBI agent Manny Perez, who were on the flight to provide security, the passengers included three young Saudis. Given the national security crisis, both Grossi and Perez were astonished that they were allowed to take off. The flight could not have taken place without White House approval.

The plane taking off from Tampa was the first of at least eight aircraft that began flying across the country, stopping in at least 12 American cities and carrying at least 140 passengers out of the country over the next week or so. The planes included a lavishly customized Boeing 727 airliner that was equipped with a master bedroom suite, huge flat-screen TVs, and a bathroom with gold-plated fixtures. Many of the passengers were high-ranking members of the royal House of Saud. About 24 of them were members of the bin Laden family, which owned the Saudi Binladin Group, a multibillion-dollar construction conglomerate.

All this occurred at a time when intelligence analysts knew that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, that Saudi money was one of the major forces behind Al Qaeda, and that the prime suspect -- Osama bin Laden -- was Saudi as well.


The rest of the article gives some detail as to how Unger can back up these assertions, and more detail can be found on Unger's site.

Yet another piece of evidence strongly suggesting that Bush's goal after 9/11 was never to discover or disclose the full truth of what happened that day and why, but to use the tragic events to his advantage -- to protect his friends and punish his enemies, regardless of either's connections to the attacks or the attackers.

Hopefully the Commission will ask the right questions, or if they don't, someone will in the next few months, and we can change "strongly suggesting" in the previous paragraph to "categorically proving" and finally be rid of this heartless man forever.

April 11, 2004
Easter Fools

The president today, defying all sense and logic, continued to assert that the August 6 PDB "was no indication of a terrorist threat." This is the PDB titled "Osama bin Laden determined to attack the United States" which contained the information that they had been conducting activities -- inside the U.S. -- consistent with planning for hijackings and had cased federal buildings in New York. No indication of a terrorist threat. That's what he said. The president.

He went on to trot out the administration's most favored bullshit on this issue: that they had not been given a place and time of an attack. If they had been given such information, Bush said, he would have "moved mountains" to stop it.

Pandagon has a brilliant send up of this argument in the form of a calligraphic invitation from the terrorists. It seems this is in fact the threshold for action.

Let's get to some quotes.

THE PRESIDENT: My response was exactly like then as it is today, that I asked for the Central Intelligence Agency to give me an update on any terrorist threats. And the PDB was no indication of a terrorist threat. There was not a time and place of an attack. It said Osama bin Laden had designs on America. Well, I knew that. What I wanted to know was, is there anything specifically going to take place in America that we needed to react to?

As you might recall, there was some specific threats for overseas that we reacted to. And as the President, I wanted to know whether there was anything, any actionable intelligence. And I looked at the August 6th briefing, I was satisfied that some of the matters were being looked into. But that PDB said nothing about an attack on America. It talked about intentions, about somebody who hated America -- well, we knew that.


Yes, dude, there was something specifically going on in America that you needed to react to, namely, an active arm of an international terrorist organization casing building in your most populous city.

Furthermore, since when is hating America, in your view, not actionable? Last time I checked we were sending the entire world spiraling into chaos and division because of some people who "hate America." Seems like you pretty much want to take over any country that ever had lunch with someone who hates America.

The last paragraph of his statement is truly astounding.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's what the 9/11 Commission should look into, and I hope it does. It's an important part of the assignment of the 9/11 Commission. And I look forward to their recommendations, a full analysis of what took place. I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America -- at a time and a place, an attack. Of course we knew that America was hated by Osama bin Laden. That was obvious. The question was, who was going to attack us, when and where, and with what. And you might recall the hijacking that was referred to in the PDB. It was not a hijacking of an airplane to fly into a building, it was hijacking of airplanes in order to free somebody that was being held as a prisoner in the United States.

So, to summarize the president here: The only time it is valid to expect our government to take proactive steps to thwart a terrorist attack is when they have unambiguous information as to 1) Who is going to attack, 2) When they will attack, 3) Where they will attack, and 4) What weapons or tactics they will use in the attack.

He then says that the intelligence spoke of hijacking airplanes to free somebody, not of flying them into buildings. So what was being done to prevent hijackings in order to free somebody? Were we not interested in stopping such a plan? Do you use different tactics to stop hijackings based on what the hijackers intend to do with the plane once they've taken it?

This man is in really big trouble. This is indefensible. More later.

He's Coming For You

One of the best ad/content juxtapositions I've seen in a while. Too perfect to pass up.

ashcroft will steal your identity

Cue the Darth Vader music.

April 10, 2004
The Smoking Memo

It's out. Full transcript (it's not very long) can be found here, or, for a more dramatic effect, take a look at a PDF of the actual memo.

To a large degree it is, as Condi said, an historical analysis of Al-Qaeda and bin Laden's activities. But that doesn't tell the whole story. The historical information is given as a background for current threat information. On that point, she lied. As the administration likes to point out, it's not specific as to the precise date, time and place of the attack, and does not include a map of the target area, which seems to be their criteria for doing anything.

Al Qaeda members -- including some who are U.S. citizens -- have resided in or traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a ---- service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

emphasis mine

I would again point out how difficult it is to judge actions in response to such a document in hindsight. Still, the issue remains that Condi lied about the contents. There is clearly information about current (at the time) and future plans, and possible attacks by Al Qaeda, even going so far as to specify that they have "cased" targets in New York City.

This document also clearly shows that bin Laden has the will, the means and the motive to carry out attacks on U.S. soil. It also shows that historically he has planned attacks well in advance, which would suggest that the actual surveillance of targets is an end-phase operation. Eyebrows should have been raised.

I do not believe that the president would have been able to call out a general alert based only on this memo, but certainly steps could have been taken to increase security and "keep our eyes open." I was in New York on 9/11, and I can tell you, nobody had a fucking clue what was going on.

It may have been too much to alert the public and cause panic, but certainly the first responders could have been alerted to possible attacks, airport security could have been tightened, F-16s could have been standing by. My god, at least we could have alerted air traffic control to watch carefully for any planes that deviated dramatically from their course.

The other major point is that, according to Clarke and others, this PDB is not an isolated case. The president was receiving information similar to this possibly on a daily basis. George Tenet's hair has been described as being "on fire" for the whole summer.

I don't think this is the final straw, not yet, but I'm increasingly feeling like this house of cards is going to come down, and come down hard.

Good One, George!

Via Wonkette.

good one george[ video ]

See? That joke was pretty funny after all.


Note: Matt Yglesias points out that the video would be more politcally effective if it stuck with American casualties and didn't drift to Iraqis. Sadly, probably true. If it shows Iraqi casualties, you'll remember, it's propaganda.

The Ghost of FDR

It's been widely noted today that Clifford May is an idiot and the National Review should be ashamed of itself.

Having just watched Shattered Glass last night, I'm astounded that a publication publishes crap like this without checking the facts.

President Roosevelt waited until after World War II to put in place a commission to investigate what mistakes led to Pearl Harbor. That was a wise move, but then Roosevelt did not face the kind of hyper-partisanship that plagues America these days. (Washington Post columnist David Broder recently pointed out that when FDR ran for reelection during World War II, he emphasized his record as a war leader. Broder might have added that FDR's Republican opponent, Thomas Dewey, declined to criticize the president in regard to foreign policy during a time of war. It's almost hard to believe that there was a time when Americans knew the difference between their foreign enemies and their political adversaries.)


Roger Ailes points out the first major problem with this assertion: it's complete bullshit.

A report issued on January 28, 1942 by the Roberts Commission titled "ATTACK UPON PEARL HARBOR BY JAPANESE ARMED FORCES."

JANUARY 23,1942

The White House

SIR: The undersigned were appointed by Executive order of December
18,1941, which defined our duties as a commission thus:

"to ascertain and report the facts relating to the attack made by
Japanese armed forces upon the Territory of Hawaii on December 7, 1941."

Okay, that seems clear enough. If memory serves, December 18, 1941 is decidedly before the end of World War II. In fact it is exactly 11 days after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

And then we find, via Atrios and other places, that the claim that Dewey "declined to criticize the president in regard to foreign policy during a time of war" is also complete crap. One of the centerpieces of Dewey's campaign was that FDR was "soft on communism."

And, last, we shouldn't forget that there's an even more basic problem with the claim that FDR waited until after the war to form a commission on Pearl Harbor. That would be, and I hate to nitpick here, that HE WAS DEAD at the end of the war.

How is it that these people are getting paid for this? How, how, how, how?

Kerry's Strategy

Ezra at Pendagon has a great plan for Kerry -- really for anyone -- to engage the issue of Iraq.

I'd suggest holding a two day, press-covered symposium on Iraq (much like Clinton and Bush did with economic issues). Pack it full of soldiers, academics, diplomats and experts and let Kerry moderate, listen, explain and learn. The end of the symposium should come with Kerry bringing out a new and utterly comprehensive plan for winning the peace in Iraq. One that takes into account more than just the international community; it also cares for our soldiers, is tough on the insurgents, and is a realistic and honest assessment of how we need to win.


I also agree with his idea of tripling the pay of soldier who are forced to stay beyond their original return dates, as the 1st Armored is now being ordered to do. Of course, their pay should probably be tripled in the first place.

Kerry does have to get tougher. He's kept a kind of low profile lately, but all I hear from him is pretty standard anti-Bush rhetoric, and a lot of sound bites that sounds way too much like sound bites. He should really spend a weekend sitting down and watching tapes of Clinton campaigning.

Greasin' Up Alaska

Pork, anyone?

The New York Times reports that two bridges, with a total cost of over 2 billion dollars and dubbed "the bridges to nowehere," are in the current national highway bill for Alaska.

One, here in Ketchikan, would be among the biggest in the United States: a mile long, with a top clearance of 200 feet from the water -- 80 feet higher than the Brooklyn Bridge and just 20 feet short of the Golden Gate Bridge. It would connect this economically depressed, rain-soaked town of 7,845 people to an island that has about 50 residents and the area's airport, which offers six flights a day (a few more in summer). It could cost about $200 million.

The other bridge would span an inlet for nearly two miles to tie Anchorage to a port that has a single regular tenant and almost no homes or businesses. It would cost up to $2 billion.


The Ketchikan bridge would replace a five minute ferry crossing.

The amazing thing about this story is the brazen attitude the Congressman from the district has, basically saying that it's his job to get as much money and jobs for his district as he can, regardless of any other considerations. It makes me ill that our elected representatives see their positions this way.

"If you don't do it now, when are you going to do it?" he [Congressman Dan Young] said at the luncheon. "This is the time to take advantage of the position I'm in, along with Senator Stevens."


"If I had not done fairly well for our state," he said, "I'd be ashamed of myself."

The article notes that Alaskans get $7 back for every $1 they put into the gas tax fund which backs the transportation statute. In the current bill, just the down payments Alaska will receive for these two bridges is more than the total in all of 41 other states.

And, then, just when you didn't think your jaw could drop any lower, the gem of the article:

Mr. Young said Alaska had been late to the federal table -- it did not join the Union until 1959 -- and needed to play catch-up. With his position as chairman of the House transportation committee, and with Mr. Stevens driving appropriations in the Senate, the state can muscle through most of the road projects it dreams up, he said.

"It's not a good way to legislate, although I got a lot of stuff in it," Mr. Young told The Anchorage Daily News in December. "I mean I stuffed it like a turkey."

I have some friends up in Alaska. Hey guys, is this guy fucking serious?!?! What the hell is going on up there?

War and Television

Fascinating report on Nightline tonight.

The first segment was from an ABC News correspondent in Baghdad, who has been there on and off for a year, reporting that Iraq is as dangerous as he's ever seen it. He describes journalists being basically locked down in their hotels, having to form convoys to travel just a few blocks. He also describes how the Iraqis who work for American news organizations have taken to telling people, even their own families, that they work for French or Russian television.

One telling story was of an Iraqi ABC translator who attended a press conference. He asked a question, and out of habit identified himself after his question as affiliated with American television. His "heart sank" and when he returned to the base, his colleagues told him he was crazy, that now he was an obvious target.

The second segment deals with the different nature of the news coverage of the war in the Arab world. Al Jazeera and Al-Arabia naturally cover this war from a very different perspective than do our media.

They showed Don Rumsfeld saying the following without a trace of irony on February 12:

We're being damaged, let their be no doubt about it, by Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia in that country. They are continuously putting out information that is false and inaccurate."

Hello kettle? This is Rummy. You're black.

He was immediately refuted by a professor of journalism from USC, explaining that it is unfair to label the Arab networks' coverage as propaganda. They are reporting the story from their perspective as we are reporting it from ours. When they focus on Iraqi civilian casualties, we tend to react in disgust and say that they are "sensationalizing" the war, though we don't seem to be able to see that we do the very same thing. We here details of every G.I. killed, and then passing mention of aggregate numbers of Iraqis killed, usually estimates, undoubtedly conservative ones.

This issue strikes me as a fundamental reason why this mission is folly at its core. The people on the "Arab Street" will never come around to our point of view because they will not often be exposed to it in the context that we think they will. By the same token, we will by and large never understand their perspective.

This is why spreading our vision of freedom and democracy is basically misguided and doomed. You can't ram freedom down people's throats at the barrel of a gun. You can't give free access to information and then expect people to only look at your point of view. I truly believe that the Iraqis suffered under Saddam and that all things being equal democracy and freedom are infinitely preferable to tyranny and oppression. Who doesn't?

But all things are not equal. Many years of diplomacy and international pressure may not be dramatic, but it's much more effective. In the end, this will only leave things worse. I can't imagine a scenario in which this ends well for either side.


Comedians... is there anything they don't know? (Video)

Bush Was Warned
President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes, a government official said Friday.

The warning came in a secret briefing that Mr. Bush received at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Aug. 6, 2001. A report by a joint Congressional committee last year alluded to a "closely held intelligence report" that month about the threat of an attack by Al Qaeda, and the official confirmed an account by The Associated Press on Friday saying that the report was in fact part of the president's briefing in Crawford.

The disclosure appears to contradict the White House's repeated assertions that the briefing the president received about the Qaeda threat was "historical" in nature and that the White House had little reason to suspect a Qaeda attack within American borders.


Again, I don't want to go crazy with the blaming-people-in-hindsight thing. We have to be careful to keep all of this in context, to try to remember what the world was like before September 11, and ask ourselves seriously if we -- the American public -- would have supported action against Afghanistan or Al Qaeda camps in the summer of 2001.

I'm not sure. I didn't pay as much attention to politics back then, and probably only had a vague idea of who Osama bin Laden was. Certainly I was not viscerally aware of a large and organized group whose major goal was to kill me.

Those caveats in mind, however, the important issue here is that the White House is continually being caught in what are charitably called "contradictions." They implausibly maintain that the memo contained no information about threats to the United States. The memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." As Jon Stewart so perfectly put it last night: "Are you fucking kidding me?"

I think they've screwed this up very badly. The public was not looking for someone to blame, we just wanted some explanations and a sense that things are being done to ensure that the same mistakes don't happen again. What we're getting is an administration stonewalling the commission tasked to discover the truth and acting like their on trial. They have created the impression that they have something to hide, and at this point I personally can't imagine that they don't.

A CBS poll today found that 66% think that the Bush administration is hiding something, and 10% go so far as to say they are "mostly lying."

April 9, 2004
Dead Zone Ride

A fascinating motorcycle ride through the Chernobyl Dead Zone.

My name is Elena. I run this website and I don't have anything to sell. What I do have is my motorbike and the absolute freedom to ride it wherever curiosity and the speed demon take me.

I travel a lot and one of my favorite destinations is through the so called Chernobyl "dead zone", which is 130kms from my home.

nuclear homer

The War President Mosaic

This dramatic image of George Bush, created from photos of the American men and women killed in Iraq (no photo used more than 3 times), has been circulating today.

I'm not sure what I think of it. It's pretty propagandistic, but also quite powerful. Anyway, you be the judge. Created by Joe at American Leftist. A larger version can be found here, an even larger version here.

war president mosaic

More Bad News

U.S. Forces pull out of Sadr City, no explanation given.

Juan Cole gives details indicating that some American supply lines in the South have been cut and we may have to "reconquer the country."


[ Via Atrios. ]

Cut and Run

One of the right's favorite swipes at John Kerry, and the Democrats in general, is that if they were in charge, we would just "cut and run" from Iraq, leaving a mess for the people we were trying to help.

Sorta like we did in Afghanistan?

Heavy fighting broke out Wednesday as an Uzbek warlord's militia advanced on Maimana, the capital of the northern province of Fariab, forcing the local governor to appeal for support from the central government.


The fighting is a fresh blow for the government of Mr. Karzai, which is trying to make progress in reconstruction and prepare for elections amid continued instability in the country. Taliban and other anti-American militants are continuing an insurgency in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and intermittent factional fighting in the north and west has repeatedly upset the government's efforts.



The Wonkette shares this priceless email exchange between a homophobic nimrod and an unnamed journalist at an unnamed news network.

Stick Your Liberal Bias Where The Sun Don't Shine.

Make sure to read to the end for the punch line.

More on Scalia

The L.A. Times has more reaction to Scalia's censorship escapade the other day.

Experts in 1st Amendment law say it is generally understood that officials -- including judges -- cannot confiscate or destroy notes or records that journalists obtain in public events.

"This is a major embarrassment. And it is unsupportable as a matter of law," said Jane Kirtley, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and an expert on press law. "They could have said, 'No Press Allowed.' But if they let the reporters in and there are no ground rules announced in advance, they can't then say you can't report that or you can't use that."

Kirtley also said the action by Scalia and the marshal appeared to violate the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, which says: "It shall be unlawful for a government officer or employee "to search for or seize any work product materials possessed by a person reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast or other similar form of public communication." The law also says victims of such official confiscations may sue the violators.

So not only is this a ridiculous abuse of authority, but it is possibly against the law. I really, really, really hope one of the reporters sues his ass.

Totally Frank

After Condoleezza Rice testified on Thursday, Bill Clinton took the hot seat in a closed session with the entire commission. (I might note that he was not accompanied by Al Gore.)

Commissioners reported that Clinton stayed an hour longer than planned and "sometimes answered questions that had not been asked."

Republican chairman Tom Kean said Thursday night, "We asked him some pretty detailed questions on those. And he was just totally frank ? totally frank, totally honest, and forthcoming."

To be fair, president Bush hasn't testified yet, so I can't make any comparisons. But we'll have to wait and see if the response to his testimony is anything like this. When's the last time you heard anyone, on either side, describe the president or his staff as "frank," "honest," or "forthcoming?"

UPDATE: Al Gore testified today and was also described as being "candid and forthcoming."

Perspective My Ass

Instapundit puts the Iraq War into "perspective" by citing numerous dramatic comparisons to World War II. Conclusion: Not nearly as many people have died in this war as in that one, not in real or relative numbers, so we shouldn't complain or criticize this war, and it is irresponsible for the media to declare 12 American deaths in a day "heavy casualties."

You can't be serious.

Since when do we justify wars based on their relative bloodiness? It has absolutely nothing to do with anything. It also naturally ignores 50 years of military technology which accounts for the difference in death tolls. All wars fought in modern times will be less bloody than wars fought in the past, and this has always been roughly true. Advances in medicine, precision of weapons, etc. But again, these things have absolutely nothing to do with the legitimacy or morality of a war. It's just absurd.

Right-wingers will surely bring up Ted Kennedy's statement that Iraq is "Bush's Vietnam." The criticism of this statement has also been ridiculous, mostly along the lines of the arguments above: "More people died in Vietnam. This isn't like that. Fewer people died in this one."

Of course Kennedy was referring to the nature of the war politically, and the fact that it appears to be spinning out of control. It was a metaphor, a device many on the right seem uniquely unfamiliar with.

A refresher: When someone says, for example, "all the world's a stage," they don't literally mean that the entire world is a stage, and pointing out how such a thing is impossible, "think of all the wood it would take," does not refute the point, it only makes you look like an idiot.

Presidential Puppet Show

The whole thing about Bush insisting that Cheney come along when he testifies before the 9/11 Commission strikes me as more ridiculous every time I think about it (which is about, I dunno, 4 times a day).

Dan Froomkin writes in The Washington Post writes that there is a "growing focus on President Bush's willingness only to face the panel investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in private, unrecorded and with Vice President Cheney at his side."

Bill Schneider of CNN says, "It's raising some damaging questions about whether or not George Bush knows enough to testify on his own or whether he's dependent on Vice President Cheney."

Most Republicans and righty-tighty pundits have been pretty quiet about this, but Karen Hughes offered this explanation on Meet The Press:

"I'm not sure what the rationale specifically was, but I think the White House believes that it is an effective use of their time," she said. "Many times, President Bush and Vice President Cheney were in the room together during much of the events, much of the briefings, much of the lead-up that the commission is looking at. And so I think it's appropriate that they appear together and discuss how they saw the events leading up to September 11."


Now how's that for a completely meaningless explanation? "It's appropriate." No mention, of course, of the basic sense of interviewing witnesses separately in order to expose any contradictions. Can you imagine if this standard was applied anywhere else?

Interviewer: "So, where were you guys yesterday at 3pm?"
Guy 1: "We were at home, reading quietly in bed."
Guy 2: "Yeah, what he said."

Wal-Mart Will Be Just Fine

According to Jay Nordlinger, anyway, the retail giant will survive not having a store in Inglewood. Whew! That's a relief. I bet those damned activist voters thought they were really stickin' it to the Walton family. No sir.

After noting that Wal-Mart is our nation's (and Mexico's) biggest employer (except for the government, in both cases), Nerdlinger goes on to absurdly oversimplify the mega-retailer's benefits to society.

In addition to a million employees, Wal-Mart has 100 million shoppers a week, and those shoppers don't have guns to their heads, and they're not unhappy. Wal-Mart saves people a fortune ? $20 billion a year, according to New England Consulting. And the real number is closer to $100 billion because of the lower prices Sam Walton's company forces from other retailers. I might add that Wal-Mart has made its investors tidy sums.

Okay, where to begin..

  1. No, the 100 million shoppers don't have guns to their heads, but they might as well have. Wal-Mart is often the only game in town. If they don't buy their biscuits there, they don't get no biscuits.
  2. How much money Wal-Mart saves "people" obviously does not take into account the many financial ramifications of their business practices. You might save 20 cents on a t-shirt, but where did the t-shirt come from? Is this guy seriously reducing the entire economic effect of the biggest business in the world to price reductions at the register?
  3. No, he isn't, since he goes on to note how Wal-Mart "forces" lower prices from other retailers. Retailers who, of course, cannot afford to operate with such low prices and are quickly run out of business.

He goes on...

In short, this is a classic American success story and a free-market success story. Needless to say, that has won Wal-Mart a lot of enemies.

Who are these enemies? Democratic politicians, union leaders, left-wing pundits, a few right-wing pundits (concerned for localism), snobs, sentimentalists, economic ignoramuses.

Wal-Mart has become like Enron or Halliburton in Democratic rhetoric: a byword for corporate irresponsibility.

Uhh.. hello? He's comparing unfair demonizing of Wal-Mart to attitudes toward Enron and Halliburton? Wow.

And yes, let us not knuckle under to the pressure from the rabid "sentimentalists" -- those fools and "economic ignoramuses" who long for the day when a community could support its own local businesses, and not just settle for the scraps from the giant's table.

Ach. He goes on to distort the statistics concerning Wal-Mart's heath plan.

As to health insurance, 90% of Wal-Mart employees have it. Fifty percent of those get it through the company, according to a spokesman; the rest get it through their parents (they may be teenagers), through Medicare or some previous employer's plan (they may be semi-retired), through their spouses ? wherever. The point is, they're covered.

The key phrase here is, of course, "according to a spokesman." Maybe, as a well-paid journalist, Nerdlinger could bother to check another source besides the one in question. Like, say, that liberal, sentimentalist rag The Wall Street Journal.

Wal-Mart makes new hourly workers wait six months to sign up for its benefits plan and doesn't cover retirees at all. Its deductibles range as high as $1,000, triple the norm. It refuses to pay for flu shots, eye exams, child vaccinations, chiropractic services and numerous other treatments allowed by many other companies. In many cases, it won't pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions in the first year of coverage.
Powell Off-Message, Bush On-Vacation

Is Colin Powell finally growing some cojones?

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday gave the administration's most sober assessment yet of the uprising in Iraq, calling the recent rise in U.S. casualties "disquieting" and acknowledging that coalition allies are "under the most difficult set of circumstances."


Now compare that to anything you've heard from any of the following people, ever: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz. The difference is that Powell is capable of admitting that things don't always go exactly according to plan, and that the situation in Iraq is, to put it mildly, "difficult." These others, they never even admit that much. Everything is always going just fine, thank you very much.

In the same article, we learn that Bush spent yesterday morning watching Rice's testimony and then "toured his ranch with Wayne LaPierre Jr., chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and other leaders of hunting groups." Swell.

More on Bush's vacationing tendencies:

This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.


White House communications director Dan Bartlett said that Bush remains in contact with his military advisers and is spending Easter weekend with his family. "Most Americans will understand that," Bartlett said.

There's that "Easter weekend" thing again they've been trotting around since Monday. You know, George, to most Americans a long weekend is three days, not nine. And with the situation in Iraq spinning out of control, I think what most Americans would understand is if our leader was at his post. I don't care if he has all kinds of fancy communications equipment at his ranch, it's not the same thing.

Of course, I personally am more comfortable with him away from the controls, but still, it's a perception thing. President is a full-time job. It pays well and has great benefits. It's not a 60%-of-the-time job.

Kevin Drum provides these illustrative photos. On the left is Fallujah yesterday; on the right is dear leader on the same day.

April 8, 2004
Unprecedented Lack of Cooperation

The Gadflyer (are you reading this site? it's great) has a great rundown of what to say if you run into Condi Rice (or her supporters).

My favorite concerns their "unprecedented cooperation" with the 9/11 Commission:

Argument: The Bush White House has cooperated with the Commission, because they want the truth to get out.

Response: In fact, the Bush White House:

  • Fought the creation of the commission for over a year until political pressure, mostly from the families of September 11 victims, made it impossible to resist any longer.
  • Insisted that Commission members not make copies of relevant documents; instead, members were forced to come to a special secure room to view documents, where they could take notes but had to leave those notes behind.
  • Insisted that when administration officials were interviewed by the Commission, they be accompanied by a "minder," like their boss (this is the technique Saddam Hussein used to thwart interviews of Iraqi scientists).
  • Withheld Clinton-era documents concerning Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda from the Commission.
  • Refused to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify, then allowed her testimony only on the condition that, according to a letter from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, no other White House officials would testify.
  • Initially refused the request for President Bush to testify, then insisted he would testify only for an hour, then agreed to have him testify but only if he could be accompanied by Dick Cheney.
  • Made sure, through the Republicans in Congress, that the Commission would be funded at a pathetic $3 million. By comparison, the commission investigating the space shuttle Columbia disaster got $50 million (at the insistence of the Commission and 9/11 families, this funding was later increased).

It's unprecedented alright. I'll agree with that part.

Ethnicity Outlawed in Rwanda

I know there is nothing funny about what happened in Rwanda 10 years ago, but this headline still made me laugh.

A Decade After Massacres, Rwanda Outlaws Ethnicity

Although he is not a government spokesman, Ernest Twahrwa can recite Rwanda's official view toward ethnicity with great precision: "There is no ethnicity here. We are all Rwandan."


Now, the phrasing made me chuckle, but the idea is a good one. Would that the whole world could be convinced that they "need to be a new person" when it comes to thinking of others as different from themselves.

Happy D.A.R.E Day!

The President, presumably calling this one in while he's on vacation, has declared today, April 8, 2004, National D.A.R.E. Day.

Great idea. What we need is a day celebrating a 20 year old drug-abuse prevention program that is widely known to be completely ineffective.

The Drug War Rant provides some good reading on the subject.

Speaking of the president's vacation, I keep hearing it refered to as "the Easter weekend." His "weekend" has been going on since last weekend.

Baghdad Blogger Reports Calls For Jihad

Via Mark Kleiman, a post from a strong anti-war and anti-occupation blogger in Baghdad.

And as I blog this, all the mosques, Sunni and Shi'a alike, are calling for Jihad...


I don't know much about this blogger, so I have no idea where this allegation comes from, but the post is worth reading. A very different perspective.

The Big Lie

The biggest thing from Rice's testimony today is surely this August 6, 2001 PDB. The Commission -- both Republicans and Democrats -- are demanding that the entire memo be declassified so the public can judge for itself.

Condi's Big Lie seems obvious just from the title of the memo, but I'd love to read the whole thing. To emphasize the title, I'll put it in a giant font.

Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States

And now Rice's statement about this memo, in a smaller font:

It did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.

(emphasis mine)

Just to recap: A memo titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States. You can't see it, though, just take our word for it. (The White House is said to be "working hard to declassify" the memo, which means, "working hard to find ways to avoid declassifying" the memo.)

Maybe the title was just an attention getter -- like "READ THIS" or "FREE BEER" -- to make sure the president would read it.


By way of illustrating the polarization of opinions in America concerning Iraq and the conduct of our leaders in general, NBS News tonight had clips from two men.

The first was in Portland, Oregon, and he said something about the administration lying and "it was about time" they were brought out into the open.

The counterpoint was provided by a man in Memphis. He said, "I believe what my government does is the right thing to do, so I don't question it."



This is a bad sign. Three Japanese citizens were kidnapped, and the kidnappers are threatening to burn them alive if Japan doesn't pull out of Iraq.

Obviously Japan can't really do that, but the fallout if they are killed could be severe. Are we prepared for the time when things like this start happening to Americans?

It's unclear what the three were doing in Iraq, they are decribed as two aid workers and a journalist.

Scalia Hates Freedom

While speaking to high school students in Hattiesburg, Mississippi about how our Constitutions is "something extraordinary, something to revere," Federal Marshals confiscated and erased the tapes from reporters with the Associated Press and the Hattiesburg American.

It's good to see such a great respect for the Constitution from this a-hole.

Also cited are other examples of Scalia refusing to allow television cameras, press photographers, and tape recorders at other events. The best one is when he refused to allow television and radio coverage of an event in which he received an award for supporting free speech.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman cleared up the controversy: "It's standard that his speeches are not televised," she said.

Ahhh.. Standard.

Intel Contradicts White House

Headline from the New York Times: Account of Broad Shiite Revolt Contradicts White House Stand

United States forces are confronting a broad-based Shiite uprising that goes well beyond supporters of one militant Islamic cleric who has been the focus of American counterinsurgency efforts, United States intelligence officials said Wednesday.

That assertion contradicts repeated statements by the Bush administration and American officials in Iraq. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that they did not believe the United States was facing a broad-based Shiite insurgency. Administration officials have portrayed Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric who is wanted by American forces, as the catalyst of the rising violence within the Shiite community of Iraq.

But intelligence officials now say that there is evidence that the insurgency goes beyond Mr. Sadr and his militia, and that a much larger number of Shiites have turned against the American-led occupation of Iraq, even if they are not all actively aiding the uprising.


I guess George Bush is "the great uniter." He has managed to unite Shiites and Sunnis, ageold enemies, against us.

A Very Condi Morning

After about 4 hours of sleep Tuesday night, endless blogging yesterday, and 4 hours last night, I actually got up this morning at 6 to watch Condi's testimony live. And I have a Tivo. This raises many questions, but I intend to ignore them all.

I watched for a while, but I couldn't stay awake so I missed most of it. What I did see was okay, nothing earth-shaking. She seemed a bit nervous, and if I was Christopher Walken in True Romance, I'd say that she was telegraphing her discomfort and dishonesty. She was very defensive, shaking her head the whole time and smiling nervously. But I can't judge her statements based on that, unfortunately.

The Center for American Progress, though, they can pick apart every statement and provide all kinds of evidence as to it's truth or falsehood. They're good that way.

I did notice that when discussing the August 6, 2001 PDB (President's Daily Briefing), she said there was "nothing about the threat of attack in the U.S." Minutes later she confirmed that the title of the PDB was "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Hmmmm...

She kept referring to this document as "historical," meaning that it was about the past actions of Al Qaeda and terrorists, not about what they might do in the future. That title seems to tell a very different story, doesn't it? If I were the president and I got a memo like that, I'd be pretty freaked out. Bush went on vacation the next day.

From what I've read so far, there are plenty of other demonstrably false claims in her testimony, many centering around the same issue: Was there enough information prior to 9/11 to warrant them being more alarmed and more "on point" than they were? It seems like there was a lot of information to that effect.

She also trotted out the old "if we had know they were going to attack New York and Washington on that particular day, we would have done something about it" nonsense.

RICE: "If we had known an attack was coming against the United States...we would have moved heaven and earth to stop it." [responding to Roemer]

FACT: Rice admits that she was told that "an attack was coming." She said, "Let me read you some of the actual chatter that was picked up in that spring and summer: Unbelievable news coming in weeks, said one. Big event -- there will be a very, very, very, very big uproar. There will be attacks in the near future." [Source: Condoleezza Rice, 4/8/04]


The Armageddon Plan

On Nightline tonight, a fascinating look at the government's "Armageddon Plan" -- which has been training top officials and conducting massive simulations since the Reagan years -- and how the plan was put into effect on 9/11 for the first time ever.

It's comforting that they have such an elaborate plan, and that they've so dutifully practiced and refined it over the years. By all accounts it worked very well on 9/11, small teams capable of running the entire government were sent out all separately all across the country.

One of the guests describing both the training and the events of that day is Richard Clarke, who is again showing what an intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable man he is. The contrast between just his demeanor and command of the facts (not to mention the English language) and that of his detractors is striking.

April 7, 2004
Unprecedented Cooperation

This from The Dead Parrot Society, via March 9 press briefing, Scott McClellan had this to say about Condoleezza Rice's earlier testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

Dr. Rice -- you mentioned Dr. Rice -- Dr. Rice sat down, was scheduled for I believe a two-hour interview -- sat down for I think it was more than four hours that she actually visited with the commission. She was more than happy to visit with the commission. Only five members actually showed up, despite the fact that it was scheduled for the entire commission. You had another national security official under Dr. Rice who met with the commission and I think only four showed up.


This clearly implies that she had been willing to testify before the entire commission, but some of the commissioners didn't bother to show up. They didn't consider her testimony important enough to even be present for back then, so why are they so hot for her now? Clearly, that is what he meant by that statement. There's no denying it.

But aaaaahh-HA! USA Today -- that hard-hitting, colorful graph-making beacon of hard-core investigative journalism and leftist partisan smear campaigns -- reports that the White House HAD DICTATED THAT ONLY 3 COMMISSIONERS COULD ATTEND!

What McClellan didn't tell reporters was that on Nov. 21 ? long before Rice met with the five commissioners in February ? the White House counsel's office had sent the commission a letter saying no more than three commissioners could attend meetings with White House aides of Rice's rank.

Given that demand, "we are a little surprised that the White House has repeatedly implied to the public that commissioners were uninterested in attending these meetings," commission spokesman Al Felzenberg said Tuesday.


McClellan's statement is a bald-faced, straight up 100% verifiable lie and attempt to dictate press coverage. The man should absolutely be fired for it. Certainly McClellan, but when you get right down to it, the whole damn lot of them.

The real underhanded trick here is that they must know that a fair portion of these blatant lies will be discovered by someone with enough balls to report them. But they've created such a climate of partisanship, polarization, and confusion among the voters that their net gain, so far, has been positive, though I do feel that that balance is slowly tipping. For every lie that is brought into the light, there are ten that are hardly reported. And even the one in ten brought out is painted as a partisan attack and the issue is confused sufficiently to limit the damage. They understand that by making that statement in the first place, the idea was planted and that's often enough.

Well not this time, jerks.

Franken Suplexes Hannity (and Bush)

Al Franken rocks. This piece alone is an amazing contribution to our debate this year. The blogs are great for keeping up with every event 5 seconds after it happens, but this is a great list that we should all memorize. These are going to be -- already are -- some of the attacks the Republicans use on John Kerry all year and I for one want to be able to clearly and precisely debunk their talking points, one by one, as Franken does.

It begins with Hannity's screed:

Here's a guy that supported gay marriage, now against it.

Here's a guy that by my count has had six separate different unique positions on the war on Iraq.

Here's a guy that voted for the $87 billion to fund the war before he voted against it.

Here's a guy that was for the Patriot Act. Now against it.

No Child Left Behind, for it, now against it.

Here's a guy that supported -- was against the death penalty for terrorists who kill Americans. Now he's for it.

The only thing he seems consistent on is that, throughout the 19 years he was in the Senate, he voted to raise taxes consistently 350 times.

What does that tell us about a man that has no core values or principles?


Al takes apart the first one, I'll let you go read the rest. Great stuff.

Here's a guy that supported gay marriage, now against it.

Franken: This is a lie. Kerry's position has always been consistent on this. I disagree with him, but Kerry has always been against gay marriage. He is for civil unions. What Hannity is doing here is taking Kerry's vote against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and deliberately misrepresenting it as a declaration in favor of gay marriage. But let me read you what Kerry said on the floor of the Senate about that vote.

"I will vote against this bill, though I am not for same-sex marriage, because I believe that this debate is fundamentally ugly, and it is fundamentally political, and it is fundamentally flawed. The results of this bill will not be to preserve anything, but will serve to attack a group of people out of various motives and rationales, and certainly out of a lack of understanding and a lack of tolerance, and will only serve the purposes of the political season."

And on that, I totally agree with him. So, for the record: Kerry has been totally consistent on this. He has never flip-flopped. Sean Hannity is lying, and he knows it.


Notice how Hannity's tirade is just that, a string of completely unsupported accusations with no offering of evidence. Franken's response, on the other hand, is documented and supported with links and quotes from actual, gasp, sources.


Atrios point us to George W. Bush's Compassion Photo Album.

Compassion, in case you didn't know, means "hanging around with black people."

See if you can count, out of 24 pictures, how many do not show Bush hobnobbing with African-Americans. I counted 2, not couting the one where he's alone, and one of those is a wide crowd shot, clearly showing his compassion towards political rally crowds.

These people have no shame whatsoever. I can't begin to imagine how much more offensive this would be to me if I were black.

Best -- Headline -- Ever

Also a very disturbing story. File under: Crazy Goddies.

Easter Bunny whipped at church show; some families upset

A church trying to teach about the crucifixion of Jesus performed an Easter show with actors whipping the Easter bunny and breaking eggs, upsetting several parents and young children.


Non Political Update

In celebration of my 10th post today, here's my 11th. It's not about politics.

First, I've added a security thingie to my comments. I was getting more and more "comment spam," and it was starting to get irritating. (This is when some program posts a fake comment with a link to some herbal Viagra site -- always with the text "Penis Pills! Penis Pills!" -- trying to increase their Google rank.) The system requires you to type in a 6 digit number when posting a comment, which proves that you're a human, more or less.

In less geeky news, Liz and I spent most of the weekend up in the Cascades at the cabin of a friend. It was sure beautiful and nice to get out of the city for a bit. We went hiking, bike riding, read for extended periods, and played games. Below are some pictures.

cascade mountainsThem's some sure fancy mountains.

monopolyI kicked Liz's butt at Monopoly. I think it was the first time I've ever played a whole game, much less won one.

monopolyThere are downsides to living in the country. Namely: wackos with guns. We don't have them in the city. Wait..

In Good Company

The top 4 countries in terms of people executed by the state:

  1. China
  2. Iran
  3. U.S.A.
  4. Vietnam

Come on people, we can do better! Let's shoot for that #1 spot!

Two children were known to have been executed in 2003, one in China and one in the U.S.

Since Canada outlawed the death penalty for murder in 1975, their homicide rate has fallen by 40%. So much for the deterrent rationale.

I should note though that Canadians overall seem to be reasonable people, while we, as a nation, seem to be batshit insane. That might have something to do with it too.

And last, but not least, since 1973, 113 prisoners have been released from death row after new evidence proved their innocence. We'll never know how many innocent people haven't been so lucky.

Source: http://news.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGACT500122004

Condoleezza Rice, This is Your Life

One of Kevin Drum's interns dug up this gem, just in time for tomorrow's testimony -- a review of Rice's first book, written in 1984. (I wish I had an intern. Or, like, a job even.)

The history professor who reviewed it apparently thought Condi was a man, so the pronouns are all wrong, but it's what's between the pronouns that's really good.

Rice's selection of sources raises questions, since he frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation. He passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of facts. It does not add to his credibility when he uses a source written by Josef Hodic; Rice fails to notice that this "former military scientist" (p. 99) was a communist agent who returned to Czechoslovakia several years ago.

....Rice's generalizations reflect his lack of knowledge about history and the nationality problem in Czechoslovakia. For example....Rice's discussion of the "Czechoslovak Legion" that was "born during the chaotic period preceding the fall of the Russian empire" (pp. 44-46) is ridiculous. (It was "born" on September 28, 1914.) He is clearly ignorant of the history of the military unit as well as of the geography of the area on which it fought.


Kevin sums it up perfectly:

Let's review: Problems distinguishing facts from propaganda. Too quick to pass judgment without adequate knowledge. Failure to properly assess sources who have an obvious axe to grind. Ignorance of regional history.

Does any of this sound familiar?


UPDATE: Apparently Eric Alterman had this tidbit a few months ago.

Would You Like To Give Up Now?

How 'bout now?

This seems like a good strategy.

"Hey, Sadr! Turn yourself in! Come on... please?"

"He is seeking to use a violent power play to try to undermine democracy for the Iraqi people, but he will not succeed," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

"He could bring an end to some of the violence that's going on by turning himself in."

Ummm.. Hey, Scott? I don't think his goal is "to bring an end to the violence." The violence is kinda his whole point.

Freakin' idiots.

Rwanda, Sudan, and Genocide

We didn't pay much attention to the slaughter in Rwanda 10 years ago, and we're not paying much attention to the ceremonies marking the anniversary of that horrible event. We're also not paying much attention to the Sudan, which Kofi Annan warns is on the brink of genocide, if not already there.

All the rhetoric surrounding Iraq; that we are liberating them from an evil dictator, bringing them freedom and democracy, just trying to help. It all falls a little flat when we completely ignore the slaughter of 800,000 ten years ago, then ignore the marking of the anniversary, and with all of our resources tied up in the horror that is Iraq, it's highly unlikely we'll do anything about the Sudan.

Bush has called the president and asked him to stop the genocide. To his credit, that's more than Clinton did about Rwanda, but it's far from enough. If we truly cared so much about the safety and freedom of the world's people, we could never let these things happen.

You Go, Inglewood!

Voters in Inglewood, California soundly rejected Wal-Mart's attempt to force a mega-super-store down their throats.


Bush and the City

The Nation has an interesting article on the Republicans attitude toward urban areas in general, and New York City specifically.

On a per capita basis, New York State ranks forty-ninth among the states in antiterrorist funding, far below rural, sparsely populated Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota.

According to the New York Daily News, New York is also forty-ninth in per capita funding among cities: $5.87 per person.

Compare that with $35.80 for Pittsburgh. But then, Tom Ridge was governor of Pennsylvania. Or look at Florida, where Jeb Bush is governor. Miami gets $52.82 per person. Orlando gets $47.14--as if Disney World is a bigger terrorist target than the New York subway system, the United Nations, the Stock Exchange, Times Square, JFK Airport, Yankee Stadium on opening day, or our reservoirs and water system.

What's the biggest recipient of any US city, at $77.92 per person? New Haven, Connecticut.


Hey, that's weird. What's in New Haven that's so special. Oh, wait, wait.. isn't that where Bush and his daddy went to college? Of course... an obvious terrorist target. TAKE THAT, ALMA MATER!!!

Also noted is how Bush has under funded the FDNY and NYPD. They requested $500 million to prepare to fully deal with the threats they face. So far they've received $60 million.

The FDNY has only one dedicated hazardous materials unit for the entire city of 8 million. Meanwhile, the fire department in Zanesville, Ohio (population 25,600), has federally funded thermal imaging technology to find victims in dense smoke and a test kit for lethal nerve gases. The FDNY is still asking for radios that work in a crisis.

And that's just the security stuff. Wait 'til you read about the hospitals and schools.

No Fair

J. Lo's mom won $2.4 million on a slot machine in Atlantic City.

I couldn't believe this story didn't end with, "Naturally, she's donating ALL of the money to charity. 'Really, we have enough,' she said."

40 Killed In Mosque
FALLUJAH, IRAQ - At least 40 people were killed on Wednesday when three missiles slammed into a mosque in a besieged city in central Iraq.

The missiles were fired by a U.S. helicopter as marines battled insurgents in Fallujah.

Worshippers were gathering at the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai for afternoon prayers at the time of the attack.


Firing missiles at mosques during afternoon prayers. That's sure to stem the tide of Islamic anti-American feeling.

CNN has a slightly different take, reporting that only the "wall of the mosque compound" was destroyed, and quotes a Marine source as saying that if there were "enemy" casualties at the mosque, they were from Marines on the ground, not the air strike.

Who knows. My tendency is to believe the reports from the sources who have less at stake.

The Secret Speech

This is a good one.

You may have heard about the speech Condoleezza Rice was to give on Sept. 11, 2001. The Washington Post, which had access to only part of the speech, wrote last Thursday about it, noting that it outlined the administration's foreign policy, focusing mostly on missile defense.

You know missile defense. That's the insane plan that we'll protect ourselves by building a battery of missiles to shoot things out of the sky that someone might lob at us. If you've ever tried to shoot a bullet out of the air with another bullet from several miles away, you know how obvious and simple a solution this is.

The speech made little mention of terrorism and no mention of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or Islamist Terrorists in general. The speech would obviously provide valuable insight into what our government viewed as our defense and security priorities at the time of the attack.

Seems like there's a commission holding hearings right now to get to the bottom of that very question! How fortuitous!

Well, guess what. Really, you'll never guess.

The White House is refusing to release the speech to the 9/11 Commission. On what grounds could they possibly refuse to release a speech, you ask? Good question!

The answer, obviously, is that "draft documents are confidential." You see, until the very instant that a public speech is actually delivered, it's just a draft, and therefore confidential. They might have changed it a little before she gave it, and then you'd have a false impression. They might have changed "we need missile defense" to "we will find and kill Osama bin Laden, that rat bastard, wherever he hides! We are completely focused on him! OSAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

There are always last minute changes to a speech.

A spokesman for the White House had this to say, not at all predictably: "The White House is working with the commission to ensure that it has access to what it needs to do its job."

It's job, of course, being to ensure that the truth about the worst attack in our history is never known.

I should also point out that the Republicans have a long history of respect for the confidentiality of draft documents.

Parody Imitates Life

As usual, it is only the "jokesters" in the country who are getting things exactly right (and me, of course).

Read this Point-Counterpoint on Iraq from The Onion. Sadly, this is exactly the national argument we are now having.

No one could have said it better themselves.

April 6, 2004
More Evidence of No Evidence

Another fake link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, touted by the administration, has been debunked. They're starting to run out, aren't they?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senior U.S. officials told CNN on Tuesday that they now believe fugitive terrorism suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did not have a leg amputated in Iraq, as the Bush administration had previously said.

Although the administration pointed to Iraq's medical assistance to al-Zarqawi as evidence of a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime, it's now believed that al-Zarqawi still has both legs.


One leg, two legs.. it's easy to get confused.

Voting For Terrorists

It's already starting, the spreading of the idea that a vote for Kerry is a vote for the terrorists. Andrew Sullivan throws it out there.

We'll be hearing this a lot, I'll wager. We'll be hearing about how this is the lesson we need to learn from the Madrid bombings. The Spanish were cowardly and wrong to vote out their leaders after they did so miserable a job of protecting them (and then lied about it).

It's an argument that will work on a lot of people. It's easy; throw a few quotes from terrorists or their associates saying that they want Bush out of power and you've created the link. A vote against Bush is exactly what the terrorists want. You don't want to give them what they want, do you?

The problem with the whole thing is that it's straight-up bullshit.

It's true that the terrorists want to disrupt our society, kill us, and exert power over our elections, but to think that voting against Bush plays into their hands is simpleminded to the extreme. It assumes that Kerry would just call off the war on terror, call up the terrorists and start negotiating. This is obviously absurd.

What a vote for Kerry will accomplish is that it will go a long way towards getting the world community back on our side in the fight against terrorists. With the world on our side, terrorists will find much less sympathy, much less quarter, and much less funding. The war on terror would actually be the war on terror, and not just a pretext for unilateral occupation of countries with no ties to terrorists.

A vote for Bush, on the other hand, galvanizes and vastly increases the strength and numbers of radical Islamists. It's delusional to think we can control those who wish to do us harm by force alone. We can't even begin to maintain control of Iraq; what happens when other countries start to erupt?

The truth is that if I were a terrorist, I would absolutely want Bush to be reelected. His policies play directly into their hands, fulfilling their prophecies and doing all of their recruiting for them. If America was widely seen as a benevolent friend, as willing to try to work with other cultures and points of view, terrorists would have a much harder time finding support.

Just like our pathetic leaders, they are nothing without an enemy.

Coming Apart at the Seams

Oy.. CNN is reporting that at least 12 Marines were killed in fierce fighting in Ramadi. Some sources say many more than that, we'll have to wait and see.

What a mess.

Toxic Sludge is Bad For You

Also coming up on the environmental disasters list is this story from 60 Minutes last night.

I remember reading about this guy several months ago, I'm glad it's surfaced a little bit. Glad, that is, except for how completely disgusting it is.

Who is Jack Spadaro? He's a man who's devoted his life to the safety of miners and the safety of people who live near mines.

"I had never seen anything so corrupt and lawless in my entire career, what I saw regarding interference with a federal investigation of the most serious environmental disaster in the history of the Eastern United States," says Spadaro.

"I've been in government since Richard Nixon. I've been through the Reagan administration, Carter and Clinton. I've never seen anything like this."

What he's talking about is what he calls a government cover-up of an investigation into a disaster 25 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.


The disaster they're talking about was 300 million gallons of coal slurry, a toxic sludge waste from coal mining, flooded into Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia (that's why you've never heard about it, just poor people there), polluting 100 miles of streams, killing everything in them. By sheer luck, no humans were killed.

Here's what happened next: Giant disgusting mess. Sparado investigates, finds that the coal company knew the spill was going to happen, lied about the strength of their containment pond, and did nothing. The investigation was prepared to cite the company for 8 major violations and fine them but good.

Then -- you guessed it -- Bush took office.

"The Bush administration came in and the scope of our investigation was considerably shortened, and we were told to wrap it up in a few weeks," says Spadaro.

"They cut it off. They did," says Ellen Smith, who publishes the country's only newsletter devoted entirely to mine safety and health. She's been writing about the mining industry for 16 years.

The new head of MSHA, a Bush appointee named Dave Lauriski, was a former mining industry mining executive, and so were his top deputies.

They ended up fining the fifth biggest mining company in the country $110,000.

Spadaro filed a complaint with the Labor Department's Inspector General. The report on his complaint found no substance to his allegations. This after he had been suspended for "improper use of a government credit card," and locked out of his office.

The IG report was heavily redacted, entire pages blacked out forever. This is highly unusual, as redaction is usually used for security purposes and rarely if ever in this kind of investigation.

What legitimate reason could they possibly have for blacking out most of the report? There's no security issue at stake, no terrorist plot, the only conclusion is that someone has something to hide.

So here's another case. Bush appointees basically cancel litigation against the nation's worst polluters, offer no-bid contracts to their friends, and harass and smear anyone who tells the truth on them.

This is the real scary side of Bush and his boys. What they do publicly is bad, but what they've done behind the scenes is terrifying.

I remain convinced that no matter what the outcome this November, in due time this administration will be commonly seen as one of the most corrupt we've ever had the misfortune to be ruled by. How many lifelong veterans of public service have to resign in disgust, saying they've "never seen anything like this" before we catch on?

The Kill Your Kids Initiative
"I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them." Adlai E. Stevenson Jr., Speech during 1952 Presidential Campaign

A great quote, but since such a deal is unlikely to be made, and they keep telling all kinds of lies, we'll just have to keep telling the truth about those rat bastards.

To wit:
This morning I woke up and read this NY Times Magazine Cover Story about the Bush administrations evisceration of the Clean Air Act, their repeal of New Source Review and various other not-often-talked-about environmental disasters.

I literally felt a little sick after reading this article.

The basic idea is this:
Under the Clean Air Act, adopted in 1970, power plants were allowed to phase in environmental upgrades over time by something known as New Source Review. If they made significant upgrades to their plants, they had to install modern pollution controls to meet current standards. As long as the plants weren't upgraded, the old standards were in effect.

Seems reasonable. All plants will need upgrades eventually, and this way an energy company can schedule it out over a period of years, thus defraying the cost. (What I've never understood is why they moan so much. When they do have to make these changes, they just pass the cost on to the consumer anyway, by raising their rates, and usually their profits.)

Well, for 20 years, most energy companies ignored the rules and systematically broke the law. The Clinton administration decided to start enforcing the law and fining and prosecuting violators. These investigations were going very well, they were about to reach deals with many companies that would have forced compliance and would have, among other benefits, reduced fine particulate emissions by up to 95%. Public health researchers estimate that these emissions cut short the lives of 30,000 Americans a year.

Not to mention mercury emissions, considering we've just been told not to eat tuna more than once a week.

The Bush administration came into office and basically dropped the charges. They used complicated rules-changes to completely gut New Source Review, and took virtually all funding away from EPA enforcement. A recommendation by the EPA's enforcement agency for the new rules was to allow plants to upgrade 0.75% of their worth in a year before they were forced to comply with the laws.

The administration rejected this figure, instead setting the limit at 20%.

So, say the worst polluting power plant in the country is worth $1 billion. They can perform "routine maintenance" of $200 million a year without upgrading their pollution controls. In 5 years they could rebuild the entire plant, while still polluting as much as ever.

Our leaders concept is that if left to their own devices, these companies will regulate themselves.

Everyone should take 20 minutes and read this article. More importantly, send it to your Republican friends and family. If you live in rural America, ask around if people have been noticing more asthma in their children. Then see if they have a Bush/Cheney sign on their lawn.

April 4, 2004

A tragedy, to be sure. There's been a big storm over at Daily Kos over some comments he made, and basically it's been all over the news. Terrible, terrible stuff. Death is bad, dragging burned bodies through the streets is worse.

But here's what bothers me: It bothers me that many have used this one "atrocity" to propel themselves onto the moral high ground. Rabid war supporters are now all over the place saying we need to wipe these people out, level the city, or worse. What bothers me is that the attitude suddenly seems to be, "Hey, we were trying to have a nice civilized war here, we didn't have this kind of thing in mind."

War is hell, and we started this one. The deaths and desecration should in no way be diminished or tolerated, but we have no right to the high ground here. This attitude that war is okay as long as the enemies lie down and die like they're supposed to, and don't fight back too hard, is absurd. They will fight, and they will fight with all that they have, and we should have been ready for it.

And, I might add, we shouldn't be using civilians to provide security, and we shouldn't be paying them 4 times what a soldier makes.

April 3, 2004

Talking Points Memo points to this quote from one of the 9/11 commissioners.

We can't afford to have documents that are relevant to our inquiry being withheld on a technicality. This is not litigation. This is finding facts to help the nation, and we should not treat this as if we're adversarial parties here.


This seems exactly right. Why are they acting like this is a criminal investigation where they are the defendants? They're doing everything they can to give as little information as they have to, and making deals as to how and when they'll testify. Rice can testify, but in exchange, you can't ask anyone else on the president's staff, and Bush gets to testify with puppet master Cheney at his side pulling the strings.

Nancy Pelosi takes on this last point:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says it's baffling and embarrassing that President Bush (news - web sites) is appearing before the Sept. 11 commission with Vice President Dick Cheney at his side instead of by himself.

"I think it speaks to the lack of confidence that the administration has in the president going forth alone, period," Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday. "It's embarrassing to the president of the United States that they won't let him go in without holding the hand of the vice president of the United States."

"I think it reinforces the idea that the president cannot go it alone," she said. "The president should stand tall, walk in the room himself and answer the questions."


Why? If they're so interested in getting to the bottom of one of the worst tragedies in American history, why are they acting like they're on trial?

This is what McClellan keeps calling "unprecedented cooperation."

April 2, 2004

Can't wait to read this one.

economist cover

My favorite is the "Hot Air on WMD" pointing to his butt.

Plame Wars

This is great news. Might not lead anywhere, but it's great news that the investigation is continuing, and that it's expanding its scope.

Prosecutors Are Said to Have Expanded Inquiry Into Leak of C.I.A. Officer's Name

More Evidence

... of the liberal media.

Anna Perez, who recently directed communications at the National Security Council, will become chief communications executive for NBC, the network announced yesterday.


So we can soon expect the same level of honesty and forthrightness from NBC that we have become accustomed to getting from the National Security Condoleezza Rice.


More Letterman Fun

This story keeps getting better and better. And by that I mean of course worse and worse. I think it officially qualifies for a -gate suffix at this point.

Yawngate? Boredomgate? Lettergate?

Where to begin?

Paul Krugman's column in the Times is a good place to start. He recaps the events of this week, and asks all the right questions. If the White House didn't call CNN to say the video was fake, then who did? And how does a news anchor "misspeak" so badly?

Krugman also writes about the flap over Wolf Blitzer spreading rumors and taking things out of context. Go figure.

Look, I understand why major news organizations must act respectfully toward government officials. But officials shouldn't be sure -- as Mr. Wilkinson obviously was -- that they can make wild accusations without any fear that they will be challenged on the spot or held accountable later.


This is a big problem. We all understand -- or at least we used to -- why gov't officials should be given the benefit of the doubt. But these days it seems that that idea has been taken way too far. Giving the benefit of the doubt and treating them with the respect their office deserves doesn't mean not investigating anything and just repeating what they say as if it's a hard fact. If they lie, they should be help accountable. Remember accountable?

Back to Lettergate...

The Campaign Desk has some more information, and Atrios has been diligintely covering the story.

But here's the kicker:

According to the Washington Post, The White House is now "in charge of media access to the young man."

"He's a young person who strongly supports the president and is excited about getting a chance to talk about it," White House assistant press secretary Reed Dickens told The TV Column yesterday.

The kid is going to be on Letterman tonight, I'm Tivo'in that for sure.

As Dave is quoted as saying last night:

"This whole thing just smells. Doesn't it smell a little bit?" Letterman asked his audience last night.

"I mean, it just seems all just a little too tidy, just a little too neat. And now, the guy, the kid in Florida -- and his old man -- was really upset in the beginning. . . . Well, now everybody down there loves it. Everybody couldn't be happier; everybody thought it was hilarious. So you see, it's just a little too tidy. Stuff like this never ends happily, certainly not happily for me. I was waiting for the lawsuit, I was waiting to be arrested, I was waiting to be beaten to a pulp, and now, oh . . . we couldn't be happier."


Yes, Dave. It stinks to high heaven.

Oh, if you haven't seen the video yet, it may be because OverSpun has run out of bandwidth. They've posted some mirror sites, though, so check those. I also have the video, and may be persuaded to give it to you, if I know you and/or you're nice to me, bandwidth permitting. Also, the Wonkette has some stills.


Go check out the Newsmap.


So cool.

Flip-Flopper in Chief

As long as the right-wingnuts want to paint everyone who changes their mind about anything -- ever -- as an unreliable flip-flopper, let's see if their own Most Exalted Leader's records holds up to scrutiny.

Well, I'll be damned.. it doesn't.

Center for America Progress has a full rundown of Bush's flippity-flops.

April 1, 2004
April Foolery

Instead of trying to fool everyone (that's right, all 6 of you) with some stupid fake post about how I've decided to become a Republican and run for County Water Board; or that I've absolutely had it and I'm moving to Patagonia; or that I'm pitching the Playboy channel my idea for a show called "American Porn Star" in the style of American Idol; instead of doing any of that, I'll just point you to this very entertaining list of The Top 100 April Fool's Hoaxes of All Time. Enjoy.

Oh, and Liz's new homemade tattoo is healing nicely. I started doing my name before I realized it was off center, so I had to change it to "Andy." Oh well, not bad for my first try. (It's on her ankle.)

liz's tattoo

Here's a wider shot.

Something For The Ladies

Send this to your mother.

Get Out Of My Garden, George

Jon Stewart is a genius. If even a few of the interviewers in the "serious" media were as astute, fair, and ballsy as he is, we would have a very different debate going on.

Tonight his guest was Karen Hughes, a former top advisor to president Bush. She seems very nice, she has a new book, the discussion was very polite.

Then Stewart asked her why, if Bush is such a great guy as she says, is it that so many people in the world have such a completely different impression of him.

HUGHES: Well, I think he challenged the world to do something that was very hard to do, and that was to face up to the threat that was posed by Saddam Hussein and his defiance of the U.N. Security Council. I think that was hard, I concede that that was hard, but I think that it was absolutely right. And I think that we're beginning to see that it's going to lead to a more peaceful world, when leaders like Mohammar Qaddafi voluntarily come forward and say, "Ok, I'll dismantle my nuclear weapons program." So I think we're beginning to see that, but, you know, I think it was a hard thing, and some of the world didn't want to have to face that.. that moment of decision.

(emphasis mine)

Now, you could just feel Jon biting his tongue during this little stream of non-reality. I mean, really, we're beginning to see that it's going to make the world a more peaceful place? Is she nuts? Because of Qaddafi? Please. He wants sanctions lifted, and so he made a public relations move. It's good that his weapons will be gone, but it's not that good. It certainly doesn't discount the rest of the world errupting in an orgy of violence more ghastly each day. Not to mention her little crack about the U.N.

Anyway, after a very pregnant pause, Stewart responds:

STEWART: Is there ever a concern that.. that you feel that you're so certain you're right -- that you know where the treasure is buried -- but you forget that you're stepping on other people's gardens?

Exactly. Exactly fucking right. Their conviction that what they're doing is right is so fierce that it can never allow for any dissenting information. They will sit there and argue that the world is a safer place while the walls literally crumble around them, fiddling while Rome burns.