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May 31, 2004
A Thousand Words

memorial day doonesbury

May 29, 2004
Jobs Jobs Jobs


job growth by presidential party

Via The American Assembler.

May 28, 2004
Beheaded in Baltimore

Ugh. How awful.

These kids went to my Elementary School, and the murders took place in the neighborhood of my Middle School.

Really sick.



CNN last night, presented without qualification, without challenge.:

ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.

BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.

So, besides saying that if Kerry wins the terrorists win -- a statement so ridiculous and scary it makes me want to bash my head into a wall -- note that the statement also says that we are fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. Iraq is a war against Al Qaeda? What a complete load of shit!

And again, I can't stress this enough, our presence in Iraq is good for Al Qaeda. A more moderate policy towards the Middle East, what the statement implies a Democratic President would institute, would probably weaken Al Qaeda's support and recruitment, while our aggressive policy clearly has emboldened them and created more sympathy for their cause among Arabs.

Atrios suggests that everyone call CNN and complain:



May 27, 2004
Mmm, That's Good Health Care

Someone want to remind me again how our health care system makes any sense and how we would never want to subject ourselves to the horrors of universal coverage, when a woman in Utah was missing part of her skull for four months because she couldn't pay to have it put back on?

Doctors at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City removed the left side of her skull to treat bleeding on her brain. Lane's doctor originally scheduled the replacement surgery for mid-March, a month after her release from the hospital, said her mother, Margaret McKinney, a nurse who works in another division of the medical center.

But the operation was canceled the night before because the hospital was waiting to see whether Medicaid would cover it - a process that can take at least 90 days.

Lane, a waitress with no insurance, was sent home from the hospital with a big dent in her head where the bone had been removed but the scalp had been sewn back into place. She stayed at home, able to walk around but not go to work, and had to wear the helmet during the day.

The woman was driving drunk, not wearing a seatbelt and didn't have a driver's license, so, you know, she's an idiot. But still, four months without a piece of your skull seems a bit cruel.

A Word or Two on Phish

As some of you may have heard and most of you certainly haven't (and don't care), Phish announced yesterday that they will be disbanding at the end of their summer tour, this time for good.


Last Friday night, I got together with Mike, Page and Fish to talk openly about the strong feelings I've been having that Phish has run its course and that we should end it now while it's still on a high note. Once we started talking, it quickly became apparent that the other guys' feelings, while not all the same as mine, were similar in many ways -- most importantly, that we all love and respect Phish and the Phish audience far too much to stand by and allow it to drag on beyond the point of vibrancy and health. We don't want to become caricatures of ourselves, or worse yet, a nostalgia act. By the end of the meeting, we realized that after almost twenty-one years together we were faced with the opportunity to graciously step away in unison, as a group, united in our friendship and our feelings of gratitude.

So Coventry will be the final Phish show. We are proud and thrilled that it will be in our home state of Vermont. We're also excited for the June and August shows, our last tour together. For the sake of clarity, I should say that this is not like the hiatus, which was our last attempt to revitalize ourselves. We're done. It's been an amazing and incredible journey. We thank you all for the love and support that you've shown us.

-- Trey Anastasio

Those of you who know me well know that I'm quite the little Phish fan. I've seen them live 34 times since 1993, which is small potatoes when compared to many others' attendance, but still about 30 times more than I've seen any other musical act. (For a truly frightening look at the obsessive nature of Phish fans, have a look at my Phish stats, compiled by ZZYZX.

Phish has had a huge hand in shaping my musical tastes, not only with their own music, but through their influences, covers, spin-offs, etc. I have enormous respect for the four of them. They've consistently shown integrity and humility while becoming huge stars, something that is more than rare. They've built an amazing organization and fanbase that give back to every community they pass through (through the Mockingbird and Waterwheel Foundations) and they've done it on their own terms, without corporate sponsors or radio or MTV exposure.

It has always amused me -- and occasionally saddened me -- to watch how the music press and music-loving friends of mine tend to dismiss Phish. To have any credibility as a high-minded music critic, you're generally required to loathe Phish, at least in public. They're "noodlers," "hippies," or worse.

Invariably the people who say these things don't know a thing about the band except the impression they get of the legions of fans, who admittedly don't always paint the most flattering picture. (Then again, while Woodstock 99 erupted in riots and fires, Phish's Millennium concert in Florida , the largest concert in the world that night, saw the army hired to clean up sent home early because the fans had sorted and bagged most of the garbage themselves. ) For me, though, it's always been about the music, not the fans or the "scene."

I've been inspired by Phish's refusal to stay still. Every album is different, they're constantly reinventing themselves musically. They take huge risks, which don't always pay off, but they're lucky enough to have fans who are willing to suffer the bumps and bruises that inevitably come with something new. It's easy for a band to get on stage every night and play some hits, the same every night. Phish has arguably never played the same song (the same way) twice.

At their best, I've never heard anything like it. Twenty-some years of constant playing together has created in them a sort of collective mind, and the unspoken communication among them is astounding. I'm fully aware that I bring a lot to this appreciation and that it's far from objective. My knowledge of their music and their personalities allows me to follow along in a way that's impossible with music that isn't as familiar. But what I feel I've really connected to more than anything else is their passion for the music. The joy they experience when it's all clicking is infectious in a way that's hard to describe.

And this brings me to the break up: I fully support it. If they continued playing and touring but they all didn't love it, Phish wouldn't be good. It shows a lot of integrity and care for what they've created that they're willing to let it go, particularly knowing how disappointed -- even angry -- many people will be.

Trey (guitarist) was on Charlie Rose tonight (transcript not available, audio to be posted here) and he talked a little about some of the angry letters he's gotten already. People accuse them, and him specifically, of being motivated by ego and not caring about the fans. They say he's ruining something beautiful. Of course what these fans don't realize is that it can't be beautiful if he doesn't want to do it. They see him as owing them something in return for their years of support. And who's got the ego problem again?

Artists should always do what they want. They owe us nothing. If you like what they create, great. If they change directions and it's not your thing, go find another thing. Better yet, make your own thing. If it's dictated by the fans -- by the market -- it's not art, it's product.

Anyway, thank you Phish. It's been super.

The New York Times sums it up pretty well:

Phish can stretch out a song with the best of them, but it has been determined not to sprawl; it always had an ear for structure. Phish comes from the generation after the Dead. Where the Dead looked back to blues, folk and country roots, Phish is also steeped in latter-day styles like progressive rock. In its catalog, it was as likely to come up with suitelike songs as with verse-chorus-verse, and it was as fond of odd time signatures as it was of country-rock lilts.

Phish was always a paradox. A band that lived for improvisation, Phish always had plans: performing other band's albums end to end at its Halloween shows and concocting goofy stage spectacles for arenas. It kept trying different recording strategies, from meticulously overdubbed studio productions to its reunion album, "Round Room," made from rehearsal tapes. And it has played nearly every place imaginable, from the club Wetlands Preserve to gigantic, sold-out, multiset marathon concerts in the middle of nowhere. Phish has nothing left to prove. After August Phish's members are likely to turn up with any number of collaborators. That's what happens in the recombinant universe of jam bands. What disappears is two decades of accumulated reflexes: the subtleties of knowing just when another member is going to start shifting keys in a jam, or when to pause for another member's rhythmic fill.

Reflexes can become formulas, and Phish was always too perfectionistic to want to hear that happen. There are songs on the band's Web site from "Undermind," and they are as varied and breezy as ever. Whether or not Phish knew what was coming, the lyrics hint at valedictory: "Run away, run away, run away," Mr. Anastasio sings in "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing," and in "The Connection," he sings, "I change my direction/One foot follows the other, one foot follows something new." For two decades, that was Phish's strategy all along.

UPDATE :: For all your searchers looking for a transcript of the interview, check this page next week, they'll post the audio of the show. It doesn't look like they provide transcripts.

UPDATE 2 :: The Phish Archive has transcribed the first part of the interview.

May 26, 2004
Jon Stewart, I Love You

Jon Stewart gave the commencement address at William & Mary, his alma mater.

It's definitely worth reading the whole thing (might not want to have a mouth full of milk when you do) but here's my favorite part:

Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I -- I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don't really know to put this, so I'll be blunt. We broke it.

Please don't be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.

I don't know if you?ve been following the news lately, but it just kinda got away from us. Somewhere between the gold rush of easy internet profits and an arrogant sense of endless empire, we heard kind of a pinging noise, and uh, then the damn thing just died on us. So I apologize.

But here's the good news. You fix this thing, you're the next greatest generation, people. You do this -- and I believe you can -- you win this war on terror, and Tom Brokaw's kissing your ass from here to Tikrit, let me tell ya. And even if you don't, you're not gonna have much trouble surpassing my generation. If you end up getting your picture taken next to a naked guy pile of enemy prisoners and don't give the thumbs up you've outdid us.

We declared war on terror. We declared war on terror -- it's not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I'm sure we'll take on that bastard ennui.

Remember America?

Well, we had a good run. That whole notion of a free society with free access to ideas, by the people, for the people and all that -- it was a nice idea and it was sure fun for a while there, wasn't it?

Film documentary "Super Size Me," a critical look at the health impact of a fast-food only diet, has been downsized at cable network MTV which has refused to air advertisements for the film, its distributors said on Wednesday.

Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films said in a statement the cable TV channel targeted to young audiences has told them the ads are "disparaging to fast food restaurants."


So "disparaging to fast food restaurants" is now considered off-limits? This really cements my long-held opinion that MTV has turned into one of the biggest pieces of garbage ever.

Last week a friend who lives in England wrote that she had heard that Americans had been "restricted" from seeing Michael Moore's new movie until after the election. I wrote back that the thought made me laugh. No, I said, we don't have that kind of blatant censorship here, it's just that Disney won't distribute it, which, you know, they certainly don't have to. The film will be shown, and will make a bazillion dollars.

This is all true. It's unlikely that we will have overt censorship of this kind coming directly from our government anytime soon. But the Disney thing and this latest bullshit from MTV (Viacom), is a different kind of censorship, and one that's possibly more dangerous because it's much harder to stop.

"Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is a merge of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

U.S. Holding Hostages?

Newsday cites reports by human rights organizations that U.S. forces are holding relatives of wanted criminals as "bargaining chips," a clear violation of international law.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. troops wanted Jeanan Moayad's father. When they couldn't find him, they took her husband in his place.

Dhafir Ibrahim has been in U.S. custody for nearly four months. Moayad insists that he is being held as a bargaining chip, and military officials have told her that he will be released when her father surrenders. Her father is a scientist and former Baath party member who fled to Jordan soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"My husband is a hostage," said Moayad, 35, an architect who carries a small portrait of Ibrahim in her purse. "He didn't commit any crime."

In a little-noticed development amid Iraq's prison abuse scandal, the U.S. military is holding dozens of Iraqis as bargaining chips to put pressure on their wanted relatives to surrender, according to human rights groups. These detainees are not accused of any crimes, and experts say their detention violates the Geneva Conventions and other international laws. The practice also risks associating the United States with the tactics of countries that it has long criticized for arbitrary arrests.

The Beat Bush Blog notes the specific sections of the Fourth Geneva Convention pertaining to such actions:

Art. 31. No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.

Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

. . . .

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

Art. 34. The taking of hostages is prohibited.


This brings up something that's been bothering me about all the discussion of the Geneva Conventions. Much has been made of whether or not certain groups of prisoners "qualify" for protection under the Conventions, and it seems like it basically just comes down to our decision. If we decide prisoners at Guantanamo are "stateless combatants" we don't have to abide by the Conventions. If we ship prisoners to Syria, we can pull their fingernails out if we want.

It all strikes me as completely ridiculous. If we believe in the human rights the Geneva Conventions are based on, how do we justify picking and choosing which human beings it applies to? Protecting human rights with international treaties doesn't mean anything if countries can just decide that certain enemies just don't qualify. The Geneva Conventions didn't anticipate the type of enemy we're now dealing with, but it seems to me that human rights are human rights. Whether or not the enemy is a member of a government army is wholly irrelevant.

And surely our respect for human rights is not dependent on our enemy's respect for human rights. As has been said over and over again, we should be holding ourselves to a higher standard.

Gore Gets Nas-tay

It must be nice to not hold any elective office, and not be running for one. He's really taking the gloves off.

Go, Al Go.

In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president.

I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability...

So today, I want to speak on behalf of those Americans who feel that President Bush has betrayed our nation's trust, those who are horrified at what has been done in our name, and all those who want the rest of the world to know that we Americans see the abuses that occurred in the prisons of Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and secret locations as yet undisclosed as completely out of keeping with the character and basic nature of the American people and at odds with the principles on which America stands.

I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."

Threat Level: Questionable

More questions about the timing of the latest don't forget to be afraid announcement.

No new intelligence, nothing but a reminder of Al Qaeda's intention to attack the United States. Is it likely that this has slipped anyone's mind?

This is a big problem when our security agencies are so closely tied to the politics of the current government. You never know what to trust. It could be honest due dilligence, or it could be cynical fear-mongering designed to shore up support for Bush when his poll numbers are at their lowest. They have said recently they're mounting a large campaign to get Bush back on track, maybe this is just part of the plan.

What's the solution? Some kind of independent oversight of our intelligence services would be a good start. I suppose that's Congress' job, and Senator Durbin, a member of the Intelligence Committee, was complaining that his committee hadn't been briefed on any of the things Ashcroft was saying.

Damn it.

Rush and the Troops

Salon (subscription or day pass required) reports that Armed Forces Radio, broadcast to a million soldiers around the world, airs Rush Limbaugh every day (subscription or day pass required). And what does the government program to balance out Rush's barrage of extreme partisan nutballiosity?

[cricket sound]

That's right, nothing.

Your tax dollars are going towards broadcasting someone who compares the torture at Abu Ghraib to a fraternity prank to all of our soldiers. What does Armed Forces Radio have to say about it?

[cricket sound]

Just kidding. They did say something. They said that they only air Rush because he's popular, and they base their programming on what's popular, not on the content.

Quoth the spokesman:

"We look at the most popular shows broadcast here in the United States and try to mirror that. [Limbaugh] is the No. 1 talk show host in the States; there's no question about that. Because of that we provide him on our service."

[Director Melvin] Russell says that if Franken, or any other syndicated liberal talk show host, can draw big enough ratings, then American Forces Radio would try to find a spot for that person on the schedule. "I'm hoping, if Air America takes off and someone on that show reaches the same level of audience Rush does, we could look to add them to the service. But there's nobody on the liberal side that compares to his ratings."

Hmm. Well, okay, if they base it only on ratings and all, that's at least a non-partisan measuring stick and there really isn't anyone on the other side who's that popul -- HOWARD STERN!!

What about Stern, who has been on a serious tear against the Bush administration lately?


"My answer [on Stern]," says Russell, "is we have determined that that show, because of the [sexual] content, was not appropriate for a network that has just one or two stations broadcasting to an audience that ranges from 1-year-olds up to 50-year-olds."


"We don't censor, we provide," answers Russell. "Our troops deserve the same information that's available to them in the U.S."

Yes, these are all quotes from the same person.

So Stern's sexual humor isn't appropriate, but Rush's hate filled tirades about how Democrats hate America and women deserve to be harassed and it's really not such a big deal that American soldiers tortured and possibly killed prisoners, that's appropriate. Oh, and he's a pill popper.

It makes me ill to think I'm paying to have this jerkweed's hate-filled rants broadcast to our troops all over the world. Ill I tells ya!

Kerry Speech and New Library

I went down to Seattle's waterfront this morning and stood in the rain for two hours to see John Kerry give a speech on energy policy. I even got to shake his hand. I'm all a flutter.

It was a good speech. He's a much better speaker than anyone generally gives him credit for. The speech was short, not huge on details, but reasonably inspiring. The one detail I remember is a plan to generate 20% of America's energy from renewable sources by 2020.

john kerry seattle speech
This is right after I shook his hand. Too bad he looked down. Those Secret Service guys should lighten up a little.

john kerry seattle speech
Note Sean Astin (Sam from Lord of the Rings) at far right

Here are some more, mostly crappy, photos.

After the rally I wandered up to the new Central Library, Seattle's latest big deal architectural thingie. It opened on Sunday to wide acclaim.

seattle central library

It took me about 20 minutes to find where they were keeping the books, having seen only row upon row of computers until that point. There are lots of books, though, shelved in something called "The Spiral" a slowly descending ramp covering 4 floors.

Here are some more photos I took, in my continuing series I call Shots That Would Be Good If I Had A Better Camera.

The Fix Is In

Remember when Bob Woodward's book came out and there was all that talk about the Saudis promising to help Bush out this year by boosting oil production? I wrote about it here, here, and here.

An article in USA Today yesterday had this to say:

Saudi Arabia promised the U.S. on Sunday that it would boost oil production up to 2 million barrels a day to combat rising fuel prices.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham says Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi told him Saudi Arabia's daily oil output will rise to 9.1 million barrels in June, a 600,000-barrel increase. Al-Naimi also said Saudi Arabia would go to its full capacity of 10.5 million barrels if needed, which Abraham called "a very important comment on his part."

Why isn't this front page news everywhere? This is exactly what Woodward said would happen. Now, OPEC changes production when they want and there's no way to prove that they're doing it specifically for Bush, but the whole thing is more than a little bit suspicious.

At the very least, the fact that allegations of backroom deals with the Saudis have been made warrants a mention in this piece. Maybe if the piece gets wider coverage, someone will do some -- what's it called -- journalism on it.

Ashcroft Seeks to Scare Public into Submission

Contradicting the AP story yesterday about planned terrorist attacks this summer, "officials" now say there is no new intelligence suggesting an attack is being planned. Despite this, Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller are issuing a "new call for public awareness."

What the fuck? The AP reports new and "highly credible" evidence, "among the most disturbing received by the government" since 9/11, and less than 24 hours later Ashcroft is saying it ain't so.

Ashcroft and the Bush administration have a distinct interest in scaring the living shit out of every American for the next 5 months, and I predict we'll see more and more meaningless and vague "calls for vigilance" like this. We'll surely get a few orange alerts.

Of course, all of this would be a good thing if we had any reason to believe a word these jerks say.

I would love to hear more about this. Why these two so completely contradictory stories?

New York Times Comes Clean

The Times and Iraq

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged ? or failed to emerge.


Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

Several examples of Articles That Sucked are given, including this gem:

On Sept. 8, 2002, the lead article of the paper was headlined "U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts." That report concerned the aluminum tubes that the administration advertised insistently as components for the manufacture of nuclear weapons fuel. The claim came not from defectors but from the best American intelligence sources available at the time. Still, it should have been presented more cautiously. There were hints that the usefulness of the tubes in making nuclear fuel was not a sure thing, but the hints were buried deep, 1,700 words into a 3,600-word article. Administration officials were allowed to hold forth at length on why this evidence of Iraq's nuclear intentions demanded that Saddam Hussein be dislodged from power: "The first sign of a `smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud."

Five days later, The Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies. The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view ("White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons"). The Times gave voice to skeptics of the tubes on Jan. 9, when the key piece of evidence was challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That challenge was reported on Page A10; it might well have belonged on Page A1.

My first question is: Why is this story, the apology, not leading on page A1? (I don't have the print edition, but online it's in a small box on the side, between a Lord of the Rings ad and a travel story.)

The second big thing they fail to adequately address here is that the source of most of the misinformation they were so taken in by was our own government. They mention that "the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq," but where's the follow-up on that? U.S. officials were puffing up faulty and controversial intelligence, presenting it as if it was NOT controversial, in order to justify a war they desperately wanted to happen. Where's the giant A1 story on that?

The last line of the story indicates that it may be coming. Let's just hope they live up to this promise.

We consider the story of Iraq's weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.

The paper has also put together a page sampling their coverage of the buildup to war.

May 25, 2004
Mark Your Calendars

Terrorists are planning a summer attack.

U.S. officials have obtained new intelligence deemed highly credible indicating al-Qaida or other terrorists are in the United States and preparing to launch a major attack this summer, The Associated Press has learned.

The intelligence does not include a time, place or method of attack but is among the most disturbing received by the government since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to a senior federal counterterrorism official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday.

It's too bad they don't know the time, place or method of attack, because as Condi told the 9/11 Commission, if the administration doesn't know those things specifically, there's really nothing they can do. It's not, how do you say, actionable.

Of most concern, the official said, is that terrorists may possess and use a chemical, biological or radiological weapon that could cause much more damage and casualties than a conventional bomb.

"There is clearly a steady drumbeat of information that they are going to attack and hit us hard," said the official, who described the intelligence as highly credible.


Hey, speaking of Condi, whatever happened to her? She's really been kept out of sight since her testimony.

Times to Issue Mea Culpa on WMD


Slate is reporting that The New York Times will publish an "Editor's Note" reassessing its pre-Iraq War coverage, particularly its coverage of weapons of mass destruction.

Under particular scrutiny is Judith Miller, who was positively nutty on the WMD issue, vigorously reporting every tiny little scrap of anything from anyone as evidence of major weapons.

There is also word that the paper's Public Editor Daniel Okrent may be preparing a column on the subject.

The note may be published as early as tomorrow.

Here's a catalog of Miller's horrendous reportage.

Trent Lott at it Again

You'd think he would have learned to keep his fool mouth shut by now.

"Frankly, to save some American troops' lives or a unit that could be in danger, I think you should get really rough with them," Lott said. "Some of those people should probably not be in prisons in the first place."

When asked about the photo showing a prisoner being threatened with a dog, Lott was unmoved.

"Nothing wrong with holding a dog up there unless it ate him," Lott said. "(They just) scared him with the dog."

Lott was reminded that at least one prisoner had died at the hands of his captors after a beating.

"This is not Sunday school," he said. "This is interrogation. This is rough stuff."

I guess Bull Connor was just "scaring" civil rights marchers with his dogs too, huh Trent? Dickhead.

Bush's New Ad a Pack of Lies
Bush: I'm George W. Bush and I approve of this message.

Announcer: President Bush signed the Patriot Act giving law enforcement vital tools to fight terrorism.

John Kerry? He voted for the Patriot Act, but pressured by fellow liberals, he's changed his position.

While wire taps, subpoena powers and surveillances are routinely used against drug dealers and organized crime, Kerry would now repeal the Patriot Act's use of these tools against terrorists.

John Kerry. Playing politics with national security.

According to FactCheck.org, the only thing the ad gets right is that Bush signed the Patriot Act and that Kerry voted for it.

It's true that last December, during the Democratic nomination fight, Kerry did call for "replacing the Patriot Act with a new law." But Kerry is not calling for repealing the law-enforcement powers alluded to in the ad. He's calling for modification -- specifically tighter control by judges. There's a big difference between "repeal" and adding judicial oversight.

Bush campaign officials say the ad is meant to refer to "sneak-and-peek" searches, which are conducted without the knowledge of the subject, and "roving wiretaps" in which authority to eavesdrop is applied to the individual rather than to a specific telephone number.

Kerry's position on those matters is spelled out in some detail on his website, and it simply does not support what the Bush ad claims.

Political ads have never been about telling the truth, but usually they're only gross distortions of the facts. This is just a big steaming pile of lie.

Of course, technically it's not a lie.

They say "Kerry would now repeal the Patriot Act's use of these tools [wire taps, subpoena powers and surveillances] against terrorists." Right, he would repeal the Patriot Act's use of these tools and replace it with the Patriot Act's use of these tools with judicial oversight.

Not only is it a flagrantly misleading statement, walking right up to the lie line and taking a big shit on it, it's completely hypocritical.

... some conservative Republicans make the same criticisms of the act that Kerry does, and five Republicans are co-sponsoring legislation with him to amend the Patriot Act. Even Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot conceded last year that the act could use "refinement . . . so that it does not end up invading the civil rights of any American."

It is small consolation that the vast majority of people report that these ads don't change their opinions. They get to some people, and it's a damn shame.

There outta be a law. Instead of "I'm George W. Bush and I approve of this message" how about "I'm George W. Bush and I personally stand behind every statement made in this ad. If it is found to be misleading or false, I will personally shoot myself in the foot."

Al Qaeda Still 18,000 Strong

The Washington Post reports that Al Qaeda is alive and well, despite the War on Terra. In fact, the report says, the terrorist network has probably benefitted from our actions against them.

Far from being crippled by the U.S.-led war on terror, al Qaeda has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks, a report said Tuesday.

Al Qaeda is probably working on plans for major attacks on the United States and Europe, and it may be seeking weapons of mass destruction in its desire to inflict as many casualties as possible, the International Institute of Strategic Studies said in its annual survey of world affairs.

Osama bin Laden's network appears to be operating in more than 60 nations, often in concert with local allies, the study by the independent think tank said.

Although about half of al-Qaida's top 30 leaders have been killed or captured, it has an effective leadership, with bin Laden apparently still playing a key role, it said.

"Al Qaeda must be expected to keep trying to develop more promising plans for terrorist operations in North America and Europe, potentially involving weapons of mass destruction," IISS director Dr. John Chipman told a press conference releasing "Strategic Survey 2003/4."

At the same time it will likely continue attacking "soft targets encompassing Americans, Europeans and Israelis, and aiding the insurgency in Iraq," he added.

The report suggested that the two military centerpieces of the U.S.-led war on terror - the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - may have boosted al-Qaida.

Driving the terror network out of Afghanistan in late 2001 appears to have benefited the group, which dispersed to many countries, making it almost invisible and hard to combat, the story said.

And the Iraq conflict "has arguably focused the energies and resources of al Qaeda and its followers while diluting those of the global counterterrorism coalition that appeared so formidable" after the Afghan intervention, the survey said.

Yes. It makes perfect sense.

After 9/11, there was unprecedented unity of purpose in the civilized world. The terrorists must be stopped, these kinds of acts simply cannot be tolerated. But instead of taking advantage and creating a global network of law enforcement agencies working together to infiltrate and destroy terrorist organizations, we relied on old-school military force, dispersing the terrorists around the globe. Then, once they were everywhere, we started another war -- pretending it was related to the first war -- and drove thousands of people into the terrorists' recruitment offices. Great plan.

The strange thing about this 18,000 number is that it is based on intelligence that the group trained 20,000 fighters in Afghanistan before the Taliban fell, and 2,000 have been killed or captured during the War on Terra. There is not accounting for any new Al Qaeda fighters who have joined in the past 2 years, a number that I would guess is fairly significant. It seems that they are not counting these new recruits as Al Qaeda, but as "foreign fighters" and insurgents in Iraq.

Quote of the Day

According to Taegan Goddard, anyway, and I'm inclined to agree.

"When the story ultimately comes out we'll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history. They persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy."

-- Former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson, quoted in The Guardian. According to the article: "Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbour, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq."

Dean Was Right

Remember when Howard Dean got raked across the coals for saying that America was not safer because of Saddam's capture? People lost their minds over that.

Hmmm... turns out ole Howie was right, huh? I for one thought he was right at the time, but the media, the Republicans, even most Democrats, went apoplectic over Dean's "craaazzy" remark.

It doesn't much matter, but the thing about Dean was obviously that he was too smart and too honest to run for President. He was right about most of the things he said, but right don't always play in Peoria. People don't care if you're right, they want to hear that things are going well. They certainly don't want to hear that this great victory -- the dramatic de-spider-holing of Saddam -- hadn't really made much of a difference. They wanted to believe that all of a sudden the resistance would end. Their erstwhile leader publicly humiliated, the insurgents would lay down their weapons and dedicate themselves to building a peaceful and free Iraq. Also, terrorists the world over would suddenly see how the capture of Saddam had anything in the world to do with them, and they would mostly give up, too. At the very least, they would think long and hard about messing with the U.S. again.

Boy, in retrospect it all seems painfully naïve, doesn't it?

Matt Yglesias brings home the larger point:

As it was then, so it is today. The problem is not the man [Muqtada al-Sadr] but the movement he leads and the sentiments he represents. Killing Muqtada al-Sadr will do nothing to dim those sentiments, while the damage done to holy sites in the course of pursuing him will do a great deal to inflame them. The president urges us to stay the course and wait for the return of sovereignty at the end of next month. The present course, however, contains nothing whatsoever aimed at changing the fundamental fact that Iraq's Arab population has grown thoroughly disillusioned with the United States and its policies. That disaffection, and not the leaders of the disaffected, must be the target of any effective policy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.


May 24, 2004
Bush's Speech

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but it wasn't too bad of a speech. You know, considering who was giving it and all. Well, let me modify that. It was a good speech in terms of it possibly having the effect the White House intended, and that is to halt the free fall of the president's poll numbers. Then again, his numbers have probably gotten about as low as they can get.

Certainly he mushed up the war in Iraq with the War on Terra, as usual, and there was a shameful little bit where he highlighted Nick Berg's murder and a couple of other brutal acts by terrorists, pointing out how "evil" they are, but that's all to be expected.

He did offer some details about what this handover on June 30th will mean, but it struck me as a lot of dreamy fantasy. He kept saying "complete sovereignty" and stuff like that. He made it sound as though 138,000 U.S. troops are going to be hanging around, you know, just to keep an eye on things, and we'll have our biggest embassy anywhere in the world, with several field offices around the country, but they won't be making any decisions or anything. They'll be advising. They won't be rulers, they'll be technical experts.

Overall, it was one of the better speeches I've seen him give. Not in terms of actual substance or any belief that it will really mean anything, but in terms of how it could go over.

One thing though, can somebody PLEASE release a memo about how to pronounce Abu Ghraib? It's pretty ridiculous to have the president stumbling over it, he pronounced it in three distinct ways in the same sentence.

Or how about this conspiracy theory: They purposely have him mispronounce it in order to downplay its significance. To the average Joe Dumbass, it can't be all that important if the president doesn't even know how to say it. One of Rove's little psychology tricks. How about that?

Seriously, though, if this had been something he had been talking about for the past two weeks, as he damn well should have been, he'd know how to say it.

One final note: One of his big applause-getting lines was: "Iraqis can be certain a free Iraq will always have a friend in the United States of America." Big standing O for that one.

Sounds great, but of course it's bullshit. Everybody knows that the United States doesn't have friends, it has interests. Ask Rwanda.

UPDATE :: transcript of the speech

Abu Ghraib To Be Demolished

White House statement today: "... with the approval of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib prison as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning."

It's a good idea to knock the place down, but it would have been a much better idea to knock it down right off, and not use it as our own hell hole. To the world and to history Abu Ghraib will always symbolize America's decline and not Saddam's buchery.

Oh, and can we get some impartial search of the place to happen before they blow it up? Just to make sure they don't pile all the evidence of prisoner abuse in there and then blow it up?

The release also states that the U.S. will construct a new, modern, maximum-security prison to replace Abu Ghraib. I'm sure the new prison will be free of all forms of abuse and torture, except of course those which are abided here at home, like executions and stuff.

Awwww... Poor Lynndie

Lawyers for Lynndie England are seeking to have her confession thrown out because her Miranda rights were violated.

Despite her apparent lack of a single redeeming quality, I must grudgingly acknowledge that she has rights like anyone else. Still, it's more than a little ironic for her to complain of her rights being violated, considering, you know, how respectful she is of the rights of other accused persons.

lynddie england

Retroactively Classified

Hmm, this doesn't seem suspicious at all...

WASHINGTON, May 19 - The Justice Department has taken the unusual step of retroactively classifying information it gave to Congress nearly two years ago regarding a former F.B.I. translator who charged that the bureau had missed critical terrorist warnings, officials said Wednesday.

Law enforcement officials say the secrecy surrounding the translator, Sibel Edmonds, is essential to protecting information that could reveal intelligence-gathering operations. But some members of Congress and Congressional aides said they were troubled by the move, which comes as critics have accused the Bush administration of excessive secrecy.

"What the F.B.I. is up to here is ludicrous," Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said in an interview. "To classify something that's already been out in the public domain, what do you accomplish? It does harm to transparency in government, and it looks like an attempt to cover up the F.B.I.'s problems in translating intelligence."


"I have never heard of a retroactive classification two years back,'' said an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject is classified.

"It would be silly if it didn't have such serious implications,'' the aide said. "People are puzzled and, frankly, worried, because the effect here is to quash Congressional oversight. We don't even know what we can't talk about.''

Senator Grassley said, "This is about as close to a gag order as you can get."



     All statements made by the administration during the buildup to the war with Iraq concerning the justification for said war are hereby considered classified. All citizens are instructed to kindly forget whatever they thought they knew about such statements and all media outlets are ordered to erase all files concerning same. Any use of this information in the future shall be considered an act of treason.
May 22, 2004
Saturday Cat Blogging

There is no doubt much news to report and comment on, but today has been occupied with Roo, our beloved kitty.

A few days ago we noticed a small wound near his tail, and then on Thursday it was a big bump. My sister is a veterinary technician, so I call her with cat questions all the time. She confirmed that it was probably an abscess -- a dangerous infection -- so poor little Roo had to go the vet this morning.

And now look at him.


Oh, the indignity.

He had surgery to clean out his wound and have a drain installed to get all the gook out of there. He's been pretty woozy since we got him home, stumbling around like a drunken monkey.

It's in some ways much more difficult to take care of a sick or injured pet than it is a human, and not just because he doesn't have health insurance. Mostly it's because you can't explain anything to them, they just think they're being tortured for no reason. I suppose it's a lot like having a baby, except pets just stay babies. They look at you and seem to ask, "Why, why?" and all you can do is pour hydrogen peroxide on their wounds and lock them in the bathroom so they don't fall off the dresser. Just like a baby.

Anyway, we're sure Roo will be fine. It's one of those times when it's a good thing I'm home all the time, I don't know how we'd deal with this if we were both working all day.

Oh, and if you buy a t-shirt or something, Roo would really appreciate it. All proceeds go toward his vet bills.

Oh, and for the curious and/or sick and twisted, here's a shot of Roo's wound with drain installed. Not for the queasy.

DIA Reports Chalabi Works for Iran

Holy freakin' shit.

WASHINGTON -- The Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that a U.S.-funded arm of Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress has been used for years by Iranian intelligence to pass disinformation to the United States and to collect highly sensitive American secrets, according to intelligence sources.

"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.

The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years.

An administration official confirmed that "highly classified information had been provided [to the Iranians] through that channel."

Over the past 4 years, the U.S. has given Chalbi's group $40 million. So we were paying them to give secrets to Iran, and Iran was in turn fabricating intelligence in order to lure us into ousting Saddam Hussein for them. And we fell for it -- lock, stock and barrel.

More importantly, though, it seems that Iran has been trying to pull this shit for years, but it wasn't until the Bush team took office that anyone started listening to Chalabi.

Is it just me, or does this sound like one of the biggest scandal's in history? Watergate was just dirty politics. This has resulted in thousands of deaths and arguably thrown the whole world into turmoil.


May 21, 2004
Pelosi v. GOP, GOP v. America

As you may have heard, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had some harsh words about the president yesterday, for which she is now being criticized by Republicans.

"The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader," Pelosi said. "These policies are not working. But speaking specifically to Iraq, we have a situation where -- without adequate evidence -- we put our young people in harm's way."

Asked specifically if she was calling Bush incompetent, Pelosi replied:

"I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers."

Republicans have predictably started freaking out and saying that Pelosi's comments put "American lives at risk."

"Nancy Pelosi should apologize for her irresponsible, dangerous rhetoric," DeLay, R-Texas, said. "She apparently is so caught up in partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk."

The Republican National Committee also released a written statement, saying Pelosi and other Democrats were putting more blame for the deaths of U.S. service members on Bush than on terrorists. And the statement tied Pelosi to Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

"The San Francisco/Boston Democrats led by John Kerry have now adopted 'Blame America First' as their official policy," RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie said in the statement.

Think about what they're saying here. The policies that have brought us into a war that is going horribly wrong, instigated under false pretenses, are not to blame for the deaths of American soldiers; the criticism of such policies is what is really dangerous.

The responsibility for the deaths of our servicemen and women does not end at the hand that pulls the trigger. This was an unnecessary war and none of these men and women would have been killed in Iraq if we hadn't invaded Iraq. Fewer of them would have been killed if our planning and execution in Iraq had been conducted responsibly and seriously. And to be clear, I'm talking about Iraq, not the War on Terror. Iraq.

Pelosi, to her infinite credit, did not back down.

"His activities, his decisions, the results of his actions are what undermines his leadership, not my statement," Pelosi said. "My statements are just a statement of fact."

Scott McClellan, to his infinite discredit, pronounced the topic beneath him.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan was asked about Pelosi.

"I just don't think that such comments are worth dignifying with any response from this podium," he said.

Comments from the House Minority Leader regarding the competence of the President of the United States aren't worth dignifying? How about giving us some evidence of competence?

Now, for a little bit of "HOLY SHIT HOW CAN ANYONE BE SUCH A FUCKING HYPOCRITE" historical perspective, let's take a look at some things Tom DeLay and his buddies Trent Lott and Don Nickles had to say in 1999, during the war in Kosovo.

1. The atrocities are America's fault. "Once the bombing commenced, I think then [Slobodan] Milosevic unleashed his forces, and then that's when the slaughtering and the massive ethnic cleansing really started," Nickles said at a news conference after appearing on Meet the Press. "The administration's campaign has been a disaster. ... [It] escalated a guerrilla warfare into a real war, and the real losers are the Kosovars and innocent civilians." On Fox News Sunday, DeLay blamed the ethnic cleansing on U.S. intervention. "Clinton's bombing campaign has caused all of these problems to explode," DeLay charged in a House floor speech replayed on Late Edition.

2. The failure of diplomacy to avert the war is America's fault. "I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning," Lott offered on Late Edition. "I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area." Nickles called NATO's prewar peace proposal to the Serbs "a very arrogant agreement" that "really caused this thing to escalate."

3. Congress should not support the war. When asked whether they would authorize Clinton "to use all necessary force to win this war, including ground troops," Lott and Nickles --who had voted a month ago, along with 70 percent of the Senate GOP, not to support the NATO air campaign--said they wouldn't. Nickles questioned the propriety of "NATO's objectives," calling its goal of "access to all of Serbia ... ludicrous." DeLay, meanwhile, voted not only against last week's House resolution authorizing Clinton to conduct the air war--which failed on a tie vote--but also in favor of legislation "directing the president ... to remove U.S. Armed Forces from their positions in connection with the present operations against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." When asked whether he had lobbied his colleagues to defeat the resolution authorizing the air war, as had been reported, DeLay conceded that he had "talked to a couple of members during the vote" but claimed not to have swayed anyone since it was "a vote of conscience."

4. We can't win. "I don't know that Milosevic will ever raise a white flag," warned Nickles. DeLay agreed: "He's stronger in Kosovo now than he was before the bombing. ... The Serbian people are rallying around him like never before. He's much stronger with his allies, Russians and others." Clinton "has no plan for the end" and "recognizes that Milosevic will still be in power," added DeLay. "The bombing was a mistake. ... And this president ought to show some leadership and admit it, and come to some sort of negotiated end."

5. Don't believe U.S. propaganda. On Meet the Press, Defense Secretary William Cohen argued that Yugoslavia had underestimated NATO's resolve more than NATO had underestimated Yugoslavia's, and Joint Chiefs vice chairman Gen. Joseph Ralston asserted that Milosevic "had already started his campaign of killing" before NATO intervened. Nickles dismissed both arguments. "This war is not going well," he declared. "I heard Secretary Cohen say, 'Well, Milosevic miscalculated how, you know, steadfast we would be in the bombing campaign.' But frankly ... we grossly miscalculated what Milosevic's response would be." Later, Nickles volunteered, "I would take a little issue with [what] Gen. Ralston said. ... The number of killings prior to the bombing, I think, has been exaggerated." Moreover, given NATO's desperate need to "bring Milosevic to the table," DeLay cautioned, "It is not helpful for the president's spin machine to be out there right now saying that Milosevic is weakening." The truth, said DeLay, is that "nothing has changed."

6. Give peace a chance. Cohen said it was "highly unlikely" that Clinton would meet with Milosevic in response to Yugoslavia's release of the three captured American soldiers over the weekend, since the Serbs were continuing their atrocities and weren't offering to meet NATO's conditions. DeLay called this refusal "really disappointing" and a failure of "leadership. ... The president ought to open up negotiations and come to some sort of diplomatic end." Lott implored Clinton to "give peace a chance" and, comparing the war with the recent Colorado high-school shootings, urged him to resolve the Kosovo conflict with "words, not weapons."

Once you've picked your jaw up off of the keyboard, let me ask you this question: Why does Tom DeLay hate America so much?

The Star Estimator

For most people, there is some celebrity that people have told them they look like more often than others. Maybe that's not true. Maybe for most people, nobody ever tells them they look like a celebrity.

In any case, The Star Estimator can help! Upload a snapshot of yourself and it will spit out the three celebrities you most resemble. That's the idea, anyway.

It's an interesting excercise in face-recognition software, and blah blah blah, but more importantly, it's about celebrities and your possible quasi relationship to them, and theirs to you.

I did it three times, with three different recent pictures. Results below.

star estimator

I'm drunk in this photo -- taken last year at Liz's 30th birthday party in New York -- so Nick Cage and Gary Oldman make sense. (I have no idea if they're drinkers, but they seem like total boozers.) Dreyfuss? I hear his voice on TV commercials all the time these days.

star estimator

This picture is from Erik's wedding in Alaska. I have longer hair and a surprised expression, but otherwise I think the two are pretty similar. So why Alec Baldwin from like 30 years ago? Who knows.

And who the hell is uni-browed Zinedine Zidane?

Ah-ha. He is apparently a big-time French soccer player. My mother is French, so maybe it picked up on my Frenchitude.

star estimator

The last photo was taken just now, specifically for this purpose. I tried to look directly straight-on into the camera as the site says to do. It's interesting that this is the only one to yield any black guys, and any Val Kilmers.

I've never been compared to any of these celebrities before. The most common one I've gotten over the years is Keifer Southerland, and for a time a while back I got a few Brad Pitts (ha!). Those are of course only the ones people told me to my face. There is of course a chance people have been saying I look like John Goodman behind my back -- he came up when I ran the second photo again.

Perhaps more research into this little tool is warranted. Who do you look like?

Republican Campaign Stalks Dem Rival

Thought they couldn't get any lower?

Think again.

SPRINGFIELD -- For the past 10 days, U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama hasn't been able to go to the bathroom or talk to his wife on his cell phone without having a camera-toting political gofer from his Republican rival filming a few feet away.

In what has to be a first in Illinois politics, Republican Jack Ryan has assigned one of his campaign workers to record every movement and every word of the state senator while he is in public.

That means Justin Warfel, armed with a handheld Panasonic digital camcorder, follows Obama to the bathroom door and waits outside. It means Warfel follows Obama as he moves from meeting to meeting in the Capitol. And it means Warfel tails Obama when he drives to his campaign office.

"It's standard procedure to record public speeches and things like that," Obama told reporters as the bald, 20-something operative filmed away. "But to have someone who's literally following you a foot and a half away, everywhere you go, going into the restrooms, standing outside my office, sitting outside of my office asking my secretary where I am, seems to be getting a little carried away."

Warfel interrupted Obama several times with heckling questions, but wouldn't respond when reporters asked him about who he was and why he was filming Obama's every move.

"You'll have to speak to the campaign office," Warfel said tartly to practically every inquiry.

As Josh Marshall points out, politics is a tough business and certainly anyone running for office is giving up a good deal of their privacy, but this is ridiculous and juvenile.

Do they think this is going to impress the voters? It's hard to overstate it: these people are batshit insane.

Friday Funnies

Remember a while back when I said I was going to feature a favorite political cartoon once a week and then I only did it that one time? Had you going there, didn't I? Good times...

Well, in another brazen announcement of something that there is about a 2% chance I'll actually do, today I'm starting a series (of at least 1) of posts called "Friday Funnies." Good title, huh? Alliteration means I'm smart.

So on Fridays, instead of blogging about my cat, as others are wont to do, I'm going to try to find something funny in the world.

Here's today's -- Why You Should Never Put Your Picture on the Internet.

Bush Drops a Bundle

Kos does the math on Bush's spending in the past few months, and it's not a pretty picture. For him, that is.

By the beginning of May, Bush had raised a record $200 million, but only had $72 million left. He's spent $128 million and his poll numbers are the lowest they've ever been.

Kos also points out that Bush spent $52 million in April alone!

Remember a few months ago when the White House was saying that the Bush campaign was pretty much done with the fundraising? Well, their incredible spending -- and lack of results -- means that Bush is going to have to spend much more time this summer drumming up cash.

It can't be good for him to have to spend so much of his time raising money while Iraq gets worse and worse. It seems to me that at some point more Americans are going to be asking where the hell the "war president" is while all this is going on, and what is he doing about it? Other than making the same empty speech over and over again, even to Republican lawmakers.

As Kos points out, it also means that he won't have any time to campaign for other Republicans down the ticket, and that's what has Congressional Republicans really worried.

SWM ISO The Rent

These days it seems like everyone, from Atrios to the freakin' National Review, is throwing some kind of fundraiser.

So, in the spirit of me-too-ism, I've thrown up a little tip jar over there in the sidebar. I don't expect it to get used, but it's there if you need it. I'm not going to call it out at the top of every page for a few weeks like Atrios or anything like that. I'm not going to give a big sob story either, just a small one: I ain't got no job.

If you feel like dropping a buck or two in there, great. Even better, buy a t-shirt, or buy ten t-shirts, some coffee mugs and a frisbee, they make great gifts! Even better than that, hire me to do some web work or to write your press release or an article for your magazine or to be a member of your celebrity entourage.

See? There are so many options.

P.S. -- Oh, and despite the title of this post, I'm not single. Sorry, ladies, spoken for! I just don't know the personal ad abbreviation for "in a relationship," probably because that just wouldn't make sense.

May 20, 2004
Hastert v. McCain

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert gives a beautiful example of what many Republicans think of politicians who speak their minds in a non-partisan way. You know, people like John McCain, and ... umm ... yeah.

This is a brilliant strategy for Hastert and the other Republicans, considering, you know, how unpopular John McCain is with ordinary people.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a rare public swipe at a fellow Republican, House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Wednesday questioned the GOP credentials of John McCain, a U.S. senator who has often challenged party orthodoxy.

Talking to reporters, Hastert pretended not to know who McCain was when asked about a recent statement by the GOP senator from Arizona.

As other House GOP members stood behind him laughing, Hastert, R-Illinois, then expressed doubt that McCain was indeed a Republican.

The exchange started when a reporter asked: "Can I combine a two issues, Iraq and taxes? I heard a speech from John McCain the other day..."

Hastert: "Who?"

Reporter: "John McCain."

Hastert: "Where's he from?"

Reporter: "He's a Republican from Arizona."

Hastert: "A Republican?"

Amid nervous laughter, the reporter continued with his question: "Anyway, his observation was never before when we've been at war have we been worrying about cutting taxes and his question was, 'Where's the sacrifice?' "

Hastert: "If you want to see the sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed and Bethesda. There's the sacrifice in this country. We're trying to make sure they have the ability to fight this war, that they have the wherewithal to be able to do it. And, at the same time, we have to react to keep this country strong."

The first part you could plausibly dismiss as a joke.

His response to the quote from McCain, though, is a beautiful little piece of bullshit art. Notice how he doesn't even come within sight of the substance of McCain's question, but in one deft move manages to strongly imply that the Senator from Arizona -- who was a prisoner of war -- doesn't understand the sacrifice made by wounded soldiers.

It's almost too ridiculous to be real. McCain asks how we can justify spending ourselves into oblivion and cutting taxes while trying to fight an exceedingly expensive and no-end-in-sight-erific war, and Hastert responds, "Look! He doesn't care about the dead and wounded soldiers! I made this connection by using a word in my sentence that he used in his, conclusively showing that he meant what I said he meant. He said sacrifice -- his word, ladies and gentlemen! You heard him! He doesn't think the soldiers are sacrificing anything!"

It's hard to imagine any sizable percentage of our citizens being stupid enough to fall for this horseshit, and yet, it seems to be the case. And the fact that he would say these things about possibly the most popular person in Congress on either side shows how completely out of touch with anything even approaching reality these nincompoops are.

McCain released a written response, using 4 sentences to completely demolish the idiots:

"The Speaker is correct in that nothing we are called upon to do comes close to matching the heroism of our troops.

All we are called upon to do is not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility. Apparently those days are long gone for some in our party."

We Have Seen the Enemy, and He Is Lots of People

CBS News is reporting on "rock solid" evidence that Ahmad Chalabi personally gave Iranian Intelligence officers information so sensitive that if revealed it could, quote, "get Americans killed."

It seems that lots of people knew this guy was a fuckwad a long time ago. Cheney and Wolfowitz used him because his bullshit would get them what they wanted, a war with Saddam.

So, while whether or not Chalabi is a fucking spy is a serious question, the more serious question is whether people with access to all of our top level intelligence should have known he was a goddamn spy, or at the very least that he wasn't quite trustworthy enough to rest our entire justification for war on his freakin' word.

Impeach. Imprison.

R.I.P. Neocon Jerkfaces

Josh Marshall:

How'd we get into this? After 50 years of pretty consistently prudential foreign policy, managed mostly on a consensus of bipartisan agreement (yes, there are exceptions, but by and large, true), they decided to bet the national ranch on an idea. Actually it was a series of ideas, wrapped together in an odd tangle that could look like an odd jumble when viewed from outside. The key, however, was betting the national ranch on steep odds.

Only, they weren't confident the country would get behind such a riverboat gamble. So they lied about what they were doing. They didn't trust the people -- which might be an epitaph we should return to.

Now, what do we expect of people who make reckless gambles with other people's money? Of people who can't discipline themselves enough to distinguish between their hopes and reality? What do you expect of that ne'er-do-well relative who's always hitting you up for a loan because he's come up with a sure thing?

Do you expect those sorts of folks to take responsibility when things go bad? Or do you expect them to blame others?

Character, alas, really does count.

Now (well, soon) it's time to see if the American public has any character.

Ummm, Holy Crap?

A teacher in New Mexico was suspended and later fired for "not censoring the poetry of his students."

It seems one of the students in the poetry club he advised (now permanently terminated) read a poem which criticized the war in Iraq and the administrations failure to back up its "No Child Left Behind" policy.

After firing Nevins and terminating the teaching and reading of poetry in the school, the principal and the military liaison read a poem of their own as they raised the flag outside the school. When the principal had the flag at full staff, he applauded the action he'd taken in concert with the military liaison.

Then to all students and faculty who did not share his political opinions, the principal shouted: "Shut your faces."

The military liaison? Did your high school have a military liaison? Maybe they just mean ROTC, but still, that's a chilling phrase if I ever heard one.

May 19, 2004
It's Official, They're Criminals

A General Accounting Office report has concluded that the Medicare "news packages" the administration produced and distributed violated federal law.

The agency said the videos were a form of "covert propaganda" because the government was not identified as the source of the materials, broadcast by at least 40 television stations in 33 markets. The agency also expressed some concern about the content of the videos, but based its ruling on the lack of disclosure.

Remember these? They were the ones that were distributed and aired on local news stations and ended with, "from Washington, this is Karen Ryan reporting," giving the distinct impression they were news stories, when if fact they were straight-up bullshit.

The Department of Health and Human Services mounted this vigorous defense:

William A. Pierce, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, who helped develop the videos, said: "We disagree. It's not covert. TV stations knew the videos came from us and could have identified the government as the source if they had wanted to."

So, the government can distribute partisan propaganda concerning some of the most controversial legislation of the year, and disguise it as news, but it's the TV stations responsibility to catch them. "Hey, they could have caught us. It's not our fault they didn't catch on to our ridiculously dishonest scheme."

The accounting office dismissed that argument. The intended audience, it said, was not news directors, but viewers, and "the video news releases did not alert viewers that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was the source."

So when do these guys go to jail?

Following Orders

ABC News has obtained two new pictures from Abu Ghraib.

How are we going to explain these?

thumbs up over corpse
Spc. Sabrina Harmon               Spc. Charles Graner

Note that the man packed in ice, Manadel al-Jamadi, is not humiliated. He's not scared, hungry or tired. He's dead.

It makes me sick to my stomach that these people wear our country's uniform.

I know war is dehumanizing, and soldiers develop a certain tolerance to death, especially the death of the enemy, but there is real joy in the eyes of these two. No matter what their orders were, these are sick human beings. Their orders surely couldn't have included enjoying it so much.

Records Show At Least 5 Interrogation Deaths

Talk Left breaks down The Denver Post's report on the deaths of 5 prisoners while they were undergoing "interrogation" in U.S. custody.

Pentagon Official: "Torture is the only thing you can call this," said a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal investigations into prisoner abuses. "There is a lot about our country's interrogation techniques that is very troubling. These are violations of military law."

Well, Debbie Daniel, a commentator on the GOPUSA website, sees these actions a little bit differently. That is, through the lens of COMPLETE INSANITY.

We're better than that . . . we have a higher standard of behavior . . . we treat people differently because we're Americans? Is this what I'm hearing?

Who in the world are we fooling? I agree we are better than that, but I'm here to tell you, if we don't get the same mind set these killers have, it's over.

You have to meet the enemy where he is. You have to get inside his mind; to think like he does or you can't win.

It wasn't like us to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima, but we had to.

It's not like us to use certain tactics to get information, but we have to.

These are not refined people with manners, who will sign papers and say they will treat our prisoners humanely.

Our President couldn't have said it any plainer; we're dealing with the "Axis of Evil" . . . in other words - Satan himself.

(emphasis hers)

Her reference to Satan would indicate that she's a Christian. Need I say more? Does she have any tiny little scrap of an idea what it's supposed to mean to be Christian?

Remember when Moses dropped the other five commandments in History of the World, Part I? Maybe she managed to piece them back together.

XI: Meet thine enemy where he beeth.
XII: Sometimes you just have to drop a hydrogen bomb on people.
XIII: That whole thing about turning the other cheek? That was a total joke. Come on! You can't win that way! Kill the bastards!
XIV: Right. Forget the part about not killing too.
XV: Ah, to hell with it. Do whatever you want.

She goes on, if you can possibly stand to read it:

We took 120,000 Japanese Americans - two thirds were citizens of the United States - and locked them up during World War II. We put them inside barbed-wire fencing; we didn't strip them of their clothes - we stripped them of their dignity; took them from their homes; caused many to lose their businesses, because we could not take a chance that any one of them might hurt us. None did, but we still couldn't take that chance . . . we were at war.

So now we're okay with our treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II? That's a policy change I hadn't heard about. Shit, why aren't we rounding up suspicious looking people now? As she says, we couldn't take a chance then, so why take a chance now?

I can't quote her anymore, it's making me sick. She goes on to bizarrely blaim "the media" for preventing her from seeing caskets returning from Iraq, forgetting of course that it was the government that tried to stop these images. And naturally she makes the insane comparisons between our treatment of prisoners and the beheading of Nick Berg, joining the ranks of conservatives who want to judge our morality by the standard of "WWTD -- What Would Terrorists Do?"

Anyway, if you're a glutton for punishment, you can read the rest of her insane rant, keeping in mind how many people are likely to agree with her.

Son of a BITCH!

It's nothing new that presidents running for reelection give high profile grants to need programs in the run up to an election. It sucks, but it's nothing new.

What is new is giving grants to programs that you have tried and often suceeded at completely eviscerating in your budgets.

But in a twist this election season, many administration officials are taking credit for spreading largess through programs that President Bush tried to eliminate or to cut sharply.

For example, Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million.

The administration has been particularly energetic in publicizing health programs, even ones that had been scheduled for cuts or elimination.

Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, announced recently that the administration was awarding $11.7 million in grants to help 30 states plan and provide coverage for people without health insurance. Mr. Bush had proposed ending the program in each of the last three years.

The administration also announced recently that it was providing $11.6 million to the states so they could buy defibrillators to save the lives of heart attack victims. But Mr. Bush had proposed cutting the budget for such devices by 82 percent, to $2 million from $10.9 million.


In April, Secretary Thompson announced that the administration was awarding $3.1 million in grants to improve health care in rural areas of Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico and New York. He did not mention that the administration was trying to cut the same rural health program by 72 percent, to $11.1 million next year, from $39.6 million.

Mr. Thompson likewise recently boasted that the administration was awarding $16 million to 11 universities to train blacks and Hispanic Americans as doctors, dentists and pharmacists. But at the same time, the administration was urging Congress to abolish the program, on the ground that "private and corporate entities" could pay for training.

Goddamn lying assholes.

Pleadin' the Fifth

Mark Kleiman asks the obvious question raised by this L.A. Times article: If this is just a couple of bad apples, why have three key witnesses, including a "senior official in charge of interrogations," refused to testify? Huh? Why?

That all of the prospective witnesses called up by prosecutors invoked the military equivalent of the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination indicates that key players in the abuse scandal may be closing ranks to save themselves and one another.

First Abu Ghraib Sentence Handed Down

Jeremy Sivits plead guilty to charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners and was given the maximum penalty: one year in jail, loss of rank and a bad conduct discharge.

His plea was in exchange for cooperating with the government in their investigations. He apparently made a tearful apology in front of the court, saying he should have done more to stop the abuse.

Signs of Sanity Among Many Catholics

Some good news in the culture wars: It seems that many Catholics have a damn sight more sense than many of their idiotic leaders.

Atrios quotes an article detailing the general feeling in New Jersey that the church should "get of Governor McGreevey's back," and a piece from Businessweek pointing out the inherent hypocrisy in singling out Kerry for scrutiny.

Also see Colorado Luis on the local reaction to Biship Sheridan's recent dumbass move.

40 Killed at Iraqi Wedding

U.S. denies report aircraft attacked an Iraq wedding.

Iraqi officials say it was a wedding party, and folks were shooting into the air to celebrate, while U.S. officials maintain that militants were firing on U.S. aircraft.

Hard to tell what the truth is, but video showing a truck full of bodies, including women and children, isn't going to play well.

May 18, 2004
Abu Ghraib Witness Speaks Up

From ABC News, via Atrios.

May 18, 2004 -- Dozens of soldiers -- other than the seven military police reservists who have been charged -- were involved in the abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and there is an effort under way in the Army to hide it, a key witness in the investigation told ABCNEWS.

"There's definitely a cover-up," the witness, Sgt. Samuel Provance, said. "People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet."

Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib last September. He spoke to ABCNEWS despite orders from his commanders not to.

"What I was surprised at was the silence," said Provance. "The collective silence by so many people that had to be involved, that had to have seen something or heard something."

Provance, now stationed in Germany, ran the top secret computer network used by military intelligence at the prison.

He said that while he did not see the actual abuse take place, the interrogators with whom he worked freely admitted they directed the MPs' rough treatment of prisoners.


"One interrogator told me about how commonly the detainees were stripped naked, and in some occasions, wearing women's underwear," Provance said. "If it's your job to strip people naked, yell at them, scream at them, humiliate them, it's not going to be too hard to move from that to another level."

According to Provance, some of the physical abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib included U.S. soldiers "striking [prisoners] on the neck area somewhere and the person being knocked out. Then [the soldier] would go to the next detainee, who would be very fearful and voicing their fear, and the MP would calm him down and say, 'We're not going to do that. It's OK. Everything's fine,' and then do the exact same thing to him." Provance also described an incident when two drunken interrogators took a female Iraqi prisoner from her cell in the middle of the night and stripped her naked to the waist. The men were later restrained by another MP.

Sgt. Provance goes on to describe how the investigation has focused only on the MPs and not on Military Intelligence, and how he has been threatened and ostracized for coming forward.

Maj. Gen. George Fay, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, was assigned by the Pentagon to investigate the role of military intelligence in the abuse at the Iraq prison.

Fay started his probe on April 23, but Provance said when Fay interviewed him, the general seemed interested only in the military police, not the interrogators, and seemed to discourage him from testifying.

Provance said Fay threatened to take action against him for failing to report what he saw sooner, and the sergeant fears he will be ostracized for speaking out.

"I feel like I'm being punished for being honest," Provance told ABCNEWS. "You know, it was almost as if I actually felt if all my statements were shredded and I said, like most everybody else, 'I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything. I don't know what you're talking about,' then my life would be just fine right now."


"I would say many people are probably hiding and wishing to God that this storm passes without them having to be investigated [or] personally looked at."

Let's hope there are more people like Sgt. Provance who will come forward with this kind of information. If we really believe -- and want any one else to believe -- the "a few bad apples" story, then we have to praise Provance and try to find more like him. A coverup will rightly reinforce the idea that we only want this thing to go away and to limit our embarrassment, not to find the truth. As if the behavior at the prison didn't undercut our authority enough, covering it up and then covering up the investigation can only make things worse.

Chalabi Finally Cut Off

It's about damn time.

U.S. Human Rights & Irony Report Issues

You may recall that an expected report from the State Department on what the U.S. was doing to promote human rights was delayed earlier this month to avoid an unfortunate juxtaposition with the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal.

Well, now they've released it, and you can imagine how much they really didn't want to.

Guess which country the following excerpt refers to:

Security forces continued to torture and abuse detainees and prisoners, arbitrarily arrest and detain persons and detain them incommunicado.

Hmmmm. Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? It's uncanny. But it's our report, they couldn't be talking about us. No, in fact the quote refers to Saudi Arabia, a country whose record on human rights the report rates as "poor."

The report also criticizes many countries for restricting freedom of the press at a time the Coalition Provisional Authority has taken to task such Arabic-language media outlets as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya for what it said were inflammatory, misleading reports against the U.S. military.

The authority sparked outrage in March when it closed for 60 days the Baghdad newspaper Al Hawse, published by followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, accusing it of inciting violence against coalition troops.

Ugh. How embarrassing.

Getting Drafty in Here?

Kevin Drum illustrates Nick Confessore on the subject of the Inactive Reserves being called into service.

reserve callup memo

Confessore's description:

A friend of mine who is currently an inactive Army reservist forwarded me some memos he received regarding future mobilizations -- memos that indicate that we are not far from some kind of conscription in the next few years. According to my friend, recruiters are telling inactive reservists that they're going to be called up one way or another eventually, so they might as well sign up now and get into non-Iraq-deploying units while they still can. There's also a "warning order" -- i.e., a heads-up -- from the Army's personnel command that talks about the involuntary transfer of inactive reservists to the active reserves, and thus into units that are on deck for the next few Iraq rotations.


I doubt we're really anywhere near an actual draft situation, but they certainly seem to be getting down to the last options short of some kind of draft.

My brother, a former Army Captain, may be in the Inactive Reserves, I have to call him. Incidentally, the last time we spoke, I asked him if he had any friends in Iraq. He said he did, and that they say things are going much worse than we think. Hard to imagine.

Activist Judges: Sometimes Good, Sometimes Bad

Kos points out the blatant irony in Bush's praising of Brown v Board of Ed today.

Bush Today

"Fifty years ago today, nine judges announced that they had looked at the Constitution and saw no justification for the segregation and humiliation of an entire race," Bush said at the opening of a national historic site at Monroe Elementary, a former all-black school in the heartland of the school desegregation effort.

"Here on the corner of 15th and Monroe, and in schools like it across America, that was a day of justice, and it was a long time coming," the president said.

But Bush said America still faces challenges.

"The habits of racism in America have not all been broken," he said. "The habits of respect must be taught to every generation." He said laws against discrimination should be vigorously enforced.

Bush Today 2

"The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges."

source 1
source 2

But kudos to those "few activist" judges who redefined the "sacred institution" of segregation. And make no mistake, in 1954, segregation was a sacred institution to many people.

To sum up: Judges who protect the freedoms of people you like and/or pretend to like: good. Judges who protect the freedoms of icky gays: activists.

As Kos points out, the decision in Brown v Board of Education shows exactly why our judicial system is the way it is: to protect the Constitution from wrong-headed public opinion. I'm sure that public opinion polls in 1954 did not show much support for integration (I can't find one). The public was wrong. The Constitution protects everyone. Separate is not equal, not in schools and not in marriage.

Equal is equal, and Bush is a giant hypocrite.

May 17, 2004
The Simpsons vs America

Just watched yesterday's Simpsons, entitled "Bart-Mangled Banner" in which the family is sent to Alcatraz for being unpatriotic (Bart moons the flag). I also see that next week's season finale is called "Fraudcast News" and is summarized thusly: "Lisa Simpson fights for freedom of speech in Springfield by creating her own newspaper."

Looks like they're really stepping up the pointed satire.

Some quotes from yesterday's episode:

Principal Skinner: "Your child's behavior appalls me. Not just as a principal, but as a veteran of America's only losing war." Homer: "To date."

[Interior of Springfield Shopper newsroom]
Editor: (holds up photo of Bart mooning flag) "Alright, who can take a story and blow it waaaaay out of proportion?"
Reporter: "I'm your man, boss!"
Editor: "I want you to overhype this story so much it makes the New York Post look like the New York Times. Or the New York Times look like the New York Post. I forget which one the good one is."

[The Simpsons go on a cable talk show to try to clear the matter up]
Anchor: "Bart Simpson, what do you hate most about this country? Is it the freedom?"
Bart: "Nash, I've realized something. I'm the worst kid in the world, and the last thing I deserve is forgiveness, but [starts crying] with a little help from Jesus and our fighting men and women overseas..."
Anchor: "Alright, so if I hear you correctly, you're saying that America is better than Jesus. [points at Homer] Do you agree? Eh, before he can answer, do you [points at Marge]?"

[Inside the Kwik-E-Mart, two of Apu's babies are fighting]
Marge: "Uh-oh. Punab and Umar are fighting!"
Apu: "No no. Those are their pre witch hunt names. Their new names are Freedom, Lincoln, Condoleezza, Coke, Pepsi, Manifest Destiny, Apple Pie and Superman."

Church marquee reads "Is God Patriotic Enough?"
Reverand Lovejoy: "Lord give us the courage to worship the American flag, be it on a car, a belt buckle or on your holy person."

[S.W.A.T. team breaks into church, points guns at Simpsons]
Policeman: "Simpsons! You're under arrest for violation of the Government Known Best Act."

[Simpsons in a jail cell]
Homer: [writing in a notebook] "Do you get time off for snitching on your cell mates?"
[Shot of notebook, where he's written: "Bart - Never served in armed forces."

Lisa: "Well, we're not the only ones to be unjustly imprisoned. Check out all the left-wing celebrities."
[Camera pans across cells showing Michael Moore, The Dixie Chicks and Elmo]
Elmo: "Elmo go to wrong fundraiser!"
Homer: "Bill Clinton! What are you doing here?"
Clinton: "Oh, I called the Republican tax cuts unwise. And I stand by it! They're unwise! I want my Washington Post!"
Guard: "Here's your Washington Post! [sprays Clinton with fire hose] Ya like that Clinton?!"
Other Guard: "You traitors pipe down. You're all here because you hate freedom."
Bearded Inmate: "My only crime was driving a truck full of explosives in from Canada."
Marge: "Haah, I don't know why they put the real ones in with the joke ones."

After a trip to the Ronald Reagan Reeducation Center, they plot to escape during the prison talent show, during their musical number.

Bart (singing): "Americans are brave and loya. So, come on jerks... give us your oil."
Lisa (singing): "My card here says ACLU. Now look what I'm going to do. [she burns the card]

[they escape and start swimming]
Lisa: "Swim toward San Francisco!"
Homer: "I'm not made of money! We'll swim to Oakland."

[they hop a French ship and are eating at the Eiffel Tower]
Marge: "I miss America."
Lisa: "I miss America too. The United States has its grandeur, and it's follies, but mostly, it's the place where all our stuff is."

Ah, The Simpsons. Is there anything they don't know?

WMD Found!

Just kidding.

Well, they did find a roadside bomb made from an artillery shell that contained sarin.

General Kimmitt said American officials believe the weapon came from the stockpiles of the Hussein regime. Mr. Hussein had declared all such rounds destroyed before the 1991 Gulf War.

See? Saddam was a total liar; he said they were all gone but there was at least one left somewhere. If we hadn't invaded Iraq, killing thousands of Iraqis and losing close to a thousand of our own troops (so far), that artillery round might have hurt somebody.

I would say they would be nuts to use this as evidence that Saddam did in fact have WMD, but they are nuts, and they probably will.

The End of the World as We Know It

And guess what? It feels fine.

That's right, gay people have started getting married in Massachusetts, and so far, not one heterosexual marriage has broken up or been prevented as a result. We haven't even seen any reports of a biblical plague or anyone being smitten from above.

No, all the reports are of happy, loving people publicly declaring their love for one another, and being granted the same rights as anyone else.

gay marriage
Oh, the horror.

American Athletes Told Not To Wave Flags

How sad is it that our reputation around the world is so bad that our athletes are being told not to wave flags at the Olympics in Athens, for fear of angering the crowd?

It's damn sad.

American athletes have been warned not to wave the U.S. flag during their medal celebrations at this summer's Olympic Games in Athens, for fear of provoking crowd hostility and harming the country's already-battered public image. The spectacle of victorious athletes grabbing a national flag and parading it around the stadium is a familiar part of international sporting competition, but U.S. Olympic officials have ordered their 550-strong team to exercise restraint and avoid any jingoistic behavior.


"We're not the favorite kid in the world right now," conceded Bill Martin, the USOC's acting president. "We are sensitive not only to the security issue, but to jingoism in its raw sense. That is why we are sending people around to educate the athletes as to the appropriate behavior."


The simple act of holding up our flag is now considered by many to be an act of aggression to the point where we're warning our citizens to display restraint. Personally, I'm all for restraining dumb-ass patriotism anyway, but when's the last time a nation's flag inspired such feelings all around the world? Swastika, anyone?

P.S. -- and no, I'm not comparing the U.S. to Nazi Germany in policy or action, I'm comparing the feelings of the world public toward the two.

Oh, and here's a favorite quote about patriotism:
"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it." -- George Bernard Shaw

May 16, 2004
Poor Powell

As if the guy doesn't have enough problems...

Drudge, and Kevin Drum are reporting this, and I watched it this morning, so I'm reporting it to. Am I adding anything to the discussion? No.

Tim Russert is interviewing Colin Powell via a satellite feed from Jordan. Apparently the interview was scheduled for 10 minutes, but went a little long. As Russert is asking his final question -- a semi-tough one about Powell's famous speech at the U.N. -- the camera on Powell swings to the right to a nice peaceful shot of palm trees while the following exchange happens over this shot.

meet the press

TIM RUSSERT: Finally, Mr. Secretary, in February of 2003, you placed your enormous personal credibility before the United Nations and laid out a case against Saddam Hussein, citing.

(Camera moved off of interview subject)



EMILY MILLER, PRESS AIDE: No. They can't use it, they're editing it.

SECRETARY POWELL: He's still asking the questions.


SECRETARY POWELL: Tim, I am sorry I lost you.

MR. RUSSERT: I am right here Mr. Secretary. I would hope they would put you back on camera. I don't know who did that.

EMILY MILLER, PRESS AIDE: He was going to go for another five minutes.

SECRETARY POWELL: We've really scre...

MR. RUSSERT: I think that was one of your staff Mr. Secretary. I don't think that's appropriate.

SECRETARY POWELL: Emily, get out of the way. Bring the camera back please. (Camera returns to the interview subject) I think we're back on Tim, go ahead with your last question.

MR. RUSSERT: Thank you very much, sir.

In February of 2003, you put your enormous personal reputation on the line before the United Nations and said that you had solid sources for the case against Saddam Hussein. It now appears that an agent called "Curve Ball" had misled the CIA by suggesting that Saddam had trucks and trains that were delivering biological chemical weapons.

How concerned are you that some of the information you shared with the world is now inaccurate and discredited?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm very concerned. When I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me. We studied it carefully. We looked at the sourcing and the case of the mobile trucks and trains. There was multiple sourcing for that. Unfortunately, that multiple sourcing over time has turned out to be not accurate, and so I'm deeply disappointed.

But I'm also comfortable that at the time that I made the presentation it reflected the collective judgment, the sound judgment, of the intelligence community, but it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that I'm disappointed, and I regret it.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Secretary, we thank you very much for joining us again and sharing your views with us today. SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks, Tim.




Apparently this Emily Miller, Powell's press aide, used to be an aide to Tom DeLay, so I'm sure she's a bit sensitive.

There was a significant audio delay, so I imagine they hadn't heard Russert begin his last question when the camera swung off of Powell, but still, what kind of a media aide ever moves the camera off of her boss while he's on national television? An ex-media aide, that's what kind.

p.s. -- I don't really feel sorry for Powell that he'll now have to apologize for this, he made this bed a long time ago by continuing to go along with his boss. In fact, I find him more responsible in a way because while Bush, Cheney, Rummy and the gang are nuts, I at least get the feeling that they actually believe in the crap they're saying. Powell, on the other hand, comes off as just pathetically following along with an ideology he doesn't share.

UPDATE :: You can watch the video here.

Moveable Type 3

As many have probably read, Moveable Type has released the much anticipated version 3.0, to a whole hell of a lot of not-so-much-anticipated rage in the blog world.

The first version of their new pricing scheme was met with such immediate and widespread acrimony that they changed major aspects of it in less than 2 days.

I don't have much to say about the whole thing, except that I'm disappointed, but not enraged. I have no problem with them charging money for their software, which I have happily used for almost 2 years. I've voluntarily donated money to them, motivated not quite entirely by their carrot of a "Recently Updated" key which drives a fair bit of traffic.

They still offer a free version for personal use, which is good, but their definition of what constitutes this personal use is the big problem. The free version is limited to 1 author and 3 weblogs. The 3 blog limit is okay, sort of, but the 1 author thing is ridiculous. If you want to set up a family blog, you have to pay. Not only do you have to pay, but if you want to add your Aunt Gladys to the blog, you have to pay more.

Anyway, I'm not going to go on and on about this, because, you know, who cares. I basically agree with what Jason Kottke has to say about it: Charging for MT is fine, but the tiered pricing structure they've come up with is terrible.

This site will probably stay on MT 2.661 for now, though this means my visitors will have to suffer that insufferable server error on my comments for a while longer. I have looked into switching to WordPress, and given my tendency to jump into upgrades and redesigns without much thought of the work and time involved for little benefit, that might just happen soon. WordPress is public, open, and looks pretty damn cool.

That is all.

May 15, 2004
Poll Shows: Bush Stinks

A new composite poll, from Steven Ruggles via Kevin Drum, shows how completely dependent Bush's approval is on "rally around the flag" kinds of moments.

bush approval poll

It's nice to see his numbers in the toilet, and it's also nice to note that the spikes from the three highlighted events get smaller and smaller. This shows that many people have abandoned him and aren't coming back. They realize that capturing Saddam doesn't mean Bush is suddenly doing a good job, and the bad news is overwhelming any good.

The danger is that they launch an all out effort to get Osama sometime this summer or early fall, which would most likely lead to his capture. Hopefully people have seen enough by now to realize that nabbing bin Laden isn't much of a victory. It's far too little, way too late.

Another possibility is another terrorist attack in the U.S. which would inevitably produce a big bump for the president, but I'm not convinced it would be nearly as profound as it was after 9/11.

For the past 2 1/2 years we've been very aware of our vulnerability to attack, and suffering another major one could cause people to decide that the administration hasn't done its job. For most Americans, 9/11 was a complete shock, so we rallied around the president. Another attack would raise serious questions about how honestly the administration did its work of securing the homeland, and how our adventure in Iraq has completely distracted us and stolen massive resources from the real war on terror. Not to mention that the Iraq war has solidified worldwide sentiment against us, ensuring that far more people wish us harm than did before.

Consider this: If our strategy after 9/11 had been different; if we had kept troop strength up in Afghanistan to finish the job there properly; if we had used even a tiny fraction of the money we've blown on Iraq for intelligence overhauls, worldwide law enforcement efforts and more spies on the ground in terrorist organizations; if we had taken advantage of global goodwill after 9/11 instead of squandering it at light speed, would another attack be more or less likely?

In my opinion, it would obviously be far less likely.

I'm not sure that the overall "American Voter" sees things this way. Many, many people will think that if we change our leadership after an attack, we are allowing the terrorists to vote in our election. People make this argument about Spain all the time.

There are so many problems with this argument.

First and most important is that the terrorists DON'T CARE who runs our government. They hate us. They hate Republicans, they hate Democrats. They hate Ralph Nader. What is important in this regard is not what the terrorists want -- they want us dead -- it's what we can do about the people who aren't terrorists, yet.

Which leads to the second problem: If they do have an interest, why do we assume that it is in replacing George Bush? This is a completely simplistic way of looking at things. George Bush and his policies have probably been the best recruiting tool Islamic terrorists have ever had. This argument also assumes the ridiculous idea that if John Kerry wins, we'll suddenly just stop fighting terrorism, as if to say, "Oh, terrorism? We're okay with that now. It's really not so bad. Go ahead. Terrorize away."

Imagine this scenario: You're a young Muslim. You're on the fence about this "great satan" thing, though. America didn't used to seem all that bad, the freedom, the prosperity, the MTV -- but now, well, things just look so terrible in your home. People are dying all around you, there is no freedom to be seen, and now you see these liberators torturing prisoners. Your faith in America is likely to fade fast. All of these shouting, radical clerics may have a point about some of this stuff.

Now, Kerry wins the election, showing that the majority of Americans don't agree with Bush's policies either. Your faith in America and democracy is somewhat restored!

Or, Bush wins, telling you that the citizens of America are on the side of the policies of the past 4 years, the policies which have driven you to radicalism. Pass the AK-47.

I find this to be a credible scenario, and one I could imagine happening in thousands of people's minds.

Whether it happens or not, the point is that our election will certainly send a message to the rest of the world, but it is not a simple thing to determine what that message will be. Simply assuming that a vote for Bush is a vote against terrorism is ridiculously shortsighted.

We should be voting based on what we want our country to be, what values we feel it should stand for, not based on fear. Do we want our country to be one consumed with fear and distrust, greedy beyond measure, and unable to see past its own nose? One that holds the world to moral standards that it can't begin to live up to itself? Or do we want a country that can stand up to fear and terror, not just with our great weapons, but with our hearts and our minds? Fear is the absolute greatest weapon of the terrorist. If they attack again -- and they will -- our great challenge will be to stand by our beliefs and our principles and not abandon them in the face of danger. The challenge will be to remember what it is that we're supposed to be fighting for.

May 14, 2004
U.S. Military Bars Torture

In a surprise move, the U.S. military announced today that they have banned the use of certain interrogation methods in Iraq.

The U.S. military, facing a scandal over the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail, has banned several interrogation methods in Iraq, including sleep and sensory deprivation and body "stress positions," defense officials said on Friday.

The officials, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said these techniques previously required high-level approval from the U.S. military leadership in Iraq, but now will be prohibited completely. The officials said the decision was made on Thursday by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

A senior Central Command official said the U.S. military leadership in Iraq never actually approved a request from personnel at any prison to use any of the techniques that now are being prohibited, although these methods had been listed as among those for which approval could be requested.


Chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita told reporters that there has been "a rigorous process since long before these allegations came to light" at the Abu Ghraib facility on the outskirts of Baghdad. But Di Rita indicated that "the heightened scrutiny of the last couple of weeks" might have played a role in Sanchez's decision.

It might have played a role? Or else, what, it's just a coincidence? Give me a break.

These were techniques for which "approval could be requested" but it never actually was requested, or at least never actually "approved." This sounds like a lot of doubletalk to me. If it was possible to get approval for these methods, that is certainly a tacit approval of the methods themselves, even if specific permission was never given in a specific case. This seems to strongly contradict what they've been saying, which is more along the lines of, "we had no idea anybody would do this kind of thing."

Sleep and sensory deprivation are one thing, but what the hell is "body stress positions" supposed to mean? That sure seems sufficiently vague to include just about anything.

Broom handle up your ass? It's a "body stress position."

Another Catholic Bishop Loses His Frickin' Mind
The Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs has issued a pastoral letter saying that American Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who defy church teaching by supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research.


Isn't it funny that the four issues he lists are all major Republican platforms? No support for euthanasia? What about the death penalty? That's okay? What about wars? Isn't "Thou shalt not kill" pretty clear? It's not "Thou shalt not kill unless thine president sayeth it's okay."

If there was any justice in this country when it comes to religion, the church would immediately have it's tax-exempt status investigated and hopefully revoked. This is unbelievable.

Of course, they have no way of knowing how people vote. Are they going to start requiring church goers to sign affidavits that they support certain politicians and do not support others in order to attend mass?

What about adultery? What about fornication? What about stealing and lying? What about clothing the poor? What about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven?

In the interview, the bishop said that his aim was to clarify the standards for Catholic voters and that he hoped they applied them in their choice of candidates. He said that on the "basic moral teachings of the church,'' there is no "wiggle room."

He also said he hoped to reform the "cafeteria Catholics" who believed it was acceptable to pick and choose the doctrines they agreed with.

There is no wiggle room, except for all the wiggle room there is when it comes to issues besides these four.

You know, I don't believe in any of this stuff, but sometimes I hope it's all true. I like to imagine that when these people die, they will be confronted with their staggering hypocrisy. You know, if god exists, he probably knows when you're being an asshole. You're not fooling anybody. You're going to get busted for this shit.


Japanese Make Huge Strides in T-Shirt Folding

As mentioned before, the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in the sciences and other intellectual pursuits (but we're making great surges in hypocrisy!).

Take, for example, this video, via Boing Boing.

DOD to Bergs : Piss Off
Berg's body arrived Wednesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. His parents had requested permission to be at the base when the coffin arrived, but that request was denied. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said Thursday that refusal came from the Department of Defense.



As I've mentioned before, The Onion has become redundant. Real life is becoming so ironic and nonsensical that there is just no need for their particular brand of adult-oriented satire.

The following quotes are from the Republican Party Platform, as stated at their 2000 convention. I'll throw in some sarcastic commentary as we go along, just to liven things up. I'll be in italics for your reading pleasure. Please hold your head-slapping until the end, if at all possible.

(Keep in mind that when they say "the administration," they're referring to Clinton.)

"The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration's diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries."

[Ed: Arrogance - check... Inconsistency - well, actually they've been pretty consistently terrible, so I'll have to go with no here... Unreliable - definitely big checky mccheck... Undermined alliances - well duh... Alienated friends - we have friends?.. Emboldened our adversaries - big check!.. Who were we talking about again?]

"Gerrymandered congressional districts are an affront to democracy and an insult to the voters. We oppose that and any other attempt to rig the electoral process."

[Ed: Holy shit! If that ain't the constantly-manipulating-procedural-rules-and-illegally-redrawing-congressional-districts pot calling the kettle constantly-manipulating-procedural-rules-and-illegally-redrawing-congressional-districts!]

"Nor should the intelligence community be made the scapegoat for political misjudgments. A Republican administration working with the Congress will respect the needs and quiet sacrifices of these public servants as it strengthens America's intelligence and counter-intelligence capabilities and reorients them toward the dangers of the future."

"The current administration has casually sent American armed forces on dozens of missions without clear goals, realizable objectives, favorable rules of engagement, or defined exit strategies. Over the past seven years, a shrunken American military has been run ragged by a deployment tempo that has eroded its military readiness. Many units have seen their operational requirements increased four-fold, wearing out both people and equipment."

"The rule of law, the very foundation for a free society, has been under assault, not only by criminals from the ground up, but also from the top down. An administration that lives by evasion, coverup, stonewalling, and duplicity has given us a totally discredited Department of Justice."

[Ed: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Isn't the Department of Justice called the Ministry of Protecting Children From Boobies now?]

"Sending our military on vague, aimless, and endless missions rapidly saps morale. Even the highest morale is eventually undermined by back-to-back deployments, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, inadequate training, and rapidly declining readiness."

"Our goal for NATO is a strong political and security fellowship of independent nations in which consultations are mutually respected and defense burdens mutually shared."

"As the traditional advocate of America's veterans, the Republican Party remains committed to fulfilling America's obligations to them. That is why we defeated the administration's attempt to replace veterans' health care with a national system for everybody."

[Ed: Yeah, nobody wants everyone to have health care. What's that shit about? Health care, schmealth care. And it is often overlooked that when the Clinton administration said "everybody" they meant "everybody except veterans."]

"The weak leadership and neglect of the administration have allowed America's intelligence capabilities, including space based systems, to atrophy, resulting in repeated proliferation surprises such as Iraq's renewed chemical and biological weapons programs."

[Ed: Note Republicans lack of obsession with Iraq pre-9/11. If only we had had some space lasers, we might have been able to stop that madman sooner.]

"The Social Security surplus is off-limits, off budget, and will not be touched. We will not stop there, for we are also determined to protect Medicare and to pay down the national debt. Reducing that debt is both a sound policy goal and a moral imperative. Our families and most states are required to balance their budgets; it is reasonable to assume the federal government should do the same. Therefore, we reaffirm our support for a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget."

[Ed: Hmmm.. What? That seems just weird and like a lie.]

"Inspired by Presidents Reagan and Bush, Republicans hammered into place the framework for today's prosperity and surpluses. We cut tax rates, simplified the tax code, deregulated industries, and opened world markets to American enterprise. The result was the tremendous growth in the 1980s that created the venture capital to launch the technology revolution of the 1990s. That's the origin of what is now called the New Economy: the longest economic boom in the Twentieth Century, 40 million new jobs, the lowest inflation and unemployment in memory."

"A Republican president will work with businesses and with other nations to reduce harmful emissions through new technologies without compromising America's sovereignty or competitiveness -- and without forcing Americans to walk to work."

[Ed: See here they mean "reduce" emissions in the sense of "increasing" them. It's a technical distinction. And what's with that walk to work dig? Must have been in response to the Democrats "Ban the Automobile" platform.]

"We applaud Governor Bush's pledge to name only judges who have demonstrated that they share his conservative beliefs and respect the Constitution."

[Ed: Yes! We'd hate to have any kind of diversity of belief among our judiciary! Fuck that! Respect the Constitution, at least the parts we like. The rest, not so much.]

"Reacting belatedly to inevitable crises, the administration constantly enlarges the reach of its rhetoric -- most recently in Vice President Gore's "new security agenda" that adds disease, climate, and all the world's ethnic or religious conflicts to an undiminished set of existing American responsibilities. If there is some limit to candidate Gore's new agenda for America as global social worker, he has yet to define it."

[Ed: Yeah, I mean worldwide AIDS epidemic, drug resistant bacteria, global climate change, growing threats of terrorism from escalating ethnic and religious conflicts? I really fail to see how any of that is our business.]

"A new Republican administration will patiently rebuild an international coalition opposed to Saddam Hussein and committed to joint action. We will insist that Iraq comply fully with its disarmament commitments. We will maintain the sanctions on the Iraqi regime while seeking to alleviate the suffering of innocent Iraqi people. We will react forcefully and unequivocally to any evidence of reconstituted Iraqi capabilities for producing weapons of mass destruction."

[Ed: That's right, we said any evidence. Strong, weak, made up, completely discredited... evidence is evidence.]

"The administration has used an arsenal of dilatory tactics to block any serious support to the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella organization reflecting a broad and representative group of Iraqis who wish to free their country from the scourge of Saddam Hussein's regime."

[Ed: Say, didn't those guys turn out to be big giant liars, faking intelligence and pocketing all kinds of cash? Aren't we still paying that Chalabi motherfucker $340,000 a month for leading us on a wild goose chase for his own profit?]

"Republicans prefer an America that is far less dependent on foreign crude oil. A Republican president will not be so tolerant if OPEC colludes to drive up the world price of oil, as it has done this past year."

[Ed: No, he will not tolerate collusion. Not if they collude without him, that is. He'd better be in on any colludin' that goes on or Prince Bandar isn't getting the nice cabin at Kennebunkport this summer.]


Now, let's play compare and contrast a little with a couple quotes from the Democratic platform from the same year.

"Whether terrorism is sponsored by a foreign nation or inspired by a single fanatic individual, such as Osama Bin Laden, Forward Engagement requires trying to disrupt terrorist networks, even before they are ready to attack. We must improve coordination internationally and domestically to share intelligence and develop operational plans. We must continue the comprehensive approach that has resulted in the development of a national counter-terrorism strategy involving all arms and levels of our government. We must continue to target terrorist finances, break up support cells, and disrupt training. And we must close avenues of cyber-attack by improving the security of the Internet and the computers upon which our digital economy exists."

[Ed: Wow... Oooh, damn. That sounds pretty good. Man. Crap. We really shoulda done that stuff, huh? Oh but wait.. Nobody knew anything about this stuff before 9/11, right? Cells? What's a cell? Republicans don't break up cells, they're pro-life. No cell breakage can be tolerated.]

"While fighting terrorism, we will protect the civil liberties of all Americans. Our justice system must guarantee fairness with procedures that protect the rights of the accused, even under the unusual circumstances of the investigation of threats to our national security. We must avoid stereotyping, for it defeats the highest purposes of our country if citizens feel automatically suspect by virtue of their ethnic origin. The purpose of terrorism is not only to intimidate, but also to divide and fracture, and we cannot permit that to happen."

[Ed: Whaaaa? Why do the Democrats hate America so much?]

Quotes and links thanks to Matt Stoller, via Pandagon.

May 13, 2004
The President is His Own Yes Man

Wow. Wow wow wow wow.

Please read this (short) post from Josh Marshall. I'll wait.

Now, the most amazing thing about this -- aside from the fact that the president reads the sports page religiously but doesn't bother with the other parts of the newspaper, profoundly disturbing as that is -- is just what Josh detects: That the president deliberately shields himself from viewpoints other than his own. Under the guise of protecting himself from "liberal media bias," he is protected from reading things he disagrees with.

As Josh points out, we're all guilty to varying degrees of gravitating towards sources with which we agree. The vital difference, though, is that many of us see that as a weakness and wish we were better versed in the opposition's point of view. I know I do. Knowing the arguments and rationales of the right equips me to debate them. Avoiding them prevents me from challenging my opinions, and my position suffers as a result.

It is utterly appalling to me that our president freely admits to deliberately insulating himself from dissent. How can this be reality? Please, somebody pinch me.

Pick a Rationale, Any Rationale

A thesis study by a student at the University of Illinois finds that between September 12, 2001 and October 11, 2002, there were twenty-seven -- count 'em -- twenty-seven different rationales for war with Iraq floated the Bush administration, Congress and the media.

All but four of the rationales originated from the Bush White House.

"Largio identified include everything from the five front-runners -- war on terror, prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, lack of weapons inspections, removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, Saddam Hussein is evil, to the also-rans -- Sen. Joe Lieberman's "because Saddam Hussein hates us," Colin Powell's "because it's a violation of international law," and Richard Perle's "because we can make Iraq an example and gain favor within the Middle East."


Wow. With that many reasons to get rid of that guy, it's truly a wonder that the entire world wasn't just going NUTS to get in there and get him, isn't it? I mean, I can see not agreeing with one or two good rationales, but twenty-seven? The world community must really be out to lunch.


Someone was really desperate to find a reason -- any reason -- to start a war with Iraq and every time one of their reasons started to fall apart, they came up with a new one.

Which seems more likely to you?

N.B. -- this study only goes up to October of 2002. How many new reasons have we heard in the past 18 months? Saddam supports gay marriage! Saddam is running a child pornography ring! Saddam ate my daughter! He cut me off on I-5! He took a piss on the frickin' Lincoln Memorial for god's sake!

Military Intelligence at Abu Ghraib

military intelligence at abu ghraibSpc. Charles A. Graner Jr., leaning against the wall and labeled as No. 1, identified four other soldiers in this photograph (Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 8) as military intelligence officers. No. 2 is a civilian translator.


Do we still believe the story that this abuse was not directed by military intelligence?

Berg Family Produces Evidence

Nick Berg's family has produced evidence which strongly contradicts what the U.S. government is saying about the few weeks leading up to his death.

Berg's family has claimed that Nick was held in U.S. custody for too long, without charges, and would have been out of the country if he had been released in a timely way. The government has denied this, saying that Nick was in the custody of the Iraqi police and not U.S. authorities. Today the family produced evidence.

A U.S. diplomatic official in Iraq told the family of slain American Nicholas Berg in early April that he was being detained by the U.S. military, according to e-mails provided by the family Thursday.

U.S. government officials have said Berg, who was found dead last weekend in Baghdad, was detained by Iraqi police March 24 and was never in the custody of American forces.

He is believed to have been kidnapped within days of his April 6 release by either Iraqi police or coalition forces, and later beheaded by militants who videotaped the slaying.

To back its claims that Berg was in U.S. custody, the family showed The Associated Press an April 1 e-mail from Beth A. Payne, the U.S. consular officer in Iraq.

"I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the U.S. military in Mosul. He is safe. He was picked up approximately one week ago. We will try to obtain additional information regarding his detention and a contact person you can communicate with directly," the e-mail said.

In two e-mails later that day, Payne wrote that she was still trying to find a local contact for the family.


This Reuters story has more, including this from Nick's father Michael:

My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this."

In the past few days I've gotten into some heated comment thread debates (scroll waaaay down) over Nick's death and the proper response to it. The fact that the man's own father doesn't have a knee jerk "support the president" response goes a long way toward refuting their arguments. Meeting savagery with more savagery is not the only way, and the heightened emotions we all feel when we see something this brutal is not what should guide our country's policies. If we are ruled by rage, anger and fear, we are working from the same place as the terrorists are. We must be better than that.

Pollack to Everyone: Shut Up

While I can only assume that Neal would also tell me to shut up, I still think this is brilliant.

In the gutter, doing the daily hack-and-slash necessary to keep the angry-dickhead vote in line with our colonial adventure, is Rush Limbaugh. He has said something unbelievably offensive about the Abu Ghraib scandal every day since it broke. It began on May 4: "We are going to really hammer [these American soldiers] because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You heard of a need to blow some steam off?"

Rush, you blow off steam by playing basketball, or drinking a beer, or taking OxyContin. If you want emotional release, go see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or rent Red Dawn. Rush Limbaugh, shut--wait, you're not done? On May 6, you said the torture pictures look like "good old-fashioned American pornography," and that the "reaction to the stupid torture is an example of the feminization of this country." On May 7, you said, "There was no horror, there was no terror, there was no death, there was no injuries."

Rush, I know I'm not the only one monitoring you and your horrible grammar. But still, I must say, Rush Limbaugh, shut your illegally-obtained-prescription-drug-swallowing mouth right now.

Another widespread phenomenon involves blaming the torture scandal on women. Take Ann Coulter. In a May 5 radio interview, Coulter said, "It was a girl general who was in charge of running our Iraqi prison. And, you know, for one thing, I'm a little disappointed in Rumsfeld--he allows the greatest fighting force on the face of the globe to have girl generals."

I'm sorry. Did I miss something? Has Lindsay Lohan taken charge of Abu Ghraib? Or was Coulter playing some kind of Cinco de Mayo prank? Apparently not, for the same day, on Hannity and Colmes, the televised beacon of all that's unholy, she said, "This is lesson, you know, one million and 47 on why women shouldn't be in the military. In addition to not being able to carry even a medium-sized backpack, women are too vicious."

Knock-knock, Ann. Who's there? Why, it's a half-dozen female members of the Israeli army, come to shut you up.

Read the rest.

Check out Media Matters' new ad on Rush Limbaugh's sickening ass.

The Problem in a Nutshell

Brad DeLong helpfully reprints Martin Wolf from the Financial Times (registration required).

So what is wrong with this administration? Put simply, it fails to understand the basis of US power, mis-specifies US objectives and is incompetent.... [T]he position of the US - and so of the west - is worse, in significant respects, than it was the day after September 11 2001. Then, a huge proportion of humanity viewed the US as the victim of an outrage. Today, after the revelations of the treatment of prisoners in Iraq, it is seen as a perpetrator of them. Then it had the support of all its allies, now it can rely on the public's sympathy in very few.

Let us start with the administration's faith in the application of US military power. This is a double error. The first lies in its exaggerated belief in force.... The second error lies in its belief in the irrelevance of allies. A country containing 4 per cent of the world's population cannot impose its will upon the world. It needs permanent allies, not reluctant stooges.... [T]he US had a bigger army than the Soviet Union, but because it offered a more attractive model. The more the US plays the unilateral bully, the more its attraction fades.

Turn then to definition of US objectives. Terrorism is a technique of the powerless adapted to the age of mass communications.... [P]roclaiming a war against terrorism justifies the indefinite suspension of the rule of law.... [T]he behaviour of the guards at Abu Ghraib is the natural, almost the inevitable, consequence of the position in which the administration has - in its pursuit of its war on terrorism - put detainees. These are... in a legal limbo for as long as the US decides that this so-called "war" continues. Interrogators have absolute power and... absolute power corrupts absolutely....

Now let us turn to the question of competence... [O]nly one institution has shown its effectiveness - the US armed forces.... [E]verything else has been a humiliating shambles. Afghanistan is, once again, in the arms of the war lords whose behaviour led to the Taliban invasion. The outcome in Iraq now looks far worse.... The decision to wage a war of choice, not of necessity, was a great risk. It could be justified only by discovering the weaponry Mr Hussein was alleged to hold or by leaving the country... in a reasonably stable condition. Having been so resoundingly wrong on the first point, the US must now succeed on the second. Always difficult, the chances of such an outcome now seem vanishingly small. What will Iraq be a few years from now - a military dictatorship, a theocracy, a divided country, an anarchy, or a permanent US occupation? Any of these, except the last, seems more plausible than stable democracy.

It is impossible to exaggerate the dangers attendant upon a US failure in Iraq: jihadis would conclude that they had now defeated a second superpower; friendly regimes would be shaken; and US prestige would be destroyed. Iraq is not another Vietnam. It is far more dangerous than that.... The US has... staked its prestige.. on leaving behind a thriving country. If, instead, it leaves behind despotism or chaos, it will be a grievous defeat, with huge long-run consequences. Responsibility for such a failure must rest with the White House. It cannot be blamed on any subordinate department, not even the defence department. This is the president's policy and responsibility. The buck stops there.

Crafting a foreign policy for a new era is hard. The last time this had to be done was in the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman more than half a century ago. The institutions they established and the values they upheld were the foundation of the successful US foreign policy of the postwar era. Now, a task even more complex has fallen on this president. He is not up to the job. This is not a moral judgment, but a practical one. The world is too complex and dangerous for the pious simplicities and arrogant unilateralism of George W. Bush.

I have nothing to add to this.

May 12, 2004
Administration Let Zarqawi Get Away

Eric Alterman reminds us of this unsettling piece from March.

It seems that there were at least three occasions when our government had solid intelligence as to Abu Musab Zarqawi's location, and that he was engaged in terrorist activities, but the White House refused to pull the trigger on all three occasions, fearing that it would undermine their argument for all out war in Iraq.

Zarqawi, you'll remember, has been wreaking havoc ever since, tied to more than 700 deaths in Iraq, and is blamed and possibly personally responsible for Nick Berg's brutal slaying.

n June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

"Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn?t do it," said Michael O'Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

"People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president?s policy of preemption against terrorists," according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi's operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.


Rushing to war with Iraq at all costs, the Bush administration on three separate occasions specifically refused to take out one of the most dangerous men on the planet.

What possible justification can there be for this? Wingnuts, wadda ya got? I'd love to hear someone try to defend this behavior.

Again, they decided not to take this monster out because it might have hurt their argument for war, despite his being one of the top targets in the war on terror. He is killing people to this day.

Impeach. Imprison.

Psychos On All Sides

The brutal killing of Nick Berg yesterday shocked and saddened all of us. Worse, though, it seems to have turned many of us into raving lunatics.

Witness this editorial in The New York Post today.

This war cannot be waged with half-measures.

It can end only with the total annihilation of those who practice butchery and barbarism. Those who have set as their goal the destruction of America.

There is no negotiating with such people. There can be no compromise with those who mean to destroy us.

Yesterday, the White House promised to "pursue those responsible and bring them to justice." That's the least of it.

America has to come out swinging.

And not stop until every last one of the savage thugs is dead.

If that means a resumption of major combat in Iraq, so be it.

Would it mean another division or so of combat troops to get the job done?

Turn to our garrisons in Europe, or Korea, to get them.

In sufficient numbers to get the job done.

To hell with political sensitivities in the region.

To hell with negotiating with radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf and the Sunni insurgents in Fallujah.

To hell with handing Saddam Hussein over to Iraqis, as some want to do, and risking some reverse - perverse - kangaroo trial that results in his survival.

Evil, cutthroat terrorists need to be eradicated.

Let's face it: This is a job that's going to take overwhelming - yes, brutal - force. There is simply no "nice" or painless way to accomplish this.

As yesterday's slaughter showed (yet again), the enemy is bound by no moral compunctions.

America won't go that far.

But it had better steel it's backbone and get ready to fight like it means it.

It's the only way to win this war.

I don't know where to begin.

Of course I absolutely agree that there is no negotiating with the kinds of people who would do something like what happened to Nick Berg. They should be hunted down. The MAJOR problem with the above ranting is that stepping up our military operations in Iraq will not stop these people, it will surely increase their ranks. This simple-minded rush to violence plays directly into the terrorists hands, isn't that obvious? Does the editorial staff of the New York Post really believe that killing thousands and thousands of Iraqis is going to result in the "total annihilation of those who practice butchery and barbarism?" It's so ridiculous it makes me want to cry.

And what ever happened to foresight? To thinking beyond your immediate, emotional gut reactions? Are these people really prepared to stand behind the statement, "To hell with political sensitivities in the region?" Is it their view that if we ignore the region's history and people, and just kill as many of them as we can, things will just be okay? The world will sit back and say, "Well, that region did deserve to descend into chaos and civil war, dragging the hopes for peace around the world with it. After all, terrorists with no affiliation to any of those countries did kill that man from Philadelphia."

As Senator Lindsay Graham (R - Arizona) said recently, "When you are the good guys, you've got to act like the good guys."

We are not going to be judged based on our ideals if we can't live up to them. We will be judged on our actions, and our actions will rightly be seen to reflect our ideals. We can't have it both ways. We cannot promote democracy, freedom, and the rule of law by running around the world killing people because we're pissed off. The ability to restrain ourselves from going off half-cocked every time something terrible happens to one of our citizens is not a character flaw.

UPDATE :: Oops.. Lindsay Graham is from South Carolina, not Arizona. I always get those two confused. Oh, and it's Lindsey, not Lindsay. Crap.

Okay, Now I'm 30

birthday liz

On this day in 1974...

  • The Celtics beat the Bucks for the NBA Championship
  • Nixon was president, but not for long
  • Billy, Don't Be a Hero, Kung Fu Fighting and The Streak fought for the top spot in the charts
  • The minimum wage was $2.00/hr
  • Connect Four, Monchichi, and the Rubik's Cube were the hot toys
  • The Dow Jones average was 616

I share my birthday with Katherine Hepburn, Yogi Berra, George Carlin and Kim Fields (Tootie from "The Facts of Life"). And Homer Simpson.

So there it is. I'm 30. The big 3-0. It feels the same.

May 11, 2004
It's All Tarantino's Fault

Rich Lowry of the National Review sees darker forces at work in the pictures from Abu Ghraib. The real culprit here is the "poison of America's civilian culture."

You see, these soldiers committed these vile acts -- and seemed to really enjoy doing it -- because they watch a lot of violent movies and probably look at tons of porn. If we were a proper Christian society, one assumes, things like this would never happen.

The American jailers, who live in a country where pornography is a $10 billion-a-year business, became amateur pornographers. They videotaped themselves having sex with one another. One of the officers disciplined at Abu Ghraib allegedly took pictures of female soldiers showering. The Americans sexually humiliated Iraqi prisoners, forcing them to masturbate, to wear women's underwear, and to commit (or feign committing) unnatural acts, and captured it on film. If they had done this stateside in different circumstances, they might be very rich and perhaps even up for an Adult Video Award.

Ah! That must be it! How else could they have come up with the idea of taking photographs of naked people? Wow, I just can't think of any other way, either!

The feebleness of his argument is actually pretty impressive. If he had written this article on the moon in different circumstances, he might have seven eyelids and canned beets for dinner.

By his logic, as a society we should basically stop discussing anything, ever, because if it's acceptable to depict something in one context, or even to talk about it, there's always a risk that someone will do it at an inappropriate time, and we can't take that chance.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drive my car off a cliff. I can only assume I'll survive, or at least be freeze-framed like Thelma & Louise. This is gonna be so cool.


Inhofe = Bad Man

For a nice taste of what the leaders of our country are like, take a long, hard look at and listen to Senator James Inhofe, Republican from the great state of Crazier Than a Shithouse Rat.

"I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," Sen. James Inhofe said during a hearing on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The Iraqis held in the section of the prison where the abuse occurred "are not there for traffic violations," he said.

"If they're in cell block 1A or 1B, these prisoners -- they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents," said Inhofe, a conservative from Oklahoma. "Many of them probably have American blood on their hands. And here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."


John McCain reportedly walked out of the committee room while this asshole was spewing his "thoughts."

It's truly hard for me to fathom the hypocrisy displayed by these people. It truly strains my humanist leanings to contemplate their hearts and their minds.

It's Abu Ghraib

Is it just me, or is it really embarrassing when Senators who are making pompous speeches about this or that issue can't even pronounce the words that are on everyone's lips?

It's Abu Ghraib. Ah-boo G-ray-b. (Actually, I suppose I should say that I don't speak Arabic, so I don't really know the exact pronounciation, but this is the way nearly everyone is saying it.) What it most certainly is not is Abu Grayboo, as I heard one Senator say today.

I'm Not 30 Yet

A quick post on my Great Thirtieth Birthday Cascade Loop Tour, then back to the politics, I promise.

Tomorrow, May 12, is my 30th birthday. Woo. To celebrate, Liz, my sister and I revived the Badunkadunk and went for a 3-day drive around the Northwest corner of Washington. They call it the Cascade Loop. We call it the, umm, uhh, we call it the Cascade Loop, too.

birthday trip map

Departing Seattle Saturday morning, we had some coffee and breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks. Honestly, they're not nearly as good as McDonald's breakfast treats, but they're probably made with fewer anuses. It's a trade-off.

leavenworth washingtonThe Badunkadunk managed to scale the dizzying heights of Steven's Pass, and we arrived safely in the faux Bavarian village of Leavenworth, a town that remade itself as a Bavarian village for no other reason than to get people to stop there. Try the Bratwurst, it's delicious.

motel signComing out of the mountains, we descended onto the high, dry, lonely plains of central Washington. Living in Seattle, a veritable rain forest, it's easy to forget that an hour or two east is some of the driest, scrubbiest, sunniest land in the country. I forgot it myself.

Our destination for the day was Grand Coulee Dam. I'm a big fan of big things, particularly marvels of engineering and ingenuity and like that, and since it was my birthday trip, I got to decide. I quite enjoyed this, in the same way I'm sure to enjoy dragging my kids around to see giant buildings and Balls of Twine someday.

ironmanThe town of Grand Coulee was having its annual "Colorama" festival, which consisted of a very small carnival with three rides and about 6 midway games. The scene was small town America at its finest, decked out in logoed sportswear and carrying a funnel cake in one hand and an ice-cream smeared child in the other. The teenagers cruised and looked tough, and we looked completely out of place. We tried and failed to win a stuffed animal, and that was that.

Saturday evening we experienced the Grand Coulee Dam laser light show, which I can safely say is the cheesiest thing I've ever seen.

On Sunday we headed back into the mountains. We found a beautiful campsite by the roaring Methow River and settled in for some beer drinking and campfire stoking. Dinner was cooked, wildlife was harassed, a good time was had.

Alas, on Monday we were forced to head back to the city, but not before a stop at Traxx for some high-speed indoor go-kart racing. Best average lap speed was Anthony's, while Liz posted the fastest lap overall. One accident, no injuries.

More photos from the weekend are here.

May 8, 2004

Offline for the weekend.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

May 7, 2004
Senate Hearings Excerpts

The Washington Post has the transcript of the Senate Hearings, so here are some excerpts.

First, John McCain's questioning.

MCCAIN: I'd like to know who was in charge of the -- what agencies or private contractors were in charge of interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were their instructions to the guards?

[chatter between Rumsfeld and General Smith about how they forgot their Chain of Command chart. Whoops!]

MCCAIN: Anyway, who was in charge? What agency or private contractor was in charge of the interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were the instructions that they gave to the guards?

SMITH: I'll walk through the chain of command and...

MCCAIN: No. Let's just -- you can submit the chain of command, please.

WARNER: General Smith, do you want to respond?

MCCAIN: No. Secretary Rumsfeld, in all due respect, you've got to answer this question. And it could be satisfied with a phone call. This is a pretty simple, straightforward question: Who was in charge of the interrogations? What agencies or private contractors were in charge of the interrogations? Did they have authority over the guards? And what were the instructions to the guards?

This goes to the heart of this matter.

RUMSFELD: It does indeed.

As I understand it, there were two contractor organizations. They supplied interrogators and linguists. And I was advised by General Smith that there were maybe a total of 40.

MCCAIN: Now, were they in charge of the interrogations?

SMITH: Thirty-seven interrogators, and...

WARNER: The witnesses voice are not being recorded. You'll have to speak into your microphone.

Would you repeat the conversation in response to the senator's question?

SMITH: Yes, sir. There were 37 interrogators that were...

MCCAIN: I'm asking who was in charge of the interrogations.

SMITH: They were not in charge. They were interrogators.

MCCAIN: My question is who was in charge of the interrogations?

SMITH: The brigade commander for the military intelligence brigade.

MCCAIN: And were they -- did he also have authority over the guards?

SMITH: Sir, he was -- he had tactical control over the guards, so he was...

MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary, you can't answer these questions?

RUMSFELD: I can. I'd be -- I thought the purpose of the question was to make sure we got an accurate presentation, and we have the expert here who was in the chain of command.

MCCAIN: I think these are fundamental questions to this issue.


MCCAIN: Were the instructions to the guards...

RUMSFELD: There's two sets of responsibilities, as your question suggests. One set is the people who have the responsibility for managing the detention process; they are not interrogators. The military intelligence people, as General Smith has indicated, were the people who were in charge of the interrogation part of the process.

And the responsibility, as I have reviewed the matter, shifted over a period of time and the general is capable of telling you when that responsibility shifted.

MCCAIN: What were the instructions to the guards?

RUMSFELD: That is what the investigation that I have indicated has been undertaken...

MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary...

RUMSFELD: ... is determining...

MCCAIN: ... that's a very simple, straight-forward question.

RUMSFELD: Well, the -- as the chief of staff of the Army can tell you, the guards are trained to guard people. They're not trained to interrogate, they're not -- and their instructions are to, in the case of Iraq, adhere to the Geneva Convention.

The Geneva Conventions apply to all of the individuals there in one way or another. They apply to the prisoners of war, and they are written out and they're instructed and the people in the Army train them to that and the people in the Central Command have the responsibility of seeing that, in fact, their conduct is consistent with the Geneva Conventions.

The criminals in the same detention facility are handled under a different provision of the Geneva Convention -- I believe it's the fourth and the prior one's the third.

MCCAIN: So the guards were instructed to treat the prisoners, under some kind of changing authority as I understand it, according to the Geneva Conventions?

RUMSFELD: Absolutely.

MCCAIN: I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It doesn't come across in print quite as adversarial as it was live, but McCain was really grilling him. Rumsfeld in typical fashion never started his answers with an answer, always with qualifiers or side issues. McCain, to his enormous credit, just kept banging away at him.

McCain is a Republican, of course. Joe Lieberman is, he thinks, a Democrat.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Secretary, the behavior by Americans at the prison in Iraq is, as we all acknowledge, immoral, intolerable and un-American. It deserves the apology that you have given today and that have been given by others in high positions in our government and our military.

I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized.

LIEBERMAN: And those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody.

So it's part of -- wrongs occurred here, by the people in those pictures and perhaps by people up the chain of command.

But Americans are different. That's why we're outraged by this. That's why the apologies were due.

And that's why I hope as we go about this investigation, we do it in a way that does not dishonor the hundreds of thousands of Americans in uniform who are a lot more like Pat Tillman and Americans that are not know, like Army National Guard Sergeant Felix Del Greco of Simsbury, Connecticut, who was killed in action a few weeks ago; that we not dishonor their service or discredit the cause that brought us to send them to Iraq, because it remains one that is just and necessary.

What a jerk. You know what? Americans are not different. We're different than Osama bin Laden, sure, but we're not different from the average person in the Arab world, not in the way Joe is implying. Are we really so deluded and taken in by this kind of propaganda that we believe that when the bodies of those four contractors were burned and dismembered, everyone, or even a majority of average citizens in the Arab world had no problem with it?

I can't prove it, but I'd bet everything from a diddle-eye-joe to a damned-if-I-know that many, perhaps most, average citizens around the world found those acts unspeakable. The reason there wasn't a big public to-do about it is because those acts were not perpetrated by a military under the direction of a government. There is no Iraqi Insurgents Congress to have hearings about it. That doesn't mean that Arabs in general approved of it.

Lieberman's statements are disingenuous and just plain wrong. As someone pointed out in a comment thread somewhere else, it's as if he would like our slogan to be, "America. We're not as bad as bin Laden."

Finally, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina elicits from Rumsfeld the statement that he would resign "in a minute" if he felt he was no longer effective:

GRAHAM: Long story short, I do trust the people in uniform to get it right. And I want to take the time necessary to make sure the people responsible are brought to justice and anybody innocently accused has their day in court.

You're right, Secretary Rumsfeld.

Here's the problem: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the explosive nature of these photos apart from court-martial, apart from legal proceedings. And most of us here found out about it on television. And if we knew enough to say, "Don't air a show that's going to be bad," why did we not call the president, call senior members of Congress to prepare us for what we were eventually going to see? That's the essence of my concern about all this.

MYERS: Senator Graham, in my opinion we could have done a better job of informing Congress of this -- of these pictures and this situation. And...

GRAHAM: And that is an honest and fair answer.

And, Secretary Rumsfeld, people are calling for your resignation. Somebody is drafting an article of impeachment against you right now. I've got my own view about people who want to call for your resignation before you speak, but I'll leave that to myself.

Do you have the ability, in your opinion, to come to Capitol Hill and carry the message and carry the water for the Department of Defense? Do you believe, based on all things that have happened and that will happen, that you're able to carry out your duties in a bipartisan manner? And what do you say to those people who are calling for your resignation?

RUMSFELD: Well, it's a fair question. Certainly since this firestorm has been raging, it's a question that I've given a lot of thought to.

The key question for me is the one you pose, and that is whether or not I can be effective. We've got tough tasks ahead. The people in the department, military and civilian, are doing enormously important work here, in countries all over the world and the issue is: Can I be effective in assisting them in their important tasks?

Needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.

When the videos and more pictures Rumsfeld referred to inevitably come out, this is only going to get worse. I'm not really on the "Impeach Rumsfeld" bandwagon just yet (not over this singly issue, anyway), but I'd be happy to see Joe Lieberman run out of town on a rail, along with anyone else who makes these moral comparisons between us and terrorists.

Personally, Senator, I hold myself, and my country, to a slightly higher standard.

Rumsfeld Senate Testimony Thoughts

The testimony in the House is starting now, but I don't know if I can sit through two Congressional Hearings in one day. Secretary Rumsfeld, of course, has to. In his face.

Though there was some partisan bullshit -- see Senator Sessions particularly -- I thought most of the questioning was good. Naturally the Democrats were generally harsher than the Republicans, but it was clear that the Republicans, the level-headed ones, had some serious questions about this issue.

More than likely, they're just trying to stay on the side of public opinion. Rumsfeld doesn't seem to have much support from anyone right now (Josh Marshall has a good breakdown of the anatomy of a political scandal), and they probably want to keep their distance in case he falls.

As for Rumsfeld, it was interesting to watch his demeanor change. At the start he was very apologetic, taking responsibility, he even seemed somewhat humble, if you can believe it. As the questioning continued, though, this thin veneer quickly fell away and the familiarly defensive, combative and arrogant Secretary of Defense emerged. In the end, I was certainly not left with the impression of someone trying to get to the bottom of horrible acts committed under his watch, but of someone desperately trying to save his own skin and the reputation of the administration.

Lieberman: Still a Jerk

Joe Lieberman used his five minutes to make a speech that started by saying that we never got apologies from the terrorists responsible for 9/11, or from the insurgents who killed and burned contractors in Fallujah. Once again, we hear people using some of the most despicable people on the face of the earth as a measuring stick for our own morality and responsibility.

There was still a little D next to Joe's name, but I think maybe he was being ironic.

Now we have Jeff Sessions, Republican Senator from Alabama, who has actually CUT OFF the answers of General Myers to make them stronger and less equivocal. Myers was being somewhat vague and general, Sessions interrupted him to expand his answer basically into, "Isn't it true, General, that you did everything you could possibly do and that you men sitting at that table are some of the bravest, most honorable people who have ever lived?"

McCain Rocks

John McCain is tearing these guys a new one.

His intense and unwavering questioning has forced Rumsfeld to drop his sorrowful and apologetic tone and reveal the angry, combative man beneath.

I can't transcribe it all, but I'll post it when a transcript comes out.

Raising Heckles

A little more on those demonstrators in the Committee Hearing.

I admire their tenacity, in a way, but I think it's a bit of a shame that they chose to do what they did.

People need to learn when things are going their way and let the process unfold. By yelling and screaming in a sober hearing, if anything they've made Rumsfeld look sympathetic. Hopefully the little event won't be highlighted by the mainstream media, but you can be sure that it will be trotted out by the right-wingers as further evidence of the lunacy of the left. They will be portrayed as shrill and disruptive, and many people will agree.

Having Rumsfeld testify before this committee, with calls for him to resign coming from all sides, is what they seem to want, so I can't understand why they choose to make further complaints during the proceedings. This is a habit I've seen over and over again in the activist left: When things start to go their way, they start to complain that it doesn't go far enough. We have to learn to recognize when we're winning on an issue, and stop yelling while the winning is going on.

When someone is being called to account at this level, it's simply not productive to yell and scream that they're not being called to account enough. If he steps down as Secretary of Defense, are they going to complain that he didn't step down for the right reasons?

I naturally support their right to voice their opinions, I just think it was the wrong time, the wrong place.

Myers Makes Excuses

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Richard Myers opening statement is decidedly more cold and detached than Rumsfeld's was. He has already begun to argue that attempting to get the media to keep these photographs under wraps was a tactical decision based on the situation in Fallujah at the time. He makes the point that the allegations were public, but they felt that releasing the photographs would further inflame an already tense situation in Iraq, putting more people at risk.

I have several problems with this argument. First, the allegations were only public in the very broadest sense. It was announced publicly that there was an investigation into some prisoner abuse, that was it. No one would have imagined anything like what we've been seeing for the past week.

Second, the basic problem with the "we had a good reason to cover it up for a while" argument is that it ignores what will happen when the pictures inevitably are released, and that the reaction then will be significantly worse precisely because they decided to keep them under wraps.

If we had been absolutely forthright and open about this from the very beginning, the "a few bad men" argument would have a much better footing. By covering it up, we've shown the world that our interest was not in justice or humane treatment, but in protecting ourselves and our reputation above all else.

It may be true that releasing the photographs during the siege of Fallujah would have made that situation worse, but keeping them hidden and releasing them now has made many other situations worse, and the delay is a large part of that.

This is a pattern with this administration -- they only do the right thing when it's absolutely the last option. They fight the creation of the 9/11 Commission until political pressure is so great that they cave; they then refuse to testify before that commission until pressure mounts and then they insist on setting ridiculous terms; they carefully refuse to apologize for these acts of torture, again until the pressure becomes too great.

Our reputation is going straight to hell for good reason. We're not displaying any of the qualities that we claim to believe in. As Rob Corddry put it so perfectly last night, the attitude is "don't judge us by our actions, judge us by our abstract notions." This is unrealistic and just wrong.

I'm reminded of a quote from Michael Ignatieff's piece in the New York Times Magazine last weekend:

A war on terror that succeeds tactically -- taking out this potential terrorist, breaking up that potential cell -- while failing strategically, further enraging the Arab populace, is not a success. So we need rules in a war on terror, first of all to keep free institutions intact and second so that we don't fail in our strategic objective, which is to make America some friends instead of numberless new enemies.

Our current government seems to fundamentally miss this point, on just about every issue. They're all tactics, no strategy, and it's killing us.

Rumsfeld Testifies, Protestors in Chamber

Rumsfeld is testifying before the Armed Services Committee right now.

His opening statement, in part:

These events occurred on my watch. As Secretary of Defense, I am accountable for them, and I take full responsibility.

He goes on for a while, and then when he takes a breath, screaming is heard from the back of the chamber. A woman is yelling, "WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER ABUSESIN IRAQ? WHAT ABOUT THE .. unintelligible ..., ARE YOU INVESTIGATING THAT? WHAT ABOUT THE ILLEGAL, MASS DETENTIONS?"

The cameras go to the back of the room and there are two rows of protestors holding sheets with "Fire Rumsfeld" and wearing shirts with similar slogans. The shouting goes on for a full minute or so as the security officers make their way to the protestors and politely escort them out as they chant "FIRE RUMSFELD -- WAR CRIMINAL -- FIRE RUMSFELD -- WAR CRIMINAL!"

Wow. Very dramatic. More like Vietnam every day.

As this happens, Rumsfeld just stops talking, and as the protestors leave, the chairman just says, "The Committee will resume the hearing." and off they go.

He goes on:

Beyond abuse of prisoners, there are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence toward prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman.

Second, there are many more photographs, and indeed some videos.

Mmm That's Good Satire

Once again, perfect satire from Rob Corddry:

There's no question what took place in that prison was horrible, but the Arab world has to realize that the U.S. shouldn't be judge on the actions of a... well, that we shouldn't be judged on actions. It's our principles that matter; our inspiring, abstract notions. Remember, Jon, just because torturing prisoners is something we did doesn't mean it's something we would do.
May 6, 2004
Dig the Digby

Atrios points to this great post from Digby.

'm once again struck by the moral surety of these religious Republicans who don't seem to be upset by the deviant behavior graphically shown in these pictures and who don't seem worried in the least about how they are going to explain it to their children. It seems like only yesterday that every other word from their mouths was "deplorable," "reprehensible," "despicable," "disgusting," and " "revolting," as they relayed their shock and horror at the stunning news of a 50 year old man having an affair with a young woman in his office. If I recall correctly, this was considered to be an act of such depravity that they didn't know how the nation could survive if the perpetrator wasn't removed from office.

But, somehow, pictures of a young soldier pointing gleefully to a naked, hooded prisoner forced to masturbate on camera only elicits a mild "disapproval." Anyone have some clues where I might find an explnation of this in Senator Inhofe's Baptist Bible or Freddie Barnes's Episcopal prayerbook, because I'm finding it awfully difficult to understand?

I'm finding it a bit hard to understand myself, Dig.

I'm not saying I'm going to do it, but it would be interesting to go back and dig up what these people had to say about the Lewinsky scandal, or Janet Jackson's tit, for god's sake. I would gamble that many of the people who are now trying to tell us that the abuse suffered by Iraqi prisoners at the hands of Americans is not such a big deal were foaming at the mouth over these issues. Maybe I will do it.

And listen, the calls for Rumsfeld to resign are probably premature, but depending on how this thing shakes out, it could be totally appropriate. It's not only about his ultimate responsibility for the actions of our soldiers in Iraq, it's not even mostly about that, it's about the fact that he failed to inform Congress or the president of these crimes before they broke in the military, the fact that he and others may very well have done their best to cover this up.

Sy Hersh has been all over the media saying that this is going to get much worse; that there are more photos and videotapes, and they're going to come out.

If these people really cared about the truth, if they really cared about America's reputation, morality, and legitimacy, they would be calling for full investigations, demanding that the truth be revealed, regardless of the consequences. Instead they're making excuses. In the end, they will stand alone.

Bush's Numbers Tanking

According to a new Gallup poll, Bush's approval numbers are the lowest they've ever been.

The poll, released Thursday, indicates 62% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. That is the highest dissatisfaction number since early January 1996 -- shortly after the federal government shut down briefly when Congress failed to reach a budget agreement.


Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy and 41% approve. That is the highest disapproval number and lowest approval number of the Bush presidency.

Fifty-five percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, and 42% approve. Again, the approval number is the lowest and the disapproval number is the highest of any survey Gallup has taken on the question, dating back to late October 2002. On foreign affairs overall, Bush gets 42% approval and 53% disapproval -- again, a record low on approval and a record high on disapproval.

A majority of Americans -- 52% -- still approve of the way Bush is handling terrorism. However, that is the lowest figure since Gallup began asking the question in November 2001, and a 45% disapproval rating is the highest such number.

The polls lately are all over the place, and it's hard to place much importance on them 6 months before the election anyway, but still, all of these indicators are the worst they've ever been for the president. I don't usually like to celebrate the failures of others, but I'll make an exception in this case. "Yay!"

Now what I'd love to see is Kerry take advantage of this time and really show some strength and some resolve. He needs to start addressing issues clearly and precisely. The president is doing a fine job of shooting himself in the foot, Kerry should take the opportunity to deal with the issues.

I Bid 50 Quatloos on the Newcomer

Bin Laden is offering 22 pounds of gold for the lives of Paul Bremer, Kofi Annan, or their deputies.

At today's prices, 22 pounds of gold is worth about $137,000. Meanwhile, the U.S. is offering $25 million for information leading to the capture of bin Laden.

If we're just going for bounty hunters, we got this bastard beat by a lot.

Take that, loser.

Bush Apoligizes For Something!

In a remarkable turnaround, president Bush has apologized for something.

"I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families," Bush said. He added that he had told the Jordanian monarch that, "Americans like me didn't appreciate what we saw, and it made us sick to our stomachs."

Ain't that something?

Rummy, on the other hand, could only say on Good Morning America yesterday that he "felt apologetic." My god, can't you just say you're sorry? All this double-talk is just getting you in so much trouble.

There is a lot of speculation that Rumsfeld might resign. That would be interesting. He is scheduled to testify before Congress tomorrow, and the word on the street is that he has to give the performance of his life. Senators on both sides of the aisle are really pissed off.

The Economist is ever-subtle.

economist cover

Moral Relativism

It is truly amazing how many people in this country seem to have the attitude that this cartoon by Jack Higgins of the Chicago Sun Times depicts.

higgins cartoon

It's really sad that people are trying to excuse the dispicable actions of some of our soldiers by comparing them to other terrible acts. How can they not realize what a slippery slope argument this is? If we compare the torture in Iraq's prisons to the horror of 9/11, how about minimizing that event by comparing it to the death camps of Nazi Germany? What about the genocide in Rwanda? Or the Black Death, I hear that was pretty awful. Is it really Higgins' position that since we suffered an attack on 9/11, all bets are off? We are now free to engage in any kind of behavior we like, using that tragic day as an excuse. It's sickening.

The simple point is that if we excuse our evil deeds by saying that they're not as evil as some other, unrelated deeds, we cannot be said to have any standards whatsoever. Morality would be based entirely on what the other guy did first, in a never ending race to the bottom. (It should be noted that this cartoon compares acts which, and I can't stress this enough, have no relationship. IRAQ HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH SEPTEMBER 11.)

Just to be clear, one more time:


Any suggestion otherwise is not only irresponsible in the extreme, it fans the flames of attitudes which put our country, our soldiers and our citizens in more and more danger every day.

May 5, 2004
More on Powell GQ Flap

This is getting really weird.

At the State Department's daily press conference today (transcript | audio | video), spokesman Richard Boucher spent the first 10 minutes or so answering questions about Wil Hylton's GQ article.

When pressed, he said that he does believe that the Wilkerson interview was supposed to be on background, and he accuses Hylton of "breaking the ground rules" of the interview. The story I'm getting from Wil is that it was absolutely, explicitly on the record, and that Wilkerson knew it. He reports that Wilkerson said things like "I should be careful about what I say," which clearly indicates he knew he was on the record.

Beyond the issue of on the record/off the record, Boucher does not deny that any of the quotes and sentiments attributed to Powell's senior staff are untrue. Over and over again, he says that we should judge the Secretary by his words and his actions, and not by descriptions of his state of mind by other people.

Many variations on this theme:

There's a lot being written and said and talked around this town about the Secretary, and books and articles and everything else. You all, especially those of you who cover the State Department, you watch him, you see him, you know him.

Rather than read about him, people should look at what he says, look at what he does and look at what he's doing; look at what he said to Larry King last night, look at the daily appearances he does; look at man who gets to work earlier than all of us and accomplishes more than any of us.

He's said very clearly in his own words that he's got a positive agenda, he's very proud of the successes of this Administration, he's very comfortable with the choices that were made about going to war, and he's very satisfied that he's served the President well.

So rather than read about him or talk about him, I'd just say people ought to read his own words and watch what he does.

Uhhh, what? I completely disagree. While we should naturally take someone's description of another's state of mind with a grain of salt, when it comes to people in positions of extreme power, it's ridiculous to assume that they are "telling it like it is." They are extremely careful with their words. It is very useful to get descriptions of their state of mind from those very close to them.

If Powell were to say publicly that he is tired, unhappy and ready to quit, the administration could very well collapse. At the very least, he'd start a major story that couldn't be other than damaging to the president, particularly as he seeks reelection. To my mind, Hylton's story that Powell's aides were pushed forward as unofficial surrogates to say things that Powell himself could not say makes good sense.

It certainly makes more sense than a reporter risking his career by attributing off the record remarks to high-level government officials. It's a question of motivation. The motivation on the part of the Secretary and his staff is easy to see, the motivation to make this up on the part of Hylton is not. And I'm not just saying that because he's my friend. It just doesn't follow.

Basically, in the end, it seems that they're trying to have it both ways. They are admitting that staff were told, by the Secretary, to "tell it like it is," but now that it's been told, they don't want to admit that it's true and they're confusing the issue with this on the record/off the record argument.

So were they telling it like it is or not? Boucher never denies that they were.

There is sure to be more to this story. Apparently Glen Kessler is going to have something about it in the Washington Post tomorow. Stay tuned.

Won't Someone Please Think of the Children?

Atrios points to Jim Henley's post on House Resolution 2885, otherwise known as the Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography Act of 2003.

The part Henley excerpts is:

(a) ACTS PROHIBITED- It is unlawful for any person to distribute peer-to-peer file trading software, or to authorize or cause peer-to-peer file trading software to be distributed by another person, in interstate commerce in a manner that violates the regulations prescribed under subsection (b)(2).

When I first read this, I was shocked too. By their definition of peer-to-peer, it almost seems like this law would ban computers connecting to each other in any way.

Ahh, but then I read on. The important part of the excerpt above is the last clause, "in a manner that violates the regulations prescribed under subsection (b)(2)." The law doesn't seek to ban P2P software outright, only if it violates the provisions of subsection (b)(2). So the real issue is what does subsection (b)(2) have to say.

(2) require any person who distributes, or authorizes or causes another person to distribute, peer-to-peer file trading software in interstate commerce to--

(A) provide clear and prominent notice to each recipient of peer-to-peer file trading software, before the peer-to-peer file trading software is provided to the recipient, that use thereof may expose the user to pornography, illegal activities, and security and privacy threats;

(B) check for the do-not-install beacon described in subsection (c)(1) and not transmit peer-to-peer file trading software to any computer with such beacon;

(C) obtain verification of majority, or if a recipient is a juvenile obtain verifiable parental consent, before the peer-to-peer file trading software is provided to the recipient;

(D) ask whether or not each juvenile recipient of peer-to-peer file trading software is a child under the age of 13;

(E) comply with the provisions of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (15 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.) as to all information collected from children in connection with the distribution of peer-to-peer file trading software;

(F) ensure that the peer-to-peer file trading software has the capability to be readily disabled or uninstalled by a user thereof, and prominent means to access clear information concerning the availability and use of that capability;

(G) if the peer-to-peer file trading software has the capability of automatically causing a user's computer to function as a supernode or other focal point for the transmission of files or data, or information about the availability of files or data, among other computers on which such software is used, ensure that such software does not exercise that capability unless the user receives clear and prominent notice thereof and thereafter takes affirmative steps to enable that capability;

(H) if the peer-to-peer file trading software has the capability of disabling or circumventing security or other protective software on, or features of, the user's computer or network, including a firewall, software that protects against viruses or other malicious code or a do-not-install beacon or other parental control, ensure that such peer-to-peer file trading software does not exercise that capability unless the user receives clear and prominent notice thereof and thereafter takes affirmative steps to enable that capability;

(I) if such person does not reside in the United States, designate a resident agent for service of process in the United States, and file with the Commission such designation and the address of the office or usual place of residence of the agent;

(J) maintain reasonable records of its compliance with the requirements set forth in this paragraph; and

(K) establish and maintain reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information contained in such records.

By my reading, this is no big deal, and possibly a good idea. It seems to be mostly concerned with P2P software being distributed as "spyware" without the users permission and requiring some bits of disclosure on the software on what it may be used for. In other words, it would be a crime for people to secretly install this software on your machine without your knowledge and use it as a node in a child pornography ring.

Conclusion: False Alarm.

Post Script: I still really think they shouldn't be allowed to give laws these damn propagandistic names. Just call it H.R. 2885 and explain what it does. Calling it the "Protecting Children from Peer-to-Peer Pornography Act of 2003" is like an ad campaign for the law, with all the problems of any other ad campaign, namely that it appeals to the base emotions and not the intellect.

Rush to Judgement

Submitted for your disgust, Rush Limbaugh.

A caller compared the torture at Abu Ghraib to a college fraternity prank, Rush responds (via Pandagon):

RUSH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?

The most popular radio host in the country, ladies and gentlemen. I'm really at a loss for words.

Just to make things crystal clear, here's a list of things these people did and are alleged to have done, to "blow some steam off:"

  • Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet
  • Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees
  • Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing
  • Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time
  • Forcing naked male detainees to wear women's underwear
  • Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped
  • Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them
  • Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture
  • Writing "I am a Rapest" (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked
  • Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee's neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture
  • A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee
  • Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee
  • Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees
  • Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees
  • Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol
  • Pouring cold water on naked detainees
  • Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair
  • Threatening male detainees with rape
  • Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell
  • Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick
  • Using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee

(From the Taguba Report)

Rush's take on this, again:

RUSH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?

You know, I'm sort of feeling like I need some emotional release myself. Feeling a little stressed out. Maybe I should go down to Rush's house and sodomize him with a chemical light. You know, just to blow off some steam. Come on, I just wanna have a good time!

May 4, 2004
George Will on Bush

In the Washington Post today, George Will, of all people, has a pretty scathing column on the Bush administration. It gives me hope that the facade of legitimacy on this administration is starting to wear too thin for many true conservative. They recognize that this administration is not conservative. They're.. well, they're just nuts.

This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts. Thinking is not the reiteration of bromides about how "all people yearn to live in freedom" (McClellan). And about how it is "cultural condescension" to doubt that some cultures have the requisite aptitudes for democracy (Bush). And about how it is a "myth" that "our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture" because "ours are not Western values; they are the universal values of the human spirit" (Tony Blair).


Being steadfast in defense of carefully considered convictions is a virtue. Being blankly incapable of distinguishing cherished hopes from disappointing facts, or of reassessing comforting doctrines in face of contrary evidence, is a crippling political vice.

Well said, George.

Beyond Torture

Beyond what we've already seen from Abu Ghraib prison, there is new information that some Iraqi prisoners were actually killed while in custody there.

The Army said one soldier had been court-martialed for using excessive force in shooting to death an Iraqi prisoner last September. The soldier was reduced in rank and dismissed from the Army, an official said.

The Army also disclosed that it had referred to the Justice Department a homicide case involving a CIA contract interrogator alleged to be responsible for the death of an Iraqi prisoner last November.


Reduced in rank and dismissed from the Army?!?! For murder? What the fuck is that?

It makes no sense to me that the punishments for committing such an act while in a military uniform should be less severe than it is for a civilian. It should be more severe. Particularly when the person killed is a prisoner of the killer, a situation of such power inequality that no harsh treatment at all is permitted.

A few more points:

Information extracted from prisoners under torture and humiliation is notoriously unreliable. Just because they suddenly admit something under these conditions doesn't mean it's true. They will tell you anything you want to hear. This is basic stuff. Why do our interrogators in Iraq not know this?

The defense being mounted by some of the soldiers is that they were just following orders. I agree that responsibility should extend -- not shift -- higher up the chain of command, but I have one basic question: If they were only doing this because they were ordered to, why were they enjoying it so much? Pictures of people laughing and giving the thumbs up don't exactly give the impression of duress.

Bush to Address Arab TV

Bush is going to appear on Arab TV to try to defuse the prisoner abuse story. He iwll do two 10-minute interviews with Al-Hurra and Al-Arabiya.

It's probably a good idea; a good gesture, but I doubt it will change much. Just about half of the people in this country don't trust the man, it's hard to believe that almost anyone in the Arab world does.

Ullman Confirms GQ Statements

The A.P. has picked up Wil Hylton's GQ article, and more importantly, they got confirmation from Harlan Ullman of his statements in the article and that Powell had authorized him to cooperate with the magazine.

"This is, in many ways, the most ideological administration Powell's ever had to work for," says Harlan Ullman. "Not only is it very ideological, but they have a vision. And I think Powell is inherently uncomfortable with grand visions like that. ... There's an ideological core to Bush, and I think it's hard for Powell to penetrate that."

The quote is from the upcoming issue of Gentleman's Quarterly magazine. Reached by telephone in Bermuda on Tuesday, Ullman confirmed he had made the comment.

He said that he and Powell are in frequent contact and that Powell authorized him to cooperate with the magazine.


Ullman, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also confirmed a quote in the magazine on Powell's thoughts about his Feb. 5, 2003, appearance before the U.N. Security Council...

"The trade-off was `Go to the U.N., go to Congress, slow this thing down; it's not going to be regime change, it's going to be weapons of mass destruction.' And for that, Powell stayed a loyal member of the administration," Ullman said.


This confirmation from Ullman goes a long way. The important thing in this story is not what Powell himself said to Hylton, which was basically nothing, but what his close friends, aides and deputies said about him, with Powell's full knowledge.

Taguba Report Full Text

MSNBC has posted the full text of the "Taguba Report" on abuse and torture in American run prisons in Iraq, completed in February.

I haven't read it yet, but I'll try to get to it this evening. Kevin Drum suggests someone send a copy to Donald Rumsfeld, General Myers, and George Bush.

Speaking of Rumsfeld, dig this unbelievable quote from that jerk:

"I think that -- I'm not a lawyer. My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. I don't know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the torture word."

It's simply astounding that he would sit there and equivocate over what the meaning of "torture" is, when the U.S. faces an international crises of legitimacy like this. Don't they realize that the only way to even begin to fix the damage is to stop being fucking politicians and be humans for a minute? It really and truly boggles the mind.

Joe Wilson on the GOP

From his interview in Salon.

Conason: What's the difference in the GOP from when you were growing up?

Wilson: If you're fiscally responsible, this is not your party. If you believe in a moderate foreign policy characterized by alliances, free trade and the ability to operate in an international environment, this is not your party. If you believe in limited federal government, this is not your party. If you believe that the government should stay out of your bedroom, this is very definitely not your party. In fact, I would argue that unless you believe in the American imperium, imposed on the world by force, or unless you believe in the literal interpretation of the Book of Revelations, this is not your party.

The problem is that so many people think that it is their party, when it's not. The policies of the GOP and the Bush administration in particular continually screw them, but they're convinced for some reason -- sometimes just out of habit -- that they are Republicans.

I was confronted with this first hand at a party on Friday night. I was wearing my Democrats shirt -- I try to wear it whenever I go out -- but found myself in a small sea of young, successful Republicans, or so they thought. There was a lot of "I'm a social liberal, an environmental liberal, a domestic policy liberal, but I'm fiscally conservative and I'm with the president on foreign policy."

I simply cannot fathom this point of view. They agree with the president on maybe 20% of his agenda, yet they'll still vote for him. They'll still vote for him if it means he'll try to codify persecution of their gay friends; they'll still vote for him even though they know he's poisoning their air and water; they'll vote for him, claiming that they are fiscal conservatives, even though he's racked up the biggest deficit in history; they'll vote for him because they're afraid of terrorists, ignoring the fact that his foreign policy has undoubtedly created more terrorists while isolating us from our friends.

I have a secret hope that many Republicans with brains are embarrassed to be associated with this president. They're also embarrassed to admit that they were wrong about him. But maybe come November, they'll do the right thing.

More on Powell

This whole episode is really fascinating to me, having been aware of the gist of it since before the article was released, and now watching a friend get put through the media wringer in real time.

I just watched Wil's appearance on MSNBC, during which he reiterated and stood by everything in his article. There seemed to be a good deal of surprise on the part of the MSNBC anchor that all this was on the record. They kept referring to the article as "explosive."

The best quote from the article concerns the public face of the relationship between Colin Powell and Cheney:

As Powell's friend and mentor, Harlan Ullman?the man who coined the phrase shock and awe?told me, "There's an ideological core to Bush, and I think it's hard for Powell to penetrate that." When asked about Powell's relationship with Vice President Cheney? Woodward's book described the two as barely on speaking terms; Rice then claimed that they are "more than on speaking terms: They're friendly...very friendly"? Ullman said, "I can tell you firsthand that there is a tremendous barrier between Cheney and Powell, and there has been for a long time. It's like McCain saying that his relations with the president are 'congenial,' meaning McCain doesn't tell the president to go fuck himself every time." Then he added, "Condi's a jerk." Or as Larry Wilkerson described his boss's role in the cabinet, "He has spent as much time doing damage control and, shall we say, apologizing around the world for some less-than-graceful actions as he has anything else."


This is the first time I've seen it put so plainly. Of course politicians say that they're on "good terms" and "congenial" with each other. But as Ullman said, all it means is that they don't call each other a bitchass whenever they see each other. They're politicians and diplomats and they generally don't say anything they don't want to see on the front page of the New York Times.

Which is what makes this article so fascinating. Powell himself didn't say anything, but Hylton makes it very clear that his close aides could be said to be speaking for him. Powell was briefed on the conversations Hylton had with his aides before his own interview took place, and he still gave the interview. This is quite telling. If there had been a problem with what was being said, the damage control and backpedaling would have started right then.

If and when I get the transcript of the Wilkerson interview, I'll post it right away.

Powell Distancing Hisself

It seems that Powell's people are now trying to distance themselves from Wil Hylton's GQ article, claiming they didn't know the interviews would be on the record, despite a tape recorder whirring away on the table.

More to the point, what difference does it make? Are they saying that they weren't telling the truth because they thought they were off the record? That seems a bit backwards. If there was a misunderstanding about the nature of the interviews, fine, but once again they're not addressing the issues or substance brought up by the article. If they would have told a different story had they known they were on the record, that's just too bad, their words are out there now, and saying you didn't know you would be quoted doesn't get you off the hook.

Wil will be on Lester Holt's show on MSNBC this afternoon and Paula Zahn's on CNN this evening. Shoud be interesting. He has also indicated that he may give me a complete transcript of the Wilkerson interview.

Stay tuned.

Powell Plays It Close To The Vest

My friend Wil S. Hylton has a new piece in GQ today backing up a lot of Bob Woodward's assertions from Plan of Attack concerning the huge divide between the State Department and the rest of the cabinet, particularly the Vice President's office and the Pentagon.

In the warped logic of presidential politics, consensus equals clarity, and dissent is pure treason. But even within this arid intellectual landscape, the show of solidarity put on by the Bush administration for the past three years must rank among the greatest pieces of performance art in the last half century. Even as senior members of this administration have brawled in private, feuding over nearly every major piece of American foreign policy, not just the war in Iraq and the reconstruction of Afghanistan but also U.S. policy in China, Russia, Taiwan, Korea, Iran, Syria, and Libya, even as neoconservative firebrands like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle have struggled against traditional conservatives like Colin Powell to export American democracy around the globe, even as the schism between the State Department and the Pentagon has become increasingly venomous and personal, the White House has been scrambling to keep the whole mess under wraps, to maintain the illusion that the president's "dream team" is still very dreamy -- or, at the very least, a team.

Hylton conducted on-the-record interviews with Powell, Rice, Powell's chief of staff Larry Wilkerson and others and deftly points out the contradictions between their stories. Particularly interesting are the conversations with Powell, who carefully says a whole lot of nothing -- ending his interview with the line "You didn't get as much substance as you might have wanted." -- and Wilkerson, whom Hylton is assured by several staffers is "of a single brain" with Powell. It's a clever little bit of deniability, to have Wilkerson present the facts much more candidly, and to ensure that the reporter has the idea that he basically speaks for Powell.

Hylton describes his interview with Rice:

I met with Condoleezza Rice in her office at the White House, a bright and white and airy room that looked like a wedding cake turned inside out, where Rice sat prim and pretty beneath an Impressionist painting in a black business suit and bright red lipstick, smiling politely as she lied through her teeth about the war between the State Department and the Pentagon, as though no such conflict could possibly exist, not in her immaculate White House, and the century-long battle between the two agencies had, in fact, come to a screeching halt on January 20, 2001, when she and the Texan came to town.

Go read the whole piece.

The Liberal Bias of Facts

Once again, The Daily Show manages to say it all in one or two sentences.

In his little segment/parody of last week's Nightline controversy, Rob Corddry had this little gem:

Corddry: How does one report the facts in an unbiased way when the facts themselves are biased?

Stewart: I'm sorry, Rob, did you say the facts are biased?

Corddry: That's right Jon. From the names of our fallen soldiers to the gradual withdrawal of our allies to the growing insurgency, it's become all too clear that facts in Iraq have an anti-Bush agenda.

Besides being hilarious, this neatly sums up what the position of many right-wingers, including the administration, is quickly becoming. Inconvenient facts are treated as propoganda and either ignored, distorted, or covered up, and then quickly replaced with substantive dialog about how John Kerry fell off a bike.

May 3, 2004
Waiting For Those Subpoenas
WASHINGTON - Bush administration officials were wrong to prevent a budget expert from giving Congress estimates of the cost of Medicare legislation, congressional researchers have concluded.

In a report made public Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said efforts to keep Richard Foster, the chief Medicare actuary, from giving Democratic lawmakers his projections of the bill's cost -- $100 billion more than the president and other officials were acknowledging -- probably violated federal law.

Recent estimates set the bill's cost at more than $500 billion.

Foster testified in March that he was prevented by then-Medicare administrator Thomas Scully from turning over information over to lawmakers. Scully, in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, said he had told Foster "that I, as his supervisor, would decide when he would communicate with Congress."

Congressional researchers chided the move. "Such 'gag orders' have been expressly prohibited by federal law since 1912," Jack Maskell, a CRS attorney, wrote in the report.

The report was requested by committee Democrats after majority Republicans refused to subpoena Scully and White House adviser Doug Badger to testify about their roles in keeping cost estimates from lawmakers.

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., the committee chairman, said he would be willing to issue subpoenas if laws had been broken.

A spokesman for Thomas did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(emphasis mine)

So, to sum up: An administration official won't allow a subordinate to deliver his accurate cost estimates of a controversial bill to Congress before they vote. Republicans on the oversight committee refuse to issue subpoenas to get to the bottom of it, so Democrats have to call for an independent investigation. The investigation reveals a likely breach of specific and long-standing federal laws.

Also note that this vote was extremely controversial, with Republicans holding the voting open nearly all night to strong arm the necessary votes. If the correct estimates had been available to them, it is not a stretch to say the bill wouldn't have had a chance. (see this Nightline report, which I wrote about here)

So, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif, we're waiting. Let's see some subpoenas.

The Way Of The Master

I had no idea that Kirk Cameron -- Mike Seaver from Growing Pains -- was a totally far out super-duper Evangelical Mega Christian with his own TV show and a fancy pants website. Did you?

Check it out.

kirk cameron knows

I took some of their tests and quizzes, and unfortunately, it appears that I'm going to hell. Unless, of course, I buy the $60 "Way of the Master Foundation Course." Hmmm... Maybe...

Nah, I think I'll stick with eternal damnation.

Church and State

Ugh. This kind of thing really makes me mad.

No More Mister Nice Blog points to this article in the New York Times about the Governor of New Jersey, a Democrat, being threatened with the denial of communion because of his position on abortion rights.

Note that this is his political position on abortion rights, not his personal position on the morality of abortion. This is a vital difference, or at least it would be if our political system was as it should be.

Also in the article is this mention of John Kerry:

In New York City today, the Archdiocese confirmed rumors that Mr. Kerry might not be invited to the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, the charity fund-raiser sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York that is a national fall ritual, especially in an election year, for Catholic politicians and the church.

"The discussion has centered on the question of whether John Kerry should be invited,'' said Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the archidocese. "There has been no decision reached on that."

NMMNB points out that in each of the past three years (as far back as he checked) Republican Pro-Choice Catholics and Democrat Pro-Choice non-Catholics have attended this dinner. Examples: Rudy Guliani, George Pataki, Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, Chuck Schumer.

Only Pataki and Guliani are both Catholic and Pro-Choice, but they're Republicans so the issue was never raised.

The typical excuse for this is "they're not running for President" and therefore are not subject to as much scrutiny. Right, this is obvious by the intense scrutiny the church placed George Bush under when he was running for President.

The other obvious flaw with their position is that they have singled out abortion rights as the one true test of someone's Catholicism, while conveniently ignoring popular Republican positions like the death penalty, social justice, and like that.

As a non-religious person, this kind of thing offends me more than I can explain. I would find it no more offensive if we were suddenly seeking approval of our politicians from the "Church" of Scientology.

All of these organizations should lose their tax-exempt status. It's just ridiculous.

New Kerry Ads

The Kerry campaign has released a new set of ads today, with the tagline, "A Lifetime of Service and Strength."

I think the ads are great. They take the Republican criticisms of Kerry head on and deftly use them to his advantage. He acknowledges his "privileged upbringing," and says that it reinforced his commitment to service. This is in sharp contrast to Bush, who goes to great lengths to pretend he doesn't come from one of the most powerful and privileged families in America.

They also wisely frame Kerry's stance against Vietnam when he returned as a determination to stop that war, not undermine it. This has the advantage of being true. While some antiwar protestors in the 60s had questionable motives and tactics, Kerry used established channels to communicate his belief that the war was wrong and that no more men should die for it. He could never be accused of not supporting his fellow soldiers, he was trying to bring them all home.

Anyway, watch the ads.

UPDATE :: Also out recently is John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography: By the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, which promises to be a thorough and unbiased look at the Man Who Would Be President.

Bush Performance Review

Bush styles himself as "the CEO President." Kevin Drum has a great post on Bush's job performance, concluding that Bush has vision and determination, but lacks the skills to get the job done.

Bush styles himself a "CEO president," but the world is full to bursting with CEOs who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen. They assign tasks to subordinates without making sure the subordinates are capable of doing them ? but then consider the job done anyway because they've "delegated" it. They insist they want a realistic plan, but they're unwilling to do the hard work of creating one ? all those market research reports are just a bunch of ivory tower nonsense anyway. They work hard ? but only on subjects in their comfort zone. If they like dealing with people they can't bring themselves to read all those tedious analyst's reports, and if they like numbers they can't bring themselves to spend time chattering with distributors about their latest prospect.

And most important of all, weak CEOs are unwilling to recognize bad news and perform unpleasant tasks to fix it ? tasks like like confronting poorly performing subordinates or firing people. Good CEOs suck in their guts and do it anyway.

George Bush is, fundamentally, a mediocre CEO, the kind of insulated leader who's convinced that his instincts are all he needs. Unfortunately, like many failed CEOs before him, he's about to learn that being sure you're right isn't the same thing as actually being right.

So sure: George Bush is genuinely committed to winning in Iraq. He just doesn't know how to do it and doesn't have the skills, experience, or personality to look beyond his own instincts in order to figure it out. America is about to pay a heavy price for that.

Exactly right.

As we've seen with many other CEOs of his stripe in recent years, these people tend to fail, and fail spectacularly. Their inability to accept hard truths and their single-minded focus on their own instincts at the expense of reality ultimately leads to a crash.

The tragedy is that while the failures of ordinary CEOs may cost us millions and millions of dollars and many people their jobs, the failures of this one have cost thousands of people their lives and much of our civilization's progress towards a stable and secure future.

7 More Soldiers Disciplined

The A.P. reports that six more U.S. soldiers, all officers and non-coms, have "received the most severe level of administrative reprimand in the U.S. military." A seventh was given "a more lenient admonishment."

Administrative reprimands? Admonishment? I'm sure that will really quell the rage in the Arab world over this torture. "Don't worry, everyone, we've reprimanded them. They feel really bad, and they said they were sorry."

General Karpinski claimed on Good Morning America that she didn't know anything about the abuse, and that if she had known, she "certainly would have reacted very quickly."

So the story that's emerging is that these are individual criminal acts, not connected to anything else.

Frankly, it's bullshit.

The soldiers who committed these acts can't even spell the word "rapist" when they scrawl it on a prisoner's skin, and we're now giving them credit for knowing the most effective ways to humiliate Muslim men. This wasn't random cruelty, these acts are very specific and devastating to Muslims. Nudity is completely humiliating and shameful for Muslim men, particularly when in front of other men. These acts were specifically designed to break these people down, and I don't believe for a second that the mental defectives we've seen in these photographs thought it up on their own.

I realize that the military has its own forms of punishment, and that these "administrative reprimands" will end careers, but I don't think it's nearly enough. If these kinds of acts were committed in the civilian world, there would certainly be criminal charges, and this should be no different. If anything, we should hold our military to a higher standard when it is engaged around the world, particularly if we are surrounding that engagement with the rhetoric of Freedom and Democracy.

Again, what would be our reaction if the tables were turned? If Americans were treated this way and then we were assured that those responsible had been "reprimanded," would we feel that justice had been done? Certainly not.

If we intend to spread our morality and philosophy around the globe (and I'm not necessarily advocating that we should), we must first make sure that we can hold ourselves to the standards we pretend to believe in.

When you stare into the abyss, the abyss also stares into you.

May 2, 2004
Fox to Counter Nightline Tribute

Via Liberal Oasis:

On Fox News Sunday today Chris Wallace had this to say in response to Nightline's program Friday night, "The Fallen."

After listening to all the debate, and then watching the show, we think the folks at Nightline made a mistake this week:

Listing all the brave men and women who have died in Iraq, but without providing the context of what they want halfway around the world to do.

So next week, we here at Fox News Sunday are going to put together our own list.

A list of what we've accomplished there, through the blood, sweat and, yes, lives of our military.

We think the point is not just that those hundreds of troops died, but what they died for.

Is it possible to imagine that Fox will explain to us "what they [the soldiers] went halfway around the world to do" in an unbiased way? Unless they stick to empty truisms like, "they went to oust Saddam," and "they went to disarm him," or "they went to find WMD," it's pretty doubtful.

Instead, their explanation will no doubt be filled with words like Freedom, Democracy, Liberate, Evil, Terror, and Rape Room.

What Nightline did was simple and unadorned. There was no spin, just names and pictures. It was very moving. It didn't support the war and it didn't denounce it, it simply honored those who have died fighting it.

As Koppel said at the end of it (I'm paraphrasing), if you support the war, your reaction will be something like "these soldiers will not have died in vain, we will finish our mission." If you don't support the war, your reaction was probably something like "no more should die for an unjust cause."

Reciting partisan talking points about what good the war has accomplished is not "providing context," it's providing spin. Fox News wouldn't know honor and tribute if they bit them in the ass.

Bremer Gets Offer He Can't Refuse

My guess is he woke up with a camel head in his bed.

On Friday some quotes Iraq Administrator Paul Bremer made in 2001 were widely circulated. His statements that the Bush administration was dropping the ball on terrorism were direct and unequivocal. He was also in a position to know, having just chaired the National Commission on Terrorism, a bipartisan body formed by the Clinton administration to examine U.S. counterterrorism policies.


"The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. 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?"


"I am strongly supportive and grateful for the President's leadership and strategy in combating terrorism and protecting American national security throughout his first term in office."

Damn, that's quite a change in perspective, huh? I mean, wow.

There is also, naturally, the obligatory swipe at the Clinton administration -- the administration that formed the Commission he chaired.

"Criticism of the new administration, however, was unfair. President Bush had just been sworn into office and could not reasonably be held responsible for the Federal Government's inaction over the preceding 7 months."

Of course, his statements weren't regarding the previous 7 months, they were about what Bush had done since he took office. He said they "seem to be paying no attention to terrorism." Now he says he was referring to the previous 7 months, and apparently had meant to say Clinton administration when he said "new administration."

Remember, it's not a lie. He misspoke.

Fallujah Goes Weird

The new Iraqi security force, under the command of one of Saddam's Generals, Jassim Mohammed Saleh, hasn't really been seen around Fallujah.

The military seems to be giving mixed messages about whether or not this force will really be in charge in Fallujah, and whether or not Saleh will be in charge. First they said he was, now they say he's not.

Saleh is also apparently saying that there "are no foreign fighters in Fallujah," in direct contradiction to coalition intelligence.

Although a Marine spokesman said Saleh's force had expanded to 600 soldiers on Sunday -- double the size it was a day earlier -- it remained unclear exactly where those troops were. Several men who claimed to be participants told reporters who traveled into the city that they were still waiting for uniforms and orders. Until they got them, they said, they planned to patrol their neighborhoods in civilian clothes.

As questions mounted about Saleh's performance and his background, Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the former general would not be given command of the new force, named the Fallujah Brigade. "He will not be their leader," Myers said on ABC's "This Week" program.

In a truly weird statement, a "senior official" of the occupation authority said that the decision to put Saleh in charge was made from the "bottom up."

What?? The decision to place a former General in Saddam's elite Republican Guard in charge of the security force around the most dangerous city in Iraq was made on the ground? Are we seriously supposed to believe that senior military and civilian officials weren't involved in this decision? What do you supposed they were talking about last weekend, then?

Jeez, even the good news out of Iraq is always actually bad news.

We're Not Number 1! We're Not Number 1!

More good news.

The United States has started to lose its worldwide dominance in critical areas of science and innovation, according to federal and private experts who point to strong evidence like prizes awarded to Americans and the number of papers in major professional journals.

Foreign advances in basic science now often rival or even exceed America's, apparently with little public awareness of the trend or its implications for jobs, industry, national security or the vigor of the nation's intellectual and cultural life.

Naturally, I would never begrudge other countries their scientific achievements, and part of this shift is certainly due to better education and more opportunity around the world. Still, it seems to me a sympton of our complacency and completely screwed up priorities that we're starting to fall behind. We spend less and less on science, education, and the arts and more and more on unnecessary wars, fuel-inefficient cars, weight-loss surgery, and boner pills.

I'm sure many scientists would argue that America still produces a great number of brilliant innovations, but it's hard to not feel like we've lost our edge. Remember, all empires fall. This one is really showing some warning signs.

May 1, 2004
Army Report Details Abuse and Torture at Abu Ghraib

In an article in next week's New Yorker (online now), Seymour Hersh describes a February Army report on the abuses at Iraqi prisons.

The report includes accounts even worse than those we've already heard and seen graphic evidence of, including sodomy with chemical light sticks and broom handles, forced masturbation, and the use of attack dogs.

It's certainly worth reading the entire article, but here's the conclusion:

As the international furor grew, senior military officers, and President Bush, insisted that the actions of a few did not reflect the conduct of the military as a whole. [Major General Antonio] Taguba's report, however, amounts to an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority.

The New York Times now has the first public comments from Brig. General Janis Karpinski, who commanded the Military Police Brigade and oversaw the military prison system in Iraq. She has been relieved of duty and is back home in South Carolina, making excuses.

I do not doubt that Military Intelligence encouraged these acts. It is also possible that, as Karpinksi says, the Army may be trying to shift the blame to her and other reservists and away from intelligence officers still in Iraq. This does not diminish her responsibility or that of the soldiers already involved. She is a General; she is responsible for what goes on under her command. If she would like to bring to light the wrongdoing of others and see that they suffer the punishment that they deserve, fine. They should be punished and it serves us all to find out how deep this problem is. But if her goal and the goal of others under investigation is to reduce their own culpability, to pass off responsibility for these horrific crimes, it's just another sign that they are truly despicable people.

We need only think for a moment about what our reaction to these stories would be if the situation were reversed to understand that there is simply no excuse for this.

Prisoner Abuse

And here come the excuses.

From an article in the Baltimore Sun yesterday.

The Sun's Friday editions identified two other soldiers facing court-martial. The newspaper cited unidentified Army officials in naming Sgt. Javal S. Davis, 26. His wife, who also spoke to the newspaper, defended her husband.

"We really don't know how those prisoners are behaving," said Zeenithia Davis, who is in the Navy in Mississippi. "There's a line between heinous war crimes and maintaining discipline."

A Sun reporter on Thursday showed a photo of one of the nude prisoner scenes to Terrie England, who recognized her daughter, reservist Lynndie R. England, 21, standing in the foreground with her boyfriend.

"Oh, my God," she told the newspaper from the stoop in front of her Fort Ashby, W.Va., trailer home. "I can't get over this."

The alleged abuses of prisoners were "stupid, kid things -- pranks," Terrie England said. "And what the (Iraqis) do to our men and women are just? The rules of the Geneva Convention, does that apply to everybody or just us?"


No. No no no no no. No excuses. No matter how these prisoners may have been behaving, this is not acceptable treatment of a human being. Stacking people naked in a pyramid, and taking photographs of yourself smiling and giving a thumbs-up will never qualify as "maintaining discipline."

As for the ridiculous notion that these are "stupid, kid things and pranks," it makes my blood boil. This is not a fraternity hazing ritual, this IS A WAR.

As for the Geneva Conventions, it's really not the point. The standards we should be applying here are not international law but human decency.

British troops are now also being accused of similar crimes.

At least, in England, it's front page news. Here in the U.S., the story has been largely buried on page 10. And the photographs have been hard to find until very recently.

If we really wanted to show the Arab world that this is not representative of us, that it is an aberration, we would be making a huge show of condemning it in the strongest possible terms, as the British are doing. Our tendency to make excuses and apply glaring double standards is going to bite us in the ass in a most terrible way.