4/30/2003

Busy, Busy, Busy has a shorter Richard Cohen that I truly love:
If I ever wake up, I may realize that I was manipulated into supporting the war on Iraq by a gigantic bait-and-switch con job.
Well, I lost all my email sent to me over the last 24 hours. So if you haven't heard back from me, just resend. My bad. I'm not purposefully ignoring you. Robot fingers, you know. I also took down the comments temporarily. Rather than have a comment for each post, I'm going to set up comments for the archive week. Anyways, many thanks for the comments so far, and hopefully I'll have the alternative online tonight or tomorrow.

4/29/2003

Baghdad Bait and Switch Richard Cohen drinks the Kool-Aid.
Then I heard the window open and felt the breeze on my face. "I hope everything turns out hunky-dory, like you've been writing," he said. "Otherwise, you should have been an accountant and made some money so you could take care of your parents." He looked at me, tenderly. "Give them my love, boychick." With that, the window closed, the breeze ceased and I went back to sleep. I had a nightmare that I was an accountant.
But his pride keeps him from swallowing.
Digby reminds us of something we should all be very aware of.
However, I doubt that was the point. The Republicans understand propaganda and Newtie understands it better than anyone. He fired off a salvo at the behest of the radical imperialists in the administration knowing full well that he would be severely criticized by the Colin Powell faction. It isn't the first time that he has taken a bullet purely for the purpose of injecting a new meme into the discourse. As that great DC journalist Cokie Roberts once said, "It doesn't matter if it's true or not, it's out there."
Remember, feints and pawns are just part of the game. Newt throwing himself on his symbolic sword started a swirl o' memes.
The radical right drumbeat for "State Department Reform" is already beginning as a result of his speech. Kristol endorsed it and that's as good as saying it is only a matter of time before it becomes a GOP article of faith. Powell is reportedly unlikely to stay for a second term, so they are planning to purge the state department of career diplomats and analysts who are resistant to their Imperialist fantasies. Like the Soviet totalitarians they studied and came to identify with, the radical right excels at power strategies and internal political control. And, while George W. Bush is showing quite an aptitude for Stalinist strong arming, the Leninists and Trotskyites are still necessary to consolidate the GOP hold on the body politic. Newt has not yet outlived his usefulness.
Remember, plans within plans within plans. The Great Oz is, after all, a Third Stage Guild Navigator. And they seem to have plenty o' spice on hand.
Spooked Okay, just when you think it can't get any weirder, read the above. Twice. And then come and tell me that there is nothing to worry about at all. Nothing at all. No panic here. Nope.
''We want your medical records,'' she continued, sliding a paper across the table, ''and want you to sign this release.'' She paused. ''You were in the military, you use the V.A. We can get those records.'' They can? So why do they need a release? ''I'd like to talk with my attorney first,'' I said. ''May we continue this tomorrow?'' Cruella said, ''Yes, but you'd better come back,'' ominously adding, ''I don't want to have to come looking for you.'' I expected her to continue, ''And your little dog, too.'' My attorney relayed the sobering news that, in a rare First Amendment exception, the simple utterance of a threat against a major presidential candidate can get you five years in prison and a fine -- and what I reportedly said qualified.
Wow. Could we all just have been under an evil statistical spell? The Daily Howler takes the above report and runs against A Nation at Risk. Could it be that we were really doing pretty well all along, and it was only our stupid, pointless, ridiculous and dare I say short sighted policy on not helping those in need which dragged down the average to make us look like idiots? And so all these poor teachers and students have been been taking it on the chin over a misreading of statistics?
When newspapers report international studies of this type, scores-by-race are rarely provided. Newspapers don’t like to go there. But for those who would judge American teachers and schools, it’s significant to see how white American kids perform on tests of this type. After all, the U.S. has an unusual history, which affects its overall scores in such measures. For a period of roughly 400 years, the United States tried, as official state policy, to eliminate literacy in the black community. Until the mid-nineteenth century, it was against the law to teach black kids to read; for roughly a century after that, only the most modest efforts were made in this area. Under the circumstances, it’s a miracle that black literacy rates aren’t much lower. But American blacks are still affected by the assault on literacy that was conducted over time, and average scores on international tests are affected by residual problems that have yet to be solved in our nation’s urban schools. But as Bracey points out, white Americans sometimes score at the very top among international groups. Since other countries didn’t spend centuries stamping out literacy in one part of their populations, these scores provide an intriguing rebuttal to sweeping attacks on American schools. Obviously, our suburban schools are far from perfect. But our suburban schools do tend to house kids who score near the top of the world.
And it's wise to note
DON’T EVEN START: Don’t even start with your complaints that it’s “racist” to leave out our black kids. The point here is simple—American history has created a situation that exists in no other developed nation. Japan and Sweden didn’t spend hundreds of years destroying literacy among ten percent of their populations. The astounding tragedy of American history created the tragedy of today’s urban schools. At present, American ed is indeed overwhelmed by the problems that exist in our urban schools. But other countries don’t face the unique problem that our history has asked us to handle.
More trouble brewing in Iraq. Daily KOS has a great post about those Clinton terrorists and the... uh... shooting of 15 protesters.
Iraqi opponents of the US occupation are merely setting the table. We haven't even gotten to the appetizers yet.
Yi. Sure glad these guys are really good at predicting worst case scenarios. After all, I'd hate to see things turn out a bit different than we scripted.
FBI Scientist to Plead Guilty to Lying This is why you don't do everything in secret, why you have patriotic citizens scrutinizing our law enforcement constantly. I mean, this is the whole purpose of transparency, ain't it? We don't rely on the goodness and honest of individuals to do the right thing. We rely on the rule of law and a system of checks and balances. Checks and balances that are quickly being hacked away by this Administration, I might add...
"I cannot explain why I made the original error in my testimony ... nor why, knowing that the testimony was false, I failed to correct it at the time," Lundy wrote in a sworn affidavit to Justice Department officials. "I was stressed out by this case and work in general."
You know, something else that has my panties in a twist. I keep hearing about democratic "litmus tests" for judges n' such. I think this is just another Zombie Mind Trick by the evil sons of Satan. The position they state is that if you have any test for a judge, it's a democratic "litmus test" and therefore equivalent to the Christian Right's "litmus test" they use. And therefore should be attacked just like the liberals attack their "litmus test". One big difference. It's not a "litmus test" when you're talking about current and past LAW. It isn't a test to see if you would overturn current laws in favor of a particular world view. The way they want to spin the whole thing, they make it sound like standing up for CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS is some kind of wacky political skullduggery that should be exposed as the evil ACLU infected undead that it obviously is. I mean, when someone asks a judge if they want to OVERTURN Roe V. Wade, it's not a "litmus test" by democrats. It's the LAW OF THE LAND. And the question is, DO YOU WANT TO OVERTURN THE LAW OF THE LAND? In essence, it's a question determining if the judge has an activist agenda - i.e., will they use their position to further their ideology. And that's a perfectly acceptable question. So making the case that the "litmus test" of the Christian Right - which is to OVERTURN LAWS - is equivalent to the questions on the left as to whether they want to overturn those laws is just completely silly. It's perfectly reasonable to ask what a judge's views are about CONSTITUTIONAL rights. It's not like the left wants to overturn them. It just wants to know if you're going to uphold them and not whittle them away to nothing in an onslaught of moral certainty. If you believe in a "higher law", then the Christian Right's viewpoint almost makes sense. But then, you'd have to be a fundamentalist religious extremist to want to impose that law, wouldn't you? Say, like the Taliban?
Orcinus talks about Tripartite hate Read the post. He's great as usual. He pulls out a quote from a gem of love from Flip Benham which pretty much sums up the political thought of the Christian Right at this point in history.
Homosexuality, Islam, and abortion have something in common. They are three different colored gloves covering the same fist. Abortion is a crimson glove (stained with the blood of our pre-born children). Homosexuality is a pink glove (stained with the blood of young men and women given over to their own lust, and stained with the blood of nations that approve of such behavior). Islam is a black glove (stained with the blood of Christians, Jews, and anyone else who dares disagree with the false "god" Allah and his demon possessed prophet Mohammed). Three different colored gloves, yet the same fist. It is the fist of him who robs, kills, and destroys. That's right, I'm talking about the devil himself! We are not unaware of his schemes.
These guys are a laugh! I love it! These are the people I want in charge of my morality, heck yea. I mean, think how cool it would be to have these allusions ensconced in law and policy. We'd be partying with the big boys then.
We must stop relying on Conservative and Republican mercenaries to fight our battles for us. It is said that politics is the "art of compromise." The Gospel of Christ, however, is not up for negotiation. There can be no compromise when it comes to any one of the issues mentioned above for they are simply different colored gloves camouflaging the same fist. It is the fist of the devil. We must take this battle to the streets in the Name of Jesus Christ and win it there before we can ever expect to win the battle in Washington, D.C.
Yea baby! Just give me some of that old time religion and take me to the river!
Josh Marshall has a couple of priceless quotes in his latest post.
It was the week of the great Newt Gingrich smackdown. Jack Kemp called his old friend's argument ludicrous and compared him to "a bull who carries his own china shop around with him." Bill Buckley, famed lover of Foggy Bottom, said Newt had "overdone it." And pretty much every other Republican in town, pretty clearly at White House direction, trashed him. Newt was like that one doofus you have in every high school clique who's always trying to get into the act after the moment has passed.
Emphasis mine...
Busy,Busy,Busy talks about how the Administration has managed to inject genetic material straight into the meme germ line. Who says these guys don't understand viral engineering?
'Empire of a Devil' Kristoff points out the violence inherent in the system*.
The hawks are aghast at the idea of a new package deal with North Korea, and Washington seems to have been reasonable lately only because the Pentagon was too distracted by Iraq to notice what the State Department was up to. Pentagon officials yelped when they noticed, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld circulated a memo suggesting that Washington and Beijing together bring down the North Korean government. A fine dream. But what's scary is that this proposal is so divorced from reality (Beijing would never agree) that it suggests that policy is being formulated by ideologues sealed within the Pentagon. And when sanctions on North Korea would fail, the next step would be a military strike. It's a sign of the mess we're in that even a thoughtful statesman like Senator Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican, is talking openly about a military strike. A strike would be a historic gamble that might work, or might trigger a war that would incinerate hundreds of thousands of people in Korea and Japan. "That would be truly insane," said Steven Bosworth, a former ambassador to Seoul. He added, "For us to unilaterally attack North Korea would in my judgment be one of the most immoral acts conceivable." All in all, looking at the alternatives, starting negotiations should be preferable to starting wars.
_______________________________ * Bad Monty Python allusion
U.S. April Consumer Confidence Index Surges to 81 From 61.4 Some silver lining in an otherwise WMD-less sky. Since the economy is literally magic anyway, just thinking that it's better will actually make it better. Keep up the delusion! Go out and spend, spend, spend!
From the Guardian. 29.04.03: Steve Bell on the new Tony Blair © Steve Bell 2003

steve.bell@guardian.co.uk

If you're wondering, the post with the devolution cartoon wasn't ever supposed to be there. I thought I deleted it. Why? Dunno. Just didn't like it for some shiftless and unaccountable reason. Likely no green tea for several hours. Makes me irresponsible. Anyways, went away with latest republishing... Sorry...

4/28/2003

Security Hawks Gain Voice in Foreign Deals Okay. Significant reading on the Weird Shit-o-Meter
Should Tom Ridge be in the business of regulating international mergers? President George W. Bush has decided that he should. In a little-noticed move, Bush has installed the secretary of homeland security as a member of the obscure regulatory body that weighs the national security risks posed by major foreign investments in U.S. companies. Now some experts, including former senior government officials who served on the panel, suggest the president's maneuver could dilute the influence of those who champion cross-border investment. The result could be a more difficult environment for non-U.S. companies that come before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, looking to execute mergers and acquisitions in this country. "This is part of the broadening of what constitutes a national security concern, and it also reflects a broadening of the industries seen as subject to CFIUS review," says Ronald Lee, a Washington, D.C., partner at Arnold & Porter who handled CFIUS matters as head of the Executive Office of National Security at the Department of Justice.
Tests Cast Doubt on Chemical Find in Iraq
A metal drum found in northern Iraq that initially tested positive for nerve and blister agents might instead contain rocket fuel, according to new tests, a U.S. chemical weapons expert said Monday. ... The suspicious barrel was among 14 barrels found in an open field near the Tigris River town of Baiji, among mounds of earth that hid missiles and missile parts. U.S. troops performed an initial test and found indications the barrel may contain the nerve agent cyclosarin and a blister agent that could be a precursor of mustard gas. By design, initial test procedures favor positive readings, erring on the side of caution to protect soldiers. Two teams of experts were brought in this weekend for additional testing. One team conducted three tests, but the tests "were not totally conclusive," Novikov said. The second team, a specialist Mobile Exploitation Team, "suspects that it might be rocket fuel," Novikov said.
They're coming back for more tests, so this site could still turn up WMD.
George W Bush, President 'bout time he started blogging. (via Atrios)
Here's an example of why it's stupid to profile when fighting terrorists. Remember Oklahoma City? Remember all the radical right wing pseudo Christian organizations out there who the FBI (thankfully!) foils in their attempts at mass murder/terrorism acts? By basing your entire strategy on profiling for Radical Arab Moslems, you're going to miss these white bread, home grown people with truck bombs, Ricin, and god only knows what else. Hey, we haven't caught the person/persons responsible for the 2001 Anthrax letters? I mean, really. We haven't a clue what happened, apparently. And to bias your belief on who did it towards Arabs means that you're just not paying attention. There's a lot of wackos out there. And if your policy is one of profiling for radical Muslim terrorists, that's just as stupid as profiling for buzz cut, corn fed, angry young men from Idaho or Montana. It's just bad police tactics. Oh, and then there's the moral issues. But that's beside the point (apparently).
Federal Gov't. to Borrow Record $111B HoooBoooooyyy. I just love them conservatives who are spending us into a black hole.
The borrowing is needed to finance a budget deficit that is soaring to what will be an all-time high this year. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the deficit for the current budget year will total $287 billion and projects deficits over the next decade will total $1.82 trillion under the administration's proposals.
Okay, I have put the comments back in. However, they seem a big askew... Not showing the numbers of comments, nor are they sending me email when I get any (Ha!). So expect some glitches while I unfoobar this...
Powell: N. Korea Will Disarm for U.S. Aid Hey, wait a minute. Isn't this the same deal they had before? Wait. There's got to be a difference. After all, this Administration kept saying they weren't going to reward them. Got to see what the Great Oz does with this. Make no mistake, though. I'm glad to see progress. I just think the Administration needs to be constantly reminded of their pleasant quotes and positions on this before. What the heck am I talking about? These guys are able to change the entire justification for a war! This is small potatoes to warp this reality...
Rolling Back the 20th Century Wow. If you haven't already, read this excellent article by William "Secrets of the Temple" Greider. And then get busy.
High Court Rejects Abortion Privacy Case Yep, I think this is a clear indication of how the Supremes feel about privacy rights. Hey Andrew... Guess what? You helped!
The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for health authorities in South Carolina to collect names, addresses and other information about women seeking abortions, a power doctors say violates a fundamental duty to protect patient privacy. The high court rejected a challenge to the state's plan to catalog medical records from clinics and abortion doctors. The court's action, taken without comment, ends a lengthy legal challenge that had kept the law on hold. South Carolina is the only state whose law allows regulators to see, copy and store abortion patients' medical records without stiff requirements that the information be kept confidential, lawyers representing the clinic and outside medical organizations said. "For every individual, having your private medical records kept confidential is important. In the abortion context, it's even more important," said Bonnie Scott Jones, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented a Greenville, S.C., abortion clinic. "Women are subjected to harassment, violence, if their abortion decision is disclosed." South Carolina wants abortion clinics to open all files, including patient medical records, if state investigators ask to see them. Supporters say the new regulations will improve state oversight of abortion providers, and are part of ordinary state record keeping.
Rummy's North Korea Connection What did Donald Rumsfeld know about ABB's deal to build nuclear reactors there? And why won't he talk about it? Wow. I stepped into the twilight zone. I thought this story was dead! Now Forbes picks it up and starts asking some hard questions.
Even so, ABB tried to keep its involvement hush-hush. In a 1995 letter from ABB to the Department of Energy obtained by FORTUNE, the firm requested authorization to release technology to the North Koreans, then asked that the seemingly innocuous one-page letter be withheld from public disclosure. "Everything was held close to the vest for some reason," says Ronald Kurtz, ABB's U.S. spokesman. "It wasn't as public as contracts of this magnitude typically are." However discreet ABB tried to be about the project, Kurtz and other company insiders say the board had to have known about it. Newman, the former ABB executive, says a written summary of the risk review would probably have gone to Barnevik. Barnevik didn't return FORTUNE's phone calls, but Newman's Zurich-based boss, Howard Pierce, says Rumsfeld "was on the board--so I can only assume he was aware of it." By all accounts Rumsfeld was a hands-on director. Dick Slember, who once ran ABB's global nuclear business, says Rumsfeld often called to talk about issues involving nuclear proliferation, and that it was difficult to "get him pointed in the right direction." Pierce, who recalls Rumsfeld visiting China to help ABB get nuclear contracts, says, "Once he got an idea, it was tough to change his mind. You really had to work your ass off to turn him around." Shelby Brewer, a former head of ABB's nuclear business in the U.S., recalls meetings with Rumsfeld at the division's headquarters in Connecticut. "I found him enchanting and brilliant," he says. "He would cut through Europeans' bullshit like a hot knife through butter."
My prediction? Syncopated silence from the Great Oz. But isn't if funny to know that not only was Rumsfeld involved in Iraq (when they were still our friends), but he was also head of the company that sold North Korea the very same reactors that we're now dealing with. It's like a bad song. He makes money going in, and he makes money cleaning up the messes. Hey, maybe if we just got rid of Rummy and his band of pirates, we could just cut the whole middlemen out of this mess and save a bunch of bucks in the process.
Game theorist Sandler describes unintended consequences of US counter-terrorism policies Finally.
Current world events would not suggest that a decline in terrorism incidents has taken place during the post-Cold War era. Yet, that is what Todd Sandler, a University of Southern California (USC) professor, has found in studies conducted with colleague Walter Enders of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In a distinguished lecture at the National Science Foundation (NSF) today, Sandler said he and his colleague have also found that despite the declining number of terror incidents, the likelihood of death or injury from terrorism has increased. High on the list of reasons for this trend are the changing face of terrorism involving more religious groups and amateurs, and the way governments respond to terrorist threats. Sandler and colleague Enders were in Washington, D.C. to receive The Estes Award from the National Academy of Sciences for their research on transnational terrorism using game theory and time series analysis—techniques that effectively documented “the cyclic and shifting nature of terrorist attacks in response to defensive counteractions.” Game theory employs the idea of mutual responses between two thinking, rational agents, such as governments and terrorist groups, as defined in Sandler and Enders’ work. Speaking at NSF, Sandler gave insights into game theory and other new economic tools being employed to better understand trends in transnational terrorism, an extension of work he and Enders began more than 20 years ago with NSF support. At that time, they initiated a study of various forms of government “never-to-negotiate” strategies in hostage-taking incidents, as well as a look at negotiated agreements that occur between governments to thwart terrorism. The project also analyzed effective government responses when terrorists can “choose the country to stage their incidents.” A paper for The American Political Science Review in 1993, and other writings based on the project, led the Department of State’s security office to consult the researchers about policy development. “Investing in this basic research generated a knowledge base that almost a decade later, with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was highly sought after as a valuable tool for decision makers,” said Dan Newlon, NSF program director for economic sciences. “We published then that terror increased as security measures were heightened, not the other way around,” said Sandler, a Robert R. and Katheryn A. Dockson Professor of International Relations and Economics at USC. “Terrorists just substituted places and people who were less protected.” Bypassing facilities and attacking people instead may have resulted in fewer recorded incidents, but it came with the unintended consequence of greater human costs, Sandler concludes. Sandler’s current work with Enders involves an advanced look at that trend. Using time series analysis, the two believe they have a better predictive tool than existing methods in determining the lethality of the post-Cold War period of transnational terrorism, and for assisting future government policy considerations. In his NSF lecture, Sandler revealed that time series analysis bore out the conjecture that a new brand of terrorism among religious groups and amateurs brought on an increased deadliness of terror acts. Sandler believes this creates a dilemma for government counterterrorism measures: “For example, when metal detectors were placed in most airports, skyjackings and other threats declined, but other events such as hostage-taking took place in greater numbers where facilities were not well protected,” he explained. The fortification of U.S. embassies and mission facilities reduced attacks against them specifically, but led to an increase of assassinations of officials and military personnel outside of protected compounds.” Sandler and Enders’ work also merges the seemingly disparate areas of economics and political science. “An exciting aspect of Sandler and Enders’ work is the way they integrate political science and economics to provide these valuable insights into terrorism,” Newlon said.
Ah, but that's just some egg headed academic liberal talking.
Jimm has a great post entitled "Nothing But Ideology And Fiction, Speculation And Threats, Forgeries And Plagiarism". He may have left out Incompetence, but that's okay. Plenty to chew on. Go over and read the post. He's the kind of independent I find comforting in this world of Faux Centrists, Libertarians who've sold their soul, and reactionary Greens. Why are you still here? Read him.
Anthrax in Suitcase Kills Egyptian Heading to Canada
An Egyptian ship crewman has apparently died from exposure to anthrax contained in a suitcase he opened, Reuters news service reported Monday. An autopsy of the man, identified as Ibrahim Saved Soliman Ibrahim, revealed that he died in his hotel room April 11 after experiencing vomiting, multiple organ failure and internal bleeding, which were believed to have been caused by the deadly bacteria, according to Reuters. "He was the victim of anthrax," said Brazilian federal police spokesman Fernando Sergio Castro, adding that officials were 90 percent certain that anthrax was the culprit. Reuters reported that several health workers who discovered the body were evaluated at a hospital after becoming sick, but are now out of danger. Ibrahim, a crewman aboard an Egyptian merchant ship called the Wabi Alaras, was transporting the suitcase to Canada, although authorities do not believe he knew what was in the bag, according to Reuters. "He opened it because he was curious," Castro told Reuters. "We imagine that this is about bioterrorism and Brazil was just used as a point of transfer." Ibrahim had traveled from Cairo to Brazil to join the ship, but he died before it sailed to Canada, Reuters reported. Canada was alerted about the ship through Interpol, and officials quarantined the vessel last week. "There is absolutely no criminal or terrorist threat to Canada," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Dan Tanner said from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Brazilian authorities handed preliminary autopsy reports over to Canada, a Health Canada spokeswoman in Halifax told Reuters, but final results wouldn't be available until Tuesday at the earliest. Castro told Reuters that an unidentified person gave Ibrahim the suitcase last week, and the crewman was to deliver it to someone in Canada. Five Americans died and several others were sickened in serial anthrax mailings in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The case remains unsolved.
Wow. Doesn't this bring up bad memories of stuff we still haven't figured out? Hmmm. No doubt Iraq will be linked to this. But this is going to be a rather interesting development to follow. Mighty Wurlitzer, go!
Pause the postwar glee to ask: Were supporters misled? Hey, it's even in USA Today. Maybe my parents will even read this. On 11A, though.
If the weapons are found and their authenticity confirmed, Bush will have the I-told-you-so moment of his presidency. He'll deserve to be rewarded politically for staring down the Nervous Nellies and defending the nation against weapons controlled by a mad man. If the weapons are not found, the most charitable explanation is that they were moved out of Iraq while we were bombing our way to Baghdad -- or that we had rotten intelligence to begin with. Either illustrates incompetence. The more ominous conclusion is that Bush deliberately misled Americans to gather support for the Iraqi invasion -- or unwittingly was misled himself by gung-ho advisers, none of whom wear uniforms. I don't know which of the two is worse, but either should carry a heavy political price.
Yea, right. I'm sure that people like Tom Friedman will be lining up around the block to extract that price. Oh, wait. Tom says we don't need to prove WMD because of the humanitarian gain. Okay, back to sleep y'all. I said CALM DOWN BACK THERE or your mother and I are going to stop this bus and then you'll be sorry. Okay then. No more talk about a heavy political price.
BARREL FOUND BY GIS TESTS POSITIVE FOR SARIN The NY Post is still printing this as truth. In fact, this has already been shown to be yet another Tiffin phantasm of tests designed to err on the positive side (for good reason). Think they're going to have a big headline saying "BARREL FOUND BY GIS TURNS OUT TO BE ROUNDUP PESTICIDE"? Nope. Didn't think so. The Great and Powerful Oz has decreed otherwise. If you repeat something often enough and loud enough it become truth.
The Clincher Sullivan prematurely pops his cork over Al-Qaida/Iraq ties, and WMD discoveries. Listen to this
Several reports over the weekend, barely covered in the mainstream American press for some reason, strike me as blockbusters. The Sunday Telegraph's scoop of documents in Baghdad clearly linking al Qaeda with Saddam, if verified, means that an essential debate is over. Even opponents of the war against Saddam's dictatorship said they would be more inclined to support war if there were proof of a link to al Qaeda. Now, it seems, there is. But the manner in which we found this out after the event, raises a more complicated question about foreign policy in the age of terror. We know that Saddam had elaborate designs to make chemical and biological weapons. No serious person doubts that - although whether he tried to destroy evidence before the war, how extensive it was, what exactly it amounted to, are still questions in search of good answers. (But we're getting warmer, it seems.) So what does a free country do when confronted with an enemy state, with WMDs, that we strongly suspect is in league with terrorists like al Qaeda, but cannot prove without invading? It's tough. My view is that, after 9/11, we have little option but to launch a pre-emptive strike and hope for retroactive justification. But I understand why people demand proof before such action. This new finding - and I bet there will be more like it - strengthens my position, I think. The threat was not the weapons as such; it was the regime, its capacity to make and use such weapons and its potential or actual alliance with al Qaeda. We had to make a judgment about how likely it was that such a link existed. We bet right. Bush clearly didn't create that alliance. It existed long before he came long. It's clearer and clearer that we did the right thing. And this debate is even more important to have now when we can look at the evidence than before, when we couldn't.
Okay, where to start? First, as Sully knows by now, the "documents" have so far turned out to be so much spurious noise. But that's in the Guardian, which Sully doesn't deign to read unless it has something he can lambaste. Secondly, the WMD find that is warming the cockles of Sully's cold heart have turned out to be Tiffin phantasms like all the others. But you think Sully's going to post a follow up saying that he just popped his cork early? Naw... Better just leave the post uncorrected so that anyone looking for justification can find it and use it against those stinky liberals. Stinky liberals, I might add, who seem to be the only people who care about protecting his rights. Sully? He'd rather just forget the whole thing and hop on back to his Lilly pad like the Toady he is. Anyways, I love his claim "This new finding - and I bet there will be more like it - strengthens my position". So, now that it's just a Tiffin Phantasm, does it make your position limper? After all, it seems increasingly likely that you bet WRONG. It's becoming clearer and clearer that you did the wrong thing. After all, why all the push now to justify the war purely on humanitarian grounds? Why all the lowering of expectations for finding WMD's and even links to Al-Qaeda? Well, don't expect Sully to admit that he went off half-cocked. And do expect him to switch back to the humanitarian argument. Toady. Bootlicker. Thy name is Andrew Sullivan.
heh. Joe Conason lambastes his nibs, Tom Friedman.
Happily enough, however, discovering chemical and biological weapons in Iraq doesn't matter any more -- according to Thomas L. Friedman -- because we have discovered human skulls there instead: "As far as I'm concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war," he wrote on April 27, noting the excavation of the skeletons of Saddam's victims. "That skull, and the thousands more that will be unearthed, are enough for me. Mr. Bush doesn't owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons (even if it turns out that the White House hyped this issue)." Avid Friedman fans must be badly confused by now. After all, this is the same pre-eminent foreign affairs columnist who told us on March 9, "If the president can't make his war of choice the world's war of choice right now, we need to reconsider our options and our tactics." And he is also the same multi-Pulitzered pundit who said on March 19 that "such a preventive war is so unprecedented and mammoth a task ... that it had to be done with maximum U.N legitimacy and with as many allies as possible," adding that "we need to patch things up with the world. Because having more allied support in rebuilding Iraq will increase the odds that we do it right, and because if the breach that has been opened between us and our traditional friends hardens into hostility, we will find it much tougher to manage both Iraq and all the other threats down the road." All very sensible advice, yet I wonder why the globe-trotting, VIP-visiting Friedman no longer seems to understand how important the issue of WMDs is to the credibility of U.S. policy. Americans may or may not care whether we ever find chemical or biological weapons (there are almost certainly no nukes in Iraq.) Others around the world care intensely -- and are unlikely to be soothed by realizing that the WMD issue was a pretext for pre-emptive war. What is to stop India or Pakistan or China from concocting a pretext for launching a strike against a perceived danger? If we did it, so can they. And I also wonder how, in Friedman's mind, the grisly discoveries about Saddam's victims of the past quarter-century erase what the Times columnist wrote on February 19: "I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and every time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don't take the country to war on the wings of a lie. "Tell people the truth. Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred." Doesn't it matter at least as much whether the White House lied about weapons of mass destruction? That question still matters to the world, where our torn alliances will be harder to mend if we don't find proof of the alleged causes of this war -- and if we don't permit those findings to be verified by independent international observers from the U.N.
Tom Friedman is insane. He has become one of the undead, joining Woodward. He no longer casts a reflection in the mirror. He has no soul.
0 for 32 Okay, so the mysterious barrels of chemicals that were purported to be a combination of Sarin and Mustard Gas turned out not to be so.
In northern Iraq, a military chemical-analysis team said today that a cache of barrels and two mobile laboratories found near the village of Bayji were most likely not used for chemical warfare purposes, countering earlier reports from an Army officer at the site.
What the "Army officer at the site" actually said was:
"I am satisfied that it is sarin," Lt. Col. Ted Martin of the 10th Cavalry Regiment said Sunday.
Which is why it was plastered all over the airwaves and media yesterday. The admission that it was yet another Tiffin phantasm was burried in the NY Times article above. See? Trumpet the possiblity. Let fade the admission that it was yet another false alarm. That way everyone has the impression that they are finding WMD. The Great Oz is powerful and long is his vision.

4/27/2003

No proof of Powell's arms claims U.S. empty-handed in Iraq search for weapons of mass destruction The Chronicle has a Washington Post matter of facts story. Nice summary so far.
Powell detailed Iraq's use of mobile laboratories to produce chemical or biological weapons as a way of avoiding discovery and displayed diagrams of their interiors. The information came from an Iraqi chemical engineer who'd seen one of them and witnessed an accident in which 12 technicians died from exposure to biological agents. This defector, and three others, presented independent information, Powell said, that proved Iraq had "at least seven of these mobile biological agent factories" and that each of the truck-mounted factories had at least two or three trucks each. None of the truck laboratories has been discovered, and none of the defectors has come forward. ... Powell told the Security Council about Iraqi scientists who were threatened with death if they told U.N. inspectors about weapons activities and "a dozen experts . . . placed under house arrest -- not in their own houses." That information came from human intelligence sources, a senior official said, but to date not one of those individuals has been produced.
Revealed: How the road to war was paved with lies
Facing calls for proof of their allegations, senior members of both the US and British governments are suggesting that so-called WMDs were destroyed after the departure of UN inspectors on the eve of war – a possibility raised by President George Bush for the first time on Thursday. This in itself, however, appears to be an example of what the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix called "shaky intelligence". An Iraqi scientist, writing under a pseudonym, said in a note slipped to a driver in a US convoy that he had proof information was kept from the inspectors, and that Iraqi officials had destroyed chemical weapons just before the war. Other explanations for the failure to find WMDs include the possibility that they might have been smuggled to Syria, or so well hidden that they could take months, even years, to find. But last week it emerged that two of four American mobile teams in Iraq had been switched from looking for WMDs to other tasks, though three new teams from less specialised units were said to have been assigned to the quest for "unconventional weapons" – the less emotive term which is now preferred. Mr Powell and Mr Bush both repeated last week that Iraq had WMDs. But one official said privately that "in the end, history and the American people will judge the US not by whether its officials found canisters of poison gas or vials of some biological agent [but] by whether this war marked the beginning of the end for the terrorists who hate America".
And Tom Friedman thinks that's okay. After all, we can shred everything in sight - the UN, the Constitution, International Treaties, Alliances - and it's worth it to Tom Friedman. You know, I thought there was supposed to be this whole Cost/Benefit analysis thing. I guess Tom considers everything lost to be less value than having the Iraqis free from a dictator. A bold roll of the dice.
Al-Qaida links still dubious
Western intelligence officials are playing down the significance of documents appearing to show that Saddam Hussein's regime met an al-Qaida envoy in Baghdad in 1998 and sought to arrange a meeting with Osama bin Laden. "We are aware of fleeting contacts [between Baghdad and al-Qaida] in the past, but there were were no long-term official contacts," a well-placed source told the Guardian yesterday. "The documents do not take things further forward" British security and intelligence agencies have persistently dismissed attempts by hawks in the White House to link Saddam's regime with al-Qaida, a link which would help London and Washington to argue that Iraq had posed an imminent threat. According to the documents found by the Sunday Telegraph an envoy from al-Qaida went to Baghdad from the Sudanese capital Khartoum in March 1998 - two years after Sudan, under pressure from Saudia Arabia, ordered Bin Laden out and he returned to Afghanistan. Intelligence officials acknowledge that al-Qaida and Iraq shared a mutual hostility towards Saudi Arabia and the US after the 1991 Gulf war, but they say Saddam distrusted the terrorist network and there was little love lost between Bin Laden, an Islamist fundamentalist, and Saddam's secular regime. Intelligence sources also played down the significance of documents found by the Sunday Times in the Iraqi foreign ministry which suggest France gave the regime regular reports on its dealings with American officials. The sources described them as ordinary diplomatic traffic from the Iraqi ambassador in Paris.
Note the last paragraph. This had been widely reported on Fox that France was basically telling them everything they learned from secret talks with the US. I see that Fox seems to have retroactively placed a disclaimer in the above story. I do not believe it was there when I first read it. But, that could just be a Tiffin phantasm of mine...
The information, said in the files to have come partly from "friends of Iraq" at the French foreign ministry (search), kept Saddam abreast of every development in American planning and may have helped him to prepare for war. One report warned of an American "attempt to involve Iraq with terrorism" as "cover for an attack on Iraq."
In any event, it looks like another smoking gun turns out to be a water pistol. I must say, given the choice between Saddam linking up with Ussama and the alternative... I'll take the alternative.
On message, on script Leave it to the Canadians. This stuff just keeps getting better, don't it?
What a marvellous ride this war has been for students of power politics. Now, of course, that wouldn't be your point of view if you were sitting in the rubble of your home in Baghdad, or worse, but as a study of pure political manipulation — Wow! And, it's not just one war. The war against Afghanistan's Taliban regime is over. So, it would appear, is the war against Iraq's Saddam. But the War on Terror continues. Democrats are so afraid of fallout — of being called unpatriotic — that a "prominent Democratic senator" had to go off-the-record recently to tell the New York Times the White House is pursuing a policy of "never-ending war" in order to keep the U.S. public from focusing on Bush's domestic record and get him re-elected next year. A senator who doesn't want his name in the paper? Now, that's intimidation. You gotta stand back in awe. Well, shock and awe. That, after all, is the working title of this particular production by Bush & Co., also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It's a Great Oz Production (GOP). But other than that, a great read on how badly we've been screwed. But heck, Tom's willing to give them a pass because Iraqis fared so well - so far. Guess how the US fares, or how our constitution fares aren't something Tom Friedman worries about.
Friedman finally comes clean.
As far as I'm concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war. That skull, and the thousands more that will be unearthed, are enough for me. Mr. Bush doesn't owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons (even if it turns out that the White House hyped this issue).
See? It's like magic.
And when you look at the way war critics — from the Dixie Chicks to Tom Daschle — have been savaged by conservatives, it feels as if some people want to use this war to create a multiparty democracy in Iraq and a one-party state in America.
Well, Tom, what do you think is happening? Or didn't you read that they're moving the Republican Convention as close as they can to 9/11? Heck, they even came right out and said that they're running on National Security. Tom is insane. Absolutely insane. Sorry. It's possible to simultaneously be glad that Iraq is free of Saddam, and really pissed about being completely misled in the whole war effort. After all, it PROVES that we could have done the exact same thing without a war. There were plenty of alternatives, yet they didn't even try them. They also destroyed the UN, treaties and alliances in the process. The damage from that may be immense. And then there's the Afghanisation of Iraq. Hey, remember Afghanistan Tom? Yea, I pray to "Bob" that we will do the right thing in Iraq, but that would assume that the Administration really wants to do this... And is able to. We'll see. In any event, that was clearly never their intent. Yes, after Iraq falls we can see what's good about that. However, they lied and cheated to get this. It was never their intent. Question is, given how they went about this in the first place, how can we be sure of anything that they tell us they are so sure of in the future? Is Tom saying that it's okay to lie and cheat as long as it works out in the end? What if it doesn't? What about the cost? What about the alternatives? As far as I can tell, Tom is willing to give up on accountability, rule of law and just about everything else our constitution is about. As long as the right people are running things - so it would seem - Tom is willing to have a complete dictatorship. Tom is willing to let any number of sins be committed as long as everything works out. Apparently Tom thinks we owe it to the Administration to let them off the hook because the Iraqi people are free. He's not going to criticize them. He's just going to give them a free pass. Oh well. I guess we'll just go back to sleep and let Tom and his buddies in the Administration figure out what's best for the world. Geesh.
Bob Graham is wrong. Sorry, I know he's a democratic candidate and all that, but he just said a really stupid thing that shows a deep misunderstanding of our own constitution:
The Florida senator also said that by refusing to allow an Iranian-style religious government to take power in Baghdad, even if elected by the Iraqis, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "demonstrates the kind of quagmire that we are potentially going to be in in Iraq." "If you talk about a democracy, which means that people vote and select the political leadership that they desire, then you can't say, `But there are certain segments of the population that are off-limits,'" he told ABC's "This Week." "One of the concerns that many of the Middle Eastern leaders have said is that if you have a pure Jeffersonian democracy, you're going to have some of the most extreme elements within the country elected to the positions of responsibility."
Look. It's very simple. It's called the separation between Church and State. And our Bill Of Rights - in our own constitution - is specifically designed to limit what the majority can do to the minority. I just think it's stupid to attack the Administration because they're not going to let a Fundamentalist Islamic Government be set up. It's stupid to do this in Iraq, just as it is stupid to do this in the US. C'mon. There's got to be plenty of other stuff that is fair game to attack the Republicans on. This isn't one of them. I really wish the Dem's would just lay off of this line completely. It's a very stupid thing to do.
U.S. Said to Find Iraq Nerve Gas Evidence
The discovery of a dozen 55-gallon drums in an open field near the northern Iraqi town of Baiji may prove to be a turning point in the search for those weapons of mass destruction — if it is confirmed they contained banned chemical weapons. Lt. Col. Ted Martin of the 10th Cavalry Regiment said troops went to the site at midnight Friday after having been alerted by U.S. Special Forces teams. Their suspicions had been raised by the presence of surface-to-air missiles guarding the area. When a chemical team checked the drums, one tested positive for the nerve agent cyclosarin and for a blister agent which could have been mustard gas, Martin said. "I am satisfied that it is sarin," Martin said Sunday. He said soldiers also found two mobile laboratories containing equipment for mixing chemicals, but they appeared to have been looted. ... But more tests were being conducted. By design, initial tests favor positive readings, erring on the side of caution to protect soldiers. There have been numerous false reports that coalition forces have turned up chemical or biological weapons. So the U.S. Central Command was measured in its response to the discovery. "There are many sites that we look into every day, and when we have confirmed positive results we will provide that information," said Capt. Stewart Upton, a spokesman at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar. "We just want to be very cautious that when we go with the information, that when we release nuclear, biological, or chemical information, that we're accurate."
Well, we'll see. The last 10 times they said this, it turned out to be Pesticides. It'll be interesting to see if the story fades like the 22 missiles filled with Sarin that NPR reported a while back.
Reports of Weapons 'Greatly Exaggerated' Heck, even the Times/UK is getting into the act now. This is an excellent read, and brings up some very good points. Nice to see that at least the UK media are asking the hard questions and bringing up the embarrasing facts. Reproduced here because I think they are quite excellent issues.
Top of that list is why the Saddam regime, facing annihilation, did not use weapons of mass destruction if it had them. According to Hoon, this is because the weapons were “scattered across Iraq (and) were well hidden” while UN inspectors were in the country. But then they weren’t ready to use in 45 minutes, surely? Hoon appeared unaware of this claim. “I do not recall ever saying that. I specifically did not put a time on it,” he said. No, he didn’t say it, but his Government did, and the claim is central to Britain’s justification for pressing ahead with the war. Hoon himself, just before the outbreak of war, made a speech that gave warning of the “very real threat today . . . of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction”. Hoon then alleges that the sudden onslaught of war disrupted command structures and prevented the weapons being reassembled. It didn’t seem that sudden at the time. Several days passed between the departure of the UN inspectors and the start of the bombing. There was also a solid two weeks after the bombing started in which Iraqi command structures looked anything but shattered, to the point where Washington was grimly bracing itself for a long war. Why, on Hoon’s “well hidden” account, has nothing of significance been found, even though American forces have been in the country for more than a month? There is a limit to the number of possible hiding places. US Intelligence had identified about 150 sites worth investigation, and are already believed to have visited about half, according to analysts. Not one of these has yet yielded a “smoking gun”. On Hoon’s account, the regime was organized and skilful enough to dismantle, transport and hide all these weapons beyond the detective skills of US forces, and yet so disorganized that it could not retrieve and deploy even one. What about the chance that weapons have been smuggled out, to Syria, or sold to terrorists? This possibility has been gaining currency; it has been raised by David Kay, a former UN weapons inspector, and Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Minister, although citing reports he said he could not verify. But that, too, is implausible. Smuggled out to Syria? Not likely. Damascus is certainly capable of making serious misjudgments, but knowingly allowing Iraq’s banned weapons across its border would be only slightly short of accepting Saddam himself, a risk which no sane regime, looking at the American force camped in the region, would contemplate. Could they have been sold to terrorist groups? It is unlikely that they would want them, or pay much for them. The kind of chemical or biological weapons Saddam is accused of making are needed in large quantities, say a tonne, to be of any use. They need complex, expensive and conspicuous delivery systems, such as aircraft equipped with sprays or missiles. Terrorists targeting subway trains or water supplies can make do with something far simpler, such as ricin. The exception is weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. That is scarce, small in volume and easily hidden, and could be sold for a lot of money. But the nuclear part of the weapons program is widely thought to have been the least developed; Saddam is not believed to have overcome the difficulty of buying or making weapons-grade material. Gary Samore, director of studies at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and an expert on Iraq’s weapons program, also questions the motivation. “If I were an Iraqi fleeing for my life, I’d take cash before bottles of liquid anthrax,” he says. True, documents can be easily destroyed or transported, he says, but missiles are particularly hard to transport or conceal. The most plausible account so far is the one given by Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary, in his resignation speech. This is that Iraq certainly made highly unpleasant weapons but not in large enough quantities or at a level of readiness to warrant the term “mass destruction”. “Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term — namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target,” he said. “It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munititions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.” There is no question that Saddam’s regime produced, and used, terrible weapons. The odds are that forces will uncover evidence of them. But this is a long way from the claims made in the run-up to war, or the accounts now offered about why the weapons remain so hard to find.
Hmmm. Wonder why?
"The senior officials who have been captured are sticking to the party line: 'We don't have any WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. This is a fine regime. We never did anything nasty in our lives,' " the U.S. official said. "They're all sticking to the story."
I'm sure it's just me, but I can't for the life of me figure out why, if they did have WMD, they wouldn't just say it to gain favor with the administration. They could be just clued into the fact that the Administration isn't exactly the most dependable with their promises. So, maybe they figure that even if they do tell them where they are, the Administration will renege and they'll still be in deep do do. Or they could be just having a wonderful time watching the Administration squirm.
But Saadi and others may have little incentive to cooperate because they are suspected of running the weapons programs, and furnishing evidence would only bolster war crimes cases against them.
Maybe. But here's the kicker to my thinking.
"The people who are most likely to point you to where the WMD are hidden are not the top 55 guys," the official said, "but people below that level, physically involved in hiding it and who are not considered war criminals." The official said one low-level Iraqi scientist has provided some cooperation, pointing U.S. military search teams to suspected sites. But he said that although the United States has found some precursor materials, "we have not found an actual chemical weapon."
So, with massive money rewards being offered by the US, isn't it strange that no lower level people have turned up with anything even remotely damning? I mean, what's their motivation for staying quiet? I know... Saddam's body still hasn't been found. Therefore they must still be too scared that he'll reappear.
Industrial Sealant as a Dessert Treat. Brad DeLong follows up on Paul Krugman's op ed last week about the "Jobs" program that the president is trying to push as a Tax Cut for the Rich. Wait a minute. It's the other way around. No wait a minute....
Not surprisingly, we have something that is neither a good industrial sealant nor a good dessert topping. It is, however, still pretty effective as a tax cut for the rich.
I can't wait to read how the Krugman Truth Squad will get to the bottom of this pack of lies. The Sodium Pentathol kid will likely have to use two syringes for this one.
Religious Conservatives Rally behind Santorum
"What Senator Santorum did was stand up for the United States Constitution and stand up for the American family and say, this is a really dangerous proposition that the Untied States Supreme Court is considering right now," said Jesse Binnall, a spokesman for Public Advocate of the United States, a family values advocacy group that held a small pro-Santorum rally on Capitol Hill Thursday. The rally featured about half a dozen activists wearing black-and-white striped prison garb or old-fashioned, English-style police uniforms. The activists sang songs railing against liberal efforts at "thought control" and "intolerance" of Christian conservative views. The Traditional Values Coalition is leading a petition drive in support of Santorum. Bill Devlin, a Democratic committeeman in the city of Philadelphia and vice president of the Urban Family Council, says liberal critics are playing a political hand in going after Santorum. "This is character assassination because George Bush is doing so well, there's nothing really they can go after him on," said Devlin. "Rick Santorum absolutely should not step down," Devlin continued. "This is not another Trent Lott because Trent Lott obviously offended people based upon race, which is unchangeable and morally neutral, whereas Santorum was addressing...sexual behavior, which is changeable [and] morally significant."
Key Iraqi Weapons Official Captured
Amin, the former Iraqi National Monitoring Director, was No. 49 on the U.S. list of the 55 most wanted figures from the regime of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites). No further details were released. Amin, also known as Hossem Mohammed Amin al-Yasin, was the six of clubs on the U.S. deck of cards listing the most wanted figures. The general was among the key figures in Saddam's weapons programs and would have detailed knowledge of any illegal armaments, if Iraq (news - web sites) still posses them. For more than a decade as head of the monitoring commission, the former air force communications engineer has earned a reputation as a loyal officer who has fulfilled Saddam's expectations. Amin and his troops refused to allow U.N. inspectors into presidential palaces and other "sensitive sites" during the first round of U.N. inspections that ended in 1998.
And if he says there are no WMD? What then?
Papers link Saddam to al-Qaida
The Iraqi documents will likely be seized on by Washington as the first proof of what the United States has long alleged--that, despite denials by both sides, Saddam's regime had a close relationship with al-Qaida. ...... The file contradicts the claims of Baghdad, bin Laden and many Western government officials that there was no link between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaida. One Western intelligence official contacted Saturday night described the file as "sensational," adding: "Baghdad clearly sought out the meeting. The regime would have wanted it to happen in the capital as it's only there they would feel safe from surveillance or detection."
Reading this article, it's clear that what they have was a reference to a meeting which might have taken place back in 1996. Might. And if the Al-Qaida connection is so strong - which is what we were repeatedly told. Wouldn't there be a bit more than a meeting back in 1996? It may well be the case that there are huge connections detailed in yet to be discovered documents. But this isn't proof of a connection. It'll take a lot more than this scrap of information to convince me.

4/26/2003

More on the Santorum inanity.
The president has always said that when it comes to legal matters, that it's a question of different groups, homosexual groups, gay groups should not have special rights or special privileges.
This is Ari Fleischer on Friday, defending Santorum and the President's "view" on the issue. What's key here is the meme that somehow sex between two people of the same sex is a "special privilege". This is a replay of the same theme that Colorado tried to press in a State Constitutional Amendment. Remember that? The idea that these Religious Bigots want to promote is that the rights that everyone else has are considered to be "special privileges" when applied to homosexuals. Get that? It's a "privilege" in their eyes. And that's what everyone should remember about this going forward. These guys think that they are granting "special privileges". They are promoting people who they despise when they give them the same rights that they have. They intrinsically think that large classes of people are lower than they are. The intrinsic rights of these classifications of people are less the intrinsic rights that Christians have. Get it? This is your country. This is your country run by Christian Fundamentalists. Any questions? Wonder if Nicholas Kristoff is going to say we need to be more tolerant of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians and start accepting their bigotry. Heck, they only want to legislate morality.
Claims that the news media form a vast liberal conspiracy strike me as utterly unconvincing, but there's one area where accusations of institutional bias have merit: nearly all of us in the news business are completely out of touch with a group that includes 46 percent of Americans. That's the proportion who described themselves in a Gallup poll in December as evangelical or born-again Christians. Evangelicals have moved from the fringe to the mainstream, and that is particularly evident in this administration. It's impossible to understand President Bush without acknowledging the centrality of his faith.
But Joan Walsh is correct in her Salon article.
But despite Santorum's radical statements, Republicans have proudly told reporters there will be no rerun of the Trent Lott debacle, in which the Senate majority leader was sacked for publicly admiring Strom Thurmond's racist presidential campaign last December. Why? For one thing, Lott got thrown overboard less because his GOP colleagues cared about his racism than because they thought he was a liability who wasn't loyal enough to Bush, had made a lot of enemies and cut too many deals with Democrats. Santorum's a company man, so everybody got the talking points: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, like Fleischer, calls him "a man of inclusion." Actually, most Republicans got the no-talking points: The White House and Republican National Committee have advised Republicans not to comment on Santorum's outrageous remarks when asked about them by the media, so most of them aren't.
Get it? It's not like race, where it would cost the president votes. And since Santorum is a "company man", and not someone who wasn't loyal to Bush, well... They're not going to do anything about it. If this issue makes any headway at all, it will be because the public is fed up and sick and tired of this constant stream of bigotry and fundamentalist theocracy coming from the Radical Right. Don't expect this to end like the Trent Lott affair.
It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies. It takes a great deal more courage to stand up to your friends. Standing quiet about Santorum is a symptom of the lack of courage this Administration has when it comes to bigotry. Pure and simple pandering for votes.
John Lott appears to be a fraud and a liar Found this gem via Atrios And I certainly agree about Dinesh D'Souza. His Two Cheers For Colonialism was pure "Uncle Tom" spew. It was such a propagandistic success with the Radical Right Wing Fascists that none other than Jonah Goldberg picked up on the theme and wrote Two Cheers for McCarthysim. It's extremely interesting to read Dinesh's article, and examine it with the 20/20 vision gained from looking back from the future. The man was writing pure propaganda to plant the idea that colonialism was okay. Or it was a test flag to see if anyone saluted. It is a piece of propaganda specifically designed to make everyone (or at least enough people) comfortable with the idea of colonialism or imperialism. See? We're actually doing them a favor with this stuff, old boy. Grab a cigar and have some Sherry as we talk about empires past. Dinesh's arguments are hauntingly familiar in the Right's disposal of the "War For Oil" proposition. We don't get rich off of colonial possessions. In fact, it's a drain on our economy old boy. We're bringing Democracy to them. Education. Law. A new way of life those savages would have never developed on their own. Rereading Dinesh makes me remember how hollow all the re-justification of the war based on humanitarian purposes sounds to me now. Yea, this was the reason all along! And then to read Goldberg's apology for McCarthysim... Man, it's just completely surreal. Especially in light of mass roundups, jailing without trial or lawyer. And then there's Santorum. Ye gods! The Great Oz is wise and powerful indeed. In an evil way, of course. The mighty Wurlitzer is mighty indeed. And it plays to the Great Oz's score. Long is his vision. Mighty is his voice. I guess the Radical Right doesn't think there was anything really wrong with Fascism. It was just that Mussolini was a jerk.
White House defends Santorum as 'inclusive'
In a recent interview, Santorum compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. He also said the right to privacy does not exist in the Constitution. ''The president believes the senator is an inclusive man. And that's what he believes,'' Fleischer said.
Yea, inclusive. He so inclusive he'd like to include them in prison roundups. Santorum would like to include them in Guantanamo bay with the rest of the terrorists. He wants to include them with all the other things he thinks are sick and perverse. He wants to include them in the long list of people he'd like to legislate into criminals to make sure they rot in prison. He wants to make sure we're all included in the list of people who are morally corrupting good society. Rick Santorum sucks big donkey d*cks. And George thinks that's okay.
...He judges people about who they are. ... He judges people for how they act and how they relate.'' He said Bush's judgment of people ''has nothing to do with their sexuality.''
And Santorum is acting like a bigot. A frickin' religious, fundamentalist Christian bigot. Which has nothing to do with sexuality.
Constitution Section 4.1 - Electoral Reform? Jimm pointed this Agonist post out to me. I tell ya. To quote Josh Marshall, "This plan might just be crazy enough to work". What have we got to lose?
Section. 4. Clause 1: The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Senators. ***** Advocate electoral reform. Either Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) or a more proportional and progressive system. No constitutional amendment is needed, if the Democrats win the Congress and put electoral reform on the platform in 2004. Or support it through the state route...if 2/3 of states nominate an amendment, then 3/4 of states must ratify in order to make it a reality. We have amended the Constitution before. As recent as the 60's, and even in 1992 in the case of congressional pay. Only it's not necessary in this case. Just to win Congress. Or is it? To the Demos, quit whining about Greens and people voting on principle, and start advocating electoral reform. The election of 2000 was a debacle...take advantage of it. If you don't, you are fools. Put it on the platform! Guarantee every Green votes for you (and a bunch of other 3rd partyers as well).
What have we got to lose indeed. Call your senator. Write your congressperson. Annoy the hell out of every elected person you know. Write stupid and pointless letters to your Newspaper. Talk about it loudly in restaurants so that Peggy Noonan leaves in a huff, and then talk even louder about it. Annoy your office mates until they do the same.

4/25/2003

One thing that's really starting to get my panties in a twist is the meme that's been rearing its ugly head lately. Perhaps the "liberal" NY Times displays this best in their latest editorial.
If everything were indeed destroyed, Saddam Hussein put his nation through years of crippling economic boycotts and brought on the ruin of his regime for no good reason.
It's the "if he was so innocent, why did he not just confess" question. I imagine the Spanish Inquisition asked this question a lot, too. A real head scratcher, this one. . . I mean, Saddam was a despotic, insane, evil person. Why the heck did he have to have a reason not to do it? He's Dr. Evil. Get it? I can't imagine a James Bond villain putting up with inspections either. They'd rather take down the entire world than be subjected to such humiliation. I mean, even I can see that there's probably any number of neurosis and psychosis that he may be subject to which could explain this behavior. He's evil, right? But what the NY Times fails to ask, is WHY DID WE DO WHAT WE DID? I mean, what was the big deal? Why did we have to go to war by March 17th? I mean, the entire army was a pushover (your words, not mine). And now we can't find a frickin' scrap of evidence? Why did we have to destroy the UN? WHY WAS IT SO IMMANENT AND SO FRICKING IMPORTANT THAT WE HAD TO DESTROY A LOT OF CRAP TO DO THIS. We couldn't have waited another 3 months like the French and Russians wanted to? And to boot, we have the Administration just out and out admitting that, while not a lie, perhaps placed too much emphasis on WMD in their rush to war? The NY Times just can't face up to the fact that they were duped. The alternative is to believe that this pushover of a tin cup dictator was some kind of super villain. A souped up evil doer who can pull a fast one on the greatest intelligence agencies on this planet. I mean, really! Which completely amazing thing are we to believe? That he didn't have WMD, or he did but was able to destroy them and/or smuggle them out to Syria (or Iran) while we were tracking frickin' quarks from our satellites, drones and god only knows what else we had. Me? I'd rather believe he had no WMD, as the alternative seems to be worse - and getting even worse all the time. The level of incompetence that must have taken place to pull the wool over the collective Intelligence Community's eyes must be truly staggering. If I was a white hat, I'd be pretty pissed at the corner they're painting them into. A picture entitled "Scapegoat: a portrait of intelligence failure". It's surreal, isn't it...
Anyone but me wonder why they had 55 cards in the Iraqi most wanted "deck"? I haven't seen them yet, as I think they're just too bizarre for words, but a deck of playing cards has only 52 cards in the deck. Add two jokers and you get 54. So what was the 55th? Anyone out there who's actually seen this deck, let me know. I postulate it was the card that comes with Hoyle deck with the rules of some card games on it. I mean, that's got to be humiliating for this one Iraqi. He only rated the evil "card of instruction" ranking.
Manila reports first SARS deaths, WHO gives grim forecast Oh, this is just ducky.
The Philippines reported its first deaths from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) yesterday and a World Health Organization (WHO) official said SARS could become a horrifying epidemic if it spread in China's provinces or in nations like India and Bangladesh, where people live cheek-to-cheek and medical facilities are poor. "There will be various countries in the world where we would be really concerned because we don't think they have the capacity to stem the tide once it is introduced," WHO official Wolfgang Preiser told reporters in Shanghai. "It may have happened already. We don't know."
It really doesn't matter at this point whether SARS is man made or not. Think the Administration has a plan for this one? Aren't you glad we have international institutions to orchestrate what little we can do against this kind of stuff? Why is it a good idea to do it for health issues, but not for diplomatic and political issues?
SARS as a bio-engineered virus update. From BigPicnic, some links that support the assertion that something might be suspicious about SARS. First is from the Humanitarian Resource Institute. Second is from the Institute of Science in Society.
While the epidemic has still to run its course, a report appeared in the Journal of Virology, describing a method for introducing desired mutations into coronavirus in order to create new viruses. A key feature of the procedure is to make interspecific chimera recombinant viruses. It involves replacing part of the spike protein gene in the feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV) - which causes invariably fatal infections in cats - with that of the mouse hepatitis virus. The recombinant mFIPV will no longer infect cat cells, but will infect mouse cells instead, and multiply rapidly in them. These and other experiments in manipulating viral genomes are now routine. It shows how easy it is to create new viruses that jump host species in the laboratory, in the course of apparently legitimate experiments in genetic engineering. Similar experiments could be happening in nature when no one is looking, as the SARS and many other epidemics amply demonstrate. It is not even necessary to intentionally create lethal viruses, if one so wishes. It is actually much faster and much more effective to let random recombination and mutation take place in the test tube. Using a technique called "molecular breeding" (see "Death by DNA shuffling", this series), millions of recombinants can be generated in a matter of minutes. These can be screen for improved function in the case of enzymes, or increased virulence, in the case of viruses and bacteria. In other words, geneticists can now greatly speed up evolution in the laboratory to create viruses and bacteria that have never existed in all the billions of years of evolution on earth.
More later after I talk to my friends in genetics... But it's clear that genetic algorithm techniques aren't limited to Computer Science. No big surprise, but...
Powell Says Embryonic Iraqi Authority Will Grow Into Full Government I just had to post that title. Amazing, ain't it? I guess this is directed at the right to life crowd.
Creationism & Political Snobbery Wow. If I could write, this is what I would have written. My problem is that I start spitting and stammering and with my jaw hanging open on the floor.... Well, I can't even type. I'm in a state of shock n' awe. My brain is unable to even begin to come up with prose that doesn't include the most damning of pejoratives I can think of or lookup in the nasty thesaurus. Calmer, more rational minds must prevail. The BigPicnic is great. Go read them instead of me.
Reason for War? Found this via the always first Atrios. Okay, the Administration has just come out and admitted they duped everybody about the whole WMD thing. Just came out and admitted it.
"We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."
Hear that UK? Hear that Josh Marshall? You were all duped. Duped and lead around by the nose by the Great Oz. And now they're admitting it. And they're counting on all of you to protect your pride far more than you want to hold them to the fire for duping you. Ye gods. I cannot believe this country is in such a sorry state. They now come out and just plain admit they duped us, and EVERYONE rolls over. Geesh. What a pack of jokers.
Gingrich accused of idiocy, McCarthyism for criticism of State Department What? Gingrich an idiot? Gingrich a McCarthyistic buffoon? Who knew?
John Naland, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, said Gingrich's broadside attack -- in which he accused US diplomats of actively trying to sabotage President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s foreign policy agenda -- was unfair, inaccurate and bordered on slander. "You have essentially accused these employees of treason," Naland wrote in a letter to Gingrich a day after three former US ambassadors fired off angry missives to Congress urging that lawmakers ignore their former colleague's remarks. "Sir, these are serious charges indeed," Naland wrote. "If you have proof you should run, not walk, to the office of the nearest US attorney. "However, you do not have proof," he said. "Your charges are spurious. "As such, they will be consigned to the dust bin of history where they belong, along with that paper Senator Joseph R. McCarthy held up in a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950," Naland said. He referred to an address in which the late anti-communist McCarthy -- whose name has become a synonym for witch hunt -- produced a document he said contained the names of 57 traitors who allegedly worked in the State Department.
I guess Jonah Goldberg can only give two cheers for Newt. After all, it isn't that Newt isn't right, it's just that Newt is an idiot. Right Jonah?
Iraq's WMD May Have Been Destroyed And the expectations get lowered below sea level now, and they are sinking fast. Any questions?
Pack of Jokers Check out Quiddity's new deck of most wanted.
Hey, what about Congo? Considering all the bludgeoning liberals have taken for not being overjoyed at the overthrow of Saddam, and the non stop crowing about how this was a war of liberation (not for WMD), I'm really surprised that all those out there crowing have been missing the big picture. Congo: ---3.5 million dead in 4.5 years ---4,000 civilians massacred in the last 8 months ---Brittle Peace about to break So when you're wondering why liberals - or generic anti-war people - aren't up and crowing about the liberation of Iraq, it's because that wasn't the reason this war was fought. Yes, it's a nice by-product, but as far as brutal and repressive regimes go, it's low on the totem pole. What I suggest is that you who are crowing so much about the humanitarian aspects of the war with Iraq do is get off your ass and take a good hard look at the world around you, and start seeing that there are far more brutal, repressive things going on out there, and if you believed your own pap about a humanitarian basis for this war, you'd be outraged at the massive killing that is going on as we speak. But you don't really give a damn about that, do you? It's just an excuse for your preemptive war to make you feel like it was justified, now that the WMD seem to be a bit more elusive than originally purported. Why are we not jumping up and down? Well, would you be jumping up and down if someone just paid a penny on a trillion dollar debt? You'd say "thanks, but not enough". And that's what I say. Glad to have the Iraqis free. What about all the others? Not interested? Didn't think so. (Thanks to Mark Fiore and his latest cartoon latest cartoon for reminding me)

4/24/2003

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin
I guess, as so many gloating liberals have emailed me to point out, I have been incredibly naive. I expected a basic level of respect for gay people from civilized conservatives. I've always taken the view that there are legitimate arguments about such issues as marriage rights or military service and so on; and that fair-minded people can disagree. And, of course, there are many fair-minded people among Republicans and conservatives who do not agree with Santorum, and I am heartened by their support, especially the Republican Unity Coalition and Marc Racicot, RNC head. But something this basic as the freedom to be left alone in own's own home is something I naively assumed conservatives would obviously endorse - even for dispensable minorities like homosexuals. I was wrong. The conclusions to be drawn are obvious.
Hey, you're always welcome in the Democratic party. Really. We won't even gloat. These guys are idiots and I'm really glad to see you pissed off about them for a change.

"Vote for me or I'll send the dog straight to hell"

I think it's really interesting to use the current effort to install democracy in Iraq as a contrast to our own political system. For example, let's take the separation between church and state. And let me bring the issue even further into focus and just talk about the phrase "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance (POA). Something that seems to surprise most people - Evangelical Christians in particular - is the interesting fact that the phrase "under God" wasn't even in the POA until the year 1954. About the most reasonable secular argument one can make for keeping the words "under God" in the pledge is a historic one. An argument that I've often heard from the pundits on the Right is that this is a "historical" thing. The implication is, the phrase was in there from the beginning. You know, when all the founding fathers were hemp smoking deists. Which is a complete spin illusion. The POA didn't even exist until 1892 - one hundred years (or so) after the creation of our constitution. So people like Jerry Fawell and others who claim this is a "Christian" country are on pretty shaky ground when they're making the "history" argument for keeping the phrase "under god" in the POA. And just look at what's happening in Iraq. Here, the reason behind the separation between church and state becomes crystal clear. I know Jerry Fawell thinks Christianity is the one true religion, but I don't think even Jerry Fawell would like to see an Islamic Fundamentalist Iraq. And it's because of the inevitable disaster which will happen without separation of Islamic Religion from Politics that our founding fathers founded this nation on the principal of separation between church and state. Christianity, Catholicism, Moslemism, Buddhism.... Whatever. They shouldn't be part of politics. And this is just my opinion. If the Pledge of Allegiance was a relic from our young past, I would easily support keeping it in. But it isn't. It was put in for specific religious reasons. Iraq is a very clear object lesson to the correctness of this principal. People like Jerry Fawell and Pat Robertson need to explain why it's a good thing for Iraq not to have an Islamic Fundamentalist government but it's okay to have an American Christian Fundamentalist government. And their only conceivable answer can be "because Christianity isn't Islam, and Christianity is okay. All other religions are not okay." This is simply not an acceptable answer to minority Moslems, Jews and yes, even Atheists in these United States. The United States of America is not a theocracy. Iraq should not be one as well.
Pseudoscience vs. Snobbery John Derbyshire has just left the land of the sane. I mean, it's just amazing to see that someone actually wrote what he did. I'm in shock and awed. The idiocy, stupidity, and yes SNOBBERY that oozes from this article is just astounding.
Operation Dessert Snipe Far better at the argument than I could ever be. And I love the lines "we have gone to war on the wings of a snipe". Seriously, though, despite the humor, the column is a very good serious read. Now, I know the Great Oz has something up his sleeve that will make us all look like fools for believing that there are no WMDs... But so what. Even if they find them, their entire premise that this was an immanent threat and we must preemptively attack is completely blown. Not that this major point will sink in to the American populace's psyche, though. And being right here isn't something to be joyful about. The fallout of this idiocy is just starting to take shape. We may have been right, but guess what? We're still left holding the bag. Which is, after all, the inevitable outcome of a snipe hunt.
Fear and Grocking. Silvan takes me to task for not having comments. Gee, I wish I could comply. Due to some technical difficulties previously, I couldn't get my comments working. Then there's always the terrorizing prospect of seeing all these posts with zero comments. :) I'll take a look at trying to get them working again tonight. The previous problems were due to my horribly misshapen HTML that composed my template. That was fixed after a night of carefully indenting and debugging. I must say, I hate HTML. I write a lot of XML in my job, and I just can't stand dealing with it for something that isn't my job. But I have some tools now which can help me out without destroying the HTML and Blogger tags in the process. Wish me luck. But back to fear and panic, he postulates "Panic is just letting fear get out of control, right?". My thoughts are a little different. I think panic is fear's call to action. It's purely herd instinct - a manifestation of the group reaction. Panic, undirected, results in chaos. But panic directed can be a very powerful thing. For example, look at the expert direction of the panic over 9/11 by the Great Oz. So panic without direction is extremely dangerous. But panic with a plan and leadership can be a devastatingly effective force... Oh, and just a note. I didn't mean to use "Zen Master" as a pejorative. I was only meaning it as a compliment... Sorry if this was taken otherwise...
Great SARS blog I found from Brad DeLong's website: SARS Watch. Particularly interesting is this post.
Canada's main virology laboratory has found the virus for severe acute respiratory syndrome in only 40 percent of probable and suspect cases, a surprisingly low rate that puzzles the laboratory's scientific director and other health officials.... There could be a number of explanations for the low positive test rate, Dr. Plummer, Dr. Stöhr and other experts said. They include the possibility the coronavirus is not the cause of the disease or is not its sole cause; that specimens tested were collected at the wrong stage of the disease or were taken from the wrong part of the body; or that there were flaws in the laboratory testing. ... Still another, and less likely, is that mutant strains of the virus have developed and are escaping detection or causing milder cases. Dr. Plummer's team in Winnipeg has tested about 3,000 specimens from 95 probable and 90 suspect cases in Canada and Asia. His team identified the SARS virus in about 40 percent of the probable cases and 35 percent of the suspect cases. He said he was surprised to find the virus in about 20 percent of an additional 250 people who were not suspected of having SARS but who were tested because they had come to Canada from affected areas in Asia or who had mild symptoms not thought to be SARS. Although the 250 were not randomly chosen as scientific controls, Dr. Plummer said he was still surprised at the number who tested positive.... If the coronavirus "is the whole and only explanation, which is certainly possible," he said, "there are a lot of weird things about it." One puzzle is why the percent testing positive now has dropped to 30 percent when it was 70 percent initially. Because all the probable and suspect cases in the Toronto area are linked in a chain of transmission, "they ought to have the same thing," Dr. Plummer said. "Every day, we just scratch our heads" over the declining frequency, he said. "We don't think it is our testing or epidemiology, but it could be those things — though we don't have any reason to believe that." Another puzzle, Dr. Plummer said, is why he and other scientists in the W.H.O. network are finding very small amounts of SARS virus in respiratory secretions in the first few days of illness but larger amounts later in the illness. "There is not much virus there for a disease that appears to be transmitted by respiratory" droplets, and "I do not know what that means," Dr. Plummer said. About 10 percent of SARS patients experience diarrhea. Members of the W.H.O. network in Hong Kong have found that a form of the virus can persist in feces up to 30 days after illness, though scientists do not know whether it is infectious to other people. The findings, Dr. Plummer said, raised the question whether the SARS virus might infect the intestinal tract and cause lung problems secondarily, possibly through an immune reaction.
Just goes to show you that this is "evolving" as we speak, and there's a lot of unknowns out there still. A lot of unknowns. Let's hope luck is on our side. I know Hope is Not a Plan... But I'm still keeping all my fingers crossed and hoping that our Global Immune Defense system (i.e. CDC, WHO, and all the other organizations out there doing this stuff) are better than we expected them to be.