An explosion aimed at an American led convoy in the Baghdad area killed at least 30 Iraqi children. This is (supposedly) the largest number of children killed in one incident since the giant war crime against the people of Iraq perpetrated in our name was initiated seventeen months ago (jebus, it seems longer than that, no?)
If no one else will say it, I will. No one has to agree with me, if they don't want to. I'm no longer running for anything (my running mate Bruce and I, having failed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination). So I'll just say it: compared to the chaos and horror we have unleashed on the Iraqi people and the instability we have brought to the region, I'd rather have Saddam Hussein in power. He was a mother-fucker and a brutal dictator, but he was a mother fucker we could do business with, at least at one time. And for better or worse, he preserved order there.
My guess is that I will not only be joined by most of the families of Iraqi people we have murdered (and btw, estimates are that we and our trained Iraqi lapdogs kill at least two civilians for every one that "insurgents" kill, even as I write this), but by a fair number of the families of the over 1,000 dead United States service personnel and nearly 10,000 maimed, in saying that this Iraq adventure-- which has not brought us one millimeter closer to thwarting Al Qaeda-- was the kind of "mistake" for which those responsible should be facing war crimes tribunals (instead of probable reelection).
Boys and girls, Iyad Allawi is every bit as brutal a thug as Saddam-- its just that Junior never blamed him for Poppy's electoral defeat at the hands of Ross Perot... I mean, Bill Clinton. But hey-- old Iyad (formerly of Saddam's Mukhbarat secret police... and now ably tutored by good old U.S. Ambassador John "Friend of Central American Death Squads" Negroponte) Allawi cannot be blamed by Junior for Poppy's defeat, nosirree.
John Kerry is in no sense bound by my sentiments, and frankly, I suspect he is quite sincere in telling you he disagrees with them. So I'll ask someone else.
To quote the great Dick Cheney (via digby the daring and Duncan the Magnificent):
"Everybody is fond of looking back at Desert Storm and saying that it was, in fact, a low cost conflict because we didn't suffer very many casualties. But for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it was not a cheap or a low cost conflict. The question, to my mind, in terms of this notion that we should have gone on and occupied Iraq is how many additional American casualties would we have had to suffer? How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? And the answer I would give is not very damn many."
I couldn't agree more, Mr. Vice President. I couldn't agree more.
While I regard the Sainted Al Gore as an American treasure, there really are limits to the things he should be doing. Having elected to sit out the 2004 election cycle, I don't think he should be doing things like giving John Kerry debate advice for tomorrow night's pivotal first presidential debate in Miami.
Kid Kerry was famously President of the Debating Society back at Dear Old Yale (where, as you will recall, our esteemed President was a C-student legacy, and served as a cheerleader-- more the kind that makes inane yells, rather than one who does gymnastics, of course.) The format will allow for little free-wheeling, but someone (or everyone) will figure out ways to evade the format, to fire their staged one-line zingers and timed applause lines.
Dubya, actually a reasonably intelligent and articulate (though mediocre and a n'er do well) New England Brahman scion, prep schooler and Ivy League graduate, has mastered the art of appearing to be a mentally retarded Texan. He has a bought and paid for media that will declare him the winner, even if he uses the ninety minutes to read a story about a goat, vomit up blood and otherwise just stare into the camera.
However, actual voters, by the millions, will be watching this-- and if something is decisive enough to burst through during the proceedings, the spin will not undo their visceral perceptions. THIS is what the debates are about, folks!
Gore feels that Kerry should try to hammer on Bush's record, and hold him to account. Naturally, if Kerry was thinking about doing this, Al Gore suggesting that he do so should convince him that it is a bad idea, and he should do something else.
My suggestion is conveying to the country that while the President has served the nation to the best of his abilities, those abilities are just no longer up to the job at hand. Whether the President's advisors are keeping him from accurate information, or the President is just not processing it, his rosy assessment of the Iraq situation squarely at odds with those of his own cabinet secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell is more than cause for concern: it is cause for national panic. Without faulting the (poor and overburdened) President (its probably his advisors and handlers), the nation thanks him for his service, but we need someone capable of figuring out reality before making life and death decisions. In short, I would try to portray Bush as more of a tragic figure (perhaps in the manner of an Aeschylus or a Euripides, rather than a more complex Shakespearean one such as Lear), for whom the strain of office has just been too much.
But it's Kid Kerry's fight, now. He's a seasoned pugilist whose been training hard. The chimp-een hasn't lost a bout since the 70's, and since he perfected his rope-a-dope (key word dope) in the 90's, No-Gentleman-George has just worn out opponent after opponent with his skills at evasion and sucker punching. Kid Kerry comes in pretty much undefeated, using his style of relentless, almost machine-like swinging, punishing his opponents until the late rounds and boring holes into their resistance (key word boring) until they just fail from sheer exhaustion imparted by the barrage they received.
The referee will have to keep the fighters to the modified Marquis of Queensbury rules to which their corners agreed, but this should be a doozy, folks.
What do the numbers over 50, 1,052 and 52 have to do with each other? For those who hate clicking through, we're talking, of course, about the spot price of crude oil, the number of American troops killed in Iraq, and of course, the President's current approval rating.
There are a variety of factors accounting for the high oil prices, including perceived instability in Nigeria (a big source of oil for... us), refining and distribution problems caused by recent hurricanes, and... you know... that whole Middle East thing. Prince Bandar has directed the Hermes Kingdom's public relations office to tell us that Saudi Arabia will increase production from over 9 to over 11 million bbl./day, to profit from the high prices... I mean, to stabilize prices. Are Bush's policies wholly responsible for the price spike? Of course not. Are they largely responsible? Well, you might say... well, yeah, they are. Our national energy policy remains aircraft carriers, SUV use and other waste remains encouraged, and we destabilized the whole Middle East with our Iraq adventure.
The second number is the grim reminder of a narrow slice of the human cost of that adventure: the number of Americans who died on the field of battle. Granny
asked me if soldiers who died of their wounds weeks or months later were counted in the dead, and I told her I believed not (if anyone knows for sure, please post in comments). And God knows, there are no official counts of Iraqi civilian casualties, let alone Iraqi combatant casualties.
And the third number reflects an amazing disconnect with reality. I mean, I could throw in other numbers, like the projected deficit of $5.2 trillion over the next ten years, or the figure that Kerry should have been using only as an appetizer before lacing into Iraq and especially Afghanistan, i.e., 1.2 million private sector jobs lost (by some estimates), making Bush the first president since Hoover to preside over a net job loss during his presidency. And yet, a majority favor his record, and he is certainly the man to beat right now. The nation was perfectly willing to follow the Bush campaign theme, it being three words and all ("Look over there!")
Again, though... as important as all these numbers are to Kid Kerry, they are appropriate only as jabs. They are little rabbit punches to get the judges to start to pay attention as the bigger blows are thrown and landed. The appropriate uppercut remains Iraq... preferably a right uppercut (pointing out that just like in 'Nam, the troops were winning the battles only to have the politicians give away the war, and in this case, lose the peace); the crossing punches remain Al Qaeda and the frequently undiscussed Afghanistan.
If Fightin' John follows this strategy, he can impress the judges enough to score the unanimous decision he will need (anything approaching a split decision goes to the Black Robed Partisans , and the titleholder will retain the belt-- the fans be damned.)
So you go, Fightin' John. You kick that pussy-shit frat-boy's ass!
While President Bush calls John Kerry a traitor for questioning just how rosy things are in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell chimes in to tell us that the situation in Iraq is worsening as we prepare to rig that nation's elections this January. I sure as hell hope that Senator Kerry is listening, and can now add Secretary Powell's remarks to his litany. The reality, of course, is that we are killing around twice as many innocent civilians as the insurgents, and once in a while, the President might want to check what his own Pentagon is saying about how rotten things are in Iraq, becuase it might prove, you know, that the President is a bald-faced LIAR.
Listening to National Palestine Radio (NPR) this morning, hardly a right-wing mouth-piece, I heard concerns of so-called "security moms" in swing states, or in plain English, women who Bush has successfully scared the bejeezus out of that only he can prevent Chechen terrorists from seizing and blowing up their kids' schools. Indeed, some even lauded Bush for the Iraq adventure for "how much safer" it has made us. (Senator Kerry may have only himself to thank for this, having himself blasted Howard Dean for daring to tell the truth, i.e. that we are no safer whatsoever with Saddam Hussein in custody, about this last winter; but I digress.)
As many of you know, my own interview with Dick Morris last year hinted that if this election is about terror, Bush wins. If its about anything else, the Democrat wins. Well, for all of his much maligned prognostocative powers, current polling is showing Morris's prediction to be alarmingly prescient.
Which is totally pathetic. Because Kerry COULD have taken this off the table a long time ago, instead of wasting time on reliving 'Nam (which was a no-win then!), and domestic issues, which kind of have to be tied into the big picture (i.e. how can we "support our troops" if tax cuts are a bigger priority than equipping them; or perhaps-- on a 'Nam theme-- our troops are winning battles in the field only to be denied victory in the war because there was no planning to win the peace.)
If Kerry starts highlighting stories such as this one, about entirely unarmed units being sent into Iraqi combat zones, to train the new Iraqi army no less! In short, Kerry must not stop HAMMERING at national security and terror issues, until the President starts talking about something else. He's doing this late. I don't know if I respect a strategy that involves only doing your real campaign for six weeks against a guy whose been campaigning non-stop for four years, but it's all we got.
This one is close enough, still, so that we can recover and take this. But Democrats (and human beings of good will in this country, if there are any left) have got to realize that Kerry's situation right now is urgent: "tracking poll internal gigashmite analysis" belies that hearts and minds are shifting toward the "strong man on a horse" (forgetting, of course, that the President is afraid of horses.) It's crunch time.
This week's visit to Beijing's People's Daily (as you recall, my theory once was that I would try to provide at least a weekly visit to the two other metropoles-- Eastasia and Eurasia -- I blog regularly from New York, the financial heart of Oceania, so that one is covered) covers roughly the same subject as yesterday's visit to Pravda.
In this case, the PRC's house organ tells us that the President's unilateral strategy as applied to Iraq violated UN protocols and rules, and indeed, as UN Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan said recently, violated international law. Further, Bush's constant references to the value of freedom and democracy in Iraq are belied by just how out of control and violent the place actually is.
Well, duh. I've been on this since well before the freaking war began.
O.K., here's the thing. We are now 37 days from the election (I know this because we are 35 days from Halloween, and the Marine Corps Marathon which I'll be running with Jim Henley; jogger blogger below.) It has only been days since John Kerry decided to stop talking about our last Vietnam and start talking about our current Vietnam.
Is it too little too late?
The talking dog's current working theory is that everyone already made up their mind on the President a long time ago, and the only thing left is relative enthusiasm of who can get their side to the polls and in the right states, puts us at a severe advantage Bush. I don't regard any individual poll as particularly valuable, but looking at the polls cumulatively, Democrats should (seriously) be panicking right now, and re-doubling efforts not only to win the White House, but to try to pick up House and Senate seats (just... in... case), because Bush has somehow (thanks to Kerry's pathetic Vietnam based campaign, until just a few days ago) obtained the momentum right now. Frankly, my brethren left wing bloggers are fond of telling us about "internals" and "trends" and "approval ratings". Forget it: I look at the trends, and they are going Bush. The rest of the world knows that he is a stupid dumbass blowhard who is undermining international as well as American security, but the American people (more accurately, exactly half of the American people) feels differently.
The debates can change things a bit-- though I expect the brilliant free-wheeling Kerry, pitted against the "resolved" (meaning he memorizes shit, and answers every question with one of his 4 or 5 talking points, regardless of what the question was) Bush, will likely be (perceived as) a draw. As in 2000, the vice-presidential debate is probably the ballgame. As the Unseen Editor colorfully put it: Edwards must rip a new hole in Cheney. If he does not, or worst of all, somehow falls into a love-fest like the loathsome Joe Lieberman (Edwards won't do that... really), then its advantage Bush-Cheney, with no time to recover.
This one will be a barnburner. Better than this morning's jogger blogger, your talking dog finishing the 18-mile "ING New York Marathon Tune-Up" in a disappointing 3 hours 31 minutes; particularly disappointing as (just as in the Bronx Half Marathon) I sustained a ten minute mile for the first ten miles or so. Well, we'll keep training, and plodding on. Which is a hell of a lot less than the Kerry and Edwards campaign had better be doing now. John, John: its time to start kicking ass and taking names.
Back to our visits to Pravda, with this account of President Bush's big anti-terror speech to the UN General Assembly. The money line is that a fair number of UNGA delegates were asleep during the President's speech. The point, of course, is that since Bush is basically reading the same script he has been reciting for years now, there is nothing new-- and the UNGA delegates are not likely to stand and applaud (the way our own Politburo does) when the President hurls meaningless words like "freedom" (the President's main bitch), "democracy", or telling everyone how bad Saddam is.
As predicted, Fightin' John Kerry has finally-- FINALLY-- come out on the attack about Iraq, simply pointing out inconsistencies between the President's fantasies, Allawi's pufferies, Rummy's... statements, and other statements made by the same people. For his part, the President has declared John Kerry a treasonous malefactor for doing so, endangering not only our trusted ally (and puppet) Mr. Allawi and troops in the field, and has all but said that but for his high benificence, would declare Senator Kerry an enemy combatant and ship him to the brig in Charleston.
This is the ballgame: terror talk. And Iraq. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Bush is as pathetically weak on these things as he is on everything else. This election has got to be about Bush's record-- and not on the Bush campaign theme ("look over there!") If so, given that it is still a dead heat, the good guy (that would be anyone not Bush) will prevail. You go, Fightin' John!
This shit seems to be getting old, unless you are a "resolved" "Texan" "leader" who tells us "I will not falterTM", but in good old Baghdad, six Egyptian workers of the Iraqi mobile phone company were kidnapped from out of their office in broad daylight.
Do not be alarmed, I tell you! All is well! The cold-blooded killer we placed in charge of Iraq (via Digby) assures us that life in Iraq is so much better now that the previous cold blooded killer we replaced him with is safely incarcerated. (Yes-- if you missed that link-- go back and read it: there seems pretty good evidence that the man we have placed in charge of Iraq, Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, took out a pistol and shot a number of bound and gagged prisoners at an Iraqi police station. Charming.)
To show you the scope of my vast influence, not only did Damfa tell us in a recent comment here that cable t.v. bigshot Keith Olbermann used my Kevin Bacon Animal House reference in his own comments, but Secretarissimo Rumsfeld seems to have adopted my proposal for rolling elections. Of course, the ratio of places in Iraq that have elections will be somewhat lower than the 3/4 or 4/5 Rummy let drop; more like, oh, 0/4 or 0/5. The American people are satisfied that the President TELLS US there will be elections in January; as usual, no one will be held to account when they are not held. Ever.
At least we'll get to have elections here, right? That's really all we care about anyway. In another sign that John Kerry, contrary to rumor, really does actually have a pulse, Fightin' John comes out swinging with a detailed terror fighting plan today. Again-- not that anyone reads this blog or anything-- but this is what I have been saying for some time: ignore the Clintonian bullshit about health care, or social issues, or even the economy as a whole, and come out swinging on the one thing that trumps all else this election: national security. There is just no reason why a man with John Kerry's experience in foreign affairs in two decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shouldn't be steering his campaign boat right into this. Good to see he is.
I don't know what to say about Iraq anymore. Just no nice, easy answers. I'll just say that the President's insistence on holding to the fantasy that things there have not already degenerated into chaos is not helping things. Well, four more months! Four more months!
The President continues to remind us all of the Kevin Bacon character screaming "do not be alarmed, all is well" at the end of Animal House, just as he is trampled to death under an escaping crowd, particularly with moves such as parading Iraqi-Puppet-Premier Allawi around Washington to tell us how swimmingly things are and how hopeful he is for Iraq.
Fortunately, at least one of the groups he will see lost its sense of irony (or reality) a long time ago, and will have no need even to suspend disbelief. That of course, would be the joint session of Congress, the body that, facing record deficits, has no problem adding another hundred-fifty billion dollars to the tab, with yet another round of tax cuts. Yes, yes-- these are middle class tax cuts, so Democrats can jump on the tax cut bandwagon too. (Recall the shit Howard Dean took when he suggested that our national financial situation was sufficiently dire that all of the Bush tax cuts-- for rich and middle class alike-- be reversed? Kind of the same shit that, oh, John Kerry gave him for asserting that Saddam Hussein's capture meant jackshit as far as improving America's security. In American politics, not only is truth no defense, its some kind of a crime, at least as our bought and paid for media sees it.)
You know, it hasn't been long since I mentioned our old pal Yaser Hamdi... but the government has announced his release, and that he'll be on a plane to Saudi by the end of the week. I guess now that the election is less than six weeks away, he's not sufficiently dangerous to continue holding in solitary confinement, as he was for the previous three years. Too bad that Jose Padilla has no connections to Saudi Arabia, or we'd deport him there (or at least, to Syria, like we do other reconstituted terror suspects.) To be fair, al-Marabh was only 27th on our list of most wanted terror suspects when we released him. Had he been in the top 10...
Good to see that the idiocy surrounding the detention and deportation of Yusuf Islam (the former Cat Stevens) has resulted in our government proposing action: to make sure dangerous miscreants like the famous singer don't get to board airplanes in the first place.
Reading the full panoply of what's going on should lead one to the obvious conclusion that we are being led by nincompoops at best, and lunatics at worst.
Responsibility is now a dirty word in this country-- unless it applies to some minimum wage peon, in which case he or she is responsible for every bad thing that ever happens to them, especially if its beyond their control. Presidential
polling out there leads me to conclude that, contrary to the latest ravings all around, the election is still a dead heat. We're after September 15th-- I thought it would trend one way or another; while Bush looked like he was opening up a meaningful lead, Kerry's starting to talk about Iraq and national security reversed that trend... we're still at a dead heat, with the first debate a week away.
What I would like to see-- seriously-- is John Kerry tricking Bush into getting out of character. Not to make Bush look like his usual tongue-tied buffoon character-- that will only help people continue to pretend that the New England Brahman preppy fratboy millionaire is "folksy" and has "common sense" (both of which are... lies). No. Kerry must make Bush start talking about something the President cares about deeply enough to actually take seriously (unfortunately, the only known subjects that fit that bill would be, in the President's own words, "sports... or pussy"). Still, I suspect Kerry, former president of the debating society at Yale, might just be able to pull it off.
Just have old George Dubya Bush come off as articulate and intelligent sounding-- about anything. Given the American electorate, that will probably finish off the President for good.
It had been a while (a few weeks, actually) since a fatal suicide bombing by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel proper, but the string is broken just two days from the Yom Kippur holiday, with a female suicide bomber attached to Arafat's Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade blowing herself up at a Jerusalem bus stop killing at least one and injuring dozens.
Look for the usual territorial lockdown this year.
Suicide bombings by Palestinians are, actually, way down, largely thanks to the presence of Israel's much vaunted and much maligned security/land grab fence, and in particular, the portion of it that surrounds the United Nations sponsored terrorist training camp at Jenin. Last year's systematic execution of most of the Hamas leadership (with just a few dozen... or is it hundred... civilians killed as "collateral damage") also helps this situation. Of course, other heavy handed Israeli reprisals which succeeded largely at murdering still more Palestinian civilians... remain largely unabated by the Sharon government.
It has been noted here that I am in agreement with at least one other blogger that the Israeli public is willing to absorb an almost unlimited number of pregnant women, school children, old people and other civilians being killed and/or mutilated on and waiting for buses, in restaurants and other public places, while they have zero tolerance-- none whatsoever-- for deaths of Israeli military personnel-- anywhere, at any time. This creates a perverse incentive, of course, for the most vicious, heavy-handed responses, which, contrary to knee-jerk thinking, is precisely what the most ardently vicious Palestinian terrorist sectors rely on vicious Israeli counter-measures as their principal recruiting tool. (Does anyone see the problem in this kind of thinking-- on obht sides? Or am I simply insane? BTW-- this is almost verbatim the same kind of thinking the American military is now employing in Iraq...)
Meanwhile, I understand that rhetoric within Israel against Sharon's proposed "sell-out" of 7,000 or so Gaza settlers/maniacs has become so poisoned that many liken it to the situation just before the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Sharon himself has noted that he spent his entire life defending Jews within colonial Palestine and then the State of Israel, and now, as an old man, he must be protected FROM Jews.
I might be inclined to see Sharon's Gaza plan as kind of the old Vulcan saying ("Only Nixon could go to China"), but Arik Sharon is just not Menachem Begin. He just isn't. To be more than fair, Yasir Arafat is certainly no Anwar Sadat (and George W. Bush isn't even Jimmy Carter...) while Sharon builds the fence and talks of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza (btw, last year's election promise of his former Labour opponent and TD darling Amram Mitzna ), Sharon nonetheless continues unabated in his maneuvers to honeycomb the West Bank with Israeli highways and checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers, linking Israeli settlements, and creating a less and less viable archipelago for the eventual Palestinian state. I keep pointing this out (not that anyone listens) but within one generation, demographics and fertility rates will-- WILL-- result in more Arabs within the Israeli sphere (Israel proper plus territories) than Jews, at which point, Israel WILL become a neo-apartheid state-- in EVERY WAY. By that point, if Israel does not solve this problem-- by either becoming a secular, pluralist state that does not discriminate against non-Jews, and/or by dumping the Palestinian Arabs into their own sustainable independent country, I predict that not even the United States will be able to keep Israel from the same kind of permanently isolating sanctions (and even bigger pariah treatment than it receives already) as Apartheid South Africa.
Nice of Bush to have picked sides on this (just about unprecedented even in the hardly even handed history of American presidents); it will do eve4n more wonders in winning the hearts and minds of the Arab world (and to be honest, it probably will cost Bush Michigan).
The road map for peace has been officially folded up by the Sharon government, the Palestinian Authority is in internal disarray (and occasionally outright rebellion), and Israel deals with the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran, and Sharon must somehow maintain a general status quo for the next 42 days to best allow his best-buddy George W. Bush to hold on to power here.
Today, we'll take a look at the fate of two of the poster boys of perfidy, the icons of Islamist terror, the sum of all our fears, Unlawful Combatants Yaser Hamdi (a Saudi national born in Louisiana, making him also a U.S. national, picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan) and Jose Padilla (an American national- a Chicago gang-banger who adopted a Moslem name, picked up on a flight back from Pakistan and alleged to be involved in a "dirty bomb" plot.)
Since the Government was ordered by the Supreme Court to afford Hamdi access to our legal system, it decided that this would involve, you know, having like an actual case against him. Hence, a quick deal is being worked out under which Hamdi would renounce his U.S. citizenship, be shipped to Saudi Arabia, and agree not to sue the government for his unlawful detention. I'm sure the sum total of the valuable intelligence learned during three years of interrogation from Hamdi can be easily summed up on the back of a cocktail napkin.
Unlike the Supreme Court, Hamdi's case never bothered me all that much. Hamdi's citizenship was quite literally an accident of birth. He considered himself a foreign national, and took up arms against our country.
While the government certainly abused the crap out of the rights Hamdi did have, his situation was not exactly one that keeps me up at night.
Compare and contrast Jose Padilla. Padilla was a born and raised U.S. citizen, picked up in the United States itself, charged rhetorically with a serious crime, but not afforded an actual charge, trial, counsel, or as we learned from the Supreme Court, when the Prez decides to go all Shiite himself against ex-Chicago gang-bangers, not subject to habeas corpus either (effectively, as the Court will manufacture procedural defenses for the Government). Here is the court docket of the new and improved habeas corpus case Padilla's counsel have filed in South Carolina. The docket entries all look rather antiseptic and routine for what is really a Kafkaesque situation. I have said, and firmly believe, that the Supreme Court's Padilla v. Rumsfeld decision means we are, quite ltierally, a dictatorship, and only the whim of the executive keeps any of us out of jail without any due process of law whatsoever.
Well, for Hamdi, it looks like the unlawful detention may be over before the end of this month. His confinement, and his release, will, of course, be quietly ignored as an election issue. And Mr. Padilla's detention (not to mention thousands in our gulags world wide) will go on, again, ignored in our so-called free and democratic system. Chalk up another two for American respect for the so-called rule of law.
Via Diana, I give you this text of Senator Kerry's remarks at New York University today.
Let me make it easy: while many will laud the speech, I'm torn between giving it a C+ and B-. Yes, he's finally talking about the right thing, and in the right (asshole tough guy) way. AND he's mentioning Al Qaeda and OBL (FINALLY-- SOMEONE IS MENTIONING THEM!)
His proposed Iraq solution, however, is a fantasy, is wrong, and will piss people off (I must tell you, I'M pissed off by it). His answer: "Go begging for help from our allies and the UN".
Unacceptable. I'm voting for him anyway, and frankly, I would urge every American of good will to do the same. But his answer to this-- THE BALLGAME QUESTION-- is... unacceptable.
WE have the world's only viable military up to this job that won't cause more problems (Israel has a large, first world military, but its presence in Iraq would, quite quickly, cause a world war. Russia and China have large militaries, but we want them nowhere near Iraq.) France and Germany-- which is, after all, the code for what Kerry is saying-- just don't have the troops, let alone the national will, to be of much (or any) meaningful help. And summit meetings are... horseshit.
No, Iraq is our-- and ONLY-- our problem (and the Iraqis, of course). And no points are taken off for blaming the mess on Bush (even as Kerry only tangentially acknowledged his own role in voting for the God damned war.)
Here's the thing. We have exactly three answers to Iraq: (1) Simply leave. Since the place is destabilizing into civil war ANYWAY, why bother getting OUR OWN people killed anymore in the vacuum. Its not like its going to be all that worse, frankly, than it is now. It will eventually stabilize as some sort of Iranian style theocracy, after a few thousand people (more) are killed. (2) Do what we're doing now. Continue to pour money and American lives down the rathole, while more and more territory becomes "No-go" zones (like, oh, Fallujah, Sadr City, and other population centers). (3) Break the country up. Oh, officially it would be one country, as Switzerland is, but like Switzerland, it would REALLY be ethnically homogenous cantons, linked together by a VERY loose and weak central government. The Kurds can police the Kurds; Sunnis can police the Sunnis, Shia the Shia, Turkmen the Turkmen, etc. Cantons that play nice nice-- like the Kurds, for example, get fast elections, and a bigger piece of the oil revenue. Cantons that decide to be assholes (Fallujah comes to mind) won't get elections, or oil money, and can merrily kill themselves, without OUR troops being there taking bullets. Its easy: 4, 5, maybe 6 or 7 different little enclaves each effectively a country, under a loose umbrella- common currency, free trade zone, one UN seat, etc.-- but the problem broken up.
There are NO other options that do not smack of the realm of fantasy. Given that Kerry's prior grade on this subject had been, well, an F, the C+/B- is a huge improvement. (Bush, as usual, phoned in his assignment, and his grade is "incomplete".) But the country WANTS COMFORT ON THIS. At least Kerry is starting to take it on. That's good. I realize he can't openly talk about just pulling out. But many others have, for example, talked about the "rolling elections" concept: regions that behave get elections, regions that do not, don't. The more regions of Iraq are under Iraqi control, the more regions we can leave, quietly reducing our deployment, until all that's left is a training force, and maybe border control.
I'm delighted to see Kerry taking on this (ballgame) subject. As the electoral battle goes on (43 days to go...) I have little doubt he will pour on the vitriol, and give it to Bush over this (Bush's fantasies about "all is well" should be shoved back in his face as often as possible.)
UPDATE: I've decided to heed Kerry's entreaties, and raise his grade to B+/A-; the American people are stupid, and he can't actually say what he will actually do, so he must talk in oblique nonsense, just like his opponent. He has ignored Clinton's advice, and is taking the national security issue back to Bush. You get 'em, Fightin' John!!!
Senator Kerry, addressing National Guard veterans at a convention in Lost Wages, Nevada, chided the President's statements about Iraq as representing the President's living in "a fantasy world." The President, a man who famously has instructed his staff members not to give him any bad news about anything, remarked on the good stuff about Iraq... you know-- "freedom", Saddam in custody (we hear the old dictator's kind of blue, btw-- though not necessarily in a "blue state" kind of way... that would be Osama, according to the Bush-Cheney campaign), and the elections scheduled for... some time in January, 2005 (unless they're not, of course; AQ may want to disrupt Iraq's elections just like they want to disrupt ours... of course...).
For his part, Senator Kerry will give an Iraq related speech today at (TD alma mater) New York University. Among those who feel that the Bush fantasy discussion of Iraq could use a dose more reality is... the Bush-Cheney campaign's Arizona state chairperson, some old senator...
Meanwhile, the President's view of just how good things are going in Iraq continues to be borne out by the news, such as reports of a looming execution deadline for two Americans and a Britain captured by "Guy-who-Bush-refused-to-take-out Zarqawi" and the murders of two key Sunni clerics (amidst broader car bombings, shootings, etc.) Oh-- did I mention that our Iraqi Head Puppet-Prime Minister Allawi reports that terrorists are just pouring into Iraq from all over the Moslem world?
What a Bad News Bear that guy is!
To paraphrase the great Poor Man, all of the naysaying in the world didn't get one single Iraqi schoolhouse painted, now did it?
I have little doubt that the American people understand that this election is not about the economy, or national security, or terrorism, or Iraq, or anything stupid like that: it's about picking the more regular guy-- and the New England Brahman Prep School kid and Yale skull and bonesman who masquerades as a cowboy from Texas and famously pretends to be a moron (even though he is anything but) will kick the ass of the New England Brahman Prep School kid and Yale skull and bonesman who actually behaves like an intelligent adult and non-retarded human being.
Well, 43 days and counting; I pay extra special attention to the timing because (1) I'm pulling for TD friend Mike Jaliman to oust incumbent Republican Sue Kelly up in New York's 19th C.D., as part of shoring up Democrats re-taking the House to act as a bulwark against GOP extremism (even if Kerry loses, which he won't-- btw, you're about to see Kerry pour it on like a mother-fucker... really...), and (2) I'll be running a marathon both two days before and five days after the election.
So... its running fall here! STAY TUNED!!! And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
That was pretty close to the very first post title on this here eminence gris of blogtopia (yes, I know skippy coined the term) which will celebrate its third anniversary on September 18, 2004. In September, 2001, as now, the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah falls shortly after the 11th. Then, as now, the world faces some anxious times and grave uncertainties.
Quite a bit has happened in the last three years, to us, to this City, to this Nation, and this World. Some of that has been discussed in this column. I hope it has been enlightening for some of you, entertaining for most of you, and worth the trouble of finding us here for... any of you.
We've made some great friends in this medium, and hope to make many more. Lots of fun, lots of challenges, lots of laughs, some upsetting moments-- kind of like life itself, and yet not, somehow. In the end, for my own personality, a hobby where I can mouth off and pretend I'm smart is just not one to be missed. I've certainly enjoyed this immensely.
L'shanah tovah, y'all.
Kudos and congratulations to TD friend Michael Jaliman, who scored an unexpected, yet decisive victory in the Democratic primary for the Congressional seat in New York's 19th Congressional District. Shameless political plug to follow; you'll see why in context.
Mike beat the candidate of the establishment Democratic Party up there (Putnam County and parts of Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, and upper Westchester Counties), and appears to have done so by over 20 percentage points in a race with a high turnout for this kind of primary (the winner gets to face five-term incumbent Republican Sue Kelly!).
Your talking dog is pleased that it was none other than he (pause for shudders about referring to self in third person) who had originally suggested this run for Mike. He was, literally, pondering what to do with the rest of his life. He has an interesting background that includes being a staunch anti-Vietnam War activist as student body president at the U. of Wisconsin, and later, got an M.B.A. from Harvard (Mike tells me the President's intellectual acumen would have made him stand out at the Harvard Business School, and not in a good way). Mike has been a management consultant for major consultancies, giant corporations, and governmental organizations, and has lots of good public spirited stuff in there too.
Like your TD, Mike has a 9-11 connection himself: he was lucky to have not beein in his office (he was a management consultant to a Japanese bank) on the 49th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center (which I got to watch explode from 100 yards or so away at 100 Church Street). Twenty people from his company were killed that day; for a few days, I actually thought Mike was one of them.
Anyway, earlier this year, your talking dog suggested, "Well, you could always run for Congress." Little did I expect the call a few days later that County Democratic leaders had encouraged him to run as well, and a campaign was born. The rest may become the stuff of political legend. We'll see if Mike can take his maverick style (social liberal, fiscal conservative, foreign policy expert) all the way to an upset victory for the (traditionally Republican) Congressional seat.
America, she's a great country.
Yet another of a seemingly endless series of suicide blasts and shooting attacks against Iraqi government targets, particularly the police and security services, resulted in the deaths of at least 59 in Iraq yesterday.
I suppose at some point, if enough Iraqis end up wounded or dead amidst the intramural violence (that WE unleashed) there won't be enough left on the street to cause still more violence. Say this much for Saddam: he kept the trains from blowing up on time.
Still, though, as recently as a few days ago, I heard some apologist for the Bush Administration (quite possibly the President himself) rail against the press for failing to cover "the good news" in Iraq, such as our domestic (to Iraq) infrastructure projects. You'll forgive me if I insist (even as the Administration seeks to shift over $3 billion in infrastructure earmarked money to security and related projects) that schools and bridges mean nothing if you are too afraid of being blown up or shot to even set foot outside your house.
Meanwhile, stateside, while Senator Kerry tries to hammer home... domestic issues... like unemployment, health care, budget deficits, the environment, tax fairness and the like... the President insists that the ONLY relevant subject is toughness on national security. And given the President's (extremely dangerous) sudden resurgence in the national polls (just weeks after I frankly wrote him off for dead), the voters would seem to agree with him on this.
Certainly, if he has not done so already, Senator Kerry needs to fire any and all staff members of his who ever had anything to do with either of the Clintons or their minions. Next, he must immediately assume that former President Clinton's advice to him, to IGNORE national security and defense and foreign policy issues and focus on health care at a time when stupid Americans are afraid of being blown up by brown-skinned foreigners (and many INTELLIGENT Americans are rightly concerned of said brown-skinned foreigners getting their hands on NUCLEAR WEAPONS) would, most assuredly, result in his defeat. Cynics would argue that Clinton wants a George W. Bush victory, and after four more years of Bush's combination of fundamental corruption and incompetence, assuming we have a country left, it will be softened up for the next restoration. The Hillary Clinton restoration, as only a Clinton can save us. (You don't LIKE HILLARY? THEN VOTE FOR KERRY NOW TO ASSURE THAT SHE REMAINS A SENATOR.)
Sorry: Kerry has nothing to apologize for on national security, and this is no time to start shying from this issue. You steered your damned swift boat into enemy fire: take this election there. Announce YOUR plans to crush Al Qaeda, take the battle to terrorists wherever they may be found, reduce nuclear arms proliferation, and protect this nation, and do so without at any time using the words "our allies", "the United Nations", "Vietnam", or even "NATO". If this can only be done by embracing the Bush agenda on the war on terror-- then adopt it. (You're stuck with it anyway, having voted for the damned war.)
National security (and fear of terrorists killing our children) is the 800 lb. gorilla in this room. Take it on. Steer into enemy fire and take this battle, Fightin' John. We'll save American lives, and ultimately, probably save Iraqi lives too.
The nightmare of ten years of peace and prosperity (at least, from the stand point of banned assauult weapons, like uzis and AK-47s and the like) have come to an end, as the assault weapons ban imposed by Congress and signed by Bill CLinton in 1994 comes to an end at midnight.
You don't even have to cite Columbine and that sort of thing: Al Qaeda operatives in the United States can now much more easily get their hands on these kinds of weapons, for use within the United States. (It would smack of some kind of sick poetic justice and irony if and when these kinds of weapons are used to attack and/or kill American government officials, as they have been so used in other countries, particularly those officials responsible for the outrage of allowing this ban to expire as we attempt to shore up "homeland security" and win the "war on terror".)
The constitution doesn't seem to protect us from our right to be arbitrarily detained and denied counsel at the President's whim. Evidently, only the Second Amendment counts in the bill of rights (just ask John Ashcroft.) The right to bear arms seems insufficient: we have the right to bear heavy, semi-automatic arms.
Nothing good will come out of allowing this ban to expire now. This one was easy: but Congress and the President were more interested in not pissing off the gun lobby (most gun owners and enthusiasts, btw, favor the ban, though the gun lobby wants it off) than they were in of protecting the American people from Al Qaeda operatives having assault weapons.
I mean, let's call it like it is.
Indications are that North Korea seems to be trying to test a nuclear weapon; and a mushroom-type cloud observed over North Korea may be an indication of how far along its nuclear weapons program has run. North Korea has already tested long range ballistic missiles, now believed capable of coming very close to the West Coast of North America (and certainly, Japan).
As many of you know, in recent weeks, South Korea's secret nuclear program has come to light (we won't even talk about Iran.) The proliferation genie may have blown its way out of the bottle; we desperately need to limit this, somehow. At all costs. And I don't know what's happening, as neither candidate seems to want to talk about this.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled political banter.
I'm now going to commit a gross act of liberal apostasy. I think Senator Kerry should rally behind the President on this North Korea issue, and commend him for trying to lead us through in an ever more dangerous world, and urge him to continue with his policies of aggressively trying to combat terrorists abroad. (The nitpick is that PRIOR to the Iraq war, of course, there were NO TERRORISTS THERE. But I digress.)
I think it's an (incredible) mistake on the part of Kerry to start nit-picking the President on national security in general. The President's performance leaves a great deal to be desired in almost every area, including foreign policy (our free trade stance, for example, has largely been a disaster, including and especially the outrageous farm bill he signed and his inability to get Pakistan some tariff relief on textiles.) However, on national security, while we can quibble with execution (I do it just about every day), the policy (which is what campaigns are about) is actually not unsound. Given that Senator Kerry seems incapable of forming or at least articulating his own national security policy ("I'll do it better" is not a policy, whether accompanied by a salute and veterans' testimonials or not), the most expeditious move would be to embrace the President's policies-- and commend him on them and promise to continue them-- thereby taking this issue off the table.
I realize this is not merely liberal apostasy, but political apostasy, but we are running out of time here. We keep hearing that "foreign policy is the President's strength." It is unacceptable to me that a man who spent two decades on the senate foreign relations committee and who is likely an intimate of more world leaders than the sitting President should be on the defensive over this.
You voted for the God damned war, Kerry-- you're stuck with this, babe.
(True, I favored pro-war voting Edwards over war opponent Howard Dean, but Edwards, unlike Kerry, is (1) likeable, (2) southern, (3) self-made, (4) a good and interesting speaker, (5) a man of character, (6) handsome and (7) likeable (did I mention likeable?). Dean kind of failed on (1), (2), (3) and (7), isn't as handsome as Edwards and somehow pissed off the idiots in Iowa. He will just have to be one of those many regrets we Democratas have-- like Bruce Babbitt or Mo Udall or Scoop Jackson or Al Gore or other great Dems who never got to be President. But I digress.)
Don't get me wrong: five minutes after taking the oath of office, President Kerry will be free to implement whatever policy he believes the situation warrants. But right now, sitting as an outsider here (a... block... from... Ground... Zero...) a strategy and policy of pursuing terrorists aggressively to the ends of the Earth, rather than after they hit us, works for me. Kerry should really step lightly around being critical of this, and "ju-jit-su" this, but embracing the President's policies.
It's not the policies that are wrong-- the American people, especially in the Upper Midwestern swing states-- are looking for a comfort level on this, and John Kerry assuring them that just as he has supported the President's policies (to the extent he has) he would largely continue our current tack, would go a long way to providing this comfort level to put him over the top. Like the Cold War, this is a long range policy that Presidents of both parties will have to continue over years, if not decades, and Kerry will defend this nation every bit as strongly.
Kerry can combine this with the red-meat-for-Democrats of a more worldly view-- sharing responsibility not merely with France and Germany, but with more affluent Americans who MUST be called on to pay for these security efforts, in lieu of ever bigger tax cuts.
Of course, that's just me.
Update: It didn't take long for the White House to fire back at Kerry, calling the Democratic policies toward North Korea a failure. This is the problem with knee jerk attacks, and not thinking big (see above). The fact is, the deal Clinton reached (negotiated by Jimmy Carter) was a failure: North Korea cheated, and just used the situation to buy time, and convince itself that the United States simply wasn't serious enough about stopping its nuclear programs to warrant it... stopping its nuclear programs!
While our running mate, the veep Bruce Moomaw favors a very hard line carrot and stick approach with North Korea (ultimately leading to regime change... Bruce is tough!) one thing for sure is that our policies toward North Korea have simply not been effective at getting it to behave, and North Korea and Pakistan are the two most likely culprits in putting a nuclear weapon in the hands of Islamist extremists-- a/k/a the ultimate nightmare.
Maybe Bruce is right on that one. I realize the Kerry campaign doesn't feel the need to listen to me-- but this one is easy. On foreign policy, "we are one America." The President is "generally" doing "an acceptable job-- in this area". Throw in "North Korea presents a difficult situation; its hard to fault his policies." the White House is trapped; it can't say anything nice about Senator Kerry being nice to it, and it can't criticize him for statements that amount to saying nice things about Bush!
Well, I can dream. Maybe someone important will get this message through: the American people want the assurance of a coherent foreign policy to deal with the war on terror, terrorists and WMD proliferation. Bush's policy (while arguably insane, and certainly not off to a good start) is at least coherent. Kerry doesn't have a policy. I'm simply suggesting "Bush Plus"-- acknowledging the theoretical soundness of the Bush policies, coupled with the sensible planning of Democrats (such as actually PAYING FOR our own defense, for example, instead of borrowing for it so the super-rich can have a bigger tax holiday).
Its a winner!
Time for a ramble. I'm not sure I'm going to have an opportunity to post over the weekend, and we have 9-11-01 Version 3.0 coming right at us.
Not good news coming from the world writ large: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, widely regarded as OBL's key deputy, issued a video shown on Al Jazeera promising an Al Qaeda victory (however that is defined). Coming to the third anniversary of 9-11-01, this is just bad good news, given A.Q.'s flare for the dramatically evil (the Madrid bombings occurred on 3-11-04, 911 days and 30 months after 9-11-01).
We can take reasonable confidence that our government actually DOES care about terrorism now (unlike its first 8 months in office), and if something can be thwarted, it probably will be. Of course, the RNC Convention lock down is gone; 4 or 5 thousand Republicans (one of whom was the President) have left town, leaving 7 or 8 million irrelevant people. So perhaps our guard here is down, though I wouldn't think so. People get all anxious on 9-11, particularly because our government WANTS us to be.
So here we go again. Will the President make 9-11 a political issue? Why should he stop now-- he's been doing it for three years.
Here's the thing: John Kerry should have taken this issue off the table a long time ago, by actually AGREEING with the President's strategy. Honestly-- I agree with the strategy. The problem is that the President himself isn't very bright and the people around him are either not very bright (think "John Afraid of Calico Cats Ashcroft"), or are extremely corrupt if not outright criminals (think Dick Still on Halliburton's Payroll Cheney), and the execution of tactics has been... a... fucking... disaster.
The fact is, we DO have to stop state sponsors and harborers of terrorism. Unfortunately, we have no relations with number 1 state sponsor Iran, and the little we knew about it has been compromised thanks to our friends in the DOD (and thank YOU Super-Ahmed). Our ability to control number 2-- and the Al Qaeda Sugar Daddy-- the Saudis, has been compromised by the fact that our President ostensibly answers to that government, rather than our own. Bush did an o.k. job with the number 3 sponsor, the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, though by underdeploying, that regime may make a comeback (among the things promised by Al-Zawahiri). Our relationship with the number 4 state sponsor, Pakistan, is almost inexplicable. Iraq was never any better than number 5-- if ever close to that high; our relations with Syria, another big terror sponsor, are... tricky (we may be at war with it soon).
But, in one sentence: We cannot allow these nihilistic Medieval extremist lunatics to get their hands on nuclear weapons. We will do whatever it takes to stop this, even if it means going to war. (Well, that's two sentences.)
What the fuck is wrong with John Kerry? Why can't he just say that, that simply (without a "Let me say to you..."). Bush, in his inarticulate babble, has said that.
And he asserted at least that the war against Iraq was for that end. Through corruption and incompetence, it proved not to be the case in Iraq, but the sentiment and theory was correct, if the execution bad.
As to bad execution, we find that the President wants less ability to verify and monitor the likeliest outfitter of nuclear weapons to terrorists, i.e. Pakistan, and other nations. Read the link and try not to scream. This alone, btw, is reason to remove the Bush Administration-- immediately-- but you haven't exactly heard Senator Kerry condemning this, now, have you? HAVE YOU? Kerry is content to take pot shots at Bush, without offering his own alternative (or acknowledging the difficulties Bush is under which any President including himself would face, and this is not an appropriate political issue-- and its too bad BUSH wants to make it one).
In short, three years to the day I sat in my freaking office at 100 Church Street, New York City, looked over my left shoulder at my window to see falling steel, glass and paper from a flaming One World Trade Center 100 yards away after hearing a sonic boom and popping, only to be followed by the same thing
at Two World Trade Center a half hour later, counting the human beings I saw falling to their death from that vantagepoint (14-- that I saw), walking home through the soot and chaos on the street, watching the North Tower crumble from the Manhattan Bridge, trying to account for my brother (who worked at 222 Broadway, also a block from the WTC) and people I knew (including the late New York City firefighter Carl Molinaro), living a mile or two downwind with my wife and then not yet two year old child, losing my job at the aforementioned 100 Church Street, and then living with the knowledge that the worst part would not be what the motherfuckers did to us but we would do to ourselves, and here we are.
Have we learned anything? I don't know, actually. The events of the week of the GOP Convention did not make me feel all warm and fuzzy. I realize the world IS different now-- but we are grossly overreacting. GROSSLY. I'm here, people: once again, I work a block from Ground Zero. I was there that day. It was bad. I occasionally wake up with nightmares about it. We're vulnerable to it again. You people in Houston and Atlanta and Charlotte and Phoenix and Detroit and people in swing states: YOU'RE NOT. This isn't YOUR PROBLEM. THIS IS NOT 1000 SOVIET ICBMs AIMED AT US.
These are a particular breed of human vermin, who mean to harm a particular target, namely our capital and financial center (and Jews in general).
THIS IS NOT WORTH SURRENDERING OUR CONSTITUTION FOR. NOT EVEN A LITTLE. Even if New York (God forbid) suffers another strike of 9-11 magnitude.
I wouldn't change anything about our pre-9-11 system (other than a Government so obsessed with irrelevant things, it overlooked clear evidence of looming disaster sitting in its own files). OBL doesn't hate us for our freedom: he just hates us. But what do we think of ourselves? Ah- there's the rub.
They that would trade their precious liberty for temporary security deserve neither. -- Benjamain Franklin.
God bless. And hopefully, we'll see you all on 9-11-01 Version 4.0.
We all owe (yet another) debt of gratitude to our hurricane-battered Mistress of Movable Type, Kathy Kinsley, for diagnosing our server problem, enabling us to comeback... again... with... a vengeance. So, thanks again, Kathy.
So much to talk about. (Well, not really, but I'm supposed to say that!)
I fear this will be a den Beste length post. So be it.
Two troubling themes I'd like to tie together. The first one comes straight from Kathy's blog, where you can read my "clash of civilizations" comment and Kathy's response. The second comes from the Unseen Editor concerning eerie parallels between John Kerry and fellow Yale/Skull and Bonesman/war hero/careerist ass coverer George H.W. Bush. And Kaus is on the job to continue to tell us that Democrats' best reaction in light or recent post-convention polling which has taken Bush from politically dead to back in the thick of it... is panic.
So we'll lay out the brief thesis, antithesis (sort of) and synthesis and then discuss...
Clash of Civiliations ("thesis")
Many erroneously believe that the leading problem in the world right now is Islam, or even fundamentalist Islam specifically. But I submit that Islam is simply the latest symptom of something that we can quickly recognize once we throw away filters we have developed as "civilized people", and realize that our thought processes are by and large aberrational.
Give Attilla the
Hun A Gattling gun and it
won't be too much fun.
--the talking dog, (c) 2004
Most people in this world live pretty crappy subsistence lives-- despite our living in the space age, they are barely living above the way their ancestors did hundreds, even thousands of years ago. But many, many people are rapidly being thrust into the modern era; hundreds of millions are joining middle classes around the world. We are rapidly evolving into the global village-- though we're not there yet.
But people's fundamental belief structures do not keep up with how they lead their physical lives in many cases. Indeed, when you slice through Hitler's ideology, it would be very hard to distinguish from Medieval (or earlier) Germanic tribal beliefs, including tree worship, ancestor worship and the like; what made it dangerous was when this mindset was accompanied with first class, first world weapons and logistics. A pathological abnd hateful ideology that in one era would result in a pogrom against the nearby Jewish shtetl, which might result in the stabbing or shooting deaths of, at most, dozens, can, thanks to modern weapons and logistics, kill millions.
Fast forward around 50 or 60 years to the present, and change Germanic tribal to Arabic tribal, and we are at precisely the same place. While the weapons at Hitler's disposal included a major industrial state and some of the best scientists, engineers and military logisticians in the world, the weapons at the hands of our current Islamist nemeses include the internet, the interconnectedness of the world, very open societies, and high tech weaponry available to the highest bidder, which will, if we don't successfully combat this menace, include nuclear weapons.
What we have are people who, as late as the mid 20th century, would act out their petty hatreds and grudges by riding around on horseback and camel, and stabbing or shooting nearby nomads or settlements, again, killing at most dozens. Now, with some ingenuity and some decent explosives, they can kill hundreds, sometimes thousands at a time. (Am I saying, btw-- that this means Nazi Germany was a greater threat than Al Qaeda and the Islamist extremists? Why yes-- yes, I am. It turns out that Hitler and Nazi Germany with the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht and U-boats, and the USSR with the Red Army and hundreds of ICBMs some of which presumably worked, were an existential threat to us all, whereas the Islamists-- right now at least-- are not.)
That said, what we are dealing with is what I would call "pre-rational" people. In the Middle Ages and earlier, people had no problem fighting and dying for very little because, hey-- their lives kind of sucked as it was, and that was the prevailing ethos. We had hoped we had moved past that. Turns out, we left out a few billion people, and some of them (God help us) managed to get themselves stoked up with Saudi sponsored hatred and Saudi money, and formed Al Qaeda, whose mission seems implausible to us, but not to its members. Don't get me wrong: A.Q. has some "modern" gripes with us-- our support of Israel over the Palestinians in anything but an even handed way, our presence on, and interference in the affairs of, the Arabian peninsula, our support of dictators in the region-- that we can deal with because we can understand them. But their methods-- attacks on innocent civilians far removed from their gripes, strike us as alien.
The problem is they are coming from a mindset where the enemy consists of a clan or tribe of maybe a few dozen people, where everybody knows everybody knows everybody. Industrialization hasn't caught up to them-- except in the weapons and tactics department. But in their world, if a member of the tribe insults them, the entire tribe is fair game for revenge. And that seems to be where we are.
John Kerry = George H.W. Bush ("antithesis")
The Unseen Editor points out oodles of similarities between Kerry and Bush-- not the current one, but Bush Pere. Both are Yale skull and bonesmen out of top prep schools and New England aristocracy; both were war heroes later portrayed as wimps and pussies by cowards and draft evaders; they are distantly related (as is Bush, Jr.) But its not these things-- its the fact that both seem to have been political "careerists"-- not so much a record of accomplishment so much as a record of having held office-- and both seem to be habitual ass-coverers.
Regardless of what he says, would John Kerry have invaded Iraq last year? Certainly not. Would George H.W. Bush? Seeing as he actually pulled back troops chasing down the Iraqi Republican Guard, unquestionably not. Is this a bad thing? I'm not saying that-- I'm saying that Bush Pere is a fuck of a lot closer in every way to Kerry than he is to his own son. Frankly, many people voted for Bush the Younger believing he would behave (despite his rhetoric and own limited record in Texas) like the moderate, flip-floppy Bush Pere (Don't believe me? think "Read My Lips; No New Taxes.")
Now, personally, as many of you know, I consider Bush Pere (I did once vote for the s.o.b.) to be pretty much evil incarnate-- a key player in a rather vast and effective crime family. But as President, he was much more of an ass-coverer than Junior. Junior takes chances. Frankly, I've said that he takes them rashly and badly, and as a result, people die unnecessarily and there are other bad consequences-- but Junior is not afraid to act-- and act aggressively if he perceives a need to do so.
The War on Terror TM Requires Action (synthesis)
All that said, we the American voters have to be extremely careful now-- and I suspect the tightly moving polls we are watching are showing just that.
George W. Bush is, frankly, a terrible President. The economic numbers reflect a gross irresponsibility; to cut taxes for the rich at the same time a deficit mounts and a war is fought is just unacceptable, for example. Further, he is gutting environmental and worker protections, and is moving our tax system so that only working people bear the entire tax burden. Frankly, his performance prior to 9-11-01 was unacceptable: no question, his Administration had other priorities than battling Al Qaeda and these dark forces.
HOWEVER... what matters to most people right now is who will do a better job at combatting our new world wide enemy-- which, as noted above, most of us-- including the Bush Administration-- simply do not understand well enough to combat. In tarring Kerry as a pussy, the GOP (naturally) smears him with his record of votes against numerous weapons systems-- many of which were also opposed by, oh... Dick Cheney... Not fair at all.
No. What IS fair is to ask Senator Kerry now what is response is. He insists he would have gone into Iraq knowing what he knows now (question 1: then why shouldn't we vote for GWBush who said the same thing?), then Kerry insists he would have run the Iraq war better and differently without any specifics as to how, and he gives us a Bob-Shrum-ism about firehouses in Baghdad but not in New York or Boston. Well-- fair question-- and one Midwestern swing voters (they're out there) desperately want to know: What will John Kerry's policies be on the war on terror, dealing with Al Qaeda, dealing with Iraq, and protecting this nation against a growing worldwide menace of the possibility of Medieval psychopaths getting their hands on nuclear weapons?
We know GWBush's answer: crazy wars against the wrong countries. But... John Kerry's response has (as far as I can tell) utterly evaded the question.
My OWN answer is to apply maximum pressure- military, diplomatic, economic, complete with carrots and sticks-- to stop nuclear proliferation immediately. If necessary, we have to buy North Korea's arsenal, buy out Iran's arsenal (or at least Russian contracts to provide their arsenal), and do what it takes to get the genie back in the bottle. AND pursue OBL and A.Q. to the ends of the Earth. AND try to modernize the rest of the world to isolate the maniacs (so we can crush them) within their own societies, and THIS DOES mean massive foreign aid, including and especially REMOVAL OF ANY AND ALL TRADE BARRIERS THAT HURT POOR COUNTRIES-- from us and Europe; our farmers' greed will not be allowed to be the cause of our annihilation (and yes, its that simple).
Kerry doesn't have to give this answer (indeed, its a politically bad answer). But Bush has, at least, thought of an answer. And Kerry continues to evade.
The American people need to have a better choice than a bad answer and no answer. Because if that's the choice, I think they'll pick the bad answer. And I'm not fully convinced they wouldn't be justified in doing just that.
The Unseen Editor forwards me the latest outrage in Bozo (as distinct from Gonzo) Journalism: the Associated Press's account of a Bush rally in Wisconsin.
The story is that President Bush expressed his prayers and thoughts for the speedy recovery of President Clinton (who is about to undergo heart bypass surgery). So far so good. Supposedly, the crowd booed, and Bush did nothing.
Except it didn't; which is why he did nothing.
This would appear to be some sort of invitation to believe that those who would attend a GOP campaign rally are Neanderthal bloodthirsty assholes who would wish a popular two-term President a premature death. Which is, of course, a lie.
This is not Fox News: this is the God damned Associated Press. Is this what we have come down to? We need secondary confirmation of A.P. stories? Liberals can't win, anymore, unless we become even more outrageous and bloodthristy liars than we accuse our opponents of being? Well, if this is what it comes down to-- if we can only win by becoming despicable liars, then I would rather not win.
The Associated Press owes those responsible for this pink slips. And to the rest of us, an apology.
It's now 60 days until the November 2, 2004 election. Accordingly, I'm pleased to announce the talking dog's "pick the margin of victory" contest.
On November 2, 2004, will President Kerry be elected by the minimum 270 electoral votes? A decisive 300 e.v.'s? A blowout at 350 or more? Or will John Kerry snatch defeat from the jaws of the victory that Economic He-Man Ahnold and Unmedicated Zell and Catatonic Dick just handed him, and it will be President Bush with the gaudy electoral college numbers?
Just tell me in comments to this (or any other!) post, or in e-mail, what your prediction is, "Bush X, Kerry Y, Nader Z (for zero)", and what percentage of the popular vote the candidates will receive (nearest 10th of 1 per cent) as a tie-breaker. (Hint: answers should add up to "538"electoral votes). The winner will receive lunch with the talking dog (and on his dime) at famed New York eatery Bouley. (Your talking dog always regarded David Bouley as somewhat of a genius for having figured out how to profit from the 9-11 tragedy, by providing meals to WTC recovery workers at a healthy mark-up.)
In the event the contest winner is from outside of the Greater New York area, you'll just have to get here somehow (although if Greyhound or the Chinese bus company runs a cheap enough special, I'll consider going halfsies.) Multiple entries may be submitted, however the latest entry by a participant will be considered superceding of all prior entries; entries close at 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1st.
There will, of course, be various "bonus" point possibilities to be announced as time goes on and I feel like it (and the possibility of multiple winners). Right now, however, your talking dog (personally) anticipates a tight Kerry win (282 to 256), with a similarly close (49.4 to 46.3) popular vote victory. But this contest is about YOU, and your guesses, and if you feel like posting them (or telling me, and I'll post them), your rationales, witticisms, complaints, etc. will just add to the fun.
Winner to be announced on November 3rd, or whenever the Supreme Court says its ok for me to announce.
Bon chance, et bon appetite. Enjoy the holiday weekend.
Over in another front in a (pretty hopeless) War on Terror, Russian officials decided to storm a school at Beslan, Russia, resulting (so far) in hundreds of injuries and the probable deaths of 150 people, and some terrorists remain holed up in a school basement with still more hostages.
At least ten of the purportedly twenty dead terrorists were described as "Arab mercenaries". It was unclear exactly what the terrorists were looking for, most likely the release of jailed Chechen comrades.
Cautionary tales of the war on terrorism, Russian style. Well over 100 were killed when Russians decided to storm a theater in Moscow last year, using a novel form of nerve gas. Here, well over 100 killed in a conventional storming. The message should now be clear to terrorists: engage in hostage situations in Russia, and expect the Russian government to take out the hostages for you... no political advantage to you as far as your "official demands"; incredible political advantage to you as far as making your impact felt on Russian civilians.
Don't know what was gained in last week's airliner downings, but perhaps these maniacs know.
Most Russians want a negotiated end to the Chechen conflict, and yet, they handily elected Vladimir Putin twice, precisely because he was so vicious there, and the more vicious he is there, the more they seem to admire him. Democracy is... complicated. Throw in good old guerrilla warfare, generally lax security, and... in this case, a horror show.
Much as a particular political figure in his late 50's was widely thought to be the likeliest candidate to need heart by-pass surgery after the GOP extravaganza, it turns out that another one has that particular problem, former President Bill Clinton. After complaining of chest pains, he checked into a New York hospital, which announced it will do by-pass surgery shortly to go around a coronary blockage.
Best wishes to President Clinton for a speedy recovery. While he probably won't be able to participate much in the presidential campaign, he has a really good reason.
Godwin's law is hereby suspended. When an American national party decides to run "Triumph of the W___", any and all shots are fair game. (BTW, Fightin' John has arrived; it couldn't happen too soon-- but the man is a closer, and I am convinced now more than ever, our next President.) While I missed Edwards' prologue, which I understand was even better, it looks like the gloves are off. And under the light of day, the Bush record meltsdown and shrivels. Take away irrational fearmongering, and the Bush-Cheney team has nothing other than giant tax breaks for multi-millionaires, and running up massive deficits.
The Clintonian litany of proposed programs lacked a certain "and you'll pay for them... how?" component, as did the ominous silence when it came to mentioning Osama bin Laden, the massive budget deficit, or even setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. How DARE this man tell us how agonizing the decision to send Americans to their deaths was, when his actual reaction was to pump his fist and utter "feels good".
Too many people believe that George W. Bush is some sort of naif (or "moron" to be less polite.) While he has a below average i.q. (around 97), this is irrelevant. He is no moron. He is more than bright enough for this job-- though he is not competent enough for it. No, he is not an idiot.
He is a villain.
Last night's speech was shocking in how compelling it was in terms of presentation, production values, rhetorical power and tone. Would that more than three truthful words in a row were ever strung together.
Help is on the way, folks. Fightin' John has arrived. The American people recognize a winner, and he is that. FOUR MORE MONTHS! FOUR MORE MONTHS! FOUR MORE MONTHS!
Well, it was... I'm not sure what! night at the GOP Convention last night; the Prez was in Queens, hob-nobbing with the firemen. You'll recall Bush promised greater aid to New York, only to not deliver it (far lower priority compared to repealing that awful death tax); of course, several (well, 6 anyway) City firehouses have been closed since 9-11, as New York spends kazillions defending us from fake terror alerts, protecting visiting foreign dignitaries (like the Republicans), and similar unfunded Bush mandates.
Which takes us to last night at the convention; I confess I didn't see or hear Miller's speech, although I did hear Cheney's speech. I could chide Miller for being a psychotic DINO, but I should more deride him for being only a semi-reconstructed race-baiting lunatic than for being a more loyal Republican than, say, Trent Lott (at least by voting record). Besides-- while the GOP has DINOs like Miller, we have RINO's like Linc Chafee of Rhode Island, and wild cards like the Sainted John McCain.
Anyway, it seemed an odd pairing, Zell and Dick. Zell delivered his speech from the manic side, while Dick delivered his from the depressive/catatonic side of the GOP bi-polar/bi-partisan spectrum.
Both of course, reflected what I said yesterday, and will say again: the Republicans got nothin'. An inside kangaroo straight with two cards missing... Zell was a fire-breathing lunatic Kerry-basher; Cheney was a calm, measured... catatonic Kerry-basher. Shorter Zell Miller/ Dick Cheney: John Kerry is a French faggot pussy who will have to ask his French overlords for permission to defend Amurka.
Anything... ANYTHING... to take away from the weakness of the economy (job growth non-existent, interest rates coming up, oil prices high, consumer confidence shot), the abuse of our overstretched military (sent off to a shooting gallery in Iraq with no exit strategy for a war whose justifications have long since ben debunked), the fact that we are no safer than we were on or before 9-11-01 (gross understatement, as OBL is still out there, North Korea and Iran move forward with nuclear weapons, and our own intelligence and defense apparatus are criminally incompetent), the uncontrollable (and unsustainable) deficit (a record... and by a lot), and a President who can't speak in full English sentences.
Fortunately, I understand Senator Kerry has started sacking the losers who gave him the worthless "wrap-myself-in-'Nam" campaign. He can allow the Republicans to disperse from New York, and then go back on full-time attack... because this election is not about John Kerry: it's about George W. Bush. Fightin' John is on the way. And I for one, can't wait to watch him give Cheney and Miller cause to up their lithium dosages.
Hey, boys and girls... remember "yellowcake", or uranium hexaflouride, one of the key ingredients in the recipe for enriched uranium which can either power a nuclear power plant or a nuclear bomb? Well, Iran seems to be on the verge of having enough of it to actually generate some enriched uranium... enough fissionable material to make up to five nuclear bombs.
If we add that to the between two and seven nuclear devices in the hands of North Korea, we get our aggregate "Axis of Evil TM" scorecard:
Axis of Evil Member Number of Nuclear Bombs
Iran...........................................Up to 5
North Korea.............................Up to 7
While I'm certainly troubled by the typical Democratic appeasement deal proposed for Iran, painfully similar to what we once did with North Korea (trade things for "peaceful" atomic energy programs), the above chart should certainly demonstrate to us just how grave a threat Iraq presented to us, and just how much George W. Bush has made this nation safer from anything, let alone our most likely threats.
The thing is, we probably have options besides World War III and outright appeasement; we could, for example, strong-arm our buddy Pooty Poot (who seems to be up to his elbows in his own Islamic terrorist problem, albeit one he exacerbated with his heavy-handed approach to Chechnya) into cutting off Iran-- at least from nuclear technology-- by making a better deal with Russia. And we could, of course, try to engage Iran, for better or worse, or at least to do a better job of isolating it if we did not engage it.
We may be heading for a very embarassing situation, as Israel (remember them?) may decide to repeat its maneuver at Osirak, Iraq from 20 some years ago, and solve our little Iranian nuclear problem for us. Were this to happen, I would describe the likely results as "unpredictable"; Israel is already passing out iodine pills to people in or near Dimona (the Negev site of Israel's unconfirmed nuclear arsenal, believed to number in the hundreds of devices).
It's good to know that if we re-elect George W. Bush, given the facts as I've laid them out, we can take comfort in knowing that he will solve the menace and threat to us that is... Syria? I daresay it will be a bit harder to blame the Iranian nuclear arsenal on Clinton than usual...
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dazzled the GOP Convention crowd last night with his speech about "immigrant dreams", national security, and significantly, how naysayers about the (disastrous) state of the American economy are really economic girlymen. BTW, I almost hate myself for kind of liking Laura Bush's speech, which almost had me convinced that George W. Bush is a human being capable of the same doubts and fears as the rest of us. Of course, one quickly realizes that this is not true: like Schwarzenegger, Bush is a multi-millionaire well-divorced from the reality the rest of us face (though unlike Ahnold, Bush didn't actually "earn" anything, relying on the kindness of Daddy's friends to hand it to him along with the presidency). Besides-- Arnold is the star.
And if that's all the Republicans have, then please join with me in congratulating President and Mrs. Kerry, and Vice-President and Mrs. Edwards. As the Unseen Editor notes-- there was a possiblity the GOP had NOTHING-- and Ahnold just demonstrated that to be the case. Because if mocking the unemployed (and those fearful for their jobs and their families' futures) by the movie-star-governor is all they have, George W. Bush cannot win Ohio, and if he cannot win Ohio, he cannot win the presidency. I don't care what the polls say (Senator Kerry can win without Ohio, but it would be by a hair's breadth at best).
Immigrant dreams? From "socialist" Austria? A country with the same standard of living as our own? Further, Arnold was a well-established body-builder in Europe, before moving here, and it was, after all, his physique (its sure as hell not his acting ability) that made him a movie star. So, plllleeease. (I don't begrudge Arnold being a Republican, even though he doesn't believe in anything the party stands for except tax cuts for multi-millionaires, because he is, of course, a multi-millionaire.)
But lookit: it would be one thing just to say "We know the economy could be doing better, but we were due for a fall after the internet bubble, and 9-11 and the war on terror are downers, but a permanently strong America is worth the price of a temporarily weak economy." But the GOP isn't doing that. While delegates hold up signs with the word "compaassion", the delegates go apeshit for a speaker that mocks people out of work and fearing for their families' futures as "economic girlymen". (Note to Kerry campaign: just play that line over and over and over again, against a backdrop of factory closings.)
As the UE notes, barring allegations that John Forbes Kerry is a child molestor ("developing"), this is his to lose, and it's just about over (again).