Well, with just four days to go until the election, we were wondering who else might chime in. We got our answer: Al Qaeda kingpin and former world's most dangerous man Osama bin Laden, with a video shown on Al Jazeera television.
Republicans have three days now to twist the rather cryptic message into "a vote for Kerry is a vote for bin Laden", or more likely, "if you even THINK about voting against the Imperium, terrorists will kill your children". The video message seems to have pointed out that Bush probably got a lot more people killed by reading "My Pet Goat" (instead of taking, you know, action) and noted that regardless of who the American President happens to be, Middle East policy that pisses off bin Laden (and being a homocidal psychopath, of course) is what drives him, rather than who we select on Tuesday.
This is the first video appearance by OBL since late 2001 (though he has made around seven audio tapes since that time).
Given that the nation's intelligence services would seem to have decided to exact their revenge on Bush by releasing embarassing stuff at inopportune times, one wonders immediately if, in fact, the release of this tape now is not just a subtle reminder to everyone that OBL is still breathing because of the Dauphin's deliberate choice to target Bush family irritant Saddam Hussein rather than actual threat OBL. Of course, look for the Bush-backers to tell us that this points out why we need " a strong leader" for the ongoing war on terror (which, of course, if Bush is reelected, will be self-perpetuationg, along with the charming notion that not lock-step supporting an incompetent and dangerous president is somehow "unpatriotic".)
Well, well. Four days to go. Osama is still out there and taunting us. Must be because Kerry is a waffler. I can't think of any other reason.
That's right: just 75 years ago today (and not very far from where I work...) was "Black Tuesday"-- the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929.
While no particular market panic is scheduled for today, next week is... a whole other week!!!
I'm reopening the "electoral vote/popular vote" guess contest; closest guess gets lunch care of moi at New York's Bouley restaurant... Take your best shots!
Well, it looks like we have "the facts" as to what happened at the unfortunately named Al Qa Qaa weapons complex in Iraq: as shown in a video taken by a crew that came in with the 101st Airborne, the shit was all there when we got there, and it was US that fucked up the security measures.
Game. Set. Match. George W. Bush's alleged strength for those who believes that gratuitous wars of aggression are a good thing was that "at least" he kept weapons out of the hands of terrorists. Only at Al Qa Qaa, we put bad-ass explosives INTO the hands of terrorists (as well as all comers).
My only concern remains the timing: how could they keep this suppressed until just ten days before the election? Maybe the yellowcake diss and humiliating Tenet and Valerie Plame and God knows what else are all starting to come home to roost. THIS was the October surprise, and its really too late to trot one out for Bush (four days till Election Day).
We'll see: but with Al Qa Qaa's allegations safely confirmed: i.e., NO PLANNING WHATSOEVER was made to secure these sites of nasty weapons despite the IAEA BEGGING the Bush Administration to protect them means that either (1) this was never about WMDs, or (2) our government is too stupid to be returned to office. Either would be an impeachable offense in a normal situation.
Those supporting the President at this point are doing so strictly as a faith based initiative. Because now John Kerry could knife-rape a nun on live t.v., and there would still be no way to demonstrate that he is anywhere near as bad as the Bush Gang that Can't Shoot Straight.
Well, wish me luck, y'all, as the big weekend is here: me and Jim Henley will be going for blogger-jogger greatness in the Marine Corps Marathon in and around our nation's capital (the appropriate expression NOT being "break a leg").
That's it. 9-11 did change everything. It's been nearly twelve hours now, and the universe has not been destroyed, despite the Boston Red Sox prevailing in an inconceivable eight game winning streak starting with being down 4-3 going into the 9th inning down three games to none against the New York Yankees to come back and sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2004 World Series.
Many in New England will now lose a sense of their collective identity: the bitter taste of bizarre means of defeat, heart-crushing late inning errors or opponents' home runs, somehow made the long, cold dark New England winters seem less troubling than the annual fall collapse of the beloved BoSox. And now, its gone.
Now the BoSox will be "just another team", and a good one-- like the Atlanta Braves, for example, that wins once in a while, and is always in contention. No more curse. No more regional sense of collective angst. Curse exorcized.
Interestingly, October 27, 2004, besides the day of the Red Sox improbable victory, happens to be the 100th anniversary of the opening of the New York subway system; New York, of course, being famous for "subway series" (the most recent being pre-9-11, with the Yankees prevailing over the Mets in 5, in 2000), even though (few people outside of New England realize this), the Boston subway (the "T") is actually older than New York's. IIRC, 1904 was also the first year that the Boston Pilgrims (later the Red Sox) won the World Series (this franchise won 5 of the first 15 of them, before falling star-crossed).
Well, although the Bruins and the Celtics didn't get the job done, I'm counting on one more team from Massachusetts taking it all this fall. Go team!
Palestinian strongman Yasir Arafat is in serious medical condition, described cryptically by different sources as "critical", "life-threatening", "serious", or "stable", and ranging from "a bad case of the flu" to "stomach cancer".
Both Israeli security forces and Palestinian Authority security apparatuses are on a heightened state of alert (where do you go from already high alert?) in anticipation of violence in the event Arafat's health deteriorates, or if, in fact, what ails him is terminal.
With six days until American elections, this is just part of the complete wild card that the Middle East is; Sharon's Gaza pullout plans are already causing turmoil, and it's not as if the overall regional situation, what with Iraq being a failed state, and Iran rapidly building up a potential nuclear strike capability (both courtesy of George W. Bush) is promising. It had been prophesized that Arafat was likely to die on a Jewish holiday; the High Holidays have passed. Then again, goes the old joke, any day Arafat dies would be a Jewish holiday.
The problem is, the joke isn't funny. Which is why Israel has stated clearly they will allow Arafat to be moved-- anywhere-- for medical treatment, or medical treatment to be brought to him. None of this is funny, actually. Not even a little.
Even your somewhat partisan talking dog was somewhat taken aback during one of the presidential debates when the moderator asked the President and Senator Kerry about the looming shortage of flu vaccine. I didn't really think an unfortunate contamination was a political issue; until you realize that, as Mark A.R. Kleiman tells us, ONLY the United States will suffer a vaccine shortage, because our government dithered while others arranged alternative supplies (and thanks to the on-fire veep for the heads-up).
Surprise, surprise. Another catastrophic cock-up from the Bush Administration that will unquestionably result in thousands of additional American deaths. As someone who works in downtown Manhattan (as I did on the morning of September 11, 2001), I already regard the continuation of the Bush Administration as a threat to my life and health; other Americans feel differently at their own grave personal peril.
Six days to go. Time to clean house... and senate... and executive mansion...
In honor of Hillary Clinton's birthday (the Empire State's junior senator and America's former first lady turns 56 today) and my own birth 42 years ago today (smack during the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis), we'll give you a triple play from peripatetic former talking dog running mate Bruce Moomaw:
(1) Andrew Sullivan -- who endorsed Bush enthusiatically last time and has been on the fence all year this time, before finally deciding to endorse Kerry today:
"QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'The commander of the first unit into the area told CBS he did not search it for explosives or secure it from looters. "We were still in a fight," he said. "Our focus was killing bad guys." He added he would have needed four times more troops to search and secure all the ammo dumps he came across.' -- CBS' latest press release on the missing explosives.
"Four times more troops. But that would have meant doing it right." (Or as I like to say; is Bush guilty of negligent homicide, or of intentional mass murder... those are the only choices.)
(2) "Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, on Tuesday accused foreign troops in the country of 'gross negligence' in the massacre of 49 Iraqi National Guard recruits over the weekend, an unusually critical remark by the U.S.-backed leader... The remark was an unusual public condemnation of the U.S. military and its allies in Iraq from the prime minister, who worked closely with Washington as an exile leader during the rule of President Saddam Hussein."
(What kind of a mixed message to allies is that Allawi trying to send?)
(3) "A new conventional wisdom is taking hold among Britain's military and foreign-policy elite: even if John Kerry defeats Bush, any British government will find it difficult, if not impossible, to muster popular support for a future American-led military intervention. A senior British diplomat put it bluntly to NEWSWEEK: 'Never again.'...
"Blair's fealty to Bush barely masks serious disagreements between the American and the British governments. In private, senior British military commanders have strongly criticized the United States' 'overwhelming force' tactics in Iraq. Senior British Foreign Service officers have despaired at the post-9/11 collapse of American diplomacy. For Washington, it's one thing to see Thailand and New Zealand pulling troops out of Iraq. It's quite another to have Britain questioning its 'special relationship' with the United States."
Destroying America's special relationship with Britain. Now, that's an achievement for the Bushites to put under their belts, by God. Give 'em four more years and maybe they'll be able to alienate Israel, too.
As long as he doesn't alientate Texas, Ohio and Florida...
Well, I thank Bruce for the blogger's birthday present: the prepackaged post!!! The Bush Imperium is definitely under some serious strain, and anyone aware of them thar' apples that supports Bush can pretty much not be talked to, and anyone undecided... well, flip a damned coin already.
Cheers! Hopefully, we'll keep spouting our brand of bloggy piffle for the next 42 years and then some...
What's most surprising about this story of Bush incompetence in not guarding weapons in Iraq, summarized here by dog run member Josh Marshall (via Julia writing in The American Street where you can read some of my own musings about our legal system on Mondays, along with a nice smattering of some of the best damned writers in blogdom...) is not that it took so long to come out at all, but that the Bushmen couldn't suppress it completely with just over a week to go until the election.
The story, of course, is of over just how 350 tons of incredibly powerful explosive that "disappeared" from a facility kept under close watch by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, the agency headed by Mohammed El-Baradei, and one of the agencies tossed out of Iraq so Dubya could show the world that his was bigger than Papa Bush's). The IAEA did not remove the weapons grade explosives because, although they are really nasty and can be used as the triggering mechanism in atomic bombs, they also have useful and legitimate civilian applications in excavations for dams and bridges and other large problems. So... they were kept under close watch by the IAEA.
Until, of course, the United States military moved in, and threw out the inspectors, and apparently, not only left a facility at al Qa Qaa, Iraq (I think that's the name) unguarded, but then suppressed all information about having left it unguarded, apparently under pain of death for any American or Iraqi who dared talk about it. Result: over 350 tons of the nastiest conventional explosives on Earth went right into the hands of terrorists, and, as alluded to by Senator Kerry in the debates, are being used for car bombs and other devices used to kill our soldiers and the nascent Iraqi security force, as well as lotsa civilians. Got it? (We won't even talk about the possibility of even nastier weapons at these facilities also having disappeared... into the hands of terrorists.)
Our government's justification is that there were so many explosives floating around Iraq from other places, they couldn't guard them all-- so what difference does it make if they didn't gaurd any. Got that? This is our "strong, decisive, resolved" government. We went into Iraq to keep bad shit out of the hands of terrorists, and by our actions, not only placed them IN the hands of terrorists, but deliberately suppressed any and all information on the subject, thereby ensuring that the situation couldn't be corrected.
The only thing that amazes me is that this story came out at all; the Bushmen had done an excellent job suppressing it for so long. We're 8 days from the election, for Gawd sake. If there ARE any undecideds left, this should make up their mind for them.
Another day, another tale of human carnage coming out of Iraq, in this case, the gruesome discovery of 49 bodies of graduates of Iraqi army military training, shot at close range, discovered east of Baghdad. Insurgents have targeted men in the new Iraqi army in an attempt to deter others from joining. Of course, in many cases (by no means not all), as in the United States, it is a weak economy and non-existent prospects that lead many to take the risks associated with military service and sign up. Adding to the tragedy, of course, as these men were often just trying for a means to support their families, more than helping out the occupation (which is, of course, what they ard doing).
This snippet from the comparatively unbiased journalists at People's Daily in Beijing gives us more highlights of the day in Iraq; while U.S. forces captured a "senior Al-Zarqawi aide" (his personal valet, perhaps; or maybe his chauffeur or gardener), an Iraqi man was beheaded on video, and a suicide bomber killed at least 20, among other highlights. (Meta moment: in 2004, we now live in a world where I often trust media sources from the former Soviet state in Moscow and the still Communist state in Beijing as much or more than American sources. I urge the rest of you to do the same.)
Let me keep saying this: I have seen, on occasion, "Bush right or wrong regardless of how big a war criminal and mass murderer he is and by implication we all are" people showing the audacity to say that we are murdering people at a slower rate than Saddam is. Why don't we take another meta-moment, and consider the slogans that presents: "Bush-- Less Bad than Saddam." We (meaning the people that stole our government) are too dense to understand the bitter and unfunny irony of the situation. We moved into Saddam's seat of power, and proceeded to impose a result that is even more brutal than his regime: not only are WE arbitrarily torturing and murdering Iraqis, but we have unleashed chaos and backlash that has put large swathes of Iraq beyond control.
And in a rare hat-tip to the American media, the American people fully understand exactly what's happening in Iraq, at least in terms of the "raw data" of the events, albeit without meaningful context. Of course, the American media are also accessories to war crimes, by giving credence to the politically-driven smoke and mirrors game called the sovereignty transfer fraud. The fact that a single journalist has never even asked the simple question: "Mr. President, how can we consider the occupation to be over while over a hundred thousand plus Americans remain pinned down in Iraq?" is telling. When Bush's nonsense nursery school response about "hard work", "freedom" and "democracy" comes out, other journalists should calmly, simply repeat the question, until Bush gets testy first (and he will), and ends the interview (which he will). But nothing of this kind ever seems to happen. (And its not disrespecting the President, a la Ms. Coleman of Irish t.v., who interrupted him; all that's required is someone willing to be the same kind of "on message" robot that Bush is-- and whose organization will back them, instead of firing and blacklisting them.) Yes, I know it's just a dream.
Obviously, I'd also like to see someone-- anyone-- asking the President, point blank, how many times he has been arrested.
Until those questions will be asked by our so-called free press, we must consider American sources hopelessly compromised, and seek our news from behind the iron and bamboo curtains.
In the meantime, we're looking at a long, cold Ramadan.
This week's visit to our friends at Pravda gives us this somewhat disjointed piece (I have no idea who does Pravda's Russian to English translations... but I LIKE them!) about various nasty effects from global climate change, including a lengthy discussion about shifting magnetic poles that borders on the stuff of the National Examiner, culminating in a discussion of the well understood global changes (all, to this day, still denied by the Bush Administration).
This being Pravda (part of why you get your weekly dose) the payoff comes in the form of a punchline: global warming will doubtless be good for Mother Russia, which by and large, is already a frozen wasteland!
The bad news is that the rest of us don't live in Russia... and probably don't have plans to move there. Low lying areas around the world will be flooded as ocean volume increases, deserts expanded, and climates in some places-- like Europe-- will undergo wild extremes. Chaos, famine, you know: stuff the Bush Administration couldn't give two &^%$s about because, after all, they only effect poor and working people. Like terrorism, wars, and budget deficits.
Man, I suddenly feel the need for vodka. Vass d'arovia.
We got trouble right here in Tigris River City. Margaret Hassan, the director of CARE International in Iraq, kidnapped by militants believed to be associated with Al Zarqawi's terrorist movement, was seen on a videotape shown on Al Jazeera television, pleading for, among other things, her life, and for British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq (and certainly not moved into the Baghdad area, which PM Blair has just agreed to do).
The stakes of our adventure, which is no longer being managed for military or strategic or even geo-political advantage but entirely for domestic political reasons is that more and more of our troops are being killed each month, more contractors are being kidnapped, and at this point, just keep going up. Ms. Hassan is a career humanitarian, and obviously, by far the highest profile kidnap victim. If Mr. Blair allows her to be butchered on video-tape (and I fear he will), one wonders what British public opinion-- always against Britain's participation in the War to Avenge Papa Bush TM, will turn untenable for Mr. Blair. I hope.
It's astounding just how badly Iraq is going, how widely it's being reported, and how little regard the American people seem to be showing for it, given that the President isn't down 40 points in the polls. But then... what do I know.
Kudos to the Boston Red Sox, who overcome their reputation as the worst chokers in the history of sport and ably handed that mantle over to the former home of Mickey Mantle (on the late slugger's birthday no less) in an inconceivable 10-3 win capping the only comeback from being down 3 games to none in a playoff series. We'll let Sox fans themselves (such as our own Unseen Editor) decide if this lifts-- finally-- over 80 years after the "Babe Ruth curse"... the curse. Some say the BoSox must win the World Series. After the Inconceivable Comeback against the Bronx BOMBers, I'm not so sure. Of course, they may well go on to take the Fall Classic too... Nothing like night games. In Boston. At the end of October.
Let's just say that the baseball prognostication (re: the success fo the Houston Astros, who play their own Game 7 against the favored Cardinals tonight) that I attributed to SecDef Don Rumsfeld may be a better bet than how other things are going, like, say the unit commander of the 343rd Quartermasters (as you will recall, her troops decided not to go on a suicide mission with inadequately armored vehicles) being mysteriously "relieved of her command and reassigned" Or how about Britain agreeing to shift over 800 of its troops from reasonably calm Southern Iraq (where, by and large, the British have things in hand) to insanely dangerous Central Iraq (where the Americans, as usual, have things in a hash.)
(Yes-- you correctly surmise-- no matter what the subject, it always DOES come right back to Bush and Iraq!)
To be fair to Don, a lot of Iraq was indeed taken away from him and handed to Reichsfuhrer Incompetentaleeza Rice around the June 28th sovereignty transfer fraud date. The purpose of moving Bremer out of Iraq before the July 4th holiday, aside from letting him move into his Vermont summer house on time, was, of course, to maintain tight White House control over the coverage of the Iraq debacle. You see-- it's about what the Bought-and-Paid-for-Press sees as "the story". If we have "an occupation", then American troops dying and being maimed for no reason is "bad".
Ah, but if we transfer "sovereignty", and largely run the operation for political, rather than military objectives (result, of course, is substantially increased casualties, and as Kerry and Edwards constantly note, casualties seem to increase every single month since the sovereignty transfer fraud), it's "the Iraqis' problem". In other words, even though the fighting and dying is still being done by Americans, and at a faster pace, because we are no longer occuping Iraq (you see), no one is dying at all: it's not happening. Sure, bad things are happening in Iraq, but it's "not our problem" (just as bad things happen in Darfur, and Russia and other places that are "not our problem").
Understand? Me neither... but then, I like to think my head isn't up my ass. Our press seems to buy this shit, as do around the necessary critical mass of enough of the American people (around half).
Whatever. Here's hoping for a huge fall for teams hailing from the Bay State.
Oy gevalt. There's nothing else to say in light of the revelations that a Bush-affiliated "independent 527 group" is disseminating a t.v. commercial for use in swing states of course showing the President hugging "and consoling" one Ashley Faulkner, whose mother died on 9-11 because of the President's own incompetence and spending over a month on vacation and demagoguing about nonsense like missile defense instead of working to defend this nation from terrorism. Wowzers.
We have an established Republican family-- supposedly the late Wendy Faulkner of Mason, Ohio took her daughter Ashley to a Bush rally in Ohio four years ago (while this would be inconsistent with Ms. Faulkner's apparent selfless philanthropy, it would be perfectly consistent with her being an executive with Aon, a role which, of course, put her in the World Trade Center on September 11th). We have the established story line: Bush-- the man who responded that his daughter could "clean her room" as he left on vacation leaving her to face an emergency appendectomy on her own and commented that if she couldn't catch up to the Bush family, "maybe she can clean her room" is a warmer and nicer person, you see, then Senator John "F. as in Fearless" Kerry who, while others stood around, quickly intervened and saved the life of another United States Senator (Chic Hecht (R-Nevada)).
I'd really like to throw up. We're back to the regular guy horseshit. There is nothing regular about President George Walker Bush, including, I suspect, his bowel movements these days. NOTHING. This is a child of privilege who feels that God talks to him and that he owes the world nothing, despite the fact that everything he has (its about possession as in "ownership society" as the man never earned anything in his life) is a result of an accident of birth and a fortunate name the result of his fortunate birth order.
Well, the president of the "unrelated to the Bush campaign 527 organization"Brian McCabe of the Progress for America Voter Fund, is doubtless also conveniently "unrelated" to one Tony Feather of Progress for America (formed in 2001, and "step parent" of the fund) and a Washington lobbyist who just happened to be the political director of the Bush campaign in 2000. Get the picture? Probably also unrelated to the man asked to be Progress for America Chairman, James Francis, Jr., head of the brilliant multi-level marketing "Bush Pioneers", the back bone of Dubya's 2000 campaign fundraising. Probably unrelated to the over $1.6 million in fees paid by the Bush-Cheney campaign to Tom Synhorst, Tony Feather's partner, and that good old consulting and lobbying firm... No... all "independent" of the Bush campaign. TOTALLY independent, you see. No, that warm President would NEVER take advantage of dirty tricks... no, sirree Laura.
No, Bush just hates these 527's, now doesn't he?
This election, given the dismal state of the economy and the debacle in Iraq, really shouldn't be close. Honestly, where are the ads of 9-11 families decrying Bush for stonewalling the 9-11 Commission (after first getting their loved ones killed in the first place)? I personally watched 9-11 from a block away, lost my job at the time, and was kind of vehrkacht from it all for a while. In addition to losing two people I knew on 9-11 (and a friend lost a brother-in-law), two others I know have died violently since George W. Bush took office-- one a UN worker killed in Baghdad at the attack on UN HQ there, and a law school classmate killed (with his wife and three young sons) in a jetliner crash at Sinai (which may or may not have had to do with terrorism, although there was a big-time terrorist alert pending from France, and the plane was headed to Paris). Still, I'd like to see the 9-11 families open up on camera about their actual feelings toward the President.
THANK GOD another group has finally starting showing injured Iraq war veterans at Operation Truth lambasting the lying sack of shit that they had for a commander in chief (btw-- give generously, if you can... via digby... who else?).
Two weeks to go, boys and girls. Around a week or so from now, the bell goes (the bell lap) and we go into all out sprint for the finish. Expect dirty tricks, cheap emotional ploys, and quite probably, a terror threat, if not outright attack. But hey... if we knew exactly what, it wouldn't be a true October surprise.
Florida joins a number of states today in opening up "early" in person voting some 15 days ahead of Election Day. Note that besides solid red Texas, and leaning red Colorado and Arkansas, the other key states this year have already begun in-person voting, include battlegrounds Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Oregon has begun mail in ballotting. That doesn't leave too many swing states following the usual tradition (like good old New York) of having people actually vote ON Election Day (off the top of my head, I think that pretty much leaves New Hampshire; West Virginia, Missouri and Arizona are considered "swing states", but I think they are leaning red this year).
This gives the Bushmen two whole weeks to think of ways to outright cheat. Of course, it gives Democrats exactly the same time to do exactly the same thing. May the best hackers win! Two additional weeks to try to bamboozle people with nonsense like the non-outing outing of Mary Cheney (former public relations specialist to the gay community for the Coors Brewery, as well as a famously open lesbian whose partner is considered a member of the Cheney immediate family), and repeating the mantra of Massachusetts liberal (you see, just being a liberal is no longer good enough; you have to be from another country-- like Massachusetts... just coincidentally, the same state in which the Texan President went to high school and business school, putting him one up on Kerry, who only went to law school there.)
I look at the extended time period as a probable good thing. The time will allow Black people (that seems to be the intended target of "keep back the vote" efforts) who will be (there is no doubt of this) once again, illegally deprived of their right to vote as if this were the South of over 100 years ago by (Florida governor and brother of the President) JEB Bush and his minions and allies in Florida and other key states like Ohio (where the disenfranchisement machinery is already in gear), sufficient time to run to court and get meaningful legal relief from this outrageous and illegal disenfranchisement. Maybe those responsible (JEB?) may even face criminal charges?
One can dream.
We learn more about the 18 or so reservists from the 343rd Quartermasters based in South Carolina who refused to drive their trucks, which had been used in largely "tranquil" southern Iraq, through good old Baghdad. It seems that their trucks were not only not armored, but were also in frequent disrepair.
In some sense, I think the point is that the $87 billion extorted from Congress by the Bush Administration to pay for this adventure (supplemented by what even Dick Cheney admits is another $50 billion or so, and is actually well over $100 billion) was nowhere near sufficient to provide our service personnel with adequately armored vehicles and other measures that our personnel themselves believe necessary for their protection. Hence... what difference does it make if Senators Kerry and Edwards voted against the $87B? Whatever it was about, it sure as hell wasn't about providing safety or protective equipment or even adequate armor to our troops-- and Kerry damned well ought to start calling Bush for demagoguing it that way. (BTW, the talking dog's former running mate Bruce M. suggests that Kerry publicly demand that Mary Cheney herself tell the world if she was offended by Senator Kerry's remarks, if she wishes him to apologize, and if so why... sort of a proactive move by Kerry of the kind he should have made with the Swift Boat Veterans bullshit, lest the Bush campaign theme ("Look over there!") stick among our largely uninformed electorate. But I digress.)
Needless to say, poor morale among our troops in Iraq would seem to be determined more by events like this-- inadequate provisioning by our government, and absurdly dangerous assignments-- than by John Kerry questioning the almost uniformly bad decisions made by his Holy Infallibleness, the President.
Of course, that's just me.
(BTW, Secretary Rumsfeld may not have predicted how many troops we needed in Iraq or how well they needed be equipped, with any degree of accuracy, but he may have a brilliant career ahead of him as a sports tout, as the 'Stros are right in the thick of it.)
This week's visit to Pravda (I think we missed a visit or two back there) gives us a mini-treasure trove. We'll start with a venue whose "free and fair elections" are under attack, warranting hundreds of OSCE observers (and thousands of local ones) who, it is feared, the local regime, which uses its control of a biased state media in its own favor, will not allow near polling stations, or especially vote counting. It does trouble one that the Ukraine may prove to be as corrupt a third-world style banana republic, as, say, Florida, but so sayeth our State Department in a harshly worded letter.
Anatoly Safonov, like Vladimir Pooty Poot Putin, a former KGB officer, has been appointed by Putin to the post of Russia's "terrorism czar" (for obvious reasons, that particular moniker will not be used internally in Russia!) The approach is that all agencies of government, in cooperation with their counterparts in other nations (particularly the "special services" of other nations) must be brought to bear in coordination against terrorism as a transnational criminal enterprise. Didn't hear anything about hundreds of thousands of troops deployed against politically opportune bogeymen's states, there... "Coordinated, interagency response, not limited to just one agency" as a response to terrorism. You think?
Another Russian response would appear to be more classically in the American model: the North Ossetians (North Ossetia is the site of the horrifying recent mass murder of school children and their partents at Beslan) have taken matters into their own hoods and formed the North Ossetian Ku Klux Klan. While I certainly wish they had chosen a better name and concept, their point is well-taken: local officials are corrupt and ineffectual, and they are sitting ducks to the vicissitudes unleashed by the nearly 10 year old Chechen war and other instability in Southern Russia and the Caucasus region, and hence, self-help will probably be the only help they get. Again: this is the stated justification for our Second Amendment, even if, like Russians in general, we stand by while our central government consolidates its powers using "terrorism" as cover for its political land grab.
Finally, Pravda lets us know what our own media won't tell us: our Pentagon is still using depleted uranimum shells against Iraqi targets, with adverse health consequences to Americans and Iraqi alike... While even I am skeptical of the "contaminated for the next 4.5 billion years" statement, there is no question that releasing contaminated, radioactive dust from this shit is pretty much our use of "dirty bombs" against the Iraqi people. Just part of that immense moral authority this nation continues to carry forward.
Das vidanya, y'all.
Maverick pollster John Zogby tells us that in a Zogby/Reuters three day tracking poll, with John Kerry having safely creamed the President in three out of three debates, the President has opened up a four point national lead on Senator Kerry. In particular, more undecideds are breaking towards the President-- which is, of course, good news for him (and bad news for everyone else). This latest tracking poll puts third-party spoiler Ralph Nader at a comfortable 1.1%, more than enough to swing the balance in any number of neck and neck states, especially Florida redux (though honestly, anyone who doesn't realize that after 2000, a vote for Nader is TWO VOTES FOR BUSH, really should consider seeking medical help... while it's certainly one's right to vote for whomever they want, please don't get all high and mighty about not thinking one would not be personally responsible for Bush winning, o.k.? I mean, just go ahead and vote for Bush for God's sake. But I digress...)
Anyway, with (1) oil at $55/bbl., (2) American forces so unable to get a grip in Iraq that we are arresting negotiators(while we pound Falluja anyway), (3) the almost certain loss of our entire computer programming industry to cheaper foreign competition, a reflection of a troubling overall jobs picture, frankly, and (4) twenty-eight American service personnel are charged in connection with the deaths of prisoners in custody at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan (even as Karzai seems to be ahead in the vote counting there-- surprise, surprise), all part of the Gestapo-like behavior that the current President has signed off on "to fight terror", because, heavens, a few Arabs with knives who might get lucky once in a while are an infinitely graver threat than (1) Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, (2) the Civil War, (3) Soviet ICBMs , or anything else I can think of.
The good news remains: our electoral college system is probably rigged in a strange enough way so that Kerry will win anyway (even if I suspect that Zogby is right about the popular vote). And once a Republican is hoist on the petard of the American version of the rotten borough system, that asinine system will promptly be done away with.
In a comment below, reader Sarah asks whay sort of October surprise/dirty trick Karl Rove has up his sleeve now that the debates are over. Well, as usual, Palm Beach County tells us pretty much all we need to know: Florida's electronic voting machines just don't work under conditions of heat or humidity (or frequently, at all). Got that? A state famous for its heat and humidity has installed a balloting system that malfunctions... under conditions of heat and humidity.
After 2000, many Americans lost confidence in our electoral system. Let's just say, a lot of indications like this are that they ain't seen nothin' yet.
I must say, showing up as a "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot" in the first two or three rounds cost Kid Kerry some points, although based on scoring by the fifth and sixth round, your talking dog would have ultimately awarded a split decision to Kid Kerry over No Gentleman George in last night's presidential debate in Tempe, AZ. Frankly, I resent having to listen to Kerry at all (thank you Iowa), but making me hear his stump speech bullshit in response to an easy question that presented big-time scoring opportunities made me want to puke. Worse, Bush came right back with the truest and fairest counterpunch-criticism of Kerry of all: you bitch a lot about what I do... without saying what you'd do differently or better. Bush scored points, IMHO, on a bogus question about flu vaccine, that really shouldn't have been asked, with a spirited, though inaccurate attack on trial lawyers. I scored Kerry's counter-punches on "health care in general" as having not connected, awarding the round to Bush.
However, proving his reputation of being a better fighter coming from behind, and especially a late round "closer", Kerry actually picked up steam and came on strong, and won by "t.k.o."-- that's right, I disqualified Bush when he went to the below-the-belt "global test" horseshit. There are some things I will not tolerate. I'm perfectly happy to hear Bush deny what he once clearly said about Osama (kind of like Cheney's denial of meeting Edwards), and I'm even happy to hear him TRY to torture Kerry's voting record. Look: its politics-- go ahead and lie. Doesn't bother me, actually. But don't patronize me. The "global test" has pretty much been beaten to death (Kerry more or less made clear that he SAYS he won't give Paris and Berlin a veto over our defense, yada yada yada), and Bush was well aware it was an illegal punch-- he just couldn't help himself. I'm sorry-- flip flopper, waffler... be my guest. But not the global test. Especially with the little fingers putting it in quotes. (Unless you WANT a d.q., of course.)
Although this (fight-ending) incident happened in round 7 or 8 IIRC, Guest Referee Bob Schieffer of CBS nonetheless let the viewers see what they showed up for, and the fight went on anyway (albeit in pretend form) with Kid Kerry just pummeling the crap out of the titleholder in the late rounds. It wasn't pretty-- not that watching Bush ever is.
Although until the t.k.o., I had it scored pretty evenly-- indeed Bush was ahead on my card going into round three, other viewers, interestingly, scored it much more decisively for Kerry.
If so, that means Kid Kerry won all three of his head to head bouts-- the Pummelling in the Palms (in Miami), the Kablooey in St. Louie, and now the Ruckus in the Cactus (in Phoenix) with the reigning titleholder, going into the actual Title Match in 19 days, having been outpunched thrice (same number as Kerry's purple hearts). Since I also scored the Swing State Swingin' Match in Cleveland between Pretty Boy Edwards and Dirty Dick Cheney to be a decisive, solid 3-0 decision for the challenger, the titleholders should not consider themselves in a strong position going into Electoralmania 2004 on 2 November.
Fortunately for them, there won't be any judges available to declare t.k.o.'s for the expected cheatin' by George and Dick (except for the bought and paid for five that wear black robes and sit on Capitol Hill). Which means that the Kid Kerry and Pretty Boy Edwards' tag team act is probably going to have to win by a pure (preferably painful and bloody) knock-out.
A tall order-- but Kid Kerry is finally pouring it on now. And George and Dick look like they are coming in sluggish and overweight against the lean and mean challengers. What an exciting 19 days to go, folks (and who knows HOW much longer after that with this year's coming Florida "recount"!)
Iraqi interim premier Iyad Allawi suggested that he and the mighty Iraqi military would launch its own operation against the good people of Fallujah if they did not turn over terrorist mastermind al-Zarqawi. Yes, he said at first, he would ask nicely, but not to make him mad, lest he have to go all Shiite on the mostly Sunni population of Fallujah (sight of the dragging of the corpses of four American contract workers last year, and lots of other nasty insurgent activity, and a city largely abandoned to the locals by the American occupation force).
I guess asking nicely is a strategy that hasn't been tried before.
Look: the war is going badly. Fallujah is just one of many areas in Iraq now beyond the control of the American military or its local clients. The response has been, naturally, to increase raw brutality (floggings will continue until morale improves).
The key word: legitimacy. Allawi, as an agent of the American invaders and occupiers, hasn't any. As such, his edicts are not going to be particularly persuasive or compelling. Of course, to the extent that his response (to everything) is Saddam-style brutality, why should they be?
Stories of what could be the Iraqi My Lai massacres are starting to emerge. American casualties mount, and yet, both major candidates feel the need to appeal to American bloodthirstiness and invoke visions of "winning".
Well, I suppose Kerry can end this with "I didn't get us in there. But I'm going to have to get us out. When you're at the bottom of a hole, you first have to stop digging. The President's unbelievable decision to leave the Iraqi nuclear facilities and materials and other potential weapons of mass destruction unguarded tells us all we need to know about his competence to date and the ability of his government to carry forward with anything other than more incompetence leading to disaster. The President hasn't left us with many good options, so we'll do the best we can. The faster we can hand a stable Iraq over the Iraqis the better-- and that's what I'm going to have as the aim. The President gets the benefit of our full intelligence and military apparatus-- let him tell you what he's going to do differently. What makes me different from him is that even if I told you what my plan was, if circumstances changed, I would adjust. He won't"
Not all that satisfying sound bite, but maybe... just maybe... what needs to be said.
Massoud Barzani, the effective political leader of the autonomous Kurdish population in Iraq, has said that the Kurds will fight for the (oil rich) city of Kirkuk, if necessary.
Basically, this is sort of a microcosm of the big picture in Iraq. Sunnis are the principal "insurgents" for two reasons: (1) they know that the Shia majority will not only invoke pay-back for the abuses of the Saddam regime, but will cut them out of their heretofore privileged position in the pecking order, and (2) the "foreign fighters" (imported terrorists) are generally Sunnis-- and, since they are indeed A.Q. allies and affiliates-- frequently Saudi. Shia are generally battling for one reason: as the majority, since we purport to value "democracy", whoever controls the Shia can control Iraq. Of course, thugs like Baby Sadr also like controlling religious toll-collecting operations like the Imam Ali Mosque.
Kurds are NOT insurgents, and are our best buddies, because they (1) already have autonomy under our protection, and (2) look to improve their lot in reward for being our buddies, and improving their lot means control of Kirkuk and some oil. The Turkmen are concentrated around Kirkuk, and want a piece of that action too. These are the big four groups... all jostling for control of the same thing...
So, whether it was about the oil or not for us to invade, it sure as hell IS about the oil as far as the locals are concerned. And we really have no good way of dealing with them-- and if we don't, the Kurdish Pashmurga are pretty damned well armed. As such, if the Kurds perceive their bread as no longer buttered playing ball with Washington (and Ankara), they are in a position to make a military play, and probably hold it-- putting us in an untenable position of having to do battle with Kurds ourselves.
This (all out civil war) possibility was, certainly, one of the scenarios envisioned in a recent Pentagon prognostication of Iraq. I'm just trying to figure out how any other result is even possible, at this point.
The United Nations agency charged with oversight of nuclear proliferation is expressing "concern" over the "disappearance" of various pieces of nuclear-program related equipment and "some material" from Iraqi facilities. The disappearance and/or los of accountability of Iraqi nuclear materials all took place after the American led war of aggression against the Iraqi people. Among the highlights: even after we secured control of Iraq, we refused to allow UN monitors in to the facilities they previously oversaw (until this day, I believe).
Do you have that? Depressingly, John Kerry seems more concerned with covering his own ass in having voted for the war of aggression than in pointing out this minor point: the President sold us (at least a slim majority of us anyway-- certainly more people than voted for him) on the necessity of pre-empting Saddam Hussein from developing and/or deploying nasty shit WMDs (read "nuclear weapons"-- pronounced correctly). Sure, Saddam, Qusay and Uday were baaaadddad... no, wait: eeee-villlll.... but, like, Republicans just don't DO humanitarian. No, no: this was billed as a "defensive" war, to prevent (or at least greatly reduce the odds) of an Iraqi rogue state leaking its nuclear shit to OBL or Hamas or some other motherfuckers likely to try to use it on us without a return address.
Fast forward to now. Forget that in August, 2002 (check a post I put up on the 9th of that month, for example) I told you that the Bush Administration ASSUMED SADDAM HAD NOTHING-- because otherwise it could not have afforded to screw around and dither so it could play games with the mid-term Congressional elections, but, as with Afghanistan, would have had to act immediately. No, forget that. Remember that while we invaded Iraq, and rolled into Baghdad, and were encouraging that lawlessness that former Proconsul Bermer tells us was such a problem, we deployed troops to guard ONE-- and ONLY ONE-- ministry.
O.K., let's try to guess which one. How about.... the Makhbarat Secret Police, so we could, hopefully, unearth Saddam's deepest, darkest secrets-- perhaps leading us to those WMDs he was supposedly hiding? You're freezing, there. Perhaps the ministry of defense or armaments? No... still cold. A scientific ministry... or maybe foreign affairs, as you just never know with Saddam? Medicine or agriculture? No-- icy cold. No, we didn't go for any ministry or facility even arguably related to alleged WMDs, nor for any site previously monitored by the IAEA as potentially a nuclear facility. No. And no again.
If you guessed "the Oil Ministry", you are so hot, that we may need to bring the late Red Adair back to life to put you out. (Yes, yes-- we forgot to guard the museum too-- or hospitals-- or pretty much anything besides the oil and ourselves-- but at least if we had ALSO guarded the nuclear/chem/bio-hazard sites, these oversights would have been somewhat less alarming and indicative of Bush Administration criminal intent-- as opposed to simply criminal negligence. Btw, given the degree of sabotage in oil fields and pipelines, its not that we did all that good a job of even guarding the oil.)
You see, we were SOLD this war as about national defense: "September 11th changed everything, can't afford to have states that harbor terrorists, we can't trust the word of a mad man, yada yada yada." But once we got our boots on the ground (and so far, managed to burn between one and two hundred billion dollars, kill nearly 1,100 Americans, maim over 5,000 more, and probably kiill 10-20 thousand Iraqis, maiming tens of thousands more, and made Iraq the new vacuum state/choice of terrorists that Afghanistan once was), we placed those boots... in front of the oil ministry.
Bush can't win this one, folks... Our right wing friends can say what they might, but there is no excuse for this. If there weren't enough troops to guard WMD facilities, then the invasion had to be put off long enough to GET enough troops for this. Period. This is the worst possible outcome: a war to control nuclear materials has, if the UN is to believed, quite possibly helped GET NUCLEAR MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT INTO THE HANDS OF TERRORISTS.
Of course, if I was right back in 2002, and the Bush Administration KNEW THE WHOLE TIME THAT SADDAM HAD NOTHIN', and this was a cynical exercise about... something else... (domestic politics, showing up Poppy, sticking over a dozen bases on Iraqi soil so we can draw down our presence in Saudi, preventing Saddam Hussein from challenging Saudi oil hegemony...)... THEN, at least it made some sense, and we can sleep a little easier. Of course, that means we have a choice: "Dubya, Dick and Don's Excellent Iraq Adventure" shows that they are criminally negligent... or else, they are just criminals.
The problem is that there's no third alternative.
I'm saddened to learn of the death of Christopher Reeve at age 52, from heart failure caused by complications from quadriplegia.
As you all know, Reeve, an actor best known for playing Superman in the movie series of that name, was paralyzed from the neck down after a horseback riding accident nine years ago. Rather than fade away and die, as a lesser man might have, horrifying circumstance intervened and Reeve went from being a make-believe super-hero and drove him to become a real one, as he used his public stature to lobby and publicize the plight of those in similar circumstances, including vocal advocacy of stem cell research and other medical endeavors.
While many (including himself) dreamed of the day he would walk again (and a rather freakish commercial to that effect aired during a recent Super Bowl), simply still being alive (and outspoken) at all was miracle enough. His nearly decade long courageous fight just to breathe has, sadly, come to an end. But-- the hell with the cliche-- he will live on as an inspiration.
Rest in peace, Brother Chris.
Let's hear it for that "freedom and democracy" in good old neglected Afghanistan, where President Bush insists is miraculous in that "10 million people, nearly half of them women, registered to vote". Well, all 15 of the candidates opposing interim American-backed-semi-puppet and fulltime shakedown artist Hamed Karzai announced that they are boycotting the "election" in protest of a VERY low tech way that Karzai and his crew(presumably-- no-- fuck that-- ALMOST CERTAINLY-- in conjunction with the Bush Administration) chose to rig this "election". Really too bad: violence had broken out with the Taliban hoping to undermine the election, and lots of people waiting in line for hours, etc., etc.
Anyway-- to prevent fraud, a rather brilliant method was concocted (in this poor, wartorn, frequently illiterate nation) to prevent multiple voting (those "10 million registered voters" are believed to represent a significantly lower number of actual breathing human beings): indelible ink would be stamped on the hands of exiting voters, preventing return for a second bite of the ballot apple. In a low tech election, the ballots will be on paper, with (I believe) a thumbprint, or some other ink mark placed on the ballot next to the presidential candidate selected. This ink, intended simply for the ballots, was not "indelible".
What could be easier than (1) denying Black people the right to vote, (2) rigging voting machines or (3) cutting off counting of votes at some arbitrary time when your man is ahead...? Of course! SWITCH THE INK! Why, letting YOUR people vote over and over again, until you get it right, simply by WASHING THEIR HANDS!
Of course, if Karzai does not score more than 50%, he would have to face a run-off. With 15 of 15 opposition candidates boycotting, he may not need to. Which plays perfectly into the hands of the President, who, since he himself came to office on a (cough, cough) controversial election, can now stump (to loyal supporters, anyway) on the virtues of freedom and democracy in largely warlord-controlled, opium dependent Afghanistan. (Kabul, under international military protection, is doing quite well thank you. The President himself personally vetoed the idea of security forces operating outside of Kabul... largely to free up resources for his little "I'll show Daddy whose is bigger" exercise over in Iraq.)
Well, this is excellent news indeed for the upcoming "election" in Iraq. The precedent of our chosen strongman being "legitimated" in an "election" that is neither free nor fair will be a welcome one in ramming Mr. Allawi through in Iraq, even as (presumably) most of Iraq will be too violent to actually set up polls in.
Perhaps the President will laud the Karzai "election" in next Wednesday's "debate". (BTW, I thought Kerry killed Friday night, with several knock downs; Bush did get some gloves on Kerry, albeit in kidney punches and below the belt shots, but at least he showed up.) I suppose if Senator Kerry points out the flaws in the Afghan election, he will be undermining another important ally. (I can almost write the script now).
Well, I would describe the Afghan election going to hell in a handbasket as "disappointing but not surprising". There's too much of that these days. Far too much. And it all emanates from one particular office in an old white building.
Two explosions ripped through resorts in the Egyptian (Sinai) town of Taba, killing dozens, injuring hundreds, with dozens more missing. Hotels at the resort were packed with Israeli holiday-goers, and I suspect that when this is sorted out, this will prove to be one of the worst, if not the worst, terrorist attacks ever directed at
Think of Taba as an Israeli version of Tijuana: it's a border town, conveniently located in a Third World country. The Egyptians maintained security in the area that ranged from lax to non-existent. Sadly, Israelis fleeing fortress Israel failed to account for this.
All of this takes place simultaneously with PM Sharon's ongoing efforts at hunting down and killing Hamas and other militant leaders in Gaza (lest his proposed pullout be perceived as a victory for them), and in the process, murdering Palestinian civilians (of course). I do remain perplexed that no one gets this: whether its the Russians in Chechnya, the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, or the United States in Iraq (and to a lesser extent, Afghanistan), we are dealing in large part with cultures that are very big on revenge, not to mention personal and familial honor. We can (and at times must) respond with the harshest of force, but forget that there are consequences to this that boomerang right back.
While the President and Vice-Presisdent mock Senator Kerry for suggesting that we conduct our military operations more sensitively, our "insensitivity" to civilian casualties and suffering, be it willy nilly torture and humiliation, or bombing weddings, or our now indiscriminate murder of civilians at Fallujah, has severe consequences that our borne directly by our military personnel, and I would submit as the example of the atrocities at Taba, ultimately put our civilians at risk, whether at home or abroad.
As always, I'm pissing in the wind, but I'll say it again: military might is important, but it is not, and will never be, a sufficient way of resolving the intractable political problems associated with successfully concluding (I won't say "winning") the "war on terror". Diplomatic, economic, intelligence-gathering and moral levers all must be pushed and effectively managed. (The Israelis could use a lot more of those diplomatic and moral levers than they now use; I don't pretend that at least as long as Arafat breathes, the I-P situation can be "resolved", but there are certainly "more bad" and "less bad" intermediate positions; right now, I would say Taba shows that there is now a "more bad" situation.)
I have noted (though perhaps not necessarily here) that Arab terrorists planning attacks on New York would be most unlikely to be found in my own neighborhood in Brooklyn, which features many Arabs and Arab-Americans (from Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine and other Arab countries). Why? Because their own lansmen would out them in a heartbeat: they have no desire to see atrocities done here. Hence, Mohammed Atta and his 9-11 highjacker associates cloistered themselves in on-descript suburbs of New Jersey, Florida and California, where they could isolate themselves from scrutiny-- something unlikely in an ethnic Arab neighborhood (IMHO).
We need to export this attitude to the Arab world itself: if people in the Middle East found terror plotters in their midst to be simply unacceptable criminals, and isolated these bastards, it would be far easier for intelligence services to intercept plots and for police (and as necessary, military) personnel to apprehend and/or neutralize the perpetrators.
We continue to destroy the village to save it at our extreme peril.
The good old House Ethics Committee issued a "stern rebuke" to the House Majority Leader and enemy of the Constitution Tom DeLay, over charges involving, among other things, using the FAA to attempt to track a private plane carrying Texas state senators out of the state to avoid a legislative quorum for Tom DeLay's Congressional gerrymandering scheme, and for soliciting money for that scheme under some kind of improper pretense. Other "more serious" charges involving, oh, bribery and solicitation of bribes were... "tabled". This was deLay's second "rebuke" in a week, and his third overall. I understand he places these things on his fireplace mantle, next to his award as Sugar Land (TX) "Exterminator of the Year".
Many (mostly pussy Democrats, of course) are calling upon the de facto head of Congressional Republicans to resign his leadership post. DeLay's brash and no-prisoners style is credited with having helped elevate the GOP into control of the House in 1994, control which they have abused ever since. Does anyone seriously doubt that if the GOP retains the House, and John Kerry ascends to the Presidency, that deLay will see to it that Kerry is harassed for the next four years, and more than likely, impeached? Democrats are fools (as usual): all the buzz and oxygen is going into Kerry and Edwards-- while the party is just twelve seats away in the House, it seems most unlikely the Dems will close that gap, leaving the cancer that is Tom DeLay free to fester and metastasize in the Majority, and plague any Democratic President.
Anyway, as to the Ethics Committee... Fools... (BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!) Tom DeLay is above the law! Political opponents check in, but they don't check out!
Picking up from David Kay, Chief American Weapons Inspector Charles Duelfer released his long awaited report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction today, with the report concluding what yours truly told you for the better part of a year before the war of aggression against the Iraqi people in 2003: Saddam had bubkes.
In short, no stockpiles of nucular weapons, no bio-hazards, no chemical weapons: no nothing. A few balsa wood air-drones that the President's minions tried to equate with ICBMs, some programs that stopped dead in the 1990's, and otherwise: nothing. Oh wait-- once sanctions were lifted, and international attention removed (as if either were going to happen while Saddam breathed), then Saddam had THE INTENTION to revivify his weapons programs.
I'm disappointed in the guys from "my team", Kid Kerry and Pretty Boy Edwards, for not owning up to the fact that their Iraq war vote was "a mistake". Grown-ups admit mistakes: when we learn that our earlier decision was based on insufficient facts, and the facts we learn show that what we did before was what we call "wrong", then we "admit our mistake", and behave, you know, like GROWNUPS. We expect the President to never admit he was ever wrong about anything: the Boy King is a grown-up neither by temperament nor achievement. It does disturb me, however, that John Kerry isn't man enough just to admit that: I really don't think "swing voters" would be put off by it. (Obviously, while I assume this has been focus grouped to death, I really think its more about Kerry being an egomaniac and an asshole than it is about fear of the voters.)
Anyway-- that said-- this should finally put this question to bed: Saddam had nothing. Maybe Saddam did a masterful job of convincing us he had weapons that he didn't in a bluff that backfired. Or maybe, the Bushmen just wanted this war, and wouldn't take no for an answer, the cost in blood and treasure and the evidence be damned.
Doesn't matter: Iraq had bubkes, while OBL is still out there, and things continue to blow up every day somewhere in Greater Baghdad, and all too frequently in other venues like Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Saudi Arabia... you get the idea.
Frankly, given that Dick Cheney has now for years been saying that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, even contradicting the President himself at times to do it, one wonders if this report even matters.
A key reason Edwards won the debate-- and while we can argue about the score he won it by, I won't accept that Cheney won (and some rightie ideologues now compare his performance not to Edwards' but to Bush's)-- is because he systematically and (thank God) viciously took apart the link between Saddam Hussein and September 11th-- a link Bush and Cheney have rested their entire government on for over three years now. While Dirty Dick simply lied about having ever said he made the link, Edwards would not let him get away with it, and kept hammering, until the (green) blood starting oozing out of Dick's mouth and smoke came out of his ears.
Again: Bush has done his damndest to put this sort of thing off as long as possible; I can't figure out why having kept this report at bay this long, it surfaces now 27 days before the election. I continue to wonder if the disciplined GOP spin machine is just finally breaking down at the worst possible time.
Last night's bout in Cleveland between Pretty Boy Edwards and Dirty Dick Cheney was scored close enough by most people to be viewed as a draw, or at least, an indecisive win for one or the other. (The one thing everyone can agree on is that PBS personality Gwen Ifil was horrendous in her role as moderator, and hopefully, will never be permitted so important a job ever again.)
This is interesting, in that while I scored Kid Kerry a 2-1 and 7-5 in rounds winner over the President, I scored Pretty Boy Edwards as a solid 3-0 winner, and 4-0 in rounds (in 8 rounds, neither fighter really connected; indeed, despite Dick Cheney being asleep most of the second part of the debate, Edwards stopped landing punches on him). I personally did not observe a single blow by Dick Cheney landing on Edwards during the entire bout (although Edwards more or less sent Cheney to the mat for at least one standing 8 count during the Iraq discussion). And yet, because Bush was so awful a belt holder, Kid Kerry was ruled the winner almost universally-- by a spin-proof margin. It may be back to Fight Ref school for me, I guess. Some feel that Cheney's cheap shots about Edwards' absentee record scored points; I just don't feel that a man flailing his arms as he's falling to the mat counts as connected punches. Call me a stickler.
Further, unlilke Kid Kerry, Edwards did not leave himself open to knock-out blows. Frankly, given that Dirty Dick was willing to lie about things like having never met Edwards before and having never said (thousands of times) that Saddam and OBL were best buddies and Saddam had a nuclear arsenal ready to fire at us, Dirty Dick let Edwards go on his absurd mis-construction of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of our Constitution, Edwards alarmingly insisting that "in 200 years no state has to recognize another state's marriages." WRONG. EVERY STATE has to recognize EVERY OTHER STATE'S MARRIAGES. While New York holds that 14 year olds marrying violates our public policy, if two 14 year old newlyweds from Mississippi (where such marriages are, ar at least were, legal, albeit with parental consent) move here, must New York recognize that marriage, even though New YOrk wouldn't allow the marriage to be initiated here? Answer: YES. Must Mississippi "recognize" two men married in Massachusetts as married? YES. Whether its for spousal support, or child custody, assuming such a couple met residency requirements, the answer is YES, YES, YES.
And now we will get to why even partisan moi did not score it a knock-out for my fellow attorney and TD-fave-from-Day-1 John Edwards. There was no need for the cheap Halliburton references. I enjoyed them, of course, but they mitigated from THE THEME. The theme: competence. Basic, God damned competence. Which strarts by recognizing reality: Cheney has a long record of contradicting what Rumsfeld, Powell, and now Bremer have been saying for a long, long time. And when Edwards took this on, he scored, scored, and scored some more. When he went elsewhere (including attempted cheap shots), we went nowhere.
When we got into nonsensical policy issues, like "frivolous law suits" (a question that only a worthless slug like Ms. Ifil would have even brought up, given how spirited the exchange was otherwise), both pugilists got rather boring. But Edwards missed a key point (Begala raised it over at CNN): "You GOT INTO OFFICE ON A LAWSUIT-- and yet, you want to take away everyone else's right to go to Court." Also, while Edwards uttered the key stat: med mal cases are less than 1/200 of our health care costs-- hardly worth the rhetorical spin-- he failed to hammer home the points of WHY health care costs are rising (bureaucracy, FEDERAL paperwork requirements, insurance bureaucracy, insurance company profits, drug company profits on wonder drugs, and improved technologies). Anyway, I did score the domestic part of the debate as a draw.
Big picture: does this change anything? Short answer: no. Edwards held his own; Cheney failed to lower expectations of his own semi-catatonic performance (I like him in black, though he is even more imposing when he wears that helmet too). Whatever campaign momentum there was going in is still there.
Anyway, nice entertaining 4 or 5 rounds from the light heavyweights, until they got into clenching for the last few rounds. Too bad they got a moderator from the W.W.F. Friday night's re-match between Kid Kerry and No-Gentleman George should be a must see.
Speaking to a group of insurers at a meeting in West Virginia, former American Pro-consul to Iraq L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer announced that American troop presence in Iraq was wildly insufficient, and as a result, Americans (and Iraqis) paid a heavy price from the resultant lawlessness.
In this rather bizarre indictment of the President's flawless execution of the war (coming within the "red zone" of exactly four weeks until the election) Bremer quickly added that toppling the Saddam Hussein statute was certainly worth the cost of $200 billion and over 1,000 American lives, and counting. Speaking from the Air France terminal, in between bites of a croissant, Bremer added that he fully supported the President's policies toward Iraq on an ongoing basis, and urged Americans to vote against his new countryman, John Kerry. Bremer stated that he was most optimistic about Iraq, noting that just as current U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte had "turned things around in Honduras and Guatemala", he "expected Iraq to reach the heights of those two great nations".
In an almost equally bizarre outburst, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed that the intelligence showing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was wrong, and that there were no credible ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. When questioned at length afterwards, Rumsfeld stated he was misquoted, and what he actually said was that Roger Clemens was pitching so well, that even with Andy Pettite injured, he believed this might be the year the 'Stros finally make it to the Big Dance.
Let's just say that I find it most unlikely that Senators Edwards and Kerry aren't listening to this, and calmly figuring out ways to incorporate all of this into their principal campaign meme, i.e., that George W. Bush and company are too dangerously incompetent to be trusted with four more years of leadership. This would appear to be a catastrophic breakdown of the usually flawless Republican spin machine. In particular, at tonight's vice-presidential debate in Cleveland, it might be, you know, FUN, to watch Senator Edwards confront Vice-President Cheney with some of Secretary Rumsfeld's statements (particularly given just how big a 'Stros fan the vice-president evidently is, and how big a supporter of the Atlanta Braves Senator Edwards is).
The younger challenger, Pretty Boy Edwards comes in with better reach and a whole array of punches. The battle-tested vice-president and belt-holder, Dirty Dick Cheney, has really not been tested in this weight class before (his bout against Joe "Wandering Jew" Lieberman was a walkaway). Tonight's "Swing State Swingin' Match" in Cleveland should be a gem folks.
Because distributing the vaccine (in pill form, actually) would have "cost too much money", our good old military decided to abandon a vaccination program in 1996, which allowed a virus to spread that has killed at least six military recruits, four this year.
Let's just say that there's plenty of blame to go around on this one (while the decision was made during the CLinton Adminsitration, its not lke the Bush Administration reversed it, now is it?). As usual, it reflects the belief that the most expendible component of our military was, is, and sadly will likely always be, the men and woman called upon, or who have taken it upon their own shoulders, to defend this nation.
This short-sighted bullshit is not merely reflected in the military, of course, but in all aspects of our governance. Basic housing programs are scrapped "to save money", with the resultant costs of dealing with problems of homelessness ranging from crime to epidemics orders of magnitude higher; ditto education or child-care and school lunch programs.
The mindset that holds that "taxation is immoral" (especially taxation of people who can best afford taxes and who reap the biggest rewards from our system) leads to results that I could only describe as... immoral.
This is one of them. Those responsible should be ashamed of themselves for this. Like they care.
In response to Senator John Kerry's snub at last Thursday's debate, contending that the "grand coalition" the President put together to commit war crimes and atrocities in Iraq was "only the United States, with Britain and Australia", the President quickly added "You forgot Poland". Proving that Senator Kerry's words (and mean thawts) are, indeed, hurting our allies, a miffed Poland announced it will be withdrawing its 2,500 troops in Iraq by the end of next year.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski made the announcement (apparently while holding back tears) and expressed his displeasure that Senator Kerry could overlook so important an ally-- the very heart of Donny Rumsfeld's "New Europe" no less. Kwasniewski, who prefers to be known as "the Kwaz", said that just the possibility of John Kerry winning was enough to shake his resolve in the holy Iraq mission, and hence, Poland was, as he put it, "Out of here."
Apparently, the Kwaz was not alone in his displeasure at being dissed. Evidently, at a hastily convened conference, Iraqi Puppet-Premier Iyad Allawi (looking out through the strings attached to his limbs) announced his resentment at Senator Kerry for calling him a puppet, and Kim Jong Il expressed his displeasure at Senator Kerry insisting that the United States attempt to bribe and appease North Korea on its own, rather than in the context of extracting goodies from five different countries.
Let me just say this: while Senator Kerry insists that he will be restoring our international relationships and bringing the UN, NATO and our allies in to clean up international messes, his record as dissing our allies and causing international discord just belies this in a major league way.
From our visit to People's Daily this week, we give you this account of 5 million children returning to school in Iraq. Parents are justifiably worried about the security situation, which delayed the opening of schools for a time, as did waiting for new text books that purged reference to the Saddam/Baathist regime to arrive from their printers in Jordan and the UAE.
Well, this will be a huge test for the new interim government, and its American allies. I fear that we will see schools routinely targeted by Saudi nihilists... I mean, "Insurgents", and many (more) children will become casualties.
Still, anything reflective of "life going on" in Iraq should be construed as a good thing. Let's just hope it does.
This week's visit to our friends at Pravda gives us this from Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey on why a vote for George W. Bush is a vote for armageddon. The thesis is simple, and you can read it in this column several times a week. Out chicken-hawk led Faux Macho Schmuck government, by bringing death, destruction and horror the Middle East, does not make the world safer. No, they have revivified a moribund Al Qaeda and Islamist terrorist movement that was running out of steam, until its horrific plans came together unusually well on September 11th. Now, since the American reaction, it is clear, really IS to declare war on Islam (note that we are even less of an honest broker in Israel/Palestine, we chose to invade the most secular of Arab countries, and we plan to STAY THERE), terrorist recruiting is doing a land office business.
Bush's absurd proposition that "we have captured or killed 2/3 or 3/4 of A.Q. leadership" is like a doctor saying "we killed 2/3 of the cancer cells". The problem is, the other 1/3 are still out there... and they can multiply. This is NOT a zero sum game. There are more terrorists out there as a result, and we have helped coalesce them into a unified force. Who hates us.
For our purposes, we are moving rapidly toward a "Praetorian State"-- i.e., the military industrial complex (Halliburton and Bechtel have taken over from what was once dominated by General Dynamics, Rockwell and the like) benefits from a perma-war; they help buy office for sympathetic candidates (Dick Cheney or Tom de Lay, for example) who then use government to prop up their coffers via tax dollars... to fund the perma-war.
Is a state where we are permanently pissing in the cornflakes of people with the money and will to kill us something that makes us "safer"? Sadly, millions of Americans may think so.
Your talking dog scored the bout for Kerry, maybe 7 rounds to 5, with a 2-1 aggregate judging score. Last night's debate was surprisingly entertaining... the President was surprisingly well-prepared and articulate (for him), and his knowledge of world affairs (Sudanese leaders, the existence of Liberia) should hurt him among his base ("I wouldn't want to have a beer with this wonk"). Kid Kerry was loose, rested, tannned... what was with that hair, though... and as expected, the far superior debater.
While the polls of actual voters are all that will matter, we can assume that by Sunday morning, somehow this will be spun as a major, decisive victory for "No Gentleman George" Bush. The irony is, it could well have been just that: Bush fanned on some key punches that could have put Kerry to the mat. As ably pointed out by Jim Henley, on the matter of North Korea, a one-liner would have drilled Kerry into the floor: "Oh, I see. Multilateralism is great for Iraq and everything else-- but in NORTH KOREA, we have to go it alone... perhaps we'll make ANOTHER great deal like Carter and CLinton did the LAST time we went unilateral there..." The other time Kerry left his mid-section open to a potentially lethal pummeling was on the basic Iraq posture: "Senator, just weeks ago, you said that even knowing there were no WMDs and Al Qaeda ties in Iraq, you would have still voted to authorize the war. Now you insist that the war was a mistake. On January 20th, whichever of us is sworn in as President will be in command of 145,000 American troops in Iraq. There is no question that you have no enthusiasm for this mission, and I believe the American people need to know that having the resolve to carry out and win this mission are essential to it."
For his part, Kid Kerry failed miserably in some key counter-punching opportunities. Bush's oft repeated statements about "100,000 trained Iraqi soldiers" is... a lie. Nearly 40,000 of that number are not troops, but police. Further, tens of thousands of these "trained Iraqis" have been dismissed for links to the insurgents. The other was "missile defense". Against whom? Oh yes: North Korea. The country that acquired NUCLEAR WEAPONS during the Bush II Administration, so that now... we may actually NEED THE MISSILE DEFENSE NOW! And the last point Kerry missed a clean shot at Bush's jaw, specifically, Secretaries Rumsfeld and Powell have both basically said the situation in Iraq is untenable in the last week, while Bush insists it is rosy, rosy, rosy.
In the end, the similarities between the two on foreign policy issues proved to be far greater than the differences. At one point, we came close-- not too close-- but close-- to a love fest, as the two complemented each other's daughters. Again-- a surprisingly high minded approach... Bush scored his point with "I am steady-- he changes his mind". Kerry scored back with "consistent but wrong is not a virtue."
What matters now is whether polls shift. I do suspect the Kerry bleeding just stopped, and we got ourselves a horse race.