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March 14, 2003

Not that it matters at this point...

...but Wasted Irony fights the good fight, trying to sort out the truth from the lies concerning Iraq.

Disrespecting the dead

Hey, greatest generation--your sacrifices were all in vain. Waste of time. Should have just stayed home.

That's what this says to me:

WASHINGTON - In another swipe at the French, a Florida congresswoman has proposed that the government pay for families who might want to bring home from France the remains of Americans who fought and died in the world wars.

"I, along with many other Americans, do not feel that the French government appreciates the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made to defend the freedom that the French enjoy today," Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite said in introducing legislation providing financial help for the reburial of veterans from the two world wars.

I don't know for sure that this woman is officially the Stupidest Person in Government, but she's certainly in the running.


A short history of the conservative movement

This looks like it's worth spending some time on.

Our heroes, the Democrats

Short story: "partial birth abortion" is a canard, a wedge issue, a way for the anti-abortion crowd to inch closer to their objective through stealth rather than honest debate. It's the equivalent of marijuana legalization advocates who also happen to be really, really enthused about the many practical applications of hemp fiber in everyday life.

And they just won an important victory. The vote was 64-33, with 3 abstaining. Which means that it was the 16 Senate Democrats who voted "yes" who put this thing over the top.

For what it's worth, they were:

Bayh (D-IN)
Breaux (D-LA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Daschle (D-SD)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Hollings (D-SC)
Johnson (D-SD)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Miller (D-GA)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reid (D-NV)

Thanks, Democrats!

* * *

While we're on the topic, let's pause for a moment of appreciation for the Democrats who helped set the imminent war in motion, by voting last fall to authorize the use of force against Iraq:

Baucus (D-MT)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Breaux (D-LA)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carnahan (D-MO)
Carper (D-DE)
Cleland (D-GA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Daschle (D-SD)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Edwards (D-NC)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hollings (D-SC)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Miller (D-GA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Schumer (D-NY)
Torricelli (D-NJ)

Thanks, Democrats!

--------------------

March 13, 2003

Hel-lo?

New York Times deletes mention of police snipers at protest rally.

Anybody but Lieberman

In '04. Please.

However, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut has been consistently raising the level of his attacks on Saddam and defending the need to "get rid of this tyrant." A Lieberman adviser told me, "You won't find anyone among our party's presidential candidates who supports Bush more on this issue, than Joe does."

Checking in with the GOP Team Leaders

The latest two missives from the astroturf factory:

I'm outraged by Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur's comparison of terrorist Osama bin Laden to our Founding Father George Washington. I agree with Paul Begala when he said, two nights ago on CNN's Crossfire, "Disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful. You were right to call her on it and I just -- I can't defend it. I never will -- the notion that anybody could compare this murderer to our Founding Fathers is insane," Begala said.

Shame on you, Marcy Kaptur!

* * *

After all the empty talk in Washington about fixing important entitlements programs, something refreshing happened this week: the President delivered a remarkably sensible blueprint for fixing Medicare and dramatically improving the quality of health care for all seniors.

Choice is an important element of this proposal. Seniors would be given the same kinds of choices currently available to members of Congress, with traditional Medicare still an option, and they wouldn't be forced into HMOs. Also included is long overdue relief for runaway prescription drug costs, with a new discount card and an additional subsidy for poor seniors.

The partisan bickering in Washington over Medicare has gone on for too long, and it's time for Congress to come through for seniors this year. The President's plan, with its emphasis on giving Medicare the funding it needs and providing better benefits, seems like an excellent starting point.

My exhaustive research (a quick Google search) turns up no hits on the first one, and only one so far on the second. And it appears that this blog is already on the story.

The thing is...

...I'm old enough to remember that the first Gulf War wasn't "about the oil." Nooooo. It was about not tolerating naked aggression. It was about liberating the freedom-loving peoples of Kuwait. It was about Saddam being worse than Hitler. It was about many noble things, none of them spelled o-i-l, no sirree.

Of course, as soon as it was over, it was almost universally acknowledged to have been about the oil.

And now history repeats itself as, I guess, tragic farce. Michael Kinsley, who is not exactly a raving conspiracy theorist, seems to suspect that this one might also have, well, something to do with the oil:

You can argue that every which way, and people do. Pick your paranoia. Here's mine. The United States consumes about 20 million barrels of oil a day. Eleven million of those barrels are imported, but 9 million are from domestic oil production. Oil is oil, and when events—a war in the Middle East, or an OPEC ministers meeting in Vienna—affect the price of oil we import from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, it has the same effect on the oil produced in the United States.

In recent months, as America has threatened and prepared for war against Iraq, the price of oil has gone from the low 20s to the high 30s a barrel. American consumers, therefore, are paying an extra $15 a barrel, or $300 million a day, or over $100 billion a year as a "war premium" on the oil they consume. It's like a tax—imposed as a result of government policy—except that the government doesn't get the money. That's before the war even starts, and it is in addition to the $300 billion or so they're saying that prosecuting the war is going to cost directly. Of that $100 billion, $55 billion pays for the oil we import. But $135 million a day—a day—or more than $45 billion a year (minus some taxes) goes into the pockets of domestic oil producers.

And the LA Times informs us:

WASHINGTON -- Maybe it's a coincidence, but American and British oil companies would be long-term beneficiaries of a successful military offensive led by the United States and Britain to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Industry officials say Hussein's ouster would help level the playing field for U.S. and British firms that have been shut out of Iraq as Baghdad has negotiated with rivals from other countries — notably France, Russia and China, three leading opponents of war.

A post-Hussein Iraq also would be a bonanza for the U.S.-dominated oil-services industry, which is in the business of rehabilitating damaged infrastructure, reversing declining output from aging fields and providing essential support work to drillers and explorers. A leader in that industry is Halliburton Co., where Dick Cheney was chief executive before becoming vice president.

(Warning: horribly invasive registration procedure on that one.)

And then there's this from Mother Jones, which pretty much encapsulates what I mean when I say it's "about the oil":

In the geopolitical vision driving current U.S. policy toward Iraq, the key to national security is global hegemony -- dominance over any and all potential rivals. To that end, the United States must not only be able to project its military forces anywhere, at any time. It must also control key resources, chief among them oil -- and especially Gulf oil. To the hawks who now set the tone at the White House and the Pentagon, the region is crucial not simply for its share of the U.S. oil supply (other sources have become more important over the years), but because it would allow the United States to maintain a lock on the world's energy lifeline and potentially deny access to its global competitors. The administration "believes you have to control resources in order to have access to them," says Chas Freeman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush. "They are taken with the idea that the end of the Cold War left the United States able to impose its will globally -- and that those who have the ability to shape events with power have the duty to do so. It's ideology."

Iraq, in this view, is a strategic prize of unparalleled importance. Unlike the oil beneath Alaska's frozen tundra, locked away in the steppes of central Asia, or buried under stormy seas, Iraq's crude is readily accessible and, at less than $1.50 a barrel, some of the cheapest in the world to produce. Already, over the past several months, Western companies have been meeting with Iraqi exiles to try to stake a claim to that bonanza.

But while the companies hope to cash in on an American-controlled Iraq, the push to remove Saddam Hussein hasn't been driven by oil executives, many of whom are worried about the consequences of war. Nor are Vice President Cheney and President Bush, both former oilmen, looking at the Gulf simply for the profits that can be earned there. The administration is thinking bigger, much bigger, than that.

"Controlling Iraq is about oil as power, rather than oil as fuel," says Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and author of Resource Wars. "Control over the Persian Gulf translates into control over Europe, Japan, and China. It's having our hand on the spigot."

All links via Hesiod's invaluable blog.

Easier if you just go read it

Charlie Daniels sends out a really stupid email; a fellow Tennesseean responds; as does someone else in the Nashville music industry, who loses her job as a result. Too much work to summarize beyond that, but it's an interesting read.

Who'da thunk it?

Back when the Patriot Act was first being pushed through, I remember reading some ignoramus on some right wing message board somewhere sneeringly dismissing any concern that the administration might abuse its authority, as has happened so many times in the past. It stuck in my head for some reason, this willful refusal to learn anything from the lessons of history, as if we are all born anew each day and nothing which has come before can have any possible bearing on what will happen now.

As if, say, the Nixon administration was just some bizarre aberration, and not indicative of the need for strong checks and balances at all times.

Well here's something to send a chill down your spine: ABC News is reporting that the FBI intercepted correspondence from one journalist to another.

Government agencies opened a package mailed between two Associated Press reporters last September and seized a copy of an eight-year-old unclassified FBI lab report without obtaining a warrant or notifying the news agency.

The Customs Service intercepted a package sent via Federal Express from the Associated Press bureau in Manila to the AP office in Washington, and turned the contents over to the FBI.

FBI spokesman Doug Garrison said the document contained sensitive information that should not be made public. However, an AP executive said the package contained an unclassified 1995 FBI report that had been discussed in open court in two legal cases.

"The government had no legal right to seize the package," said David Tomlin, assistant to the AP president.

Story here, via, yes, say it with me, AT-RI-OS.


More on the New York City resolution

There's a full story here.

NEW YORK - The City Council in New York, where 2,792 people died in the Sept. 11 terror attack, approved a resolution opposing war with Iraq (news - web sites) except as a last resort.

--snip--

Recent polls show that 75 percent of New Yorkers oppose a war without the support of the United Nations. Last month, more than 100,000 people took part in an anti-war protest near U.N. headquarters.

Funny how there seems to be more support for this war the further you get from Ground Zero.

Osama captured?

I haven't posted on this because I try to avoid rumors, but they've really been flying lately. On the day of Bush's big press conference last week, Sean Hannity was suggesting it would be the topic of the evening. (And at least one of his guests was suggesting that liberals would consider it bad news--in case you needed any further evidence of how utterly twisted some of these people are).

The BBC has the story here. Make of it what you will.

Very, very happy...

...is a new (at least to me) blog I need to check in on more often. Go say hello.

There are actually quite a few I need to add to the links list. I've just had to spend so much time keeping this site online lately, I haven't really had the energy to worry about the minor adjustments. But soon, yes, very soon.

You have no idea...

...how evil some of the mail I get can be. It comes with the territory, of course; it's something you just learn to live with in this line of work--but I do want to thank everyone who takes the time to write in with kinder thoughts, or to support the site through donations or purchases. It makes a difference.

Another war profiteer

You know that Halliburton is vying for the Iraq clean-up contract. Did you know that Dick Cheney is still on the Halliburton payroll--receiving "deferred compensation" of up to one million dollars a year?

Read all about it.

All the pro-war news that fits, we print

William Greider on the Washington Post as Bush enabler:

We read numerous accounts of the blitzkrieg strategy Washington is devising for Baghdad, but odd little omissions occurred. When Osama's taped message surfaced recently, the Post story neglected to mention that the Al Qaeda leader also denounced Saddam as being among the "infidels." When prominent figures like Bill Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright or retired Gen. Anthony Zinni dissented from going to war, it was treated as no big deal. Despite some honorable exceptions, major media generally went limp on the march to war. The Post went star-spangled.

The shortage of critical challenges from the press (and from intimidated Democrats) assisted the manipulation of public thinking. By relentless repetition, Bush and his team accomplished an audacious feat of propaganda--persuading many Americans to redirect the emotional wounds left by 9/11, their hurt and anger, away from the perpetrators to a different adversary. According to a New York Times-CBS News survey, 42 percent now believe Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In an ABC News poll, 55 percent believe Saddam provides direct support to Al Qaeda. The Iraqi did it, let's go get him. As a bogus rallying cry, "Remember 9/11" ranks with "Remember the Maine" of 1898 for war with Spain or the Gulf of Tonkin resolution of 1964 for justifying the US escalation in Vietnam.

In the past month or so, however, my impression (shared by others) is that the Post's news coverage has toughened considerably--beginning to puncture various propaganda claims and to explore contradictions that might better have been examined long ago. The editors and reporters may have been shaken by the unanticipated public outrage, including from their own readers. The newspaper's omissions, distortions and casual disparagement of antiwar protests were prompting waves of e-mail objections. "It is tunnel-vision coverage like yours," one message complained, "that scares off people in mainstream America who are against the war but can't relate to the picture you painted of its opposition."

Read the whole thing.

A small note of sanity

The Supreme Court stays an execution in Texas with ten minutes to spare.

It should be apparent to any reasonably bright seven year old...

...that we are being lied to. That this entire buildup to war is an exercise in propaganda and consensus building that makes Hermann Goering look like a piker.

After three months of inspections by the United Nations—underwritten by the threat of military force—we now know that those warnings were grossly exaggerated. Iraq has not reconstituted the extensive nuclear-weapons program dismantled during the previous round of U.N. inspections. The facilities in the U.S. satellite photographs are still in shambles, and aren’t being used for any illegal purpose. The aluminum tubes were unusable for uranium enrichment. And the documents that show Saddam tried to buy uranium from Africa, which were cited by the President in his State of the Union address? Oh, they were forged.

More.

Update: Yes, I know that Goebbels was the propaganda minister. The Goering reference was a nod to that quote that's been all over lately: "Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Sometimes this town makes you proud

New York City has joined 140 other cities and counties in passing a resolution opposed to pre-emptive war.

"Coalition of the willing" reality check

From Salon:

March 12, 2003 | The international airport at Conakry, Guinea, is busier than usual this week, as diplomats from France, the U.S. and Britain continue to descend upon the West African capital for more discreet horse-trading in preparation for the expected United Nations vote on the Iraq resolution. Although Guinea has close financial ties to France and polls show that its Muslim population strongly opposes an Iraq invasion, the developing nation could gain $21.4 million in U.S. foreign aid this year in exchange for a vote in favor of the pending resolution.

Wooed by such a wealthy suitor, Guinea may not be able to afford ideology.

Such are the naked politics of checkbook diplomacy, currently on gaudy display as the Bush administration tries to pull from among the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council the nine votes required to authorize an invasion. In the tug-of-war over the six undecided countries that will determine the final outcome, the U.S. is brandishing its wallet as a weapon. Guinea, Mexico, Chile, Angola, Cameroon and Pakistan all face the same dilemma this week: Ignore mounting opposition to war at home, or face the wrath of Washington?

Turkey has been offered $6 billion in direct aid, plus billions more in loans, if it will allow the U.S. to base soldiers there in advance of an invasion. But promises are flowing to nations far from the war front. A no vote by Chile could jeopardize a bill now pending in Congress for increased trade access -- a measure worth billions of dollars over time. For Cameroon, a proposed 670-mile oil pipeline from Chad to be built by Exxon Mobil and ChevronTexaco is at stake. Poland stands to win $3.8 billion in loans for military aircraft. Bulgaria has no doubt heard hints that it could win a chance to host a new U.S. military base, which would inject millions into its economy. Guinea's army rangers continue to need U.S. training to prevent attacks from neighboring Liberia.

--snip--

According to a recently released report by the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, the nebulous coalition represents barely a tenth of the world's population -- and many of the countries didn't join out of an idealistic commitment to the liberation of Iraq. "Almost all, by our count, join only through coercion, bullying, bribery, or the implied threat of U.S. action that would directly damage the interests of the country," the report states. "Far more impressive is the list of nations that have stood up to U.S. bully tactics and stand opposed."

--------------------

March 12, 2003

America's laws aren't good enough for Richard Perle

He's suing--yes suing--Sy Hersh, in Britain, where he won't be hindered by that annoying First Amendment of ours.

Perle's not British. Hersh isn't British. The New Yorker certainly isn't a British publication. Perle just thinks he has a better chance of winning there:

Britain has the most repressive libel laws on earth. American companies come here to silence their critics - they know they have a better chance of suing a magazine in Britain than in the US, even if it only sells a tiny number of copies over here. In America, public figures seeking damages must show that the published information was maliciously fabricated. Here, by contrast, the burden of proof is carried by the defendant. Available only to the rich, our libel laws are a devastatingly effective means of silencing the cries of the excluded.

When I look back at my work over the years, there's usually a particular cartoon that sums up what I felt about the times we were going through. I have a feeling that "Outrage Overload" is going to be that cartoon for these years.

Here's the article Richard "I don't need your steenking Constitution" Perle doesn't want you to read. Link to it, pass it around, email it to your friends. That's one way these libel cases can backfire--by bringing more attention to the article than it would ever have received otherewise.

Oh hell, why not another unscientific poll?

Atrios has made torturing Wolf Blitzer his own special project, and as he notes today, "This is the big one. Vote early, vote often." (Look for the "Question of the Day" in the left sidebar.)

Right now, it's 1249 votes against war, 502 in favor.


--------------------

March 11, 2003

Once again, time to make your voice heard

Variations on this email are apparently making the rounds:

Hillary Clinton is taking a poll of her constituents regarding the war on Iraq. Please call today -- she may be considering taking a stand against the war. The number to call and express your opinion is: (212) 688-6262. You get a live person who asks if you're in favor or against.

It's not quite true--they're not holding any sort of poll. But they do answer the phone and they say they're getting a lot of calls--and that the results will be tallied and passed along to Senator Clinton. Took me about thirty seconds.

Freedom toast

I shit you not.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The cafeteria menus in the three House office buildings will change the name of "french fries" to "freedom fries," a culinary rebuke of France, stemming from anger over the country's refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq.

Ditto for "french toast," which will be known as "freedom toast."

Heh heh heh

On March 5, I mentioned a poll on Senator Frist's site, which was running 66% to 33% in favor of bombing Iraq (scroll down). Some other bloggers linked to the poll as well, and by the next day, the tally was 55% to 44% against the war. And the hits kept on coming:

"At 1:35 pm Washington DC time on March 6, the Frist site reported 31,118 responses to the war poll. Anti-war respondents (55%) had gained a clear majority over pro-war respondents (44.6%). (These figures do not quite add up to 100%, apparently because of the rounding method used by Senator Frist's staff.)

"Within the hour, at 2:23 pm, the anti-war fever had risen, with 56.9% anti-war, 42.9% pro-war. By 4:29 pm, according a snapshot of the Frist site, with 37, 742 total responses, the anti-war vote registered 59.5%, with the pro-war vote ebbing at 39.8%."

All of which inspired Frist to pull the poll from his website, claiming it had been "hacked." Actually, it was a one-visitor-one-vote poll, so I'd say it had been subject to active, participatory democracy. But we all know how Republicans feel about that sort of thing. (Complete story here.)

Update: the plot thickens.

Christ on a crutch

Atrios caught this letter in the Times:

I am the author of "Bible Code II: The Countdown," mentioned by Bill Keller in his March 8 column. My Pentagon briefing about the Bible Code took place on Feb. 21 and was attended by top military intelligence officials. Both American and Israeli intelligence are now using the Bible Code to hunt for Osama bin Laden. What possible loss is there in that? Why do United States and Israeli intelligence take the code seriously? Not, as Mr. Keller writes, because "we're all a little too desperate these days," but because the Bible Code keeps coming true. We have a real enemy to find and fight, the one who attacked us: Osama bin Laden. Discouraging top American intelligence officials from checking out information that might lead to the Qaeda leader is bad for our country. We are in a war that must be won. MICHAEL DROSNIN New York, March 9, 2003

That sick feeling in the pit of your stomach is the realization that our future is quite literally in the hands of the certifiably insane.

Update: here's a link to Keller's article. And here's a bit more from a reader:

The author of those Bible Code books is, in all probability, insane. But he's amusing/cooky insane as opposed to dangerous/wild-eyed insane. I think I saw him on The 700 Club a few years ago and (I swear I saw this with my own two eyes) he told Robertson that he didn't believe in God and said that the Bible Code is the work of aliens. The look on Pat's face and the bum's rush he gave the guy made the hours I've wasted watching that show worth it in one instant.

(Man, it's nice to have this site working normally again.)


About that spying...

A few days ago, I linked to this story about the US spying on UN Security Council members, which inspired some of you to express your doubts as to its validity. Forcefully, in some cases.

Well, not that this will come as any great revelation to the members of this audience who are, shall we say, less idealistic when it comes to the Bush Administration, but the story has been confirmed, albeit in a kind of backhanded way:

An employee at the top-secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been arrested following revelations in The Observer last weekend about an American 'dirty tricks' surveillance operation to win votes at the United Nations in favour of a tough new resolution on Iraq.

Gloucestershire police confirmed last night that a 28-year-old woman was arrested last week on suspicion of contravening the Official Secrets Act. The woman, from the Cheltenham area, has been released on police bail pending further inquiries. More arrests are expected.

To put this as clearly as possible for our more slow-witted friends: if the story's a fake, why are people being arrested for leaking the information?

Our story so far

In case we haven't sufficiently hammered you with the implications of the various PNAC statements, here's a summary:

In this week's Observer, David Aaronovitch suggested that, before September 11, the Bush administration was "relatively indifferent to the nature of the regimes in the Middle East". Only after America was attacked was it forced to start taking an interest in the rest of the world.

If Aaronovitch believes this, he would be well-advised to examine the website of the Project for the New American Century, the pressure group established by, among others, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, Elliott Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad, all of whom (except the president's brother) are now senior officials in the US government.

Its statement of principles, signed by those men on June 3 1997, asserts that the key challenge for the US is "to shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests". This requires "a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities".

On January 26 1998, these men wrote to President Clinton, urging him "to enunciate a new strategy", namely "the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power". If Clinton failed to act, "the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard". They acknowledged that this doctrine would be opposed, but "American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council".

Last year, the Sunday Herald obtained a copy of a confidential report produced by the Project in September 2000, which suggested that blatting Saddam was the beginning, not the end of its strategy. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." The wider strategic aim, it insisted, was "maintaining global US pre-eminence".


Woo hoo

Ladies and gentlemen, we are live.

Thanks to everyone who responded to my earlier (now deleted) tech question. It appears that it just takes a little time for all the various servers to catch up to the IP switch. We'll give it a few days to wait for the stragglers and then we'll be shutting down the old site entirely, so if your URL continues to read "www240.pair.com/tomtom/" on Thursday or Friday, please be sure to let me know so I don't unintentionally shut you out.

--------------------

March 10, 2003

Okay...

...the IP switch seems to be going through, but it's giving us Movable Type headaches, so there's a pretty good chance I won't be able to post for a day or so.

Sick of this yet? Believe me, I am.

A father's message

An essay sent to me by a reader, presented in its entirety.

The picture sits on top of my tv. A handsome young man, in a Marine Corps dress uniform, hat (cover, they call it in the military) tucked under his left arm, his right arm, right hand with white glove, encircling a stunning young woman. When the photo was taken at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball in 2002, my son Ben was enrolled at the University of Maryland while serving as a member of the Marine Corps Reserves. A little more than one year earlier, he had been at his reserve unit at Anacostia Barracks in Washington, D.C., on the morning of September 11, 2001, and saw the smoke rising across the Potomac in the West from the Pentagon crash site. After the tragedy of September 11th, he expected to be called up any day.

Days went by, then weeks, then months, but his reserve unit wasn't called up. Eventually Ben realized that he would have to go on with his life, his classes at the University, and his training for the Marine Corps.

Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney, supposedly ensconced in an undisclosed location for purposes of National Security, twice visited a billionaire's plantation here in South Georgia to hunt quail (not Dan).

During Christmas break in 2001-2002, Ben went to NBC school- no, not television-Nuclear Biological Chemical warfare school- to learn how to protect himself and his fellow Marines from weapons of mass destruction, if such a thing is possible. In the Spring of 2002 he went to a U. S. military survival school in Southern California to learn how to deal with therigors of a hostile environment.

And President Bush and Congressional Republicans proposed eliminating the tax on the estates of millionaires and billionaires, ostensibly to help save small family owned businesses and family farms from being sold to pay the tax. Since the surplus from the Clinton Administration had miraculously turned into a hundred sixty billion dollar deficit in less than 24 months, I wondered why they didn't just exempt small family businesses and family farms instead of eliminating the tax entirely, throwing out billions of dollars in revenue -and deepening the deficit.

From June through August of 2002, Ben went to Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia. While his classmates at Maryland were enjoying their summer vacations, my son was helping train college ROTC students from around the country who would become Marine Corps Officers upon their graduation. Although Ben was technically also a student, he had already been through boot camp at Parris Island two years earlier- he was selected from the 500 recruits
to be the Company Honor Graduate- and the instructors at OCS relied on him and others like him to help train his fellow officer candidates in drill and other essentials to becoming a Marine.

In the summer of 2002, the Bush administration continued its public opposition to increasing fuel economy standards (CAFE) to reduce our dependence on oil from the Mideast, and argued that SUV's and pickup trucks shouldn't be subject to the same CAFE standards as cars. Vice President Cheney fought the public release of records of his Enron executive laden committee to set a National Energy Policy. Documents coming out of the collapsing, bankrupt Enron Corporation revealed that the company had helped manufacture a false energy shortage in California the year before in an effort to jack up prices and increase profits.

Last month Ben's unit was called up to active duty. Ben had four months and a few courses to go to get his B. A. degree in History and Government. He had a smart and beautiful girlfriend who was planning to go to graduate school. He was looking forward to becoming a Second Lieutenant upon graduation, buying a new car (he's been driving the 12 year old sedan I loaned him after he got out of boot camp in 2000), and starting his life as a productive adult. All of that is on hold now. He spent a month on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean with several hundred other Marines, headed to the Middle East. He and his girlfriend agreed to break up because they had no idea when- or if- they would see each other again. He withdrew from college. He's a sergeant, and will remain an enlisted man past the May 2003 date when he would have received his commission. (He's okay with that- and it bodes well for his future in the military that he will have had a significant opportunity to follow orders before he's asked to issue them.) And he had to say goodbye to his family and friends as he gave up his normal life as a college senior. As I wrote those words, he was crammed into the troop ship, sharing a room with a dozen of his fellow Marines, bunks stacked four high. The one time I was able to speak to him, he told me that he would be spending the next few weeks on board helping train his comrades for the dangers and hardships they will face in the months to follow.

Back here on the mainland President Bush called for tax relief for the rich who have to pay a single tax on the corporate dividends they receive. The President told us that it was unfair to tax the same dollar twice, once from the corporate end, once from the stockholder's end. Infigure I'll probably save about $150 on my taxes next year if the proposal is passed. President Bush and Vice President Cheney will probably save about $500,000 in taxes on the dividends from their blind trusts.

Meanwhile, as for Ben, who has given up his girlfriend, his family, his education, his commission, his friends, the comforts of home- each dollar of his pay- like every wage earner's pay- is taxed four times: once for federal taxes, once for Social Security, once for Medicare, and once for State taxes. And he pays taxes on the taxes- he doesn't get a credit for the part already taken for federal taxes when he pays his Social Security tax, and so forth.

It's funny- not the laughing kind- how our political leaders have no compunction about calling on ordinary Americans in the military and their families to make sacrifices of all we hold dear- including, God forbid, the ultimate sacrifice. But ask the wealthiest among us to pay taxes on their estates and their stock dividends to reduce the deficit or pay a decent wage to the members of our military sent overseas to protect us? Not a chance.

Sleepwalking toward Baghdad

Gary Kamiya in Salon:

I propose the following axiom: Those who did not believe and publicly state before Sept. 11 that Saddam Hussein represented an unacceptable threat to the United States have no credibility when they now argue that he does.

The reasoning behind this axiom is simple: The events of Sept. 11 have no relevance to the threat posed by Iraq, nor has any new information been unearthed since then about Iraqi threats. Therefore, all those who are only now calling for the U.S. to invade Iraq are basing their change of heart purely on an emotional reaction to Sept. 11, not a reasoned analysis of risk factors. This is an argument made in bad faith. For 10 years they were not afraid of Saddam Hussein. What changed their mind? The fiery spectacle of Sept. 11, they claim. Bush has invoked the date repeatedly as he has tried to scare Americans into supporting his war. But try as they might, none of these hawks in or out of the Bush government has been able to prove a connection between Osama bin Laden's spectacular assaults and the Baghdad regime.

That this obvious point has scarcely been raised indicates the extent to which emotion, not argument, has come to dominate public discussion of this issue. The patriotic intimidation, the groupthink, the shunning and shaming of those who dared to raise unpopular perspectives -- these reflexes still govern the national dialogue on Iraq.

There's more, and it's good, so stop whining and go get a day pass.

Of course, if the administration were honest, if they treated us like growups, they'd acknowledge that most of the key players here--Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, et al--actually have been clamoring for a second gulf war since the mid nineties. But then they'd have to admit that this isn't a response to 9/11, abandon the useful emotional argument. Because arguing that the Saudis are an untrustworthy ally and we really need a more secure foothold in the region to ensure control over certain vital resources of which Iraq has a plentiful supply--well, somehow that sort of strategic geopolitical gamesmanship may not be quite enough to convince Americans to send their loved ones off to kill and die.

I went away but now I'm back

Many thanks to everyone who helped with my visit to St. Lawrence University, particularly Cathy Tedford, who curated the exhibition of my work currently on display in their gallery.

Site problems continue, but--he says, once again--should be fixed very, very soon. I think. In the meantime, I know some of you are having trouble with the back button due to the redirect, and I can only offer apologies and ask you to bear with us. We really are trying to get this thing resolved, I promise. (You can bookmark the current URL and come here directly and that will solve the problem for the time being, but keep in mind that as soon as the various technical and bureaucratic hurdles have been cleared, "thismodernworld.com" will once again be the official URL for this site, and at that point, I have no idea if "www240.pair.com/tomtom" will bring you here or not.)

Also, due to the patchwork nature of the site at the moment, I'm going to cheat a bit here and run several blog entries together in one post.

* * *

With 'em or agin' 'em

Richard Perle says that Sy Hersh is a terrorist.

BLITZER:Let me read a quote from the New Yorker article, the March 17th issue, just out now. "There is no question that Perle believes that removing Saddam from power is the right thing to do. At the same time, he has set up a company that may gain from a war." PERLE: I don't believe that a company would gain from a war. On the contrary, I believe that the successful removal of Saddam Hussein, and I've said this over and over again, will diminish the threat of terrorism. And what he's talking about is investments in homeland defense, which I think are vital and are necessary. Look, Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly. BLITZER: Well, on the basis of -- why do you say that? A terrorist? PERLE: Because he's widely irresponsible. If you read the article, it's first of all, impossible to find any consistent theme in it. But the suggestion that my views are somehow related for the potential for investments in homeland defense is complete nonsense. BLITZER: But I don't understand. Why do you accuse him of being a terrorist? PERLE: Because he sets out to do damage and he will do it by whatever innuendo, whatever distortion he can -- look, he hasn't written a serious piece since My Lai.

Richard Perle owes Sy Hersh an apology.

(Via Atrios.)

* * *

Everything you know is wrong

Further evidence that the rationales for this war--excuse me, this "possible war"--are built on a mountain of deceit:

A key piece of evidence linking Iraq to a nuclear weapons program appears to have been fabricated, the United Nations' chief nuclear inspector said yesterday in a report that called into question U.S. and British claims about Iraq's secret nuclear ambitions.

Documents that purportedly showed Iraqi officials shopping for uranium in Africa two years ago were deemed "not authentic" after careful scrutiny by U.N. and independent experts, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the U.N. Security Council.

ElBaradei also rejected a key Bush administration claim -- made twice by the president in major speeches and repeated by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday -- that Iraq had tried to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes to use in centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Also, ElBaradei reported finding no evidence of banned weapons or nuclear material in an extensive sweep of Iraq using advanced radiation detectors.

From Saturday's Washington Post, but it looks like the article is already walled off behind a pay archive. Here's another version of the same story from the Globe and Mail.

* * *

"More important than the Pentagon Papers"

From Norman Solomon's Media Beat column:

Three days after a British newspaper revealed a memo about U.S. spying on U.N. Security Council delegations, I asked Daniel Ellsberg to assess the importance of the story. "This leak," he replied, "is more timely and potentially more important than the Pentagon Papers."

The key word is "timely." Publication of the secret Pentagon Papers in 1971, made possible by Ellsberg's heroic decision to leak those documents, came after the Vietnam War had already been underway for many years. But with all-out war on Iraq still in the future, the leak about spying at the United Nations could erode the Bush administration's already slim chances of getting a war resolution through the Security Council.

"As part of its battle to win votes in favor of war against Iraq," the London-based Observer reported on March 2, the U.S. government developed an "aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the e-mails of U.N. delegates." The smoking gun was "a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency -- the U.S. body which intercepts communications around the world -- and circulated to both senior agents in his organization and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency."

--snip--

Several days after the "embarrassing disclosure," not a word about it had appeared in America's supposed paper of record. The New York Times -- the single most influential media outlet in the United States -- still had not printed anything about the story. How could that be?

"Well, it's not that we haven't been interested," New York Times deputy foreign editor Alison Smale said on the evening of March 5, nearly 96 hours after the Observer broke the story. "We could get no confirmation or comment" on the memo from U.S. officials.

The Times opted not to relay the Observer's account, Smale told me. "We would normally expect to do our own intelligence reporting." She added: "We are still definitely looking into it. It's not that we're not."

Belated coverage would be better than none at all. But readers should be suspicious of the failure of the New York Times to cover this story during the crucial first days after it broke. At some moments in history, when war and peace hang in the balance, journalism delayed is journalism denied.

More.

* * *

Your cynicism is always justified, part 3,409,849

Washington -- A company tied to Vice President Dick Cheney has won a Pentagon contract for advice on rebuilding Iraq's oil fields after a possible war.

The contract was disclosed in the last paragraph of a Defense Department statement on preparations for Saddam Hussein's possible destruction of Iraq's oil fields in the event of a U.S.-led invasion. The statement calls for proposals on how to handle oil well fires and for assessing other damage to oil facilities. The contract went to Kellogg Brown & Root Services, which is owned by Halliburton Co., of which Cheney was chairman until his election in 2000.

The Houston company is a respected name in petroleum industry construction and one of a few companies capable of large-scale oil field reconstruction. But its ties to Cheney arouse suspicions among those who believe that a primary motive for a U.S. war in Iraq is oil.

"I certainly don't think this comes as much of a surprise," said Michael Renner, a researcher at WorldWatch Institute, commenting on the Halliburton contract, "There are lots of business opportunities embedded in this war. It represents the larger oil and energy issues at stake."

More, via Cursor.

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