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April 26, 2003

At Long Last, Have You No Decency, Sir?

Experienced American diplomats are comparing wingnut emeritus Newt Gingrich to Joe McCarthy.

From Bob Harris.

Just Desperately, Desperately Needed

Crown Publishing, a division of Random House, is about to launch an imprint devoted exclusively to conservative authors.

Finally, someone is filling in the enormous, gaping hole in the media spectrum between the extremes of Ann Coulter and Robert Novak.

From Bob Harris.

Dick Cheney, Movie Villain

It didn't take long for somebody to create a playing card deck for U.S. regime change, too.

Take a look at the picture of Dick Cheney -- I could swear that's actually Richard Dreyfuss playing the bad-guy politician in The American President.

Come to think of it, Dreyfuss physicalized the Bob Rumson character talking slightly out of the side of his mouth, very much the way Dick Cheney does in real life.

Assuming Dick Cheney is real. Say...

From Bob Harris.

Red Hot Man-On-Dog Action!

As a rule, if you're gonna do anything controversial, do it on a Friday, so it hits the media during the least-watched news cycle of the week.

Yesterday, Friday, Ari Fleischer extended the president's support to Sen. Rick Santorum, who got in hot water earlier this week for an interview in which he exhibited a) a breathtakingly odd view of homosexuality which would appall a mildly-sophisticated eighth-grader, and b) a scary disdain for our personal privacy, regardless of sexual orientation.

For those who missed it, this is the AP reporter's exact, stumbling, uncomprehending response to the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference:

I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.

(Fortunately, this interview was published on Monday, giving the story a whole week to gel.)

Naturally, human rights groups, leading Democrats, and even moderate Republicans -- which is to say, people who are not insane -- suggested that maybe, just maybe, a mind this twisted shouldn't really be in a position of authority.

Nonsense. Santorum is a major Bush loyalist, so yesterday, Friday, Comical Ari gave the guy a official White House vote of confidence as an "inclusive man," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

I only wish folks would realize that while Santorum may be on the lunatic fringe in the real world, he's well within the established spectrum of thought in the current Republican leadership.

Story time: I had the opportunity to cover the 2000 GOP convention when I was the morning guy on Working Assets' RadioForChange.com. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) was the first Out homosexual ever to address a GOP convention. He wasn't talking about gay rights or civil liberties, of course -- he was actually discussing Free Trade with China -- but right in front of him, just below the stage, were several GOP activists, including a nice chunk of the Texas delegation, visibly and demonstratively praying for his Eternal Soul to release its wickedness.

Somehow the networks didn't manage to include that in their coverage.

The next morning, I interviewed the guy in person, live on the air. And just before we started, one of the GOP's media handlers let me know that for the purposes of the following discussion, Jim was not gay.

Here's the self-censorship thing you don't see in the media, and it happens all the time: right then, I had a choice: either push the issue, watch the interview end abruptly, guarantee I wouldn't have another GOP guest for the duration, and face down an hour of empty air time to fill... or just go along.

I decided to play along, and then tell the audience about the entire handling process right after the interview was over, and why I made that choice, which I figured would probably tell the listener more than they'd ever hear otherwise. I'm still not sure it was the right call, but there it is.

Incidentally, Jim's a great guy. We completely disagreed about almost every issue, but we did so with humor and respect and had a terrific time. It was one of the best interviews I ever did. And every time I ever see Rep. Kolbe or read his name in the paper, I always feel really bad for the guy, since his sincere beliefs about economic issues compel him to work every day with people who clearly think he's some sort of depraved freak.

And sure enough, the CW now says that Santorum will emerge with his job and his worldview intact.

Atrios has been all over the subject, as have plenty of others.

From Bob Harris.

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

April 25, 2003

Why The Economy Is So Bad

It's not, as those conniving Democrats will allege, the loss of 2.6 million jobs, the worst economic performance of any president in 60 years.

It's SARS.

Well. Obviously.

I mean, look at the name. It's both severe and acute.

That's gotta be pretty bad.

From Bob Harris.

Pick one story and stick with it, OK?

Remember, our absolute knowledge of Iraqi WMDs was a primary reason for war. Bush said so himself, in the very first sentence of his address announcing the war had begun:

My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger. [Emphasis added]

There was no doubt about the WMDs. None. Remember? The UN inspectors were cast as incompetent and vaguely unAmerican buffoons for not finding any.

Now, however, this from our fearless leader:

President Bush on Thursday suggested for the first time that the United States may not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq...

supposedly because Saddam hid them all really, really, really well.

Curious. Just yesterday came this story about U.S. satellites capable of gathering information in Iraq at a resolution "keen enough to read large newspaper headlines from space." And somehow we missed all these weapons being moved en masse.

I guess we can choose to believe that. Or maybe Saddam managed to destroy all his weapons just before the war started, and we missed that, instead.

Except now the White House has even another story -- that they "overstated" things "to make a point":

"We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."

Kos responds very nicely to this. Go. Read.

More here.

From Bob Harris.

Exporting Democracy

Favorite recent quote from our glorious Secretary of Defense, Drums Fell On Dad:

WASHINGTON - Iraqis will be free to form their own government as long as it is not an Iranian-style theocracy, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday...

"There will be the beginning of an interim authority soon," he said. "I don't know quite what `soon' means."

(Anagrams, incidentally, make me laugh for some reason. This is no reflection on Tom or Sparky. Blinky, for his part, giggles with me, but doesn't know why.)

From Bob Harris.

Why does Andy Rooney hate America?

Turns out Andy Rooney was against the war.

I had no idea.

But do we really want to see him naked on the cover of Entertainment Weekly?

From Bob Harris.

Bush Launches Tax Cut Offensive

Apparently Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are hiding in the bottom of the U.S. Treasury.

Better empty it out, just to be safe.

From Bob Harris.

The First Amendment

The Supreme Court is considering whether corporations have a fundamental, Constitutional right to engage in false advertising.

Incidentally, Jim Hightower's newsletter (not his blog, unfortunately) has an interesting piece this month on how the entire body of law granting corporations quasi-human legal standing is, apparently, rooted not in any Supreme Court ruling, but on some stuff a clerk added onto a ruling in 1886 --

...in an obscure tax case called Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad... a court reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis (a former railroad official), wrote the headnote to the decision -- a headnote being a summary of the case... Davis' lead sentence declares: 'The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States'... misinterpreting what the court said... Davis later asked Chief Justice Waite whether he was correct in saying that the court had ruled on corporate personhood, and Waite responded that 'we avoided meeting the Constitutional questions."

-- in direct contradiction to the wishes of the Founding Fathers. Jim quotes Thom Hartmann's book, Unequal Protection:

"Jefferson kept pushing for a law, written into the Constitution as an amendment, that would prevent companies from growing so large that they could dominate entire industries or have the power to influence the people's government."

Too bad Jim Hightower's not on the Supreme Court at the moment.

From Bob Harris.

A true American hero

Martha Griffiths has died.

If you don't know the name -- and she never invaded anybody, so there's no reason anyone would these days -- she was a hugely important part of the women's rights movement. A ten-term member of Congress, she stood up to the Gingriches of her own day with wit and savvy and occasional fury and most of all with justice in her heart. She was responsible for including women in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and led the fight for successful Congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

I will never understand why anyone would fear these 24 words:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

This radical idea of guaranteeing equal rights for the majority of Americans caught on in only 35 states, and three more are needed for adoption. (Note the use of present tense: the Amendment might not be quite as finished as most folks think.)

If you sometimes feel like the Santorum faction of this country always gets its way, don't. That woman's life and her accomplishments show that we're capable of amazing ourselves, if we just keep fighting.

Next time you're down, remember Martha Griffiths.

From Bob Harris.

And now, a word from the Boss...

Bruce Springsteen weighs in on the whole Dixie Chicks thing:

The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves. To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American.

The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about - namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home.

Let's watch the O'Reillys of the world twist Bruce into some sort of America-hater. My guess is they'll skip the whole topic.

On a related topic, I predict Darryl Worley's next big single will blame Canada for illegal immigration from Mexico. After all, both countries border on America -- what more do we need, people?

From Bob Harris.

There will be a slight delay...

I'm on the west coast, so whenever I'm guest-hosting, blogging will occur slightly later in the day.

From Bob Harris.

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

April 24, 2003

Hi, great crowd, nice to be here, thanks to the clubowner, drink up

Howdy. Bob here, putting on the seat belt for the first time, nervous, trying not to wrap Dad's blog around a tree. Both hands on the wheel. 10 and 2. Eyes forward. I'll try not to spill html all over the seat while I'm driving.

Amazing to see backstage at this place. Blinky is a lot smaller than he looks in the strip.

If anybody needs the lowdown on yours truly, you can look here.

Where to start? With a government surprised at the political fervor of Shi'ites -- geez, it's like a religion with these people -- or a refreshingly honest piece in the LA Times about cluster bombs, or this fine news about the liberal media:

Entertainment firm's liberal owners don't mind that what some call 'jingoistic chest thumpers' happen to be climbing charts...

story here (brief registration required)

From Bob Harris.


Gone fishin'

I'm going to be mostly offline for a few days, so I'm handing the keys to the place over to my friend Bob Harris, who used to give voice to Sparky in our online animations, and who is also a genuine Jeopardy champion. He'll be filling in for me a couple of times over the summer, and I just want to give him a chance to get his feet wet. Take it away, Bob.

Busy

Haven't written about Santorum yet, but I think it's one of those stories that speaks for itself. As does this one, via Atrios.

(Update) Here's the full text of Santorum's remarks. Time to go, Ricky.

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

April 23, 2003

Steve's got a new URL

www.bushwarsblog.com.
Go see if he needs help unpacking.

More looting
Fox News Engineer Charged With Smuggling CURT ANDERSON Associated Press

WASHINGTON -A television news engineer faces smuggling charges after attempting to bring into the United States 12 stolen Iraqi paintings, monetary bonds and other items, federal officials said Wednesday.

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., charges that Benjamin James Johnson, 27, tried to bring the paintings into this country last Thursday. They were contained in a large cardboard box that was examined by Customs agents at Dulles International Airport outside Washington.

An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint says that Johnson, who accompanied U.S. troops in Baghdad, gathered up the paintings at a palace that belonged to Uday Hussein, one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's sons. The paintings depict Saddam and Uday.

Johnson, who initially told Customs officials he was given the paintings by Iraqi citizens, said he had planned to keep them "for decoration" and to provide one to his employer, the affidavit says. It is U.S. policy that all such items belong to the Iraqi people.

Story here, via Atrios.

Signs of the times
Responding to a taunt by the White House that he "looks French," U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday brushed off the political insult - saying it's part of an expected barrage of Republican attacks on his character.

"It means the White House has started the politics of personal destruction," Kerry said of the comment by an unnamed Bush adviser.

A New York Times report quoted Republican officials and Bush advisers yesterday saying that Kerry's presidential campaign wouldn't play well out of New England because of his "haughty air" and Boston upbringing.

"He looks French," said one Bush adviser, handing the Massachusetts Democrat what is probably the ultimate postwar political putdown.

More.

Did they even think about any of this?
As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country.

The burst of Shiite power -- as demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands who made a long-banned pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala yesterday -- has U.S. officials looking for allies in the struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.

More. Worth reading.

Is Bill O'Reilly a coward?

That's what he calls anyone who won't come on his show and play by his rules--i.e., being given maybe ten seconds at a time to try to make your case before being interrupted, shouted down, and even having your mic cut off if Bill really doesn't like what you have to say.

Apparently O'Reilly misrepresented an essay by Salon's Gary Kamiya, and then offered Kamiya the "opportunity" to defend himself by coming on O'Reilly's show, which is roughly equivalent to giving the Christians a chance to defend themselves by throwing them to the lions. Kamiya wisely declined, but offers an alternative: a debate with O'Reilly on neutral turf, via email, where nobody's mic can be cut.

Will O'Reilly accept the challenge, after having misrepresented Kamiya's essay on national television--or is he too, well, cowardly?

Know your audience

According to this report, a KKK-run business is apparently buying ad time on the Sean Hannity show. (Via Scoobie.)

Fun facts about your elected officials
WASHINGTON - Six members of Congress live in a $1.1 million Capitol Hill town house that is subsidized by a secretive religious organization, tax records show.

The lawmakers, all Christians, pay low rent to live in the stately red brick, three-story house on C Street, two blocks from the Capitol. It is maintained by a group alternately known as the "Fellowship" and the "Foundation" and brings together world leaders and elected officials through religion.

The Fellowship hosts receptions, luncheons and prayer meetings on the first two floors of the house, which is registered with the Internal Revenue Service (news - web sites) as a church.

The six lawmakers — Reps. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; Mike Doyle, D-Pa.; and Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev. and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. — live in private rooms upstairs.

Rent is $600 a month, DeMint said.

"Our goal is singular — and that is to hope that we can assist them in better understandings of the teachings of Christ, and applying it to their jobs," said Richard Carver, a member of the Fellowship's board of directors who served as an assistant secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan administration.

The house, valued at $1.1 million, is owned by the C Street Center, a sister organization of the Fellowship. It received more than $145,000 in Fellowship grants between 1997 and 2000, according to IRS records — including $96,400 in 1998 for reducing debt.

Its tenants dine together once a week to discuss religion in their daily lives.

AP, via Cursor. There was also a longer article about this group in Harper's recently.

Meet the new boss...

...reminiscent, at the very least, of the old boss:

It has become increasingly apparent that Washington cannot restore governance to Baghdad without resorting to the party which for decades controlled every aspect of life under the regime.

It has equally become apparent that the Ba'ath party - whose neighbourhood spy cells were as feared as the state intelligence apparatus - will survive in some form, either through the appeal of its founding ideals, or through the rank opportunism of its millions of members.

"The coming bureaucracy will be overwhelmed by Ba'athists. They had loyalty to Saddam Hussein, and now they have loyalty to foreign invaders," said Wamidh Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University who broke with the Ba'ath in 1961, and is trying to organise a new political grouping.

War update 2: looting is fun!

Everybody's doing it! Journalists...

US Customs officials confiscated a large painting that a Boston Herald reporter, Jules Crittenden, brought back as a souvenir from the war in Iraq, but the artwork is not valuable enough to merit prosecution, a law enforcement official said yesterday.

Crittenden, who was embedded with the US Army's Third Infantry Division to cover the war, arrived from Kuwait on Saturday at Logan International Airport. He declared several souvenirs to Customs officials, and was searched, according to a statement released by the newspaper.

Of interest to Customs agents was a 5-foot painting that was rolled up in a tube, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Ornamental kitchen items were also confiscated. Crittenden told the agents he got the painting from a building on the grounds of one of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces.

--snip--

''He didn't think it was a big deal,'' the official said of Crittenden. ''He said all the embedded reporters were doing it.''

...and soldiers:

FOUR sticky-fingered GIs have been arrested for trying to steal nearly $1 million of the $700 million in cold cash found hidden on the grounds of several estates in Baghdad, Army officials said yesterday.

War update: the hunt for WMDs
Saddam was not the only thing missing. For months before the war began, everyone from Bush on down argued that Saddam's arsenal of biological and chemical weapons was so dangerous that destroying it was worth a war. They laid claim to information so certain that Colin Powell was able to provide graphic details to a U.N. audience in February. Pentagon officials were confident that the quality of their intelligence would lead troops to the illicit stockpiles fairly quickly once U.S. boots were on Iraqi soil. Now they're adjusting the picture: the Pentagon says its soldiers are no more likely to stumble over a weapons cache than top U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix was. "Things were mobile. Things were underground. Things were in tunnels. Things were hidden. Things were dispersed. Now, are we going to find that? No, it's a big country," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week. "The inspectors didn't find anything, and I doubt that we will—what we will do is find the people who will tell us."

However sanguine officials sound in public, in private the pressure is rising. The Pentagon dispatched an entire brigade—3,000 troops—to the search and offered $200,000 bounties for any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) uncovered. Local officers were authorized to make payments of $2,500 on the spot. "The White House is screaming, 'Find me some WMD,'" says a State Department official, adding that the task is one of many suddenly facing the department. Members of the Administration must feel a new bond with Blix, since they are now the ones arguing that these things take time.

More.

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

April 22, 2003

When life hands you lemons make lemonade
WASHINGTON, April 21 — President Bush's advisers have drafted a re-election strategy built around staging the latest nominating convention in the party's history, allowing Mr. Bush to begin his formal campaign near the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and to enhance his fund-raising advantage, Republicans close to the White House say.

--snip--

The president is planning a sprint of a campaign that would start, at least officially, with his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, a speech now set for Sept. 2.

The convention, to be held in New York City, will be the latest since the Republican Party was founded in 1856, and Mr. Bush's advisers said they chose the date so the event would flow into the commemorations of the third anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

In the unlikely event that any Democrat ever had the courage to stand up and ask, "At long last sir, have you no shame?"--I think all they'd get in response is a smirk. "Nope. Not one damn bit." (Story here.)

Signs of the times

A Canadian woman innocently nursing her infant on an airplane--or a dangerous terrorist? You be the judge:

Wolfe began to nurse the baby again, using her own bib and blanket. She says the man got out of his seat, walked over to hers and stood staring at her. She says she approached him afterward and twice asked if he had a problem with her feeding her son.

"He marched past me and to the very back of the cabin to talk to the flight attendant," she wrote. "He told her, 'This woman just assaulted me.' ... He then explained that the asking of two questions by a 'foreign national' in international airspace made him feel the victim of terror and as such he wanted to file an assault charge."

More news you'd never have anticipated
CAMP DOHA, Kuwait -- With little to show after 30 days, the Bush administration is losing confidence in its prewar belief that it had strong clues pointing to the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction concealed in Iraq, according to planners and participants in the hunt.

After testing some -- though by no means all -- of their best leads, analysts here and in Washington are increasingly doubtful that they will find what they are looking for in the places described on a five-tiered target list drawn up before fighting began. Their strategy is shifting from the rapid "exploitation" of known suspect sites to a vast survey that will rely on unexpected discoveries and leads.

Full story.

Talk of the town

Inspired by this site's mention of Arcata, California yesterday, August points us toward the Arcata Eye's police blotter. Some excerpts:

10:51 p.m. In an incident cloaked in ambivalence, a person either suffering with or enjoying a state of "elevated behavior" was reported either screaming or yelling.

8:19 p.m. Someone's Great American RV vacation involved a prolonged stay parked along pristine, scenic and serene Tavern Row.

6:22 a.m. A man said his son had called from a phone booth in the Plaza area saying he was depressed and may want to harm himself. Police checked the area, finding only the usual ambient aroma of free-floating malaise.

6:49 p.m. What was reported as an attack on a Plaza drinking fountain turned out to be a burst pipe. "Fountain is gushing," reads the police narrative. "Attempting to find a valve..."

9:14 a.m. A woman experienced the miracle of the digital age when she discovered someone, somewhere making charges on her credit card. And so the paperwork began.

8:36 a.m. Someone spent the night in the cab of an old Dodge tow truck. Maybe we'll get a song out of it.

Friday, March 28 1:03 a.m. An anti-war vandal defaced various downtown businesses. No immediate comment from the White House.

4:22 a.m. Some kind of weird tangle that originated in Eureka culminated in a death threat in Valley West. Someone had a red car.

5:22 a.m. Another small red car in Valley West, and another report of someone going to "kill" a husband. It all dwindled off into yet another bout of Arcata's favorite pastime - parking lot yelling.


"Juvenile enemy combatants"
The US military has revealed it is holding juveniles at its high-security prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, known as Camp Xray.

The commander of the joint task force at Guantanamo, Major General Geoffrey Miller, says more than one child under the age of 16 is at the detention centre.

However, Maj Gen Miller has revealed little more about their welfare.

Maj Gen Miller says the US is holding "juvenile enemy combatants" at the centre, confirming rumours of children being held.

More here, via Counterspin.

Rumsfeld, cont'd.

Sometimes he's a charmer...and sometimes he's engaging in what Jon Stewart described as "the you kids get off my lawn" school of foreign policy:

A secret Donald Rumsfeld memorandum calling for regime change in North Korea was leaked yesterday, opening a fresh foreign policy split in the Bush administration.

The classified discussion paper, circulated by the defense secretary, appears to cut directly across State Department plans to disarm Kim Jong-il, the North's dictator, through threats leavened by promises that his regime is not a target for overthrow.

The paper does not call for military action against North Korea, but wants the United States to team up with China in pushing for the collapse of Kim Jong-il's bankrupt but belligerent regime, the New York Times reported.

Story.

The many faces of Rumsfeld
WASHINGTON—In some of the most carefully chosen language since Bill Clinton said, "It depends what you mean by the,'' U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday denied the United States plans a long-term military presence in Iraq.

Sort of.

"I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq, discussed in any meeting," said Rumsfeld, denying a New York Times report that — and here's where it gets rich — didn't say the United States is necessarily planning permanent bases in Iraq.

"The likelihood of it seems to me to be so low that it does not surprise me that it's never been discussed in my presence," Rumsfeld said. "To my knowledge.''

Such delicious obfuscation hasn't been relished in Washington since former U.S. president Clinton took a grammatical stand when questioned about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Story.

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

April 21, 2003

Saving Private Lynch
ASIRIYA, Iraq, April 20 — First, there was a huge explosion. Then, the helicopters filled with soldiers landed on the hospital grounds.

They moved through the wards destroying doors with plastic explosives and yelling, "Go! Go! Go!" They stopped and handcuffed everyone they found.

"It was just like a Hollywood movie," Dr. Harith al-Houssona, a witness, said. "But there was louder shouting and scarier bombs."

The rescue of Pfc. Jessica D. Lynch from an Iraqi hospital here on April 2 was described by military officials in Qatar and Kuwait as a picture-perfect pinpoint strike. But a ground-level view of the mission, provided by two Iraqi doctors who witnessed it, suggests that it was a harrowing and complicated operation that included far more than simply saving an injured prisoner of war.

--snip--

Private Lynch was kept alone in a single room, where her nurses would sing her to sleep each night. But as the shelling and shooting intensified near Nasiriya, her doctors moved her to a crowded ward. It was better to hide her in plain sight, they said. After all, as the Americans drew near, Iraqi intelligence agents were certain to take her away.

"When they showed up, I had the nurses tell them she was dead," Dr. Houssona said. "They asked the nurses, `So where is the cadaver?' They told them so many people had died at the hospital that we simply threw the bodies out the door."

Sensing the end was near, the doctors devised a plan. They hired a driver to sneak Private Lynch in an ambulance to an American checkpoint. But when the driver drew near to the American troops, they stopped his car and turned it around before the driver had a chance to speak.

I wonder if those details will make it into the exciting tv movie version? (Full story here.)

Those crazy Californians
This little city (pop.: 16,000) has become the first in the nation to pass an ordinance that outlaws voluntary compliance with the Patriot Act.

"I call this a nonviolent, preemptive attack," said David Meserve, the freshman City Council member who drafted the ordinance with the help of the Arcata city attorney, city manager and police chief.

Story.

What is it good for?

Bob Herbert, in the NY Times:

Last week Mr. Shultz's Bechtel Group was able to demonstrate exactly what wars are good for. The Bush administration gave it the first big Iraqi reconstruction contract, a prized $680 million deal over 18 months that puts Bechtel in the driver's seat for the long-term reconstruction of the country, which could cost $100 billion or more.

Bechtel essentially was given a license to make money. And that license was granted in a closed-door process that was restricted to a handful of politically connected American companies.

When the George Bushes and the George Shultzes were banging the drums for war with Iraq, we didn't hear one word from them about the benefits that would be accruing to corporate behemoths like Bechtel. And we didn't pay much attention to the grotesque conflict of interest engaged in by corporate titans and their government cronies who were pushing young American men and women into the flames of a war that ultimately would pour billions of dollars into a very select group of corporate coffers.

Bechtel, incidentally, is the company in charge of the Big Dig in Boston:

It was spring 1997, only a few weeks after he took an engineering job with the Big Dig's private-sector managers, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, when David Beck realized something was terribly amiss at the then-$10.8 billion project.

The FleetCenter was missing.

Not the actual FleetCenter, of course. The flashy facility had been grabbing headlines since a groundbreaking ceremony on April 28, 1993.

It was the design drawings. Bechtel had failed to depict the 19,600-seat arena in its preliminary designs, which were completed in October 1994, and instead showed an obstacle-free area for contractors to lay utility lines. Bechtel then failed to fix the problem before signing off on the final design drawings three years later.

"I sent out some e-mails, and made a couple of calls, saying, `Hey guys, we have a problem here,' " Beck recalled.

Months passed, and construction work was under way before the designs reflected the FleetCenter's existence, records show.

"It fell through the cracks, if you will," William R. Mayer, a top Bechtel engineer, recently acknowledged.

But even though Bechtel's gaffe cost taxpayers $991,000, the company never paid a penny back for its mistake. And no one from the state or federal government ever asked.

A yearlong Globe investigation found hundreds of similar errors committed by the Big Dig's management company, which is led by one of the world's largest engineering firms, Bechtel Corp. of San Francisco, and includes another industry titan, Parsons Brinckerhoff of New York. The Globe determined that at least $1.1 billion in construction cost overruns, or two-thirds of the cost growth to date, are tied to Bechtel mistakes.

Yet, even as Bechtel's errors helped drive up the Big Dig's cost, the company never paid for any of its mistakes. Instead, it profited. To date, Bechtel has received more than $264 million beyond what its original contracts called for, in part because Bechtel received additional money to fix its errors, records show.

Emphasis added. Be very afraid.

Signs of the times
Politicians generally are happy to pose with a flag. But not the French flag, especially these days.

With the help of a little digital wizardry, the conservative Club for Growth is airing ads showing Republican Sens. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) and George V. Voinovich (Ohio) in proximity to French flags in order to disparage their resistance to President Bush's tax-cut plans.

See, they're thinking that maybe with the war and the reconstruction of Iraq and the Bush Economy in the crapper, maybe it's just not time for a huge tax cut. Therefore they're obstructionists--just like those damned French! (Story here.)

Speaking of that tax cut: you kind of have to admire the single-minded intensity of the Bush team. For all practical purposes, they've always acted as if they've got one term in office and they're going to push through as much of their agenda as they possibly can, and if they get a second term, it's just gravy. If Clinton had been this focused on an equally partisan agenda during his first term, who knows what he might have accomplished. Universal health care, anyone?

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