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May 10, 2003

An interesting day

From a comprehensive rundown of Bush's actions on 9/11:

At approximately 8:48 a.m. on the morning of September 11, 2001, the first pictures of the burning World Trade Center were broadcast on live television. The news anchors, reporters, and viewers had little idea what had happened in lower Manhattan, but there were some people who did know. By that time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service, and Canada's Strategic Command all knew that three commercial airplanes had been hijacked. They knew that one plane had been flown deliberately into the World Trade Center's North Tower; a second plane was wildly off course and also heading toward Manhattan; and a third plane had abruptly turned around over Ohio and was flying back toward Washington, DC.

So why, at 9:03 a.m. - fifteen minutes after it was clear the United States was under terrorist attack - did President Bush sit down with a classroom of second-graders and begin a 20-minute pre-planned photo op? No one knows the answer to that question. In fact, no one has even asked Bush about it.

There's much more, including this:

The threat or threats to Air Force One were announced on September 12, after mounting criticism that Bush was out of sight in Louisiana and Nebraska during most of the day and did not return to Washington until 10 hours after the attacks. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said there was "real and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were targets." [White House, 9/12/01] On September 13, New York Times columnist William Safire wrote - and Bush's political strategist Karl Rove confirmed - that there was an "inside" threat that "may have broken the secret codes [showing a knowledge of presidential procedures]." [New York Times, 9/13/01] Had terrorists hacked their way into sensitive White House computers? Was there a mole in the White House?

No. It turned out the entire story was made up.

As I recall, Safire questioned the White House story in one column before recanting with the quote above a day or two later. It seemed clear to me at the time that he'd been taken out to the woodshed by Karl Rove or whoever takes care of that sort of thing. Later, when it became clear that the story was in fact "made up," I kept waiting for Safire to clarify the matter once and for all, and explain how and why he'd been played by the White House. If he did, I never saw it.


May 09, 2003

Signs of the times
For years the classroom has been the setting for the free expression of ideas, but two weeks ago certain ideas led to two students being taken out of class and grilled by the United States Secret Service.

It happened at Oakland High. The discussion was about the war in Iraq. That's when two students made comments about the President of the United States. While the exact wording is up for debate, the teacher didn't consider it mere criticism, but a direct threat and she called the Secret Service.


"When one of the students asked, 'do we have to talk now? Can we be silent? Can we get legal council?' they were told, 'we own you, you don't have any legal rights,'" Felson says.

"We don't want federal agents or police coming in our schools and interrogating our children at the whim of someone who has a hunch something might be wrong," Lopez says.


Stop me if you've heard this one

According to J.D. Power and Associates' survey of consumers who have purchased a new vehicle within the last ninety days, Hummers rank last in consumer satisfaction.

Main complaint? Oh, how I wish I had a drumroll. Wait for it:

Excessive fuel consumption.


The poor darlings. How could they possibly have foreseen this unanticipated drawback?

Creating jobs and fostering economic growth needs to be our No. 1 national priority

The San Diego Union and the San Francisco Chronicle both get suckered by GOP Team Leader astroturf (scroll down on both pages). If you live in either area, you ought to let them know they've been played, by Steven Zasueta and Joyce Lemmon, respectively.

Note to newspaper editors: I'm one guy with no staff and a bunch of deadlines, and I still manage to spot this stuff. Why don't you just assign someone to keep an eye on the GOP Team Leader site, to save yourselves this kind of embarassment? (Hint: anyone can sign up to become a "Team Leader.")

Peering behind the curtain
But if the bizarro nature of Limbaugh’s attack was sui generis, the sheer viciousness — the implication that Democrats, liberals, and anyone else who gets in the way of the conservative juggernaut is cowardly, unscrupulous, and unpatriotic — has become a staple of the modern Republican Party.

Indeed, the Republican Attack Machine is now such an entrenched part of the political landscape that it no longer seems remarkable — until you stop and think about the corrosive effect it has on our political discourse. And few have benefited from its toxic rhetoric as much as George W. Bush.

From a piece by Dan Kennedy which is well worth your time.

Feel reassured?

Cheney on running for re-election:

"I've got a doc with me 24 hours a day who watches me very carefully. There's one outside there now," ," he added by way of reassurance, pointing to a nearby door. "He's part of the entourage who support me. The president has one and I have one. So everything looks good to go."

As rallying cries go, it was less than inspiring. Particularly as the bionic vice-president has other flaws as a running mate. In polls, Americans appear evenly divided over whether to trust him or not. His recent past as chief executive at the Halliburton oil services company at a time when it dabbled in questionable accounting makes him an embodiment of America's corporate ills.


All Fox, all the time

The media landscape isn't exactly pretty right now, but it's about to get a lot worse.

On June 2, the Federal Communications Commission intends to lift restrictions on media ownership that could allow your local newspaper, cable provider, radio stations, and TV channels all to be owned by one company. The result could be the disappearance of the checks and balances provided by a competitive media marketplace -- and huge cutbacks in local news and reporting. Good, balanced information is the basis for our democracy. That's why we're asking that: "Congress and the FCC should stop media deregulation and work to make the media diverse, competitive, balanced, and fair."

The politicians think that no one cares about this stuff except paid lobbyists. This is one of those situations where a couple thousand emails could really make a difference. So go sign the petition, now. Really. Go.

Saddam/Al-Qaeda link discovered -- in a NYC courtroom

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Greg at The Talent Show does a nice analysis of of a federal judge's decision (link via The Smoking Gun) that Saddam was in cahoots with Bin Laden.

Based in large part on simply accepting the position of those in power, this ruling displays all the judicial courage of letting Shaq stand in the 3-second area for five seconds, take six steps with the ball, and knock over the defender with his kiester. You see wrong things long enough, you just don't notice them anymore...


May 08, 2003

Visual aid: Bush tax cut = handout to rich

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

In case you have any lingering doubts about whether the Bush tax cut will unfairly benefit the rich, Rep. Henry Waxman's office has created this chart, posted at Gorilla-a-gogo, which (along with a whole bunch of other stuff you'll like) also provides this link to download Waxman's full report.

Go. Now. Go look at this chart. Mandatory viewing. Chart chart chart.

(Update) Alert reader Cynthia points out the above should read, more accurately, "dividend tax cut." What I meant, but not what I said, so there it is. Thanks!

Astroturf update

The latest GOP Team Leader astroturf message noted here has begun to show up in newspapers, specifically:

The Gallitin News Examiner (Gallatin, TN)
The Glasgow Daily Times (Glasgow, Kentucky)

Bush's brain
The cause of the war in Iraq was not just about Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction or Al Qaeda links to Iraq. Those may have been the stated causes, but every good lie should have a germ of truth. No, this was mostly a product of Rove's usual prescience. He looked around and saw that the economy was anemic and people were complaining about the president's inability to find Osama bin Laden. In another corner, the neoconservatives in the Cabinet were itching to launch ships and planes to the Mideast and take control of Iraq. Rove converged the dynamics of the times. He convinced the president to connect Hussein to Bin Laden, even if the CIA could not.

This misdirection worked. A Pew survey taken during the war showed 61% of Americans believe that Hussein and Bin Laden were confederates in the 9/11 attacks.

Read the rest.

Fear factor

From the International Herald Tribune:

PARIS Foreign ministers of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations met in Paris on Monday to affirm that terrorism remains a "pervasive and global threat." Just three days earlier, the State Department had announced that terrorism is at its lowest level in 33 years.

One wonders if anything would have changed had that news reached the G-8 foreign ministers. The war against terrorism, like the war against Iraq, functions in all but total indifference to facts.

An unnamed "senior Bush administration official" told the press last weekend that he would be amazed if weapons-grade plutonium or uranium were found in Iraq. It was also unlikely, he said, that biological or chemical weapons material would be found. He said that the United States never expected to find such a smoking gun.

What was the Iraq war all about then? The official said that what Washington really wanted was to seize the thousand nuclear scientists in Iraq who might in the future have developed nuclear weapons for Saddam Hussein. He described them as "nuclear mujahidin."

The preventive war, according to this redefinition, was not directed against an actual problem, but one that might have appeared in the future.


Now, in an official report few will read, or are expected to read, their government admits that terrorism is at its lowest level in three decades, and that the actual risk it poses is statistically negligible. At the same time, the same government tells them they must live in fear of "appalling crimes" and mass destruction. Where is this leading Americans?

Tinfoil hat time

The Bush Administration: dedicated to fulfilling your most paranoid suspicions!

They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal—a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. By last fall, the operation rivalled both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon’s own Defense Intelligence Agency, the D.I.A., as President Bush’s main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda. As of last week, no such weapons had been found. And although many people, within the Administration and outside it, profess confidence that something will turn up, the integrity of much of that intelligence is now in question.

The director of the Special Plans operation is Abram Shulsky, a scholarly expert in the works of the political philosopher Leo Strauss. Shulsky has been quietly working on intelligence and foreign-policy issues for three decades; he was on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Com-mittee in the early nineteen-eighties and served in the Pentagon under Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle during the Reagan Administration, after which he joined the Rand Corporation. The Office of Special Plans is overseen by Under-Secretary of Defense William Luti, a retired Navy captain. Luti was an early advocate of military action against Iraq, and, as the Administration moved toward war and policymaking power shifted toward the civilians in the Pentagon, he took on increasingly important responsibilities.

W. Patrick Lang, the former chief of Middle East intelligence at the D.I.A., said, “The Pentagon has banded together to dominate the government’s foreign policy, and they’ve pulled it off. They’re running Chalabi. The D.I.A. has been intimidated and beaten to a pulp. And there’s no guts at all in the C.I.A.”



May 07, 2003

Playing With The Big Toys

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The White House has acknowledged:

President Bush's dramatic arrival on an aircraft carrier off San Diego last week wasn't necessary after all. He simply wanted to experience the thrill of a military jet's tailhook landing.

LA Times story here, Washington Post story here, and Ari Fleischer's story here.

New And Improved! Less Saddam, but all the Baath you know and love!

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

More on how the U.S. is using Saddam's Baath party members to maintain order in Iraq.

Here there be dragons

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

30,000 people in Ecuador are suing ChevronTexaco for dumping over 18 billion gallons of polluted water, plus about 1.5 Exxon Valdez' worth of oil, in the area near Lago Agrio over roughly a 20-year period.

One study found local cancer rates twice as high as in the nation's capital, and increases in respiratory problems, low birth weights, and other complications are reported by local residents. Oil company scientists, however, dismiss the data, and oil company lawyers say some of the damage may have been caused by other activities.

Oil company philosophers, incidentally, usually insist that objective reality is an illusion, and oil company geographers often claim that the world is a flat disk, surrounded by dragons. We'll have to see what the Ecuadorean courts decide.

Back here in the U.S., you'd figure Antonin Scalia as firmly pro-dragon.

Looting The Way The Pros Do It

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Today's LA Times is just chock full o' hell.

Several readers have noted the front-page story about how former Defense Policy Board chairman and influential pro-war White House advisor Richard Perle has been giving seminars on ways to profit from possible wars discussed by the very defense board he sits on.

Further down in the story, we find that Conrad Black, the Rupert Murdoch of Canada, also owns a company which has millions invested in a Perle-managed fund.

So: we've got a guy advising Bush to pursue war, positioned to profit from war, helping other people do the same -- including a guy who owns a large block of hawkish media, which in turn drums up pubilc support for war.

You almost have to admire how nicely that works, in the same way you might marvel at the paint job on a cruise missile, just before it hits your village.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Planet Earth) is asking the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate Perle's conflicts of interest. Conyers is also asking Rumsfeld to turn over Perle's "ethics statement," where such things are supposed to be disclosed. Rumsfeld, of course, is refusing to release Perle's ethics statement.

Perhaps Perle simply wrote the word "none" in big letters.

Lots of people also think Saddam was involved in 9-11

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Pointed out by alert reader G. Tiguh, from yesterday's Variety magazine:

The Hours, which was nominated for 9 Oscars and won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, has grossed about $41 million worldwide since its release.

Kangaroo Jack, about a sunglasses-wearing marsupial, generally considered one of the worst films of the last several years, has grossed about $66 million.

The only hopeful note I can see: A Mighty Wind has still done twice the business of The Real Cancun.

Although the combined talents of Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, et al have still done just one-tenth the business as a kangaroo in sunglasses.


May 06, 2003

The truth can set us free... eventually

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Since the White House is trying to stonewall the release of the 900-page Congressional report on 9-11, you might want to viddy this fine Bulletin of Atomic Scientists article on the workings of the investigation behind it -- particularly in light of previous similar exercises like the Church, Pike, and Rockefeller committees of the 1970s, whose success can be imagined simply by pondering the very concept of a Rockefeller investigating the abuse of power.

You can find a few chunks from last year's inquiry at the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence site. (You have to scroll down past about 50 non-clickable entries marked "Closed Hearing" until you eventually find unclassified excerpts from the fraction of testimony our government considers fit for the ears of a media which will ignore it anyway.)

This all shouldn't be confused with the still-rolling National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States, whose original head was to be -- until the outcry forced Bush to retract this middle finger in the faces of 9-11 families -- Henry Kissinger.

This panel has a working total budget of just $12 million, meaning that the GOP has budgeted four times as much money to investigating Bill Clinton's sex life than the ambush murders of about 3000 of our fellow Americans.

This White House is all about priorities.

Bill O'Reilly's Forefathers

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The U.S. Senate has released 4,232 pages of transcripts of closed-door hearings held by Sen. Joe McCarthy half a century ago.

It turns out that standing up to the dictator-wannabe was the best defense. If he thought you could make him look bad, he wouldn't call you into a public session. My favorite excerpt from the L.A. Times story:

Clarence Hiskey, a chemist summoned to a June 1953 hearing, told McCarthy, "I don't think you understand the whole purpose of the 5th Amendment, senator. That amendment was put into the Constitution to protect the innocent man from just this kind of star chamber proceeding you are carrying on."

Imagine somebody saying that to John Ashcroft these days.

Better yet, imagine hundreds of thousands of people saying it.

The U.S. Department of Art & Technology

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

What does one even call this? A web installation? A conceptual Internet piece? Whatever. It's just cool.

Link found while wandering around Fark.

Must Have Been Some Sort of Language Barrier

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The Memory Hole, whose blog I highly recommend, notes that the AP misreported the contents of a large Iraqi protest banner, turning "we'll kick you out" into "we'll kill you."

The error was repeated without correction in dozens of newspapers, even though photos of the banner were on the newswire along with the story.

Here's the best part: the banner was in carefully-printed, crystal-clear English.

We won't be able to post much for a few hours. I have a busy day, and Tom is in Washington, receiving his Robert F. Kennedy journalism award for extra-nifty cartooning, which he's too modest to mention a second time.

You could do worse things than rummage the Memory Hole for a while. There are a dozen things there worth your time.


May 05, 2003

GOP astroturf alert

From the concerned citizens at GOPTeamLeader.com:

Contact Print Media and Television Stations Write News Editors in Support of President's Jobs & Growth Plan

Creating jobs and fostering economic growth needs to be our number one national priority. President Bush recognizes this and has delivered a jobs and growth plan that will create 1.4 million new jobs in the next two years. Some in Congress want to reduce or cut President Bush's plan and in so doing, reduce the number of jobs created. That's hundreds of thousands of jobs fewer than the 1 million jobs the stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives would create.

12 Senate Democrats understood the important impact tax relief has on growing our economy when President Bush's tax relief was passed into law. Why are Senate Democrats ignoring their previous support for tax relief and its economic impact? They should vote with President Bush and give the economy the boost it needs. It's the right thing to do to grow the economy.

This one just went up a couple of days ago. No Google hits on it yet, but give it a couple of days, and I'm sure it will start showing up in newspapers across the country.

Common ground

My conservative friend John Leo notes that freedom of speech shouldn't be a left/right issue--and, to his credit, discusses the case of Brett Bursey:

If you are worried about the state of free speech in America, consider the case of longtime protester Brett Bursey. Last October the 54-year-old Bursey, carrying an antiwar sign, was arrested at Columbia Metropolitan Airport in South Carolina during a visit by President Bush. He was on public property at the time but was charged with trespassing because he was outside the zone established for demonstrators that day. The zone was on the edge of a highway, a half-mile away from the president, where neither Bush nor the media were likely to notice.


Serious discussion about the rights of protesters is out of fashion right now, partly because the media prefer to focus on the low-level complaints of antiwar celebrities. But there are several troubling trends, among them what seems to be a policy of more and quicker arrests, the practice of banishing protesters to faraway sites, and a tactic that Jonathan Turley of George Washington University's law school calls trap-and-arrest.


Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming

A report from a reader in Ohio:

I'm a graduate student here at Kent State, and I'm a touch shocked and alarmed at what the weekend has brought to this little town.

First, as you may or may not realize, May 4th is the yearly commemoration of the shootings back in 1970. Fittingly, the campus anti-war movement scheduled a rally for Sunday to follow the normal ceremony... which was of course denied for "safety reasons." (What, the ROTC on maneuvers this weekend?)

Then, as the weekend rolls around, the town falls under martial law. Saturday and Sunday afternoon, access to the campus is severely restricted (think police officers guarding all of the roads on campus). Kent Ohio is, literally, a 15 minute drive from east to west. In 5 minutes on the road Saturday night, I see 5 police cars (do we even HAVE 5 police cars in this po-dunk town?), 2 of which have pulled an offending vehicle off the road. Add to this an inexplicable raid on a townhome complex that evening...

Finally, the big day comes, and somewhere between 100 and 200 armed police, many in full riot gear, meet the relatively few protesters (I can't find an estimate of how many anywhere...) who decided to assemble anyway, under belief that the first ammendment actually means something. 12+ arrests insue (add these 12 to the 7 already arrested in the past month for peaceful protests). One individual who was arrested was sitting in the parking lot in which students were gunned down in 1970, sitting beside one of the monuments to the deceased. Just sitting there.

I'm not going to say that the protesters were completely well behaved--some were not. But 200 ARMED police in riot gear at a peace demonstration here at Kent State? Did someone lose their mind, or is it just me?

Perhaps I'm just overreacting. Perhaps. But why didn't any of this make the evening news? I've only found 3 local Ohio news links to the story... and, let me tell ya, I was more than a little afraid of "the law" this weekend. Welcome to America.

(Update) More here. (Ironically, when I clicked the link, there was an ad at the top for...the National Guard.)

Advice to Democratic hopefuls

From blogger Digby:

We could try doing what the Republicans do. Say the words fraud, Enron and Bush in the same sentence over and over and over again until they are inextricably linked in the minds of half of the population. It worked with terrorism, Saddam and 9/11.

Try it, it's fun: Fraud, Enron, Bush! Fraud, Enron, Bush!

(Update) More suggestions, from Michael Tomasky.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee made an announcement on April 21 that is in every way more offensive and shocking than any idiocy that tumbled out of Santorum's mouth. For the entire history of the two-party system in this country, the parties have had a gentlemen's agreement that the conventions will take place before Labor Day, with the real, head-to-head campaigning to commence thereafter. But as we know very well, we are no longer dealing with gentlemen. So now the Republicans announce that they are going to meet in New York City about three miles from Ground Zero as near to the anniversary of the tragedy as possible. And they in essence acknowledge, discreetly but quite openly, that the purpose is to squeeze as much political gain out of the attacks, and the national-security issue, as they can.


Here's what the Democrats could do, but probably won't:

One: As many Democratic senators as possible -- and it has to be senators; House members don't get press coverage, so they don't really matter -- stand together at a press conference and denounce this rancid politicization of tragedy. Maybe Hillary Clinton can round up that guy from the international firefighters' union who has become such a supporter of hers, and she and Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) can persuade some survivors of 9-11 victims to join them. Fifteen senators and a half-dozen family members would amount to a critique of a different order than a press statement you have to seek out on the party's Web site.

Two: Announce that, because the Republicans have tossed 150 years of history and decorum out the window, Democrats are reconvening their own convention committee and exploring the possibility of rescheduling their convention for late August.

Three: Get really creative and declare that the era of the convention is over -- which is something we've all known to be true for about 20 years anyway -- and then announce that they're not even having a convention in the traditional sense. Maybe a mini, two-day gathering, so the nominee can make his speech with network coverage. But otherwise, take the money saved and spend it more wisely on other things, especially as they're running against a guy who destroyed another agreed-upon tradition (albeit only 30 years old this time) by refusing to abide by established spending limits and who will therefore have "more money than God," as the Republicans have lately become fond of saying. (Odd locution for such pious types, no?)

Four: Plan, or encourage others to plan, a serious, thoughtful, humble, dignified series of counter-events for the week the Republicans are in New York that show how real Americans -- Republicans who wish to participate included -- commemorate somber occasions.

I'm pretty sure some variation on that last will occur whether the Democrats have anything to do with it or not. By holding their convention in New York City near the anniversary of 9/11, Republicans are quite clearly exploiting gruesome tragedy for partisan political gain, and I do not believe this will go unremarked upon. New Yorkers are not known for keeping their opinions to themselves.

In short, Karl Rove's brilliant convention-in-New-York strategy could backfire, especially if enough people focus on the heart of the matter: the Republicans are coming here to dance on the graves of three thousand New Yorkers.

Please Panic Responsibly

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

SARS is yet to kill a single person in the entire United States. Exactly 56 people have gotten sick.

And yet folks in cities without a single SARS case are reportedly afraid even to shake hands with Chinese people, visit Chinatowns, or even eat in Chinese restaurants.

As a public service, here are a few other things Cipro-hoarding duct-tapers can freak out about, too:

Chynna Phillips
Playing Chinese Checkers
Eating things off of china plates in general
Seeing the movie "Chinatown"
David Bowie ("China Girl")
Pekingese dogs
"Kung Fu" reruns
The Wu Tang Clan
Mandarin oranges
Feng Shui

I'm not mocking the virus, anybody who's sick, or the intensity of the need to cure it. SARS is a coronavirus, and a particularly robust one at that. It's hard to kill. And the outbreak is, indeed, really bad in China -- in China, often in poor, outlying provinces, where the health and sanitation systems simply ain't what you've got at, say, Motel 6 in Des Moines.

I'm mocking the panic. Seriously. Check out the CDC's safety recommendations. They don't even bother with hand hygiene unless you're taking care of a SARS patient yourself.

I live in a city where the daily flow of humanity to and from serious SARS areas numbers in the thousands. And I'm a total weenie, honest. If there was good reason to freak, I would. There ain't.

If you're still worried, go ahead, wash your hands a lot and keep them away from your face. Also, try not to move to the Amoy Gardens apartment complex in Hong Kong, at least until they get some new pipes. And don't lick Mongolia.

That's pretty much it.

Meanwhile, you're probably more likely to be done in by John Ashcroft personally coming to your door, hauling you away to Camp X-Ray, and bludgeoning you with a rolled-up copy of Patriot II, while Antonin Scalia cackles madly in the middle distance.

And of the two, frankly, I know which one I'm more concerned about.

OK, bad idea, wait, I didn't mean it, whoa, hey, um... oooh. Sorry.

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Lots of U.S. newspapers are reporting the uncovering of mass graves in Iraq, containing bodies of rebels killed in 1991 by Saddam Hussein's forces.

And rightly so. What Saddam did was positively horrible. Absolutely.

There's just one little detail, not in dispute and until recently widely reported (as, say, here and here and here), now suddenly disappearing from the record:

The 1991 uprisings occurred after encouragement from George I, who called for "the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands", then abandoned the rebellions which followed to their fate.

I'm not arguing any degree to which that makes George I responsible for their deaths. Nope. That's a whole other argument. Heck, the notorious call came during off-the-cuff remarks, and I'm not convinced Twitchy The Elder realized at the time that thousands of desperate Iraqis would interpret his words as a pledge of U.S. support. Still, your average Leader Of The Free World probably should be aware of how what he's saying will be perceived.

My point here: the actual history -- that lots of bodies in these graves got there in part thanks to a perceived promise of U.S. support that never materialized -- is embarrassing as hell, and just might make us question the foresight of our current glorious leader.

And dozens of newspapers seem to have forgotten the point, just when the bodies pop up.

Will The Next Lucky Ticket Holders Please Step Forward...

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The U.S. has created a corporate-style "Advisory Board" to oversee Iraq's oil industry.

After repeated promises about Iraqi resources being administered of, by, and for the Iraqi people, who's the chairman?

Philip Carroll
CEO of Shell Oil, 1993-98
CEO of Fluor, 1998-2002

Carroll, ostensibly retired, will be paid a reported $2 million by Fluor this year, plus another million from Fluor next year. He also owns $25 million in Fluor stock.

Fluor is an engineering and construction firm seeking contracts in Iraq.

I suspect Fluor is gonna do OK for a while.

(update) This morning's L.A. Times has a nicely non-doublethink story on the current situation in postwar Iraq, which I sum up for you in one word: yikes.


May 04, 2003

They Don't Know What's Art, But They Know What They Like

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This is slightly old news, but I hadn't seen it.

The ever-art-loving Emo has forwarded me more reportage on American priorities in Iraq.

While the U.S. apparently didn't have the spare manpower to plunk a tank and a couple of soldiers in front of the repositories of some of humankind's greatest antiquities, they did have enough spare guys to chip away an unflattering mural of Bush I from the floor of the Al Rashid hotel.

If people who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it... I don't even want to think about what happens when people destroy the past.


As it turns out, the Bennett's-not-a-hypocrite-because-he-never-criticized-gambling dog may not hunt after all. He may not have said anything personally, but the organization of which he is a director, Empower America, has been on the case:

Empower America opposes the proliferation of casino gambling, and its co-chair, Kemp, recently lambasted lawmakers who "pollute our society with a slot machine on every corner."

The group also recently published an "Index of Leading Cultural Indicators" that reported 5.5 million American adults as "problem" or "pathological" gamblers.

Via skippy.

I'm sure glad we went to war to protect ourselves from WMDs

I feel safer already:

NEAR KUT, Iraq, May 3 -- A specially trained Defense Department team, dispatched after a month of official indecision to survey a major Iraqi radioactive waste repository, today found the site heavily looted and said it was impossible to tell whether nuclear materials were missing.

Can you say "dirty bomb"?

An addendum to Bob's post

I won't ask why Bob was spending his time plugging "Rumsfeld" into eBay--we all have our little idiosyncracies--but once he drew it to my attention, I had to go look up the Rumsfeld watch. Here's the seller's description:

Donald Rumsfeld was the youngest Secretary of Defense in history, serving under President Ford from 1975-77. Now he's back again but with even greater responsibility. With al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Iraq and North Korea all targeting the United States most agree that he's the right man for this most critical job in government. If you support him show your support by wearing this watch and if you work for the Department of Defense or know someone who does, owning this watch should be mandatory. Get it for yourself or as a very special gift.

Okay, then.

Through the looking glass

I try not to venture through the mirror into Andy-land too often, but via Atrios, I see that Andrew Sullivan has run up against the with-us-or-against-us crowd:

OKAY, OKAY: Like Glenn Reynolds, I'm besieged by people who think I'm wrong about the tone of Bush's campaign speech last night. Fair enough. It's a subjective judgment call, and I certainly respect those who took it otherwise. But what amazes me is the vituperative tone, and how many then accuse me of being anti-war, anti-Bush and anti-American. Me? Are politics so polarized that you have to either engage in hagiography or hatred of our leaders? Is there nothing permissible in between?

The irony, of course, is that Sullivan has been doing his damndest for the past several years to polarize politics, to blot out all grey tones until nothing is left but nice, clear black and white divisions. Sontag Award, Raines Award, Other Despicable Liberal Writer Award, blah blah blah. No nuance allowed. You're either with Andy or you're part of the Degenerate Left.

And now he's shocked that the audience he has attracted with such rhetoric has little use for nuance. That distant, lonesome wail you hear, Andy? It's the Clue Train, and it pulled out of the station long before you ever got through the turnstile.

* * *

As long as we're visiting Andy-land, here he is defending Bill Bennett:

This invasion of his privacy and attempted smearing of his character have been perpetrated for transparently political reasons and are yet another sign of how our culture is making it increasingly difficult for any actual living, breathing, fallible human being to function in public life, without profound personal costs.

Oh, god, it just makes your head hurt. Is it even worth pointing out that Bill Bennett is one of the primary architects of the strategy of demonizing human fallibility for political gain?

And then there's this:

Is it relevant that Bennett is a "moralizer"? Not in the slightest. He hasn't moralized against the alleged "vice" he has engaged in; in fact, the record shows the opposite.

Well, yes, clearly the record now shows the opposite. But leaving that aside--it's okay for Bennett to scold others for behavior in which he does not engage (as far as we know), as long as he does not specifically scold them for the vice in which he himself indulges to excess? (And remember, this is a man who accrued an estimated eight million dollars in gambling losses over the course of a decade.) If it turned out Bennett had fifteen mistresses in twelve states, would that be okay, if in his sermonizing he had never specifically mentioned adultery?

(Update) Josh Marshall weighs in:

I cannot think of a public figure who has been exposed over some private embarrassment in recent years -- save a few political allies, perhaps -- for whom a self-satisfied Bennett has not happily hopped on to Larry King or Tim Russert or Chris Matthews and droned on with shallow, grandstanding moralism, eagerly wrenching this or that person's private embarrassment into some cheap political point.

This isn't a matter of payback or two wrongs making a right, just treating Bennett to the standard he's made a living off setting for everyone else.


The other point made in Bennett's defense is that he may have been an offensive sermonizer on all sorts of vices, but this is the one vice he left alone. So you can hardly charge him with hypocrisy. To me it's seems just the opposite. Bennett goes off on every 'vice' there is, save the one he seems to indulge. That seems very much like cutting himself the break he cuts no one else. I'm sure everyone would like to have their own weakness excepted from the list. But which of Bennett's other targets gets that chance?


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