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June 14, 2003

We won the war in Afghanistan, too

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I've been going on for a while here about the Taliban that wouldn't die. Here's more:

This week, Afghan leaders blamed the recent suicide bombing in Kabul on "foreign terrorists" in areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

That's also the very region where Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf just traveled to plead with local citizens to embrace "a progressive, civilized version of Islam."

Unfortunately, recent local elections were reportedly rigged to favor a pro-Taliban faction which has now installed Islamic law, pretty much the version they had in Afghanistan.

Which means, in case you work in the White House and thus cannot follow the obvious: Taliban fighters may have been killed, but the Taliban movement was not destroyed by any stretch. It has simply relocated to northwest Pakistan, where it has long thrived.

This is the same chunk of turf, remember, where "Anti-U.S." isn't just a political opinion, it's an entire musical genre.

Everybody's starting to see that the war in Iraq ain't over yet.

The war in Afghanistan ain't over yet by a long stretch, either.

Win some, lose some

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Alaskan gun owners got good news and bad news this week:

On one hand, they're about to get the nation's most sweeping law permitting the carrying of concealed weapons.

On the other hand, a new bill is about to limit their right to bait bears.

More on the hunt for Texas Democrats

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The Austin Chronicle continues to follow the evidence that Republicans misused the Homeland Security apparatus for political purposes:

The DPS [Texas Dept. of Public Safety] postings substantiate what DPS officers have said: They were taking orders from Republican officials, who were nowhere near as "hands off" as Craddick and Perry have claimed.

Even more alarming are the materials suggesting that other, as yet unidentified, personnel were also involved in the search: According to notes provided to the DPS by Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, a couple of legislators' spouses were apparently followed or watched by plainclothes operatives of whom the DPS claims no knowledge.

Whatever the complete and unredacted story of the state's pursuit of the absent House Democrats, the surviving DPS documents make clear it is yet to be fully revealed.

So far, Tom Ridge, the White House, the FBI, and the GOP leadership are all stonewalling requests for additional documents.

So there's this, the WMDs, and the 9-11 investigations, all being blocked or covered up or otherwise sabotaged at once.

They can't do this forever if we don't let them. Keep pressuring the media to push for the truth. Keep pressuring the Democrats to keep pressuring the Republicans. One of these days, and soon, when the dam breaks, we're gonna get one hell of a show.

The Cornerstone Of Shamelessness

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A bunch of you have written in to say that the dead-tree NY Times says straight-out that the GOP intends to screw around with the timing of things so that, and I quote from your emails:

Goal Is To Lay Cornerstone at Ground Zero During GOP Convention

The Times online version of the story you guys are sending me to says nothing about it, but I also gather from other emails that it did for a while, then got changed.

Bouncing around other blogs, that seems to be the case... and I find that Lambert over at Atrios has a link to this Daily News story, which confirms at least that such a gratuitous, politicized, appalling attempt to capitalize on residual grief has indeed at least been hypothetically floated.

Which would be justified, since we all know that the WTC victims were Republican voters, and Saddam was behind it all, and Iraq's a democratic country now.

If any of you guys have a scan of the paper or a screengrab of the online version while it contained said text, and can send it along for the rest of the class to share, I'd be obliged.

Update: alert reader Nasir points out the Google cache so far still contains the exact GOP-embarrassing phrasing, above, which was deleted from the article with no explanation. Maybe you'll want to send the Times a letter to the editor and ask why it was changed...

Update #2: Different Strings is all over this, with screengrabs and commentary.

Update #3: Mike in Hoboken was kind enough to send a scan of the paper Times headline. Couldn't be plainer. Ask the Times why they changed it!

Why does George W. Bush hate America?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Here are Bush's own words, January 30, 2002:

I want to expand the size of AmeriCorps by 200,000 volunteers, many of whom will end up teaching in inner-city schools.

And yet today's Washington Post brings us this lovely headline:

AmeriCorps Officials Are Told of Cutbacks Local Directors Expect 'Devastating' Reductions in Program Bush Pledged to Expand

And in the story itself, this tidbit says it all:

Alan Khazei, the founder and chief executive of Boston-based City Year, one of the oldest and most highly praised community programs, said the national office has told him "only three of our 10 programs will be funded. It is devastating. Basically, national service in America has been wiped out or reduced to a shell this week."

Our GOP at work: hundreds of billions of dollars for tax cuts. Not even a fraction of one percent of that for a set of programs which encourage public service while actually improving the lives of poor and working people.

Memo to Iraqi civilians: when Bush says he really, really, really cares about your kids and about rebuilding your nation's infrastructure... look no further than his own backyard to see if his words mean a goddamned thing.


June 13, 2003

Trading With The Enemy

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This is also an observation that should have been posted yesterday, had space-time been a less frantic continuum, but here it is:

You gotta love Colin Powell calling out the vigorously evil junta of Myanmar (better known to most people who actually like the place as Burma) and the Senate voting 97-1 to slap trade sanctions on the country, since right-thinking people wouldn't dream of doing business with these criminals.

Other than Dick Cheney, of course.

Who also did business with Iraq.

And still gets paychecks from Halliburton.

Whose subsidiary's sweetheart contract in post-war Iraq has overrun its initial cost estimate by 140 percent (if you do the math) in just the last month.

Which you and I ultimately pay for...

The march of progress

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

I'm playing catch-up here, but I'll have a bunch more very shortly, while our host is off at his Undisclosed Location.

Some stuff from the last day or two I love:

The Sierra Club has blasted the Ford Motor Company, noting that the Model T got better mileage than the current Ford Explorer.

Yeah, but you never see a Model T driving up the side of a mountain, neither. Whereas the Explorer... oh, wait.

Meanwhile, hydrogen fuel cell technology, the only thing about President Bush's energy plan that doesn't sound like it was designed by crazed Vikings, may actually cause further damage to the ozone layer, since any stray hydrogen would probably go straight up.

I haven't checked, but the Bush health plan probably includes giving blankets to Native Americans...

Update: this piece generated a ton of email saying the risk is placed either too high or too low, and several readers noted that the hydrogen would likely come from Bush's buddies in the existing dirty-energy industries, so the plan's not remotely green. All good. But my favorite feedback came from James in Arizona, who, in addition to praising existing hybrid alternatives already on the road, also points to the Air Car, which is incredibly nifty to look at, whether it works or not.

The perfect-world goal seems to be using electricity (from wind power or something similar, one hopes -- otherwise, you don't exactly save much on pollution) to compress air, which is then used to fuel the car. They claim these things go about 200 miles on a single tank. Yeah, maybe with a couple of skinny Europeans driving. Stick a couple of Browns fans from my hometown in there and see how far you get.

Still, I want one. Of course, I'm also still waiting for moving sidewalks, picture telephones, and bikini-clad alien women in go-go boots. Now, if you'll excuse me from this rant about how the future never comes, I've got cell calls to make and Internet posts to write...

Off the grid

Tom here--I'll be mostly offline for a week or two. Please send links and other blog tips to Bob. Anything else you want to send me, you're better off waiting until I get back.


June 12, 2003

Sparky Comes Alive! Three Days of Penguins and Music

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A whole lot of work went into the Great Big Book of Tomorrow, essentially the cartooning equivalent of a boxed set greatest hits CD collection, as I understand it. (I suggested calling it Sparky Live at Budokan, but what do I know.)

Our host here probably doesn't want to overhype it, but before you start into the stack of stuff I just posted, scroll down or click here for his own comments on its pending release, or just go here or here if you're already jonesing for maximum Blinky.

"I've been put in hell for 18 years"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Eighteeen years after they were first imprisoned, DNA evidence has freed three men falsely convicted of a horrific rape and murder, precisely the type of crime that provokes calls to execute the accused as quickly as possible.

Obviously, if the death penalty had been applied, these guys would never have been released, and their names would never have been cleared. (As it is, the DA is still considering a retrial.) History would simply record them as guilty.

When you hear anybody -- like, say, current appellate court nominee William H. Pryor -- argue that the justice system doesn't execute innocent people, it's worth asking: how does anyone even pretend to know that?

Footnote: While I was working at CSI this past year, I got to know a bunch of the best folks in the forensics field, whom I genuinely like and admire. (A lot of my job boiled down to talking to the real-life guys and figuring out how their work would translate specifically into each episode. Ever wonder precisely how somebody boils a skull? Tap water and a teaspoon of Biz, pretty much...) And they're always the first to tell you that a lot of techniques used just 20 years ago weren't much more than chicken wire and duct tape compared to what we've got now, and even so, not every lab or DA gets the job right. (The ongoing Houston crime lab scandal seems to be growing into exhibit A; all these "reporters" talking Laci Peterson out of some hypothetical concern for justice would do well to spent just ten percent of their time on it.) So if anything, science itself is showing us just how important the whole innocent-until-proven-guilty thing really is.

Second footnote, truly unimportant, but heck: Last week, the Hollywood Reporter said one of my episodes (co-written with Ann Donahue, who deserves most of the credit, honestly) was one of the twelve scripts this year most deserving of an eventual Emmy nomination. Which, plus a quarter, buys one fifteenth of a venti mocha frappe in this town. But still. Kinda neat.

The Bob Graham Charisma Tour 2004

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This is just too good to be true:

Coming next week is "The Bob Graham Charisma Tour 2004," a 10-track CD featuring Graham's long-standing campaign song, "We've Got a Friend in Bob Graham," plus a new Latin-beat, Spanish version called "Arriba Bob" and an ode dedicated to his trademark workdays, "I've Done Every Job, Man."

-- snip --

Other tracks on the CD include "Bob Graham, The ONLY Candidate," to the music of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer;" "My Beautiful Adele," a ballad dedicated to Graham's wife; "G.W. Bushonomics, Supply Side, Economic Blues;" and "My Black and White Friend," a ditty about the replacement cow valve used in Graham's recent double-bypass heart surgery.

A ditty about the replacement cow valve used in double-bypass heart surgery.

I'm gonna call up a girl right now and set the lights down real low.


June 11, 2003

Your daily Blix fix

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

In today's Guardian, Hans Blix gets loose:

"They would say I was too compliant with the Iraqis when in reality [they meant] I was not compliant enough with what the US wanted. I have never criticised the US or UK for lack of sincerity." Mr Blix tried to focus on the reports for his bosses at the UN security council, pointing out that they were always "happy" with him. Even now, he refuses to be explicitly drawn on just what he feels, insisting he is not "frustrated, bitter or betrayed".

But, despite his apparent equanimity, he cannot conceal his anger at the constant vilification by "bastards" who "planted nasty things in the media". "Not that I cared very much," he insists. "It was a bit like a mosquito bite in the evening that is still there in the morning, an irritant."

George W. Bush's economic magic pixies

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Hundreds of you guys apparently downloaded the first two Kucinich animations, so here's a third (Yahoo sign-in required), free to download, save, and email at will.

Update: wow. Popular. OK, you can now also download the animations here with no sign-up, but if you want to share with friends, please email the files themselves, not just the link. They're each no bigger than a single medium-large jpg. You're also welcome to upload the files to file-sharing services. That's what they're for.

These are way popular, it turns out. I'll post them on my own site, too, later tonight, to spread out the load. If you've put them on yours, please send me the URL and I'll put that link up on my site, too, so we can share the bandwidth burden. Thanks!

The IRS weighs in on campaign finance reform

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

This one's a couple of days old, but it matters: the IRS has widened a loophole, allowing clever candidates to dodge campaign finance laws by laundering contributions through specially-constructed charitable groups.

Of course, there's an added bonus: such contributions will now also be tax-deductible.

Still just as likely to find the WMDs

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

In case you missed it, U.S. military units hunting for WMDs have run out of places to look, and so are now being assigned to other duties or simply given time off.

The final score: 230 sites visited, zero WMDs.

The Defense Intelligence Agency will now send a 1300-person Iraq Survey Group to begin doing "detective work... starting from scratch."

Supporting Our Troops, Three Decades Later, Barely

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The Supreme Court, in a 4-4 deadlock (which thus allowed a lower court ruling to stand), has ruled that Vietnam veterans who believe their recent illnesses were caused by Agent Orange have the right to sue.

I cannot fully imagine how anyone could have thought otherwise, but four freaking Supreme Court Justices apparently can.

There were only 8 votes, incidentally, because Justice Stevens recused himself. Stevens' own son was a Vietnam veteran who died of cancer at age 47.

Zero for 339

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Passenger screening software hasn't led the FBI to arrest a single terrorist, but it has led to 339 people being stopped and questioned -- at San Francisco International Airport alone.

Part of the problem may be that airline reservation software is often based on a phonetic name-indexing system originally devised for the 1880 census, over 120 years ago, and the additional security measures simply don't address this fundamental problem.

At least our high-tech bombs are smart. Oh, wait...

Living in a 3-bedroom bubble

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

According to this New York Times report, accounting questions surrounding the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation "could destabilize [the] housing market."

Perhaps not coincidentally, economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who forecast the NASDAQ crash with remarkable foresight, recently wrote in In These Times that "the housing bubble is perhaps just now reaching its peak."


Catching up on all the scary stuff

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Here are a few items that piled up while I was off doing the not-starving thing for a few days. Most of them speak for themselves.

This first one's creepy, disillusioning, and yet still unsurprising -- precisely like the rest of the news these days:

The ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security says the Bush administration's program to prevent bioterror is in a "dysfunctional state."

Despite a $6 billion plan, they can't yet even receive classified information because the computers aren't secure.

Even better, the relevant department has exactly one microbiologist analyzing the threat full-time.

At long last

After about a year's worth of headaches, hassles and crises, the Great Big Book of Tomorrow is finally at the printer. The official publication date is August, but it should be available late July. It's a kind of mid-career retrospective, with work from all the previous books, a bunch of rarities, a huge color section in the middle, and of course, new cartoons from the first half of the Bush administration. Trust me, there's enough in here to keep you chuckling in the bathroom for weeks.

You can pre-order it here or here.

See, this is the problem with scapegoating the intelligence people

They keep records. And sometimes they get pissed off:

Intelligence officers are holding a "smoking gun" which proves that they were subjected to a series of demands by Tony Blair's staff in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The officers are furious about the accusation levelled by the Leader of the Commons, John Reid, that "rogue elements" are at work in the security services. They fear they are being lined up to take the blame for faulty intelligence used to justify the Iraq war.

The intelligence services were so concerned about demands made by Downing Street for evidence to use against Iraq that extensive files have been built up detailing communications with Mr Blair's staff.

Making predictions in politics is a sucker's game, but I won't be awfully surprised if Blair is looking for other work soon. Which won't be good news for George W.

Grim stats

The Iraq Body Count site estimates the civilian casualties in Iraq so far at somewhere between 5,531 (min) and 7,203 (max). The AP comes up with a lower number today, but reports that it is an incomplete counting at best--which suggests to me that the Iraq Body Count numbers are probably close to accurate:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- At least 3,240 civilians died across Iraq during a month of war, including 1,896 in Baghdad, according to a five-week Associated Press investigation.

The count is still fragmentary, and the complete toll - if it is ever tallied - is sure to be significantly higher.

(Emphasis added.)

Let's try to sort this out

The Washington Post article, quoted by Sullivan in his aptly-named "Idiocy of the Week" column, does in fact give the number of looted items as 33--from the main collection.

On Saturday, a team of U.S. investigators from the Customs Service and State Department released a summary of a preliminary report that concluded that 3,000 pieces were missing. And more importantly, of the 8,000 or so exhibit-quality, world-class pieces of jewelry, statues and cuneiform clay tablets, only 47 were unaccounted for.

Today, Iraqi officials at the museum confirmed the U.S. numbers, with a slight adjustment.

"There are only 33 pieces from the main collections that are unaccounted for," George said. "Not 47. Some more pieces have been returned." Museum staff members had taken some of the more valuable items home and are now returning them.

So the actual number of looted items appears to be 3,033, an inconvenient fact Sullivan only acknowledges near the end of his column--dismissing the three thousand additional missing pieces as "minor objects of limited value." But here's how the International Herald Tribune covered the story on May 24:

PARIS A Unesco survey of Iraq's smashed and looted cultural treasures indicates that 2,000 to 3,000 objects may be missing from the National Museum in Baghdad alone and that the entire contents of the National Library are lost beyond retrieval.

In addition, more than 1,500 modern paintings and sculptures from the city's Museum of Fine Arts are still missing and only 400 have been recovered, according to Mounir Bouchenaki, assistant director general for culture at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"This is a real cultural disaster," said Bouchenaki, who led an international team of experts to Baghdad. "And we will have to redo everything from scratch in rebuilding all these cultural institutions."

He said that earlier reports by U.S. officials that as few as 25 pieces had been lost were "a distortion of reality" because they described only major pieces taken from the public galleries of the museum but not objects in the reserve collections.

"To give a real figure for the losses, we are going to have to draw up an inventory," he said. "Only then will we be able to assess the exact number of objects missing in the museum."

He added: "Nobody has talked about the losses at the Museum of Fine Art, which is a very important one. The National Library is a real disaster. It's gone."

Bouchenaki, an Algerian, is particularly well-placed to assess the damage. An Arab-speaking archeologist, he has worked in the National Museum on several occasions, most recently in 1998 when he helped organize work to install air conditioning and video surveillance in the building.

As one of the readers who brought this to my attention notes:

It's typical of people who have never been behind the scenes in a museum to think that all the good stuff is on display - however, national museums tend to have vast collections that simply can't be displayed all at once. In addition to the 3000 artifacts missing, there are also 1500 paintings missing from their art museum and the national library is, well, gone. There are also are archaeological sites scattered throughout the country that are most likely free-for-alls for looters, and as someone who has worked on an extensively looted site I can only guess at the artifacts and data that are lost for good.

Bottom line? The looting was nowhere near as bad as initally reported, but is still far more extensive than the revisionists would have you believe.

And then there's this--also from the article Sullivan uses to buttress his misleading claims:

Among the missing items is the 5,000-year-old Warka Vase, a three-foot alabaster relief sculpture depicting scenes of everyday life at the dawn of civilization. The vase had been bolted to a podium, Russell said, but looters breached the glass case and ripped the vase from its base.

Also missing is the Warka Face, which, at 3,000 years old, is perhaps the oldest naturalistic sculpture of a woman's face.

"It's gorgeous," Russell said. "Like the best of classical Greek sculpture."

The National Museum will open its doors for a glimpse of its hidden and recovered treasures in July. But now, George and the museum staff toil in dirty rooms filled with swept garbage. The staff is methodically going through the collection's catalogue -- index card by index card -- without benefit of computers, telephones or much outside help.

George said the storerooms "are still a mess; there's shards of artifacts still on the floor." In the main galleries, guards and visitors have stubbed out their cigarette butts on massive stone tablets covered in cuneiform. Broken egg-shaped vessels four feet tall lie in hallways, cracked and dusty.

"Thank God, we were saved from the worst," George said. "But look, these things can never be replaced. That is why they call them priceless."

In other words, even if it were true that "only 33" items had been looted--well, what if the Smithsonian were looted and the "only" thing taken was the Hope Diamond?

And as I keep trying to point out, that still doesn't excuse US negligence in the matter.

Unfortunately, this will be conventional wisdom--Howard Kurtz is already repeating the "only 33" spin uncritically, without even mentioning the 3.000 other looted pieces reported in his own newspaper:

Everyone in journalism makes mistakes, especially routine mistakes – the misspelled name, the mangled title, the wrong date. In this case, though, the press told us that, in a crushing loss for western civilization, 170,000 artifacts were stolen.

The actual number: 33.

Yes, some of the booty was later returned, but 169,967 items? Maybe Don Rumsfeld was right that TV kept showing the same vase being carried away over and over.

I'll bet you dollars to donuts that the self-appointed fact checkers of the blogosphere aren't going to be fact-checking this one. They're going to be too busy promulgating the spin.

I hope my friends at Salon do a follow up on this one. And I hope Kurtz issues a clarification. We'll see, I guess.

Update: via Sullywatch, I see that Salon did post a correction of sorts--in the form of this Joe Conason column, which makes many of the same points as the preceding entry.

Why does Tom Delay hate Americans?

From the Times:

The House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, rejected a demand from the administration that the House pass the Senate bill, which would provide an increased child tax credit to 6.5 million low-income families.

"Ain't going to happen," Mr. DeLay said this afternoon, reiterating his stance that the credits would be approved only as part of a much larger tax-cut bill, an $82 billion package that House Republicans unveiled later in the day and plan to bring to the floor on Thursday.

This is an outrage any way you look at it, but it's worth noting that one of the groups disproportionately affected by this single-minded pursuit of a tax cut for the rich is military familes. So while the servicemember in the family is off in Iraq risking his or her life every day in the maintenance of a war that's supposedly over, the family's back home getting screwed by the Republicans. And if I live to be 100, I will never understand why people think the GOP "supports the troops."


June 10, 2003

Just so you know

I promise I'm not saying this just to pump up sales, but if there's something you've been wanting to buy from the Cafe Press store, you'd be wise to do it sooner rather than later--there's a chance I'm going to have to shut it down soon. I'll explain more later, but I just wanted to give you a head's up.

(Afterthought: just to be clear, nothing's certain here--just wanted to let you know about the possibility in case you really, really had your heart set on that Sparky thong. I have some concerns, which I've relayed, and I'm hoping that things will work out for the best.)

Update: sounds like I'm not the only one with concerns, and it sounds like CP is actively addressing these concerns. So with any luck, they'll make a few changes to their new user agreement and things will just go on as before...


Once again, Time magazine fails to acknowledge that the Thomas Stokes letter from their May 26 issue was in fact GOP astroturf written by operatives of the Republican Party--in effect, a sleazy attempt by the ruling political party of the United States to manipulate public opinion by deceiving magazine and newspaper editors. (Most of you are more than familiar with this by now, but if you're just joining us, the full story is here.)

They've acknowledged the deception in a form response to the three or four hundred emails they've received, but the vast majority of their magazine's readers still have no idea that they were snookered by Republican propagandists. And at this point, I'd have to say, it looks like they have no intention of acknowledging the fact.

So, once again, here's their email (link fixed). If you write them, be firm, but polite. They need to understand that a failure to address this mistake really damages their credibility.

MSNBC wants to know your opinion

"Does it matter if the US finds WMDs in Iraq?"

Let 'em know what you think.

Goofus for President

Missed this one last week, about the Take Back America conference:

"Some of this is very much a reaction to the 2002 election, where our strategists made the tragic mistake of not taking on Bush on the tax cut and on the war," said Paul Begala, a former Clinton strategist and Crossfire co-host. "That's not what a leader does. It's what a busboy does."

Few were making that mistake on Thursday, where each of the candidates got more applause the more they slammed the president. Dean began the day with Wellstone's quip about the democratic wing and immediately went on the attack against Bush. He slammed the tax cut as a "simple attempt to de-fund government." He drew cheers when he asked, "Mr. President, where are the weapons you told us about?" and then mocked his pro-war rivals, saying, "All the Democrats said, 'Ooh, [Iraq] is a clear and present danger.' It is?"


Yet the most impassioned applause of the day was reserved for Kucinich. Introduced by Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America, as "the only vegan in Congress," Kucinich took the stage to John Lennon's "Imagine" and proceeded to conjure the heyday of American progressivism by promising a new version of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. "We're gonna rebuild America's cities, and we're gonna do it with America's steel," he roared, his voice far larger than his elfin frame. In his spellbinding speech, Kucinich laid out a lefty's dream platform: Medicare for all, money pulled out of the Pentagon budget to pay for schools and other domestic programs, and "total nuclear disarmament." He spoke to the crowd's fury over the war in Iraq, getting a screaming standing ovation when he cried, "This war was wrong! This war was fraudulent! We must expose this administration!"

Found that via Lisa at Ruminate This, who notes:

At this meeting of Progressive Dems and another on the West Coast a day earlier, which politicians drove the hearts of the crowd?

Dean and Kucinich.

Remember that.

Just a thought...

The blurb for Sullivan's "Liberal Idiocy of the Week" column over at Salon (you can go find it yourself if you're interested) reads:

It was originally reported that 170,000 priceless artifacts were looted from Iraq's national museum. That number now stands at 33. Will overeager Bush critics issue corrections?

So. Let's put on our thinking caps. Is there anything else, anything perhaps slightly more important, which turns out to have been not quite as initially reported? Such as, say, the WMD's which were the justification for the entire war?

Why anyone continues to take Sullivan seriously is beyond my comprehension as a simple uneducated cartoonist. But it's no wonder he keeps harping on this one-- misdirection is everything. Consider two points: (1) the museum may have been the only goddamned site in Iraq which wasn't looted down to the bare walls, and (2) that was only due to the foresight of the museum officials. If you will forgive me the indulgence of quoting one of my own previous posts:

The fact that the museum's curators managed to hide the majority of the museum's treasures in advance does not make the US indifference to that museum's looting any more ethically palatable. If a police officer stands by and watches a mugger shoot a victim and does nothing to stop it, he's still guilty of negligence even if the victim lives because he happened to be wearing a bulletproof vest.

He's watching

Yes, I know it's heavy-handed. What can I say? I couldn't resist...

(There's a high res version here. Feel free to post it, pass it around--anything you want, as long as it doesn't involve making money.)

Major media scooped by The Onion
NORFOLK, VA—With more than 5,400 jubilant Marines and sailors cheering him on, President Bush landed on the deck of the U.S.S. Harry S Truman in a Navy jet Monday to preside over a historic veterans'-benefits-cutting ceremony.

"Your brave and selfless service to your country will not soon be forgotten," Bush told the recently returned Operation Iraqi Freedom soldiers. "At least, not for another five or ten years."

After congratulating the soldiers on their victory over Saddam Hussein, Bush announced that the new budget passed by the Senate includes a $14.6 billion reduction in veterans' benefits. He then held aloft a pair of oversized scissors and snipped a ribbon bearing the words "Veteran's Benefits."

"No one knows the meaning of the word 'sacrifice' quite like our men and women in uniform," Bush said. "Whether sacrificing their lives or their health coverage, these brave Americans are willing to do whatever it takes to help this nation, and for this I salute them."

More on this exclusive story, from America's finest news source.

The glass is half full

And according to this cheery optimist, we've got a fifty percent chance of surviving the next two decades!

Sometime soon...

...I'm going to be heading off to an Undisclosed Location for a week or two. For various reasons, the timing's a bit uncertain right now, but sometime in the next week or so, this site's going to be pretty much All Bob All The Time for a little while. When that happens, you might as well save your email until I get back--I'm not going to have much time to read any of it. Just so you know.

Free ice cream...

...is a phrase I used to see bloggers use in reference to their own output and complaints about same--i.e., sorry I'm not blogging today, you'll have to wait til tomorrow for your free ice cream.

As if 99% of the net isn't free ice cream. But anyway: I am reminded of this today because this site has apparently earned me some, yes, free ice cream, from True Majority (aka the Ben & Jerry's people), for being one of the top 25 lefty bloggers, or some such. (Got an email, can't find the list on their site, so I'm a bit vague on the details.)

Hell, this keeps up, I might actually turn a profit on this thing. If only in delicious consumables.

(Note to Bob: I'll save some for the next time you're in New York. It'll probably have major freezer burn by then, but it will still be, nonetheless, free ice cream. And you've earned it, by golly.)

Military rule? No problemo, say Americans

As long as we're still free to worship the invisible omniscient superbeing of our choice, that is.

Q: How important is it to you to live in a country where:

1. You can practice your religion freely: 93%

2. There is a judicial system that treats everyone the same: 89%

3. Honest elections are held regularly with a choice of at least 2 political parties: 84%

4. You can openly say what you think and criticize the government: 78%

5. There is economic prosperity: 76%

6. The media can report the news without government censorship: 67%

7. The military is under control of civilian leaders: 45%

Survey here (WARNING: pdf file), also via Billmon.


It's the subject of this week's cartoon. It's also happening more quickly than a weekly cartoonist with a longish lead time can keep up with. The newest effort is the subtle introduction of the word "program":

"Iraq had a weapons program," Bush told reporters during a meeting of his Cabinet. "Intelligence throughout the decade shows they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced that with time, we'll find out they did have a weapons program," Bush said.

Sorry, I don't remember the administration warning us about a potential program--it seems to me they were telling us that Saddam had the weapons and by god was ready to use them if we didn't act right now.

While I'm on the topic, a shout-out is owed to Billmon, whose post on pre-war declarations of certainty provided some (though not all--I do do a little research on mine own occasionally) of the original quotes altered for said cartoon. (I also saw a couple of Billmon's quotes being used on Meet the Press this weekend--is big media actually beginning to pay attention to the left side of the blogosphere?)

Update: via Counterspin, I am led to this entry at Needlenose (a new blog to me) on the same topic. (Personal note: Needlenose also mentions Josh Marshall's and Atrios' role in the downfall of Trent Lott. It's not a big deal, but I'm not sure why this blog never gets any mention when that one comes up. It did, after all, play a small but important role in the affair: due to an alert reader of ours, the third recorded instance of Trent Lott's wistfulness for a Thurmond presidency was made public, an embarrassment which arguably turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back. I chuckled when I saw a Fox News analyst speculating at the time that the DNC must have had an army of interns going over old footage of Lott to find that clip. Of course, even when MSNBC--whose "scoop" on that third bit of tape only occurred because I happened to know somebody working there at the time--even when they were discussing the role of the blogs, in the context of having just aired the tape to which this site had alerted them--they proceeded to credit, yes, Josh Marshall...)

Nail, hit on head


It's long past time for this administration to be held accountable. Over the last two years we've become accustomed to the pattern. Each time the administration comes up with another whopper, partisan supporters — a group that includes a large segment of the news media — obediently insist that black is white and up is down. Meanwhile the "liberal" media report only that some people say that black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and playing down the extent of the lies.

If this same lack of accountability extends to matters of war and peace, we're in very deep trouble. The British seem to understand this: Max Hastings, the veteran war correspondent — who supported Britain's participation in the war — writes that "the prime minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks."

It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.


Update: Steve at Bush Wars is compiling a list of known Bush lies.

The invasion of Iraq was based on a genuine belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to the US.

Intelligence reports prior to the war supported that belief.

The invasion of Iraq was based on a desire to liberate the Iraqi people.

The US wants democracy in Iraq and the Middle East.

The war in Iraq was an extension of a larger war on terror.

There is a larger war on terror.

The Bush administration's foreign policy was born spontaneously and by necessity in the wake of 9/11.

The Bush administration had a plan for restoring essential services after the shooting war ended.

The Patriot Act and other sundry rollbacks of domestic freedoms were conceived only after 9/11, as a response to the events of that day.

Saddam was involved in the plotting of 9/11.

US troops have been under attack on the numerous occasions when they have killed members of angry, protesting crowds in Iraq.

After the war, the US would promptly facilitate the formation of an independent Iraqi government.

After the war, the US would not seek to control Iraq's oil supply.

The US's invasion plan was backed by a 40-nation-strong "coalition of the willing," many members of which (if they existed at all) refused to be named publicly lest the rest of the world hate them, too.

There has been progress to date in the war on terrorist/guerrilla elements around the world.

US troops bravely rescued Private Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital.

Between the lines

From this morning's Times:

It was only three hours into the workday, but Mr. Leaby's frustrations started, as they do every morning, when he arrived around 8 to the lone refurbished office in a complex of buildings so thoroughly ransacked that birds dart through the upper stories. Employees of South Oil, Iraq's leading oil producer before the war, are now idle because looting has brought most of the company to a standstill.

"The other day, there was looting and sabotage at the North Rumaila field," Mr. Leaby said. "The day before that, at the Zubayr field. For three months, I've been talking, talking, talking about this, and I'm sick of it."


Looting, sabotage and the continued lack of security at oil facilities are the most recent problems the industry and its American overseers must address in order to get petroleum flowing again, especially for export.


Looters stole what little Iraqi engineers had scrimped and scavenged to keep the oil industry running during the 12 years of enforced poverty under United Nations sanctions.

Under the constraints of the United Nations and Mr. Hussein, engineers were forced to maximize output with minimal parts and equipment, a process that was slowly throttling the industry, Iraqi oil officials said.

Okay, two points here. One, we don't even have enough troops on the ground to secure the oil facilities, which pretty much proves that Shineski was right and Rumsfeld was wrong. Two, the Iraqi oil industry was barely functional over the past twelve years, which pretty much puts lie to Wolfowitz's assertion that we had to invade Iraq because their vast oil wealth made them otherwise untouchable.

Forget Jayson Blair

Here's the real scandal: when the administration leaks false information to a New York Times reporter in full stenographer-to-power mode--and then uses the fact that the information has been published in the New York Times to justify their policies.

Somehow I suspect the Times' chorus of critics on the right aren't going to be making too much noise over this one, though.

Take the case of staff reporter Judith Miller, who covers the atomic bomb/chemical-weapons-fear beat, and hasn't heard a scare story about Iraq that she didn't believe, especially if leaked by her White House friends. On Sept. 8, 2002, Ms. Miller and her colleague Michael Gordon helped co-launch the Bush II sales campaign for Saddam-change with a front page story about unsuccessful Iraqi efforts to purchase 81-mm aluminum tubes, allegedly destined for a revived nuclear weapons program.

Pitched to a 9/11-spooked public and a gullible, cowardly U.S. congress, the aluminum tubes plant was a big component of the "weapons of mass destruction" canard, which resulted in hasty House and Senate war authorization on Oct. 11.

Months later, when the tubes connection was thoroughly discredited (UN weapons inspectors past and present said the tubes were intended for conventional rocket production), the Times did not think it necessary to run a clarification. Nor was Ms. Miller disciplined for shoddy work; on the contrary, when the A-bomb threat had faded, the Bush administration astutely shifted the media's focus to chemical and biological weapons -- and Ms. Miller fell into line with the program.


When officials leak a "fact" to Ms. Miller, they then can cite her subsequent stenography in the Times as corroboration of their own propaganda, as though the Times had conducted its own independent investigation. On Sept. 8, Dick Cheney cited the Times's aluminum tubes nonsense on Meet the Press to buttress his casus belli.


Meanwhile, the White House-Judith Miller teamwork has had its intended impact. A Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll found that 41 per cent of Americans "either believed that the U.S. had found WMD, or were unsure" and that 31 per cent thought Iraq had actually used chemical or biological weapons in the war (or were unsure). These numbers led PIPA director Steven Kull to suggest that "some Americans may be avoiding having an experience of cognitive dissonance." No, they're just reading The New York Times.

Link, via Atrios.


June 09, 2003

Take back the White House

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Kos and the Democratic National Committee have set up an online contribution page specifically designed so the various strands of the liberal blogosphere can get their donations counted appropriately.

As you surely know, I can't stand the way campaigns are financed. But it ain't gonna change before 2004, and I hate being lied to constantly, endangered unnecessarily, and getting my civil liberties crunched a heck of a lot more. Give me a Democrat in the White House first -- get this crushing weight off my chest, I'm dying here! -- and then we'll get started on creating a fairer campaign finance system. My opinion, anyway.

Whichever candidate you prefer, if you're a Democrat, chances are you want to see an eventual nominee with the strongest chance possible. This is a very simple, straightforward, useful way to go about it.

A moment of silence

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Doyle W. Bollinger, Poteau, OK
Kenneth R. Bradley, Utica, MS
Michael T. Gleason, Warren, PA
Kyle A. Griffin, Emerson, NJ
Atanacio Haromarin, Baldwin Park, CA
Jonathan W. Lambert, Newsite, MS
Zachariah W. Long, Milton, PA
Keman Mitchell, Hilliard, FL
Jose A. Perez III, San Diego, TX
That's the most recent roll call of Americans killed in Mr. Bush's war.

Somehow all the Hannitys and Limbaughs scolding us to Support Our Troops rarely if ever find time to mention the daily casualties by name.

War is a lot more acceptable in the abstract.

We also only know a small percentage of the names of thousands of Iraq civilians.

Every single day, there are more names to add to these lists.

Real names. Real people.

Every single day.

Update (thanks to Robin, who pointed me to the DoD's News Releases page):

Branden F. Oberleitner, Worthington, OH
Jesse M. Halling, Indianapolis, IN

Every. Single. Goddam. Day.

The poetry of Donald Rumsfeld

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The Unknown
by Donald Rumsfeld

As we know,
There are known knowns.
... But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know we don't know.

From Pieces of Intelligence: The Existential Poetry of Donald H. Rumsfeld, published by the Free Press.

And slowly my social life disappears completely...

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

As of today, I'm also contributing large chunks to Cursor, a daily news blog I've long considered mandatory viewing. If it's not part of your daily online diet, it probably should be.

Shouldn't affect my participation here at all. Sleep is bad for you anyway.

Colin Powell and Maggie Thatcher should probably chat

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Yesterday's Observer reported that the alleged "mobile germ labs" in Iraq were more likely merely hydrogen production equipment for artillery balloons, and an earlier Observer piece even specified the 1987 sale of such a system to Iraq by Margaret Thatcher's government.

But while William Kristol may be on the fence (see below), on yesterday's "Fox News Sunday," Colin Powell continued to call the trucks "exhibit A, the mobile biolgical labs that we have found."

Seems like a couple of phone calls might clear the whole thing up...

Update: alert reader Mike notes that, coupled with the above info about the possible dangers of hydrogen from fuel cells, perhaps these are WMDs after all -- Saddam's plan was simply to punch a hole in the ozone and fry us all. Perhaps the Army should forget about weapons, and start looking for vast caches of sunscreen...

Another update, and a goody, as the Observer follows up:

Iraqi Mobile Labs Nothing To Do With Germ Warfare, Report Finds

An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis have continued to insist.

The conclusion by biological weapons experts working for the British Government is an embarrassment for the Prime Minister, who has claimed that the discovery of the labs proved that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction and justified the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein.

Instead, a British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer last week: 'They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.'

Bush lied. People died. It's time he was tried.

Welcome to the lunatic fringe, Bill

As a charter member of the crazy conspiracist brigade which suspects that perhaps our President was not entirely, how shall I put this, truthful, with the American people in the days leading up to the war in Iraq, I'd like to welcome Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol into the fold:

"We shouldn't deny, those of us who were hawks, that there could have been misstatements made, I think in good faith," Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol told "Fox News Sunday."

Asked, by whom, the leading Iraq war backer explained, "By the president and the secretary of state, [statements] that will turn out to be erroneous."

Kristol stressed that he didn't believe charges from Bush administration critics that the president had deliberately distorted WMD intelligence.

But the leading neoconservative writer and former chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle added, "I hope [the WMDs] are found but I'm very skeptical.

Okay, maybe he's not qualified for full-fledged membership, but hey--we're a big-tent kind of organization. Your tinfoil hat's in the mail, Bill. (Link via Buzzflash.)


If you're like me, you've probably heard of Michael Savage but never actually heard Michael Savage. From all descriptions, he's made a name for himself, such as it is, by taking the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity shtick one step further toward the gutter.

He's also suing websites who write critically about him. There's more information here. Go lend them a hand.


June 08, 2003

The "mobile germ labs" are apparently so much hot air

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

The Sunday Observer reports on the Mobile Ass-Covering units recently discovered in Iraq:

... The Observer has established that it is increasingly likely that the units were designed to be used for hydrogen production to fill artillery balloons, part of a system originally sold to Saddam by Britain in 1987.

In case anyone's confused here: hydrogen is not a germ.

Remember, Bush just told the world that these trucks were WMDs themselves.

Unless the GOP can convince us that Saddam was planning to send a gigantic blimp into Lakehurst, the case John Dean makes for impeachment (see below) is getting stronger every day.


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