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August 26, 2005
Fox News morons
In what Fox News officials concede was a mistake, John Loftus, a former U.S. prosecutor, gave out the address Aug. 7, saying it was the home of a Middle Eastern man, Iyad K. Hilal, who was the leader of a terrorist group with ties to those responsible for the July 7 bombings in London.
Tip for former prosecutor Loftus: if you want to help the police, call the police.
"Terrist." That pretty much sums up what you need to know about the Fox News audience, doesn't it?
Justice for Dilawar
One soldier has been sentenced to two months in prison, another to three months. A third was demoted and given a letter of reprimand and a fine. A fourth was given a reduction in rank and pay.
A reminder of what happened to Dilawar:
Mr. Dilawar was a frail man, standing only 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 122 pounds. But at Bagram, he was quickly labeled one of the "noncompliant" ones.
A three month sentence.
The soldiers apparently weren't the only ones who thought the way they treated a helpless and innocent man was a joke.
The key to this travesty is probably the relatively minor nature of the charges:
Specialist Glendale Wells pleaded guilty at a military court of pushing a detainee known as Dilawar against a wall.
Pushing a detainee against a wall.
It sounds so insignificant, and that's the problem. Dilawar wasn't killed by one brutal soldier, but by many people given a license to act on their most sadistic impulses. You can prosecute all of them. Or you can, more reasonably, blame the people who were issuing the licenses.
He also admitted doing nothing to prevent other soldiers at the US base at Bagram from abusing him.
Under that standard, we're all guilty.
The American health care system
From the current New Yorker. Read it and weep:
Tooth decay begins, typically, when debris becomes trapped between the teeth and along the ridges and in the grooves of the molars. The food rots. It becomes colonized with bacteria. The bacteria feeds off sugars in the mouth and forms an acid that begins to eat away at the enamel of the teeth. Slowly, the bacteria works its way through to the dentin, the inner structure, and from there the cavity begins to blossom three-dimensionally, spreading inward and sideways. When the decay reaches the pulp tissue, the blood vessels, and the nerves that serve the tooth, the pain starts—an insistent throbbing. The tooth turns brown. It begins to lose its hard structure, to the point where a dentist can reach into a cavity with a hand instrument and scoop out the decay. At the base of the tooth, the bacteria mineralizes into tartar, which begins to irritate the gums. They become puffy and bright red and start to recede, leaving more and more of the tooth’s root exposed. When the infection works its way down to the bone, the structure holding the tooth in begins to collapse altogether.
August 25, 2005
--Small format change: I've moved the links to the sidebars on each side of the main page. I'll leave the old links page up for awhile for those of you who have it bookmarked, but I won't be updating it any more.
--Thanks to the generous readers who recently sent a couple items off the wish list. Those unexpected presents are always a treat.
...oops, one more: been meaning to post an update on the Sparky and Blinky figurines, which are shipping much more slowly than initially promised. The short story is, they're being produced by a very small company which has had a run of crazy bad luck this summer (including a basement flooded with sewage). I'm not making any excuses for them--I'm not terribly happy about all of this myself. But if you haven't received your order yet, I'd still encourage patience--the finished product is really cool and you will get them eventually.
Those wacky conservatives
This week's featured perverse product:
Book Description This full-color illustrated book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland.
I would add some snark, but I think this one speaks for itself.
August 24, 2005
Down the River
Secular Iraqis said on Wednesday a proposed new constitution left no room for doubt about the Islamist path the country was heading down two years after a U.S.-led invasion was supposed to produce greater freedoms . . .The draft says Islam is the official religion of the state and there can be no law that contradicts the "fixed principles of its rulings." . . . Language guaranteeing "rights and freedoms" is subordinate to the primary position given to Islam, opponents say.
"When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women. But look what has happened -- we have lost all the gains we made over the last 30 years. It's a big disappointment."
There was an emotional moment during Wednesday's State of the Union address when the mother of a 25-year-old Marine killed in Iraq, Janet Norwood, embraced an Iraqi voter, Safia Taleb al-Souhail. They were among the guests invited to sit with the president's wife Laura Bush for the annual address.
As lawmakers stood and cheered, al-Souhail, holding back tears, flashed a "V" sign and showed her voting finger, too.
"One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Souhail . . . Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country -- and we are honored that she is with us tonight."
There was a cheap metaphor to be had in the remarkable moment when Safia al-Souhail, who had just voted in the Iraqi elections, and Janet Norwood, whose U.S. Marine son was killed in Iraq, embraced during the President's State of the Union speech last week . . . Why is it cheap to see it as a metaphor? Because nothing should detract from the emotional truth of the moment, the magnitude of Norwood's loss, the exhilaration of al-Souhail's ballot . . . It is a moment for solemn appreciation of the Iraqi achievement—however it may turn out—and for hope.
When Norwood started to pull back, the chain from her son's dog tags, which she had been holding, became entangled in al-Souhail's accoutrements. The women had to disentangle themselves on live television, the awkwardness lending the moment an unrehearsed charm. It was, by any measure, magic.
Souhail said the United States, a crucial backstage player keen for a deal that meets U.S.-backed deadlines, had let the Shi'ite Islamists and Kurds in government do as they wish. "We have received news that we were not backed by our friends including the Americans. They left the Islamists to come to an agreement with the Kurds," she said.
Re-imagining the recent past
A paragraph from the NY Times' lead editorial this morning:
Most Americans believed that their country had invaded Iraq to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, but we know now that those weapons did not exist. If we had all known then what we know now, the invasion would have been stopped by a popular outcry, no matter what other motives the president and his advisers may have had.
A couple of problems here. First: if most Americans really did believe that Iraq had WMD's, the Times itself bears no small responsibility for that regrettable misapprehension--Judith Miller's front-page channelling of Ahmed Chalabi's unsubstantiated propaganda points surely helped convince more than a few fence-sitters of the imminent danger Saddam allegedly posed.
And second--as for the popular outcry that could have arisen, if only the sensible readers of the New York Times had understood that the Administration was lying...well, in this case a picture (from mid-February, 2003) really is worth a thousand words:
See no evil
Update: I posted this before reading Billmon's latest, below, and unwittingly reposted some of the same source material. Sorry about that.
Secular Iraqis,, who presumably have some passing familiarity with the situation, are concerned about the new constitution for any number of reasons:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 23 - Some secular Iraqi leaders complained Tuesday that the country's nearly finished constitution lays the groundwork for the possible domination of the country by Shiite Islamic clerics, and that it contains specific provisions that could sharply curtail the rights of women.
Right wing bloggers, meanwhile, are busily burning up the keyboards, explaining--from the comfort of their various suburban abodes--why the secular Iraqis are wrong to be concerned, because from their reading of the draft constitution, it looks like everything is going to work out great.
These are, of course, the same people who burned up previous keyboards discussing the indisputable fact of Saddam's WMD's, the inevitable rose petals with which our troops would be greeted, etc., etc.--not to mention all the reasons that people who opposed the war were wrong, wrong, wrong (even as the passage of time has inexorably proven us right, right, right).
You'd think they'd be embarrassed at some point. Or at that very least, you'd think they'd learn to start using a few cautious qualifiers. But you'd be thinking like a reality-based person, and as we all know, war proponents have nothing but contempt for that sort of thing.
Axis of Evil
It seems Shrub and the mullahs in Iran have at least one thing in common: they both really like the new "draft" Iraqi constitution -- or they will like it, once it actually exists.
"The composition of Iraq's constitution is an very valuable and important step towards the independence and integration of Iraq," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told official media. "It will help the Iraqi nation to gain security, establishment of peace and sovereignty."
You know, it's almost as if Bush and Asefi were sharing the same talking points. Here's what the Great Vacationer told our own official media yesterday:
The fact that Iraq will have a democratic constitution that honors women's rights, the rights of minorities, is going to be an important change in the broader Middle East.
It appears there's a whole lot in there for a mullah to love -- in Tehran as well as Crawford:
The secular leaders said the draft, which was presented to the parliament Monday, contains language that not only establishes the primacy of Islam as the country's official religion, but appears to grant judges wide latitude to strike down legislation that may contravene the faith. To interpret such legislation, the constitution calls for the appointment of experts in Sharia, or Islamic law, to preside on the Supreme Federal Court.The draft constitution, these secular Iraqis say, clears the way for religious authorities to adjudicate personal disputes like divorce and inheritance matters by allowing the establishment of religious courts, raising fears that a popularly elected Islamist-minded government could enact legislation and appoint judges who would turn the country into a theocracy.Language reserving a quarter of the parliament's seats for women has been relegated to a section of the constitution labeled "transitional," which is of uncertain legal force and duration. Another phrase declares that education is mandatory only through elementary school. Women's rights groups worried about lower levels of female literacy here had wanted middle school to be declared mandatory as well.
Bush: This democracy stuff is hard!
Some Iraqi women can already see which way the burqa is blowing:
"This is the future of the new Iraqi government — it will be in the hands of the clerics," said Dr. Raja Kuzai, a secular Shiite member of the National Assembly. "I wanted Iraqi women to be free, to be able to talk freely and to be able to move around. I am not going to stay here." Kuzai, an obstetrician and women's leader, met President Bush in the White House in November 2003. (emphasis added)
Here's what democracy boy said to Kuzai and her colleagues ("five courageous leaders") back then:
The Iraqi people want to be free. And we will continue to work with them to develop a free society. And a free Iraq is not only in the interests of these five courageous women; a free Iraq is in our interests.
And so now they are free -- free to veil their faces and be dragged back into a medieval theocracy.
Mission fucking accomplished.
August 23, 2005
Fairly typical email
I get some variation on this several times a week:
I liked the Averting Their Eyes (cartoon). For this American living in Sweden though, it seemed a bit solipsistic. What about starting this aggressive war in the first place? W's dishonest claim of weapons of mass destruction or his continuing conflation of Iraqi resistance with Al Queda terrorism? Or what about the Iraq dead? Or the war's effect on terrorist recruitment? I know one can only fit so much into one page - but still....
Relevant, if slightly dated, cartoon here. I've been doing this a long time.
But remember: it's not an ongoing body of work. Previous cartoons may have addressed the various topics mentioned--ad nauseum, some might say--but if each individual cartoon does not contain every relevant fact, argument, and counterargument conceivable...well, it is a failure, I tell you, a failure.
All wing nuts report to battle stations! The vast liberal conspiracy to conceal Bill Clinton's responsibility for 9/11 has seized control of the Department of Defense!
The Pentagon has been unable to validate claims that a secret intelligence unit identified Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta as a terrorist more than a year before the attacks, a Defense Department spokesman said Monday.Larry Di Rita said that some research into the matter continues, but thus far there has been no evidence that the intelligence unit, called "Able Danger," came up with information as specific as an officer associated with the program has asserted."What we found are mostly general references to terrorist cells," Di Rita said, without providing detail.(emphasis added)
Unless Di Rita -- as partisan a GOP flack as you will find anywhere in the U.S. government -- has been secretly implanted with brain chips designed by Hillary Clinton, this should hang a closed sign on the Mohamed Atta rumor mill. Otherwise, you'd have to conclude the Cheney administration is also in on the coverup, in which case Captain Ed and the gang should probably just surrender. The Network clearly has them outgunned.
I have to say, of all the stories I've not been following closely this summer, the strange saga of Operation Able Danger (and Roger Wilco Over and Out) is probably the one I'm most glad I've not been following closely.
Curt Weldon is my congressman -- for reasons known only to the voters of Delaware County, PA and God almighty (and I'm not sure He completely understands it). After following his antics over the years, I wouldn't be surprised if Curt claimed the Iranians were secretly using trained fruit bats to sneak miniature atomic bombs into his wife's underwear. The man is a complete lunatic -- so far gone that even the lunatics who run our Chamber of People's Deputies have been finagling the system for years to keep the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee out of his grasp. (And now they're trying to con him into foregoing a bid for the Homeland Security Committee.)
To call Weldon a loose cannon on the deck of U.S. foreign policy would be an error, because in fact he's almost always aimed squarely at the ship's own bridge -- no matter who the captain is. The Cheney administration apparently hasn't found his freelance meddling in North Korean affairs any more helpful than the Clinton team did his bizarre interventions on behalf of Slobodan Milosevic. (Weldon was in North Korea again just last week, along with Ted Turner. We can only hope Turner brought along enough meds for the both of them.)
Add in Weldon's goofball embrace of every absurd lie peddled by Iranian con man Manucher Gorbanifar, his ties to the Rev. Moon (a.k.a. God's vice regent on earth) and his taste for whacky stunts -- like pinning an American flag pin on Moammar Kadafi's lapel -- and you can see that Curt reached the level of his own incompetence when he became a volunteer firefighter in Marcus Hook, PA.
That being the case, you could almost predict what would happen once Weldon opened his mouth about his mythical chart -- i.e. such comic moments as his apparently bogus claim that he gave his one and only copy of the chart to Stephen Hadley at the NSC (Hadley: "No comment"), or the hearsay evidence from an alleged "whistleblower" that would be hyped to the skies by the conservative media, but never substantiated (can you say "Bill Burkett"?) And of course, let's not forget the relentless, repetitive sliming of Jamie Gorelick and the 9/11 Commission -- which still hasn't stopped, even though the entire story has pretty much fallen apart.
Par for the wing nut course, I realize. But even pretending that Weldon's Able Danger fantasy had some basis in reality, I never understood the political logic behind the conservative campaign to whip it into a really big summer scandal. Do they really think the public is going to be distracted from the on-going debacle in Iraq by the fact that a Pentagon intelligence team might have identified one or more of the 9/11 hijackers, but failed to communicate that information to the FBI because of a metaphorical "wall" created by the all-powerful civil liberties lobby?
I mean, it's not like we didn't already know about the bureaucratic incompetence and day-at-the-beach peacetime mentality that generally marked U.S. anti-terrorist efforts through the evening of September 10, 2001. Does the Clinton administration have to take part of the blame for that? Sure. But if the "wall" of separation between the intelligence and law enforcement communities is really the issue, then the Bush I, Reagan, Carter and Ford administrations should be in the dock as well -- not to mention the JFK, LBJ and Nixon administrations for creating or condoning the police state abuses that led to the creation of the "wall" in the first place.
In any case, if I were a fanatical fan of a president who had received a presidential daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." in August 2001, I'd probably be inclined to let the whole question of who didn't do what to whom before 9/11 remain a topic of "historical interest" only.
The only way I can explain the wing nut obsession with this particular story is to see it either as an offshoot of their even more pathological obsession with Bill Clinton, or as a feeble (and extremely tardy) attempt to avenge last year's disclosures by former NSC counterterrorism director Richard Clarke.
OK, what the hell, turnabout is fair play -- even if does mean relying on an out-and-out fruitcake like Curt Weldon. But the most incriminating thing about Clarke's testimony really wasn't his description of the Cheney adminstration's pre-9/11 policy paralysis (even I don't hold that against them . . . much) but rather his eyewitness account of the post-9/11 rush to pin the blame on Saddam -- the facts be damned.
[Bush] grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room. "Look," he told us, "I know you have a lot to do and all . . . but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back and cover everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way . . . "I was once again taken aback, incredulous, and it showed. "But Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this."
Scenes like that -- or Clarke's account of Donald Rumsfeld lobbying to bomb Iraq because that's where the good targets were -- add up to a much more powerful indictment of high-level incompetence than questions about what information an experimental Pentagon data mining operation may or may not have shared with the FBI in 1999. Hell, the wing nuts got better mileage than that out of Sandy Berger's pants.
Then again, maybe this was really about trying to tag Hillary Clinton with the soft-on-terrorism label -- after all, she was married to the guy who appointed the woman who hired the woman who wrote the memo that is now being mischaracterized as the reason that the Pentagon didn't give the information about Mohamed Atta that it now says it didn't have to the FBI. What better evidence do you need of Hillary's unfitness to lead?
Sure, that makes sense -- or at least, as much sense as anything else in this ridiculous story. Which I guess at this point is about all we can expect.
August 22, 2005
Who's up for a little posho?
Interrupting your continuing program of justifiable outrage -- I was about to post a thing about Pat Robertson calling for an assassination, until Greg beat me to it right under this post -- for a glimpse of something actually positive.
Since I'm just a guest, I won't take much space on this. Just an unusually neat, easy, direct way to help a few folks who need it. If you're curious, just whap your clicky right here or just bop to my site and scroll down.
We now return you to Pat Robertson advocating political murder...
Greg Saunders :
A Christian Jihad
I probably should be surprised by this completely insane remark by Pat Robertson, but it seems like par for the course for a political operative who's been disguising himself as a religious man for more than forty years now. (via Atrios) :
There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.Now think about this for a second...Pat Robertson - the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christian Coalition - is calling for the murder of another human being. I cannot imagine how any honest Christian can look at this man and not come to the conclusion that he's, at the very least, a complete fraud. The fact that the more devout members of the WWJD? crowd would follow Robertson rather than decry him as the anti-Christ tell you all you need to know about the personality-driven nature of "mainstream" (read : overbearing, xenophobic, paranoid, mass-media based subset of) Christianity in America.
This sort of thing makes my blood boil. I hate Christian sects that insist that their interpretation of the Bible is the only "true" Christianity, but I feel rather justified in saying that anyone who actively supports Pat Robertson's ministries at this point is a "bad" Christian. There is no way you can reconcile Pat Robertson's apparent bloodlust with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Period. Even attempting to justify a remark like this is tantamount to putting "thou shalt not kill" and "love thy neighbor" behind less important teachings like "thou shalt cover they televangelist's ass".
As far as the political aspects of a remark like this, I think it's high time that the Democratic party borrow a page from the Republican playbook and insist that high-profile conservatives like George Bush, James Dobson, Bill Frist, John McCain, Rick Santorum, Tom DeLay and the like go on record about whether or not they agree with Pat Robertson's call for the killing of Hugo Chavez. Do you agree that Chavez should be assassinated or not? Since you've been so willing to speak for Jesus in the past, do you think he'd support sending someone to murder the democratically elected leader of a foreign country?
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