Saturday, February 22, 2003

But much of what the White House has called progress has been labeled by critics, Republicans as well as Democrats, as examples of significant retreat. The White House proposals, given names like Healthy Forests and Clear Skies, have been derided as promoting exactly the opposite of what they proclaim. "Across the board," said Senator James M. Jeffords, the Vermont independent who until recently was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, "we would be better off doing nothing than doing what the Bush administration wants to do, which will make things worse than they already are."
"The president simply hasn't been willing to cross his political backers and push hard for the rapid deployment of more fuel-efficient cars, cleaner power sources and more energy-conserving buildings," said Dan W. Reicher, an assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration.

Well, duuuuuuuuhhhhhh-uhhhhhhhh.
American officials believe Natanz is part of a long suspected nuclear weapons program, an Iranian project that American intelligence believes has benefited from Pakistani assistance and that is far more advanced than the effort by Iraq. The officials say Iran's goal is to mine or purchase uranium, process the ore and enrich it to a purity suitable for making weapons — a process that would give Iran a largely indigenous capability to make nuclear weapons.
Noting that North Korea's and Iran's nuclear programs are far ahead of Iraq's, critics of the Bush administration have contended that it has focused too much on a lesser proliferation problem. Administration officials contend that it is important to act before Iraq becomes a nuclear power and say the United States is trying to devise strategies to try to head off North Korea's and Iran's weapons programs.
From the Sunday Times via the Freepers; yet I believe there's a lot of truth in this:

FRENCH companies have signed contracts with Iraq worth more than £150m that are suspected of being linked to its military operations, confidential documents reveal. Mobile laboratories, chemicals and communications equipment are among the goods being peddled by the French in Iraq. Britain and America have successfully objected to more than 150 of the deals but many similar contracts have been given the go-ahead after lobbying by the French.

But a number of French critics are attacking Hollywood movies for what they see as a poverty of ideas, which in turn is having an adverse effect on the country's children.

Yeah, well ... true. But if you guys didn't have Audrey Tautou movies you'd be in deep doo doo. Truffaut died a long time ago, ya know?

Our uncertainty about whether we are in safe hands has been compounded by Mr. Bush's own leadership. We have the skewed priorities of an administration that bids $26 billion for Turkish basing rights but shortchanges local emergency preparedness, that declines to call for any sacrifice, even from those who can best afford it. We have Mr. Bush's manhandling of our partners in security — beginning with the gratuitous decision to take a project that could have been framed from the beginning as the enforcement of United Nations resolutions and elevate it to an America-first doctrine of pre-emptive power. We have the loopy alarums of the Department of Homeland Security — what Garrison Keillor calls the Department of Scaring People Into Staying Home — which is prescribing duct tape one day and Prozac the next.
AT A HIGH SCHOOL in Kennesaw, Ga., yesterday to sell his tax cuts, President Bush repeated several of his favorite sound-bite statistics to argue that his plan would help ordinary Americans, small-business owners and senior citizens. But as any math teacher there could have attested, Mr. Bush's arguments rely on a misleading use of averages to make his foolhardy plan appear fair. Under this plan, 92 million Americans receive an average tax cut of $1,083," Mr. Bush said. "That's fair." No, it's deceptive. The vast majority of taxpayers -- 80 percent -- would receive less than that amount, according to data from the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center. For the truly typical household -- filers in the middle fifth of the income spectrum -- the average tax cut would be $256. Almost half of all taxpayers would see their taxes drop by less than $100. At the top of the income pyramid, however, the tax savings would be huge; the top 1 percent of filers would receive an average tax cut of $24,100. The average tax cut touted by Mr. Bush is more than $1,000 only because the savings for the wealthiest Americans are so large.
The Bush administration is responding with an offer of modest help, essentially a loan against future Medicaid payments - but there is a catch. To get the aid, states must agree to radical changes in their Medicaid plans, which will eventually take the federal government off the hook for some - and perhaps much - of its share of the costs. At bottom, Washington wants to limit its long-term responsibility for the only kind of health program many Americans can afford. And it's planning to bribe the governors to go along.
Lawmakers haven't had the chance to object to this bill yet. In fact, they aren't even supposed to know about it. Nobody is. The plan was apparently cobbled in secret, and only recently leaked from Ashcroft's office onto the World Wide Web. Though Justice Department officials deny any such measure exists, the text available at the Web site of a partisan public-service journalism group -- reads exactly like an Ashcroft-crafted sequel to the liberty-lopping Patriot Act of 2001.

"Patriot Act II" offers everything an aspiring autocrat might wish for: It would expand government's spying power and curb judicial checks -- permitting 15-day wiretaps without court approval in a "time of emergency." It would expand law-enforcers' power to secretly arrest and indefinitely detain anyone thought to be linked to a suspected terror group. It would tighten the Freedom of Information Act to keep the public from discovering whom the government has arrested and why.
Charles Krauthammer's column blaming all the world's problems on former president Bill Clinton [op-ed, Feb. 14] echoes attacks by ultraconservative writers and regurgitates their anti-Clinton bile to distort history. Krauthammer's allegations are wrong and misleading. At a time when our nation is preparing for war, we should be serious about serious things, rather than gathering debating points to please one extreme of the political spectrum.

Echoes? What is Krauthammer? A moderate?
But the administration has not made that case, either to Congress or to the public. Nor has it explained what the costs of the intervention might be and what limits there might be to it. History shows that such limits are needed when the mission is counter-insurgency in a foreign land. If the administration hasn't set them, Congress should ask for them.

Cue Country Joe and the Fish
Great White was using a "gerb fan," a trio of gerbs placed together and pointed in different directions. Usually, gerb fans are used in arenas and stadiums, Percell said. They're almost never seen at mid-size clubs, and Thursday night a fire started by the device claimed nearly 100 lives.

Friday, February 21, 2003

But the problem that I face now is that I think we are so deep into this - we are so far down this road - that it is now or never. I think that if we don't go to war this time around I don't think we will ever go to war with Saddam Hussein until he's acquired nuclear weapons. And then he picks the time and place of going to war ... if given my preference I would prefer not to be in the position we're in. But I can't turn back time. And we're in the position we're in. And at this point in time, as messy as it may be, I think that it is now or never. And now is a much better option than never.
The answer is clearly Israel. One has only to look at a map, and glance casually at the headlines, to come to this conclusion. We are told that Iraq is a threat to "its neighbors," but which of its neighbors is baying for war? Not the Saudis. Not the Jordanians. Not the Iranians, or the Syrians. It is Israel that wants this war, and for a very simple reason: Saddam's weapons of mass destruction – if they exist – are aimed at Tel Aviv, not Riyadh, Amman, Damascus, or even Kuwait City. The American conquest of Iraq will eliminate a threat to Israeli security, and pave the way for the extension of the war against Israel's other enemies in the region, notably Syria.

Yeah, this bothers me, too.
MINAS TIRITH (Gondor News Network) - Thousands of peace activists took to the streets of Minas Tirith and other cities of Middle Earth today to protest what they termed a rush to war with Mordor.

“We need more time for diplomacy,” said a key member of the Middle-Earth Security Council, Saruman the White. “I am not convinced by the evidence presented by my esteemed colleague, Gandalf the Grey, or that the Dark Lord Sauron presents an imminent danger to the peoples of the West.”

Many of the people protesting war in Mordor agreed with Saruman’s remarks. “Sauron says he’s destroyed his Rings of Mass Destruction (RMD) and that’s good enough for me,” said one fellow carrying a sign that said “Elrond is a Balrog.” Another demonstrator urged, “Give the RMD inspectors more time. There’s no reason to rush to any judgment just because Mount Doom is belching lava, the Dark Tower is rebuilt, and Osgiliath has been decimated.” A third protester piped up, “I haven’t heard a single bit of convincing evidence connecting the Nazgul with Sauron. I think they destroyed Osgiliath on their own initiative without any support from Sauron. Besides, it’s understandable they’re angry with Gondor. We haven’t done nearly as much for the Orcs and Goblins and Easterlings as the Nazgul and Sauron have. It’s understandable they throw their support to them. It’s our own fault really.”

As the protesters continued their march through the city, they chanted, “No blood for Mount Doom,” voicing a common sentiment that the leaders of the Western peoples are really seeking to get their hands on the powerful Mount Doom, where the One Ring of Power was allegedly forged.

Gandalf the Grey was unavailable for comment. A spokesman said he was in an undisclosed underground location, which sources have revealed is codenamed: Moria.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

I got this email: “can’t tell from your links whether you’re against the war or for it. you seem to have no great love for bush. just curious, which is it?”

OK. Fair enough.

I’m for the upcoming U.S. military action against Iraq. In a post-9/11 world, there is no way in hell that we can allow someone – anyone, much less an Arab, Muslim (even a bad one) dictator – to possess these weapons. It’s absolutely unthinkable. In additon, I think it’s important to send a strong message to other belligerent, anti-American regimes … If you pursue such weapons, or seriously entertain thoughts of harboring terrorists, then we will crush you. We will ask you nicely to cease and desist, but if you don’t, then we will crush you. It ain’t pretty, I know, but it’s reality. And it is self-defense. The United States will no longer tolerate such regimes.

I have problems with war, with bombing, with killing and violence in general, but all these things are brutal reality in this Hobbesian world. I am a very reluctant, but a practical and realist hawk. It would be nice if all human beings could make nice and not seek to kill one another, but it’s not the reality of the world. As the events of 9/11 so emphatically highlighted, there are those out there who seek to kill Americans and destroy all that we’ve built. To assume otherwise is outright folly. And I’m an American; I don’t want to be killed or see our institutions destroyed.

Do I agree with all U.S. government policy? Absolutely not. Do I have problems with Mr. Bush? You bet your ass. I am a Texan yellow dog Democrat who leans heavily to the liberal persuasion, but I’m not a fool. I disagree with most of the President’s policies and will continue to do so and shoot my mouth off about it. But he’s not wrong about disarming Iraq. And I’ve tried to find fault with it, I really have.

The oil bothers me. (Although it should be noted that oil IS an important American interest; try to imagine this country functioning without it.) The Bush family’s past history with Iraq bothers me. The fact that there are so many members of the current administration who were involved with Gulf War I and have a personal axe to grind bothers me. The fact that Saddam Hussein just may be a greater risk to Israel than the U.S. bothers me. The cozy relationship with Ariel Sharon bothers me. The “benevolent hegemony” of the neocons bothers me. The fact that Bush and the Republicans will benefit politically from all this bothers me. Etc., etc., etc. I could go on and on (and probably will at times).

The fact that there is no clear link between Saddam and Al Qaeda bothers me and the outright lying about it and other things from this administration bothers me. The hasty mouth of Donald Rumsfeld bothers me. The risk of losing, or at least jeoparadizing, our traditional alliances bothers me. The fact that so many around the world are against us bothers me. The belicosity and nastiness of some of those on the American right bothers me. Bush’s cowboy arrogance bothers me.

But if we want to maintain the security of America and Americans, forceably disarming Iraq is the right thing to do. We are the world’s only remaining superpower. There are great responsibilities that come with that, to be sure. But … use it or lose it, ya know?

I believe the Bush administration has done the right and proper thing in attempting to go the UN route. We tried – and may still suceed in – getting international/UN support. But if we don’t succeed there, then we must act in our own best interests. And I believe that, in this present time and situation, our best interests lie in taking military action to disarm Iraq.

Not that it’s not without peril. But inaction would be worse.
"You need several things to go wrong at once," explains Victoria Arango of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, which is affiliated with Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. "I'm not saying that suicide is purely biological, but it starts with having an underlying biological risk." Life experience, acute stress and psychological factors each play a part, she asserts. At the root of the mystery of suicide, however, lies a nervous system whose lines of communication have become tangled into unbearably painful knots.

Threats by Republicans to cut the General Accounting Office (GAO) budget influenced its decision to abandon a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney, The Hill has learned.
The leaked preparations for the meeting are the clearest sign yet that the administration is determined to overhaul its nuclear arsenal so that it could be used as part of the new "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption, to strike the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of rogue states.
I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and every time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don't take the country to war on the wings of a lie. Tell people the truth.
In addition, the manner in which the United States defined its "war on terrorism" has struck many abroad as excessively theological ("evildoers who hate freedom") and unrelated to any political context. The evident reluctance to see a connection between Middle Eastern terrorists and the political problems of the Middle East fueled suspicions that the United States was exploiting the campaign against terrorism largely for political and regional ends. Moreover, the increasingly shrill but unsubstantiated efforts to connect Iraq with al Qaeda have also given rise to the question of whether that alleged (or emerging) linkage is the reason for U.S. policy or, increasingly, the result of it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Instacracker links to this: It won't end with Iraq

Well duuuuuuh-uhhh. Ya think? Go read all of these.
Surveys show that a majority of Americans think that some or all of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi, while many believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11, a claim even the Bush administration has never made.

The poll I saw, a month or so ago, indicated that only 17% of Americans were able to give the correct answer of 15 Saudis, 2 from UAE, 1 Egyptian and 1 Lebanese. Truly frightening.

And, Atrios, of course it's the ratings! There was a time when the major networks felt news was more or less a public service and happily took losses for their news divisions, but no more. With the advent of the 24-hour cable news networks; then with the rise of OJism and tabloid broadcast news of the early nineties; and finally with the ratings success of Fox news, nobody is interested in "truth" anymore. And it's not as conspiratorial or Pychonesque as some would like to believe. It's simply about the money. Fox cheerleading has been successful, so why would CNN risk actual reporting? Monkey see, monkey do. That simple.
The Turkish request is some $6 billion more than what American officials said was their "final" offer over the weekend.

Is it just me, or has everything gotten so much more blatant?

Monday, February 17, 2003

If the lipstick lesbian was the gay icon of the nineties, these days she’s been replaced by her more controversial counterpart, the hasbian: a woman who used to date women but now dates men. Though Anne Heche is the most prominent example, many hasbians (sometimes called LUGS: lesbians until graduation) are by-products of nineties liberal-arts educations. Caught up in the gay scene at school, they came out at 20 or 21 and now, five or ten years later, are finding themselves in the odd position of coming out all over again—as heterosexuals.
"It's sort of like counterterrorism by headline rather than counterterrorism by a scientific analysis of what law enforcement is all about."
Administration officials list these among their concerns:

A muddy transition of power. Most of the planning has called for the swift removal of Mr. Hussein and his top aides. While a coup or exile might preclude the need for military action, they could create a chaotic situation in which Mr. Hussein is gone but the United States is not in control. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, has begun to talk about how it will not be enough to remove Mr. Hussein, saying, "We must also get rid of Saddam-ism." Some, especially at the Pentagon, ask if, in the event of a coup or exile, the United States military might have to go into Iraq anyway to assure that the succession of power leaves in place a government that would give up all weapons of mass destruction.

Chaos after Mr. Hussein is gone. Several task forces on Iraq have examined what some call the "score-settling problem," the specter of rivalries and feuds that have been bottled up for decades spinning out of control. Most have concluded that one result may be an American military occupation likely to be longer than the 18 months that Ms. Rice has talked about. Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, noted in Senate testimony last week that getting at the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction would be a "complex, dangerous and expensive task."

Events outside Iraq. North Korea is the first concern here, because a crisis there could require military resources tied up in the Middle East. An equal concern is terrorism here or in Europe, set off by Al Qaeda or others. One official noted recently that it might be impossible to know if an act of terror was set off by agents of Iraq or simply by terrorists taking advantage of the Iraq invasion.

Securing the oil fields. It is assumed that Mr. Hussein would try to destroy the oil infrastructure. The only question is how thorough a job he would do. Blowing up the above-ground pumping stations, while troublesome, would not be that hard to fix. Sinking explosives deep underground, where they damage the drilling infrastructure, could be far more destructive.
Saddam first used chemical weapons, in particular mustard gas, in 1983, in his war against Iran. By October of that year, according to recently declassified documents, the United States knew he was using them "almost daily." But the Reagan administration wasn't bothered. To the contrary, that December it sent Middle East envoy Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad. According to the book Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq, by Financial Times reporter Alan Friedman, Rumsfeld presented a letter from Reagan that proposed restoring diplomatic relations and offered U.S. military and economic assistance. When Iran launched a new offensive in February 1984, Saddam added tabun, a lethal nerve gas, to his chemical repertoire. In the spring of 1984, Rumsfeld returned for another visit. By November, the United States and Iraq had restored diplomatic relations.
Nobody today, except the Iraqi ambassador, tried to claim that Iraq has fulfilled its obligations. Nobody tried to argue that "serious consequences" means something other than military action. Nobody disputed that, just three months ago, the council's 15 members passed Resolution 1441 unanimously—not casually or unwittingly so, but after seven weeks of negotiations, in which Secretary of State Colin Powell altered the language to meet French reservations. Powell looked clearly flummoxed during his turn for comments today. One question he should have asked de Villepin: "Why did you sign Resolution 1441 in the first place if you never had any intention of carrying out its enforcement clause?"
The concern has been around for years: Hillary Rodham Clinton first mentioned a "vast, right-wing conspiracy" in 1998. But the sentiment has taken on new urgency with the rise to the top of the cable news ratings of the Fox News Channel, considered by many to have a conservative slant, and the Republicans' gaining control of the Senate in November. Such events have spurred many wealthy Democrats to explore investments in possible, liberal-skewing media ventures. New campaign finance rules that restrict giving opportunities also gave them further incentive.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

More than one in five depressed patients attempt suicide and a further 47 percent think about killing themselves before their condition is diagnosed, according to a survey of psychiatrists released on Monday.
Behind closed doors at last weekend's Republican retreat, Vice President Dick Cheney delivered an extraordinary attack on Bill Clinton's preparation for the terrorist threat.

Yeah, Uncle Dick? What about this memo?

Of which Ari said this: However, Mr Fleischer said the information received by the president dealt with conventional hijackings - not the use of planes as missiles to attack buildings.

Condi Rice insisted on saying that, too, as if it mattered. Wouldn't "conventional" hijackers and the 9/11 hijackers board the planes in the same manner?

And on whose watch did this occur?

And what about that task force of yours, Dick, that never met?

The Clinton administration presented Bush and Cheney with a full-scale plan which could have prevented the 9/11 attacks, but they ignored this from day one. Throughout the summer of 2001, FBI agents warned the Bush Administration of impending terrorist attacks. As threats increased, Bush's top appointees -- including Cheney, Ashcroft and the FBI directorship -- did nothing. Bush himself went on an extended vacation. Why did they ignore these warnings?

Cheney was in charge of the antiterrorism task force which never met once before 9/11. Cheney did manage to meet with Enron executives several times. No wonder he is doing everything he can to cover up his dealings with Enron and others developing his pro-oil company energy policy.
If this is the best we can do ... My Gawwd.
This is a period characterized by what seems like continuous warfare, likened by military analyst Ralph Peters to the Thirty Years War that decimated Western Europe in the 17th century, and the effects are beginning to tell on the military's manpower, on its budget, on the nation's treasury, and on a conflict of priorities -- between the need to fight today's wars and the pursuit of means to dominate tomorrow's.
I've given my share of beatings to Kenny Boy Lay for his role in the Enron implosion. One of the main reasons why people like me have believed in Lay's culpability was his steady selloff of Enron stock in 2001, even while telling employees that it was never a better time to buy. What else could this be but sheer criminality?
What is it with rich people that 60 percent of a $100 million is not enough? What kind of sickness is that? You make $100 million on stock options, do you honestly think you earned it? Did you work 10,000 times harder than a guy who gets $10,000 a year for digging ditches? Even a thousand times harder? A hundred? Ten?
The struggle this week between Washington and France, Germany and Belgium has not, however, been only about differences over Iraq. It is more about the intention of the neo-conservatives around the White House and Pentagon to break off the United States from old allies. The new configuration would be a nexus no longer of the Atlantic alliance, but now of an aggressive alliance roughly composed of the U.S., a "democratized" Iraq, Turkey, possibly India, the formerly communist Eastern European countries now in NATO, and Israel as the West's predominant proconsul in the Middle East.
It's very, very unfortunate that the current administration has chosen to deprive the government of the funds necessary to meet those needs by cutting taxes for the Americans who are already best off. But it's simply outrageous that at the same time as these needs go unmet, the Republican Party manages to find plenty of money to spend on goofy projects like this.
Google buys Blogger
Apparently when the budgeteers on the Hill started working their way through the president's new budget they discovered there was no money, not even a line item, for humanitarian or reconstruction funds for Afghanistan. Remember, that was the place we weren't going to leave behind and so forth.
American intelligence officials have also concluded that it is likely that Iraq will try to strike Israel with Scud missiles, which they said could be armed with poison gas or germ warheads. "We have indications that their goal is to delay, impede and deny U.S. forces a clear and quick victory," a defense official said. "The basic strategy can be summed up as disperse, absorb and move to military operations in urban terrain."
Such remarks are hardly surprising in light of Mr. Blair's own readiness to cast his commitment to the alliance with the Bush administration so clearly as a question of personal conviction — a sense of rightness that, as the demonstrations showed and he himself acknowledged, he clearly does not share with the entire nation.
Henry Kissinger summed up the logic of conservatives: "If the United States marches 200,000 troops into the region and then marches them back out . . . the credibility of American power . . . will be gravely, perhaps irreparably impaired."

The painful parts of Washington history have often been about men trying harder to save face than lives.

Rarely do I agree with Steven Den Beste on anything, but he seems to have nailed it quite clearly here:

The problem is that she and the other members of the Bush administration have spent months now talking about "time running out", and it never seems to. And that more than anything is relieving the pressure from Iraq.