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saturday, september 13, 2003

Paul Krugman Rocks!
Or, how a tweedy economics professor may be America's last, best hope.
 
When did America start marching over a cliff? Was it during the Reagan Administration, when misguided people made Oliver North a hero for lying to Congress? Was it when Newt Gingrich announced the "Contract With America"? Was it the Clinton impeachment attempt? Florida 2000? September 11?
 
Because we sure as hell are marching over a cliff. I see it, now. If we continue on our present course, the United States will become a has-been nation in my lifetime. It will be ruled by an oligarchy of the rich, powerful, and corrupt, and the rest of us will feel fortunate if we have access to plumbing.
 
Someday my children will tell their grandchildren that, once upon a time, ordinary people working for wages could afford nice little houses and trips to Disney World, and there were pretty fair public schools children could attend for free, and most folks with jobs could get health care. And people could say and write whatever they wanted without the Truth Police knocking on the door.
 
It will seem like a fairy tale. As flawed as America is now, it's a paradise compared to the place the Bushies are taking us.
 
But while we still have houses and plumbing and free speech, let us appreciate these things. And let's appreciate Paul Krugman, Princeton professor, economist, and columnist for the New York Times. Professor Krugman may have been the first person to speak plainly about where our nation is heading. He saw the truth before I did, and he's still way ahead of most people.
 
"Paul Krugman had become the most devastatingly precise voice of liberal outrage in American journalism," Scott Rosenberg wrote in Salon.
 
His new book, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century, is mostly a collection of New York Times and other columns. But even if you have read all of these columns, even if you have them saved in a scrapbook, even if you can recite them from memory, it would be worth your while to get the book and read the new material, especially the Introduction. In it, Professor Krugman makes the case that our nation is under attack from within by insurrectionists who wrap themselves in the flag and call themselves Republicans. Right-wing extremists (hereafter called RWEs) have seized power and are determined to keep it -- one way or another.
 
They must be stopped.
 
Revolutions don't always come by way of the gun. People who are accustomed to political stability don't always recognize revolutionary power when it takes hold of political institutions. They assume the political processes that have always worked are still working, and that their opponents are reasonable people working for the common good but with different points of view. It is incomprehensible that self-described patriots really mean to smash the existing system, and anyone who speaks out is considered an alarmist.
 
And that's where we are now.
 
There are still lots of reasonable people who don't want to believe America has been hijacked by insurrectionists (see this review of Joe Conason's excellent Big Lies for an example). There are also people who don't like the Bush Regime but don't fully realize how dangerous the Bushies are. These are people who must be reached before the November 2004 election. If you feel this way too, Unraveling provides plenty of ammunition for the fight ahead.
 
The Enron-Krugman "Scandal"
 
Some RWEs still repeat the lie that Professor Krugman took money from Enron to "puff" the company in the Times, or that he was an "Enron consultant." Here are the facts:
 
Before he was a columnist for the New York Times, Professor Krugman augmented his academic salary by speaking and consulting. In early 1999 he was invited to serve on a panel providing briefings to Enron executives on economic and political issues. He resigned from this panel later the same year when he became a columnist for the New York Times. He had been offered $50,000 to serve on the panel but received $37,500 because of his early resignation. Krugman never wrote a column for the Times "puffing" Enron. Nothing about this transaction was "undisclosed" to the Times or anyone else. And that's it. You can find a lot more information on The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive.
 
A Few Words on the Opposition
 
National Review publishes a regular "Paul Krugman Truth Squad" column by Donald Luskin, Chief Investment Officer of Trend Macrolytics LLC (impressive, huh?). Luskin is a little man with a little mind, and his column is nothing but a pathetic attempt to discredit Krugman by "exposing" Krugman's supposed "errors."
 
For example, Paul Krugman recently told Tim Russert he wrote 100 columns a year. Ah-HAH! said Luskin; it was only ninety-three!
 
This was in Luskin's review of Unraveling, which was actually a review of a Tim Russert interview of Professor Krugman. (Luskin hadn't read the book; Krugman's publisher, W.W. Norton, had the sense not to waste a review copy on him.) Exactly what was "exposed" is unclear, although I dutifully groped through Luskin's gaseous rhetoric for something solid (no luck).
 
According to Luskin, Russert grilled Professor Krugman mercilessly and revealed one Krugman lie after another, although Luskin is a bit vague as to what these lies actually were. "I think we may have to make Russert an honorary member of the [Truth] Squad," Luskin crowed.
 
However, there's a transcript of the Russert interview on the Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive site, and no such revelations occurred. Tim Russert was respectful; the professor stammered a bit; that's about it.
 
Like most RWEs, Luskin can't make a case on substance so he falls back on reporting his own prejudices -- for example, he calls Professor Krugman a "nervous, stammering, shifty-eyed, twitching, ill-tailored, gray homunculus slumping across the table from Tim Russert." Three-fourths of the "review" is filled with such sludge.
 
Finally, toward the end of the "review"  Luskin lists some "lies" cooked by Luskin's own fevered mind out of  Krugman's past columns, including this one that stands out:
In mid-August Krugman wrote that American soldiers in Iraq were only getting two 1.5-liter bottles of water per day, and were suffering "heat casualties"? I exposed on my blog the fact that this was only the soldiers' bottled water — and that there was ample water from other sources which, in fact, was part of the Army's "forced hydration" program.
I don't know what Mr. Luskin is smokin', but Professor Krugman and I both reported on this from the same source -- a letter from a soldier in Stars and Stripes. And that's not the only source. Here's my article as it appeared in Democratic Underground, with all citations and links. And, in fact, there has been at least one heat-related death in Iraq -- Private First Class David M. Kirchhoff, 31, died August 14 of heatstroke.
 
I googled for "forced hydration program," and the only hit (other than Mr. Luskin's article) related to pro football training camps. I did a keyword search for "forced hydration" at the Department of Defense information web site and got no hits at all.
 
As for the mysterious "other sources" of water Mr. Luskin is so sure of -- This soldier wrote to David Hackworth in mid-June that troops were so desperate for water they had to purchase water of dubious quality from Iraqis. They also have been short of food. "Soldiers are trying, in vain, to keep mosquitoes from consuming them nightly, and using hoses from an Iraqi latrine stall to get water enough to maintain their hygienic needs," he writes. "There are soldiers, to this day, that live in squalor."
 
I can't tell you how much I want to send Mr. Luskin to Iraq.
 
Do errors of fact sometimes appear in Krugman's columns? Of course; we're talking about a human being here. Anyone who writes ninety-three columns a year is going to misstate something once in a while. Nicholas Confessore discussed this in the Washington Monthly, noting that
On balance, Krugman's record stands up pretty well. On the topics he writes about most often and most angrily--tax cuts, Social Security, and the budget--his record is nearly perfect. "The reason he's gotten under the White House's skin so much," says Robert Shapiro, a former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, "is that he's right. None of it is rocket science."
Professor Krugman has also drawn the wrath of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, which as near as I can tell is some sort of libertarian think tank. Recent anti-Krugman articles include one by a nutjob named David Anderson, who is an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and who teaches economics at Frostburg State University. No, I don't know where Frostburg State University is, either. Another is by Tim Swanson, a college graduate who owns a web hosting company. I'm not going to waste time analyzing these articles; I bring them up just to show the quality of the opposition -- pretty damn pathetic.
 
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friday, september 12, 2003

Amazing Grace
 
In today's Washington Post, Jim VandeHei (who must've read September 10's Mahablog) writes about the Democratic candidates who voted for the Iraq War resolution. These same guys also voted for the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind, and Democrats want an explanation.

Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman and Gephardt contend that their votes for Bush's agenda took place in much different political climates and were predicated on their beliefs the president would carry out each initiative in a different manner than he has. In Iraq, they say, they believed he would work harder to win U.N. assistance. On the Patriot Act, they believed the administration would carefully protect citizens' privacy and civil rights. And on education, they believed Bush would fully fund the program. Moreover, a large number of congressional Democrats voted the same way they did. [Jim VandeHei, "Past Votes Dog Some Democratic Candidates," The Washington Post, September 12, 2003]

Let's be frank, fellas. You all made political calculations that you'd better go along with Patriot and with Iraq because otherwise the Right Wing would skewer you for being "obstructionist," and at the time the Ring Wing held all the political cards. (I don't blame you for No Child Left Behind; it got left behind because Bush underfunded it. That's his fault, not yours.)

But now it's pretty obvious that you made some really bad choices. And, it was obvious to a lot of your constituents at the time, as it was to some of your fellow legislators (Senator Byrd comes to mind). So, you got some 'splainin' to do.

So far you've all said that you think your votes were right but that the way the White House implemented the Patriot Act and war resolution was wrong. I don't buy that. On Iraq, you should at least have held out until the language of the resolution put specific limits and obligations on the White House to prevent Bush from going beyond the saber-rattling stage without real international support. And there's just no excuse for the Patriot Act.

Stop making excuses. You've got to repent. You've got to throw yourselves at our feet and beg our forgiveness. And you should weep and wail and admit you are weak and craven and sinful, but now you've seen the error of your ways.

Then, dry your tears (occasional sobs permitted) and tell us that it was dat ol' debbil Dick Cheney or maybe Karl Rove, or both, who tempted you onto the path of iniquity. You thought they could be trusted; you thought you could take them at their word. But once you sold your souls they betrayed you. They dissed the UN and citizens' rights, and now you see them for what they are.

Now, raise your voices and say, I have seen the face of evil! I once was lost, but now I'm found! Fool me twice, shame on Bush! If you're doing this right, your Party will respond with "Say it, brother!" and "Amen!"  

Finally, clasp your hands in supplication and say, "I know I let you down, but if you'll give me another chance I promise I'll make you proud! I will heal America! I will lead it into the light of righteousness and honor and glory AMEN! And the crowds will stand, and cheer and holler and cry out, "We forgive you, bro'!" And maybe they will even dig down into their pockets and donate some money. Cue the choir!

On the other hand, "President Dean" does have a nice ring to it, don't you think?

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thursday, september 11, 2003

Remember
 
I wrote this to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11. But a year later nothing much has changed, except that the Iraq War moved out of the planning stage. So here it is again.
 
I'm not ready to move on. 

This isn't real. That's what we all said. I said it too, as I watched from a high-rise building on West 17th Street and saw the mighty towers of the World Trade Center collapse and disappear into dust.
 

Two days later I was back in Manhattan, looking for what was real. I walked to Times Square and saw flags and expressions of raw defiance on construction sites. Lamp posts were festooned with home-made signs: Have you seen this person? Have you seen my wife? My husband? My child? Please? The faces on the signs were of robust, whole people. The faces were relaxed, full of trust, alive.

 

I took a 9 train to Chelsea. I had been on a 9 train Tuesday morning, when someone said a plane had struck the World Trade Center. How awful, we said. I hope not many people are hurt.

 

But on Thursday morning no one spoke, except for a man talking to himself. Its not unusual to find men talking to themselves in the subways, but they are usually homeless men who smell of urine. This was a clean man in a good suit, and he wore a gold watch, and his hands shook, and he was talking to himself because he was terrified. He sat and muttered and trembled, and those standing and swaying around him, hanging on to the bars, left him alone. Whatever was real to him must have been terrible.

In the weeks that followed there was much speechifying and memorializing of This Terrible Thing, and much glorifying of the dead and the living and the flag. I looked for a transformation from what we had been before to something better and grander.
 
But it didn't happen. We pinned flags and ribbons to our clothes, but they were the same old clothes. We bought bleeping souvenirs like NYPD golf caps and bumper stickers and various special commemorative editions. We packaged September 11 and put it on our national trophy shelf, with the Alamo and Iwo Jima and John Wayne. We stood around our backyard grills, beer in hand, and said yeah, that was awful. I hope they get that bin Laden guy. How do you like your burgers cooked?
 
After September 11 Americans donated money and blood in record amounts, because we wanted very much to do something. But although we were ready to make any sacrifice and bear any burden; our leaders urged us to shop, spend, eat, travel, and enjoy ourselves for America. Don't allow September 11 to interrupt your life, we were told. Just go on as if nothing had happened. And, on the whole, that's what we did.
 

On the other hand, politicians and ideologues made good use of September 11 to support their agendas, whether those agendas had a connection to terrorism or not. They are the same old agendas from before September 11, just a little more urgent. Cut taxes. Buy guns. Support our political party. Fear people who are different from you.

A year has gone by, and we are preparing to wallow in remembrance of that which still doesn't seem real. But instead of passively tuning into All September 11, All the Time, we need to look at what has not been said and what has not been done and what we are rapidly forgetting.

First, we must look to the war on terrorism. The Bush Administration wants to invade Iraq, although it has not been able to prove that Saddam Hussein is connected to the September 11 attacks. At the same time, a number of news stories report that al Qaeda, although wounded, has not died but has gone underground and continues to be a threat. Most of its leaders, including Osama bin Laden, may still be alive. At the very least, the Bush Administration must tell us why we are to leave one job unfinished to begin another.

Second, we must have a thorough investigation of September 11. Recently, a BBC special report ("Clear the Skies," presented by Gavin Hewitt, BBC2, September 1, 2002) said that on September 11 the entire U.S. mainland was defended by only 14 planes, only four of which were in the northeast.
 
However, other news stories have revealed that last summer there were many warnings, albeit unspecific, of a terrorist threat. In July 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft, among other administration officials, began using chartered government planes instead of commercial airlines because of a "threat assessment." Yet the administration did nothing to increase security for the citizens of the United States. The American people deserve an explanation.

And third, I urge a rededication to the principles upon which our great nation was founded. Each of us has a duty to our country to be informed and to pay attention to what our government is doing, both here and abroad. And our elected officials, including the President, are accountable to us. We must not let them forget that.

On September 11, I intend to walk behind the pipers down to Ground Zero to pay my respects. Lower Manhattan looks so much smaller and shabbier than it used to. When I close my eyes I can still see it the way it was, especially on a blue-sky day, when the towers gleamed in the sun and the city all around was bright and grand. And I can still see the people in the World Trade Center, flowing up and down the escalators and through the broad corridors, past the pretty shops and the restaurants, past the deli with a long line for coffee, past the flower and magazine stands, going up to their offices or down into the subways or out into the prosperous streets.
 
It seems so real.
 
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wednesday, september 10, 2003

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Joe Lieberman, Will You Please Go Now?
 
When Senator Lieberman said of Iraq, "This is a battle in the war on terrorism. Failure and defeat is [sic] not an option," in last night's presidential candidate debate, I wished a giant hook had pulled him off the stage.
 
The Great Lie killing our soldiers and choking political debate in our nation is that the invasion of Iraq is connected to the war on terrorism and September 11. That lie must not stand.
 
Before serious campaigning began, the presumptive Democratic front runners were Senators Lieberman, Edwards, and Kerry and Congressman Gephardt. But all of them voted for the Iraq War resolution, and today they refuse to admit they made a mistake. For Gephardt and Kerry in particular I believe this refusal is weighing down their campaigns. For either of them to get back into the first tier, they're going to have to come out and say,
 
"I'm sorry for that vote. At the very least we should have insisted on limits to presidential war power. I should have realized that the White House could not be trusted to tell the truth and cannot be trusted with power. We in Congress must revisit this vote and take back from the President the power to conduct war given to Congress by the Constitution."
 
My guts tell me that if one of them -- Gephardt or Kerry or possibly Edwards -- made that speech today, he'd become the front runner pronto. Lieberman is beyond rehabilitation, however.
 
Last night, when asked if the Iraq war was a mistake, Senator Kerry said,

Well, I don't know the answer to that question until we have the full measure of the investigation into the intelligence and the intelligence failure here. We do know that that exists.

But we need to be successful. People keep asking what's the exit strategy. The exit strategy is victory. It's success in what we're seeking to do. But it's to be smart about it.

He's still speaking from an assumption that there was and is a worthwhile objective to be won in Iraq. And later --

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Senator Kerry, you've been saying that you voted to authorize the president, President Bush, to threaten the use of force in Iraq.

In fact, as Senator Graham pointed out, you voted to authorize the use of force at President Bush's discretion. To some it may seem that you're trying to get out of a vote that's now unpopular with many in the Democratic Party. Is that the way we should perceive it?

KERRY: Absolutely not. The vote is the vote. I voted to authorize, it was the right vote. And the reason I mentioned the threat is that we gave -- we had to give life to the threat. If there wasn't a legitimate threat, Saddam Hussein was not going to allow inspectors in.

Kerry's got to do better than that if his campaign is to ever catch fire.
 
It was Dennis Kucinich who said most clearly what needed to be said:
...when you consider the fact that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and the fact that the day after 9/11 there was a meeting in the National Security Council where Donald Rumsfeld said that the administration ought to use the opportunity to go after Iraq, I think that the attack in Iraq was a foregone conclusion after 9/11 even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

So the president misled the nation. And he misled the nation into believing that there were weapons of mass destruction.

Dick -- who is a good friend of mine -- Dick, I just want to say that when you were standing there in the Rose Garden with the president and you were giving him advice, I wish that you would have told him no, because as our Democratic leader, your position...

(APPLAUSE)

As our Democratic leader, your position helped to inform mightily the direction of the war. And I believe -- I am glad -- and I share your passion now about the direction the administration is taking this country.

But there is no question, this administration did not have to go to war against Iraq. There are no weapons on mass destruction have been found. And he basically misrepresented the case to the American people.

Now, Senators Kerry and Edwards, Congressman Gephardt ... would it be so hard for you to say that, too?

But back to Senator Lieberman -- he's either acting out to get noticed or he's a shill for the Democratic Leadership Council to take down Howard Dean. His criticism of Dean over Israeli-Palestinian policy just plain didn't make sense, but it's gotten most of the headlines.

Both Lieberman and Dean said that in order to be an effective negotiator in the Middle East, the United States must be respected by both Israelis and Palestinians. But Lieberman accused Dean of planning to withdraw support from Israel, which is not what Dean said. Dean is calling for a more neutral stance, which certainly doesn't mean abandoning Israel to the wolves. Lieberman seems to think the U.S. can show favoritism to Israel and remain neutral at the same time.

At this time Senator Lieberman is a liability to the Democratic Party. His efforts to get himself noticed at the expense of other candidates -- especially Howard Dean, who may well be the nominee -- are just providing ammunition to Karl Rove.

And, finally, I'd like to know who let the Boneheads for Lyndon Larouche into the hall. Faux News?

Related link

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tuesday, september 9, 2003

No Quiet on the Central Front
 
What's the next move, Mr. Rove? The armies of darkness await your next spin cycle. The old spin is losing momentum.
 
Poor Condi Rice is still spinning weapons of mass destruction, for pity's sake. Just two days ago she told Wolf Blitzer
...there was no doubt in the minds of three administrations, the United Nations weapons inspectors, multiple intelligence services around the world that Saddam Hussein had had and probably still possessed and had used weapons of mass destruction, that he was actively pursuing weapons of mass destruction. That's why he was under U.N. sanctions for 12 years, that's why the world passed resolution after resolution after resolution telling him to disarm. There was no question going in that the overwhelming bulk of evidence and intelligence pointed to active weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [CNN Late Edition 9/7/03]
Last March, when "President" Bush decided he couldn't wait another second to start a war, the UN weapons inspectors were not finding weapons of mass destruction and were not certain there were any. And the overwhelming bulk of evidence and intelligence available to Ms. Rice and her boss last March did not point to "active" weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
 
There are varieties of potato that are sharper interviewers than Mr. Blitzer, and he didn't challenge Condi's statements. But you'd better get her some new material fast. One of these days someone's going to remember what it is to be a journalist and challenge what she says.
 
Condi did stress that Iraq is now the central battlefield of the war on terror, as you no doubt instructed her. And she finessed the question:
BLITZER: But fundamentally, if there are enough U.S. troops on the ground right now, why are you going back to the U.N. presumably, among other things, seeking more foreign troops to join the U.S. forces?
with
RICE: Well, the key here is to get not just the right number of forces, but to get the right mix of skills. And there are countries that can bring to bear certain kinds of military power, as well as some additional combat power, to help get the job done.
Not bad; I can imagine the high-level brainstorming that came up with the "mix of skills" gem. And, if asked why the almighty United States doesn't have the right "mix of skills," Condi could've blamed Bill Clinton. Neat.
 
But let's get back to the "central battlefield" theme. Lots of people are calling you out on that one, Karl, and I'm not sure it's going to fly.
 
First of all, you changed it to "central front" in your boss's Sunday night speech. I'm no expert on military tactics, but is there such a thing as a "central front"? And if so, how does it differ from "being surrounded"?
 
Second, I did keyword searches for "central battlefield" and "central front" at National Review Online and the Weekly Standard web page, and came up zip. Same results with a search through recent editorials in the Washington Times.
 
However, the Wall Street Journal came through for you, Karl. Today's featured editorial is titled "The Central Front."
 
"The terrorists are in Iraq, not New York," it proclaims. Ah, yes; the "flypaper" tactic. But then it says,
Yes, sure, President Bush's remarks to the nation Sunday evening could have come sooner. But the critics can no longer claim that Mr. Bush hasn't been forthright about either his strategy for victory in Iraq, or the cost of achieving it.
Can't we, Karl? Sure we can. I read the dadblamed speech, Karl. The only "strategy for victory" is a plan to get other countries to help clean up our mess. And I suspect that $87 billion is just a down payment.
 
In another WSJ editorial, Brendan Miniter writes in "The Western Front: Where Were You?":

To win this war, Americans have been asked to put up with hassles when flying. Other forms of public transportation also require new precautions. Attorney General John Ashcroft is now touring the country outlining other efforts to thwart and capture terrorists. Reasonably aggressive law enforcement tactics are essential to achieving victory. On Sunday, President Bush put a few price tags on some of these sacrifices--$87 billion over the next year. That price is a comparably easy one to pay. Washington will cut a check.

Oh, no problem! Washington will just cut a check! Of course, when I am running a $500 billion deficit (or whatever it is now) the bank bounces my checks. How embarrassing! But maybe Congress has a bigger check overrun limit.
 
Still, ultimately somebody (my grandchildren) will have to make good that check. And not a penny of that money will go toward transportation security or law enforcement; nor will it go toward Mr. Ashcroft's crusade to gut the Bill of Rights. The Department of Homeland Security has a separate, and smaller, budget.
 
No, the $87 billion will go down a rat hole in Iraq. Not a penny of that money will make us safer.
 
The fact is, Karl, that citizens and journalists and even Democrats are getting bolder about calling a lie a lie; and the Big Lie you're still trying to sell is that the Iraq War has some connection to September 11 and terrorist threats to the United States.
 
It doesn't, Karl. And lots of us realize it doesn't. So you'd better get to work, Karl; your colleagues need new talking points.
 
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monday, september 8, 2003

Say It Loud, Say It Proud
 
If there was ever a time for standing up and speaking out, folks, this is it.
 
Last night President Bush defended the Iraq invasion with the fiction that it had something to do with "homeland security" and the "war on terrorism." He's still tying Iraq to September 11. But these were not the real reasons he chose to invade Iraq, and it is vitally important that we make this clear as we speak out against the Bush Regime and its war. If we tacitly support the regime's premise, we lose the argument.
 
From the "President's" speech:

America and a broad coalition acted first in Afghanistan, by destroying the training camps of terror, and removing the regime that harbored al Qaeda. In a series of raids and actions around the world, nearly two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed, and we continue on al Qaeda's trail. We have exposed terrorist front groups, seized terrorist accounts, taken new measures to protect our homeland, and uncovered sleeper cells inside the United States. And we acted in Iraq, where the former regime sponsored terror, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, and for 12 years defied the clear demands of the United Nations Security Council. Our coalition enforced these international demands in one of the swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history.

This is a paragraph that deserves to be picked over in fine detail, but for how here's just a quick take:
  • Regarding Afghanistan, the Taliban is coming back. We could lose that war yet.
  • Regarding the "sleeper cells" uncovered in the United States -- has the Regime uncovered any sleeper cells for certain? Hasn't it just been suspected sleeper cells?
  • Is it true that "two thirds" of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed? I was under the impression it was more like one fourth.
  • The Saddam Hussein regime did sponsor terror, but not al Qaeda or other terrorist groups planning actions against America. He was sending money to Palestinians.
  • Regarding "possessed and used weapons of mass destruction" -- yeah, ten years ago.
I don't have the stomach for any more of "the speech" right now. Some other time, maybe.
 
Bottom line, the invasion of Iraq has to be the dumbest thing any American administration ever did. There was no valid reason for it, and the costs of it amount to dumping money and blood down a rat hole. Wasting resources in Iraq is making us weaker, not stronger. And whenever apologists for the regime imply that to be against the war is to be soft on terrorism or unpatriotic -- don't let them do it. 
 
Because, the fact is, just the opposite is true.
 
Real patriots understand that a pre-emptive, imperialistic war betrays American principles. Real patriots believe that defending America means making us stronger, not weaker. Real patriots know that citizens deserve the truth about the wars we are asked to fight.
 
In recent blogs I've been discussing the real reasons for the war in Iraq. I hope you won't mind a bit more --
 
Paul Krugman writes in his new book The Great Unraveling:

This is a general principle for understanding what’s happening: do some homework to find out what these people really want. I’m not talking about deeply hidden motives; usually the true goal is in the public domain. You just have to look at what the people pushing the policy said before they were trying to sell it to the broader public. When you learn that the official now in charge of forest policy is a former timber industry lobbyist, you can surmise that the “healthy forests” initiative, under which logging companies will be allowed to cut down more trees, isn’t about preventing forest fires. When you learn that the House majority leader has said that his purpose in office is to promote a “biblical worldview,” you can surmise that “faith-based” initiatives aren’t mainly about delivering social services more effectively. When you learn that the architects of the Iraq war have wanted to topple Saddam Hussein for a decade, you can surmise that the war has nothing to do with September 11. [Paul Krugman, The Great Unraveling (Norton, 2003), p. 15]

If you know that a disproportionate number of people in the Bush Administration have ties to oil and defense industries you can surmise that the war has something to do with making money for the oil and defense industries. But there's more to it that that. 
 
The Neocons. It's true that the neocons have been planning to invade Iraq for a decade. Their plan, as expressed by the Project for a New American Century, is to turn Iraq into a base of American power and influence in the Middle East. Having such a base makes strategic sense; but, as the song says, you can't always get what you want.
 
Although the neocons believe that America has enough money and military power to reshape the planet any way it likes, most of us understand that all material things are finite. We learn to set priorities to do the best we can with the resources we have. But to neocons their vision of world domination is the priority. Everything else -- including  the citizens of the United States; including democracy itself -- is just a resource to be exploited for that end.
 
Go here for more information on the neocons.
 
The politicos. I don't know if Karl Rove cares one way or another about global domination. The fact remains that during fall the 2002 campaign cycle he played those war drums like a virtuoso. War in Iraq was the perfect wedge issue to divide the Democratic Party against itself while drowning out issues (e.g., the economy) on which the Republicans were weak.
 
The subconscious. As discussed in the Saturday mahablog, the Bush Administration is over-populated with men whose careers and fortunes grew out of the first Gulf War. Deep inside their uncontemplative minds must lurk ids that emanate warm and fuzzy feelings about war in Iraq.
 
In 2002, the Bushies must've thought a war in Iraq was win/win all around. It was good politics; it was good for GOP supporters in the energy and defense industries; the neocons -- an important base -- were chomping at the bit; and, by golly, they really wanted to do it. So they went shopping for every half-assed excuse they could find to do it, and do it now. And they did it.
 
And now we're stuck with it.
 
Josh Marshall writes in his blog:

The president has turned 9/11 into a sort of foreign policy perpetual motion machine in which the problems ginned up by policy failures become the rationale for intensifying those policies. The consequences of screw-ups become examples of the power of 'the terrorists'.

We're not on the offensive. We're on the defensive. A bunch of mumbo-jumbo and flim-flam doesn't change that. [Talking Points Memo, September 7]

With just over a year before the 2004 election, it is time for all of us to do what we can to get the Bush Regime out of power. Speak, write, assemble, protest, donate. Use the rights of free speech given us by our Constitution; because if we don't use those rights in this year to come, we will surely lose them.
 
We who oppose the Bush Regime are the real patriots, and it is our duty to do what we can to save America from the extremists in the White House. Do not ever, for one minute, allow the jerks to say that we true patriots do not love America or are soft on terrorism. Do not let their lies go unanswered.
 
Do not be silent.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
What's Up With Joe Biden? He's been charging around expressing support for Shrub's speech. "We must, we must, keep this commitment in Iraq..."I will support him [Bush], I will support spending the money and I hope we decide that there's other ways to pay for it, as well as just adding to the deficit."
 
Any of you who were sorry Biden isn't running for the Democratic nomination this time around -- get over it. He sold out. He drank the Cool Aid. He's gone over to the Dark Side.
11:17 am | link

Hot Links 7:40 am | link

sunday, september 7, 2003

What He Said
 
I confess ... I didn't watch the speech. I didn't watch Shrub: The Movie either. The last time anything that grotesque was on television was ... well, I've blanked it out, but I think it involved Marilyn Quayle.
 
However, I have the White House transcript, and I will study it. Comments tomorrow!
10:07 pm | link

Hot Links
 
Be sure to read "Why Are We in Iraq?" by Michael Ignatieff in today's New York Times Sunday magazine. A taste:

Human rights could well be improved in Iraqi as a result of the intervention. But the Bush administration did not invade Iraq just to establish human rights. Nor, ultimately, was this intervention about establishing a democracy or saving lives as such. And here we come to the heart of the matter -- to where the Bush administration's interventions fit into America's long history of intervention. All such interventions have occurred because a president has believed going in that it would increase both his and his country's power and influence. To use Joseph S. Nye Jr.'s definition, ''power is the ability to obtain the outcomes one wants.'' Presidents intervene because successful interventions enhance America's ability to obtain the outcomes it wants.

The Iraq intervention was the work of conservative radicals, who believed that the status quo in the Middle East was untenable -- for strategic reasons, security reasons and economic reasons. They wanted intervention to bring about a revolution in American power in the entire region. What made a president take the gamble was Sept. 11 and the realization, with 15 of the hijackers originating in Saudi Arabia, that American interests based since 1945 on a presumed Saudi pillar were actually built on sand. The new pillar was to be a democratic Iraq, at peace with Israel, Turkey and Iran, harboring no terrorists, pumping oil for the world economy at the right price and abjuring any nasty designs on its neighbors.

As Paul Wolfowitz has all but admitted, the ''bureaucratic'' reason for war -- weapons of mass destruction -- was not the main one. The real reason was to rebuild the pillars of American influence in the Middle East. Americans may have figured this out for themselves, but it was certainly not what they were told. Nor were they told that building this new pillar might take years and years. What they were told -- misleadingly and simplistically -- was that force was justified to fight ''terrorism'' and to destroy arsenals of mass destruction targeted at America and at Israel. In fact, while Hussein did want to acquire such weapons, the fact that none have been found probably indicates that he had achieved nothing more than an active research program. [Michael Ignatieff, "Why Are We in Iraq (and Liberia? And Afghanistan?)" The New York Times Magazine, September 7, 2003]

Also, there's a new blog by Ian MacDonald (ooo, I love Celts) called sour grapes on the web that mentions The Mahablog --

...bloggers are the new TV cooks. They're all the rage. One of them just pulled down a publishing contract based on his blog. Where once you would rely for your view of the world on Mr. Addison and Mr. Steele, now the eyes of the world turn to the likes of Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East (sic), The Gamer's Nook or Slugger O'Toole whenever world events force you to sit up and pay attention. How would we know what to think without the sage counsel of The Mahablog or Nutty Knitting , Burning Life's Instruction Book or the Happy Fun Pundit .

Sage counsel! 'Scuse me whilst I let my head swell.

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The Department of Homeland Security Is a Disorganized Mess

 
 
 
 

(On edit) The frog 'n' blog is now called fantastic planet and has a new URL as well. But it's still the same great blog. Visit & bookmark!

9:00 am | link


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Regarding the RSS Feed: My web host insists it works. Cendron J. at Tech Support wrote me the following:
"I was able to subscribe to the mahablog.com using rss/xml blog reader from
as the blog reader by entering the url http://www.mahablog.com/blog_rss.xml
The blog link should work as long as your blog reader can read xml."

Good luck.


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Radio Archive

Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 FM

Guy Rathbun, KCBX San Luis Obispo,
September 15, 2004, 90.1 FM.

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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