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saturday, october 25, 2003

Where the Candidates Stand on Iraq
Public service time. In honor of today's day of protest, and in honor of the planet Saturn going retrograde in Bush's sun sign -- here's a primer on where the nine Democratic presidential candidates stand on Iraq. To be as fair and balanced as possible, I will pull all information from the candidates' own web pages. I will even list the candidates in alphabetical order!
Carol Mosley Braun. "We don't cut and run," says Ambassador Braun. She is concerned that troops in Iraq now are short of equipment and provisions and need more support. She also says that the real challenge ahead of us is to bring the international community into Iraq to share the burden. "I hope that it will allow us, within the tradition of U.S. command and control over our own forces, allow us to extricate ourselves with honor but continue a viable war on terrorism that gets bin Laden and his pals and all the people who would do harm to the American people." [On Supporting our Troops & Rebuilding Iraq ]

Wesley Clark. Clark was opposed to the invasion of Iraq, but now that we're there, what does he propose to do? In this article, Clark says plainly that it will not be possible to maintain an occupation by force. He calls for a clear exit strategy, but not for abandoning Iraq to warlords and Muslim extremists. Responsibilities for governing and reconstruction must be turned over to Iraqis as quickly as possible, but not so quickly that Iraq becomes more unstable than it already is. He wants "internal squabbling and scheming to be forced out into the open and the press invited in." He would also put a stop to the war profiteering and any notion that Iraq's reconstruction will be funded from oil profits.
If we are successful, the cost of this mission will be measured in years, tens of billions of dollars and dozens more soldiers' lives lost. But failure will be more expensive, and a premature pullout will exacerbate regional conflict and undercut the War on Terror. So, we need to lock in a defined exit strategy, as we've done in Bosnia, to bring the British and American people and the international community on board: we need to create a matrix measuring progress in political development, economic reconstruction and security, and to announce the report card quarterly. But above all, honesty, and remember, when the Iraqis ask us to go, the mission is over. [Wesley Clark, Times of London, July 10, 2003]
Howard Dean. Dean was also opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Now that we're there, what does he plan to do about it? Dean was opposed to the recent appropriation of $87 billion dollars, but he is not in favor of an immediate withdrawal of troops, either. He also wants to put a halt to war profiteering. His statement, from his web site:
The new plan must give our troops what they need and bring them home safely, share this burden with other nations, ensure the stabilization and rebuilding of Iraq, and make sure that the billions of dollars we are spending are not wasted and used to pay off big corporations. [Press release, October 16, 2003]
Dean believes America has a responsibility to aid Iraqi reconstruction and stabilization. He has proposed rolling back all of the Bush tax cuts and using that money to pay for reconstruction and troop support, rather than go deeper into national debt or paying for reconstruction out of Iraqi oil profits.
John Edwards. Senator Edwards voted for the Iraq War Resolution last year but against the recent appropriation of $87 billion.  His web site has a nice bulleted list of steps he would take to get out of Iraq (note to candidates: I like bulleted lists; makes research easier). In short, he wants to involve allies, especially the UN and NATO, and bring in a NATO-led peacekeeping force to ensure stability through the transition to a new Iraq sovereignty. He wants to help Iraqis form their own elected government so they aren't ruled by puppets and warlords, and he wants to ensure that oil profits remain with the Iraqi people.
Richard Gephardt. Congressman Gephardt voted for the Iraq War Resolution and for the $87 billion appropriation. A recently as July 2003 he was calling himself "a supporter of the war in Iraq," but he has criticized Bush's execution of the post-war period for several months. "Diplomacy matters. Burden-sharing matters. Follow-through matters," he says.  As president, he would seek help from NATO and the UN to stabilize Iraq.
Dennis Kucinich. Congressman Kucinich voted against the Iraq War Resolution and against the $87 billion appropriation. Here is the full statement of his plan to untangle from Iraq. Boiled down: All administrative and security responsibilities will be handed over to the UN so that the US can withdraw. (He projects a three-month timetable for UN troops to completely replace US troops.) The UN, not the US, will administer Iraq's oil revenues. And, Kucinich would put an end to war profiteering by turning contracts for repair over to Iraq. He believes Iraqi sovereignty can be established, a Constitution put into place, and nationwide elections held within one year of implementation of his program. (It seems to me the "plan" is to dump the whole mess on the UN and skedaddle. No, Kucinich does not seem to have a fallback plan in the event the UN tells him to kiss their multicolored behinds. He does admit the U.S. has a moral obligation to pay for reconstruction of structures and infrastructure damaged by the war.)
Joe Lieberman. Senator Lieberman, the biggest hawk in the field, voted for the Iraq War Resolution, the $87 billion appropriation, and is least likely to ever apologize for it. In a July 2003 Washington Post op ed, Senator Lieberman presented HIS list: (1) Commit more U.S. troops and resources to Iraq; (2) Ask NATO to assume command of forces in Iraq; (3) Release a plan and timetable for creating an Iraqi interim authority; (4) End war profiteering, allow Iraqis to control Iraq oil.(5) Develop a process and timetable for creation of a permanent Iraq government; (6) Provide for orderly, fair prosecutions of Saddam Hussein and his loyalists. Regarding point #4, however, Lieberman says, "Every last penny [of oil profits] must be invested in the country's reconstruction, and the world needs to know it." If we are telling Iraqis how to spend their oil money, that doesn't sound like we're giving them control. Just a quibble.
Al Sharpton. The Reverend Mr. Sharpton does not have an Iraqi position paper on his web site.
My opinions/impressions. Of all the candidates, I think General Wesley Clark has the clearest understanding of the problems faced in Iraq and how to get out of Iraq with the least further damage, either to Iraq or to ourselves. If he doesn't get the nomination, I sincerely hope the next Democratic president will make him secretary of state and give him a free hand to deal with Iraq, because more than any other candidate I think he knows what he's talking about. Congressman Richard Gephardt seems to have the fewest specifics about Iraq (after Al Sharpton) on his web site, which makes me wonder if he wouldn't really like to avoid the issue altogether. The plans of Congressman Dennis Kucinich are incredibly simplistic and naive and make whopping assumptions about what the UN would or could do. Senator Joe Lieberman needs not to get the nomination. Of the remaining candidates, they all seem to be on the same page, promising to get more multinational help so that the financial and military burdens can be reduced and sovereignty returned to the Iraqis as quickly as practicable.
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friday, october 24, 2003

Odds 'n' Odds
A giant turd. Be sure to read Eleanor Clift's column on the Rummy memo, in which she quotes a Senate Republican aide: “He laid a giant turd on the front doorstep of all the happy talk.” 
The fall guy. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is struggling with the eternal political question,  who gets the blame?
The Senate Select Committee brilliantly concluded that the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein were overstated. Amazing, huh? Republicans, however, want to blame George Tenet and his CIA for misleading the White House. Some Democrats suspect the Bush Admiistration pressured Tenet into presenting them with only the evidence they wanted to see.
The next question might be, why isn't it called the Senate Select Committee on Cluelessness? Never have so many waited for so long for a pack of clueless twits to state the obvious. Josh Marshall explains it all better than I can.
Pledge drive. The Bushies are bragging that other nations pledged $33 billion for Iraq during the Madrid Conference.  This was not only way short of the goal, but Josh Marshall says most of that money will be loans, not grants.
Everyone's a critic. I'm always the last one to find out stuff like this, but I suppose I should say something, anyway. The actor who plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's Jesus movie was struck by lightning on the set. And according to the BBC, this is the second time this actor has been struck by lighting while shooting this movie.
Hey, no comment from me!
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Flame Wars
Wasted way too much time this afternoon flaming with some Kucinich supporters. I don't know why I let these people annoy me -- hey, I was young and clueless once, too -- but in the course of this conversation I was accused of being "GOP Lite," a shill for the DLC, a shill for the corporate power structure, a supporter of the status quo, and just like Bill O'Reilly.
THAT I do not forgive.
The Kucinichistas wouldn't annoy me so much, I believe, if they showed at least grudging respect for the other Dem candidates. But in their world, if you are not one of them, you are no different from the Bushies. Frightening people. Fortunately, for all of us, Kucinich remains firmly at the bottom of the candidate pack. Al Sharpton is polling better than Dennis Kucinich.
Look at the most recent Zogby ratings of likely Democratic voters, nationwide:
  • Howard Dean, 12 percent
  • Wesley Clark, 10 percent
  • John Kerry, 9 percent
  • Joe Lieberman, 8 percent
  • Carol Mosley Braun, 5 percent
  • Dick Gephardt, 5 percent
  • John Edwards, 3 percent
  • Al Sharpton, 3 percent
  • Dennis Kucinich, 1 percent
  • Other, 6 percent
  • Not Sure, 38 percent

These polls don't mean much, but I do think they can give you clues of who's moving up or down, especially if you compare several polls over time. ( is good for that.) There have been some changes since last summer. Carol Mosley Braun has moved up in several polls from July. Lieberman and Gephardt have moved down. But, by golly, Kucinich remains firmly at 1 to 2 percent, across time and across polls. 

Howard Dean is way ahead of the pack in New Hampshire in another Zogby poll -- 40 percent. Number two is John Kerry, at 17 percent. Wesley Clark and John Edwards are tied for third at 6 percent each. I suspect the real fight from here on out will be for that number three spot -- if Clark can come in late and still take third, that should be respectable enough to keep his candidacy going.

Kucinich is in a group of candidates polling at "1 percent or less."

Remarkably, Dennis Kucinich is demanding that New Hampshire television stations pull some Howard Dean ads.

Earlier this week, Dean began airing two 30-second spots in New Hampshire criticizing his opponents' record on the war in Iraq and prescription drug benefits. While highlighting his opposition to the war, the former Vermont governor says "the best my opponents can do is ask questions today that they should have asked before they supported the war."

Dean does not name his rivals.

Kucinich, the Ohio congressman and the only candidate who voted against the resolution authorizing the war, took exception to the spots. [Holly Ramer, Associated Press, October 24, 2003]

Sorry, Dennis. That's politics. If you don't like it, buy your own ads.

On edit -- I haven't read these articles, but they might be interesting -- here is an archive of Dennis Kucinich articles from Cleveland magazine -- the Complete Kucinich.

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thursday, october 23, 2003

Evening Alerts
Pentagon Consultant with close ties to Grover Norquist is indicted for terrorism.   The next developing story to watch:
On Wednesday, NBC News reported on a man who helped the Pentagon develop the Islamic chaplains program for the U.S. armed forces, a man who was later stopped with hundreds of thousands of dollars in his possession — and some serious questions about his background. Now there is more, and if federal prosecutors are right, this is a man who moved from the shadowy world of terrorism to the centers of power in Washington and back again. [Lisa Myers, "Muslim Leader with D.C. Ties Indicted," The Washington Post, October 23, 2003]
The following story provides some background, including ties to Grover Norquist and G.W. Bush.

Abdurahman Alamoudi, who provided seed money to help Republican activist Grover Norquist start the Islamic Institute, was arrested earlier this week on the Libyan money charges. Federal prosecutors allege that he funded terrorists abroad and inside the United States, including those linked to al Qaeda.

Alamoudi had a close relationship with the Clinton administration, but thanks to Norquist's aggressive pushing of radical Muslims including Alamoudi, the suspected terrorist funder built ties to now-President George W. Bush. The president's enemies, starting with the New York Times, are now linking Bush to Alamoudi. [Center for Security Policy]

Is C-SPAN censoring Paul Krugman?  Go to the Unofficial Paul Krugman Archives  for details. Basically, C-SPAN is refusing to make an interview with Professor Krugman available in their online archives. Get pissed!
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Hot Links, Evening Edition
Although on principle I think NPR was wrong to apologize, it's entirely likely Faux threatened to sue if they didn't. I predicted a couple of weeks ago that O'Reilly's obvious pathologies would drive him to try to punish NPR, and Faux would have to accommodate O'Reilly to keep him happy. Unfortunately for Faux, an apology may not be enough for O'Reilly.
Also -- I missed it, but apparently a major bomb was detonated on MSNBC "Countdown" tonight; something about a defense department consultant who's been arrested for ties to terrorism. I'll post a link to the transcript as soon as it's available.  
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When There's a Will ...
The "partial-birth" bill plus Jeb Bush's co-opting of poor Terri Schiavo for his own political uses have stimulated much discourse in the virtual world. And most of that discourse is hooey.
With my own tired eyes, I have seen people cling to the fantasy that Terri Schiavo can still live a happy, meaningful life even though her brain cortex is missing. One of these people encountered on a Democratic Underground forum demanded that we respect her "will to live."
Son, if she doesn't have a brain, she doesn't have a will.
You can talk at these people until you are purple; reality does not sink in. Theirs is an ignorance so profound you could use it as an anchor.
Another observation: Some of the very same people who are flushed with the desire to preserve Terry Schiavo maintain a remarkable indifference to women who do have brains. Case in point:
One of the articles I found for this morning's Hot Links (Unspeakable Cruelty to Women) is about a 17-year-old Peruvian girl who was not only compelled (against her will) to carry an anencephalic infant to term; she was then compelled to breast feed the infant while it lived.
If you aren't familiar with anencephaly --  in normal embryonic development, at about the 4th week of pregnancy a neural tube folds and closes to form the brain and spinal cord of the embryo. If this tube remains open, the brain does not develop. The infant will be born without a cerebrum or cerebellum -- in other words, born without most of its brain. The infant has no hope of survival or even consciousness, and will die within a few hours of birth.
There is nothing that can be done to help an anencephalic infant, but what about the mother? What about this 17-year-old girl, who is now in psychiatric treatment? (Read the article to see how the Bush Administration contributed to this outrage.) What was the point of perpetrating this cruelty upon her?
I promise you, if you were to take this girl and her pain and her heartbreak and exhibit her to so-called "right-to-life" types, they will look right past her as if she were invisible. Try it, and see if I'm not right.
The arguments of the anti-choice people have nothing to do with compassion and nothing, really, to do with life. The more rabid "right to life" people would cheerfully sacrifice the lives of women to prevent abortions. And has been pointed out many times, often these same people are pro-death penalty (there are exceptions) and the nuttier among them advocate the murder of abortion providers. 
If you peel back the top surface layer of the abortion argument, you'd see that we're not arguing about saving babies. We're arguing about controlling women.
The most radical anti-choice activists are patently misogynist. For example, the anti-abortion organization Human Life International publishes books such as The Feminist Takeover and Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism. While in jail, Neal Horsley of the "Nuremberg Files" web site claimed he was "vaginally defeated." 
(Note that these most extreme anti-choice activists are also obsessed with and terrified of homosexuality. Can we assume these people have unresolved issues about their own sexuality? I think we can.)
Time and time again, the anti-choice movement tips its hand to reveal it has no concern whatsoever for the well-being of women.  For example, a few years ago some researchers thought they had discovered a statistical link between abortion and breast cancer. Better minds quickly stepped in and proved the "link" was an illusion, based on flawed statistical analysis. There is NO correlation between breast cancer and abortion. But no matter; anti-choice people took up the lie and waved it like a banner. They have actually gotten laws on the books in several states that require physicians to inform women seeking abortion of this alleged link, even though it doesn't exist.
What does this tell us? That the anti-choice people are out to control the behavior of women by any means necessary, including lies, and sometimes even murder.
Compare/contrast with the Taliban, who "protect" women by flogging and even executing women for showing too much ankle in public. The only difference is in degree.
But we can go further. We can peel back the layer of fear and loathing of women to reveal something even more primitive, and this takes us back to Terri Schiavo.
Ultimately, our opinions are shaped by our perceptions and paradigms and cultural conditioning. What is life and death? What is "life" versus "a life"? Cells cultured in a petrie dish might be "life," but not "a life."  Terri Schiavo has life, but without a brain cortex, does she have "a life"? Or is the body identified as Terri Schiavo now just a jumbled assemblage of neurons and protoplasm, and no more an individual than the petrie dish "life"?
The brain science guys say that consciousness (or self-awareness, or sentience, or whatever you want to call it) does not reside in any particular place in the brain. Rather, as best I understand it, consciousness is a by-product of brain activity. Brain waves and firing neurons form a sort of matrix of "I."  
This is a difficult thing to grasp. We all want to believe that "I" am a tangible thing, hence a persistent belief in souls. It's a scary thought to think that "I" might be just some electrochemical by-product. And perhaps people who are genuinely terrified of such things are the same people who want to believe Terri Schiavo can still have "a life," or that a blastocyst must be preserved at all costs. But let's face facts.
Until we can let go of our fears of annihilation and sex and Other, we are not free to be compassionate. We're just marching around with self-protective agendas and ideologies. But once we get real, we can see that body without a brain is not "a life" and should be allowed a peaceful death. And we can see that forcing a very young woman to give birth to a doomed baby is cruel and bestial.
Of course, the Buddha explained the same thing 25 centuries ago. So I'm not holding my breath.
But if what I'm saying makes any sense to you at all, please consider ways in which we can take claims of compassion away from the ideologues and frame the public discourse so that it reflects scientific fact, and not fear.

Today's Quote:

"The fact is I think I am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; or to suffer. I signify all three." -- Ulysses S. Grant (An undated note written during the last days of Grant's excruciatingly painful battle with cancer)

Related Links:
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wednesday, october 22, 2003

Rummy Rummy
Rummy's either being kneecapped by someone at the Pentagon, or he's still in a snit about having to report to Condi. Or both.
USA Today printed a memo dated October 16 from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Generals Dick Myers and Pete Pace, Paul Wolfowitz, and Doug Feith. In this memo, Rummy expresses doubts about the effectiveness of the War on Terra. So, you know this wasn't for public consumption, unless in some twisted way Rummy meant the memo as a dig at Condi.
In brief, the memo says, the United States
  • Lacks the "metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror."
  • Is "putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan" to thwart the next generation of terrorists.
  • Is having "mixed results with Al Qaida."
  • Has "not yet made truly bold moves" in the war on terror.
  • Faces a "a long, hard slog" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Synopsis courtesy of ABC's The Note.

Rummy also says the War on Terra might require a "new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere .. that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem."

Since such "focus" is usually the role of the National Security Adviser, one wonders if the memo is an attempt to bitch slap Condi.

I'm too sleepy to say anything profound about this memo, although a few things are rattling around in my brain. Maybe tomorrow.

Get some major dish on Halliburton here -- Halliburton again, and again, and again -- on Hell for Halliburton.  
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tuesday, october 21, 2003

Soylent Green Is People
The Gubmint is after your body, folks. No doubt about it.
First there is the Schiavo case in Florida, wherein Governor Jeb Bush has swooped in and inserted the Gubmint into what should be a private family matter.
There is a lot of nonsense being written about this case. People have the impression that Ms. Schiavo is being put to death for some artibrary reason, and maybe she should be given a chance, as if she could possibly get better.
Please note: Ms. Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990. This is not the same thing as being in a coma. Ms. Schiavo has no hope of recovery, for the simple reason that most of her brain cortex is gone.
Mrs Schiavo's brain scans have not been made public but Dr Walker has followed the case closely through media reports and court records.

"The majority of her cerebral cortex - the part of the brain that thinks and feels - has been destroyed and replaced by fluid," he said.

"She doesn't have any perception, there is no reason to believe she can suffer."

Unlike a patient in a coma, Dr Walker believes there is no hope for recovery for someone in Mrs Schiavo's condition - known as permanent vegetative state - because the cerebral cortex does not regrow once destroyed. [Rachel Clarke, "Fight Over Florida Woman's Fate," BBC News, October 21, 2003]

Ms. Schiavo still has reflexes, which her parents and others who want her kept alive have projected to be signs of intelligence. But if you don't have a brain, you don't have a brain.

As a parent myself I can appreciate how hard it would be to let go, but sometimes holding on just prolongs pain. Mr. Schiavo, who is being crucified by the usual right-wing and so-called "right to life" elements, had his wife's feeding tube removed October 15 to allow her body to go in peace. Physicians say she would not feel pain from starvation because you need a brain to feel pain.

But then the Buttinsky governor, who ought to be educated enough to know better (although, as he's a Bush, who knows?) butted in. Today the Gubmint ordered Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube re-inserted, thereby unnecessarily prolonging a matter that nature would have resolved many years ago, had it been allowed to take its course.

There are rumors that Mr. Schiavo will inherite a large sum of money -- not true; what little money there might have been was eaten up by medical bills years ago.

[On edit] More about the money Mr. Schiavo is allegedly trying to kill his wife to inherit -- according to Time magazine, in 1992 he was awarded $700,000 for his wife's care and another $300,000 for loss of companionship. After more than a decade there can't be much left to "inherit."

I've even heard people say this is some kind of victory for the disabled. Ms. Schiavo is not "disabled." She is missing a large part of her brain. In nature, that is called "dead." She is already gone, for all practical purposes.

I just hope Mr. Schiavo isn't stuck with paying for the bills from this point forward. Let the Florida taxpayers pay them.

Partial brain constituency. And then there's the damnfool "partial birth abortion" bill. I don't even want to get started, except to make a few points:

First off, very likely this bill will go to the U.S. Supreme Court, and if history is our guide SCOTUS will bounce it as hard as they've bounced similar state laws in the past. And, I suspect most of the legislators realize that. The purpose of the bill is purely political -- they can go back to their mouth-breathing, semi-educated constituents and tell them the EVIL LIBRUHLS like to kill babies by crushing their skulls.

Second, I wish "journalists" would stop being so sloppy about language. There is no such thing as a "partial birth abortion";  the anti-abortion rights tribe is most likely referring to what physicians call "intact dilatation and extraction" (D&X for short). Although the anti-choice people don't always seem to be clear in their own minds what a PBA is.

Another bit of sloppy language that makes me crazy: Anti-choicers and "journalists" keep mixing up D&X with "late term abortion" as if they were synonyms. First, what to they mean by "late term"? Many people infer that "late term" means close to "full term." But D&X procedures are mostly done in the second trimester, which to my mind is not "late term" but "mid term."

There are several ways a pregnancy can be terminated beside D&X, and so if the bill passed today becomes an enforced law, probably it will stop no abortions from being performed. It will just make some abortions a little more complicated for some women (see ACOG statement, below).

It would make much more sense -- and Roe v. Wade would not have to be overturned -- simply to make ban elective abortions after some point (say, 20 weeks' gestation), as long as physicians may continue to perform medically indicated abortions, and as long as it remains within physicians' discretion to decide what is medically indicated.

In fact, such a law could have been on the books for many years already, because it wouldn't violate Roe v. Wade. The reason it isn't is that such a law would take the sting out of the most emotionally charged (if false) arguments against abortion. So, the arguments go on and on and on and are never resolved.

I ranted on about D&X abortions last March; the rant is online here (scroll down to March 14, 2003, "Neocons: Reality Is for Wimps.") And below is a press release from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynocology on the matter. I'm repeating the entire thing here because I really want people to read it.


For Release: October 3, 2003
Contact: ACOG Office of Communications

Statement on So-Called "Partial Birth Abortion" Law
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Washington, DC -- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) continues to oppose so-called "partial birth abortion" laws, including the conference committee bill approved by the US House of Representatives yesterday and sent to the US Senate. "Partial birth abortion" is a non-medical term apparently referring to a particular abortion procedure known as intact dilatation and extraction (intact D&X, or D&X), a rare variant of a more common midterm abortion procedure know as dilatation and evacuation (D&E).

In 2000, the US Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska "partial birth abortion" law in the case of Stenberg v. Carhart, ruling that the law violated the US Constitution by (1) failing to provide any exception "for the preservation of the health of the mother," and (2) being so broadly written that it could prohibit other types of abortion procedures such as D&E, thereby "unduly burdening a women's ability to choose abortion itself." The bill now before the Senate, which its supporters claim can meet any constitutional test, blatantly disregards the two-pronged test the Supreme Court carefully established in Stenberg.

As noted in a 1997 ACOG Statement of Policy, reaffirmed in 2000, and in ACOG's amicus curiae brief filed in the Stenberg case, ACOG continues to object to legislators taking any action that would supersede the medical judgment of a trained physician, in consultation with a patient, as to what is the safest and most appropriate medical procedure for that particular patient.

ACOG's Statement of Policy explains why ACOG believes such legislation to be "inappropriate, ill advised, and dangerous." The policy statement notes that although a select panel convened by ACOG could identify no circumstances under which intact D&X would be the only option to protect the life or health of a woman, intact D&X "may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman, and only the doctor, in consultation with the patient, based upon the woman's particular circumstances, can make this decision (emphasis added)."

The Statement of Policy further reads that such legislation has the potential to outlaw other abortion techniques that are critical to the lives and health of American women. This was the second basis upon which the Supreme Court struck down the Nebraska law in the Stenberg case. The Court will invariably strike down laws that are overly broad or imprecisely drawn. Bills that frequently using terms -- such as "partial birth abortion" -- that are not recognized by the very constituency (physicians) whose conduct the law would criminalize, and that purport to address a single procedure yet describe elements of other procedures used in obstetrics and gynecology would not meet the Court's test.

In this case, the bill before the Senate fails to respect the Stenberg test because bill supporters flagrantly refuse to include an exception for the health of a woman. Instead, legislators try to circumvent the Court's requirements by issuing their own opinion to the nation's physicians and patients that such a procedure is never needed to protect a woman's health -- notwithstanding opposing opinions from the medical community.

The medical misinformation currently circulating in political discussions of abortion procedures only reinforces ACOG's position: in the individual circumstances of each particular medical case, the patient and physician -- not legislators -- are the appropriate parties to determine the best method of treatment.

# # #The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is the national medical organization representing 45,000 members who provide health care for women.

Some things are none of the Gubmint's business. So far the Gubmint doesn't own our bodies. But who knows what would happen after four more years of Bush ...

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Bush's Place in History
... or, more accurately, Bush's place in history class, which is facing the corner and wearing a dunce cap.
To my horror, the "President" said this in a speech to the national congress of the Philippines this past Saturday: "Together, our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule."
That is so not what  happened.
I read about this speech in an op ed by James Pinkerton in today's New York Newsday. Mr. Pinkerton does a pretty fair job of setting the record straight. I discussed the "liberation" of the Philippines by the U.S. awhile back, also. In my opinion, America's little escapade in the Philippines a century or so ago remains among the ugliest, most brutal, and most depraved things this nation ever did. It's right up there with slavery, the massacre of native Americans, and Vietnam.
We sure as hell did not fight "with" Philippines soldiers to liberate the Philippines. Rather, after defeating Spanish forces in Manilla, the United States proceeded to fight a long and bloody war against Filipinos in order to take the place of Spain as colonial ruler. This adventure culminated in the massacre of at least 900 Filipino Muslims, including women and children, by U.S. troops on the island of Jolo in 1906.
I realize that if I stopped ten thousand Americans in the street today and asked them about the Filipino-American war, only a handful would have any clue what I was talking about. But, I am told, the people of the Philippines have not forgotten, especially Filipino Muslims. The island of Jolo today is a hotbed of anti-American Muslim extremism, and not by coincidence.
Back to Shrub's speech. The members of the Philippines national congress showed remarkable restraint by remaining in their seats and not rising up against Shrub to throttle him. However, I can't imagine our "President" reassured many people in the Philippines that we have their best interests at heart.
Not surprisingly, Filipinos staged some lively anti-Bush demonstrations during Bush's brief visit.
But ... WTF? Doesn't anyone on the White House staff have a brain? It's bad enough that the alleged President of the United States doesn't bother to learn his own country's history. But you'd think someone on the staff would be put in charge of reviewing the Simpleton's speeches for stupidity, especially after the State of the Union-Niger yellowcake fiasco.
I guess not.
Mr. Pinkerton ended his op-ed: "If Bush had known the history of Iraq, he wouldn't have made all these mistakes earlier this year. But, of course, if he had known the history of the Philippines, he wouldn't have given the speech he gave on Saturday."
It's one thing to be ignorant. But it's another thing to be in a position of power and then remain ignorant out of sheer laziness. Bush isn't even trying to do his job; he just coasts along, expecting his staff to make him look good and clean up his messes. Words cannot describe how disgusted I am.  
1:50 pm | link

Hot Links 7:30 am | link

monday, october 20, 2003

Poor Babies
According to an article in Newsweek, the White House is very put out because nobody noticed the pretty new paper money in circulation in Iraq.
Administration officials crafted the media rollout for weeks. In theory it was a compelling story. The new bills were printed in five countries, including the U.K., Germany and Sri Lanka (the two Iraqi printing plants weren’t up to the job). Piles of old Saddam bank notes were burned, and the new currency was flown into Baghdad onboard 25 jumbo jets. Yet the event was barely covered.
For example, it says, USA Today buried the money story on page 5, while the story of three American soldiers being killed was on page 1. A "senior administration official" sniffled, “This [the paper money thing] was an enormous logistical effort that could never have happened in a country in chaos or without the cooperation of the Iraqis. Yet it barely breaks through the media.”
Poor babies.
First off, if printing up some paper money is their idea of "an enormous logistical effort," we're screwed. I'll tell you what an "enormous logistical effort" is. I once was production manager of a five-color print project (four colors with a black plate change) that involved writers and editors in New York and Boston; compositors/separators in California, Kentucky, Illinois, and Wisconsin;  page-by-page tracking of tens of thousands of unique pages, hundreds of thousands of pieces of art, and all of that going into thirty separate elementary textbooks (teacher editions) in production simultaneously on a tight deadline. And we did it. And THAT, friends, was an "enormous logistical effort."
For that matter, I'm more impressed when a mother of five small children can get her kids fed and washed and into snowsuits and into the car for a visit to Grandma before one of them fills his pants. Yet such things are accomplished every day.
If anyone in the Bush Administration wants to explain to me why printing up some paper money without Saddam Hussein's picture on it was such a big bleeping deal, email me.
I doubt most Americans really give a hoot about what Iraqi money looks like. I hope most Americans care about our soldiers being killed in combat.
If the White House wants to impress me with an "enormous logistical effort," let them try getting three meals a day* and proper body armor to all of our soldiers. This Associated Press story says a quarter of U.S. troops in Iraq lack proper body armor, even though Congress approved funds for the armor in April.
Congress approved $310 million in April to buy 300,000 more of the bulletproof vests, with 30,000 destined to complete outfitting of the troops in Iraq. Of that money, however, only about $75 million has reached the Army office responsible for overseeing the vests' manufacture and distribution, said David Nelson, an official in that office. [Matt Kelley, "1/4 of U.S. Troops Lack Body Armor," Associated Press, October 13, 2003]
Even better, let the White House accomplish the "enormous logistical effort" of turning Iraq over to multinational forces so our soldiers can come home.
2:22 pm | link

Great American Geniuses
When I find myself in times of trouble, I turn to Mark Twain. He explains it all.
Awhile back I blogged about Mark Twain and the Anti-Imperialist League. More than a century ago, Twain and other progressives of his day opposed U.S. occupation of the Philippines and other former Spanish territories. A lot of what Twain and other anti-imperialists wrote then applies surprisingly well to our current situation in Iraq today.
Many (undereducated) people still think of Twain as a children's writer -- as if Huckleberry Finn were "just" a children's book! -- I think the essays and speeches of the latter part of his life reveal he was one of the great thinkers of all time.
We say we have public opinion in America. We have none. We only think second hand. How many of us are there to-day who know whether it is better for the country to have a tariff or free trade? The only opinions most of us have on this subject are the opinions derived second hand from certain men who seek to influence us to their way of thinking, and their way of thinking is generally in a direction that will subserve their own private ends or the ends of the party which they represent. So, you see, we have no citizenship, and our so-called patriotism is a patriotism that is employed for the benefit of political parties and is made a party cry.
We can retrieve these words from time past and apply them directly to today. What has changed in all these years? In the grand scheme of things, not a whole lot.
Last week I got into a long online flame about the definition of patriotism. Stupid me; I forgot to consult Twain first.

A Patriot is merely a rebel at the start.

In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. The soul and substance of what customarily ranks as patriotism is moral cowardice and always has been.

In any civic crisis of a great and dangerous sort the common herd is not privately anxious about the rights and wrongs of the matter, it is only anxious to be on the winning side.

In the North, before the war, the man who opposed slavery was despised and ostracised, and insulted. By the "patriots." Then, by and by, the "patriots" went over to his side, and thenceforth his attitude became patriotism.

There are two kinds of patriotism -- monarchical patriotism and republican patriotism. In the one case the government and the king may rightfully furnish you their notions of patriotism; in the other, neither the government nor the entire nation is privileged to dictate to any individual what the form of his patriotism shall be. The gospel of the monarchical patriotism is: "The King can do no wrong." We have adopted it with all its servility, with an unimportant change in the wording: "Our country, right or wrong!" We have thrown away the most valuable asset we had:-- the individual's right to oppose both flag and country when he (just he, by himself) believed them to be in the wrong. We have thrown it away; and with it all that was really respectable about that grotesque and laughable word, Patriotism. [notebook, ca. 1908]

(Note: If you think Twain is saying he hated America, or that patriotism is evil -- you don't get it. Go deeper.)
Today, General Clark tells his audiences about a New American Patriotism:
This patriotism recognizes that democracy demands discussion, disagreement, and dissent. There is a nothing more American - nothing more patriotic -- than speaking out, questioning authority, and holding your leaders accountable. [Speech, New York City, October 14]
Isn't it remarkable that after a century -- after more than two centuries-- this still has to be explained to people? 'Course, the General doesn't go nearly as far as Twain did -- as a practical matter, no politician can. Heads would explode.
Let's see, one more Twain bit for today -- some time last week I caught one of those loudmouth, smirking fools who call themselves "conservatives" on television -- Crossfire, I think -- and the fool said he was not a hypocrite for supporting Arnold S-howeveryouspellit for Govenor, even though he had called for President Clinton's impeachment. Clinton was guilty of lying under oath, and that was all that mattered.
The larger context of the GOP crusade to entrap a sitting president, overturn an election, and destroy democracy as we know it just to grab more power for themselves was not even a flicker in his little, little mind. Nope; Clinton lied under oath. In other words, to this fellow, only the spoken lie was a problem. The much larger unspoken lies underpinning much of the political discourse of the 1990s didn't count. (If you are a Twain fan, you know where I'm going already.)
From one of the all-time great Twain essays, "My First Lie and How I Got Out of It":
The universal conspiracy of the silent-assertion lie is hard at work always and everywhere, and always in the interest of a stupidity or a sham, never in the interest of a thing fine or respectable. Is it the most timid and shabby of all lies? It seems to have the look of it. For ages and ages it has mutely laboured in the interest of despotisms and aristocracies and chattel slaveries, and military slaveries, and religious slaveries, and has kept them alive; keeps them alive yet, here and there and yonder, all about the globe; and will go on keeping them alive until the silent-assertion lie retires from business--the silent assertion that nothing is going on which fair and intelligent men are aware of and are engaged by their duty to try to stop.

What I am arriving at is this: When whole races and peoples conspire to propagate gigantic mute lies in the interest of tyrannies and shams, why should we care anything about the trifling lies told by individuals? Why should we try to make it appear that abstention from lying is a virtue? Why should we want to beguile ourselves in that way? Why should we without shame help the nation lie, and then be ashamed to do a little lying on our own account? Why shouldn't we be honest and honourable, and lie every time we get a chance? That is to say, why shouldn't we be consistent, and either lie all the time or not at all? Why should we help the nation lie the whole day long and then object to telling one little individual private lie in our own interest to go to bed on? Just for the refreshment of it, I mean, and to take the rancid taste out of our mouth. ...
There is a prejudice against the spoken lie, but none against any other, and by examination and mathematical computation I find that the proportion of the spoken lie to the other varieties is as 1 to 22,894. Therefore the spoken lie is of no consequence, and it is not worth while to go around fussing about it and trying to make believe that it is an important matter. The silent colossal National Lie that is the support and confederate of all the tyrannies and shams and inequalities and unfairnesses that afflict the peoples--that is the one to throw bricks and sermons at. But let us be judicious and let somebody else begin.
This essay was published in 1901.
Related links:
See also "The War Prayer" somewhere in the right-hand column on this page.
10:57 am | link

Hot Links 8:29 am | link

sunday, october 19, 2003

TV Snooze
A couple of actual White House officials showed up on the Sunday morning pundit shows today. Have they given up going over the heads of the "filters"?
I swear I saw Condi Rice being interviewed by somebody this morning, but now I can't recall where. Condi never says shit, but sometimes the way she doesn't say shit is entertaining and worth bringing up so's I can make fun of it.
Colin Powell was on Faux News today. I never watch Faux, but there is a transcript. He responds to the Sixty Minutes II program with Greg Thielmann, and the response is, of course, utter bullshit. Not worthy of comment. Do click on the Sixty Minutes II link and check it out if you missed the Thielmann program, though.
Beside the interview with Clueless Joe Lieberman on This Week, the other bit of today's TV punditry that annoyed the hell out of me involved David Broder on Meet the Press. The transcript isn't up yet, so I have to go by memory, but Broder referred to a profile of General Wesley Clark in today's Washington Post. According to Broder, the entire profile is all about why his fellow former officers don't like him, and that people who read this article will have serious doubt about whether they should vote for Clark for President.
However, I did read the profile, and on the whole I thought it was much more positive than negative about Clark. It wasn't a puff piece, but the impression I get from it is that Clark might make a great President.
A large collection of clueless media whores gathered around on the Chris Matthews Show and decided that an anti-Iraq War Dem will never be nominated, and if nominated, could not win the general election.
When I become World Dictator I will send all clueless twits into exile on a desert island, I promise.
2:33 pm | link

Hot Links
Note: As I keyboard, Joe Lieberman is being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" about why Lieberman's campaign is going nowhere, and it's apparent to me that neither of them has a clue. Neither has brought up Iraq, for example. What a waste of time.
8:03 am | link

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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


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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