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saturday, november 8, 2003

Tet, Anyone?
 

Even as the Middle East destabilizes, even as U.S. casualties increase and the Army resorts to bombing Tikrit, President Bush tells the world that the U.S. is leading a Global Democratic Revolution. Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld announces that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will be decreased by May.

 

Welcome to "Believe It, or Not." Or is it, "The Twilight Zone"?

 

Today U.S. warplanes bombed targets in Tikrit as a response to the recent downing of a Black Hawk helicopter.

 

The US Army said the airstrikes were a “show of force.” “We want to remind this town that we have teeth and claws and we will use them,” said Lt. Col. Steven Russell of the 4th Infantry Division who led the raid. ...

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage described Iraq as a “war zone,” but noted that “we have the momentum in this process.” “I’m absolutely convinced we have a very solid plan to go out and get these people who are killing us and killing Iraqis,” he told reporters during a visit to Iraq. [Naseer Al-Nahr, Asharq Al-Awsat, "U.S. Warplanes Bomb Tikrit," Arab News, November 9, 2003

The International Red Cross shut its offices in Baghdad and Basra today over concerns for staff safety. Also, up to 60 people were killed and 200 wounded by explosions in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, attributed to terrorists. Even after I began composing this essay, news came in of a car bombing in Riyadh, also. This suggests the Middle East is destabilizing, although no one in the U.S. government will admit it.

The Bush Administration has been desperately seeking additional troops for Iraq from other countries. It is doubtful more will be forthcoming. Today Turkey added itself to a list of refuseniks, following in the footsteps of Pakistan and India. Iraqi security forces are being trained, but so far their impact is limited. Many charge there are not enough U.S. soldiers in Iraq to maintain security.

Naturally, on Thursday the Department of Defense announced it had a grand plan to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. No, really; I am not making this up. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld unveiled a rotation plan that would lower the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from 130,000 to 105,000 by May.

Rummy plans to replace U.S. troops with the aforementioned Iraqi security forces, still in training. The rotation plan also calls for a greater reliance on reserves. Already National Guard and Reserve units are being called up to relieve regular troops. Plus, deployments for reservists already in Iraq are being extended.

The Pentagon also announced that the cuts in U.S. forces would mainly be in support personnel rather than combat troops. So long, supply and logistics. We hardly knew ye.

Even as the situation in the Middle East gets more and more alarming, so does President Bush. Last Thursday, speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush linked his own speech to Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points" speech in 1918, Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" in 1941, and Ronald Reagan's 1982 Westminster address. He's ready to have himself carved into Mount Rushmore. But does Bush understand the difference between talk and action?

The lingering question, as it is so often with Mr. Bush, is how quickly and fully the rhetoric will translate into action. The president's "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan never materialized; his ambitious "road map" for an Israeli-Palestinian peace didn't get past the first stop sign. A policy to promote democracy in the Middle East, even if defined as the work of decades, will require not just soaring speeches but far-reaching changes in U.S. practices and substantial costs. Though the administration has already been talking about the new strategy for many months, there has been no substantial follow-up so far -- other than a start on a new democratic political system for Iraq. ["A Democracy Policy," The Washington Post, November 9, 2003]

Unfortunately, the Washington Post continues, failure in Iraq would "encourage an explosion of anti-Western extremism." No kidding.

Now, here's my question. If success in Iraq is so vital to the interests of America and the world, why are we still so determined to achieve victory on the cheap? Why aren't we bringing every resource we have to bear -- including additional troops -- to establish security in Iraq? And then the Red Cross might come back, not to mention the UN, and other countries might be more inclined to send a few troops. But noooooooo ...

And why not? Here's a clue: The most recent CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll of adults nationwide says that 54 percent disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the war. So even while Shrub struts around making Big Speeches about Global Democratic Revolution, he fears the political consequences of increasing the number of troops. There is no other logical explanation.

And Bush is still telling us how we're all supposed to sacrifice.

"This is a massive and difficult undertaking," he continued. "It is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region." ["Bush Calls Democracy U.S. Mission," Commercial Appeal, November 7, 2003]

You should have thought about the consequences of failure before you ordered that precipitous attack last March, Mr. "President."

Unfortunately, because our government is headed by a pack of personality-disordered idiots, matters will have to get worse before they can get better. And if history is our guide, there is a good chance that will happen.

I don't really believe we'll see a replay of the Tet Offensive in Iraq, but I don't see any way the situation won't continue to deteriorate over the next several months. What's stopping it? Not us, certainly.

What else can we expect over the next few months? Watch the Pentagon play cute games with troop numbers to keep the press and public confused about the numbers of troops rotating in and out of Iraq. And there will be more bombing, because without sufficient troops on the ground there's not much else the military can do. And because Rummy loves his special ops guys, we know there are covert actions already underway, which may do some good, or may not. But we won't learn the details until after Bush is out of office.

Which, let us hope, won't be much longer.

7:42 pm | link

Hot Links 9:04 am | link

friday, november 7, 2003

Dubya the Great
 
History tells us that overreaching can be fatal, for both people and empires. Alexander the Great didn't know when to quit and died in Babylon. The Roman Empire spread itself too thin and collapsed from within and without. Napoleon thought he could conquer Russia; instead, his armies were lost in the snow. Hitler tried to take on powers both East and West and lost more than his armies.
 
Yesterday, President Bush spoke of a "global democratic revolution" led by the U.S. Hello? Is this related to "Bring It On?" I bet Osama and his boys already are printing fliers about the jihad to stop American domination.
The embattled U.S. effort to bring democracy and stability to Iraq is equal in importance to the early battles of the Cold War such as the Berlin Airlift and the Greek civil war, President George W. Bush said yesterday.

In a speech bristling with militant neoconservative rhetoric, Bush declared the struggle to transform Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations "a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." He also issued veiled warnings to Syria and Iran that they will face increased hostility from Washington unless they move in a democratic direction. [Ken Fireman, "Bush Casts War in Historic Terms," New York Newsday, November 7, 2003]

Just think about the delusion that went into those words. We can't get flipping Iraq to behave, people. And the fool is talking global?
 
Our military is stretched so thin, the DoD has reassigned one of the companies guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery to fight in Iraq. Next we'll be sending the U.S. Marine Marching Band, followed by the Boy Scouts.
 
Yes, I know the "President" is not talking about military conquest. He still imagines that as soon as Iraq catches on to the glories of Democracy, the rest of the world will look on in wonder and want to break the chains of oppression and be democracies, too.
 
Yeah, right. If all the world needed was a good example, why couldn't we make a good example of ourselves? Because we're lurching toward one-party rule and can't run honest elections any more, that's why.
 
And let's face it -- our "president" may have botched his glorious little Iraq War, but he's even worse at diplomacy.
 
But back to the speech. Never mind that that the Iraq War resembles the Berlin Airlift about as much as Bill O'Reilly resembles Brad Pitt. Middle Eastern analysis of the speech revealed that George W. Bush's measure of what is "democratic" and what isn't is ... George W. Bush.
One Arab diplomat, who asked not to be named, was more direct: ``His treatment of the various governments reflects their policy towards the United States. The more you applaud him, the more democratic you are. It's transparent and it's ridiculous.''

On Iran, for example, the president said: ``The regime in Teheran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people or lose its last claim to legitimacy.''

But Mr Bush had warm words for long-time ally Saudi Arabia, which falls way behind Iran on representative government, saying the Saudi government was taking its first steps toward reform, including a gradual introduction of elections.

While elections and street demonstrations are frequent occurrences in Iran, Saudi Arabia had its first significant public protests ever last month.

The Saudi authorities reacted by arresting more than 80 people for breaking the law. [Jonathan Wright, "Bush Targets Enemies in Democracy Speech," The Bangkok Post, November 8, 2003]
Bush believes he's the legitimate President of the United States, so what do you expect? He sees himself as the measure of all things; so, those who kiss his butt must be the Good Guys.
 
Bush is particularly oblivious to the status of Middle Eastern women. In his speech, Bush had kind words for Kuwait, where women cannot vote, but criticized Iran and Syria, where women have had the vote for decades.
Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, commented on September 23 that in many ways Iraqi women are worse off now than they were under Saddam. Under Saddam, Iraq was a secular society in which women enjoyed many of the same rights as men. Now, however, due to the rising extremism in Iraq which has developed out of the power vacuum created after Saddam’s fall, women feel they are being forced into playing traditional gender roles that they have no prior experience with. Heyzer stated, “There was a lot of hope that the lives [of women] would improve... but we have a situation where a lot of extremists have come into the country and women do not want to live under such extremism.”  [Erich Marquardt, "Removal of Saddam Reveals Bitter Irony," Islam Online, October 13, 2003]
badmen.jpg
To Iraqi women, I say: Welcome to our world. Get a load of the gang of thugs who signed our so-called "Partial Birth Abortion" ban.
 
But I wonder: Does Bush really think he has an unlimited supply of soldiers and armaments to send all over the world? Does he believe after the fiasco of Iraq he could go back to Congress and get a Syrian War Resolution or an Iranian War Resolution (well, maybe he could. I would hope he'd get more of a fight than he got last year)?
 
Does he really think Americans want to lead the world in a Global Revolution? Or would we rather just bring our soldiers home and get our jobs back? Or does he care what we think? Stupid question ...
 
Bush believes he was chosen by God to be President. (He sure as shootin' wasn't chosen by the voters.) This explains a lot. A rational man in his position would not be pushing grandiose plans of transforming the world. Instead, a rational man would be working hard to lower expectations in Iraq while refocusing on domestic issues.
 
So, I've got to take Bush at his word. I think he really believes that he can judge "goodness" in others by the degree to which they sing his praises. And he must think that "leadership" means acting like a tough guy while being spared any discomfort or sacrifice himself. And if people out there are suffering deprivation and loss because of his policies -- well, too bad. That's what little people are for.
 
Remember, it's not up to President Bush to serve the nation. Rather, it's our job as a nation to make Bush look good. That's what America is all about.
 
But I started out to criticize the President's Middle East speech, so let's go back to it. At one point, he listed the "essential principles common to every succesful society in every culture." Get a load of this list:
  • Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military so that governments respond to the will of the people and not the will of the elite.
  • Successful societies protect freedom, with a consistent impartial rule of law, instead of selectively applying the law to punish political opponents.
  • Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions, for political parties and labor unions and independent newspapers and broadcast media.
  • Successful societies guarantee religious liberty; the right to serve and honor God without fear of persecution.
  • Successful societies privatize their economies and secure the rights of property. They prohibit and punish official corruption and invest in the health and education of their people. They recognize the rights of women.
  • And instead of directing hatred and resentment against others, successful societies appeal to the hopes of their own people. [Link]
I look at that list, and I see material for several months' worth of blogs describing the countless ways George W. Bush fails at every point.
 
But in the meantime, we can only hope that between now and January 2005, when a new president WILL be inaugurated, Dubya's dreams of grandiosity will be held in check. And if he does flame out, let us hope that he doesn't take the whole almighty U.S. of A. down with him..
 
Just fourteen more months, people.  Then we can have a Democratic Revolution here at home.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 

8:45 pm | link

Views from Left Blogistan
 
Poppy poopers. Officially Unofficial says that an increasing number of retail stores in Canada are refusing to allow veterans to raise money by selling those little plastic poppies on  Armistice Day (a.k.a. Veterans' Day). It seems lots of people don't understand what the poppies represent, which means I'd better blog about it next week.
 
Do Bees and Don't Bees. Estimated Prophet says Jessica Lynch gets points for honesty, but Halliburton is naughty and needs to be investigated, if not spanked. And Then... tells us about a Young Republican Club that plans to use street theatre to dramatize the fall of Saddam Hussein. Sounds like some of the same people who were in my high school Pep Club. The Felonious Elephant says the Republican governor of Connecticut has finally acknowledged ties to Enron. No More Mr. Nice Blog says that a contractor backed out of a contract to build a Planned Parenthood clinic after receiving thousands of threatening phone calls from around the nation. So when do we start wearing burquas?
 
Race for the (National) Cure. ArtMachine says that the Greens might not want Ralph Nader to run for president on their ticket in 2004. But what can the Greens do to be taken seriously as a party?
 
World of War. Arms and the Man tells us that businessmen with close ties to Ahmad Chalabi have gotten big contracts for reconstruction in Iraq. Calpundit asks why Turkey won't be sendng troops. More on Jessica Lynch from Eric Alterman at Altercation.
 
Culture CornerDigby has the results of a haiku contest.

5:23 pm | link

Hot Links 8:27 am | link

thursday, november 6, 2003

Senator Byrd and Miscellaneous
 
More links to other stuff -- there is an outstanding interview with Senator Robert Byrd at Common Dreams that I recommend highly. Great cartoon by Dan Wasserman on the Dean-Dixie flap in the Boston Globe. There's an article by Connie Rice, cousin to Condi, in the Los Angeles Times telling Howard Dean to stand firm. At Slate, see How the Pentagon Forgot About Running Iraq by Jacob Weisberg.

2:56 pm | link

Views from Left Blogistan
 
Flag Flap Flapping. The Angry Liberal wails that Democrats would rather be politically correct-ed than elected.
 
Bash Bush. Different Strings explains What Went Wrong with Shrub's speech to the Australian Parliament. Go to Rick's Cafe Americain to read 20 questions for Bush.
 
World of War. Halliburton to be replaced as oil supplier to the Army? That's what it says on Hell for Halliburton. Maru at WTF Is It Now??? tells us how Iraq made a last-ditch effort to avoid war, but the Shrubbies wouldn't listen. The excellent Josh Marshall gives us the story behind the story.
 
When Gubmint Attacks. No More Mister Nice Blog says the House Ways and Means Committee is involving itself in a New Jersey child abuse case. The House Ways and Means Committee? WTF??? Thursday is New Jobless Day at Eschaton.
 
The Lighter Side of Our National Disaster. See Mad Kane's "A Little Laughter, a Little Law," for news to laugh at. Check out this cartoon at The Gotham 13. The 18-1/2 Minute Gap asks the eternal question, "Zell Miller: Threat or Menace?"

11:02 am | link

Hot Links 8:56 am | link

wednesday, november 5, 2003

Running from the Flag
 
Howard Dean just issued an apology for the Confederate flag remark.
"I started this discussion in a clumsy way. This discussion will be painful, and I regret the pain that I may have caused either to African-Americans or Southern white voters in the beginning of this discussion. But we need to have this discussion in an honest, open way," Dean said.
By now Governor Dean must wish he were still a doctor and just had reasonably predictable broken bones and germs and tumors to deal with. Now he's in a crazy alternate universe where the very words that got him a standing ovation a few months ago are getting him burned at the stake today, and no doubt by some of the same people.
 
For the record, the flag remark that recently detonated in the national media is this:  In response to a newspaper story that he had received favorable ratings from the National Rifle Association, Dean said, "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks."

I'm finding an astonishing number of people who interpret those words to mean that Dean personally endorses display of the Confederate flag, and/or that all Southernors are bigots. And this is from Democrats! Karl Rove will have people believing that Howard Dean is a Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan.

Let's chill out for a minute, people.

I grew up in a Confederate flag stronghold. My high school's team name was "the Rebels" and our team mascot was a Confederate colonel character. The all-girl Pep Club (which I got kicked out of, for reasons I'll explain later) showed up at games wearing white blouses with red string ties and waving little Confederate flags (this was in the 1960s. I don't know if they're still doing that). When my high school was rebuilt in the mid-1990s, the image of a Confederate flag was inlaid in the floor near the entrance. This means people are walking on it all day long, so I've raised no objections.

This is to say that I've known all manner of people who are Confederate flag wavers, and many of them are good-hearted, salt-of-the-earth people. But I also believe in facing up to ugly truths, and the truth about the flag's history is about as ugly as truth gets.

For years I've been opposed to flying Confederate flags over southern statehouses and sensitive to the fact that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and oppression. And for years I have argued with the "heritage" guys who claim that the Civil War was not fought over slavery, but over states' rights.

The claim is that since most of the white Southern men who fought for the Confederacy were not slaveowners, and since Abraham Lincoln himself said that he would not fight a war to end slavery, but to save the Union, then the Civil War was not about slavery and the old battle flag does not stand for racism. The flag, they say, stands for an ideal of Southern heritage and culture, not slavery.

To them I say, hooey. The truth is that slavery was the raison d'être of the Confederacy. The Southern states did not secede in 1860 and start a war in 1861 over some abstract Constitutional principle. They went to war because the leaders of the South -- the plantation class -- believed that their lives and fortunes and way of life depended upon the institution of slavery. And, the institution of slavery as practiced in 19th century America depended on racism. The Confederates' own documents state this plainly.

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition. [Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, 1861]

For more about the reasons for secession, I recommend the declaration of causes for secession documents drawn up by the seceding states.

Further, since 1865 the old Confederate battle flag has been taken up by generations of white supremacists, from Klansmen to skinheads to neo-Nazis. And the "heritage" guys never said boo about that.

But fast-forward to today, and to the guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. On a day when the Christian Science Monitor proclaims "GOP Clout Rises in the South," can we afford to write off an entire subculture of American voters because of the decals on their tailgates?

Because as ugly as the Confederate flag's history is, I also know that many people who display it don't think of it as a symbol of white supremacy. To many, it's more of an expression of defiance -- to society, to know-it-all Yankees who look down their noses at "rednecks," to those mysterious powers in corporate boardrooms and the halls of government that jerk working-class men and women around.

These guys may not be paragons of racial sensitivity, but they aren't Klansmen, either.

As I wrote in yesterday's blog, clearly Howard Dean does not plan to pander to racists but to reach out to southern working-class people, who are not as racist as some damnyankees want to believe. Southern whites for years have voted Republican because of social issues (e.g., school prayer, abortion, gay rights), and they give victories to the GOP in election after election. But Republican economic policies are hurting them badly. If a chunk of the white working-class can be persuaded to vote for pocketbook issues instead of social issues, the GOP southern base would dissolve.

So I say Howard Dean is right. It's time for Democrats to reach out to guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. As the Buddha said, hatred is not appeased with hatred, but with love.

And here's why I got kicked out of Pep Club. We had an enormous cheerleading squad of totalitarian cheerleaders who demanded the Pep Club members watch them instead of the game. And one time I got caught up in watching a really good, close basketball game and was hollering for our guys and not following the cheerleaders' directions. So I got kicked out of Pep Club for unauthorized cheering. 

2:44 pm | link

Views from Left Blogistan
 
The "W" Stands for War.  Clareified reminds us in "Death by Invitation" that "Bring It On" was the title of a teen flick about competing cheerleading squads, thus making it a perfect metaphor for the state of political discourse in America today. See also, "What Does a Lawyer Look Like?"  The fabulous David E. vents on corpses as a public relations liability.
 
God, sex, politics.  Speedkill shares his thoughts about the consecreation of a gay Episcopal bishop. The Cosmic Iquana tells us how the Patriot Act is impacting strip clubs. Democratic Veteran catches us up on The Linda Tripp Saga, as does Joe Conason.
 
Life Among the Stupid. Calpundit has nominees for Worst Idea of the Year award. Maru at WTF Is It Now??? delicately expresses her feelings toward the Bush clan, including materfamilias Bar. Cup o' Joe prophesizes about the future for workers if we don't get rid of Bush and his corporate cronies.

1:13 pm | link

Hot Links 7:53 am | link

tuesday, november 4, 2003

Rock the Confederacy?
 
I'm watching CNN's "Rock the Vote" program, squirming a little at the spectacle of middle-age people trying to be hip. What's up with Wesley Clark's "man in black" look? And, what, three of 'em admitted to having smoked pot? The times they are a-changin'.
 
The Hot Button that came out of this debate was Howard Dean's Confederate flag remark of a few days ago, when he said he wanted to be "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." This was seized eagerly by the several other candidates as a device to bash Dean.
 
"Martin Luther King said, 'Come to the table of brotherhood.' You can't bring a Confederate flag to the table of brotherhood." proclaimed the Rev. Al Sharpton. (The Reverend may have forgotten Matthew 5:43-48).
 
After the debate, John Edwards told Paula Zahn that Dean was wrong about southern men with pickup trucks and Confederate flags. Who are you trying to kid, Senator? Are you saying that in North Carolina there are no pickup trucks with Confederate flags draped in the back window with the gun rack? No tailgates festooned with Confederate stickers (along with other stickers that say, "My wife, yes; my dog, maybe; my gun, never" and "Keep honking! I'm reloading!")? Pun-leeze!
 
It's a shame so many wouldn't listen to Howard Dean's point, because if I understand it (and of course I do), he's right. The Democrats should try to reach out to white southern pickup truck guys, especially the ones with a fondness for Confederate flags. Because these guys have been voting against their own interests for years, especially their own pocketbook interests. They're a big chunk of the Republican base, yet they are being screwed by the Bush Administration as much as any other group, and a lot more than some. If enough of 'em were to wake up and see that, the Republican party would just about evaporate.
 
Dean did say the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism. Lots of the pickup truck guys are racists, and racism holds them back, just as racism kept the South poor for decades. In the old days of segregation a large part of the southern population -- the African American part -- was locked out of participation in the economy, and this in turn limited economic growth and kept the South poor. And today racism and other "isms" cause the white pickup truck guys to vote for the Republican party, and Republican economic policies are hurting them badly.
 
So I don't fault what Dean says. He may be naive to think that the pickup truck guys can be reached, but he's not wrong that we should try to reach them. I'm not saying we should try to reach them by appealing to racism, as the Right has. I'm saying it would be grand if the fear and anger of white southern working-class men could be directed toward the Right, which is cynically using them.
 
I'm southern enough to understand that the relationship of white southern men with the Confederate flag is a complicated one. To many the flag represents a complex mythology that is only partly about white supremacy. Paradoxically, this symbol of slavery and oppression is, to the white pickup truck guys, a symbol of liberty. Part of the appeal of the flag is its aura of bravado and lost causes, but to the pickup truck guys it also speaks to being one's own master. It represents a fabled time when (white) men's lives were their own, not directed by distant corporations and other faceless powers they don't understand, and which they fear.
 
The Republicans have done a masterful job of directing the fear and anger of the pickup truck guys toward blacks and feminists and homosexuals and liberals in general, and of course toward anybody who isn't "born again." But the joke is that the pickup truck guys have nothing to fear from  blacks, feminists, homosexuals, etc.
 
What they should fear is the political-corporate monster that is swallowing all of us whole, and the powerful few who run it. Like George W. Bush.
 
"I think we need to talk to white Southern workers about how they vote," Dean said, "because when white people and black people and brown people vote together in this country, that's the only time that we make social progress, and they need to come back to the Democratic Party."
 
In their eagerness to bash Howard Dean, several of the other Dem candidates dissed the pickup truck guys pretty hard. So are we to ignore them? Or quarantine them? Are they all beyond redemption?
 
I don't know. Maybe they are. But, in principle, Howard Dean is right.

8:17 pm | link

Censor One for the Gipper
 
Now that CBS has officially yanked the Reagan miniseries from its schedule, please go to their home page and scroll to the bottom for the "feedback" link. That takes you to a form you can use to contact CBS and explain what sniveling, worthless cowards they are.

2:22 pm | link

Views from Left Blogistan
 
Some fresh items from the liberal side of the blogosphere. Let me know if you find this useful --
 
Donald Luskin Is a Stalker. Different Strokes informs us that Donald Luskin Is a Stalker Day has been called off, which was news to me. I already posted one Donald Luskin Is a Stalker link already today. However, since I still hold out hope I will be sued (I need the publicity), I believe I will not withdraw Donald Luskin Is a Stalker comments already posted, including this one I am writing now which I haven't posted yet.  The Rittenhouse Review points out that the 72 hours are up. Fun animated GIF at ugga bugga.
 
Right Wingers Are from Mars. A scoop from Rush Limbaughtomy -- Our Boy Rush doesn't pay his property taxes! No More Mister Nice Blog discusses the lameness of the New York Times's new columnist, David Brooks. (My theory is that Brooks is channeling the late Michael Kelly.)
 
Cancel One for the Gipper. All Facts and Opinions discusses the cancellation of the Ronnie movie by CBS, as does Josh Marshall. Eric Alterman explains "morality" in the Reagan years.
 
World of War. Joe Conason says that blaming the media won't bail out the Bushies no more. Read all about reinstating the draft on The People's Republic of Seabrook. Dohiyi Mir makes a case for bugging out asap.

9:23 am | link

Hot Links, Chinook Down Edition 6:56 am | link

monday, november 3, 2003

Cheap Talk

 

The President of the United States made no comment on November 2, 2003, which was the bloodiest day so far for U.S. troops in Iraq. On that day, 16 U.S. soldiers died and 20 were wounded in a single helicopter attack. Three other soldiers died in Iraq that day in separate incidents.

 

President Bush was resting on his Texas ranch that day, a Sunday, enjoying a "down" day between campaign appearances on Saturday and Monday.

 

The White House staff was reluctant to involve the President in a “politically perilous fray,” an Associated Press story said. A White House spokesperson read a generic statement to the press about continuing attacks on Americans. The spokesperson declined to comment on the President’s personal reactions to the tragedy of that day.

 

The next day, the President would not comment specifically on the soldiers so recently dead. “We mourn every loss,” he said. "We honor every name. We grieve with every family. And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders."

 

These are words repeated verbatim from the President’s address of October 9 at Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire:

Nearly every day in Iraq we're launching swift, precision raids against the enemies of peace and progress. Helped by intelligence from Iraqis, we're rounding up the enemy. We're taking their weapons. We're working our way through the famous deck of cards. We've already captured or killed 43 of the 55 most wanted former Iraqi leaders, and the other 12 have a lot to worry about. (Laughter.) Anyone who seeks to harm our soldiers can know that our soldiers are hunting for them. Our military is serving with great courage -- some of our best have fallen. We mourn every loss. We honor every name. We grieve with every family. And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders. (Applause.)

The President must mourn every loss in an intensely private way, because he does not reach out to the families of the soldiers lost in the war he was so eager to start. Breaking with long tradition, he does not attend funerals and has rarely spoken to bereaved families who might be comforted by a few words from their President.

 

Indeed, the Bush Administration has little use for the ceremonial traditions surrounding the dead of war. For example, a Pentagon directive to U.S. military bases banned arrival ceremonies or media coverage of coffins arriving home from the war.

 

And the wounded also are hidden from view. Senator Patrick Leahy, speaking on the floor of the Senate October 16, said, “The wounded are brought back after midnight, making sure the press does not see the planes coming in with the wounded.” While the President speaks of sacrifice and resolve, the wounded soldiers who have been the instruments of that resolve are brought home under cover of darkness as if they were objects of shame.

 

Just as the President’s staff protected him from exposure to a “politically perilous fray,” so does the Bush Administration protect the public from exposure to truths that might shake their support of his administration, and his war.

 

On a day after 19 soldiers died, President Bush said, "America will never run.” He speaks bravely for someone who lacks the moral courage to confront the price paid for his decisions.

 

5:08 pm | link

My Letter to CAP
 
(The Center for American Progress is John Podesta's new "think tank" established to counter right wing "think tanks" like the Heritage Foundation. This is somehow supposed to save the Democratic Party from being utterly swamped by the Right Wing.)
 
Dear Center for American Progress:
 
I've looked at your web site and I've read the New York Times magazine article by Matt Bai about you, and while I wish you well I think you are missing something.
 
Here's the big picture: We have this country, the United States of America, that is supposed to be self-governed by the people. But public dialogue is dominated by right-wing extremists who (some of us think) are leading the people down a very dark road.
 
Those of us who see the darkness of the road are making all the noise we can make to warn others, but we have little effect. Why is this?
 
First, because we have little access to mass media.
 
Second, because the Right has implanted its memes, such as "taxes are bad" and "government is bad," so effectively that public dialogue on the value of government or taxes is just about impossible. And all the facts and figures and real-world examples won't get our voices heard over the memes.
 
Now, it's a fine thing to sit around in Washington DC and think up new ideas, but all the new ideas in the world won't help us with our essential problem -- that out here beyond the beltway we aren't being heard.
 
The Republicans have been reaching people through people. They not only have "think tanks," but they find and develop and promote (and, yes, sponsor) those people who were already reaching an audience and making an impact on public opinion. Democratic leadership, by contrast, mostly talks to itself. Those of us out here in the "trenches" are left to our own devices to carry on public dialogue on your behalf.
 
May I say, Help?
 
The fight for America is being fought our here in the ordinary world, not from ivory towers. Those of us out here fighting the real fight are communicating on the cheap, with web sites and internet radio, but if we could expand our audiences with some promotion or a little funding I think we could have an enormous impact on public dialogue.
 
And if, at some point, you ivory tower people come up with an amazing new idea you want to present to the public -- great. Send it over. But you can't sell anything without a sales force.
 
Those of us out here mixing it up every day with rank and file Bush supporters might not be ace policy wonks, but we're fighters, and we're communicators, and we could use some help. Please stop ignoring us.
 
Sincerely,
 
Barbara O'Brien
 
PS Personally, I don't think we need a new idea. I think we have a grand old idea -- of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Thomas Jefferson established the principle of our remarkable experiment in self-government in the Declaration of Independence, and many others -- Abraham Lincoln, Theordore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, among others -- have expanded on that grand idea. (If you want some really kick-ass "new" ideas, you can find them in some of Teddy Roosevelt's speeches, such as "The New Nationalism" and "The Man in the Arena." But that's me.)
 

1:15 pm | link

Hot Links 7:26 am | link

Bush Down, Down, Down
 
On the bloodiest day yet for U.S. troops in Iraq, the President of the United States couldn't be bothered to make a statement. Sunday was a "down" day between campaign appearances on Saturday and Monday.
The White House, reluctant to pull Bush into the politically perilous fray, initially let Rumsfeld do the responding in a series of TV appearances Sunday morning. Later, White House officials directed spokesman Trent Duffy to read a statement that reacted generically to continuing attacks on Americans.

Duffy declined to describe Bush's personal reaction to the helicopter downing, but said those killed ``served the highest cause to defend freedom and protect Americans from dangerous new threats before they reach our shores.'' [Robert Burns, "Rumsfeld: Helicopter Downing a Tragedy," Associated Press/The Guadian, November 3, 2003]

There are no words for how angry and disgusted I am. 
 
Meanwhile, Rummy says that there's no need for additional U.S. troops in Iraq, because Iraqis are being trained to handle security.
Blunting new calls from Capitol Hill to dispatch more U.S. troops, Rumsfeld said that "over 100,000" Iraqi forces had been trained to provide security and that the number would double by next September. Rumsfeld's number of Iraqi forces is 15,000 higher than numbers provided by the U.S. occupation authority and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in the past week, and it represents a 40 percent increase from administration estimates a month ago.

The administration has stressed a rapid "Iraqification" of the security situation as attacks against U.S. targets have dramatically increased in recent weeks. But, paradoxically, the attacks appear to be increasing in sophistication and accuracy as the administration asserts that more of the security is being turned over to Iraqis. [Glenn Kessler and Mike Allen, "Rumsfeld: No Need for More U.S. Troops," The Washington Post, November 3, 2003]

Among the several things Rummy and his Pentagon crew have consistently gotten wrong is the number of troops needed to do the job. Rummy has a CEO's obsession with "productivity," meaning wringing the most work out of the fewest employees. And he is determined to show the world how wars can be won with fewer regular troops and more special ops, and by outsourcing as much support and supply as possible. (If you haven't already, be sure to read the recent New York Times report "Blueprint for a Mess.")
 
Over the next few days, expect to hear veterans and career officers speak out about the need to increase ground troops in Iraq in order to provide better security, both for troops and civilians.
 
But Rummy will resist, because to increase the number of troops would be to admit he might not be correct. And he can't do that, no matter now many soldiers die. Nor can other Pentagon civilians like Paul Wolfowitz, who seems never to have gotten one damn thing right in his life and yet is promoted to one position of life-and-death responsibility after another.
 
Do I sound bitter? You betcha.
 
Meanwhile, Teresa Cullum of Rogers, Arkansas, writes to Stars 'n' Stripes:

This is in reference to my nephew, Pfc. Alan Shaffer, as well as other young men having to live in the horrible conditions to which they are subjected in Iraq. This is a disgrace and our government is responsible. They are fighting for our freedom and for a great cause.

President Bush will really reap the consequences from the American voters if he does not take care of our men. They deserve to have a bed or cot, facilities to shower and proper nutrition. How can they stay sharp and focused when they are having to weather these conditions and our government does not take care of them? ... Maybe President Bush should live like these boys for two weeks; I bet then he would change their living conditions. [Stars 'n' Stripes, Letters to the Editor for Monday, October 27, 2003]

Sounds to me like the outsourcing thing isn't working, either.Or is the money appropriated for food and shelter for soldiers going into Bush's campaign war chest, instead?
 

11:08 pm | link

sunday, november 2, 2003

Where Have You Gone, Edward R. Murrow?
 
The Bush Administration hides wholesale war profiteering and corruption behind the flag while smearing the character of anyone who tries to oppose them.
 
Yeah, I know, so what else is new? But everyone with a voice or a pen or a blog must keep trying to drag the truth into daylight, because major news media isn't doing it.
 
For example:
 
The GOP talking point (i.e., the Big Lie du Jour) on the recent $87 billion appropriation for Iraq is that a vote against the appropriation represented a failure of nerve -- no, of resolve -- to do our duty by Iraq. (*)
 
Read this transcript from Saturday's CNN Capital Gang for an example:
NOVAK: Now, once we are there, we have no choice. And all this yip-yapping by journalists who don't know a damn thing about Iraq makes me a little bit sick, but not as sick as the Democrats who voted to get in, including presidential candidates, and then they vote against the money and say we have to get out. They are the kings of the hypocrites, they are really horrible, and I think -- I think it's going to -- I give a lot of credit to Dick Gephardt. And Dick Gephardt says he voted for it, he is there for staying. He is critical. That's fine, he's a politician. But he's a consistent, honest man. You can't say that for a lot of the others.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BEIRNE: The only two who won't -- who aren't advocating some version of cutting and running.
So, according to Kate O'Beirne, only two Democratic candidates are not advocating some version of cutting and running in Iraq, and these would be Gephardt and Lieberman. And we know this because they voted for the $87 billion appropriation. The two Democrats Novak is calling "kings of the hypocrites" are senators Kerry and Edwards, who voted for the Iraq War Resolution last year but against the $87 billion appropriation.
 
The alternative to cutting and running is Bush's plan as described by O'Beirne:
Seems to me the administration has made clear, they won't stay a week longer than necessary, but this president is determined not to leave Iraq until he leaves a stable democracy.
What we're seeing are two Big Lies melded together. The first Big Lie is that the only reason for voting against the $87 billion appropriation is a desire to "cut and run." The second Big Lie is that all but two Democratic candidates are in favor of "cutting and running" in Iraq. Let's dissect one lie at a time, starting with the second.
 
Big Lie #2: All but two Democratic candidates are in favor of "cutting and running" in Iraq.
 
On their web sites, the nine Democratic presidential candidates indicate clearly where they stand on Iraq with the exception of the Rev. Mr. Sharpton, who doesn't mention Iraq on his site but has stated his position in speeches. The fact is that with the exception of Sharpton and Kucinich, the candidates' goals are in line with President Bush's stated goals as expressed above by Kate O'Beirne.
 
Very briefly (and in alphabetical order), here are the candidates' positions with links to more information:
 
Carol Mosely Braun says she does not plan to "cut and run" and wants to bring in international help to share the burden.
 
Wesley Clark argues that without a clear exit strategy the U.S. will not be able to finish its mission, and that "a premature pullout will exacerbate regional conflict and undercut the War on Terror."
 
Howard Dean says the U.S. "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."
 
John Edwards 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.
 
Richard Gephardt would seek help from NATO and the UN to stabilize Iraq.
 
John Kerry presents a plan to involve the UN and provide security in Iraq, with the ultimate goal of transferring control and responsibility to Iraqis.
 
Dennis Kucinich wants all administrative and security responsibilities to be handed over to the UN so that the US can withdraw.
 
Joe Lieberman wants NATO to assume command of forces in Iraq while working toward the creation of a permanent Iraqi government.
 
Al Sharpton is more focused on domestic issues than on foreign policy on his web site. However, in the October 27 Democratic candidate debate in Detroit, he said, "We need to go to the U.N., we need to say that we are working a multilateral commitment. And we need to show that we really love the troops by bringing the troops home."
 
Of the nine candidates, only Kucinich and Sharpton appear to want to bring the troops home unconditionally, meaning without waiting for increased stability or the establishment of a new Iraqi government. The remaining candidates appear to be remarkably in line with Bush's stated goal of staying in Iraq until we can leave a stable democracy. (Although, adds General Clark, "when the Iraqis ask us to go, the mission is over.")
 
The biggest distinction between the Democrats and Bush is that the Democrats' plans have more detail and foresight. The White House seems to be making it up as it goes along.
 
Further, even though Bush's stated goal is to establish democracy and then leave, his administration doesn't seem to be in a big hurry to accomplish those goals. We know that the Project for a New American Century, an organization whose members make up a big chunk of the Bush Administration, wants to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq, just as the U.S. did in Japan and Germany after World War II.
 
And surely the Bushies won't want to cut off the gravy train for their biggest contributors, which takes us to Lie #1:
 
Big Lie #1: A vote against the $87 billion was a vote for "cutting and running."
 
Thanks to the hard work of The Center for Public Integrity, we know that $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan went to American companies, and these same companies "contributed more money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush—more than $500,000—than to any other politician over the last dozen years."

These two wars in two years and their aftermaths have brought out the Beltway Bandit companies in full force, and there is a stench of political favoritism and cronyism surrounding the contracting process in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I am not just talking about the large political payments and excessive lobbying fees to land these fat contracts, or the already reported, cushy, no-bid circumstances surrounding the Vice President's former company, Halliburton. We found numerous instances in which companies with thin or no credentials landed major multimillion dollar contracts. We also found a current Pentagon official whose spouse has been getting Iraq contracts. Carol Haave has been deputy assistant secretary of defense for security and information operations since November 2001, and her husband, Terry Sullivan, still works for their contractor company, Sullivan Haave. He told us, with a straight face, that "People need to know how we operate as a husband and wife. We keep things completely separate and always have." [Charles Lewis, Remarks on the Release of Windfalls of War, Center for Public Integrity, October 30, 2003]

Now, put this cozy relationship between the Bushes and their vendors together with the fact that the $87 billion appropriation was wildly padded, with items such as $9 million to establish zip codes and garbage trucks costing $50,000 each. Further,

On September 17, Bush asked for the $87 billion supplemental provision. Staffers on congressional oversight committees, however, were shocked to discover that, for the $20 billion earmarked for Iraqi reconstruction costs, no one could tell them how the numbers were derived or who came up with them. The budget also allocates billions for classified purposes, which caused Democratic senator Edward Kennedy to accuse the Pentagon of administering a slush fund for bribing potential coalition allies. The bill also designates at least $5 billion as "transfer funds," which Secretary Rumsfeld can redirect as he deems fit. It's a mysterious document. [Roger Trilling, "Bush's Golden Vision," The Village Voice, October 15-21, 2003]

Is it not plain what is happening here?

Follow the money -- from our pockets as taxpayers into the pockets of war profiteers like Halliburton, which will cycle a good part part of the profit back to the Bush re-"election" effort and the GOP. And some of that money may be intended to bribe who knows what unsavory terrorist or warlord to keep them in line. Further, as violence escalates day by day it is plain the Bush Administration is not capable of carrying out whatever mission it thinks it has in Iraq.

So Senators Edwards and Kerry voted no, and not because they want to "cut and run."

"I believe we have a responsibility to support our troops in Iraq. I believe we have a responsibility to help rebuilt Iraq. But our troops will not be safer and this mission will never be successful unless the president dramatically changes course," Edwards said in an interview with The Associated Press. [Ron Fournier, "Edwards Says He'll Vote Against $87 Billion Aid Package," AP, October 14, 2003]

And the Lies Just Keep On' Comin'
 
Unfortunately, the counter-arguments to the simplistic, black-and-white positions of shills like Novak and O'Beirne can't be explained in quick comebacks and sound bytes. For example, to explain why Edwards voted against the $87 billion required explaining the war profiteering and lack of transparency in the appropriation.
 
You can find the counter-arguments in print and on the web, but they are hard to come by on television or radio. And they are hard to come by because the Right Wing sees to it the counter-arguments will not be heard.
 
Even when someone capable of explaining the counter-arguments gets on a TV pundit show, whether CNN, MSNBC, or Fox, they are inevitably paired with a right-wing yapper who shouts over other speakers while tossing out more red herrings than you can blink at.
 
(Someday, Joe Conason will be on MSNBC's Hardball and be allowed to finish a sentence. But I'm not holding my breath until it happens.)
 
My point is this: It took Novak and O'Beirne only a few seconds to slander the Democrats. I've spent quite a bit more time than that setting the record straight, and I know only a tiny fraction of people will read this blog compared to the number of people who watch CNN. But if enough of keep working at it, maybe -- maybe -- we can make a difference. Please do what you can to help.
 
_____
 
(*)As I discussed at way too much length yesterday, there are people who sincerely believe immediate withdrawal is the best next move, and other people who sincerely believe that we need to keep troops in Iraq at least until the situation there is more stable and/or some other authority is in place to keep order. I hope that until we elect a Democrat to the White House, those of us who oppose President Bush can agree to disagree on this point.

1:58 pm | link

Kate O'Beirne Versus Reality
 
I like to watch CNN's "Capital Gang" just to see what new howlers Kate O'Beirne comes up with. She rarely disappoints. This is from yesterday's show transcript:
KATE O'BEIRNE, CAPITAL GANG: Look, the economic news was clearly welcome. The unemployment rate is virtually the same as it was in 1994, when nobody thought we were looking at a Hoover-type recession, but maybe people feel more strongly about an unemployment rate of over 6 percent nowadays. I suspect people feel more strongly about their own capital formation in the stock market, but we'll see if that's the case.

Kate thinks that most people feel more strongly about their own capital formation in the stock market than they do about jobs. Well, in Kate's cushy, overpaid Republican world, that's probably true. I wonder if she really doesn't know about the rest of us?

Al Hunt attempted dialogue, thus:

HUNT: ... Now, I'll tell you something, Kate. You're right, it was 6 percent unemployment in 1994, down 20 percent from the year before, right after the Bill Clinton tax increase.

O'BEIRNE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) talking about Herbert Hoover.

HUNT: Because Bill Clinton was lowering the deficit. It lowered by $100 million. Inflation was down, the stock market was up. If George Bush can replicate that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) performance in the one year after the tax increase, it will be a great success.

O'BEIRNE: Bob, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Democrats' remedy. Every single Democrat running for president wants to raise taxes. That is not going to create jobs.

HUNT: It did in 1994.

O'BEIRNE: Every single one of them.

HUNT: It did in '93 and '94.

When Bill Clinton raised taxes in his first term, Republicans screamed their lungs out that the economy would be ruined. Instead, we had an economic expansion of historic proportions. They still can't bring themselves to admit they were wrong.

And the great Bob "Let's compromise national security to help Bush" Novaks chimed in:

NOVAK: Let me set you correct, Mark, a little bit, because you guys play that class warfare, you're way out of date. Oh, boy, jobs, jobs, jobs, you know, there's a lot of people in this country -- you don't like it -- but the middle class has stocks, they have 401(k)s, and they're very interested in the stock market.

Yes, a lot of working people have money in the stock market through 401Ks and company stock purchase plans. However, that money is not exactly a substitute for a job. Joe Lunchbucket doesn't come home from being laid off  and declare, "We don't have to worry about prolonged unemployment! I have a 401K plan!"

Do these people even live in the same time-space continuum as the rest of us?

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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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