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saturday, march 20, 2004

Hot Links 6:59 am | link

friday, march 19, 2004

D'oh!
 
New York Newsday reports that merchandise sold on George W. Bush's official "re"-election campaign site was made by workers in Third-World countries -- including Burma, whose products Bush has banned from the U.S.
The official merchandise Web site for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign has sold clothing made in Burma, whose goods were banned by Bush from the U.S. last year to punish its military dictatorship.

The merchandise sold on www.georgewbushstore.com includes a $49.95 fleece pullover, embroidered with the Bush-Cheney '04 logo and bearing a label stating it was made in Burma, now Myanmar. The jacket was sent to Newsday as part of an order that included a shirt made in Mexico and a hat not bearing a country-of-origin label. ...
 
Human rights watcher Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee, said the slip-up showed a lack of conviction on the administration's part. "Given the debate about outsourcing, it's amazing that the campaign would be selling stuff made in the most brutal country on earth, known for things like child labor and sexual slavery," he said. "It shows a crude indifference to this issue."

The National Basketball Association recently vowed to stop selling Burmese-made sweatshirts after a campaign by the NLC.

The company handling John Kerry's campaign merchandise says it works with Union shops in the U.S.A.

1:09 pm | link

Hot Links, Iraq War Anniversary Edition
 
Q: How can you tell when Condi Rice is lying?
 
A: Her lips are moving.
 
One more former White House staffer has come forward to testify that the Bush White House ignored the terrorist threat before 9/11. And, bless me, this was reported not in some liberal pulp rag, but on the NBC Nightly News.
 
Roger Cressey, a terrorism expert in both Democratic and Republican administrations and now an NBC News analyst, says that from day one the Bush White House put the growing threat of al Qaeda on the bottom of their priority list.

Now Cressey is speaking out for the first time. He says in the early days of the Bush administration, al-Qaida simply was not a top priority, “There was not this sense of urgency.  The ticking clock, if you will, to get it done sooner rather than later.”

Cressey and other witnesses have told the 9/11 commission of long gaps between terrorism meetings and greater time and energy devoted to Russia, China, missile defense and Iraq than al-Qaida.

For example: One document shows a key high-level National Security Council meeting on Iraq on Feb. 1, 2001. Yet, there was no comparable meeting on al-Qaida until September.

Is Cressey saying that some senior members of the Bush administration viewed Saddam Hussein as a greater threat to the United States than Osama bin Laden?  “Oh, absolutely.  Absolutely.  It was inconceivable to them that al-Qaida could be this talented, this capable without Iraq, in this case, providing them real support."

That spring, President Bush learned bin Laden was responsible for the attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors.  Why was there no retaliation?

You would think after an attack that almost sank a U.S. destroyer there would have been [a mandate] for some type of action.  Yet we never saw that from the Pentagon,” Cressey answered.

Here's where Condi Rice comes in. NBC went to her for reaction to Cressy's testimony. She was asked why the Bush Administration didn't act on the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

Bush administration national security adviser Condoleezza Rice insists that President Bush wanted to avenge the Cole, but not with a pinprick retaliatory strike, “We were concerned that we didn’t have good military options. That really all we had were options like using cruise missiles to go after training camps that had long since been abandoned.”

NBC’s sources say that the camps in Afghanistan were thriving, that the United States could have hit the camps and killed lots of terrorists....

Of course, none of this is really new. Variations of this same story have been reported since the spring of 2002. For a retrospective of What They Knew and When They Knew It, visit the Timeline of Terror.

What a difference a year makes. Dana Milbank and Robin Wright have a retrospective of the Iraq War in today's Washington Post: "Off the Mark on the Cost of War, Reception by Iraqis."

The invasion and occupation of Iraq, his administration predicted, would come at little financial cost and would materially improve the lives of Iraqis. Americans would be greeted as liberators, Bush officials predicted, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein would spread peace and democracy throughout the Middle East.

Things have not worked out that way, for the most part. ...

Not quite.

Not enough Pepto Bismol on the planet. Donald Rumsfeld has an op ed in today's New York Times called "The Price of Freedom in Iraq." I haven't read it. For more of the Best of Rummy, check out Rummy Caught on Camera.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

E.J. Dionne: Spain Rejects Manipulation

6:16 am | link

thursday, march 18, 2004

The Good, the Bad, and the Clueless
 
Richard Cohen of the Washington Post can be a pretty good columnist some of the time, but he has lapses of cluelessess that keep him out of E.J. Dionne's league.
 
Today's column -- "A Divider, Not a Uniter"-- is standard Richard Cohen -- close, but no cigar. Let's take a look.

Sooner or later some industrious journalist will comb through all the promises George W. Bush made during his first presidential campaign and see which ones he kept.

Before the November election would be nice. You'd think this is a task "lots" of "industrious journalists" would be doing, though, wouldn't you?

A good start would be to return to the speech he gave in Iowa at the beginning of the 2000 campaign. He promised to reduce taxes, to "rebuild the military," to institute a missile defense system and to impose education standards -- all of which he has done.

When did he "rebuild the military"? And exactly what did it need to be rebuilt from? As I remember, before September 11 Rummy had made noises about streamlining the military, arguing that maintaining readiness for a two-front war was not necessary.
 
As evidence, I offer The Mahablog for January 4, 2003.
 
 
January 4, 2003
 
Here's a backdate/update on Rummy and the Brass. We're starting with the backdate. Let's go back to July 2001 and read the New York Times, then we'll check in on what Rummy says today.
WASHINGTON, July 18 -- Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that sharp disagreements remained among some in the armed services over how large the American military must be to carry out new strategic guidelines he recently negotiated with the nation's most senior officers. ...

"The secretary said up front that he is trying to free up money to modernize," said one senior officer. "Missile defense is their No. 1 priority. He has said to us, `We've got to find a way to de-emphasize conventional programs to pay for strategic defense.' "

More than a dozen Pentagon officials and military officers described the classified guidelines, saying that under the terms of reference, the United States was abandoning requirements that its military be prepared to win two major wars almost simultaneously.

Instead, the new guidelines order the armed forces to prepare for four core missions: to "win decisively" in a single major conflict; defend American territory against new threats; maintain global deployments to deter aggression; and, at the same time, conduct a number of holding actions, peacekeeping missions and support operations around the globe.

The broad directives are contained in a classified 29-page document, "Guidance and Terms of Reference for the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review." The document is the manual for the Pentagon's top-to-bottom analysis of strategy and budgets required by Congress every four years.

"When you give us those missions, and say we have to be prepared to do them `concurrently,' I don't know how you get to less people or less stuff," one official said today.

Another official said: "The working group sized the force as close as it could to what they all thought the terms of reference called for. They came back with such a large figure that Rumsfeld fell off his chair." ...

Civilian Pentagon officials and military officers agreed that a central friction in the review was over how much risk the armed forces could accept, if the nation had to go to war today, to pay for the future transformation as envisioned by Mr. Rumsfeld and President Bush. [Thom Shanker, "Rumsfeld Sees Discord on Size of Military," The New York Times, July 19, 2002]

Please read the entire article, because what comes through is that Rummy is oh, so contemptuous of those idiot generals who think they need lots of soldiers and stuff to defend the country. And what does the Secretary of Defense say today?

The question was, and is: can America - and make no mistake, these are American conflicts - wage a war on two fronts, Iraq and North Korea?

In his annual report to Congress, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it could.

"The US will continue to meet its commitments around the world, including in south-west and north-east Asia, by maintaining the ability to defeat aggression in two critical areas in overlapping time frames," Mr Rumsfeld said.

"The US is not abandoning planning for two conflicts." [Gerard Wright, "US Plans for Conflict on Two Fronts With Help from a Dove," The Age (Australia), January 4, 2003]

How do you like your crow cooked, Mr. Secretary?

~~~~~~~~~~~

Why is it no one remembers this? Why is it that the "punditocracy" so readily accepts the meme that "Bush rebuilt the military"? As far as the missile defense goes -- was it ever deployed? And if so, does it work? Well, back to Richard Cohen.

Still, he gets a failing grade.

For it was at Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 14, 1999, that Bush declared himself "a uniter, not a divider" -- maybe his most important promise and the one he has clearly not kept. He prefaced that vow by saying, "I reject the ugly politics of division." Instead he has reveled in it, pursuing policies and appointments that sometimes seem designed to do nothing more than energize the president's conservative base and drive everyone else up the wall.

Almost there. Substitute "are" for "seem designed to do" and this paragraph would be gold.

The country remains as divided as it was under Bill Clinton, who was such a divisive figure that Al Gore virtually turned his back on him.

Hello? Clinton wasn't the one doing the dividing. Sure the Big Dog messed up. But it was the VRWC that insisted on a political war.
 
Then Mr. Cohen goes on for a few paragraphs about what a thorough divider President Bush is, culminating with:

I know how to lead," Bush said that day in Iowa -- but he does not. Leadership does not mean going your own way. It means getting others to follow, constructing a consensus. Bush has failed to do this, and the failure is not due to a lack of leadership skills. It's purposeful. The narrowness of the election kept Bush close to his conservative base. Among other things, he has nominated judges who are not mere conservatives but true right-wing reactionaries. In two cases his nominees had to be sneaked onto the bench by fiat, not by Senate confirmation. Just recently Bush threw his base the red meat of a frivolous constitutional amendment that would bar gay marriage. It's a sop to homophobes and Bush knows it. His body language gives him away.

Some of us noticed the body language thing even before the 2000 election. It's good to see Richard Cohen finally catching on. But then ...

I am constantly surprised at the animosity toward Bush. When, for instance, I said in a recent column that he had handled himself "admirably" in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, I was barraged by dissenting e-mails. I thought I had said something unremarkable, but clearly Bush has become so divisive a figure that some people cannot give him credit even for what, to be fair, he has earned credit for. He did, for a moment, unite a wounded nation. Pity he could not or would not make it last.

Oh, dear, where do I begin? For one thing, some of us haven't forgotten that after the President was told about the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center, he continued to sit (stupefied, IMO) and listen to a children's reading lesson.

He had been told about the first plane before he entered the school building. A real president would have postponed the photo op and instead gotten on the phone with NORAD, with the FAA, with Mayor Giuliani. But, hey, they don't call him Dumbya for nothin'.

And then for several hours he flitted around the country in Air Force One, without direction, clearly struggling to get hold of himself. For those first couple of crucial days the nation was, effectively, without a leader.

When he did pull himself together and tried to face the issue, for a short time he performed fairly well. At least, he delivered some good speeches. Other people wrote the speeches, but he said his lines well. 

But I remember a line from the film "The Right Stuff" -- sometimes you get a pooch that can't be screwed. And the office of the POTUS in the days after September 11 was that pooch. Anyone in that office who kept his fly zipped and didn't drool too much would have gotten credit for uniting "a wounded nation."

And when you think about it -- that's all the boy has to run for "re"-election on now, and what sets him apart from his predecessor. Bush is a miserable excuse for a chief executive, but he kept his fly zipped.

1:24 pm | link

Hot Links 6:02 am | link

wednesday, march 17, 2004

Howard Dean Was Right
 
Breaking news, today:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A large explosion destroyed a hotel in central Baghdad on Wednesday night, and rescuers pulled bodies from the rubble. Witnesses said it was a bomb blast. ...

The apparent attack came at the end of a day in which thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops fanned out through the capital in a major operation aimed at weeding out insurgents blamed for recent attacks on civilian aid workers and seizing illegal weapons. [MSNBC]

Old news:

Al Gore must be thinking life is pretty unfair about now. After dominating the news by endorsing Howard Dean, thereby making a play for the pro-Saddam wing of the Democratic party, he is unceremoniously swept aside by the news that U.S. soldiers have captured Saddam Hussein. Oh well. Unless your approach to investing is to buy high, sell low, and make up the difference in volume, you probably shouldn't take financial advice from the guy who recently asserted that the war in Iraq is a "quagmire" and the worst foreign-policy mistake in the history of the United States. [Mackubin Thomas Owens, National Review Online, December 14, 2003]

 

1:42 pm | link

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, 2005 6:46 am | link

tuesday, march 16, 2004

Who You Callin' Cowards?
 
I'm back. Sorry about the technical problems that took Mahablog off line for several hours.
 
The citizens of Spain rose up and dumped their old prime minister in reaction to the terrorist bombings in Madrid. "The terrorists win," sniffs U.S. editorialists. "EUnuchs are weak" crow right-wing bloggers who no doubt have never been within 500 miles of a terrorist attack themselves. 
 
I guess it's true Spanish are not much like Americans. Unlike Americans, Spaniards can see when they are being lied to and manipulated, and they aren't taking it the way we do.
 
"Spanish voters managed to sort through their emotions over the weekend to deliver a surprisingly clear message to their government," writes Thomas Oliphant in today's Boston Globe. "Perhaps we should listen in the United States."

Governments that lie and cover up on matters not only central to national security but also to the commitment of armed forces abroad are inviting rejection.

Governments that seek to use events as unspeakable as mass murder for political purposes are doing the same. It was clear something was wrong within hours of last Thursday's bombings in Madrid. Virtually all of the sketchy information being gathered by US officials here and abroad pointed in the direction of Al Qaeda and away from the Basque terrorist group known as ETA.

But all the Spanish government's statements pointed in ETA's direction, and the Bush administration decided to suppress its own knowledge and evidence-based suspicions to the contrary in order to support one of its few unquestioning allies in the occupation of Iraq virtually on the eve of the national elections the bombings were obviously timed to influence.

The Spanish didn't toss Prime Minister Aznar out on his butt to appease al Qaeda. They did it because the Aznar government had a long-standing pattern of obstruction and lies about terrorism. In the hours after the bombing it was all too obvious to Spaniards that Muslim terrorists were behind it, but Aznar (along with the Bush Regime) continued to push the fiction that the terrorists were Basque separatists. And the Spanish didn't like that. Imagine!
 
Writes Oliphant:

By the time the voting began on Sunday, authorities could not suppress the fact that five men, one with a clear record of involvement in an Al Qaeda cell long linked to the logistical support of the attacks on the US in 2001, had been detained in the mass killings and that a videotaped confession on Al Qaeda's behalf was in official hands. With the stench of the government's duplicity in the air, the support behind Aznar's designated successor, Mariano Rajoy, collapsed in a heap of public disgust.

We, on the other hand, are supposed to accept obstruction and lies as our patriotic duty. (And we call them cowards?)
 
A stench of government duplicity has been rising out of Washington even before September 11, and since September 11 it positively reeks. However, Americans seem to think that's what air is supposed to smell like.
 
And notice that those who smear Eurpeans as cowards are the very same people who accept being lied to and cooperate in their own manipulation.
 
So what else is new(s). Reuters reports that more and more Amrericans are tuning out Old Media news.
Most American news media are experiencing a steady decline in audiences and are significantly cutting their investment in staff and resources, according to a report issued yesterday.

The study on the state of the US news media by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which is affiliated to Columbia University's graduate journalism school, found that only ethnic, alternative and online media were flourishing.

In a vicious cycle, as people tune out Old Media, media outlets cut back staff, driving down quality, causing more people to tune out. And you know cable news executives are clueless if their idea of cutting-edge, innovative programming is Dennis Miller. 

Only 5% of stories on cable news contain new information, the report found. Most were simply rehashes of the same facts. There was also less fact checking than in the past and less policing of journalistic standards.

Quality news and information were more available than ever before, but so was the trivial, the one-sided and the false.

Consumers with the time and patience to distinguish between many different sources of news might be better informed, but many were likely to find news outlets that echoed their own view of the world without providing alternative viewpoints.

See also this story in USA Today.

AWOL Soldier Says No to War

Paul Krugman: Weak on Terror

The Bushes' New World Disorder

6:07 am | link


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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

Terror Alert Level

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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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