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saturday, april 3, 2004

Hot Links
 
Republicans are crowing about job growth in March, which hit a four-year high. This means rate of hiring was as good as a typical month when Bill Clinton was president. A respectable 308,000 people found jobs in March, which beats the 46,000 newhires in February and the famous 1,000 in December.
 
On the other hand, the number of hours worked is down, and the number of people working only part time increased. Also, there was no increase in manufacturing jobs. The March boom was set off by construction hiring. Find commentary by Stirling Newberry and friends here.  
 
As the Bushies robustly pat themselves on the back, let us remember that we are still nearly 2 million jobs short of where we were in 2000.
 
 
 
 
 
 

7:22 am | link

friday, april 2, 2004

Hot Links
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
6:39 am | link

thursday, april 1, 2004

More Foolishness
 
On the day that the Chimp in Chief signed a bill making every fetus and embryo a person to be protected by law, I read that EPA policies will likely cause an increase in Mercury levels in the environment. And mercury can damage fetal development. So can we arrest Bush for being a danger to fetuses?

10:01 pm | link

April Fools
 
A quick survey of right-wing blogs reveals the usual Kool-Aiders are either ignoring yesterday's slaughter of four American contractors in Iraq, or else they want to bomb the slaughterers and everyone else in the vacinity into oblivion.
 
Peggy Noonan writes in today's Wall Street Journal that the perps must pay:

We know what the men and boys who did the atrocity of Fallujah look like; they posed for the cameras. We know exactly what they did--again, the cameras. We know they massed on a bridge and raised their guns triumphantly. It's all there on film. It would be good not only for elemental justice but for Iraq and its future if a large force of coalition troops led by U.S. Marines would go into Fallujah, find the young men, arrest them or kill them, and, to make sure the point isn't lost on them, blow up the bridge.

Whatever the long-term impact of the charred bodies the short term response must be a message to Fallujah and to all the young men of Iraq: the violent and unlawful will be broken. Savagery is yesterday; it left with Saddam.

We Americans have banned savagery, says Peggy, and we'll be savage to you until you learn to behave properly.
 
Further, yesterday's atrocities seemed "well planned and calculated," Peggy writes.
The brutalizing of the bodies was done in a way that seemed imitative, as all have noted, of the incident in Mogadishu, Somalia, where in 1993 a frenzied mob dragged the dead body of a U.S. Army Ranger through the streets. The civilized world was horrified, and everyone knows what followed: a quick American retreat.

It is not a stretch to imagine the young murderers of Fallujah had this on their minds: Do it again to America, kill them and string up their corpses, because when you do this America leaves.

In other words, it's Bill Clinton's fault.
 
I suppose it's possible the perpetrators had Mogadishu in mind, but most accounts I have read suggest spontaneous mob violence. And Ms. Noonan seems to assume that Iraqis can be cleanly divided between "good" Iraqis and "bad" Iraqis, and if we eliminate the bad ones everything will be just fine. In Noonan World, yesterday's rioters are not representative of most Iraqis -- people who wake up every morning with praise for America on their lips.
 
Maybe the perps aren't representative. I'm no expert on Iraq and don't claim to know. But then again, maybe they are representative, especially of the minority Sunni Arabs of Iraq. In which case, the horrors of yesterday will be repeated.
 
Juan Cole, who actually does know something about Iraq, delves deeper into mob motives:
Although we are calling them security, the four American civilians killed were very likely ex-US military, most probably from special operations units like the Navy Seals. The special ops units have been losing men to the private security firms, who pay between $100,000 a year and $200,000 a year, rather more than do the US armed services. And, it seems to me likely that the people in Fallujah knew that they had hold of US military men.

What would drive the crowd to this barbaric behavior? It is not that they are pro-Saddam any more, or that they hate "freedom." They are using a theater of the macabre to protest their occupation and humiliation by foreign armies. They were engaging in a role reversal, with the American cadavers in the position of the "helpless" and the "humiliated," and with themselves playing the role of the powerful monster that inscribes its will on these bodies.

This degree of hatred for the new order among ordinary people is very bad news. It helps explain why so few of the Sunni Arab guerrillas have been caught, since the locals hide and help them. It also seems a little unlikely that further US military action can do anything practical to put down this insurgency; most actions it could take would simply inflame the public against them all the more.
If Juan Cole is correct, the Noonan Solution would just make matters worse in the long run.
 
What would I do? First, I wouldn't have invaded Iraq to begin with. Even so, last summer I thought the U.S. should stay and do what we could to put Iraq on its feet as a functional nation. But now after a year of Bush bungling, the situation in Iraq may be beyond salvation, with no graceful way out.
 
Last August I compared Iraq to Joel Chandler Harris's tar baby. Brer Rabbit picked a fight with the tar baby and became hopelessly stuck in the tar. And the harder he fought, the more stuck he became. As much as one might wish to punish those who committed yesterday's atrocities, sending in Marines to "pacify" Fallujah (as U.S. military commanders are promising to do) will just escalate the enmity, and the violence. And we get more firmly stuck.
 
Juan Cole says the only hope is political; "Unless the Sunni Arabs are drawn into parliamentary politics and convinced that the new game is not a zero-sum game, the bombs will continue to go off." The "pacification" of Fallujah is unlikely to have the desired effect.

The Bushies and their Neocon cohorts believe that they can use power to shape the world as they will. This proves they are fools.

He who knows how to guide a ruler in the path of Tao
Does not try to override the world with force of arms.
It is in the nature of a military weapon to turn against its wielder.

Wherever armies are stationed; thorny bushes grow.
After a great war, bad years invariably follow.

What you want is to protect efficiently your own state,
But not to aim at self-aggrandisement.

After you have attained your purpose,
You must not parade your success,
You must not boast of your ability,
You must not feel proud,
You must rather regret that you had not been able to prevent the war.
You must never think of conquering others by force.

For to be over-developed is to hasten decay,
And this is against Tao,
And what is against Tao will soon cease to be.

-- Tao Teh Ching, verse 30

Be sure to read "Strange Fruit" at Whiskey Bar, "Civilian Deaths" at Body and Soul,  and "Here We Go" at Eschaton.

11:33 am | link

Hot Links, Fool's Edition 6:46 am | link

wednesday, march 31, 2004

Executive License
 
Citing executive privilege, the White House refused to allow President Bush's chief health-policy adviser, Douglas Badger, to testify Thursday before the House Ways and Means Committee about early administration estimates that the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit would be far more costly than many lawmakers believed when they voted for it.

In a previous episode, the House Ways and Means Committee discovered that the recently passed Medicare perscription drug benefits would cost a whole lot more than the White House had said they would cost. Medicare's chief actuary, Richard Foster, told a House panel that the real numbers were known months ago, but the White House pressured Foster to keep those numbers to himself. 

Where does Doug Badger fit in?

The panel's Democrats focused on Foster's allegation that he had provided projections showing the administration's Medicare initiatives would cost between $500 billion and $600 billion to Doug Badger, the White House's senior health policy analyst, and to the White House Office of Management and Budget. Those officials had Foster's projections at a time when Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill were requesting the information.

Congress barely passed the Medicare bill in November using CBO projections that the measure would cost $395 billion over a decade.... [Cyril T. Zaneski, Baltimore Sun, March 25, 2004]

I suspect we will hear many more claims of "executive privilege" in the next few months.

10:51 pm | link

Hot Links 6:04 am | link

tuesday, march 30, 2004

Read His Lips
 
Marie Cocco makes a good point in today's New York Newsday. In order to determine how concerned George W. Bush was about al Qaeda before September 11, she did a search of the Federal News Service between the dates January 1, 2001, and September 10, 2001.
 
The Federal News Service "transcribes every presidential utterance - speeches, news conferences, impromptu musings at photo ops, off-the-cuff remarks made striding toward a helicopter, official comments with foreign dignitaries," says Cocco. "The search was conducted including the phrase "al Q" - to capture every possible spelling or translation for al-Qaida."
 
And how many hits did she get?
 
Zero.
Of course, the president did mention terrorism, terrorists and counterterrorism 24 times before 9/11. But eight of these comments referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Another eight involved a range of terrorist threats, including ethnic terrorism in Macedonia and Basque separatists in Spain.

In the remaining eight references to terrorism, the new president offered his idea for how to combat it: the Reagan-era missile-defense system formerly known as Star Wars.

On Jan. 8, 2001, after a meeting in Austin, Texas, with congressional defense experts, the president-elect referred to missile defense as necessary to guard against "the real threats of the 21st century." In a Feb. 10, 2001, radio address, Bush said, "we must make sure our country itself is protected from attack from ballistic missiles and high-tech terrorists." On Feb. 27, in Bush's first address before a joint session of Congress, the new president delivered the clearest exposition of his thoughts on terrorism.

"Our nation also needs a clear strategy to confront the threats of the 21st century, threats that are more widespread and less certain. They range from terrorists who threaten with bombs to tyrants and rogue nations intent upon developing weapons of mass destruction," Bush said. "To protect our own people, our allies and friends, we must develop and deploy effective missile defenses."
 
If you put this together with the CNN story from 2001 quoted in Friday's Mahablog, it's pretty obvious that Richard Clarke is right -- the Bushies were insufficiently concerned about al Qaeda before September 11.
 
(In fact, the ever-alert Rummy continued to push "star wars" missile defense even as the terrorist attacks of September 11 were happening.)
 
Even as I keyboard, Condi's staffers are frantically combing through records to find any shred of documentation that the Bush Administration was coming up with a plan for destroying al Qaeda other than Richard Clarke's. It'll be fun to see what she comes up with. Of course, Condi could submit an old grocery list -- she could say it's in code -- and congressional GOP, Faux News, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh, Wolf Blitzer, the entire Right Blogosphere, etc. etc., would accept it as proof that Clarke lied.
 
Read also:
 
 

12:59 pm | link

They Caved
 
Faux News is reporting that Condi will testify to the 9/11 commission, publicly and under oath. Whoa.
 
See also Stirling Newberry's excellent commentary at BOP News.

10:40 am | link

Hot Links 5:59 am | link

monday, march 29, 2004

Sticks
 
Reuters reports that Richard Clarke's charges against the Bush Administration appear to have some sticking power.

"The administration's attempts to discredit Clarke have backfired. They have merely given the story legs and hurt the administration. The issue of whether Rice should testify should keep the story alive for several more news cycles," said University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape.

"The Bush administration and its allies have certainly not helped the story go away," said Howard Opinsky, a Republican operative who ran media relations for Arizona Sen. John McCain during his 2000 presidential bid.

"Instead, they adopted the risky strategy of trying to refute his charges, which makes it appear that they have something to hide," he said.

Of course, it's no time to celebrate. Shrub's approval numbers are slightly down, but so are John Kerry's.

See also: The Truth of the Matter.

2:29 pm | link

Hot Links
 
I'm overwhelmed. Too much is happening at once to keep up with it all.
 
The Bush smear machine is running full throttle. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist calls Richard Clarke a liar and perjuror. In other developments -- Clarke had said that on September 12, 2001, the "President" took him aside in the Situation Room and demanded Clarke report on Saddam Hussein's involvement with September 11. The White House originally denied the President was in the Situation Room on September 12, a statement met with incredulity and much ridicule (Jon Stewart: "What situation are they saving it for?"). Now Condi admits the "President" asked Clarke about Iraq on September 12.
 
Republican John Lehman of the 9/11 Commission said on NBC's "Today" show this morning that Condi should "rise above principles" and testify under oath to the commission, publicly.
There's a time to rise above principles," Republican John Lehman told NBC's "Today" show, referring to Rice's stand that national security advisers have never testified under oath before Congress because of a fear it would compromise their ability to have an open exchange of ideas with a president.
Lehman countered that Rice would not be sacrificing that principle, known as executive privilege, because the panel, which was appointed by the president, is "not an arm of the Congress."

"Lawyers are driving this train," he said, creating an issue when the Bush administration has "nothing to hide."

First, there's no way Condi will ever rise above principles. It would be a stretch for her to rise to principles. And second, we all know that several national security advisers have testified to congressional committees under oath, so the precedent has already been set. Says an L.A. Times editorial:
Although the president certainly has a right to confidential advice that won't be aired publicly, a 2002 Congressional Research Service study says plenty of close presidential aides have testified in the past, including national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1980 and Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger in 1994 and 1997.
White House counsel Alberto Gonzales says that those testimonies don't count, because previous testimonies were either in closed session or involved possible criminal activities. Well, in that case, maybe indictments are in order ... but then Mr. Gonzales will probably say that those past testimonies were made in odd-numbered years and in months that started with the letters "F" and "D," and while the planet Mercury was retrograde. And there has to be a full moon.
 
Josh Marshall comments further on Condi's principles here.
 
In other news, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi said yesterday that U.S. President George W. Bush is the enemy of God and Islam, and that the United States declared war against God. Way to go, Dubya.
 
And in the "Doesn't Know When to Quit" department, George Schultz writes in today's Wall Street Journal that "Ousting Saddam was the only option." Maybe, but for what?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

6:23 am | link


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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
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September 15, 2004, 90.1 FM.

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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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."

ˇ   ˇ   ˇ   ˇ   ˇ   ˇ

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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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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