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saturday, july 17, 2004

Two Quick Observations
 
1. Bush Regime sentences countless women and children to poverty, disease, and death.
 
2. The Freepi would be screaming if this happened to Rush.
 

11:01 am | link

friday, july 16, 2004

Return of the Sixteen Words
 
The famous Sixteen Words, about an attempted purchase of uranium from Africa by Iraq, are back in the news again. A British report released this week said Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999, possibly to purchase uranium. Weirdly, the Senate Intelligence Committee report found that Joe Wilson's account of his trip to Niger "did not debunk reports of a possible uranium deal, but rather had reinforced them in the minds of some analysts when he mentioned an overture by Iraq to the Nigerian prime minister." [Charleston Post and Courier, July 16] That may be telling us that "some analysts" should learn to read, but let's continue ...
 
I doubt the issue is as settled as the wingnuts wish it were. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is challenging the British report. And a reader of  the Boston Globe points out that, in context, the sixteen words from the 2003 State of the Union Address remain misleading:

Building upon collateral assertions that, "with sufficient fissile material from abroad, [Baghdad] could make a nuclear weapon within several months to a year," and references to "mushroom clouds," Bush portrayed the threat of nuclear attack as imminent on March 6, 2003, stating, "I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons." In truth, the Niger allegation was that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase yellow cake, unenriched uranium, and even the Bush-cowed CIA admitted it would have taken Hussein until "2007 to 2009" to develop the technology to enrich uranium, "owing to inexperience in building and operating centrifuge facilities and challenges in procuring the necessary equipment and expertise."

But enough about the Sixteen Words. What about the rest of the paragraph? I want to repeat something I wrote a year ago, on July 18, 2003:
 
Out, Damn Paragraph!
 
I've been off the web and out of the loop for the past few days, but I notice that everyone is still talking about The Sentence:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. [2003 State of the Union Address]
Isn't it odd that the pundits suddenly focused like laser beams on The Sentence (nearly six months after the fact)? Of course, wingnut pundits (e.g., Charles Krauthammer) pooh-pooh the whole thing. It's just one sentence, after all! There are other sentences! Never mind the rest of the sentences are lies, too.
 
Take, for example, the sentence before The Sentence:
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.  [2003 State of the Union Address]
This is a gem; a spectacular double lie. At the time it was spoken not only was Saddam's nuclear weapons development program defunct and buried in a rose garden, but the International Atomic Energy Agency clearly said it was defunct in documents available to anyone with a web browser.
 
 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an autonomous agency created by the United Nations in 1957. This is not an agency that keeps secrets. You can go to their Iraq page on the web and find links to timelines, reports, charts, maps, graphs, whatever, telling you everything the IAEA has ever said about Iraq.
 
The "advanced nuclear weapons" sentence is true in one sense -- it pretty much reflects truth as it stood in 1990. This IAEA fact sheet on Iraq's nuclear weapons program shows that Iraq was working hard to enrich uranium to make a bomb -- more than a decade ago.
 
You will not be surprised to learn that freepers all over the web are grabbing at this flimsy patch of veracity and frantically trying to cover Shrub's butt with it. They are finding IAEA documents from before the first Gulf War that indeed say Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons program and was working on producing enriched plutonium several different ways. So, technically, the sentence is not a lie. Of course, by the same reasoning, we should be sending troops to put down the rebellion at Fort Sumter.
 
More recently, the IAEA said,

All known indigenous facilities capable of producing uranium compounds useful to a nuclear programme were destroyed during the Gulf War; IAEA inspected and completed the destruction of facilities; IAEA monitored the sites as part of their OMV activities.  [link]

What the IAEA confirmed in the latter part of the 1990s is that they had

  • confiscated Iraq's entire inventory of research reactor fuel, and
  • destroyed all equipment and facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium.

Compare/contrast what the IAEA actually said to what George Bush said they said: "The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb."

A little bit of a stretch, wouldn't you say? Had Bush said, "WE BELIEVE Saddam Hussein has an advanced nuclear weapons program," etc., at least now he would have an out -- he could say he was mistaken. But that is not what he said.

More from the IAEA:

As of 16 December 1998, the following assessment could be made of Iraq's clandestine programme:

There were no indications to suggest that Iraq was successful in its attempt to produce nuclear weapons. Iraq's explanation of its progress towards the finalisation of a workable design for its nuclear weapons was considered to be consistent with the resources and time scale indicated by the available programme documentation.

Iraq was at, or close to, the threshold of success in such areas as the production of HEU through the EMIS process, the production and pilot cascading of single-cylinder sub-critical gas centrifuge machines, and the fabrication of the explosive package for a nuclear weapon

There were no indications to suggest that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapons-grade nuclear material through its indigenous processes.

There were no indications that Iraq otherwise clandestinely acquired weapons-usable material

All the safeguarded research reactor fuel was verified and fully accounted for by the IAEA and removed from Iraq.

There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance. [link]

We don't have to settle for documents from 1998, either. In January 2003, when President Bush delivered the State of the Union speech, the IAEA was back in Iraq (inspections resumed in November 2002) catching up on recent developments.  And the recent developments were that there were no recent developments.

On the same day President Bush delivered the 2003 State of the Union speech -- January 28 -- IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN that

I'm talking about the nuclear file, and as I mentioned, in the area of nuclear I think we're making progress. On the assumption that Iraq will continue to provide us evidence, we should be able to come to a conclusion that Iraq has no nuclear weapon, which is progress. [link]

I don't want to seem ungrateful that journalists finally have grabbed onto one of Bush's lies, even one from six months ago, and dragged it into the light of day. But at this rate we'll never get to the end of them. To save time, perhaps the pundits could search for and reveal Bush statements that are true.

Why the focus on one sentence? Eric Alterman provided a clue in his July 16 blog: "I happen to be paying a lot of attention to Niger lately, but you can view just about any one of this administration’s policies and discover an alarming mix of extremism, dishonesty and incompetence that is at once so vast and so dangerous the mind cannot fully synthesize it."

In other words, baby steps. [End of quote.]
 
We've not progressed much in a year, it appears. 

Note also that in the same paragraph as the sixteen words and the IAEA fib, Shrub repeated the famous "aluminum tube" story, as in those evil Iraqis have purchased aluminum tubes to use in centrifuges to enrich uranium. However, at the time Bush delivered the 2003 SOTU speech the IAEA, as well as at least some weapons experts in American intelligence, had concluded the aluminum tubes were not usable for uranium enrichment. Here is what I wrote about the aluminum tubes on June 14, 2003:

In what may be a classic "I did not mess around with that woman" moment, George W. Bush is sticking by the "Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa" story. He says there is other evidence beside the forged documents.

If Saddam had wanted uranium, there were more than two tons of the same stuff he allegedly tried to buy in Niger just a short hike from Baghdad (see recent blogs, below). It was in barrels sealed by the IAEA in 1991. He hadn't done a thing with any of that. And he was trying to buy more, because ....?
 
The uranium purchase story first appeared in this paragraph in the 2003 State of the Union speech:

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

This entire paragraph is a lie from beginning to end. To begin with, the IAEA never said Saddam had an advanced nuclear weapons development program. The IAEA said just the opposite; that Saddam's nuclear weapons program had been "uncovered, mapped, and neutralized." You can read one of their reports here.
 
Next we have the famous "out of Africa" story, based on documents that are known to be clumsy forgeries.
 
And then there were the evil aluminum tubes. See the January 30, 2003 Mahablog, "Tales of the Tubes" (scroll down). Better yet, to save you the trouble, here are the relevant passages:
Bush said that intelligence sources say that Saddam attempted to purchase high strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), quoted favorably by the president elsewhere, reports that the tubes are for rockets, not nuclear production, and that there is no evidence of Saddam trying to buy uranium. [Jonathan Alter, "Scoring the Speech," MSNBC, January 29, 3003]
(Note: the Alter link is broken; story no longer on the web. This is why I go to the trouble of keyboarding in sources of quotes and information along with links; I still know where the quote came from.)

"Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production," Bush said again, repeating the charge that he first made at the U.N. last September.

As everyone knows who listened to (or read) Mohammed ElBaradei's report to the U.N. Security Council on nuclear research and development in Iraq, he found that the emphasis on those tubes by Bush and Condoleezza Rice was misplaced if not misleading. Today's Washington Post carries yet another story -- buried for some inexplicable reason on page A13 -- that sums up the International Atomic Energy Agency findings in Iraq so far. According to ElBaradei, who heads the IAEA, the tubes "can not be used" for the purpose of enriching uranium. He also inspected the eight buildings formerly used in Saddam's nuclear program, which U.S. intelligence -- and Bush -- have suggested were being refurbished for the same purposes. There was "no evidence" to support the president's allegations, he said. [Joe Conason, Salon, January 29, 2003]

Last Sunday, Condi Rice hit the television news show circuit to say that the Niger story was not central to the President's case that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. They might want to figure out what is central to the argument, and let the President know.
 

11:39 am | link

thursday, july 15, 2004

What Liberal Media?
 
There's some great stuff on the Media Matters web site -- see especially the 33 internal Faux News memos, plus this rebuttal to a John Gibson (also of Faux News) claim that "80-some percent of reporters are self-described liberals."
 
Compare Gibson's claim to this Pew Research report that shows 34 percent of national press and 23 percent of local press are self-described liberals.
 
Granted, journalists are more likely to call themselves "liberal" than the general public, but they are also more likely to call themselves "moderate" than the general public.
 
I'd like to see the journalists compared to a "general" group with a comparable education and income level -- I suspect much of the difference would disappear.
 
 

1:24 pm | link

Hot Links
Jay Leno, "The Tonight Show": "According to the latest issue of Newsweek magazine, Bush administration officials are reviewing a proposal that would allow for the postponement of the presidential election in the event of a catastrophe. You know, like Kerry winning."
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7:34 am | link

wednesday, july 14, 2004

It's Here!
 
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An advance copy of "Mybook" arrived today! Here is my roomie Tara admiring it:
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Tara really likes books.
 

9:14 pm | link

The Truth Filter
 
Stephen Green of the rightie site VodkaPundit says that John Kerry is marching about telling a big lie -- that there are more African Americans in jail than in college. A fact check of Department of Justice and U.S. Census Bureau data shows the opposite is true; there are more African Americans in college than in jail. I skimmed around and looked at the numbers sited, and it appears the righties are correct, to a point.
 
If you compare total number of blacks in college in 2000 (2,224,181, according to the Census Bureau) to those in prison in 2003 (899,200, according to the DoJ) Kerry looks way off. However, if you add the qualifier "African American men," Kerry is correct.
 
According to this story from Global Black News, reports that compare black prison populations to black college populations do have a statistical flaw:
Data compiled by a new study, Cellblocks or Classrooms?: The Funding of Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men, reports that while 603,000 black men were in college in 2001, 791,600 were imprisoned. The study, conducted by the Justice Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., analyzes money spent on incarceration vs. higher education.

Media outlets reporting on the study's findings stated that more black men are behind bars than in college but failed to mention that in compiling its incarceration data, the Justice Policy Institute included African American men of all ages (see More Black Men in Jail than in College, an MSNBC/BET.com report).

President Vincent Schiraldi admits that there are more college-aged African American men in college than incarcerated. College age is roughly 18 to 24, but the study researched incarcerated men ages 18 to 55 plus. Thus, because it is a larger sample group, the number of men in jail is higher than the number of men in college.

Kerry may have been misquoted, of course. Perhaps he did say "African American men."

For more on what the righties are saying, go to this genuinely alarming site. The rant is that Kerry says he is not attacking Bush in "personal ways," when in fact Kerry has said dreadful things about Bush:

This week alone, Kerry has criticized Bush personally in speeches for lying, professional laziness, waiting until right before the election to indict Enron Corp.'s former chief executive, Kenneth L. Lay, lacking values and even having worse hair than the two Democrats.

Hey, facts are facts.

Some advisers are privately counseling Kerry to tone down his attacks on Bush.

If true, those "advisers" need to be fired immediately. We've got to stop pretending the Bush Regime represents anything close to politics as usual.

The entire Bush Regime functions on lies; truthtellers will be terminated 

 

1:36 pm | link

Hot Links 6:19 am | link

tuesday, july 13, 2004

Fuhgeddaboudit!
 
Matthew Yglesias is a bright young man and a first-class blogger. However, I was taken aback by his blog on the possible election postponement:

I'm sympathetic to the view that there should be a process which can be invoked under any sort of circumstances that might arise. In the aftermath of an attack would it really be a good idea to delay an election? I don't know. My gut says "no." But the day after an attack isn't the best time for the congress to start figuring out how such a thing would be done, were it to be done. Vesting Tom Ridge with discretionary power over this seems like a terrible idea but there's probably a better solution we can come up with.

[And, yes, the subtext here is that the Bush administration has a secret plot to destroy democracy, but I'm trying to stay level-headed. If the time comes to mount the barricades, I'll be there. Until then, the blog comment on the substantive policy issues.]

Have we learned nothing? The vast right-wing conspiracy has nearly succeeded in its quest for unlimited power. And the reason it has nearly succeeded is that those who would oppose it try to stay level-headed.

It's time to re-read the introduction to Paul Krugman's book The Great Unraveling:

There's a pattern here; in fact, pretty much the same story can be told about energy policy, environmental policy, health care policy, and so on. In each case the officials making policy within the Bush Administration have a history of highly radical views, which should suggest the administration itself has radical goals. But in each case the administration has reassured moderates by pretending otherwise--by offering rationales for its policy that don't seem all that radical. And in each case moderates have followed a strategy of appeasement, trying to meet the administration halfway while downplaying both the radicalism of its policies and the trail of broken promises. The young Kissinger had it right: people who have been accustomed to stability can't bring themselves to believe what is happening when faced with a revolutionary power, and are therefore ineffective in opposing it. [p.12]

We must always treat the Bush Regime as a revolutionary power, and we must assume that all of its policies are about power -- keeping and increasing the scope of its power; paying off the complicit; maintaining opacity.

Of course, it's not unreasonable to plan for a catastrophe that might disrupt the elections. Just as it was not unreasonable to investigate connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and prepare an invasion plan for Iraq. And it's not unreasonable for the administration to keep some of its doings secret -- national security, you know. And speaking of national security, it's not unreasonable to give government more power to pry into the private lives of citizens when there are terrorists about.

Back in 2002 I couldn't believe the Bushies would really invade Iraq. It was too absurd. It was too unreasonable. They can't be that nutty, I thought. They're just saber-rattling to scam the midterm elections.

Guess again.

We must assume, based on its history, that the Bush Regime will be unreasonable.  We must assume that no violation of the Constitution or the principles of democracy are out of bounds, if such violation helps the Bush Regime maintain power. And you know they will stop at nothing to keep the White House, not only for the sake of power but to keep the worst of their crimes and corruptions hidden from public view. For the Bushies, losing the election in November must be unthinkable.

We have never postponed or suspended a national election in the United States for lo these two centuries plus. We held presidential elections during the Civil War, when big chunks of the nation were in an active state of rebellion and even some "union" states along the borders of the Confederacy were boiling in anarchy. And the possibility of disruption has always existed. There always could be hurricanes, or earthquakes, or invasions on Election Day.

But we never planned for a delay of elections, because it was unthinkable.

By planning for a delay, the Bushies want to make a delay thinkable. And the Bushies will continue to talk about it--just planning for disaster, mind you--so that when it happens, the electorate will have been prepared to accept it.

But that must not be. Suspending the national election on the first Tuesday of 2004 must not even be thinkable. Nothing--not terrorists, not disaster, not war, and certainly not Bush--must stop it. 

Don't plan for it. Don't even think about it.

Note: According to some accounts, the idea to delay elections originated with the Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. The Rev. Dr. Soaries was elected Chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission at the agency’s first public meeting on March 23, 2004. A quick google didn't reveal anything alarming about the Reverend, other than he is a reverend, but you can bet I'll keep looking.

12:27 pm | link

Hot Links 7:31 am | link

monday, july 12, 2004

I'm Baaaaack!
 
I've not only been away from computers; I've been away from television and newspapers as well. I went through political news withdrawal and survived. It doesn't seem that I missed much, either.
 
My flight out of New York's LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday was postponed for two hours because of security concerns (the terminal was shut down for a time) and my flight back to LaGuardia from St. Louis was postponed for two hours yesterday because LaGuardia wasn't accepting flights, or some such thing, also because of security concerns.
 
New Yorkers live with these little inconveniences, along with the armed National Guard patroling Grand Central and Penn stations and many daily reminders of 9/11. Even so, after nearly three years, we're still not ready for another 9/11. So says Stanley Greenspan, professor at George Washington University Medical Center, in today's Washington Post.

Would the average person really know what to do if there were a nuclear, biological or chemical attack in his or her neighborhood? Do people know a great deal more now about what to do than they did before Sept. 11?

The answer is no.

Almost as compelling is a logical follow-up question: Are there fully developed, organized plans between the federal, state and local governments to handle any type of nuclear, biological or chemical attack? If these plans are organized, in place and well-rehearsed, does the general public know about them?

The answer is no.

Have we fully solved the pre-Sept. 11 challenge of agency coordination and response to terrorist threats? It's been three years. Are we treating this challenge as a true emergency and harnessing our best efforts? Have we used every bit of skill, leadership and leverage available to fully engage the international community in preventing terrorism?

Of course not. We're pissing away lives and resources in Iraq. We're fighting a war we didn't need to fight to vanquish an enemy who was no threat to us. And on top of that, our so-called "war on terror" has made our real enemies stronger, not weaker. Lose/lose!

Today's pathetic attempt by Bush to justify the Iraq War contained enough howlers to keep me blogging for weeks. (Just one example: "We are using the Patriot Act to track terrorist activity and to break up terror cells." Can anyone name a certifiable "terror cell" the Patriot Act broke up?) We can count on the establishment news media to ignore these howlers, of course, and we can count on the Kool-Aiders of the Right to swallow whatever Bush dishes out. But by now it ought to be clear to anyone over the age of 12 who is bright enough to tie his own shoes that the war in Iraq is counter-productive to keeping America safer from terrorism.

Americans are catching on, it seems. According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of registered voters believe Bush deliberately misled the people to make his case for war in Iraq. Only 44 percent think he gave the country the most accurate information he had. According to a June CNN-US Today-Gallup poll, 55 percent of Americans believe that the Iraq war has made them less safe from terrorists. And by a ten-point margin, Americans believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. 

You can't fool all of the people all of the time, unless they're journalists.

Rare Exception Department: Be sure to read Bob Herbert's column in the Times today, "The Real Enemy."

12:52 pm | link


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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
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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."

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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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