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saturday, october 16, 2004

Viewer Tip
Maha Reader John P. recommends the PBS Frontline program "The Choice 2004." Most PBS stations will be showing it at various times this weekend, so check your local listings. (Many will be showing it at 2 pm today.) I haven't seen it. Mr. P. says you should get your undecided friends to watch it. I don't have any undecided friends, but maybe you do.
Update: This program really is good. You can watch it online. Also, as I said before, check your local listings to see if it's being repeated tomorrow.
I was particularly impressed with a clip from 2002 of John Kerry announcing his vote for the Iraq war resolution. He said his vote for the resolution was to help pressure Iraq into re-admitting weapons inspectors. He called on Bush not to invade until diplomatic efforts were exhausted, and not to go in without a plan to win the peace. Exactly what he's saying now. The Kerry campaign should take that clip and put it into a campaign ad.  
There is a page of letters from viewers. One said,

The portrayal of John Kerry as the highly principled, intelligent, understandably nuanced, public servant with great achievments during his Senate career and military career while portraying George Bush as an abject failure who is incapapable of rational thought and handed the presdency by the old guards of the Republican Party can only be described as extreme bias.

Sometimes the truth's a bitch, huh?

11:24 am | link

Last week, Matt Bai's article on John Kerry, which is very good overall, introduced us to the nuisance. This week, Ron Suskind reveals that George Bush thinks he's God. Well, we knew that, but Suskind really lays it out. The Bushies might wish that Suskind only called Bush a nuisance.

''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .

''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''

Much later in the article, Suskind describes an encounter with a White House aide in 2002:

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

You'll love this part:

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats. ...The problem, everyone agreed, was that a number of European countries, like France and Germany, had armies that were not trusted by either the Israelis or Palestinians. One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. ''You were right,'' he said, with bonhomie. ''Sweden does have an army.''

You can't make this stuff up.

10:16 am | link

Ends and Odds
I've been kicking myself that I missed Jon Stewart on Crossfire yesterday. Fortunately, this blogger has the video.
Hillary Rosen gets at the truth of the Mary Cheney flap. She writes in the Washington Post:
The response from the Cheneys and the Bush campaign has been blatantly political. In fact, it is they who are using Mary Cheney -- using her now to score points against Kerry and John Edwards over an issue on which they themselves are guilty of the wrongs that Kerry and Edwards are fighting against. Even after almost 30 years in Washington, I am surprised by the overwhelming hypocrisy and meanness of the Bush reelection campaign.
Yesterday I missed this story in the Boston Globe about missing nuclear facilities in Iraq. Fortunately, Jeanne d'Arc caught it.
8:18 am | link

friday, october 15, 2004

Weapons Inspection Follies II
Following up this post about Iraq's disappearing nuclear facilities -- Diplomats close to the United Nation say that the buildings and equipment were expertly dismantled and carried away with heavy equipment. And neither the U.S. nor the Iraqi provisional government seem to know anything about it.
Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog posts the story, from the Sydney Morning Herald:
"We're talking about dozens of sites being dismantled," one diplomat said. "Large numbers of buildings [were] taken down, warehouses were emptied and removed. This would require heavy machinery, demolition equipment. This is not something that you'd do overnight."

Diplomats in Vienna say the agency fears these facilities, part of a pre-1991 covert nuclear weapons program, could have been sold to a country or militants seeking nuclear weapons.
Dems? Kerry campaign? Anybody?
9:16 pm | link

Too Funny
If this doesn't make you giggle you're either dead or a wingnut. Wolcott says he's going to be on Debra Norville's MSNBC show tonight. Could be good.
Among other things, Fafnir and Giblet explain Dred Scott and comment upon the most inscrutable of Zen koans, Chao-chou's Dog. Well, I think it's funny.
Thanks to Jim E. for this link to the Bush Brain Game.
8:26 pm | link

Wellstone Memorial II
The Bush campaign is getting some post-debate spin traction on the Mary Cheney issue. The Kerry campaign needs to shut this down today.
Katie Couric discussed the issue with Mary Matalin and Dee Dee Myers on the "Today Show" this morning. Matalin accused Senator Kerry of exploiting the fact that Mary Cheney is a lesbian. Unfortunately, Meyers dropped the ball by calling Kerry's remarks "awkward" and urging the Bush campaign to move on to real issues.
Wrong response.  Here is the correct response:
Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of vice presidential candidate John Edwards, said of Lynne Cheney in an interview Thursday with ABC Radio: ``She's overreacted to this and treated it as if it's shameful to have this discussion. I think that's a very sad state of affairs. ... I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences. ... It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response.''
The fact is that it's the Cheneys and the rest of the Bush campaign who are exploiting Mary Cheney. They're trying to spin Kerry's debate remark the way they spun the Wellstone Memorial. They hope to stir up outrage against Kerry and thereby get back some of the post-debate spin and stop Kerry's climb in the polls. 
For the record, this is what John Kerry said in the debate:
SCHIEFFER: ... Both of you are opposed to gay marriage. But to understand how you have come to that conclusion, I want to ask you a more basic question. Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?
KERRY: We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.

I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice. I've met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it.

And I've met wives who are supportive of their husbands or vice versa when they finally sort of broke out and allowed themselves to live who they were, who they felt God had made them.I think we have to respect that.
Kerry says Mary Cheney is God's child who deserves respect. Shocking. No wonder the Cheneys are ticked off.
Andrew Sullivan, who has written several blog posts about this, asks a good question:
But there is an obvious solution to this debate: let Mary speak. She's running the veep's campaign. She's an adult. Why can't she tell us if she's upset by Kerry's and Edwards' remarks? Give her a microphone, guys. What are you afraid of?
I've wondered the same thing. What does Mary think of all this? Is she angry at what Kerry said? Is she disappointed by her parents? I really do want to know.
Even Margaret Carlson finds the Cheneys' outrage disturbing:
Mary Cheney is happily in the public eye, an open lesbian whose job before she joined the 2000 campaign was as liaison to the gay community for Coors beer in Colorado. She now holds one of the most important jobs in her dad's reelection effort. And her life partner joined the Cheneys on stage in St. Louis after the debate. She'd have to be in deep denial to think her sexual orientation wasn't going to come up, given that Republicans have made gay marriage a defining issue of the campaign. ...
You couldn't read Lynne Cheney's outburst about a cheap and tawdry trick without thinking that she herself finds homosexuality cheap and tawdry. Herein lies the irony of the flap. At the moment of Bush's evasion, it was entirely appropriate for Kerry to drive home the point that, as the Cheneys and millions of other American families know, homosexuality is about identity, not about a lifestyle choice.

By standing up and saying so, it was John Kerry who was defending Mary Cheney. If anyone was doing her a disservice it was her mother. She used Kerry's remarks to launch yet another character attack on the senator, when in fact Kerry was just doing what Mary's own father hasn't.
If Lynne and Dick had just expressed dismay over Kerry's remark once and then let it drop, I'd have called it an honest if unfortunate reaction. Continuing to club Kerry with his debate remark is exploitation on its face. 
Carlson also points out that Big Time himself made his daughter a talking point earlier this year, when he expressed disagreement with President Bush over the gay marriage amendment issue. And in the vice presidential debate he thanked Senator Edwards for his kind remarks.
Let's review -- Senator Edwards said,

Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.

Edwards went on for a while, and then Cheney was asked to respond:

IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds.

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.

IFILL: That's it?

CHENEY: That's it.

The only difference between Kerry's and Edward's remark was that Kerry gave Mary's name.

Joe Garofoli writes in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Neither parent explained what Kerry did that was offensive -- Mary Cheney has long been out as a lesbian, has been a member of a Republican gay-straight alliance, and reportedly earns $100,000 for being a top adviser to her father's campaign."

The Human Rights Campaign issued this response to Lynne Cheney's anger at Kerry:

“President Bush missed one more chance to denounce discrimination last night so it is bewildering that Lynne Cheney instead attacked Senator Kerry.

“Senator Kerry made clear that gay Americans should have the same basic rights, responsibilities and protections as every other American.

“Vice President Cheney first discussed his own daughter in the context of this issue two months ago and it is not surprising that Senator Kerry mentioned her experience as emblematic of millions of gay Americans.

“Senator Kerry was speaking to millions of American families who have hard-working, tax-paying gay friends and family members.”

Andrew Sullivan recalls that earlier this year Dick Gephardt spoke frequently about his love for his lesbian daughter, Chrissy, and no one accused Gephardt of being "tawdry." Sully also writes,

Mary Cheney is out of the closet and a member, with her partner, of the vice-president's family. That's a public fact. No one's privacy is being invaded by mentioning this. When Kerry cites Bush's wife or daughters, no one says it's a "low blow." The double standards are entirely a function of people's lingering prejudice against gay people. And by mentioning it, Kerry showed something important. This issue is not an abstract one. It's a concrete, human and real one. It affects many families, and Bush has decided to use this cynically as a divisive weapon in an election campaign. He deserves to be held to account for this - and how much more effective than showing a real person whose relationship and dignity he has attacked and minimized? Does this makes Bush's base uncomfortable? Well, good. It's about time they were made uncomfortable in their acquiescence to discrimination. Does it make Bush uncomfortable? Even better. His decision to bar gay couples from having any protections for their relationships in the constitution is not just a direct attack on the family member of the vice-president. It's an attack on all families with gay members - and on the family as an institution. That's a central issue in this campaign, a key indictment of Bush's record and more than relevant to any debate. For four years, this president has tried to make gay people invisible, to avoid any mention of us, to pretend we don't exist. Well, we do. Right in front of him.

The Cheneys point to their gay daughter and demand that people not stare at her.  Strange.

7:21 am | link

thursday, october 14, 2004

Morning After

Two bomb blasts killed eight people inside Baghdad's Green Zone today. Some guy on CNN is saying jobless claims are up. He's also saying that the new tax-loophole-closing bill exempts professional golfers. Weird. There is also some good news -- Bill O'Reilly is embroiled in a sex abuse scandal (yes!).

And even the Bush-friendly New York Daily News admits that George W. Bush did shrug off Osama bin Laden.

I've done a little channel-flipping this morning and have seen several mentions of the "Osama bin Laden" gaffe. Chris Suellentrop in Slate:

...what good the president did with his performance will be overshadowed Thursday when the TV networks spend the entire day running video clips of him saying of Osama Bin Laden on March 13, 2002, "I truly am not that concerned about him."

By denying that he had ever minimized the threat posed by Bin Laden, Bush handed Kerry, during the very first question, the victory in the post-debate spin. The Kerry campaign's critique of the president is that he has doesn't tell the truth, that he won't admit mistakes, and that he refuses to acknowledge reality. Bush's answer played into all three claims. Within minutes, the Kerry-Edwards campaign e-mailed reporters the first of its "Bush vs. Reality" e-mails, complete with a link to the official White House transcript. A half-hour later, the Democratic National Committee circulated the video.

That's how it's done, people.

Matthew Dowd of the Bush campaign is saying that Bush's Osama gaffe was taken out of context. He says what Bush meant was that the war on terra is bigger than just Osama bin Laden. But if you see the whole statement in context -- that's not what he meant. He really did shrug off Osama bin Laden.

Lynne Cheney is pissed off about Kerry's mention that a Cheney daughter is a lesbian. She's showing the world that she's ashamed of her daughter. Sick woman.

Thomas Friedman wrote something worth reading. No, really. It's a fluke, I know, but it did happen.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear the president and vice president slamming John Kerry for saying that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." The idea that President Bush and Mr. Cheney would declare such a statement to be proof that Mr. Kerry is unfit to lead actually says more about them than Mr. Kerry. ...

...The Bush team's responses to Mr. Kerry's musings are revealing because they go to the very heart of how much this administration has become addicted to 9/11. The president has exploited the terrorism issue for political ends - trying to make it into another wedge issue like abortion, guns or gay rights - to rally the Republican base and push his own political agenda. But it is precisely this exploitation of 9/11 that has gotten him and the country off-track, because it has not only created a wedge between Republicans and Democrats, it's also created a wedge between America and the rest of the world, between America and its own historical identity, and between the president and common sense.

Bush trotted out the usual far-right schtick about liberals and tax-and-spenders and far leftists. If Kerry wins, maybe more people will call themselves "liberal" again. The "L" word will have lost its negative potency.

I really like Juan Cole's analysis. He makes this prediction of a second Bush term:

The likelihood that Bush can accomplish his military goals without a renewed draft seems to me close to zero, despite his protestations to the contrary. Thousands of young people will be involuntarily inducted into his crusade, and the US economy and society will be warped in favor of war industries.

See also:

Thomas Oliphant: Bush's Dodge and Duck

Tim Grieve: Strike Three!

Garance Franke-Ruta: The Stupid Poor

Harold Meyerson: The Education President

Noam Scheiber: Mission Not Accomplished

Ryan Lizza: Winner Take All

Jimmy Breslin: Positively Pixilated

8:46 am | link

Morning After
Kevin Drum says all the post-debate polls gave the debate win to Kerry. This surprised me, frankly. Not because Kerry didn't deserve it, but because the Chimp didn't scowl and didn't have smoke coming out of his ears I figured he'd be declared winner.
Tom Shales of the Washington Post:
An essentially dignified and thoughtful performance by Sen. John Kerry, contrasted with an oddly giggly turn by President Bush, combined to give the last debate of the presidential campaign to the challenger last night, but very narrowly.

Bush seems to have been taken apart and put back together again after each debate, reassembled according to estimates of how he'd done. Last night it looked as though his handlers had told him to smile, smile, smile, especially when Kerry was trying to make points, points, points.

I was watching on CSPAN because they keep up a split screen the entire debate and don't try to do anything clever with camera angles. Bush was grinning like an idiot through the whole debate. Kerry would be saying something about people without health care or people without jobs, and Bush would be grinnin' away as if he thought Kerry's point amusing. And it was a creepy grin. Bush's mouth contorted as if it were fighting with itself. And when you see the mouth with those hard little piggy eyes it's truly chilling.
I think Kerry won tonight. I think Bush was stronger than he was in the debates against Gore in 2000; I think he was sharper than he has been in almost all of his press conferences.

Debating is something that Kerry happens to be very, very good at. Bush's performance wasn't as steady as it was in the second debate. Debates gave Kerry his current momentum and I doubt Bush stopped it in Tempe.

The instant poll of undecided Americans conducted by CBS News tonight echoes my suspicion. It shows Kerry was the winner according to 39 percent, Bush by 25 per cent. Some 36 percent of these undecided voters were again undecided and said it was a tie. What is it with these people?
Bush's only solution to domestic problems is "education." I don't think people worried about their jobs are going to buy that. They know that people can be educated and unemployed. When high-tech and skilled jobs are disappearing overseas, education isn't going to bring those jobs back. And people who are struggling now because someone in the household had a job with good pay until recently, "education" does not sound like a solution.
As Matt Yglesias said, "But in Ohio, West Virginia, and elsewhere that stuff's a huge deal and all Bush said to people who are hurting is that they should go back to school. It's pretty insulting for a president (especially this president) to suggest that the reason folks are struggling is that they're too dumb."
Out of touch. It's what did in his daddy.
6:24 am | link

wednesday, october 13, 2004

I'm going to be debate liveblogging on Open Source Politics. My back, my computer, and my web page all went out today, so I hope my bad luck doesn't rub off on the debate. I'll be back later, if the television doesn't blow up.
8:50 pm | link

Take Heed
My computer is doing some alarming things today and I am about to attempt to fix it. So I may or may not be back today. Keep your fingers crossed! If I don't post for a while it's because the computer is in the shop.
12:22 pm | link

Take Heart
With less than three weeks before the election, President Bush may be in a politically precarious position going into tonight's critical debate with Sen. John F. Kerry. Anecdotal and quantitative evidence suggest that Democrats and independent groups that support Democrats have done a better job than Republicans at registering new voters in key battleground states. In a normal year, the difficulty in getting the newly registered to the polls might mitigate this advantage. But anti-Bush passions on the left are running exceedingly high, making it more likely that marginal voters -- people who rarely or never vote -- will turn out this year. [Terry Neal, Washington Post]
9:30 am | link

I haven't written much about Sinclair Broadcasting this week, because so many other bloggers were doing such a good job. But the least I can do is provide some links.
Start with The Sinclair Chronicles: A Call to Action by Kevin Hayden on The American Street. See also Kevin's account of advertisers starting to pull out.
Skippy the Bush Kangeroo says that Sinclair Broadcasting is a major investor in a company that was recently rewarded a large military contract.
Media Matters has a list of mutual funds and pension funds that include Sinclair stock. If you are a shareholder, raise a stink.
Daily Kos diarist nutmeg provides a list of Sinclair Broadcasting advertisers.
Has Sinclair executive Mark Hyman been trolling on Pengadon? Jesse has the links.
Some on the Right are disturbed by the Left Blogosphere's campaign against Sinclair. Short memory syndrome? See "It's Okay Until Dan Rather Does It" on Pengadon.
Re thuggishness: The usual brainless twits of the Right are howling that the campaign against Sinclair is a "thuggish" blow against "free speech." One of their dumber arguments is to compare Sinclair's "Stolen Honor" to "Fahrenheit 9/11." Huh?
Whatever you think of F9/11, nobody forced it to be shown on public airways. You had to go to a theater and pay money to see it. I understand it's going to be available on cable pay-per-view on election eve night. There were complaints about that, but again, viewers have to go out of their way and pay some money to see it. It's not being broadcast free in prime time.
Oliver Wills brought this point up to the above-linked Flaming Idiot. He also mentioned "The Reagans," the film that was pulled from network broadcast after a rightie protest campaign. To which Mr. Idiot responded:
"The Reagans" was stopped by public outcry, not government action.
The Left Blogosphere is an arm of government? Who knew?
Idiot gets the "government" connection because, according to Drudge, a Kerry adviser on Faux News said, "They better hope we don't win."  Kerry advisers work for the government?
And I'm sure if we looked we'd find Bush Administration officials and many Republican Party operatives pitching in to get "The Reagans" off of the network that was going to air it.
Seriously, one of the reasons I support John Kerry is that President Kerry would be able to make appointments to the FCC, and then the FCC might actually crack down on media monopolies instead of encouraging them as it has of late. This wouldn't affect just Sinclair Broadcasting. Rupert Murdoch should be worried also. But this is why Sinclair Broadcasting executives are real worried about a Kerry Administration. It's not about their country, but their wallets.
The whole "free speech" argument is bogus. It's bogus because the affiliates are not being given a choice about what to broadcast. It's bogus because nobody is stopping "Stolen Honor" from being distributed in other ways, such as on DVDs or local cable channels or theater releases.
And it's bogus because speech isn't "free" when people with money and resources get a whole lot more of it than people who don't. But if bloggers want to object -- that's free speech.
7:33 am | link

tuesday, october 12, 2004

Weapons Inspection Follies
The inspector-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, says buildings that once housed Iraq's nuclear program have disappeared. David Bamford reported for the BBC:
The IAEA director-general said entire buildings related to Iraq's former nuclear programme appeared to have been dismantled, and that the agency had lost track of high-precision equipment thought to have been inside the buildings.
The IAEA is less concerned about the buildings themselves than about the high-tech stuff that was in the buildings, which included milling machines and electron beam welders. These items have both military and industrial uses.
Further, the IAEA reported on Monday that neither the United States nor the government of Iraq seem to have noticed the buildings are missing, according to this report from Reuters.
ElBaradei says he learned the buildings were missing from satellite photos.
Please note that all this missing stuff was in place at the time Bush launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. We know this because the IAEA inspected the facilities -- the site of the former Osirac reactor near Tuwaitha -- on February 11, 2003 (see timeline).  And it appears the stuff  was still in place when U.S. Marines took control of the area on April 7, 2003.
However, since the invasion of Iraq the IAEA has not been allowed to conduct the inspections it is mandated to do by the UN. In a letter dated October 1, 2004, ElBaradei reported to the UN Security Council that
Since 17 March 2003, the IAEA has not been in a position to implement its mandate in Iraq under resolution 687 (1991) and related resolutions. ...

As a result of its ongoing review of satellite imagery acquired on a regular basis, and follow up investigations, the IAEA continues to be concerned about the widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq’s nuclear programme and sites previously subject to ongoing monitoring and verification by the IAEA. The imagery shows in many instances the dismantlement of entire buildings that housed high precision equipment (such as flow forming, milling and turning machines; electron beam welders; coordinate measurement machines) formerly monitored and tagged with IAEA seals, as well as the removal of equipment and materials (such as high strength aluminium) from open storage areas.

As indicated previously to the Council, the IAEA, through visits to other countries, has been able to identify quantities of industrial items, some radioactively contaminated, that had been transferred out of Iraq from sites monitored by the IAEA. However, none of the high quality dual use equipment or materials referred to above has been found. As the disappearance of such equipment and materials may be of proliferation significance, any State that has information about the location of such items should provide the IAEA with that information.

Remember the bad old days when Saddam Hussein was a bad guy because he wouldn't cooperate with UN weapons inspectors? But the fact is that the United States and its wholly owned subsidiary, the government of Iraq, haven't been cooperative, either.

According to Edith Lederer in the Boston Globe,  "IAEA teams were allowed into Iraq in June 2003 to investigate reports of widespread looting of storage rooms at the main nuclear complex at Tuwaitha, and in August to take an inventory of 'several tons' of natural uranium in storage near Tuwaitha."

But the IAEA inspectors were placed under severe restrictions by U.S. military guards.

According to Trudy Rubin of the Knight Ridder (June 12, 2003):

The administration didn't want to let inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency back into Iraq. U.S. officials finally recognized, however, that they needed the help of the IAEA which has been monitoring Tuwaitha for years and is best prepared to assess how much uranium is missing.

But the United States is trying to keep the IAEA mission totally under wraps.

The inspectors are kept isolated in the Rashid Hotel and are not allowed to speak to the press. Nor did U.S. officials permit them to bring a press officer from their Vienna headquarters. When I try to drive toward Location C, where the IAEA team is working on a limited two-week assignment, I am stopped by Sgt. Steven Collier. Standing in front of a tank, he tells me his superiors "don't want nobody here right now. They don't tell us why."

According to news updates on the IAEA web site, IAEA inspectors were kept out of the nuclear site entirely from August 2003 until July 2004, when it became the responsibility of the government of Iraq. In August, IAEA completed what it called a "safeguards" inspection, but the IAEA site adds this disclaimer: "The safeguards inspections are separate from weapons inspections mandated by the UN Security Council that ceased in mid-March 2003."
Also note that in July 2004, the United States removed 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium plus "roughly 1000 highly radioactive sources" from the Iraq nuclear site. This material is now stored somewhere in the U.S.
I can only guess what Bush and his Puppet Company (motto: "Need any wood?") is up to, and why they don't want the UN to know about it. If you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments.
8:59 am | link

monday, october 11, 2004

Baby Sitting
I know why you're really here. You want to see cat photos.
I don't have any new photos of Tara O'Brien, but this weekend I baby-sat Molly O'Brien, who lives in Manhattan with my daughter, Erin. I think Molly is about six months old, but I'm not sure. She's small but very zippy. Here she is, taking a break.
9:11 pm | link

Another Day of Glorious Victory

The White House isn’t even hiding the fact that it’s crafting Iraq policy around the U.S. presidential elections in November.

The Bush administration will delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, say administration officials, mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the U.S. presidential race.

Although American commanders in Iraq have been buoyed by recent successes in insurgent-held towns such as Samarra and Tall Afar, administration and Pentagon officials say they will not try to retake cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi – where insurgents’ grip is strongest and U.S. military casualties could be the greatest – until after Americans vote in what is likely to be a close election.

“When this election’s over, you’ll see us move very vigorously,” said one senior administration official involved in strategic planning, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Once you’re past the election, it changes the political ramifications” of a large-scale offensive, the official said. “We’re not on hold right now. We’re just not as aggressive.”

Of course, this delay could affect the Iraq elections scheduled to be held in January. The delay could also make the offensives more costly in American lives when they do happen. But let’s get our priorities straight, eh?

We learned yesterday that troops are frustrated because of retraint on the rules of engagement. The restraints are jeopardizing American lives, marines said.

There is some good news. Shiite militia and followers of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad’s Sadr City have agreed to hand in their weapons, and reports say this is happening now.

In other news ...

chrisreeve.jpgThe latest Zogby-Reuters poll gives Kerry a 3-point lead over Bush. This is a tracking poll taken from Friday through Sunday, which seems to me shows that Bush didn't help himself in the Friday debate.

Also, Christopher Reeve died yesterday of heart failure. Those who wish to honor the memory of a genuinely courageous man can donate to the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Be advised the site is very slow this morning.

8:04 am | link

sunday, october 10, 2004

Says It All

From the Independent, U.K.

Rumsfeld's optimism silenced by bombing

By Kim Sengupta in Baghdad

11 October 2004

Bombs in Baghdad killed 18 people as the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, declared during a visit to Iraq that America was winning the war against insurgency.

The first blast, involving a minibus packed with explosives, came at just after 7am. It is believed to have detonated prematurely, en route to a police academy near by. Seventeen people, including seven women, died. Fifteen minutes later a second attack, on a US military convoy, killed a soldier.

In a too-transparent move to appease the rise of anger over Iraq, Rummy popped up in Iraq to announce that maybe troop numbers can be reduced after the January elections if those pesky insurgents settle down and if all the soldiers click their ruby slippers together and say, "there's no place like home."

Rummy also said violence is likely to get worse in the immediate future.

I liked this detail from MSNBC:

Before Rumsfeld appeared at the main operating base of the 3rd Marine Air Wing, the approximately 1,500 Marines in his audience were give instructions by Sgt. Maj. Dennis Reed on what not to ask. “Don’t ask when you’re going home. We’ll tell you when you’re going home,” Reed said.

Is that a morale booster, or what?

Rummy spoke briefly with reporters at the Baghdad Airport. He became agitated when asked about increasing troop levels before the January elections. (“'There’s a fixation on that subject!' he said with exasperation. 'It’s fascinating how everyone is locked on that.'”)

He also expressed great faith in the newly trained Iraqi security force: "'They do exist. Over 700 of them have been killed,' Rumsfeld said."

Is this guy a smooth talker, or what?

9:14 pm | link

Juicy Bits
Too good to miss:
Jeanne of Body and Soul tells us what happens when a company with no experience whatsoever in the security industry gets a $16 million contract to provide security at the Baghdad Airport. Did I mention that the company's owner is a big GOP contributor?
Via Matthew Yglesias -- this New York Times magazine article by Matt Bai spells out the real differences between Kerry's and Bush's approach to terrorism better than anything else I've read.
Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog connects the dots between the White House and the "newsman" who made the anti-Kerry film to be shown on Sinclair Broadcasting television stations.
Kevin Drum points to an outstanding article by Peter Gosselin of the LA Times titled "If America Is Richer, Why Are Its Families So Much Less Secure?" Also via Drum, "The Boston Globe ran an excellent 3-part series earlier this week about how Republicans have abused their majority position in Congress to rule the legislative process in the House with an increasingly iron — and often corrupt — fist. Backroom deals, closed debates, abuse of legislative traditions, and procedural skullduggery are now the rule rather than the exception."
And don't miss the current Frank Rich column -- "Why Did James Baker Turn Bush Into Nixon?"
Update: The Bushies are taking a quote out of context from the Matt Bai New York Times article cited above. They are releasing an advertisement about it.

Bush campaign Chairman Marc Racicot, in an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition," interpreted Kerry's remarks as saying "that the war on terrorism is like a nuisance. He equated it to prostitution and gambling, a nuisance activity. You know, quite frankly, I just don't think he has the right view of the world. It's a pre-9/11 view of the world."

The irony is that Bai's analysis concluded that the Bushies, not Kerry, were the ones with a pre-9/11 view of the world.

6:32 pm | link

Debates and Dred Scott
Many on the web are pointing out that Bush's reference to the Dred Scott decision during the Friday night debate was really a reference to Roe v. Wade. I think comparing reproductive rights to slavery is sick, but let's let that go for now. I want to look at Dred Scott and our ongoing campaign in a different way.
This morning on the Sunday politics gabfests, several "pundits" said that John Kerry's answer to the question on abortion was muddled. I agree it wasn't expressed as clearly as it could have been -- he needs to work on that -- but there's not a thing wrong with Kerry's opinion on reproductive rights. He said that as president he must keep his personal religious beliefs separate from policy decisions, so even though he is personally opposed to abortion, it's not up to him to make it illegal. And, among other things, he was opposed to the recent "partial-birth abortion" bill because the bill had no "exception for the life of the mother and the health of the mother under the strictest test of bodily injury to the mother."
Then Bush jumped in and said,
Well, it's pretty simple when they say: Are you for a ban on partial birth abortion? Yes or no?

And he was given a chance to vote, and he voted no. And that's just the way it is. That's a vote. It came right up. It's clear for everybody to see. And as I said: You can run but you can't hide the reality.

Bush's remark reminded me of what Lincoln was up against in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. (Warning: What follows is another of my long and boring history rants. Deal with it.)
When Abraham Lincoln ran against Stephen Douglas for a U.S. Senate seat in 1858, the Dred Scott decision was the hot-button issue. The two of them spent hours expounding on Dred Scott and their positions on slavery during those debates.
The SCOTUS did not rule on the legality of slavery in Dred Scott, as Bush seems to suggest in the recent debate. Slavery was constitutional until the ratification of the 13th Amendment a few years (and a Civil War) later. Even the Abolitionists agreed that slavery was constitutional. One prominent Abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, at least once burned a copy of the Constitution publicly to protest the constitutional protection of the institution of slavery.
The Court's decision in Dred Scott was that Scott had no right to sue because he was not a citizen, and he was not a citizen because he was African-American. But the Court also ruled that the federal government did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories, and Abraham Lincoln disagreed. Strongly.
In his Senate run in 1858 and his presidential campaign in 1860, the biggest plank in Lincoln's platform was that the federal government could, and should, ignore the Dred Scott decision and ban slavery from the western territories. (Remember, in the 1850s most of the United States west of the Mississippi wasn't organized into states yet, so that was a big chunk of property.)
But Lincoln's problems with the Dred Scott case appeared to go further than that. Scott had hoped to sue for his freedom on the grounds that his master had for a time taken him into a federal territory in which slavery was not legal. Citizens of northern states (who mostly were not opposed to slavery as long as it wasn't in their back yard) worried that the Dred Scott decision meant a slaveowner could bring his slaves into a "free soil" state and still keep them as personal property. 
In his famous "house divided" speech of June 1858, Lincoln appeared to fan those flames. The Dred Scott decision, he said, meant that
... whether the holding a negro in actual slavery in a free State, makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave State the negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately; but, if acquiesced in for awhile, and apparently indorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free State of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free State.
Even some of Lincoln's supporters thought he had gone too far. He was coming across as a radical who might condone federal interference with slavery laws in the states. Lincoln appeared to backtrack a short time later. He wrote the editor of a major Chicago newspaper that he was "mortified" anyone might understand his speech as sanctioning interference "with slavery in the States where it exists."
Although pro-slavery, Stephen Douglas was considered a "moderate" on the issue. He had long promoted a position he called "popular sovereignty," which held that the citizens of a territory should decide for themselves whether they would allow slavery or not, or whether they would enter the Union as a slave or free state. The federal government, Douglas said, should butt out -- essentially what the Court ruled in Dred Scott.
During the debates, the "Little Giant" (as Stephens was called) hammered Lincoln on this point. Didn't Lincoln support state slavery laws? What was Lincoln trying to do, start a war?
This is from a Lincoln-Douglas debate parody I wrote awhile back:
FOX: Mr. Lincoln, in June you made a speech in Springfield in which you said, in reference to the institution of slavery, "A house divided against itself can not stand." Was this a threat to slave property owners?
LINCOLN: No, of course not. I said that I do not believe the country can remain as it is, half slave and half free; eventually it will have to be all one thing or all the other. I cannot say how this conflict will be resolved.
FOX: Mr. Douglas? Where do you stand on the slavery issue?
DOUGLAS: Unlike my opponent, I stand firmly for the rights of property owners to their property. Although my state is not a slave state, I can assure my constituents that I will support slavery, in the states and wherever it might spread in the territories.
THEODORE TURNER: Mr. Lincoln, haven't you pledged to abolish slavery?

LINCOLN: I never said that.

TURNER: ... and you want the "house" to unite as a free-soil nation?

LINCOLN: I never said I would abolish slavery. I never said that at all.

I was asked a question about the abolition of slavery, and I answered by saying I am not pledged to abolish slavery in the slave states, or in the District of Columbia. What I have said is that Congress has a right and a duty to prohibit slavery in all the United States Territories.

TURNER: Mr. Douglas, would you care to respond?

DOUGLAS: Thank you. My opponent refuses to take a firm position, but I say it’s simple — either you’re for Southern property rights, or against them …

Note: although the above is a parody, IMO it's a pretty fair representation of what went down. Lincoln's position was that, even though he was morally opposed to slavery, he didn't believe the federal government had the constitutonal authority to ban slavery in the states. In other words, he wasn't going to base policy on his personal beliefs. However, Lincoln's interpretation of the Constitution (see Article 4, section 3, clause 2) persuaded him that the federal government could ban slavery in the territories, and he was all for that.
Douglas said that Lincoln's position was confused, because he supported slavery in the states but not in the territories. And Douglas liked to drag out various past statements by Lincoln to show what a flipflopper he was.
As you may recall, Douglas won that election.
Douglas's "popular sovereignty" position came back to bite him in 1860, however. He had become the sworn enemy of the southern plantation owners, who wanted to use the power of the federal government to impose slavery into at least some of the territories, if not all of them. (So much for states' rights.) When the Democrats nominated Douglas for president, southern (slave owning) Democrats were so opposed they pulled out of the party and put up their own guy, John Breckinridge. To the southerners, Douglas was for slavery sometimes and against it at other times. Another flipflopper.
I think this says something about ideology, or maybe it says something about just plain stupid. Whatever. I'm not afraid of a little nuance now and then. If nuance was good enough for Abe Lincoln, it's good enough for me.
11:58 am | link

Current and Coming Attractions
cokieroberts.jpgCokie Roberts is on This Week saying that she thinks people are tuning out Iraq as an issue. Cokie Roberts is an idiot. Or, perhaps, a frilly pink empty hat.
ABC is running a promo from Ted Koppel saying the Tuesday night Nightline will examine whether John Kerry truly earned his Vietnam medals.
9:34 am | link

How the Dubya Got His Hump
Friday night I watched carefully for a bulge on the back of Bush's jacket. I thought I saw one a few times, but since then I haven't had time to go through the debate video looking for a frame to screen capture. So I thank Bob Fertik of for providing the tell-tale photo.  
Major media, including the BBC and the New York Times, are starting to sniff around the jacket bulge issue.
7:35 am | link

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September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 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


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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