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saturday, february 12, 2005

Blame Bush for North Korea's Nukes, Part 2
We ended the last episode in March 2001, at the point where Junior flushed several years of international diplomacy, insulted a Nobel laureate, and kicked off a sure-enough crisis all in one day by being the asshole that he is.
This timeline from the Arms Control Association provides more details of what happened in March 2001:
March 6, 2001: At a joint press briefing with the Swedish foreign minister, Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the administration “plan[s] to engage with North Korea to pick up where President Clinton left off. Some promising elements were left on the table and we will be examining those elements.”

March 7, 2001: In a New York Times op-ed, Wendy Sherman, former special adviser to the president and secretary of state for North Korea policy, writes that a deal with North Korea to eliminate its medium- and long-range missiles and end its missile exports had been “tantalizingly close” at the end of the Clinton administration.

After a working meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung at the White House, President George W. Bush tells reporters that he “look[s] forward to, at some point in the future, having a dialogue with the North Koreans, but that any negotiation would require complete verification of the terms of a potential agreement.” According to Clinton administration officials, the issue of how to verify a missile deal remained one of the final stumbling blocks to a successful arrangement. Bush also questions whether Pyongyang is “keeping all terms of all agreements.”

Just prior to Bush’s comments, Powell amended his remarks from the previous day, noting that if “there was some suggestion that imminent negotiations are about to begin—that is not the case.”

March 13, 2001: North Korea, apparently reacting to Washington’s new tone, cancels ministerial-level talks with Seoul. The talks were intended to promote further political reconciliation.

March 15, 2001: Pyongyang threatens to “take thousand-fold revenge” on the United States “and its black-hearted intention to torpedo the dialogue between north and south [Korea].” The statement, issued by the Korean Central News Agency, called Washington’s new policies “hostile” and noted that Pyongyang remains “fully prepared for both dialogue and war.”

Bush's foreign policy was off to a brilliant start.
In April 2001, the Shrubster was put on notice he was playing in the big leagues when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet in Chinese air space. The U.S. crew had to make an emergency landing and were taken into custody by the Chinese, who demanded an apology from Bush. The Bushies eventually realized there were limits to what they could achieve by blustering, although this lesson seems to have been quickly unlearned. There's a BBC News archive of the incident here, and a good analysis here.  
In June 2001 (see timeline), the Bushies sent signals that they were prepared to engage in bilateral talks with the North Koreans. Some meetings were held to work out the details of these talks. Through the remainder of 2001 the North Koreans appeared to have settled down a bit, and in any event after September 11 the Bushies were focused elsewhere.
Still, Kim Jung Il let it be known that he wasn't going to make diplomacy easy. On January 1, 2002, he announced a military build-up to meet the threat of U.S. aggression.
Bush responded to this by pouring fuel on the fire. On January 29, 2002, he made his famous "axis of evil" remark in the SOTU speech, and also criticized North Korea for  “arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.” Two days later, the North Koreans declared Bush's speec was "little short of a declaration of war."
Just a week later, on February 5, Colin Powell restated the Bush Administration's willingness to engage in bilateral talks with North Korea at "any time, any place, or anywhere without any preconditions."
A pattern is established -- Colin Powell at least puts on a good act of being diplomatic and smoothing things out, and then Georgie Boy stomps into the room and throws his toys around and makes a mess.
Later in February 2002, President Bush paid a visit to South Korea.
While hundreds of protesters marched against Bush and burned home-made U.S. flags, and 20,000 riot police kept order on the streets, Bush talked with Kim Dae Jung.
Worldwide controversy over Bush's speech last month labeling North Korea, Iran and Iraq an "axis of evil" has been strong in U.S. ally South Korea, where 70 percent of the public disapproved of the characterization.

In a news conference after his talks with President Kim, Bush stood by his tough words, saying North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had to earn his trust, but that the United States had no intention of attacking the North.

"I will not change my opinion on Kim Jong-il until he frees his people and accepts genuine proposals from countries such as South Korea to dialogue," Bush said.

"I am concerned about a country that is not transparent, that develops weapons of mass destruction," he said.

South Koreans fear Bush will, at best, destroy Kim's delicate "Sunshine Policy" of rapprochement with North Korea and, at worst, bring his war on terrorism to their doorstep. [Paul Eckert, "Tough Security, Protests as Bush Visits South Korea," Reuters, February 20, 2002]

Whoops! But George W. Bush was riding high and feeling very sure of himself, or full of himself, whichever.

Some 11 months ago, Bush included North Korea in an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq in his 2002 State of the Union speech. And on a visit to South Korea, he visited the 38th Parallel demilitarized zone and in a deliberate echo of President Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall, he called on the North's leaders to "tear down this DMZ." So far, Kim Jong Il has not complied with his demand. [Martin Sieff, "Deadly Adversary Kim Jong II," UPI, December 27, 2002

Standing atop a sandbag bunker and protected by bulletproof glass, U.S. President George W. Bush peered through binoculars at North Korea on Wednesday and bluntly called it "evil."

... Among the things Bush could see were North Korean signs written in large, white Korean characters with slogans such as: "Anti-America" and "Our General is the best" -- a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Bush spent about 10 minutes atop the bunker and then he and Secretary of State Colin Powell sat down to a lunch of cold cuts, potato chips, fruit and cookies with about a dozen U.S. soldiers who help man the post 24 hours a day.

Asked what he thought when he looked out over the North, Bush said: "We're ready." [Arshad Mohammed, "Bush Sees 'Evil' N. Korea Through Bulletproof Glass," Reuters, February 20, 2002]

Again, notice the pattern -- the President trots out in public and struts about, talking tough for the home crowd. But according to this timeline, while in South Korea Bush expressed support for the Sunshine Policy, the same policy he had dissed in March 2001.

In March 2002, Bush refused to certify North Korea's compliance with the 1994 Agreed Framework, but said the U.S. would continue deliverying oil for energy to North Korea anyway.

The much-compromised Judith Miller wrote (with David Sanger):

For the first time since North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear activities in exchange for foreign aid, the United States will refuse to certify that the country is complying with its commitments under the accord, a senior administration official said today.

But in what appeared to be an effort to forestall a diplomatic crisis with one of the countries that President Bush listed as part of the ''axis of evil,'' he will inform Congress that he has also decided to continue fulfilling America's obligations under the accord.

The official said Mr. Bush would waive, in the interest of national security, the certification of North Korean compliance that Congress now requires. That would enable the United States to continue providing North Korea with fuel oil under the agreement.

Mr. Bush's decision strikes a delicate political balance.

On the one hand, it may satisfy conservative critics of the agreement, who contend that while North Korea may have halted activity at its main nuclear site, at Yongbyon, the country may be continuing to develop nuclear weapons at hidden underground sites.

On the other hand, it enables the administration to avoid a breach with Japan and South Korea, which strongly support the 1994 accord with North Korea. That accord was initiated by the United States after a dangerous confrontation with North Korea in spring 1994 that Clinton administration officials now say came dangerously close to setting off a military conflict. [Judith Miller and David Sanger, "U.S. to Report North Korea Is Not Meeting A-Pact Terms," The New York Times, March 20, 2002]

In other words, Bush's two-faced policy was the result of trying to appease the hard-line troglodytes in the Republican Party while also trying to appease Kim Jong Il just enough so that he didn't nuke Japan. (Or Alaska. Or Sacramento.)

But what happened next is still inexplicable. It was either a monumental screwup or some lamebrain Bushie tactic that backfired, or both.

In September 2002, the North Koreans announced they would behave and extend their long-range missile moratorium. They also made some ambiguous noises about keeping their nuclear weapons commitments. This was the result of meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

But then the Bushies stepped in. Going back to the Arms Control Association timeline:

October 3-5, 2002: James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, visits North Korea. The highest-ranking administration official to visit Pyongyang, Kelly reiterates U.S. concerns about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, export of missile components, conventional force posture, human rights violations, and humanitarian situation. Kelly informs North Korea that it could improve bilateral relations through a “comprehensive settlement” addressing these issues. No future meetings are announced.

Referring to Kelly’s approach as “high handed and arrogant,” North Korea argues that the U.S. policy “compels the DPRK to take all necessary countermeasures, pursuant to the army-based policy whose validity has been proven.”

October 16, 2002: The United States announces that North Korea admitted to having a clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons after James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, confronted representatives from Pyongyang during an October 3-5 visit. Kelly later explained that the North Korean admission came the day after he informed them that the United States was aware of the program. North Korea has denied several times that it admitted to having this program.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher states that "North Korea's secret nuclear weapons program is a serious violation of North Korea's commitments under the Agreed Framework as well as under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement, and the Joint North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Boucher also says that the United States wants North Korea to comply with its nonproliferation commitments and seeks "a peaceful resolution of this situation."

Announcement of the "clandestine program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons" set the American punditocracy into overdrive. Rightie bobbleheads hit every radio and television talk show they could find, screaming that North Korea had been cheating on the 1994 agreements all along, and didn't that prove that Clinton's appeasement policies was a policy for suckers and wimps.

The part of the story that rarely bubbled to the surface is that the 1994 agreement primarily had been about plutonium, not uranium. North Korea's plutonium processors were still sealed in October 2002. The North Koreans were still in compliance with that part of the agreement. As I explained in Part 1, uranium is to plutonium what an auto parts junkyard is to NASA.

But there's more. In this month's issue of Foreign Affairs, Selig Harrison writes,

On October 4, 2002, the United States suddenly confronted North Korea with a damning accusation: that it was secretly developing a program to enrich uranium to weapons grade, in violation of the 1994 agreement that Pyongyang had signed with Washington to freeze its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Since North Korea had cheated, the Bush administration declared, the United States was no longer bound by its side of the deal. Accordingly, on November 14, 2002, the United States and its allies suspended the oil shipments they had been providing North Korea under the 1994 agreement. Pyongyang retaliated by expelling international inspectors and resuming the reprocessing of plutonium, which it had stopped under the 1994 accord (known as the Agreed Framework). The confrontation between North Korea and the United States once more reached a crisis level

Much has been written about the North Korean nuclear danger, but one crucial issue has been ignored: just how much credible evidence is there to back up Washington's uranium accusation? Although it is now widely recognized that the Bush administration misrepresented and distorted the intelligence data it used to justify the invasion of Iraq, most observers have accepted at face value the assessments the administration has used to reverse the previously established U.S. policy toward North Korea.

But what if those assessments were exaggerated and blurred the important distinction between weapons-grade uranium enrichment (which would clearly violate the 1994 Agreed Framework) and lower levels of enrichment (which were technically forbidden by the 1994 accord but are permitted by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT] and do not produce uranium suitable for nuclear weapons)?

A review of the available evidence suggests that this is just what happened. Relying on sketchy data, the Bush administration presented a worst-case scenario as an incontrovertible truth and distorted its intelligence on North Korea (much as it did on Iraq), seriously exaggerating the danger that Pyongyang is secretly making uranium-based nuclear weapons. This failure to distinguish between civilian and military uranium-enrichment capabilities has greatly complicated what would, in any case, have been difficult negotiations to end all existing North Korean nuclear weapons programs and to prevent any future efforts through rigorous inspection. On June 24, 2004, the United States proposed a new, detailed denuclearization agreement with North Korea at six-party negotiations (including the United States, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and North Korea) in Beijing. Before discussions could even start, however, the Bush administration insisted that North Korea first admit to the existence of the alleged uranium-enrichment facilities and specify where they are located. Pyongyang has so far refused to confirm or deny whether it has such facilities; predictably, the U.S. precondition has precluded any new talks.

This is turning into a bigger project than I'd estimated it would be, as I keep finding new stuff. But tune in tomorrow (I hope) for Part 3, when maybe I'll get to the present North Korean flap. Or not.

11:03 am | link

Um, About Those Elections, III
This Guardian article by Naomi Klein is too good to miss.
They [righties] think the Iraqi people have finally sent America those long-awaited flowers and sweets, when Iraq's voters just gave them the (purple) finger. Judging by the millions of votes already counted, Iraqis have voted overwhelmingly to throw out the US-installed Ayad Allawi, who refused to ask the United States to leave. A decisive majority voted for the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA); the second plank in the UIA platform called for "a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq".

There are more single-digit messages embedded in the winning coalition's platform. Some highlights: "Adopting a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi ... and offers facilities to citizens to build homes"; the alliance also pledges "to write off Iraq's debts, cancel reparations and use the oil wealth for economic development projects". In short, Iraqis voted to repudiate the radical free-market policies imposed by the former chief American envoy Paul Bremer and locked in by a recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Also in The Guardian: Two years in Iraq.
9:08 am | link

friday, february 11, 2005

Random Things
I really will get to the second part of the North Korea post tomorrow. But first, there are some other random things I want to comment on.
First, as you may have heard, Eason Jordan resigned from CNN. That stomping sound you hear in the distance is the Right Blogosphere Victory Dance.
I don't have a strong opinion about Eason Jordan, as I don't know enough of the facts to know exactly what he said, or whether there might be some truth to it, or exactly how hard he was pressured to resign, or where that pressure came from, or a lot of other things. And I'm not so big a fan of CNN to feel protective of its editorial management. But the way he was pressured to resign worries me.
David Neiwert posts about the slime thrown at Eason Jordan by the righties to drive him out of his job:
What has proceeded apace is a classic right-wing blogosphere witchhunt. Some have even put together an "Easongate" blog. It's obvious that, after "Rathergate," right-wing bloggers have concluded that the way to make a name for yourself is to take down someone from the "MSM," even if it's a little-known executive for a cable network. They're calling for his dismissal, as are members of the D.C. conservative pundit class.

These people aren't outraged. They're hunting pelts.
Regarding our other press controversy, one of the shamelessly hypocritical technoweenies who writes for Little Green Footballs -- to which I do not link -- wrote this about the Jeff Gannon scandal:

INDC Journal has a post on the Atrios/Daily Kos internet lynching of Jeff Gannon.

I must be getting jaded, because I find this despicable behavior from lefty bloggers to be completely unsurprising. This is just a particularly vile case of the same below-the-belt tactics these people use all the time.

I was on the receiving end of some "tactics" generated by LGF last fall. There's nothing quite like picking up the phone and hearing vile language and threats from one of LGF's readers. I couldn't answer my phone for three days. I had to shut down the comments on this blog for about five days because of the gentle attention of LGF readers and the interesting comments they were posting.
There is absolutely no limit to the hypocrisy of these jerks. Language can't get close to expressing how despicable they are.
Just thought I'd mention that.
Typically, the righties are too dishonest to even admit to the real issues surrounding Jeff Gannon. They've persuaded themselves that he's being targeted by the "liberal media" because he's a conservative. Not so, as explained by Eric Boehlert in today's Salon. The real issue is "how a partisan novice reporter working for a fake news organization was able to gain regular access to White House briefings." See also this post at The Carpetbagger Report.
New item: I apologize for not being all over the new 9/11 report and the way the White House tried to suppress it. There's only one of me. Maybe I can get to that after North Korea.
9:44 pm | link

All Isms Are Wrong
I'm interrupting the history of North Korea for another rant, which is my long-time contention that all ideologies are wrong.
I call this the Ideology of No-Ideology.
My dictionary defines ideology as "A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system." Doctrine is "A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; dogma." A belief is "Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defies belief. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons."
And so on. I define ideology as a kind of cognitive filing system. The cosmos is an infinitely complex place, and we have very finite brains, so as we grow and learn we tend to organize input in certain ways to make sense of it. The way we learn to file depends a lot on our upbringing, the social and cultural values we absorb, our experiences, the limitations of our intelligence, etc. etc. We use cognition to interface with absolute reality, breaking the awesome absolute down into little digestible relative bits that we can comprehend, label, and file. And we all do this, unless maybe you are a superduper Einstein-level genius, and then I suspect you still do it most of the time.
When I say that all ideologies are wrong, I don't mean they are all wrong about everything. Most ideologies are partly right, or relatively right, about at least some things. But none of them are always and absolutely right about everything.
We might define wisdom as the ability to recognize a truth that doesn't fit one's old cognitive filing system, and then to change the system to accommodate the truth. But hard-core ideologues can't do that. Instead, they reject the truth, or twist it around somehow so that it fits the ideology.
If you've ever tried to argue with or explain something to an ideologue, you know what I'm saying. You can hold up plain, unadulterated fact, in technicolor, with a note from God, but if it doesn't fit into their cognitive filing system they won't even look at it. They get hostile and defensive and even violent rather than look at it. That's because they perceive a threat to the integrity of their filing system as a personal threat, and it frightens them.
Therefore, a wise person doesn't take ideology too seriously, or at least keeps whatever ideology he adopts loose and fluid enough to be able to accommodate new facts and truths as they come along.
Ideologies are to cognition what a pitcher plant is to a fly. A person is introduced to an ideology and recognizes in it some truth, some perspective, that reverberates well with his own experience. OK. But then he adopts more and more of the ideology, and is sucked deeper and deeper into it, until he is no longer capable of recognizing reality if it bit his butt. He's living at the bottom of a pitcher plant and thinks that's what the whole world is.
Beliefs are problems because beliefs are what we use to fill in the blanks of knowledge. If something is a plain fact, we don't have to believe in it, because we know it. I don't have to believe I have fingers, for example, because I'm keyboarding with 'em right now. If there are phenomena we don't quite understand, our human brains naturally construct beliefs to make sense of them. But when people become so attached to beliefs that they freeze out knowledge when it turns up, that's a problem.
So now that I'm done ranting, let me explain where I am going with this. Matthew Yglesias writes that progressives need to form an ideology. Referring to this Decembrist article, he says,

As Mark says, what's needed here is something beyond "meetings or traditional coalitions around particular shared interests," which we do already have. What's needed, in short, is a real ideology that, as such, has adherents. The adherents would, of course, specialize to some extent as people always do. But what we have right now is really a coalition of lots of micro-ideologies and micro-interests that happen to collaborate with one another from time to time on this or that. I also liked the point earlier in Mark's post (which, again, will be echoed in my piece in the very different context of national security) about the problems with the over-technocratic mindset of too many leaders on the left.

The problem is that for many years progressives have been marching in the many different directions of many pet issues -- environmentalism, civil rights, labor, health care, feminism -- and instead of working together we compete with each other for funds and attention. In the Decembrist article linked above, Mark Schmit quotes Ted Nordhaus:
A critique similar to the one we've made on environmentalism could be made of many other movements -- women's rights, abortion rights, anti-war, criminal justice, labor, and so on. Each of those so-called movements has turned itself into a special interest in defining the problem narrowly and offering technical policy solutions instead of an inspiring vision.
And later in this post, Schmitt writes,
We can't possibly find ways to move society forward as long as everything is put neatly into boxes labeled "environment," "health care," "campaign finance reform," "low-income programs," "pro-choice," etc., and the coalitions that exist are made up of representatives from those movements. Trying to force environmentalists to think about health care doesn't solve the problem either. We need a whole new structure, built around a convincing narrative about society and the economy, and a new way to fit these pieces together.
This is right. But don't talk to me about ideologies. I don't trust 'em. Vision, yes; principles and values, yes. I'll even take on a doctrine or two, within reason. But keep the ideology, thanks.
If you want to see what ideology does to the brain, read this rightie blog post that comments on the Matt Yglesias and Mark Schmitt posts I've discussed.  The post is titled "How do you justify your existance?" and the blogger asks,
Without venturing into a normative judgement of the propriety of the liberal philosophy -- at the end of the day, I don't think a political philosophy can be "right" or "wrong", except in matters of internal consistency, and the reliability of its assumptions -- one has to ask oneself: why does modern political liberalism not have an organizing principle?  
So this is followed in the comments by the standard crapola that liberalism stands for "More government. More taxes. More welfare," so I challenged the commenters to explain the "organizing principle" of the current Republican Party. And here are the answers:
"... its organizing principle is based in the right of an individual to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. That tends to see that party favor less government, lower taxes and less intrusion at least traditionally. They see defense as one of the few legitimate functions of government (again as a protection of the individual rights)."
"... modern Republicanism is grounded in the idea of using the power of the state to provide as much opportunity to as many people as possible."
"It boils down to a tendency toward individual rights (Republican) vs. a tendency toward collective rights (Democrat)."
See what I mean about living at the bottom of a pitcher plant? The last time those were really the principles of the "modern Republican party," Teddy Roosevelt was president. They've gone all the way from ideology to mythology. And they go on about how "individual" they are, when the fact is they were assimilated into the Hive Mind long ago. The Rightie Borg Collective. 
That's why I say, no ideology. I prefer to deal with things as-they-are, whether they fit into patterns, or file systems, or not. I'm a big girl and not frightened by ambiguities.
Further, and I hate to say this, but IMO one problem with many liberal causes is that many of the worker bees who populate them are too ideological for their own good. Feminism, for example, just about consumed itself in the 1970s because many of us who just wanted to deal with women's issues like equal pay and child care were driven off by the hard core who wanted to live on Amazon Planet.
I think liberals need leadership, to give us direction. And we need vision, so that more of us can see how all the pieces of our good intentions fit together. And maybe a few catchy slogans would be useful. No ideologies, though, thanks.  
4:28 pm | link

Blame Bush for North Korea's Nukes, Part 1.5
One of the great things about writing stuff on the web is that people let you know what you're leaving out. I need to go back and say a little more about the 1994 agreement worked out between Jimmy Carter and Kim Jong Il.
A commenter to the previous post wrote,
for what it's worth, the clintonians never shipped the two reactors or the fuel oil promised the north koreans. this was on the watch of cohen (dod) & albright (sos). so technically, while still being a prime dweeb, bush did have some tradition to guide his pea brained policies.
Regarding the reactors -- according to the Arms Control Association, an international consortium called the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was formed in 1995 to implement the agreement, which included building the two light-water reactors. After several years of site preparation and negotiations over one piddling thing after another, actual construction began in August 2001, way behind schedule. KEDO poured the concrete for the first reactor in August 2002, but suspended the project on December 1, 2003.
So, technically, it's true that construction didn't begin until Bush's watch, but this wasn't because of anything Bush did or Clinton didn't do. The North Koreans caused most of the delays, I understand.
Regarding the fuel oil, however, the commenter is incorrect. The heating oil was supplied to North Korea through the KEDO program, not directly from the U.S., but the U.S. was the chief contributor to KEDO. Through most of the Clinton Administration KEDO was supplying nearly half of North Korea's heating oil needs.
In January 1995, the Clinton Administration arranged for the shipment of 50,000 metric tons of U.S. heavy oil to North Korea. This was followed by a shipment of 100,000 metric tons of oil in October 1995. Starting in October 1996, the United States is to facilitate shipments of 500,000 metric tons of heavy oil to North Korea annually until 2003 or until the first of the two light water reactors becomes operational. The total cost of the oil from 1995 to 2003 is estimated at up to $500 million. The Administration financed the initial shipment of 50,000 tons of oil with $4.5 million from appropriated Defense Department funds designated for "emergency expenses." Foreign aid legislation for FY1996 and FY1977 allocated $19 million and $25 million respectively for oil shipments in 1996 and 1997. Japan has been the other major financial contributor. The Administration is discussing membership of the European Union on KEDO's current three member (the United States, Japan, and South Korea) executive board, which reportedly would bring in $20 million annually from Western Europe to meet the costs of the oil shipments. It has had little success in securing financial support from Southeast Asian and Persian Gulf countries.
Republicans mostly hated this agreement and thought the Clintons were saps for paying millions of dollars to North Korea to not process plutonium. $500 million over seven or so years is a lot cheaper than war, however.
Another commenter, Tom "The Editor" Sumner, writes,
When D. Rumsfeld was on the board there, didn't ABB sell some key nuke-building material to North Korea?
Rummy's old outfit ABB won a $200 million contract to design and supply key components for the two light-water reactors that were part of the 1994 agreement. The deal was announced in 1999 and made official in 2000. Rummy was sitting on the Board of Directors at this time. What happened next will be explained in Part 2.
11:55 am | link

thursday, february 10, 2005

Blame Bush for North Korea's Nukes, Part I
A few hours ago North Korea announced it had nukes. This was no surprise. Immediately after this announcement many on the Right Blogosphere blamed Bill Clinton (see random examples here, here, and here). This also was no surprise. These people are ignorant of what really happened in North Korea in the 1990s and on the Bush Junior Watch, and they form opinons in ignorance. No surprise.
For a detailed history of North Korea and its nuclear program from 1977 to 1999, I recommend this timeline maintained by the Monterey Institute of  International Studies. But here is the highly simplified version:
When Bill Clinton became president in 1993 he inherited a ton of unresolved messes from Poppy Bush. Somalia got most of the headlines, but North Korea was a mess, also. In 1992 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had conducted some inspections in North Korea, but chief inspector Hans Blix suspected the North Koreans were hiding some stuff and fibbing about other stuff.  
Throughout 1993 North Korea and the IAEA inspectors engaged in major head butting. The IAEA said North Korea had more uranium and plutonium fuel than it was admitting to. Also, the U.S. announced that it had intelligence, some from satellite photos, that there was a lot of nuclear-waste-related activity going on in North Korea that had been concealed from the IAEA. Details here.
Although North Korea had both uranium and plutonium, it was the plutonium that really worried everyone. In the nuclear weapons biz there is a huge difference between plutonium and uranium that news stories don't always make clear. Very basically, you need vast amounts of uranium and years and years of processing in order to get enough nuclear stuff to make a bomb. But plutonium is nearly ready to use out of the box, so to speak.
The biggest point of ignorance on the part of the righties has to do with the distinction between plutonium and uranium, and as I said, lots of journalists, and also lots of politicians, are not clear about this, either. But now you are informed.
So, even though North Korea had both uranium and plutonium, it was the plutonium that concerned the rest of the world. The North Koreans were thought to be years away from doing much with the uranium. But by 1993 it was believed North Korea already had enough plutonium in the can, so to speak, for at least one nuclear weapon.
In 1994, western intelligence sources realized that a reprocessing complex being built at Yongbyon included a gas graphite reactor designed specifically for separating plutonium from nuclear waste. This scared the stuffing out of lots of people. The IAEA believed North Korea was hiding more plutonium somewhere. And then North Korea announced it was restricting IAEA inspections. Matters came to a head in June 1994, when North Korea relinquished its IAEA membership and all the inspectors cleared out of the country.
But then along came Jimmy. In June 1994, former President Carter went to North Korea to negotiate with Kim Il Sung, president of North Korea. These negotiations were a great success. North Korea committed to freezing its plutonium weapons program in exchange for two proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors and other aid. As President Carter explained,

Responding to a standing invitation from North Korean President Kim Il Sung and with the approval of President Bill Clinton, I went to Pyongyang and helped to secure an agreement that North Korea would cease its nuclear program at Yongbyon and permit I.A.E.A. inspectors to return to the site to assure that the spent fuel was not reprocessed. In return, the United States and our allies subsequently assured the North Koreans that there would be no nuclear threat to them, that a supply of fuel oil would be provided to replace the power lost by terminating the Yongbyon nuclear program and that two modern nuclear plants would also be provided, with their fuel supplies to be monitored by international inspectors. [Carter, "Engaging North Korea," The New York Times, October 27, 2002]

And, in spite of what the righties will tell you, the North Koreans kept this agreement. The plutonium processing at Yongbyon and elsewhere stopped, and IAEA inspectors were allowed back into North Korea. The plutonium processors were sealed with IAEA seals.
This doesn't mean all was peaches and cream with North Korea. Kim Il Sung died in July 1994 and was replaced by his dumber and nuttier son, Kim Jong Il. Head butting and game playing between North Korea and the IAEA continued. In 1998 there were rumors the North Koreans had broken the IAEA seals on the plutonium processors, but inspectors confirmed the seals were still in place. Many western intelligence agencies believed North Korea had resumed processing uranium, however. Consensus was that this situation required watching but was not an immediate concern. Also in 1998, North Korea tested a long-range ballistic missiles.
On the other hand, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, elected in 1998, began a "Sunshine Policy" to lessen tensions and build reconciliation between North and South Korea. In June 2000 the North and South Korean leaders held a historic three-day summit in Pyongyang, the first such contact in 50 years. They signed a pact in which they agreed to work toward reunification. Kim Dae Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.
So here's where we stood when Bush II became President: Kim Jong Il was (and remains) a genuinely horrible leader whose people were starving, and western intelligence agencies at least suspected he was processing uranium. But relations with South Korea were improving, the IAEA was still inspecting, and the plutonium processors were still sealed.
But then there was Bush.
Kim Dae Jung came to Washington in March 2001 to pay respects to the new U.S. President Bush and ask for his support for the Sunshine Policy. And what happened?
Bush dissed him, that's what. The arrogant little twerp snubbed a Nobel Prize winner and friend to America. And when word of the snub reached North Korea, the "Sunshine Policy" died.

The late, great Mary McGrory wrote:

We should perhaps remember that President Bush has never liked talking to Koreans. His first overseas visitor was the estimable Kim Dae Jung, whom Bush snubbed.

Bush, as he was eager to demonstrate, was not a fan. Kim's sin? He was instituting a sunshine policy with the North, ending a half-century of estrangement. Bush, who looked upon North Korea as the most potent argument for his obsession to build a national missile defense, saw Kim, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, as nothing but trouble. He sent him home humiliated and empty-handed. [McGrory, "Bush's Moonshine Policy," The Washington Post, December 29, 2002; emphasis added].

As a reaction to Bush's unexpected hard-line stance, North Korea cancelled scheduled reconciliation talks with South Korea.

Tomorrow, come back for Part II, in which Bush's continued carelessness and arrogance finally pushed North Korea into resuming plutonium processing. I'll also explain how really bad reporting gave the impression that the deterioration of relations with North Korea was the fault of the Clinton Administration.

6:47 pm | link

Easongate v. Gannongate
Yesterday I wondered which blogosphere story -- Eason Jordan's or Jeff Gannon's -- would first break through to exposure in establishment media. Wonder of wonders, it may be that Mr. Gannon is winning.
A news google for "Eason Jordan" reveals that Jordan-gate is still mostly a rightie web wonder, although it has received some big-city newspaper attention. The newspaper stories include the Howard Kurtz article in the Washington Post (for which the righties are remarkably ungrateful), an article in the Miami Herald that says the initial Internet report of the story came from a Broward County businessman who attended Davos, the Boston Globe (media/entertainment section), and the New York Sun, which is a rightie propaganda rag that no New Yorker I know admits to reading.
The most visible television exposure given to Jordan-gate probably came from Tuesday's Hannity & Colmes on Faux News. See also web comments from Joe Scarborough, MSNBC.
Other than that, the Jordan story is still mostly limited to Town Hall ("Columnists' Errors, CNN's Treason"), Cybercast News, the National Ledger (Also in today's Ledger, "Ward Churchill: I Want the U.S. Wiped Off the Planet." It's possible the Ledger is a satire site, and if so it's brilliant, but I don't think it is.), Men's News Daily, and Power Line (several posts going back a few days).
Today, Power Line blogger The Big Trunk is p.o.'d because a Wall Street Journal editorial on the matter brushed Jordan-gate off as not that big a deal. This may be significant, because I believe the Wall Street Journal editorial page to be the official disseminator of White House/GOP talking points. WSJ may be signaling the troops to back off, for some reason. (Could it be that the White House doesn't want an investigation of the allegation that troops targeted journalists? After reading this Body and Soul post I suspect that's a possibility.) On the other hand, the WSJ editorial was written by an eyewitness to the incident, so I suppose there's a remote possibility the writer was just being honest.
On to Gannon-gate. A news google for "Jeff Gannon" today found several stories in the dead tree and cable/broadcast news media. These include the New York Daily News's wonderfully headlined "Bush Press Pal Quits Over Gay Prostie Link," plus stories from Cox News Service, the Boston Globe (news/politics section), CNN, NPR,  plus Howie Kurtz in WaPo. (See John in DC at AMERICAblog for a reaction to Howie Kurtz in WaPo.)
Of course, to say that the story is getting media attention is not the same thing as saying it's getting accurate media attention. The Fabulous David E deconstructs a predictably lame interview of Howard Kurtz by Wolf "Leslie" Blitzer. See Digby's take, also.
On the plus side, the indispensable Keith Olberman gave a report on last night's Countdown on MSNBC that skillfully brought together the diverse strands of the growing Gannon story. Even better, Olbermann recognized that the real scandal is not Gannon's homosexuality, or even his porn sites, but the fact that an obviously phony journalist got White House press credentials and appears to have been working in collusion with the White House. And better, Gannon seems to have played a role in outing Valerie Plame. Via the Left Coaster and Nomad 559 at Democratic Underground, you can watch the video here.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) wrote a letter to President Bush asking for an explanation for Gannon's admittance to White House briefings. Click here to see the video of Rep. Slaughter's interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN.
As David E might say, "Sing Out, Louise!"
Sour grapes from the Right -- Mens' News Daily reports, "The Leftwing Media Gets Their [sic sic; double grammar error there] Scalp: Jeff Gannon Resigns from Talon News."
The Kos crew, notably spiderleaf and SusanG, put together a compendium of posts showing the links between "Jeff Gannon" and the Valerie Plame story. Important stuff.
Editor & Publisher has a roundup of Gannon news. But, as Buzzflash points out, the New York Times is MIA.
Congrats to World o' Crap for being front and center on this story and getting mentioned (deservedly) on television and in newspapers. Also in blogs -- Giblets creates a Gannon replacement, and Max takes a long view of blog-driven news.
8:24 am | link

wednesday, february 9, 2005

I've written before about the tendency of righties to get fired up about saving fetuses, which they call the "pre-born," while ignoring high rates of mortality among infants, or the "post-born." See, for example, here and here.
This New York Newsday article by Carol Susman points to another discrepancy in rightie ideology (emphasis added) --
Four months after Peterson's arrest for the killing of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner, Bush last April signed into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, making it a crime to harm a fetus during a federal offense. A Bush campaign ad slammed Sen. John Kerry for opposing the legislation, dubbed Laci and Conner's Law. ...

Twenty-nine other states have similar laws, and at least four of them passed the laws in the wake of the Peterson case. About a dozen more states are considering such legislation. ...

Infuriating women's groups is what they consider the dichotomy of conservatives' support of laws to prevent abortions, coupled with their opposition to laws targeting violence against women.

"It's unsettling that there is so much concern for the fertilized egg and so little concern for the battered woman," Gandy said.

Congress and most of the state legislative bodies that have approved laws to protect unborn victims of violence, for example, have rejected alternative legislation that would have strengthened penalties for crimes committed against pregnant women.

Perkins said that's because the alternative laws, invariably introduced by pro-abortion-rights legislators such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), do not specifically recognize fetuses as living beings. "They want to stand with the women but deny the children," he said.
In other words, extreme righties do not recognize women as living beings, or at least not human beings. They want to protect the fetus, but not the mother, and they don't seem to give a bleep about children once they are born.
It's possible the righties are just confused. I have created a handy-dandy field guide to help them sort through the confusing diversity of life forms on earth:

Also today, Achidne of the Snakes looks at laws that punish mothers for passing harmful drugs through their umbilical cords to a fetus. Opponents of these laws say they discourage women from revealing their addictions and getting help for them. Proponents of the laws say that when an addicted pregnant woman uses drugs, it's no different from giving drugs directly to the child. In other words, in this view, the woman is just a passive vessel undeserving of consideration. 

Echidne calls such cases "another example of the problems that appear when people are viewed as containing other people in the manner of those Russian babushka dolls, and when the insert-people are regarded as independent for legal purposes."

Perhaps another clip 'n' save guide is in order --


I hope this helps.    

7:41 pm | link

Notes from the Alternate Universe
The Right Blogosphere is on an all-Eason-Jordan-all-the-time loop, as is much of National Review Online.  (If the name "Eason Jordan" doesn't ring a bell, catch up here.) Clearly, that ol' liberal media is engaged in a scandalous cover up, the righties say.
To better understand this issue, I've been watching the rightie critters (with binoculars, from a remote location) and have been making notes on their behavior in their natural habitat.
Only if someone finds documentation that Donald Rumsfeld ordered U.S. sharpshooters to target journalists, with Bush's permission, after Alberto Gonzales prepared a memo saying that shooting journalists was perfectly legal. Then, maybe. Otherwise, not.
Malkin, remember, is the same individual who responded to Bush's plans to raise prescription prices for veterans as "Another Deceptive Democrat Talking Point," demonstrating how much Malkin actually cares about our troops. See the update to this post for my comments on Malkin. And also note that she wrote her blog post on "deceptive democrat talking point" before any Democrat or leftie blogger of note had reacted to the news story on veteran benefits. This is an example of "proactive snarking." Remarkable behavior, that.
  • Via Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog, Ann Coulter (species: macresco bardus female canis) told Larry "fuzzy math" Kudlow that shooting journalists would be a good thing.
Steve asks, "Explain to me again: Why is Ward Churchill a pariah and Ann Coulter isn't?"

This requires some background. You can get background on this issue from Media Matters, which the Brainster links to, not noticing that Media Matters is David Brock's organization, and David Brock ... well, you know. More background from Kos. See also World o' Crap and AMERICAblog.

In a nutshell, the gay person allegedly witchhunted is a fake journalist working for a fake news service who somehow got credentialed to the White House press pool. The "journalist," who goes by the psueudonym Jeff Gannon, has been helping White House Press Stooge McClellan, and the President also, get through press briefings and press conferences by asking softball and change-the-subject questions at critical times. The Media Matters page linked above documents this. It appears that some behind-the-scenes coordination has been going on between the White House and Gannon, although I'm sure everyone involved denies this.

Better, various people have dug around the Web and discovered that Gannon also owns and operates some gay porn and prostitution sites.

Even better, John in DC at AMERICAblog seems to have found gay-bashing articles on the web page of Gannon's fake news service, Talon, some written by Gannon himself, although the stories John linked to have been yanked.

In another post, John in DC asks,

Just imagine if some guy with alleged ties to male prostitution were given unprecendented access to the White House, and given a White House press pass that didn't even have his real name on it, in order to throw fake softball questions at the press briefings to help make the president look good.

Now imagine that president were named Bill Clinton.

Now imagine what would happen next?

I imagine the whole Vast Right Wing Echo Chamber Conspiracy would be all over that faster'n you can say "Witchhunt."

Even more better, SusanG at Daily Kos writes (emphasis added),

White House-credentialed fake news reporter "Jeff Gannon" from fake news agency "Talon News" was cited by the Washington Post as having the only access to an internal CIA memo that named Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert CIA agent. Gannon, in a question posed to Wilson in an October 2003 interview, referred to the memo (to which no other news outlet had access, according to the Post). Gannon subsequently has been subpoenaed by the federal grand jury looking into the Plame outing.

So, you can see why the only reason the Left Blogosphere is discussing Gannon is that he's gay.

This issue reminds me of yesterday's E.J. Dionne column, "Race Bait and Switch."

"Every Hispanic in America is watching," Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch declared ominously as most Senate Democrats voted last week to oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

What was the senator from Utah implying? Hatch and everyone else knew perfectly well that Democrats voted against the new attorney general not because of his ethnicity but because they wanted to hold Gonzales and the White House he served accountable for appalling policies that led to the mistreatment of prisoners. But playing ethnic politics is more profitable for Republicans than arguing about torture, so Hatch let it rip.

As Dionne points out, it is conservatives, not liberals, who most often use "political correctness" to sidestep hard issues. And Brainster provides another example.

But the Right Blogosphere is flaming over Eason Jordan because of something he may or may not have said that might have been insulting to the troops, while the Left Blogosphere is on to a genuine scandal involving the White House engaged in corruption of the news process.

Which story, do you think, will most likely break through to dead-tree and network/cable media?

Update: Courtesy of No More Mr. Nice Guy, some evidence that maybe some troops are targeting journalists.

9:35 am | link

Let the Sun Shine In
There's a lot to blog about today, so stay tuned. But the good news is that it appears Howard Dean is all but certain to be the next DNC Chair.
We have yet to see if he can do the job, but for the moment I'm happy. This should send a message to the small but powerful DLC/Lieberman/Beinart wing of the Dem party that no one is listening to them.
It can be argued that Dean may not understand how to win elections, but at the moment that's not the most critical issue.  To survive, the Democratic Party absolutely must pull its head out of its butt and reconnect to its base. (You remember the base, guys? Us little people outside the beltway who are supposed to carry water for you even if you don't listen to us?)
I think Dean understands this. Go, Howard!
Kos has a thread going on what we can do to support Dean and bring about some much needed reform in the party.
8:27 am | link

tuesday, february 8, 2005

The Crucible Reloaded
As I mentioned this morning, it seems the entire Right Blogosphere is consumed by the "Eason Jordan scandal," an issue that was a bit off my radar.  So I looked into it.
This much is certain: Eason Jordan is executive vice president and chief news executive of CNN. He attended the world Economic Summit at Davos, Switzerland, in January. At some panel discussion at Davos, Jordan said something about the deaths of journalists in Iraq that has set the entire Right Blogosphere foaming at the mouth and calling for Jordan's blood.
This much is not certain: Precisely what Jordan said and what he meant by it.
Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC News, was present when Jordan said the controversial thing and issued this statement about it:

Eason's comments were a reaction to a statement that journalists killed in Iraq amounted to "collateral damage". His point was that many of these journalists (and indeed civilians) killed in Iraq were not accidental victims--as suggested by the terms "collateral damage"--but had been "targeted", for example by snipers.

He clarified this comment to say he did not believe they were targeted because they were journalists, although there are others in the media community who do hold that view (personally, I don't). They had been deliberately killed as individuals-- perhaps because they were mistaken for insurgents, we don't know. However the distinction he was seeking to make is that being shot by a sniper, or fired at directly is very different from being, for example, accidentally killed by an explosion.

Some in the audience, and Barney Frank on the panel, took him to mean US troops had deliberately set out to kill journalists. That is not what he meant or, in my view, said; and he clarified his comment a number of times to ensure people did not misunderstand him. However, they seem to have done so.

Howard Kurtz was not a witness to the incident, but he reported the reactions of some who were.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who attended the World Economic Forum panel at which Jordan spoke, recalled yesterday that Jordan said he knew of 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq. At first, said Frank, "it sounded like he was saying it was official military policy to take out journalists." But Jordan later "modified" his remarks to say some U.S. soldiers did this "maybe knowing they were killing journalists, out of anger. . . . He did say he was talking about cases of deliberate killing," Frank said.
Jordan denied that last night, saying he had been responding to Frank's comment that the 63 journalists who have been killed in Iraq were "collateral damage" in the war. "I was trying to make a distinction between 'collateral damage' and people who got killed in other ways," Jordan said last night. "I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist. Never meant to suggest that. Obviously I wasn't as clear as I should have been on that panel."

In some of the cases, "with the benefit of hindsight, had more care been taken, maybe this could have been avoided," Jordan said, referring to shootings that involved mistaken identity. But, he said, "it's a war zone. Terrible things happen."

Kurtz says that David Gergen, who was also present at the incident, backs up Jordan's version of what happened.
A number of pundits who were not present at the incident have jumped in, anyway. Larry Kudlow -- television bobblehead, alleged economist, and a man with decidedly quixotic notions of "accuracy" -- calls Jordan "the CNN news executive who slandered the U.S. military without a shred of evidence to back his claims," and says CNN should fire Jordan. I've read some of Kudlow's columns, so I can't understand why not having evidence of something would bother him. I guess what set him off was the slander of U.S. troops.
But Kudlow has forgotten that "coalition troops" is not the same thing as "U.S. troops." They might have been British. And don't forget Poland.
A blogger with the cute fantasy title of "The Moderate Voice" says that Howard Kurtz had tarnished himself by making excuses for Jordan, even though Kurtz doesn't seem to have done anything but report what people present at the Davos panel discussion were saying. Never mind; everything Kurtz ever writes from now on is suspect, says the Voice. "The Moderate Voice" was endorsed and linked to by a number of rightie bloggers.
In summation: The righties are certain that Jordan accused U.S. soldiers of targeting journalists for death, and they want him skinned for it. Anyone who says that maybe Jordan didn't say exactly that is a liar and collaborator and ought to be skinned, also. The more moderate righties are demanding that somebody -- either CNN or the World Economic Forum -- produce a tape of what Jordan said, so that after they have the evidence in their hands they can skin him with impunity. If CNN cannot comply, probably more people at CNN should be skinned.
Further, the Eason Jordan scandal is the most important thing happening on the planet right now. Forget the budget; forget Social Security; forget the continuing guerrilla war in Iraq; even forget the Middle East cease fire that may have Condi's fingerprints on it. None of these issues are noteworthy. All that matters is Eason Jordan and punishing him for what the righties believe he said, whether he said it or not.
And the righties call us "barking moonbats."
For another perspective, see Jude Nagurney Camwell at American Street:
... ask yourselves how a seasoned newsman’s passion for the protection of the lives and safety of those who carry out their work in the most dangerous of situations (to show us the truth) is, by any standard, “unprofessional”. I would have to say just the opposite. The values Eason Jordan appears to espouse involve a concern, caring, and a call for the utmost protection for those who serve in the field of journalism.

We all know that war is a risky place for journalists. The Iraq war is a public action carried out, in my name and yours, by our government. The lives of those who serve the journalism corps in the middle of a war zone deserve every bit as much care and respect as the soldiers (the ones with the guns, I’d like to remind you).

I don’t think Eason Jordan should be professionally crucified for what we can liken to a motherly nature when discussing a delicate matter (out of the public eye, for the most part - the Jan. 27 Davos session was supposed to be off the record).

Those who are hot on Eason’s trail are only those who wish to inflict some political damage on the few in the mainstream media who still possess extreme courage of conviction. This is not a case of Dan Rather using fake documents. This seems to be more of a case where a professional journalist has called, in his own fumbling way, for better judgement and a higher degree of care and liability on on the part of U.S. military in choosing their targets. (For every target is, indeed, a choice and requires responsibility and accountability).

It seems to me that Jordan's point may have been that journalists killed by bullets are not "collateral damage." Maybe not; I wasn't there. But neither was the "Moderate Voice," or Larry "fuzzy math" Kudlow, or any of the bloggers at Instapundit and Little Green Footballs and elsewhere who are calling for Jordan's blood. So I figure my interpretation is as good as any.
Keith Olbermann on low-rider pants: "If I really wanted to see your backside, I would buy you dinner."
Update: Courtesy of No More Mr. Nice Guy, some evidence that maybe some troops are targeting journalists. See also Notes from the Alternate Universe.  
8:05 pm | link

Bash the Budget!
Commentary on the new Bush budget, from here and afar:
None of the movers and shakers at the World Economic Forum in Davos thought the Bush administration was serious about cutting the budget deficit, and they appear to have been right. ...
... the degree to which the Bush administration had proved to be a welfare programme for the already rich was obscene, but it did not seem to be a subject people talked about. In the land that gave us The Great Gatsby, it was simply accepted that these people had a right to their permanent tax cuts.
According to the Financial Times, some two-thirds of the deterioration in US public finances since 2001 is accounted for by 'revenue shortfalls', ie tax cuts . Yet all the emphasis in the budget proposals is on cutting spending - wounding for the poor, but not so significant overall as to make more than a $15bn (£8bn) dent in the $400bn (£215bn) deficit between this year and next. ...
... The overwhelming consensus at Davos was that there was a huge crisis in the making. The only question was when it would hit. One leading international economist said: "There is certainly going to be an explosion sometime, when people lose complete confidence in the dollar. It may be in 10 months, but it may be in 10 years. "

No wonder Dick Cheney swears he will never run for president. Even a quick peek at the astonishingly dishonest federal budget the administration released yesterday shows that President Bush and his veep plan on leaving ticking time bombs behind when they get out of town four years hence. By general agreement, the government's finances are lacking in elementary credibility. That's now. What is less well understood is how much of Bush's budgetary buffoonery is meant to become apparent after his successor is in office.

Editorial, The Boston Globe:

In some cases the proposed cuts would work directly against Bush's own core goals, including protecting against terrorism. States and cities would see federal aid for homeland security cut back sharply, and support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be reduced by 9 percent, jeopardizing their ability to fight potential biological terrorism.

The reason for the austerity of this budget, Bush concedes, is his pledge to put some limits on the mountain of debt he is piling up. But the main causes of annual deficits topping $400 billion are the series of wealthy-friendly tax cuts, hefty increases in the Pentagon budget, and costs related to the Sept. 11 attacks. The deficits were not created by domestic social programs, and it is shameful that Bush would seek to bail himself out by squeezing them. By proposing to cut programs that mostly benefit low-income Americans while insisting that big tax cuts for the wealthy be made permanent, Bush betrays his role as a national leader only days into his second term.

Administration supporters often try to explain the deterioration of the budget picture in three words: war, recession, and terrorism.

That explanation does not satisfy. The FY 2006 budget includes no funding for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. The cost of those operations will be in addition to the numbers cited above. The costs of war, therefore, do not explain the gaps.

The recession ended about three and a half years ago. If I claim on a Monday that the dog ate my homework, when I have still not turned in the assignment by Friday, the excuse falls flat. When the 2002 budget was prepared, the economy had been expanding for a decade. Was it really so difficult to predict that a short, shallow recession might occur within the next four years?

What about terrorism? The FY 2006 budget asks for a little under $50 billion for Homeland Security. The shortfall from the FY 2002 budget projections is more than $600 billion. The Homeland Security budget accounts for 1/12 of the gap.

Editorial, Washington Post:

There are two ways to treat a president's budget proposal. The realistic, even cynical, method is to unmask the various bits of budget gimmickry involved, to assume that some aspects are dead on arrival, and to view the document as the administration's opening gambit in a long political chess match. The other is to take it seriously, as the administration's idealized vision of what government should be. Either way, the fiscal 2006 budget proposed yesterday by President Bush is breathtaking -- in the first approach as farce, in the second as tragedy.

Editorial, New York Times:

President Bush's latest deficit-steeped budget, for all its tough talk of reining in spending, stands out as a monument to misplaced political capital. It would take some hard work, indeed, to get Congress to face up to the binge of deficit spending that is haunting the nation and future generations of taxpayers. Yet Mr. Bush is not going to face the music. Instead, he's investing his precious re-election clout in pushing a wildly expensive plan to divert some Social Security payments to private accounts, a step that would not even address the long-term financial problems with the current system. His proposed budget, meanwhile, is a picture of reduced revenue and swollen pockets of hidden spending. The lip service about draconian clampdowns will hardly solve the problem, particularly in the eyes of the international markets that are studying the administration for signs of commitment to closing the budget deficit.

Even as President Bush proposes significant cuts in healthcare, farm subsidies and other domestic programs, his new budget makes one thing clear about the legacy of his first term in the White House: The era of big government is back.

Bush's $2.57-trillion budget for 2006, if approved by Congress, would be more than a third bigger than the 2001 budget he inherited four years ago. It is a monument to how much Republicans' guiding fiscal philosophy has changed over the 10 years since the GOP's Contract With America called for a balanced budget and abolition of entire Cabinet agencies.
On the other side of the spectrum, this story says there's a Wall Street Journal editorial (not available online to nonsubscribers) that actually says,

"Hooray for the Deficit," thundred The Wall Street Journal from the top of its editorial, which praised the deficit for being "the main, and perhaps the only, reason we may finally get some federal spending restraint."

"The White House is finally asking Congress to choose between guns for the war on terror or more domestic spending," said the economic daily, for whom runaway government spending is the real culprit of the deficit.

How, exactly, is Congress being asked to choose between guns and butter when the guns (for Iraq and Afghanistan) are off the budget?
Other good stuff from today's papers -- Paul Krugman, "Spear the Beast"; E.J. Dionne, "Race Bait and Switch"; Richard Cohen, "My Avaricious Hero"; Dan Froomkin, "Should Tax Dollars Fund Bush's Bundle?"
12:33 pm | link

Blog Bling
Or, what the blogosphere is and is not saying about Condi Rice's role in the new Middle East cease fire.
Some good news from the Middle East --

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas declared Tuesday that their people would stop all military or violent activity, pledging to break the four-year cycle of bloodshed and get peace talks back on track. [Associated Press]

Let's hope it's for real this time.
This announcement comes at the end of a two-day summit in Egypt. Egyptian Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak appears to have been the initiator of the summit as well as the host.
Condi Rice zipped in on the eve of the summit (which she did not attend) and got her picture taken (separately) with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. Some U.S. news stories gave the impression that the cease-fire was Condi's doing. Maybe it was, and maybe she only inserted herself into something that would have happened anyway. I can't tell.
As this story says, Condi's visit was the first direct U.S. involvement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a year and a half. Were the Bushies waiting for some positive developments so they could step in and take credit? 
But I noticed that Mubarak announced the summit on February 2, the same day as the SOTU. And in his SOTU speech, Bush asked Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian economic, political, and security reforms. Perhaps there has been behind-the-scenes coordination between the White House and Mubarak, and if so that's a good thing. Credit where credit is due.
But what I really want to talk about is the reaction of the Blogosphere. And so far there hasn't been all that much reaction, from Left or Right.
That may be because some of us older folks are a bit jaded about Middle East cease-fire announcements. They come along every so often, like flowers in spring, but never seem to last. Or it may be that it's not clear what part the U.S. played. And the Left is absorbed in domestic issue right now, notably Social Security.
Still, you'd think the Right Blogosphere would be all over this. It makes their boy look presidential, and it appears to be some kind of coup for Condi. But I surveyed a few major rightie sites -- Vodkapundit, the Rottweiler, Instapundit, even that site to which I do not link, Little Green Footballs. Nada, as of this writing, unless it's scrolled off their front pages. I was surprised by LGF, as I thought the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was a major focus for them. But the only Palestinian-related story on their front page was about a Columbia University professor suspected of pro-Palestinian activism.
(However, these sites are all over the "Eason Jordan scandal," whatever that is. I suppose I should check that out.)
So, I did a Technorati search for "rice palestinian cease fire." Not a lot popped up. A couple of "way to go, Condi" posts; that's about it. I did another Technorati search for "Middle East cease fire" and got a whole lot of posts that said "this is good news, let's be cautiously optistic." No blogs I was familiar with turned up, so I don't know the political orientation of the bloggers.
But then there was this:
Liberals are sooooo quiet these days. It must be because they are truly devastated by the stunning progress in the Middle East ...

The blogger pointed to four recent "successes": (1) Afghanistan (the boy is getting his news from different sources than I do, methinks); (2) the Iraqi elections, about which the Left Blogosphere was not at all quiet; (3) Palestinian elections, which I hadn't noticed was a leftie versus rightie issue -- and they've had elections before, haven't they? -- and (4) the new cease fire, about which, as I said, the Right Blogosphere isn't saying all that much, either.

I try very hard not to "score" events based on whether they make Bush look bad or good. A Middle East cease fire is a very good thing. I can't imagine anyone either Left or Right saying otherwise. If the White House played a part in this, that's fine with me. The White House is still wrong on the economy, health care, Social Security, national security, Iraq (I suspect the righties still haven't noticed the election results aren't all that favorable to their boy), and just about every other Bush policy, foreign and domestic. Plenty for me to write about, in other words.

I still want to know what the LGFers will do if Bush gets buddy-buddy with the Palestinians, though. Maybe their heads will explode. Let's be cautiously optimistic.

Update: 'Scuse the tin foil hat, but I got another awful thought. Could it be (and I don't pay the closest of attention to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, as you may be able to tell) that the cease fire was something Colin Powell had been working on, and the reason the White House was so quick to bounce him after the election was to allow Condi to step in and take credit for it?  

8:36 am | link

monday, february 7, 2005

Stupidity for Dummies
One of the chief proponents of the so-called "intelligent design"  (hereafter called "ID") explanation for the origin of species, Michael Behe, writes about ID in today's New York Times.
This article is noteworthy, if only because Behe calls ID a "rival theory" in the first sentence. Does this mean we can put stickers in all the nation's textbooks warning that ID is "just a theory"?
Behe says ID is a rival theory to Darwinian evolution, but not to evolution in general.
Intelligent design proponents do question whether random mutation and natural selection completely explain the deep structure of life. But they do not doubt that evolution occurred. And intelligent design itself says nothing about the religious concept of a creator.

It's my understanding that biologists since Darwin have also questioned whether random mutation and natural selection completlely explain the deep structure of life; more about that later. And I understand there are diverse opinions about exactly how mutation and natural selection work to effect change. That's not the same thing from doubting that they do.

So what is ID? I read all of Behe's article, and based on his arguments my answer is, hell if I know.

Behe's argument boils down to four major points:

  1. "We can often recognize the effects of design in nature."
  2. "The physical marks of design are visible in aspects of biology."
  3. "We have no good explanation for the foundation of life that doesn't involve intelligence."
  4. "In the absence of any convincing non-design explanation, we are justified in thinking that real intelligent design was involved in life."

Behe doesn't bother to define exactly what he means by certain critical words and phraseslike design and foundation of life. This renders his "theory" into something like primordial soup, out of which all manner of speculative critters might crawl. 

I find this mushiness entirely unsatisfactory. I can only guess what he's calling "design," but I infer he's referring to the fact that  most species are fairly symmetrical and have functional body parts. (Which I think Darwin explained rather elegantly.)  Foundation of life could mean life itself and how it came to be, which is not really what evolution addresses.  

But as for the "design" part, is it true that natural selection and random mutation are inadquate to explain the enormous diversity of life? The scientists at the Digital Life Laboratory at CalTech say otherwise.

The CalTech team created a digital world called Avida, in which simple computer programs mutate and evolve. Carl Zimmer wrote about Avida in the February issue of Discover magazine.  (The full article is only available to subscribers.)

These are digital organisms—strings of commands—akin to computer viruses. Each organism can produce tens of thousands of copies of itself within a matter of minutes. Unlike computer viruses, however, they are made up of digital bits that can mutate in much the same way DNA mutates. A software program called Avida allows researchers to track the birth, life, and death of generation after generation of the digital organisms by scanning columns of numbers that pour down a computer screen like waterfalls.

After more than a decade of development, Avida’s digital organisms are now getting close to fulfilling the definition of biological life. “More and more of the features that biologists have said were necessary for life we can check off,” says Robert Pennock, a philosopher at Michigan State and a member of the Avida team. “Does this, does that, does this. Metabolism? Maybe not quite yet, but getting pretty close.”

One thing the digital organisms do particularly well is evolve. “Avida is not a simulation of evolution; it is an instance of it,” Pennock says. “All the core parts of the Darwinian process are there. These things replicate, they mutate, they are competing with one another. The very process of natural selection is happening there. If that’s central to the definition of life, then these things count.”

... the Avida team is putting Darwin to the test in a way that was previously unimaginable. Modern evolutionary biologists have a wealth of fossils to study, and they can compare the biochemistry and genes of living species. But they can’t look at every single generation and every single gene that separates a bird, for example, from its two-legged dinosaur ancestors. By contrast, Avida makes it possible to watch the random mutation and natural selection of digital organisms unfold over millions of generations. In the process, it is beginning to shed light on some of the biggest questions of evolution.

I'd reprint the whole article were it not for that pesky copyright thing. But in a nutshell, the computer model has shown that simple things really do evolve into complex things, and that the wondrous diversity of life on this planet really can be explained by natural selection and mutation. The Avida project absolutely destroys Behe's arguments, whatever they are.

I did a news google for "Avida" and got two relevant hits, this one and this one, both well worth reading. A news google for "intelligent design" gets multiple pages of hits, however.

This suggests that, on the web, stupid evolves a lot faster than smart. 

See also, "Religious Right Fights Science for the Heart of America" from The Guardian.

8:45 pm | link

Ask Not
More on Bush's fantasy budget from the Los Angeles Times -- "Bush's Deficit Plan Is All in the Math."
It is the 2004 deficit that Bush is promising to cut in half, but he's not starting with the actual 2004 deficit of $412 billion.

Instead, his benchmark is the projected $521-billion deficit that his Office of Management and Budget estimated a year ago, when the fiscal year was four months old. Using half of that figure, Bush's goal is to reach a deficit of $260.5 billion.

If Bush were to start with the actual 2004 figure, his goal would be a deficit of $206 billion — $54.5 billion more.

There are more twists. Bush proposes to cut the deficit in half not in dollars but as a share of the economy. If the economy grows, as is projected, then the deficit will decline as a share of the economy even if it does not shrink by a single dollar.

The 2004 deficit was 4.5% of the economy. So in fiscal 2009 it must be 2.2% or less. That is exactly the average share of the last 43 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

And then if you keep big-ticket items like Iraq, Afghanistan, and destroying Social Security off the budget, it almost works.

See, the deficit itself is not important. What's important is the talking points strategy. The Bushies have created a way for the usual rightie bobbleheads to talk about the budget deficit on radio and television so that it sounds like the Bushies are actually doing something about it. Without prompting, the Right Blogosphere will pick this nonsense up and repeat it faithfully.

And those of us who see that it's all smoke and mirrors, who are left sputtering that the Bushies aren't really reducing the deficit, will be labeled "loony lefties" and dismissed. 

And was the budget always submitted the day after the Super Bowl? I don't recall.

Wait, it gets better. Headline in the New York Times: "Bush Budget Raises Prescription Prices on Many Veterans."

President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care, administration officials said Sunday.

Is there anything in this budget that calls for one teeny little sacrifice from people who live off inherited wealth and wriggled out of military service somehow?

The Washington Post quotes Dick the Dick:

"We are being tight," Vice President Cheney said yesterday. "This is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here." But Cheney defended the cuts as measured. "I think you'll find, once people sit down and have a chance to look at the budget, that it is a fair, reasonable, responsible, serious piece of effort," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "It's not something we've done with a meat ax, nor are we suddenly turning our back on the most needy people in our society."

He's right, you know. It's not sudden at all. It's what they've been doing all along.

Dick the Dick also admitted that destroying Social Security would be expensive --

Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledged yesterday that the federal government would need to borrow trillions of dollars over the next few decades to cover the cost of the private retirement accounts at the heart of President Bush's plan to revamp Social Security.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Cheney said the government would have to borrow $754 billion over the next 10 years, and conceded that the price tag would involve borrowing trillions of dollars more in subsequent decades.

"That's right. Trillions more after that," Cheney said in response to a question.

Dick added that "The real cost over time is doing nothing," and he's right about that, too. If We, the People and our representatives in Congress do nothing while these bozos dismantle the economy and every progressive program launched since the McKinley Administration, we'll all be ruined.
Between 2000 and 2003, the number of people living in poverty rose 14 percent. In 2003, the most recent year for which numbers are available, one out of every eight Americans was poor, a disproportionate number of them children. The number without health insurance was the highest on record; more Americans went hungry. The poorest fell further below the poverty line while the richest took home a greater share of national income than ever.
Variation on an old joke -- President Bush must love poor people. He makes sure there are more and more of 'em.
Headline in The Guardian -- "Bush's Budget Axe to Fall on Poor." Truth is, unless you are already wealthy -- ask not on whom the axe falls. It falls on thee.
Update: Regarding the new fees for veterans, Michelle Malkin is already screaming about a "deceptive Democrat talking point."
I swear, that girl's knee jerks so fast it's a wonder she doesn't smack herself in the jaw sometimes.
Malkin points to this part of the New York Times article to show that the Bush Regime's proposed fee increases are only fair:

The president would increase the co-payment for a month's supply of a prescription drug to $15, from the current $7. The administration says the co-payment and the $250 "user fee" would apply mainly to veterans in lower-priority categories, who have higher incomes and do not have service-related disabilities.

The clearly overpaid Malkin said the $7 copay was "ridiculously low," which is what I feel about taxes paid by the rich these days.
Malkin also says that Bush has increased the budget for the Department of Veteran's Affairs by nearly 50 percent. This increase is mostly for health care. This increase has been made necessary because of all our young soldiers getting mangled in Bush's Stupid War. All those hospital wards of brain- and body- damaged troops are expensive.
A section from the Times story that Malkin, somehow, missed:
Veterans groups attacked the proposals. Richard B. Fuller, legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, said: "The proposed increase in health spending is not sufficient at a time when the number of patients is increasing and there has been a huge increase in health care costs. It will not cover the need. The enrollment fee is a health care tax, designed to raise revenue and to discourage people from enrolling."

Mr. Fuller added that the budget would force veterans hospitals and clinics to limit services. "We are already seeing an increase in waiting lists, even for some Iraq veterans," he said.

In Michigan, for example, thousands of veterans are on waiting lists for medical services, and some reservists returning from Iraq say they have been unable to obtain the care they were promised. A veterans clinic in Pontiac, Mich., put a limit on new enrollment. Cutbacks at a veterans hospital in Altoona, Pa., are forcing some veterans to seek treatment elsewhere.

Yet, in Malkin World, it is "demagoguery" to criticize the Bushies for expecting veterans to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
8:09 am | link

sunday, february 6, 2005

Big Bad Wolf
Tomorrow, President Bush will submit a budget that "holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009." Or, at least that's what Bush said in his Saturday radio address.
The White House will propose spending cuts in these areas, among others:
  • Grants to local police agencies
  • Grants to local fire fighters
  • Environmental protection
  • American Indian schools
  • The National Park Service
  • Home heating aid for the poor
  • The Center for Disease Control
  • Health programs, including programs designed to respond to terrorist attacks
  • Amtrak
  • Medicaid
  • Farm subsidies (Be sure to read what Brad DeLong says about the farm subsidies.)

But get this -- the budget will not include the costs we're incurring in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor will it include any money for Bush's proposed Social Security "reform."

So not only does Bush's budget drain resources from the poor and middle class to pay for his tax cuts for the rich; the blasted budget is a fantasy because it doesn't include the money hemorrhage in the Middle East.

The Bushies pulled the same trick with the 2005 budget -- left out Iraq and Afghanistan -- and so far the Bushies have requested $105 billion in supplemental appropriations for fiscal 2005. And we're only in the second quarter of the fiscal year.

This is not fiscal discipline, people. This is fiscal rope-a-dope.

It seems to me that if Congress were doing its job, it would bounce the fantasyland budget back to the White House and require that the Bushies include reasonable appropriations for Afghanistan and Iraq. And if the Bushies refuse, Congress should put a cap on how much "supplemental appropriations" the Bushies can get in a fiscal year.

As for the cuts -- and we don't know what they all are, yet -- as Stirling Newberry says on BOP News -- "Stop wiggling so much while they scale you."

6:52 pm | link

Absolutely Brilliant

"The Shia in Iraq are Iraqis they are not Iranians, and the idea that they are going to end up with a government like Iran with a handful of mullahs controlling the country, I think is unlikely," Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

He said Iraq like other Muslim countries would find a way to include Islamic principles into the new constitution, which will be written after the results of last week's elections are known, without having religion dominate the new government.

Followed by:

Iraq's Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and another top cleric staked out a radical demand that Islam be the sole source of legislation in the country's new constitution.

One cleric issued a statement setting out the position and the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shiites made it known straight away that he backed demands for the Koran to be the reference point for legislation.

Rummy also said that Iran is "years away" from possessing nuclear weapons. Expect underground testing to begin next week.

5:28 pm | link

Um, About That Election, II
The Shiite party won a whopping majority of the vote in last Sunday's election in Iraq, and now "leading Shiite clerics are pushing for Islam to be recognized as the guiding principle of the new constitution." This is according to Edward Wong in today's New York Times.

At the very least, the clerics say, the constitution should ensure that legal measures overseeing personal matters like marriage, divorce and family inheritance fall under Shariah, or Koranic law. For example, daughters would receive half the inheritances of sons under that law.

On other issues, opinion varies, with the more conservative leaders insisting that Shariah be the foundation for all legislation.

This is not what the Bushies had in mind. But the Shiites are not only pushing to make Islam the foundation of their yet-to-be-written constitution; they also insist that Americans keep their fingers out of the drafting of that constitution.

The Shiite leaders, now the strongest political power in Iraq, have publicly promised not to install an Islamic theocracy like that of their next-door neighbor, Iran. Even so, Iraq is already starting to look more like Iran ...

The leading Shiite clerics say they have no intention of taking executive office and following the Iranian model of wilayat al-faqih, or direct governance by religious scholars. But the clerics also say the Shiite politicians ultimately answer to them, and that the top religious leaders, collectively known as the marjaiya, will shape the constitution through the politicians.

Some effects are already being felt locally. In Basra, the second-largest city in Iraq, where one of Ayatollah Sistani's closest aides has enormous influence, Shiite religious parties have been transforming the city into an Islamic fief since the toppling of Mr. Hussein. Militias have driven alcohol sellers off the streets. Women are harassed if they walk the streets in anything less than head-to-toe black. Conservative judges are invoking Shariah in some courts.

Although they aren't saying so, seems to me the Bushies ought to be nervous about the possibility of an Iraq run by mullahs (or moo-laws in Bushspeak). Jim Hoagland writes in today's Washington Post about Bush diplomatic policy toward Iran:

Years of American fumbling for a workable approach toward the hostile theocratic regime in Tehran have yielded only a single sentence as agreed Bush policy. The sentence, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered in fancy dress to the Europeans during her current travels, comes down to this:

The United States will take no action that extends legitimacy to the ayatollahs in Iran. Pressed, Rice may add: Nada. Zip. No way. Or elaborate diplospeak equivalents.

Even if the new Iraq constitution is mostly secular, there will be enormous pressure coming from the Shiite majority to run the nation like a theocracy. Bush claimed only 51 percent of the vote in November, and the Christian fundies took this to be a mandate to run America like a Bible-based theocracy. Word is that the Shiite party won 66 percent of the seats in the new Iraqi congress.

Moo-laws, here we come.

Update: Oliver Willis asks, "is the creation of yet another hardcore fundamentalist Islamic republic worth the cost of American lives?"

Also: In the Washington Post, Joe Biden explains the current status of the Iraq security forces. And in the Boston Globe, rightie columnist Jeff Jacoby gets all upset about the same Islamic hate-speak I wrote about Friday. Remarkably, Jacoby was able to criticize the Bush regime --

And it is up to Washington to end the pretense of US-Saudi harmony. President Bush last week referred to Saudi Arabia as one of ''our friends" in the Middle East. But friends don't flood friends' houses of worship with hateful religious propaganda. We are in a war against radical Islamist terrorism, and Saudi Arabia supplies the ideology on which the terrorists feed. Until that incitement is stifled, the Saudis are no friends of ours.

Before the Iraq invasion, many of us liberals tried to say that Saudi Arabia was a much bigger supporter of anti-American terrorism than Iraq was, but the righties shouted us down. If history is our guide, we can expect the reality of Saudi-sponsored terrorism to slowly sink in to the collective rightie brain, after which they will scream at us liberals about how this is somehow our fault. 

And didn't Michael Moore say something about the Saudis in Fahrenheit 911? Seems to me (she said, snarkily) that he did ...

12:46 pm | link

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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