Monthly Archives: January 2005

Vietnam Redux?

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote: Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3– United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

***

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.

***

Before the results of the presidential election started to come in, the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80 per cent because the polling place would be open for two or three hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.

Kudos to BesottedBlog, who prints the full NYT article.

The point being that it would be prudent for many on the right to understand that history has a funny way of not going the way one always hopes. This article was in 1967 — Vietnam’s end was years away.

By the same token, the quick access into Baghdad did not result in the success you once hoped. Neither did the capture of Saddam. And while we can all applaud the fact that our march into Baghdad was relatively bloodless, and that Saddam was captured, and that Iraqis did vote in large numbers, we still are nowhere near permanent peace and democracy in Iraq (much less in the Middle East) . . . or a more secure United States.

Or, as Harvey Keitel said in Pulp Fiction: “Well, let’s not start suckin’ each other’s dicks quite yet.” Let’s enjoy the good news, but — for their sake — let’s keep it in perspective: the election of a transitional governing body only means the beginning of the beginning of something; not a crossing of the goalline.

What Iraqis Want

This is one hell of a fractured country. I’m glad they are going through the mostly symbolic, but still important, act of voting. But that is of course only step one in building a country. The hard work hasn’t even begun.

Here are some interesting finds from a Zogby poll of Iraqis:

(76%) of Sunni Arabs say they definitely will not vote in the January 30 elections, while just 9% say they are likely to vote. A majority of Shiites (80%) say they are likely to vote or definitely will vote, as are a smaller majority of Kurds (57%).

Well, that’s pretty much what was expected. No surprise there.

Majorities of both Sunni Arabs (82%) and Shiites (69%) also favor U.S. forces withdrawing either immediately or after an elected government is in place.

Confirming what Ted Kennedy said — we’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. Good news for neo-cons who want to invade Iran though.

The poll also found that of Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups, only the Kurds believe the U.S. will “help” Iraq over the next five years, while half (49%) of Shiites and a majority (64%) of Sunni Arabs believe the U.S. will “hurt” Iraq.

Again, confirming Ted. Hey, will there be a day on LGF when we see a post to the effect that "Iraqis are ungrateful and fuck them"? Just wondering . . .

Here’s some good news: "Three-in-five (59%) favor a system where citizens are allowed to practice their own religion" . . .

But the bad news coda: ". . . while one-in-three (34%) would prefer an Islamic government."

Does anyone think THAT can be compromised away peacefully?

And finally, another non-surprise:

While a majority of Iraqis believe relations can be improved between Iraq and neighbors Kuwait, Turkey, and Iran, all ethnic and religious groups overwhelmingly rejected improving relations with the State of Israel.

Good Question Re: Iraqi Voting

Anyone know the answer to Thomas Schaller’s questions?

Of the 234,000 [Iraqis eligible to vote] living in the United States right now, only 90,000 are estimated to be foreign-born (presumably in Iraq); the remaining 140,000 or so were born here.

At what point does your foreign voting eligibility cease, may I ask?

For instance, if your grandparents were Iraqi refugees, but both you and your parents were born here, should you be eligible? (Sidebar: Notice how conservatives don’t talk about first-generation U.S.-born Iraqi children of refugees in that smarmy, they’re-draining-our-social-services way that, say, children of illegal Mexican immigrants who are cleaning the baskets for sub-minimum wage off the payrolls are derided.)

I’m no expert in international election law – somebody, please, help – but it seems to me you vote in one country or the other. Are these U.S.-born children of Iraqi defectors, refugees, and immigrants voting in the United States, too?

Everybody’s Getting Religion

The United Church of Christ gets it.  Kudos to them.

And Billie Miller, a woman in Ridgecrest, California , lost her religion a couple of weeks ago:

I can’t believe the vicious slander of some people who have the nerve to portray or suggest Jesus behaved as a Liberal. Jesus makes his position very clear. The wisdom of an "eye for an eye" would never occur to a Liberal.

Liberals are always talking about peace at any price, when Jesus said: Do not think I have come to bring peace, but a sword.

Liberals hate people who have managed to raise their station in life, and instead insist on giving money away to the irresponsible: Store yourselves treasures for Heaven for where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

but thankfully, she seems to have gotten her religion back:

Jesus was tolerant and loved everyone – especially the poor and outcasts. As a couple of other letters pointed out, I now see that in some ways Jesus Himself was not very like a modern conservative and that has me thinking. I also see that all who are religious have equal rights and no religion can be held above the others, whether in school or anywhere else.

Somebody say "amen".

VP Disgraces Solemn Service

Hp12805b

Let’s hope he didn’t go around telling people to fuck themselves. From WaPo:

At yesterday’s gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen’s hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children’s clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one’s country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001."

It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag. It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots — thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow — where he had made remarks earlier in the day — to Auschwitz?

New VW Ad

I thought I couldn’t be impressed by computer-aided special effects.

I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. (Quicktime Movie — takes a while to load — to truly appreciate, make sure your sound is on)

Is Gene Kelly rolling in his grave?

The Toynbee Mystery

Sidewalk Signs like this one were first spotted in New York and Philadephia in 1996. They appear to be plastic and baked into the street or sidewalk.

The plaques make reference to Stanley Kubrick’s "2001" (and perhaps "2010"), but what do they mean?

Some publicity was generated about the bizarre plaques, and it turns out that these signs appear throughout the mid-Atlantic (e.g., Baltimore, Washington, etc.) and (how bizarre) Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

Read more about the the Toynbee Mystery and see if these signs are in your neighborhood.

More Torture Bedtime Stories for Neo-cons

Hey, kids! Press "play" on your recording of Lee Greenwood’s "Proud to be an American" and snuggle up to this wonderful story:

Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man’s face with fake menstrual blood . . .

I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free . . .

"I have really struggled with this because the detainees, their families and much of the world will think this is a religious war based on some of the techniques used, even though it is not the case," the author, former Army Sgt. Erik R. Saar, 29, told AP.

And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me . . .

The man closed his eyes and began to pray, Saar writes.

The female interrogator wanted to "break him," Saar adds, describing how she removed her uniform top to expose a tight-fitting T-shirt and began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner’s back and commenting on his apparent erection.

The detainee looked up and spat in her face, the manuscript recounts.

The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner’s reliance on God. The linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating, touch him, then make sure to turn off the water in his cell so he couldn’t wash.

And I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today . . .

Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact with women other than a man’s wife or family, and with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean.

"The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength," says the draft, stamped "Secret."

The interrogator used ink from a red pen to fool the detainee, Saar writes.

"She then started to place her hands in her pants as she walked behind the detainee," he says. "As she circled around him he could see that she was taking her hand out of her pants. When it became visible the detainee saw what appeared to be red blood on her hand. She said, ‘Who sent you to Arizona?’ He then glared at her with a piercing look of hatred.

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land . . .

"She then wiped the red ink on his face. He shouted at the top of his lungs, spat at her and lunged forward" — so fiercely that he broke loose from one ankle shackle.

"He began to cry like a baby," the draft says, noting the interrogator left saying, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

God Bless the U.S.A.!!!

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons. — Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881)

When Right-Wing Bloggers Don’t Bother To Fact Check . . .

. . . you get a lot of sound and fury and well, egg-on-faces:

Last week, the University of Oregon asked one of its employees to remove a yellow "Support the Troops" sticker from the state-owned truck he drives.

Since then, it has been taking the heat from talk radio hosts and Internet bloggers who picked up the story and added several surprising twists.

"Magnetic yellow ribbons that say `Support The Troops’ have been surreptitiously banned by the administration at the University of Oregon," according to one blog.

"We have the University of Oregon telling employees that they can’t display yellow ribbon stickers that say support the troops," another reports.

None of which is true, UO President Dave Frohnmayer said. People are free to express their opinions on campus, he said.

"I’ve heard that we reprimanded the employee, that we’re banning free speech on campus," he said. "We would never dream of telling people what they can have on their private cars or what buttons they can wear."

Read the whole thing.

Will those who overstepped and hyped the yellow ribbon story admit that they overstepped and hyped it?

Can they admit that they shouldn’t have urged people to bother the University of Oregon until their facts were accurate?

Or will they dodge, weave, obfuscate, and unapologeticly out-Rather Dan Rather? I think we all know.

"Conservatives — our agenda outweighs accuracy and truth."

Hat tip: Lizard Queen

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Onthecouch Even though it is not opening for another five months, many are eagerly awaiting the premiere of "Star Wars III: The Return of the Who-Gives-A-Shit". (Actually, it is "Return of the Sith").

But Jeff Tweiten in Seattle, Washington is going a bit too far. He’s lining up for a ticket now. He’s even got a couch in front of the movie theater where he (apprently) spends his days waiting for the box office to open several months from now.

A little sad. A little interesting. But with a twist: he’s blogging about it.

Eyes On The Prize

About 20 years ago, I (like millions of others) saw an extraordinary documentary called "Eyes On The Prize". Shown in multiple parts over several days, the documentary is without a doubt THE documentary chronicling the United States civil rights movement. I have long wondered what happened to film, expecting it to show up on DVD one of these days.

Sadly, that day may never happen. Much of the archival footage in the film is copyright protected which places limits on the film. No, I don’t fully understand the copyright laws either, but the bottom line is that this important film documentary may simply . . . vanish. In fact, copyright restrictions have prevented the film from being shown anywhere in the past ten years. much less being reduced to video or DVD.

I actually home-videotaped the entire documentary back in the 1980’s (it was one of the first things I ever videotaped — VCRs being the "TiVo" of the time), but God knows where that tape is now, and what condition it is in.

Anyway, copyright reform advocates hav joined forces with civil rights organizations for a little bit of civil disobedience (in the spirit of the film itself). Using 21st century technology, they are making the first part of the documentary available, and asking people to hold public screenings in contravention (perhaps) of copyright laws.

Read more about it here, and if you DO have a chance to see even the first part of this documentary in your area, don’t pass it up.

Never Tired Of Being Wrong

According to a July 28th, 2000 article in USA Today, back in 1978 when President Bush was running for congress in Texas, "he predicted Social Security would go broke in 10 years and said the system should give people ‘the chance to invest money the way they feel’ is best." (Source)

And back in 1999, he again said that Social Security would go broke in 10 years. (Link)

We should believe him now . . . . uh . . . . why?

Another $80 Billion

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Bush administration plans to announce as early as Tuesday that it will seek about $80 billion in new funding for military operations this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, administration and congressional sources said on Monday.

The new supplemental budget request would come on top of the $25 billion in emergency spending already approved for the current fiscal year, and will push total 2005 funding for military operations and equipment close to a record $105 billion, the sources said on Monday.

(Link)

Buyer’s Remorse?

I’m sure everyone has seen how Bush’s approval rating continues to drop, as does support for his little Iraqi thing. But this has gotta sting.

A Zogby poll relased today finds a higher percentage of Americans saying that they are ashamed that Mr. Bush is their president; three-in-ten (31%) Americans now hold that view, as compared to one-in-four (26%) a month ago.

That’s right — "ashamed". And such a jump from just one month ago. Ouch.

“What the . . . (trailing off)?!?”

Plugged In is a magazine and website that reviews movies, television and music from a Christian perspective. It’s a James Dobson venture, and has been popularized recently when it reviewed the Spongebob Squarepants movie and suggested that Spongebob was gay.

On a curious lark, I wondered what Plugged In thought about the movie "Kinsey". Now, I haven’t seen this movie, but I know who Kinsey was, and what the subject matter of the movie is about (a sex researcher and the priggish tightwads who disliked him). Anyway, as you might expect, the reviewer at Plugged In didn’t care for "Kinsey" too much. In fact, his head exploded. I’m sure the irony of his review was lost on him.

I don’t have a problem with the service that Plugged In provides. I mean, if you are a parent, and your kid is going to some movie you never heard of, you might want to know what your child is going to see. And in that sense, Plugged In lets you know, and provides a service.

But is it necessary to be so dogmatic, and . . . well . . . persnickity? Yeah — I said it . . . "persnickity"!

For example, it seems that every movie review informs you of the number and content of dirty words. As in "this movie had four uses of the word ‘h—‘, two ‘d—‘s, and one rather loud use of the s-word."

Naturally, this led me to wonder: Do the Plugged In reviewers actually sit there in dark movie theaters and keep tally of dirty words? Maybe they had special writing pads made up so they can just put a tick mark next to a dirty word everytime it is uttered.

Here’s a real-life example regarding the language used in a recent blockbuster movie:

Startled, Mr. Incredible blurts, "What the …," then trails off before finishing. Interjections of "oh my god" and "jeez" pop out of characters’ mouths two or three times.

"What the . . . ?" (trailing off) is offensive to someone? Jeez, that’s going a bit overboard, ain’t it?

My advice to the Plugged In people is to keep on doing what you are doing, but come off your high horse just a little. You can inform your readers that there is, say, moderately foul language . . . without giving the box scores.

This Seems Unnecessarily Complicated

Outsourcing McDonald’s Drive-Thru?

At the McDonald’s drive-thru in Hermiston, Oregon (a small farming town in Eastern Oregon, we’re told), your order is taken by someone 1,300 miles away in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The order is then conveyed back to a computer screen in the McDonald’s kitchen in Hermiston, Oregon, who make your McMeal as only they can.

Coming to your McDonald’s soon? Maybe! Read more . . . .

Queer President for the Straight Country

Now that we know what to look for, Salon notes that clues to Lincoln’s gayness can be found in other biographies as well.

Example: "He was always … writing poetry." (Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald, Page 33)

"[T]hey noted … how affectionate he was to kittens and other pets." (Lincoln, Page 55)

"To settle a dispute over which company should have a certain campground, Lincoln wrestled with Lorenzo D. Thompson. In their first feel-outs of each other, Lincoln called, ‘Boys, this is the most powerful man I ever had hold of.’ " (Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years, Page 29)

Read some more . . .

American Foreign Policy

Matt Yglesius is right.

Can anyone look at the countries as categorized below (reflecting the statements of the Bush Administration), and come up with a coherent foreign policy or doctrine?

"Outposts of Tyranny"

  • Cuba
  • Burma
  • North Korea
  • Iran
  • Zimbabwe
  • Belarus

Allies In the War On Terror

  • Tunisia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Uzbekistan
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait

Ambiguous Third Category

  • Russia
  • China
  • Vietnam
  • Syria

Specifically Cited By Bush Administration As Models of Democracy

  • Pakistan
  • Algeria

One Election Makes a Democracy In…

  • Afghanistan
  • Iraq
  • Palestine after Arafat died

One Election Does Not A Democracy Make In…

  • Venezuela
  • Haiti
  • Palestine before Arafat died

Bush By The Numbers

Poverty Rate

2000: 11.3% or 31.6 million Americans

2003: 12.5% or 35.9 million Americans

Stock market

Dow Jones Industrial Average

1/19/01: 10,587.59

1/19/05: 10,539.97

NASDAQ

1/19/01: 2,770.38

1/19/05: 2,073.59

S&P 500

1/19/01: 1,342.54

1/19/05: 1,184.63

Value of the Dollar

1/19/01: 1 Dollar = 1.06 Euros

1/19/05: 1 Dollar = 0.77 Euros

Budget

2000 budget surplus: $236.4 billion

2004 budget deficit: $412.6 billion

(That’s a shift of $649 billion and doesn’t include the cost of the Iraq war).

Cost of the war in Iraq

$150.8 billion

American Casualties in Iraq

Deaths: 1,369

Wounded: 10,252

The Debt

End of 2000: $5.7 trillion

Today: $7.6 trillion

(That’s a 4 year increase of 33%).

Source

Jon Stewart had another set of numbers last night:

# of times Bush used the word "freedom" in his Inaugural Address: 27

# of times Bush used the word "liberty" in his Inaugural Address: 16

Right Blogosphere vs. Left Blogosphere

Chris Bowers at MyDD has an excellant post comparing the right wing political blogosphere with the left wing political blogosphere. It is worth a study, not just a mere read, so do it.

The basic thrust is this:

  • The left wing blogosphere gets more traffic
  • The left wing blogosphere has been more influential in affecting actual political change (raising money for candidates, getting MSNBC to dump Luntz, affecting certain legislation, etc.)
  • The right wing blogosphere enjoys the (misleading) public perception of being more effective, largely because of their success with Rathergate.

But the main thing that Bowers says . . . and I agree . . . is that the right wing blogosphere has an atmosphere and culture of independence. Even as they tend to support and defend Bush loyally, they see themselves as always outside the political system looking in. And despite their culture of independence, they act with a herd mentality on the issues, thereby setting the blogsphere agenda to a large extent.

By contrast (according to Bowers), the left wing blogosphere does not see itself as "independent", but rather, as an adjunct of the Democratic party. It is openly and admittedly and unashamedly partisan. This does not mean it cannot be critical of the Dem party, and indeed, the left blogosphere often engages in in-fighting much more than the right-wing blogosphere. But in the interest of what is best for the party and (by extension) the country, there is far less of a herd mentality with the left wing blogosphere. One guy can go off about social security, and others can gripe about electoral votes in Ohio, and another can harp on the Plame affair, or whatever. But despite the diversity of interest, there is a strong solidarity with and for the Democratic party.

As Instapundit says, that "sounds about right".

Bowers concludes that the left’s solidarity and the right’s independence spells good days for the left, and harder days for the right.

It is ironic that at the very moment when the right-wing blogosphere is being lauded for its influence, it is increasingly becoming clear that it has structural and institutional weaknesses that will prevent it from ever becoming more influential than it was during the Rather story. At the same time, our partisan nature makes us strong. As long as we think of the Democratic Party and the lefty-blogosphere both in terms of we rather than it, we will remain strong and continue to grow in influence. Wingers like to think of themselves as independents no matter how conservative they actually are, but that very independence is making them weak. Through our solidarity, we grow strong. Through our solidarity, we will continue to grow and change the Democratic party.

I’m not sure I share Bowers’ optimism there, but I hope he’s right!

Bush’s Daughters Are Whores

So says the stick-up-the-butt Christian group known as the Coalition for Passing Judgment on Others Traditional Values in this open letter to George Bush, which I will publish here below the fold. (The reason I refer to Jenna and NotJenna as "whores" is because according to Ezekial 23:5, Oholah was a prostitute — although this largely depends on the version of the Bible you prefer).

UPDATE: For the irony-impaired, illiterate, or simply confused readers out there, I personally am not suggesting that the Bush daughters are "whores". In fact, if you read the first two words of the above post, you can see that I attribute that sentiment to a right-wing moral values group — a group that I DEFINITIVELY do not align myself with. Not only do I have no knowledge of the Bush daughters’ sexual life . . . I also have no interest. So along those lines, I wish to unequivocally state that I do not know whether they are "whores" or not. Nor do I care. I do, however, think they are airheads (although that is not relevant to this post).

Sorry if I confused anybody.

Stupid Product

You be the judge.

Yes, friends — that unbiased rag known as World Net Daily rises to new heights in fear-marketing to the paranoid, as it shills that latest in technology.* Yes, it’s the . . . NUKALERT!

In this day of nuclear-terror vulnerability, KI4U Inc., markets several products to help families survive any type of nuke incident, including a personal radiation detector that could be the most important "key ring" you’ll carry.

That’s right — NukAlert is a key ring, and it could save your life!

While the device detects harmful fallout from a nuclear-plant accident, it also will detect dangerous radiation levels that could be the result of nuclear terrorism or a "dirty bomb" attack. When radiation is detected, the device chirps a certain number of times. Referring to the back of the monitor lets the owner know how severe the radiation is based on the number of chirps.

Cool! Now I will know when my flesh is being eaten by those silent-but-deadly radiation rays.

A visit to the manufacturer’s website yields this information:

Carried everywhere your keys go, with NukAlert’s 24/7 constant monitoring, you’ll always be promptly alerted to the unseen, but acutely dangerous, levels of radiation if/when present. A benefit of the NukAlert, not to be overlooked, is that it will also confirm when and where those higher levels of radiation are not present, too.

That’s how you know it works! You carry it around…. if it doesn’t beep, and you are still alive, then you have proof that it works! And if it does beep, you can go to your death enjoying the slow pulsing rhythms of your . . . um . . . $160 key chain.

It’s also good for holding keys too, apparently.

* Actually, it’s a rather old technology, but I digress.

A Man With Integrity

So rare are people in the Bush Administration with integrity, that I delight when I see one acting in a very straightforward and honest manner.  And I must pass it on.

The man is Dick Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State under Colin Powell.

Actually, he’s now the former Deputy Secretary of State.  Maybe that was why he was so honest when he sat down for this interview:

And Armitage’s disappointments? Not a lugubrious person, Armitage doesn’t nominate disappointments spontaneously. But he’ll answer a question honestly: "I’m disappointed that Iraq hasn’t turned out better. And that we weren’t able to move forward more meaningfully in the Middle East peace process."

Then, after a minute’s pause, he adds a third regret: "The biggest regret is that we didn’t stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."

Me, too, Dick.  Me, too.

Progress in Iraq?

The security situation in Iraq is so critical now, NBC News has learned, that the Iraqi interior ministry has recalled two full battalions — about 2,000 men — from Saddam Hussein’s army, the same army the United States dissolved. All of them are retrained as special police to battle terrorism expected at polling stations on Jan. 30.

Source.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss . . .

Once Again, I’m Smarter Than The Bush Administration

Although admittedly, it is not hard.

Iraq New Terror Breeding Ground

By Dana Priest

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page A01

Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director’s think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries."

Low’s comments came during a rare briefing by the council on its new report on long-term global trends. It took a year to produce and includes the analysis of 1,000 U.S. and foreign experts. Within the 119-page report is an evaluation of Iraq’s new role as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists.

President Bush has frequently described the Iraq war as an integral part of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. But the council’s report suggests the conflict has also helped terrorists by creating a haven for them in the chaos of war.

"At the moment," NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings said, Iraq "is a magnet for international terrorist activity."

Before the U.S. invasion, the CIA said Saddam Hussein had only circumstantial ties with several al Qaeda members. Osama bin Laden rejected the idea of forming an alliance with Hussein and viewed him as an enemy of the jihadist movement because the Iraqi leader rejected radical Islamic ideals and ran a secular government.

Bush described the war in Iraq as a means to promote democracy in the Middle East. "A free Iraq can be a source of hope for all the Middle East," he said one month before the invasion. "Instead of threatening its neighbors and harboring terrorists, Iraq can be an example of progress and prosperity in a region that needs both."

But as instability in Iraq grew after the toppling of Hussein, and resentment toward the United States intensified in the Muslim world, hundreds of foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq across its unguarded borders. They found tons of unprotected weapons caches that, military officials say, they are now using against U.S. troops. Foreign terrorists are believed to make up a large portion of today’s suicide bombers, and U.S. intelligence officials say these foreigners are forming tactical, ever-changing alliances with former Baathist fighters and other insurgents.

So Iraq is a breeding ground for terrorists now.  Just what I and the left have been warning against since the beginning of the War.

And let’s remember what Kerry was saying, back in October of 2002:

If we go it alone without reason, we risk inflaming an entire region, breeding a new generation of terrorists, a new cadre of anti-American zealots, and we will be less secure, not more secure, at the end of the day, even with Saddam Hussein disarmed.

More on Payolagate

Frank Rich is right:

But perhaps the most fascinating [Armstrong] Williams TV appearance took place in December 2003, the same month that he was first contracted by the government to receive his payoffs. At a time when no one in television news could get an interview with Dick Cheney, Mr. Williams, of all "journalists," was rewarded with an extended sit-down with the vice president for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a nationwide owner of local stations affiliated with all the major networks. In that chat, Mr. Cheney criticized the press for its coverage of Halliburton and denounced "cheap shot journalism" in which "the press portray themselves as objective observers of the passing scene, when they obviously are not objective."

This is a scenario out of "The Manchurian Candidate." Here we find Mr. Cheney criticizing the press for a sin his own government was at that same moment signing up Mr. Williams to commit. The interview is broadcast by the same company that would later order its ABC affiliates to ban Ted Koppel’s "Nightline" recitation of American casualties in Iraq and then propose showing an anti-Kerry documentary, "Stolen Honor," under the rubric of "news" in prime time just before Election Day. (After fierce criticism, Sinclair retreated from that plan.) Thus the Williams interview with the vice president, implicitly presented as an example of the kind of "objective" news Mr. Cheney endorses, was in reality a completely subjective, bought-and-paid-for fake news event for a broadcast company that barely bothers to fake objectivity and both of whose chief executives were major contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign. The Soviets couldn’t have constructed a more ingenious or insidious plot to bamboozle the citizenry.

Liberal media?  Don’t make me laugh.  The right wing blogosphere blather over Dan Rather is peanuts compared to the bought-and-paid-for-news-events.

iRod

I would love to have the time to read more magazines.  I just don’t.  If I want information, I usually go on-line.  Which is a bit of a shame.  Magazines are fun — you can take them to bed, or sprawl out on the couch, and just flip through them.  And when they come in the mail, it is like a small present.

And there are so many magazines to choose from.  Like Home School Digest.  It bills itself as "The Quarterly Publication for Family Discipline".  Wow.  A magazine devoted to family discipline.  Cool.

And in it, you find informative articles on a variety of subjects, such as Rod "Whatever Works Is Right: The Dangers Of Pragmatism" and "God’s Man At Bearcat Tool And Die." 

And then there are the ads.  Like the one at the right.

What is it for, you ask?  Why it is for spanking.  You know . . . "spare the rod, spoil the child"? 

And what a quality product, too.  Look!  It has a non-slip surface!!  Great!  Now I can throw away that old spatula that I used to use!  Thank you, "The Rod".

My only complaint is not with the product, but with the advertisement.  It doesn’t exactly leap out at you, does it.  Fortunately, the good people here have come up with what I think is a killer marketing concept for "The Rod". (Hat tip: Jesus’ General and Hairy Fish Nuts)

Ladies and Gentleman, introducing:

Irod

Victory in Georgia

From the Associated Press:

ATLANTA – A federal judge Thursday ordered a suburban Atlanta school system to remove stickers in its high school biology textbooks that call evolution "a theory, not a fact," saying the disclaimers were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

"By denigrating evolution, the school board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories," U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said.

The stickers were put in the books by school officials in Cobb County in 2002. They read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

"This is a great day for Cobb County students," said Michael Manely, an attorney for the parents who sued over the stickers. "They’re going to be permitted to learn science unadulterated by religious dogma."

Doug Goodwin, a spokesman for Cobb County schools, had no immediate comment.

No Shit, Sherlock

The New England Journal of Medicine reports on a study which concludes that medical interns who have been "working for 32 consecutive hours with only two or three hours of sleep" are twice as likely to get into car accidents on the way home from work. 

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, also concluded that when medical interns who work for more than 24 straight hours are more inclined to make "serious medical errors".

Read more here.

I have concluded, in my own parallel study, that researchers are Harvard Medical School have way too much time on their hands.

No. THIS Says It All . . .

Courtesy of The Poor Man:

Rathergate vs. Saddam’s WMD – A Quantitative Comparison

Rathergate Saddam’s WMD
Investigation recently concluded? Yes Yes
Use of highly questionable supporting documents? Yes Yes
Central claims disproven? No Yes
Media spread questionable information? Yes Yes
Number of firings resulting from investigation 4 0
Number of high-profile reassignments resulting from investigation 1 0
Number of wars started using flawed justification 0 1
Cost to American taxpayer $0.00 ~$150,000,000,000 (as of 1/12/05)
Number of American soldiers killed as a result 0 1,357 (as of 1/12/05)
Number of British soldiers killed as a result 0 76 (as of 1/12/05)
Number of other non-Iraqi allied soldiers killed as a result 0 84 (as of 1/12/05)
Number of Iraqi policemen killed over last 4 months as a result 0 1,300+
Number of Iraqi civilians killed as a result 0 10,000-100,000+
Number of al-Qaeda training camps destroyed as a result 0 0
Number of terrorist plots against the US foiled as a result 0 0
Percentage of Iraqi people who view the US as "occupiers" as a result no data available 92%
Saddam Hussein removed from power as a result? No Yes
Saddam’s torture chambers shut down as a result? No No
Iraqi people enjoying freedom as a result? No No (as of 1/12/05)
US’s reputation severely damaged as a result? No Yes
US’s military stretched thin as a result? No Yes
Posts mentioning story on NRO’s "The Corner" 10 0
Advantage blogosphere? No Please

Lowering Expectations

Regarding the upcoming Iraqi elections and likelihood that most Iraqis won’t be able to vote in them, an anonymous White House official said this yesterday:

"I would . . . really encourage people not to focus on numbers, which in themselves don’t have any meaning, but to look on the outcome and to look at the government that will be the product of these elections."

Right.  It’s only an election, for Chissakes.  We shouldn’t allow petty concerns like "numbers" play an important role.

Of course, there was a time when we were going to get Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive".

But then "We haven’t heard much from him . . . I truly am not that concerned about him."

Not to mention the time when we went into Iraq because of the WMD’s and we didn’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

But when we didn’t find any it wasn’t really the reason we went into Iraq.

TBogg is right — I didn’t really want to date that nympho supermodel.

Homeland Security For Sale

Not surprisingly (to most of us), it is now becoming apparent that 9/11 was viewed by many Republicans as simply a way to make money for those with connections.

No, I’m not talking about Halliburton (although they certainly fit the bill).  I’m talking about this:

WASHINGTON – As the Homeland Security Department was starting up, Secretary Tom Ridge twice stayed overnight at the Arizona home of a wealthy friend who ran a lobbying firm that was aggressively expanding its homeland security business.

The Blank Rome firm, whose chairman is former Ridge fund-raiser David Girard-diCarlo, later hired two of Ridge’s aides to lobby the new department, and some of the firm’s clients eventually landed lucrative contracts, according to documents and interviews.

Ridge and Girard-diCarlo worked together in Pennsylvania, raising over $400,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 1999 and 2000. Before that, Girard-diCarlo had helped Ridge raise money as Pennsylvania governor.

Ridge left his job as Pennsylvania governor to serve Bush in coordinating a homeland security strategy inside the White House in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A year later, he was named the first secretary of the new Homeland Security Department.

The day after the department’s creation on Nov. 25, 2002, Ridge flew to Arizona with his wife and stayed overnight for two or three days in Girard-diCarlo’s gated-community home, officials say. Six days before Ridge’s visit, Girard-diCarlo had taken out a $3 million loan on the newly built home.

The month after the trip, the first of two Ridge White House aides left the government and went to work for Girard-diCarlo’s firm focusing on homeland security issues.

That aide, Mark Holman, has been "the closest governmental and political adviser to Secretary Tom Ridge for over 18 years," a federal contractor proclaimed in promotional material for a seminar series for which Holman was a featured speaker. Holman, Ridge’s chief of staff during his years as Pennsylvania governor, had worked briefly for Girard-diCarlo’s firm before Ridge brought him to the White House.

Ridge’s office says the secretary and Girard-diCarlo did not discuss Holman’s departure during the Arizona visit.

A federal conflict-of-interest law barred Holman from lobbying the White House for a year after his departure. The restriction, however, didn’t extend to Ridge’s new agency.

New York University law professor Stephen Gillers called it "intolerable" that Ridge’s White House aides were free to lobby the Homeland Security Department.

It "mocks the ethics rules. If it’s allowed, it reveals a gaping hole in the law," Gillers said.

Steven L. Schooner, co-director of the Government Procurement Law Program at George Washington University, says the Bush administration is sending a message by standing by Ridge’s trips.

"When Ridge makes clear that he is not worried about appearances, we should not be surprised when the public concludes that government cannot be trusted," Schooner said.

Read the whole ugly thing.

Judson Cox — Clown Prince of Conservatives, Edition #3

Judson is upset this week about not being able advertisers for his new newspaper, The North Carolina Conservative.  It’s not due to the fact that the newspaper is poorly written; it is due to the fact that he is, once again (*sigh*) a victim of Democrats.  Just like when they "forced" him to leave his college because it was allowing Fahrenheit 9/11 to be shown on campus.

Poor Jud.  If it weren’t for lefties always victimizing him, he would have very little to write about.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>A couple of years ago I lost my job at a small Virginia newspaper when liberal Democrats threatened a boycott unless my column was pulled. I learned then, that the Left — supposed advocates of free speech, democracy and diversity — are a well organized and wide spread collection of fascists determined to outlaw ideas that offend them, personally attack those who oppose them, and destroy the livelihoods of those who disagree with them.

It seems that Poor Jud re-lives his horrible Virginia newspaper experience every January.  Here‘s what he wrote last January on the so-called "Goon Squads" that got him fired. But I digress.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>I grew up in an area where the Democratic Party power brokers openly refer to themselves as the "Clarkton Mafia," so I’m used to hard nosed politics. I wasn’t surprised to learn of a national effort dubbed, "Buy Blue." Buy Blue, along with the "Conservative Boycott List" and "Don’t Feed the Beast" are part of a national effort by liberals to punish those who oppose them politically, and to starve the conservative movement of its funding by cutting off the revenue of its donors.

It was like that time in November last year when liberals all voted for Kerry, just to punish conservatives like Jud.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>Last week I began touring the state of North Carolina, promoting The North Carolina Conservative. The North Carolina Conservative is a boldly conservative newspaper, so we knew there was no point in courting liberals either as advertisers or subscribers — they don’t support us, and we don’t want them (although, a little fertilizer does aid growth, so maybe we should allow one or two).

Yes, Jud.  It’s bold to put out a conservative newspaper in a red state.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>However, many companies only purchase ads through agencies, so this necessitated pitching our publication to advertising firms. Immediately, the liberal contempt surfaced, when the president of an Asheville, NC based advertising firm responded to our introductory letter, "I would not recommend to any of my clients that they advertise in your newspaper, because I have committed my life to fighting the evil and destructive lies of conservatives that are ruining our nation."

Fair enough; we don’t want her business anyway.

"C’mon, Dorothy.  We don’t want any of those apples!"

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>We’d love the money, but this newspaper is by and for conservatives.

Right.  Jud doesn’t want the business of liberals, just the money of liberals.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>If liberals want to vote with their pocketbooks, then more power to them. However, as we toured the state and spoke to conservative business people, it became clear that their businesses were being hurt by the liberal boycotts.

You see, it’s okay to "vote with your pocketbooks", as long as you don’t show favoritism.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>For instance, a restaurant owner in Chapel Hill, NC had the temerity to place a Bush/Cheney sign in his business. For this, the local Democrats launched a public campaign to drive him out of business. His lunch clientele has nearly disappeared.

Those damn liberals tried to pull that same shit in Greensboro, NC, too!

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>Decades ago, liberals began networking to support each other and further their leftist goals. This is why college faculties and government bureaucracies are almost uniformly comprised of Democrats (and unaffiliated liberal nutballs). In the private sector, green, feminist and gay groups recommend liberal friendly businesses for their members to invest in. Gays, especially, network effectively by placing rainbow flags and stickers on their businesses as identifiers.

It was Levar Burton’s idea!  Honestly!

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>I propose that conservatives engage in a reverse boycott. In North Carolina, I hope The North Carolina Conservative will become an effective vehicle to know what businesses support conservatism. Nationally, conservatives can identify and support each other by organizing. In each state, and nationally, there should be a registry of conservative owned businesses. Conservative owned businesses should also begin identifying themselves publicly with symbols. For instance, if I drove into an unfamiliar town, looking for a place to get lunch, fill up my car with gas or stay the night, if I saw a business with a conservative slogan in the window (or any conservative message), I would patronize that business.

Christ1_1 Good idea, Jud.  I wonder what symbol conservatives could use.  Mmmmmm.  I can’t imagine what.  Damn, those gays already took the rainbow!  What can conservatives possibly use?  Mmmmmmmm.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>If we do this nationwide, it may do more to promote conservative values, conservative politics and a sense of unity and community than anything else we can do. Imagine stepping into an unfamiliar restaurant that had a conservative identifier out front and a conservative talk radio station playing in the background — it would be a sign that here, you are among friends.

We could even put a sign on the outside saying "No Girls and Liberals Allowed".  And, and, and . . . we could have a secret entrance and a handshake, too!  And make special cards an’ stuff.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>Conversation would flow more easily, business deals would happen spontaneously, political clubs and church groups would know where to meet on friendly ground, etc. If conservatives can network well, we may all become rich and ready to take over arty little resort towns one day… just like gays!

I wonder what a conservative "arty little resort town" would actually look like.  Sounds like a Tim Burton movie though.

TV in the 1930’s

This (RealMedia file) is a fragment of a very early television broadcast from the early 1930s which had been recorded off the air waves by amateur enthusiast using a home gramophone recording system.  It is popular British singer Betty Bolton.  What’s she singing?  Who knows — the sound has been lost.

The Heat Rises On News-For-SaleGate

Senators Lautenberg, Kennedy, and Reid write to President Bush about the $240,000 in tax dollars given to a right wing journalist to write news stories in favor of Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy.

Excerpt:

In addition to the illegality of these actions taken by your Administration, we believe that the act of bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy. Actions like this were common in the Soviet Union, but until now, thought to be long extinguished in our country.

These revelations regarding Mr. Williams are the latest – and most disturbing – in a series of actions by your Administration to manipulate public opinion through covert propaganda. On May 19, 2004, the GAO found that your Administration illegally spent taxpayer funds on covert propaganda by paying Ketchum Incorporated to produce fake news stories promoting the image of the new Medicare law.

Read full letter here.

This Girl Is Sad

The picture doesn’t do her justice. And what’s worse, she’s having a hard 2005 so far. So . . . everyone who is reading this . . . please give a nanosecond of good vibes out to her, and maybe — collectively — the thoughts of everyone will manifest themselves into a ray of sunshine that will turn her 2005 around.

She’s one of those rare good ones; she deserves it — trust me on this.

The Torture General and the Commander-in-Chief Override

To me, the most troubling thing about Gonzales is not his understanding (or lack thereof) on the "legal" use of torture, but his apparent lack of understanding on the powers of the Presidency. 

One thing is for sure: what ever "torture" is — and I am willing to concede that we can have open debates about that — the President cannot and should not have the unilateral power to disobey or circumvent any law or treaty on any topic.

It is odd how Gonzales cannot simply say this.  Read how Slate describes yesterday’s cat-and-mouse game:

Then comes the question of the day: "Now, as attorney general, would you believe the president has the authority to exercise a commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture?" Leahy asks. That’s "a hypothetical that’s never going to occur," Gonzales says, because we don’t torture people. He continues, "This president has said we’re not going to engage in torture under any circumstances, and therefore that portion of the opinion was unnecessary and was the reason that we asked that that portion be withdrawn." Translation: Yes, I think the president has the legal authority to immunize acts of torture, but he doesn’t want to, so I’m not going to bother with defending the idea.

Pressed for an answer, Gonzales concedes, "I do believe there may come an occasion when the Congress might pass a statute that the president may view as unconstitutional," and therefore the president may ignore it. That’s a general statement of principle, Leahy says, but I’m asking a specific question. Can the president immunize torture? Gonzales retreats to the that’s-hypothetical-and-it’s-not-gonna-happen defense. OK, Leahy says. What about leaders of other countries? Can they immunize torture? I’m not familiar with their laws, Gonzales replies.

The law should be above politics, and this guy has demonstrated that he cannot act as the chief law enforcement officer and be above his loyalties to Bush.  Bad nominee.  He’ll be confirmed, but he shouldn’t be.

Desparate Yet?

Matt Yglesius is right to point this out:

The recent acts of terrorism, such as the bombing of the U.N. headquarters and the mosque in Najaf, show a couple of things. First, that Iraq is still a dangerous place. They also show, I think, the desperation — the desperation of the adversaries that we face. We’re actively engaged in rooting out this threat with more and more Iraqis coming forward with information and a willingness to help us.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, September 9, 2003.

You’ll see the threat go to, again, more suicide attacks, vehicle- borne IEDs, which I think shows desperation for both so they can get themselves in the news so people around the world can see them, and to show that they are in fact frustrated that they can’t really make an impact any other way.

Major General Raymond T. Odierno, January 22, 2004 .

We have said for quite a while that one of the signs not only of desperation on the part of the terrorists and the former regime elements but also, quite frankly, the cowardice of these forces is that, in opposition to six months ago, when many of the attacks — most of the attacks were against the coalition forces, we have seen over the past few months that they are starting to go after softer targets.  That is a concern of ours, but it also ought to demonstrate the desperation of these people because they decide, rather than attack coalition forces and Iraqi security forces, they’ll attack women that are working for the coalition, washing clothes to make their lives better.

Coalition Provisional Authority senior adviser Dan Senor, March 31, 2004

[General Thomas Metz] said that the recent run of gruesome suicide bombings, which have killed dozens of civilians, was a measure of desperation among the insurgents, who have put forward no political vision beyond expelling the Americans.

The New York Times., January 6, 2005

(Source)

Your Tax Dollars Pay for Illegal Propaganda

The rightwing douchebag pundit of the day award goes to Armstrong Williams:

Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it’s something I believe in."

The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers’ money" that is "probably illegal." He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.

By the way, what "liberal media"?

It’s a story similar to this, a few months ago:

Conyers also disclosed yesterday that Ashcroft spent more than $200,000 in taxpayer money on trips to 32 cities in August and September 2003 to drum up support for the Patriot Act.

A new Government Accountability Office study of the trips found that Ashcroft and his staff spent more than $77,000 for air transportation, according to congressional staffers who have been briefed on the findings. Nearly $40,000 was spent on hotels and other travel expenses, and U.S. attorney’s offices spent more than $80,000 for conference room rentals and other costs, the staff members said.

Justice officials told the GAO they did not keep track of some costs, including meetings between federal prosecutors and lawmakers about Patriot Act legislation. The report is scheduled to be released this week.

(Source)

What’s the point?   

The point is that this type of stuff is ILLEGAL.  Here’s the Treasury and Governmental Appropriations Act:

SEC. 623. No part of any funds appropriated in this or any other Act shall be used by an agency of the executive branch, other than for normal and recognized executive-legislative relationships, for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress, except in presentation to the Congress itself. …

SEC. 626. No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress.