Friday, September 26, 2003
One week from tomorrow I will have finished the LSAT, and I will resume full-time blogging. I noticed that a lot of new people have checked out this blog lately. It's a shame that it had to happen when I was otherwise engaged. In any case, I'm back to my old prolific ways next Saturday.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
I'm not so hot at discussing ethical issues, because I can usually see many sides and don't care what someone else does, so I will present the following strictly for the laughs:

Florida Band to Stage Suicide

In a press release issued Monday the fan wrote: "I thank the Lord that Hell on Earth is giving me this opportunity to end my suffering. I just want to say as my last will and testament that this is my God-given choice to end my life. I'd prefer to have a physician-assisted suicide but until the laws are changed, those who are in pain like me will either have to continue to suffer or do it themselves." According to Tourtelot, several suicide methods have been discussed, among them a plastic bag over the head, but the person has not yet decided.

If Hell on Earth -- whose songs include "Toilet Licking Maggot" and "Raped by the Virgin Mary" and whose past stage stunts, according to Tourtelot, include having intercourse with cows and drinking blended rats -- go through with the plan, they could be hit with secondary felony charges for assisting in the commission of self-murder. The punishment for such a crime is fifteen years in prison, though, according to a police spokesperson, the statute has rarely been enforced.


via metafilter
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Dick Cheney's personal financial statement for 2002

This is a large pdf file, and kind of hard to read.

Page 6 has all of the Haliburton juice. It looks like he took in at least $510,000 from ole Haliburton in 2002,

via TPM
Bush to World: Drop Dead! - The president lays an egg at the U.N.

Has an American president ever delivered such a bafflingly impertinent speech before the General Assembly as the one George W. Bush gave this morning?

Decent question. I think we all get the point, W. War is peace, ignorrance is strength, etc. I just don't understand the purpose of giving such a content-free address to an audience as critical as the UN. Again, I find myself more comfortable with the French position than the American one.

Someone else said it first, but I'm sayin' it again. The UN needn't say more than six words to the indeological junta currently calling the shots in the United States: "You break it, you bought it."
OK, so strap on your tinfoil hats, kids:

Nine Israelis face deportation

This story, which originally ran in the Ottawa Sun, revived the bizarre Israeli art student meme for the few hours before the story was retracted without explanation.

If you're not familiar with the background to this story, Antiwar.com has a good index of stories on the matter, and ABC News and Fox News both did stories on the matter following 9/11 until the mainstream media abandoned the strory suddenly (and again without explanation). Basically, small rings of young Israeli citizens have been apprehended by US authorities in the process of doing various odd things, including taking photos of sensitive government sites after gaining entry under the ruse of selling crappy paintings. Very similar scenarios occurred a number of different times, often in a manner temporally or topically linked to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of September, 2001. A strange enough set of circumstances, made all the more curious by the mainstream press' complete and instantaneous refusal to investigate the matter further.

Of course, all of the above means that any inquiry subsequent to the original ABC and Fox pieces has taken place in alternative and independent media, rendering the body of research disjointed and difficult to verify.

So let's first look at this as an alternative media phenomenon, before embracing or rejecting it as a real story. Clearly, anytime you hear the word "Israel," any attached argument takes on exponentially more potential layers of wackiness. Assuming the best (or worst, maybe), that all of these stories are part of some elaborate hoax, then it would be wise for the mainstream media to investigate possible sources. Who is promulgating this meme, which has lasted for almost two years and fooled numerous esteemed journalists? Islamists? ANSWER? Internet conspiracy theorists? More importantly, who could we blame? Ex-Ba'athists? France? Liberals? Combine the antisemitic tendencies of both the extreme right and left with the fact that the Israeli government (on the far right themselves, of late) really does demonstrably practice a great deal of crazy international espionage, even in the US, and it seems like the only rational conclusion is that they're all full of shit.

But someone must be less full of shit. Or full of less shit. Or something.

Not surprising, the only defensible interpretation of these allegations is that they need to be properly aired and vetted by credible media outlets, and learned individuals from the intelligence community need to separate the wheat from the chaff of the reporting that has already been done. I'm a big fan of independent media, and I don't consider myself a sucker despite the fact that I get almost all of my news information online, but a responsible investigation of a singular issue--Did Mossad agents use "art students" as a spies in the US, and did those spies fail to share information gleaned from surveillance of the 9/11 hijackers with the Americans?--can not be conducted when the stories are indexed (check out the Antiwar.com index for a visual aid) along with your comprehensive "Blame Israel for everything" bibliography. Objectivity, assholes! A little pretense will go a long way, you know. I typically like Antiwar.com, because it was cool to see editorials against the Iraq war presented from a Libertarian perspective, but sites like theirs and whatreallyhappened.com can do more harm than good if they sully earnest and honest reporting by associating it with illogically ranting schlock.

There are stories catalogued on the Antiwar.com page mentioned above that appear credible, but when they're juxtaposed with memes that have been shown to be nothing more than anti-Jewish fabrications, their role in determining the actual truth of the story gets mitigated.

So what gives? Why does mainstream press avoid this story like the plague? Why have none of the three very significant retractions surrounding this story been accompanied with explanations (or, conversely, why are my research skills so poor as to render me unable to find the retractions)? There are a huge number of reasons to be skeptical of the idea that Israeli spies in the US withheld foreknowledge of the World Trade Center attacks, but that skepticism should temper an inquiry, not preclude one.

Thanks to bc for the heads-up
Monday, September 22, 2003
Friedman: France wants America to fail in Iraq

It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.

If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding a loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided United Nations than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq.


Thomas Friedman, who usually strikes me as sensible, wrote this op-ed a few days ago, and I wanted to ignore it, but I see his points being rehashed here-and-there, so maybe it needs to be vetted by people who think critically before suckling from the gospel of Thomas.

The overiding bit of illogic that frames Friedman's thesis is the notion that the Americans are somehow uniquely qualified--or even qualified at all--to maintain leadership in Iraq. France, according to the column, must favor greater UN involvement because she wants the US to fail. Does Friedman consider that France wants UN leadership precisely because she knows that the US will fail if we go about things unilaterally. The anti-France meme was at its most powerful when France was questioning our motives for war and questioning whether Hussein really had stockpiled WMD. Someone whould tell Friedman that they were dead-on accurate in both of those claims.

It is hard for people to accept that they have made a mistake, let alone to admit it publically and change course as a result, but that responsibility is incumbent upon the US right now, not on France. France failed to support a bullshit war, and now wants a credible international body to oversee the aftermath of the ill-advised war, rather than the same syndicate or self-interested war profiteers and ideologues that started the whole mess. How Friedman construes this as hostile I will never know.

Pundits like Tom Friedman--himself an intelligent and respected man--need to distinguish themselves from the "with-us or against-us" rhetoric of the administration and its apologists. Ultimately, if we had listened to France we never would have launched a war--which costs us at least one American GI a day--in order to round up nonexistent weapons. One can laugh at the Frech all they want, but exactly how in the hell have their positions not been vindicated? Friedman is looking too far from home: the enemies of America are those who would subvert her process and principles in order to use the military as a tool of foreign policy. Friedman can fear France all he wants; I fear those who would have me die to pad their profits or placate their favorite dead philosophers.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Clark leads Dems in new poll; trails Bush slightly

Clark was among the leaders of the Democratic candidates in the Newsweek Poll released Saturday, and was not far behind President Bush in a head-to-head matchup in the poll taken only days after entering the race.

Clark, with 14 percent, was grouped among the leaders, along with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, both at 12 percent, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry at 10 percent.


This was a national poll, and probably shouldn't be taken as indication of how things owuld shake out in any of the ad-saturated early primary states, but these numbers are still insane.

In one sense, it's inspiring that Bush appears to be very vulnerable, and it seems like Clark's instant mainstream appeal might come in handy in, like, a Presidential election. but on the other hand, this just further reinforces the scope and power of very few media outlets. No one has seen Wesley Clark debate, not even Clark himself has ever read a Wesley Clark policy paper (though I understand that he will soon have positions on issues, which can only be exciting). The bottom line may be that the wheels are falling off of Howard Dean's campaign, and we should all just shut our yaps and be happy that Wes Clark is good-looking and tall enough to be an obviously competent executive and statesman.

If Clark does get the nomination, he will become the focus-point of $200-million of attack ads, and he is going to need a viable platform as well as support that can be counted on. The challenge for Clark would then be to beat Dean without trashing him to the point that he turns off Dean's supporters.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Conservatives Against Bush

Conservatives Against Bush was founded to propound the conservative principles that this administration has forsaken. This President has expanded the welfare state, saddled future generations with debt, eroded some of our basic freedoms, and waged a spurious war in Iraq that in the end did not make the U.S. any safer. We seek to reenergize conservatives, so they will press for change in this administration.



Wrong moves, right moves

This piece from the Illinois Times examines the fallacy and tragedy of forging a police force out of an infantry.

The infantry is trained for full-scale war. Infantry soldiers are taught to meet any force, or any threat of force, with overwhelming counter-force. This mindset wins wars, as proved by the rapid defeat of the Iraqi military during the April invasion. But it poses a huge problem during post-war peacekeeping, as demonstrated in Fallujah on September 12--and in late April, when the infantry fired on a large crowd of unarmed protestors in Fallujah, killing 13.

A midnight ride with the 233rd Military Police Company through some of the meanest streets of Baghdad highlighted the dramatic tactical differences between trained military police and infantry patrols. The 233rd, a National Guard detachment from Springfield, seems to be functioning quite well despite their dangerous assignment.

During the patrol, one of them told me that on a previous night an Iraqi teenager had aimed a red laser pointer at his face. "The infantry would have lit him up," said the MP. "I found him in three seconds." The teenager was immediately determined to be non-hostile, so he was given a stern warning and let go.

The differences between MPs and the "shoot first, ask questions later" infantry came up repeatedly during the all-night patrol. MPs, the soldiers said, are trained to clearly identify a threat before opening fire. And they are warned against firing back if it could injure innocent bystanders. The infantry, they claimed, is just not suited to the task of policing.
The Lebanon Scenario

Iraq under occupation is starting to look uncomfortably similar to Lebanon during its long civil war. The central government exists only in name, and neither police nor occupying troops are able to keep the peace.

IN RESPONSE, militias organized along ethnic and religious lines are taking up arms. Neighboring countries patronize friendly groups, or try to undermine rival ones. Arms smuggling over the borders is rife. Massive but anonymous car bombs assassinate opponents, terrorize civilians and intimidate foreigners. Even kidnapping has returned as a political tactic.

The situation in Iraq right now is conflicting, confounded, and all fucked-up. 11 American servicemen have been killed in the last 24 hours, and the last few days look like the worst stretch since Bush declared the "major combat operations" over in May. I know that's significant, I know that is a moving piece of information for some reason, but my little mind can't figure out how to mold that into a progressive or positive reason.

What the hell are we going to do? From the article:

Commander of the American Forces in Iraq General Ricardo Sanchez made a statement at a press conference in Baghdad in connection with the unprecedented losses, which the coalition forces had suffered during the past twenty-four hours. He said, in part, that the U.S. Central Command was considering the possibility of withdrawing the U.S. troops from several Iraq towns and putting them under the control of the local authorities. The U.S. troops will be evacuated only from places where local law enforcement bodies are able to guarantee public order, the general noted.

U.S. military officials stated in New York that the reduction of the number of American troops In Iraq, which now adds up to approximately 120,000 officers and men, could begin next May. For instance, they said, it is planned to pull out within the next three months the U.S. units from the central districts of Iraq cities to the suburbs. At the same time, the functions of enforcing law and order will be transferred to the Iraq forces that are currently being formed.

The Wall Street Journal has learned from trustworthy sources that this were only the initial sketches of the strategy to pull out of Iraq. The process of the evacuation of U.S. troops from the country may last several years.


Congress has chosen an interesting time to begin giving a shit about whether or not we throw away a generation or two's worth of budget solvency in order to test the theories of a dead philosopher. In some ways, any announcement that troops will be returning is good news, but the eventual bottom line in that situation is that we went into Iraq, destroyed the old order, and left anarchy in our wake. If the US abandons Iraq in a wholesale manner, by simply evacuating troops with no international or regional transfer of provisional autority, then Iraq's future will be left to the whims of chaos and the world's most volatile region. Hell, if we get a new exectutive branch with a slightly different ideological fetish, we'll be back at war with the new Shia Iraq in few years. The good news is that you can't have a theocracy if anarchy reigns and a viable state never emerges! So we've got that going for us.

Which presents the strange paradox that the only rational thing to do is to prolong a horribly irrational war. The aforementioned paradox is a mind-crippling pain in the ass. It may laregly be the case that nobody knows the right move for the US in Iraq right now. Some vaguaries--international involvemnt, "Iraqization"--come to mind, but power-vacuum-filling is hardly a task with a well-tested successful blueprint, and certainly not one best left up to subcontractors and Don Rumsfeld. No sloganized or rigid approach can flourish in a situation defined most principally by the fact that we have no idea what the hell is going on.

We never should have gone into Iraq in the first place, and definitely not like this and definitely not with these people in charge. But just pulling out of Iraq, or just electing a new President, won't solve the root problem. I wrote this in June, and I still think that we have nothing to prevent this same scenarion from occuring again if we don't address the instututional and procedureal breakdowns that facilitated the creation of the mess that is our current foreign policy.
Friday, September 19, 2003
Rumsfeld's McArmy goes to war

A well-written piece that illustrates the fallacy of a public/private military, as well as few of the major pitfalls.

Many PMFs (Private Military Firms) operate as "virtual companies," in the fashion of Internet firms with little in the way of bricks-and-mortar assets. Most do not maintain standing forces, but rather draw from databases of qualified personnel -- South African mercenaries and ex-KGB agents, for instance -- and specialized subcontractors, all on a contractual basis.

PMFs supply everything from combat troops to cluster bombs and jet fighter squadrons. They can provide strategic and organizational analysis, drawing on the expertise of recently retired generals. Or, like Halliburton's Brown & Root division, they can remove land mines and provide logistical and infrastructural support. Clients range widely, from the government of Saudi Arabia to South American drug cartels, from mining companies in places like Sierra Leone to the U.S. government's peacekeeping operations in Somalia and Kosovo.

War, in short, is being outsourced. And although highly profitable, it tends to reward companies that are not particularly competitive in the marketplace. Singer observes that Brown & Root received a $1 billion contract to augment U.S. forces in Kosovo, despite having allegedly failed to deliver, or severely overcharged, in four out of seven of its contractual obligations during the Balkans conflict. Shortly after, Halliburton picked up a $1.7 billion no-bid contract with the Army Corps of Engineers for taking over Iraqi oil production and making infrastructure repairs.


The entire article is worth reading, but that last paragraph is key. The rhetoric that drives privatization--be it in the military, public services like electricity, or even health care oh so many years ago (people don't often talk about the Truman health plan, but it was a lot more comprehensive than the Clintons')--always centers around the sanctity and solvency of free markets. Not only is this line of reasoning window dressing that ignores the conflict between public good and freedom of capital, but it is also patently dishonest.

Beware any time you hear the words "free-market" and "no-bid" in the same sentence, and you are inscrutably being fed a line of bullshit. While rhetoric about the freedom and ingenuity of capital may appeal to the American public, it ultimately falls empty when one realizes that privatization is actually nothing more than a scheme to subvert market forces. When "deregulation" or "privatization: serves to increase the foothold of single, select, connected corporate entities it becomes a crony corporatism that in its essence is the exact opposite of a free and competitive marketplace.

Not to mention the more essential question underlying our new corporate military: Is public safety and national security really served by placing profit motivation over military solvency?
Meet then New War, Same as the Old War

Former Senator and disabled Vietnam Vet. Max Cleland weighs in with a scathing editorial on Iraq, and it's growing parellels to Vietnam:

The president of the United States decides to go to war against a nation led by a brutal dictator supported by one-party rule. That dictator has made war on his neighbors. The president decides this is a threat to the United States.

In his campaign for president he gives no indication of wanting to go to war. In fact, he decries the overextension of American military might and says other nations must do more. However, unbeknownst to the American public, the president's own Pentagon advisers have already cooked up a plan to go to war. All they are looking for is an excuse.

Based on faulty intelligence, cherry-picked information is fed to Congress and the American people. The president goes on national television to make the case for war, using as part of the rationale an incident that never happened. Congress buys the bait -- hook, line and sinker -- and passes a resolution giving the president the authority to use "all necessary means" to prosecute the war.

The war is started with an air and ground attack. Initially there is optimism. The president says we are winning. The cocky, self-assured secretary of defense says we are winning. As a matter of fact, the secretary of defense promises the troops will be home soon.

However, the truth on the ground that the soldiers face in the war is different than the political policy that sent them there. They face increased opposition from a determined enemy. They are surprised by terrorist attacks, village assassinations, increasing casualties and growing anti-American sentiment. They find themselves bogged down in a guerrilla land war, unable to move forward and unable to disengage because there are no allies to turn the war over to.

There is no plan B. There is no exit strategy. Military morale declines. The president's popularity sinks and the American people are increasingly frustrated by the cost of blood and treasure poured into a never-ending war.

Sound familiar? It does to me.

The president was Lyndon Johnson. The cocky, self-assured secretary of defense was Robert McNamara. The congressional resolution was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The war was the war that I, U.S. Sens. John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and John McCain and 3 1/2 million other Americans of our generation were caught up in. It was the scene of America's longest war. It was also the locale of the most frustrating outcome of any war this nation has ever fought....

Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn't go when you had the chance.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Some jokes just make themselves...

Joesph Wilson, the former American ambassador who was sent to Niger to verify--but ultimately debunked--the Bush administration's claim about Iraq's weapons stockpiles, spoke with Talking Points Memo. He was candid, to say the least:

So, setting aside why we're in Iraq, how we go there, whether we should have gone in in the first place, where are we now? Where do you see our position right now?

WILSON: Well, I think we're fucked...


via nobody died
The Postwar Post

Abi Berman takes a look at stories by Washington Post reporters--chiefly Walter Pincus--who consistently penned stories during the war that are developing increasing currency now that the truth about the post-war situation is getting out. The problem? The Post buried these stories in the back, but Pincus is joining the growing chorus of journalists decrying their employers' suspect war-time editorial policies.

On February 7, two days after Colin Powell's much-lauded presentation before the United Nations Security Council, Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus described how foreign government officials, terrorism experts and members of Congress disputed a key claim: the supposed link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Despite the article's relevance, the Post buried it in journalistic no man's land--page A21--where it had little effect. An article a week later by Pincus and military correspondent Dana Priest, "Bin Laden-Hussein Link Hazy," got a similar A20 placement. ...

The Post's sluggish start, followed by its abrupt shift into high gear, was not lost on readers--including its own ombudsman. "There was a disconcerting pattern of underplayed or missed stories that were not up to the coverage that followed during and after the war," says Michael Getler, who's written critically of his paper's prewar failure to acknowledge dissenting voices.

Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. denies any such transformation, saying "nothing is done differently now than before." But Getler, and other Post insiders, disagree. Getler says the Post, like the rest of the press (but with a more significant impact, since it is the most closely watched barometer of the politics and mood in Washington), failed to capture adequately the transition from Osama and Afghanistan to Saddam and Iraq, a move that drastically increased dissent across the globe. "The Post is not biased," Getler says, "but in the summer of 2002 up through [the start of war in Iraq], they were not alert enough, early enough, to dissenting voices."
Fire Rumsfeld and Change Course

Online political petitions have grown in popularity recently, but do they have any real-world currency? The cynic in me says no, but the optimist in me is posting this photo of Senators Lott and Dorgan behind a mountain of MoveOn signatures demanding action to overturn the FCC's lanmark deregulation decisions:



Absolutely beautiful! And oh yeah, the FCC petitions actually worked! If only petition signatures could override vetoes.
JetBlue Shared Passenger Data

Main, I hope Southwest doesn't do this, or I won't be flying anywhere.

JetBlue--not exactly a superpower among airlines--decided to submit passenger data to an independent contractor making a beta version of the CAPS II list.

The contractor, Torch Concepts, then augmented that data with Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information, including income level, to develop what looks to be a study of whether passenger-profiling systems such as CAPPS II are feasible. ...

Privacy activist Bill Scannell, who runs the Don't Spy On.Us website, had scathing words for JetBlue's revelation.

"JetBlue has assaulted the privacy of 5 million of its customers," said Scannell. "Anyone who flew JetBlue before September 2002 should be aware and very scared that there is a dossier on them."


JetBlue's story is the flipside of what is happening with the American Librarians' Association. Librarians have taken a stand against unconstitutional collection of personal data, and have thus demonstrated that organized professional resistance to police-state activities can be effective. But JetBlue demostrates the extent to which cooperative corporations can undo the efforts of united citizens.

I know that JetBlue's market share isn't tremendous, and a number of their commuter passengers probably have little choice about switching airlines, but a well-publicized small boycott can be effective. If only librarians ran an airline...
The extent to which Democratic-leaning media voices have begun to rally around Wesley Clark in the few days since his official announcement in amazing, if unexplained and largely unprincipled. Clark does seem like a good guy, and I doubt there have ever been many four-star generals who lacked leadership skills altogether, but in looking at his recent kid-glove star treatment, one would think that he has personally saved the babies of hundreds of reporters from blazing house fires.

Check out Joe Connason's blog entry from today:

Americans ought to be inspired by Wesley Clark's announcement this afternoon, whether they agree with his views or not. For years now, political analysts have complained that the "best people" were reluctant to stand for elected office because of the incessant fundraising, petty press scrutiny, family pressures and sundry other unpleasant aspects of a national campaign. The price of public life had simply gotten too high even for the most highly qualified, strongly motivated patriots. The former NATO supreme commander and Rhodes scholar is unquestionably among America's best -- and he has decided to run, come what may.

Um, unquestionably among America's best? Clark is a TV pundit--albeit one with a largely unbesmirched background and a boatload of expert credibility in the matters on which he is asked to opine. One could easilly claim that he is among America's best former generals, but to simply assume that a well-decorated military career is tantamount to real political leadership is a leap in logic unseen in most of Connason's well-reasoned columns. By that standard, George Patton would have made a great President:

"I'd like to thank those poor bastards who I beat in the election. Now is the time for real leadership, god damn it, so shut the hell up and get me one of them fancy horses."

Clearly, Clark's ability to be a TV pundit who never choked people indicates that he is a far better communicator than Patton, so that comparison is unfair, but it would be nice to see the unmitigated praise of this complete political novice actually qualified with some data that isn't simply a rehashing of Connason's--or Josh Marshall's--newfound lack of candidate-oriented flaccidity. Yeah, you guys have a collective hard-on for a candidate who actually has less political experience than W. If ever a position required some substantive backing-up, it would be this one.

In this TPM post by Josh Marshall, he details Clark's poor performance on an interview show:

I just watched Wes Clark on Aaron Brown. This was his first appearance on the show as a candidate. So Brown made a point of throwing a few policy questions at him and, conspicuously, switching to a more distant tone than the one they had when Clark was there as a CNN analyst.

He asked a question about Medicare, which Supreme Court justice he admired most, partial birth abortion. Clark's discomfort was evident, as, to be frank, was mine.

I won't mince words: it was a pretty awkward exchange. Not pretty.


Initially, props to Marshall for being frank and for not trying to paint a rosy picture where there isn't one. But his predisposition toward supporting Clark seems rather clear. Were this another candidate, would he still conclude that the problem is polish and communication, and not an actual lack or policy expertise on anything not related to foreign or military policy (though it is worth noting that Clark has decided to run at a time when the incumbent has merged those two into one policy apparatus)?

I hate picking on Josh Marshall, who I think is probably the single most important blogger right now--and arguably the only one really bridging the blog/journalism gap in a substantive way (Connason's blog being another possible example). But more importantly, I wonder if this approach is going to gain large-scale currency among pundits. It seems dangerous--if laughable--that the way the opposition party would react to a period of unchecked and irresponsible adventurous militarism by nominating someone whose only credentials are military!
Hey, I'm back. I've been studying for the LSAT a lot lately, and I decided to take a break from blogging to recharge my muckraking battery. But now I'm tanned, rested, and feeling the need to procrastinate my studying.
Friday, September 12, 2003
General Clark Sketches Plan for Presidential Run

It looks like Wesley Clark is closer to declaring. Does this sound like a statement a non-candidate would make?

"I've gone around this country again in the last two weeks. There is a tremendous hunger for leadership out there. People are very concerned about the direction the country is headed."

The race gets more interesting at this point, but also more treacherous. Without Clark, the race has a very clear frontrunner. One could deduce that a unified Democratic party is the only thing standing between the Dean campaign and a very clear shot at the White House. With Clark in the field, the DLC folks are going to be fired-up, and while the results of the Democratic primaries are certainly up in the air at this point, we can be sure about one thing: the dream of a unified Democratic party is as dead as John Ritter.

It may seem early in the race, but this is a serious concern. Those past non-voters drawn out of the woodwork by the Dean campaign? Somehow I see many of them retreating to apathy rather than voting for a former general. And now the slightly-below-radar jabs that the DLC is taking at Dean are going to step up to another level, even if that seems like the last thing we could say is Wesley Clark's "style."

Wesley Clark ought to be a major player in America politics right now. A big reason that we are in this sorry mess is that the military-industrial complex is broken, and he has the experience, credibility, and wherewithal to address it. Clark ought to play the role of a healer and consoler, there to restore faith in the armed services, and there to restore the faith of the armed services in their civilian leadership. But institutionally, as he will have to go on the offensive to make inroads and his politico friends play a lot dirtier than he does, I see him playing the role of a louder Lieberman with more campaign resources.

Much is made of the ways in which the Democrats can learn from the tactics that have been so successful for the right in recent years: official talking points, and enhanced sense of party unity, a simple message. But maybe the "gentlemanly" way that Republican nominations are handed out could also be instructional. I don't see Clark as divisive in any sense, but I also don't see how his candidacy can be anything but.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Has post-9/11 dragnet gone too far?

The first in what promises to be an in-depth series of Chrsitian Science Monitor reports on the PATRIOT and VICTORY acts and other such nefarious acronyms.

Initially, I would like to point out--with pride--that this is the first time on this blog that I have ever said the following: What the hell does this have to do with Christian Science? What?

Secondly, click the link and scroll about half-way down. On the left, the link for their Empire Builders expose demonstrates that even the CSM has picked up on the power of Dick Perle's scary face.

This guy has been creepy for decades
Clark set to enter 2004 presidential race

Well OK then.
Yesterday, I wrote a bit about a story indicating that Howard Dean and Wesley Clark had fellowshipped about a possible joint ticket. While I wouldn't rule out the eventual possibility of that occuring, TPM's Josh Marshall makes the very cogent claim that this story may be 100% politicking from the Dean camp. He draws from this newly published "Washington Whispers" column from US News and World Report:

And forget about that talk that all the retired four-star general and former NATO boss wants is the veep nomination. Supporters say that's a dirty-tricks campaign pushed by rival Howard Dean who's scared of a Clark candidacy. Says Frisby: "Wes Clark firmly believes that he is the best choice to be president, not be vice president or hold any other government post."

Hmmm. Now this could of course work both ways. If Clark is planning on joining Dean, certainly some disinformation here would be in order--perhaps to drum up donations from those who would be more strongly committed to Clark than to Dean/Clark. But at this point it seems likely that Joe Trippi was trying to use the press to put some pressure on Clark. Is the point at which the Dean campaign demostrates that their savvy with new media could be counterbalanced by their fumbling of old-media tricks?
I am quite pleased to see the the "Patriot Day" meme has not really caught on. I'm not sure exactly who decided that this day needed to be a holiday, but to call it "Patriot Day" is just jingoist and disgusting.

"Are you having a happy Patriot Day?"
"Oh yeah. Better than two years ago!"
"I got you something, my little patriot."
"Commemorative charred body parts? You shouldn't have!"
The Falling Man

OK. Screw that whole Steven Gould thing. This is the most touching essay on the World Trade Center attacks that I have read so far.
The late Stephen Jay Gould penned the following on 9/11/2001. Pretty touching, in my opinion.

Two September Days - 100 Years Apart
By Stephen Jay Gould, 9/30/2001

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die: a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.- Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

I HAVE a large collection of antiquarian books in science, some with beautiful bindings and plates; others dating to the earliest days of printing in the late 15th century. But my most precious possession, the pearl beyond all price in my collection, cost 5 cents when a 13-year-old immigrant, named Joseph Arthur Rosenberg, just off the boat from Hungary, bought it on Oct. 25, 1901. This book, ''Studies in English Grammar,'' written by J.M. Greenwood and published in 1892, carries a small stamp identifying the place of purchase: ''Carroll's book store. Old, rare and curious books. Fulton and Pearl Sts. Brooklyn.''

The arrival of Joseph Arthur Rosenberg, my maternal grandfather Papa Joe, began the history of my family in America. He came with his mother, Leni, and two sisters, Reni and Gus, in steerage aboard the SS Kensington, sailing from Antwerp on Aug. 31 with 60 passengers in first class and 1,000 in steerage. The passenger manifest states that Leni arrived with $6.50 to start her new life. Papa Joe added one other bit of information to the date of purchase and his name, inscribed on the title page. He wrote, with maximal brevity in the most eloquent of all possible words: ''I have landed. Sept. 11th 1901.''

I wanted to visit Ellis Island on Sept. 11, 2001, to stand with my mother, his only surviving child, at his site of entry on my family's centennial. My flight from Milan, scheduled to arrive in New York City at midday, landed in Halifax instead - as the great vista of old and new, the Statue of Liberty and adjacent Ellis Island, with the Twin Towers hovering above, became a tomb for more than 6,000 people, sacrificed to human evil on the 100th anniversary of one little lineage's birth in America. A time to be born and, exactly a century later, a time to die.

Papa Joe lived an ordinary life as a garment worker in New York City. He enjoyed periods of security and endured bouts of poverty; he and my grandmother raised four children, all imbued with the ordinary values that ennoble our species and nation: fairness, kindness, the need to persevere and rise by one's own efforts. In the standard pattern, his generation struggled to solvency; my parents graduated from high school, fought a war, and moved into the middle classes; the third cohort achieved a university education, and some of us have enjoyed professional success.

Papa Joe's story illuminates a beacon that will outshine, in the brightness of hope and goodness, the mad act of spectacular destruction that poisoned his centennial. But his story will prevail by its utter conventionality, not by any claim for unusual courage, pain or suffering.

His pathway follows the odyssey of nearly every American family, beginning with nothing as strangers in a strange land, and eventually prospering, often with delayed gratification several generations later, by accumulated hard work, achieved in decency and fairness.

Especially in a technological age, when airplanes can become powerful bombs, rare acts of depravity seem to overwhelm our landscape, both geographical and psychological. But the ordinary human decency of a billion tiny acts of kindness, done by millions of good people, sets a far more powerful counterweight, albeit invisible for lack of comparable ''news value.'' The trickle of one family that began on Sept. 11, 1901, multiplied by so many million similar and ''ordinary'' stories, will overwhelm the evil of a few on Sept. 11, 2001.

I have stood at Ground Zero and contemplated the sublimity of the twisted wreckage of the largest human structure ever brought down in a catastrophic moment. And I recall the words that we all resented when we had to memorize Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in 5th grade, but that seem so eloquent in their renewed relevance today. ''We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.'' Our nation has not witnessed such a day of death since Gettysburg, and a few other battles of the Civil War, nearly 150 years ago.

The third chapter of Ecclesiastes, quoted to open this piece, begins with contrasts of birth followed by death. But the next pair of statements then reverses the order to sound a theme of tough optimism. Verse three follows destruction with reconstruction: ''A time to kill and a time to heal: a time to break down and a time to build up.''

Verse four then extends the sequence from grim determination to eventual joy: ''A time to weep, and a time to laugh: a time to mourn and a time to dance.''

My native city of New York, and the whole world, suffered grievously on Sept. 11, 2001. But Papa Joe's message of Sept. 11, 1901, properly generalized across billions of people, will triumph through the agency of ordinary human decency. We have landed.

Lady Liberty still lifts her lamp beside the golden door. And that door leads to the greatest, and largely successful, experiment in democracy ever attempted in human history, upheld by basic goodness across the broadest diversity of ethnicities, economies, geographies, languages, customs and employments that the world has ever known as a single nation.

We fought our bloodiest war to keep our motto, e pluribus unum (one from many), as a vibrant reality. We will win now because ordinary humanity holds a triumphant edge of millions of good people over each evil psychopath. But we will only prevail if we mobilize this latent goodness into permanent vigilance and action. Verse seven epitomizes our necessary course of action at my Papa Joe's centennial: ''A time to rend, and at a time to sew: a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.''

Stephen Jay Gould, a professor of zoology at Harvard University, is author of ''Questioning the Millennium.''


I couln't find a link to this essay. I only saw it reproduced in its entirety, and I doubt a dead guy is going to sue me, so I have reprinted the whole thing here. I know that is a frowned-upon custom, but hey, whatcha gonna do?
I may not be Richard Perle, or a Bush or a bin Laden, but I have benefitted from the terrorist attacks of two years ago today in one way: I won't be forgetting my mother's birthday again.

Happy birthday Mom!
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
After a little bit of back-and-forth, I have decided to post another essay on this site. You can go to my essays page and check out Beaning Jim Crowe.

I wrote this piece for the Fall isse of Filthy, a kick-ass baseball jounral which deals mostly with pitching. As for Filthy--which I ought to say is published by an old friend--I wholeheartedly suggest plunking down the $10 to get a copy. There is a real void of intelligent sportswriting--especially writing that focuses on the broader role that sport can play in society--and Pat Brown is stepping to try and fill it. A major endeavour, no doubt, but one that I think he's up to.

In any case, the main purpose of the essay was to take a look at race and sports through a slightly unconventional lens. Much is made of the impact of the earliest black Major Leaguers on the generation of black kids who grew up admiring them, but I wanted to explore the impact on the first generation of white kids to grow up with black heros. My father was one of these kids, and Bob Gibson was his childhood idol.

So please check it out and tell me what you think. But if you like it, and you think that more thoughtful commentary on sports is warranted, please buy the next issue of Filthy!
Gen. Clark Reportedly Asked to Join Dean

So it wouldn't be my dream ticket (Dean/McCain, don't you know), but the prospect of Wesley Clark being named as Dean's running mate is intriguing. Again--as we have come to expect from this race--the more exciting part of this move wouln't be about the candidates, themselves, but rather the unconventional nature of the campaign This is extremely early to choose a running mate, but it would cause Dean's current momentuem to surge--maybe enough to bury everyone else already.

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has asked retired Army general Wesley Clark to join his campaign, if the former NATO commander does not jump into the race himself next week, and the two men discussed the vice presidency at a weekend meeting in California, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Clark, of course, would immediately bring credibility on foreign policy and military issues. He would also come with an entire new online grassroots base. Structurally and institutionally, an effective melding of the Dean and Clark camps would be the only obstacle to assembling a campaign that would be well-equipped to take on the Rove machine in 2004.
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
The Saudis have challenged the United States to a bullshit race that could rival the Cold War arms race in its scope. The White House--out to a strong head start--has lied its way to war while working to conceal the Saudi role in the World Trade Center attacks. But the Saud family has a strong recent entry:

Osama bin Laden told a top Qaeda operative to recruit Saudis for the September 2001 hijackings in an effort to strain relations between the United States and the kingdom, a Saudi official said today.

Mr. bin Laden made his comments in a conversation with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Qaeda operations chief captured earlier this year, said the official, who added that Mr. bin Laden's statements were related to American interrogators by Mr. Mohammed.

The Saudi official, who said he was told of the conversation by American officials, asserted that Mr. bin Laden approved Mr. Mohammed's recruitment of Saudis because "they wanted to strike Saudi Arabia as much as they wanted to hit the United States."


That's a moderately well-crafted pile of crap, if you ask me. Did bin Laden secretly trick the Saudi government into funding the training of al Qaeda operatives in the United States? They may well be able to compete with the Bush administration in a giant geopolitical lie-off. It could be exciting, to say the least.
A new Zogby poll that speaks for itself:

A majority (52%) said it’s time for someone new in the White House, while just two in five (40%) said the president deserves to be re-elected. Last month, 45% said re-election was in order, and 48% said it was time for someone new.

A like number (52%) said the country is heading in the wrong direction, while 40% said it is the right direction.

Overall opinion of President Bush has also slipped to 54% favorable – 45% unfavorable, compared to August polling which indicated 58% favorable, 40% unfavorable.

Just two in five (40%) said they would choose Bush if the election were held today, while 47% said they would elect a Democratic candidate. In August polling, respondents were split (43% each) over President Bush or any Democratic challenger.

In the same poll, likely Democratic primary voters give a plurality of their support to former Vermont Governor Dr. Howard Dean (16%), whose campaign has been gathering support in recent polling. He is followed by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (13%), Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman (12%), and Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt (8%). No other candidate polled more than 3%.
The Transportation Security Administration today has declared that they have a new passenger profiling/screening process--to be applied to all passengers--which is calibrated to forbid 1-2% of all passengers from flying, many of whom would be subject to arrest. That's one person from every flight.

Let's pretend for a second that the obvious infringement on individual liberties (they call themselves "conservative?" Sounds like big government/nanny state to me) inherent in this new policy is not appalling and unconstitutional. There are much more dire ramifications: When combined with the government's recent admission that they are using current no-fly lists to persecute their domestic political enemies, this new measure is simply a thinly veiled enhancement of the Bush administration's already unprecedented mechanisms for political spying. I wonder if Howard Dean is going to get detained on his way to a debate next fall? Or imprisoned because there is a Howard Dean from Paducah, Kentucky who doesn't make his child-support payments.

In the most aggressive -- and, some say, invasive -- step yet to protect air travelers, the federal government and the airlines will phase in a computer system next year to measure the risk posed by every passenger on every flight in the United States.

The new Transportation Security Administration system seeks to probe deeper into each passenger's identity than is currently possible, comparing personal information against criminal records and intelligence information. Passengers will be assigned a color code -- green, yellow or red -- based in part on their city of departure, destination, traveling companions and date of ticket purchase.

Most people will be coded green and sail through. But up to 8 percent of passengers who board the nation's 26,000 daily flights will be coded "yellow" and will undergo additional screening at the checkpoint, according to people familiar with the program. An estimated 1 to 2 percent will be labeled "red" and will be prohibited from boarding. These passengers also will face police questioning and may be arrested.


It has long been posited that the Soviet Union fell not beause of external pressure or military threats, but due to the enormous internal transaction costs associated with a beauracracy that needed to monitor all citizens all the time. Basically, costs kept increasing eah time a new level of scrutiny was added to this or that, and the costs kept getting pushed down to the agencies themselves, almost all of which became functionally bankrupt. Ultimately, this resulted ina sort of uniqe Soviet "unfunded mandate," and ensured the failure of the entire authoritarian state apparatus. I sure am glad we're not going down that road...
An AP staff writer has fact-checked Colin Powell's historic February speech to the United Nations, which has been called "the single most important moment in the march to war." In case you didn't guess, the speech doesn't hold up so well. The title of the piece says it all: Powell's battle cry fails test of time--Six months after his case swung opinion toward attacking Iraq, his intelligence file looks thin.

The refutatiuon of Powell's shhoddily cobbled intelligence is sound and point-by-point. It is also not done justice by an excerpt, so click the link up there and check out this thorough debunking of the most significant package of lies since Reagonomics.
Both the Washington Post and the New York Times weigh in on Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's recent remarks, which suggested that critics of the adminstration's botched Iraq policy is tantamount to assisting the "enemy."

"To the extent that terrorists are given reason to believe he might, or, if he is not going to, that the opponents might prevail in some way, and they take heart in that, and that leads to more money going into these activities, or that leads to more recruits, or that leads to more encouragement, or that leads to more staying power, obviously that does make our task more difficult."

While I do admire Rumsfeld's mastery of the dependent clause, this is a weak attempt on his part to deflect criticism. I think that a few months ago this might have flown, but for the first time since the neocon wet dream woke them up on the morning of 9/11/2001 Bush's pet hawks are having to follow the public's lead, instead of the other way around. One would think that at some point these men will come into the understanding that democracy just isn't the form of government for them. Here's to hoping they put that realization off--at least until January 2005.
Monday, September 08, 2003
Ranking Democrat calls for resignations of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz

But why stop there?

US Representative David Obey defended on Monday his call for Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and top deputy Paul Wolfowitz to resign, saying the duo have made "a spectacular number of misjudgments about the post-war Iraq situation."

"The issue isn't what happened during the war - everybody knows it went well," Mr Obey said on the MSNBC program "Buchanan and Press."

"The issue is whether or not we're going to be in the best position to win in Iraq now that we are running into a lot of trouble in post-war situations."
US public thinks Saddam had role in 9/11

Still?

Seven in 10 Americans continue to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a role in the 11 September 2001 attacks, even though the Bush administration and congressional investigators say they have no evidence of this.
Sixty-nine per cent of Americans said they thought it at least likely that Saddam was involved in the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, according to a Washington Post poll published yesterday. That impression, which exists despite the fact that the hijackers were mostly Saudi nationals acting for al-Qaeda, is broadly shared by Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The main reason for the endurance of the apparently groundless belief, experts in public opinion say, is a deep and enduring distrust of Saddam that makes him a likely suspect in anything related to Middle East violence. 'It's very easy to picture Saddam as a demon,' said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University and an expert on public opinion and war.

'You get a general fuzz going around: People know they don't like al-Qaeda, they are horrified by 11 September, they know this guy is a bad guy, and it's not hard to put those things together.'
So, how to explain the incorrect allegations about Iraqi WMD? Lies? Self-interest? Ideology? Clerical error?

Ex-inspectors now say, five months after the U.S. invasion, that the notorious "unaccountables" may have been no more than paperwork glitches left behind when Iraq destroyed banned chemical and biological weapons years ago.

Some may represent miscounts, they say, and some may stem from Iraqi underlings' efforts to satisfy the boss by exaggerating reports on arms output in the 1980s.

"Under that sort of regime, you don't admit you got it wrong," said Ron Manley of Britain, a former chief UN adviser on chemical weapons.


Uhh.... Pardon the fit of cynicism, but that would be hilarious. Thinking about how this administration will look to history continues to be a reason to wake up in the morning.
Hey. I haven't been blogging for a couple days, but I'll pick it back up later today. Sorry the unwarned hiatous.

Basically, I have been dealing with two annoying details of my personal life: 1) Getting "laid off" from my current job, which was really only supposed to be temporary position, but which was guaranteed for six months at least. It has been just over three months. 2) I am taking the LSAT next month, as I was hoping that going to law school would help me get a job for longer than three months, and I'm doing awfully on the practice exams. I need to get pretty serious about that test in coming weeks.

So with my renewed (though, in reality, permanent) need find a job, and my throwing myself into studying the LSAT, I should have a number of opportunities to procrastinate, which alone should keep the blog running. Maybe instead of a job search, I should call it "the War on Joblessness." It seems to be as permanent and endemic as the "War on Terror."
Friday, September 05, 2003
Ex-Envoy Criticizes Bush's Postwar Policy

Anthony Zinni is about as far from a Bush-basher as one can get. He openly campaigned for Bush in 2000, a rarity for military personnel, and he still serves in the Bush administration as a consultant to the State Department. Nonetheless, Zinni has joined the growing preponderance of military and ex-military officials who are speaking about the Bush administration's abuse of service personnel. What's more, Zinni is hardly hedging his criticism. He joined the also-growing ranks of public intellectuals who have stopped avoiding Vietnam analogies in the spirit of political expedition.

A former U.S. commander for the Middle East who still consults for the State Department yesterday blasted the Bush administration's handling of postwar Iraq, saying it lacked a coherent strategy, a serious plan and sufficient resources.

"There is no strategy or mechanism for putting the pieces together," said retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, and so, he said, "we're in danger of failing."

In an impassioned speech to several hundred Marine and Navy officers and others, Zinni invoked the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s. "My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice," said Zinni, who was severely wounded while serving as an infantry officer in that conflict. "I ask you, is it happening again?"

Zinni's comments were especially striking because he endorsed President Bush in the 2000 campaign, shortly after retiring from active duty, and serves as an adviser to the State Department on anti-terror initiatives in Indonesia and the Philippines. He preceded Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks as chief of the U.S. Central Command, the headquarters for U.S. military operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Award-winning online journalist David Neiwert has published a lengthy series of essays touching on a topic intending to start what may the most important--if the most improbable--conversation to be had in the contemporary West: Is Fascism a real and grwoing force in the United States of America?

Certainly, while it is clear that Neiwert only intends to portray Limbaugh as a profound case example of a phenomenon (and not as any sort of leader of a concrete movement), the opening essay in the series can give the impression that this is (as Rush himself might put it) so-much eggheaded Limbaugh bashing. That being said, Neiwert does quite convincingly describe the role played by such vitriolic and polarizing media personalities:

Limbaugh likes to bill himself as an "entertainer," but he is more accurately understood as a propagandist. He shows no interest in actually furthering the public debate: opposing views are rarely if ever invited onto his show, and when they are they invariably receive the kind of ham-handed mistreatment that has become common on Limbaugh's television counterpart, Bill O'Reilly's Fox talk show.

And there can be little doubt as to the effectiveness of Limbaugh's propaganda: In the intervening years, it has become an object of faith, particularly in rural America where Limbaugh's broadcasts can often be heard multiple times throughout the day, that the government is in itself evil, a corrupt entity, something to be distrusted and feared, and certainly incapable of actually solving problems.

Now that the president he supported -- George W. Bush -- is running the show, however, Limbaugh's anti-government bent has faded quickly and quietly to the background. After all, being anti-government seems practically anti-Republican these days, considering the GOP owns all three branches of government and virtually controls the Fourth Estate as well.

Mind you, in Limbaughland, there are still "evil" people in government -- but they're all liberals. Indeed, the demonization of all things liberal has always been a component of Limbaugh's routine. But now it has become his focus. And it is in that shift, taking place in a context of rising extremism, that he has become openly divisive, and truly dangerous.

Limbaugh has in recent months been one of the national leaders in the right-wing campaign to characterize opposition to President Bush's questionable policies as "anti-American," a campaign that is closely associated with broader conservative attacks on the underlying ideals of multiculturalism. But Limbaugh has taken the rhetoric another step by associating liberals with Nazis and other fascist regimes.


In the second essay in the series, Neiwert touches on an issue that seems to be at the heart of any burgeoning American anti-fascist movement:

"Fascism" has come to be a nearly useless term in the past 30 years or so. In many respects, leftists are most responsible for this degradation; it became so common to lob the word at just about anyone conservative or corporatist in the 1960s and 1970s that its original meaning -- describing a very distinct political style, if not quite philosophy -- became utterly muddled, at least in the public lexicon….

At the same time, it’s important for Americans of all stripes – liberal or conservative –have a clear view of what fascism is, because it is not an extinct political force, and it is above all anti-democratic and anti-American in spirit. This essay is in some regards a plea, particularly to those on the left who have used the term willy nilly to score shrill partisan political points to cease abusing the word ‘fascism,’ learn what it means, and apply it only when it’s appropriate.


Indeed, at least in my humle opinion, the rise of fascism in America needs to be openly discussed--pheonomenologically, rather than as a conscious movement (there clearly is no Fascist Party). This can't be done if the lexical toolbox has been emptied by overzealous and counterproductive past politicization of language.

Neiwert's essays are neither perfect nor exactly what I would have written, but they are cohesive and broad enough to serve as a good launching pad for a real concerted inquiry into the nature and course of American corporatism.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Yesterday I posted about Richard Clarke's coming out and admitting that the administration ordered a mass exodus of 140 bin Laden family associates. The New York Times has picked up on the story, and so has Sen. Chuck Schumer:

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, seized on Mr. Clarke's comments to call on the White House to conduct an investigation into the hasty departures of about 140 Saudis from the United States in the days after the attacks.

Mr. Schumer said in an interview that he suspected that some of the Saudis who were allowed to leave, particularly two relatives of Mr. bin Laden who he said had links to terrorist groups themselves, could have shed light on the events of Sept. 11.

"This is just another example of our country coddling the Saudis and giving them special privileges that others would never get," Mr. Schumer said. "It's almost as if we didn't want to find out what links existed."


There are several a priori reasons why this could be a non-issue. It has been pointed out that bin Laden's family disowned him years ago. It could be argued that the US had no knowledge at the time of the ties between the Saudi government and Islamic charities that funded terrorist groups. But no reason that I have heard comes close to adequately explaining why this would have to be covered up and lied about.
Postwar Iraq Moves Dangerously Close to Civil Disaster

This story discusses a draft written by John Abizaid, which more or less predicted the current conundrum in Iraq. Of course, the draft was mocked and ignored when he presented it--back during the halcyon glory days of the neoconservative daydream, when the primary logistical conern seemed to be what to do with the countless rose petals sure to litter our march to downtown Baghdad. Fortunately, times have changed, and Abizaid was brought in to run Iraq's civil administration.

It seems that almost everyone here believes we’re sitting on a precipice, and leaning precariously toward civil disaster. But it didn’t have to happen this way.

A year ago, American General John Abizaid published an internal Defense Department book about urban warfare. Abizaid’s “Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations” (see sidebar) was all but ignored by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, who ran the Iraq war and the initial postwar occupation.

Abizaid wrote about the massive troop requirements for urban warfare; warned of rapid burnout of soldiers and equipment assigned to urban battlegrounds; and time and again referenced catastrophic instances of over-confidence and under-preparedness among commanders and of disastrous misunderstandings of local cultures and their motivations. He also stressed how “essential” it is that “law enforcement” and other “routine activities” be “returned to civilian agencies as quickly as possible.”

Abizaid was brought in a month ago to clean up the mess created by Franks and Rumsfeld. But it might be too late.

A few excerpts from “Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations,” by U.S. General John Abizaid, published by the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, September 2002:

• Urban operations increase support demands due to the high level of injury and exhaustion of personnel, damage to equipment, and to the potential need to provide support to noncombatants.

• In combat operations, the need to secure cities building by building, room by room, requires large numbers of infantry.

• Nearly all operations in urban areas, including predominantly air operations, take significantly longer than originally expected.

• Urban operations result in a significant increase in ammunition expenditure, need for personnel replacements, medical personnel and supplies, casualty evacuation, and food and water. ... Commanders and planners must make every effort to anticipate and specifically plan for these resources.

• Forces will need reconstitution more frequently. ... Historically, it is necessary to pull units back for rest and reconstitution far more frequently in urban combat than in other types of operations. ... When that is coupled with the high casualty rates normally associated with urban combat, the problem of reconstitution becomes a serious one, requiring foresight and prior planning and preparation.

• Urban combat is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting, and the psychological effects on all participants (including health-care personnel) can be devastating.

• [Seven factors that have historically led to the commission of war crimes:] (1) high friendly losses; (2) high turnover rate in the chain of command; (3) dehumanization of the adversary; (4) poorly trained or inexperienced troops; (5) the lack of a clearly defined adversary; (6) unclear orders; and (7) high frustration level among the troops.

• Urban operations may impact the abilities of national and theater strategic assets and can easily affect coverage of other geographical areas.

• The severe drain that urban operations can have on resources can cause either attacker or defender to exhaust capabilities earlier than anticipated.

• [Quoting a book about the 1994 Russian invasion of Grozny:] Instead, [the Russian battlefield generals] believed the erroneous assumptions generated at the strategic level and subsequently directed a woefully inadequate effort to understand the battlespace in all its complexity. This disregard for intelligence adversely affected virtually every other warfighting function at the operational level.

• Rapid urbanization is changing the physical and political face of nations. ... In many places, this rapid urbanization has overburdened already weak infrastructure, scarce resources, and fragile economic bases.

• In all operations, it is essential that routine activities such as providing sanitary services, food, law enforcement, and health services be returned to civilian agencies as quickly as possible because of the demand they can place on joint force resources.

• [Quoting from Joint Military Operations Historical Collection:] The importance of understanding local politics and integrating indigenous decision makers into an urban operation cannot be overstated.

• Faced with superiority of U.S. forces, most adversaries seek an asymmetrical advantage. Urban areas are the natural battleground for terrorists.

• [Quoting George Wilson, Air Force Times:] If you don’t understand the culture you are involved in; who makes decisions in these societies; how their infrastructure is designed; the uniqueness in their values and in their taboos – you aren’t going to be successful.

• The Joint Force Commander must give great care in the establishment of population-control measures, depending on the situation and characteristics of that population. Inappropriate controls could exacerbate the populace and resources control problem.
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Not long after 9/11, there was a persistent rumor that the Bush administration, through the FBI, had arranged for a secret flight on which more than 100 members of the bin Laden family were allowed to leave the US after receiving no questioning or investigation. This story circulated for a while, and finally died with repeated denials by the Bush administration.

Today, however, this story is about to come back to life. Two former administration officials, former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke and Dale Watson, the FBI's former head of counter-terrorism, are talking to the media about this covert operation to ferry away members of a family which at least unwittingly funded a portion of the 9/11 attacks (and which has had a long and amicable business relationship with the Bushes, going back to the days when the Carlile Group would subcontract jobs to the bin Laden construction concern).

This seems to be the pattern with the Bush administration: as soon as someone has been alienated to the point of being fired, they will talk to the press about the nefarious secret shit they put up to by their former bosses. But this one is gravely serious. It is already becoming clearer every day that George Bush has something (~28 pages of something) to hide about his relationship with the Saudi royal family, and it seems like his Presidency has some secrets about the bin Ladens as well.

FAMILY 'FLOWN OUT OF US'

Members of Osama bin Laden's family were allowed to fly out of the US shortly after the September 11 terror attacks, a senior official has said.

Even though American airspace had been shut down, the Bush administration allowed a jet to fly around the US picking up family members from 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston and Houston.

Some 140 high ranking Saudi officials were also on the plane.

The revelations come from former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke.

He said the Bush administration sanctioned the repatriation of the family in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

"Somebody brought to us for approval the decision to let an airplane filled with Saudis, including members of the bin Laden family, leave the country," he told Vanity Fair magazine.

Mr Clarke said he checked with FBI officials, who gave the go ahead. "So I said, 'Fine, let it happen'."

He first asked the bureau to check that no one "inappropriate" was leaving.

"I have no idea if they did a good job. I'm not in any position to second guess the FBI," he said.

But Dale Watson, the FBI's former head of counter-terrorism, said the Saudis "were not subject to serious interviews or interrogations".
Lying in Exile by Robert Scheer

Even the Iraq Survey Group--originally sent to Iraq a month or so ago to plantfind the WMD once and for all--has determined that ideology and "sexed-up" evidence provided the fuel for the rush to war, rather than evidence or expert analysis:

"We were prisoners of our own beliefs," a senior U.S. weapons expert who worked with the Iraq Survey Group told the Times. "We said Saddam Hussein was a master of denial and deception. Then when we couldn't find anything, we said that proved it, instead of questioning our own assumptions."

How distressing that it turns out to be Bush, leader of the world's greatest democracy, who is the true master of denial and deception, rather than Saddam, who proved to be a paper tiger. Bush is such a master at deceiving the American public that even now he is not threatened with the prospect of impeachment or any serious congressional investigation into the possibility that he led this nation into war with lies.

But lie he did, at the very least in the crucial matter of pushing secret evidence that even a president of his limited experience had to know was so flimsy as to not be evidence at all. U.S. intelligence officials now say the administration was lied to by Iraqi émigrés.

That excuse for the U.S. intelligence failure in Iraq would be laughable were the circumstances not so appalling. It means Bush ignored all the cautions of career diplomats and intelligence experts in every branch of the U.S. government over the unsubstantiated word of Iraqi renegades.

Clearly, the administration, from the president on down, did not want expert advice and intelligence that would have undermined its excuse for invading Iraq. This was a shell game from beginning to end in which Americans' legitimate fear of terrorism after 9/11 was almost immediately and cynically exploited by the neoconservative gang that runs U.S. foreign policy.
Why Bush, GOP can block all inquiries

A surprisingly good read from USA Today.

The urge to investigate defined the capital during the Clinton years. But no more.
For nearly a decade, special counsel inquiries and adversarial congressional hearings dominated the headlines, etched bitter partisan lines, led to the impeachment of a president and made the nation's political debates resemble hand-to-hand combat.

Now, some things have changed. The law that provided for special counsels has expired. President Bush's fellow Republicans control both houses of Congress. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has stepped back from challenging the White House after losing a court case that sought to open the records of Vice President Cheney's energy task force.

The result: The White House is better able to control information and prevent a nagging controversy from becoming a full-blown crisis. It's harder for Democrats to demand answers and easier for administration officials to dismiss their charges as political posturing. And Bush faces less of the daily barrage that prompted President Clinton to set up a parallel press operation for investigative inquiries and made Clinton's White House seem at times like an embattled enclave.
Freakilly, according the the current plan and budget, the US is going to have to start pulling troops out of Iraq soon.

The U.S. military occupation of Iraq could cost from $8 billion to $29 billion annually, but the least expensive option would dramatically reduce the force, according to scenarios analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office.

Relying mostly on active-duty soldiers serving one-year tours, without expanding the military's overall size, could cost from $8 billion to $12 billion yearly, the nonpartisan budget office said in a report released Tuesday.

To retain adequate levels of military readiness worldwide, that policy which the Pentagon is now following would force the United States to begin reducing its troop strength in Iraq below current levels by next March, the study said.

Under that scenario, the 180,000 American troops now in and around Iraq would have to be drawn down to 38,000 to 64,000 by the winter of 2004-2005, the analysis said.


Josh Marshall notes a May New York Times article (unfortunately only available through their pay archive) in which Wolfowitz was quoted as saying that we would be able to decrease the troop numbers to as few as 30,000 by FALL 2003. That's right now, by the way.

I used to see the neocons as ruthless crazy genius types, but they're slowly working their way out of the "genius" moniker. Less of a Dr. Frankenstein and more of a Messianic and homicidal version of any given Rick Moranis character.

Honey, I Shrank the Budget Surplus-- or -- Honey, I Befouled the Constitution.
The Washington Post is running an article today which collects quotes from Congresspeople about their conversations with their constituents during the most recent recess. Some nuggets:

Mainly, people want reassurance that the administration knows what it's doing," said Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), "that things are going better than CNN would have us believe."

"There's a real deep concern now," said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.). "People are wondering how much this will cost in money and lives and how are we gonna get out of there? I had one teacher say, 'We've got a tar baby on our hands.' "

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said his constituents "have gone from a sense of exhilaration over the victory to a sense of deep concern. They need to be told what it's going to take and what to expect."
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
From Howard Dean's blog:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Sugarland) today condemned the comments of presidential candidate and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who said, "John Ashcroft is not a patriot," in New Hampshire yesterday.
"Howard Dean is a cruel and extremist demagogue," DeLay said.

"John Ashcroft loves America more than Howard Dean could ever know. John Ashcroft has sacrificed for his country, and devoted his life to serving it. He is as kind, generous, and patriotic a man as I've ever met. And Howard Dean is as ignorant on John Ashcroft as he is on national security."

"Howard Dean's comments are an embarrassment to the democratic process and the Democrat Party. If this cruel, loudmouth extremist is the cream of the Democrat crop, next Novembers going to make the 1984 election look like a squeaker."


Bring it on, Tom. The irony of calling someone a demagogue while defending Tom DeLay will likely not be as lost on the voters as it is on DeLay himself.

And he uses the word "cruel" twice. What?

In any case, one lesson that DeLay is set to learn next fall is just how far from the center he is. If John Ashcroft is his idea of a great American, then that makes DeLay one of those "minorities" that he's so afraid of. Will he have to gerrymander himself out of office? The Dean campaign has yet to come up with an ingenius and grassroots way to throw a pie in Tom DeLay's fat theocratic face, so until then we'll all just have to sign the Ashcroft Petition.

While DeLay was busy declaring Dean a fringe candidate, the 100,000th person signed up to attend a Dean MeetUp, in addition to the nearly 350,000 voulnteers he has signed up. If DeLay really thinks that Dean is going to get his Mondale on, one can only hope that his Republican party gameplans accordingly. See you at the welfare office in 2005, asshole.
Who Is Losing Iraq?

The upcoming issue of TIME (which will also contain the article detailing Abu Zubaydah's relationship with Saudi and Pakistani intelligence) features this analysis of the Iraq situation by Joe Klein.

Indeed, a depressing array of defense and foreign policy experts, including members of the uniformed military, have quietly concluded that postwar Iraq is the most vexing theater of operations the American military has faced since Vietnam. Even if Saddam Hussein is captured or killed, most experts (outside the Pentagon) believe that the restoration of order will be extremely difficult. Jihadist terror, organized criminality and internecine religious violence are likely to continue. For the immediate future, this is where George Bush's war on terrorism is being fought — and this is where his political future may be decided.

Last week the President restated the obvious: retreat is not an option. Iraq cannot be left an anarchic, terrorist state. Every major Democrat running for President, including Howard Dean, agrees — and most go further than Bush, asserting that more money and manpower are needed to secure the peace. But the President has stubbornly resisted sharing with the American people a detailed assessment of the situation in Iraq: the fact that we may still be there a decade from now at a cost of hundreds of billions. The Pentagon — the civilian leadership of the Pentagon, that is — stubbornly insists that it retain control of all aspects of the Iraq operation and that no increased manpower is needed. Oddest of all, the Pentagon retains its neoconservative fantasy that Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress — who misled the Administration on weapons of mass destruction and on the rose petals that would greet the American liberators — may yet be coronated leader of a population that barely knows who he is.

Perhaps the defense ideologues remain hypnotized by Chalabi because the reality on the ground is so depressing. There will be no stability, and certainly no economic progress, until there is real security — but the three most likely paths toward security have severe drawbacks. The first is increased use of American troops and money. The money is inevitable — a supplemental appropriation of $60 billion, including $15 billion to $20 billion for reconstruction efforts, is being prepared — but more troops are problematic because the Army is already overstretched. The second path is a return to the U.N., which the State Department is trying to negotiate. This would be helpful symbolically — it would be nice to have Iraq become the world vs. the terrorists — and perhaps financially, but it would have limited military utility: State expects only 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers. And a deal will be difficult: the U.N. will agree to American control of the military operations, but not civil administration. "No Bremer," an international diplomat told me. "He's not done very well."

That leaves Iraqification, the third path, which everyone agrees is absolutely necessary. The Pentagon says it is Iraqifying as fast as it can, building no fewer than five indigenous security services that will ultimately involve 70,000 recruits. But far more bodies are needed. Several experts, including some in the Administration, suggest calling the Iraqi army — the ragtag regular army, not the Republican Guard — back to barracks. We are paying 235,000 former Iraqi soldiers to do nothing each month. Why not pay them to be border guards, to provide security for pipelines, power lines and neighborhoods? If they can't do that, why pay them at all?

A Pentagon official told me the idea of reactivating the army is "naive"--which is ironic, given the Pentagon's willful naivete about postwar Iraq. But I suspect that all these options will be attempted in the coming months, lest George W. Bush face the electorate in 2004 as the President who presided over a severe degradation of the U.S. military and the diminution of America's reputation in the world — as the President who lost Iraq.
Still Time to Avoid Failure by Fareed Zakaria

Zakaria is unique among public intellectuals by nature of the fact that he is about the only self-described "Reagan Republican" who I ever feel like taking serisouly. Zakaria has become a bit of an Iraq war apologist, but even when trying to gloss over the monumental failures of American policy in the Middle East, he always manages to make concrete points. In his latest Newsweek piece, he again carries the mantle of those who still advocate for the Bush Doctrine, but it is also perfectly clear that Zakaria knows a disaster when he sees one.

Last Friday’s bomb blast in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, presumably by Baathist terrorists, might mark the beginning of internal violence among various groups in Iraqi society. If so, we may be in for a hellish ride....

Saddam, who took brutality to an entirely different level, destroyed whole villages of Kurds and Shiites during his reign. The memories of most Iraqis are filled with stories of terror, torture and murder. If score-settling among these groups begins, that would mark a new phase in Iraq’s blood-soaked story—potentially one that will prove even more destructive.

To make matters worse, Iraqis have proven to be strong nationalists. In every war in which Iraq has participated over the last half century, Iraqis have fought tenaciously—even when they knew they were going to lose. Americans who had fought in Vietnam, and then again in the first gulf war, recalled that their fire fights with Iraqis were more intense than anything they had experienced from the North Vietnamese.

Keeping peace in a country like this cannot be easy. That is why the Bush administration’s attempts to do so unilaterally and on the cheap have been such a disaster. In a remarkable interview last week, Gen. John Abizaid, head of the Central Command, told The New York Times that he needed more troops. This seems to contradict what Donald Rumsfeld said two days earlier, which could be a sign of more internal wrangling, or could mark the beginning of a turnaround.
Another in the line of retired military and intelligence personnel who are coming out against the Iraq war. Former Navy Secretary James Webb has joined Wesley Clark, Ray McGovern, David Hackworth, and a host of others in national service who have dared to speak their minds. Like most of the others (Clark being a notable exception), Webb appears to be without political will or ambition.

Former Navy secretary blasts Bush on Iraq

Former Navy Secretary James Webb blasted the Bush administration's policy on Iraq, saying it was sold to the American people on false premises.

``I am very troubled by the fact that we went into Iraq and very troubled about how we're going to get out of Iraq,'' Webb said Thursday to about 200 naval officers, veterans and civilians at the Radisson Hotel Norfolk. The lecture was sponsored by the Hampton Roads Naval Museum and the Naval War College Foundation. ...

Webb said the troops in Iraq are facing combat experiences similar to those he saw as a platoon leader and company commander in Vietnam, where he was awarded a Navy Cross, a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for heroism, and two Purple Hearts for wounds.

Webb, who resigned as Navy secretary in 1988 to protest cuts in the size of the fleet, said military leaders have an obligation to their troops.


Not only does Webb have no apparent political agenda, he has been an outspoken advocate of increased defense spending, making him hardly a natural ideological enemy of the Bush administration.

As I always say, I understand the potential for futility when one practices history by analogy. That being said, when top military brass began comparing Iraq to Vietnam--and keep in mind that these are people who were in Vietnam, unlike Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Libby, etc.--the rest of us would be wise to listen. At this point whether things on the gorund resemble Vietnam or Yugoslavia more seems like a pretty useless distinction, but getting the public on board with a conceited push for a new approach in Iraq is of unmatched importance.

And, oh yeah, have they found the WMD yet?
Number of Wounded in Action on Rise

Vernon Loeb of the Washington Post reports that:
U.S. battlefield casualties in Iraq are increasing dramatically in the face of continued attacks by remnants of Saddam Hussein's military and other forces, with almost 10 American troops a day now being officially declared "wounded in action."

The number of those wounded in action, which totals 1,124 since the war began in March, has grown so large, and attacks have become so commonplace, that U.S. Central Command usually issues news releases listing injuries only when the attacks kill one or more troops. The result is that many injuries go unreported.

The rising number and quickening pace of soldiers being wounded on the battlefield have been overshadowed by the number of troops killed since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations May 1. But alongside those Americans killed in action, an even greater toll of battlefield wounded continues unabated, with an increasing number being injured through small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades, remote-controlled mines and what the Pentagon refers to as "improvised explosive devices."


WaPo Graphic:


Indeed, today another large improvised bomb went off in Baghdad, this time in front of the new police station:

A car bomb exploded near the headquarters of U.S.-trained police in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing one policeman and wounding many bystanders. Separately, a U.S. soldier was killed in a helicopter crash, a day after a roadside bomb killed two American soldiers....

On Monday, two soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion of the 220th Military Police Brigade were killed when a bomb went off beside their convoy in southern Iraq. Another soldier was wounded.

The U.S. military provided no other details. In all, 286 U.S. soldiers have died in the Iraq war, 148 since the end of heavy fighting.


Maybe this is how Russians felt about Afhganistan in the late 70's? In any case, one would hope that the public will only allow their children to be sacrificed for so long without hearing a detailed plan. Currently, there isn't even the loosest of plans, just a slew of platitude and base fearmongering.

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